"A View From the Inside", a totally biased review of Canvas - "Long Way To Mars"


by Greg Lounsberry 


Work had already begun on what was to be the new Canvas album before 

"DigitalPigeon" was released. The majority of the songs recorded during this 

period were discarded. It had already been decided that this was to be a 

shorter album than before to more fully engage the listener with a listening 

session of reasonable length. The issue of listener fatigue with the longer 

albums was discussed. The best answer, then was to throw away the "really 

good" songs, and only keep the "great" songs. Whether the listeners agree with 

that assessment remains to be seen, so let's dive in to the review, on a song 

by song basis.

1. Long Way To Mars - I was not involved with this song, but Chris sent me 

some early demos to listen to, when it was mainly just organ. This is a very 

jazzy track that reminds me of Saga in some places. It is nicely sung by Mike 


2. Better - This is one of the tracks that I had never heard prior to the 

album release. It is Chris Cobel's vocal debut, and I have to say, he did a 

nice job. The song has a nice pop flavor with a memorable melody. The quality 

vocal production by Matt makes Chris sound really good.

3. Brightest Star - This was originally recorded for "Guitars Dancing in the 

Light", the Santana tribute by Mellow records of Italy. This is a new mix for 

this album. Tammy sang the lead, and if you ask me, knocked it out of the 

park. That is Tammy and myself on Background vocals. The organ and guitar are 

excellent (Chris and Matt) and really capture the Santana flavor.

4. Valkyrie Days - I was having a rough time at work when Chris called, and 

sent me his initial 1 minute demo of the keyboard track for this song. My 

first impression was that of floating on a cloud, and I immediately had the 

melody for the song. While in that state, the word Valkyrie popped into my 

head. I thought of the valiant slain being carried away from the battlefield 

by the beautiful winged warrior women of Norse legend, showing beauty, even in 

defeat. I had an electronics professor who used to say, "Some days you eat the 

bear, and some days the bear eats you". So that became the concept for the 

song about a guy who goes to work every day, facing defeat, dreaming that 

one day he would "Call the Valkyrie down on them all". I love both guitar solos, the 

first, by Matt, and the second one by myself where I tried to capture the 

dreamy, airy sensation I encountered on my first listen.

5. Johnny Don't Know - A Chris Cobel song sung by Tom, who is probably tired 

of the Chicago comparisons by now. There are some strong moments here, and 

very singable melodies. I had a twinge or two with the lyrics, but you may not 

agree with that. The message is right on.

6. Scheherezade - This song started out as an outtake from the "Digital 

Pigeon" era  that Matt tossed my way to see if there was something that could 

be done with it. Tammy loves telling funny stories about the kids, so I wrote 

the lyrics about her, describing her as a modern day Scheherezade. The melody, 

once again, just fell into place as the lyrics emerged. I am not sure Matt and 

Chris had really heard Tammy sing before this, as they were expecting that I 

would be singing (The October Tree album was being recorded concurrently with 

the Canvas album). They were naturally blown away. I love this song, and I 

think if Canvas had wider distribution, it could be a hit single.

7. Weather - This is a cool, Cobel song that reminds me in places of Spock's 

Beard. This may be the most progressive track on the album. This is classic 

Canvas at their best.

8. The Beginning Is Near - Matt tossed me a 1 minute acoustic demo, and 

because I was in the middle of making a pickup for my Tacoma Mandolin, I threw 

a mandolin track on it and shot it back to him. The next time I heard it, was 

on the final mastered version of the album. Wow! This is Tammy's favorite 

track on the album. It sounds acoustic, yet electric, and to me is a new 

musical direction for Canvas.

9. Starry - This was a track that didn't appeal to me at first so I decided to 

make Tammy sing it. I wrote the lyrics and melody concurrently, with Tammy 

standing at the microphone. I imagined a walk through an art gallery where all 

three of Van Gogh's "Starry" paintings were on display. Tammy's voice is clear 

and strong, the instrumental section is fiery, and it may be the best lyrics 

I've ever written.

10. Modern Town - I would love some feedback on this one. I really struggled 

with it. The key was wrong for me, causing me to have to drop down below my 

normal vocal range. I couldn't get a good vocal sound, so I never learned to 

love it. Matt, Chris and John's parts are fabulous, and it is a rocking track 

with killer guitar work. The Tarkus-style vocal swell was me, recording 

multiple vocal tracks, and then manually controlling the track volumes in 

Cubase, 10cc style. 



This is far and away Canvas' best album (I told you this review would be 

biased) The length is perfect, and the mixing and mastering are top quality. 

None of the other reviews have posted yet, but I expect raves.

1. Long Way To Mars
2. Better
3. Brightest Star
4. Valkyrie Days
5. Johnny Don't Know
6. Scheherezade
7. Weather
8. The Beginning Is Near
9. Starry
10. Modern Town


Matt Sweitzer - guitars, bass, keyboards, drums
Chris Cobel - keyboards, vocals, trumpet

Tammy Lounsberry - vocals
Greg Lounsberry - vocals, guitar, mandolin

John Swope - drums
Mike Florio - lyrics, vocals & synth solo on "Long Way To Mars"
Tom Mattern - vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, trumpet