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Archive for December, 2012

New Year’s Playlist

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

By James Sandham

Well, music lover, happy New Year! It’s been a pleasure having you here on the blog.

Hopefully as you read this you’re reflecting on another 365 days that were well spent. Or maybe you’re looking ahead to the days that are coming. Whatever you’re up to, we hope you’re having a good one, and to that end we’ve picked out some songs that can probably go along with anything you’re doing.

Like, just relaxing.

Oscar Peterson – “C Jam Blues”

If you’re just relaxing, there’s nothing better than a little jazz on the stereo. And if we’re talking jazz, nothing beats a little Oscar Peterson, one of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1978 inductees. He’s seen here playing the hell out of the ivories, live in Denmark in 1964. It’s a perfect tune for lazing around the house, post–New Year’s festivities.

And perhaps you’re getting a little sentimental while you chill.

Matt Pond – “Love to Get Used”

Or perhaps you’re doing a little bit of soul searching. The new year, after all, is a time when many of us take a look back on the last year of our life, re-examining and taking stock of things. You know, giving some long, hard thought to what really matters. In which case, may I recommend this track by New York troubadour Matt Pond? It’s got a great little video that goes with it, too – a sort of visual journey down memory lane told through old photographs.

Or maybe you’re just hung over… and not really thinking of much at all.

Ravi and Anoushka Shankar – “Raga Anandi Kalyan”

New Year’s Eve is, of course, the biggest party night of the year – which means that for many of us, the first few days of the new year are spent in a groggy haze. If that’s the case for you, I can think of no better tune than this raga by the late, great Ravi Shankar, who left us on December 11, 2012, at the age of 92. He plays here with his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, who – interesting footnote – is also the paternal half-sister of Norah Jones. This is music to soothe your soul – and maybe even your pounding headache.

You might also be thinking you’ll never touch another cigarette again.

Princess Chelsea – “Cigarette Duet”

After all that partying, the thought of cigarettes is probably as appealing as… well… breathing lung-fulls of carcinogenic chemicals into your body. So hold onto that thought, remember that feeling and let it serve you well as you move into the new year. Do whatever you need to in order to quit. Change your routine. Maybe try something totally new, like…

Learning another language.

Plastic Bertrand – “Ça Plane Pour Moi”

Like French. Why not? It’s a new year. Anything is possible. Go forth – and embrace it!

Hope you’re having a good one so far!

Christmas Album Art

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

By James Sandham

Eggnog, plum pudding, garish sweaters: there are some things that just seem to go with this season, no matter how repulsive they may seem during the other 11 months of the year. And we can add Christmas albums to this list, too, I think.

Renowned for their tacky cover art, Christmas albums are the proverbial lumps of coal in most artists’ catalogues of work. Yet, somehow, at this time of year, even they can take on their own special appeal, so we’ve come up with a few of the best of them.

Let’s start with Christmas With Colonel Sanders, because… well… why not? After all, the Colonel is kind of like Santa Claus – except with pieces of deep fried chicken instead of toys, which he hands out all year long through a chain of transnational restaurants instead of once annually through a reindeer-powered sleigh. But yeah, you get the idea, the parallels should be pretty obvious. This album was released in 1969, at the height of the hippie movement, so perhaps this kind of fuzzy thinking can be forgiven. Featured artists include Harry Belafonte and Henry Mancini, and, through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to them here.

Christmas With Colonel Sanders – Tracks 1 through 6

While Christmas with the world’s foremost deep-fried food purveyor may sound fun, perhaps it’s not quite your taste. In which case, I would definitely recommend Christmas – or The Night Before Christmas, at least – with David Hasselhoff. Like the Colonel, Hasselhoff has been known to set hearts a-racing, but for totally different reasons, which are oh-so-evident as you can see from his handsome mug on the cover.

I looked Hasselhoff’s Christmas album up on amazon.com and the people who bought it were also likely to buy things such as the Regis Philbin Christmas Album; Hung for the Holidays, a Christmas album by William Hung (remember? The “American Idol” guy?); and Twisted Christmas with Twisted Sister. I think that says all we need to know about it – by which I mean, this is clearly the perfect gift for your office’s Secret Santa party.

