Hump Day Vinyl

After bunking off for the day from the dining room table, I took HRH out for a short joyride to the park just to get some fresh air and now we’re settling down in the EZ-Boy while mommy gets ready to go to work and enjoy some vinyl-y goodness with this ‘Meet Me at the Muster Station‘  album (on limited edition blue vinyl) by the Kingston, Ontario indie rocker/folksters, P.S. I Love You.

PS2

Consisting of just Paul Saulnier on vocals/guitar/bass pedals and Benjamin Nelson on drums the “band” (if you want to call them that) is signed to the Canadian independent record label Paper Bag Records of which I am a HUGE fan.  And not just because they also have other favorite Canadiana bands in their roster like Cuff the Duke and Elliott BROOD either.  Let me tell you why.

Two weeks ago I checked out their “Summer Vinyl Clearance Sale” and decided that since the prices were so good and the shipping/handling was pretty much non-existent, I’d take a chance and purchase something I was unfamiliar with and roll the dice a bit, if you will.  Less than five days later this album showed up along with about $30 of other merchandise like CD EP’s, stickers, buttons, download cards, a blow up beach ball and even a cassette tape.  Remember those?  Anyway, I was all like, “Fuck yeah!  Thank you Paper Bag Records!”  So this then is the original album I purchased.

PS1

The schwag pile.

This album released in October of 2010, is the bands debut album and regarded by Pitchfork Media as “a compact debut that nonetheless feels momentously epic”.  Okay, that’s pretty positive.  It also received Exclaim!’s #4 spot for Top Pop & Rock Albums of 2010 and was even placed on the longlist of nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.  Again, all good stuff.  HRH  likes that the album is a pretty blue color.  Besides, how can you not be a little intrigued with an album that brags having a song entitled ‘Butterflies & Boners‘  on it?  C’mon on.

Muster Station‘  is weird, frantic and eclectic.  There are trademark rock music staples in here that could have easily been tacky. The masculine/feminine yelps at the beginning of the album that simply scream ‘Glory Days‘…I just wish it was bit longer.  Then there are the building layers of instrumentals in the ear wormy ‘Facelove‘ (I’m not even gonna ask).  The vocals keep in unison with the guitar line of ‘2012‘. But none of it feels contrived or derivative.  Even when they take moves out of the classic rock playbook, they still sound they’re coming from an entirely authentic point-of-view.  Every song is great, but there are some moments toward the end of the record (‘Scattered‘, in particular) that start to sound a bit like you’ve heard them before. But when every song on the album is solid, that’s not such a bad thing.  The album might only clock in at under 30 minutes, but every…freakin… moment…is absurdly listenable.

Yeah, Paper Bag Records rocks!

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Manning the Home Office (Part 2)

I’m into phase two of the Da Blues theme this afternoon while Kelly sleeps and HRH entertains herself downstairs with Tina the Cat and a little Super Mario Bros., the ‘The Natch’l Blues‘  album by Taj Mahal, released in 1968.

This is actually the 2nd album by Taj.  First off, I have to say that there is nobody in the blues archives who has such awesomely named songs.  Seriously!  How can you not get excited about an album featuring tracks entitled ‘I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Steal My Jellyroll‘, ‘Going Up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue‘  and ‘She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride‘?  It’s like he’s writing songs about the random obtuse things that make up his day in that moment.  That intrigues me.  For example, today, if I was a masterful blues artist, I might compose a song called , ‘This Sandwich Needs More Mustard and My Pickle is Salty‘, or ‘Gonna Drink My Coffee and Take a Dump‘.  You get the idea anyway.

The Natch’l Blues‘  was recorded in the spring and fall of 1968, and opens with a more stripped-down Delta-style blues in the manner of his debut, but adds a little more amplification thanks to Al Kooper on organ.  It then moves onto a wholly bigger sound on numbers like ‘She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride‘  and ‘The Cuckoo‘ – the latter, in particular, featuring crunchy electric and acoustic guitars and Gary Gilmore playing his bass almost like a lead instrument; a bluesman’s answer to John Entwistle.  My favorite, however, may be the awesome ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ (complete with Stax/Volt-style horn arrangement by Jesse Ed Davis)  and ‘Ain’t That a Lot of Love‘,  which offer Taj working in the realm of soul and treading onto Otis Redding territory.   The later ‘Ain’t That a Lot of Love‘, is driven by a hard electric guitar sound a la Bobby Blue Bland and a relentless bass part that sounds like a more urgent version of the bassline from the Spencer Davis Group‘s infamous ‘Gimme Some Lovin‘.

Basically, the album is – as well as what Taj is best known for – a prime example of in how to re-energize and re-interpret a type of music without losing sight of the traditions within.  Country Blues?  Soul?  Harp?  Rock?  This album has is it all in spades.

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Manning the Home Office (Part 1)

I’m working from home for the rest of the week seeing as how little HRH hasn’t been feeling too well and there are no daycare options given that school starts back up next week.  That’s okay by me since we can have a breakfast cuddle while watching bits of the ‘Marco Pantani: the Accidental Death of a Cyclist‘  documentary, a little ‘Phineas and Ferb‘  over lunch and then maybe a short bike ride later on if she’s feeling up to it.  Right now though, it’s nose to the grindstone at the dining room table for the remainder of the afternoon.  First up to keep me humored and a-tapping at my presentations is the ‘Soul Blues‘  album by Lightnin’ Hopkins.

I’m switching gears this afternoon (pun intended) and swapping my wailing Jazz Boner of yesterday, for some delta blues with my latest album selection.  I don;t really know why.  It’s nice and sunny out, I’m in otherwise good spirits and I have a full belly.  What can I say?  Sometimes the heart just wants what it wants and you just have to roll with it.  Today, it wants Da Blues.

Lightnin Hopkins is someone I usually save for my San Antonio business trips but I’m rolling with it anyway.  ‘Soul Blues‘, recorded in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and released in 1964 for Fantasy Records, is chalked full of tall, tongue-in-cheek tales (often made up on the spot in the studio) as only ‘ol Lightnin’ can provide.  This album finds Hopkins in possibly his most conducive setting, playing electric guitar backed with a bassist, Leonard Gaskin; and a drummer, Herb Lovelle.  

First off, right off the top, the album is dedicated to “all womens of the world”.  Nice.  The first song then, the steady-rolling gospel tune ‘I’m Going to Build Me a Heaven of My Own‘, describes an encounter with a bearded man claiming to be Jesus Christ.  How’s that for an album opener?  What it has to do with the “womens of the world”, Lord only knows.  I’m a Crawling Black Snake‘  puts a personal spin on some of the hoariest blues metaphors (ie. his penis?) in such a way that the song sounds brand new, and ‘The Howling Wolf‘  pays tribute to another blues legend in typical Hopkins style.  He also puts his unique personal stamp on Willie Dixon‘s ‘My Babe‘ and Smokey Hogg’s ‘Too Many Drivers‘  among others.  In it’s entirety, these 10 tracks are Hopkins at the top of his game.

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Tuesday Afternoon at Corporate Hell (Part 2)

I’m sticking with and stretching (no pun intended) into the Jazz Boner theme going into the final hour here at Corporate Hell, this time with the ‘Super Sonic Jazz’  album by Sun Ra from 1957.

Recorded in 1956 at the RCA Studios in Chicago, ‘Super-Sonic Jazz’  was the first album to be released on Saturn records, the label run by Sun Ra and Alton Abraham, and was one of only three albums by Sun Ra to have been available in the 1950’s.  The album was retitled as ‘Super-Sonic Sounds’  when it was reissued in 1974 by Impulse!, but then reverted back to its original title when it was released on CD by Evidence records in 1992.

My own first discover of Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount in 1912) and his Arkestra (an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up) was a bootleg concert that someone had handed me somewhere down the line.  My thoughts were exactly:  “This is some fucked up shit”.  And it was.  But then again, I didn’t appreciate the jazz in the same way I do now.  To me, it was still just “noise”.  Now, I get it.  Well, I get it more  anyway.  Sun Ra was a bit, shall we say, controversial in that his music was extremely eclectic and unorthodox, especially for the time, and he claimed that he was of the “Angel Race”, and not from Earth but from Saturn.  Never mind that he took his name Ra, from the Egyptian God of the Sun.  Yeah, okay dude.  He developed a complex persona, using “cosmic” philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of “Afrofuturism”, whatever that is.

Anyway, Sun Ra had only been heading his Arkestra for a couple of years when they recorded the 12 songs featured on this 1956 session.  But while the arrangements, ensemble work, and solos are not as ambitious, expansive, or free-wheeling as they became on later outings, the groundwork was laid on such cuts as ‘India‘, ‘Sunology‘ and one of the first versions of ‘Blues at Midnight‘.  Ra’s band already had the essential swinging quality and first-class soloists, and he had gradually challenged them with compositions that did not rely on conventional hard bop riffs, chord changes, and structure but demanded a personalized approach and understanding of sound and rhythm far beyond standard thinking.  You can hear in Ra’s solos and those of John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Charles Davis, and others in the ensemble an emerging freedom and looseness which would explode in the future, like that bootleg that first introduced me to this madness.

