Album Reviews

The Dan Bodanis Trio – The Last Set

Dan Bondanis Trio Photo Denise Wilkins.jpg

Submitted by Bill McDonald

I recently spent an evening at the Azure Restaurant listening to the Dan Bodanis Trio featuring Dan Bodanis on drums, Bernie Senensky on piano, and Steve Wallace on bass. By itself, this isn’t unique. I have been there almost every week of their remarkable four year, three night-a-week engagement. The difference was that this Saturday was their last performance at Azure.

All good things come to an end. Whatever ancient, unknown bard first penned that phrase certainly got it right. But that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a brief moment of reminiscence before time inevitably marches on.

Throughout this gig, these incredible musicians have spent hundreds of evenings playing thousands of wonderful renditions of jazz standards. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their talents. Every evening was filled with mastery, and some moments that went beyond. They would probably cite times when they may have got a bit derailed. But that is the yin and yang of improvisational playing – particularly when measured against the bar of their expectation.

Inevitably, due to other commitments, individual band members would need to arrange for a substitute. The “A-listers” that they drew from read like a “Who’s Who” of Canadian jazz – Terry Clarke, Don Thompson, Dave Young, Reg Schwager, Kieran Overs, Dave Restivo, Jim Vivian, Lee Wallace, Pat Collins, Adrean Farrugia, Nancy Walker, and others of this ilk. On one occasion, legendary sax player, Lee Konitz, sat in with the band.

Ladyhawk: No Can Do


Triple Crown

On this one, lead dude Duffy Driediger sounds done with the Crazy Horse roots rock thing and ready to find a new sound. The new sound is the old sounds of the Nineties.

The Van band lineup’s yer classic quartet of Driediger(lead vcls, gtr), Sean Hawryluk(bd, vcls), Darcy Hancock(ld. Gtr, vcls) and Ryan Peters(drums, vcls) and their comradehood in the B.C. bar wars shines through in the performances. Consequently, as change ups go, this one gets it rIght more often than not. It helps that some classic rock hooks and the harmonies ae still in place to help the transition.

Which may be why opener ‘Footprints’ manages a nod to grunge pioneers and genre bridgers Velvet UndergrOund via a letter perfect VU guitar intro coupled to a Reed-ian melodic sensibility. Also possibly why The Pixies get referenced a lot during Ladyhawk’s run at the Nineties.

Want garage grind? Go to ‘You Read My Mind’. For a touch of grunge-pop avec harmonies you’ll want ‘Bedbugs’  Speaking of which, it’s one of the tracks where Driediger gets to have his cake etc.

Known to be aN acerbic observer of his situation, on this one he drops tellling lines such as ‘There’s no hope, this is a Terminal City/But don’t they make it pretty?/Don’t they make it nice?” in a thinly veiled stab at Vancouver’s penchant for hiding social disarry ‘neath sunny skies. The beauty part is the music sounds like vintage nihilist grunge, so let’s hear it for the boy for staying on mission.

So Many Days: Julie Doiron



On this first album for Toronto-based label Aporia, Julie Doiron cements her status as the A-Coast’s indie folk queen.  We go to Julie for meditations on the simultaneous beauty, fragility and unpredictability of life and this un’ has them aplenty.

F’r instance, "Last Night I Lay in Bed", starts off as a simply put love ballad steeped in the moment which plays a dark card when she intones: "It scares me to think about losing you," delivered with a scary intensity. The emotional checks and balances inherent in the day to day are a Doiron strength which puts her observational style some way ahead.

Doiron's songs are gently direct, more longjohns than frilly underwear, written with entirely plausible lyrics. The combination makes for material which leaves haunting and long lasting impressions. And in the case of "Homeless", downright harrowing.

Doiron's burned out vocal augmented by mournful bass runs combine to bleak out a confessional that’s a peak moment. Opening with "I used to be good," Doiron plunges into a tale of the debauched and bitter life of a narrator who knows all too well what she’s let go."To all who love me," she sings, "I am sorry."

Ian Thomas Releases “Little Dreams”

Ian Thomas.jpg

Submitted to Cashbox Canada

With a beautiful new recording, ‘Little Dreams’ (on Alma Records), Hugh’s Room is delighted to welcome Ian Thomas back, one of the sweetest, funniest guys around.

Ian first hit internationally in 1973 with “Painted Ladies”. With a Juno award, four SOCAN classic awards for "Painted Ladies", "Right Before Your Eyes", "Hold On" and "Pilot", a UNICEF Danny Kaye Humanitarian award,~Juno and Gemini nominations, 15 albums and nearly as many top twenty records later, Thomas has now added author to the mix with two novels, Bequest (Manor House 2006) and The Lost Chord (Manor House 2008).

Ian’s lyrics have been utilized in English textbooks while his songs have found international success with many artists such as Santana, America, Manfred Mann, Chicago, Bette Midler and Anne Murray.~He also records and tours the country regularly with good friends Murray McLauchlan, Marc Jordan, and Cindy Church in a band called Lunch At Allen’s.

From 1990 to 2000, Ian Thomas wrote &recorded four albums and toured with his band “The Boomers” who were comprised of some of the Canada’s finest musicians -~Peter Cardinali, Rick Gratton and Bill Dylan. When you add more than twenty movies as a film composer, six seasons on the Red Green Show as character Dougie Franklin and over a thousand commercials voicing characters from Clive Firkin of Firkin Pubs to Snap the Rice Crispie, the credit list starts adds up.

