Wednesday, February 24, 2010

IEM Training Update- Vol. 13; Issue 10

February 11 status: WEIGHT: 187.8

  • Bowl of homemade kettle corn
  • 20oz Pepsi
  • Potato samosa, pumpkin paratha, chicken tikka masala naan-wich (all freebies from the Indian food factory tour field trip I attended for school)
  • French onion soup with cheese
DEFECATION (what my turd looked like): A pile of wet croutons

EXERCISE: As usual, I saved my homework for the day of class and couldn't get to the gym, so my only exercise was walking to and from my car at CSUEB.


Johnny Paycheck Mr. Lovemaker

Until recently, all I had heard by Paycheck was his earlier Bakersfield-style material and his hit cover of David Allen Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It." Understandably, this gave me the impression that Paycheck was a 1960's Buck Owens-style honky-tonker who went "outlaw" in the 70's. Thanks to genius producer Billy Sherrill, Johnny Paycheck actually spent the early-mid 1970's making some killer country-politan records.

This LP has got all of the hallmarks of the country-politan sound (string arrangements, lush background vocals, songs with crossover appeal), but Paycheck still sounds like a shit-kicker. All of the production bells and whistles cannot obscure the fact that Paycheck was a pill-popping drunk who was court martialed, subsequently spending 2 years in a Naval prison for striking a superior officer. And this fancy LP didn't keep him from shooting a man in a barroom and going to prison in Ohio. Still, this record sounds expensive. It has much more in common with 70's Elvis records like "Suspicious Minds" than it does Paycheck's 60's murder ballad "Pardon Me I've Got Someone to Kill."

The songs here range from a smoothed-out take on straightforward C&W tunes like the title track and "I'm Just Tired of Hurting You" to tunes like "If Love Gets Any Better," that sound like a cross between Arlo Guthrie, "Rhinestone Cowboy"-period Glenn Campbell", and Bread. "I Won't Ever Fall in Love Again" sounds a lot like fellow Sherrill artist, Charlie Rich, but with less focus on the piano playing. And then there's "All in the Name of Love," a soulful stomper that could've been a Four Tops hit. The record ends with "She'll Unwine Me," where Sherrill throws out the coutry-politan formula and Paycheck sounds like he did in 1966.

Whether he's sounding like Bakersfield, Nashville, or Austin, you cannot go wrong with any Paycheck record pre-1990. And luckily, the mid-70's records are pretty readily available for cheap.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

IEM Training Update- Vol. 13; Issue 9

February 10 status (I will get you caught up with my current status by the end of the weekend):

WEIGHT: 190.2 (Oh shit, this is getting out of control!)

  • Half a tub of spicy hummus purchased from Grocery Outlet eaten with 1+ lb. of baby carrots.
  • 2 homemade low-fat cupcakes (Get a load of this craziness! You get a standard box of cake mix and simply replace the oil, milk, and eggs with a can of pumpkin. They're quite edible, only slightly orange, and with almost no discernable pumpkin taste.)
  • A Pepsi at school
  • A bowl of homemade kettle corn
DEFECATION (what my turd looked like): A HEAPING bowl of Kibbles and Bits served over a crumbled crab cake tinted with soy sauce.

EXERCISE: As usual, I saved my homework for the day of class and couldn't get to the gym, so my only exercise was walking to and from my car at CSUEB.


Billy Swan- 1974- I Can Help- $1

All I knew by this guy was the title track, which I thought was a Ringo Starr solo record, and "Lover Please" (and I only knew the Kinky Friedman version of that song.) Those two songs open this record, but there are even better songs here. There are definitely country elements to this record. There are Jordanaires back-up vocals, some slide guitar, and country-style melodies. However, it doesn't sound like other country records of the time or any time, really. It is obvious that Swan owed a debt to 50's country and rock n' roll, but he was far from a retro artist. He wasn't doing Honky-Tonk or countrypolitan, either. This is more like a pop-rock record with some country overtones. And the whole affair has a very casual, laid-back feel. While Swan is a good singer, he's very understated and doesn't try and blow you away during the heavy emotional passages like country guys did in this period.

There's a cover of "Don't Be Cruel" here, which is usually a bad sign, but he slows the song down and adds a ton of slapback on the vocals. It winds up sounding like a lost Dwight Twilley track. Another great track is "I'm Her Fool," a good-timing number with awesomely goofy backup vocals and a bizarre grunting vocal breakdown at the end. And check out this lyric: I run like a dog when she calls me/'Cause she pets me when I bury my bone. Did this get played on the radio?! Won't somebody think of the children?! Swan's version of "Woman in Love" (Charlie Rich song made famous by Johnny Cash) has kind of an "island" feel a la "Sloop John B" and "P.M.S. (Post Mortem Sickness)" is a cool atmospheric closer- and the earliest reference I can find to pre-menstrual syndrome.

With Swan's mix of fun covers and fun catchy originals with lyrical wordplay, this record was practically made for me. I am now searching for his entire back catalog. I will even pay $3 for the records, if necessary.

Friday, February 19, 2010

IEM Training Update- Vol. 13; Issue 8

Sorry for the delay, but my mother-in-law was here for a while and I've been busy being a student, so I haven't been able to get my updates posted. I have about 3 weeks left until I finish my classes to become a certified ESL teacher for adults. I hope to have session #14 up about that time, if not sooner. In the meanwhile, I'm gonna do my darndest to make sure you get at least three training updates every week.

February 7 status:

WEIGHT: 186.4

CONSUMED ON 2/7: It was Super Bowl Sunday and I had the following: 2 massive bowls of Brian Brick's homemade chili (made with 2 of every animal), an ass-load of Mi Pueblo tortilla chips, an entire row of DoubleStuff Oreos, 3 Oki Dogs made by me (now my potluck staple), a bowl of Buffalo Chicken dip (made by Red Meat's Jill Olson) and Frito's, 2 pieces of bbq chicken from Mi Pueblo, 3 beers (1 fancy, 2 cheapo) and some other stuff I can't remember.

DEFECATION (what my turd looked like): 3 brown, medium-sized, finely-burnished stones used by Bedouins to play an ancient gambling game in the Western Sahara.

EXERCISE: Are you kidding? It was Super Bowl Sunday. My only exercise occurred after the game at the post-game dance party in Brian Brick's living room. I may have burned off a single Oreo shaking my booty to Steely Dan's "My Old School."


Charlie Rich- Behind Closed Doors
Every year or so, I remember to pull out this album and rediscover what a monster it is. Is it country? Sure, but it doesn't sound the least bit hayseed. And it is as smoothly soulful as anything coming out of Detroit in 1973, the year this was released. Rich's voice coupled with Billy Sherrill's countrypolitan production make this record straddle the line between Nashville country-pop and Vegas-style schmaltz. You can bet your ass that in the mid-70's there were five dozen acts playing The Strip that had both the title track and "The Most Beautiful Girl" in their set-lists. Those hits are probably the best songs on the album, but there isn't a bad song here. "Take it on Home," "'Til I Can't Take it Anymore" are nearly as good as those uber-hits. I also really love "Peace on You." I paid close attention to the lyrics of that song this go-round. I was able to discern that although Rich wishes an unnamed woman peace, he is also saying that she is going to Hell because she cheated on him. And he isn't talking about figurative hell. He's saying she's going to where the Devil lives. That is gold! I need to listen to this record more often, if only for that song.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

IEM Training Update- Vol. 13; Issue 7

February 1 status:

: 183.4


  • Omelet (1 full egg, 2 egg whites, 1 Tbsp. shredded cheddar)
  • 1 glass blended chocolate milk (2 cups fat free milk, 4 Tbsp chocolate syrup, ice cubes)
  • 1 glass blended chocolate-banana milk (2 cups fat free milk, 4 Tbsp chocolate syrup, a frozen banana, ice cubes)
  • 1 blood orange
  • Half of a 14oz. container of OOP Haagen Dazs Brown Sugar ice cream (I bought the last remaining containers at the Berkeley Grocery Outlet. Oakland Groc Out had already exhausted their supply. If you see this stuff, buy it immediately, because it's about to become rarer than that Honus Wagner baseball card, the stamp with the upside down biplane, and the first pressing of The Rotters' "Sink the Whales" 45 combined. Those items can be stored in a vault. After a couple of years, ice cream will start to evaporate, even in a deep freeze.)

