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Drones
Drones
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £11.36

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Muse attempt to replace 'The Wall' with their 'Drones', 3 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Drones (Audio CD)
There are many ways to review this album and I often digress. Most will compare it to Muse's past efforts. There is no doubt that it harks back to some old Muse rock-driven tracks but also has elements of their new and more commercial verve. I will review track by track:

1. Dead Inside - probably the most poppy and commercial track. I like it - it has a certain rock drive half way through that shifts a gear which in my view makes it a more accomplished effort than Undisclosed Desires, The Resistance etc.
2/3. Psycho - pure out and out rock track. This is Muse at their riff driven heaviest. Most Muse fans who have seen them live will recognise the riff - they usually played it after Stockholm Syndrome in live gigs if memory serves. I see why the drill sergeant is included but in my view it slightly spoils the track and unfortunately the unnecessary swearing (not sure why Muse started swearing in their last 2 albums) makes it hard to reach a wider level of audience. Still, great track and will be even better live I imagine.
4. Mercy - this is the Starlight and Uprising of the Drones album. It will probably be their most commercially successful track. It's kind of a pop song with heavy rock backing music and Queen harmonies (which is how a lot of Muse stuff sounds to be fair). Strong chorus and includes a little piano.
5. Reapers - probably the best and most Muse-y track on the album. This, to me, harks most back to the old days. It's musically virtuosic with Matt wrapping his digits around arpeggios and lots of frantic playing at frantic pace with the return of Matt's voice manipulation rarely seen since Muscle Museum. Ends with typical Muse riffing and perhaps is one of the tracks that best exemplifies the album's theme in its style.
6. The Handler - fairly strong track that harks back a bit to Origin of Symmetry mixing the bombastic and the ethereal all in one. The simple sequence in the middle goes on a little long and without visual accompaniment doesn't really hold the attention but up to that point it's good. I feel Matt's vocals could be stronger at the end as the song builds. In fact often on this particular album the music overpowers the vocals just that little bit too much. I've found it very difficult to get the best mix to get the best balance out of this album.
7/8. The Defector - Queen harmonies are back. This song is Muse at their more ludicrous and theatrical - very similar to United States of Eurasia and Survival which weren't my favourites.
9. Revolt - this song feels very hastily written and is quite commercially poppy. The chorus actually made me laugh the first time I heard it as it sounded like some college students had written an upbeat song about che guevara and got Muse to play it. Sounds like U2 at their worst.
10. Aftermath - lovely song with some haunting Mark Knopfler-esque guitar at the beginning. This is a typical Muse ballad that you can just chill to and escape to another world and wakes you up with a bombastic ending.
11. The Globalist - the epic of the piece. The longest track (I think). It improves with further listens - the first time I heard it I though "what a mess" but once you compact it into sections in your own mind it's not really messy. It's more a soundscape than a song - how Muse often conclude their albums. It starts off nodding to the live rendition of Knights of Cydonia with a western style whistling fest followed by sliding guitar making you conjure the image of someone riding through a desert wasteland. Then there is a short ballad which is really beautiful then interspersed with an all out riff orgasm (which I think resembles the nuclear blast that destroys the world). Finally, there is a Muse rendition of Elgar's Enigma Variations. All rather epic stuff that you may love or hate.
12. Drones - I love this it's basically a 16th century madrigal with Matt Bellamy taking all parts with no instrumentation (bar an organ chord at the end). Lovely.

So all in all this album is very good. As I said, sometimes you feel the mixing is a bit off. You turn it up to get clearer vocals or add treble to this effect and the music hurts your ears. Turn it down and the vocals aren't very clear. I heard they had the AC/DC producer on this one - as a band where their front man is the guitarist (not the singer) it shows on this album. The theme is effectively continued and realised through the songs bar Dead Inside which seems like a single that they had to shoehorn in as the first track. Really, the thematic content starts with Psycho. Sometimes the concept (as with some Pink Floyd albums) is maintained at the expense of musical quality with the drill sergeant and JFK segments and some tracks having very blunt and unimaginative lyrics to support the theme and the music seeming simpler perhaps to accentuate the words. Only Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall (even that had its 'off' moments) have effectively managed the balance of superbly consistent music and clear, continuing themes throughout the same record. Drones doesn't really achieve this and kind of exists in an awkward place between bold political statements and musical masterpiece. It looks like Muse (or should I say Matt Bellamy) have tried to more consciously get their ideas and agendas more obviously into their music and the message has surpassed the music whereas in previous Muse efforts the music was always the trump card - as it should be.


Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Day 1 Edition (PS4)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Day 1 Edition (PS4)
Offered by Ace Goods Co. Ltd
Price: £38.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PES IS BACK, 3 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
PES is back people.

I don't know about you but do those who play PES feel like they're the only people in their town that does?

The monopoly FIFA has had over the football gaming market in recent years has been unprecedented. It even pushed me to playing FIFA 15 over PES 2015 last year. I won't lie - I did enjoy FIFA 15 but I have to concede that it is an incredibly formulaic game. You end up scoring the same goal in the same way and as someone who hasn't got much time for the online gaming community I didn't care too much for FUT.

There was always something missing and it was the unpredictable gameplay of PES. Recent installments seemed to slow PES down too much and make it too tight and defensively difficult. The flair and pinache that PES always had in spades is, I'm thrilled to say, returned in PES 2016.

Pros: Superb gameplay, player movements and animations

There are more cons than pros but the pros are the most important in my opinion. Is it fun to play? YES Does it feel immersive? YES so I am still willing to 4-star this bad boy!!!

Cons: STILL no proper kits, colour schemes, badges, league competition names or stadiums for Premier League/Championship teams. Clunky and 'typically Konami' main screens and inferior commentary to FIFA. Completely incompetent goalkeepers.

This said, you can now download files and import them to give you full kits, badges etc. However, I found that it didn't import the colour for squad kit names and numbers and Arsenal fans are presented as a sea of orange?!?!?! And yes, you still have West Glamorgan City and North London Red to contend with with Manchester United being the only licensed PL team. So set aside the first few hours of your gaming experience by changing all this.

One pro in this regard is that they seem to have recorded the commentary team stating every city/large town in the UK so you can assign these to each team if you feel the need. The only issue is Arsenal (my team) as Arsenal is not a place. Therefore, Arsenal will forever be 'London' and Aston Villa will have to settle for 'Birmingham'.

There is a slight criticism in that I personally feel the jump between Amateur and Regular difficulty is too big. Amateur being to easy and Regular being too difficult. I'll admit I'm not a hardcore superstar difficulty player and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

On the GK's, I couldn't quite believe how bad the goalkeeper's are. This is great if you're on the front foot but horrid if you're on the back. To think Petr Cech would let in some of the tame efforts I've had against me is pretty unbelievable. I feel it's a punishment from the game for not defending properly. It almost makes signing/having a good GK completely pointless as whoever they are there's an 80% chance that any shot at goal will go straight past them without even an attempt to save it - on this note if you do the full master league experience then the GK should be the bottom of your transfer priorities as they're all terrible. It's only the odd game where you're already 5-0 up then suddenly Lukas Fabianski becomes Peter Schmeichel.

All this said, it's awesome (nothing is perfect and the GK issue is the same for both teams). If you really want to play beautiful then play PES 2016 and don't fund FIFA any longer!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2015 1:31 PM GMT


HITNRUN Phase One
HITNRUN Phase One
Price: £9.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The sad decline of the Prince - an album of B-sides, 3 Nov. 2015
This review is from: HITNRUN Phase One (Audio CD)
As a huge Prince fan I eagerly purchased this album on the day of release. I think it's important to talk about the ethics of Prince fans. It appears that when Prince is discussed by Prince fans there are 3 camps: Camp 1 = I like Purple Rain and some of the hits but didn't know he's released anything since the early 1990's. Camp 2 = I avidly follow Prince but as his output is so varied in style there is some stuff I can love and some I can take and leave. Camp 3 = anything Prince puts out there is by Prince and therefore is amazing.

I am firmly in Camp 2 - as I hope most sane music/Prince fans are. There is no doubt that the scale of Prince's output, genius or no, will produce it's fair amount of duds. While I maintain Prince is far superior musically to his misguided comparison, Michael Jackson, there is an argument to be made that Michael Jackson prioritised quality by releasing half a dozen albums of top notch material while Prince released 30 albums with his gems more evenly spread.

I still maintain that his best albums are Purple Rain, Diamonds and Pearls, Chaos and Disorder, Symbol Album, Sign of the Times, Gold, Rainbow Children, Musicology, 3121 and Lotusflower. Many of you will probably sigh "how predictable" but I'm sorry this is just truth. Also, I hope people appreciate there are some modern inclusions there! Lotusflower is one of THE albums of the past decade and amazing that it's undervalued.

