Friday, October 28, 2005

We won one of three volleyball games, and played pretty well for two of them, last night. After that, it was off to The Tap for a post-game pint and to meet some friends who were celebrating Tracy Rowan's birthday. From there, it was a short walk down Bloor Street to Lee's Palace to see Matisyahu.
I've downloaded a few songs from this unorthodox orthodox Jewish performer and was very impressed when I saw him play at Buffalo Billiards to end off SXSW in Austin in March. While that was a 40-minute show, where he packed all his best material in, last night's nearly sold-out headlining gig was more expansive and featured more soloing from Matisyahu's very tight reggae-rock band. But when Matisyahu and his band are on, they're great. It's an interesting sight to see this tall man with a traditional Jewish beard jumping around the stage toasting and rapping. He also did an amazing human beatbox solo. I didn't get close enough to the stage to get good photos, so these two crappy shots are all that you're getting. Matisyahu has an interesting story and sound, and he has a new live album out that was recorded at another Austin club, Stubb's. If you want to find out more, visit

np The Rugburns - Taking The World By Donkey
If you're looking for some scary music for Halloween, you've come to the right place. I've made a few Halloween compilations over the years, and there are a lot of songs that I haven't included below, but here's the playlist for one that I happen to have handy that I put together in 1997:
Dream Syndicate - Halloween
Deja Voodoo - Skeletons At My Party; Cemetery; Dead Daddy Dead
Fleshtones - I Was A Teenage Zombie
Sunglasses After Dark - Hellhag Shuffle
Guana Batz - Werewolf Blues
Sickidz - She's My Witch
Condition - Ghost Train
Zamboni Drivers - Skatin' Ghost
Miners of Muzo - I Put A Spell On You
Revillos - She's Fallen In Love With A Monster Man
Jerry Vile - The Attack of the Blood Sucking Poodles From Hell
3-D Invisibles - Where Creatures Roam
Pharaohs - Tomb of the Dead
Creeping Pumpkins - Better Off Without You
Skeptics - Legend of the Headless Surfer
Scattered Limbs - Walk Without Me

np Royal Grand Prix - High Performance
If you have access to the Toronto Star, pick up the edition from Thurs. Oct. 27, go to the Investing section and turn to page 5. There's an interview with Peter Beck, the president of Swift Trade Inc. and the co-author of Hedge Funds for Canadians. There's a photo of him and, if you take away his glasses, he's a dead ringer for porn legend Ron Jeremy, AKA The Hedgehog.
Enter and see for yourself.

np Cesar Rosas - Soul Disguise
Mr. Sulu Is Gay

George Takei, who you all know as Sulu from Star Trek in the '60s, has just come out and admitted that he's gay.
That reminded me of a story. It was probably almost 10 years ago when I got a call from Jaymz Bee (the well-known Toronto bandleader, singer, producer, party organizer, radio host, emcee, man about town and author of Cocktail Parties For Dummies) to invite me to Barberian's Steak House to drink martinis with him, his manager and Takei. Though I never got into any of the movies or spin-off TV series', I'm a big fan of the original Star Trek, so there was no way that I was going to pass up an opportunity to have cocktails with Mr. Sulu. While I can't recall any great revelations coming out of our conversation, which lasted about an hour, it was one of those kitschy thrills that sometimes make life more interesting.
By the way, while sticking with the Star Trek theme: I still stand by my assertion that Leonard Nimoy's The Way I Feel is the best album in the world to make love to. My track-by-track thesis won me a contest that was broadcast on CBC Radio's Brave New Waves program in the early '90s and, if I can find it somewhere in my archives, I'll post it sometime.
So if you're ever at my house, and I put The Way I Feel on the turntable, get ready for what could be the night of your life.

