Begin the day with a friendly voice…

It’s been a few weeks, but this will be the second in my irregular series about songs that have started my day.

I really like the Black Keys.  I dig the whole garage band vibe that they have co-opted.  They can hardly be accused of being originators and of all the bands who have delved into this style, they are certainly one of those bands.

Little Black Submarines is from the bands latest LP, El Camino.  I’m not sure if it’s the second or third single.  It’s amazing to think that some bands can still release an album containing multiple singles.  So many albums are a single and filler or re-mixes.

Anyway, I woke up in the middle of the night, or more precisely, early Monday morning. I think it was Monday morning, it might have been Tuesday morning.  Either way, I woke up and had the chorus of this song running through my head.  I love when that happens.  Does it happen to you too?

The funny thing was when I got in the car and it was the first song that came on the radio.  I had left the radio tuned to XM Radio’s Alt Nation channel and the song was a little less than half way through – right in the middle of the first chorus.  Freaky, huh?  I know!

I love how music effects us and wonder if we can truly understand to what level it does. I’ve been accused of talking in my sleep, and this episode makes me wonder if I sing in my sleep too.  That would explain the nightmares!

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New World Man – Rush

Occasionally a song hits you right in the solar plexus.  You know the feeling, right?  It can be an affirmation, or an encouragement or just a matter of self identification.  Kind of a “hey, that’s me!” moment.  Well I had one of the those on the way home today with a Rush song.  A Rush song, you say?  How could that be?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know.

New World Man starts out with this line, “He’s a rebel and a runner“.  That certainly pricked my ears!

Followed by “He’s a signal turning green, He’s a restless young romantic, Wants to run the big machine”

So, kind of wow – if you know what I mean.  Rather than give a line by line analysis of the song, because we all know how tedious that can be, I thought I’d just bold the lyrics that speak to me today.

“He’s got a problem with his poisons
But you know he’ll find a cure
He’s cleaning up his systems
To keep his nature pure

Learning to match the beat of the Old World man
Learning to catch the heat of the Third World man

He’s got to make his own mistakes
And learn to mend the mess he makes
He’s old enough to know what’s right
But young enough not to choose it
He’s noble enough to win the world
But weak enough to lose it —
He’s a New World man…

He’s a radio receiver
Turned to factories and farms
He’s a writer and arranger
And a young boy bearing arms

He’s got a problem with his power
With weapons on patrol
He’s got to walk a fine line
And keep his self-control

Trying to save the day for the Old World man
Trying to pave the way for the Third World man

He’s not concerned with yesterday
He knows constant change is here today
He’s noble enough to know what’s right
But weak enough not to choose it
He’s wise enough to win the world
But fool enough to lose it —
He’s a New World man…”

Like I’ve said before, these guys speak to me – and today, they really did.

Saturday afternoon navel gazing…

You know…

As I sit here on a perfectly gorgeous Virginia fall afternoon, watching my favorite college football team struggle to beat a forgettable opponent, a team so completely frustrating and flawed, they could be a character in a Southern Gothic novel and drinking a fine American craft beer, I begin to think.

I know, that’s seldom a good thing.

As we are caught in a nightmarish Presidential campaign and watch ginned up controversies turn deadly overseas and wonder just why the Duchess of Cambridge felt the need to flash her boobs in public, I realize that my life is soon going to change very dramatically.

You see how I did that?  I elevated myself to join some pretty lofty company.  It’s a Leo thing, you either get it or you – well, anyway.

I used to be a man consumed by anger and anxiety, self doubt and self loathing.  I’m sure some of that was related to the unhealthy lifestyle that I was living, but part of it was due to living a lie of false religiosity and intellectual dishonesty.  Those are stories for another time.

I have, especially thanks to the consul of some amazing friends, learned to see myself not as I am, but as I want to be.  This makes me want to be a better man.

We are all flawed and damaged.  Everyone’s path is different and human experience is not math.  You cannot take one person’s “A” add your “B” and get a “C” the same way every time.

People are more like Jackson Pollack paintings.  You look at them, and walk away saying “what in the world was that? it was wonderful!”.

So, anyway, cheers to you all.  May you enjoy the rest of your year and may we hoist a few drinks together along the way.  I’ll see you when I see you and we’ll talk about you if you’re not there.

Road to Marathon – Day Fortythree

Wow, this sucks.  I have ended my gym membership as of the end of August, so no more treadmilling for me.

As a result, I’m running on the neighborhood streets.  I’m actually running the same circuit that I was walking back in 2009 when I started on this journey.  It’s a 3 mile loop.  It’s all hill.  BOTH WAYS!

I feel like I’m back at square one.  It’s been a struggle and I’m hating it.  I’m hoping to go out to Bull Run Battlefield National Park on Sunday and do some trail running.  I’m sure it’s not flat, but…

I’m running a 5k in October and the Turkey Trot in Springfield, MO on Thanksgiving.

These hills are kicking my ass.  Apparently I need it.

It’s a good thing I gave myself two years, I felt old, slow and fat today.

I will not stop.

Upon a Lighted Stage…

September 9, 2012 Bristow, VA

I’m not one to keep track, so I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Rush, but this was the latest.

The show Sunday night was only the second night on the Clockwork Angels tour, but much controversy has already been ginned up.  It seems that some fans are upset about the setlist.  What ever.

The guys have been at it for over 40 years and their latest, Clockwork Angels, is their 20th studio album.  I figure that they can play what ever the hell they want.

They opened the show with Subdivisions from the Signals album.  I thought it was an interesting choice, since it’s not their most energetic song.  It worked though.  Really well. Alex’s solo was blistering.

The remainder of the first set was taken mainly from what are commonly referred to as the “Keyboard Albums”, including such songs as Force 10, Grand Designs and Middletown Dreams.

The set did end on a pretty high note with Far Cry from Snakes and Arrows, which was preceded by the instrumental Where’s My Thing which contained the first of three, yes three, Neil Peart drum solos.

After a short intermission, during which a standing string octet assembled on stage behind Neil’s drum riser, the band returned to the stage to play Clockwork Angels.

This is the first time Rush has toured with additional musicians, preferring instead to use triggers and electronics to reproduce their studio trickery.  I must say the strings where a brilliant touch.  Not only did they give an accurate representation of the songs, they allowed Geddy to be free from the keyboards and roam the stage, romping like a man half his age.

After the last Clockwork Angels track, the string section stayed on for two additional songs.  I thought this sounded amazing.

The band included a tribute to recently passed away Astronaut, Neil Armstrong during Dreamline.  Rush has a long relationship with NASA, so this was not unexpected, but was a pleasant surprise – it gave me chills.

This was followed by the third and final drum solo.  Did you catch that?  THREE drum solos?!  Who does that?  We both know who.

The string section exited the stage, not to the left, after playing on YYZ – again, a very nice contribution to the song.  I’m sure that the tempo of the classic, Grammy nominated instrumental was a bit faster than normal.  I loved it.

The final song of the second set was one of my favorites, Working Man.  They trotted out the now classic reggae intro, before jumping in to the traditional arrangement at the first chorus.  If there is any doubt about Alex’s skills at his age, they had to be dispelled during his solo on Working Man – he absolutely shredded it.  It was Malmsteen fast!

To close the show, the band played probably their best known song.  Everyone knows Tom Sawyer.  It was greeted with a roar of approval.

Alex, Geddy and Neil gifted us all with 2112’s Overture, Temples of Syrinx and Grand Finale to close out the show – a grand gesture to be sure.

See them if you can.

It always comes back to Rush.

This is a repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago on Facebook, it’s cross posted there too.

It always comes back to Rush. Why does it always come back to Rush? It just always comes back to those three guys from Canada. It just does.

I just watched the new documentary about Rush, “Beyond the Lighted Stage”. Like the famously cliched review, “I laughed, I cried…”, I was touched in surprising ways.

Movies about rock bands are a dime a dozen and most of them are as forgettable as the bands they expose. Not this time. Maybe because this is not the story of rock stars, but three life-long friends.

Anyway, it always comes back to Rush for me. I, like many fans my age, discovered Rush with their fourth album 2112. To say that it blew my high school mind wouldn’t be completely accurate, in hindsight. Really how many of us, as sixteen year olds have much of a mind to blow? Oh sure, we fancy ourselves intellectual or sophisticated, but come on… now we all know better don’t we?

It probably wasn’t until they were on their tragic and unintentional sabbatical in the 1990s that I really came to appreciate their profound influence on me. I came across their live album “Different Stages” and became reacquainted with my old friends. That album came out at about the same time we first had internet access at home. So, like many fans of many artists, I had access to the Rush fan community like never before. It was there that I found out what had been happening with what had once been my favorite band. I read about Neil’s tragic loss of his daughter and wife. I explored releases that I wasn’t that familiar with, and heard the rumors of the bands return. Hell, I didn’t even know they’d been away! Some fan I was!

The last dozen or so years have been amazingly prolific for the band, and I’ve been there at every step. As soon as their latest tour was announced I did two things that I’m not know for – I paid the premium for a premium ticket and I bought only one ticket. Going to concerts alone is not something I’m fond of doing, I like to share the experience, but this time it felt like the right thing to do. Man, Sept 18th can’t get here soon enough!

So, anyway, why does it always come back to Rush? Well, I don’t want to start quoting lyrics that have had an impact because there are too many. It’s not just the lyrics. Some of the instrumentals touch me in a most powerful way. That might be hard to understand, but it’s true. Jazz legend Charlie Parker said, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.” That explains so much to me about the power of instrumental music. There is life in those notes. To me, it’s as simple as that. There is life in there. Life.

Let me summarize this ramble this way. If you want to truly understand me, you have to understand Rush. You don’t have to like them, but you must understand them. Now, I know some could care less and that’s fine. Hell, sometimes I don’t even care. But I’ve come to realize that I understand more about myself through their music than just about any other way these days. They inspire me like no other artists.

That being said, here is a short list of essential Rush tracks.

Closer to the Heart
Spirit of Radio
Entre Nous
La Villa Strangiato
Working Man
Anthem
Tom Sawyer
Limelight
Free Will
Far Cry
YYZ

Ok, maybe not so short, but it could be much longer!