Monday, May 31, 2010

Whatever happened to John Fitch?

Romantic Attitude by John Fitch & Associates

Stoned Out Of It by John Fitch & Associates

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Neil Young unveils new songs

Since Neil Young has a tendency to road test new compositions before recording them, part of what adds excitement to his performances is that you never know when he might decide to launch into an amazing tune at a concert you've never heard before. On his current Twisted Road theatre tour with Bert Jansch, Young has mostly stuck to the old favourites like Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River, Helpless and Ohio but he's also adding a few thrilling works-in-progress to his sets which could be slated for the forthcoming album he's recording with producer Daniel Lanois but then again, maybe not. Fortunately, someone happened to record and post five of the new songs Peaceful Valley, Love and War, Leia, You Never Call and Sign Of Love which you can temporarily check out below:

Sign Of Love

Love and War

Peaceful Valley

You Never Call


Can Phillies perfect Doc Halladay win 30?

Facing the Marlins in Miami yesterday (Saturday, May 29), former Blue Jays ace Roy "Doc" Halladay pitched a perfect game, striking out 11 in a 1-0 win for the Phillies. On May 9, Oakland's Dallas Braden was also perfect against Tampa Bay so with Halladay's remarkable achievement occurring just 20 days later, it's the first time in the major's modern era that two perfect games have been pitched in the same month.
Although baseball historians will point out that way back in 1880, the first two perfect games were thrown just five days apart when Worchester Ruby Legs lefty Lee Richmond beat the Cleveland Blues 1-0 on June 12 and the Providence Grays' John Montgomery Ward turned the same trick to top the Buffalo Bisons 5-0 on June 17.
The win moves Philadelphia's hard hurling right-hander to a 7-3 record, one step closer to the almost unthinkable feat of winning 30 games this year. Well, it may unthinkable for most people except for maybe Halladay himself along with Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey of The Baseball Project. The alterna-supergroup, which also involves Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon, have set their intriguing "what if" scenario to music with the catchy 30 Doc, the third song in the Baseball Project's ongoing Broadside Ballads series recording and releasing a tune a month about America's favourite pastime.
Even though the 33 year old Halladay is in tip-top shape and now has some excellent support behind him with the defending NL champs, the fact no pitcher has managed to crack the 30 game milestone since Denny McLain won 31 for the Detroit Tigers back in 1968 makes Halladay's bid seem like a serious longshot. The last time any pitcher in the National League has come close was 1972 when Steve Carlton notched 27 wins for the Phillies.
Interestingly enough, the first Halladay card Topps printed up depicting Philadelphia's new acquisition in a Phillies jersey (right) mistakenly had him wearing his old Blue Jays number 32 which was Carlton's number, now of course retired by the Phillies. A simple production gaff or prescient suggestion of record breaking to come?
In any case, the steep odds against Halladay reaching the 30 win milestone this season hasn't stopped Wynn and his Baseball Project buddies from fantasizing about the possibility. And after Halladay's perfect game performance last night, there's gonna be a lot more people singing along with 30 Doc. Download it right here.

The Baseball Project
Yep Roc label site
Scott McCaughey fan site
Steve and Scott interviewed about the Baseball Project on

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kanye Crimson puts SNL on notice

The first track to be leaked from Kanye West's secret recording sessions for the forthcoming Good Ass Job album is the King Crimson-sampling Power with his sidekick Dwele sweetly crooning the suicide fantasy coda. When not dropping ill rhymes for Power ("Austin Powers") and Obama Nation ("abomination") over stompin' beats, a choral chant and the tag-line from 21st Century Schizoid Man, our man Yeezy manages to sneak in a subtle shot at those who dare to have temerity to mock his goofy antics ("Fuck SNL and the whole cast"). Just imagine the terrifying "fishsticks" wordplay Kanye has in store for those South Park bitches Cartman and Jimmy... we'll see who's a gay fish!

Check out Power right here while you can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The new wave of steel pans

The unusual late May heatwave that hit Toronto has put me in the mood for some steel band music. Over in Trinidad and Tobago, they say every song sounds better on the pans – really. Right now, I know you're wondering, "even something like Cars by Gary Numan?" Yes, especially Gary Numan's new wave classic Cars. Don't believe it? Well, there was a decidedly dope version of Cars recorded live by Tobago's pan-pounding supremos the Katzenjammers for the album Panatics: Steel Band Music From The Island Paradise Of Tobago (Long View) which they put out in 1980 while Numan's robotic original version was still on the charts. Cheeky bastards! The Mighty Boosh's Vince Noir would definitely not be pleased.
However, the funky drumming on Katzenjammers delightful remake has made it a party-rocking b-boy favourite which inevitably led to a limited 7-inch repressing in 2005 on the Glasgow-based Red Hook label. But even that re-release isn't easy to turn up these days so enjoy this clip.

