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Month: November 2006 Page 1 of 3

3511.3 miles

Just in case anyone was wondering. I broke 3500 on the way back from lunch.

I celebrated by taking a casual after-work spin down to Hains Point – not really worthy of “workout log” status. It was dark, and my headlight will need some recharging (I knew I’d be pushing it going more than a mile or two), but the weather was perfect: warm, calm winds, totally at odds with today’s date.

I wish I’d taken my camera with me, as the calm air made for a mirror-like reflection of the Washington Monument in the reflecting pool. That was worth the ride, without a doubt.

3,500

Sometime today, I’ll ride my 3,500th mile for 2006.

Given that I didn’t really start riding regularly until April, that’s not half bad. And November has been a terrible month for me getting out to ride, so December is actually looking more promising.

And I have a friend with whom I can ride in the early morning once per week, which will help keep the fitness level high through the darkest of the months (astronomically speaking).

review: “love” by the beatles

The Beatles - LoveI finally picked up Love this past weekend, and have since given it a few listens with headphones. As I write this, it’s getting a first spin on the stereo in The Burrow.

And my impressions of the album, after a more detailed analysis, are still incredibly positive.

Firstly, the stereo mix is fantastic. George and Giles Martin did a fantastic job transferring the individual tracks from the multi-track master tapes, and really pulled off some mixing magic that’s most impressive. They had more limitations than Danger Mouse had when he mixed The Grey Album from material by The Beatles and Jay-Z, or djBC when he mixed the two “Beastles” collections from The Beatles and The Beastie Boys: they could only use sounds produced by The Beatles (the lone exception being a new string part composed by the elder Martin for the acoustic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – a perfect sonic marriage, to my ears).

So the most revelatory part of listening to Love is that every one of the sounds heard was recorded in the 1960s – and they sound like they could’ve been recorded yesterday. The Martins smartly stayed away from so-called “improvement technology” like Sonic NoNoise and let the recordings stand on their own: punchy, vibrant and, in many cases, raw. It’s when mixed together that the whole aural canvas is painted with vivid colors: awash in psychedelic clouds, hits of drums, crunchy guitars, booming bass and like-they’re-in-the-room-with-you vocals.

Seriously, the Martins did that well with their mix.

It’s quite clear that Giles Martin was “at the wheel” for most of this, given that his father’s hearing is severely impaired these days. Yet the younger Martin wisely asked the right questions of his father: “what was the level on this?”, or “how was such-and-such effect pulled off?” And he was given free reign to tweak the levels of any – or all – instruments on a track, which allowed him to fully utilize the extra sonic “space” of the digital realm. Apparently, this effect is even greater on the 5.1 Surround mix that’s included with the “deluxe” edition of Love, where the Martins created a whole new audio realization of many core Beatles tracks.

(I’ve also read that the Martins’ work runs very close to the unofficial 5.1 mixes done by Two Of Us Productions, which makes many wonder – myself included – whether proper 5.1 mixes of the original Fab albums are close-at-hand. If anything, Giles Martin has earned the right to do it by his work on Love.)

Some stand-out tracks:

  • “Glass Onion,” which blends in some interesting touches from “Hello, Goodbye” and other songs of its era.
  • “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which opens with the crowd noise and band intro from the legendary Shea Stadium concert, then crashes in with a wonderful stereo mix of the studio recording – very “today” for a song recorded in 1964.
  • “Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing.” In true mash-up nomenclature, this song would likely be called “Word, You’re Doing My Car.” It’s a wonderful mix-and-match of three disparate songs that work perfectly together. To many more “seasoned” critics, this is the most jarring track, but to me, it’s well executed and very catchy.
  • “Help” is presented in its best-ever stereo mix, sounding as if it was recorded this year, with the listener sitting at the mixing desk.
  • “Blackbird/Yesterday,” which melds the oft-covered McCartney walnut with his equally-soft “White Album” track to great effect.
  • “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows,” which takes two ragas – one Harrison’s, one Lennon’s – and mixes them to a surreal effect. This one probably kicks serious butt in 5.1.
  • “Here Comes The Sun,” which is a very potent, lively mix of the Harrison classic.
  • “Come Together/Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry.” The latter two songs don’t figure too much into the mix, which is fine, as this is the best-sounding version of “Come Together” I’ve ever heard. Apparently, the 5.1 mix is even better – I’ve gotta spring for a surround setup soon.
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” As mentioned above, it’s truly beautiful with the string backing, showing that Sir George still has his arranging chops.

