Best thing about Monsters vs Aliens

I waited for the DVD to see this one and I enjoyed it ginormically. But my favourite part was hearing the B-52′s Planet Claire during the credits. I loved that album when, yes, such things as albums were being out, girls and boys! I was reciting all the lyrics before they came on to the incredible frustration of my kids. In fact Karen and Emily threatened death when I started snapping my fingers (apparently not to the beat… but if they could just hear that off-beat in my head!) and Justin went directly to special features as soon as he could find the remote. I will watch this DreamWorks gem again although I may have to wait till I’m alone to turn up the credits!

Best Christmas Albums

  1. Bruce Cockburn‘s Christmas.  This is the perfect album for Christmas time balancing traditional songs in Bruce’s own arrangements with very interesting songs including Iesus Ahatonnia which is The Huron Carol done in as close to the aboriginal lyrics as possible and the ancient Riu Riu Chiu from Spain.
  2. Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone just for the title track which is a heart rending lyric sung in a contrasting melody to the Good King Wenceslas piano part.
  3. A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio which is a wonderful blend of jazz and Christmas favourites.
  4. Fairytale of New York by the Pogues is an unusual tune that really gets under your skin.

Please comment with your own favourites so I can expand my collection!

Intangible Asset Number 82

This documentary is Australian jazz giant Simon Barker’s journey to discover the influences of a Korean drummer/Shaman named Kim Seok-Chul. Director Emma Franz takes us, sensitively, along. Simon is not allowed by his contact, Kim Dong-Won, to see Seok-Chul right away. There is a lot of resistance there although Simon doesn’t know, at first, why. Is the master drummer, who is regarded as such a national treasure by his country that he is Intangible Asset Number 82, being protected from the foreigner? Is he not worthy?
The truth was that Kim Seok-Chul was very ill and in hospital but also that Dong-Won wasn’t sure it would be right to present Simon to him. Would the Australian drummer actually understand the honour? Would he be worthy? So, as a process, Dong-Won goes on a trip with Simon to visit other musical Shamen. The singer Bae Il-Dong is one. This is a singer who lived in the wilderness in a hut he built beside a waterfall for seven years, singing up to 18 hours a day. Learning to out-sing the noise of the falls. Il-Dong considers the mountain as yin and the valley as yang with the waterfall the holy place where yin and yang meet. His is a powerful, raw voice that seems too big and too much noise for the Western ear. But he sings pure nature and without fear or ego. I would love to hear him in concert.
Simon also learns about drumming with his entire body. To begin throwing himself down on the ground as if in mourning to learn to let go and relax into the music. And to listen to his own heart for true rhythm.
Near the end, Seok-Chul has left the hospital and Simon does get the chance to visit with the master three days before he dies. We, as voyeuristic companions, get a rare glimpse into some of the final hours of a man revered by his family and society. It is impressive and touching.
I learned, in the end, a great deal about South Korea and music in this wonderful and powerful documentary. I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone!
This was the first of the five documentaries I saw during the 2009 Guelph Festival of Moving Media.

The Art of Time on Abbey Road

The family and I attended the September 26 Art of Time Ensemble performance of Abbey Road at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. This was the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ album and each song from it were tackled by different Arrangers and a very talented group of singers and musicians. You can see pictures from it here.

So why did I wait for over a month to report on Andrew Burashko’s homage to the Beatles that night? It was an awesome concert and it affected me incredibly: likely the best concert I’ve been to for years. But I lack the language to describe what happened musically and emotionally that night. It was amazing.

The singers were:

  • Steven Page
  • Sarah Slean
  • Andy Maize
  • Alejandra Ribera
  • Kevin Hearn
  • Raine Maida
  • John Southworth

The Arrangers were:

  • Shelly Berger
  • Gavin Bryars
  • Robert Carli
  • Kevin Fox
  • Jonathan Goldsmith
  • Jim McGrath
  • Roberto Occhipinti
  • Dan Parr
  • Cameron Wilson

The Musicians were:

  • Andrew Burashko / Piano
  • Benjamin Bowman / Violin
  • Greg Campbell / Viola
  • John Johnson / Sax
  • Amy Laing / Cello
  • Rachel Mercer / Cello
  • Joe Phillips / Bass
  • Doug Perry / Viola
  • Rob Piltch / Guitar
  • Rick Sacks / Percussion
  • Stephen Sitarski / Violin
  • Michael White / Trumpet

An Acoustic Evening with Al Stewart with special guest Dave Nachmanoff

A long title but that was the name of the event that Karen and I attended last night in Kitchener. It was one-night-only at the The Gig Music Hall (137 Ontario St) and we showed up early and so had front row seats. We have been Al Stewart fans for many years and it was great to see and hear some of the fruits of this troubadour’s unique and prolific music career in a fairly intimate setting.  Highlights for me were “On the Border”, “Travellin’ Javelin Salesman”, “Bedsitter Images” and, even though he professes he doesn’t like it, “Year of the Cat” which was laughingly bracketed with “Wild Thing” with amazing solos by Dave Nachmanoff! Stewart’s interesting voice and songwriting are still as captivating as ever.

