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freewheeling frankie (north London, England)

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walimex pro 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Canon EF
walimex pro 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Canon EF
Price: £397.99

4.0 out of 5 stars superb image quality, not so easy to use, 5 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This lens isn't easy to use for those used to relying on modern autofocus technology: it is completely manual, saving - to judge from the price - considerable money by not having a focussing motor, image stabilisation or any electrics at all. The downsides of this are considerable: you can't just point it at something, half depress the shutter button to focus and then shoot, and the exif data will lack any information about or from the lens - i.e. focal length, distance, aperture, lens make and model (NB - Walimex have now launched a version containing a chip that sends exif data to the camera, which at the time of writing is an insignificant £10 more than this version; it is still completely manual, however). You have to set the aperture on the lens as well and you can't really do that while looking through the viewfinder, although there's nothing wrong with the aperture ring per se - you just can't see the setting without looking at the side of the lens. It's pretty hard to focus accurately without using live view, though ok for landscapes once you've found infinity. So you may find yourself putting the camera on a tripod quite a lot as that makes live view a lot easier to use.

But once you get past these issues, the upsides are considerable - first, it's a very fast lens so you can isolate your subject and get some excellent bokeh, although like virtually all lenses it's a bit soft wide open. Second, the image quality is stunning - worthy of far more expensive lenses. It's very sharp, and spectacularly free of chromatic aberration - I was closely examining some photos with very strong contrast recently, and purple/green fringing was insignificant (narrow and very faint) at 100%; it will be completely invisible when you can see anywhere near the whole photo, even on a really big monitor. I'm assuming this is a result of the extraordinary amount of glass they've put in the thing. It's very solidly built, takes a common filter size (77mm) and comes with a lens hood. There's a nice big and fairly stiff focussing ring. On a cropped frame camera, it's a sort of halfway house between wide angle and a standard lens; on a full-frame camera, it's an excellent moderately wide angle, and the image quality is more than good enough for the greater resolution. My only slight quibble with the image quality, in fact, is that the colours are a bit washed out - you may well want to beef them up a bit in processing. But the level of detail you can capture, and the ease of improving the colour saturation, make this a very minor issue.

I've marked it down one star for the slightly washed out colours, difficulty of focussing, relatively restricted applications and lack of exif; the size and weight (both remarkable for a 35mm lens) are significant but not enough to bother me for handheld. But if you're using a tripod and have live view, only the exif will really matter and that shouldn't be a deal-breaker. You'll have to go a long way or get very lucky to find another lens with image quality and speed like this anywhere near this price. Basically it's a steal for anyone that wants to spend some time and thought getting a great shot, not so good for spontaneous walk around subjects, sport or most wildlife photography. The speed makes it excellent for applications like shooting musicians in dim lighting, as long as they don't move around too much.

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £67.65

77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars life after John Cale, 25 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Velvet Underground (Audio CD)
Here it comes now, the third and (presumably) final instalment of the Velvet Underground super deluxe reissues from Universal. The format (10"x12" hardback book with cardboard slots for the CDs) is identical to the first two.

As with The Velvet Underground & Nico, there are 6 CDs, with the last two being live recordings. Like White Light/White Heat, however, the essay is by David Fricke, and again as with WL/WH it told me a lot less that I didn't already know than Richie Unterberger's essay with the VU&N super deluxe, though again there are fascinating quotes from band members, most particularly from a recent interview with Doug Yule undertaken specifically for this project.

Unlike both previous super deluxe outings, this one contains three mixes of the original album - the "Closet Mix" by Lou Reed, the Val Valentin mix insisted upon by Verve/MGM because they weren't too keen on Reed's mix, and a mono mix described as "Promotional Mono Mix", meaning it was presumably only issued to radio stations and didn't make it into record shops. David Fricke asserts in his essay that it was the Closet mix which was originally issued on LP in 1969 and the Val Valentin mix later replaced it - this applies to the USA but in the UK it was the other way round - the first edition was the Val Valentin mix (sent to UK Polydor in error) and the second, from 1971, was the Closet mix. Things got more complicated with the arrival of CDs - on the earliest CD issue, one half of the album was from the Closet mix and one half from the Val Valentin mix; this error was fairly quickly rectified in favour of the Val Valentin mix and the Closet mix then turned up in its entirety on Peel Slowly & See but to my knowledge has never been available separately on a standalone CD.

