Friday, June 28, 2013


I don't have to justify Bacharach, do I?  True, more people of lesser generations than I would know him from his cameo in, I believe, the second movie in the Austin Powers oeuvre.  However, his way with a chord progression is now one of legend, and any grumblings about his M.O.R. leanings I will ignore, as they no doubt come from those without a taste of finer melody and harmony.

In other words, sure, I know a lot of these are getting close to the fromage factory, but I still love 'em.  Okay, I can do without hearing That's What Friends Are For ever again in my life, but at least here it's an instrumental by Kevin "Leno's Guy" Eubanks.  And that's the trick with this grandly-packed double-disc, 40 cuts, and many of them are less-familiar versions of the big hits.  We get The Marvelettes doing Message to Michael instead of the hit version by Dionne Warwick.  Brenda Lee handles Wishin' And Hopin' rather than Dusty Springfield.  Isaac Hayes does his low sexy thing on I'll Never Fall In Love Again, subbing again for Warwick.  In fact, Burt's main muse is found here only once, with her exemplary Anyone Who Had A Heart.  Such was her way with a Bacharach tune and a Hal David lyric, if the hit versions of the songs were the ones used here, it would pretty much be a Dionne Warwick Greatest Hits package.

There were plenty of others who scored big with the Burt magic over the years, included The Fifth Dimension (One Less Bell To Answer), The Stylistics' wonderful You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart), and the epic Gene Pitney hit Twenty Four Hours To Tulsa, all here.  But it's excellent (for Burt freaks) to have this set's alternative selections, as the man's been compiled before, and this differs significantly from previous packages.  Aretha Franklin makes I Say A Little Prayer her own, recorded in her Queen of Soul heyday.  Rick Nelson never had a hit with the obscure Take A Broken Heart, but he should have.  Gloria Gaynor's disco take on Walk On By is ..  actually, pretty crappy, but you take those risks for the sake of novelty here.

Yes, evil things have been done to Bacharach's songs over the years, and some more omissions would have been fine, such as Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald's On My Own, Neil Diamond's E.T. hit, Heartlight, and (gag! moan!) Arthur's Theme by Christopher Cross.  But you're looking at a good 80 per cent super-duper here.  Caveat:  Iron Maiden fans will probably not dig this.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I'm certainly burned out on the duets concept album, where one performer teams up with a dozen or so celebrities to sift through their back catalogue.  But it's practically one of the only sure-fire ways to shift some units for the veterans.  Fogerty's albums have been okay over the last few years, but I don't know anyone who owns one.  However, the CCR hits albums still sell a bundle, so there's still a consumer appetite out there.  So, he did what he had to do, I guess.

It's a weird crew he's signed up for this.  There's no shortage of A-listers who would have come on board no doubt, but instead Fogerty has largely gone to Nashville names.  Again, perhaps sales had something to do with that, as Nashville sounds more like him than most other genres, and those folks still sell albums.  So its Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, and Miranda Lambert, alongside a mixed bag that includes Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, and Dawes.

The results are mixed as well.  The Foos sound great ripping into Fortunate Son, a take-no-prisoners version.  Lodi is done with Fogerty's two sons, more up-tempo and choogling, with a good groove and lots of guitar from them.  Bad Moon Rising becomes a boogie-country number with the Zac Brown Band.  Mystic Highway, one of two new numbers premiered here, has his classic sound, and is a stand-out.

On the down side, the other new one, Train Of Fools, is plodding and cliche-filled.   Wrote A Song For Everyone is a good duet with Lambert, but it also has a ridiculous and inappropriate guitar solo from Tom Morello.  Almost Saturday Night becomes a mess, with a banjo opening, horrid backing vocals, and, well, Keith Urban.  Who'll Stop The Rain sounds good, except Bob Seger sounds weird, he's singing like Kenny Rogers looks.  And then there's Proud Mary, a bizarre production.  Kudos for the idea of doing it in the Ike & Tina arrangement, with the slow opening, Jennifer Hudson in the Tina role, but then it becomes a Cajun thing, with Allan Toussaint and Rebirth Brass Band in tow.  The end result is a clumsy mash-up. 

