A Foot in Cold Water put out one heck of a debut in 1972. Four hard rock tracks with heavy darker parts around the chorus, three more standard but good melodic hard rock numbers, one semi-acoustic down-on-my-luck kind of number, and a ballad that was so good it was released twice and hit the charts in Canada both times and went on to be covered by Helix in 1984.
The sophomore album is sadly not easy to get a hold of, but this, their third album, I was able to acquire for a normal price on Amazon. Now, I am not familiar with the details behind this album but I am going to guess that the band was about to get their (cold?) foot into the American market and so released this effort which is comprised of five new songs and five re-recordings of songs from their first two albums. It is quite common for bands from Canada or other places (AC/DC from Australia) to release as their third album a compilation of songs from their first two albums for the American market. So, I guess that is kind of what A Foot in Cold Water were up to here.
First off, from a heavy rock / hard rock perspective, this album is disappointing after hearing and being so impressed with their debut. The first song on this album is not hard or heavy and rather a standard seventies rock song. The title track shows the band's progressive aspirations and as a prog rock song it's a pretty decent effort. In particular, the cascade of notes from the hard rock guitar sounds pretty cool and it quite reminds me of The Phantom of the Opera's famous descending chord theme (which is nearly identical to a piece composed by Rick Wakeman a few years prior to Phantom).
This little bit of prog rock passes by offering hope that something interesting might be afoot (in cold water?); however, the third track is a re-recorded and abridged version of the hit ballad "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want". Piano has been added and the guitar solo has been greatly reduced and the repeat of the first verse cut altogether. It's still a nice ballad but I much prefer the original version. This sounds like it has been trimmed and pruned so as to have it primed for entry into American radio stations.
We finally hit rock with track four, "It's Only Love", a short heavy rocker with the bass guitar hooked up to a distortion pedal. Now things are definitely looking up, but next is a ballad sung by Hugh Leggat (of the Leggat brothers and their album "Illusions" which featured the song "White Flags" which was covered by Blue Oyster Cult). So, side one is pretty slow and easy except for the one short song.
Side two gives us two heavy songs with "How Much Can You Take?" and "Yalla Yae"; however, both are re-recordings of previously released songs. "How Much" is from the second album and from what I heard on iTunes, the original has a rawer sound which I prefer. Still, it's heavy and sounds pretty good. Vocalist Alex Machin throws in one seriously fine scream near the end, the kind of scream that sounds like a power saw cutting through wood in that you get the rough vocals (the saw in the wood) and a high, dry screech (the spinning saw). Where this song disappoints me is in the repeated chorus as the song fades out. I am certain something was omitted that was on the original. "Yalla Yae" is treated with echo effect on the vocals and once again the bass is powered up with distortion. This song is one of my favourites from the debut. On the original there are strings but they don't soften the mood. The chorus of this song is broodingly heavy, and Machin's screams as the organ solo concludes are fantastic. His screams are given more emphasis here which is good but the production is fuller and more dense and as such the rawness of the original makes that version sound better to me.
We get one really good power ballad almost as good as the original "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want" in "(Isn't Love Unkind) In My Life" (what's with the parenthesis thing?). This song has a great lead melody that can stick like peanut butter and caramel. But "He's Always There" I find to be dull and unmemorable.
Finally there's an instrumental "Para-Dice" which again shows the band leaning toward a more progressive style. Good but not very heavy.
I don't think this is such a bad album but I have three reserves against it. The first is the sound of the production. Like I mentioned above, it just sounds denser. This might be the remastering or it might be the headphones I am using. Perhaps this album sounds better in a car stereo, I don't know. Second, after such a killer debut, this album wimps out except for on three or four songs. And third, most of the best songs are re-recordings of songs from the first two albums and the originals either sound better because I know, or I suspect they sound better based on what I have heard from the iTunes samples.
For anyone interested in A Foot in Cold Water, I recommend getting the debut album and then checking out songs from the second album on iTunes or the Internet first. Or check out "The Best of" album which is also available from Amazon and on iTunes. This, I believe, includes songs from the first three albums as well as their final release a couple of years later.