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LE NEWSLETTER

April 10, 2008

 

Spring is almost here! So many different happenings this past week!  One would be the Junos – congrats to the winner but a special congrats to my friends Jully Black and Billy Newton-Davis!  And special props as well to host Russell Peters – best opening and closing of the Junos I’ve ever experienced.  See Juno coverage below.

Two very special events coming up – at the Sony Centre check out the legendary Bill T. Jones and Chapel/Chapter.  Then there’s another special reunion for the VIP Jam planned on April 21st at Revival.  If you missed the one in December, this is your chance!  Don’t miss it!

On a personal note, I went to the 50th anniversary of my former church,
The Salvation Army, in Scarborough (yes, Scarborough!).  What a tribute to my heritage as the music was stellar.  A real homage to my roots and the founding roots of why I do this newsletter and the passion behind it.  

 

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Virtuosic Dance From Contemporary Icon Bill T. Jones In The Canadian Premiere Of Chapel/Chapter - April 16 To 19, 2008

Source: 
Harbourfront Centre

(April 2, 2008) Legendary American dance troupe Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company returns to Toronto, April 16 to 19, with the Canadian premiere of Chapel/Chapter, as part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008. Through spoken word, live music and a brilliant company of dancers, Chapel/Chapter is an exhilarating experience performed in-the-round, an intimate setting draped in red fabric reminiscent of the sanctuary of a church. Rigorous and joyful, tragic yet uplifting, Chapel/Chapter vividly contrasts evil deeds with beautiful, at times, elegiac movement and music in this captivating and emotional multi-media performance. "Chapel/Chapter is a riveting experience…the visceral impact of the piece is inescapable,” says The New York Times.

Based in Harlem, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is world renowned for its politically driven, socially charged performance works. Continuing to push the envelope, Jones proves once again that he is one of the most powerful voices in contemporary dance today. In Chapel/Chapter, three stories—two highly visible news items and one personal confession told in movement, words and music—set the narrative mood for an intimate exchange between the audience and one of the world’s top dance choreographers, Bill T Jones. An emotionally powerful work, Chapel/Chapter will long linger in audiences’ memories.

"To me, Chapel/Chapter asks the very real question ‘Can there be good in a world so full of evil?‘ The inspiration for Harbourfront Centre's focus on Sacred throughout the spring, this remarkable dance work allows us to experience these disturbing stories on a visceral level while finding refuge and ultimately hope in the beauty of the performance," says Dance Programmer Jeanne Holmes.

Chapel/Chapter's spirit is conveyed through live music performed by an ensemble of contemporary musicians: singer/multi-instrumentalist Lipbone Redding, who has been variously described as a vocal trickster and experimental cowboy; cellist Christopher Lancaster, who creates multi-layered, textural music through the use of real-time samplers and effect processing; and soprano Alicia Hall Moran, a classical singer whose influences range from opera to jazz.

Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 presents a diverse collection of innovative and exciting performing arts events in one visionary series with a number of world and Canadian premieres of some of the world’s most exceptional artistic endeavours. 13/13 rush ticket programme: students and seniors can purchase one $13 ticket, per valid ID, cash only, 13 minutes before curtain (subject to availability). Package discounts up to 20%. Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 showcases the best theatre, music and dance through May 10.

Other upcoming World Stage performances: world premiere of Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry—Daniel Barrow (Winnipeg), presented as part of the 21st annual Images Festival, April 10-12; Canadian premiere of Damascus—Traverse Theatre Company (Scotland), April 22-26; Toronto premiere of Short Works—Black Grace (New Zealand), April 30-May 3; and Toronto premiere of The Space Between—C!RCA (Australia), May 6-10 who also perform 46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes on May 7.

FOCUS: Sacred
From January to June, Harbourfront Centre asks the big question—What do you hold Sacred? Part of an ongoing exploration of ideas in programming at Harbourfront Centre. Our Lens. Your View. Harbourfront Centre - divine culture.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16 – FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2008
CHAPEL/CHAPTER
Enwave Theatre
Harbourfront Centre
231 Queens Quay West
8 p.m
Matinee performance takes place at 2 p.m. on April 19
Single tickets: $40.
For tickets and information, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage
(For additional information on the company, please visit www.billtjones.org.)

Monday Night Revival Jam Reunion – Monday, April 21, 2008

Yes, that’s right folks – all the original players – Shamakah Ali (percussion), Rich Brown (Host and bass), Joel Joseph, (keys) Anthony Wright (sax), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and Dane Hartsell (Guitar) will be reuniting on Monday, April 21st at Revival for a spring version of VIP Jam!!  Many special guests will be joining this famous crew as well!

Did you ever go to the Monday night jams at Revival?  Practically every big visiting artist would stop by and hit the stage with our amazing Toronto musicians!  It was such a great vibe and very well-attended.  Well, now it’s time for the REUNION! 

Check out the best of R&B, funk, rock and blues this spring season! 

MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008
MONDAY NIGHT VIP JAM REUNION
Revival
783 College St. (at Shaw)
Doors open 9:00 pm
$5 COVER

::TOP STORIES::

‘Music Saved My Life,' Jully Black Tells Students

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bill Graveland,
The Canadian Press

(April 04, 2008) CALGARY–As the youngest of nine children in a single-parent household growing up in Toronto, Juno Award nominee Jully Black knows a thing or two about the power of music.

She shared some of her experiences yesterday with students at Ernest Morrow Jr. High School in Calgary's Forest Lawn neighbourhood, an ethnically diverse, low-income area where motivating kids can sometimes be a struggle for teachers.

"The reality is, music saved my life. How many people in here when they are studying put some music on? How many people when they're feeling down put some music on? How many people when they're feeling happy put some music on?" Black asked hundreds of students in the school gymnasium.

"Music is a language," she added. "I look around the room and see people from all walks of life. I see this is a very diverse, multicultural school, and even if you don't speak the same language, we speak music."

Black, nominated for Single of the Year for her remake of the Etta James hit "Seven Day Fool" and for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for Revival, credits her mother for her success.

"I'm the youngest of nine children raised by a single mother all by herself," said an emotional Black, a declaration that seemed to strike a chord with her young audience.

"Yeah, give Mama a round of applause," she said to the cheers that went up in the crowd.

Black's appearance at the school was the official kickoff to Juno weekend, which includes concerts, the traditional Juno Cup hockey game, a fan fest and two nights of award shows culminating in Sunday's televised CTV broadcast.

The school's band performed on new instruments purchased with its 2007-2008 $10,000 Band Aid grant from MusiCan, the charitable arm of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. CTV announced a $2.3-million donation to MusiCan yesterday.

Black said music can be a lifeline for young people, as it was for her.

"I look at you guys holding on to your instruments and it's a beautiful thing because your instrument is the one thing that won't let you down," she said.

Her story touched Bryce Motley, who at 14, has been doing percussion for three years. "It has given me something to do when I'm bored and it's brought my grades up," he said quietly.

"I know who she is and like her music a lot. I think she's a really good inspiration for everybody out there."

Myspace To Launch Online Music Service

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Alex Veiga,
The Associated Press

(April 03, 2008) LOS ANGELES–News Corp.'s MySpace said Thursday it will launch an online music venture designed to turn the social networking site's trove of musician profile pages into portals for selling everything from concert tickets and band merchandise to the music itself.

Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp. are participating in the new venture, dubbed
MySpace Music, which will roll out gradually in coming months.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but each of the music companies will receive an unspecified equity stake in the new company, said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace co-founder and chief executive.

The fourth-largest music company, EMI Group PLC, is not part of the deal.

DeWolfe said MySpace is in licensing talks with "everyone" but declined to say where discussions stand with EMI, home to artists such as Coldplay and Norah Jones.

MySpace Music will enable artists to sell music downloads, concert tickets, merchandise such as T-shirts through their profile pages and ringtones through News Corp.'s Jamba mobile service unit, MySpace said. "We believe that the Web is becoming increasingly more social," DeWolfe said during a conference call. "MySpace Music is a new way of experiencing music online that everyone can participate in.''

Fans also will be able stream audio and video for free through the profile pages.

DeWolfe said some tracks will be sold without copy-protection safeguards but noted that the major labels had committed only to experimenting with offering content in an unrestricted format.

The company declined to discuss pricing or other revenue details.

MySpace has more than 5 million profile pages showcasing major label artists, independents and unsigned acts. All those artists would eventually be able to take advantage of MySpace Music's offerings, the company said.

MySpace Music will operate as a separate company, with a president who reports to DeWolfe and to a board of directors that will include representatives from the recording companies.

MySpace had been discussing the venture with music companies for several months, and MySpace and Universal Music apparently overcame a major hurdle in the process – a copyright infringement lawsuit Universal brought against MySpace in 2006.

Representatives for both companies declined to comment Thursday when asked whether a settlement had been reached.

Sony BMG is a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG.

Shares of Warner Music slipped 7 cents, or about 1 percent, to $5.72 in midday trading. News Corp. shares were down 2 cents to $19.98.

Q&A: Russell Peters

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 04, 2008) Russell Peters, the comedy superstar who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, is host of tomorrow night's Juno Awards. The 37-year-old Anglo-Indian Canadian – who has positioned himself as the immigrant everyman – delights in taking jabs at just about every colour and culture. As he explains to Gayle MacDonald, no subject is taboo – except for religion. That's “a mess,” the funny guy explains, just not worth taking on.

Do you find musicians funny? And are you going to do any impersonations tomorrow night?

I'm going to see how it goes. I'm more of a wing-it kind of guy. But I think Anne Murray would be fun to play with. She's so legendary. I need someone who is legendary, and whose ego is not that fragile. I wanted to bring all the classic rock guys to the Junos – like Loverboy, Trooper, Triumph, Chilliwack. But the Juno people slapped me down. They were, like, this isn't a retro show. And I said, I know, but all those guys could use a paycheque.

How did the Juno people come to invite you to host their event?

They saw me hosting a Gilda's Club [the cancer-survivors' support centre] event in Toronto in November. They liked the way I held it down. They asked if I would host it. I said, hell, yeah.

That do you think of the Junos being held in Calgary?

It's good. Hey, I'm from Toronto, and it would have been cool to have it in Toronto. But I understand we have a whole country we have to think about. And not everything can be built around the centre of the universe. If it were up to me, I would have had it in Brampton.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

I liked a lot of classic rock, and nerdy rock like Steely Dan. I was also really into Kiss when I was a kid. If you call back on this phone, my voicemail is Gene Simmons; it's my friend Craig, who does this incredible impersonation of Gene. I've met Simmons a couple of times. The first time, he said to me, ‘You're a very talented and handsome man.' Then I saw him in Vegas, and I said to him, ‘I've met you before.' And he said, ‘Yes, you are a very talented and handsome man.' I was, like, wait a minute: Gene's playing me for a fool.

How come you won't take on religion?

People die for religion. I'm not religious. I don't want to get stuck in that mess.

You now live in Los Angeles and Las Vegas? Do you like the United States?

I really do like it. I like the feeling there that anything can happen to you. You can be anything you want to be. It's not like in Canada, where it's like: You can be anything you want to be, but why would you want to do that?

Last year, you became the first comedian to sell out Toronto's Air Canada Centre. Your YouTube videos have been viewed by more than six million people, and your website gets over 10,000 hits a day. Did you ever expect to be such a comedic sensation?

I honestly did not. I would go to a Raptors game in Toronto, and I would sit there, and I wouldn't watch the game. I'd just be looking around, going, ‘Wow, look at how big this is, how many people are here.' I guess I always had it in the back of my head that this is how I would have loved things to turn out. I guess I'm truly Canadian, because it's not that I expected less from life, I just didn't expect this much.

West Coast Musicians Take Home One-Third Of Jazz Awards

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 09, 2008)  The Toronto jazz cognoscenti's annual love-in at the Palais Royale last night was a celebration of the past and future.

The seventh annual
National Jazz Awards paid tribute to late trailblazers Doug Riley, Oscar Peterson and Jeff Healey while promoting the next generation with performances by up-and-comers such as 14-year-old singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky and bassist Brandi Disterheft, who on the weekend won a Juno for her album Debut.

The West Coast was the night's big awardee, sweeping a third of the 31 categories.

With three prizes apiece, Vancouver bassist Jodi Proznick tied with Toronto pianist Hilario Duran for the most hardware.

In addition to top honours for their instruments, Proznick saw her quartet win for Acoustic Band and Top Album (Foundations) while Duran was lauded for his Latin Jazz Big Band and named SOCAN Composer of the Year.

The Vancouver Jazz Festival was named the country's best, as was Vancouver-based record label Cellar Live. Other B.C. musicians to score included Phil Dwyer (Arranger and Saxophonist), Brad Turner (Producer and Trumpeter) and Joe Coughlin (Male Vocalist).

The upbeat, three-hour event gave way to sombre reflection during the posthumous awards to celebrated arranger and keyboardist Doug Riley (Jazz Pioneer), who died last August; piano legend Peterson (Musician of the Year), who died in December; and guitar great Healey (Artist of Distinction), who died last month in Toronto.

"He was equally remarkable as a father to us," said Riley's sons Ben and Jessie. "He would want everyone to pass on to the next generation to come the passion he had for music and life."

Other winners included: Hugh Fraser (Trombonist); Barry Romberg Random Access (Electric Band); Jesse Zubot (Violinist); Nancy Walker (Keyboardist); Wynton Marsalis (International Musicain); and Emilie-Claire Barlow (Female Voclaist).

Perennial winners clarinettist Phil Nimmons, drummer Terry Clarke and instrumentalist Don Thompson won their categories.

Media awards went to former Star columnist Geoff Chapman, CBC Radio's Katie Malloch and photographer Don Vickery.

With files from The Canadian Press

HipHopCanada.com & UMAC Form Alliance

Source: 
HipHopCanada.com & UMAC (Urban Music Association of Canada)

(April 9, 2008) In the spirit of community, communication & commitment to excellence, UMAC, The Urban Music Association of Canada & HipHopCanada (HHC), have come together to forge an alliance that will look to create & solidify true identity and tangible growth opportunities for urban music artists in Canada.

  
“UMAC looks forward to building with a global partner in HipHopCanada”, said Will Strickland, President of UMAC. “The Association feels securing strategic alliances that make sense to the mutual benefit of not only the principal parties, but our constituents across Canada & around the world will only aid in the development of a unique urban music culture in this country. This union will help in establishing infrastructure for live music performance across Canada, where it has never existed before with urban artists, but it will also look to enhance means for the artists’ visual expressions to be exposed on a wider basis as well as seeking commercial radio outlets for their musical offerings.
  
Commenting on the partnership, Jesse Plunkett, Founder & Co-President of HipHopCanada, said “Our new alliance with UMAC is a great step towards further supporting urban musicians in Canada. With common interests at hand, both UMAC and HHC compliment each other in securing the objective of uplifting the growth, knowledge and prosperity of our artists around the country. UMAC is a cornerstone of our urban community and this collaboration will allow for the strengths of both organizations to support each other's initiatives at full capacity.”
  
The partnership of UMAC & HHC will begin initially as a cross branding exercise to establish brand identity & recognition, leading to brand loyalty for both organizations. Over the next two years, HHC & UMAC will endeavour to bring the best in education, information, performance prospects, support & artist advocacy through a multitude of campaigns & events. These efforts will be supported in both analog & digital worlds, across multichanneled silos of exposure. From showcases, workshops, seminars & conferences, to information/performance webcasts & the flagship event honouring the best & brightest in the country’s emerging urban artists, The Canadian Urban Music Awards or “CUMAs”, a nationally televised awards show.
 
For more information, please contact:
  
Will Strickland / President, UMAC at umacgoturb@gmail.com / or call 416.916.2874 or info@hiphopcanada.com / 613.749.7777 / http://www.HipHopCanada.com

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Plaza Hotel Is No Longer Your Rich But Frumpy Maiden Aunt

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Toronto Star

(April 03, 2008) NEW YORK–Lyricist Sammy Cahn knew what he was talking about when he wrote "Love is lovelier the second time around" ... and he never even got to see the new Plaza Hotel.

When the repository of so many people's fantasies and dreams closed its doors on April 30, 2005 for a $400-million renovation, it was generally assumed that an era had ended; nothing as luxurious as The Plaza would ever come back again. And in a way, the naysayers were right, because the new Plaza is nothing at all like the old Plaza: it's better.

From the second you walk in, you sense a whole new energy. Gone is the grand but slightly frumpy décor that sometimes made you feel you were staying with the richest (but possibly dullest) maiden aunt in existence. Everything now is fresh and dazzling.

Don't get me wrong, the Plaza has not been modernized by any means – at least not in the broad architectural sense. The same period grandeur exists, but it's as though a very perky fairy godmother has waved her magic wand, creating a whole new world of colour and light.

You still enter through those beloved revolving doors that overlook Fifth Ave., and the Palm Court waits ahead, but there is a surprise in store.

For the last 65 years, the ceiling of the famed tea-time rendezvous had been destroyed and plastered over. Renovations revealed that what was known as a Laylight, a form of stained glass ceiling that reflected the changing times of day.

It enhances the whole mood of the place and – coupled with the new cuisine of Chef Didier Virot – make it one of the must-sees on a visit to Manhattan, although at $60 for tea, you have to wonder what kind of allowance the legendary child Eloise (of Kay Thompson storybook fame) was on.

"To be honest, it's a little bit pricey," admits Eleanor Strasser of Philadelphia, who's been coming to the Palm Court since she was a teenager in the 1950s, "but I'm so happy to see it looking so beautiful again, that it's worth it."

To the right of the Palm Court are the exclusive condos with price tags that start well into the seven figures and occupy most of the Central Park views. But there are compensations for those who are only visiting.

Turn left, through a high-ceilinged room illuminated by stunning Baccarat Crystal chandeliers and you find yourself in the new Champagne Bar, where it's possible to sit in comfortable chairs, tipple elegantly on your cocktail of choice, or discretely munch a few oysters while watching the passing parade.

"I'd never been to The Plaza in the old days," says Chuck Drayton from Indianapolis, "but I can't picture it being any better than this. For the price of a drink you can sit here and soak up all the luxury you want."

(Other prominent Plaza watering holes such as the Oak Bar and the Oak Room won't open until later this spring.)

Off in the corner is the check-in facility, where you can stake your claim to one of 282 guestrooms and suites that are now available.

And ultimately, although a hotel can have public areas of unsurpassing splendour and external décor to die for, it's what inside the actual rooms themselves that matters, and here's where The Plaza comes into its own. Hearkening back to the days of true splendour in service, there is a butler on every floor, available 24/7.

There are seven distinct designs and layouts, preventing a "cookie-cutter" feel, and the furnishings in each room have unique elements that set them off from each other.

But there are several traits in common.

The luxurious décor of the Louis XV period reigns everywhere, with clean white walls and bright chandeliers providing the perfect background for the richly textured furnishings.

And the bathrooms proudly trumpet their status as the only ones in the world to use 24 karat-gold plated Sherle Wagner sinks and fixtures in every bathroom.

My favourite innovation, however, is the AMX system, a small wireless, handheld device about the size of a portable DVD player which allows the guest the ability to control every aspect of his environment – light, sound, temperature, audio-visuals, etc.

And if anything is needed from the butler, maid or concierge, a quick touch on AMX is all it takes to make contact.

The best of modern technology combined with a fresh, restated look at the elegance of the past. That's the most accurate way to describe the Plaza of 2008.

All this luxury doesn't come without a price. The cheapest room is just over $700 (U.S.) right now and during the holiday season, will set you back $1,100 a night. And the suites? Well if you want one at Christmastime, be prepared to shell out $4,000 an evening.

Yes, it's beyond most of our price ranges, but the Plaza has always been a place for celebrating special occasions and watching dreams come true.

Richard Ouzounian is the Star's Theatre critic.

::JUNO COVERAGE::

 Saturday's Early Winners At The 2008 Juno Awards

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 05, 2008) CALGARY - The bulk of the Juno Awards were handed out at a private gala Saturday. A look at the winners:

International album of the year: "Girl Gone Bad," Rihanna

Artist of the year: Feist

New artist of the year: Serena Ryder

Songwriter of the year: Feist

Adult alternative album of the year: "Small Miracles," Blue Rodeo

Alternative album of the year: "Neon Bible," Arcade Fire

Rock album of the year: "Them vs. You vs. Me," Finger Eleven

Vocal jazz album of the year: "Make Someone Happy," Sophie Milman

Contemporary jazz album of the year: "Almost Certainly Dreaming," The Chris Tarry Group

Traditional jazz album of the year: "Debut," Brandi Disterheft

Instrumental album of the year: "The Utmost," Jayme Stone

Francophone album of the year: "L'echec du material," Daniel Belanger

Children’s album of the year: "Music Soup," Jen Gould

Classical album of the year: Solo or chamber ensemble: "Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano," Marc-Andre Hamelin

Classical album of the year: Large ensemble or soloist(s) with large ensemble: "Korngold, Barber & Walton Violin Concertos," James Ehnes, Bramwell Tovey, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Classical album of the year: vocal or choral performance: "Surprise," Maesha Brueggergosman

Classical composition of the year: "Constantinople," Christos Hatzis

Rap recording of the year: "The Revolution," Belly

Dance recording of the year: "All U Ever Want," Billy Newton-Davis vs. Deadmau5

R&B/Soul recording of the year: "Revival," Jully Black

Reggae recording of the year: "Don't Go Pretending," Mikey Dangerous

Aboriginal recording of the year: "The Dirty Looks," Derek Miller

Roots & traditional album of the year: Solo: "Right of Passage," David Francey

Roots & traditional album of the year: Group: "Key Principles," Nathan

Blues album of the year: "Building Full of Blues," FATHEAD

Contemporary Christian/Gospel album of the year: "Holy God," Brian Doerksen

World music album of the year: "Agua Del Pozo," Alex Cuba

Jack Richardson producer of the year: Joni Mitchell, "Shine" by Joni Mitchell

Recording engineer of the year: Kevin Churko, "Black Rain" by Ozzy Osborne

CD/DVD artwork design of the year: "Neon Bible," Arcade Fire

Video of the year: "C'mon," Blue Rodeo

Music DVD of the year: "666 Live," Billy Talent

Feist, Blue Rodeo Pick Up Two Junos

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 06, 2008) CALGARY — Buoyed by a year of accolades and international acclaim, indie sensation Leslie Feist heads into Sunday's Junos bash poised to dominate the Canadian music awards with two coveted trophies already under her belt.

