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Reviews Written by
Mr. Dominic L. Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom)

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Price: £5.99

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, sensitive rendering of some beautiful tunes., 31 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Undercurrent (Audio CD)
This is the first of two superb albums recorded by legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, and one of my favorite jazz guitarists Jim Hall, and it was recorded over two sessions in April and May 1962. Arrangements simply for piano and guitar are rare in Jazz, and it is even more seldom that the results are truly inspiring and as musically worthwhile as in this case. It is usual for intuitive musical relationships to develop over a number of years, but here we find two musicians who clearly shared an immediate understanding.
Both men are on absolute top form here - Bill Evans was on fire throughout the early and mid sixties, and after the tragic death of his previous musical partner, virtuoso bass player Scott Le Faro (at the age of 23), he was searching for new directions. Jim Hall is a guitarist of tremendous skill and powerful technique, with a highly developed rhythmic and harmonic sense that shines through on this album. What is so special about the performances here is an almost telepathic anticipation of where the music is heading - both musicians
contribute equally, and there is a constant exchange of ideas, each reacting to the other with apparent ease, whatever the mood.
This is a brilliant jazz album, of great depth and tremendous atmosphere, and both players express some exceptional ideas. Highly recommended, and if this is your first experience of either of these incredible musicians, be warned! - It won't be your last. Do yourself a big favour and buy it today.

Cool & Unusual
Cool & Unusual
Price: £13.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Martin Simpson does it again!, 31 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Cool & Unusual (Audio CD)
Martin Simpson is undoubtedly one of the finest guitarists alive today, a virtuoso fingerstyle genius, who is technically stunning without ever compromising the music. He is a tremendously knowledgable and influential within his chosen style, and beyond, and yet many people know nothing about this great guitarist, because he plays traditional music.
For folk and world music enthusiasts, Mr Simpson has long been an important artist, but "Cool and Unusual" has a tremendous amount to offer to any fan of guitar, or to lovers of honest, passionate music of any kind. Featured here are a mixture of original compositions and traditional material, and this is
a varied and beautiful collection. "Shepherd's Delight" is a wonderful 3-part jig, and one of the most fluent and precise pieces of guitar playing I have ever heard.
For a taste of melodic and accessible traditional music with a wonderfully understated sound, this is a perfect choice, and very highly recommended.

The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds
Offered by brownfennell
Price: £14.99

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, well-performed and inventive - if a little dated., 18 Sept. 2005
This review is from: The War of the Worlds (Audio CD)
I remember hearing this album when I was about 10 years old (late 1980's), and I absolutely loved it! My older brother bought it, and played it non-stop for about 6 months, and that was it - I didn't hear it again until the release of the new film version jogged my memory.
There is still a lot to enjoy on this inventive and atmospheric double album. I suppose that this is really a rock opera, and a very good one - it is very well written and performed, and the key theme is highly memorable, and evokes the story brilliantly. It is certainly musically superior to either "Hair" or "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". It is almost certain that a musical score to his momentous story would have displeased H.G. Wells a great deal, but it re-introduced this superb tale to the world in the 1970's, after a disasterous B-movie in the 1950's, and so did his legacy a great service.
The voices are almost universally great, with Richard Burton as the journalist the absolute star of the show, in fine voice as always. Julie Covington is great too as Beth, and Phil Lynott is good as Parson Nathaniel. Davis Essex is the major letdown - his rendition of the artillery man, whilst competent, begins to grate after a time, simply due to the accent he adopts. The singing is of a very high standard throughout, with Chris Thompson especially good on "Thunderchild" and Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues) putting in some great performances. David Essex generally sings better than he speaks, and Gary Osborne's lyrics are well-written and evocative.
The music is the real strength here though - the score is inventive, and there is some great musical talent onboard. Jo Partridge puts in some excellent guitar work, and with session players Herbie Flowers on bass, and Barry Morgan on drums the standard of playing is superb. At times the music is tremendously atmospheric and evocative, and some of the original sound effects are outstanding. "Horsell Common and the Heat Ray" is stirring stuff, and anyone who has not heard and enjoyed the opening theme "The Eve of the War", has been living underground for 30 years. There is also great beauty in "Forever Autumn", with sweet-picked guitar, soaring strings, and a great performance from Justin Hayward. At times, the arrangements and instrumental effects sound very dated to contemporary ears, but overall it is still powerful stuff.
Definitely worth a listen, this album will appeal to those who remember it from younger years, and with the release of the new film version of H.G. Wells' story, hopefully it will find some new fans. As a matter of interest - this release plays with no problems at all on my PC, contrary to previous comments. Excellent stuff and highly recommended!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2009 9:10 AM BST

Deep Blue [DVD]
Deep Blue [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alastair Fothergill
Price: £9.50

55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A visually stunning and dramatic film., 17 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Deep Blue [DVD] (DVD)
This is a wonderfully enjoyable way to spend 80 minutes. A film with very limited narration, focusing instead on the drama and violence of life in the world's largest, most turbulent and least understood habitat. I am an enthusiastic viewer of natural history films, amd this is a very different and very rewarding change from the usual. There is one major problem with this piece, and that is the sound - it is inconsistent in volume, and occasionally distracting, but the score itself is well-written and beautifully performed, and I absolutely do not agree that it detracts from the film in any fundamental way. Other than the sound issue, this is a superb release.
The camerawork is exemplary - the visuals are vivid and beautiful, and with subject matter this captivating, this DVD contains some of the most stunning images ever captured of the ocean and it's animal and plant life. The editing of the film is superb too - the impression is that you are a silent, passive observer in a strange and dangerous world - the action unfolds without any hint of human interaction, and this creates a real sense of immersion. Some of the footage here is simply breath-taking, and I mean that literally - including a pack of sharks in a feeding frenzy on the ocean floor, and a seal being flung a hundred feet into the air by a killer whale - this is powerful, dramatic stuff.
There is almost no narration at all, and this makes a great change - there is a tremendous range of documentary material available, some of it brilliantly informative and educational, but this film speaks for itself, and more narration would simply lessen the experience. Previous reviewers stated that some of the footage from "The Blue Planet" has simply been recycled here without narration - that is true, and it is stunning footage, all the better without mandatory education over the top of it! "The Blue Planet" is a superb documentary - much more informative, and more complete in scope, but the aim of this DVD is clearly very different, and I believe that it is successful and worthwhile.
This is a powerful, moving journey through the oceans of the world - visually stunning, dramatic - it will leave a great impression on you. At this price, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the natural world.

Price: £13.38

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprising, innovative, dark, emotional album - brilliant., 14 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Superunknown (Audio CD)
Soundgarden are often referred to as merely a clever metal band - plenty of style, but no real substance. They are accused of using musical tricks to hide the lack of real invention or emotional depth in their music. Anyone who says so is unlikely to have heard this album. On previous releases, the arrangements have been more aggressive, perhaps at the expense of some of the subtlety displayed here, and certainly there is a lyrical depth that seems newly discovered. Released in the heyday of Grunge, this album shows that Soundgarden are not so easily categorised.
The range of material on this album is amazing, and the band are on a technical and musical high throughout, although the mood is often much darker. "Mailman" is a bleak, threatening and vivid piece, a promise of violence that builds in intensity, and is genuinely disturbing. The title track is a superb riff-based powerhouse, with a memorable lead line, and the band simply rock. "Fresh Tendrils" features intense vocals from Chris Cornell, and some brilliant rhythmic precision from drums and bass. "Just Like Suicide" is perhaps the closest thing to classic grunge here, with some perfectly crafted guitar from Kim Thayil, and a lazy but relentless beat. Cornell's vocals here are dark and expressive.
There are several relatively weak numbers on the album, but on a release of sixteen tracks this is inevitable. To be fair, none of them are truly awful, just below par in the context of the extremely high standard displayed. There is great emotional conviction here, some mature lyrics and complex arrangements, and a band on top form. Overall, this is a superbly crafted album, almost certainly the most musically significant Soundgarden have produced to date, and it is a must for fans of alternative rock.

