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D. C. Stolk (The Netherlands)
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Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry #4
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry #4
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somebody's gonna come undone., 16 Sep 2014
This is the fourth comic-issue in "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry," a 5-part mini-series published by Dynamite Comics. It's written by Jim Butcher & Mark Powers, with pencils by Carlos Gomez, and takes place some four months after "Dead Beat," the 7th novel in the Dresden Files series.

The fourth instalment of "War Cry" picks up where we ended the previous, slightly disappointing third issue (not yet available in digital kindle format): with the unexpected but very welcome arrival of Thomas Raith, vampire of the White Court and also Harry’s half-brother. This as Harry and his team are having an all-out battle with an army of Red Court vampires, led by Baron Bravosa. This takes place in the town of Montezuma, outside a Venatori Umbrorum house, who are tasked with keeping a Shoggoth (a supernatural horror straight out of Lovecraft) safely locked up in its cellar. Harry & his team have to go all-out to keep Bravosa from getting his hands on this supernatural doomsday weapon - so what kind of trick does Harry have up his sleeve to keep this from happening?

Story-wise this 35-page comic (with 26 pages of story) is an improvement on the third issue, but still suffers from it being too much of a superhero-slugfest comic book instead of a graphic Dresden Files story. It has lots of action, but it doesn’t significantly move the story forward until we get to the end of this issue. Maybe it would have been better to combine issues 3 and 4 into one issue, so it wouldn’t have felt so stretched out. Anyway, it has a great cliff-hanger at the end, and the art by Carlos Gomez, which is very crisp and clean, is awesome (I especially liked his depiction of Thomas). Gomez is especially good at depicting action. Anyway, for the above-named reasons, I settled on four stars. But this series is still a very entertaining read and I'll be sure to pick up next issue to see how Harry manages to save the day while kicking some major vampire butt.


Trxye [Explicit]
Trxye [Explicit]
Price: £2.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mini-album., 16 Aug 2014
This review is from: Trxye [Explicit] (MP3 Download)
"Trxye" is the 5-song new EP by Troye Sivan, the Australian (but South African born) singer-songwriter. It's already the third EP by this talented teenager; still only 19-years old but also an actor and very active YouTuber. This mini-album is best described as indie/electropop with a dark vibe.

"Happy Little Pill" opens the mini-album, and shows why this track has been released as a single, as this jaunty synth-pop song has a very infectious chorus. Although well-suited for the dance-floor, it's dark lyrics are about "...empty hearts, Buying happy from shopping carts." Next track "Touch" has a bit of an EDM sound and took a couple of listening's before it started to grow on me. "Fun" is another highlight on this EP. In direct contrast to the song's title and Sivan's carefree vocals, this track is actually about the violent nature of war, with sardonically lyrics like: "Just don't look them in the eyes, boy, You just gotta' take their lives, boy." Next track "Gasoline" has a bit of an R&B-vibe to it. "The Fault In Our Stars (MMXIV)" first became known as a demo recording about a year ago. Now newly recorded, this piano ballad-ish track shows how his vocals have grown since then.

While the tracks are radio friendly pop music, their brooding lyrics are very emotive. If this EP is any indication of his musical talent, I can't wait for him to deliver a complete studio album. Hopefully, for that one he will broaden his musical scope to include some rock- and/or blues-flavored songs, as well as some up-beat tunes to lighten the mood. Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye out for it.


Deeper
Deeper
Price: £2.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is the start of a great musical career., 9 Aug 2014
This review is from: Deeper (MP3 Download)
"Deeper" is the 5-track debut-EP by Ella Eyre (real name Ella McMahon), the 20 year old British singer-songwriter with the gritty soulful voice, best known for providing the vocals on Rudimental's club banger "Waiting All Night" (an UK number one single) and Naughty Boy's track "Think About It," which next to Ella, also featured Wiz Khalifa. This mini-album is more soul, hip hop and R'n'B-oriented.

"Deeper" is a soulful track with elements of old skool jazz and upbeat modern R`n'B mixed into it that has a very catchy "dig a little deeper" chorus hook. The upbeat "Love Me Like You" has a more electronic production-vibe and is driven by crashing drums and synths - although the horn-section is a great touch. This is followed by a great cover of Gnarls Barkley`s "Going On," which is a bit Emilie Sandé-ish. Next track "Deeper (Friend Within Remix)" is an extended (7:18 minutes) remix-version of "Deeper" that takes it out on the dance-floor with its house overtones. Another, very different version of the same song is "Deeper (Oflynn Remix)." It's a much shorter remix and puts the focus more on Eyre's fabulous vocals.

The tiny singer with the big voice and the lion-like mane of hair shows a diverse vocal range on these tracks, but does not yet give an inkling of her true range. Check out her awesome cover of Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" on YouTube to see what I mean. The only reason I awarded this mini-album four instead of five stars, is because the two extra versions of "Deeper" don't add anything significant to this EP, and should have been replaced by two other, original tracks. Anyway, her debut full-length studio-album is supposed to follow later this year, and I'll be keeping an eye out for that one.


Virgin Records: 40 Years Of Disruptions [Explicit]
Virgin Records: 40 Years Of Disruptions [Explicit]
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virgin Records: A desire to challenge conceptions and be risk-takers., 8 Aug 2014
It was in 1973 that Mike Oldfield’s largely instrumental “Tubular Bells” launched Virgin Records, the revolutionary British record label that also kick-started the career of founder Richard Branson, now a famous billionaire. More than 40 years later, it is hard to imagine that for the now classic pop album “Tubular Bells,” there were no takers from the regular record labels. Then Virgin launched it as its inaugural album - and it stayed in the British charts for 279 weeks. By now, some estimated 15 million copies have been sold worldwide. This 3 CD- box “Virgin Records: 40 Years Of Disruptions” looks back on the four decades since Branson and his colleagues launched their rebel record label, which began as a home for rockers of a proggy persuasion. The hit-story of the company is presented in mostly chronological order, going from Mike Oldfield to electro band Chvrches.

“40 Years” focuses on (especially British) songs that stormed the charts. As a result, there’s not much from the ‘70s, years which are only represented by Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” with its opening theme and “God Save The Queen” from the Sex Pistols. So no Tangerine Dream, for example. The ‘80s are epitomized by, among others, million-sellers like T'Pau, The Human League, Phil Collins, Culture Club and Simple Minds, as well as tracks from groundbreaking records by Giorgio Moroder, Inner City, Neneh Cherry and Soul II Soul. For the ‘90s, the same goes for Massive Attack, Enigma, Daft Punk and Air, showing how Virgin oversaw the birth of new, electronic dance genres.

The mega-success of girl group Spice Girls gets noted too, by including their 1996 debut single “Wannabe.” It hit number one in more than 30 countries and made a global phenomenon of the Spice Girls, who also paved the way for the commercial breakthrough of teen pop in the late 1990s. On the basis of absolute sales figures it is safe to say that the hits of the 21st century (including those by Emili Sandé, David Guetta and The Kooks) are somewhat overrepresented on this collection and also usually somewhat less memorable than the older classics (although of course only time will tell).

On the bonus third CD, artists of today cover six hits from mainly the ‘80s. They are Bastille with a cover of “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” (Cutting Crew, 1986); KT Tunstall with “Sledgehammer” (Peter Gabriel, 1986); Corinne Bailey Rae with “Jealous Guy” (Roxy Music, 1983 but this was itself a cover of the John Lennon classic of 1971); The Kooks with “Teardrop” (Massive Attack, 1998); Ella Eyre with “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” (Jermaine Stewart, 1986) and Josh Record with “Only You” (Yazoo, 1982). Sadly, these covers can’t hold a candle to the originals, with the exception of Ella Eyre, who does a magnificent take on “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” with her Sia-like vocals.

Virgin Records’ 40th anniversary box set spans two discs, with 19 tracks on disk one, 21 tracks on disk two, plus the above-mentioned six-track bonus disc, making for a total of 46 tracks and nearly three hours of music. Now, one would think that each of the 40 years would be represented by a particular (hit)song of that year. Instead, on the first two CD’s you’ll only find the biggest hits, which creates an imbalance in the selection. Of course, song selections for collections are always highly debatable, with personal preferences leading to vastly different track-lists. Music that speaks to some, simply doesn't to others. Anyway, there’s enough here to get a good impression of how influential Virgin Records has been in the past 40 years while always having a desire to challenge conceptions and be risk-takers - which at the same time, makes for a stunning collection of hits by an amazing range of artists.


