Corby's Orbit

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

Monday, May 31, 2021

Dual Release of Scott B. Sympathy's 90's Catalogue Brings Crucial Jams Crashing Back To Us


In 1990, at Wellesley Sound Studios on Ontario Street in Toronto, with the regular middle-of-the-night application of “too much coffee and pot,” it happened that Brantford’s poignant acoustic poet, Scott Bradshaw, was gradually transformed into Toronto’s raucous roots rocker Scott B. Sympathy. The two albums he made there, Neil Yonge Street and Drinking with The Poet, staked a claim on new musical territory.

Originally released on Toronto-based indie label Smokeshow, both are finally being rereleased by Toronto’s Curve Music – completely remastered by the original producer – on May 21.  You’ll be able to purchase them on CD, vinyl and, for 90’s holdouts, cassette. The Curve label has championed alternative roots song-craft since their pioneering release, ten years ago, of A Canadian Celebration of the Band, a reimagining of The Band’s repertoire under the direction of Garth Hudson.

The two albums contain 18 original tunes and two covers (“Job Disorder” by Willie P. Bennett, and “Something’s Burning, Baby” by Bob Dylan). Scott’s recorded voice, slap-backed, double-tracked and riding high in the mix, abides in a state of concerned contemplation until it flames into fervid outbreaks of regret and rage to match the fury of Ian Blurton and Gord Cummings’ gorgeous guitar onslaughts. In Barclay/Jack/Schneider’s compendious Have Not Been The Same (ECW Press, 2001), Ian recalls the sessions: “We never rehearsed so… there was a free thing there that allowed you to do stuff that you wouldn’t think possible.” The records will be sought out for their remarkable sound qualities and songwriting, and also as two booming time capsules of 1990s Queen Street West sub-culture.

“Well, a lot of the players had been involved in the punk rock scene,” Scott elaborated, when I reached out to him in his hometown of Brantford, where he has been residing for the last four years. “By the time the second record came out, the worldwide Nirvana thing was happening, and it influenced music everywhere, not just grunge. But that was the nature of the time. I listen to myself on these records, and I think, ‘Why is he trying to scream?’ Maybe cause we felt like no one was listening.”

The magnetism of Scott’s raw country vocals and emotionalism drew an outsider brand of collaborators.

“There were clubs all over town, and it was a very gregarious scene. We were all playing in each other’s side projects and lending each other amps. We still keep in touch by social media, so it feels like I still have them in my life. Which is interesting. I talk to John Borra from time to time. Blurton I haven’t heard from in a few years. And Gord Cummings (his current partner in roots duo Massey Harris) and I talk a lot. We just put out an EP from 2012.”

Etched with unexpected lyrical and melodic twists, steeped in a lonesome abyss of mournful harmonies, and charged with the primordial interventions of electric guitar ecstasy that penetrate to the heart of almost every song, the records erased the border between the new country settlers on Queen Street West and the cresting wave of punk/grunge-rock renegades filling multiple-band bills every night from the Beverley to the Cameron, from Lee’s to Sneaky Dee’s. “All the time that I was waiting / I felt like I was hesitating,” Scott sang.

It was Walter Sobczak, original bass player for Sturm Group, who stepped up to produce the bulk of the material. “It was kind of like doing a double album, they were made so close together, and under similar circumstances,” Scott said. “Walter had to go do something with Dream Warriors once, so the owner, Jeff, actually produced our hit, “Drinking With The Poet,” which CBC and Much Music played a lot. ”

“I was honoured to be a part of that project,“ said Wellesley Sound owner Jeff McCullough, who is thrilled to hear about the reissue. “Scott had some great players, and I was really into what they were doing. I remember we had just gotten a Diaxis Digital Hard Disk Recorder, and while I was recording them, I realized that I had overloaded it by mistake. I was like ‘Oh shit, I’ve ruined the session, you know, because once it’s recorded, that’s it. But when we listened back, it sounded SO dynamic.”

