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Jasper Wong "jbywong" (Canterbury, United Kingdom)

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Mama Said 21st Anniversary Special Edition
Mama Said 21st Anniversary Special Edition
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £8.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lenny's finest moment, 14 July 2012
To say that Lenny Kravitz polarizes opinions would be understating the fact that people either find him a pretentious, aging rocker more concerned with posing than with crafting good songs, or find him one of the shining lights in vintage-inspired rock, with his bloodhound-like ability to seek out a great, retro-sounding groove and a sense of individuality that keeps his at-times derivative music from becoming simply a sonic photocopy of his Motown, funk and 70's rock influences. I place myself firmly in the latter camp, and believe that although his 1995 album 'Are You Going to Go My Way?' was his true commercial breakthrough, and the release that finally started to turn the tide of critics towards him, 'Mama Said' is arguably his most emotionally sincere album. It is more cohesive and flows better than any of his albums before and since, and there is a certain authentic emotional vibe that filters through the whole album that I simply haven't felt while listening to his later albums.

An album penned while Lenny's marriage to Lisa Bonet was at its ending stages, there is no doubting the emotional sincerity that the fourteen songs on this album have. Because Lenny Kravitz's music, in the lack of technical virtuosity, depends heavily on both groove and emotion to convince the listener, I believe that all the (separate) feelings that he had been grappling with in both 'Mama Said' as well as 'Circus' (his next album) have crafted both of these albums to become the most emotionally sincere albums that he had written - the awkward lyrics and slight pretentiousness that detractors from his music use to criticize are, in my opinion, overridden by the authenticity of emotional output in this album. 'Mama Said' was dedicated to Bonet and the particular songs that were written directly to her - 'It Ain't Over Till It's Over', 'More than Anything in this World', 'When the Morning turns to Night' and 'The Difference is Why' - are the best cuts from this album.

The remastered versions of these songs accentuate the analogue warmth that was already present in the original pressing. In particular, the vocal-prominent songs really benefit from these remasters: 'Flowers for Zoe' is a particular highlight and the guitar-driven one-two of 'Fields of Joy' followed by 'Always on the Run' sound fresher and more urgent: if I had to nitpick I would say that on those two songs where Slash (of Guns n' Roses fame) guests his solo tone is slightly shrill but this is but my own individual preference. The extras on CD 1 and 2 are insightful for the Kravitz fan, but unnecessary for someone who isn't one. That being said, the home demos of 'What the ... are We Saying' and 'It Ain't Over Till its Over' are fascinating to listen to (the stripped down, piano/vocal version of the latter is actually quite beautiful - and I would love to hear it recorded properly in that format). The gospel-sounding instrumental version of 'Stand by my Woman' reflects an even stronger Beatles/John Lennon influence than the final cut. However, not all the extras are of the same quality (including two songs cut from the album 'Light skin girl from London' and 'I'll be Around': they are not on the same level that the 14 songs that made it are), and the less said about the dub versions of 'It Ain't Over Till its Over' the better...they're awfully dated and quite horrific to listen to!

Overall, I would say that those who have not listened to this album should do so as regardless of your own personal opinions on Lenny Kravitz the fact remains that this is a really good, emotionally-driven album that many would appreciate - Kravitz fans will find the second CD fascinating, and the live performances to be found of the album's songs on CD2 shows just how dynamic of a performer he was back in the early 90's.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2012 6:32 PM BST


Stephen King Dark Tower Collection 7 Books Set Pack ( 1 to 7 Books Set) New RRP: £ 63.92 (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower) (Stephen King Dark Tower)
Stephen King Dark Tower Collection 7 Books Set Pack ( 1 to 7 Books Set) New RRP: £ 63.92 (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower) (Stephen King Dark Tower)
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the price, a phenomenal collection, 6 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a long time fan of Stephen King I found myself very curious about the Dark Tower series - a set of seven books known by both the author and his fans as his magnus opus - his greatest work - I was initially put off by the amount of money I would have to invest to get them (around 65 to 75 pounds, depending on which shop I went to). To my great surprise I found the whole collection here on Amazon, in one boxed set, retailing for around 24 pounds. I immediately purchased the set and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the books (for 25 pounds I was expecting very poor print quality, or poor page quality, but these books are just the same quality as if you bought them all individually). The only problem I found was a slightly water-warped/water damaged fifth book - Wolves of the Calla - but the incredible price for these books more than made up for it. If I was picky I would simply buy a new copy of Wolves of the Calla - even if it cost 20 pounds I would still be getting the series for over 30 pounds less! You won't find a better price anywhere in the UK, including off Ebay (trust me, I checked!)


JBL On Time 200P Speaker Dock for iPod/iPhone with AM/FM Radio - Black
JBL On Time 200P Speaker Dock for iPod/iPhone with AM/FM Radio - Black

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good concept let down by a fatal flaw, 6 July 2012
As with most JBL products, the design of these speakers is very confident and sleek, although I favor the design of the JBL 200 to the 200P. Due to the alarm clock and radio integrated into the 200P though, I decided to pick this model. Unfortunately, the sound quality of this speaker dock is surprisingly poor when compared to other JBL speakers. It is very treble heavy and a bit plasticky sounding, and those used to either a subwoofer or more balanced sounding docks like the Radial or the Zeppelin will be quite disappointed with the sound quality here. I have found that to even listen to music through this dock for longer periods of time I require my software equalizers to push the envelope on the bass and middle (emphasizing the 250 hz, 2k hz and 125 hz) while subtracting the treble (4k hz through to 16k hz). Once these frequencies were filtered I found that listening to music on the dock was substantially easier on the ears. This speaker dock comes with a remote control that is covered in around 20 buttons - everything you can do on the JBL you can do on the remote, which is slight overkill in my opinion - the only buttons you will really see yourself using on the remote are play, next song, previous song and the on/off button. This makes the remote quite hard to use in comparison to the remote of the Radial (which my parents own - the sound quality is vastly superior to the On Time 200P). The biggest flaw with this product, however, is the fact that you cannot turn the luminescent blue face that tells the time off! It is so bright, even in the darkest brightness setting, that your bedroom will be awash in tungsten coloring! This takes a long time to get used to but personally I ended up putting a t-shirt over the speakers to block out this light, or simply unplugging them (completely discarding the concept of the alarm clock/speaker dock!) My greatest gripe with this product is not that the sound quality is less than stellar, or that the design, though nice to look at, is a bit awkwardly shaped size-wise, but that cold blue light given off by the time-face at the front simply can't be turned off!


Libertad
Libertad
Price: £7.23

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Velvet Revolver with the intensity turned down, 5 July 2012
This review is from: Libertad (Audio CD)
Scott Weiland's post-Purple-era recordings seem to inevitably mean his drug-weakened, slinky voice slithering (pun intended) around the mix, to usually good effect. However, in Libertad, the suitability of Scott Weiland in the heavy, 70's influenced section that is Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner is sometimes called into question. In direct contrast to their previous effort Contraband, Velvet Revolver's sound has seemed become tamer. Gone are the huge riff-driven songs like Dirty Little Thing and Slither, replaced by a much heavier emphasis on the vocal melodies. In fact, you would be hard pressed to remember the riffs on Libertad. If anything, Libertad sounds like an approximation of what Stone Temple Pilots would sound like if Dean DeLeo was replaced with Slash. 'She Mine', 'American Man' could have been lifted straight from No. 4, and 'Gravedancer' wouldn't sound out of place in Shangri-La-Dee-Da. Even the single 'She Builds Quick Machines' lacks the aggressive punch that 'Sucker Train Blues' threw at you.

Despite all my criticism, in no way am I suggesting that Libertad is a poor album. It has its moments - 'Just Sixteen' is a phenomenally groovy number with lyrics about forbidden/inappropriate love (although Weiland urges that 'We ain't got nothing to hide'), 'Get Out the Door' is an infectious middle-eastern inflected song that you'll find yourself humming for days, 'The Last Fight' is, in the bands' words 'something that they had never done before', a more somber song filled with reflective lyrics penned by Weiland: 'Time heals all of the burned out bridges filled with nothing but misery...' and a signature chiming hook from Slash (think the chorus line of Fall to Pieces). An interesting cover of ELO manifests itself in 'Can't get it out of my head' but it is ultimately forgettable save for two great solos by Slash. The lyrics of this album are much more coherent than the first album, which were a nightmare to sing along to simply because the vast majority of them made no sense at all, but in comparison to their first album Libertad simply seems like the volume, and intensity of Velvet Revolver has been firmly turned down. In my opinion a more pedestrian album than Contraband, Libertad simply lacks the bombastic riff-driven rock that most people expect from the lineup: Libertad is filled with well written songs filled with pretty melodies, but ultimately lacks something special.


Hypnotize
Hypnotize
Price: £6.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Bleaker and Heavier than Mezmerize, 13 Feb 2012
This review is from: Hypnotize (Audio CD)
As the second half of a double-album concept released in 2005 by System of a Down, it is almost inevitable for it to be compared and spoken of in the same sentence as 'Mezmerize', which does this album a large dis-service. Although 'Mezmerize' has more easily recognizable (by which I mean more played) songs, album wise 'Hypnotize' is a much more cohesive effort. Instead of jumping almost schizophrenically between serious (Serj-led) and completely bizarre and less serious (Daron-led) tunes, this album seems to keep a generally more serious, more thought-provoking side lyrically. Starting with the one-two of 'Attack' and 'Dreaming', war, and its effects on average everyday people forms the main theme of the album - this is a theme that continues in songs like 'U-Fig' and 'Holy Mountains', the latter of which was influenced by the 1918 Armenian Genocide. The album concludes with 'Lonely Day' and 'Soldier Side', both of which examples of more serious System of a Down songs. 'Soldier Side', in particular, is especially powerful, drawing the two album cycle to a close (Fans with 'Mezmerize' will remember a shorter, less-elaborate version of this opening 'Mezmerize').

System of a Downs seemingly two-headed approach towards lyrics and music in these two albums were both a blessing and a curse for them: their less serious works such as 'Cigaro', 'Vicinity of Obscenity' and 'She's like Heroin' gave rise to a large amount of young teenagers latching onto their songs for sheer hilarious vulgarity (I know I did!), but also made it difficult for the band to be taken entirely seriously when writing about depression, war and politics. Similarly, the ever-present seriousness of lyrical themes found in System of a Down's music would have been lost on this younger generation who saw System of a Down as a group to be grown out of, without them really understanding how good musically and lyrically this group could be. The strange polarization of creative influences (Daron Malakian took the group in one direction, Serj Tankian took the group in another, often in the same song!) was further emphasized when System of a Down went on their hiatus and the two went their seperate ways - Daron's group 'Scars on Broadway' released one eponymous album that focused heavily on religion, drugs, ridiculous lyrics, and hardly any politics while Serj Tankian released two albums that were focused almost completely on politics and human struggles. Yet it is worth noting that neither person's projects had the same staying power that System of a Down had...


Songbook
Songbook
Price: £7.97

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but..., 30 Dec 2011
This review is from: Songbook (Audio CD)
Chris Cornell, one-time Soundgarden front man and one-time pop collaborator with Timbaland, has always had an incredible voice, even during the screechy highs of Ultramega OK-era Soundgarden. The years have passed by and with age, Cornell's voice has grown to a deep, slightly weathered instrument. Songbook demonstrates his voice at its clearest, most mature, and most vulnerable. Former aggressive rock songs or power ballads have been given an acoustic treatment that really cements the power of them, especially on Audioslave songs, which stand up surprisingly well without the psychotic guitar effects of Morello.

So why only four stars then?

As a long time fan of Cornell, I had downloaded a bootleg recording of his 'Unplugged in Sweden' album, which is one complete recording of an acoustic concert he did in 2007. Strangely, I find that the recording on that album demonstrates greater depth of emotion in his voice. Cornell's voice is slightly submerged in the acoustic guitar in the 'Songbook' recordings, but is completely in the forefront (as it should be) in the bootleg. Certain songs, especially 'Wide Awake', are not as well performed or as passionate in the 'Songbook' recording. The vocal belts at the end of 'Wide Awake', in particular, are much more substantial in the 'Unplugged in Sweden' bootleg.

That being said, 'Songbook' is a demonstration of the incredible voice that Cornell possesses. The above is mostly based upon personal opinion, and I highly urge anyone considering this CD to buy both the CD and download the bootleg.


Digitech Bad Monkey Overdrive Guitar Pedal
Digitech Bad Monkey Overdrive Guitar Pedal
Price: £21.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 16 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The 'Bad Monkey' is quite a pedal! I use it in conjunction with my Vox Tonelab, which I have set up to just be a stompbox. The use it as a booster pedal through which my guitar absolutely SINGS. The monkey can add a bit of fuzz, a little bite into your tone, or completely send it to the next level, overdrive-wise. It is a great booster pedal. Driven to around a 3 o'clock the Bad Monkey before I solo instantly adds a smooth, creamy sustain to my solos, resulting in an incredibly usable, middle-heavy tone that cuts through the mix. I love this pedal already!


Heritage
Heritage
Price: £13.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Progression in the best sense of the word, 11 Oct 2011
This review is from: Heritage (Audio CD)
Opeth has always been more than a death metal band: one that pushed the boundaries of what could be and couldn't be death metal. From the time that 'Blackwater Park' was released, this was a direction that I could see Opeth going on. Their new musical direction is perhaps just a culmination of all that the band was building up to. Always filled with crushingly heavy riffs (they are Scandinavian after all!) Opeth always included heavily contrasting sections in their longer songs that were both beautiful and more calm in their execution, presenting heaviness in a less monolithic way than the blast of sound.

Heritage utilizes the sound and song construction techniques hinted in damnation and deliverance as well as Watershed itself. I dare say that this album is heavy in tone, lyrics and overall vibe, as opposed to just the riff. I'm not saying that this album lacks riffs: 'Slither' is built on a massive one, but just the way it is - the songs are less of a sledgehammer to the head and more of...a psychedelic drift into a dark place. As with all Opeth albums, listening to the album as a whole is the only way to fully understand or enjoy it - the subtle nuances of the album would be lost on people who skip around songs.

Artistically individual artists collaborating on the long term will always tend to rub off on each other. Listening to this release it is as though Steven Wilson's presence goes beyond the production and mixing on the album - on many of the softer tracks I swear that Wilson's touch shines through.

Interestingly, this seems to be the year where quite several mainstay bands of metal have released albums that have a marked progression (or difference, anyways) from their usual style. Mastodon's 'The Hunter' also manages to subvert expectations and build on their stylistic change of their previous album 'Crack the Skye'. If this is the start of a new era where metal goes off to different, much stranger places, I truly welcome it - the constraints for this genre that were made much more obvious with the rise of popularity in Metal-core needed to be broken down...and this may be just step one.


The Best Of Joss Stone 2003 - 2009
The Best Of Joss Stone 2003 - 2009
Price: £8.07

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Premature, maybe?, 3 Oct 2011
This release smells distinctly like a last-ditch attempt by Virgin to squeeze money out of Stone before she moved to her own label, but it still covers Joss Stone's hits from the years 2003-2009. Opening with the White Stripes cover song that made her famous: Fell In Love With a Boy (Originally 'girl' but gender reversed for Stone's version) and running through her hits - the instantly recognizable 'You Had Me' and her cover of Nat 'King' Coles 'L-O-V-E'. 'Spoiled' and 'Bruised but not Broken' showcase Stone's variety and this five year retrospective has all of her hits and some fan favorites.'Snakes and Ladders' would have been nice, along with her collaboration with Jeff Beck 'I Put a Spell On You', but I'm sure that these are not everyone's choices.

It seems like Joss Stone has been around for much longer than she is, and even without listening to her very mature voice it is very easy to forget that she is only 23. The first of many 'Best of' collections for her music, and I'm sure it will prove to be the least complete 'Best of' compilation when looked at in the future.


Welcome To Sky Valley
Welcome To Sky Valley
Price: £7.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to Sky Valley, 29 Aug 2011
This review is from: Welcome To Sky Valley (Audio CD)
Kyuss(*) is invariably listened to by me on scorching hot days where it seems like all other music's power is drained away. Thinking back to long rides on buses through the desert in Inner Mongolia for hours upon hours in the sweltering heat now only conjure up memories of 'Gardenia', 'Asteroid', 'Whitewater' and 'Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop'. Kyuss and their three main albums 'Welcome to Sky Valley', '...And the Circus Leaves Town' and 'Blues for the Red Sun' are very much products of their environment. Indeed, it is seemingly impossible to envision these stoner-rock pioneers being based anywhere else but the dusty desert town of Palm Desert. Kyuss' down-tuned, sludgy, sledgehammer riffs lead a sonic assault so dominated by the bass that the vocals, though obviously sung/screamed extremely loudly, are almost entirely submerged in the mix. The vocals on Kyuss are the weakest link, but when listening to such sludgy, heavy riffing it hardly even matters. Likewise, lyrically the album consists of the semi-coherent musings of a stoner...at best. However, I do not fault the album at all for this: Just listening to the steadily accelerating final riff of 'Asteroid' or the 'Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath)'-like 'Space Cadet' is enough to understand that in this album the vocals serve as just another auxiliary instrument: less of a focus than the guitar, bass and drums. It should be noted that 'Whitewater' has one of the greatest riffs in metal, stunning in its simplicity but ever more heavy in spite of (or perhaps due to) it. Although somehow I doubt that stoner rock will be experienced quite the same way in the UK, I do believe that some part of it doesn't change: After all, 'The Sword' and 'Orange Goblin' both fly the 'Stoner Rock' flag in the UK, and their music is no less heavy and no less powerful.

*Kyuss, of course, featured the future singer/guitarist and leader of 'Queens of the Stone Age' - Josh Homme on the guitar, and by listening to this album we can see how much 'Rated-R' and 'Songs for the Deaf'-era Queens of the Stone Age are influenced by this group. The slightly robotic, repetitive riffs of Queens of the Stone Age songs can also be found here, except that here they are transposed several tones down and are much heavier, however the gargantuan riffs remain. For instance, the main guitar line of 'Gonna Leave You' or 'Do It Again' from 'Songs for the Deaf' would not be out of place here. Kyuss have recently re-united under the moniker 'Kyuss Lives!', which features the entire line-up of the band minus Josh Homme, which is a bit of a pity as I would really love to see them live in their original lineup.


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