There is a sense that many Prince fans now admire his new releases merely because no-one else knows about them. The fans feel they now belong to a cool niche market that only they appreciate. I'm sorry to say but the only valid critique of musical output is one where you are prepared to not like it if it isn't good or doesn't make the grade compared to the purple one's other material. This album had no impact on me whatsoever. When Lotusflower came out I thought it was bold and brilliant. Since then Prince has basically done a Madonna and try to re-commercialise his music at the expense of his artistic genius. The problem is, Prince doesn't actually do this sort of music as well as people who are already doing it. Ok, I don't expect him to release another Purple Rain (like some people expect) but there is something in this album, and ArtOfficalAge, that just strikes of Prince selling out. It really is like listening to an album of B-sides these days. I know he practically paved the way for modern R&B years ago but Prince was always bucking the trend at that time, not conforming to it.

Sadly, I just think his ability to write and produce music is waning and we all have to reluctantly wake up to that. Thankfully, he still remains the most thrilling musician and live performer of our generation.


Dracula Untold [DVD] [2014]
Dracula Untold [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Luke Evans
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.94

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great effects - poor story, 3 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Dracula Untold [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Where to start! There are some stellar action sequences in this movie which really impress. In this regard, and some others, the special effects are well realised and utilised throughout the movie. My only disappointment is that the 15 certificate rendered some of the violent scenes a little more time than I would've liked. I guess they are appealing to a wider audience but Dracula is a big boys/girls story and should be filmed as such.

Some gripes with the film are the obsession with milking Luke Evans' chest and physique as much as possible. I always saw Dracula as a sleeker villain whereas Evans comes across more like a meat headed blunderbuss at times. In addition, while I am a big Charles Dance fan it's hard not to think 'ah, it's Charles Dance being Charles Dance but he's got pointy teeth and sharp fingernails!'

There is a lot to celebrate visually in this movie and I particularly like Dracula's ability to morph into a mass of bats to travel at great speed. His control of the bat army was also a spectacle reminiscent of Moses, Gandalf and a very angry Jedi/Sith. The musical score is also very good and sometimes reminds me of The Lord of the Rings. You also really feel his 'thirst' as he faces temptation along the way. I'm not sure whether it is a complement or a criticism but I couldn't help but see Christopher Nolans batman franchise with those bat sequences.

My biggest issue with the film is that I simply cannot buy into the story given what we know. With recent attempts at reimagining villains (Maleficent and Wicked spring to mind) proving popular I guess this is Dracula's go.

I would argue that Dracula has always been a tragic anti-hero but in my view this interpretation waters down the character too far. I cannot reconcile Luke Evans' portrayal with someone who ends up killing people indiscriminately. Even at the end when we travel forward and meet Mina there is no indication that he has an evil bone in his body. The only villainy comes from Charles Dance - a created character who provide the dark side to Luke Evans light. What we need is the light and dark to come from the same man. Also, Dracula originally claims his dark and evil power by renouncing God. This is a strong and enduring image for me (even as an atheist) and presents Dracula as a fallen angel/Lucifer figure. Evans portrayal, however, still likes God and Jesus despite knowing he will go to hell. There is no religious friction or controversy beyond a bearded monk waving a cross (which appears to only affect other vampires and by the way Dracula can even sit in a church staring at Christ on the cross and not even get a sweat on). To me this departure from the main spirit of Dracula's origIn makes the piece far less compelling as a dramatic work and reduced it to a special effects fest, albeit a very impressive one.


Game of Thrones - Season 1 [DVD] [2012]
Game of Thrones - Season 1 [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Sean Bean
Price: £11.99

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent re-imagining of the source material. Warts and all., 2 Jan. 2015
Many of the most successful films and television programmes started their humble lives in books. Invariably the comment "the books are better" gets bandied around. Of course, in the case of most movies it is simply impossible to portray everything in a novel unless you make a series of films. Even then (to take Tolkien and Rowling as examples) some material gets removed as novels are not subject to the same pacing requirements as movies. In addition to this, movies have to appeal to a much wider audience unlike books which are solely written for a specific audience. The books are allowed to divide opinion but if adaptations are made to screen then compromise needs to be made to make them palatable to a wider audience.

There are a few exceptions to these norms. For example, The Godfather is much more effective on screen. The Hobbit trilogy actually creates additional material from the books rather than cut some out (the pitfall of turning a small child's novel into a 9-hour trilogy).

I mention all this as the medium of 'TV BOX SET' is all the rage and it is easy to see why. People often comment that movies cannot achieve the grand scale and immense levels of development when compared to television. The slow burn of developing characters over weeks, months and years will always feel rushed in a 2-hour movie. Shows like 'Breaking Bad' achieve this 'slow burn' effect masterfully. For fantasy epics like this the best medium has been chosen. They can slow down the pace if they want to. If the ending of episodes is climactic or even anti-climactic you know the next one is just around the corner rather than years away (or never if you watched the Golden Compass).

I will admit that until I started reading the novels I did not really appreciate GoT. I tried to watch this first season without any prior knowledge. If you start watching and think;

"who the hell is that? oh they're sleeping together that seems fine but ... oh...I was supposed to know their siblings so that's incest ... who's she? ... why do three people announce the same person's name differently? ... I don't know who the dead guy with pebbles on his eyes is but I guess he's important ... is that him from the Full Monty?? Who's Sean Bean in this - is he a goodie?"

Anyway, if you're kind of saying these things and don't know what the hell is going on don't worry. It's perfectly normal. I would highly recommend reading the books first or at the very least explore the DVD extras that explain the families etc. Although a TV show can take its time, there is still a lot to fit in and it can be very bewildering. However, it's worth it once everything clicks and you know you're Starks from your Lannisters and your Baratheons from your Targaryens.

The story has so many twists I won't reveal much but to set the scene the story is set on the mythical isles of Westeros. Remarkably similar to medieval Britain, the kingdom has several regions which immediately strike you as middle-earth like. One of the issues I have with the show is that a brief prologue explaining the kingdoms and some of the leading families of Westeros would help the audience understand. It is very much a show produced by people who know the books who sometimes seem to forget that their audience know nought.

The King on the Iron Throne (in a place fittingly called King's Landing) is Robert Baratheon. Robert usurped the throne from Aerys Targaryen II who was struck by madness. He is married to Cersei of House Lannister and they have three children - the eldest (Joffrey Baratheon) being heir to the throne. Robert is best friends with Ned Stark who is Lord of Winterfell. Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow, joins the Night Watch who are charged with guarding the realm from every threat north of 'the wall' - in particular a threat of the walking dead (known as 'The Others'). Robert visits Ned in Winterfell to ask him to be Hand of the King (an enforcer and adviser of the King). What ensues is a political clash between the Stark and Lannister families that ends in treachery and conflict that will affect the whole of Westeros. Meanwhile, Aerys Targaryen's grandson (Viserys) and granddaughter (Daenerys) embark on a journey to Essos - another continent across the sea from Westeros that is far more exotic and middle-Eastern - to raise an army of Dothraki to claim back Westeros.

One of the greatest strengths of the show is that it is very true to the books. Some material is omitted and sometimes adapted for the show. However, the show rarely suffers for it. The main difference is that the books are written in a point-of-view style whereas the show is presented strictly in the third person with no preference or view point of a character. One of the greatest strengths of the book, and the show in general, is the way in which it makes the audience change their mind and perception of characters. Remarkably in this show the heroes and villains interchange regularly - this is probably more evidenced as the show progresses to later series. Generally at the outset you are supposed to see the Lannisters/Targaryens as evil and the Starks/Baratheons as good and whilst the Starks rarely stray from the good path there are undoubtedly glimmers of hope and despair within all the families.

Much has been made of the often gratuitous levels of nudity, language and violence. However, if you find this offensive and inappropriate then you are actually criticising the books as none of this was added to make the show more interesting. The books are brutal, sexually violent and full of expletives including the dreaded 'C' word. As such, I would recommend that people just don't watch as they are not doing anything that isn't true to the source material. This said, I think some of the nudity is needless. For example, there are a couple of scenes where seeing someone's breasts is not necessarily important to in either developing the characters or presenting the style. This said, the kind of attitudes and behaviour (especially the derogatory treatment of women, execution and prevalence of brothels) on show are quite typical of the time the books/show aims to pastiche. This is clearly a world that draws together influences from the Roman Empire to the War of the Roses and it is a world that has not yet reached its civilised enlightenment. This is what puts certain characters ahead of their time and despite the appalling treatment of women in the piece, the strongest characters are invariably women, children or dwarves. Cersei Lannister is effectively Queen. Despite that fact she is not particularly nice she is a shrewd politician who has worked her way to the Iron Throne. Brienne (in Season 2 onwards) is one of the fiercest knights in the realm, Arya Stark is one of the most brilliant parts ever written for the tom-boy girl who ignores everyone's wishes for her to knit and sow where she would rather fight, Daenerys who over the course of the show develops the confidence to become the most powerful woman in Essos and 'The Mother of Dragons'. So much for sexism eh? Not to mention Tyrion Lannister 'The Imp' who is one of the most interesting characters of the piece.

Watch it - but read the books first!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 14, 2015 5:01 PM BST


Invincible: Inside Arsenal's Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season
Invincible: Inside Arsenal's Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season
by Lawrence Amy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proof that Wenger is the ultimate manager - a stark reminder to doubtful fans, 2 Jan. 2015
This is a fantastic read. Easily accessible for all levels of readership. Very affectionately written with many insights and quotes from the many 'characters' of this fantastic side.

More than anything it also serves as a glorious insight into the philosophy and mindset of Arsene Wenger. A stark reminder of his genius and the way he revolutionized not just Arsenal FC but the whole of English football.

This is a stark reminder to those who have doubted Wenger in recent years and hopefully it will provide the more sceptical fans a much needed shot to the arm to remind them how much we owe Mr. Wenger for these glorious times as the most successful period in Arsenal's history.

There are many inclusions of the idea that maintaining success and riding on its coat tails is much more difficult than achieving it. They never won the league in successive seasons which shows you that they were always at their best in the face of defeat with something to prove and the squad here really were the best in the world at that time and should've gone on to win the Champions League were it not for Frank Lampard.

All the ingredients came together, as Wenger is beautifully illustrated by Lawrence as the quintessential 'alchemist'. You really feel the team spirit coming from the pages. It is something missing from the modern game with every big footballer now a mercenary of the game.

A great read for Gooners but also for every football fan to witness the greatest side in Premier League history and how they were made, how they trained, how they ate and how they were inseparable. Also, as said, a great reminder amid recent troubled times as to how significant, intelligent, prudent, brilliant and innovative a man Arsene Wenger is.


Miss Saigon
Miss Saigon
Price: £12.78

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some vocal performances not up to the original but a very good 'beefed up' soundtrack worth a listen!, 24 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Miss Saigon (Audio CD)
As with all albums like this in recent years, especially from the realm of Mackintosh, the score is suitably beefy and thick in texture and tone. I like this as you really feel the power and impressiveness of the score. The Heat is On is very well produced and beefed up and other highlights include Last Night of the World, I Still Believe, Bui-Doi and I'd Give My Life For You.

The issues I have with the orchestration are very few. All I can really think of is Movie in My Mind in the powerful instrumental break just over half way through. The strings seem too high in the mix and the rhythm is lost. However, this is a very minor point it just happens to be one of my favourite moments as I, unlike a surprising amount of people, listen to the music just as intently as the singing. American Dream is also, in my opinion, a little too slow in tempo.

With regards to the vocal performances (I cannot comment on the acting given an absence of the visuals) but Eva Noblezada seems a perfectly good Kim. I still think Lea Salonga would teach her a thing or two about vocal technique as Eva isn't quite as pure on the top money notes. Alistair Brammer's Chris is average and usually has just too much cheesiness in his voice and shouts his way through Last Night as it is clearly in the break in his range. It is almost 'over-American' and occasionally has too much vibrato. That said, I never liked Simon Bowman's voice either so I'm yet to hear a good Chris on record. Hugh Maynard's John takes 'Bui Doi' to new heights by going absolutely nuts in the final chorus. Personally I quite like it and it gives it a gospel feel although the overall performance of the song does have the feel of an X-Factor final about it and Jon is clearly trying to outsing his fellow contestants to get a record deal. You can just imagine the chorus of Viatnamese children coming from behind the screen with some smoke machines to boot. Tamsin Carroll, Rachelle Ann Go and (I hate to say) Jon Jon Briones are the worst singers by a country mile. Rachelle Ann Go (Gigi) warbles her way through Movie in my Mind and you just have to utter a sigh of relief when Kim comes in to take over. Tamsin Carroll (Ellen) ruins I Still Believe by clearly singing out of her range and depth. "Chris what's haunting you!" just sounds abysmal and her tone is just horrid with way too much vibrato. The new song Maybe is also unnecessary to the overall piece and having to hear her sing again is not welcome. She hasn't had too many critics against her so I'm guessing her acting is outstanding to compensate. Then there's The Engineer, Jon Jon Briones. I think it has always been clear that this role is not that demanding vocally but this is a clear example of actors trying to sing rather than vice versa. He talks his way through the majority of the material and even when he does get to a climactic note he doesn't hold it. The occasional note he sings is perfectly in tune so this baffles me even more as I get the impression that given the chance he probably can sing. Jonathan Pryce was very much an 'act-OR' before he took on this role and sang it 10 times better than someone here from a song & dance background which either highlights the brilliance of Pryce or the inadequacy of Briones. However, I am sure that on stage his acting performance is outstanding and you do get that impression even on the soundtrack, I would've liked more of the score actually sung through by him. Especially If You Want to Die in Bed, The American Dream etc. which on the OST were my highlights. Now I tend to skip them as his lack of singing becomes annoying and it sounds (maybe also appears) like he is trying too hard and not enabling the material to do its work.

This is a good CD and I recommend the highlights version as it's cheaper, fits on one disc and has pretty much everything you will need or want to hear on it unless you feel the need to have all the incidental music and chatty recitatives inbetween. I only say this as what makes Miss Saigon a 4-star musical is that not every song or musical moment in it is good and there are some very average, repetitive and wishy washy moments. I tend to play The Heat is On, Movie in My Mind, Last Night of the World, The Wedding, I Still Believe, If You Want to Die in Bed, Bui-Doi and The American Dream and then start again as I find nothing else in the show really moves me musically. Incidentally all of these are on the highlights so I would have no need for the full version unless I were a collector.


Forever
Forever
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £6.66

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A nice royalty Christmas present for messrs Taylor and May, 22 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Forever (Audio CD)
This album has seriously questioned my respect for the surviving members of Queen. I discount John Deacon in this as I am aware he has deliberately distanced himself from the Queen brand despite picking up some royalties along the way.

I would give this album less stars if some of Queen's finest tracks didn't make an appearance. However, the manner and ethics which pervade this album have made me incredibly cynical about it.

Queen always have, and possibly always will be, my favourite band. They were the first band I really respected and being a musician I truly appreciated their craft and the musicianship and songwriting skills of the bands members, their ability to perform well live and to generally create music that dared to be bombastic and theatrical beyond the normal realms of rock music and even most glam rock. Only Muse, my other favourites, appear to come close to this scale of sound.

I say this because this is what has upset me. Unlike many fans who just blankly said "he's not Freddie", I actually liked Queen + Paul Rodgers. It was different and to those fans who don't think properly, Paul Rodgers admitted he wasn't Freddie Mercury, he wasn't trying to be and he understood he never would be. I don't see a problem in this. A great blues and rock singer, Paul Rodgers just teamed up with a band and they made an album of original material and did a few gigs. What's the problem? It was different in a way that distanced itself from the Queen brand and would never besmirch the memory of Mercury's Queen so you could easily engage with it or pretend it never happened.

This album, however, has been released very much within the Queen brand and in my opinion does besmirch Mercury's legacy. To those who haven't found out already, the entire album (deluxe edition) features three unheard songs, which actually boil down to two as Love Kills exists in a different guise. The first track is an average 1980's Queen rock ballad 'Let Me In Your Heart Again' which was most probably not considered to go on a studio album at the time as there were enough better rock ballads in the 1980's to replace it.

'There Must Be More to Life Than This' is simply terrible. Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were huge stars and personalities and I respect them both in their own fields but here it just becomes becomes clear that when you put the two together it sounds like a father singing with his 7-year old son. Imagine the vocal power of Freddie Mercury belting Who Wants to Live Forever interspersed with Michael Jackson singing with the fragile goat warbling of something like 'She's Out of My Life'. Jackson may as well not sing the chorus as he won't be heard. In my opinion, their recording of 'State of Shock' would've been much more effective, funky and edgy rather than this dull, lifeless and empty ballad.

In this duet we also get the worst examples of the production quality which pervades the entire album. There is a random moment in the duet when Brian May strikes a guitar chord and it literally sounds like someone turned the volume dial up and then turned it down again. There is also some clear attempt to reduce the volume of Freddie's voice so that he doesn't overpower Jackson's inner child. The result just sounding feeble as when we reach the final chorus it feels like an anti-climax. The song just left me empty, unrewarded and unfulfilled. The William Orbit mix was simply terrible and apparently Brian May/Roger Taylor created their own mix because they too didn't like it. I'm sorry but if you no longer have the clout to put your own mix on your own record it just shows how much the remaining members of Queen are happy to compromise their artistic credibility by thinking about pounds before sounds.

Then there is the remastering of classic tracks. Let's face it, many buying this album will either get it for the new tracks (of which there is only 3 so you might be better to just download them) or they will be Queen fans wishing to buy anything by Queen. Unfortunately I fell hook, line and sinker into the latter category. The problem being that this latter category already know of Queen's lesser known gems and have them on all the studio albums so I don't see what anyone is getting out of this?! Also, the attempts at remastering some classics are not exactly radical. Fading a song earlier does not constitute a valuable remastering in my opinion and many tracks just feel like the remastering has boiled down to some idiot turning the volume up and down or making vocals louder than the band or vice versa. There is no coherence or theme as to why the tracks have been chosen. On the one hand you think they are picking lesser known album tracks to give the less educated fans more of an insight. However, with tracks like Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing, Who Wants to Live Forever, Play the Game, You're My Best Friend, These Are the Days etc. it is clear that this is not their intention. As a result the album just feels like a mess - an incoherent mash-up of songs with no theme stringing the whole thing together.

If you have to have everything Queen make then of course you will have to buy this. If you have a choice, please don't. If you want to hear the car crash of Freddie + MJ then just download it and save your money. Upon listening to this I am ashamed to be Queen fan because this album is a shameless cash-in to bolster their lack of ticket sales on tour with Adam Lambert (another nail in the coffin when your best attempt is to string along with an American Idol contestant). I actually feel quite emotionally affected toward the negative impact this has on the memory of Freddie Mercury and I feel for his legacy.

Brian/Roger - I implore you to only continue if you are to produce new music. I don't care who you produce it with, that's your choice and personally I really enjoyed The Cosmos Rocks, but please please stop dragging up your legendary material and please stop milking your dear friend's corpse like Sony are doing with Michael Jackson! You are better than this and, dare I say, "There's More to Life Than This (drivel)".
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2015 12:45 AM BST


ART OFFICIAL AGE
ART OFFICIAL AGE
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £7.90

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of an album - still signs of genius there, 19 Dec. 2014
This review is from: ART OFFICIAL AGE (Audio CD)
Prince is undeniably one of the finest musicians in popular music from 1978 to the present day. Although I attempt here to review both Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum as one (as everyone seems to suggest grouping them together) I wish to make some wider points about Prince's musical output over the past 20 years.

It's weird to say 20 years as it doesn't seem it but it is 20 years since the "symbol" album which is probably the last album he made that was widely distributed across the globe in a regular and non-quirky manner.

I wish many people who are not devoted and knowledgeable fans would get into their heads that Prince has not been asleep for 20 years. Since his falling out with WB in the mid-1990's Prince became disenfranchised with the music business. He wanted to distribute music on his own terms. The price? Your music will never be as effectively distributed or consumed ever again and as a result the ignorant hordes will believe that your career is over beyond Diamonds and Pearls.

Prince took this risk and unfortunately he has paid that price. That said, if people took the effort to go through his output over the past 20 years there are some incredible musical achievements there. Lotusflower is one of the best albums Prince has made if you like the rockier and Hendrix/Santana-esque side of the Purple One. I cannot believe when people say he hasn't done anything good for years have listened to this album or The Rainbow Children, 3121, Musicology, Planet Earth. All great albums but because he dished half of them out on websites and via newspapers no one thinks they're worthy of consideration!! Stupid people.

Where I do agree with critics of Prince and where I think he will always be criticised is that sometimes one feels that his output is actually TOO great. Prince releases so much music (I believe he is nearing 40 albums now - not including compilations) that you cannot replay or appreciate it enough before the next one comes out. Good music has to be appreciated and nurtured over time and the dust needs to settle. Good songs need to be listened to over and over to enter your consciousness. Prince simply doesn't give you the chance which makes remembering his recent output hard.

These albums are reflective of this. Prince clearly asks "why release one when I can release two" and in the life of Prince leaving 4 years between albums must feel an eternity for him as he rarely goes a year without releasing something. That said he has been touring the States in recent years.

The main criticism of this album, and many by Prince, is that his output is so large that each album probably consists of a few outstanding tracks and the rest just feel like filler. His output reminds me of Elton John in the 1970's. Both artists were contracted to release several albums in a small amount of time and this led the artists themselves to not take stock to really think about their work. Their compositional lives have almost felt like a constant jam session whereby the occasional work of genius sprouts out. The problem is the stuff that doesn't work still ends up on an album whereas other artists would use their filter which alludes to many people's comments about whether he should have someone helping produce his albums.

People often compare Prince to Michael Jackson (the two are not remotely similar) and whilst Prince surpasses MJ on every musical level you cannot deny that MJ's bigger success (in a wider public sense) was bolstered by the fact that he released very few albums which only contained his finest and most polished material. Prince just gives you everything at once with no filter and in a way he makes us, the listener, into an editor to pick for ourselves what we like and create our own playlists across his sprawling repertoire. Indeed my CD collection has all Prince's albums but what I tend to play are compilations I have created my favourite stuff of his as I can rarely listen to a singular album without being frustrated and/or bored by half the tracks. The only exceptions to this probably being Lotusflower, Diamonds and Pearls, Musicology, Sign of the Times, 3121 and Purple Rain.

