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Charles Miller "objective clarity" (Baltimore, Maryland U.S.A.)

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Belle of Avenue a
Belle of Avenue a
Price: £13.67

4.0 out of 5 stars The Fugs' nadir, but still worthy of 4 stars, 1 July 2014
This review is from: Belle of Avenue a (Audio CD)
This has to be the weakest of all The Fugs releases. Lacking the pleasant shock value of the ESP Disk releases (when it was heard in real-time back in the day) and psychedelic perfection of the Tenderness Junction and It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, it is still an important release. The main difference between this and previous releases is the fact it feels more like a collection of solo tracks by Fugs band members versus a cohesive whole. There are two tracks by Ken Weaver, three by Tuli, while the remaining five were penned and delivered by Sanders. Some are quite beautiful. By this time however, The Fugs were disbanding and this album sounds more like something to fulfill contract commitments and also a "warm-up" of sorts for Ed Sanders' brief 1970s solo career versus material intended to advance the promise of The Fugs.

When I first heard it in the early 1970s, I didn't think much of it, but in hindsight, this was a pretty good album. But again remember, it's not really The Fugs as a cohesive unit.

While The Belle Of Avenue A would not be the title I would recommend to newcomers, it's still pretty damn good as individually, The Fugs were talented and that comes across loud and clear after all these years. Newcomers should look at compilations like Don't Stop, Don't Stop (featuring their 1st two albums and lots of bonus material) or the Rhino set, Electromagnetic Steamboat (which contains their last four releases, including the currently reviewed title, along with a few bonus tracks).

High Life
High Life
Price: £9.74

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2nd of 2 recent releases, 1 July 2014
This review is from: High Life (Audio CD)
On the heels of Someday World, comes High Life, what Brian Eno described as further material inspired during the former's work sessions. Of the 2 new releases, this one is superior. Not that Someday World was anything less than 5 stars itself, the material on this album goes beyond "just another Brian Eno release" with its longer pieces, giving time to develop into some pretty rousing musical moments. Additionally, this album features Karl Hyde's contributions to greater advantage with some excellent ascending guitar work not as obvious on Someday World.

Another plus is that unlike Someday World, there is no deluxe edition where the cost is twice as high for a so-called bonus disc. The 1/4 hour bonus disc for that album, in tandem with 3/4 hour regular disc totaled to less than an hour. I consider it a plus not having a deluxe edition this time. Seems like Mr. Eno inflates prices with this "1 album for the price of 2" tactic frequently these days. Consider one his best releases of the past decade, "Small Craft On A Milk Sea" ...a particularly onerous example where one had to spend a 3-digit figure for the 4 bonus track CD only available if you purchased the vinyl edition! What if I don't have a turntable? Why must I buy records to get a bonus compact disc? Furthermore (and as is always the case), the Japanese version of High Life has a bonus track not featured anywhere else. This track has not been added at the end as a simple outtake, but rather is track 6 of 7, indicating it probably is an integral part of the whole. I wonder why Japanese listeners always get a longer and better album than do western fans.

Being an Eno completist is usually a very expensive affair as bonus tracks (outtakes) cost considerably more. All that said, I wouldn't be surprised if there will be an EP forthcoming for High Life which will have the usual 1/4 hour of music that should have appeared on this 43 minute release. If that happens, I will lower my 5 star rating as I grow weary of this scheme to overcharge fans as much as possible on a regular basis.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 28, 2014 7:18 PM BST

Someday World
Someday World
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £29.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1 great 5 star album for the price of 2 (= 3 stars), 1 July 2014
This review is from: Someday World (Audio CD)
I routinely give Brian Eno releases 5 stars because they are all that good. The previous 5 star reviews admirably explain why this album deserves such a rating.

That said, I am growing a bit weary of Mr. Eno's way of inflating prices as if he were some starving artist. If the 4 bonus tracks were included on the regular edition, that single CD would still be less than an hour in length. Playing a 3/4 hour regular CD, only to have to change discs and insert the 1/4 hour bonus CD is simply ridiculous. I ended up burning both discs to a single CDR for the convenience of hearing the entire album all at once. A bonus CD makes sense when the totality of the 2nd disc will not fit on the first (i.e.: Drums Between The Bells), but the way it was done for the Someday World album is just plain greed. Additionally, and as a previous reviewer pointed out, what's up with the MP3 (360 bps) 9 track download that omits the 4 bonus tracks? MP3 format instead of FLAC? Omissions? Seriously?!

Most artists include their outtakes as bonus tracks on the same regular CD. While not totally unique for charging double for a bonus disc, overall, Brian Eno's releases are among the worst offenders. This is not the first time an Eno album has used a price-inflating stunt like this. One of his best releases of the past decade, "Small Craft On A Milk Sea" is a particularly onerous example where one had to spend a 3-digit figure for the 4 bonus track CD only available if you purchased the vinyl edition! What if I don't have a turntable? Why must I buy records to get a bonus compact disc? Beyond that, the Japanese regular CD version and iTunes version of that album also had unique tracks (if you purchased the entire album yet again), making it a very costly endeavor for Eno-completists such as myself. Additionally, virtually all Japanese Brian Eno releases feature an exclusive bonus track not available to western ears unless one is willing spend obscenely high import prices to acquire them.

I have been patient with this "one for the price two" tactic for quite some time and only mentioned it in previous reviews of earlier Eno albums. It never affected my ratings. I guess you can call this album the straw that broke my back.

MR. ENO: I believe in giving artists all the money due to them and I never illegally download torrents because that would be the same as stealing. Conversely Mr. Eno, shouldn't you stop ripping off your best fans with these relentless and costly alternate versions? Why charge us double, triple, (and in some cases far, far more) for what amounts to little more than a few outtakes? Next time this happens, I'll be hard pressed not to consider downloading a FREE torrent (in FLAC format) of whatever upcoming bonus tracks there may be.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2014 6:48 PM BST

Ready To Die
Ready To Die
Price: £11.45

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Kill City follow-up (but the Japanese version also has 2 bonus tracks), 7 May 2013
This review is from: Ready To Die (Audio CD)
First off, the review: After "The Weirdness", this is truly a surprisingly good album. I was honestly expecting Iggy to be phoning in terrible lyrics again, but not so. This album stands on its own as a genuine Stooges album with some real effort put into it. I realize I am not the first one to draw comparisons with Kill City, but hey, it's there... you can't help it. In fact, this is by far more of a follow-up to that album than to "Raw Power" but that's a good thing. While I doubt Scott Asheton participated much due to health issues, it's nice to see his name in the credits. It is also great to see (and hear) the names of Steve MacKay and Scott Thurston in the credits. In a way, the line-up is quite similar to that of "Kill City". And Mike Watt is certainly an official Stooge after all these years. But the main driving force behind this album is the same as it was in the mid-70s: Iggy Pop and James Williamson. As before, this album features a mix of all out rock tunes like only The Stooges can create, along with some seriously great ballads like "The Departed", the album's highpoint. The nod to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is both musically perfect and the perfect tribute to its creator, Ron Asheton.

This album is so good, it makes me wish they would stop their nostalgia act on tour and spend more time in the studio releasing new material. Apparently they still "have it" and creating a legacy of great albums like "Ready To Die" would be more valuable over the long-haul.

BUT (as is usually the case), the Japanese version features bonus tracks not easily available for western ears to hear. In this case, the tracks are: "Dying Breed" and "The Departed (instrumental version)". It too is available from Amazon, but of course, at a significantly higher price. Since this album is so short to begin with (34+ minutes), it could have easily incorporated these two extra tracks.

Read & Burn: A Book about Wire
Read & Burn: A Book about Wire
by Wilson Neate
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.96

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive yet lacking..., 12 April 2013
This book features a whopping 427 pages (with little in the way of illustrations), making it perhaps the most in-depth study on Wire ever written. In the introduction, the author states what it is not. There are two items which are to the detriment of such an exhaustive title:
[1] it does not cover the solo projects when Wire was on hiatus, and
[2] there is only a "selected discography" versus a complete one.

In the case of the former issue, it simply does not make sense to keep the subject matter strictly on Wire. The book kicks off with the members' backgrounds to illuminate what they brought to the table, and that makes sense. But wouldn't the solo material created by its members during periods of Wire inactivity also shed light on this topic? Certainly Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert's work in Dome influenced what was yet to come as did Colin Newman's solo releases. Additionally, a few more pages could have made this large book more encyclical with a complete discography. In other words, I question the wisdom of eliminating these subjects.

Okay, so I just covered the minuses with regards to this book and hence, the 4-star review. Had these items been included, it certainly would be a 5-stars because again, this book is not only well-written, but what it does cover is everything you ever wanted to know about Wire and more. Indeed, it is exhaustive... 5 years in the making and hundreds of hours of interviews to make it so. The thought processes from start (1976) to finish (Change Becomes Us) is covered in a way that certainly yields a better understanding of what makes Wire, Wire. The lack of illustrations and its reasonable size also makes it great reading book, rather than some over-sized monstrosity to accommodate photographs. There are a few pages of illustrations, but again, not to the point that this could ever be regarded as a coffee table book, which it shouldn't be. Actually, I cannot emphasize enough how spectacular the detail is. I've learned more about Wire than all the previous Wire books combined provided save the solo work and discography.

For anyone who takes Wire as seriously as I do, this book is absolute must as it explains so very much. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2013 1:41 AM BST

Change Becomes Us
Change Becomes Us
Price: £11.87

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change Becomes Wire, 30 Mar 2013
This review is from: Change Becomes Us (Audio CD)
The highest praise that can be given to a Wire album is to say it sounds like a Wire album and such is the case yet again. Change Becomes Us is the first album since the band's debut album, Pink Flag, with a new member, Matt Simms. In the mid-2000s, charter member and lead guitarist, Bruce Gilbert, left Wire. The next two albums were recorded with the remaining three original members: Colin Newman, Edvard Graham Lewis and Robert Grey. The first of these, Object 47, Wire sounded more like a Newman/Lewis collaboration than Wire. It was a fine album as a collaboration between those two meant a high quality album, but it was Red Barked Tree where the band truly returned to form, sounding more like Wire than they even did with Bruce Gilbert on board.

A bonus EP, given away with pre-orders of Red Barked Tree from Wire's website, was entitled Strays and it was a harbinger of what was yet to come. Not only did it gather 4 tracks, which in the main did not receive studio treatment until its release like Change Becomes Us, it also had for the first time, lead guitarist, Matt Simms playing along. Change Becomes Us picks up where Strays left off. Live material from 1979, which never saw the light of day as official studio releases, has been resurrected here as the source material for this new release. And like Strays, Matt Simms is present as the new and official lead guitarist.

Quite honestly, when I first heard about all of this, I was holding my breath. New old material? New guitarist? As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Being familiar with their older live material, there was indeed a familiarity with the tunes on this new album, but Wire has reinvented them into something completely new. Not for second does anything sound as if it is 35 years old. These refined songs are better than ever before and certainly sound as if they belong to the new millennium. Fortunate too, Matt Simms blends in seamlessly with the rest of the band. There are no extravagant lead guitar solos and that is a good thing. Simply stated, Simms sounds like the lead guitarist for Wire.

So change becomes Wire, and most importantly, this is another Wire album that sounds like Wire. I can highly recommend it to the seasoned listener and newcomers alike. Indeed, those new to Wire and not familiar with the source material would think it was it was written in 2013 because it is that new and fresh in sound.

The End
The End
Price: £10.05

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the trilogy is complete, 20 Nov 2012
This review is from: The End (Audio CD)
Nico released three perfect albums:

The Marble Index;
Desertshore; and
The End.

