Thursday, September 20, 2007


In this issue:

  • Grimskunk & George Canyon Rock The Free World.
  • Paul Anka--#2 Written All Over Him.
  • “Sweet Little Sixteen"--Ottawa’s top song ever?


Four decades following his departure from Canada, Neil Young’s ties to his homeland remain quite visible. Borrowed Tunes Two, a two-CD musical tribute to Young, produced by Mike Roth of Big Bold Sun Music, is being released Oct. 16, the same day Young releases Chrome Dreams II, followed by an 8-week North American tour that sees him returning to Massey Hall in Toronto on Nov. 26-27.

Distributed by Universal Music in Canada, Borrowed Tunes Two features Canadian artists performing their favourite Neil Young song. Selected tracks will be featured on Sirius Canada’s Iceberg channel 95.

The first Borrowed Tunes was a two-CD, 36-track album in 1994, co-produced by Roth and Gary Furniss. It raised over $200,000 for charity and included such Canadian acts as Jann Arden, the Waltons, Colin Linden, Crash Vegas, Junkhouse, Randy Bachman, and Art Bergman.

Borrowed Tunes Two, like its predecessor, graphically shows that, as well as being a great singer and guitarist, Young is also one of rock’s most important composers. He's written a phenomenal number of perfect songs and even his lesser songs have an unmistakably magical quality. While the album captures the plaintiveness and haunting emotionality of Young’s music, it also stands on it own: an obvious perspective of his music from a new generation of original Canadian acts (see track listing below).

Says Roth, the former head of A& R for Sony Music Canada, “When I was in grade 8 my mother (who was a teacher at Lawrence Park Collegiate) brought home an LP of a student who had attended Lawrence Park very briefly before leaving to make a career in music. She seemed to think he was a genius. I gave it a quick listen and told her I didn't like his voice and went back to my Beatles’ records. One day I picked it up again and I haven't stopped listening since. To say it changed my life would be an understatement. The LP was After the Goldrush by Neil Young. Making Borrowed Tunes in 1994 and now Making Borrowed Tunes Two have been great experiences for me. Seeing how Neil's music has touched so many great Canadian artists has been astonishing. As well, his songs have stood the test of time and have become part of the Canadian landscape.”

Profits of Borrowed Tunes Two are being donated to the Bridge School, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the Safehaven Project for Community Living in Toronto.

Soon after his birth in November 1978, Neil and Pegi Young's son, Ben, was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. For the couple, it was an appalling coincidence; Neil's oldest song, Zeke, from an earlier relationship, had been born with a mild form of cerebral palsy. The Bridge School was founded in 1986 by Pegi, and Jim Forderer, another parent of a child with severe speech and physical impairments, and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich.

The Safehaven Project for Community Living provides respite and day programs for Ontario children and young adults facing severe physical, mental and health challenges. The parent-run charitable organization operates four residential homes and one respite care home.

Borrowed Tunes II--Out of the Blue - Songlist

1. Borrowed Tune--54-40
2. Mr. Soul--Jets Overhead
3. Ohio--Dala
4.Wonderin--Barenaked Ladies
5. Cowgirl in the Sand--City and Colour
6. Sugar Mountain--Pat Robitaille & Harpoondodger
7. Don’t Cry No Tears--Great Lake Swimmers
8. After the Goldrush--Danny Michel
9. Walk On--Finger Eleven
10. Alabama--Andre
11. Old Man--Tom Cochrane
12. Expecting To Fly--Tom Wilson
13. A Man Needs a Maid--Chantal Kreviazuk
14. Don’t be Denied--Alana Levandoski
15. Philadelphia--Ron Sexsmith
16. A Dream That Can Last--Dave Gunning
17. Cinnamon Girl--Melissa McClelland
18. Bandit--Liam Titcomb
19. Helpless--Kyle Riabko

