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Archive for the ‘Mike Ford’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE COCKSURE LADS-The Greatest Hits of The Cocksure Lads 1963-1968 (2010).

At last, The Cocksure Lads have released a greatest hits collection on CD.  These songs have been unavailable to anyone since the late sixties and it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy them again or for the first time.

Dusty Fosterboard, Reg Topping, Derek Millwood and Blake Manning wrote some charming rock back in the late 60s.   Their music was certainly forward looking.  Check out the rocking song (with keyboards–perhaps a Beach Boys influence?) “You’re a Cocksure Lad’ coming out in 1963 (while The Beatles were still doing fairly standard rock n roll songs and covers).  “You Gotta Stay Cocksure” (1964) sounds a bit more Beatlesesque, although perhaps a little more adventurous than Beatles songs at the time.

“A Case of the Dropsies” (1965) was a silly, almost novelty song (with a siren in the background), although it features a cool low-end guitar solo (and great harmonies). “Mushy Peas” seems like it would be a novelty, but it is a really a sadly passionate song of loss when the protagonist stops of for the titular dinner before heading for America.

“Ship’s Ahoy” (1968) comes from their concept album of the same name and while not as musically adventurous as any of The Beatles records, was certainly a fun (and different) song for the band–was that “oregano” joke a sly drug reference?  “Admiral Trafalgar” comes from this album too (and even mentions Hitler!–a political song in 1968?)

The charming and trippy “Umbrella Girl” also has some cutesy asides (I think a lobster bit my ‘and) and a cool autoharp as a major instrument.  “Ticky Boo” is a cute little romp: “Mrs Eng-a-land, a pack of crisps and me.”  They were even forward thinking on “That’s Any Good” in which one of the things that’s good is “when your country wins the arms race.”

There’s definitely some novelties here.  “A Car Boot Light That Never Quite Shuts Off” is an organ and voice song (with a crazily long note held at the end).  “I’ve Already Been Loved” opens with a very randy sounding “Wellllllll” but turns into a delightful, poppy number.  Of course, the final song, “Wellies in the Bath” is the obligatory goofball song (the “Ringo” song if you will).  And it is cute (especially at only 43 seconds).

The songs are charming and nostalgic, and even if you don’t remember them.  It’s a nice trip down memory lane[1]

[READ: February 20, 2011] “April Foolery”

I found this story because after reading The Ask, I looked up Lipsyte and Wikipedia said he has two short stories in collections (and no other short fiction pieces published–although I know The Dungeon master was in The New Yorker). Indeed, this was one of two.  I looked up The Revolution Will Be Accessorized up on Google books, and his entire story was available!  (It’s only two pages).

Looking at the rest of the authors, I do wonder if I’d like to read the whole thing. I’ll have to see if it’s in our library.  (It isn’t, but I’m going to interlibrary loan it).

Anyhow, this absurdly brief story is a sort of history of April Fool’s Day with modern suggestions for making it more fun).  It begins with the generally accepted premise that April Fool’s Day is tied to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.  People were punished who did not know that this new calendar had updated the new year.  And this spirit of prankishness lives on.

Given that bit of background, Lipsyte offers six pranks for April Fool’s. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID FRANCEY AND MIKE FORD-Seaway (2009).

Mike Ford introduced me to Louis Riel on his album Canada Needs You, Volume One.  The song “Louis & Gabriel” features the lyrics “Oh, Louis Reil, here comes your friend Gabriel” outrageously simplistic (it is for kids after all) but so incredibly catchy it’s in my head whenever I see this book.  This is Ford’s most recent album, a collection of songs by himself and David Francey–who I didn’t know before this disc.

Seaway is a collection of 16 songs which are in one way or another about the sea.  Two of the songs appear on Ford’s release Satellite Hotstove, but the rest are new.  I don’t know if Francey’s songs are new or not.  I’m also unclear from the credits if Ford and Francey worked on these songs together (the notes suggest they did) or if they were recorded separately and then compiled.

The songs are primarily folk–simple acoustic numbers, often solo guitar, but sometimes with accompaniment.  Mike Ford has a great, strong voice, and is capable of some interesting stylistic changes.  His songs are more vibrant on this disc.  Francey has a wonderful, almost whispered voice.  He has a gentle Scottish accent which is great for his storytelling songs.  Mostly he speak-sings, but on some tracks, like “The Unloading” he sings a full-bodied chorus.

But it’s Ford’s song that bring a lot of variety to the disc.  “There’s No Rush” has a sort of calypso feel to it and “When You’re the Skip” has a wonderfully dramatic sea-shanty/musical feel to it.   And “21st Century Great Lake Navigators” is a rap–Ford frequently raps a song on his various albums.  His voice is very well suited to it, and his rhymes are clever and often funny.

This is a charming disc.  I wouldn’t say it’s essential, but it’s a good introduction to both singers, and, of course .

[READ: January 26, 2010] Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont

Of the six Extraordinary Canadians books, I was least excited to read this one.  I’m not sure why, but I wound up leaving it for last.  But lo and behold it was easily the most engaging and, dare I say, exciting story of the six.  I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t know the outcome (even if Gabriel was somewhat famous in the U.S., I still didn’t know what had happened to him or to Louis).  And by the end of the book, I absolutely couldn’t put it down.

Joseph Boyden is a Métis writer (who I’ve never read before).  It’s obvious from the get-go that he is sympathetic to Riel and Dumont (which is to be expected in a biography, I would think).  He gets a tad heavy-handed about John A. Macdonald, but it seems justified.  For really you can pretty much take only one of two points of view about Riel and Dumont: they are either rebel heroes, standing up for the oppressed Métis, or they are traitors, intent upon destroying Canada’s expansion.