And so it goes.  One I like, the next I don't.  It neither sullies the legacy, nor improves it.  I'd like to hear more new songs the caliber of Mystic Highway though.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I'm no aficionado of the remix culture, and really don't see why it's needed at all, but it can be cool.  I do like hearing a song I loved turned on its head, and become something new.  Marley's Legend is up there with Sgt. Pepper and Rumours and The Wall for albums we know by heart, so a new version doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Led by some actual Marley's, Ziggy and Stephen, we have 16 of the great man's best-loved tunes refashioned by those two, and the likes of Roni Size, Thievery Corporation and Jim James.  Remixes can be fun, but they can be pointless and annoying too, and we have some of both here.  Turning No Woman No Cry into a Daft Punk-disco number with a completely different rhythm is a pretty amazing editing job.  But the sludgy version of Get Up Stand Up is annoying, taking a great song and defiling it (IMHO).

There are more good works, including Satisfy My Soul, now almost unrecognizable, with the I Three's backing vocals pushed up to sound like The Andrews Sisters, not dissimilar to the jazzy sounds on the recent The Great Gatsby soundtrack.  But the trouble is that the bag of tricks is limited.  Too many songs are stripped to bass and drums, or there's too much echo, too often they are slowed down.  The big lines get repeated too often, like when we hear "Is This Love" over and over, on top of a new dance beat.  Like all dance music, remixes included, it's good to have variety, and it's better to hear these songs one at a time, rather than all together as an album.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Kate McGarrigle was so loved by her family, friends, and musical community, one tribute concert wouldn't do it.  This double-disc collection comes from three different shows spread out from 2010 - 2012, in London, New York and Toronto.  They served as fundraiser, and so does this disc, with net proceeds going to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, which supports cancer care and research.

The cast of these tributes changed only a little; mostly it was the McGarrigle's band, and the kids and cousins and Anna of course.  Norah Jones was on hand in New York, Linda and Richard Thompson contribute a song, their son Teddy was deeply involved, Antony guests, and of course, Kate and Anna's great friend, Emmylou Harris.  She takes a major role, joining in group vocals on several songs, as well as performing her incredibly touching Darlin' Kate, which describes her final moments, and the feelings of those closest to her.  Jones' version of (Talk To Me Of) Mendocino is heartfelt and beautiful, and even joker Jimmy Fallon provides a fun and more than passable job on The Swimming Song.

But these nights belonged to the children.  Rufus and Martha Wainwright feature on the bulk of the songs here, and its quite amazing to hear their mother's words from them, and realize how personal and powerful they are.  Her tales were almost always biographical, specific times in her life, some joyous, some sad.  Rufus singing I Eat Dinner, a song that speaks of her loneliness, is heartbreaking, and Martha gets to tell the story in Matapedia, in which she figures as a teenager.
What a legacy Kate has left them, and us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Southern rock was the name coined for the music of several 70's bands specializing in boogie-blues with a twang, led by The Allman Brothers, and including Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, .38 Special and a bunch more.  Of course, the capital of this good ol' music was Ottawa.  Okay, not so much, but you didn't have to be born in the South to play that style.  And Ottawa's Cooper Brothers did it just as well as their U.S. contemporaries, scoring North American hits with The Dream Never Dies and I'll Know Her When I See Her, doing major tours with contemporaries like The Doobie Brothers and Daniels, and even getting signed to the spiritual home of southern rock, Capricorn Records.

That last move was a blessing but then a curse, as Capricorn went under in the early 80's, and the band never really regained that momentum.  The members went their ways, but in 2006, a Greatest Hits spurred enough interest for them that brothers Dick and Brian Cooper got the bug back.  This is the second album since then, after 2010's In From The Cold.

