Category Archives: Music

What’s Shufflin’ on my iPod

 

Blue Rodeo – 1000 Arms

Here’s the problem with Blue Rodeo, it’s their catalogue of great music from the previous 15 studio albums, a Greatest Hits package and “Live” recordings over 30 years. 1000 Arms is the first collection of new music since 2013’s In Our Nature; in between there was the Christmas release A Merrie Christmas to You and their 3rd Live Lp recorded at Massey Hall.  Oh yeah, there a single released during the 2015 federal election which caused me to (temporarily) hold a personal protest of Blue Rodeo music.

1000 Arms stands so well on its own, however with the catalogue of material that the band is competing with, many of these songs will go unheard live. I’d like to see Blue Rodeo tour and unapologetically not play anything from before 2000. The set list would be just as vibrant and eclectic.

1000 Arms should be a great addition to cottage porches, patios and car rides this summer.

Standout tracks:  Superstar, Long Hard Life, 1000 Arms and So Hard to See.

Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic

From the opening refrain of ‘Best You Ever’ Hopeless Romantic signals the return of Michelle Branch. Her song writing remains the same, but has matured. The stronger songs are a result of years of collaborations while trying to come up with material her record company would stand behind. It should be no surprise that she has stepped up her game by sitting in and composing with some of the best in LA, Nashville and London.

With less acoustic guitar work, her sound has filled out and her vocals reflect the sensitivity of the material filled with the fragile emotion of a break up, ‘Fault Line’ is a great example of this. However when she breaks out the acoustic it is solid, ‘Knock Yourself Out’ is not out of place on this 14 track set.

It is so good to have a first rate female singer-songwriter of Branch’s caliber with new material. Hopeless Romantic has been in rotation on my iPod since April 7th and likely will be there for the summer.

Standout tracks: Fault Line, Knock Yourself Out, Hopeless Romantic and Heartbreak Now

Ryan Adams – Prisoner

This one is for the long haul; it’s been playing since February of this year. New Lp’s from other artists have tried to squeeze it out, but none have succeeded.

Prisoner follows the release of a complete remake song by song of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Creatively, Prisoner is Adams’ most complete work of music on one disc since his work with The Cardinals. Like Michelle Branch’s Hopeless Romantic, the music here reflects his divorce, health and disillusion of the music business.

Through a renewed interest in music, via his own label PAX-AM, Prisoner has the hooks of what Bryan Adams would have recorded at his career zenith (you need to hear his version of ‘Summer of 69’ to get this connection), the thoughtfulness of Dylan and good American rock of Tom Petty. His swings from rock, to country folk and back are so easy to listen to – his voice lends to being able to commit to any style wants.  His musicianship shines throughout this disc, he loves his guitars and different sounds he gets from the many he owns. It brings diversity not on many discs.

It will be a sad day when I pull this entire disc off the iPod, trying to find individual tracks to act as a highlight of Prisoner will be difficult.

Standout racks: Do you still love me, Prisoner, Doomsday, Outbound Train

Linda Carone – Black Moonlight

What may seem like the odd duck in these four discs is really not, Black Moonlight is just really good music performed by very good vocalist. Linda Carone is a Toronto Jazz pianist-vocalist. She is self-described as a vintage jazz and blues singer. While Black Moonlight is her debut disc, but by no means has she just popped up. Linda can be found often on the jazz circuit in Toronto.

The choice of songs is just as important as her voice. In the tradition of Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr., Carone has chosen well and clearly played these songs live enough to be able to ‘own’ them. So, when listening to Black Moonlight, close your eyes and just try to image you are not in a club – it will be impossible.

With a sultry and velvety voice Black Moonlight going to be perfect on our balcony this summer with the candles, balcony lights and a glass of wine after the sun has sent.

