A thinking band from the 1980s, Chalk Circle was that rare group of musicians who combined socially conscious lyrics and chiming guitars in an age dominated by big hair and synthesizers. Listening to the band’s music again, what stands out is how fresh and forceful it still sounds. The songs have aged remarkably well.
Part of the reason lies in Chalk Circle’s sources of inspiration: literature and the environment. The group took its name from a play by Bertolt Brecht, about fighting for your convictions in the face of pressure. And the band members, who grew up in Newcastle, Ontario, near the controversial Darlington Station, never shied away from writing about the dangers of nuclear power. As singer-guitarist Chris Tait, who wrote most of the groups lyrics, put it: “We feel most comfortable writing about subjects that are around us.”
Originally formed as a trio in 1983 by Tait, bassist Brad Hopkins and drummer Derrick Murphy, Chalk Circle rounded out its sound with the addition of keyboardist Tad Winklarz, a classically trained pianist who fled his native Poland shortly before the imposition of martial law. The song “Buildings” arose from one of the first
There’s still something reassuring about Valdy’s voice. Like a big Cowichan sweater, the kind the singer used to favour back in the 1970s, its sound envelops with a warm, fuzzy idealism that tells you all is right with the world—even if it isn’t.
That, of course, was Valdy’s secret. He was a master illusionist, a city boy who made us believe him a country man and, best trick of all, a complex guy who preached the simple life. Make no mistake: his heart was in the right place, but Valdy was “more of a manipulator than a singer or a songwriter,” as his manager candidly put it. He wanted to make us feel good and, for much of the ’70s, he did.
Once touted as the heir to Gordon Lightfoot, Valdy was that rare breed of artist who, like Stan Rogers or Stompin’ Tom Connors, got under our skins with songs that seemed to spring straight out of Canadian soil. At a time when people dreamed of getting back to the land, Valdy personified that ideal for individuals trapped in school or dead-end jobs. His five top-selling studio albums for A&M, all represented in this collection, reflect the rustic side of Canadian pop in the ’70s, acoustic alternatives to April Wine or Bachman-Turner Overdrive that stil