Thursday Evening Vinyl

Well, my progression run did not so well.  Basically, 2k into my planned 80 minute run this evening my legs just said “Nope.  Not today, bud”, and that was that.

So I’m home now and attempting to console myself with another Brimstone BrewingSinister Minister‘ and BBQ-ing a chicken breast and frying up some bacon for this evenings meal of homemade Caesar salad.  Keeping things light and lively on the turntable is the eponymous album by Paul Simon.

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I figured, hey, since I died a horrible death in the current heat and humidity this evening anyway, why not listen to an album with a guy dressed in a parka on the cover?

Why the fuck not?

Anyway, this is another donation to the collection courtesy of Uncle Lance.

This is Simon’s second album, released in the year of my birth (1972), nearly two years after he split up with longtime musical partner Art Garfunkel.  From the opening cut, ‘Mother and Child Reunion‘ (a Top Ten hit), Simon, who had snuck several subtle musical explorations into the generally conservative S&G sound, broke free, heralding the rise of reggae with an exuberant track recorded in Jamaica for a song about death.  From there, it was off to Paris for a track in South American style and a rambling story of a fisherman’s son, ‘Duncan‘ (which made the singles chart).

But most of the album had a low-key feel, with Simon on acoustic guitar backed by only a few trusted associates (among them Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, David Spinozza, Mike Manieri, Ron Carter, and Hal Blaine, along with such guests as Stefan Grossman, Airto Moreira, and Stephane Grappelli), singing a group of informal, intimate, funny, and closely observed songs (among them the lively Top 40 hit ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard‘).  Personally, I think it’s a crime that ‘Armistice Day‘  has never appeared on any of Paul’s Greatest Hits compilations.

It was miles removed from the big, stately ballad style of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘ and signaled that Simon was a versatile songwriter as well as an expressive singer with a much broader range of musical interests than he had previously demonstrated.  Likewise, you didn’t miss ‘ol Art here either, not only because Simon didn’t write Garfunkel-like showcases for himself, but because the songs he did write showed off his own, more varied musical strengths.

Tomorrow’s plan calls for an early open water swim and then preparations need to be made for the weekends big festivities:  namely, Saturday’s long 180k simulation ride and brick run and then Sunday’s last long run (and possible double run).

Just three more days to go…

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Yoga Stretch

Four more days of “Iron Build” before the taper.  C’mon taper!  Sweet, sweet taper.

Today’s tasks involved another early morning 73k tempo ride with lots of strong pulls at the front of the group into the wind and later on, an 80 minute progression run – my least favorite of all my workouts, and my last  I might add.  So in anticipation of this evenings “suckfest”, this afternoon’s lunchtime activity is a little preparation bendy-twisty on my yoga mat with the ‘Push the Sky Away‘  album by Nick Cave.

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It had been nearly five years since Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds issued the manic, intense rock cabaret that was ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!‘   Since then, the formation and breakup of Grinderman yielded two studio offerings, and Cave and Warren Ellis have composed a few film scores.

Push the Sky Away‘, produced by Nick Launay, is painted with a deliberately limited sonic palette by Ellis.  The album’s sequencing makes it feel like a long, moody suite….which, truthfully, is perfect for doing a slow restorative yoga session.  Particularly when my mood these days is, well, let’s just say I’m not exactly “Mr. Sunshine”.

Anyhoo…

While most of these songs contain simple melodies and arrangements that offer the appearance of vulnerability and tenderness, it is inside this framework that they eventually reveal their sharp fangs and malcontent.  Opener – and first single – ‘We No Who U R‘  is reminiscent of ‘Your Funeral, My Trial‘  in its intent, but musically Ellis’ sparse loops, flute, and a backing vocal chorus lend it an elegiac feel that belies the threat in the lyric.  ‘Water’s Edge‘, with its rumbling bassline, eerie piano, and Ellis’ droning violin loops, is more overt in its sinister menace.

