Music News Digest, Sept. 23, 2021

Today (Sept. 23), on Global’s The Morning Show, The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) is inducting the rock classic, What About Love, one of the most successful international hits for the band Heart. The honour goes to the tune’s three Canadian songwriters, Brian Allen, Sheron Alton, and Jim Vallance, and the event features a special appearance by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Heart’s Ann Wilson. As part of the virtual presentation, Toronto artist SATE will perform the song live from the El Mocambo.

The track was initially written for the band Toronto (featuring Allen and Alton), but was omitted from that group’s third album. It found its way to Heart, whose 1985 version enjoyed 12 weeks on the Top 40 charts and became Heart’s first Top 10 hit in five years. It won BMI and PROCAN Awards and boosted the multiplatinum selling and chart-topping album Heart. Following today’s presentation, What About Love will be placed in the CSHF’s permanent home at the National Music Centre in Calgary.

– Sibling country duo The Reklaws top the just-announced list of nominees for the CCMA Awards, with six. They are closely followed by Lindsay Ell, Dallas Smith, and Brett Kissel, with five nods apiece. The 2021 CCMA Awards presented by TD will be broadcasted from London, ON in Nov. See the full nominees list here.

– After a 15th anniversary edition marked by the global pandemic, M for Montreal is back in 2021 with an extensive professional and artistic hybrid program, online from Nov. 15 to 26, and face-to-face in Montreal from Nov. 17 -19. Among the 20 plus artists appearing in the event’s flagship Official Selection, either in a video production by Parce Que Films and Pestacle or in a live experiential setting, are Backxwash, Beach Body, Bleu Nuit, Choses Sauvages, Magi Merlin, Naya Ali, SLM, Yoo Doo Right, and Zoon. The conference side presents a mixer, virtual networking sessions, pre-arranged one-on-one meetings, and a series of panels. More info here.

– Today (Sept. 23),  Toronto-based indie folk singer/songwriter Ben Kunder premieres Songs On Fire, an 8 episode streaming series featuring a diverse cast of musical peers.  Musical performances and in-depth conversations will take place in Kunder’s backyard. Tonight’s episode features Charlotte Cornfield, with Caroline Marie Brooks, Jim Guthrie, Kirty, and Julian Taylor amongst future guests. Check out Kunder’s YouTube channel here.

– Sam Roberts Band has announced the cancellation of its planned fall Canadian tour, citing the “uncertainty” of the pandemic situation. Info re refunds here 

– Venus Fest in Toronto has outlined the fifth edition of the festival, at Toronto gallery the plum, from Oct. 16-30. The hybrid event features collaborations between artists and musicians, with announced artists including Haviah Mighty, Charlotte Cornfield, and SPELLING. More info here

– Music Nova Scotia has announced the second round of artists to perform at Nova Scotia Music Week (NSMW) 2021, held in Truro, Nov. 4-7. View the lineup here. MNS has also made day passes available for purchase Thurs, Fri, and Sat of the event. They can be purchased online here. 

NewsAid is a star-studded fundraiser for non-profit Toronto community newspaper West End Phoenix. It is set for Oct. 2 (2-5 pm) at Junction Craft Brewery Parking Lot, 150 Symes Road, Toronto, and the lineup includes Rheostatics, Rik Emmett, Michie Mee, Tom Wilson, Feist, Hawksley Workman, Zaki Ibrahim, Tara Slone, Daniel Greaves, Charlotte Cornfield, The Mercenaries, Stephen Stanley, Ansley Simpson, Dave Robinson, Gentleman Reg, Randy Ray, Wax Mannequin, Ensign Broderick, Andrew and Sam Cash, Lucas Silveira, and more.

The creation of veteran writer/rocker Dave Bidini (Rheostatics), WEP is now in its 5th year. It has published work by such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Michael Winter, Claudia Dey, and Roddy Doyle, alongside emerging voices. The benefit is sold out, but extra tickets may become available here

– Donovan Woods has announced a run of tour dates for Spring of 2022 that will begin in his childhood home of Sarnia, ON and head out West to Vancouver before returning to Toronto’s Massey Hall. Full tour dates and tix here. Accompanying the news is a new single from Woods, Here in Chicago, co-written with Australian pop singer-songwriter Hayley Warner (Katy Perry, Jojo) and produced by Robyn Dell’Unto. Prior to Canadian shows, Woods has a 12-date tour of the UK and Europe, starting in late Jan.

