Fartlek Run (10.55k)

Since Tuesday’s fartlek run went somewhat *cough*cough* well, I’m giving it a second try this afternoon on my lunch hour to really  try and kickstart myself back on track with my regular weekly run workouts and subsequent fitness.  This afternoon’s listening motivation then for 10.55k worth of 4 minute (x5) and 3 minute (x2) intervals up and down Thunder Bay Rd. once again is ‘The Magic Whip‘  by Blur.

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In the 90’s, Oasis won the major Brit-pop battles: worldwide album sales, U.K. #1 singles and gossip-column yardage. But their archrivals, Blur, soundly beat them in exploration and legacy. Oasis wanted to be as big as the Beatles and the Who combined; Blur embodied those bands’ impatient forward march. At their studio peak – the five albums from 1993’s ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish‘  to 1999’s ‘13′ – they dissected the generational malaise behind Brit-pop’s lad-ish swagger in a hook-smart rush of mod crunch, shoegazer psychedelia, dance-floor invention, sumptuous balladry and angular alternative rock.

Blur now take the endurance trophy, too. Oasis broke up in 2009, while Blur’s classic lineup – singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree – has made its first new album in 16 years, one as quixotic and seductive in its modern searching and subversive pop highs as those Nineties winners. ‘The Magic Whip’  is named after a Chinese brand of firecracker, and Blur recorded the guts of its 12 songs with explosive impulse in Hong Kong after a big Far East gig was canceled. Albarn – Blur’s lyricist, whose solo work and collaborations draw liberally from Asia and Africa – drops local references in the gauzy drift of ‘Ghost Ship‘ (“Swinging on a cable/Up to Po Lin,” a Buddhist monastery) and the tiki-bar kitsch of ‘Ong Ong‘  (“I want to be with you/On a slow boat to Lantao”).

But there is darker exotica in the album’s spare electronics and hard turns, like the swerve from the Kinks-like ‘Lonesome Street‘  to the spongy trip-hop of ‘New World Towers‘.   The endless neon and digital addiction in the latter song (“Log in your name and pray 24 hours”); the contradictory funk and willful isolation in ‘Go Out‘: This is travel without resolution, an open ticket through a world made smaller by smartphones at the expense of sincere connection.  In ‘Thought I Was a Spaceman‘, Albarn sounds like David Bowie‘s Major Tom falling through clouds of church organ and Coxon’s sighing guitar. “People like me fight to keep the demons in/But we never succeeded,” Albarn admits. It’s a gorgeous trip with a cold landing.

Albarn has become a multidiscipline star with bands like the hip-hop conceit Gorillaz and as a theatrical composer, while Coxon has a fine line of wayward solo LPs. They were already too restless, in love with overreach, at Blur’s original height to make truly perfect albums. That hasn’t changed. ‘The Magic Whip’  could have used more taut ‘Song 2‘-style yippee like ‘I Broadcast‘; ‘There Are Too Many of Us‘  is too slender to sustain its repetition.

But you get, at the end of the ennui, a great new ballad in ‘Mirrorball‘, with Albarn singing like Scott Walker holding up the bar in a Sergio Leone Western against Coxon’s wiry shivers of guitar. Blur excelled at this sublime romanticism – ‘This Is a Low‘, on 1994’s ‘Parklife; ‘The Universal‘, on 1995’s ‘The Great Escape’ – while Oasis flexed their wild-boy brawn. The latter just didn’t have enough to last I guess.

I was a bit trepidacious about this album and have been putting off since the last time I paid Blur any serious mind was ‘The Great Escape‘ over 20 years ago.  So how did it fare  today?

Meh.

Let’s leave it at that and get onto the important part:  the workout:

The last two 4 minute intervals were a challenge especially seeing as how I was running directly into the wind and the final two 3 minute intervals were about the same.  But the real success lies in that this was my first full fartlek run since December 13th with no pain and no serious discomfort…just my heart slowly failing.

As it should be.

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Core

I have a bit of an ambitious day planned out including two outdoor workouts and there’s still lots to do at work so I’m getting today’s core workout (Day 75!) accomplished early.  And, hey, since I started a Cornball theme with yesterday’s mat session, I’ll sticking with it by listening to the ‘The Stripper and Other Fun Songs for the Family‘ by David Rose.

