Gowan

Canadian Classic Rock
Biography

Gowan

Gowan

 

A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Lawrence Gowan moved to Toronto while still a child, but had already taken piano lessons and showed glimpses of the showman he would become. His incredible stage presence comes by him naturally. A classically trained pianist at the Royal Conservatory of Music, he's also formally studied with The Canadian Ballet. His stage presence was first noticed while doing solo gigs in and around the Toronto scene in the early '70's. But his first real exposure came after forming the group Rhinegold with schoolhood friends drummer Daniel Bourne and Pat Bourke on guitars. Their sound fused elements of progressive rock with Gowan's classical training and bits of the sounds of the day. The group was Gowan's first venue for writing tales of magic, myth and folklore, such as "Black Forest Riders" and "Two Faces and A Black Dog Grin", Though never really 'breaking out', fronting Rhinegold did give Gowan a chance to hone his style and stage persona.

After the group called it quits in 1980, he paid the bills working briefly as Ronnie Hawkins' pianist as well as forming a cover band with Terry Draper and Dee Long of Klaatu, called Funn. After shopping his demos around for a year, he cut his first solo record with CBS in '82. The critics' rave, it posessed early hints of Gowan's sheer genius. Clever hooks blended with strong pop lyrics were evidenced in tracks like "Keep Up The Fight" and "Oceana". Produced by Rob Freeman, it also contained "Give In", "I'm Not Involved" and "Make It Alone", and featured an all-star supporting cast, including Kim Mitchell on guitars and background vocals. Despite being loved by the critics, the market wasn't ready yet for his pop sensibility, mixed with his showmanship and classical , epic-material influences. Though deleted by CBS, it is now available as a release at live events and through specialty services.

'83's release of STRANGE ANIMAL quickly broke Gowan out of potential into reality. With the basic tracks taped in Ringo Starr's French Riviera home-studio, it featured Peter Gabriel's horn section. Touring the world for the better part of 2 years in support of the singles "Keep The Tension On", "Guerilla Soldier", the title track and mega-hit "Criminal Mind", the album eventually went platinum. SA again showed his incredible apt for writing slick, progressive pop, such as "Cosmetics", the story all men have of the elusive woman, and social commentary in "Burning Torches of Hope". Produced by David Tickle, and heavy on sythesizers and programmed drums, the record clearly showcased his songwriting brilliance and was nothing short of a technical masterpiece. The video for "Criminal Mind" also received regular airplay on both MuchMusic and MTV, and was rewarded with numerous awards, including Junos, for the brilliant marriage of animation with live footage.

It would be nearly four years before Gowan would return. The release of GREAT DIRTY WORLD was met with nothing but good reviews, and the public quickly bought out stock, rushing it gold. Backed by the powerful "Awake The Giant" and lead-off single "Moonlight Desires", which featured Yes' Jon Anderson on background vocals, it quickly put to rest any fears the time away from the studio had diminished his prowess. If anything, the three and a half year hiatus strengthened his songwriting, churning out the slick "Dedication" title track, and ominous "Living In The Golden Age". Other special appearances included Will Lee of David Letterman fame doing some bass and drummer Nigel Olsson, as well as Gowan's brother Terry. Though still following the course laid out by its predecessors, GDW contained a harder edge, with guitar solos, dimming the spotlight on some of Gowan's keyboards' dominance. Oddly though, despite its success in Europe and at home, the American division of CBS opted not to release GDW, afraid that the American masses weren't up to speed yet with the progressive musical art Gowan was already becoming known for.

LOST BROTHERHOOD hit the shelves in the spring of 1990. Again an ensemble cast supported a future gold record. With Ken Greer and John Webster of Red Rider fame, Steve Shelski of Coney Hatch, Rush's Alex Lifeson and co-produced by Eddie Schwartz (of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" fame), it featured a heavier sound, but still maintained its' pop essence. Finely tooled, Schwartz brought an even more guitar-dominated sound to the studios. Even the lead single, "All The Lovers In The World", despite being a graceful love ballad, had an unusual hard twinge to it. The release of the next single, "Out Of A Deeper Hunger" was a bit of a mystery. Though it was CBS America which leaned on Gowan to come up with a heavier-toned record, "Hunger" was another ballad. Still, all in all, LB contained some of Gowan's most-loved cult favourites, including the title-track and "The Dragon".

Again, mainly to appease the big shot American record-execs, Gowan went into seclusion, for the most part losing his piano and replacing it with an acoustic guitar. BUT YOU CAN CALL ME LARRY, coyly named after basically reinventing his image for the third time, hit the stores in the summer of '92. His penchant for attracting a virtual who's who while recording continued, with input from The Eagles' JD Souther, an appearance by Jann Arden, Eddie Schwartz and John Sebastian, of The Lovin' Spoonful and 'Welcome Back Kotter" fame. "When There's Time For Love" was the first single, your typical love song, which makes it untypical coming from him. For the most part, the record is a well-crafted, but slightly stripped down collection of pop melodies served up without the distraction of heavy keyboards.

Later that same year he released THE LARRY GOWAN RADIO SPECIAL, a double live album, featuring "When There's Time For Love", "Last Laugh" and "Soul's Road".

Amid disputes, Anthem released THE LARRY GOWAN RADIO SPECIAL later that year. Featuring nothing but his latest material, it caused him to leaved the label that same year.

THE GOOD CATCHES UP was put out in '95 independantly after Anthem's vice president Bob Roper also defected to become Gowan's manager. Received with mixed reviews, the title-track and "Guns and God" were released as singles but failed to set the charts aflame.

The next year and a half was a time of partial obscurity for the artist, self-imposed. He did however find time to appear at Ronnie Hawkins' 60th birthday bash in '95, performing with his mentor on stage for the first time in 20 years, as well as wooing the crowd with some of his solo favourites.

