Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lindsay Buckingham to Release New Album By: Christine Albrecht

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Gift of Screws due out on September 16/08

Lindsay Buckingham (independent singer-songwriter, as well as the artistic main man of Fleetwood Mac) will be releasing his album, Gift of Screws on Reprise Records, September 16, 2008. He hopes to begin an American tour (with two Ontario stops, October 7th and 8th) to accompany the album's release.

Buckingham says of the album,
I'd say this album distills several periods of time. It has false starts to make albums, songs that go back a number of years that took a while to find a home, and brand-new songs. I wanted to bring it all together in one place. As an artist I'm still, for better or worse, clinging to my idealism and to my sense that there is still much to be said. This album is a culmination of that.

Buckingham's latest offering is more rock n' roll than his acoustic driven Under the Skin. In some ways it's also an extension of his Fleetwood Mac legacy as Mick Fleetwood and John McVie played on the album, providing the unmistakable foundation for several songs, including standout, Wait for You.

Gift of Screws was produced by Buckingham, with the exception of two songs - Wait For You and Gift of Screws which were co-produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Jewel, Dave Matthews Band).

For more information, Visit Lindsay Buckingham.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Come to Canada: Big Acts/Small Venues (A Common Occurrence) By: Christine Albrecht

Great Bands Play Awesome Venues in Vancouver

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I pulled out my January, 2008, Spin magazine and did a flip-through to determine if I should save or recycle the publication. I do not like to throw out any music magazine, but I equally dislike magazine clutter, so I force myself to critically evaluate if the issue is a keep 'er or toss 'er. It's not uncommon for me to have a second or third read-through of Spin's archives, so as I was reacquainting myself with January's articles I noted several familiar names. The names are familiar because I just posted an update of Vancouver concerts. As I noted familiar headliners, I had to take a second look at the booked venues. How is it that up and coming, popular musicians, sell out mid-sized arenas throughout the world, yet continue to be booked into small venues while touring Canada?

This is not the first time I have puzzled over the Big-Act/Small-Venue Canadian phenomenon. In the early '90s I attended a Radiohead gig at Vancouver's The Town Pump (now known as Sonar). The Town Pump was a small pub/dance club in downtown Vancouver which allowed an audience of approximately 400+ patrons. The club's booking manager kept musically 'current', often bringing in top talent who could sell out 5000+ venues anywhere else (than Canada). Richard's on Richards is a similarly sized venue.

Lykke Li

and The Charlatans UK will be playing at Richard's on Richards.

As well, the extremely popular The National played there in 2007.

I'm not sure of the reason for currently popular bands being booked 'down' in Canada, but I'm always grateful for the 'up close and personal' experience. I often wonder how the performers reacted to the venue. Were they surprised, appalled, embarrassed, oblivious, annoyed, or indifferent? Canadian concerts spoiled me as I now refuse to attend a concert if the venue holds an audience larger than 1000 (using The Commodore Ballroom as my quota template). The Commodore's capacity limit is advertised as 990, but sardine-packed audiences at sold-out gigs appear 'fuller'.

TV on The Radio will be playing the Commodore on Sept. 7th.

Canada's knack for showcasing amazing talent in contrarily matched venues consistently baffles me. The only explanation I've arrived at is our nation's tendency towards delayed appreciation. The Fine and Performing Arts rarely receives priority status in the media. As a teen, I was reliant on local/national Canadian media for my music news, and our country remained six months to over a year behind the rest of the world. Although the Fine and Performing Arts are still largely under-reported, the internet has allowed music lovers to fall into sync with similar-minded fans around the world. However, the average Canadian concert-goer still depends on the media to alert him/her to an upcoming concert rather than proactively seeking updates.

With an 'audience alert' in mind, here is a sample of upcoming performances by artists presently riding a popularity wave. And to avid fans of specific bands - Canada may be your last chance of viewing your favourite musician(s) in a more intimate setting (and you won't need a video screen to see her (them) perform). I may not understand the reasoning, but I appreciate the bang-for-yer-buck entertainment outcome.