np The Rockin' Highliners - Oh My!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Folklore Publishing has asked me to write a book called Hot Canadian Bands. I needed a witness to co-sign the contract, so Rachelle and Clara came over on Sunday to do the honours. After everything was signed, Rachelle and I marked the occasion by downing shots of 151-proof rum that I had purchased in the Dominican Republic. We then decided that we should take one of those cheesy "signing" shots that you see musicians do with record companies or that athletes do with new teams. Since Rachelle was the photographer and couldn't get in the shot (I didn't think to use the camera's timer), Clara eagerly volunteered her services. Rachelle also took a few shots that I submitted to the publisher, along with an Elvis mask shot that I published a few months ago, for promotion and publicity purposes. But since the one above was my favourite, I thought that I'd share it with you.

np Stan Ridgway - Black Diamond

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Liz Phair was scheduled to play Café Campus in Montreal tonight, but I just saw her sing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch of the World Series game in Chicago. I was offered free tickets to see her tomorrow night at the Phoenix, but after witnessing her sad performance on TV, I'm glad that I declined. I strongly disagree with the performance of God Bless America in the middle of a baseball game to begin with, and Phair sounded terrible. But at least she still looks good, if nothing else.

np Astros vs. White Sox

Here's the Unabomber talking to Dave Wakeling. I had to publish it separately because my earlier post kept crashing when I tried to include four photos with the text. I don't know who the woman is. Do you?

I was discussing with two friends yesterday whether or not the new and controversial dress code policy in the NBA discriminates against black players since it bans the wearing of large pieces of jewelry on the outside of your clothes as well as sweat clothes, hats and doo rags -- all of which are predominantly worn by black players. I don't think that it's a blatantly racist policy, but I think it's discriminatory in that the NBA seems to want to try to sell the sport to upper middle class white people who can afford to buy tickets, luxury boxes and merchandise, but who may be put off by the bling and would feel much more comfortable seeing players dressed in suits when they're not on the court.
We went to the Raptors game and I found something else that I thought was discriminatory. In the section that we were sitting in, you can order food and drinks and have them brought to your seat. I looked at the menu and saw that the largest beers -- 28 ounces -- aren't made available during NBA games. Why is it that you can order a beer that size for a hockey game or a concert, but not a basketball game? Is there concern from the ACC that basketball fans could potentially cause more problems than other patrons? But Jeff Ross told me that he was once at the old Boston Gardens to see a Celtics game in the afternoon and a Bruins game at night, and he said that a person could buy two beers at the basketball game and one beer at the hockey game. I guess the moral of this story is that basketball fans are perceived to be rowdier than hockey fans in Toronto, while it's the other way around in Boston.
The Raptors Mini Dance Pack came on to the court at the end of the first quarter. Aside from the girls' parents, who else in the crowd wanted to see pre-school dancers instead of the hot cheerleaders (sorry, Dance Pack -- these young bleached blonde ladies don't like to be called cheerleaders anymore).
Alvin Williams entered the game to much applause in the second quarter and I had to take a photo of him, just in case his knees (which have had multiple surgeries performed on them) fall off and he never steps on the court again.
The Raptors won the exhibition game and I was impressed by the play of Morris Peterson and rookies Jose Calderon and Charlie Villanueva. Rookie Joey Graham looked pretty good, too, but he's got to learn to pass the ball and use his teammates. We were sitting right above the tunnel that the players use to go to the dressing room, and talent-challenged centre Rafael Arraujo tried throwing his wrist bands up to some fans as he walked by. He missed, of course.
After that we went to C'est What, where I enjoyed a bison burger, several pints of the yummy house-brewed coffee porter, a few games of pool and the main reason why about 10 of us met at the club: to see Heather Morgan and the Company of Men. Heather's voice sounded great on her rootsy, folky, country murder ballads and other traditionally inspired tunes, and her new guitar player was excellent. Some of us wanted to hear more after Heather finished, but she ended on a high note and then we hightailed it to the Horseshoe to see Dave Wakeling's Beat.
I first saw The English Beat when I was in high school and drove with a friend from Stratford to London's Alumni Hall to see the band. There was an opening act that I'd never heard of because it's debut EP had only just come out, but I quite liked it. The band was called R.E.M.
I've subsequently seen the different incarnations of Wakeling's version of the Beat half-a-dozen times in the last few years, and I've always had a great time. I went to the show Thursday night and we were surprised to find out that, while there was an audible bass line running through the songs, there wasn't a bass player on stage. When I returned last night, I went to the stage and was happy to see a real live bassist standing in the back right corner. I took a photo of him and Wakeling to prove to Jordan that there was a bass player the second night. My friends and I were skanking at the back of the sold-out club, enjoying a set of both Beat and General Public favourites, including Rough Rider, Twist and Crawl, Stand Down Margaret, Best Friend, Tears Of A Clown, Doors Of Your Heart, Mirror In The Bathroom, I'll Take You There, Can't Get Used To Losing You, I Confess, Tenderness, Click Click and Save It For Later. Near the end of the show I moved to the side of the stage, where there was a really drunk, confused and somewhat slovenly character. I took his photo and he seemed a bit annoyed. I took another one a few minutes later and he was very friendly and shook my hand. He thought that I was Dave Wakeling.
I was hanging out in the dressing room after the show, and someone who looked suspiciously like the Unabomber (by wearing a big, deep hood and big dark sunglasses) came in to talk to Dave and some woman who looked familiar, although I couldn't place her. Luckily, no explosives went off. Leslie gave me the band's set list, along with The Proclaimers set list she had promised me from the group's fine show at Lee's Palace last month. Thanks, sweetie.
I got home around 3 a.m. and stayed up for another 90 minutes dealing with e-mails to help me wind down from an excellent evening.
Happy birthday JC.