Scott marveled,” I never thought that those records would be relevant 30 years later. And I don’t know what’s actually going on now with the promotion. I haven’t been out of the house in a year. But when I see that 55,000 people have seen one of our videos, I think it would have taken a long time to play to that many people, club by club, back in the day.

“I remember at that time I was letting my subconscious do the speaking and not editing a lot, using words to bounce off each other and tumble down and make a framework. It took me a few years to figure out what some of those songs were about.”

I asked Scott about how he had developed his style from the initial impulse to write.

“I think songs were coming out, and I look back on those songs, and I think ‘there’s not even a chorus there,’” he replied. “No real structure. I didn’t really know about those aspects of songwriting. At first you just write what you are able to, and it seems to come flowing out easily, but the more you learn about songwriting, the harder it becomes. The more you have to reach for things, because of what you’ve learned.”

He recalls listening to everything he could in order to pick up skills and inspiration, especially the poet Jim Carroll.

“I was always enamoured of his poetry,” Scott said, “and just how stark it was, seemingly from another world.  Or somewhere underneath this one. I ended up in the 80s playing a few gigs with him as a bass player with Groovy Religion.”

Is he comfortable with his resettlement in Brantford?

“I used to write a lot of songs about this place when I lived in Toronto,” he said. “Living in Toronto for 35 years and still writing about my hometown. Songs like ‘River Bend,’ about the beautiful Grand River, ‘I Remember Again’… all those songs come from out here. And then once I moved here, I just started missing the city. See, I was still living like a youngster when I was in Toronto. These are my growing up days, I guess. I sit around and contemplate a lot.”

Rough transition?

“Well you see I’m aging,” Scott said. “But it’s the same as always, kickin’ around, throwing some lyrics down, following what life brings and trying to be aware of things. I mean, this is a very active time, people trying to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s real and not real. I’ve lived all my life like this, not really sure what was coming next or having any plans that I could really count on.”

Originally Published at

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Corby Hits The Space Bar For A Week. Back In June with Fresh Q&A Music


Scott B. Sympathy’s birthday tribute to the late Joe Hall


Joe Hall’s talents for concocting songs that could alternately inspire sentiment, contemplation and laughter were almost unique. Comparable skill sets abide in only a very small group of songsters, Bob Dylan, Ronley Teper and Lynn Miles being amongst the few. His Dadaist sensibilities, contributed to by his German-Canadian heritage made it possible for him to take on inspiration from virtually anything that sparked his explosive imagination. In his youth, he made himself available to any challenge: touring, performing and fielding an exploratory team of empathetic adventurers of equal fearlessness, known as The Continental Drift.

A heyday of media attention in the mid-80s exoticized his more absurd and controversial compositions, to the detriment of a full appreciation of his musical and lyrical genius. Frequent comparisons to American songwriter Frank Zappa did a disservice to the scope of Joe’s emotional range, typifying the Canadian media’s inability to smell what is right under their noses when it comes to critical perception.

After the spotlight moved on, in his self-described “geezerhood,” Joe Hall moved to Peterborough with his family, with monthly treks to Toronto’s Tranzac club and occasional one-nighters maintaining his connection to a loyal fanbase and an appreciative peer group of musicians, including Scott B. Sympathy, Mose Scarlett and his former bandmates, now known as the Incontinental Drift. This arrangement ended in March of 2019 when Joe left us for good.

On his recent birthday, on the 15th of May, Peterborough’s Trent Radio aired a three-hour celebration of Joe Hall’s legacy, featuring friends’ reminiscences and new versions of Joe’s music, including Scott B.’s remarkable performance of Some Other Planet. (Scott B. Sympathy's 90's classic albums have recently been re-mastered and released on T.O.;s Curve Music label.)

As Toronto musician John Dickie said in the broadcast, “You can’t talk about Joe Hall without saying he was a great great songwriter with a real flair for the absurd, and for insight into how our society has progressed. Or not. And that he deserved so much more.” 

