New Releases: St. Patrick’s Day 2017 – Part 1/2

Lots to talk about regarding the St. Patrick’s Day releases of 2017, so we’ve divided them into two batches. Below is an overview of eight releases in our Part 1 of 2.

High calibre vocalist Mario Pelchat (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC), with three platinum albums under his tuque, teams up with cleric singing group Les Prêtres to deliver some heavenly songs of inspiration in album Agnus Dei. From the same province as Mario, folky singer-songwriter Mat Vezio contributes album Avant la mort des fleurs cueillies (Mmm… Before the Death of Picked Flowers) after the release of a couple of leaf-stirring singles. Mat is actually a drummer who flailed out the beats for some high-profile artists. He proves on the album that he deserves to be a soloist in his own right. Swinging down to Hamilton, rock band Radio Free Universe visits Casa del Diablo (that should be Spanish for Devil’s House). It’s an Anglophone work and for those who want something that’ll crack some boulders.

Acclaimed pianist Jean-Michel Blais joins forces with CFCF (alias of Montrealer Mike Silver) on album Cascades. This is for those who love keyboards of any sort. Blais provides the pretty acoustic piano part and CFCF some atmospheric synths. The album is smartly produced in that the latter don’t drown out Jean-Michel’s impressive finger-work but simply add some flavourful textures to give the finished product a dynamic, full sound. Very nice. For those who want full-blown ambient electronica, you will not believe your ears when they take in the sounds of North Atlantic Drift‘s Departures, Vol. I. This is a duo from Toronto. It’s one of the best albums in the genre that we’ve heard in a long time. Also electronic but vocal and more in the new wave kingdom, Toronto’s Honey Beard offers excellent album Dreamless Sleep. This is a duo who cite Depeche Mode as an influence.

Anyone hungry for some vocal jazz? How about a new album from Johanna Sillanpaa. She is originally from Sweden but now based in Calgary and has made trips out to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival. From This Side is a beautiful record. Finally, we cap Part One off with a soundtrack. CuréLabel is a five-member group from Quebec. Kona is the soundtrack for the video game of the same name, an “interactive and episodic never ending story, which takes place in Northern Quebec in 1970”. When the soundtrack of a video game gets released on CD, you know it’s good, and in this case, it certainly is.

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Mario Pelchat Is a Man Who Looks Like You

Mario Pelchat - Un homme qui vous ressemble1We shall resist the temptation to call him “super” Mario Pelchat, although that would be a fitting description. The native of Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC is a Félix winner, 4-time JUNO nominee, and he has scored three platinum albums and several gold. Mario has been recording since the early 80s. His 16th career album is Un homme qui vous ressemble which contains 12 original songs he co-wrote with his team. This disc sees a return to strong compositions, and powerful, autobiographical lyrics weeping with authenticity. Fearing it would be his final album, Mario says he experienced such joy during the intensive creative process that it is likely there will be more works in the future. We hope so!  iTunes

Roundup of Selected New Releases 30 September 2014

Releases 30 Sep 2014 copy

As we head into the busy autumn season, we are seeing an upsurge in the number of album releases. Below is an overview of 20 Canadian albums (and an EP) released on this last day of September 2014.

Tristan Malavoy - QuatreAs far as more mainstream pop/rock goes, Tristan Malavoy has released a 4-track EP (pictured left) called Quatre, which is very good with beautiful artistic compositions. Tracks of My Years is a new album of covers from Bryan Adams who needs no introduction. Un homme qui vous ressemble is the latest LP from Mario Pelchat, a platinum, Felix-winning, 4-time JUNO nominee. Nova Scotia’s Mo Kenney is garnering immense critical acclaim. Her songwriting prowess is being compared to Ron Sexsmith’s. Mo’s new album is In My Dreams. For lovers of more rootsy, classic rock, New Brunswick’s Kendra Gale Band has released the great Carousel.

A number of electronic albums are out. Secret Sun is a duo from Montreal with album Cold Coast which is remarkably good. Innerworld is the new LP from Toronto’s Electric Youth. For alternative music on the more experimental side, check out Lydia Ainsworth‘s Right From Real. Zubberdust! by Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche is mainly an instrumental progressive jam. Coco MeliesLighthouse is less electronic and more eclectic. Chloe Sainte-Marie has released double CD and book, A la croisee des silences, with poetry readings and music.