Dave Nachmanoff played some of his own music before each of the two sets and accompanied Al on a Martin without a cutaway with incredible dexterity and style. I liked his “The Loyalist”, “Lucky” and “Sophia”.

Some of the other songs they did together last night were:

  • Football Hero
  • (A Child’s View of) The Eisenhower Years
  • Angry Bird
  • Bedsitter Images
  • Midas shadow
  • Lord Grenville
  • Palace of Versailles
  • Night Train to Munich (which he changed to to Night Train to Antwerp on the spot)
  • House of Clocks

I had been hoping for my favourite Al Stewart songs “Roads To Moscow” and “Nostradamus” (both from the Past, Present & Future album) but you can’t have everything, especially when forced to choose from a body of music as large as his!

The history made alive by Stewart’s music continue to inspire me to learn more about our past. One of his inspirations, he said last night, was to challenge himself with the most disparate things he can think of such as putting together Javelins and a Salesman.  And he did a whole album on wine (Down in the Cellar – 2000) — I’m going to have to get that one.

It was great evening!

The Songbook 3 featuring Melanie Doane

I am big fan of Melanie Doane’s work but the concert I attended last night at the Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre blew my mind. This performance and the repeat show tonight are the last in the Art of Time Ensemble series this year.

Featured were songs by Irving Berlin, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, April Wine, Joel Plaskett, Gene MacLellan, Hank Snow, Stan Rogers, Kathryn Rose, Kim Mitchell, Don Messer and Leonard Cohen.

I’m not done this review as I need more time to digest what I saw but there are still tickets available for tonight’s performance and I would urge anyone in the Toronto area to go if you have the time!

Very, very highly recommended.

Faust by Piano

Robert Bruce is a Hamilton composer who has become well-known there and in Cambridge for, among other things, accompanying Buster Keaton silent films with original piano playing. He’s doing F.W. Murnau’s film Faust (1926) at Cambridge Galleries on Thursday at 7:30. Playing accompaniment live like this takes a great deal of skill and if you haven’t experienced it you might want to give it a try. The truly expert player makes you forget that you’re there listening to a unique performance. He or she provides the atmosphere to make you become engrossed in the moving picture. I have seen several performances by Robert and have enjoyed each and every one. I’ve watched many Keaton films on a DVD with canned music but it’s just not the same. There’s an amazing synergy when you see a film with live music that is hard to express. I’m looking forward to see what he does with this classic Faust movie.
More information is available here.
Very highly recommended.

Rock Band for the Wii

Karen bought Rock Band and I am impressed by it so far even though I was against the expense. It is more challenging than Guitar Hero III in many ways, especially with the solo buttons up the neck. The drum kit is pretty cool. I wonder if anyone has been able to use them as a legitimate instrument attached to a computer. It does have a USB connector after all.
I liked the initial song collection too, especially Blitzkrieg Bop, Roam and Roxanne. The kids will have to unlock the rest of the 63 songs to see them all.
I’m impressed at how much my youngest has learned about drumming (he’s a guitar guy) after only a day.

Smile and Wave

The band Smile and Wave, of which my daughter (Emily on voice and rhythm guitar) is a member, competed in a Battle of the Bands tonight at her high school. Other members are Dave Barrett (6 string electric bass), Alex Hart (drums) and Erwin Remigio (lead guitar). They did really well with their two songs Liar (written by Emily) and their cover of Stevie Nicks’ classic Edge of Seventeen.

Band Logo

I was impressed by the skill level that was evident in the other performers as well. In particular, there was one guy who played a very cool looking guitar that I was told he made himself for one song and played rocking bagpipes on another.
A very enjoyable evening all around!

Adam’s Rib

Melanie Doane is among my favourite Canadian musicians. Her album, Adam’s Rib, is an amazing album and well worth buying. I love the title track. For me the very poetic lyrics evoke an exploration of women in contrast to men, women’s ‘place’ in the bible, being overly protected in a relationship and much more. I hear more every time I hear it. Another reason I enjoy this track is for the driving violin. It sounds so classical at first and evolves into a great rock ballad. Doane’s skill on the violin is wonderfully in evidence through the entire album.
Each song is worth listening to, although I especially like “Goliath”, “Waiting For The Tide”, “There Is No Beautiful” and “Absolutely Happy”. I took the CD out of the car since I was afraid it was going to get scratched as I was fumbling for it so often. I just listened to it, in fact, while making pork chops and vegetables for dinner; the rib was the appetizer.

Very worth while!