‘Ragged Ass Road,’ was an intensely personal work. The album, which will be released in the US by EMI Music on Nov. 7, 1995, features the song ‘I Wish You Well’ which debuted at no. one on the Records’ contemporary album radio chart. The singer, who fronted the Red Riders in the 1980s, is known for the 1992 top 10 hit single, ‘Life is a Highway’ and the album ‘Mad Mad World.’
TORONTO – Hearing Tom Cochrane’s blistering new Capitol Records album, “Ragged Ass Road,” makes the wonder just what the hell is going on in the veteran Canadian singer/songwriter’s personal life.
Co-produced by Cochrane and ex-Red Rider keyboardist John Webster, “Ragged Ass Road” came out in Canada Sept. 19. Following release in Europe, Australia, and Japan, Capitol will release the record to the U.S. Nov. 7.
“It’s a very personal, very powerful record,” says Tim Trombley, VP of talent acquisition and artist development, EMI Music Canada.
It’s also one that is obviously striking a chord with its listeners. The first Canadian single, “I Wish You Well,” released Aug. 24, debuted at No. 1 on the Record’s contemporary album radio chart, making it the first time a record by a Canadian artist has done so. Only Bruce Springsteen’s “Murder Incorporated” and the Rolling Stones’ “Love Is Strong” have equaled the feat.
“Every station we expected to come in across the country came in at heavy rotation out of the box,” says Peter Diemer, VP of national promotion EMI Music Canada.
The single will be released in the U.S. Oct. 9 and will hopefully build on the American success experienced by Cochrane with his 1992 top 10 hit, “Life Is A Highway.”
But Capitol isn’t taking any chances. “In America, the name Tom Cochrane doesn’t translate unless you mention ‘Life Is A Highway,’” says Denise Skinner, Capitol Records’ VP of marketing. “We established a wonderful hit, but I’m not sure if we established Tom as an artist. It’s our job now to tie ‘Life Is A Highway’ into ‘Ragged Ass Road.’ ‘I Wish You Well’ can do that, and then we can [release] heavier songs, like ‘Scream’ or ‘Crawl.’”
The label will target album rock radio. “This is a pretty straight-ahead rock’n’roll record, so AOR is going to be a staple for us out of the box,” Skinner says. “We want to get [a lot of] airplay at AOR prior to the album going out and then eventually cross it over to top 40. Depending on how the record develops at AOR, it could be a quick cross to top 40.”
In Canada, “Ragged Ass Road” is one of the most eagerly anticipated domestic albums of the past decade. Since recording the album “Hang On To Your Resistance” on Daffodil Records in 1977 under the group name Cochrane and fronting Red Rider for seven albums from 1980 to 1989, Cochrane has been recognized as one of the country’s most talented songwriters and performers.
“Mad Mad World” has sold one million units in Canada to date, according to Diemer. Two singles, “Life Is A Highway” and “No Regrets,” reached No. 1 on the Record’s contemporary album radio and contemporary hit radio charts, while “Sinking Like A Sunset” reached No. 1 at contemporary album radio and No. 3 at contemporary hit radio. A number of other tracks also received widespread airplay at album rock radio.
EMI Music Canada’s aggressive campaign for “Ragged Ass Road” has included advance station-sponsored playback parties, customized radio spots at album rock radio stations in 10 cities, and a nationally syndicated 90-minute Soundsource Radio Network special that will feature a live performance from Manta Sound in Toronto, an interview, and highlight tracks from the album.
While his star has not risen as high in the U.S., the success of “Mad Mad World,” which sold 525,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan, bodes well for continued growth.
Cochrane was immensely pleased that “Mad Mad World” gave him a firm foothold in the U.S. marketplace, which had eluded him with Red Rider in the ’80s.
“It was gratifying to finally break through in the U.S.,” he says. “Previously, you had a lot of people saying, ‘He’s a success [in Canada] because he’s Canada’s own, and [Canadians] embrace him because of that.’ There was the specter hanging over me that I was an esoteric artist, and people outside Canada couldn’t relate to me. That was put to bed with ‘Mad Mad World.’”
That success also gave him the freedom to write his most intimate album to date. On “Ragged Ass Road,” the 43-year-old Cochrane graphically and painfully details the spiralling conflicts of his marriage.
In the album’s centerpiece, “Just Scream,” for example, Cochrane’s lyrics stingingly rebuke himself and his wife over the disintegration of their relationship. “I had a hard time [recording] that song because I originally felt it was a scathing one-sided indictment,” he says. “I could hardly sing it. I had the guitar lick and the key hook, but I was playing hide-and-seek with the lyrics. Finally, I said, “Whether this emotion stands or not, I’m documenting a feeling and a chunk of my life with this song.’
“I guess I use [songwriting] as a cleansing,” Cochrane adds, alluding to the album’s confidential nature. “It’s unavoidable at this stage. You have to write about what [you’ve] gone through.”
Cochrane wrote eight of the album’s 12 songs himself. He co-wrote “Crawl” with Bill Bogert and recorded three songs by Vancouver-based songwriter Annette Ducharme that greatly lighten the overall tone of the album. Ducharme also wrote “Sinking Like A Sunset” on “Mad Mad World.”
Cochrane balks at the notion of the album being too dark. “Both ‘I Wish You Well’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ are pretty positive songs, but ‘Ragged Ass Road’ is certainly another foil to the personal songs on the album,” he says. “I was inspired by Ragged Ass Road in Yellowknife [Northwest Territories], but it’s not specifically about that: ‘Ragged Ass Road’ is not specifically a real place but a place of the mind.”