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The Eggman "The Eggman" (Sitting in an English garden)

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Live Dead
Live Dead
Price: £5.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best, despite dozens of others, 3 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Live Dead (Audio CD)
There's a lot of Grateful Dead 'live' material out there. As is always the way of these things, it's difficult to resist the temptation to compare and contrast every available item of product in the hope that definitive decisions can be made on the band's finest gigs and individual tracks.

In the case of the Dead, apart from the earliest concert releases 'Live/Dead', 'Grateful Dead/Skull & Roses' and 'Europe 72', that'd be the 73 CDs which comprise the entire European tour recordings package, the multi-disc 'Vaults' albums, the 10-CD Fillmore '69 set and the 36 albums (many multi-CD) in the 'Dick's Picks' series, then. So good luck with that.

Newcomers to the phenomenon that is Grateful Dead fandom might find the notion of 'definitive' Dead something of a zero-sum game. While I'm willing to believe there are Deadheads out there so immersed in, and intimate with, their heroes' entire canon – to the extent that they really can shake out a single reading of 'Dark Star' or 'The Other One' from the many versions extant and advance a persuasive argument for that choice – it's worth remembering that these are complex musical tapestries, each rendering nuanced and textured, performed by brilliantly inspired and very stoned musicians reacting to a room's shifting atmosphere and the 'vibes' (as they'd have said on the Haight in 1967 and Phil Lesh still did in his 2005 memoir) of an equally spaced audience.

A reading of 'Dark Star', for example, could begin hesitantly, the band feeling its way into the inter-galactic journey ahead, escape velocity yet unreached. Half-an-hour later, as they segue to 'St Stephen' or 'The Other One' or 'El Paso' or whatever they feel like doing at the time, they can have you believing that the aggregate of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar), Phil Lesh (bass), Pigpen (organ/harp) and percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann is, without question, the best band in the world.

Yes, the songs are often that long. At 11mins, the 'Dark Star' on 'Two From The Vault' is one of the shorter versions. For my part, while I've been a fan of the Dead since 1968, I can admit to barely scraping the surface of the band's entire output. Yet for anyone it would take diligence and patience indeed to sit through the entire oevre as an exercise in dry academic analysis – something the Grateful Dead were never about anyway – and a keen ear to comprehensively evaluate and alight on a single reading as the measure by which all others are judged.

(I'd guess that some, but I'm sure not all, such Dead disciples are a bit like those folk who swear blind they were at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival; a show which, had it attracted as many as we might be led to believe, would surely have caused its Solent island home to have slipped its moorings and sunk somewhere off Finisterre).

The Dead's Haight-Ashbury friends and neighbours Jefferson Airplane have also been subject of a plethora of live releases – though nowhere near to the extent of GD – since this magnificent band shook off its tail feathers and turned into a rudderless AOR Starship. Yet for all the live Airplane records out there, none comes close to the original and best: 'Bless Its Pointed Little Head'. Despite the undoubted excellence of some of the later material, to these ears JA's first live album from 1969 remains unequalled. The Who, too, have had the live treatment more than once. Yet who would dare claim that 'Who's Last' or 'Live at The Albert Hall' could hold an outstretched Zippo to 'Live at Leeds'?

So is it the same with the Grateful Dead? Irrespective of endless Dick's Picks and innumerous Euros 72, had they already nailed it with 'Live/Dead' in 1970? I'm willing to be swayed by a diehard Deadhead with a terminal Dark Star habit and an elegant argument for a performance buried deep in the European tour box, but listening again to the major part of the L/D set – 'Dark Star>St Stephen>The Eleven>Lovelight' – it's difficult to imagine the band bettering it. For a 23min track, this 'Dark Star' has always felt much shorter, proving time really does fly when the band itself is flying so enjoyably. And 'The Eleven' is simply astounding, played by young musicians yet to hone their chops but who still seem telepathically connected, absolutely on fire and ready to storm heaven.

'The Eleven', arguably the album's high point, segues into a 15min 'Turn On Your Lovelight' and an opportunity for Pigpen to go through his bluesman's routine, complete with call-&-response crowd exhortations and some stunning drum interplay between Hart and Kreutzmann. After that the album drifts into a slower blues, 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' followed by an overlong example of what could befall the Dead if Lesh were unleashed to remind everyone of his avant-garde credentials (although if you'd dropped a tab of Owsley's finest at the beginning of 'Dark Star', by the time you reached the final feedback squalls of, er, 'Feedback' you'd probably find yourself in on the secret of life itself).

In conclusion, although perhaps nothing would give me greater pleasure than to while away my remaining days doing nothing but listening to Grateful Dead live albums in search of the band's motherlode, it ain't gonna happen. But I'm happy to keep carrying the flame for what something still tells me is still the original and best.

The Godfather: Part III [Blu-ray] [1990]
The Godfather: Part III [Blu-ray] [1990]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Price: £8.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Godfather III: the brown eminence that fails from the start, 15 Nov. 2014
Anonymous's excellent remarks have nailed it. As he/she or another perceptive reviewer observed, with GIII Coppola shamelessly plundered and squandered a towering legacy that should have been left magisterially alone and sacrosanct after GI and GII.

The moments of jarring implausibility are too numerous to mention, although I'll gladly pick out Don Altobello and Connie's cannoli at the opera (the old man clearly suspected foul play but happily scoffed it all anyway, apparently unwilling to consider the possibility that the tiny end morsel he obliged Connie to eat before he touched it might have been left deliberately free of the poison that did for him); and the fact that Vincent's character changed, seemingly overnight, from that of his father's leather-jacketed, hotheaded street-hood son to a statesmanlike don-in-waiting ready to command similar levels of respect as his Uncle Michael. It just didn't add up.

And what was Bridget Fonda doing there? Her part, as slight as the manner in which she played it, felt like it had been forced into the narrative with a crowbar, the viewer waiting in vain for her reporter character to reappear with some crucial plot-points later in the film. Was this evidence of the power of Tinseltown royalty, a younger member of a heavyweight Hollywood dynasty handed a dolly of a cameo which would put her up-and-coming (at the time) name in lights? And don't get me started on the relentless brown, from Diane Keaton's appalling wardrobe - a strange, kitsch cavalcade of shiny fabrics that looked like nothing more than a shopful of chocolate cakes left out in the sun, and not in a good way - to the overall sickly sepia look of the thing that made me feel queasy from the off. In a word, dreadful.

Jefferson Airplane -Happi Landing [DVD] [2014]
Jefferson Airplane -Happi Landing [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Jefferson Airplane
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £12.39

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One star for some of the odd footage, but otherwise..., 17 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is ghastly: one of the world's finest bands misrepresented horribly by someone with a load of disparate, poor-quality footage and an editing application.

Most of this has been seen many times before, and in settings far more cohesive and sympathetic. Although seasoned fans will recognise clips from Monterey, the Family Dog, Smothers Bros, Altamont, etc, at no time have the compilers bothered to attribute dates, venues or shows to this mess of cobbled-together interviews and indifferent, often mimed band performances.

There are a couple of items I've not seen, such as a truly awful montage used to add visuals to the original recording of 'Greasy Heart'; I don't know its provenance, but the clip's all over the place and clearly has little to do with the song accompanying it.

For the occasional reason of rarity, and no other, I've awarded a single star. But what new footage there is really isn’t worth bothering about. Everybody, even Airplane completists (of whom I fear I'm one) should beware. And, preferably, avoid.

EPSON SX130 Multifunctional Printer
EPSON SX130 Multifunctional Printer

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not even with a bargepole, 19 Mar. 2013
Strike that title: this is a dysfunctional printer. It is without question the worst printer I have ever owned. It is absurdly noisy and slow. Its output, particularly black, is rubbish, even with brand-new cartridges. Unless I'm missing something I cannot see a way to change a cartridge until the system detects that the relevant unit is spent. So if the cartridge is simply knackered as opposed to empty, it seems you have to live with it until the machine lets you replace it. The cartridges themselves come as four separate units - black plus the three process colours - and they are not cheap (especially if you obey the system's dubious rejoinders only to use Epson-branded products). And it drinks ink like a Caspian Sea matelot. Enough. Half a chance and I'd throw the accursed thing through Epson's Head Office window. But as someone else said, you get what you pay for. Don't go there.

Homeland - Season 1 [DVD]
Homeland - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Damian Lewis
Price: £3.99

23 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A VP-to-be showering in a carwash? Hogwash. Credibility takes an early bath., 30 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Homeland - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
It's often said that the principal duty of a newly-elected President of the United States is to prepare for re-election four years hence. In this, 'Homeland' reflects perfectly the main area of its subject matter, the US political system and the DC elite. For it seems there is no depth of viewer-manipulation to which this sorry soap-opera won't sink just so long as another season is granted by the networks.

The adulation with which 'Homeland' has been greeted, in many cases by critics with whom I usually agree, is mystifying. To say nasty things about this programme is currently like breaking wind in church, or daring to dismiss such established giants of critical acclaim as Nick Drake, Nick Cave or Edith Piaf; it's just not done in polite society. But as it limps its way through its second season on C4, I am beginning to see the pattern that was established by that other woefully-overrated Stateside TV show, 'Lost'. I can hear the programme execs now: it doesn't matter how out-of-orbit the main story is tipped, or how unlikely are the ever-shifting relationships and loyalties, or how frankly preposterous are so many of the plot points, just make sure you keep them all out there in tellyland wanting more than enough of this tosh to deliver that second/third/fourth series and we're home and dry.

Although I hated 'Lost' (calling the central character 'Jack' is fast becoming reason enough to loathe anything, although the full charge-sheet is too long to recite here) it could at least take a few chances with verisimilitude by dint of being nominally a science fiction drama. Sci-fi confers on its creators a licence to bend a world out of shape like no other genre; and while its exemplars ('2001', 'Solaris', 'Sunshine', occasionally even 'Star Trek') knock 'Lost' into a cocked black hole, the show can at least conform to the spirit of the form without causing too much upset. In sci-fi we expect the unexpected, and an outlandish storyline can easily be supported by an unblushing evocation of Big Science. The hero who gets sucked into an Alpha Centauri singularity at the end of episode two only to emerge unscathed in a suburban bathroom the following week? Quantum mechanics, obviously - just brush up on yer Heisenberg, matey, and it'll all become clear.

A political drama has no such crutch. It is not good enough to expect viewers weekly to suspend disbelief and buy into yet another ludicrous piece of business shoehorned to suit a rapidly-deteriorating plot. To instil fear - if evoking a dread of terrorism, government spooks and shadowy machination is the show's remit - one must have absolute faith that these events are just around the corner and there are forces beyond our control that could easily trigger them. In the case of 'Homeland', credibility loses its power, sacrificed on an altar of fantasy posing as 'gripping' TV and buckling under the sheer weight of licentious about-turns.

Such frankly incredible scenarios range from one of the show's main nonsenses (the idea that an agency like the CIA would either not spot, or would simply turn a blind eye to, the obvious mental unravelling of a field operative working in as sensitive a sphere as the Middle East) to ridiculous set-pieces such as where Brody - a Vice-Presidential candidate-to-be who manages never to be chaperoned at every turn by secret service bodyguards - takes a nighttime shower in a public carwash.

Even the players cannot be relied upon, unless Claire Danes perpetually rolling her eyeballs like Charles Manson on very bad acid could be described as acting. Yet still the critics lavish their praise. The most overactive has to have been Radio Times, which even posed the - presumably rhetorical - question: was the finale to the first season the best series ending EVER? Thus did this august journal consign to the margins the likes of 'The Sopranos', 'Six Feet Under', 'The Wire', 'Mad Men' and 'The Shield': all superlative examples of truly exciting television drama which kick 'Homeland' into the lower reaches of the Potomac where it belongs.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2013 1:06 AM BST

Live At The 1967 Monterey Festival
Live At The 1967 Monterey Festival
Price: £16.51

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Caveat emptor, 2 Aug. 2012
If this is indeed the Jefferson Airplane material from Monterey, then trust me, it's great. But if so it's also available on other Airplane compilations whose provenance will be infinitely more trustworthy than this.

A set purporting to be from 1967 but which depicts on its sleeve much later images is immediately suspect. I'd say that's Starship-era Grace, and dating from the 80s, with two others who were nowhere near the Airplane at Monterey - possibly Mickey Thomas and Pete Sears, although the pics are line-conversions and hence dreadfully indistinct; the one on the left could even be Marty on a very bad day.

In other words, tread very carefully and try to hear it. Then track down JA's 'official' Monterey recordings - you won't be disappointed.

Threads [DVD] [1984]
Threads [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Karen Meagher

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate nightmare?, 24 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Threads [DVD] [1984] (DVD)
I'm not sure precisely what prompted me to watch 'Threads' again now, just a few years after buying the DVD (the original broadcast in 1984 having passed me by). Perhaps some crawling premonition that we're all heading for hell in a handcart and 2012 is the year they finally let off the handbrake? Whatever, the viewing felt timely.