September 1st - Estelle - The Commodore Ballroom (capacity 990)

The London rapper/singer/producer (Shades of Lauren Hill) coos her "American Boy" hit .... groove from that's way better than his half-baked crap. Spin Magazine

September 7th - TV on the Radio - The Commodore Ballroom (Capacity 990)

... one reason TV on the Radio gets listed among the best American bands of their generation is because their free-ranging sound... Rhapsody Mp3 Spin Magazine 2006's Artist of the Year.

October 8th - The Charlatans UK - Richard's on Richards (Capacity 400)

...played a number of high-profile supporting gigs during the summer of 2007, including for The Who and The Rolling Stones, at venues including Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium in London... Wikipedia

October 16th - Duffy - Croation Cultural Centre (Capacity up to 1000)

Duffy's rise to success has been remarkable. She already has a number 1 single under her belt, as well as critically acclaimed TV performances and is the current darling of the music industry.

October 17th - Sara Bareilles - The Vogue (Capacity 1150)

achieved success in 2008 with the hit, "Love Song", which brought her into the number one spot on the Billboard Pop 100 chart. Wikipedia

October 28th - Lykke Li - Richards on Richards (Capacity 400)

... the Swede of the month... tentative, tuneful love song, "Little Bit", is buoyed by wispy indie-tronic production...

To see more upcoming concerts go to Swanktrendz Concert Listings.
FYI: Capacity Numbers for Vancouver's Musical Venues

BC Place: 59,687

UBC Thunderbird Stadium: 21,500

GM Place: 14,000

Vancouver Coliseum: 16,123

PNE Forum (Vancouver Forum) 5050

Agrodome: 3260

Queen Elizabeth Theatre: 2931

Orpheum: 2780

Malkin Bowl: 1500

Chan Centre: 1400

Vogue Theatre: 1150

Red Robinson Theatre (Casino) 1074

Plaza of Nations: 1000

Croatian Cultural Centre: 30 to 1000 (7 available rooms)

Commodore Ballroom: 990

Vancouver Playhouse: 668

Stanley Theatre: 650

BC Enterprise Hall: 500

The Town Pump/Sonar: 450

Richards on Richards: 400

The Red Room: 400

Media Club: 150

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Biography of Curly Howard By: Shane Christensen

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Curly Howard Image from:

Most people on the street would probably have no idea who Curly Howard was. But if you were able to impersonate his "nyuk-nyuk-nyuk" or "woo-woo-woo" sounds, a smile would immediately come across all the faces as they answered in unison, "oh, that Stooges guy." And a true measure of how much of a comedic icon he really was is that fact that people today still recognize him but his zany and totally one-of-a-kind antics.

There is little argument that Curly was the fan favourite of that hilarious comedic troupe known as The Three Stooges. And although he was a source of constant hilarity on the screen, Curly never had too much to laugh about during the last years of a life which was filled with serious health problems that were a result of a wild and excessive lifestyle that rivaled some of the rock stars of the 1960's

But it wasn't always like that, because Curly was born Jerome Horwitz, the youngest of a family of five boys, into a nice Jewish home in turn-of-the-century New York City. His early life was a fun-filled exercise of having his older brothers, who nicknamed him Babe, include him in their small comedy productions that they put on for the neighbourhood kids, charging a couple of pennies for admission. Babe was only 4 years old when he made his first stage appearance, and there's no doubt that the experience had a lasting effect on the young child who would live his entire childhood in show business, up until he was no longer physically able to do so.

Some of "Jerry's" greatest loves as a young man, and later as an adult, were music, musicals, and comedy. Most people were shocked to hear years after he died that he actually had a beautiful singing voice and that he was an accomplished ballroom dancer . He also loved nothing more than to watch and hang around his older brothers Moe and Shemp, who were a part of a vaudeville act that was gaining quite the following. This act was led by a brash and alcoholic Ted Healey, and included another stooge named Larry Fine.