Recorded with producer Colin Cripps on a break from his Blue Rodeo duties, Dick Cooper has found his writing chops intact, delivering eleven tunes in the classic form.  Brother Brian brings his distinctive twang, complementing all the twin guitar licks, slide solos, pedal steel, banjo, fiddle and all you'd hope for.  Lead single Southbound is a clever twist on the snowbird's wish to get away from winter, a sly reference to their southern rock sound.  Cooper keeps it up with the lyrics to The Last Time I Saw Georgia, with references to Capricorn rising (get it?), a love song brimming with hints about the band history.  So far, so smart, and a blast from the past.  But Waiting For The Hammer To Fall is a stone-cold true country gem, with great high vocal from Brian, lots of sweet harmony, a number band pal Jim Cuddy would be proud to pen.

More surprises arrive with the tender Love's Been A Stranger, where Brian duets with Kellylee Evans, another Ottawa singer.  The Juno-winning jazz singer helps make this a stand-out cut, not just with her excellent harmony lines, but by pointing out all the strengths in the song, and the band.  Brian's own distinctive voice shines, Dick's words are touching, and the string and horn arrangement show the group is more than just a cliche of that 70's sound.  The song is the key for me, as the album now opens up to reveal more nuances, like the Western touches of Bordertown, the funky humour of the earthquake tale Five Point Five, and the statement of musical integrity, Club Shangri-La.  The Cooper Brothers were always full of surprises, and they're still serving them up in part two of their story.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I love it when a plan comes together.  And I love it when talent blooms.  You know those precocious high school kids who show so much promise so early, obviously skilled, natural musicians who make your own kids look like schlubs playing video games all day in the basement?  Ya, I got three of the latter.  Meanwhile, about three years back I ran into aspiring singing duo Dawn and Marra in Hamilton, On.  Still kids, they were in the talent contest (which they won) and obviously were keen on a career in music already.  Not some instant win Idol thing either, they wanted to be taken seriously.

Their music was modern folk, acoustic and pretty much what you'd expect, nice melodies and vocals, harmonies and teenage takes on bigger topics.  They were clearly talented, quite charming, and in that rather large city of a half-million, and close to a really big city, they were standing out.  Over the next couple of years, each time I checked in, they had done more;  some recording, lots of gigs, some traveling to play out of town.  But I kinda thought they'd stay much like I first saw them, with the nice melodies and folk-acoustic sound, and the harmonies, etc.

Ya, well.. guess again, Bob.  After an initial recording that did stick to that folk sound, this true debut is a real revelation.  Now 20 (Dawn) and 18 (Marra), Teaspoons and Tablespoons sees them blossom with new sounds, a mature set of lyrics, and an image that brings them into the vanguard of modern, vibrant performers.  Incorporating an intricate vocal blend and a surprising mix of instruments, the songs leave folk at the door, and wander into a big world of possibilities.  At the core are their voices, the unison and harmony singing they've been developing over the years, but now to hear the melodies fleshed out with off-kilter arrangements and inspired production choices is jarring in the best way.

Working with Vancouver producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, New Pornographers, Said The Whale) seems to have been the key, a sympathetic ear ready to suggest and experiment.  Said The Whale join on several tracks, and Dawn and Marra found a new energy to their singing, trying on pop tricks and lots and lots of vocal blends.  It's pretty rare to hear so much harmony and unison singing, with very few spots where they aren't both singing.  It's even more rare to enjoy it so much, these two really are perfect together.

It's funny, I almost wish I didn't know the back story, and I'm questioning whether I needed to mention it.  I guess I just wanted to say how far they've come in three years, and let you know what went into all this, the hard work and development.  Anyone coming to them new should be impressed, and intrigued at what can happen when acoustic folk gets a youthful shot of energy.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Al Lerman is best-known for leading the Juno-winning blues group Fathead, but he also does the solo thing, and does it well.  After a recent studio disc, Crowe River Blues, he returns with this live one, to show off his stuff alone and acoustic.  Armed with just a guitar and a harp, Lerman wanted this recording to reflect his own roots watching talented blues and folk performers in the famous Yorkville Village scene in 1960's Toronto, when he was first exposed to the real deal.

