BTW-Starring badbadnotgood, Rich Aucoin, Gang of Four, Sleater Kinney, Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masakela

Ghostface.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute
photo: Ghostface

Badbadnotgood, Toronto’s jazz-funk instigators stir it up strong with Sour Soul, their-long buzzed about collab with the legendary Ghostface Killah. For the most part, it’s a good fit. The voice and cadences are unmistakable as is the film noir gangsta rhymes and badbadnotgood do a righteous job of not only matching the beats but getting the emotional connections just so. While Ghostface DNA is all over the project, the guys manage to get in some guest shots from young comers DOOM (“Ray Gun”), Elzhi(“Gunshowers”), Tree(“Street Knowledge”) and a sizzling drop from Danny Brown on "Six Degrees" giving it all a very much in the moment vibe. Very cool considering the bulk of the material was written in 2012 durng an NY session with producer Frank Dukes. This is muscular, sinewy music tapping Stax soul, nodding at Jazzmatazz, touching on RZA and arranged so that a song’s true intentions often creep in from side stage rather than pushing to the front, all boombastic. Beats and production values are outstanding, bright touches like guitar reverb and string passages are never out of place and as per the badbadnotgood aesthetic, all this happens to you in 34 minutes flat, thank you ma’am.

Rich AucoinRich AucoinThose who missed the album release party at The Opera House last week may have a long time to wait for a repeat. Badbadnotgood have said they will only play Sour Soul songs if Ghostface Killah is on the mic. The band intends to keep to all new material with an improvisational bent in their upcoming but as yet unannounced shows.

Rich Aucoin has long been recognized for ambitious records and the video elements that accompany his music. His video for “Yelling in Sleep” is again short listed for the Prism Prize. The video for “Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.” won the inaugural Prism Prize in 2013. “Yelling in Sleep" video has also won Best Music Video at Animation Block Party 2014 in Brooklyn and was recently nominated for an ECMA for Fans’ Choice Video Of The Year, just one of six nominations for Rich Aucoin at this year’s ECMAs. Which is all to say that the debut of Ephemeral Prince, a sync between Aucoin’s critically acclaimed album Ephemeral and the visuals of Will Vinton based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s brilliant novella The Little Prince is nothing short of spectacular. Think of it as Aucoin’s take on the Darkside of The Rainbow.

Championing love, friendship, and importance of imagination The Little Prince inspired Aucoin throughout the writing of Ephemeral, lyrically exploring the universal themes of the ephemerality of human existence, solitude, and the importance of relationships.

“Love and the spreading of it is the most important thing in life,” says Aucoin. “The greatest part of this realization is that it’s totally attainable to anyone to create within them unlike external goals like wealth, power, knowledge, and pleasure. The Little Prince debunks the seekers of each of these pursuits on their various isolated planets throughout his galactic adventure. It’s a great parable for how to live well with just the right amount of ambiguity to include everyone in its message for love. Ambiguity I think is key for maximum human connection as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, ‘words are the source of misunderstandings.’

Produced by Rich and his drummer, Joel Waddell, Ephemeral offers 10 energetic pop songs with gang vocal shouted choruses of size to fit up to 20,000 people. The album is out now in Canada via Bonsound and is also available in the USA via Young Enthusiastic Americans, and in France via Platinum Records.

Aucoin’s already on the road with his live spectacular. Once he completes the Canadian leg, it’s off to open a European tour with a string of dates in France.
Feb.27-Fredericton, NB_The Capitol
Feb 28 - Montreal, QC – Metropolis - Nuit Blanche / Montréal en Lumière
Mar 4 - Kingston, ON - The Grad Club
Mar 5 - Peterborough, ON - Red Dog Tavern
Mar 6 - Ottawa, ON - Ritual
Mar 7 - Elora, ON - Elora Mill Inn
Mar 11 - London, ON - Call The Office (Riverfest Elora’s ICE JAM)
Mar 12 - St. Catherines, ON - Detour Lounge
Mar 13 - Oshawa, ON - Mustache Club

So Gang of Four’s back on tour with a new album and well, after all these years, it still has things to say. The industrial post-punks from Leeds who’ve influenced acts as diverse as R.E.M. and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, play Lee’s Palace Mar.9 armed with a new album, What Happens Next. The new stuff’s about what you’d expect and a little more, especially in the energy department. The lyrics rail against rampant capitalism, cultural indifference, warfare and the usual array of social ills, backed by Go4’s groove-studded idustrial punk coming to a head nicely on  “Damaged Goods” and “Anthrax”.

Most noticeable diff here is the change in lead vocals. While original shouter Jon King had a snap and bark that promised resistance, new man John Sterry’s overly emo pipes speak more of enduring and stepping off. This works fine for some songs, i.e. “Broken Talk” and “Isle of Dogs” but it’s to be wondered how well he’s mastered the older material, much of it bearing King’s signature. It’s all gonna come out in the wash at Lee’s Palace March 9 but given the band’s much loved back catalogie and enduring live energy, how bad can it get?

Here’s a superb double bill of interest to Afrobeat fans, jazz heads and lovers of tight, well-played and inspiring music. Lighting up Koerner Hall Sat. Feb.28, iconic South African musicians Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masakela, in a celebration of 20 yrs of democracy in that country.

Vusi Mahlasela, simply known as “The Voice” in his home country, is celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, optimistic lyrics. His songs of hope connect Apartheid-scarred South Africa with its promise for a better future. Raised in the township of Mamelodi (where he still resides), Vusi became a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at an early age, teaching himself how to play guitar and later joining the Congress of South African Writers. After When You Come Back, his popular debut on BMG Africa, Vusi was asked to perform at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. He has shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, and Taj Mahal, among many others. Perhaps his biggest gig was in 2010 when he helped welcome the World Cup to South Africa at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Vusi has released seven studio albums to date; his latest release is Sing to the People (ATO Records), a celebratory live album looking back on twenty years as a recording artist.

Hugh MasekelaHugh MasekelaHugh Masekela is a world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer, and defiant political voice that remains deeply connected at home, while his international career sparkles. He’s been on North American radar since1968, when his instrumental single “Grazing in the Grass” went to the top of the American pop charts and was a worldwide smash, elevating Hugh onto the international stage. His subsequent solo career has spanned five decades, during which time he has released more than 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and the late Miriam Makeba. In 1990, Masekela returned home, following the legalization of the African National Congress (ANC) and the release of Nelson Mandela—an event anticipated in Masekela’s anti-Apartheid anthem “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela),” which had been a rallying cry around the world.

Sleater KinneySleater KinneyMarch comes in like a lioness when the wikkid wimmen of Sleater-Kinney sound bomb Sound Academy Mar.2. Expect lots from excellent comeback album No Cities to Love, their first in a decade. Sleater-Kinney's musical style sprang from and was rooted in Washington States’ fertile punk and independent rock scenes of the early- to mid-1990s, forming around the last years of the riot grrrl movement, and with Tucker and Brownstein coming from veteran acts from the beginning of the movement.

Although the band's lyrics revolved around a variety of different topics, they were included in the riot grrrl movement because of the subject matter that supported feminist ideals. On the topic of the band's involvement in political movements, Carrie Brownstein was quoted, "Sleater-Kinney are brave enough and strong enough to make a difference and get the word out.” The band's musical style went along with the liberal and feminist ideas heard in their lyrics.In 2015, nothing has changed in this regard, making No Cities to Love one of their strongest, hard charging releases ever.