Core

Yesterday was the first day in over two months that I have missed a core day.  Of course, it is worth mentioning that I was up at 5:00am yesterday did cycle 5 hours for the Move for Strong Kids campaign yesterday, after getting to bed at midnight the night before so, yeah, the core just wasn’t going to happen and the streak ended at 53 days.

Believe me, I feel as guilty as shit.

However, it’s back on today prior to my other planned run and swim workouts.  My mellow inspiration then to begin the new streak of planks, push-ups, crunches and whatnot is the self-title album by America.

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This eponymous album was released in 1971 and spawned the monster hit ‘A Horse with No Name‘.  In fact, the entire album did well spending 5 weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts in the United States.

The album then is basically a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are the group’s obvious stylistic touchstone here, especially in the vocal harmonies used and the prominent use of active strummed acoustic guitar arrangements.

The bands intricate interplay of acoustic guitar textures is more ambitious than that of their influences, however.  Performance quality is usually good, though on occasion sloppily executed or out of tune (especially on the openings to ‘Donkey Jaw‘ and ‘I Never Found the Time‘).  Most of the songs boast highly unusual and inventive chord progressions that work well without drawing undue attention to themselves. Lyrics are sometimes trite (“I need you/Like the flower needs the rain”) or obscure (“He flies the sky/Like an eagle in the eye/Of a hurricane that’s abandoned”), but the music more than makes up for any verse problems.

It’s essentially a nice, mellow bouncy album to get the ball rolling this morning after the breakfast-coffee-poop routine.  And then, after today’s workouts are completed, I am taking seven whole days off.

Yup, seven-fucking-days to do little else than these daily core workouts and maybe a relaxing yoga class or two so that I can recharge, rejuvenate and get myself reset to begin the next phase of training heading into July’s Ironman (click HERE).

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Friday Night Vinyl

We’re heading out shortly to see the Skydiggers acoustic at The Sanctuary tonight so while Kelly gets her pre-game nap on, I’m relaxing in the EZ-Boy with another chapter of my book ( ‘The Dragon Behind the Glass‘  by Emily Voigt) and one of my Desert Island albums, ‘Rumours‘  by Fleetwood Mac.

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“Drama. Dra-ma,” was how Christine McVie described the recording of Rumours to Rolling Stone magazine shortly after its release on February 4th, 1977.  And that wasn’t even the half of it.  Sessions for this masterwork masterwork have all the elements of a meticulously scripted theatrical romance – elaborate entanglements, enormous amounts of money and mountains of cocaine.

Essentially, this is an album of timeless love songs written at a time when all the band members were in the process of breaking up.  Stevie Nicks had just split with her longtime lover and musical partner, Lindsey Buckingham, while Christine was in the midst of divorcing her husband, bassist John McVie.  Meanwhile, Mick Fleetwood’s extra-band marriage was on the rocks, leading to an affair with Nicks (unbeknown to the rest of the band) before the year was out. This inner turmoil surfaced in brutally honest lyrics, transforming the album into a tantalizing he-said-she-said romantic confessional.  The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to ‘Rumours’  become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess.

Drama aside, ‘Rumours’  is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,”  Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir. “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt.”

‘Rumours’  is ultimately an unhappy love story with a happy ending.  In the end, the excruciating emotional pressure yielded a diamond of opulent late Seventies rock.  The RIAA agreed, later certifying the album as such.  It’s the kind of album that transcends its origins and reputation, entering the realm of legend – it’s an album that simply exists outside of criticism and outside of its time, even if it thoroughly captures its era.

I’ve had this album in my CD collection for year and only just acquired it on vinyl.  And the nice thing about vinyl is that it has a shit-ton on pictures and photos that CD’s don’t have.  So it was this way that I learned exactly how smoking how Stevie Nicks was.

I mean, DAY-UM!

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Humada-humada-humada.

And then you realize that she was hooking up with the crazy looking dude learing over her left shoulder.

The fuck?

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Easy Run (5.15k)

Welp, it stopped raining so I may as well follow through with this afternoon’s planned 30 minute (5.15k) drill run.  However, I am spinning for 4 hours tomorrow as part of the Cycle for Strong Kids tomorrow at the Port Colbourne YMCA so I’m opting to keep it short and sweet with the ‘We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic‘  album by Foxygen.

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This is the second officially released album by Californian experimental rock duo, released in 2013, and is absolutely jam packed with familiar sound cues and convincing ’60s and ’70s pop star mimicry.

Picking apart the blatant, intentional references to different classic songs that cycle verse-to-verse throughout the album is a fun game for record collector types; from the nod to the intro of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s‘ on album-opener ‘In the Darkness‘ to the bold-faced Dylan-isms of the incredible, big city lament ‘No Destruction‘.  Bowie, Lou Reed, all eras of Mick Jagger, specific doo wop songs, and even moments of the Band; no oldies are safe from Foxygen’s pure-hearted appropriation.  And then there’s ‘On Blue Mountain‘ which, oddly enough, is reminiscent of Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds‘.

Go figure.

Maybe I was just high on endorphins.

