Yoga

I’m pretty fucking pleased with myself for getting out of bed and running almost 10k in -stupid° temperatures this morning.  Sure the pace wasn’t necessarily quick but that was more a result of the slippery conditions more than any lack of fitness on my (our) part.

In short, it’s wasn’t too shabby for an “official” return to working out.

I’m going to try and carry that forward momentum then a bit further by completing this slow, restorative yoga stretch this morning as well partnered with this ‘Ambient 3: Day of Radiance‘  album by Laraaji (produced by Brian Eno).

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This album is the third entry of Eno’s Ambient series, which began in 1978 with ‘Music for Airports’ (one of my Desert Island albums that I will need to review for you at some point soon), and was preceded by ‘The Plateaux of Mirror‘  and ending with On Land.

So, yeah, lots o’ wind chimes n’ shit.

But while ‘Music for Airports’  was honest-to-goodness unobstructive music, ‘The Plateaux of Mirror’  was music to travel to, and ‘On Land’  was a tour into sound of the silence … ‘Day of Radiance‘  is essentially a tour into the ancient world of Buddhism.

How hip is that for a yoga workout?

And, believe it or not, I scored it at Niagara Records for just $5.00.

Edward Larry Gordon was a comedian/musician attempting to work his way through the Greenwich Village clubs in the 70’s when one day he impulsively traded in his guitar for a zither, adopted the name Laraaji, and began busking on the sidewalks. Eno, also living in New York at the time, heard his music somewhere down the line and offered to record him, resulting in this singular, unusual album.

Mark that:  The album is technically a Laraaji album, and only PRODUCED by Eno.

Not that this diminishes it in any way, of course.

However, there’s not as much synth here as one might expect from a typical Eno ambient record.  Here instead, Laraaji uses an open-tuned instrument with some degree of electrification (and, presumably, with studio enhancements courtesy of Eno), which creates a brilliant, full sound. It is definitely influenced by the minimalist movement; quickly-repeated, slightly varied motifs skirled by a very metallic-sounding harp; perfect for relaxed stretches and long drawn out yoga poses.

Note:  Funnily enough, exactly one year ago today (well, one year minus a day) I was also listening to some pretty weird street-inspired ambiance (click HERE)…albeit, I wasn’t doing yoga.

The first three pieces, ‘The Dance, #1-3‘, are rhythmically charged and propulsive, with tinges of Irish hammered dulcimer music mixed with a dash of Arabic influence. The layered production gives them a hypnotically captivating quality and an echoing vastness, inducing a dreamlike state in which the listener happily bathes.

The two parts of ‘Meditation‘ are arrhythmic, ethereal wanderings, still effective if less immediately riveting.  This album is now considered an early new age masterpiece and, while it shares certain aspects with the genre (including a heady mystical aura), it has far more rigor, inventiveness, and sheer joy of playing than the great majority of its supposed descendants.  It possesses a sense of timelessness that has enabled it to quite ably hold up over the years.

Unlike my home yoga practice apparently, which has not stood up to the test of time.

I mean, sure, I do it…but even then, only periodically.  And, of course, it’s never as good as it is with any practice I do in an actual studio under the direction of an actual instructor; judged as I may be from time to time (click HERE).  I do ultimately miss it though…even though I do get to choose my own soundtrack to enjoy my practice to here at home and, today, that soundtrack just happened to be awesome.

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Morning Slip n’ Slide w/ Lindsay (9.47k)

It’s stupid o’clock in the morning and it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey outside and here I am…running.

My first official activity in nearly two weeks as a matter of fact.

God help me.

Anyway, I felt the need for a little pick-me up and go so I’m plugging into the ‘Road to Ruin‘  album by the Ramones for my short little progression out to Crystal Beach, and then back again afterwards.

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The loud-and-fast, campy-and-catchy formula began to wear a little thin by the time of the Ramones’ fourth album, ‘Road to Ruin‘. It was the first Ramones album to feature new drummer Marky Ramone, who replaced founding member Tommy Ramone. Tommy left due to lack of album sales and stress while touring; however, he stayed with the band to produce the album with Ed Stasium.

Following the exact same blueprint as its three predecessors, this 1978 album simply doesn’t yield the same results as the other records. In part, it’s because the band sounds a little forced on the harder numbers, but the main problem lies with the undistinguished material. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’  is a classic of course, and ‘Questioningly‘ proves that the Ramones are just as effective when they slow the tempo down, yet much of the record sounds like the Ramones trying to give the people what they want; more radio play perhaps?

