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George Harrison - Living in the Material World (Deluxe Edition) [Blu-ray]
George Harrison - Living in the Material World (Deluxe Edition) [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Martin Scorsese
Price: £99.99

75 of 86 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DELUXE EDITION REVIEW, 12 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As almost every review here concentrates on the film, I've decided to limit mine to the Deluxe Edition itself...

THE HD TRANSFER:
In a word: Incredible! Living In The Material World draws from every recording medium of the last 60 years, from super 8 to 35mm, VHS to HD video, all of which is rendered beautifully across this 1080p disc. The filmmakers have clearly gone to great lengths to source the very best picture elements available. The film footage is transferred so beautifully it is almost akin to watching a cinema projection. The interviews from The Beatles' Anthology are a revelation, banishing the pixellated DVD edition into oblivion. The countless stills are so pin sharp and sumptuous they almost feel 3-Dimensional. An absolutely gorgeous HD transfer.

Somewhat bizarrely, the 2.0 PCM soundtrack seems to be in mono. This is more than made up for by the fantastic DTS HD Master Audio track. These songs would sound wonderful on a beat-up transistor radio, but listening to Harrison and The Beatles in master quality isn't entirely unwelcome.

THE BLU-RAY/DVD EXTRAS:
A huge disappointment. I was expecting more extensive versions of the interviews featured in the film. Unfortunately, the entire selection only amounts to a measly 23 minutes. Paul McCartney and Neil Aspinall's interviews clock in at only 2:23 & 3:31 respectively. Such a missed opportunity considering the huge amount of material the filmmakers must have amassed. The extras exclusive to this deluxe edition are equally "blink and you'll miss it", offering nothing of worth compared to the standard release.

THE AUDIO CD:
A nice if inessential collection of demos, drawing mainly from the All Things Must Pass era (fleshed-out versions of six of the ten tracks included on the 30 minute disc feature on that album). More enjoyable than the film extras, the standouts for me were the warmly primitive versions of "Awaiting on You All" and "Behind That Locked Door", with Pete Drake's pedal steel shining through beautifully. I do not have a huge knowledge of George Harrison bootlegs so I am unaware of how rare these tracks may be, and no recording dates are supplied.

THE PACKAGING:
Awful. This does not compare favourably with similarly-priced "deluxe editions" at all. The white cardboard "picture frame" looks and feels very cheap, as does the inner disc book, which is made from glossy but also rather flimsy card. The section for holding the discs is utterly useless. Containing no inner studs to keep the discs in place, all 4 of them had broken free inside the box upon opening. Mine were thankfully scratch-free, although the holders are so bad that the discs fly out every time the box is picked up!

THE BOOK:
Simply an edited paperback version of the already-released hardback. I'd hazard a guess that any fans willing to cough up for this box set will probably own the hardback edition already, which features many more photographs. The inclusion of this condensed version is pointless.

Sadly, I cannot recommend this deluxe edition, particularly for the current price tag. We've had a glut of "ultimate editions" of late and this does not compare favourably with any of them. It is also particularly disappointing after the beautiful Harrison and Ravi Shankar Collaborations box set. I would therefore urge anyone who can live without the demo CD to buy the separate Blu-ray or DVD editions and the accompanying hardback instead. Less money for a much better experience.

UPDATE:

The CD, billed as being "exclusive to this edition" when this box was originally marketed (at double the current price, I might add), has now been issued separately, rendering this edition entirely irrelevant. Therefore, I've dropped this to one star.

Perhaps the Harrison estate should examine Paul McCartney's recent reissues for an example of what "deluxe editions" really mean...
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2012 10:54 PM GMT


The Smiths Complete
The Smiths Complete

84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully-Priced Remastered Collection, 4 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The Smiths Complete (Audio CD)
Good news for Smiths fans: these long-overdue remasters are a genuine improvement over the "brickwalled" disaster of 2008's "The Sound Of The Smiths" compilation. Perhaps inevitably, they are louder than the previous WEA editions, but they are also richer and tighter, with considerably more bottom end.

The BBC session tracks on "Hatful Of Hollow" are particularly powerful. As trite as it sounds, listening to the newly-polished "What Difference Does It Make" or "Reel Around The Fountain" really is the nearest you will get to being in the same room as The Smiths. Yet perhaps the most revelatory of all the albums is "Strangeways Here We Come". The anaemic mastering of the previous CD issue is replaced by a beautifully open and solid soundstage which allows the final "rockier" incarnation of the band to shine through. "Death Of A Disco Dancer", "I Started Something..." and "Last Night I Dreamt..." are especially authoritative.

But it's not all bombast. A myriad of subtler details emerge time and again across these albums. Marr's fingerpicking on the achingly beautiful acoustic version of "Back To The Old House" has never sounded so crystalline. The synthesized strings throughout "The Queen Is Dead" now have considerably more depth. It's thrilling to hear tracks you've listened to for so many years suddenly offer up a wealth of secrets.

The slight downside, to these ears, is a certain over-emphasis on the high frequencies. I found this particularly noticeable on the eponymous debut, where Mike Joyce's hi-hats occasionally sound quite shrill. This is also evident on other "bright" tracks such as "I Want The One I Can't Have" and "Cemetry Gates". These CDs are not "brickwalled" but could have been allowed a little more room to breathe. Ultimately, though, the aforementioned improvements will likely be enough of a trade-off for most listeners.

The mini-vinyl CD replicas restore the original album artwork for the first time, including the inner slip-cases, original front cover stickers and the free poster issued with "Rank". They are not quite as well rendered as similar Japanese mini vinyls. Typically with these scaled-down editions, text size can be comically small, leaving many of the lyrics indecipherable. Those minor caveats aside, these are a vast improvement over the nasty old plastic CD cases with the cropped artwork. "Hatful Of Hollow", "The Queen Is Dead", "Louder Than Bombs" and "Rank" are all gatefolds. The discs themselves replicate the original vinyl labels.

It's well worth investing in this wonderfully-priced box, with each album costing considerably lower than the average individual re-release. Don't let the lack of a couple of 12" tracks or rarities put you off. This is still indispensible. If you've never fully delved into the world of The Smiths, or are considering getting reacquainted, this fantastic box set is all you'll really need.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2014 1:21 AM BST


The Complete Smiths: Collector's Edition [VINYL]
The Complete Smiths: Collector's Edition [VINYL]

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You've Got (almost) Everything Now, 4 Oct. 2011
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Anyone considering spending over £200 on this collection of previously-released material will be well-acquainted enough with the music of The Smiths to wish being spared tedious personal observations regarding the songwriting prowess of Morrissey and Marr. So, to the hulking behemoth that is "The Complete Smiths" box set...

Happily, the remasters are a genuine improvement over the brickwalled disaster of 2008's The Sound Of The Smiths compilation. Perhaps inevitably, they are louder than the previous WEA editions, but they are also richer and tighter, with considerably more bottom end.
Perhaps the most revelatory of all the albums is "Strangeways Here We Come". The anaemic mastering of the previous CD issue is replaced by a beautifully open and solid soundstage which allows the final "rockier" incarnation of the band to shine through. "Death Of A Disco Dancer", "I Started Something..." and "Last Night I Dreamt..." are especially authoritative.

The slight downside, to these ears, is a certain over-emphasis on the higher frequencies. I found this particularly noticeable on the eponymous debut, where Mike Joyce's hi-hats sound quite shrill. This is also evident on other "bright" tracks such as "I Want The One I Can't Have" and "Cemetry Gates". These CDs are not brickwalled to death but could have been allowed a little more room to breathe. Ultimately, though, the improvements will likely be enough of a trade-off for many listeners, this one included.

To the rest...

The mini-vinyl CD replicas restore the original album artwork for the first time, including the inner slip-cases, original front cover stickers and the free poster issued with "Rank". The discs themselves replicate the original vinyl labels.

