We’re getting the band back together….

 Music  Comments Off on We’re getting the band back together….
Jan 282014

Well not really. What is happening is that I’ve rediscovered my love of vinyl.  While doing some Christmas shopping last December I stumbled into Planet of Sound on Bank Street looking at headphones.  Listened to a pair and of course fell in love with them. Grado makes a fantastic mid-range set of cans in the Grado SR325is.  Some day they will come home.

While in the store, the nice clerk MADE me listen to a pair of speakers just for the heck of it.  Source material was a great Jazz LP by Art Pepper and a mandatory listening to the  180 gram release on LP of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.  I was immediately struck by how warm and full the sound felt as it came out of this great system.  Brought me back a good 20 years to when I used to hit The Record Runner on a bi-weekly basis to walk my way through all those record bins.  This moment of nostalgia was not fleeting, I thought about it quite a bit over the next few weeks.  Then while out hitting a thrift store with a friend the flame blew a bit stronger.  Jeff was perusing the vinyl in the store looking for Christmas albums and odd ball artwork. At this point I decided it was time to jump back in.  The allure of large format media, liner notes, double LPs and even flipping a record to the B-side was just too strong to ignore.

So what does one do when a bug bites?  One starts to look into things quite seriously.  First up we’ll need a turntable of course, since we’ve not had one in the house for quite a while.  An appeal to some Facebook friends got us a loaner of a beautiful Systemdek IIX from Greg and Abigail.  This table is a work of art with a fully suspended platter and tone-arm assembly.

Systemdek IIX

The table did need a new cartridge and once that was installed and connected to the big stereo in the basement we could start listening to the sweet sweet vinyl sound of our youth.  This turntable will eventually be replaced with a Pro-Ject Debut III.

Of course, now we needed some source material.  It was now time to find out what record stores still exist in Ottawa.  An internet search revealed several candidates.  So Jeff and I planned a little shopping expedition.  The first trip out got us to:

  • The Turning Point – I’d been here before when last I worked in the downtown core.  Got a few good albums all for around $7 each.
  • Birdman Sound –  Only found one record, but it was a rare bird that I haven’t had in the collection for a long time.
  • The Record Shaap – turned out to be closed.
  • Planet of Sound – They’ve got themselves a nice record section of new vinyl. They contributed a 180gm pressing of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, probably my all time favourite Jazz album

That first shopping trip netted me 5 new albums in all.  But we knew there were a couple more places to check out.  A second trip was planned to hit the Record Centre.  Now this place is a gem.  Lots of new stock, old stock, sealed items etc… Ended up buying 2 more albums here, with lots more to come I am sure.

Lastly, I turned to the internet to see what is going locally that might not be in stores.  Stumbled onto www.discogs.com which is a great site if only for its reference database.  While searching out some hard to find Windham Hill records that I used to own I hit on AndysWax.  Local dude with 10,000 LPs listed for sale.  Not only did he have the albums I was specifically looking for, but a couple more that I wanted.  So in goes the order.  A couple of email chats later and we’d discussed payment and delivery.  Very prompt response and great product as advertised.  I’m sure Andy will get more of my money of the next few years.

Here are the four they I received from Andy:

Haul from Andy's Wax on www.discogs.com

Haul from Andy’s Wax on www.discogs.com

Obviously all my old milk crates were sold with all the old albums almost 20 years ago.  So what to do about storing the new collection?  Ikea to the rescue. They have a line of storage products called Expedit that have spaces perfectly designed to store a 12×12 inch LP.  Fifty bucks plus taxes later and we have:

Ikea Expedit 2x2 storage

Ikea Expedit 2×2 storage

Stay tuned as we continue down this journey and explore what was once a true pleasure in searching out music.




Review of Jacob Moon’s “Fascination” album

 Music  Comments Off on Review of Jacob Moon’s “Fascination” album
Nov 012013

Being a partner in a crowd sourced funding projects has its benefits. I just received the pre-release download for Jacob Moon’s upcoming “Fascination” CD release. The album has 11 tracks, most are covers of fantastic prog rock anthems plus a few original tracks as well.  I’ve now had a week to listen to the album and here are my thoughts on a song by song basis.

