4 Fall CDs To Look Forward To In 2009

When the weather starts to cool down, the women stop wearing skimpy clothing and the leaves on the trees become prettier, it’s the end of the silly season.  Replacing it is always a more serious period, a three-month span of deeper thoughts, higher risks and hopefully, more enduring fare.  It’s the busiest time of the year for the music business as big names and aspiring newcomers all vie for their slice of an ever shrinking revenue pie heading into Christmas. 
 
Rolling Stone Magazine recently unveiled its Fall Music Preview, a list of the more anticipated titles due to be released before the end of the decade.  My list is way shorter.  Here are the only upcoming CDs I’m looking forward to hearing:
 
The Unforgettable Fire (Deluxe Edition) by U2
 
A number of veteran alternative rockers have seen their past glories remastered and expanded in numerous updated releases this year.  Morrissey’s Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted.  The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut.  Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer. 
 
Once again, U2, the best of all of these acts, have dipped into their vaults to offer fans a slew of new versions of one of their more respected early releases.  Their fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire, the first to be produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno back in 1984, is the fifth U2 studio effort to be rereleased as part of its terrific reissue program.
 
Like The Joshua Tree in 2007, and Boy, October and War in 2008, Fire will be available in numerous forms:  a single-disc remastered edition, a vinyl version, the 2CD Deluxe Edition and a limited edition box set that is essentially the Deluxe set with a bonus DVD.  All I’m personally interested in is the Deluxe Edition, particularly the second disc of bonus material.
 
U2 announced on their website the complete track listing for that part of the release two days ago.  As expected, all the B-sides from this period are here.  The two Boomerang instrumentals, Sixty Seconds In Kingdom Come and Bass Trap plus long versions of 4th Of July and early single 11 O’Clock Tick Tock (a rare take that was only available previously as a 7" vinyl giveaway in a British music magazine).  The complete Wide Awake In America EP, which featured two rejected Fire tracks, Love Comes Tumbling and The Three Sunrises as well as live versions of Bad and A Sort Of Homecoming, has been included, as well.  There are a couple of Wire remixes, another version of Homecoming, the single version of Pride, plus two new recordings of songs that weren’t finished at the time of the original album sessions.  Bass Trap and the two Wide Awake studio cuts were originally part of the second disc of The Best Of 1980-1990 & B-Sides back in 1998 but, like all the previous U2 reissues, it’s nice to have all the B-sides in one place here.
 
Fire had been rereleased before back in 1994 in a special Gold Edition which then-Toronto Sun music critic (he works for The Star now) John Sakamoto praised for what he felt was its improved sound, despite the lack of bonus material.  Curiously, the B-Side extended version of 4th Of July replaced the original album version on that release.  The Deluxe Edition restores the original edit for disc one and offers the long version on disc two.  Having heard the Boy, October and Joshua Tree reissues, I’m really looking forward to this new, expanded release of Fire.  (I’d like to get the Deluxe Edition of War, as well.  Too bad it’s so goddamned expensive.)
 
All reissued versions of The Unforgettable Fire are out October 20th, according to Amazon.ca.
 
Raditude by Weezer
 
You never know when this Rivers Cuomo-fronted outfit is going to be ready to release new material.  There were two years separating the arrival of "The Blue Album" (1994) and Pinkerton (1996).  Then, after a five-year hiatus, there were two back-to-back comeback albums in 2001 and 2002, "The Green Album" and Maladroit, respectively.  Three years later came Make Believe and last year, there was "The Red Album". 
 
Now, on October 27th, Weezer unveil Raditude, their seventh studio offering.  The goofy title is courtesy of actor Rainn Wilson.  According to Cuomo (as reported on RollingStone.com), he asked The Office star for the coolest word he could come up with for an album title.  Wilson’s suggestion was to combine "radical" and "attitude" into the aforementioned Raditude.  Cuomo was sold and the rest is history. 
 
Even more amusing than the title is the album’s cover.  Spotted by the Weezer frontman in National Geographic Magazine, it features an adorable pooch named Sidney leaping for joy in his owner’s living room.  (Check out the very funny parodies of that image in that link.)
 
Hopefully, the music will be as entertaining as the band’s past two releases.  Like The Red Album, Raditude will be available in a standard 10-song edition and a limited Deluxe Edition that features 4 bonus tracks.  (If you order on iTunes, you get two more cuts on top of the 14.)  Both are available, as noted, on October 27th.
 
