Friday, May 27, 2011

You say CD. I say record. Let's call the whole thing off.

For some time now, I've been thinking about the terms we use to describe recorded music.I thought about blogging about it but then I thought, "Who else would care about something like this? Maybe It's just me." Then I started a little chit chat on twitter with @waltondawn and I realized I'm indeed not the only one who is fascinated by the evolution of this kind of nomenclature.

Of course my music collection follows the technology of recorded music through the later half of the 20th Century. It  started with vinyl singles or 45s, then record albums or LPs, then tapes - first 8tracks then cassettes, after that we entered the digital age with CDs and now of course we download in various file formats. Thankfully I wasn't around for cylinders and 78s.

An album full of records, thus a record album.
Record, Album, LP, Single, 45, 78, CD, MP3 - words we use to describe recorded music that changed over the years as technology, media and formats changed. In fact @waltondawn told me she's still in the habit of calling her iPod her Walkman which are, when you think of it, two manufactured meaningless brand names. One is as good as the other.

So when CDs came out there was peer pressure (I'm not sure from whom) to start talking about them as CDs and NOT the term we had been using to describe vinyl discs - records or albums.

For examples -- people would say George Jones or Oliver Jones or Grace Jones has a new CD out, even though it would released on three formats at the time: LP, cassette and CD. 

I didn't agree with it at the time but I just went along with it. When I was at CBC as a producer, one of my hosts insisted on mentioning we were playing CDs as opposed to records even though we were still playing both. Maybe she thought it sounded more high-tech back in the 90s. I also noticed she would say "Here's a track from a new CD" when CDs don't have tracks. Vinyl records have tracks.

As a confirmed music geek, I did a little research to find out how some of this terminology evolved and I found one one thing that was a real eye opener. Did you know that the term "album" refers literally to when records came in "albums?" They couldn't fit an opera on a 78 rpm disc so they would release them as a collection of discs in an album similar to a picture album. You can see them in vintage record stores and in your mom and dad's attic. In other words, we eventually started calling 33 1/3 LPs albums when they are no such thing. Yet people sometimes correct me when I call a new recording a "record" and tell me that's the wrong terminology.

Indeed most of the names we have given recorded music were tied to the particular format or medium in fashion at the time, but there are so many formats these days that we buy (or steal). I think we need to revive the perfectly good catch-all word RECORD.

I suggest we start using the word RECORD more to refer to a collections of songs as a unit.

Here's why.

The origin of the word is Latin  re+cord = more at heart. In Middle English in the 14th century, it meant literally to recall. There really is no strict connection between the word "record" and vinyl but it's perfectly good at describing a group of songs collected as a unit. In other words, to recall a group of songs the creators intended to be acquired as a unit.

Will I launch a huge campaign to make this happen? No, life's too short. Am I up nights thinking about this stuff? Yeah but that's me.And I will stubbornly call all my CDs, downloads and LPs "Records."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Metal Madness: Woods of Ypres 2003

I used to work for CBC in Windsor Ontario, mostly in radio as a producer and reporter. I was very involved in the local music scene. I was the artistic director of Windsor Folk which brought Canadian folk and roots musicians to the area and sponsored a monthly open mic. My best friend is a local folk legend who I dubbed the Windsor Accordion Czar - Len Wallace. I will devote a blog entry to this genius talent another time.

I also arranged for a number of artists to perform and conduct interviews on CBC - everyone from the Windsor Symphony, local jazz flute legend Alex Zonjic, to Raffi, Moxy Fruvous and the late Rick Danko of the Band.

The last couple of years I was with the Corp. I dabbled in television as a reporter and I had the opportunity to do some feature reports. Of course the focus was music. One day I was standing in the Devonshire Mall waiting for somebody and saw two kids opening a CD and I asked them what they just bought at HMV. They said it was a local Black Metal band called .

This TV report is the result.


I am sad to tell you that David Gold died December 22, 2011 in an automobile accident near Barrie, Ontario, Canada. You can find details here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A week in the life of my music addiction

I thought I’d tell you about the music I bought last week which demonstrates to you the length and breadth of my addiction. It can also inform you there are still some good places to but music in Calgary.