Standout Tracks: Black Moonlight, Guilty, Under the Spell of the Blues, Livin my Way of Life


 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Where are you now: The return of Michelle Branch

Hopeless Romantic

There are not many artists that I keep watching for, for the release of new music. From the 60’s I always have an interest in what Paul McCartney is putting out or if there is something new coming from the vaults of Abbey Road and EMI Studios with the Beatles, the face of the 70’s will always be Elton John and I’ll always have an eye and ear out for anything new he produces.

At the turn of the century there was a burst of new female singer-songwriters. Of the new breed hitting the charts, names like Vanessa Carleton, Avril Lavinge, Ashley Simpson all had opportunity to have long rewarding careers. In that mix is the new singers was Michelle Branch who release The Spirit Room spawned hits like “Everywhere”, “All You Wanted” and “Goodbye to You” The Spirit Room also had very strong inventory of album cuts. The Spirit Room was followed two years later in 2003 with Paper Hotel with hits like “Breathe” and “Are You Happy Now”. Like The Spirit Room, Hotel Paper was also stacked with great album tracks like “Where are you now” and “Find Your Way Back”.

And then that was pretty well it.

There was a collaboration that became The Wreckers’ Stand Still and Look Pretty in 2005 and an EP Everything Comes and Goes (2010) that got my hopes up for something new. New music almost came with the single “Loud Music” that was released before a full set called West Coast Music was due to be released but was ultimately shelved. I recall listening the webcast of a Q & A with Michelle that preceded the audio premiere playing of “Loud Music”. If not for online music services, that song would be buried along with the other 10-12 tracks that might have been part of that album.

The escapade that she went through with her record label has been recalled many times leading up to the new tapes coming out.

My excitement has peaked since a new collection of songs; Hopeless Romantic is set to come out April 7th.  Three songs have been pre-released; “The Best You Ever”, “Fault Line” and the title track. There is no chance now that we’ll have what happened to West Coast Music will take place with Hopeless Romantic and I could not be happier. This weekend I shuffled the three new tracks with her previous music. Not only did they stand up to The Spirit Room and Hotel Paper, they stood miles apart.

I do not think any musician would recommend waiting 14 years to release a full set of new music. In the case of Michelle Branch, working on new music for those years, a divorce and raising a daughter has given a whole new world for her capture in song. I don’t want to wait another 14 years for more from her, I might look silly as a 70 year old standing in line at the record shop to purchase it.

All I know is that April 7th, will be a great day! I will be sure to post a review Hopeless Romantic for #RedHeartBlueSign once I pry myself away from listening to the disc on repeat.

I am Happy Now

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Review: Robbie Robertson’s Testimony

In the late 80’s I interviewed The Band, the Robbie Robertson-less version of the band. I was working for CJCS1240 in Stratford Ontario at the time. Back then I know about the music of The Band as a “oldies” radio station the CANCON music policy allowed us to play only the best of Canada back then – and The Band qualified as a mainstay of our playlists. I was selected to interview Stratford’s Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm who had started touring again in1983 after then five person band stopped playing live following 1976’s Last Waltz.

I interviewed The Band with Brian O’Neill, our Sales Manager at the time, and a real music buff. We would interview the guys before they went on stage; take the tape and put together a 1-hour special featuring the interview and music. We had one hour to interview the band, and what a great interview it was, great answers to the questions, and lots of laughter with the stories they told. When we were done, and had talked for more than an the hour allotted, we took the tape back to the studio only to find that the batteries on the cassette recorder had died 30-40 minutes into the interview, a good chunk of what we recorded didn’t.

