Top 10 April Wine Albums

April Wine albums

Feature Photo: Chris Harte from Toronto, Canada, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our selection of Top 10 April Wine albums pays tribute to one of Canada’s legendary rock bands. Internationally successful during the late 1970s and early 80s, April Wine is today an underrated band in the realm of classic rock. The death of longtime frontman Myles Goodwyn in December 2023 aggrieved fans the world over as tributes appeared in NME, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. Let’s begin with April Wine’s backstory, before running down the list of their top albums.

The band Myles Goodwyn led for more than fifty years got its start in 1969 in the tiny hamlet of Waverley, Nova Scotia. Two brothers, David Henman (guitar) and Ritchie Henman (drums), plus a cousin, Jim Henman (bass), recruited Goodwyn to complete the group. After relocating to Montreal in 1970 and signing with Aquarius Records, a label co-founded by promoter Donald K. Tarlton (better known as Donald K. Donald), the band began their rise to fame.

Part of April Wine’s appeal lay in their ability to generate ballads for AM radio (“Lady Run, Lady Hide,” “I’m on Fire for You Baby,” “You Won’t Dance with Me”) as well as rockers for the FM band (“Drop Your Guns,” “Ootwatanite,” “Roller”). Radio play and constant touring made them a headline attraction across Canada during the seventies, although international success eluded them at first.

By the band’s third album, 1973’s Electric Jewels, all three Henmans had left the group, leaving Goodwyn as the only original member. Bassist-vocalist Jim Clench, guitarist Gary Moffet, and drummer Jerry Mercer joined, bolstering the band’s hard rock appeal. Moffet and Mercer would remain throughout April Wine’s classic period. Steve Lang replaced Clench on bass in 1976, and a third guitarist, Brian Greenway, joined in 1978.

This classic lineup achieved international success with a three-album run of gold and platinum records – 1978’s First Glance, 1979’s Harder… Faster, and 1981’s The Nature of the Beast. Touring the US and Europe opening for the likes of Rush, Styx, the Rolling Stones, and Blue Öyster Cult helped April Wine become headliners themselves. They played the first Monsters of Rock Festival in the UK in 1980 (alongside Saxon, Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Rainbow). A live show filmed at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1981 (available on YouTube) captured the fierce energy of April Wine in concert.

Creative burnout and internal tensions caused April Wine to split up in 1984. After a six-year break, Goodwyn, Greenway, Mercer, and a returning Jim Clench reformed April Wine.  Guitarist Steve Segal replaced Gary Moffett. Since then, the band has toured steadily while releasing several more albums on independent labels. Bassist Jim Clench left in 2006 (sadly, he died in 2010), to be replaced by Breen LeBoeuf and later Richard Lanthier. Miles Goodwyn retired from the group in 2023, a few months before his death. The current lineup features Brian Greenway on guitar and vocals, with Lanthier, Marc Parent (guitar, vocals), and Roy Nichol (drums).

Time for our picks of the ten best albums from April Wine’s classic decade, 1972 to 1982.

Top 10 April Wine Albums

# 10 – Live at the El Mocambo (1977)

April Wine is renowned for live shows that rival the sonic impact of their studio recordings. It makes sense, then, to begin our list with Live at the El Mocambo, a rough-and-ready live album from a period just before the band hit its peak.

In 1977, April Wine played a multi-night gig at Toronto’s El Mocambo nightclub. On the bill were “The Cockroaches,” a mysterious band who turned out to be none other than the Rolling Stones – there to record tracks for their double-live LP Love You Live. Ex-Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer was on hand to record the event (headline news after Margaret Trudeau, wife of then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, attended the shows).

April Wine sounded inspired – a leaner, tougher machine than on that year’s studio album, Forever for Now. Kramer captured solid takes of hits like “Oowatanite” and “You Could Have Been a Lady,” plus two songs written by Bob Segarini (frontman of the Dudes, a band featuring both Henman brothers and future April Wine member Brian Greenway). Bristling with raw energy, Live at the El Mocambo is a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.