The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Part 1
The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Part 1
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful graphic adaptation of The Graveyard Book., 6 Aug 2014
"The Graveyard Book: Volume 1" is the first volume in a two-part graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2008 children's novel "The Graveyard Book." Artist P. Craig Russell, who is a long-time collaborator with Gaiman and took care of the graphic adaptation, figures prominently on the cover, but be warned that each chapter is drawn by a different artist: Kevin Nowlan (chapter 1), P. Craig Russell (chapter 2), Tony Harris & Scott Hampton (chapter 3), Gale Showman (chapter 4), Jill Thompson (chapter 5) and Stephen B. Scott (Interlude).

In the 192 pages of the first volume, which covers Chapter One through Five plus the Interlude of the original novel, we start with the toddler who will become known as Bod (short for Nobody), whose knack for wandering off (to the despair of his parents) saves his life as the mysterious stranger Jack slaughters his family for reasons as yet unknown. Bod had wandered off to the nearby graveyard, where he's adopted by its ghostly residents and also taken under the wings of the enigmatic Silas, who's neither living nor death and makes Jack lose the trail. In the next chapters, we see how Bod grows up as a child, learns the alphabet, meets up with Scarlett and becomes friends with her (and gets her into trouble), as well as his adventure with the ghouls. We also see how his desire to help witch Elizabeth, who's buried outside the graveyard in unconsecrated ground, get a headstone, leads him again into trouble, and this volume ends right after the Macabray dance with the short Interlude, in which we meet up again with Jack.

Story-wise, it stays very faithful to the original prose novel, with words and art meshing very well together. It really shows that Gaiman is equally adept at working in prose as well as the very different comic book-format. Overall, the art gives a very cohesive interpretation, and when you move onto a new chapter and a new artist, the style never changes so much it will jar you out of the story. Of course, because each artist has his or her own signature style, this may lead to personal preferences. In my case, it's the art by Tony Harris & Scott Hampton I liked the least. I would give their chapter 3 stars, while I would award Jill Thompson's art 4 stars. But the rest get a solid 5 stars, with the incomparable P. Craig Russell getting 5+ stars. How I wish he had done the complete graphic novel himself, but alas... Anyway, a beautiful graphic adaptation of an already wonderful children's novel, that really makes the story come alive. Recommended!


G.R.L.
G.R.L.
Price: £9.41

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, addictive bubble-gum pop., 4 Aug 2014
This review is from: G.R.L. (Audio CD)
“G.R.L.” is the debut-EP by the American-British-Canadian girl group G.R.L., which consists of Simone Battle, Lauren Bennett, Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton and Paula van Oppen. The 5 tracks are best described as catchy, bright dance-pop.

This girl group first came to my attention through their ultra-fun YouTube video for “Ugly Heart,” also the first track on this mini-album. This anthemic pop track starts with a few ukulele strums, before turning into a very addictive pop-tune that’s perfect for blasting from your car-speakers during summer. All five ladies get to show off their vocal capabilities as they sing about how they took revenge on this pretty ex-boyfriend who has an ugly heart. “Show Me What You Got,” while still fun, is one of those dime-a-dozen bubble-gum pop-songs, with just a tad too much “ay-yay-yay“ in its chorus. The electro-pop of “Rewind” comes closest to PCD territory (G.R.L. are a reboot of sorts of the Pussycat Dolls, which disbanded in 2010). The girls go wild on the rock-infused dance-track “Don’t Talk About Love” with its frenzied beat, before we move on to the mini-album closer “Girls Are Always Right,” a piano-laced mid-tempo track that is somewhat reminiscent of the Spice Girls.

A welcome addition to the crowded modern girl group pop that’s infusing the airways these days. Curiously, the group didn’t include their debut single "Vacation" (which was also on the soundtrack for the animated movie “The Smurfs 2”) on this mini-album. A shame, as this is another incredible catchy song. Anyway, although it won’t break any sales-records, still a fun bubble-gum pop EP that serves as a great taster for their upcoming studio-album.


