TORONTO - It's a beloved Canadian '80s rock classic that's a mainstay on best-of lists but until recently, hearing "Try" would make Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor cringe.
"It had a lot of cheese on it," explains the co-frontman in an interview alongside fellow crooner Jim Cuddy. "Our first record 'Outskirts' has that real '80s sound, it sounds like Tears for Fears were backing us up."
But not anymore. Keelor remixed "Try" and the other tracks on "Outskirts" for the new eight-disc boxset "Blue Rodeo: 1987 - 1993," which also includes remastered versions of the band's first five records, demos from the album "Casino," and other previously unreleased material.
"For me, I'd take cracks at every song we've ever done, basically. I'm a tinkerer by nature," says Keelor, who noted that "Try" wasn't really overhauled as much as it was refined.
"Mostly we were just getting rid of a lot of the studio technical gimmickry of that era — the '80s have a sound. The snare drum sound of the '80s was never our favourite, so it was sort of funny that our first record has that sound."
The band's first crack at working with a producer in a recording studio — with Terry Brown, who teamed up with Rush on nine albums — ended with the musicians accepting some sonic decisions they regretted.
"You get in those unfamiliar surroundings like a recording studio and you kind of listen to what's being said, 'This should be faster, slower you gotta put this 12-string guitar in,'" Cuddy says.
"And we just did because everything sounds nice in a studio, it may not be what you want, but it sounds nice."
One hard-fought victory that Cuddy did win was in adding a reverb effect to "Try" — although Keelor was eager to scrub it off for the remixed version.
"Jim was determined to have reverb on it ... so we put reverb on the whole track, everything had reverb — and a lot."
Keelor also tweaked the original sound of the organ in the song, which he thought had an over-the-top cheesy sound.
"It was nice to bring it back ... without all the cheese on it."
Looking back, early mistakes made while recording their debut and their follow-up "Diamond Mine" — when they grudgingly went along with some decisions to tweak their sound — were important, Cuddy said.
"It's happened to us a couple times in our career where we've given up control of something for what we thought were good reasons and it has never ended up being the case — but we have learned something very good from it," he said.
"We were entering, sonically, areas we really were not that comfortable with, that wasn't the way we sounded and it certainly wasn't the way we started. We started out to be the anti-music of that kind of music.
"What we learned was we never, ever ceded control to anybody again for our records."
The band is working on a new album at Keelor's farmhouse studio and appreciates that the release of the box set gives them more time to brainstorm new ideas.
"We can record very leisurely, we don't have a very heavy due date," Cuddy says.
"You can't have everybody be uptight (worrying about deadlines), you've got to explore ideas. Where we were at a month ago at his place is not where we are now. We do understand now what we're making."
Meanwhile, there's not one but two new versions of "Try" for fans to check out — sort of.
Rapper Maestro sampled Cuddy's vocals in "Try" for his track "Reach for the Sky," off his "Black Tuxedo" EP.
"It just came to be because we know Maestro and he asked and we said, 'Sure,'" says Cuddy.
"For somebody like Maestro, we'd say yes and just see what happens."