Emergency Birds

On a couple of mp3 cd collections, as well as some stand-alones I have a fair bit of John McLaughlin.

Before John McLaughlin arrived on the US jazz scene he had released Extrapolations (1969) & was featured with Tony Williams’ Lifetime on the riotous Emergency (1969) two aggressive but straight ahead recordings that attracted the attention of Miles Davis who featured him on the monumental Bitches Brew (1970), Live Evil (1971) & several other Davis lps.

Davis inspired McLaughlin to create the Mahvishnu Orchestra that defined jazz-rock with an amazing series of lps: Inner Mounting Flame (1971), Birds of Fire (1973), The Lost Trident Sessions (1973 -1999), Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973 live), Apocalypse (1974) London Symphony, Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975), Inner Worlds (1976). In midst of which he recorded Love Devotion Surrender (1973) with Carlos Santana.

I love all of these jazz-rock lps. Most of which have been re-released with bonus tracks. As his Mahavishnu moniker indicates there is a more of eastern mystical influence but it doesn’t turn into proto-new age mush. My favourite is Birds of Fire. All are excellent. The Tony Williams is an energy rush that is also another highly influential lp & Williams drumming is epic.

He unplugged with Shakti (1976), A Handful of Beauty (1976), Natural Elements (1977) – turning his focus on an East Indian world music fusion. He remained unplugged with Passion Grace Fire (1983) in acoustic trio. Que Alegrias (1992) saw him return to his trio roots. After The Rain (1995) is fine tribute to John Coltrane.

Rounding of the cds is some by jazz violinist Jean Luc-Ponty: More Than Meets The Ear (1968)/ Aurora (1976)/Imaginary Voyage (1976), Jean was featured with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever & also worked with Frank Zappa! More Than is traditional while the later two are immersed in jazz-fusion. Sweet but perhaps a little too mystical.

Finally some Larry Coryell: Spaces (1970) that features him with McLaughlin, Spaces Revisited (1997); Monk ‘Trane Miles & Me (1999). Coryell us another of the jazz-fusion explorers & produced lots of great stuff before moving on, or perhaps that’s back, to a more conservative sound. Spaces is great, the Monk set offers good, solid explorations of jazz greats.



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Stratford Day Trips

pull up a chair

My day trips to Stratford always start the night before by getting my fluids ready – a travel mug with my personal mix of cranberry juice, coffee, & water – for drinking on the way there. For the drive home – A water bottle that is about 1/3 cranberry juice & the rest is water – plus a couple of snacks: a granola bar & a banana. I pick out a cd to listen to in the car – something that’ll amuse me & my partner. Last trip it was a compilation of Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald etc. 

motorcycles that buzzed beside us for an hour or so on the highway – like a pair of affectionate puppies

Before we leave in the morning around 9 a.m. I’ve already had breakfast, checked my email, meditated some, showered. We’ve taken the same route for decades – up the DonValley into the 401. Some days there are so many big rigs we can’t see the overhead signs :-(. Around 10:20 I’ll start in on my travel mug special. 

For the last many years that has been a constant expansion of the 401 so traffic often gets funnelled into fewer lanes & there is always a bottle neck just past the airport, & another one as we approach Kitchener/Waterloo. We make our first stop at a Tim Ho’s by the Conestoga Doon Campus – ballers are ready to be emptied to make room for Tim’s. I like their RedEye.

We take the New Dundee Road from there turning to a country road that takes us through Haysville, to another road through Shakespeare – where we stop at the Shakespeare Pie Shoppe for – pies! they made great seasons fruit pies & also excellent meat pies. Next stop lunch Stratford. We usually arrived by 11:30.

Most often we lunch at Features – good, unspectacular, reasonably priced food. Bacon & eggs are my go to there. This past year they changed location by a couple of blocks to bigger, brighter space. Once a season we go to Bentley’s. They do a great grilled cheese. 