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished and exciting session from a jazz genius., 14 Sept. 2005
"Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus" was released in 1963 as a kind of artist's own greatest hits. It features some of Mingus' most well-known and acclaimed compositions, reconsidered and reprised by Mingus and one of the finest ensembles he ever led.
The opener "II B.S." is actually "Haitian Love Song", an earlier piece, although this is perhaps the definitive version. It is a superb, rhythmically focused track, which swings relentlessly, featuring an immensely catchy melody line, and some classic ensemble harmonies. Mingus himself is in powerful form. Mingus' take on the Ellington classic "Mood Indigo" comes close to perfection, with regular pianist Jaki Byard and Mingus himself working as a wonderfully cohesive unit - the melody is phrased exquisitely on bass, and Walter Perkins contributes some excellent brush-work. "Better Get Hit In Yo' Soul" is taken considerably up-tempo from the better known recording on "Mingus Ah Um", and the group handles it flawlessly, although the alternative ending is not to my personal taste. "Theme for Lester Young" is better known as "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat", and this is as fine a performance of the slow, graceful elegy as Mingus ever produced. "Freedom" is an overtly political piece, and may seem out of place to some listeners.
This album does not quite fall into the Mingus top bracket, mainly because of the lack of new material, but is a brilliant session, featuring some interesting takes on his own favourites of the time. The band assembled here is a tremendously tallented and experienced one, and familiar with the material, they produce a stunning performance - seldom matched in any session. "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady", "Mingus Ah Um", "Pithecanthropus Erectus" and "Tijuana Moods" are perhaps all more significant albums, but this is a great release, and a good place to start listening to this jazz giant.

Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely enjoyable and innovative folk music., 14 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Rising (Audio CD)
I first heard Tarras during an excellent live performance about a year before the release of Rising, and I was immediately struck by their brilliant technical and musical ability. They obviously really enjoy what they do, and the flow of ideas between them is a thrill to watch. They are all fine musicians, and they have a surprising deep understanding of traditional music, given their tender age.
Rising features a varied selection of traditional and original compositions, all played in Tarras' distinctive style. The band's own material is of a high standard, well arranged and melodic - "So Tired" is a brilliantly constructed piece, that rolls relentlessly, driven by superb bass from Joss Clapp, who also provides vocals on this track. Violinist Emma Hancock is a tremendous player, and her classical training is evident throughout, particularly on the traditional "Parson's Green" and another of their own, "The Happy Salmon", which also features the versatile Joss Clapp on mandolin. Jon Redfern is a guitarist with strong technique, and a ton of feel, who plays especially well on "Magpie's Revenge" and the wonderful closing track "The Long Road Home", which is one of the finest examples of "leave them wanting more" I have ever heard. Rob Armstrong, on Cittern is also great, and Ben Murray plays a mean accordian, as well as being a vocal mainstay of the group, singing with great sensitivity on the title track.
This is a fantastic debut effort, a sure sign of great things to come - the band bring a contemporary twist to the music, without compromising it's basic nature, and their musical maturity is amazing. For fans of traditional music, this will be a real and worthwhile change. For those unsure about folk music, buy this to hear it at it's best.

Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003]
Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Jim Carrey
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.25

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This one was made for Carrey - Excellent!, 12 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I think its fair to say that Jim Carrey has made some very interesting films in the last few years. "The Cable Guy" was far from the average hollywood comedy, and "The Truman Show" gave him a complex character to play, which he handled very well. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" really showed that there is more to him than the energetic clown, and he gave a believable and deeply felt performance. In my opinion though, his genius is still best illustrated by a comedy such as "Bruce Almighty".
Carrey is on top form throughout this excellent film, and it is a real laugh out loud experience. Carrey portrays a local television news reporter, Bruce Nolan, whose life seems to be going off the rails - passed over for promotion, car written off, a girlfriend who doesn't understand him - and eventually he can take no more. He tells God (a brilliantly cast Morgan Freeman) that he has had enough of the way He is running things, and that God should stay out of his life until He learns to do a better job. God is understandably unhappy, and decides to teach Bruce a lesson by putting him in charge.
Cue some superb hi-octane foolery from Carrey, who initially revels in his newfound powers, taking the time to exercise some not so divine judgement on those who have wronged him. One scene in particular sees him literally putting words into the mouth of rival newsreader Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) - it is absolutely superb - it made me cry with laughter. He begins to realise that being God has it's drawbacks - he has millions of prayers to answer, and when he answers Yes to all of them to save time, things go downhill very quickly.
This is a film with a predictable ending, but it is packed with entertaining action on the way. It features some great performances - Jennifer Aniston is very good as Bruce's long suffering girlfriend, Morgan Freeman delivers authority and understanding in spades as a very interesting God, and Carrey himself excels at his trademark brand of unpredictable comedy, with some more serious moments thrown in.
Not an amazing cinematic achievement, but a great comedy, with some good acting all round, and well worth a watch!