Gowan released the first of two live albums in 1997 with AU QUEBEC. With Kenny Greer and Jeff Jones of Red Rider fame, along with Paul DeLong, it's widely considered as one of pop music's most under-rated live albums. Filled with the energy that accompanies a packed Montreal stadium, it features killer versions of some of Gowan's best known hits. He followed it up with SOLO - NO KILT TONIGHT later that year. Recorded during the Toronto leg of a North American tour with Burton Cummings that summer, SOLO is just that ... an intimate setting between Gowan, his piano, and thousands of his fans. Particularly amusing is his ode to Monty Python with "The Lumberjack Song"

The death of Princess Diana in '97 inspired Gowan to write "Healing Waters", a special single whose royalties would go to charity. The end of the year saw the release of BEST OF GOWAN. An incredible retrospective of one of Canada's most endearing artists, it's widely considered a 'must have', and also includes his cover of "These Eyes" by the Guess Who.

The fourth live Gowan record came out in 1998. Though only available in the UK, HOME FIELD is definitely worth searching out for hardcore fans. The record features some tracks with a back-up band, while others are just Gowan and his piano. With "Healing Waters" as the encore, HOME FIELD sheds new light on Gowan's stage presence. Other noteable tracks include his solo version of "Criminal Mind", "Innocent" and "I'll Be There In A Minute".

Gowan was approached by Tommy Shaw in '99 to fill in for Dennis DeYoung during Styx's live reunion tour. An instantaneous 'yes' was a natural, seeing as how Styx was an early influence in Gowan's career. Following a brief mini-tour with an impromptu band , where Gowan got a feel for alot of Styx's material again, he hooked up with Shaw and company and was immediately given rave reviews by the critics.

Lawrence Gowan is undoubtedly one of Canada's greatest imported talents. Adored by millions of fans and revered as genius by many of his peers, he blends his artsmanship with thought-provoking lyrics - in the process not only garnering hit after hit, but has stood the test of time to date. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that unlike many of today's 'stars', Lawrence Gowan is an artist - and WILL be around tomorrow.

Written by Dan Brisebois of
CanConRox

Discography

Gowan
Gowan (1982)

Jet White
Keep up the Fight
Come a Little Closer
Make it Alone
Send Me Energy
Oceana
I Was Only Looking
I'm Not Involved
Give In
Victory

Strange Animal
Strange Animal (1983)

Cosmetics
Desperate
City of the Angels
Walking On Air
Burning Torches of Hope
Keep The Tension On
Guerilla Soldier
Strange Animal
A Criminal Mind

Great Dirty World
Great Dirty World (1987)

Moonlight Desires
Awake The Giant
Living In The Golden Age
Dedication
Human Drama
Forever One
One Brief Shining Moment
60 Second Nightmare
Great Dirty World

Lost Brotherhood
Lost Brotherhood (1990)

All The Lovers In The World
Lost Brotherhood
Call It A Mission
The Dragon
Love Makes You Believe
Fire It Up
Out Of A Deeper Hunger
Tender Young Hero
Message From Heaven
Holding This Rage

But you can call me Larry
But you can call me Larry (1993)

Soul's Road
When There's Time For Love
Innocent
Your Stone Walls
Dancing On My Own Ground
Cry On my Shoulder
Moonchild's Psychadelic Holiday
You Never Let Go
Wild Summer Night
Last Laugh
Little Face

Radio Special
Radio Special (1993)

When There's Time for Love
Moonchild's Psychedelic Holiday
Last Laugh
Dancing on My Own Ground
Innocent
Your Stone Walls
Cry on My Shoulder
Soul's Road
You Never Let Go
Wild Summer Night

The Good Catches Up
The Good Catches Up (1995)

Guns and God
The Good Catches Up
I'll be there in a Minute
Laura
Get It While You Can
Cyberbabes
Pigeon
Put It Where the Love Don't Shine
You'll Be With Me

Gowan au Quebec
Gowan au Quebec (1997)

Strange Animal
Cosmetics
Dedication
Pigeon
Laura
I'll Be There In A Minute
Pour un Instant
Stephanie (entracte studio)
Pour un Instant (entracte studio)
The Good Catches Up
Guerrilla Soldier
Lost Brotherhood
Moonlight Desires
A Criminal Mind
You'll Be With Me

No Kilt Tonight
No Kilt Tonight (1997)

You're A Strange Animal
Soul's Road
Dedication
Cosmetics
Imagine
Pathetique
The King Chanticleer Rag
The Lumberjack Song
Dancing On My Own Ground
Guerrilla Soldier
Cry On My Shoulder
Moonlight Desires
A Criminal Mind
You'll Be With Me

Healing Waters
Healing Waters - A Tribute to Princess Diana (1997)

Healing Waters










Best Of
Best Of Gowan (1997)

A Criminal Mind
You're A Strange Animal
Guerrilla Soldier
Cosmetics
Moonlight Desires
Awake The Giant
All The Lovers In The World
Lost Brotherhood
Out Of A Deeper Hunger
When There's Time For Love
Dancing On My Own Ground
Soul's Road
Your Stone Walls
Dedication
These Eyes (by Burton Cummings)
Healing Waters...For Diana: Queen of Hearts

Homefield
Homefield (1998)

Innocent
A Criminal Mind - Solo Live
Pigeon
Wild Summer Night
Lost Brotherhood - Solo Live
I'll Be There in a Minute
Soul's Road
The Good Catches Up
Laura - Solo Live
Moonlight Desires
Your Stone Walls
Guns and God
You'll Be With Me - Solo Live
Make it Alone
Healing Waters


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