Gary Numan's Cars by The Katzenjammers

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eric Davidson's tales from the punk crypt

For every band like Nirvana and the White Stripes that broke out of the 90s punk and garage rock underground and wound up playing huge outdoor festivals while selling millions, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other amazing artists slugging it out nightly the same scene who never made it out their Econolines. Thinking back, the most incredible rock 'n' roll shows I witnessed over the decade never involved major label acts and they certainly didn't happen in enormous sports arenas packed with thousands of screaming fans. Nope, they usually went down in small scuzzy bars littered with a handful of woozy regulars who didn't plan on having their drinking night interrupted by a menacing bunch of malnourished miscreants thrashing away at beat up guitars.
Since these weren't the sort of places where you'd expect to find music journalists sniffing for the next big thing or news photographers snapping shots, many of the most mind-roasting moments of the era were never adequately documented let alone reported to the general public. Consequently many incredible bands like the Mummies, Dwarves, Lazy Cowgirls, Devil Dogs, Supersuckers, Halo Of Flies, Untamed Youth, Cheater Slicks, Teengenerate, Compulsive Gamblers, Oblivians, Gories, Lord High Fixers, Black Top, Jack O' Fire, the Make-Up, Sugar Shack, Motards, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, etc. never got the attention they deserved, until Eric Davidson decided to write a book about them called We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001 (Backbeat Books).
And really, who better to chronicle the terrifying-but-true tales of these 90s no-counts than a certified shit-disturber like Davidson who was often right there in the middle of the mayhem? Before he became an eminently competent Village Voice, CMJ and SF Bay Guardian contributor, Davidison was better known as the comically confrontational frontman of the mighty New Bomb Turks, probably the greatest band ever to come out of Columbus, Ohio. I vividly remember the first time I saw the Turk's, it was at CBGBs sometime after 3 am following the rousing New York debut of Guided By Voices. Despite the fact that there was only about 15 people left in the place – the members of Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, Mike D and various employees of Matador and Nasty Little Man who'd come to find out what the all the GBV fuss was about had split hours earlier – the Turks put on a ferocious attack led by the incessantly mugging Davidson who spent half the set dangling from light fixtures and air vents to the astonishment of Ottawa-based photographer Shawn Scallen, Matt Galloway, myself and Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell who just wanted everyone to leave so he could go back to sleep. Clearly this Davidson hombre knows his shit.  
Rather than a dry, scholarly study of the era, Davidson instead assembled as more of a series of hilarious, sometimes horrifying yet historically relevant reports from the frontline, letting the key players tell their wild-ass stories in their own words. The interview bits and pieces that didn't make the final cut (see my pal Allyson Baker's fond recollection of meeting the Dwarves below), which Davidson has regularly been posting on his site (, should be indication enough that you need to pre-order a copy on the double. The street date for We Never Learn is June 1 and it should be noted that is momentarily offering it at the discounted rate of $13.59 US here.  Once you get it, you can use your code to grab a copy of the 20-track compilation Davidson has put together as a companion MP3 download right here.


That rockin’ gal in the flier is TCC guitarist Allyson Baker. She kindly let us crash at her parents' swanky suburban pad once, and walking past the paneled walls and fine furniture, we get to her section of the house, and her bathroom was covered floor to ceiling in red/white checkerboard tiles and her bedroom was plastered with Dwarves and other deviants posters. We all crashed in her basement, which I have since found out was liberally puked upon by members of the Dirtys…but that’s another story.
The story below is one Allyson gave me for We Never Learn; once again it was to be one of the “sidebars” I wanted to pepper throughout the book, but got cut in the end.
Oh, and Allyson is currently living in Cali and is married to that Aesop Rock guy. Go figure.
Eric Davidson

The Dwarves & Me    by Allyson Baker

I was fresh out of Hebrew school, just started high school, and had recently acquired my first guitar. The word “grunge” was slowly starting to leave my vocabulary, though thanks to Kurt Cobain I was now learning about bands like the Melvins, the Meat Puppets, and Black Flag. Another of Cobain’s faves, Flipper, was coming to Toronto, so I was delighted as shit. Since it was my first time seeing a band at a small club I figured I’d better get there at least four hours early since I imagined there would be a mob of people outside, at the very least there’d be dozens of other 14-year old Nirvana-worshiping girls I’d have to elbow out of my way to get a good spot on the floor.

I got to the venue at 3pm with two other girlfriends who were more scared than I was. We sat outside the doors cross-legged for a few hours before this gangly looking dude in a dirty t-shirt approached us. It was Blag Dahlia, singer of the Dwarves. Blag took one look at us and started laughing. The site of us three girls, one with a mouthful of braces and the other with an emergency pack of Melba Toast in her front pocket, was comedy waiting to happen.

