Music News Digest, Feb. 22, 2021
Influencer marketing agency Songfluencer launches the RISING - Black Artist Initiative, Bobby Bazini (pictured) will live-stream from an historic locale, and British prog-rockers honour Neil Peart. Also making news are Corey Hart, Juno Talks, Tyler Joe Miller, Sunfields, Tania Joy, Justyn Thyme, Fuzzed Out, Harrison Kennedy, Mikalyn Hay, Laura Fernandez, Howard Gladstone, and farewell to Prince Markie Dee, Milford Graves, Gene Taylor, and U-Roy.
By Kerry Doole
Influencer marketing agency Songfluencer has launched an emerging artist program titled RISING. To celebrate Black History Month, they’re kicking off the launch with the RISING - Black Artist Initiative in partnership with global streaming platform, TIDAL. Through RISING, two artists will have the chance to receive a Songfluencer influencer campaign valued at $5K towards TikTok, Instagram or YouTube, have their music placed on the TIDAL Rising playlist, receive a mentorship session, and get TikTok artist marketing training by the Songfluencer team. Total marketing value is over $7.5K. Submissions are open now through Feb. 26 on Songfluencer.com/rising
– Platinum-selling and Juno-nominated Montreal singer/songwriter Bobby Bazini has just released a new EP, Holding Onto The Feeling, via Universal Music Canada. It comprises a brand-new UK mix of his title track single, plus other recent and catalogue cuts. To promote the record, Bazini has announced his debut live-streamed show from a legendary locale. He’ll perform from the same suite at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel where John Lennon & Yoko Ono hosted their famed Bed-in for Peace back in May 1969. The show is on sale now and will be broadcast on March 25 at 8pm EST. Tickets here
– Prog For Peart is an English charity live event to raise money in honour of late Rush drummer Neil Peart. This year it takes place at at The Northcourt, a 200 capacity venue in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on July 2 and 3. The finalised lineup features Solstice, Eyes Of Albion, The Gift, The Far Meadow, 25 Yard Screamer, Rain, warmrain, The Paradox Twin, and more. Money raised will go to combat Glioblastoma Multiforme; the killer disease that claimed the life of the Rush drummer in Jan. last year. Source: Loudersound
– Veteran singer/songwriter Corey Hart released a new single and video on Friday. Shoreline sees Hart collaborate with Dante, one of his four children on the self-produced track. This is his first new songwriting material since his 2019 comeback EP, Dreaming Time Again EP in early 2019.
– CARAS/The Juno Awards is hosting an educational webinar called Juno Talks: Inside the Academy, an inside look at the Juno nomination and voting process, on Feb. 26 at 1pm ET. The link to sign up can be found here.
– The next Indie Week webinar, on Feb. 23 at 4 pm EST, is entitled Making a Record (And Getting Paid For It!). Presented by ACTRA RACS, it features ACTRA's Andrew Karis and recording artists/musicians/producers Devontée, Wes Marskell, and Lisa Dodd-Watts. Free with registration here.
– Langley BC country singer Tyler Joe Miller recently signed a booking agreement with Paquin Entertainment. Here's his new single.
– Montreal indie rockers Sunfields release their fourth album, Late Bloomers, on March 12, preceded by a new track, Got Some (But It Ain’t Enough). They cite the likes of Sparklehorse, Neil Young, and Tom Petty as influences. Group leader Jason Kent is also a member of psych-rock combo Elephant Stone.
– Canadian singer-songwriter Tania Joy recently released a new protest song Planks and Marietta, one tackling the theme of racism. She will direct all proceeds from downloads to Black Lives Matter. The track was produced by Hill Kourkoutis (Digging Roots, Leela Gilday, Madison Violet).
– Charlottetown, PEI-based folk/pop songsmith Justyn Thyme (Justyn Young) released a new single, Return Me, last week. Check it out here.
