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The Magic Whip
The Magic Whip
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The great return, 27 April 2015
This review is from: The Magic Whip (Audio CD)
Looking at the poppy, slightly garish, cover artwork, I anticipated to listen to "The magic whip". Curious about what to expect (not many bands make a comeback, and go on to record something really great), I am happy to find that it turns out to be a rather overwhelming comeback that retains the band's core identity, while also progressing. Allegedly, thrown down in just 5 days in Hong Kong, back in 2013, and later pieced together, Blur's 8th studio album proves that the old chemistry remains strong, being their most natural sounding, and easy flowing work in years. Seems like these 4 same original ingredients, individually fermented over the past decade, got mixed together again, whipped into new flavours, baking a fresh, tasty new recipe (the ice-cream cover image got me in cooking mode, slourp!). Its lyrics reflect a sense of mortality and alienation, addressing modern life and humanity, rendering the album rather personal but full of emotions. This new album feels like a rightful successor to 1999's "13", with many obvious references to past projects of the Gorillaz, and The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

Musically, guitars are naturally at the forefront of most of the songs, with basslines, drums, strings and some folk elements, all nicely combined, creating a varied landscape. Damon Albarn's solo effort's reflective electro-pop is unavoidably present as well, beautifully merged with the trademark classic Blur sound. The psychedelic "There are too many of us" is an instant Blur favourite, the ambitious, sophisticated "Ghost ship", and the magnificent, Eastern-flavoured "Mirrorball" are undisputed highlights. But the true standouts are the elegant, melancholic "My terracotta heart", the cheerful singalong "Ong ong", and the atmospheric "Pyonyang", all as interesting as their titles suggest. With no mediocre songs, nor ones that seem out of place, I kind of wish that, a cohesive and inspired record like "The magic whip", would make a fitting Blur swanset (certainly more than 2003's "Think tank", or perhaps a future project). Being a thoughtful, introspective, and fun snapshot of modern life, it encapsulates everything that is Blur-associated. It is always best to end something great on a high note, and "This is (NOT) a low" for sure!

Little Earthquakes (Deluxe Edition)
Little Earthquakes (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £13.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seismic tension, 13 April 2015
Long overdue, Tori Amos finally re-introduces her first albums, presenting 2 of the most spectacular re-issues in recent years, curated by herself. As an artist who cannot be fully experienced only by her A-Side songs, and boasting a back catalogue of superb B-Sides, and unreleased material which often surpasses the value of album tracks, "Little earthquakes-Deluxe edition" collects the album's original 12 songs, plus an extra disc of 12 B-Side gems, 5 live performances, and her legendary cover of Nirvana's "Smells like teen spirit". A most splendid content, considering the extraordinary quality of the material, most of which previously featured on individual CD singles.

Every track on here is remastered for the first time, enhancing the beautiful arrangements, and allowing the instrumentation to truly shine (the mesmerising "Girl", and the electrifying "Precious things", most notably are greatly benefited from this). Presented with extensive artwork, liner notes, and housed in a beautifully designed gatefold digipack, everything - from the arresting cover images of Tori and her miniature piano, and the phallic mushrooms, on the front/back cover images, to the actual songs - is assembled with detail and care, making this classic album this year's most essential re-issue. New listeners should buy this in complete confidence (Toriphiles know what I mean)!

"Little earthquakes", is the debut solo record that introduced to a wider audience the fiery, red-blooded redhead, who brought the piano back to the forefront of cutting-edge rock, and went on to become one of the most influential artists of her generation. Ripping her heart open, and bearing her soul for all to see, TA addresses through her unique storytelling an array of issues, such as relationships, femininity, religion, empowerment, sexuality, and family; each song tells a personal story, every story is more intruiging than the other. There is such disarming honesty, and astounding intensity in these songs that is apparent that "Earthquakes" was destined to define an era, and inspire a whole generation of female singer/songwriters.

From the glorious pulsating opener, "Crucify", to the magnificent climactic closing title-track, there is not a single track not dripping with emotion, does not evoke striking images, or fails to engage in some way (a mention is due for the shockingly bruising "Me and a gun", a stark account of Amos' own experience of being raped, performed acapella). Although on subsequent releases TA, admittedly, developed a tendency to over-indulge, her songrwriting genius and emotional clarity are best showcased on this album, which remains among her most accomplished and enduring works. Complexly structured, finely executed, utterly emotional, and deeply confessional, brave, bold, blazing, brutal, these "Little earthquakes" are simply shattering.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2015 7:51 PM BST

Under The Pink (Deluxe Edition)
Under The Pink (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £10.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fragile beauty, 13 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The second of Tori Amos' first set of re-issues, "Under the pink-Deluxe edition" features the album's 12 original songs, with 8 B-Sides and 7 live tracks included on an extra disc, all remastered for this edition. Presented in a gorgeous gatefold digipack, Tori completists will treasure this, even though many will complain about some songs missing. Apparently, she chose to include just her own B-Side songs, although she did an exception with the inclusion of her cover of Nirvana's "Smells like teen spirit" on the "Little earthquakes" re-issue. Also, a B-Side track recorded during the Pink sessions does not make an appearance on here ("Peeping Tommi", which can be found oh her "A piano: The collection" box set).

Even with these minor omissions, it is a precious collection absolutely worth purchasing (especially by those unable to obtain rare and out-of-print material, 20 years on), compiled with thought and detail. Extensive artwork (faithful to the exquisite minimalism of the original), liner notes, fantastic sound (some drowned vocals on "The wrong band" and "The waitress" are distracting, but overall the quality has been significantly improved, the softer parts, especially, are transformed by the new dynamics), and beautiful design (the red-coloured discs make a nice contrast to the grey-coloured layout, but cannot help but wonder why couldn't they have been fittingly pink?), this is a pure delight to the eyes and ears.

Quiet, cryptic, complex and captivating, "Under the pink" naturally has echoes of Tori Amos' sublime and hugely influential debut, despite clearly being not as easily accessible as its predecessor. Her haunting melodies, and controversial lyrics, combined with some incredible piano-playing, and amazingly powerful vocals, make this her most remarkable and accomplished album in terms of artistic vision, and perhaps the most representative of her writing and performing style in the 90s, since she subsequently became a lot more diverse in style. "Pink" may require more listens before one realizes and appreciates the multiple meanings behind the songs, but proves a most rewarding and unforgettable listening treat.

This is one of those rare occasions where the term "life-changing" perfectly describes a record. Tori's unusual songwriting becomes even more fascinating on "Pink", thanks to her intentional, altering pronounciation of words which enhances the poetic and ambiguous nature of her lyrics, further contributing to its allure. For all her lyrical and vocal eccentricities, though, one cannot fault her unorthodox musical invention, in choosing to base the better part of the album's 57 minutes around only a piano, and effortlessly succeed in sounding totally compelling. Seeing TA at her most delicately raw, "Pink" gloriously exhibits her creative genius, while producing a whirlwind of emotions that remains unmatched ever since by any other artist, including Tori herself.

Note: Have to admit that "UTP" holds a special place in this tough guy's fragile heart; so special, in fact, that it is because of this record that pink became my favourite colour. The booklet photos depicting Tori standing on her home planet, clearly reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "The little prince" most well-known illustration, always felt to me as if she was paying homage to the book; which made me love her more for doing that, and this particular album to stand out a little more than any other of hers (a look at my amazon profile info will tell all). My name is Greg ("PGY" coincidence), and I confess that I've written this piece about the "Pink" album wearing my favourite pink hoodie, in order to honour this outstanding release!