Just three years after the Junos crowned her new artist of the year, Feist graduated to artist of the year at a private dinner gala Saturday that saw her beat out such industry veterans as Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Michael Buble and newcomer Pascale Picard.

The 32-year-old songstress, who exploded onto the international scene when her infectious tune 1 2 3 4 and accompanying video were featured in an IPod commercial, also took songwriter of the year honours.

Feist is up for three more trophies Sunday: single, album and pop album of the year. Serena Ryder was named this year's best new artist.

Members of the band Finger Eleven play with their Juno award after winning Rock Album of the Year during the Juno Gala Awards in Calgary Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Other multiple winners Saturday included Montreal-based indie band Arcade Fire, who collected trophies for best alternative album for Neon Bible, and CD/DVD artwork design, for Neon Bible.

Pop veterans Blue Rodeo won best adult alternative album for Small Miracles, and best video for C'mon. They're also up for best group on Sunday.

"Thanks a lot folks," singer Greg Keelor said as he took the stage with bandmates to collect the ninth Juno of their career.

"It's very nice of you to still remember us and put in a few votes for us."

Backstage, singer Jim Cuddy said it was still a thrill to be recognized for their work, adding that awards-show jitters never go away.

"It still leaves us tongue-tied up there, you know," Cuddy said backstage. "But to be three decades into it and still be up for awards, is, I think, still a big deal."

Leading the nominees Sunday are Dion, who lost in two categories Saturday but is up for four more; and Buble, also up for four. Lavigne is up for three trophies after losing the best artist and songwriter awards to Feist.

It has been an exceptional year for Feist, whose eclectic disc, The Reminder, also garnered the Calgary-bred artist four Grammy nominations in February and a Brit Award nomination for best international female.

"It's not really my world, you know?" Feist said earlier this year in Los Angeles when asked about the flood of attention.

"It's very recognized and above-the-radar. (When nominated for the Junos in 2005) I still felt like a furtive little animal on tour, secretly, no one noticing and (I was) content there."

The bulk of the Juno trophies were handed out at an industry-only dinner MC'd by opera soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who won best vocal classical album for her disc, Surprise, and offered up one of the most emotional acceptance speeches of the night

"This is so awkward!" Brueggergosman exclaimed as she took the podium, promptly bursting into a mix of tears and giddy laughter as she thanked her husband and struggled to compose herself.

"Third-time nominated, first time winner!" she blurted out to applause.

Other winners included Jully Black with Revival for best R&B/soul recording, Finger Eleven with Them vs. You vs. Me for best rock album and Belly with The Revolution for best rap recording. Joni Mitchell was named best producer for her work on Shine, her first album of new material in about a decade.

Violinist James Ehnes, conductor Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra won classical album of the year: large ensemble or soloist(s) with large ensemble for Korngold, Barber & Walton Violin Concertos. The same release took home a Grammy award in February.

Comedian Russell Peters hosts Sunday's televised bash, set to feature performances by nominees Anne Murray, Feist, Hedley and Lavigne as well as a country tribute including Paul Brandt, Shane Yellowbird and Aaron Lines.

Thousands of music fans were expected to fill the Saddledome, with Juno organizers announcing Saturday that 500 extra tickets had been made available, ranging in price from $30 to $180.

The show airs live in most parts of the country on CTV.

What's Right With Canadian Music, On Juno Sunday

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(April 06, 2008) As the 2008 Juno Awards, the annual celebration of Canadian pop music's best and brightest, are set to roll out tonight in Calgary, it's time to pause for a few moments to consider what's really good and what's not so good about Canadian music.

We asked a bevy of long-time Canadian music industry movers and shakers, observers, promoters, backers, boosters and broadcasters what they think are the five best and worst things about the music we're making in the new millennium. Not surprisingly perhaps, their lists were remarkably similar, even if their reasons for including certain topics differed.

Let's start our 2008 state of the music union report with things going right. (The flip-side is below.)

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Canadian music has something better going for it on the international stage these days than a distinctive identity; it has identities.

The names, work and reputations of countless diverse artists, independent and major label-aligned alike, are known and respected in markets well beyond the nation's borders – in Australia, Europe and Asia.

"They know who the Trews are, they know what the McDades and the Sadies and Death From Above sound like, they can name half a dozen songs by Dave Gunning or Alana Levandoski or Jill Barber in cities from Sydney to Luxembourg," says veteran Canadian music journalist Larry Leblanc, who manages Levandoski and publishes her music.

The counter-reaction to the MTV-isation of the world's above-radar cultural output has worked favourably for a great number of Canadian roots and alternative acts, Leblanc explains.

The Internet has shrunk the world, and that has been a boon to Canadian music. Artists don't necessarily have go to the U.S. for validation as they had up to about 10 years ago.

VIVA VARIETY: A high level of musical diversity – and high tolerance for that diversity – mean Canadian musicians are unlikely to follow trends marketed by radio and commercial media. They are also less willing than their foreign counterparts to fall in behind the latest musical fashion parade.

"The motivation of musical artists since the recording industry began has been to get a record deal and a recording in heavy rotation on commercial radio playlists," Leblanc says. "This may have been a financial bonanza for those lucky enough to play the game well and to score, but the result was an undeniable homogeneity."

Canada used to play that game, but no more. In the so-called golden years of Canadian pop and rock in the 1980s and '90s, with the exception of Bryan Adams, BTO and a few others, one band signed to a major label sounded a lot like another.

For 95 per cent of artists in the new millennium, there is no single motivation, no visible goal, no obvious modus operandi. No major Canadian label has signed a new artist in the past four or five years – they simply can't afford the upkeep in a music universe where revenues have been savaged up to 35 per cent by free Internet downloading. Radio playlists, which tend to focus on Hot Adult Contemporary offerings, exclude the vastly diverse forms of music Canadians are making and recording independently.

So, knowing they're shut out of the commercial market, Canadian musical artists no longer need to conform. Indeed, it's better not to sound like anyone else, not to do things the way they've been done before. The result is a teeming – though undernourished – richly diverse musical culture.

WRITERS RULE: With apologies to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which is the producer-of-record of the annual Juno Awards, one of the best things that has happened to Canadian music in recent years is the establishment of The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

While the Junos seem to have devolved from a non-partisan celebration of Canadian musical achievement into a money- and sales-oriented grabfest overseen by, and for the benefit of, a diminishing number of major record labels and a ratings-driven TV network anxious for a glitzy pop package that it can sell to broadcasters elsewhere, the hall of fame provides, says Leblanc, "a framing reference, a historical template complete with illustrative footnotes, of who we are as defined by the music we make."

The annual songwriters hall of fame concert gala, staged early in the New Year, is a non-competitive, non-commercial, non-partisan exposition of Canada's most popular form of self-expression, the narrative song. Generous and inclusive, it boasts no winners and disappoints no losers.

And despite CBC-TV's knuckleheaded decision to cut the French-language artists and awards recipients – half the nation's songwriting contingent – from this year's broadcast, it has potential to be the most honest, affirming, feel-good music extravaganza of them all.

LONELY SOUNDS: Distance, isolation and long, cold winters make Canadian music strong and distinct, or so one argument goes. The best of Canada's songs over the past 40 years contain discrete or oblique lyrical and musical references that underscore the relationships of specific places, regions and times of the year to emotional and spiritual states that Canadians recognize intuitively and that others find unusual and compelling.

Vast geography and extreme weather are also responsible, many argue, for the irregularly high number of solo singer-songwriters Canada has produced. The weather forces them to spend long periods contemplating, refining, practising, and the distances between major urban centres – prohibitively expensive for bands to traverse – are just more story-filled roads to the solo vagabond troubadour with a guitar on his or her back.

"Canada has produced an extraordinary number of independent solo artists simply because the geography is easier for a single artist to move in – and not so great for bands with truckloads of equipment, travel and accommodation expenses," says roots music promoter and long-time music publicist Richard Flohil.

CAN-CON CAN: Canadian content regulations for radio and Canada's unique music-funding infrastructure – the broadcast-industry financed FACTOR, VIDEOFACT and Radio Starmaker funding schemes, as well as Canada Council and provincial Arts Council grants – "is the envy of the world," says Bernie Finkelstein, retired founder of venerable independent roots music label, True North Records, and the chair of the VIDEOFACT music video fund.

"It's a support system that acknowledges the value of Canadian music, and is responsible for jump-starting the careers of countless artists."

What's Wrong With Canadian Music, On Juno Sunday

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(April 06, 2008) BAD BREAKS: Too few new Canadian artists get played on Canadian commercial radio, due primarily to the narrow range of music formats available in this country.

We have no domestic equivalents of the popular Triple A – Adult Album Alternative, which features a wider and more comprehensive playlist than other formats and targets adult listeners rather than teenagers – or the folk/blues/alt.country/neo-traditional and roots-music dominated Americana formats.

Ironically, the majority of new Canadian music fits easily into the parameters of one or both, yet with the exception of Alberta's CKUA public radio network and maybe CBC Radio 2's supposedly all-inclusive new format, to be launched in September, there's no radio space in Canada for artists other than pop, hip-hop and rock acts with major-label backing and music that fits existing commercial, teen-targeted playlists.

What keeps independent Canadian music off Canadian radio – apart from the golden oldies and classic rock with which radio stations meet their 35- and 40-per-cent Canadian content requirements – is "bad music," says Gary Slaight, former CEO of Standard Radio Inc.

"By that I mean music that's not format-focused, music that's outside of where radio's at, and to a lesser extent, products that aren't up to the standards of the remaining 65 per cent of what gets onto playlists, in terms of production and the quality of songs," says Slaight, now CEO of a communications company with interests in Internet and satellite broadcasting and music production.

"You sometimes have to play music that you wouldn't otherwise program, just to fill Cancon quotas." Over the years, that situation hasn't made commercial radio particularly friendly to homegrown music, he suggests.

TOO SHELTERED: If Canadian music once suffered from an identity crisis and a lack of self-esteem in the 1960s and 70s, nowadays is suffers from a false sense of security, Slaight believes.

"Because they have access to airplay (via Cancon requirements imposed on radio stations by the federal broadcast regulator) and an abundance of funding sources, too many Canadian acts stumble when they get out into the real world where an abundance of talent is what really counts."

That few Canadian acts have crashed the international star barrier has made private investors and major labels wary of committing sufficient amounts of money to developing new ones, he adds.

SYSTEM ERRORS: An underdeveloped infrastructure – good managers, agents, music publishers and self-sustaining record companies (that don't have to rely on government or government-enforced private funding) – prevents worthy musical acts from getting the attention, work, recording opportunities and radio access they deserve.

"After 30 years, we still don't have a decent business infrastructure, despite the emergence of a few super-managers and independent label bosses like (Nettwerk's) Terry McBride," says Leblanc. "We can't find the money to develop a band from the ground up, yet there's always a spare $100,000 for yet another seminar on what's wrong with the Canadian music business."

The problem is not just financial, Slaight adds. "In fact, there's too much cash available from governments and broadcasters (through FACTOR, Radio Starmaker, VIDEOFACT and Arts Councils) but no grand game plan as to how the cash can be best used."

SQUEEZED OUT: Few Canadian music and musicians have the lustre to compete for attention in increasingly celebrity-centric media – particularly newspapers and television.

"The Canadian media seem still to be in awe of all things foreign, and not so interested in what's going on in our own back yard," says Finkelstein. "As newspapers diminish in size and domestic television programming is dominated by the output of global media conglomerates, mass-appeal, middle-of-the-road music gets the attention. Canadian music suffers for lack of space in the Canadian media."

DOWNLOADING DILEMMA: Canadian music is burdened by antiquated copyright laws that permit unfettered free music downloading on peer-to-peer Internet file-sharing networks, depriving music creators of sales and royalties, says songwriter/producer and educator Blair Packham.

Canadians are world's most active free music downloaders.

"The fallout is enormous. Countless recording facilities have disappeared, artists can't afford to pay for sessions that would produce competitive music, recording budgets are a fraction of what they were just 10 years ago, and the prospects of pursuing a career in music are negligible," Packham says. "Why would you make music that's just going to be given away?"

Feist Is The Junos Homecoming Queen

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(April 07, 2008) CALGARY–Homecomings don't get any sweeter than this.

Calgary expat
Leslie Feist likely isn't lying awake at night pining for official endorsement by Canada's music industry now that she's been on the Grammy Awards and even Sting and Sesame Street want to work with her, but it's gotta be nice to win a pile of Junos within easy reach of a home-cooked meal and a cozy bed at your parents' house.

Feist went three-for-three during last night's 2008 Juno Awards ceremony from the mildly iconic Pengrowth Saddledome, cementing a sweep begun during Saturday evening's pre-awards Juno gala of all five categories in which she was nominated. By the end of the weekend, she'd scored honours as Artist and Songwriter of the year, Album and Pop Album of the year for last year's smash hit The Reminder and Single of the Year for the ubiquitous "1234," familiar to millions through its sage placement in an iPod Nano commercial.

"I'm feeling overwhelmed," said the beaming Broken Social Scene compatriot and former Toronto indie scenester as she arrived on the red carpet. "It's a little insane."

Feist acknowledged backstage that the seeds of her illustrious, jet-setting pop career were sewn in and around the Saddledome. Some of her first shows with her fellow "D.I.Y., 16-year-old, scrappy kids" in teenage punk outfit Placebo were booked at a community centre mere blocks away, while the first concert she ever saw was Tina Turner in the `Dome at age 8.

Still, after spending three low-key weeks with her family in Calgary, Feist remained humbled in victory by the fact that she was still being ordered to vacuum around the parental home. Plus, after last night, her work with Broken Social Scene and her acclaimed 2004 debut, Let It Die, too, has now granted her enough Juno statuettes that her mother is joking about starting a makeshift foosball table with them

"There's, like, nine of them now and they all live at her house," laughed Feist. "So she's going to get some kind of football game going between them."

For an ex-punk rocker who's starting to get "superstar" affixed to her name on a regular basis, the 32-year-old Feist sufficiently adhered to the "keep it real" ethos after accepting her first award of the evening to give shoutouts to Canadian indie heroes Corb Lund – for whose former band, the Smalls, Placebo used to open years ago – and the Constantines, along with Toronto artist and Three Gut Records co-founder Tyler Clark Burke, in her acceptance speech.

"I guess I should acknowledge the fact that I was on the Grammy Awards – you might have heard of them, the American Junos – but this feels better. Not because I won a bunch of them, and thanks for that, but this just feels better," she said, and name-checked another round of underground Can-rock commodities like the Sadies and Julie Doiron.

The Juno haul and hometown stopover merely marked a "pit stop" on a global tour that "keeps going on forever," said Feist, now somewhat vindicated in Canada after being shut out in four categories at the Grammys last month, but still too busy to celebrate.

Her only reward to herself? "I had a 22-minute massage today."

Beloved Toronto roots-rock mainstays Blue Rodeo were the only other multiple winners when the final Juno votes were tallied, adding Group of the Year last night to a haul begun on Saturday with trophies for "adult alternative" Album of the Year for Small Miracles and Video of the Year for Christopher Mills’ clip for "C'mon."

Vancouver-bred Michael Bublé, who took home the Fan Choice Award, demonstrated why he's charmed so many millions of (mostly female) fans – not to mention Grammy and Juno voters – with his suave pop-stylist schtick by unleashing a raunchy stand-up comedy routine backstage fit to match Juno host Russell Peters. Onstage, Bublé joked that his viewer-voted award was "for all the people who said I couldn't vote for myself enough times to win."

Reunited Toronto hitmakers Triumph were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. They didn't perform – they're still in rehearsals for their first tour in about 15 years. "We're just gonna keep doing it until something good happens," said drummer Gil Moore.

On the whole, the evening actually proved a nice saving of face for the Junos, which have taken strides towards a semblance of hipness in recent years by involving younger, independent acts like Feist, k-os and the Arcade Fire – who snagged awards for alternative album of the year and CD/DVD packaging on Saturday night – but looked to be skewing more mainstream this year by giving prominent performance spots to Avril Lavigne, Anne Murray (who traded verses with Jann Arden and Sarah Brightman), Burlington's Finger Eleven, classical songstress Measha Brueggergosman and Bublé.

Key to the bounce back might have getting comedian Peters to host. The Brampton native introduced an element of irreverence to the show, which has relied on iffy emceeing by pop stars like Alanis Morissette, the Barenaked Ladies and Nelly Furtado – and a dismal 2006 showing by the wooden Pamela Anderson – in recent years.

He got off one of his best lines to open the gig: "I've never actually seen the Juno Awards, to be honest with you, which I guess makes me Canadian."

Peters was pleased with the cowboy attire he'd been required to sport for part of the show.

"Other than the really tight Wranglers, it's really not a bad outfit to wear. The boots are a little tight, but the cowboy hat is actually alright," he said. "I would host it 10 time over if they asked me...I'm glad they let me do it. And nobody at any point was ever, `Russell, don't do it.' They didn't censor me at all. They sorta tried to say `Don't say this' but I said it anyway and nobody's feelings were hurt, so clearly it worked."

Last night's winners

Seven awards were handed out during last night's live broadcast:

JUNO FAN CHOICE AWARD: Michael Bublé

SINGLE OF THE YEAR: "1 2 3 4," Feist

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The Reminder, Feist

NEW GROUP OF THE YEAR: Wintersleep

GROUP OF THE YEAR: Blue Rodeo

COUNTRY RECORDING OF THE YEAR: Risk, Paul Brandt

POP ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The Reminder, Feist
Jeff Mcintosh/The Canadian Press

::MUSIC NEWS::

 Juno-Winning Jazz Bassist Brandi Disterheft Hardly Takes A Back Seat

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
J.D. Considine

(April 8, 2008) Bass is a feminine instrument, according to former Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. "It's not that women play better," she has said. "The dynamic of bass in a band is to follow and nurture. Women are a lot more capable of that."

Brandi Disterheft respectfully disagrees. "I take, like, the opposite view actually," the 29-year old jazz bassist says. "I think you can really control [a band] and definitely be bossy. Sometimes when I play music, I do really like to try to direct things, to be creative and change it up."

Unlike Auf der Maur, who has a big amp and a stack of speakers with which to nurture, Disterheft does her bossing with a double bass. And even though her instrument is bigger than she is, there's no doubt who's in charge.

Indeed, Disterheft is at the moment the hottest bassist in Canadian jazz. On Saturday, her debut album, Debut, won the Juno for Best Traditional Jazz Recording, and tonight she competes against such veterans as Dave Young, Neil Swainson and Mike Milligan in the bass category of the National Jazz Awards. The awards program, which includes a performance by Disterheft, takes place at the Palais Royale in Toronto.

Disterheft is obviously flattered by the attention, yet remains admirably modest. "To work hard at what you do and then receive recognition, that's fantastic," she says, adding that she was happy to be nominated in the Jazz Awards alongside such great players. "And it's also really great to see my friend Jodi Proznick nominated. She was always a really big influence, and she was from the West Coast as well."

Although she currently calls Toronto her home, Disterheft hails from North Vancouver. "I got a scholarship to come to Humber College," she says, explaining the move east. "So, not thinking I'd pursue music, I went off to music school, and then, you know, sooner or later you get hooked."

She actually started off in music as a pianist. "Well, my mom's a jazz piano player, and both my parents love jazz," she says. "I started off playing piano, since I was young, and then switched to double bass at the beginning of high school, when I was 13."

It didn't take long for Disterheft to feel at home in the bass chair. "I took a liking to it early on," she says. "I felt that you could really drive the band - a lot was on me to make it sound good. With piano, you could look at like you're just playing fills. But bass, you're really like the bus driver of the band, and you're really in control. I like that."

Unsurprisingly, Disterheft lists Charles Mingus - a bassist famous for being able to drive and control a band - as one of her major influences. "Mingus is fantastic," she says. "He's definitely a great influence as a writer and as a player. ... I got a lot from listening to him."

Lately, she has emulated Mingus's thumping big sound by replacing the steel strings most modern double bassists use with gut strings, like jazz bassists in the 1940s and 1950s used. "I really like that old-school sound," she says. "With the gut strings, the bass has a bigger sound, and can really create forward motion and propel the band.

"And then not many players have it, and that's great too," she adds. "So you have a different sound."

Although Disterheft has been spending time in New York, where she has been studying with a classical double bassist, she manages to stay quite busy in Toronto. "When I'm in town, I'm playing almost every night." In addition to her own band, she and drummer Sly Juhas also play in the Richard Whiteman Trio. "Richard kind of took us under his wing about four years ago, and we've learned so much from him," she says. "It's been fantastic, learning the tradition and playing straight ahead, similar to Tommy Flanagan and the Oscar Peterson Trio."