Because Jerry was a constant fixture at Healey's shows, he was entirely familiar with the entire skit and was a natural to replace his brother Shemp, who had decided to pursue a solo acting career. The only requirement was that Jerry had to shave his curly locks and mustache for greater comedic effect, but this caused him great distress as he felt he was no longer attractive to the opposite sex.

But Curly never lacked for the love of the fairer sex, as he would end up being married a total of 4 times in less than 20 years, and also had quite the reputation as a womanizer and carouser. This behaviour only intensified after celebrity fame and fortune entered his life, and he began a steady and vicious physical slide that was exasperated by smoking, heavy drinking, and living the wild life.

As lovable as Curly was on the big screen, in real life he was reckless, spontaneous, and financially irresponsible to the point that older brother Moe eventually took authority over his spending because he was incapable of any type of control. By the time he hit his forties, his body would begin to suffer the effects of a lifestyle that was almost suicidal in nature.

A succession of strokes affected all areas of Curly's life, and eventually he suffered one that was big enough to physically disable him. By this time he had met and married his fourth and final wife, Valerie Newman, who would go on to become the mother of his daughter and loyal nurturer in his final hellish years.

Jerome Horwitz eventually succumbed to his physical deterioration in January '52 after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage while in hospital, at the relatively young age of 48. By this time his brother Shemp had returned to replace him in the Stooges, who would go on entertaining millions for many more years.

But it was never the same without Curly, and Moe was always the first to admit it. Because Curly had the rare ability of encompassing all aspects of comedy (including physical slapstick), and his nonsensical sounds and actions, such as spinning around the floor or going "woo-woo-woo", still make millions laugh to this day.

It's just very sad and tragic that a man who entertained millions and put smiles across all of our faces (and continues to do so) had to die in such a horrible and hellish fashion. Rest in peace Curly, and thanks for the years of laughter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who are the All-Time Top N.H.L. Players By Shane Christensen

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The names of the top N.H.L. goal scorers of all time looks like a list of hockey royalty as it is filled with some of the greatest players who ever played the game. It includes those from an earlier era with names such as Howe, Mikita, Richard, Beliveau, and Hull, who were responsible for much of the popularity of professional hockey in North America.

This allowed the league to expand and players' salaries to increase substantially, so that most players could earn a respectable income and not have to work during the off-season, as was the case in earlier times when the original six teams first started out.The top goal scorers from this era were as follows: Gordie Howe 801, Bobby Hull 610, Johnny Bucyk 556, Maurice Richard 554, Stan Makita 541, Frank Mahovolich 533, Jean Beliveau 507, Jean Ratelle 491, and Norm Ullman 490.

The next generation of players included the names of LaFleur, Esposito, Bossy, McDonald, and Perrault, and they can be thanked for taking the league to the next level as some played for expansion teams that would go on to become Stanley Cup champs, or finalists. This further cemented the leagues' status as the number one professional ice hockey organization in the world, and allowed for even further growth and expansion.

The top goal scorers from this era were as follows: Marcel Dionne 731, Phil Esposito 717, Mike Bossy 573, Guy Lafleur 560, Michel Goulet 548, Bryan Trottier 524, Gilbert Perrault 512, Lanny McDonald 500, Darryl Sittler 484, and Denis Savard 473.

When the next generation of great players came around, the league would see a huge increase in both popularity, franchise appreciation (value), and further expansion into non-traditional hockey markets in the southern United States. The names include Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Andreychuk, Yzerman, to name a few.

The top goal scorers from this era are: Wayne Gretzky 894, Brett Hull 741, Mike Gartner 708, Mark Messier 694, Steve Yzerman 692, Mario Lemieux 690, Luc Robitaille 668, Dave Andreychuk 640, Jarri Kurri 601, Ron Francis 549, Bryan Trottier 524, Pat Verbeek/Mark Recchi 522, Dale Hawerchuk 518, and Pierre Turgeon 515.

