Friday, June 23, 2017

The Top 150 Canadian Songs of all Time List (IMHO)


Hi Friends,

Music's always going to be a subjective topic of conversation - and for me that's totally fine.

In many of my day-to-day roles I work closely with different teams to help determine lists.  List, countdowns and groupings of songs, artists, genres, eras, albums and mostly music videos.  We approach them through a democratic process and allow time for conversation and debate across the board.  Having an open mind about music, be it new or old, is vital to folk who work in music.  We sometimes forget that simple rule and become jaded - that's simply unacceptable in my books.

If music's causing debate then I'm all for it.

As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, next week, we'll all likely come across a plethora of "Top Canadian" music lists. Most likely top 150 lists at that.  Since I love a good list I've taken the liberty to my very own list to the pile.  

Here's what I consider the finest 150 Canadian songs ever recorded in the form of a Spotify playlist for you to enjoy.  

I've also realized that I really like melancholy songs while compiling this list.


  • Here's my playlist - Enjoy!  

Let the comments begin :)

Have a wonderful Canada Day long weekend!

Gregg


Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2016 in Music


My Spotify account shows that I've listened to Kermit the Frog's 'Rainbow Connection' more than any other song in the past year.  It makes sense since it's the first track on my 'New Dad Playlist' and which is part of the daily routine for my little girl.  That little girl attended her first ever concert / festival this year.  She can now boast having seen the mighty Sheepdogs and Barenaked Ladies as her first shows.

2016 may have been a pretty depressing year when it came to deaths across the music world - as heard here 'RIP 2016 Playlist' (No Prince on Spotify sorry) - but it was also a year with some amazing new music.

My personal year was very different in that I was learning the ropes and trying to balance things on the home front with an addition to our family. That meant lack of sleep and less late nights at concerts around town. It didn't mean lack of learning about new music though. It was actually the opposite - I listened way more than I had in recent years. I discovered and uncovered music from all genres while diving deep into the past through nostalgia with a different perspective on life. Here's an on-going playlist I've been working on entitled - 'The GREATEST Songs Ever Recorded IMHO'

For me 2016 could be summed up in 2 words - GORD DOWNIE. Although David Bowie, Prince, George Martin, George Michael , Glenn Frye, Phife Dogg, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen and many others passed away - it was the news of my idol Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, that shook me to the core. I continue to spend countless hours going deep into his band's catalogue as well as his solo work on the heels of hearing that terrible news.  This was one more thing to put perspective on life and how precious it really is.  

I was one of the luck my ones that went to a few of the band's last shows this past summer. I went to Toronto's first night with 2 lifelong pals and my older brother. It was a true celebration of the band's 30+ year career chalk full of hits.  The band also played many songs off their latest album entitled 'Man Machine Poem'.  There was no way I was going to miss this band's last show in their home town of Kingston, Ontario.  On Saturday, August 20th I made the trip with friends and soaked up what was one of the most amazing music filled days of my life.  Kingston was magical and the band managed to make this junior hockey rink feel like a sweaty little club.  Only difference was that 20 million people were watching right across this country.  It was a very special day and shined a light on the wonder that is Gord Downie. 

Here's a little video I don't remember shooting during 'Wheat Kings' on that final night.

I also managed to land tickets to Gord's 'Secret Path' performance at Roy Thompson Hall in October.  This was simply beautiful and among the most powerful messages and performances I've been witness to in my life.  I consider myself lucky to have grown-up in a time when Gord Downie was making music.  

I will be listening to Strombo's salute to The Tragically Hip this evening starting at 8pm - link here if you're interested.  

Here are a few quick lists of my favourites this past year.

