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Graeme (Scotland)

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The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) [CD+DVD]
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) [CD+DVD]

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SW continues to... ...progress, 13 Mar. 2013
There's a fair bit of chat in these reviews about this album being derivative of early 70s prog. Is it? Probably. Maybe. Does it matter? Obviously it does to some. I just like the album, to be honest. I don't care if the opening bass line sounds like Yes. I don't care if there are touches of Floyd. I just like it. And I liked it even more after I saw it performed live in Glasgow. I also think the album benefits from knowing a little of the background of the stories behind the songs. A quick summary of each was provided in an interview SW did with Prog Magazine. It makes the closing track, for example, even more poignant.

Musically, this is a fine piece of work with musicianship being very much to the fore. The quality of the recording is superb. It's a good length at just under the hour mark. Plenty of noise for your money without making the mistake of giving you 70-odd minutes and to hell with the quality. Despite a low song count, there's plenty of variety. It's only March, but this is already a contender of album of the year for me.


The Final Testament
The Final Testament
by James Frey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 20 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The Final Testament (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book, but can understand the mixed reviews it's received on here. One of the main criticisms is that it's repetitive. It is a little. But I think that's because each instalment is provided as a `gospel' from a number of individuals whom the main character, Ben Zion, has touched in some way. So, it's repetitive in the same way that the New Testament Gospels are repetitive.

TLT is thought-provoking to an extent. For me, though, the `controversy' isn't so much about the take on organised religion, but more so on Ben Zion's view of what love for mankind means. According to these `gospels' Ben's view is that love is not merely unconditional, but it's also promiscuous in the extreme. It's an interesting message to preach against a background of AIDS and other STDs. So, I found myself deeply intrigued by this charismatic character, but not entirely agreeing with his message. And then I would remind myself that at no point is it ever Ben's account of his life or message; it's always someone else's. Whose message are they actually broadcasting? How reliable are those accounts? Do you just accept these testaments in blind faith, or do you subject them to more thorough consideration of their validity. That, to me, is where this book succeeds.


A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patience required, 24 Aug. 2012
There are lots of conflicting views and reviews on where we've for to with GoT. HBO's serialisation of the early instalments has undoubtedly brought these books to a whole new audience, and that can only be a good thing (mainly for GRRM but for fantasy as a whole). The first three books are action-packed affairs with shocks aplenty. The pace slows in Feast. Some readers didn't seem to like that, though I felt it was a welcome pause to draw breath which allowed for characters to be further developed. So, what about Dance (and this is a review of Dance as a whole, not of the rip-off marketing ploy (for the second time in this fantasy series) of splitting the book in two)?

Well, I liked Feast, so I gave it four stars. With this, I find myself almost edging downwards. I'm still interested, because I like these characters and I've invested a lot of time (and some money!) in following them. But I felt with this one that when the shock came (it was a shock for me and I'll say no more about that) I felt, Oh, here we go again. And I still feel a bit like that. A couple of the narrative threads left me wondering what the point of a few hundred preceding pages was. For the first time, I'm starting to feel that GRRM's grip is loosening. There are so many threads now that it's so difficult to keep track of where they all are.

Has the story been moved on significantly by this latest hefty volume? Honestly? In my opinion, no. It's like we're watching a really long game of chess (or cyvasse, if you prefer), and while we've been watching, the pieces have moved only a little. But what's happened has all been a bit peripheral. We are no clearer at all about what the major threat is. There are characters scattered all over the place. And there are so many that I really fear for the shape of future instalments.

It took me around 8 volumes of Wheel of Time before I gave up on that. For the moment, though, I'm happy to stay on the GoT train in the hope that, like Jon Snow, I know nothing.


Crown and Treaty
Crown and Treaty
Offered by Squirrelsounds
Price: £9.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 23 July 2012
This review is from: Crown and Treaty (Audio CD)
Can't really add much to ChilliHodge's review, but can totally commend it as a review of this record. SBP are an extremely talented band that manage to challenge you with their material while never losing sight of the melodic content of the music.

The addition of a female vocal on this record is a master stroke. It allows SBP to exist in a bigger space while retaining a stunningloy tight grip of the reins. It's well thought music but not overthought. It's still music, and never sacrifices emotion for artifice.

Absolutely beautiful piece of work. Album of the year for me, so far.


A Feast for Crows (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
A Feast for Crows (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A definite slowing, 24 Jun. 2012
I think I've benefitted from having re-read the first three books immediately prior to reading Feast. That meant I didn't feel the long wait so much between book 3 and 4. Also, I knew from having read reviews here that the story concentrated on events in and around King's Landing, and that the next book would pick up the other characters. Thus, forearmed (or forewarned?), I wasn't disappointed about who was missing.

Book 3 was just so explosive, there was no way GRRM could keep that pace going. So, he's taken his foot off the padal a wee bit, and what we get instead is some interesting and entertaining side story. At least I think it's side story - it's actually difficult to say what the central story line is. I used to think it centred on the Starks. It kind of still does, but four books in, I still don't know who is behind the main threat, or really what the main threat is. The writing's entertaining, though, and I'm happy to stick with it for the time being.

I found the events at Dorne interesting and liked the inclusion of characters there. I'm very much enjoying Arya's story and also found Brienne's story interesting. The events in and around the Iron Islands was good, too. Nothing jaw-dropping, but each moving the story along, albeit at a very slow pace. Out of everyone featured, I think Jaime and Sansa's stories were the least developed. While Jaime seems to be going through some sort or re-evaluation of his life and beliefs, Sansa continues to be pretty and go where she's told.

One final point, this book begins with a prologue (I don't really get prologues in sequential multi-volume books that tell a single story, but maybe that's just me). Stuff happens in that prologue, and you sense a new, and perhaps even major character, appearing. I'm a little wary of 'important characters' appearing at this stage, but my main gripe with the prologue is that it's not revisited until the final chapter, 800-odd pages on. By which point I'd forgotten the precise detail of the prologue, so had to go back an re-read it to appreciate the import and dramatic impact of the book's final sentences.

All in all, I don't agree with the comparisons to WoT, but can appreciate the point being made. I would mark books 1-3 in this epic as 5 stars; this book gets 4 from me ie 'I like it'.


Aquarius
Aquarius

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great example of its kind, 22 April 2012
This review is from: Aquarius (Audio CD)
If you've read the other reviews, you'll already have seen the mentions of Dream Theater. To be fair, they're entirely justified. That's not to take anything away from Haken, however. DT is a great band, and so is Haken.

This, their first album, tells a rather curious tale of a mermaid-of-sorts (hence the rather stunning cover). That might sound a little silly, but it actually works within the overall context of the album. There are some really good lyrical moments if you sit and listen to this which manages to make the story both interesting and strangely moving.

But what sets Haken apart is the musicianship. All musicians are clearly very proficient, a bit like, er, Dream Theater. Thankfully, Jennings' voice is very different to Labrie's!

All in all, great music used to tell a strange story delivered by great musicians and a very good singer.


Weather Systems
Weather Systems
Offered by OBSCUREDBYSOUND
Price: £9.32

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The progression of quality, 22 April 2012
This review is from: Weather Systems (Audio CD)
I've deliberately waited a few days before reviewing this. I'd read a lot of the stuff going round pre-release, about how emtional the album was, how the band felt at the height of its creative powers, etc. Well, it is emotional, and the band is at its heights. This is, put simply, a stunning album.

The track by track thing isn't for me. This is very much an album, a single concept with a theme running through it. With each listen, it continues to release its secrets and gems. The shades of darkness and light between Vince and Lees' voices is excellent, and they combine well, too. The production is sheer quality, with every aspect of the instruments and voices allowed the space to breathe and no individual element suffering at the expense of another.

I guess my main complement to the band is that I (like many others, I imagine) used to like them because they sounded like Pink Floyd. Now, I love them because they sound like Anathema. One of the UK's best bands by a country mile and it's a pity that the download generation will no doubt miss this opportunity to savour where music can take you.

I defy anyone to listen to 'Internal Landscapes' and not feel something.


10 Stories Down
10 Stories Down
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £7.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actual music from a proper band, 5 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 10 Stories Down (Audio CD)
Other reviews say what needs to be said. This band should be bigger. Bruce Soord's voice has qualities of both Yorke and Corgan, but has very much his own sound. The songs are high on melody with well crafted and understated lyrics. The musicianship is excellent. Don't be put off by the 'prog' label (don't understand why anyone would be, though!) - this is prog in the way that OK Computer was prog rather than the twiddly-twiddly-diddly-dee of Yes or ELP. Quickly becoming one of my favourite bands and they deserve every success. Give Pineapple Thief a go and they will light up your eyes.


The Golden Archipelago
The Golden Archipelago
Price: £13.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grower, 11 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Golden Archipelago (Audio CD)
I would echo the comments made by Big Rich. This, however, was my first taste of Shearwater. On a first listen I thought, 'Nice enough, but nothing special.'. After a few more spins the underlying beauty of each track gradually begins to assert itself. But that's true of most great albums. How often have you listened to something and thought it's great from the off, only to find yourself bored with it within a few months? I shall certainly be purchasing Shearwater's earlier stuff, and have subsequently acquired a taste for Okkervil River, too. It's all good!


The Other Hand
The Other Hand
by Chris Cleave
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped? Yes., 30 April 2009
This review is from: The Other Hand (Paperback)
When a publisher starts by saying, 'Psst, this is really good; go tell your friends', you have to reach for the salt. To compare this effort with 'Cloud Atlas', though, is utter nonsense (I haven't read 'Schindler's Ark). Sorry, Mr Cleave, you are not in the same league as David Mitchell.

The opening sentences in this book, in which Lilttle Bee compares herself to a British pound, were extremely well done and conjured up an immediate and very telling insight into how this capitalist society of our's has more passion for cash than it does for human beings. You can argue the about he accuracy of that viewpoint, but as an opening, it was excellent. But then things went downhill. The characters are very thin and stereotypical. Young Charlie, who is always having his grammar corrected, goes about saying 'mine' instead of 'my', which makes him sound a little like a comedy extra out of ''Allo,'Allo'. The narrative uses 2 voices - Sarah and Little Bee. Little Bee has managed to teach herself the Queen's English while in an asylum centre - maybe that is why the 2 different voices sounded fairly similar, despite the fact that one is middle class English and the other is native-villager Nigerian.

The bit on the beach, as has already been pointed out, just doesn't add up. But it's a decent story, no more, no less.


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