In fact, in the exact same year that Scott McKenzie the singer of ‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)‘ decided to shuffle off this mortal coil, Foxygen delivers unto us the dandy Glockenspiel-packing ‘San Francisco‘, which both circumvents and dissects McKenzie’s tune and its many cousins of the era. “I left my love in San Francisco/(That’s okay, I was bored anyway)/I left my love in a field/(That’s okay, I was born in LA)”  goes the lovely call-and-response chorus, slamming together the archetypal flower children of the 60s and the archetypal ADHD vapidity of our recent generations.

Another highlight, ‘Shuggie‘, manages to fit all the light bounce of the song’s namesake and the climbing choruses of ELO into it’s 3 minutes while still filling the tune with imagery of “rhinoceros-shaped earrings” and haunted parlors. Every nook and cranny of the record is loaded with their unflappable, brazen personalities.  Foxygen takes “swagger,” that as-of-late misused adjective, back once and for all and totally flips pyramids old and new upside down.

When it stopped raining earlier, truthfully, I was disappointed.  I had already conceded that I was going to have an “off day”, so when the guilt kicked in and I made up my mind I was going to go out, I was unconsciously determined to hate it but it a beautiful 17° out and I’m running in shorts and t-shirt and I’m still sweating.  Of course, I’m sweating while running easy…but I digress.

L-O-V-E.

I-T.

The other treat was that this album, although I was a bit skeptical, was actually pretty awesome; the perfect nice weather running music for 30 minutes.  At times, I was actually feeling good enough to pick up the pace a bit but then I’d have to remind myself that that wasn’t the point today and dial it back down again.

I might even have to hunt this out for the ‘ol vinyl collection some day.

Oh, and Allison…stick it.

Winter blows.

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Core

I slept through my swim workout this morning and seeing as how it’s currently raining cats and dogs outside, my planned afternoon run might not happen either.  That’s okay though as I’ve been experiencing the early signs of burn out anyway so perhaps having a lazy day isn’t such a bad thing.  I am, however, keeping with the core with Day 53 of the 100 Day Challenge with the ‘Music for the Sensational Sixities‘  album by Don Elliott and his Orchestra.

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I nabbed this at last weekend’s Record Fair in St. Catharines for $3.00, gambling that it was something in the vein of Space Age Exotica seeing as how it was released in 1958, features Don himself riding a Vespa through space while playing a French horn and it does have songs entitled ‘Out of this World‘, ‘Stardreams‘, ‘Moon Love‘ and ‘Stella by Starlight‘ so, yeah, I figured there was a good chance that it was.

Those are pretty good clues, don’t you think?

Elliott himself, born in Somerville, New Jersey in 1926, was a popular jazz trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone (whatever the hell that is) player.  He was also a longtime associate of Quincy Jones, contributing vocal work in particular to many of Jones’ film scores but this album, obviously, predates that.

However, I couldn’t really find out much about this specific album online but from the get go of the record, I knew my impulses were absolutely correct and that this was 100% a total Space Age Exotica album.  It’s a little more “big band-y” and less jazzy than other SPE albums in my collection, but you can’t ignore the popular themes and inspiration of the time that still indelibly imbedded in the grooves.

In other words, it’s cheesy as fuck and I love it.

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Thursday Evening Vinyl

I’m finishing off the day with a plate of Chicken Kiev and vegetable rice and another record from this past weekend’s Record Fair, ‘Dream of the Blue Turtles‘  by Sting.

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When I showed Kelly what I was putting on the turntable she says:

“Oh finally!  We’re going to listen to decent music.”

Ouch.

Okay, I see how it is.

(Rube).

Anyway, this was an album that Kelly has requested that I hunt out and fortunately it didn’t take too long.  And although I doubt she remembers, this was an album (on cassette) that she herself loaned me back in high school.  I had absolutely zero interest in Sting but I was interested in her and so this was supposed to be my “In” for sharing an interest with her and, therefore, establishing some kind of connection.

My ploy worked, of course, although it would take another 30-some odd years before it came to fruition.

I’m still not a huge Sting fan truth be told but, you know, I enjoyed listening to this tonight…like, really enjoyed it.  And after perusing the back cover, I can see why too as it prominently features Branford Marsalis on saxophone (in fact, the album employs all of Wynton Marsalis’ band) and Eddie Grant on congas.  Not that I knew who these guys were back in high school mind you, but I sure know who they are now.

As far as the album itself goes, The Police never really broke up, they just stopped working together – largely because they just couldn’t stand playing together anymore and partially because Sting was itching to establish himself as a serious musician/songwriter on his own terms.

This is Sting’s debut album from 1985, his critical shorthand of an official jazz record.  And bare in mind that all this jazz noise is centered around songs that delve into straightforward love songs like the lovely measured ‘Consider Me Gone‘ and the mournful closer, ‘Fortress Around Your Heart‘, before leaping into the abstract (‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free‘), a childish, faux-reggae singalong ‘Love Is the Seventh Wave‘, ballads about children in war and in coal mines, a relived Police tune about heroin that ponders whether “Russians love their children too,” before ultimately  wandering the streets of New Orleans as the vampire Lestat (‘Moon Over Bourbon Street‘).

