Fartlek Run (8.46k)

Today marks my “official” return to something of a structured run training program.  It may not be fast, long* or pretty yet…but it’s a start at least.  And today that start begins with the ‘Phantom Power‘  album by the Tragically Hip.

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I figured this was as good and as appropriate a listen today given that Gord Downie, lead singer, poet and Canadian icon tragically (if you’ll pardon the pun) passed away from brain cancer (click HERE).

While this album is more or less where I hopped off the Tragically Hip bus, it is also one of two albums I have not listened to yet and therefore detailed in this blog so, sadly, this is my opportunity to finally right that wrong.

And, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hop off the bus because I stopped appreciating the band, but more because my interests at the time leaned more towards Phish, the Grateful Dead and a whole host of more endless “bloobidy-bloobidy-bloobidy” jam based music given my lifestyle at the time.

Nod, nod, wink, wink.

Released in 1998, in some ways, this album was the one that intended as a breakthrough record for the band. It was their first American studio record in two years, and it was given a push by their new label, Sire. All of these factors were needed for promotional purposes, since the record is very similar to all the other Tragically Hip albums that preceded it.  However, it would go on to win the 1999 Juno Award for Best Rock Album and Best Album Design.

The band has never quite delivered the power of their live shows on their records (even their live album), but that doesn’t mean they make bad records – they just make records that are uneven and mildly disappointing in comparison to what they are capable of achieving. It’s not only in that respect that ‘Phantom Power‘  delivers the expected – throughout the album, the Hip stick to their anthemic hard rock and boogie, turning in a couple of solid songs and a couple of middling tunes.  Then, of course, there’s ‘Bobcaygeon‘ (which provided a gorgeous few moments of peaceful tranquility in my warm-up heading out into the extremely picturesque autumn landscape down Thunder Bay Rd.) that won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 2000.  It has since become recognized as one of the band’s most enduring and beloved signature songs to which every Canadian knows the lyrics backwards and forwards. In many ways, it became our second National Anthem.

So it was with a very heavy heart that today’s set of 4 x s minute painful intervals over 8.46k worth of hard fought pavement was completed up and down Thunder Bay Rd. this afternoon.

R.I.P. Gord.

*In actuality, this was my longest run since July 1st when my training season went to shit in an over-sized hand basket.

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Tuesday Evening Vinyl (Part 2)

And now that our amazingly delicious dinner is over, we’re moving onto the cheesier part of our evening’s  listening pleasures, the ‘Seven & the Ragged Tiger‘  by Duran Duran.

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Because, hey, why not?

As embarrassing as it is to admit now, back in Grade 3 this album was the total shit.  Among my small group of friends at the time, this was about the best album ever made solely based on the lead off track ‘The Reflex‘, which we deemed was “the coolest ever”.

I know.

I didn’t know any better.

It was 198, hair bands were all the rage and I was usually all hopped up on cream soda and Cadbury Flake chocolate bars.

Having said that, when I saw this album for only $4.00 at the small record fair this past weekend at The Geekery Pub in Niagara Falls, I was like, “Fuck it.  Why not?”

Anyway, despite the fact that this album – in hindsight mind you – couldn’t match the unrestrained pop/rock ebullience of 1982’s ‘Rio‘, Duran Duran put three of the album’s singles in the Top Ten, taking it to #1 in the U.K.  Even though ‘The Reflex‘  gave the band their first number one hit, there’s an overabundance of fancy glitz and dancefloor flamboyancy running through it, unlike ‘New Moon on Monday”s straight-ahead appeal or ‘Union of the Snake”s mysterious, almost taboo flair.

It’s apparent now that ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger”s content has the band moving ever so slightly into a dance club arena, with the songs leaning more toward their ability to produce a sexier sound through electronics and instrumentation than through a firm lyrical and musical partnership.

Even the unreleased tracks trade Duran Duran’s handsome edginess for a shinier sound, heard mainly on ‘I Take the Dice‘ and ‘Cracks in the Pavement‘.  It’s here that Lebon and Taylor’s personalities begins to get overshadowed by the demand to produce a more synth-snazzy and fashionable style of music.  Although they may have turned their songwriting down a notch in order to succumb to the pabulum of synthesized pop, they didn’t relinquish every aspect of their *ahem* genius, and when they do deliver, it’s bright, energetic, and effectual.  Duran Duran’s new direction eventually gave this album double platinum status.

