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IceBear (Exeter, UK)

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Sunflower/Surf's Up
Sunflower/Surf's Up
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars An old favourite, 18 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Sunflower/Surf's Up (Audio CD)
I purchased this mainly for Surf's Up, an album I first heard not long after it was originally released. Until that point, I'd thought of the Beach Boys as classic purveyors of good-time sunshine pop music. This was a bit different though - the Beach Boys doing wistfulness, regret, even a bit of cynicism. All very redolent of the end of the Sixties. I've listened to it on and off ever since in various formats and for me there's not a dud song on the album. Student Demonstration Time comes in for a bit of stick in other reviews but it remains very much a part of the album for me. I still remember the shock of the student deaths at Kent State University. Neil Young's Ohio expresses the bitterness and rage at the event, whereas this treats it with some mockery - both equally effective in my view.

With the copy of Surf's Up that I wanted, Sunflower was effectively free and makes an interesting counterpoint, being much closer to the Beach Boys that you might expect. Even the cover designs point up the contrast - Sunflower has a sunny image of the group whereas Surf's Up has that curious dark image.


Black Light
Black Light
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some first-class Fusion, 23 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Black Light (Audio CD)
I've been listening to John McLaughlin for many years now but for some reason this is the first album I've heard from this particular line-up. It's hard to think of anything new to say about McLaughlin's own playing - just some great new variations on Jazz-Fusion. The other members of the band are well worth a listen though - providing great support and sounding like they've been together for ages. Special mention for Ranjit Barot on drums. His fusion drumming sound reminds me much more of, say, Vinnie Colaiuta on the Five Peace Band album than Trilok Gurtu on the albums from the early 90s. If, like me, you like sitting down to listen to an album rather than just jumping through a playlist, it's good to have something that pulls you in straight away. The first track here - Here Come The Jiis - does that in spades. The Indian melodic lines make real sense and what follows is well up to standard.


Listen Now ( Remastered )
Listen Now ( Remastered )
Price: £8.55

4.0 out of 5 stars re-discovered pleasure, 6 Jun. 2014
I bought this one when I was a student in the late 70s and I still own the long-playing gramophone record. I'm not quite sure why I bought it in the first place - possibly after a review in Melody Maker. However, I enjoyed it a lot at the time and it got played frequently. I'm now making more of an effort to listen to my old LPs again so out this one came.

How to describe it? There are some good songs with interesting lyrics - at least as far as I've ever been able to decipher them. "And now all your lives are bought and sold, and just for some Law and Order" - still has a bit of resonance today. "Postcard Love" has an old-fashioned charm - who on earth would think of sending a postcard now anyway? And "City Of Light" suggests that our modern cities aren't really such friendly places. Musically, there's a bit of a mix - enough jazzy inflections in the instrumentals to classify it as prog-rock, some classy but not flashy guitar from Phil M himself, appropriate use of saxophones.

The musicians' credit list is quite impressive. I guess the reason it took so long to record is just over getting different groups of them together in the studio. That might make it a bit of a mess, but it isn't - it has a consistent overall feeling, sufficient to always make me want to play the whole album through. If you like arty 70s rock, this is probably for you, so I suggest you follow the title and Listen Now.


Panasonic SD-2501 WXC Automatic Breadmaker - White
Panasonic SD-2501 WXC Automatic Breadmaker - White
Price: £104.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant piece of kitchen gear, 30 Mar. 2014
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This replaced an earlier Panasonic machine which performed faultlessly. The sole reason for replacing it was to get a model capable of making rye bread - like this one. The results are superb. It's easier to program than the previous machine too, and as with almost any such machine, the smells that permeate the house when it's baking are just gorgeous. If you like freshly-baked bread then do yourself a favour and get one of these - I really don't think you'll regret it.


The Fatal Shore
The Fatal Shore
by Robert Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic of popular history, 30 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Fatal Shore (Paperback)
This is a giant of a book. Not just because of its 600-page length but for the impression that it creates of being the definitive word on its subject. It is absolutely methodical in its approach, with early chapters devoted to the situation in England and Ireland that lead to the introduction of the policy of transportation. Even at that stage, you can tell that we Brits aren't going to come out of it well. The following chapters proceed in a very logical way describing the geographical situation of Australia at the end of the 18th ct., the early transports to Botany Bay, and so on. Throughout, there are glimpses of the callousness and cruelty of the penal system, that we sort of think we already knew about. The unstinting detail presented here does, though, contrive to emphasise these characteristics even more. And the whole builds towards descriptions of life in the penal colonies - the places to which people were transported after committing offences in New South Wales - Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island. The latter is clearly the pinnacle of "the System" and a place of true degradation and horror, interrupted for a few brief years under an enlightened governor.

This a work of huge scholarship and the result of the author's desire to describe a period of history about which we previously might have known a few snippets of information. At the end of the book, it is clear why to some extent it was a story that even modern Australians often didn't want to hear. The 70 pages of notes and bibliography are testament to the depth of research undertaken.

I had previously kown of Robert Hughes only as the author and presenter of The Shock of The New, his brilliant book and television series on modern art that appeared a few years before this book. He brings his lucid and accessible style to this work and enlivens it with many moments of dry wit and humour. As I noted previously, we Brits really don't come out of it too well. Those in authority in The System come over as bigoted, callous and incompetent with almost no exceptions. It makes you want to hope that the human race has moved on a bit since these times but enables you to spot when there is an echo of them in modern life.


Prism
Prism
Price: £6.92

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine electric jazz, 19 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Prism (Audio CD)
This came in my Xmas stocking after I first read a review in The Guardian and I put it on my wishlist. I'm not greatly familiar with Dave Holland's output but the Not For Nothin' CD has been on my shelves for a while and enjoyed. However, the idea of something with a more electric, jazz-rock feel appealed.

I think you can generally reckon that you're doing well when the first couple of tracks on a album just really pull you in, and that's what you get here. "The Watcher" is a medium tempo piece with plenty of drive and "The Empty Chair" a slower bluesy number. In contrast to another reviewer here, one of the big revelations for me on this album is the guitar playing of Kevin Eubanks. I knew the name, but I'd never heard him play on anything. Wel,, I guess I shall be looking for more. He doesn't overdo the effects here, mostly just a modest amount of fuzz, but he can certainly do the rapid stuff along with the best of them. Somehow this all seems in keeping with the album - music that could have been played mostly acoustic but just happens to be a bit more electric.

The other two musicians on the album are Craig Taborn on piano and Rhodes with Eric Harland on drums. Again, both new to me but both fitting into the ensemble perfectly. Harland has pleasing loose but rocky-when-it-needs-to-be style that reminds me a bit of Vinnie Colaiuta playing with John McLaughlin and Chick Corea in the Five Peace Band.

This is a fine album that is immediate;y accessible. Enjoyable at the first listening and just getting more so at each listening, which at the present count is already - lots!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2014 11:00 AM GMT


Seven Hills
Seven Hills
Price: £13.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another outstanding piano trio, 2 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Seven Hills (Audio CD)
I had the pleasure of hearing two of these musicians playing with Tomasz Stanko's "Dark Eyes" band a few years ago. That was a combo that seemed to have more mileage in it so it's great to hear at least two of the band doing new stuff together - leader Alexi Tuomarila on piano and Olavi Louhivuori on drums, accompanied by Mats Eilertsen on bass.

I generally reckon it's OK when the first track immediately pulls you into the album. That's true here - "Seven Hills" is a pretty straightforward tune with a melodic catch that just grabs your attention somehow. The tunes that follow are pretty easy listening if you're already a fan of, say, Marcin Wasilewski or the ECM style. There are no particular stand-outs, but just a lot of fine playing that hangs together as an album really nicely. The two slightly different tracks actually feature the album's recording engineer, Andre Fernandes, making it a quartet on guitar - and a good job he makes of it too. They could give some serious thought to making that a full-time band.

I've reviewed elsewhere that we live in something of a Golden Age for piano trios. Here is more proof if it were needed. If you already like that format, treat yourself to this. If you need an introduction to the form in one of its modern incarnations then you could do much worse than start off by giving this a listen. I'm looking forward to the next....


The Voyage of the Discovery (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
The Voyage of the Discovery (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
by Robert Falcon Scott
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An Antarctic "must-read", 4 Nov. 2013
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There has been much to enjoy in reading many of the great stories of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. This was a bit of an eye-opener. Much of the commentary you find now on Scott has more to do with his later expedition, where we know the tragic outcome. I've yet to read Scott's own diaries from that time, but I think I might give them a try, because it was wholly enjoyable to read this account of his first expedition between 1902 and 1904. There's more to it than simply a day-to-day diary of the expedition, although Scott does quote directly from his own diaries on many occasions. Those quotes are well-used though, to enliven a fascinating story.

With hindsight, much of what's here could appear as a classic story of British stiff upper lip and derring-do in the slightly shambolic way that some would describe as typically British. The accounts of this expedition trying to work with sledge-dogs are almost sad now, when read in the aftermath of Amundsen's later expedition which treated the dogs in a much less sentimental way. It's clear that Scott did as much as he could to seek advice on polar travel from such experts as there were, but he obviously missed out a bit with the dogs. It's no surprise really that he put such little faith in dogs on his later expedition. However, he makes no secret of his naivety in many important aspects. There are many examples where he writes quiet openly about the mistakes that he made in planning or leadership, but it's equally clear to me that he did his best to learn from those mistakes.

Much of the most enjoyable writing here concerns not the day to day account of the travels, but the chapters giving more in-depth accounts - in particular, that on details of sledge-travelling, life in a tent at -30C, the food they ate and the general daily routine. In addition, Scott was a great observer and describer of the landscape in which he was travelling. Whilst this particular edition is almost without photographs, in many ways Scott's own descriptive powers make up for that.

This is most certainly a book that should be read by anyone with an interest in the early history of Antarctic travel and exploration.


Sony Mid-Range In-Ear Headphones with Deep Bass for iPod, iPhone, MP3 and Smartphone - Silver
Sony Mid-Range In-Ear Headphones with Deep Bass for iPod, iPhone, MP3 and Smartphone - Silver

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good value phones with decent sound, 15 Dec. 2012
Let's be clear - you're probably not going to pay much more than a tenner for these so you're not going to expect to get ultimate hi-fi quality. You do get a pretty good sound though. Not what I would really call deep bass but its clean and seems to work well with a jazz bass. The treble is a little sibilant but that can be an advantage if you're listening in a noisy environment or listening to a lot of speech podcasts as I do, although a little wearing on classical music.

Other good features: There's a neat cable-tidy so you can shorten the length a bit. The cable itself is not so rigid as on other 'phones so so you don't get as much mechanical clunking or rubbing noise through it. Finally, the actual ear-pieces are angled so they fit really snugly in your ears and you can actually rest against cushions or on your pillow in bed without them being driven deep into your ear.

I purchased these after various pairs of Sennheisers and Creatives lasted between a few months and a year and a half. In normal use they will always have a hard life getting stuffed into pockets or briefcase so I don't reckon to spend large amounts. I consider these excellent value for money as long as you don't want the absolute top quality sound.


Bartůk: Complete Solo Piano Works (Decca Collectors Edition)
Bartůk: Complete Solo Piano Works (Decca Collectors Edition)
Price: £16.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very evocative music, beautifully-played., 1 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't buy very many "complete works" boxed sets, but I came to love Bartok's piano music after first hearing some of the orchestrated versions by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. I then went to a fabulous Prom concert by this combination playing some of these pieces in parallel with the solo piano versions performed by Andras Schiff.

Many commentators suggest that Hungarian music is best interpreted by Hungarian performers, and I see no reason to disagree. This is a fine set and astonishingly good value for money with 8 discs. Of course, many of the individual pieces are very short - sometimes less than a minute - but it's great to listen to in chunks - maybe the 6 Romanian Folk Dances or the 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs. However you do it, it'll carry you off to the heart of old Eastern Europe.

These recordings have been around for a while but don't show their age at all. They're a must for anyone with a "complete" fetish, but even if you think you only want a few of the pieces then I suggest you treat yourself to this set. You're bound to come across a few more little gems. And if you don't know the meaning of "rubato" before, then you'll certainly know the feeling of it afterwards.


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