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Simon "The Pieman" (Home)

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Les Fleurs - The Minnie Riperton Anthology
Les Fleurs - The Minnie Riperton Anthology
Price: £6.77

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near perfect, angel, 19 Jun. 2008
A well-chosen anthology spanning Minnie Ripperton's most creative and musically satisfying decade from the late sixties onwards.

Minnie is best known for LOVIN' YOU - which is rightly included here as, despite a little over-familiarity, it still stands as a deeply affecting performance of a truly great song. But evidently there is much, much more to Minnie than that.

As LOVIN' YOU demonstrates, Minnie was in possession of a breathtaking multi-octave vocal range. However, this collection also testifies to the sheer quality of her songwriting and breadth of musical vision. Minnie's talent clearly included the ability to co-produce her own songs, choose the best producers and musicians to work with and the refusal to waste her vocal talent on throwaway material (a frequent flaw in so many performers in this field). It is true that this is an album of mostly sweet, mid-tempo soul rather than out and out dance floor material but it really does encompass most of the enduring sounds and textures of 1970s Black American music.

The price of the album is justified on its own for the pair of Charles Stepney productions (LES FLEUR and I AM THE BLACK GOLD OF THE SUN), which are two achingly beautiful acoustic-psychedelic soul masterpieces dating from the very late '60s. Both were revived much later on by DJ Gilles Peterson and later covered by 4 Hero and Masters At Work (as Nu Yorican Soul).

You could also say the same for the much-sampled soul-jazz of INSIDE MY LOVE from 1975, which, like so many of Minnie's songs is just incredibly yet understatedly sexy. It was co-written and produced by Minnie and will also be familiar to anybody who has seen Quentin Tarrantino's "Jackie Brown". MEMORY LANE, from 1979, is very much in the same rich vein as Curtis Mayfield's best `70s output and is probably my favourite tune on the whole album (and, as I recall, a big Norman Jay tune from the days of his Original Musiquarium show on KISS FM). Another highlight is YOUNG, WILLING AND ABLE, with its jazzy, Roy Ayers-like feel.

In all, there are 15 tracks - with no fillers as far as I am concerned. As you will learn from Dean Rudland's excellent sleeve notes, in 1979 Minnie died tragically young at the age of just 31. This album is a fantastic tribute to her amazing, enduring talent and is ultimately a great collection of top quality soul music.


Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981
Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £35.54

5.0 out of 5 stars If you need proof of genius, look at what they kept back..., 18 Jun. 2008
It's a very rare and remarkable thing indeed to find a musician/composer/producer with a talent for hitting the sweet spot time after time after time. In the world of old school jazz, funk and soul, Roy Ayers is such a man. A listen to "Destination Motherland - The Roy Ayers Anthology" - a 33-track, double CD collection comprising highlights of his 1970s output - should confirm this for you.

However, in some ways VIRGIN UBIQUITY - a collection of hitherto unreleased recordings spanning the same period - whispers something even more remarkable about the man. Presumably, the fact that these songs were not released implies that Polydor, or the artist himself, did not consider them to stand out alongside the kind of tracks they did actually release.
But from the opening bars of BOOGIE DOWN - a monstrous, hypnotic jazz funk groove - through to the mellow trippy jazz of OH WHAT A LOVELY FEELING and BRAND NEW FEELING to the proto-latin-disco-house of SUGAR, this album is bursting with quality. A good deal of the artists working in this genre would be hard pressed to put together a Best Of album of such consistent merit. Roy Ayers = genius?

Either way, if you are looking to get up to speed with the psychedelic-jazz-soul-disco-funk of the 1970s and you want some instant `bang-for-your-buck', this album and the anthology CD mentioned above are pretty much the perfect places to start.


Destination Motherland: The Roy Ayers Anthology
Destination Motherland: The Roy Ayers Anthology
Price: £10.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take me to Rare Groove heaven !!, 18 Jun. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For anybody who seriously craves a 100% guaranteed no-fillers/no-duds selection of `70s jazz funk, rare groove and disco-soul, this album is pretty much like striking pay dirt.

Whilst Roy Ayers is in no way under-rated by the soul, funk and jazz fraternity, he is inexplicably overlooked by the mainstream. This is a shame because, in my opinion, he stands alongside James Brown as one of the true innovators of dance music. He started hitting the right note around the time he set up his own band, Ubiquity, in the early `70s - and didn't stop coming up with the goods for almost two decades. His relentless ability to produce the funkiest hooks, the jazziest chords and the most incredibly hypnotic and addictive rhythms is astonishing. It is by no means a coincidence that just about every hip hop, house and dance DJ worth his/her salt has lifted a sample from the Roy Ayers back catalogue - and you will certainly recognise a few of them here.

If you are new to Roy Ayers but are open to the idea of jazzy and funky old school dance music, there are at least a dozen tracks here that will instantly satisfy. From CD1 alone that would include WE LIVE IN BROOKLYN BABY, RED BLACK & GREEN, BOOGIE BACK, THE OLD ONE TWO, LIFE IS JUST A MOMENT (PART 2), EVERYBODY LOVES THE SUNSHINE and SEARCHING. An honourable mention must go also to SWEET TEARS (THE DISCO VERSION) for being just about as perfect as left-field, string-laden jazz-meets-disco music gets. As for LOVE WILL BRING US BACK TOGETHER, well I would say, without exaggeration, that this justifies the price of the album on its own.

Despite the strength of this collection, incredibly it doesn't include all of Roy's finest moments. For example, the mighty BROTHER GREEN (THE DISCO KING) from his MYSTIC VOYAGE album is a glaring omission. But then again, this probably tells you everything you need to know about Ayers as an artist - he has recorded so, so many great, blistering jazz-funk-soul songs, it's a difficult task to narrow down a selection for an anthology - even given the added scope of a double album! (N.B. This is borne out by another Roy Ayers compilation that came out in the same year as this one - VIRGIN UBIQUITY is a collection of hitherto unreleased tracks from the Polydor vaults, many of which are up to the same standard as those included here).

DESTINATION MOTHERLAND, then. Nothing left to say but HEY DANCE HEADS! HERE IT IS, THE ULTIMATE OLD SCHOOL SOUL/JAZZ/FUNK MOTHER LODE !!


Paul Weller
Paul Weller
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £8.29

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weller in TECHNICOLOUR !!, 17 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Paul Weller (Audio CD)
I don't know Paul Weller personally but I have noticed that he is a man rarely prone to not knowing exactly what he wants.

It seems that once he has subscribed to a particular idea, the idea becomes an obsession at the cost of virtually everything else. There was once a time (quite a long period of time, actually) when he obsessively hated the idea of `rock music' and steadfastly refused to appear on stage without a full orchestra of keyboard, string, wind and percussion musicians. This idea probably took hold some time in the period between the recording of "Sound Affects" and The Jam's last studio album, "The Gift". It ultimately led to the disintegration of the band at the height of their popularity, for which some people, music critics and fans alike, have never truly forgiven him. (Paul Weller famously quit citing his frustration at the limitations of the guitar-bass-drums format - how ironic is that?).

It also led to five albums (one of which his record company refused to release) featuring a variety of musical styles ranging from Britfunk to northern soul to modern jazz, French ballads to classical music, hip hop to garage house and just about anything in between - just so long as it wasn't `rock music'. You can take your pick from any of those five albums recorded between 1983 and 1989 (or any of The Jam's from 1978 to 1982, post-"The Modern World") and discover plenty of truly great music.

Later on, Paul Weller had another great idea. He fell in love with his guitar again and became a rock musician - the earthy, analogue type that might wear a Marshall Amps T-shirt and reject the kind of `namby-pamby' ideas he had been playing around with in the preceding decade. The instrumentalists were sacked and the guitars were turned up. Out went wedge haircuts and Zeke Manyika and in came Ben Sherman shirts and Noel Gallagher. And that's basically the idea Paul Weller has been exploring in various ways since "Wild Wood", his second solo album from 1994.

But then there is this album which springs from the period between The Style Council's ill-fated experimentation with garage house and the pastoral folk rock of "Wild Wood". How would you bridge that startling divide? Well, this was a period when Paul Weller didn't seem to have a big, all-consuming idea (or maybe he was in-between two of them). The soul-funk-jazz influences are still firmly there but Paul was simultaneously rediscovering his love of sixties pop and psychedelia. He neither scorned digital music nor 'real' instruments. I don't know if this stemmed from his frustration with the latter days of The Style Council or the combined influence of Acid Jazz/Rare Groove and the various indie bands around at the time, which were mixing up dance music rhythms with psychedelic guitar pop (c.f. Stone Roses, The Charlatans).

Either way, as far as I am concerned this is by far the greatest stand-alone album Paul Weller has ever produced - and I include in that his entire recorded output from The Jam onwards. It is an almost perfect pastiche of all those mod influences he had flirted with over the years combined with the kind-of wistful writing style that he mastered on songs such as "Tales From The Riverbank", "Thick As Thieves", "Piccadilly Trail". Producer Brendan Lynch, perhaps slightly influenced by Massive attack, also manages to cook up a wonderfully subtle 'dub' sound that beautifully bridges the gap between analogue and digital. This includes a plethora of samples buried within the music (one of my favourites being Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" on "Kosmos") and those kind of "Tomorrow Never Knows"-style snatches of reversed music (this overall sound was later stretched to its logical conclusion on the highly acclaimed SXDUB 2000 remix of "Kosmos" which featured as a B-side to "Sunflower"). I have listened to the album hundreds of times over the years and I swear I still hear new things hidden in amongst the various layers of sound. It is also one of those rare albums with which I never skip a track - I love every song and I love the way they sound.

Sadly, the album was panned by the music press and Paul - in his quest for rock authenticity - swiftly moved away from this beautifully textured sound towards the stodgy 'Dadrock' of "Wild Wood" and "Stanley Road (and funnily enough, The Stone Roses did a similar thing at around the same time). It is true that he has had more success than ever during this period but I deeply miss the old Paul Weller. Thankfully, we do have this record of what might have been - and it appears to keep on giving he same pleasure as it gave on the first listen.

And, hey, who knows. Following some distinctly hopeful signs on the last album, "As Is Now", maybe the new album, "22 Dreams" (scheduled for release in June 2008), will recapture the same spirit?


Dewdrops In The Garden
Dewdrops In The Garden
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.98

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blissful, 16 Dec. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dewdrops In The Garden (Audio CD)
What a strange decade the 1990s were! Although the ten years from 1980 to 1989 - when seemingly everybody from U2 to The Clash to New Order embraced disco, house and hip hop - are almost universally seen as a decade of crass pop music, the 90s are lauded as some sort of golden age. I disagree, for me it was a musical dark age, marked out by the twin evils of Grunge and laughably retro 'Britpop'.

This album came out and passed almost un-noticed (bar a few dismissive reviews in the NME and Melody Maker) in 1994 at the height of the Britpop boom when Shed Seven and Menswear were totemic cover stars.

It is a deliciously psychedelic mix-up of funk, hip hop, dub, disco and house music in the same vein as the likes of Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada - only much better. Re-evaluate it now!!!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2011 7:26 PM BST


Daft Punk's Electroma [DVD] [2007]
Daft Punk's Electroma [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Daft Punk
Price: £17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely wonderful, 16 Dec. 2007
'Daft Punk's Electroma' is a revelation. In what could so easily have been self-indulgent art house nonsense, we have a stunning visual feast that shows that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are far more than just great musicians.

The film has a simple narrative theme involving two robots who long to become human but it is basically a road movie on to which a series of hypnotisingly beautiful images are hung. The visuals have you hooked in right from the first shot. Thematically, I guess that it ties in loosely with the last studio album, HUMAN AFTER ALL.

I wouldn't call the film original or ground-breaking. It is just strange and charming that something so simple becomes so compelling. Really this is, I think, down to the breadth of Bangalter and Homem-Christo's artistic vision and imagination (which runs equally through all of their work) and their sheer craftsman-like perfectionism and that of the people they choose to work with - in this case, the film crew. The Daft Punk live show is similar - it shouldn't work but it is a revelation.

I expected to be disappointed that the soundtrack was not Daft Punk's own music but here I was wrong again. The music that has been chosen works perfectly.

This will be cult viewing for decades to come.


Alive 2007
Alive 2007
Price: £5.99

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest show on earth !,, 27 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Alive 2007 (Audio CD)
Daft Punk are usually regarded as a 'dance' act but the truth is that, whilst they know how to make great house music, they long since transcended any trend or genre. I was lucky enough to witness them headline the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, London as part of the Alive 2007 Tour and they ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY MIND!! I'm not just saying that for affect...I have honestly never seen such a great live show. Completely original and totally brilliant.

This live set consists of snatches of HOMEWORK, DISCOVERY and the under-rated HUMAN AFTER ALL (Daft Punk's three classic and ground-breaking studio albums) mixed and mashed up almost like a DJ set but better than any DJ set you could begin to imagine. And arguably, some of the tracks sound better live than recorded - more bass, more energy.

And by some stroke of crazy genius, this recording (of the show at Bercy in Paris in June 2007) truly manages to capture the noise, ferocious energy and sheer massiveness of the Daft Punk live experience. You just have to hear it and hear it loud.


Alive 2007
Alive 2007

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest show on earth !, 27 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Alive 2007 (Audio CD)
Daft Punk are usually regarded as a 'dance' act but the truth is that, whilst they know how to make great house music, they long since transcended any trend or genre. I was lucky enough to witness them headline the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, London as part of the Alive 2007 Tour and they ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY MIND!! I'm not just saying that for affect...I have honestly never seen such a great live show. Completely original and totally brilliant.

This live set consists of snatches of HOMEWORK, DISCOVERY and the under-rated HUMAN AFTER ALL (Daft Punk's three classic and ground-breaking studio albums) mixed and mashed up almost like a DJ set but better than any DJ set you could begin to imagine. And arguably, some of the tracks sound better live than recorded - more bass, more energy.

And by some stroke of crazy genius, this recording (of the show at Bercy in Paris in June 2007) truly manages to capture the noise, ferocious energy and sheer massiveness of the Daft Punk live experience. You just have to hear it and hear it loud.


The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989
The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989
by Frederick Taylor
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining history of frighteningly recent events in Europe, 25 Nov. 2007
Frederick Taylor's book is a superb social and political history of the concrete wall that divided the people of East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989.

This is a fascinating subject. For most of my lifetime up to the fall of the Wall eighteen years ago, a part of Europe not so far from home ran along the lines of a truly authentic Orwellian dictatorship. The notorious East German secret police (the Ministry for State Security or `Stasi') spied, poked and pried into the lives of every single citizen, looking for and punishing any form of dissent against the regime. Even in the Soviet Union, the DDR's `motherland', the ratio of `watched' to `watchers' was never anywhere near as high.

At the end of the Second World War, West Berlin was occupied by the British, French and Americans, with the Soviet Union looking after the East of the city. Shortly afterwards, the border between Soviet-occupied East Germany and the newly proclaimed Republic of West Germany was drawn several miles to the West. Effectively, West Berlin became a `capitalist' island in a communist sea. The Wall was erected around West Berlin in 1961 to stem the flow of East German defectors, hitherto able to permanently vacate life in the 'East' by simply crossing the city. The leaders of the DDR and their Soviet backers claimed at the time that they were trying to prevent 'Westerners' from crossing over to buy cheap Eastern goods but, with defections across the porous border running into thousands every week, it was clear what the real intention was.

Taylor's book charts the history of events leading up to the building of the Wall, subsequent efforts to broker a compromise and the eventual decline of the DDR leading to the toppling of the Wall and German reunification. Amongst the cast are the leading characters of US President John F. Kennedy, Mayor of West Berlin Willy Brandt and the terrifyingly committed East German Presidents, Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honeker. Behind the main story, there are also tales of daring escape attempts through underground tunnels, dark sewers and across the icy waters of the River Spree. There is also plenty of social and cultural background fleshing out the story of how the two halves of the city developed in parallel after the Wall went up. I particularly liked the part about East German punks and the interest the Stasi took in them.

If I have one criticism it is that the late 1970s and early 1980s are dealt with quite quickly. This was `my era' and I would have liked to have read more of Taylor's social history of that time. That is a small criticism really and this is still a marvellous book, very entertainingly written.


Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
by Seth Lloyd
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are we all just subroutines in a giant computer program?, 10 Oct. 2007
The answer to the question is, well yes, we could be - but that is not what this book is about!

The premise of Seth Lloyd's excellent book is that, like 'energy', 'information' is itself a fundamental physical quantity. Energy, as any physics student knows, makes everything happen - but what is it that determines exactly what happens? The answer is information. In a real sense, the Universe is a giant computer that is constantly processing information.

But this is not some fanciful science fiction plot and the author is not suggesting that we are living out the storyline to "The Matrix" (although we could be). It's just that, in the 20th Century, as more was learnt about the nature of matter (quantum physics) whilst, in parallel, a method of high-speed processing of vast quantities information was developed (computing), physicists came to see how the processing of information underpins activity in the structured universe. This is a very serious topic indeed and, if you've introduced yourself to the ideas behind quantum theory, this book is great way to develop that understanding a bit further.

Like all good popular science books, "Programming the Universe" is aimed at the general public like you and me - you don't need a science degree! The author uses easy to follow analogies to explain all the complex theories. There is a good narrative thread, plenty of humour and it is entertainingly written. The early chapters explain the 'computational universe' - how much the universe is akin to a computer. We then go on to learn how quantum particles can and do behave like the binary 'bits' in a microprocessor - the ones that are either a '1' or a '0' - and how it is possible to use them to perform logical operations, just like the chip in the PC on which you have accessed this page. The difference is that quantum bits don't have to be in one or other of the two mutually exclusive states (i.e. '1' or '0'), because, as we know from quantum physics, particles can simultaneously be in two states at once. There isn't enough room here to explain why (you'll have to read the book) but what this means in practice is that a quantum computer would do many things at once - such as performing a search in multiple places or factorizing a prime number by computing all the possible factors simultaneously. In short, a quantum computer will be an order of magnitude more powerful than our current classical machines.

There is a very thought-provoking conclusion about a quantum computer that could simulate all the processes in the universe from the big bang to now. We don't know who would build such a machine or why they might do it but we do know exactly what it would look like and how long the computation would take. I shall say no more.

Needless to say, I disagree with the initial reviewer's comments (see the Amazon page with the paperback version). The computational nature of the universe isn't just plausible, it is fact. And treating information in the same way we have been classically doing with energy, i.e. as a fundamental physical quantity, opens up a new way of thinking about the universe. The idea of information as a physical thing may seem abstract and difficult to grasp but it is worthwhile. There is no claim in the text that the universe is actually a computer - it just behaves like one.

As a small aside, there is no complicated maths but I would recommend that you are 'up to speed' on some of the very basic tenets of classical and quantum physics before you attempt this book - 'A' level stuff. I say this because I would imagine that the text might not be so rewarding if you had to rely solely on the quick analogies used here to describe things like entropy and wave/particle duality (though I may be wrong - you might be a faster learner than myself). Also, a little knowledge of what goes on inside a microprocessor (c.f. logic gates, memory registers) might be helpful!

To sum up: thoroughly entertaining and seriously thought-provoking stuff.


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