Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Goodbye

All things, good and bad, must come to an end. And today, after three and a half years and exactly 350 posts, it's this blog's turn to take a bow and ride off into the electronic sunset. I will continue to collect Canadian records and contribute to It Came From Canada, and I'm hoping to at some point host a DJ night at a bar featuring the music I posted here, but this is almost certainly the last of Five Bucks On By-Tor.

I'd like to thank everyone who took an interest in FBOBT over the years; I set up an account at StatCounter in December of 2006, and since then this blog had over 80,000 visitors, which wasn't half-bad for a site I got the idea for while drinking in my living room one night. The best thing about running Five Bucks was listening to all of the fantastic music I was lucky enough to dig up, but the second-best thing was hearing from music enthusiasts, Canadiana freaks and family members of artists I featured (and occasionally the actual musicians themselves), all of whom provided me with a wealth of information, feedback and motivation. It was deeply gratifying to learn that this music, which was usually out of print and/or otherwise forgotten by the culture at large, could still strike a chord with people in this day and age.

And so...thanks again, and farewell. If you're ever in a Toronto thrift store or record shop and see a guy with a red backpack and a stack of Canadian records set aside, say hello.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Gene MacLellan

Country singer Gene MacLellan made his first appearance on this site way back in April of 2006. Shortly thereafter I somehow misplaced that LP, but was recently fortunate enough to find a cheap copy of this one, entitled Street Corner Preacher, on eBay. Since then I've learned a bit more about the melancholy troubadour's life and times, and as it turns out MacLellan fought a lifelong battle against depression, a battle he lost in January of 1995 when he took his own life. The liner notes on this album state that at various points in his life he worked as an apple picker, potato harvester, dishwasher and mental hospital attendant in addition to his musical career, which included stints as a gospel singer and rock band guitarist. Still best-known as the guy who wrote "Snowbird" (a massive hit for Anne Murray and many others), his plaintive take on '70s-style country is long-overdue for a rediscovery.



Street Corner Preacher was produced and arranged by Brian and Trish Ahern, and recorded at Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville and Eastern Sound in Toronto. Every song on the LP was written by MacLellan. The title track is a funky defense of those guys you see ranting about the end times on street corners, and Gene's take on "Isle Of St. Jean" is slower and groovier than The Rhythm Pals' sweeping version, but it's pretty good, too. "Face In The Mirror" is the lament of a drinker seeing his own face, alone, staring back from the mirror behind the bar at closing time, and "Hard As I Try" is a weepy lost-love ballad.

Street Corner Preacher
Isle Of St. Jean
Face In The Mirror
Hard As I Try

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Allan J. Ryan

There isn't much about folk singer Allan J. Ryan on the internet, aside from his personal website, but these days he holds a chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture at Carleton University. His personal site includes a collection of newspaper concert reviews, and it would appear as though he was a campus favourite at Canadian universities during the late '60s.



For You To Know Me (released on Columbia in 1970) was recorded by producers Mike Berniker and John Williams, with arrangements by George Andrews, at CBS New York and Toronto Sound Studios. Ryan, who also played guitar, was backed up by an impressive assemblage of studio talent; Ray Berliner, Elliot Randall, Hugh McCracken and Eric Weissberg on guitar, John Miller and Joe Mack on bass and Buddy Saltzman on drums. The overall sound is a sort of lush folk-rock, with strings and other instruments such as flute filling out the mix. The title track is a sweeping, I'm-a-sensitive-guy epic, while "Crawfish" (credited to Fred Wise and Ben Weisman, the only song here not written by Ryan) is a lighthearted throwaway about the correct preparation and consumption of, you guessed it, crawfish. "Haggada - Testament," a fairly conventional folk number, obliquely tells the story of a Jewish religious text, and "Harlequin Haven" is a long, country-ish number with a pronounced Dylan influence.