Borrowed Tunes II--Into the Black

1. Change Your Mind--Neverending White Lights
2. Don’t Let it Bring you Down--Raine Maida
3. Harvest--Jeremy Fisher
4. Come On, Baby, Let’s Go Downtown--The Trews
5. Needle and the Damage Done--Jorane
6. Rockin’ in the Free World--Grimskunk
7. Sample and Hold--Matt Mays
8. Sleeps with Angels--Astrid Young
9. A Man Needs a Maid--Attack in Black
10. Unknown Legend--Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
11. Pocahontas--Adrienne Pierce
12. When God Made Me--Joel Kroeker
13. Thrasher—The Saint Alvia Cartel
14. Bad Fog of Loneliness……Justin Nozuka
15. Words--Cuff the Duke
16. Natural Beauty--Tara MacLean
17. Harvest Moon--George Canyon
18. Long May You Run--Chris Seldon


Paul Anka's latest album, Classic Songs: My Way, on Decca Records, debuted at #2 on the Canadian album chart according to AC Nielsen Soundscan data. It wasn't enough to beat out the High School Musical 2 soundtrack which, with a mere 31 more copies sold, remains at #1 for a fourth consecutive week.

Anka’s five-decade career is a remarkable story in which he transformed himself from being a '50s teen idol into a superb vocal musician recognized around the world, and one of most successful pop songwriters in history.

Anka has recorded 126 albums to date and sold close to 15 million albums worldwide. Among his Billboard chart statistics are three #1 songs - "Diana"; "Lonely Boy"; and "You're Having My Baby", as well as 22 Top 20 hits. Anka has a staggering 900 original songs to his credit--130 recorded by other artists including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, and Robbie Williams. He is particularly well-known for penning signature songs for others, notably "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (Buddy Holly), "She's a Lady" (Tom Jones), "Puppy Love" (Donny Osmond) and, of course, "My Way" (Frank Sinatra).

Anka has been the discoverer of artists you wouldn’t expect to be even on his radar. He boosted the careers of Canadians Michael Buble, and David Clayton-Thomas, of course, but he also discovered, and brought to U.S. labels, American singer/songwriters John Prine and Steve Goodman. Anka also discovered Corey Hart at age 16, funding his first singles for United Artists.

In the summer of 1956, when Anka was 14, his parents allowed him to travel by himself to Los Angeles to visit his uncle Maurice. Anka began working at the Civic Playhouse selling candy bars during intermission. Every day he would leaf through the telephone book calling record companies, asking them to listen to a song he had written with his uncle. He was turned down by all of them. One day at Wallach's Music City, at the corner of Sunset and Vine, Anka was listening in the store's booths to “Stranded in the Jungle” by the Cadets. He noticed on the record label that Modern Records had offices in nearby Culver City. The Modern label was formed in 1945 in Los Angeles by Saul and Jules Bihari. The label recorded R&B, country & western, jazz, popular, blues, and gospel. The subsidiary label RPM was formed in 1950 and released blues, jazz, R&B and rock & roll. Modern/RPM was highly successful in the late '40s and early '50s, with such blues performers as B.B. King, Roscoe Gordon, Elmore James, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Witherspoon, and John Lee Hooker, and in the rock & roll field, with the vocal groups the Cadets, Marvin and Johnny, the Jacks, and the Teen Queens, and such singers as Jesse Belvin, Etta James, Richard Berry, and Shirley Gunter.

Anka convinced his uncle to drive him to Modern. The label's A&R head, Ernie Freeman, a veteran of Los Angeles' jazz scene, then listened to his song, "Blau-Wile Deveest Fontaine", inspired by the African village in John Buchan's novel Prestor John (which Anka had studied in high school), and signed Anka as the only white act in the company. "Blau-Wile Deveest Fontaine" was released on RPM in 1956. Uptempo with a slight Middle Eastern feel and arrangement, it was an oddity in contrast to the simple and conservative true love songs of the mid-'50s.

“The back-up singers on the record were the Cadets; I could not believe what was happening to me”, recalls Anka. Despite pioneering R&B disc jockey George "Hound Dog" Lorenz trying to break it in Buffalo, the record stiffed. However, Anka did get to appear nationally on CBC-TV's Pick the Stars and Cross-Canada Hit Parade. The track surfaced in 1959 on the Riveria Records budget album, The Fabulous Paul Anka - Paul Anka and Others.