In relation to these albums, plectrumelectrum sounds like an elongated jam session. The strongest tracks are the funky ones with Prince's guitar work clearly taking centre stage especially in the instrumental titular track. 'Wow' is another highlight among other similar tracks. The weakest tracks are those clearly present by 3rdEyeGirl and that's not to discredit their abilities (which are top notch) but I just think it is unfair that Prince has noticeably removed his influence from the weaker material and left them to take the flack.

Despite preferring Prince's rocky edge I actually prefer Art Official Age as an album as there is more variety and there are some very good tracks on there. It has a fresh and futuristic feel which shows Prince's genius at always trying to stem the tide and be ahead of everyone else in the industry which was what brought him so much success. But again, like with so many Prince albums, bar a select few, you just feel that while you are listening to it you are judging which songs are good and bad and no doubt I will probably put half a dozen songs on my compilation and the rest I may well never listen to again.

I cannot criticise too heavily because Prince is still one of my favourite musicians of ALL time. I just believe that he needs a filter in his work to reduce the output of dross and increase the output of brilliance. It is quite clear that most Prince fans on these reviews like the same kind of music so I am sure we would all get rid of the same tracks. This said, I believe any attempt at controlling Prince would only serve to isolate him and prevent his genius from flowing.

I think as Prince fans we mustn't try and lecture or influence the man but rather just accept what he throws at us and filter the good from the bad and the ugly ourselves.

This is a must buy for your Prince collection and worth getting some tracks to add to your Prince playlist but many other tracks you may prefer to never listen to again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2015 8:56 PM BST


Live at Rome Olympic Stadium
Live at Rome Olympic Stadium
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still the best band out there but something missing this time around, 15 Jan. 2014
There is no doubt in my mind that Muse are still the best live band at the moment and offer something completely different and alternative to the dross that makes up the popular music charts.

What so many people, especially musicians like myself, love about Muse is their attention to detail, their audacity and their musicianship. There is no doubt that Matthew Bellamy is one of the most talented individuals British music has ever seen, Dom Howard one of the most underrated rock drummers ever and of course the bass player who is, well a good bass player I guess (kind of like the John Deacon argument). Then there is the mysterious fourth musketeer embellishing the epic sounds who has to be candidate for unsung hero of live music.

Onto the review - Muse as ever give a wonderful performance. It has all the power and bombast, all the weird and wonderful and all the stirring majesty of their previous outings. They are still top notch in their musicianship. The biggest leap here is the visuals - the stage and setting is more impressive than previous concerts (even HAARP) and they make use of live actors in two of the songs. The set is huge and makes full use of a popular new trend to have a catwalk thrusting out from the main stage into the crowd with a small stage at the end. They make full use of this at times careful not to overuse it and make it a gimmick whilst using it well to engage with the audience.

The live actors are a nice touch as is the occasional use of black and white. There is a megalomaniac banker in the great track `Animals' who struts down the catwalk to the small stage thrust into the audience to drown himself to death in hundreds of bank notes. There is then the femme fatale who douses herself in petrol in `Feeling Good'. I can't quite get the message with this one and it appears to be no more than a desperate attempt to make their performance raunchy rather than make a clever point like they did with `Animals'.

Where this suffers, and why it has 4-stars, is based mainly on the setlist. There is no doubt in most Muse fans minds that their last 2 albums are incomparable to their first 4. Don't get me wrong 2nd Law has some great tracks; Supremacy, Madness, Panic Station and Animals are amongst my all time favourites already. Personally The Resistance is probably their worst. The issue here is that much of their more recent material doesn't, in my opinion, translate to the live stage as well due to it being more studio based. Of the 19 songs in this concert 12 are from either 2nd Law or The Resistance. This results in only 7 tracks coming from their first four (best) albums. There is nothing whatsoever from Showbiz and only 2 tracks from arguably their finest hour - Origin of Symmetry.

All in all the occasional way in which Bellamy uses the microphone without playing an instrument makes the musicality of the performance (something that always made Muse a cut above the rest) lose some of its impressiveness. If you couple this with some of the suspect song choices it all makes this outing very musically accomplished but far too commercial for my liking, rather like their more recent albums. There is no New Born, Butterflies & Hurricanes, Citizen Erased, Stockholm Syndrome, Space Dementia, Take a Bow - all those epic tracks that made their previous live shows explode with sound and virtuosity. Ending on Starlight is such a shame and very underwhelming - one of their most overrated and over-commercial tracks in my opinion. Still 100% better than any other live act you will see but just not quite as well crafted as some of their previous efforts and treading dangerously close to the 'all style/no substance' boundary if they aren't too careful next time - mainly let down by their choice of material and their desire to commercialise themselves.


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