Friday, 13 December 2013


tis the season
here in the great white north

we've been working the band on the run album
it's nearing perfection
the band is firing on all cylinders

i've been trying to get a message across
but i get tongue tied when speaking about it before the shows
maybe this blog will find a way in

like so many people
my family has been affected by cancer
it's a big tarp of worry that hovers
but i found a way to let some light in
i volunteer

every monday i drive patients to and from their hospital appointments
it's very cause and effect
and well set up
through the cancer society
it's become an important part of my life

i went to a meeting
coffee and lunch
then started driving the following week

dispatch sends me an email
it has my pick ups
and times
it's all very zen

i can't imagine what it must be like to have chemo
or radiation
and then have to get on a bus
so driving is very important

everyone wants to talk about cancer
and when we do
we grab onto each other as if to share energy

there's a palpable energy in volunteering
you meet great people
funny people
from all over the world
i keep the laughs rolling
and i listen to everyone's stories

for 2 weeks in a row
i drove a young woman and her baby
they were from afghanistan
i told her i was traveling to florida that coming weekend
she was so interested
the next week she asked all about my trip
'what's america like?'
at that moment Q had hendrix's 'are you experienced' on
i turned up the radio
i said 'it's like this'
she smiled and nodded
she got it

some people get in the car
and their life story falls out of them
it's like a travel show

some people are sad

what's nice about it
is that the system is working
i see it first hand
we get bombarded with health care information
sometimes it's hard to find level ground

i'm proud to volunteer
and be part of something that's moving forward

there's never a rush driving
the last thing you want to do is get stressed
(this has been a major challenge for me)
instead chill
the hospitals understand the ebb and flow
and everyone is caring at every step in the trip
it's soul food

as i age i feel the compassionate part of my life kick in
nature moves us this way
if this blog finds you
and sparks
then look into volunteering
and feel good
if you don't have time
then don't feel guilty!
braxton keeps asking me about it
i tell him to wait
he's young with a new family and tons of gigs
your time will come!
leave it to us oldies for now

and don't forget
classic albums live tickets make a cool gift

december 13, 2013
tea and cadbury christmas chocolates

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Rock Bio Wrap Up

i've been bombarded with rock bios
people give them to me as presents
come the holidays i get a stack of rock reading
"craig's into music - we'll get him a rock bio!"
i read them all

and i've saved you some time
and made a little fill in the blanks / multiple choice page
so you can feel like you've read all the rock bios too!

I grew up in (England / The South). We were (poor/ middle class) but didn't really feel like much was missing from our life. We didn't have (indoor toilets / heat / television). When I heard (Chuck Berry / Little Richard) everything changed. I knew I had to become a musician. I met (skinny lead singer / scruffy guitar player) at a (train station / apple orchard) in (1958 / 1968). He was clutching a copy of (Catcher in the Rye / John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) I knew right then my future would be tied to his.

We began (writing songs / hanging out in music stores) and soon met up with (detached bass player / soon to be fired keyboard player) and we started rehearsing above a (fish and chips store / radio repair shop). Girls started hanging around and I ended up losing my virginity to (Sister Moonshine / a girl named Patti / Sweet Sweet Connie). It was at this time that (a friend of the band with a van / opportunistic weasel) began managing us and we cut our first record for (BBC / Columbia). I remember (skinny lead singer / scruffy guitar player) catching (a cold / the clap).

During our first tour of (America / Hamburg / Manchester) we discovered (insert addictive drug of choice). From there I (died / wrote some of the greatest music ever made). Because the money was rolling in, I never saw a need to quit. It wasn't until I (saw God at Woodstock / threw up on the front row / slept with a Tranny) that I realized I needed help. My manager flew me to Switzerland and I got clean.

Now I'm (67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 75) and I'm happy to discover that I have (children / a bank account / a 1959 Les Paul Gold Top) and that life is (almost over / sweet). Being clean (has ruined my music / forced me to sue my manager for my publishing) and more importantly enabled me to atone for all the bad times I may have inflicted on other people. The best way to say you're sorry is to (write a cheque / put their name in a song).

I'm looking forward to (lunch / a new hearing aid) and can't wait to (hit the road / duet with Elton). My new album is (largely forgettable / auto tuned) and hits (Starbucks / Starbucks / Starbucks) next week. I leave you now with these parting words - (you can get what you want providing you don't mind writing people out of song credits / have a good time all the time / in the end the love you take is partially owned by Michael Jackson's estate).

october 13, 2013
tea and sympathy

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ramble On

i've been re-reading old rock mags from the 70s
and things have indeed changed
those scribes really used to ramble on
they'd go on at length about silly inane things
that had very little to do with the music

but i used to read every word
i connected to the journalist who had a peek beyond the velvet rope
i gobbled up all the info i could get
liner notes were like encyclopedias
i knew the studio
the session players
the producers
the funny messages
it seemed to matter back then

but now i need tiny blocks of text
i can't remember the last time i read an actual album review
and every time one of the oldies re-releases an album
i'm amazed at how much revisionist history is inserted

creem magazine was my go to mag
they had a journalist named lisa robinson
she went on the road with led zeppelin in 73
that kind of access would never be granted these days
lisa lived with the band
and wrote about it
it's an incredible read
and a clear indication of what life was like on the road
before press agents and handlers got hold of the bands

there's another interview with mick
also from 73
and they're asking him whether the upcoming tour
was going to be their last?
they're asking mick if he's too old for rock 'n' roll?
i couldn't imagine 40 years of the same questions
no wonder mick looks like he's always about to roll his eyes

there's another article from 75
that asks if 'we really need yet another book on the beatles?'
of course now you can buy books on the beatles at a gas station

today so called rock stars
are inserted into a level of micro management
that ensures a bland and boring legacy

i do a lot of interviews
at least 2 a week
our press machine rolls like side two of abbey road
i'm good at press
and i know how to get our message out
and our message is important
because i'm well aware that this is not our music
like i say - we're curators
we take care of classic rock the same way a museum takes care of king tut's estate

here's a series of questions i always get asked:
what will the classic albums of the future be?
as far as i can tell
there aren't going to be any
what's the last classic album?
U2s joshua tree and then a radioheads OK computer
where is rock going?
the way of jazz