But her favourite gigs in Toronto aren't in jazz clubs, but in an after-hours joint on Stafford Street called Lorraine's. "She's an elderly woman, and she's been running it for years," Disterheft says. "It happens every other Saturday night, from about 1 to 5 in the morning, and it's such a really great venue, because at around 3 a.m., it's just jam-packed with people - usually younger people - and they're dancing.

"It's a real treat to play jazz music to a packed house where they're absolutely going crazy dancing."

The National Jazz Awards program takes place this evening at the Palais Royale, 1601 Lake Shore Blvd., in Toronto. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 8. Tickets are $65 (416-870-8000).

Poetic Power, Impact Net Dylan Rock's First Prize

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press, with files  from Richard Ouzounian

(April 08, 2008) NEW YORK–Thanks to Bob Dylan, rock 'n' roll has finally broken through the Pulitzer wall.

Dylan, the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, received an honorary Pulitzer Prize yesterday, cited for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

It was the first time Pulitzer judges, who have long favoured classical music and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive.

"I am in disbelief," Dylan fan and fellow Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz said of Dylan's award. Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a tragic, but humorous story of desire, politics and violence among Dominicans at home and in the United States, won the fiction prize.

The Pulitzer for drama was given to Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, which, like Diaz's novel, combines comedy and brutality. Letts calls the play "loosely autobiographical," a bruising family battle spanning several generations of unhappiness and unfulfilled dreams.

"It's a play I have been working on in my head and on paper for many years now," said Letts, reached by The Associated Press in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theater Company, where August had its world premiere last summer.

Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian says yesterday's win surprised nobody and delighted everybody.

The buzz had been strong since the play opened in Chicago that it was the script to beat.

When it moved to New York last fall, with its Steppenwolf production virtually intact, it received the kind of rave reviews serious plays seldom get any more.

Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass, a National Book Award winner for Time and Materials, won the poetry Pulitzer, as did Philip Schultz's Failure. Other winners yesterday: Daniel Walker Howe, for history, for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848; Saul Friedlander, general nonfiction, for The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945; for biography, John Matteson's Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father.

Dylan's victory doesn't mean the Pulitzers have forgotten classical composers. The competitive prize for music was given to David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion.

Long after most of his contemporaries died, left the business or held on by the ties of nostalgia, Dylan continues to tour and release highly regarded CDs, most recently Modern Times.

His songs include countless biblical references and he has claimed Chekhov, Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac as influences.

His memoir, Chronicles, Volume One, received a National Book Critics Circle nomination in 2005 and is widely acknowledged as the rare celebrity book that can be treated as literature.

Lavigne Can Definitely Do Better

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 08, 2008) Avril Lavigne's concert at the Air Canada Centre last night is best illustrated by the singer's mock discovery near the end of her 75-minute set.

"Oh, what's this up here?" asked the 23-year-old Napanee native, gesturing to a hulking assembly of equipment behind her.

"A pink sparkly drum kit. You guys want to see me play it? If I mess up, you can throw your glow sticks at me, or whatever."

Of course, there was no chance of either: every aspect of the show, her third and biggest production ever, has been polished to monotony – like the pink glitter eye shadow that matched her highlights, guitar and mic stand. In any case, Lavigne has a committed following that doesn't seem to mind the gradual diminishment of the natural insouciance that marked her 2002 debut.

The young millionairess is straddling a pretty fine line these days as an L.A.-based missus glossy enough to make Richard Blackwell's Worst Dressed List (which didn't stop her from unveiling her own clothing line, Abbey Dawn, last month) while trying to remain relevant to a core audience of screaming eight- to 18-year-olds.

Proclaiming it "good to be back in my home country, Canada," the entertainer kicked off the show with "Girlfriend" and "I Can Do Better" from her third disc. The Best Damn Thing, followed by "my first single ever," "Complicated." The performance featured hits from her 2002 breakthrough, Let Go, and 2004's Under My Skin.

Lavigne's pleasant, robust voice has matured nicely and the songs she co-writes, from hard-rocking to pop punk, are neatly arranged singalongs. But the staging of the show was problematic.

The constant changes in tempo didn't allow for a single climactic moment. The highlight should've been when Lavigne, channelling Alanis Morissette, accompanied herself on piano complemented by guitar and percussion. But instead of bringing the song to its natural denouement, she abruptly got up, walked to the other side of the stage and segued into another tune so the crew could set up for the next song in her stead.

And she looked awkward executing basic choreography – marching, skipping – amongst the athletic dancers who did the heavy lifting.

Then there were the uninspiring costume changes (I see Blackwell's point), from black to denim and back to black, one of which left the stage empty save for video footage of Lavigne for about five minutes.

Given to brief, clichéd stage patter, Lavigne dedicated songs to "anyone who has been a fan of mine since day one" and "any girl out there who always gets what she wants."

The show's sole organic moment was when she announced that her mother, grandmother and mother-in-law were in the audience.

"It's my grandma's first concert," she said. Primly seated with legs crossed and giggling you could read her mind: "I hope she likes it."

Bollywood Singer Asha Bhosle Has No Plans To Stop The Music

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Li Robbins

(April 03, 2008) Asha Bhosle - who many believe possesses the most recorded voice on Earth - would like to sing with Carlos Santana. She chuckles impishly down the phone line from Mumbai when she declares this, speaking on the eve of her 75th-birthday tour (and CD release of the same name), 75 Years of Asha.

Bhosle, who has collaborated with other Westerners, from R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe to the Kronos Quartet, says it's because she "likes a challenge."

In fact, Bhosle is famously fond of a challenge. From collaborating with unexpected partners (she has also sung with Boy George and the boy group Code Red) to the numbers-game challenge - a compendium in 1994 listed her output at 13,000 songs. Why so many?

"What shall I do when not singing?" she responds. "When I was 10 years old, I started to sing in film. And up to now, day and night, I sing my songs."

Then there's her ability to perform in multiple languages and multiple styles - Indian classical music, ghazals , qawwali ... and of course the music she is most famous for, filmi music. As a Bollywood playback singer, Bhosle brings to vivid life both heroines and temptresses, her evocative interpretations inspiring many of Bollywood's most famous lip-synching actresses.

Her talent for embodying characters through her expressive voice is so affecting that four generations of the movie-worshipping public have fallen in love with her. The impact of Asha Bhosle is most typically compared with the impact elsewhere of the Beatles or Elvis Presley. But Bhosle demurs. "They were very big artists. I don't think I am like that." She adds, "although of course, if other people think that of me, I am honoured."

People do think that of her, and sometimes they even sing that of her. British band Cornershop's 1997 hit, Brimful of Asha, was a tribute to Bhosle's invisible role as playback singer.

Bhosle, who says she is "very happy" with the song, wasn't even aware of it until her son, Anand, happened to hear it in passing when travelling abroad. Noticing the repetition of his mother's name in the chorus, he listened closely to the lyrics, then called home to tell his mom.

Bhosle likes to keep family close to her - many of her extended family live with her in her Mumbai home. And one family member in particular has provided a much-documented counterpoint to her career - her older sister, Lata Mangeshkar, who preceded Bhosle into filmi music fame. Mangeshkar typically leaned toward a more pristine sound (Bhosle describes her sister's voice as being "sweet, like silver bells") and good-girl roles. Bhosle, on the other hand, has excelled at singing flirts.

For decades, the sisters have been widely portrayed as intense rivals. But Bhosle dismisses this. "There's no rivalry, because her style is different. She is like my mother to me."

The details of Bhosle's private life have provided other tabloid fodder as well, from her first marriage, while still a teen, to her second as a middle-aged woman to the famous (but younger) composer R.D. Burman. But at almost 75, what Bhosle clearly prefers to talk about is music, or cooking. "Cooking is my second passion," she says.

Her daughter-in-law Anuja, on the speakerphone throughout the interview, is rhapsodic about her mother-in-law's recipes. "Her grandchildren all say that it's the best food in the whole world!" Since 2002, those recipes have been sampled by a wider public, at Asha's, Bhosle's chain of high-end restaurants in Dubai, Kuwait and Birmingham.

Meanwhile, she has her 75th-birthday tour to focus on. Given her extraordinarily vast repertoire, speculating on the set list for any Bhosle concert has long been something of a sport. This time is different though, she says. She is indulging herself, in honour of her 75th.

"I am singing just my own favourite songs, songs in all genres. It will kind of be Asha, unplugged."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Asha Bhosle performs at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow at 8 p.m.

CBC Radio 2 Devotees Face Classic Conundrum

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(April 06, 2008) Our national public broadcaster has two words for Canadians who are angry at the changes proposed for CBC Radio 2: The Current.

"Every time we try to change something, people say we're dumbing down," says Jennifer McGuire, executive director of programming for CBC Radio. "People said that when we revamped Radio One and brought in The Current. And everybody knows how well-received and respected that show is now."

McGuire and director of CBC Radio music Mark Steinmetz believe listener outrage – spiked by an announcement late last week that the CBC Radio Orchestra will be disbanded in the fall, as it marks its 70th birthday – is misplaced.

Not that the network will have any new programming ready for another five or six months.

In the meantime, thousands of Canadians are worried that CBC Radio is giving up on classical music, that the musical offerings will be the same as the meagre fare being offered on commercial radio, and that the broadcaster is not living up to its public mandate.

For many, the stakes are nothing less than our mid-20th century cultural compact, whereby government bureaucracies fund and nurture homegrown literature, performing and visual arts.

The Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are part of that support network. All have suffered from unstable budgets and political tinkering.

But current social and demographic forces are the strongest agents of change: the Canada of 2008 bears little resemblance to the rural, European-settled country of 1938, the year the CBC Radio Orchestra was founded.

Then consider the fact that the age of the average listener is rising while young people listen elsewhere. Although the CBC doesn't live or die by ratings, Radio 2 is not a star on the seasonal Bureau of Broadcast Measurement rankings.

According to official figures, Radio 2 is most popular in Victoria, and least popular in the Atlantic provinces. Toronto is mid-pack with about 250,000 listeners in a metropolitan area of 5 million.

For many Radio 2 supporters, classical music is synonymous with the CBC's mandate to "safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada."

But that mandate also includes respecting the cultural diversity of the country. In Toronto, nearly half the population has no natural ethnic ties to Western culture.

Steinmetz, whose school background is in classical music, is a strong advocate for more diverse programming. Yet he and McGuire repeat that classical music is not going away. There will be five daytime hours on weekdays, along with Saturday opera broadcasts and Sundays concerts and documentary features. Staying on the schedule is The Signal, the well-loved, late-night home of experimental music.

"The League of Canadian Composers came to protest the cuts to the CBC orchestra," relates Steinmetz, "but they also acknowledged that The Signal is a success."

The managers also point out that the money saved by disbanding the Vancouver-based CBC Radio Orchestra will go toward concert broadcasts from across Canada.

McGuire adds that the CBC will soon provide all-classical and all-jazz streams on the Internet. But the CBC Radio Orchestra is more than that to its supporters.

"Throughout its history, the CRO has called upon composers and performers of all cultural backgrounds from across our country, proving that music is alive in our country, even when other matters may cause despair or discouragement," wrote its principal conductor, Alain Trudel, in an impassioned email earlier this week.

Trudel also said in a subsequent interview that the orchestra had been making an effort to expand genre boundaries with commissioning projects like the Great Canadian Songbook.

Montreal pianist David Jalbert, one of the Canada's finest young classical musicians, was playing a recital in Vancouver on the day the CBC Orchestra cut became public.

"The CBC Orchestra has given a lot of performers a start," says Jalbert of his own experience. What worries this 31-year-old most is that classical music – which has few other outlets – will be shunted aside by music of little value.

"I cringe when I turn on the CBC (radio) right now," he says of the current mix on Radio 2 and its Radio-Canada equivalent, Espace Musique. "It is incoherent, inconsistent. It's not good for listeners. That's more the issue here than anything else."

Trudel, a tireless mentor of young musicians as well as conductor and composer, says he doesn't want to be a whiner, but his thoughts are likely close to those of many Canadians when he says: "I don't have an issue if (management) are honest about what they are saying. But they are making so many changes that it is hard to know what will happen."

The Heart Of Hip Hop, Rap

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 03, 2008) An amazing twofer of hip-hop royalty rocked the Air Canada Centre last night.

Singer
Mary J. Blige and rapper Jay-Z have between them 70 million in album sales, 12 Grammys, similar streets-to-mainstream tales and one brief retirement.

Now both in their late 30s with nearly twenty years each in the business, they 're at their peaks.

The co-headliners of the Heart of the City tour began and ended the two-and-a-half hour show together and made appearances in each other's set. The concert was light on costume changes, choreography and pyrotechnics, and heavy on profundity.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul was up first, taking the multiracial crowd of 20- to 40-year-olds through the heart-wrenching, face-contorting highlights of her catalogue with her gritty, soul-baring voice.

Blige's semi-autobiographical brand of hip-hop blues has struck a chord with women and earned the respect of men. Even though she seems to have prolonged her lyrical crises with addiction, low self-esteem and bad relationships, there was no doubting the sincerity of her appeal to absent fathers following "Your Child."

"Your children don't care about your job," she said. "They don't care about your social status. They just want your love. I'm telling you, because I know."

The Yonkers native ended on a high note, busting some old-school dance moves during the confident, feel-good track "Just Fine," her best uptempo single since her 1992 debut, "Real Love."

Then it was Jay-Z's turn on the stage, which was sophisticatedly decked out with chandeliers and swag drapes. It seemed an odd transition since his insensitive hustler persona epitomizes the callous male that Blige wails on about.

But in reality they are the ideal Mars and Venus representatives of a contradictory and maturing genre.

And for all his misogynistic raps about the girls "saving it for carats," offstage the Brooklyn native presents as a committed paramour to pop star Beyoncé. (People magazine is reporting that the pair obtained a marriage license in New York on Tuesday).

He has various monikers –Jigga, Shawn Carter and former president of Def Jam records – but he should be known as the King of Rap, because fundamentally no one touches Jay-Z for relevance, lyricism, flow and cool.

He worked deftly with the live musicians who imbued his songs with a richness they lack on record. Within minutes of Blige leaving the stage it was as if a testosterone bomb had been dropped in the arena, as the men pumped their fists and rhymed along and the women dug for their inner gangsters at what was undeniably one of the finest hip-hop performances this city has witnessed.

The King Of Hip-Hop Finds A Soulful Queen

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Joshua Ostroff

(April 04, 2008) Call yourself king, everyone wants a shot at your crown. So past Jay-Z tours have been fraught with tension between the hip-hop royal and his road-mates. His 2004 "Best of Both Worlds" co-headlining tour with R. Kelly collapsed into backstage violence and multimillion-dollar lawsuits. But Jay-Z found a perfect touring partner in Mary J. Blige, the queen of hip-hop soul.

The pair emerged to the strains of their first collaboration, the 1996 classic Can't Knock the Hustle. Backed by a 15-piece band - including horns, string section, backup singers and two drummers - they looked impeccably cool in sparkly jackets and shades as they strode their flashy set, images of cityscapes projected on a massive screen behind them. Jay soon ceded the spotlight, returning only briefly to slay the Notorious B.I.G. verse on Blige's 1992 breakthrough, Real Love.

Like communism, Blige can be better in theory than practice. Much of her catalogue - Mary Jane, You Bring Me Joy - is just better-than-average R&B with lyrics cribbed from a self-help seminar (though the self-esteem-boosting club track Work That was pretty hot). She even brought three actors onstage to pantomime a ridiculous baby-mama drama during Your Child.

Still, Blige sings the hell out of every song and when she pulls out a stunner, like the bluesy I'm Gon' Down, she cannot be beat. Blige has a wellspring of pain to infuse into songs like current single Stay Down, a slow burner that flared into an unexpected epic as the band kept amping up the intensity until she was practically screaming.

But even that paled next to the emotion expressed in her signature number No More Drama, which stripped the music down to piano plinks and hip-hop beats so her gritty vocals could soar unimpeded. By the end, Blige was flailing and wailing - her sandpapered singing was just this side of histrionic and totally over the line of awesome.

But where Blige traffics in sweat-soaked torment and soul-belted breakdowns, Jay-Z brings an effortless flow and celebratory "top of the world" vibe.

Blige's string section bailed, but the horns stayed to fuel the retro-soul feel of Jay's 2007 comeback American Gangster. Aptly opening with Say Hello, he segued into the triumphant Roc Boys (And the Winner Is) ... which Rolling Stone named last year's best single. The crowd cheered wildly as the heroic horn riff blasted through the arena and didn't much let up for the next hour. Having released 10 No. 1 albums - tying Jay-Z with Elvis Presley for the most chart-toppers, behind only the Beatles - the charismatic rapper has so many smashes that at one point he sauntered over to the DJ booth to spin, and coyly dismiss, hits like Hard Knock Life and Crazy in Love. This still left room for the booming rap-metal 99 Problems, the funky I Just Wanna Love You (Give it 2 Me), the anthemic Izzo (H.O.V.A), the sombre Can I Live (off his '96 debut Reasonable Doubt) and Big Pimpin', which proved so popular he cut the beats to let the crowd sing it back a cappella.

It was like a classic rock show - these well-seasoned vets could perform for hours more without running out of hits and their skills are such the crowd repeatedly exploded at their sheer virtuosity. When Jay-Z rapped, "We don't just shine, we illuminate the whole show," it was no idle boast.

So there was little excuse for an encore of Jay's uninspired Heart of the City (Ain't No Love) except that it provided the name of the tour and allowed Blige to return so they could wrap with a duet.

Still, an anticlimactic close couldn't take away from the fact that bringing Jay-Z and Mary J., rap and R&B, and male and female audiences together on this tour really did deliver the best of both worlds.

Special to The Globe and Mail

The Goods

Hits Mary J: Work That, Stay Down, I'm Gon' Down, No More Drama; Jay-Z: Roc Boys, Dirt Off Your Shoulder, 99 Problems, Can I Live

Misses Mary J. skipped her greatest hit, Family Affair (thus filling me with "hateration"), and the concert concluded with M.J. and J-Z's blah duet Heart of the City (Ain't No Love).

The crowd Multiculti couples out for, like, the best date concert ever.

In a word Royal

Jay-Z reportedly in $150M Live Nation Deal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 03, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Jay-Z is close to reaching a $150 million deal with Live Nation Inc. that will give the concert promoter a stake in virtually every aspect of the rapper and entrepreneur's career.

The contract covers Jay-Z's music and music-related businesses for the next 10 years, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on their websites late Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the agreement.

An after-hours call to a Live Nation spokesman seeking comment was not immediately returned late Wednesday.

As part of the arrangement, Jay-Z would get a $25 million upfront payment, plus advance payments of $10 million per album for a minimum of three albums and $25 million toward concert tours.

The company would also pay $20 million in exchange for publishing, licensing and other rights.

Live Nation was also expected to commit $50 million to finance Jay-Z's investments and his entertainment venture, to be called Roc Nation, which is expected to include his own record label, music publishing, talent consulting and managing projects.

"I've turned into the Rolling Stones of hip-hop," Jay-Z told the Times.

Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, plans to leave Def Jam for the deal, but he still owes his long-time record label one more studio album.

He was president of Def Jam for three years but stepped down in December because he and the label's corporate parent, Universal Music Group, could not agree on a new contract.

Live Nation also struck recent deals with Madonna and U2.

Jonas Brothers Set To Be The Next Big Thing

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dawn C. Chmielewski,
Special To The Star

(April 03, 2008) The alley behind the theatre erupted into shrieks after band members stepped out of the stage door and walked to their cars. A crush of girls pressed up against the razor-wire fence; some lobbed roses and stuffed animals over the barrier. Then, the screaming mob dashed into the street for one last glimpse as the police-escorted motorcade drove off.

A scene from A Hard Day's Night?

Nope. This is Jonas mania, not Beatlemania.

The
Jonas Brothers are the youthful heartthrobs whose self-titled album has gone platinum.

They are the latest beneficiaries of Walt Disney Co.'s tween star machine and could be the company's next creative franchise, in the mould of High School Musical or Hannah Montana.

Disney Radio and the Disney Channel helped propel the musical careers of the brothers Jonas – Nick, 15, Joe, 18, and Kevin, 20 – before the band was even signed in December 2006 by the parent company's label, Hollywood Records.

The exposure has turned the trio into a U.S. media sensation.

Now, Disney is throwing the full weight of its television group behind the Jonas's first movie, Camp Rock, debuting June 20 on Disney Channel in the U.S. and on Family Channel in Canada.

Since the 2001 debut of Lizzie McGuire, the Disney Channel has become a powerful engine for its Burbank, Calif., entertainment parent, producing bankable names such as Cheetah Girls, High School Musical and Hannah Montana. The latter two are expected to reap $1 billion (U.S.) in retail sales this year.

"They own the talent, they own the distribution, they can promote it all the time on television," said David Smay, editor of the book Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears. "It's almost impossible not to have a hit," he said.

Like the Jackson 5, the Jonas Brothers are built around a musical prodigy: in this case, Nick Jonas, who has performed on Broadway since he was 7, including a role as Chip in Disney's live production of Beauty and the Beast. He signed with a major label at the age of 12 as a Christian pop artist.

Even before the first album, It's About Time, was cut, Disney was courting the brothers. By April 2006, the brothers were recording the theme song to the animated series, American Dragon: Jake Long. A music video of the band appeared on the channel in May 2006, a month before the series debuted.