Since they were still in their prime, such nondescript material still sounds good, but the record has neither the exuberant energy or abundant hooks of ‘Ramones‘  and ‘Rocket to Russia‘, and it’s the first suggestion that the band may have painted themselves into a corner.

Despite being the groups first commercial flop, it was certainly an inspired listen for running icy roads at 5:50am in the morning, and then again on my jog back home at 7:00am (9.47k).

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Relaxing (Part 3)

While Kelly is fixing our dinner of cheese steak potatoes and baked beans (I know right!  YUM!), I’m moving onto Phase Three of this evenings’ “Country Christmas Listening” pleasures (the last album being the exception, or course), the ‘Dobrolic Plectral Society‘ album by Tut Taylor.

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I know, ‘who?!

You rube.

Tut Taylor.

No, Tut is not an Egyptian pharaoh nor does he have anything to do with pyramids.

Nor does a “Dobrolic Plectral Society” have anything to do with organized Satanism or demonic erections.

I think, anyway.

Taylor, originally a banjo and mandolin prodigy as a child who then began playing dobro at age 14, learned to use the instrument with a distinctive flat-picking style. Taylor was a member of The Folkswingers in the 1960’s, who released three albums; he recorded his debut solo effort in 1964. Later in the 1960’s, he played with the Dixie Gentlemen and in John Hartford’s Aereo-Plain Band.  At the 1995 Grammy Awards, he was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for his work on ‘The Great Dobro Sessions’  with Jerry Douglas.

This 1976 album features other such bluegrass alumni as Sam Bush, Norman Blake, Curtis Burch, and Butch Robbins.  The album was released on Takoma Records, the label originally founded by legendary acoustic guitarist John Fahey.

So while I really don’t know what a “Dobrolic Plectral Society” is, or what Tut is even talking about for that matter, I do know that it’s one killer  name for the title of one killer “dobrolicious” bluegrass album.

Plus, the photo on the cover has a certain pleasing rustic charm to it.

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Relaxing (Part 2)

Moving on with this evening’s heady vinyl listening program is the ‘Communiqué‘  album by Dire Straits.

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‘Communiqué’  was recorded in November and December of 1978 at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau and, get this, produced by Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler, veteran producers from Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Not bad for likely one of the lesser-know and appreciated albums by Knopfler and co.

Especially when you consider it was rushed out less than nine months after the surprise success of Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album (click HERE).  Having said that, because of what it was it was also doomed to be forever interpreted as a mere carbon copy of its predecessor with less compelling material.

And with the exception of, say, ‘Single-Handed Sailor‘ it kind of is.

Knopfler and co. had established a sound (derived largely from J.J. Cale) of laid-back shuffles and intricate, bluesy guitar playing, and ‘Communiqué‘  provided more examples of it.  But there was no track as focused as ‘Sultans of Swing‘, even if ‘Lady Writer‘ (a lesser singles chart entry on both sides of the Atlantic) nearly duplicated its sound.  As a result, ‘Communiqué‘ sold immediately to Dire Straits’ established audience, but no more, and it did not fare as well critically as its predecessor or its follow-up.

Fortunately, this means you can likely find it at just about any old record store, flea market stall, and what have you for a buck or two.  I think I paid $2.00 for this copy many moons ago.

And good thing to, because otherwise we would not be enjoying it now.

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Relaxing (Part 1)

Since our previous listens (click HERE  and HERE) took us down the twing twang road, I thought I’d press with it a little further as I get into my new book (‘Can’t Find My Way Home: America In the Great Stoned Age‘ by Martin Torgoff) and a ‘Days Get Shorter Cherry Porter‘ from Brimstone Brewing, with the ‘Viva Terlingua!’  album by Jerry Jeff Walker.

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I have spotted this a few times while out thrifting old records at flea markets, yard sales and what have you, but I’ve never actually been able to seal the deal for a decent copy for my collection.

I righted that wrong a few weeks back for $4.00 at Niagara Records.

Viva Terlingua!‘  was recorded live in Luckenbach, Texas, on a hotter n’ fuck August night in 1973, and is among the most legendary of “live” singer/songwriter albums ever released.

Pretty much, it was the ‘Live at the Fillmore East‘  of hillbilly redneck Texas folk-rock.  The kind of stuff you hoot and holler along with, knock back a Jack Daniels, and then shoot loaded guns off into the ceiling.

Feel?

Essentially, it’s Jerry Jeff fronting the Lost Gonzo Band at the beginning of their long run together playing, living it up, having a ball, giving everybody the impression that life was a party, and to be sure, it was for a while.