'Threads' is the most profoundly depressing film I have seen. It is doubly disturbing because, as with all true 'horror' films, there is no reason to doubt its potential veracity. The only other movie I can think of which represents both the threat and the reality of nuclear holocaust in so grimly and realistically stark a manner is Sidney Lumet's 'Fail Safe'. That early 60s masterpiece had no need for narrative beyond the dropping of two nuclear devices on major opposing cities; what might have happened in the days following those seminal events was left to our respective nightmares.

Early in 'Threads', the very British idea of keeping calm and carrying on - the 'mustn't grumble' mindset of the townsfolk even as the geopolitical solids are hitting the fan - starts to evaporate before the first warhead hits, as avaricious shopkeepers pointlessly hike their prices for vanishing foodstuffs and we see people in the streets scurrying around like headless chickens not knowing what on earth to do next.

The film then takes us beyond the nuclear exchanges to an irradiated, twilight world, in which is graphically represented the desperation of wretched half-lives scratching to survive the nuclear winter created by the 3,000-megaton fallout. We feel the 'threads' rupturing; not only of society's physical services and supplies infrastructure, but of the intangible lines of energy and connectedness which inform us as human beings and are supposed to distance us from 'lower' species. As the survivors themselves become feral, forced to regress to base instincts to make it through each passing hour, we see a brutality only occasionally leavened by a tiny, residual sense of community. We start to feel, as the reality of genetic deterioration sets in, that what's left of the population is devolving to a kind of simianism, communicating by way of gestures and language debased to gutteral, childlike grunts.

If I have a criticism, it concerns the final scene. Without giving anything away - although as others have acknowledged there ain't no happy endings here - I think the reaction of the individual concerned would be less an expression of shrieking distress, more a passionless, almost indifferent acceptance of the inevitable. Watch it and feel free to disagree.

Painful, often nausea-inducing to watch, 'Threads' is a depiction of human nature - for human political idiocy, greed and obsessive ideology, for all its technological ingenuity shallower than the lowest in the food chain, is to blame for this - that is truly red in tooth and claw.

I ran the DVD late at night and went straight to bed, hoping that, if the events described in 'Threads' were made real while I slept, I'd not wake in the morning. Such is the awful power of this astonishing film.

Move Collection
Move Collection
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £19.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great - but anyone tried dumping this to MP3?, 3 May 2012
This review is from: Move Collection (Audio CD)
I've had this a while, and since long before some of the newer Move compilations. It's a decent - though by no means comprehensive - representation of a very fine and sorely underrated 60s band. The good singles are here, along with album tracks and some of Carl's cheesy song'n'dance-man things ('Curly' truly makes the teeth curl)*. The fabled Marquee live EP gets a brief look-in, too, although if memory serves this was such a killer that it ought to be here in its entirety.

But has anyone who owns this collection attempted to convert the tracks to MP3? I don't know if it's a flaw of my particular copy, but it won't play on any of the three computer CD drives I've tried it on, which means no dropping it into iTunes and, by association, nothing by The Move on the iPod. Next stop the box-set, I think.

I realise, of course, that this could all be me and some residual technoinertia. However, stir in the fact that comparatively little Move music seems to be available for download, and I start to detect licensing issues, ownership rights and maybe a record company or two. I think we should be told.

*In fairness, apparently Carl didn't like 'Curly' much, either.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2013 10:54 PM GMT

Strictly Personal
Strictly Personal
Price: £5.99

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black heaven, ah cid, 8 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Strictly Personal (Audio CD)
In 1968 I was 14 and attitude-dancing. There was nothing quite like swanning around the school playground with a copy tucked under your arm of an album no-one had heard of - or at least anyone who didn't listen to John Peel of a Saturday afternoon.

And 'Strictly Personal' was the real deal; the second album by the most subterranean of all the underground artists of the time; the record sleeve you waved triumphantly at the bloke from the fifth form trying haplessly to pull the same stunt with 'In Search of the Lost Chord'. If you were into Beefheart, you were in the loop.

Hearing for the first time 'Beatle Bones 'n' Smokin' Stones' shook me rigid. I'd encountered nothing like those spidery backward guitars, that massive, blockbusting percussion, the phasing, the wierd sucking noises that seemed to waft in from a dental surgery in a madhouse, Don Van Vliet's voice roaring up from an abyss into which you ventured on pain of terminal psychic damage.

But it was also invigorating, shot through with a searching, edgy and deeply satisfying spirit of electronic adventure which, warped enough to frighten horses, children and parents, was unavailable from the sugary confections of the pop charts or even from (otherwise fine) contemporary artists like Cream, Floyd, Family and Fairport. Two or three tracks from Peel and I was hooked, badly needing to investigate this extraordinary, terrifying music.

Finding the sleeve in my local record shop, the initial shock was confirmed as soon as I saw the inner photo. Here they were, five extraterrestrials, monochrome emissaries from the outer circle of Hell, sorcerous manifestations of a very bad dream indeed. It was, and remains, among the most nightmarish images I've seen; the perfect visual crystallisation of the record's aural malificence.

Despite Van Vliet's oft-quoted unhappiness with Bob Krasnow's production (for a while the Cap'n was none too pleased with his old sparring partner Frank Zappa's desk duties for 'Trout Mask Replica', either) the album delivered on every count. The music might've shone "like diamonds in the mud" (as Van Vliet put it) but as a trippy period-piece from the back-end of psychedelia, or as an endlessly fascinating and inventive excursion into musical realms never visited by anyone before and only rarely since, to these ears SP remains a masterpiece.

Like Sun Ra - that other visionary/genius/loony with the Saturnian public image and the exciting headgear - Van Vliet proved disappointingly human, as we discovered the following year when he visited Britain to promote 'Trout Mask Replica'. And what we all thought might fry our synapses if we closed the curtains and listened under the influence of anything stronger than a packet of acid drops turned out to be laced with strange, surreal humour.

Although the Captain has passed on, perhaps reincarnated as either a Pemon shaman or Steve Ellis from the Love Affair - the latter surely the more Beefheartian concept - various old colleagues are keeping alive the flame and making sublime music as The Magic Band. Far from the ghostly alchemists of the SP sleeve or the lysergic pantomime dames of TMR, they too are all too human: portly, affable and jolly, more friendly Father Christmases than baleful Baron Samedis.

When you're 14 and attitude-dancing, your only reference-points a bizarre sleeve photo and the heaviest and most exhilarating music you've ever heard, it's easy to get swallowed whole by the daft hyperbole. Beefheart's persona would today be considered a carefully stage-managed 'brand'. In 1968 it felt genuinely otherworldly, truly 'alternative'.

It still does.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2015 7:05 PM GMT

Everyone's Gone to the Moon
Everyone's Gone to the Moon
by Philip Norman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything that Austin Powers missed, 1 Sept. 2011
One of the main virtues of 'Everyone's Gone To The Moon' is that in no part of the narrative does Philip Norman mention Jonathan King. Instead, the book's title (which evokes King's No4 hit of 1965) trusts the reader to identify immediately the time (1966-67), the place ('Swinging London') and the main premise (a fantasy land of excess; in this case, magazine journalism on a fat expense account).

Louis Brennan, Norman's central player - the author himself, or at least a composite - is a tyro journalist on a Sunday colour mag with a Zelig-like knack of turning up at high-water marks of 1967 pop culture, such as the Stones' Redlands drug-bust and Brian Epstein's death. Along the way he's the perpetual patsy for the novel's two other main characters: the duplicitous Mighty Jack Sheldrick, editor of the supplement's parent broadsheet; and Fran Dyson, the subject of Louis's erotic daydreams, an ambitious and irritatingly coquettish hackette who, though she has little obvious talent other than for self-promotion by way of her physical charms (sounds familiar?), always seems to pip Louis to the post when the plum writing briefs are up for grabs.

I won't spoil the ending by revealing whether the scales fall from the occasionally-naive Louis's eyes. Suffice to say that anyone who grew up in this period - and I confess I'm a few years too young to have felt the full force of the '67 Summer of Love - will confirm the unerring accuracy of character and setting. The atmosphere of sixties' newsrooms, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bedsits; the music, clothing and 'groovy' speech patterns; the public coming-of-age of youthful insouciance; all are recalled perfectly, with Norman's arrows - and frequent barbs - finding their targets with an empirically forensic precision that puts the wretched Austin Powers in true perspective. Unlike Michael Myers' woefully short-of-the-mark sixties cypher, EGTTM is needle-sharp, evocative and often pungently funny. And you'll have great fun working out who's really who, too.

So then, a hit. Ding!

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