Jonas Brothers, released last August, sold 1.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And two singles, "S.O.S." and "When You Look Me in the Eyes," cracked the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart.

The band also opened for Miley Cyrus on her Best of Both Worlds North American concert tour.

This spring, the Disney Channel will feature a short-form reality series, Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the on- and off-stage lives of the musicians. Then, it's off on a 38-city summer concert tour.

"We think the sky's the limit with the band," said Jason Garner, chief executive of North American music for concert promoter Live Nation.

Los Angeles Times

Noel Gourdin's Vocals Flow Like 'The River'

Source: Tynicka Battle; ThinkTank Marketing; tynicka@thinktankmktg.com

(April 4, 2008) *A gritty, working class city outside of Boston , Brockton is best known as where legendary fighters the late Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler grew up.

Unlike Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans or Philly, Brockton doesn't spring to mind when name checking soul music's breeding grounds.

Yet it's there that 24 year-old Noel Gourdin first fell under R&B's spell and his hometown's tenacity is the force behind his stunning Sony Urban Music/Epic Records debut.

Blessed with roughhewn, down-home vocals that hark back to when rhythm and blues repped for both those components, influences ranging from hip-hop to gospel and songs that are nakedly emotional and truthful, Noel Gourdin states his case on his refreshingly heartfelt debut CD.

Featuring production from Kay Gee (Jaheim/Zhané), Raphael Saadiq (D'Angelo/Angie Stone), Mike City (Brandy/Sunshine Anderson), Dre & Vidal (Jill Scott), Butta (Usher), Eddie F (Heavy D), RLES and Trackaddix, Noel's debut release is soul at its best.

"It's about the emotions of the average man," Noel divulges. "My intention is putting my feelings on the track and leaving everything I've got in the recording booth. I want people to think; this is a man that you can feel. That you can slow dance with, have a drink with and cry with. It's real music that affects your life."

That's apparent on the richly moving "The River." Produced by Kay Gee, "The River" conjures up vivid images of family, faith, tradition and the journey towards becoming your own man.

"I had a track, and Noel and his co-writer [Balewa] said they wanted something that sounded like an old-styled ballad," recalls Kay Gee of their seamless creative process. "I said, `Well, I have the perfect beat for you.' So, I gave them the beat and they were like, `Alright…bet.' Before I knew it, they had written `The River,' which is a great record. A lot of people are scared to do one of those kinds of songs right now, so I think they took a chance and came up with something great." "We wanted to make a modern-day Negro spiritual," concludes Noel, of the song's inspiration. "Both my grandparents lived in Mississippi about 3 hours from Biloxi and I spent every summer with them, so I really soaked up that atmosphere and history. My grandfather had just died and I was really thinking about him, and in the Deep South the river represents something spiritual. The song means a lot because it's so close to home."

Emotions also guide the jazzy "Hurts Like Hell," produced by Trackaddix.

"That's a real pride record. He still loves her but it's not working out. A lot of fellows wont admit it, but after they've broken up they say, `She's not gonna see me crying.' That's real." So too is the sultry "Summertime," produced by Dre & Vidal. Featuring lines like "Just cause it's cold outside/let's make it summertime," this is a soft and wet ode that Noel calls "just crazy. In some ways the vibe reminds me of `Let's Get It On.'" There's also a hint of a more contemporary singer - namely, D'Angelo -- and Noel acknowledges the influence. "I hear the comparison; our voices are similar but you can tell us apart. I get inspiration from a lot of artists: Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke. There's also a real big Prince undertone. I just filter it all through my own way of seeing things and hopefully come up with something hot." Hot also describes the up- tempo "Clap 4 That," produced by Butta. "That's a `have fun party record' that I loved doing it."

The youngest of three kids, Noel grew up singing in church and fully absorbed his father's classic soul and older brother's New Jack Swing records.

From Otis Redding and the Chi-Lites to Teddy Riley and Jodeci, Noel loved it all, so much so that in middle school he had begun to write his own songs, drawing from what he'd heard coming up. "Listening to so much music from so many different eras really helped me put my style together."

By high school, Noel was performing in local talent shows, parties and events sponsored by the city.

"We'd always keep it true, trying to put it down for the home town," he fondly recalls. "It was a pleasure performing in Brockton . I did shows for the Boys and Girls Club to help keep the kids motivated."

It was also while in school that Noel hooked up with a local producer, who sensing his talent took Noel to a small studio. While the recording facilities might have been modest, the pay off was enormous as Noel recalls:

"I had somewhere to get the music off my chest and after a year I had a bunch of tracks together, doing all the music and writing all the lyrics."

Following graduation, Noel focused even more on music and further strengthened his commitment to his community by working at a local group home for battered kids.

"It was a passion of mine, being able to affect a kid's life and trying to be a positive role model."

By 2002, Noel and Stalin Entertainment owner Larry "Lucky" Fernandes had built their business relationship and sealed their artist management deal with a handshake. After a year of writing and producing new songs -- following a club date in Providence, RI -- Lucky introduced the Noel project to producer/artist Tommy Olivera, who, with songwriter Balewa Muhammad, now make up Noel's production team.

Tommy also had a wide range of industry contacts, among them former Naughty By Nature DJ / producer Kay Gee, who is best known for his production work for Jaheim, Zhané and Next. Within no time, Noel was working with Kay Gee at his New Jersey studio. In 2004, Kay Gee asked him to contribute a song to The Cook Out soundtrack; Noel cut "Family Reunion," which by his own admission signalled a new musical direction. "Working with everyone had really opened up my horizons and I started looking at concepts and listening to music in a different way. I wanted to come up with something that wasn't out there."

With that in mind, Noel kept writing and amassed close to an album's worth of material, which he and his team sent out to taste-makers in the music industry.

He also met with label executives, which resulted in an introduction to Sony Urban Music's V.P. of A&R, Chad Elliott in June 2005. Armed with a slew of tracks, including early versions of "Hurts Like Hell" and "The River," Noel caught Elliot's ear and by the end of the summer a showcase was set up for the young singer/songwriter. By the fall of that year, Noel was offered a record deal.

"Getting signed was unbelievable. I'm very family oriented, so to be able to make them proud meant everything to me. Plus, I think my deal showed other Brockton musicians that it's not just a pipe dream."

That dedication comes through on Noel's emotionally-stirring debut CD, something his seasoned producers recognized early on and played up.

"I know a lot of people say this, but I think he's just a breath of fresh air [right now]," explains Kay Gee. "I think the fact that we haven't heard singers like him in a while, mixed with the sound of his falsetto, lets us know that there's something missing in the music industry right now. I think there's a lane open for his sound."

Raphael Saadiq wholeheartedly agrees.

"Noel's a young soul who can sing in all kinds of different areas. He's from Mississippi but lives out in Boston, so he's bringing a certain flavour from both places. His style is really soulful. He's very competitive and cool, but also has that energy that you need out there in the urban world."

Asked to describe his soulful collection, Noel straightforwardly replies.

"It's emotional and vulnerable, but still strong and secure. More than anything, I wanted to make music that was real, relatable ... and timeless."


Check out 'River' by Noel Goudin:

(WM, Streaming, 96k, Audio)
(QT, Streaming, 96k, Audio)
(SWF)

Usher Announces New Album

Source: LaFace/Zomba Records via PRNewswire/

(April 3, 2008) *NEW YORK -- LaFace/Zomba recording artist Usher sets to release his eagerly awaited album "Here I Stand" on May 27.

Originally scheduled for a June release the highly anticipated album has been pushed up in order to satiate increasing global demand from all of his fans.

The video for "Love In This Club" will make its worldwide debut on MTV April 7th and the latest smash hit sits comfortably at #2 as the weeks greatest Airplay Gainer on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Usher's newest single, "Love In This Club," features Young Jeezy, and is co-written by Usher and produced by Polow Da Don. The smash hit currently holds the #2 position on both the Hot 100 and Hot Digital Tracks charts.

The song became his eighth #1 hit and is the lead single from his forthcoming, fifth studio album, Here I Stand. The video for "Love In This Club" was directed by the rising directing tandem of the Brothers Strause and will have its worldwide debut on MTV, BET and VH1 on April 7th.

Slated for global release on May 27th, Here I Stand is Usher's follow-up to his history-making, 9x platinum-selling Confessions. Within the first week of the release of Confessions, Usher sold more than any other R&B artist in the history of SoundScan. The album spawned four #1 hit singles and Usher spent 40 weeks in the No. 1 position on The Billboard Hot 100- which is more than any other male artist in the nearly 50 year history of the chart. Worldwide, the multi-talented, five-time Grammy-winner, musician and actor has sold nearly 14 million copies of Confessions and it earned a multitude of honours including MTV, BET, and People's Choice awards.

Over the span of his 14-year career, Usher has sold close to 26 million albums worldwide and combining all of his single, album and DVD sales, he's sold in excess of 36 million units globally. With four studio albums, the eponymous first release, Usher (1994) and multi-platinum albums, the 6x-platinum My Way (1997),the 4x-platinum 8701 (2001), and the 9x-platinum Confessions (2004) and one gold-certified live album simply titled Live (1999), and a string of #1 hit singles including "U Remind Me," "U Got It Bad," "Yeah," "Burn," and "My Boo" Usher's return to the top of the charts is inevitable. The Tennessee-born, Atlanta raised performer, songwriter, producer, dancer, actor started his multi-faceted career at the age of 15-years old.

Usher Raymond IV has achieved what few other contemporary entertainers have ever accomplished. He most recently launched a successful line of signature fragrances, actively heads up his own charity, New Look Foundation, a camp for teens that teaches them about the entertainment business, and he is part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

A Rugged Ride Of Blues, Soul, Funk And Rock

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(April 07, 2008) Buddy Guy walked the right side of the fine line at Toronto's Massey Hall on Saturday evening. The 71-year-old blues victor did what he does, playing torridly and softly in turns, interspersing electric bursts of guitar notes with softer, barely audible tones. Faint, lurid melismatic moans often preceded bluesy declamations – “I can't quit you baby,” Guy shrieked, on the Willie Dixon song of that title, “but I do believe I can put you down for a while.”

He stopped and started songs seemingly on whims and sudden inspirations, usually supporting his veering medleys with stories for historical context. At one point, the unbound senior took to the halls, stairs and balconies, continuing to play as he strolled up and about the theatre.

Portions of Muddy Water's Elevate Me Mama, Jimi Hendrix's wild Voodoo Child, a funky and lithe take on Cream's Strange Brew, and Guy's own robustly shuffling Damn Right, I've Got the Blues were heard. He vamped low; he erupted loud. Something unnamed from Guy's forthcoming album lasted about 10 seconds, while Love Her with Feeling was “so funky you can smell it.” His vocal imitation of former partner Junior Wells on Hoodoo Man Blues was spot on.

There was no set-list as such, “set” not being in the man's vocabulary. The Chicago-based, Louisiana native is, and always has been, a son of gun.

There is the potential for turmoil whenever Guy takes the stage; his unwillingness to play songs to anywhere close to conclusion can be frustrating. But with his highly drilled four-piece band, the big-grinned guitarist orchestrated 90 minutes of ups and low-downs into a rugged ride of blues, soul, funk and rock. On a good night – and this was one of them – the Mustang Sally-rider produces a show almost carnal in its effect, what with its peaks, valleys and ultimate relief. “Boom, boom, boom,” thank you Mr. Guy.

As the guitarist has a history with Toronto – Guy mentioned the 1967 Mariposa Festival, as well as an appearance with his hero Lonnie Johnson at Massey in 1970 – his yearly visits these days amount to semi-homecomings. But even though he is continually appreciated here, the man who sings My Time After Awhile takes nothing for granted. “I still have to prove to you I can play a little bit,” Guy said at one point. And that is what he did.

Guy's performance was superbly preceded by Paul Reddick, a local roots-music singer and mouth harpist who sat between guitarists Kyle Ferguson and David Baxter. Reddick, who's been around a few years, is sounding better than ever, and trio's oven-roasted electric country-blues treated the material of Revue, a career retrospective, commendably.

Erica Rose Blooms Onto The Pop Scene

Source: OMOOZIK.COM

(April 7, 2008) *As the saying goes, a rose that grows from concrete surpasses expectations because one would never anticipate such a beautiful flower to blossom from such a challenged and often uneven foundation.

The same is true for the prodigious and ethereal, singer-songwriter-musician,
Erika Rose.

Born in New York to a Jewish mother and a Jamaican father, the petite, biracial beauty with a song in her heart, did not allow anyone to deter her from pursuing her dreams of performing and making them a reality.

Growing up in Manhattan and Queens for her first ten years of life before moving to Florida, the precocious wunderkind graduated from high school at the age of sixteen, and began to express herself thru song, polished her piano skills and picked up guitar.

At the age of seventeen she co-penned the yet to be released "A Woman's Worth" with her childhood friend Alicia Keys, from Alicia's multi-platinum debut album.

After completing her degree in three years at the University of Miami's School of Music, having received a full scholarship, she relocated back to New York.

Filling an existing void in Alicia's camp at the onset of both of their careers, moving from assistant to road manager, Erika ascended to tour director and project manager and transitioned out of her role after four years on the road. At the delicate age of twenty-three, Erika Rose stepped out on faith to fully fulfill her dreams and the result has culminated in an eclectic and melodic tale of passion, love and truth from within entitled Rosegarden. "Everything I write about comes from what I feel and how I live."

In November 2005 Erika met producer, musician and executive Om'Mas Keith of the group SA-RA through a mutual friend and the two began collaborating on Rosegarden. With its pulsating drums, catchy hooks and strumming guitar riffs, this bohemian siren's angelic voice and impeccable harmonic prowess takes the listener on a journey of introspection, sensuality, self-love and service.

Erika together with Om'Mas formed Infinity Le Monde, the company they have established to represent not only their everlasting connection to the music they are creating but also to the infinite possibilities of their connection to the universe. Via their own projects and the artists they plan to produce and release, they are committed to excellence in music and fostering an environment where each artist can feel free to make creative decisions based on instinct, not industry standard.

Erika simply wants every ear that hears Rosegarden to be "touched and moved because that's the beauty of art, it's a personal experience. Whether it's the melody or the lyrics, the music or the rhythm, I just want people to be taken to some faraway euphoric land. Just get high off of the music and go to a really deep place that brings them joy." Alicia Keys says of her long-time friend, "Erika Rose is a rare jewel just waiting to be discovered! Her style of music is a mixture of life, love, darkness and sensuality in the most refreshingly unexpected package. It leaves you wanting more.

For More Information and for song previews, please visit: www.zoomoozik.com/erikarose

MUSIC TIDBITS

New Kids On The Block Reunite For New Album, Tour

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 03, 2008) BOSTON–They may be pushing 40 but the New Kids are returning to the block. The boy band New Kids on the Block, which sold 70 million albums in the 1980s and early '90s, has reunited and plans to release a new album and go on tour. The reunion comes 20 years after the release of the group's multiplatinum album, Hanging Tough. "The fan response to this has been incredible," band member Donnie Wahlberg told the Boston Herald. Wahlberg said he was persuaded to get back together with his former bandmates – Joey McIntyre, brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood – when they decided to record new music. Wahlberg said he wrote 80 per cent of the new material with McIntyre and Jordan Knight. "I had no interest going out on a nostalgia tour and singing the same material," said Wahlberg, 38. But he added: "We absolutely will do the old songs for sure." Producer Maurice Starr formed the group in Boston in the 1980s, hoping to recreate the success he had with another teen group from Boston, New Edition. At the height of their popularity, New Kids sold out world tours, marketed millions of dollars in merchandise and spawned a Saturday morning cartoon. The group disbanded in 1994. Wahlberg has acted on television and in movies, while Jordan Knight, McIntyre and Wood released solo albums. Jonathan Knight became a real estate developer.

It's Official – Mariah Makes Billboard History

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 3, 2008) *As expected,
Mariah Carey's single "Touch My Body" made a 15-1 jump on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, giving the singer her 18th career chart topper and a spot behind the Beatles for the most No. 1s  in the rock era. Carey moved past previous second place holder Elvis Presley, who had 17 Billboard No. 1s. With her new album "E=MC2" set to drop on April 15, she's on track to surpass the Beatles' record of 20 No. 1s before the CD runs its course. "Touch My Body's" rise to the top is fuelled by a record-setting debut week digital tally of 286,000 downloads. That sum, good enough for the No. 1 slot on Hot Digital Songs, surpasses the 277,000 downloads label mate Rihanna opened with in the June 9, 2007, issue with her summer hit "Umbrella."   Meanwhile, Elvis will also be nudged from his standing as the artist with the most top 10s in the rock era, as Madonna surpasses him with her 37th top 10, "4 Minutes." The Timbaland-produced track, which features Justin Timberlake, clocks a 68-3 jump on the Hot 100.

Ashanti's 'Declaration' Due In June

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 4, 2008) *June 3rd marks the arrival of Ashanti's new album "The Declaration," a collection of songs tied together under the theme "womanhood and empowerment," according to Billboard.com.  "It's been a long time coming for change, and the timing was just right," she tells Billboard.com. The album "touches on those low points in life that determine whether you're strong enough to go on. It reminds women that they can't let things get the best of them."  The Inc./Universal Motown project includes the first single "The Way That I Love You," which is currently No. 18 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Robin Thicke, Jermaine Dupri, LT Hutton, Babyface, and Pharrell Williams are among the set's producers.  "Declaration" is expected to feature "Mother," inspired by Ashanti's close bond with her own mother, and "Click," which she says is "a relationship record done from a female point of view. It's about when you're trying to get in contact with someone you're seeing but he's not answering, and by the time he calls you feel like, 'I don't want to talk to you now.'"  Ashanti is also working on a teen-skewed lifestyle book titled "Ashanti Style" via Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, but no release date has been announced yet.

Will Downing To Launch 'Speaking' Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 4, 2008) *
Will Downing is about to embark on a series of one-on-one speaking engagements and listening parties in various markets throughout the U.S.   The artist, nicknamed "the prince of sophisticated soul," will spend each evening in an intimate conversation that explores his current illness, his faith, his family's support, his musical career (including his new CD, "After Tonight") and his future tour plans.    Thanks to hard work, faith and family, Downing has made miraculous progress in his battle with the muscle disease Polymyositis. At one point he was unable to lift his head, let alone leave his bed without assistance. Now, the singer can walk on his own with the aid of a walker.    Taking advantage of his improving condition, Downing will rekindle his relationships with fans in Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Atlanta. In each city, the event will be held in an upscale social center and hosted by a prominent local media personality.   Because Downing is still in recovery he will not be performing, but he will field questions directly from fans in an intimate setting, sign autographs and possibly pose for photos.

Chilli's New Single Has 'Ink' All Over It

Source: Enchanted PR ; Christal Jordan-Mims ; enchantedpr@gmail.com; http://www.myspace.com/enchantedpr

(April 8, 2008)  *For a member of an iconic group looking to make a comeback, it can be hard trying to find the perfect song.  The challenge is a little easier when you employ the hottest songwriter in the game right now with the number #1 single in the country.  Last Friday, April 4th, Chilli from the 90's super group TLC, released her brand new single "Dumb Dumb Dumb" on V-103's Ryan Cameron's show in Atlanta.  The song could be considered the '08 version of "No Scrubs," calling out ex-boyfriends or wannabes. It was written by Cri$tyle aka 'the ink.'  Over the weekend the song became one of the hottest topics on urban blogsites and continues to garner reviews. Cri$tyle proves '08 belongs to 'the ink'
"Dumb, Dumb, Dumb" is the fifth radio single in 2008 for the 24 year old EMI/So So Def songwriter who co-wrote Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" which is sitting pretty in Billboard's number one spot. Her single "Google Me" with Teyanna Taylor has been burning up the charts as well as "I'm Grown" by Tiffany Evans featuring Bow Wow. Meanwhile, her single "Dancin'" for newcomer Shaunna Danielle was recently introduced.  Cri$tyle teamed up with supernova production team Battery 5 (Redzone Entertainment) on the infectious R&B/pop collaboration of "Dumb, Dumb, Dumb"   V-103 continues to premiere the record all week, with Chilli and T-Boz.  Hear "Dumb, Dumb, Dumb" and other songs from Cri$tyle, here: http://www.myspace.com/cristylemusic  

::FILM NEWS::

Legendary Actor Charlton Heston Dead At 84

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bob Thomas,
Associated Press Writer

(April 06, 2008)  LOS ANGELES–Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 best actor Oscar as the chariot-racing “Ben-Hur” and portrayed Moses, Michelangelo, El Cid and other heroic figures in movie epics of the ’50s and ’60s, has died. He was 84.

The actor died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills with his wife Lydia at his side, family spokesman Bill Powers said.

Powers declined to comment on the cause of death or provide further details.

“Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiselled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played,” Heston’s family said in a statement. “No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country."

Heston revealed in 2002 that he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease, saying, “I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure."

With his large, muscular build, well-boned face and sonorous voice, Heston proved the ideal star during the period when Hollywood was filling movie screens with panoramas depicting the religious and historical past. “I have a face that belongs in another century,” he often remarked.

Publicist Michael Levine, who represented Heston for about 20 years, said the actor’s passing represented the end of an iconic era for cinema.

“If Hollywood had a Mt. Rushmore, Heston’s face would be on it,” Levine said. “He was a heroic figure that I don’t think exists to the same degree in Hollywood today."

The actor assumed the role of leader off screen as well. He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute and marched in the civil rights movement of the 1950s. With age, he grew more conservative and campaigned for conservative candidates.

