Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Physical Graffiti - 40 Years Gone

most albums don't survive the test of time
we're lucky to live in a time
where we see the masters still alive
and celebrating their enduring works

after 40 years
physical graffiti is one of maybe 40 albums that endures
it sold more than 15 million copies
and it remains a massive testament
to the ethos of the double album

led zeppelin were hated by the critics
outside of creem magazine
no one really gave them any love
their albums were always panned
and their live shows received terrible reviews
they were referred to as a 'people's band'
as if that was a bad thing

but zeppelin endured
they ignored everyone
and just kept making great music
they toured and sold out venue after venue
no awards
no favourable press
no singles

i think not wanting to have any real singles (45s)
set the recipe for physical graffiti
i imagine them in a studio
all in the same room
playing together
and listening to each other
figuring things out slowly
looking for that magic slice of a riff or a fill
that would go down in history
plant scribbling lyrics
jpj adding colour
then jimmy would take the tapes
and start overdubbing
knowing when to leave it raw
and when to add the hammer

physical graffiti takes time
there's a lot of music on those 4 sides
it harkens back to an era
when we had the time to listen to 4 sides of music
in one sitting
we were young
and there was nothing but imagination to accompany us
as we listened
we dreamed
and planned
and loved
and wrestled
anyone over 40 will tell you significance of those afternoons
in that we started composing our identities
alongside these powerful works of music

the CAL zep band has been tearing this album apart
it's like a magnificent imported toaster we've opened up
there's gears and coils and wires all over the counter
and on march 6 we roll into massey hall
and heat everyone up with a performance
that shows us at our best
(the above paragraph is one of my worst metaphors ever)

5 guitarists - led by dom polito
will ably demonstrate how complex and beautiful
physical graffiti is
dom polito is the world's best zeppelin guitar player
i scour the internet looking for someone who plays better zep than dom
i never find them

rick vatour will drum the songs
with the most attentive accuracy
rick is the world's best zeppelin drummer
no one falls on a beat like he does
he's our age
rick demonstrates what a lifetime of love sounds like

nick walsh is canadian rock royalty
i still like to go to clubs and hear music
one night i'm at a dive having a fine time
and nick gets up to sing
i couldn't move
he was so good
his voice was a siren of power and beauty
i knew instantly that he was the right fit for the CAL zep band
since then nick and i have had many conversations
about the majesty and poetic verve of plant's lyrics
a sadly over looked and never referenced part of the zep legacy
plant carried on a long traditional british poetic vibe
i urge everyone to listen to the album with the lyrics
which are available on line

a funny aside
when we were young
the lyrics weren't available
quite often you had to make up phonetically sounding correct words
case in point:
during the vocal break at the end of 'in my time of dying'
we all had a different idea of what was being said
i thought it was 'oh my teeth ache'
rick thought it was 'oh my jeans fit'
dom thought it was 'oh my tea yeah'
i'll leave it to you to do your own investigation

physical graffiti is 40 today
a generation sends congratulations to the masters
you created another enduring masterpiece
that we will continue to carry throughout our lives

on friday march 6
classic albums live will honour the album
with a note for note - cut for cut recital
it's an evening that those in attendance
will talk about for a long time to come
perhaps 40 years gone

february 25, 2015
coffee and rye toast

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Great American Songbook

i'm in los angeles
i missed the snowstorm back home
i stayed behind for a couple days
the CAL west coast pepper show
still ringing in my ears

i felt bad for the rest of the band
cancelled flights and long layovers
this is the price of what we do
there's always a risk
we beat on
i will forever buy them drinks

i've written about my love of california before
the lifestyle
the opportunity
the weather
but this time
my trip was a trip
and i walked the long pacific shoreline day after day
soaking up anything that radiated

and i thought about
the great american songbook
and how my version of the great american songbook
is different from the one
that the crooners have been making the rounds with
my great american songbook
starts with 'la woman'
get in the car and discover
i argue that perhaps the doors
are the greatest american band

the genesis of rock n' roll started in the south
but los angeles introduced it to the world

a great story about steely dan
they left new york
came to la
and they immediately started writing songs about new york
'do it again'
that's a perfect song for the great american songbook

dylan's a shoe in
he's a bicoastal dude
still on the road
'like a rolling stone'
that could be anywhere

tom petty's bicoastal too
he and bob were even bicoastal together
'american girl' confirms a nations love for american girls

'scarecrow' by john cougar mellencamp
is a history lesson
the band is tight
and john sounds pissed off
seek this song out
and revisit it
play it for your kids

again to the west coast
'suite judy blue eyes'
this song is smart
it's a math test
very forward thinking
the harmonies are american
and a canadian brings the zen

'tuesday's gone'
by lynyrd skynryd
this song is the new song of the south
lament and remember
there's an honesty to the sound
the vocal is heartfelt

and 'purple rain'
it's beautiful
and it's endured
tight musicianship and esoteric poetry
make sure to reference the album version
with the dreamlike vocal and string line ending the song

east cost now
with 'born in the usa'
the obvious choice
because sometimes
there's nothing subtle about america
president's have mistakenly referenced this song
it's a song for people that pay attention

west coast again
the beach boys!
'sloop john b' sounds like a movie
but 'good vibrations' is the document
the proper orchestration would be an undertaking
one day i hope CAL takes on pet sounds

the great american songbook ends  with the 'the last resort'
by the eagles
"we have got to make it here
there is no more new frontier"
being here
that line really hits you

i spend the days walking the beaches
this is the best america can do
and there's a spirit here
that is different from toronto
and new york
you feel welcome here
you look back and reflect
having the ocean roaring up against you
makes you smart
it puts things in perspective

america has been the most gracious host
i hope people post their songs for
the great american songbook
and the reasons why

stand by for the great canadian songbook
but for now america goes first
she's bigger

feb 15, 2015
michelob ultra

Monday, 2 February 2015


hell of a week
started in florida
with the CAL zep band
at the hard rock live in orlando
we flew in on the thursday and chilled
rick vatour made it feel like 1977
nick walsh made his american debut
and everyone loved him
dom polito was sublime and friendly with all the fans

i stayed in florida for a corporate gig
the CAL zep band flew home
and the CAL stones band flew down
and we got the joint jumping with some toe tapping old school rolling stones
it felt like 1977 all over again

flew home on tuesday
 it was back to toronto
for physical graffiti rehearsals
and roy thomson hall preparations

i got to fill in on bass at the CAL zep band rehearsals
i loved it - i was a solid 6.5
i could never be as good as mark yannetta
but i aspired and did my best to round out the rehearsal

then it was off to the sold out RTH show
which was incredible
everyone who attended that night saw the full potential of CAL
there were so many high points
during 'i've got a feeling' - i surveyed the room and saw everyone's head bobbing
during 'the long and winding road' - i got emotional - i was thinking about our collective road and the turns that it's taken
i thought about the years and the miles
as the band - most of whom i've been with for over a decade - played glorious

pre show
i was invited to do a quick video address
to sheridan college
i relayed how fortunate they were
to have chosen an arts based education
i told them to stick with it
and master their craft
because that is true currency
the kind you have from knowing - in your heart -  that you're at the top of your game

next was the sound session address inside roy thomson hall
people who bought tickets to all 4 or our toronto shows
were invited to hang out with yours truly and a couple musicians
this one was really cool
we did the chat on stage with everyone given an exclusive view of
what our point of view looks like
we had some really interesting questions
david love and marty morin were gracious co-hosts

backstage after the let it be show
charlie cutts - CEO of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall
came to hang with us
and share in the vibe of a job well done
turns out he's from scarborough too
we talked about the old neighbourhood
i mentioned that we should meet up at the wexford diner for breakfast one day
charlie said 'how about 9am tomorrow?'
and so it was
we had an amazing talk
i urged him to write his memoirs
he's full of incredible stories all revolving around the hall and it's rich history
charlie is a kind man
the flash of the mover and shaker is still alive and well inside of him
it's a perfect combination

last night was date night
we went dancing
ian goodtimes has a band called the mercenaries
they play here in toronto at a club called the dakota
you go down the stairs and it's 1977 all over again
tight moving soul songs from years back
performed with passion and fun
i felt the familiar sway of shari's hips
as the mercenaries took charge

i received one of those emails
it was from a fan
who spoke of some hard times
and how coming to CAL shows got him through those times
i wrote them back immediately
i said we've all been through rough patches
and for many of us
music really did make the difference

this week is the wall show in kitchener
i urge anyone who wants to experience something real and confirming
to make the drive to see this show
it's going to be one that people talk about

then the CAL zep band lands in oshawa and london
the 401 tour
the CAL zep band are the goodwill ambassadors of the series
we're making a special rick vatour t shirt for the upcoming massey hall
proceeds to the canadian cancer society

speaking of which
we had a few people sign up for volunteer drives
they cited CAL as the catalyst for them to get involved
this warms me and fills me with love
like it was 1977 all over again

february 2, 2015
michelob ultra