Alert Music

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Alert Music

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Dates of existence



Alert Music was founded in 1984 by Toronto’s W. Tom Berry and Montreal’s Marc Durand. From 1975-1983, Berry had been managing director at Anthem Records whose roster included Rush, Max Webster and Bob and Doug Mackenzie. Durand was the manager and producer of the Montreal rock band Men Without Hats. Alert’s mission was to create a unique label that could bridge the “two solitudes” of Canada, hopefully turning regional hits into national ones; the Toronto office would sign English language artists that the Montreal office would attempt to promote in French Canada, and vice versa. The Montreal office immediately signed The Box, while the Toronto office signed Kim Mitchell (who had recently begun a solo career).

In the late 1980s, Berry decided that his interest in rock music was waning and he and Durand agreed to go their separate ways. Berry kept the name Alert and all the English language artists currently signed to the label, while Durand kept The Box and the company’s Montreal office. Sometime after, Berry discovered jazz singer Holly Cole performing with pianist Aaron David and bass player David Piltch. He signed the trio and immediately set out to create a distinctive image and style for Cole. Her album Girl Talk caught the attention of jazz label Blue Note Records, and they released Cole’s next five albums in the American market. The majority of Alert’s efforts since the mid1990s have revolved around recording and marketing Cole. The label also continues to record and market other Canadian jazz, blues and roots-oriented music including Roxanne Potvin, Michael Kaeshammer and Cole’s accompanists, Piltch and Davis.



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Record label.

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University of Toronto Media Commons

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Feb. 3, 2015




Alert Music website

Andrews, Marke. “New disc reunites Holly Cole's old trio.” Vancouver Sun (June 28, 2003), F1.

Chamberlain, Adrian. “Kim Mitchell: Still doin' rock 'n' roll duty.” Victoria Times Colonist (November 20, 1998), C1.

Pearson, Ian. “Young Queen Cole: Holly Cole's strange reworking of old torch standards has made her Queen Street's latest flame.” The Globe and Mail (April 27, 1990), 24.

Quill, Greg. “Singer Roxanne Potvin launches her second album: The Way It Feels.” The Toronto Star (March 9, 2006), GO3.

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