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Mr. A. Pomeroy (Wiltshire, England)
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Sigma 18-125mm AF F3.5-5.6 DC Digital Lens for Canon AF Mount
Sigma 18-125mm AF F3.5-5.6 DC Digital Lens for Canon AF Mount

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Master of the Seventh Ray, 7 July 2008
've had one of these since February. The lens has a surprising dearth of reviews on the internet, which worried me a little bit, but I found a Japanese website that had some picture samples, and they put my mind at ease. Given the low price and wide zoom range, I am still very impressed. I have taken a couple of thousand images in a mixture of outdoors and indoors locations, about two-thirds of them in a studio, using studio flash units, with the lens stopped down to f11 or thereabouts. If you're doing shots of people, the zoom range goes from a full body shot, to head-and-shoulders, to full-face, without you having to walk backwards and forwards, potentially tripping over cables etc.

I have been using it on a 1.6x crop body, and I haven't noticed any purple fringing, which was my main worry. It's a bit soft around the edges when zoomed in, and there's noticeable barrel fully wide, but - perhaps because I'm using it with a cropped sensor, or perhaps because I'm easily pleased - I have no real complaints about the image quality. There is a fair amount of flare when shooting into studio lights; the supplied lens hood fits well, but it's very small. The zoom ring feels smooth, and it goes from wide to tele easily and quickly, with just enough resistance. It's stiff and awkward to use if you point the camera up or down, but horizontally it's fine. The focus motor whirrs a bit but it's not disturbing. You have to accept the f3.5-5.6 limitation, it's pretty standard for a lens of this range.

There are a few issues against it. The lens is lightweight, but it's also quite big and bulky, especially when extended to its full length. In fact it looks a little rude when it is extended. It doesn't feel very solid. The most substantive issue is focussing. The few reviews I have read mention a "back focussing" problem whereby the lens gets the focus slightly wrong; not enough to notice in the viewfinder or on the LCD, but present nonetheless. When I half-press the shutter button, the lens focusses; if I then momentarily let go of the shutter button, and quickly half-press it again, the lens focusses a tiny bit more. It seems to take two goes to focus properly. As a consequence of this I tend to focus twice, at which point it locks in solidly. I don't have a problem with this, because I tend to focus twice with every lens, just to make sure, but you might not be too keen.

Obviously, as this is a "designed for digital" lens, it's no use with a full-frame sensor. I have attached it to my 35mm Canon EOS 600, just to see what it is like. At 18mm it's like looking down a toilet roll tube, with a large black circular border that creates an odd quasi-fisheye effect. At 125mm there is no border, but you get loads of vignetting. It's the kind of effect you might use once.

Overall I enjoy this lens. For the price it is very handy. From what I have read there are many better zoom lenses that go from e.g. 17-55/85mm and from 55-200+mm, and there are a lot that go from e.g. 28-100+mm, but I can't think of any that go all the way between the two extremes of very wide and fairly tele.

As a postscript, I have also tried this lens on an old Canon D30 body (not 30D) without any problems. From what I have read, Canon's EF-S lenses have trouble with the older D30/D60 bodies, but Sigma's EF-S-esque DC lenses seem to work fine, or at least this particular lens worked fine.


Doctor Who At The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Volume 1: The Early Years: 1963-1969
Doctor Who At The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Volume 1: The Early Years: 1963-1969
Price: £19.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Jarvis in a Dream State", 13 Jun 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Overall this has very little music, but it's a fascinating listening experience nonetheless. You might have to skip past the theme tune, because you've heard it before, and it's on the record three times (four if you count the end theme). The rest is a mixture of unsettling ambient drones, disturbing space atmospheres, and cold, dispiriting pings and whooshes.

My favourite track is "Cybermats attracted to Wheel". It's a boing noise that repeats a few times, but it's a lovely boing noise, and I love the way it repeats. The selection from The Wheel in Space, which makes up tracks 37 - 51, is like a miniature early Tangerine Dream record, or a more peaceful Stockhausen. It is my favourite part of the album. "Floating Through Space" is sinister, "Interior Rocket (Suspense Music)" is menacing, and "Jarvis in a Dream State" is perturbing. Listening to the music without watching the show, I am left with a mental impression of avant-garde experimental black and white horror cinema. I have a mental impression of some very clever people in a stark, abandoned school hall, carefully preparing tapes and oscilloscopes. It's all very reminiscent of Gil Mellé's music from The Andromeda Strain.

I say "music", but this album often blurs the boundaries between noise and music, and indeed many of the tracks were commissioned as background atmospheres. Several of the consist of a single albeit often complicated effect, e.g. the various noises that accompany functions of the Tardis, whereas "Galaxy Atmosphere" is an evolving noise layered on top of itself. Other highlights of the record include "Machine and City Theme", which has an ominous, grinding feel; the peaceful, ambient "Musak", which should have been released as a single; and "White Void", which is cold, so cold, like the universe itself. Track 29, "Chromophone Band", is a relatively conventional tune with a melody and a beat. It sounds like the work of Joe Meek. It was written by Dudley Simpson, and arranged in typically inventive style by Delia Derbyshire. The "Chumbley" tracks are cute, and it's a shame that Chumbley has to die (with an electronic death gasp!).

As the title of the record states, this music was made between 1963 and 1969. It sounds timeless, as if from another universe where time does not exist.

It's worth looking on Google for Mark Ayres' website; he compiled the record, and on his website he writes about the tracks, telling us that e.g. "Cyber Invasion" was originally eight minutes long (it is a whooshing noise, the audio equivalent of a barber's pole, and it would be horrible to listen to for eight minutes).


Tour De France
Tour De France

6 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nipple to the bottle, 19 Mar 2008
This review is from: Tour De France (Audio CD)
This is a sad record. Kraftwerk released almost no new music from 1986 right until 2003, during which time the media assumed that the band was obsessively working on a perfectionist masterpiece. The reality is that Kraftwerk ran out of ideas in 1981, coasted on technique for their 1986 LP Electric Cafe, and spent the next seventeen years going to the cinema, shopping, talking on the telephone, living their lives like normal people. Tour De France Soundtracks is the aural equivalent of an old university friend who you have not seen for a long time. You ask him what he has been up to, and he shrugs and says that the years passed quickly and he cannot remember. You realise that you are the same as him, you have achieved less in twenty years than you used to achieve in a single day, back when you were young. You have more money now, but nothing to spend it on.

The record gets off to a poor start. "Prologue", "Etappe" and "Chrono" are really parts of one long track, which I shall call Fred. Fred has a melody that seems uncomfortably close to "Computer World", but it's no Jack Kennedy. In fact the whole composition is a dead loss. It's pleasant, but tedious; the overall sound is very smooth and dull. There isn't enough musical material to fill all those minutes. The production is no more advanced than typical dance pop music, and it is years behind Squarepusher. There was a time when Kraftwerk could rely on their electronic production skills to patch over a lack of musical ideas, but Tour De France Soundtracks has none of that. The drums are perfunctory and the electronic beeps could have been squeezed out by anybody. There are some phased strings here and there, but the Kraftwerk sound has been diluted to nothing.

"Vitamin" is an improvement. It's a simple and hypnotic four-minute pop single. Unfortunately it is eight minutes long, it seems to stop half-way through and start again from the beginning. If I wanted to listen to "Vitamin" twice in a row, which I do not, I would play the track twice. I don't need Kraftwerk to do it for me.

"Aero Dynamik / Titanium" are one long track, which sounds like a pygmy version of "Pocket Calculator". It's the most Kraftwerk-sounding song on the record, on account of a strings noise that reminds me of the last half of "Trans Europe Express", but on a musical level it's just filler. "Elektro Kardiagramm" is a five-minute slog that does nothing and goes nowhere. It sounds like one of those finger-clicking 1920s-style swing songs. I would love to have been present when the record company executives were presented with it. You can't hum it, you can't dance to it, it's not clever, it doesn't make you think, it's not extreme or shocking, it doesn't advance music, it's a copy and paste nothing. "La Forme / Regeneration" is pleasant, but it would not seem out of place on the soundtrack of a second-hand PlayStation game from 1996.

"Tour De France" is a return to form. It's the best song on the album. It sounds like a sweeping bicycle race through some mountains. The production is elaborate and charming. It has a catchy tune. Mind you, I would have preferred less heavy breathing. I felt that when I first heard the song, about ten years ago; it's actually from 1983. By which I mean that the audio recording is the original 1983 release of "Tour De France". It's a testament to Kraftwerk's potential for greatness that a twenty-year-old song could be re-released on an LP in 2003 without sounding hopelessly dated. I can't imagine Paul Hardcastle performing the same trick. On the other hand, "Tour De France" just goes to highlight how far Kraftwerk have fallen. There are as many ideas in this song as there are on the rest of the record, and they are condensed down to five minutes.

Overall I am curious about this album. It cannot have taken very long to make. The music and the production are both very simple. It's like one of those extended remix singles that bands used to put out in the 1990s. "Vitamin" is decent, but the rest is completely disposable. It doesn't work as nostalgia; it doesn't work as a ground-breaking new direction in electronic dance pop; it doesn't work as a catchy fun record of pop tunes; it's not even very danceable.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2011 9:01 PM BST


Lets Get a Groove on
Lets Get a Groove on
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £76.76

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'd better watch the man / best believe he's watching you, 18 Mar 2008
This review is from: Lets Get a Groove on (Audio CD)
This is fascinating stuff. It's a modern-day funk record, from the mid-1990s, but it's done in the old James Brown style, with old-fashioned instruments and real drums etc played by human beings. It's generally less frantic than James Brown but the spirit is there. It would be easy to describe Lee Fields as a copy of James Brown, but he's so spot-on that he must surely be heartfelt.

The mixing is surprisingly bass-less on a couple of songs, but it's good stuff and infectious fun. "Watch the Man" is the stand-out track for me - it's a homage to 60s-style black consciousness records, but the lyrics are still totally contemporary, and pan-racial - and I also like the organ-led instrumental "All by Myself". "I'm a Millionaire" is the only Live At hte Apollo-style ballad, and it has a monster groove. The general lyrical emphasis on being responsible and getting on in the real world is refreshingly unlike a lot of modern music.

The intro and "Bad Bad Bad" are basically the same piece of music, a short loop that goes on too long in the latter case. Like a lot of the records on Desco it flirts with spoof; Lee Fields is the real deal, a genuine albeit minor 1970s funk superstar, but the album is put together as if it had come out in the 1970s, with vinyl pops and odd fade-ins etc. Very good.


Fort Eben Emael: The Key to Hitler's Victory in the West (Fortress)
Fort Eben Emael: The Key to Hitler's Victory in the West (Fortress)
by Simon Dunstan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.72

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get on the funk train, 11 Feb 2008
This book was a big surprise, a pleasant surprise. The German assault on Eben Emael tends to be covered very briefly in general histories of the Second World War, although it is not exactly forgotten, because it was very novel. The Germans realised that the fort would be a tough nut to crack, so they landed gliders on the roof. It shouldn't have worked - the fort had plenty of weapons that could beat off close-range attacks - but it did work.

This book does a super job of describing the battle, in such a way that it would be entertaining and informative even if you were not interested in the topic. I have flicked through Osprey books that have made major battles seem dull, and it's ironic that this book makes such a small - but important - action seem intensely dramatic. I imagine the German paratroopers must have felt they were participating in the most incredible Boy's Own adventure, and afterwards I bet they walked tall, and got free drinks in pubs, or bierkellers, German isn't my strong point.

The book starts off by covering the strategic reasons for the fort (which dated back to the 19th Century), its construction, and its tactical layout. The fort was was supposed to be a kind of self-sufficient underground town, almost like a nuclear submarine, except that it was a static nuclear submarine that was visible to everyone. The book then covers the political situation leading up to the Second World War, and the German preparations for the attack. It explains why the Germans didn't simply go past the fort. The glider assault plan was complex, and might not have worked if Eben Emael had been running at peak efficiency, staffed with crack troops led by top officers, but the book makes clear that the fort was going through a bad patch. The officers in charge come across particularly badly. The book is so well-detailed that the individual Belgian casualties are named, and I hope the men who led them feel bad.

The assault took only a few minutes, and the book does a lot of cross-cutting, but it still makes sense. In theory the fort could have peppered the German gliders with anti-aircraft machineguns, and blasted the German paratroopers with canister rounds shot from its howitzers, but it was embroiled in administrative chaos. The Germans had their fair share of technical problems - a couple of the gliders fell short, several of the anti-bunker explosives had no effect, the troops attacked dummy bunkers - but overall the Germans made very few mistakes, and successfully improvised solutions to the problems they faced. The Belgians made lots of mistakes, small mistakes, big mistakes, institutional mistakes, and they flapped, and lost.

Overall this is a great read. The assault feels like an action film, a very short action film, one in which the Germans win. The level of detail is sufficient for picky people, and it does a good job of explaining that the victory wasn't a simple matter of flying some planes onto the fort and then jumping out, throwing grenades. By the end you'll find yourself cheering on the brave Germans and then feeling very guilty indeed.


Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens
Price: £74.00

58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Dangerous Game, 10 Feb 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I can only concur with the other reviews. The lens is lightweight and feels like a toy. Whenever I take off the lens cap I am worried that I will pull off the manual focus ring too. When the autofocus motor reaches the end of its travel it stops with an undampened thunk, and I am worried that the lens will burst open.

On the other hand, and this is a huge factor that outweighs all the above, the image quality is very good. The lens is useable at f1.8, with a nice tight depth of field, and it gets sharper from there. At f5.6 it is very sharp indeed, and from the test results I have seen on the internet it is probably sharper than most digital camera sensors can resolve. For the price it is very impressive, and based on image quality alone it would be very impressive at any price. There is a big argument on the internet as to whether the 50mm f1.4 is superior when stopped down to f2.8 or thereabouts. My feeling is that most people who care about such things will buy the f1.8 anyway, and use it as a "beater". I wonder how it compares to Nikon's 50mm f1.8, which has a similar reputation and costs much the same?

On a 1.6x camera the focal length is 80mm, which is one of the classic focal lengths for portrait lenses. It's ideal for faces, head-and-shoulders, upper body shots. For anything else it falls between two stools, neither telephoto enough for lions nor wide enough for crowds. Along with the build quality, this is the only real drawback of the lens. It's a shame Canon couldn't combine the low price and image quality with a 28mm focal length, it would be an ideal party lens.

As a lark, I decided to test it against an old Pentacon 50mm f1.8 M42 lens I had lying around, which is solid and made of metal, and sells for about a tenner on eBay. The Canon lens seemed much sharper at f1.8, and slightly better at all apertures, although not noticeably so unless I zoomed right in; but on the other hand the autofocus was more accurate than my manual focus. Against an old 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar the results were less "dreamy" when wide open, but when stopped down I had to strain my eyes to detect any difference in sharpness, and unless you habitually enjoy photographs by looking at them zoomed in at 500% on a giant monitor I doubt you would notice any difference.

As an added bonus, the lens works fine on full-frame cameras. It also has a very mild cult following. And it's slightly melancholic, in the sense that you start to realise that other lenses, which cost ten times as much, are not ten times better. You pay a lot extra for a little extra.


P-51 Mustang Vs Fw 190: Europe 1943-45 (Duel)
P-51 Mustang Vs Fw 190: Europe 1943-45 (Duel)
by Martin W. Bowman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.74

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Handy if you're into the P51, 29 Dec 2007
I have to say I was attracted to this by the cover art, which is excellent. The artwork throughout is very good, there's a useful set of pictures, and the writing is clear. There's also a good description of the P-51's special gunsight, although it's a shame they didn't reproduce one of the training manuals mentioned in the text (there are some small photographs of a manual, but they are hard to make out).

The book has a couple of flaws. It concentrates heavily on the P-51. My impression of the book is of a series of P-51 combat reports, written in the typical style, e.g. "I opened fire at 300 yards. I saw strikes along the fuselage and tail. I saw the aircraft turn on its back and dive into the ground. The pilot did not bail out", repeated several times. I assume this is because the authors had far more access to Allied paperwork and surviving P-51 pilots than German sources. The text makes clear that most FW-190 pilots did not survive to tell their tales, and I assume a lot of the Luftwaffe's records were lost or have not been translated. The FW-190 therefore comes across very poorly, it seems to have been hammered out of the sky in droves by the mighty P-51. The book points out that the Luftwaffe was, by 1943, outnumbered, and by 1944 its pilots were fresh from training school, with no previous combat experience. As a consequence it's hard to draw a mental picture of the two aircraft, because their combat was influenced by so many external factors. Perhaps the book should have been "Fw 190 vs B-17" or something similar.

The second problem is that there's almost no coverage of the faster, long-nosed FW-190D model, which seems a more apt match for the P-51. It is mentioned in passing (on pages 18 and 26, according to the index, amounting to a paragraph of text, with no photographs), but none of the combat reports involve it. The machine pops up in Pierre Clostermann's "The Big Show", so it must have played some role in the war, but of course Clostermann didn't fly P-51s. The Focke Wulf TA-models are quantified but not really described. In keeping with the book's format, there is no discussion of the other aircraft involved in the combat. The FW-190's early fights with Spitfire Vs are mentioned as part of the FW-190's development story, but its performance on other fronts is not discussed. Similarly, the P-51 is only described in terms of its fights with the FW-190, so there's nothing about how it stacked up against other planes.

Overall however, and insofar as this is weighted towards the P-51, it's an entertaining read, although I suspect it overlaps heavily with one of Osprey's dedicated P-51 books. If you already have a good book about the P-51's actions in the European theatre of operations you probably won't need this title as well.


Doppleganger
Doppleganger

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What do you see / that isn't already yours, 16 Dec 2007
This review is from: Doppleganger (Audio CD)
For me the killer track is the first one, "Already Yours". The rest of the album sounds like a variation on the ideas present in this song, with the same basic sound. At the same time, Doppelganger isn't one of those albums that has one good song, and nine "second CD of a two-CD single release" b-sides; it's listenable all the way through, the kind of record that grows on you. It has a slick production that still sounds big and impressive many years after it came out. The only drawback is that the songs have a uniform sound. The music, the vocal performances, and the production are consistent to such a degree that the album feels like one forty-minute song split into movements.

Doppelganger came out in 1991 and was only a very modest popular success. I am astonished that it wasn't massive. It sounds almost exactly like Garbage, but four years early. The resemblance is uncanny; Curve's lead singer has the same tone as the lead singer of Garbage, the guitars and drums are just as loud. The production sounds like a million pounds, and has only dated insofar as it sounds like a Garbage album from the mid-1990s, rather than an indie album from 1991. Garbage could have released this as their second album, and it would have topped the charts worldwide in 1996. It's odd to think that this was on the shelves at the same time as Jesus Jones and EMF. Curve should have dominated the pop charts. Perhaps they were too loud, perhaps their sound was too precise to duplicate live. They must have seemed a bit out of place on the indie scene, because they sounded very slick. If the record company had had any sense, this album should have been re-released in 1996 with a new cover, some remixes tacked on the end, and presto, brand new album. None of these songs would sound out of place on a film soundtrack today. The drums sound huge, the guitarist chimes his guitars like The Edge, with the solid texture of My Bloody Valentine.

All of the eleven tracks are listenable, although they have a homogeneous sound, with what sounds like the same drum pattern. The lead singer has a bassy, breathy register that merges with the guitars. "Already Yours" is a fantastic pop song, although I believe it was never released as a single. "Horror Head" is just as good. The album sags a bit in the middle, but that could be because of listener fatigue; "Lilies Dying" is very generic, and although "Ice that Melts the Tips" is a good song, I was getting tired of the unvarying vocal style by that point. I cannot recall "Split into Fractions", but the album picks up after that with the faster "Think & Act". The singer pushes her vocal range with "Fait Accompli", not entirely successfully. "Sandpit" is the slow dancing song, although the album's mood is very gloomy and dark, in a non-specific way reminiscent of Garbage, so it's not ideal if you're DJing at a wedding disco. "Clipped" is a good finale but again very generic. "Wish you Dead" and the title track are splendidly ominous and I imagine they are played a lot in goth clubs, probably.

Basically the album's best tunes are loaded into the first half, although if you enjoy the sound, there's nothing to make you swat the tone arm away from the record in disgust. I think Curve got lost amongst all the other one-word pre-Britpop indie bands of the period (Lush, Blur, Cake, Suede, etc) which is a terrible shame.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2011 11:29 PM BST


Spitfire: The Biography
Spitfire: The Biography
by Jonathan Glancey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Long Goodbye, 10 Nov 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an enthusiastic little book that's hard to dislike. The author is clearly a fan of the subject, and the book is a short and entertaining read. It rattles along. In fact I would have preferred it if the author had taken his time, and fleshed things out. The book has two flaws, the first of which is that it is very brisk. Structurally it concentrates on the Spitfire's development, and the Battle of Britain. This takes up most of the first half of the book. It's a story that has been told before, but the author's rendition is well-written and never dull. There is mention of the Air Transport Auxillary, a plucky bunch of men and women who ferried the aircraft from factory to airfield. There is a photograph of Flight Sergeant James Hyde, from Trinidad, one of a few black pilots who fought with the RAF. He was killed in action in 1944. I wanted to read more about this man, but the book skims over him. I have to wonder what his nickname was. I can picture the commissioned officers clapping him jovially on the back and calling him Snowy, oblivious to any offence it might cause. The book tends to mention a lot of things without exploring them in detail.

After the Battle of Britain, the book crams the strafing missions against France, the Seafire, the Griffon-engined Spitfires and the Far East in a single thirty-page chapter which is a breathless read. Each of those topics should have been expanded into a chapter apiece. Then there is a chapter about the Spitfire's post-war career, which covers Malaya and the formation of Israel. This has some fascinating incidents in which Israeli and Egyptian Spitfires fight against each other, and also against RAF Spitfires, which seem to have been bullied by everyone. The Israelis also flew a Czech-designed variation of the Messerschmitt 109. Odd times.

The narrative basically ends on page 144, with brief descriptions of action in Malaya and Korea. India phases its Spitfires out of service in 1958, and that is that.

The second half of the book starts with lengthy section that describes the Spitfire's contemporaries, usually in the space of one or two pages. This doesn't really gel with the rest of the book. On a conceptual level it's an excellent idea, because it is hard to appreciate the Spitfire without understanding the aircraft that it fought against, and alongside. The problem is that the author generally writes about each aircraft in isolation, and in several cases the Spitfire is only mentioned in passing, as if the author had suddenly realised that he was drifting off-topic.

There is a description of Japanese army and navy fighters that concentrates on their performance against American P-40, P-47, and P-51 fighters, with a short line about encounters with the Mk VIII Spitfire. There are several pages about Russian contemporaries of the Spitfire, and this section does not mention the Spitfire at all; there are well-written descriptions of Yak and Lavochkin fighters engaging the Luftwaffe which simply don't seem very relevant. Frustratingly, coverage of the Italian Macchi 202 fighters just barely mentions the Spitfire, which is a disappointment given that the two aircraft fought each other.

This section should have been filled with combat action reports and contemporary accounts, but - and this is the book's other flaw - the author doesn't put all this technical detail and research into context. I think the fundamental problem is that the author, who is an architecture editor for The Guardian, is not a specialist. He has done his research and is an excellent writer, but he doesn't have the magic touch. He opens the chapter which deals with the Spitfire's contemporaries by claiming that "the Spitfire was the finest all-round fighter of its time", which may be true, but the chapter does not present a convincing case to support this, and I cannot take the author's word for it because he is an architect, not a test pilot, or aviation tactician. On the other hand, he avoids the typical "which was best" nonsense that spews over message boards all across the internet. What the world needs is an expert on aviation who is also a great writer.

Surprisingly, there is almost no mention of the Hawker Tempest, the RAF's other leading fighter of the second half of the war. I am still not clear as to whether the Tempest project was an attempt to replace the Spitfire; I believe the Spitfire actually remained in service longer, at least as a naval aircraft. The book leaves me none the wiser.

The book ends with a section that describes this Spitfire's place in post-war culture, which reminds me a bit of Patrick Wright's frustrating book "Tank", although thankfully Jonathan Glancey sticks to the point. This is pure nostalgia for anyone who had an Airfix Spitfire when they were younger. There is an interview with the Diana Barnato-Walker. She ferried Spitfires for the Air Transport Auxilliary and has led a fascinating life. She seems like one of those indomitable people who would thrive if stranded on a remote island. She would probably construct a shelter, find a source of water, build a radio out of scrap parts, and use Morse code to signal for help.

The book has a useful appendix with run-down of all the different Spitfire marks. It has line drawings of the major models. The Mk V looks almost the same as the Mk I, because they have illustrated a rare Va with the all-machine gun wing; but the oil cooler is slightly larger than the oil cooler on the Mk I.


For To Next - And Not Or
For To Next - And Not Or

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars STOP, 4 Nov 2007
Steve Hillage played guitar with British progressive rock group Gong. He had a beard, and left Gong to have a solo career on Virgin records in the mid 1970s, at a time when Virgin records put out a lot of records by bearded guitarists. Hillage was just getting into his stride when punk happened, and he took a break from music in 1979 and shaved off his beard. In 1983 he returned with FOR TO NEXT, which was absolutely different from everything he had done previously.

FOR TO NEXT is a departure akin to Neil Young's "Trans", although if anything it is even more total. It is a synthesiser pop album in what was then a modern electronic style. Electronic drums, twangy Prophet V synthesisers. I surmise that Hillage had bought a ZX Spectrum and was suddenly enthused with technology. FOR TO NEXT is unrecognisable as a Steve Hillage album. The lead singer doesn't even sound like Hillage, his voice is deep and doom-laden in the kind of shouty, chanting style that was popular at the time. A lot of the album sounds like Heaven 17's "Penthouse and Pavement" or John Foxx's "Metamatic". It is impressive that Steve Hillage could pull off such a total sylistic change. The song "Bright Future" is mildly funky. There are guitar solos, but they are nothing out of the ordinary.

Although the album's electronic sound is exactly of its time, the music itself doesn't work. Hillage captures the style of an early-80s synth pop group, but his songwriting must have been going through a slump, because the tunes sound like something Thomas Dolby might have used as the third track on a 12" single. They aren't catchy enough to be pop, or mesmeric enough to be something else. The songs generally work up a groove, with a tapestry of synthesisers and guitars, but they don't go anywhere and the production isn't lush enough to pass as ambient. The drum machines now sound very badly dated. The impression I get is that Steve Hillage is a talented guitarist, a clever sonic craftsman and producer, and a good collaborator, but he just doesn't have a gift for writing lyrics or concise pop songs, certainly not in the ominous, minor-key style that was required of this type of synthesiser pop.

In fact the only good track is the first one, "These Uncharted Lands", which is the only song I can listen to repeatedly. It sounds epic and sad., but the lyrics are nonsense, and are just dated as the drums; they are oblique, doomy, and badly poetic, like the lyrics of Gary Numan. "To wash our fears away / from the ashes of decay". The chorus goes "These uncharted lands / nobody understands / castles are made of sand", which is silly, and seems derivative of Jimi Hendrix. The synthesisers have a pleasant Commodore 64 quality to them which sounds charming nowadays.

Tracks 9-14 are the EP instrumental AND NOT OR, which was packaged with the album but did nothing to help it climb the charts. Like the rest of the album AND NOT OR was recorded with Steve Hillage's girlfriend, Miquette Giraudy. Miquette is a lovely name. The two of them spent the rest of the 1980s producing other acts, and had a renaissance in the 1990s as the ambient house duo System 7. AND NOT OR is essentially the first System 7 record. It is ambient house from 1983, with the same dated drum machines and thin synthesisers. It is as problematic as FOR TO NEXT, in that System 7 minus the lush production equals not a great deal (and I like System 7 a lot). AND NOT OR sounds like television soundtrack music. Don't let it put you off System 7, though.

I admire the use of Eurostile on the cover of the record. It is ironic that Steve Hillage's previous album, the ambient "Rainbow Dome Musick" from 1979, sounds less dated than this album.


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