In June 1998, Heston was elected president of the National Rifle Association, for which he had posed for ads holding a rifle. He delivered a jab at then-President Clinton, saying, “America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns."

Heston stepped down as NRA president in April 2003, telling members his five years in office were “quite a ride. ... I loved every minute of it."

Later that year, Heston was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour. “The largeness of character that comes across the screen has also been seen throughout his life,” President Bush said at the time.

He engaged in a lengthy feud with liberal Ed Asner during the latter’s tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild. His latter-day activism almost overshadowed his achievements as an actor, which were considerable.

Heston lent his strong presence to some of the most acclaimed and successful films of the midcentury. “Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards, tying it for the record with the more recent "Titanic" (1997) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003). Heston’s other hits include: "The Ten Commandments," “El Cid," "55 Days at Peking," "Planet of the Apes" and "Earthquake"

He liked to the cite the number of historical figures he had portrayed:

Andrew Jackson (``The President’s Lady,’’ “The Buccaneer’’), Moses (``The Ten Commandments’’), title role of “El Cid,” John the Baptist (``The Greatest Story Ever Told’’), Michelangelo (``The Agony and the Ecstasy’’), General Gordon (``Khartoum’’), Marc Antony (``Julius Caesar,’’ “Antony and Cleopatra’’), Cardinal Richelieu (``The Three Musketeers’’), Henry VIII (``The Prince and the Pauper’’).

Heston made his movie debut in the 1940s in two independent films by a college classmate, David Bradley, who later became a noted film archivist. He had the title role in “Peer Gynt” in 1942 and was Marc Antony in Bradley’s 1949 version of “Julius Caesar,” for which Heston was paid $50 a week.

Film producer Hal B. Wallis (``Casablanca’’) spotted Heston in a 1950 television production of “Wuthering Heights” and offered him a contract. When his wife reminded him that they had decided to pursue theatre and television, he replied, "Well, maybe just for one film to see what it’s like."

Heston earned star billing from his first Hollywood movie, "Dark City," a 1950 film noir. Cecil B. DeMille next cast him as the circus manager in the all-star "The Greatest Show On Earth," named by the Motion Picture Academy as the best picture of 1952. More movies followed:

“The Savage,’’ “Ruby Gentry,’’ “The President’s Lady,’’ ``Pony Express” (as Buffalo Bill Cody), “Arrowhead,’’ “Bad for Each Other,’’ “The Naked Jungle,’’ “Secret of the Incas,’’ “The Far Horizons” (as Clark of the Lewis and Clark trek), “The Private War of Major Benson,’’ “Lucy Gallant.’’

Most were forgettable low-budget films, and Heston seemed destined to remain an undistinguished action star. His old boss DeMille rescued him.

The director had long planned a new version of “The Ten Commandments,” which he had made as a silent in 1923 with a radically different approach that combined biblical and modern stories. He was struck by Heston’s facial resemblance to Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses, especially the similar broken nose, and put the actor through a long series of tests before giving him the role.

The Hestons’ newborn, Fraser Clarke Heston, played the role of the infant Moses in the film.

More films followed: the eccentric thriller "Touch of Evil," directed by Orson Welles; William Wyler’s "The Big Country," co-starring with Gregory Peck; a sea saga, “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” with Gary Cooper.

Then his greatest role: "Ben-Hur."

Heston wasn’t the first to be considered for the remake of 1925 biblical epic. Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and Rock Hudson had declined the film. Heston plunged into the role, rehearsing two months for the furious chariot race.

He railed at suggestions the race had been shot with a double: "I couldn’t drive it well, but that wasn’t necessary. All I had to do was stay on board so they could shoot me there. I didn’t have to worry; MGM guaranteed I would win the race."

The huge success of “Ben-Hur” and Heston’s Oscar made him one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. He combined big-screen epics like “El Cid” and “55 Days at Peking” with lesser ones such as “Diamond Head,’’ “Will Penny” and “Airport 1975.” In his later years he played cameos in such films as “Wayne’s World 2” and “Tombstone.’’

He often returned to the theatre, appearing in such plays as “A Long Day’s Journey into Night” and “A Man for All Seasons.” He starred as a tycoon in the prime-time soap opera, “The Colbys,” a two-season spinoff of “Dynasty.’’

At his birth in a Chicago suburb on Oct. 4, 1923, his name was Charles Carter. His parents moved to St. Helen, Mich., where his father, Russell Carter, operated a lumber mill. Growing up in the Michigan woods with almost no playmates, young Charles read books of adventure and devised his own games while wandering the countryside with his rifle.

Charles’s parents divorced, and she married Chester Heston, a factory plant superintendent in Wilmette, Ill., an upscale north Chicago suburb. Shy and feeling displaced in the big city, the boy had trouble adjusting to the new high school. He took refuge in the drama department.

“What acting offered me was the chance to be many other people,” he said in a 1986 interview. “In those days I wasn’t satisfied with being me.’’

Calling himself Charlton Heston from his mother’s maiden name and his stepfather’s last name, he won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University in 1941. He excelled in campus plays and appeared on Chicago radio. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a radio-gunner in the Aleutians.

In 1944 he married another Northwestern drama student, Lydia Clarke, and after his army discharge in 1947, they moved to New York to seek acting jobs. Finding none, they hired on as co-directors and principal actors at a summer theatre in Asheville, N.C.

Back in New York, both Hestons began finding work. With his strong 6-feet-2 build and craggily handsome face, Heston won roles in TV soap operas, plays (``Antony and Cleopatra” with Katherine Cornell) and live TV dramas such as “Julius Caesar,’’ “Macbeth,’’ ``The Taming of the Shrew” and “Of Human Bondage.’’ Heston wrote several books: “The Actor’s Life: Journals 1956-1976,” published in 1978; “Beijing Diary: 1990,” concerning his direction of the play “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” in Chinese; “In the Arena: An Autobiography,” 1995; and “Charlton Heston’s Hollywood: 50 Years of American Filmmaking,” 1998.

Besides Fraser, who directed his father in an adventure film, ``Mother Lode,” the Hestons had a daughter, Holly Ann, born Aug. 2, 1961. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1994 at a party with Hollywood and political friends. They had been married 64 years when he died.

In late years, Heston drew as much publicity for his crusades as for his performances. In addition to his NRA work, he campaigned for Republican presidential and congressional candidates and against affirmative action.

He resigned from Actors Equity, claiming the union’s refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in “Miss Saigon” was ``obscenely racist.” He attacked CNN’s telecasts from Baghdad as ``sowing doubts” about the allied effort in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

At a Time Warner stockholders meeting, he castigated the company for releasing an Ice-T album that purportedly encouraged cop killing.

Heston wrote in “In the Arena” that he was proud of what he did “though now I’ll surely never be offered another film by Warners, nor get a good review in Time. On the other hand, I doubt I’ll get a traffic ticket very soon.’’

Producers To Help Draft Guidelines, Minister Says

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gloria Galloway

(April 03, 2008) OTTAWA — The Canadian Heritage Minister says she would wait a full year to wield new powers to deny film and television producers tax credits if their works do not jibe with taxpayer sensibilities - should those powers be granted to her.

And during that time, Josée Verner told the Senate banking committee yesterday, she would allow members of the entertainment industry to draft guidelines to establish what would not qualify for the credits, and how those guidelines should be applied.

Film producers and actors alike say they fear a provision tucked away in an omnibus tax bill before the Senate committee will be used to cut off tax benefits for productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other content the government finds offensive.

In fact, Ms. Verner made clear yesterday, that is exactly what is intended.

Allowing the Canadian film and television production industry to lead the development of the guidelines, Ms. Verner said, "reasserts the principle that there is audiovisual material which may not be illegal but which taxpayers should simply not be expected to pay for."

Under the current rules, the government is required to extend tax credits to any production that meets a required number of qualifications from a list that includes such things as a Canadian director, a Canadian producer and a Canadian principal star.

The government wants to be able to disqualify content that is illegal under the Criminal Code, such as child pornography and hate crimes, "as well as other types of content" which the public finds unacceptable, Ms. Verner said.

"Some in the film and television industry are worried that this provision is tantamount to censorship. This is absolutely not the case; it is simply a matter of responsibility and integrity. Producers will remain free to finance their projects without public funding."

Liberal senators pounced on the proposed legislation, some suggesting that its inclusion in a 500-page tax bill was an attempt to avoid transparency.

Medium Becomes A Family Affair For Arquette Sisters

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
Television Critic

(April 05, 2008) It almost immediately starts to degenerate from serious, business-like telephone press conference to giddy, giggly pyjama party.

Sibling screen stars
Patricia and Rosanna Arquette are on the line from L.A., sharing their considerable sisterly excitement over the chance to act together for the first time ever, with the latter, eldest Arquette a special guest villain on the former's hit psychic police procedural, Medium, in the episode airing Monday at 10 p.m. on CTV and NBC.

"Rosanna!" mock-whines the younger Arquette. "Stop it! You're pulling my hair!"

And so it begins.

Big sister Rosanna, 48, is actually the third of the other four acting Arquettes to visit Patricia's Medium set – the youngest, David, a budding director, has already done so on Medium twice, and her immediate elder, Richmond, appeared in the second season as a cold-blooded killer.

With Rosanna's role this week as a kind of black widow "cougar," that leaves only transsexual Alexis out of the nepotistic mix.

"I would love for Alexis to come on," burbles Patricia, 39. "And for David to come on, too (as an actor). But, you know, he's already directed two of them, and I don't know how many favours he owes me at this point."

An all-Arquette episode is another idea that none of them would be averse to – though it might not be financially feasible, given the amount of time they would waste on re-takes necessitated by constant on-camera breakdowns.

"It was hard for me," Patricia admits of the episode. "I was smiling so much at what Rosanna was doing. She was cracking me up."

"I don't know if it was supposed to be comedic," interjects her sister. "I just kept finding all this stuff that made me laugh ..."

"She had this one line," snickers Patricia. "She had to call me `a middle-aged mouse burger.' And every time she'd try to say it, I'd just crack up."

Which she does again now, leaving her sister to finish. "I think we ended up having to cut it," says Rosanna. "We just couldn't stop. It was like, `Middle-aged mouse burger? Excuse me, but what exactly is a 'mouse burger?' "

I suggest that perhaps it's a teeny little hamburger with extra cheese.

Gales of girlish laughter. "A little hamburger with extra cheese," Rosanna approves. "That is sooo cute."

(Rosanna Arquette thinks I'm cute. I can now die a happy man.)

Fits of giggles aside, familial affection and mutual admiration made the week-long shoot even more of a challenge.

"I was just really enjoying Rosanna's work," allows Patricia. "It was so much fun to watch her. But it was also weird to try to keep pulling myself back from that. I kind of had to keep catching myself, because my own self was coming through.

"But then to see her as this sort of carnivorous mercenary kind of dangerous person ... it was disturbing. Because I know my sister so well, it was a testament to what a great actress she is."

There is, of course, an upside to working so closely with one so close – a kind of professional and emotional shorthand that could not help but inform the process.

"You know," she says, "I think the really interesting thing about us as artists together is, when I did work with Rich on the show, and with David and Rosanna, the collaborative exchange of ideas was, like ... all of us are open to each other and respect each other as artists. So it's not uncomfortable the way it might be for some people."

"That's so neat," agrees Rosanna. "Like, I was having a challenging moment with one scene that had quite a lot of dialogue, and it was a little tongue-twisting and, you know, she was able to just kind of look at me and say, 'Well, maybe try it this way.' And that was great."

And also an interesting role reversal from the days when Patricia, the young aspiring actress, looked up to Rosanna as a role model.

"Rosanna was the first person I ever told I wanted to be an actress," she recalls. "Which shows how safe I felt with her. And you know what she said? `Really? Okay. There's always room for another rose in the garden.' And then she paid for my acting classes."

In fact, the 16-year-old Patricia, her head half-shaved and the rest dyed black, showed up in New York on Rosanna's doorstep while the latter was there filming the Madonna movie, Desperately Seeking Susan (see sidebar).

Hold on. I have to stop them there, unable to reconcile the image of a punked-out young Patricia with today's demure, thoughtful and soft-spoken model mom.

"She was a punker," Rosanna confirms. "And she looked great. (The hair) was really black and her eyes are so piercing. I just remember how cool it looked."

"I was a punk," concedes her sister. "But I always was soft-spoken. And even when I had my mohawk, instead of spiking it up, I'd braid it back with ribbons.

"I mean, I've always been interested in the visual that's different, in artistic exploration. But it's always been tempered with a very old-fashioned notion of things, I guess."

And that's about as close as the younger Arquette would ever get to adolescent rebellion. But then, given the girls' colourful family history, there really wasn't much to rebel against.

Their grandfather was comic/actor/musician Cliff Arquette, better known as "Charlie Weaver" on the Jack Paar Show and Hollywood Squares.

Their father, Lewis, also a musician and actor, and mother, Mardi – both since deceased – raised the Arquette quintet on a commune near Arlington, Va.

"It wasn't your stereotypical commune," Patricia explains. "It wasn't the kind of free drugs, free sex commune that people often think of. It was mostly artists and seekers. It wasn't just about freedom, it was more about different ways of thinking about politics and religions."

It's not hard to see where the kids' shared creativity comes from.

"Yeah," laughs Rosanna. "We all grew up to become narcissistic movie stars."

And if those narcissistic movie-star Arquettes ever did all re-assemble in one place at one time long enough to make a movie?

"I would love us to do, like, a Carny thing," suggests Rosanna, who, by virtue of age and experience, would likely be designated to direct. "You know, like all of us in some kind of traveling carnival, that kind of situation. That could be pretty interesting."

George Clooney In Feud With Writers Union

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Reuters

(April 04, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Actor George Clooney has quietly withdrawn from the Writers Guild of America after the union rejected his request for a writing credit on his new film “Leatherheads,” Daily Variety reported in its Friday edition.

Clooney opted to become a “financial core status” non-member last fall, which means that he is still covered by the basic contract, the trade paper said.

But he loses his voting rights, and cannot run for office or attend membership meetings, according to the WGA's constitution. He must continue to pay his dues, but gets a break on “non-germane” WGA activities, such as political and lobbying efforts. His decision is also irrevocable.

Clooney, 46, directed, produced and stars in “Leatherheads,” a screwball period football comedy that opens across North America on Friday. Despite mixed reviews, it is expected to be the top draw at the weekend box office.

He had sought to receive a writing credit alongside Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly, claiming that he personally gave the duo's languishing 17-year-old project a major overhaul.

Clooney, who received an Oscar nomination two years ago for co-writing “Good Night, and Good Luck,” told Daily Variety that he felt he had written all but two of the scenes for “Leatherheads.” His request for credit was voted down 2-1 at an arbitration hearing.

“When your own union doesn't back what you've done, the only honourable thing to do is not participate,” the paper quoted Clooney as saying.

He said he would have resigned from the union altogether – a revocable move – but that would have prevented him from working on all WGA-covered productions. He kept quiet about his move, because the union was about to go on strike for the first time in almost two decades, and he did not want to provide an unwelcome distraction. Clooney was a keen supporter of the 100-day strike, which ended almost two months ago.

The WGA did not comment for the Daily Variety story, and a union spokesman did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking verification of the report.

John Cusack Angry At America And The War In Iraq

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 03, 2008) John Cusack is outraged – at the right-wing government running America, at an unpopular war in Iraq and at the multinational corporations using taxpayer dollars to support it.

His solution? To co-write, co-produce and star in
War Inc., a film that imagines an absurdist near-future that sardonically lampoons the present.

"What's happening in America is so savage and so dark that ... absurdism is the best way to go at it," Cusack said yesterday, following a sneak preview of the movie at Ryerson University.

It opens April 25.

Cusack stars as Hauser, a hit man/fixer sent on assignment to a fictional Middle Eastern country where war amputees dance in chorus lines, tanks carry corporate advertising and a popular chicken franchise acts as a front for the evil military/industrial complex.

"What's lacking in America is the sense of outrage at the viciousness of this ideology that would reduce government ... to basically just an ATM for defence and weapons companies," Cusack said.

Cusack lambasted a right-wing ideology that preaches the "free market" while allowing corporations to hire private armies for protection and security, at taxpayers' expense. "It's corporate welfare. So the whole idea that these guys are saying `the free markets,' the hypocrisy is so blatant," Cusack said.

Co-writer Mark Leyner said many U.S. citizens threatened to move to Canada following President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004.

"No offence, but I don't think that's a solution. So I think as an alternative to moving to Canada, we make things like this," Leyner said.

Leyner said that since the war's beginning, the American people have been living in a state of "a suffocating conformity, (told) to just go along ... with this war."

Cusack, who joked the film was made in Bulgaria with "no money," noted it was not supported by the traditional Hollywood machine.

"It's hard to get something like this made. You're sort of like a salmon swimming upstream. When we made it, there was great resistance in terms of the regular funding routes and people at the very top of the corporate food chain in movies. People just didn't want to talk about it, or `We don't see the world that way' or `It's not that funny.' So I go, `Well, we weren't really making Wedding Crashers,'" Cusack said.

But Cusack senses a change in the usual complacency among his fellow citizens.

"People are waking up in America and they're grumbling, and I think they realize that parts of the country have been taken and sort of disgraced, and I think they're ready to sort of fight back."

Jodie Foster From Fearless To Phobic

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 03, 2008) Lately, Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster seems to have been drawn to scripts that cast her as a victim-turned-vigilante, where she kicks bad-guy butt in a string of thrillers such as Flightplan, The Brave One, and Panic Room.

But in Foster's new film,
Nim's Island (opening tomorrow), she is cast as the antithesis of a tough chick. In the family-friendly drama - which co-stars Gerard Butler and 11-year-old Abigail Breslin - Foster portrays Alexandra Rover, a bestselling author who is also agoraphobic.

A person so terrified of the great outdoors, she hasn't left her San Francisco apartment (even for mail) in months, choosing to live vicariously through her fictitious manly hero Alex Rover.

Nim's Island is rare comedic turn for Foster, who received her first Oscar nomination at the age of 14 as Iris, an underage prostitute in Taxi Driver. She went on to win two more Academy Awards - for 1991's The Silence of the Lambs (in which she plays a detective trying to catch a crazed serial killer who gets his jollies skinning his victims) and 1988's The Accused (where she is a gang-raped).

The 45-year-old Foster, reached at her Los Angeles home, chuckles at how different her quirky role in Nim's Island is from many of her weightier roles in films dealing primarily with social injustice. Her choice was deliberate.

"I was interested in making a film for children that wasn't about a digital world," says the actress, who is raising her two sons, aged 6 and 9, with her long-time partner, Cydney Bernard. "Nim's world is a natural one, with animals and trees. It's not a big CGI-extravaganza with a lot of loud noises, flashing lights, and special effects.

"I also liked the female empowerment element to the script," adds Foster, whose character eventually does pry herself out of her writing lair to cross the world (by plane, bus, cruise ship and rowboat) to help Nim (Breslin), a very industrious 11-year-old who has found herself alone on a South Pacific island after her scientist dad (Butler) is lost at sea.

"I wanted to make a movie that my kids could go see, and also be on set," the actress adds, in her smoky voice. "And I especially loved that Nim is such a great role model. She's a can-do kid who takes on everything she encounters with enthusiasm and humour.

"It's rare that I find a comedy that I feel I can really sink my teeth into, but this was certainly it," Foster says of the screenplay based on author Wendy Orr's book of the same name. "I also feel that there is something very touching in Alexandra's awkwardness and wackiness. I've made a lot of dramas about fear, and part of the humour of Alexandra is that she is completely plagued by fear.

"But her fears are simply that a spider is crawling on her computer, or someone may tap her on the shoulder," says Foster, whose first acting gig was at the age of 3 as TV's Coppertone Girl. "So that was an interesting twist. And I was intrigued with the idea of exploring the kind of inner courage Alexandra needs just to go to the airport or eat strange food. To leave everything she's familiar with behind."

That said, the California native readily admits that she can't relate to being agoraphobic. "I'm just the opposite. I love to travel, be on airplanes, to get out into the world."

Orr's book is set in a deserted tropical paradise that is home to Nim, her father and some friends, Selkie the sea lion, Fred the bearded dragon and a pelican named Galileo. The sweet feature, directed by husband-and-wife team Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett (Little Manhattan), is shot on the sandy beaches of Australia's Gold Coast and in the lush rain forests of Hinchinbrook Island, a nature preserve with vast strips of white sand beaches and a vast mountain that looks like a volcano.

The directors were struggling to find a young actress to play the feisty, colourful Nim. When they saw Little Miss Sunshine (Breslin, only 10 at the time, was nominated for an Oscar for her role), they knew they had found their girl.

Foster says the pair had a lot of fun filming, but admits it got "damn cold" shooting some of the underwater scenes, both in the ocean and in a massive water tank. "Abigail is a wonderful little actress," she says. "There are parts of her that remind me of when I was a kid, especially since she's already been doing this for a long time. She has very natural instincts about how to be real and just doesn't stress out about it at all.

"I really enjoy working with kids," Foster continues. "They don't sit around and talk about their characters. They love just playing on screen. They don't need to dissect it all."

In the past, Foster has said publicly that her only regret is that she would love to live life without knowing what it's like to be famous. "I don't think there is one thing to like about celebrity," she says. "There is a lot to like about respect, about being successful and achieving your goals. But actual celebrity? No, I can't think of one good thing about it."

Which probably explains why her kids, Charlie and Kit, and the decision to be part of a feel-good film are now priorities for her.

