Saturday, January 28, 2012


Hi Friends,

BBC Radio 1 do an annual series entitled 'Masterpieces'. It's a show where they highlight 4 albums which their music team have deemed to be 'Masterpieces'. They've been showcasing these for the past 5 years with artists like Nirvana, Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Metallica and The Clash - to name a few.

I believe albums are created in a very particular way and therefor meant to be heard in the order they appear on track listings. In a era of singles it's sad but most albums will not be experienced this way for future generations.
I recently asked my 13 year old niece what her favourite album of all time was. She was quick to respond with No Doubt's 'Rock Steady' and that was awesome. She would have only been 2 when it came out - but she grew-up with it and knows it as a full body of work from start to finish. She restored my faith.

I've taken a stab at a few albums I've come to love over the years - to which I consider masterpieces in every sense of the word.

Here goes nothing...

Led Zeppelin - 'IV'

This is classic Led Zeppelin album originally came out in November of 1971. It's a particular favourite of mine as it was my introduction to the band. The first track on side A is 'Black Dog' which comes right out of the gate with killer vocals and guitar riffs to smack you in the face. It's chalk full of hits and is also home to arguably their most recognizable tune 'Stairway To Heaven' as well as the amazing 'Going to California'. This album is 40 years old and will still sound amazing in another 40 years.

Guns n' Roses - 'GN'R Lies'

This album is off side. This album uses words that I find offensive today and I wouldn't feel comfortable singing along to songs like 'One In A Million' or 'I Used To Love Her'. Having said that 'Lies' truly is a masterpiece of an album. It came out in 1988 at a time when hair metal reigned. The difference between these guys and other hair bands was that they were hard core. These were angry anthems that didn't pander to radio. The band came out with a full throttle album that acted as an anchor to GN'R on the world stage.

I'm certain that every single person I grew-up with could recite the words to this verse from 'Patience'

I've been walking the streets at night
Just trying to get it right
Its hard to see with so many around
You know I don't like being stuck in the crowd
And the streets don't change
But maybe the names
I ain't got time for the game cause I need you
Yeah, yeah, yeah, 'cause I need you
Ooo I need you, whoa I need you
Ooooh, all this time

Tom Petty - 'Full Moon Fever'

Tom is one of the coolest men to have ever walk this earth. His first solo outing came out in 1989 and housed songs like 'Free Falling', 'I Won't Back Down', 'Love Is A Long Road' and 'Yer So Bad' to name a few. This album is fantastic complimented with some great videos showcasing Tom's sense of humour and creative sides. This man can do no wrong and 'Full Moon Fever' is one of the greatest rock n roll albums ever recorded.

The Tragically Hip - 'Fully Completely'

I almost wish they weren't Canadian as this album would have and should have gone global. It was the band's 4th album and from the second the needle drops on 'Courage (For Huge MacLennan)' through 'Pigeon Camera' and 'Wheat Kings' on through until it ends with 'Eldorado' this album gorgeous. It made time stop for me when I first heard it in grade 10.

I've never stopped loving this band's body of work and could safely place all 12 of their studio albums on a list of Masterpieces.

Blind Melon - 'Blind Melon'

In 1992 the world was taken over by this little girl tap dancing while wearing a bee costume in the video for 'No Rain'. It was the introduction to a short lived music career for their lead singer Shannon Hoon. After only 3 albums it was all over but their self-titled debut had it all and solidified this album as a true masterpiece. Other notable tracks on the album included 'Change' and 'I Wonder'. I personally wonder what they would have sounded like had they not lost Shannon at such a young age.

Album #7 for Depeche Mode is far and away my favourite from them. Perhaps it has something to do with it being the tour I first saw them on and coincidentally the very first concert I had ever been to. This album is phenomenal. From 'The Policy of Truth', 'Personal Jesus', 'World in My Eyes' to 'Enjoy The Silence' it was beyond new wave - this was the future. Check out the link to a rare version of 'Enjoy the Silence' filmed atop the World Trade Center.

Long live the ALBUM whatever shape or form it comes in.

Thanks for reading/listening,


Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Predictions

Hi Friends,

I'm optimistic 2012 will bring about great transformation for the music business. With all this talk of SOPA, PIPA, Facebook teaming up with Spotify & Rdio to the 4 majors becoming 3 - there's bound to be some serious change.

To head in the right direction will require GREAT music. If it's singer songwriter, dub-step, guitar rock, hip hop or even a combination of genres - it will need to be fantastic and real. The music business is so transparent to its consumer and I believe that in order for things to become great the REAL musicians will need to see the spotlight.

Here's a few acts that I think will shine this coming calendar year. Give them all a listen I think you will agree that they are the real McCoy.

Here's a play list of the music I'm speaking about below. Give it a spin while you read the rest.