My turntable is currently in storage, so I cannot comment on the sound of the accompanying vinyls. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed poring over the artwork and lyrics (readable here!) in their original format whilst listening to the CDs. These LPs will be given a thorough spin once my turntable is up and running. Likewise with the 7" singles: as someone who was too young to buy these first time around, it's great to now own a complete set (including imports), which the earlier vinyl collection singularly failed to deliver. They have all been replicated splendidly, right down to the cryptic messages scrawled into the run-out grooves.

There are glossy 12" art cards of each album cover, presumably for framing. These are entirely pointless, as is the poster of Jurgen Vollmer's cover photograph, which is unlikely to be hung on many walls lest it degrade. The accompanying booklet is a rather flimsy concert-program affair with perfunctory notes by Sire Records' Seymour Stein, music journalist Lois Wilson, and endnotes by Engineers Stephen Street and Grant Showbiz. A hardback book would not have been too much to ask for in its place.

"The Complete Picture" DVD is the same bog-standard video retrospective which has been available for years and offers nothing more than even the ancient VHS edition. The flimsy slip case holder looks like a free DVD bundled in with a Sunday Supplement. Highly disappointing.

Of course, this box is not entirely "complete"; there are no CD versions of a small number of 12"-only B-Sides like "Jeane" or "The Draize Train". There are also no rarities. However, every essential release is included, and refurbished in a highly satisfactory manner. It could also be argued that the inclusion of rarities on such a limited edition would have provoked just as much ire from certain sections of The Smiths' fanbase.

Ultimately, this box set will be of particular delight to those obsessive fans whom, through accidents of birth, missed these releases first time around and had to make do with badly cropped artwork and the thin sound of early '90s CD issues. This is a magnificent housing for the music and art of this incredible band.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2016 1:35 AM GMT


As Time Goes by (Abacus Books)
As Time Goes by (Abacus Books)
by Derek Taylor
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Memoir Of An Incredible Era, 11 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The late Derek Taylor's wonderful memoir is a spellbinding insider account of the 60's music industry and its incredible cast of characters. Taylor's relationship with The Beatles, to whom he was friend, confidante and Press Officer, is at the core of this book. They held him in such high regard that he was the only non-Beatle aside from Apple Supremo Neil Aspinall invited to offer comment in their Anthology series.

"As Time Goes By" makes it patently clear why Taylor was so admired: he is a thoroughly likeable narrator whose vivid prose leaps from the page. In lesser hands, the non-chronological structure of this book could have resulted in a haphazard jumble of anecdotes; Taylor's reminiscences, by turns hilarious and touching, are woven together so brilliantly that the notion of a conventional autobiography seems positively dull by comparison.

Taylor may have considered The Beatles to be "The 20th Century's Greatest Romance", yet he never descends into doe-eyed hagiography. His account of "Hey Jude"'s impromptu debut performance in a country pub is particularly beautiful, yet elsewhere he candidly admits: "I don't think I ever hated anyone as much as I hated Paul in the summer of 1968".

The non-Beatle accounts here are equally fascinating. During his mid-60's sabbatical from the group, Taylor was reborn in California as "The Greatest Press Officer In The World", and his roster of clients including The Byrds, Captain Beefheart and The Beach Boys all make appearances. Yet perhaps the most fascinating individual in this book is Taylor himself. His incredible journey from the grey besuited world of provincial journalism to the heart of the 60's counterculture is utterly captivating.

"As Time Goes By" is one of the most enjoyable and compelling musical memoirs ever written. Criminally out of print for years, picking up a used copy is essential for anyone with even the slightest interest in The Beatles and the 60's.


Harry Potter™ Deluxe Robe
Harry Potter™ Deluxe Robe
Offered by Mega Fancy Dress
Price: £17.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Gift For Any Child Who Loves Harry Potter, 11 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I purchased this robe for my four year-old nephew, and he absolutely loves it. It's surprisingly well-made, with red faux silk lining and a thick black velvet outer layer. The attention to detail is very impressive; the Gryffindor badge is as well rendered as one on an actual school uniform.

All in all, a wonderfully tactile and durable gift. My nephew insists on wearing it inside the house and out, and it's weathered numerous bumps and scrapes over the last few weeks. Little Harry Potter fans will adore this costume.


Ricky Gervais Live IV - Science [DVD]
Ricky Gervais Live IV - Science [DVD]
Dvd ~ Unknown Artist
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £2.35

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars INSULTINGLY BAD STAND-UP, 29 Aug. 2011
HOW TO CONSTRUCT YOUR OWN RICKY GERVAIS LIVE COMEDY DVD IN SEVEN STEPS:

1) Pick an incredibly limited amount of obvious "offensive" subjects. For research, watch a Jim Davidson or Roy "Chubby" Brown DVD.

2) Make the most obvious jokes you could possibly think of about said "offensive" subjects (HINT: like the ones you used to tell at school when you were 13).

3) Secretly fill a Foster's can with water to convey a "down with the oiks" onstage "persona". Use this as a convenient prop you can pretend to drink from whilst actually reading the obvious
"offensive" material you've written down that you were too lazy/incompetent to memorise.

4) Adopt a smug manner throughout, constantly telling the audience how great you are whilst vastly overestimating your international "celebrity cache" in the process (disguise this as a joke,
when in fact you actually mean it). The audience are idiots anyway, so they won't care.

5) Get out of there as quickly as possible. Obvious "offensive" jokes about obvious "offensive" subjects don't lend themselves to longevity.

6) Get the vastly funnier Karl Pilkington to appear in an embarrassingly mediocre extra with the bloke from "Willow" & "Leprechaun In The Hood". Combine with squirm-inducing Larry David
"interview" on whose vastly funnier show you somehow managed to blag a guest slot.

7) Release the above, marketing it with a theme you don't bother exploring in any way, shape or form. It doesn't matter, because you can still get some mileage out of people remembering when
you were actually funny (you know, 10 years ago, when you were in The Office).

Now go away.


The Haxan Cloak
The Haxan Cloak

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beautiful Sound Of Darkness, 22 Aug. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Haxan Cloak (Audio CD)
To me, The Haxan Cloak is the sound of...

Witchcraft, dark forests, John Carpenter soundtracks, The Wicker Man, lonely country roads, The Third Ear Band, Wendy Carlos synth drones, the ghost stories of MR James, The Awakening Of Jacob, white noise, Poltergeist thuds, cello scrapes, a dark figure glimpsed in the corner of your eye, Goblin, winter sunsets, the electric charge in the air before a thunderstorm...

The eight instrumental pieces on Bobby Krlic's frighteningly self-assured debut album are all of these things, yet filtered through Krlic's brilliantly dense sonic imprint they become utterly unique. This young man has seemingly emerged from nowhere to create the most terrifyingly beautiful album since Barre Phillips' "Mountainscapes".

What does The Haxan Cloak sound like to you?


The Marshall Suite
The Marshall Suite

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long-Overdue Reissue Of A Great Fall Album, 13 July 2011
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This review is from: The Marshall Suite (Audio CD)
"The Marshall Suite" has been a notable absentee in a back catalogue bursting at the seams with scores of reissues and until recently was selling at ludicrously high sums, so Cherry Red's long-overdue 3 disc edition is to be applauded.

Recorded with a brand new line-up following a monumental onstage bust-up in New York, "The Marshall Suite" proves that the often exasperating meltdowns of Mark E. Smith can sometimes be a welcome clearing of the decks: just compare the tired pre-fallout Peel Session version of "Touch Sensitive" on CD 2 with its triumphant studio counterpart, the opening track on what was the best Fall album in years.

"The Marshall Suite" has aged well and its high points are numerous. "Shake Off" and "(Jung Nev's) Antidotes", all looped strings and crashing drums underpinning Smith's echo-laden rants, sound huge without slipping into bombast; the stomping Rockabilly cover of Tommy Blake's "F-Oldin' Money" is another highlight. "Birthday Song" even finds Smith attempting a bit of balladry in the vein of "Edinburgh Man" / "I'm Going To Spain", to great effect.

The album meanders somewhat towards the end (although "Tom Raggazzi" is a great closer), and the template Smith established here would be used to greater effect on 2003's Country on the Click. But those looking for perfection aren't listening to the right band.