For You To Know Me
Crawfish
Haggada - Testament
Harlequin Haven

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Jury Krytiuk Orchestra & Chorus

Jury Krytiuk was probably best-known as the manager of Canuck country music icon Stompin' Tom Connors, but he was also a record producer and the owner of Boot and Cynda Records. Krytiuk originally started up Boot Records in 1971 as an outlet for Stompin' Tom's records, having tried and failed to persuade a number of Canadian labels to release them, and soon added other Canadian country artists to the roster, including Con Archer, The Emeralds, Humphrey and The Dumptrucks, Sharon Lowness, Dick Nolan, Stevedore Steve and Ted Wesley. Throughout the rest of the decade and into the '80s, Boot and Cynda (Boot's budget label) expanded beyond country and bluegrass, releasing LPs by artists of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, as well as classical music by musicians such as guitarist Liona Boyd and pianist Monica Gaylord. Beyond that I don't know much about Mr. Krytiuk, but in 1972 he did produce and release this Burt Bacharach tribute LP under his own name.



A Portrait of Burt Bacharach consists of 12 pretty faithful versions of some of Bacharach's best-known compositions. The album is almost entirely instrumental, with backup singers adding some "ba-ba-ba"'s and "do-do-do"'s here and there. Unfortunately, none of the musicians are identified and, apart from identifying Krytiuk as the producer, there isn't any information about the recording of the LP. All four of the songs I've posted here are light and breezy but highly enjoyable takes on the classic Bacharach sound.

As Long As There's An Apple Tree
I Say A Little Prayer
Nikki
Walkin' Backwards Down The Road


Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ranee Lee

Ranee Lee was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Montreal in 1970 at the age of 18 and worked as a dancer and played drums and tenor sax in jazz bands before beginning her career as a singer. Over the years she's recorded over ten albums, toured throughout North America and the rest of the world, written a children's book, contributed to the soundtrack of a short film named Black Soul, won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for playing Billy Holiday in Lady Day, taught at McGill University and been named to The Order of Canada. These days she's still very active as a recording artist and live performer, both as a singer and actress.



In 1980 she also recorded All Grown Up, a disco album produced by Alain J. Leroux at Experience Studio in Montreal. By the look of the liner notes pretty much every session musician in Montreal played on it, including Yaron Gershovsky on keyboards, Richard Ring on guitar and Michael Farquharson on bass. The LP isn't terribly innovative but Lee is, of course, a great singer and the playing and production are top-notch, so if you're into late-'70s disco you should find "Dancin'" (the album's first track) and "Disco Man" to your liking.

Dancin'
Disco Man


Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dr. Music

Dr. Music (who contributed one song to the Canadian Mint compilation I posted last year) were a jazzy r&b collective masterminded by Doug "Dr. Music" Riley (see also: the From Canada With Love LP). Riley, who passed away in 2007, cast a huge shadow across the Canadian popular music scene of the '60s, '70s and '80s in his multiple roles as a composer, arranger, pianist, organist and producer. Born in Toronto in 1945, he studied at many of Canada's most prestigious classical music academies before being bitten by the jazz and rock 'n' roll bugs as a teenager. By the time he turned 20 he was playing in a Toronto r&b group named The Silhouettes and writing advertising jingles to make some cash on the side. Throughout the '70s he worked constantly as a musical director for television shows, record producer, songwriter, sideman in pop, classical and jazz groups, arranger (his first big break was working on Ray Charles' 1969 album Doing His Thing) and erstwhile leader of Dr. Music, which is where he gained the nickname. By the time the '90s rolled around Riley had shifted his focus to live performances, and by the end of the decade he'd semi-retired, but as late as 2006 he was still playing jazz festivals and touring occasionally.

As the the other members of Dr. Music...well, there were literally dozens over the years, and you're crazy if you think I'm going to list them all here, but some of the more prominent were bassist Don Thompson, singer Dianne Brooks, drummer Terry Clarke, singer/guitarist Doug Mallory, singer/saxophonist Steve Kennedy (who was also in Motherlode) and multi-instrumentalist Keith Jollimore. The group itself was originally put together in 1969 by Riley in order to perform on CTV's "The Ray Stevens Show," and went on to record three albums for GRT between 1972 and 1974 (plus a best-of in '75) before everybody went their separate ways, although did Riley resurrect the Dr. Music moniker long enough to record one last album in 1984.