No Fools, No Fun [Explicit]
No Fools, No Fun [Explicit]
Price: £8.49

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut album by Puss N Boots., 4 Aug 2014
"No Fools, No Fun" is the debut album by alt-country band Puss N Boots, consisting of jazz-pop singer Norah Jones, jazz singer Sasha Dobson and alt-rock singer Catherine Popper. It's a mix of country, pop, folk and rock and consist in the regular edition of twelve tracks: five original and seven covers, of which three were recorded live at The Bell House in Brooklyn, NY on June 27, 2013. The album's title "No Fools, No Fun" is taken from a Johnny Cash song called "Bull Rider", which is also among the covers on this record.

The covers are, in order of appearance: "Leaving London" (Tom Paxton), "Bull Rider" (Johnny Cash), "Twilight" (The Band), "Down By The River" (Neil Young), "Tarnished Angel" (Roger Miller), "Jesus, Etc." (Wilco) and "GTO" (Jeb Loy Nichols). Norah Jones is also the front-woman of the Little Willies, another part-time country band, but Puss N Boots is much more of a collaborative affair, with each of the trio contributing original tunes and the three ladies harmonizing and trading leads on the tracks, with Sasha Dobson on bass/drums, Catherine Popper on bass/guitar and Jones abandoning the piano for the guitar.

Highlights on this album were for me the Jones' original "Don't Know What It Means" with its train-track beat and rock & roll vibe, Dobson's languidly "Sex Degrees Of Separation," the folkish Wilco cover "Jesus, Etc.," and they really rock on the live version of Neil Young's "Down By The River." The USA Amazon deluxe edition adds two bonus tracks: another Cash cover, "Cry, Cry, Cry," and a fourth song recorded live at The Bell House, a cover of the 1932 evergreen "In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town" by Ted Lewis and His Band. Being from outside the USA (and the UK), I couldn't buy the Amazon MP3 version, so had to resort to the iTunes album, which lacks these two extra tracks. There's also no Digital Booklet.

At first, I considered "No Fools, No Fun" more like a nice in-betweener while waiting for more serious stuff from Norah, after her awesome 2012 album "Little Broken Hearts." But after repeated listening's, these tracks started to gel for me. The ladies began playing together for kicks in N.Y.C. nightclubs in 2008, and now that they have released their debut album as Puss N Boots, it's even more clear that here we have a trio of talented friends who are still having lots of fun while making music. Their playing and singing is of a consistently high level, on the studio recordings as well as live, and they succeed admirably in making songs from iconic performers their own.


Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry #2 (Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry)
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry #2 (Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry)
Price: £1.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This night is gonna last forever., 2 Aug 2014
This is the second comic-issue in "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry," a 5-part mini-series published by Dynamite Comics. It's written by Jim Butcher & Mark Powers, with pencils by Carlos Gomez, and takes place some four months after "Dead Beat," the 7th novel in the Dresden Files series.

The second instalment of "War Cry" picks up where we ended the previous issue: Warden Harry Dresden and his team, which consists of Yoshimo, Carlos Ramirez and "Wild Bill" Meyers, are in the town of Montezuma, at the house of a group of Venatori Umbrorum. Their mission: to get them out before all Hell breaks loose. The catch: night has fallen, and they are surrounded by masses of vampires from the Red Court. And the Venatori, led by a woman named Catherine Taylor, don’t seem to want to be moved. So why are the vampires bombarding the place with rocks instead of staging a full-on assault, that would be easily able to overwhelm the few defenders? Even weirder, the leader of the vampires, Baron Bravosa, calls for Dresden to come out for a parley. So what's the big secret that's hidden in this place, and that the Red Court wants so badly?

Story-wise this 26-page comic suffers from being the second part of a 5-part mini-series. Yes, there’s a lot of action, but it doesn’t significantly move the story forward. It feels too much like treading water until we get to the good part of the story-arc. Hopefully next issue, as might be implied by Harry’s statement that ends the issue. The art by Carlos Gomez is great, even better than in the first issue. Very crisp and clean, and he's good at depicting action. This issue’s got some great splash-pages, and especially the two-page splash of the <big secret> is awesome to behold. Anyway, for the above-named reason, I settled on four stars. But this series is still a very entertaining read and I'll be sure to pick up the next issues to see how the story works out.


Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry #1 (Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry)
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry #1 (Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry)
Price: £1.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somebody's gonna hurt someone before the night is through., 2 Aug 2014
This is the first comic-issue in "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry," a 5-part mini-series published by Dynamite Comics. It's written by Jim Butcher & Mark Powers, with pencils by Carlos Gomez, and takes place some four months after "Dead Beat," the 7th novel in the Dresden Files series.