Blag invited us to come in the venue with him, which we immediately declined as we thought there was a small chance we’d be taken under the stage and molested. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so after a quick huddle we agreed to join him, deciding that if we all wound up somehow losing our virginity to the Dwarves that night, at least we’d all be together. Blag toted us around all night and introduced us to his band, Flipper, the roadies, the sound guy, the promoter, and even the college radio guy who kept trying to get a good interview from Blag, but wound up leaving with a tape of us talking about why our math teacher is fat and stupid.

The Dwarves finished their sound check and took us to a pizza place nearby. We all sat around eating pizza, talking about why 90210 was the greatest show ever. At this point we’d really warmed up to them and thought that these guys were real decent guys who just liked to play music and watch 90210, just like us!

The Dwarves opened the show, and we sat on the side of the stage very excited to see our new friends perform. The song starts, bottles go flying, Blag throws himself at the audience, and we took off at top speed running to the other end of the club, scared shitless. I was so terrified after watching them onstage for less than a minute that it made me want to jump into the arms of the strung-out guy from Flipper. We decided that we couldn’t hang out with the Dwarves any longer as they had suddenly turned into scary insane dudes.

At the end of the night Blag invited us to an after-party with Flipper, but with the visual of Blag grinding his pelvis into a chick’s forehead on stage fresh in our minds—not to mention the story we’d just heard about the drummer’s indiscretions with a quadriplegic from the night before—that we thought it might be best to just go home. Blag asked us what we were going to do, so we made up some bullshit about going to get food, to which he replied “Great! We’ll join you!” Slightly fearful, we piled in the van and headed to Golden Griddle, an all-night pancake house. We got to the restaurant and wound up having a great time hanging out and listening to these guy’s crazy stories of chicks, drugs, and being on tour.

At one point during the meal, Blag took me to the pay phone by the bathroom and played me dirty messages of some chick moaning and panting on his voicemail. I remember Blag and I with our ears up to the phone giggling at the sound of her having an orgasm into his answering machine. At around 5am, it was time to wrap it up. We said our goodbyes and Blag gave us all CDs and posters that the band signed—and it’s still up on my wall.

I didn’t sleep when I got home that night. I was completely hooked. I wanted every single night from then on to be like that, and so began my mission to make that happen. I started practicing guitar everyday so that I could start a band ASAP and make that my life.

Here's the schedule for Eric Davidson's upcoming book tour:

June 11 - Brooklyn, NY - Academy Record Annex
- pre-Nobunny/Spits show soiree! 7pm

June 26 - Brooklyn, NY - Bell House
- NEW BOMB TURKS reunion gig, featuring LiveFastDie
    Early show! Reading, 6:30; bands, 8

June 29 - Seattle, WA
- Easy Street Records, book signing, 3pm
- Snoose Part Deux (in Greenwood), reading/DVD showing, 8pm

July 1 - San Francisco, CA - Hemlock Tavern
- Happy hour pre-Eddy Current Suppression Ring/Thee Oh Sees party

July 7 - Los Angeles, CA - Stories

July 9 - Columbus, OH - Wexner Center
- After-party DJ jive at Café Bourbon St.

July 10 - Columbus, OH - Surly Girl Parking Lot Blow-Out
- New Bomb Turks gig plus - get this - the Gibson Bros. and Scrawl!!! (More bands TBA)

July 13 - Chicago - Museum of Contemporary Art

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tom Waits makes over MOJO

It seems like it's been ages since MOJO was a worthwhile read and the new publisher of the formerly entertaining and informative UK music magazine no doubt understands their sad predicament. This week they've taken bold action to try to make up for MOJO's woeful editorial shortcomings by bringing in Tom Waits to guest edit their 200th issue. In case you haven't heard, inviting celebrity musicians to makeover an issue is the hot new media trend for publications with dwindling readerships (see the Globe & Mail). Hey, it's worth a shot. Waits couldn't do any worse than MOJO's regular staff.

Apart from the bonus of not having to look at yet another MOJO cover shot of the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan, the special Tom Waits issue (July 2010, out soon) features an exclusive encounter between Hank Sr. fan Waits and Hank Williams III where hillbilly death metal, Minnie Pearl and haunted houses are up for discussion,  an in-depth interview with Waits' hero Harry Belafonte conducted by songwriter/producer Joe Henry, along with various lists of Waits' favourite books, films and songs. Most Waits fans will want to grab a copy for the cover-mounted Step Right Up! CD which was selected and sequenced by the man himself for your listening pleasure. Most of the song choices aren't terribly obscure or surprising coming from Waits but it's a much better selection than you might expect from someone who has never heard of James Carr.

Here's the track listing:
1: Sixteen Tons - Tennessee Ernie Ford
2: John the Revelator - Son House    
3: Ramblin' Man - Hank Williams, Sr.
4: Just Walkin' in the Rain - Prisonaires
5: Drown In My Own Tears - Ray Charles    
6: Honey in the Rock - Blind Mamie Forehand
7: Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go - Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
8: No More Auction Block - Paul Robeson
9: Dorothy Mae - Howlin' Wolf    
10: Sylvie - Harry Belafonte
11: I Was Young When I Left Home - Bob Dylan
12: Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet - Gavin Briars with Tom Waits
13: Ball N' Chain - Big Mama Thornton
14: Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe Eingestellt - William Burroughs
15: When You WIsh Upon A Star - Cliff Edwards

MOJO's Ross Bennett presents his selection of the best Tom Waits webvids (including the following Fernwood Tonight spot with Martin Mull and Fred Willard from 1977) right here.

Duelling Jazz Fests: Montreal vs Toronto

When I saw the first notice of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal lineup, which notably included such decidedly non-jazz acts as the Doobie Brothers, Taj Mahal, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Eric Burdon, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Miller Band, and The Moody Blues, it seemed like someone had it mixed up with the Toronto Jazz Festival 2010. Checking further to see that the Gipsy Kings were listed as part at the two-week event (June 25-July 6) along with Daniel Lanois, Joan Armatrading and Lewis Furey appeared to confirm my initial suspicions but I was sadly mistaken. This was indeed the Montreal Jazz Fest listing but what happened to all the jazz? 
In Montreal, where government funding flows freely for the annual outdoor soiree and the festival's astute artistic director André Ménard has a good handle on what makes for exciting jazz programming, you can usually count on a week-long showcase of an important and creatively vital artists like David Murray or Randy Weston in a variety of settings in addition to loads of respectable, if not cutting edge jazz talent – not a series of golden oldies shows by tie-dyed arena rock survivors. For some reason, this year's version of the Montreal Jazz Fest has taken a sharp turn towards the mainstream in a puzzling bid for lowest common denominator appeal. The one-off novelty of Lou Reed getting down with John Zorn and Laurie Anderson doesn't begin to make up for the Lionel Richie and Boz Scaggs head-scratchers crowding out the Sonny Rollins and David Sanchez shows. The Doobie Brothers sans Michael McDonald? Really?
There have also been some surprising moves made by the Toronto Downtown Jazz operation in advance of the Toronto Jazz Festival 2010, which will go head-to-head with the Montreal event from June 25 to July 4. While there are some holdovers at this year's festival, like the return of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock (with Dave Holland and Chris Potter), Keith Jarrett (with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette) as well as John Scofield, the lineup is far more solid than anticipated with The Roots, Dave Douglas, Taj Mahal, James Hunter, the Roy Hargrove Big Band, Maceo Parker, Allen Toussaint & Mavis Staples, Fred Frith, Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Martha Wainwright, Bettye Lavette, James Hunter, Stanley Clarke, Christian Scott, Hilario Duran Big Band, Angelique Kidjo, Nikki Yanofsky and Harry Connick, Jr. providing serious competition for Montreal's parade golden greats. 
Perhaps the most notable change in the way the Toronto Jazz Festival 2010 is being run is the retirement of long-time artistic director Jim Galloway. Had the diehard dixieland enthusiast still been calling the shots at this year's festival, the sad passing of trombonist Rob McConnell on May 1 would've surely wreaked havoc with the bookings. Who knows, the way the schedule was padded with multiple Boss Brass gigs in previous years, the whole 10-day shebang may have been called off. Fortunately, after years of questionable booking choices, the trad-jazz focused Galloway has made way for the younger, hipper Toronto Jazz Orchestra founder/conductor Josh Grossman who understands the value of social media.
Almost immediately after Grossman took over in January, there were encouraging signs that positive changes were afoot. Just the appearance of a blog component to the site was a revelation in itself but there was much more in store.
As part of a March posting, the Grossman not only acknowledged his responsibility as artistic director "to be aware of who is making waves on the Canadian and international jazz scenes, and get them playing in Toronto", he took the unprecedented step of inviting the public at large to make booking suggestions! Admittedly it's one thing to accept input and quite another to act on it. Yet the whole notion of the mysterious people at the Toronto Downtown Jazz suddenly welcoming outside suggestions and perhaps even considering what artists Toronto jazz fans really want to see is an enormously promising about face from the closed-shop approach of the past.
That's not to say the Toronto Jazz Festival will suddenly start spotlighting the sort of exciting jazz talent emerging in Canada, England, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Italy and the U.S. which has been overlooked for ages – supremely gifted jazz singer José James is appearing at Revival on July 2, not as part of the T.O. Jazz Festival – t's clearly going to take some time before we see the likes of Nat Birchall, Matt Halsall, Quasimode, Soil & Pimp Sessions, Dwight Trible, Bajka, Nostalgia 77, Build An Ark, Jukka Eskola, Five Corners Quintet, Eero Koivistoinen, Jacques Coursil or Azar Lawrence. But having an open-minded artistic director actively seeking input is a giant leap in the right direction.