That’s the name of the CD and I guess the name of the band. John Popper is the lead singer harmonica player with the American blues/rock band Blues Traveler. I have always liked this band and I was in the mood to buy something I hadn’t heard before and on the rock side of things. It’s a pretty good record but it not on fire. It sort of smoulders. Descent songs. I like Popper’s voice and he has a distinctive harp style. If you like Blues Traveler, chances are this is worth having. You can follow via Twitter @blues_traveler

I bought this on CD at Heritage Posters and Music in Calgary Alberta Canada. They’re real specialty is vintage and not-so-vintage rock posters. They have an amazing selection. I would suggest it’s one of the best in Canada. They also have a huge selection of vinyl and probably the largest selection of blues, folk, jazz and blues CDs in Calgary – both used and new. If you still miss Megatunes, Heritage Music is a place to check out. You can now follow on twitter @HeritageMusic_

Next to a music shop in my neighbourhood – Inner Sleeve in Marda Loop

Jack Bruce –Cities of the Heart. 

Bruce was the bass player with Cream (Ginger Baker, drums Eric Clapton guitar) and he wrote a lot of the band’s songs.  I didn’t know this when I bought the two CD set but it turns out it is a live recording of concerts celebrating his 50th birthday in 1993.  I haven’t listened to much of the record because frankly I keep going back to the two excellent versions of old Cream songs – Sunshine of Your Love and Spoonful. I love covers of popular songs, and it’s sort of cool to hear the original artists covering their own tunes. The late Gary Moore (died in February 2011) is playing guitar on this record and he’s great.  According to the website, Bruce formed a band with his former Cream band mate Ginger Baker and Moore and put out a record.  I am going to have to hunt it down. @jackbrucemusic

Was (not Was) What up dog? – bought used on CD

I probably have this CD buried in my collection. I know I also bought the LP and I may even still have a copy, but anyone who knows me knows that won’t stop me from buying a CD like this if I see it cheap. It’s easier to grab this for about five or six bucks than to hunt it down. Was (not Was) was an eccentric R and B rock band of the Was brothers David and Don Was. It includes their only hit Walk Like A Dinosaur but my favourite song is Dad I’m In Jail – okay it’s not really a song but it’s really funny.

 Steve Earle - I’ll Never Get Out of the World Alive -- vinyl single

This single was released as part of Record Store Day a couple of weeks ago.  That’s when a number of songs from various artists were released on vinyl – 45 or LP – and sold in stores across North America. They were limited pressings and Canadian stores didn’t necessarily get the record they asked for on that day or at all. There was a small big with late deliveries and leftovers and this Steve Earle record was one of them. The song is a cover of a Hank Williams tune and the title of Earle’s new recording. It’s not on the recording but I have the Earle version and it makes me happy.  

As for the Inner Sleeve – it’s a straight up vinyl store. They have CDs – some new and some used and you have to really hunt for bargains. The vinyl selection is terrific and they have common and popular records as well as a lot of rare and vintage. They also have a fine selection of vintage turntables and stereos plus needles and cartridges.

Also picked up this week on CD at HMV

Emmylou Harris - Hard Bargain
Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive 
City And Colour and Eminem - Recovery
Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere on an iTunes download.

And a compilation CD in Mojo magazine -  This is a Compilation of The Black Keys The Name of this Compilation is Brotherhood. I will likely devote an entire blog entry (or two) to the wonders of Mojo.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Here Comes the Judge

I have been involved in music my whole life but Saturday, May 14, 2011 I had an entirely new experience. I was a judge in a song contest – The Calgary Folk Festival Songwriting Contest. It’s an annual contest with four major sections – Untapped Newcomer, Sonic Youth, Beaver Tales (songs about Canada) and Pros and Prose. They gave me my choice of which one I could judge and I asked for Beaver Tales.

The competition is held over two weekends at one of the more popular bars on Calgary's 17th Avenue strip, the Ship and Anchor. It’s a straight up, no frills pub with a huge patio that is always filled to capacity on warm sunny days. Of course on the beautiful summer-like day of my particular event, a rare chance for me to visit a bar, I was required to sit in the dark bowels of the pub. At least I was inside watching some extremely talented performers, and the nice people from the Folk Festival made sure we – the judges – were looked after with food and drink.

Back to the contest. The Festival received 300 entries in this category this year and whittled it down to 17 of the best (thank god!). Each singer songwriter, and their accompanists, took to the stage and played their song with the lyrics projected on a screen behind them. Talk about pressure! One shot to impress the judges. Oh, the judges were: Mike Morrison a blogger and CityTV producer @mikesbloggity, Mark Teo, the music editor of FFWD @excitement, and Terry Wickham, artistic director of the Edmonton Folk Festival and me. 