If there’s time a stroll & a visit to the remaining bookstore before re-parking near the theatre of the day. Usually a visit to the gift shop, where, to be supported, I often force myself to buy a t-shirt lol. The drive home is usually twice as long for the same distance 😦 Traffic getting to Toronto is terrible. Made worse by big rigs that block overhead sign. That’s when the cd of the day does its soothing work. 

I usually take lots of photos with my camera & also cell pics to send to friends. They always envy the Pie shop shots. 

tarts galore at The Shakespeare Pie Shop

We’re already planning our shows for the Stratford 2023 season. Spamalot for sure, Richard II – a Shakespeare I’ve never seen, at least one of the other  Shakespeare & maybe Frankenstein. I feel a tingle in my bolts just thinking about it:-) 

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a short piece inspired by Haysville

The Petition

We had driven through Haysville many times on our way to Stratford. It was one of those small towns with little for tourists to do except maybe stop at the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. There wasn’t even a service-station with a Tim Horton’s.

The village became a bit of a joke because of the  ‘Children of Haysville’ sign on the edge of town: 

In the years we’ve driven through we’d never seen a child, or an adult for that matter. Never seen anyone go in or out of the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. The only car we ever saw in either direction was our own. Once I did notice some clothes drying on the line. All white, gently undulating in the afternoon sun.

We joked that if we stopped we’d never leave. We always stuck to the child-suggested speed limit then floored it when we got past the village limits.

This time there were yellow plastic streamers wrapped around the trees on either side of the road. We drove slower than usual.

Stapled to a plywood board tied to one 

of the trees by the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant was a large piece of paper. 

We stopped and got out of the car to see what it was.

It was a petition to halt an expansion of the highway to allow for larger trucks. A widening to extend the road on either side that would result in destroying the many hundred-year-old trees which had been marked with yellow.

We signed the petition. The Happy Pie Shop was closed for the day, so we got back in our car. 

The car wouldn’t start.

Around World Music

By Rip Slyme, a Japanese hip hop group I have Good Times (2010) a hits compilation. Think Beastie Boys in Japanese. Densely layered, sampled, bouncy & fun. Lyric content? Who know? The vocals are strong, emotional & hit that hip-hop rhythm. Having to identify with the lyrics is a blessing as it allows the vocals to be yet another layer to the sound not a layer of meaning that distracts from the sound. I ‘discovered’ them while researching Japanese pop for one of the characters in my novel Picture Perfect. This is hip-hop & not J-Pop.

I saw a Señor Coconut video & loved the playful surrealist images. Turns out this is actually one of several names for German electronica composer Uwe H. Schmidt, now living in Chile. Around the World (2008) is a sweet set of Latino. techno pop jazzy Latino music – elevated lounge music for today’s hipsters. I love it even though I’m no hipster. 

By Chieko Kinbara, the Japanese violinist, I have ‘A Espera’ (2002) a soothing Enya-esque set of song, relaxing without being Celtic or boring. Thanks to some electrobeat & ethereal vocals in what I presume is Japanese. Another I discovered in research for Picture Perfect. Too serene for the character in the novel though.

Alyans is Russian synth pop/rock band. I have Скачать и слушать На Заре (1987) 2000, «Сделано в белом» (1992). Another YouTube discovery after seeing a video of theirs & deciding I needed some Soviet pop in my collection. Think Bauhaus, Erasure but more somber with excellent synth work & broody vocals, & eyeliner. Who knew the Soviets even allowed such dangerous music. Three guys on keyboards & best of all you don’t need to understand Russian to enjoy the vibe. 

 Jeremy Dutcher: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (2018) Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer and activist. Add two-spirited as well. This is an amazing, dense, modern album that defies categorization. It won awards for best native aboriginal music but this is bigger than that as it straddles pop & classical & demonstrates that there is an accessible Canadian avant guard. 

 Finally by Sasanomaly, a Chinese water/performer I have Obake to Omocha Bako (2015) Similar to Chieko Kinbara this is gentle electrobeat that is not as ethereal but even not knowing the language it has a pleasant emotional pull. Goes against the grain of most JPop hyper bounciness. Similar to Troye Sivan.