It's hard to do the classics we all know,and make them sound fresh, make them yours, but that's exactly what Lerman manages here.  Cocaine, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out might get played a hundred times tonight in bars across North America, but Lerman's versions retain the excitement of that first discovery.  Of course, it helps that he's an engaging performer as well.  With no-one to lean on up there, he takes right over, and puts on the kind of show you want as a blues fan, a great voice and fine playing, especially on harp, his regular gig with Fathead.  Sprinkling in five of his own numbers alongside seven covers, there's never a moment where you wish he'd go back to something you know, a tribute to the warmth coming off the stage with each vocal.  Sometimes the very best sound you can get is back-to-basics, and this one makes me wish I was there.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


The latest in the ongoing reissue series of McCartney discs, which for some reason isn't following a chronological order.  This latest is the triple vinyl album that came from the famous Wings Over America tour of 1976, which saw McCartney conquer that country (and Toronto) with the biggest tour of the year.  Even though Wings had begun as a little band he could hit the road with, just playing rock and roll tunes to small college audiences, by then he'd seen Band On The Run, Venus & Mars and At The Speed Of Sound become huge hit albums, and this band was the biggest thing since, well, that other band he'd been in.

I've always thought this set was a really decent deal.  It's the whole show, start to finish, that he was doing that year, nothing left out, the same order, everything, so a real souvenir for all of us far away from the venues he played.  I'm that kind of fan.  Now, it wasn't all from one show of course, and there was the usual doctoring back in the studio, most notably certain band members had to redo their vocals.  But it still sounds like a complete show for the most part, a full concert experience over two hours.  Notable for the inclusion of five Beatle tracks, ones associated with Paul of course, I remember the excitement that caused at the time, when we thought we'd never hear those treasures sung again.  While it isn't quite the thrill anymore, it is still nifty to hear Yesterday, Blackbird, even The Long And Winding Road, by the composer.

And don't forget Wings was still considered a band, not a McCartney vehicle.  Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch get the spotlight too, with lead vocals and solos, and McCartney gets to switch off to piano and acoustic guitar, thanks to their presence.  And there's Linda of course, wisely mostly in the background.  There's plenty of criticism I could throw at them of course, chiefly how McCartney's lyrical ability had diminished by this point.  You don't really want to analyze these songs too much, everything from content to grammar could be atrocious (the infamous "In this ever-changing world in which we live in" from Live And Let Die).  He was writing cartoons instead of serious lyrics, quite literally in the case of Magneto And Titanium Man.   But they all sounded great.  Jet, Let Me Roll It, Letting Go, Beware My Love, these songs rock, especially live.  Silly Love  Songs, not so much.  Too bouncy, it makes it a trifle.  But compared to most live recordings, especially the last twenty years, this feels like an event, and is fun to hear.  They just knew how to do it better then; Frampton Comes Alive, Elton John 11-17-70, Allman Brothers At The Fillmore East, no matter who your favourites were, the live albums seemed more special then.

As usual, there are choices to the package you can buy for the reissue.  The bare-bones CD is available, just the two discs, remastered.  Or the vinyl has been reissued and upgraded.  For those willing to throw big money, there's the Super Deluxe box, which has a third CD of bonus tracks, a DVD, and a couple of big books to gaze at.  I haven't seen the full package, nor have I heard the extra audio, but I'm not too excited by it.  The bonus tracks are a handful of the same songs from a different venue, so it won't be anything too different.  I have seen the DVD, and that's not much at all.  There's a 75-minute TV special on the tour, which is really quite dull, aside from the song fragments and a shot of Ringo backstage, and the rest being the standard documentary stuff of bands going back and forth in the bus and such.  Beware, my love.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Here's a much better representation of The Beach Boy's 2012 50th Anniversary tour, as opposed to the rather lame one-hour DVD released last fall.  This two-disc set offers a full two hours, taken from various shows around the world.  At 41 tracks, it covers the bulk of the ever-changing setlist, which extended to over 60 songs on the final night in London.

