Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Press Play> Vol. 18 Valdy, Singer Songwriter, Canadian Folk Icon

Valdy is the first musician who has contributed to my blog who I can call a true musical icon.

He helped define the roll of the singer songwriter in Canadian music when he emerged in the 70s. Many of the big names in music north of the 49th will tell you about Valdy's influence on their music.

He has been around the Canadian music scene for four decades. He has a stack of music awards: gold records, Junos and such. It will also come as no surprise to people who know Valdy and his music that he was named to the Order of Canada in 2011.You can find out more about him on his website. Here is his entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

While the troubadour flies under the radar of mainstream pop music, he continues to tour and perform across North America solo or as a duo with his friend and fellow Salt Spring Islander Gary Fjellgaard.

I've seen Valdy perform a dozen, maybe two dozen times over the years. Every time I see his show I am reminded of his many talents as a singer, a songwriter, guitar player and as an overall entertainer. I have never left a Valdy show without a smile on my face.

He calls the song Play Me A Rock 'n' Roll Song (video below) "my hit" but he had a number of hit songs on Canadian radio, particularly in 70s and 80s including: A Good Song, Simple Life, David Bradstreet's Renaissance (Let's Dance That Old Dance) and Bob Ruzicka's Yes I Can (Anyway You Want Me).

I bumped into Valdy during his recent stop in Calgary to play a couple of local folk clubs including my own home club The Nick, and I asked him to PRESS PLAY>. He obliged. I think you'll find his musical choices as enlightening and entertaining as a Valdy performance.

What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

Christine Bougie (lap steel) her album called Aloha Supreme

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?

Henry Mancini Music from Peter Gun

Leon Russell Delta Lady

Carol King Tapestry

What was the first record you bought?

Jimmy Yancey Barrelhouse, Boogie Woogie and Blues

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Cohen and Warnes
Leonard Cohen's Song for Bernadette by Jennifer Warnes (from Warnes' record of Cohen songs Famous Blue Raincoat.)

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

None, there is no guilt in aural pleasure.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

Victor Mecyssne Skinnybones

Which of your records is your favourite?

Coastline of Our Dreams: the Songs of Ian Tamblyn

(Musical Immigrant's note: Valdy's track on this tribute record is Long Lost French Cafe. I find it interesting that Valdy chose a tribute album to a fellow singer-songwriter, Ian Tamblyn, as his favourite recording even though he has about 14 albums and 22 singles to his credit. I emailed and asked him to elaborate. If I hear back I'll let you know.)

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't?

I look for the good in what I invest in; the CDs laid on me are often ghastly, but that doesn't answer your question, does it. Quiet Nights by Diana Krall was a bit too sleepy for me, lovely lush strings, but a turn down a different road stylistically. I like her bop.

Valdy has a new record 
Read Between the Lines 
Find it at his website 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bieber is the Devil

Sinatra didn't write songs, couldn't read music or play an instrument.
I find my fellow baby boomers on social networking sites increasingly annoying, particularly when they express their opinions about "today's" music.

It's always the same thing. "The new stuff isn't as good as the old stuff.. blah blah blah Justin Bieber is satan.. blah blah blah."

This suggests that 1) Bieber represents all that is evil in pop music 2) there isn't great music being made today 3) there was no bad pop rock music in the 60s and 70s.


As long as there's been pop music there have been teen idols for teenage girls to adore and for parents to role their eyes at.

The songs they sang in past decades were pretty much the same sappy silly "baby, baby ooo baby" songs of today. The only differences are hip hop and autotune.

Bobby Sherman comes to mind. In Sherman's recording career he earned seven gold singles, one platinum single, and five gold albums. He had a career total of seven top 40 hits.

Here's a youtube video that shows Sherman was no better or worse than Bieber. 

A quick look at the 1969 U.S. music charts shows the Beatles Get Back, the
Rolling Stones Honkey Tonk Woman and the Doors Touch Me were in the top 10 along with the Archies Sugar Sugar and Tommy Roe's Dizzy.  In fact the Archies charted higher than the Beatles, the Doors and the Stones.

I was 7 or 8 when my brother Gary brought home our first Beatles singles but even I remember the mainstream media made fun of the Bealtes, their look and their music.

"Yeah Yeah Yeah. What kind of noise is that? Kids these days don't know what good music is."

My point is this: listen to the music you like and yes of course, go ahead and hate Justin Bieber. His music is not for you anyway because you're not a 12 year old girl.
Remember your parents thought your music was shit too.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Soul of a Collector

I am not a collector, or so I keep telling myself.

My record collection, my CDs and LPs, are not in any great order. I have some that are organized by artist but mostly it's one big amorphous mess. Thank goodness computer files sort of sort themselves out or I'd never find anything.