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Mabon Harvestfest

A few months ago I came across a site Ye Old Rock Shop that offered, amongst other goodies, spell advent calendars. 24 days of spells that you do a day at a time. The kit includes the various crystals, herbs, candles, verses to do each of the daily spells. All are simple & other than the bath/shower ritual, take less than five minutes to do. I started the kit so that the last one would be on Mabon. I did changed the sequence so that the bath ritual would be the final one as my Mabon ritual cleansing.

Mabon is the Fall Equinox, bye-bye summer. I adapted a ritual from Llewellyn’s Mabon book. I added into my mix a loaf of bread I had a friend make that included fresh herbs from my garden – delicious bread. After sunset I crumbled some of the bread & scattered in the directions around my house. 

struck by lightening

On Saturday, Sept 24, I took in, with my bread-baking friend, Toronto Pagan Pride Harvestfest, held at Dufferin Grove Park – day of workshops, rituals, performances & of course, a market with vendors that were actually in sync with the occasion. The Fest fell nicely between Mabon & the new moon on the 25th.

heart of the matter

The weather was perfect. After a few cool days I was happy to swear shorts. Transit was uncomplicated – no unexpected shutdowns. Though the number of masked continues to drop. After a stop at Tim Ho’s we walked down to the Park, arriving around 11 a.m. The market was smaller than I expected but the quality of goods & vibes from the ‘retailers’ were welcoming. 

altar decoration

So welcoming I actually made a few purchases. Some lighting-struck oak bark! From Crown and Crescent . A spectacular green fluorite heart from Witch Plz . I loved the tiger eye pendants but I can’t wear jewelry 😦 I was hoping for more of a sabbath presence with Samhain approaching. But that’s a quibble. Overall I was happy to have taken it in, joined their Facebook Group  for other events. So mote it be.

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Brothers Glen and Buddy

Between 1962-66 Righteous Brothers had a string of hits thanks to the production work of Phil Spector. They did record other songs but even those have often been given the Spector treatment. I have ‘Gold’ a great collection of their best & their not so best. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had great voices but they were, as you might guess, not brothers. I have strong memories of hearing the hits on the radio but, at that time, wasn’t that taken by them – too adult & also it was considered romantic music for girls – not rock enough for boys. I’ve never heard a bad version of Unchained Melody – a song with a depth of longing that is hard to resist. The song was originally the theme song for the movie ‘Unchained’ about – of all things – a prison break.

Another hit-generator that just preceded my radio years is Buddy Holly (1936-59). On this mp3 compilation I have a hits collection ‘Gold’ & Rave On from June 2011, a tribute compilation with covers by the likes of Modest Mouse, Lou Reed etc. His tragic death turned him into an instant icon. His songs, for the most part are bouncy radio fodder. My favourite is Everyday. His clean-cut image is the opposite of  Elvis – Buddy was a safe idol for innocent teenage girls.

Yet another inescapable hit generator was Glen Campbell (1936-2017). Here I have The Best of, which includes Wichita Linesman. This was another singer I had little or no patience for in my teen years. Too laidback, too country, too romantic & banal. When he died in 2012 I gave a listen to some of those songs & the emotional pitch of his voice in Wichita Linesman is amazing. Subtle & sincere I suddenly wanted to have an affair with a linesman. lol.

I also downloaded his final studio lp Ghost on the Canvas  (2011) – recorded while he battling the Alzheimer’s which killed him. It’s a compelling, emotionally resonant & raw piece of work & stands well with similar ‘death bed’ works by David Bowie or Warren Zevon.  



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P.D.Q. Williamson vs Godzilla

I discovered Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) the Australian composer thanks to the music in the horror/suspense movie Crescendo. One plot thread was an unfinished concerto the music for which was provided by Williamson. This is how I sometimes discover music. On this mp3 cd compilation I have his Overtures & Complete Piano Concertos. Mid-century romantic with, at times, over-the-top emotionalism. Great stuff.