And finally, there is a group of active players that have amassed a number of goals that puts them in this elite group. The names include the likes of Jagr, Sakic, Shanahan, and Sundin, and these individuals are ensuring the popularity and viability of the league remains. With a new crop of future record holding players such as Crosby, Ovechkin, and Malkin currently racing up the goal scoring charts, it will only be a matter of time until their names are put in the same category as their predecessors.

The top goal scorers on this list are: Brendan Shanahan 650, Jarmomir Jagr 646, Joe Sakic 623, Mats Sundin 555, Teemu Selanne 552, Mike Modano 528, Jeremy Roenick 509, and Keith Tkachuk 500.

The one ingredient that all these amazing players possessed was the will to be the very best, and never settle for second place. All great players possess comparable skill levels such as skating and passing, but those who truly stood out amongst the crowd did so because they gave that little extra that enabled them to score when other mortals would have not even had a chance at a goal.

It's therefore no surprise that of the top goal scorers in the N.H.L., most have played on either Stanley Cup champions or finalists as the greatest goal scorers are usually the franchise players whom the team can build around to create a champion.

Brett Hull Image from:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rebel Cell

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>Hello People,

Thanks for all the great feedback on my Fly on the Wall episode, and now this one is about the next chapter. In three days Dizraeli and I will perform our first show at the Edinburgh Fringe, the World Premier of The Rebel Cell. Exactly four years ago I premiered The Rap Canterbury Tales here and the reverberations are still being felt, not the least by me.

Well, The Rebel Cell, in my humble opinion, is better - it's funnier, crisper, more topical, and in many ways a perfect inheritor to the Lit-Hop mission I began with the Tales, although its content is more Orwellian than Chaucerian. I sincerely hope the reverberations of this project go even further; although, tragically, not everyone can make it to the Fringe!

Never fear. Just like with the Tales, we've recorded The Rebel Cell as a full-length rap storytelling album, and it is now available for free download from my website. Free?!? Yes, that seems to be the nature of the beast these days. Everyone with a bit of web savvy will be able to get it for free soon anyway, so why not follow in the footsteps of Radiohead and beat them to the punch? At least that way we can raise the buzz to a fever pitch and hopefully have a successful run at the world's biggest arts festival. So please, tell your friends!

Of course, if you want to order a physical CD in the mail that's still an option, and if you want to support us there is also the option to donate £5 ($10) to the cause of a couple of recording artists doing good things, but either way you can start listening to The Rebel Cell... right now, no strings attached.

Okay, that's all.

All the best from the 'burgh,


Read a review of Rebel Cell.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fly on the Wall by Baba Brinkman

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Hi Lights,

In the midst of all of the intended fanfare around The Rebel Cell, which premiers in Edinburgh in one week, with the corresponding album release coming up on the weekend, I thought I’d take a moment to share a quick Chaucer-related story, bizarre and hysterical as a Canterbury Tale.

 Yesterday I returned from performing at the New Chaucer Society conference in Swansea, Wales, where over three hundred of the world’s top medieval professors had congregated for four days to give papers and roundtables and plenary speeches on the subject of history’s favourite storyteller.  I was scheduled to be the entertainment at the pub night at the end of the conference, but I asked if I could also come for the day to attend some of the lectures and get caught up on the state of global Chaucer studies.  I was especially keen since I recognized many of the featured speakers from the bibliography of my Masters thesis, so I was looking forward to putting some faces to the quotations I used.

The first session I attended was a fierce debate about New Formalism vs New Historicism, the question of whether the study of literature is best guided by a close reading of each text as a semi-autonomous work of art, or whether it’s generally better to understand texts as a product of their historical and cultural circumstances.  As with many debates, it was only the most radical applications of these two approaches that were really under attack, and both of the speakers actually seemed to fall somewhere in the middle, although they did a fine job of misrepresenting each other as ideologues.