Limelight: From the very first strum of the strings in the Intro we know this will be different. For those of us who have listened to the last few releases from Mr. Moon, it is immediately apparent that this is not the same fare at all. Joining Jacob for this track are the fantastic Dave Barrett Trio. Drum and bass on this rendition propel us forward and hold down the bottom so that Mr. Barrett can put down some exceptional guitar parts. Jacob’s lyrics are cool and laid back making the track sound more like the version you want to hear at the end of a long day, with maybe a nice Speyside scotch to sip. When the group steps up and brings the energy up just a bit (2:57), we accept this and join them on the journey. I’ve listened to several other versions of this song, all of them by Rush, and this one sits more in the pocket and is much less over the top than any other. This is the version that Rush would have done in an acoustic set, you know – if they were singer/songwriter types.

Is that All You Got: This song has undergone several evolutions since Jacob first imagined it. I was lucky enough to hear the first demo version, the first soundcloud release and the live performance at an Ottawa concert. This version is even more powerful in its delivery because of the backing of the Dave Barrett Trio. On this track the bass is what stands out the most and gives the song the punch that you feel while listening. Well done Jason Farrar. The interplay between Jacob’s acoustic guitar and Dave’s electric antics is musical manna from heaven. The use of effects and overdrive propel the listener along all the way to the end of the song. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along to the strong lyrics.

Let Down: This is a song that I was not familiar with at all as I’ve had very little exposure to Radiohead. Listening to the original I am amazed at how close Jacob came to replicating the song, yet making it his own. I must say I even prefer this version. The lyrics come through with a lot more emotion and feeling than the original. Lisa Winn’s angelic voice on background vocals really helps to fill the song in and plays well off Jacob’s lead. Jacob’s superb performance in the front almost overshadows the addition of Gord Stevenson on drums and Mark McIntyre on bass. Those who take the time to sit and critically listen to this track will be rewarded with some really well thought out rhythm parts. “Let Down” was a great surprise for me due to my lack of exposure to the song and has quickly become one of my favourites on the album.

Kaylee/Lavender: Covering this combination of songs from the Marillion repertoire takes a staggering amount of bravery. This could quite possibly be the most loved tracks of Marillion fans. None the less, Jacob takes on the challenge and kicks it big time. We’ve heard an earlier arrangement of this by Jacob that was performed when he opened for Marillion at their Montreal concert weekend in 2013. This version is breathtaking in the way layers are used to move the song forward. It starts out with a simple acoustic guitar line laid down with Jacob’s typical finger style finesse. In comes Dave DiRenzo’s subtle percussion (sounds like Cajón). Then a few seconds later in comes a more electric guitar sound followed by silky smooth vocals. This builds slowly to the chorus where the fuller sound is fleshed out and the volume comes up. Suddenly you are jarred out of a slow trance with the addition of some electric licks on Jacob’s trusty Godin, all the while feeling the backing percussion, which never leaves our side. The track comes down from the high volume and we start to focus on the lyrics again. Then when we thought it was all done, Jacob brings up the volume again and tugs us along for the rest of the ride.

For true Marillion fans, these two tracks must flow from one to the other, it’s the only way we know. It’s the way we’ve always heard, and Jacob does not disappoint us at all. We get tugged into Lavender as Kaylee winds down. This track layers in some bass lines and synths to fill in the sonic landscape in a very similar way to the original. In several portions of the song we hear echoes of the burrs Fish’s vocals from distant 1985 (go listen to Misplaced Childhood as soon as you are done this album). The guitar solo on Lavender is truly masterful and again reminiscent of the past, yet contemporary in feel. You know immediately during the solo that Jacob was shaped by this song those many years ago when wearing out the vinyl copy he surely owned. Yet he’s made the song his own in ways that are subtle, yet very clearly in his style of playing. Truly a wonderful romp through past memories on this track, but it leaves us Marillion fans wondering: which track will he re-invent next?

Owner of a Lonely Heart: Now we come to a track that has always had special meaning for me. I grew up listening to a lot of prog rock and was able to see Yes on tour for the “90125” album. If any song on this album represents the misspent hours of my youth sitting in the basement listening to music, it is this one. But what a surprise we get from Jacob. Imagine if you will that Yes had started not in good ole Merry England, but in Jamaica. Now imagine Chris White with a haze of smoke around his head and that Trevor Rabin had dreadlocks. With that picture in your mind we let the track start. The first thing that jumps out at you is George Koller’s phat bass line (yes that’s how it is spelled), then comes Jacob on electric guitar and liberal wah pedal use, then Rob “Beat Down” Brown’s driving drum beats. The smoky feel to the lyrics continue to keep us rooted in a Jamaican beach side bar and prompt us to do some chair dancing. To make sure we don’t drift too far away, the boy start a bit of a jam session at just past the 2:30 mark. These boys are so far in the pocket I’m sure there’s lint down there with them. Once the fun subsides, Jacob reigns in the song with some judicious electric guitar licks and takes us to the end. Quite possibly this is the standout track for me on this album.

