I did not really expect to do another morning exercise music rundown so early in the year and so soon after my last one, a month ago. I have not been travelling to the Formula One races and so I have not had my usual stash of CDs offered by the Lotus Formula One team, which had a contract with Columbia records and gave away CDs all last season. But then I made a visit to a friend’s recording studio and music publishing company in Paris, and then I found a CD worth talking about wrapped in with the January edition of Rock&Folk….
The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy
As a reminder to readers in this first of the year’s exercise music rundowns, the idea behind this regular post/column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nightly exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines like Rock & Folk, Mojo and Uncut, and that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics. Then came the Formula One connection from the Lotus team, and I decided that I should occasionally share my morning exercise listening experiences with readers of this blog when I have no open mic news or videos to exploit.
I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.
The Basement Productions, French Fries Publishing Connection and CollectionI met Nick Buxton, an Englishman, in Normandy while vacationing with my family in the late 1990s, at least a decade before I returned to playing music in public and travelling the world attending open mics. I learned then that he had a business owning and running a recording studio in Paris, and as I was a music lover, we kept in touch and I eventually visited the studio. What I found was a massive underground wonderland of multiple studios, recording rooms, equipment, rehearsal and even performance spaces. There can hardly be a cooler recording studio set up in Paris, and as it’s all beneath the foundations of a building or two with arched brick ceilings and passageways from one room to another, I cannot imagine – although I’ve never asked – that there can be complaints about the noise from neighbors.
In any case, a few years after our initial meeting and after my first visits to his Basement Productions studio, I learned that Nick was starting up a music publishing company that he decided to call French Fries Publishing. That has been going on for a few years now, and as I often do during my break from my world travels, I dropped in a few weeks ago to say hello, discuss his business – and mine – and see what was going on in his life. The first thing Nick did as I entered, was to introduce me to a guy whom he called “Louis Alphonso,” as he said what he had been doing lately was to record a new album with this guy. It turned out, he said, that Alphonso used to play in the 1980s British band, Bad Manners, and it was his first solo album, in fact. Nick offered me the CD, and then I started speaking to him about what I was up to, and I mentioned this blog and my morning exercise music. One thing led to another, and I ended leaving the Basement Studios with five albums from the French Fries Publishing venture, including “A Noir,” by this Mr. Alphonso.
I’ve been doing fruitful morning exercises ever since! Basement and French Fries, it turns out, is a hive of activity, a bastion of British-cum-French pop rock music in the middle of Paris, near the Anvers Metro, not far from Pigalle, and there is very much of a family feel to all of the five CDs that Nick gave to me. That means that French Fries very definitely has a point of view, a “sound” if you will. That feel has something to do with the British ska music movement in the 1980s, which the band Bad Manners was part of; but along with some other influences including garage rock and basic singer songwriter stuff. Most of the CDs were produced and/or engineered and/or recorded and/or mixed and mastered by Nick, and his partner Olivier Furter, so that’s another reason there’s a family feel to it all.The five CDs Nick gave me were the aforementioned Alphonso, plus a band called Simili Skaï, another called Jack’s de L’or, Neon Campfire and GlebBones. The ones that stood out the most for me as I did my morning exercises were the Simili Skaï, which is quite melodic, and the Louis Alphonso – which also, incidentally, DOES have a family connection as Nick’s young child bangs a piano and vocalises on it at one point, and it also contains voices of several other people including Jarvis Cocker (- of Pulp – who uses the studios sometimes), and it gives special thanks for musical influences to, among others, Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. And yes, there are some weird things on this CD where I can see the influences come in! (Notably, the other liner note: “Produced by Nick Buxton despite Louis Alphonso.) Also, by the way, despite me saying this is a bastion of English music in the middle of Paris, a rough estimate would put French musicians at well over 50 percent of the personnel on these CDs. So this is a mixture of French and English wine, if you will….
Rock&Folk Monster CD 45 and the Burnin’ JacksJust when I thought that I would turn this edition of my morning exercise music into the first one that focuses entirely on the production of CDs from one single recording studio and music publisher, I bought a copy of the January issue of the French music magazine, Rock&Folk, because it had Bob Dylan on the cover and because I had not bought any for a few months – behind way, way behind in my reading! (IE, magazines and books piling up in an not-yet-finished-reading mountain.) Then, of course, I realized that I had the latest “Monster CD” of a selection of the latest music by the editors of Rock&Folk, and I had another day of exercise music to contend with. And THEN! Suddenly I saw that amongst the tracks on the Monster CD was a track by a band called The Burnin’ Jacks, the young French band whom I have written about for many years on this blog, and the guitarist of which I have recorded with, whose name is Félix Beguin. I had been watching and playing with the band since my musical adventure began in the fall of 2008, and here they were now included on a compilation CD of the top French rock magazine. So I just had to listen to this and write about it here.
As it turned out, the song that the magazine chose to use on the compilation is one I know very well, and it is one of at least two of The Burnin’ Jack’s repertoire that I had always assumed was some kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll standard. It is called, “Bad Reputation,” and when I heard it again on this CD, I thought, if the Rolling Stones covered this song, everyone would think it was one of their hits from the 1960s. In fact, I’d love to hear them cover it – but I’m pretty sure they could not do as good a job as The Burnin’ Jacks at the moment – who, by the way, had their faces plastered up on a poster all over Paris in recent weeks announcing their concert at the Maroquinerie, which I understand was a massive success last weekend….
And they may be a bunch of guys with bad reputations, but they were in good company on the Rock&Folk Monster CD, with Motörhead, Anna Calvi, the Jacuzzi Boys and Dave Stewart, among others. The most interesting personal discovery for me on this CD was Samantha Crain, who looks like she has to be about 12 years old, but I found her referred to on the Internet as “still only in her 20s…” and I cared little about her looks or her age, because she clearly has a unique voice and interesting songs. The opening track of the CD, by Kendra Morris, was also great listening. But few matched the energy that the Burnin’ Jacks injected into my sit-ups….
Well, that rounds that up. A small morning exercise crop of CDs, my seventh edition since I started doing this in April….