1.30.2015

Hip Hop samples Steely Dan, Steely Dan samples Horace Silver


Worlds collide.  They're bound to.  But the first few times they do always stay with you .  That Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz video Deja Vu (Uptown Baby).  I remember being sure it sounded like a song my dad and uncle would play on their record players.  It always gave me shivers.  I remember the video being shot in a big baseball stadium in my child brain.  I also remember knowing the beat, although I wouldn't have known the term - was 'sampled' from Steely Dan.  Something from Aja, maybe Peg or as it turned out Black Cow (MF Doom in 1989 later sampled the same cut on Gas Drawls). The Dan is of course ripe for sampling with its double rate session musicians and micro sampling of guitar solos by multiple guitarists. Its not a far stretch that their albums - post their debut Can't Buy A Thrill - when they moved past being a 'real band' to a studio band; if not The Studio Band; to describe their approach to the studio as an instrument as proto- Hip Hop.

(l to r) Walter Becker and Donald Fagen 


Prominent contemporary Hip Hop artists that have sampled Steely Dan include notably De La Soul on Eye Know which samples another Aja staple Peg.   Scene stealer Kanye West (before he became Kanye West- per se) sampled Kid Charlemagne (an ode to Owsley the LSD chemist working by 'candlelight'  that kept the West Coast lit up and the Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound - known as Bear in those circles- rolling down the road) on Graduation's Champion.  Ice Cube sampled Green Earrings from The Royal Scam on Don't Trust 'Em and Organized Konfusion sampled the same track a year before in 1991.

What's less known is that Steely Dan also 'sampled' or interpolated (replayed the hook or riff as a 'sample') on their own recordings.  One of their lesser known but deeply revered albums Gaucho does this to masterful effect on the title track Gaucho, interpolating Keith Jarreau's Long As You Know You're Living Yours (1974) throughout the song.

Most notably their most palatable AM Gold staple Rikki Don't Lose That Number faithfully pulls its central melody from the opening notes of Horace Silver's Song For My Father.  That ain't a rip off. That's an homage.

1.23.2015

The Golden Dogs - 3 1/2 preview

The Golden Dogs, despite their long standing as one of the most ferocious live bands in Canada and catalogue of critically acclaimed albums, have never quite gotten their due.

Like the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir (which cultivated the musicianship of Chris Brown and Kate Fenner, David Wall and Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman); or By Divine Right (which gave BSS founder Brendan Canning and Leslie now just Feist national exposure at the start of their careers); The Golden Dogs may be as well known for their own music as for giving many musicians a schooling and a start including Zeus' founder Carlin Nicholson and ace in the hole Neil Quin.

The high point of their career thus far has likely been playing the Hollywood Bowl touring in support of Feist with Sloan.  Not bad for a husband and wife team from North Ontario's Thunder Bay who met in an Italian wedding band playing polkas. It's hard to fathom the distance between Thunder Bay and Toronto unless you've driven it.  Every band that's crossed Canada- an improbable feat at times- knows that crossing the Ontario border heading East or hitting Thunder Bay is a cruel lie and means another 20 hours drive.  In Europe you could likely cross 10 borders in the same time.

When they originally descended to the Big Smoke The Golden Dogs fronted by the frenetic and inevitably sweat drenched Dave Azzolini and his wife, former keyboardist now drummer, Jess Grassia were a formidable force made up of other near Northern Ontarians from Sault St. Marie with a powerful debut Everything In 3 Parts (2003).   The Canadian Music press fawned over them deservedly.  Lineup changes have been consistent but the 'band' has always been a vehicle for Azzolini's formidable pop chops.  Big Eye Little Eye followed in 2006 to the same acclaim but 2010's Coat Of Arms failed to explode despite its considerable charms. In the same period their brohemes notably Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) and Zeus have gained international profiles and eaten their share of humble pie.  Afie's eaten the least.   His raffish good looks and breezy delivery (not too mention what they all share in common incredibly substantial guitar chops) have made him a steady commodity in soft seaters and cool kid clubs alike.  In short everyone's rooting for The Golden Dogs on this one appropriately titled 3 1/2.

Reinvigorated by Grassia's confidence in her role on drums and a strong new lineup with Stefanie McCarrol on keys and guitar and Alejandro Cairncross on bass live and on record the group is notably reinvigorated.  McCarrol and her brother Jay's group Brave Shores, at least with their booming single Never Come Down, are also getting considerable airplay with perhaps the most crossover appeal.  In that 3 1/2 embraces some of these electro touches it's a departure of sorts and an arrival in others.  Stefanie's presence, physically resembling and echoing Jess' enthusiasm at the same station, adds a welcome updated synthesized wash which carries across the recording.  Some of the polish is undoubtedly Carlin Nicholson's spit shine who mixed it at Sloan's studio.  The single Do It For You is in heavy rotation on the CBC and a video for the second single Decided (recorded live off the floor with Joao Carvalho at Revolution Recording) is due soon.  Caught recently Azzolini's enthusiasm was self evident:

"Regarding the sound we're going for.  I suppose it's a reflection of wanting to make super pop-y music and noisy-screamy-er stuff on one album. Songs that are friendly and songs that are abrasive."

