Yoga Stretch

I put some real distance into ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning this morning over 18.5k of pavement out to Sherkston and back (with some additional detours thrown in for good measure) and, while things were a bit sore afterwards everything is, well, not so bad at the moment.  Maybe accompanying Kelly up and down the aisles at Wegmen’s afterwards wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Anyway, I’m home now and indulging in a light yoga just to keep things nice and limber prior to tomorrow’s planned long bike ride.  My soundtrack for this evening’s stretch is the ‘At the Bal Masque‘  album by Duke Ellington.

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I found this at the Niagara Record Shop in downtown St. Catharines yesterday afternoon after being hassled out of the ‘Antique & Collectible Co.‘ store in Welland by some bitchy lady who couldn’t even let me purchase the few records I did find in the short time she allowed me to browse because she “had no money to make change”.

Umm, really?

Interestingly, her way around this dilemma was to pull out other records that I wasn’t interested in simply because their combined prices would then add up to an amount she would have to break up a $20 bill for.

The fuck?

Who does  that?

I only wish I was joking.

So I promptly took my business elsewhere before I gave in to the temptation to dropkick her square in the cooter.

The upshot to all this is that this is one of the awesome albums that I ended coming back with instead and any Ellington album that I already don’t own is a good album.

Having said that, one Ellington’s more unusual albums of the ’50s (1958 actually), this live session finds the orchestra performing such songs as ‘Got a Date with an Angel‘, ‘The Peanut Vendor‘, ‘Indian Love Call‘, ‘Satan Takes a Holiday‘  and even ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf‘. And as original as fun as this set list is, sadly, most of these tunes he would never record again

Serious.

As the scoop goes, Ellington was doing a series of performances at the famed supper club at the Americana Hotel in Miami, Florida.  Inspired by the room’s masquerade decor, Ellington fashioned his own musical masquerade of the twelve couple, or compositions that make up this album.  Alice and the wolf, an angel and Satan, a butterfly and a peanut vendor, a satin doll and a donkey, the lady in red and a clown all paraded by, while Duke dressed like Carmen Cavallaro, sat at the piano and hosted the party.  This album then is the recording of that affair, featuring the full Ellington band and soloists in a program of a dozen danceable standards.

Eat your heart out, hippie freaks.

While certainly not the most essential of Ellington records, ‘At the Bal Masque‘  is still a surprise success and a very enjoyable listen while making my poor fatigued and sore quads, calves and glutes scream in agony.

Hurts so good, baby.

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Core

Well, here it is: the big Day 100.

That’s 100 days of planking, squatting, crunching, push-ups and other core stuff accomplished over a period of in 17 weeks (116 days) dating back to January 1st, 2017.

I’m not gonna lie…I’m pretty proud of that (click HERE).

Also significant today, is that today’s mat routine is set to the last of the John Mayall albums in my collection, ‘Notice to Appear‘.

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I love this album primarily for one reason:  ‘Hale to the Man Who Lives Alone‘.

That was my personal theme song for years and years and years.

And, yes, I know the word “hale” is spelled wrong but that’s just the way ‘ol Cranky John spelled it on the album cover so there.

I wouldn’t recommend you try to correct him either, believe me.

This album was released in 1976 and features rock n’ roll hall of famer Allan Toussaint who wrote most of this album (7 of 10 songs) and then joins John to perform.  In fact, Toussaint’s signature is all over this album, specifically ‘Just Knowing You Is A Pleasure‘, ‘L’il Boogie In the Afternoon‘, and ‘Who’s Next, Who’s Now‘.  As with so many great Toussaint compositions and arrangements, there’s nice, syncopated instrumental interplay to these songs, plus that insidious, repeated trilled riff that couldn’t be a better hook if it had a worm dangling on it (I will forgive him the cover the Beatles ‘A Hard Days Night‘ though).

Needless to say that it’s pretty hep, man.

It was probably not a big seller for the British blues legend, being another one of those ideas of getting a hot producer/songwriter to do your album that sounded better as a concept than in reality.  Having said that, the arrangements are expectedly outstanding, as is the playing by some of Toussaint’s heavy-hitting regulars of Herman Ernest (drums), James Booker (keyboards), Steve Hughes (guitar), Tony Broussard (bass), and Kim Joseph (congas) who are featured on three tracks.  and then there’s Mayall’s outstanding band at the time of Rick Vito, Larry Taylor (Canned Heat, Tom Waits, Phillip Walker), Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris, Jay Spell (Tower of Power, Jimmy Buffett), Soko Richardson, and Dee McKinnie, backing vocals.  Toussaint’s go-to horn section of Larry Bouin, Lon Price, and Nick Messina also come into play on a majority of the songs, as well.

So, yeah, despite it’s lack of commercial success at the time, this is a stellar fucking album!

A perfect soundtrack for my celebratory mat workout this afternoon.

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Walk of Shame (2k)

You win some, you loose some and for the last 7-8 workouts or so this week I’ve definitely been winning.

Yay me!

Confidence soaring.

This afternoon, however, that pendulum definitely swung in the opposite direction.  After a nearly two hour blast in the bike early this morning, I launched into what I hoped would resemble a tempo run this afternoon.  Never mind that’s 26° (feels like 30°) outside or that there’s currently 60% humidity…I can do this!

Right?

Wrong.

I mean, the first 12 minutes (2.5k) or so went totally awesome.

I felt great.

I was managing a 5:00min/km pace…easily.

Everything was turning over nicely, my breathing was under control, the legs felt good and then *POOF* … nothing.

Zero.

Nada.

Zilch-er-ino.

Nothing.

Before I know it I was submitting to needing a few walking intervals and then come the 6k mark – fuck it – I’m walking.

Just walking.

Confidence gone.

It’s lile someone through the OFF switch on my body.  So off goes the “tough guy” playlist and on comes ‘The Stability‘ EP by Death Cab for Cutie for the final 2k walk of shame through town with my tail between my legs.

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Fuck.

It.

This was a limited edition EP by the coveted Indie rockers released in February of 2002.  Besides the 12 minute long title track there’s three other numbers, the slow ‘20th Century Towers‘, ‘All Is Full Of Love’ (a Bjork cover), and the really short ‘Gridlock Caravans‘.

But, really, who gives a shit.

My run sucked.

Woe is me.

Time for a cold shower.

Oh, did I mention that our hot water heater isn’t working?

FML.

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Hump Day Vinyl

Welp, I survived it all: 3250m in the pool, 44.5k on the bike and a 1.16k brick run AND I feel pretty good.  Oh, and there some planking and squatting and plyometrics thrown in for good measure.  It’s time now then for some grilled sausage on a bun, some of Kelly’s amazing steak fries (a possible wobbly pop or two) and ‘The Unforgettable Fire‘  album by U2.

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Don’t judge – U2 had their moments.

In fact, if you have to own just one U2 album this is it.  ‘Rattle and Hum‘ and the ‘Joshua Tree‘  were really great albums in their own forthright – I might even acknowledge some fun moments on ‘Achtung Baby‘ – but this album would be my Desert Island choice for sure.

Lucky for me because it’s the U2 only album I own on vinyl.

In many ways, U2 took their fondness for sonic bombast as far as it could go on ‘War‘, so it isn’t a complete surprise that they chose to explore the intricacies of the Edge’s layered, effects-laden guitar on this follow-up album released in 1984.

Working with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2 created a dark, near-hallucinatory series of interlocking soundscapes that are occasionally punctuated by recognizable songs and melodies.

In such a setting, the band both flourishes and flounders, creating some of their greatest music, as well as some of their worst.  ‘Elvis Presley and America‘  may well be Bono’s most embarrassing attempt at poetry, yet it is redeemed by the chilling and wonderful ‘Bad‘, a two-chord elegy for an addict that is stunning in its control and mastery.  Similarly, the wet, shimmering textures of the title track, the charging ‘A Sort of Homecoming’, and the surging Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)‘  are all remarkable, ranking among U2’s very best music, making the missteps that clutter the remainder of the album somewhat forgivable.

Oh, and did you know that the actual recording of the album was done in part at Slane Castle?  However, the castle on the album is cover is actually that of Moydrum Castle, located just outside the town of Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland.

Take that knowledge to your next Music Trivia Night!

You’re welcome.

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Core

It’s back to the grind today with a “Triple Duty” training day:  swim (this morning), bike and short Brick Run (after work).  Well, actually I suppose it’s a quadruple training day because I also have this Day 99 of my 100 Day Challenge (click HERE) to complete as well.  For the occasion I am listening to the ‘A Hardcore Package‘  album by John Mayall.

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This is the second to last album in my catalog of “Cranky John” albums.  I found it at the St. Catharines Flea Market not long ago and it looks like it belonged to the CFBU record library at some point as well.

Released in 1977 on ABC Records, I suspect this is one of the lesser known Mayall albums out there.  In fact, if you Google it you will surprising turn up very little so I am flying solo on this one.

As ever, the band lineup is 100% eclectic; Steve Thompson (bass),  Soko Richardson (drums), Ann Patterson (flute), Jody Linscott (percussion) and a bunch of brass, horns and back-up singers to boot.  Needless to say, there’s a lot of shit going on here.

The album cover boasts “10 Funky New Songs” and that’s exactly what it is.  Mayall has always offered a unique twist on the blues by constantly reinventing himself and this album is certainly no different, this time gearing itself more towards the “cheese funk” that was gaining popularity at the time.  ‘Do I Please You‘ is likely the album’s best example of this in effect; it could easily have been a TV sitcom theme.

Other interesting tracks include the lead off track ‘Rock n’ Roll Hobo‘ (which is classic Mayall), ‘The Last Time‘, and ‘Goodnight Dreams‘.

While the album may not necessarily be the “hardcore package” as advertised (“softcore” might be more like it), it is still certainly a fun listen.

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Tuesday Night Vinyl

Now that the workout is over I am sitting down with my new book (‘Road to Sparta‘, by Dean Karnazes), a yummy burrito bowl courtesy of my sweetheart and the ‘Ghost In the Machine’  album by The Police.

