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Greg Farefield-Rose (Hertfordshire United Kingdom)

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by Morrissey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Such a shame of bitternesss, 5 Sep 2014
This review is from: Autobiography (Paperback)
Although it's a compulsory purchase for many thousands of music fans, Morrissey's eagerly awaited autobiography could sadly be subtitled "One long whinge". It's a tragedy that any sense of joy and excitement of being part of one of the greatest bands of the 80s is overshadowed by bitterness over the Mike Joyce royalties court case and other hapless episodes with the music industry. On reading his side of the story, I feel a certain amount of sympathy with Mozza though equally feel that he is often his own worse enemy.

Autobiography is probably at its best when describing Morrissey's childhood including his impoverished but happy home life and brutal 70s Catholic schooling. As expected of such an excellent lyricist, his anecdotal prose is good though the book could have done with further editing and being divided by chapters. Indeed, its chapterless form merely perpetuates the impression that this is one long rant.

Autobiography will continue to be read by the thousand though devoted and casual customers alike should be aware that any joy or insight gained is clouded over by the writer's bitterness. Ultimately this is a great shame.

Talking Book
Talking Book
Price: £6.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably Stevie's finest LP, 30 Aug 2014
This review is from: Talking Book (Audio CD)
Given complete artistic freedom from the shackles of the Motown production line as well as an array of Arp and Moog synthesisers, the 21 year old Stevie Wonder wasted little time in creating Talking Book. It is still arguably his best album.

On Talking Book, Stevie played most of the instruments ranging from synths to drums and, quite incredibly, what sounds like acoustic guitar on the album's most overtly political track Big Brother. The remainder of the LP focuses more on the loss and gain of love, probably influenced by his separation from Syreeta Wright who somewhat ironically contributed some of the words.

Sides One and Two of the album begin with the most famous songs from the LP. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life stays just the right side of the middle of the road whilst Superstition carries the funk. There is also however much to be gained from the rest of the album with the sublimely arranged Blame It On The Sun possibly Stevie's greatest ever lost-love song. I can remember Evan Dando of the Lemmonheads raving about it in the early 90s - possibly not the most sober musical analyst but he was right! Further highlights include Looking For Another Pure Love which is augmented by some beautifully fluid guitar-work by Jeff Beck and the 70s jazz-funk of Tuesday Heartbreak featuring an equally excellent guest turn by Dave Sanborne on saxophone.

With all but the two most famous songs absent from most Wonder compilations, Talking Book is an essential Stevie purchase. It is very highly recommended.

Annie Hall [DVD] [1977]
Annie Hall [DVD] [1977]
Dvd ~ Woody Allen
Price: £6.70

2.0 out of 5 stars Badly dated, 5 Aug 2014
This review is from: Annie Hall [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
I was a Woody Allen fan, especially in my early 20s and really enjoyed his excellent return to form with Midnight In Paris from a few years ago. So, I was looking forward to seeing his award-winning Annie Hall again but, oh dear, how the film (and maybe me, too) have dated.

Whilst I used to enjoy and partly relate to Allen's usual nervy, neurotic film persona in the past, now I just found him and his pseudo-intellectual co-parts annoying and tiresome. Although Annie Hall's jumping forwards and backwards in time was clever at the time of release, I can't really see now how the film and its performances warrant the acclaim they still receive. Maybe it's because it's something of an urbane New York 70s period piece though I'm afraid I just found it dated and quite excruciating at times.

Beneath Our Humble Soil
Beneath Our Humble Soil
Price: £13.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Best new band I've heard for a long time, 3 July 2014
This review is from: Beneath Our Humble Soil (Audio CD)
This is the best new band and album I've heard for a long time. The Willows hark back to brilliant music of the past though mould it together to create something of their own. Some members of the band have a distinctly folk background though they are much too varied to pigeonhole so narrowly. Maybe the often misused moniker of folk-rock ultimately suits them best.

The Willows are led by Jade Rhiannon on beautiful vocals and guitar supported by her partner Cliff Ward on guitar, banjo and backing vocals. Lead guitar including slide is provided by Ben Savage and drums and percussion by Stephen MacLachlan. Completing the bad is Cliff's sister Prue on very clear violin (definitely not "fiddle") and backing vocals.

As already hinted, there is something of a classic Fairport's feel to their set-up with this most evident musically on the driving Outlaw. Another highlight the delicate Moths reminds me of early Joni Mitchell whereas Worker's War on the other hand could almost be Dolly Parton. Further highpoints include the epic ballad Gone Are The Days which has an underlying reggae rhythm beneath the lush arrangement as well as the mystical Out At Sea and Cap In Hand with Cliff on lead vocals.

With the often complex arrangements, there is also an element of prog to The Wilows' sound. The purists may say that this is music like it used to be 40 or more years ago. Whatever your views on this may be, Beneath Our Humble Soil is a fantastic album which is very highly recommended.

Star Trek [DVD]
Star Trek [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Pine
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £3.96

5.0 out of 5 stars To boldly go...with an excellent prequel, 18 April 2014
This review is from: Star Trek [DVD] (DVD)
The prequel film, showing the formative years of well known characters, has been increasingly popular in recent years. It's fascinating to speculate and see how a character is shaped and, hot on the heals of Star Wars and Batman Begins, the crew of the US Enterprise get the before-they-were-famous treatment.

What we learn is that, far from being born as the natural inspirational leader he became, the young James T Kirk was something of a delinquent brat. Even more surprising, Spock and Uhuru had something of a thing for each other...

Glib comments aside, this tale of the coming together of the seven main characters is thoughtful and interesting as well as a great adventure as the young Kirk shows great bravery to ultimately display his potential and secure his position after a fierce rivalry with Spock. The original TV Spock, Leonard Nimoy, touchingly makes an appearance to endorse the new Star Trek in the sort of time travel scenario which only science fiction can get away with.

A more common cinematic mode of time travel today is the prequel. Star Trek manages this with an excellent, fascinating movie which shows great respect for the legendary TV Series which followed. "To boldly go...".

Death Comes to Pemberley
Death Comes to Pemberley
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars An honourable and worthy sequel, 1 April 2014
A sequel to Pride And Prejudice by veteran crime writer and massive Austen fan PD James. Darcy and Elizabeth have been happily married for six years when, on the eve of their annual ball, Elizabeth's youngest sister Lydia hysterically appears to announce a murder which turns the Pemberley estate upside down.

Written in a similar style to Austen, James' novel also has a complex series of plots and relationships. Ostensibly heavy on perception though, like so many classic English texts, not so much on overt emotion, it is an excellent, honourable and worthy sequel to one of the most celebrated novels ever. Highly recommended and all the more remarkable bearing in mind that the author wrote it at around her 90h year.

The World's End [DVD]
The World's End [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Price: £5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Geat comedy full of local landmarks, 10 Mar 2014
This review is from: The World's End [DVD] (DVD)
The World's End is the third in a trilogy of UK-based films over the last 10 years made by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It is also special for me and many around me in that many of the scenes were shot in my home town of Letchworth Garden City - indeed the cinema where I saw it was pub number 8 in the central story.

The World's End is about a group of 40 year old men who return to their home town of Milford Haven to complete the pub crawl they never quite finished over 20 years ago. Led by the indefatigable Gary King (Pegg), a man who quite hilariously still acts like a teenager, they soon find that the town is not quite what it seems. What follows is akin to a modern, comic version of The Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers though with moments of poignancy about not trying to recreate the past amongst the jokes and cartoonish violence. It's still a comedy though and a fitting end to the trilogy, spoofing and subverting alien films just like predecessors Shaun Of The Dead did with zombie movies and Hot Fuzz with cop flicks.

The World's End is a zany comedy with some strong characters yet a thought-provoking aftermath. It is highly recommended - even more so for those like me who are able to pick out places they know and love.

Tooth & Nail
Tooth & Nail
Price: £17.11

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deluxe is superior, 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: Tooth & Nail (Audio CD)
The Deluxe Edition of Tooth And Nail is probably the best package for extras I've ever seen for a music CD. Looking like an old Ladybird book, it includes a DVD of Billy's often highly entertsining promo videos from the 80s and 90s, the lyrics for the new album and a handful of articles written by the artist for Q magazine. Beautifully presented but what of the music itself...

Billy sees Tooth And Nail as something of a continuation of the Mermaid Avenue albums he made with Wilco at the turn of the century. Recorded with four supporting musicians over just five days in Joe Henry's studio in South Pasadena, the emphasis is a bit more country than the folk-rock of the Wilco LPs but is nevertheless a very good album of Americana.

Mostly acoustic with none of the clanging electric guitar of Bragg's early albums, the musical settings bring out the very best of Billy's once maligned voice which has never sounded better. The lyrics also complement the music well with a general downbeat, world-weariness not typical of this usually most chipper of artists. Partially influenced by the recent death of his mother, the more introspective highlights include No One Knows Nothing Anymore, Over You and the simple but melodic opener January Song. "This is how the end begins".

It's not all doom and gloom though with the touching Handyman Blues, a humorous ode to all sensitive men who struggle once the package from B&Q arrives. As always with Billy, there's also a large degree of hope in particular with the closing Tomorrow's Going To Be A Better Day - a beacon of light at the end of an album which, like many these days, fades slightly over the final third.

Probably not quite Billy's finest album musically then but still a very fine LP and honest artistic statement. It still has plenty of highlights so I would give the album alone four stars - though the Deluxe Edition certainly deserves the full five.

Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream
Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream
by Neil Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the restless Mr Young, 21 Dec 2013
Musician and songwriter yes but also a philanthropist, passionate campaigner and family man, Waging Heavy Peace gives the reader a fascinating insight into the restless soul which is Neil Young. A series of three-four page reminisces jumping around his long career and life, the well-written anecdotes are seemingly chosen off the cuff. They show am honesty about women and drugs as well as debunking a few myths - Neil's alleged support of Ronald Reagan in the 80s and his record company suing him for making "unrepresentative albums" - with the take from the man himself.

The memoirs also illustrate so much more - the close-knit community around the artist from which dear friends are beginning to pass away, the devoted father of two disabled sons whose actions for his children have made a difference to so many, the passionate collector of cars and toy trains and the committed investor behind Pure Tone, Neil's alternative to the compressed sounds of most digital music. There's also plenty of comment and insight into his songs and musical journeys for the purists though music is just one (albeit highly successful) aspect of Young's quite remarkable life and worldview. Waging Heavy Peace is a fascinating revelation into the multi-faceted existence of its amazing, restless author. It is very highly recommended.

The Dark Knight Rises (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
The Dark Knight Rises (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Price: £4.80

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed and thought provoking, 20 Nov 2013
Dark Knight Rises is the final film in a Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan though it is, in many ways, more of a continuation of Batman Begins than the second film, The Dark Knight. Batman (Christian Bale) has been hardly seen for several years till the World-threatening activities of a massive criminal underworld emerges. Literally operating below Gotham City, the scale of the subterranean operation is large enough to bring the Dark Knight out of retirement - maybe for a final time.

Dark Knight Rises is a superior, action-packed movie which is also thought provoking through the inner anguish of the lead character. Featuring a strong cast and some superb special effects and scenes, it is an excellent, contemporary movie experience and is very strongly recommended within its genre.

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