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nicjaytee (London)

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Price: £7.74

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious and brave..., 10 July 2008
This review is from: Spirit (Audio CD)
Spirit's first album is a curious, brave, but not always satisfying mixture of styles, reflecting the fairly diverse background of the group's members. While the playing and singing is consistently good - backed up by some exceptional drumming from R&B and jazz veteran Ed Cassidy - several of the tracks verge on the seriously lightweight in terms of lyrics and melody and, while they were considered "where it's at" at the time, are definitely preserved in aspic.

The first "ecological" number reflects a lot of what follows... cool (for the time) lyrics "look beneath your lid this morning see the things you didn't quite consume", very catchy tune with an insidious back-beat that's been extensively sampled, superb but derivative jazz tinged piano break, excellent singing and nice soft landing. Too pretty ?... too clever ?... Well yes, but it's a great track.

And so it goes. "The Girl In Your Eye" with its sitar backing verges on the horribly quaint but... it's good, "Straight Arrow" with its simple melody contains a short, but excellent jazzy break that lifts it into the unforgettable zone, "Uncle Jack" perfectly captures "underground" rock & roll c.1968 and "Elijah" is about as close as you can get to straight jazz as played by a pop group.

It's like Love meet the Byrds, the Beatles and Horace Silver on a laid back day. Or... well that's the problem. I remember seeing a concert review from around 1968/9 that criticised the band for playing exactly as you heard them on the record. Is that good or bad? Who knows, but it sums up this odd album... polished and clever... almost a classic but lacking something.

Blue Suede Shoes [DVD] [1985]
Blue Suede Shoes [DVD] [1985]
Dvd ~ Carl Perkins
Price: £9.76

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what music's all about..., 10 July 2008
Quite simply one of the best live recordings ever made. Wonderful "rockabilly" and "rock 'n roll" songs, brilliantly played in a low key show that's packed full of the enthusiasm that only live music can generate. Eric Clapton, George Harrison & Ringo Starr do much more than just turn out to add megastar interest as they're quickly swept up by the electric atmosphere of the evening and, along with Dave Edmunds, Rosanne Cash and a host of others, become part of a hugely talented backing group who are clearly having the time of their lives playing along with a rock legend on top form. Carl Perkins signs off after the final, spine-tingling rendition of "Blue Suede Shoes" with tears of sheer joy streaming down his face - music doesn't get more "real" or exciting than this.

Offered by uglymug
Price: £4.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better or worse?..., 10 July 2008
This review is from: '64-'95 (Audio CD)
Lemon Jelly move on but not necessarily quite where you expect... and, for fans of "Lost Horizons" this one needs care. Less quirky than its hugely successful predecessor, "'64 to '95" moves closer to mainstream club music, losing and gaining on the way. Gone is much of the humorous and inherently "uplifting" feel of "Lost Horizons" that made it such an enjoyable mass appeal album, in its place is a harder edge with more drawn out, less "easy-listening" work-outs of its themes. Serious stuff then, but is it any good?

Well, first impressions aren't great - initially most tracks seem like fairly lightweight electro-rambles underpinned by some odd & often annoying looped samples. But, after a few times through, things start to register much more positively, revealing an album that's got enough hooks and interest to keep you coming back for more. And as you do several tracks including "Come Down on Me", "A Man Like Me", "The Slow Train" and the genuinely "exciting" "Go", start to really grab your attention, while others just get... more annoying.

In the end there's enough good music in "'64 to '95" to allow it to hold its own against "serious" competition, but there's a lot of it about and you can't help feeling that it's a shame they couldn't keep pushing further into the unique and gently bizarre realms of "Lost Horizons". If that's what you want there's not too much on offer here - better to check-out Elephant Talk's wonderfully undiscovered albums - but if you want several more high quality, downbeat electronica/dance tracks to add to your collection then it should hit the button.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2010 3:00 AM GMT

The Gamblers
The Gamblers
by John Pearson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating... but true?, 10 July 2008
Headlined as an investigation into the lives of three of the UK's most notorious 60's gamblers - James Goldsmith, John Aspinall & "Lucky" Lord Lucan - and claiming to reveal, for the first time, the true story behind Lucan's even more notorious "disappearance" - one of the UK's longest running murder mysteries - "The Gamblers" is a quite riveting insight into a bizarre world of power, glamour, addiction, fabulous wealth and self destruction. Like the friend who recommended it to me I read it virtually straight through and while I left with as many questions as answers I discovered, on the way, a whole host of mind-boggling facts about the people who populated London's most exclusive gambling den, "The Clermont Club", and its now iconic sister night-club, "Annabel's".

Cleverly underpinned by sufficient clearly genuine information to make you believe it all, you are, by the last third of the book, quite prepared to fully accept Pearson's take on Lucan's fate, even though the lines between objective analysis and sensationalist interpretation have in fact become fairly blurred. But no matter because, in the end, "The Gamblers" is much more than simply another title-selling angle on the Lord Lucan saga, rather an intriguing exploration into a part of London's "swinging sixties" scene that most of us never knew existed and a fascinating study of what draws the rich & privileged into the ridiculously high-risk world of big-money gambling.

Big Night [DVD] [1996]
Big Night [DVD] [1996]
Dvd ~ Minnie Driver

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable..., 10 July 2008
This review is from: Big Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
Good films are unforgettable... and here's one. On the surface it's a quirky little story about two Italian brothers running a restaurant in New Jersey in the 1950's. One is ridiculously passionate about cooking superb food while the other tries to make his brother's passion commercially viable despite the fact that customers don't want what he cooks. Both are up against their more successful Italian neighbour who gives the customers exactly what they want. Not much then... but it's what goes on beneath this deceptively simple tale that makes it so good.

The tense, sincere and often very funny interactions between the two brothers are so believable that they make you really want them to succeed with the "Big Night" on which the future of their restaurant and their relationship depends. Against this background, the preparation of the dishes themselves becomes an all-consuming event, infused with the drama and expectation of a chef in full flight cooking, of necessity, the meal of his life. And, the subtle plot with its inevitable denouement is understated and, as a result, extremely effective.

Brilliantly acted, charming and, in the end, quite moving, "Big Night" is a superbly reflective exploration into the dreams & hopes of two immigrants in an alien world where their values don't apply and where this threatens to destroy the most important relationship they have. Over-hyped on its release and now increasingly forgotten it's an unmissable gem of a film.

Clear: Remastered
Clear: Remastered
Price: £9.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schizophrenic..., 10 July 2008
This review is from: Clear: Remastered (Audio CD)
Following on from their quirky, jazz influenced debut ("Spirit") and their more mainstream, rock orientated second album ("The Family That Plays Together"), Spirit's third album is a more extreme representation of the band's unique musical mix.

Caught between wanting to be an innovative jazz-rock band and a guitar-hero rock band, "Clear" suffers from noticeable schizophrenia as both sides of the group's character vie for space. This tension leads to some odd results (for example "New Dope In Town" whose over heavy rock verses surround a beautifully lilting jazz piano break that bears little relation to the rest of the song) and some real gems - "Ice" and "Clear" are marvellous, low key, jazz based instrumentals, "Dark-Eyed Woman" is truly excellent straight down the line hard rock and "Give A Life, Take A Life" is a superb slice of vocal harmony straight out of the Beach Boys "Surfs Up" drawer. In between the album moves, not always comfortably, between these diverse, sometimes conflicting styles.

Somehow it works... a record that frustrates and rewards in equal proportion, which sums up Spirit's music more effectively than the rest and which contains some of their very best tracks.