View  Joe Hall Some Other Planet by Scott B. here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Dub Chronicles Come Far-Ward


After years of making a name for themselves in clubs around the city, Toronto’s The Dub Chronicles released their long-awaited debut album, Simba (Return to the Throne), on April 23. As a live dub band, the group is somewhat of an anomaly on the reggae scene. Most live acts typically play traditional song formats with occasional forays into the skeletal dub sound — full of echoey sonic shadows and electronic studio effects — usually played by club DJs at a blaring volume. Its bottom-heavy bass and drum magnifications are known to startle and fascinate the ear, causing the body to sway and swing with the rhythm. 

It’s the desired effect achieved on The Dub Chronicles’ debut.

While the album’s title — derived from Disney’s 1994 animated epic The Lion King — naturally hits a nostalgic note, it touches on a more personal story for keyboardist/co-producer Jonathan Rattos. 

“We love The Lion King. Who doesn’t? That was a signature movie that I grew up with as a child,” Jonathan said. “I definitely wanted to portray that feeling of triumph and victory of good over evil with our album’s title tune ‘Simba (Return to the Throne)’.”   

 But there is more to the story than that. 

“In the summer of 2019, I traveled with my girlfriend and her family to Kenya, where she is from and where the majority of her family lives currently. My family comes from Goa, a Portuguese colony in India, but somewhere along the line we migrated to Kenya before moving from Nairobi to Canada in the late 70s. After years of being together we discovered that both of our families had grown up in the same neighbourhood!” Jonathan reveals. 

“The local Masai people in Kenya called me Simba — because of my long hair and beard — and in Swahili, Simba means lion. So a big inspiration for this song came from my first experience of African culture and of my family’s roots. It was a wonderful experience, and the title of this tune eventually became the name of the album.”

With the pandemic sequestering artists in the studio over the past year, many live acts have been forced to transition to recording, a change that some bands find equally transformative and excruciating. I asked Jonathan how he had managed the shift. 

“This past year for me has consisted of a lot of trial and error musically.  If you asked me at the beginning of 2020 if we could self-produce, mix and master an 18-track album, I would have thought you were crazy,” he told me.

While the group’s previous EPs — Kingston (2018) and The TakeOver (2019) — were mixed and mastered by producers Tippy IGrade and Dubmatix respectively, Jonathan used the time afforded by the pandemic to learn about the production process. 

“Once the pandemic hit, I began to use my time to experiment and study music production, particularly as it applies to both roots reggae and old school bebop jazz. In the spring of 2020 my brother Craig (the drummer of the band) and I recorded 21 classic roots reggae/dub songs of the great 70s/80s era. We started to build our sound from there. You can hear our growth and development as we acquired more and more skills while creating this album.”

In their clubbing days, the band would often invite singers up from the audience, such as legendary reggae vocalist Carol Brown, Juno winner and 2021 nominee Kirk Diamond and perennial winner Exco Levi, a tradition that they have carried over into their debut album. Much of the record’s charm comes from the quality of its featured vocalists like Grammy-award winner Kumar Bent and Tash Lorayne.

“We originally met Kumar in the summer of 2018 when we were playing his meet-and-greet party at the Harlem Underground here in Toronto. He jumped on the riddim ‘Milk and Honey,’ that earned his former band, Raging Fyah, a reggae Grammy nomination. It seemed so effortless and natural, as if we had rehearsed it. He ended up singing the entire set with us, and from there we knew we wanted to collaborate with him. We feel his vocals and lyrics give new meaning and emphasis to our riddims.” 

Kumar lends his voice to six of the new tracks, while Tash sings on two. Boasting an impressive resume — providing backing vocals to the Arkells and starring in Lady Day: Her Music, Her Memoirs, a virtual tribute to the work of Billie Holiday — it didn’t take the band long to realize she was a good fit. 

