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Fergal Woods "Axe Victim" (Leitrim, Ireland)

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Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past
Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past
by Giles Tremlett
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging survey of a fascinating country, 14 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a highly readable account of journalist Giles Tremlett's view of what makes Spain tick. It's based on his own experiences, conversations and reflections as an Englishman who has lived and worked there for a number of years.

Many different topics are broached with substantial first-hand evidence from the authors own travels and meetings, and much of the opening half of the book concerns 20th century politics. The remainder - much like John Hooper's superior "The New Spaniards" - deals with issues like the "different" cultural autonomias of Galicia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, tourism, corruption, Flamenco and so on. Bull-fighting rather surprisingly is one quite major aspect of Spanish life that has been overlooked. Some of Tremlett's style seems also to be "borrowed" from another Englishman abroad - Jason Webster - and if you've read "Duende" or "Guerra" you'll recognise very similar passages.

This publication does not set itself up as an academic history but does provide a stimulating overview, and in my opinion, works extremely well as an introduction to perhaps the most colorful country in Europe. Well worth delving into but at the same time it is unlikely to go down as the definitive account of the events and aspects of character that have created the modern day Spain.

Live In America
Live In America
Price: £6.03

2.0 out of 5 stars Best Avoided, 31 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Live In America (Audio CD)
Be warned ! - "Live in America"is a repackaged release of what was formerly called "Concert Classics - Vol.3" released in 1999, and appears to be a cynical attempt by the record label to cash in on the successful reformation of the band.

This is a poorly recorded album which has reasonable performances of the group's best numbers from their heyday in the 70's. Even after remastering there are still loud peaks which distort a number of songs.The group themselves had no control over the CD release and in their current reincarnation have released a couple of live discs which offer better options than this.

The Aces feature one of the best writers in country or country rock in Russell Smith and are well worth a listen but just not this disc. Guitar sounds are heavily distorted and are totally inappropriate for these songs. To make matters worse Cameron's soloing is very sloppy and for most of this recording the sound is more like a poor bootleg than a proper live recording.

Their first 4 albums are available on "twofers" and I'd strongly recommend these , especially the "Stacked Deck/ Too Stuffed to Jump" pairing. This is a wonderful recording of great songs and is an essential purchase. There is now a new compilation "Best of" available, and interestingly when the group reemerged in the mid-90's they re-recorded 10 of their best songs for the album release "Ride Again". All of these options make more sense than buying this CD.

A far superior live recording from pretty much the same period called "Full House - Aces High" (1979) is available, has most of the same songs and has been properly engineered but it's now apparently only issued as a cd-rom.

Offered by Direct Entertainment Supplies
Price: £5.00

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Scots Folk music, 30 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cuilidh (Audio CD)
I must add my voice to the eloquent reviews already posted. Julie Fowlis is quite enchanting and the songs of her native Hebrides are of staggering high quality. She has a lovely unforced voice and, in addition, is an instrumentalist of no mean quality. This recording even betters her debut disc from 2005.

Scots Gaelic is marvellously expressive, being very rhythmic (check out the skipping mouth music sets introduced to a wider audience some years ago by Karen Matheson, but now elevated to a higher level by Fowlis) but it's inflections can also sound in turn mysterious, soft or aggressive. Song selection here is broad - ranging giving an enlightening overview of life in the Western Isles.

This disc has only one instrumental (3 on her debut CD) but her songs now feature more musical breaks and there is another list of stellar players (McGoldrick, McCusker, Doyle etc.) adding colour to these songs. Arrangements are mainly by Fowlis and Danu's Eamonn Doorly and this is a real "Trans-Atlantic Session" with parts recorded in the US (Chris Thile's wonderful mandolin playing) as well as in Ireland and Scotland.

This production features more harmony than last time (both male and female), and fellow Gaelic singer Kathleen McInnes (don't miss her solo album) features on a couple of tracks. If you want to sample this album as a complete novice try the opening track or track 10 - both guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Julie repeats the practice of singing the final track unaccompanied and again does it wonderfully.

This is pure Hebridean Gold and it appears the seams are endless. All her 3 albums are glittering examples of how strong Scots traditional folk is, and the country is blessed with excellent female vocalists when you add Karine Polwart, Emily Smith and Eddi Reader to the above mentioned lasses. Order immediately !

Mar A Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is)
Mar A Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is)

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Delight !, 23 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the debut disc by Hebridean singer Julie Fowlis and if, like me, you thought of these islands as being a bleak and harsh environment and you expected traditional music from there to reflect this, then be prepared for a shock ! This is a record of quite beguilingly beautiful music which will brighten up any day.

My first introduction to Ms. Fowlis came via the outstanding "Trans-Atlantic Sessions" where she frequently steals the show. She has a very lovely voice and she has the benefit here of wonderful production courtesy of Iain McDonald. Many of the songs are upbeat which was an unexpected bonus, and Julie varies things nicely with a few instrumental tunes where she plays whistles and small pipes. The arrangements are aided by the high quality of session players like John Doyle (guitar) and Iain McDonald (flute and pipes) in addition to John McCusker's fiddle and cittern playing.

Fowlis sings all her songs in Scots Gaelic but translations and info on each song is provided in the notes. The last track (which translates as "In Praise of Uist") was written by a neighbour (they must be all gifted up there!) is sung unaccompanied and is a beautiful song. There are a variety of moods but overall this is extremely optimistic music easily up to the standards of the above-mentioned TV series. I recommend this enthusiastically and the only reason it's not getting 5 stars is because her next two releases even surpass this one ! Fowlis is a major artist and is well worthy of a listen.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2012 11:52 AM BST

World Anthem
World Anthem
Offered by Evolution.Records-UK
Price: £13.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Black Sheep of the Marino flock, 9 Mar. 2010
This review is from: World Anthem (Audio CD)
This is a disappointing record that has never appealed to me. I find the songs less than inspiring and some of them plod along. Unlike the vast bulk of Mahogany Rush's output this music is lacking rhythmic freedom. It is a backwards step from the fine Mahogany Rush IV which preceded it.

The opener doesn't really go anywhere and Marino is left to devices like stereo splitting and sound FX to try to liven things up - they only succeed in submerging the guitar. Excessive use is made of echo on the vocals and on a couple of tracks guitar doubles what the vocals are doing. Things pick up in track 3 with a lovely funk lick and probably the best song on the album, "Broken Heart Blues". "World Anthem" is an instrumental that promises more than it actually delivers and is a loose variation on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" - well meaning but unexceptional.

It's left to "Look at Me" to give some light relief and a bit more musicality. Frank turns off the distortion and effects, and scores with a gentle blues groove. It's followed by another strong number, the jazzy "Lady". The album closes with the 12 minute opus "Try for Freedom". It's starts well with fine singing, but the double tracked guitar part becomes monotonous. Surprisingly the guitar parts on this track are quite mediocre and the music never takes flight.

This album flopped on the charts, one week in the lower reaches of the top 200 in the US. Only the title track made it onto the succeeding Mahogany Rush Live recording. This is definitely NOT the cd for newcomers to the band to start on and indeed is really only of worth to serious Marino freaks. I've a dozen of his albums and this is the weakest. That said, Frank Marino himself claims this is one of his favourite recordings !

There is now a more viable option with the recent release on BGO of this record paired with "Mahogany Rush IV". This gives a cheap way of checking out Marino's mid-70's style in remastered sound and with good sleeve notes. A better option still is to try the following 3 albums (Live, Tales of the Unexpected and What's Next) released on 2 CDs FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!! (Not to be missed!)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2015 2:46 PM GMT

Power of Rock & Roll
Power of Rock & Roll

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent rock guitar playing, 5 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Power of Rock & Roll (Audio CD)
The continent of North America is littered with the corpses of world famous headlining acts destroyed by Frank Marino and his band Mahogany Rush. People like me are accomplices in this crime as I have worshipped his killer playing since it first scorched itself indelibly into my consciousness 30 years ago. The evidence is plain to hear on this disc you're investigating.

Intent is obvious from the start with a guitar intro leading the title track on a voyage of mayhem and destruction. Not only are there abundant solos but Marino throws away fills at the end of every line without repeating himself. This is one of the straightest rock 'n' roll beats he has ever resorted to and it's followed by another sure audience-pleaser "Play My Music". That title sums up the whole album as Frank ignores current trends, radio playlisting (no 2 and a half minute ditties here) and standard song formats, to play exactly what he's feeling. The result is quite sensational fretwork.

One of Marino's main strenghts is his ability to play in a huge range of rhythms and this album really highlights that. Another strength is his superb use of wah-wah which is very subtle, not overused and takes his solos to a higher level even after you'd think he'd fully expressed himself. Marino's gritty powerful vocals are the ideal complement to the music which is hard rock with touches of funk thrown in as well as a couple of fastish rock 'n' rollers. Long running times (some run to 6 and 7 minutes) are never boring but may put non-guitar addicts off.

The absolute highlight and main reference, if you want one track to represent this record, is "Ain't Dead Yet" - which I think you'll agree, is the understatement of all time. The playing is out of this world ! The "tapping" technique was relatively new at the time but sounds a little dated now (it also goes on a little too long here), but this is a major guitar "tour de force" that belongs right at the top of any list of favourite guitar tracks. Marino is one of the all-time great guitarists and this is one of his very best albums.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2010 11:44 AM BST

No. 2 Patrick Street
No. 2 Patrick Street
Price: £12.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Street's Best !, 27 Feb. 2010
This review is from: No. 2 Patrick Street (Audio CD)
This is one of the finest folk/trad releases of the last 25 years. This Irish "supergroup" (only one of whom, Jackie Daly, was actually born in the Republic) here combine great songs with brilliant instrumentals where each of the 4 players were at their absolute peak. Andy Irvine,who seldom disappoints, provides 4 magnificent songs, and for the second cd running sings about cross-dressing (!), this time it's a version of "William Taylor" which in other versions is called "Billy Taylor". "The Braes of Moneymore" and "Tom Joad" are 2 more classic folk-songs and "Facing the Chair" is another weighty political story of social injustice. Irvine also provides various string accompaniment (and mouth organ from time to time).

The real instrumental prowess come from Daly and Kevin Burke (one of the great fiddlers in Irish music) and the record ends with a tune he's recorded previously "Sweeney's Reel" which I believe is from County Sligo. Neighbouring County Leitrim was home place to the composer of the opening tune, John McKenna. The London-born Burke is the absolute master of the Sligo style of fiddle-playing and his interplay with Jackie Daly was one of the most thrilling partnerships in Irish music. "Benton's Jig/Dream" is a fine example of their unassuming playing with a lovely switch to an almost Appalachian style in the second tune - augmented by Irvine's harmonica. The jig set starting with the Caherlistrane Jig is masterful with a superb arrangement and it's followed by an equally impressive set of reels with Arty McGlynn's driving rhythm and melody guitar propelling things nicely.

There are no extreme tempos here as the music is given maximum chance to speak for itself and this entire album makes for a lovely listening experience that will appeal to music lovers far beyond Ireland's shore. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to get a flavour of Ireland's rich musical heritage.

Tales of the Unexpected
Tales of the Unexpected

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mahogany Rush in transition, 26 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Tales of the Unexpected (Audio CD)
Mahogany Rush faced the problem in 1979 of how to follow up their most successful album (1978's "Live") when the prevailing perception was that they were at their best in a concert rather than a studio setting. The record label's response was a release sharing live and studio tracks. To my thinking this was not a wholly successful project. None of the live songs (with the possible exception of "Bottom of the Barrel") are anywhere near the same quality as the preceding release. Not bad but nothing special. Pretty much the same for the 4 studio numbers - "Sister Change" is a heavy funk riff that is ultimately too repetitive and "All Along the Watchtower" is at least the equal of the classic Hendrix version! The other cover " Norwegian Wood" is pretty naff and the instrumental title track changes tack halfway through to hint at the jazz forays Marino would delve into with later recordings.

If this wasn't sandwiched between 2 5-star albums (1980's "What's Next" was the mighty follow-up) I might well have given 4 stars for the disc but I've always felt "Tales" was a dip in form from this powerhouse outfit. You now have the option of acquiring this and making up your own mind because the 3 albums mentioned above are all now available on a 2 CD package from BGO that you can probably pick up for around a tenner - an incredible bargain that's not to be missed !

What's Next
What's Next
Price: £12.46

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incendiary Guitar playing, 26 Feb. 2010
This review is from: What's Next (Audio CD)
If you dislike guitar based rock ignore! Read on if you'd like to find out about one of the most under-rated blues rock guitarists ever. Frank Marino is unquestionably Canada's finest rock guitarist and his incredibly skilful, muscular and intense soloing have won over an extremely loyal fan base who've remained faithful since his band Mahogany Rush started making records in the early 1970's.

I've always felt this 1980 release to be the start of his second phase as it were. Marino at this stage ditched some of the psychedelic sound FX that gave the impression he was just a hangover from the acid-inspired 60's with a penchant for Hendrix sounding tracks. His best record up to this was the quite awesome "Mahogany Rush Live" from 1978 (do try to get your hands or at least ears on it) "What's Next" is a definite move towards a harder rock sound and is as powerful a statement in that genre as any you'd care to mention from that time. Marino's big advantage over guitar heroes like Satriani, Vai and Malmsteen is that his playing has always been blues-rooted, and his playing has a heavier feel than those other (gifted) players. His voice is very strong and better than even his own fans will often allow.

"What's Next" has 2 brilliant covers ("Rock Me Baby" and "Roadhouse Blues") that are as good as any versions ever recorded. Frank uses dynamics well so that there are drops in intensity to contrast the seemingly endlessly soaring flights of imaginative solos. A third cover "Mona" is added on to the funky "Rock n Roll Hall of Fame" Both numbers display his fine back-up rhythm section, Jim Ayoub and Paul Harwood, who allow Marino plenty of space and freedom. Rhythms are much more fluid than most rock music and his songs here especially "Something's Coming our Way" are not tied down to a repetitive riff. "Loved by You" is a powerful slow blues that sounds heavier than anything Gallagher, Winter, or Trower (all brilliant players) ever recorded.

Sound is slightly sharp on my CD (remastered on the Black Rose label) but this is superior guitar rock that has seldom been equalled never mind bettered in the 30 years since it was recorded. The album was hard to get, but the good news is that it's now available as part of a 3 cds on 2 disc package for the price of one (with excellent sleeve notes) recently remastered and released on the BGO label. The other releases on the disc are the Live album mentioned above and the '79 release "Tales of the Unexpected" - this is a fabulous package and the ideal way to check out this criminally neglected musician.

Live / Tales of the Unexpected / What's Next
Live / Tales of the Unexpected / What's Next
Price: £12.96

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Blues Rock, 25 Feb. 2010
This is one of the bargains of all time. 3 great albums for the price of one. Neglect of Frank Marino has been criminal so if you've ever wondered what us fans see in him you can get 2 of his best albums for next to nothing. "Live" and "What's Next" are both 5 star albums, "Tales of the Unexpected" marks a transition and is not quite as good but still this is an amazing release.

I've already reviewed the 1978 "Live" record on Amazon, and described it as one of the top ten live rock recordings. What you have hear is a sonically superior remaster which to my ears has been slowed down slightly (it has a longer running time) but has vastly improved clarity."Tales" is half-studio and half-live, probably in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the previous live release. It doesn't work as well in that the live songs are not as strong (none of them would replace anything on "Live") and the cover of "Norwegian Wood" is probably the worst thing they've ever recorded.

The next disc to be released "What's Next" was another killer. This time the remaster takes away some of the slightly harsh sounding presence that marred the Black Rose label release. Marino had moved towards heavy metal and away from the psychedelic funk and Hendrix flavoured blues-rock of the early and mid-70s.He happened to produce an album full of searing rock vocals and soaring guitar solos.The 3 covers here,"Roadhouse Blues", "Rock Me Baby" and "Mona" work wonderfully and all Marino's own compositions (especially "You Got Living","Something Coming our Way" and "Loved by You"))are powerhouse performances.

So all told you've got better than 2 and a half hours of some of the best guitar rock from the late 70's in great sound and at a bargain price. My only complaint is that when BGO split the "Tales" album to fit the 3 cds onto 2 they didn't put it's live tracks with the live concert on Disc 1.Then it would have been easy to chart the transition on Disc 2 from the "Tales" studio songs to the very contrasting "What's Next" album.

Order your copy right away and then order a couple more for your friends !

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