And with that, I can almost wrap up another Tuesday afternoon in Corporate Hell. Tomorrow I get to work from home for the rest of the week so Lord knows what kind of audio stimulus I will conjure up at home at the dining room table.

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Tuesday Afternoon at Corporate Hell (Part 1)

It must seem at this point, that all my blog entries here are basically from Corporate Hell and that there’s not a whole lot of “motion” in my posts anymore.  Well, this is partly true.  I am still doing stuff like cycling, swimming and I have evens tarted joining a circuit training class (click HERE) on Mondays before my own Masters Spin class.  But I don’t listen to music during any of these activities.  Soon enough, I will start up my run and gym routines again so there will be more workout related posts in the near future.  For now, however, Corporate Hell is where it’s at as far as music goes and, this afternoon, it’s the ‘Journey In Satchidananda‘  album by Alice Coltrane, featuring Pharoah Sanders.

Okay, so first things first:  who is Alice Coltrane?  Alice Coltrane, (née McLeod)  (August 27, 1937 – January 12, 2007) was an American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, and composer, and the second wife of jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane which, more than qualifies her for entry into the Jazz Boner tag category.  Seriously, how many jazz harpists have you ever heard of?

‘Journey in Satchidananda’  is her 4th solo album, released in 1970, and it’s title (and title track) reflects Coltrane’s inspiration by the Swami Satchidananda, to whom she had become close, and whose disciple she was.  The album comprised of just 5 intrumental tracks, in essence, is simply the shit.  Total Jazz Boner material.  Shit, even Paul Weller (The Jam) has often cited this album as a favourite, including it in a “12 Albums You Must Hear Right Now!” list he compiled for Mojo magazine in 2005.  And, hell, if a former British punk icon digs his harp jazz, so should you!

The trippy title track begins the album with some tripper than fuck jazz harp, before evolving into ‘Shiva-Loka‘, or “Realm of Shiva” — the realm of the third member of the Hindu trinity, the “Dissolver of Creation”. ‘Stopover Bombay‘  refers to a five week stay in India and Sri Lanka on which Coltrane was due to go in December 1970. ‘Something About John Coltrane‘  is based on themes by her late husband, John Coltrane.  ‘Isis and Osiris‘ (recorded live at the Village Gate), on which Charlie Haden replaces Cecil McBee on bass, and Vishnu Wood plays oud (a pear-shaped stringed instrument similar to a lute), indicates Coltrane’s interest in Middle Eastern and North African music and culture and features some of the most intense bass and drum interplay.  The presence of the tamboura, played by Tulsi, also reflects Coltrane’s interest in Indian music and religion.

Truly, this is a remarkable album, and necessary for anyone interested in the development of modal and experimental jazz.  THIS  is an album I need to add to my vinyl collection in the very near future.

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Chillin’ at Home

It’s been a great but LONG weekend complete with a 60k bike ride full off hills, headwinds and horseshit, no to mention the worlds best chicken salad sandwich, between Fergus and Elmira Ontario on Saturday and then another full day at the bike mount line for the SunRype TRi-KiDS triathlon series in Fergus itself.  So, today, I’m feeling a bit burned out.  Not completely run down as I have after other similar TRi-KiDS weekends (it’s a hard day wrangling hundreds of kids on bikes, believe me), mind you…just very, very lethargic.  So this afternoon while I’m working on my presentations for work, I’m indulging my Jazz Boner a  bit with the ‘Mingus Ah Um‘  album by notorious jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader Charles Mingus.

Released in 1959 on Columbia Records, this album represents the critically acclaimed debut offering by one of jazz’s most tragic figures and featuring a cast of his jazz workshop musicians from that time (saxophonists John Handy, Shafi Hadi, and Booker Ervin; trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis; pianist Horace Parlan; and drummer Dannie Richmond).  The album features such classic Mingus compositions as ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat‘  (an elegy to Lester Young), the vocal-less version of ‘Fables of Faubus‘ (a protest against segregationist Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus who is portrayed here as a bumbling vaudeville clown), and the irrepressible spiritual exuberance of signature tune ‘Better Get It in Your Soul‘.