The 2 extra discs on this reissue are fairly disposable. The alternate mixes and B-sides are inessential, the Peel Session tracks (already long available) aren't some of their better BBC moments and the live XFM Radio show on CD 3 suffers from a dead "soundboard" mix. But this is nonetheless a noble attempt to collect everything from the period together in one package. Daryl Easlea's ever-reliable sleevenotes provide welcome continuity with the earlier Castle reissues.

"The Marshall Suite" is a great starting point for anyone keen to dive into the Fall's huge catalogue, and a wonderful testament to Mark E Smith's stubborn brilliance for survival and reinvention.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2014 9:51 PM GMT


NOWHERE MAN : The Final Days of John Lennon
NOWHERE MAN : The Final Days of John Lennon
by Robert Rosen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readable But Largely Redundant Version Of Lennon's Final Years, 6 July 2011
The overreaching concern of Robert Rosen's "Nowhere Man" is to let the reader experience "what it was like to be John Lennon" during his career hiatus of 1975-1980. Challenging the "official" notion of this period as a blissful time of house husbandry and bread baking, "Nowhere Man" posits that the once inseperable JohnandYoko had become almost completely estranged; Yoko a "New Age Capitalist Monster", Lennon a lonely and tormented prisoner of his incredible wealth and fame.

Rosen strikes an engagingly Lennonesque balance between poeticism and unswerving directness throughout the book, and is largely sympathetic towards his protagonist, "doing time in a gilded prison". The chapter chronicling the descent into madness of Lennon's assassin is particularly powerful.

Yet the underlying problem with "Nowhere Man" is the other book born out of its controversial genesis: Fred Seaman's The Last Days of John Lennon. Lennon's former personal assistant published his memoir in 1991 after "Project Walrus", the biography he and Rosen were collaborating on using Lennon's stolen journals, collapsed in a maelstrom of acrimony and double-dealings. In Rosen's bitter introduction, he begs the reader's sympathy for the mental anguish he endured after Seaman "robbed" Lennon's journals back from him- a mind-boggling conceit considering Rosen's complicity in their theft.

"Nowhere Man" is essentially a Cliffsnotes version of Seaman's book, which tells exactly the same story in considerably more detail and with none of Rosen's brouhaha about "channelling Lennon's spirit". Rosen simply rushes through identical events in condensed form, with "imagination" (i.e.- fiction) substituting for insight.

For a genuinely definitive take on this angle of the Lennon story I'd recommend picking up a used copy of the Seaman book. It is flawed, biased, and can never truly escape its controversial origins. For all of that, it is also a genuine insider account of the period. Most of all, it largely forsakes the presumptiousness of "Nowhere Man", which claims to hold the key to Lennon's thoughts despite its author being the only person involved in the whole sorry mess who was left locked outside the imposing steel gates of the Dakota.


Eight Days a Week: Inside The Beatles' Final World Tour
Eight Days a Week: Inside The Beatles' Final World Tour
by Bob Whitaker
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Document Of A Historic Tour, 5 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Robert Whitaker was granted full behind-the-scenes access for what was to become The Beatles' final tour in 1966, and his wonderful photographs of that tumultuous event are collected in this beautiful hardback. Copious amounts of performance shots are featured throughout this book, and they are uniformly excellent, but the best pictures here are the offstage moments. They offer a true glimpse inside "The eye of the hurricane".

Whitaker's photographs from the Japanese leg of the tour are particularly striking. Holed up in the The Beatles' hotel suite, he variously captured them being visited by merchants (I'd kill for some of those ultra-cool sunglasses!), trying to escape for some sightseeing (not appreciated by the authorities), and collaborating on a group painting (a colour reproduction of the finished work is included).

During that Japanese visit Whitaker was gifted a brand new camera and wide-angle lens kit by the Promoter, which he used to dazzling effect; even simple shots of the group tuning up backstage are transformed into epic panoramas. Whitaker was also present during the infamous Philippines debacle, and his candid shots of The Beatles' fleeing the Marcos Mafia through the airport brilliantly convey the danger of the moment.

This is a wonderful document of a historic era. Highly recommended for any Beatles fan.


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