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M. A. Fraser

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Price: £9.91

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and wonderful, 13 Dec 2006
This review is from: Ys (Audio CD)
I know that some are finding this difficult/painful to listen to, and seem positively anguished that Joanna Newsom should be garnering such critical praise. No need to feel bad. I don't like everything the critics rave about either. How boring the world would be if we all enjoyed the same thing!

Ys isn't rock and roll, isn't pop, isn't jazz, or classical, and isn't great singing in the usual sense. However, if you can accept that you are listening to a poet and storyteller, a brilliant harpist, and an adventurous composer you might yet enjoy this.

I enjoy it. I find it an engrossing listen, and am so glad to have Ys in my collection.

Songs for...
Songs for...
Offered by Books2anywhereUS
Price: £13.11

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy That Creepy Christmas Feeling!, 22 Nov 2006
This review is from: Songs for... (Audio CD)
You'd think that having created 2005's instant classic Illinois Sufjan would be over-protective and angst ridden about his growing reputation. Instead, in 2006 we got 75 minutes of Illinois 'outtakes and extras', and now this, a collection of his informal Christmas songs he recorded as gifts for family and friends each December since 2001. Rather than compile and cherry pick from these he has presented them in their original form, giving us 5 short CDs with a running time of 2 hours. Additionally, the box has all the lyrics, complete with chords and tongue-in-cheek advice, stories, pictures and stickers making this a very festive package, at a price that is a gift in itself.

And so to the music - each CD features a range of traditional Christmas tunes, some more familiar than others, interspersed with Sufjan's quirky compositions. The usual collaborators and friends are found here. Matt Morgan (the guy providing the excellent duet on Illinois's Decatur) features prominently on Disk 1, and later come Vito Aiuto, Shara Worden, Denison Witmer et al. Highlights and lowpoints may well depend on the listener's own associations with these well-known songs, although some of these interpretations are a delight. The track that seems to epitomise this whole project is The Friendly Beasts - which is both rustic and sophisticated at the same time, and may bring a tear to your eye when Shara Worden sings her wispy lines.

Disk 5 (Peace) recorded in July 2006 stands apart because (unlike the others) it was recorded with this release in mind. Thus, it is more polished and much like a typical Sufjan CD, if there can be such a thing. Sister Winter is a top drawer Sufjan song, its portentous opening chords blossoming into something beautiful. Star of Wonder is a miniature symphony. Just when you think this track will fade out (Hey Jude-style) an altogether more creative and satisfying ending occurs. Just brilliant!

I'd much rather have the next state CD, but taken for what it is this boxed set is a delight. Merry Christmas Sufjan!

Enjoy Your Rabbit
Enjoy Your Rabbit
Price: £7.51

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely underrated CD, 2 Oct 2006
This review is from: Enjoy Your Rabbit (Audio CD)
Firstly, I have to address the "any idiot can do this" comment. Go ahead, try it, and come back in 10 years and let us know how you got on. Secondly it isn't 'techno', it's electronica, often modern-classical influenced.

I'm not a fan of electronica per se, but it's the thoughtful tunefulness and musical invention that carry this CD, and make it such an engaging listen. To give fair warning, it's very different to the Sufjan of Michigan, Swans and Illinois, but the undeniable talent of this artist is fully apparent on this unconventional precursor.

However, I have one gripe: Sufjan seems determined to fill every CD to it's maximum 75-80 minutes. Trimming 20 minutes from this would produce a wondrous 60 minute sequence.

Best time to listen: Any time, as long as you can play it loud.

Price: £14.84

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CD for life, 3 Sep 2006
This review is from: Michigan (Audio CD)
This deserves its top rating based on sheer durability. I never seem to tire of it, particularly for late night listening. The 75 minute sequence (the average for a Sufjan CD!) seems effortless, the quality never dips, every song justifying its place, and each is a highlight in its own way.

If you've heard Illinoise, this CD is similar but mellower, and because Michigan is Sufjan's home state the songs are more personal.

Best time to listen: Late at night

Price: £11.37

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Sufjan thinks!, 2 Sep 2006
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
The Avalanche may not display the theatricality of Illinoise, but I feel it has its own soundscape, (let's call it Crosby Stills Nash and Young with trumpets etc) and that is the reason for many of these outtakes/extras rather than any quality issue that might be inferred by the subtitle of this CD.

For me, the heart of the CD is sequence of tracks 7-10, songs that CSN&Y (and their various combinations) would have killed for. For example Springfield - despite its infamous guitar solo.

Later in this CD comes the upbeat and tuneful No Man's Land, featured in the movie Little Miss Sunshine, and the very touching (and personal?) Pittsfield.

If you liked Illinoise, don't hesitate to acquire another 76 minutes of this most vital of modern American songwriters.

Offered by Side Two
Price: £16.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, stimulating artist. Worth the effort, 11 Jun 2006
This review is from: Illinoise (Audio CD)
Aside from a few 'immediate' songs, it takes some repeated plays to full appreciate the multitude of tracks with their multitude of instruments, harmonies and time signatures. (I played this to a drummer and he was fascinated, and couldn't help but smile at the audacious rhythms employed.)

Lots of highlights here, too many to mention given the lengths of the titles, but my favourite track is "Come on! Feel the Illinoise!" From the quirky jagged first part (The World's Columbian Exposition) through a delightful instrumental sequence with an electric guitar and a string section trading licks, before the second part (Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream) takes over, expanding the melody introduced earlier by the strings. It features an infectious call and response tune between Sufjan and his female backing singers. The cutest 7 minutes of music in 2005?

Illinoise isn't for everyone perhaps, but if you appreciate intelligent well-crafted music, try it and give it the benefit of a few listens. After all, sometimes the critics are right.

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £5.62

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A debut album has no right to be this good., 8 Mar 2006
This review is from: Rufus Wainwright (Audio CD)
Although this is Rufus's first, it was the last of the 4 CD's I purchased. I confess I did so out of loyalty and completeness, not expecting it to compare with the wayward brilliance of the Wants.
What I heard exceeded my expectations by a mile, particularly once the sophisticated tunes have been given a chance to lodge in the brain.
The sound-world here is more straightforward than subsequent releases, very much piano-based with various band and orchestral backing. Comparisons with Billy Joel and Elton John are inevitable, and it's difficult to see how any fan of piano-based rock and pop could not enjoy this.
The first four tracks are simply perfect. Foolish Love, with its lush, segmented melodies, Danny Boy with its lagubrious rolling rhythm (in 6/8 time?), while April Fools is the Beatles song they never wrote.
The fourth song, In My Arms, is almost a duet with his sister Martha. Maybe I'm biased, but having Martha on backing vocals is like sprinkling magic dust on a song. Can't help thinking back to Emmylou Harris doing the same for Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan.
Other highlights are the graceful Barcelona, fully justifying its 7 minute length, and Sally Ann, a wistful show tune. There's not a song out of the 12 here that doesn't deserve its place on this impressive debut. Say what you want about his voice, Rufus's talent as a songwriter is undeniable.
Best time to enjoy: late afternoon/early evening.

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