Monday, October 24, 2016
Brian Edwards (of Mashmakhan and Riverson, RIP)
Much has been written about Montreal jazz-rock group Mashmakhan and their massive 1970 hit "As The Years Go By," but of course, the story is always a little more than meets the eye... While their music is far from today's charts, their sounds live on in the hearts of many.
For those who may not be in the loop, Brian Edwards was the singing bass player and a contributing songwriter to both Mashmakhan and later, Riverson, two of Canada's most unique musical combos. Mashmakhan began at the tail end of the 1960s and released two full-length albums on the Columbia imprint (Mashmakhan and The Family), but after splitting from head songwriter, organ player, and flautist Pierre Senecal and drummer Jerry Mercer, lead guitarist Rayburn Blake and Edwards, along w/ singing guitarist and songwriter Frankie Hart, formed Riverson. In 2008, I wrote about the group for US music journal Wax Poetics after connecting w/ Ray, Frankie, and Brian (*link here). It was an honour to speak w/ three of my musical heroes whose songs had inspired me greatly.
For many, Mashmakhan were a part of growing up and listening to music in Canada ("As the Years Go By" was even featured in a TV commercial for Concordia University in the late 1980s), but it was my dearly departed hippie record guru Ty Scammell who had turned me on to Riverson in his East Van apartment back in the late 1990s, some 25 years after their album had been released. The record was already being traded between serious collectors of psychedelic folk and rock in the pre-Internet age for serious amounts of bread, but luckily Ty had a spare that I worked towards owning by trading a massive collection of used cassette tapes as well as a little extra cash on top. I'll never forget opening the album's beautiful gatefold sleeve and letting the music take hold of my soul. Thanks again Ty!
Mashmakhan, The Family, and Riverson all carry a special feeling, especially on vinyl (sorry Youtube). Informed by black jazz, blue soul, and international music, they sound like nothing else. Deeper fans should seek out Transition, a solo album by brother Cliff Edwards (The Bells), which features contributions from not only Brian, but Rayburn Blake. Non-LP singles by Mashmakhan ("Love Is" b/w "Time To Move On") and Riverson ("Sittin'-Waitin'" b/w "Chances") are also worth seeking out.
In 2009, I was able to connect w/ Brian in Saskatoon in the middle of a Toronto-Vancouver drive. In more recent years, he had started a trucking company and was well acquainted w/ the road I was traveling. As the sun went down, we chatted, took a couple of quick pictures, and had a nice steak dinner at a local restaurant. Though a couple of years younger, my father had gone to high school in Quebec w/ both Brian and Rayburn and I was excited to tell him of this connection. It was great to hear stories and share a few laughs with someone whose creativity had affected me so much. Never much of an autograph seeker, I did ask him to sign a record that I'd found on my trip west, a spare copy of the aforementioned Transition. Though I'd always hoped to reconnect, it was the last time that I saw Brian in person. Yesterday, I found out via Facebook that he had passed on. Brian, I send my best to your family and friends. Thank you for the positive vibrations. I will champion your music forever!