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Vaclav Smerda "vs3" (Singapore)

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Pale Communion
Pale Communion
Price: £11.08

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Opeth 2014, 26 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Pale Communion (Audio CD)
For me, this is not a five star album. I don't expect artists to produce a certain type of music, I like to follow their development, the evolution of their musical language - so Opeth's shift from metal to prog rock over the last couple of years is perfectly fine for me; but the prog rock they create is not as good (innovative, creative, dynamic, varied, ...) as offerings from other prog bands of today - IQ, Marillion, Porcupine Tree for example.

There are some great songs on this album, I agree with most reviewers that Opeth put lot of focus on melodies and they succeeded. It is great to hear the band's musical / technical skills, in a more open genre each instrument is exposed. The guys play well, there are moments of pure brilliance.

On the other hand, there are some obvious weaknesses here as well. Some of the music is quite immature, there are moments when I genuinely feel embarrassed. Some of the lyrics are rather odd. The lead vocal tends to be quite nasal, it makes it sound somewhat foggy.

Great progress from Heritage, but it doesn't grab me. It's not memorable.

California Breed
California Breed
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars California Breed 2014, 25 Sept. 2014
This review is from: California Breed (Audio CD)
Glenn Hughes is one of the most talented and consistent musicians in rock music. His voice has not lost anything from it's brilliance over the years and can carry wide range of emotions and feel at home in various genres. At the same time, Hughes' ability to sing literally anything is driving his desire to try new things, change bands, experiment. California Breed is one example of his numerous experiments and projects. After the break-up of Black Country Communion, he continues with a master drummer Jason Bonham with the addition of guitarist Andrew Watt.

Although he can play or sing any music, from blues to hard rock, this album feels very monotonous. I can't help it, but I feel that this album is just a supply of noise. Especially the guitar parts are not well pronounced, they are well played for sure, but it takes a lot of effort to hear what is played, to extract it from the very thick sound. Glenn's vocals are somehow hidden in the music, and when you can hear him really well, it's when his voice is in the screaming zone, I find it difficult to listen to it for too long. Drum parts and bass lines are really solid and Jason and Glenn have developed a great understanding and Glenn leaves space for Jason's fills and his energetic drumming.

Overall, I find the album disappointing. The songs are forgettable, with no melodic hooks and with no memorable riffs. Did they just want to release an album to have something to play on tour? It feels like it. It feels really raw, it feels more like a live recording but without the excitement of the moment. Hughes' solo music has lot of flavours, his collaborations with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Iommi have all brought great music, with lot of character. Black Country Communion was a revival of hard rock for many fans; I loved the palette of textures they were bringing. California Breed is not music to listen to at home, it's music to listen to live, in a concert. But for that the songs don't have enough pull effect for me to go. They have the energy, they don't awake enough interest.

The Road Of Bones (2 Disc Set)
The Road Of Bones (2 Disc Set)
Price: £17.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IQ 2014, 18 Sept. 2014
This is quite simply put a masterclass in how to make great, modern, fresh, creative, thoughtful, technical ... prog rock. You just pick all adjectives you associate with great prog rock and it is on this album.

IQ's Dark Matter is one of the albums that have left a lasting mark for me. Frequency was equally brilliant. Now, these guys came with an album which for sure will become one of the milestones in progressive rock.

Few months ago, Prog magazine published results of a vote looking for the best prog rock albums of all times. They re-run it every once in a while. Next time, I would be surprised and disappointed if The Road of Bones didn't make it into Top 10. It is really that good. It sends shivers down my spine, it makes me tearful, it makes me really happy - it awakes so many emotions as only great music can.

I just feel that I'm very fortunate to have had an opportunity to hear an album like this. It's faultless. The rhythm section is so tight, so technically brilliant yet so melodic it's hard to believe. Guitars and keyboards are arranged in a manner that there is never a tone too many and never a dull moment either. There is so much energy, emotion, change in the music and above all of that sits this incredible vocal which holds it all together.

These guys should be really proud of this album. They truly believe in what they do, they don't follow trends. They just keep bringing out exceptional music. And yes - I highly recommend you buy this!

Heaven & Earth
Heaven & Earth
Price: £10.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes 2014, 17 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Heaven & Earth (Audio CD)
I well understand why this album is dividing people so much. When I read interviews with the band and the producer, I was wondering what will be the output from a line-up with a keyboardist who I find more pop than prog-rock oriented, a singer I have never heard of, produced by a guy who was behind very radio friendly Queen music.

