Fartlek Run (11.25k)

It’s not raining out so I don’t really have any excuses for not tackling today’s typical Tuesday afternoon 11.25k fartlek run.  Not that I’m terribly excited about it mind you but the prospect of having to start all over on this base I’ve built up over the last three months is even less appealing so I’m sucking it up and gettin’ er done through a series of  [5 x (2 minutes HARD/3 minutes easy), 10 x 30 seconds HARD/30 seconds easy] intervals.  And I’m selecting another album from my sadly growing selection of Dad Rock albums, the ‘Everyday‘  album by the Dave Matthews Band.

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Released in 2001, the album performed very well commercially. It opened at #1 with 755,000 copies sold its first week, and stayed at #1 for two weeks.  After 25 weeks of sales, it sold over 2.5 million copies and to date, it has sold nearly 3 million copies. It was the 5th best selling album of the Billboard Year in 2001 and was also certified platinum in Canada (100,000 units) in July 2001.

I was one of those albums sales, except, that I never actually listened to it.

It was an impulse buy at the time.  I wasn’t even a huge Dave Matthews fan at the time but who can ever resist a “2 for 1” deal?  I sure couldn’t.  Anyway, I don’t remember what the initial album was that I bought but I do remember choosing between this album and Radiohead‘s ‘Amnesiac‘ and The White StripesWhite Blood Cells‘.  I’m pretty sure I blew it with this choice as I’ve grown to enjoy be a huge Radiohead fan and The Stripes ‘White Blood Cells‘ (click HERE)  album left a huge mark on me just two weeks ago, while this album, well, I guess we’ll see won’t we?

The album (and my run) ‘I Did It‘  opens the on a rather  aggressive groove, while ‘When the World Ends‘  follows with clipped licks that dive into a muddier, open-flowing chorus. From there on out, the floodgates open into something that recalls Peter Gabriel, which is ironic given that the band replaced producer Steve Lillywhite – whose work with Gabriel is legendary – with Glen Ballard, who produced Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill‘.  How’s that for an odd switcheroo?

So Right‘  is a pretty good high quality run to do some intervals to, on-par with some of his ‘Before These Crowded Streets‘ (which I should really dig out again) stuff.  But there is some pretty poppy shit here too such as ‘The Space Between‘, ‘Angel‘  and ‘Sleep to Dream Her‘  which didn’t really do a whole lot for me (or my run), like, at all.  They might be a nice listen in another place and time but, today, not so much.

The run today went pretty well honestly.  It was an ideal day for running being a perfect 13° out with absolutely no wind whatsoever; even better that ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning felt great throughout the workout…powerful even.  The 2 minute intervals were still plenty tough but I noticed that my cardio seems to be a bit better than it has been on previous fartlek runs up to this point.  I wonder if that’s due to the little added break I’ve been taking from running the past two weeks or just a sign that this base of mine has actually improved some as a result of these workouts.  Maybe a combination of both?  Either way, I’m pleased at being able to hold a 4:10min/km pace…even if just for two minutes at a time.

Oh, and to the carload of teenagers that buzzed by me along Thunder Bay Rd. with their heads sticking out the windows yelling something as they passed.  Sorry, boys, I had my earbuds in so I actually couldn’t hear anything you were clearly so desperate for me to hear, but I’m pretty sure my response would be something like this:

Have a nice day.

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Yoga

I’ve been indoors, like, all day, which is fine considering it’s also my official “recovery day” and I didn’t really have anything else on the docket aside from teaching my Masters Spin Class later this evening.  The thing is, I can’t stand doing nothing…I absolutely hate it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the purpose and importance of recovery but I hate being 100% idle for any length of time.  So, it has become my habit then on these recovery days – especially shitty rainy ones – to spend a little quality therapeutic time on the mat getting my bendy-twisty on.  I like to think of these slow yoga stretches then as something of a “treat” and today’s treat is set to Brian Eno‘s ‘Headcandy‘  album.

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How trippy is that for an album cover, eh?

