Victoria Day Vinyl (Part 2)

Moving onto the second album this evening, something that HRH found at the Record Archive in Rochester, NY thanks to Uncle Lance and Auntie Amy‘s generous belated birthday gift, the ‘Equal Rights‘  album by Peter Tosh.

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Because, hey, what’s a holiday without a little reggae?

This was to be the album (released in 1977) that propelled Tosh to the top of the reggae world – the rival to onetime fellow Wailer Bob Marley.  Time has shown that this lofty aspiration was not borne out, but ‘Equal Rights‘  remains among the handful of best, and most influential, reggae albums ever recorded.  Essentially, this is the album that introduced the world to Tosh’s interests in mysticism and the wonders of his personal growth as a prophet, poet, preacher and world-class musical trailblazer.

Not a bad purchase for a 12-year-old, right?

Tosh was always the most militant of the original Wailers and this album reflects that outlook. Whether it is preaching about the unity of the African diaspora (‘African‘), protesting conditions in South Africa (‘Apartheid‘), or giving a more general call to arms (‘Get Up, Stand Up‘), this is a political album.

Not that HRH  sees any of this mind you, or cares for that matter, as she just digs her funky reggae beat.

The other catchy tunes that I really dig is ‘Stepping Razor‘ (the ultimate rude boy, proto-punk tune) where Tosh’s singing is angry and forceful and the music is intricate and distinctive. On this track you can see why people thought that Tosh could become a transcendent international star.

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Victoria Day Vinyl (Part 1)

It was back to the grindstone today for my annual Victoria Day long ride.  Except this year, I decided to ride my 120k directly into a gale force headwind because, well, just because.  And the cherry on top was getting to run another 4k off-the-bike immediately afterwards just for good measure because 120k of headwinds didn’t suck enough apparently.

Anyway, I am doing total buckus for the rest of the day aside from enjoying a glass (or two) of Brimstone Brewing Sinister Minister IPA, smashing a few sausages into my pie hole, hopefully a few chapters of my book (The Age of Daredevils by Michael Clarkson) as well as enjoying some good vinyl, beginning with this Desert Island album ‘The Colour of Spring‘ by Talk Talk.

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Because what’s a holiday without some awesome records, right?

This was a last minute Mother’s Day gift for Kelly seeing as how she likes her “mellow music” when relaxing upstairs.  Just so happens I too dig the mellow from time to time and this just happens to be one of my favorite albums of the mellow variety.

I found it at the St. Catharines Flea Market of all places for – get this – $5.00.  The vendor had another copy for $15.00 in the same condition front and center in his stall but, alas, had apparently forgotten about this other one tucked away in a cardboard box out of the way at the back.

Score.

With ‘It’s My Life‘, Talk Talk proved that they could pull off an entire album of strong material. With this album (released in 1986), they took it one step further, moving to a near-concept song cycle, following the emotional ups and downs of relationships and pondering life in general.

Musically, they built on the experimental direction of the previous album with interesting rhythms, sweeping orchestration, complex arrangements, and even a children’s chorus to create an evocative, hypnotic groove. Though the songs were catchier on the earlier efforts and the ambient experimentation was more fully achieved later on, ‘The Colour of Spring‘  succeeded in marrying the two ideas into one unique sound for their most thoroughly satisfying album.

It became the band’s highest selling non-compilation studio album, reaching the Top 20 in numerous countries (topping the Dutch charts), including their homeland (i.e. UK), where it reached #8 – and stayed in the UK charts for 21 weeks.

In a word, the album is gor-ge-ous

…like touching God’s boob.

Highlights include ‘Happiness Is Easy‘, ‘Life’s What You Make It‘, ‘Living in Another World‘ and ‘Give It Up‘ but, really, the whole thing needs to be enjoyed from beginning to end as a whole entity just as my other Desert Island album by the band, ‘Spirit of Eden‘.

If you want mellow, well look no further my friend.

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Double Run (7k)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever figure that after running 22k in the morning, would I head out to do another 7k at slightly faster than my morning pace (that’s a total of 29k on the day)…much less after a two and a half hour drive but, yet, here I am.  This is my last workout of the weekend until I can 100% relax and soak in all things vinyl, craft beer and spirited conversation.  This last approximate 40 minute “double run” has been set to the ‘Happy to be Just Like I Am‘  album by Taj Mahal.

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Taj had mapped out a unique vision of country blues and its ethnographic sources on his first three albums, and this 4th LP (released in 1971), continued in a similar vein while broadening his scope at the same time.

Anyone who delivers an arrangement of ‘Oh Susanna‘  that marries a hard-boogeying rhythm section with a fife as lead instrument is clearly not aiming for a purist’s approach to the blues, and Mahal was willing to bring a bit more contemporary rhythm & blues into his formula here, with the title track boasting the kind of groove and melodic lift that should have earned it a place on the radio (through the fact a tuba accompanies an electric bass in the bottom end might have puzzled a few programmers), and ‘Chevrolet‘ bubbling with potent, organic funk.