Roots music fans can examine el Paseo by Calgary’s WiL for something a little different. Along the same lines, Kelowna, BC’s Andrew Judah has come out with the exquisite Monster, an alternative folk work.

Prominent Anglophone rappers have launched new albums: Vancouver’s Madchild (Switched On) and Nova Scotia’s Buck 65 (Neverlove). Francophone rapper Souldia has released Krime Grave.

Legendary jazz guitarist Lenny Breau is no longer with us, but a discovery of a past recording was made and transferred onto CD – LA Bootleg 1984. Three-time JUNO nominee Elizabeth Shepherd has come out with The Signal. This is vocal jazz with some good R&B/soul in the mix. Philippe Dunnigan has done a good job at converting some popular songs into classical arrangements which you can hear on album There You Are. Les pourquoi 2 is an LP of Children’s Franco music by Benoit Archambault. Finally, Songs of a Siren by Lea Longo is jazzy world music with Indian vibes.

Late-90s Mini Profiles on Semi-Major Artists

La Chicane

Led by vocalist Daniel “Boom” Desjardins, La Chicane, originally from Val-d’Or, QC, received a couple of Juno nominations for Group of the Year and won the Juno for best-selling Francophone album in 2000 for their debut album En catimini, released in 1998. The band had three Felix-nominated songs over the years: “Calvaire”, “Tu m’manques”, and “Viens donc m’voir”.

Nicola Ciccone

The Italian-Canadian was born in 1977 and began composing songs in English and Italian when he was 12. After winning a singing contest, he obtained a recording contract and released his (French language) debut in 1999 while studying child psychology at university in Montreal. Four singles from the album topped the charts in Quebec. “J’t’aime tout court” was named song of the year by the Felix awards. “Chanson pour Marie” and “Le menteur” were also very popular.

Holly Cole (Trio)

The Halifax native, not to be confused with Britain’s Cheryl and the United States’ Natalie, is considered a jazz artist but has performed songs in the arena of country, rock, and other genres. She relocated to Toronto and launched her music career in 1989 as the Holly Cole Trio. They performed covers of songs from Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Lyle Lovett. In the mid-90s “Trio” was dropped from the name and she began moving into pop until the new millennium when she returned to her jazz roots. “I’ve just seen a face” was her best-known song.

Great Big Sea

The Newfoundland folk-rock band managed two platinum and two multi-platinum albums. Although specialists at converting traditional songs and sea shanties from the region to rock pieces, they have also composed original material. Their most famous songs were “When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)”, “Ordinary Day”, “End of the World”, and “Consequence Free”.

The Moffatts

The four brothers (Scott, Clint, Bob, and Dave) grew up in British Columbia (Tumbler Ridge and Victoria) and started out performing country at various festivals. They relocated to the United States becoming regulars on Nashville Now with Ralph Emery. Later, they joined a show in Las Vegas. Finally, in 1994, they released their first album; their father served as their manager, as they were a teen performing act. But they quickly switched to pop and rock as a boy band and were more successful doing so. Their third and fourth albums released in 1998 and 2000, were both certified platinum and they enjoyed seven Top 30 hits including “I’ll Be There for You” (#5) and the chart-topper “Bang Bang Boom”.

Mario Pelchat

Born in 1964, Mario had been churning out albums since 1982. In the 90s, his album Pelchat was certified double-platinum. In 1999, his song “Je ne t’aime plus” was named song of the year at the Felix gala. “Tant de mots” and “Aimer” received nominations in the new millennium. He is also known as a music producer. Mario released a tribute album on French singer Becaud in 2015.

Bruno Pelletier

Born in 1962 in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg, he performed in English bands before starting his own French group. He relocated to Montreal and performed in bars before joining some musicals. Bruno’s debut album came out in 1992 and appeared in Luc Plamondon musicals La Legende de Jimmy (about James Dean), Starmania, and Notre Dame de Paris. His third album sold 200,000 copies and he began winning Felix awards. “Le temps des cathédrales” was named song of the year in 1999.

The Philosopher Kings

Three songs of the metro Toronto band made the year-end charts in the late-90s: “I am the Man”, “Hurts to Love You”, and “Cry”. The group’s name comes from Plato’s Republic. They all met while students at Thornhill Secondary School, Gerald Eaton becoming their lead singer.