– Sloan's Patrick Pentland has been putting out some solo tracks on Bandcamp under the name of Fuzzed Out, a collaboration with Dean Bentley (C’mon, Monster Voodoo Machine). Here's a cut we dig.
– Sonic Peach Music artists Laura Fernandez and Howard Gladstone both play live-streamed sets for Folk Alliance International’s “Unlocked” Showcase/ Conference this week. Gladstone plays Feb. 25, 9:30-10pm EST, followed by Fernandez in the 10-10.30 pm slot. The shows are free, with registration here. Both artists participated in Toronto's Winterfolk virtual fest on the weekend. Folk Unlocked runs Feb. 22-26.
– Following the release of Warner Music Canada’s first instalment of Black Alliance Vol. 1, Charmaine, Just John, Andye and Amaal return to release the official live performance videos of their chosen cover tracks. Also featured on Black Alliance Vol. 1 are Myles Castello and the late Haydain Neale. The covers are of beloved classics from groundbreaking Black artists.
– After finding international fame in US soul group Chairman of The Board, Hamiltonian Harrison Kennedy has evoved into a Juno-winning blues singer/songwriter. As part of the Tiny Escritoire Concerts lunchtime concerts series presented by Hamilton Winterfest, he performs a live-streamed concert tomorrow (Feb. 23), from the Griffin House, noon-1pm EST. It streams free on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
– Guelph-based alt-pop/EDM artist Mikalyn Hay has made a real mark online, with tracks generating over 2.5M streams. Her new single, I Love You Too Much, is produced by her longtime collaborator, Chris Grey (88Glam, K. Forest). Hay recently debuted the song while opening for Scott Helman’s live-stream concert.
Prince Markie Dee (Mark Anthony Morales), a member of the pioneering hip-hop group the Fat Boys, died on Feb. 18, at age 52, No cause of death has been given.
Dee teamed up with Darren Robinson (the Human Beatbox) and Damon Wimbley (Kool Rock Ski) and performed under the name The Disco 3 before later becoming the Fat Boys. The group launched their career in 1983 when they won a talent contest at Radio City Music Hall.
By the end of the decade they had become one of rap’s premier pop culture ambassadors with the simultaneous release of their platinum-selling fourth album Crushin’ and their breakout comedy film Disorderlies in the summer of 1987. The trio popularized beatboxing and their goofy sense of humor and affable demeanors made them essential to bringing rap music to the mainstream.
Their first two albums — 1984’s self-titled debut and 1985’s The Fat Boys Are Back — were produced by rap legend Kurtis Blow and included hits, such as Can You Feel It?, Jail House Rap, and The Fat Boys Are Back.
It was their Crushin’ cover of Wipeout with the Beach Boys that gave them their biggest hit, reaching Number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their cover version of The Twist with Chubby Checker from Coming Back Hard Again hit Number 16 on the Hot 100 chart.
Following the Fat Boys’ breakup, Dee launched a solo career and wrote and produced songs for Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige (the latter recording Morales’ Real Love to become her first Top Ten hit). His 1992 album Free garnered a Number One hit with Typical Reasons (Swing My Way).
He moved into radio later in his career, serving as a drive-time host WMIB in Miami, and had his own show, The Prince Markie Dee Show on SiriusXM’s Rock the Bells station.
“They were figuratively (no weight jokes) the biggest act in hip-hop at some point in time,” Questlove wrote on Instagram. “Like the first act that showed this culture might have some real international legs to it. Sources: Rolling Stone, NY Times
– Milford Graves, a drummer whose work in the free-jazz milieu helped to transform the voice of his instrument, died February 12, age 79. The cause of death was congestive heart failure, related to a 2018 diagnosis of amyloid cardiomyopathy.
“Jazz drummer” was only one of many descriptors of Graves’ life and work. Described as a true polymath, Graves was also a percussionist, an acupuncturist, a boxer, an herbalist, an inventor, a martial artist who created his own idiom, a painter and sculptor, a scientific researcher, and an educator. A 2018 documentary, Milford Graves Full Mantis, gives a sampling of his remarkable omnivorousness.)
