I was introduced to Tchaikovsky through Fantasia without knowing who I was being introduced to. When I bought my first real stereo: turntable, speakers, receiver – from Radio Shack – the first album I played on it was a recording of his first piano concerto. It was a wow moment. 

Since then my collection of his work has grown from box sets to cassettes & to cd box sets & mp3. buy Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian 1840 –1893) I have as stand-alones: Queen of Spades 3 cd, Nutcracker ballet, 1812 Overtures & other orchestral work, Complete Piano & orchestra 2cd, Complete String Quartets 2cd, Choral Work, Violin Concerto w: Beethoven: Violin Concerto 61.

On 3cds of mp3 I have the Complete Symphonies, Complete Solo Piano Music, Piano Concertos, Orchestral works: Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Ballet Suites, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Nutcracker; Violin Concertos. Rounding out the cds are Dvorak: Four-Hand Piano; Prokofiev: The Buffoon ballet; Berloiz: Romeo & Juliet ballet; Stravinsky: Firebird.

Some duplicates but each version is a different interpretation. Melodic, lyrical, some radical at the time, romantic, over-the-top, melodramatic & sometimes saccharin & sentimental – what’s not to like? Some of the music barely contains his personal inner turmoil around his queerness – at time when it was a capital offence – actually in Russia I think it still is.

The ballet suites are a good introduction to his music. The whole ballets can be a bit much without dancers 🙂 The Queen of Spades opera is pleasant enough. His string quartets are sublime. If you want melodrama, melody & heartbreaking romance this is the composer for you.

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I bought a cassette of If I at the Radio Shack in the Zeller’s Mall (now the Sydney Shopping Centre) when I was living in Cape Breton. In fact that is where I bought my first stereo system. They had a rack of discontinued, discounted cassettes from which I bought music that never showed up at the local record shop. We’re talking early 70’s.


This British band has a great jazz sound – a British Blood, Sweat & Tears. I loved that cassette. Each track is sweet & still contemporary – it could be released this week & sound fresh. Dockland is brilliantly moody. The horn work is superb, as are the lyrics, the singing.

I kept my eye out for more by them for decades. Nothing else by them reached Cape Breton. None of my music buddies ever heard of them. They got reviewed by the US rock press: ie Rolling Stone. As far I know they never had a hit song. When I upgraded from cassette to CD this was one cassette I wanted to replace before the tension was shot but I could find nothing. It was as if they disappeared. Then in I found a 2008 CD compilation ‘What Did I Say About The Box Jack’ of tracks from heir first albums. I was happy to hear those songs I knew & some that I had never heard. The booklet was excellent too.

When I finally upgraded my internet to high speed I did a search & downloaded mp3 version of their first two lps & a live concert from 1972. If you are unfamiliar with If, that first lp is worth tracking down. Or if it’s still around the 2008 compilation.


‘You’re nothing but trouble.’ Drak resisted the temptation to hit. He knew hitting would get some response but would also slow things down. And things were going badly enough as it was. ‘You hear me? Trouble.’

‘Yes,’ Steve stepped back. ‘Sorry. I’m …’

‘I know what you are trying to do.’ Drak lost control and the back of his hand smacked Steve across the cheek before he could stop himself. Struck Steve twice more and was stopped on the third blow by a hand that clenched his wrist. Hurt it.

‘Enough of this. There’s too much at stake for you two to be playing at enemy with each other.’

‘Sorry Sis Care’

‘Sorry Sis Care.’

The two men were ashamed.

‘But he …’

‘Drak,’ Sis Care stood firmly before them. ‘I don’t want explanations or excuses. I want action. Not infighting. You know that.’

‘Yes.’ Drak answered.

‘You both understand that?’

‘Yes,’ Steven muttered.

‘Drak, you understand that don’t you?’ Her face was inches from his interface.

‘Yes, Sis Care. It’s just that …’

‘I said, no explanations and no excuses. This one is the last one.’ She tapped the laser pistol at her side. ‘I don’t need much to make me use this. You both know that.’

‘Yes,’ they replied.