Sky

This was the duo James Renald and Antoine Sicotte from Montreal. They met while studying music engineering in 1992. In the new millennium, Anastasia replaced Renald. The group enjoyed three chart-toppers: “Love Song”, “Superhero”, and “You”.

Branching Out and Conquering Other Genres (1997-1999)

Canadian music showed no signs of slowing down through the remainder of the decade. What was unique about the late-90s was that, Canadian artists began to branch out and conquer other genres of music. Pop and rock had been championed by a plethora of Canadians as had folk; it was time to show that we could produce a superstar in other fields of music.

Although Canada had always done well in the country music scene, ever since Wilf Carter appeared in the 1930s, it was time for a Canadian superstar to churn out three double-diamond albums in a row, a feat completely unprecedented. Her catchy music appealed to children, teenagers, young adults, older adults, and even seniors. It was so irresistible that a few of her songs crossed over onto the pop charts. One was the third biggest song of 1998 in the United States. She teamed up with musical genius “Mutt” Lange, who had worked with Bryan Adams, and married him. Her name was Shania Twain.

So-called R&B had always been a genre that appealed more to the populace south of the border. But a Torontonian fell in love with it and decided to make a career out of performing these kinds of songs. She never became a big name in Canada, but, in 1998, her song “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” was a million-seller in the U.S., peaking at #2 on the pop charts and topping their R&B charts for 14 consecutive weeks, smashing all records. Her name was Deborah Cox. She scored a big hit in Canada later on in 2009; “Beautiful U R” was 39th of the year.

The late-90s also saw the rise of the biggest-selling female jazz artist in the world, a Canadian. Most jazz artists could never hope to sell as many records as pop or country artists but Diana Krall sold 15 million worldwide. Eight of her albums debuted at the top of the Billboard jazz albums charts, six of them being certified multi-platinum at home.

Another genre conquered was Celtic / New Age, thanks to harp-player Loreena McKennitt and her hauntingly beautiful voice. Her three albums released in the 90s all went 3-4x platinum and in 1997 she scored a Top 10 hit on the pop charts.

Canadians were not satisfied with their newfound success in France which began not with Celine Dion but with Roch Voisine. Two more superstars arose to score diamond albums in the land of the Eiffel Tower. The first was roots rocker Isabelle Boulay. The second was to become the second best-selling Canadian artist in France (after Celine Dion). He was born in Sherbrooke and is known for his throaty singing style. He currently holds the SNEP record for the most weeks at number one. His name is Garou.

Toronto’s Our Lady Peace, thanks to a diamond album, was the hottest new band to emerge. Frontman and primary songwriter Raine Maida formed a musical family by marrying Chantal Kreviazuk, a former childhood prodigy, who, herself, became one of the most cherished singer-songwriters in the country.

1997

Many new artists arose this year. The biggest song of the year, as mentioned previously, was Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery”. Second to that was Our Lady Peace’s “Clumsy” which appeared on the year-end chart at #14. Another new band to emerge was St. John’s folky Great Big Sea. Their song “When I’m Up” appeared in the year-end chart at #62. They managed a pair of platinum and of multi-platinum albums and scored a few more hits. The Philosopher Kings were another semi-major act, their first big song being “I Am the Man”. Band members met while in high school in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. They scored a couple more Top 10 hits the following year. Saskatoon’s bluesy Wide Mouth Mason scored their biggest hit “Midnight Rain” (#56 YE). Another band from Saskatchewan had a hit this year. Age of Electric’s “Remote Control” finished as the 71st biggest hit of the year. Toronto’s Big Sugar added a dash of reggae to their music and had their first hit single “If I Had My Way”. Fellow locals I Mother Earth scored their biggest hit, “Raspberry” which pushed sales of their album to double-platinum status. Vancouver’s Econoline Crush attained one-hit wonder class with “All That You Are”.

Isabelle Boulay, from the town of Sainte-Félicité, on the north shore of the Gaspé peninsula, scored her first hit,” Je t’oublierai, je t’oublierai” off her debut album. Although she’d been around since 1993, Nanaimo, BC’s Diana Krall made it to the big leagues when her album Love Scenes, released this year, attained double-platinum status, a difficult feat in the realm of jazz. Chantal Kreviazuk scored her first hit “God Made Me”, the 77th biggest song of the year. Halifax’s fusion artist Holly Cole made a name for herself with “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Another Holly (McNarland) emerged from The Pas, Manitoba and gave us the hit “Numb”. Later she collaborated with the likes of Matthew Good and The Tea Party.

