'Keep The Dogs Away' (2CD+DVD)
Release Date: 20th May 2016
Canadian bodybuilder Jon Mikl Thor has been dipping his toes into the music scene since the mid 70s and this, his studio debut, has always held a special place in the heart of fans. This has run parallel to his bodybuilding and acting work.
A vocalist, Thor is as much a performer and entertainer as singer, with his stage show including bending iron bars in his mouth and blowing up hot water bottles like balloons. Too easy to say it's a DC or Marvel image, it is genuine rock n' roll and equally entertaining.
Unavailable on CD for many years, this 1977 release now gets a full blown reissue and lovely it is too. The original release, on RCA, had a very limited distribution outside of North America, and was finally issued in the UK in 1985 (on Gull), on the back of a successful London Marquee show in 1984 first that brought Thor to the public attention on this side of the pond.
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Over the years Thor has won 40 bodybuilding titles, including Mr USA, appeared in several films, and recorded several albums throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s. He first started performing in 1973 and developed the stage show, including having concrete blocks smashed on his chest with a sledgehammer.
Joining Jon Mikl Thor are Terry McKeown (bass), John Shand (guitar and six string bass), David Munkhoff (guitar) and Billy Wade (drums). The album was produced by Ian Guenther and Will Morrison who, alongside Shand, co-wrote much of the album. And who can forget that classic album cover, Thor with four large dogs straining at the leash.
The album kicks off with the title track which, despite any kitsch leanings, is actually very catchy with strong vocals and very decent guitar work. The main riff, albeit simple, is rocking and very difficult to forget.
'Sleeping Giant' features some stand out guitar work and deep strong vocals, the backing vocal harmonies add a good touch while 'Catch A Tiger' has a more commercial feel, the vocals still as strong, and there's a slight hint of American Glam to the sound. 'I'm So Proud' is a short blast, but a hint of boogie adds to a sleazy rock n' roll thrash.
Some strong backing vocals to augment Thor's deep vocals bolster 'Tell Me Lies' and a strong bass riff adds to the sound. 'Military Matters' has a strong and distinctive rhythm; typical of the album and thoroughly enjoyable.
This is a strong, solid and very underrated hard rock album. Not as heavy as the image may infer, but Thor did go a little more Metal in the 80s.
The second disc adds a whopping 22 tracks, previously unreleased and add a real treat. A mix of rock styles, opener Asgardia more pub rock while 'Do The Muscle' (1975 version) a more pre-punk garage rock.
'Away From You' nods to country rock, while others nod to Kiss. The demo of 'Keep The Dogs Away' is a lot more bass and much less guitar, a little too stripped down but show the strength and raw power of the vocals.
Add to this a third disc, a 1980 live show. Well all I'll say here is go watch it. Grab a beer, put it on the big screen, and allow yourself to be entertained.
Not to be taken too seriously, but you'll see the proof that Thor the man and Thor the band are rock n' roll. Grimacing and shred aside, there's some very enjoyable rock moments here.