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Harvey Randall (Bristol, UK)

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Cults
Cults
Price: £7.25

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compromised Debut, 25 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Cults (Audio CD)
The Cults' highly hyped debut album begs the question: is it worth the attention? Well, it's a yes & a no. It's an unqualified yes to the songs, the vocals & the arrangements. The compositions are not only good but in some cases quite exceptional & the echo-plastered vocals have an affecting oriental flavour which I find very pleasing indeed. So far so good, then. So why the no? Because all of this combo's obvious potential is severely compromised by one of the most kack-handed & woefully misguided productions that I've heard in my life. The production is, simply, awful. The master tracks have been subjected to a wholesale indiscriminate wall of reverb that succeeds only in making it all sound as if it was recorded in a tin can, which tries the patience after three or four tracks & is a decidedly unpleasant experience when listening to the album from start to finish. What is most alarming is that they evidently intended it to be this way, which smacks of a wilful indulgence that ends up disrespecting the qualities of their own music. There is no bottom-end thrust at all (needs a boost, I'm afraid) & practically all of the impressive detail in the treble registers is entirely lost in the reverb blur. If you have the software you can correct this yourself at home, of course, & the album will sound a whole lot better for it- so much better, in fact, that you will share my dismay that a major record company could release the record in this condition without exercising some quality control. But for all that, the songs & vocals performances are infectious enough to get under your skin & stay there- which is why it gets 4 instead of 3 stars. With a more sympathetic production, this could have been one of the most attractive offerings of the year to date. As it stands, however, it's the most frustrating by a long mile. It's a shame, because hidden inside this tin can fiasco is a damn fine record which deserves much much better.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 4, 2011 12:49 PM BST


Director's Cut
Director's Cut
Offered by MediaMine
Price: £4.49

9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 17 May 2011
This review is from: Director's Cut (Audio CD)
You can rely on Kate to try something different. There have of late been a couple of important re-issues of past materials that have found the artists retooling some previously unissued bonus tracks. Bruce Springsteen did it on The Promise and the Rolling Stones went a stage further on the acclaimed Exile On Main Street package by adding new vocals to shelved backing tracks to create new songs. Kate Bush has taken the process further still by eschewing the opportunity to offer similar 'bonus' tracks and go instead for the jugular by stripping the original recordings of 11 tracks from her Sensual World & Red Shoes albums down to their roots and then fashioning entirely new versions from the same ingredients, with some new flavours added to the mix. This invariably finds her pursuing a 'less is more' approach in order to accommodate the new ingredients (vocal lines & more) that we've not heard before. The idea challenges those who regard the originals as sacred texts into making inevitable comparisons, of course, but for me what's going on here is nowhere near as trite as that. On this record Kate does in the studio what other artists do live on stage with the tapes rolling in the background for the subsequent live album: present familiar material in a different fashion. In doing so, the post-Aerial Kate turns up with what sounds like a new album founded on the original versions but presented in different shapes with alternative colourings. And it's something remarkable. In order to appreciate it fully, I thoroughly recommend resisting an immediate replay of the original recordings and play Aerial first. You might then find, as I have, that this Director's Cut follows on quite naturally. It also suggests that the running order of these tracks has been deliberately designed as a narrative sequence. In short, it works as an album in its own right, telling its own story, & deserves to be appreciated as such. Another first, then, for an artist whose bravery in attempting this work of studio alchemy is matched by her mastery of the process by which she produces this new nugget. In retrospect, Kate's interest in doing something like this was first flagged back in 1986 when she supplied a brand new vocal to 'Wuthering Heights' for The Whole Story compilation, but here she gone further than anyone else in creating the new from the old. She has delivered a frankly gorgeous, moving, disorientated, ghostly and occasionally spooky album of deep beauty that sounds more impressive with every listen. If you're still reading this you will have gathered that I like it a lot. The deal was clinched at the end where she signs off with a rock version of 'Rubberband Girl' that sounds like a rehearsal session for over half its duration until the harmonica & synth washes arrive to accompany us through to its finish. It's wryly humorous but also respectful of the singer's own origins as the lead singer of a rock band that played in small venues. I wasn't expecting that.

In the Collector's Edition you also get the original The Sensual World and Red Shoes albums on separate discs. These should not be shunned just because you already possess the originals. The Sensual World may not have been remastered (the packaging offers no comment on the matter) but it certainly sounds the more clearly defined when played back-to-back with the 1989 issue. Red Shoes, however, is something of a revelation. Derived from the original back-up tapes stored in analogue format, this version demonstrates just how much the sound quality was compromised in the digital transfer. Compared to this remaster, the original issue sounds wholly inadequate. Why can't other remasters sound as good as this? It is quite simply the best remaster I've ever heard. Let everyone else follow this artist's lead.


I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Price: £13.01

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blasted Beauty, 27 April 2011
Like others, I approached this record with some degree of trepidation- largely on account of its immediate ability to divide opinion among the man's most devoted admirers. Is it going to be as good or as disappointing as others declare? Well, my own response on taking the plunge was one of astonishment. The very first track caused my jaw to drop in wonderment of what met my ears. And as one track followed another it slowly dawned on me that I wasn't listening to a rather fine Steve Earle offering, I was listening to one of his very best. I've read that Steve attempts nothing new here, but he most certainly does. No previous album of his sounds like this one. The sonic landscape is carefully crafted to suit the tone of the songs & there are some remarkable songs here, at least a few of which are surely destined to be classed as classics. Highlights include the opening 'Waitin' On The Sky' (having been brought up in a military town beneath a big sky, I know exactly what he's singing about), 'The Gulf Of Mexico', 'This City' . . . & then there's 'Every Part Of Me'. The is probably the most direct love song I've ever heard. On paper, the lyrics don't seem to add up to much but the performance is breathtaking, utterly convincing & very moving. It really is rather special & I absolutely dread the prospect of it being subjected to a cover version by a contestant in some televised singing contest.

Have played the whole album three times now & it's impressed more with each hearing. I'm going to stick my neck out here & suggest that this is likely to be very influential on younger musicians. This is the work of a master craftsman in his maturity who succeeds in conveying far more genuine feeling by playing with a restraint that teems with rich musical detail. It is an album of haunting blasted beauty & I've never been able to say that about a Steve Earle record before. Personally, I think the guy just served an ace.


The Singles Collection 1971-2006: 45 X 45s
The Singles Collection 1971-2006: 45 X 45s
Price: £163.02

50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment, 13 April 2011
Oh dear. Where to start? With the expectation, I guess. The prospect of 45 Stones singles in one box was rather mouth-watering, to say the least. No more rummaging around in search of that elusive B-side, for starters. Furthermore, I'm rather fond of these box sets of singles. And here it is, and it sure does look grand. The presentation packaging is top-notch, no doubt about that. The 45 discs are housed in original replica sleeves, which is also grand, except that for some unexplained reason neither 'Angie' nor 'Beast Of Burden' boast their original picture covers. Why not, I wonder? But the questions don't end there. Oh no. It turns out that there a few problems here. On the last page of the accompanying booklet the compilers justify their inclusion of a tiresome number of duplicated tracks in the cause of 'historical accuracy', which is a bit foot-in-mouth since there are places where their historical accuracy is a little questionable. If you're going to issue a box set of Stones singles then you are going to be making the original single versions available, right? Isn't that the point of this luxury item? Well, for the most part that's what's in the box- I say most part but the single edits of 'It's Only Rock & Roll', 'Fool To Cry', 'Hot Stuff', 'Beast Of Burden' & 'Emotional Rescue' are absent, with the album versions offered instead. Why, especially since they were previously available elsewhere (the Sucking In The Seventies & 40 Licks compilations)? And what happened to the live version of 'When The Whip Comes Down' (see Sucking In The Seventies again)? But most mysterious of all, where is the controversial 'Too Much Blood' 12" single from 1984? It's not here. What's here instead is the pairing of 'Too Tough' with 'Miss You'. Now I thought I knew of every UK & USA Stones single but this one is new on me. A promo, perhaps? Or one of those 'export only' pressings? Unfortunately, the booklet offers no information whatsoever concerning the release dates of any of these records, which is no help at all & a shortcoming of the package as a whole. But 'Too Tough' fails to feature in any singles discography that I've consulted to date, including Martin Elliott's otherwise reliable Rolling Stones Recording Sessions in which the track is dismissed as mere album filler, so others are going to be surprised by its unexpected inclusion. So what's it doing here at the expense of 'Too Much Blood'? Any suggestions? Finally, there's a very big problem with the sound quality here. Compared to the 2009 remasters, most of these recordings sound a bit thin with the bass registers sounding muted. In short, they don't stack up well against the kind of quality you can find elsewhere. So if you're thinking of ditching your Rarities CD from 2005, which included a generous number of the sides included here, then I'd advise you to think again because I've been playing them back to back & in almost every case the Rarities tracks win hands down. Things reach something of a low on 'I Go Wild', where the opening guitars sound much too mushy wheras they don't sound like that on the original CD single. After this, things begin to improve as we come more up to date and conclude in triumph with the magnificent 'Biggest Mistake'- in my humble opinion, one of the Stones' most perfectly realised recordings. I'd also like to name-check the single remix of 'Terrifying', the 'hard rock remix' of 'Don't Stop' & the tasty remix of 'Miss You' that you'll find on the same disc as the latter for sounding very good indeed. You'll have noticed, of course, that the box carries a hefty price tag and despite the stature of a lot of the music I have concerns about whether it's worth the cost of admission. Do I feel I got my money's worth? Well, yes & no. What ought to be a feast turns out to be a decidedly mixed bag of sweet & sour allsorts- especially where the sound of over half the contents is concerned. I don't wish to seem too overbearing here but I honestly believe I could have done a better job in the mastering suite . . . which just about sums up my disappointment. For this price, I obviously expected the contents to sound as least as good as the remastered albums- but they don't, which is sad.
Comment Comments (22) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2013 2:12 AM GMT


Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica
Offered by onepeecd
Price: £24.95

23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Historic Hoodwinking, 29 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Trout Mask Replica (Audio CD)
I first heard this at the close of 1969. It was played to me by a fellow enthusiast who informed me that this was likely to take me surprise, as it did him. I was then & remain a huge admirer of 'Safe As Milk' & liked 'Strictly Personal' mainly for the astonishing Gimme Dat Harp Boy (on which the Cap'n booglarizes Howlin' Wolf) & I adore at least four of the later records, but this .....my friend was right- 'Trout Mask Replica' certainly did take my surprise & after about three tracks I was pleading with him to turn it off. Was the whole double album like this? Pretty much so ..... great isn't it, huh? Well no, not exactly. Perhaps I wasn't in the most receptive mood & promised myself that I'd give it some attention a little later, but my first impression was not at all favourable. And ever since then I've given this album an airing at least once year & I still don't get it. It always, without fail, hits my ears as an unlikeable incoherent mess. I've taken on board the paradox of a set of forms without consistent form & all the theoretical stuff, but it still doesn't work for me at all. I've listened to the album's champions tell me I'm missing the point but no-one has actually succeeded in clueing me up on what the point of it really is. Does it defy description? Perhaps. But that doesn't make it likeable. And now, all these years later, I'm inclined to regard it as the most over-rated album of all time. It sounds like a man in the throes of a chemically-induced nervous breakdown & at the end of the day, for me, that's the point of 'Trout Mask Replica'. Some think it a masterpiece while so many others find it virtually unlistenable. I guess it's a matter of taste, after all, & no Beefheart album has appealed less to mine than this one.
Comment Comments (17) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2013 11:45 AM BST


Backstreets Of Desire
Backstreets Of Desire

5.0 out of 5 stars Highlight!, 20 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Backstreets Of Desire (Audio CD)
Unbelievable that an album as brilliant as this one has never been easy to find, and getting more difficult by the day. Opinions differ as to the identity of Willy DeVille's masterpiece with Le Chat Bleu (as Mink DeVille), Miracle & Loup Garou all in the mix but for me it's this one- a staggering collection delivered with all & more of the soul, passion & occasional true grit for which this masterful singer was noted for. If you like Willy just a little bit, move heaven & earth to get a copy- you will not be disappointed. It's one of the greatest rock records ever made. Honest!


Dangerous Acquaintances [Australian Import]
Dangerous Acquaintances [Australian Import]
Price: £6.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Rate Marianne, 10 Mar. 2011
This superb album, the 2nd in a trilogy on Island Records, has long languished in the long shadow cast by its immediate predecessor 'Broken English' but for many it is 'Dangerous Acquaintances' that ranks as arguably the most brilliantly realised collection of the lady's career. It certainly lacks the shock value of 'Broken English' but the sheer quality of what's on offer here is simply staggering. This is Marianne's inner confessional & is a riveting listening experience from start to finish. Island re-issued this & its successor 'A Child's Adventure' on CD at the turn of 1994/95 without any publicity as I recall & I was fortunate to snap the pair up before they quickly disappeared from the racks. On the grounds that 'Dangerous Acquaintances' is one of the greatest albums ever released by Island I was expecting it to figure in the label's high-profile anniversary re-releases of a couple of years ago, but there was no sight of it. Now Island is one of my favourite labels but it seems that those who now own its back catalogue remain woefully ignorant of this exquisite work of recording art. This is the hidden jewel in Marianne's impressive repertoire & the passage of time has done nothing to diminish its appeal. This is the one to track down & cherish. It really is THAT good.