# 9 – The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy (1976)

April Wine’s fifth studio album found the band in a transitional period. Achieving platinum status in Canada, the album affirmed the band’s stardom in their home country. Opening track “Gimme Love” is a sure-fire rocker, and “Like a Lover, Like a Song” is one of the band’s enduring lush ballads. Myles Goodwyn leads the show with solid vocals and lead guitar.

A downside to this album was the recent departure of Jim Clench, whose hard rock persona had fired up the band’s sound on three previous albums (all presented below). His replacement, Steve Lang, was a capable bassist, but Clench’s gravelly vocals and dynamic songwriting were elements missing from The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy.

# 8 – Power Play (1982)

Power Play was a good album at a time April Wine needed a great one. Coming off a string of career-defining albums (First Glance, Harder… Faster, and The Nature of the Beast) April Wine found themselves on the cusp of major success in the early 1980s. One more album of the quality of the previous three might have put them over the top. For all its strengths, Power Play wasn’t it.

Still, there’s lots to enjoy here and the album remains a fan favorite. “Enough is Enough” is a top-notch song in the power pop vein April Wine tapped on many of their hits. “If You See Kay” adds a bit of irreverent humor to the band’s rock profile, and a mellow interpretation of the Beatles’ “Tell Me Why” was a minor hit as a video on the newly inaugurated MTV. Today, Power Play stands up as a solid rock album in the April Wine canon.

# 7 – Electric Jewels (1973)

The recording of April Wine’s third album hit a roadblock as founding members David and Ritchie Henman left the group, leaving only Myles Goodwyn and Jim Clench (who’d replaced cousin Jim Henman a year earlier) to carry on. Help arrived in the form of guitarist Gary Moffet and drummer Jerry Mercer – a powerful hitter who’d toured with April Wine when they opened for Mercer’s band, Mashmakhan, in 1970.

April Wine Mach II is a tighter, harder rocking band than the previous lineup, making Electric Jewels a solid installment in the band’s catalog. Myles Goodwyn sings lead on crowd-pleasing anthems “Just Like That” and “The Band Has Just Begin,” and contributes “Lady Run, Lady Hide” a radio-friendly ballad with an ecological message.

But Electric Jewels is in many ways Jim Clench’s album. The bassist brings his adrenalized vocals to the opening track, “Weeping Widow,” the harmony-laced “You Opened Up My Eyes,” and the Bowie-influenced “Cat’s Claw.” Reinforced by Moffet’s intricate guitar leads and Mercer’s deft drum fills, Electric Jewels is a gem among April Wine’s lesser-known classics.

# 6 – April Wine Live! (1974)

Produced by former Rascals members Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli, Live! brought April Wine’s solid live set to vinyl for the first time. Recorded at a Halifax high school auditorium (yeah, Canadian high schools were cool during the seventies!), the album does more than just recap the band’s studio work.

“(Mama) It’s True,” “Druthers,” and the glorious “I’m on Fire for You Baby” are original songs found nowhere on April Wine’s studio albums. “Good Fibes,” a showcase for drummer Jerry Mercer, is a live showstopper built for the occasion. The April Wine sound continues in the same hard rock vein as Electric Jewels, with live versions of “Cat’s Claw” and “Just Like That” rivaling the studio versions.

# 5 – Stand Back (1975)

April Wine’s fourth studio album kept the same lineup as the previous live and studio efforts. Like Electric Jewels two years earlier, Stand Back kicks off in muscle car mode with “Oowatanite,” written and sung by bassist Jim Clench. On that tune, Jerry Mercer’s already powerful drumming gets extra juice in the form of a fire bell, clanging insistently like an approaching train (the ultimate extension of “more cowbell”!).

Myles Goodwyn’s singing and songwriting are in fine form on the rocker “Don’t Push Me Around,” ode to the road “Cum Here the Band,” and soft rock ballad, “I Wouldn’t Want to Love Your Love.” On the melodic final track, “Tonite Is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love,” April Wine prove their ability to generate power pop classics as assuredly as Badfinger or Todd Rundgren.