In totality, Mingus’ compositions here are best regarded as razor sharp and emotionally varied, retaining the hot and soulful feel of “Hard Bop” while drawing heavily from black gospel music and blues while sometimes drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music.  Yet he still manages to avoid categorization, forging his own brand of music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz.  There’s the underrated ‘Boogie Stop Shuffle’ which absolutely bursts with aggressive swing, and elsewhere there are tributes to Mingus’ most revered influences: ‘Open Letter to Duke‘  is inspired by Duke Ellington and ‘Jelly Roll‘  is an idiosyncratic yet affectionate nod to jazz’s first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton.  In 2003, ‘Mingus Ah Um’  was one of fifty recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry making it a perfect soundtrack for an otherwise lazy and overcast Monday afternoon at home.

As respected as Mingus was for his musical talents, he was sometimes feared for his occasionally violent onstage temper, which was at times directed at members of his band, and other times aimed at the audience.  He was physically large, prone to obesity (especially in his later years), and was by all accounts often intimidating and frightening when expressing anger or displeasure.  Mingus was prone to clinical depression.  By the mid-1970s, Mingus was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  His once formidable bass technique suffered, until he could no longer play the instrument.  In 1979, he died, aged 56, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had traveled for treatment and convalescence.  His ashes were then scattered in the Ganges River.

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Vinyl Friday

HRH  has been away now for three WHOLE weeks now which means now that she’s back, she’s inevitably been attached to my hip for the past few days.  It’s a good problem to have, of course, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the little bugger and was looking forward to it.  So with that in mind, I was browsing the record store a week or so ago for my own selfish purposes, I stumbled across an album I knew she has been curious about seeing as how it was the same band that she more or less discovered on her own approximately a year ago and which, ultimately, opened the whole vinyl gateway we’ve been treading down together ever since.  I figured then that it would make a great bonding opportunity for this evening after our “Daddy Daughter” date night at the Sanctuary and a few rounds of ‘Exploding Kittens‘.  The album was a lovingly rereleased copy of the phenomenal ‘Dark Side of the Moon’  album by Pink Floyd on 120 gram vinyl.

Pink Floyd

Trying to list or even summarize all the key nuances and overall general importance of this album on the music world would be like trying to explain the sheer vastness of the universe to someone with spacial depth perception issues.  It’s huge.  How huge?

HUGE!

First, you have to realize it was an immediate success upon its release in 1973; it topped the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for one week and then remained there for the next 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988.  That’s 15 fucking years in the charts and that’s no small accomplishment.  Now, I would usually offer you a sampling of where all the pertinent music magazines and importance aficionados have placed it in their “Greatest Album” charts and stuff, but there’s just not enough bandwidth to do that. With an estimated 50 million copies sold it’s, like I said, HUGE.

The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in two sessions, between May 1972 and January 1973.  The band were assigned staff engineer Alan Parsons, who had worked as assistant tape operator on ‘Atom Heart Mother’, and who had also gained experience as a recording engineer on the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’  and ‘Let It Be’.  The recording sessions made use of some of the most advanced studio techniques of the time; the studio was capable of 16-track mixes, which offered a greater degree of flexibility than the eight- or four-track mixes they had used previously.   It builds on ideas explored in the band’s earlier recordings and live shows, but lacks the extended instrumental excursions that characterized their work following the departure in 1968 of founder member, principal composer, and lyricist, Syd Barrett.  The themes on ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’  include conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, the latter partly inspired by Barrett’s deteriorating mental state. What gives the album it’s true power though is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia.  And while it may not be my favorite album by the Floyd, I recognize its importance in its catalog and if you’re going to consider yourself as a “fan” of the band, as HRH  clearly does, then you need to own a copy.

Myself, I’ve owned many copies and still have my original vinyl copy, except that it’s pretty badly marred meaning you don’t really get the true textures of the music.  And while I recognize that the odd snap, crackle and pop actually enhance  some of the albums I listen to on vinyl, this is definitely not one of those albums.  From the samples of cash registers and loose change, the synthesizer-driven instrumentals in ‘On the Run’  that evoke the stress and anxiety of modern travel, it’s a sonic landscape of dynamic proportions; music as it had never been experienced before at that time.  Its release is often seen as a pivotal point in the history of rock music, and comparisons are sometimes drawn between Pink Floyd and Radiohead – specifically their 1997 album ‘OK Computer ‘ which has been called ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’  of the 1990’s, owing to the fact that both albums share themes relating to the loss of a creative individual’s ability to function in the modern world.   Oh, and it comes with a bunch of stickers and special which HRH  is pretty excited about as well.

For us, it’s an opportunity for something to share together during our planned 90 minute cuddle time with a few Drumsticks this evening.

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