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Scarlet Jupiter

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Price: £9.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bloody -great- Barbra!, 16 Sep 2014
This review is from: Partners (Audio CD)
As unorthodox as it may be for me to be writing about Barbra Streisand, well, here I go. A friend found it somewhat amusing burning me a copy of this the other day, demanding that I should give it a go. My initial thought was: "What the f**k, Chris Brown's new CD is out, and you're getting me this?". So, I thought it was equally fair - though quite challenging on my behalf - to give this a proper listen, just to aggravate my friend. After reluctantly playing the entire album once, 3 days later I am secretly enjoying this. In fact, spin after spin it gets better and better, Barbra's dominating voice is unmatched, nevermind that the material overall is too lacklustre for my liking.

That opening duet with the velvety-voiced Michael Buble is wonderful, and the duets with Lionel Richie, Andrea Bocelli and Elvis, they are bloody great too. Some of the songs are helplessly lukewarm and rather predictable, but I am guessing that, if I can appreciate some of this stuff, then dedicated fans will most probably love it. It is a great idea to introduce old songs to a younger audience; it worked OK for me. Perhaps a "Partners" version with female duets could follow? With such a powerful throat at 72, she sure is able to keep recording for years to come. A living legend. Not my cup of tea, but I am certainly enjoying a few Barbra sips. Now, time to spin that Chris Brown CD...

Price: £12.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X-cessively X-citing, 15 Sep 2014
This review is from: X (Audio CD)
The harrowing image of a bruised Rihanna, back in 2009, after gotten beaten up, remains among pop's most infamously endearing gossip stories of recent years. On the title track of this, his 6th album, Chris Brown makes an attempt to take responsibility for his actions: "If you're only as good as the company you keep / Then I'mma blame you for what they say about me", he says. "I know just who you are just love to heart shop". Ouch! With such harsh lyrics, so blatantly addressing his on-and-off ex (?) girlfriend, and calling the album "X", it does not take a scientist to figure out what is plain obvious. But that is only half the story. The rest is somewhere between the lines of the songs of this record.

Following the controversial incident, critics tend to misleadingly review Chris Brown as a person within the confines of popular culture, rather than as an artist. "X" x-hibits the dance-R'n'B-hip-hop-electro-pop genre that CB is loved/hated for. Explicit references, funky beats, infectious floor-fillers, smooth midtempos, all present. "X" is a little far behind from being another cohesive and imaginative set, in the likes of "Graffiti" and "F.A.M.E.". Whereas those albums are nicely balanced, "X" suffers from Brown-overkill. At 75 minutes long, and 21 songs in total, "X"'s flow often gets interrupted by some painting-by-numbers material. Versatility is no stranger to Brown, but economy he is not familiar with.

"X" would have been so much more accessible and enjoyable, if a less-is-more concept was put into perspective. It is a shame really, since CB's vocal abilities and content progression are evident, and some of the tracks here are truly great. "Add me in", "New flame", "Time for love" and "Autumn leaves" are highlights, including the excellent title track, my personal favourite. Special mention for last year's single feat. the late Aaliyah, "Don't think they know"; that is how you honour a beloved artist who inspires you with their class. Credit is due to the team of 25 (!) producers, it is extraordinary how the album sounds almost like a one piece with so many collaborators!

Any possible numerical significance aside, "X" is an album echoeing former relationships and situations, there is no hiding or denying it. After cleverly nameing his last 2 albums "F.A.M.E." and "Fortune", with "X", Chris Brown seems to be closing a personal chapter, and opening a new musical one. Underneath the anger and violence of the past, there is a talented young man looking at the bright future ahead. One can only sympathise with him, and hope that with this record he will eventually overcome his demons. "I swear to God, I'm moving on", he promises on the title track. Rihanna called her last album "Unapologetic"; Chris Brown named his, "X". They have both stated their cases, and are now officially even.

Price: £9.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty and Belle, 10 Sep 2014
This review is from: BELINDA (Audio CD)
"Belinda", Belinda Carlisle's solo debut, emerged in 1986, a year after former band - and America's most successful all-female group - the Go-Go's, were gone-gone. "I have a feeling of starting out again", she said at the time. "I don't know what's going to happen. But the Go-Go's went No. 1 on their first album, so anything's possible." As was proved, it was. Fresh from rehab, and in great contrast to the Go-Go's punk image, for her own image and sound Belinda adopted a more innocent and feminine look, successfully re-introducing and re-launching herself. The album was a promising first effort, which would lead to a fruitful solo career, as subsequent releases attested. Featuring hit singles "Mad about you" and "I feel the magic", the heartbreaking "Stuff and nonsense", and the achingly melancholic "Since you've gone", "Belinda" captured the essence of Belinda, and also many hearts along the way (mine included).