“[Tash] originally sent us a voice note of her singing on our riddim ‘Lovers Magic’ and the voice note itself gave us chills. We knew immediately after this we had to do a studio take. Initially, we didn’t know that we were going to have her as a feature on this album, but we sent her “All Your Days A Breeze” to have a listen to while we were still working on the mixes, and she put together a great song.  It has become the lead single for this release. She is the perfect fit and complement to our reggae and bebop jazz vibe.” Simba (Return to the Throne) presents a wide range of styles, from Ocho smooth to rootsier Kingston vibes on the rougher reggae textures and dubs. Brothers Jonathan and Craig have long been students of the genre, absorbing all of these influences without ever even having travelled to Jamaica. 

“Although we’ve never been there, we’ve had a love affair with Jamaican music from childhood,” Jonathan said. “We’ve studied and listened to so much roots reggae, Craig especially. I call him the encyclopedia of reggae because he knows all of the foundation artists and their music, and we have spent countless hours dissecting riddims that we love.” 

For the Rattos brothers, music has always been a family affair.

“We come from a very musical family. My father is a guitarist/vocalist who played rock ‘n’ roll music of the 70s and 80s professionally. My mother took piano lessons as a child as well, so both of my brothers and I grew up taking music lessons from a young age.”

Jonathan credits his eldest brother, Ryan — the band’s guitarist and flutist — with introducing them to the genres that would come to solidify their sound. 

“His musical tastes swayed us in the direction of both roots reggae and jazz,” he said. “He has deeply influenced the music of the band whether directly or indirectly from our beginning stages.”

Jonathan said that this new release will likely inform how the band operates in the future, collaborating with both local and international artists and writing original instrumental riddims as a way to support Toronto’s reggae community. 

“This new album will be the blueprint for how we plan to release our future works,” he said. “We want to do our part for the reggae community and provide a platform for these talented artists to express what they have to say on our riddims.”

Simba (Return to the Throne) marks a new chapter of dub music in Toronto, contributing to the recorded legacy of the city’s rich reggae community. It comes at a critical juncture. 

“In these dark times, there is lots to look forward to within our reggae community here in Toronto, and when one door closes many more open. It’s a good time for artists to collaborate. Now more than ever, our community needs support, and the arts always have a way of comforting our souls and inspiring our spirits. Good music can provide all of these things to people. It can help heal us, make us feel better, and give us something to inspire faith for our future.”

Originally Published at:

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Playlist for Corby's Orbit Show of 21 May 2021 Celebrating Bob Dylan's Eightieth Birthday


Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby 

( Brought to you by Butterfly Boots, Turtle Tights and Dog Goggles)
5:00 Kite Rescue

* Rachelle Van Zanten ~ Kelli Loves To Ride ~ NEW RELEASE

* Prince Enoki featuring Jocelyn Barth ~ Impossible ~ NEW RELEASE

* Big Little Lions ~ Only A Friend Like You ~ NEW RELEASE

* Glenn Chatten ~ Tagish Morning ~ Baked Cafe NEW RELEASE

Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz orchestra ~ Tito Puente's Para Los Rumberos ~  Virtual Birdland ~ NEW RELEASE

* B├╣marang ~ Single Girl ~ Echo Land (Fallen Tree) 

Ane Brun ~ Dariing To Love ~ A Thousand Times Good Night Sdtrk. 

