Used by kind permission of The Hamilton Spectator
Beyond Blood, Sweat and Tears
By Graham Rockingham
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 22, 2005)
David Clayton Thomas finally got bored with being an "oldies" act.
He had sold more than 35 million records and spent more than 30 years
the road with Blood, Sweat and Tears. But if he wanted to record anything
new, he had to kill the band that had made him world famous.
"Blood Sweat and Tears as a recording act was finished," Thomas, 64,
in an interview from his Toronto home. ". . . It was strictly a
multi-million-dollar touring machine. For a songwriter that's slow death."
With his signature smooth-as-gravel voice of his, it's easy to forget
Thomas also wrote most of those BS&T hits himself. Spinning Wheel, Go Down
Gambling, You're The One, and Lucretia MacEvil, were his own songs, some
written in Canada before Thomas even joined the band.
"If you're not in an organization you can write for, it makes no sense
after awhile," Thomas continues, explaining why he pulled the plug on
"You can only run to so many casino gigs and whatnot. We were literally
turning out over 150 gigs a year. It was a great band and a great
organization but it was making so much money touring that it had no
interest in recording at all. And I'm not sure the recording industry had
any interest in Blood Sweat and Tears anymore. "It was an oldies' act."
Thomas took 18 months to wind down the BS&T gravy train which become
corporate giant, with 25 salaried employees and an entourage of lawyers,
agents and accountants. A year ago, he handed his suburban New York home
over to his daughter, a senior at university there, and returned to his
native Toronto to take up permanent residence in a 38th-floor harbourfront
penthouse looking out onto Lake Ontario. He's outfitted the condo with a
48-track recording studio, just in case the view inspires him.
"It's absolutely gorgeous. I've fallen in love with this neighbourhood,"
says Thomas, recovering from a bug he picked up a couple of weeks ago in
Berlin while performing in a tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl.
(His name still has cachet in Europe.)
Thomas, looking up old friends, found that musicians he'd known from
garage bands in the '60s had become Toronto's vibrant jazz scene. He
hooked up with respected session players like drummer Terry Clarke,
bassist George Koller, and, most importantly, Doug Riley, a premier jazz
keyboardist whose pedigree stretches back 35 years to when he formed the
popular Dr. Music band for the Ray Stevens TV show. Thomas also connected
with Jim West founder of the Montreal-based jazz label Justin Time.
Together they released a David Clayton Thomas solo album entitled Aurora,
produced by Riley and featuring a couple of new originals as well as
covers such as River by Joni Mitchell.
"Recording Aurora was a big eyeopener for me," Thomas says. "I got to
really work with the Toronto music community again for the first time in
decades. It really felt like a home again. It really felt good."
Aurora was produced while Thomas was still winding down BS&T. He's
focused totally on his solo projects. He put together a big band, an
11-piece, to back him up on both the new songs and the old classics.
For horns, Thomas turned to another old Toronto friend, trumpeter/arranger
Bruce Cassidy. The two had worked together with BS&T in the '80s, but
Cassidy left the band to live in South Africa. Cassidy returned to Toronto
a couple of years ago to form the Hotfoot Orchestra.
The new band, with Riley, Koller, Clarke and guitarist Bernie Labarge
providing the nucleus and Cassidy adding a six-piece horn section, has
rehearsed intensely in recent weeks for Thomas' next recording project.
"My second album for Justin Time is going to be done at the old Opera
House in Toronto over two nights (this Wednesday and Thursday)," Thomas
says. "I'm recording live with the big band. It's going to be an
autobiographical album, with everything on it ... It's open to the public
and we're also shooting a DVD at the same time."
David Clayton Thomas Band's live album and DVD recording will take place
p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, at The Opera House, 735 Queen St. E.,