that last answer opens up a can of worms
no one wants to hear that rock has had its day
but it has
there's cool bands that are carrying on the tradition
the crowes
the sheepdogs
the killers
but for the most part
rock is wounded
and being mangled
by people who repeatedly use the following words:
- demographic
- brand
- marketing
- social media
these people need to go on a road trip with led zeppelin
or at least spend a weekend with me and the CAL zep band

people always argue with me
they claim that justin timberlake has classic albums
or that katy perry is better than i think
i love pop
i've always loved a good song
but when it comes to a classic album
i challenge
i punch up the artists discography
and start by asking the arguer to name a couple albums
they can't
how about songs?
usually it's just one song named
this is not the criteria that justifies a classic album
a classic album - by definition - needs to endure

have a look at rolling stone or billboard charts from 2003
nothing survived
punch in 1993
sure there were a couple alright albums
but for the most part - pass me a pillow
i give the nineties a solid 5 stars out of ten for music

the journalism from that time was equally as banal
naval gazing reflections from people with expensive hair cuts
contrived trumped cool
i remember feeling lost in the 90s
i was still listening to the beatles
the stones
and zep
everyone thought i was a hippie
but the cream rose to the top
and while bjork may be an important artist
her music has been swallowed up by the whirlpool of forgetfulness

i'm not sure what will survive
as i age i realize that i'm usually wrong about a great many things
but i've spent everyday of my life since i was 7
loving music
and i've dedicated my life to it
so i'm going to make a bold prediction:
rock 'n' roll is here to stay

craig martin
september 18, 2013
apple slices with honey

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Summer 2013

it's a slow summer
the weather can't make up its mind
and the radio sounds wrinkled
my acoustic guitars have lost some of their siren
and sound more like wheat fields

we slow down in the summer
the theatres run shows from september to may
so it's nice to have some down time
of course there's a lot to do
but things can sit
and make shadows in the afternoon sun

as we age we return to the music of our youth
i've been tapping into my eldest son's music
he's on his own path
deep on the trail
he likes urban music
specifically from a certain apartment block in new york
he's into the truth
and is repelled by the hard sell
still i wonder if his music will survive
and if indeed he will return to this music when he's my age

i grew up on 70s pop
ho ho ho it's magic
i don't like spiders and snakes
hey kids rock 'n' roll
one hit wonders
i doubt if many of them actually toured
they got thrown onto the charts
somebody made some money
and then they disappeared
still - it's nice to hear them still in rotation on satellite radio

we've returned to earlier times sonically
again - it's all about the single
it was the same growing up as a teenager in the 70s
it really wasn't until the mid 70s when i started capturing time with entire albums
i was 15 in 76
more aware
and in need of something more than rhinestone cowboys and ballroom blitzes

my son and i were on a drive
and i had supertramp's crime of the century on
we listened to the entire album together
in silence
as we drove the corners of toronto
upon completion he commented that the album
did a good job of accompanying the landscape

right now he's lost in northern ontario
on a 36 day canoe trip
no running water
no electricity
just nature and food drops
despite this
he went to great extremes to make sure he had his music with him
i picture him paddling and portaging
and grooving to some crazy truth telling shaman from inner nyc

celebrity is dead
who really gives a damn?
little kids?
people without friends?
you fly a flag
you'd better make it wave with something real and true
because we've met the new boss
and they're as boring as the old boss

i suspect my son will remember this time
as a time in his life when he became aware of the true meaning of bullshit
he's ahead of schedule
happy birthday lucas

craig martin
july 3, 2013
whiskey and planter's dry roasted peanuts

Monday, 20 May 2013

Notes from a Turnpike

a heavy compacted 7 albums in 3 days weekend
starting in princeton new jersey
where we did pepper and mystery together
right in the heart of the university
in a beautiful old theatre
steeped in glory

pepper falls out of us now
it's not like we ever take it for granted
but we know how to perform the album
we know all the tricks
and all the parts
we forged our own keys

magical mystery tour was exactly that
i noticed some of the CAL swagger ebbed ever so slightly
and we were a touch tentative
yet still exact
a couple of the songs soared
vocally we were at the top of our game
thankfully the horn section showed up with extra brass in pocket
and delivered a selection of sonically pleasing strawberry filled walls of sound

special merit badge to stevie dyte
who made history
with his note perfect blast of piccolo trumpet during penny lane
later that night i combed the internet
to find a flake of evidence
of another trumpeter coming close to what stevie did
no reply came the stern answer
stevie made history
footnote history

during blue jay way
i felt under prepared
i mixed the weekend's shows
and while preparing for the album
i continually glazed when it came to blue jay way
after the show
i mentioned to alex
that i thought the song was lacking
she said she loved it because she got to solo the entire song
at the next show
i grooved her fader north
and there she was
that cello of hers growling like the mean bitch it can be
and the song came alive
and fun

i love david love
i've had some similar conversations with lots of alumni
where they ask why i'm picking on them
i tell them it's because i think they're one of the greats
david's one acoustic guitar and i don't get along
i can't wrangle the sound i want out of it
and i tell him so
and he gets mad
and i get mad that he gets mad
and soon we're drinking wine at the bar together and discussing preamps
but my favourite moment with david
was in between albums
i voiced my upsettedness about the J-45
so david tries to buy a new guitar on line between albums
i love that
'craig - how about a martin?'
who doesn't love a martin
sometimes david love doesn't

mark stewartson has a perfect honey kissed sun ripened velvety smooth voice
and he's a warm soul to spend time backstage with

in niagara falls
the CAL zep band pulls into a new venue
and sells it out
trigger happy dom polito
and the newly braceleted phil naro
teamed up with gold medal goaltender rick vatour
and took the audience for a workout
check out rick's biceps for proof

saturday was a day off
i had my oldest son with me
so we hit manhattan
and tripped the day fantastic
it was nice spending three solid days with The Boy
we rarely left each other's side
at times i wondered
'who is this strange person following me around?'
he used to be a little boy
now he's proving to be an asset backstage
with gear photocopying and sugar

back in jersey
we began our beatles marathon
let it be
abbey road
in the afternoon
followed by
and mystery at night