"I enjoy being a mom, and I'm really enjoying them. This year has been especially great because they're finally at an age where I don't have to worry about them so much. I can now spend less time making sure they're safe and more time making sure they're inspired. Making sure they're curious about life."

And in that same vein, Foster adds, it was the high-spiritedness of Nim's Island that captivated her.

"It's a wonderful story that inspires girls - and boys - to take adventures and really experience the world. Nim shows what being the hero of your own life story is all about," she says. "As opposed to the kind of passivity that we see so much of today. I think people need to remember that at any age."

The two sides of Jodie Foster

TOUGH-GAL ROLES

The Brave One
Erica Bain (2007)
Inside Man
Madeleine White (2006)Flight Plan
Kyle Pratt (2005)
Panic Room
Meg Altman (2002)
The Silence of the Lambs
Agent Clarice Starling (1991)
The Accused
Sarah Tobias (1998)
Taxi Driver
Iris Steensma (1976)

FAMILY-FRIENDLY ROLES
Nim's Island
Alexandra Rover (2008)
Anna and the King
Anna Leonowens (1999)
Sommersby
Laurel Sommersby (1993)
Little Man Tate
Dede Tate (1991)
Imdb.com

The Day Old Hollywood Crumbled

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(April 04, 2008) During a family skiing holiday at the end of 1966, Toronto filmmaker Norman Jewison sat in a hospital emergency room in Sun Valley, Idaho, while his son had a broken leg mended.

In the same room was Robert F. Kennedy, then the junior senator from New York, who was there with his own unlucky son.

Jewison told Kennedy about In the Heat of the Night, a movie he'd just wrapped about a black cop (Sidney Poitier) investigating a Deep South murder alongside a racist white police chief (Rod Steiger). He knew the film courted controversy, but Kennedy assured him the time was right for realism.

"Timing is everything," Kennedy told him. "In politics, art and life."

The scene is recounted in Pictures at a Revolution, a new book by Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris, who knows something about timing and a lot about the movies. His compulsively readable tome focuses on the five movies that competed for the Best Picture Oscar in April 1968: In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde and Doctor Dolittle.

All five had been released in 1967, a year that Harris persuasively argues ranks amongst the most significant in movie history. It marked a clear divide between Old Hollywood, where moguls ruled and an official Production Code maintained screen chastity and civility, with the emerging New Hollywood led by auteur directors, actor/producers and a European flair for sex, violence and trouble of all kinds.

Pictures at a Revolution arrives at a time when the movie industry is again facing structural challenges – the Internet this time, TV in 1967 – and pondering its role in society.

Four of the 1967 Best Picture nominees were game changers for Hollywood, taking on numerous hot issues. Jewison's In the Heat of the Night and Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner frankly explored racial prejudice. Mike Nichols' The Graduate tackled extramarital sex and social alienation. Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde made folk heroes of murdering outlaws.

Richard Fleischer's Doctor Dolittle, a quest by 20th Century Fox for another hit musical like Sound of Music, was the odd man out as the sole family picture. Bloated and boring, it was a massive flop critically and commercially, costing Fox the equivalent of $190 million in today's dollars. It was also a failed attempt by Old Hollywood to maintain its dominance.

Films that demanded more than tears or laughter were arriving: France had its New Wave disturbers like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut; Italy had the sensual minimalism of Antonioni Michelangelo; and Scandinavia had the brilliant gloom of Ingmar Bergman.

The major Hollywood studios dismissed the changes at first, but the times demanded capitulation.

Director Dares To Put A Face On Illegal Immigration

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Simon Houpt

(April 04, 2008) NEW YORK — Is there such a thing as a hen in the fox house? Because here is filmmaker Patricia Riggen, whose feature debut two weeks ago snagged a bigger average box office per screen than every other movie in North America, sitting in a small conference room on the second floor of the midtown headquarters of News Corp., and she is whispering as if she is worried about attracting the attention of Rupert Murdoch and his army of right-wing pundits a few floors away in the studios of Fox News Channel.

Here's why: Her film, Under the Same Moon, which opens in Toronto and Vancouver today and will open soon in other cities, dares to speak a truth that is rarely heard these days in what passes for debate on the issue of illegal immigration. That is, Mexicans who risk their lives to be able to work within the broad belly of the U.S. economy may actually be human beings.

But in one of those strange-bedfellows moments in which American pop culture specializes, it is the specialty arm of Murdoch's film studio, Fox Searchlight that is distributing Under the Same Moon, even as his on-air scrappers regularly inveigh against illegal immigrants. Riggen takes a breath quietly and smiles. "It's weird that they are distributing my film, right?" she whispers. "So it's really all about money. You know, there's no ideology."

If it really is all about money, Murdoch's minions chose well when they picked up Moon in January, 2007, at Sundance, where the film pulled euphorically weeping audiences to their feet. Two weeks ago, carried along by passionate word of mouth from sneak previews across the United States, particularly in large Latino markets, Moon pulled in $2.6-million (U.S.), a record opening weekend for a Spanish-language film in the United States.

No surprise, really, for the film is a sentimental crowd-pleaser anchored by an impressively assured performance by Adrian Alonso, a Mexican-born actor previously seen in The Legend of Zorro who was only 12 when he made Moon. Alonso plays Carlitos, a nine-year-old boy who hasn't seen his mother, Rosario, since she left him in the care of his grandmother and crossed over to the U.S. four years earlier to work as a cleaning lady and babysitter. Desperately missing her, Carlitos pays a pair of college kids to smuggle him across the border. But the trip from Mexico to East Los Angeles isn't nearly as smooth as he might hope.

Riggen takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions, from melancholy to heart-stopping tension to an almost prideful joy in little Carlitos's plucky self-sufficiency. But it wasn't until she gave birth to her first child eight months ago, a daughter, that she realized what she had made. "I saw it again the other day, I was like: Oh my God! I was so moved by it, because now I connect fully with the mom and with the story, and I didn't before."

But Under the Same Moon is not merely a bittersweet picture about a boy in search of his mother. Riggen fills the frame with glimpses of a whole community in diaspora. Rosario makes her long, early-morning commute to the strains of a local Spanish-language radio station that plays a popular satirical song about Superman being an illegal alien; the Mexican folk art murals of East Los Angeles play a key role in the film; while hitchhiking, Carlitos is picked up and serenaded by the mariachi band Los Tigres del Nortes; and he finds a warm meal and a taste of home among day labourers who gather to dine in a woman's home and watch a Mexican soccer game on satellite TV.

"I think that's the reason why the movie surprisingly has been really loved by the Americans that have watched it," she says. "I think it's opening eyes to a reality that's around them that they've never set their eyes on."

Riggen knows that reality well. Born in Guadalajara, she moved to New York in the late nineties to study film at Columbia University. After making a pair of award-winning short films, including a documentary about poverty in Harlem, she moved to Los Angles, where she discovered an unseen city of Mexicans. "That's the only thing that makes the city more interesting, the huge Mexican community," she says. "Because the city itself, it's all about looks, beauty - plastic!"

Though she moved to L.A. to work in film, the bulk of Under the Same Moon was shot in Mexico - which sometimes doubled as L.A. - partly to keep costs low; the budget was $1.7-million. "Since I didn't have construction money, I had to be very careful with my camera. If I moved a little bit this way, you would discover the broken sidewalk, and that would reveal that I'm not in the U.S. but in Mexico," she laughs. "So I was very constrained in that sense."

But if the film was made in Mexico, its romantic aesthetic is pure Hollywood, which Riggen says has made her an outsider among the critical establishment back home. "I am a little bit criticized by my colleagues in Mexico, because there is the pretension that art is serious and boring and complicated and dark, and I'm one of the few that doesn't believe that," she says. "That's of course the reason why Mexican movies don't usually make money, either, and nobody wants to see them. I believe in another kind of movie, in which you can entertain and at the same time you can be meaningful."

Mexican filmmakers aren't the only ones who are critical of Riggen's work. Anti-immigration message boards have lit up over the past few weeks with snarling attacks on the film. Riggen shrugs. "One blog says 'communist trash' - Marxist, communist trash. It's very funny," she says. "I guess the liberal American people have embraced it, they really love it. And then there probably will be many people who think, Why am I making a movie about criminals?"

'Shine A Light': Rock Of Ages

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

Shine a Light

(out of 4)
Starring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Darryl Jones, Bill and Hillary Clinton and numerous friends. Directed by Martin Scorsese. At major theatres, some with IMAX screens. PG

(April 04, 2008) Former U.S. president Bill Clinton meets the Rolling Stones backstage at a show and cheerily informs them, "I've got all these people in their 60s calling me for tickets."

Ouch. The scene from Shine a Light, a concert film directed by Martin Scorsese during a two-night stand at New York's Beacon Theatre in 2006, is the most pointed of many reminders that the Stones have strutted like roosters in a gilded cage for nearly 50 years.

There's nothing fresh or spontaneous about this crew – and how could there be? It's not even a novelty to see them on film, since there have already been more than a dozen Stones performance movies.

Yet here's Scorsese at the outset, feigning sweat over the band's set list – even though these well-seasoned lads are as predictable as time and tides. If they didn't play "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Brown Sugar," "Start Me Up" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," the Earth would spin off its axis.

And here's Mick Jagger, having a hissy fit over Scorsese's desire to have a floating camera amongst the 18 (!) lenses poking from every corner of the theatre. Jagger, who stared down knife-wielding bikers at Altamont in 1969, nixes the floater on the grounds "it's dangerous."

For all that, Shine a Light is still a treat, providing brilliant illumination of the Stones as they get their ya-ya's out yet again. Lo and behold, with their well-chosen selection of guest players, there's even a reasonable facsimile of spontaneity.

The boys actually play a few songs they haven't done a million times, and the musicianship is above reproach – especially the stellar rhythm section of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Darryl Jones (the new guy since 1994), and the nimble fretwork of second guitarist Ronnie Wood, the best friend Keith Richards ever had.

In agreeing to document the durable band's record-setting "A Bigger Bang" tour of 2005-2007, Scorsese wasn't looking for the deep insights of the kind he teased out of Bob Dylan for No Direction Home or The Band for The Last Waltz.

Scorsese just wanted a great show. He persuaded reluctant boss man Jagger to switch venues from a Rio de Janeiro concert before one million people to a pair of gigs in the fall of 2006 at the fabled Beacon, a music and film landmark with fewer than 3,000 seats.

The excitable helmer conscripted four Oscar-winning cinematographers – Robert Richardson, John Toll, Andrew Lesnie and Robert Elswit – to join his camera army. It may be gilding the lily, but this is some lily. A late add was Albert Maysles, the octogenarian documentarian whose Altamont chronicle Gimme Shelter, made with late brother David Maysles, was truly a testament to reckless living.

Scorsese packed the Beacon front rows with nubile young dollies, to hide all those 60-year-olds who make it too obvious that the Stones and their oldest fans could be thinking of rocking chairs rather than rocking out.

It's showbiz, after all. And the band still rocks like none other, true to their creed that if their adored blues masters can play into their dotage, then so can they.

And speaking of blues masters, watch as Buddy Guy ambles onstage to unleash his fiery guitar and been-down-so-long vocals on the Muddy Waters chestnut "Champagne & Reefer."

Jack White of the White Stripes duets with Jagger on "Loving Cup," a rarely played tune from Exile on Main Street, the 1972 album generally considered to be the Stones' best. Exile is also the source of the movie's gospel-tinged title tune, another concert rarity.

Most pleasing of all is Jagger's duet with a sultry Christina Aguilera on "Live With Me," a classic Stones number reborn to its swaggering greatness.

Shine a Light isn't the best of the many Stones films – Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones at the Max and the bootleg C---sucker Blues exceed it – but the sound and visuals are first rate, and the film is loaded with verve and style. What few interview clips are included are mostly archival and played for laughs, as when Dick Cavett asks Jagger in 1972 whether he could imagine still playing in his 60s. Jagger clearly could.

All those cameras and lights let slip that time really does wait for no one, even for a force of nature like Jagger, still as lean as a panther. You can count the years in the deep lines on his face and that of grizzled main axeman Richards, who puts his guitar aside for a moving solo rendition of "You Got the Silver," a song from the early '70s that has improved with age.

Most revealing, though, is the embrace Jagger and Richards share after warbling through the country smiler "Far Away Eyes." Now that's something you don't see every day from these two competitive souls, and it's proof that a heart still beats beneath that slick Stones machinery.

"We love what we do," Richards says. And looking at that huge smile on his face, how could we ever doubt that?

Shooting For Perfection In New Movie Role

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Angela Dawson,
Special To The Star

(April 03, 2008) HOLLYWOOD–Director David Ayer, who wrote the Denzel Washington police drama Training Day, calls Keanu Reeves, the star of his latest depiction of police corruption, Street Kings, an enigma.

"We all have a certain idea of who Keanu is or what kind of guy he is," says the navy submariner turned filmmaker. "To paraphrase Stephen King, what fans think actors are is fiction."

Street Kings opens April 11.

Ayer found Reeves in person to be quite different from his image. "When I met him in person, I discovered a thoughtful, intelligent, deep thinker," Ayer recalls. "He's also a kind, warm, charismatic guy – and a little bit shy."

Ayer recalls that Reeves, who spent some of his early years in Toronto, was a determined and committed actor.

For example, he points to one cold, rainy day during pre-production when they were at a police shooting range practising weapons training for the film. "I was ready to punch out," Ayer says with a laugh. "But he was like, `No, no, no.' He wasn't going to quit. So we kept shooting in the rain for hours."

Reeves' determination to look – not just act – the part of a seasoned LAPD detective was par for the course. He plays the role of Det. Tom Ludlow, part of an elite unit of vice squad officers. His job is to crack down on the city's most dangerous drug dealers. Under the wing of the unit's rising star captain, the unit sometimes dispenses its own brand of justice.

The flawed character of Ludlow reinvents Reeves, primarily known for heroic, leading man roles. "It was fun to be pushed into a place I don't normally live in," says the youthful-looking 43-year-old. ``He's a good guy. You just don't want to get on his wrong side.''

Co-star Chris Evans (Fantastic Four), who plays a young internal affairs investigator, describes Reeves as a perfectionist. Evans, 26, counts himself among Reeves' fans, dating back to one of his earliest performances in the 1989 comedy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Jay Mohr, who plays another member of the vice squad, says Reeves' intensity was only matched by that of Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, who plays their protective police captain. Reeves say he too was awed by Whitaker's performance. "When you're working with him, there's such a non-actor type of thing'' going on, he recalls. "He's just really present and real. It's a different kind of pretend with him, because he's not really pretending.''

Informed of Reeves' comment, Whitaker laughs and counters that Reeves has a similar acting style.

"He's got a strong place of emotion and stuff," says the actor, who won an Oscar last year for his dynamic portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

"He was able to carry the energy of that character. I hadn't seen him play a character quite like this before.''

Reeves recently wrapped production on The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the 1951 science-fiction classic.

Entertainment News Wire

Keanu, Grown Up? No Way!

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Bob Strauss

(April 8, 2008) LOS ANGELES —
Keanu Reeves bulked up, trained hard and looks suitably grave for his latest film performance as a troubled, violent Los Angeles cop in Street Kings. It's probably the most adult thing we've ever seen him do. And it's about time.

"Yeah, sure, it's a grown-up role," acknowledges Reeves, now slimmed back down to his regular weight and looking a good decade younger than his 43 years. "I don't think I could have played it like I did five or 10 years ago. Tommy Ludlow is a full and true adult."

Why should this matter to a star of Reeves's, um, vintage? People still identify the Toronto-raised actor with his teenage roles in the Bill & Ted comedies, or as Neo, the young universe-saver from The Matrix trilogy. Less than five years ago, he was still convincingly cast as Diane Keaton's youthful love interest in Something's Gotta Give.

But Reeves is definitely no kid in Street Kings, which boasts an original script by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia) and was directed by Training Day writer David Ayer. Detective Ludlow is a trigger-happy, alcoholic widower facing a midlife crisis of conscience. Reeves doesn't have a goofy moment in it, and he apparently felt his age during the movie's production.

"It was one of the toughest shooting experiences that I've had," admits Reeves, sporting jet black tousled hair. "It was a really demanding role, but also just getting it on film was really demanding. I was in every shot, and it's a pretty physical role, but, also, the character was just in such turmoil all the time. ... It was 18-hour, 15-hour, 17-hour, 18-hour, 15-hour days. So, in that sense, for this line of work, it's pretty taxing.

"But I enjoyed the intensity of it very much. I like that immersion in that complete subsuming of your life. Hopefully, it was worthwhile."

That kind of work ethic has served Reeves well since he got his first movie break, as the masked goalie in the 1986 hockey picture Youngblood. Net was his position on his high-school team [at De La Salle College] where he was known as "the Wall." Unkind critics have suggested that the same nickname could be applied to some of his movie work, even though he has mixed in artistically credible projects such as River's Edge and My Own Private Idaho with the dumb teen comedy, action headbangers and romantic fluff.

By choosing blockbusters such as Speed and The Matrix, Reeves wisely ensured that he would remain an established veteran over the long haul.

"It's the first time I've been called an established veteran," he says, cackling. "The first time! I've arrived to established veteran! Which is great. I've always hoped to have a career and I still hope to have a career, and I've been fortunate and I'm grateful to have a body of work, to add onto that.

"But, yeah, I've been starting to get inklings of that for, like, the past five years. Some of the actors I've been acting with, like Chris Evans in Street Kings, their memories of films are films that I acted in. It's like, 'Oh yeah, I saw you when I was 11 in Bill & Ted' or Speed or whatever it was. So I guess that's just a course of life. It's happening more, but it's not a bad thing."

Reeves's life course was unconventional from the start. Born in Beirut to an English mother and Hawaiian/Chinese father, he moved with his mom to New York before she settled in Toronto in time for him to start school (though he has called L.A. home for years, Reeves maintains Canadian citizenship).

"I had a great upbringing in Toronto," he recalls affectionately. "The grade school I went to [Jesse Ketchum Public School] was such a, not protected, but open-to-the-world learning environment, socially. There was really no racism, there were no class distinctions; it was a great cross-section of kids from first grade to eighth grade. It was, I guess, the best of what you would think of as a liberal education. If you had a fight, it was personal, you know what I mean? We didn't inherit it. And I'm really grateful for that."

Beside hockey, Reeves caught the acting bug in high school. To his detractors' chagrin, his background includes extensive stage training, although it has been some time since he has trod the boards.

"I haven't worked in 10 years on the stage," he says. "The focus has really been on working in film. It's been enough of a creative outlet. I do have to say, though, that the stage is calling a little bit. But I want to do a new play; I don't want to do the Gentleman Caller in The Glass Menagerie."

There has also been a semblance of a music career, playing electric bass in such groups as Dogstar and Becky. But that, too, has fallen away. "The bands that I played in, we all broke up," Reeves says. "I socially still play. My friends get together and we jam and stuff like that, but nothing too organized."

He hasn't outgrown all facets of youth, though. For one, Reeves remains stubbornly single. "Yeah, I know, I don't have any kids," he mockingly scolds himself. "I'm 43, it's time to settle down. Maybe."

And any talk of guarding the net certainly brings the eternal boy out of the man Reeves has become.

"Actually, you know what?" he says with childlike enthusiasm. "The other day I bought some new hockey equipment. I had moved house, so my old equipment was in storage and it was all awful. So I went with a friend of mine out to this hockey place and I spent three hours there.

"So I'm set. My friend's kid is having a 10-year-old birthday party, so we're renting a rink and playing in it, old-school style."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Polley Attacks Bill C-10

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 9, 2008) Some of the biggest guns in Canada's creative community - including Oscar-nominated actor/writer
Sarah Polley - are heading to Ottawa tomorrow to protest against a controversial provision on film and TV tax credits now before the Senate banking committee.

The high-profile group of writers, producers, directors and actors say they will take the federal government to task for trying to push through an amendment to the Income Tax Act that could cripple the financial foundation that supports Canadian-made film and television.

"This legislation threatens freedom of expression as well as the very financial foundation upon which this industry was built," Polley said yesterday. "Take that away, and many of us would be hard-pressed to understand the motivation to stay here."

"The main reason that I choose to make films in Canada, and act in Canada, is because public funding allows a level of creative freedom that is simply not possible with private money," Polley added, whose feature-film directorial debut, Away from Her, was nominated this year for two Academy Awards.

Who's speaking

Among those expected to appear before the Senate banking committee tomorrow:
-Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec
Vincent Leduc, vice-president of Zone3, chair of the board of directors
Brigitte Doucet, APFTQ deputy general director Writers Guild of Canada
Rebecca Schechter, president
Maureen Parker, executive director Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists
Wendy Crewson, actor
Sarah Polley, actor, director and writer, Directors Guild of Canada
Monique Lafontaine, general counsel and director of regulatory affairs
Brian Anthony, national executive director and CEO (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

The actress's comments come a week after Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner faced an onslaught of questions about why her department should have the power, as a provision proposes, to cut off tax benefits for productions that contain graphic sex, violence or other content that the government finds offensive.

Equally upsetting to Canada's cultural sector is the fact that this so-called "morality hammer" applies only to Canadian TV and film projects. Hollywood and other foreign productions that apply for tax credits get a free pass.

"I can't think of an issue that has galvanized people in the arts community the way this one has," said Polley. And the idea that Bill C-10 applies only to Canadian productions and not to Canadian tax credits subsidizing American productions is "horrific," she added.

