Sittin’ Here in Limbo

I got snookered into taking HRH  to “the barn” (which, I’m hoping isn’t the current hip vernacular for “hey, let’s take lots of drugs and shoot guns while our parents think we’re grooming horses and throwing hay at one another”).

I know, I’m such a pushover, sucker.

So while that 90 minutes of whatever in Sam’s Hell it is they’re doing, I’m heading to Tim Horton’s with my coffee and journal for a coffee, a donut and this ‘Clouds Taste Metallic‘  album by The Flaming Lips.

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In 1995 the Lips released this hugely masterful album which continues the noise pop genius of ‘Transmissions‘  but adds a more mature sense of instrumentation, dense arrangements, epic songs that build and take off into space, lyrics about a headache that saves the world, watermelon guns, supernatural delays due to postmen being struck by lightning, animals escaping from the zoo, shooting your boss, so on and so forth.

Just another day at the office for Wayne Coyne.

The same extraordinary madness that infected the best work of Brian Wilson rears its head on the shimmering and melodic ‘Clouds Taste Metallic‘, a masterful collection which completes the Lips’ odyssey into the pop stratosphere. The ‘Pet Sounds‘  comparisons are obvious – two of the highlights are titled ‘This Here Giraffe‘ and ‘Christmas at the Zoo‘ – yet not unfair; like Brian Wilson, ‘ol Wayner has refined his unique vision into something both highly personal and powerfully universal. Similarly, while Coyne’s lyrics remain as acid-damaged and inscrutable as ever, his densely constructed songs convey emotional complexities far beyond the scope of their head-case titles (‘Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles‘, ‘Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World‘); galvanized by equal parts newfound maturity and childlike wonderment, this album is both the Flaming Lips’ most intricate and most irresistible work.

Now consider the context in which I’m listening to it.  I’m at the Timmy’s on Main Str.  Port Colborne, or “Ground Zero” when it comes to people watching in Ontario’s south coast.

It’s some pretty trippy shit, to be sure.

In fact, the albums opener ‘The Abandoned Hospital Ship‘  could be used as the soundtrack when this moment is featured in the pivotal scene in my future biopic, where I have my ultimate epiphany about life, the universe and my place in it.

I want Christian Slater to play my role in the movie.

Unfortunately, the people watching is not as epic as I had originally assumed it would be.  Honestly, I’m the sketchiest person here and likely culprit that parents are now cautiously routing their kids away from.

I can almost foresee the witness statement now:

“You could just tell that there just something off about him.  Like the way he ordered his long john served on an actual plate instead of in a bag like everyone else, and then just sat there in the corner with one of those old printing thingees and writing stuff down in one of them paper books.

And he kept cracking the knuckle of his left pinkie finger like the evil villain from a Bond film or something.  He was just weird, ya know?”

Welcome to Middle Age, bud.

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Weights

I’m starting to come out the other side of all the hacking, wheezing and snotting I suffered through this past weekend.  I enjoyed a crisp but sweet 37k ride this afternoon on my classic steel and now, I’m slipping in this light session with the weights before teaching my Masters Spin Class later.  And do I have something “fun” to listen to, the ‘Welcome to My Dream‘  album by MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

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‘Welcome to my Dream’  is the 2nd album by MC 900 Ft. Jesus (a classically trained musician from Dallas, Texas turned rapper and experimental musician named Griffin), released in 1991.

you might recall them from the ‘Falling Elevators‘ track which was featured in the 1996 Levi’s commercial “Washroom” (directed by Tarsem Singh) – click HERE.

No?

Me neither.

Or maybe it’s because the song ‘Killer Inside Me‘ is based on the book ‘The Killer Inside Me’  by American pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson.  Even U2 used a sample from ‘The City Sleeps‘ on the track ‘Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car‘ on their hugely popular ‘Zooropa’ album.

Still no?

Weird then that they have this imprint on our popular culture and yet very few people will even so much as recall them.

I do.

In a lot of ways, this album was a precursor to trip-hop, layering hip-hop beats over jazzy breaks and dream-like instrumentation. The problem is tracks like ‘Killer Inside Me‘ and ‘Adventures in Failure’: the backing tracks are killer and the delivery of the rhymes are top-notch, but they’re ultimately a bit silly, which makes it a bit hard to take the rest of the album seriously the way you could with, say, Portishead or Massive Attack. That’s a shame though because there are some great tracks here, like ‘The City Sleeps‘ and ‘Falling Elevators‘.  As before, DJ Zero scratches with aplomb.

It’s dark, jazzy and totally paranoid. It’s very apparent that Mr. Griffin had been listening to Miles Davis‘ ‘Bitches Brew‘ while writing a few of these songs, namely ‘Falling Elevators‘ and ‘O-Zone‘, but the homage is paid extremely well.