Someone I wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with, however, is King Diamond. He looks like my Uncle Fred, who always gets way too out of hand with the eggnog and then usually says something mortifying or just passes out drunk right when we were all about to sit down and watch A Christmas Carol. Bad memories aside, though, this album art does hold a certain low-brow esthetic charm. For the record, King Diamond is a Dane and a Grammy Award–nominated musician in addition to being a virulent gift-aphobe.

Equally intriguing, esthetically – if of little practical appeal – is Death Row Records’ Christmas on Death Row. This album was released by the label in 1996 as “a form of charity for the community” (although I’m not quite sure what that means, exactly) and somehow managed to sell a neat 200,000 copies or so, no doubt thanks to such contributing artists as Snoop Dogg (with “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto”), O.F.T.B. (with “Christmas in the Ghetto”) and J-Flexx (with “Party 4 Da Homies”). Better save this one until after the grandparents have gone home from dinner.

And last but not least, this little beauty – because nothing says Christmas like Singer sewing machines. Just look at the expressions of joy on this undoubtedly typical family’s faces when they see the new Singer. With an album like this, you could experience that joy again and again, all season long. A classic to be sure.

Keep counting the days! Happy holidays!

This Week in Music History: December 24 to 30

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

By David Ball

Like many of us, I sometimes prefer Christmas Eve to the “Big Day” itself.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), with (from left to right) Lionel Barrymore (I can see his grand-niece, Drew, around the eyes), Donna Reed and James Stewart

I like the peace and quiet it provides. And I’m hardly alone in the Christmas morning tradition of being far too hung over and exhausted to fully enjoy ripping open finely wrapped examples of materialism. Part of the blame goes to staying up late on December 24, sipping copious cups of cheer while watching Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life or seeing Alastair Sim transform from a miserable miser to beloved “Uncle Ebenezer” in 1951’s Scrooge (a.k.a. A Christmas Carol). Who’s with me on this one?

Alastair Sim as Scrooge (1951)

This year, I challenged myself to somehow find the time to screen a Bob Clark doubleheader beginning with his wonderful black comedy A Christmas Story, followed by the 1974 Canadian slasher classic Black Christmas.

Of course, there’s always a wide range of music-themed Christmas movies and specials to choose from, too, whether on the tube, DVD or digital download. My favourite is the original 1966 animated masterpiece How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, starring Boris Karloff. But you can’t go wrong with most family fare, including 1954’s White Christmas and the ever-popular CTV all-star special from 2000, Rita MacNeil’s Christmas. For all you tweens out there, how about the encore presentation of 2011’s “Much Presents: Justin Bieber – Home For The Holidays”?

Then there’s the oft-commercialized Christmas Day itself, featuring kitchen chaos, lots of holly jolly music, opening presents whilst drinking “special” coffee (spiked with Baileys or the up-and-coming Canadian rival, Forty Creek) and, later in the afternoon, downing too much wine before finally sitting down for a giant feast capped off with heated verbal dust-ups with family members. But I digress…

 

Some Billboard watchers may remember the American music publication’s heavily maple syrup–flavoured Christmas Day album chart tally from 2011. If not, here’s a refresher…

A diverse group of Canadian artists dominated Billboard 200’s Top 10 for the week ending December 25, 2011. And no doubt many Christmas stockings around the world were filled with titles from the following hosers.

Burnaby, BC’s Michael Bublé and his double platinum–selling seventh studio effort, Christmas, which is comprised of festive favourites and yuletide originals, held the top spot on December 25 (his third chart-topper), while teenage pop sensation Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe, which is also made up of festive favourites and yuletide originals, closed out the week at No. 4. The latter achievement is not too shabby considering the fact that the album was only the Stratford, Ontario, native’s second full-length LP and it had been on the market for over two months. What’s even more impressive is that both Canadian superstars’ holiday recordings were Top 10 bestsellers for 2011, with the jazz crooner’s JUNO Award winning collection finishing a distant, but respectable runner-up to the chart juggernaut: 21 by Adele.