some people might remember the original beatles marathon
at the phoenix
way back in the 40s
we did every beatles song ever recorded
in one day
it almost killed some the musicians
i understand after the undertaking
greg wyard took a year off to meditate
this marathon was a far more civilized affair
in that we once again cheated death
and sparkled resplendently
the band banded together
and became elastic pieces of joy
the vibe was cool
and the playing was juicy

i love the musicians
i know they know that
i and i know i go on about it too much
but i really sincerely care for them
and appreciate all they do
to make all of us
feel like we're connected
we've raised the bar
we've weeded out the whiners
we've plucked unwanted facial hair
we've arrived at a perfectly grounded round totem pole
around which we prop each other up
and build
and friendships
this is the stuff of life
next week
i head out again

craig martin
may 20, 2013
dairy queen

Sunday, 28 April 2013


i'm in vegas
poking around to see if there's a play for CAL here
we played the joint at the hard rock a few years back
and we connected with the people that came
but after 6 shows over 6 months
we found it was hard to get our message out
we take so much explaining
the fleeting crowd want circus's and lions

my american agent - brian
has set up some meetings in a variety of different rooms
one of them is a performing arts center
the others are with casinos
it's hard to explain to people that our two secret weapons
are endurance and word of mouth
we keep coming back with new albums
and people keep telling their friends
that message seems so tiny compared to the hulking flash of vegas
but i'm going to tell it true

i'm optimistic
there's so much stun and fun here
that something slightly more cerebral might stand out
we'll see
the last time here
i found a host of deeply appreciative music lovers
who grooved to the CAL vibe

last night we saw prince formerly known as the artist
at the joint
he had tapped into his hendrix
and as far as i'm concerned
has proven himself the true heir to jimi's throne
prince jammed
he's all to himself
the band watches for a cue
and executes dutifully
tight band
with a great groove and chops that any butcher would be proud of
but prince is the show
wailing colours and attitude
he took his guitar on a field trip
you know why you never read or see prince in the tabloids?
because he stays inside and practices
the music is his master
that's it
that's his life
his definition
i dig that

tech notes
- no in ears because prince knows that real rock players play old school
- no overhead mics on the cymbals
- no constant guitar changes - he bent the guitar in two then sat it on the stand only to pick it up again discover that it was still in tune because it's a good guitar
- donna - the 2nd guitar player (from toronto!) (friends with morgan!) was not as loud in the mix for her solos as prince was

wish me luck today
i'm excited to find out if there's something here for us

april 28, 2013
american coffee

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Stones Roll Again

damn straight
get up and get out
hit the road
strap on a guitar
hit those goddamn drums
turn it up
crank it out
give me the hits
and the deep tracks
i don't care about how old your aren't
i just want to let go and have fun
i wanna grab my baby's hips and sway
i want to have a couple beers
and forget about how much i'm getting gouged
it's the stones
while everyone else was rethinking things
they just woke up and carried on doing what they do
c'mon c'mon
it's not like they know how to do anything else
after 50 years you can bet that they know
how to connect with tens of thousands of people
and i like the gorilla
go out swinging
swan songs
and curtain calls
deep bows
roses on graves
that towel in ring is just there to wipe up some stage sweat
get on the plane and catch some sleep
eat whatever you want
toast your mates
smile knowingly
because we're ready to rock the next night
and the night after that
and when the tour is over
and you're catching your breath
and you're wondering what to do next
you can dream it up again
because no one is saying goodbye

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Guest Blogger: Rob Phillips!

It's difficult to overstate the impact The Who has made on my life.  It's no hyperbole to say that 'I would not be a musician today were it not for The Who'.  Pete Townshend has repeatedly told the story of the Mods who came backstage after a gig - raving about I Can't Explain.  These teenagers became his artistic patrons and he would continue to write from their point of view and express what they could not. 

I was introduced to their music around the time of my 16th birthday.  I was in a sort of a musical limbo at the time.  I wasn't taking guitar lessons anymore, but i still liked to play a bit.  Looking back I'd say there was a danger that I could've become one of the many who took lessons for a couple of years and then dropped it.  I wanted to be a pilot, but I also daydreamed of being a stand up comedian as well as a rockstar. 

A guy named Mike Heitner had been transferred to my school towards the end of the year.  We met one day in the music room at lunch.  I'd gone downstairs to play around on the school's guitar and amp and was shocked to see somebody was already there.  There was another guy there who'd brought his own guitar - who was clearly in over his head and who very quickly offered his guitar to me.  We jammed a little bit and after that, brought our guitars to school everyday and played out on the grass at lunchtimes where the cool kids smoked.  I didn't know a lot of the songs he knew, but I was a quick learner.  After a couple of weeks of jamming around together, he'd invited me to join his band.  I'd never been in a band before outside of any school-organized activity.  I'm not even sure it had occurred to me that being in a band was even a possibility.  I didn't even have any equipment!

On the last day of school, I managed to sign out the school's electric guitar and amplifier for the summer.  That night I met the other guys in the band and we played songs by The Beatles, The Clash, The Police and others - but most importantly: The Who!  This was all basically new music to me (although I'd already been well acquainted with the Beatles), but The Who had something special to it!  

After a couple of hours of playing we took a break and started talking about the usual 16 year old stuff. Eventually the conversation came around to The Who.  Mike said that he'd stayed up late a few nights earlier recording a documentary about The Who on TV.  "You guys have gotta see the first 5 minutes where they smash their guitars!"  This was The Kids Are Alright and the TV appearance was their legendary spot on the Smothers Brothers.  It goes without saying that 5 minutes turned into the full 90 minutes.   After the movie was over we ran back downstairs and played My Generation and 'smashed' our guitars at the end - gingerly hitting them into the soft cushions on the back of the couch.   ...and my life had changed!

They were intelligent and funny...and good!  The biggest moments for me were the live clips from the Woodstock-era.  Especially Young Man Blues, Sparks and See Me Feel Me.  The Who themselves look back and cringe at their Woodstock performance, but musicians give a lot of weight to the backstage experience when rating their own shows.  But Pete's guitar sound was astonishing.  The solo for See Me Feel Me (in particular) was the biggest sounding thing I'd EVER heard!  It was loud and distorted, but wasn't harsh or tinny in any way.  The repetitive chord progression was dramatic, grandiose and passionate and the Fuzz guitar solo made me feel high. 

