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Archive for the ‘Spirit of the West’ Category

SOUNDTRACKSPIRIT OF THE WEST-Live at Massey Hall (June 6, 2015).

This proves to be a pretty powerful show.

I was introduced to Spirit of the West by my Vancouver based friend Amber back in the 1990s.  I didn’t really keep up with them, but I have long enjoyed their album faithlift.

But here it is 2015 and as the blurb at the beginning of the show says:

In 2014, at the age of 51, John Mann, Spirit of the West’s lead singer, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  On June 6, 2015, Spirit of the West would play their one and only show at Toronto’s Legendary Massey Hall.

The rest of the band includes Hugh McMillan, Vince Ditrich, Tobin Frank and Matthew Harder all of whom play various instruments including keyboards, accordion and all things with strings.

Most of the band have never been in Massey or even seen it.  But they marvel at the venue and are genuinely moved by the end of this show.

They open with their hit (from faithlift) “And If Venice is Sinking.”  It’s got accordion and a big bass line and some funny lyrics and a full backing vocal chorus.

We made love upon a bed
That sagged down to the floor
In a room that had a postcard on the door
Of Marini’s Little Man
With an erection on a horse
It always leaves me laughing

John Mann is the lead singer, Geoff Kelly is the co-lead guy.  He does most of the speaking.  He says “This is as close as were every gonna get to Beatlemania.”

Next up is “King of Scotland” about a man who desperately wanted to be Scottish.  It, like many of their songs is a rousing half-trad/half rocking song.  Incidentally, Mann has been singing off of an iPad to help with his memory.

“Doin’ Quite Alright” is the first of many songs sung by Kelly.  he also plays bodhran.  It sounds quite trad and is much faster with a  cool bassline.  The addition of 70s sounding keyboards is a little odd though.

“July” sees the introduction of what I think is a bouzouki and sounds an awful lot like “Love is All Around” by Wet Wet Wet except for the fun and powerful chorus of JuLYYYYYYYY!

Kelly jokes that someone in the band is delighted by Massey Hall because it is finally something he’s found that is older than Kelly is.

Up next is “Political,” a song “we recorded on our Labour Day record in 1988ish and then again on Go Figure and then again with the Vancouver symphony.  I guess we really like this song.  Kelly is on flute and plays a wild harmonica solo.

Next up is their newest song, which is about 12 years old.  It’s about how every year New Year’s parties just get worse and worse.  “Another Happy New Year” starts out with slow staccato piano and then it really takes off (with Kelly on the penny whistle).

After sincerely thanking everyone for their kindness (it’s getting pretty emotional), they are going to play a drinking song called The Crawl.  The crowd really gets into the raucous song.

The night ends with Kelly saying this was the most awesome night ever.  They are going to leave everyone with “Home for a Rest.”  The audience sings along with Mann for the first verse and then Mann backs off and lets them sing it all.  It’s pretty great.  As is the song which ends with a wild instrumental jam that’s basically a flute-led jig which ends the sing and the show.

I imagine being there was pretty special.

[READ: May 15, 2018] “Nothing But”

This is a wonderful short essay on memory with the epigram: “The truth–that thing I thought I was telling.”

He begins by talking about a chapter in his book White Sands about a visit to the house of Theodor Adorno.  The essay takes its title “Pilgrimage” from a short story (why is it not considered a memoir?) by Susan Sontag in which she and her friend Merrill went to the house of Thomas Mann when she was 14.

It came out later that Merrill never understood why Susan left their friend Gene (who had gone with them) out of the story entirely.  (It happened in 1947, she wrote it in 1987).   This shows “a startling manifestation of the vagaries of memory and a vindication of what can sometimes seem like the fussiness of editorial fact-checking.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART OF TIME ENSEMBLE-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2012)

The Art of Time Ensemble does many things although my exposure to them is through their string performances of rock songs

Led by Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, Art of Time Ensemble transforms the way you experience music. Fusing high art and popular culture in concerts that juxtapose the best of each genre, Art of Time entertains as it enlightens, revealing the universal qualities that lie at the heart of all great music.

Sarah and I saw a live show of this tour.  And this recording is pretty much the same (I’m sure there’s some variations).  It is more than just a symphonic version of the record.  The Art of Time Ensemble created new arrangements of the songs.  Purists might hate this, but it is lovingly created and made with a few extra orchestral moments thrown in.

This disc was recorded live in concert May 31, June 1 & 2, 2012 at the Enwave Theatre in Toronto

The disc opens, of course with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  Steven Page sings the song with rocking guitars and horns.  There’s cool a capella moment with them all singing the “it’s wonderful to be here” moment.  Before allowing the next song to start the band does the slow orchestra rise of notes at the end of the album.  Clearly showing that while hey are staying somewhat faithful to the record, there will be surprises.

“With A Little Help From My Friends” has gentle swirling orchestral notes as John Mann (from Spirit of the West) sings.  This song seems to be all about the orchestra as they take many liberties with the melodies and soloing moments.

