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The Ramshackle Joy of Home Recordings
November 23, 2007 6:20 AM   Subscribe

The CBC's Stuart McLean (kind of Canada's Garrison Keillor) is obsessed with musicians' home recordings. He recently produced a show asking Canadian musicians to record songs in their own homes. The result is an enjoyable mix (direct link to MP3) of whimsical, occasionally experimental music.
posted by dbarefoot (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The sort of wide-eyed wonder at the phenomenon of home recording that McClean displays in his opening comments is, well, a bit naive. Just about any and every musician and his cousin these days has some sort of home recording setup, it's really no big deal. But anyway, it's nice to see someone display such enthusiasm about music, so that's a minor quibble, really. I dug the "How Are We To Live In Outer Space" tune, and the two "Happiness Project" pieces, with horn players mirroring recorded speaking voices is very cool. I'm enjoying this. Thanks for the post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:55 AM on November 23, 2007


His interest in home recording makes me think McClean should tune into the goings-on here at MeFi Music: virtually everything on offer here is the product of a home studio of one sort or another. So, if you happen to see this post, Stuart, check out MeFiMu! Of course, we're not all Canadian, but don't hold that against us!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 AM on November 23, 2007


"Wide-eyed wonder" kids of describes McLean's attitude towards everything on his show. It's kind of his schtick. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, love his show and have bought his books. But he has that kind of approach to everything.
posted by GuyZero at 7:11 AM on November 23, 2007


For the record, flapjax, Stuart McLean's job as kind-of-Canada's-Garrison Keillor is to express wide-eyed wonder at all manner of commonplace phenomena. He wrote a whole book not too long ago about how small-town life in Canada was just so darn friendly and small-town, can you believe it? (McLean, for his part, lives in downtown Toronto.)

When I was at journalism school - where McLean taught radio broadcasting - we used to do imitations of Stuart doing his folksy ain't-it-grand bit reporting natural disasters and war atrocities.

That said, his Vinyl Cafe Christmas episode a few years back with the story about how the kids' and adults' punch bowls got accidentally swapped at the Christmas party was hilarious.

On preview: Yeah, what GuyZero said.
posted by gompa at 7:18 AM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Canada's Garrison Keillor.

You had me at "Canada," and then lost me again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:49 AM on November 23, 2007


we used to do imitations of Stuart doing his folksy ain't-it-grand bit reporting natural disasters and war atrocities.

Oh, gompa, I would have loved to have heard that. "So I walked a little farther up the road and came across a stern looking old gent who told me his name was Saddam."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:01 AM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ya, Stuart McClean kind of grates on my nerves I have to say, all those stories about Dave and Morley or whoever the fuck they are, told in that affected smalltown dopey drawl. He has some good performers on the Vinyl Cafe shows, though, I have to say.
And I thought the same thing as flapjax did, listening to his podcast intro. His amazement at this thing called Home Recording and his trailblazing invention of making a podcast about it. What he meant was the home recordings of "established" artists, I think, or at least artists that they've played on the CBC.
Not criticizing your post, just McClean.
posted by chococat at 8:21 AM on November 23, 2007


I heard this show on broadcast and I sepnt the whole hour remarking to myself, my wife, the cats, my dog, that it was a great idea for a set and that I wanted to hear more, more, more demo-style recordings.
posted by mwhybark at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2007


Oh, gompa, I would have loved to have heard that. "So I walked a little farther up the road and came across a stern looking old gent who told me his name was Saddam."

Yup, that was pretty much it. Stuart was looking into doing a book about Canada's draft dodger legacy at the time, so it would often go about like this . . .

"And so the general talked to his old friends, his old friends at a little company called Dow. And they got to thinking, and they came up with a way so that the general could see those Viet Cong just a little more clearly. And not long after, the general came out onto his airstrip, and there was a bunch of those clever Dow boys, unloading barrel after barrel of a strange new liquid, and each of those barrels had a big orange stripe right on the side of it, and the general thought that was pretty strange, all right, and so he called it Agent Orange . . ."
posted by gompa at 9:17 AM on November 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I should mention, by the way, that our goofing on Stuart's distinctive style was in no way meant to be militious. Stuart was an excellent and generous teacher and a lot of fun besides. His first lesson the first day was a chalkboard schematic highlighting all the good places to get lunch in a ten-minute-walk radius of the journalism building at Ryerson.
posted by gompa at 9:21 AM on November 23, 2007


This thread is pretty hilarious to read. Yes, McClean is incredibly corny; his style is pretty much anti-matter to Metafilter. He made my skin positively crawl for a year or two - my wife and children really like him on in the car - but eventually I grew to enjoy his earnest style (the story defrosting about the turkey in the hotel is a timely example of how he can really tell a great story IMO).

