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pikeyboy (carmarthen, uk)

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Mule Variations
Mule Variations
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Variations On A Timeless Theme, 18 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Mule Variations (Audio CD)
Any album by Tom is worth five stars for originality alone, yet though 'Mule Variations' is a very good collection of songs, for me it has a long way to go to match his finest (SWORDFISHTROMBONES/RAIN DOGS) which are impossible to separate in terms of quality. As with 'Bone Machine' and, more recently, 'Real Gone,' I come away always with the feeling that we've been over this ground once too often now, and it would be preferable to have had an album containing all the best bits of his post-'Frank's Wild Years' recordings. Imagine an album containing 'Goin' Out West' 'Black Wings' 'Take It With Me' 'Pony' 'Hold On' 'Sins Of The Father' 'Dead And Lovely' 'Get Behind The Mule' etc., and you would be at least halfway towards an album as good as the aforementioned two. It was once said of the novelist and painter Wyndham Lewis that he was "a romantic in flight from himself." You could say much the same about Tom. Tracks like 'Kentucky Avenue' (from the classic 'Blue Valentine') are the lyrical brothers of poems like 'Fern Hill' by Dylan Thomas, that evoke such beautiful and colourful images of the world seen through a child's eyes. Some find it mawkish and sentimental. Personally, I find it majorly uplifting.

Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine
Price: £5.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blue Through And Through, 15 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Blue Valentine (Audio CD)
I hope that when people refer to 'Blue Valentine' as Waits' most accessible album it is not in any way to invalidate the poetry and majesty of this great, great record. Personally, I wish latterly that he would try to be a little more accessible: I've read rave reviews of everything post 'Frank's Wild Years,' through 'Bone Machine,' 'Mule Variations,' 'Alice,' 'Blood Money' to 'Real Gone,' etc., but none of these can possibly touch the heart in the way of 'Blue Valentine' or 'The Heart Of Saturday Night,' the latter, along with 'One From The Heart' and 'Closing Time' (which started it all) for me being by far his most accessible and radio-friendly work. 'Blue Valentine,' though patently melodic through-and-through, is the album where Tom makes the leap from the beat poetry, sub-Bukowski personae of albums like 'Small Change' (though a classic of its genre) and 'Nighthawks At The Diner' etc., to a fully-fledged cinematic painter-with-words. The poetry of 'Red Shoes By The Drugstore,' 'Romeo Is Bleeding,' 'Kentucky Avenue' and the brilliant title track itself cannot be denied. They are almost too perfect. No songwriter alive pays greater attention to the minutest details of life lived in the raw, and none can romanticise the seedier side better than the master. Buy this album, because it pays back in buckets.

Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.41

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise And Breathtaking, 28 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Greatest Hits (Audio CD)
In many ways I'm almost glad that Cohen is loathed so much in some quarters. You used to be able to buy perfect copies of this on vinyl for a pound from boot-sales. You couldn't imagine a pound being better-spent. I won't go into great depth here: if you know the tracks (and you should) you'll know how resplendent and timeless they all are. But, for a bit of fun, I propose my own alternative list, had I compiled the original album. As follows: SUZANNE, STRANGER SONG, SISTERS OF MERCY, SO LONG MARIANNE, HEY THAT'S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE, BIRD ON THE WIRE, THE PARTISAN, AVALANCHE, FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT, JOAN OF ARC, WHO BY FIRE, FIELD COMMANDER COHEN.

Songs Of Love And Hate
Songs Of Love And Hate
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.30

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bruised And Naked Cohen, 28 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Songs Of Love And Hate (Audio CD)
This is definitive stuff, make no mistake. Dense, dark, full of self-loathing, at times almost impenetrable, it always draws parallels in my mind to those blurry, dank portraits that Francis Bacon conjured out of the depths of his psyche, in order - to paraphrase his words on the subject - "to capture the essence of the soul as if it had left behind slime-trails on the canvas." The album cover bares enough clues as to what was going on inside Cohen's mind at the time. He looks uncharacteristically scruffy, half-starved, manic and mystical, with his name and the title spelled out in stark, bold white letters against the harsh, black backdrop. Released in 1971, stung to the core by the death of free-love and sixties idealism, it didn't contain much inside the groove to exactly cheer anyone up, but as a document of where the artist's head was at at the time it is unparalleled. Nearly forty years on, we now know it is a leviathen of raw, primal music and imagery as ever plumbed the depths of popular song, akin perhaps to the 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' album or the darker parts of Johnny Cash's 'American Recordings'. In other words, it is fairly unremitting stuff, and not a place to which many are permitted to travel whilst still retaining majesty and grace. Yet grace is what it possesses in abundance, not least in the closing, haunting refrains of 'Joan Of Arc' and the messy love-triangle depicted in the magesterial 'Famous Blue Raincoat'. The self-loathing, however, kicks off from the very start, in perhaps Cohen's most bleak and oblique recording ever: I speak, of course, of the towering 'Avalanche,' with Cohen comparing himself to a "hunchback" with an "ugly hump at which you stare," and advocating to those "who wish to conquer learn to serve me well." I have turned these words over and over again in my mind, yet they never shed any light on what lay behind such self-castigating imagery. The closest I come is to thinking of Cohen as the ugly troll who imprisons Rapunzel in a tower in the famous fairytale, but it is still wide of the mark. This is followed up by 'Last Year's Man,' which more-or-less speaks for itself, though couched in sometimes oblique Biblical references to Jesus who was "the honeymoon/And Cain was just the man." Primarily though, the song is a beautifully-woven fabric around the subject of writer's block, which itself contains a stunning paradox. 'Dress Rehearsal Rag' is surely the song which forever fixed Cohen's image in the media press-pack as "doom-laden troubadour," but closer inspection proves this a complete falsehood. The song is chock-full of sweeping grandeur, replete with a wickedly dry and very jewish shot of humour, in that the song's protagonist is chastising himself for being too much of a coward to ever carry out such a highly dramatic act as self-murder. The humour continues in 'Diamonds In The Mine' and 'Sing Another Song, Boys,' which plays out like some deranged Victorian melodrama. This desolate beauty owes much to the closely-mic'd and bare-bones arrangements of Bob Johnson, who also produced 'Songs From A Room' and 'Live Songs' (on which he also plays organ and keyboards, as part of Cohen's backing band, The Army). In many ways the album is Cohen's definitive statement, and it is an absolute must for anyone who shares an admiration for the man.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2008 3:52 PM BST

Philip Glass: Book of Longing
Philip Glass: Book of Longing
Price: £17.43

14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Leonard's Songs Belong In The Gutter, 23 Aug. 2008
I wholeheartedly disagree with some of the reviewers who claim that Glass has provided the perfect setting for Cohen's later poetry. For one, Cohen on paper is not as great a poet as he is in song. In fact, his later poetry harks back a good deal to the poetry of the beats (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, etc) and is comparable to a great degree to the late, great Charles Bukowski, but not as good, in my opinion. The difference being that Bukowski had no choice but to immerse himself in a squalid existence, and write, as it were, inside the belly of the whale. Cohen, on the other hand, has always exuded real class, and he has a much higher-minded side to his character, so that i.e. in 'The Energy Of Slaves' when he writes of Valentina, that "I loved to creep up behind her/when she was engrossed in Star Trek/and kiss her little ass-hole" it may be honest yet it somehow lacks the ring of truth. In other words, it sounds like a cheap shot - bitter, almost. That said, I abhor the current trend which aims to add a certain grandeur, or high-cultural quality, to popular song. Leonard has always been a cut above: we don't need jaded classicists to remind us of that. However, the music of Cohen belongs in the gutter, in the mouths and hearts of the poor and intoxicated. I bought this cd in haste, and I can't stand to listen to it. I will keep it for the artwork alone. For anyone else, give it a wide berth.

The Essential Leonard Cohen
The Essential Leonard Cohen
Price: £9.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soulfood Essential, 23 Aug. 2008
This is as fine an introduction to the works of Leonard Cohen as could be imagined. The track list, selected by the man himself, covers almost every period of his recorded output (Cohen is not prolific in the way, say, Bob Dylan is, or Neil Young), but I do feel some truly great stuff has been overlooked, i.e. the hushed, but haunting version of 'Story Of Isaac' from 1973's LIVE SONGS, which is one of the most profound things that anyone has ever written, the great live recordings from FIELD COMMANDER COHEN: Tour Of 1979, which admittedly was not released until after THE ESSENTIAL LEONARD COHEN appeared. Of those songs, I feel the title track is as good and epic a song as any he's recorded, and the version from NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY would have sufficed over e.g 'Take This Longing' which already appears on his GREATEST HITS. As for the Passenger version of 'Lover Lover Lover', what can I say? It is blistering! Likewise (from that same album) versions of 'The Window', 'The Smokey Life', 'The Stranger Song', 'The Gypsy's Wife' (long since a staple of the live act) and an unforgettable reading of 'Memories' from the unfairly-maligned DEATH OF A LADIES' MAN, are all worthy of inclusion. In fact, it's true to say that all Cohen's output is essential, but I would also have included 'Ballad Of The Absent Mare' and 'Came So Far For Beauty' from RECENT SONGS, 'The Old Revolution' from SONGS FROM A ROOM (if only for discovering it had been a minor hit in the UK: hats off to Dale Winton for pointing that out to me!), the live 'Joan Of Arc', 'One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong' and 'Hallelujah' from 1993's COHEN LIVE, 'Coming Back To You' and 'The Captain' from 1984's VARIOUS POSITIONS, but the greatest omission surely has to be the Lorca-inspired 'Take This Waltz' from the brilliant I'M YOUR MAN. I could eulogise forever. Suffice to say, if your not familiar with the man's work, this is the perfect place to start. After that, buy THE SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN, his debut (perhaps, alongside Jeff Buckley's GRACE and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO, the greatest debut of all time, for my money).

