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Profile for Alexander J. Dunn > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Alexander J. Dunn "alexjdunn" (UK)
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Stardust We Are
Stardust We Are
Price: £8.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Alice in Wonderland' meets 'Pilgrim's Progress'., 20 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Stardust We Are (Audio CD)
I think this is definitely the best if not equal best The Flower Kings album in existence. It just has such a strong atmosphere that injects all of the compositions with a magic beyond analysis. You can deconstruct it all you like but you can't quite describe how this atmosphere is created. It is truly like magic!

If I could make an attempt to describe the atmosphere I'd have to say that it sounds like a cross between 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Pilgrim's Progress'. Both of these works are heavy on symbolism and the oppositions of sacred and profane, order and chaos, and laughter and tears.

The album has an almost carnival-esque feeling to it, with a surreal menacing twist. This is typified by song titles like 'Circus Brimstone' and 'Crying Clown'.

And, to cap it all off, this sprawling but engaging double album, ends with an epic progressive rock title track that actually lives up to the true tradition of progressive rock epics. It equals if not surpasses 'Supper's Ready' by Genesis and Yes' 'Close to the Edge'. I do not say this lightly as I love those two masterpieces very dearly!


Star Trek VIII: First Contact [DVD]
Star Trek VIII: First Contact [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Stewart
Price: £7.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Star Trek material., 20 Feb. 2013
This film is just fantastic and brings out all that is good about Star Trek. There is a strong storyline giving meaning to all of the episodic components of the film so it doesn't just feel like one quote attached to another. Also, the storyline is potent enough to create a very strong emotional theme throughout the whole duration.

This theme is essentially that of a case in which a crew, led by a usually brilliant and lucid captain, are let down by him on account of his personal failings. It takes a person from outside of the crew, not used to following orders, to break the deadlock and turn the tables on the enemy.

This film also contains some of the finest Star Trek moments I've ever seen, these usually being wonderfully heated exchanges of dialogue at critical moments in the plot. We're talking tear-jerkers!

'First Contact' is essential for any fan of Star Trek or, in my opinion, of great drama.


Awake
Awake
Price: £4.25

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To intense for its length., 20 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Awake (Audio CD)
Barring a couple of dodgy songs, this album is virtually flawless from a compositional point of view. Also, the production is nice and crisp, not suffering from the over-compression and audio energizing of later Dream Theater albums.

I would bring just one serious criticism against this album and that is about it's length and intensity. Either it is too long for its intensity or it is to intense for its length. In short, it would probably have been better if it had been split into two smaller releases or an album and an EP. Obviously, there is always the argument that one just can listen to a couple of songs and switch off. But, then, what is the point of the album as a concept?

If a band releases an album, I will review it as an album. In this case, this album, full of great songs, is too long for one sitting and therefore loses a lot of its potential merit for me. A shame.


Sweetnighter
Sweetnighter
Price: £5.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enter the funk., 19 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Sweetnighter (Audio CD)
Right from the word go on this album it's obvious Weather Report's style has changed once more - which is a good thing in itself. Gone are the wide open ambient spaces and, in their stead, we hear some more funky grooves touching upon hip hop.

The first track 'Boogie Woogie Waltz', for all this funkiness, isn't actually particularly amazing but it isn't bad. The real standout track on this album is the astounding '125th Street Congress'. Now this track really is funky! The drums almost sound like a modern hip hop drum machine. It's so well produced for this style of music with a more overdubbed sound instead of a live-in-the-room sound. There are still moments which hearken back to the band's debut in the form of the brief impressionistic 'Adios'. This is nice to hear and gives the listener some security.

Overall, I'd say this album is an improvement over the previous album 'I Sing The Body Electric' which was a little uncomfortable sounding, but I don't think it's quite good enough to merit four stars, the mark of a truly excellent album.


Weather Report
Weather Report
Offered by YouWantIt-WeGotIt
Price: £3.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jazz from the limitless world of dreams., 19 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Weather Report (Audio CD)
This album is absolutely amazing. I am so close to giving it full marks but I just feel a reluctance to declare anything perfect. It's nothing personal about this album.

When I heard this album, I realised that jazz music could be as epic and spacey as electronic music. Prior to this, I could never divorce jazz music from the image of black musicians in DJs playing in hotels in the 40s and thought of it as distinctly unemotional. Well, thanks to 'Weather Report' by Weather Report, this foolish notion is completely obliterated!

This album is very laid back and ambient sounding. I would say the most prominent instrument is Joe Zawinul's Rhodes electric piano which has a golden tone with just a hint of vibrato and distortion. His chords are gleaming and long lasting in the manner of Debussy's impressionistic Preludes for piano.

I would recommend this album to any fan of music in general. It serves as a great introduction to music that is not created in the highly limited realm of the conscious but created in the limitless world of dreams.


Iconoclast
Iconoclast
Price: £9.76

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Evolve or die., 19 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Iconoclast (Audio CD)
A few years back, when I listened exclusively to progressive rock/metal, I probably would have given this album four stars. But, in recent times, I have discovered so many other music genres of equal value such as jazz, fusion, noise, glitch, funk and atonal free improvisation. When you realise just how many possibilities there are out there for creating exciting new sounds, one is quicker to judge against artists that are reluctant to stray from a well worn path.

To sum up the above statement and relate it to 'Iconoclast', I would simply say the album is stale as an old loaf of bread that was already bland anyway. I personally think Symphony X have been on a downward spiral since 'Paradise Lost'. That was the album that featured some songs which lacked identity and excitement. But 'Iconoclast' takes this problem to a new level. It's just soulless for the most part. Song after song with a banal riff based on just one chord. Vocals attempting to sound soulful and bluesy but lacking genuine sensitivity.

Lyrically, the album boils down to the classic grumpy old man groan of, 'In my day, things were better'. That's all they say from beginning to end. Technology has taken over and humanity have been fools to not spot it. Hardly insightful or constructive. But, even if you allow them to take man vs machine as a topic, they failed to capitalise on the wonderful possibility of using Michael Pinella's keyboards to create some really cutting edge electronic parts. You can hardly hear the man in the mix let alone hear interesting parts.

And, finally, in my opinion, metal bands like Symphony X need to wake up and realise that, after forty odd years of metal, distorted guitar riffs and gruff vocals just do not sound that heavy anymore. In fact, Symphony X would sound heavier if they completely changed their genre like Radiohead did with 'Kid A'. You have to evolve to stay on top of the art game and Symphony X are lagging behind.


Test Pattern
Test Pattern
Price: £13.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skull vibrations., 18 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Test Pattern (Audio CD)
It's a privilege and a shame that I'm the first to write a review of this startling album by Ryoji Ikeda. This album deserves to be heard and, in this case, felt!

The album is based upon a simple idea: Take an existing work in any media and translate it into digital code. Then translate the digital code into sound. The merit of the results, however, depend entirely on the musicality of the translation process. In this case, it's first rate.

The sounds used are bleeps, clicks, pink noise and just about nothing else. They come at the listener thick and fast like the sound of scanning in the individual lines of a barcode very rapidly. Sometimes, the sounds come so fast that one almost hears them as a static atmosphere akin to ambient music. Other times there are hints of grooves albeit very off kilter ones.

But perhaps the thing that is most exciting about 'Test Pattern' is the fact that it utilises frequencies which the ear is not used to hearing. Some of the sounds are so high that they seem to vibrate in your skull as opposed to your ears! Now, to some, this might be very unpleasant and a reason to avoid the album but, for the true lover of sound and music, this sensation is fascinating.


Sextant
Sextant
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fusion Incarnate, 17 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Sextant (Audio CD)
I just love it when an artist known for a certain style or sound breaks out of old ground and launches into something new and exciting. I feel this is exactly what Herbie Hancock did when he made this album. He'd already done 'Crossings' which had laid the ground work for this new style but he obviously felt that album was enough of a success to continue in the new experimental vein.

What one hears in the opening seconds of the first track 'Rain Dance' is not jazz; it is something new. Sure it has jazzy elements but its core is now more towards electronica/funk territory. In short we hear fusion. It's the death of jazz but the birth of a new chapter in music.

Even Miles Davis himself said in an interview in later years that jazz didn't exist anymore. Yes, bands play jazz music today but it's more like a picture of jazz rather than jazz incarnate as it was in say the era of 'A Kind of Blue'.

So, if you want to hear a highly skilled keyboardist from a jazz background laying down some beautiful and occasionally startling sounds in lengthy tracks, 'Sextant' is most definitely your album. If you want not even a trace of rock, funk, electronica or latin in your jazz collection then most definitely stay away.


Legendary Tales
Legendary Tales
Offered by Gute_Preise
Price: £19.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfort Metal., 16 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Legendary Tales (Audio CD)
I always think of Rhapsody's albums as being the comfort food of the metal world. It's everything you think metal is: epic, exhilarating and about dragons. And the good thing about Rhapsody is they always deliver a quality product. All their albums are very well composed, performed and recorded giving the listener a very reassuring experience.

This album starts of their five part concept about The Emerald Sword. The story is pretty predictable but I don't really care - the music is played with such enthusiasm that any criticism seems like a very grumpy option. The songs do tend to sound somewhat similar although they do have a good range of styles from power metal to ballads. But somehow the fact that the tone is similar throughout makes the album comforting to listen to - you know there won't be any dissonant twists jarring you out of your reveries about unicorns and various other majestic imagery.

I would recommend this album heartily to anyone who likes power metal or neo-classical metal. It might be a little light for fans of extreme metal genres, though.


The Elektric Band
The Elektric Band
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.68

3.0 out of 5 stars Think 'Sonic the Hedgehog'., 16 Feb. 2013
This review is from: The Elektric Band (Audio CD)
A few years ago, I would have dismissed this album as cheesy 80's elevator music but now I know better. The album still sounds incredibly of the 80's (think Sonic the Hedgehog!) but I think each time in history should have its own sound. The 80's get unfairly bashed by a lot of music critics and I will attempt to not be one of them.

This album really shines with respect to sheer technicality and musicianship. The whole band play as one and execute the most amazing musical phrases as though they were a walk in the park. It's actually quite scary really. The compositions are packed full of invention, complex rhythms, funky sounds and spacious production values. It doesn't sound like there is much real group improvisation going on though so, if you want a jamming feel, this may not be your record. The tracks here sound very composed and prepared, something fairly typical of Corea.

Where the album falls down as a total piece is its slight over-length. I wanted the album to finish about three songs earlier than it did. I know this might seem like nit-picking but I just have this dream of being able for once to just sit down and listen to an entire album without having to have a break.


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