2015 ALBUM RELEASE SHOWS

FEB 21 – Toronto, ON @ The Rivoli w/Jane's Party
FEB 27 – Ottawa, ON @ House Of Targ w/Ornaments
MAR 6 – Hamilton, ON @ This Ain't Hollywood w/High Kites, Chuck Coles
MAR 7 – Montreal, QC @ Divan Orange w/guests tba - buy tickets
MAR 13 – Kitchener, ON @ The Boathouse w/guests tba
MAR 20 – Kingston, ON @ The Grad Club w/guests tba
MAR 21 – London, ON @ Call The Office w/guests tba

St. Paul & The Broken Bones make Alabama proud


During the first day of Bonnaroo 2014 there was a palpable buzz about St. Paul & The Broken Bones.  Press/ VIP areas were at capacity, after the set the band was getting frequent mention from journos.  It wasn't frontman Paul Janeway's first time at the party according to Alabama.com.  Janeway, who has the swagger of a white Cee-lo or a modern day Wilson Pickett, an Alabama native worked the festival in Manchester, Tennessee two years earlier noting "he got peed on at the Jay-Z concert" and that if he saw the perpetrator he was going to thrash the lad.  But this isn't a one-man show as Matt Wake reported:



"St. Paul & The Broken Bones guitarist Browan Lollar laid down crisp proto-soul rhythms and even added some caustic rock licks in a place or two – would be nice to hear more of that color from this '60s Muscle Shoals minded group. 
Trombonist Ben Griner and trumpeter Allen Branstetter's punchy horn lines really moved some air. And their arrangements are quite interesting, ivy-like and interwoven into the songs, unlike many horns that can seem like after-though iron-ons. Bassist Jessie Phillips and drummer Andrew kept a deep, wide pocket throughout, and shifted dynamics in key places – breaking down to just vocals and drums here, guitar, bass and drums there. Although for the most part the sound was pretty good at front, I could have heard more of Al Gamble's percolating Hammond organ fills in the mix."
The Bones came briskly to national attention though when they appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman about a week back and Dave lavished sincere over the top praise on them for some time before he even let them begin (later noting that he and Paul Schaffer had tried to book the band for a wedding but one of the members couldn't make the gig).  The performance, which Dave asked them to play in honour of his retirement and 'as if I was dying', is singular, classy and blasting.  From their debut album Half The City the Pickett inspired Call Me (611-3369).

1.16.2015

Grateful Dead Core Four to reunite for 'final shows' at Chicago's Soldier Field July 3,4,5


As Billboard is reporting the Grateful Dead's core four members Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann will be reuniting (joined by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and one-time Dead pianist Bruce Hornsby).   Garcia died in August 9 of 1995 a day every Deadhead remembers where they were (ed. Waterton Lakes National Park, AB).  The Grateful Dead had already played their last concert a month before July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field.

Competition to promote this unique and potentially lucrative entertainment commodity was undoubtedly fierce.  As Billboard reports:

Competition to land the coveted booking was stiff, with such players as Goldenvoice's Paul Tollett and Live Nation mounting efforts to reunite the Dead at venues like the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif., the site of Coachella, and Bonnaroo (the latter, according to sources, offered the band $3 million for a headlining set -- and was rejected).
In the end longtime jamband promoter (and former Wetlands owner) Peter Shapiro unsurprisingly got the gig.  According to Billboard "Shapiro has an exclusive contract with Lesh and co-owns three Brooklyn Bowl locations... that are favorites of jam bands, as well as the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y.  where Anastasio previously joined Weir onstage."


Well yes that may all be true but things might have turned out much differently if Bob Weir hadn't had a rough day at The Palms on July 5 of last year when he and his band were contracted to play. Weir has a checkered history with highly inconsistent playing and what seems like some sort of combination of prescription drug abuse (what he calls a 'bad shoulder') and severe alcoholism. Weir collapsed onstage at the Capitol Theater in April of 2013 and infamously seemed to have been dosed during a show at the Nokia Theatre on July 28, 2010 (the youtube video has to be seen to be believed).  Weir who had apparently lingered at the bar after soundcheck, asked to 'take it easy' by Casino staff, allegedly hit on a waitress and was slapped.  Shortly thereafter Palms Casino Resort sent out a tweet cancelling the show (Ratdog his de facto cover band went on to play an actual set of covers):


Sorry to hear @BobWeir is under the weather, but RatDog is on stage now. Refunds can be obtained from the original point of purchase.

When Phil Lesh and Bob Weir announced in November of 2014 that they were disbanding their post-Dead vehicle Furthur (named after the Merry Pranksters school bus vehicle of the same name) it was a foregone conclusion it was to resurrect the Grateful Dead one last time.   Let's not forget that in addition to Phil's band Phil Lesh and Friends (the true standard bearer of their songbook), Bob's Ratdog, Furthur and previous incarnations simply The Dead and the Other Ones it's safe to say they've given this a long drawn out ride.  But Bobby's various stumbles and falls his made it impossible for any band by any name that included Bob Weir as a member to get tour insurance which paired down considerably original plans for the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead.

 As the situation evolved insiders speculated that because of the insurance situation the band was likely to stick to the East Coast and go with a promoter they were familiar with doing residencies at friendly venues (at the time it was speculated more than three days) akin to the Allman Brothers Band's annual Beacon Theater residency (and final shows this year). In addition to Bonnaroo they turned down the upstart Lock'n festival as well as month long residencies at the Warfield and Radio City. So in the end they went with the familiar promoter but a stadium over three days.   From appearances they've made the best of the situation and settled on a single venue (one insurance policy?) Soldier Field that has great history and resonance with the band.

None of this should make light of what will undoubtedly be a magical occasion over three days of music  The addition of Anastasio but in particular Hornsby is a very smart touch.  While the core four members remarkably stayed consistent over the bands thirty year touring history their keyboardists were akin to Spinal Tap's drummers.  Everyone has their favourite periods and a major factor is who the keyboardist was at the time.  Few would doubt that Hornsby brought something very special during his brief tenure with the Dead and that he had a capacity to bring out greatness in Garcia- embolstering him at a time he very much needed it.