“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” Craig Northey sings this classic which is quite understated, especially in the chorus, when he sings falsetto and there;s minimal accompaniment.  However, those three thumps before the chorus are as loud as anything.

Andy Maize’s gruff, weathered voice sounds great for “Getting Better.”  But it’s Page’s harmonies in the chorus that make this song transcendent.  “Fixing A Hole: is the first song that really changes the original.  It has a kind of Kurt Weill cabaret/circus vibe with John Mann hitting some challenging notes.  But the music is so sinister, it’s quite interesting.

“She’s Leaving Home” is achingly, beautifully sung by Steven Page.  The backing vocals are perfect, too.
“Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” has a few strange moments in which the bulk of the music cuts out for pizzicato strings or when the middle section features an extended waltz for Mrs K to dance.  Craig Northey sounds like he’s singing through a megaphone but that seems unlikely.  By the end, Northey also seems to be talking Mr. Kite down from his foolish behavior (“Oh, he;s falling”).

“Within You Without You” is the other song that Andy Maize takes lead on.  On the original, the song is done in Indian classical style.  This version has strings filling in with repeated melodies.  Indian hand drums are used at the end and while I’m not certain, I think there was no sitar used, but the melodies on violin and voila do a great job of representing that sound.

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is very string-heavy and takes a bit before it gets the bouncey feel of the original.  John Mann does a nice job with the song and the backing singers do a great job too.  I’m only bummed that there’s no musical punctuation on Vera Chuck and Dave.

A long piano intro opens “Lovely Rita” before Steven Page takes lead vocals–a song well suited to him.  The big surprise comes in the middle when there’s a lenghthy big band dance section including a muted trumpet and a real nor jazz feel.  After the nifty trumpet solo there’s a clap along for the ending chorus.

The members all greet each other “Good Morning” before “Good Morning Good Morning” starts up, sung by Craig Northey.  It’s one of the more rocking songs.  At least until the swirling heavy guitars that open “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise).”  There is a chorus of vocals singing with vamping from Steven Page.

The disc ends with “A Day in the Life” with Andy Maize on the first section (squeaking out that House of Lords line) and Craig Northey taking the faster part.  Since the orchestra already did the end of the album much earlier the end of the concert is quiet, much more subtle.

The album is over but there are two bonus Beatles songs.  “Penny Lane” sung by Steven Page might be noticeable for the trumpet getting the solo perfect.

The whole show ends with “All You Need is Love” with everyone getting a verse.  There are a number of Beatles’ lines thrown in during the outro, like Page singing “I should have known better with a girl like you” and “All I’ve got is a photograph” (from Ringo).

This is a fun take on a classic album.  And while I’ll always prefer the original, it’s nice for a change of pace.

[READ: April 11, 2016] “Soldier’s Joy”

I don’t quite understand the title of this story, but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

The story is about a woman, Nana, and her much older husband.  It opens with her relating to him a dream she had.  In the dream, he sent her a love letter in which he stated how lucky he was “that you still want to live with me.”  He laughs and says he is quite humble isn’t he.

In his dream he imagined that their friend Helen, a “preposterously impossible person,” was pregnant.  Helen had hosted them the previous evening and her husband had been drunk and flirted with Helen’s nineteen year old daughter .

Later Nana called Helen to apologize for her husband and to commiserate about what they should wear to the next function at Libby’s house.   Helen says not to worry sabot it, that all girls flirt.  And of course, Nana remembers how she and Helen flirted with their college professor when they were in school and how, of course, he is the man who Nana ultimately married. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATCIS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Ontario (August 24, 1995).

24Aug1995-adThe blurb tells us: This was the first proper Don Kerr show in Toronto. They had played the Roadside Attraction tour but this was the first in Toronto. It also features 4 songs played for the first time – Connecting Flights (aka Two Flights of Stairs), Four Little Songs, Sweet,Rich,Beautiful and Mine, and All The Same Eyes (aka Crescent II). Also the only known cover version of Joe Jackson’s I’m The Man.

As the show opens, you can hear Martin playing some cool sounds but you can also hear people asking questions on the tape, like “what are you guys doing after?”  “It depends on who has what where.”  And the snarky response, “Oh I think I know who has what and I can tell you where it is.”

Then you can hear even more chatter: “We got the best seats in the house.  You’ve seen them before haven’t you?  We have to get right up front.  When we finish our drinks.”

Martin’s noodling resolves into a lovely “Song of Flight,” and once the song starts properly you can’t hear the talkers (aside from occasional shouts).  This segues into a gentle “California Dreamline.”   After Martin sings the line, “in love with each other” Dave chimes in “and all of them wearing shirts like that” (this is not the first time I wish there was a visual).  Shockingly, or not, you can hear the chatter again during the quiet section of the song.

There’s a kind of weird version of “MJ”—it feels like they’re being a little goofy with it.  It segues into a more folkie sounding than usual “Cuckoos.”

