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Solid Air
Solid Air
Price: £2.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best singer songwriter's best album, 6 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Solid Air (Audio CD)
This album is a sublime masterpiece. All of the songs have such an unbelieveably relaxing effect upon the listener. The mellowness of John Martyn's superb voice coupled with his talent on guitar and the sheer beauty of his songs make listening to this album an unforgettable experience. The album's title track sets the scene with its mellow "smoky corner of a bar" feel and the dreaminess stays with you throughout. Even the faster songs such as "Over The Hill" and "Dreams by the Sea" gently bring you back from your lethargy temporarily before submerging you again with quiet and reflective tracks like "Man in the Station", "Go Down Easy" and the classic "May You Never." The album is the zenith for a singer who is hewn from the same rock as Nick Drake and the earlier Bob Dylan tracks although he is a more tuneful and melodious singer than both of these. His songwriting here at least is as good as any singer songwriter you care to mention and his voice is as pure and crisp as that of Don McLean.

Listening to the album is a richly rewarding experience and whether you are familiar with it already or new to the genius of it's bittersweet melodies, it has never sounded better than it does in this remastered edition.

Setting Sons
Setting Sons
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.66

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Jam cement their place as the most exciting band of the time., 4 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Setting Sons (Audio CD)
This album released in 1979 when Paul Weller was a mere 22 years old was originally intended to be a concept album with a common theme running through it, that of putting away the childish and nostalgic things in life in favour of growing up and embracing the corporate world. Naturally, those who are familiar with Weller's writing will know that he laments the tendency to do this and his English nostalgia is one of his most notorious features. Some of the tracks on this album, such as Burning Sky, Thick as Thieves, The Eton Rifles and Wasteland are written in this mould and each comments upon this theme in some way. Legend has it that Weller intended the whole album to reflect this theme but he ran out of time and material and consequently filled the rest of the album with other tracks, many of which were essentially made up on the spot by Weller building upon bass and drum jams by Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler. The result of this are the inclusion of tracks such as Girl on the Phone, Private Hell, Saturday's Kids and Little Boy Soldiers which do not follow the same theme as the others. Knowing Weller's admiration for the Beatles and given that their Sgt Peppers album was originally intended as a concept album but ened up only half complete this may have been a deliberate emulation.

Nevertheless, the album is exquisite. The bass driven power of the harmonies show that Bruce Foxton was an essential contributor to the Jam sound and gone is the brash angst usually associated with bands of the late 70s, instead it is replaced by controlled guitar playing which loses none of the power but which shows Weller's emerging maturity as a player, loud and harsh is not necessarily better.

The real joy of the album however and what makes it stand head and shoulders above the other Jam albums are the lyrics. They are superb. Weller shows that even at such a young age he was a highly accomplished poet. The words of Thick as Thieves have been identified by the poet Simon Armitage as an exquisite example of British poetry, and quite righly so...

"We stole the love from young girls in ivory towers
We stole autumn leaves and summer showers
We stole the silent wind that says you are free
We stole everything that we could see...
We stole the burning sun in the open sky
We stole the twinkling stars in the black night
We stole the greenbelt fields that made us believe
We stole everything that we could see
But something came along and changed our minds
I don't know what and I don't know why
But we seemed to grow up in a flash of time
And we watched out ideals helplessly unwind..."


Hannibal (2 Disc Special Edition) [2001] [DVD]
Hannibal (2 Disc Special Edition) [2001] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.95

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets better with each viewing, 10 Aug. 2007
In this film, the character of Hannibal Lecter reveals more about possibly his most interesting characteristic, his cultured and refined tastes than in any of the other films. His loathing of ill manners and his love of classical opera and art are interesting to behold and form a juxtaposition to his darker side. He shows again that he is a consumate killer and possesses an ability to pre-empt the moves of his enemies. In the hands of a lesser actor, this mix may not have been pulled off with qiuite so much success but Hopkins does it very well indeed.

Possibly one of the most memorable aspects of this film is the score. The music in the film is exquisite with many of the large scale operatic pieces being written for this film directly.

When I first saw this film, I was dissapointed as following Hannibal's escape in Silence of the Lambs, I expected that he might go on a killing spree in this film. To expect this is to underestimate the intelligence of the character. He is not the seedy opportunist slasher in the mould of Michael Myers, he is a man who loves the exotic fragrances of the best perfume houses of Paris, the views of the Duomo in Florence, the taste of fine food and wine. The benefit of seeing the film a few times and of age have revealed that upon escape, Hannibal would have sought out safety abroad, create a new identity for himself and generally keep a low profile so that he can indulge in his passions. It is only when he is challenged and cornered or exacts revenge for ill manners shown to Clarice that his darker side for which he is more notorious emerges.

The film gets better with every viewing. The cinematography and direction is first rate as one would expect from Ridley Scott and all these factors combine to make Hannibal an extremely worthy film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 26, 2009 5:06 PM GMT

New Clear Days
New Clear Days
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.09

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An under-rated classic of exquisite post punk brilliance, 8 Aug. 2007
This review is from: New Clear Days (Audio CD)
This group are best known for their hit single "Turning Japanese" which is found on this, their debut album. That song is a great sing-a-long classic of the late 70s but the talent of the group is shown far more fully here on this album of which "Turning Japanese" is one of the weakest tracks. I read somewhere that The Vapors were discovered by Bruce Foxton, bassist with the Jam and they were promoted by him. Indeed, The Vapors supported The Jam on one of their tours (what a gig that would have been) but ultimately, the manager of The Jam, Paul Weller's father John felt that Bruce's involvement with the Vapors was detracting from his dayjob with The Jam, at the time probably the biggest band in Britain. I don't know if this is true but if it is and if it led to the band's early drift into obscurity then it is sad loss to the music of the era.

This album is relpete with excellent guitar riffs, pounding bass and drums and lyrics which mix angst and sesitivity with irony and bitterness. Although the lead singer, Dave Fenton's voice is not very powerful in the mould of say Paul Weller, Ian Dury or Morrissey, it is perfectly suited to this less angry, more melodic music. Every song is memorable and played by very accomplished musicians. Spring Collection, News At Ten, Waiting For The Weekend, Trains and Sixty-Second Interval are songs which would easily stand up against later offerings from bands like U2 (early stuff up to War), The Kaiser Chiefs, Oasis and Blur and stand way above offerings from bands like Franz Ferdinand and U2 (latter stuff from The Unforgettable Fire onwards).

Those in the know know just how good this band were, for those who don't know get this CD and listen to the band that should have been so much more than they became were it not for the fickle business of music.

A Short History Of Nearly Everything
A Short History Of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bryson's entertaining look at life, the universe and nearly everything else, 8 Aug. 2007
Bill Bryson is a talented writer, a man who is able to write in a most entertaining manner about things which most of us have noticed but have not really seen or realised that we have noticed it, hence the response I have to most of his work is one of mirthful recognition about something whoich was under my nose from the outset but which went largle unnoticed. With this book, Bryson moves away from his snapshot of life in various parts of the world (USA, UK, Australia etc) and attempts to write in his so easy style about things which generally baffle the reader. The result is a book which is a good source of "factoids" for when you are out drinking with your (easily impressed) mates but one which tends to lurch from subject to subject a little. The stuff about physics, quantum mechanics and the unverse and such like, is the most entertaining part while the sections which deal with our own planet's history are a little tedious. The book is not really short (although given the breadth of the topic:-"nearly" everything) it is. However, for the casual general reader who forms the book's target audience it may be a little off putting:- don't let it be though, take the plunge as it's generally worth the effort and is likely to be the only book of its kind at this length:- the liklihood of an author succesfully embarking upon an even shorter short history of nearly everything are slim.

The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl
The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl
by Roald Dahl
Edition: Paperback

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific collection of the macabre, twisted and blackest humour, 1 Aug. 2007
Roald Dahl is known in equal measure as an exquisute writer of children's fiction and as a writer of brilliant short stories with a twist in the tail aimed at the adult market. This collection is just about the definitive collection of the latter of these two of Dahl's endeavours. All the favourites such as Lamb To The Slaughter, A Dip In The Pool and The Hitch-hiker are there together with several less well known offerings. In all, there are 51 short stories in this collection. The tales all explore some of the more interesting, though not necessarily pleasant elements of humanity. Revenge, jealousy, creating misfortune, greed and envy all feature highly and Dahl's style is to inject black humour and irony. There is uncertainty with every story whether it will be the protagonist or the antagonist who emerges from the story the more triumphant. One thing is certain however, the reader is compelled to read on and on and enjoy every minute of the intricate weaving of Dahl's writing.

Left Hand Band-Best of
Left Hand Band-Best of
Offered by themusicmerchant
Price: £24.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "best of" from the band who peaked just a tad too early, 17 July 2007
This review is from: Left Hand Band-Best of (Audio CD)
The term under-rated is frequently used and it describes music or any other creative art which fails to live up to its potential or to ignite the imagination of the listening public but which is a sublime example of the medium or the genre. This band is by this definition most definitely under-rated as is this album. It is a collection of the best tracks offered by the band whilst they were signed to Food records, the same label from whence sprang Jesus Jones and the slightly more well known Blur.

DPW and John Butler in particular whose song writing is thoughtful, emotional and touching are supreme exponents of their musical style. The music is delightfully multi layered and rich. The influence of The Byrds and Moby Grape are clear and if you close your eyes when listening to the band the sound of the West Coast of America floods in and engulfs you. This coupled with the great production and the simply sublime vocals of Mr.Butler make this "best of" a must have for the discerning music fan.

This album offers a good introduction to DPW as not only does it offer some of their more succesful numbers such as The Boy On Top Of The News, All The Myths On Sunday and Fall To Love it also offers a glimpse of the lesser known tracks, B-sides and experimental stuff off the album "Flipped"

Despite having two of the ingredients for success (talent and a great batch of music) the last remaining requirement:-luck, eluded the band. Whereas Jesus Jones went on to some success and Blur became a phenomenon, DPW failed to gain the recognition they deserved and it was simply because they came along about five years too soon. Had they first recorded the songs on this album from 1994-1998, the world would not be recalling the Oasis Vs Blur battle of the bands of the mid 90s, it would be recalling the Blur Vs Oasis Vs Diesel Park West battle of the bands and this would have made the outcome of the battle even more uncertain.

Sound Affects
Sound Affects
Price: £6.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect Jam studio offering?, 13 July 2007
This review is from: Sound Affects (Audio CD)
For many this album represents the musical zenith for The Jam. It is a fantastic album from start to finish in terms of the songwriting. The earlier Setting Sons has few brilliant anthemic tracks such as Thick as Thieves or The Eton Rifles and was intended as a concept album with the themes of friendship over time being the focal point but by Paul Weller's own admission had a few fillers such as Girl on the Phone, Private Hell and the cover of Martha Reeves' Heatwave. This album by contrast is a highly polished offering, perhaps a little too over produced at times and as such saw The Jam going in a new direction. Gone is the earlier raucousness and anger and the imperfect guitar playing and vocals which added something to the songs and at times made them seem rather like live tracks. Instead, this album has a veneer and a polish which firmly established The Jam as a post-punk band.

Weller's vocals are muted and his growth in maturity as both a songwriter and a singer are clear. His voice sounds less angry, the guitar is strummed rather than twanged, Foxton's bass no longer pounds and in songs like The Man In The Corner Shop, Music For The Last Couple, Monday, Dreamtime and That's Entertainment show how musically at least the band produce some "sweet" and melodic music. Even the mandatory Weller rail at society's inequity and the hypocrisy of the establishment, Scrape Away is delivered in a more ironic and sombre rather than vitriolic way.

Nevertheless, the album is masterful. The band have sounded as good but never any better than they do here. For many The Jam existed first and foremost as a live act full of passion and adrenaline and this is as far from that image as the band ever came.

The album probably is as close to mainstream as the band ever came in terms of the music but the real reward for listening to the songs comes with the lyrics. Weller writes such fantasticly here in poetic style (indeed a section from Shelley's Mask of Anarchy is printed on the back of the original vinyl album- Weller's homage to romantic poetry and a hint at his mellowing)and with a clear precision not seen in many young writers of the time. Lyrically, The Jam reach their peak with this album and when you listen, they show that sound does indeed affect.

Does Anything Eat Wasps?: And 101 Other Questions (New Scientist)
Does Anything Eat Wasps?: And 101 Other Questions (New Scientist)
by "New Scientist"
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay in a laze on the beach kind of way., 2 July 2007
This type of book is the perfect book to take on holiday and read on the beach. Rather like the sea itself, you can dip in and out of it as you wish without worrying about losing your place (unless you are in Spain!!)

Most of the book is mildly interesting, some of it is tedious and to be honest not only do you not know the answer to certain questions, you don't actually care either. On the other hand, one or two of the questions and accompanying answers are absolute gems.

There are better examples of these answer odd question type of books or general reviews of life itself. That said, it's worth the price for a decent read (ideally on holiday) but I doubt I'll bother reading my copy again and again.

Blood Diamond [DVD] [2007]
Blood Diamond [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.50

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DiCaprio comes of age with this thought provoking film, 2 July 2007
This review is from: Blood Diamond [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This is a very touching film which draws attention to the deeply disturbing areas of conflict diamonds and child soldiers in Africa, subjects about which comparatively little is known. The scenes where the young solders who are either orphans or press-ganged are brain washed into becoming killers is compelling and awful in equal measure. The film is very bloody and graphic as it needed to be and should have been when dealing with such subject matter. As in Schindler's List, some topics are too important to gloss over.

The cast are good, especially the always excellent Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio who with this film and the excellent performance given in The Departed shows that there is so much more to his acting than we saw in such films as Titanic. Surely its only a matter of time should he continue with these types of films and his strong performances before his nominations are converted into awards.

The film is well shot with some stunning African landscapes forming the backdrop and this adds to the juxtaposition of the landscapes natural beauty witnessing such disturbing and patent evil. 'Enjoy' is hardly the correct word to use to describe watching this film but it is a rich, rewarding and above all enlightening experience. Great story, great performances and very, very good film.

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