Kiss Me Once Live At The Sse Hydro
Kiss Me Once Live At The Sse Hydro
Price: £16.79

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smooch!, 23 Mar. 2015
Bringing her homonymous album to life, alongside a pretty good selection of hits, "Kiss me once" is another well-produced, highly entertaining show from everyone's favourite Aussie popstress, the delectable Ms Minogue. Intentionally scaled back from the pop extravaganza of her previous Aphrodite Tour, this is a visually stunning concert (costume changes, choreographies, stage effects), but with a more intimate feel that really comes across, and which proves just as enjoyable. Always a professional, from her 2001's Live in Sydney and 2002's Fever concerts, she has been perfecting her moves and vocals; she has developed into a fantastic live performer, one that can put together an awesome show, with her mesmerising stage presence making everything seem so effortless and easy, while achieving a most wonderful interaction with the audience (she is so warm with the crowd on here, one cannot help but fall in love with her). Although "Kiss me once" the record under-performed, "Kiss me once" the show was yet another success, further proof that Kylie's strength lies on her all-conquering, positive, charismatic personality. As is the case with every Kylie item, this is another nicely assembled product; from the minimalistic black/red cover, and the matching blu-ray and CD discs, the booklet, down to the actual content (110 mins, including some gorgeous video backdrops of the show, but no other extras), all these make this release a pretty neat little package, just like Kylie herself.

PS: Her choice to open the show with the utterly irresistible "Les sex" shows that Kylie probably realized that she should have released it as a single (well, it's never too late!).
PS2: Do not forget to check out the recent re-issues and collector's editions of her first 4 albums, every fan would want them all, so be sure to purchase your favourite!

The Complete Studio Albums [1983-2008]
The Complete Studio Albums [1983-2008]
Price: £21.44

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rebellious Retrospective, 12 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
REBEL HEART album's release this week is a perfect opportunity to pay homage to the artist who made me a loyal fan since I watched her "Live to tell" video at the age of 11. This cute little box contains the standard versions of Madonna's 11 studio albums for Warner. For the fans and for those who wish to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, let us remember of the amazing musical journey she has had since bursting onto the scene, gracing it with some unforgettable smash hits along the way. Because, above anything else, as she herself has said so, "it's always been about the music".

MADONNA (1983) Preceeded by endless appearances in clubs and discos, Madonna's debut was released in 1983. Although it did not claim any profoundness, yet, it oozed such an unusual confidence for a newcomer, and an immediate, natural star quality (the self-assured pose on the album cover speaks volumes), that it left little doubt that this young rebel (...heart) had come to stay, and that she was not going to leave, unless she had her way. Not wasting any time, she made her intentions clear straight away, setting the tone with hypnotizing first single "Everybody", commanding everybody to "let the music take control / find the groove and let yourself go", while the carefree "Holiday" called for a global celebration. Uninhibitedly exhibiting her free spirit, not afraid to say boldly ("Burning up") what she wanted ("Physical attraction"), M seduced the crowds with her sass and fierce personality, selling an impressive 10 million records of her hedonistic, irresistible disco-pop. Fierce and restless (3 1/2***)

After successfully leaving her first mark, LIKE A VIRGIN (1984) followed, and it did not disappoint. A controversial title in the pop music culture of the 80s, where the issue of sexuality was still a taboo, it was a bold statement, which further enhanced the notion that a new superstar was emerging. Madonna dedicated the record "to the virgins of the world", posed naturally sultry in a wedding dress on the cover, danced alluringly in a gondola for the video, creating in this way the first of an array of legendary looks that shaped her iconic status, while causing an international frenzy with her out-of-the-box sense of fashion. LIKE A VIRGIN had a huge impact, being one of the albums that literally shaped the 80s, proudly proving that, with ambition ("Material girl"), determination ("Over and over"), risk ("Gambler"), inspiration ("Into the groove") and style ("Dress you up"), anything could be accomplished. Its staggering 21 million sales marked the beginning of a new era in pop. Flirty and bold (3 1/2***)

Building on LAV's solid foundations, TRUE BLUE (1986) established Madonna as the ultimate pop idol and a global superstar. With a new, more subdued image, she presented an album filled with pure pop brilliance. Singles "Live to tell", "Papa don't preach", "Open your heart", "True blue" and "La isla bonita" were such mega hits, that inevitably other great M songs of that era did not stand a chance to enjoy the success they deserved ("White heat", "The look of love" (1987), "Spotlight" (1988)). At the time, it was only her and Michael Jackson who presented such brilliant records, with spectacular accompanying videos, creating a buzz that extended beyond just the music. M was "Causing a commotion" so great that, by the time her tour came to an end, noone asked "Who's that girl" because she was so famous that could be recognised even with her back turned. 25 million people bought this career-defining highlight, testifying her undeniably soaring appeal. Strong and ambitious (4 1/2****)

On LIKE A PRAYER (1989), Madonna showcased a more personal side. Mixing pop, dance, R'n'B and gospel, she sounded more organic and honest than ever, evoking a reflective feel that was, also, very much evident on the lyrics. From the both sacred and sacrilegious title track, and the anthemic "Express yourself" (with the Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"-inspired, super stylish clip), all the way to the dark and haunting "Oh Father" (with the most autobiographical and powerful video of her career), and the closing latin-flavoured lament "Spanish eyes", LIKE A PRAYER is the album that made M an artist, and cemented her place in superstardom. The burning crosses, the black Jesus and the stigmata on the title-track's video, may cost her the infamous Pepsi deal, but the music on this is so powerful, that nothing could overshadow it, no matter how controversial. A timeless pop album, that enjoyed commercial (15 million copies) and critical acclaim, ranking among her best. Personal and brave (5*****)

EROTICA (1992) One word: Sex. From her notorious, homonymous book (another bestseller), to her album, Madonna of this era took all kinds of risks, musically, visually, artistically. Subjected to debates due to the explicit nature of her songs, as well as for her overtly sexual behaviour at the time, perhaps M's willingness to push the boundaries went a little too far, alienating even her core fanbase. However, her clear and direct intention to explore the different perspectives of love and sex, and her choice to do so by experimenting to such a degree, makes EROTICA an underrated achievement in her catalogue, one that has since grown in appreciation with critics and fans alike. The uplifting "Deeper and deeper", the atmospheric "Rain" and the bold "Waiting" stand out. But it is "Why's so hard", which explores the pain of growing up differently in an adult world, that captures M's true revolutionary spirit more than any explicit song on here. Not so controversial, after all... Controversial and scandalous (4****)

In complete contrast, BEDTIME STORIES (1994) finds Madonna in a romantic mood. In an attempt to boost her diminishing popularity, and revitalize her career, she softened her image, and opted for a rich, sensual, urban hip-hop, R'n'B sound. With the exception of "Human nature" (a cheeky answer to those unforgiving of her sex-obsessed earlier phase), the rest of the album maintains a warm and lush mood throughout, with smooth ballads ("Take a bow", "Forbidden love") and mellow grooves ("Secret", "Don't stop"). Not instantly catchy, and with some weak moments, it is a transitional, slightly uneven set overall, in no way a disappointment, since M got her groove back in a way with this set. It scored 7 million sales (improving on EROTICA's 6 million), and became the stepping stone for the massive sonic comeback she would later make, as suggested by the 2 experimental tracks on here, the haunting "Sanctuary" and the dreamlike "Bedtime story". Romantic and intimate (3 1/2***)

1998's RAY OF LIGHT, proved to be a blinding sunshine. Following the unexpected, but much-deserved, general approval of EVITA's film and soundtrack, and after a 2-year hiatus, Madonna returned as an Earth Mother, obviously inspired by new-found motherhood, making one of the most phenomenal transformations in her illustrious career. The album incorporated techno, trip-hop, drum 'n' bass, ambient, rock, classical as well as oriental elements, and saw M sing using greater breadth and a fuller tone (EVITA's vocal training surely paid off). A critical and commercial triumph, boasting some of M's all-time best work, RAY OF LIGHT set the bar very high for subsequent releases. The addictively hypnotic "Frozen", the mesmerising "Drowned world (Substitute for love)", the transcendent "Sky fits heaven" and the blissfully melancholic "To have and not to hold", are indicative of the exceptional quality of this milestone, that rightfully became a 20+ million seller. Spiritual and universal (5****)