None of this really matters though, because if $4.00 is what it takes to make your wife happy and have her dancing around the house singing to herself, whom a I to judge?

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Tuesday Evening Vinyl (Part 1)

Welp, I managed to slip in a quick bike ride this evening because, apparently, I didn’t get enough of the gale force headwinds on Sunday.  In short, it sucked.  But now Kelly is making pappardelle (seeing as how today is also National Pasta Day) with homemade Bolognese sauce and oven fresh bread and, in short, that rocks.  And now while we consume said pappardelle with Bolognese sauce and oven fresh bread, we’re listening to the new Rural Alberta Advantage album, ‘The Wild‘.

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About a month or so back, Paper Bag Records launched a special pre-order for this album, signed by the band, and pressed on limited edition clear vinyl to boot (and no extra charge).

Needless to say, I jumped all over that shit.

Kelly and I might not always see eye-to-eye on the albums I purchase and then listen to upstairs, but I knew this was bound to be met with instant approval.

WINNING.

For those of you who still don’t know who these guys are, what you need to know is that essentially, they are Canada‘s best unsigned band.

Truth.

On this, their 4th album, the RAA maintain their familiar nostalgic themes of leaving home, saying goodbye to friends and lovers and searching for clues in the past that linger on in the present. The Toronto-based trio’s foundation is built upon guitarist-vocalist Nils Edenloff’s memories of growing up in Alberta and leaving his original hometown of Fort McMurray, which you might recall, was ravaged by wildfires last summer.  Albeit, aside from ‘Beacon Hill‘, which is named after one of the neighborhoods hit hardest in the disaster, ‘The Wild’  contains less obvious Albertan references than usual.

Instead, the album is about finding hope and dealing with change during a tough time in a nameless place. On the bleak ‘Alright‘, Edenloff wistfully sings, “Last night sitting in the dark, I was being difficult / I know we’re gonna be alright / I know, I hope.”  The darker lyrical themes are apparent throughout the album, which sees the band in a slightly different mood despite the catchiness in their simple song structures remaining strong. ‘Bad Luck Again‘  is a classic-sounding RAA song, featuring quietly finger-picked acoustic guitar that transforms in forceful strums, a choir of “woo-oohs” followed by a sing-along chorus (“On and on, nothing left here anymore”) and frenzied drum fills.  ‘White Lights‘ is just plain awesome.  Full stop.

I could go on and on.

Let’s just say that in short, the album is a rabid, sweaty, dirty, and beautiful beast of a record; definitely a highlight of 2017.

The music has a funny way of stirring something in us – it’s listeners – even if the people and places they document are far removed from us. Whether that be via a subtle turn of phrase that is able to be applied to a differing situation, or the simple, primal sound of three Canadians giving everything they have to rattle out ten songs of blood, sweat, and tears, songs that have the ability to function as warm blood through cold veins, powering limbs and hearts, bringing heated life to something greater than themselves or else just quiet moments in a day when you needed to be reminded of the nurturing benefit of such a thing.

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Functional Strength/Core

With my routine Tuesday (3000m) strength swim in the bag, I’m also hitting up the mat in the corner of the gym upstairs while I’m here to complete this quick core session with the ‘Contra 2.1‘  recording by Brian Eno.

brian-eno_1355749aAs with many other tracks, singles and “albums” by Eno, this was solely available at the gallery during the run of ‘Music For White Cube‘, an installation in The White Cube Gallery, in London, UK in April and May of 1997, and there are only a few in circulation as each one was individually made and sold.

It’s so exclusive in fact, that I can’t even find a picture of the album cover to share with you so, instead, I just used a picture of Brian himself from around that time.

Roll with it.

Thankfully though, through the magic powers of the Internet and bit torrent in particular, it came as part of an entire Eno discography I downloaded once upon a time from some pirate website years ago.  Being ambient in nature, it’s mellow as all get out but, hey, that’s more the mindset I appreciate these days when doing these otherwise boring series of one and two minute long sessions of planking, crunching, squatting, and what have you.

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Weights

I have a little time to kick before my Masters spin class this evening, so I may as well take advantage of it with this impromptu He-man session at the gym beforehand.  My soundtrack this evening for 60 minutes of lifting heavy iron and a brief core session afterwards is this ‘Mouth by Mouth‘  album by His Name Is Alive.

