Our top 10 Prism songs list digs deep into the music of a Canadian band best-known for its mix of pop-rock with hard rock sounds. The band started in the mid-‘70s, with its initial lineup consisting of members of Seeds of Time and Sunshyne. Seeds of Time and Sunshyne were Vancouver based bands that played music in local arenas.
Prism’s initial lineup included lead vocalist Ron Tabak, lead guitarist Lindsay Mitchell, keyboardist John Hall, rhythm guitarist Tom Lavin, drummer Jim Vallance, and bassist Ab Bryant. Other notable members of this Canadian band include Tom Keenlyside, who played the saxophone and flute horn section, and Bruce Fairbairn, who played the trumpet horn section. However, only Ron, Lindsay, and John Hall were part of the band’s classic and most reputable lineup.
The three were joined by drummer Rocket Norton and bassist Al Harlow. Prism’s former member Jim Vallance went on to establish his successful songwriting career, penning hits for Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Europe, Kiss, Joe Cocker, and Tina Turner, among others. Jim also teamed up with fellow Canadian singer Bryan Adams, establishing one of the best songwriting duos. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Tom Lavin went on to start his blues/jazz band Powder Blues Band. Bassist Ab Bryant on the other hand became a notable musician in the bands Chilliwack and Headpins.
Prism also served as a stepping stone to Bruce Fairbairn’s career as a record producer. The late Bruce Fairbairn produced several successful albums, including Van Halen’s Balance, Aerosmith’s Get a Grip, and AC/DC’s The Razors Edge. Bruce also won the Juno Awards Producer of the Year for his work on Prism’s third LP, Armageddon.
Prism’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
After some time in the formative stage of the band, Prism started its musical pursuits in 1977. The band’s beginnings were marked by the release of its eponymous debut album in the same year. Prism guided the band in successful ways after it rose to number one hundred and thirty-seven on the Billboard 200. The album was also Platinum-certified in the band’s native land after it sold over one hundred thousand copies.
Prism is home to some of the best Prism songs, including “Spaceship Superstar,” “Open Soul Surgery,” and Take Me to the Kaptin.” The hit “Open Soul Surgery” would later be covered by the Canadian rock band April Wine and American singer Ian Lloyd. “Take Me to the Kaptin” attracted the attention of Parallel 49, who covered the song in 2020, issuing it as a single.
Prism’s Album Releases over the Years
The success of the band’s eponymous LP prompted its members to rush toward working on a sophomore album. In 1978, Prism released its sophomore LP, See Forever Eyes. Like the band’s eponymous debut LP, See Forever Eyes had its production work handled by Bruce Fairbairn (this time alone) and not with Jim Vallance (then going by the pseudonym Rodney Higgs).
See Forever Eyes was a success in the US, peaking at number one hundred and fifty-eight. Even though the album failed to outdo Prism on the Billboard charts, it managed to receive Platinum certification in Canada. Musical gems featured on the album include “Flyin’,” “Take Me Away,” and “You’re Like the Wind.”
In 1979, Prism went on to release its third studio album, Armageddon. Armageddon was issued through Capitol Records, once home to Tina Turner, Beastie Boys, 5 Seconds of Summer, Sam Donahue, and Linda Ronstadt. The album also featured Bryan Adams in the songwriting. Armageddon was a commercial success in Canada, receiving a double Platinum certification. The album is the best-selling release to date. “Night to Remember,” “You Walked Away Again,” “Virginia,” and “Armageddon” are some of the best Prism songs from the album.
Prism returned to the studio in 1980 for the release of its fourth studio album, Young and Restless. Young and Restless marked lead vocalist Ron Tabak’s last LP with Prism. It also marked the last album to feature Bruce Fairbairn, who had been the band’s producer for all its previous albums. Young and Restless is best known by Prism fans and critics for striking a balance between pop-rock, soft rock, and arena rock sonic vibes. “American Music” and “Young and Restless” are some of the best Prism songs from the LP.