Dave chimes in that these “songs feature all kinds of strange beings and creatures cuckoos Michael Jackson (Martin: that’s the weirdest one of them all) whale people, bird people, turtle people, and people from space;  not to be confused with People from Earth [the opening band] who use their talent for good not evil.”  This is a lengthy intro to “Aliens” a song I love which I feel they hadn’t been playing very much.

This is the first known recording of “Fat” which wouldn’t come out until 1996.  It sounds great.

For some reason, Dave says, “I told you you shouldn’t have worn such a flashy shirt, Martin.”

For “Introducing Happiness,” Dave says, “Make us happy Tim, send us a little message of joy.”

“Claire” opens with Tim singing a couple of lines Spirit of the West’s “Scaffolding”  (from their then-new  album).  “Claire” features Tim oohing in the beginning (with a la la thrown in), I think this was  fairly recent convention.  There’s a pretty wild solo from Martin.  The whole song is nearly 7 minutes and when it’s over, Dave says, “That’s the weirdest version of ‘Claire’ we’ve ever done.  And that’s something, I think.”

Dave says they’re going to debut some new material tonight (I guess they’d played “Fat” before?).  The first is Tim’s brief “Connecting Flights.”

“Fishtailin'” has a quiet ending.  But it’s followed by a rocking “Dope Fiends.”  Dave says it’s a song about Etobicoke.  The middle features a drum solo (a good one with different drum sounds like in the previous show which also featured Don Kerr–although Dave calls him  something else.  It has a great soaring ending.

Dave says, “We’re going to do a very serious piece now. I think it’s our most profound work to date.  Tim chimes in: Especially the very end.   Before continuing, Tim says, “I think this is  our first proper show in Toronto with Don Kerr on the drums.”   Dave: “It won’t be our last we’re playing here tomorrow and Saturday.”

The “serious” song is “Four Little Songs” which they mess up right away and then start again.  The song sounds pretty much as the record does, except he says “I had a dream I was in Neil Peart’s kitchen.”

There’s a kind of cut in the tape and when it comes back, someone is shouting “finally, finally, it’s about fuckin’ time” and Dave says “no kidding eh, it’s about time we got serious and …”  Then he is interrupted: “you want me to take off my hat?  That’s a steel-rimmed hat.  That’s a Kodiak hat.  (Tim: it’s pure dachshund, that’s very expensive).  Dave: Do you want to wear it or do you just want to touch it?  What do you want to do?  There’s a thing with the scabies on the scalp. Not cooties… scabies.  Or is it rickets?

Dave continues, “We had a great summer we opened for The Tragically Hip on their Roadside Attractions tour.  They played with Eric’s Trip.  Julie from Eric’s Trip is going to open for us… Welcome Julie to Toronto! and Benji and Julie’ husband whose name I forget.”

They play another new one: “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  After the song, Dave says, “Martin, I think that can be the slogan for the 90s what do you say.”

We’ll complete our new song trilogy with another new song: “All the Same Eyes” is another gentle Tim song which segues into a furious “RDA.”

Introducing “Self Serve Gas Station,” they tore down the gas station and the hopes and dreams of little Rexdale boys everywhere.  I’m awfully settlement about it.  How about you?”  Martin: “little boys love gas stations.”

Martin thanks the People From Earth for opening.  Some shouts they sounded too much like you… Martin replies.: “they’re related”  (Martin’s brother John Tielli was the lead singer).

“Self Serve” starts and then Martin stops it: “I thought Dave hit a wrong note but he was tuning, I forgive him.”

“Soul Glue” is as usual boppy and fun.  After the “They dragged the bottom of the lake” line, there; s a rough scratching guitar noise and Dave shouts “I found a shoe!.”  When they get to the end section Martin sings “didn’t say anything at all” (he hits a really high note–atypical for this song and it sounds great.”

They start the vocal introduction (you you you you) to “Horses” and someone in the audience shouts “Here we go.”  After Dave does a little chant the band starts.  It’s a very unusual version as the first verse is very quiet with Dave practically whispering the lyrics and the only loud thing is Tim repeating the “you you you” the song itself grows really intense, as it should.

During the encore break, Tim says “Don had to go to the bar to get beer for them. Sorry it took a little while.”

They end the show with two covers.  Dave announces that Jane Siberry has a new album out (that would be Maria). This is from her new wave period, her pink period, which is my personal favorite period.  “One More Colour,” obviously.  It’s followed by a fast, wild and chaotic version of Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man.”  I can’t quite tell who is singing lead.

This is a really fun show with the introduction of new songs and some experimenting.  It was the last show of 1995 (on this site) excluding the Group of Seven show which was quite a different thing entirely.

[READ: March 4, 2009] “The Adventure of a Skier”

This is the first piece I have read by Italo Calvino.  Calvino’s name has been around for ages, but I honestly didn’t know a thing about him.

So, with that in mind, Italo Calvino was, at the time of his death, in 1985, the most translated contemporary Italian writer.  This story was translated by Ann Goldstein.

This was a simple, very simple story.

It begins with a bunch of disorderly boys clamoring for the ski lift.  There’s some wonderful details of just what an uncoordinated pack of rowdy boys looks like. (more…)

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