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Dennis Petticoffer (Orange, CA United States)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psyche-delectable!, 13 May 2007
This review is from: Sprawl (Audio CD)
Bevis Frond, the pseudo "group" Nick Saloman pretends to be a part of, revisits the psychedelic era unlike any other revival act. "Sprawl" happens to be one of the Frond's finest efforts. The album lives up to its title with a series of sprawling tunes (including one of 21 minutes and another of nearly 12 minutes) that lull the listener into a hypnotic trance. And just to let you know he doesn't take these epic efforts too seriously, Saloman winks back with some sly, often hilarious humor. The Jimi Hendrix influence is apparent from the start, with "I Know We're Going," utilizing an "All Along the Watchtower" style. Meanwhile "Awake," is a tune that opens with Ed "Kookie" Byrnes saying "Baby, you're the ginchiest," before moving into a murky grinding jam heightened with spacey keyboards.

At the heart of the album are two classic tunes: "The Puller," a folk tune based on the melody to "John Barleycorn," and "Right On (Hippie Dream)," a 21-minute ramble that combines the trippy style of Pink Floyd with the dadaist narration of the Bonzo Dog Band. On the former, an aging rock star tries pulling a bird who rejects him with the line: "Oh, I am sorry, sir...but we're not made for one another/I have a boyfriend back at college and you remind me of my father/but I'd be privileged to know you as a friend." Then she turns "a doleful eye on The Puller."

But the funniest lines are saved for "Right On (Hippie Dream)" in which a long post-trip reverie features short narratives interspersed thoughout the tune. Near the end of the song the speaker laments the use of tiny bells on hippie clothing, thus depriving budgies of in-cage entertainment. Amid tape loops and fluttery flutes the narrator spouts such blather as "I am the crystal wall built about the garden of nature." Things start to venture into Fellini territory when the nirvana-enduced narrator expounds on the psychedelic scene thus: "A middle-aged woman stood with a record player balanced on her head playing The Messiah/elsewhere tribal rhythms played in and out of my ears."

Meanwhile, "Oh Gideon" has a Beatlesque, "She's So Heavy" air; "New Alexandria" is a variation on Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (Flowers in Her Hair);" and "I Bought My Love a Lapdog," is a tender love song in which things start to go terribly wrong. The sound quality is not great on parts of the album, only intensifying the grungy style of most songs, but few artists are as adept at picking up the subtle nuances of psychedelic music like Nick Saloman. It's a shame this album is so hard to track down. If you're lucky enough to locate a copy, pick it up. It's the wildest trip you'll ever take, legally.

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen
Offered by stevecaptainkirk
Price: £11.59

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've Got 8 Things on My Mind: Paddy Sings on All of Them, 23 Mar 2007
This review is from: Steve McQueen (Audio CD)
How do you improve on perfection? The original release of Steve McQueen was the crowning achievement of both Paddy McAloon (the Sprouts' resident genius) and producer Thomas Dolby. The fact that the album is remastered to an immaculate finish is enough to thrill any fan. It's a masterpiece that reveals just how powerful great composition can be when coupled with exquisite production. But the "expanded" segment of this release is what will overwhelm listeners. Paddy, in stark solo acoustic performances, manages to reinvent eight of the 11 songs on the original album.

Now, I must admit, I didn't have high expectations when I heard Paddy's long awaited next project was an acoustic rehash of old material. It has been long reported that Paddy is hoarding a cache of songs (maybe a dozen albums or more). For much too long, those compositions have remained cellared like aging wine, leaving fans to wait in tortured anticipation of their release. The eight remakes in this expanded edition of "Steve McQueen," however, are so radically reconceived that it's like hearing new material.

The acoustic performances highlight not only the clarity of Paddy's vocal cadences, they isolate Mac's precise chording and his mastery of guitar. The mix is so intimate, the sound so warm, you can almost feel Paddy's breath on your ears. The stripped down sound of Prefab Sprout's "The Gunman" album is pretty much duplicated here.

So drastically are these songs rearranged that they seem to take on entirely new meanings and dimensions. "Appetite," surveying the pitfalls of sexual desire, is less harsh in acoustic form. Without the whip-like percussion of "Faron Young," in its original incarnation, the song takes on a more serene edge with dollops of richly enchanting calliope sounds. The most radical treatment is given to "Desire As," which features an extended introduction with new words and an epic style reminiscent of the great Jimmy Webb.

Perhaps the most surprising element of these new versions are the lyrics. Songs I thought I knew by heart, surprise with words I'd never noticed in the originals. In "Moving the River," for instance, I always knew the line "turkey hungry, chicken free," but I never noticed "bucket by spoon: do you think that they'll like me when they learn what I do?" The classic opening of "Desire As," was always a favorite: "I've got six things on my mind: you're no longer one of them." But in the reworked version, the following line is highlighted and repeated over and over: "desire is a sylph figured creature who changes her mind." "Faron Young," meanwhile, adds it's lonely late night driving rhythms with allusions to "warships in the Baltic" and "stumbling onto Pearl Harbor without warning." The words were always there: they just never seemed to resonate as clearly as they do here.

Juxtaposed against the brilliance of the original album, it's hard to say just which performances are better: the acoustic ones or the originals. They are both inspired in their own way. Plagued by worrisome health problems over the course of the past decade, it's comforting to know Paddy is alive and well-- and sounding better than ever. Perhaps one day we'll be blessed with more new material from Paddy. Until then, this will do just fine.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2012 4:27 AM GMT

Kirsty MacColl: From Croydon To Cuba - the Videos [DVD]
Kirsty MacColl: From Croydon To Cuba - the Videos [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kirsty MacColl

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kirsty-licious!, 19 Oct 2005
Kirsty MacColl's adventurousness led her to explore folk, rock, country, dance, Latin, and even hip hop music during an all-too-brief, largely unheralded career. This video collection contains an eclectic, representative selection of songs ranging from early work with the Pogues to her later fascination with Latin musical forms.
And the cinematic qualities of her lyrics are perfectly suited to video portrayal, acting as mini-soap operas. Not all the offerings in this collection are winners, but most are entertaining, since they feature many of MacColl's finest songs. The disk also contains a brief photo gallery and DVD-ROM section featuring memorabilia, hand written lyrics and web links.
For fans in the States, the only negative is that this DVD is in PAL format. While it may not run on most American DVD players, it should work flawlessly on the DVD drives of most PC's. It works fine on my 2-year-old iBook.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2007 11:39 AM GMT

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