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Sunday Vinyl (Part 5)

I’m pretty fortunate that 95% of the time I get to pick the records, but sometimes you have to let out the reigns and let somebody else take over.  Even if it means that you end up listening to the self-titled album by Richard Marx.

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Regrettably, this is one of Kelly’s flea market purchases from last weekend and if our last album was named after whale barf, this 1987 album is whale barf.

*sigh*

The big critics of the day regarded this self-titled debut album was a finely crafted record of mainstream pop/rock. Marx understood how the melodies of up-tempo rockers like ‘Don’t Mean Nothin’‘, which I remember being hugely popular on the radio back in the day, are driven by thick power chords, and how arrangements are as important as melody in ballads like ‘Hold On to the Nights‘.  Filled with carefully constructed radio-ready tracks, it was no surprise that the album became a huge hit.

There is no denying the albums popularity back in the day.  Shit, Kelly is currently singing along word for word at the moment inf that’s any indication.

(Sadly, I probably could too)

For me?

Meh.

If it makes my wife and step-daughter happy, then so be it – but don’t expect me to be doing cartwheels across the living room floor.

Give me songs about chocolate pudding by bands named after whale puke any day.

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Sunday Vinyl (Part 4)

I’m finished with the Christmas music for the day, so it’s time to switch to something else – anything else – for a while, like this self-titled album by Amergris.

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Yes, yes, “ambergris” is the same shit produced in the digestive system of sperm whales which is then used in the manufacturing of fine expensive perfumes.

Yup.

Whale puke.

It’s true.

Anyway, we found this at the flea market last weekend and we bought it of course because it has a oiseau on the cover and when you find an album named after whale vomit and which features a huge ass roster on the cover, you buy that shit.

Ambergris, as it turns out, was a one-shot album from a band formed by Jerry Weiss, who’d played keyboards with the first version of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Leaving before the group recorded the second album, he formed Ambergris and got Steve Cropper of Booker T. & MG’s fame to produce it. It’s not groundbreaking in the way that the first BST album was or in the way that Chicago’s first two albums were. There are hints of Latin influences in some of the tracks, while some of them sound as if they could easily have been lifted from sessions by BST or Chicago.

And get a load of the band’s roster which features Jimmy Maelen (vocals & percussion) who has played with John Lennon, the Jacksons, Talking Heads, Alice Cooper, Marlena Shaw, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Gabriel, Buddy Rich and too many others to mention. Lewis Kahn (trombone / violin) who later played live with Tito Puente. Larry Harlow (piano, organ & percussion) who had previously put out releases on the lauded Fania label and would much later record with The Mars Volta.

Plus, it has a song on it called ‘Chocolate Pudding‘ with these little lyrical gems:

Coconut puddings gritty,
And butterscotch sticks on your tounge
But one soft spunk of that chocolate junk
And your hat is forever hung

Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Pudding,
Chocolate Pudding, Yeah for good

(solo) Yeah, Do it to me, uh (solo)

Just a spoonful of chocolate pudding
Oh and you know you’ll never stand a chance
You’ll sell your soul for one more bowl
Oh and you’ll even take down your pants

Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Pudding,
Chocolate Pudding, Yeah for good

No.  Fucking. Shit.

Truth.

It’s the only album the band ever put out, and it sounds like they wanted to pack in every musical idea the band ever had. Luckily, it would seem that every musical idea they ever had was remarkably superb.

Afterwards, Weiss – the band’s creative force – went on to play some flugelhorn and trumpet for Al Kooper some years later, but this album seems to be the purest expression of his musical genius, and I only wish there were more of it around.

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 3)

We’re all in relax mode currently, with visions of sugar plums and not killing one another dancing through our heads, so we’re continuing on with the seasonal Christmas music.  Next up is the ‘The Beach Boys Christmas‘  album (The Beach Boys).

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This is Rolling Stone magazines #7 of their list of “The 40 Greatest Christmas Albums”.

Here’s the write up:

The early Beach Boys could turn National Podiatrist Recognition Day into a party, so you know they’re gonna knock Christmas out of the park. Their smiles ‘n’ sweaters playfulness is all over this 1964 collection. The best of the album’s six originals is the darkly funny ‘Santa’s Beard‘, in which Mike Love takes his five-year-old brother to meet Santa and the kid pulls the cotton falsie off Saint Nick’s face in a life-altering moment of mall-bought demystification. The rest of the record mixes sunny tunes like ‘Little Saint Nick‘, a rewiring of ‘Little Deuce Coupe‘, with fun experiments like the jazzy ‘Frosty the Snowman‘.  And the orchestra-backed versions of ‘White Christmas‘ and ‘Blue Christmas‘, both poignantly sung by Brian Wilson, hint towardPet Sounds’  majesty.