...and from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

...but I digress.

Last Tuesday, Feb 19, The Who were at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario to perform Quadrophenia.  I'd only seen them once before back in 1997 when they were also touring with Quadrophenia.  John Entwistle was still alive then.  I know what their live mandate is all about and I knew not to expect a Note for Note show.  Most of what i like about The Who came from the energy of the 3 musicians in the band - 2 of whom are now dead.  The surviving members are no longer young men with young men's voices.  I can't even bring myself to watch YouTube clips of recent shows because the energy and sound I want is not there and even the melodies are rarely the way I want to hear them.  Many post-CAL-show discussions over red wine or CC&Coke come around to our shows and how they fit into the musical experience.  Is it even a Rock&Roll show?  Back in the 70's there was an understanding that bands COULD NOT reproduce their studio recordings live, nor were they expected to.  Part of the R&R experience was about spontaneity.  Audiences actually went to concerts to hear the musicians play and appreciate their musicianship.  The attitude was that 'you wouldn't ask a painter to paint the same picture over and over again'  But after 40 years, I maintain that the 'recordings have become the songs'.  Pete Townshend would probably say that CAL is not Rock&Roll, but he also said that the 'tape recorder has become the new notation'.

The show opened with the familiar ocean sounds of I Am The Sea.  Images played out across three circular screens over a larger screen in the background and the four leitmotifs representing each member of the Who played out before the band launched into The Real A...a minor third down from the original key.  My heart sank a bit.  Was the show going to be detuned the whole time like Led Zeppelin at the O2?  I realize that Roger's 68, so maybe he needs a comfortable warm-up so he doesn't blow his voice out - at this point I was a little worried.

Segue into 'Quadrophenia' (in concert pitch!) the instrumental title track which re-introduces the 4 leitmotifs.  Pete's brother Simon is playing the leads in this song...and I couldn't hear it at all.  His fader was way down.  He was prominently displayed up on the screens, so the crew obviously knew he plays this part, but all I could hear was Pete's rhythm guitar.  I couldn't even hear the drums!  When the song works around to the Love Reign O'er Me theme, I couldn't hear the keyboards - just more Pete.  Zak Starkey (who's looking more like Ringo as he gets older) hit the shots every 4 bars but I can't get any sense of timing - he must've been had a click or a very good monitor mix because the band were obviously together.

Next was Cut My Hair.  I know Pete always plays around with the vocal melody and rhythm, so I'm ready for it.  But his voice sounds terrible!  Is he sick?  I know his voice and I know the throaty rasp he likes to do live, but he sounded like his throat was ripped to shreds.  Occasionally, he sounded alright - when he reverted back to the more familiar melody, but these moments were few and far between.

Next came The Punk Meets The Godfather.  Roger steps up to the mic and Pete starts the opening riff.  It's in the right key, the right rhythm, the right attitude and the right sound.  Roger starts singing - and he sounds fucking great!  Instant goosebumps!  Things are starting to come together.

They stayed fairly true to the original (lead vocals/guitar notwithstanding) through the rest of the first half.  Simon Townshend sang lead on The Dirty Jobs and supported Roger in most of the really hard passages.

5:15 had great energy and for the first time they started stretching out and really jamming.  It felt pretty good too!  Pete leading Zak and Pino Palladino - who I kept forgetting was there (which is considered a good thing when you're talking about a 'sub').  I started thinking abut John Entwistle and i remembered that this was the point in the show where he'd take a bass solo.  And then he appeared up on the screen.  The rest of the band left the stage as John played his 5:15 solo with live accompaniment from Zak Starkey.  It was a nice tribute to a fallen brother and as they band rejoined at the end of his solo, the video of John nodded thank you and goodbye to the audience  and slowly faded out.  Very nicely done - I got a lump in my throat.

Pete's voice finally came to life when he sang Drowned.  His voice sounded great even as he played around with the delivery because he (mostly) avoided his throaty style.

Keith Moon made his appearance in Bellboy as he sang his parts on the screen.  The audio was taken directly from the album, but the video showed his live rendition from the Charleton show in 1974.  Another nice tribute.

They kept it up for the rest of the show.  A couple of the songs towards the end were transposed, but only by a semitone.  I can't remember specifically - but I think Dr Jimmy and maybe another one were detuned.  After the guitar solo in Love Reign O'er Me, I couldn't help but wonder how Roger was going to hit that big "LOOOOOOVE..." in the final chorus, but he sounded great!  Enough to make me wonder if it wasn't pre-recorded, but it didn't seem to be. 

The crowd were on their feet for the end of the album and Pete introduced the band before heading into some other Who classics to close the show.

Who Are You
Pinball Wizard
Behind Blue Eyes
Baba O'Riley
Won't Get Fooled Again (with another possibly questionable pre-recorded scream)

The touring band left the stage and they closed the show with the only new song of the night Tea and Theatre.  It seemed appropriate to end the night with only Roger and Pete onstage.  I'm familiar witht he song, but of course I'm not really a fan of the new material.  But again, live music is best - I really listened to the song for the first time.  Roger sang it beautifully and it was a nice way to close the night.

There was no encore.

I enjoyed the show - possibly for nostalgic reasons, but I still enjoyed myself.  My expectations weren't really very high based on youtube clips, but there's something to be said about watching youtube vs. actually being there in the moment and hearing the music live.  The Who as we know and love them died with Keith Moon and it really hasn't been the same since.  Was it 1973?  No, but I knew it wouldn't be.

Rob Phillips

Monday, 11 March 2013

Guest Blogger: Angelo Noto Campanella

Photographer, Writer, and now I'm Blogging? or Ramblings of an Old kid.

First of all I'd just like to say how honored and priveleged I feel to have been asked to be a guest blogger for Classic Albums Live.
Just like ya here on some radio stations "The hits just keep on comin"

I thank the music gods for Cal.  Little did I realize how my life was gonna change after going to see my first classic albums live show at Zooz/Safari Niagara.  After some exhaustive research, going through hundreds of photographs, I found out that my very first cal show was the Bob Marley "Legend" album  September 3rd 2004.  I was immediately hooked and had to see more.  From 2005 to 2009 I went to every single show at ZooZ and also shows at the Phoenix and other venues across Ontario.

