Yoga

Since the swim was nixed this morning, I’m taking another 15 minutes or so on my yoga mat for some more relaxing bendy-twisty on my lunch break with another Goodwill Hunting find, ‘The Honeydrippers, Volume One‘  album.

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I found this at the Value Village in St. Catharines, Ontario for a buck.

The Honeydrippers were a rock and roll band of the 1980’s, deriving their name from Roosevelt Sykes, an American blues singer also known as “Honeydripper”.

Former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant formed the group in 1981 to satisfy his long-time goal in having a rock band with a heavy rhythm and blues basis.  In addition to Plant, the band was composed of fellow former Zep member Jimmy Page; Jeff Beck (a former Yardbirds member like Page); and other friends and well-known studio musicians.  They performed in a concert at Keele University in 1981, released only this  one recording in 1984 and then, poof!…promptly disappeared.

So much for ‘Volume Two‘, I guess.

The album peaked at #3 in early 1985 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a remake of the Phil Phillips’ tune ‘Sea of Love‘, and hit #25 with ‘Rockin’ at Midnight‘, originally a Roy Brown recording and a rewrite of ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight‘.  With the EP’s success, Plant stated that a full album would be recorded but, alas, it was never meant to be.

The band appeared on Saturday Night Live in December of 1984, performing ‘Rockin’ at Midnight‘ and ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town‘.  featuring Brian Setzer on guitar, Tom Barney on bass, Paul Shaffer on piano, Buddy Williams on drums, Michael Brecker, Lou Marini, and Ronnie Cuber on saxophones, Jon Faddis on trumpet and Tom Malone on trombone.

I actually remember staying up to see this and, likely, I never saw or heard of them again…until now, for a buck.

A perfect 15 minute listen for a quick and dirty 15 minute yoga stretch.

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Monday Evening Vinyl (Part 2)

After a dinner of Kelly’s chicken Alfredo, the girls have retired to their respective rooms with their respective cats leaving me to my EZ-Boy, my book (‘The Boundless Life‘  by Simon Donato) and the turntable in peace as the storm clouds move across the horizon to the north.

Now spinning the ‘Rock Roots‘  album  by Genesis.

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This is not something I would ever have purchased on my own.

I mean, look at it.  It looks like some bad knockoff album you’d see for $15.00 on the shelves at Kmart (they still have those right?).

But a few months ago while nosing through the stacks of records at Niagara Records in downtown St. Catharines, low and behold, HRH stumbled across this and, of course, had to have it being the big Genesis fan she is.  I tried to talk her out of it as I’m sure it was going to be a total dud but she was having none of it so being the sucker I am, we came home with it.

So with that being said, I didn’t have much expectations for this album this evening which has been sitting in our “To Get To…” pile for two months now.

I figured, “okay, let’s get this over with”.

It’s easy to write off Genesis’ earliest recordings as wholly unrepresentative of the band’s later glories –  shit, I sure did!  In truth, however, little of ‘From Genesis to Revelation‘, as that maiden album was originally titled, will strike even the long-term fan as especially out of the ordinary.

Sure it’s Genesis, but it’s not Genesis even though it is.

Dig?

Even calling it “Prog Rock” is a stretch.

True, the musicianship is a little more naïve, and the lyrics certainly somewhat less mature than one might have expected. But the band members themselves were still in their teens when this was recorded, and the only truly valid criticism is that, in choosing to debut with a neo-Biblical concept album, they were maybe trying to run before they could walk. But the melodies are strong, the ideas are sound, and both the keyboards and guitar are far enough to the fore to suggest that Genesis not only knew what they were doing, they knew where they wanted to go as well.

In short, what do I know?

For an early effort, this is some really  good shit.  Tracks like ‘The Silent Sun‘, and ‘The Conqueror‘  with it’s spaced out piano, off-beat tambourine and busy jangling guitars are very cool.  Impressive even.  Kind of like Lou Reed meets Phil Spector.  But remember that this is 1968 through 1969, when British groups weren’t supposed to be experimenting with such daring concepts and the music industry was just recovering from the “psychedelic” era and seemed to be opposed to anything that might threaten to be new, or worse still, clever.  This album is both those things.

Mind.  Blown.

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Monday Evening Vinyl (Part 1)

It has been a nice relaxing day.  the perfect start to a perfect taper.

I still have some workouts this week beginning with maybe a dip in the canal tomorrow morning but this evening, HRH  and I went and bopped around at the beach and played some frisbee and now, I’m sinking back into my EZ-Boy with my book and the ‘Yellow Submarine‘ album by The Beatles.

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It’s crazy to think that in the four years (July 2nd, 2013 actually) I maintained this blog I have not posted about one single Beatles album.

It’s not that I don’t like the Beatles, mind you, it’s just that I haven’t listened to the Beatles in – apparently – a very long time.  I figure then that this evening is as good a time as any to finally right that wrong.

Many Beatles fans will try to convince you that this the only Beatles album that could really be classified as inessential, mostly because it wasn’t really a proper album at all, but a soundtrack that only utilized four new Beatles songs. (The rest of the album was filled out with ‘Yellow Submarine‘, ‘All You Need Is Love‘, and a George Martin score.)

What’s more, two of the four new tracks were little more than pleasant throwaways that had been recorded during 1967 and early 1968. These aren’t all that bad; ‘All Together Now‘  is a cute, kiddie-ish Paul McCartney singalong, while ‘Hey Bulldog‘  has some mild Lennon nastiness and a great beat and central piano riff, with some fine playing all around – each is memorable in its way, and the inclusion of the Lennon song here was all the more important, as the sequence from the movie in which it was used was deleted from the original U.S. release of the movie (which had no success whatever in the U.K. and quickly disappeared, thus making the U.S. version the established cut of the film for decades).

George Harrison‘s two contributions were the more striking of the new entries – ‘Only a Northern Song‘  was a leftover from the ‘Sgt. Peppers‘ sessions, generated from a period in which the guitarist became increasingly fascinated with keyboards, especially the organ and the Mellotron (and, later, the synthesizer).  It’s an odd piece of psychedelic ersatz, mixing trippiness and some personal comments.  Its lyrics (and title) on the one hand express the guitarist/singer/composer’s displeasure at being tied in his publishing to Northern Songs, a company in which both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the majority shareholders; and, on the other, they present Harrison’s vision of how music and recording sounded, from the inside-out and the outside-in, during the psychedelic era – the song thus provided a rare glimpse inside the doors of perception of being a Beatle (or, at least, one aspect of being this particular Beatle) circa 1967.

And then there was the jewel of the new songs, ‘It’s All Too Much‘.  Coming from the second half of 1967, the song – resplendent in swirling Mellotron, larger-than-life percussion, and tidal waves of feedback guitar – was a virtuoso excursion into otherwise hazy psychedelia, and was actually superior in some respects to, say, ‘Blue Jay Way‘,  Harrison’s songwriting contribution to ‘The Magical Mystery Tour‘. The very fact that  Harrison was afforded two song slots and a relatively uncompetitive canvas for his music shows how little the project meant to Lennon and McCartney – as did the cutting of the ‘Hey Bulldog‘  sequence from the movie, apparently with no resistance from Lennon, who had other, more important artistic fish to fry in 1968.

What is here, however, is a good enough reason for owning the record, though nothing rates it as anything near a high-priority purchase. The album would have been far better value if it had been released as a four-song EP (an idea the Beatles even considered at one point, with the addition of a bonus track in ‘Across the Universe‘ but ultimately discarded).

For our purposes this evening, it’s a fun and light listen and serves as a good introduction for HRH to wrap her little 12-year-old brain around before eventually, moving onto bigger and more grandiose Beatle offerings in the future (think:  ‘Sgt. Peppers‘, ‘The White Album‘, ‘Revolver‘, et al.).

Best not have her brain explode too quickly.

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Yoga

Today officially begins my taper.  And as should ever good taper program, it begin with a nice sleep-in until 8:00am.  God I feel so spoiled.

Yes folks, I got more than 6 hours sleep last night.

There is no swimming, cycling or running today but I am going to do a little light stretching on my yoga mat this afternoon in-between calls, partly to keep ‘ol Thunder n’ Lighting alive after this past weekends 220k worth of hot, sweaty suck and, partly to burn off a little of the pecan pie from last night’s BBQ.  My vinyl indulgence while doing so this afternoon is the ‘The Pill:  Administered Orally by…‘ The Brothers-In-Law.

