Face it, the musical feeling about Huey Lewis and The News circulating the planet some thirty years following the release of their album ‘Sports’ – is not very … musical.
It is easy to write off an 80’s band. Even easier to write off a ‘video’ 80’s band. Easier still to write off Huey Lewis and his group as just a one (six?) hit wonder. Selective memory files the music away. High school kinda stuff placed on the shelf in a high school locker. ‘Purists’ don’t bother filing at all. ‘ In the trash, move on and forget about Huey Lewis.’
No ‘news’ here.
Fast forward to 2015.
The more things change, the more opinions change. Huey Lewis and his mates displayed the reason why so many songs from his ‘Sports’ album became staples worldwide and why that album sold 20 million copies. The News and Lewis – a great Blues band. Period. Last evening, Place des Arts and Montreal found out what Mayor Denis Coderre already knew. Or did they?
Commencing the night ( in a heartbeat) with ‘Heart of Rock n Roll’, Huey Lewis transported everyone back to the days of tossing Rubik’s Cubes across the room in frustration. Judging by the crowd reaction – everyone at Salle Wilfred Pelletier definitively replaced more than one of the cubes as they attempted to be ‘hip’ by being ‘square.’ At the 2015 Montreal International Jazz Festival, attending a Huey Lewis show was ‘hip’ in a ‘square’ kind of way.
‘The Sports Section’ with Marvin McFadden (trumpet), Rob Sudduth ( Saxophone) and Johnnie Bamont ( Saxophone) are what separates the 80’s ‘News’ from the 80’s ‘bad news’. As Lewis pointed out – their music seems more fit for today than when it was released in the decade of ‘Baby on Board’ signs. The horn section could rival any Motown group combining Soul, R and B, Rock and Blues.
Once again – ‘Hip to be Square’ …
Add Stef Burns to the mix with his piercing guitar solos, just enough grit to what otherwise could be a backing band for Aretha Franklin. Enough bite to compliment the brassy hooks which make up the foundation of Huey Lewis and the News. But wait. There’s more …
Just when songs such as ‘ The Power of Love’, ‘If This is It’, “I Want a New Drug’ and ‘Heart and Soul’ fooled everyone into placing the show on a shelf in the locker, Lewis placed his harmonica to his mouth and – as quick as a Cabbage Patch Doll leaves the store, Huey Lewis and the News are a raunchy Blues band. Margaret Thatcher in her first day of office never would have thunk it.
‘Bad is Bad’ from the album Sports – just the tip of the Blues iceberg.
It’s easy to forget the band was a Blues bar band before their rise to fame. In Lewis’ words; ‘ We went from the beer and peanut crowd to the wine and cheese crowd …’ The News’ Blues reputation cemented on Wednesday night with a dirty version of ‘Your Love is Killing Me’.
‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’ ( Major Lance cover) and ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’ (Bobby Day cover) displayed the other reason which set the band apart from most 80’s bands. A pair of Capella ditties deliciously displayed Do -Wop style with all members of the band front and center. Huey Lewis and his News – complete with something for everything.
So what’s new?
Huey and the boys delivered two new songs with a Lewis – invoked promise from the audience to applaud whether they like it or not. Surprisingly, one of the ‘new’ songs; “While We’re Young’ – quite possibly the next hit for the band when the new record comes out next year. The other ‘virgin’ offered for sacrifice? Along with the older tune ‘Small World’ ( from the album of the same name) – not even worth mentioning. A pair of old socks in a fresh drawer. Two ‘stinkers …’
Sean Hopper (keys), Bill Gibson ( Drums) and Johnny Colla ( rhythm guitar) contradicted the ‘stench’ with clean, crisp and acute precision. Professionals playing in a professional band.Huey Lewis and the News ain’t The Stones or The Beatles. They are far removed from The Band. What they are is a well rounded ( with moments of brilliance) band who posses a lead singer with good looks and charisma. A front man who has powerful chops even at the age of sixty-four. A singer who plays a mean harp and allows his music to escape the shelf locker and make people understand it’s …
Hip to Be Square.
Tune in at 6:15pm Thursdays to k103.7fm as I recap the week’s events !
It goes without saying, this is one of the finest festivals I’ve ever played! Thank you Montreal for building an institution.”
Ben Harper on Instagram.
At least one Harper showed. Stephen Harper – our resident Prime Minister did not appear at The Jazz festival nor was his pride evident in Canada’s and the world’s biggest festival. Well – at least God appeared happy.