Toronto Jazz Festival
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Friday, May 21, 2010

DEVO offers Something For Everybody

After a 20-year gap between studio albums, DEVO have just announced the tracklisting for their forthcoming Something For Everybody slated for release June 15. Contrary to erroneous reports of a 16-track album (see Pitchfork), the 16 songs considered for the new release by DEVO were made available on the group's site ( as part of an "Official Song Study" in which like-minded Devolutionaries were given freedom of choice to select their favourites for inclusion. Only the 12 most popular tunes according to the focus group survey made the final cut.
The results of the "bold experiment" were announced by DEVO's Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh via satellite link to a gathering of journalists, historians and a random assortment of concerned citizens (including some dude with a bike) at DEVO Inc.'s corporate meeting centre at an undisclosed location near Akron, Ohio.

Something For Everybody is now available for pre-order at DEVO's merch site.

1. Fresh
2. What We Do
3. Please Baby Please
4. Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)
5. Mind Games
6. Human Rocket
7. Sumthin'
8. Step Up
9. Cameo
10. Later Is Now
11. No Place Like Home
12. March On

In other DEVO news, the group is touring this summer but thus far, the only confirmed Canadian appearance will be at Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival August 1.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ryan Adams' metal mayhem

When word of a Ryan Adams metal album began to circulate recently, it sounded almost too good not to be a hoax. While it's no secret that Mr. Mandy Moore likes to dabble outside of his alternative country comfort zone now and again, he's been photographed wearing Voivod t-shirts and he certainly prides himself on his songwriting prolificacy, the idea of a Ryan Adams knocking out a sci-fi metaloid concept album seems too hilariously preposterous even for Bryan Adams to dream up.
But just as promised, the rumoured Orion (Pax Am) album which Adams describes as his "most legit METAL record" is now available as an extremely limited 13-track LP on 180 gram clear vinyl and 320 kbps digital download on his Pax Am label site ( There will be no compact disc version issued. Check out a clip of the track Electro Snake here.
Evidently, the metal move is something Adams has had in the works for years now as the Orion recordings, made with former Cardinals bandmate Jamie Candiloro on drums and synths and a mystery bassist credited as Dale Nixon, date back to 2006.
Those who pay close attention to liner notes may recall that the nom-de-disc "Dale Nixon" has been previously used by Dave Grohl when he joined the Melvins in the studio for the King Buzzo sessions, Minor Threat's Brian Baker on Dag Nasty's Four On The Floor album and Black Flag's Greg Ginn on My War. The fact that Ginn used "Dale Nixon" for bass playing credit and Adams also happens to be a huge Black Flag fan has raised speculation that it may actually be Ginn appearing undercover on Orion to save himself some embarrassment.
Voivod fans should note that Orion's reflective sleeve art was designed by Michel "Away" Langevin who also came up with the dope bio-robotic spider image. So far there hasn't been any announcement of whether Adams plans on taking his Orion epic to the stage, no doubt he's got all the housework he can handle since getting married, but we can only hope. The light show could be awesome.

Orion Tracklist:
01 Signal Fade
02 Imminent Galactic War
03 Disappyramid
04 Fire Away
05 Defenders of the Galaxy
06 Fire and Ice
07 By Force
08 Ghorgon, Master of War
09 Ariel
10 Electro Snake
11 Victims of the Ice Brigade
12 2,000 Ships
13 End of Days

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's the deal with Lone Wolf?