#4 – On Record (1972)

The band’s second album from 1972 is one of only two to represent the early sound and (most of) the original line-up of April Wine. The band’s 1971 debut had featured all four original members – Myles Goodwyn, David Henman, and Jim Henman (all of whom sang lead), and drummer Ritchie Henman – but the disc was poorly produced and the style undefined, with only one song, “Fast Train,” foreshadowing the band’s signature sound. Bassist Jim Henman left soon after, to be replaced by Jim Clench.

On Record was a vast improvement, featuring two solid David Henman rockers, “Drop Your Guns” and “Refuge,” Clench’s first songwriting and vocal contribution on “Didn’t You,” and Myles Goodwyn’s confirmed role as April Wine’s de-facto leader. Other standout tracks include covers of Hot Chocolate’s “You Could Have Been a Lady” (a surprise hit across North America) and “Bad Side of the Moon,” an Elton John-Bernie Taupin throwaway given new life in April Wine’s definitive version. As a defining moment in April Wine’s career, On Record stands up as one of their best.

# 3 – First Glance (1978)

Guitarist Brian Greenway claimed he had no special responsibility in bolstering April Wine’s sound when he joined as third lead guitarist for First Glance. However, there is no question his presence took the band up a notch, allowing Myles Goodwyn more freedom to sing while joining Goodwyn and Gary Moffett in a new three-guitar attack.

On First Glance, April Wine fully embraces their hard rock chops on tracks like “Hot on the Wheels of Love” and fan favorite “Roller.” Even the ballads – shooting star anthem “Rock n’ Roll is a Vicious Game” and whiskey-drenched “Silver Dollar” – sound powerful and insistent. Solid production and the quiet-loud dynamics of strong material (including Greenway’s vocal turn, “Right Down to It”) gave April Wine their first gold album in America.

# 2 – Harder… Faster (1979)

Getting really serious now, we arrive at the first of two albums to raise April Wine to their creative and commercial peak, turning them, for a time, into international headliners. Harder… Faster continued where First Glance left off, refining the band’s triple guitar arsenal into a metal-adjacent frenzy on “I Like to Rock,” “Ladies Man,” “Babes in Arms,” and a gobsmacking cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” (move over, Rush!).

“Say Hello” is a reggae-inflected tune with tight vocal harmonies and an off-kilter meter that has confounded cover bands ever since. Brian Greenway’s “Before the Dawn” showcases his gruffer voice as an alternative to Goodwyn’s smoother tones. Goodwyn himself hits new strides as a vocalist. His keening falsetto, combined with the band’s impressive chops and solid production at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec (where Rush would later track Moving Pictures) won April Wine respect in both the metal and classic rock communities.

# 1 –The Nature of the Beast (1981)

And now, for the piece-de-resistance, April Wine’s magnum opus, the album that stands up and never stands back as the group’s finest hour. Co-produced at England’s The Manor by Mike Stone (who’d engineered several of Queen’s classic albums), The Nature of the Beast bristles with the energy of a band at the peak of their powers.

International touring and two previous hit albums moved April Wine into rock’s big leagues. Stone helped them capture the full force of their sound in the studio. Myles Goodwyn’s songwriting bristles throughout, from harmonized rockers “All Over Town” and “Tellin’ Me Lies” to metallic anthems “Caught in the Crossfire” and “Future Tense.” Traditional rock and roll steps in with “Wanna Rock,” and a proto-thrash blast of adrenaline inhabits “Crash and Burn” (arguably the band’s heaviest song since “Weeping Widow” back in ’73).

Lighter moments give The Nature of the Beast some dynamics. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” (a cover of a 1972 song by unsung Canadian songwriter Lorence Hud) is for some fans April Wine’s finest moment on record. Goodwyn’s “Just Between You and Me” gave the band its biggest international hit, helping to spark the power ballad craze of the 1980s.

Time and pressure took their toll on April Wine, and the band’s peak period wouldn’t last long. But The Nature of the Beast delivered on the promise of everything they’d recorded up to that point and remains a true classic rock landmark.

Don’t miss our interview with April Wine founding member Ritchie Henman

Ritchie Henman: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Top 10 April Wine Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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