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Bose ® SoundLink ® Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Bose ® SoundLink ® Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Price: £169.95

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes portable Bluetooth speakers to the next level, 10 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very stylish compact portable speaker that's heavier than it looks (in a reassuring kind of way). The control buttons are conveniently located on top of the speaker and it has a firm rubber base that keeps it stable. Connection via Bluetooth was very straightforward with my Android MP3 player, iPad and laptop and when switched on it starts playing the sound from my iPad within a second. The Bluetooth range is good around the house and it reaches upstairs. It can be connected using a 3.5mm cable (not included) to non-Bluetooth enabled devices. It takes 2 hours to charge from empty, can be used when it's charging and I've been getting an average playback time of 6½ hours.

The quality of sound delivered by this speaker takes it to an altogether different level - it has to be heard to be believed. The depth of the bass is extraordinary and it sounds so natural and unforced and the overall sound is so clear and precise. The volume goes VERY loud and it fills every corner of the room and despite it being a single speaker, you get a sound similar to that of two stereo speakers spaced apart. It only starts to distort when turned up to the absolute max on both the speaker and my iPad. It's seriously impressive, exceeds all expectations for such a small speaker and it more than justifies its price tag.

On the downside, it does not sit perfectly on the charging cradle and no matter how carefully I place it, it wobbles ever so slightly. But the cradle serves no real purpose - you can plug the charging cable straight into the speaker and I think Bose should have bundled this with a protective cover (that they're currently selling for over £20) instead. Additionally, it would have been handy if it was charged via a mini-USB socket instead of a 3-point plug cable, thereby allowing it to be charged using a car lighter USB charger when on the move. It does have a mini-USB port but it's for firmware updates only (none are available at the time of writing).

Notwithstanding the couple of relatively minor issues, if you're in the market for a Bluetooth speaker within the price range of this one, look no further because nothing currently matches it for the most important consideration when buying a speaker - the quality of sound. It really is in a league of its own.

Quality of sound 5+ stars; overall 4½ stars.

Don & Stevie
Don & Stevie
Price: £12.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Previously unreleased 60's acid folk and acoustic pop sees the light of day, 25 July 2013
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This review is from: Don & Stevie (Audio CD)
Clocking in at a brief 31 minutes, this compilaion gathers together 11 songs recorded by husband and wife duo Don & Stevie Gere in the shadow of the Hollywood Hills in the late Sixties. Recorded and pressed on acetate at walk in studios in LA, they've lain unreleased and unplayed in the Gere household for over 40 years and they're now finally seeing the light of day thanks to Finders Keepers Records.

A blend of acid folk and acoustic pop, there is a certain charm and innocence to much of the music and they were clearly head over heels in love with each other. Don Gere takes care of the most of the lead vocals with Stevie adding her high pitched vocals when required. A couple of the tracks rock out - there's some cool fuzz guitar on 'Keep An Eye On You' - but it mostly an acoustic affair that brings to mind Pentangle, Donavan and even Love at times.

Given that these recordings were made with limited resources on an equally limited budget, the songs do, unsurprisingly, sound like demos but I suppose it adds to the overall charm. As good as this is, I wouldn't consider it to be a lost "classic" but if you have an interest in Sixties folk, it's certainly worthy of further investigation.

The Complete Lhi Recordings
The Complete Lhi Recordings
Price: £7.49

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harmony-drenched Sunshine Pop, 20 July 2013
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Originally from Detroit and going under the name of Mama Cats, the members of this four-piece female vocal group travelled to LA in 1968, signed with Lee Hazelwood Industries and were renamed Honey Ltd. Commercially the group failed and this collection gathers together everything they recorded during their brief lifespan - the eight songs that comprised their eponymous album, a couple of b-sides and three previously unreleased songs - and it's some of the finest Sunshine Pop ever recorded.

Featuring gorgeous female vocals, the music is a blend of pop-soul-psych-baroque and many of the musical and vocal arrangements are complex and there's plenty of brass and orchestrations in addition to the drums, bass and guitar (courtesy of the legendary Wrecking Crew session musicians). However, the highlight of Honey Ltd's sound is their spectacular sun-kissed vocal harmonies that elevate this music to another level.

The songs are predominately originals and there's a reworking of 'Louie, Louie' and also a cover of Laura Nyro's 'Eli's Coming'. Album opener 'The Warrior' is an anti-Vietnam war song with caustic "We must kill more people; strong men are what we need" lyrics. Overall the sound is mostly upbeat with songs about love lost and won with some mellow moments and there's not a single bad song to be found here.

Following the departure of one of the members, the remaining trio released an album under the name of 'Eve' on the LHI label in 1970 and again it was a failure. Reduced to a footnote in pop history, this fine compilation should go some way to re-addressing the balance and will hopefully introduce the music of Honey Ltd to a new audience. 4½ stars and recommended.

