Craig Ruhkne: The Craig Ruhnke Band / Just Like Old Times / Keep the Flame

Trying to pick your favorite Craig Ruhkne record is like trying to pick your favorite infectious disease.

Craig Ruhkne
Albums: The Craig Ruhnke Band / Just Like Old Times / Keep the Flame
Label: Riverman
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2011-09-13

Canadian soft-rock practitioner Craig Ruhnke left behind the Toronto-based Groovin’ Company of the late ‘60s, had a few modest solo hits, launched his own Pinnacle label, and eventually signed with A&M. This trio of releases chronicles Ruhnke’s output between 1979 and 1984. It’s pure soft-rock (sans reverie) with approximations of Barry Manilow, Exile, Firefall, and The Beach Boys on an off night. It’s hard to listen to this material in the contemporary setting as it all sounds horribly dated, covered in the fuzzy haze of late ‘70s FM pop, when the music lost any sense of irony at the very moment that it probably needed it most.

The promotional-only release The Craig Ruhnke Band highlights this problem via “Why Don’t You Come Up and See Me Sometime”, which should have been a novelty cabaret piece but lacks any sense of humor and fails to acknowledge the camp elements inevitable in revisiting older forms. “It’ll Take Time” was perhaps best suited for a career as a 30-second jingle but was instead carried to full term and emerged as a two-minute-plus song. “It’s Time To Fall In Love” is laughable love song treachery that makes Peter Frampton’s “I’m In You” sound like a Shakespearian masterpiece. Three “bonus” tracks augment the original 12: a wan Eagles copy “Daisy May”, a putrid synth-laden “Dancin’ At Midnight”, and more soft rock mind rot (“Somebody To Love”).

1982’s Just Like Old Times is a painfully earnest record that suffers from more dated production and a penchant for mimicking the, er, cream of the era’s soft-rock crop. To his credit, Ruhnke’s songwriting, such as it is, had improved by this release. Although the lyrics still lean on cloying sentimentality and cliché, the material is not as overtly derivative and under-developed as on the 1979 release. Four bonus tracks round out this collection, including the gospel-inflected “Hold Me Now”, a track replete with frosty synthesizers and programmed drums; there’s also “A Lighthouse In The Storm” and two other forgettable afterthoughts -- “Love’s A Celebration” and “Put It In A Love Song”.

1984’s Keep The Flame offers more of the same, albeit with softer, more anonymous sounds perhaps created not so much to be listened to as heard in the scant distance of a dentist’s office or while pumping gas. That said, “It’s Been Such A Long Time” features the artist’s best vocal performance across these three reissues, although that’s like trying to choose your favorite diarrhea episode during your last flu bout.

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a legitimate audience for these reissues or that their excavation from the deepest, darkest recesses of time was really necessary. In truth, some records deserve to find their final resting place, to rot in eternity, without having their sleep disturbed. These albums are perfect examples. Avoid by any means necessary.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.