DEFECATION: (what my turd looked like): A fudge matzo ball in beef broth

I ran the lake again. It took 24 minutes.


The Poppy Family- A Good Thing Lost: 1968-1973:

To paraphrase Nazi playwright Hanns Johst, "When I hear the word 'psychedelic,' I reach for my gun." I have zero interest in expanding my consciousness or going on a "trip," either with chemicals or via music or art. The only challenge I want to experience related to culture is when I have to walk up the stairs at the museum.

Despite my predisposition against psych, occasionally, I encounter some vaguely psychedelic music that I enjoy. The Poppy Family,
a Canadian group fronted by spouses Susan and Terry Jacks, is such an example. Terry went on to go solo and had a huge hit with "Seasons in the Sun." Susan had a solo career, too, and cut some great songs (e.g. "Anna Marie"), but she didn't achieve the same level of notoriety as her ex-husband, at least not in the US. Neither of the former spouses' solo work is nearly as good as the Poppy Family.

The Poppy Family are often thought of as a bubblegum pop group, but they seem a lot darker than that. There are a lot of psych touches in their music (sitar, tabla, weird stereo panning effects, fuzz, tape manipulation, heavy reverb, echo, etc.), but that's not the source of the darkness. Susan, who does most of the vocals has an unbelievable melancholy in her gorgeous voice and the lyrics all seem to have a hidden undercurrent of death and/or evil.

The first track on the comp, the "Beyond the Clouds" sounds like a lost track by 90's gloomy pop band, The Sundays, but with better production and vocals. The Poppy Family's biggest hit was "Which Way You Goin' Billy," a depressing pop song that implies impending suicide and seems a prequel to Terry's hit, "Seasons in the Sun."
"There's No Blood in Bone" sounds like a Stone Roses song- if they were fronted by Mariska Veres from the Shocking Blue. The drum beat on that track seems like a prime candidate for sampling by a trip-hop artist, if that genre still exists. Other great songs on the comp include "That's Where I Went Wrong," "Shadows on My Wall," "Free From the City," and "Where Evil Grows."

The Poppy Family are like a Cannuck melange of proto-shoegaze, folk-country, ABBA, the Carpenters, Mazzy Star, Lee & Nancy, and the Everly Brothers. And the band's East Indian percussionist was Satwan Singh, a real-live Indian! This comp is a real find. I'd like to get the band's original LPs and 45s, if I can find them for cheap, but this will tide me over in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

IEM Training Update- Vol. 13; Issue 6

January 30 status:

WEIGHT: 181.4

  • A 20 ounce can of Peace Tea brand Green Tea (awful)
  • A bottle of Budweiser and a few hors d'oeuvres at Canderson and Tiger Lily's photo show opening at the Rite Spot in SF (some pita chips, a breaded cheese stick, some brie and crackers, 2 dolmas from a can, 2 slices sourdough bread, 1 butter cookie and a pre-packaged Rice Krispie treat)
  • Chocolate milk (2 cups fat-free milk, ice, 4 tbsb. Mexican chocolate syrup)
DEFECATION (what my turd looked like): Half a challah that fell into a pan of brisket drippings

EXERCISE: I ran 1 lap around Lake Merritt (about 3 miles.) I think it took 25 minutes.


Funny Girl- 1968- How they hell had a fruity Broadway musical fan like myself never seen this movie before? Streisand won a Best Actress Oscar for this, her first picture. I don't know what other actresses were in the running, but there's no way anybody else was better than her the year this was released. She is in nearly every scene and totally kills them all. The picture is more than 2 hours 30 minutes, which is about 50 minutes more than my attention span can handle these days, but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. There are a bazillion good musical numbers, but my favorite has got to be "Don't Rain on My Parade." This movie came out 3 years earlier than Fiddler on the Roof and was set mostly in pre WWI New York, but somehow winds up being 10 times Jewy-er than Fiddler. Must see!