I was recently having dinner in Toronto with a friend who's played on the Vinyl Cafe & I said offhandedly, "oh yeah, I listen to that show all the time". And then there was this half-second pause & I realised I'd just admitted something incredibly lame. I don't know, I guess maybe it's because I moved to a small town or I'm getting mellower with age or something.

The fact that the show is recorded live before an audience is really important I think. It's medicine of a kind for people who genuinely enjoy community and family, and who experience not only McClean's stories but the happy laughter that follows it as a kind of soothing balm.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:22 AM on November 23, 2007


For god's sake, people, there's only one 'c' in that name! McLean! McLean! McLean! /pedant filter
posted by gompa at 10:25 AM on November 23, 2007


Sorry. That explains the stupid feeling I had every time I typed McClean.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:38 AM on November 23, 2007


Canada has their own Garrison Keillor? Why? I'd gladly give them ours.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:05 AM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The sort of wide-eyed wonder at the phenomenon of home recording that McClean displays in his opening comments is, well, a bit naive.

I tuned into his show last weekend by mistake...it was devoted to home recordings. It is the only time I've been able to listen to the Vinyl Cafe without wanting to throw the radio out the window.

But is he better than Arthur Black?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 PM on November 23, 2007


Militious? Malicious! Malicious! /pedant filter

What artists are represented here, anyway?
posted by Flashman at 12:30 PM on November 23, 2007


Better that Arthur Black, not as good as Grant Lawrence...
posted by Flashman at 12:31 PM on November 23, 2007


Militious? Malicious! Malicious! /pedant filter

Lo, I am chastened.

posted by gompa at 12:54 PM on November 23, 2007


This thread is very reassuring. I now know that it is not just me that finds it funny to apply McLean's style to inappropriate subject matter.

I am an immigrant to Canada, and I had worried that this behaviour might be considered somewhat seditious what with him being a Canadian Institution and all. Now I find that everyone else is doing it, I feel so damn Canadian.
posted by pascal at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2007


Dave and Morley were driving out by the lake outside of Pictou one snowy evening. They had drunk a little too much red wine to celebrate the wonder of it all, and the snowflakes drifted through the beams of the Acadian's headlights like fallen memories. Dave nearly lost control for a second, but he got out of of it by jerking hard on the steering wheel. Morely giggled and sipped some red wine. It was from Niagara, and the sour fruitiness of the drink reminded her of hot, muggy afternoons in early August, when the sun made the asphalt smell that special smell.

They didn't see him until half a second before they hit him...The pedestrian went flying off into the snowbank like a cannonball. Dave cursed and screeched a stop and Morely spilled red wine all over the front seat. What does everything always have to happen at Christmas,
posted by KokuRyu at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I feel so damn Canadian.

pascal, there you go: You are damn Canadian.

(A little affectionate joshing is really all it takes.)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:38 PM on November 23, 2007


But is he better than Arthur Black?

Well, Koku, I'd say they're different, and both good. Arthur Black is the consummate radio professional: a great writer, a great announcer--by which I mean a reader aloud--and an engaging personality who is able to express that on radio. Stuart "McClean" McLean doesn't come off as being as friendly on the radio; his spoken pieces have a somewhat staged character, both in the writing and the delivery, which distances him as a personality for at least me. But he is clearly a good writer and a great storyteller. So I'd say Arthur Black has (had) the better radio chops but I wouldn't mind sitting around a fire with Stuart. And I read his books religiously, and laugh out loud.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:44 PM on November 23, 2007


I had some time to pass before the show so I walked into a tent, a big green Army tent with pegs, and guy wires, and a sturdy wood floor. And as I walked in the first man I met was a man called Specialist Osbourne. That's what the shiny black nametag said on his uniform, Specialist Osbourne. And I asked him what that meant. It turned out that Specialist Osbourne was an expert. And expert on something called waterboarding...
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:51 PM on November 23, 2007


(I guess another Canadian quality is extended riffing on the funny.)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:52 PM on November 23, 2007


Arthur Black, Turtles? He's about as funny as a chainsaw, a flannel jacket and a sixer of Extra Old Stock.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2007


Couldn't you have listed the artists so we wouldn't have to listen to the entire podcast?

I love Stuart McLean. He's no Su Ling Goh but then he's no Jian Gomesh-complete-douchebag-i either.

Arthur Black is hot.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:09 PM on November 23, 2007


Oh you are such a dick KokuRyu. If I saw you in real life I would so kick your ass.

Just kidding, Koku is a friend of mine.