Swords by Morrissey
 
After a seven-year exile, the mopey one returned in 2004 with some of the best material of his underappreciated solo career.  Three studio albums, a live record and a Greatest Hits package later, Morrissey will end the decade with a B-sides collection called Swords.  Comprised entirely of songs recorded during sessions for You Are The Quarry, Ringleader Of The Tormentors and Years Of Refusal, it features most of the tracks that were originally released as bonus tracks on smash British singles like Irish Blood, English Heart and You Have Killed Me.
 
With titles like If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me; It’s Hard To Walk Tall When You’re Small and Children In Pieces, how can one resist?  The collection also includes a live cover version of David Bowie’s Drive-In Saturday.  (The original is on Aladdin Sane which I highly recommend.)
 
Like the original release of Greatest Hits, the near 70-minute, 18-track compilation will be packaged with a limited edition concert disc.  It’ll feature eight songs recorded during a 2009 gig in Poland.
 
Both versions of Swords will be out November 3rd.
 
Greatest Hits by Foo Fighters
 
Three years ago, I wrote two pieces (here and here) about musicians who had earned the right to put out a greatest hits package.  Since then, acts like Garbage, The Goo Goo Dolls, Sarah McLachlan, Radiohead and Sum 41 have done just that.  On November 3, you can add Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters to that list.
 
Two years after the successful release of their Grammy-winning 2007 effort, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, the band is finally getting around to releasing a singles collection.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the bad news.  It’s a single disc, not a double, and a good number of key singles are not included.  Where the hell are I’ll Stick Around, The X-Files movie version of Walking After You, The One from Orange County, Darling Nikki (the Prince cover), Low, Next Year, DOA, Let It Die and No Way Back?  None of these rock radio staples made the cut.  Ridiculous.
 
Thankfully, tracks like Learn To Fly, My Hero and This Is A Call are among the hits that did make the album which also includes two new songs plus an acoustic take on Everlong, which I’m hoping is the version Grohl recorded live on The Howard Stern Show many moons ago.  (It’s one of the longtime New York broadcaster’s favourite all-time tracks.)  Finally, there’s Skin & Bones, the only non-album B-Side included on the record.
 
The 16-song collection (which should’ve been a double) is out November 3rd.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
5:11 p.m. 
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Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Tribute To Dorothy Barron, The Woman Who Saved My Life

She was smart.  She was kind.  She had a tremendous sense of humour.  And she saved my life.
 
I first met Dorothy Barron when I was either 3 or 4.   It was not a good period for me.  From the moment of my birth, there were difficulties, none more worrisome than my diet.   
 
My parents struggled to find food and drinks that would not make me violently ill, a seemingly impossible task considering the fact that I was violently ill much of the time.  Diarrhea and projectile vomitting (yes, just like in The Exorcist) were common occurrences.  I’m eternally thankful that I don’t remember any of it.
 
No matter who my parents turned to for advice, no one, not even our family doctor, knew exactly what the problem was.  It became increasingly frustrating for them. 
 
Everything changed after my Mom had dislocated her pelvis while dancing.  (She ran a dance studio at the time.)  Thankfully, we were literally a short walk away from a chiropractor’s office.  (We lived in an apartment overtop a variety store back then.)  Mom got an adjustment and felt much better.  But when she needed to go back for a follow-up, unfortunately, she had to call to cancel because I was quite sick.  The kindly receptionist told her, "Bring him in.".  It was either 1978 or 1979 when I had my first appointment with Dorothy, a short, chubby, endlessly cheerful woman who was equally good with kids and adults.  She was built like an opera singer (during a later visit, I told her, apropos of nothing, "You have big boobs!", which totally cracked her up) and sounded like Betty White.  She even had her own catchphrase – "Isn’t that awful?" – which I heard many, many times over the years after Mom and I talked about some calamity or another.  She had an excellent bedside manner.  I don’t remember her ever getting cross or hot tempered the entire time I knew her.  She had a tremendous talent for putting her patients at ease.
 
Most importantly, she knew exactly what was wrong with me.  After listening to my Mom detail all the problems I’d been having with digesting food and drink, Dorothy told her what she longed to hear.  The reason my body was emphatically rejecting all the milk Mom was giving me was because I’m lactose intolerant.  She suggested Goat’s Milk as a replacement.  No more Cow’s milk for me.  Chocolate was out, too.  (I absolutely loved the Rosebuds my parents would give me as a treat.  But I always had a bad reaction to them, unbeknownst to all of us.)  Dorothy further insisted on putting me on a diet.  Drop all the crap that was making me ill (it has since expanded to quite the list) and find healthier substitutes, she instructed.  It changed my life dramatically.  To this day, whenever I have cereal, I use Goat’s Milk.  I haven’t tasted anything on that original list in decades, nor do I miss any of them.
 
