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Reviews Written by
M. G. Wilson (Eastbourne)

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La Radiolina
La Radiolina
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.96

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recycled, 1 Sept. 2008
This review is from: La Radiolina (Audio CD)
As others have remarked, Manu Chao is an international superstar whose charms have not been apparent to the CD buying public in the US or UK. So the question hanging over La Radiolina is whether this album can change all that and break Chao in the English speaking world. Those who like me come to this album unfamiliar with his earlier work but having heard 'Politik Kills' and 'Raining in Paradise' will I think be disappointed. It's not just that these are two of only three English language tracks (Chao also sings in Spanish, French and Italian), it's more that there is little else here that is that catchy or distinctive. The remaining songs themselves are simple cartoonish sketches, not just repetitive in themselves but also sharing lyrics, rhythms and melodies with other songs on this album and from earlier work, giving the impression of an artist who has either run out of ideas or simply can't be bothered to put in the work to come up with something new. Not a desperately bad album, just rather dull.

Surprised by Hope
Surprised by Hope
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Paperback

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important ideas, clearly expressed, forcefully argued, 30 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Surprised by Hope (Paperback)
In many ways this book acts as a popular level summary of Wright's recent thinking, and that is both its strength and ultimately also its weakness. The book's big idea is that Jesus' bodily resurrection is not a one off event but rather the forerunner of the general resurrection, and that this is the key which makes sense of a great deal of new testament thinking, in the gospels and the letters and in Revelation. He contends that the loss of belief in the bodily resurrection being replaced by an idea of a non-corporeal heaven has resulted not only in a loss of appropriate hope for christians but also has wider consequences for theology and for how christians live their lives. These are important ideas, clearly expressed and forcefully argued. The book's weaknesses stem from Wright's rather dismissive tone for anyone who does not agree, from their origin as lectures rather than being written as a book and from the constant refrain 'this is a topic that there is not space to explore here'. At 300 pages this is not a short book, but rather perhaps one that attempts to cover too much ground in the space available.

Soul Survivor
Soul Survivor
by Philip Yancey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As much autobiography as biography, 30 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Soul Survivor (Paperback)
Yancey describes thirteen figures who have inspired him in dark times, particularly dark times experienced as a result of his experience of church / other christians, indeed the subtitle of the original edition was 'How my faith survived the church'. The book is unusually autobiographical for Yancey, though not in the sense of giving a chronological account of his life, but rather in the degree to which he opens up and reveals himself as the subject of his writing rather than simply being a dispassionate narrator. Each chapter outlines one figure, and is at least as much autobiographical as biographical: the focus is on the way each person helped Yancey rather than objective description. As a writer, many of Yancey's inspirational figures are also writers, so will perhaps appeal more to readers and writers than to more active people. As always with Yancey the book is well written, intelligent and interesting.

Scenes from the Southside
Scenes from the Southside
Offered by Side Two
Price: £13.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short stories set to catchy piano led rock, 27 Aug. 2008
If you know Hornsby's worldwide smash 'The Way It Is' then you'll know what to expect, and while there is nothing here to quite match what remains Hornsby's best known song, this is a solid effort nonetheless. This, his second album, released in 1988, is once again characterised by Hornsby's distinctive intricate syncopated piano playing, and while less tainted by 80s production values than his debut, follows the same pattern of catchy piano led rock, but with a more expansive sound this time out.

Each song, many co-written with brother John, is a short story. Two themes predominate - a wistful mood, looking back with regret at chances not taken and opportunities missed; and railing at the duplicitousness of the rich and powerful, who will sell you out, destroy you and your world, anything in fact to maintain the status quo where they are the rich and powerful. 'Look Out Any Window' the album's big hit falls into that latter category, pointing to looming environmental disaster, while 'The Valley Road', a minor US hit, sets a sorry tale of unplanned pregnancy across the racial and social divide to a jaunty tune, and typifies the first category.

Price: £19.53

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitive live versions plus studio experimentation, 26 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Ummagumma (Audio CD)
Recorded during the long period of readjustment following the departure of Syd Barrett, while the band searched for a new identity and direction, the album could have been just a contract fulfilling stop-gap just to put some product on the shelves. Instead we get a live album that presents an excellent showcase of what Pink Floyd were originally about, and gives a real sense of the psychedelic sixties together with a studio album, equally divided between the band members, four solo EPs in effect, exploring the way forward, searching for new ideas.

The live performances are critically acclaimed and widely held to be better than the studio originals. In the case of 'Careful With That Axe Eugene' the original had at the time only been available as a B side (since released on the Relics compilation) but this is the definitive version.

The studio album has not fared so well critically. Largely experimental, most of the pieces are in effect pieces in development. Sketches that if successful might later be incorporated into something more fully realised (as did in fact happen). 'Sysyphus' is a portentous, quasi-classical suite for keyboards and sound effects, 'The Narrow Way' a suite for guitars and weird electronic noises, and 'The Grand Vizier's Garden Party' a short suite for percussion and flute. Roger waters presents the albums only real 'songs'. The lilting acoustic pastoral folk of 'Grantchester Meadows' which brilliantly evokes the sounds of an English summer afternoon, and the weird sounds and nonsense Scottish ranting of 'Several Small Animals...' whose novelty value quickly wears thin. Despite this the album remains an essential listen for those wanting to look closer at early Pink Floyd's development, and remains surprisingly listenable - soothing yet interesting background music at worst.

Countdown To Ecstasy
Countdown To Ecstasy
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.69

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly essential, 1 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)
This, the second Steely Dan album, is utterly essential - about as good as rock music gets. More than 35 years old, and still box fresh. Melodic but with a complexity and edge that see off any accusation that this is middle of the road soft rock. For this recording Becker and Fagen took complete control, through the writing and with Fagen taking over as the group's lead vocalist. Finally all the elements of the classic Dan sound are in place. The songs are carefully crafted with sophisticated jazz influenced arrangements, but at this stage in their career, Steely Dan are still first and foremost a rock'n'roll band. Fagen and Becker's obsessive perfectionism had not yet ironed out the soul, and right from the get go, on Boddhisatva, with its twin lead guitar breaks, the band rocks out. Although critically lauded, the album was only modestly successful on release, peaking at no. 35 in the US, with Rolling Stone citing Steely Dan as the US answer to Slade! Go figure.

If you don't know this album, there's a treat in store, and currently priced at £2.98, what have you got to lose?

Price: £11.55

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Literate and pretty, 28 July 2008
This review is from: Brightness (Audio CD)
On this sparely recorded folk album Vermont native Mitchell sings in a voice reminiscent of Mary Margaret O'Hara or Victoria Williams, but her songs, while literate and pretty, lack the power and presence to compel the listener to pay attention.

To my ears there also seems to be a technical problem with the recording of her voice, which has a harsh edge on most of the album, except for 'of a friday night' recorded by a different engineer in a different studio, where a much warmer sound is achieved.

That said, there's enough here to suggest that Mitchell may yet grow as a songwriter and performer.

Price: £10.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laid-back, loose and mellow, 28 July 2008
This review is from: Po'girl (Audio CD)
When Canadian acoustic band Po' Girl released their debut (early 2004 in Europe) they comprised Allison Russell (the one constant in the band's evolving line-up) and Trish Klein (also of the Be Good Tanyas). Although there are hints of country influences, the album's sound is predominantly acoustic jazz and blues, laid-back, loose and mellow. So although there are acoustic guitars and harmonicas, clarinet, double bass and organ also play leading roles. The songwriting, playing and singing are all of an extremely high quality, and all that stopped me from awarding five stars is the lack of really memorable standout tracks.

Small Island
Small Island
by Andrea Levy
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story teller, 24 July 2008
This review is from: Small Island (Paperback)
Levy takes us back to the Caribbean and Europe of the 30s and 40s in a wholly believable way, through the calmer pre-war years, the horrors and privations of the war, the deflation and dashed hopes that descended after the war, as returning soldiers began to wonder what it had all been for.

It's a book that deals with Britain's casually racist past born of the imagined superiority of colonialism, and ponders whether it was really so much better than the Americans' established and open apartheid. But most of all, this is a book about people. It's about making the best of things and getting through. It's a book about dignity, loyalty and hope.

Interweaving first person narratives, switching back and forth across time, place and perspective with great skill, Levy creates wholly believable characters, and despite their obvious flaws lets us see the world through their eyes. Levy's greatest skill is as a story teller, everything about her writing serving the story, rather than for literary effect or to draw attention to itself.

Price: £12.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ripe (n) emitting a foul odour, 22 July 2008
This review is from: Ripe (Audio CD)
Ripe is chirpy and poppy, and at best undemanding and unoriginal, at worst just plain irritating with its 'clever' lyrics, making Lee seem a smart alec (see for example the dreadful 'Sex without love').

Big in Australia, world domination is unlikely to be beckoning any time soon.

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