December 2017

Sultans Of String Isabel Bader Theatre Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This one had all the high energy and exhilarating music to be expected from the World Music music quintet abetted for the occasion by vocalist Rebecca Campbell. There was motivation to take it all up another notch in the fact the band was premiering their first Christmas album to the hometown folks. So what really happened was an adventurous musical trip around the world, with Christmas as the backdrop, with a passport stamped for 2017 Juno Award-nominated Sultans of String deliver an exuberant performance featuring impressive genre originals, world-music-inspired classics, and seasonal favourites.

From fiery fiddle tunes to a Caribbean sleigh ride, this show had it all, for young, old and midrange too. The classics were represented by this “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring," "The Christmas Song" a “Feliz Navidad” ska party, a Turkish twist on “Greensleeves." The wondrous to watch Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy made "Little Drummer Boy" his own, creating overlapping textures with the cajon.

The mood is properly set by the beguiling air of "Turkish Greensleeves", so by the time they get to "Sing For Kwanza," "Himalayan Sleighride" and the edgy "A Django Christmas," the word's out this isn't one of those Christmas shows.

Cold Specks Mod Club Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This gig was a coming out of sorts for Ladan Hussein, the show where she dropped her stage monikers of Cold Specks and Ali Spx for her birth name. It was also the one where she dropped the organic instrumentation of her previous albums for a pair of synths and the occasional electric bass.Hussein started her set by lighting incense and a candle in a gold-gilded vase. “Scent is stronger than sound,” she said as the sweet fragrance wafted throughout the venue. “It holds memories." Then plunged into newest release Fool's Paradise, an experimental, textured work that, lacking much in the way of hooks except for set closer "Exile," is all about the voice.

Which is why it seemed odd that in many places, where a powerful resolution was called for, songs like "Void' just seemed to drift away. Maybe it was the stress of touring, having just got back from Europe but the large midsection of the show sounded she was in her own bubble, not really working the songs.

Still and all, the solid fanbase, friends and many family members who made up the crowd were into the personal stories and deep doom vocals they had come for but a casual listener might have liked some rhythm in the recipe. Or maybe it comes with doom soul itself. as Hussein herself remarked during an intro. “All sad songs,” she said. “I don’t know, I can’t help myself.” Then joked about 2018 being the year she bails on doom soul and takes on pop music to “make some money.”

France Bids Farewell Rock Icon Johnny Hallyday

Funeral Service for Johnny Hallay in Paris, France AP PhotoThibault Camus, Pool.jpg

Courtesy of The Associated Press
Photo: Funeral Service for Johnny Halladay in Paris, France AP PhotoThibault Camus, Pool

France is bidding farewell to its biggest rock star, honoring Johnny Hallyday with an exceptional funeral procession down the Champs-Elysees, a presidential speech and a parade of motorcyclists -- all under intense security.

Few figures in French history have earned a send-off as elaborate as the one Saturday for the man sometimes dubbed the French Elvis. It was ordered by President Emmanuel Macron -- a Hallyday fan himself, like generations of others across the French-speaking world.

Hallyday's death Wednesday at age 74 after fighting lung cancer unleashed emotion across the country, where the man known to the public simply as Johnny had been an icon for more than half a century.

Johnny HalladayJohnny HalladayFans chanting "Johnny! Johnny!" massed in Paris as the funeral cortege headed past his home in a Paris suburb near Versailles to Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe monument. The procession will then head down the Champs-Elysees, through the Place de la Concorde plaza on the Seine River, and then to the columned Madeleine Church.

Adding a rock touch to the pomp-filled event, hundreds of motorcyclists came to Paris to join the procession.

Hike Up Your Socks Liz Kennedy

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Submitted by Alonzo Evans

It does a disservice to Liz Kennedy’s music to label it Americana and leave it at that. The term scarcely encompasses what she does. Her latest release Hike Up Your Socks shows plenty of rootsy influences, but it never stops there. There are more artful singer//songwriter styled turns and a few outright efforts in the pop tradition that never compromise their artistic value. Blues, jazz, folk, and pop all exist side by side on Kennedy’s latest studio album and her long-standing producer Joel Jaffe results in another close-quartered and deeply atmospheric recording. Kennedy sounds like she’s playing mere inches in front of you and there’s a strongly immediate quality about her vocals that compels your attention. Her remarkably elastic voice is well highlighted on Hike Up Your Socks and it is a pleasure to listen as she handles twelve first-class songs with confidence born from personal security and artistic command.