Monday, February 24, 2020

Haggith - "Flight 75" CD Review!!

It is now time for our 128th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and with no brand new metal, hard rock, or punk CDs to look at this month, we're dipping into the archives for our long overdue look at defunct local hard rock/grunge quartet Haggith's only live album "Flight 75"! We are tying in this selection with the recent live debut of The Bridge Heads, the new local hard rock band featuring every band member except relocated drummer/namesake Mike Haggith. Recorded live at their first of two self-promoted Bushplane Musical Madness concerts on November 24th, 2012 at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center (itself the release party for their "Apocalypse" studio album), "Flight 75" was released on January 19th, 2013 through their independent label PaperClip Productions, with sound for the concert provided (I believe) by Dirk Becker's Sykotyk Sound Company.

Haggith are represented here by their classic lineup, including Mike on drums & vocals alongside singer/guitarist Curtis McKenzie, lead guitarist Daniel Horton (also now of Jack Spades & Big Mistake), and bassist Caleb Cachagee. You can buy "Flight 75" on Haggith's Bandcamp page on a "name your price" model, or stream it for free on YouTube, and while physical copies ran for $5, they are long since out of print. Just for clarification, this was not a concert I was in attendance for, so I cannot give extra context for Haggith's set proper. As such, this is relatively new to me, but all but one track would feature in their first three studio albums, so comparisons will be inevitable. Featuring 11 songs running for about 50 minutes in length, let's kick off this live album review with the first song, namely the instrumental "Chaos In The Streets Of Aftermath" from their then-new CD "Apocalypse", which is largely similar to the studio track, but omits the distracting keyboard work and the bridging sequences.

Losing the keyboard parts is a HUGE improvement, but such a tense, drawn out, vocals-devoid song feels out of place without the connecting story. Two songs follow next from their October 2012 debut CD "Dragon Joy Ride", starting with "Livin' It On The Run", which is slightly cleaner of a recording than on the original! This live take retains the grunge influences and nice contrast from soft verses to heavy choruses, but Curt's vocals drop off late, almost as if he kept singing away from the microphone.

The song is lengthened by a call-and-response section with the crowd, but the soundboard audio has largely muted the crowd noise, so this ends up being ineffective. Still, this was a highlight on their debut album, and the song works well here! The third "song" is actually two, entitled "Wanko (Reprise)/Wanko", despite the reprise coming after the original on "Dragon Joy Ride" (ending the album, even!) Arranging it like this makes sense though, as the shorter, faster "Wanko" is a better structural fit at the end. The reprise has somewhat softer instrumentation but matches the studio copy in groove and proficiency, and the original fast "Wanko" works way better without the heavily echoed vocals. Stripping that out gives it a raw live immediacy that is a much more natural fit, and like on the opener, this is the second song so far on "Flight 75" where I prefer the live copy!

We next have two songs that were not yet released in studio form by the band at that time, but would see the light of day in May 2013 via their third album (and second "mainline" CD) "Deuce". The song ahead is "Leon the Janitor", which notably featured Mike on lead vocals rather than Curt. This rendition is the closest yet to the studio version, but like on "Livin' It On The Run", the volume of Mike's mic seems to inexplicably drop off late. Everyone performs well on this fast hard rocker though, and it's nice to hear it again! That's followed by "Loverbeam", their faster punk-style number that is largely intact from the future studio version, but it was probably a good idea that they re-worked the outro. It's not a technical masterpiece, but everyone performs strongly to this song's level, and it's upbeat with solid lyrics, so it works well enough!

Song #6 is the only cover on "Flight 75" (members' prior projects excepted) to never get a studio copy released, but a different live recording later turned up on their "For the Cause" EP. Their rendition of Cheap Trick's "Reach Out" was a live favourite in their early months, and while I'm not a huge Cheap Trick fan, their cover was a always welcomed! Curt's vocals seem strained to their limit here, but it works for the song, and I just with Daniel's guitar solo was a little louder. Caleb acquits himself well here too, and this was a good choice to get the Haggith treatment! The next two tracks are "Fin (Part 1)" & "Fin (Part 2)", which were the linked songs from "Apocalypse" about Mike Haggith's astronaut character leaving the zombie infested Earth, though the the track in between (the sound effects-only "Liftoff") was not played at this show. Click here for full details on that album's storyline.

The brief "(Part 1)" retains it's melancholy, soft, and introspective nature, with Curt's vocals a good match, though it runs for a little shorter than on the full album. By contrast, "(Part 2)" runs for over ten minutes, almost double the length of the studio version! This differs in key ways, with Mike's spoken word dialogue taking on a more isolated, downbeat tone, while the extra run time strikes me as far too drawn out and needlessly long, especially for a live concert with fans patiently waiting. The intensity ramps up late, especially with Curt's verse, Mike's drumming, and the impassioned screaming for Dad (the latter two not on the album.) I don't know that "Fin" was ideal for a live concert, but they adapted it as best they could!

Two more songs from "Dragon Joy Ride" come next, starting with "I Am", which is largely similar to the studio copy, but Curt's singing is noticeably getting strained by this point. A mid-paced hard rocker with a strong bite, it still suffers from a repetitive chorus, but the guys have a good musical handle on things, and Mike seems to be showing off with his drum fills! Solid track overall, and it's followed on both the studio album and "Flight 75" by "Rage Train", as preceded by Curtis introducing the band to the audience. A slightly shorter cover but otherwise faithful to the original, this hard edged track was one of my favourite early songs of Haggith's, and Caleb has one of his better bass showcases here, but the backing vocals aren't a great fit. The chorus vocals again sounds a little worn, but everyone delivers to their best at this late stage of the concert!

"Flight 75" closes with it's partial namesake, "75", which would later get studio versions on both "Deuce" and Mike's later band The Din's 2016 debut album. The second track here with Mike on lead vocals (not counting his spoken word on "Fin [Part 2]"), this is again similar to the band Haggith's later studio copy, though the backing vocals are again to it's detriment, and with hindsight, The Din's cover improves on it with a tighter, faster arrangement. Still, this is an upbeat, heavy way to end the album!

So, what are my final thoughts on Haggith's only live album? I can't speak for Bushplane Musical Madness I as a concert, but Haggith delivered an entertaining set at this early stage of their run, and it gave fans a nice cross-section of their first three albums in the process! There were songs here that I preferred to the studio version (like "Chaos In The Streets Of Aftermath" and "Wanko"), but others suffered from live fatigue or re-arrangements I wasn't on board with. Such is the experience of a live concert! Aside from noticeable wear on Curtis McKenzie's voice late, the guys were performing on their game here, with Curt and Daniel Horton a fine match on guitar, Caleb Cachagee showing solid bass skills that we were slowly seeing more of in studio, and Mike's drumming and vocal performances were as steady and reliable as ever! It is worth noting that the album's track listing is heavily edited compared to their actual setlist that night, omitting five originals and two more covers. To me, the exclusions of "No Cure For Insanity" & "If You Get Out Alive" are especially disappointing.

Also, while the soundboard audio is solid, it does heavily mute the live crowd reactions, which does take away from points in the show where Curtis and Mike are clearly talking to the fans. On the whole, "Flight 75" is an entertaining look back at this prolific quartet just when they were starting to really make a name for themselves as a live act, so give it a listen or buy it at the above links! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, and as for next month.... it's CD release party is just over a month away, so how does A Dire Setback's debut CD sound? Look for that between March 29th & 31st, and stay tuned for more news and notes on the site soon! Thanks everyone!

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