Terry and I represented, how should I put this? an older generation of folk music fans. Mike and Mark definitely skew younger. I’m not sure if it was planned that way but that’s how it ended up; even though my outlook on music is far from traditional. (More about that in another blog entry, I promise)

I have to compliment the sound folks because the changes from one act to the next were terrific and the sound was great.

I truly believe that every performer deserved to be there and every song had some great qualities. I will also tell you, however, that it quickly became clear to me which were the best songs. 

After the performances, the four of us retired to a board room upstairs, a rather swanky room much better than I expected, and we started deliberations. One of the Folk Fest staff sat at the head of the table and acted as referee. I think this process hasn't gone quite so smoothly in past years which is why Johanna was there. I’m not suggesting there was bloodshed but I am pretty sure she was there 1) just in case there was and 2) to keep things moving along.We were quite a diverse group yet we pretty much agreed on the top songs right away. Then it became a matter of deciding which ones would get which prizes.

You can find the winners at the Calgary Folk Music Festival website.   

And I have provided you with the winners’ names and some links to their music or at least some information about who they are and what they do.

I sincerely congratulate all the performers in the Beaver Tales category as well as the rest of the finalists in the contest. It was a great experience and I certainly hope I get asked to do it again next year.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Isn't Mike Stevens Famous?

If your answer to the title of this blog entry is, "You're crazy. He is famous." congratulations. Mike Stevens is pretty well known in some some musical circles, notably bluegrass in the USA and folk roots in Canada, however Mike isn't nearly as famous as he should be. It's not an overstatement to call Mike a genius and a virtuoso and a master of his instrument - the ten-hole harmonica.

I first heard about Mike when I worked for CBC Radio in Windsor Ontario in the mid 1990s. One of my colleagues mentioned that a musician, a harmonica player from Sarnia, was on a short list for a Grammy nomination. I thought, couldn't be. If somebody in our neck of the woods was that big in music, I would know about him. So much for my extensive knowledge of the local music scene.

I eventually tracked Mike down. He sent me a stack of his records (CDs) which were all bluegrass. Turns out he had already won Entertainer of the Year in the Central Canadian Bluegrass awards each  year from 1990 to 1996. He had also played the Grand Ol' Opry a couple of hundred times, often with the classic bluegrass group Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys. But, after I met him, I realized there was so much more to Mike musically speaking. He has a passion for the blues and some seriously twisted rock and roll. He also plays with looping and does some wondrous gymnastics with  his little ten-hole harmonica, always without a net.

It was my proudest moment arranging an interview with Mike on Morningside with Peter Gzowski back in the 90s.

Since then Mike has become a lot better known in folk and roots music circles in Canada with a couple of releases on the Borealis label. He also recently won an East Coast Music Award for his duo release with blues guy Matt Andersen called Piggyback. Matt and Mike just recorded a new record at the Banff Centre a few months ago. I heard some rough mixes and I can't wait to hear the finished product.

I can't mention Mike without mentioning one of his great accomplishments as a philanthropist - ArtsCan Circle. It's a great organization that brings music - in the form of instruments and classes -  to young people on reserves in the North.

Mike is a good friend and he isn't as famous as he should be and this blog entry is my way of making him a little better known.

Here's an added bonus for you.. Guitar god David Lindley and Mike jamming on Lindley's hit "Mercury Blues"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Firsts and Bests

First 45: The Royal Guardsman "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" (I was 6, in cubs)

Best 45: Loving Spoonful "Nashville Cats" (I was likely about 10)

First LP I asked for: The Beatles "Sargeant Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band" (I was 12)

LPs I recieved for my Bar Mitzvah: "Hey Jude" The Beatles, "Rock & Roll" Vanilla Fudge

First LP I saved up for with my own money: Joe Cocker "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"
First CD Steely Dan "A Decade of Steely Dan" (Just bought my first CD player and at $20 it was the cheapest disc they had.)

Country Record that changed my life: Lyle Lovett self titled LP Lyle Lovett

Folk Records that changed my life: Nic Jones "Penguin Eggs"  The Roches self titled "The RochesBruce Cockburn "Night Vision" and "In The Falling Dark"

Rock Record that changed my life: The Who, "Live at Leeds"

Punk/New Wave records that changed my life: "Talking Heads 77," The Clash "London Calling" Elvis Costello "My Aim Is True"

Recent faves: