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Reviews Written by
Alexander J. Dunn "alexjdunn" (UK)

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Price: £7.04

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.

I Sing The Body Electric
I Sing The Body Electric
Price: £6.18

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Icy but respectable., 19 Feb 2013
While this album is great in the sense that it is a progression from Weather Report's first album, 'I Sing The Body Electric' just doesn't excite me in the same way. In fact, not even close!

But it's still very respectable jazz fusion, particularly the studio tracks that would have been side one on the original vinyl. They have an iciness and large scope that is intriguing even if they are a little forbidding. I just don't think the album benefits from the inclusion of live tracks as a second half. I'm all for experimentation with different juxtapositions but this one just doesn't work too well.

I think I am still too biased by my love of Weather Report's first album to give a truly objective view of this album but I can safely say that I don't think it has the same sense of excitement or originality.

Weather Report
Weather Report
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.40

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.

Price: £8.39

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: £21.79

1 of 1 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.

Hot House
Hot House
Price: £14.95

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good but not THAT good., 17 Feb 2013
This review is from: Hot House (Audio CD)
This is a lovely sounding album of nostalgic jazz. Corea's piano and Burton's vibraphone have never sounded in better technical or sonic form. The whole album has an attractive coherence to it and one can easily stick it on in the background and dream away the afternoon.

However, there is no denying that this music is not in any way a real challenge to listen to. It has all been heard before in some form or another many years ago in the decades of jazz's true lifetime. This is homage even if it is at the hands of the players who shaped jazz history in the 70's.

I just wish there were more truly critical album reviews on and not the droves of five star verdicts which lead people to expect the best music in existence. 'Hot House' is good, but not THAT good.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2013 3:46 PM BST

Price: £4.99

1 of 1 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 thebookcommunity
Price: £19.09

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
Price: £7.71

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.

Space Revolver
Space Revolver
Price: £12.11

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Top notch music but overlong running time., 15 Feb 2013
This review is from: Space Revolver (Audio CD)
This is pretty much as good a 'The Flower Kings' album as you are likely to get. It is filled with strong instrumental work and very memorable vocal melodies. Also, the production and sound of the instruments is very beautiful indeed. The first five tracks are absolutely brilliant whereas the second half of the album isn't quite so strong.

Where the album really falls down for me is, as with all 'The Flower Kings' albums, its sheer length. I would never want to edit any of the songs as they are all, in themselves, a good length nor would I wish any of the songs to be left unreleased. What I would love is for the band to be allowed, like jazz musicians, to release more than one album a year. So, instead of getting one eighty minute marathon which becomes boring after the first few songs, one would get two vibrant forty minute albums which would be entertaining throughout.

But, of course, this only matters if you like to listen to an album in one sitting. If you're not bothered, there is some fantastic music here to be enjoyed particularly 'I Am the Sun - Part 1' and 'Dream on Dreamer', an opening pair of tracks unlikely to be bettered by any artist.

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