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N. ADAMS (Bristol, UK)

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Tracks and Traces
Tracks and Traces
Price: 9.26

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buried Treasure, 2 Nov 2009
This review is from: Tracks and Traces (Audio CD)
More than 30 years after its recording (seeing only the light of day in 1997) this album sounds as fresh and imaginative, if not more so, than if it had been produced today. For Eno working with the vanguard of these early German electronic pioneers, consisting of members of Cluster and Neu, must have proved to be an epiphany; indeed he described Harmonia as "the worlds most important rock group" - High prize from the man who would become the mastermind behind Bowie's 'Berlin' period and who would give birth to ambient music.
But listening to this album it is easy to understand why he was so unabashed. The music is tirelessly inventive, taking you through an endless array of atmospheres and moods that seemingly the probe the unknown and unspoken. Ranging from the plaintive 'by the riverside' right through to the atonal malevolence of 'weird dream', this release literally fizzes and cracks with imagination and possibilty. I cannot recommend this release highly enough.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2013 6:00 PM GMT


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A minor masterpiece, 30 May 2009
This review is from: Insurgentes (Audio CD)
How does a guy from Hemel Hemptsted get to be this talented?
Every track on this album is enagaging, fresh and different. More varied and experimental than his recent Porcupine Tree material, the album takes in contemporary musical influences such as the 'drone metal' of Sunn ((0)) evidenced on tracks like 'abandoner' and 'get all you deserve'. Whilst this gives the album a welcome leftfield edge, just as strong are wilson's ear for melody and a talent to write a good song. A beautifully layered and textered production, together with an engaging mini documentary DVD, makes for a very appealling package indeed. First Class.

Fear Of A Blank Planet
Fear Of A Blank Planet
Price: 6.19

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Blank, 18 May 2007
This review is from: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Audio CD)
After 15 years and 9 albums, Porcupine Tree look set, at last, to break into the musical big league. The momentum has been building ever since Steve Wilson decided to bring in Metal guitars to the PT sound on 2003's "In Absentia" and the subsequent follow up, "Deadwing." The subtle or not-so-subtle shift from Prog-Rock to Prog-Metal should not however be over emphasised given the eccleticism of Wilson's musical palette which has always balanced out any prevailing influences. But doubtless the shift into heavier, aggressive tracks has brought with it a larger, younger audience both here and in the states. No surprises, then, that Fear of a Blank Planet should continue in the vein of the previous two albums with a blend of long epic style tracks augmented with quieter atmospheric songs giving the listener a chance to catch his or her breath.

As you would expect from a PT album the level of musicianship is exceptional without being (too) self indulgent. The power and delivery of the band is up to their usual, very high standard as evidenced by the epic track "Anesthetize" complete with a guitar solo from Rush's, Alex Lifeson. When the now trademark metal guitars kick in, it is genuinely awesome to behold, but never allowed to dominate, adding an element to the track rather than subtracting from it.

Wilson is also no slouch in the song writing department either, capable of writing evocative and poetic lyrics that deserve to be listened to in their own right. He has therefore been quiet happy on previous releases to let the lyrical side of the songs come to the fore and let the technical side of the music subside a little. It is therefore with regret to have to report the fatal flaw of this album - It's concept - and what a horribly man-handled concept it is. So much so, that sadly it drags the whole album down with it - the music and obviously the lyrical content of the songs.

Although Wilson is airing legitimate concerns over what new-media techonology is doing to the minds and emotions of children it is all so palpably one dimensional and so relentlessly pessimistic to be beleived. According to Wilson, contemporary childhood, or let's say the "fear" of what is happening to it, consists of hatred of parents, casual violence, pornography, shoplifting, anti-depressants and a pathological fixation with gaming, i-pods and the internet. There is no mention of Rupert the Bear or playing Pooh sticks here! Of course, childhood innocence and niavety are being eroded but surely there is a little more light and shade to the picture? Contrary to rumour, not every kid is a violent, "blank", drug taking moron. I'm afraid the whole concept comes off as grossly simplistic and patronising.

With no cinque of light save for an ambiguous suggestion of escape (possibly suicide) on the last track this is about as black as it gets and the music suffers as a result, morphing it seems into a huge dirge albeit, a well played one. Perhaps over exposure to extreme metal bands like Meshuggah has addled Wilson's brain and blunted his faculty. PT are much better than this as past albums have consistently proved. It is a shame therefore that this album is the one that potentially could break them as a big name when it really needed to justice to the band as musicians and Steve Wilson as a songwriter. I hope some of that previous form returns for the next album.

Hidden (cache) [DVD]
Hidden (cache) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Auteuil
Offered by The World Cinema Store
Price: 4.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Depths, 19 Mar 2007
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
In many ways this ia "typical," European art-house film. Ambiguous, slow paced and self conciously intellectual it is the type of cinema you will either love or loathe. I have to say, I rather enjoyed the experience. Conventionally the film operates as a classic, "whodunnit?" as the central character, played by Daniel Autiel, finds himself the victim of an unusual form of video surviellance. The "who" behind the tapes remains the all absorbing question that drives the movie but ultimataely remains a mystery right up to the closing credits. However, this is not done for effect or to rub a mainstream audience up the wrong way but is central to the ideas the film is attempting to articulate. The audience are simply allowed to make up their own minds.

Haenke skillfully builds the tension right through movie as more and more is revealed of George Laurent's (Autiel) hidden past complete with heart stopping, visceral flashes that will genuinely make you gasp. The film's complexity lies with its attempts to deal with notions of how past events are remembered, where blame can be attributed and how guilt is either faced or evaded. Embracing both the personal and the political, these themes are dealt with considerable skill and imagination, however the film's sombre tone and rather pessimistic outlook did leave me feeling that this was a rather a cold, slightly contrived intellectual excercise.

Magnolia (2 Disc Box Set) [1999] [DVD]
Magnolia (2 Disc Box Set) [1999] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Cruise
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: 9.89

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deeply Imaginative and Humane Film, 16 Mar 2007
Regarded by many as a post-modern masterpiece of cinema due to its complex arrangement of overlapping narratives set within the lives of a seemingly disparate ensemble of characters,courting ideas like chaos theory, the biblical exodus and just the downright quirky. Magnolia, however, touches on universal and timeless themes of guilt, loss and redemption. This is in fact the simple declension of the movie; one that it is dealt with considerable sensitvity, depth, imagination, humour and humanity.

Lead by an immpresssive array of Hollywood actors who each in their own way give superlative and moving performances as the film meanders through its various sub plots and stories to its provocative, unforgetable conclusion. Despite the wide distrubution of characters and storylines the film never loses its focus, neither do the characters appear cursory or arbitary to the film's central point. Underpinned by a fantastic soundtrack and directed with sensitivity and flair, the film is a fully realised work of art that you will want to revisit time again. "Masterpiece," is perhaps an overused word these days but in this case I think its status as one is fully justified.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air, 12 Oct 2006
This review is from: Picture (Audio CD)
Prog-Rock in its many forms has been in serious decline since the mid eighties suffering it seems from an image problem and labouring under that damning of all labels, "pretentiousness". Its not cool to be musicianly or to know how to play something in other than 4/4 or to want to say something lasting longer than 6 minutes. Such things are considered decidely boring and self indulgent particularly by the music press. The upshot of this kind of musical facism is that is we have a lot of bands out there who are popular in their English, parochial kind of way but have a severely limited musical vocabulary and don't travel very well.

However, the tide is slightly turning as we are seeing bands like the Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree begin to get the recogintion they deserve as musicians that are doing something original and artiscally valid both here and abroad. Kino seem to be part of this gradual upturn away from the predicatble strumming guitar combo consisting of young skinny white boys that regularly appear on the front covers of NME and alike.

But in a way Kino are hardly new, in the sense that band consist of various members and ex members of notable prog inspired bands of the past and present including It Bites, Marillion, Porcupine Tree and Arena. Suspicions might be aroused at such a combination as an opportunity for mutual ego grafication with dollops of unweildy guitar and keyboard solos and lashings of nonesensical lyrics. The result, however, I am glad to say is far from that terrifying reality. What in effect you get is a breath of fresh air. Each track is crisp, well delivered and well played - They produce an accesible sound with a slight pop sensibilty but with plenty of precison and power, mercifully free of unwordly concepts and musical flab. The album is pitch perfect with each member making a well balanced contribution to the well worked songs. Is this the future of Prog? Well, maybe, but one thinks that their advanced ages might prevent them from reaching a wide audience. Still, in the end, it is their pedigree as musicians and songwriters that count in the end and judging by the fruit of their labours this proves their vindication. Long live Prog! Highly Recommended.

Live in Montreux 1987
Live in Montreux 1987
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: 5.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DA!, 7 Jun 2006
This review is from: Live in Montreux 1987 (Audio CD)
It Bites are a band that are almost impossible to categorise given the ecclectic nature of their music. Haircut 100 meets early Yes might come close to describing this most talented, eccentric and charismatic band of the 80's. This live cd captures them during their most fruitful period which followed the release of the prog oriented "Once Around The World" which out of their three studio albums sees their phenomenal talents as musicians come to the fore yet maintain their canny knack to write an accessible tune.

Their performance here is generally first rate with excellent renditions of "Black December", "I've Got You" and of course, "Calling All The Heroes" which sounds infinitely better live than the poppy studio version. Elsewhere the performances are a little ordinary and sometimes a tad dissappointing, "Yellow Christian" suffering it seems from a badly chosen guitar sound. It is good that the epic "Once Around The World" is included altough it is not from the same concert and is rather badly recorded.

Overall despite its flaws this is a very worthwhile purchase capturing a magnificent live band at the peak of their powers. Pity they don't make them like this anymore!!

Seconds Out
Seconds Out
Price: 9.75

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Live Masterpiece, 24 April 2006
This review is from: Seconds Out (Audio CD)
The 70's were great for producing musicians that could really play. Unlike today where so much music is produced at a touch of button or fashoined by a pop svengali, producing the goods live was seen as the real benchmark of a quality artist or band.

Here is probably THE finest example of a live group at the peak of their powers. Genesis were a good studio band but epic tracks like "Suppers Ready" and "The Cinema Show" are taken to a whole new dimension. The quality of the playing is absolutely superb throughout with a powerful, articulate sound that makes the hairs on the back your neck stand on end. If you are serious music fan, Seconds Out is a must.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2012 10:11 PM BST

Drama [Expanded & Remastered]
Drama [Expanded & Remastered]
Price: 3.48

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kick up the 80's!, 3 April 2006
Drama is a surprising album. Surprising because it unites one half of the "classic" Yes line up (Steve Howe, Alan White, Chris Squire) with 80's pop duo, "The Buggles" (Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes). On the face of it not the most likely of partnerships and one that for Yes fans would seem doomed to fail since this particular inacrnation of the band was less its principle songwriter and singer, Jon Anderson.
In their 70's heyday, Yes produced sprawling Prog-Rock epics that went under ungainly titles such as "The Revealing Science of God" or "The Gates of Delerium". But by the early 80's, Yes and other bands of their ilk were a spent force in musical terms; having the metaphoricals kicked out of them by the aggression and nihilism of Punk.
The Buggles at the time, however, were flush with the success of their Top 5 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" a song which seemed to signal a fresh and succesful decade for pop and the new art form of the music video.
So in some ways The Buggles had more to lose than the remaining members of Yes by chancing their arms on this collabrative venture. But Sqiure et al still had their reputations as superlative musicians to think about and there was no way that this album was ever going to be compromise on that front. The resulting album was not therefore a curious pop-rock record but still an unashamedly prog one.
Hovever, the playing is less frilly and the presentation less wayward, benefting from the directness Horn and Downes were giving them. Although Horn's vocals don't come anywhere near to Jon Anderson's range and delicacy he manages to more than hold his own in what must been a very daunting situation to find himself in. Production and overall sound of the album is excellent with Steve Howe electing to go for a heavier guitar sound than rather shrill presentation of previous albums and compliments Downes' straight forward style very well. Alan White's drumming is superlative, delivered with high precision and power thoughout while Chris Squire produces arguably his best performance on a Yes album, before or since. Lyrically it doesn't do much, but compared to some of the nonsense from previous albums it is a vast improvement.
In short Drama is a real gem and represents a breath of Fresh air for Yes, after their listless performance on the previous album, "Tormato" which lead to the departure of Anderson and keyboardist, Rick Wakeman.
Becoming increasingly aware of just how big the shadow of Jon Anderson was casting over the lead singer spot in the band, Horn only lasted the album and a subsequent tour but went on to produce the mega-selling, AOR follow up to Drama, 90125.
Although this isn't classic Yes music in the strictest sense of the word and will be considered by many fans as a bit of an oddity, this album is paradoxically one of their strongest and best.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2011 9:27 AM GMT

Hoover Street Revival [2003] [DVD]
Hoover Street Revival [2003] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Noel Jones
Offered by Helgy
Price: 2.42

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars miracle on hoover street, 30 April 2005
The streets of South Central Los Angeles in December look like the Griswald family Christmas: row after row of houses competing to drain the National Grid with their extravagant festoons of lights. From an aerial view, the city looks like the LA we know from a dozen movies - vast, sprawling, twinkling like some grotesque stage set. Director Sophie Fiennes seems well aware of the ironic potential of this shot: of the gulf between the manicured splendour of movie star mansions and the sharp reality of South Central, East LA, Compton and Watts.
Without missing a beat Fiennes cuts to Bishop Noel Jones 'backstage'. Like a rockstar getting ready for a gig he is priming himself for the coming sermon. When Fiennes cuts again to the choir in full flow the richness of the sound and the powerful emotion of the soloist set the scene perfectly. It might look like the congregation are there for the music and the dancing, but when Bishop Jones speaks he is powerfully charismatic. His message on this occasion is uncompromising but humorous - and well tailored to his audience: 'You gotta die out to the parties when the babies are born.'
The director then picks up this theme as the camera cruises through everyday suburban life: past tiny houses with cages around the doors, bars on the windows and yards surrounded by chain-link fences and barbed wire. The movie plunges straight into the interior life of the suburb, accompanying an ice-cream vendor as he prepares for work, ironing his shirt on the bed and then moving through to the bathroom where his baby daughter is clumsily washing herself. Fiennes demonstrates a feel for the beauty and pathos of human existence as we watch the father patiently showing his daughter how to scrub herself clean and then helping her put on her clothes.
This is not a cosy anthropological study. South Central LA is essentially an enormous shanty town, built in the desert. More aerial footage reveals the gridlock streets that resolve themselves into major roads, then larger arteries, then the freeway, branching out into a vast spaghetti junction - all of it surrounded by miles of low-cost housing. Fiennes assembles a cast of locals who talk engagingly and wittily about their experience of faith and the effect it has on their lives: carwash guys, regulars at a fast food joint, former gang members and drug users, the ice-cream vendor and a formidable octogenarian. The talk is of kicking drugs and drink, gang membership or just simply getting by.
It's not all misty-eyed honest-to-god stuff. Noel Jones Ministries is a thriving cottage industry with an impressive array of audio-visual recording equipment plus a duplication and packing plant for churning out cassettes. They appear to be doing a cracking trade, with a Top 20 of the most popular sermons, including the memorable 'Cancel my appointment with the Antichrist'. The director isn't afraid to show some of the dingier side of the local community though, accompanying the cops as they are called out to a domestic incident. Later in the movie the crew happen upon a gang shooting in an apartment block. The cameraperson manages to blend into the crowd, registering the shock and anguish of the local people without descending too far into voyeurism.
This is skilled, intelligent and compassionate documentary-making. It would be too easy to display the church of Bishop Noel Jones as some kind of cult of personality - although Fiennes doesn't shy away from displaying his obvious impatience at times with his flock (when they seem more transported by the music than the words of God). What seems clear from this movie is that South Central LA is not some war zone of WASP nightmare fantasy but a true community with parties, dances, sporting events and parades. What is also clear is that the Greater Bethany Church stands at the centre of this - not as a psychic vampire preying on the weak and the helpless, but reaching out to the troubled and dispossessed. Solid, meaningful filmmaking.

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