Top 10 Shows
  1. Guns N Roses @ Sky Dome
  2. Metallica @ The Opera House
  3. The Weeknd @ Air Canada Centre, iHeartRADIO Jingle Ball
  4. The Killers and Sam Roberts Band @ World Cup Of Hockey Village
  5. The Tragically Hip @ The K-Rock Centre, Kingston 
  6. Gord Downie @Roy Thompson Hall
  7. Noel Gallagher @ Echo Beach 
  8. Pearl Jam @ Air Canada Centre
  9. Lumineers @ Mod Club 
  10. Jack Garett @ The Garrison 
Top 10 Songs
  1. David Bowie - 'Dollar Days'
  2. Warpaint - 'New Song'
  3. Gallant - 'Bourbon'
  4. Gord Downie - 'The Stranger' 
  5. The Tragically Hip - 'Machine' The Tragically Hip - 'In Sarnia'
  6. Michael Kiwanuka - 'Love & Hate'
  7. Sam Roberts Band - 'Roll With The Spirits'
  8. Kings of Leon - 'Walls'
  9. Alessia Cara - 'Seventeen'
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'Dark Necessities'
Top 10 Albums 
  1. David Bowie - 'Black Star'
  2. The Tragically Hip - 'Man Machine Poem'
  3. Sam Roberts Band - 'TerraForm'
  4. The Weeknd - 'Starboy'
  5. Kanye West - 'The Life Of Pablo'
  6. Kings of Leon - 'Walls'
  7. Drake - 'Views'
  8. The 1975 - 'I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It'
  9. Alessia Cara - 'Know It All'
Respect to the great songwriter and TV Dad Alan Thicke too.  I know he didn't write this one - but it's the perfect song.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2017.  

Gregg

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Dad

On Tuesday, September 29th at 7:15am I watched my wife give birth to our daughter who we named Lyla Grace Stewart. To say it was the greatest moment of my life is an understatement. I felt like a King that day walking on a cloud with a grin from ear to ear.

In the months that followed I've found myself being nostalgic and sentimental about lots of things. I've been reflecting on my own childhood and the different things that made it so great.

Many of my fond memories come from the music playing around the house growing up. Be it Christmas time when my Mom would bust out Anne Murray albums to my Dad spinning some Jim Croce, John Denver,  and  or even Friday night theme songs from shows like M.A.S.H., Hill Street Blues or The mighty Muppet Show. There was, and still is, always music playing at 793 Millbank Road in Pickering.

Although my daughter's only 10 weeks old - I'm already trying to introduce her to music. Music that reminds me of being a kid, catchy pop anthems from artists like Queen, The Beach Boys and of course The Beatles.


I look forward to a lifetime when I'm playing new music for Lyla and learning about new music from her.  I long for the day when we can go to outdoor concerts together and talk music over meals and a day when we can reflect on her childhood.

Here are some songs that remind me of being a kid called - New Dad Playlist

A house with music playing will always be a happy home to me.

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Late 80s and Early 90s

When growing up in central Ontario there were many different choices when it came to cliques.  I don't think it exists the same way today - but picture a John Hughes film set to a soundtrack of music by the likes of Stone Roses, Violent Femmes, LL Cool J and R.E.M. and that was my suburban upbringing.  Back then you identified yourself with specific groups and there were Rockers, Goths, Punks, Skinheads, Jocks, Mods, Hip Hoppers, Preps, Skaters, BMXers and many more.

If I had to classify my own style at that time I guess it was a cross between prep and skater.  I skateboarded but was partial to a good Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, Club Monaco khakis and a pair of Tretorn shoes.  Tretorns with ollie holes mind you.


Shoes were a big deal to me at that time - and still are today. I always wanted the best and most expensive ones.  I was also very aware that I was in grade 9 and that older teens were known to "Roll" kids for their shoes at the time.  All I wanted was a pair of 6 hole black boot docs with yellow stitches - but settled on Doc Marten shoes without stitching so I didn't get my ass kicked by skinheads.  I remember buying pair of low cut no stitch Docs in Scotland while on vacation between grade 8 and 9.  It was funny because the boots were basically the working man's boot and you could buy them for dirt cheap everywhere.  My older cousin Kenneth had a pair for his job as a security guard.  On this side of the pond it was different.  You could only buy Doc Martens on Queen Street at places like Twinkle Toes or head-shops.  Ironically there's an actual Doc Marten's store on Queen now.


