Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Old Facebook Time-waster that brought out my deepest musical ancestry

15 albums that changed you awakened you became the soundtrack of your life?
1 Neko Case Furnace Room Lullaby 2 Neil Young Neil Young 3 Jimmy Dale Gilmore Braver Newer World 4 Bob Marley Natty Dread 5 Tom Waits The Heart of Saturday Night 6 Bjork Debut 7 Bob Dylan Bringin It All Back Home 8 Paul Butterfield Blues Band In My Own Dream 9 Little Feat Feats Don't Fail Me Now 10 Laura Nyro More Than A New Discovery 11 Miles Davis In A Silent Way 12 Osby Moran Harris Shim New Directions 13 Paul Simon Graceland 14 Steel Pulse Handsworth Revolution 15 Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced?

I guess the Beatles / Byrds / Band / Beach Boys / Buffalo Springfield axis needed no mention.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Slim Smith selected by Greg Lawson on the March 25th show. Watch That Sound! 1:00 p.m.

by Stephen Cook (Allmusic)
One of the most soulful and accomplished singers of Jamaica's ska, rocksteady, and early reggae eras, Slim Smith found his biggest success from 1965 until his premature death at age 25 in 1973. Although according to various reports stating he had a troubled and unstable life, Smith will best be remembered for his stunning contributions to reggae's vocal tradition.

Slim Smith (born Keith Smith) was born in Jamaica in 1948. He got his start in the early '60s with producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, working both as a solo act and as part of the vocal group the Techniques. Thanks to his already powerful and singular voice (his falsetto-capable tenor contained shades of both Sam Cooke and his hero, Curtis Mayfield), Smith soon took over the lead spot in the Techniques. In addition to their many hits on Dodd's Studio One label, the group cut several smashes for Dodd's rival at the time, Duke Reid. Under Reid's watch, they scored with "Queen Majesty," "Traveling Man," and "My Girl." Following his stint with the Techniques, Smith returned to Dodd for more solo work. Recorded during the late ska and early rocksteady periods from 1966-1967, Smith's second round of solo sides included hits like "Rougher Yet," "I'll Never Let Go," "Try Again," and "Mercy Mercy," among many others (several of these Studio One records would later be endlessly versioned during the early dancehall period of 1979-1984).

Next, Smith suspended his solo career once again to join the Uniques, a group which featured singers Jimmy Riley and Lloyd Charmers. While they had already cut many impressive sides with other lead vocalists, the group would find their greatest success with Smith, both on the charts and in terms of quality. In addition to a fine session for producer Willie Lowe in 1968, the Uniques cut their best sides for Bunny "Striker" Lee from 1967-1968. The band racked up a steady stream of hits for Lee, including "My Conversation," "Girls Like Dirt," "Gypsy Woman," "Story of Love," and "The Beatitudes."

Switching back again, Smith recommenced his solo career in 1969, cutting many quality sides for Lee until his death in 1973. As was the vogue during the rocksteady and early reggae years, Smith included soul covers amongst the many fine originals and Jamaican standards he cut at the time.

Along with such peculiarities as the Shirelles' hit by Goffin and King, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," Smith put his distinctive stamp on "Spanish Harlem," Cooke's "Send Me Some Loving," Mayfield's "It's Alright," Billy Stewart's "Sitting in the Park," and Eddie Floyd's "Don't Tell Your Mama" and "Stand Up and Fight."

Smith even paid homage to his Jamaican musical peers by cutting some tracks by fellow rocksteady and reggae singing star Delroy Wilson.

Having finished up with some of the strongest work of his career, Smith's run came to an abrupt end in 1973. The cause of his death is not certain. One story has it that Smith, severely depressed over the impression that rival singer Roy Shirley's career was being pushed at the cost of his own, smashed in a window with his hand and bled to death as he walked off into the night. Another account comes from singing partner Jimmy Riley, who says that Smith returned from a late-night party, found himself locked out of his house, smashed the window, and bled to death before anyone found him. Whether his death was caused by depression and subsequently suicide is still not really known.