"That's one of the more amazing things about this bill. Why should Hollywood studios, who apply for our tax credits, not be subject to the same criteria? The whole thing is sloppy. Of course we shouldn't invest in movies filled with excessive pornography or hate. That makes sense, and there are rules [under the Criminal Code] to prevent that. But there are a lot of things that have not been rigorously thought through."

Actress Wendy Crewson (ReGenesis, 24, Air Force One), who is travelling to Ottawa tomorrow on behalf of ACTRA, said the amendment affecting film and TV tax credits has to be re-addressed. "Freedom of speech is at stake," she said. "It underlines the kind of dismissive attitude this government has to the cultural sovereignty of this country."

The provision is buried in an omnibus bill that is primarily intended to implement the taxation of non-resident trusts and foreign-investment entities and implement amendments to the Income Tax Act.

Last week, Verner said she would wait a full year to wield new powers to deny film and television producers tax credits - should those powers be granted to her.

Under the amended legislation, the government would be able to pull financial aid for any film or TV show it deems to have crossed a line, even if other government agencies, such as Telefilm Canada, have already invested in them.

Verner told the committee she would allow members of the entertainment industry to draft guidelines to establish what would not qualify for the credits, and how those guidelines should be applied.

But sources in the production, legal and business community say that the proposed guidelines have already been drafted and a copy circulated internally. Verner's office denies those reports.

Alicia Keys Film Offered For Free Online

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 9, 2008) *"Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland" is a documentary of Grammy Award-winning musician and Keep a Child Alive (KCA) co-founder Alicia Keys' month-long trip to Africa to visit communities affected by HIV and AIDS.

Spreading the message is so important to the Grammy-winner that she is making the documentary available for free online. A portion of the film will debut tonight on "American Idol: Idol Gives Back" (7:30-10:00 p.m. ET/PT) on FOX. Viewers who visit www.americanidol.com will be directed to www.AliciainAfrica.com where they can watch the entire documentary.

"Alicia in Africa" will also be available to download courtesy of the documentary's exclusive download partner www.SpiralFrog.com. The film will also be available on http://impact.myspace.com

"Everyone who visits Africa is changed by the experience, but not everyone can afford to go to Africa," says Keys. "Come with me on my journey and learn as I learn. Let's start a virus to stop a virus- send the film to everyone you know. Let's change this nightmare into our generation's greatest success story."

Alicia's commitment carries over into her concerts. She'll screen the Alicia in Africa trailer before each concert on her American tour, which kicks off April 19 in Virginia. Go to Aliciakeys.com for tour dates. Alicia will also announce the "Text Alive" initiative, which allows anyone to make an immediate $5 donation to KCA simply by text messaging "Alive" to 90999.

• Alicia in Africa, directed by South African filmmaker Earle Sebastian, shows us an Africa rarely seen. Travelling through Africa's beautiful landscapes we meet inspiring children, families and communities in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. The documentary is a breathtaking journey of a generation that refuses to give up. In under an hour, Alicia introduces viewers to so many eye-opening topics surrounding the AIDS pandemic-from the Gogo grannies and the Agape Orphanage to the success of antiretroviral drugs, the ongoing need to access them and KCA's essential efforts throughout Africa.

::TV NEWS::

Elvis Costello, Elton John Team Up For TV Series

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 03, 2008) This year's model of Elvis Costello is going to look a lot like a talk show host.

The bespectacled singer, and husband of Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall, has signed on to host in the 13-part series
Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ..., a new, hour-long hybrid talk/music performance show in which artists discuss their craft.

And Costello isn't the only superstar involved in the show, which will begin sometime later this year on CTV, the U.K.'s Channel 4 and the U.S. Sundance Channel.

Elton John's production company, Rocket Pictures, along with Toronto's Reinvention Entertainment, SpyBox Pictures and Prospero Pictures, is behind the Canadian/U.K. co-production.

Costello, John and John's Canadian partner, David Furnish, are just three of the executive producers.

Shooting begins in New York City in the next month, but the producers remain mum on possible subjects, although it's obvious John's and Costello's rolodexes will be used to get big-name talent.

In a news release, Costello said: "I'm not interested in extracting some dark secret (from guests). I'd rather hear about a bright secret, a deep love or a curiosity that might be otherwise obscured by fame. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk in complete thoughts about music, movies, art or even vaudeville, then frame it with unique and illustrative performances."

According to the Canadian producers, the idea for the Spectacle was hatched here. Co-executive producer Stephen Warden said years in music journalism gave him the idea to "give the audience the chance to be the fly on the wall for these intimate conversations with artists talking about their craft where they could really breathe and not be just kind of a sound bite situation."

Costello has had some experience hosting a TV show; he filled in on The Late Show With David Letterman when Letterman was recovering from shingles in 2003.

Battlestar's One-Eyed Colonel Says Role A `Gift'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(April 04, 2008) Even without the eye patch and the scowl, Michael Hogan has never exactly been shy and retiring.

Which makes one wonder why, even on the eve of tonight's avidly anticipated return of Battlestar Galactica (Space at 10 p.m.), he has studiously, stubbornly avoided the press.

That is, until now.

It isn't a privacy issue, the actor insisted in an exclusive interview earlier this week. He just doesn't think it's necessary.

"Battlestar doesn't need me to sell tickets," assured Hogan, on the phone from Vancouver, on his way out the door to return to work – a dialogue dubbing session – on the second half of this fourth and final season.

"What Hogan has to say about things really doesn't matter."

He undersells himself. What Hogan has to say, and particularly what he says in the grizzled guise of Battlestar's one-eyed executive officer, Col. Saul Tigh, is of extreme interest to the reborn science-fiction series' dedicated legions of fans.

Yet the veteran Canadian character actor would prefer to reserve his off-camera comments for when and where they are really essential.

"If I am doing a play, or a small-budget Canadian film like A Simple Curve, which I did a little while ago, then I am all over it," he says. "I'll do everything."

He is right about one thing – there really is not a lot he needed to add to his fan-favourite portrayal of the cranky, crusty Tigh. It's all there in the character.

Even among this excellent ensemble cast, Hogan's Tigh has captivated – right from the first season, when he was still chugging back the booze, and on into the third, where he lost his right eye and led a guerrilla revolt and had to assassinate his traitorous wife, and then, at the end, was aghast to learn ... Ah, but we'll get there. The fun is in the telling.

And Hogan is having the time of his life.

"What a gift, what an absolute gift," he enthuses. "They just keep writing this stuff for me. I'm an honoured man.

"The work has been amazing – the directors, the writing, the cast ... I mean, you guest in some series, and you think, `F---, how do you come to work everyday?,' what with all the egos, etc. Here there's not an ounce of that. Not an ounce."

And it is a gift that will keep on giving, even when the show wraps for good in just a couple of months.

"It's really quite amazing, in terms of career, because there is nobody, nobody in this industry, worldwide, that hasn't seen Battlestar Galactica, you know what I mean? Francis Coppola has seen it. John Sayles has seen it ..."

And they have liked what they've seen – as have a substantial number of outside-the-industry, and even non-genre fans. And that, Hogan says, is because spaceships and robots notwithstanding, Battlestar Galactica is so much more than merely a "genre" show.

"I never think on the set at all that we're doing a sci-fi show," Hogan says. "My research has all been strictly human, because all of the situations that I have been placed in as Tigh are very human situations. I've never had to deal with the unreality of any of it. I mean, I have often said, `I'm glad I'm not a Cylon ...'"

He can't say that anymore. That surprise we mentioned from the end of last season, now almost an entire year ago, was the revelation that Tigh and several other unlikely characters have been unwitting artificial infiltrators all along.

"When they told me, I was like, `Bull---t! You've got to be kidding me!' I mean, apparently there was a thing on the Internet, and the fans voted on who was most likely or least likely a Cylon, and of everybody that even had one line on Battlestar, Tigh was second to the bottom."

Unexpected, perhaps. But that is precisely what keeps the Battlestar faithful coming back for more.

Though not, surprisingly, from failing to recognize Hogan, off-duty and out in the real world.

"People don't recognize me," he confirms. "I don't look like Col. Tigh when I'm walking down the street. We were in New York the other day, for the (David) Letterman appearance, and Eddie (co-star Olmos) and I were walking along, and people were all over him, and they had no idea who I was.

"And I love that – I think that's just great. But then there's Eddie saying, `Hey, this is ...,' and I'm, like, `Shut up, man. Don't do that!'"

It's the eye patch, he reasons. That damned annoying eye patch.

"I hate that thing," he grumbles, Tigh-like. "It screws with your depth perception. In the morning it's not bad, but later in the afternoon it's like, `Hogan's pretty quiet' ... `No, man, I'm just not going to talk anymore until this is off and I've got a beer in my hand.'"

There is, he reluctantly admits, one advantage. "It saves on contact lenses. I only have to put one in."

CRTC Battle Over TV Cable Fees Pits Rogers Against Networks

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson

(April 07, 2008) Federal hearings that will determine whether Canada's biggest television networks have the right to collect tens of millions of dollars a year from cable companies will begin this week – but the fight already appears destined for the courts regardless of the outcome.

Rogers Communications Inc. is vowing to take the battle to the Supreme Court of Canada if regulators allow CTV and Global Television to introduce the fees, which could be worth as much as $60-million annually to each broadcaster.

The networks are also hinting at possible appeals, which would likely also go through the courts, if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rules against them.

Such bitterness threatens to undermine the three-week hearings, which are slated to begin tomorrow and are the first in a decade to discuss possible changes to cable regulations.

“We will exhaust all avenues to stop this,” Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind said of the proposed fees. “We'll go to the Supreme Court if we have to.”

CTV and Global say they are tired of being forced to give their signals to cable and satellite companies for free, who then make billions in profit without compensating the broadcasters.

“We need a fair deal, which means ending the current money-for-nothing free ride of cable and satellite companies,” said Paul Sparkes, executive vice-president of corporate affairs for CTVglobemedia Inc.

Rogers argues the distributors give networks access to millions of Canadian homes, which helps bolster ad revenue for the broadcasters. “They should be paying us,” Mr. Lind said.

CTV and Global want the right to charge cable and satellite companies 50 to 70 cents a month per subscriber. If approved, the distributors vow to pass those charges to consumers, meaning the change could add as little as $2 to a bill, and upward of $8 in some markets, depending on how many networks are deemed eligible.

Such fees have been reserved only for specialty channels, such as Bravo, Showcase and TSN. But the national networks say their business models are struggling amid competition from cable and the Internet. The infusion of cash is needed to fund local TV stations, including news and community programming, which is hurting financially.

When asked how far the broadcasters are willing to push the fight in light of Rogers' threat of court action, Mr. Sparkes said: “This is a must-win. It's not bravado, and it's not rhetoric. The future of local TV in Canada depends on it.” (CTVglobemedia is the parent company of CTV and The Globe and Mail.)

The debate is steeped in conflicting arguments. Rogers says the networks aren't hurting since pretax profit for the sector rose to $113-million last year, from $91-million a year before, according to the CRTC.

However, the broadcasters point out those numbers have fallen sharply from a few years ago when they were consistently above $230-million.

But even with their profits under pressure, the networks have steadily increased spending on U.S. programs to drive ratings in Canada, angering the local production industry.

Meanwhile, Rogers argues its customers won't accept such fee increases – even if they fall on the low end of estimates at $2 to $5 a month. The networks point out that Rogers hiked its rates this spring by an almost identical amount for most subscribers.

The CRTC denied a similar proposal in 2007 but has allowed it to be heard again amid slumping TV profits and soaring cable income.

Glenn O'Farrell, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters said he is concerned about the tension heading into the hearings, particularly since the cable industry is seeking to deregulate parts of the sector, which has broadcasters worried.

“What we think we should be doing here, frankly, is lowering the temperature in the room a little bit,” Mr. O'Farrell said.

In addition to the fees, the hearings will probe other contentious topics, including:

- Whether to loosen rules that protect specialty channels from competing with a similar format, and whether U.S. cable networks should be allowed access to the Canadian market.

- Potentially easing the requirements that cable companies carry certain channels.

- Whether to allow cable companies to continue carrying networks from other time-zones (called time-shifting), which the broadcasters are against.

THE FEE DEBATE

- CTV and Global want to charge cable and satellite companies for their feeds. They say the distributors make billions from their free signals.

- Distributors argue they give the networks access to millions of homes, which boosts television ad revenue.

- Analysts are watching closely since the debate is worth $60-million to each network and could add several dollars to consumers' monthly bills.

Keith Robinson: The Canterbury’s Law Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams

(April 8, 2008)  *Born in Kentucky, but raised in Georgia, Keith Robinson is a dynamic and multi-talented actor/singer/songwriter who can be seen on the new FOX drama premiering in April called “Canterbury’s Law.”

The show is a courtroom drama starring Julianna Margulies as an iconoclastic defense attorney who's willing to bend the law in order to protect the wrongfully accused.

Keith plays Chester Grant, a congressman's son who’s embarrassed by his privileged upbringing and has turned his back on politics.

The show premieres on FOX in April 2008.

Keith is probably best known for the role of C.C. White in the screen adaptation of Dreamgirls. Keith also performed “Patience,” an Oscar-nominated song from the film with Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce’ and Anika Noni Rose at last year’s Academy Awards. Earlier, he played Bill Cosby in the 2004 hit film Fat Albert.

On television, he met with success in recurring roles on the NBC drama “American Dreams” and FX's critically-acclaimed Iraq war series, “Over There.”  He won a 2006 Camie (Character and Morality in Entertainment) Award for his stellar work in “The Reading Room,” an original Hallmark movie starring James Earl Jones.

Youngsters might recognize him as the Green Ranger of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And most recently, Keith enjoyed a supporting role in the new holiday classic film This Christmas for Sony Screen Gems.

When not on the set, Keith can be fund in the recording studio working on his first solo album, Utopia, which will be released sometime this Summer.  The passionate crooner is very excited to be bringing his unique brand of R&B to his fans.

Kam Williams: Hi Keith, thanks for the time.

Keith Robinson: Thank you, thanks for having me.

KW: What interested you in Canterbury’s Law?

KR: It was an edgy law drama that had a unique spin on how they solved the cases.

KW: You play the son of a congressman on the series. Tell me a little about your character.

KR: His name is Chester Grant. He’s a young, focused hotshot lawyer who’s eager to make his mark, somewhat like a young Johnny Cochran. His father is a well-off, crooked politician and they bump heads a lot.

KW: How did you prepare for the role?

KR: I did some reading and watched a lot of episodes of “Matlock” and law shows.

KW: How is working on a TV series different from working on a movie?

KR: A movie is a more creative process. You are not as pressed for time. On a TV series you have more time deadlines and it can be routine, a good routine, but routine.

KW: Your breakout role, I suppose, was as the Green Power Ranger. Do little kids come up to you on the street because of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?

For entire interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.  

Time For Glitterati To Give Back

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(April 09, 2008)  Tonight: television's biggest show takes a break from raking in the cash to help the less fortunate. Seriously.

Idol Gives Back (Fox, CTV, 7:30 p.m.) returns with musical performances, videos to raise social awareness, messages from politicians, a talent roster brimming with A-list royalty and, most important, a spirit of philanthropy.

I know, I know. A cynical rolling of the eyes is almost automatic when Hollywood attempts to make the world a better place. This is especially true when the conspicuous compassion originates on a "reality" show obsessed with the material trappings of fame and fortune.

But you know what? American Idol is trying to use its power for good. So there will be no sneering today, no derision, no cheap sarcasm.

For example, instead of mocking the relative paucity of Ryan Seacrest's promise to donate his paycheque from tonight's show – an amount roughly equivalent to what he spends on skinny ties each week – I will simply point out last year's inaugural special raised $76 million for charity and leave it at that.

Instead of crafting an ageist joke about how U.S. presidential candidate John McCain probably used black-and-white stock and Edison's Vitascope – the good senator recorded a video that needed to be reshot because it didn't meet the technical standards of modern day broadcast television – I will merely let you know British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced his government will donate $200 million to purchase mosquito nets for Africa.

Other politicians slated to appear via video include the rival aspiring leaders of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Or as they're known in this household, Crockett and Tubbs.

Just a wild guess: Tubbs will use the words "hope," "change," or "believe," and Crockett will fight back tears with the melodramatic pauses usually reserved for soap stars on Telemundo.

"Tonight isn't just about raising money," Brad Pitt told the crowd during Sunday's taping of Idol Gives Back. "Sometimes, to help people, we've got to travel outside of our comfort zone to really understand another situation."

He's right. So, please, no punch lines about adopting orphans while travelling outside of comfort zones. And no wisecracks about how the hat Pitt wears tonight makes him look like a hobo who dances for crusts of bread down by the marina.

What else happens during tonight's 150-minute glitzy telethon? Put it this way: reprinting the full list of participating celebrities would chew up most of this column's daily word limit.

So let's just cherry-pick a few highlights.

Fergie joins Heart to sing "Barracuda," the band's ancient hit. By the way, have you ever tried to play "Barracuda" on the expert level of Guitar Hero III? It's insanely difficult! Not as difficult, though, as singing "Barracuda" and doing cartwheels in spray-on rubber pants, knee-high boots and a skin-tight top, as you'll see.

Other things to watch for (assuming they aren't cut from broadcast): Jimmy Kimmel makes fun of Simon Cowell's nipples. Robin Williams takes a shot at Paula Abdul's coherence. The Idol finalists begin the special with a performance of Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music."

As for the past Idols in attendance, the list includes Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Fantasia, Elliott Yamin and Elliott Yamin's still impressive new teeth.

Hang on. Sorry. I just tumbled out of my chair imagining what McCain would look like with those teeth and Pitt's hat.

Okay, so the moratorium on sneering begins ... now.

American Idol, Fox and parent company News Corp. deserve praise for Idol Gives Back. This ambitious telecast promises to affect positive change and be endearingly big-hearted, a quality we don't always associate with television.

TV TIDBITS

Rosie Perez Books Comedy Pilot

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 8, 2008) *Dancer-turned-actress Rosie Perez, who first rocketed to fame in the early 90s as the head Fly Girl on Fox's "In Living Color," returns to series television in a new drama pilot titled "Exit 19."  The project from CBS Paramount and ABC Studios stars Geena Davis as Gloria, a Manhattan homicide detective and single mom. Perez will play Lorna, Gloria's Brooklyn-born partner on the police force.  Ramon Rodriguez has joined the cast as a smart and flirty cop who works with Gloria and Lorna. Amy Farrington will play Davis' neighbour, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Toronto Musical Broadway-Bound

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(April 09, 2008) Maybe we'll have to call Berkeley St. "Broadway North."

The Story of My Life, a musical by Torontonians Neil Bartram and Brian Hill that had its world premiere at the Canadian Stage Company's Berkeley St. Theatre in 2006, looks like it's headed to Broadway.

According to Playbill.com, the wheels are in motion to bring The Story of My Life to the Great White Way in January 2009 at a theatre to be announced, with producer Chase Mishkin at the helm.

Mishkin, one of the producers of the critically acclaimed rap musical Passing Strange, has been producing on Broadway since 1996. Her biggest success was presenting Dame Edna in the 1999-2000 season, for which she won a Tony.

The Story of My Life is an intimate musical about the life-long relationship between two friends. Bartram and Hill, its authors, have been life and professional partners since they met during the Toronto production of Forever Plaid in 1993.

They began writing in 1996, with the inspiration, Hill said during a 2006 interview, being "an idea about how a friendship that begins in childhood can change the trajectory of two people's lives, but you only realize it in retrospect."

After years of workshops, the 2006 production at the Canadian Stage Company drew mixed to negative reviews, but artistic producer Martin Bragg insists "I was always proud of Neil and Brian. They worked so hard and continued to make changes all during the run."

Once the show had closed, they returned to New York (where they have been living since 2001) and took it to veteran director/lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. (Ain't Misbehavin', Miss Saigon) who had them rewrite the musical considerably.

At a presentation last fall at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, The Story of My Life received standing ovations and most insiders felt it was only a matter of time until it was produced.

Bartram, contacted yesterday in Manhattan, felt it "was a bit premature for a statement" but confirmed that "Mishkin intends to bring The Story of My Life to Broadway in early 2009."

They Are The Champions

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(April 09, 2008)  It's a crazy little thing called love.

That's how you can best explain the passion of the numerous superfans who have helped the Mirvish production of
We Will Rock You reach its first anniversary tomorrow night.

During those 400 performances, nearly 750,000 people have seen the show, but it's the emotional energy of the ones who keep coming back that provides the electric spark that keeps this show special.

Erica Peck, who's been playing Scaramouche since the beginning, can feel their effect.

"Sometimes we have a kind of quiet audience and we can tell there's a few of the superfans out there. Their excitement gets everybody going and before too long the whole place is rocking."

We're talking people who buy tickets to the show time and time again, getting the audiences to cheer and then, afterwards, bonding at the stage door of the Canon Theatre by pre-arranged plan.

Welcome to the era of Facebook.

Once upon a time, fans sought each other out by instinct and common interest. But now, all you have to do is log onto Facebook, search "We Will Rock You" and 37 groups come up.

Two of them devoted to the Toronto production have close to 500 members each. One group loves the show itself and the other is addicted to its handsome, hard-wailing Quebecois leading man, Yvan Pedneault.

"Audiences in Quebec are normally very demonstrative," says Pedneault, "but I've never seen this kind of fan before.

"Every night, there's about 20 people waiting at the stage door to say hello. Sure there's a lot of the same faces, time and time again, but many of them are different, too."