Wasn't there supposed to be a global moratorium on all Wolf-related names for bands and solo artists due to annoying over-usage? Just because the Vultures debut album which sad sack singer/songwriter Paul Marshall from Leeds issued three years ago under his own dull name went absolutely nowhere doesn't give him the right to sneak out a new recording under the alias Lone Wolf. Even if there wasn't specific wording to cover alter-egos, Marshall clearly isn't adhering to the spirit of the sanity-saving ban.
But there is a bigger problem with Marshall's new album, The Devil And I (Bella Union), and that's his dangerously short-sighted decision to jump on the 70s soft-rock bandwagon which is already overcrowded with hairy Yanks like Band Of Horses, Blitzen Trapper, Magnolia Electric Co. and Fleet Foxes. If someone told me a decade ago that in 2010, musically-gifted young artists would be consciously trying to sound more like their parents' Eagles, Styx and Kansas LPs as a way to sell more records, I never would've believed it. Alarming as the softening trend might seem, that appears to be precisely what's happening all over North America – check out the kinder, gentler Sadies on their new ballad-heavy Darker Circles album – and it's spreading overseas.
 Admittedly, Marshall's brooding take on the genre is gloomier than most of his American counterparts and the more elaborate arrangements on The Devil and I aren't quite in the same league as the fanciful string and vocal orchestrations of say, Fleet Foxes or even Blitzen Trapper (who sound like they've been digging some Supertramp lately), the ho-hum album is receiving a flurry of four-star reviews and purple praise from the UK press who can't find enough superlatives to hype it.
"Softly sung sweetness, lustrous harmonies and dextrous guitar work" pronounced a breathless Q critic while another hack from Clash Magazine chimed in "An absolutely gorgeous first attempt from a one to watch artist" which at the very least indicates that Marshall's name change ruse is working precisely according to plan. Props to his label boss and manager Simon Raymonde for a career renovation job well done.


Keep Your Eyes On The Road by Lone Wolf


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thunder Soul wins BIG at Hot Docs!

Time to make some room for more hardware in the Kashmere High School trophy case. I'm thrilled to report that Thunder Soul, The Perlich Post's pick to click at Hot Docs 2010 (see preview), has won festival's prestigious Audience Award by popular vote.
With more than 170 films screened for an estimated 136,000 attendees, the 11-day event was the biggest and most successful Hot Docs festival ever. Yet despite the disappointing lack of advance press for Thunder Soul – none of Toronto's numerous daily or weekly newspapers previewed the film in any substantial way – Mark Landsman's brilliant chronicle of Houston's Kashmere Stage Band under the direction of Conrad "Prof" Johnson still connected with Toronto's knowledgeable film fans. Ballots were cast by filmgoers and Thunder Soul proved to be the clear audience favourite when the results were announced on Monday (May 10) with the runners up being John Walker's A Drummer's Dream, Germán Berger-Hertz's My Life With Carlos, and Jan Tenehaven’s Autumn Gold which took the Filmmakers Award selected by participating directors.
"Hot Docs was a rich experience for me as a filmmaker," wrote director Mark Landsman exclusively to the Perlich Post. "It was my first time, and I was amazed at the crowds – the sheer number of people who lined up, in all kinds of crazy weather, to see all kinds of docs. The audiences were packed, dynamic, engaged. The quality and range of films was fantastic. It was just inspiring and a really good time.
"Working on THUNDER SOUL has been a profound privilege for me--getting to know Conrad "Prof" Johnson, his family, his students; the treasure trove of KSB's music; helping to convey a truly soulful story. Everyone connected with the film feels honored and grateful to have won this award today. One thing that cracked me up, someone from Texas texted to say: 'Congrats on winning at Hot Box!' I think they were confused about which fest we played at.
"I owe you man, The Perlich Post was our lone champion up there! My thanks."

Thunder Soul's remarkable triumph at Hot Docs 2010 not only underscores the cultural cluelessness of Toronto's mainstream media which appears to be growing more irrelevant by the day, it's also a heartening testament to the power of a fabulous film to find an audience against all odds. Hopefully this means that Thunder Soul will eventually get wider distribution in first-run movie houses so many more people can enjoy this wonderfully moving documentary about one man and one band that made a difference. Who knows, maybe some sharp concert promoter will bring the reunited Kashmere Stage Band to Toronto for a show – they'd be perfect for Harbourfront!

Mark Landsman discusses Thunder Soul

Thunder Soul
Kashmere Stage Band
Stones Throw Records store

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ding-Dongs calling and Melvin Davis too!

Another day, another Mark Sultan side project, right? This time our favourite turbaned drum thumper who is alternately known as BBQ has thrown in with fellow Montrealer, psychobilly rebel Bloodshot Bill last seen raising a ruckus in Berlin with King Khan as the Tandoori Knights. The gruesome twosome from the city of smoked meat are calling themselves The Ding-Dongs and they ain't messin' around. Well, a little. Evidently, the 13 unhinged tracks of trashy terror they waxed together proved a bit too rock 'n' roll for labels here in Canada  ("We don't really get it – with a name like the Ding-Dongs, we were expecting to hear some glockenspiel").
However, it's just the sort of recklessly raunchy slop that Billy Miller and Miriam Linna have built their Norton recording empire upon so they jumped at the chance to release the Ding Dongs dandy debut which is available now on CD and LP at all right-on record retailers.
To help sell their hot new product, Mark and Bill took a camera out onto the snowy streets of Montreal and forced unsuspecting citizens to listen to a Ding-Dongs tune, then documented their puzzled/annoyed reactions for the info-mercial below. Watch for a cameo appearance by my pal Denis, very convincing in the role of the bemused owner cool Montreal record shop Le Pick-up (169 Avenue des Pins Est at Avenue de l'Hotel de Ville).