Love is truly a standout release for 2006. No, it’s not as essential as the albums released by The Beatles between 1962 and 1970. But it’s an album that makes you really listen to songs that have been in the vernacular for years. I’m still finding new bits and pieces in the mix with repeated listening sessions.

I think that John Lennon would’ve had a kick listening to this album, as he loved in-jokes, funky audio bits, and such.

It’s like meeting old friends again after many years: they’re still the same friends, only a few features have changed a bit. And in this case, that’s not a bad thing at all.

As I mentioned earlier, let’s hope that this marks the beginning of a proper remastering and remixing of the full Beatles canon – and give that young Martin a chance to take the wheel.

You can order Love from Amazon.com – either in CD format or CD with DVD-Audio.

an interesting warning

Found on a box of blue Christmas lights, purchased last night at Target:

WARNING:
Handling the coated electrical wire on this product exposes you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after use.

Yeesh – and it’s probably the case on many recent light strands.

Just FYI….

back in dc

And I should really be in bed.

workout log: 25 november 2006

Activity: road cycling
Location: Somers, CT > Longmeadow, MA > Wilbraham, MA
Distance: 32.3 miles (moderately hilly)
Duration: 1:43
Weather: clear and cool, 54 degrees
Avg HR: 160 (max 178)
Type: aerobic

A wonderful afternoon ride in unseasonably warm New England. The sun was bright, with nary a cloud in the sky. I wasn’t overly psyched to go riding, but once I was on the bike that feeling passed. I rode at a fairly fast clip for a solo ride, and enjoyed the route I chose. And I got back from the ride in time to see today’s World Cup ski race – bonus!

utah misses the (world cup) boat

The FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup has brought its act to North America in its usual “placate the U.S. and Canadian teams” swing before it returns to Europe for the remainder of the season. This weekend, there will be races in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Aspen, Colorado, with races next weekend at Lake Louise and at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

After that, the “White Circus” is slated to return to Europe for races in Val d’Isere, France – except for the fact that most of the ski resorts in Europe are lacking snow and cold weather, which usually means cancelled races.

Enter Atle Skaardal, director of the FIS Womens Alpine World Cup, who suggests that North American resorts pick up the races from the Europeans. It’s not an unprecedented move, and it’s part of the reason that the early season World Cup races are now held in North America. Skaardal says that he has asked Aspen, Beaver Creek and Vail to host replacement races for European venues that lack sufficient snow to host events in December.

Until 2003, the first of these races was held in Park City, Utah. “America’s Opening” was always a big hit with ski racing fans: they could see their heroes at a fan-friendly venue that almost always had snow for the occasion (what didn’t fall from the skies could easily be fired out of hoses). The Eagle Race Arena eventually hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, so enamored was the FIS with the quality of the events held at Park City. And these events were viewed by millions of TV viewers in Europe and Asia, a perfect PR video postcard for the Utah Ski Association.

But in 2003, Park City said it was done with the World Cup hosting gig. They cited too much difficulty and cost to the resort, as course prep diverted their snowmaking crews from runs that paying customers could use (the Eagle runs are off-limits to the public at all times), and large crews of paid and volunteer staff were needed to run the event.

Another Utah Olympic venue, Snowbasin, decommissioned its World Cup race runs after the 2002 events, citing costs and liability issues.

So the FIS moved on, consolidating its North American events to Lake Louise, Beaver Creek, Vail and Aspen. On occasion, the FIS will hold events in Mammoth, California, and the 2010 Olympic slopes at Whistler, British Columbia.

So Utah will miss out on the potential PR bounty from hosting replacement events on this year’s World Cup. To me, a former racer who grew up racing in Utah, it’s a sad turn of events, and I hope that Park City reconsiders its decision and hosts some Cup events once more.

it must be thanksgiving….

I’m in Connecticut.

Macy’s Parade is done.

The carrots and peppers are made (yesterday, before we left on the 9-hour highway trek).

And “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” is on the stereo.

Wanna listen to “Alice”? Click here to give it a spin.

things i never thought i’d see on tv: part 47

Jerry Seinfeld telling Letterman’s audience to stop laughing during Michael Richards’ apology for last weekend’s racist outburst.

review: brian wilson @ the warner theatre

Just one night removed from Bob Dylan, sprite and I went to see Brian Wilson in concert at the wonderful Warner Theatre. Unlike Dylan’s show, which is raw and edgy, Wilson’s show was one of harmony and memories – and one of the final opportunities to hear Wilson and band perform Pet Sounds in its entirety.

As longtime readers may know, I’m a big fan of Brian Wilson and his works. “God Only Knows” is one of my favorite songs of all time. And one of my top-ten concerts was his SMiLE! show at the Warner in October, 2004. In the music meme addendum, I wrote this nugget about the concert:

Brian Wilson, 10 October 2004, Warner Theatre, Washington, DC
A magical night, as Brian and the band performed SMiLE in its entirety. Brian was in a fine voice, and his band is top-notch. The brass instruments are actually played by horn players, the string parts by a string sextet. And the Warner is a wonderful old theatre, perfect for concerts like this.

I’ve also seen Brian two other times: once playing Pet Sounds, and once in a double-bill with Paul Simon. And each time had its own special charms.

Let’s cut to the chase: Saturday night’s performance didn’t match the magic of the 2004 show, but I expected that. Instead, Brian brought along a new (albeit temporary) band member: Al Jardine, one of the original Beach Boys. Adding Al to the fold brought back some of the great Beach Boy chemistry: fun interplay between the old friends, some great harmonies, and most importantly, another singer who could take lead on songs that are increasingly outside of Brian’s age-and-abuse damaged voice.

So the first set included songs that hadn’t yet been played live by Wilson and band, including “Then I Kissed Her” (one of Jardine’s numbers back in the 1960s), and “Marcella.” And during the Pet Sounds set, Brian’s voice (which he seemed to save for this set) danced in sweet harmony with Jardine, and the two of them meshed wonderfully with the rest of the multi-talented band. Sure, he was lacking a full string section, but the loss was minor: the band still presented a gorgeous and powerful version of Pet Sounds.

The encore was also a lot of fun, featuring a string of Beach Boys hits that made the crowd get up and dance. Brian, per usual, donned his bass guitar for a few of the encore songs, and the night closed with the usual “Love And Mercy.”

All-in-all, a wonderful night with a true legend of rock.

Setlist:
Act One: Surfer Girl, Hawaii, Drive-in, Please Let Me Wonder, Add Some Music To Your Day, Then I Kissed Her, Break Away, Dance Dance Dance, Do It Again, In My Room, Do You Wanna Dance, When I Grow Up, I Get Around, California Girls, Row, Row, Row Your Boat (audience sing-along), Sail On Sailor, Marcella, Good Vibrations
Act Two: Wouldn’t It Be Nice, You Still Believe In Me, That’s Not Me, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), I’m Waiting For The Day, Let’s Go Away For A While, Sloop John B, God Only Knows, I Know There’s An Answer, Here Today, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, Pet Sounds, Caroline, No
Encore: Band Intro, Johnny B. Goode, Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Surfin’ USA, Fun Fun Fun
Second Encore: Love And Mercy

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