Peter Schickele (1935) goes back to my life on the east coast. He is a satirist & parody genius. Some of his parodies do require a but of classical knowledge but the absurdity or his quintet that includes bagpipes & lute is easy to grasp. Another piece is the copying of a dozen symphonies strung together – the origins of sampling? here I have Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742)? (1965); An Hysteric Return: P.D.Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall (1966). As stand-alone I have On Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach On the Air which features the hysterical play-by-play commentary on a performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as if it were a baseball game. 

Camerata Hungarica: Music to Entertain the Kings of Hungary 1490-1526 – this is divine renaissance songs & dance music for small ensembles. Mostly shorter works – sometimes energetic, sometimes soothing but all times delightful. If you want an accessible cd of this period this is the one for you.

Finally another movie discovery: Akira Ifukube (1914-2006) a Japanese composer best known for his works on the Godzilla franchise: Works for Guitar & Lute. His classical music is modern, melodic & not at all Godzilla like 🙂 it is, if anything, a contemporary equivalent of Music to Entertain Kings (without scaring them). 

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Rhinoceros Knickerbockers

I remember the hype for Rhinoceros (1967). Full page ads in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy by their second label Elektra. Elektra was a major player in the west coast scene with  bands like Paul Butterfield, The Doors, The Stooges – so expectations were high. Turns out the band created through auditions – just the Monkees. when their first self-named was released1968 it sold like hotcakes & then – well, the band sort of fizzled. The music was solid enough but didn’t live up to the hype.

I did buy the lp & was unimpressed & didn’t bother with the others until I decided some 40 years later to see whatever became of them. They did realize a couple of more Satin Chickens 1969; Better Times 1970 – which are solid but uninspired & not that focused. Footnotes not chapters to the west coast music scene.

The Castaways had one big hit in 1965 Liar Liar – which I loved. Garage rock built on driving Farfisa & guitar riffs. I have a ‘hits’ compilation that repeats that formula on standards like Hit The Road Jack & originals like Bad Hair Day. Disposable groovy unpretentious radio fodder that I dig. 

Another of those mid-60’s disposable groovy unpretentious radio fodder that I dug was The Knickerbockers whose one big hit was Lies. Garage rock built on driving guitar riffs. I have a ‘hits’ compilation that repeats that formula on a fun set of mostly original work. 

Speaking of garage rock built on driving guitar riffs. I have on this compilation The Kingsmen In Person (1963) that features the gold-standard of garage Louie, Louie. Some sources say this is actually a studio recording with the crowd dubbed onto it; others claim it is a live show. Who cares, it’s great fun.

Next is some great r’n’b soul by James and Bobby Purify (1966) who are cousins, not brothers. Their one major hit was I’m You Puppet. I have a hits compilation Shake a Tail Feather! which is bouncy, danceable fun. A bit more soulful is Britain’s Soul Sisters: I Can’t Stand It (1964). Not much info online about them so I don’t even know if they were actually sisters. There were enough US girl groups, i.e. The Supremes, The Crystals,  that the Soul Sisters never made an impact here. Worth searching out. 

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Symptomatic

 

A friend offered me a ticket to see Elton John here in Toronto. I said no thanks. Not because I don’t like Elton (though his single with Britany Spears is a piece of crap) but I’m unwilling to spend that length of time with that many unmasked or masked people sweating, shouting, singing along. I know masks are ‘strongly recommended’ but no longer mandatory.

To too many ‘strongly recommended’ means ‘unnecessary.’ I have friends who contracted covid after taking their masks off to have a drink at a Lady Gaga concert. So I’m not taking chances. I wear one in transit, when I go into any store, answering the door for food delivery. Even under the sarcastic gaze of people in a coffee shop not wearing theirs.

Yes, I’m paranoid. 