* Sonia Johnson ~ Storm ~ Chrysalis 

* Mike Goudreau Band  ~ My Only Lady ~ The Isolation Blues NEW RELEASE

* Kenny Blues Boss Wayne ~ Just Do It ~ Go! Just Do It (Stony Plain)

5:45 Hugh's' Bob-O-Rama

From a Concert Recorded Live @ Hugh's Room by Howard Gladstone in 2017 )

* Noah Zacharin ~ It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry

* Bob Wiseman ~ If Not For You

* David Gillis ~ Po' Boy

* Tabitha Johnson ~ I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

* Howard Gladstone featuring Bob Cohen ~ She Belongs To Me

* Laura Fernandez ~ Isis

* Noah Zacharin ~ Blind Willie McTell

* Jon Brooks ~ I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

* Paul James ~ Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat

6:30 Covers Instead Of Candles

* The Young Novelists ~ It Ain't Me Babe (recorded live in their back yard)

* Fergus & The Masked Marauders ~ Political World ( recorded live at Slamm Studio with Kyle Sullivan, Dan Mock Graeme Hambleton, Fergus Hambleton and Paul Corby)

* Scott B. ~ Something's Burning Baby (recorded live in his Brantford backyard)

* Rebecca Hennessy & Michael Herring ~ Ring Them Bells (recorded live in their living room)

* Jerry Leger ~ Born In Time (recorded live in his home)

Bob Dylan ~ Paul McCartney's Things We Said Today ~ The Art Of McCartney

Sizzla ~ Subterranean Homesick Blues ~ Jah Knows Best

Jewels & Binoculars ~ I Want You ~ The Music Of Bob Dylan

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Playlist For Corby`s Orbit Show of 14 May 2021 with Scott B. Sympathy


Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby 

( Brought to you by Fashion Chips, Toastin Jams and Bangers `n `Beams)

5-7 p.m. Fridays online an

Podcast Available At:

Guest: Scott Bradshaw AKA Scott B. Sympathy

5:00 Known Purple Traitors

Gloria Bosman ~ Welela ~ Moyo: Sophisticated African Music

* Buffy Ste-Marie & Tanya Tagaq ~ You've Got To Run ~ Medicine Songs (True North)

* Jasmine Netsena ~ Power ~ Single

* Miguel De Armas Quartet ~ It Meant Something Else ~ Continuous NEW RELEASE

* Awanjah feat. Ronnie Bop Williams ~ Visionary Revolutionist ~ Visionary Revolutionist 
Ranford ‘Ranny Bop’ Williams, born November 8, 1942, passed away in his home in North York, Toronto ON, on April 18, 2021. Over the last sixty years, Ranny Bop has played guitar on countless records of an endless list of artists including The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, The Versatiles, The Ethiopians, The Slickers, and The Techniques, who recorded for producers like Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Alvin ‘GG’ Ranglin, Coxsone Dodd, and Sonia Pottinger. by Apr 22, 2021

Valerie June ~ Why The Brightest Stars Glow ~ The Moon & Stars Prescriptions For Dreamers

* The Deep Dark Woods feat. Kacy & Clayton ~ In The Meadow ~ Changing Faces NEW RELEASE

The Christians ~ Ideal World ~ Remix

* Craig Cardiff ~ Safe, Loved and Home ~ All This Time Running NEW RELEASE

* The Band ~ Just Another Whistle Stop ~ Stage Fright Remastered 50th Annniversary NEW RELEASE

5:45 Sympathy For The Rebel

* Scott B. Sympathy ~ My Sympathy / Interview / Job Disorder / I Remember Again /

Drinking With The Poet / Can`t Hold On That Way / Memory Fades 
~ Neil Yonge Street (1990) & Drinking With The Poet (1992) 

6:30 New World Ardours

* Idris Lawal feat. Jelani Watson & Rocsi ~ Wallflowers ~ Single NEW RELEASE

* Rich Aucoin ( Double A Remix ) ~ Walls ~ United States NEW RELEASE

* Jeffery Straker ~ Where I Belong ~ Just Before Sunrise NEW RELEASE

illustration by Vincent Jarrano

* Tyra Jutai ~ Nudes Single NEW RELEASE

* Jaffa Road ~ Until When (Eli Shima Koli) NEW RELEASE

6:50 Joe Hall of Fame

* John Dickie & Paul Corby ~ Joe Hall`s Happy With My Hair (live) 

* Scott B. ~ Joe Hall`s Some Other Planet (live) 

Joe Hall Birthday Tribute on Trent Radio Saturday Noon - 3 p.m.

