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.

Music Review: Beyoncé - Lemonade

It’s easy to see Beyoncé’s new album as an angry response to a broken marriage. Some songs seem to confirm rumors of alleged infidelities and an impending split with rapper husband Jay-Z. “We built sand castles that washed away,” Beyoncé sings wistfully, before venting “What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.” Anger is most visceral on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” a raw number featuring Jack White’s bluesy guitar. But the album also explores themes of hope, forgiveness and redemption and includes “Freedom,” her Black Lives Matter anthem with Kendrick Lamar. “It’s time to listen, it’s time to fight,” Beyoncé sings on “Forward,” a duet with James Blake. By the time she confesses, “How I ...

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Music Review: Rufus Wainwright - Take All of My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets

Grandiosity comes naturally to Rufus. The acclaimed singer-songwriter has an unabashed love of dramatic music. In 2007, he recreated Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. His most recent album is a recording of his own opera Prima Donna. Now Rufus has embraced his love of Shakespeare, something he’s explored a little before. Actors Carrie Fisher, William Shatner and Helena Bonham Carter recite sonnets, while members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra back Rufus and his assortment of guest vocalists. Rufus and Austrian coloratura soprano Anna Prohaska offer male and female takes on “A Woman’s Face,” and his sister Martha Wainwright joins him on “Unperfect Actor.” Rufus even dips int...

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Movie Review: Purple Rain

PURPLE RAIN Directed by Albert Magnoli.   Purple Rain resembles its provocative singing star, Prince: it delights in breaking rules and raising eyebrows. While such anarchic behavior is the root of rock music, it is rare in rock films. They usually offer a safe and predictable storyline that is little more than background to the soundtrack. But Purple Rain cleverly integrates its sultry electronic funk music with a story of unexpected depth and emotion. It receives great support from Prince himself, the 24-year-old pop sensation from Minneapolis who, in his first, largely autobiographical film, vividly translates his charismatic stage personality to the screen. Princ...

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Music Review: Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain

Prince is one of pop's true originals. His credo of eroticism and his nervy, androgynous pose have made the 24-year-old Minneapolis native a constroversial figure. Radio stations often ban his sexually explicit songs from airplay, but his music is an ingenious blend of keyboard funk and guitar rock. Purple Rain is a kaleidoscope of pulsating sounds and velvety textures. It opens with the cheerful chaos of "Let's Go Crazy," in which Prince preaches hedonism in the face of impending apocalypse. "Darling Nikki," about a steamy encounter with a nymphomanic, features a wailing guitar, and "The Beautiful Ones" is a breezy, romantic song sung in a sensual falsetto. Prince excels on "When ...

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Music Review: Yoko Ono - Yes, I'm a Witch Too

Yoko Ono has long been misunderstood. Blamed for the Beatles’ breakup and criticized for her influence over husband John Lennon, she has never been accepted outside of avant-garde circles. That may be changing. Last year, New York’s Museum of Modern Art mounted an extensive exhibition of her paintings, drawings, sculptures, films and music. Now everyone from Sonic Youth to Lady Gaga is calling the controversial 83-year-old an influence. A new album of collaborations sees contemporary musicians reinterpreting her music. Alt-rockers Death Cab for Cutie provide new synth backing to Yoko’s “Forgive Me My Love,” while Sweden’s pop-rock trio Peter, Bjorn & John offer dramatic accompaniment to ...

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Music Review: Bonnie Raitt - Dig in Deep

The flame-haired star, part of rock’s sisterhood with Linda Ronstadt and Maria Muldaur, is a formidable slide guitarist. As a young performer on the Boston coffeehouse circuit in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Raitt met blues greats like Sippie Wallace, Son House and Muddy Waters and immersed herself in the tradition. Soon, she was winning acclaim for her own bottleneck style. Born and raised a Quaker, she has always mixed activism with her music, campaigning against nuclear energy with No Nukes concerts and co-founding the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which works to improve royalties, financial conditions, and recognition for R&B pioneers. Her recorded history is exceptional, ...

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Music Review: Tami Neilson - Dynamite!

Dynamite is right. With a voice that channels Pasty Cline and Peggy Lee in equal measure, this Canadian torch singer has exploded since emigrating to New Zealand, where she’s become a country music star. From the plaintive twang of “Cry Over You” to the defiant sass of “Walk (Back To Your Arms),” her talent is on full display.

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Music Review: David Bowie - Blackstar

Rock’s most famous chameleon has changed personas countless times during his career, from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke. With each mask comes a new sound. For his 25th album, Blackstar (stylized as a symbol), the icon threw out the rulebook. His longtime producer, Tony Visconti, says the goal was to avoid rock ’n’ roll and create a new fusion sound. Released to coincide with the singer-actor’s 69th birthday, the seven-song album includes the unsettling title track, a shape-shifting, apocalyptic torch song that runs nearly 10 minutes, and “Lazarus,” the horn-drenched title number from Bowie's current off-Broadway musical, based on The Man Who Fell to Earth (he starred in the...

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Music Review: Neko Case - Truckdriver Gladiator Mule

Neko Case’s extraordinary journey from punk drummer and country torch singer to avant pop icon is well documented in this box set, which gathers her entire discography of eight titles on remastered vinyl and includes an 80-page book of photography. The collection features the American-born, Canadian-bred musician’s 1997 solo debut The Virginian, on vinyl for the first time, and her excellent 2004 live album The Tigers Have Spoken, recorded with Toronto’s The Sadies. There are a wealth of inspired covers, including the Everly Brothers’ “Bowling Green” and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Soulful Shade of Blue,” and such stunning originals as “Hold On, Hold On” and “Near Midnight, Honolulu...

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Music Review: Adele - 25

The British star’s last album, 21, sold over 30 million copies—the only release this century to reach that zenith, making Adele’s long-awaited followup something like pop’s second coming. The “Rolling in the Deep” singer doesn’t disappoint. Her new album revisits the heartbreak that informed 21 while allowing Adele, now a mother of one in a steady relationship, to move on. It opens with “Hello,” featuring her wondrously deep, soulful voice, and includes “When We Were Young,” about running into an old flame. “River Lea,” takes her into gospel territory, while “All I Ask,” her collaboration with Bruno Mars and his crew, expresses loneliness with palpable emotion. Best of all is the adventurous...

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