Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coming of age

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I was listening to some Steppenwolf on my ipod while exercising and it really struck me how much of the music was still relevant. Teens and young adults coming of age in the late sixties struggled with how they felt about an unpopular president advocating an unpopular war, friends with drug problems, changing the work culture, equality, relationships and uncertainty about the meaning of life. Ok, so not much has changed. I suppose most of this generation would rather have their music about life's questions be rap/hiphop or country. They could do a lot worse than good old Steppenwolf if they would have a listen. Its easy for me to say because I am a fan of the late sixties early seventies rock sound. Steppenwolf is a classic example of the genre with the distorted electric guitar, hard driving bass and drums, Hammond organ played through Leslie speakers, and John Kay's gravelly growling lead vocals. The musicians were good, the recordings were tight, and John sang like he meant it. Most everyone knows their big two: Born To Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride. They both became anthems for the time and show up in movie sound tracks numerous times. Some people believe the genre was named Heavy Metal after the lyrics in Born To Be Wild. There is not much I desire to add to the volumes that have been written about those songs already. Instead I will call your attention to songs like:
  • Snowblind Friend - lamenting a friends cocaine addiction.
  • The Pusher - suggesting casual drug use is harmless but heroin dealers should have total war declared on them. John Kay exclaims, "I'd kill him with my bible with my razor and my gun"
  • Monster - strongly questioning our right to bring war upon other countries and beseech the older generation to help them make things right again because "We can't fight alone against the monster"
  • Rock Me - wondering about the meaning of life and dealing with it in a decidedly sixties free love way
  • Its Never Too Late - proselytizing that you can still change your ways and redeem you life, using some well written phrases in doing so

Listening to the words to Monster I was surprised how remarkably similar many of the sentiments were to the arguments being made about occupying Iraq last year. That was catalyst enough to rediscover other songs. Not that I agree with all their views but I found current relevance, nostalgia and some fine Rock and Roll while I suffered on the exercise machine.

If you used to be a Steppenwolf fan, go back for a treat. If you have never listened beyond the big two, give it a try. If you don't want to be bothered, well, as John Kay growls, "Who needs ya!"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Imperial Russian Stout

I had a milestone birthday not too long ago and many (most?!) of my friends bestowed upon me gifts of fine drink. What does that say about me? Never mind. One such gift was a 1 liter bottle of Pozharnik, Espresso Russian Imperial Stout brewed and bottled by the Pennichuck Brewing Company. If I read the label correctly the name of the stout means fireman: a person who works at the fire brigade. I am not sure what the name has to do with the stout. The label indicates it was brewed with coffee & vanilla beans and aged in whiskey barrels. It also proudly proclaims it was a 2007 Great International Beer Festival Silver Medal Winner. The web site says this brew is 10.0% ABV. There is something about the old style flip top that makes me smile. It does not guarantee the brew will be top notch any more than a real cork does for a bottle of wine, but it is nice presentation. I would say that it is a feature that you can break this open and put it away to finish it the next day but... we know better. In my home, an open bottle is an empty bottle. This stout had a nice aroma, generous and long lasting head, and a rich dark color. After admiring it for all of 27 seconds, it was time to drink. There were plenty of subtle flavors with bold chocolate taste leading the way and only a moderate bitter aftertaste. A high alcohol content brew has a different taste than your run of the mill mass produced beer. Done poorly the brew tastes, well, strange and imbalanced. My bottle of Pozharnik was well balanced; a finely executed recipe where the alcohol, the full bodied texture, and the balance of flavors melded quite well. It was not until my second glass of stout that I realized this was a higher alcohol brew. The night I had the stout I was alone and had some time to kill. In retrospect this stout is better saved to share with a friend along with a good food pairing. I did enjoy it, but by the time I had the last glass the taste was a little overwhelming. This is not a brew to have regularly but rather as a special treat. Enjoy this rich brew with a big juicy burger hot off the Weber with a comrade who appreciates a hearty stout. It would also stand up nicely to a ribeye or prime rib. Prepare your palate with a mild pale ale while grilling and then be ready for a nice surprise when you flip the top. The Czar's master brewer had this one right.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

If its broke, fix it

One of my favorite euphemisms is 'percussive maintenance'. Go forth and use it today. Break something if you must. I guarrantee it will give you a good feeling.
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