Music News Digest, July 2, 2020

Toronto’s new CityView Drive-In (pictured) will host concerts, the star-studded Saints And Sinners Tour is rescheduled, and MusiCounts presents a virtual dance party. Others in the headlines include Stompin' Tom Connors and Whiskey Jack, Kiesza, JAZZ.FM91 shows, Montreal venue closures, Anvil, Manitoba Music, Bandcamp, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Mike Shabb, and farewell Johnny Mandel, Benny Mardones, and Milton Glaser. With video.

Music News Digest, July 2, 2020

By Kerry Doole

The depressed live music scene in Toronto has just received a major boost with news of the arrival of an all-new downtown drive-in theatre and outdoor concert venue near Rebel Nightclub. INK Entertainment, the company headed by local nightclub czar Charles Khabouth, has launched the new CityView Drive-In that is taking over the parking lot just north of Rebel at 20 Polson Street. "Designed to host 200+ vehicles in reserved parking spots a minimum of seven feet apart, guests can enjoy live entertainment from the 238-foot stage and three large LED screens supplied by Apex Sound & Light from the comfort of their own car," reads a press release. The venue has announced a first round of drive-in concerts, beginning on July 16 with Monster Truck, July 18 with Allan Rayman, and Aug. 9 with A Tribe Called Red. Source: BlogTO


– Featuring top veteran Canadian rock bands Big Wreck, Headstones, Moist and The Tea Party, the Saints And Sinners Tour would have been one of the biggest of the summer. Covid-19 has prevented that, but the dates have been rescheduled for early 2021. The revised tour kicks off in Victoria on Jan. 14,  with the last stop in Hamilton, on Feb. 3. Tickets from originally scheduled dates will be honored for the new shows. New dates will be announced in the coming days for Moncton and Halifax. VIP packages will be refunded on all shows. 

– Given that Stompin' Tom Connors and Canada are synonymous, this Canada Day holiday period encouraged us to retrieve this classic video from the archives. Of note: this was the first time Tom performed with Whiskey Jack, later to become close friends and collaborators. Thanks to WJ's Duncan Fremlin for recalling the moment for us: "On July 1, 27 years ago, it was an absolutely perfect Canadian summer night when Stompin' Tom walked on the enormous Parliament Hill stage to the cheers of hundreds of thousands of cheering, flag-waving Canadians. Walking right behind him, huge grins on our faces and our instruments in hand, was Whiskey Jack." The band now keeps STC's legacy alive with its popular Whiskey Jack Presents Stories & Songs of Stompin' Tom tours, set to resume ASAP.


– On July 2, Canadian music education charity MusiCounts presents a night full of beats and tunes in support of music programs for kids across Canada for their Virtual Dance Party Vol II. Juno winner Kiesza will appear at the party, reprising some of her hits, while Cocanina also performs. Donations received from the event go towards instruments required for children’s music programs. Watch on MusiCounts’ Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or YouTube.

– This summer, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival is presenting a Live-to-Air weekly concert series, broadcasting from the JAZZ.FM91 studios. The  Summer Concert Series, presented by TD, features local legends and leading lights of Toronto's jazz scene, in performances running from July 3 to Aug. 28. The shows will air live on JAZZ.FM91, every Friday from 5-6 pm. Ontario Creates is supporting the series. More details here 


– The National Music Centre (NMC) launched the Legacy Vinyl Campaign on July 1, and it gives supporters another opportunity to add their name to the Studio Bell building. The fundraising drive begins alongside Canada’s 153rd birthday and Studio Bell’s 4th anniversary and will run until Dec. 31. Music fans are invited to support Canada’s music legacy and inscribe their names on a vinyl record that will be placed on the walls of Studio Bell. Various tiers of support are available. More info here.

In 2019, NMC welcomed nearly 183,000 guest visits to Studio Bell (up 21% from 2018), inspired over 15,500 school students to learn through music, presented over 240 concerts and events, hosted over 40 artists for professional development programs and residencies, and launched three major exhibitions, among many other achievements.