Now, I admit that I don’t know much about Canada’s expansion.  The first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, was instrumental in Canadian Confederation and was the driving proponent for the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.   But as with American westward expansion, Native cultures are in the way of this expansion. (more…)

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so-youSOUNDTRACK: MIKE FORD-Canada Needs You volume two (2008).

fordThis is the long awaited follow up to Mike Ford’s first Canada Needs You CD.  Volume Two covers Canada’s history in the 20th Century.

The album is more fun than the first because there are several tracks where Ford uses a stylistically appropriate music to go with the songs: “Talkin’ Ten Lost Years” uses a Woody Guthrie-inspired “talking blues” to go along with the Depression-era lyrics.  “Let’s Mobilize” is done in a great swing style for a 1940s/50s era song.  “Joey Smallwood” uses a near-perfect Johnny Cash style (it may not be time-appropriate since Cash is timeless, but it works great for the song).  “Maurice Richard” is a perfect Dylanesque folk song.  And finally, the pièce de résistance is “Expo 67!” It is so wonderfully Burt Bacharach-y, so perfectly late sixties it gets stuck in your head for days! C’est Magnifique!

The rest of the album, especially the first three songs do not try to match a song style to the time it discusses.  Rather, he sings about Canadian history in a folk/rock style ala Moxy Fruvous (Creeping Barrage” and “In Winnipeg”) or in a great R&B/girl group style–with actual female singers, not himself in a falsetto (“Tea Party”) or reggae on “I’m Gonna Roam Again.”

The songs are all great.  And, yes, it’s a great way to learn some history (I’ve already Googled Joey Smallwood, just to see who he was.  I’m trying to get all of the lyrics down, but it’s not always easy, especially if you don’t know the details of what he’s singing about.  Which leads to my only gripe.

My gripe is that the disc packaging doesn’t include much information.  And, since he is essentially teaching people about the history of Canada, I’d think that some details should be included in the packaging.  I realize of course, that he says that the he’ll have the information on his website, but since we’re carrying the disc with us (not the website), it’d be nice to have at least a summary like on Volume One.  Because frankly, I don’t know enough about Canadian history to know what he’s talking about on most of the tracks.

The only problem is that as of this writing he hasn’t put the information on his website yet.  D’oh!

[READ: Christmas 2007] So You Want to Be Canadian

iamcI am Canadian.  Okay, I’m not, but I’ve had the beer, and I’ve seen the commercial (hilarious) and I’ve been there several times. I even have Canadian satellite broadcast into my home (long story).  So, I’ve seen Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans, and I’ve been a fan of Corner Gas long before it was broadcast down here. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MIKE FORD-Canada Needs You (Volume 1) (2005).

Volume 2 of this series has just come out, but I haven’t received it yet, so I’ll start with Vol. 1

I discovered this series because I love Moxy Fruvous, and any member of the mighty Moxy is worth checking out solo.  Mike Ford has a wonderful voice, a great knack for songwriting and an ability to do multiple genres in one setting.  Couple that with the history of Canada and it’s win-win!  Volume One covers Canada pre-1905, with Volume Two covering up to the present.

I admit to not knowing very much about the song topics on the disc, which is fine, as I learned something new.  And, much like with the two Ferguson books, Mike Ford clearly loves Canada, and is willing to celebrate it without hiding any flaws that might be found.  Which is as it should be for an album or book of this nature: Don’t hide the warts; celebrate the whole picture.

Musically, the disc is as varied as the subject matter.  “I’m Gonna Roam” is a folk song done in a rap style. “Turn Them Oot” is a sea shantyesque sing-along about the Family Compact (and what a great rabble-rouser it is).  The most rocking song, “Sir John A (You’re OK)” is sort of a mock metal song (it’s as metal as a folkie can get…with a chorus from a Grade 7 class).  Imagine rocking the line “RESIDUAL POWERS!”

There’s even a song that sounds as if it was recorded on an old wax cylinder (“Canada Needs You”).  I like this song especially because it is a satire of early 20th century Canadian government attempts to get people to move to Canada (much like the Go West Young Man of the US).  A little snippet of lyrics:

There’s an abundance of everything in Western Canada
Where it’s never ever (hardly ever) cold
And the streets are paved with gold
And you grow rutabegas bigger than a loaf of bread
tomatoes bigger than a horse’s head
There’s milk and honey and a kitchen sink
There’s never any bugs or drought and the farts don’t stink

Some other topics include: a young Native woman who inspired her people (“Thanadelthur”); the voyageurs–with canoe sounds (“Les Voyageurs”); the fact and fiction of the treasure buried on Oak Island, Nova Scotia (“The Oak Island Mystery”); and the importance of Canadian women (“A Woman Works Twice as Hard”).

Perhaps the most fun song on the disc (for style and content) is “I’ve Been Everywhere” in which Ford lists thousands of Canadian towns at superfast speed.  Great good fun. Moncton, Moncton, Moncton, Moncton.

All the lyrics are available in PDF here.  And facts and background info about the songs are available here.  With all of these resources, you’re bound to learn something new about Canada!

[READ: September 2008] How to Be a Canadian

Now this is what I expecting from Why I Hate Canadians–a funny, tongue in cheek look at Canada and all of its quirks.  I got this book on the same trip as Why I Hate Canadians, and since I just read that one, I figured, why not keep it going.  So this book is co-written by Will and his brother Ian Ferguson (apparently there are Fergusons littered across the US and Canada, as their services are called upon throughout the book).  And, hard to tell if this is true, but based on the previous book, Ian must be the funny one in the family, as this book is very funny indeed. (more…)

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