Presented in a fantastic casebound book, this ultimate edition comes along with new sleeve notes, lyrics, bonus tracks, remixes and 2 promo videos. And, for the first time, a 1986 45-minute concert programme with some interview material gets to see an official release. As with all 6 previous re-issues, the loving care put into assembling this release is obvious, from the artwork and musical content, to the actual packaging (even the vibrant pink background of the original cover photo has been tastefully changed to the elegant lilac used for the promotional purposes for the whole re-issues series). "Dancing in the city" from movie Burglar finally gets to be included on a BC album. Sadly, once again the opportunity to include Belinda's other hard-to-find soundtrack song, "In my wildest dreams" from Mannequin, is missed. This complaint aside, this is a must-have for BC fans, and a worthy purchase for casual listeners.

3*** for the album
5***** for the re-issue

Symphonica [VINYL]
Symphonica [VINYL]
Price: £22.74

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 100% GM free!, 4 Sep 2014
This review is from: Symphonica [VINYL] (Vinyl)
This is George Michael's very first solo live release, a concert/studio hybrid recorded during his Symphonica tour. Showcasing solo hits lifted from his own repertoire, as well as some of the covers that he had recorded for his 1999 covers collection, "Songs from the last century", plus a couple of renditions of some of music's finest artists, this is a precious live album. Always the perfectionist, GM makes sure that there is a rich and expensive quality to each song. Most tracks could easily pass for studio versions, despite the applause and sporadic bits of improvisation; but, although the album lacks the mistakes and spontaneity of live recordings, it is a reminder of Michael's exceptional talents as a songwriter, vocalist and performer. As GM's status as one of Britain's greatest pop stars is already cemented, "Symphonica" will reward all listeners with its undeniable class.

LP edition comes in double gatefold vinyl, featuring all 17 tracks of the deluxe edition of the album. It is a standard release as far as the packaging is concerned, but apparently a limited edition pressing. The LP includes a free MP3 digital album download card, so that comes as an extra bonus for digital listeners. I had purchased the deluxe CD edition of the album, but I am extra happy for getting this, too. Anything from George Michael is GM guaranteed!

My Everything
My Everything
Price: £10.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grande, we have a "problem"..., 25 Aug 2014
This review is from: My Everything (Audio CD)
Across the pop universe where fleeting stars come and go abundantly and ever so regularly, there come quite often little ones who look certain to shine bright. Ariana Grande is a multi-talented, hard-working, honest-looking young girl, trying to find her way in the entertainment business. Though pop stars tend to shed their clean-cut image and alienate in the process, and since what makes a good person may be subjective, the fact that this little sweety seems to foster a positive image is proof that she has good intentions. This, her follow-up to last year's "Yours truly", is a mix of styles clearly aiming to appeal to as many buyers possible, as well as to showcase her vocal range. Credit should be given where it is due, so, although Grande's "My everything" grande it is not, it is OK for what it is, so there is no point in dissecting it. Gotta love her, a future pop princess in the making for sure, look forward to watching her blossom.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2014 8:19 PM BST

All For You [Bonus DVD] [Ltd Ed] [Us Import]
All For You [Bonus DVD] [Ltd Ed] [Us Import]
Offered by CodaDelta-UK
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All for us, 17 Aug 2014
Been looking for a brand new, sealed copy of this for so many years, I am thrilled to finally have one. Janet's 5th studio album, released back in 2001, came off of the most gritty, yet profound, album of her career, the eclectic opus that is "The velvet rope". Inevitably, it failed to match its predecessor's commercial and artistic success, although it established further her transition from pop to more adult R'n'B sound. 21 songs are too many to digest, it would obviously be more enjoyable minus 4-5 tracks, still there are more than a few great tracks among them to enjoy. It is the DVD, though, included on this edition that makes it worth purchasing, featuring 19 of Janet's videos from her 3 albums with Virgin, aptly, and ironically titled "The virgin years". It was, and still remains, the most complete video collection of hers, and an exquisite one (the MTV era-defining full-length video for "If" is perfection). A favourite item, I strongly suggest you purchase this while still available.