Let's look at the contents. As with the super deluxe editions of their first two albums, the following considerations apply for fans considering purchase:
1. The mastering
2. The mono mix
3. The studio extras
4. The live recording
5. The amount of previously unheard content

The mastering:
Is absolutely fine, though headphones reveal quite a lot of hiss in places. Of course both stereo mixes of the original album have already been available in respectable masterings.

The mono mix:
My sense of anticipation for this wasn't at the same level as it was for the mono WL/WH. Just as well, as it sounds suspiciously like a bounce-down of the stereo Closet mix - as well as sounding very similar, it uses the same take of Some Kinda Love - the Val Valentin mix used a completely different take. The Murder Mystery perhaps inevitably doesn't work well in mono - the two recitations just interfere with each other when not separated into left and right channels - but the rest of the album sounds fine, just not very different.

The studio extras:
CD 2 (The Closet Mix) contains a bonus track in the shape of Beginning To See The Light (Alternate Closet Mix). Presumably rejected in favour of the released Closet mix version, it's slightly inferior to that version and is of course the same take. CD 3 (Promotional Mono Mix) contains two bonus tracks in the shape of the single versions of What Goes On and Jesus. Both mono, the former is an edit but otherwise sounds identical to the full length mono version; the latter is effectively indistinguishable from the mono album version; someone with sharper ears than me may be able to discern some minor difference.

CD 4 contains all the studio material the Velvets recorded in 1969 after the original release of this album, ostensibly for a fourth album which didn't get issued at the time. All of this material first saw the (legal) light of day in 1985 and 1986 on the albums VU and Another View (along with a few tracks recorded when John Cale was still in the band, which have been reissued on the deluxe & super deluxe versions of White Light/White Heat.) Most of the tracks on VU and Another View were newly mixed for those releases - only 4 of the original 1969 mixes (Ocean, I'm Gonna Move Right In, Ferryboat Bill and Rock & Roll) were used. Those 4 appear here and are joined by another 4 previously unissed original 1969 mixes and 6 brand new mixes from 2014 - the 1984 and 1986 mixes, which sound very much of their time, have been consigned to the dumper. Straight away, the 1969 mix of Foggy Notion is way superior to the 1984 mix - weightier, and less reverb on the snare. Next up is a new mix of One Of These Days; the new mix has clearly been done in the spirit of the 1969 mixes rather than the over-reverbed 1984/86 mixes. Happily, this applies throughout - whether 1969 or 2014 mixes have been used, they are hugely superior to the 1980s ones, and the four songs that were always available in 1969 mixes are far better mastered than they were 30 years ago. What seemed in some cases to be rather slight, poppy tunes sound far more convincing here than they did with their 1980s mixes and mastering. Given that the contents of this disc are only available in the super deluxe edition, Universal really ought to consider issuing it separately, preferably with the Cale tracks added, though the latter are at least available in the 2 CD version of WL/WH.

The live recording
Consists of recordings made at the Matrix in San Francisco on 26-27 November 1969; it isn't stated whether this represents 2 gigs or one that went on past midnight but if it's the former the individual tracks aren't specified to one night or the other. Note also that the two tracks here that appeared on The Quine Tapes (Rock And Roll was also on 1969 Live) were supposedly recorded on different dates (Sister Ray on 3 December, Rock And Roll on 25 November) so one must be wrong. The Matrix had an in-house 4-track recording system and performances there appear to have been routinely recorded, though due to the expense of half inch tape they were quite often recorded over, which apparently happened to quite a lot of the Velvet Underground recordings from earlier in their quite lengthy residency at the venue. Six of these performances (Some Kinda Love, Beginning To See The Light, Lisa Says, Rock And Roll, White Light/White Heat and Sweet Jane) were first issued in 1974 on 1969 Velvet Underground Live, along with more from the Matrix and a few from a slightly earlier gig in Texas; it's unknown whether the other tracks on that album from the Matrix were recorded on the same night(s) as the ones here.