Bend and Break: Toning down the fun a bit, Jacob brings us this wonderful ballad. This is another track that Jacob has introduced me too, as I’d never heard the original by Keane. We have heard previous takes and arrangements of this track, most notably on “Landing 2” which was recorded live. I was present for that recording and have to say it was one of the most powerful and emotional moments of the evening. Jacob’s take on this song really slows down the tempo from the original and usually simplifies the arrangement with purely guitar and vocals. However, on this release Jacob chose to fill in the soundscape by adding a string arrangement with Mark McIntyre on double bass, Michael Schulte on violin and viola, and Rebecca Morton on cello. The addition of strings really helps the track to hit home and supports Jacob’s soulful vocal interpretation. A really beautiful gem on the album.

Revelation: Chilling, that’s what the beginning of the track feels like me each time I listen. This is not your typical Jacob Moon vocal intro, it is a strangely eerie departure. Yet…the song has an energy to it that lifts you up. This song was originally recorded solo for a looping competition earlier in 2013. It has come a long way in a short time and has a bit more feel to it now. Mark McIntyre’s pulsing bass line really makes the song move forward, and is anchored by Gord Stevenson’s drum beats. All this leaves Jacob free to explore the polyphony of guitar parts that have been added in. Some great acoustic bits, some amazing tapping on an electric guitar, and fills with other assorted sounds and effects. And the vocals, probably the best song on the album vocally for Jacob. He pushes himself throughout and we feel it along with him. Shout out to Mark on bass for propelling the track to awesome heights.

Pony: We’ve heard Jacob play this song before (see the YouTube video). This release is identical to the video and is truly an epic re-interpretation of the Tom Waits original. The electric hollow body guitar intro is airy and ephemeral and sets the stage for what is a more breath taking interpretation of the song. Personally, I find Tom’s gravelly voice is not always suited to slow songs, and I feel Jacob does this song more justice than the original. In fact, listening to the original tires me out, while with this version I listen avidly to the end. Also, the use of simple guitar parts really showcases how well Jacob plays and showcases his imaginative fills that are used throughout his arrangements. I really love the sound of that guitar throughout.

Subdivisions: If you are Jacob Moon fan it is likely because you saw the roof top video shot for this song on YouTube. That video was completely brilliant and shows why Jacob is such a great artist and why Rush asked to have him perform at their induction ceremony (see link). Continuing on this journey of re-imagination, Jacob takes the very strong foundation laid down by the video and adds new elements. Specifically, the addition of Dave DiRenzo’s percussion to fill in the rhythm loops from the guitar, the reappearance of Neil Peart’s sampled “Subdivisions” vocals and electric guitar layers. I used to think that Jacob’s original two acoustic guitars version was the pinnacle of what the re-imagination of this song could be. However, this new versions makes me take pause and listen to it over and over, usually at elevated volume levels :D. There are so many new subtle additions to the sound that it takes on new meanings and emotions. I won’t tire of this track any time soon.

In Your Eyes: When Jacob first mentioned he would try to cover this song my immediate was “whoa…this is probably one of the top 10 Gabriel songs ever made, recorded by powerhouse musicians”[1]. I shouldn’t have worried. Once again Jacob manages to be quite faithful to the original, even coming close to Peter Gabriel phrasings at times, but still manages to make the song his own. Adding Lisa Winn on backing vocals, Mark McIntyre on bass and Dave DiRenzo on percussion makes the track pop. Heck he even manages to harmonize with himself, can’t wait to see how that translates to a live show. The vocals on this track really are the shining element though. Beautiful harmony, clear tones and lots of emotions come through the big speakers in the listening room. To finish off, Jacob and the other musicians get to have some good fun on the track’s last minute and a half. All good Gabriel covers should let the musicians loose at some point. Mr. Gabriel, this man treats your music with dignity, respect and amazing talent.