It is, of course, hit-packed, with the emphasis on early surf, early cars, occasional later hits such as Rock and Roll Music, Sail On, Sailor, and (gulp) Kokomo, and two rather charming cuts from their new album.  But as deeper fans know, the shows actually featured some of the more artistic numbers long-loved by the devotees, such as SMiLE's Heroes And Villains, some Pet Sounds tunes, and even early 70's non-hits Add Some Music To Your Day, California Saga: California and All This Is That.  And the genial Bruce Johnston delivers the surprise hit of the album, performing his poignant Disney Girls from 1971's Surf's Up album.  There are enough of these gems to satisfy the hard-core Brian Wilson addicts.  Then there's Barbara Ann, Fun, Fun, Fun, Surfin' USA, I Get Around, Surfer Girl, California Girls, Little Honda, and lots more for the rest.

Yes, this is hardly the Beach Boys of old, and almost all the high parts and rich harmonies are handled by the huge backing band.  And there has been a ton of work done to the recordings back in the studio, to the point of distraction at times, so obvious is the overdubbing.  But today's concert-goers are almost like movie audiences, ready to accept the suspension of disbelieve.  They just want it to sound and look good.  Two Beach Boys are dead, Mike Love is now having some vocal issues, and Brian Wilson is a muddled presence at best, certainly unable to approach his golden-throated parts of yesteryear.  The fact they put on not just a credible, but enjoyable show was enough for the many around the world who attended, and this souvenir is a fun listen, even if it doesn't stand up to the usual scrutiny we use on much younger bands.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Well, what's a Barenaked Lady to do?  The band still has lots of fire in its collective belly, off on another big tour of amphitheatres across heartland America this summer, with Ben Folds Five and Guster in tow.  There's actually a kind of BarenakedNation or something out there, loyal folks who follow along in each city, a safe alternative to those rowdy Dave Matthews Band shows.  And I bet a good time is had by all.

And each concert ticket purchase gets you a free download of the new Grinning Streak album, a good deal, and a good way to get their music into the hands of folks before they hit the show, so hopefully they will cheer the new single, Boomerang, at least.  Meantime though, there doesn't appear to be any place left on radio for the group.  Certainly Boomerang didn't bother the likes of Pink, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars in the Top 40. It ain't the halcyon days of One Week.   Lesser bands would crumble, but instead they've been coming up with new business models over the past decade, embracing download sales, solidifying this loyal fan base, and reinventing the group sound minus one co-founding lead singer and songwriter.  Barenaked Ladies may not command the attention of the greater pop world these days, but they do have a niche, and they are holding on.

Which brings us to the new album, and since I'm assuming you aren't in the fan club, but possibly used to enjoy them, there's at least some curiosity in what they're up to.  Anything particularly different?  Nope, aside from the missing co-vocalist, this is the band you've known and maybe loved.  It includes lots of whimsical, witty lyrics, and even a stand-out or two.  The cut Did I Say That Out Loud?, which starts off in their mellow mood, has great rhymes, and hits with prime, catchy chorus.  It would be an excellent followup single in, say, 1999.  Opening track Limits has excellent piano from Kevin Hearn, and even a little throw-back synth, which is hip these days.  Hearn's own Daydreamin', the one track he sings, giving Ed Robertson a break from lead vocals, is another synth-play tune, with a spacey-dreamy feel.

It total, you can take this two ways; either dismiss it as been there-heard that from the band, or enjoy it for what it is, cleverly crafted and lighthearted pop, by a group that knows how to do it.  Their new music may not be making the world laugh anymore, but at least there's something here to grin at.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The Toronto group that doubles as the Band part of the Devin Cuddy Band, this is their second album, after a 2009 debut The Garage Sessions.  This time out though, it's on the back of a bunch of national tours and strong recent buzz that could (and deserves to) give them a breakthrough.  It's a strong, accomplished set, with a clearly defined sound for the group.

