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Archive for May, 2012

The Canadian Connection: Song of the Summer

Posted on: May 31st, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

We’re all familiar with the idea of “six degrees of separation.” But as we’ve noted before on this blog, when it comes to the music world – and to the world of Canadian music in particular – those six degrees often shrink quite quickly, and there are a surprising number of direct relations between artists.

Take, for example, the song “Boat Behind” by Kings of Convenience. It came out in 2009, but it’s basically been the song of my summer so far. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since the warm weather hit, and it really does go well with everything seasonal – from riding bikes to reading in the shade to sipping sweet vermouth on ice (all of which, combined, constitute a considerable portion of my spare time these days). Despite being written by a Norwegian band, I came across the track while reading up on Feist, the winner of the 2012 JUNO Award for Artist of the Year. It just so happens that these guys collaborated with Feist after she finished recording her 2004 album, Let It Die. It was a happy coincidence, because otherwise I probably never would have heard this tune.

Despite having released albums on major labels, including EMI and Astralwerks, the Kings of Convenience are nonetheless a rather low-profile kind of group – so much so that it’s often been wondered, over the course of their career, whether they haven’t perhaps innocuously broken up. For instance, Declaration of Dependence (the album that “Boat Behind” is from) came out after five years of silence from the duo. Before that they’d released their debut album, Quiet is the New Loud, in 2001, before going on to collaborate with Feist for their 2004 release, Riot on an Empty Street.

As their album titles imply, “quiet” is a prominent theme for the band – so perhaps long periods of silence are only to be expected. In any case, those uncertain waits between record releases are certainly worth it when you’re rewarded with songs like “Boat Behind.” That track has seriously set the pace of my life for the next three months, and the pace is supremely easy – like waking up on a warm summer weekend. It just makes me want to take time to enjoy things. I find myself humming it as I put my breakfast together. Even as I ride my bike to work it plays in the back of my head – and the ride doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it’s nice just to be out in the warm morning air.

There are any number of additional reasons why “Boat Behind” may be the perfect song for summer. Its video, for one, is a nearly perfect summer daydream: a sun-drenched drive around the European countryside, the sunroof open, taking time and meeting interesting people. There’s something equally carefree and innocent about the song’s sound too, a certain nostalgia that dovetails beautifully with summer. After all, you can’t have summer without thinking of summer holidays – no matter how long ago you last had one. The fact that summer comes to Canada only as rarely and fleetingly as it does merely amplifies that sense of distant connection. This song, like the season, is familiar and comfortable, like meeting an old friend. It’s a perfect way to take the time to get reacquainted. So put it on, pour yourself a drink and find a shady spot. Take the time to get reacquainted with the summer.

“Boat Behind” by Kings of Convenience

This Week in Music History: May 28 to June 3

Posted on: May 28th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By David Ball

I hope they didn’t think it was a tip?

Glass Tiger cut short their May 31, 1991, concert in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, after lead singer Alan Frew was smacked in the head by a loonie thrown by a rowdy audience member. Scottish-born Frew later said that three or four fans repeatedly hurled coins at the five-time JUNO Award–winning pop-rockers and wouldn’t stop. Perhaps these local yokels were still upset by the disappointing last-place finish of their beloved Ontario Hockey League Soo Greyhounds at the recent Memorial Cup? Whatever the reason, these good old boys (assuming they were guys) no doubt got encouragement by nipping copious amounts of Labatt 50 or some other tepid domestic served at the old Sault Memorial Gardens. (The 57-year-old barn was demolished in 2006.)

The Newmarket, Ont., band’s stop in the northern border town was in support of their 1991 album, Simple Mission, which contains four Canadian Top 5 hits, including their collaboration with Rod Stewart, “My Town.” (Ironically, I heard the single at my local pub last night and remarked to my wife that it has dated really well.) Thankfully, Frew and company weren’t treated with copycat loonie-lobs on the remainder of their cross-country tour.