The tunes rising into heaven from the Earth below, enough to allow the Lord to hold back on the rain. The heavens did not open up (save for a pair of twenty minute segments) and dampen the spirits of the music fans. It was ten days of sun, sun and soleil.
Aretha – Sounding Off
Roger Walls – a horn player who has worked with everyone from Garou to Tony Bennett, witnessed a comical event. Especially given the nature of Aretha Franklin’s much – maligned performance.
” I was at sound-check …” Explained Roger. ” Right in the middle of a song, Aretha berated the sound man. Insisting she could do his job better than him. Threatening to come down and do it herself. Expletives included … ”
” After witnessing this first hand – a fellow horn player turns to me and says; I’d hate to be married to her!”
Considering the negative reviews of the show – sound or no sound, nothing would have saved Aretha. Maybe it is time to pack it in following a long and respectful career …
Same could be said for B.B King?
Citing not taking his medicine, King’s performance less-than-flattering.
This is not the first time for King. He had to cancel a couple of performances recently mid -way through concerts for the same reason. In St.Louis, last March – he was booed mercilessly for not hardly playing and not playing well when he did. King deserves respect as the Grandfather of the Blues – yet, so does the paying public.
Fans must at this point, realize a B.B King concert is to see a legend live. Want some great King music? Buy a cd.
As per English (British – not West Island) music journalist Sebastien Scotney; the show of the festival was Keith Jarrett. Sebastien is the editor of London Jazz and this was his first visit to Montreal. Read his review here in The Telegraph. Great guy!
Burning Spear / Sly and Robbie Review
They say ninety percent of drum tracks laid down in Jamaica were done by Sly Dunbar.
For years, under the tutelage of men like Marley, Tosh and Cliff – Dunbar along with fellow sideman Robbie Shakespeare; were and remain – the battery of Jamaica.
Ya man …
Dunbar is a machine. Head down without hardly a break or peek at his surroundings; Sly kept the groove going, da riddims. Precision-like maneuvers. Robbie – the Bill Wyman of Reggae (longevity, quality, rhythm ), served the bass lines with power normally reserved for a rhythm guitarist.
Reggae is like that …
Delivering signature songs such as ‘Swing Easy’, ‘Real Rock’, ‘Darker Shade of Black’ and ‘ Taxi Rhythm’ – the legendary pair along with their backing band – The Taxi Gang; explained reggae to those almost sure what Reggae is. After all – Pizza is not Italian and many eat and bake it as such … As in many genres, the real stuff gets watered down over the years. Sly and Robbie are the real deal.
Burning Spear, the sixty-nine year old living, breathing – living legend; entered stage right. He was as pleased to be in Montreal as Montrealers and out of towners were to witness him.
Playing a catalog of six decades long is no easy task. What to pick and what to play? For a non -Reggae fan, it would appear easy as Reggae music (non roots) sounds similar ( except for a few Marley tunes). Well – bite your collective Rasta tongues.
Spear’s 1976 hit; ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ – sent Metropolis into a frenzy. Proof that at least half the attendees were indeed Reggae fans while the other half soon became ones. The rhythmic ‘riddems’ of the song in dark contrast to Marley’s slow burning hits. Spear, on the Congas – off the Congas; a master with the microphone and very able to sing like a Rasta – Mick Jagger. One year Mick’s junior …
What’s with these old guys anyways? Shuffleboard anyone?
Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion
What’s with these old guys anyways? Shuffleboard anyone?
Ginger Baker – ex of Cream, appeared at the Jazz Festival; ex of Cream. His foursome included James Brown’s ex-bandleader Pee Wee Ellis on Saxophone, Alec Dankworth on Bass and Abbas Doodoo on Congas and various other percussion -related instruments.
As an outsider looking in to a seventy-four year old drummer with a Jazz related background – it was easy to categorize Doodoo as a mask for Baker’s miscues. Far from the truth and simply not the case.
Ginger may not be as ‘ginger’ as he once was ( wheezing between songs), yet his drumming remains impeccable. His sense of humor as jazzy as the Jazz itself portrayed and carried out on stage with the utmost perfection.
Baker laid out a dozen ( Bakers’ Dozen – get it?) supreme jokes at his own expense. The running gag – people in his entourage laying bets in which city he will ‘expire’ in on this tour. To which Baker countered; ‘I think Pee Wee will beat me to it! ( Ellis no slim or young chicken at that).
The music? Songs such as ‘Well You Needn’t’, Wayne Shorter’s cover – ‘Footprints’ and the original ‘Ginger Spice’ – as effervescent as Sunshine in your Life. ’12+ More Blues’ was mesmerizing as was the always present ‘Aiko Biaye’. Baker and Doodoo providing crashing rhythms and almost morphing into a sole unit on several occasions.