But Mahal was (and is) far too enamored of eclecticism to make an entire album that follows a single direction, and the steel drum reverie of ‘West Indian Revelation‘, the mixture of African percussion and steel guitar on ‘Black Spirit Boogie‘, and the acoustic blues with tuned cowbells on ‘Eighteen Hammers‘  are all the work of a man eager to twist his music into a variety of different forms.

It was a good listen while cruising an unfamiliar neighborhood and seeing what all the other Joneses’ are up to here in Ro’chestah.  Surprising, the legs felt…good.

Now, let the good times begin.

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Long Run (22k)

We have a fun weekend planned visiting friends in Rochester but first I have this first of two runs to contend with this morning, this one being a long 22k haul out to Fort Erie and back.  My listening pleasure for two plus hours of pavement pounding is the ‘Dick’s Picks Vol.8‘  by the Grateful Dead.

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Once again, Dick picks a great one.  Harpur College, May 2nd, 1970 is consistently ranked by Deadheads as one of the band’s best shows ever, and it’s easy to hear why.

This concert was held after the Dead had recorded their breakthrough album, ‘Workingman’s Dead‘, but a month before it was released.  One can imagine the surprise of the audience when the group broke out acoustic guitars and played a first set in what we would now call an “unplugged” format, introducing then-unreleased songs like ‘Friend of the Devil‘, ‘Dire Wolf‘, ‘Uncle John’s Band‘, sometimes backed by New Riders of the Purple Sage members David Nelson and John Dawson. This popular bootleg then showcases the band as they begin to rein in their experimental tendencies and overtly acknowledge their debt to old-time blues and folk.

Personally, it’s a great way to slip into an easy-going, carefree pace down the Friendship Trail and Edgemere Lane to Waverly Beach until the suck starts to slowly seep in.

But that hour of wonderful music is only the beginning, and the Dead prove just as inspired when they plug in and launch into their more familiar mixture of updated R&B (James Brown‘s ‘It’s a Man’s World‘, ‘Dancing in the Street‘) and expansive psychedelia (‘St. Stephen‘, ‘The Other One‘) – all of which are stretched to their gills and featuring Pigpen’s coarse vocals and Garcia’s bold guitar work.  ‘Viola Lee Blues‘ is also captivating and definitely more motivating once ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are fatigued.  Just the mind of amped up drive I need to get home.

But beyond all that, it’s amazing to hear the band this engaged, joking with the audience and among themselves, seeming far more enthusiastic and spontaneous than they were later in their career. This is an album for people who wonder why Deadheads collect tapes, and also for Deadheads who have worn out their tapes of one of their favorites.

Decent run this morning, nice cool breeze without too much difficult headwind.  and with that, Phase One of today’s “Kenya Day” is in the bag.

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Thursday Evening Vinyl

Kelly and I enjoyed a fun Date Night last night in Niagara Falls attending David Rocco’s ‘Tastes in Niagara‘ five course meal, some free champagne and night at the Four Point Sheraton and – get this – I slept in to 10:00am!  Really.  This afternoon however it was back to the grindstone beginning with a 3250m strength swim and a 71.25k time trial ride through soul-crushing headwinds later on.  Now, however, I’m back in the EZ-Boy with a burger and this ‘Sundown‘  album by Gordon Lightfoot.

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To be brutally honest, I’ve never seen the huge fuss regarding Canada’s folk golden boy.  Sure he’s great n’ all but as a Canadian, you can only hear so much Gordon Lightfoot on the radio before you’re like, yeah, I’m good.  I bet the Aussie’s feel the same way about Rolf Harris, or the way that Puerto Ricans feel about Ricky Martin.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, A few months ago I heard the title track from this album on an episode of The Blacklist (Season 4, Episode 18) and I was all, yeah, I jes gotz to get me that album.  It had this spooky, almost dark context to it that I had never recognized before.

It was awesome so it immediately went on my “To Find” list.

Sure this song is ingrained in the memory of anyone with an A.M. radio in the ’70s, but 20 years later, it sounds suggestive, even bluesy.

Now fast forward four weeks and I’m browsing the booths at the St. Catharines Flea Market and a vendor tells me that I can have anything in a certain box for free.  Who can resist an offer like that?

Of course, most stuff in the box was total crap but I did find three Gordon Lightfoot albums; this one included.  The covers were well worn and the records themselves were filthy.  I opted to take the chance and try my hand at cleaning them up to see if they played okay.  I mean, the price was definitely right so what could it hurt?

Fortunately, it plays awesome.

Total score!

This album is Lightfoot’s 10th, released in 1974 on the Reprise Records label.  It reached #1 in the US on the pop chart, the only album of his to achieve this. Here in Canada, it topped the RPM 100 for five consecutive weeks, first hitting #1 on June 22, 1974, the same day it reached the top on the south of the border.  The album marked the pinnacle of Lightfoot’s acoustic folk-country blend before he embarked on an increasing use of electronic instruments, although he did include some electric guitar, notably on the title track.