Saint Dominic's Preview
Saint Dominic's Preview
Offered by thelastresortofmusic
Price: £14.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gypsy Soul Personified, 22 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Saint Dominic's Preview (Audio CD)
St.Dominic's Preview, along with Veedon Fleece, are by some way the best of Van's studio output in the seventies, though he returned to majestic form on Into The Music. Whereas others rant and rave about Tupelo Honey, say, or even Hard Nose The Highway, I can only say I do like them both, and they contain many great VM songs I wouldn't want to live without, but they're not a patch on St.Dominic's, which really seems like the studio companion to the great double-live It's Too Late To Stop Now. First off, it's perhaps the most soulful of all his output, paying tribute to that genre in tracks like Jackie Wilson Said and Listen To The Lion - a genuine highlight of a long and often glorious career, as is the title track and the epic closer, Almost Independence Day (a track in which you can actually 'hear the fireworks' and which incorporates the same riff you may know from Gene Clark's 'With Tomorrow' or Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here'). Redwood Tree is lesser-known, but still an absolute belter, and I Will Be There personifies a cooler side of Van than is typically evident. All in all, it adds up to a classic.

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.37

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Honeyman Cometh, 2 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Sefronia (Audio CD)
There will always be two schools of thought surrounding the recorded output of TB. Those who eschew out-of-hand all of his latter, sub-commercial trio of releases (i.e. Greetings From LA, Sefronia, and Look At The Fool) in favour of the more stoned escapades of Lorca, Starsailor, Blue Afternoon, etc. But there are those of us who love every aspect of the great minstrel, and why not? There will never be another like him. Personally, I think Sefronia is a great album, though flawed. Certainly, he nails Dolphins perfectly, rearranging Fred Neil's verses into what is arguably a more coherent song, and his version of Martha is better than any other I've heard, and that includes Tom Waits' own. As for the seemingly contentious I Know I'd Recognize Your Face - I love that song! It may not be classic, mouldbreaking Buckley, but what do you expect? Can't a man try something different every now and again? Nobody has mentioned that besides being about unpaid alimony, etc., the song is about a draft-dodger from the Vietnam conflict, and in that context sits well alongside others such as Nighthawkin', Make It Right, Peanut Man, Sally Go Round The Roses, Bring It On Up, Freeway Blues, and so on. The album was recorded during a period of social upheaval in the US (i.e. when the soldiers were being repatriated) and like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, the latter period of TB reflects very much this change of national mood. Buckley had done introspection better than anyone, but you can't live in a bubble forever. Whichever way you see it, this was a new direction for Buckley. You also have to remember that, as great as we view albums like Lorca and Starsailor in hindsight, they buttered no parsnips as far as Tim was concerned ("Hey! your record's great! I wouldn't buy it though!" - you know?). Personally, I find Starsailor a very part-baked affair, and not a patch on HappySad or Blue Afternoon, which themselves were put together from bits of other material. But hey! It's all Tim Buckley, and really, what more could you ask for?


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balladry At Its Best, 6 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Valentine (Audio CD)
This should perhaps have been the first single released off 'Lady's Bridge.' Don't be fooled into thinking this is merely some pleasant Roy Orbison pastiche. This is pop music made on a truly monumental scale, including a 12-piece orchestra, conducted by Hawley's bass-player, Colin Eliot, which turns out to be one of the greatest arrangements since Robert Kirkby's collaborations with the late, great Nick Drake. For further reference, think Wally Stott and Scott Walker. Sumptuous, lovely, impossible to get out of your head. I only wonder how many copies would I need to buy or download to send this just for one week to the top of the charts where it belongs? If you don't own 'Lady's Bridge' try this for size. Balladry doesn't come any bigger or better than this.

Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £8.49

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love's Labours Lost, 2 Feb. 2008
This review is from: ARTHUR LEE / VINDICATOR (Audio CD)
I don't know how anyone can say this album is even a patch on Lee's former glories. There's nothing wrong with the music, as such, though it tends to plod a little. Honestly, I know people who've wanted to kick in the stereo when I've played Forever Changes to them. Some don't even believe it is music at all. What I'm getting at is, that Changes is not the easiest album to love, but once you do (and I did straight away, but I had been weaned on the joys of Da Capo) you never stop delighting in its otherness and beauty: the dark/light shades of meaning and mood, the ambiguities that abound from 8 bars to the next, the overall apocalyptic and epoch-defining nature of the whole shebang. But it wasn't all Arthur Lee: he was just lucky enough to have put together the greatest band he could've found to follow the ramblings of his twisted logic. Next to Changes or Da Capo, or even their first, fumbling eponymous offering, this album has nothing new to offer. The muse was nearly dry already, and these pale Hendrix imitations add nothing to Lee's canon.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2015 7:31 PM GMT

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