Fartlek Run (9.22k)

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting too many running albums lately.

Well, the answer is twofold:

  1. I’ve been listening to playlists.
  2. I haven’t exactly been burning up the tarmac these days.

This evening was a little 9.22k redemption up and down Thunder Bay Rd. for 6 x (2 minute FAST / 3 minutes recovery jog) intervals and this ‘From a Basement on the Hill‘ by  Elliot Smith.

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Almost exactly a year after his untimely death – missing the anniversary by just two days – Elliott Smith’s final recordings were released as – yup, you guessed it – this album.

Que the swans.

Actually, Smith had been working on the album for a long time.

His last album, ‘Figure 8‘, had appeared in 2000, and when it came time to record its follow-up, he parted ways with both his major label, Dreamworks, and his longtime producer/engineer, Rob Schnapf, working through a number of different producers, including L.A. superproducer Jon Brion, before recording a number of sessions with David McConnell, which were supplemented with Smith’s home recordings.

At the time of his death, Smith was still tinkering with the album. There was no final track sequence and only a handful of final mixes; it was closer to completion than Jeff Buckley’s ‘Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk‘, which he intended to re-record, but it was still up to his family to finalize the record. For various reasons, the family chose to work with Schnapf and Joanna Bolme – a former girlfriend of Smith and current member of Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks – instead of McConnell.

According to McConnell, as well as Elliott Smith biographer Benjamin Nugent, Smith wanted the album to be rough and ragged, and McConnell told Chun that “obviously Elliott did not get his wishes,” claiming that three of the songs on the album were considered finished by both him and Smith, but appear on the record in different mixes.

It’s hard to dispute that Smith did not get to finalize the mixes, the track selection, or the sequencing – he died, after all, with the album uncompleted – but that’s the nature of posthumous recordings: they’re never quite what might have appeared had the artist lived. Critics, fans, and historians can have endless debates about whether this particular incarnation of the songs on ‘From a Basement on the Hill‘  would have been what would have been heard if Smith had finished the record, but that doesn’t take away from the simple fact that the music here is strong enough to warrant a release, and that it offers a sense of resolution to his discography.

While it’s likely that ‘From a Basement‘  is cleaner than what Smith and McConnell intended, it is much sparer than ‘Figure 8‘, and it feels at once more adventurous, confident, and warmer than its predecessor.

Perhaps it’s not “the next White Album,”  which is what McConnell claims it could have been, but it has a similarly freewheeling spirit, bouncing from sweet pop to finger-picked acoustic guitars to fuzzy neo-psychedelic washes of sound. It’s not far removed from Smith’s previous work, but it feels like a step forward from the fussy ‘Figure 8‘  and more intimate than ‘XO‘.

The most surprising twist is that despite the occasional lyrics that seem to telegraph his death (particularly on ‘A Fond Farewell‘), it’s not a crushingly heavy album. Like the best of his music, ‘From a Basement on the Hill‘  is comforting in its sadness; it’s empathetic, not alienating. Given Smith’s tragic fate, it also sadly seems like a summation of his work. All of his trademarks are here – his soft, sad voice, a fixation on ’60s pop, a warm sense of melancholy – delivered in a strong set of songs that stands among his best. It may or may not be exactly what Elliott Smith intended these recording sessions to be, but as it stands, ‘From a Basement on the Hill’  is a fond farewell to a singer/songwriter who many indie rockers of the ’90s considered a friend.

Not that I was contemplating any of this in great detail over the course of 52 minutes as I was too busy kicking ass and taking names.

BOOYAH!

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Thursday Evening Vinyl

I had a good hard ride this morning but ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning more or less quit on me in the first kilometer of this evenings planned fartlek run.

Oh well; you win some you loose some.

So, instead, I’m home now pouting over a bottle of ‘Rusty Chain‘ by Flying Bison Brewing Co. (it doesn’t suck) while Kelly puts the finishing touches on our delicious beer can chicken dinner* and listening to this ‘The Best of Booker T. & the MG’s‘ album.

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I know, I know, I tend to get all preachy and judgemental about “Greatest Hits” compilations and popular “Very Best of…” bullshit what have you but, seriously, when was the last time you ever tried to score an original Booker T. & The MG’s album at your local record show?

Not easy, was it?

You could literally spend your lifetime hunting out the better of the albums and, even then, you’d spend a fortune doing it.  Then consider that all those great tunes available on this ‘Best of…’ collection released on old Atlantic label for a mere $5.00.

How can you pass that up?

You can’t!

Hell!  The first track on Side One is ‘Hip Hug Her‘ which then rolls over into ‘Slim Jenkin’s Place‘, into ‘Green Onions‘, and it simply doesn’t let up – at all – through the entire rest of Side A, and then Side B picks up with ‘Mo’ Onions‘ and before you know it,  BAM!

…you’re off again.

And, seriously, ‘Jellybread’?

Holy crapsticks!

Where did that comes from?

Through and through it’s an incredible greatest hits journey spanning more or less the “healthier” stages of the MG’s career, primarily while still recording with Stax Records back in the heyday of soul.

In short, some funky ass shit.

How can you miss for only $5.00?

Well, I didn’t…

Remember?

*I would remiss to say that there wasn’t also a lot of mother-daughter squabbling currently going on over the cleaning horse shit, laundry, the state of HRH‘s bedroom and God knows what else.  I will also say here for the record that Kelly is a genuine, certified ninja black belt when it comes to multi-tasking and micro-managing a stubborn, moody 13-year-old girl.
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Vinyl Sunday

Well, I’ve survived another weekend of long ass distance training with the exception of the “Double Run” this evening as ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning have officially had it for one week of long hauling.  So instead, this evening I’m takin’ ‘er easy here at home in the precious few minutes I have before the girls come bustling in and listening to this Dad Rock classic, ‘Building the Perfect Beast‘  album by Don Henley.

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I’ve never been a huge Eagles fan but, I will this, some of that solo stuff on the 80’s was pretty bangin’, this album being no exception.

After experimenting with synthesizers and a pop sound on his solo debut, Don Henley hits the mark on this sophomore release from 1984.  This is the album established Henley as an artist in his own right after many successful years with the Eagles, as it spawned numerous hits.

While the songs seem crafted for pop radio, it’s hard to fault him for choosing arrangements that would get his messages to the masses. Unlike most pop in the 1980’s, however, Henley had deep intellectual themes layered beneath the synthesizer sounds and crisp production.

In the opening song ‘Boys of Summer‘, he talks about trying to recapture the past while knowing that things will never be the same. Henley has a gift for writing about the heart and soul of America and for mixing his love for the country and small-town life (‘Sunset Grill‘) with cynicism about government (‘All She Wants to Do Is Dance‘) and modernization (‘Month of Sundays‘).

Although the politics and the sound of the album make the decade of release easy to place, Henley’s earnest delivery and universal messages give many of the tracks a timeless feel, which is no small feat. This is Henley’s most consistent album, and it is the place to start for those wanting to sample his solo work.

For the album, Henley collaborated with members of the then line-up of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who contributed to the writing of the songs: guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench and drummer Stan Lynch, the last of which would later collaborate with Henley in composing the Eagles’ song ‘Learn to Be Still‘, which was released on their live album ‘Hell Freezes Over’. The album also features contributions from Fleetwood Mac‘s guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham, The Go-Go’s lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle, and features contributions from Randy Newman, Jim Keltner, Waddy Wachtel, Pino Palladino, Steve Porcaro, and Ian Wallace.

In other words, there’s lots of cool shit going on here.

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“Kelly’s Makin’ Ma Dinner” Vinyl

140k cycle ride through Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Chippawa, Lyons Creek, Allanburg, Port Robinson, Thorold, Fonthill, Pelham, Ridgeville, Fenwick, Wainfeet, Ostryphon Corners, Long Beach, Port Colborne, Gasline, Sherkston, Crystal Beach and shit, just click HERE.

Check!

Fast 2k brick run afterwards?

Check!

Grocery shopped and then hefted one heavy mother fucker of a spin bike into the back of my CRV?

Cherker-ooni!

Time for a ‘Two Pie Smoked Bourbon and Cherry Pie Ale‘ from Brimstone Brewing while Kelly fixes us a late dinner of chicken, asparagus and sweet potato, and this ‘Riptide‘  album by Robert Palmer.

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This is a classic 80’s album in any regard and, next to Toto’s ‘IV‘ (click HERE), I have mowed more lawns and delivering newspapers while listening to this cassette in my Walkman.

That’s right, bitches.

I was “too cool for school”.

(They said that back then too, right?)

Coming on the heels of the massive success of the Power Station, this 1985 album packages Palmer’s voice and suave personality into a commercial series of mostly rocking songs that seem custom-tailored to be chart hits.

And hits he did make, ‘I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On‘, ‘Addicted to Love‘, ‘Hyperactive‘, ‘Discipline of Love‘, c’mon!

That’s some seriously killer 80’s shit right there!

The album was recorded over a period of three months in 1985, at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. The album charted at # 8 in the US and #5 in the UK. It was certified double platinum in the US by the RIAA in March 1996 and certified gold in the UK by BPI in August 1986 and yadda, yadda, yadda…

What’s really important here, is that this is actually a popular 80’s album that doesn’t immediately want to make me vomit.

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Core

Welp, I finally did it!

I accomplished my “100 Days of Core” goal I set for myself back in January; for the second year in a row I might add.

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Honestly, it actually took me 160 days to complete it in it’s totality, but who’s counting?

So, yeah, this morning’s celebratory 100th day of on my mat core goodness (along with Toby the “Morning Crack Cat”, of course) has been set to something special, the ‘S.R.O.‘ album by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.

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That’s right, bitches.

Herb Alpert.

