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A new Tragically Hip album, just in time for the May long weekend

The Tragically Hip lives. A new album of long-lost material — the band’s first studio release since Man Machine Poem in 2016 — will arrive Friday.

In September 1990, the band travelled to Kingsway Studios in New Orleans to record the follow-up to their debut album, Up to Here. They took with them enough songs for a full record. But when they arrived, the energy from non-stop touring from the last couple of years wouldn’t abate. So they kept writing.

Read more: The Tragically Hip releases lost ‘Road Apples’ songs for new 6-track album

By the time the sessions ended, The Hip had far more songs that would fit on a single album. Something had to give. Hard choices were made about which songs to use and which to cut. It wasn’t a matter of culling the less-than-stellar tracks. If Little Bones, Twist My Arm, and Cordelia were definitely going to be on the album, then it was only smart to exclude songs that were a little too similar in tone, construction, and style.

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In a couple of cases, it probably came down to a coin flip. In the end, Road Apples featured 12 tracks.

The record was a huge hit (it was the first Hip album to reach no. 1 in Canada), and it eventually sold more than a million copies.

Read more: The Tragically Hip contributed to a ‘sea change’ in music, 30 years ago with 'Road Apples'

But what of these orphaned songs? This is where it gets interesting. The two-inch master tapes featuring everything recording during that month in New Orleans were … kinda misplaced.

And they stayed lost for about 30 years. Even the band didn’t know of their whereabouts or existence. And even if they did, the tape boxes weren’t even labelled!

Then, a couple of years ago, a confluence of events (including a fire) led the band to start a search for these tapes. Johnny Fay, the band’s drummer, led the charge, scouring North America for the missing Road Apple tapes. Most were found (a few are apparently still AWOL) and were carefully rehabilitated (the tapes were “baked” to make sure they didn’t come apart), digitized, and mixed to 2021 standards.

The result is a new album of old unreleased Hip songs called Saskadelphia. It contains six of the (at least) 65 documented unreleased Tragically Hip songs from over the decades.

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Here’s the tracklisting.

  1. Ouch
  2. Not
  3. Necessary Montreal (Written and recorded for Road Apples but this is a live recording from the Bell Centre in Montreal in 2000).
  4. Crack My Spine Like a Whip (A former opener and encore track)
  5. Just as Well
  6. Reformed Baptist Blues (One of the oldest Tragically Hip originals)

By the way, the name Saskadelphia was the original name of Road Apples, but that was nixed by the band’s American record label. “Too Canadian,” they said.

As a way of getting back at the label, the Hip went with Road Apples, an even MORE Canadian reference. Older generations will remember playing road hockey with frozen horse poop, which were called “road apples.” The label had no idea.

Last week, I sat down with all four surviving members of the band to talk about the album. That conversation will be broadcast as part of a special edition of The Ongoing History of New Music that will made available to affiliate stations across the country this weekend. The album will appear online in Canada at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 21. Pre-orders can be made at thehip.lnk.to/Saskadelphia.

A new Hip album in time for the May long weekend? Nice. But I’m warning you: Prepare for a flood of emotions when Gord Downie appears in your ears with new material from an era when The Hip was approaching their prime.

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Meanwhile, listen to a preview of Ouch, which I guess we can call the first single.

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