– In a damaging blow to Montreal’s live music scene, one prominent venue, La Vitrola, has announced it will not reopen following its coronavirus-related closure. Another venue/restaurant, Casa del Popolo , is set to reopen shortly, but reportedly without a stage. Both venues are owned and operated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor co-founder Mauro Pezzente and artist/printmaker Kiva Stimac. A sister locale, La Sala Rossa, is expected to reopen. The stage recently hosted an online-only version of Pezzente and Stimac's flagship festival, Suoni Per il Popolo. Source: Exclaim!

– On July 4, rock veterans Anvil will perform on what's being touted as the first Canadian heavy metal live-stream put on by District 7 Production and L'Anti Bar & Spectacles in Quebec City. The group will feature a new album, Legal At Last. Tickets here. Event details here 

– Manitoba Music is gearing up for a new edition in its songwriter development series with the help of a Bell Media national songwriting initiative. Running throughout July and August, the Manitoba edition of the Canadian Songwriter Challenge will include creative mentorship and songwriter development to strengthen skills and opportunities for a career in songwriting, composition, and production.

This year’s session brings together creatives in diverse genres.  Participants include Brandon Post, Brendan Kinley (Super Duty Tough Work), Cassidy Mann, Lana Winterhalt, Lindsay Rae, Matthew Monias (Mattmac), Sebastian Gaskin, Sierra Noble with Rusty Matyas, and Tyler Del Pino. The songwriters will work one-on-one with mentors in songwriting, production, publishing, radio, music supervision, and A&R, including Supergroup Sonic Branding Co.’s Adèle Ho, producer Brian West, peermusic’s Cheryl Link, singer/songwriter Donovan Woods, Kim Temple of High Priestess Publishing/Six Shooter Records, composer/producer Nikhil Seetharam, Warner Music Canada’s Ron Lopata, singer/songwriter and producer Samantha Crain, and hip hop artist and radio broadcaster Shad K. More info here 


– A reminder that to support musicians during covid-19, Bandcamp is again waiving its revenue share on all sales tomorrow (July 3), from midnight to midnight Pacific. Details here. The platform's initiative is proving very popular for artists.

– Acclaimed composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland releases 'his' first new piece of music in over 15 years, the single, River Dreams. The track will appear on his forthcoming album, Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland, out on Sept. 25th via Transgressive, the new label home for his catalogue and future recordings. 

– Montreal-based rapper Mike Shabb has just released Hesitate, a new single and music video set at a house party, filmed right before the pandemic. This is the first single off his upcoming album, Life is Short, due out July 31 on Make it Rain Records.

– The renowned Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival will proceed online in 2020. Using a digital platform festival loyalists and newcomers will be able to access the same great content virtually. Tix and access passes will go on sale by mid-September in advance of the Oct. 31 - Nov. 8 event. Info here



Johnny Mandel, the Oscar-winning composer of The Shadow Of Your Smile and the theme song to Mash, died on June 29, age 94. 

Renowned as one of the finest composers and arrangers of the 20th Century, he worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Michael Buble. On hearing the news, Buble called Mandel "a hero of mine, a genius and one of my favourite personalities." Tributes came from many of the other musicians he had worked with, including Diana Krall.

Born in New York, Mandel's mother was an opera singer who noticed her son had perfect pitch when he was just five years old. After taking piano lessons, he fell in love with jazz at the age of 12 and switched to brass instruments. "I wanted to play an instrument you could kiss," he later explained.

He studied at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard School, both in New York City and made his living in the 1940s as a trombonist and trumpeter, playing with the big bands of Joe Venuti, Jimmy Dorsey, Buddy Rich and Chubby Jackson, among others.

At the same, he was writing and arranging music for radio and the new medium of TV and, after a stint with Count Basie's band, decided to pursue a full-time career off the stage.Moving to Los Angeles, he wrote elegant, orchestral arrangements for a wide range of vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee and Anita O'Day.

"Johnny Mandel is the very best. When I hear one of his songs, I melt," said Tony Bennett, who won an Oscar with Mandel for The Shadow Of Your Smile, from the movie The Sandpiper, in 1965. That song won both Grammy and Academy Awards the following year.

Mandel's movie career also included music for the Susan Heyward movie I Want To Live - considered to be the first time jazz had been integrated successfully into a musical score - and The Americanization of Emily.