We Real Cool‘  uses that thrumming bassline too.  Instantly taut, one awaits an explosion that never arrives – musically.  Here, and elsewhere on this recording, the listener is exhorted to walk an emotional tightrope between the human qualities in Cave’s characters as speaking subjects and the more distasteful, disgusting traits that make them objects of repulsion. ‘Finishing Jubilee Street‘  features Ellis’ electric guitar in bluesy resonance as it drones atop a strummed 12-string acoustic before layered strings begin marching toward a dramatic catharsis. ‘Higgs Boson Blues‘, the set’s longest cut, uses the drum kit and electric guitars in a similarly long, formless blues that displays Cave in near rant mode; his black humor is evident inside sociological observations with Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana as characters. ‘Mermaids‘  employs humor too; from the start nearly obscene, it moves beyond its joke and becomes both a love song and a romantic elegy about the disappearance of the place of myth in Western spiritual life. Cave’s protagonist believes in them all and laments them like an abandoned lover. The title track rises from the ether, driven by guest (and former Bad Seed) Barry Adamson’s bassline and Ellis’ eerie organ, which takes the foreground. It’s a paean of determination in the face of grievous loss.

Push the Sky Away‘ is the first Bad Seeds record without Mick Harvey; the inherent lyricism and relative lushness in his musical arrangements are missed here. Despite excellent songs, this album feels more like an extension of Cave and Ellis’ cinematic work than a classic Bad Seeds record.  And I mean that as a good thing.  The sonic sea change is deliberate; but historically, given their vastly musical nature, this more economical approach is jarring, though seductive.

Hopefully, this listen (and stretch) has allowed to exorcise a few of the demons in my mind, body and spirit and will (again, hopefully) allow me to get the final workout accomplished with minimal issues this evening.

God willing.

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Wednesday Evening Vinyl

HRH  and I successfully completed our first open water swim this evening in the canal at the Welland International Flatwater Center.

It was a bit cold but we survived.  Actually, it was awesome and it felt great and I can’t wait to get out and do more of it in the coming weeks; God I love open water swimming.

Now as I warm myself up over the BBQ while grilling up some chicken breasts and tossing back a Brimstone BrewingSinister Minister‘, I’m busting out this ‘Festival Sessions‘  album by Duke Ellington.

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Duke Ellington was constantly composing new material as well as creating new arrangements of vintage works, as heard on this Columbia LP recorded in 1959, a consistently invigorating album, recorded just after a highly successful run on the U.S. summer jazz festival circuit in ’59.

In spite of the title, this is a studio album that primarily features Duke presented at the Newport and Playboy Jazz festivals during 1959.  The 1956 Newport Jazz Festival (the third edition of that event), had proven to be essential for Ellington’s career, which at the time was struggling due to the hardships of sustaining a big band.  Newport gave jazz a new popular dimension, taking it from small closed nightclub performances to an outdoor stage in broad daylight.

This album helps highlight that transition in studio form.

‘Perdido‘  is an extended feature for Clark Terry’s virtuoso flügelhorn, though this would be his final studio session as a regular member of the Ellington band.  ‘Copout Extension‘,  a longer version of an earlier work called ‘Copout‘, showcases marathon soloist Paul Gonsalves on tenor sax.  Among the new pieces, the three-part suite ‘Duel Fuel‘  features drummers Jimmy Johnson and Sam Woodyard, though the piece was dropped from the band book after 1960.  ‘Idiom ’59‘  is another new three-part suite, with the elegant clarinet of Russell Procope, clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton’s more raucous styling, and finally, the leader paired with Terry (again on flügelhorn).  This suite had an even shorter life; it had been premiered at the Newport Jazz Festival earlier in the year, and this was its second and final performance.

Ellington’s brisk swinging chart of ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be‘  spotlights the matchless alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, who was always as ready to play the blues as he was ballads. ‘Launching Pad‘, though credited to Ellington, was actually written by Terry and orchestrated by the pianist. This sassy blues strangely features Ray Nance instead of its composer as the trumpet soloist, along with a quartet consisting of Terry, Britt Woodman, Hamilton, and Gonsalves.

Definitely a fun listen, especially seeing as how both girls are in bed early and I simply enjoy it…in peace.

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Core

There’s just 5 more days left of “Iron Build”…and counting (click HERE).

(I have no idea why I posted that video.  That’s just what came to mind when I originally typed that opening line.  Just roll with it.)

Anyway, this morning then constitutes itself of an 80k time trial down the Niagara Parkway early this morning and this evenings the plan is to take my first open water dip at the Welland International Flatwater Center with HRH.  So that leaves this lunchtime wide open for a quick core workout (Day 117) with this ‘Cyclone‘  album by Tangerine Dream.

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Like them or not, any self-respecting music aficionado should have at least one Tangerine Dream record in their collection and there really is no excuse to not seeing as how the band has released, literally, about a billion albums.

Okay, I exaggerate…but barely.

The band has easily released over a hundred albums and another 60+ movie soundtracks over the span of 48 years, making them one of the most prolific bands, only, ever.  This just happens to be the token Tangerine Dream album in my collection that I picked up somewhere along the line for about a buck.

The band was originally formed in 1969 by Edgar Froese and has seen many personnel changes over the years, with Froese being the only continuous member until his death in January of 2015.  Noted electronic music artist, drummer, and composer Klaus Schulze was briefly a member in an early lineup. The best known and most constant line-up of the group, which worked during their most influential mid-1970s period, was a trio with Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann.

This album was released just after this period in 1978, and sees the inclusion of Steve Jolliffe, who added that extra Yes-like progressive rock influence with wind instruments and keyboards.  This was also the first TD album to incorporate lyrics and vocals (also from Steve Jolliffe).  By this point, the sound more centered on shifting arpeggiation over percussive rhythm structures, with ‘Madrigal Meridian‘  being an impressive example of this.  Jolliffe’s vocal contributions on ‘Bent Cold Sidewalk‘  and ‘Rising Runner Missed by Endless Sender‘  provide an aggressive edge that effectively catapults the listener from the hypnotic pulse that Tangerine Dream are best known for.

I’m not sure how I settled on listening to this album this afternoon as I really haven’t even so much as glanced at it in over a decade.  I can honestly say that I was never the hugest Tangerine Dream fan but I do believe in strictly adhering to the “Collector’s Code” and did my due diligence to own at least one TD album in order to maintain my official music aficionado status.

Thing is, listening to it with fresh ears this afternoon – I really enjoyed it.  Hell, I might even have to pick up a few others which should be simple seeing as how every used record shop, online vendor and flea market booth operator should easily have about a three dozen TD records that they will be literally begging people – anyone – to take them off their hands.

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Tuesday Night Vinyl

I successfully completed my training day and even zipped into St. Catharines to get Lucille all kitted out with another slick-looking bottle holder for our second 180k Ironman simulation ride this Saturday.  So after a dinner of sausage and corn-on-the-cob, I’m tucking into one chapter of my book and this ‘Rich Versus Roach‘  album.

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This was another 20-Mod Retro Shop purchase a few weeks back.

As the title suggests, this album (recorded and released over the span of two days in 1959) features two the the preeminent drummers of the day – Buddy Rich and Max Roach – squaring off against one another  with their respective bands of the time.  The result is an exciting series of challenges between the instrumentalists, with an emphasis on the skills of both leaders. Buddy Rich and Max Roach opened up all the stops in a friendly-but-furious contest.

The description on the back of the album cover says it all:

“The idea behind this album was a simple one.  Take the five-piece group led by two of the greatest drummers in jazz, put them face to face in a recording studio, provide them with arrangements for ensemble choruses, then let them blow.”

Easy, right?

I mean, seriously…look at these two on the front cover!  It’s like the classic Ali vs. Foreman “Rumble In the Jungle”, but with dudes in suits and wielding drum sticks.

Knowing Buddy’s famous temper, however, this probably really was a battle of the drummers!  Apart from being a drum-heavy set, though, the album’s actually got a bunch of hip players – including Julian Prietser, Tommy Turrentine, and Stanley Turrentine from Max’s group, the three of whom keep things strong when called upon to solo. Tracks include ‘Sleep‘, ‘The Casbah‘, ‘Limehouse Blues‘, and ‘Big Foot‘.

time now to settle down to watch ‘Hidden Figures‘ with Kelly before hitting the sack.