np Leafs vs. Flyers

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thanks to Rob Janes for this:

Hard time
Man requests longer prison term to honor Larry Bird
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors
and defense attorneys had agreed to -- all because of Larry Bird.
The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a
man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric
James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.
"He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry
Bird's jersey," Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said
Wednesday. "We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he
could be.
"I've never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse.
But, I know the DA is happy about it."

np The Rainmakers - Flirting With The Universe

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In last week's rave on The Raveonettes, I alluded to veteran producer Richard Gottehrer. He was also at the controls of the first, and last, album by The Prissteens. The New York City group, featuring three women up front and a male drummer, saw its Scandal, Controversy & Romance album released by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss' Almo Sounds label in 1998. Its blend of '60s girl group pop melodies and '70s punk guitars and attitude was an irresistible combination that helped make the record one of my favourites of that year. In addition to a slew of crunchy and sweet originals, The Prissteens showed their good taste by covering The Merseys' Sorrow (which Gottehrer co-wrote in the '60s and which is probably best known through David Bowie's interpretation on Pinups) and Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World.
I saw the group headline a show with Tuuli at the El Mocambo in support of the album a few months after its release, and left quite disappointed. The musicianship was sloppy and the joyful pop elements of the CD were few and far between in concert, which leads me to believe that Gottehrer and co-producer Jeffrey Lesser played a very large role in the record. While The Prissteens never recorded another album after Scandal, Controversy & Romance, the group's 13-song legacy still puts a smile on my face whenever I listen to it.