There are a few that both Pedneault and Peck have come to recognize.

Meet Superfan No. 1: Kelly Brazeau.

She's already seen We Will Rock You 16 times and has booked three more tickets between now and the May 11 closing. She also frequently appears at the stage door when she hasn't seen the show, just to say hi to the cast.

Talking to her on the phone from her home in Oakville, she seems like a perfectly normal young woman, so you have to ask why she has developed this obsession.

"I've been asked that a lot," she laughs, "because half my family thinks I'm crazy, but I'll tell you why it hit me so hard.

"When I was a kid, I used to listen to Queen's music with my dad all the time, and now I'm studying to have a career in musical theatre. So if you combine the two, it's a perfect match."

She thinks of the superfans as "a family, a twisted hyperactive kind of a family who all belong together." And when her non-WWRY friends tell her to "get a life," she replies, "I have a life. It's just that WWRY has become a big part of it."

Monica Szustakowski is not far behind Kelly on the fan-o-metre. She's been to the show 14 times already and doesn't know how many more visits she'll squeeze in before the closing.

She's a musical theatre student at Sheridan College, which was where Erica Peck was studying when she got plucked out to join the cast.

Consequently, Peck has become a symbol for a whole generation of theatre wannabes.

"She's my idol," says Szustakowski proudly.

"She proves to all of us that anyone can make it as long as you've got the determination and need to get where you want to go."

When told that there are people out there looking up to her as an ideal, Peck is moved.

"That is so kewl," she says softly, "and so nice. If girls want to look at me or my character in the show as a role model that's one of the healthiest things they can do."

Still, it's not just the younger generation who dig this show. Mary Low is a mature woman who spent most of her life working in the education system. But now she's teaching people to love WWRY.

"My family loved it so much when we first went that I've been back 10 times, with 10 different groups of people. Everyone is energized and loves the humour and the music."

In fact, Low loves it so much that she's changed her car's license plate.

It now reads WWRY.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Radcliffe To Bare All In Broadway Debut

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(April 08, 2008)  NEW YORK–Harry Potter is headed to The Great White Way. Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter movies, will make his Broadway debut on Sept. 5, playing the disturbed stable boy in a revival of Peter Shaffer's play, Equus, it was announced Tuesday. Radcliffe, 18, earned rave reviews for his performance in the London production of the Tony Award-winning play. He also received loads of media attention for appearing naked onstage – a departure from his wholesome image as the bespectacled boy wizard in the big-screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy novels. Equus begins previews Sept. 5 for a limited 22-week run at the Broadhurst Theatre. The play opens Sept. 25-Feb. 8, 2009. Thea Sharrock directs. Richard Griffiths, who portrays Harry's mean Uncle Vernon in the Potter movies, reprises his London role as the psychiatrist who treats the stable boy, who has blinded six horses.

::DANCE NEWS::

Opposites Attract: The Hidden Spot

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

The Hidden Spot

Choreography by Malgorzata Nowacka. Until tomorrow at the Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(April 04, 2008) Malgorzata Nowacka's choreography is anchored in an elaborate play of opposites – restraint vs. release, combat vs. comfort, love vs. hate – that, like any friction, generates a lot of heat.

She speaks of locating a hidden spot where faith resides. That spot is represented by a small circle of light on the floor where a man and a woman meet and stare at it, as if it was the source of some mysterious energy.

Dan Wild stands tall and immovable. The space between him and Anisa Tejpar is charged with possibilities. A Clockwork Orange kind of mood descends over the stage. Nothing but lighting defines this abstract space, but it will come to resemble a gladiator's arena before The Hidden Spot is over.

Three men and three women make interchangeable pairs in this drama of striving and being rebuffed, yet striving again. They are driven by a force that Nowacka names as faith. In human relations, an act of faith is putting all your trust in another person. That's what is called for when the endeavour is high-risk dancing.

To a pounding, sometimes relentlessly repetitive electronic soundscape, mixed live by Jenna-Lee Leger, this ensemble of Wild, Tejpar, Brendan Wyatt, Amy Hampton, Louis Laberge-Côté and Nowacka fight each other, then come together like a smoothly running machine.

Organized faith is alluded to in a two-fingered salute like a perverted benediction and in Laberge-Côté 's pose, where he's stretched out like a crucifix. The sacred is soiled by the profane.

Tejpar and Wyatt play a game of hiding a tiny object in their clothes (is it a key?). They wrestle each other for it and their grasping takes on a sexual air. The very physicality of these performers makes any ideas of their spiritual states seem remote.

In one of the most impressive duets of the piece, Hampton holds Laberge-Côté between her open legs as they sit on the floor, their hands clasped together across his chest. They make the rough shape of a madonna and child.

Against this religious iconography, hands stray towards crotches and necking couples hold each other in fierce embraces that slide apart into combat.

Nowacka has ratcheted up her choreography up a few turns of the winch. With The Hidden Spot she at once achieves greater speed and greater intricacy. The narrative elements are easier to read than in earlier works and the energy more directed.

The silent exchange of hostilities alternating with affection is broken up when Tejpar and Wyatt suddenly speak. They inspect another couple doing a duet. "What's with the all-black (costumes)?" says one. "We do it much better than them."

These bits of self-referential dialogue don't add much to the proceedings, but they do make us aware of the dramatic conventions at work to make us believe we are watching an inward journey unfold.

DANCE TIDBITS

Breakdancer Frosty Freeze dies at 44

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 03, 2008) NEW YORK–Wayne Frost, a hip-hop pioneer known as Frosty Freeze, whose acrobatic performance with the legendary Rock Steady Crew in the 1983 hit movie Flashdance set off a worldwide breakdancing craze, died Thursday. He was 44. Frost died at Mount Sinai Medical Center after a long illness, said Jorge "Fabel" Pabon, senior vice president of the musical group where Frost made his name as a B-boy or breakdancer. Frost was known for his original style including acrobatic and fearless dance moves. He toured the world with the Rock Steady Crew and other hip-hop artists, including Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000 and Kool Lady Blue.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Ex-Blue Bomber Anchor Bonk Leads Way For Fellow 2008 Inductees

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Allan Ryan,
Sports Reporter

(April 03, 2008)  HAMILTON–Twenty-three seasons after calling it a career, John Bonk made it to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame yesterday but, as always, was just a step outside the spotlight.

Not that he minded and, for an offensive lineman, what could he have expected?

Especially, when the rest of this class of 2008 included the CFL's all-time yards rushing leader; the league's all-time leader in all-purpose yards; and a six-time winner of the CFL's outstanding player award, who still holds single-season records for passing yards and passing TDs.

These, thankfully, are three different guys, by the way – respectively, Mike Pringle, Mike (Pinball) Clemons and Doug Flutie.

"We're used to it. You know, offensive linemen," said Bonk on being slightly upstaged. "We do it for a different reason. We do it just because it's fun for us to do."

Pringle and Clemons, on hand for yesterday's introductory press conference, and Flutie, who was there via conference call, probably had a bit of fun along the way, too.

As did Tom Shepherd, who makes the hall's builders' category for his 43 years – and counting – involvement with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

And feeling honoured yesterday? Yes, definitely that – all of them.

"I would never miss a game where I could see the likes of a Mike Pringle or Pinball Clemons and Doug Flutie play," said Bonk. "So I'm honoured to be included now.

"But, for me, first of all, the honour came when I stepped on a field for the very first time as a CFL player (for his hometown Tiger-Cats in 1972)."

They took various, yet somehow similar routes to get here, of course – Clemons, from the projects in hometown Dunedin, Fla., through the College of William & Mary.

Pringle came off the streets of L.A. via Cal State Fullerton; Flutie, Maryland-born, through Boston College and the 1984 Heisman Trophy.

They were, respectively, also 5-foot-6, 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10 – too diminutive, of course, to make their mark in the NFL (although Flutie would disprove that later).

Bonk didn't have to travel so far. He grew up seven blocks from Ivor Wynne Stadium (then known as Civic Stadium), sold hot dogs there at age 12, daydreaming of a day he might step on that field.

And in 1972 he did, although late the following season was traded to the Blue Bombers, where he switched from linebacker to centre and starred (in that offensive lineman kind of way) for 13 years – and 202 straight regular-season games.

The eternally eloquent Clemons served up thanks to the two central figures in his life – his mother Ann and wife Diane – and offered a tribute to all the Argonaut fans who "make this so special to me," with a special mention for one, Peter Nobel, currently fighting the good fight in a Toronto hospital.

"I was just a guy who loved the game," said Clemons, now the Argos' chief executive officer. "I encourage all of you to love what you do, appreciate what you have, find a value in life. More important to me than this award is that this league has given me a home."

The official induction ceremonies will be held Sept. 18-20.

Canadian Women Beat Finns 4-2 For Berth In Final

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Donna Spencer,
The Canadian Press

(April 09, 2008) HARBIN, China – Canada secured a berth in the gold-medal game at the women's world hockey championship Wednesday and Finland hopes the Canadians can do the same for them.

Sarah Vaillancourt scored a pair of power-play goals and Hayley Wickenheiser had three assists to pace Canada to a 4-2 win over the Finns.

But Finland's 1-0 overtime upset of the Americans the previous day put them in position to play for gold for the first time at the world championships.

If the Canadians beat the U.S. on Thursday (TSN, Wednesday midnight ET), they get a rematch with Finland in Saturday's championship game (TSN, 7 a.m. ET).

"I've never been nervous about watching a Canada-U.S. game, but I will be tomorrow," Finland captain Emma Laaksonen said.

Katie Weatherston and Jayna Hefford each contributed a goal for Canada, while Kim St. Pierre stopped 10 of 12 shots for the win.

Laaksonen and Mari Pehkonen replied for Finland and goaltender Noora Raty turned away 30 of 34 shots.

The Americans have to beat Canada in order to join them in the final. The two countries have met in the last game of all 10 world championships.

So the stakes are higher for the U.S. than for Canada on Thursday, but the Canadians want to head into the final with momentum and show the Finns they are ready to play them again for gold if need be.

"There's always that huge competition against the U.S. and you never want to lose a game against them," Vaillancourt said. "If we could eliminate them from the final that would be awesome for us and really good for women's hockey."

Finland is an annoying, irritating team to play against as they clog up the middle lanes, have a knack for getting their sticks on shots and passes and excel at lifting an opposing player's stick to strip her of the puck.

"They're always in our faces," Vaillancourt said. "You think you have the puck and someone just comes out of nowhere."

The defending champions killed off three penalties in the opening period and their frustration over coming off the ice tied 1-1 with Finland showed in their body language.

"Quite frankly I wasn't pleased with the effort in the first period and we were all in agreement on that," Canadian head coach Peter Smith said. "We were standing around waiting for things to happen instead of making things happen.

"The players made the adjustments asked of them in the second period."

Special teams were the difference as Canada scored two power-play goals on five chances and killed off all six of Finland's chances a player up.

Vaillancourt's two power-play goals in a 38-second span starting at 11:23 of the second lifted the tension for the Canadians. They moved the puck with more speed and flow after that.

"We need to always move the puck quicker and shoot the puck and I'm probably the person who needs to shoot the puck in this team," Vaillancourt said. "I don't shoot enough.

"We're too generous with each other in making nice plays."

The 22-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., won the Patty Kazmaier Award this year as the best hockey player in NCAA Division 1 women's hockey.

The Harvard sophomore finished fifth in NCAA scoring, but with Canada's national team she often looks to dish the puck to linemates Wickenheiser, Canada's all-time leading scorer, and big-goal scorer Cherie Piper.

"It's a really different game from the college game. I just keep adjusting to that," she said.

The game started a noon local time and a handful of Canadians were among the sparse crowd, although the announced attendance was said to be 983.

Hefford opened the scoring at 3:29 and Laaksonen replied on an odd-man rush off a Canadian turnover in the offensive zone at 13:49.

Vaillancourt and Weatherston gave Canada a healthy lead in the second period before Pehkonen halved the deficit with the long goal of the third.

Charline Labonte will start in net against the U.S.

St. Pierre faced her toughest test of the tournament so far when Finland had a two-man advantage late in the first period. A quick pad save on Nora Tallus prevented the Finns from going up a goal.

For the second day in a row, the Canadian team returned to their hotel to shower because the shower drains in their dressing room at Baqu Arena were backed up.

Vaillancourt said her throat was sore because of the smog that hangs over Harbin.

"I think we all felt it right away as soon as we got here, but it can't an excuse because everyone is feeling the same way," she said. "It's more the smoke sometimes that we smell in here."

::OTHER NEWS::

A Dream Deferred For 40 Years Now

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere,
Books Columnist

"I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

– Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968.

(April 06, 2008) The speech given by
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the day before he was killed was sparsely attended. It was a rainy day in Memphis, where King had arrived to show his support for the city's striking sanitation workers.

His arrival in the city had been delayed by rumours of a bomb threat, prompting the 39-year-old civil rights leader to take a later plane. But King was upbeat, turning the threat on his life into an opportunity to reassure his followers that men might be killed but their dreams lived on. By the next evening, when King lay crumpled and fatally wounded on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel, that vision would be put to the test. Arguably, it has been ever since.

King was a staunch advocate of non-violent protest of racial inequity in America, but violence dogged his every step. Already, he had survived a stabbing attempt. The day before he was killed, a march in support of the 1,300-plus sanitation workers – who had walked off the job in support of 22 black workers who had been sent home without pay the previous January – had seen smashed store windows and looting.

King might have been to the mountaintop, but no one knew better than he that he also bestrode a powder keg. And, in the aftermath of his killing, it erupted.

Riots broke out in Memphis and more than 100 other U.S. cities as news of the assassination spread, prompting President Lyndon Baines Johnson to call – as King himself had done on so many occasions – for peace: "I ask every citizen to reject the blind violence that has taken Dr. King, who lived by non-violence," said the president.

LBJ's use of the word 'blind' remains curious, as the violence it refers to may be the most perverse incarnation of its opposite: violence perpetrated by issues surrounding racial difference, the simple fact that some people don't look the same as others.

Forty years after King's assassination, race remains an especially livid scar – the wound that refuses to heal – on the face of American culture and politics.

To an extent that threatens to swamp all other considerations, race has become the primary issue of the current contest for the leadership of the Democratic Party. Although frontrunner Barack Obama had previously sought to downplay its significance in his own candidacy, his recent speech on the subject (inescapably evocative of King as it was) merely put the spotlight on something that had been huddling so ominously in the shadows anyway. Here, after all, was a black man who might actually become the President of the United States. You'd have to be blind not to notice.

On the evening of the speech, I was watching the post-event commentary on CNN with a close friend. A black woman, her jaw dropped when pundit Carl Bernstein suggested that the Obama speech signified that: "the genie of race is now out of the bottle."

"Out of the bottle?" she said incredulously. "When was it ever in the bottle?"

Never and always, it would seem. Never in truth: because of its basis in optics, race can never be hidden or contained. Only repressed. But it's always in the bottle because sometimes, maybe most of the time, this truth is too complex and painful to bear. It's easier to pretend race isn't an issue, to carry on as though we're past it. But this, too, is blindness.

At the time of his assassination, King's policy of non-violent civil rights protests was already under siege – violent siege. The Black Panther movement, which preached armed resistance against white oppression, was two years old. Malcolm X, who so famously spoke of resistance "by any means necessary," had been gunned down three years previously.

And yet, while the anger and rhetoric of race was surging on streets and campuses of the United States, popular culture was insisting that race was either a non-issue or a comfortably contained one. In 1965, I Spy's Bill Cosby became the first black actor to play a leading role in a prime-time American TV series. In the year before King's murder, the Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier appeared in three films – Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, To Sir With Love and In the Heat of the Night – which suggested that racism was an ill effectively treated by tolerance.

A comforting liberal bromide perhaps, but hopelessly betrayed by the reality beyond the box office. Jim Crow segregation laws were still widely observed in several American states at the time of King's death and that it was still possible for certain American politicians – like Lester Maddox and George Wallace – to be elected to public office on the basis of blatant racial intolerance. The Hollywood image of racial harmony was a fantasy, as removed from real life as King's own "dream."

But the years leading to and following the assassination saw a new kind of racial representation: often angry and confrontational, frequently violent and profane, and assertively "African-American." The largely soulful mainstream of black music was infiltrated by the more incendiary, genre-bending likes of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix. Jazz icon Miles Davis turned more militant and electric, and former Motown crooner Marvin Gaye re-focused his emphasis from love of women to a fear for the future of Mother Earth.

On screen, the so-called 'blaxploitation' cycle of movies – kicked off by Melvin Van Peebles' flagrantly pro-militant Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song – reconfigured the violence in the streets and ghettos in terms of dozens of movies about angrified black cops, private dicks, pimps, dealers, vigilantes, hookers who took up arms and used them – usually against white oppressors, racists and adversaries.

Comedians Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor made race and racism the engine of their careers, and by the early '70s, Cosby's co-starring status on I Spy had cleared the path for a veritable explosion of colour (Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Flip Wilson Show, The Jeffersons) on prime time – much of it of a decidedly confrontational, proudly Afro-American, post King-assassination tone.

In 1976, Alex Haley published Roots, a galvanizing epic account of a slave's journey to North America that was watched by a walloping 130 million viewers when it was adapted for TV the following year.

Was this King's dream coming true? Or just another indication of popular culture's opportunistically astute knack for absorbing and deflecting controversy at the same time? In time, the militancy of black-based popular culture subsided but the faces remained. While it was no longer possible to pretend that American culture was exclusively white, other forms of race-based fabrication kept thriving.

As identity assertion gave way to balanced representation, mere presence took the place of politics: in the same way that Richard Pryor traded provocation for popularity and Fred Sanford's ghetto was supplanted by The Cosby Show's plushly appointed suburbia, blacks in American popular culture seemed to have earned visibility at the cost of controversy.

Today, 40 years after the assassination, African Americans are virtually inescapable in popular culture: from hip hop to Oprah, BET to the NBA, Tyler Perry to Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry to Tyra Banks.

But presence is not the same thing as progress.

If it were, one wouldn't have seen the kind of seismic eruptions along racial lines that tear so regularly in American culture – eruptions that remind us of the turbulence still quaking just beneath the surface: think Rodney King, the Clarence Hill-Anita Thomas hearings, O.J., the Marion Barry affair, Hurricane Katrina, the Don Imus incident.

And now Obama: at once the man most likely to become the first black President of the United States and – for precisely the same reason – a virtual lightning rod for all those as-yet-unresolved currents of racial tensions lurking just below the surface. Inevitably, the late Martin Luther King is often evoked in reference to the remarkable candidacy of Barack Obama.

King had a dream, but Obama is not proof that it has come true. If anything, it reveals how much waking up remains to be done.

Gadget Makers Betting On Tiny Projectors

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Svensson,
The Associated Press

(April 03, 2008) LAS VEGAS–Recognizing that it's not much fun towatch movies on a tiny cell phone, a number of companies are racing to develop gadgets that project what's playing on the small screen onto walls, table cloths and other handy surfaces.

"
Pico projectors" that are small enough to carry around in a shirt pocket are expected on the market later this year. Eventually, the technology will be tiny enough to be built into phones and portable media players, the companies say.

Microvision Inc., a small Redmond, Wash., company, was at the CTIA Wireless industry show this week to demonstrate a prototype of its projector. It's about the size of two full-size iPods, but by the time it goes on sale later this year, it should be about 30 per cent smaller, said Russell Hannigan, the company's director of projector product management.

In a darkened room, the prototype beamed out surprisingly bright, crisp and large video from a connected iPod Nano: With the projector held 6 feet away from the wall, the image measured 6 feet diagonally and was as sharp as a DVD.

On the brightly lit showroom floor, the image was less impressive, but projected on a piece of paper held a foot away, it still made for a nice alternative to the iPod Nano's screen, which is slightly larger than a stamp.

The technology differs substantially from standard projectors: Microvision's unit shines red, green and blue lasers on a rapidly moving, 1-millimeter square mirror, which "paints" the picture line by line, so fast that it blends into one image.

Hannigan said it's highly energy-efficient and allows the company to dispense with the fans and vents that standard projectors have. The goal for the first projector is a 2.5-hour battery life.

Microvision Chief Executive Alexander Tokman expects the projector to sell for $300 to $400 (dollar figures U.S.) through its partners, of which Motorola Inc. is the only one he was allowed to identify.

The company is also working on a projector so small that it can be built into cell phones, at least the more bulky models. That could be available in the second half of 2009. Because a cell phone already contains a battery and some of the other electronics that are necessary, this unit can be simpler and cheaper – Tokman estimates it would increase the price of a cellphone by $100.

"The two things people are buying now are cell phones and big-screen TVs," Hannigan said. "This brings those two together."

3M Co. and Texas Instruments Inc. also have prototypes of pico projectors, and may be bringing them to market soon.

Another competitor is Alcatel-Lucent. Randy Giles, director of optical subsystems at the company's Bell Labs research arm, was at CTIA demonstrating a small projector that showed Disney's Fantasia from a Nokia N95 phone. The image was smaller and appeared dimmer than Microvision's, but Giles said a prototype that's 14 times brighter is in the lab. He too expects projectors to be built into handsets next year.

Alcatel-Lucent's projector uses lasers, like Microvision, but is otherwise more conventional, using a technology that's similar to liquid-crystal displays to block or let the light through to the screen.

So who would buy a pico projector? Microvision's Tokman said its research indicated that teenagers would be the big market.

"They would rather shut themselves in a dark room and project movies on the walls," he said. "They prefer this to spending time with their parents."