Long Spin

Our Christmas Open House is this weekend (Saturday) so it’s not likely I’m going to get my long spin n’ swim in.  Fortunately, HRH  begins her “Leader’s Corp” classes tonight at the YMCA so I can squeeze in my long 80 minute spin this evening instead.  And in the wake of this afternoons “craptacular” fartlek run, I guess I could do with a little “easy-ish” make-up time on the bike.

Similar then to my last long spin before I left for Texas (3 weeks ago now) when I caught up on all my favorite B-Sides from one of my favorite bands ever  (click HERE), I’m doing the same thing this evening with the ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies‘ by Suede.

51cyuixoc0l

Essentially a double compilation album consisting of B-sides and rarities from the singles that were released from the group’s first three albums, it reached #9 on the UK Albums Chart, and met with positive reviews.  In subsequent years, the record has been hailed as one of the finest B-side compilations in popular music.

My own history was a love-hate-love kind of relationship.  I loved the first album, the second one even more, and I had all the singles on compact disc.  I was an avid fan.  But my then roommate played the living shit out of both albums and I grew to eventually despise them.

Tonight, I’m hoping to require that love once more.

And, hey, the fact that the album cover also has an airplane on it (bitch!) makes it pretty fucking cool to boot!

Few debut singles have the impact of Suede’s ‘The Drowners‘, which helped set the course to Britpop and established the band as one of the U.K.’s most important bands.  In that light, it isn’t surprising that the B-sides were considered as important as the A-side – the slow, grinding ‘My Insatiable One‘  was covered in concerts by Morrissey weeks after its release, while the band often closed shows with the majestic ‘To the Birds‘.  The strength of the ‘Drowners‘  B-sides wasn’t an anomaly – it established a precedent of high-quality B-sides that Suede strove to maintain on their first three albums.

Sci-Fi Lullabies‘  collects the majority of those B-sides, leaving behind the odd live track and remix, as well as the worthy ‘Painted People‘ and ‘Asda Town‘ and the extended ‘Stay Together‘  which used to haunt me back in university while crushing on a lost love.  Shh, don’t say anything to Kelly, but I almost got all weepy then and there on the bike while hearing it again for the first time in, what, 23…24 years?

What’s included is stellar, offering an alternate history of Suede.  In fact, the first disc – comprised of Suede and ‘Dog Man Star‘ B-sides, plus the haunting ‘Europe Is Our Playground‘ – is as strong as any of their albums, featuring such essentials as the sleazy ‘He’s Dead‘, ‘The Living Dead‘, ‘My Dark Star‘, the storming ‘Killing of a Flash Boy‘, the sighing ‘Where the Pigs Don’t Fly‘, and ‘Whipsnade‘, all strong enough to be A-sides.

Disc two isn’t quite as consistent, which might be because they’re all drawn from the singles for ‘Coming Up‘, which was more or less where I jumped ship with the band.  But it does find the band exploring their darker, more adventurous side, which they largely suppressed on that record.  Unlike most B-sides compilations, ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies‘  is far from extraneous – however, for any Suede fan, and most fans of contemporary Britpop back in it’s heyday, this is absolutely essential material, confirming the group’s status as one of the ’90s’ greatest bands.

Posted in Spin | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thursday Vinyl in Corporate Hell

Whenever I go away to Texas, I try to come back with an album that’s unique to the area that I probably wouldn’t ever be exposed to here, much less purchase.  Yes, I came back with a buttload of albums on this particular trip…but only one of them was unique to Texas, the ‘Juarez‘  album by Terry Allen.

img_1232

This album appealed to me for several reasons:

  1. It’s Texan,
  2. It’s a concept album about – you got it – Texas
  3. The dude just seems very fucking cool.
  4. Oh, and his name happens to be ‘Terry’ – of course.

Perfect, right?

Have I mentioned how much I love Hogwild Records?

