Cult of (the) Skydiggers

In the summer of 1990, a Toronto based group called Skydiggers (OK I had to edit this as they are not “The” Skydiggers, but it seems very difficult for me to change it in my mind so forgive me if “the” appears where it ought not to in the rest of the article) came out with an acoustic hit song called “I Will Give You Everything” when heavy metal was still the rage and rap and grunge were in their formative years. I first heard the song on Much Music (Canada’s MTV) as a black and white promotional video. I was smitten with it’s gorgeous harmonies and gritty lead vocal from singer Andy Maize. His goatee was pretty retro back then recalling the 1960’s beat nicks.

This band has gone through a lot of ups and downs since being founded in 1987 by Maize and guitarist Josh Findlayson. They have been classified as roots rock which kind of reminds one of The Band and I think the comparison is fair as they incorporate a lot of country influences as well as folk and rock.

The Diggers have released 8 studio albums in 20 years. One live disc and a rerelease of demos of their second album 1992’s Restless (due to a dispute over the ownership of the master tapes). In 1995, Founding guitarist and songwriter Peter Cash split to work with his Brother Andrew as The Cash Brothers. After that, the Diggers were a trio on the 1997 CD Desmonds Hip City (augmented with session players). In 2003 they released a new album called Bittersweet Harmony in which the album title sums up the overall sound of the Diggers. In ‘04 they did some shows with the Cash Bros. I caught one of these shows on video at the Toronto Street Festival. It was a solid show of many past Digger hits plus some Cash Bros. material. It was the first time I ever caught them live and it was long overdue.

For some reasons whether members coming and going, lack of promotion or problems with record companies etc…The Skydiggers haven’t hit the big time as their contemporaries Blue Rodeo or The Tragically Hip. The Diggers are still a local hit. They are Canadian cult band that brings quality and integrity to their music. Part of me wishes them international fame. Part of me wants them to be the best kept secret. Especially, when you can still watch them in an intimate club rather than at Massey Hall.

Check out this page of photos from another WordPress blog. Look like a very intimate show in a beautiful church.

http://tanyalouiseworkman.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/skydiggers/

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Star Trek Episode: “Gamesters of Triskelion”

I was watching an old Star Trek episode last night. I have all of them on DVD. Picking an episode is a serious matter when you have seen each one about 20-30 times each. You want to make sure it’s something that can be watched repeatedly, still leaving you satisfied. The second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion” unfortunately doesn’t quite cut it for me anymore. I think this episode has a good reputaion among fans with the still trim looking Kirk and herioc Uhura and Chekov fighting for their lives on a perverse planet the equivalent of a cockfighting ring. Also for the famous silver costume of Shana. So it’s bascially an action packed type of episode.

But for me, it didn’t satisfy. The “comic book” Kirk is in full play here and his attempts
to seduce Shana to escape was typical for Kirk. Chekov’s “chosen one” was some good comic relief but Uhura’s scene was quite disturbing as she resists “selection”. Also sad, Spock and McCoy’s usually entertaining bickering seemed kinda forced and I’m surprised I never noticed that before. Kirk’s “freedom and universal justice” speech was very cut and paste and just a way for him to exit as gracefully as possible in order to put on a fresh shirt (he lost it again!).

On a positive note, Galt (the prison warden guy) is one of the best characters with his cold minimal voice, dusty green skin and glowing eyes which make him quite evil and scary (he would have made a great Klingon!). So “Gamesters” just gets a passing grade for at least making me think about what makes a quality episode.

Richard Wright (1943-2008)

A sad day for music fans. Richard Wright keyboardist and founding member of The Pink Foyd (I always liked the “The” better) passed away today. I love his contributions to the early Pink Floyd era whether it was his own songs or his very melodic voice which brought a softer counter balance to the groups sound. He also wrote some great songs (“Paint Box”, “Remember A Day” and from Dark Side of the Moon “The Great Gig In The Sky”) that were a wonderful balance to Syd Barretts and Roger Waters edgier tunes. In fact Waters dominated the groups writing from 1975 onward so Wrights contributions were sorely missing from latter Pink Floyd albums. Although I always preferred Tony Banks as a progrock keyboardist, Rick Wright approached his playing in a unique way (influenced by Jazz) and without his textured keyboard, many Floyd epic songs like “Echoes”, simply would not have succeeded.

Added to this article some comments from pinkfloydonline.com

Statement from David Gilmour:

“No one can replace Richard Wright. He was my musical partner and my friend.

In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick’s enormous input was frequently forgotten.

He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound.

I have never played with anyone quite like him. The blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy reached their first major flowering in 1971 on ‘Echoes’. In my view all the greatest PF moments are the ones where he is in full flow. After all, without ‘Us and Them’ and ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’, both of which he wrote, what would ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ have been? Without his quiet touch the Album ‘Wish You Were Here’ would not quite have worked.

