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Archive for March, 2013

Concerts from Coast to Coast: April

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

April is just around the corner – which means spring must also be just around the corner! – so we couldn’t wait to take a look to see what the month had to offer in terms of live music. As it turns out: there’s quite a bit. Here are a few of the standout shows happening from coast to coast.

Vancouver – Lord Huron @ Biltmore Cabaret – April 1

Lord Huron – “Time to Run”

Start the month – and the week – off right, with a Monday show by Los Angeles folk group Lord Huron. Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day, but this band is no joke. Their songs are beautiful, soft and lonely, and they all seem to have these cool little retro-inspired videos that go with them, like the one above. Lord Huron’s debut album, Lonesome Dreams, came out last year on Iamsound Records.

 

Calgary – Yukon Blonde @ Republik – April 6

Yukon Blonde – “Stairway”

Or perhaps you’re into something a little more rollicking? Well why don’t we head on over to Calgary then, where Yukon Blonde are set to rock the Republik on Saturday night. Hailing from Kelowna, British Columbia, originally, and now based in Vancouver, they’ve got two LPs under their belt, including 2012’s Tiger Talk, from which the track above comes. Solid indie rock.

 

Winnipeg – Yes We Mystic @ The Park Theatre – April 2

Yes We Mystic – “August”

The video above comes from this year’s Big Fun Festival, which took place at various venues throughout downtown Winnipeg in January. The video features the city’s very own Yes We Mystic, a band that, according to its Facebook page, “celebrates the tragic through quiet acoustic melodies and soaring, triumphant crescendos. This is music to make you feel joy through your sorrow.”

They’re a promising, upcoming, independent band, currently working toward the release of their forthcoming EP, Floods and Fires, and you can help ’em along their way by checking them out on April 2. They’ll be playing with Rah Rah and Two Hours Traffic.

 

Toronto – Band of Skulls @ Air Canada Centre – April 9

Band of Skulls – “I Know What I Am”

Hailing from Southampton, England, Band of Skulls received attention a few years back for the track above, which comes from their 2009 debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. It made it onto the “Friday Night Lights” soundtrack and was even featured in Guitar Heroes: Warriors of Rock. Since then they’ve toured internationally, opening for bands including Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Dead Weather, and on April 9 they’ll be opening for Muse at the Air Canada Centre. Should be rockin’.

 

Montreal – The King Khan & BBQ Show @ Il Motore – April 9

The King Khan & BBQ Show – “Shake Real Low”

Last, but not least, if you’re in Montreal, then maybe you’d like to check out what is, in my opinion, one of the city’s finest acts – The King Khan & BBQ Show. They do this lo-fi, garage-y fusion of doo-wop and punk, and it sounds amazing. But it should – because these guys have been playing together forever. (OK, well for 10 years – but a while nonetheless.) As their Facebook page says, these guys “always maintained that they would lay waste to this miserable world. And so they began in 2002… jamming out their black magick in [King Khan’s] Nazi-bunker rehearsal space. Songs flowed endlessly like blood from a cancerous abcess.” It’s classy stuff. Catch it while you can.

The King Khan & BBQ Show

This Week in Music History: March 25 to 31

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By David Ball

It’s breaking news to yours truly that I was born on the same day, March 26, as pop star Roch Voisine. Joyeux anniversaire à nous!

Roch Voisine circa early 1990s, looking a tad bit mischievous

I’ll be sure to add his special day onto the list of revolutionary March 26 events that I, and no doubt all of you, celebrate annually: Emperor Maurice declares his son Theodosius as co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 590; Guru Amar Das ascends to be Third Sikh Guru in 1552; and, of course, the birth of Korean singer Son Ho Young from pop quartet g.o.d. (a.k.a. Groove Over Dose) in 1980. Time to party!

Korean pop star Son Ho Young looking about as happy as he is on every March 26

The Edmundston, New Brunswick singer-songwriter, actor and television host was born in 1963 on unarguably the most marvellous day of the calendar year. I can’t believe Voisine has entered his 50s, although he still looks five years younger than Lindsay Lohan, Prince William and all of the leathery thirtysomething sun worshippers I saw during my recent trip to Turks and Caicos.

Case in point…

Roch Voisine, age 50

Lindsay Lohan, age 26 (she kind of looks like a tired-looking Angelina Jolie)

After a baseball injury dashed his dreams of becoming a professional hockey player, the bilingual Voisine enrolled at the University of Ottawa and graduated in 1985 with a degree in physical therapy. The following year he made his first live performance, singing our national anthem on Canada Day in front of 50,000 people at Montreal’s La Ronde amusement park.