What's grand about Jane's Party is the unabashed, feel-good pop sound.  You could almost call it power-pop, except the group is so tight.  With three singers, and lots of classic influences, the songs bounce back and forth like a great 60's - 70's Top 40 station.  One of them sounds somewhat British, so there's a Beatles-Kinks thing going on, but with a little more modern guitar attack.  Sloan then, without the punk background

Anyway, I should have thrown around enough names there to attract a few folks.  The good thing is that not only do they have the chops, they have the songs to back it up, too.  I'm especially fond of 'Til You Got Yours, with it's slightly menacing verses that give way to a sweet chorus, with lots of harmonies and an infectious electric piano part.  Meet Me Halfway is another of those pretty melodies on top of gritty guitars, lots of falsetto backing vocals, and a lead break straight off the banks of the Mersey, circa 1964.  Best of all, there are another 10 of these on Hot Noise, and never once did I think 'that's not as good as some of the others.'

Friday, June 7, 2013


So what did I learn from watching this four-hour Eagles biography?  Plenty.  Hardly anything about their music, but a ton of facts I didn't know, and a whole lot more about what kind of people they were.  And believe me, not very much is pretty.  It's hard to come away with much sympathy for any of them, especially Glenn Frey, who comes off as an aggressive, domineering, egomaniac.  He hides behind each hurtful decision with the excuse that what he's doing is best for The Eagles.  But when he says The Eagles, what he means is Glenn Frey.

Every full participant in the band story is here, including past members and producers, all willing to tell their side, but just like in life, Frey's word in the film is final too.  Bernie Leadon wanted to stick with country when the band was moving towards pop-rock?  He's gone.  Original producer Glyn Johns, who crafted those early country-harmony records?  Zip, he's out.  Founding bassist and singer Randy Meisner, when he didn't want to sing the incredible high line on his hit, Take It To The Limit?  See ya.  Then there's the strange case of Don Felder, out not once but twice.  For the crime of not being 100 per cent behind a political benefit show for Senator Alan Cranston, he incurred the wrath of Frey in 1980.  Amazing audio tape from the show reveals them threatening each other on stage, vowing to fight once the show is over.  Frey can't contain his disgust at him all these decades later.  Somehow though, Felder did get re-hired when the band reformed in 1994.  Re-hired is the optimal word though; Frey boldly admits he insisted that he and Henley get a bigger share of the dough than the others, a sore point for Felder that eventually festered again, leading to his dismissal once more.  His choking up when explaining that he misses his friends and the music is one of the few human moments in the film.

Don Henley seems to have let Frey be the more vocal partner in everything, including the documentary.  He takes the role of philosopher, but certainly must shoulder some of the blame, too.  He speaks with pride about his Walden Woods charity, yet at the same time brags about the group's exclusive deal with Wal-Mart to sell their Long Road Out Of Eden album in 2006, which was a business decision that made them millions, yet put them in bed with a company that does much more to harm the U.S. than the developers who wanted to harm Walden.

Paradoxically, as all this unfolds, the excellent music plays behind, almost as a back-story to the soap opera and exploits.  We hear about lawsuits with David Geffen (who also appears), wild and constant parties, the business reasons behind it all, and not once but twice does manager Irving Azoff remind us that the Eagles Greatest Hits was the biggest selling album in the 20th century.  Meanwhile, songs seemed to drop into their laps with the slightest bit of inspiration.  Maybe this speaks about the music, that perhaps it was all form and little substance.  Whatever, they wrote a heck of a lot of great radio tunes.