The show was Jazz, Ellis providing haunting (at times) solos and Dankworth instilling the truth and keeping it tight within the scope of the songs. Dankworth was not there to stand out. Nor was Ellis. Their jobs – simply to keep things fresh. Keep things tight. Keep things interesting for a non-drumming fan.
The concert was all about Baker’s drumming. A contest almost.
Competing with and complementing Doodoo. It was a drummer’s take on Jazz much the way Rich, Krupa and Baker’s contemporary Charlie Watts see the songs in a Jazz kaleidoscope.
Serena Ryder, hot off the heels of a MMVA for ‘Rock/ Alternative Video of the Year for her new song; ‘Stompa‘- considers the success of her new album; ‘Harmony’, somewhat home -based.
“The entire album was recorded in L.A.”‘ Says Ryder.'”After almost ridding myself of sixty songs which were penned for the sessions, I decided to simplify everything. ‘Stompa’ took just three hours to record and the entire album was completed in a few weeks.”
Much of the disc’s feel was concocted with an idea of simplicity as the thought process. Ryder wanting to ‘have fun’ and evoke feelings of happiness to whoever hears the songs. Forget their bad days and move into an upbeat state of mind.
‘I had written a lot of songs in Ashbury, my place near Toronto.” Explains Serena.” We have converted a two car garage into a studio and it is covered in raw cedar. The whole thing is like a sauna. We call it the cottage. It is also decorated by all these old antiques we discovered in and around my neighborhood. Religious statues and that type of thing. It makes me feel comfortable when I am there and it allows me to feel like I am having fun while I am writing and recording.”
For Serena, that feeling delivers her to a growing up era in Peterborough, Ontario. A place where she educated herself musically surrounded by a community of musicians which were and continue to be – a strong source of inspiration.
‘Really – it was such a diversity of music growing up. All the musicians I grew up with had it in their blood. One day it was alternative you heard and the next – more popular – type music. There was always something different and it was always a lot of fun.”
Enjoying the process of recording her new album and what is turning out to be her hit song (Stompa) – was first and foremost in Serena’s thoughts. The Juno award winning singer wanted to relax and dive into a session where not too much thinking was going on. Something which happened somewhat accidentally for the 30 year old singer – songwriter.
‘Stompa’ started off as this easy guitar riff. It was just so simple and happy. It
had a primal feel and that kind of worked and set the tone for the rest of the album.We added some hand claps which went wonderfully with the toned down (instrument-wise) feel. It puts a smile on my face and I hope it is infectious …”
‘Harmony’ is Ryder’s sixth studio album and so far – a listener is able to grasp many different genres from the singer who was once labeled a ‘teenage Aretha Franklin‘. That moniker due to Ryder’s immense vocal range. She is considered a mezzo-soprano, able to hit perfect pitches and sustain a controlled vibrato. A three octave singer and someone to make Canadians proud.
‘It has been quite the trip in the past few years.”Admits Serena” Now I have this celebrity – music styled life and it is quite a difference for me. I do not forget my roots and I am the same person I always was. This is evident in my new album. I owe everything to the wonderful people in Peterborough who taught me everything I know.”
Serena Ryder remains home -based; through and through…
” Between car pools and vet appointments ( we have a dog, two cats, 2 turtles, and a cockatiel) I perform any chance I can get!” Says Biz from her home in Montreal.
These chances translate into at least 200 gigs a year at the present. It may seem like a lot yet Biz is a seasoned performer. She has been performing since her early twenties in various cover bands. Off The Record, Jimminy Crickets, Rock Steady and Slowhand to name some.
“My career has taken off since the release of my original single, You Always Love Me Like I Used To Be (2000) and my full length cd of originals called Soul Secrets in 2005. I have also played a lot of solo piano gigs, mainly so I could keep working throughout the year.”
Upstairs, Cafe Boomers, and other places in the West Island are some of the places as well as Smoke Meat Pete. A place where Biz is the only female solo blues piano player and singer on the regular roster for over seven years.
“I have been singing Janis and Aretha for a long time. It only made sense to do a tribute show because I am told that I look like Janis. I can do her justice because of my ability to sing soulfully in a rhythm and blues context.”
People like the fact that Biz makes the show her own. She plays keyboards yet maintains the passion and intensity of the legendary female singer referred to endearingly as Pearl.
You can check out Biz Oliver and The Kozmic Gold Boogie Band at Calistoga Grill on Saturday, September 22nd at 10:45 (reserving a ticket highly recommended)