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Now, let me start off by mentioning that I DO NOT condone stripping as a fun family past time.  It’s not exactly the kind of “bonding” I would ever recommend. But if you’re going to put that shit out on a record for my amusement at a price of $2.00 (thank you Orange Monkey!) then I will absolutely purchase that shit and listen to it…as I am this morning.

So, sadly, the only stripping happening today is me down to my undies to complete this workout.

And I wouldn’t recommend picturing it either.

Though it doesn’t have the sparking arpeggios that distinguished his ’50s recordings, as it turns out, this album (1962) is a swinging, pseudo-burlesque collection that showcases his flair for parody.

So who is David Rose?

Rose (June 15, 1910 – August 23, 1990) was an American songwriter, composer, arranger, pianist, and orchestra leader who wrote music for many television series, including It’s a Great Life, The Tony Martin Show, Sea Patrol, Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven, Bonanza, and Highway Patrol under the pseudonym “Ray Llewellyn.”   In addition, he was musical director for The Red Skelton Show during its 21-year run on the CBS and NBC networks. He was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men in music.  Rose’s work in composing music for television programs earned him four Emmy’s.

Huh.

Didn’t see that coming.

You would definitely recognize the title track (click HERE) as well as maybe ‘Night Train‘.  There are also cheesy little versions of Ellington‘s ‘Mood Indigo‘ and Louis Armstrong‘s ‘St. James Infirmary‘.  And I’m pretty sure the last track ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy‘ is a Bond theme, and if it’s not – it sure as shit should be.

But whoever he is and whatever this music is, it’s a pretty seriously campy (but awesome) day here on the the mat for planking (my 4th straight day of 5-minute planks I might add), squatting, push-ups and crunches.

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Wednesday Night Vinyl

It’s been a pretty productive day.  I got lots accomplished and HRH  more or less scoured the entire kitchen.  You know, maybe this Catholic School Board lock out ain’t so bad.  So after yoga tonight, we whipped up some chicken, bacon lime ranch salad and we’re listening to ‘The Wall‘  by Pink Floyd.

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As you can tell by the huge water mark on the front cover, this album has clearly seen some better days.  It’s also loaded with snaps, crackles and pops and it skips like a mofo but since we fished this out of a flea market bin for $2.00 (which has been callously scrawled across the back cover in magic marker) we’re not really sweating it.

We’re just chalking this up as being our “starter copy” until we can find a better copy somewhere else.

This was actually the first Floyd album I was ever exposed to back in high school and at the time I thought, ‘meh’.

I clearly didn’t get it.

Of course, I’ve had the benefit of many years and buttloads of drugs to teach me that this is actually a very important and incredible album even if it doesn’t necessarily sound like it at the moment.

It’s not my favorite  Pink Floyd album, per se, but it’s still very good.

Released in 1979, ‘The Wall‘  was Roger Waters’ crowning accomplishment in the Floyd. It documented the rise and fall of a rock star (named Pink Floyd), based on Waters’ own experiences and the tendencies he’d observed in people around him. By then, the bassist had firm control of the group’s direction, working mostly alongside David Gilmour and bringing in producer Bob Ezrin as an outside collaborator. Drummer Nick Mason was barely involved, while keyboardist Rick Wright seemed to be completely out of the picture.  It also marked the last time Waters and Gilmour would work together as equal partners.   Still, ‘The Wall‘  was a mighty, sprawling affair, featuring 26 songs with vocals: nearly as many as all previous Floyd albums combined.

The story revolves around the fictional Pink Floyd’s isolation behind a psychological wall. The wall grows as various parts of his life spin out of control, and he grows incapable of dealing with his neuroses.

The album opens by welcoming the unwitting listener to Floyd’s show (‘In the Flesh?‘), then turns back to childhood memories of his father’s death in World War II (‘Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1‘), his mother’s over protectiveness (‘Mother‘), and his fascination with and fear of sex (‘Young Lust‘).  By the time ‘Goodbye Cruel World‘ closes the first disc, the wall is built and Pink is trapped in the midst of a mental breakdown.

On disc two, the gentle acoustic phrasings of ‘Is There Anybody Out There?‘  and the lilting orchestrations of ‘Nobody Home‘ reinforce Floyd’s feeling of isolation. When his record company uses drugs to coax him to perform (‘Comfortably Numb‘), his onstage persona is transformed into a homophobic, race-baiting fascist (‘In the Flesh‘).  In ‘The Trial‘, he mentally prosecutes himself, and the wall comes tumbling down.

This ambitious concept album was an across-the-board smash, topping the Billboard album chart for 15 weeks in 1980. The single ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2‘  was the country’s best-seller for four weeks and you’ve likely heard it on the radio ad nauseum. The album would goon to spawned an elaborate stage show (so elaborate, in fact, that the band was able to bring it to only a few cities) and a full-length film which, if memory serves me correctly totally freaked me out one evening while babysitting after seeing the Floyd character shave off his  nipples in the shower.

That gave me the heebie-jeebies for about a month.

There will be no shaving of nipples this evening however, no sir.

Instead, it’s just another quiet Hump Day evening with some heady vinyl.

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Core

I accomplished my strength swim this morning (3500m) and the only other plan is for nice, leisurely yoga session this evening.  In between those workouts today, on my lunchtime of course, is my daily core session (Day 74).  And today that session is set to the ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon (And Other Trips)‘  by The T-Bones.

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Sadly, this has nothing to do with Tommy Lee.

Sorry, ladies.

I actually took a bit of a flyer on this album as it depicts a lunar module on the front cover so I thought that maybe, just maybe it might be a Space Age Exotic album.

It’s not.

As it turns out, The T-Bones themselves were a Liberty Records recording group from 1963 – 1966.  The studio recordings of all of their albums were done by the infamous American session musicians, The Wrecking Crew (you should definitely know who these guys and gals are seeing as how without them, we would have half as many classic albums from the 60’s and 70’s that we do).  Unfortunately though, this is  that last album so it doesn’t even have that going for it.

FML.

Oh, and don’t confuse them with the British mid-1960’s band of the same name because you will also be disappointed.

What I’m really perplexed about is why the band decided to picture themselves on the back of the album posing around a steel drum when there’s not a single steel drum on the entire fucking album.

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Umm…WTF?

This album was released in 1966 and it a terrible collection of cover songs and instead of joining the Space Age Exotica collection, it’s going straight into the ‘ol Cornball collection of albums instead.

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Tuesday Night Vinyl

I’m very pleased with my fartlek results so I’m recovering now with a sausage on a bun, a pint of Punk Rock Pilsner from Brimstone Brewing and this self-titled album by John Prine.

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This has been on my “To Find” list for some time and, low and behold, there it was at the Hamilton Record Fair two weeks ago.

A revelation upon its release in 1971, this album has now become a collection of standards: ‘Illegal Smile‘, ‘Hello in There‘, ‘Sam Stone‘, ‘Donald and Lydia‘, and, of course, the awesome ‘Angel from Montgomery’.  Prine’s music, a mixture of folk, rock, and country, is deceptively simple, like his pointed lyrics, and his easy vocal style adds a humorous edge that makes otherwise funny jokes downright hilarious.

Prine was offered a recording contract by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records after the record executive saw the singer perform several of his own songs at a Kris Kristofferson show at the Bitter End. The song ‘Paradise‘ was actually recorded at A&R Studios in New York (with Prine’s brother Dave and good friend Steve Goodman as sidemen) but the remaining cuts were recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis.  Produced by Arif Mardin, who had previously collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, Prine found his new studio surroundings intimidating. In the ‘Great Days: The John Prine Anthology’  liner notes he admits:

“I was terrified. I went straight from playing by myself, still learning how to sing, to playing with Elvis Presley’s rhythm section.”

Discussing the meaning and symbolism in each of these tracks would be monumental and, truth be told, one hell of a High School English paper if you ask me (and just in case you’re looking for suggestions). You’re probably  not, but don’t tell me I never offered you anything.  Of course, I wish I knew this back then instead of doing my OAC English paper on Sting‘s ‘The Soul Cages‘.

What a square I was.

Anyway, as it is this evening, it’s a terrific mellow finish to an otherwise successful – and exhausting day.

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Fartlek Run (9.53k)

As much as I am loathe to do so, I have to begin getting back into my regular fartlek runs and this evening, is my first stab at recouping my once proud run fitness.  It’s certainly not going to be pretty, but I’m going to give it the ‘ol college try.  This evenings soundtrack out and back along Thunder Bay Rd. once again is the ‘Midnite Vultures‘  album by Beck.

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Okay, so it’s Dad Rock.

Sue me.

By calling the muted psychedelic folk-rock, blues, and Tropicalia of ‘Mutations‘ a stopgap, Beck set expectations for this album unreasonably high.  Ironically, ‘Midnite Vultures’ doesn’t feel like a sequel to ‘Odelay‘ – it’s a genre exercise, like ‘Mutations‘.

This time, Beck delves into soul, funk, and hip-hop, touching on everything from Stax/Volt to Prince as his home base.  He’s eschewed samples, more or less, but not the aesthetic.  Even when a song is reminiscent of a particular style, it’s assembled in strange, exciting ways.

As it kicks off with ‘Sexx Laws‘, it’s hard not to get caught up in the rush, and ‘Nicotine & Gravy‘  carries on the vibe expertly, as does the party jam ‘Mixed Bizness‘  and the full-on electro workout ‘Get Real Paid‘, an intoxicating number to be sure for doing fartlek intervals too.

So far, so good – the songs are tight, catchy, and memorable, the production dense. Then comes ‘Hollywood Freaks‘.  The self-conscious gangsta goof is singularly irritating, not least because of Beck’s affected voice.  It’s the first on ‘Midnite Vultures‘  to feel like a parody, and it’s such an awkward, misguided shift in tone that it colors the rest of the album. Tributes now sound like send-ups, allusions that once seemed affectionate feel snide, and the whole thing comes off as a little jive. Musically, this album is filled with wonderful little quirks, but these are undercut by the sneaking suspicion that for all the ingenuity, it’s just a hipster joke.  Humor has always been a big part of Beck’s music, but it was gloriously absurd, never elitist, and here it’s delivered with a smug smirk, undercutting whatever joy the music generates.

So suckiness of doing fast intervals aside, I’m quite proud of today’s 9.53k run as it represents my first real effort back to my regular weekly fartlek workouts with 5 x (2 minutes HARD / 3 minutes easy) completed.  It may not have been pretty as I aforementioned but I’m pleased that nothing out of the ordinary hurt whilst doing it.  I even thought about doing some 30 second sprints that would typically go along with this workout but decided to not to push it and error on the side of caution and leave those as next weeks goal.

So, now, we’ll just have to see how Thursday run goes.

Knock on wood.

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Core

This afternoon’s core workout (Day 73) is set to more Jazz Boner, albeit the weirder Space Age kind, with the ‘Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy‘  album by Sun Ra.

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This was another of our Orange Monkey purchases this past weekend.

Recorded in 1963, but not released until 1967 on Sun Ra’s own Saturn label (originally released in a sleeve with only a Sun Ra doodle, this better known cover, designed by Richard Pedreguera who also designed ‘The Nubians of Plutonia‘  cover , was in place by 1969), this particular  record has become one of the most discussed of Ra’s New York recordings.

Here’s a pretty accurate synopsis of the album:

“‘Cosmic Tones’ functions as a kind of blueprint for the sort of large-scale jazz weirdness that would inform much of Sun-Ra’s subsequent works, featuring the woozy reeds of ‘And Otherness’  and the afro-jazz experiments of ‘Thither And Yon’.  On  ‘Adventure Equation’ a space echo treatment on the recording which is reprised for the sax flurries on ‘Voice Of Space’ making the whole experience even more disorientating than it already would be.”

Ra plays “astro space organ,” and the array of swirling tones, funky licks and smashing rhythms, aided and abetted by John Gilmore on bass clarinet, Marshall Allen on oboe, and arrangements that sometimes had multiple horns dueling in the upper register and other times pivoting off careening beats, outraged those in the jazz community who thought Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane had already taken things too far.

It’s beyond fucked up and it’s awesome.

I’m not likely going to be playing this with the girls around but while planking (my second successful 5-minute plank I might add) on my mat in my basement office, it’s an ideal listening experience.

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