* The Band feat. Richard Manuel & Rick Danko ~ Sleeping ( solo piano version )~ Stage Fright Remastered 50th Annniversary NEW RELEASE

Monday, May 3, 2021

Toronto Star Remembers Roots Revival and Plugs The Orbit


Remembering Roots Revival, the band at the heart of Toronto’s rollicking ’70s reggae scene

Ernie Smith, a world-class talent who immigrated to Toronto from Jamaica, formed the band in 1978. Here, Roots Revival guitarist Paul Corby recalls the jam sessions and gigs where ‘everyone who was anyone’ would show up.

In the 1970s, Toronto became a major hub for live reggae music, as Jamaican superstars such as Jackie Mittoo, Leroy Sibbles and Ernie Smith, who became the leader of Roots Revival, migrated north.

In 1978, changes in Canada’s immigration system, combined with unrest in Jamaica, led to an exodus of almost 100,000 Jamaicans immigrating to Toronto. After a 1976 assassination attempt was made on reggae superstar Bob Marley, political violence made the island unsafe for outspoken artists, says reggae historian Dr. Jason Wilson.

“After having written ‘Jah Kingdom Go to Waste,’ Ernie Smith knew his life was in danger,” says Wilson. “The song was considered incendiary by the Jamaican government. As a result, Smith packed his bags for Toronto.”

Roots Revival formed in 1978. This band photo was taken by the Star’s Boris Spremo in the basement of Tiger’s Coconut Grove in Kensington Market in the summer of 1978. These gigs nourished the city’s burgeoning status as a world-class arts centre. As Roots Revival guitarist Paul Corby recalls, everyone who was anyone showed up.

Roots Revival guitarist Paul Corby (right of centre) recalls the jam sessions and gigs where “everyone who was anyone” would show up.

“I remember Moses Znaimer getting a ticket for parking his Karmann Ghia on the sidewalk,” says Corby with a laugh. “We rehearsed there for free all week in exchange for Saturday night shows that would have people swarming in the street out front.”

Performers like Smith were a huge draw in Toronto. He played underground spots like Tiger’s, the Bamboo and the Horseshoe, as well as established venues like Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room. Then there was the sold-out “reggae Woodstock” in 1980, which featured performers such as Smith, Messenjah and Truths & Rights. Of that seminal show, reggae historian Wilson wrote, “Toronto’s Jamaican expats were now — with ardour and avidity — singing King Alpha’s song in a strange land.”

“Ernie was a Jamaican superstar, a sort of Jamaican Charley Pride,” says Corby.

Reminiscing over this photo, Corby points to each of his fellow Roots Revival members in turn. “Ernie grew ’locks while he was here. Desmond left the band on the first day of the first tour when his wife came to the door and told us he wasn’t coming! Keysman got homesick for Jamaica and left a few weeks after this pic was taken. The most amazing Clive Ross sang and played bass and was creative on both levels simultaneously. Wadi Daniel from Trinidad is still referred to by many prominent Toronto musicians — not just reggae-philes — as the best drummer they’ve ever heard. He’s about 18 in this pic.”

Roots Revival won Best Band at the Black Music Awards in 1979 but disbanded the following year when Smith returned to Jamaica after the death of his father. Corby and the remaining members carried on with the gigs they had booked, with Jojo Bennett as provisional band leader. But, says Corby, “When it became clear that Ernie wasn’t coming back, Jojo left to form the Satellites and we continued on, quite successfully, as Bloodfire.”

Four decades on, Corby is still passionate about performing and sharing music. Fans can listen to his online radio show, Corby’s Orbit, on Radio Regent (broadcasting out of Toronto’s Regent Park) every Friday night. Smith, who now lives and jams back home in Jamaica, remains an icon of Toronto’s reggae heyday.