Fis work as a drummer completely restructured the role of the instrument, making them as dynamic and abstract as the other instruments in a free-jazz context.
This was not an accident. Graves had a lifelong determination to move the drums away from their traditional timekeeping role; he went so far as to tell students to “throw the metronome and the snare drum away.”
He centralized the concept of “biological music”—a system that won him a Guggenheim fellowship in 2000 and was widely praised by mainstream medical practitioners as well as alternative healers and musicians.
Graves’ aesthetics brought him into an ever-expanding circle of collaborators and associates, from Miriam Makeba to Jason Moran to Lou Reed and Alice in Chains. He was an early colleague of free-jazz pioneers Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan, and Sonny Sharrock; however, he might be best known for his work in the New York Art Quartet, an avant-garde ensemble that refocused free jazz on subtle, often quiet polyphony with the drums at its forefront. Graves was also a frequent solo performer, and often engaged in drum “dialogues” with the likes of Andrew Cyrille and Rashied Ali.
At a young age, he cofounded the McKinley-Graves band, a Latin jazz ensemble that played around his Jamaica, NYC, neighborhood; by 1962, he was at the head of the Milford Graves Latino Quintet, which also featured a young Chick Corea on piano.
In 1964, he joined the New York Art Quartet, the turning point in Graves’ career. In 1967, he joined Albert Ayler’s band, famously performing with them at John Coltrane’s funeral that summer.
Although he continued performing and researching for the rest of his life, Graves’ primary occupation after 1973 was as a professor of music at Bennington College in Vermont. Source: JazzTimes
Gene Taylor, an American blues pianist who worked extensively in Canada, died in Austin on Feb. 20, at age 68. No cause of death has been given, but it is believed the power blackout in Texas may have been a factor. Austin 360 reports that "Taylor's house had been without heat for five days as a result of statewide power outages related to the recent winter storm."
From age 16, the California-born Taylor began working with some of the big names in the West Coast blues scene including Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker.
In the mid-seventies he joined the James Harman Band and had a stint as pianist for boogie group Canned Heat between 1974 and 1976.
In 1978, Gene immigrated to Toronto, Canada, to play music with his friend Morgan Davis, a well-known Canadian bluesman. He was based in Toronto from 1978-1993, though he continued to perform with other artists world-wide. During his years in Canada, Gene found time to play and record with the Downchild Blues Band, Chris and Ken Whiteley, and Ronnie Hawkins
During this period, he also was a member of The Amos Garrett, Doug Sahm, Gene Taylor Band---releasing a Juno Award-winning album, The Return Of The Formerly Brothers (1987) and another recording, Live In Japan (I990).
While working with his good friend James Harman again, in 1981, Taylor was asked to join The Blasters. He played with The Blasters for 4 1/2 years, recording four critically-acclaimed albums for Warner Brothers records.
Taylor also released his first solo record, Handmade, in 1986, and toured with the late Rick Nelson, between Blasters engagements. After leaving the Blasters at the end of 1985, Taylor worked around Canada as a solo artist and with the Downchild Blues Band. He recorded with The Downchild Blues Band on such albums as It’s Been So Long, Gone Fishing, and Come On In.
On Facebook, Downchild leader Donnie Walsh noted that “Gene was a full-time member of Downchild from 1987 - 89. He was one of the greatest boogie woogie piano players of our time. It was an honour to have Gene come up to Toronto and join us on stage as a special guest on our 50th Anniversary show in 2019, which became our latest album Live At The Toronto Jazz Festival."
Taylor also did two more Blasters tours in 1991 and 1992.
In 1993, Gene relocated to Austin, Texas, and joined The Fabulous Thunderbirds, remaining with this internationally-acclaimed band until September 2006.