Melvin Davis comes crawling back
Also new from Norton is a 7-inch single from Detroit R&B swinger Melvin Davis which pairs an unreleased thriller I Won't Come Crawling Back To You recorded in 1962 at D-town's famed Fortune Records cinderblock studio on Third Avenue with his rare rookie brush-off belter for the Jack Pot label, I Don't Want You No More from 1961 – a very good production year. Fans of Davis' Detroit contemporaries such as Gino Washington, Nathaniel Mayer and Andre Williams should take note.
Even better news is that the 67 year-old Groovesville great is still active and will be celebrating the single release with a Detroit performance backed by the Party Stompers featuring former Detroit Cobras guitarist Jeff Meier at the Park Bar (2040 Park Avenue at West Elizabeth) on Saturday, May 15.
As an added attraction, Danny Kroha (of the Gories, Demolition Doll Rods and Rocket 454) will be introducing his new group with a lively opening set and the mayor of Downtown Soulville, Mr. Finewine along with Ann Arbor Soul Club members in good standing Brad Hales and Breck T. Bunce will be spinning an astonishing selection of vintage 45s you're unlikely to hear anywhere else.  Advance tickets for this dyn-o-mite Detroit getdown are just $8 and available from The Crofoot (call 248-858-9333 or see link below). Seems like it could be time for a Motor City road trip.

I Won't Come Crawling Back  by Melvin Davis w/The Party Stompers

The Ding-Dongs
Norton Records
Le Pick-up
Melvin Davis
Party Stompers
Park Bar
Ann Arbor Soul Club
The Crofoot

Happy Mother's Day from Alela Diane

Oh! My Mama by Alela Diane

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thunder Soul takes over Hot Docs

Besides being among the most heartwarming films you'll see at Hot Docs 2010 (which runs through May 9), Thunder Soul: The True Story Of Conrad Johnson & The Kashmere Stage Band will also have one of the very best soundtracks. Of course there's some stiff competition from some of the festival's other entries like Blank City, A Drummer's Dream, 1991 The Year Punk Broke, Complaints Choir and We Don't Care About Music Anyway but then again, those exceptional high school students from the Kashmere Gardens neighborhood on Houston's nasty northside were never afraid of a little friendly competition.

During the the late 60s and early 70s, the Kashmere Stage Band won nearly every single high school stage band showdown they entered – an astounding 42 out of 46 contests. As you'll discover from Mark Landsman's informative and inspirational Thunder Soul documentary, Kashmere's phenomenal decade of dominance on the stage band festival circuit actually had less to do with the 1973 group's super-tight rhythm section of drummer Craig Green (see interview in links below) and bassist Gerald Calhoun or the various stunning teen soloists who came and went than the wisdom and guidance of the program's indefatigable music director who built the KSB  into an unstoppable stage band force year after year. Conrad Johnson, affectionately known as "Prof," wasn't satisfied with merely having the most ferociously funky high school stage band in Texas, he wouldn't settle for anything less than the very best high school band – ever.
The Kashmere Stage Band's amazing recorded legacy, neatly compiled on the Texas Thunder Soul 1968-74 (Now Again/Stones Throw) 2 CD archival set, provides hard evidence that they achieved Johnson's lofty goal. Certainly you won't hear a word of disagreement from credible deep funk authorities like Keb Darge (considered to be the first to spin a KSB record in a club setting) and DJ Shadow who helped touch off the schoolhouse funk craze with his KSB-inspired compilation series of the same name and also sampled their signature tune Kashmere for the Handsome Boy Modeling School track Holy Calamity.
What set the Kashmere Stage Band apart from the thousands of other school bands across North America is the way Johnson looked beyond the conventional big band jazz charts to embrace the contemporary funk idiom as a viable music form all the while encouraging his students to compose their own songs, perform them and record them. Of course, there's much more to the Kashmere story than a few badass tunes and Landsman puts it all into proper perspective with Thunder Soul which screens as part of the Small Acts series at the Cumberland 3 on Friday (May 7) at 9 pm, Bloor Cinema on Saturday (May 8) at 6 pm and again at The ROM Theatre on Sunday (May 9) at 1:45 pm. For tickets see link below.

Mark Landsman discusses Thunder Soul

DJ Shadow chronicles Thunder Soul's SXSW premiere

Kashmere by the Kashmere Stage Band

Thunder Soul at Hot Docs 2010
Thunder Soul
Kashmere Stage Band
Stones Throw Records store
Interviews with Conrad Johnson and KSB drummer Craig Green

Monday, May 3, 2010

All hail The Lumerians!