Now I know that I just listened to Brian Eno yesterday on my long run (click HERE), but Eno is best enjoyed quietly while doing something non-taxing and peaceful, such as I am doing this evening with this relaxing 40 minute yoga stretch.

Headcandy‘  more or less brings us back full circle to the trippy light shows of the psychedelic ’60s featuring a 30-minute dose of pleasing ambient/techno instrumentation courtesy of Mr. Eno.  Originally, this album was released on CD-ROM only in 1994, and designed to produce visual effects along with the music that could be multiplied throughout a darkened room by the refractive glasses included with the disc, similar to those cheapie cardboard 3-D movie throwaways.

Back then, that was  some pretty state of the art shit!

Unfortunately, I am not listening to or watching the CD-ROM.  No, I’m sitting (laying) here on a mat in the corner of the gym in full view of about a dozen meatheads in Herc and UnderArmour apparel.  Instead then, the album is an interesting one-time curiosity piece, about as enduring as black light art which, fortunately, I kinda like.  As you might expect, the music is still surprisingly hypnotic.  On ‘Manila Envelope‘  and ‘Beast‘  it actually works pretty well, with no small thanks to Robert Fripp’s guitar, which I’ve heard seems to have been glued to the lines on the screen and playing similar sound patterns like the colors you would see on the computer screen.  There is also some percussive and rhythm-oriented orchestration not unlike Eno’s early-1980’s work with David Byrne.

Truthfully, this was one of my favorite Eno albums yet, made all the more awesome-er that it has a track entitled ‘Spunk Worship‘ , whose name alone just  has to go in the pantheon of all-time great track titles.

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Monday Vinyl (Part 1)

I’m half way through the work day and I’m making progress on my assignment.  Figuring it had something to do with the very rhythmic percussion from my previous listen, I’m keeping with that theme and going with something similar, yet from my collection of  Cornball albums, ‘Bongos, Bongos, Bongos‘  by the Los Admiradores.

Bongos

Because, hey, who doesn’t love bongos?

Not this guy!

Essentially, it’s an Enoch Light production (released on Command Records) released in 1959 and loosely disguised as a Latin record.  The bongo stylings are provided by Willie Rodriguez and Don Lamond who basically go bongo crazy over backings provided by a pretty sweet jazzy Enoch Light band that features the usual suspects (Tony Mottola, Ted Sommer, Pee Wee Erwin etc.).

The album features a bunch of jazz/pop standards including takes on ‘All of Me‘, ‘Blue Moon‘, ‘Unchained Melody‘ and – get this – ‘Greensleeves‘, all with pretty cool arrangements and, of course, mad bongo breaks galore. Bluesy guitar lines and tight orchestration actually make this record listenable and there even a couple sample loops and breaks.  Sure, I’m not likely going to throw it on regularly or anything but, hey, it’s doesn’t diminish the overall awesomeness of my collection as a whole with it’s being there.  Overall a pretty nice little LP for what it is.

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Monday Vinyl (Part 1)

It’s a pissy-drizzly Monday morning but, thankfully, I have absolutely nothing to accomplish today workout-wise and I can stick indoors with a hot beverage and some warmhearted vinyl in order to get through the chills of this normal ho-hum work day.

Kicking off this Monday morning vinyl listening cavalcade then is the ‘Ginger Baker’s Air Force‘  album.

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Basically, is a jazz-rock fusion supergroup led by former Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker.  The band formed in late 1969 upon the disbandment of Blind Faith. The original lineup consisted of Baker on drums, Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group/Traffic) on organ and vocals, Ric Grech on violin and bass, Jeanette Jacobs on vocals, Denny Laine (Moody Blues) on guitar and vocals, Phil Seamen on drums, Alan White (Yes) on drums, Chris Wood (Traffic) on tenor sax and flute, Graham Bond on alto sax, Harold McNair on tenor sax and flute, and Remi Kabaka on percussion.

This album itself is a recording of a sold-out live show at the Royal Albert Hall, on 15 January 1970.

In keeping with Ginger Baker’s fabled eccentricities, the first thing you’ll notice about the album is that it’s completely ass-backwards.  For example, if you hold it normally so that the the gatefold opens like a book (from the right) as is customary, this is what the album looks like:

Ginger 1

Or, it’s back cover.