np Professor Longhair - Big Chief

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wanda Jackson has been recording for 51 years, touring for 50, been married to her manager Wendell for 44, and, on Oct. 20, will turn 68. But the diminutive queen of rockabilly is showing few signs of slowing down, as her 70-minute set last night at the Cadillac Lounge indicated.
Following a Grade A set by The Rizdales -- which featured covers of Johnny Cash's Jackson and Daddy Sang Bass mixed in with the group's solid mix of traditional country and rockabilly tunes -- a large screen came down in front of the stage for a 15-minute video tribute to the woman who shamefully still hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jackson hit the stage at 11:30, with The Rizdales acting as her backing band, and launched into Carl Perkins' Rockabilly Fever. That was the first song of many from her most recent album, Heart Trouble, which I was fine with since it was one of my favourite records of 2003. Other songs from the disc included the title track, Mean Mean Man, Funnel Of Love, Riot In Cellblock #9 and the Louvin Brothers' Cash On The Barrelhead.
The set list really wasn't that much different from when I saw Jackson at the same club in May, as she also treated the crowd to favourites like I Gotta Know, Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad, Fujiyama Mama and a cover of One Night, which her former beau Elvis Presley had a hit with in 1959.
I can't figure out why Jackson didn't bring her own guitar, but she borrowed one from local singer/musician Steve Good and sat down to play Happy, Happy Birthday Baby -- which was quite appropriate since it just happened to be Good's birthday. With Jackson's birthday coming up on Thursday, club owner Sam Grosso came on stage mid-set to present her with a cake.
Jackson and her husband were both born again in 1971 and, after taking a few moments to talk about it, she expressed her faith with a rendition of Hank Williams' rousing gospel classic, I Saw The Light.
Jackson then closed the set with what may be her best-known song, Let's Have A Party, which got the sold-out bar even more in a festive mood as it urged the Oklahoma City resident to return for an encore consisting of a medley of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Rip It Up before reprising Let's Have A Party to end the performance.
The narrow confines of the Cadillac Lounge present major obstacles when it comes to seeing the stage, and that problem is exacerbated when you have an artist like Jackson who probably isn't even five feet tall. But that's about the only quibble I can come up with. Jackson's voice may not have quite the ferocity it once did, but she still gives it her all when she's not charming the audience with her between-song banter. And this woman has a lot of stories to tell.
The diverse crowd enjoyed the gig and two of my friends brought their parents along for the night, which made it even more special for them.
After the show, Jackson moved to the back of the club and sat there for more than an hour talking to fans, signing autographs and posing for photos. She told me that her forthcoming album of Presley songs had been delayed, but she's hoping to have it in stores in January. And she says that she'll be touring behind it and hopes to come back to Toronto again in six months.
If Elvis Costello, The Cramps, Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, Lee Rocker and many other connoisseurs can be Wanda Jackson fans, you should be too.

np Zumpano - The Moment Business
I haven't listened to as much hip-hop in the last year as I used to (not that I've ever been a huge fan anyway), but one of my favourite albums in the genre is Distortion, the new solo effort from Run DMC's Rev Run. He's now a preacher, and that's referenced in some of the lyrics, but he's not driving the point down people's throats. In fact, a lot of the very short (10 songs in 23 minutes) songs sound a lot like vintage Run DMC. A bit of that may have to do with the fact that there are samples from Run DMC numbers Hit It Run, Rock The House and Rock Box. There are many other samples as well, but the most obvious are from Joan Jett's I Love Rock And Roll, Blondie's Rapture and -- far above and beyond the others -- Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama on Home Sweet Home. There's no new ground being broken here like Run DMC achieved in the early '80s, but I found Distortion to be a solid listen.

np The Posies - Amazing Disgrace

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Piggy, the calypso orchestra of the Maritimes, formed in Halifax in 1994 with the intent of keeping the spirit of 1920s and '30s calypso alive by performing topical but fun songs. If you come from Trinidad, the sounds won't be the calypso that you were raised on, but should be familiar enough. For the rest of you, it won't matter. You can just enjoy.
Piggy put out three cassettes and one seven-inch vinyl single before Cinnamon Toast Records released the orchestra's only CD, Don't Stop The Calypso, in 1999. The CD included 12 songs from previous releases and 11 new ones. It featured four tracks produced by the band and Ian McGettigan, who you probably know better as a member of Thrush Hermit and the Joel Plaskett Emergency. The emphasis is definitely on the songs, as opposed to slick production, however.
Piggy played a number of benefit concerts for left-wing causes around Halifax and performed its final show on Sun. Dec. 17 at the Marquee club before disbanding. If you ever come across Don't Stop The Calypso while browsing through the bins at your local used CD store, say a silent thank you to the dummy who sold it and reach into your pocket for a few bucks so that you can give it a good home in your collection.