The very first album I ever bought, with money I got for my birthday at 8yrs old, was the Beatles "Rubber Soul" album.  When I turned 9yrs old I got a paper route and did some grass cutting and bought myself a transistor radio, which I immediately duct taped to the handle bars of my CCM mustang bicycle.  The late 60's and all of the 70's was a magical time for music, it seemed like there was a new sound coming out every other month.  When I first heard Pink Floyd live in '75 do DSOTM @ Ivor Wynn stadium, my mind was just blown.  I initially thought it was '74 but Rob Philips immediately corrected my error in time and then stated "well I guess it's like Woodstock, if you remember it, you weren't there.  LOL".  Thanx Rob.  I went to many concerts then and saw all the great rock bands of the day, I even had a ticket to see Led Zeppelin but the show was cancelled due to some car accident Robert Plant got into.  Don Mclean did a song called "Bye Bye Miss American Pie", in it he mentions the day the music died, which for him was when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Vallens and the Big Bopper died in that plane crash, for me the music died when John Bonham choked on his own vomit and Led Zeppelin disbanded.  After that I kinda lost interest in music.  I still liked music but I didn't really pay that much attention.  I went to a few concerts here and there; I got to see Robert Plant at Maple Leaf Gardens with Phil Collins on drums which was pretty cool.

Classic albums live got me interested in music again.  I was always shooting photographs, so I started shooting cal.  I soon discovered that music photography was an art form I should study.  I learned that you can't dance and shoot at the same time, and shooting with film was costing me a fortune, so I finally went to a cheap digital camera.  I then learned that dancing and shooting with a cheap digital camera wasn't good either, it takes me a while to learn lessons.  So I ended up with a lot of blurry pic's and video clips, but occasionally got a good shot or two.  Luckily, depending on how ya look at it, I'm sometimes clumsy and ended up breaking the digital camera's.  They aren't very shock resistant and, it turns out electronics and water don't mix, but every time I would break a camera I would end up buying a better one.

The first time I heard cal do DSOTM and Great Gig came eyes just filled with tears.  I'm not exactly sure why and I've decided not to even try to figure it out, I'll just say there's more joy than sadness in those tears.  I don't know who did the vocals for that show, but it doesn't even matter because every vocalist I've heard do Great Gig brings their own intensity to the piece.  I think of all the Cal shows I've attended most often, I'd say I've seen the DSOTM show the most times.  I'm proud of's a great story...Was at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford a few years ago to see one of the Floyd shows and during the intermission I run into Leslea Keurvorst and she's limping, so I ask "whats wrong?"  Turns out, she stepped on a nail recently and it got infected and it was very sore but, as they say "The show must go on".  The cal crew come back on stage after intermission for the outro set, and the 2nd song in, Leslea steps up to the mic to do "Great Gig" was the most stupendous rendition of that song by Leslea I've ever heard, here's the link to the vid I did, but of course it's blurry due to cheapness of the camera and I had to dodge heads in the theater which makes it shakey too...hahahaha, but you'll get the idea.

Some of my most favorite Cal shows were what I like to call the "one-off's".   That's an album that only gets performed very few times, and sometimes only ONCE!....that one was pretty special for two reasons 1. because it was done at the Phoenix.  and 2. because it was only done once that I know of, that was "The Yes Album" and "close to the edge" album, back to back....WOW!...."note fer note, cut fer cut"...the second was the Deep Purple "Machine Head" album....Too Much!....and thirdly, Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" album with a Ronnie James Dio tribute for the outro, what a moment that was. Here's a snipit of it...

I have seen almost every album in the classic albums live repetoir and some of those albums 4, 5, 6 and even 10 times or more and simply for the reason that I love classic rock and have never been dissapointed with a recital yet.  When world class musicians come together like in cal, how can it go wrong.

Oh yeah, almost fergot to mention a really special show held at the Phoenix in Toronto some years ago...special guest Mary Clayton who actually did the back-up vocals on the Rolling Stones tune "gimme shelter"....what a musical treat that was....Thanx Craig

Ok, almost done this blog.

From the first sentence of this blog..."Little did I realize how my life was gonna change after going to see my first classic albums live show"'s funny how one thing leads to on-line magazine publisher see's my photo's and asks to publish them...same on-line magazine then see's some of my cal musical shots and ya wanna interview some local bands and do a write up and send a photograph?....I say sure but I'm not a writer.... and as you can see, I'm now I write for 3 or 4 publications and am going through a renaissance of sorts...and to think it all started after my first cal show....Happy 10th Anniversary Classic Albums Live, looking forward to the next 10yrs.

Jack Daniels

Laughing my Ass off...oh right, LMAO

Going through Cal Photographs

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


there's these moments
when you connect with something
it can be beautiful or sad
it rocks your soul
and you know you'll carry that moment with you through life

these moments for me are attached to music
i can never remember what i eat at weddings
or what was said at funerals
but i always remember the music

i'm not religious
it never found me
i was raised without it
but i like being around people who are
it's like hedging your bets
my partner is jewish
and i like taking part in all of the ceremonies her family has
and of course christmas is fun
especially with all the kids

but other than that
i don't connect
not from any lack of trying
i read a lot
i'm reading i ching right now

once i was on a flight to nyc
the woman beside me was crying
she had prayer beads in her fingers
she told me she was going to see her sister who was very sick
and she was praying hard
i helped her get a cab once we landed
and she said she'd say a prayer for me
i thought that it would be nice to have someone care that much about you
i'd want someone like that in my corner if things turn south

i connect to music
i still believe that rock n roll can change the world
i attach meaning to lyrics and carry those lyrics with me for life
i share music with as many people as i can reach
i help musicians as best as i can
i see music bettering people
i find a lot of parallels in this mind set with religion

tomorrow morning two crews are setting out on the road
20 musicians will perform queen and abbey road
in opposite ends of north america
they're like arrows
full of music and joy
sure of their mark
so people get ready
you don't need no ticket
just sit down and take one in the heart
they'll make you feel good
and hopeful
and loving
the arrows
you can say a prayer for them
or just wish that that they get fired back safely
you can scream hallelujah
or clap your hands
we can all care together
there's something happening here

craig martin
march 5, 2013
milk and honey

Saturday, 23 February 2013

An Overheard Conversation from a Scarborough High School Parking Lot in 1973.