In other words, to view the album from the front the records will slide out from the left and the gatefold opens unconventionally from the left.

Like this:

Ginger 3

So first you have to get your head around this left-handed design.

Is that C-O-N-F-U-S-I-N-G, or what?

The other thing is that the records themselves are labeled incorrectly so that Side A is actually Side C, and Side B is actually Side D.

The fuck?

Thanks, Ginger.

Based on the actual performance, there may not seem to be much about this to like as there is with other live albums of that era. Long jams probably not rehearsed very much, as witnessed by stumbles in the musical “choreography” here and there, feedback screams from the sound system, muffled intros, etc. But who can ignore the percussion locomotive of three drummers that drives this music along, capped off by a plaintive version of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow‘ (done decades before ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou‘) by Denny Laine.

Production and performance aside, it’s creating a neat rhythmic foundation for my work day this morning and, actually, it melds together well with the steady downpour of rain beating on my basement window outside.

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Sunday Vinyl

These weekends come and go so fast now that I hardly get a chance to sit down and enjoy, much less appreciate my fine vinyl selections.  And while I’m listening to something now I’m also doing so while cleaning out the cats litter boxes so, “appreciating”, yeah, maybe not as much as I’d like to be.  But regardless, it’s happening.  This evening’s sole “Vinyl Sunday” celebration is the ‘Live in Concert‘ album by the James Gang.

James Gang

Released in September 1971, this album contains the highlights of performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City (the album cover actually features the horses parked outside of Carnagie Hall in front of the concert poster advertising the event). This album is the last James Gang release to feature Joe Walsh as guitarist and vocalist and Bill Szymczyk as producer and engineer.

As a few of the albums in my collection are, this is in pretty rough condition.  The cover is all faded and torn and the album looks like it’s been scrubbed with steel wool.  No matter though because, as with these “gems in the rough”, that poor condition actually enhances the listening experience…in my opinion, anyway.  And that’s the only opinion I’m really interested in, so there.

The James Gang earned a great number of fans through their live performances, and this album captures much of the energy of those live performances, with Walsh’s guitar solos catching fire on nearly every song.  However, the record also makes it clear that he was beginning to outgrow the confines of the James Gang, as the rest of the band struggled to keep up with his imaginative playing for most of the album.  Funnily enough, five of the eight songs here are cover tunes, including the R&B classic ‘Stop‘  that Jimi Hendrix also delivers on his ‘Live at the Fillmore East‘  album, but rather than the relatively straight-ahead version Jimi’s Band of Gypsy’s does, the James Gang absolutely pummels the song into the ground.  Other great covers include Albert King’s ‘You’re Gonna Need Me‘  and Jeff Beck’s ‘Lost Woman‘, which features an amazing vocal jam at the tail end.

Great way to end an otherwise fast-tracked weekend.

The cat shit?

Not so much.

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Long Run (10.19k)

I had an epic 100k ride yesterday and today it’s cool, windy and drizzly.  So at the time of this writing I’m not a 100% convinced I’m even going out yet; much less for anything challenging or difficult.  At best, I’ll just be completing my easy 60 minute goal for my weekend “long run” (10.19k).  With that being said, if I do  go out I’ll be listening to the newest album by Brian Eno, ‘The Ship‘.

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This album was released just 2 days ago on April 29th on Warp Records.  As far as which number of albums Eno has released by this point, is anybody’s guess, but I do know that this album Eno’s first solo album to contain actual vocals since 2005’s ‘Another Day on Earth‘.

Originally conceived from experiments with three dimensional recording techniques and formed in two, interconnected parts, ‘The Ship‘  is almost as much musical novel as traditional album.  Eno brings together beautiful songs, minimalist ambience, physical electronics, omniscient narratives and technical innovation into a single, cinematic suite.