At 16, Anka went to New York City, carrying with him "Diana," a song written about his crush on an older high school friend. He stayed with the Rover Boys - sleeping in the bathtub of their suite at the President Hotel -and eventually he met with Don Costa, then handling A&R at ABC-Paramount Records.

"A disc jockey in Toronto sent ABC a lead sheet on 'Diana'", recalled Costa in 1975. "There wasn't even a demo with it. I read it over - and it looked interesting. So we sent for a demo. Paul was so crazy that when we sent for the demo he came down from Ottawa. He floated around the city waiting for an appointment, and one day we sat down and played a bunch of his songs.”

Costa was so impressed that he called in other label executives. They all agreed Anka had talent. Within the week, Paul’s father arrived to sign a recording contract on his son's behalf.


As a teenager, whenever a rock and roll show came through Ottawa, Anka was there trying to get backstage to meet his idols. This included a rock n' roll revue at the Ottawa Coliseum in the mid-50s featuring Fats Domino, the Platters, Chuck Berry, and Clyde McPhatter. It was at that show that Berry, after watching an Ottawa fan, was inspired to write "Sweet Little Sixteen.”

In 1962, trying to reach a broader audience, Anka left ABC-Paramount and signed with RCA Victor. In leaving ABC-Paramount, Anka purchased his masters and publishing—an unheard-of feat in those days. It set him back $250, 000.

“That was all I had in the bank”, recalls Anka. “But I felt strong about my future.”

Soon afterwards, ABC-Paramount offered Ray Charles a contract with an increased artist royalty, a producer's royalty, his own label named Tangerine, plus the rights to his recordings that would revert to him when he left the label.

“Ray was a buddy and I told him, 'If you are going to ABC, get your masters'”, recalls Anka. “He took a shot and he got them as well.”


In an evening at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on October 15, entitled, "A Gift of Music: from Tradition to Tomorrow”, several of St. Michael’s Choir Schools’ illustrious graduates will show their dedication to their beloved alma mater. Matt Dusk, John McDermott, Stewart Goodyear, Michael Burgess and Kevin Hearn, with members of the Barenaked Ladies will be joined both by the Canada Pops Orchestra and the 250 voices of the St. Michael’s Choir School choristers.

Montreal-based singer Corneille has signed a U.S. deal with Motown Records, which will release his album, The Birth of Cornelius, in early 2008.

“I never thought that this dream would ever come true”, says Corneille. “This proves that you should always believe in your wildest dreams.”

The documentary film, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, hit theaters in the U.S. this week. With archival footage and personal films made by Seeger and his wife, this authorized biography, directed by Jim Brown, chronicles the life of the legendary artist and political activist who was banned from U.S. television for over 17 years. It includes appearances by Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Maines, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary.


Singer/drummer Brian Cotterill passed away In Uxbridge, Ontario, on Sept. 9, at age 55, after a battle with cancer. He played with the '70s rock group Abraham’s Children, which had Canadian chart hits with “Gypsy” (reaching #7 on RPM Weekly), “Goodbye Farewell”, “Thank You”, and “Goddess Of Nature.” More recently Cotterill was playing with Trypp, which was set to release its second album, 7 Deadly Sins.

Noted trumpet & master flugelhorn player/composer Bob Day passed away in Calgary, Alberta, on Sept. 9, at age 61. He played with various bands including Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass as well as with Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra Jr. A respected educator, Day spent the past several years teaching at Mount Royal College in Calgary as part of the jazz faculty.

Journalist/broadcaster/historian Larry LeBlanc has been a leading figure in Canadian music for four decades.

To be added to his email list, write him at

[N.B. Blue Mother Tupelo recorded a rendition of Paul Anka's hit, "Put Your Head on My Shoulder", which was included on the Daltry Calhoun film soundtrack. D.D.]

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