I call myself an "accumulator" not a "collector" but upon recent reflection, that may not be entirely accurate. I recently paid $22 for a vinyl copy of Phil Ochs Greatest Hits which, if you know about the late 60s protest singer and contemporary of Bob Dylan, isn't really a greatest hits record.

(By the way $22 bucks is way more than I usually pay for a record of any kind.) 

I have slowly been accumulating (collecting?) Phil Ochs' records on vinyl. Why specifically him over, oh let's say Uriah Heep or Laura Nyro? I'm not quite sure. I love his voice. His songs are well written and performed. I lean his way politically but not radically so.

My interest in his music was reinvigorated recently by watching a documentary about the man, his music and his eventual mental health problems that culminated in his suicide: Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune.

Len Wallace, Accordion Czar
and his squeeze boxes from hell
I can't remember when I first heard about Phil Ochs. A friend of mine was a friend of Ochs, Michael Asch, who was my neighbour when I lived in Edmonton and whose father, Moses Asch, founded Folkways records. It may have been from Michael.

Or it might have been from Len. My good friend Len Wallace does the best Ochs covers of anyone and I still think he should do an entire record of Ochs songs.

I guess it's no surprise these important and talented people have influenced me to hunt down Ochs' records but he's not the only artist that has triggered this obsession.

Warren Zevon  

I can pinpoint the exact moment that inspired my quest for a complete Warren Zevon collection. I went for a walk on a nice summer day in Calgary. A walk is always an opportunity to listen to music uninterrupted. I plugged in the iPod and began listening to my newly purchased Warren Zevon record Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings. It includes canned interviews Zevon had recorded for his record company. The questions were lame. Zevon's answers were amazing. His humour and genius came through.

It became my goal to own all his material on CD and all his vinyl, even the ungodly ugly picture disc of Werewolves of London which I bought on eBay for way too much.

I had been a fan of Zevon's since university and I picked up most of his records over time. I remember hearing about his tragic death and even remember seeing Bob Dylan perform a Zevon cover at a concert as a tribute to the dying singer, although I never got to see Zevon perform live which I heard was a crap-shoot at best.

There was something about hearing the interviews on that record that rekindled my interest. It revealed his musical genius and prompted me to devour his biography I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, The Dirty Life and Time of Warren Zevon. I then proceeded to buy every title.

In both cases the artist is dead so the collections are finite  of course. They also aren't generally considered "collectible" artists (like the Beatles and Elvis) which means their recordings aren't prohibitively expensive, lucky for me.

Looks like I am an accumulator and occasionally a binge collector and I can quit whenever I want. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Don't Miss Vinyl

Everybody's all about the Vinyl these days.

Sales of vinyl records are booming in North America and the U.K. The annual Record Store Day (April 12, 2012) brings thousands of people into small independent record stores to buy special releases and reissues (LPs and singles), and to flip through the racks to relive their childhoods.

Of course hipsters are there rubbing elbows with the boomers because vinyl is "a thing" these days.

It's all hip and everything to pine for the days of vinyl but I say nostalgia causes amnesia. Vinyl records often sucked so get over it.

Here's what I don't miss about vinyl records.

1) Ticks and pops. I remember buying brand new records. I'd put them on a decent turntable, not the best you can buy but pretty good, and there it was a crackle or a skritch and you'd put up with it.

2) Skips.  Sometimes the "skip" would happen on the second or third playing, even if you handled the record with greatest of care. So? Where's the receipt? And even if you had it, it was used goods.

3) Warpage. Ever leave one in a hot car a little too long? Game over.

4) 45 RPM Singles. They were hard to store, hard to play and just bad.

5) Having to flip over to side two.

What I DO miss about vinyl records.

1) Cover art. Love love love. I do buy records these days. Some old favourites, some new releases and the deal maker is usually a great cover. I lament that art as it relates to music tends to be a bit bigger than a postage stamp on an MP3 player. It's nice to look at digital pictures I suppose but I want record covers I could possible hang on the wall in a frame.

2) Bad cover art. Thank goodness for the internet. Here's what you should do. Google "bad cover art records" and it will send you to websites like this one and this one and you can laugh and cry while you look at many many bad record covers (like the one on the left!)

3) Liner notes. One of the great pleasures of LPs and CDs is holding a cover, insert or book in your hand to read who plays what, the lyrics and who wrote what song and anything else the musicians wanted to share. I know websites serve that purpose, and yes Wikipedia can tell you EVERYTHING but I still enjoy the tactile experience akin to opening a book and reading along to the music.

Audiophiles say analogue is warmer and digital doesn't reproduce the music authentically. Frankly, I've never been able to tell the difference and I know the ticks and pops are gone. And, while CDs scratch and files are sometimes corrupt, it has been my experience that digital music works.

I once owned about 4000 vinyl records. I sold about 3500 of them to a friend before I moved back to Alberta from Ontario. Those crates would have added thousands of dollars to my moving costs.

I imagine some of those records are now worth more than when I sold them but I don't miss them. I brought about 500 of my faves along with me along with many crates of CDs.

And of course I have a computer full of music files.

I love that I have an iPod with about 20,000 songs that I can carry or plug into my car stereo. I love that I have access to gazillions (the official number I think) of records on many legal download sites. I'm happy to be a musical immigrant with this much music at my fingertips in all shapes and sizes and ones and zeros.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Press Play> Vol.17 Terry Tufts, Singer Songwriter, Guitarist

Terry Tufts is an unsung hero of Canadian music. You owe it to yourself to become acquainted with the wonderful songs he crafts and sings and with his incredible guitar playing. He is up there with Cockburn and Fearing. Yes folks he's that good.

Of course the place to start is his website and you'll also find his music on the Borealis music label. If you're lucky to live in the corner of Ontario where Terry lives, you might even see him perform live.

(Here's his bio from his website.)

"Terry Tufts is a finger-style guitarist living off-grid with his wife and daughter in the bush in North Frontenac, Ontario.

He has been playing music for enjoyment since 1963 and as a profession since 1974. His father's job with the Canadian Government moved the family to Denver, Colorado in the U.S. in the 1960's at a time when the folk and rock music genres were influencing opinion everywhere. Other postings that influenced him musically took him to Ottawa and Rome. 

Upon returning to Canada to complete high school, he irremovably stuck his head into the soundhole of an acoustic guitar. He suffers from the affliction to this day, coupled with frequent electric outbursts that last long into the night.

David Francey and Terry Tufts
In 1974 he moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to begin pursuing his own musical career as a singer-songwriter and guitarist.

As well as performing his own material, he has worked as a session musician and sideman for a variety of artists including Tom Paxton, Kathryn Briggs, David Francey, Colleen Peterson, Laura Smith, Laura Bird, Ian Tamblyn, Lynn Miles, Bill Garrett and Sue Lothrop, Charlie Sohmer, The Arrogant Worms, Wayne Rostad, Susan Aglukark, Tracey Brown, and George Fox."

I had the good fortune of hosting Terry and his family in my home when he performed at the Windsor Folk Club in Windsor, Ontario. A few years ago he visited my home in Calgary during a Western Canadian tour including a gig at the Nickelodeon Folk Club.

Terry doesn't gig much outside his backyard these days. I'm told his performance in January, 2012 at the Acoustic Grill in Picton, Ontario was recorded. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that record when it's available.  

Terry Tufts is not only an amazing musician but a wonderful and warm human being and a dear friend. Last time I saw him, he gave me and my family a private concert in our living room. That's not going to happen again very soon so thank goodness for Youtube.

Terry Tufts and I reconnected via email and of course I had to ask him to
PRESS PLAY> and as I expected, his answers were, for the most part, unexpected.

What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

Same thing I've been listening to since 1973: Space Opera out of Fort Worth/Dallas. It's some of the most intelligent music to have come out of the early 70's - Byrds/Zappa/Stravinsky.

Reams and reams of electric 12 strings, harmonies to die for, quality vocals.

What they did with 16 tracks out does ANYTHING being done with more and no voice tuners

I could have had a pension, I could have been a doctor, but after hearing this album, nothing could bring me back into the fold. 

Guitars still rule.

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?

Space Opera - Space Opera

Gordon Lightfoot's 1st album

John Martyn - Solid Air 

Pentangle This is Pentangle

What was the first record you bought?

The Beatles - Help the 45 rpm single

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

That I perform? You Can Discover by John Martyn. (Originally on Martyn's 1975 album Sunday's Child.) Nothing comes to mind that I listen to.

(Musical Immigrant's note: "Terry performs other terrific covers including a version of With A Little Help From My Friends (Beatles) and I Remember You (Frank Ifield) both on his Two Nights Solo record and a wonderful cover of For Lovin' Me on a "various artists" Gordon Lightfoot tribute record called Beautiful.")

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Space Opera

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

Space Opera

Which of YOUR records is or are your favourite(s)?

None of them.. Hate 'em all. Kill 'em all and break the eggs. Redo EVERYTHING.

(Musical Immigrant's note: "He may hate them all but there are incredible songs on all of them. I love his last studio record A Better Fight. My favourite song is Black Velvet Elvis.

If you are new to Terry's music the one I'd recommend you buy first is Two Nights Solo. It is Terry the way I love him, just voice and acoustic guitar PERFECT.")

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't?

Space Opera. Like I said. I could have had a pension, I could have been a doctor.

Contact Terry HERE

Buy Terry's records HERE and through his website.