An Overheard Conversation from a Scarborough High School Parking Lot in 1973.

LONG HAIRED GUY 1: Dude! Have you heard the new Floyd? Dark Side of the Moon?

LONG HAIRED GUY 2: I know! It's far out!

LHG1: I was so totally psyched. Last night, I lit up and hit the headphones. When those clocks kicked in I thought my head was going to explode.

LHG2: Dude, it's a total freak out.

LHG1: And the cash register!

LHG2: Freaky-deaky, man. That's Floyd saying that they hate money and they hate corporate success.

LHG1: Right on, brother. Gimme Five! Floyd don't care about making money. After this album I heard they're calling it quits.

LHG2: Here's the skinny, my man, Floyd have been around since 65. Those dudes are getting old and no one lasts more than 8 years in the music business.

LONG HARD GUY 3: Hey is that the new Floyd?

LHG1: Totally.

LHG3: What did you think of all those voices?

LHG2: What voices?

LHG3: The  voices!

LHG1: Dude those voices freaked me out. I was tripping.

LHG2: What voices?

LHG3: There's no way anyone could ever pull it off live.

LHG2: What voices, man? I'm scared of the voices?

LHG3: I mean, could you imagine if a band pulled the entire album off live, note for note? Impossible.

LHG1: I have an idea…

LHG2: What voices?

Craig Martin
Classic Albums Live

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Breakfast in America

in 1980
i was selling records
tons of them
i worked for the hudson bay company
scarborough town centre

selling records for the bay
was the greatest straight job anyone could have asked for
i'd spin albums all day
on sunday's they'd ask me to play easy listening
i'd put on side 3 of the wall

there was always a ton of cash in the register
everyone bought records
there were daily shipments
and we sold tons of really strange stuff
like hagood hard
the knack
nana mouskouri

but the album i remember selling more than any other album
was breakfast in america
in our little corner of the world
we must have sold 5000 copies out of that one store
and this was going on everywhere in the world

i saw supertramp in concert
at the canadian national exhibition
and the show was exact
the contrast of roger and rick
two gentlemen
both young
and at the top of their game
both of them composing absolute works of genius
and bringing them to the band
to learn and interpret
what an experience
supertramp are like nasa
they're rocket scientists with notes

we recently had a fun connection with roger hodgson
a cat from roger's camp
got in touch
and told us that roger had been checking us out
and would we be open to working together?
i said we would very open to working with roger
just tell us what to do

but it didn't happen
roger tours all the time
he works hard
i just don't think that time allowed for it
but i remain hopeful
i don't push
we're at his beck and call
it would be an honour

i'd have to insist on note for note
perhaps over the years
roger has gotten used to playing a certain phrase in logical song
ever so slightly different
we'd have to correct him
the nerve!
could you imagine?
i have this same scenario played out with paul mcCartney and roger waters
clearly i have issues

breakfast in america is a perfect album
perhaps the greatest slice of pop pie since the beatles disbanded
the british classical element
zep had it
the beatles had it
certainly the who
and supertramp had it too
masters all

we begin to perform breakfast in america this month
so wonderful
a miracle
it was beautiful

february 10, 2013
tea and cookies

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sgt. Pepper at Roy Thomson Hall

Sgt. Pepper is such a common part of our lives. It's like ketchup. It keeps showing up. For the past 46 years we've had Pepper journeying alongside us as we trip through life. And lucky for us The Beatles put Diamonds in our sky.

There's been a ton of writing and critical praise already heaped upon the album that it's close to impossible for a piece of art to stand up to such lauding. But Pepper does in fact stand up. And I'll go as far to say that it's the most important piece of art ever created. So much so that it makes the Mona Lisa frown. And unlike monumental feats of architecture, you don't have to travel to the other side of the world to experience it. More people have listened to Sgt. Pepper than watched Citizen Kane. Combine and add up all the Bach, Brahms and Beethoven record sales and you'll find that they don't come close to selling as many albums as Pepper.

Sgt. Pepper is the first classical rock album. All the albums that Classic Albums Live performs are classical albums, but Pepper is the flagship. I can hear all the stuffy, traditional classical lovers snorting their grunts of disapproval. But who cares? A Day in their Life is different from mine. They can go fly a Kite. This is classical music, baby. It's enduring with Telecasters and Ludwigs sounding the battle cry.

When Classic Albums Live first salted ourselves with Pepper, I remember us being intimidated. Here was a bunch of shaggy musicians tackling the most important piece of music ever made. And being led by a guy from Scarborough. But we buggered on a found the heart of the album. The George Harrison track - 'Within Without You' - proved not only be the most challenging but the most rewarding. Whenever we play the song live you can hear an audible gasp from people in the audience. Growing up, this was the track that we used to get up off the couch and lift the needle on, but now it's the most compelling track and demands attention. Funny that.

The first time we performed this album, I remember there being a palpable buzz in the air. No one had ever performed the entire album prior to us, let alone boast the 'note for note' claim. The show was magical. A historical night. The next morning I remember Leaving Home for the corner market. I picked up the Toronto Star and there was our review. They called our show "Joyful" and "Thrilling".  To this day those are my two favourite adjectives.

