Music News Digest, Dec. 4, 2017

It has taken nine years, but the famed neon Sam the Record Man sign is being reinstalled in downtown Toronto. It is being erected on Ryerson University property, above a building on the northeast side of Dundas and Victoria streets, a block away from the original site of the flagship Sam's store. When Ryerson bought the property, city council designated the sign a piece of Toronto’s heritage, making Ryerson responsible for its preservation. The U assigned refurbishment to Hamilton-based Sunset Neon.

The first of the two spinning records was designed by Toronto's  Markle Brothers and erected in 1969. It was 7.5 metres wide and 8 metres tall. The second, added in 1987, just north of the original, at 349 Yonge Street (former Steeles Tavern Restaurant) was designed by Claude Neon Inc. In that same year. The letters spelling out "SAM" were added above the records (it took 550 light bulbs to light up the two SAM signs), as was the lower signage that read "Yes this is SAM the Record Man".

The double-disc neon sign is frequently visible in films shot in Toronto that use Yonge Street as a location. Examples include the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, which features the signs prominently during the final battle sequences, and the CTV/CBS Toronto-based series Flashpoint. The Sam's chain filed for bankruptcy in 2001, but the flagship store kept operating until 2007.

— Next June, Gordon Lightfoot will be the last performer to play Massey Hall before the historic Toronto concert venue is shuttered for renovations expected to take two years. The honour is fitting, given that Lightfoot has played Massey Hall more than any other artist over the last half-century with 166 performances.

“Massey Hall is home,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “These shows are a constant fixture for me. They anchor me, and we are glad to have been invited to be a part of its history.” The concerts are set for June 29-30, with tickets for the public going on sale Dec. 8.

— The PASSPORT: Music Export Summit is a new Canadian program designed to prepare export-ready artists and entrepreneurs with training in business skills and artistic product development. The program will begin with parallel East and West summits. The Music Export Summit West, in Winnipeg from Feb. 21-25, will also include a stream for Indigenous artists and companies. The Music Export Summit East will take place in Halifax, Feb. 28-March 4.

Selected participants from these sessions will be chosen to attend a follow-up Masterclass event from April 8-12, at the National Music Centre in Calgary. The Summit is produced by Manitoba Music in partnership with Music Nova Scotia, Canada’s Music Incubator, and the NMC and the project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters. The application deadline is Dec. 15. 

— Hey Ocean!’s David Beckingham released his solo debut LP Just When The Light in Canada in mid-2016, and it was just released in Germany last week via Greywood Records. He is opening for Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton at Toronto's Massey Hall tomorrow (Dec. 5), and will tour across Germany, the U.K. and Europe from January through to March. Hey Ocean! recently completed a month-long cross-Canada tour and will release a  new album, The Hurt Of Happiness, in early 2018.

—  Created by Juno-winning bluesman Paul Reddick in 2015, the Cobalt Prize is designed to reward songwriters taking chances within the blues genre. Winners to date have been Digging Roots, Conor Gains and Ann Vriend. Song submissions for the 2018 Cobalt Prize will be accepted starting today (Dec. 4) at cobaltprize@gmail.com. Further details here

— Last week Jocelyn Alice was presented with a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award for co-writing Mother Mother’s chart-topping song “The Drugs” which topped the Nielsen BDS Modern Rock Chart in February. “The Drugs” was also co-written by MM frontman Ryan Guldemond, Thomas "Tawgs" Salter, Ali Siadat, Maia Davies, and David Mohacsi (all of whom have already been presented with their No. 1 Awards). The song's video (below) is nearing 1M views.

— The Regina Folk Festival will bring area folk fans musical warmth in January with its winter festival, Winterruption, taking place Jan. 18 - 20, at The Exchange, Artesian, and Revival Music Room. The impressive lineup includes Tom Wilson, Mo Kenney, Begonia, Lindi Ortega, Partner, Delhi2Dublin, Close Talker, Megan Nash and more. Tix are now on sale. Check the schedule here.

— There is never a shortage of performances of Handel's "Messiah" across the country every December. A daring electro-improv take on the masterpiece, Electric Messiah 3 (termed "the naughty boy of the Messiahs), will be featured at The Drake in Toronto, Dec. 4-6. Four singers — soprano Adanya Dunn, eclectic jazz singer-songwriter, Elizabeth Shepherd, Dora-award winning tenor Jonathan MacArthur and west-coast baritone Justin Welsh — are accompanied by a full band, plus turntables and a dancer. More info here

RIP

Frank 'Fish' Levin, keyboardist in Eight Seconds, producer and music biz entrepreneur, passed away in China last week. Age 57. No cause of death given. The Ottawa-based Eight Seconds enjoyed success in the late '80s, charting with the single "Kiss You When It’s Dangerous," recording three albums and earning a Juno Award nomination.

Levin then worked as a songwriter, producer and engineer. In the late '90s, he and Gregg Terrence started Indie Pool. Levin moved to Shanghai in 2004, where he founded The Bridge Group, a consulting company. Source: iheartradio.ca

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