Tuesday Evening Vinyl

Well, I finally get to ditch the brace on the gimpy hand.  Definitely some progress and I have been officially cleared to ride, swim and resume somewhat normal physical activity.  Yay!  Not that I can do much at the moment, mind you.   Anyway, I celebrated this evening with a short, stress-free yet wet bike ride with the wife followed by a steak fajita bowl for dinner and this ‘The Hawk and Rock‘  album by Ronnie Hawkins.

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This is a live recording made in the UK and released on LP in 1982 by Trilogy Records International.

It also has a bird on it.

The performance was recorded at Dingwalls in London, England where I have seen many other bands when I lived there in the early-mid 90’s, so that’s also kind of neat.

By this point, ‘ol Ronnie was pretty much at the height of his career at 47 years old.  That’s only three years older than I am now and, judging by his photos, he sure looked old  for 47.  Or maybe I’m just that beautiful. 

Just sayin’…

It’s a fine collection of Ronnie classics along with impressive covers of Chuck Berry (‘Forty Days‘, ‘Johnny B. Goode‘), Elvis Presley (‘That’s All Right Mama‘), Carl Perkins (‘Matchbox‘) and Bo Diddley (‘Bo Diddley‘, ‘Who Do You Love?‘).

I have no idea how or when this album ever came to be in my collection.  It has just always been there.  What I learned this evening however is that is also has a very cool booklet of pictures inside documenting the span of Mr. Dynamo’s career which was fun to browse through while listening along with a mouthful of steak and rice.

And now while the wifey goes to bed, I’m going to entertain myself with a bowl of popcorn and a cheesy ass movie I rented from the library, ‘10,000 BC‘ which is bound to be a real Shitfest, but what’ya gonna do?

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Grillin’ n’ Chillin’

While I was out cycling to and from this evening’s spin class – you know, out kickin’ ass n’ such – my wife was home grillin’ up some steak, corn and taters which is awesome, right?  So my only contribution to this evening’s meal is the later “chillin” part of this evenings program, namely the ‘Wake of the Flood‘  album by the Grateful Dead.

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After satisfying their nine-title/dozen-disc deal with Warner Brothers, the Dead began their own record labels: Grateful Dead Records (for group releases) and Round Records (for solo projects).  ‘Wake of the Flood‘  was the first Dead disc issued (1973) entirely under the band’s supervision – which also included manufacturing and marketing.

Additionally, the personnel had been altered as Ron “Pigpen” McKernan had passed away.  The keyboard responsibilities were now in the capable hands of Keith Godchaux – whose wife Donna Jean Godchaux also provided backing vocals. It had been nearly three years since ‘American Beauty‘ – their previous and most successful studio album to date – and, as always, the Dead had been honing the material in concert. A majority of the tracks had been incorporated into their live sets – some for nearly six months – prior to entering the recording studio. This gave the band a unique perspective on the material, much of which remained for the next 20-plus years as staples of their concert performances.

some of my favorites I might add.

However, the inspiration and magic of the Dead’s music has always been a challenge to capture in the non-reciprocal confines of a studio. Therefore, while ‘Wake of the Flood‘  was certainly as good – if not arguably better than – most of their previous non-live efforts, it still falls short of the incendiary performances the band was giving during this era.

I mean, how could it not?

It’s the Dead – live is what they do.

There are a few tracks that do tap into some of the Dead’s jazzier and exceedingly improvisational nature. ‘Eyes of the World’  contains some brilliant ensemble playing – although the time limitations inherent in the playback medium result in the track fading out just as the Dead start to really cook.  Another highlight is Bob Weir’s ‘Weather Report Suite‘,  which foreshadows the epic proportions that the song would ultimately reach.  In later years, the band dropped the opening instrumental ‘Prelude’, as well as ‘Part One‘, choosing to pick it up for the extended ‘Let It Grow‘  section (one of my live performance favorites).  The lilting Jerry Garcia ballad ‘Stella Blue‘  is another track that works well in this incarnation and remained in the Dead’s rotating set list for the remainder of their touring careers.

Personally, despite often being over-looked by old school Dead alum, this is one of my favorite Dead albums aside from ‘Working Man’s Dead‘.  The real bonus is that even Kelly said that is was “pretty, actually”.

Heh.

Plus it has a bird on the back cover to make HRH  happy.  It might be a big scary black raven, but a oiseau nonetheless.

Score!

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Fixin’ Dinner

I accomplished all today’s goals; both fitness (well, what constitutes itself as “fitness” these days) and domestic.  Oh, and I even showered.  Yay me!  So that just leaves dinner left to prepare and down the last dregs of my growlerful of Redline BreweryOh, Sorry‘.  And, seeing as how Kelly’s not home yet, that also means another record turned up louder than usual (ie. louder than Kelly allows), in this case the ‘Winwood‘  album by Steve Winwood.

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‘Winwood’  is the first compilation album of Winwood’s.

Yeah, yeah, I know…”Compilation” is just a fancier way of saying “Greatest Hits”.