The album opens with the 21-minute eponymously titled ‘The Ship‘  on which Eno’s cyclically sung sea-chant builds in ominous drama, followed by ‘Fickle Sun‘, a song in three movements.  The first continues where ‘The Ship‘  left off but with Eno’s voice sounding more upfront, determined, even despairing.  The album’s finale is a Lou Reed penned cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Set Free‘  who, coincidentally, were famously credited by Eno as the inspiration behind his early music explorations as an art student.

In the end, I did end up going out.  Having said that, I struggled a bit on my out and back coarse along the Friendship Trail as my legs still felt mushy after yesterday’s century ride.  Hell, how fast can you really go when you’re listening to something that would be better served as a yoga soundtrack anyway?  For the first 5k or so I was paced by a father jogging with his son on a tricycle if that gives you any idea of the pace I was keeping; not that I had intended on going any faster mind you.  And then at the 7k point I just…stopped…and walked.

Could I have kept going?  Sure.  Absolutely.

Did I want to?  Shit no.

I just wanted to go slow and enjoy 500m or so of coolness…so I did.

If I’ve been trying to learn anything  this year from the new coach, it’s the “art of recovery”; go hard when you can and then back off when you need to and, today, was just a “back off” kind of day.  That’s it.  I don’t necessarily need to get in any specific mileage or pace anymore, so I decided to walk for a bit which, when set to Eno’s apocalyptic vision of the Velvet’s classic, was kind of surreal and enjoyable.  Afterwards, I started back up and headed for home…my 60 minutes complete.

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Friday Vinyl

It’s almost  the weekend and, aside from one other person, I’m pretty much here alone at the office today.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing mind you when I can just plug my headset into my laptop, do a random search on YouTube so find something interesting to listen to and, Bob’s yer uncle, I’m happily groovin’ away in my own little world.  I call this the “Search n’ Groove” method of locating new music.  So today’s ‘Groove n’ Search’ process lead me to this, the ‘The Psych Funk of Black Merda‘  album (click HERE) by Black Merda.

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Wait, psychedelic funk?

Sign me up!

It turns out that Black Merda (pronounced “Black Murder”) is an American rock band from Detroit, Michigan, active from the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s (briefly reuniting in 2005) and are largely regarded as the the first all black rock band.  The core band members are Anthony Hawkins (guitarist/vocalist ), VC L. Veasey (bassist/guitarist/vocalist ), Charles Hawkins (guitarist/vocalist ), and Tyrone Hite (drummer/vocalist).

Hawkins and Veasey originally met in elementary school and then became acquainted with Hite while attending high school in Detroit in the early 1960’s.  The three began working as serious session and backup musicians in the Detroit scene in the following years and performed together as the Impacts, then as the Soul Agents backing up the likes of Edwin Starr, Gene Chandler, Wilson Pickett, The Spinners, The Chi-Lites, Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, and other soul/R&B acts affiliated with Motown and Brunswick Records.

Not a bad way to get started, right?

Later, as a quartet with Charles Hawkins, the band continued working with Edwin Starr as the Soul Agents, with Starr approving of the change in sound to guitar-based psychedelic rock and funk. But in 1968 they decided to craft a new identity as a self-contained rock band.  After considering the name Murder Incorporated after a notorious criminal organization, the band settled on Black Murder as a comment on the rampant inner-city violence experienced by many African Americans during that period.  Considering that many young black people were at that time being killed by the police and the Ku Klux Klan in Detroit and in the south, Veasey wanted to choose a name that would be a shocking reminder to the public of how bad the situation was.  The spelling was later changed to Black Merda as an African American slang spelling (suggested by Anthony) of the word “murder” while retaining the original theme.

As an FYI:  “Merda” in Brazil also means “poo”, or “feces”.

Just sayin’…

Anyhooski, this album is basically 11 stabs to the brain pan of rare psych/funk from this sinister guitar powerhouse group.  It features previously unavailable cuts that were either locked away in the vaults of Chess Records, or tracks that the band laid down as an earlier incarnation of the group as The Soul Agents.  And it’s all good shit. Like, really good shit.  Even there take of Hendrix‘ ‘Foxy Lady‘ is interesting and fresh.

Now all I have to do is find me some Black Merda on vinyl for my home collection.

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