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ratmonkey (Hardy Country)

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Amaryllis
Amaryllis
Price: £5.32

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Daffodillis, 19 April 2012
This review is from: Amaryllis (Audio CD)
This cements Shinedown's full transition into the realms of american post-grunge MOR, radio-friendly pop-rock (bit of a mouthful, granted). They were always headed this way as their grungier debut heralded but there was always the chance that they could exist in that particular arena while still producing slightly left-field tracks. 2008's Sound of Madness managed this perfectly. It had radio-friendly, spangly, acoustic power-ballads that lay next to crushing, iconic anthems like the astonishing title track. And nothing seemed out of place. There's nothing wrong with making music for the masses but it just seems that they did it with a little more integrity on previous releases, with emphasis on decent songwriting over clipped track length. And, no, tacked-on swearing for no real reason does not an edgy album make.

That said, Amarallyis is not at all a bad album. In fact its new design makes for rather pleasant listening. The real problem lies with the strength of the songs. There are some absolute belters on here but only on the first half. There is nothing bad as such on the rest of the album but nothing that truly grabs the attention or is as exhilirating as much as say 'Devour' or as epic or moving as 'In Memory' and 'All I Ever Wanted'.

Openers 'Adrenaline' and 'Bully' are ostensibly the same song. They are both rollicking rockers chock-full of hooks and great choruses, but were crafted for the obvious reason of being singles (well at least 'Bully'). And that's no bad thing in a way as they are both fantastic. The title track is not a patch on the one from Sound of Madness but it is still a very good track. It is more of a ballad, played acoustically and rising to the usual emotional crescendo. 'Unity' sounds like it will end up on a BT advert at some time in the future. Hooks and soaring choruses aplenty vie for space amidst the crystal production. I jest but it really is a great song too. 'Enemies' is where it all gets a bit 'ordinary'. It's quite upbeat and has a pounding, rhythmic chorus but sounds like a track-by-numbers machine wrote it. A little anaemic. 'I'm Not Alright' is similar in tone but actually miles better as the chorus is staggeringly catchy and foot-tappingly addictive. It almost sounds like a Britpop anthem resurrected (almost).

'Nowhere Kids' is another Shinedown bread and butter track. It's very good but you will probably have heard it before. 'Miracle' is similar but does have a stronger chorus. It's a ballad and they usually do these well. 'I'll Follow You' is again very good, a cross between a ballad and a mid-paced rocker but is lacking a spark to rise it to higher status. Ditto 'For My Sake' and 'My name'. Both ok, both not particularly memorable. Closer, 'Through the Gost' is much better and ends on a sombre high at least. It sounds like the Shinedown from previous albums, forging ahead with a song that is both mainstream, intelligent and moving. Hopefully this is a sign of the direction they may take on their next album a few years down the line? We'll see.

Not bad. Not as good as they have been but worthy enough for a listen as there are a handful of great tracks here. And actually it would be a pretty good place to start if you are new to the band.


Counterparts
Counterparts
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £9.96

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Between Sun and Moon, 18 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Counterparts (Audio CD)
Creeping ever further into the 90s, Rush's follow-up to the radio-friendly Roll the Bones was even more of a departure from the 80s-tinged synth sounds of their previous releases. However it is hardly the alternative nirvana that some make it out to be. As always with any Rush album there are some absolutely awe-inspiring songs and it is still essentially the Rush of Moving Pictures and Fly By Night, as well as of Signals and Hold Your Fire. Tunes and well thought out song structures are foremost in their ethic. While Counterparts does have a lot of good tracks it is the first to really suffer from more less interesting ones since Permanent Waves.

'Animate' is not one of these. It is a slow-burning Rush staple that introduces a chorus that sounds moribund at first but evolves into a tuneful epiphany after a few spins. 'Stick It Out' and 'Cut to the Chase' I can take or leave. This is the sound of Rush almost reverting back to their 70s style of hard, Zeppelin-like rock. It didn't particularly suit them then (apart from the excellent 2112) and it doesn't much now. I have always thought they did better work with gentle melodies that sounded mammoth instead of loud ones that became flaccid. 'Nobody's Hero' is a great little power ballad of sorts. 'Between Sun and Moon' is one of the best tracks. It has the kind of chorus that Rush excel at - one's you cannot see coming.

'Alien Shore' is a good song but no more. It is gentle and unassuming but a little lacking. As is 'The Speed of Love' although the chorus is slightly more catchy I suppose. 'Double Agent' is awesome, possibly the best track here. It has many layers, even a spoken word verse structure that makes Geddy sound remarkably like Alice Cooper (I always believe it is Alice every time I listen - it feels cooler that way). And the chorus afterwards is simply stunning. 'Leave that Thing Alone' is another instrumental too far. They like doing them but I never enjoy them as much as their lyrical output. 'Cold Fire' is the Rush of Hold Your Fire. It's just a good song with a good chorus and refrain. Job done. And 'Everyday Glory' is both uplifting and fun, ending the album with optimism instead of the darkness that everyone seems to think pervades the rest.

The darkest thing about this album is possibly the artwork. The songs, as always, are great. Just not as great as albums' past.


Roll The Bones
Roll The Bones
Offered by trec002
Price: £4.49

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rolling bones, 18 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Roll The Bones (Audio CD)
This sees Rush heading further away from the synths that has all but taken over the sound of their music through the entire decade previous. It is both a good and a bad thing as it was in a large part due to the synths that Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure attained their epic qualities and some of the tracks here do revert back to their 70s hard rock material which in my opinion was lacking in places. What hasn't been lost is their ability to pen a tune that'll stick to your ear drums forever and despite how many synths or how many guitars are in the mix it is fundamentally this that makes Rush such a great band and makes Roll the Bones a great record - although it is by far not their best.

'Dreamline' has a running riff, like a fanfare of trumpets and a driving core that makes it impossible not to like. A greatb start. 'Bravado' is more stripped down and is Rush at their tenderest which is always a good thing. Painfully melodic and pure. Then the title track comes in all brash and angular and funky, with a mid-section rap (gadzooks!) but also with one of the most stripped down, beautiful and insightful choruses ever penned. In all aspects it is excellent. 'Face Up' is where we see the rock n rollin' Rush appear once again. It is a good tune but in my opinion lacks a spark. 'Where's My Thing' is an instrumental and I usually have issues with most instrumentals from bands that are usually lyrical. It is ok and it did win an award (for some reason) and I'm sure it's all very technical and amazingly played but it just didn't excite me I'm afraid.

Strangely for the synth-less route they were embarking upon, 'The Big Wheel' with its addictively catchy and extremely synth-laden chorus, not so much came as a surprise but was a pleasant change from the rest of the album. Along with the title track it is by far the best thing on here. 'Heresy' left me a little cold as it seemed to go on too long for the tune. It is good but not particularly interesting or moving (obviously my personal opinion - I'm sure others may disagree). 'Ghost of a Chance' has a great riff that the song revolves around but that is it. Good but not great. 'Neurotica' is a fun little track that sounds like an 80s pop tune done by a stadium rock band. And 'You Bet Your Life' finishes the album on another fun, catchy high note. Essentially a song cut in half with a sublime refrain for the second half.

Another great album but not a classic. On every Rush album there are always a few songs that are pure genius. And a lot more that are very catchy that many bands would kill to be able to write. This is no exception.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2012 8:04 PM BST


The Very Best Of Dokken
The Very Best Of Dokken
Price: £7.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven Sent, 11 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Very Best Of Dokken (Audio CD)
Probably not a band to follow so much album by album as they can be an acquired taste but this compilation of the highlights of their first 4 or 5 albums is more than enough to enjoy. These are not masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination but if you enjoy 80s heavy rock a la Motley Crue, Ratt, Whit Lion et al then this should float your boat. The sound is like a cross between Poison and Warlock, heavy but glammy in places.

Most of these tracks are gold but my favourites are 'Dream Warriors', 'Breaking the Chains', 'Alone Again' and 'In My Dreams'.

Again, not earth-shattering genius, just good old fashioned hard rock that has now been lost to the 80s.


Presto
Presto

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slight of hand, 11 April 2012
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This review is from: Presto (Audio CD)
As the last 80s album. this has a similar sound to their previous 3 or 4 albums but lacks a certaing cohesion that made them so good. That said it is still a force to reckoned with and has so many good tunes it's hard to absorb.

Opener 'Show Don't Tell' is not one of my favourites but it is hard to argue with such honed songwriting ability. It has hooks, riffs and melody that would be the envy of any self-respecting writer. ' Chain Lightning' is sufficiently catchy also but fails to produce such long-term recall, almost as if this is a filler track, which is a testament to the band's strengths as it is not bad by any stretch. 'The Pass' is the first truly great song here. It harks back to material from Grace Under Pressure, is mellow but uplifting, a trademark Rush song. 'War Paint' is another very catchy track but sounds slightly deflated. Maybe it's the production, but it seems a little flat. 'Scars' falls under the same malady, but these are both 2 good songs as their melodies and rhythms still make a mark.

It's with 'Presto', 'Superconductor' and 'Anagram(For Mongo)' where the true essence of the album is laid bare. These are 3 dissimilar but equally transformative songs. Each are catchy, hook-laden and near perfect pieces of work, material that will be listened to by this reviewer for a very long time. They are the jewels of this album. 'Red Tide' is good but could have been removed and no harm would have been done. 'Hand Over Fist' and 'Available Light' are both excellent examples of Rush's inate songwriting nous.

Not a complete triumph when compared to the previous 3 aor 4 albums but it showed the beginning of a transition period for the band, moving away from the heavy synth sound that typified the 80s and onto a more stripped down, alternative sound that was to become indicative of the grungey and unsure world of music in the 90s. But as always with Rush, the tunes speak for themselves.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2012 10:16 AM BST


Hold Your Fire
Hold Your Fire

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forceful, 11 April 2012
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This review is from: Hold Your Fire (Audio CD)
As is usual with most Rush albums this takes a few spins to appreciate the quality that lies within. As a measure this is on par with the other 80s albums since Moving Pictures but holds more in common with the previous 2 releases, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows. Like those 2 albums, Hold Your Fire is musically bound by the decade it was created in unfortunately. The synths and production undermine what lies beneath and that is something that pervades most Rush albums since Permanent Waves - songwriting that excels in all areas. Because of its 80s production it wallows in a netherworld of also-rans and guilty pleasures nary seeing the light of radio play (in the UK at least). But some of the tracks on this album are some of the best written tunes I have ever heard anywhere. And that is one constant with Rush - every album almost guarantees a handful of excellent songs.

Opener 'Force Ten' is proof of this. At first it sounds angular and unimpressive but blossoms into a tune that is difficult to forget. It is no classic but is evidence of how well they can forge a catchy song. Single, 'Time Stands Still' is somewhat of a classic, albeit not the best track here. It is still however a very good song. 'Open Secrets' is one of my favourites. It is almost like a memory of 'Middletown Dreams' from Power Windows; it takes a while to access but once it does it is excellent. It is the kind of track Rush do superbly; quiet, understated but with an impact like no other. 'Second Nature' is not a favourite of mine but is hard to deny its power to stay with you. Rush tunesmithery strikes again! 'Prime Mover' is a classic and one of the catchiest tracks ever - like a lot of other Rush tracks I am finding!

'Lock and Key' is almost a masterclass in how to make a perfect pop song. Great chorus. 'Mission' is ok but fails to excite me as much as the others. 'Turn the Page': see 'Lock and Key'. 'Tai han' is possibly the only one I would eject from the album. It is ok but comes across as very cheesy and a little too nostalgic. One to skip. 'High Water' ends everything well with a slow track that erupts into the trademark excellent chorus.

Many great tracks and a few absolute belters. Highly recommended especially in conjunction with 'Grace Under Pressure' and 'Power Windows'.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 19, 2014 7:51 AM GMT


Grace Under Pressure
Grace Under Pressure
Price: £5.57

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electric Body of Work, 4 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Grace Under Pressure (Audio CD)
Coming hot off the successes of the very good Signals, Grace Under Pressure ramps up the pop quota slightly with a much broader sound. The albums from Signals to Hold Your Fire do suffer slightly from sounding very anachronistically 80s. There are synths to the nines and the production is slicker than oil. But this is also the charm of these albums. Without their dated sound they would be different. And Grace Under Pressure definitely beats Signals in my opinion.

'Distant Early Warning' is a precursor to 'The Big Money' from the even better Power Windows. It is a shortish (for them) poppy intro. It works very well but then introduces the more nuanced, thoughtful tracks. 'AfterImage' is sublime with a chorus that seems so slight but works infinitely well. 'Red Sector A' is one of the highlights of the album, with nods to the massive sounding masterpieces, 'Marathon' and 'Manhattan Project' from Power Windows. It is poignant, beautiful and eventually ridiculously catchy. I say eventually because most rush songs take at least 3 or 4 spins before their worth is shown. But it's so much better that way (I spent quite a while hating both Signals and Power Windows) as when the tunes become evident they sing that much prettier. 'The Enemy Within' fiishes off (or is it starts?) a near perfect trilogy of Fear.

'The Body Electric' is about robots. And it's another of those perfect Rush mini masterpieces. 'Kid Gloves' is a world-beater. It is a perfect single with the catchiest chorus. 'Red Lenses' is the only track I could do without. It's a step too far in the 80s casio keyboard stakes. But 'Between the Wheels' is another sublime way to close. It reminds of the yet unpenned 'Middletown Dreams' from the (you guessed it!) seminal Power Windows.

Power Windows is the better album from that era of the band but Grace Under Pressure comes a very close second. Highly recommended.


I'm Alan Partridge : Complete BBC Series 2 [2003] [DVD] [1997]
I'm Alan Partridge : Complete BBC Series 2 [2003] [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.80

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakin Stevens' endorsed, 28 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As good and in some ways better than the first series, but they are both very funny. This sees Alan back on the up after a breakdown. He is no longer living in a travel lodge but having his own sub-footballer's wives style house built and living on site in a static home. With his Iranian girlfriend. Lynn still fawns after him and he and Michael are now best of friends and he spends his time between the static home, the bp garage and Choristers Social Club. It all sounds very dull but it is hilarious.

Highlights are Alan using a hot apple turnover as a weapon, the hilarious sales conference speech for Dante's Fireplace employees after losing a pint of blood, calling 'Dan' across the car park, the flawless rendition of the opening scene and title sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me and U2's drummer.

If only there were a series 3...


I'm Alan Partridge : Complete BBC Series 1 [1997] [DVD]
I'm Alan Partridge : Complete BBC Series 1 [1997] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely stuff, 28 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Inimitable and classic. Yes the laugh track does harm it ultimately but these 6 episodes chronicling the continued downfall of z-list celeb Alan Partridge (a macabre hybrid of Bing Crosby, Jeremy Clarkson and David Icke) are as close to perfect as any TV comedy sit-com is ever likely to.

The character is played note perfectly by Coogan, the master of all comedy character actors (see Paul/Pauline Calf, Saxondale, Partidge and even himself in the equally as excellent The Trip), but the supporting cast are all great at riffing off the one-liners and cringeworthy situations. This also introduces Michael, the Geordie porter who follows Alan to series 2, and some of their repartee is inspired.

Highlights include the 'cracking owl sanctuary', the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre, LadyBoys drink, Sunday Bloody Sunday and the best use of Jurassic Park ever. I know that doesn't make sense but it will all gloriously become evident once you watch these episodes par excellence.


Rush
Rush
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £5.71

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Finding Their Way, 28 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Rush (Audio CD)
It is a testament to the band as to how far each album is removed from each other. Rush's first is the most 'rocky' and akin to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, alas without being quite as good as either. Rush's back catalogue is important to see how they began and because they get better and better with every album. This is good but there are no real stand out tracks. Even 'Working Man' is really only ok, especially when compared to even tracks like 'The End' from Fly By Night.

'Finding My Way' is good but it is too long and noodly. 'Need Some Love' and 'Take a Friend' are better. They are fun rock tracks that don't outstay their welcomes and are quite catchy too. 'Her Again' is sufficiently melancholic but at 7 mins + it veers on the side of overindulgence. 'What You're Doing' is also quite forgettable but the only one I would eject from the album. 'In The Mood' is a great little 70s rocker. 'Before and After' starts mellow and then rocks out and is somewhat of a precursor to the excellent 'Rivendell' on Fly By Night' only not as good. And 'Working Man' is ok but is again too long and noodly.

Overall not a triumph but definitely no disaster. They are always proficient musicians and their early writing is notable for what was to come down the line. One for fans and completists only.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2013 2:16 AM BST


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