Dr. Music's self-titled debut LP was recorded throughout 1971 and 1972 at Toronto Sound Studios, with production and arrangements by Riley and Kennedy, and engineering handled by Peter Houston (who recorded the original Hockey Night In Canada theme song) and Terry Brown. It's got a very early-'70s sound, with jazz, rock, funk and r&b fighting it out for space, often within the same song. "Rollin' Home," the first track on the album, is a funky number with a few Native touches sprinkled throughout and a nice extended guitar solo. "Try A Little Harder" is an Elton John-inspired stomper, while "Dreams" is a ballad with a definite cabaret flavour and some unexpected proggy touches. The manic workout "Don't Wait Too Long," is back towards the r&b side of the group's sound, and the album's closer, "Road To Love," is an epic soft rock ballad.

Rollin' Home
Try A Little Harder
Dreams
Don't Wait Too Long
Road To Love

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Majestics

The (mostly) instrumental r&b band known as The Majestics made their first appearance on this site a couple of years ago. A mainstay of the Toronto area's dance club scene, they were possibly Canada's foremost r&b band throughout the '60s.



This instrumental tribute LP to Otis Redding contains ten songs that the soul giant wrote and/or (in the case of "Satisfaction") recorded. It was recorded at Bay Studios in Toronto (home to many other Arc albums) by producer Tony DiMaria (who also recorded the first Majestics LP I posted), with arrangements by Eric N. Robertson. All four of the tracks I've posted here are first-rate funky r&b, but my favourite of the bunch is probably the cover of "Satisfaction," which features some pretty great drum breaks.

Mr. Pitiful
Satisfaction
Respect
Security

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Pete Magadini, Don Menza, Wray Downes & Dave Young

Drummer Pete Magadini has been featured on this site a few times before, once as part of a trio, on Bobby Edwards' LP, and on the Toronto: what other city calls its main street Yonge? album. Magadini was born in Massachusetts and played in jazz ensembles across the United States before moving to Canada, where he made his home throughout most of the '70s, recorded frequently for Sackville, and worked as a music teacher.

Pianist Wray Downes was born in Toronto and as a young man studied classical music in France and England on scholarship. During the '50s he got into jazz and played throughout Europe with musicians including Sidney Bechet, Buck Clayton, and Bill Coleman. After moving back to Canada he frequently played with Peter Appleyard, studied further with Oscar Peterson and worked as the house pianist at The Town Tavern and other jazz clubs in Toronto, where he backed up legends like Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster.

Don Menza, a saxophonist, flautist, composer and arranger, was, like Magadini, born in the U.S., but never called Canada home. He started his musical career during the '60s as a member of Maynard Ferguson's orchestra before playing with Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, the Charlie Parker tribute group Supersax, Elvin Jones and many others before settling in Los Angeles, where he gained renown as a jazz educator.

Winnipeg-born bassist Dave Young split his career between jazz and classical work with the Hamilton and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In his capacity as a jazz bassist he was a longtime member of Oscar Peterson's touring band, played in clubs with Peter Appleyard, Ed Bickert, Barney Kessel, Red Norvo, Milt Jackson and many others, and often performed as a duo with Wray Downes.



Bones Blues (Sackville 4004) was recorded in 1977 at United Media Studio and produced by Magadini and Young, with mixing at Thunder Sound by Magadini, Phil Sheridan and Sackville co-founder Bill Smith. "Solar" is a cover of a bop-era Miles Davis number originally recorded for his LP Walkin', "Old Devil Moon" is a version of a pop song written for the musical Finian's Rainbow, and "Bones Blues" is a swingin' original written by Menza.

Solar
Old Devil Moon
Bones Blues


Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.