What isn't clear is whether the compilers of 1969 Velvet Underground Live had access to the 4-track tapes or were just given mix-downs; given the slight crackles on some tracks there, it may even have been acetates. Either way, the difference in sound quality is staggering; I've always found the recordings on 1969 Live entirely listenable and it's one of my all-time favourite albums but they were undoubtedly of "good bootleg" quality. Here, the compilers HAVE had access to the 4-track tapes and we now have 2 hours of the best-sounding live Velvet Underground recordings ever to see the light of day, legally or otherwise. Not just marginally the best-sounding, but by the proverbial country mile - the recordings are amazingly clean-sounding, with considerable weight and punch where appropriate, begging the very obvious questions of "how much more is there?" and "when do we get a remixed/remastered/expanded version of 1969 Live?" or, if there's a lot more of this stuff, "when do we get the Velvets at the Matrix box set?" - though my earlier remark about many of the tapes from earlier in their residency being taped over is sourced from a quote of the guy that ran the venue at the time, so perhaps the latter is not very likely. We can at least hope that the multi-tracks also exist for the Matrix recordings on 1969 Live that aren't duplicated here.

As well as the 6 tracks that first appeared on 1969 Live, the version of Sister Ray here first appeared on The Quine Tapes, mastered from a cassette recording - again, the improvement in quality is massive, though there is a sudden drop in quality for about 30 seconds round about the 33 minute mark, which suggests that the tape may have run out and a little bit of Robert Quine's cassette recording had to be inserted. The remaining 11 tracks have never seen the light of day before. It seems very likely that at least some of these recordings were considered for 1969 Live and rejected - where different versions of the same songs appear on that album, they are generally superior to the versions here, though not by much - the overall standard is very high. Finally, 4 songs here did not appear on 1969 Live at all - Venus In Furs (replacing John Cale's viola with organ); a particularly unexpected (and very fast) run though of There She Goes Again; and excellent if fairly straight versions of I'm Set Free and After Hours.

The amount of previously unheard content:
While there are a lot of previously unheard mixes of studio material here, and in the case of the 1969 recordings this is a far from insignificant bonus, there are no previously unheard studio recordings here at all. But as detailed above, 11 of the 18 live tracks have never ever seen the light of day before, and some of them are superb.

In conclusion:
Like the super deluxe editions of the Velvets' first two albums, this is a superbly produced item containing iconic and brilliant music; this set is certainly better value than the 3 CD super deluxe version of White Light/White Heat. There are two very strong reasons for buying this if you're a serious Velvets fan - the massively superior mixes/mastering of the 1969 "4th album" material, and the staggeringly good sound quality of the live material. As a result, the relatively disappointing mono mix doesn't dent the desirability of the set overall. Unlike the WL/WH super deluxe, it also beats the 2 CD "Deluxe" version hands down: CD 1 of the deluxe edition is the Val Valentin mix of the original album, i.e. you can still only get the Closet mix on a box set - this one or Peel Slowly & See; CD 2 is a "best" of the Matrix recordings, omitting We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together, Venus In Furs, There She Goes Again, Sister Ray, I'm Set Free and After Hours - all previously unissued performances except for Sister Ray. Personally I think the opportunity to hear that Sister Ray in good quality is one of the main reasons to go for the Super Deluxe, along with the audio justice finally done to the 1969 recordings, none of which are on the deluxe edition.

November 2015 postscript: all the live performances included on CDs 5 & 6 here have now been reissued as part of "The Complete Matrix Tapes", leaving this set looking much less good value than it did a year ago. Its remaining USPs are now the Closet and inessential mono mixes of the studio album (of which you may have the former as part of "Peel Slowly And See") and the 1969 studio material - and it can surely only be a matter of time before that comes out separately.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2014 5:18 PM GMT

Agilok & Blubbo
Agilok & Blubbo

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars for Can completists only, 5 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Agilok & Blubbo (Audio CD)
This album is the soundtrack to an obscure German film made in 1968. It features what are probably the earliest released recordings made by Can (as The Inner Space - they weren't called Can yet) outside of the long-deleted Prehistoric Future, which documented their first ever performance together in June 1968, and perhaps E.F.S No.7, recorded in September 1968 and issued on Unlimited Edition. Much of their early work seems to have been soundtrack commissions, with Irmin Schmidt using his connections in the movie and classical music worlds to keep the band afloat.

While it's unclear exactly when these recordings were made, the frequent presence of flute (presumably played by early member David Johnson) and the absence of their first proper singer, Malcolm Mooney, suggest that it probably hails from late summer/early autumn 1968. From that point of view, it's an interesting listen - very little else from that early in their existence has seen the light of day - but considered as a Can album, it better illustrates how rapidly they developed in their first six months - they got better than this very quickly. It's also dominated by Michael Karoli's guitar to a perhaps greater degree than any of their other albums, with the rhythm section not yet the dominant ingredient it soon became in most of their music.