‘Okay. Now we have less than ten minutes before we rejoin Group R. Have you laid all the trip wires?’

‘Three to go but Steve here was …’

‘Drak, cut the crap. Three to go and they take five minutes each to set. We have ten. Get your asses in gear.’

The three of them laid the trrace2 wire filaments along the base of the copter pad and over the catwalk entries. Once all of these optic paths where broken the blast would be set off..

‘Hurry up,’ Sis found herself impatient with Steve. ‘What are you fumbling with there anyway?’

‘Sorry, I get …’ Steve reddened as the ply slipped from his hands.

‘Give it to me.’ She snatched it up. ‘I’ll finish this off.’

As she picked it up Steve stepped on her hand.

‘Not so fast, Sis.’

She had her laser in her hand before he could react. A blast ripped through his arm and sent him sprawling ten feet away from her.

‘What …’ Drak raced over.

‘I guess he wasn’t your fault after all. Okay we’re done here. Let’s go.’

‘What about?’ Drak nodded at Steve.

‘Leave him. He’s not one of ours.’

every Tuesday 2019

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 
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Fleetwood Mac

By Fleetwood Mac I have on various mp3 collections Mac; English Rose; Chicago Jam; In Chicago; Play On; Penguin; Fleetwood Mac; Tusk; Tango in the Night. As well as stand alones a pair of 2 cd sets: Black Magic Woman; Very best of. So you might say I’m bit of a fan but I started following them long before they became huge.

My first Fleetwood Mac was the lp Play On – it was the cover art that attracted me. The music was an odd mic or rock, blues & an odd strain of jazzy prog rock. Rattlesnake Shake rocked out. It was an lp I always enjoyed because of the range of styles it covered. Then at Radio Shack I found cassette of their early stuff which was more basic British blues & I really enjoyed it. It was a revelation to hear the original Black Magic Woman. A song Santana transformed.

They sort of vanished except for the instrumental Albatross then abruptly resurfaced with that new line up, that new sound & I was fan of their radio-friendly work. I had some of these as Lps at the time & was happy to replace them with mp3. Big Love was great video. The emotional soap of their relationships produced great music – so good it was more compelling, to me, than the emotional soap of their relationships.

Thanks to high speed (as opposed to dialup) I tracked down more of their early releases like English Rose & the legendary In Chicago where they jam with the likes of Willie Dixon. The stand alone’s are nice completions of the early Black Magic Woman era & then one of the resurgence with live takes of their hits. Also tucked on a shelf is Chicken Shack: a solid blues band that included  Christine Perfect before she joined Mac.



John stood in the small chapel. A narrow window let some light fall on the cross half way up the wall. A rough pine bench with a cloth over it was the altar. All was silence

Fort Harwood was empty when they arrived. The surge of expectation and hope they had felt when they had first seen it quickly evaporated.

Silent and empty and cold. It was like a house waiting for someone to move in. A house in which no one had ever lived.

None of the small huts outside the walls of the fort or the barracks inside held any hint of occupancy.

‘Too clean picked for Injuns.’ Pete sucked air through his broken smile. ‘Can’t see a sign of anything. Not a scrap.’

There was wood for fire, water in the well, hay for the horses.

John made sure he’d looked in every room at least once. Opened cupboards, glanced under beds even pried up floor boards that had tramped hollow under foot. Nothing.

He’d kept the chapel for last. Frank had already been through he knew but he had to be here with himself before he’d believe.

He put his Bible on the altar and knelt. He opened the first page and read the names of his family. Mothers, fathers, children, going back several generations. He would call those spirits into this place. This was all he knew to do. Each name was a link in the rosary of his life that he knew would take him into the future so that he would hand this book down to his children to dot eh same.

‘Preacher Boy! Taking to yourself?’

‘No.’ John stood with his family around him. ‘Clyde you could do with a little of this yerself don’t you think.’

Clyde stepped back. ‘Watch you mean? I got no time for God and all that. He hide the people here? He look after them or what? There was a couple of hundred here last fall and where are they?’

chapbooks for sale


HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

November 1-30

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