* Doug Randle with his 1971 Songs For The New Industrial State LP in 2009 (Photo by Sipreano)
Over the years, we’ve gotten to know countless musicians, artists, and behind the scene players. Some are still active in the business and others gave up their dreams long ago, but in our travels seeking unsung and under appreciated music from the world over, we’ve rarely encounter what you might call a true professional. Doug Randle was just that, a composer/arranger, w/ deep roots in the Canadian Prairie jazz scene of the 1950s (yes, there was such a thing!@#$%!!!) before branching out and upwards to the music meccas of Toronto, Montreal, London (UK), and back to the dot (as in TDOT) again where he worked tirelessly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and National Film Board (NFB) on radio, film, and television projects. His 1970 recorded Songs For The New Industrial State is what we’d call a class study in MASTERPIECE, eleven orchestrated songs featuring not only the cream of the late 1960s/early 1970s Toronto studio/jazz scene (Peter Appleyard, Jack Zaza, Guido Basso) and keen vocalists Laurie Bower (Mutual Understanding, Laurie Bower Singers) and Tommy Ambrose, but astute and rarely paralleled social and political commentary (the title inspired by John Kenneth Galbraith’s The New Industrial State). Songs For The New Industrial State reissue producer and your humble LITA scribe calls it “What’s Going On recorded by a left-leaning 40-year old white man.” Released the same year as Marvin Gaye’s celebrated Motown landmark, both albums’ share a cosmically related vision on those heady days with dynamic and soulful musical accompaniment (*extra points to Doug for writing each and every note and lyric). Perhaps one-time Downbeat editor, lyricist, rhyming dictionary pioneer, and overall jazz icon Gene Lees said it best (and most succinctly) on a quote on the back of Songs For The New Industrial State’s beautiful gatefold jacket: “A stunning collection of new songs for and about the time we live in.”
While initially recorded for CBC radio broadcast, Doug’s personal statement was released commercially on LP by Lees’ and his partner Dave Bird’s Kanata Records imprint at the dawn of Canadian content regulations (which stated that commercial radio had to play a specified percentage of Canadian-made music) in 1971. Rules aside, the rest of the industry took time to embrace homespun talent (some say they never have, wink, wink…), and Songs For The New Industrial State simply didn’t resonate with the record buying public at the time of release. Surely it wasn’t because of the quality of the well-designed gatefold package, top-notch performances or Doug’s self-described “bitter and twisted Simon & Garfunkel” songs. Sometimes, people just aren’t ready (Rodriguez, anybody???). After re-releasing a CD-only version of the album almost forty years later in 2009, we got to spend some quality time w/ Doug in Toronto and found out that he was as interesting a fellow as his mind-boggling music indicates. We’d pontificate over the environment, government, corporations, and the music business, while taking repeated trips to the curry buffet at Yonge Street’s Kathmandu Restaurant or sharing handmade Chinese treats at the old Mother’s Dumplings location on Huron. These meetings provided great inspiration and insight from an unsung Canadian music legend (*please remember, we don’t throw around such terms lightly) and avid swimmer (equally inspiring as his musical achievements) who braved any lake, ocean, or pool he came across, right up until his passing on August 30 at the age of 85. It was our ultimate honor to get to know this man and we feel the loss and send our best regards to his daughter Joanne (with whom he recently recorded an unreleased jazz album that will hopefully see the light of day soon), her husband Geoff, and the rest of Doug’s family.
Any which way you spin it (hopefully, on a turntable), Doug’s music will live on forever and we’ll do our best to keep spreading his crucial musical message. We hope the world will one day catch up to the wisdom he was dropping in 1970. We’d definitely be the better for it!@#$%!!!
- Kevin “Sipreano” Howes
* Sipreano and Doug Randle in Toronto’s Chinatown (Photo by Kaewonder)