– The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), a service organization for Canada’s musicians, has selected the lineup of young professional singers to perform in this year’s edition of Ten Singing Stars – New Generation. They will take part in 90 minutes of operatic arias, with pianist Rachel Andrist, on Oct. 15, 7:30-9 pm EDT. The concert will broadcast live from Zoomer Hall, on The New Classical 96.3 FM, and live-stream free here. The IRCPA received applications from 24 singers, aged 18-42. 

– Opera Atelier presents a premiere of concert film Angel, fully-staged and filmed at St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto, streaming Oct. 28 at 7 pm ET (available until Nov. 12). Angel marks the culmination of composer Edwin Huizinga’s commission for the company in association with Associate Composer/Assistant Conductor, Christopher Bagan, and it features an international roster of artists, led by Opera Atelier’s Artist In Residence, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, the Artists of Atelier Ballet, and Tafelmusik. Tix here.

– University students in Toronto can soon take a new class about Drake and The WeekendBlogTO reports. The soon to be renamed Ryerson University will offer a class entitled Deconstructing Drake and The Weeknd in the media program at Ryerson’s Creative School. It is the creation of the institution’s music-professional-in-residence Dalton Higgins, an author and publicist who has been teaching hip-hop and pop culture across the continent for a decade. 

– The third instalment of the Make Music Matter UnpluggedTogether series continues tonight (Sept. 23) with a streamed performance featuring Cone of Sum 41, Ian D’Sa of Billy Talent, and a Blackbird. Tickets ($15) and info here.

– Toronto folk music hub the Free Times Cafe continues to present music on its patio. A recommended gig there on Sept. 24 (7-10 pm) pairs Glen Hornblast and Isabel Fryszberg. Reserve by calling 416-967-1078.

– Presented by MRG Events, the free Shipyards Festival in Lower Lonsdale, BC, runs from noon to 10 pm on Sept. 25. A strong lineup includes Bedouin Soundclash, The Zolas, Astrocolor, XL the Band, IAMTHELIVING, Harlequin Gold, MNGWA, Via Barcelonia, DJ Kookum, and many more More info here

– Flying Colours and Big Story Entertainment present Unplugged North at the El Mocambo on Sept. 26, featuring performances (from 3 pm) from Nefe, Julie Title and Joey Landreth and hosted by SiriusXM’s, Sarah Burke. Tix at the door.

RIP

Marilynne Esther Caswell, an Ontario-based country music booking agent, dies on Sept. 18, age 87.

A long-time lover of country music, Caswell got her booking licence in 1972, with the help of Johnny Cash’s manager, the late Saul Holiff. Her first major client was multiple CCMA Award winner Terry Carisse and she later booked Michelle Wright for six years.

The Brantford Expositor reports that during her career Caswell befriended such stars as Loretta Lynn, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, Buck Owens, and many more. Snow welcomed Caswell and her husband backstage at the Grand Ol’ Opry several times. 

International

–  Harry J. Coombs, a veteran music industry executive who helped launch the careers of The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls and more, died on Sept. 3, of pulmonary fibrosis/acute pulmonary hypertension, at age 85.

Billboard reports that “Coombs, born Sept. 19, 1935 in Washington, D.C., was best known for his 30-year tenure at Philadelphia International Records. He joined PIR — then distributed by CBS Records (now Sony Music) — as a national promotion manager in 1972. He earned his first gold record that year for The O’Jays hit Backstabbers. 

Promoted to PIR’s executive vp internal operations and promotion in 1974, Coombs continued to play an integral role in building the label’s iconic “Philly Sound” legacy as he oversaw projects released by hit-making acts such as The Stylistics, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul and Phyllis Hyman in addition to The O’Jays. He left PIR in 2002.

Coombs was also instrumental in the careers of R&B vocal group LeVert and singer Gerald Levert. LeVert’s first album, I Get Hot, was released on Coombs’ Tempre label in 1985. I’m Still, the album’s first single, drew the attention of Atlantic Records which later signed the group.

An alumnus of the Modern School of Music in Washington, D.C. and an Army veteran, Coombs was presented with the Living Legends Foundation Award in 1999.