Voisine marked his official recording debut in 1989 with Hélène, a collection of lovely francophone folk-pop tunes, including the massive title track, which remains the biggest single of his career (it spent nine weeks at No. 1 on France’s pop chart and the English version placed in the Canadian Adult Contemporary Top 10). Hélène was a hit in French Canada, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Norway, and it sold three million units worldwide and won Best Album at France’s Victoires de la Musique award ceremony in 1993.

Staying true to his New Brunswick upbringing, Voisine’s 1990 followup, Double, était la première tentative en vedette des chansons en français et en anglais (that is, it was his first effort to feature songs in both French and English). Fittingly, the double album went double platinum (an all-English disc was issued separately and reached RPM’s Top 50).

In 1993, the prolific performer released his most successful English-language effort, I’ll Always Be There. The four-time platinum LP contains a number of memorable singles, including the hit title track, penned by Voisine and David Foster. The collaboration with the Grammy and JUNO Award–winning producer extraordinaire was nominated for a JUNO Award and reached No. 4 on RPM’s pop charts, and it’s the singer’s highest ranking anglophone single to date.

Sure, the clean-as-the-driven-snow musician could fill a room with all of the accolades he’s received over the years (e.g., being named an officer of the Order of Canada and winning two JUNO Awards, including 1994’s Male Vocalist of the Year), but nothing – and I mean nothing – can compare to the series of unintentionally hilarious Quebec milk commercials he starred in back in 1990 and 1991. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t fret, my friends. I vividly remember watching the spots in the early ’90s on Kingston, Ontario cable television (my hometown still carries several Quebec-based channels) and found three of them on something called “YouTube.” Here’s my personal favourite.

It’s a tragedy that Voisine didn’t do an English version of “Le Lait,” if only to hear him sing the translated end verse: “Milk, milk, milk, milk, milk, milk, milk.”

Ah, what the hell. Here are two more Le Lait ads for your viewing pleasure; I bet the first is a nod to Voisine’s hockey-loving past.

All ribbing aside (I’m sure he finds the commercials funny), Voisine continues to produce bestsellers in both French and English, including his recent acclaimed Americana trilogy, 2010’s Confidence and the 2013 compilation Duophonique, a selection of re-recorded duo interpretations of some of the singer’s best-loved songs.

 

I don’t think Aldo Caporuscio’s adopted professional surname, “Nova,” was inspired by the notorious Chevy jalopy or the long-running science program on PBS – or even the hot-as-blazes human mute from the original Planet of the Apes

Nova (Linda Harrison) with Taylor (Charlton “NRA” Heston) from Planet of the Apes (1968)

Aldo Nova’s debut single, “Fantasy,” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on March 28, 1982. The heavy-riffing arena rocker eventually reached the Billboard Top 25. The big-time exposure of the multi-platinum self-titled LP and its two singles (“Foolin’ Yourself” was a minor hit on the North American pop charts) briefly turned the Montreal native into a legitimate guitar hero.

Nova’s self-titled debut. I own the original 1982 vinyl, but admittedly haven’t listened to it since 1983.

In some sort of strange coincidence, Nova’s life in the spotlight pretty much paralleled Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word “nova”: “A star that suddenly increases its light output tremendously and then fades away to its former obscurity in a few months or years.”

Sure enough, Nova’s descent into obscurity began about a year or two following the release of his second studio effort, Subject… Aldo Nova (1983). Fortunately, Nova found a second calling as a writer, producer and session musician working with established big name acts, most notably Bon Jovi (he played guitar and keyboards on the New Jersey band’s 1984 debut), solo Jon Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Garou and Clay Aiken (the “American Idol” grad’s career has also gone nova).

 

One of the pioneers of Canadian hip hop, Maestro Fresh-Wes (a.k.a. Maestro), was born Wesley Williams in Scarborough, Ont., on March 31, 1968.

Maestro Fresh-Wes emerged from Toronto’s underground club scene in the late 1980s to become one of the country’s first hip-hop stars. His fun-loving landmark hit, “Let Your Backbone Slide,” along with outspoken songs about social and political issues, helped push the Canadian mainstream into finally acknowledging hip hop as a legitimate music genre. Maestro also offered rap fans and oft-ignored and disillusioned urban and inner big city kids one of their own homegrown role models.

The “godfather of Canadian hip hop” began writing and rhyming while in his early teens, influenced by American groundbreakers Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow. In high school, he formed Vision Quest with Ebony MC. Two years after the duo’s 1987 breakup, Fresh-Wes released his first solo album, Symphony in Effect (RPM No. 4), and its lead track “Let Your Backbone Slide” went on to make history as the first Canadian Top 40 hip-hop single (it peaked at No. 10 on RPM). In fact, until 2008, “Let Your Backbone Slide” remained the only domestic-born hip-hop single to be certified gold (songs by Drake, K’naan and Classified have recently been added to the Canadian gold song podium).