Bed-In No. 2… Part 2

Last week’s TWIMH lightly touched on some of the events surrounding Montreal’s “Bed-In for Peace.” This week, let’s lightly look back at “Give Peace a Chance.” The revolutionary song was recorded near the end of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s weeklong honeymoon in their crowded room at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel. When the celebrity couple were asked by a reporter what they were trying to accomplish with their second “Bed-In,” the outspoken Beatle replied: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Lennon took his spontaneous catchphrase and made it the crux of a new tune he was working on during the duo’s “vacation.”

On June 1, 1969, a young local-area producer and musician, André Perry, was asked by the couple to record the anthem. Perry used a simple setup of four microphones feeding a 4-track tape recorder, all rentals from a local recording studio. Attending the session were dozens of journalists and celebrities, many who joined in singing the famous anti-war refrain. However, only a few are credited on the track: Lennon (vocals and guitar) and Ono (backing vocals, tambourine and handclaps) with other backing vocals provided by LSD guru Timothy Leary, Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor, poet Allen Ginsberg and comic Tommy Smothers, with the latter also sharing acoustic guitar duties (easily one of the least funny collaborations done by either Smothers Brother). The song was originally credited to Lennon and Paul McCartney (the Beatles were still together) and released as a single by the Plastic Ono Band – not by coincidence – on July 4, 1969. It reached No. 8 in Canada, No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 2 in the United Kingdom. The song was later included on the Plastic Ono Band’s debut LP, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, which includes the supergroup’s entire set from the historic festival.

Stan Rogers, one of the most beloved and important singer-songwriters this country has ever produced, died in a fire aboard an Air Canada DC-9 at the Greater Cincinnati Airport on June 2, 1983. He was en route back to Canada after his set at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. The two-time JUNO Award nominee’s death at age 33 not only shocked fans in our native land, but it also sent ripples through large folk centres in the United States, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New England, where he was finally emerging as a star.

The son of transplanted Maritimers was born in Hamilton, Ont., and spent the summers of his youth in Canso, Nova Scotia. At the age of five, he was given his first guitar by his uncle, and by age 14 he began making his first appearances at local Hamilton coffee houses singing Jimmy Rogers covers and Maritime-themed tunes. A big man, at 6-foot-4, blessed with an affecting bellowing baritone, Rogers originally played rock bass but was encouraged by family members to write personal folk songs inspired by his ancestral and regional roots. Good advice!

Rogers began his professional career in 1969, playing in clubs and folk festivals in Eastern Canada. By the mid-1970s, he had landed regular CBC Radio gigs and did frequent guest stints on television programs hosted by John Allan Cameron, Noel Harrison and Bob Ruzicka. After his coming out party at the 1975 Winnipeg Folk Festival, Rogers recorded his pivotal debut, Fogarty’s Cove, one of this country’s finest slices of Canadiana. Mostly about Nova Scotia – its people, history, beauty and life on the sea – 11 of the LP’s 12 tracks are originals, including the classic “Fisherman’s Wharf” and the impossible not to love “Barrett’s Privateers” – or as my friend Tamara Brogan from North Sydney, N.S., stated on May 21, 2012: “I don’t even want to know ANYONE who doesn’t like ‘Barrett’s Privateers!’” I couldn’t agree more.

Rogers produced four albums and composed nearly 100 songs during his lifetime, giving voice to the everyday Canadian experience while exploring near-and-dear landscapes across this great land, including the Prairies and Ontario. His popular a cappella song from 1981, “Northwest Passage,” ranked fourth in 2005 on the CBC Radio One series “50 Tracks: The Canadian Version” and is rumoured to be Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice as Canada’s unofficial national anthem. Our PM has good taste – he’s also a Who fan!

Regarding “Barrett’s Privateers”…

I played the heck out of the rousing American Revolutionary maritime tale during my Ireland road trip back in ’07. When my wife, Vicki, and I were travelling around the Ring of Kerry, a very nice scruffy-looking man asked us for a ride to the nearest town (unbeknownst to us, he’d paid for our ferry ride to the Skellig Islands since it was cash only and we foolishly only had credit cards). We obliged and during the drive he asked us if we had any Canadian songs cued up on our car stereo since he hadn’t “been out of Ireland in over 30 years.” He alluded to having a sordid past that may have involved being affiliated with the Irish Republican Army. Whatever. So we cranked “Barrett’s Privateers” and watched through the rear-view mirror as he beamed away in the backseat of our rented, gutless Volkswagen Polo, swinging his right arm around like an orchestra conductor and singing: “How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now” and “God damn them all!” I think Stan would’ve approved.