Max Payne (PC CD)
Max Payne (PC CD)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish, innovative masterpiece of the genre - Essential., 11 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Max Payne (PC CD) (Video Game)
Max Payne was a revolutionary game when it was released. It looked superb, thanks to new graphical techniques that allowed the most realistic textures and lighting ever seen in a shooter. It employed the now legendary "Bullet-Time" feature, which allowed the player to enter an adrenaline-fuelled state of intense focus, where time itself seemed to slow down, enabling the player to take on large numbers of well-armed adversaries using some superbly cool moves - you could literally see the bullets flying. Finally, it introduced the idea of auto adjusting gameplay - there were 3 skill levels, and within these levels, the game reacted to how well (or how badly) you were doing, by adjusting the difficulty constantly, to avoid a feeling that things were too easy or too hard - a brilliant idea. The game was important at the time of it's release, and it is so good that it remains impressive to this day.
The game has a dark style all it's own, and is almost cinematic at times, with set-pieces perfectly choreographed. The story unfolds at an intense pace, and the tension builds superbly, as you move through one detailed, atmospheric level after another. The story is told through a skillfully written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel, which you view in fragments at key points in each level, or location - it fills in gaps in knowledge, and adds an extra dimension to the key characters.
Max Payne is dark and gritty, and clever use of graphics and dream (nightmare) sequences really communicate the torment that Max is going through, and his desperate search for answers. Max Payne is an anti-hero, a man with nothing to lose, thrown into a nightmare journey after the death of his wife and child at the hands of drug addicts, high on a new designer drug 'V'. Framed for murder, he begins a mission to uncover the source of the drug, and to punish anyone who may be involved, and it quickly becomes a battle with corrupt cops, the criminal underworld and the head of an abandoned government research project. His fight quickly becomes your fight - you really care about Max and the events of the game, and there is a real sense of involvement. The physics are excellent, you have a great range of realistic weapons, and the environments are highly interactive. The brilliant soundtrack also helps to draw you in.
This game is still visually stunning today, and it offers intense, satisfying gameplay. It creates a convincing world, full of rounded characters. It is a little short, but packs more in than many much longer games, and it sometimes feels more like a movie than a game. Even after 4 years it can hold it's own amongst the very best action games ever released for the PC - buy it today, and then buy "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne", which is even better than this superb game (if that is possible).

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC)
Offered by 4GamersUK
Price: £3.70

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anarchic, Violent, Amoral and Absolutely Great Fun!, 11 Sept. 2005
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a brilliant follow up to the legendary Grand Theft Auto 3, which stole several weeks of my life when it was released.
Vice City is fundamentally very similar to GTA3, and certainly all the best elements remain. For a start, you are as free to roam as ever - simply carjack a nice ride, find a gun, and go on a rampage. Or have a drive around the city, and see some of the sights, visit a strip club, jump in a boat, helicopter or motorcycle and just look for all the opportunities for bad behaviour that the game has to offer. The graphics are similar if somewhat refined, and the game has the same look as GTA3, although there is more variety and detail in the buildings, vehicles and scenery. As before, the city is full of vunerable pedestrians, simply crying out to be robbed or run over, and they come in a greater number of shapes, sizes, and dress than ever before, and have more to say for themselves.
As far as missions go, Vice City boasts a far greater number of them, and they take in a great variety of locations, use a large number of the approximately 100 vehicles in the game, and are at times much more involved than in GTA3. There are many more people to work for, too, although the basic progression through the game remains, with areas of the map, and new employers becoming available as you make a name for yourself and complete certain missions. Overall, there are just more things to discover in Vice City, and this is where it really wins out over it's predecessor - there are more weapons, vehicles, buildings to explore, interesting characters, story missions, side missions, and things to do between missions, and they are all spread over a larger and more varied city. The most effective new feature of the game is the property aspect - there are now about 15 properties to buy around the city - some act as safehouses or places to store vehicles, and some are businesses that will generate regular income after you have completed key missions. They add to the sense that you are coming up in the world as the game unfolds.
The atmosphere of the game is better too - the soundtrack is superb, featuring many of the biggest hits of the eighties, and loads of other classics, played on 10 radio stations that can be listened to in almost every vehicle. The dialogue is much more varied, and better voiced, and the sound effects are convincing, with gunfire and collisions improved from GTA3. Different areas of Vice City have much more distinct character, and this creates the impression of a real bustling city. It is possible to become immersed in the game world much more easily than in GTA3.
In terms of innovation, Vice City has little to offer over Grand Theft Auto 3, but somehow it manages to create a more convincing experience - more to do, more to see, and crucially more fun than ever. For fans of the GTA series, prepare for the best yet. For those new to these classic games, this is a perfect place to start.

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