–  Sarah Dash, one-third of hit vocal duo Labelle, died on Sept. 20, at age 76. No cause of death has been announced. 

The New York Times stated that Dash “brought her church-rooted soprano and high harmonies to the rock and funk powerhouse best known for the No. 1 hit Lady Marmalade.

Post-Labelle, Dash went on to have a successful solo career and record widely as a session singer, with Nile Rodgers, the Marshall Tucker Band, the O’Jays, Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, and others. She looked back on her career in the 1990s with one-woman shows and an autobiography, A Dash of Diva.

The daughter of a pastor in Trenton, NJ, Dash grew up singing in the Trenton Church of Christ choir and turned to secular music as a teenager. She met Nona Hendryx and invited her to join her in the Del-Capris, a local doo-wop quintet. The pair then helped form a quartet that became Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.

The Bluebelles had minor hits and worked through the 1960s on the R&B circuit, recording on the Newtown, Cameo-Parkway and Atlantic labels. 

The Bluebelles metamorphosed into Labelle in 1970, moving from R&B venues to rock clubs like the Bitter End in Manhattan.

In 1971, Labelle released its self-titled debut album, and collaborated with Laura Nyro on her album Gonna Take a Miracle, followed by Labelle albums Moon Shadow and Pressure Cookin’. Labelle had a No. 1 hit, Lady Marmalade, in 1974 and performed the first concert by a pop group — and a Black group — at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Labelle had a hit with the album Nightbirds (1974), and made two more albums, Phoenix and Chameleon, before breaking up in 1977. Dash released four solo albums in the 1970s and ’80s.

In 2008, Labelle reunited for a full album, Back to Now, followed by a tour.  Dash gave her final performance on Saturday night, two days before her death, when she joined Patti LaBelle during a performance in Atlantic City. Sources: New York TimesTrentonian

Richard H. Kirk, co-founder of pioneering English electronic/industrial band Cabaret Voltaire, has doed, at age 65. No cause of death has been reported.

His label, Mute, said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we confirm our great and dear friend, Richard H. Kirk has passed away. Richard was a towering creative genius who led a singular and driven path throughout his life and musical career.”

In its tribute, The Guardian noted that “It’s fairly said that Richard H. Kirk revolutionised music more than once. He’ll be remembered most widely for his work in Cabaret Voltaire, the band (or as they preferred, art project) he started in 1973 with Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson, and which laid the groundwork for electro-pop, industrial and even punk. But the Sheffield-born musician’s own electronic club music projects have a strong claim to being just as world-changing – Kirk was one of the first artists to release on local institution Warp Records, and he cemented a uniquely British bass-heavy approach to dance music. Throughout the subsequent decades, he never once stood still or looked back, making unique records to the end.”

Born in Sheffield, Kirk first came to prominence in the 1970s as one-third of Cabaret Voltaire. The trio were prolific in the years that followed, releasing EPs such as Extended Play, Nag Nag Nag and Three Mantras between 1978 and 1980, as well as three albums: Mix-Up (1979), The Voice Of America (1980) and Red Mecca (1981).

After one-third of the group, Chris Watson, left in 1981, Kirk and fellow member Stephen Mallinder took their industrial sound in a decidedly more commercial direction, releasing the album The Crackdown in 1983, as well as Micro-Phonies,  in 1984. The former gave the group their best UK chart placing, landing at number 31.

1990’s Groovy, Laidback & Nasty  was produced in Chicago alongside house pioneer Marshall Jefferson, followed by other house-infuenced records followed between 1992 and 1994, released through the labels Plastex and Apollo.

Kirk remained the only continuous member of Cabaret Voltaire, returning to the project for a series of live performances starting in 2014. Last November, he released the first album of new Cabaret Voltaire material in more than two decades, Shadow Of Fear, via Mute. An EP, Shadow Of Funk, as well as two more albums, Dekadrone and BN9Drone, followed on Mute earlier this year.

Kirk also released a number of other records under a variety of aliases that included Sandoz, Electronic Eye and Trafficante. Much of his solo work leaned into the downtempo and electronic influences of Cabaret Voltaire’s 1990s work, with the project Sweet Exorcist – a collaboration with Richard Barratt (AKA DJ Parrot) – bearing a number of seminal early “Bleep Techno” releases through Warp Records. Sources: The Guardian, The Quietus

Kenneth Proto

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