In 1970, director Robert Altman commissioned Mandel to create "the stupidest song ever written" for his upcoming film Mash, set in a US Army hospital during the Korean war. The melody was written to fit lyrics by Altman's 15-year-old son, and the track went on to become a worldwide chart hit, and the highest-earning composition of Mandel's career. He later remarked: "I'm glad I lost that battle."

His later film scores included Caddyshack, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, and Agatha, which included the song Close Enough for Love. Mandel performed an interpretation of Erik Satie's "Gnossiennes #4 and #5" on the piano for the 1979 film Being There.

Mandel also worked with Michael Jackson on the song Will You Be There, from the movie Free Willy, and arranged music for artists including Nancy Wilson, Diana Krall, Michael Bolton and Barry Manilow.

Over the course of his career, he won five Grammys and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010. He also served on the board of the American Society of Composers and Publishers for many years. Source: BBC News

Benny Mardones, a US singer-songwriter best known for his 1980 soft rock hit Into the Night, has died at 73 from complications from Parkinson's disease.

Mardones was born in Cleveland and grew up in Savage, Md. He joined the Navy after high school, serving in the Vietnam War, then moved to New York to pursue songwriting. After several years of writing for other artists (including Brenda Lee), he launched his own solo career in the late '70s — first opening for Richie Havens on tour in 1977, then issuing his debut LP, Thank God for Girls, in 1978.

That first album was produced by Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham and featured guitarist Mick Ronson and Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley. Mardones had his breakthrough with 1980's Never Run, Never Hide, which spawned the soulful "Into the Night, co-written with Robert Tepper.

While Into the Night wound up as Mardones' only mainstream hit, two versions of the tune actually made Billboard's Hot 100 chart: the original 1980 recording and a revamped 1989 take featured on his self-titled fourth LP. (A 2019 remix of the track peaked at No. 35 on the Dance Club Songs chart.)

The singer's career slowed in the following decade, but he did continue to perform live and record throughout the '90s and '00s — even following his Parkinson's diagnosis in 2000. He released his final studio project, Timeless, in 2015, Source: Billboard

Milton Glaser, designer of the ‘I Love NY’ logo and creator of Bob Dylan album covers and posters, died on June 26, his 91st birthday, of a stroke.

 Glaser was a groundbreaking graphic designer who adorned Bob Dylan’s silhouette with psychedelic hair in a famous poster and summed up the feelings for his native New York with “I (HEART) NY,”

In posters, logos, advertisements and book covers, Glaser’s ideas captured the spirit of the 1960s with a few simple colours and shapes. He was the designer on the team that founded New York magazine with Clay Felker in the late ’60s.

When publishing titan Rupert Murdoch forced Felker and Glaser out of New York magazine in a hostile takeover in 1977, the staff walked out in solidarity with their departing editors, leaving an incomplete issue three days before it was due on newsstands.

His pictorial sense was so profound, and his designs so influential, that his works in later years were preserved by collectors and studied as fine art.

The bold “I (HEART) NY” logo — cleverly using typewriter-style letters as the typeface — was dreamed up as part of an ad campaign begun in 1977 to boost the state’s image when crime and budget troubles dominated the headlines. Glaser did the design free of charge.

Among Glaser’s other noteworthy projects were cover illustrations for Signet paperback editions of Shakespeare; type designs such as Baby Teeth, first used on the Dylan poster, and Glaser Stencil; and a poster for the Mostly Mozart Festival featuring a colourful Mozart sneezing. His designs also inspired the playbill for Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

The Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum awarded him a lifetime achievement award in 2004. In 2009, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Sources: AP, Smithsonian

Influential Indie Record Labels Band Together to Form the Organization for Recorded Culture and Arts
Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash
grayscale photo of people holding assorted music instruments
Business News

Influential Indie Record Labels Band Together to Form the Organization for Recorded Culture and Arts

During a turbulent time in the music industry, 16 indies from around the globe have founded the new think tank, ORCA, including Sub Pop, Secretly Group, Beggars Group, Canadian label Secret City Records and more.

Some of the world's biggest indie labels are coming together around a common cause.

Sixteen independent record labels from around the globe, including Canadian label Secret City, have founded a new music think tank, the Organization for Recorded Culture and Arts (ORCA). The organization launched today (July 17) with a first report, Setting The Stage, laying out the basics of the industry's economy.

keep readingShow less