The second session produced an incident that was so surreal I’m sure I will never forget it.  It was a roundtable discussion on Teaching Chaucer featuring short presentations from six professors (actually five professors and one high school teacher) who all shared their varied experiences with teaching The Canterbury Tales at their respective schools.  I had quietly taken a seat near the back of the lecture hall before the session started and was curious to hear if any of what was said could be brought to bear on my own work in schools with the Rap Canterbury Tales.  Little did I know that the intensity of the New Formalism vs New Historicism debate was shortly going to be eclipsed by the intensity of the pro-Baba Brinkman vs anti-Baba Brinkman debate.  

I was mentioned probably half a dozen times in the various presentations, with the first speaker coming out strongly against me, cautioning against over-reliance on superficial pop-culture adaptations of Chaucer, from the TV dramatizations to parallels with South Park and Family Guy to the notorious Rap Canterbury Tales, which was now being put to use in a dangerously high number of classrooms.  She argued that these students would be left with no memory of the actual curriculum material or of Chaucer himself, only the cool stuff it was compared to in class, like rap.  Other professors came to my defense, saying they were skeptical at first about a white Canadian co-opting a black art form in order to disrupt the sanctity of medieval studies, but that after seeing the show performed and hearing about my work in inner city schools, they were convinced that I was a valuable resource for capturing the attention of young people who would otherwise never give Chaucer a chance.  Still others argued that it was a bad idea to use the rap as an ice-breaker, because it would unduly influence the students’ interpretation of the Tales, but that they had found it effective as an incentive, as in: at the end of the Chaucer section, if you study hard, you’ll get to hear the rap as a reward.

As this debate transpired I kept sliding down lower in my seat trying not to be noticed, since they were clearly oblivious to my presence.  Ever wondered what it would be like to be a fly on the wall at your own funeral?

 Well, as it turned out one person had noticed me coming in, and it happened to be the session moderator, Dr Helen Cooper from Cambridge, whose job was to open the floor for questions after the initial talks.  So the first thing she said was:
“A fascinating debate about modern vs traditional approaches to teaching Chaucer!  Rapping and YouTube and Television, what exactly is their place in medieval studies?  It may come as a surprise to many of you, but we are lucky enough to have Baba Brinkman in the room right now, and I’m hoping he’ll be willing to comment on the ongoing discussion of his work.”
 A hundred and fifty bespectacled professors’ heads swiveled around in surprise to stare directly at me as I gave them a nervous wave, “hi everybody”.

So I said:
“It’s pretty surreal for me to hear you all debating the merits of my rap adaptation as a pedagogical tool, especially since that’s definitely not the purpose that I wrote it for.  I’m happy that it’s found a home in the classroom and that some teachers have found it useful, but my original motivation when writing The Rap Canterbury Tales wasn’t to help you to teach Chaucer; it was to wrest Chaucer away from you people and bring him to a wider audience outside the classroom.  That’s why I brought the show to the Edinburgh Festival and to dozens of other festivals around the world.  I thought it was a tragedy that The Canterbury Tales was only being enjoyed by people with a medieval studies education, when the Tales have a universal appeal and deserve to have a universal audience.  So, use the rap version at your own risk, and please judge it on its own merit after listening for yourself, instead of through the lens of your prejudice about rap, and keep in mind that from performing this show to tens of thousands of people around the world over the past five years, I am now the face of Chaucer, not you all.  I think the tales should be studied because they are loved, not loved because they are studied, and I’m trying to make people love the Tales again. So come see the show tonight and you’ll see how I do that.”

That night I got to perform the rap in a crowded room full of the world’s most eminent (beer-drinking) Chaucerians, and from the response I got (both to my comments and to the performance) I have a feeling that the anti-Baba Brinkman faction has been all but been vanquished from the field of Chaucer Studies.  However, the New Formalism vs New Historicism debate rages on.

Yours from the trenches,