Well, suck it up.  It was given to me for free and Steve Winwood is awesome so, nuff said…

Hate if you have to.

Anyway, this two-record set was issued in 1971 by United Artists Records and features music which Winwood performed with The Spencer Davis Group, Powerhouse, Traffic and Blind Faith.

United Artists Records issued this album after Winwood’s band Traffic left the label when their own home label Island Records set up their own American operation.  Issued without Winwood’s authorization as catalogue number UAS-9950, it was taken off the market after legal action by Winwood and Island Records.  It was later reissued with minor changes as catalogue number UAS-9964 (my copy) and is now currently out of print.  So, that makes it kinda rare.

Again, hate if you have to.

Lots of great tunes here including a few that I do not have on other preexisting albums in  my collection like ‘Cross Roads‘ (Powerhouse) and ‘Gimme Some Lovin‘ and ‘I’m a Man‘ (Spencer Davis Group).  Great music to chop, boil, stir, drink and what have you.

P.S.> I would also be remiss to add that I also wasted nearly two hours this afternoon in-between being a Domestic Hero by watching what might be the worst move to have ever graced the big screen: ‘Armageddon’.

Sue me.

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Core

Aside from laundry, vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage (do I live the life or what?) my goals for this afternoon are two-fold, this quick and dirty core session and an easy bike ride later on.  So, kicking off my “on the mat” session this afternoon is another Goodwill Hunting find, ‘The Lonely Bull‘ album by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.

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For the record, that’s ‘ol Herb raising a glass in some sort of toast on the cover, not him taking a selfie as I first though.

Just sayin’…

The colossus that is A&M Records starts right here with the first album by the 1960’s instrumental juggernaut known as the Tijuana Brass. True, there was no “Tijuana Brass” per se at this time; just Herb Alpert and a coterie of Los Angeles sessionmen, with Alpert overdubbing himself on trumpet to get that bullring effect.  Also, Alpert was just getting the TJB concept underway; the textures are leaner, the productions less polished, and the accent is more consciously on a Mexican mariachi ambience – the relatively square rhythms, the mandolins, the mournful, wistful siesta feeling – than the records down the road.

The hit title track (originally a tune called ‘Twinkle Star!‘) is a cleverly structured, exciting and haunting piece of record-making – and its composer, Sol Lake, becomes the charter member of Alpert’s team of TJB tunesmiths with several more ethnic-flavored numbers. In accordance with the newly emerging bossa nova movement, Alpert does a nice, straightforward, authentic cover of ‘Desafinado‘, even departing a bit from the tune with some spare jazz-inspired licks, and ‘Crawfish‘  pleasingly adapts the mariachi horn sound to a bossa beat.

The album itself is a whole lot mellower than other Herb Alpert albums in my collection but that’s fine by me because, well, I’m not moving so quickly either.  It’s also a bit chewed up but, hey, what do you expect for ¢50 at the local thrift shop?  Besides, I don’t mind the odd snap, crackle and pop as – today anyway – it drowns out the same potential sounds emanating from my poor left hand.  Got some good planks, crunches and squats done anyway, so onward and forward…

Bring on the bike.

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Easy Run (5.25k)

I completed a short 1000m drill swim this afternoon and it’s hot as all hell out right now so, yeah, why not go for a short and easy 5.25k run (3 x 1.5k easy run w/ 250m walking recovery) to boot; talk about being a total glutton for punishment.  Anyway, this afternoon’s Glamilicious soundtrack is another classic album by T. Rex, ‘Bolan’s Zip Gun‘.

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Having reinvented himself as a bionic soulboy across the course of 1974’s ‘Zinc Alloy‘, ‘Bolan’s Zip Gun‘  was less a reiteration of Marc’s new direction than a confirmation of it.

Much of the album returns to the understated romp he had always excelled at – the delightful knockabout ‘Precious Star‘, the unrepentant boogie of ‘Till Dawn‘  and the pounding title track all echo with the effortless lightheartedness which was Bolan at his most carelessly buoyant, while ‘Token of My Love‘  is equally incandescent, a playful blues which swiftly became a major in-concert favorite.

But the essence of this album remains firmly in the funky pastures which characterized ‘Zinc Alloy‘, with the only significant difference lying in the presentation. Out went the plush production which so diluted the earlier set, to be replaced by a sparser sound which emphasized the rhythms, heightened the backing vocals, and left rock convention far behind. ‘Light of Love‘, ‘Golden Belt‘  and the heavyweight ballad ‘I Really Love You Babe‘  may not be Stax-sized attractions, but they have an earthy authenticity nevertheless, while bonus tracks on the Edsel remaster include single-only stabs at ‘Dock of the Bay‘  and ‘Do You Wanna Dance‘, further indications of just how seriously Bolan was taking his new role – and how far he’d moved from the bopping elf of three years earlier.

The difference was, in 1972, Marc Bolan was a God.  By 1975, he was barely even a minor deity. It was, of course, the old, old story.  When he made records that sounded like the old ones, the kids all complained he’d stagnated and lost it.  When he made records that didn’t sound like them, then they moaned even louder that things just weren’t the same. So he made ones that fell smack between the two poles, and that wasn’t right either. And yet, played back to back alongside the “classics,” there ain’t much wrong with any of them.

Whatever was the fuss all about, then?

Decades on, each of Bolan’s latter day albums retain a hint of their original controversy, but hindsight lends them an impact (and, for what it’s worth, a credibility) which contemporary listeners could never have imagined.  And this album, which scored the worst reviews of all, hits as hard as any of them.

I’m surely not complaining considering that my body currently feels like a melting ice cream cone.

Word.

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Waiting’ on Kelly

She promised me natchos.  I’ve held up my end of the bargain by choppin’ up all the veggies n’ shit but, hey, where’s Kelly?  She no home.  So until she actually arrives home and fires up the ‘ol natcho platter as promised, I’m makin’ due with another record, the ‘Motel Shot‘  by Delaney & Bonnie.

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The magic of the late-night jam session is one of those rock & roll legends that, much like Bigfoot, doesn’t have a lot of concrete evidence to support it.  But Delaney & Bonnie believed in it strongly enough to try to put one on tape.

Released in 1971, ‘Motel Shot‘  was intended to document the sound and vibe of the after-show jams that Mr. and Mrs. Bramlett often took part in while on the road.  After an attempt to record one such jam in the living room of recording engineer Bruce Botnick, Delaney & Bonnie and their friends ended up doing it over again in a recording studio.

But if this album doesn’t seem as spontaneous as the principals wanted it to be, it does have a loose, playful feel that’s honestly winning.  The performances are almost entirely acoustic, and the set is dominated by traditional blues, gospel, and country standards that this crew could ease into comfortably and bend to their moods. Given that Delaney & Bonnie’s friends for these sessions included Duane Allman, Leon Russell, John Hartford, Dave Mason, Gram Parsons, and Joe Cocker, it’s no great surprise that this material is significantly more accomplished that most folks’ musical goofing around, even if Jim Keltner is just slapping an empty box instead of playing a drum kit.

And Delaney & Bonnie are both in fine voice on this album, passionate but very much in the moment, while the gospel jam of ‘Takin’ About Jesus‘  features some powerful vocal interplay between Bonnie and Cocker. You can’t plan a moment of spontaneous brilliance, but Delaney & Bonnie were just smart enough to know their muse didn’t like to be forced, and ‘Motel Shot‘  is an admirable compromise between a 2am guitar pull and an acoustic studio session, and it was also their last truly effective album.

Oh, and when we finally got around to it…the nachos were awesome.

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Choppin’ n’ a-Dicin’

I enjoyed a beautiful 30k bike ride today on my dad’s bike (click HERE) after my physio and tonight, Kelly and I are enjoying our first childless evening in, well, forever, by feasting over a plate of nachos and pints of Redline BrewingOh, Sorry’ and watching Big Brother.  So at the moment, I’m chopping up all the tomatoes, onions, lettuce and peppers and listening to the ‘Sound of the Sitar‘  album by Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha.

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Because when you chop veggies, you may as well listen to Hindi sitar music, right?

By far the most famous of all sitar players, Ravi Shankar has long been a beacon of light for Indian music worldwide.  This 1965 release is most noted for having been George Harrison‘s introduction to Indian music.  So, if you want to honor ‘ol George or get your “Harrison-Shankar” on…this is your album.

Of course, this makes it then one great World addition to the ‘ol collection.

Essentially, ‘Sound of the Sitar‘ is made up of four compositions. The first, ‘Raga Malkauns: Alap‘  is a slow, reflective piece that I will likely use again in future home yoga sessions.  According to Shankar, the section of a raga known as the “Alap”  is difficult to play because it is an invocation, a prayer meant to be performed with great humility. The second piece is, ‘Raga Malkauns: Jor‘.  The “Jor” section of a raga is based on a rhythmic pulse and does not a have a strict rhythmic time cycle like the Alap.  As this piece develops, much like Western music, it becomes more dense and climactic. The third piece, ‘Tala Sawari‘  includes a wonderful tabla solo by Alla Rakha and uses boles, vocal mnemonics that imitate the various tones produced on the drums. The final selection, ‘Pahar Dhun‘  is a cheerful improvisation based on the folk melodies of India.

While I admit that I don’t necessarily listen to World or sitar music very often, I felt that in order to consider myself as a well rounded (musically, not physically) music aficionado that it would be wise to have at least one go-to album in my collection that I a) reflects that, and b) I actually enjoy and will play again.

This album accomplishes both.

I have to say, there is something strangely therapeutic about chopping veg and listening to sitar music.  Oscar the Cat, however, would disagree wholeheartedly.  Myself?  I find it extremely relaxing; almost meditative in nature.  Never mind “Yoga with Goats” or “Dancing with Llamas”, this is the next best thing in hipster entrepreneurial endeavors: “Chopping Vegetables with Sitars”.

Coming to a studio near you!

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