Sunday, May 30, 2010

Running Essentials: SmartWool Socks

When I was in high school I played basketball. (I played other sports too but this story relates to my brief and unimpressive basketball career.) We'd practice right after school so we'd have to bring our practice clothes with us to school each day. Occasionally, we'd forget an item which wasn't terribly a big deal: typically a teammate would have an extra shirt to loan us.

Rarely, however, did teammates have an extra pair of socks in their gym bag. Were we phased? Of course not! We'd pull our crew socks down giving the appearance of a short athletic style sock, wrap the excess sock material over our toes and along the bottom of our foot, and go to practice...

Yeah wrap your head around that. We'd go to two hours of basketball practice, which usually began with at least one mile of running, with an entire extra layer of sock bunched up in our shoes. Don't even get me started on the day my friend and I accidentally switched shoes and I did an entire practice in size 8s (as opposed to size 9.5).

Ah, youth - how resilient I was then...

Nowadays, I go to a specialty running store for shoes, wear special inserts, have a podiatrist - how old am I again? Geesh. And this isn't just me spending money because I like spending money (I do) - this is honest to goodness necessity. If my feet are going to cooperate and let me run as often as I do, they have certain demands and far be it for me to question these demands.

At the top of the list of demands? These socks.

And before anyone gets feisty, I do not like these socks just because they are purple. In fact, I don't even own these socks in purple - I have green, but it's my blog and I want it to be pretty so I'm putting up a picture of purple socks.

These are SmartWool PhD Light Micro Socks and they are amazing. Click here to buy them. Yes, they are wool, but no, they are not hot. Their material wicks away sweat and keeps feet dry better than any other sock I've tried (and believe me, I get a horrible case of the hot feets when I run outdoors in the summer - these babies take care of that regardless of the temperature.) I have a certain spot on my foot that rubs and I am constantly dealing with blister. Now, I'm not going to claim that I don't still get blisters, because I do, but they are significantly smaller and less painful since I switched to these socks more than a year ago.

I bought 6 pairs of these socks last summer and wear/wash them approximately once per week. They've held up great and you'd never know they were more than a year old. They've also stood up to weekly battles with my terrier/chihuahua mix Izzy who wages war on laundry baskets in search of socks. Now, manufacturers of dry wicking clothing recommend machine washing and air drying. Meh - I don't have time for air drying. I throw these babies in the dryer (along with all my other dry wick running gear) and dry them on low temperature. All my gear has held up fine. Just be sure not to use a dryer sheet - that will mess with the dry wicking feature.

I slept in a bit too late today to get a long run in before the ridiculous heat starts (it's already 75 degrees outside at 9:30 a.m. - no thanks!) so I'll do my long run tomorrow. But you can guarantee that whenever I do get in that long run, I'll be wearing these socks with a smile on my face!

Happy Running!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Save Me

So this picture makes it look like Queen wants to beat me up (especially RT. It looks like he has red all around his mouth. Blood perhaps? Zoinks!) So in light of that, this week's Queen Song of the Week is Save Me (Oh I do amuse myself!)

Actually I think this is a photograph taken during RT's short lived "goatee phase" during the 1970s. As you can see, it was a bit of a disaster. Luckily, he canned the idea rather quickly and now looks much better with facial hair.  See?
Save Me was written by Dr. May and appeared on the band's 1980 album The Game.The song was released as a single in the U.K. and peaked at #6 on the charts.

This song (along with Don't Stop Me Now) definitely reflects the end of an era for Queen - a move away from the harder rocking multi-tracked songs of the 1970s towards a more pop/radio friendly sound. The song itself is piano based, but then once the chorus starts, all the familiar elements of Queen's 1970s sound kick in and the song really starts to rock.

Personally I prefer the live version to the studio version. Check out Queen playing Save Me on the Queen: Rock Montreal Blu Ray here. In the concert, Dr. May starts off playing piano so Freddie can move around the stage. Freddie takes over midway through the song.

Save Me is the last of the songs that appear on Queen: Greatest Hits that I intend to feature as a song of the week. That means from here on out folks, we're into the real deep cuts only! I've been checking out songs that even I've never heard before and I've got to say, I'm pretty excited about some of them. That's the great thing about Queen: they recorded so many different genres of music, there's something for everyone and you'll never get bored!

Happy Listening!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Queen Songs of the Week: SingStar: Queen/The Show Must Go On

Last week, I discussed the songs in the Rock Band Track Pack. This week I'm highlighting the 25 songs contained on SingStar: Queen.

SingStar: Queen contains the 10 Rock Band Track Pack songs. I discussed playing that game last week, click here to read it. The songs available on both SingStar and Rock Band will be highlighted in yellow.

Part of the fun of SingStar: Queen is that while you play the game, you can watch the song's music video. Of course, Queen can boast creating one of the first music videos in 1975 for Bohemian Rhapsody (see here for more information). Their videos only got more awesome from there so watching them is ton of fun!

The four catagories are as follows: Save For Your Mix Tapes (these songs are best listened to and not sung - skip 'em!), Play with a Crowd (self-explanatory - these are the favorites of non-Queen fans everywhere), Play Alone (or go ahead and play with a crowd, but you'll likely be embarassed at how into it you get!), and Give These a Chance (lesser known songs that are nonetheless fun to try with a group).

Save For Your Mix Tapes:
Tie Your Mother Down (I'm just not a fan of this song and in particular dislike the spoken vocals. Play it on RockBand and enjoy the guitar riff.)
You're My Best Friend (Husband and I hired a string trio to play this song at our wedding, but it's a slow tempo without being a powerful ballad so it falls a little flat in this game.)
These Are the Days of Our Lives (This song is really lovely, but the music video is the last one that Freddie shot so it's really tough to watch (especially given the sentiment of the song).)
Play the Game (I'm not really sure why this song was even included, other than Dr. May/RT trying to be funny (aka "punny"). It's a decent song, but like You're My Best Friend, not the greatest tempo for this game.)

Play with a Crowd:
One Vision (This could also be in Give These a Chance - I may be overestimating its popularity. In any event, it's fun (albeit difficult) to sing and the music video is fun to watch. Queen allowed cameras in the studio during the recording process and this video is the end result.)
I Want It All (Great song - even more so since you don't have to worry about the drum or guitar solos in this game! Just sit back, enjoy the theatrical video, and sing along! Pay particular attention to RT's kit at the end of the song - he's got water on the snare so it splashes up everytime he hits it! Awesome!)
Another One Bites the Dust (It really is fun to sing and dance to. Word on the street is that it was originally about cowboys and Freddie toughened it up a bit. This is one of the first Queen songs that I loved so even though I now realize there are better songs out there, I still have a soft spot for this one!)
We Will Rock You (Who didn't sing this song when they were little and who doesn't sing it now at sporting events? This song is lots of fun and the video is great too - the band filmed it in RT's backyard. Unfortunately he had just bought the house and the old owners hadn't left yet so they couldn't go inside. Freddie stole some ratty gloves from a roadie and poor RT is shivering throughout the entire video!)
I Want to Break Free - (In the video, the boys dressed up in drag and Freddie brought in the Royal Ballet Company - really over-the-top stuff. The song is fun to sing and relatively easy as far as Queen songs go.)
Killer Queen (This song is actually pretty tricky to sing, but everyone knows and loves it!)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen goes rockabilly on this one with both the song and the music video. This is another party favorite because everyone really does love this song.)
Under Pressure (This song has the duet option so two people can sing at once - one as Freddie and one as David. That makes it lots of fun, but be warned, SingStar rates the singing much harder than RockBand does (particularly in this song!))
Bohemian Rhapsody (I'm of the generation that head banged in my car singing this song a la Wayne's World - in fact, I sang BoRhap at karaoke after my senior prom in high school! It's fun to actually see how many of the notes I'm hitting. The backing track is a bitch and filled with harmonies that I will never be able to figure out - I guess that's why I'm not actually in Queen...yet! One annoyance is that some of the notes attributed to Freddie are actually RT in the backing track (I mean you can actually see RT singing the notes in the video! Geesh!) You can't go wrong playing this song with a group though!
Fat Bottomed Girls (The day that the Rock Band Queen Track Pack was finally released, I came home from work, downloaded the songs, and then sang this one three times in a row! The melody is great and the lyrics are pretty funny too! This is also a fun one to sing when playing with a group of people because everyone knows this song (even if they don't realize it's Queen). Don't move around too much while you sing though - the notes are high and the lyrics are quick so you'll soon find yourself out of breath!)

Play Alone:
A Kind of Magic (Husband hates the video (Freddie, a magical man, turns the rest of the group from bums into musicians), but I think it's sweet. This was written by RT so I imagine doing duets with him while he's drumming (a la Queen + Paul Rodgers, see here)).
Somebody to Love (This song is known for its absolutely beautiful layered vocals that have a gospel choir feel to them, but sadly there is no duet mode for this song! The reason why I got the game was so that I could sing: "At the end of the day...goes home...goes home on his own" and the rest of RT and Dr. May's amazing background vocals. I still really love singing it by myself though!)
We Are the Champions (Here's an example of a Queen song that I don't particularly like listening to, but I love singing on this game (*gasps* I know guys, but it really is over-played and a bit sappy). Freddie really does have an amazing voice and this one really showcases that. If you think you can control yourself, play it with a crowd. Personally I get too into the song and prefer to sing it by myself!)
Who Wants To Live Forever (Not my favorite song to listen to, but man is this a powerful song to sing, especially in the final chorus. The video is really beautiful too with the band dressed to the nines, John Deacon playing a stand up bass, and the boys singing amidst a gospel choir! Be sure to keep your eyes on RT during the video - he showed up for the shoot so hung over, he couldn't even stand up let alone play the drums properly.)

Give These a Chance:
Hammer to Fall (This is an 80s song with a great guitar riff. The vocals are fun, but a bit tricky to keep up with.)
Breakthru (After the beginning (which is actually another song that was unfinished) which has some difficult harmonies, this song is lots of fun to sing and even more fun to watch the video. Don't get too complacent though - Freddie mixes up the vocals a bit towards the end!)
Don't Stop Me Now (Husband's favorite song to sing. It's a catchy song, but the lyrics are quick so make sure you know all the words before you move up in difficulty level! This song can be frustrating because it combines background vocals with Freddie's vocals so you'll probably finish the song gasping for air!)
Innuendo (Queen's last single before Freddie died - it's got some really powerful vocals and a cool Spanish guitar solo in the middle. The song switches styles a few times making it difficult to keep up with if you don't know it really well.)
Save Me (I love this song, but I love the live version better.  It showcases Freddie's powerful voice (this song is not included in the U.K. version, but rather Bicycle Race is - I think we lucked out, U.S.))
Radio Ga Ga (I love the video. I love the song. I love the story behind the song (see here). I sing this song, I imagine I'm really on stage with Queen and inevitably I have a blast! Now that I think about it, this one might be a Play Alone too!)

So that's 24 out of the 25 Queen: SingStar songs. The 25th song is my absolute favorite song in the game and this week's Queen Song of the Week: The Show Must Go On.

The Show Must Go On appeared on Queen's 1991 album Innuendo. It is credited to the entire band, but Dr. May is believed to have written the majority of the song. The Show Must Go On was released as a single in the U.K. in 1991 and peaked at #16 spending 10 weeks on the chart.

This is one of the last songs Freddie recorded before he died. It took playing this game for me to realize how awesome it is. Now it's one of my favorite songs (not just Queen songs) ever. The vocals are strong and powerful and the song is amazing! Many fans feel that the Innuendo album was closer in feel to the band’s music from the 1970s which is considered a really good thing.

The Show Must Go On is definitely a Play Alone song for me. I get really into it and enjoy trying to emulate Freddie's freestyle vocals, particularly at the end of the song. The music video is also really interesting to watch - it's a compilation of many of the band's past music videos (including I Want to Break Free, Princes of the Universe, and A Kind of Magic).

So even if you don't want to invest in SingStar: Queen, take a listen to The Show Must Go On and you won't be disappointed!

Happy Listening!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Queen Songs of the Week: Rock Band Track Pack/Under Pressure

I've mentioned my love of Rock Band before. During Christmas 2007, my sister convinced me to try it. By the end of the week, I was playing Medium guitar. That spring, my family came to visit and I forced my brother-in-law to pack up his xBox 360 and bring it to New England. By the summer, during our vacation to Maine, I was playing Hard guitar. I didn't even own the game yet!

I will admit though that my love of Rock Band had never branched out to a love of the drums - until Queen released a 10 song track pack in October 2009. Husband was away for a long weekend in Alabama and I was home alone. I watched Queen: Rock Montreal then I watched it again with the audio commentary. Then I said to myself, "Gosh darn-it, I'm going to learn how to play those drums." And I did!

Drums are the easiest "instrument" to increase difficulty on so I really quickly moved up to Expert on most songs. Then in a move completely inspired by RT, I set up my microphone stand next to the drums so I could sing while drumming. Much to my dismay Husband refused to mount the microphone stand from the ceiling so the foot stand wouldn't get in my way - ARG why must he always hold back my professional Rock Band drumming career?

So this week, I'm going to recommend Rock Band Track Pack songs you should download depending on which instruments you enjoy playing. One thing I've discovered in playing Rock Band is that sometimes the most fun songs to play are not fun songs to listen to and vice versa. For example, one of my absolute favorite Rock Band songs is Reptilia by The Strokes (click here), but frankly I don't particularly care for the song otherwise.
The entire Queen track pack costs less than $20, but if you are being frugal and only want to splurge on a few songs (or if you aren't really sure that you like Queen *gasp*), here are my recommendations:

Drums (my favorite instrument):
Fat Bottomed Girls - This song has a great, unusual rhythm that took me ages to figure out. It also has a spectacular fill right before the final chorus that's basically become RT's calling card!
Somebody to Love - I swear someday I'll get Gold Stars on this song! Lift up your heel to manipulate the foot petal - there's no way you can tap your way through this song. My latest challenge is to incorporate the cymbals into this song - it's trickier than you might think!
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - The first time I saw the drum part of this song, I panicked, but it really isn't as bad as it looks. Once you get the rhythm down, you can just sit back and enjoy the song!

Tie Your Mother Down - I don't particularly like this song. There's nothing wrong with it per se - I just don't think it's a good reflection of Queen as a band. Dr. May wrote it so the song does have a catchy riff that is fun to play. It's the other components of this song that bother me (i.e. the speak-singing by Freddie Mercury and the boring drums) so I think that clouds my opinion of the rest of the song!
One Vision - This song is tough - no two ways about it. I can play it on Expert guitar until the solo at the end at which point I fail out every time! This is another one of Dr. May's famous riffs so that alone makes it fun to pretend you're jamming with him!
Somebody to Love - If there was Rock Band: Piano, this song would be freakin' amazing on it. As it is, the piano portion of this song has basically been translated to guitar. It's got lots of quick notes and the dreaded triple chord is out in full force. I can occasionally struggle through it on Expert, but typically I'm playing this baby at Hard.

Bass: Another One Bites the Dust is a given here. Everyone knows that baseline and regardless of fun I think there are to play far be it for me to criticize it!
Somebody to Love - This song has a really unexpected pretty bass line. It's not particularly difficult, but it's fun to play and listen to.
Killer Queen - The biggest problem with this song is lack of notes! I get 97% and still only 4 Stars. What?!?!! I never noticed the bass line of Killer Queen until I played Rock Band (that's true of most of Queen's songs actually), but now I have a new found appreciation for John Deacon (though he's still my least favorite member!)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - I think the bass part in this song might be a combination of bass and Freddie's accoustic guitar, but the rhythm itself is rather fun to play. You can understand why John Deacon is known for his goofy dancing onstage - I'm sure he couldn't help himself!

Another One Bites the Dust - This is the first Queen song I ever really loved and it was because of the vocals. The rest of the instruments are a tad bland (other than the famous repetitive bass line that everyone recognizes).
Killer Queen - This song is Freddie's baby and I'm sure was only included in the track pack because its immediately recognizable to even non-Queen fans. It is fun to sing albeit much more difficult than you may initially think!
Fat Bottomed Girls - This song is pure camp and just tons of fun. When I first got downloaded the Track Pack, I sang this song three times in a row and danced around my living room. Too much fun!

Vocals+ (sing and play an instrument):
I Want It All - This song is rated as hard on most instruments, but that's really only due to the last 20% of the song (when there's no vocals anyway). Sing and play during the easy parts and then push away the microphone and try your hand at a blistering guitar solo and a drum beat that will have you climbing the walls! I typically drop a beat on the drum part to get myself through it.
I Want to Break Free - Likely programmed drums again and the guitar solo is really a synthesizer, but darn-it, this is a fun song to play (much more so than it is to just listen to). This is also the only Queen song that requires the singer to play the cowbell. If your singing/playing an instrument, make a "ppp" sound into the mic and you'll get the points!

My most favorite Queen song to play on Rock Band? It's not even really a contest.

Under Pressure - Fun to play every single instrument and fun to sing. Of course everyone knows the bass line (thanks in part to Vanilla Ice), but my favorite instrument on this song is guitar which is really melodic and pretty. The drums are a nice steady rhythm with some occasional variations to keep things interesting and a truly awesome mini-solo towards the end of the song. I appreciate the original song even more after playing it on Rock Band and I have to think that's part of the point of the game.

So without further ado, this week's Queen: Song of the Week is Under Pressure!

Under Pressure was a last minute addition to Queen's 1982 album Hot Space. And it's a good thing too because otherwise the album is (to put it lightly) not great. It was released as a single in both the U.K. and the U.S., peaking on the charts at #1 and #29, respectively.

The song is credited to Queen and David Bowie, mostly because no one can recall the specific details of the impromptu recording session. Each member of the band has been quoted as attributing most of the writing to a different member of the band so there's no way to tell exactly who wrote what! And perhaps most unfortunately, no one remembers who wrote the iconic bass line (Deacon says Bowie wrote it but Dr. May/RT say Deacon wrote it!)

Queen had just gone back into the studio to work on their follow-up album to 1980's The Game. The band had recently acquired Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and David Bowie happened to be recording there at the same time. David was friends with Freddie and RT and joined the band in the studio to jam. Someone suggested they write a song and Under Pressure was born (based in part off a song RT had been working on called People on Streets. Incidentally, RT included a song called People on Streets on his 1998 solo album Electric Fire. He's never discussed whether there are any similarities between the songs, but I can't imagine there are many: I actually dislike the song People on Streets pretty intensely!) I'm not going to describe the song in detail because I know you've all heard it! But it's trademarks are the catchy bass line and Freddie/David Bowie's nonsensical lyrics.

Under Pressure has a special role in my affinity for Queen in that it's the reason why I became a huge Queen fan though likely not for the reason you think!

For Christmas 2008, I bought Husband a Sony Playstation 3 Blu Ray player. He had wanted one for a while (and I wanted Rock Band so it was win-win!) After he hooked up the player, he joined Netflix and started investigating which Blu Rays were the best to show off his new toy. One of the first that arrived in our mailbox was Queen: Rock Montreal.

Seriously, if you don't own this Blu Ray, buy it. Even if you've never seen it. Even if you don't consider yourself a Queen fan. It's honestly that completely amazing (both as a concert and as an example of a Blu Ray - I mean it was filmed in 1981 and you can read the labels on beer bottles sitting on the piano and at one point see Freddie's sweat as he quickly turns his head to face Dr. May!).

We popped the Blu Ray in and started watching the concert. The band plays Under Pressure about midway through (incidentally it's the first time they ever played it live) (I've posted the video at the bottom of this post because I'm a superstar now and figured out how to do that!) We're both enjoying the song and at one point I look at Husband and say, "They must have a David Bowie backing track playing. I can hear his voice." Husband nodded. Approximately ten seconds later, the camera zoomed in on RT. "OH MY GOSH!" I realize, "He's drumming and singing!" If the drummer of a band was that talented, I clearly needed to check out the rest of what that band had to offer!

I've not been disappointed (obviously) as I'm now not only a huge Queen fan, but also a huge fan of RT's solo work.

Happy Listening (and don't say I didn't warn you if you end up catching the Queen/Roger Taylor bug too after watching that performance!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders: Album & Concert Review & What I Wore

Don't forget to enter Princess of Taylor's first giveaway (click here for details and to enter). The prize is a travel sized Laura Gellar Blush-N-Brighten in Sunswept and Queen's Greatest Hits. And, um guys, right now everyone has like a 25% chance of winning. This is free stuff people - enter my giveaway!

On Sunday night, Husband and I drove to Boston to see Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. I have a tendency to really build things up in my mind so I had really high hopes for this concert: basically I envisioned an audience of maybe 100, me in the front row, Roger Taylor showing up, and me hanging out with the band (and Roger) afterwards into the wee hours of the morning.

Um, guys? Other than Roger Taylor showing up (he didn't), my imaginary concert was not far from the actual concert experience! It seems that outside the Queen/Roger Taylor-obsessed bubble I live in, people don't really know who Taylor Hawkins is. On all the signs in the bar advertising the show, someone had written in "of Foo Fighters" next to Taylor Hawkins's name (this poster was on the wall in the ladies room). Now, granted I wasn't familiar with his solo work prior to the last few months, but I did know his name and that I always thought he was the "cute" one in the Foo Fighters. Clearly the rest of New England feels differently about Taylor Hawkins (or feels differently about going to a concert on a Sunday night) because there was a seriously small crowd at the show!

I borrowed my sister-in-law's camera and (because I couldn't figure out how to work the darn thing and, more importantly, wanted my hands free for potential Roger Taylor grabbing) deemed Husband the evening's "official photographer". He rose admirably to the challenge and took a ton of amazing photos.

Here's the venue. It's a bar with a small stage - I'd say at full capacity, it could maybe fit 250. According to the sign above the bar, the concert was not sold out. I'd estimate that there were about 100-150 people in attendance. No backstage. No dressing rooms. When the band left the stage prior to their encore, they stood in the public restroom for a few minutes and then joked that they had come back onstage a little early because someone had to use the restroom.

This is Taylor Hawkins's drum kit set up next to the stage on the way to the restrooms. Just sitting there in plain view. Husband admitted that he was seriously tempted to steal a piece of duct tape off one of the snares, but he figured that could lead to him being asked to leave. I told him that if he was asked to leave, I would have stayed so he probably made a wise decision by not touching the drums.

Here's the set list taped to the stage. I took this photo from where I was standing for the show (actually I think I even crawled up on stage a bit).

So do we have a general understanding of how small this venue was? It was ridiculous.

There was an opening band called Township. Here's their website. They were exactly what you would expect from a band opening for another band at a venue with 150 people in the audience. They played for about 45 minutes and their songs were catchy enough, they acoustics were good, and Husband and I decided that the guitar player was seriously the biggest poser on the planet so his onstage antics kept us amused!

It was after 10pm before Taylor Hawkins came onstage. I had my plan of attack all plotted out - I went to the ladies room and sent Husband to scope out a good spot. When I returned, I squeezed my way to the front of the stage and ended up in the front row, dead center in front of Taylor Hawkins's drum kit. I struck up a conversation with the guy standing next to me and was horrified to learn that he had been only 2 years old when Green Day released their debut album "Dookie". Man, did I feel like an old lady. I could have been this kid's mom!

Here are some shots from the show.

Husband found it tremendously amusing that I could turn around to face him and be in the same shot as the band so he took several photos like that throughout the evening. Unfortunately the silly camera missed the point of us both being in the photo so Taylor is basically in darkness - Arg!

At the end of the night, Taylor Hawkins skittered out of the venue right away which was a huge disappointment. I had so planned on cornering him and asking him about the rumored Taylor Hawkins/Roger Taylor tour. I did spot the guitarists Gannin Arnold and Nate Wood hanging around outside so I chatted them up a bit and had Husband take a picture. They both clearly need to work on their "picture with a fan face" - is it me or does it look like I've told them both that I intend to punch them immediately after the photo is taken? Smile, boys! I, on the other hand, look positively giddy as I have now officially met someone who is in a band with someone who is friends with RT. Nice!

The set list was a mix of new material from Red Light Fever and songs from their self-titled debut album. I was actually a bit surprised by a few of the new songs that they played, but thought that overall the show was great (and according to Gannin Arnold the crowd was great too!) For some reason until last week I assumed that Taylor Hawkins did his vocals and played guitar. I have no idea why I thought that because obviously Taylor Hawkins is known as a drummer so he leads this band RT-style from behind his drum kit. That is absolutely amazing, to say the least. Drumming is hard. Crazy drumming like Taylor Hawkins does is insanely hard. Crazy drumming like Taylor Hawkins does while singing lead vocals is freakin' unbelievable!

I've reviewed each of the songs on the new album individually below. The songs that they played at the concert are highlighted and I've included live reviews as well.

Not Bad Luck - This song is the most Queen-like on the album, but ironically neither RT or Dr. May appear on it. It does feature Elliot Easton of The Cars. The choir in the chorus is definitely reminiscent of Somebody to Love, Bohemian Rhapsody or Let Me Live. This song also contains what I've decided is one of the most awesome lyrics ever written: "complicated doesn't make it wrong." I'd say this song is one of the top three on the album. Here's a clip of the band playing this song live on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. The song sounded pretty similar on Sunday night - except that there were no female background singers. This was the final song of the encore and really ended the show on a high note for me!

Your Shoes - RT sings backing vocals on this song. I like this song a lot - it has a really great beat and I've completely convinced myself that I could foot pedal the heck out of this song on Rock Band. I do wonder if I'd like it as much without RT. You can definitely hear him in the chorus ("And you know"), but I'm not sure whether he also does some harmonies during the verses. In any event, he sounds great and it makes me giggle to think of him in the studio recording his parts and then sending the track along to Taylor Hawkins. I really wish RT had done some additional vocals or drumming on the album, but I'll take what I can get. Before the band played this song, Taylor Hawkins said, "This is the second song on the album," at which point I could not stop myself from cheering because I knew what song it was. Then he said, "Roger Taylor sings backing vocals on it, but he's not here tonight." To that, I yelled, "Boo!" That got a grin out of Taylor Hawkins (who was super interactive with the audience - I mean we could basically just say something at normal volume level and he'd hear us and respond!) The song sounded great live and for the most part, the band didn't try to recreate RT's vocals which in my mind was a tip of the cap to his complete and utter greatness!

Way Down - Husband and I agree that this is the best song on the album. Dr. May sings and plays his Red Special on it (he also co-wrote it). The chorus is repetitive and catchy - I was singing along to it the first time I heard the song. This song also shows what a good voice Taylor Hawkins has - man, he is singing high! If you're going to listen to one track on this album, pick this one and you'll have it running through your head for days! Before playing this song, Taylor Hawkins said that he never in a million years thought this song would be the single because it's so goofy and that he was shocked that everyone likes it!

It's Over - This is a song that I was really surprised that they played at the concert, but once they started it, I completely understood why they picked it: this is a song meant to be played live. On the album, it's catchy enough, but watching Taylor Hawkins play the drum fills and then somehow having the breath left to sing the song was pretty spectacular and gave me a whole new appreciation for the song!

Hell to Pay - If I had to pick a song on the album that's my least favorite, it might be this one. Not saying that it's a bad song - it's just not as memorable as the others. I listened to the CD a lot in preparation for this concert and yet as I sit here typing the review, I can't for the life of me remember how this song goes...hmm okay it just popped into my head, but I really shouldn't have had to think that hard! I think the issue is that it's a bit slow compared to the rest of the songs on the album which tend to pick up a bit at the chorus. This one stays at a moderate tempo throughout and just ends up being forgettable.

Sunshine - The thing that stands out the most in my mind about this song is a metronome-style clicking that you can hear throughout. I cannot get out of my mind the mental image of someone in the recording studio playing ping pong! It's super annoying! RT, did you put Taylor Hawkins up to this? I can't imagine he'd come up with ping pong studio effects on his own! The ping pong lets up for the chorus so I enjoy that part. This was the last song of the set so they played an extended version complete with mini-solos for all four band members. I'm happy to report that the metronome-style-clicking did not make it to the live version so for that reason alone, I much preferred this song live!

Never Enough - This song reminds me of a Nirvana song which isn't terribly unexpected (of course, Taylor Hawkins drums for the Foo Fighters which are lead by Dave Grohl who drummed for Nirvana). I can actually picture Kurt Cobain singing this song, especially the "I give you everything and it's never enough" part of the chorus. That said, I was always a bit of a Nirvana fan so its nice to hear a new song in their distinctive style.

Hole in My Shoe - Another one of my favorite songs on the album. Taylor Hawkins writes a really good chorus and this song is the perfect example of that - the chorus is awesome and the verses...well they're good, but why don't you play the chorus again? I also very much like this song because I can hear the harmonies. This happens to me with a song every so often: for some reason, the harmony is just really obvious to me (and not because it's being sung!) so I have lots of fun singing this one in the car and imagining I'm singing backing vocals. I was really pleased that they played this one and sang along. I was close enough to the stage that I think Nate Wood noticed that I was singing along and was a bit surprised (it being a new song and all).

James Gang - This song is a grower: meaning I had to listen to it several times before I finally liked it. I bet I'd have more to say about it if they'd played it live because this is another one that like It's Over, I bet sounds ten times better live than on the record. I guess I'll never know for sure though.

Don't Have to Speak - This is the other track that Dr. May contributed to and I have to say, I have never been someone who even pretended to recognize what the Red Special sounds like. It's a guitar. Yeah Dr. May happened to build it himself fifty years ago, but it's still just a guitar. However, in this song, I can absolutely recognize the Red Special during the guitar solo. I didn't know which other song Dr. May appeared on besides Way Down, but then I heard this song and knew immediately this was it. This is a great song even without Dr. May's awesome guitar solo - probably the most ballad-like on the album and one of my favorites. Of all the songs on the album, I was most disappointed that they didn't play this one live, but I can see why with the Red Special being so prominently featured on the song. I bet they'll play it at their show in London next week when the rumor is Dr. May and RT are going to show up! ARG!

I Can See It Now - Here's another song that took me a few listens to warm to. At one point I was ready to write it off as forgettable and then I couldn't get it out of my head for the entire next day! The tune has some unexpected notes in it (and being totally unmusical I have no idea if they are flat or sharp), but I like 'em! This song also has a catchy guitar riff following the chorus which I rather enjoy.

I Don't Think I Trust You Anymore - Another song with a great chorus and a really cool guitar riff following it. The verses are kind of moody and whispered and then the chorus kicks in and the song really starts to rock. I was pleased that they played this song at the show, but really surprised that it was their opening song. It absolutely got the show off to a great start though so I guess that's why Taylor Hawkins is the rock star and I'm just sitting at home typing reviews on my blog!

So what did I wear to this exciting event? My outfit actually took a tremendous amount of planning. I knew from previous experience that closed-toed shoes were a must (especially anticipating that I would be elbowing my way to the front of the crowd). I also wanted to wear something sleeveless and machine-washable because I knew I'd be sweating like a mofo! I also didn't wear any jewelry for fear of it being stolen (*zoinks!*) or ripped off (*ouch!*)
Ludi V-Neck in Sky, Anthropologie, size Medium (available here)
Jeans, Banana Republic, size 12L (from fall 2006)
Puma sneakers, size 9

I'd definitely recommend picking up Red Light Fever. It's got a Foo Fighters/Nirvana/Queen influence which seems both nostalgic and modern at the same time. I liked the songs played off their debut album so I'll probably buy that one myself. I'd also definitely recommend seeing their show if they are going to be nearby. Their entire concert schedule is on their website here (they're in Baltimore, NYC, and Philly before heading to Europe for the summer). My one complaint is that I was really hoping for a Queen cover (the kid next to me, on the other hand, was really hoping for a Foo Fighters cover). What did we get? A Cars cover. Their first encore song was You're All I've Got Tonight from The Cars 1978 debut album (click here for details). It's a good song and they played it well, but I would have seriously lost my mind if they had busted out Tenement Funster or Now I'm Here!

So that's my review - two super duper thumbs up for both the record and the concert. Now, everyone go enter my giveaway!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Running Essentials: Strassburg Sock

Actually I hope this isn't a running essential for most of you because if it is, that means you've been stricken by plantar fasciitis which is no fun! I came down with a nasty case of it last fall - I could barely walk, let alone run. It was the absolute worst.

Luckily I have several running buddies (erm...princesses) who had recommendations for me: new insoles, frozen water bottles on my arches, and a Strassburg Sock (available here). After only a few weeks, I was all healed up and was able to run again!

What is plantar fasciitis?

According to WebMD, plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.

Plantar fasciitis is a really common running injury and it's a real pain to treat. Every step you take strains the plantar fasciitis more so obviously running is out of the question until you're healed, but even walking continues to do damage (and most of us don't have the luxury of just not walking for a few weeks!)

Enter the Strassburg Sock. You wear it to bed and it keeps your foot parallel to your leg. This allows the plantar fascia to heal while stretched out and taut rather than limp and loose. After several nights of wearing the sock, your plantar fascia begins to strengthen and soon it's back to normal! Of course, you have to be careful in your first few runs coming back from plantar fasciitis - going too far too soon can lead to reinjury. I ran on my treadmill for those first few weeks so I could immediately stop at any twinge of pain.

The Strassburg Sock is really easy to use: just put it on like a regular sock, pull it up to your knee, and then string the long strap through the loop at your knee and use the velcro to attach the strap to itself. It definitely feels weird the first time you wear it. Put it on as you are getting into bed - do not try to walk around in this thing! The sock has a bit of compression to it so that's another unusual sensation you'll have to adjust to and I would have to play with the tightness of the strap a few times before I'd get it right. Once you have the Strassburg Sock properly adjusted, just go to sleep and let the sock work its magic!

I've been lucky and not had a reoccurrence of plantar fasciitis, but if I ever do, I'll have my Strassburg Sock ready!

*Disclaimer* I'm not a doctor or a podiatrist. This is not medical advice or diagnosis of any kind. This product worked for me, but may not work for everyone. Consult your doctor or podiatrist if you are experiencing any pain while running.