Needless to say that this is a serious-minded album, undercut by its very approach – the glossy fusion that coats the entire album, the occasional grabs at worldbeat, and studious lyrics seem less pretentious largely because they’re overshadowed by such bewilderingly showy moves as adapting Prokofiev for ‘Russians‘ and calling upon Anne Rice for inspiration.  I didn’t stand a chance at really appreciating what this album was back in 1985 and, likely, neither was Kelly even though she still know all the words.

Ask her about it now though and she’ll just tell you about listening to this album on repeat while seated in the Dome car while traveling across Canada by train.

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Easy Tempo Spin

My only workout today is this 90 minute tempo spin while Hailey is at her Leader Corp class here at the Port Colbourne YMCA.  However, I have also committed to spinning for 4 hours to support the Cycle for Strong Kids campaign this Saturday so I don’t necessary feel the need to torture myself tonight, so I’m tonight’s tempo spin on the easy side of things with the ‘Mars Audiac Quintet‘  album by Stereolab.

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By the time of this album released in 1994, Stereolab had already highlighted the rock and experimental sides of its music; now the band concentrated on perfecting its space-age pop.  Sweetly bouncy songs like ‘Ping Pong‘ and ‘L’ Enfer des Formes‘  streamline the band’s sound without sacrificing its essence; track for track, this may be the group’s most accessible, tightly written album.

The groove-driven ‘Outer Accelerator‘, ‘Wow and Flutter‘, and ‘Transona Five‘  (which sounds strangely like Canned Heat‘s ‘Goin’ Up the Country‘) reaffirm Stereolab’s Krautrock roots, but the band’s sweet synth melodies and vocal arrangements give it a pop patina.  Even extended pieces like ‘Anamorphose’  and ‘Nihilist Assault Group‘ – which could have appeared on ‘Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements‘  if they had a rawer production – are more sensual and voluptuous than edgy and challenging.

It’s equally apparent on layered, complex songs such as ‘New Orthophony‘  and ‘The Stars Our Destination‘, as well as spare, minimal tracks like ‘Des Etoiles Electroniques‘, that the members of Stereolab focused their experimental energies on production tricks, vocal interplay, and increasingly electronic-based arrangements.  The charming final track ‘Fiery Yellow‘  takes the band’s fondness for Space Age and Lounge Exotica and experimentation to the limit; a delicate, marimba-driven piece featuring the High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan, it sounds like the kind of music Esquivel or Martin Denny would be proud to make in the ’90s.

While it’s not as overtly innovative as some of Stereolab’s earlier albums, ‘Mars Audiac Quintet‘ is an enjoyable, accessible forerunner to the intricate, cerebral direction the group’s music would take in the mid- and late ’90s.

Easily, another great spinning listen.

In fact, it also made the 90 minutes almost bearable considering how unmotivated I was to get on the bike in the first place.

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Thursday In Corporate Hell

It’s business as usual here on a Thursday afternoon and I’m trying to stay motivated to stay put and busy here in my basement office at Corporate Hell when it’s currently 16° outside, sunny and, truthfully, I’d rather be out running (which is actually on the workout docket for tomorrow) instead.  Part of my motivation then to stay put is this ‘Time Fades Away‘  album by Neil Young.

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Anyone who has followed Neil Young’s career knows enough not to expect a simple evening of mellow good times when they see him in concert, but in 1973, when Young hit the road after ‘Harvest‘  had confirmed his status as a first-echelon rock star, that knowledge wasn’t nearly as common as it is today.

Young’s natural inclinations to travel against the current of audience expectations were amplified by a stormy relationship between himself and his touring band, as well as the devastating death of guitarist Danny Whitten, who died of a drug overdose shortly after being given his pink slip during the first phase of tour rehearsals. The shows that followed turned into a nightly exorcism of Young’s rage and guilt, as well as a battle between himself and an audience who, expecting to hear ‘Old Man‘  and ‘Heart of Gold‘, didn’t know what to make of the electric assault they witnessed.  All the more remarkably, Young brought along a mobile recording truck to capture the tour on tape for a live album and the result, ‘Time Fades Away‘, was a ragged musical parade of bad karma and road craziness, opening with Young bellowing “14 junkies, too weak to work” on the title cut, and closing with ‘Last Dance‘, in which he tells his fans “you can live your own life”  with all the optimism of a man on the deck of a sinking ship.

While critics and fans were not kind to this 1973 album upon first release, decades later it sounds very much of a piece with ‘Tonight’s the Night‘ and ‘On the Beach‘, albums that explored the troubled zeitgeist of America in the mid-’70s in a way few rockers had the courage to face.

If the performances are often loose and ragged, they’re also brimming with emotional force, and despite the dashed hopes of ‘Yonder Stands the Sinner‘  and ‘Last Dance‘, ‘Don’t Be Denied‘  is a moving remembrance of Young’s childhood and what music has meant to him, and it’s one of the most powerful performances Young ever committed to vinyl. Few rockers have been as willing as Young to lay themselves bare before their audience, and ‘Time Fades Away‘ ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career – like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.

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