Tuesday, June 30, 2009

music Tuesdays - Burton Cummings

It's the day before Canada Day and we are at the cottage. The weather has been okay, but not fantastic. At the moment, a thunderstorm is brewing. You know how there are certain records you pull out when it is raining? Well this is one of them for me. And it's Canadian, perfect to celebrate the birthday of this great nation.

Burton Cummings - Up Close and Alone

Burton Cummings has enjoyed an incredible musical career both as a solo artist and as one of the two front men of The Guess Who. In 1996 he released Up Close and Alone, a selection of songs from throughout his career. Recorded at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, the album features Burton and a piano. No other musicians. At times, it sounds as though there is a symphony on stage with him. He knows exactly how to manipulate the piano so that it sounds like there is a drummer, bass player, guitarist, or any other instrumentalist there. This album makes me want to practice piano again. Also the liner notes are excellent. Burton talks about each song and gives some great anecdotes. His banter on the recording is also great. One of the best tracks is his imitation of Gordon Lightfoot doing Rod Stewart. Very funny. I can't really pick a favourite track because they are truly all fantastic. But The Guess Who songs are probably the ones that really standout for me, particularly "These Eyes" and "Undun". A must for any fan of Burton Cummings or The Guess Who.

Friday, June 26, 2009

no one can hurt you now, because you know what's true...

I was 10 years old when Michael Jackson released Thriller. I was an awkward, sensitive kid who had trouble making friends and was always being teased. The class bully was the biggest and most vocal Michael Jackson fan in school. In my desperate attempt to be accepted by the girl who teased me more than anyone else, I became a Michael Jackson fan and made sure that everyone knew about it. Suddenly, the bullying stopped and I had made a new friend.

At that point in my life, I was too young to understand the importance of this record and Michael Jackson's contribution to pop music. Last year, when the 25th Anniversary edition of Thriller was released I didn't hesitate to download it even though I still have the original vinyl in my collection. The new edition came with lots of bonus footage including the Grammy Award performance from 1983 when he won 8 of the prestigious trophies for the Thriller album. What amazes me about this performance is that even though it was lip-synced, the audience went nuts. You never see people sitting in the first few rows at an award show standing up and dancing during a performance. Typically, this is where the artists and celebrities sit and they don't normally show that sort of enthusiasm at these types of things. But he was that engaging and charismatic on stage. And the music, was brilliant for its time. There was nothing else like it. At one point, you can even see the orchestra musicians getting into it, clapping and grooving along.

My guess is that few people really knew the person who was Michael Jackson. So much has been written about him in the press. His eccentricities, his troubled family, the allegations against him. We will never know what is true and what is fiction. But what I do know is that his music was a very important part of my growing up. That's what I choose to remember.

Thank you Michael. May you rest in peace.

ETA: Because I am an idiot, and went with my memory instead of doing research, I referenced the above video as being from the 1983 Grammy Awards. It's actually from the Motown 25 tv special from the same year. Oops. Thankfully, me error doesn't make the performance any less significant.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

music Tuesdays - Lee Harvey Osmond

Tuesdays are typically the day of the week when new music is released. So starting today, I'm going to attempt weekly album reviews. Well not really reviews. Mostly just me raving or bitching about some record in my collection. It may not be a new release, but just something I would recommend. Or not.

LeE HARVeY OsMond - A Quiet Evil

About a month or so ago, Elizabeth and I went to The Casbah in Hamilton to see LeE HARVeY OsMOND. This group is led my the enigmatic Tom Wilson (Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Junkhouse) and the album includes quite the lineup of Canadian talent including Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers, Margo and Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies and Colin Cripps to name a few. The album is a mix of sultry, bluesy, folksy, moody tunes and the band puts on one hell of a live show. I picked up the CD at the show that night but it's only appeared in the Canadian iTunes Music Store today. I give this one a "hell ya". Here's a little sample.

listening to you

When I was in the hospital with Alex, a woman came by from McMaster University who was involved with a study involving hearing and infants. Was I interested in participating? Sure. I filled out the form and forgot about it. Then last week, I received a phone call. They were looking for 5 month-olds to participate. It wouldn't be painful or intrusive. They would play sounds and measure the activity in Alex's brain. Sounded interesting, so I booked us in.

When we arrived, I was thrilled to find out that the research is music related. Dr. Laurel Trainor is Director of the Auditory Development Lab at McMaster University and head of the McMaster Institute for Music & the Mind. The study that Alex was a part of is one that gathers data on how infants perceive sound in order to understand how they develop the hearing skills to learn language and music. Since an infant can't tell you what they are hearing, they place a net of sponges on their heads that measure the brain's electrical activity. Pretty cool. So they rigged the little dude up. He actually giggled when they put it on his head. And he looked downright adorable.

Once the net was in place, Alex sat on my knee while two young students kept him entertained with toys, puppets, bubbles, and a DVD. All the while, short, rhythmic blasts of white noise came out of speakers all around the room. The hardest part for me was not tapping my foot to the rhythm since they asked me to keep him as still as possible. That and not talking. But we managed to get through 18 minutes of the 20 minutes they aim for. Once the little dude started fussing and crying a bit, the research assistant, Elaine, stopped the sounds. She was happy with the data collected so we didn't have to try again. Alex was presented with a little toy and a cute certificate (that included the above picture and the designation of "junior scientist") and we were done.

When Steve came home and I shared the experience with him, he thought it was cool that this kind of research was being done here, right in our backyard. I agree. And I'm glad that Alex was able to be a part of it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Has it really been more than a month since I last posted? Really?

I've written about 1,000 blog posts in my head. While I'm in the shower, doing laundry, mixing formula... I just can't seem to get to the computer to get them down. The shift in priorities caused by having a baby has really made me think about how I spend my time when he does not need my attention. So I'm in the process of streamlining. I'm cutting back on the huge number of blogs in my Google reader. I've already unsubscribed to a whole bunch of podcasts that I wasn't really listening to/enjoying anymore. I'm making more time for the activities that I really get something out of. And blogging is one of them. I'm not going to make some crazy commitment to post a certain number of times per week. But by getting rid of the other stuff I've been wasting my time on and getting nothing out of, I'm making more time for blogging on a regular basis. So consider this a rebirth of sorts.

It's nice to be here again.