It's interesting to compare this to the other complete album of soundtrack material Can recorded (slightly later?) in 1968, Kamasutra Ost. Where that film saw them using Indian-sounding scales on most tracks to go with the theme of the film, here it's mostly either loud rock or more free-form or quieter incidental music, sometimes just solo guitar. Because of this, although it isn't actually better than the Kama Sutra soundtrack, it's probably a better indication of where Can were heading at the time. But as on Kama Sutra, Irmin Schmidt's keyboards aren't very prominent at all.

The opening title theme song (with an early vocal from Karoli?) contains perhaps the earliest-recorded example of Can's hypnotic rock improvisation. Kamerasong features an uncredited female singer. Revolutionslied features shouted unison vocals by a man and a woman and uses a theme that appears on several tracks, especially the closing Flop Pop and Apokalypse, both of which are loud rock jams with almost garage-y fuzz guitar, albeit with David Johnson's flute quite prominent at times. There's quite a Velvet Underground feel to some of the non-fuzzed guitar licks, especially on Zwischen den Bäumen and the solo Probleme - though bear in mind that the Velvets' third album, which some of these licks most resemble, hadn't been issued, or perhaps even recorded yet when this was recorded.

If you're interested in what Can's earliest forays into rock music sounded like, this is for you, but while much of it is quite an entertaining listen in that light, none of it displays the greatness audible on their first two albums proper, Monster Movie and Delay 1968.

Journey in Time
Journey in Time
Price: £16.55

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not a reunion of Arthur Brown's proper Kingdom Come, 3 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Journey in Time (Audio CD)
This album is a very late footnote to the story of Arthur Brown's early 1970s band Kingdom Come. Victor Peraino, an American keyboard player, joined Kingdom Come in 1972 shortly before they recorded their last album, the superb Journey. Peraino, mostly playing synthesizers and mellotron, changed the sound of the band drastically, and along with the pioneering use of a drum machine made the album sound highly futuristic by the standards of the time. But within a few months of Journey's release in 1973, Kingdom Come split and Peraino returned to Detroit, where he formed a new band with local musicians and rather cheekily called it Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come. They made an album in 1975 called No Man's Land, of which reputedly only 150 copies were pressed, and an EP in 1981 called We're Next; these have been reissued together on a single CD, which I haven't heard; the original cover (not the one on the version on sale on Amazon UK) looks pretty groovy though.

So fast forward about 40 years and up pops Peraino again, still with the Kingdom Come name although with a completely different band. And this time he's brought in Arthur Brown to sing on 5 of the tracks. This is just as well as Peraino is not a very interesting singer. But even with Arthur Brown on board and a remake of Journey's opening track, Time Captives, this really isn't a very interesting album. The band are competent enough but much of the music is pretty uninspired. The best tracks are probably the epic Empires Of Steel (despite the absence of Arthur Brown) and the quite decent - if rather pointless - remake of Time Captives, on which Peraino digs out some of his old synths to make some very similar noises to the original. This sadly shows up the uninspired prog cliches of much of the rest of the material. Two of Arthur's tracks are covers - I Put A Spell On You and Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. The former at least doesn't try to copy the awesome Crazy World version too closely, but despite Arthur being in decent voice on both, the arrangements are pretty uninspired, especially on the latter. Unless you're a huge fan of Arthur's latterday material, I'd avoid this - calling it Kingdom Come is courting a visit from Trading Standards.

Price: £12.82

5.0 out of 5 stars of its time and way ahead of its time, 12 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Journey (Audio CD)
Kingdom Come's third and last album followed a major personnel shake-up and sounded radically different to its sometimes very silly - if often entertaining - predecessor. Keyboard player Goodge Harris, who played excellent organ and piano on their first two albums, was replaced by Victor Peraino, an American who majored in Mellotron and synthesizers and made a huge difference to the sound of the band. But more radical still was the replacement of drummer Slim Steer with the Bentley Rhythm Ace drum machine. There ARE earlier recordings that use a drum machine - J.J. Cale was quite fond of them and used one on parts of his debut album, Naturally. But no rock band had played live with a drum machine when Kingdom Come began doing so in 1972, and Journey is almost certainly the first rock album to use one throughout, and while the sounds it produces - with the semi-exception of the bass drum - don't closely resemble those of real drums, there was clearly quite a lot of flexibility to program the rhythms.

The album starts with a slow, metronomic bass drum thud - the last time in the whole record that you could conceivably think it might feature a live drummer. It speeds up and is gradually joined by the other instruments before bursting into synth-drenched space-rock anthem Time Captives - although Arthur actually sings "time captains" throughout. The following Triangles is a very oblique waltz-time instrumental, equally futuristic sounding if very different, then on Gypsy they close the first side of the original LP with a sublime dose of rocking prog, which borrows a couple of riffs from one of their earlier tracks and features some epic and beautifully arranged heavy guitar from Andy Dalby, still with that futuristic sound - the production is pleasingly uniform throughout, helping to make the album even more than the sum of its very considerable parts.

The 3 part Superficial Roadblocks kicks off the second half of the album with massed Mellotrons on both orchestra and choir settings and the lead vocal ably sung by guitarist Andy Dalby - like some of the other vocals on the album, it sounds like it's been processed through a Leslie speaker. Conception is another oblique little instrumental, this time overlaid with epic screams by Arthur Brown. This is followed by Spirit Of Joy, apparently one of the last tunes Goodge Harris contributed to before he left the band and written with the intention of having a "proper song". Its extreme positivity suits the title and its simple structure and tune make it unsurprising that it was chosen as a single - nothing else on the album could possibly have been a single A-side. It's a strong tune but has always sounded a little out of place here. Finally, Come Alive fades in on a 6/8 shuffle and like Gypsy features a lot of Andy Dalby's excellent guitar as well as some quieter sections.

When Journey was issued in spring 1973, it sounded like nothing that had preceded it. The drum machine and heavy use of synthesizers - and, it must be said, the excellent production by arch retro rocker Dave Edmunds, of all people - gave it a highly futuristic space-rock sound that went way beyond Hawkwind's use of synthesizers largely as sound effects. So futuristic, indeed, that it's interesting to speculate on how much this album influenced some of the post-punk and electro-pop acts 5 or 6 years down the line - you can certainly hear a pre-echo of Gary Numan on parts of Time Captives, except that the vocals are so vastly superior. But it's also of its time, with prog rock riffing and a spiritual dimension to some of the lyrics usually absent in the vastly different scene of the late 70s and early 80s.

This edition improves slightly on the sound of the 2003 Sanctuary reissue but despite growing an extra disc it only adds two tracks to that edition. Here, the first disc contains the original album and the second contains the A- and B-sides of a single, 3 "alternate versions" of songs on the album and 3 tracks from a John Peel session recorded in September 1972.

The single A-side was a considerably altered version of Spirit Of Joy - the slow intro was edited off, and the drum machine was replaced by an uncredited drummer. The B-side of the single, Slow Rock (named after a setting on the drum machine!) has never been reissued before. Over what sounds like an edit of the backing track of Come Alive, or at least an alternative take of it, Arthur sings a completely different lyric namechecking many of the glam and glitter artists and hit songs of the time and Andy Dalby plays a fine echoed guitar solo. This is by far the juiciest rarity here and most obvious reason for fans to buy this edition.

The three "alternate versions" - of Time Captives, Conception and Come Alive - have, along with the single version of Spirit Of Joy, appeared on all previous CD editions of Journey and were first issued on the 1976 compilation The Lost Ears. These are presumably discarded early mixes - while they are probably essentially built on the same takes as the final album versions, they are significantly different mixes and edits, with some different-sounding instrumental parts as well.

The John Peel session is taken from an off-air recording and is of bootleg quality, though certainly listenable; two of the tracks are followed by pertinent comments by John Peel. This version of Slow Rock is nearer the length of the full version of Come Alive and features some archetypal prog rock guitar and organ duelling, far more typical of the era; John Peel's comments indicate that Goodge Harris was yet to be replaced by Victor Peraino. The lyric, so far as I can tell with the murky sound, is different from either Come Alive or the single version of Slow Rock. Spirit Of Joy is considerably slower than either the album or single versions and, frankly, inferior, especially as it is much longer - over 8 minutes; the spacy breakdown in the middle is quite entertaining, though. These two tracks were previously issued on the 2003 Sanctuary reissue. Here we also get a previously unissued version of Triangles from the same session. The interplay of guitar and Goodge Harris's organ make this quite different from the album version. It's fascinating to hear these tunes being played by the different line-up and interesting to discover that Goodge Harris remained in the band into the drum machine era and Victor Peraino had been a member for no more than a couple of months when they started recording Journey.

All these extras are worth having to some degree, and some are excellent, but don't be fooled by the double CD into thinking this adds much to the Sanctuary version - it's only about 7 minutes longer.

But overall, this is a superb package and it would have been wrong to leave any of the extras off this reissue just because most of them had come out before.

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (Deluxe Edition)
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £13.47

5.0 out of 5 stars one hit wonder makes killer album, 9 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Known to most of the planet, if at all, as the man who had a number 1 hit with Fire, wore a flaming helmet and never troubled the bestseller lists again, Arthur Brown's musical career actually started in earnest a couple of years before this, his debut album, and continues to this day. If all you know is Fire, and you like it, be assured that much of this brilliant record is just as good, if not better.

The format is organ trio, with Arthur Brown's incredible voice superbly supported by the late Vincent Crane's Hammond organ and occasional piano. What was side 1 of the original lp is a concept piece on the subject of fire, hell and the devil, though neither hell nor the devil are mentioned in so many words. The music is right on the cusp between psychedelia and early prog rock, strongly arranged (with horns and strings added at times), well recorded and powerfully played. The second half of the album is more varied if slightly less consistent and includes a couple of covers, most notably a killer version of I Put A Spell On You, originally by one of Arthur's main vocal inspirations, Screaming Jay Hawkins. Much of it is as good as the first half, with only Rest Cure and the lack of conceptual continuity slightly letting the side down.

Overall, despite not a single note of guitar, this is one of the strongest rock albums of the late 60s.

If you're a fan you've most probably bought this already. But just in case the paucity of previously unissued material compared to the 1991 Polydor CD put you off, it is worth getting for the considerably improved mastering on the original album. However, this two CD version does have its failings - Esoteric didn't include the mono mix of the LP, which would have fitted quite comfortably on CD 1 with the stereo version. While some have asserted that it's just the stereo mix bounced down to mono, it sounds different enough to me - smoother, for a start - that it must have been mixed separately.

Of the bonus tracks on CD 2, Devil's Grip and Give Him A Flower were the A- and B-sides respectively of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown's first Track single, issued in 1967. The former is one of Arthur Brown's classics, and the latter takes the mickey out of flower power to amusing effect. These were previously reissued on Sanctuary's career-spanning Fire: The Anthology. Music Man (a.k.a. What's Happening) was the B-side of the single of Nightmare, issued as an unsuccessful follow-up to Fire, making it an important addition here - it's only been reissued before on an obscure 1997 US reissue of the album, which added the 3 single-only tracks (in mono) to the original stereo album and the alternative mix of side 1. This is a new stereo mix and about 40 seconds longer than the mono single B-side. Musically its descending chord sequence sounds suspiciously like a more uptempo ancestor of Sunrise off Galactic Zoo Dossier, but it isn't THAT good; it also has some very similar organ licks to this album's version of I Put A Spell On You, but isn't as good as that, either. Shame they didn't also include the single edit (minus Prelude) of Nightmare; as far as I know they used an edit of the "alternative mono mix" rather than the mono album version. Fire (first version) is a completely different take of the iconic single, presumably from early in the album sessions. It lacks the "I am the god of hell fire" intro and the brass, going straight into a throbbing bass line and ending with some spectacular psychedelic sound effects.

Tracks 5-9 constitute an abandoned early version of the first side of the LP, minus the brass and strings overdubs, and were included on previous reissues where it wasn't made clear that they are not the mixes that appeared on the original mono LP - here they're correctly identified as "alternative mono mixes".

The BBC Radio 1 tracks are a welcome addition, however they have been sourced from someone's off-air recording and the sound quality is a bit rough, especially on Come And Buy. The medley of Fire Poem and Fire is excellent but it's unclear why they used the off-air recording as Strange Fruit issued this track on Before the Fall in 1991 in far better quality than this, presumably having had access to the BBC's master. Finally there is an alternative version of Nightmare from the soundtrack of an obscure film called "The Committee". To me, it sounds like yet another mix of the album version, possibly with some different overdubs. The sound is very boxy if not actually distorted.

Overall, this is worth getting for the much improved sound and the inclusion of three tracks off singles, especially the elusive - and extended - Music Man, but in terms of previously unissued material it's a bit thin: the alternate version of Fire, the good but very short and rough-sounding BBC version of Come And Buy and the not-drastically-different soundtrack version of Nightmare.

Blues From The Checker Vaults [Double CD]
Blues From The Checker Vaults [Double CD]
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £5.72

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not just the usual suspects, 25 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Few of these label overview compilations are of catalogues quite as iconic as that of Chess and its subsidiary label Checker, so you'd think this would all be really familiar stuff. But the Chess catalogue is huge and doesn't only consist of Chuck/Bo/Muddy/Wolf/Sonny Boy/Walter etc., so while I'm sure most, quite probably all of the less well-known items here have been reissued before, the chances are that unless you're a real blues obsessive there'll be plenty here that you haven't previously encountered - I only had 9 of these 40 songs previously. So alongside bona fide members of the Chess hall of fame (though not Muddy, Chuck or Wolf because they were on Chess proper) there are lots of more obscure figures like John Brim, Big Boy Spires, Morris Pejoe, Danny Overbea and Big Ed, plus a couple of fairly well-known artists recording under different names, perhaps for contractual reasons (Arthur Crudup as Percy Lee Crudup, Louisiana Red as Rocky Fuller) and some good late recordings by Memphis Minnie. Much of the more obscure material is of a very high standard - this compilation was definitely created for a good listening experience, not to tick the boxes with tunes whose only distinguishing quality is rarity - you won't be using the skip button. And even with the major artists, it doesn't primarily go for the really big tunes - Bo Diddley's I'm A Man and Pretty Thing and Little Walter's Mean Old World are about the only ones here that nearly everybody looking at this collection is likely to have already. Bargain.

Canon Remote Switch RS-60 E3
Canon Remote Switch RS-60 E3
Price: £13.59

5.0 out of 5 stars essential for tripod work, 10 Aug. 2014
This excellent and reliable product is pretty much essential if you are going to take photos using a Canon camera on a tripod. It weighs practically nothing, takes up very little space in your kit bag and needs no batteries.

It has only two functions:
1. Triggering an exposure (with a press of the button; as with the camera's shutter button, half pressing it allows autofocus and exposure if these are not set to manual)
2. Triggering and holding a bulb exposure, where you manually determine the length of the exposure (press and slide the button to the position where it is held down; slide it back to end the exposure)

With a very light and soft cable, there's virtually no risk of jogging the camera or tripod unless you actually pull the remote switch too far away from the camera - something I've easily avoided doing over quite a few months of use so far. This means it equals the use of an infrared remote switch on not jogging the camera, and beats it on getting the shot every time and not having to get it in front of the camera to trigger an exposure.

I find it particularly useful for triggering and holding long bulb exposures of moving water etc. using a dark neutral density filter; it's also excellent for macro work. It doesn't have the functionality of products such as Neewer Timer Remote Control Rs-60E3 For Canon 550D / T2I but unless you have very particular photographic needs (time lapse etc.), a timer remote control is going to be a far larger presence in your bag and need batteries (which need to be carried separately because it can't be switched off ...). I bought one of those, and it is an amazing product which can do all sorts of clever things, however most of them are things that I'm unlikely to use very often and there are no prizes for guessing which one I carry with me all the time and use regularly.

What's Words Worth? Recorded Live 1978
What's Words Worth? Recorded Live 1978
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essence of early Motorhead, 19 July 2014
This album is a bit of a secret classic to fans of early Motorhead. It's the earliest officially released live recording of the classic three-piece and (unless you favour later line-ups over the Lemmy/Philthy/Fast Eddie trio - and why would you?) it's probably their second best live album after the awesome No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith - and has only one song in common with the original version of that album.

Having come back to this album after not playing it for years, three main observations follow:

1. The recording is superb - it carries more bottom than most Motorhead records and the drums are far better recorded than on Overkill, for instance, despite the latter being recorded in a studio. There's also a lot of very natural-sounding reverb. I've no idea if it really is the room sound of the late, lamented old Roundhouse (greatest rock venue ever, unlike the antiseptic and non-raked modern refit) or whether it was added at the mixing stage, but it sounds great. The packaging and booklet don't even tell us who was responsible for recording and mixing it, although apparently they used the Rolling Stones mobile. Whoever it was did a great job.

2. The playing and singing are spot on. Lemmy is in very fine and, dare I say it, tuneful voice. As in, gruff as only Lemmy can be but in tune at all times. And instrumentally they sound great, which is not to say that there aren't a few places where they lose touch with each other briefly.

3. There aren't many Motorhead/Lemmy songs on here, for two reasons: firstly their set was pruned due to being second on the bill at this gig - bizarrely they chose to drop Vibrator and Motorhead itself; apparently they DID play Lost Johnny, with a guest appearance from Mick Farren, but this has been omitted. Secondly, the date of the recording is significant - more than a year before they released Overkill, they simply didn't have that many songs of their own yet, having only issued one album. However, this isn't really a problem because all the songs they DO play are excellent. There's no filler at all. The preponderance of covers and Larry Wallis songs makes this one of Motorhead's least metal albums - banging as it is, it does clearly illustrate Lemmy's frequent insistence that they are a rock'n'roll band, not a heavy metal band.

The combination of quality material, performance and recording make this about as good a document as exists of the early days of the classic Fast Eddie line-up - in many ways it's better than their studio debut of the previous year, good though that is. You can clearly see why their endless gigging paid the dividends it eventually did between 1979 and 1982 - they were a killer live band. Had it been issued at the time, instead of dribbling out with little fanfare 5 years later, it would probably have sold far better than it did.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens

4.0 out of 5 stars excellent option for a first prime lens, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is by far Canon's cheapest, flimsiest feeling/looking lens, and one of their oldest models still in production. It looks and feels thoroughly unimpressive. Canon have cut a lot of corners to make it this cheap - very thin, loose-feeling focus ring, entirely plastic construction including the mount, noisy and quite slow old-style focussing motor, no image stabilisation, 5 bladed aperture. It's Canon's equivalent of the "value" supermarket own-brand cheap groceries. You'd have to be desperate - or very poor - to buy one.

And yet, there is a reason why it's remained available and popular for so long and it isn't the price, though that certainly helps. And that reason is the combination of fast maximum aperture and remarkable image quality for the money, or indeed for quite a bit more money - if it looked and felt a bit more solid and had a 7- or 8-bladed aperture they could easily sell it for 2 or 3 times as much. It should almost be a compulsory first prime lens purchase for anyone starting out SLR photography with a Canon body. Its IQ leaves the old (pre-STM) 18-55mm kit lens way behind.

Regarding the flimsiness, mine rolled off a ledge and dropped about 3 feet onto concrete while I looked on in horror. The mount came off but easily clicked back in and nothing seemed to be actually broken so I took a shot and, astonishingly, it came out fine. Perhaps it survived due to its ridiculously low weight (less than 5 ounces!) and perhaps I was very lucky (certainly very stupid to put it on a ledge on its side ...) but either way, a couple of years later it still works and the elements inside clearly haven't been displaced at all because the image quality is as good as ever.

The unavoidable downsides of this lens are as follows:
- Autofocus struggles a bit in low light (mine may actually be a bit worse as a result of its accident but if so that's the only obvious harm it suffered)
- The focus ring (but not the front element) revolves during autofocus, so you must be careful not to turn it when set to autofocus for fear of damaging the motor, and always turn autofocus off before removing it from the camera. For manual focus, the loose feeling of the focus ring doesn't inspire confidence and it's not exactly the most precision instrument but it's perfectly possible to get good manual focus.
- The five bladed aperture can leave you with bokeh full of little pentagons in high contrast conditions with a lot of small points of light. This is arguably its least attractive feature.
- It's pretty soft wide open - but then most lenses are and if you stop down to f2.8 it's very sharp and you're still getting far more light through it than you would with a kit lens that doesn't even go to f2.8.

If you're on a tight budget and considering venturing into the world of prime lenses, this versatile little lens with its surprisingly excellent glass is a fine place to start.

PS: since I wrote this review, Canon have issued the Canon EF 50 mm 1.8 STM Lens, which improves considerably on several of this lens's weak points and has even better image quality for very little extra money (and now that Canon have stopped making it, remaining new copies are going up in price) making it a 5 star item and this lens redundant unless you particularly dislike the by-wire focussing motor.

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