Given the loose, inspired performance on this set, Walker was every bit the equal of Willie, Waylon, and Billy Joe Shaver at the time. The material is terrific. Half of it is from Jerry Jeff’s catalog: ‘Sangria Wine‘, ‘Gettin’ By‘, ‘Little Bird‘, ‘Get It Out‘, and ‘Wheel‘.  The rest? Can’t possibly do better: Guy Clark‘s ‘Desperados Waiting for the Train‘, Ray Wylie Hubbard’s ‘Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother‘, Michael Murphy’s ‘Backslider’s Wine‘, and Gary P. Nunn’s Austin City Limits anthem, ‘London Homesick Blues‘.

It doesn’t sound anything like it was recorded in front of an audience, but it does sound live as hell as these folks were partyin’ it up and layin’ down the tracks with white hot heat.

This record was made in a night and it feels like it was made in your living room. It’s guaranteed to lift any dark mood within 15 minutes. This record asks no questions and there are no hidden meanings in Walker’s or anybody else’s lyrics; it’s all there for the taking.

And that’s what makes it the enduring classic it is.

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Wrapping Presents

Now that the stupid driveway has been cleared (for the time being), I’m using this opportunity while the girls are out to wrap a few presents and bang them under the tree.  Of course, such an endeavor deserves decent Christmas music, specifically the ‘Christmas In Canada’  album by Wilf Carter.

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First off, just look at how happy Wilf is there on the front cover.

He’s just tickled fucking pink about the snow today, my gift wrapping, and the fact that this album is likely being played for the first time – much less even seen the light of day – in say, oh, three or four decades?

Sweet funky Santa balls, that’s awesome!

The name of Canadian-born Country singer/yodeler, guitarist and songwriter Wilf Carter (born Wilfred Arthur Charles Carter on Dec 18th, 1904 in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia – passed away at age 92 in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 5th, 1996) – and probably better known in the U.S. as Montana Slim – is not one you will see among those achieving a national hit single in the U.S. despite a recording career that date back to 1935 as Wilf Carter and 1938 as Montana Slim with Bluebird Records.

But over the years the fact he did record prolifically for large operations like Bluebird, RCA Victor and Decca, including dozens of albums – and the availability today of many of those albums in reissued CD format – tells you that he had a solid following on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Not as solid as fellow Nova Scotian Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow, who racked up 85 hit singles and sold millions of albums from 1949 to 1980 on his way to induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1979 mind you, but good enough to keep him well employed over his career after relocating to Calgary, Alberta in 1923 (where he was also known as Alberta Slim). Wilf was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame five years before Hank (1984 – 1989).

Unfortunately, one of his many albums that has not been reformatted for CD is this one here, his now rare 1965 ‘Christmas In Canada‘  which I found for $1.00 (a first pressing no less) at the Fort Erie Goodwill two months ago or so for just such an occasion such as this.

This is the Holy Grail of Christmas albums in Canada (aside from, maybe Stompin’ Tom’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone‘  album) and all the usual seasonal fare is here, but it also includes three tunes you just don’t see in most such collections, ‘Ting-A-Ling-A Jingle‘, ‘Christmas Time In Canada‘ and ‘Punkinhead (The Little Bear)‘. He also does a nice job on Jim Reeves’ ‘An Old Christmas Card‘.

It was a fun listen for doing my very, very best to wrap what few items I have without a) wasting paper, b) losing patience, or c) ripping out what’s left of my hair.  Oh, and don’t forget d) “make it pretty”.

God forbid.

Make it pretty.

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Snow Shoveling

And so it begins:  Old Man winter and his endless dumping of fuckin snow.

We have been fortunate up to this point not to have had any real accumulation, but that happy time has apparently come to an end meaning, of course, that despite my still feeling crappy and having to wait for the results of my chest x-rays yesterday to determine if I actually have pneumonia or not (I don’t), shoveling the driveway is one workout I can’t avoid today.

Fuck sticks.

Anyway, my listening pleasure this afternoon for heaving around the white stuff is the short, ‘We Laugh Indoors‘  EP by Death Cab for Cutie.

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‘We Laugh Indoors’  (reached #122 on the UK Singles Chart) was the third single from the band’s third album, ‘The Photo Album’, released in October of 2002.  It features an alternate mix of the song ‘For What Reason‘  from their previous album, ‘We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes’, and a live version of ‘I Was a Kaleidoscope‘.

Yeah, that’s about it; my 12 minutes worth of audio listening pleasure while shoveling the white shit.

That’s my big workout.

Whoopee shit.

Of course, it look a lot longer than 12 minutes to actually shovel the snow from the driveway and then chip away all the ice (well, as much as I could anyway) to boot, but these 12 minutes in particular were glorious.

What else can I say?

Fuck snow.

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