Next week: CHUM-AM and The Band

“Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers

Summer CDs in the Sunroom

Posted on: May 24th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Summer brings more than warm weather, nights on the patio and days in the office spent wishing we were outside – it also brings new music. Or different music – for me at least. That’s because I’m probably one of the few people who still hasn’t bought an iPhone or an MP3 player. Subsequently, I don’t always have all of my music with me. Some of it is on my computer, I’ve got a bunch of vinyl I can only listen to in the dining room, and of course, there’s the old CD player out in the sunroom along with all of my old CDs.

This is a somewhat inconvenient arrangement. But in another way it’s good, because when summer hits and my wife and I start hanging out in the sunroom again, we get to rediscover all the old music out there – and some of it is really good. It also brings back memories: You pick up an album and think, “Oh yeah, I remember this, we were listening to this all the time when [whatever] happened.” And that’s what music’s all about, in a way. It’s more than just the sound, it’s the association those sounds have for you, and I think that’s something that’s forgotten in the rush toward digitalization and cloud computing. Things come, go, and get forgotten so quickly now that there’s no time for them to develop any meaning or personal resonance. You don’t have that problem with vinyl or CDs – they’re physical, you see them, you naturally form associations. So, if you’ll indulge me, here are a few CDs I’ve recently rediscovered, and some of the associations they hold.

Bran Van 3000
Glee
This was one of the first CDs I ever bought. It’s by a Montreal band, and came out in 1997, and even though that’s like – wow, 15 years ago?! – it’s still fantastic. Especially the track “Gimme Sheldon” – I’ve listened to that song more times than I can count. It always seems to come on when a party’s just getting started, when people are showing up and just kind of milling around out in the backyard and no one really knows what they want to do yet – it’s great background noise for that. But the whole album’s really good too.

Bran Van 3000 – “Gimme Sheldon”

 

The Detroit Cobras
Tied & True
This is an album I got when I first started writing. I used to volunteer anywhere, mainly for music blogs that paid you by letting you keep the CDs you reviewed – and this is one of them. The last LP released by the band, it came out in 2007 and is just awesome Detroit-style rock and roll: real gritty female vocals, great for parties. It reminds me of ripping it up in our first apartment and just generally having a good time in those halcyon days after university, but before we had any actual responsibilities. *Tear*

 

The Disraelis
Demonstration
I got this one as a promotional piece, too – and I’m pretty sure I must have given it a good review, because I still listen to it every summer when we reopen the sunroom. It was officially released in 2008, on Optical Sounds, which is a Toronto-based micro-label an old friend of mine runs. We’ve lost touch in the intermediate years, but whenever I hear this album I always remember those few summers when we were hanging out, when his label was starting, and when The Disraelis were playing around town with the other local psych-rock bands he would end up signing. He threw some really good parties. And as far as I know, he’s still doing that.

 

Code Pie
The Most Trusted Name in Yous
This is a band that was kind of making it around the same time as Broken Social Scene, and they have that same kind of sound – a big, messy, orchestral exuberance. The music has a lot of horns in it, which gives it a really joyful kind of feeling, and even though I’m not really into that sound anymore, I still really like this album.

Code Pie – “Paradise”

 

Miracle Fortress
Five Roses
Last but not least is Miracle Fortress. They came to attention back in the mid-to-late 2000s, when Arcade Fire and the whole Montreal scene (which they came out of) were really blowing up. This is a pretty mellow, dreamy album that I guess reminds me a bit of Postal Service, and it’s really good for rainy summer days. I put it on and read on the couch out in the sunroom, listening to the rain on the leaves of the garden, and in that way it’s just like all of these albums – full of happy memories.


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