Next Stop Is Vietnam
Next Stop Is Vietnam
Price: £160.59

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant compilation beset with production issues, 20 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Next Stop Is Vietnam (Audio CD)
In my view, there's not much likelihood of anything ever displacing Harry Smith's 'Anthology of American Folk Music' as the greatest compilation ever made, but this is most definitely a contender. For one who has become more engrossed of late in the interplay between popular song and contemporary events, this collection is a treasure trove of tracks concerning the conflict that did so much to define the 1960s & early 1970s. Well researched and documented, this has obviously been a labour of love for those involved in the project and fully deserves the attention of anyone interested in the roles played by musicians and serving soldiers in expressing the thoughts and feelings of those caught up in a terrible war. Credit is due for presenting a reasonably balanced view from early statements of support for the cause as well as those giving voice to dissent. Of special merit is the generous amount of contributions from veterans, including many items that have never previously been heard. There are, nevertheless, a few frustrations. Rights issues prevented the licensing of original tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, so we get tracks like 'Fortunate Son' as covered by Paul Revere & The Raiders instead. The compilers were also frustrated in their attempts to secure what was arguably THE unofficial anthem of the war: the Animals' 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place'- so once again, Paul Revere & the Raiders supply a cover version. Also missing is the one musician who probably did more than any other to let the war permeate the sound of his music: that would be Jimi Hendrix of course, whose 'Purple Haze' would be considered essential by many. Other conspicuous absentees include the Byrds' 'Draft Morning', CSN&Y's 'Ohio' (or 'Find The Cost Of Freedom' for that matter) & Springsteen's famously misrepresented 'Born In The U.S.A.' (the featured Bruce track is 'Galveston Bay' from The Ghost Of Tom Joad)- enough for me to consider compiling a supplementary disc of my own! I have no doubt that others will spring to mind in due course (Jesse Winchester, for example, who escaped the draft by migrating across the border to Canada) but these omissions do not detract from the mind-boggling achievement of the exercise as a whole. This is a worthy & often brilliant musical documentary of the times that earns this listener's unqualified respect & admiration. I very much regret, then, to have to end on a somewhat sour note. Another reviewer has written of his annoyance with these 13 discs when loading them into iTunes and although I found no such difficulty in that respect I do have a serious production complaint in that my Disc 5 contains the contents of Disc 9 while my Disc 9 contains exactly what's on the box- which means I have 2 copies of Disc 9 & no Disc 5. Given the expense of this otherwise first-class package, this clearly isn't acceptable and the manufacturer needs to be taken to task for what appears to be a very serious neglect of quality control. It's truly a shame.


No Tears To Cry/Wake Up The Nation
No Tears To Cry/Wake Up The Nation
Offered by TM Stores
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Weller tribute?, 30 Jan. 2011
First heard 'No Tears To Cry' on the radio & fell in love with it, but had no idea it was by Paul Weller because it sounds very much like someone else. The arrangement, the vocal phrasing & delivery. . . this record sounds so much like the late Willy DeVille that I find it difficult to believe that this was mere coincidence. Indeed, I thought that perhaps this was a posthumous Willy DeVille release that I didn't know about! So I bought the Weller album but found nothing on it to compare with this. One of Weller's best in recent years as far as I am concerned.


Séance
Séance
Price: £12.93

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychedelic classic, 18 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Séance (Audio CD)
The 3rd album by the Church found this brilliant band venturing boldly into previously uncharted territory, embracing electronica and psychedelia in equal measures to thrilling effect. Much has been said about Seance being marked by melancholic strains but no more so than any of the records that followed in its wake. To be frank, this claim is sorely over-stated & only works if you happen to find, say, Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon a bit gloomy. For me, Seance is one of the most exciting albums of the 1980s with genuine riches to savour. It also contains in 'One Day' one of the group's most musically joyful tracks which is guaranteed to expel any inclination towards melancholia around these parts. Why the record company didn't think to issue this sublime offering as a single (instead of the lengthy 'It's No Reason', a terrific track but a no-hoper in the singles stakes) defeats me. Couldn't they recognise a potential hit when they heard it? To be fair, the company did release another potential hit in 'Electric Lash' in a bid to crash the charts, but only in Australia! For many fans of the first 2 rock-orientated albums Seance was something of a shock to the system and Steve Kilby was spot-on when he remarked that this record signalled the band's departure from traditional rock forms, for it represents a decisive move into new sonic landscapes of frequently exhilarating adventurism. In the sleeve notes to this magnificent sounding remastered re-issue Marty Wilson-Piper writes at length of the band's discomfort on hearing what was done to the drums in the final mix and although one can appreciate their having been a little piqued by the process it is good to find him beginning to get over it some 30 years later! And now, here we are presented with a revamped edition which sounds even more magnificent than it did back then. From the opening 'Fly' to the compelling closer 'It Doesn't Change' this album emerges as a triumph from start to finish. Actually, this re-issue doesn't finish on 'It Doesn't Change'. Tacked on to the end are the two singles B-sides ('Someone Special' & 'Autumn Soon') that were previously issued together on the B-side of the 'It's No Reason' UK 12" single- both of which are welcomed additions to an already remarkable menu of sounds. I thought I'd already decided on the re-issue of the year but here in December I've changed my mind & the accolade goes to this criminally misrepresented masterpiece. This is it, the real business, no doubt about it for me.


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