np The Pooh Sticks - Million Seller
I just finished watching The Last Broadcast on the Independent Film Channel. The 1998 film was shot for less than $1,000 and is done in a documentary fashion, and it's not hard to see that the people behind The Blair Witch Project probably derived some ideas from the The Last Broadcast filmmakers. I didn't like it as much as Blair Witch, but still found it interesting. You can read more about it at

np PIL - That What Is Not

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Raveonettes' Chain Gang Of Love album was one of my favourites of 2003 and I was at least impressed with the two times I saw the Danish band play in support of it and its earlier Whip It On EP. But I was a bit disappointed when I saw the group at SXSW in Austin in March because it had moved away quite a bit from its Jesus and Mary Chain-influenced sound and seemed to lack the energy of the two earlier performances. But I gave the group a second chance and saw it again this summer. I'm glad that I did. It was one of my favourite shows of the year. I was going to buy the band's 2005 CD, Pretty In Black, at the show, but didn't. But I finally got around to buying it on Saturday, and it's one of the best things that I've heard this year.
Richard Gottehrer (a member of the '60s band The Strangeloves, which recorded I Want Candy; the co-writer of The Angels' My Boyfriend's Back and The Merseys' Sorrow, among others; co-founder of Sire Records with my pal Seymour Stein; founder and chairman of The Orchard; and producer of albums from Robert Gordon, Marshall Crenshaw, The Go-Go's, Blondie, Pearl Harbour, Joan Armatrading and others) co-produced again, and the band even covered My Boyfriend's Back. While there were definitely '50s influences -- particularly from Buddy Holly -- in the earlier songs, they're even more pronounced this time around as the arrangements have mellowed and lost some of their earlier menace. That takes some of the edge away, but you're still left with a thoroughly enjoyable record.
Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker guests on the country-ish The Heavens, Red Tan, You Say You Lie and Ode To L.A., which also features vocal contributions from Ronnie Spector. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo trade vocals on the very pretty and delicate Seductress of Bums, while there are parts in Sleepwalking that remind me of Friday On My Mind meets Paint It Black. Here Comes Mary is both majestic and spooky; there's some Ventures-like guitar in Twilight, which is more of a return to earlier Raveonettes sounds; and things close off with some steel guitar on If I Was Young.
Pretty In Black is a totally appropriate title for this album.
Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut was my favourite album of last year, so I had to buy the Scottish band's You Could Have It So Much Better follow-up when it came out last week to see how it compared. I'm happy to say that the formula hasn't changed too much, so, if you liked the first one, you'll like this. But since bands like the Kaiser Chiefs and The Bravery have released albums this year that seemed to borrow from Franz Ferdinand (which itself borrowed heavily from the likes of Wire, XTC and Talking Heads), the new songs didn't spur the immediate excitement that those on the first album did.
The quite wordy opening track, Fallen, is more guitar-heavy than expected at the beginning, but then gets into the familiar Franz pattern. The title track is more aggressive than anything on the first album, while Walk Away, Eleanor Put Your Boots On and Fade Together (which primarily revolves around acoustic guitar and piano) are all slower.
You Could Have It So didn't have the impact of Franz Ferdinand upon first listen, but its overall consistency will no doubt make it a top 10 album of the year for me.