The classy and socially aware second studio effort, The Black Tie Affair (1991), continued Maestro’s remarkable roll. The gold-certified and JUNO-nominated album was co-produced by Maestro himself and reached RPM’s Top 20 thanks to hits “Nothin’ at All” and “Conductin’ Thangs.”

In an attempt to make a name for himself south of the border, Maestro moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1992, but poor sales greeted his next two American-marketed and JUNO-nominated albums: 1992’s Maestro Zone and 1994’s Naaah, Dis Kid Can’t Be from Canada?!!. After the American experiment didn’t pan out, he moved back home in 1997, shortened his name to “Maestro,” released the comeback LP Built to Last (1998) and was once again in the Canadian Top 20 with “Stick to Your Vision.”

Maestro’s 1998 comeback (not to be confused with the same-named Grateful Dead album)

Most of the 2000s found Maestro expanding his resumé to include acting (he can currently be seen trading barbs with Gerry Dee on the CBC comedy “Mr. D.”), writing, motivational speaking and charitable contributions. He released the EP Black Tuxedo in 2012, his first collection of new material since the 2005 one-off remake of Lawrence Gowan’s ’80s hit “A Criminal Mind.”

Next week: Trooper and Bobby Curtola

“Fantasy” by Aldo Nova

Spring Symphony

Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

So I can’t tell what’s going to be happening by the time this gets posted – we could be buried under another snowstorm – but as I was writing this, spring seemed to be making its first furtive foray back into my life, emerging from the long, arduous exile it had imposed upon itself.

There were temperatures above freezing, I spotted the first green shoots of daffodils and we got more than two straight days of sun. I even went for a run, for crying out loud – outside! – for the first time this year, and, like an emaciated beast preparing to emerge from hibernation, I found my memory faintly stirring with recollections of why I love life again, a welcome change from the cold and bitterness that had come to permeate it lately.

Plus, there was that whole turning-the-clocks-forward thing, which made the daylight seem like it just went on forever… but I have another theory as to why I felt so good. The first signs of spring certainly played a role, but equally important, I think, was the music I was listening to.

From the moment I woke up and saw the sun, to my run down by the lake, to the time I got back home again, I was rockin’ classical. There’s no other way to do it when the weather feels like this. If you want to bask in the glory of something sublime, then you need a classical soundtrack. And so, carrying that optimism forth, believing that these signs of spring are here to stay and, hence, so too the need for an appropriate soundtrack, I present to you the following.

Ralph Vaughan Williams – “The Lark Ascending”

Start your day with this. Banish every negative thought. Allow life’s splendour to spread through your being like the dawning sentience of awakening. Or simply have some coffee as this song plays. Either way, it’s a great way to start your morning. This is one of those songs that’s so beautiful that it’s hard to believe a person – a mortal, like you or I – actually wrote it. Funnily enough, however, the story is that Ralph Vaughan Williams was adumbrating this work while watching troop ships cross the English Channel at the outbreak of the the First World War; a boy saw him and, thinking he was jotting down secret code, informed the police, who subsequently arrested the composer. Go figure.

 

Léo Delibes – “The Flower Duet” (from Lakmé)

OK, so obviously this is a song you want to be listening to as spring dawns. I mean, it’s even called “The Flower Duet” – spring is practically in its name. It comes from the opera Lakmé, which was written by French composer Léo Delibes between 1881 and 1882 about a tragic love between Lakmé, a Hindu priestess, and Gérald, a British army officer. This song comes from the first act, when all is well and things haven’t yet taken their tragic turn.

 

Johann Sebastian Bach – “Partita No. 6 in E minor”

Let’s watch Glenn Gould, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1983 inductee, have a near-spiritual encounter with this work by Johann Sebastian Bach, as filmed in Toronto in 1974. Then let’s reflect on how, when you listen to music like this, you literally cannot feel mad – it is physically impossible – and on all the good it would do if everyone listened to this music for a short period each day.

Glenn Gould

 

Antonín Dvořák – “Symphony No. 8 in G major”

Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer who lived from 1841 to 1904. During that time, he composed beautiful music. I was lucky enough to see some of it performed by The Junction Trio the other week – the group performs on a monthly basis at St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto, a beautiful Byzantine-style space decorated by the Group of Seven. The trio is highly recommended if you’re in the Dundas and Dufferin area of Toronto at the end of this month, when they’ll be performing Haydn. More info is available here: thejunctiontrio.webs.com.

 

Giacomo Puccini – “Nessun Dorma” (from Turandot)

And let’s just finish things off with this: possibly one of the most powerful pieces of opera ever. Here we have the late, great Luciano Pavarotti singing the famous aria from Turandot’s final act. I don’t even know what to say about this. Just watch Pavarotti’s eyes as he sings: now that is emotion. My god.

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