Anyway, Terry Allen (born May 7, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas) is a country music singer in the outlaw country/Texas country genre, painter, and conceptual artist from Lubbock, Texas.   He was worked with the likes of Guy Clark to David Byrne and his artwork is in museums worldwide.

C’mon, look at this shit:

img_1234

Cool, right?

There’s even a whole booklet included with this album highlighting his artwork.

As if the music and album itself wasn’t enough.

From the album itself:

Widely celebrated as a masterpiece – arguably the greatest concept album of all time – this haunting 1975 album is a violent, fractured tale of the American Southwest and Borderlands.  This version has been remastered from the original tapes and the first reissue on vinyl…complete with original artwork.

Terry Allen is, first and foremost, a visual artist. He just happens to make brilliant, idiosyncratic albums on the side. In fact, his first album, 1975’s Juarez, wasn’t even initially conceived as an album, but as a set of songs recorded to accompany an artwork installation.  Original copies of the album were released with a set of lithographs illustrating the characters who populate the album’s world, an elliptical place where motivations and desires are often shadowy to the point of inscrutability, but the characterizations are almost three-dimensional.

The story of two couples on a drinking spree that turns into a murderous chase through the southern California desert, ‘Juarez‘  is a tough-as-nails narrative with the deadpan, biting humor of crime fiction writers like Jim Thompson or Chester Himes. The album was recorded quickly and on a low budget, so the musical settings are ultra-spare, with Allen’s whiskey-cured vocals and thumping piano often the only musical elements. As a concept album, the individual songs don’t work as well out of context, but listened to as a whole, Juarez is one of the more fascinating country albums of its time, like Willie Nelson‘s ‘Red Headed Stranger‘ as reimagined by Quentin Tarantino.

Think of it as a grittier Townes Van Zandt; a very welcome addition to my Texas-inspired albums.

Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fartlek Run (10.53k)

It’s been two weeks since I successfully completed a fartlek run and, even then, I didn’t feel so hot in managing it.  Of course, I was in San Antonio at the time and existing solely on carb-heavy nacho platters and cheeseburgers but, I digress.  Let’s just say I’m back on home soil, running familiar pavement and I’m hoping it goes a tad bit better.  So help accomplish this goal, I have another ‘tough guy’  standard lined up, the Led ZeppelinIII‘ album.

led_zeppelin_-_led_zeppelin_iii_1401711052

On their first two albums, the Zeps unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but this is the album that provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically.

While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, ‘III‘ is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth. And even the rockers aren’t as straightforward as before: the galloping (and I use that term loosely) ‘Immigrant Song‘  is powered by Robert Plant’s banshee wail, ‘Celebration Day‘ turns blues-rock inside out with a warped slide guitar riff, and ‘Out on the Tiles‘  lumbers along (kinda like yours truly) with a tricky, multi-part riff.  Nevertheless, the heart of the album lies on the second side, when the band delve deeply into English folk. ‘Gallows Pole‘  updates a traditional tune with a menacing flair, and ‘Bron-Y-Aur Stomp‘  is an infectious acoustic romp, while ‘That’s the Way‘  and ‘Tangerine‘  (all strategically placed at the beginning of the playlist to provide for a nice, relaxed warm up) are shimmering songs with graceful country flourishes. The band hasn’t left the blues behind, but the twisted bottleneck blues of ‘Hats off to (Roy) Harper‘  actually outstrips the epic ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You‘, which is the only time Zeppelin sound a bit set in their ways.

I will say this about today’s run to begin with, it’s as cold as muthafucka outside and I’m figuring that snow cannot be far off.  So not having to goose-step through 3ft. snowbanks or concentrating on keeping my footing on slippery tire tracks is a good thing.  Having said that, the run was an epic fail.

Well, maybe not epic…but it did sure as shit suck.

It all started out well enough with a decent and comfortable 5:25-5:30min/km  pace just like Tuesdays run.  Things looked optimistic and ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning seemed to be turning over well; even the first two 4 minute intervals went well.  But by the 3rd interval, my energy level and, consequently, my pace began to wane.  Of course, by this time I was turned around and running into the wind, but still.  I just didn’t have the hutzpah to continue the good fight.  The 4th interval I barely made it through at all and just two minutes into the 5th and last interval…I died a slow, horrible death.

And all to ‘Gallows Pole‘  no less.

How ironic is that?

Still, in the same duration as my usual running time I still covered 10.53k which is almost the same distance as in previous attempts that this particular workout (click HERE) and I did maintain an average pace of 5:48 min/km  even with and extra two minutes of shameful walking thrown in.  That’s only a second off my previous pace and only a 100m  off in total distance.  That’s not terrible, right?  I did absolutely murder my San Antonio fartlek though (click HERE)…so maybe this run wasn’t a total loss.

I think the real learning lesson here is that I went out without enough in my belly.  I ate breakfast an hour earlier and still went out running at the same time (noon).  That’s almost 4.5 hours with only a small yogurt 15-20 minutes before heading out the door…likely not enough, hence my miserable death at the top of Thunder Bay Rd.

Okay, so lesson learned.

Loud.  And.  Clear.

Posted in Fartlek | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hump Day Vinyl (Part 2)

Okay, so I’m totally pushing my luck here.  While Kelly is neti-potting her headache away (click HERE for my own experience) and HRH gets ready for bed, I’m slipping on one last Jazz Boner selection just to see if anyone is paying attention.  This time the ‘Go!‘  album by Dexter Gordon.

img_1228

Fingers crossed!

From the first moments when Dexter Gordon sails into the opening song full of brightness and confidence, it is obvious that ‘Go!‘ is going to be one of those albums where everything just seems to come together magically.

Or so I’m hoping with the girls tonight anyway…

A stellar quartet including the stylish pianist Sonny Clark, the agile drummer Billy Higgins, and the solid yet flexible bassist Butch Warren are absolutely crucial in making this album work, but it is still Gordon who shines.  Whether he is dropping quotes into ‘Three O’Clock in the Morning‘  or running around with spritely bop phrases in ‘Cheese Cake‘, the album pops and crackles with energy and exuberance.  Beautiful ballads like ‘I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry‘  metamorphosize that energy into emotion and passion, but you can still see it there nonetheless. Gordon had many high points in his five decade-long career, but this is certainly the peak of it all.

Go!‘  was released in 1962 on the legendary jazz label Blue Note.  According to the liner notes by Ira Gitler, this session was:

“Not recorded in a nightclub performance but, in its informal symmetry, it matches the relaxed atmosphere that the best of those made in that manner engender. Everyone was really together, in all the most positive meanings of that word.”

Actually, it was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs. Since its release, ‘Go!’  has received very positive reviews from critics, with Allmusic giving it a five star rating.  The album was re-released in March 1999 as part of Blue Note’s RVG Series, produced by Michael Cuscuna, and this is the version I have in my collection now.

So what did the real  critics say?

Well, one closed the door and went to bed.  The other, okay, she went to bed too.  So while neither of them really paid any attention to my jazz at all, they also didn’t complain, roll their eyes or outright told me to “turn that crap off!”, so I’m still chalking it up as a victory on the Jazz Boner front.

Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hump Day Vinyl (Part 1)

While we wait for mommy to get home and our dinner of cashew chicken, I’m enjoying our upstairs stereo set-up with one of the albums I smuggled back from Texas last week (from ‘Imagine Books & Records‘ – more to come on this place later).  In particular, I’m indulging in a little psychedelic gypsy Jazz Boner with the ‘Blowin’ Some Old Smoke‘  album by Gabor Szabo.

img_1225

Released in 1970 and released on Buddha Records this is more of a Greatest Hits compilation by the noted Hungarian guitarist.