In 1981, the band issued yet another album, Small Change. The album saw the band take in former Scrubbloe Caine member Henry Small as its vocalist after the departure of Ron. Small Change was a success charting at number fifty-three on the Billboard 200. The album is home to some of the most popular Prism songs, including “Don’t Let Him Know,” “Turn On Your Radar,” “Rain,” and “Hole in Paradise.” However, the album only achieved a Gold certification in Canada after managing to sell fifty thousand copies.
Two years later, Prism issued its sixth LP, Beat Street. Beat Street was sonically rich, having it feature Bobby Kimball of Toto, Bill Champlin of Chicago, and Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles on the backing vocals. Unfortunately, the album missed the Billboard 200 by two spots. However, the album is best-remembered thanks to the hit “I Don’t Want to Want You Anymore.”
After the release of Back Street, Prism went on hiatus. Prism later reunited, issuing its seventh studio album, Jericho, in 1993. Some of the musical gems from the album include “Good to Be Back,” “Out Of My Head,” and “Way of the World.” Big Black Sky marks the most recent LP release by Prism. The album was issued in 2008.
Prism’s Accolades and Legacy
The band’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in its homeland Canada. Prism has been nominated several times for the Juno Awards Group of the Year accolade. The band won the award in 1981. Bruce Fairbairn won the Juno Awards Producer of the Year for his work on Prism’s third LP, Armageddon, in 1980.
The following year Bruce was once more nominated for the same award but failed to bag the win. Armageddon and Young and Restless have been nominated for the Juno Awards Album of Year accolade. Band members Lindsey Mitchell and Al Harlow were nominated for the Juno Awards Composer of the Year award. Here we present the best Prism songs sampled from the band’s eight studio albums.
#10 – Good to Be Back
We open up our top ten Prism songs with the captivating rock ballad “Good to Be Back.” The song was composed by Al Harlow, Jim Vallance, and Bryan Adams. “Good to Be Back” was first issued in 1988 on the band’s sophomore compilation album, Over 60 Minutes With… Prism. This three-minute song was later featured on the band’s 1993 LP, Jericho. Lindsay Mitchell delivers an inspirational guitar solo for this hit.
Darcy Deutsch handles the vocals on this new track on the compilation album. You can’t help but notice the amazing backing vocals in the song’s chorus by Paul Janz and Marc LaFrance. The song’s title serves the band perfectly, having it welcome Prism back to touring after being out of the limelight for some time.
#9 – Night to Remember
“Night to Remember” is a musical gem from the band’s third studio album, Armageddon. The song was penned by Prism’s lead guitarist Lindsay Mitchell. “Night to Remember” alludes to a splendid moment for the singer in a romantic relationship. During the subject night, the singer and his significant other forge deeper connections that remain in their minds forever.
The song’s lyrics are filled with words of adoration and flattery as the singer tries to get a bit more expressive of the whole experience. “Night to Remember” saw Lindsay win the SOCAN Song of the Year accolade. The song managed a peak position of number thirty-three on the Canadian Top Singles chart.
#8 – I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore
Our eighth spot on the ten best Prism songs goes to the spirited hit “I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore.” The song is featured on the band’s sixth LP, Beat Street. Life after Ron Tabak on the lead vocals seems to have not been badly off having vocalist Henry Small unleash one of his best vocal deliveries in this hit.
“I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore” was penned by Henry Small and Richie Zito, who played the guitar and offered backing vocals to songs on the album. The song finds the singer wishing to edge even further from a lover he feels hasn’t requited his love for her. “I Don’t Want To Want You Anymore” peaked at number thirty-seven on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
#7 – Armageddon
We head back to Prism’s most successful commercial release, Armageddon, home to our number seven hit. “Armageddon” serves as the album title track to Prism’s third LP. The song is yet another lyrical gem penned by the band’s guitarist Lindsay Mitchell. In the opening verse to “Armageddon,” we find the songwriter describing how fans of the rock legend Elvis Presley waited for the artist outside Graceland. The song peaked at number twenty-three on the Canadian Top Singles chart.
