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Jimbo Starr (UK)

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Take A Vacation!
Take A Vacation!
Price: £11.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Promising debut by Panic! at the Disco offshoot band, 11 July 2010
This review is from: Take A Vacation! (Audio CD)
The frontman of The Young Veins, Ryan Ross, and his songwriting partner Jon Walker were both previously members of the Las Vegas band Panic! at the Disco.

The opening tracks of their debut album, `Change' and `Take A Vacation!', are both instant classics which demonstrate Ross's love for fuzzed-out psychedelia and Nuggets-era garage rock. Both are catchy, chiming, jangly gems which have a real summer vibe.

`Cape Town' is another strong track which benefits from a clever Phil Spector-esque production swagger and some fine harmonies, while `The Other Girl' and `Defiance' are two further strong cuts. The other tracks don't impress to quite the same extent, but this is a promising debut on the whole.

This international version also boasts two bonus track cover versions. Otis Redding's `Security' is imaginatively restyled as a feel good garage rock nugget, while Jackie DeShannon's `When You Walk In The Room' (originally made famous by The Searchers) is another track which suits the band's style.


MARIPOSA DE ORO
MARIPOSA DE ORO
Price: £12.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1978 & 1980 albums on one CD, 11 July 2010
This review is from: MARIPOSA DE ORO (Audio CD)
The BGO label continue their series of Dave Mason "2fer" releases by combining his 1978 and 1980 albums "Mariposa De Oro" and "Old Crest On A New Wave" on one CD.

"Mariposa De Oro" opens with the laidback and melodic `Don't It Make You Wonder' which benefits from some great guitar playing. The Mason / Jerry Williams co-writes `All Gotta Go Sometime' and `So Good To Be Home' are both harmony-drenched gems (as is the Williams-penned album closer `No Doubt About It'), while the groovy Stephen Stills-esque `Warm Desire' is another standout track - Stills actually guests on the album, alongside Graham Nash and America's Gerry Beckley.

Elsewhere, there's an a cappella gospel take on `Warm And Tender Love' (originally a hit for Percy Sledge) which works really well, along with a cover of the Goffin/King standard `Will You Love Me Tomorrow'. All in all, it's a pretty decent record.

"Old Crest On A New Wave" seems to be an attempt to release a slightly more contemporary-sounding (for the time) record - the album title itself was almost certainly chosen as a reference to the "new wave" music which was thriving back then.

The title track has an "AOR" feel, but is followed by `You're A Friend Of Mine' which has an almost "power pop" vibe! This, and the similarly styled `Life Is A Ladder', was written by Mark Stein, who also plays organ, piano and synthesizer on the album and was originally the lead vocalist and keyboard player in Vanilla Fudge.

Michael Jackson completists should note that he contributes vocals to the funky track `Save Me'. He was recording in the same studio complex at the time and agreed to Mason's request to sing - telling him that he had sung Mason's `Feelin' Alright' on a Diana Ross TV Special when he was seven years old! MJ is very prominent and certainly adds a lot to the track

The pick of the other songs (all written by Mason) are the upbeat and melodic `I'm Missing You' and `Tryin' To Get Back To You', along with `Talk To Me' which, as with `Warm Desire' on the previous album, is very reminiscent of Stephen Stills - both vocally and in the style of the track. The Mason/Stein co-written title track, a buoyant and feel good number, closes the album in some style.

BGO include a 16 page booklet which contains original album artwork and extremely detailed and informative sleeve notes by John Tobler. Whilst these albums get nowhere near the heady heights of the stunning "Alone Together" (also available as a 2fer on BGO - Alone Together/Headkeeper), there are still some impressive tracks to be found, and this release comes recommended to any admirers of Dave Mason's work.


Sacred Treason
Sacred Treason
by James Forrester
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tantalising Tudor twists, 16 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Sacred Treason (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was a tad sceptical at first as I had read so many other Tudor novels and loved them that I wondered if this one would measure up. Halfway down the first page I was convinced!

Yes, it is a tad gory in places but for me, that just adds to the whole mental image that is played up in the well thought out storyline. Although I know the Tudor period fairly well, the twists that came up still surprised me.

I couldn't put this book down and I don't think it will be long before I will be picking it up again.


Corrag
Corrag
by Susan Fletcher
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rocky and cold!, 16 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Corrag (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having been to Glencoe several times before and been mesmerised by the tale of the massacre, I was really excited about this book.

However, my excitement was soon about as warm as the snow on top of the mountain. It was extremely slow to get going and once it did, along came the repetitive line of "I'll tell you about that later". There are only so many times that this line can be used and I got very bored very quickly.

Normally, I love reading historical novels but unfortunately, this one won't be at the top of my pile to read again.


Isle Of View / Original Tap Dancing Kid
Isle Of View / Original Tap Dancing Kid
Price: £13.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two early 70s albums by Midlake-favoured dream weaver, 27 May 2010
I must confess that the work of Jimmie Spheeris had somehow passed me by until now, although I've since discovered that he's not exactly a household name - albeit one who is revered by those who know his work.

Someone who falls into that category is Tim Smith of the band Midlake who proclaimed Spheeris's "Isle Of View" as his favourite album of all time in the July 2010 edition of Uncut magazine. To quote Smith: "Nothing can surpass this album for me. It's very mellow, and I love his voice. There's a lot of acoustic guitar work and a little flute and it has a gold cover, with a guy riding a gryphon. I do love that kind of mythological, medieval stuff." Listening to the album, it's certainly evident how it influenced Midlake, notably the sound and style of some of the tracks on their superb album The Trials Of Van Occupanther.

Having been out of print for some time, the esteemed BGO label has given this 1971 album their usual fine treatment, pairing it with 1973's "The Original Tap Dancing Kid". The accompanying booklet includes original album artwork and credits, plus detailed notes by John Tobler.

Jimmie Spheeris was born in Alabama in 1949. By the late 60s he had moved to New York and become friendly with Richie Havens who introduced him to Clive Davis of Columbia Records. Spheeris signed a four album deal with Columbia / CBS, and the first of these would be "Isle Of View". Produced by Paul Leka, other main contributors to the album were arranger / conductor David Campbell (who also played violin and viola) and guitarist Geoff Levin.

Opening track `The Nest' couldn't be a much more captivating introduction to Jimmie's work. A haunting piano intro leads into an opening verse of "Come to me now dove on your shoulder, White flame of love burns on your breath, I am ready for flight, oh my wings are so ripe, Come wake me, take me from the nest". These words give an idea of what to expect from Spheeris as a writer, with Campbell later recalling that "Jimmie's hushed, airy tones, banshee wails and snake charmer vocalising sent rapturous thrills through many enormous crowds in the early 70s". Levin remembers being "carried away by a voice that whispered, howled, crooned and wept golden tones of humanity" and refers to "Isle Of View" as Jimmie's "most idealistic album, his most personal message".

Other equally magical tracks include `Monte Luna', `I Am The Mercury', `Long Way Down', `Let It Flow', `Come Back' and `Esmaria', but the album really needs to be consumed as a whole to be appreciated fully.

The second album here, "The Original Tap Dancing Kid", was produced by Felix Cavaliere and features several familiar session musicians of the period, including a rhythm section of Russ Kunkel and Leland Sklar and the pedal steel guitarist Sneeky Pete Kleinow. A more commercial effort than "Isle Of View", it was the only time that Spheeris primarily worked with studio musicians on a recording. It's a very different sounding album, but impressive all the same and includes many of Jimmie's most cherished songs.

Two further albums followed in 1975/6 but, sadly, Jimmie Spheeris died in 1984 when a drunken driver knocked him off his motorcycle in Santa Monica. BGO's superbly packaged and mastered CD combining his first two albums helps to keep his musical legacy alive and will hopefully, as it did with me, introduce many people to his wonderful and timeless music.


Broadcast
Broadcast
Price: £9.36

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1986 classic in sparkling expanded form!, 25 May 2010
This review is from: Broadcast (Audio CD)
An addition to the ever-growing Cherry Pop range, this is a remastered and expanded version of Cutting Crew's 1986 million seller "Broadcast". Cherry Red have also given the same treatment to 1989's The Scattering, with a new edition of "Compus Mentus" to follow later in 2010.

Front man and main songwriter Nick van Eede (who still performs live shows as Cutting Crew) has overseen this reissue, contributing in-depth sleeve notes and selecting the bonus tracks. The booklet also includes album trivia, images of original 7" sleeves and band photos. The original European sleeve (with red cover and rubber-stamped images) has been cleverly combined with the Cutting Crew `sawn in half' logo from the 1987 US repackage.

Recording originally began in 1985 after the band (comprising van Eede, Kevin MacMichael, Colin Farley and Martin Beedle) had signed to the Virgin label. Nick recalls in his notes that the band never really fitted into the mid-80s British synth-pop sound, as they were essentially a rock band, with the guitar at its core. "Broadcast" certainly retains a fresh and contemporary sound and is far less dated than many other albums of the time.

The two opening cuts, `Any Colour' and the gloriously uplifting `One For The Mockingbird' (complete with killer chorus), are here in their original US remix form - recent US pressings of "Broadcast" strangely omitted these versions. They were remixed in Hollywood by Shelley Yakus (both feature Hammond organ overdubs by Benmont Tench), the challenge being to come up with even better versions than those on the European release! Extra guitars, keyboards and vocal harmonies were added - the result being a #1 American hit for the other remixed track, the classic `(I Just) Died In Your Arms'. It's the Yakus remix of the latter that is included here, with Tim Palmer's longer 12" remix among the bonus tracks.

Nick van Eede's favourite track here is the ballad `I've Been In Love Before' (a Top 10 hit in the US) which stemmed from the 1985 sessions. A stripped-down and beautifully haunting 1989 live recording of the song from London (previously unreleased) is included as a bonus cut.

Nick says that he remains proud that the band recorded an album that didn't sound like anything else at the time. That said, `Life In A Dangerous Time' (vocally at least) has a Howard Jones feel, while the funky AOR of `Fear Of Falling' bears the same pop-rock sensibilities as some of Mr Mister's output.

Of the final four tracks on the original album, `Don't Look Back' and `It Shouldn't Take Long' are both melodic gems, while the slower `Sahara' (notable for some fine bass and sax playing) demonstrates the diversity of the band's sound. Epic and atmospheric album closer `The Broadcast' sounds, to these ears at least, like Cutting Crew meets XTC with a bit of Tears For Fears thrown in for good measure!

As well as the aforementioned bonus tracks, there's also a live recording of `The Broadcast / Any Colour' (taken from the `I've Been In Love Before' single) and the dreamy soundscape `For The Longest Time' (originally the B-side of `(I Just) Died In Your Arms').

Boasting a crisp remaster from Alan Wilson, this is a superb package which deserves a place in the collection of any self-respecting Cutting Crew / melodic pop-rock fan.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2012 2:21 AM BST


Russell Hobbs 14899 Platinum Grind and Brew Coffeemaker, 1.25 L - Silver and Black
Russell Hobbs 14899 Platinum Grind and Brew Coffeemaker, 1.25 L - Silver and Black
Price: £89.99

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish look, quality product!, 18 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Being an admirer of Russell Hobbs products, I was confident that the Platinum 14899 Grind & Brew Coffee Maker would be a useful addition to our kitchen range. Having never previously used a coffee maker I was a little unsure what to expect and how I would get on with it, but I'm happy to report that it is very easy to use, stylish to look at, and most importantly makes great coffee!

Dimensions are approx. 40cm height, 25cm width and 23cm depth, so it's of the right size to slot alongside our other kitchen appliances. It offers the option of using coffee beans (which you put through the coffee mill), but initially we opted to use ready-ground coffee (Russell Hobbs recommend medium-ground filter coffee for the best results). We also purchased a pack of filter papers - this is not absolutely necessary as there is a permanent built-in filter, but buying a pack means that after use you can just dispose of that and the coffee grounds in the compost and have a much less dirty machine filter to clean.

The instruction booklet is very informative and easy to follow. We initially had to fill the reservoir to the 10 mark (10 cups is the maximum that this coffee maker allows) and run the coffee maker without coffee. After cooling and discarding the water, we were then directed to insert a carbon filter (provided in the box) which removes or reduces the amount of chemicals in the water that can affect the flavour of your coffee. This was easy to do and is said to last for 70 brewing cycles. If you leave the coffee maker plugged in, it will actually count these for you and show a symbol in the display when it needs replacing.

Next we added the ground coffee into the filter - recommendation is two rounded teaspoons per cup. After closing the drawer and placing the carafe on the hotplate (we had used this to fill the reservoir up to the desired level) we were ready for our first brew!

We selected our desired coffee strength, set the number of cups and in no time at all the brewed coffee was dripping into the carafe! It tasted superb and we appreciated that there were no dregs - these were all stored in the filter. One excellent feature is that you can keep the carafe on the hotplate and it will keep the coffee warm for some time.

The coffee maker is also easy to clean. After use we disposed of the coffee grounds and then cleaned the carafe, filter and filter holder in warm soapy water.

Our first impressions of the coffee maker are that it is an excellent product. We haven't yet tried the coffee beans option (settings for grinding range from fine to coarse) so I am unable to comment on that. Also worth mentioning is the digital auto programmable control which enables you to set your coffee to be brewed at any time of day!
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2013 10:40 AM GMT


True Love Cast Out All Evil
True Love Cast Out All Evil
Price: £9.37

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roky's first new album for 15 years!, 17 April 2010
Roky Erickson's catalogue is a rather confusing beast - whilst there are many gems throughout, the vast range of available titles (official and otherwise) can be quite bewildering!

One glance at the tracklisting for this album shows several familiar song titles but this is, for the most part, a collection of brand new recordings. Roky is in better shape now than he has been for many years having recovered from debilitating mental illness and self-imposed isolation.

Released by Chemikal Underground in the UK, the CD is housed in an attractive digipak that features some striking black and white photos of Roky. There's also a 24-page booklet with more photos, full lyrics and a detailed sleeve note by Will Sheff (a member of the band Okkervil River who provide backing throughout). Sheff gives a fascinating insight into working with Roky and how this album came about. He also provides a detailed history for the uninitiated.

Roky and Okkervil River's paths first crossed in 2008 when a writer for the Austin Chronicle thought it would be fun to put them together to play a short set at the Austin Music Awards. Several weeks later, Will Sheff received a call from Roky's manager asking if he wanted to produce a brand new album. He was mailed three CDs containing songs written by Roky - ranging from unreleased 13th Floor Elevators material to songs recorded on an old reel-to-reel at Rusk State Hospital, from home cassettes to rough mixes of stalled Aliens studio sessions.

From these 60 songs, Sheff obsessively listened to each before finally settling on the 12 that make up this album (one small anomaly is his mention in the notes of 13 tracks - there are actually only 12 and the radio version of `I've Never Known This `til Now' that he refers to is nowhere to be found - perhaps because they realised it had already been released on "Never Say Goodbye").

Sheff decided to keep Roky's original versions of `Devotional Number One' and `God Is Everywhere' which top and tail the album. Both are very lo-fi recordings, which fortunately possess as much charm as they do tape hiss! In between, the contributions of Sheff, his Okkervil River colleagues, and various other musicians cannot be understated - they provide sympathetic backing to Roky and seem like the perfect choice for the project.

Incorporated by Sheff throughout the album are sounds from some of Roky's home videos (these include TV noise from Roky's apartment at the Del Valle housing project and guitar feedback from an early 80's show). These noises can be a little unsettling but actually work quite effectively in the context of the album.

The first new recording here is `Ain't Blues So Sad', a short countrified ballad, which is followed by the first standout track (and it's a corker!) `Goodbye Sweet Dreams'. Roky delivers a distinctive vocal over a powerful and relentless backing (booming drums, chiming guitars, melodic bass - a real tour-de-force) - it gets under your skin immediately and would sit comfortably on any collection of Roky's finest tracks. In a similar vein is the stunning `Bring Back The Past' - a real melodic blast (Byrdsian guitars to the fore!) with Roky's voice again sounding really strong.

Of the tracks that are previously known to Roky fans, the new recording of `Please Judge' (the original can be found on 1995's All That May Do My Rhyme) has an earthy vocal, minimal instrumentation (mainly piano) and some of the aforementioned sound samples. `John Lawman' originally surfaced in blistering live form on Gremlins Have Pictures. Here, it features a frankly sinister sounding Roky, aided by a very dark, thunderous and, in places, feedback-drenched backing.

Three of the songs newly recorded here were originally included on the Emperor Jones label CD Never Say Goodbye which contained a mixture of home, Rusk and radio recordings. `Be And Bring Me Home' is in a similar vein to `Ain't Blues So Sad', `Think Of As One' is given a rootsy treatment (check out the Stones-esque guitar riffs!), and there's an atmospheric and slow take on `Birds'd Crash'.

`True Love Cast Out All Evil' is a truly beautiful number, which benefits greatly from some fine pedal steel playing by Brian Cassidy which helps to give the song an alt.country / Americana feel - one of the album's main highlights. A fairly standard acoustic version of this song from 1985 originally appeared on 1988's "Openers" album - this new take really transforms it into something special. The quite lovely `Forever', where once again Roky delivers a heartfelt vocal, has a similar feel.

Overall this is a staggering return by a true legend, made all the more amazing given what he has been through over the years. I strongly recommend it to any fans of Roky's music. For any newcomers, this (alongside the superb 2CD set I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology) is a great place to start.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2010 9:00 AM BST


HALCYON TIMES
HALCYON TIMES
Price: £14.30

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First album of all-new material since 1996!, 29 Jan. 2010
This review is from: HALCYON TIMES (Audio CD)
"Halcyon Times" represents the first album of all-new material from Jason & The Scorchers since 1996 and it's been well worth the long wait! The line-up here features Jason Ringenberg and Warner E. Hodges from the original 1981 line-up, bassist Al Collins and Swedish drummer Pontus Snibb (Dan Baird helps out on rhythm guitar).

A brief bit of history first - the band originally came together in 1981 and their first 45 is considered to be the first true cow-punk / alt-country record. Their 1983 EP "Fervor" and 1985's classic "Lost And Found" were certainly groundbreaking records - their early sound mixed The Clash, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Jerry Lee Lewis!

"Halcyon Times" kicks off with the rockabilly blast `Moonshine Guy' which is followed by a poignant and affecting tale of mining, `Beat On The Mountain'. The rip-snorting `Mona Lee' is an insanely catchy and fiery number that is one of the album's standouts, and the pace doesn't let up with the chuggling `Fear Not Gear Not'.

Another strong cut is `Mother Of Greed' which transports the listener from northern Wales in 1910 to Birmingham, Alabama in 2009. `Gettin' Nowhere Fast' is a high octane slab of rollicking country-punk, `Land Of The Free' contains some mighty fine 12-string guitar, and another killer track comes in the form of `Golden Days'.

`Deep Holy Water' is a gutsy number, while there's a dark and brooding undercurrent to `Twang Town Blues'. The epic `Days Of Wine And Roses' is an instant classic, and the thunderous `Better Than This' is another monster, complete with catchy as hell chorus.

The stripped-down country of `When Did It Get So Easy (To Lie To Me)' could pass as a long-lost Hank Williams song, and the MC5-esque blistering riff-heavy nugget `We've Got It Goin' On' closes the album in style.

Overall, this great band are back with a truly (no pun intended!) scorching album. If you're an existing fan then you'll love it - if you're yet to discover them, then this is the perfect place to start!


The Complete Recordings
The Complete Recordings
Price: £14.36

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killer 1970 album + unreleased album and more!, 21 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Complete Recordings (Audio CD)
Hailing from Salinas Valley and fronted by Louie Ortega, Louie And The Lovers released the "Rise" album in 1970. Produced by Doug Sahm, it sold poorly and is now highly collectable. Bear Family have given it their usual loving restoration and added a copious amount of bonus tracks - several of which make up what would have been the band's second album.

Blistering opener `Rise' sets the tone for what's to come. With a notable resemblance to `Proud Mary', Louie's vocal brings to mind Moby Grape's Bob Mosley and this killer track also adds a generous helping of power pop sensibilities to the mix. The comparison to Creedence Clearwater Revival is most evident on the countrified `Royal Oakie' and `Sittin' By Your River' which, to the uninitiated, would comfortably pass as an outtake from CCR's mighty "Green River", aided by Ortega's Fogerty-esque wail.

There's downbeat material too in the form of the soulful ballad `I've Always Got You On My Mind' and the poignant and affecting `Driver Go Slow', a song written from the perspective of a murderer being transported to prison who is regretting what he has done.

The mood lifts with the uptempo `I Know You Know' which swells with joyous harmonies and jangly Byrdsian guitars. There are covers too - the standard R&B fare of `Rock Me Baby' and an impressive interpretation of the Kaleidoscope song `If The Night', written by Chris Darrow. `I Just Met You' recalls The Lovin' Spoonful at their laidback best, while the album closer is the gentle folk-psych of `It's The Morning'.

For the later recordings, again produced by Sahm, several guest musicians were recruited which resulted in a beefed up sound. Alongside Sahm in the studio were Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, while the musicians included steel guitarist Charlie Owens, horn legend David `Fathead' Newman, Dr John, percussionist Joe Lala and Tex-Mex accordion player Flaco Jiminez.

`Four Time Loser' has a shuffling groove and powerful vocal, while 1972 single `Little Georgie Baker' is an epic track which captures the band at their most melodic and upbeat best - with a soulful vocal and infectious refrain, this song has it all. `Out Of Jail' is a groovy instrumental with some great piano work, while the lilting `My Belief In You' contains some lovely steel guitar from Owens and more great harmonies.

They sound like a different band on the cover of the forgettable novelty `Caribbean'. Other covers with a difference are the traditional accordion-led Mexican song `Ya No Ilores', the tango `La Paloma' and Marty Robbins' wild-west ballad `El Paso'. They also, rather aptly, cover Jackie DeShannon's `Down Around Salinas'.

There's a Buffalo Springfield vibe about `We Don't Have To Change', while the Sahm-penned `Spread Some Love Around' features The Memphis Horns and is ultra-funky. In the hands of, say, Tom Jones this would be a chart smash! This 83 minute / 27 track collection closes in style with the reflective and wistful `Never Be A Saint' - the harmonies here could pass for CSN!

Lovingly produced by Bear Family with assistance from Louie Ortega, this is the sort of package one has come to expect from the label. Housed in a luxury digipak with comprehensive notes and unpublished photos, "The Complete Recordings" certainly does justice to the forgotten legacy of the great Louie And The Lovers. How "Rise" wasn't one of the best, rather than worst, selling albums of 1970 remains a mystery!


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