Three days after our recent Stratford day trip I did the home test kit to be extra sure. If I sneeze or cough I use that home test kit – everything is a symptom. Is that a mosquito bite or monkey pox? Am feverish or is it the 40 degree humidex that’s making me sweat at night. Don’t stand so close to me. Everything is a symptom. So far all my results have been negative but I’ll stick to caution. I’ve had all the boosters, so far & the monkey pox shot but they aren’t invisible shields of protection.

The test kits are sort of fun once one gets used to them. The directions are so small I needed a magnifying glass to figure them out when I first started. Now I feel like a miffed scientist (miffed as opposed to mad) when I self-administer the test & stir it up in the little plastic test tubes. Too bad they can’t be recycled somehow. 

There is no comfort in the governmental assurances than things are under control, that in Ontario, the proportion of vaccinated means quarantining is no longer necessary. I suspect the economy is more important & now that our heath system is being privatized think of the profits for those ‘health’ providers. They seem to forget that the dead don’t pay taxes & once their insurance or estates have been sucked dry by private providers there is no one to sue for the balance. 

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Rocky Road To Stirling

We recently went to Stirling, Ontario, to see a summer theater production of The Rocky Horror Show. I haven’t driven out this way since my last workshop at Loyalist, in Bellville. Weather was perfect. Our driver got a little turned around looking for a lunch spot, which we did find, but time lost meant we didn’t get to Stirling with time to do more than park & get into the theatre for an excellent show.

clear skies as we drive along
endless blue
Trent River locks
W. Front St. Stirling
stained glass in Stirling Festival Theatre lobby
box-office deco decor in Stirling Festival Theatre

https://www.stirlingfestivaltheatre.com/history/

small-town architecture
anyone want to open a b’n’b?

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Renwick Hermann Hair

I’ve shared the stage many times with Arthur Renwick at shows like the long-gone Cryptic Chatter. He is an amazing guitarist, singer-songwriter with a fine blues sensibility. This is a great cd of a live 2006 performance at the Renaissance Cafe. Infectious energy & a fine souvenir of days gone by. He can be found on SoundCloud.

On an mp3 cd compilation filed under ‘R’ for  Resistance Radio are soundtracks & show tunes. It starts with the Fantasy Film World of Bernard Hermann. This a great Hermann conducted set of suites from his soundtracks for movies such as Journey To The Centre of the Earth, The Day The Earth Stood Still.

I had the lp of the original Hair Off Broadway (1967) & loved it but my friends resisted its charm thanks to hits made of some of the songs by The Cowsills, The 5th Dimension & Harper Bazaar – they deemed it a bubblegum sell out. I had an lps to cd of it & when I found it re-released combined with the On Broadway (1969) cast lp I had to have it. Some songs are repeat but some in the off-Broadway were dropped & others put in. Elsewhere I do have the okay1978 film soundtrack & the more recent (2005) excellent Actors Fund of America Benefit Recording

Until The End Of The World a 1991 Wim Wenders film, tracks by the likes of Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed. I have very vague memories of seeing this film & thinking it was going on too long but the music was brilliant & some of these songs were, at that time, only available on the soundtrack.

Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle – TV series alt-history in which German wins the war so the radio plays hits of those times but as all cover versions such as Can’t Help Falling in Love by Beck. I haven’t see this series not have I red the novel but the concept of an alternative history that includes songs we know done by different people is great. I bought this for these excellent cover versions.

If you are Pink Floyd fan the group Blue Moon is for you. I have Matrix Spheres that is extended instrumentals that could be seamlessly dropped into any Floyd album.

I’ve seen Finnish actor Matti Pellonpää in several movies. An intense actor with great comic timing. TCM ran Boheemi elää/Bohemian Eyes: a 2011 documentary about his life Boheemi elää/Bohemian Eyes directed by Janne Kuusi. The soundtrack was evocative with some sublime musical saw & some tracks by his band. As a lover of obscurity I checked to see if this soundtrack was available & it was & it is wonderful.

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