The first two of these received deluxe treatment with rhe release of The Frozen Borderline 1960-1970. Therein, not only were the original albums presented, but outtakes and alternate versions abounded as well. Now, The End also gets deluxe treatment as a 2CD reissue. The first disc features a remastered version of that one of the most important albums of all time, while the second disc has material from approximately the same time frame, the mid-1970s.

Outtakes and alternate versions would certainly have been more welcomed, but are probably not presented here as none were available. That said, what comprises the second disc is very important unreleased material all the same. It kicks off with one track from the previously available 1971 Peel Sessions: Secret Side. Since there was available room for the entire 4-track set, it is a shame only the one track is featured. This is followed by the impossibly rare and complete Peel Sessions from 1974 and this is as close as you're going to get to hearing alternate versions of the original album. No Cale, no Eno, no Manzanera... just Nico executing her songs without collaborators. In a way, the purity of these versions are the highlight of the deluxe edition. There are also two unreleased Old Grey Whistle Test tracks from 1975, which add to the importance of this set. The second disc finishes with the controversial and previously unreleased Das Lied Der Deutschen as well as the familiar The End performance from the June 1, 1974 album.

Previous to this most important trilogy was the flawed Chelsea Girl; imperfect due to the added string arrangement and flute, which pretty much ruined the greatness of Nico, Cale, Reed and Morrison's otherwise "soft" Velvet Underground and Nico outting. And of course before that was the great VU&N album itself. Subsequent to The End was relatively mediocre albums; mainly unofficial live albums which were never meant to be heard in the first place. The End, along with its two immediate predecessors, is what made Nico great. She tread musically territory where no one had gone before and no one ever will again. In that regard, Nico's music is timeless.

I cannot recommend this title highly enough for those familiar with her work as it adds more to the legend that was Nico.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2013 2:21 PM BST

Yin & Yang
Yin & Yang
Price: £12.35

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yea! Wobble and Levene!, 19 Nov 2012
This review is from: Yin & Yang (Audio CD)
Much like the return of John Lydon and his version of PiL this year, another long-awaited collaboration was/is Jah Wobble and Keith Levene. While not revelatory, it does not disappoint... really good in fact. Well, actually it does on one level: four of the ten tracks are the same as on the already released EP. Therefore, there are only six new tracks here. Based on that, I gave this 4-stars. If it weren't for the duplicative material on EP, it would be 5-stars. That said, any new material from one of the best bassists and best guitarists of all time is certainly welcomed.

Yin & Yang sounds nothing like PiL. It doesn't sound a lot like either of the collaborators' solo material either. How could it? It's Wobble and Levene together with the former laying down his thunderous 30 hertz baselines and the latter's familiar rambling guitar work on top of it. Lyrically, the title track is a bit shocking at first, but after a few plays it is actually part of its charm. The strength of this album certainly makes one hope that there will be future collaborations. That is not to say Wobble's solo work is bettered by this, but together Wobble and Levene certainly make truly valid and important music.

Back to Mono
Back to Mono
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £7.77

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a latter day Physical Evidence, 19 Nov 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Back to Mono (Audio CD)
In many regards, Back To Mono is the definitive noise album of the year (and perhaps of all time). This is Boyd Rice (a.k.a. NON) returning to his roots. There are two tracks (one live and one unreleased studio) from 1979, which would have fit perfectly on his second LP, Physical Evidence, the same time from which they originate. The remainder of this album, while mainly recorded in 2009 and 2010 and featuring both live and studio material, would also have been been glove fits on that album. But there's a lot more here than a trip down memory lane. Back To Mono is proof positive that not only was Boyd Rice the originator of industrial music, but further, is still the best at it. This album is better than all that has gone before (including Physical Evidence) and that's because Boyd Rice is a better noise artist than before. He set the bar way back when and Back To Mono sets the bar even higher. No one comes close.

