Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man [review]

Commentary, Music

With Ordinary Man, Ozzy Osbourne presents his most personal album yet, without losing any of his theatricality.

He’s also in very good hands musically, with accompaniment from members of Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against the Machine, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and guest vocals by everyone from Elton John to Post Malone.

Nightmares in Ecstasy [book review]

Books, Commentary

Reading Brendan Vidito’s Nightmares in Ecstasy is like entering a basement laboratory to find hundreds of unspeakable things sealed in jars, peering through the murk to glimpse eyeballs and tentacles and other mutated appendages that appear unnervingly human, but somehow not.

The 2020 JUNOs have been cancelled – so check out some Canadian music.

Arts Coverage, Commentary

The news broke today that the 2020 JUNO Awards had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this decision was probably wise, it’s also a huge blow to the Canadian music industry.

Many Canadian artists — not just the performers and nominees, but the local acts slated to perform JUNOfest shows in Saskatoon this weekend — rely on the JUNOs for exposure. I know I’ve discovered many of my favourite Canadian artists — The Beaches, William Prince, Lisa Leblanc, iskwē and many others — from JUNO season events, and I imagine I’m not alone. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to most of the nominated albums and putting together a primer on each category. Whatever happens with the Awards, I’m sure these artists could use a shout-out right now.

Below is a rundown of the nominees for the following categories, along with a link to one standout track from each: Rock Album; Alternative Album; Adult Alternative Album; Metal / Hard Music Album; Indigenous Artist or Group; Traditional Roots Album; Contemporary Roots Album; Pop Album; and Country Album.

Give these tunes a listen, and if you find something you like, feel free to share with your friends. Give the artists a follow. Download a song or buy an album, if you can.

Let’s support Canadian music.

Fred Penner @ Algonquin Commons Theatre

Arts Coverage

Beloved children’s songwriter Fred Penner entertained a crowd of kids (and a handful of nostalgic adults) at Algonquin Commons Theatre Friday night.

Marking the anniversary of his 1980 The Cat Came Back record, the show featured familiar tunes from throughout his career, including a pair of songs from 2017’s Hear The Music as well as music from his TV show Fred Penner’s Place, which ran for 900 episodes on the CBC in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

Forty years after the release of his debut, Penner’s whimsy and wordplay still charms. Onstage for over an hour, he held the audience’s attention with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a collection of shanties about sandwiches, lonely bumps, rude goblins, and a menagerie of delightful animals. The understated animations that accompanied the music had an earthy, storybook quality, enhancing but not overwhelming the simple songs.

There’s a timeless aspect to Penner’s music, which draws from classic folk and country. Chatting with the crowd between songs, he noted that some of his most well-known covers (such as Wild West ghost story “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More,” a traditional ditty first recorded in the early 1920s) weren’t originally written for children.

Fittingly, his iconic version of “The Cat Came Back” incorporated a medley of Ray Charles’s R&B standard “Hit the Road, Jack” and The Turtles’s catchy pop hit “Happy Together” – an offering to any audience members who had, like Penner, came of age in the sixties.

(If only The Turtles had written a song about a turtle.)

Part of Penner’s enduring appeal is that he doesn’t talk down to the kids, nor does he ignore the adults. (I laughed when he asked if anyone remembered the original vinyl record of The Cat Came Back – that one definitely went over the heads of the three-year-olds in the room).

It’s a delicate balance being child-friendly without coming off patronizing or overly juvenile; Fred Penner walks that line as well as ever, which is why, after all these years, he’s still capable of delighting kids and parents alike – not to mention the millennials who grew up with Fred Penner’s Place. 

Fred Penner

Elijah Wood attends a freaky family reunion in COME TO DADDY [review]

Commentary, Film and Television

In the opening scenes of Ant Timpson’s Come to Daddy, former Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood is once again on a quest.

When we first see him, he’s travelling on foot along a desolate shore, his baggy garments resembling a cloak, on the way to meet his estranged father who’s reached out inexplicably after a decades-long absence. The scene has a certain dreamlike quality, which seems comparatively normal as the film descends wholeheartedly into insanity.

William Prince – RELIEVER [review]

Commentary, Music

William Prince’s Reliever is as much of a balm as its title would suggest.

The Peguis First Nation folk singer’s long-awaited follow-up to his JUNO-winning debut sees him no less thoughtful, and even more assured in his song-writing. There’s a distinct gospel influence on this record, with gentle acoustic arrangements and Prince’s soothing baritone belying sweeping reflections on life, death, love, and redemption.

Harley Quinn lets loose in BIRDS OF PREY [review]

Commentary, Film and Television

Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) finds our anti-hero finally freed (quite against her will, I might add) from a life-defining toxic relationship; it also sees the character released from the constraints of Suicide Squad.