Song of the Day — Christine Lavin

December 21, 2010
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Still funny, if you lived through the ’80s and remember the references.

Sensitive New Age Guys



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Song of the Day — The Staples Singers

December 19, 2010
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Respect Yourself

Song of the Day — The Mint Juleps

December 18, 2010
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I Want To Live Easy

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Song of the Day — Patti Smith

December 8, 2010
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Patti Smith does Prince?

Oops!  I should rephrase that:

Patti Smith sings a song by Prince?

Yeah, she does, and she does it well.

When Doves Cry

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Song of the Day — Beth Orton

December 7, 2010
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How have I not posted this before?  Don’t listen to this song unless you want to be carried away from all of your worldly troubles…

Galaxy Of Emptiness

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Song of the Day — King Curtis vs. Leonard Cohen

December 5, 2010
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Part of my exercise ritual involves listening to each of the albums I own, in alphabetical order, as I work out.  This is the simplest, most explicable part of the ritual.  I refuse to describe the rest, lest someone get ideas about committing me to a psych ward.

As it does for everything else in my life, music provides the backdrop for my exercise ritual.  Wedge earbuds into ear canals, cue up the stylus on my record player (oops, I mean tap on my phone until the music player emerges, then press play), and enter panting sweatland bliss.

It’s a bit like body surfing.  Sometimes I jump on the exercise machine as the music begins, and am huffing and puffing before the first song hits its rhythm, as if I were running into the ocean, splashing and diving under little waves to get to the big ones.  Sometimes I’m logey, and listen for a bit first while slowly building the intensity, as if I were letting the last thin tongue of a wave slide high up onto the beach and lick my ankles before I amble into the surf.

Almost always I get to the same place.  The rhythm of the music carries me — I ride each song like a wave.  Each gap between songs is a bit disconcerting until I find the rhythm of the next one and ride it.

This is not just analogy.  It feels like the rhythm of the music is what powers my muscles.  A pilates teacher once told us to use our breathing to power our movements.  That feels right, only I use these tones and rhythms and harmonies as well, like a hybrid car uses both gasoline and battery.

The hybrid car thing IS just an analogy.


So why go through every single album?  Isn’t this what a Workout Playlist is for?  Or, for God’s sake, just pick what you want to listen to!  Is that so hard?

Um… yes.  It is so hard.  There’s way too much music to listen to, and often the sheer number of choices overwhelms me.  I don’t want so many choices.

That’s the point of ritual: to skim the excess freedom off of our lives.  Most of us have more freedom than we know what to do with.  I choose to limit mine by creating arbitrary, often arcane rules.  Go ahead and call this weird.  Claim that you don’t do the same.  I ask then: how much of your life do you spend deciding among toothpastes and laundry detergents?  Why do you always watch a certain TV show at a certain hour rather than sorting through all of the other possible shows you could watch?  You take shortcuts too, don’t you?  What — you don’t love freedom?

Oof!  DEFENSIVE ALERT.  I don’t know who you are — you who reads this post — and still I managed to project my judgment onto you!  That’s pretty slick.  Bet you can’t do that.  I win the neurosis contest for today!  ME!  I AM THE NEUROSIS KING FOR THE DAY!

Anyway, one of the benefits of ritual is its antianxiety effect.  Another is the creation of an enforcer to get us to do things we think we should do, like exercise.

There’s a third: serendipity.

The more things that I control, the less chance I have of stumbling upon something new and unexpected.  This is why the shuffle function on my music player has been such a gift.  Press play, and something I may have forgotten about starts playing.  Playing everything from A to Z has the same effect, and also helps me not worry that I’ve missed anything.  Two benefits from one simple algorithm!


Some music doesn’t lend itself to working out.  Most music has some sort of rhythm, but some rhythms are more equal than others.  Some music surprises with how well or how poorly it works.

Yesterday I was surprised.

I’m playing “S” albums now.  I saw “Songs of Leonard Cohen” creeping toward me this week, and assumed that it wouldn’t work as exercise music.  (The Rulemaker tells me that I may not skip an album entirely, but allows me to move on as long as I give it a decent chance first.)  Somehow it did work.  I admit that pumping away to this song:

Master Song

was mighty strange, but sometimes my mind can enter his slow, meditative world while my body follows his somewhat faster guitar work.  It’s an odd split state of being, sort of a dream superimposed on real life, which I would have had trouble finding were it not for the path that The Rulemaker ordered me to follow.

These next two songs, of course, are not so depressing, and were pleasant to sweat to:

Sisters Of Mercy

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye


“Soul Shots, Vol. I” follows “Songs of Leonard Cohen” only in my crazy ritualistic universe.  “Soul Shots” (a compilation of 1960s R&B featuring the likes of James Brown, King Curtis and J.J. Jackson) seems like a slam dunk workout album, right?  Yes, it is.  In case you don’t know, this hot, hot cooking song (not on Soul Shots) is King Curtis:

Memphis Soul Stew

Oh, wow.  Listening to that song now makes me want to get up and jump around.  Do listen, please.

Here’s another surprise: yesterday, after working out, I had a wave of Peaceful that I wanted to ride.  I was thinking of turning off Soul Shots and (!) finding what I wanted to listen to, when this other King Curtis song, which I don’t remember ever previously listening to, came on and carried me slowly back to the balmy shoreline:

Soul Serenade


I’ve got a few more soul collections coming up.  Then “Sound of Water” by St. Etienne, which I think is electronica.  Soon will be Portishead, Tom Petty, a bit of Spanish guitar music by John Williams, then Talking Heads…

I love the alphabet.


This post has been brought to you by the letter “S”.

And the number 125,200.

And The Rulemaker.

Song of the Day — Shel Silverstein

December 4, 2010
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Covered by My Morning Jacket.  It’s a bit long.  Bear with it.


26 Second Song

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