But he's still, apparently, a dick.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:11 PM on November 23, 2007


OH FUCK YEAH CHAD VAN GAALEN! If Kris Demeanor is on here I am going to shit my pants in ecstasy. And he's from Calgary, you hating motherfuckers.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:12 PM on November 23, 2007


No, no, no, you're all wrong. Jian Ghomeshi is the shit, and is the best thing that has happened to CBC's afternoon show in, like, ten fucking years. Jian Ghomeshi makes everything all right after years of Bill Richardson foppery, Tetsuro Shigematsu goofiness, and whatever came after that.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I'd take Sad Goat over Jian Ghomeshi any day of the week. That guy is the smarmiest, grinning idiot ever.
A few weeks ago he was going on and on about "Bansky," the British graffiti artist. Bansky this and Bansky that for a whole segment, like he was in the know, hip to the scene. I'm an idiot and even I know it's Banksy.
Then after the news break and someone corrected him he was all sort of "I meant to say Banksy." Just one example. And it's painful to hear him interview actual musicians.
Also, he's responsible for one of the most embarrassing times in Canadian music.
Sorry for the rant, I just despise him and how they've fucked up CBC in the last 2 years, trying and failing to make themselves trendy with cringeworthy crap like this and the horrible Freestyle before it.
posted by chococat at 5:05 PM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Two hours of Einstuerzende Neubauten played backwards would be better than "Freestyle". Free-fucking-style was awful - whoever it was that complained in the MST3K thread about how it was like watching dorks who were less funny than you was right, except he should have been talking about Freestyle. It was like being trapped next to two talkative idiots on a long bus ride. Ugh.

And Arthur Black was good for a while, now he's just old and loving it. My parents get "CARP" magazine and he has a column. It's about being an old crotchety guy.

Try to maintain some dignity there, Arthur.
posted by GuyZero at 6:05 PM on November 23, 2007


chococat: agreed that Freestyle wasn't that great but it introduced me to some great Canadian indie-rock (Stars, Great Aunt Ida, and the guys who did "Dead Dogs Love us Still"--aah: Carbon Dating Service).
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2007


Please, oh please, do not put Stuart McLean in the same category as that godawful Garrison Keillor. The former has talent and wit; the latter is pure suckage.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:22 PM on November 23, 2007


Jian Ghomeshi is the shit,

Gotta agree with you there, KokuRyu--he's by far the most polished and interesting of the cavalcade of hosts you mentioned. Bill Richardson is extremely clever but a bit too precious. Tetsuro was amiable but somewhat out of his depth. And the Freestyle duo seemed mostly to regurgitate current net memes. (But they did have kick-ass music.)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:28 PM on November 23, 2007


Also, he's responsible for one of the most embarrassing times in Canadian music.

But Moxy Fruvus was so...grunge! Them and the Shuffle Demons.

Freestyle was indeed the lowest of the low. The male host was such a hipster asshole. What was his name, anyway? He was always so negative.

Anyone know what happened to Pria Ramu on the 690 drive-home show? She was sassy! Belle Puri sounds like such a drip.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 PM on November 23, 2007


(the story defrosting about the turkey in the hotel is a timely example of how he can really tell a great story IMO).

Dave Cooks The Turkey.

It's a classic.

Sorry, love McLean. Loved him ever since I first heard him with Peter Gzowski on the radio.

And I don't want a hip CBC. I like my CBC a bit on the stodgy side.
posted by Savannah at 10:19 PM on November 23, 2007


Peter Gzowski. [sigh]

I wish he didn't have to die. He was one of the most genuine people I've ever had the pleasure of listening to and learning from.

.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on November 23, 2007


I also really like(d?) listening to the two journalist gals who'd do telephone interviews with the biggest of big name movers and shakers and just grill the shit out of them, not being afraid to ask the tough questions others haven't been asking. Real fucking journalism, courtesy the grants of the Canadian people to its nationalized public radio system.

CBC is one of the best things Canada ever did, and we're simply tools for letting our governments pare and whittle it away.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 PM on November 23, 2007


fff: I presume that'd be Carol Off and Barbara Budd, from As It Happens? Yes, they're great. I also love Paul Kennedy & Ideas (some of those shows are available on podcast now).

Free-fucking-style was awful - whoever it was that complained in the MST3K thread about how it was like watching dorks who were less funny than you was right, except he should have been talking about Freestyle.

That'd be me, and yes, Freestyle sucked hard and long. As does Jian Ghomeshi.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:29 AM on November 24, 2007


Anyone know what happened to Pria Ramu on the 690 drive-home show? She was sassy! Belle Puri sounds like such a drip.

