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J. T. Hooker (Albion)

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American - The Bill Hicks Story [DVD]
American - The Bill Hicks Story [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt Harlock
Price: 8.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, and a must-buy for anyone interested in how the world works, 6 Dec 2010
Bill Hicks strikes me as an interesting enigma; part comedian, part philosopher, part prophet. In a sense, his humour was a sideshow - he used it as a vehicle to deliver his message of hope in an ever hopeless world because it was an accessible medium and he happened to be good at making people laugh. The humour, in itself, is not really what's up for discussion here.

I think this theory comes across quite well in 'American' and I give it five stars because it's superbly well put together (the montages and video clips are excellent) and the interviews seem to be quite substantial and genuinely add to the mythology surrounding his character.

What's most striking about Hicks' brief but immense output is simply listening to 'Dangerous' in its entirety - even today it sounds fresh and wholly relevant, and the material on the (first) Gulf War seemed eerily familiar only a few years ago.

Simon Amstell - Do Nothing Live [DVD]
Simon Amstell - Do Nothing Live [DVD]
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: 2.80

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid DVD debut, 6 Dec 2010
Having seen 'Do Nothing' earlier today I was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised; the former due to the almost total absence of Amstell's Buzzcocks visceral wit, the latter as a result of enjoying what seems almost like an experiment - or at least a comeback of sorts - in opening up to the audience and attempting a more traditional, mellow stand-up routine.

Overall, three stars because although I felt entertained throughout in an almost whimsical, storytelling sense - certainly no bad thing - I felt that as a purely stand-up comedy effort it fell somewhat flat.

Stewart Lee - If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One [DVD]
Stewart Lee - If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stewart Lee
Price: 12.57

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superior comic near the top of his game, 6 Dec 2010
I remember watching 'Comedy Vehicle' a year or two ago on the BBC and thinking it was superb - not to mention a refreshing change from most of the tripe that passes for comedy on the BBC nowadays.

Having never really heard a great deal of Stewart Lee's material prior to watching the above, I was extremely impressed by both '41st Best Stand Up Ever' and this, Lee's latest offering.

Most will no doubt have heard about his Top Gear/Richard Hammond rant; brilliantly executed and supremely wry, it's certainly the highlight of this set alongside the memorable closing routine.

Overall, 4 1/2 stars and the best DVD I've seen for a few years. Lee is clearly the leader of the stand up pack right now and stands head and shoulders above the Mock The Week crew.

Sean Lock - Lockipedia Live [DVD]
Sean Lock - Lockipedia Live [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Lock
Offered by CP UK And Global LTD
Price: 6.78

7 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lowest common denominator humour, 6 Dec 2010
Having been a big fan of Mr. Lock's for several years now, I can't say that I really think a great deal of this particular title. His previous DVD effort (simply 'Live') is noticeably better, though I had expected rather more from that.

Compared to his better Q.I. output and the absolutely superb '15 Storeys High' this is pretty mundane stuff. I'm not sure why Sean Lock has regressed to basic observational comedy in the same vein as pretty much everyone else out there - particularly when he's proven himself to be a far superior comedian to most of them.

Overall, I'd give 'Lockipedia' 2 or 2 1/2 stars assuming 'Live' is 3.

Stewart Lee's crown is safe for now I think.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2012 7:20 PM GMT

Chinese Democracy
Chinese Democracy
Price: 4.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Six years between order & despatch, 29 Nov 2008
This review is from: Chinese Democracy (Audio CD)
What am I likely to say about this record that hasn't been said before? Not a lot, but as someone who pre-ordered this back in '02 or '03, I think I deserve to at least have a go...

To start off with, it's certainly pretty diverse - and probably divisive; if you thought Guns N' Roses went downhill after Appetite, then you'll hate Chinese Democracy; if, however, you thought the Illusion albums were a work of flawed genius, then you might just appreciate this finely crafted, decade in the making album.

I'm not going to write a track-by-track review because personally I don't think they're important - what matters is the flow & consistency of an album. Does it flow? Does it work? I think C.D. does, and I'd certainly go as far as to say it's on par with their earlier work, and it's certainly better than anything that would have been released in the mid 90s, when the (original) band were in a state of complete collapse.

There's a good mix of styles here, although anyone who knows anything about Rose's direction since 1999's 'Oh My God' will realise that underlying 'modern' influences play a large part, including techno & perhaps even hip-hop, though not on any sort of level to alienate anyone but the most ardent of whiskey-soaked blues rock purists.

To name check but a couple of the tracks on here, T.W.A.T. is epic in every sense of the word, and packs in pretty much everything you'd expect from your average rock album into a single seven-minute track on this one. Classic Gunners guitar and some of Rose's best vocals; in fact, it must be said that a lot of the vocals on C.D. are some of his best, presumably down to the fact that five or so years of mixing the newer songs means a high degree of editing perfection can be achieved. Nonetheless, having heard much rougher demos in the past, Rose's vocal quality is infinitely better than during the '02 Tour. Indeed, if you were unaware of the band's change of direction musically, you'd be hard-pressed to tell whether some of the vocals here were not in fact recorded twenty years ago.

Secondly, a nod to Riad N' The Bedouins, which begins with a couple of fade-in guitars followed by a classic barrage of Rose screams and onto the bridge, one of the catchiest things I've heard in a long time. The vocals are layered at this point, creating a slight harmony which really lifts the song. I mention this as it was one of the demos that I really disliked, but having heard a complete, polished version on the album, it's probably one of the better songs on here.

Finally, no real fan's review could be complete without mentioning 'This I Love', a song which will immediately hark back memories of 'Don't Cry' & 'November Rain' - the song is wonderful, but the piano itself is probably the single most 'classic' GN'R moment you're likely to hear on C.D. - it's typical Illusion-era Axl Rose; piano & vocals followed by a soaring Slash-esque guitar solo. It's this sort of mix that really lifts C.D.

After so many years & so many delays & cancellations, it's difficult to be objective about C.D. - on the one hand, amazingly, it still feels slightly rushed; there's nothing of demo-quality here, but one can't help but feel that some songs perhaps have a little more polish than others, and the overall artwork - although lavish - serves only to hide a lyric booklet that is both inaccurate & seemingly unfinished. Still, that shouldn't put anyone off buying a record, but it does suggest that the whole Dr. Pepper thing may have had undue influence on the release date...

Minor niggles such as this to one side, there are one or two truly great Gunners tunes on here, and there's absolutely nothing less than solid - you won't find a 'My World' here, even if one or two tracks may sound like it on first listen.

Lyrically, C.D. is of the usual high standard, Rose having written everything himself as usual. There's no point mentioning who played what as I really have no idea, suffice to say that the credits list encompasses over a dozen musicians & recording studios, and realistically you're looking at a rather sporadic recording process dating back to at least 2002 (nothing here was written or recorded as far back as the 90s, despite the usual 'it took 15 years to make' routine).

In the end, probably the only thing I'm dubious of is 'Madagascar', a musically sound track (no pun intended) but one that sounds re-uses quotes from 'Civil War', which I can't help but feel is a bit bloody cheap, despite it not being a particularly similar song - that said, the lyrics are almost identical to 'Estranged'.

A bit of a hash that one really, and I'm not really sure where it's going half the time, but it's certainly not a bad song, and even if I don't consider it of A-side quality, it's probably far too good to be relegated to a B-side.

Overall, 4 stars, possibly 4 1/2 - a fairly polished record that took its time coming out but was probably worth the wait. Then again, I'd heard probably a third of these tracks before in some form or other, not that many of them were of anywhere near the quality of the album versions.

I think the title is pretty apt, really, but that's probably not worth explaining. A final thing to note would be that with C.D. (assuming there's more to come from Mr. Rose, be it this century or the next) is that it most likely heralds the end of the bluesy, rough n' ready rock n' roll we heard in Appetite, and bits of in Illusion - 'You Ain't The First' rings a bell here - everything on C.D. has been mixed, re-mixed and layered to the 9's; do not expect something recorded in a couple of hours after a few lines & a crate of Bud. This has been crafted & perfected over a number of years, and though there are a few rough edges, you won't find many.

A solid effort, and here's to the next one being a little sooner than the last.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2008 1:21 PM GMT

Live Era '87-'93
Live Era '87-'93
Price: 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the better live albums out there, 14 Dec 2007
This review is from: Live Era '87-'93 (Audio CD)
Personally, I rank "Live Era" up there with the likes of "Live at Leeds" and "Get Yer Ya Ya's Out!" and all the other classic, landmark live albums. This double-LP shows Guns N' Roses at their absolute peak, the scorching 8-minute version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" being quite possibly my favourite ever live track.

If you're a fan of real, honest rock music, or simply a casual Gunners listener, this is essential.


In Rainbows
In Rainbows
Price: 13.15

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What can you say?, 11 Dec 2007
This review is from: In Rainbows (Audio CD)
If you're like me, you genuinely believe that Radiohead are one of those truly rare bands that really do manage to better themselves with each successive album. Rest assured, 'In Rainbows' does not break this trend. Track for track, it's undoubtedly the greatest selection of songs Yorke & co. have ever compiled. It's also pretty sparse; with many of the songs brand new, whilst a handful date back to the 'Hail To The Thief' sessions. The true highlight of the album, however, is 'Nude' - a beautiful ballad dating back in some form or another to at least 1997, during the 'OK Computer' tour. The band have been trying to agree for the better part of a decade on how to approach the song in the studio. At last, it surfaces as a modern, polished Radiohead classic.

'In Rainbows' is such a focused, no-frills record; it really is simply ten great songs. There's no filler, no experimentation, just great music. There's certainly something for everyone here, with personal favourites including 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' (the first single taken from the record), 'Reckoner' and of course, the haunting final track, 'Videotape'.

Despite its diversity and the sheer quality of most of the tracks, the biggest complaint of 2003's 'Hail To The Thief' was that it was somewhat overlong. True, it could have been trimmed down. What we have with 'In Rainbows', therefore, is a record so focused - perhaps even intense - that it delivers so utterly and completely that you almost wish there were 12 tracks instead of 10.

That said, true fans have ordered the discbox : )

5/5, the best thing they've ever done.

Richard III (Yale English Monarchs Series)
Richard III (Yale English Monarchs Series)
by Charles Ross
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.79

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent biography of a capable warrior-king, 6 Sep 2007
Ross' account of the youngest brother of Edward IV is a compelling read. Richard's youth and adolescence are covered in good detail, in particular his formative years - those growing up and fighting alongside his royal brothers.

Also of note is his accurate and enthralling telling of the Anglo-Scots war during the final years of Edward's reign. Richard is portrayed not as the blackened, child-murdering opportunist of Tudor fable, but as a brave and courageous warrior, a loyal and hard-working servant to his brother, and a capable administrator.

Most gripping, of course, are Ross' account of the years of Richard's personal rule, from the death of his brother in April, 1483, through the short but eventful nominal reign of his nephew, Edward V, and Richard's eventual betrayal and death at the hands of Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field.

Ross' writing is both thorough and fluid, combining all the facts available with just enough narrative to bring the characters to life, without slipping into the role of a storyteller.

Finally, I also heartily recommend Ross' biography of Edward IV, a far more in-depth (Richard ruled only two years, Edward over twenty) and conclusive portrayal of one of England's greatest medieval kings.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2013 5:36 PM GMT

Belkin High Speed Wireless G+ Router
Belkin High Speed Wireless G+ Router

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The first thing I've ever had to send back to Amazon, 6 Sep 2007
I have to agree with P. Willis' earlier review. This is a shoddy product - despite a supposedly easy setup process, after at least two hours of pissing about, I couldn't for the life of me get the damn thing to detect a wireless signal of any sort.

Unfortunately, I'm going to go and get some bubble wrap later, and return the product (not to mention the two Belkin USB adaptors I also bought) to Amazon. I'll either try a Netgear router, or simply not bother at all.

Clearly, most people have no problem with this product, but for those of us who can't seem to get it to work, it's somewhat annoying - particularly as the much-vaunted 'free' Belkin support line has been moved to an 0845 number.

I shan't bother with Belkin again.

Zeitgeist [German Edition]
Zeitgeist [German Edition]
Offered by Rock&PopCDVD
Price: 1.63

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Comeback, 3 July 2007
Excellent album, 4/5!

Best tracks: Doomsday Clock, Bleeding the Ordhid, Starz, Bring the Light.

A very tight and focused record, Zeitgeist sees the Pumpkins returning to their roots. It's certainly more Gish than Mellon Collie, with obvious echoes of Siamese Dream - particularly when the brilliant trademark Billy guitar loops kick in. Pretty much all of the tracks on Zeitgeist are insanely catchy in one way or another, and the haunting vocals on 'Bleeding the Ordhid' are probably the album's highlight.

No strings. No frills. Just classic Pumpkins.

A very good album, and one which I can't wait to hear live at Leeds : )

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