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Speed Run (9.47k)

It’s my last week of “Iron Build” before I begin my all-haloed taper, and the whole shebang begins with  running another 9.47k worth of 300m (10x) intervals.  Well, okay, I did swim 3600m this morning, but this is the workout that I dread the most.

God help me.

This afternoon’s soundtrack speedy anthem is the ‘I See Good Spirits & I See Bad Spirits‘ by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

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The first full-length album from the Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy-led performance art/film/music collective, ‘I See Good Spirits & I See Bad Spirits‘  came out just after the group’s self-titled EP in December of 1988.

A somewhat mixed affair, this Wax Trax! offering still had an impact on house dancefloors and college radio play lists with its pulsing beats and nihilistic messages of religious and cultural waste and universal darkness.  Because, hey, who doesn’t love dancing to an amalgam of heavy dance rhythms, horror film sampling, and quasi-Satanic imagery?

Or running for that matter?

On tracks like ‘Gateway to Hell‘  and ‘…And Is What the Devil Does‘, TKK trademark ornaments like obscure film samples and sneering vocals establish what would become the bands sonic calling card.

While not quite as bold or successful as groundbreaking releases like ‘Sexplosion!‘  or ‘Kooler Than Jesus‘ (report inevitably coming soon to a blog near you), this album is nonetheless an important early release from one of the most respected and artistic quasi-industrial outfits of the ’80s and ’90s.

Today’s run went rather well.  Well in the fact that it’s wasn’t stupid hot and humid out, although the westerly wind made the last few intervals suck more than they needed to.  ‘Ol Thunder n’ Lightning feel pretty good and I could console myself when they didn’t by rationalizing to myself that this was my last speed workout.

That’s right bitches, no more stupid intervals or 30 second sprints or whatever.  Unless it’s for the bar at last call or, maybe to the bathroom after one too many morning coffee and eggs.

How’s that for “seeing good spirits”?

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Relaxing (Part 3)

Twas a good day.  I read, I lounged around all lazy-like, I had a sandwich, a steak, some corn, a beer (two actually) and, later, we’re even going to play a little frisbee at the beach.  Tomorrow it’s back to the grind for my last big”Iron Build” week, so I’m wrapping up today’s “Do Nothing” day with one last beer (well, the nights still young) and the ‘Transformer‘  album by Lou Reed.

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This was another hep (yes, I used the word “hep”) find at the 20-Mod Retro Shop in Fort Erie.

David Bowie was never been shy about acknowledging his influences, and since the boho decadence and sexual ambiguity of the Velvet Underground‘s music had a major impact on Bowie’s work, it was only fitting that as Ziggy Stardust mania was reaching its peak, Bowie would offer Lou Reed some much needed help with his career, which was stuck in neutral after his first solo album came and went.

Musically, Reed’s work didn’t have too much in common with the sonic bombast of the glam scene, but at least it was a place where his eccentricities could find a comfortable home, and on ‘Transformer‘  released in 1972, Bowie and his right-hand man, Mick Ronson, crafted a new sound for Reed that was better fitting (and more commercially astute) than the ambivalent tone of his first solo album.

Ronson adds some guitar raunch to ‘Vicious‘ and  ‘Hangin’ Round‘ that’s a lot flashier than what Reed cranked out with the Velvet’s, but still honors Lou’s strengths in guitar-driven hard rock, while the imaginative arrangements Ronson cooked up for ‘Perfect Day‘,  ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘, and ‘Goodnight Ladies‘  blend pop polish with musical thinking just as distinctive as Reed’s lyrical conceits.  And while Reed occasionally overplays his hand in writing stuff he figured the glam kids wanted (‘Make Up‘ and ‘I’m So Free‘  being the most obvious examples), ‘Perfect Day‘, ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘, and ‘New York Telephone Conversation‘ proved he could still write about the demimonde with both perception and respect.  I would also be remiss to point out that ‘Satellite of Love‘ is also pretty cool.

The sound and style of this album would in many ways define Reed’s career in the 1970s, and while it led him into a style that proved to be a dead end, you can’t deny that Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life – and a solid album in the bargain.  In 2003, the album was ranked #194 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

My own personal Bible (Mojo, 1995) ranks this album at #45.

“And all the colored girls go, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo….”

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