And while I picked the album solely for the tune ‘Sundown‘, that’s not the only track that kicks ass on it.  ‘Carefree Highway‘ is another great tune which ended up reaching #10 on the pop chart, #1 on the AC chart and #81 on the country chart.  Other tracks worthy of mention even though they aren’t like to appear on any Greatest Hits compilation are ‘The Watchman’s Gone‘  and ‘Seven Island Suite‘.

While the album wasn’t necessarily Lightfoot’s breakthrough recording, but it was both a demonstration of the rocking electric turn most folkies would make after Dylan‘s revolution, and a commercially successful marriage of soulful, R&B sensibility with folk narratives.

All the better because it was free.

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Tuesday Evening Vinyl

It’s been a long day primarily spent in a virtual classroom.  How much fun is that?  Well let’s just say that I was really  looking forward to my 14.27k Progression Run afterwards and leave it at that.  Anyway, now that’s is all over I’m settling down for a hue ass glass of chocolate milk, a delicious Taco salad, and taking in a few chapters of my book (The Age of Daredevils by Michael Clarkson) while listening to Kelly’s Mother’s day gift, the ‘Songs From the Big Chair‘  album by Tears for Fears.

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Can I multi-task or can I multi-task?

Anyway, I’m not gonna lie.

When Kelly mentioned that this  was the album she really wanted in our collection, my heart kind of sunk and brain had one of those ‘oh shit‘ moments.  Speaking honestly, I’ve never really been a huge appreciator of popular 80’s FM radio play (Tears for Fears included) but, hey, I’ve come to accept that my  collection is now longer my  collection, it’s our  collection and if I can tolerate things like Taylor Swift or, say, the Lego Soundtrack, then I can certainly tolerate a little TFF.

Now I have to say, that for a popular and hugely influential album of the 80’s, this is not a particularly easy album to find.  I had to visit multiple record stores in the area over several days until I was finally able to track it down.  In fact, I was practically laughed out of one altogether in a scene that could have been right of out High Fidelity (click HERE).

The things we do for the women in our lives, huh?

I won’t deny this albums influence in popular culture when it was released back in 1985 (peaking at #2 in the UK and #1 in the US and Canada).  Of course commercially it was a huge successful, containing no less than three huge radio hits, including the dramatic and insistent march, ‘Shout‘  and the shimmering, cascading ‘Head Over Heels‘, which, tellingly, is actually part of a song suite on the album.  But not only was it a commercial triumph, was it was also an artistic tour de force as well.  And in the loping, percolating ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World‘, the band perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic; one of the finest statements of the time.

Whatever it is, Kelly sure knows all the words and is not ashamed to sing them to herself from the comforts of her chair with a big shit-eating grin on her face.

And that  folks, is Mother’s Day money well-spent.

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Yoga/Core

Today was intended to be my second “Recovery Day” after Saturday’s “Iron Brick” madness but instead, I ventured into the pool for an easy swim.  Easy, because that’s about all I could muster this morning.  Maybe I’m still beat from the weekend or maybe I was a bit weighed down from the 3 tons of Mandarin Mother’s Day Buffet last night but, regardless, 2000m was all I could accomplish.  Tonight I’ll go for a similarly short and easy joy ride on Daisy and this afternoon, this short and easy yoga-slash-core workout to flush all the remaining lactic acid from my body.

My “mat inspiration” this afternoon could be viewed through the lens of being Mother’s Day-related – albeit a day late – the ‘Now’s time Time!‘ featuring Mary Osborne, Lynn Milano, Marian McPartland, Vi Redd and Dottie Dodgion.

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I found this unique Jazz Boner album at the Mod-20 Retro Shop in Fort Erie and it appealed to me for a few reasons.

Besides being an all female jazz quintet, the performance itself was recorded live at the now defunct Monticello Room at the Rowntowner Hotel in Rochester, NY on June 30th, 1977.  In fact, this was one of three nights played by the group.  For this particular quintet, Marian called four women who had never played together before: Dottie Dodgion, a swinging, whiskey soaked drummer from The Strollers; the soul-drenched veteran Los Angeles alto saxophonist Vi Redd; guitarist Mary Osborne, her Hickey House predecessor; and a 1968 Eastman graduate named Lynn Milano on bass.

How’s that for a loose-fit, swinging good time?

Just as every decent Jazz Boner album should be.

Labeled as “cool jazz” (seriously, is there another kind?), this is a fantastic fun listen.  There are some wonderful renditions of Charlie Parker (‘Now’s the Time‘), Duke Ellington (‘Sophisticated Lady‘, ‘In a Mellotone‘) and Thelonius Monk (‘Straight, No Chaser‘) classic and some other lesser known standards as well.

Yes, it was a very enjoyable time spent on my mat this afternoon gently bending, twisting and planking in the gentle company of some nice, mellow jazzy tunage.

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