Monday, March 30, 2009

John Boland and Beothuck

The country music party band John Boland and Beothuck (named after an extinct Newfoundland native tribe) was formed in Cambridge, Ontario in 1974 when Boland decided to get a few friends together to play dances. The group consisted of Boland (lead guitar), John Babb (rhyhthm guitar), Mac Babb (singer, bass), Fred O'Quinn (lead guitar) and John Rankin (drums), all of whom save Rankin (who was born in Hamilton) hailed from Bell Island, Newfoundland. Over the course of their career they backed up a wide range of Canadian artists, including Dick Nolan, Roy Payne, Michael T. Wall, Joan Morrissey and Harry Hibbs, and Mac Babb and O'Quinn also played on The Brazda Brothers' album. That's the full extent of my knowledge of John Boland and Beothuck, but I suspect that Boland is a real estate agent in Cambridge these days.



This self-titled LP was recorded at Eastern Sound Studio in Toronto by producer Bobby Munro and engineer Kevin Evans, and released in 1976 on Boot Records. Despite the group's Newfoundland roots, its sound, at least when playing on its own, stuck to country and rock and didn't really include any overt Celtic influences. "Words" is a cover of a soft-rock Bee Gees ballad, while Boland original "The Bottle" is a plaintive country number about the evils of alcohol. "Love Me, Love Me, Love," my favourite track here, is a cover of a minor hit by Canadian pianist Frank Mills (best known for the instrumental "Music Box Dancer"). The story of an old organ grinder and his pet monkey, it's as maudlin as the day is long, but the band really gets behind the song and I dig it anyway. And "That's How I Got To Memphis" is another cover, this time of a Tom T. Hall country number about following a wayward woman to the ends of the earth...or, at least, southwest Tennessee.

Words
The Bottle
Love Me, Love Me, Love
That's How I Got To Memphis


Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jackie Washington

Singer, guitarist and pianist Jackie Washington was featured on this site last October, when I posted his contribution to the Mariposa 1976 soundtrack. Born in Hamilton in 1919, Washington was performing in public with one of his older brothers by the age of five, and eventually he and all of his brothers (dubbed The Four Washington Brothers) were entertaining at concerts, dances and churches. In 1941 he was drafted into the army, having previously quit the music business and worked as a porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway. After the war he got a job at a can company in Hamilton, where he played piano on his lunch break for spare change, then moved to Guelph, where he started to play around town a bit in between shifts at a buzz saw factory. In 1948 he started a five-year run as the host of The Jackie Washington Show on CHML in Hamilton, but by the mid-'50s he was working at a tavern as a washroom attendant, then at a shoe shine stand at a racetrack in Fort Erie, although he did sit in on gigs now and again.

By the early '60s, married to his second wife with a young son, he'd pretty much retired from music again, but in '64 he was introduced to the owner of a Yorkville coffee house. This led to a mid-career revival which saw him play with almost every big name in the Toronto music scene at the time, perform at festivals across the country and make several appearances on television and radio. By the early '70s he was back to playing beer joints in and around Hamilton, but in 1976 he recorded the LP I'm posting here and throughout the '80s and '90s he released several more CDs, was inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humanities by McMaster University. He was still performing as recently as last August, at the age of 89!



Blues & Sentimental, a private press LP released by The Knight II (which I believe was a bar in Hamilton), was produced by Dave Essig and engineered by Bob and Daniel Lanois in March of 1976 at MSR Productions in Ancaster, Ontario. The musical line-up was Washington on guitar, vocals and piano, Tom Evans on clarinet and tenor sax, Michael Gardner on acoustic bass, Bobby Washington on electric bass, Chris Whiteley on trumpet, coronet and harmonica, Ken Whiteley on guitar and piano, and Essig on slide guitar. The album is comprised of bluesy, old-fashioned vocal jazz, distinguished by Washington's distinctive, high-pitched voice and the high quality of the playing throughout. His style always encompassed lighthearted pop as well as jazz and blues, so the four songs here are perhaps more jocular in nature than the usual traditionalist take on those genres.

Ain't That Gravy Good
Miss Otis Regrets
One Foot In The Gutter
Goin' To Chicago


Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.