The first issue of "War Cry" starts in Palermo, Sicily, where battle is raging between the forces of the Red Court and the White Court. Wounded are diverted to a hospital in the Congo and it's there that, through a trick, the vampires manage to wipe out most of the White Council. Which makes the Council desperate to reinforce their decimated ranks. That's where Harry comes in. Now a Warden, he's leading a squad of green recruits on a mission: to get a group of Venatori Umbrorum out of the town of Montezuma, Iowa before the Red Court attacks. His "Blue Beetle" breaks down near Montezuma, and Harry and his team, which consists of Yoshimo, Carlos Ramirez and "Wild Bill" Meyers, have to hog the last couple of miles on foot. Arriving just as night falls, they are attacked by Baron Bravosa and his vampires. Will they be able to fight their way through to the house? And if they do, what's the big secret that's hidden there, and that the Red Court wants so badly, they're willing to expend the lives of so many vampires? It's gonna be a long night...

Story-wise this 34-page comic shows promise, but being the first issue in a mini-series it suffers from having to set-up the backstory, with little payoff until we get to the cliff-hanger at the end. The art, by Carlos Gomez, is crisp and clean, and he's good at depicting action, although his monster-designs aren't as creepy as they could have been. Besides these few issues which are the reason for the four stars, it's a very entertaining read and I'll be sure to pick up the next issues to see how the story works out.


Eric Clapton & Friends: The Breeze - An Appreciation of JJ Cale
Eric Clapton & Friends: The Breeze - An Appreciation of JJ Cale
Price: £9.99

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy tribute to J.J. Cale's legacy., 28 July 2014
Exactly one year after J.J. Cale died (he passed away in July 2013, at the age of 74), this tribute by some of the world's greatest guitarists appears, headed by Eric Clapton. Cale was one of the founders of the so-called Tulsa Sound, a swampy mix of blues, country and rock 'n' roll. The relaxed guitar sounds of J.J. Cale had a great influence on many guitarists, including Eric Clapton, so it's not strange that from his hands a tribute to J.J. Cale comes forth. It's not only that Clapton earlier recorded work from the bluesman, take for example such hits as "Cocaine" and "After Midnight," but the two also worked together regularly. Shortly before his death, Cale could be heard on Clapton's 2013 album "Old Sock" and in 2006 they won a Grammy for their album "The Road To Escondido."

On "The Breeze: An Appreciation Of JJ Cale," Clapton enlists the help of string virtuosos like Tom Petty, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler, and Don White. Willie Nelson sings along, as does Cale's wife Christine Lakeland, who provides backing vocals on "Crying Eyes." Everyone's singing and guitar style compliments the 16 compositions on this album impressively. Thus Mayer's rhythmic game works wonderfully on "Don't Wait," while his drawling vocals prove very suitable for the slightly country-fried version of "Magnolia." Knopfler infuses "Someday" with his signature guitar work and Nelson's fragile vocals enrich "Songbird" and "Starbound," although his somewhat nasal twang might not be to everyone's liking. Clapton is in great form himself on the funky "Cajun Moon." The biggest surprise comes in the form of the wonderful harmonies between Clapton and Petty on songs like "Rock And Roll Records," "The Old Man And Me" and "I Got The Same Old Blues."

That these men are kings of the six-string and give their guitars a good workout, they've made abundantly clear by the end of the record. Incidentally, the record is named after Cale's single "Call Me The Breeze" from 1972. But in his four-decade career, Cale recorded 15 albums and was an inspiration to a generation of artists like Clapton, so I only hope Clapton & Friends will do a follow-up to this album, which is a very worthy tribute to J.J. Cale's legacy indeed.

Tracks 1, 7 & 16 are from J.J. Cale's 1972 album "Naturally." Tracks 2, 6, 8, 11, 12 & 14 are from his 1974 album "Okie." Track 4 is from his 1973 album "Really." Track 5 is from his 1979 album "5." Track 10 is from his 2007 album "Rewind: The Unreleased Recordings." Track 15 is from his 1982 album "Grasshopper." Track 3 "Someday," track 9 "Songbird" and track 13 "Train To Nowhere" are previously unreleased Cale songs.
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