JAIMIE VERNON – IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU

vernon_1997

I’m at a crossroads, dear reader. My last few blogs have been a trip down memory lane. Not because I particularly wanted to revisit the well warn path of my mind’s eye…but because you wanted me to.

The Wizard of OzHow’s that? Well, it seems when I put pencil to paper (remember that?) to discuss everything that is shiny and new my inbox of comments and responses becomes a giant vacant parking lot filled with wobbly shopping carts and old plastic bags blowing around in the breeze. I get zero feedback. It’s like everyone has their internet search preferences set on “remember the good old days” or “when I was your age” and you completely miss the blog or ignore it outright. I have spent a good part of my professional life railing against populism. I don’t like trends. I don’t cater to them and I don’t follow them. Currently, “Old Shit I Used to Do/Like Before My Life Became A Monotonous Hell” seems to be trending. I’m so not ‘down’ with that as the kiddies used to say. Segarini touched on this last week. It’s like our generation had a Stuck In the Past conference and decided, unanimously, that no one was to listen to music post 1985 – and some were even against THAT late a date. A declaration was made that all TV shows, radio, and movies in the last 20 years suck worse than Rob Schneider in ‘Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo‘ (wait, what’s wrong with ‘Deuce Bigalow’?). I’m now surrounded by friends and comrades whose last movie reference ends with ‘Dirty Dancing‘ and their record collection closed up shop and petrified after Springsteen released ‘Born In the USA’.

TV Land logoI can’t pander to this anymore. I’m not the History Channel or TVLand or Classic Rock Radio. I’ve done so much in my life from 1993 til now that it makes the 30 years that preceded it look like I was sitting idly by waiting for my life to begin. Why are so many people willing to STOP living? Why have you stopped going to the movies? Stopped watching TV? Stopped listening to music? Where has the joy gone in your life? You used to derive it from those things along with the traditional fulfillment through friends and family, et al. Dismissing everything that came after your life became harder and less rewarding doesn’t mean it’s invalid…or that it ‘sucks’. It means you have to try harder. Instant gratification is a function of 14 year-old boys and puppies. The rest of us have to actually work hard at our leisure pursuits; just like we do with relationships and jobs.

 

Music taste

I have a shitload of new music on my desk. I’ve been sitting on it for weeks waiting until it was a good time to talk about it. The artists have put a big chunk of their lives into writing and recording these CDs. They deserve a chance to be heard. If I can’t get anyone interested in listening to these acts, I’ve failed as a writer…and as an advocate for music. But it requires an audience. That’s YOU. I don’t want to have to split up with you over a difference in musical taste. Don’t fail me, dear readers. Give these or any new music a listen. I guarantee you that somewhere in the morass of new stuff on the internet or in clubs you will find the next ‘Born In the USA’. I promise. Hopefully, it’ll be something you hear here.

Pot_Hounds_coverJOINTPOP “The Pot Hounds”
When was the last time you heard pop music from Trinidad and Tobago? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say never. I haven’t either. Together since 1996, Jointpop is singer/songwriter/guitarist Gary Hector, guitarist Damon Homer, keyboardist/co-writer Phil Hill, bassist Jerome Girdharrie and drummer Dion Camacho. The immediate stereotype is to believe you’re going to hear reggae or island beats on this production. I was taken aback when I was met with a string of songs featuring chiming, mid-1990’s alternative guitar sounds and the raspy, John Mann (Spirit of the West) styled vocals from Hector. The material plays out like a cross between Elvis Costello, electric folk guitarist Joe Mannix, and the more energy charged Mescalaros material by the late Joe Strummer. Highlights here include the Semisonic-like build of “Sweet Nothings”, the manic late 1970s new wave Ska blast of “Treat Me Like The Dog I Am”, the bittersweet choral anthem “Dead Frog Perfume” and its booze-drenched flip-side “Man Dog Millionaire”, the beautifully frail balladry of “The Water Supreme”, the Stonesesque “Paper Plane” and the Louie Louie deconstruction of “Let’s Pray (For Rock and Roll)” which is the catchiest track on the CD and a great contender for radio. http://www.jointpop.com