This album is not a prog rock album. At least not as I understand prog. Except for Subway Walls, which is actually really good piece of music, it is radio friendly pop. Somebody called it a great summer album. Well, as I write this review, it is September and what will I do with it for the rest of the year? In autumn, winter and spring? Even some lyrics are very summary.

I don't really care about genres too much, if I like the music, that's enough for me. So this album being pop doesn't really matter to me. There are things I like (melodies, Chris' bass lines, Subway Walls) and there are things I don't like (songs feel rushed, they just scratch the surface, everything is high pitched). Overall, I feel it's ok. Not great, not complete rubbish. There are some parts when I feel Steve Howe and Geoff Downes were recording at home to a different tempo or something, some of the phrasing is just off. Drums are quite lazy. I wouldn't play it better for sure, but I am not a prog rock legend ...

I was thinking what is missing, because there is something missing. This album just doesn't have balls. The heaviest riff is in This Was All We Knew, which is exactly the song with summer lyrics. It's just kind of floating, weightlessly, it is not grounded, it doesn't have deep roots, solid foundations - deep bass, noticeable bass drum, all 88 keys of a keyboard.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2014 10:58 AM BST

Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: £7.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Blue Jasmine, 14 Sept. 2014
It took time for me to appreciate Woody Allen - his humour, his twisted view on relationships, Judaism, arts etc. In this movie, the typical components of Allen's craft are present, but the star of the show is clearly Cate Blanchett. I was simply speechless, only in rare occasions I feel that an actor / actress delivers a truly exceptional performance. In this movie, she is just brilliant. It's also good to see Alec Baldwin delivering one of Allen's characters.

I wouldn't say that Blue Jasmine is a comedy, it leaves a sad aftertaste, similarly to Stardust Memories, although those two movies couldn't be more different. Story of lives that have fallen apart, story of emotional justice, story of vulnerability of the rich. What happens when you lose everything and the only thing you have left is a person you always wanted to avoid? How empty can emptiness be?

Live In Tokyo
Live In Tokyo
Offered by Hardliner-music
Price: £11.59

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine & Sherinian 2013, 21 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Live In Tokyo (Audio CD)
This is a weird project. Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai), Tony MacAlpine (Steve Vai, Planet X) and Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Planet X) play music from their past. There are couple of reunions - MacAlpine & Sherinian (Planet X), MacAlpine & Sheehan (Steve Vai), Portnoy & Sheehan (The Winery Dogs), Portnoy & Sherinian (Dream Theater). So you will get a little bit of everything. Which is not really a bad thing. If you like progressive rock / progressive metal, you should add this CD to your collection. You will probably enjoy listening to it because you like that type of music and those musicians.

But it's not great. It just doesn't feel right. Mike Portnoy announces during the gig that they had "lot of notes to learn". Well, they learnt them all right, but it doesn't sound authentic. It feels like there was a gap in their calendar so they thought "let's get a super group together and go to Japan, than we'll just cash in". It never stops feeling like a one night stand, it doesn't have a coherence of a band. Also, I don't understand why would Portnoy do a project with Sherinian when he got him fired from Dream Theater. Apocalypse 1470 BC is missing Virgil Donati's drumming. Tony MacAlpine does not seem to have the best day of his live up there on stage. At least Derek Sherinian and Billy Sheehan are amazing.

Been Here Before, The Pump, Hell's Kitchen and Lines In The Sand are the stand-out tracks for me. Everything else feels just ok.

Internal Affairs [1990] [DVD]
Internal Affairs [1990] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard Gere
Offered by somethinginmyeye
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Richard Gere 1990, 21 Oct. 2013
This movie shows Richard Gere in a completely different way than what most people would probably expect. He is actually a very versatile actor and in this movie he's showing his ability to play darker characters, characters that you kind of like although you know you really shouldn't. There is nothing his character does that people should like: he's corrupt, he's disloyal, he's violent. He's being chased by Internal Affairs detective who is however no better in terms of his own style.

There are couple of great things about this movie. Firstly, the plot is pretty strong. The performances of Richard Gere and Andy Garcia are excellent. The flow is great, I couldn't stop watching it, it keeps you engaged throughout the movie.

I would recommend this movie to everybody who wants to see Richard Gere as an actor and not as a "stereotype". If you like "cop movies" from the 90s and thrillers, you will like this one.

Impermanent Resonance
Impermanent Resonance
Price: £17.61

5.0 out of 5 stars James LaBrie 2013, 12 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Impermanent Resonance (Audio CD)
This might be the best album of 2013. It's absolutely fantastic.

Although it's presented as James LaBrie's solo album, don't expect James LaBrie to be the main contributor of either music or lyrics. James has been working with Matt Guillory for many years and really this album is a band album with James, Matt, Peter Wildoer on drums, Marco Sfogli on guitars and Ray Riendeau on bass. Matt's contribution is substantial.

This album is heavy. Really heavy. Yet it's extremely melodic. I found myself humming the melodies from about 5 songs after my third listen. Very memorable.

James LaBrie is probably in the best form I've heard him. Ever. Matt, Marco, Ray - very solid, great performances. What made my jaw drop though was Peter Wildoer on drums. That man is a beast. His style is so inspirational. You can find the video of him tracking the drums for this album on youtube. If you're interested in how things are played and not only how they sound, you really should watch it. You can also find Marco recording guitar. His tone is precise.

Highly recommended. Albums like this don't happen very often.

Dream Theater
Dream Theater
Price: £12.45

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream Theater 2013, 12 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dream Theater (Audio CD)
This album reminded me of the name of the second album of British band Frost*. That one was called "Experiments in Mass Appeal". Dream Theater is trying to appeal to masses. Simple. From that point of view, it's as melodic as Images and Words and as accessible as Falling into Infinity.

Out of the first 8 songs, one is under 3 minutes, two are under 5 minutes, four are under 7 minutes, one is under 8 minutes. Not really pop or rock, but not really progressive rock / metal either. Especially The Looking Glass and Along For The Ride seem to be tailored for the radio. Last song is Illumination Theory which is over 22 minutes. And it really shows where the shortcomings of this album are.

Dream Theater struggle with the length of the songs on this album. The shorter songs tend to end abruptly, in almost a clumsy way. Enigma Machine has lot of great themes and ideas, alternating fast, too fast to be truly developed. That song should have been 15 minutes long, not 6. False Awakening Suite is a three minute version of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

I agree that the hype created prior to the release of this album backfired. Extremely high expectations, everybody seemed to hope to find "their perfect version" of Dream Theater. Interviews everywhere, all the time.

Is this album good? It's very good in fact. James LaBrie is in an excellent form (same as on his solo album Impermanent Resonance, which I can highly recommend). John Myung is audible in the mix and his style is just unique, he's brilliant. Jordan Rudess is less experimental than he tends to be yet when he plays a solo, it's a great one. John Petrucci was in danger of being the only contributing member of the band and although he wrote all the lyrics and obviously contributed the most to the music, it's not his album, it's a Dream Theater album and he managed to get the balance just right. Mike Mangini is now clearly in Dream Theater and he brings virtuosity, technically he is exceptional and his playing supports the music, not his ego.

Just a few words on Illumination Theory - it shows the bravery and confidence of the re-born Dream Theater. Great song and I admire them for the middle section with atmospheric synths followed by a string section. It's simply fantastic.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2013 1:14 PM BST

Unstoppable Momentum
Unstoppable Momentum
Price: £7.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Joe Satriani 2013, 12 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Unstoppable Momentum (Audio CD)
I really tried to like this album. Unfortunately, I don't.

I liked Black Swans, I really felt it was a band playing, not just Satriani with a bunch of musicians brought in at the end to play instruments he cannot play himself. That to me was the trend post Strange Beautiful Music and although I liked the music I was getting more and more tired of it. It was like watching 40 episodes of Friends in a row. It might be fun, but it gets too predictable too soon.

Unstoppable Momentum offers nothing new. Even though Satriani brought in Mike Keneally on keyboards again and changed his rhythm section, it's just names. Keneally may be present in person but not in spirit. His contribution is limited to 80s style synth soundscapes. Vinnie Colaiuta in one of my all time favourite drummers, but here he is just a time keeper, not a drummer. Expect for few places where he shows his brilliance. Chris Chaney on bass is lost in the mix. It's not their fault. I'm starting to believe that Satriani just wants his solo albums to be his solo albums and everybody else is limited to just fulfilling the basic function of their respective musical instrument.

One thing that nobody can take away from Satriani is his ability to compose catchy melodies and feel-good music. He can articulate any type of emotion he can think of. Lot of musicians and bands can't do it with music and words, he does it just with music.

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