I do remember getting a great pair of Timberland shoes in grade 8 though.  I must have only had them for a couple days before they were stolen from the gym locker room. I'm pretty sure I know who it was that took them too.  The lone asshole skinhead in grade 8 name Darcy. I had to wear my indoor gym sneakers home that day and was so pissed.  PS - how on earth was there a white supremacist skinhead in a catholic elementary school to begin with?  I digress.


With the wide array of lifestyles came a very diverse mix of musical choices.  I was all over the map and really did love it all.  That wasn't the case for most though and they were very strict in their choices to make sure that it was in line with their identity.  Goths listened to the likes of Depeche Mode, The Cure and Bauhaus while Skinheads cranked Motorhead and David Wilcox.  There was Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee and Eric B. & Rakim for Hip Hoppers and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Descendents, The Clash and The Cult for Skaters.


Here are some songs that remind me of that time in my life...


Violent Femmes - 'Kiss Off' (This whole album is perfect)


The Housemartins - 'Caravan of Love'

R.E.M. - 'Stand'

Suicidal Tendencies - 'Possessed to Skate'

Kool Moe Dee - 'Wild Wild West'

The Stone Roses - 'Fools Gold'

The Cult - 'Heart and Soul' 

De La Soul - 'Eye Know'

Depeche Mode - 'Everything Counts'
The crowd intros from the album 101 still give me chills to this day.

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Weeknd

'I Can't Feel My Face' hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart last week.  He's just announced an arena tour of North America for the fall. He's playing a club show TONIGHT in his hometown of Toronto.  He just dropped a killer video for 'Tell Your Friends'.  His new album 'Beauty Behind The Madness' comes out this Friday. AND he's performing at The MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday.  The Weeknd is the KING of the World right now.

OH YEAH - Tom Cruise also lip synced to his song on Fallon calling it the song of the summer.

I first heard about The Weeknd around the online release of 'House of Balloons' in 2011.  I was part of the grand jury for that year's Polaris Music Prize to which this album had been shortlisted.  It never won the prize but local music journalist Anupa Mistry was there to champion the album and made many of the jury, myself included, take notice.  

The process of Polaris' grand jury calls for members to listen to the albums in their entirety while preparing to vote.  I chose to listen to the 10 albums while running in the early morning hours before going to work.  I remember this one vividly as it was on a rainy morning and I was running through the woods near my home at Davisville and Mount Pleasant in Toronto.  Haunting, beautiful, shocking and just god damn cool at the same time.  This album is still fire today.

For the next 3 years we tried various times to get The Weeknd to perform on The Much Music Video Awards to no avail.  The timing never worked out and or he wasn't ready.  Well this year he was more than ready and performed a medley of both 'Earned It' into 'The Hills' - Watch it here.  

When preparing for the release of 'Kiss Land' in 2013 Abel and his management came into the office to meet my team.  They wanted to say hello and show us the latest video for 'Belong To The World'.  Abel was super shy and very humble.  He told us how crazy the last year had been for a kid that grew up in Toronto being courted by everyone.  Everyone from P. Diddy to Jimmy Iovine.  He also told us that until then he'd never been outside of Ontario let alone on an airplane.  His team took him to Japan and it blew his mind.  I'm certain that a mere 2 years later it would take a lot more than a visit to Tokyo to blow his mind.  This man headlined Coachella this year and has fast become friends with the likes of Kanye West and admired by all for his talents.



Able won 4 MMVAs this year for his videos and artistry.  He's likely to win a few Moonmen this weekend and I'd hope a Grammy or 2 come February of 2016.  

I'm lucky enough to be going to TONIGHT's show and can't wait.  This is the exciting stuff in the music business watching artists become Superstars right before your eyes.

