Jaimie Vernon_Viletones
February is notoriously dark and depressing and really just an advertisement for staying in bed and waiting until the spring thaw. I used to suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder but shots of Vitamin D and going outside a lot more helped. It also helped by surrounding myself with The Happy. What makes me happy, aside from my family, is music. Thankfully, we’ve come out of a series of music star deaths to lots of new music. It’s a tonic for what ails us until we can get to a beach and really lay down the party. It’s a dog’s breakfast of new and old coming across my desk and there’s plenty of each this week.
MADRIGAL “Sunshine”
(Axe Records)

Madrigal Madrigal was a four-piece that formed in 1968. John Swainson (guitar/bass/vocals), Rick Henderson (guitar/vocals), Peter Boynton (piano/organ/ bass/keys/vocals – and later of Red Rider), and Don Simpson (drums) went to Willowdale Junior High School together and formed a band on the backside of the Summer of Love. As typical of all Ontario bands at the time it was a circuit of high school sock hops and, if you were luck and connected, Saturday matinees or opening slots at the larger bars and arenas. Madrigal paid their dues and eventually came to the attention of Tuesday/Axe Records founder and producer Greg Hambleton who put them into Sound Canada Studio in 1970 to record their debut album ‘Baked Beans & Sunshine’. With the help from studio owner Art Snider’s cast of session men like Peter Goodale, Paul Clinch and Stan Theriault Madrigal was given a polished American sound.

Madrigal_BioPhotoThe majority of the band’s material was written by keyboardist Peter Boynton leaning heavily on more progressive pop material and slight nods to past heroes like Crosby Stills & Nash on “Picture Frame” and “We Are Here (The Diddler Song)”, The Turtles (with a momentary Doors freak out in the middle 8) on “Judge By The Book (Boog)” and even other Toronto acts like Lighthouse and Motherlode on “Freedom” and Boynton’s co-write with John Swainson called “Lovely Lady”. Rick Henderson also wrote or co-wrote several tracks leaning more on folk-oriented sunshine pop on “Tell Her That” and the spiritual leaning bonus track from 1971 “Hallelujah”. There are several band collaboration as well including the full band Country Joe McDonald & The Fish/Grateful Dead wig-out “Television Nightmare”.

Hambleton also wanted to ensure radio play and offered up additional Sunshine Pop songwriting fair such as “Weekend” and “Lady” both written by his brother Fergus – a former member of A Passing Fancy. The association didn’t end there as Madrigal found its biggest chart success with the Greg Hambleton written song “I Believe In Sunshine” which A Passing Fancy had charted in 1968.

The Axe re-issue is beautifully mastered and the package includes several lost photos of the band. Well worth the purchase for fans of Progressive Pop and Sunshine Pop. http://www.axerecords.ca

Ron Chapman “As Worlds Collide”
(Current Records)

Ron Chapman cover
Ron Chapman’s been a fixture in the Toronto music behind-the-scenes for over 40 years having managed both the legendary music club The Edge (where The Police took their earliest bows and punk took its final one with ‘The Last Pogo’) and singer/songwriter Eddie “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” Schwartz. In recent years he’s moved in filming with the critically acclaimed 2014 documentary “Who the Fuck Is Arthur Fogel” and 2015’s award-winning and critically acclaimed “The Poet of Havana” which follows the life and career of Carlos Varela. He has just completed “The Forbidden Shore”, a documentary that takes one of the first in-depth looks at the music scene in Havana and will premiere at the Miami International Film Festival in March of this year.

Ron ChapmanChapman’s been personally affected by this music and has released 13 songs recorded in Toronto (with engineer George Seara) and Havana (with engineers Carlos Hevia and Delio Ferrer) with mixing by JUNO Award winner Terry Brown (Rush, Max Webster, Klaatu, Blue Rodeo, Cutting Crew) called ‘As Worlds Collide’.
This record is as smooth and sultry as anything by Joe Cocker, Leonard Cohen or Robbie Robertson. Its sensual textures are from the mixture of Chapman’s Cohenesque speaking voice and the layers of exotic instrumentation including Havana horn players and female accompaniment. One could imagine a smokey Cuban booze can backroom on a hotbox summer night as the band floats through slow-grinding dance numbers like “Mumbo Jumbo”, “Blinded”, “Imagination” or “Waiting” (an adult version of Semisonic’s “Closing Time” if there ever was one).

The album has two speed settings: either slow…or slower. This is pastoral music for those who want to unwind and turn down the beats-per-minute on 21st Century living. There’s nothing truly uptempo on the album save for the songs “Turn Away” and “Heart In Hand” and those are inserted as a reminder to check your pulse occasionally. Chapman’s voice, however, is a lot more melodic and uplifting on these tracks. So there’s something here for everyone who just wants to kick back and zone out. I recommend this one for vacation time. Preferably in Cuba. https://ronchapman.bandcamp.com/album/as-worlds-collide


THE B-LEAGUERS “Death of A Western Heart”
(Kool Kat Musik)

B-Leaguers Punk is alive and well and living in Lincoln, UK’s former Popdogs member James Styring. After his former band imploded unexpectedly following their critically acclaimed ‘Cool Cats for Pop Dogs’, the singer built a new backline featuring Ched Howard’s on guitars and the rhythm section of Mikey Barraclough (bass) and Mark B-Leaguers coverBarrett (drums).

What comes out on B-Leaguers’ debut EP is a mix of melodic pop punk that harkens back to two segments of old school punk. On one hand the tracks have more in common with 1980s hardcore acts Swindled and Black Flag than the turgid ‘90s prefab nonsense bestowed upon us by Green Day or Blink 182. In other words there’s more Oi per minute than there is ouch…especially on speed monsters like “Amnesia”, “Lemonade” and “Rock And Roll Toons”.

The other is slower (relatively speaking), melodic material in the Undertones or Clash vein. The title track builds on a tried and true Ramones wall of guitars that goes where the Ramones dared to tread – in dynamic stops and starts. “Numbers”, meanwhile, has a trick metal opening and widens into a groovy Monkee-ish hookfest. “Canyons (Suburbs and Centres)” is a straight up power pop song not that dissimilar to the Popdogs’ old branding style while the closer, “Rise and Line”, is the odd duck of the entire EP more suited on a Blue Traveller album than it is here. But it speaks to the diversity of the band and bodes well for bigger and better things. Here’s hoping a full-length is in the not too distant future. https://shop.koolkatmusik.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Session_ID=eaab513353d4bf40988073324fff70c7&Screen=PROD&Product_Code=B_Leaguers



A Tribute to Sloan

Sloan Also for your listening pleasure is the new Sloan Tribute: “If It Feels Good Do It” on Keith Klingensmith’s great Power Pop upstart label Futureman Records. 31 artists covering the career of Canadian pop media darlings Sloan featuring the Power Pop underworld’s best kept secrets: Stereo Tiger – C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started); Andy Reed – I Love A Long Goodbye; The Dead Girls – Friendship; Fireking – The Other Man; The Hangabouts – The Answer Was You; Love Axe & Andy Freeman – Last Time In Love; Nick Piunti – Right Or Wrong; Mood Elevator – Underwhelmed; Michael Simmons – False Alarm; Paul Melancon & The New Insecurities – It’s In Your Eyes; Chris Richards & The Subtractions – Coax Me; King Radio – A Side Wins; Kristin von B – The Good In Everyone; The Negative Wave – Money City Maniacs; HUPP – Penpals; Dan Bryk – I Hate My Generation; Gretchen’s Wheel – Try To Make It; Pop 4 – Flying High Again; Coke Belda and El Inquieto Roque – Autobiography; Norway House – Everything You’ve Done Wrong; Paul Myers – Misty’s Beside Herself; Hidden Pictures – Don’t You Believe A Word; The Soogs – G Turns To D; The Laissez Fairs – The Rest Of My Life; The Well Wishers – The Lines You Amend; Phil Ajjarapu – Set In Motion; Scott Sutherland – On The Horizon; Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms – Deeper Than Beauty; The Anderson Council – Iggy & Angus; Hal E. Fax and the Supernova Scotias – So Far So Good; Keith Klingensmith – I Wanna Thank You. https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/if-it-feels-good-do-it-a-sloan-tribute
Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Jaimie “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 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released 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’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: