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Will Stent "A Tibetan Monk" (Northumberland, UK)

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The Pirate Wars: Pirates vs. the Legitimate Navies of the World
The Pirate Wars: Pirates vs. the Legitimate Navies of the World
by Peter Earle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read, 10 Dec. 2008
Separating the pirate truth from the pirate myth both sounds and is a mammoth task to execute, but Peter Earle somehow, through some magical literary genius-ness that was transcended to him by Blackbeard or Bart Roberts themselves, manages to do both, and still create a bloody good book. The tone of the book is a mixed one, and rightly so for us as reader, as Earle never seems to condemning of the activities of any of the pirates he discusses, and nor does he appear to glorify too much the navies and military authorities that try and end the work of these said pirates. His historical yet fun romp through piracy is both exciting, scholarly and educational, but all done in a way that makes you want to keep reading.

A very enjoyable book to read, whether you're a newcomer to the history of pirates or a hardened seafarer, and a book that has clearly had both a lot of effort and research put into each page. Well done Mr Earle, well done.

Brothers in Arms: Road To Hill 30 (Xbox)
Brothers in Arms: Road To Hill 30 (Xbox)

4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes brilliant, always good, 4 Sept. 2007
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Anyone who's seen Steven Spielberg's 'Band Of Brothers' or 'Saving Private Ryan' will know exactly the brutal reality faced by soldiers in World War II. And a fair whack of those people who have watched either will want to witness it from another perspective, from behind a controller. Which is where 'Brothers In Arms' comes in. Having been described by many as the ultimate World War II FPS squad-based shooter, it easily achieves in its aim of putting you in the hands of a realistic squad and throwing you in at the deep end. There's just one snag - to be honest, we've seen it before.

'Brothers In Arms' does everything its set out to do; with damningly intelligent AI, you, as the leader of your squad, have to navigate through some of the most dangerous and Nazi infested towns and countryside, where there may be a Nazi machine gun post waiting around the corner or a group of enemy soldiers, or 'krouts' as you squad members love to call them, in any window of any building. The words 'incredibly atmospheric' don't even come close. And your squad aren't just cannon fodder - you have to learn quickly that it is them that will get you through the game, not yourself. Controlling your squad is simple, and the 'suppress and flank' move that is nigh on forced on you is so rewarding when done right, as is sending your entire squad charging one lone, reloading Nazi - cruel, yes, but this is war, and the Nazis don't make things easy at all. The extremely easy and useful 'recon' view you get helps a lot, allowing you to survey areas of the battlefield and objectives whilst keeping you head out of the way from flying bullets. Throw into that the fact that game is completely historically accurate, with squad members being based on actually soldiers and missions, naturally, being identical to those that happened some sixty or so years ago, you do have the most realistic military FPS out there. The graphics of the various locations are well detailed and a pleasure to look at, though the animation and graphic of the squad is so good - a little too reminiscent of those 'Medal Of Honour' cross-port games. But the game itself is a genius; it forces you to be clever, patient and professional - try any of those 'Medal Of Honour' style rampages, and you'll be dead quicker than you can say 'shot'.

So why haven't I given it five stars? I said at the beginning that we've seen it before, and to some degree, we have. In the past few years, the gaming world has been flooded by tactical shooters (Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Full Spectrum Warrior, Shellshock Vietnam...) and we have all experienced plenty of WWII shooters - Call Of Duty, Commandos and Medal Of Honour being the most famous. So, apart from being incredibly realistic in terms of environments, we've kind of seen a lot of this before. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good game, there's just a strong sense of Deja Vu. And the squad commands, although fun, get a little repetitive and are few in number - but that's realism for you. And the quick wittiness and 'jokes' of your soldiers become really tiresome. They are there to add some none-combat realism, to give your soldiers ('Brothers' as we are repeatedly told) a personality, to make us sympathise with them - but it usual just narks us off, they are so predictable. The constant cut scenes and irritatingly passionate and overly dramatic string music also becomes frustrating. Saying this, it really is a smallish price to pay for such a realistic thriller of a game.

Overall, the game is a stunner. Brutal realistic, with simple to use commands, it does hold true to being the most realistic WWII squad-based shooter out there, even if it does suffer through a few small annoyances - sometimes brilliant, always good.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
by Dee Alexander Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crafted by a thought provoking genius, 9 Feb. 2007
The American West is a tale usually known through overly dramatic films, simplified campfire style stories and irritating stereotypes. Ofcourse, there are a lot of great films, documentaries and novels out there that due capture the spirit of the real West, and to tell a truthful tale. But these always seem to get lost or forgotten everytime a John Wayne classic or a slightly different Clint Eastwood film roles around on mid aftertoom television. However, Dee Brown's fantastic and rare style of writing, a style that somehow dramatises facts to truly bring them to life, makes 'Bury My Heart...' a book that stands as a true pioneer when it comes to disovering the truth.

Ofcourse, it would be unfair to say that this book is the best piece of literature explaining and describing the whole of the American West that has ever been, as I dubt a single book would be able to convincing achieve that goal. 'Bury My Heart...' focuses on the forgotten people of the West; the Native Americans. These largely innocent people were, to put it bluntly, torn apart and exterminated by the white man's colonisation of their homeland. They are portrayed as merciless, evil and violent in many references, but the simple fact is that on many occassions, all of which the novel explains with amazing depth and insight, it was the White man that became the villain, and not the savage, unskilled warriors that many assume them to be. The Native Americans have a tragic history, and whilst some are still around today, their past is barely remembered compared to the triumphant victories and amazing heroism of White would-be Americans of the same period.

But, it is in the telling that sets this book above all others. On such a tragic history, it would be very easy to simply balme one side, or become bogged down in the misery and depression that became so many of their lives - but no. The novel is a balanced read, and talks of both the good and the bad deeds of both sides, when these two sides came togther, both in terms of conflict and peace. The facts are clear to see, but Brown uses many conditional and contingent factors to justify, further explain or imagine surrounding details, possibilites and emotions.

Overall, the book provides a detailled history of one of the most forgotten peoples of our Earth, but it does so with an emotion, livelyness and fluid style that keeps the book moving on. You will find yourself tearing through, as Brown shifts from one event to another, one person's story to another, with a skill that I have very rarely seen.

This book is fantastic, both as historical reference or just a good read. One thing is for sure; it will make you think. Enjoy.

American V: A Hundred Highways
American V: A Hundred Highways
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £8.14

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant finale for the Man In Black, 8 Feb. 2007
Being the last album in his 'American Recordings' series, the overall vibe of the other albums led fans and admirers of Cash to expect nothing more than what was needed; Cash's voice, a few guitars, a piano and the occassional backing vocals. Rick Rubin's tried-and-tested production method when it comes to Johnny Cash is put into motion again here, and the end result is another memorable record.

Being a mix of tradtional country songs and Cash's own material, including 'Like The 309', the last song he ever wrote before his death. It would take many pages to explain all the merits of each song, so I'll just pick out a few of my favourites. 'Like The 309' is a classic Cash track, but it has more resonance becuase it was the last he wrote. It continues Cash's love affair with trains and the story of the rails, somthing that features constanly throughout all his albums. 'Further On Up The Road' is done with a brilliance that I haven't seen elsewhere in the country music spectrum. It's instrumentation is also well chosen - the select organ chords halfway through the song sends shivers up your spine. It's a masterwork, with some meaningful lyrics that will stir up some emotion in anyone. 'If You Could Read My Mind' is a softer, moe thoughtful song may go unnoticed when compared to tracks such as 'Hurt' and 'Ring Of Fire', but in my opinion, it deserves to stand with them. It's quiet and smooth, bordering romantic, with the pure honesty of Cash's voice really coming through.

It's certainly a brilliant album to complete the series, and bolsters the allready great legend of the Man In Black. Buy this album if you're a fan of Cash or country music in general - you will not regret it.

Men in Black
Men in Black
Offered by Smart-UK
Price: £7.95

4.0 out of 5 stars It's a great song, but mind the price tag..., 21 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Men in Black (Audio CD)
Because there's only one 'essential' song on the album, I'll keep this review short as there's only so far as I can go. The title track is a classic concoction from the Will Smith cauldron of creativity. Bouncing, smooth, synthetic beats will some clever uses of instrumental sections, and ofcourse, Smith's go-lucky lyrics, that are so great to here in this 'gangsta rap' world of hip-hop that we live in. It's nice to hear someone, despite the fact they are as egotistical as some of the 'homies' out there, rhyming about some of the better things in life. The track itself really suits the 'kick ass', glossy hollywood mood of the film. It suits it down to a tee. It's a track that brings a smile to your face, and a tap to your foot - excellent. The mixes are, naturally, not as good, but are a fairly good add-on, even if it's just to bulk out the package.

Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £6.07

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly memorable, 20 Nov. 2006
After producing two stunning soundtracks for the previous two Lord Of The Rings albums, Howard Shore proves that there is still some musical fuel left in his composing tank. 'The Lord Of The Rings; The Return Of The King' is a masterpiece. Enough said. All the tracks are memorable in some form or and another, but all in a good way. But one of the main things about this album is how powerful all the songs are, and the reason behind that is the more familar melodies have been expanded and enlarged, with new and innovative harmonies, backing voices and solos adding to the musical harmonies. Remember the theme for, what was in 'The Fellowship...', Boromir? Well, listen to the track 'Minas Tirith' and you here the same song, but it sounds as if it has been exploded outwards. It's now a huge orchestral masterpiece, far from the single horn heard in the first film. This album, in some ways, is therefore a uniting of all the previous songs, and it brings all of the previous musical adventures that Shore undertook to create the other soundtracks back around to a dramatic and polished ending. Because of this 'plot' to the music, it is possible to follow the films whilst just listening to the music. That is how brilliantly Shore has made this.

But onto the individual songs. One of the highlights of the album for me is 'Minas Tirith'/'The White Tree'/'. Why are these two joined together? They are not actually track wise, but they flow so well that it is easy to forget they are different songs. They are both based around the theme for Minas Tirith and Gondor, but, as I said at the beginning, they have musical exploded to be gigantic, profound masterpieces. I find it hard to believe anyone who did not have shivers running up and down their spine whilst listening to these two in particular. 'The Ride Of The Rohirrim' is a welcome return of the strings and horns combination that was so recognised with Rohan, and again, we see a link of Shore's work in this film with that of 'The Two Towers' - its a beautifully crafted song, with as much expression and emotion crammed into it as you could possible have. 'The Fields Of Pelennor' is one of the loudest and warlike tracks on the album, which it needs to be to cope with what's happening on the screen. And it does. The contrast of the multiple themes and recuring melodic lines that we, as an audience, associate with the groups of Middle-Earth, all clash here beautifully, as a representation of the armies clashing together. It's a great piece of work, with the full power of the orchestra running through it. The last few tracks I want to mention are 'The Return Of The King'/'The Grey Havens'. These are the best songs in terms of reflecting the film, as it is so easy to imagine the film whilst listening. Viggo Mortensen's solo is amazing, and creates one of the most atmospheric sections of the album. 'The Grey Havens' brings the soundtrack to a calm, and ultimately, happy end with such expert skill and passsion that you don't want it to end.

Although I've only mentioned a few, all the songs are well worth listening to, and the album, as a complete soundtrack, is spectacular. It's a true testament to the films in every respect. And as I sit here, writing this review and listening to 'The Grey Havens', I can't help but think Howard Shore should do all the soundtracks to any film now - if this alone is anything to go by, they will all be passionate and exciting masterpieces of music.

Offered by Qoolist
Price: £2.49

5.0 out of 5 stars One word - legendary..., 19 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Willennium (Audio CD)
'Willenium' is an album that is a hidden gem of today's music. Granted, it was created in 2000, but it's a timeless album from the roots of classic hip-hop, something Will Smith had a definate hand in in breeding from the start. But, 'Willenium', is regarded by some of the diehard fans of 'classic' Will Smith and classic hip-hop in general as not the best of albums. But that statement is, in my opinion, a load of absolute nonsense. And why? Well, allow me to explain.

'I'm Comin'' is smart and slick song that, despite fuelling Smith's ego, is done in such away that you can't help but love it from the opening samples. The alnum then follows suit, with various songs standing out, but the album as a whole being a brilliantly produced, expertly written piece of music. 'So Fresh' is one of the best songs of all the hip-hopping age - Biz Markie and Slick Rick add real spice and wit to the song, with Jazzy Jeff being as a quick as ever on his turntables. 'Wild Wild West', despite being produced mainly for promotional purposes, is excellent, with a bounce and pace that moves the song along nicely, with the backing singers really adding a piece to the hippety-hop pie. 'Freakin' It', despite flopping in the sales charts single wise, is again another brilliant song, which again adds to Smith's ego, but is again done in a way that is tasteful, cool and genuining exciting.

The album is great. It's that simple. It's true hip-hop, going back to the days where it was all about the music, and less about the cash - despite Smith's songs revolving around his successes. But who cares? It's smooth, quick and smart with Jazzy Jeff's backbeats ranking as some of the most imaginative of all time. It's a classic. It's that simple.

Quality Control
Quality Control
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £4.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hip-Hop with some groundbreaking ideas..., 19 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Quality Control (Audio CD)
Modern day rap is something that, in my opinion , has been bred from the whole egotistical and mass of abusive songs that came from the early 90's. Big Daddy Kane is, ofcourse, an exception from most of this scene, but there is no doubt that modern day 'gangsta-rap' is heavily influenced from this scene. The less offensive, more casually and laid back 'rap' was often left oiut the mainstream equation, with the afore mentioned Big Daddy Kane and Will Smith leading the way through various sub-genres of hip-hop. Jurassic 5 are, ironically, descendants of this smooth, summer-esque 'beats-and-rhymes' mindset of music. Which, in this day and age, is truly a brilliant thing indeed.

So, to the album itself. The album, as a whole, is a good, solid package of smooth songs that instantly brighten up anyone's day, or make it even better. The are, however, some true moments of brilliance, less than there are on 'Power Of Numbers', on this album. The title track is great, with the innovative 'rhymers', as they preferred to be called, bouncing off each other. 'Swing Set', a DJ instrumental of sampling and scratching, is based on, what the various voice-overs call 'the sound of the 30's' - it's imaginative, smart and down right good. Period. 'World Of Entertainment' is a clever and ironic song, with some great beats provided by DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist. 'Contribution' is my personal foavourite, as the lyrics are laced with irony and wit. A very smart song with some wonderfully slick backbeats.

In short, Jurassic 5's 'Quality Control' is smart, smooth and so original in today's hectic place. It's a great change from what we're are used to hearing these days. If you want a brilliant and powerful ntrip down the good parts of memory lane, then you couldn't do much worse than listening to this musical goodness.

Power In Numbers
Power In Numbers
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £5.20

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning, 17 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Power In Numbers (Audio CD)
I am a fan of a wide scale of music, and probably have interests or favourites in any genre of music. I bought this album on the pretext that it was similar to Will Smith in it's smooth and classic style, and I had heard an excerpt of 'A Day At The Races' - but what I discovered that this album was so muchmore. It's now one of my favourite albums of all time, and with good reason.

In this day and age, the whole 'homie rapper' thing is whereing a thin, with egotistical rappers bouncing around and sprining up everywhere. But this album is not, I repeat, is not a rap album. The artists themselves do not describe themselves as rapper. They are rhymers. It's more of a chilled out, calmed down rapper with a positive outlook on life. And that's probably the best way to decribe this album; cool and positive. The guys bounce of each other brilliantly, with a genuine love for what they do. It sounds amazing. Their licks are smooth and smart, full of wit, irony, whatever lititary technique you care to mention. Their contrasting voics add much to the songs, and the group sections are a highlight. But then, where would all these brilliant rhymes be without a good and solid backbeat? Well, this is covered, thanks to DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist, two excellent MCs with a passion and uniqueness to their tracks. There are none of the plain, gangsta rap beats here, but melodic, movin' and interesting beats that match the talent of the rhymers.

In short, a legendary album; truly astounding in every sense of the world. Buy it; you won't regret it - that's a promise.

The Black Parade
The Black Parade
Price: £4.99

14 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This simply ISN'T music..., 14 Nov. 2006
This review is from: The Black Parade (Audio CD)
I will cry and take my own life, possibly everyone else's who is around, if I have to this to another second of this utter trash! Music like this, especially from 'respected' bands of the genre (theres no need for any respect whn the music is SO abysmal) should not be classed as music!

Now, you're probably thinking 'What the hell is he on about?' - well, I listened to the album from start to finish over the course of a week and by the end, I was ready o have breakdown. It's depressing. It's pretencious. It's utter nonsense. But the worst thing is it's still classed has music - why? On God's green Earth tell me why this should still be classed as music?

I listen to music to enlighten or escape the hustle and bustle of life, bot to be shoved aginst my will into the bleakest and worst parts of it by a band that look like grown up trick-or-treaters at Hallowe'en, without the slight fear factor that generally comes with them!

To all suicidal maniacs; listen to this music. You'll discover that your life ain't as bad as their's. If this is the 'new' music of the world, the new 'good' music of the world, then what a depressing future we have ahead of us...

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