For my part, I feel it’s noteworthy to mention that while we’re listening to this evening’s holiday record selections,this record included, I’ve also been plowing through my book on H. H. Holmes (‘H.H. Holmes: The True Story of the White City Devil‘, by Adam Selzer), one of America’s earliest serial killers and all round bad guy.

So, yeah, how very festive of me, eh?

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 2)

Mommy is making us a “secret dinner” and later we’ll find decorating the tree so we’re continuing on with the Christmas theme today with another holiday record, the Gene Autry’s ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Other Christmas Favorites‘  album.

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This was another ¢50 find that I had the keen foresight to acquire for the upcoming season while out Goodwill Hunting somewhere months ago.

Originally released in 1957, this fondly remembered Gene Autry album features “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy” performing his classic Christmas songs. Gene’s spoken introductions to his holiday hits make this unique Christmas album a very personal listening experience.

Plus, it’s Gene Autry bitch.

The original manly man.  And if the manly man wants to sing ‘Ruldoph’, ‘Jingle Bells‘, ‘Silent Night‘, or any other holiday Ho! Ho! Ho! shit, well, then that’s just the way it’s gonna be.

Nuff said.

Likewise, you especially don’t pass that shit up for ¢50 regardless either, regardless of how beat up it is.  It’s Gene Autry!  You slap your two quarters down on the counter and take Gene home.  And true to form, this record has some miles on it and there’s more snap, crackle and pop than a  pool size bowl of Rice Crispies.

But, that’s okay.

It’s Gene-fucking-Autry.

See how it is?

Good.

But it doesn’t skip, because Gene Autry would never be caught skipping.

Fuck no!

(If you really care to learn more, you can read an excellent story on the song ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer‘ and this album in particular by clicking HERE).

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Vinyl Sunday (Part 1)

Despite the ridiculous amounts of snot I’ve expunged this weekend, not to mention the throat of razor blades and the energy level of a fatted sloth, it all started to began feeling a little festive around the house today.

Ho.  Ho.  Ho.

Anyway, it’s December now (the only  month that Christmas music should ever be played) and the girls have spent the afternoon putting up the Christmas tree (while I was out riding (click HERE) and HRH  asked to listen to some Christmas music, so it’s on. My first seasonal album this year is the ‘Light of the Stable‘  album by Emmylou Harris.

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Rolling Stone magazine ranked this album as #19 on their list of “The 40 Greatest Christmas Albums”.

Here’s what is says:

Harris has always sung like an angel, and on this 1979 album she played the part, a living herald of joyful Nativity tidings.

Personally, I have a little thing for Emmylou anyway so, yeah, maybe I’m a little bit biased in my also stating for the record that this is an excellent holiday album as any and that included the Muppets.

I found this at a Goodwill somewhere (I don’t remember which) months and months ago (pre-summer) and despite the completely eviscerated front cover, the record itself was mint.

Sweet.

So Emmylou came home with me for ¢50 or so I’ve been sitting on this now for the past 8-9 months just waiting for the first opportune moment, namely December…so here we go, Rudolph.

Emmylou Harris is an artist with the rare sort of voice that communicates an honest and firmly grounded humanity while possessing a crystalline purity that verges on the angelic. In short, she was a singer born to make a great Christmas album, and in 1979 she did just that with ‘Light of the Stable‘, in which she fused the high-lonesome traditional sound she’d been exploring on ‘Roses in the Snow‘  and ‘Blue Kentucky Girl‘  with songs that honored the spiritual and emotional roots of the holiday season.

The album’s gestation began with a 1975 single of ‘Light of the Stable‘, with most of the material recorded years later, but Harris and producer Brian Ahern gave the project an admirably unified sound, which speaks of Christmas with a quiet dignity that’s celebratory but reverent – this is one of the few Christmas albums from a secular artist that scarcely mentions Santa Claus while focusing clearly on the birth of Christ.

Basically, that means this is my  kind of Christmas music.

But it’s far from vanilla then, as Harris and Ahern assembled a stellar cast for these sessions – the pickers include Ricky Skaggs, James Burton, and Rodney Crowell, while Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Neil Young pitch in backing vocals – but the results are a marvel of restraint, with precious little showboating and a handful of performances that rank with the performers’ best work.

If you’re looking for an album that will kick up your Christmas party a few notches, ‘Light of the Stable‘  isn’t it, but if you want to hear music of quiet but compelling beauty which warmly resonates with the true meaning of the holidays, then you’ll find this album is an experience to treasure.

This is a perfect start to a month long celebration of holiday inspired music, the kind of which that doesn’t make me also want to puke.

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