Disc one gives the history up to the break-up in 1980, and is the most interesting part of the film.  Disc two is the reformation, the continuing "farewell" tours, and a huge amount of time is spent on the making of the Long Road Out Of Eden disc, probably because they shot loads of documentary footage then.  It pales compared to the first half.  A third disc features a live concert, and the good news here is that it's from 1977, the band in their heyday, not one of the sterile reunion shows, with extra musicians.  Without question, this is one of the best warts-and-all music docs ever made, hardly any stone unturned.  Sadly though, I came out thinking less of the participants, and worrying this will ruin their music for me in the future.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


The Runnin' On Fumes tour begins Thursday, June 6, in Moncton, NB, featuring two of the East Coast's leading young rock bands.  The Stogies, from Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland's Long Distance Runners are playing through June an July on a tour that takes them across all four Atlantic provinces.  You're looking at a full night of rock riffage here.

LDR are the relative veterans in the package, at this since 2009 with an EP and last year's full-length Tracks album under their belts.  That release saw them hit the national charts, and grab an ECMA nomination for rock recording of the year.  The Stogies put out their first EP last year, signalling the groups' graceful, elegant work (not) with the title No Couth * No Class * No Nothin'.  We step into the Wayback Machine on opener Skeleton Crew, with raw 70's metal chords and vocals just as nasty.  It turns into a slide-led boogie that would scare off early Aerosmith.  Big and loud is the code they live by, with a two guitar attack, huge bass and drums, and real, actual organ filling it out.  The only time they calm down on the EP is for the novelty number, Rock n' Roll's A Zombie (that wants to eat your brain), which takes a swipe at the religious right, country, and folk music, and pretty much anybody else that gets too close.

The tour kicks off at Plan B in Moncton Thursday, then bounces around the Maritimes, before heading off to Newfoundland in July.  Here are the first few dates on the Runnin' On Fumes tour:

June 6 Plan B Moncton, NB w/ Danger Cat
June 7
Pepper's Pub Saint John, NB w/ Verse the Sun
June 8 Fishbones Charlottetown, PEI
June 12 The Legion Sackville, NB w/ The Kavorkas
June 13 Lava Vodka Bar Fredericton, NB w/Brothers
June 14 The Seahorse Tavern Halifax, NS w/ Young River
June 15 The Loft Truro, NS w/Black Rock Road

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


With summer almost here, and temperatures varying up to sweaty, I find myself once more with a dilemma.  Some of my music listening is done in the car, on my daily commute to work (six minutes), ferrying children around, or running errands.  And before the air conditioning gets working, that means a few minutes driving with the window down.  My latest listening, at my usual somewhat cranked volume, saw one of those awkward moments at a stop light, as I looked over at the car next to me.  Checking me out  was the kid in the passenger seat, as disco music blared in his direction.  I set my eyes straight ahead, turned the volume down to a whisper, and waited for what seemed the longest light in the city to change.

See, I'd been hearing from some reliable sources, friends with good ears, that the new Daft Punk was worthwhile.  I've been chided in the past by some for not being hep to tech and electro and such (note that I still use the word 'hep'), and I figured I should try at least something, and see if I could find something to like.  The popular French house-synthpop group seemed like the thing, hot as they are.  Listen one:  Disco with auto-tuned vocals.  Listen two:  Very good replication of classic disco and soul of the 70's, with synths added on, and lots of auto-tuned vocals.  Listen three:  Why?

There are very nice moments, such as the tender whispers of Touch, a rare slow one with a choir of angels singing "If love is the answer, you're home, hold on".  And a lot of the funky tracks start to wear you down as you settle into the grooves, and start to think this dance music can be pretty cool.  But I'm still left with the why question.  Daft Punk have re-invented the wheel here, giving us the same disco beds of the genre's glory days, lots of excellent riffs and rhythms, that popping bass sound, the hi-hat accented drums, the heavenly guitar chords ch-ch-chunking in.  There are even guest appearances by some of the greats of the day, Chic's Nile Rodgers, and famous session guys Nathan East on bass and drummer Omar Hakim.  So there's an excellent, real instrument sound going on here, with the D.P. synths laid on top.  My guess is, like many of my age, I'm stuck with a framework of thinking that I can't undo.  When I hear disco, my 70's programming tells me to hate it, as we did back then, like a Habs fan hated the Leafs.  And even though now, when I hear The Hues Corporation's Rock The Boat, and find myself enjoying it, I still have these issues.  Random Access Memories is an excellent tribute and update to an admittedly excellent sound, and there, I've said it.