MUSIC (2000) picks up where RAY OF LIGHT left off. Perhaps not as ambitious or far-reaching, but definitely more poignantly honest, it encapsulates the same striking fusion of electronica and dance, but takes it further, by bringing the acoustic guitars to the forefront of the album. The result is one of Madonna's most diverse albums, that balances between euphoric electro-groove stormers ("Impressive instant") and highly-stylized acoustic ballads ("I deserve it", "Nobody's perfect"). Although it received much critical praise, and sold more than 15 millions copies, it is often, rather unfairly, compared to its predecessor. But, that cannot take away any of its value, especially when listening to the sadness in M's voice (even when it is heavily proccessed) on these songs; so strangely moving and utterly captivating. Special mention for the mysterious "Paradise (Not for me)", possibly M's all-time top recording moment, and "Time stood still" (another unnoticed gem of this era). Honest and melancholic (4****)

AMERICAN LIFE (2003) With her spiritual growth and wisdom reaching its peak, and clearly affected by her learnings of the Kabbalah, Madonna finally let down her guard on her next album, and gave audiences an insight into her busy head. It was a conscious effort to appeal to a more mature fanbase and, despite this "calculated manipulation", she really did deliver a superbly produced, consistent and enjoyable, solid set. On the deeply emotional, yet, uplifting "Mother and father", she sings in a child-like voice about the death of her mother; pure genius. But it is the glorious triplet of "Nothing fails", "Intervention" and "Easy ride" that perfectly sums up the introspective/universal feel of the record. Slashed by critics upon release for its political viewpoint, AMERICAN LIFE did not overcome this negativity, achieving sales of just 5 million which, in retrospect, was unjust, as it is unanimously considered as her most underrated effort. "It's no good when you're misunderstood", indeed. Reflective and thought-provoking (4****)

CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR (2005) brought Madonna right back to the dancefloor that she so righteously owned throughout the 80s and 90s. Revisiting many of her past works, the magnificence of this album lies in that, whilst it appears superficial, if one listens carefully, most of the tracks have something important to say, and they do this without preaching. From the opening tick-tock till the closing guitar chords, this cleverly-sequenced 12-song set is a glorious return to top form, featuring killer samples, challenging lyrics, seductive hooks, cool attitude, fine production. With no slow tracks, it really is amazing how well the record flows, balancing fabulous disco anthems ("Hung up", "Sorry"), superb electro stompers ("Future lovers"), sleek life-affirming grooves ("Jump") and sublime chanting hymns ("Isaac"). The outstanding Confessions Tour enhanced sales for this euphoric and sophisticated album that went on to sell 12+ million copies in total. Sophisticated and exuberant (5*****)

HARD CANDY (2008) After the disco-pop brilliance of her previous offering, the pressure to follow it up with something equally successful and inspired inevitably took its toll. In the most obvious and blatant attempt to prove everyone (including herself) that she is still relevant and able to keep up with her contemporaries as well as with younger audiences, Madonna here takes the easy road, losing in the process her identity. From the tacky artwork down to the actual songs, CANDY feels like a rushed, manufactured product rather than a labour of love and innovation. For a pioneer, synonymous with new and exciting stuff, some great tracks (singles "Give it to me", "Miles away", and the marvellous "Devil wouldn't recognise you") simply could not justify this misstep, the most self-indulgent move of her music career. Hitting No. 1 in 37 countries on its debut was impressive, just like the phenomenal Sticky and Sweet tour, but the 4 million sales proved that this candy was hard to swallow. Vain and self-indulgent (3***)

Not one to repeat herself, she never ceases to surprise and amaze. She has always had an impeccable charisma to be experimental, unpredictable, challenging, fearless, and still come out on top. New album REBEL HEART is sheer proof for this. She is a legend in her own right, a leader of contemporary pop artists, in a league all of her own. That is why she is the only real Queen of Pop, if this title is anything to go by. Still standing, still standing out, she remains the undisputed pop royalty. Rebel hearts all over the world, unite, applause, rejoice! And do not forget: "Music makes the people come together ...yeah!"
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2015 4:42 PM GMT

The Velvet Trail
The Velvet Trail
Price: £17.83

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare and precious, 9 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Velvet Trail (Audio CD)
A trio of instrumental tracks sent to Marc Almond by fellow pop "outsider", songwriter/producer Chris Braide, were enough to make him reconsider about retiring from the music scene, as he had announced back in 2010. Enthused by them, he began working with him towards creating a brand new full album; and, thus, THE VELVET TRAIL was born. The album is the epitome of an organic collaboration between lyricist and composer, as they both shared a vision of creating an album of a certain nature and structure. Presented in 3 Acts, each heralded by an instrumental track, here is a set of 12 pop songs with big choruses and melodies that confirms Almond's burning spirit deep within. A longtime fan of Almond's, Braide's synth-pop compositions match his sensibilities and trademark qualities, producing a coherent artistic statement than just an album that simply emerged from two people who decided to work together.

There is a lot of hurt, drama, and lust, as ever, delivered with his still enthralling voice, and assisted by Braide's glamourous musical backing. Decidedly doing some cathartic work on here, Almond channels his thoughts into his lyrics; as one whose honesty set him apart from the rest, he does so without compromising his worldview. And, as one of Britain's most distinctive singers/artists, he does not care about how provocative he can often be (never one to rely on shock value). THE VELVET TRAIL is clearly not the kind of album one encounters often. Any album that closes with a reflective cello solo (which further enhances the rarity of its content), deserves to garner great success. If I had to recommend just one song, that would have to be the album's centrepiece, the stunning "The pain of never". Other highlights are the terrific "Zipped black leather jacket", Marc's duet with Beth Ditto, the uplifting "When the comet comes", and the nostalgic title-track. I urge you to experience it!

Rebel Heart (Deluxe)
Rebel Heart (Deluxe)
Price: £12.99

53 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebel Art: Reigning supreme, falling down, and victoriously getting back up again, 9 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Rebel Heart (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
Expectations are too high for a number of reasons for REBEL HEART, undoubtedly one of the most anticipated music releases in recent years. So much, indeed, that just 3 months prior to its release, more than 30 of the songs that had been recorded for the album became available in demo versions on the internet. This leak definitely killed a lot of the momentum this album was supposed to have. However, the subsequent official pre-release of 6 tracks received a huge amount of positive feedback. Clearly illustrating her desire to confound and exceed all expectations placed upon her with each new recording, Madonna's lucky 13 (Brits' fall excluded!), is the record that more than any other of hers in the last decade will show to contemporary audiences that there is a reason why this lady has dominated the pop industry for the past 32 years.

The album's generous 19 brand new songs, in total, appear like M's attempt to please everyone, and most of all the fans, to whom REBEL HEART comes as a long-awaited gift (much appreciated, thanks!). Here is a most varied and satisfying record, offering energetic electro-dance cuts, lush ballads, fun singalong ditties ...and the occasional clangers (surely some editing would be beneficial, but hey). If any confirmation were required of M's sustained cultural relevance, it is surely provided by these songs, some of which can contend with her best. Infusing her work with new elements and genres, less concerned than before with drawing younger generations of music, she sounds confident and relaxed. REBEL HEART comes as a bold re-affirmation of M's supremacy in a genre she created and perfected, being her most fascinating and entertaining set of songs since 2005.

From the triumphant opener "Living for love", a thumping 90s throwback with classic M traits such as religious references and a gospel choir, all the way to the epic, confessional/biographic title-track closer, the tone veers between heartbreak ballads and hard-edged bangers. The infectious country-infused "Devil pray", the reggae/dubstep-influenced "Unapologetic b*tch", the frenetically bouncy "Illuminati", the celebrational trap/pop "Iconic", the playful, Eastern-flavoured "Body shop" with its gentle innuendo (in contrast to the similarly-themed "Holy Water"'s forced shock value), and the utterly poptastic, self-referencial "Veni, vidi, vici", are all brilliant pop/dance tracks, guaranteed to excite and surprise. Best of all, is the soaring "Hold tight", combining uplifting shamanic drumming sounds with optimistic lyrics about unity and love ("Hold tight, everything's gonna be alright").

But it is the midtempo and slower tracks that are the album's showstealers. For a persona synonymous with strength and endurance, it is startling to hear her being vulnerable and revealing her weaknesses, as she does on the deeply moving "Joan of Arc". "I can't be a superhero... Even hearts made out of steel can break down", she admits with unparalleled melancholy, "I'm only human". It is the most sentimental track, and it would make a fantastic single. Highlights are the hopeful/sad "Ghosttown", and the exquisite "Wash all over me". The absolute standout, though, is the regal "Messiah", a finely crafted and executed elegy, harkening back to the spiritual introspection of her late 90s and early 00s albums. Pop's greatest narcissist is brave enough to dole out songs like these every once in a while but, also, smart enough to do so infrequently enough for them to be memorable.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of the album is that it is too long or contradictory. Madonna's intention was to explore the rebel and the romantic side of her personality with this album, as she has said. So, that should be taken into account. It is essentially two separate albums which sound like a rather effortlessly and effectively flowing unified body of work. On top of this, while the album centres on herself, even when she slips hints or she is actually referencing her past hits on some tracks, it does not sound egotistical. Enhanced by her vocal clarity, REBEL HEART proves that M can still create an album that is very personal and distinctive, yet, also incorporating a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment. Interestingly, by the end of the record, there is a liberating impression that a chapter has closed, and another begins. Whether intentional or coincidental, the symbolism is surely striking.

Already welcomed by rejoicing fans and curious casual listeners, and regardless of how well it is going to perform, REBEL HEART has for sure everything a hit record requires; a mix of great songs, the much-needed hype, even an iconic cover (wires rule!). The genius of M is that she never ceases to surprise and amaze. She has always had an impeccable charisma to be experimental, unpredictable, challenging, fearless, and still come out on top. She is a legend in her own right, a leader of contemporary pop artists, in a league all of her own. When she wears her heart on her sleeve, as she does for this album's better part, she is simply unmatched. That is why she is the only real Queen of Pop, if this title is anything to go by. Still standing, still standing out, she remains the undisputed pop royalty, and REBEL HEART is another precious jewel in her crown. All hail, better "take a bow"!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2015 3:19 PM GMT

Biophilia Live 2014 (2cd+DVD)
Biophilia Live 2014 (2cd+DVD)
Price: £18.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bjorkphilia, 15 Feb. 2015
The "Biophilia" project began as a planned 3D film with Bjork's longtime creative collaborator, Michel Gondry, eventually materialized by directors Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland. When the homonymous album was released in October 2011, even by Bjork's increasingly esoteric standards, it was a hard album for fans to digest (3 years on, even avid Bjork fans, like myself, stand aloof towards it). Bjork had then talked about a multimedia project encompassing music, applications, the internet, installations and live shows, only enhancing the idea of her avant-guard nature. This exploration of the intersection of music, nature and technology, using a broad variety of digital and traditional instruments, is "Biophilia Live".

Recorded live at London's Alexandra Palace in September 2013, on the final night of a 2-year tour, this critically acclaimed film presents the multi-dimensional concert, offering a whole new perspective about Bjork's vision of "Biophilia". Watching the fascinating spectacle of this live performance, proves extremely enlightening as regards to understanding and appreciating the concept behind it; it is only after witnessing this that it starts to make some - or full even - sense, to the extent of being hailed by the public and critics as an imaginative, captivating audio-visual project. Most certainly the stunning visuals employed in the show prove most vital, just like Bjork's presence, an inextricable component in the whole project.

