The album’s numerical title refers to the years between the release of their 1986 international pop smash, “Don’t Forget Me,” and the studio sessions for the new album, which was recorded in Nashville by fellow Canadian entertainer Johnny Reid.
Citing the band as one of his musical influences, Johnny Reid guided Glass Tiger back to the songs that made them stars in Canada and beyond. Their 1986 debut album, The Thin Red Line, reached quadruple-platinum sales in Canada and spawned consecutive Juno Award-winning singles “Don’t Forget Me” and “Someday.” Both were Top 10 pop hits in the U.S. and the band earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
That momentum led to arena tours around the world with artists like Tina Turner and Journey. In Canada, the band notched many more hits such as “I’m Still Searching,” “Animal Heart,” and “Rescued (By the Arms of Love)” – which all make an encore appearance on 31.
Yet 31 is not exactly a greatest hits package, although nearly all the songs are familiar. Sam Reid says, “What we did in Nashville is completely top-down, what I call the campfire test. The campfire test is if it lives with a vocal and an acoustic guitar, then that’s a great sign. We sat around the kitchen table and worked all the songs from that angle.”
Originally, the members of Glass Tiger hoped to write and record an album of all-new material to coincide with the 30th anniversary of their landmark debut album, The Thin Red Line. However, that ambitious project was put on hold to allow Frew to recover from a stroke in 2015.
As Sam Reid explains, “We just decided that health is more important than anything you’re working on, so we took the band off the road. Essentially it took him more than a year to fully recover and we realized the 30th anniversary was kind of slipping away. Then we came to a realization – who cares? It’s like, “Well, we’ll call the album 31, because 31 is when we’re back.”
Glass Tiger continue to attract special guests, as the band has done on all their studio albums. 31 offers vocals from Julian Lennon on “Thin Red Line” and Alan Doyle on “My Song.” In alternate versions, Quebec vocalist Véronic DiCaire performs in French on “Someday” while Susan Aglukark sings in First Nations on “Diamond Sun.” Johnny Reid turns up on “Wae Yer Family,” one of the two new tracks on 31. The other is a rendition of Johnny Reid’s song, “Fire It Up.” Ultimately it was the producer’s idea to reimagine the band’s catalog. As he told the band, he considered these songs to be old friends, so he wanted to invite them into his house and provide them with new clothes.
Across 31, there’s a stronger Celtic influence than on Glass Tiger’s previous albums, although that influence has always been present, says Sam Reid. He also credits Frew’s distinct vocal as one of the Glass Tiger’s most consistent threads across multiple decades. The band got its break in the summer of 1984 while opening for Culture Club and Boy George at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. When they attracted attention from Capitol Records, the group changed its name from Tokyo to Glass Tiger, ushering in a long career of international touring.
Looking ahead, Sam Reid believes the new music will be able to combine the dazzling pop styles that solidified the band’s reputation as well as the more acoustic approach that listeners will discover on 31.
“We had so much fun doing this album,” says Sam Reid. “I mean we’re a rock band. Even if we’re getting a little older, we don’t want to mellow out. We still love cranking it up, so I think the records will still have an edge to them, but they’ll always have a tinge of where we’re at right now.”
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