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Simon Slator "coldsun" (Tamworth)

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Bruce Springsteen - The Collection, 1973 -1984
Bruce Springsteen - The Collection, 1973 -1984
Price: 16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classics at great value (plus info regarding ripping "Darkness..."), 20 April 2014
Over 40 years have passed since Bruce's first album hit the shelves and, unless you've been hiding under a rock, it can't have escaped you that Bruce is still topping the charts and performing to huge audiences. Of course, there will no doubt be some inquisitive members of the younger generation keen to investigate his recorded legacy. For them, this collection provides his first seven albums - all of which are required listening for *any* rock music fan - at a very attractive price. Likewise, for those that have worn out their well-loved vinyl, the set provides a means of replacing them in one fell swoop and without forking out a small fortune.

For the audiophiles concerned that this new release contains over-compressed remasters, you'll be pleased to know that they're the same masters as have been used since the early 90's at least. The version of "Born to Run" is NOT the remaster used in the 30th Anniversay set, which is a relief as I always thought sounded blaringly loud and in-your-face. Okay, they will be quieter compared to recent Bruce albums, but that's what your volume control was made for.

Finally, for those concerned about whether "Darkness..." will rip onto their iPods, my copy ripped without complaint. I can't say for certain whether or not it's since been rectified, so I hope the info below will help. I ripped mine using a Pioneer DVR-220 via iTunes with the Error Correction option ticked. My set doesn't resemble that of the stock picture - it has white lettering at the top of the box rather than at the bottom. The matrix number on "Darkness..." is A0101684084-0101 35 A05 (IFPI L555).

The Complete Albums Collection
The Complete Albums Collection
Price: 60.25

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely presented and great sound, 31 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'll start by answering the questions you're most likely asking:

1. Yes, the vinyl replica sleeves do have that white border. Looks rather silly on the inside gatefolds of "I Robot" and "Eve"
2. It's the 1987 version of "Tales..."
3. No, there aren't any bonus tracks
4. The remastering is quite good - looks like a tiny bit of compression/limiting was used to keep the peaks under control, but is barely noticeable
5. "The Sicilian Defence" isn't as bad as it was made out to be. Eric's piano instrumentals are actually quite good. In and of itself, it's a curious little album - mostly synthesized and definitely un-Project-like, but I've heard far worse albums hacked out to fulfil a contract. It's not worth buying the set solely for this album, though.
6. The booklet does feature some rare photos and full credits. I don't know if it features any more info than was in the 2008 remastered editions, but certainly has more than the first pressings. No lyrics or additional notes though, but they're abundant on the Internet anyway.

Other than that, it's a box set that ticks all the essential boxes. If you're relatively new to the music of APP, or if, like me, you've got worn vinyl to replace, it's an ideal way of getting everything in one fell swoop. Collectors may want to wait and see whether "Sicilian Defence" gets a separate release though.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2014 4:17 PM BST

Man On The Rocks
Man On The Rocks
Offered by Crawley Music
Price: 12.41

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Stephen Lipson Project featuring Mike Oldfield, 14 Mar 2014
This review is from: Man On The Rocks (Audio CD)
Before I begin, I need to make my credentials clear. I have been a Mike Oldfield fan for almost 25 years now, almost three-quarters of my life. I have found much enjoyment in all eras of his career, and have found his musical diversity quite stimulating. Although, like many others, I do prefer his earlier instrumental albums; I am not a purist who expects nothing but side-long instrumentals. I am a member of the “Mike Oldfield Personal” group on Facebook, but deliberately avoided it in the weeks leading up to release so that I could listen with fresh ears, without hearing any of the “exclusives” and without getting caught in any hype. So, what I am about to say is done with respect, honesty and open-mindedness.

“Man on the Rocks” is not a bad album – it’s just… well… meh. For me, a good Mike Oldfield album is one that makes your ears prick up, sends tingles down your spine or pings a lightbulb with an interesting musical idea. I listened to it start-to-finish several times, and I really listened hard wanting to find something that clicked, but there was no reaction whatsoever. It was easy enough to listen to (and, believe me, I’ve heard some hour-long albums that are so gruelling, they’re like walking uphill in concrete shoes), but didn’t find it quite as exciting or as deeply-personal as I was led to believe.

The production I found was very plastic – it’s definitely liberal with Steve Lipson’s veneer; particularly on “Following the Angels” which sounds like an entry in the X Factor final, complete with now-compulsory gospel choir backing. Lyrically, it wasn’t Mike’s finest hour either. Choruses tended to consist of just the title repeated four times (or more), and the less said about “Irene” the better. Mike’s guitar work is, as always, the saving grace and he pulls off many a good guitar run; but as these runs are just thirty seconds in a six-minute piece, they’re a long time coming.

I’m sorry, but it’s a dud in my book – but that’s okay. In a discography as diverse as Mike’s, you can’t please everyone all of the time. Still, he’s done a couple of Chillout albums, a classical piece and now a contemporary pop album… a bit of roots reggae next time perhaps?

Original Album Classics
Original Album Classics
Price: 9.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but could so easily be perfect, 16 Dec 2013
This review is from: Original Album Classics (Audio CD)
I find these "Original Album Classics" sets ideal for those seeking a low-price and no-frills introduction to a particular artist; particularly when the artist in question made masterpiece albums but was so light on hit singles that a "best of" or "greatest hits" wouldn't satisfy. They're also ideal if, like me, you've previously owned these albums and they need replacing.

I have no qualms about the selection - between "Texas Flood" and "Couldn't Stand the Weather", you have some of the rawest and most electrically-charged blues ever to emerge from the Lone Star state. "Soul to Soul" shows signs of wear-and-tear as a result of SRV's various addictions, but still holds together exceptionally well. The passion in which these albums were performed is, without exaggeration, an eye-opening experience.

My only gripe is that it's merely a three-album set when many others in the series have a complement of five. SRV didn't record much more than this in his tragically-short lifetime so, had they included the uplifting powerhouse of "In Step" and the introspective "The Sky is Crying", Sony would have covered all the bases leaving you with a more complete view of his oeuvre. You'd then be free to sample his live and collaborative albums at your own leisure.

So, to summarise, the three albums contained in this set are essential in and of themselves - I can't recommend them highly enough. However, as SRV's studio output numbered just five albums with his last two of equal importance, I can't understand why they didn't make it a five disc set similar to the ones released for Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

Acc-Sees Antistatic Record Cleaning Fluid and Cloth
Acc-Sees Antistatic Record Cleaning Fluid and Cloth
Offered by Analogue Seduction
Price: 6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cleans well, but not right out of the box, 4 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've tried a few products for wet-cleaning my pre-owned vinyl and, I must admit, this stuff does a rather admirable job for the price. It's still a solution made of dilute isopropyl alcohol so there's not much to differentiate it from the pricier alternatives. It makes light work on greasy fingerprints and brings back that new-vinyl sheen, plus you get a good 250ml of the stuff, which should last some considerable time.

The only pitfall is its instructions. What you get is a sealed bottle that you have to pierce with a pin, plus a flimsy piece of cloth in the lid. You have to squirt a bit of the solution onto the cloth (or a velvet cleaning brush for a deeper clean) and wipe that around your record. This is all well and good, but the cloth doesn't really go deep enough to get the ground-in grime, and has a tendency to shed its fibres over your record. Instead, I squirted some of the solution into a clean, empty spray bottle so I could apply it directly to the vinyl and work in with a microfiber cloth. It evaporates quite quickly, so I have to be quick. I then play each clean side through a couple of times on 45rpm to let the stylus dig out the remaining gunge, brushing it clean after each play. The results are quite decent - I've tried it on a few records so far with a noticeable noise reduction; even on records that were particularly dirty and manhandled.

If you're on a budget and see vinyl as an inexpensive source of music entertainment, you can't go wrong.

The 2nd Law [VINYL]
The 2nd Law [VINYL]
Price: 21.87

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is this PUNCH I'm hearing?, 1 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The 2nd Law [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Prior to this album, the most I'd spent on a Muse album was around 2 (and hadn't even spent a fiver on the band in total as I'd acquired them all second hand) but all of those albums were mastered so loud it was difficult for me to appreciate them. The only place they sounded passable was in the car, but I'm too busy keeping my eyes on the road to pay them the attention they require.

I bought the Vinyl edition of their new album without having heard anything from it, moreso in the hope that the vinyl treatment would actually give their music the dynamics and punch I so longed to hear. I wanted to hear their peculiar brand of symphonic-alternative-progressive-electronic rock, not just a bluster of noise like my CD of "Black Holes..." was.

This is a nice, quiet pressing on heavy vinyl with no more than 15 minutes on a side cut with a good inch of run-out groove; allowing more room for those dynamics without any noticeable distortion even on my humble system. Nicely done and nicely packaged, although the gloss of the sleeve easily gets marred by fingerprints if, like me, you choose to break open the cellophane and give the records a spin.

The music itself is irrelevant as, unless you gambled like I did, you must already be convinced of its musical merits if you're willing to fork out the premium on this vinyl edition. I wasn't disappointed - I doubt you will be either.

SoundLAB Professional USB Belt Drive Turntable with Plastic Platter, Lid and Audacity Software
SoundLAB Professional USB Belt Drive Turntable with Plastic Platter, Lid and Audacity Software
Offered by Digitalis Direct
Price: 117.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A high-performing deck at an accessible price, 14 Sep 2012
Audio Technica cartridge
Quiet operation
Surprisingly low wow and flutter
Works right out of the box

Internal phono stage not suitable for the stock cartridge

I've owned a handful of turntables in the last 15 years, from the pathetic Goodmans GSP through to the audiophile-grade ProJect Debut III. It's fair to say I wasn't expecting a lot from this turntable, but I got far more than I was expecting.

For a start, the stock cartridge comes from the Audio Technica AT3600 family with the grey low-compliance stylus, which appears to be de rigueur on similar decks in this price range. Personally, I love the sound Audio Technica cartridges make - even when I try other supposedly superior brands, I always end up back with Audio Technica. For a cartridge at the bottom end of the scale sporting a .6mil conical stylus, it's surprisingly detailed and doesn't complain if your vinyl isn't in tip-top condition. My well-played LP of Mike Oldfield's "Hergest Ridge" (pressed during the mid-70's oil crisis) never sounded better.

Although the platter is made of plastic (not the steel or acrylic of more professional tables) it's actually very quiet without any adverse effects on the sound. Unlike my Debut III, there was no noticeable hum being transferred from the motor either, just a very negligible bit as the stylus reached the run-out groove.

The only down side is the internal phono stage. The manual states it works with cartridges with output voltages in the 1.5-3.5mV range, yet the stock AT3600 outputs at around 4.2mV. The result is an amplifier that is easily overloaded - on some LPs you won't notice anything but on a 12" single where the cuts are louder, they'll sound boomy and compressed. However, you can hook the deck up to an external phono stage: I've gone for the Behringer PP400 which does the trick nicely without breaking the bank. The alternative is to go for a lower-output cartridge like the GrooveTool GT fitted to entry-level Numark decks - it may be the cheapest option, but what you save is not worth the hassle of having to re-install and re-align the cartridge.

All things considered, this is a nice piece of kit - it won't sound tinny or noisy like the cheaper turntables on the market and extracts a surprising amount of music from older and well-loved records. Ideal for those longing to spin their old, forgotten vinyl, or for those who (like me) enjoy crate digging at charity shops and car boot sales.

Apple iPod classic 160GB - Black - 6th Generation
Apple iPod classic 160GB - Black - 6th Generation
Offered by London Deals
Price: 179.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for music lovers with huge collections, 20 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I needed a new MP3 player as my iRiver iHP-120 was now almost a decade old with its battery approaching the end of its useful life, requiring a charge every other night after less than 4hrs of use. I needed both storage capacity and affordability, so I picked the iPod Classic over its cousin, the iPod Touch. I figured I didn't need the apps and gadgets, just something to play music on.

The iPod Classic fills this need perfectly. 300 "albums" (ranging from a one-track single to a 6-hour box set) encoded at a 256kbps minimum only fills around 20% of it, so I've got plenty of room for my collection to grow. The 320x240px resolution may seem small (especially to iPhone users) but the interface itself is uncluttered, intuitive and easy to navigate - not as expansive or as detailed as the Rockbox firmware I loaded onto my iRiver, but still gives you a decent amount of control and customization without burying options under reams of menus.

I have absolutely no complaints about the sound quality. The unit does indeed have a `volume lock' which limits the maximum volume you can crank it up to. I set this quite high, mainly because I prefer buying CDs that haven't been compressed and limited to ear-bleeding loudness, but there are always a few that slip through the net. The simple and obvious solution was to calibrate the volume lock using something quiet and dynamic (like a CD of stand-up comedy) then adjust the volume manually during playback.

I do agree with other reviews that advise you to ditch the included earphones, especially if you're used to noise-isolating `canalphones', as I found them both uncomfortable and tinny. They're more suitable if you're already used to this style of earphone and listen to more treble-heavy music.

Statements saying the unit is `a bit noisy' are not unfounded, but at the same time, you can't expect a HDD-based model to be completely silent. The most noise it makes is when the disk spins down, sounding something like a laser from a 70's sci-fi movie, but that is a very small trade-off when you consider that (a) you won't hear it when you're wearing earphones and (b) spinning down the disk when not in use saves unnecessarily draining the battery.

My only gripe is with the obligatory iTunes software. There was the odd instance where the running order of an album was slightly muddled when it synchronised. One album had its two tracks listed the wrong way around (solved by re-importing the two parts individually and in the correct order), and one where the album title tag on one song had different capitalization to the rest of the album; so it got treated as two separate albums. If you're an album person like me, it's mildly annoying when you're setting it up for the first time, but you quickly get used to how your iTunes library is represented on the iPod.

The most amusing touch is the game that asks you questions based on the songs loaded onto your iPod; especially if you've got some spoken word comedy albums. Personally, I never knew a Victoria Wood routine about hospital food could be classed as a "hot tune"! Well, they do say that comedy is the new rock `n' roll...

On the whole, if all you want is something that will play your large digital music collection, it will do everything you expect of it with style but without pretention or excessive eye candy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2012 6:08 PM BST

Takk (LP) [VINYL]
Takk (LP) [VINYL]

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a vinyl record, more a thing of beauty, 19 Jan 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Takk (LP) [VINYL] (Vinyl)
The CD may wield many benefits with its compact size, ample storage and ease of portability, but with modern mastering practices turning music into what Bob Dylan referred to as "static" with "noise everywhere" and "no definition", I find it no small surprise that Vinyl is still with us, and it's bands like Sigur Ros that keep that old Vinyl ethic alive.

Before I start, I will say that I'm not really going to comment on the music itself - if you're seriously considering paying the premium for this vinyl edition, you must either be a collector (in which case the album won't even leave its shrink-wrap), or someone who already has a very good idea of what the album sounds like and how good it is.

This was the first of the band's recent vinyl reissues that I've bought and, on first impression, I could see that a lot of attention to detail had been put into it. The gatefold sleeve is made of very strong cardboard; the embossed book-like exterior can only be described as "de Luxe", and the artwork is delightful and not overpowering. Some might call it unnecessary or pretentious but, at a time when your typical album cover involves just a photo of the artist themselves, it's good to see something that qualifies as "art". Jonsi and Alex's graphics are equally as distinctive as the works of Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson who are no strangers to designing LP covers.

Next up is the vinyl itself. Each of the two 12" discs is pressed on 200g virgin vinyl and mastered using Direct Metal Mastering techniques for quiet, distortion-free playback. Even on my humble system, surface noise is negligible and unobtrusive. With the exception of Side 1, each side is pressed with quite a sizeable run-out groove so your stylus never reaches those hard-to-track areas of the disc. That's not to say Side 1 sounds worse than the others - the sound quality is consistently high throughout.

Finally, we have the sound. One thing I didn't like about the CD version is that when the music needed to be quiet, it was fine - but when songs like "Hoppipolla" and "Saeglopur" exploded, the sound just blared into your ears. Because Vinyl can't handle such extreme volumes, those passages are significantly tamer but don't lack in effect. On "Saeglopur" for example, the turbulent mid-section sounds just that and, if you've ever seen the song's video, the rolled-off highs add some much-needed murk to the song. When the strings of Amiina come into play, the vinyl brings out the warmth and organicity of the instruments compared to the cold-hearted sterility of the CD.

In conclusion, I don't think you've experienced "Takk" fully until you've heard it on Vinyl. The format allows the music to radiate from your speakers with a higher degree of space and separation, giving the impression that the band is in your home giving you a private performance. The packaging is immaculate, the mastering is first rate and the attention to detail is outstanding. If you already love the album and want to hear it as nature intended, it's worth every penny.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2011 11:48 PM BST

American V: A Hundred Highways
American V: A Hundred Highways
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 10.63

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An album so simple and yet so powerful., 14 Dec 2009
The 2009 final of the X Factor has finished and, in predictable style, we've heard comments from judges about "making that song your own" and determining an "emotional performance" by how tightly they close their eyes when they hit that long note.

That may look very impressive, but to me, it's not that special. Why? Because I own this album.

I usually stay well clear of albums full of cover versions - 99 times out of 100, it's either somebody making a comeback and trying to make themselves sound relevant to a younger audience, or it's an album done on the cheap. But this album is an exception - the songs he covers are selected in such a way that it's almost as if he's telling his own story through other people's words. When you look at the album in context (this is where having a little background knowledge on Johnny helps), he's lost his wife of over 35 years, and with failing health and a broken heart, he feels as if he won't be far behind. In effect, these are the final words of a dying man and tell of how he is coming to terms with his own mortality, reflecting on his life with an air of repentance, coping with the loss of his wife and their eventual reunion. It doesn't, however, leave you in tears when the album is finished - in the closing title, "I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now", there's a sense of peace... It's like he's accepted his future: he's comfortable and unafraid; he's made peace with himself and with the Lord.

Then there's the delivery. Johnny was never the prettiest of singers, but he always sang from the heart. The whole album sounds so intimate and personal, and Rick Rubin's sparse production doesn't gloss over anything. Everything is captured as naked and as beautiful as music can be. For example, if you listen very closely to his cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind", you will hear his voice break very slightly towards the end, sounding as if he's choking up with emotion. The brightness of the CD version takes some of this "feel" away, so if you have a good enough set up, you'll find the vinyl version a lot more revealing.

This was the biggest seller of the 5 "American" releases to date (it is documented that two albums worth were recorded in Johnny's final sessions, but American VI has yet to be collated), spuriously on the back of the "Walk the Line" biopic. As such, I've heard some comments from people who enjoyed the film, bought the album and were disappointed that it hadn't got any jaunty songs like "Walk the Line" or "Ring of Fire" on it. I'd also heard comments that it was "morbidly depressing", and that was coming from people who owned several of Cash's albums. True, it's not the sort of music that's going to make you feel like dancing around the room, but it was never meant to. There are times when this simple, little album moves me very deeply and I feel a kind-of empathy as the album plays. That's powerful stuff.

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