The Albums 2000-2010
The Albums 2000-2010
Price: £12.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kylie-cious, 16 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Albums 2000-2010 (Audio CD)
As much as I enjoy alternative, more "serious" music, there is nothing better than good old-fashioned pop for this time of year. Containing 5 of her more recent, and mostly successful, pop-orientated albums, this is a sparkling, precious gem of a pop collection. Disco-princess ("Light years"), sophisticated chanteuse ("Fever"), electro-queen ("Body language"), dancefloor-diva ("X"), synth-goddess ("Aphrodite"), Kylie goes pop the whole way in the most fun way. One has to admire her for hardly setting a foot wrong, even when she decides to tread dangerous territories (like she did on "Impossible princess", a must-listen album). Nicely designed, the box is sporting an inner sleeve of the inlays for each album in a fold out booklet, with an image of the petite diva on the inside of each album slipcase as well as onto each disc, making it extra collectible and a must-have for Kylie fans. And at such a great price, it's a bargain too! PPP (=Pure Pop Perfection) alert!

I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss
I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss
Price: £11.99

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At your orders!, 12 Aug 2014
It is a real shame that Sinead O'Connor is mostly remembered for her admittedly unforgettable cover of Prince's "Nothing compares 2 U". Not one to shy away from heavyweight topics, her confessional songwriting became her trademark, assisted by her unmistakable, full of conviction, fragile delivery. From her dynamic 1987 debut, right up to today, and amidst adversities during her tumultuous career and public life, she has consistently exhibited such a wealth of talent, that it is beyond me how on earth she has not sustained a solid and abundant audience, and enjoyed the commercial acclaim she deserves.

Following material consisting mostly of religious thematology, her last studio album, 2012's "How about I be me and you be you?", her most accomplished effort in years, failed to meet any success, marking her 2000 album "Faith and courage" as the last, though relatively small, success in her discography. For this new set she seems to move towards a more mainstream direction. More guitar-driven than past records, but brightened with some folk elements, reggae beats, R'n'B touches, combined with edgy as usual lyrics, the overall essence of the record is her most commercial-sounding in over a decade.

Expressing pain and despair, as well as joy and contentment, Sinead's spine-tingling vocals are so pure and raw, that anyone with a beating heart inside them is to be inevitably mesmerised. First single "Take me to church" is indicative of the album's sonic diversity, while "Your green jacket", "Kisses like mine" and "Harbour", are highpoints to treasure. Saving literally the best for last, closing track "Streetcars", possibly the most fragile song of 2014 so far, ends the record in the most striking manner, on an album where some songs are less plausible than others.

Depicted on the cover in a vampy wig, clutching a phallic electric guitar, this dominatrix-style seems unusually impressive (or impressively unusual) for her standards, yet almost impossible to disguise the disarming look of a scared fawn which the natural beauty of her face resembles. No glossy mix of dancey rhythms, multi-tracked choruses, energetic riffs, and catchy singalongs, could distract from her captivating delivery; she has repeatedly proven to remain equally compelling even when left with very little to utilize. She may not be bossy, she may be the boss; ultimately she is imBossible to resist.

Twin Peaks - The Entire Mystery [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Twin Peaks - The Entire Mystery [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Kyle MacLachlan
Price: £49.75

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twin Peaks, Twin Lows, 4 Aug 2014
Been waiting for this release pretty much for most of my adult years. Twin Peaks has to be the first series that created a worldwide fascination, some 20+ years ago, in a time when following a TV series was not a global trend as it now is. A show that ran for 2 seasons until it was cancelled, TP has maintained a legendary status among viewers of that era as well contemporary ones, making this release the most highly anticipated event in recent years. So here it is, for the first time presented in stunning visual and audio quality, worthy of the material itself.

Previous VHS / DVD releases offered the episodes which aired back in 1990-1992, extra features, and various commentary. This new bluray box set is the most comprehensive yet, featuring all 29 full episodes, 2 versions of the pilot episode, and most of the extras from previous releases. But, more importantly, it includes the feature film which served as both a prequel and an epilogue to the series, "Fire walk with me", plus 90 mins of deleted and alternate scenes, never seen before, all fully scanned and remastered from the original negatives.

The diligence exhibited in pretty much all aspects of the box is impressive. It surely helped the fact that the show was shot on film, and so these films were used in order to create HD masters; still, it clearly must have taken incredible effort and expense in order to upgrade the material to HD quality and DTS sound. The sharpness is striking, and the amount of details that can be noticed is tremendous, even on the deleted scenes which are fully finished with flawless picture and crystal sound. It is almost as if this greater depth allows viewers to look at TP anew!

On some occasions the sound appears to be slightly out of sync, however, most notably on some deleted scenes, and that can be somewhat distracting. Having read other reviews, it seems that this is frequently mentioned, so it is not clear to me whether it is a matter of a faulty batch; a future pressing could possibly sort this issue. This niggle stops me from giving this a full star rating, along with the absence of extras from the first 2 seasons that were previously available on DVD. Apparently, Artisan Entertainment did not want to license them, it would be great to have them all on this set.

My main disappointment concerns the packaging. Although the set is magnificent to look at, placing the discs in horrible cardboard slip-in cases is beyond excuse. They may be practical and easy to access, but for a box set as highly anticipated as this, every detail should have been scrutinised. Surely, functionality, safety, and aesthetics can all go along, but not here. On the plus side, there is a surprise inside the box, which I am not going to spoil, just a quick mention! Finally, no booklet listing the features is included; one has to actually play the disc in order to read its contents. Frustrating.

These couple of missteps aside, it is still a special occasion indeed for anyone to feast. Not often do we have the opportunity of enjoying 27 hours of a favourite show, trailers, numerous interviews and discussions, insightful commentary, making ofs, image galleries, all nicely packaged in a elegant box. This really is exemplary, a fan's dream come true. A must-have for any Twin Peaks devotee, "The Entire Mystery and the Missing Pieces" is surely the definitive TP collection of the most groundbreaking and celebrated series in the history of international television.

1000 Forms Of Fear
1000 Forms Of Fear
Offered by Crawley Music
Price: £9.51

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Titanium, 7 July 2014
This review is from: 1000 Forms Of Fear (Audio CD)
Sia has had an unconventional trajectory; diagnosed with Graves disease, boyfriend killed in a car accident, addiction to drugs and alcohol, attempted suicide. Plus, she hates fame so much that she poses with a paper bag over her head, and performs with her back facing audiences. Responsible for a plethora of international pop smashers for some of pop's biggest names, and while working on many other projects, there was still time to produce an own record. As the title and cover art might reveal, Sia goes back to her darker side for this, her 6th studio album, spiralling into destructive depths of weakness, vulnerability, desperation and struggles, all returning points for her.

Longtime fans know what to expect from her, new followers are probably curious to learn about the person behind the colossal hits. Perhaps all too aware of what the public wants from her, Sia gives the public exactly what they want. She offers strong and well produced pop ballads, some uptempo tracks, and the occasional slower numbers, all accompanied with her unique and always impressive voice, the sound of someone singing for their life. She is dabbling with pop, experimenting once again with indie pop, electronica, acid jazz, soul, dance, and trip-hop. Produced by Lily Allen's former collaborator Greg Kurstin, they have sculpted a beautiful masterpiece of an album.

Her enrapturing talent and torment shines throughout "1000 Forms of fear"'s 49 minutes. Very often I found myself paying more attention to the lyric metaphors and the dramatic vocals, rather than enjoying the songs. Sia has a certain vibe in her music which, although it cannot be missed, it tends to overshadow the sonic excellence of this album. First single, "Chandelier" is indicative: a gorgeously reggae-electronica fused number about a never ending party life, with Sia's titanic voice bursting open the chorus like a cannonball; a closer reading between the lines makes clear that it is a song about alcoholism. It is obvious that the artist writes genius texts, this is her biggest talent, combined with her distinctive voice.

Built around sterling melodies, standouts "Big girls cry", "Straight to the knife", "Elastic heart", "Fire meet gasoline, "Cellophane", and "Dressed in black", convey emotion that is unmatched by most, if not all, other contemporary artists. Despite her personal hardship, Sia is able to produce exceptional power balladry and intelligent lyricism. "1000 Forms of fear" rings true to its dramatic title. It is a consistent, brilliant, deep pop record, by one of pop's best artists. After producing so many hits over the years, perhaps one's fear would be Sia's transformation into an mainstream artist. As long as she insists on performing wearing that paper back on her head, there is absolutely no fear of that happening.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2014 12:21 PM BST

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