The modern material is among his best works. Case in point: Turn Me On, Dead Man, the first track, commences the the album with rhythm; almost a toe-tapper, but quickly is overwhelmed by some of the most magnificent noise/drone music ever committed to disc... clever beyond measure. He is admirably supported by Z'ev on this and the reprise track which comes later on the disc. Actually, there is not so much as one dud contained within and for those who understand this genre of music, it will have a hallowed place on your CD rack.

Again, Boyd Rice invented this kind of music. To my ears, he drifted off course in the 1990s with many neofolk collaborations and a heavy emphasis on social Darwinism. Yeah, it was good stuff too, but this is better, much better. It is great to hear the creator of harsh noise doing it again, and doing it even better than before. Brilliant actually. Boyd Rice owns this genre.

And oh yeah, as the cherry on top, it finishes with the best cover of Warm Leatherette ever (of the many that have surfaced recently). Overall, Back To Mono is as close to perfect as it gets.

UPDATE: The first side of the vinyl version ends in a locked grove so the track, Man Cannot Flatter Fate, will play until you take the stylus off. It also comes with a copy of the album as a CD. The vinyl version is the one to get.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2012 1:56 PM GMT

The Velvet Underground & Nico (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
The Velvet Underground & Nico (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
Price: £54.17

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular in its scope and point-blank essential, 6 Nov 2012
This is by far the best reissue of the year, perhaps of all time. Truly glorious packaging: a weighty coffee-table-sized book, magnificently illustrated and penned by Velvet Underground authority, Richie Unterberger (although there are more photographs than words). Obviously made for profit, but also a labor of love.

Disc One: An incredibly-clear remastering, better than any that have gone before, the equal of the long out-of-print MFSL version. Finishes with bonus tracks: the familiar single-voice All Tomorrow's Parties and a previously unheard instrumental backing-track of the same. Also has alternate versions of European Son and Herion, and a great alternate mix of I'll Be Your Mirror with Nico's laughter at the end.

Disc Two: As with disc one, the best-sounding mono version yet with the two mono singles as bonuses. This is the way the album was originally recorded, so this is the definitive version. Thunderous.

Disc Three: Chelsea Girl, put here because on Nico's firt solo album, she was backed by Reed, Cale, Morrison and Jackson Browne. They wrote the majority of the songs too. Kind of like a gentle version of VU&N, but unfortunately, originally ruined with spurious and later added bogus strings and a flute, which could not be removed here because they could not find the original master, but yet again, the best sounding version yet.

Disc Four: The Scepter Studio version. Never mind the bootlegs; here the sound improvement is very dramatic, now elevated to nearly the same sound quality as the official mono version. Please note there a couple of seconds of pop and click during Run Run Run. Maureen Tucker's one of only two existing acetate records served as the main source for these. This is followed by Factory rehearsals, again, previously bootlegged, but now sounding almost as if they were professionally recorded. My only complaint is the Factory tapes are only half (the January 3, 1966 session) of what is on the bootlegs. The omissions would have fit on shortest disc, disc three, but I suppose they were trying to keep each one a themed whole.

Discs Five & Six: Once again, never mind the bootlegs. This is (albeit still in mono), the very best version ever committed to disc. They did a spectacular job of perfecting the sound. Think of the Melody Laughter edit from Peel Slowly And See. That's what this sounds like, only now, it is the complete concert. Yea! At times, it sounds professionally recorded (even though sourced from an audience tape), but be aware there are a few short passages which are not entirely clean. The Black Angel's Death Song suffers from some moderate distortion as does the middle section of the concert, which could not be repaired. Otherwise, sound-quality throughout is a point-blank miracle compared to all that has went before.

This set is absolutely essential for Velvet Underground collectors. Together for the first time is nearly every relevant Velvet Underground and Nico recording, and they ALL sound better than they ever have before. Yes! Buy it again! It will never be done better than this. Will there be a Super Deluxe 45th Anniversary edition of White Light / White Heat coming in December of 2013? One can only hope such will be the case.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2013 2:33 PM GMT

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