np The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black

I've mentioned white squirrels a couple of times here over the past few months, and the lovely and talented Joanne Robinson just sent me this photo of one that she took in her hometown of Exeter, Ont. -- the white squirrel capital of the world, or at least Canada, or, barring that, Ontario for sure. Note the little critter's black eyes, which proves that it's not an albino.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thanks to Jeff Wilson for this link:
What happened to Liz Phair? Or, for that matter, Sheryl Crow?
Phair's 1993 Exile In Guyville album made her a critical favourite with its edgy, profane, clever lyrics and lo-fi rock production. A former girlfriend used to play it so much around our apartment that it almost became a soundtrack of our lives.
I just listened to Exile In Guyville's 1994 follow-up, Whip-Smart, for the first time in a long time, and enjoyed it. Supernova was simultaneously a minor radio hit and a very good pop-rock song. The chorus of the title track borrowed from Malcolm McLaren's Double Dutch to make it another irresistible favourite, while Chopsticks harkened back to the sound and inspiration of her first album. Most of the other songs on the disc hold up pretty well, too.
whitechocolatespaceegg followed in 1998, but didn't do much for me. Phair's self-titled album from two years ago had a couple of decent pop tunes, but too much teen-aimed sheen for those of us who remembered her from five years earlier.
I haven't hear Phair's just-released Somebody's Miracle album, but have read that it's so insipid that it makes Sheryl Crow's new Wildflower album seem exciting. I have no problems at all listening to Crow's '90s material, enjoyed a private acoustic show that she played in a church behind Toronto's Eaton's Centre a number of years back, and hummed happily along to Soak Up The Sun from 2002's largely forgettable C'mon, C'mon, but Wildflower excited me as much as looking at the dull beige computer monitor that I'm now working on. But at least I keep returning to my monitor; Wildflower found its way into my discard pile after one listen.
Both women still look good, but that's the only attraction that they hold for me these days.
I played Phranc's pholky Positively Phranc album after Whip-Smart, and I still like it. I missed Phranc's set when she opened for The Knitters at Lee's Palace this summer, but I briefly saw her in the dressing room after her set and said hello. Now Phranc is a woman that I could never be physically attracted to, but I'm sure that my favourite Jewish-American lesbian folk singer isn't losing any sleep over that fact.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A friend of mine has been raving about dios (malos) through most of this year. The Hawthorne, Calif. quintet was originally named dios, but changed it when heavy metal dickhead guitarist Ronnie James Dio threatened it with legal action because he was concerned that it would cause confusion with his Dio outfit. The band's self-titled full-length debut will be released by Universal-distributed StarTime International on Oct. 11 and I'll recommend it to anyone into eclectic, occasionally mellow, often enchanting and sometimes edgy pop music. There are only a couple of tracks of the 12 on the album that didn't do much for me, a ratio that I don't come across every day.
I interviewed Mary Spencer, the new world champion amateur female boxer in the 66-kilogram weight class, yesterday for an article that will appear in Saturday's Toronto Sun. Aside from a few curlers who I met and got loaded with (most notably Ed "The Wrench" Werenich and the Marilyn Bodogh-skipped team) at the World Curling Championships in Hamilton in 1996, I think that she's the first world champion that I've spoken to. I've talked to World Series, Stanley Cup and Canada Cup winners, as well as short-lived Olympic 100-metre sprint champion Ben Johnson, but I don't know if they count.
If you know any world champions of anything, please send them my way so I can add them to my list.

np Gary Allan - Nickajack Cave (Johnny Cash's Redemption)
The Arctic Monkeys is a band that was recommended to me by Canadian Music Network's Allan Mamaril when I ran into him at a Nickel Creek showcase at Revival a couple of weeks ago. I usually respect Allan's taste, and he didn't let me down this time. I've now seen a video and heard two songs from the Sheffield, England quartet and I've liked what I've heard. The group definitely has a British sound and reminds me of a somewhat more restrained Libertines. The band also cites eccentric Mancunian musical poet John Cooper Clarke as an influence, which is a feather in its cap as far as I'm concerned. It's signed to Domino Recording Company, the same label that brought us Franz Ferdinand and my favourite album of last year. If you want to hear more, visit

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A typhoon called Longwang roared through Taipei on Sunday. The English translation of Longwang is Dragon King. I guess that's one nickname that I'll probably never have.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I belong to a music list serve, and last week a discussion about Joan Jett's I Love Rock and Roll evolved into a thread concerning odes to rock and roll. There were the typical ones you'd expect -- like Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll, the Rolling Stones' Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It), AC/DC's Rock N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, Foreigner's Jukebox Hero, KISS' Rock n Roll All Night, Neil Young's Hey Hey My My/My My Hey Hey, The Byrds' So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star, The Ramones' Rock & Roll High School and Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio, Bob Seger's Old Time Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Berry's Rock and Roll Music and Roll Over Beethoven, The Modern Lovers' Roadrunner and Don McLean's American Pie -- but I knew there were a lot more. So I took a cursory glance through my music collection to come up with some. It's a pretty long list -- probably too long to post here -- but if anyone is interested in seeing it, leave me a comment and I'll e-mail it to you.