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N. A. Davies (Wales)

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Offered by ProgRock Wales
Price: £8.75

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the bright hopes?, 4 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wintercoast (Audio CD)
Well now then, this is a good album. Wearing your musical influneces so plainly on your sleeve can be problematic as people will often compare you to your heros, and within a few listens you can see where Touchstone are coming from and trying to get to. Obviously inspired by Marillion, (early) Genesis, Floyd, Yes (to a degree) and the younger upstarts, Mostly Autumn and the heavier Dream Theater, Touchstone have mashed it all together and given us a strong album that points to a bright future, even if their musical heritage and peers hark from earlier years.

Not afraid to weave bold, musical soundscapes, like the Prog Heaven title track, and The Witness, nestling among polished bright jewels of the radio rock of Strange Days, the funky, rocky, driving Zinmorph - all sexy bass riffs and stabbing guitar motiffs - its refreshing to see a band like this emerge in this manufactured pop star era.

The trade off between male and female vocals work well, with the lyrics delivered with a straight bat - no trills, no histrionics, just a delivery that at times comes across ethereal, other times almost childlike, which is not a critism, as it compliments the occasional grinding riff well, the dark with light, the heaven with hell. The two extremes also extend to some, but not all of the quality of writing. There are real couple of turkeys on here (in my opinion) which knock off 1 star for me. Line in the Sand, starts well with keyboard cycles underpinned by some good riffing before turning into a Eurovision style ballad with socially aware lyrics. The great keyboard routine, reminiscent of Genesis' Firth of Forth is lost amidst the schmaltz. Solace, a song sung from a young girls viewpoint, asking for 'Daddy to chase away the ogres etc etc' is to these ears toe curlingly bad, and gets the skip treatment every time. Please dont let this critism put you off the album however, the overall quality is high, but these 2 make what would have been a classic, into a very strong package- I'm sure some people will love them, they just grate with me but if your musical tastes are similar to mine (the bands I have name checked here, and from my other reviews)you will enjoy this album immensely. The almost folk rock of Joker In the Pack, with its great chorus, driving rythm, and the title track's sheer scale, and ambition will keep this CD in your player month after month. I cant wait for their next release!

Crimson Idol (15th Anniversary edition)
Crimson Idol (15th Anniversary edition)
Price: £9.75

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did I miss this first time around?, 4 Dec. 2009
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Well, I probably missed it due to not really rating this band. When I was a teenager I enjoyed the 'Animal, **** Like a beast' and 'Mean man' mainly to upset my folks and impress my friends. As I went from teenager to twenties to now late thirties I lost interest in this type of glam and shock rock, in favour of 'serious' metal.

By doing that I seem to have overlooked a real gem in Crimson Idol. Thoughtful, dynamic, well structured metal with a great story told out in a series of hard hitting metal and emotional ballads. The maturity in the song writing and performace is a joy to hear, and Lawless' voice, raw and heatfelt fits the bill perfectly. For me, Invisible Boy, The Idol, and The Great Misconception of Me, stand head and shoulders above what is a very strong collection of songs, that melded together make up a classic concept album.

There are comparisons, of course, with Tommy, and Quadrophenia, but that is not a critisim, Blackie Lawless is a massive Who fan, and he has taken the nucleous of how a concept album should fit together and then lay his heavy metal approach over the top...with devastating results.

This album joins my list of 'classics' - Dark Side, Quadrophenia, Hounds of Love, Sgt Peppers, Pet Sounds- it really is that good.

War Is The Answer
War Is The Answer
Price: £6.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yup - they delivered, 6 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: War Is The Answer (Audio CD)
I reviewed their last album with 4 stars, lots of complimentary words and a prediction the next album would be a 5 star effort.

Well, here we are, the new album is out, and yes, its five stars.

It rips through the same well ploughed field of brutal riffs, growled lyrics with sweet chorus. Throw in a few power ballads and we're almost done. Original? No. Ground breaking? No. But it's just so good to listen to. You get the feeling the band have defined their song writing abilities, and honed their musical performance to create near perfect hard metal.

In a field crammed with bands who churn out this kind of music, a band needs to stand above the others. Metallica did it for years, then lost it, then got it back again. FFDP may take their crown. Highlights for me, the title track, Dying Breed and No one get left behind. The music in places is lighter, more reflective, lyrics though, still acerbic as ever with an increasing political slant. With the death toll of American troops in Afganistan and Iraq eclipsing all the other allies together you can undestand the growing trend in music from Tori Amos at one end of the spectrum to this lot at the other end, expressing their dissatisfaction with the current situation. The loose concept of war and loss runs through this album, which when mixed with the passion and power of the music, leaves a powerful impression.

Great stuff from a band who depsite a silly name, deserve the same status as some of the 'bigger' metal acts

Less Is More
Less Is More
Price: £8.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 odd minutes of genius, 22 Oct. 2009
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This review is from: Less Is More (Audio CD)
I had to put the general time of the CD in the title as you will not notice the length when you sit and listen to this - it flies by. From the time you've er...gone, from Go it only seems a few seconds until the 'not so' hidden track comes shimmying from the speakers. The album really is a joy.

Probably best appreciated by hardened fans, the band have reworked some of the obvious and not so obvious selections of the Hogarth era albums.

Go, bristles with emotion, with the final refrain of 'wide awake at the end of the world' pulling at every heartstring. A lot of bands would have chosen 'easy' tracks to attempt acoustically but not this lot, oh no, we have Interior Lulu a prog rock epic from the .com album stripped back to bells, chimes, acoustic guitars, all very weird yet all very wonderful. Hard as Love so bombastic from Brave is now a slow ballad, with the vocal assualt in the finale now a group lullaby. Most of the songs are so reworked its hard to tell the song unless looking at the cover or waiting for Mr H to start singing. And how he sings on this CD. With the band stripped back, his voice is even more to the fore, every break, crack, draw a breath is exposed and it really is fantastic to hear.

The only things that annoys me about this album is that it wont reach a massive audience, but then again, if they were huge the magic may not be as good? Keep it quiet people, shhh, but this album is very very good.

Offered by bid2win-ltd
Price: £0.70

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Online play the deciding factor?, 6 Oct. 2009
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: FIFA 10 (Video Game)
Having been a big fan of PES for years I had never bought a fifa game so all the bickering and 'my game is better than yours' rubbish passed me by. What HADN'T passed me by though was that the enjoyment, the bring the lads round for few beers and lose the night to multi player PES was a thing of the past. The last 2 games of the PES series delivered the goods as ever offline, but online it was just annoying beyond belief. As I have grown up and friends have married, moved away etc the online aspect replaced the bring the lads round evening and I found myself playing games on line with mates I had previously sank beers, munched crisps with in my front room.

PES 08 and 09 online on the PS3 was laughable with the ball appearing and disappearing at will and the players teleporting themselves around the pitch. It was unplayable, so this year i thought I'd do something I'd never do and buy a Fifa game.

Online play, fluid, seamless, responsive and no different than offline. The game to these eyes plays pretty much the same as PES 09. You have to build play to score rather than glory runs out defence and a mad sprint up the pitch. Grpahics and commentary are great and it really feels like a game of football rather than a quick arcade game, which I gather was a critism of older FIFA gtames.

The online game is so addictive I've not even looked at the manager mode yet.

A great addition to the football genre. Next year if PES has sorted the online play out I may defect back, but right now I would recommend FIFA 10 for a great kick about.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2009 2:17 PM BST

Black Clouds & Silver Linings [Special Edition]
Black Clouds & Silver Linings [Special Edition]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £17.38

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An album to kind of remember, 22 Jun. 2009
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Six songs, 4 of them over 10 minutes, with another at nearly nine and another at 6, this isnt throwaway hook laden short stabs at commerciality. Dream Theater tread their own distinctive path through songs of epic length and proportion. It starts off great with a nightmare to remember, a solid stab at furious riffing, barked rapid fire lyrics, a softer interlude and some shouted lyrics from Mike Portnoy to finish. Impressive stuff and sure to keep the fan base happy.

The pace stays at top speed for Rite of Passage, and aside from oddly scanned lyrics it soons breaks into a furious stomp, as guitar and keyboards trade riffs at a furious pace. Great stuff and sure to go down a storm in concert.

Wither sees the band take a breath with a commericalish ballad, enhanced with some strong power chords and a great chorus. Would fit well on the commericialish Falling Into Infinity album.

The final part of Mike Portnoys examination of his alcolholsim and battle with, takes up track 4, with the band revisiting melodies and lyrics of the the other pieces from this project. Powerful stuff and a worthy end to a great series of songs that MIke Portnoy wrote about so honestly. I hope they play all the pieces together at a concert one day...

Best of times has someheartfelt emotional lyrics about the death of MP's father, with James LB handles with tact and diplomacy. Despite the wonderful violin start, and strong melody the songs fails to catch light and a feeling of anticlimax prevails.

The last song, The Count Of Tuscany is DT of old, reminisncent of Images and Words, lots of time changes, guitar and keyboard patterns intertwined with hypnotic drumming. Its a long song and for the first half it could be straight off Images and Words, until a slow section builds to a climax. A real multi parter, that flatters to decieve, they have done better epics, but it's still a strong song

Its a good solid album, there are some nice high points, but I just cant see this being played over and over in the car and MP3. SFAM, Train of Thought, IAWords this isnt. I applaud the band for not making the same album over and over, and just changing the cover, but it doesn't have that 'classic' feel. DT's strengths have always been the powerhouse drumming, the killer guitar riffs and delicate but complicated melodies. This has it in parts, but it falls short of the bands best.

The cover versions are more the same curate's egg. Star Gazer, the Queen Medley and To Tame a land originally by Iron Maiden are great, the rest, not so good.

The third CD is purely instrumental, which to these ears to indulgance for indulgance sake. Nightwish did the same on their last album, and this feels the same as that, you'l spin it once to see what it sounds like, and then go back and play the original instead...

American Soldier
American Soldier
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better, but a missed opportunity, 12 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: American Soldier (Audio CD)
Tell any self respecting concept album loving music fan that a concept piece of the human suffering of war from a soldier's point of you, laced with real recordings of the soldiers pouring out their hearts, and some of the best lyrics ever seen on vinyl or cd, and their heart rate should quicken in expectation of a classic album.

Inspired the concept it, it is the execution that pulls this from a potential classic album to a 3 star solid effort that hints at excellence but remains a frustrating piece. Reading the lyrics before listening to the music it raises your expectations dramatically. Make no mistake Geoff Tate has written some of the most revealing, honest, explicit (in an emotional way, rather than swearing), and down right moving lyrics possibly ever seen in rock and roll. This is raw stuff as, with a background of real servicemen retelling their experiences under fire, the band play out songs of post traumatic stress, survior guilt, the regret at killing, the long term effects of the horror of war, and the yearning to return to family and a normality that the reality of war may never bring. Skip to the backend of the album, from If I were King, Man Down, Remember me, and Home again, and we see a band on blistering form, to rival anything they have done before, even the reverred Mind Crime and the sublime Empire. This is great stuff, and the feelings of Queensryche in their glorious pomp flood back. This is rock music for the thinking man, and sublime it is.

The opening of the album, however see the band return to the unsure, plod of Tribe, Y2K and Mindcrime2, with hooks and the sheer emotional weight that makes the latter part of this album so great missing. I keep playing this album from track 7 onwards when the pace and quality of songs pick up, with genuine tears stinging my eyes and the hairs on my neck standing up as a once incredible band rekindle the old fire, albeit briefly. One of the finest bands ever firing on most of their cylinders. Please, please, build on this, and get back to the powerhouse band you deserve to be.

Way of the Fist
Way of the Fist
Price: £21.30

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Daft name - good album, 26 May 2009
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This review is from: Way of the Fist (Audio CD)
Unlike some reviewers here, I dont think that their name is that great, they are much more intelligent than the 'violent' name suggests. If you are a lover of old school metal (think Master of Puppets or Ride the lightening - and if you have to ask who the artist of these albums are, you wont like this album...) crossed with the newer upstarts like Slipknot youre kind of in the right area.
To be honest, this is better than Slipknot, while the masked group hide their defficiences behind masks, and a wall of noise, FFDP write well constucted songs. Sure there's a lot of shouting, and swearing, but each song holds something different - a great rif - strong chorus, etc. It's all very good stuff, and the acoutic version of The Bleeding is quite simply stunning. Next album, fellas, should be a classic

Two Suns
Two Suns
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £6.10

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Suns, but Four Stars, 9 April 2009
This review is from: Two Suns (Audio CD)
Told by a friend to check this out, I duly did, warning him I would ask him for the tenner if this was rubbish.

Thankfully his money is safe, as this is far from rubbish. It's also far from 'safe' as the album veers through pop (Daniel) through folk (sleep alone) to tribal beats (Glass) in a way reminiscent of The Cocteau Twins. The comparisons to Kate Bush are obvious, but thankfully this CD treads its own path. The confidence to be be experimental, daring, kooky, and deliberatly un commercial is a breath of fresh air in this era of plastic pop stars and reality 'music' shows

If this, and other reviews haven't convinced you to buy it, keep listening to Radio 2 - Daniel is on heavy rotation and download the real highlights of this album, Sleep Alone, Moon and Moon, and the classic in the making Siren Song.

Next album, surely a five star classic. This is close. Real music is not dead, and for that we should all be very very greatful...

The Dreaming
The Dreaming
Price: £32.85

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Gem from Kate, 16 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Dreaming (Audio CD)
I played this album to my other half for the first time. He knew Man with the Child in his eyes, Babooshka and of course Wuthering Heights, from her other albums but apart from that she's a bit of a mystery to him.

Well, I had frequent baffled looks as Kate squeals her way through Sat in your lap, a smile of amusement as she attempted the cockney accent for There Goes a Tenner, was shocked as he misheard the line - I've seen the coat for me, in Pull out the Pin, until I put him straight that Kate wasnt swearing...a look of puzzlement as Leave it Open seeped into the car as we sped along the M4 towards Bristol. He banged the steering wheel along to The Dreaming, but got the giggles as the WOOOMMERRRAA's filled the car. All the Love got him all serious and I thought that just for a moment he was going to say he liked it. He seemed interested in Houdini, until the hystics finally overtook him during the EEEEOOOOOORRRR's on Get Out of My House.

"Well, that was different" he said as I ejected the CD, "complete rubbish, but different"

I beg to differ - here we have an artist, not even 25 (at the time of release) brave enough to buck the trend of the music of the time (Kajagoogoo, Bucks Fizz etc), record an album that panders only to her own desire to push her own boundaries, to experiment, to play, to enjoy her own journey of self expression.

I don't care that it didnt sell the amounts the forementioned acts did, I dont care it upset EMI that the direction was so different from her early work, I dont care my other half cant see what a genius she is.

This along with Hounds of Love are two of the greatest albums ever made. I have loved her music since I was a kid in the 70's and its a very sobering thought that material like this would probably not be supported by a major label again, but then again who else COULD produce such an album?

The Dreaming - another example of one our finest singer songwrites on top of her, albeit, wacky, form.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2014 6:57 AM BST

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