Emeli Sande

Newcomer Emelia Sande is making waves in the UK with chart topping singles. The Scottish native has the power (IMHO) to crack the coveted US airwaves. She's got the look, the style and one of the most powerful voices in the business. If her single 'Heaven' doesn't start popping in North America - then there's something wrong with the Music Directors and PDs at radio. Just give this a listen - I'm sure you'll agree.
  • Total Official YouTube Hits = over 4,000,000
  • Twitter followers = 90,000

Snow Patrol

This band had their highest debut in Canada last week and currently sit at #31 on the iTunes album charts. They sold out their forthcoming show at Massey Hall in Toronto as well as a Terminal 5 show in NYC. It's Snow Patrol's year to shine on this side of the pond. I predict another Grey's Anatomy music sync that will garner these Irish lads the credit they deserve allowing them to become a household name in America.
  • Total Official YouTube Hits = too many to count
  • Twitter followers = 70,000

Ed Sheeran

Already a monster in the UK, 2012 will see Ed cross the Atlantic and become a star. His first single The A Team and second Lego House will become the new 'Beautiful' by James Blunt. Coincidentally Ed will be opening for Snow Patrol across North America in the spring:)
  • Total Official YouTube Hits = over 37,000,000
  • Twitter followers - over 1,200,000


This one is a no brainer as he's already got millions of hits and wide spread attention from the original as well as this cover on YouTube. It's simply going to be one of those tracks that continues to spread and tip to everyone. It's just a matter of time. Your cousin in rural Alberta will post it on your Facebook wall some time around mid March.
We're all going to get very sick of it (I'm already very sick of it) - but at least we can sleep knowing it's a truly great song.
  • Total Official YouTube Hits = over 49,000,000
  • Twitter followers = 36,500


Already hip hop royalty with platinum selling albums the world over - Drake has yet to scratch the surface. His latest album 'Take Care' has so many monster hits and collaborations on it. Check out the title track with Rihanna here it's a glimpse to how talented this guy and his team are.

Drake really is the whole package and deserves more credit than he's received thus far. He's raised the bar for R&B, Hip Hop and Pop music alike - so watch out for Toronto's own to take his rightful place on the throne.
  • Total Official YouTube Hits = way too many to count
  • Twitter followers = over 5,400,000

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg Stewart

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Digital Singles

Hi Friends,

Now that digital music has surpassed physical music sales things around the industry are going to have to change.

Although it's only 50.3% - it's still over half of all sales - so perhaps this is a wake-up call to an industry.

Do the people buying digital music spend their money on the same music as those that go into record stores? It appears so when you look at the Top Songs Chart on iTunes but we need to remember digital music is very singles driven. So make up for the money being lost on albums will need to come in ten fold from singles. How will the record companies adapt?

I can tell you one thing - and that is they need to make music available for purchase the second it's released to radio and online. There's no waiting when it comes to music. If someone likes it then they need to be able to buy it right then and there. The impulse buy needs to be as easy as grabbing a snickers bar at the check-out of a grocery store.

Whether it's links on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Official sites, Newsletters, Blogs, Articles or more - they need to be made available ASAP if they want to change the habits of music lovers.

Record companies are already doing a good job of promoting iTunes - but as traditional retail continues to let them down they'll need to look at putting their marketing money elsewhere. I mean spending $5k to rack something in an HMV hoping people walk to the back of a store?? WTF. Perhaps heightened awareness with direct links is a better way to go. I know this is how I buy my music.

I say this knowing fine well that the lion's share of revenue still comes from the CD itself. It's only a matter of time until it isn't and so something needs to be done now to keep their heads above water.

Here are a few digital singles I think you should check out and buy. Trust me as I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Azealia Banks feat Lazy Jay - '212'

Kanye recently tweeted that she's the future of music and this track is absolutely massive. It'll likely never see the light of day on TV or in mainstream media, based on lyrical content, but it's getting her noticed. BBC's Radio1 have actually created their own clean version of this track and it's now in a regular rotation - so look out. Buy button

*Hats off to some girls in my office for being on this track back in September.

Ed Sheeran - 'The A Team'

This gents been putting out massive hits in the UK and Europe for a couple of years now. His voice is beauties and this particular track makes me smile. Buy button

M83 - 'Midnight City'

Victoria Secret used it in an ad. HBO's How To Make It In America used it in a key scene and it's bloody gorgeous. This track just needs a mainstream push and it could very well change the game for the months ahead. Buy button

Emeli Sande - 'Heaven'

First off you can never go wrong with the funky drummer beat used at the top of this song. It's legendary and full of so much energy. Emeli Sande is sure to be a household name this year - if not for her pure talent then for this single alone. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform it live in the UK recently and fell in love. Not Available In Canada Yet

Gotye feat Kimbra - 'Somebody That I Used To Know'

With already over 30 million hits on YouTube it's not surprising the label have bumped it up on the list of priorities for 2012. It truly is an amazingly song and the video is super cool too.

The cover by a collective called 'Walk Off The Earth' is making the rounds now and has already garnered over 3 million hits.

It's been a band to watch for sometime in the music industry and feels like something very special indeed. Buy button

One Direction - 'What Makes You Beautiful'

This is one of the few British boy bands that will resonate here in North America this year. The single itself isn't available to buy at this time - but the video is. I like to think that this it's a genius move on the labels part - as it's all about the heartthrob boys running around a beach. Buy button

We Were Promised Jetpacks - 'Quiet Little Voices'

A good friend of mine told me about this band ages ago. They are very Scottish and you can hear that in the vocals. I saw the movie 'Hall Pass' this week and it used this particular track in a party scene. Buy button

Snow Patrol - 'Symphony'

I can't say enough about these guys. Their latest album 'Fallen Empires' is in-stores and online this Tuesday - so whether you go to record stores or grab tracks digitally I recommend this new album. Buy button

Contrary to popular belief music is not free. There's a lot that goes into the promotion and creation of GOOD music - and without that the future may be very bland and boring. Auto-tune anyone?

Thanks for reading/listening.