It's an honour to be on stage at Roy Thomson Hall with this incredible piece of music. We know how to perform this album. We've been doing it for 10 years and living with it our entire lives. And we keep Getting Better. All the Time.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Guest Blogger: Vanessa Jurek!

thanks to v for a great article

America's 40th anniversary tour at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts January 26, 2013

Now in their 43rd year of performing America took to the stage of Oakville last night with their sold out show.
This was their second show at the Centre with their lst appearance happening on Jan. 31 2008
The theatre appreciates feedback from their patrons and I had been so in awe of their previous performance that I
had requested a return booking which took place to my delight last night.
Founded by Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell with their third bandmate Dan Peek who the music world lost in 2011 and had left the band in 1977
after an amicable split.
The bandmates were barely out of their teens when success started to happen for them. In 1972 America won a Grammy for Best New Artist
Performing 100 shows a year has kept America in fine tune and practically note for note showcasing their musical talents not only with
their  many hits in the 70's which you could not help but hear on Top 40 stations everywhere.
their presence on the music scene came to prominence when Sir George Martin was appointed their producer-arranger from 1974-1979.With this Beatle connection I
truly believe it made me more of an America fan than ever ...and Sir George still keeps in touch with the band and was in attendance when the band received their star on the
Hollywood walk of fame in 2012.
This tour included songs from their current release Back Pages which is an album of covers...songs that America "wished that they had written" as well as a 40th anniversary release
of their greatest hits.
America is a band that is so much more than their string of hits in the '70's.Their music contains a fusion of folk rock pop with a combination of styles from soul-baring ballads to up tempo
rockers which thrill their fans and has endured throughout the years. They do not disappoint in performance ...and they have a philosophy that is similar to Classic Albums Live..
"it's all about the music"... if you have the opportunity to catch their tour in a city near you it will be a night to remember.
The theatre is a warm intimate almost "living room" setting for the band and it holds a sentimental attachment for me as well. This is the venue where I attending my first ever Classic Albums Live
show in 2005. I would recommend that History...America's Greatest Hits would be a suggestion for a future show at my favorite venue.
America has seen many changes in the music industry throughout the years yet continues to entertain and inspire musiclovers everywhere. To see them interact with their legion of fans
is proof of that. America is the real deal  Long may they showcase their high quality musical standards as they continue to tour the world in 2013 and beyond.

The current band lineup includes the following

Gerry Beckley on Accoustic Guitar keys and vocals
Dewey Bunnell on Accoustic Guitar and vocals
Michael Woods on Fender Strat
Rich Campbell on Bass (America alumni for 35 years)
Willie Leacox on Drums

Set List

You can do magic
Don't cross the river
Daisy Jane
Three roses
Ventura Highway
I need you
Tin Man
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell cover)
Cornwall blank
From a moving train
Lonely People
Til I hear it from you (gin blossoms cover)
The Border
Woman tonight
only in your heart
California Dreamin' (Mama & Papas cover)
Sister Golden hair


A Horse with no name

Monday, 21 January 2013

Guest Blogger: Alex McMaster!

Ten Years Gone
I've covered a lot of ground with CAL over the past decade.
It's not the way I used to tour, gone for 4 or 5 weeks at a time, sleeping on floors or all crammed into one cheap motel room; these days the trips don't last as long (and I rarely have to share a room, let alone a bed), but they all add up to a lot of miles travelled together.

I like being on the road. Life is simpler. You don't have to worry about much beyond getting where you're going, and playing the show once you get there. My only potential cause for concern is when I have to work with a new violinist, or adjust to a different cello. (I won't fly with mine anymore, not since Air Canada broke its neck). But those are small things, and usually work out just fine.
There is comfort to be found in the boredom of hours spent in the van, or waiting in an airport lounge. In the unshakeable faith that at some point, the following things are bound to happen:
Marty will mention that band he was in called Wireless.
Mark will beat me at Scrabble, and I will recall with fondness the days Before Mark, when I always won.
Rob will share a bor.. riveting Pink Floyd-related anecdote.
Craig will give me his crossword to finish, and then need a new activity.
Will will pun.
Brax will pollute the environment with a foul-smelling meat product.
David will watch old black and white films on his ipad, and ask Mark if he thinks 9/11 was a conspiracy.
Nicky will say F a lot, because he doesn't swear anymore, then tell cute stories about his kids.
Troy will make fun of my  moves.
Des will drink tea, and read a book about Terribly Important Ideas.
Boge will chuff-chuff, and never forget to pack the wine.
Someone will ask "where's Doug?"
Johnny B will keep us alive.

Monty Python will be recited with British accents that we'll forget to switch off in the outside world.
We will spend hours in silence, and laugh at the same stupid jokes til it hurts.
We will take the stage together to perform great music.

If this is how it were to end -  right here, right now, like this - I'd have no complaints.

Alex McMaster
CAL Musician, String Arranger and Road Wife since 2003

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Guest Blogger: Michelle Jones!

What does it take to be a CAL musician? I can only offer my opinion based on my experiences and learning from others (including asking other band mates.)

Like most professional violinists, I was trained to be a symphonic musician in the classical styles.  This means that I was expected to take complex music, analyze it from start to finish (including chord changes and progressions and how the melodies and harmonies fit together), practice playing it on my own, and then finally rehearse it with the full ensemble before a performance.  As a solo musician, I still had to do all these things to ensure that the essence of the piece is captured in a solo performance, not just the written solo parts.  Listening to recordings of the same piece by a variety of artists was crucial in developing my own style for the way of performing that piece. 

But this is where the freedom ends.  You still have to learn all the notes exactly as printed on the page.  When in a symphony orchestra, you have to learn the conductor’s style for the way HE wants us to perform that piece as a cohesive group.  Much of the music we are taught and perform is from DWEMs (dead, white, European males), and we cannot simply ask them, “Is this the style you intended?”  Therefore, it is up to the conductor to interpret that for us, and it is our job to create it as best as possible.  If a player’s style conflicts with the conductor’s style, then that player is usually not rehired for future work.  Sometimes, the conductor fires them on the spot (I’ve seen this happen several times.)

With CAL, this same discipline applies.  Only stricter.  There are no scores and parts written for us that we can simply purchase or rent (like symphonic music.)  We have to create those charts OURSELVES.  Our styles or interpretations of the music are irrelevant.  We are completely dependent on recreating the original recordings of the albums.  We do not have the freedom to improvise based on some possible chord progressions.  We have to virtually dissect the album, note for note, cut for cut, by listening repeatedly, and determining which parts of that album for which each one of us is responsible.  It’s like musical dictation at the most advanced levels.  But how do you know what parts are yours?  Ahhhh, that’s where the discussion arises.  Are you covering the tambourine and the vocals in this song?  Am I singing the high or middle note?  Who is on the lead vocal for this one?  This is where the style of the players/singers must be matched to the song.  This is why there is a large pool of musicians in CAL; the performers must match the original as closely as possible. 

