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.

Lhasa de Sela - Exotic sounds steeped in melancholy

Nobody could accuse Lhasa de Sela of taking the easy route to stardom. The Montreal musician insists on singing songs entirely in Spanish at a time when other Quebecbased acts going for a wider audience—even francophone ones— have opted for English. Yet Lhasa’s exotic sound, steeped in melancholic Mexican ballads, has clearly struck a chord. The 25-year-old singer’s debut album, La Llorona, recently went gold in Canada with sales of 50,000 and earned her two Juno nominations, for best global album and best new solo artist Meanwhile, her performances have drawn rave reviews for their intense theatricality. Born in upstate New York to a Mexican father and an American mother, a teacher and phot...

Continue reading
  1105 Hits

Tony Quarrington - Songs of Remembrance

Not many contemporary artists have written and recorded memorable songs about the First World War, the horrific 1914-1918 conflict that killed nine million soldiers and 13 million civilians. One of the best is Australian folksinger Eric Bogle’s ballad “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” as covered by the Pogues on their 1984 album Red Roses for Me. Toronto’s Tony Quarrington has recorded an entire album of original WW1 songs called For King and Country: Canada in the Great War and many are well worth hearing. It takes listeners through the experiences of Canadians during the war, in the trenches and on the home front. There are songs about Winnipeg flying ace Alan McLeod (...

Continue reading
  1090 Hits

John Finley - Soul Singer

Blue-eyed soul was the term coined in the 1960s to describe the sound of the rhythm-and-blues stylings of excitable white boys. The most famous exponents were America’s Righteous Brothers, the Young Rascals and England’s Spencer Davis Group, with vocalist Stevie Winwood. One the world’s best blue-eyed soul singers has always been Canada’s John Finley. As a member of Toronto’s r&b heroes Jon and Lee & the Checkmates, Finley caused a sensation in the mid-’60s with gut-wrenching, sweat-soaked performances and hyper-adrenalized emotion in a voice that held audiences spellbound as he soared from hushed stage whisper to rafter-shaking scream.  With the Checkmates, Finley was a dominan...

Continue reading
  1900 Hits

Martin Worthy's 5

Most drummers stick with the backbeat. With few exceptions (Levon Helm, Ringo Starr, Don Henley and Father John Misty come to mind), the dudes behind the kits rarely step forward to become solo artists in their own right. Toronto’s Martin Worthy has always been a different kind of drummer, one who could easily pick up a guitar and croon a sweet folk ballad or a wry country tune—songs he’d come up with when no one was watching. Although he started out in high school pounding the skins in various rock and soul bands, Worthy was really a singer-songwriter trapped in a drummer’s body. During the 1970s, Worthy partnered with his friend Paul Quarrington in a Seals & Croft-style folk duo called...

Continue reading
  1011 Hits

Music Review: Various artists - Music and Rhythm

The doldrums of contemporary popular music have led many artists to other cultures in search of inspiration. Increasingly, bands such as Talking Heads and the Police are incorporating African or West Indian rhythms into their sound. Just how rich and varied that mix can be is evident on Music and Rhythm, a double-record set featuring musicians from more than 15 countries. The “benefit” album was intended to offset the debts of the World of Music Arts and Dance (WOMAD), a large multicultural festival held in England last summer. The collection places rock musicians, from former Genesis singer and festival promoter Peter Gabriel to the Who’s Peter Townshend, alongside the primeval sounds ...

Continue reading
  1234 Hits

King Sunny Adé - The African Beat

After exhausting the musical possibilities of rhythm and blues over the past 30 years, pop music is searching for ways to rejuvenate itself. The Police found success with their own brand of Jamaican reggae, and such bands as Talking Heads, the English Beat and Culture Club have eagerly borrowed ingredients from other Third World sources. Now musicians— including the Police—are turning to Africa for inspiration. Of all the sounds to come out of that continent recently the most influential—and exotic—is the juju music of Nigeria’s King Sunny Adé. Last week Adé played two triumphant concerts in Montreal and Toronto to coincide with Synchro System, his first album to be released in Canada. ...

Continue reading
  2200 Hits

Music Review: John Prine - The Tree of Forgiveness

One of America’s finest singer-songwriters (Johnny Cash, Bette Midler and Bob Dylan have all covered him), the Chicago native specializes in razor-sharp observations of ordinary lives. Dylan once said of him: "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. All that stuff about Sam Stone, the soldier junky daddy, and Donald and Lydia, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. " Prine's first album of new songs in 13 years is full of such gems, including “Knocking on Your Screen Door,” and a wry look at the afterlife, “When I Get to Heaven.” It's a heartfelt collection about the search for meaning in everyd...

Continue reading
Tags:
  1178 Hits

Music Review: John Prine & Steve Goodman - German Afternoon and Unfinished Business

Folksingers, the troubadours who inhabited so many coffeehouses and festivals two decades ago, had become an endangered species by the early 1980s. But recently, as rock returned to its roots, folk music has quietly staged a comeback—through adventurous festivals and such popular artists as Suzanne Vega and the punk-influenced Billy Bragg and Michelle Shocked. Two singer-songwriters who have influenced the new wave of folk, John Prine and Steve Goodman, have new recordings out on Edmonton’s Stony Plain label. Their albums reveal the source of folk’s strength: songs of intimacy and insight. Goodman, who died in 1984 after a long battle with leukemia, and Prine, Goodman’s close friend, rank am...

Continue reading
  1609 Hits

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...

Continue reading
  1573 Hits

Music Feature: Expeditions to pop's global village

On Naked, the latest album by rock’s influential New York City-based Talking Heads, leader David Byrne sings: “’Round and ’round and we won’t let go/And where we stop no one knows.” The song is “Ruby Dear,” and Byrne could well be referring to the new disc’s musical tour around the world. Recorded in Paris with a crew of international musicians, Naked reflects pop’s global village, where Congolese guitars meet Latin-style horns and ancient Middle Eastern melodies play off modern Western synthesizers. The result is one of the band’s best recordings. And by crossing a number of cultural boundaries, Naked signals a strong new trend toward international pop. Rock music h...

Continue reading
  954 Hits