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1993’s ‘Mouth by Mouth‘  marks a high point in the band’s career, consolidating the band’s musical elements – sweet vocals, technicolor production, evocative guitar work, and arty arrangements – into 16 songs that are as diverse as they are cohesive.

Memories of Michigan summertime’s, Theodore Roethke’s poetry, and sensuality collide, creating the fractured sugar-pop of ‘Baby Fish Mouth‘  and ‘Lip‘, which sit comfortably beside the stark, cello-driven ‘Cornfield‘.  The band’s sinister side pops up on ‘Ear‘, a deadpan retelling of Vincent van Gogh’s self-amputation; perfect for a few creepy Halloween-inspired bench press sets.

Mouth by Mouth‘ “rocks” (and I use that term loosely when referring it to HNIA) more than any of the band’s previous work, thanks to the continued involvement of ‘The Dirt Eaters‘; they are credited with the album’s louder songs, such as the fuzzed-out ‘Drink, Dress and Ink‘  and ‘The Torso‘.  An electrified version of ‘The Dirt Eaters‘ rounds out the album, hinting at the group’s increasing pop tendencies, while ‘In Every Ford‘ is just awesome catchy – period.

His Name Is Alive’s spooky, ethereal side is here too, evident on songs like the spiritually inclined ‘Lord, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace‘  and the gamelan-pop of ‘Sort Of‘.   ‘Can’t Go Wrong Without You‘  manages to be creepy, catchy, and beautiful all at once (for surreal stop-motion filmmakers The Brothers Quay made a fittingly eerie video for this song – click HERE).

C’mon, that shit is creepy a fuck.

The blissed-out cover of Big Star’s ‘Blue Moon‘ and the Roethke-inspired ‘Where Knock Is Open Wide‘ add a dreamy, folky feel to this album’s stylistic mix. A transitional work for a group whose very style is change, ‘Mouth by Mouth‘ begins HNIA’s embrace of more traditional pop styles (for their own purposes, of course) and the departure from their overtly ethereal sound.

It’s a fresh, fascinating album that improves with repeated listens; this being my first for what seems like an eternity.

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Yoga

I was very privileged yesterday to play a small, insignificant role in Rob Lapansee’s quest to set the Guinness World Record for fastest half marathon dressed as a fruit – yes, it’s a thing (click HERE) – but what initially intended to be an easy 21.1k cycle down the Niagara Parkway, did end up being a very long day in the saddle navigating back and forth between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls; all in gale force winds.  Needless to say, I am 100% whooped today and have little motivation to do anything this afternoon beyond this short and sweet yoga stretch with the ‘A Date with the Duke (Hurricane Club, New York City, 1943-1944)‘ album by Duke Ellington.

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This listen concludes the trio of “Duke Ellington Collector’s Society” records I purchased a few weeks back at Niagara Records in St. Catharines.

It’s also likely my favorite to boot.

This last installment (of my investment anyway) is listed as “Caracol 435” and was recorded at the infamous (now defunct) Hurricane Club in New York City, during several different performances dating between 1943 and 1944. The band at that time featured Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Taft Jordan, Harry Carney and, well, the usual cast of talented characters as the past two albums.

Like the others, it’s an entertaining listen for 30 minutes of light and relaxed yoga stretching on my mat this afternoon.  I might got to the gym to lift some iron later but, right now, I’m just interested in taking it easy with the Duke.

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Core

Today is a sacred day, for today is the all hallowed World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii.  What this roughly translates to (much to Kelly’s chagrin I’m sure) is my ass being plopped in my EZ-Boy for approximately 10 hours this afternoon/evening watching the live feed.

To that effect, I’m up early to accomplish this quick core workout before all the action kicks off.  Today’s mat session then (with coffee still in hand) is set to the next installment of the ‘A Date With the Duke (Toledo, Ohio June 9th, 1945)‘  albums by Duke Ellington.

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This is the second of the three “Duke Ellington Collectors Society” albums I purchased a few weeks back from Niagara Records.

This particular album is listed as “Caracol 433”, recorded in Toledo, Ohio on June 9th, 1945.  the featured band here includes Rex Stewart, “Tricky” Sam Nanton, Taft Jordan, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney, and Lawrence Brown among others.

It’s a short, fun listen for getting business done early this morning so I can totally laze out this afternoon and follow 2400 incredible athletes, one of whom is a close training peer of mine, on their journey through 140.2 miles of Ironman awesomeness.

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