Gainsborough Gallery

Band members                   Related acts

  line up 1: (1968-69)

- Mel Degan -- lead vocals 

- Jae Mack -- lead vocals 
- Peter Marley -- guitar, vocals 

- Ray McAndrew -- drums, percussion 
- Tim McHugh -- keyboards 
- Dennis Paul (aka Dennis Planidin) -- bass


  line up 2: (1969-71)

- Peter Marley -- guitar, vocals 

- Ray McAndrew -- drums, percussion
- Tim McHugh -- keyboards 
- Dennis Paul (aka Dennis Planidin) -- bass

NEW - Henry Small -- vocals, violin (replaced 

  Mel Degan)



- Club 93 Rebels (Dennis Paul)

- Wes Dakus' Rebels (Dennis Paul)

- Prism (Henry Small)

- Privilege (Mel Degan)

- Scrubbaloe Cain (Henry Small)

- The Skeptics

- Small Wonder (Henry Small)





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Life Is a Song

Company: Evolution

Catalog: 2012

Country/State: Calgary, Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: small punch out hole top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5675

Price: $40.00


This Calgary, Alberta-based outfit originally came together in 1964 as The Skeptics.  By 1966 they'd adopted a new name - The Gainsborough Gallery (named after a local art gallery that kindly agreed to collect the band's mail) and sported an expanded line up showcasing the talents of former Privilege singer Mel Deacon (aka Mel Degan), singer Jae Mack, lead guitarist Peter Marley, drummer Ray McAndrew, keyboardist Tim McHugh, former Wes Dakus' Rebels bass player Dennis Paul, and singer Dennis Small.


LP back cover left to right:

Dennis Paul - Ray McAndrew - Tim McHugh - Henry Small - Mel Degan - Peter Marley


Signed by the small Canadian Apex label, the band debuted with a pair of little heard 1968 singles:


- 'My Little Red Book' b/w 'Little By Little' (Apex catalog number 77075)

- 'If You Knew' b/w 'Sonny' (Apex catalog number 77081)


Subsequently signed to the Reo label, they traveled to Norman Petty's Clovis New Mexico studio to record their 1969 debut album "Life Is a Song".  (Petty's own Evolution label released the album in the States.)   Produced by Petty, the first couple of times I heard this one it really didn't make much of an impression on me.  Luckily it was an album I set aside to come back to.  After a couple more spins I began to appreciate it's charms.  Part of that delayed appeal may have had something to do with the fact these guys didn't have an instantly recognizable sound.  Musically they were quite diverse, underscored by the fact the band was blessed in the vocal department with Degan, Mack, Markely, and Small all having decent voices.  


"Life Is a Song" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) House Of Soul Hill    (R. Eddlemon - S. Turner) - 2:34

Powered by Degan's nice blue-eyed soul voice and some tasty fuzz lead guitar from  Marley, the album opened up with a great blue-eyed soul number in the form of 'House On Soul Hill'.  The song was later tapped for what served as their final single.   rating: **** stars

2.) I Need Someone (The Painter)   (S. Pinz - Paul Leka) - 3:25

'I Need Someone (The Painter)' had one of those hyper-sensitive/fey vocals that typically drive me crazy.  I'm still not sure why I actually enjoy this one - it may have something to do with the insidiously catchy chorus, or the harpsichord pattern.   rating: **** stars

3.) Thank You, Girl   (K, McCormack - T. McCormack) - 2:18

With Mack handling the lead vocal (he was apparently fired before the album was actually released and isn't credited on the album), 'Thank You, Girl' had a great soul flavor and a nice lead guitar pattern.  It would have made a great single.   rating: **** stars

4.) Light In the Window   (George Tomsco - Barbara Tomsco) - 3:01

Opening with a trippy keyboard 'Light In the Window' was a little too pop-flavored to be labeled a psychedelic track, but it came close ...  rating: *** stars

5.) Dreams In a Box Car   (K. McCormack - T. McCormack) - 1:58

An ill-advised stab at country, 'Dreams In a Box Car' was one of the few missteps.  rating: ** stars

6.) Turn Around and Love You   (D.T. Weiss) - 2:56

Powered by McHugh's thundering keyboards and some killer drums from McAndrew, 'Turn Around and Love You' Sounding like a lost Uriah Heep tune ...  okay a Uriah Heep track had they been a much of Canadians interested in scoring an FM radio hit.  All told it was actually one of the coolest songs on the LP.  rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Life Is a Song   (George Tomsco - Barbara Tomsco) - 2:40

'Life Is a Song' was co-written by Fireballs guitarist George Tomsco and his wife Barbara.  Tomsco apparently submitted the song to the band during the Clovis recording sessions and they agreed to take a stab at the song.  Tapped as the leadoff single, it provided them with their first Canadian hit.  Nice country-rocker with a great lead vocal from Degan.  rating: *** stars

2.) Hello L.A. -- Bye Bye Birmingham   (Delaney Bramlett - Mac Davis) - 2:21

'Hello L.A. -- Bye Bye Birmingham' was simply too country for my tastes.  It was tapped as the flip side to the 'Life Is a Song' 45.  rating: ** stars

3.) It's Growing   (William Robinson - W. Moore)  - 2:12

Smokey Robinson covers are seldom very successful, but their up tempo, blue-eyed soul version of 'It's Growing' was actually one of the standout tracks.  Imagine The Rascals covering the song and you'd get a feel for the results.   rating: **** stars

4.) If She Don't Turn Your Head   (K. McCormack - T. McCormack) - 1:59

Relegated to a 'B' side, 'If She Don't Turn Your Head' would have made a dandy single in its own right.  Fantastic top-40 hook ...   rating: *** stars

5.) I Think I'll Catch the Bus (and Go Back Home)   (S. Mitchell) - 2:15

'I Think I'll Catch the Bus (and Go Back Home)' was a sappy and forgettable ballad.   rating: ** stars

6.) Get Ready   (William Robinson) - 2:15

With Degan and Mack sharing lead vocals their hyper-speed cover of 'Get Ready' wasn't half bad.  The Temptations and Rare Earth versions were clearly better, but this version wasn't all that far behind.  rating: *** stars


The album also yielded their third single and first minor Canadian hit - 



- 1969's 'Life Is a Song' b/w 'Hello L.A. -- Bye Bye Birmingham' (Reo catalog number 9026X)    


In an odd marketing move Reo released a non-LP track originally recorded by fellow Evolution act The Beast as the follow up single:


- 1970's 'Ev'ry Man Hears a Different Music' b/w 'I Think I'll Catch the Bus' (Reo catalog number 9030X)


That was followed by another single pulled from the LP:


- 1970's 'House On Soul Hill' b/w 'If She Didn't Turn Your Head' (Reo catalog number 9034X)


The band slugged it out for another couple of months, finally calling it quits in 1971.


Thanks to Jae Mack for the nice email:

Thank you for the review on "Gainsborough Gallery". So glad that you enjoyed my solo songs as I was a novice at the time. I will send to Ray and Tim on Facebook.


Jae Mack March, 20123