Gordon Lightfoot Book, Music and More!

The home of music journalist Nicholas Jennings, author of Lightfoot, the definitive new Gordon Lightfoot biography from Penguin Random House.

Ray Materick - Coming into focus

The photographer was posing Ray Materick, his band and some promotion types for a casual group shot in the dressing room of Toronto's El Mocambo. They sat themselves around a table strewn with cigarette butts, guitar picks and a half-drained 40 ouncer of whiskey, waiting to be focused. Materick and his musicians had just finished a well-received first set downstairs and now, on cue, everyone began hamming it up for the benefit of the camera. “Just one more,” promised the photographer. Ironically, the walls behind them sported a colourful collage of assorted rock star faces. All the most successful performers, the Lightfoots, the McLauchlans and the Dylans were up there, staring out from the ...

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Ronnie Hawkins - Rock of Ages

The beer was flowing freely as waitresses served platters of breaded shrimp, gourmet pizza and chicken wings. But it was not the regular hockey crowd at Gardoonie’s, a popular watering hole opposite Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Instead, more than 300 people were gathered there last week to pay tribute to a rock ‘n’ roll legend. Standing amid the hockey memorabilia on the walls, Ronnie Hawkins was beaming as he surveyed the crowd. Officially, the lavish party was being held to launch Let it Rock!, his 26th album and the accompanying video that captures his recent 60th birthday concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall, featuring such rock luminaries as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and The ...

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Feature Article: Elvis Costello - Elvis Goes North

My editor thinks Elvis Costello’s latest album, North, is a lot like Frank Sinatra’s 1954 classic In the Wee Small Hours. He’s right: both recordings are intimate explorations of emotional loss and the rush of new romance. On top of that, the string-backed piano ballads pack an immediate, visceral punch despite their spare instrumentation. When Costello calls, I mention the comparison. “That’s very flattering,” he says from the back of a limousine speeding along the Autobahn somewhere between Berlin and Hamburg. “Sinatra’s album is a masterpiece.” Then he brings up the Diana Krall factor: “People have made assumptions based on changes in my life that the appearance of quiet sounds,...

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Feature Article: Joni Mitchell - Portrait of an Artist in her Prime

It has been 24 years since Joni Mitchell left Saskatoon and eventually arrived on the coffeehouse circuit in Toronto’s Yorkville district. And although she has returned occasionally from her home in Los Angeles to visit her parents, last week was different. Under the glare of the media spotlight, Mitchell was back in Saskatoon for a triumphant homecoming. And the veteran singer-songwriter chose the Bessborough Hotel—where she often attended high-school dances—to meet the press on the western leg of a publicity tour to promote Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, her best album in years. Donning a school beanie presented by three students at her old school, Aden Bowman Collegiate Institute, the 4...

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Music Feature: Irish balladeers Andy Irvine and Paul Brady

Any traditional music from the British Isles, when played well, can breathe history as if aged in wood. A pair of young Irish folksingers stopped briefly in Toronto to give listeners a taste of the bittersweet ballads and jaunty jigs from another era. Paul Brady and Andy Irvine are former members of Planxty, a now defunct Irish band whose versatile music won them fans all over Europe. As a duo, Brady and Irvine provide all the moods and memories of their homeland, captured in songs of classical splendour. Their performance at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education Auditorium gave the audience tales as strange as the instruments to which they’re sung: “Wearing the Britches,” an admi...

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  1573 Hits

Music Feature: Tarig Abubakar and the rise of African music in Toronto

On a cool June night in 1988, Tarig Abubakar found himself walking along a desolate highway near Montreal’s Mirabel Airport, a bewildered stranger in an even stranger land. The Sudanese-born musician had just arrived on a flight from the motherland seeking to start a new life in Canada. But, without a friend or relation to greet him, his luggage lost in transit and with only $10 in his pocket, he was a lost soul.  Four Haitians spotted him—a weary black figure dressed in a disheveled white suit—and offered him a ride. When they learned his circumstances and that he had no destination, they took him to Ballatou, an African music club in downtown Montreal.  Being English-speakin...

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Music Feature: Chimes of Freedom - Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! tour

Even in the Live-Aid era of pop music, when star-studded concerts for good causes have become a fixture on the rock ’n’ roll calendar, it was a landmark event. Amnesty International brought its Human Rights Now! show to Toronto last week, with an eight-hour concert featuring six of pop’s leading artists, kicking off the North American leg of the most ambitious world tour in rock history. The six-week tour, which began in London on Sept. 2, was to touch down in Montreal last Saturday before continuing to scheduled concerts this week in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. While pop musicians in the 1980s have increasingly adopted social concerns and appeared in concerts arou...

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Music Feature: Ian & Sylvia - Their Legend, Legacy and tale of The Lost Tapes

Most people know Ian and Sylvia by their signature songs—his “Four Strong Winds” and her “You Were On My Mind”—and think of them as the iconic Canadian folk duo of the early 1960s. But few beyond fans or aficionados are familiar with their fine subsequent solo work, or Sylvia’s with the wondrous Quartette. And fewer still are aware that the talented pair once pioneered the country-rock genre with their excellent band Great Speckled Bird. A superb new collection of live recordings should change all that. Produced by Danny Greenspoon, The Lost Tapes (Stony Plain Records) features 26 tracks recorded between 1971 and 1974, a time when Ian was hosting a popular weekly country music TV show (on wh...

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Music Feature: The Band - And the Band played on

For defunct rock groups, 1983 has become the year of the reunion. Among the acts from rock’s golden years re-forming are The Guess Who, The Animals, The Hollies and Simon and Garfunkel. But the most unexpected return is that of The Band, Canada’s most celebrated rock ensemble. Its farewell concert seven years ago was so lavish and final that it made any suggestion of reunion seem dishonest. Now, with a two-week, 11-city Canadian tour which began in Halifax and ends in Vancouver on July 18, The Band is back, although without the services of guitarist Robbie Robertson. From the heady days of the southern Ontario bar circuit in the 1960s to Martin Scorsese’s touching movie tribute, The Last Wal...

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Robbie Robertson - Songs of a native son

Stepping off a Greyhound bus from Toronto in 1961, a 17-year-old boy found himself in West Helena, Ark., by the banks of the Mississippi River, unable to believe his senses. “It smelled different and moved different,” Robbie Robertson recently recalled. “The people talked and dressed different. And the air was filled with thick and funky music.” The experience left an indelible impression on the budding guitarist and songwriter. Years later, Robertson drew on it to write some of rock’s most evocative songs—including “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” And he performed them with his group, The Band, which critic Greil Marcus has called “the best rock ’n’ roll band...

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  3146 Hits