Thankfully, Smith's musical legacy lives on with several reissues of his best work. A chunk of his work with the Techniques is available on the Heartbeat collection Run Come Celebrate, while a good portion of the Uniques tracks for Reid can be found on Trojan's Best of the Uniques (1967-1969). As for his solo material, the Studio One years are covered on Heartbeat's reissue of the Born to Love album, while much of the later material from 1969-1973 is covered on Trojan's Rain From the Skies and West Side's A Unique Technique.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Legends of Ska. Film shot in Toronto will soon debut.

Alton Ellis (above) singing at Legends of Ska rehearsal, July 10, 2002. Photograph by Greg Lawson.
Legends of Ska is a documentary film focusing on the sights & sounds of Jamaica during the early 1960s. As the precursor to Reggae, Ska is a mix of Jazz, R&B, and many other styles of music, which continued to make a huge impact far from the island's shores.

The idea for this project was born ten years ago, right after conducting a radio interview with the first star of Ska, Derrick Morgan. It went very well and I said to the show's intern "When is someone going to make a movie about the music we love?" That was my "light bulb" moment and it has been shining brightly ever since.

At that time, everyone was captivated by the Buena Vista Social Club, right before Ken Burns' documentary series, Jazz, debuted on PBS. Inspired by those projects, I decided to produce and film the largest vintage ska show ever. I was fortunate to raise enough money to present the Legends of Ska concerts in Toronto over a long weekend during the summer of 2002. The review in the Jamaica Gleaner was outstanding and the event was named "Concert of the Year" by Now Toronto.

Back then, I thought reuniting the greatest collection of original Jamaican Ska singers & musicians was going to be the hardest part of this process, but it turned out to be the easiest. Raising the money to complete this project through traditional means has not worked out, that is why I am turning to you.

Currently, all principal photography has been completed and the film is in post-production. All the money raised from Kickstarter will go directly towards completing the film. Our priority is to finish editing the film by late summer, then hit the film festival circuit. The funding will also cover the sound mix, High Definition transfers & MARKETING.

The more money raised, the more songs we can use in the finished film.

Over all these years, I remained motivated by the many positive responses I regularly received from Ska fans in Jamaica, England, Japan, France, Argentina, Germany, America, Brazil, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Italy & China. One of the trailers on YouTube has well over 150,000 hits.

Whether you are a passionate fan of Jamaican music & culture or a curious observer who loves film & the feeling of sand between your toes, please come forward. This is the last major genre of Jamaican music that needs its story to be told.

The film clip on this page is one of many. Please visit the Legends of Ska web site for more trailers, photos and information.

Calling all Rudies: The time is NOW to board the Ska train!!!

In August of 2012, the independent nation of Jamaica will turn 50 years young. My goal is to complete the film this year and be ready for release next year, so we can all celebrate the island's musical heritage together.

Trailer edited by Ron Halpern.

Come Back Electronic Playlists! Playlist from March 11, 2011 Canadian Music Week

Click to enlarge. Pardon the scratchmanship.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Your Global Community Radio Station. Sign the Petition

Support from Germany, with thanks:
"Since G20 happened in Toronto last year i tune in CKLN FM from time to time. For Reason how long will the sky be open, On CKLN i can hear local and global music carefully selected, interviews are very live and professional. Especially Corbys Orbit is an treasure of musical knowledge for me and just beautiful how he press the right buttons, Great radio personality. Love that canadian accent and the local radio atmosphere - cant get that outside a radio station or on internet orbit. Also sound quuality is like the content excellent and better to recieve here in Germany than you can imagine. Hope the CRTC respect their local culture !! A free man need a free radio. GREETINGS FROM GERMANY and thank for your interest." Norbert Ramershoven
Please sign now at

Much Moore Music and Blue King Brown from Australia....Exult!

