Alan Cross

Songs for that long, long ride

It used to be that the length of a song was limited by the maximum capacity of the recording media.With 78s, you couldn’t have a track much more than four minutes. To get six on a 45 was pushing it. An LP? Probably maxed out at around 24 minutes. Cassettes could be pushed to 60 minutes. A CD starts...

Friday, January 27, 2012, 5:35 AM

Albums to watch for

The winter release season is finally upon us.Here’s what we can expect in stores and online in the first quarter of 2012:Tuesday: I have high hopes for Future This from The Big Pink, a British band with much potential. Jan. 24: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady’s solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes,...

Friday, January 20, 2012, 5:35 AM

Music predictions for 2012

Here are some predictions for music in 2012.Indie music’s impact will be greater than ever. Major labels — we’ll soon be down to just three — will continue to chase mass audiences with mass appeal artists. Their focus will be more on creating Top 40 superstars. It’ll be up to the indies to deliver...

Friday, January 13, 2012, 5:35 AM

Record Store Nostalgia

Naturally, some of us grow misty at what record store shopping used to be like:No. 1: Separate sections for vinyl, CDs and pre-recorded cassettes People forgot that pre-recorded cassettes were briefly better sellers than vinyl or CDs. Back in the middle ’80s, if you couldn’t find that album on one...

Friday, November 25, 2011, 3:33 AM

Bono's other nickname, the song Britney passed up and other random music facts

Here’s some stuff I’ve uncovered so far. I am not be responsible for how you use this material, so be careful:Before he joined Guns ‘N Roses, Axl Rose was so hard up for cash that he joined a UCLA medical study where he was paid $8 an hour to smoke cigarettes.The National Orchestra of Monaco has...

Friday, November 18, 2011, 3:26 AM

Honouring fallen soldiers

The solemnity of Nov. 11 should never be forgotten. Our thoughts turn to the fallen and to the families they left behind. Here’s a playlist of songs that commemorate this day beyond the traditional playing of The Last Post:Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon and the Animals:With the Vietnam War at its peak in...

Thursday, November 10, 2011, 5:07 AM

The make or break time of year for music

With Thanksgiving and Halloween receding in the rear view mirror and with Christmas displays everywhere, it’s time to look ahead to the final weeks of new releases for 2011.The fourth quarter is make-or-break time for labels and music retailers, which is why so many big-name releases are held back...

Friday, November 4, 2011, 3:47 AM

Rocket man looking to lift off once again

Before you ask, William Shatner knows that he has a, uh, distinctive singing style.And he’s okay with that. “My intentions for The Transformed Man (Shatner’s 1968 debut record) was to combine great literature of the past with great song lyrics of the present,” he says, “but not everyone understood...

Friday, October 28, 2011, 5:30 AM

Recycling music will only go so far

I’m working my way through Retromania by Simon Reynolds, a book that explores why we seem so fascinated with fetishizing music of the recent past.Retro can be loosely defined as everything old is new again. Anything can be retro: fashion, art, advertising, movies, TV and, of course, music.Reynolds...

Friday, October 21, 2011, 5:30 AM

Salute the Unsung Heroes of rock ’n’ roll

If anyone asked you to list some of the great heroes of rock ’n’ roll, you’d probably come back with names like Elvis, Lennon and Cobain.All completely legitimate responses, yes. But here are some names that are also just as important to the history of rock — but in a different way. George...

Friday, October 14, 2011, 5:30 AM

The Joys of Pink Floyd

I fear for the future of high fidelity. With every passing month, we seem to be satisfied with sound that is merely good enough. Blame it on a decade of listening to squished MP3s through cheap ear buds.In the Olden Days, my friends and I would descend upon stereo stores, pretending to be in the...

Friday, October 7, 2011, 5:30 AM

Coming up with a band name is no easy task

One of the most hideous tasks of being in a band is coming up with a name.Consider: 1. Everyone in the band has to be happy with it. Good luck with that. Many baby bands have broken up because they couldn’t agree on what to call themselves. Finding that consensus is torturous.2. It has to be catchy...

Friday, September 30, 2011, 4:06 AM

Finding a new hook for shows

Peter Hook was on the phone from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam awaiting a connection to China where he was booked to DJ in Beijing and Shanghai. For a guy who was a founding member of Joy Division’s glorious pseudo-Goth, proto-industrial, pre-indie-rock-everything miserabilism, he’s a remarkably...

Friday, September 23, 2011, 6:30 PM

I Have Questions ... with myself

BEIJING, China — When you’re deep in the bowels of economy class, a 12-hour flight across the Pacific is not pleasant.I was about five hours out of San Francisco when the hallucinations kicked in.As deep vein thrombosis clotted my blood and the Brazilian sleeping pill did something other than put...

Friday, September 16, 2011, 5:30 AM

The best rock documentaries ever made

Is a documentary to start the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival? And a rock doc? Makes sense, really, given that the festival and the band involved pretty much share the exact same birth date.As the first-ever TIFF was kicking off in September 1976, the band that would become U2 were...

Friday, September 9, 2011, 1:14 AM

The hard life of rockstars

Back on the 19th, Bono felt unwell. Decompressing from the massive 360 Tour at his villa in Eze-sur-Mer in the south of France, his heart began rattling around in his chest like a drum machine gone insane. The palpitations and discomfort were enough for his wife to rush him to Princess Grace...

Saturday, August 27, 2011, 12:30 AM

What music does 'the ride' remind you of?

Here in Southern Ontario, the End Times for summer is heralded by the opening of the Canadian National Exhibition. For me, the CNE works much better in nostalgic terms than actually going again. I’d rather preserve those memories as they are rather than risk having them corrupted forever.For...

Saturday, August 20, 2011, 12:30 AM

So what is bandomynology, anyway?

It’s not exactly a beach read, but I just finished a fascinating book called Reading the OED by Ammon Shea, who spent a year reading all 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. Along the way I learned such wonderful un-spellcheck-friendly words as acnestis (the point on your back you can’t...

Saturday, August 6, 2011, 12:30 AM

The hit of the summer is up to you

It used to be every summer had its song.No matter where you went, you heard That Song. It spilled from cars, slipped out from underneath ear buds, blared in clubs and floated through stores. And you could never, ever turn on a radio without hearing it.Last year’s song of the summer was California...

Saturday, July 30, 2011, 12:30 AM

Dolly Parton is worth how much?!

As you may have heard elsewhere, I, er, have some extra time on my hands. For the first time since Grade 9, I find myself with a summer off. Which is fine, actually. The dog is being thoroughly walked, the garage is immaculately power-washed and I’m nearing the mythical state known as Inbox Zero....

Saturday, July 23, 2011, 12:30 AM