In Testimony, Robbie Robertson was told, by his mother, that when he was older he too would be a storyteller, just like the Elders of the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford where he spent the early years of his life. Even without publishing Testimony Robertson told stories, just read about the music of a career he writes about from hitting the stage with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks to leaving the stage after playing for hours in The Band’s farewell concert in the “the Last Waltz”

From Ronnie Hawkins, to Bob Dylan to Helm, Danko, Hudson and Manuel Testimony is about his musical relationship – make that musical partnerships and how they made the music that executives in 1968 didn’t know what to label. It was the music that shifted the musical world much like Dylan did by going electric, which Robertson had a stage view of.   The tours with Dylan were illuminating as Robertson describes the lifestyle of rock stars, the drugs and alcohol that eventual drove The Band from the stage. He writes of the struggles, especially with Richard Manuel who struggled with alcohol only to turn to marijuana and then cocaine to help with a heroin habit. Rick Danko and Levon Helm also had major issues and Robertson writes of not only their issues but also his use, but when it comes to this part of his life and the story telling, he leaves out his struggles with his use of drugs and drinking. He makes it seem like he is the big brother who did no wrong, but was always there when his little brothers fell down.

I tweeted out when I started reading Testimony that it was like being counted into a song by Levon Helm; 1-2-3-4 Bam, you are into a song. What kept me turning pages was the music. What the band did in 1967 and 68 leading up to two of the greatest albums of the sixties is amazing reading, it gets into your mind and your imagination. Following Dylan’s motorcycle accident The Band retreat to Woodstock NY and the Big Pink, chapters 18 and 19 are required reading on the creation of Bob Dylan’s “Basement Tapes” and The Bands’ “Music from the Big Pink”. There is a passage about the vocal arrangements for “The Weight” that will forever by in my head, and when I listen to the song I will hear Robertson say…

“I began singing the chorus to “The Weight” over and over to the guys, trying to convey the staggered vocal idea I had. “Levon, you go, ‘aaand’, then Rick , ‘aaand’, then Richard on top, ‘aaand’. Levon, ‘you put the load’, Rick, Richard, Levon, ‘you put the load right on me’.”

Now, just try listening to “The Weight” without having this text in front of you or in your head hearing Robbie give those instructions.

Robertson only takes us through to the end of the Last Waltz, which is timely as I figure he has another book in him with his Post Waltz music. In the book he takes the reader through the thought, action and performance of what many call, the greatest rock concert film ever made. I could write more about the last few chapters leading up to the concert, but I think you would get more reading about creating the line up of artists, the new budding professional relationship with Martin Scorsese and how it was all managed to be held together AND the fabulous dinner served to 5000 people before the concert began.

Testimony is two-way mirror into making music, great music and a looking into how success put strains into relationships and what the five did to survive. Levon, Rick and Richard used the drink and drugs, Garth fiddled with electronics and Robertson made music and films with others and discovered the west coast. But as he writes his eulogy to The Band in the final pages, the love of the brotherhood is greater than all the troubles and sins that happened between 1960 with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks to Thanksgiving 1976 and “The Last Waltz” , the love clearly outlasts any pain and misunderstandings that took place.

In the end, Testimony is the BEST rock and roll book I have ever read, its honesty and admiration of the players Robbie Robertson shared a stage with is something I have never taken from pages before.

Testimony is required reading for anyone that plays or loves music that changes how we listen to music.

While I knew the music of The Band, Testimony would have been a great primer for my interview with The Band, in the late 80’s. After reading Testimony, I now understand the music and brotherhood of The Band, and man what questions I would have asked if only I knew as I do today.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

I read and hear a trend here

 

I just finished reading Philip Norman`s biography of Paul McCartney “A Life”, and as I always do during and after reading a musical biography I am drawn to listen to more of that artists’ music. In the case of McCartney my interest is towards his later music more importantly “Flaming Pie”, “Driving Rain” and “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”. The earlier music is very much part of my growing up and early adult years. I hadn’t paid enough attention to those three CD’s and now I have the opportunity to do so. Luckily I have had the almost complete McCartney discography – so no new purchases required.

The most difficult part of the read was working through the Heather Mills era and how different Paul seemed when compared to the years with not only Linda but earlier with Jane Asher. Do some relationships just bring out a totally different person in people? By the time I reached the last page, I got what I expected and enjoyed every page.

35 years ago I read Phillip Norman’s account about The Beatles entitled “Shout! The Beatles in their Generation”. I have few recollections about that book, and thankfully the author in his notes says he did not rely on his research in that book to write McCartney’s life book. The obvious next read is the same author’s Lennon account “John Lennon: The Life” if only to ensure the facts are same between the two books. But that will not take place for a few books as I have Robbie Robertson’s and Bruce Springsteen’s books up next on the read list.

My adventure in a musician’s life ends with the same result, more music to be bought and listened to as an enhanced experience to the words my brain has taken in. In the case of some biographies it can be more expensive than others. I have taken to the pages of Neil Young and Led Zeppelin books, but a case to demonstrate this is Joni Mitchell. After reading “The Creative Odyssey of…” purchasing the early catalogue was a necessity. I had only been listening to the later work of hers, 1988’s “Chalk mark in a Rainstorm” to 1995’s Grammy Award winning “Turbulent Indigo”, I had no personal listening experience to her early work (other than when I worked in Radio from 1982-1990). Listening to “Ladies of the Canyon”, “Blue” and “Court and Spark” helped to appreciate what I already knew of her music.

The two books that brought the largest surprise to me were Keith Richards “Life” and Elvis Costello’s “Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink”. In both these books I was astounded to hear about the musicianship that each had. I had previous been a staunch Beatles over the Rolling Stones person but with his book, Keith Richards won me over (but not totally) to the Rolling Stones side. In fact his 2015 Lp “Crosseyed Heart” remains a favourite of mine.

Unlike my Keith Richards/Rolling Stones experience, I have been listening to Costello for a very long time, likely due to my prime music year being late 70’s onward. I knew that Elvis Costello was a good musician, but how good I had no idea. The book explores a musical background that he shares with his father and mother and provides an insight to the British Punk and New Wave music in the 70’s and 80’s. His song writing prowess is incredible and the range in which he can produce blows me away. Even the manner in which he interviews other musicians is extremely impressive. His run as host of “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…” showed an intellect and interest in hearing about other musicians. The show was produced by Costello with Elton John and David Furnish and sadly only ran for 2 seasons. The show remains available to purchase and features some wonderful musical performances with his guests.

Beyond Robertson and Springsteen the next pick up might have to be Norman’s “Sir Elton: The Definitive Biography” of Elton John. As a lifelong fan and owner of most of his discography, I might not learn more about his music but I’m willing to see if I will and search out a disc I just have to have. After all I should not rely of the Lp “Captain Fantastic and Brown Dirt Cowboy” as my only biographical reference to Elton John.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

Hopes, Aspirations & Dreams of 2017

2017

Photo: northernstar.info

2017, it is finally here, though many would have been happy to see 2017 arrive in October of last year. To begin the year here is a list of my hopes, aspirations and dreams for the coming 12 months.

I have been waiting a few years now for new music from Michelle Branch, though rumoured for sometime, she recently tweeted out that we could expect something new in 2017. She is listed in Entertainment Weekly’s list of anticipated music for 2017. Also, I can’t wait for the follow up disc by Ryan Adams after his version of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ last year (which I loved as much as TS’s). His new Lp ‘Prisoner’ comes out early 2017.

I am also keenly interested in sophomore releases from Lorde, Haim and The Chainsmokers in this, a year where Taylor Swift isn’t scheduled to drop any new music. I am holding out hope that the new John Mayer disc will sparkle. Here is what EW complied for music we just can’t wait to listen to, http://ew.com/music/2016/12/22/most-anticipated-albums-2017/?xid=entertainment-weekly_socialflow_twitter

The Grey Cup comes to Ottawa in November, wouldn’t it be sweet to see the Ottawa Redblacks make three straight Cup appearances and repeat as champs?

Still on sports, here’s dreaming that the Ottawa Senators can go deep in the playoffs in 2017 just as the Redblacks did the past two years, the Ottawa Champions did (and won) last summer and the Ottawa Fury FC accomplished in 2015.

After going 4-1 in By-election wins since Patrick Brown became leader of Ontario PC Party, he will the opportunity to increase that to five wins now that former Liberal Minister David Orazietti resigned as MPP for Sault Ste Marie on December 31st. Whether there will be other provincial by-elections is yet to be seen as others in the Liberal government weigh their options leading up to the 2018 Ontario General Elections.

There will finally be one Conservative standing the in party’s leadership race come May, hopefully the party will stand behind whoever he or she may be after the convention. I still have no clue of who will replace Rona Ambrose in the House of Commons as the Leader of the Opposition. The NDP race becomes more interesting now that calendars have flipped from 2016 to 2017, we might shortly have the first declared candidate for Mulcair’s chair.

Finally, I aspire that we can all get along while having our differences. I hope days of populist chants and unresearched claims and inaccurate accusations will be left behind. We all should be better informed and read past the click bait headlines on social media. This is the only way we can have healthy debates about the issues our leaders face in coming 12 months.

Maybe just maybe I will finally get around to posting a vlog.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Surprises of 2016

joey

2016, the year that is about to pass gave us a few surprises, though the surprises that came in the form of the deaths of many great entertainers and leaders provided the saddest of surprises.   For the year that was to be of #SunnyWays, there were many dark days.

February 3, 1959 was the day “that the music died”, 2016 is becoming the year that took the best of music from us, starting with David Bowie in January, two thirds of Emerson (March), Lake (December) & Palmer and closing out (hopefully) with George Michael on Christmas Day. CNN provided a look back http://www.edition.cnn.com/2016/12/26/entertainment/musician-deaths-2016-year-music-died/index.html.

The Rolling Stones #BlueandLonesome Lp is the best thing they have put out in many years.

David Bowie produced a masterpiece even while knowing he was dying.

Some Toronto sports teams were good! The Raptors, Blue Jays and Toronto FC challenged for league titles.

Ontario by-election results in Scarborough-Rouge River (expected the worse) and Ottawa Vanier (expected better).

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was SO GOOD (No surprise there).

That I was back in Ottawa after 10 months in Queens Park and that I would be busier with one file to monitor and advise on than I was with 7 in Toronto.

The Tragically Hip delivered one of their best yet on vinyl  – and on stage they delivered a show for a Nation.

Henry Burris, the Ottawa Redblacks AND becoming #GreyCup104 Champions.

The collapse of the leadership of Thomas Mulcair at the NDP Conventions and that the assumed frontrunners for the party leadership have stepped aside and decided not to run.

There are still 14, FOURTEEN, contenders for the Leadership of Conservative Party of Canada.

It was a banner year for books about musicians with biographies about Springsteen, McCartney, Robertson, Collins and Wilson all marking pages.

Kathleen Wynne is still here.

Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Donald J Trump.

What surprised you in 2016?

Finally, thank you for reading #RedheartBlueSign in 2016. With 45 posts, 1000 visitors and over 1300 views it was a good year. I look forward to continuing that in 2017 – with you along with me. Thank You!

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

119: Donald Fagen, The Professor of Cool

Whether it’s the clean sound or the precision musicianship, Steely Dan and Donald Fagan in his solo work have been favourites of mine since “Aja” was released 1977. Today I am sharing a blog post and a vlog celebrating the work of Donald Fagen and Steely Dan…enjoy!

The first is from the Immortal Jukebox, a blog I have shared with you in the past.

the-nightfly

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2016/09/25/donald-fagen-the-nightfly-walking-between-raindrops/

The second is post from Nerdwriter1 about Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues from the aforementioned Aja. He deconstructs “Deacon Blues”, helping to make sense of the coolness of Steely Dan.

aja

https://youtu.be/vSDD8rgUiNc

I hope you enjoy these tow posts about a musician really like listening to. Please take a look at some of the other work these two have produced.

Thank you for reading this post, to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.