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Even before I even knew who the Police were and came a-“De do do do, de da da da“-ing into my life, and long before the ‘Synchronicity‘ album (on cassette no less) ever ended up in my mailbox thanks to a forgotten response to Columbia House, I owned one of those 80’s black and white rock t-shirts with the three-quarter sleeves with the three seven-segment display-inspired graphic (said to depict the heads of the three band members, each with a distinctive hair style – from left to right, Andy Summers, Sting with spiky hair, and Stewart Copeland with a fringe) from the album cover on it.

I have no idea where I actually got the shirt but it made me feel like a bad ass.

Little did I know at the time that The Police were hardly considered as “bad ass”, but I still thought of myself as a fan nonetheless.

Yes, even though I had no idea who they were.

Of course, I would eventually figure it out thanks to FM radio and, of course, Columbia House.

So when our friend Leslie offered this album to HRH  this past Christmas, it was with fondness that I recalled that shirt and my first inklings of Sting and the boys.

‘Ghost in the Machine’  is the 4th studio album by by the band (released in 1981 on A&M Records) and recorded during sessions that took place at AIR Studios in Montserrat and Le Studio in Quebec.  The album reached #1 in the UK Albums Chart and #2 in the U.S. Billboard 200 and was listed at #323 in the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

Much of the material in the album was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s ‘The Ghost in the Machine’, and was actually the first Police album to bear an English-language title.

Huh.

Anyway, by this time the band had more or less streamlined their sound to focus more on their pop side and less on their trademark reggae-rock. Their jazz influence had become more prominent, as evidenced by the appearance of saxophones on several tracks. The album spawned three big hits, such as ‘Spirits in the Material World‘ (where the central rhythms are played by a synthesizer instead of guitar in order to mask the reggae connection), ‘Invisible Sun‘, a tribute to those living amid the turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland circa the early ’80s and the ever popular ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic‘, which topped the U.K. singles chart and nearly did the same in the U.S. (#3).   In fact, these form the big 1-2-3 punch that kick off the album.

The rest, well, not so much.

Hungry For You‘ is okay, but then there’s the total shipwrecks that are ‘Omegaman’, ‘Demolition Man‘, the barely containable ‘Rehumanize Yourself‘, and a pair of album-closing ballads (‘Secret Journey‘, ‘Darkness‘) that will completely waffle stomp your eardrums into total submission.

So while I’m still not overly impressed with the album, I do miss that t-shirt and if I ever see one again at a flea market or thrift shop somewhere, I’m totally picking it up.

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Fartlek Run (10.68k)

Well, Mother Nature decided to allow a window for me to get outside after work to accomplish today’s 10.68k fartlek run so I took her up on her kind offer and got ma shit done up and down Tunder Bay Rd. fo schizzle.  My soundtrack this evening was the ‘When I Was Born for the 7th Time‘  by Cornershop.

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This album instantly transports me back on London, 1997; I was broke, existing on a strict diet of real ale, Drum rolling tobacco and cheaper-than-cheap lamb kebobs and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

This album represents a remarkable leap forward for Cornershop, the place where the group blends all of their diverse influences into a seamless whole.

The band uses Indian music as a foundation*, finding its droning repetition similar to the trancier elements of electronica, the cut-and-paste collages of hip-hop, and the skeletal melodicism of indie pop.  Tying all of these strands together, the band creates a multicultural music that is utterly modern; it is conscious of its heritage, but instead of being enslaved to tradition, it pushes into the future and finds a common ground between different cultures and musics. Like ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It‘, large portions of this album are devoted to hypnotic instrumentals, but the music here is funkier and fully realized.

Cornershop hits an appealing compromise between detailed arrangements and lo-fi technology. There may be cheap keyboards and drum machines scattered throughout the album, but they are used as sonic texturing, similar to the turntables, synthesizers, samplers, sitars, and guitars that drive the instrumentals punctuating the full-fledged songs.

When it chooses, Cornershop can write hooky, immediate pop songs – ‘Sleep on the Left Side‘  and ‘Brimful of Asha‘  (which I must say, the chorus of “every man needs a bosom for a pillow”  is as amazing as it is true) are wonderful pop singles, and ‘Good to Be on the Road Back Home‘  is an impressive, country-tinged tale – but what makes this album such a rich, intoxicating listen is that it balances these melodic tendencies with deceptively complex arrangements, chants, drones, electronic instrumentals, and funky rhythms, resulting in an album that becomes better with each listen.  The highlight for me that embodies this principle is ‘Good Shit‘ which is, well, really  good shit.

Today run was another test in completing 8 x 2 minute intervals at a sub-5k pace and…nailed it.  I’m still reacquiring my fitness but this makes three run workouts in a row that I feel somewhat good about so, yeah, things are looking up…unlike the complete fuckwit speeding along in a stupid-sized black pickup that almost ran me over while texting.

*Which might explain why I associated with this album on such a deep level back then as, where I happened to be living at the time (West Ealing), you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting an authentic curry house.

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