Most bands start out learning and performing cover songs – music made popular by other bands - before embarking on their own writing projects and this was the case with Horse. Their repertoire of covers was chosen from a long list of groups who were “hot” in the 70’s – The Allman Brothers, The Band, Chicago, Jethro Tull, Johnnie and Edgar Winter, The James Gang, Dreams and many more.
The original music that Horse plays was written as a group. Musical ideas were shared freely and each musician in the band made his own significant contribution to the end product. Most times the songs were composed from these basic ideas brought to rehearsals by the band members and then worked on as a group – on some rare occasions a band member would bring in a complete song and then it was a matter of each player adding his part.
In the early years, there were just a few songs written – Together, and Forgotten Woman were two of the most memorable. It was when Paul Barrett, Abbey Aucoin and later Gregg “Phisch” Fancy became part of the group that the writing really started to happen in a big way. Wayne Nicholson remained the sole lyricist and melodist (the one who wrote the melodies) for the group as well as the person responsible for song titles.
The recording industry in Nova Scotia was just starting to take off around the time that the band broke up, so the only “commercial” recording of the band was a single 45-rpm vinyl disc on Big Ear Records. The A-side of this record was Broken Wings a catchy tune with a jazzy tenor saxophone solo in the middle. The B-side was a song called You Were Gone – a piano-heavy recoding that has a great rock groove.
Although Horse songs are all different stylistically, there are certain grooves and tempos that the material can be loosely categorized into. For example the four ballads: Next Time Around, The Rise and Fall, Thinking Of You and Lady Graceful all were quite different from each other although the same in that they were slow songs - or waltzes as they were called in the ‘70s. Southend Sadie, No Need To Explain and Collection could be said to be rock shuffle. There are also the driving rock tunes like Drive Me Crazy, Gathering Storm and Leftover You.
Among the most defining characteristics of Horse material were the longer multi-section compositions. The best known in this genre is Fisherman - a signature song of the band – that starts with a simple piano introduction which builds to a hard rock groove, goes into a 5/4 or odd-time signature section, which is followed by fast 3/4 finally returning to the hard rock groove for the ending.
Several other Horse compositions have a similar format including Folly Mountain Breakdown. Named after the famous country style Foggy Mountain Breakdown, this 15 - minute suite written all in one weekend in a cottage at Folly Lake goes through several contrasting musical styles culminating in a powerful all stops out ending. Other titles in this longer style include Movin’ Along, Straight Ahead, It’s All Over and Blue Sky Ladies - all of which are entertaining, and at the same time musically complex.
Horse fans will remember many of these titles and the band is looking forward to performing them again after so many years. Along with the comical Fly Soup, the jazzy Go Lightly, and the driving rock sound of After All This Time the material described above will be sure to delight everyone who makes it to the gigs.
We acknowledge the financial support of FACTOR, the Government of Canada and of Canada’s private radio broadcasters.