Fortunately, we also lived within walking distance of a health food store.  (By that point, our family didn’t own a vehicle.  Neither my father nor I have a licence.  Mom does but she’s in too much pain to drive now, thanks to her fibromyalgia.)  Although the items were pricey in those days, to her eternal credit, Mom followed Dorothy’s advice to the T, frequently dragging me along as I watched her buy all this food that would never once make me ill.  Thankfully, I liked the new menu.
 
Dorothy became the go-to professional for any health issue I experienced.  I vividly remember that first appointment, being so sick from the flu that my Mom literally carried me to see her.  When it was my turn, I had my bones cracked in place and spoke with her about how I was feeling.  She had this machine that radiated heat on this white towel that would be placed on your face and chest, as well, I do believe.  She would disappear for a bit and you would lay there letting this machine do whatever it was invented to do.  She would come back, turn off the machine and remove the towel.  Afterwards, I came running out to Mom feeling so much better.  She didn’t have to carry me home.  I walked.  It was pretty amazing.
 
Not everything went so smoothly, however.  I remember one time sitting in the waiting room feeling like death.  I looked terrible.  Suddenly, I had this undeniable urge to hurl.  After turning and saying, "Mom" in the weakest voice imaginable, the floodgates opened.  People in the room freaked out as if Godzilla entered the room.  I was taken into the bathroom to wash up and then saw Dorothy who, as always, was kind and helpful.  Too bad about the carpet, though.
 
Now that she was aware of my food intolerances, my Mom became very cautious of what was put into my mouth, as was I.  She has long frowned on traditional medicine (most likely because I’m allergic to pennicillan) and as a result, with only a few exceptions, we went the homeopathic route for recovery which took longer to work but at least there weren’t any side effects.  During one visit with Dorothy, they both wanted to see if I could swallow this red vitamin pill.  After I put it in my mouth, I just couldn’t get it down.  Neither Mom nor Dorothy knew this and they erupted into cheers.  Then, they became disappointed when they looked into the dixie cup of water I was holding, then they laughed.  To her credit, Dorothy wasn’t upset.  In fact, she told me to keep trying and I would get it.  Years later, when I took St. John’s Wort for my anxiety, Mom taught me an easy swallowing technique.  Have a little water or juice on your tongue, place the pill near the back of it, drink some more fluid and it’ll wash right down.  Works like a charm.
  
For much of the 1980s my Mom and I became very close to Dorothy, especially after she retired.  We invited her to dinner at our house numerous times and she returned the favour.  (She often bought me small cartons of Carob Milk, a healthier version of chocolate milk, which was always delicious.  In fact, I miss it terribly.  Haven’t had that stuff in decades.)  Dad came with us to her house and what a place it was.  It was very clean and there were paintings everywhere which had light timers on them so you could see them at night.  In the living room, there was this tiny white couch with gold buttons along the edges that I used to sit on reading Highlights Magazine among other titles which Dorothy had subscribed to over the years.  She graciously gave me some at some point.  Despite being retired, she looked after both Mom and myself, frequently giving us adjustments for free.
 
She never married or had children of her own, and I don’t think she ever had pets, either.  As a result, she had a lot of free time.  Sometime, in the mid-1980s, she vacationed in Egypt and Turkey.  When she returned, we all got really nice gifts.  She bought me a cool grey cap and a sheik.  When I dressed up as The Iron Sheik for Halloween one year, I wore that sheik as part of the costume.  It consisted of a white cloth and this awesome gold and black headpiece that you would wear around the cloth.  They were two of the nicest gifts I ever received.
 
Not only did Dorothy understand my intolerances, she correctly predicted I would grow very tall.  How did she know this?  I have no clue.  But very early on in my childhood, she told my Mom that she would eventually have a fully grown 6-foot son, despite the fact I was very short at the time.  The exact measurement, I do believe, is 5’11 and 3/4.  Close enough.
 
Dorothy’s health started to deteriorate sometime in the 90s.  She developed breast cancer and started to slim down.  The last time I saw her had to be about 5 or 6 years ago.  She came to visit and I did the old "You’ve got big boobs!" line to cheer her up.  It did the trick.  It was the last time we spoke.
 