The Venetian Ball Delivers For a Worthy Cause

Fabian, Frankie Avalon Lou Christie and music industry entrepreneur entrepreneur John Domonkos.JPG

Submitted by Bill Delingat
Photo: Fabian, Frankie Avalon Lou Christie and music industry entrepreneur John Domonkos

The Villa Charities has grown over the past 41 years  and provides a vast range of culturally sensitive program and services for the “improvement of the quality of life for seniors in the Italian community as well as assisting adults with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses”.

Donna Greenberg Song in the Wind

Donna Greenberg.jpg

Submitted by Sandy Graham

From the first time you hear the speaking voice of Donna Greenberg, you can feel her passion. Passion for her music, passion for life, passion for mankind. It is no wonder her new CD is such a wonderful production of all that passion. Not to mention her hauntingly beautiful vocals.

Reached in her hometown of Toronto, Canada, Greenberg was eager to talk of her latest offering, 'Song in the Wind'. "I love the songs on this album. They each tell a story, a time or a fantasy in my life, while showing respect for the influence of the famous songwriters who came before me. I love music by Antônio Carlos Jobim, so 'Song in the Wind' was very much influenced by his type of writing .Girl from Ipanema-flavoured, with dance flavours in the production."

"I was classically trained, so I was fortunate to be exposed to all the wonderful composers of the past. I also hold a degree in literature and I an avid reader. This has always been a huge influence on my fantasies of scenes in my mind." "There Was A Time' is a wistful, deep song, with great lyrics and flowing music. "I was taking a walk one night, and saw a young couple talking, walking, looking at houses. They had all the optimism that comes with romance and newness of that fresh love. It is a Gershwin influenced tune. It was nostalgic for when we all have that love in our hearts, when 'there was a time'.

Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill



You’d think Neil Young’s built enough of a legacy to keep his fame alive for a long time. Seems not judging from his nagging ubiquity. Hard on the heels of the brutal ‘Americana’ album and a sprawling and at times tedious memoir ‘Waging Heavy Peace’, comes the biggest, longest album of his career, Psychedelic Pill.

The good news; he’s back with Crazy Horse and making a rock album, the bad news is that all the songs are hinged on that godawful memoir. So, mixed bag indeed and it should be no surprise. Just as with the memoir, this two disc set could have used a bracing edit; it’s not as if we haven’t seen Neil seesaw between heartfelt and self-indulgent before.

Also de rigueur, direct to a fault. So an album called Psychedelic Pill, opens with what else but an acidy, 37 plus minute acoustic onto electric jam, ‘Driftin’ Back’ Not that acid flashbacks from dudes who’ve been there are always a bad idea, but one fixated on writing my book, man….Oh, the hilarity.

So the ragged glory of the hat-tipping ‘Twisted Road’ and the poignant and Harvest-y “She’s Always Dancing” are balanced by the half-formed title track, which apparently Neil thinks so much of we get to endure the thing twice, one version all phase shifty and cringe-making. Neil getting psychedelic without the drugs I guess.

Don Bray: I Am Myself


Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Don Bray is no stranger to stressful situations. Years spent as a firefighter pushed him to the edge of human endurance in the name of helping others. Years later, now retired, Bray invests that same sense of courage into the way he writes about life. He doesn’t go part way, pushing himself to the edge in his regard for those he writes and cares about. With that kind of intensity, at his CD release of “I Am Myself” at Hugh’s Room on Nov 4, he may very well burn the joint to the ground. The album is that good.

Bray’s ability to incorporate an obvious love of people into his storytelling only complements the fact he’s a natural singer and a superb songwriter. Reviews of his work yield words like “A thoughtful writer of tales and character sketches that are at once modern and timeless”.

Barlow Burning Days

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Barlow has a new record filled with the kind of songs and messages that garnered the band 3 Juno nominations. Barlowís major label debut on Sony records spawned two top ten singles "Walk Away" and "Married By Elvis" the winner of the Virgin Radio 99.9 Songwriting contest, as well as tours with such prominent artists as John Mayer, BareNaked Ladies and Tom Cochrane.

For the follow up record entitled "Burning Days", Barlow once again teams up with long-time collaborator and Producer Mladen Alexander and together they have created another collection of socially conscious, hook laden pop/folk/rock songs. Staying true to their music-making roots, Tom and Mladen released the first single from their sophomore album Burning Days via viral video in the fall of 2011. Titled  "Steal Like A Billionaire" the track is a reflection of the anger that people around the world have been feeling for a long time toward financial institutions and their inability to lead North America away from financial upsets.

Dragonette: Bodyparts


Bodyparts is the third album from this Toronto band, with the two earlier releases full of dance tunes, ballads, funk and retro pop. This new offering is produced and polished and ready to show the world what this talent has to offer to its fans and fans to be.

The band’s repertoire includes a host of impressive collaborations with the likes of American DJ Kaskade and French producer Martin Solveig. Most recently, the band worked with Solveig in 2010 to release the joint-effort dance track “Hello.” The single made a huge splash globally, catapulting the band into the limelight amongst a flourishing electro-dance music scene. In the aftermath of the fame wrought by the success of “Hello,” Dragonette has attempted to stay close to their roots of writing and producing dance music with both style and substance while appealing to a larger, more universal audience.

In Dragonettes’ Bodyparts, (Universal Music Canada)the band hopes to balance their historically synth-laced, underground dance-pop sound with the influential pop aesthetic so prevalent today. Lead single “Let It Go” certainly succeeds in this task, featuring a catchy, danceable, and most importantly accessible, hook alongside the youthful vocals of Martina Sorbara and Dragonette’s signature synth-lines. Needless to say, in the post-“Hello” era, the band would also love strike a chord with pop music fans everywhere and showcase a sound they proudly call their own.

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