NO! Koku, are you being intentionally contrary? Priya Ramu was glib but abrasively vacuous. I recall an interview with a homocide investigator where she assumed she was a colleague because she watched CSI. She asked him, "What do you do when a case is a talker?". He said "What?" She said "You know, a talker, like on episode x when the public got involved and it made the investigators' job difficult." He said "I have no idea what you mean."

Belle is sweet and intelligent. I'm still disappointed when Q cuts off and On the Coast comes on, as it's not very intellectually stimulating or entertaining. But—oh, in answer to your question, Priya is in India—I hope she stays there.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:58 AM on November 24, 2007


Just remembered my fave of all time -- the fantabulous Avril Benoit!
posted by stinkycheese at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2007


Seeing as we're all talking about our CBC peeves, does no one else share my pain at having to listen to Rick Cluff (Vancouver "Early Edition" presenter) five mornings a week? The way he seems to be in a constant state of surprise at the (completely unremarkable) weather, traffic etc. The complete lack of ability to drill into an issue in interviews? The way he seems to only show a genuine interest and ability to comment on sports? Arrrgh!

On the other hand, The Current rocks.
posted by pascal at 8:14 AM on November 24, 2007


stinkycheese: As It Happens, yes. It has been a few yaers since I was in the car enough to listen to it a lot, so I've no idea if it's still so aggressive. Given that Budd is still there, I imagine it is.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:31 AM on November 24, 2007


The complete lack of ability to drill into an issue in interviews?

On that note, I must give big kudos to Kevin Sylvester. I hear him on the local shows as a sportscaster but when he has hosted The Current I have been most impressed by his persistence in pressing the interviewee into answering the difficult question. My complaint with other beloved hosts such as Peter Gzowski is that they all seem to retreat into the politically correct, nice and safe CBC position. For once, I'd like an interviewer to ask a native leader "Okay, you're unhappy and you were treated crappily in the past. But how much money do we have to give you before you start taking responsibility for the wellbeing of your own people?"
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:27 AM on November 24, 2007


Yep, she can sure rake people over the coals like nobody's business. I frequently find myself feeling embarrassed by her line of questioning, it's so fearless.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:30 AM on November 24, 2007


Oops, to fff.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:30 AM on November 24, 2007


Yeah, I forgot As it Happens because I'm not listening the radio at that time but they are breathtakingly honest and fearless. The crown jewel of CBC radio now, really, since Morningside went off the air.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2007


I love As It Happens - it's probably the best journalism on the radio, and the Current is also first class - but since I started working in public relations and then government I haven't been able to listen to CBC news radio at all...it's just information overload.

Rick Cluff is awesome - he's a great interviewer. But I'm just waiting for him to retire (ten years from now?) so Stephen Quinn or Kevin Sylvester can take over.

Stephen Quinn's Thursday quiz is the highlight of my radio listening week.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2007


KokuRyu: I will agree with you on one point - I am totally waiting for Rick Cluff to retire :)

For me, an "awesome" interviewer would be a John Humphrys or a Jeremy Paxman. I do like Stephen Quinn and Kevin Sylvester though, and Quinn's time in the "Early Edition" chair during the summer showed a marked improvement in the quality of interviews.
posted by pascal at 3:15 PM on November 24, 2007


Benoit was a disappointment, As It Happens has always been great, though I had a love-hate thing for that smart-ass Michael Enright. Nothing is worse that a smart-ass who is actually really smart. He'd do an amazing interview then switch to mocking a actuary who tried to explain how divorce rates work. And Sylvester has been a real surprise up-and-comer, from sportscaster to a very well-rounded radio host.

We need a full-on CBC thread around here.
posted by GuyZero at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2007


But what ever happened to 'the Great Eastern'? Best CBC show ever.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:58 PM on November 24, 2007


How was Benoit a disappointment? Are you referring to the fact that she left so early?
posted by stinkycheese at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2007


Yeah. Plus they seemed to make a big deal of her when she joined "This Morning" and then... not much. I just never found her to be a compelling interviewer. She seemed great on paper - a woman, a Quebecer, a "hard" journalist - which was a nice change for the CBC radio lineup at the time, but in the end, meh. I don't think she ever really connected with the show or with me as a listener. I got the feeling she wasn't connecting with the audience at large either, but I could be wrong there.
posted by GuyZero at 12:18 PM on November 26, 2007


I can only speak for myself. I had never heard her before she started doing the afternoon shift, I don't think. But I was really knocked out by her, pretty much right away. I wish she'd come back.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:53 PM on November 26, 2007


Great Eastern was the Newfie spoof, wasn't it?

My fave is Dead Dog Cafe. I wish CBC would release the audio tracks to the web. All of CBC's stuff should be on the web, dammit: I helped pay for it, I wanna listen to it, and I wanna share it.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2007


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