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TORONTO (Billboard) - There were double takes aplenty from sports fans attending the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Was that really Canada's favorite quirky pop-rockers, the Barenaked Ladies, busking on Robson Street? There's been plenty of upheaval for the band in the past couple of years, but surely things weren't that bad.
In fact, with new album "All in Good Time" due March 23 in Canada and March 30 in the United States, the stunt was an attempt to mirror the band's late-'80s beginnings, when it first captured attention by playing on the streets of its Toronto hometown.
"It is absolutely a rebirth and reinvention of the band," says Ed Robertson, the band's lead vocalist since the departure of co-singer/guitarist Steven Page in February 2009. "It was something we'd worked hard at for 20 years -- I wasn't going to let it die away."
Page left the group after his 2008 arrest for cocaine possession, just before the act released its kids' album "Snacktime!"
Many people saw Page as the band's linchpin, but Robertson stepped up on the new record, composing and singing nine of the album's 14 tracks. Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creeggan also write and sing (Tyler Stewart sticks to the drums). The lead single, the ballad "You Run Away," may be a poignant discussion of Page's departure, but, musically at least, the band doesn't seem to be missing him.
The Ladies' erstwhile singer isn't the only significant figure missing from the scene these days. In July 2009, the band split with Nettwerk Music Group CEO/manager Terry McBride, who helped guide the act to its major U.S. breakthrough with 1998's 3.6 million-selling "Stunt."
The group then signed with Cam 8's Jordan Feldstein because of what Robertson dubs Feldstein's "comprehensive vision for the band."
The new album appears on the act's own Raisin Records imprint, but under a one-album North American deal with EMI Music's label services unit, the major will provide sales, digital, marketing and other support. It's the band's closest relationship with a major since it split from Warner after 2003's "Everything to Everyone" album, which sold 360,000.
Feldstein says the EMI relationship is paying dividends, with Olympics-related appearances on NBC's "Today" and CTV's "Canada AM." Further U.S. TV appearances, including ABC's "Live With Regis and Kelly" are scheduled around the release date.
The band kicks off its Canadian tour April 6 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Center in Victoria, British Columbia, with U.S. dates starting May 10 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. A digital copy of the album is bundled with each online ticket purchase.
"We're promoting this album with a lot more concentration than we have in quite a while," Robertson says. "We're doing it because we're really excited about the songs we've written and it's fun for us to see people rooting us on."