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This was a Goodwill Hunting find at the Value Village in St. Catharines, Ontario this past Friday for 50¢.

The Brothers-in-Law was a Canadian satirical musical group that was active in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, recording a number of popular record albums and generating occasional controversy.  The group was established in 1963 by four police officers in Windsor, Ontario (hence the name Brothers-in-Law). The group’s repertoire consisted mainly of musical satire poking fun at the Canadian government, sex and censorship, the law, and consumer issues. They performed and recorded a mixture of original songs and adaptations of folk and stage tunes (particularly based on Gilbert and Sullivan).

This particular album, released in 1967 obviously satirizes the then-topical issue of the birth control pill. The latter song was somewhat controversial for its subject matter and the album liner notes contained a warning to radio stations not to play the song.

But there are other songs on here as well that are just as much a giggle like ‘Lullaby to a Spoiled Brat‘, ‘The K-K-Ku, K-K-Klux, K-K-Klan‘, ‘Canusa the 51st State‘, ‘The Automobile (Hymn to Ralph Nader)‘, and ‘An Inexpensive Funeral‘.

So, yeah, even though ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are complaining a bit this morning at least they were in good spirits.

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Sunday Vinyl (Part 2)

The belated Father’s Day BBQ is over; many burgers, potato salad and slices of pecan pie with whipped cream were consumed.  And now that the garbage and recycling is out on the curb I can once again fall back into my EZ-Boy recliner and resume sweet, sweet nothingness with this ‘Still Crazy After All These Years‘  by Paul Simon.

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The third new album (released in 1975) of Simon’s post-Simon & Garfunkel career was a musical and lyrical change of pace from his first two, ‘Paul Simon‘  and ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon‘.

Where Simon had taken an eclectic approach before, delving into a variety of musical styles and recording all over the world, this album found him working for the most part with a group of jazz-pop New York session players, though he did do a couple of tracks (‘My Little Town‘  and ‘Still Crazy After All These Years‘) with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section that had appeared on ‘Rhymin’ Simon‘  and another (‘Gone at Last‘) returned to the gospel style of earlier songs like ‘Loves Me Like a Rock‘.  Of course, ‘My Little Town‘  also marked a return to working with Art Garfunkel, and another Top Ten entry for S&G.

But the overall feel of this album was of a jazzy style subtly augmented with strings and horns. Perhaps more striking, however, was Simon’s lyrical approach. Where ‘Rhymin’ Simon‘  was the work of a confident family man, this album came off as a post-divorce album, its songs reeking of smug self-satisfaction and romantic disillusionment.  At their best, such sentiments were undercut by humor and made palatable by musical hooks, as on ‘50 Ways to Leave Your Lover‘, which became the biggest solo hit of Simon’s career. But elsewhere, as on ‘Have a Good Time‘, the singer’s cynicism seemed unearned.  Still, as out of sorts as Simon may have been, he was never more in tune with his audience: ‘Still Crazy After All These Years‘ topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance.

While it may not be my favorite of my Paul Simon albums, it’s still not bad for some nerdy looking guy sporting a 70’s porn stash standing on a metal balcony.

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Sunday Vinyl (Part 1)

Well, that’s a wrap folks!  The “Iron Build” is all complete with this mornings ha;f marathon run.  I still have some workouts to do next week but the real distance, time and intensity are all finished and it’s time to begin cutting back and resting up before the big Go Day on July 8th; just two short weeks away (click HERE).  So until the family shows up for this evenings belated Father’s Day BBQ and I’m not venturing far from my EZ-Boy recliner, a pint of Brimstone BrewingLauder Tuns Saints’, my new book (‘The Boundless Life‘  by Simon Donato) and the turntable.

First up on the celebratory hit parade today is the ‘News of the World‘  album by Queen.

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This is another donation to HRH‘s record collection courtesy of Uncle Lance and Auntie Amy.

Truth be told, I’ve never been much of a Queen fan hence I have no albums of theirs in my collection.  I am, however, happy to make an exception for this album because, hey, just look at that album cover!

And lets not forget the inside album cover art.

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C’mon, killer giant robots terrorizing the panic-stricken masses – that shit is awesome!

Simply the Tits.

The album is certainly front-loaded with two of the bands biggest anthems – the stomping, stadium-filling chant ‘We Will Rock You‘  and its triumphant companion, ‘We Are the Champions‘ –  both of which are pretty apropos considering my accomplishments this week workout-wise.

There are both quickly followed by the ferocious ‘Sheer Heart Attack‘, a frenzied rocker that hits harder than anything on the album that shares its name (a remarkable achievement in itself).  Three songs, three quick shifts in mood, but that’s hardly the end of it.  As the ‘News…’ rolls on, you’re treated to the arch, campy crooning of ‘My Melancholy Blues‘, a shticky blues shuffle in ‘Sleeping on the Sidewalk‘, and breezy Latin rhythms on ‘Who Needs You‘.  Then there’s the neo-disco of ‘Fight from the Inside‘,  which is eclipsed by the mechanical funk of ‘Get Down, Make Love‘, a dirty grind that’s stripped of sensuality. In fact, that cold streak on ‘Get Down, Make Love‘  runs through the album as a whole and it’s no wonder that Trent Reznor make a point of covering it years ago with Nine Inch Nails.

Cereal – click HERE.

Not that I knew it was a Queen cover back then.

Despite the explosion of sounds and rhythms, this album doesn’t add up to party thanks to that slightly distancing chilly vibe that hangs over the album. Nevertheless, many of these songs work well on their own as entities, so there is plenty to savor here, especially from Brian May. Whether he’s doing the strangely subdued eccentric English pop ‘All Dead, All Dead‘  or especially the majestic yet nimble rocker ‘It’s Late‘, he turns in work that gives this album some lightness, which it needs.  And that’s the reason ‘News…‘ of the World was a monster hit despite its coldness – when it works, it’s massive, earth-shaking rock & roll, the sound of a band beginning to revel in its superstardom.

And while I’m not about to run out and stock up on the entire Queen back catalog of albums, this was still a fun listen and a welcome addition to the collection.

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Long Run (21.13k)

Today’s is officially the last day of my “Iron Build”.  Yesterday’s 180k “Ironman Simulation Ride” and subsequent brick run was accomplished successfully and tomorrow begins my taper; sweet, sweet taper.  However, there is still one last challenge to overcome today:  my last long run.  Today’s this final long run is set to the ‘Live From Mars‘  album by Ben Harper.

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Harper is known to be a bot of a road dog.  He and his band, the Innocent Criminals, travel around the world playing nearly 200 shows a year; therefore, it was only a matter of time before this guitar virtuoso made a live album.

Live From Mars‘, an enigmatic two-disc set of 25 songs, celebrates the rise of Harper, his incredible live presence between 1998 and 2000, and the appreciation between him and his audience.  His fragile acoustics have been thrown into a massive guitar storm on disc one, a thunderous combination of his signature folky blues-funk rock & roll.

He’s soulful and approachable on ‘Excuse Me Mr.‘ and ‘Burn One Down‘, but he reaches for something tangible on Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Sexual Healing‘.  The vibe is calm and cool while Harper’s vocals scale between a sweet falsetto and a rugged twang.  ‘Faded‘ exudes Harper’s electric twitching, and its perfection swaggers into a riveting cover of Led Zeppelin‘s ‘Whole Lotta Love‘  for a near ten-minute car crash of pure rollicking.  He switches from his electric to an acoustic for disc two, making his informality even more enticing. ‘Waiting on an Angel‘  is delicate, similar to the likes of Jeff Buckley, but it’s the beauty of the Verve‘s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work‘  that truly captures the standard of excellence that Harper depicts as a performer.

Acoustically, he’s honored and such praise is deserved.  He’s practically flawless. He’s a modest artist, and such humility is found among his songs. He’s achieved respectability with his fans that only so many artists are able to attain. ‘Live From Mars‘  is a proper release and certainly an inviting look into Harper and the showmanship he projects while spending time on the road.

the run itself went well.  Well, about as well as running a half marathon on nearly dead legs can go anyway. Truthfully, only the first 30 minutes until ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning woke up and, maybe, the last 3k when they started to go back to sleep again.  Everything in between went…good.  So with this final 21.13k in the bag, it time to begin the taper.

Sweet, sweet taper.

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