Here's the band I saw last night at Revival. Transcendentally amazing, and much more complicated musically as the highest levels of precision, risk-taking and audience galvanism are in process. ‎It's Canadian Music (and Cold Slush) Week so you know what to expect: 7 guests in 3 hours today...the interview Olympics. Stay tuned for Alex Tait and Spandex Effect live, Todd Brown from CMF Films, Katie Moore, Mae Moore, David Hein, The Liptonians, and Kim Churchill.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lucinda Williams and Levon Helm Ramble on into Massey Hall

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

-René Daumal

I've just finished two nights with Lucinda Williams and Levon Helm at Massey Hall.
Friday was a working day, and I had no dinner but a bag o chips, so the 2 beers I took on were very...invigorating. Sixth row center was good for the visuals, bad for the vocal mix. Two of my oldest friends down the row and my guide to all things Lucinda, Kate, beside me, so the music just came splashing out over like a summer storm, remedy to the cold puddles outside.
Lucinda's guitar player, big lanky Val McCallum, seemed to get applause after every solo. He's only going as far as New York's Webster Hall next week with the band, after which he'll be replaced by a new 24-yr-old L.A. player in Lu's endless stream of guitar-master sidemen. The bassist was looping strange patterns through the melodies and touching notes very artistically.
Butch, the drummer, had a lot of enthusiasm, and some great cymbal touches, wearin' a cowboy hat and shorts.
Levon sang little, talked less, but was the perfect host and his gregarious body language and a constant lesson in drumming made us all so glad to see him. I thought how important his ethics have been to us all. All the musicians were superb in every genre: Mississippi blues ( bandleader Larry Campbell's finger picking ), gospel ( Amy Helm and Theresa Williams shimmered on the Grateful Dead's Attics of My Life) and New Orleans second line marches ( Howard Johnson on tuba, all the way from the Rock of Ages LP). The chamber jazz segues and a trombone solo on Just A Closer Walk With Thee were stirring and resonant with reverential history. Colin Linden got up and sang Remedy. Lucinda guested on the two closers, The Weight and I Shall Be Released. We went backstage after, but all seemed ready to go back to the hotel. Levon and the ladies had already left.
The audience was more festive (less tired?) (more drunk?) on Saturday night. Rob Bowman was in the bar downstairs with a mic, recapping his liner notes from the Band box set, giving off some history. I made him talk about CKLN at the end. He used to be a dj there.
Lucinda's setlist was very different, except the last two songs. She got brought back for an encore. She did Concrete and Bob War, and Essence, and sang Evangeline with Levon's daughter about seven songs into their set, instead of staying til the end. Sound was way better. They were doing a sound check when we got there. The guitarist was now way too overbearing, cranking every song into a live-at-the-Filmore climax. Maybe Lu likes that?
The audience had lots to shout about though, and did so at every opportunity after John Donabie introduced Levon Helm as "Canada's favourite adopted son." Levon said "It's just like bein' at the Coq-a-dor!". No Colin tonight. The music was even more polished. Not as many solos from the girls. And when Levon said good-bye there, he was quite emotionally serious. It was a full service, five-star weekend of music. I will treasure it so. Video via Dan Mock

The Way Those Atoms Are Put Together

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Your " Outlaw " Radio Station

Currently operating, technically, without a license, CKLN.FM Toronto has been granted the opportunity to continue broadcasting until our right to an appeal is determined. We have time now to formulate a strategy for survival under the stimulus of a new station manager, an overt mandate to comply with CRTC guidelines, and to conduct an explicit outreach to the Ryerson student body.
Like the late Jane Russell, we are attempting to expose new territories of music and community news, support the fight for freedom of expression, and maintain a reasonable compliance while stretching the fabric of accepted attitudes and standards to gain new support for our frontal assault on complacency and timidity in radio's potential for intimate exposure and cultural intercourse

A higher power was always there, she wrote, “telling me that if I could just hold tough a little longer, I’d find myself around one more dark corner, see one more spot of light and have one more drop of pure joy in this journey called life.”

Jane Russell, The Outlaw R.I.P.
Feel like a tussle? Sign our petition: