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Wivenhoe Park
Wivenhoe Park
Price: 1.81

5.0 out of 5 stars The true protagonist of Wivenhoe Park is the music scene, 25 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wivenhoe Park (Kindle Edition)
I read Wivenhoe Park quickly - it's that kind of addictive read - and instantly missed it. The autobiographical novel deals with an American who decides to study in England in order to witness what turns out to be the heyday of the indie music scene.

The book celebrates that scene from the chapter headings, right down to its soul. It's an affirmative and faithful story of sex, drugs and rock & roll. It's honest, human and funny, an exploration of love and trust. The prose is clean and the author has a good ear for English speech. It's endearing and captures the endless cool of the music perfectly.

Wivenhoe Park features such highlights as:
* Early encounters with Primal Scream, Madchester and more.
* The best description of throwing up out of a car you'll read.
* The most accurate description of townie nightclub fertility rituals you'll read.

It's a celebration of Psychocandy and all else great about the scene, with details from Sister Ray Records to Spacemen 3. It has style notes that reveal the time and the people, from the cheesy GQ fashions of 1980s mainstream Italians to the tired spiky-haired punk costumes of a disenfranchised English subculture. Wivenhoe Park is the most loving kind of novel about growing up, and in the best setting: a revolution of musical experimentation against 1980s drabness. I dislike reductive terms such as "coming-of-age novel", in fact. It's more than that. It's about friendship and betrayal, and dreams, and more.

*

"I think the key is to stay connected to something creative."

"Life is full of moments that you want to hold on to forever."


Sun
Sun
Price: 10.21

1.0 out of 5 stars About as good/bad as the covers albums but in an electronic pop way, 18 Oct 2013
This review is from: Sun (Audio CD)
I always dismissed Cat Power, from the bits I'd heard, as too slight, twee, until I'd heard "The Greatest" enough. It was a good listen. It prompted me to give the albums a proper go, and it turned out I enjoyed most of them. The covers records were the exceptions, which did sound too slight, twee, and this attempt to incorporate an electronic sound falls on the same score. That's just, like, my opinion of course. If you liked the covers albums then there's a good chance you'll like this.


Ticket Crystals
Ticket Crystals
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 29.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Just Fall For The Usual Line, 3 Aug 2012
This review is from: Ticket Crystals (Audio CD)
People tend to say two things in particular about Bardo Pond: they make great music to play round a campfire, and the vocals are too loud on this album. Well, the first sounds entirely plausible at least. OK, it's true that the vocal volume is unusual for a Bardo Pond album. You'll have to go elsewhere if you want to hear their more typical levels. I even agree that other records, with submerged voice, sound better. This album is still great though (all of them are great, in fact), and it's a good thing it sounds different. Moreover, and contrary to the usual line, Isobel's voice surely suits the music beautifully to all but the most stuffy ears.

OK, it's just my opinion. Perhaps you'll disagree. Don't just feel the need to fall for the usual lines, that's all.


Old Ideas
Old Ideas
Price: 5.49

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Proper Leonard Cohen Album At Last?, 7 Feb 2012
This review is from: Old Ideas (Audio CD)
This review will address the big question: is Old Ideas a proper Leonard Cohen album like The Future, his last (20 years ago) great effort? The only thing on the two studio albums subsequent to The Future that matched any of his highs was "In My Secret Life", deceptive opener to 2001's Ten New Songs. That track had rinky-dink instrumentation and eternal truth in just the right combination, the kind that floored listeners of the album I'm Your Man.

It's of course silly to complain that Laughing Len sings about death too much. Death is one of the life forces of poetry, Leonard's other great line of work. Death is an understandable preoccupation of almost all art, and just about every kind of music apart from the fluffiest pop consciously drenches itself in it. So, that Cohen studies the process and ideas of death is unremarkable in itself.

The old ham has been closing down, ageing and dying with particular vigour for nearly quarter of a century, though. It's a paradoxically sincere shtick, and it began in earnest with "I Can't Forget" and "Tower Of Song".

Death is closer than ever. Leonard Cohen has had to come out of retirement for Old Ideas and these poetic last throes are, in line with the natural order of things, more real than ever.

How well put are the goodbyes on Old Ideas, though, given that Leonard Cohen said them all a few times a long time ago, eased himself into retirement, artistically said hello to death, all that? Do "Going Home" and what follows make for a curious encore?

Leonard Cohen is markedly paradoxical. His lavish humility tells you he's long sustained a tremendous ego. If he leaks self-aggrandisement in the studio, he does so most in his penchant for anthems. A couple turn up on Old Ideas. The problem with "Show Me The Place" and "Come Healing" is if anything musical rather than lyrical. It's OK, understandable. Anthems and hymns involve a precarious bit of magic to work fully. Think of the rinky-dink form, in terms of the accompaniment and the word, of "Hallelujah", one of last century's great hymns.

Old Ideas is overwhelmingly easy to accept all in all. The accompaniment is natural. More important, Leonard Cohen does what you're supposed to do, takes the old to make it new. Most important, the ideas that he manages to make new are several of the wisest, as well as the oldest, that we have.

This review is too long already. I'd rather you find the magic in "Amen", "Darkness", "Crazy To Love You" and all the others yourself anyway. I just wanted to help point you in the right direction: Old Ideas is as good as any great Leonard Cohen album. You have nothing to fear if that's what you want, you have exactly that to love. I trust you know how much a great Leonard Cohen album means, how dearly to hold something like that.


Now I Got Worry
Now I Got Worry
Price: 12.21

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commercial Backslide, 28 July 2010
This review is from: Now I Got Worry (Audio CD)
Orange, from 1994, had been The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's biggest seller. What they followed it up with two years later, though, almost guaranteed a commercial backslide. It still had the distorted funk of the previous album, but they'd turned up the chaos.

The extra tracks on this reissue make a kind of alternate Now I Got Worry. The more sedate grooves represent the direction that market forces would've expected after Orange. They're made up of B-sides and other songs from the Worry sessions, together with four hilarious radio adverts for the album ("let the Blues Explosion give you two kinds of love").

Money Mark had turned up here and there on Now I Got Worry as a kind of Nicky Hopkins to the Blues Explosion's Rolling Stones, especially on "Can't Stop". He's on half of the extra songs, though, and his contribution to the alternate vision of Now I Got Worry is in line with his previous work. He'd already worked with The Dust Brothers as well as the Beastie Boys, and he'd released his own album, the easy listening lo-fi funk Money's Keyboard Repair.

The liner notes describe how the Blues Explosion became close to the keyboardist when they supported a Beastie Boys arena tour, and another collaborator in fact is Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, who scratches cool samples over "Cool Vee". The previously unreleased "Roosevelt Hotel Blues", meanwhile, features both Money Mark and Beck on keyboards. It all helps make a seriously great bonus album. Now I Got Worry proper is the best, though. It's like the radio advert says, "shake it baby, shake it mama, shake it, shake it."

"But baby don't break it."


Controversial Negro
Controversial Negro
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 12.78

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Controversial Caucasians, 5 July 2010
This review is from: Controversial Negro (Audio CD)
The official Controversial Negro used to be available only in Japan. It was out in 1997 and recorded the year before in Tuscan, Arizona, although the nine songs at the end of this reissue are from 1994. Promo versions had a cool Mick Jagger cover, but they had to replace that when Mick Jagger said so. They replaced him with an ape. The cover of the reissue, which preserves the Japan design, is still pretty cool.

A record of the Blues Explosion in concert is vital. The outtakes and alternate versions of songs, say, on Mo' Width or the Now I Got Worry reissue testify that the band are in an ongoing conversation with rock & roll. A conventional studio album catches only part of the conversation. Collaborations such as those with R.L. Burnside get another side of it, of course. A live version of a song, though, expands more on what they're talking about, and sometimes it's dirtier.

The "hits" are in the set ("Afro", "Bellbottoms", "Flavor"). The show-stopper "Blues X Man" is in the set. The liner notes, as with those for the Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll compilation and Now I Got Worry reissue, are filled with insight and diverse detail (hardware info: they used vintage Music Mann and Sunn amplifiers!). The theremin is in full effect. Enjoy the show.


Now I Got Worry
Now I Got Worry

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commercial Backslide, 5 July 2010
This review is from: Now I Got Worry (Audio CD)
Orange, from 1994, had been The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's biggest seller. What they followed it up with two years later, though, almost guaranteed a commercial backslide. It still had the distorted funk of the previous album, but they'd turned up the chaos.

The extra tracks on this reissue make a kind of alternate Now I Got Worry. The more sedate grooves represent the direction that market forces would've expected after Orange. They're made up of B-sides and other songs from the Worry sessions, together with four hilarious radio adverts for the album ("let the Blues Explosion give you two kinds of love").

Money Mark had turned up here and there on Now I Got Worry as a kind of Nicky Hopkins to the Blues Explosion's Rolling Stones, especially on "Can't Stop". He's on half of the extra songs, though, and his contribution to the alternate vision of Now I Got Worry is in line with his previous work. He'd already worked with The Dust Brothers as well as the Beastie Boys, and he'd released his own album, the easy listening lo-fi funk Money's Keyboard Repair.

The liner notes describe how the Blues Explosion became close to the keyboardist when they supported a Beastie Boys arena tour, and another collaborator in fact is Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, who scratches cool samples over "Cool Vee". The previously unreleased "Roosevelt Hotel Blues", meanwhile, features both Money Mark and Beck on keyboards. It all helps make a seriously great bonus album. Now I Got Worry proper is the best, though. It's like the radio advert says, "shake it baby, shake it mama, shake it, shake it."

"But baby don't break it."


Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll
Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll
Price: 12.58

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Bit For The Cause, 3 July 2010
The release of Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll cues up a plan to reissue (and remaster!) much of the Blues Explosion catalogue this year. The compilation is subtitled The First Ten Years, which means it features tracks from all the main studio albums apart from Damage. It also includes collaborations, singles, the relative rarity "Buscemi" and the "F**k S**t Up" cover from live album Controversial Negro.

Dirty Shirt's more obvious omissions include "Soul Typecast", "2 Kindsa Love" and "Sweet 'N' Sour". The selection and sequence nonetheless creates a coherent set out of the releases from 1992 to 2002. The liner notes are insightful, too, and inspect the construction of that cacophonous sound from diverse angles (hardware info: Jon Spencer uses a standard Shure SM57 mic!*).

Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll has been out for over three months at the time of writing. You'd hardly know it. Spencer signed copies for pre-order, but they're still for sale. He did it for a New England chain and online shop called Newbury Comics (it only offered comics when it started in the late seventies but now mostly sells music). It has quite a stock of autographed albums and most of them should probably remain in stock. It's certainly right for the autographed Mark Ronson CDs to languish there for eternity. Even if Jon Spencer signed a hundred thousand, though, the pre-order Dirty Shirts should've sold.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion will never be as big as Elvis, but then nobody will. FAT ELVIS JOKE GOES HERE. Still, Dirty Shirt deserves more attention from Amazon reviewers, music magazines, blogs and all that. This is my bit for the cause. Please, do what you can. Did you know that just a couple of listens to the distilled spirit of rock & roll helps ward off bands like U2?

*Just remembered that one of the songs on the Pussy Galore album Dial M For Motherf**ker is called "SM 57".


Disintegration [Deluxe Edition]
Disintegration [Deluxe Edition]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Submerged Gloop, 18 Jun 2010
Life has a rational surface, below which is the infinite gloop. The Cure have made pop songs that are fun as can be (and others that irritate as much as any radio-friendly hit), but Robert Smith was in direct talks with the gloop for a time. The result was 1989's Disintegration.

Previous attempts at a masterpiece were merely attempts. Subsequent albums, so far at least, have been mostly studied. He's some artistic distance from Disintegration, but perhaps it's a lengthy ebb-and-flow thing rather than a more simple decline. Perhaps one day he'll turn up with a work of equal stature. All I know is, since that album his music is more likely to involve teenage-targeted angst and affected cat yelps. Attempts to be honest in his lyrics are likely to reveal a spoilt perfomer, where the words of Disintegration help reveal the submerged gloop.

An expanded reissue can cloud an album's virtues, and the 20 rough songs do little more than prove that Smith had much of the detail worked out at demo stage. Fewer of those, with the remixed singles from Mixed Up instead, would've better complemented the original 12 songs. The live rendition of the album has a beautiful open sound, though. It may cause drowsiness if you listen to it immediately after a full dose of the master version, otherwise it's more than lively enough. (You can find another, inferior, live take on the album on the Disintegration website, along with another 20 rough songs!) The remaster of the core songs brings benefits, too. It adds clarity, particularly to the depths of "Prayers For Rain", while managing to preserve the original mood. The "deluxe edition" is primarily, though, a reminder that Disintegration is Robert Smith's definitive statement.


Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Price: 19.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonny's Trumpet Records, 17 Jan 2009
Despite the name on the box set, this is a Trumpet Records rather than a Sonny Boy Williamson compilation. Most of the songs are by artists other than Sonny, and most of those don't even feature him as guest harp player. It is a great compilation of Sonny's tracks for that label, including alternate takes, but it's more than that. It's the story of Sonny's Trumpet Records. He was the label's star, and this box set charts artists - friends and accompanists - that orbited him then, including B.B. King, Big Joe Williams, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (Elvis Presley's favourite), Elmore James and Little Milton. Trumpet was the first label to record Sonny, and here the songs that he'd reprise for Chess might be more primitive, but it's their vitality that makes them better (compare "Eyesight To The Blind" on Trumpet with "Born Blind" on Chess). So now you know, what you're letting yourself in for isn't a great Sonny Boy Williamson box set but a great box set of Sonny's Trumpet Records.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2009 12:56 PM BST


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