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LaBarge - 1984 Bargin' In

ALBUM: Bargin' In
YEAR: 1984
CD REISSUE: 1995, Long Island Records, LIRC 00060


LINEUP: Bernie Labarge - lead vocals, guitars, backing vocals * Howard Ayee, Ron Garant - bass * Jorn Andersen - drums * Lou Pomanti, Grant Slater - keyboards * John Forbes - C.M.I. Fairlight * Gary Mccracken - simmons programming * John Rutledge, Lou Nadeau - backing vocals * John Panchyshyn saxophone

TRACK LISTING: 01 Dream Away * 02 Can't Hold On Forever * 03 Stop The Game * 04 Overnight Sensation * 05 Work For Me * 06 Still In Love With You * 07 Gun Shy * 08 Take This Part Of Me * 09 Bus Route 22 * 10 Annie * 11 One Less Marianne * 12 Take It As It Comes


Here's a guy who it seems has been around in the Canadian music scene forever. It would take me a very long time to recount his career in the short confines of this review - so I won't. Suffice to say, read it on his website instead. What I say though, is that LaBarge has played with the best Canadian musicians over the last forty years. He was even in bands with the late Brian MacLeod (Chilliwack and Headpins) and has shared the stage with Alex Lifeson (Rush). This would be the tip of the iceberg though. Despite being primarily a band participant and leader, he still found time to release music in a solo capacity. His 1981 single 'Dream Away' was a much-played song that year. It wasn't until 1984 among all his other commitments, that LaBarge was able to release his first solo album 'Bargin' In'. On this album, Bernie is locked into the 1984 groove, and moving in the same circles as fellow Canuck Stan Meissner and the late Van Stephenson.

The Songs
That 1981 single 'Dream Away' is the first song out of the blocks. It's a gentle radio friendly format, mixed with a West Coast style makes for an ideal starting point. A song well known to AORsters is 'Can't Hold On Forever' - a tune covered by Canadian chanteuse Lisa Price the year before. I think I much prefer this version, where LaBarge's vocals echoes Van Stephenson like a twin. 'Stop The Game' is probably the best representation of Bernie's melodic rock intent - that aforementioned Meissner and Stephenson connection so apparent here. The upbeat rock of 'Overnight Sensation' sounds like a cast-off from Van's 'Righteous Anger' album such is the similarity. The classy ballad 'Work For Me' is a slow burner, and is slightly edgier than the other ballad here 'Annie', but for me the next track 'Still In Love With You' is the albums highlight - with a cool keyboard motif and stinging guitar work to match. 'Gun Shy' features heavy drum beats played in a robotic fashion, unlike 'Take This Part Of Me' which is a light west-coast flavored tune.. very nice. Returning to the AOR style we heard earlier on in the album is the excellent 'Bus Route 22' - Bernie letting loose on this fluid guitar-rocker. AOR is also the order of the day with 'One Less Marianne' - a pleasant mid-paced affair, the album finishing up with the good-time rock n roll of 'Take It As It Comes', amid of flurry of guitars and saxophone!

In Summary
After it's initial release, Bernie moved on to other gigs, including a stint with The Irish Rovers, plus numerous TV appearances on different shows. A talented individual indeed. Also, 'Bargin' In' received a re-release in the mid 90's on the defunct Long Island Records label, so there should be copies floating around in CD format on Ebay and GEMM. In the meantime, take a look around Bernie's website. There is some cool memorabilia within his Scrapbook section, and you can follow his career in photographic form. Still playing to this day, all AORsters should do this man an honour and procure his album into your collection.

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#1 | richardb on June 15 2008 14:16:21
A great album from a fine vocalist/guitarist it's shame he didn't release anything else in this vein..

Richard B
#2 | kim_hp on September 30 2011 12:17:38
Just got the CD after searching for it for some time. What a masterpiece this is! A must have for any one into 80's westcoast and AOR indeed.

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