SarahSmithSARAH SMITH “The Journey”
I’ve been following Sarah Smith’s career trajectory for many years – first as the front woman for the Joys then as a self-realizing solo artist. ‘The Journey‘ finds Sarah re-inventing herself following the mostly acoustic driven debut album ‘Stronger Now‘ in 2011. The acoustic rooted tunes are still here with tracks like “Freeway”, “I’ll Be Waiting”, “Stand Up”, “Believe In Me”, “Gotta Get Up” and the pretty, country-ish “Insecure” but the material is now more mature, more self assured and more contemporary; with music direction and co-writing by Pat Anthony in Dusseldorf, Germany, the album is both fresh and most-probably a culture shock for Smith’s long-time fans. Every track appears to be produced and mixed for radio play. A deliberate attempt at getting these songs to push Smith’s career forward as she continues to expand her touring boundaries outside of Canada and into the bigger pop music world. “I Need To Know” is perfectly geared for smash success on Virgin Radio stations everywhere. With a little placement luck the tune could also be a perfect vehicle for someone like Amanda Marshall to make a comeback. “Into The Light” is a gargantuan power ballad co-written with Honeymoon Suite’s Derry Grehan and would work across several radio genres – both adult pop and country. There’s the cross-over potential of the gang chorused “Your Love” (with staccato piano and drum loop) and “Empty Void” with its Melissa Etheridge brittleness. Smith even steps out of her comfort zone and risks it all with a rollicking Pink meets Katy Perry-like pop dance anthem in “Do You Like It” with “Oooh, oooh” earworms. Similarly, “Shine Bright” (co-written with Tim Thorney) goes straight up pop rock with requisite slow verses and fast choruses. It’s a formula that has worked for others. It’s a new destination for Smith but may just bring a new audience to the party. Here’s hoping she can bring her devout fans with her. The question will be whether Sarah Smith will continue evolving on the next album or will she park on one of these musical benches? I vote for the former!  http://www.sarahsmithmusic.com

WTWWYTERRY DRAPER “When The World Was Young”
Full disclosure here. Terry Draper is a good friend whose career initially impacted me as a teenager when he was in the band Klaatu (he co-wrote their biggest hit “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”). I also played on two of his solo albums (‘Light Years Later‘ in 1997 and ‘Live…Years Later’ in 1998). I also frequently act as video creator for his tunes and sounding board for his masterworks in progress. Reviewing one of his albums means a certain amount of bias which is why I’ve stayed at arms length from doing it for sometime. However, when Terry played me the basic tracks for his latest venture ‘When The World Was Young’ I was knocked out by several things that were no longer present/lacking/ingrained in his previous efforts. That’s not to say the previous albums were bad. Not by a long shot. But as any musician knows, after a while there’s a certain sameness that comes from creating in a solitary, isolated environment. With the exception of the live album from 1998 his four solo albums – and one children’s record – has been recorded in his Swamp Manor Studio in Oak Ridges, Ontario.

draperHe works alone with a few people added to spice up the ephemeral sounds of various tracks depending on the style and need. To that end, ‘When The World Was Young’ utilizes the same technique. There is no ‘band’ production per se – it’s all Draper. However, Terry has now added more organic elements – more real percussion (son Alex Draper), more guitar (David Henmen of April Wine, the late Rick Gunn of Cats & Dogs, Vinnie Zummo of Joe Jackson Band fame), more backing vocals (Brenda Webb, Jamie Hoover of the Spongetones and Ray Paul Klimek of the Charles Beat). And he’s co-writing with outsiders including long-time Klaatu fan Elizabeth Racz on “No Life Without You” and “My Love, My Love”. Oh, don’t worry – the old Draper prog-pop feel and treacley lyrics are still intact on tunes like “If I Could Dance”, “Charge of the Light Brigade”, “To Whom It May Concern” and the title track. But the material gets an extra shine with help from his friends on “No Life Without You”, “Tea Horse Road”, “In The Sun”, “Honey B.” (with Lawrie Ingles on sitar), and the surprisingly raucous re-make of Crispin St. Peters’ “Pied Piper”. On top of that Draper has spent nearly two years since his last effort, ‘Stranded’, working on his vocals. What was once dashed off in one or two takes is now polished and he’s finally found his true voice. Strong and rich and commanding. Bonus points for an exceptional graphic package put together by long time Klaatu in-house artist Ted Jones. Klaatu and Draper solo fans rejoice. This is the best album he’s done since ‘Light Years Later‘. http://www.terrydraper.com

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL FIND:

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com orhttp://www.bullseyecanada.com

4 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU”

  1. Thanks, Jaimie… I appreciate your perspective, however biased.\

  2. Trinidad and Tobago is rockin’ tonite, thanks to your fab review of JOINTPOP’s, The Pot Hounds.

  3. cheers from JOINTPOP..of Trinidad and Tobago..thanks Jamie…and Gerry

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