There might be an initial impulse to write-off The Lumerians, who share their name with an alien race of humanoid empaths that appeared in a sixth season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Man of the People, as a hopless bunch of Trekkie dweebs but the enigmatic San Francisco drone-psych quartet are actually much flakier than you may suspect. Without delving too deeply into the elaborately concocted mythology of the ancient Leumurians or Mount Shasta's alleged underground city of Telos which you can read about by following the link below, suffice it to say that our musicially-inclined group of Lumerians choose to keep their earthly identities secret for good reason.
While some of the neo-psych cognoscenti raved about the Lumerians five-song 12" debut EP issued by Subterranean Elephants back in 2008, I must admit I was more taken by the swirly sleeve image and the clear vinyl pressing than their lumbering sub-Spacemen 3 bashing.
The good news is that they've evolved significantly in the time since and the buzzing and whirring blitz of their new Burning Mirrors (Rococo) 7" will have some Wooden Shjips fans bowing to a new dolphin overlord. Even better is their inspired cover of the Osmonds'  atypically freaky rave-up Crazy Horses (see clip below) on the flipside, although the title is listed on the sleeve as Chevaux Fous to either save themselves some embarrassment or avoid getting bumrushed by an enraged Donny Osmond at their next gig in Provo. But who knows, Donny might've even enjoy the well-twerked homage. There were only 500 copies of the Lumerians single pressed (400 white, 100 black) so even if you're not an Osmonds fan, you'd better get over to the Rococo label site site on the double. While you're there, you might also wanna reserve a copy of Rococo's equally limited Split Brain Experiment 10" from Red Mass.

Dance Party Revival featuring The Lumerians

Crazy Horses by The Osmonds

Rococo Records
Telos of Mt. Shasta

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Andre Williams returns to Detroit

photo by Drew Reynolds
There's a new Andre Williams album called That's All I Need being released by Bloodshot on May 18 but it's not his new recording with The Sadies overseen by Jon Spencer. Evidently Andre's much-anticipated Sadies reunion set is finished and ready to go but they're still looking for a suitable label home for it. So while the backroom wheeling and dealing continues, the other Andre studio set, which the fabulous Mr. Rhythm put down in his old Motor City stomping grounds, is being issued by Bloodshot to placate Andre addicts jonesing for new joints.
That's All I Need was produced by Outrageous Cherry singer/guitarist Matt Smith who enlisted his regular crew of D-Town delinquents including drummers Dave Shettler (The Sights) and Michael Alonso (Electric Six), bassist Troy Gregory (Flotsam and Jetsam, Prong) and guitarist Eric Villa (Valentinos). If some of those names sound familiar it's because Smith used largely the same cast to cut Nathaniel Mayer's two not-so-hot albums for Alive. That's certainly cause for concern but we can only hope that Smith and company have learned something from the mistakes made on Mayer's albums. Hey, it could happen.
To his credit, Smith had the good sense to hire certified Detroit guitar ace Dennis Coffey to play the tricky parts so that's a big plus although it's unfortunate Smith couldn't manage to get Coffey's fellow Funk Brothers Bob Babbitt and Ray Monette in on the action. Those interested in picking up That's All I Need should note that Bloodshot's limited edition vinyl version of the album includes a digital download option and two bonus tracks. And if you pre-order now through Bloodshot's site (see link below) you get a free 11"x17" colour poster!

Andre Williams myspace
Bloodshot Records
Outrageous Cherry myspace

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Diana Panton meets Glenn Gould

It's long overdue, but Toronto jazz fans will finally get to hear what Diana Panton sounds like in a venue built with acoustics in mind when Canada's finest vocal talent makes her Glenn Gould Studio debut tonight.
As always, the well-prepared stylist is selecting the evening's repertoire based on the space, her accompanists, the audience and what she's been working on lately. Since she'll be joined by her recording/performing sidemen of choice – esteemed bassist/pianist Don Thompson and equally tasteful guitarist Reg Schwager – and she won't have to compete with clinking silverware and wine glasses, expect Panton to feature an intimate selection from Pink ( her fabulous recent set of songs based loosely on the theme of new love.
With spring in the air, I can't imagine a better time and place to revel in the purity and richness of Panton's remarkable pipes than the Glenn Gould Studio (250 Front West) tonight (Saturday, May 1) at 8 pm. Admission is $29.50 and while there are apparently a couple of seats still available online, considering the venue's capacity is listed as 341, they won't last long. Panton's all-too-rare Toronto performances have been awesome but this show promises to be the topper – don't miss it.

Diana Panton
Don Thompson
Reg Schwager
Glenn Gould Studio