He recorded an eponymous second solo album for Pacific Blues in 2003. Other artists he recorded with included John Hammond, Dave Alvin, J-W Jones, and Junior Watson.
In 2007, Taylor moved to Belgium, playing and recording with Fried Bourbon, CC Jerome's Jet Setters, and Jo' Buddy, and touring as the Gene Taylor Trio. He later returned to Austin. Sources: Wikipedia,Facebook,Official Gene Taylor website, Austin360
– U-Roy (born Ewart Beckford), the legendary Jamaican toaster, has died aged 78, a representative for Trojan Records confirmed. No cause of death has been made public.
U-Roy was not the first toaster but he became known as “the originator” for being the first to put his distinctive vocal style on record, birthing a phenomenon and inspiring the creation of hip-hop. Ali Campbell of UB40 hailed him as “a true inspiration, [paving] the way for many generations and creating a sound that will live for ever!” Shaggy said: “Today we lost one of our heroes!!”
U-Roy was not the first toaster but he became known as “the originator” for being the first to put his distinctive vocal style on record, birthing a phenomenon and inspiring the creation of hip-hop. “His rich-toned voice proclaimed sizzling, jive-saturated lyrics rather than simply inserting a few phrases,” wrote a critic for Reggae Vibes. “And besides that he rode the pared-down instrumental track all the way through, rather than interjecting at crucial points.”
U-Roy first DJed aged 14. He began his professional career in 1961, performing on the soundsystem owned by Dickie Wong, who ran the Tit for Tat record label and club in Kingston. He moved between soundsystems before a period as the top DJ of King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi in the late 60s.
King Tubby’s elongated dub versions created the space for U-Roy to expand his inventive vocal style. “That’s when things started picking up for me,” he told the LA Times in 1994.
In 1969 U-Roy made his first recordings, with Keith Hudson, Lee Perry and Peter Tosh, though his breakout would come a year later, when John Holt witnessed U-Roy DJing and toasting over Holt’s song, Wear You to the Ball, and told producer Duke Reid to work with him.
Their partnership spawned three immediate hits, Wake the Town, Rule the Nation and Wear You to the Ball, as well as two dozen more singles, and inspired a rush of producers seeking to work with DJs on record. U-Roy's 1971 album Version Galore was a huge seller in Jamaica.
U-Roy released hundreds of singles throughout the 70s, including a run of hits with Bunny Lee. A deal with Virgin led to the album Dread in a Babylon, produced by Prince Tony Robinson. It boosted U-Roy’s popularity in the UK, where he counted Joe Strummer as a fan.
On the other side of the Atlantic DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock took the approach of U-Roy and the Kingston sound to their Bronx parties to distinguish them from the mid-70s disco scene, extemporising over Space Echo and inventing their own slang. Kool Herc’s Bronx apartment block would come to be recognised as the birthplace of hip-hop.
Undeterred by his recording success, U-Roy returned to soundsystem culture, launching his own, Stur-Gav, to raise a new generation of toasters including Shabba Ranks, Ranking Joe and Charlie Chaplin. “That was the biggest fun in my life when I started doing this,” he told United Reggae.
While active as a performer in the 1980s, U-Roy scarcely recorded again until 1991 – by which time he had moved to LA – when the British producer Mad Professor invited him to appear on the album True Born African. It spawned another lasting creative partnership. U-Roy’s last album, 2018’s Talking Roots, was also produced by Mad Professor. “From I was 15 when I heard Version Galore I wanted to work with U-Roy,” Mad Professor tweeted on Thursday.
In 2019 he was “crowned” by Shabba Ranks in New York, who called him “di Picasso of our music”. That year he also recorded a new album, Gold: The Man Who Invented Rap, featuring Sly and Robbie, Zak Starkey on guitar and Youth of Killing Joke on production, with guest appearances from Mick Jones of The Clash, Santigold, Shaggy, and Ziggy Marley among others. A release date is planned for the summer. Sources: The Guardian, Trojan Records