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.

Book Reviews: Carole Pope and Randy Bachman

Of all the Canadian music autobiographies published in recent years, no two could be more different than Anti Diva and Takin' Care of Business. The former, by Carole Pope, is a titillating walk on the wild side with the former Rough Trade vocalist who once sang “she makes me cream my jeans when she comes my way.” By contrast, Randy Bachman’s account of his life is like a sober family history with all the spicy stories about drunken aunts and rakish uncles left out to protect 1 innocent ears. In that respect, both books accurately reflect their subjects: Pope is a lesbian trailblazer and pop provocateur who has revelled in sex and drugs, while Bachman, the burly guitarist with ...

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Blog Post: Nick's Picks - 19 Favourite Albums of 2019

    Here are 19 favourite things I heard this year (in alphabetical order):   Aldous Harding Designer Third album from the New Zealand singer-songwriter hits the mark with engaging, quirky and original folk music for the 21st century.   Angelique Kidjo Celia  The African pop queen pays tribute to Cuban musical goddess Celia Cruz, with the same rich results she had with Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.   Bruce Cockburn Crowing Ignites With his stunning, all instrumental album, the Canadian folk legend proves his exceptional guitar playing deserves as much acclaim as his songwriting.   Bruce Springsteen Western Stars The 19th ...

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Music Review: Rolling Thunder Revue - A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese

There's plenty to love about Martin Scorcese's new Netflix documentary about Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour. There are some illuminating present-day interviews with cast members including the masked ringleader Dylan himself, although he claims to barely remember anything about the tour, as he wasn't "even born yet." The story itself is one of rock's great dramas. Rolling Thunder was an entirely different way of touring. It began with the idea of Dylan, his buddy Bobby Neuwirth and mentor Ramblin’ Jack Elliott playing small venues while traveling around in a station wagon. When that proved impractical, it grew into a larger, illustrious cast of characters that included Joan Baez, Roge...

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Music Review: King Biscuit Boy - Mouth of Steel

Mouth of Steel marks the return of Canada’s legendary bluesman King Biscuit Boy to recording after an unfortunate 10-year absence. Biscuit, also known as Richard Newell, of Hamilton, Ont., apprenticed with Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins and served with the Canadian blues band Crowbar before striking out on his own. His confident comeback album ably showcases his gutsy voice and mournful harmonica style. The piano boogie of “Route 90” and the Latin-tinged instrumental “Necromonica” display his considerable talents and those of his skilful session players. The album’s real gem is “Done Everything I Can,” on which Biscuit bends harmonica notes as soulfully as he contorts his own gravelly vocals. Mouth ...

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Music Review: Eddy Grant - Going for Broke

With last year’s Caribbean crossover album Killer on the Rampage, Guyana-born Eddy Grant proved he could create a successful solo album by working alone in his Barbados studio. Grant wrote, arranged and produced every song on that album, including the gritty hit single “Electric Avenue,” and played all the instruments as well. But his follow-up album, Going for Broke, suggests that he is now suffering from artistic isolation. The circus-style reggae of “Only Heaven Knows” and the somnolent ballad “Blue Wave” reveal senseless content and inexcusably sloppy technique, while an irritating, indulgent guitar solo mars the vigorously rocking “Romancing the Stone,” which he wrote for the recent fil...

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Music Review: CANO - Visible

CANO, the Franco-Ontarian group from Sudbury, has changed the focus of its music and language—from folk to rock and French to English—so many times that even the group’s closest fans have become bewildered. Now, CANO has issued an all-French album, Visible, but the chaos has taken its toll, and the quality of the material is uneven. “Pauline” begins as a touching ballad about two lovers separated by war, but a cheerily sung chorus soon shatters the tragic mood. The title song offers more mood shifts than most complete albums, but the track’s inventiveness strays. Still, in “Fond d’une bouteille (Bottom of the Bottle)” an alcoholic’s desperation provides some dramatic imagery, and “J’ai bien ...

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Music Review: Van Morrison - A Sense of Wonder

A mystical master of Gaelic rhythm and blues, Van Morrison has for more than 20 years served up musical puzzles to which he has offered no answers. But on A Sense of Wonder, his first album since Warner Brothers, his long-time label, reportedly dropped him, the Irish-born singer has stopped asking questions altogether. The result is lacklustre music with none of Morrison’s usual gut-wrenching soul. On the title track, Morrison contemplates nature’s beauty; with “Ancient of Days” and “The Master’s Eyes” he thanks the Creator for His generous ways; on the dirge-like “Let the Slave” he delivers the 18th-century visionary poet William Blake’s “The Price of Experience” in rapid monotone. Only on ...

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Music Review: Los Lobos - How Will the Wolf Survive?

Like a ballroom orchestra high on amphetamines, the Los Angeles-based Chicano band Los Lobos conjures up contradictory, even comic, images when it is performing its frantic norteño music--an infectious hybrid of Mexican dance and German polka styles. How Will the Wolf Survive?, the quintet's refreshing debut album, opens with blistering rockabilly, and Cesar Rosas' gravelly vocals on "Don't Worry, Baby," and switches to a sweet country ballad in "A Matter of Time." On the carnival romp of "Corrida #1," David Hidalgo's speedy manipulation of his button accordion produces a euphoric, yodelling effect. Add some full-blooded rock 'n' roll in the style of Bo Diddley, one traditional Mexican ...

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Music Review: Talking Heads - Little Creatures

The music of Talking Heads has always been on the fringe of pop. True eccentrics, the members of the group have created songs on such unlikely topics as buildings, civil servants and mental health set to music ranging from American new wave to African tribal rhythms. Their new album, Little Creatures, continues to examine everyday thoughts and things--from television to babies and domestic bliss--and, because the group has now dropped African rhythms in favor of simple pop tunes, the album's music is easier to understand. On "Creatures of Love," an amiable country-and-western tune about human reproduction, David Byrne sings with childlike amazement about how "little creatures come out" after...

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Music Review: Kate Bush - Aerial

Photo by Trevor Leighton National Portrait Gallery

Artistic genius, or howling, lost-on-the-moor madwoman? Kate Bush has always defied description—and divided audiences along the way. As British author John Mendelssohn put it, when Bush “came out of of nowhere in 1978 with her jaw-droppingly eccentric debut single ‘Wuthering Heights,’ screeching like a banshee, flapping her arms as though trying to take wing, pulling alarming faces, people either adored or loathed her.” But absence has benefitted Bush. Since dropping out of the music world to raise a family, a massive cult has grown up around the reclusive, publicity-shy singer. There are now Kate Bush fashions and fan conventions, while the truly obsessive celebrate her birthday as “Katemas...

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