Although her direct interaction with the audience is minimal, her emotional connection to the songs is compelling, with the directors marvelously framing her physicality and facial expressions, making the contact between the artist and the audience stronger and deeper. Dressed in a futuristic bubble-wrap costume, wearing a frizzy, rainbow-coloured wig, shrieking and wailing (often simultaneously!), the embodiment of boisterous tranquility, with her charming childlike enthusiasm and wonder, she provides some of the show's most sublime moments (ie "Isobel"'s haunting hymnlike performance, one of her all-time finest, and the disarming sensual intimacy of "Hidden place" - interestingly enough, both no "Biophilia" tracks).

One cannot help but be impressed by this revolutionary artistic creation, another triumph on Bjork's intriguing trajectory. Biophilia (a Greek word meaning "love of living") is a groundbreaking multimedia extravaganza of a project that could not have been conceived or executed by any other but Bjork; this visionary artist who, 21 years into her solo career, remains unpredictable, yet, magnetic. Even though a film cannot replicate the immersive experience of actually witnessing a concert, this is a unique experience for all viewers. If some fans still find it impossible to enjoy "Biophilia", in Bjork's own words" "One day, it will happen. One day, it will all make sense.". Possibly. Maybe.

Let's Get To It: Collector's Edition LP/2CD/DVD
Let's Get To It: Collector's Edition LP/2CD/DVD
Price: £65.68

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let's get to it, it calls for it!, 12 Feb. 2015
Only 3 years between her debut and "Let's get to it", it is unbelievable how much Kylie really changed and developed. With previous album "Rhythm of love" cementing her gay icon status, as well as her signature sound, Kylie took more creative control on this, and quite a risk by changing her sound to a more urban feel. Obviously not concerned with just scoring hits, and clearly adopting a more refined approach to her work, being more than happy to get as far away as she could from the control and confines she was feeling at PWL (by the time this was released, Matt Aitken had left the SAW team), the album's tracks are more varied than those on "Rhythm of love". And, although it did not sell as well as its predecessors, that did not discourage her; she continued in this direction on her 1994-1997 releases, where she got to fully blossom into an underground diva.

Out of the 4 brand new re-issues, this is the one I anticipated the most for, being early Kylie's fave album of mine, plus, because up until some years ago, this was her most hard to find album. The remastering is brilliant, and the care given into assembling this package is more than evident (I am not a fan of big-sized box sets but this is superb). My favourite part of the package has to be the promo videos and special TV appearances, they are truly fantastic. But this is a fan's delight, with tons of remixes, photos and notes to enjoy. My only complaint is the price; I have splashed out nearly 100 euros for this limited collector's edition. I only did so for sentimental reasons, but I will be picking up the 2CD+DVD editions of the other 3 titles, and I would expect most fans to do the same. All in all, this has absolutely been worth waiting for so long ...I guess I love it like that!

Price: £7.99

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violently wounded emotional landscapes, 31 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Vulnicura (MP3 Download)
Billed as Bjork's "break-up record", "Vulnicura" leaves little to speculate. The cover image of Bjork with a gaping chest wound, provides a visual representation of the album's thematology. As for the curious title, when broken down, the latin words "vulnus" and "cura" respectively translate to "injury" and "healing". Though hardly a novel concept, Bjork takes this personal and introspective matter, and skillfully renders it universal, by creating an album in which to find solace, despite its heartbreaking content. After a long period of philosophical (and often pretty inaccessible) albums, she returns with the most human-centered album of her career, which, to those familiar with her work, is some kind of apocalypse. Especially, when considering that the record leaked, and was rush-released, a fact that seems to have done Bjork an inadvertent service, thus, allowing listeners to focus purely on the the actual material. The album's 9 songs, chronicling the story of a relationship, are almost inextricably linked with one another. However, special mention has to be made of the album's glorious centrepiece, "Black lake", and the dramatic opener "Stonemilker". Reaching further than ever before, with "Vulnicura", Bjork proves that she is a phenomenal artist and, also, an amazing human being: wacky, weird, wondrous, wonderful.
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