Gather around the campfire, folks. A new chapter in the legend of Remy Shand begins today.
Alas, the latest twist does little more than revisit a 20-year mystery and answers none of the questions about why the Winnipeg soul singer-songwriter seemingly vanished when his career showed so much promise.
Universal Music Canada releases the 20th-anniversary edition of Shand’s album The Way I Feel today and includes three new tracks from two decades ago, along with three instrumental versions of the record’s three singles, Take a Message, The Way I Feel and Rocksteady.
The 20th anniversary is a bit of a misnomer. Shand’s album came out in Canada in 2001, but stunned the music industry a year later when he signed with Motown Records to release it in the United States in 2002.
Why Motown, a label famous for launching the careers of Black artists such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, among countless others, would give a white kid from Winnipeg a chance would become one of the fascinating aspects to the Shand story.
But Motown did, and Shand’s catchy brand of neo-soul caught on in the U.S. as it had in Canada, where The Way I Feel rose to No. 1 on the album charts and earned him a Juno Award.
His music, an homage to R&B stars of the 1960s and ’70s, such as Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire, was so different than what was being played on the radio at the time.
How different? The No. 1 single of 2002, according to Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, was by another Canadian phenomenon that came from out of the blue: How You Remind Me by Nickelback.
Shand would later land four Grammy nominations, a number usually reserved for the trendiest of pop stars or music legends who have been overlooked by award voters.
That’s where the story ends, however.
The songwriter has hardly been seen or heard from in the music world since, vanishing after a sudden flash of light like a meteor vaporizing into Earth’s atmosphere.
Shand’s silence remains to this day, and a Universal spokesperson said he would do no publicity for the reissued record.
Only a quote provided in a press release recognizes Shand’s existence and mentions his pride for The Way I Feel and how he created it.
"My vision was to push through and create a solid platform for musical autonomy — the bedroom musician, the one-person band," Shand is quoted as saying the Universal Music Canada statement.
The video for Take a Message dramatizes Shand’s talent and the work he put in to create the record from scratch: in one moment he’s behind the keyboard, next he’s playing the bass.
His groundbreaking recording methods are the norm these days. Billie Eilish, arguably the most popular artist in music today, got her start the same way, recording songs at home with her brother Finneas and posting them on SoundCloud, where they caught people’s attention and caught fire at the same time.
"Twenty years later it’s the norm. Universal Music Canada and UMe/Motown understood the mission and the authenticity within. The album, music and statement will always be ahead of its time… and the message of love, eternal. It’s the way I feel," Shand continues in the release.
What the reissue of The Way I Feel has done is allowed all who were fascinated by Shand’s sudden emergence — and equally sudden departure — to dust off the CD, like an artifact pulled out of a time capsule, and give it a spin again.
And just like 20 years ago, Shand’s sound is unlike anything that’s popular today, yet it remains fresh, vibrant and danceable. His use of the wah-wah pedal is still restrained, his voice continues to have the flexibility of youth.
The songs have been freeze-dried to protect them from overplay, unlike Nickelback, which 20 years later has become one of the most loathed and ridiculed bands in the world, partly owing to oversaturation on radio.
While Shand is now 44, all the world has to relate to him is what he was 20 years ago.
Sure, he’s had no career surge, no rise to superstardom that The Way I Feel had the potential to provide.
He has also been spared the inevitable humiliating downturns caused by the fickle nature of the music business, in which fans are quick to move on to the newest music trend, leaving old discs in used record shops or hidden in boxes in storage units.
What this reissue provides is the tiniest of career rebounds, and a chance for all to revisit the heady days of 2002 when Shand and The Way I Feel put Winnipeg back on the musical map.
Quite a legend indeed.
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.