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Fergal Woods "Axe Victim" (Leitrim, Ireland)

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Within Temptation - Black Symphony (Blu-ray und DVD) [Region Free]
Within Temptation - Black Symphony (Blu-ray und DVD) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Within Temptation
Price: £14.51

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Symphonic Rock Masterpiece, 21 Jan 2012
The Black Symphony may well turn out to be the high point of live Symphonic rock, and is mightily impressive. The spectacular performance is bound to confirm the bands status and broaden their appeal away from the cult Goth Rock following who have been their main fan base.

All the group's best tracks appear here with the bulk of them coming from their 2 preceeding (and best) albums "The Silent Force" and "The Heart of Everything", and some have been slightly rearranged and orchestrated. Sharon den Adel is mesmerising and steals the show. The Metropole Orchestra and choir is magnificent and contributes greatly to the overall power of the performance. Best numbers are the orchestral and choral "Overture"(without the Withins!), "The Howling", "Stand My Ground" and the magnificent duet "Somewhere". The concert is so entertaining that anything less than 5 stars would be unfair.

I do have a number of reservations about the group that few other reviewers have articulated. The musicians are very average - take away the orchestra and their limitations would soon become obvious. There are about 2 minutes of very ordinary guitar instrumental work in a 2 hour performance, none of the group can even sing harmony, and the set-piece acoustic set smacks of posing to be taken as "serious musicians". In other words take Sharon away and these guys are nothing.

That said I still love the concert but fear Within Temptation may well be unable to deliver a credible follow-up. Overall this is really an essential buy as this genre (basically ignored by British and US acts) is well worth exploring.

Black And Grey Durable Nylon Camera Case For Canon EOS 1100D, EOS 550D, EOS 60D & EOS 7D, By DURAGADGET
Black And Grey Durable Nylon Camera Case For Canon EOS 1100D, EOS 550D, EOS 60D & EOS 7D, By DURAGADGET
Price: £13.37

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid design with great space and access, 26 Nov 2011
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If you're looking for an SLR camera bag that's large without being bulky then look no further. This Duragadget carrier is extremely well-constructed, and as I write is very competitively priced. The pointed shape means you can leave your lens on the camera ready to go and still have room for a zoom and any number of other accessories in it's ample compartment. Shoulder strap and the bag offer the confidence of a much more expensive product and I look forward to getting years of use from mine.

In correspondence with the company over a delivery problem they were extremely courteous and customer-friendly so I have no hesitation in giving this camera case my strongest possible endorsement

The Tall Ships
The Tall Ships
Price: £15.72

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Star Luxury Cruise !, 3 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Tall Ships (Audio CD)
This album is an absolute treat from start to finish. It has exceeded all expectations by miraculously recapturing the spirit and style of the original band while still sounding modern. Tall Ships delivers on every level. Songwriting is superb with provoking lyrics and musically the band has lost nothing of it's ability to write instantly catchy choruses and melodies. There are hints here and there of the old It Bites trademarks and the odd (short) musical reference to Genesis and other groups, but it's all done with style, humour and a sound that is totally timeless.

No point comparing new viocalist/guitarist John Mitchell to Francis Dunnery (both geniuses), just sit back and enjoy what was easily one of the best releases of the past few years. John Beck perhaps uses slightly more organ than before but this gives a massive lift when used as the signature for intros and choruses. Dalton is one of the most "musical" of drummers and chips in with excellent harmonies for good measure. Mitchell's guitar work is top notch and his vocals sound better than ever (How does he manage to fit in so well into so many groups?)

There are at least half a dozen tracks from this that would make any Best of It Bites compilation, and "Ghosts", "The Wind that shakes the Barley", and "Great Disasters" were simply 3 of the best songs recorded in 2008. In this time of recession it's optimistic and colourful music-making like this that we need to keep our spirits up. Welcome back boys, hope you'll stay a little longer this time !

Price: £12.65

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Bossa Grooves, 1 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Dreaming (Audio CD)
Sabrina Malheiros' 3rd CD is another winner and keeps her right at the top of the current Brazilian modern jazz/bossa nova scene. The record abounds with beautiful relaxed Latin grooves with Sabrina's silky smooth vocals gliding over the seductive rhythms. This is her finest recording to date and while not breaking new ground will win over many new fans if given any sort of promotion.

Musical backing is slicker on this offering with lots of tasteful, if understated, instrumental work by an extremely talented array of musicians (including Sabrina's dad Alex from the group Azymuth). There is a greater feeling of space on this recording as her 2 earlier releases were a touch over-produced. There is a lot more of Sabrina's personality (and voice) on this release as there are more vocal middle eights as opposed to instrumental, and also a lot more harmony with her own multi-tracked vocals ("Lirio de Venus" is a fine example).

The percussion is also slightly lower in the mix this time round (it's often too in your face in both Brazilian and Cuban music to my ears). This may well be because Sabrina is now credited as co-producer (she's also written almost all of the songs) while soaring flute is really outstanding throughout.

Malheiros' tuning is perfect - which can't be said for all bossa divas - and her voice has matured without losing any of it's sweetness. Tempos are varied with the hip-hop flavoured "Paranoia" being a fine contrast to more routine numbers around it. There are also remixes on this edition of sections of one of the best tracks "Bobeira", which open and close the album.

There are no really stand-out tracks here but all the material is very strong with "Candela" having key changes that give it a floating quality. "Can't Hide Love" is a nice soft jazz groove with a descending chord sequence played against a wordless sung refrain which leads to a keyboard outro. "Primeira" is again on the jazzier side of Bossa but is still very upbeat. "Fragil", which has a prominent acoustic guitar part and another flute melody, is not particularly original but is irresistably the sound of summers you dream about. The syrupy strings present on many bossa nova recordings are dispensed with here and overall there is a relaxed and self-confident air about the whole project.

"Dreaming" might be that hit single or two short of being a classic album but this is optimistic and vivacious music which will put a smile on most faces. If you have either of this artiste's 2 previous CDs you can buy with utmost confidence. If you don't but like the idea of "Tall and tanned and young and lovely" then Sabrina Malheiros may just be the girl for you !!

Hai Un Paraiso
Hai Un Paraiso
Price: £8.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as attractive as it's predecessors, 24 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Hai Un Paraiso (Audio CD)
Hai un Paraiso has a lot to live up to coming on the heels of what are arguably the bands 2 best CDs - "Cabo do Mundo" and "Espiral". In my opinion it is nowhere nearly as good as either ! The band chose to record a higher than normal selection of songs with a corresponding drop in instrumentals. Fairly obvious you will say, but the songs also feature much less instrumental work than is usual for the Lubres. Normally they add on up-tempo tunes to slow or medium paced songs - here that is the exception rather than the rule.

This was to be Rosa Cedron's final recording with LNL so perhaps, in a way, it's a fitting tribute to her that she's featured so prominently (9 of the 11 tracks have vocals) Interestingly track 2 "O Meu Pais" displays the prowess of both Cedron and her successor, Sarah Vidal, who hails from Portugal They share verses and it's a lovely piece.

Not all of the songs work as well but "Memoria de Noite" is another class ballad. 2 songs including the title track have been given remixed reprises, but both are very repetitive drum-led bagpipe riffs that sound totally out of character for the band. There's also a Pogues-like romp with fine ensemble playing.

"Verso de Luz" is more like a pop song but with Cedron's voice doubled up in the chorus it works very well. In the main the musical backing sticks very closely to the melodies. This may well be what most folk groups do but subdued accompaniment is not what attracted me to this band in the first place.

Apart from "Noite" my favourite numbers are in the middle of the CD where "Corme" and the following song "Achegate" (which is a Bieito Romero original) display the more usual sparkling instrumental work with lovely pipe melodies, augmented by flute and violin. A guest bouzouki player appears on 2 tracks but to my ears loses time on the "Cantiga de Santa Maria"

All in all this CD is an anticlimax. It sounds either that the song-writing or selection was rushed, or that the record label demanded a simpler, more radio-friendly sound. Newcomers won't be as disappointed with it as long-term fans but it's not the Luar na Lubre record to start with! I've all the groups CDs and apart from their debut "O Son Do Ar" this is easily the weakest. I'd score this at 3.6 but Cedron's (farewell) vocals and the couple of instrumentals referred to allow me to give this a 4 star rating but only just !

Price: £7.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Galician folk sounds, 19 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Plenilunio (Audio CD)
This album was released in 1997 after the group had won some international recognition thanks to being championed by no less than Mike Oldfield. Likewise the group's homeland Galicia was attracting more visitors thanks to the Camino de Santiago being declared a World Heritage site and it's music started to reach an ever-increasing audience.

The folk music of Galicia is Celtic based but is sometimes spiced up by Arabic flavours and is very similar to Irish and Scottish music. The national instrument is the "gaita" (bagpipe) and marching pipe bands on similar lines to Scottish are quite common.

Plenilunio has 12 tracks and clocks in at over 50 minutes playing time. It's the groups most traditional-sounding release as only 3 of the cuts are originals, and as ever, tracks are pretty evenly divided between songs and instrumentals. LNL were at this stage a 7-piece group (changed to 8 with additional percussion after this) and their main instruments were: gaita, flute, violin and accordeon with guitar, bouzouki and percussion providing the rhythm section.

Rosa Cedron on vocals also plays cello and there are a number of tracks here where the combination of flute, cello and violin produce a genuinely classical music sound. Bieito Romero's pipes though are the sound that lets you know where the music comes from, and he is also their main tunesmith.

4 of these tracks were included on their 15th Anniversary "Best Of" compilation, and there are at least a couple more which must have been well in contention. The 4 included are "O Son do Ar", "Tu Gitana", "Polo Ponte de San Xoan" and the original composition, "Galaecia" where all the players get a turn to shine. Democracy is a big part of this group as the limelight is shared by all the instrumentalists and arrangements are delightful as the contrasting instruments allow lovely harmonies, swapping of roles and adding flavours to the traditional melodies. Guitar sound is exemplary despite the fact that the instrument is more associated with southern Spain than the Atlantic North.

"Ao-tea-roa" is another tune that could have made the "Best of" with lovely flute and violin interplay. Overall the songs suffer ever so slightly as Cedron's voice hadn't yet got the power of later recordings (they actually re-recorded Tu Gitana for the "Saudade" album). It's only a very minor criticism, and you'd have to know their material extremely well to even notice.

This is a really fine recording well worth your attention. The next 2 studio recordings on either side of the millenium are even finer but this is a very good starting point if you'd like to discover the best of Galician trad and folk music. Strongly recommended!

Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out and out Classic, 18 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Espiral (MP3 Download)
If Milladoiro are "the Galician Chieftains" then hail Luar na Lubre who are the "Galician Bothy Band" - a much higher compliment! Spain's north - western province has a wealth of superb music and musicians and this group are right at the head of the list.

This was their first new release of the new millenium and followed their Best of compilation. The above reference to the Bothys is quite pertinent as Donal Lunney played on and produced half of the album's 10 cuts. These 5 numbers were recorded in Dublin and this obviously contributed to the groups most Irish-sounding release.

The cover features one of the main Celtic symbols - a spiral, and the title track is an international Celtic suite where tunes from Galicia, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland are expertly merged together displaying the different nuances. Ace piper, Bieito Romero, even swaps his gaitas for Scottish bagpipes for part of the track. As usual there is a good mixture of songs and instrumentals. Rosa Cedron's vocals have been beautifully recorded and have always given this band a touch of class often lacking in what can usually be described as folk-rock.

The album has any number of highlights - not least in the arrangements which show huge musical intelligence. The opener for example has a short introductory theme followed by a punchy guitar-led opening verse. This is answered by an Arabic melody on the violin and then the 2nd verse is followed by a more Celtic tune on the pipes. This is repeated for the next 2 verses before a very lively dance tune with an infectious hook takes over. Contrast is brought in when the same melody is played in the minor key before a triumphant return to the major. Almost unnoticed the song's intro reemerges from this to conclude the song. Haydn himself would be impressed !

Most of the set features clever arrangements like this but they've got the melodies and instrumental prowess to score on all levels and not just song-craft. Other remarkable features are the inclusion of one of the Cantigas of Santa Maria put together by a Spanish King (Alfonso X) in the 13th century. Far from being an academic anachronism this really rocks especially as Pedro Valero switches from acoustic to electric guitar (he repeats this switch on the album closer as well) and it's probably the most overwhelming piece on the CD (I've reviewed a couple of medieval ensembles recordings of the Cantigas if you'd like a totally different perspective on this music).

One of the vocal tracks is a song written by the Chilean poet and social activist Victor Jara who was brutally tortured by Pinochet's death squad before having 44 bullets pumped into him. It's a haunting melancholy piece which the Lubres spice up with a lovely uplifting hopeful theme in the second half of the track.

The strangest inclusion on the album is "Mull of Kintyre" mainly sung here in Galego. It works very well and suits the band's philosophy as they sometimes describe their music as "music of the Atlantic" rather than the catch-all "Celtic music". "Ara Solis" written by flautist Xan Cerqueiro is a gorgous tune, and "Devanceiros" is a reworking and an improvement on the version from Cabo do Mundo.

However you classify this music I regard it as one of the best CD ever recorded by Galician artists. Their preceding studio album record "Cabo do Mundo" from 1999 is perhaps even better. Shame it's only 42 minutes long, and a bigger shame is that as I write it's now extremely dfficult to get on CD. I can't recommend this highly enough !

Lo Mejor
Lo Mejor
Price: £8.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent compilation, 14 Aug 2011
This review is from: Lo Mejor (Audio CD)
This is a really fine sampler of some of the best music to come out of Galicia during the 1990's. The area's Celtic music started attracting international recognition during this decade, with Milladoiro and Carlos Nunez as it's leading lights. This release from 2001 celebrated the band's 15th anniversary and has a depth of consistently strong material that neither of the above mentioned could match.

The collection features a perfect balance of songs and instrumentals. Vocalist Rosa Cedron has an unmistakable warm voice and adds lovely cello from time to time. Her best contribution here is the opener "Camarinas" with it's unforgettable melody. Many of the tunes sound very Irish or Scottish and Galician bagpipes (gaitas) provide the main melodic drive. Tracks frequently start with violin or flute initially carrying melodies but the entrance of pipes adds a huge lift and up the excitement level considerably. "O Trebon" is a classic example of this and hearing this track in a shop in Compostela as I finished a Camino de Santiago was enough to convince me to buy the album.

Tracks from the group's 2 best early albums - "Plenilunio" and "Cabo do Mundo" provide the backbone of this CD. Some of the featured numbers are still live staples like "Galeacia" and "Chove Santiago" while "Nau" is a quite a high energy up tempo song that's typical of Luar na Lubre and one reason why they're a cut above all other Galician groups. No single player dominates but they make the maximum use of the variety of instruments available. I must mention the very prominent acoustic guitar (with occasional use of electric) that gives this group a range of sounds unmatched by any of the leading Irish or Scots trad groups.

Luar na Lubre are still going strong and have a very extensive back catalogue for you to check out. If you're seeking an introduction to the band or to the Celtic music of Galicia this disc is definitely your best option.

Mares de Tempo
Mares de Tempo
Price: £20.28

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another stunning release from Susana, 13 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Mares de Tempo (Audio CD)
Seivane's 3rd album maintains the consistent high quality of her first releases and also shows an obvious progression from those recordings. This time around there's more of a band feel (as opposed to a studio creation) so the tracks all feature similar instrumentation. Much more emphasis is placed now on vocals with 5 songs in addition to the usual instrumental output.

The instrumentals are almost as brilliant as ever. Her fine band (I've been lucky enough to see them live) add new dynamics and even when doing the traditional dance types (xotas and marurkas etc.) still manage to infuse an original, almost rocky edge and dynamic to the mix. My favourites are "Ollo Como Se Peneira" which is a most melodic rumba, and the "Comecao/Polca Do Ulla" which follows it, which has great drive and a superb arrangement. It's also a stormer in concert! Seivane takes a leaf from the Asturian piper Hevia's book when she uses Arabic music and rhythm to augment one of her vocal tracks.

Seivane is an accomplished singer but in my opinion is lacking focus in song selection as one or two songs sound slightly out of place in this music. She is such a wonderful piper, very fluid and rhythmic with an almost nonchalant ability to mix styles, that I would always prefer the minimum of songs and as many of her up-tempo pipe tunes as possible. 3 of these songs are however very strong - the above mentioned "Arabic" sounding "Xota de Linares", the closing track "Mina Virxe" which after a period of silence transforms itself to a lovely dance tune and "O Segredo" with it's rich flute and harp accompaniment also works very well.

If you are already a fan of Galician Celtic music then you will find this an extremely entertaining addition to your collection. Newcomers may well prefer the balance of songs and tunes. Highly recommended. Also may I suggest you look out for Galicia's best up and coming young male piper, Anxo Lorenzo and his album "Tiran"

PS: The above review was based on the downloaded version. I've since bought the album which has an accompanying DVD. This DVD does not play and on looking into the problem it seems that there is an inbuilt compatability discrepency and you may be lucky with your copy. Best advice is to treat the DVD as a bonus (which may or may not play !!)

Entre Dos Mares
Entre Dos Mares

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional record., 13 Aug 2011
This review is from: Entre Dos Mares (Audio CD)
The CD cover shows the classical beauty of Miss Cedron and this is perfectly mirrored by the almost fragile beauty of the music contained on the disc. Cedron was the former lead singer with the Galician Celtic group Luar na Lubre, who so impressed Mike Oldfield that he featured her vocals on his Tubular Bells III recording. There is nothing here remotely resembling her previous career, and this is almost entirely introspective dream-like music with quite stark backing.

Rosa is an outstanding cellist as well as having a warm, seductive voice, and often the music sounds almost like cello sonatas or piano trios. Two of the tracks are instrumental with a decidedly strong classical leaning and lovely support from violin.

"Hecho de Dar" (misspelt on my iTunes download) is an old Luar na Lubre number reworked to fit this more refined and elegant setting. There is one light jazz-sounding track,"Tus Suenos", with brush strokes on drums which still manages to weave another almost hypnotic spell. Piano (one song starts like Satie's Gymnopedies) or guitar is used as accompaniment for almost all songs with mostly violin adding counter-melodies to Cedron's vocal. Occasional strings or electric keyboards provide subtle background chords. My favourite track (although it's extremely hard to pick one out) is the harp-backed "Romance de Mirabella" which is simply sublime.

I find it hard not to get carried away but I can't think of another album which is so consistently beautiful, so for once I don't have to agonise over how many stars to award ! I do have a slight issue with some of the reverb settings nevertheless if you like late night listening, or would like something serene to soothe away the pressures of life then you MUST buy this CD !

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