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Alex Wilcock

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Press To Play
Press To Play
Price: £33.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Songs, Distinctive Style, 11 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Press To Play (Audio CD)
I have a great fondness for this and Paul's next two studio albums, as they were the new ones when I was just getting into him and the Beatles. While those have a more Beatlesy 'every song different' approach, this has more of a slick 'house style', though hardly all the same.

Collaboration with Eric Stewart brings out some great songs here: 'Only Love Remains' is simply gorgeous and gorgeously simple, one of his best ballads of the 80s, with 'Footprints' one of his lesser ones; 'Angry' and 'Stranglehold' are great rockers; 'However Absurd' is a touch of creative big-production Beatles style for all of us who miss that, and to a lesser extent but still loving it, the same for 'Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun', which reminds me a bit of ELO's 'Concerto for a Rainy Day' (itself very Beatles in tone). There's more of a contemporary experimental vocal dub sound on some of the tracks - single 'Press' is probably the most successful of those, while 'Talk More Talk' doesn't have much to it and isn't very memorable... Then 'Pretty Little Head' gets better in the single version (ever on CD?), but, oh, Paul, the sexist lyrics. Never mind, he'll get much better. Finally, there's the lustily fun 'Move Over Busker', 'Spies Like Us', which overacts nearly as much as the movie, and the underrated 'Once Upon a Long Ago', to date his last top ten hit and a lovely melody.

Off The Ground
Off The Ground
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Rockers, Fewer Risks, 11 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Off The Ground (MP3 Download)
Paul was recording a lot in the late '80s and early '90s, with live and cover and symphonic albums, but I still have a soft spot for his three big studio albums of the time. This is the last of them and probably the weakest, but only because 'Flowers In the Dirt' especially was so strong. My favourite's the showstopping 'C'Mon People', a very Beatles piano-then-everything number with a very strong tune and an actual near-Beatles song to fade out. He moves on from 'My Brave Face's' lyrics with some heartfelt place-exchanging gender politics in the lyrics with the standout 'Mistress and Maid', another collaboration with Elvis Costello.

Lead single 'Hope of Deliverance' is bright and cheery with a lot of 'whoops' on it, while 'Looking for Changes' is an angry rocker about animal rights. While the issue isn't mine, it's refreshing to have him suddenly tear off some lyrics that really mean something to him - I'm not sure they do on 'Biker Like An Icon', which is a catchy rocker where the words sound like they're just chosen for a pleasing rhyme. Other rockers include 'Get Out of My Way', which has a great barrelling swagger, and 'Off the Ground', which is OK. So while it's not as interesting or lyrically powerful an album as its predecessor, it does have more songs with a rocking sound! 'Golden Earth Girl' and especially 'Winedark Open Sea' with its big soulful vocals are strong ballads as well, though I could do without 'Peace in the Neighbourhood'. And I nearly forgot the other song co-written with Costello: 'The Lovers That Never Were' is a big, tearing song of loss that's almost threatening. Not a giant of an album, then, but a good one.

Flowers In The Dirt
Flowers In The Dirt
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Paul's Best Albums and One of His Best Songs, 11 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Flowers In The Dirt (MP3 Download)
I'm old enough to remember the rave reviews when 'Flowers in the Dirt' came out, and it still deserves them. As on 'Press To Play', collaboration with another talented songwriter made Paul reach higher, and the most obvious of all of these is the bitchy duet with Elvis Costello, 'You Want Her Too'. For me, that's one of Paul's best solo songs ever, up there with 'Maybe I'm Amazed' and 'Wanderlust', and it's very funny hearing Paul witheringly put down Elvis as "so predictable and nice".

The singles are highlights, too: 'My Brave Face' has an infectious bounce, great bass and suddenly 'getting' a bit of gender politics in the lyrics; 'This One' is a cool tune with a fab jangle; 'Put It There's' simple, catchy melody is just about the most understated single he'd released, before the fashion for "unplugged". Only 'Figure of Eight' disappoints here, with the album version overproduced and insipid, muting the guitar lick. I wish the rereleased CD had the single version, which was more of a loping rocker. 'We Got Married' is a great track, soulful, telling a story (perhaps a sequel to Del Shannon's 'Runaway'), and with amazing guitar from Dave Gilmour. Opposite in style is the fabulous dance track 'Où est le Soleil?' which showed Paul's versatility and is a much better closer to the CD album than the a bit overcooked 'Motor of Love' was to the LP. Other standouts include the groove of 'Rough Ride', the fragile minor ballad 'Distractions', the little rocker B-side 'Back on My Feet' and especially the soulful 'That Day Is Done', with magnificent tearing vocals. That leaves a couple of forgettable tracks, but more than enough altogether to make a great album.

The Beatles In Mono
The Beatles In Mono
by Andrew Hickey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking, Informative and Funny, 11 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Beatles In Mono (Paperback)
'The Beatles In Mono' is probably the Beatles book I dip into most often. There are others written by insiders with access to which other musician played exactly which trombone, but that doesn't excite me so much as someone who can make me hear something different in songs I've heard a hundred times. And Andrew Hickey's book does that. Each time I open it up there's something to listen to again and go 'Wow': the reverb on the mono 'Paperback Writer'; the Beatles versus Beatles play-off in the stereo 'Think For Yourself'; the swearing in 'Hey Jude'...! Some people don't like that Andrew's opinionated. He is, but he also loves all four of the Beatles as well as being critical of some aspects of each of their work. I just don't believe reviews that say 'Every single thing is equally brilliant!' That's not a review. That's a total surrender of all critical faculties. I like his reasons for raving about some songs and his occasional putting the boot into one, so I can go 'He's wrong!' or less often, 'Oh dear. He's probably right'. Either way it makes for a much more interesting read, and he's unnecessarily self-deprecating about it too. Oh, and he covers the stereo-only LPs to for completism, just in less detail.

I mostly listen to songs on headphones and am prejudiced to the sound being different in each to keep me diverted, so my instinctive preference is stereo. But I also wanted to hear what the Mono mixes that were often meant to be the 'important' ones sounded like, and this book is a great companion and champion for them to challenge my prejudices. Mr Hickey thinks mono is best and eloquently says why for most tracks, and I like a point of view that's not mine to make me appreciate them more! As well as the music, though, he's funny. He has a witty turn of phrase ("being grumpy in minor chords" made me laugh even about a song I like) and also loves the Beatles songs that are wittier than lots of people notice, pointing out the jokes. He even made me listen to some Wagner to compare famous chords... But the music is his big thing, and it's worth buying just for his enthusiasm about the Ringo-Paul drum'n'bass combo, where you think, yeah, they really did have an amazing groove. Fascinating choice of favourite Paul song as well - I'd not have thought of it, but I can see why. It's not perfect, obviously, because he has opinions and there's something in it for everyone to disagree with, but few actual mistakes (the only one I can think of is saying 'Eight Days A Week' is the Beatles' only fade-in intro, forgetting George's fab 'I Want To Tell You'). But overall it's a great read that I keep coming back to because it makes me find interesting, new sides to songs I love. What could be a better recommendation for a music book than that?

Tom Robinson Band: Live In Concert [DVD]
Tom Robinson Band: Live In Concert [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Robinson
Offered by disks4u
Price: £21.10

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great songs, lively punk, a radical edge, 15 Jun. 2003
A great showcase for one of the most underrated punk bands, this live DVD features such hits as 2-4-6-8 Motorway and War Baby along with other superb songs from Tom Robinson with the reformed 1990 TRB.
First up, is there anything wrong with this DVD? Well, the blurb appears to have four different mistakes in just one paragraph, which is fairly impressive, there's no time counter on playback, no subtitles, and the transfer's not perfect, with noticeable artefacting over Tom's face in the end credits. But none of that matters, does it? It's the music that counts, and that's terrific.
You'll get a mix of songs from the classic first TRB album, Power in the Darkness, and those they were touring with in 1990, and both types are full of life. They sound great, and the lyrics have the typical Tom mix of post-apocalyptic storytelling and political liberation, alongside a rare love song.
The set opens with Number One: Protection, a punchy tale of a London gangster, though the early highlight is The Winter of '89 - an updated song about the fall of communism, based on one of their earliest tracks and with a cracking sound. The reggae-tinged rock of Duncannon makes a real impact with its great tune and reflection on Piper Alpha, as does the sarcasm of Green Green Green Green Green, aimed squarely at attempts by business and politicians alike to market themselves at environmentally friendly. While Blood Brother isn't as suited to Kustow's guitar as it was to the more orchestral arrangement with which it was released on CD, the top ten hit War Baby is haunting.
The best bit of the show definitely comes with the closing medley of three old TRB stompers; the blazing top ten rocker 2-4-6-8 Motorway is immediately followed by the more minor hit Up Against the Wall, for my money the most blisteringly memorable guitar riff of the punk era. It closes with the anthemic Power in the Darkness, which remains not just a superb piece of music but eerily relevant in its politics. Glad to Be Gay, for example, is a song that Tom updates each time he plays it to keep it relevant, so it's no shock to find the 1990 lyrics slightly dated. It's more of a shock that the assault on authoritarian and uncaring rule of Power in the Darkness could have been written as easily in the Britain of Blair and Blunkett, and that scarcely a word seems out of date.
All in all, a thumping punk performance with a radical message. Well worth a shot.
Background details: the band's line-up is almost the '77 original, with Tom on bass, guitarist Danny Kustow, unsmiling keyboard player Mark Ambler and newcomer Steve Creese on drums. The full tracklist consists of Number One Protection, Winter of '89, You Gotta Survive, Rigging It Up Duncannon, Green Green Green Green Green, Blood Brother, Glad to be Gay, War Baby, 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Up Against the Wall and Power in the Darkness.

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