Stompin' Tom Connors And The Moon Man Newfie/The Unpopula

It's no wonder Stompin' Tom boycotted the music industry for so many years. This collection of eight of Stompin' Tom's hard-to-find albums is now available on four CDs, and although that may seem to be a good thing, they’re poorly presented, album covers and song orders are mixed up and the liner notes go from weak to non-existent. Besides that, the albums aren't even presented chronologically. But Tom is probably just smiling his same old smile, as he always has, despite the trials and tribulations of surviving in a business where complete morons are representing him. Tom's illustrious career began in 1967 when he scraped up all the cash he had and recorded Northland's Own, which somehow, after several reissues, became known as Northlands Zone, a title that is more fitting for a Northern Ontario reference (a lot of which is like a war zone). This and 1969's On Tragedy Trail focus on sparse arrangements (Tom really had no choice) and set the stage for Tom's narrative style and sense of lyrical wit. These albums bred the now-classics like "Sudbury Saturday Night" and "Fire In The Mine," and were originally issued by the Rebel Records label. Studio players join on two albums from 1973, To It And At It and And The Moon Man Newfie, which are both the highlights of this collection. Backed with pedal steel, mandolin, and violins Tom romps through some great arrangements, and these songs are among his more serious works, except for maybe "Pizza Pie Love" and "Cornflakes." These works fit nicely into that "old country" sound that Lee Hazlewood was making around the same time, and fans of Hank Williams will appreciate. Moving onto 1974, we see the release of Meets 'muk tuk' Annie, a travellin' kind of record that moves the same country song along, like Boxcar Willie without the kitsch. The North Atlantic Squadron from 1975 leans a little more towards the humorous side of Stompin' Tom, and gets a little hokey here and there, but it remains endearing all the same. Maybe it's the incredible speed with which he sings on "Jack Of Many Trades," a track that would have any MC shaking their head. Things get lonelier and sparser on 1976's The Unpopular, focusing on the song content rather than the sound. The highlight here is the stompin' good “A Damn Good Song For A Miner (Muckin' Slushers),” the theme song from the film Come On You Muckin' Slushers: A Song For A Miner, from 1977. At the Gumboot Cloggeroo rounds out the list, with some classics ("Farewell To Nova Scotia," "Gum-Boot Cloggeroo") and some memorable tunes that'll have you laughing pretty hard, most notably "The Happy Hooker" who Tom calls a "rug sales girl." A great collection of songs from a real troubadour that represents all that is Canadian. If the EMI had been more thoughtful with its presentation and release, this would be perfect. (EMI)