This is truly a tour de force release from Jacob and definitely worth the time to purchase and add to you collection.  If you want in on this awesomeness check out http://jacobmoon.com/albums.php

[1] Check out the amazing 11:35 long version on Secret World Live Disc 2.
Musician Credits:
Limelight: David Barrett: 12 string electric guitar, Jason Farrar: bass, Alexander “Sachsa” Tukatsch: drums, Jacob Moon: acoustic and electric guitars, vox
Is that all you got: same as above.
Let down: Gord Stevenson: drums, Mark McIntyre: bass, Lisa Winn: vocals, Jacob Moon: acoustic and electric guitars
Kaylee/lavender: Davide DiRenzo: percussion, Jacob Moon: guitars and synth
Owner of a lonely heart: George Koller: bass, Rob “Beat Down” Brown: drums, Jacob Moon: vocals, guitars, keys
Bend and break: Jacob Moon: guitars, Mark McIntyre: standup bass, Michael Schulte: violin and viola, Rebecca Morton: cello
Revelation: Gord Stevenson: drums, Mark McIntyre: bass, Jacob Moon: vocals, guitars, keys
Pony: Jacob Moon, recorded live on location ( see video)
Subdivisions: Davide DiRenzo: percussion, Neil Peart: voice, Jacob Moon: guitars and vocals
In your eyes: Davide DiRenzo: percussion, Lisa Winn: vocals, Mark McIntyre: bass, Jacob Moon: guitars, percussion, vocals


Canadian wine makers…for shame

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Sep 032013

Canadian wine makers really need to get their heads out of their butts. Yes we have good wines, even great ones, but where do they get off charging $40 for a mediocre red wine. Imports in the $15-25 range beat these hands down. I’m all for supporting local economies but really, take a lesson from Chile and Argentina, please.


So I’m building a race car

 Road Racing  Comments Off on So I’m building a race car
Apr 082012

Last fall I took the plunge and decided to convert the 1997 BMW 328is to a full blooded, cage infused race car. I know, I know, it’s folly you say. Everyone knows it’s cheaper to buy someone else’s built race car than to build your own. However a couple of things dictated that I must do this.

  • I had the car just sitting there
  • racing Arek’s E36 showed me how much fun that chassis is to throw around a track
  • taking the car apart and putting it back together again will be very therapeutic
  • I can spread the cost of the build over several years
  • some good friends are willing to help out

So over the next few weeks I will document everything that has happened since November to bring us all up to date.


DAC Trillium Trophy Races July 15-16, 2011

 Road Racing  Comments Off on DAC Trillium Trophy Races July 15-16, 2011
Jul 242011

Rob made a post on the MCO forums about his view of the race weekend just ran.  The following is the weekend from my perspective.

Wow leaving at 7:00AM is downright decadent, including the Starbucks latte. We arrive at the track shortly after 9:00AM, register, find a paddock spot and get unloaded. After checking over the car we get Rob ready for the 11:00AM session. About 1/2 through the session Rob comes in when the water pressure gauge went to zero. We had plenty of flow into the overflow tank, but not a lot of pressure released when opening the cap and the hoses did not feel to be under pressure. Out again for a couple more laps then back in with climbing water and oil temps.  This is not the start to the weekend that we wanted.

So back to the paddock we go to try and figure this out. One thing that looks like it might be causing problems is the rad cap. We pretty sure the pressure sender is toast though. An executive decision by team management is that we need a replacement cap. A trip to Napanee is unsuccessful since none of the 4 car parts places had anything in stock. Off to Belleville I go to check the Canadian Tire. Nothing there either. However, the nice guy at the counter checked inventory in other stores and found two in Kingston. So a phone call and third stint on the highway sends me all the way back to K-Town. At this point I call Rob saying that I need fuel but should be back in time for him to hit the 3PM session. 17 billion red lights later I roll into SMP at 3:20PM. Once the rad cap was replaced we now can see the rad hoses swell under pressure. This is a good sign. Rob says “get yer kit on, we’re splitting the last session”. I comply with the team manager’s orders. The temps are down a bit, but the car still feels like it’s running on the hot side. We do some more work trying to duct as much air as possible into the rad and then pack it up for the day.

Since I only have 15 minutes of track time under my belt we decide I should take morning practice. My best lap is a miserable 2m15s. I was not feeling comfortable out there at all, in fact I did a little bit of high speed farming coming out of corner ten. Good news is no harm done. Bad news is that even early in the morning with air temps in the mid 20s the car is sitting over 200F on the water temp gauge. We’re still debating pulling out of the weekend to preserve the car. But in conversation with Paul Myers, who’s visiting, Rob decides to check the timing on the engine and we get a big surprise. We are running way too much advance. So that gets reset and we button up the car again.

Rob takes the car out for qualifying and pulls off a 2m09s lap. Still not feeling too great as the competition is in the 2m04-05 range. Car is also starting to run rough now, but the temps are stable. So once again the hood goes up and out comes the compression gauge. Hmmm…everything good on compression, but “oh my” the spark plugs don’t look very good on cylinders 3 and 4. Rob being the carburetor voodoo that he is, man pulls out the tools and immediately finds the issue (emulsion tube almost completely backed out). Lunch break brings more confidence that the car is getting to be real solid now. We decide to go for it and run the 1 hour as planned with Rob at the wheel.

The big moment arrives and Rob sets off and immediately starts running 2m09s lap after lap.  He then finds some time and starts running 2m08s, finds more time and runs 2m07s for the next few laps, then settles into the 2m06s. Each drop brings a plateau that has lots of consistency, ending with lap after lap of 2m06.1xx. Truly a great drive. Enough so, that Rob capitalizes on other cars’ misfortunes and ends up taking 2nd in class. As he mentioned the Cool Shirt saved the day, as air temps are at 34C and a track temp of 52C. First podium in a few years and well deserved.

My big day today, it’s all me now. Reviewing video from Rob’s race seems to have done something for me as I immediately drop down to a 2m09s in the 10 minute Hard Luck Practice session. I’m feeling good that I might be able to hit my personal goal of a 2m07s lap. I am a bit worried about my immediate competition as they found some newer tires and are starting immediately beside me on the grid. Also, Greg K is immediately behind me on the grid but considerably faster. Greg and I talk about what we hope to do on the start to capitalize on the situation.

The start is almost upon us and the pace lap is very slow, which is probably good as it bunches us up. And off we go, I’m on the inside for the first three corners and really have a great start. I’m ahead of the competition going into corner 4 with Greg right behind me and ahead of the Prelude. I let him by after corner 5 and start working to keep my position. I hold off the Prelude up to corner 10 but he out brakes me on the inside into the corner. Luckily he goes wide on exit and is two wheels off so I get by him and hold the position. Corner 11 and through the esses are good, but I get out braked again on the inside going into corner 13. He pulls ahead out of the corner but I have the inside into 14, unfortunately I lose the drag race up the front straight and he gets by. Now sitting in P3. On this next lap Ted Martin ends up sitting on my bumper going into corner 13 and I over cook the braking zone. Ted gets by. I don’t know he’s in the car and think it’s his son Nick driving, who is also a rookie. This will be my downfall for the next 7 laps, as I think I can hassle him into making a mistake. We’re about a second or two faster than Ted at this point as he is having tire problems. But Ted is too wily to make the mistake I need to get by him. At the same time I’m being hassled by Dave Shep in the blue Sentra. So not only am I fighting to get back 3rd, I’m trying to preserve 4th. A red flag due to a grass fire brings us all to a stop on the front straight.

On the restart the pit window is now open so the team decides I should come in immediately to get some free space on track. The beginning of the stop is awesome and goes without a hitch. Leaving my stop, I somehow forget that our rev limiter will affect ALL gears the same way and not just 3rd gear. After a few seeconds of wondering if I broke a drive shaft or something I realize my error, turn off the limiter and get going. Plenty of free space on track so I push hard and crack off a 2m08s and several consistent 2m09s laps. I totally get by Ted/Nick as their pit stop is long. I’ve got a 30 second gap and need to protect it. However, the Martins realized that their tire pressures were way too high and let out some air. Nick starts cracking off some low 2m07s and high 2m06s laps. The tire changes obviously are working, or Nick is way faster than Ted. With 7 laps to go Nick out brakes me into corner 11 and takes 3rd place in class. I attempt to keep to a head of him for the next lap but over cook the exit on corner 8 and go two wheels off driver’s right and lose momentum. From that point on I just don’t have the pace to catch up. I also start getting tired and making a few mistakes. In fact, I go four wheels off on the exit of corner 7 due to not braking enough with only two laps left in the race. Time to calm down and finish this puppy. In the end I finish the race in 4th out of 8 GT5 class cars and 11th overall. Although a good finish for my third career race I did not achieve my personal goal. Still a great race with lots of great experience to learn from.

The race video can be found on vimeo: DAC Trillium Trophy Race 2, July 16-17, 2011
Oh and I now qualify for an A class race license, as I received my third novice signature.


Trying out WordPress

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Trying out WordPress
Jul 242011

Since I cannot get the latest Joomla working with my current host, I am trying out WordPress. Let’s see where this takes us.