The biggest name in male soloists was Sherbrooke’s Garou, a stage name that is a combination of his surname Garand and the French expression loup-garou, which means werewolf. He was discovered by Luc Plamondon while performing in a local bar and subsequently drafted to play in Notre-Dame de Paris. The song “Belle” from the musical, sung by himself, Canada’s Daniel Lavoie, and France’s Patrick Fiori, became the third best-selling single of all-time in France (after two novelty songs). In 2000, Garou released his debut album Seul, certified diamond in France, and one of the biggest-selling French-language albums in history worldwide. He eventually became the best-selling Canadian artist in France after Celine Dion.

Bruno Pelletier was another new name this year. He was born in Charlesbourg, a suburb of Quebec City. His debut had come in 1992 but, with the 1997 single “Aime”, saw his first Felix-nominated song of the year. The only other male artist to have a big hit this year was Men Without Hats’ Ivan whose song “Open Your Eyes” made the year-end Top 100 chart.

1998

Big hits this year included Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the number one movie of all-time (at the time) Titanic. Bryan Adams had two chart-toppers: “On a Day Like Today” and “Back to You”. Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U” was a number one single as well. In the United States, the two biggest songs of the year were “Too Close” by Next and “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica respectively. In third place was a song called “You’re Still the One” by a Canadian country artist from Windsor, Ontario, named Shania Twain. She achieved the unimaginable: three consecutive studio albums were certified double-diamond in Canada (2 million copies sold).

Manitoban Celtic new ager, master of voice, piano, accordion, and harp, Loreena McKennitt, had been around since the mid-80s, scored a quadruple-platinum album in 1991, called The Visit, and had her first big hit, “The Mummers’ Dance”, on the pop singles chart this year.

Montreal’s Éric Lapointe scored his first Felix-nominated song of the year, “Rien à regretter”. According to some sources, he had as many as 30 songs that topped the charts on various radio stations and singles charts in Quebec.

Toronto’s dance band Love Inc. scored a couple of hits this year: “Broken Bones” #31 and “You’re a Supertar” #13. A few years later they were discovered by Britain and both songs became Top 10 hits there. There are some who credit their debut with being the only dance album created in Canada to attain platinum status.

On a side-note, a dance version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” was performed by the international group Stars on 54 and was featured in the Mike Myers’ film Studio 54. It peaked at #3 on the charts.

1999

The three biggest Canadian songs of the year came via new artists. While the Americans were taken by Toronto’s Deborah Cox who supplied the 9th biggest song of the year in the U.S., Montreal pop duo Sky scored the first of three number one singles called “Love Song”, the 6th biggest song of the year. In eighth place was Randy Bachman’s son Tal with the song “She’s So High”. And at 15th spot was the Toronto one-hit wonder group Len (“Steal My Sunshine”).

Besides Sky and Len, there were a number of new bands this year. Bluesy La Chicane debuted and scored the hit “Calvaire”. The Moffatts were four brothers who had grown up in various locales in B.C. They relocated to Nashville in the U.S. and released their first (country) album. Later they switched to pop and scored their first hit “Misery”. Montreal’s Les Respectables came out with “Amalgame”. Dance trio The Boomtang Boys scored the hit “Squeeze Toy”. Toronto’s dance group Temperance had the hit “If You Don’t Know” and 2 rude had “Thinkin’ about You”

Mario Pelchat, from Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC, won the Felix award for song of the year with “Je ne t’aime plus”. Francophone Italian-Canadian Nicola Ciccone appeared this year with the song “Le menteur”. Dance artist Joee scored the hit “Arriba”, the 51st biggest song of the year. Martin Deschamps saw his first hit—”Quand?” He took on the role of lead singer for the reunited Offenbach.

There were no new significant female soloists this year.

Coming up are lists of big songs and albums from the late-90s; a list of Juno and Felix song nominees and winners; mini-profiles on semi-major artists La Chicane, Nicola Ciccone, Holly Cole, Great Big Sea, The Moffatts, Mario Pelchat, Bruno Pelletier, The Philosopher Kings, and Sky; and feature profiles on major artists Isabelle Boulay, Garou, Diana Krall, Chantal Kreviazuk, Éric Lapointe, Loreena McKennitt, Our Lady Peace, and Shania Twain.