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Scott Davies

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FFS - Digipack
FFS - Digipack
Price: £11.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite the atrocious sound quality, this collaboration is pretty good, 25 July 2015
This review is from: FFS - Digipack (Audio CD)
I’m a huge Sparks fan, though not into Franz Ferdinand, but this collaboration is not half bad. Many of the songs are the hook-filled sounds you would expect from Sparks, and the subject matter is as quirky as ever.

‘Johnny Delusional’ is a great album opener and should be a hit single. The song will ring through your head for days. ‘Call Girl’ has some quirky retro keyboard sounds and a clever play on words. ‘Dictator’s Son’ has frantic piano and a toe-tapping beat. The zany ‘Police Encounters’ is infectious with possibly the best hook on the album. ‘So Desu Ne’ has a super-catchy Asian vibe about a girl “carrying a ‘Hello Kitty’ uzi”. Ha!

But it’s not all great. The much hyped ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’…, well, doesn’t work. It’s too long and pretty bland. And all four of the extra tracks on the deluxe edition are completely forgettable. There was definitely a reason they were not part of the primary album. And I hate to rain on the party but the vocalist from FF has a very bland voice that is not very essential. But then he is next to Russell Mael who, in his sixties, still has the best, most stunning and amazingly versatile male voice in music history.

The biggest bummer about the album is the sound. It’s very harsh and compressed with such excessive volume that it’s almost pure distortion. Despite loving several songs, I find myself cringing and wincing when the volume is even slightly turned loud. Why don’t these foolish record companies realize yet that mashing out the dynamic range, especially to this level, is pure sonic destruction. I would probably love the album more if it had proper mastering volume and dynamic range. For years, I’ve only heard people complain about dynamic compression and can’t say I’ve heard anyone say they love it. So what’s the problem? Fix it.

Six Feet Under: Complete HBO Seasons 1-5 Collector's Edition (24 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [2006]
Six Feet Under: Complete HBO Seasons 1-5 Collector's Edition (24 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Richard Jenkins
Price: £44.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Terrible writing, unlikable characters, and lots and lots of crying and fighting, 15 July 2015
This show started out very strong and caught my interest. I was hooked to the characters and storylines, and watched it in marathons. Then came season 3, and the whole thing took a dive. The entire season was ridiculous and irritating, and by the end of the season I didn’t like a single character in the show, but felt the obligation to continue watching this train wreck to see how it all ended. When it did I was completely relieved to be done with it.

Nate, the older brother, is a self-absorbed, promiscuous manchild who hooks up with any female that crosses his path, despite his relationship status. David, the younger brother, was the initially stoic and closeted gay man who degenerated into the most deplorable stereotype, as he and his “boyfriend” opt for an open relationship and sleep with anyone they can find in the gutter, completely perpetuating the most disgusting stereotypes of self-centeredness and clingy insecurity. Clair is the gloomy wannabe artist baby of the family who latches on to any dysfunctional boy she can find, that is before she jumps ship and starts experimenting with girls. Ruth is the seemingly conservative mother who contradicts herself by ending up in the most bizarre and flighty attempts at relationships, including trying to seduce a pre-Office Dwight Schrute, followed by a whirlwind marriage with a boring old man who goes from mundane to having a sorted history of mental problems. And the incest between Brenda and her bipolar brother was beyond unnecessary, and even disturbing in the most unpleasant way.

The whole premise of Six Feet Under seemed to revolve around sex and crying. If this batch of pathetic losers were not sleeping with someone, they were having an emotional breakdown or fighting for no other reason but to do it. The writers on this mess didn’t seem to know what direction to take any of the characters for more than 5 minutes, and they seemed dead set on making the viewer dislike everyone. Even the little Hispanic guy, who originally had the most healthy relationship than anyone, ended up cheating on his wife with a skank he met in a strip club.

Though the final season was slightly redeeming, it was too late. I felt more relieved by the surprise death of one of the characters in the season, though annoyingly they were still making appearances. I struggled to give this highly overrated disaster of a TV show 2 stars.

Mystery Walk
Mystery Walk
Price: £26.60

3.0 out of 5 stars A modest, yet mediocre album with disappointing packaging and remastering, 13 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Mystery Walk (Audio CD)
This was the last of Martha and the Muffins for me. The album is very adult contemporary, and even downright dull at times. Nothing here really compares to their earlier albums, though there are some pleasant minor highlights. Though I did have their 1986 album The World is a Ball, much of that was similarly background music, and I parted with it years ago.

'Black Stations/White Stations' was a modest dance hit, but it's pretty standard dance funk with a grating horn section. I can give or take it. 'Cooling the Medium' is a much stronger single, though here come the female background singers. A little indulgent? Sure. My favorite track on the album is the brief but creative 'Big Trees'. I would have liked this one to go on a bit longer. 'Garden in the Sky' and 'Rhythm of Life' are pleasant enough but could be passable in the background of a department store. 'I Start to Stop' is an attractive, delicate mellow highlight. The rest of the album does nothing for me.

The packaging on the CD disappointingly strays from the protective jewel case of all of the previous reissues, and goes the way of an easily damaged and flimsy cardboard fold out. Expect your CD to get instant scratches. There is a nice booklet though.

The audio remastering is disappointing. The volume has been blown very loud and has some definite brickwalling. Unfortunately, a poor attempt at tape hiss reduction has been applied to some areas, and the very soft opening of 'I Start to Stop' suffers some negative side effects to the delicate intro of the song. Comparing the sound quality to the old One Way Records 2 on 1 CD, I find I much prefer the sound quality on that CD, so that's the one I will stick to for listening. This most recent CD is little more than a place holder in my collection with a nice booklet. But to each his own.

Mythic Language
Mythic Language
Price: £23.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars After waiting for numerous years for this release, this is what we get??, 3 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Mythic Language (MP3 Download)
Why, oh why was it mastered SO LOUD! I waited for years to have a crystal clear copy of 'Lines Of Flame', rather than the cassette I have from years ago. Upon first listen, I could have cried. The sound has been so remarkably compressed across this compilation that it ranks as some of the most extreme compression I've ever heard. The drums and sticks that punch through on my old cassette tape are completely smashed into a wall of noise here, and there is no definition whatsoever to the music. Plus, there is a nasty channel dropout that is not on my old tape, and running the master through a second time could have potentially resolved that. Thankfully, I've been able to (mostly) repair that flaw, though there's nothing I can do about the compression. In addition, an extreme amount of tape hiss reduction has been applied to most songs, to the point that peaks of music have been lopped off and dulled further into the background. I have my suspicion of who within the band is responsible for the excessive mastering volume over their releases for a number of years now, and he needs to step back a bit because I never purchased the most recent album of new Eyeless material, partially because I didn't need to hear another album screaming at me. And it's all topped off by a gross misspelling on the spine of the CD set. Proofread, boys.

I have attached 2 images to illustrate what I've stated: The first image shows how compressed with excessive volume this has been, the second image shows the massive tape hiss reduction (indicated by the blank area towards the top), and the nasty channel dropout is clearly shown on the bottom of the waveform about 2/3 in. With as long as it took to finally release this, it should have been stellar on all accounts.
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"Siouxsie and the Banshees": The Authorised Biography
"Siouxsie and the Banshees": The Authorised Biography
by Mark Paytress
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-destructive and oblivious. How they managed to last as long as they did is bewildering, 23 Feb. 2015
I just re-read this book for the first time in about ten years. I remember my original impression of it was that the band seemed to be a constant mess, and that Sioux and Severin in particular were just hateful people. Reading it again, it's worse than I remember. I love hearing about the band's history but the book seems to be little more than Sioux and Severin insulting and dismissing just about everyone they ever worked with, and then some; ex-band members, managers, former friends, fans, even concert attendees. There's little talk of the creative process of songs or albums, just the alleged hardship they had to endure during the making of each. Siouxsie strikes me as the most willfully difficult and contradictive person on the face of the planet. She doesn't like compliments, but then doesn't like insults. She doesn't care what people think, yet gets very upset by negative reviews. She wants to be a pop star but cringed when 'Dear Prudence' sounded too pop, or when a song they've written can be perceived as "catchy". Just about every story she tells results in her supposedly slugging, kicking, or beating someone senseless. She had next to nothing positive to say about anyone she had ever encountered. Severin isn't much different, though perhaps a little less violent. Budgie, by contrast, is much more light hearted about things. Someone had to be.

Another thing that was just tedious was their approach to drugs and alcohol. They seem to think they hadn't sunk to the gutter because they didn't do heroin, but gleefully boast about doing acid, cocaine, LSD, and just about any other drug on the planet. They seem so proud of it. This is in addition to being endlessly drunk. Every story involves being intoxicated out of their head, yet Sioux and Severin come off as hypocrites acting like they had control of it while claiming others in the band doing the same things had "problems". It sounds like they all had problems and needed a well-deserved smack of reality. They dump their legendary guitarist John McGeoch when their clearly no-boundaries lifestyle took its toll on his state of mind. But rather than offer support, they push him to the side and carry on without the slightest concern. This is the only story in the book that they actually show an ounce of regret for. Well, you should.

Siouxsie and the Banshees remain my favorite band, but it's unfortunate to find that after reading about them in their "authorised" biography, I just don't like Sioux or Severin as people. Both of them come off as extremely selfish and mean spirited. Budgie, John McGeoch, and others they have dismissed, seemed to have been nice, creative people sucked into the Banshees destructive whirlwind and spit out with many scars as souvenirs. It was sad to read of Budgie's various attempts to better himself by cutting out the booze and changing his lifestyle, only to have those around him being unsupportive and critical, resulting in him falling off the wagon.

Severin has stated recently that he now disowns this book, and considers it one of the worst mistakes the Banshees has ever made, though he doesn't explain why. I'd like to think that he realizes how terrible he and Sioux come across. I think it's ironic that they covered Kraftwerk's 'Hall of Mirrors' because the lyrics seem very appropriate: "Even the greatest stars dislike themselves in the looking glass".

Spellbound: The Collection
Spellbound: The Collection
Price: £3.00

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly impressive song selection, though the remastering is as expected, 24 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Here is yet another Siouxsie and the Banshees compilation, of which there has been quite a few. But unlike previous compilations, which concentrated on either singles, B sides, or radio and chart hits, this collection is a surprisingly good cross-section of select singles, deep album cuts, and a couple of B sides in what's being deemed as an "Introduction" to Siouxsie and the Banshees.

There isn't really anything rare on Spellbound - The Collection, though buyers will get the excellent and interesting alternate version of 'Hong Kong Garden'. Rather than opening with the trademark xylophone, this version opens with a brilliant string arrangement before switching back to the original version right at the start of the lyrics. I would love to hear the whole song done with strings. 'Mirage' is by far the catchy highlight of the Banshees' highly overrated debut album The Scream. The Banshees always deny being part of any scene that they clearly fall into, be it Punk, Post-Punk or Goth. 'Placebo Effect' is an adequate Post-Punk song from their lackluster 2nd album Join Hands. End of Banshees chapter 1.

In 1980, Budgie and John McGeoch joined the band and the Banshees hit a commercial peak with their album Kaleidoscope, though the hit single 'Happy House' has never been a favorite of mine. Thankfully, they didn't rehash 'Christine' this time and we get the far superior 'Desert Kisses'. In 1981, the Banshees released the ultimate Goth (yes, I said it, because it's true) album Juju, which remains many fans' favorite band album. 'Spellbound' is such a spectacular single that really laid out the band's talent at time, thanks in no small part to the late John McGeoch and Budgie. A driving, pounding beat with an amazing acoustic guitar and Siouxsie's brilliant singing makes you just want to run through a field singing along. But the magic doesn't end there because 'Into the Light' is one of my top 5 favorite Banshees songs. The stop/start drumming, the crying guitar, the soaring vocals is enough to bring a tear to my eye.

'Cascade' is a good representative track from A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, and had more single potential than either of the 2 released from the album. Rather than rehashing their bland 1983 hit cover of 'Dear Prudence', they opted to include its B side 'Tattoo'. While so many Banshees fans adore this dark, sinister song, I think it's just OK. 'We Hunger' is a disturbing nightmare (in the best possible way), and a solid representation of the underappreciated Hyaena. 'Cities in Dust' was the first single I purchased by the band, and probably one of the last I ever want to hear again. 'Land's End' is a far superior representation of the very strong Tinderbox album. Another brilliant choice is the 1987 B side 'Shooting Sun'. The melody in this is just chill-inducingly good. This is another in my top 5 list of best Banshees tracks.

Things start falling off with the terrible and far overrated 'Peek-A-Boo' from 1988's mediocre album Peepshow. To make matters worse they decided to include the other worst song from that album 'Turn to Stone'. Blah! Adding a little more casual consumer encouragement, their biggest single in the U.S. 'Kiss Them For Me' is represented, though thankfully one of the best songs from the 1991 album Superstition, 'Drifter', is here as well, with it's dark, foggy opening to its haunting ending. The lone representation from 1995's The Rapture is the appropriately titled 'Not Forgotten', because I can't imagine a band with such a vast, diverse, yet distinctive catalog will ever be forgotten. Steven Severin stated this collection was aimed at casual shoppers in a supermarket, though I would think the 2002 Best Of would be more for them. This is a very impressive budget priced collection that will hopefully open the eyes of your average consumer on the brilliance that this band had to offer.

This part is for all the Banshees cyberdrones who have commented on the Banshees Facebook page in anticipation of my review: The CD was entirely remastered by Kevin Metcalfe, which for me is a big disappointment. Though most of the tracks covering the 2nd half of the CD are little more than the transfers from the lackluster remasters released in 2009 and 2014, Severin announced that Metcalfe has gone back and remastered the first 4 albums as well, also the B sides included here, replacing the Gary Moore remastering from 2004 and 2006, respectively. Guess what that means boys and girls? The earlier songs are now louder and duller. The only way I can describe it is that when Metcalfe remasters an album, the sounds have no separation, i.e. the drums, vocals, etc, are all a ball of sound with no real detail. I compared the Juju tracks from my 1989 UK CD edition and those have much more separation, dynamic range and detail. These are heavily brickwalled, and 'Into the Light' has the same right channel dropouts in the final seconds as they were on the 2006 remaster. The 2 tracks from Kaleidoscope are worse. Comparing them to the 1992 U.S. Geffen CD (the best edition of Kaleidoscope on CD, period), the sound is so extremely dull by comparison, though they do have more bass, for whatever that's worth. And even the new remaster of 'Shooting Sun' pales in comparison to the 2004 remaster on Downside Up. The only partial audible highlight is 'Tattoo'. Severin announced that the master tape had finally been located in the German archive, and the transfer here is a significant improvement to Downside Up, though it does have a nasty high end dropout of the left channel at 3:14 that finishes out the song. A second transfer by Metcalfe could have easily rectified this, though as is obvious from the unbelievable Peepshow remaster glitch (read that review for details), it's clear no one really listens to the CD masters before they go to production.

The entire package was overseen by Siouxsie and Severin, which includes the booklet. It contains a nice abbreviated history, but what's painfully clear is that Sioux and Sev are still full of sour grapes. By looking at the package you would think that they were the only 2 ever in the band. It ain't called Siouxsie and the Banshee, is it? They've completely written Budgie out of the bands history, (no picture, no mention), not to mention most of the guitarists. I'm sorry but the Banshees would not have been who they were or had as distinctive of a sound if it weren't for Budgie. His drumming is highly unique, very inventive, and individually identifiably. Severin has made remarks recently about how "oblivious" Budgie is, and indicating that he was little more than just a follower in the band doing as he was instructed. As a fan I find that offensive because the Banshees sound was highly influenced by Budgie and his contributions cannot be denied, and any attempt to dismiss him as just a bit player is ludicrous. Also, each guitarist brought their own style to the music they were involved with, and all of them with positive results. But then Severin still takes jabs at Kenny Morris more than 35 years later. Can we say get over it??

Spellbound - The Collection is an excellent representation of the bands output. It's priced low enough to hopefully encourage some casual fans to dig deeper into the back catalog. Though I'm not at all a fan of the remastering, it's not the worst I've heard and should not inhibit anyone from purchasing the collection. Just know what you are getting.

The Redeemer: Son of Satan! [VHS]
The Redeemer: Son of Satan! [VHS]

5.0 out of 5 stars Very underrated, creepy and creative little film that haunted me for decades, 30 Dec. 2014
Flashback to 1979. I was 9 years old and the neighbors took me and my 2 sisters to see a terrible movie at the drive-in called ‘Prophecy’, which was some foolish mutant bear nonsense. But we stuck around to see the 2nd feature, and that was the one far more worth seeing. It was some previously unknown movie from a couple of years earlier titled ‘The Redeemer’. I remember being transfixed to this movie, and found parts of it very disturbing to my adolescent mind. When we got our first VCR in 1986, I tried all the local video stores to see if anyone had a copy of ‘The Redeemer’ to rent, to no avail. I desperately wanted to see if those scenes I recalled had only been romanticized with time, or if they were in fact still effective: the boy coming out of the watery lagoon, the two thumbs, the living marionette with a sword, a man getting a knife in his head from above, a bathroom sink drowning. I thought I may never know…

Jump ahead to 1997. I was having my first exposure to the internet and one of the first things I looked up was this movie. I found that it wasn’t just a dream or from my imagination after all. It had definitely been released on VHS, though had also been renamed for some pressings to ‘Class Reunion Massacre’. The following day I went to the local video store I had been going to for years, and there it was! I eagerly snatched up ‘Class Reunion Massacre’ and shoved it into the VCR with such excitement that I’m surprised I didn’t break it.

I watched the movie with great intensity, wondering if I would think it’s just a piece of 70’s cheese or if I would still find value in it. I found myself getting chills during the playback as I saw all of the scenes that haunted me for nearly 2 decades. By the end of the movie the verdict was clear. I loved it! It had everything about those low budget 70’s movies that I loved. The filming was very soft focus at times, creating a distinctive halo of light around windows and objects, adding an eerie element. Some other camera tricks were also effective, as were the excellent primitive analog synth sounds used to add to the shock value on certain scenes. The overall music was very dark and haunting, relaying the aura of doom that lay before the cast. Some of the acting by the secondary cast was a little hammy at times, (best exemplified by the carhop waitress girlfriend), though much of the primary acting was just fine.

The story revolves around an over-the-top preacher going on about sins and punishment. His ranting is interspersed with footage of former students talking about attending their upcoming 10 year high school reunion. Their “sins” are depicted as being such trivial things as greed, being gay, being trampy, being a glutton, or being a rich snob. The unsuspecting victims soon realize something is amiss when the 6 of them are the only ones at the reunion, and the doors have now been locked. One by one, each student meets their fate by the hand of The Redeemer. Each time The Redeemer takes a victim, he is in a new disguise; a bird hunter, a clown, wearing a bizarre puppet mask with a flamethrower, etc. Some of the costumes are pretty bad, such as wigs being painfully obvious, but it adds a creepy element to The Redeemer’s performance. By the end of the film, the deeds are done and the lunatic preacher finishes his sermon.

The dream-like touches in the film amplify the impact. Seeing things like the kid coming out of the water (despite the terribly tight rust colored 70’s pants he’s adorning), a mystery school bus in the desert out of nowhere, the mystery second thumb (which has been puzzling to anyone who has seen this film, and even the filmmakers themselves), the living marionette, etc, all give this film a truly haunting quality. I can understand why this film divides horror fans because it’s one of those that you either get or you don’t. Some also view the film as unnecessarily cruel, though I choose to view it as exposing the double standards and hypocrisy of religion. My take on the second thumb is that it was transferred to The Redeemer as he performed his duties, providing him the extra powers subtly portrayed in the film (disappearing from a locked bathroom, waving his hand to animate the marionette), then returning to the devil kid when all is done.

A special note should be given to the performance of T.G. Finkbinder as The Redeemer. I think he does an amazing job of changing disguises and voices, and find everything about his performance very intriguing. I’ve read fairly recent interviews with him in which he fondly recalls his time on the film, and how the kids that he teaches in his current profession all get a rise out of the movie. I’m very happy the film retains a small but dedicated cult following, and I rank it as one of my favorite films ever. Whether or not it’s because of the personal nostalgia attached to it or any inherent quality is anybody’s guess, but I love it.

I purchased ‘The Redeemer’ DVD on the Code Red label at the time of release. There had been talk for so many years about the movie being released by this label, and originally it was going to be a special edition. In the end, it was just the film and a trailer. I would have loved at least an interview with Finkbinder relaying tales from the set, etc. But the long-awaited DVD release was a partial disappointment. The print used was in very bad condition, tattered and torn with the ravages of time. The label states that the negatives are long lost and none of the few prints they got their hands one were very good. There are constant scratches in the film, dirt and spots. But all of that could have been somewhat forgiven if it weren’t for some of the reel changes being chopped so poorly. As the Cindy character tries to tell her drunken boyfriend she is going to her reunion, it abruptly cuts in the middle of her sentence. I’m sure with having a few prints at their disposal, Code Red could have attempted to piece together the best quality reels of film for at least a complete representation.

But then much to my surprise, a blu-ray edition was eventually announced. Despite the expected quality, I snapped it up. It’s pretty much the same print as the DVD with the addition of one really damaged scene just after a character had been the victim of a shotgun blast. I can find some charm in the film’s condition because it adds a certain character of those old drive-in movie days, though I wouldn’t have objected to a little more care to the presentation. Also, the blu-ray is lacking the trailer from the DVD and there is no sort of menu. The disc simply plays when you put it in and stops at the end. But all in all, I’m happy to have this obscure little treat on blu-ray, and will treasure it as the collector’s item it has already become.

Thirty Thousand Feet Over China
Thirty Thousand Feet Over China
Price: £9.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Far more than just one hit single, 20 Nov. 2014
It’s always unfair when a great band has a one hit single and that’s all most people care to know about them. The Passions were a brilliant band with loads of potential that never had much of a chance to be realized. The Passions debut LP, Michael and Miranda, was very stark sounding post-Punk, but by this, their second album, they had become a lush sounding band with a style that crossed many styles.

Even though this is a really good album, it should be said that the production on Thirty Thousand Feet Over China is pretty terrible. The audio quality sounds very much like a low-fi demo recording. The midrange is massively overpowering and shrill while the other instruments sound thin. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if the producer was just deaf, but it’s probably one of the worst sounding recordings made in 1981 for a band on a major label.

Most people know the UK chart hit ‘I’m In Love with a German Film Star’. It’s an atmospheric song with a soothing vocal performance by the talented Barbara Gogan. The band at this time was primarily based around dreamy guitars with the bass and drums used more to help fill things out slightly. But the band can partly be blamed for alienating their newfound following by releasing the bizarre and experimental song ‘Skin Deep’ as their next single. I think it’s a great song but it’s built around echo effects and limited vocals, and was best left as an album track or even a B side. Instead, they should have followed it up with ‘Someone Special’. This dreamy track has washing rhythm guitars and subtle new wave drumming that could have likely hit the right chord with the buying public. After ‘Skin Deep’ failed, the band tried a second release of the more poppy pre-German Film Star single ‘The Swimmer’. It was re-packaged in a different sleeve with a different B side, though still didn’t help them recover from the commercial suicide of ‘Skin Deep’. And while The Passions could make a pleasantly dreamy song, they could also be very catchy. Their quirky and frantic track ‘Bachelor Girls’ is my favorite song on the album.

The CD is augmented with a number of bonus tracks, which were B sides of the various singles. ‘War Song’ is pretty bland, though ‘I Radiate’ is another of the upbeat and catchy songs, and was the B side of the ‘Skin Deep’ 7” single. Perhaps the single would have fared better had they swapped the A and B sides. ‘(Don’t Talk To Me) I’m Shy’ was the B side to German Film Star and is a claustrophobic, experimental song that harkens back to their debut album.

The mastering on this CD issue is spotty but it does sound better than the early 90’s reissue on the Great Expectations label. All songs, with the exception of the B side ‘Some Fun’, were drawn from original studio master tapes; ‘Some Fun’ is from vinyl. Unfortunately, the excellent B side ‘I Radiate’ is in mono for some reason instead of stereo, as it is on the vinyl. Cherry Red had claimed for some time to be making an effort the re-release on CD The Passions’ other 2 albums, though it has not yet happened. I do hope it does eventually because their album Sanctuary is my favorite and deserves to be heard in its entirety. The Passions could have had a long and productive career had the public and their record label given them more than a fleeting opportunity. Their entire back catalog deserves to be re-released and re-discovered.

So8os Presents Alphaville (Curated By Blank & Jones)
So8os Presents Alphaville (Curated By Blank & Jones)
Price: £23.42

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely well done compilation of some of the best music of the 1980’s, 8 Nov. 2014
To describe this collection as a dream come true would be an understatement. I have been waiting for all of these tracks to be reissued on CD for so many years, and I cannot speak highly enough about the package on every level. I had feared that modern day mastering techniques could be a problem and the sound would be turned so loud that it would “brickwall’ the original dynamic range. No such thing happened with this masterpiece. The sound retains full dynamic range and offers extremely clear, rich and full transfers of the original studio master tapes. A lot of time and care went into this release by all involved, and it shows from every aspect. Thankfully, the CD is presented in a jewel case, as opposed to an easily worn out digipak. The booklet is so thick, containing full page reproductions of all of the original single sleeves, which I love. There are comments on each song and rare photos. I’m so pleased with this product, and it’s been my most satisfying purchase on 2014.

If you only know ‘Big in Japan’ or ‘Forever Young’ by Alphaville, you are missing out on so much more. While their 3 original albums from the 1980’s are all worth owning, some of their absolute best material was hidden away on their single B sides. For the first time ever, all of them have been collected here (on CD 2) in crystal clear glory. I got my first Alphaville single ‘Big in Japan’ in 1984. Always being curious about single B sides, even at that age, I was ecstatic when I flipped the 45 over to hear what is probably my favorite Alphaville song, ‘Seeds’. The chorus of this classic was instantly catchy and I couldn’t stop playing it. 30 years on I still play the song on a regular basis. It truly is a perfect song that displays Marian Gold’s amazing vocal range. He shouts the chorus with such power that it gives me chills. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘Welcome to the Sun’ is a beautiful mellow song that consists of keyboards and Marian’s very smooth and soothing vocals. ‘The Nelson Highrise, Sector 2 – The Mirror’ has been an absolute favorite since I first heard it in 1986, and is probably my 2nd favorite B side. I like how they reference in the lyrics how it’s a B side to the Empire Remix of their single ‘Dance with Me’: “This is the national anthem from the flipside of the empire”. I remember when I first heard the B side ‘Next Generation’ I ended up playing it much more than the single A side. None of Alphaville’s B sides were throwaway tracks, and some could have easily been A sides. ‘Vingt Mille Lieus Sous Les Mers’ is subtitled ‘The Nelson Highrise, Sector 3 – The Garage’, and is similar to ‘Welcome to the Sun’ in that it’s based around keyboards and a beautiful vocal performance, though does have some distant guitar in there as well. The 1989 B side ‘Headlines’ is another very catchy track that will get you off the couch.

CD 1 contains all of the band’s original 12” mixes, many of which are excellent alternatives to the single or album versions. ‘Forever Young’ is completely re-recorded (at the time) with a dance beat that completely transforms the song. ‘Jet Set’ is re-recorded as well but does not stray too far from the original album version. This extended mix is great. ‘Dance with Me’ is one of my favorites in its original form but this 12” mix makes great use of the music to extend the piece. ‘Sensations’ was released as a single only in France and became a very rare and hard to find 12” single. The 12” mix is another amazing version of this very catchy song. ‘Romeos’ extends to over 8 minutes but never gets boring. ‘Summer Rain’ offers an extended intro but is otherwise very similar to the album version. There are a couple of dub mixes and a pretty forgettable previously unreleased modern remix of ‘Big in Japan’ tacked on to the end of CD 2 to help round things out. Both CD’s in this set clock in at over 85 minutes. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either but they’ve done it.

Make no mistake, if you like anything about Alphaville or 80’s electronic music, you must own this stellar collection. It wasn’t tossed together by a record company looking to make a few bucks, it was a several year project with complete involvement from the band all the way. The care and effort they put into this should be commended, and should be a benchmark for all other artists to achieve.

The Rapture
The Rapture
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £8.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful return to form, and fitting farewell..., 4 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Rapture (Audio CD)
The Rapture was the Banshees' return to form, after going a bit mainstream with Peepshow and a bit glossy with Superstition. We were now back rougher production and focus on a more traditional Banshees sound. Two singles were released from The Rapture; the bland background music of 'O Baby', (which is the Banshees' worst music video), and the wonderfully catchy New Wave of 'Stargazer'. I credited the Banshees for releasing a very 1982 sounding single in the mid-90's, when New Wave was considered an embarrassment to those who now immersed themselves in the vile Grunge scene. Unfortunately for it, Stargazer achieved the lowest chart position of any Banshees single, and signaled the end of the most amazing career in music history.

Some low points certainly exist on The Rapture. 'The Lonely One' has to the worst Banshees song ever. 'The Double Life' and 'Falling Down' are not much better. On the up side, 'Forever' and 'The Rapture' are the album highlights. 'Forever' is a gorgeous tear jerker, while 'The Rapture' is an 11 minute epic with three distinctive breathtaking parts. As long as the song is it's never tedious for a second, and just as daring and stunning all these years later.

The distance Siouxsie and Budgie lived, as well as long time in-fighting (and most likely diminishing sales) resulted in The Banshees calling it quits after The Rapture. Some fights seemed to revolve around Budgie's occasional stabs at lyric writing and Severin's disapproval of them. As a result, one of the better songs from the sessions, 'Hang Me High' (lyrics by Budgie), was relegated to a B side.

After the Banshees split, Siouxsie and Budgie continued on as The Creatures, releasing the terribly trendy and bland Anima Animus, followed by the dull and forgettable Hai. The Banshees briefly reunited in 2002 for the release of their Best Of CD, as well as a series of live shows. The shows concentrated heavily on the first few albums, and also showed that Siouxsie's voice no longer fit the material. She had lost much of her upper register, which resulted in her signing being way off key. Most of it was painful to listen to, but I don't understand how a person who makes her living as a vocalist didn't realize that she would have to stop smoking if she wanted to retain her pipes. Now they're gone forever. Once Budgie and Siouxsie divorced, Siouxie released her first solo album. After hearing sound samples of the album, I opted not to purchase it. If the Banshees reunited, I have no doubt that they would deliver another amazing album. As talented as Siouxsie and Budgie are, if Severin's not there then neither is the magic.

The Rapture was reissued in a "remastered" form in October 2014, along with 3 of the band's other albums. The remastering here is all over the place. Though the remastered CD has loud and brickwalled volume, the original CD did as well. And being that it was released in 1995 it was likely one of the first victims of the loudness war. But unlike much of my opinion on the other remasters in the Banshees catalog, this one actually has some minor improvements in spots. 'Tearing Apart' and 'Love Out Me' both have a fuller sound with more punch than the original CD, though do cut back a little on the high end (as has everything in this remaster series). But other songs don't fare so well. The song 'The Rapture' has a considerably duller, muted and muddy sound compared to the original CD. The delicate details are blurred into the background. 'Stargazer' has been replaced on this CD with one of the remixes of the song, which first appeared on one of the CD singles back in 1995, then again on the Best Of CD released in 2002. A couple fans asked Steven Severin about this on the band's Facebook page, though he didn't comment.

The bonus tracks here are the best of the batch. 'FGM' is a demo with a great rocking sound. The intended lyrics are included under the CD tray but the demo lyrics are little more than Siouxsie mumbling what was to have been the structure of the song had they gone forward with it. A number of months ago 'FGM' showed up on YouTube. Severin replied in offense that someone had been able to obtain a copy of 'FGM', and insisted that it was incomplete, sub-standard and never meant to be heard, and would certainly not be included on any release. Then a couple of months ago he apparently had a change of heart and put a message on the Facebook page asking for the person who had the recording to contact him. So now lucky for us we have 'FGM' included as a bonus track. 'New Skin' is a thunderous song originally included in the unintentional camp classic film Showgirls, though this version is nearly 3 minutes longer and is excellent. There was other material that could have been included as bonus tracks. The song 'Dizzy', from the same timeframe as The Rapture, appeared on the 2002 Best Of CD, though had been re-edited from its original form. The original version (which I do have) was available on a 1 track CD for a limited time. It would have fit in nicely with the rest of the album.

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