Here's my Spotify playlist entitled The Weeknd GH

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg

Monday, August 24, 2015

Compton

Andrew Patton and I at soundcheck for Up In Smoke 2000.
In 2000 I went to the 'Up In Smoke' tour at the Molson Amp in Toronto.  It still stands as the greatest live show I've ever seen.  The production.  The vibe.  The attitude and of course the music.  The show ended with a semi N.W.A. reunion featuring Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Snoop standing in for Easy-E.  This is the actual opening from that night -watch it now.

I worked at Universal at the time and had the pleasure of watching Dr. Dre soundcheck that afternoon.  He walked all the way back to the lawns with his platinum plated microphone to test levels. A master of sound who was meticulous with it for every single show.

That was just the opening! Eminem, Warren G and Devin The Dude opened the night before these legends event hit on stage.  Holy shit did that ever set the tone for an incredible night.

Like many I went to see the movie 'Straight Outta Compton' this past weekend and LOVED IT.  I was a mere twelve years old when both 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Easy-Duz-It' came out.  These albums were dangerous and scary as fuck - but my friends and I were hooked.  We all knew the words to these songs inside out.  I can still rap (I won't) every single lyric to Easy-E's 'Radio' or 'We Want Easy'.


For me the next few years would be all Brit Pop and Hip Hop aka Rap music.  It was a backdrop while I skated the mean streets of Pickering.  Truth be told they were the furthest thing from mean - but skateboarding in strip mall parking lots with a ghetto blaster playing albums like these and then Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' and Ice Cube's 'Predator' made it feel that way.

Found this in my parents basement :)
The movie probably wasn't even close to being in my top 10 favourite movies of all time - but I was still perfect.  Perfect because it invoked great memories of my youth coupled with important memories of historic times that my generation grew up in.  It's actually sad to see that racism is still as rampant as it was at that crazy time in 1991.  I'm pretty sure that if you were to turn on CNN right now that it won't look too different from the news stories at that time.

I love Dre's music and production but for me it was all about Ice Cube and Easy-E.  The movie solidified Ice Cube as the main rapper.  He was the writer and lyricist that made this all come together.  His career may be very different today - but this guy was a real gangsta.  A true G.


Here's a Spotify playlist featuring some of my all time favourite songs related to Compton entitled - Straight Outta Compton Tunes

Thanks for reading.

G.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Amy.

I never had the chance to see Nirvana before Kurt died - nor did I catch Blind Melon while Shannon Hoon was still alive.  I did however see Amy Winehouse the very first time she performed here in Toronto at The Top of the Senator in June 2004.

It was at an industry showcase for the recently released album 'Frank' that I sat front row to take photos for Universal Music's website.
*Actual photo from that first night - just not mine.  I can't find mine.
The music world was unclear where this young jewish cockney jazz singer fit in.  She was like nothing else at the time and so this showcase at a downtown Jazz club was the first attempt to see who might be interested.  I remember thinking that her band was insanely good.  The drummer was like nothing I'd watched on stage before.  He was so smooth and on point while working with Amy to bring out the soul.  He would wait to see where she was going and follow - then she'd look at him and he'd lead the way.  I also recall thinking that she was very pretty and looked a lot like Gina Gershon.

The next time I saw Amy Winehouse was when she came back through Toronto in support of 'Back to Black'.  I was now working at MTV and she came by to be on our then flagship show MTV Live.  She then headed down the road to be on MuchMusic's flagship show M.O.D. where she actually went missing from her dressing room.  The producers of the show were about to have Dallas Green come on to perform in her stead.  She had decided to take stroll down Queen Street - but finally made it back to play a quick song as seen here.  From there she went to perform in the amazing Orange Lounge Studios. She capped that day off by playing the MOD Club later that evening as seen here.


I've just come from the movies where I saw the new documentary about her life.  It's heartbreaking, eye opening and down right sad all at the same time.  My single favourite moment was the footage of her watching the Grammy Awards live while in London.  It was real.  It was raw and so very genuine.  Her short life was overshadowed by drugs and torment - but her music will be remembered and stand the test of time.  This is a really great documentary and I recommend you see it.

Here's a best of playlist I've made to remember the late great Amy Winehouse

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg