Friday, November 26, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Play the Game

As I mentioned on Sunday, I totally dropped the ball and forgot to write a Queen Song of the Week Post last week. In my defense, last week was pretty rotten and by Friday, I was just thrilled to have a few days to myself.

Play the Game was written by Freddie Mercury and appeared on the band's 1980 album The Game. It was released as a single in the U.K. and the U.S. where it peaked at #14 and #42, respectively.

Video courtesy of vicken28.

Play the Game is a Queen track that bridges the gap between their sound of the 1970s and 1980s. Fans have their opinion about which era was better, but from a song like this, the evolution of their music becomes rather clear. While the song contains synthesizers making it decidedly 1980s, it also contains layered guitars and harmonies by RT, Freddie, and Dr. May echoing their trademark sound of the 1970s.

This song was also rather lovely when played live (as evidenced by the above video). And in 2005, Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, a major Queen fan, cited Play the Game as one of his three favorite songs!

Happy Listening!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Queen Song Feature: No One But You

Today is the 19th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death from AIDS-related complications.

Though Freddie was sick for several years prior to his death and unable to tour, he continued to write and record music and the band released two studio albums prior to his death in 1991 (The Miracle and Innuendo). While Freddie's illness had progressed tremendously at the time when Innuendo was recorded, the album is considered by many fans to contain some of his strongest vocals in years.

In 1995, Roger, John, and Brian reentered the studio to record Made in Heaven. The songs on that album were taken from Freddie's studio recordings dating back to the early 1980s and from reworking songs that had appeared on Freddie's solo album, Mr. Bad Guy. This album is considered the fifteenth and final Queen studio album.

But the boys reunited one last time in 1997 before John Deacon retired once and for all. The compilation album Queen Rocks was slated for release and they decided to add one brand new song to the album. While the song does not feature Freddie Mercury at all, it is considered by many fans to be the last "Queen" song ever recorded as without Freddie and his influence, it would not have been written. It is the last Queen song on which John played bass.

No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) was written by Dr. May. It appeared on the 1997 compilation Queen Rocks and was released as a single in 1998 where it peaked at #13 on the U.K. charts.

Video courtesy of Stifler2005652007.

Dr. May and RT share lead vocals on this song, emphasizing the strength of each of their individual voices. Then they harmonize together during the chorus. The sound is rather reminiscent of the B-stage set list during the Queen + Paul Rodgers shows of 2005 and 2008.

The song itself was inspired by the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, who build wings out of wax to escape from a castle in which they are imprisoned. Icarus becomes so excited once they are free that he flies too high into the sky causing the sun to melt his wax wings and him to fall to his death in the sea. Though certainly not a literal interpretation, the lyrics contain rather blatant references to this story.

No One But You is included in Queen's musical We Will Rock You and is sung by the character Meat, a role originated by Dr. May's current protege Kerry Ellis. Click here to hear her version of the song, which is absolutely lovely in its own way.

Next year (2011) marks not only the 20th anniversary of Freddie's death, but also the 40th anniversary of Queen forming. Fans are hoping for a year long celebration which Dr. May has already assured us will include new releases, computers (Rock Band: Queen?), and live work! Sounds great and I can't wait!

Happy Listening!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Action This Day

We're continuing to work our way through the set list of Queen's 1982 show at Milton Keynes. The tour was in support of the band's album Hot Space and marked the last time that the band's original lineup toured in the United States.

Action This Day is both the first song in the show that appeared on the album Hot Space and the first song in the show written by RT.

Video courtesy of queenofficial.

RT and Freddie Mercury shared the lead vocals on this song and, in this concert, managed to replicate a fair amount of the album vocals. Here's the album version for comparison. I do wonder, however, if any of the vocals are overdubbed because sometimes the non-Freddie vocals (i.e. Freddie is obviously not singing) sound like RT and sometimes they don't. Interesting.

The song has RT written all over it. I feel fairly confident that if I'd seen the written lyrics without knowing the songwriter, I could pinpoint it as an RT song. Also, the drum beat, which drives the song, is very reminiscent of solo songs RT was writing in the early-1980s (specifically Man on Fire, reviewed here). RT was also the first of the band to really start to experiment with synthesizers, which led to some criticism of the band.

Hot Space in general is frequently cited by fans as too far a departure from the band's work in the 1970s. I'll be honest: I'm definitely more of a 70s Queen fan than a 80s Queen fan, but I like this song which is probably based more on my appreciation of RT as a musician and solo artist than my love of Queen. I can see how listening to this song immediately after some of their earlier stuff might be a bit jarring.

Happy Listening!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running Shoe Review: Asics Gel Foundation 9 & Your Running Questions Answered

During my last giveaway several people asked me running related questions. Since I've not done a running post in a while, I decided to answer all the running-related questions as part of a running shoe review.

Erin from Designer Me asked: What are the top three running gear items that I need to get into a running frame of mind?

Two things popped into my mind right away: my Garmin Forerunner 305 (reviewed here) and running shoes purchased at a specialty running shop (personally I'm a fan of Fleet Feet).

The Garmin literally changed my running life: suddenly I could track exactly how far I went on each run, monitor my pace and heart rate during the run, and then upload all that data into my computer to view my progress. I don't know how I lived without my Garmin!

The running shoes don't have to be purchased at the specialty store (although doing so does support the store so it'll be there the next time you need shoes!), but I definitely recommend going in for a fitting. At my local store, they videotape you running on a treadmill and then analyze your gait. They measure your feet, both sitting and standing to determine if your arch collapses at all. And then they recommend shoes based on your individual needs. Not everyone should wear the same running shoe and sometimes a person's running shoe needs can change over time! I started off in a neutral shoe, ended up in a cushioned shoe when I started having some foot pain, and then following a nasty bout of plantar fastisis went into a motion control shoe. You should never have to break in running shoes and most specialty stores will take returns, even if the shoe has been worn, so if something doesn't feel right when you get it home, take it back!

My current running shoe purchase is the Asics Gel Foundation 9. I've been running in a pair of old Nike Air Zoom Vomeros with the inserts removed and replaced with Green Superfeet for an embarrassingly long time. My motto with running shoes is typically if it's not broke, don't fix it so I ignored all advice that I should replace shoes after 500 or so miles.

In my defense, Superfeet are designed to last for a year and I wasn't terribly past that length of time.

Then I started getting blisters and I knew it was time to get some new shoes.

Runners World does a shoe review a few times a year and the Asics Gel Foundation 9 got some great feedback: For a shoe that does such a great job correcting overpronation, the Foundation is decidedly unmotioncontrol- like. Its interior is lined with plenty of soft materials that, when combined with the sole's balanced profile and flexible forefoot, results in a smooth, steady ride, free of the stiffness that plagues many motioncontrol shoes. Except for noting the shoe's heavy heel, testers had nothing but positive things to say. Recommended for large runners or heavy overpronators who need superior support.

Now, I'm not a runner that overpronates (which in layman's terms means landing with your foot rolling inwards towards the arch), but I do have arches that collapse slightly every time I take a step. That means that I need tons of arch support (for anyone who is familiar with Green Superfeet, you know that it's basically the equivalent of having custom orthotics made for your shoes...out of concrete.)

The problem with Green Superfeet is that when you go a day or two without running, your feet have to readjust to them for the first few miles. Typically that's not an issue when I'm running 20-30 miles a week, but since cutting back to 15 miles a week, I'm really not interested in spending 75% of my runs getting accustomed to my shoes! (This should answer Maggie from The Fashion Maverick's question.)

My plan was to buy the Asic Gel Foundation 9 from Running Warehouse (my favorite online shoe retailer) and try them on my treadmill. If I hated them, I'd go to Fleet Feet and get reevaluated, but I had a feeling that the Gel Foundations would work just fine for me...and I was right.

This shoe is heavy; like really heavy. If I were buying this shoe a year ago, I'd probably return it because I felt a bit like I was running with weights on my shoes. However, since I'm under doctor's orders to slow down, these actually worked perfectly for me! There's a fair amount of arch support in this shoe, but it also managed to be cushioned at the same time.

At first I was worried about my poor arches stretching too much, but once I got into my running groove, I could feel the arch support keeping my foot snugly in place. I always order two sizes up in a running shoe (because my foot tends to expand as I step down), but most experts recommend sizing up at least 1 size anyway. One thing that always worried me about this shoe initially was the heel which is really snug. When I first lace the shoe up, it feels very constricted, but once I got moving all was forgotten.

This shoe will definitely get me through the winter months without issue. Next year, when hopefully I'm authorized to get back to my normal training routine, I'll consider heading back to Fleet Feet for an evaluation, but in the meantime, I'm very happy with these shoes.

Now onto everyone else's questions:

Newlyweds on a Budget asked: How do you motivate yourself to run when you just don't feel like it?

I have a few strategies. One is to convince myself to go out for just two miles (one mile away from the house and one mile home). Typically once I'm in my workout clothes and outside, I end up going farther than that.

I'm also not above bribes: if I do this run, I get to buy x.

But sometimes I'm just not feeling a run and if that's the case, I don't do it. I run because I enjoy it and I never want to resent it because that's when I'll stop. A few years ago, we went on vacation to Maine. I got up four mornings that week at 6am and ran between 4-9 miles (23 miles total). Then I got home and was so mad that I really didn't get a "vacation" since I got up so early all those mornings (and consequently had to go to bed early the night before). I promised myself that I'd never force myself to run on a vacation again. If I wanted to do it, great, but if I didn't, I'd just get back in the saddle when I got home. You aren't going to lose any fitness if you take one, or even two, weeks off and I've found that sometimes a little bit of time away from running rejuvenates me and makes me remember how much I enjoy running in the first place!

Peggy from She Hath Done What She Could asked: I would love any tips you can give to a beginning runner. I have tried it so many times and just don't like it - maybe I'm doing something wrong??

Haven from Hogwash, Poppycock and Other Preposterousness asked a similar question: How do you keep from getting bored on a run?

And KatKoot asked a related question too: How does someone work up from walking to running?

My biggest tip would probably be to slow down! It's so tempting to get outside and run at a break neck pace until you want to die, but that's not doing yourself any favors! Even if it feels like you are positively crawling, you've got to build up your endurance and heart strength and you do that when you are exercising aerobically, not an-aerobically (greater than 75% of max heart rate). The longer and slower you run, the faster you'll ultimately become.

When I first started running, I'd run 3 miles in about 30 minutes and then wonder why I never got any faster. Then I started training with my mom, who was about 1-1:30 minutes slower than me. All of a sudden, my 5Ks got faster because I was training slower and strengthening my heart! Of course, you should occasionally work in some speed work to get your body accustomed to traveling at a quicker pace, but for beginners, you should just focus on the endurance factor.

I do a lot of my best thinking while running: I can't tell you how many legal arguments have occurred to me while I'm out in the middle of nowhere, five miles from my house! I take my iPhone with me to run (for safety reasons), but then I will usually put on my music. I'll listen to the first song or two and then my mind just takes off, thinking about everything and anything. By the end of the run, I have no idea what songs I just listened to and, half the time, no idea what I spent all that time thinking about, but I always feel refreshed!

Treadmills are a whole different ballgame. I hate them for anything other than speed work. I do own one and use it in the winter. To get through those runs, I'll turn on loud music, put on the television, make Husband sit next to me and chat. In NYC, the gym I went to faced the treadmills towards the street so you could people-watch which is fun (especially in NY!) I've heard of people training for marathons on treadmills and just the thought of that makes me want to die!

Jen from The Life Accounts asked: What type of fitness are you doing now that you're not doing so much intense running? Have you found any new fun fitness ideas?

Does Rock Band drumming count? Seriously, click here to watch RT on a science show from the early 1980s. In just 30 seconds of drumming, he gets his heart rate up way higher than where mine is five miles into a run!

Sadly, I've not done anything to replace running. I've slowed down and cut back, but that's about it. One of my favorite things about running is the sense of accomplishment that I get when I'm finished and I just don't get that feeling from any other types of exercise that I've tried.

I'm open to suggestions though!

Maggie G. asked: What is your favorite line of running/workout apparel? I'm intrigued b/c I just started running regularly in the spring and this winter is going to be my first winter trying to run.

For winter apparel, I couldn't live without my CW-X tights (reviewed here). They are pricey, but totally worth it. I also love L.L. Bean fleece vests (reviewed here). I prefer to be a bit cold at the start of a run so unless it's absolutely positively freezing, I'll wear one of those vests over a long sleeved wicking top and a wicking tank. Headbands and gloves are also a must: my hands tend to get really cold and take the longest to warm up. I'd rather wear the headband/gloves and have to take them off then to not have them at all. My running top collection is a bit of a hodgepodge: I typically buy off season at Marshall's or Dick's Sporting Goods so I've got lots of different brands/styles.

For indoor/summer running, I can't live without my running skirt from There are lots of other companies making running skirts now, but Cindy/Christy are my favorite. The skirts are comfortable, don't ride up, and look adorable! They have great tanks too, but they're a bit on the pricey side.

Finally, spiffy from Where the Lights Are Bright asked: I know you've run a half marathon, any desire to run a full?

Sure, I have aspirations of running a full marathon, but I'm also aware of my own weaknesses and limitations. I've decided that if I ever do run a marathon, I'd want to finish in under 5 hours (which I know sounds crazy slow, but remember this is 26.2 miles, people!) Right now, a more realistic goal for me is to break 2:30 in a half marathon (which is about 11 minute miles) and then from there, I can decide about whether to push myself to keep going. It's definitely in the back of my mind (as it is for most runners, I'm sure), but it's not in the foreseeable future.

spiffy on the other hand is a total rock star and is running in the ING NYC Marathon today! Go spiffy!

So that wraps up all the running questions from my latest giveaway. I'll be back to answer the rest of the questions at some point (I'm trying to work them into daily posts to avoid having a big long post like this one, but I might just give up and forget that idea!)

Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: We Will Rock You (Fast)

We're continuing to work our way through the set list of Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl. Last week we killed two songs with one post since our boys opened the concert with a medley of Flash/The Hero from the Flash Gordon soundtrack.

The next song on the set list is a fast version of We Will Rock You. For years, Queen closed their concerts with a We Will Rock You/We are the Champions medley, but during that time they often incorporated a fast version of their stadium staple into the set list.

We Will Rock You was written by Dr. May. It appeared on Queen's 1977 album News of the World. The song appeared as the B-side to the single We are the Champions. However, once the single was released, We Will Rock You became so popular and so frequently played by radio stations that the band decided to film a music video for it.

Dr. May wrote the song in response to the increased audience participation and interaction at Queen concerts. He wanted a song that the audience could mimic the instruments in addition to singing along. In reality, Dr. May's guitar is the only instrument used on this song: the famous stomp-stomp-clap was recorded from the boys stomping their feet on a drum podium. In concert, RT plays the beat on his drum kit.

The original version of the song was much more produced before Dr. May ultimately decided to strip the song down to it's bare bones, thus creating the instantly recognizable beat that we all know and love. The song remains in the public consciousness nearly 35 years later: last year the song was the most played song in NHL, NFL, and MLB stadiums. And the musical based on the music of Queen borrows it's title from the song.

The version from the Live at the Bowl show is great: full of energy and crazy fast! Queen usually played this version early in the set list and it's pretty obvious why: it sets the stage for the complete awesomeness that is to come!

Happy Listening!