In our middle years, for many reasons he lost his way for a while, but in the early Nineties, with ‘The Division Bell’, his vitality, spark and humour returned to him and then the audience reaction to his appearances on my tour in 2006 was hugely uplifting and it’s a mark of his modesty that those standing ovations came as a huge surprise to him, (though not to the rest of us).

Like Rick, I don’t find it easy to express my feelings in words, but I loved him and will miss him enormously.”

Source: DavidGilmour.com

Statement from Roger Waters:

“I was very sad to hear of Rick’s premature death, I knew he had been ill, but the end came suddenly and shockingly. My thoughts are with his family, particularly [his children] Jamie and Gala and their mum Juliet, who I knew very well in the old days, and always liked very much and greatly admired.

“As for the man and his work, it is hard to overstate the importance of his musical voice in the Pink Floyd of the ’60s and ’70s. The intriguing, jazz influenced, modulations and voicings so familiar in ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Great Gig in the Sky,’ which lent those compositions both their extraordinary humanity and their majesty, are omnipresent in all the collaborative work the four of us did in those times. Rick’s ear for harmonic progression was our bedrock.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that Live 8 afforded me to engage with him and David [Gilmour] and Nick [Mason] that one last time. I wish there had been more.”

Source: Brain Damage

Interview with Nick Mason:

The day after Wright’s death, Entertainment Weekly talked to Floyd drummer Nick Mason about his colleague and friend of more than 40 years.

How important was Rick to Pink Floyd?
NICK MASON: The reality is, like any band, you can never quite quantify who does what. But Pink Floyd wouldn’t have been Pink Floyd if [we] hadn’t had Rick. I think there’s a feeling now — particularly after all the warfare that went on with Roger and David trying to make clear what their contribution was — that perhaps Rick rather got pushed into the background. Because the sound of Pink Floyd is more than the guitar, bass, and drum thing. Rick was the sound that knitted it all together.

That seems to have been particularly true in the band’s early, musically adventurous, days.
Yeah. He had a very special style. He probably did more than I did in terms of not worrying too much about tempo, to the point where eventually we did produce arrhythmic pieces. That was, I think, probably rather ground-breaking in 1967.

What was he like on a personal level?
[Laughs] he was very like…Rick! Really. He was by far the quietest of the band, right from day one. And, I think, probably harder to get to know than the rest of us. But after 40 years, we probably felt we did know him quite well. We were just beginning to make inroads, perhaps.

Would this be an example of the British stiff upper lip at work?
Well, we did talk to each other. But we spent an awful lot of time sort of teasing each other, really, and winding each other up. It’s that curious thing. You form a gang. And so, to the outside world, you mount a united front. But four guys in a car, you spend an awful lot of time arguing and bickering and not being very creative.

Do you have a particularly fond memory of Rick?
I have to say that I think a number of our memories have to do with the ways that we all dealt with money. The first meeting with Roger I wouldn’t lend him my car and Rick wouldn’t give him a cigarette. And really we just carried on exactly like that for the next 40 years.

And Roger’s been punishing you ever since.
Yeah, absolutely. But he’s beginning to get over it we think.

Can you remember the first time you met Rick?
Well, it was ’62 because we were all (studying) architecture together. He looked like an architect but he had no interest in architecture whatsoever, and within months, as far as I remember, he was off to music college, which is exactly where he should have gone in the first place.

What was he like back then?
Exactly the same. Of course, with the people you really know, no one changes that much. Roger was a rather sort of forbidding presence in 1962 and he hasn’t changed at all. He’s just got a bit more grizzled. And Rick was the quiet one then, as it was throughout.

He also wrote a fair amount of songs for the Floyd.
Something like “Us And Them” was absolutely a Rick piece. It’s almost that George Harrison thing. You sort of forget that they did a lot more than perhaps they’re given credit for.

Well, you have our condolences and sorry to bother you at a time like this.
No, it’s absolutely fine. I’d rather talk about him, I think, than not.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

YES Tour ’08 Resurrected (then Cancelled Again)

According to several news sources, Jon Anderson will be replaced on vocal duties for the next Yes Tour. And it’s starting here in Ontario! The replacement is a fellow from a Yes Tribute band from Montreal, Quebec. Chris Squire saw him on Youtube doing his Anderson type stuff and gave him a call. I have no problem with this. I hate to say it, but I enjoyed a Genesis Tribute show (Turn It On Again, Feb 2008 @ the Danforth Music Hall) more than the real thing (Genesis @ BMO Field Sept 2007).

Sometimes these drastic changes bring fresh life into a band (like when Phil Collins took over for Peter Gabriel…I also wish the Ray Wilson Genesis had toured over here and I still want to hear some live stuff from that 97-98 tour). Also, the setlist should be very interesting. Squire wants to play some songs that Jon has no interest in fronting (Drama stuff) and Yes has plenty of material to cull from.

Anyway, I hope it works, and I plan to check it out. Yes to the music!

Update: They are going to play Massey Hall on Nov 5th.

Update: February 2009, due to Chris Squires health issues, the tour has been cancelled…lucky I got to see them when I did.