2-Feb-2019

As a life-long Torontonian and former club goer in my youth, I was happy to learn that a book about oneof my favourite venues, the Horseshoe Tavern, was finally being published. The Horseshoe is one of Toronto’s most important musical treasures gracing the city’s culture since 1947. And while I share David McPherson’s excitement around the famous club and its revolutionary music programming, I cannot say the same about his book, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History(Dundurn Press). His writing is inconsistent, graced with too many clichés; section breaks using (* * *) and wise guy remarks that undermine his extensive research so much that his book hasn’t the impact it should.

          McPherson’s conversational style is well intended. He’s a fan of the club and his respect for the place is sincere, but his niceness often undermines his sto...

1-Jan-2019

Michael Barclay’s biography of The Tragically Hip, published by ECW last year, is a comprehensive tome about one of Canada’s favorite rock groups and Gord Downie, the band’s popular front man and lyricist, whose final years battling cancer made front-page news. Barclay takes a holistic approach to the tale and invites his reader to think about his book with a smaller narrative arc. He states from the top that “half of this book is a chronological history…the other half [sic] extrapolates on various themes throughout the band’s 32-year career…all chapters are written in a way that they can be read in isolation…in whatever order you like.” I’m sure the author had good intentions by setting up his history in this fashion, but it’s bad advice. By creating a split-focus, right down to non-sequential chapters, he weakens the impact of the book and the import...

1-Dec-2018

When his farewell tour ended September 22 in Queens, NY and a new album dropped September 28 Paul Simon maintained his currency. To coincide with the tour, in a new biography released last May written by LA Times music writer Robert Hilburn, Simon granted the author “more than 100 hours of interviews” according to the press release from Simon & Schuster. But rather than hook a new album and a farewell tour to a book for commercial purposes, Hilburn the journalist, goes much deeper by writing a balanced study of his subject. His focus, and it’s a good one, is to identify and explain the driving impulses behind Simon’s creativity. Naturally that’s an easier task with the co-operation of the person you’re writing about. 

            According to Hilburn, Paul Simon is a sensitive soul and that sensitivity is always present in the creative decisions he...

27-Oct-2018

My review of Richard Thompson's 2018 release.

1-Sep-2018

My review of Charles Ulrich's book on Frank Zappa.

6-Aug-2018

My review of John Coltrane's lost album.

10-Jul-2018

My review of Steven Hyden's excellent book on music.

30-May-2018

My review of David Byrne's American Utopia

29-Apr-2018

My review of Peggy Seeger's memoir

28-Mar-2018

My review of Tom Wilson's autobiography, Beautiful Scars

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