Sony SRSBTX300 Portable Wireless Speaker - White
Sony SRSBTX300 Portable Wireless Speaker - White
Offered by eZee Trade
Price: £122.99

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With MASSIVE sound capability, this looks and sounds the part, 18 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Weighing just over 1½ Kg and with dimensions of Length: 34cm; Height: 11cm; Depth: 6cm this is, size wise, at the upper-end of the portable Bluetooth speaker range. It's smart and stylish with a high end finish and it looks the part. It's not free standing - a kick stand that covers some of the controls has to be opened to support it and it has to remain open for it to work. The Bluetooth paired seamlessly with my iPad, the range is good within the house and my iPad now recognises the speaker every time I switch it on. The volume and speaker phone buttons are conventionally situated on top of the speaker.

Powered by 2 channel speakers with a combined output of 20W, the sound delivered is MASSIVE. The volume goes up, up & up and the quality of the sound is excellent. It's rich and detailed and, most importantly (and where some Bluetooth speakers fall down), the bass is near perfect - it doesn't get lost in the mix and it doesn't have an unnatural forced sound either. There are three sound modes - Standard, Megabass and Megabass & Surround. I have it defaulted to Megabass & Surround but if the truth be told, there's no real noticeable difference between the three. Nonetheless, as the product information states, the sound really does fill every corner of the room.

Portability wise, this is perfect for the home and garden. However, given its size and weight, high end finish and the fact that you have to open the kick stand to use it, this is not the sort of speaker you'd want to take camping or down to the beach. Also, the battery life is limited compared to some of the competition - I've been getting between 7 and 7½ hours of playback. If you're after a truly portable speaker, then I'd recommend the Braven 650. Although it doesn't go as loud as this, the quality of the sound is just as good, it's much more compact and lighter, will not mark or scratch as easily, delivers approximately 16 hours of playback and you can switch between tracks (a function that this speaker doesn't have). It is, at the time of writing, in the same price range. But, if you're just after a speaker for the home then this speaker is the better option.

A full charge takes about three hours and you can use it whilst its charging. There's no indication that the battery is running low - it just powers off. It also has some added features - you can charge a mobile device from it, it doubles as a speaker phone and it is Near Field Communication (NFC) compatible. Download an NFC app for Android devices and by touching the speaker with your device it connects the two. However, it will work with any Bluetooth enabled device - NFC is an optional extra function. It also comes with a handy carry case.

In summary, if you're after a portable or dedicated speaker for the home or workplace, this is the one to get. Sound wise it's astonishing and it's the next best thing to a stereo system setup and for the price it represents EXCELLENT value for money. However, if you're after a truly portable speaker for outside of the home then consider the Braven 650 instead.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2013 10:41 AM BST

Everything's Gonna Be Alright: The American Singles 1967-1976
Everything's Gonna Be Alright: The American Singles 1967-1976
Price: £7.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A & B Sides 1967-76, 13 July 2013
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Following his much publicised artistic renaissance over the past few years, this is a welcome Bobby Womack compilation. Featuring every A & B side that he released on the Minit, Liberty & United Artists labels in America between 1967 and 1976, the quality of the music across the 50 tracks is at times outstanding. Presented in chronological order with each A-side followed by the B-side, it's a selection of original compositions, covers and a few live recordings and Womack retains his own unique sound throughout. A talented guitarist and vocalist he is, despite the covers versions, also a very talented songwriter.

Highlights include much of his early work where the sound is predominately of the Southern Soul variety and showcases his guitar playing skills. His interpretations of 'Californian Dreamin'' and 'I Left My Heart In San Francisco' are superb with the former being stripped back in comparison to the original but still very funky. 'Across 110th Street' is a master class in song writing and with Womack's rich vocals it is the defining sound of Blaxploitation. Things get seriously smooth at times on the second disc and you do wonder how '(If You Don't Want My Love) Give It Back' was deemed only worthy of being a B-side. Given that this collection includes flip sides there are naturally a few fillers but, on the whole, the standard rarely falters.

Whether you're a newcomer to Womack's music or a long standing fan, there's something to enjoy for everyone on this collection. Clocking in at a generous 2 hours and 35 minutes, the two discs are housed inside a book style digipak with well written liner notes that feature brief individual notes on most of the 50 songs.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2013 12:26 PM BST

Price: £13.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Heavy Psych Classic, 11 July 2013
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This review is from: Morgen (Audio CD)
There have been a few unauthorised / bootleg CD releases of this 1969 album (I also own the World Psychedelia 2005 release) over the past few years but this reissue from Sunbeam Records has had the full involvement of the band's leader - Steve Morgen - and it's a legitimate release.

This album is a true HEAVY psych classic and Morgen's one and only album. Due to contractual issues it was released some 12 months after it was recorded and by then the band were drifting apart and it ultimately never received the success it deserved. Songwriter Steve Morgen's guitar playing is extraordinary and along with the heavy and sometimes almost tribal percussion and thundering bass, the musicianship is astonishing, as is the quality of the songwriting. With plenty of reverb, fuzz guitar and trippy vibes (check out the cool spaced-out female vocals on Of Dreams), this is essential listening for anyone with an interest in Sixties psychedelia and hot-wired garage.

On the downside, it's in desperate need of a decent remix. Steve Morgan takes care of most of the vocals and he is not the strongest of singers and on some of the tracks his vocals are too high in the mix and in places they almost overwhelm the music. A decent mix and a re-master from the master tapes would make this album five star worthy. Most new mixes and remasters are overrated but in the case of this album it would be a worthwhile exercise. The lasting impression is that if Steve Morgen's vocal talent had matched that of his guitar playing and the album had been mixed better (and released on time), it would be regarded as one the classic albums of the sixties. It is in a way, but you do wonder what could have been.

Alongside the original album, this reissue includes eight bonus tracks - the edited versions of 'Of Dreams' and 'She's The Nitetime' that comprised the A & B sides respectively of their sole 7" release and some home recordings by Steve Morgen from the early Seventies. The home recordings have a Stones' vibe to them and although competent, they're not particularly noteworthy. The sleeve notes consist of an extensive Q&A with Steve Morgen and some archive press cuttings and photos. The track list:

Original Album (38:49):

1. Welcome To The Void
2. Of Dreams
3. Begging Your Pardon (Miss Joan)
4. Eternity In Between
5. Purple
6. She's The Nitetime
7. Love

Bonus Tracks (34:17):

8. Of Dreams (45 Version)
9. She's The Nitetime (45 Version)
10. Street Walker
11. Lady
12. Too Many Americas
13. Don't You Tell Me
14. Maryjane
15. Alpha Omega

The Chic Organization - Up All Night (The Greatest Hits)
The Chic Organization - Up All Night (The Greatest Hits)
Price: £14.12

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The timeless sound of Chic, 2 July 2013
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It's no coincidence that the cover of this compilation mimics that of Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' single and takes its title from the song's lyrics. Nile Rodgers wrote and played the rhythm guitar part on it and it is, unmistakably, the sound of Chic in 2013.

Consisting of 2 hours and 34 minutes of music recorded between 1977 and 1982, Chic not only salvaged the reputation of disco in the late seventies but enhanced it and took it to another level. Over 30 years later their music still sounds relevant and it transcends the disco era. With Rodgers' repetitive and addictive rhythm guitar riffs under-pinned by Bernard Edwards' extraordinary bass grooves, this is sophisticated, elegant, soulful and funky music. Add in the keyboards, strings, vocals and Tony Thompson's percussion and you have some of the most timeless music imaginable.

The nine songs by Chic and those by Sister Sledge and Diana Ross need little introduction. The Sister Sledge songs could almost be billed as Chic featuring Sister Sledge given that Rodgers and Edwards wrote, produced, arranged and played on them. Also featured is the 12" version of Debbie Harry's first solo single 'Backfired' (and it did indeed backfire - it flopped in both the US and UK) that's rescued by a killer bass groove from Edwards. Recorded in 1981, Johnny Mathis' 'I Love My Lady' is previously unreleased and it features a Samba backing track and although not particularly bad, it's one of the weaker songs here. Carly Simon's mid-tempo UK top ten hit 'Why' sounds lightweight now but it's (unsurprisingly!) rescued by the bass line. Shelia's 'Your Love Is Good' is smoother than smooth and Norma Jean Wright's 'Saturday' is, like almost everything else here, a joyous dancefloor filler.

Often imitated but never bettered (and extensively sampled), this is the perfect introduction to The Chic Organization. The liner notes include a brief but comprehensive overview of Chic and all of the songs featured. To emphasise the timeless appeal of this music, you could slot the aforementioned Daft Punk single anywhere on this two disc set and it wouldn't sound out of place.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2013 8:44 PM BST

Music For Dancefloors: The KPM Music Library (Deluxe Edition)
Music For Dancefloors: The KPM Music Library (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £14.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The KPM Music Library / KPM All-Stars Live, 27 Jun 2013
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Originally released in 2000, this is a welcome reissue. Comprising of 20 tracks from KPM's extensive Library catalogue, this deluxe version is accompanied by a second disc featuring live recordings from the KPM All-Stars.

Most of the music is sourced from KPM's famous 1000 Series of the 60s & 70s and there are a few tracks from the Conroy and Sonoton libraries that weren't issued by KPM but they own the licensing rights, hence their inclusion. The KPM 1000 Series consisted of albums of promotional music that were sent out in limited quantities to TV studios and radio stations that would then use any of the music that was suitable for their productions under license from KPM. Featuring distinctive green sleeves (as per the colour used on the cover of this compilation), some of the LPs are now very collectable. In the past 15-20 years the whole library scene has been re-discovered by DJs, crate diggers and hip hop artists due to the sample friendly breaks and beats that sometimes featured on the recordings.

The music on Disc 1 is, as the title implies, very dancefloor friendly and in the main it's a mixture of jazz and funk. Featuring some of the UK's finest session musicians of the time, the musicianship is outstanding and there are loads of killer breaks, beats and grooves. The bass features heavily throughout with plenty of woodwind, brass, keyboards and orchestration too and when listening to these songs you soon realise that some of them were more than good enough to be given a mainstream release.

On the down side, there are three overbearing and repetitive Samba tunes that don't really do it for me at all (and sound totally out of place here) and also a superfluous field recording featuring, as explained in the liner notes, "the intoxicating, atmospheric and incantatory sound of pygmies and percussion"...

The second disc features live recordings from the KPM All-Stars' debut gig at the London Jazz Cafe in April 2000. Led by Alan 'The Hawk' Hawkshaw on Hammond organ and comprising of original and contemporary KPM musicians, it also features guest-spots from some of the finest composers of the UK Library scene including Keith Mansfield, John Cameron, Ron Goodwin, James Clarke and Johnny Pearson. Unexpectedly, the musicianship is flawless and a good time is clearly had by all. It concludes with a superb UK sports theme medley featuring the themes from The Big Match, BBC Wimbledon Tennis, BBC Athletics and Grandstand. Their Live at the Jazz Cafe recording from October 2006 is also worth checking out.

Housed in a gatefold cardboard sleeve with a combined playing time 1 hour & 40 minutes and featuring extensive liner notes, this will appeal to fans of library music and jazz & funk.

The Lost Tapes
The Lost Tapes
Price: £8.45

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romanian Kosmiche Musik, 5 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Tapes (Audio CD)
Lost tapes usually (but not always) remain lost for a reason i.e. they're not very good, but the tapes of Romanian band Rodion G.A. remained lost because there was no outlet for their style of music during Romania's communist period. Led by Rodion Rosca, the music here is more or less solo recordings by Rodion between 1978 and 1983 - he wrote and produced the music, recorded most of it at his home studio and he plays almost all of the instruments.

The overall sound is electronic music with elements of progressive rock, pitched somewhere between Kraftwerk and Italian Prog rockers Goblin. Using self-modified instruments and improvised recording techniques, the music is awash with layered synthesizer arrangements, with programmed beats and guitar drifting in and out of the mix. Primarily instrumental and stylistically forward thinking, I'm loathe to call it 'experimental' because the lasting impression is that Rodion knew exactly what he was doing. From introspective electronia to dense freakouts, it all sounds remarkably fresh some 30 years later.

Although a compilation of sorts, the song ordering is superb and it all hangs together perfectly. Remastered from Rodion's master tapes, the sound quality is excellent. Clocking in at 38:39 minutes and housed in a digipak with exstensive sleeve notes (apparently, Rodion spent time working as a labourer in London during the early nineties), this is a must for anyone with an interest in the more electronic aspects of Krautrock and electronic music in general.

Backbeats: Digger's Delight - More Rare-Groove Gems
Backbeats: Digger's Delight - More Rare-Groove Gems
Price: £5.12

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare Funk, Soul & Jazz grooves, 5 Jun 2013
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This is another top drawer release from the latest batch of CDs in the now legendary Backbeats series. Most of the featured tracks are from the mid and second half of the Seventies and there's an abundance of funk, soul and jazz vibes.

Hubert Laws' 'Family' features some cool bass grooves and a flute break and Debra Laws sings the lyrics with the passion they deserve. Lalo Schifrin's 'Theme from Hong Kong is 4 minutes & 13 seconds of frantic robotic funk featuring an overload of horns and woodwind. Shuggie Otis is bissfully out of his head on the laid back 'Aht Uh Mi Hed' and Linda "Tequila" Logan's cute vocals on Larry Young's Fuel's 'Turn Off The Lights' have gotta be heard to be believed - she sings like a woman possessed who knows exactly what she wants and she's determined to get it! 'Troglodyte' by the Jimmy Castor Bunch is an isane story of caveman lust. The lyrics and vocals put it in the novelty category but it's rescued by a killer funk beat. The Modulations round out the album with the social commentary of 'It's Rough Out Here' that sounds more Blaxplotation than the Philly Soul they're normally associated with.

Clocking in at a generous 75:42 minutes, this is a welcome addition to the series and, considering the near give away price, it's a no-brainer purchase.

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