Some of the CAL musicians scrawl notes or just words with chord letters on a piece of plain paper; some use no charts at all as they have their parts fully memorized for that album.  Some don’t even know how to read musical notation, but that does not mean that they are any less caliber of a musician.  They still have trained themselves to listen for every nuance, every twang, every breath and know how to place them accordingly.  Some of us have written out the musical notation for our instruments, mainly to make it easier for ourselves on the gig so that we don’t leave anything out.  Craig has even paid for some charts to be transcribed so that he can hire local musicians to “fill in” and save some travel expenses by not using all traveling musicians.  This is good for business, but challenging for consistency.  In one city, the trumpet player may play well reading the chart, but doesn’t know when to help fill in with handclaps or sing with group vocals.  In another city, it takes two keyboardists to do the job of the one they have in another.  How do they know how to split their parts when they live in different countries?

These considerations and decisions are the responsibility of the leader and contractor.  You hire someone based on their abilities and recommendations; you continue to hire someone based on their performance and interaction with the band.  When there are no charts and very little directions, you have to rely on your band mates to communicate with you.  But, you still have to be prepared to play parts you might not have practiced.  You just don’t exactly know until you get to the rehearsal, if there is one.  Oftentimes, the bandleader will want to do different songs than originally planned for the second set.  This is where you need to know the entire catalogue from that band, and be prepared to play it with a moment’s notice.  Keyboardists have the most challenging time with this as they have to program or re-program on the fly during the show.  On many occasions, I have been asked to help on keys, percussion, vocals, and even the congas and glockenspiel.  I was hired as a violinist for that show, but I was prepared for these last-minute additions, as I knew the other parts needed to be covered.  On one show, we learned during sound check that the guest choir was not prepared for their parts.  They were expecting the leader to send them a chart to learn, they would learn it in school (traditionally this is how they prepare), and then come to sound check.  They were never sent a chart; only told to sing the choir parts on this certain song.  I saw the immediate need, and knew that the show would fail if I didn’t do something.  I was able to use my many years of vocal training in opera, church and gospel choirs to quickly transcribe a chart for their director, work with the group during my dinner break, and successfully re-create the sound needed for that show.  The audience was none the wiser, but the band knew.  I later sent a formal transcription to Craig for use in future shows so that it would not happen again.  It’s this type of teamwork that makes a successful show.  If you cannot learn other parts on a moment’s notice, or if you are flustered easily by the quick changes, then you don’t belong in CAL.

As Craig has stated many times, this music cannot just be read and played once.  It has to be in your DNA.  You have to grow up listening to it, over and over, wearing out the grooves on the record, stretching the tape from listening so many times, even wearing the paint off the “back” button for repeating it so often.  This is where the only classically trained musician usually fails to meet the expectations of CAL.  The CAL musician has to know the music inside and out, and LOVE IT.  If we don’t love it, it shows in our performances, and the fans can read that.  The fans are here for the love of the music, and it is our job and responsibility to give them exactly what they want while leaving them wanting more.

Michelle Jones, Vinylinist
CAL musician since 2005

Friday, 18 January 2013

Guest Blogger: Marty Morin!

 These days I spend a lot of time listening to and working on music that was created in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s by giants of the music industry. Bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dylan, Hendrix, The Band, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC…the list goes on and on. To me, to my generation and even to generations after me this music became iconic. It fueled a social movement in the ‘60s and eventually created an industry. These were artists and musicians who wrote their own music, played their own instruments, had control over how their music sounded and even how they looked. It was a Renaissance period in popular music. The advent of new technology in those days allowed this new music to be heard around the world for the first time. It exploded! It was huge and the numbers were staggering.

   However just before these bands broke new ground there was a period between the rockers of the late ‘50s and the British Invasion of the mid ‘60s when popular music was an entirely different animal. This was the era when music producers and A & R men from record companies decided who recorded what songs and how they were to sound. This was music by committee. Pop stars were created from scratch, sometimes found working in diners or on the street. Phil Spector on the west coast, Mitch Miller in New York, Barry Gordy with Motown in Detroit, Ahmet Ertegan pretty well everywhere and Jerry Wexler in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. These music producers, among others, would find singers, find songwriters, find studios, find musicians, find arrangers and create these stars. Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee, Bobby Darin, Bobby Goldsboro, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Patty Page, Jan & Dean…there were dozens of these artists on top of the charts. They sang songs about love, songs about breakups, songs about getting back together, songs about cheating and being cheated on and, for some odd reason, there were a lot of novelty songs like The Bird Song, Flying Purple People Eater and They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha, Ha. It was a weird time for music. Most of it was overproduced and very hollow. The rock & roll edginess of Elvis, Little Richard and The Killer Jerry Lee had given way to a sickly sweet, manufactured sound that was safe, straight and predictable. When the British Invasion got under way with The Beatles it was a breath of fresh air.

    I see a lot of parallels to that time in the music industry today. As I listen and work on these classic songs I can’t help but wonder if there is anything out there today that will have a lasting effect on people the way these songs have. Will they stand the test of time? Will there be another Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon? These days it seems the chart positions and attention goes to artists like Justin Bieber, Niki Minage, Taylor Swift, the boy band One Direction, Shakira… These artists are packaged in much the same way as the overnight sensations of the early ‘60s were. To me, it has that same hollowness. This, again, is music by committee. Producers and record company suits once again rule the roost. It’s not healthy. Music should be played and performed by musicians. Today producers such as Kanye West, Dr. Dre, The Bomb Squad and Timbaland krank out, in my opinion, faceless hits filled with their own trademark sounds. Most of the music is created without the singer or writer even being present. An artist I know from Toronto got a deal with a producer in Miami. She sent her basement demos to him and six months later he sent her back a complete album he produced. Songs were rearranged, titles changed, strings and horns added, sometimes the tempo and feel of the songs were altered drastically. The only input she had was overdubbing the vocals after it was all done. Are there too many fingers in the pie? Have we lost the singer/songwriter/producer? Has the music ventured too far from the writer’s intentions?

    Today’s music scene is very much like the way it was just before the music took over back in the ‘60s. The airwaves are saturated with manufactured artists singing simplistic lyrics. Who or what will save us from this banal soundscape? Has the internet cancelled the “next big thing!”? Is there an amazing talent just around the corner that will change the course of music the way Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix and Dylan did? For the sake of music let’s hope so.