Not to be outdone, also making a dent in the same December 25, 2011, Billboard Top 10 were two other big Canuck acts: Drake and Nickelback. The former “Degrassi: The Next Generation” star’s acclaimed sophomore effort, Take Care, occupied the fifth spot, while Nickelback’s Here and Now, the bombastic Vancouver hard rockers’ seventh studio LP, still hovered in the Top 10 (No. 8), nearly five weeks after it peaked at No. 2 (the same day it was released). By the by, the year-end North American sales tally had Drake’s LP in the seventh spot.

 

For many of us, including my sister and mother, Boxing Day represents the day before you return most of your Christmas presents, but I doubt you’d want to return anything with this artist’s name on it…

Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Hall of Famer Ronnie Prophet was born in Hawkesbury, Ont., on Boxing Day in 1937. The versatile singer, guitarist, entertainer and television host grew up in the nearby Ottawa Valley town of Calumet, Quebec, and made his professional debut at age 15 on the CFRA Radio program “The Happy Wanderers.” A few years later Prophet packed up his guitar and headed to Montreal, where he performed in clubs until the mid-1960s. He then took his burgeoning talents to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a while, before settling in Nashville in the late ’60s, where he owned and operated Ronnie Prophet’s Carousel Club for several years.

Prophet’s 30-year recording career got off to a modest start when the song “San Diego” from his 1973 debut, Faces & Phases of Ronnie Prophet, snuck into the Canadian Top 40 country singles chart, stalling at No. 36. However, his self-titled 1976 followup became his North American commercial breakthrough by way of four charting singles, including the Top 30 Billboard country hit “Sanctuary,” which reached No. 20 in Canada.

Even though his name all but disappeared on the American charts following the minor 1977 hit “It Ain’t Easy Loving Me,” Prophet’s profile in Canada remained strong throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, with a succession of bestselling singles, including several hit duets with wife Glory-Anne Carriere.

As a successful touring vet, musician, impressionist and comedian (his one-man shows are legendary), Prophet channelled these attributes into his equally impressive other career as a TV host, which began in 1973 with CBC’s “Country Roads,” followed by “The Ronnie Prophet Show” in 1974, and CTV’s award-winning variety program “Grande Old Country” from 1975 to 1981, which I remember as a kid, thanks to my country-loving late father’s forced indoctrination. The latter took home the Big Country Award for the Top Canadian Country TV show in 1976, 1977 and 1979. His last TV vehicle was in the early ’90s on CJOH’s “Ronnie ’n’ the Browns” (The Family Brown).

When the two-time JUNO Award winner for Country Male Vocalist of the Year, and the CCMA’s 1984 Entertainer of the Year isn’t on the road, he can be found in Branson, Missouri, his home since the early ’90s, where he and his wife stage their own club show (reminiscent of his old television variety years).

 

On December 29, 2004, just over three months after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Beyond the Sea – Kevin Spacey’s heartfelt biopic about the late genre-bending 1950s to ’70s singer and actor, Bobby Darin – opened in select movie theatres across North America.

Spacey produced, directed, co-wrote and starred in his $23 million labour of love. It’s really too bad that Beyond the Sea didn’t make more of a “splish-splash” at the box office – it earned only a measly $8 million. Part of the movie-goers’ apathy can probably be blamed on the lethal combination of the film critics’ less-than-enthusiastic reviews (the film scores a below average 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fact that many people under the age of 40 had probably never even heard of Spacey’s music hero, regardless of the fact that the Oscar-winning actor was clearly born to play – and sing – the role of the doomed singer. Darin died at age 37 from heart surgery complications.

I’m inclined to agree with Toronto Star critic Peter Howell’s generally favourable take in his original 2004 review: “[Spacey]’s been talking about his abiding love of Darin for quite some time, and he nails Darin in look, deed and buttery croon, making up for many of the film’s structural deficiencies.”

If I had to compare music biopics, Beyond the Sea easily holds its own with its more acclaimed rivals Ray and the Johnny Cash snapshot Walk the Line – and the songs are just as good too.

Next week: Burton Cummings and The Voice of Doom

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