At some point, she was too ill to do adjustments but Mom still maintained friendly contact with her, usually by phone but occasionally by personal visit (Dorothy’s house was near the place where Mom does her physical therapy), right up until, I guess, a few months ago, if my memory is good.  It was Mom who told me about her death when I woke up today.
 
Dorothy’s age was always a mystery to us.  She never did tell us how old she was.  It wasn’t until I found this Hamilton Spectator obituary that I learned the truth.  She almost made it to her 90th birthday.  Incredible.  She died at the MacMaster University Hospital sometime yesterday and I wouldn’t be surprised if the cause of death involved a recurrence of her stubborn cancer.  (No actual cause of death is mentioned in her obit.) 
 
When I learned the news of her demise, I felt sad.  Our family hadn’t sat down to dinner with her in so long and we really hadn’t had the kind of visit we used to in years.  It’s too bad.  I’m not sure she ever knew how important a person she was in my life.  She was a great friend and an astounding professional.  My parents were at their wit’s end in the late 70s trying to solve my health problems.  Had my Mom not dislocated her pelvis some 30 years ago, had she not mentioned that her son was sick and had the receptionist (who later gave her healthy cookie recipes for me to try) not suggested she bring me to see Dorothy Barron, I might not be alive today.  She was the only person who fully and immediately understood why I was so ill during those awful early years of my life.  Her diet suggestions changed me for the better.  I have always followed that list of forbidden items religiously and unconditionally.
 
Rest in peace, Dorothy.  And thank you.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 19, 2009
5:21 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  My memory is not as good as I think it is.  Mom informed me that her sister wasn’t working with Dorothy at the time that I first started seeing her.  (Mom helped her get a job with Dorothy’s replacement years later after she retired.) They didn’t have a conversation that led to me becoming her patient.  The correct information has replaced the error at the start of paragraph 5 and in the second-to-last paragraph.  Furthermore, Dorothy went to Turkey as well as Egypt, a detail that’s been added to paragraph 12.  Finally, it was a red vitamin pill that Dorothy suggested I try swallowing.  Neither Mom nor I remember what type of vitamin.  My apologies for not consulting Mom before running the original piece.  As far as I know, the piece is now completely accurate.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 19, 2009
6:29 p.m.
Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

2009 MTV Video Music Awards Observations

 
1. Kanye West is still an asshole.  Despite the death of his mother, tons and tons of criticism for his unchecked arrogance, and that South Park episode that he claimed had supposedly humbled him, the man couldn’t help himself when Taylor Swift’s I Belong To You video was named Best Female Video.  Right in the middle of her acceptance speech, the classless jackass seized the microphone from the stunned and gracious winner, and complained that Beyonce’s Single Ladies video was overlooked.  Once he was through, there was unmistakable booing from the crowd.  By the time Taylor got back to her thank you’s, MTV cut her mic and went to a lame Tracy Morgan/Eminem bit.  Disgraceful.
 
2. Billie Joe Armstrong must never ever dye his own hair again.  Stick with one colour, dude.  The half-hearted leopard deal is wack.
 
3. Madonna’s Michael Jackson eulogy was more self-serving, ass-kissy and defensive than moving.  Neglecting to mention Jackson’s lifetime of oddball behaviour, not to mention the way he screwed over Paul McCartney and The John Lennon Estate by outbidding them both for The Beatles catalogue in the mid 80s, Madonna made excuse after excuse for him.  Oh, he was a human being, he didn’t have a childhood, he was the subject of a witch hunt.  Blah blah blah.  Equally dismaying was the crowd’s enthusiasm for her nonsense.  By all means, praise his musical achievements.  Just don’t pretend he had honour or was normal.
 
4. It was over 20 minutes before the first Moonman was handed out.  Way to keep things moving.
 
5. Kanye West is still an asshole.  Every time his name was mentioned, a good portion of the audience booed him.  Too bad he wasn’t there to feel the love.  (According to Muchmusic’s Devon Soltendieck, he was escorted out of the building after his latest sickening display.  It’s a good thing, too.  He lost every award he was up for.  We would’ve never heard the end of it.)
 
6. It’s never a good idea to let an audience member sing any part of your hit song as Beyonce found out during her mostly engaging performance of Single Ladies.  Chances are, they’re not gonna hit the notes.  The excited blonde girl in the mosh pit provided the proof.
 
7. At one point during Single Ladies, Beyonce sings about wanting a man to take her “to infinity and beyond”.  Paging Buzz Lightyear.
 
8. Russell Brand finally got that unruly hair of his cut.  He looked good.  Now if only he’d calm down with the sex jokes and stop shouting.  He was very hit and miss tonight.  He was funnier last year.
 
9. What was with Pete Wentz and that Gabe Saporta T-shirt he was wearing?  (Saporta fronts Cobra Starship.)  Focus on your hot wife instead.
 
10. Was that shellac all over the chest of All-American Rejects singer Tyson Ritter’s chest?  Good luck washing that off.
 
11. Lady Gaga is the new Bjork.  Forget about that Swan number.  The Best New Artist winner offered no less than four costume changes, every one of them ridiculous.  My personal favourite:  the white bird’s nest around her face.  Comedians the world over are in heaven.
 
12. There was one terrific performance after another for a change.  Despite her nuttiness, Lady Gaga did a remarkably strong version of Paparazzi.  (The chick can belt it out.)  British sensations Muse made an impressive American Television debut, with lead singer Matthew Bellamy starting slow but quickly growing in confidence on Uprising.  Billie Joe Armstrong led Green Day through another solid performance as he got the crowd fired up by shouting “New York City” a lot and inviting far too many of them to join him on stage during the end of East Jesus Nowhere.  Pink’s Cirque De Soleil interpretation of Sober was rather nifty.  The always lovely Taylor Swift won me over with I Belong To You, which started out in the New York Subway before ending on top of a taxi right outside Radio City Music Hall.  Even the overly cocky Jay-Z (backed by a first-rate, high-heeled Alicia Keys) was entertaining.  The sense of danger made for some gripping musical numbers.
 
13. Jack Black’s appearance was hilarious.  You can’t go wrong with an impromptu prayer to Satan.  Or wearing fake muscles.  Or carrying an absurdly large weapon that the members of Green Day enjoyed goofing around with when they arrived on stage to accept their Best Rock Video award.
 
14. Speaking of Green Day, how did 21 Guns become eligible for a Moonman when it just came out a few months ago? 
 
15. One camera shot of Perez Hilton is one camera shot too many.
 
16. Beyonce is the epitome of class for allowing Taylor Swift to re-do her acceptance speech after Kanye (remember, he’s still an asshole) sabotaged it.  The elegant country star made the most of the moment.  Hard not to applaud the kind gesture that brought her back on stage.  The crowd’s standing ovation was more than appropriate.
 
17. The dance tribute to Michael Jackson was a waste of time.  A clip montage would’ve made more sense.  (Forget about copying the moves from the videos.)  Janet looked angry during Scream.  I’m sure Paul McCartney felt the same way.
 
18. What business does Serena Williams have being on a show like this?  Her awkward quip about her embarrassing US Open blow-up was far from funny.  It was downright appalling.
 
19. Cyndi Lauper still looks good.  Tracy Morgan amusingly honoured her hit, Time After Time, both on tape and live.  He should’ve been given more good bits since he wasn’t funny the rest of the time.
 
20. Late Night host Jimmy Fallon and SNL cast member Andy Sanberg were funny.  Even Beyonce enjoyed the homage to Boyz II Men.
 
21. Did we need yet another airing of that annoying Pitbull song?  Thank God it was brief.
 
22. Katy Perry should never be allowed to sing a Queen song again.  Stick with the lesbian number.
 
23. Who was that woman that joined Jay Z and Alicia Keys at the end of their song? (UPDATE: According to a couple of commenters on EW.com, it was Lil Mama.)
 
24. Was that Kid (from Kid N’ Play) standing next to Britney Spears?
 
25. We really needed to see two movie trailers?
 
26. The very cute Kristen Stewart looks better in long hair.  Grow it back, damnit.
 
27. Kid Cudi’s brief tribute to the late DJ AM was far more heartfelt than all the overwrought Jackson bullshit put together.
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 14, 2009
1:21 a.m.
 
UPDATE:  For what it’s worth, Kanye has apologized on his blog.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 14, 2009
2:24 a.m.
 
UPDATE 2:  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Kanye’s second apology, much shorter and to the point, is here.  (It has replaced the earlier, all-caps version.) If you can believe it, he’s on the premiere of The Jay Leno Show tonight which starts at 10.  Taylor Swift, who more than likely made a lot of new fans last night, will appear on tomorrow’s edition of The View.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 14, 2009
3:59 p.m.
Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment