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the great amphibian (Hampshire, UK)

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Battle Of Leningrad
Battle Of Leningrad
Offered by megamoviestore
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good in places but all of these artists have done much better stuff., 18 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Battle Of Leningrad (Audio CD)
I am a big fan of Tony Macalpine so that was one of the main drivers for me giving this album a try. Although I prefer instrumental music in general, Mark Boals is one of my favourite vocalists and I especially liked his work with Yngwie and found his album Seven the Hardway with Macalpine to also be pretty good.

Generally speaking the music on this album is of a high standard, particularly in the song written by Macalpine, but I found the lyrics to be painfully predictable. I know Boals is capable of some original and intelligent lyrics, such as on Ynwie's 'Alchemy', but even on the first hearing of 'Battle of Leningrad' I could predict a lot of the lyrics during the songs and they felt far too trite and predictable most of the time, sometimes to the point of being painful. I find it difficult to listen to the ballad style songs in particular, but a few of the higher paced and heavier songs are catchy.

To be more precise, I would give Boals five stars for his vocal delivery (as usual) but only one or two stars for his lyrics. Macalpine is excellent as usual, but is a little more inside the box than usual due to the album's neo-classical pigeonholing. Kuprij does a nice job on the album as well and avoids repetitive hack work, instead choosing his moments quite nicely.

Overall I was disappointed and won't be listening to album enough to justify the cost of the CD.


Big Data For Dummies
Big Data For Dummies
by Judith Hurwitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buzzword rich and wordy but didn't actually teach me anything., 18 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Big Data For Dummies (Paperback)
The topic of big data is not exactly an elementary one, so you can't expect miracles from a For Dummies book, unlike with some other topics which the series lends itself to, (such as for picking up a particular programming language or software application). This book is very wordy with plenty of jargon and buzz words but seemingly without imparting any knowledge. I came away from reading the book cover to cover without feeling like I had learnt anything.

Perhaps it just isn't possible to explain 'big data' in anything more than a superficial way without the reader having a strong knowledge and understanding of prerequisite concepts such as relational databases, SQL, data storage, and networking etc. It's a bit like trying to teach calculus to someone just by using words and no mathematical notation. In this respect it seems a bit misleading to write a For Dummies book on the subject with the impression that the reader will learn something.

The book at least provides some kind of context for a lot of the jargon, explaining at least superficially what Hadoop, Hive, No-SQL, etc. are so it might be of some help if you are completely oblivious to what any of those things are, but I don't see any value in the book beyond that. It was somewhat useful to me in this respect about a year ago when I bought it, but I don't think it justified the cost of buying a new book; a pamphlet would probably have sufficed, and would have saved me a good few hours of reading quite repetitive prose.

I think I was partly suckered in to buying this because of the title and it being a recently published book on a hot topic, but overall I would find it hard to think of anyone who would benefit much from reading this book.


Excel VBA Programming For Dummies
Excel VBA Programming For Dummies
by John Walkenbach
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introductory course in VBA for Excel., 18 Nov. 2014
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This is an excellent introductory book on VBA and gave me a solid grounding in VBA in only a couple of weeks. The author writes in a generally entertaining way and his enthusiasm about VBA makes the book less dry to read than some titles.

The author is also honest about the pros and cons of VBA, and gives some context about when it is useful or when general purpose programming languages would be more appropriate.

Overall this book gives the reader a solid grounding in programming VBA macros on Excel and I'd strongly recommend it.


R For Dummies
R For Dummies
by Andrie De Vries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A great hands-on introduction to R., 18 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: R For Dummies (Paperback)
'R for Dummies' is a great example of a useful For Dummies book, and gets you working hands-on with R from the start, building on practical examples which you can easily follow on your computer. The book can get a tad dry as concepts are introduced one after another, but the book does what it says on the tin and gives you what you need to have a solid grounding in R without any unnecessary waffle or verbosity.

Another plus is that the authors come across unbiased and professional, leaving their personal preferences about which functions are useful or un-useful aside and letting the reader decide for themselves, (unlike some books).

Some reviewers complained of typos in the code, but I have worked through the book literally cover to cover and don't recall there being any syntax errors when I tried the examples.

Highly recommended as a first book in R.


SQL All-in-One For Dummies
SQL All-in-One For Dummies
by Allen G. Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.02

2.0 out of 5 stars Go for a shorter book that is hands on and practical if you want to learn SQL., 18 Nov. 2014
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I am reviewing this book in the context of the title and the expectations I believe people have when buying a For Dummies book. Like some other reviewers I found the book very wordy and long winded, and ostensibly written as a history and theory of SQL rather than a practical hands-on guide. Even the 'practical' sections seem to be general theory and don't seem to give actual examples that you can follow on a DBMS. Other 'For Dummies' books that I bought which are great examples of actually teaching you practical skills without a lot of unnecessary waffle are 'R for Dummies' and 'Excel VBA Programming for Dummies'.

Another SQL book that I bought (which I will not name in case it makes the review seem biased) is about a third of the size and gets straight to the point, learning the syntax hands on with actual examples of creating, modifying, and querying databases that you can follow in your chosen DBMS, (and therefore learn SQL).

As a further indication of the book's un-usefulness (but I wouldn't say 'uselessness') is that I leant it to someone for about a year (after realising it was no use to me) and when I got it back from him he had bought another (smaller) SQL book and had only read a few chapters (of book 1 out of 8) of 'SQL all in one for dummies'.

If it were rebadged accordingly, such as "a general history and theory of SQL" then I'm confident it would be useful to some people, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it to someone hoping to pick up SQL in a practical and time-efficient way.

The blurb on the Amazon page says "You'll get the goods on relational database design, development, and maintenance, enabling you to start working with SQL right away!"; I take it whoever wrote that has not tried learning SQL from this book.


Dark Chapter
Dark Chapter
Price: £23.44

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best instrumental guitar albums ever., 20 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Dark Chapter (Audio CD)
The musicality and originality of this instrumental debut album [1994] by Michael Romeo shows how brilliant and talented a guitarist he is. For me it has to rank up there with Tony Macalpine's Maximum Security and Greg Howe's self titled debut album in terms of instrumental guitar masterpieces. Romeo brings a unique and distinctive gothic atmosphere to his compositions, and like the latter two albums, despite the abundance of amazing technique, the technique always comes second to the composition.


Madness
Madness
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £16.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant set of compositions including many Jazz/Fusion elements., 29 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Madness (Audio CD)
Madness is quite unique among Macalpine's albums in style and displays virtuosity in a range of musical styles, especially with high speed energetic compositions incorporating more blues/jazz/fusion styles of play. The compositions are impeccably created as always and with creative and energetic soloing. The general tone of the album is uplifting and upbeat and gives a positive feeling. Perfect examples of this are 'Naked Nancy', 'Confrontation with the Electric Bees', the unique song 'Dr Garlic Breath', and a personal favourite of mine 'Realm of the Flying Monkeys'.

'Restaurant at the End of the Universe' is a ballad paced song with powerful emotive playing, and 'House in Motion' is a memorable and pretty composition with awesome playing throughout, and as another basis of comparison is similar in some ways to 'Champion' from 'Freedom to Fly'. 'Peruvian Power Layback' is a really nice piece and is one of the highlights of the album in my opinion, and also is reminiscent in style to the album 'Freedom to Fly'.

The two songs at the end of the album are of a darker nature and are both awesome powerful shred compositions: 'Muffin Bandits' is a short but sweet neo-classical style song with strong soloing and is reminiscent of songs such as 'The Time and the Test' from 'Maximum Security' as a comparison, and Rats with Wings is a brilliant neo-classical composition with fast and powerful shredding and awesome solos. Also noteworthy is the excellent rendition of one of Chopin's etudes on the piano by Tony.

All in all this is a wonderful selection of instrumental compositions from a range of general styles, but all showcasing Macalpine's virtuoso playing style, and each song on the album is memorable.


Master of Paradise
Master of Paradise
Price: £14.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and emotive vocals by Macalpine., 29 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Master of Paradise (Audio CD)
Master of Paradise is unique among Macalpine's solo albums in that most of the songs are full vocal compositions and Tony himself provides them. It is regrettable that Tony has not produced any more albums containing his singing - although I would not replace any of his instrumental albums with vocal albums, or mixed vocal/instrumental which I do not think works - but this album is a real gem and it seems there is room for a lot more excellent vocal work from Tony. I find the songs on this album to be memorable, heart felt, and emotive. The tone of the album is probably more lethargic than most of Tony's albums, and this is perhaps due to his singing style or the inspirations he had for making the album which may have encouraged him to sing, and I think this style suits Tony's voice perfectly.

It is true that either the production or mastering on this album is not perfect, and I tend to have to crank up the volume and the bass to be able to hear it properly, but this does not detract from the beauty of the songs and almost adds to their charm. The only song it is really noticeable on to me is Final Hour, which is an extraordinary heavy instrumental piece, (the soul original instrumental composition on the album), which ranks as one of my favourite of Macalpine's instrumental pieces, but the recording quality is not up to the usual standard. The song itself is incredible though and is awesome especially if you can put it through some loud speakers. Some favourites of mine among all of the vocal songs on the album are Circus, Master of Paradise, Tears of Darkness, and Maker is King, although all of the songs are very much of the same high standard and more or less equally memorable and emotive.

Master of Paradise is a gem of an album and I would strongly recommend it to any Macalpine fan, or any lover of beautiful music in general.


Premonition
Premonition
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant work., 28 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Premonition (Audio CD)
Premonition was part of a particularly productive few years of instrumental guitar albums by Macalpine, one of five albums between 1992 and 1996, and it is an excellent collection of compositions. There are a diverse range of styles on the album, although the majority of the songs are predominantly fast, heavy, and upbeat virtuoso guitar pieces. Gila Monster, The Violin Song, Tower of London, and Ghost of Versailles are fast metal guitar compositions with some interesting time signatures and creative elements. Rusalka is a beautiful ballad paced song with incredible guitar playing throughout and is one of the highlights of the albums in my opinion. Another song which stands out to me is Inflection, which displays incredible keyboard playing and some amazing solo sections with trade offs between guitar and keyboard solos and contains some of Tony's most amazing and emotive guitar and keyboard playing. There can be few musicians in the world who can produce such an amazingly accomplished piece with equal viruosity on the guitar, keyboards, and in composition and it is always awe inspiring for me to hear this song. Overall all of the works on this albums are excellent and some of the gems really stand out as among Macalpine's finest pieces.


Freedom To Fly
Freedom To Fly

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful guitar compositions., 28 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Freedom To Fly (Audio CD)
Freedom to Fly is an amazing set of instrumental guitar compositions, (just a quick note: for those who are not 100% sure what the term 'instrumental' means in this context, it simply means songs which do not contain singing or vocals - it does not imply classical acoustic guitar). I find this is one of the most heart felt and emotive of Macalpine's albums - although they all are in many ways - and many of the songs have brought me a lot of inspiration over the years. I recall around the time I first got this album I was still a young guitarist with a bias towards complicated and predominantly dark neo-classical guitar shredding, and I didn't fully appreciate the songs at the time as they did not fit into this style, however before long the album really grew on me and broadened my appreciation of a wider range of intrumental guitar styles. The songs on Freedom to Fly range from sublime and uplifting inspiring songs such as Ice Princess and Stream Dream to sadder and more emotive pieces such as Champion, Freedom to Fly, and Albania. This is one of my personal favourite Macalpine albums and showcases a range of styles, with a predominant theme of emotional and memorable tracks which are inspiring. I'd definitely recommend this one if you have not heard it as you are missing out on some brilliant work.


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