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Reviews Written by
alextorres "musiclover" (Near Bristol, UK)

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Ashore
Ashore
Price: £6.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English folk music at its best!, 27 Feb. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ashore (Audio CD)
A frequent topic of debate in today's media is the question: "what defines the English?" Part of the answer to that hotly disputed question must surely be the folklore that is the subject of much of June Tabor's singing and, in particular, of this latest album of hers, "Ashore". What can be more English than folk songs about the sea and sea-faring?

Of course, Tabor has sung in French before, and there are two songs in French on this new album, but that only underlines the close sea-ties between our two countries.

Irrespective of national identity, this is another fabulous album from Tabor. The singing voice is superb, silky smooth as ever, and the songs first-class. Tabor occasionally resorts to narration to tell part of the story, as on "The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry".

The accompanying instrumentation is subtle but beautiful: gentle piano, accordion etc, just enough to add sharp focus to Tabor's voice.

If you've ever enjoyed her music, you'll enjoy this!


Lover's End
Lover's End
Price: £19.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime harmonies!, 26 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Lover's End (Audio CD)
"Lover's End" is an absolutely delightful album!

I'm not quite certain how to "pigeon-hole" this music into a "genre". However, I can tell you that it is extremely melodic and that the centrepiece of the soundscape are the beautifully sung harmonies from this Swedish group. Imagine all of the best harmonic pop/rock groups that you know - in my generation they were from bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys - and you'll have some idea what this music is about.

The songs are not quite "pop": their structure is slightly more complicated than the standard "pop" song that, as an example, their compatriots ABBA were composing three decades ago, but they are not far off, so sweet are the harmonies and melodies. The instrumentation is light, being mainly piano and acoustic guitar, though we also get keyboards and electric guitar, but it's never heavy - it's always "served" as an accompaniment to the voices, which are the focus.

The execution is first class, the singing and composition perfect, making an overall really excellent album.


Uneasy Listening
Uneasy Listening

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine compilation of Wolstenholme's post-BJH music, 25 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Uneasy Listening (Audio CD)
Woolly Wolstenholme, one of the founding members of Barclay James Harvest, died in December of last year. This two-CD collection is an excellent snapshot of his musical career after his departure from BJH in 1979. This Esoteric Recordings CD comes, as is usual for this fine company, with an informative 12 page booklet with an essay describing Wolstenholme's post-BJH story and various photographs from the same period. The music, most of which is now unavailable on CD, has been remastered for this release.

Wolstenholme is one of the most under-rated song-writers of his generation. His songs are simple at heart, often folk influenced and always very English, based on catchy melodies. Some then take on majestic soundscape sweeps virtue of his love of classical music: in these post-BJH songs the classical influence always comes in via the keyboards. The recordings featured across this set cover the period when he released music as a "solo" artist: the compilation features songs from his 1980 "Maestoso" album, as well as from its follow-up, "Songs From a Black Box", an album which was never released at the time but had to wait many years before it saw the light of day.

Wolstenholme continued writing into the 21st century, releasing material under the band name inspired by that first album, Maestoso. The band produced three albums and material is featured from each of those on this compilation, including a couple of songs penned by the band's guitarist, Steve Broomhead.

As ever, in order to lure established fans, there are some previously unreleased tracks featured. All are worth listening to; my particular favourite being "Faith, Hope and Charity", which is lyrically clever, as well as musically pleasant.

There are many highlights amongst the two discs: songs such as "Patriots", "Through a Storm" and the stupendous "Soldier of Fortune" deserve to live on in English, as well as other hearts, for many decades to come.

In summary: an excellent collection for both the newcomer and the established fan.


Aquarius
Aquarius

5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious fusion of metal and classical music, 23 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Aquarius (Audio CD)
"Aquarius" is a stunning debut album that fuses metal with classical music. True, the classical aspect is played exclusively by keyboards/samples, but if you listen to the compositions you will understand what I mean. The band imbue the music with pleasing melodies aplenty, so that irrespective of whether we are in a metallic phase, classical phase or rocking-out, the effect is always pleasing to the ear. The vocals are good. There is some, but not much, growling (the metal is not over-heavy).

The band, who are from London, produce a very English soundscape. There might on occasion be a passing simmilarity to pastures thaht have been visited by bands foreign to these shores, such as Dream Theater, but the form of the classical influence and integration roots them squarely in Britain. For the oldies amongst you, they remind one, amongst others, of Braclay James Harvest very early, Robert Godfrey-inspired, album work with their orchestra. For youngsters, what they are doing is not dissimilar to another exciting English band that fuse metal with classical - Enochian Theory.

Lots to enjoy on here!


Nova War (Shoal Sequence)
Nova War (Shoal Sequence)
by Gary Gibson
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining space opera, 18 Feb. 2011
Gary Gibson's "Nova War" is an exciting, gripping space-war novel that sparkles with credible science-fiction invention.

This was the first book by Gibson that I've read. It was very enjoyable so I'll definitely be buying more.

"Nova War" is the sequel to "Stealing Light", but Gibson fill in any gaps that you might need so that it reads well as a stand-alone novel in its own right.

The plot moves along apace with plenty of excitement along the way. The story-telling hops between different scenarios relating to the main four characters, following their differing paths until they converge for the finale. This is a well established and effective story-telling technique and Gibson uses it well in the main. However, occasionally, it feels a bit cumbersome as he flips back in the plot's time-line, causing the reader to just hesitate slightly in getting to an understanding of what's going on. Thankfully, this happens rarely enough for it not to affect the overall enjoyment.

A book worthy of other luminaries of the scene, such as Alastair Reynolds.


Prophets & Sages : An Illustrated Guide to Underground and Progressive Rock 1967-1975
Prophets & Sages : An Illustrated Guide to Underground and Progressive Rock 1967-1975
by Mark Powell
Edition: Paperback

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable reference book on psychedelic and progressive rock, 24 Jan. 2011
This is an enjoyable book describing some of the author's favourite progressive and psychedelic rock albums from the late 1960s/early 1970s.

The selection omits some of the era's "giant" albums on purpose, to allow the focus to alight on some other equally enjoyable, but often overlooked albums. So, for instance, Pink Floyd's "dark Side of the Moon" is omitted, but their "A Saucerful Full of Secrets" is included. Nevertheless, whilst the selection is clearly a personal one, there could be few progressive/psychedelic rock fans who would complain (discuss, yes, that's another matter!) about the selection.

Unless you're a real collector then the book will allow you to delve back into the period and - like me - find music that you'd not picked up on at the time (I was prompted to buy a Groundhogs album having read one of the entries in this book).

A thorough history of each band/artist is given with each entry, together with a description of the rock "scene" at the time and details about the recording of the album: this is all amply illustrated with copious photographs and reproductions of articles from rock music papers of the time - a real historical record in effect.

On the downside, I found it difficult to read "as a book", it being a description of the albums, so there isn't the continuity in the text that you might expect from a normal book - it is, in effect, a reference book, enhanced perhaps, but still a reference book.

If you're a fan of the music period and interested in its history, then this is a recommended purchase.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2012 6:16 PM BST


Karl Jenkins: Stabat Mater
Karl Jenkins: Stabat Mater
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Music!, 21 Jan. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Karl Jenkins does justice to the long list of famous composers who have set the mediaeval "Stabat Mater" poem to music. His melodic strength, allied to its fusing of world-rhythms, is a potent musical formula that he uses to good effect in this sensitively composed music.

Jenkins has also set music to some other mediaeval texts in order to bring the CD running time up to expectations. The compositions run smoothly, making for an excellent album. Jenkins's occasional use of eastern phrasing, rhythms and vocalisation is typical of his "one world" approach to music and, in context with his other works, almost certainly indicative of his wish for a peace between our two cultures.

An album of beautiful music!


Somewhere Down The Road
Somewhere Down The Road
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic McTell!, 12 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Somewhere Down The Road (Audio CD)
Ralph McTell is in classic form on this, his latest album.

First and foremost, the songs are strong, McTell at his story-telling best.

The "icing on the cake" comes in the form of the arrangements, which for me are ideal. Entirely acoustic, save for a tasteful, gentle electric guitar on the title track, the arrangements are pared down to the minimum necessary to accompany McTell's own guitar or, on occasion, his voice. Piano, accordion, harmonica, strings - all are gorgeous. There are few drums, the percussion is gentle and perfectly suited to the mood of the particular songs.

The focus, then, is on McTell's songs, his guitar and his voice. And, on this form, you need no more!

This is one warm embrace of an album! Excellent!


McEnery - The Resurrection
McEnery - The Resurrection
Price: £14.27

4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully melodic oratorio from a modern composer!, 9 Jan. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this CD having read a good review in a music magazine which had praised the composer for eschewing modern trends and actually writing a work replete with the classical melodic forms which we all seem to love, but which became old-fashioned for composers from about the end of the 19th century onwards.

That review was spot on: "The Resurrection" is a beautiful oratorio, replete with sumptuous music. The scoring is light but very effective: I particularly enjoyed the prominent role given to piano.

On a slight negative note, I didn't enjoy the writing for the soprano voice on occasions, but wasn't sure if this was because it was beyond the capability of the particular singer. If there was justice in this world, this work would be recognised for its excellence and we would see it performed more widely, thus we would have the opportunity of answering my doubt!

I can recommend this to everyone who enjoys what they hear on a radio station such as Classic FM.


Random Acts Of Beauty
Random Acts Of Beauty

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic symphonic progressive rock!, 16 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Random Acts Of Beauty (Audio CD)
David Minasian's debut album will be a delight for fans of classic English bands Camel and Barclay James Harvest, with particular emphasis on their pre-1978ish periods. There are other influences in there, of course, most significantly "classic 7" Moody Blues and Pink Floyd but, overall, it sounds as though Andy Latimer (Camel) had teamed up with John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest). [Incidentally, sad news, Woolly died on 13th December 2010 - RIP Woolly.]

Minasian is a well known composer and director who has penned film scores and directed over 60 films, including Camel's "Coming of Age" concert DVD.

The album includes a rare modern appearance by Andy Latimer, who has been recovering from a serious illness, on vocals and guitars on "Masquerade". Having Latimer work on the album, at such a time, is not only an honour but a compliment to the quality of Minasian's music

The lushness of the soundscape on "Random Acts of Beauty" is indicated by the range of instruments that Minasian himself tackles. Through keyboards alone we get grand piano, mellotron, harpsichord, moog, pipe organ, organ, cello, violin, oboe, flute, recorder, clarinet, French horn, cornet, dulcimer, sitar and voices! He also weighs in with guitars, bass, drums, percussion, as well as doing the lead and harmony vocals! Other musicians are also involved, most notably his son Justin on lead guitar.

Those fans familiar with Camel and Harvest-era Barclay James Harvest (BJH) will find this music easy to understand. For those others, my attempt at describing it is in the next few paragraphs.

There are three key elements, which are inextricably linked: slowness of tempo, melody and lushness of orchestration. The majority of the music is instrumental: there are sung verses in four compositions but, even in these, there are long instrumental passages. Genre-wise, I'd put it into symphonic progressive rock.

The tempo, for me, is vital to this sort of music. I do not know of any other canon of work in the rock sphere, other than BJH's, which has such a systematically slow tempo. Like in BJH's music, the slowness may be off-putting for some fans, as the "rock" rhythmic element is restrained by it. Its advantages, however, are that it gives the music huge breathing space to allow the beauty of the melodies and of the arrangements to shine. And, as both the melodies and the arrangements are divine, one can say that the tempo is spot on! The complexity is such that one needs more than a couple of listens to fully appreciate its beauty but allowing oneself that luxury means that successive listens bring intense satisfaction. Despite the complexity of the music, at any one time the density of the instrumentation is sparse and thinly layered, but constantly evolving: the emphasis is on the attractiveness of the sonic textures and timbres, on the attractiveness of the melody; very much so over the rhythm because at such a slow tempo the rhythm does become like the human breath - it's in this sense that it actually allows the music space to breathe; it allows the listener to bask in its beauty.

A couple more notes on the influences. Compositionally, I would say the primary influence is from Camel, as BJH's music does not feature any complete instrumentals and it was only in their Harvest era (pre-1973) that it featured long instrumental sections within compositions. However, Wolstenholme's 21st century music with his band Maestoso comes closer: for instance, listening to the run of three songs "Abendrot"/"Overture Marsch Burlesque"/"Pas de Deux" (two instrumentals and a gorgeous, sung melodic number) from the album "Grim", one can imagine them fitting easily onto "Random Acts of Beauty". The long guitar solos are in a style very similar to BJH's John Lees's live style - yes, even Latimer's solo ends up sounding like Lees, perhaps it's the slowness of the tempo, although there might be an argument for saying that it's similar to his own solo on "Ice" from "I Can See Your House From Here" - although Justin Minasian adds a couple of fast flourishes the like of which do not appear in Lees's playing. However, the lushness and extensiveness of the mellotron's use perhaps owes more to The Moody Blues than to either Camel or BJH, with the latter being the closest of those two.

Finally, like all of the best albums, "Random Acts of Beauty" overall has a very cohesive feel; the compositions fit well together and Minasian has hit upon and maintained a "key" soundscape that pervades the music. In this sense it's very much like, say, Camel's "Moonmadness". That's a hell of a compliment, by the way, and "Random Acts of Beauty" well deserves it!


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