#6- Young and Restless
Number six on our top 10 Prism songs list is the pulsating hit “Young and Restless.” The song serves as the album title track to the band’s fourth studio album. Its lyrics were penned by Al Harlow and Lindsay Mitchell. “Young and Restless” finds the band addressing the experiences of a young teenage guy who, in this context, is still schooling.
The young guy waits for the school bell to ring so that he can walk away from the school compound. “Young and Restless” showcases how the guy is filled with vision but remains lost and isolated. The song peaked at number fourteen on the Canadian Top Singles chart.
#5- Take Me to the Kaptin
After coming together as Prism, the band released its eponymous debut album, home to our number five hit “Take Me to the Kaptin.” “Take Me to the Kaptin” is one of the most successful hits penned by Jim Vallance. The song’s title is almost similar to Elton John’s 1970 hit “Take Me to the Pilot.”
Jim revealed that the word “Kaptin” referred to Sunshyne keyboardist Peter Bjerring’s nickname “Kaptin Boweevil.” The song lyrics allude to traveling to another planet and making it home. However, the permission to do all that must be issued by the “Kaptin.” “Take Me to the Kaptin” peaked at number fifty-two on the Canadian Top Singles chart. The song was a success in the US, having it peak at number fifty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Prism received the Certificate of Honour from the Performing Rights Organization of Canada, thanks to “Take Me to the Kaptin.”
#4- Turn On Your Radar
“Turn On Your Radar” is one of the best Prism songs from the band’s fifth LP, Small Change. The song was penned by Morgan Walker. Its lyrics allude to isolation and the lack of capacity to connect with other people in the social spectrum. The songwriter presents the character in this hit as a person who had been isolated by other community members. “Turn On Your Radar” was a success peaking at number sixty-four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Our third pick for the ten best Prism songs is the electrifying hit “Flyin’.” The song is featured on Prism’s sophomore LP, See Forever Eyes. Bass guitarist Al Harlow is credited with having penned the lyrics to the song. Al Harlow also singlehandedly penned the hit “Take Me Away,” still featured on the band’s sophomore album. While See Forever Eyes failed to achieve greater success than Prism, the hit “Flyin’” helped the band keep its popularity afloat. “Flyin’” peaked at number fifty-three on the Billboard Hot 100.
#2- Don’t Let Him Know
“Don’t Let Him Know” is Prism’s highest-charting song on the Billboard Hot 100. The song managed to rise to number thirty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100. It also made it to the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. On the Canadian Top Singles chart, the song peaked at number forty-nine.
“Don’t Let Him Know” was penned by the legendary songwriting duo Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. The song was issued on Prism’s fifth LP, Small Change. Jim revealed that the song was inspired by Kim Carnes’ hit “Betty Davis Eyes.” The song was Prism’s first release to feature lead vocalist Henry Small, who had replaced Ron, who left the band in 1980.
#1- Spaceship Superstar
At number one is the hit “Spaceship Superstar,” a musical gem penned by Jim Vallance. The song is featured on the band’s eponymous debut album. Jim revealed that the inspiration to pen the song came from the classic film Star Wars, The Who’s 1971 LP Who’s Next, and the techno group Kraftwerk, best known for its signature hit “Autobahn.”
“Spaceship Superstar” was also inspired by the Edgar Winter Group’s hit “Free Ride.” The song was later adopted by the Space Shuttle Discovery crew members in 2011 as the wake up song. Prism received a Certificate of Honour from the Performing Rights Organization of Canada, thanks to this hit. The song made it to number sixty-three on the Canada Top Singles chart. It also made it to number eighty-two on the Billboard Hot 100.
Feature Photo: Joe Vitale 5, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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