Music In Film – Queen’s Hungarian Rhapsody

29 09 2012

British foursome Queen were legendary when it came to live performances, but generations of younger fans (like myself) had never and will never get the chance to see them live.  While surviving members may make appearances here and there, such as Brian May (guitarist) at the London Olympic closing ceremonies, it was the charismatic and incomparable Freddie Mercury that made the bands live concerts the one of  a kind experiences that people speak of to this day.  Even though it is a harsh reality that I and other Queen fans may never see Freddie and crew live and in the flesh, something comes around that just happens to be the next best thing.  To any fellow Queen lovers out there, I present to you Hungarian Rhapsody. 

ImageHungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live in Budapest brings to the silver screen Queen’s first ever performance in Hungary, and their largest stadium concert ever, in full.  Taking place in 1986, the event was so historic that the Hungarian government took it upon themselves to film this documentary, and it has now been shared with the world.

The screening began with a short documentary on the band, featuring archival performance footage, interviews and the band out and about in the world being followed by cameras.  I’d never heard Freddie speak before; suffice it to say, he’s as adorable as he is enigmatic.  Interviews with him were rare, but he did speak in reference to the upcoming Hungary show, expressing concerns about touring, and being fit to tour (though he would not have been diagnosed with HIV until the following year).  But based on the film, he had nothing to worry about.  On stage, Mercury is unstoppable; running back and forth across its massive expanse, up stages, jumping, playing air guitar and generally carousing and drawing fans in with his irresistible energy.  And his voice!  To this day there has not been a voice that could hold a candle to Freddie Mercury’s.  The passion, the power, the incredible range; it was enough to give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes.  While May, bassist John Deacon (who was completely adorkable) and drummer Roger Taylor were consummate performers on their own, it was Mercury that owned the stage and the spotlight from start to finish.  The only time that was not the case was when May had the stage to himself to show off his prowess on the guitar, mesmerizing fans as his fingers flew over the frets, May himself seemingly in a trance where nothing existed but himself, his guitar, and the music he could make it play.

There has never been a band like Queen, and there never will be again.  Hungarian Rhapsody was as close as I’m ever going to get to seeing them onstage, and the experience was breathtaking.  I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like to be there – it must have been thrilling.  Even though the film is now out of theatres (it had a very limited single day release) I was lucky enough to be sent home with four Queen DVDs, including Live in Montreal, which I highly recommend.  If you haven’t seen this documentary, or didn’t get the chance to see Hungarian Rhapsody in the theatre, make the investment in some of the amazing DVDs already out there.  You won’t regret it.


Cover me…Justin Bieber turns Indie

22 09 2012

It should shock no one that I am not a Justin Bieber fan.  I’m probably as far from a “Belieber” as you can get.  So when the lovely ladies at Audioblood Media sent me this video, I was skeptical (to say the least).  Until I watched it.

The backstory from the media mavens at Audioblood:

“In late-August indie up and comers The Balconies and Hands & Teeth met at the Verge Music Labs for a marathon creative recording session hosted and produced by the minds behind The Mojito Sessions. The Mojito Sessions is a project spearheaded by Toronto’s Mojito Mastering, bringing two unique artists together in the studio to create a live off the floor recording and chronicle the journey in a flawless video care of Southern Souls. The result is not only a memorable experience for the artists, but an unforgettable cover song for fans alike.”

Considering I want to scream every time this song comes on the radio, this cover is not only tolerable but actually enjoyable.  I mean, I still kind of hate the song itself, but I do like the way these two great bands covered it.  Jacquie Neville’s sweet vocals blow Bieber’s out of the water, and the five-part harmonies that combine these singers beautiful voices together are fantastic.  The musicianship is phenomenal, and the overall result is classic pop rock song, with hints of old fashioned doowop, and just overall fun.  And the fact that it was done without auto-tune and extreme over production should make the Bieb’s ashamed of himself (especially considering he’s supposedly a talented musician in his own right).  So take a listen to this cover of “Baby”, I hope you like it! Oh, and be prepared to have it stuck in your head all day long.

Songs that make me…The Trews

11 09 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these!  I was recently listening to my favourite online radio station CBC Music and this song came on my fancy self-created playlist (the best feature about the station).  I was instantly reminded of how much I love it, and how intensely I always react to it.

East Coast rockers the Trews seem to have found a way to directly access not only my tear ducts but the mechanism to trigger goosebumps via music.  I’ve seen them play this song live, and the effect is even more intense.  And somehow, every time I hear it, it’s like hearing it for the first time.  Both the music and lyrics are beautifully written (with assistance from the intrepid Mr. Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar fame), and the performance is top notch.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about the military or service to one’s country, or if you can relate or not.  That maritime – esque acoustic guitar strumming, and rapturous harmonies are irresistible – I dare you not to love this song.  It’s simply wonderful.

Miss me?

26 06 2012

Hey y’all! It’s been a while, over 3 months as per my previous draft timestamps. I’ve been a busy bee writing not only for the Toronto Examiner, but for the Canada National Examiner page AND the intrepid Mr. Bob Segarini’s blog Don’t Believe a Word I say.  So if you want to get caught up on my musical and editorial adventures, check out one of those links and read up!  I’ll be back soon, don’t you worry 🙂



Cover me – Whitney Houston Edition

4 03 2012

It’s no secret that I love Chris Cornell.  He can pretty much do ANYTHING and I’ll back it.  I even liked some of the tracks on his ill-fated Timbaland produced record Scream, despite what Trent Reznor had to say on Twitter.  The merging of the decidedly rock/alternative Cornell with a more Hip Hop style resulted in something not so great.  So when, in the wake of legendary R&B singer Whitney Houston’s death, Cornell decided to do an impromtu cover of her iconic song “I will always love you”, I was incredibly interested to see how he would tackle it.  See for yourselves:

This is a far cry from anything on Scream.  This is the best kind of cover in my opinion.  Cornell took Houston’s song, a song that everyone knows, has memorized the words to, has sang in karaoke, and completely turned it into something of his very own.  If his Songbook record hadn’t already been out for months now, I would say this song would make the perfect addition.  Stripped down, simple, yet emotionally powerful, Cornell truly did the late Whitney Houston justice.  And you know the pressure was on, considering he performed this song at a fundraiser for President Obama.  How much cooler can Cornell get?  Who cares!  He’s still smokin’ hot to me.

Cover Me, OLD School Edition

23 01 2012

There are very few things that I enjoy about my thirty plus minute commute to work every day.  BOTH. WAYS.  Being the musical minded person that I am, I go absolutely insane if I dont have some sort of soundtrack to my drive, so the radio is a definite staple.  Today while driving home, I happened to be listening to Q107’s afternoon show, letting Canadian music icon Kim Mitchell (of “Patio Latterns” fame) not only play music to ease the pain of gridlock, but educate his listeners as well.  Listening to his show, it’s clear that Mitchell is an expert on music in more ways than one.  An accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter, his knowledge of music history is plentiful.  I grew up listening to his music, since my mom loved his songs and made my brothers and I watch his videos on Muchmusic.  So I guess letting him teach me something every now and then feels pretty natural.  And today’s lesson happened to be one about a very well known song by one of the greatest bands of all time, Led Zeppelin, a personal favourite of mine.  When a band as iconic as Zeppelin, and have influenced so many bands and artists with their own music, it’s almost hard to imagine who their influences could have been.  It’s almost harder to imagine that one of their most well known songs “When the Levee Breaks”, was actually a cover !  Well, imagine no longer, because it really was.

Meet Memphis Minnie.  Born at the end of the the 19th century, her career lasted over four decade.  At age 13, she moved to Tenessee to play wherever she was allowed, even joining the Ringling Brothers circus for a few years.  She was discovered at a Beale Street barbershop in 1929, by a Columbia Records talent scout.  She recorded her first song with then husband Kansas Joe McCoy, and the rest is history.  Her talent put her on the same level as her male contemporaries, something unheard of in that period of time.  She was one of the first to pick up an electric guitar, and her infusion of country and blues paved the way for the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly and many others.

What I love the most about Led Zeppelin covering her song is that, in my mind, there is no manlier band than Led Zeppelin.  All long hair, loud guitars and sex appeal, the fact that these guys covered a song by a historical female musician is absolutely amazing to me.  Take a listen to the original, and the cover, and marvel at the wonder that is music.

Those who write, should read!

11 07 2011

It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it.  If you like to write, you should also like to read!  The fact is, I LOVE to read.  But for some reason, lately, I haven’t been.  I know, it’s shameful, and this post is my embarrassing confession.  I’ve been focusing on my writing for the Examiner lately (yes, my blog has been woefully neglected), so I write instead of read.  Which frankly is pretty dumb, because reading, and reading  A LOT makes you a better writer.  People who are published generally know their shit, writing-wise and everyone can stand to learn something.  So yes, this weekend, I read a book! I’m very sad that this was an actual accomplishment for me, considering I was a huge bookworm for most of my life.  So, now here, on the internet, where you put things out and cannot take them back,  I hereby commit to READ MORE.

I guess I should be clear.  I didn’t just start this post to make a web-vow.  I actually wanted to write about the book I read.  And, in a kind of round about way, it relates to music, so it does belong on this blog!

Your Voice In My Head is the memoir of Emma Forrest, currently a celebrated screenwriter in LA, but she actually began her life as a music journalist in her early teens.  She dropped out of high school, traveled around with british indie bands and documented their adventures.  Essentially, she had my dream job.  And she did it when she was fourteen.  But beyond the amazing career, and celebrity liasons, Forrest is a deeply troubled individual.  Her book chronicles her life to date, her battle with mental illness (that she almost loses, more than once), and her relationship with the therapist she credits with saving her life.  And she does so in a raw, emotional, and poignantly honest way.  You can hear her voice as you read, sarcastic, funny, alternating between british and american slang.  I love the way she writes, it’s how I hope to write, and I admire her courage at putting it all out there.

So, in short, Your Voice In My Head is the book that has reminded me that I love to read.  And I’ve committed to myself, and the interwebs at large, to do more of it. The End.