From the back of the album:

“Gabor Szabo defies description.  He plays guitar.  So does Clapton, Burrell, Hendrix, Montgomery.  All these players were tagged as falling into the Jazz or Rock bag.  This is upsetting.  They are all great players that transcend the critics’ penchants for categorizing.  Gabor Szabo has always been the maverick, hard to label.  The jazz purist shock his head no!  Certainly he could not be considered a rock player, or could he?  The answer was so obvious, Szabo plays MUSIC!

Okay, I can get behind that I suppose.

This collection of songs  includes such classic Szabo tunes as ‘Bacchanal‘, ‘Fire Dance‘ and ‘Galatea’s Guitar‘, as well as covers such as Donovan‘s ‘Sunshine Superman‘, the Beatles ‘Dear Prudence‘ and ‘Walk Away Rene‘  by the Left Banke.  You remember them right?

Of course you do.

Whatever, it all makes for some amazing hump day evening listening.

And, shit, it’s been playing for a while now – jazz – and neither girl has complained…like, at all.  Not.  One.  Word.  So, I’m personally taking this as huge victory into winning them over on the jazz front.

Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stretch

After my 60 minutes of suck on the bike I figured a good yoga stretch was in order…and by “yoga stretch”, I really mean lying there on a mat in a pool of sweat; po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Luckily, I had the perfect 15 minute “lie there in a pool of my own sweat” music lined up in advance, the live ‘Daytrotter Sessions‘  by Bear’s Den.20057485-37383694All I know for certain about the album is that it was recorded at Troy High School in London, U.K. on March 21st, 2013 (there are some conflicting dates, but I believe this is the right one.  And if it’s not – oh well). It’s basically just a few tracks featuring plucky banjo, crisp harmonies and a whole lotta English Okie-Folkie soul.

I love this series of intimate shows and you can find a buttload of them HERE. They’re short, they’re sweet…they’re pretty much awesome. Especially when you’ve just kicked some ass, sweated out full cheeseburgers and have nothing do for 15 minutes or so but lie around in a pool of your own sweat.

You’re welcome.

Posted in Yoga | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Interval Spin (Hills)

Seeing as how I had an “easy run” this afternoon, I’m going to try and giv’ er a little bit this evening on the bike by doing a few hill intervals [3 x (1 minute HARD/1 minute easy) w/ 5 minutes tempo].  We’re going to see how it goes anyway, so I have some “tough guy” tunes queued up with the Led ZeppelinII‘ album.

Recorded quickly during the bands first American tour (released in 1969), this album is infamous for being the architect blueprint for all the heavy metal bands that followed it.

Since the group could only enter the studio for brief amounts of time, most of the songs that compose ‘II‘ are reworked blues and rock & roll standards that the band was performing on-stage at the time.  Not only did the short amount of time result in a lack of original material, it made the sound more direct.  Jimmy Page still provided layers of guitar overdubs, but the overall sound of the album is heavy and hard, brutal and direct. ‘Whole Lotta Love‘, ‘The Lemon Song‘, and ‘Bring It on Home‘  are all based on classic blues songs – only, the riffs are simpler and louder and each song has an extended section for instrumental solos.  Of the remaining six songs, two sport light acoustic touches (‘Thank You‘, and ‘Ramble On‘), but the other four are straight-ahead heavy rock that follows the formula of the revamped blues songs. While this album doesn’t have the eclecticism of the group’s debut, it’s arguably more influential (it’s certainly motivational through these stupid-hard hill intervals, anyway).  After all, nearly every one of the hundreds of Zeppelin imitators used this record, with its lack of dynamics and its pummeling riffs, as a blueprint.

While my run legs seem to be good order this afternoon, my spin legs – not so much.  I completed the intervals for a full 60 minutes of spinning but I’m pretty such I was leaking full cheeseburgers out my pours as I was doing it.  Which is good I guess.  But I realize that I’m going to have to ease back into the spinning thing more gradually…tough guy tunes or not.

Posted in Spin | Tagged | Leave a comment