Monday, June 3, 2013


It's a weird world we're in, where the Dixie Chick is trying to sound like Sheryl Crow, and Crow's trying to go country on her new album.  While Crow's doing it seemingly for commercial reasons (see Jewel, and that guy from Hootie), Maines is showing her independence from the Nashville ideal of a country performer.  Of course, she pretty much did that with one nasty sentence about George W. Bush.  This album won't be the one to mend those fences.

Maines produced the album with Ben Harper, who plays throughout, sings a duet with her on one of his cuts (Trained) and co-wrote another couple with her.  But he mostly takes a back seat, adding slide guitar touches.  It's her baby, and it's an odd collection that doesn't seem to have a direction.  If you cover Pink Floyd's classic from The Wall, and name the album after it, you'd think there would be a point to it, but it seems just to be a song she likes.  And she doesn't do much with it, it's not a number particularly suited to her voice, and she can't pull off the gravitas of the original.  She has a better time with Eddie Vedder's Without You, and a Patty Griffin song called Silver Bell.  The latter one really lets her rock out, and I mean rock, with some searing Harper slide.  It seems the louder she goes here, the better it works.

And so it goes, some good choices, some weak.  An attempt at the alt-country sound of The Jayhawks' favourite, I'd Run Away only sounds good on paper.  And surely somebody must have realized she was over-reaching by trying to sing Jeff Buckley's Lover You Should Have Come Over.  Hearing her stretch for the notes and fail is painful, especially on such a long song.  It's nice that she's her own person for this solo album, but she doesn't seem to have a good idea of who that singer is.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Imagine finding a rare tape of Mick Jagger sitting in with The Beatles in 1964.  It didn't happen, but a jazz equivalent might be the time Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck took the stage together in a one-off showcase, in 1962.  Long missing, the tapes were just rediscovered in the Sony archives, misfiled under classical.  Well, it is a classic, so maybe they were right.
The event was a special Washington show, not at the White House itself, but at the Washington Monument, for college students working at the Capitol that summer.  As for the career timing, it was pretty much perfect.  Bennett had just released a little number called I Left My Heart In San Francisco, which would become his most-beloved number.  Brubeck was the reigning champ, his Take Five album the top-selling jazz album ever, the first to sell a million.  And the billing was a one-off event, the two never sharing the stage.
Brubeck's Quartet took the stage first.  With a short set ahead, they dispense with Take Five off the top, sped up and hip, almost showing off what they can do.  Brubeck takes care to credit the song's composer, sax man Paul Desmond taking a bow.  Then he politely explains what the band is all about, taking sounds, styles and time signatures from different cultures, and showing how they can fit into the jazz idiom.  A sort of World Music of jazz, decades before the term came into use.  Three long pieces follow, tighter than yoga pants.  Brubeck, always the king of cool, still let fly a nasty solo or two, reminding you that he could bring it as well as anyone.

Bennett and his trio were next, including his lifetime accompanist, Ralph Sharon at the piano.  Smooth and confident, Bennett walked the line between the popular song and jazz chops with ease, erring perhaps on the side of entertainment, but still being such a talent that the jazzheads really had no reason to hold their noses. 

The highlight happens at the end, as Bennett brings back Brubeck, along with Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime summit, and unrehearsed, the star pair figuring they might as well do it, and must have a few in common.  So standards it is, starting with Lullaby Of Broadway.  Bennett immediately has fun, handing it off to Brubeck for a solo by singing, "..a lullaby of ...Dave Brubeck!", giving him the spotlight.  Bennett gets plenty of time to stretch though, a little scat even, clearly rising to the occasion of having a star up there.  He goes for it on Chicago, hitting a full-volume end, the musicians clearly enjoying the moment.  It's just four songs, an encore to the 70-minute performance, but thank goodness it's been saved.  Such are the great moments.