This was actually another Goodwill Hunting* find from my Port Colborne oasis of dusty vinyl picking delights, the local Goodwill.  As it happens, it is also my choice for Day 24 of the on-going 31 Day Record Challenge (Part 2); ‘A record that contains a song about the weekend (or Friday, Saturday, or Sunday individually…

(More on that later)

But, seriously, why do people ever get rid of Herb Alpert albums?

They’re the total shit!

Personally, for a buck or two I won’t hesitate to at adding another Tijuana Brass album to my collection, providing I don’t own it already of course.

By late 1966, it seemed as if every TV commercial and every pop arranger had latched onto the Herb Alpert “Ameriachi” sound – at which point the resourceful originator of that sound began to pare it down and loosen it up a bit.

S.R.O.‘ (Standing Room Only), referring to the Tijuana Brass’ string of sold-out concerts, is an accurate title, for this LP is about a seven-piece band loaded with experienced jazzers who groove and swing together to a greater degree than on their previous albums.

Sure, the arrangements are very tightly knit and don’t allow much room for spontaneity, but they still sound fresh and uninhibited, and Alpert often allows the flavor of jazz to come through more clearly. Indeed, two of the album’s three hit singles, ‘The Work Song‘ and ‘Flamingo‘, are jazz tunes – the former nervous and driving, the latter joyously kicking – and the third, ‘Mame‘, gets a nifty Dixieland treatment a la Louis Armstrong, with Alpert singing one verse.

The sleeping gem of the record is guitarist John Pisano’s ‘Freight Train Joe‘, a wistfully evocative tune that won’t quit the memory, and the mournful Alpert/Pisano/Nick Ceroli tune ‘For Carlos‘ later became Wes Montgomery‘s ‘Wind Song‘.

Though this album only went to #2 on the LP charts, Alpert’s creativity and popularity were still peaking like Doug Ford’s post-election party hanger’s on.

Oh, and yes, it also has a zippy little number called ‘Blue Sunday‘ which qualifies it for my 31 Day Record Challenge.

Go me.

Anyway, let’s get this 150k bike ride/brick run done and finished and proceed with the rest of the day’s planned activities:  Eat all the foods and crash on the couch like a hibernating bear for a few hours.

*And, really, what a better way to end this 100 Days of Core than with a good Goodwill find since these albums have primarily taken up the bulk of all my mat listening over these past 5-6 months of early morning workouts.  They were as integral to the program as the coffee, crunches, lunges and push-ups themselves.  Toby the “Morning Crack Cat” – questionable.
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Vinyl Sunday (Part 2)

Since we’re already on the oddball twing twang path, our next selection (also of HRH‘s choosing) is this ‘Shades of the Past‘  album by Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers.

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First off:

This is way better than that previous Doctor Badbreath bullshit.

In fact, this kinda swings.

In addition to comic material, the Hot Rize (Tim O’Brien, Nick Forester, Pete Wernick, Charles Sawtelle) alias Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers run through classic honky-tonk favorites with flawless instrumental musicianship and the straight-forward vocals that powered a previous generation through the Great Depression, WWII and Korea.

This well-produced collection of mostly early 20th-century pop/country standards has upbeat lyrics and danceable rhythms.

Trust me, “Western Swing” is thing.

Wigwam Wiggle‘, ‘Goin’ Steady‘, ‘I Thought I Heard You Call My Name‘, ‘I’m a One Woman Man‘, and ‘Everybody’s Rockin’ But Me‘ are all instantly catchy and enjoyable and, yeah, me dig it very much.

And their cover of The Beatles ‘Nowhere Man‘ also means that this album is he perfect record for Day 18 of the 31 Day Record Challenge (Part 2); ‘An album  that has an interesting or unique “Cover song” on it…

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 1)

And now that all this running and lawn shit is over with for the day, we’re settling down with some vinyl to celebrate Vinyl Sunday as a family, beginning with another record from HRH‘s personal Cornball collection, ‘Tourin’ the Two-Step‘ by Doctor Badbreath.

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Yes, you read that correctly.

She bought this at The Bop Shop in Rochester, NY a few weekends ago on Uncle Lance‘s dime solely because it – yes, you guessed it – it had a horse on the cover.

Never mind that it has Shit List written all over it as well.

Beats the shot out of me who Doctor Badbreath is, or from whence he came but – truth be told – I wish he had stayed there and we had never discovered him.

It’s not like I really put any serious effort into trying to find anything out about him.

I mean, with ditties like ‘Stinky Breath‘, ‘The Alkie Song‘, ‘Ethel Pump‘, and ‘Caught Me With My Pants Down‘, why would I bother?  I will say though, that ‘Sometimes‘ was somewhat decent…barely.

Hey, at least the Blood Orange Wheat Ale by Ellicottville Brewing Co. is decent.

I guess the other good news is that I can qualify this as good candidate for Day 30 of the 31 Day Record Challenge (Part 2); ‘An album associated with a horse (cover, song, album title, etc.)…

That counts for something, right?

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