Parallels Desktop 3 (Mac/Leopard)
Parallels Desktop 3 (Mac/Leopard)
Offered by eoutlet-uk
Price: £22.22

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing: converts a top end Intel Mac into a top end PC..., 10 July 2008
If you've got a top end Intel Core 2 Duo processor Mac (desktop or laptop) then this is possibly the most impressive thing you'll ever see or use because "Parallels" will convert your machine into a fast and incredibly high resolution Windows machine. Set the screen resolution in the Windows "window" to its maximum level (1538 x 921 pixels), make sure that the Parallels Tools are installed correctly, select "Full Screen" mode and there it is... quite amazing... looks as good as any PC you've seen, works just like a PC, lets you seamlessly transfer files between the Mac window and the PC window, and transforms your Windows versions of Word, Excel, Publisher and even Photoshop into the most beautiful experiences. And, when you get bored with them you're only a keystroke away from watching the screen flip round to reveal your Mac.

Good enough? Well there's more to come because it also, even more amazingly, lets you run any Windows application program as a window right within the Mac screen (at equally high resolutions) just as though it was one of your Mac applications... seamlessly, stable and fast.

The downsides? You need a fully spec'd Mac with a reasonable amount of memory to get the best out of it (this review is based on 2.33ghz MacBook Pro with 3 gigabytes of memory) but then you're getting, in effect, two top end machines in one. You need to spend some time configuring Parallels correctly, particularly in integrating the Windows side into any wireless network, but the installation instructions are clear and they work. It's no good for processor intensive 3D games (you need Apple's Boot Camp for that, athough this requires a lengthy reboot between the Mac & Windows environments). Oh yes, and you need a copy of Windows XP... a fairly small additional price to pay for such a brilliant piece of software innovation.

Apple "geeks" may continue to argue that OSX is better than Windows but the truth is that a top end Intel Mac with Parallels running on it is the perfect solution... a PC that runs OSX at its highest levels and Windows at a level that's pretty close to any dedicated, top-end PC out there, with instant switching between the two in a single, fully integrated environment. Incredible.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2008 10:05 PM BST

Those Who Are About to Die We Salute You
Those Who Are About to Die We Salute You
Price: £6.24

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and timeless..., 10 July 2008
Featuring some of the best, road-honed musicians from the UK's mid/late 60's R&B scene, Colosseum's first release is one of the most interesting & exciting albums of its era. Why? Well first off it's underpinned throughout by some quite superb playing, including Dick Heckstall-Smith's wonderfully gutsy, brilliantly executed sax breaks, and a series of strong, unforgettable melodies that, on their own, make it a stand-out record. But what elevates it into a different league is the way it takes "standard" British Blues and shakes it up into something very different by incorporating large elements of modern jazz and the emerging progressive rock scene into the formula. Sure there are moments of self-indulgence, in particular on "Beware the Ides of March", but even these somehow fail to intrude on the incredibly powerful drive that just keeps pushing everything along. And on the way this self-evidently enthusiastic, highly ingenious and unfortunately short-lived combination deliver some quite stunning numbers, including the magnificent "Debut", "Walking in the Park", "Plenty Hard Luck", "Backwater Blues" and "The Road She Walked Before".

Brilliant and timeless "Those Who Are About to Die.." is a marvellous example of jazz-rock crashing head-on into the blues to produce an album that remains as effective and enjoyable today as it was all those years ago.

Apple Keyboard (MB110B/B)
Apple Keyboard (MB110B/B)
Offered by Kikatek
Price: £45.24

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How do Apple do it?, 9 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Once again, Apple take a fairly mundane piece of kit and transform into something that not only looks super-cool but works better than the everything else out there. Beautifully thin but heavy enough to be rock solid in use, supremely easy to type on and incredibly easy to clean, it has all the function buttons you need including perfectly placed iTunes controls plus a USB slot for your mouse to reduce the tangle of wires on your desk. It's also cheap. How do they do it?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2013 4:45 PM GMT

Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
by Tim Butcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is this man mad?, 8 July 2008
Initially, Tim Butcher's account of his "insanely dangerous" (his words, not mine) trip through the Congo raises the question why? Why put yourself through the very real risks of being captured or killed by the numerous rebel groups that infest the country? Why endure the mind-numbing boredom of hundreds and hundreds of kilometres on the back of motorcycles negotiating stiflingly hot jungle tracks? Why bother to retrace Stanley's already well documented expedition down the Congo river? Is this man mad?... certainly most of those he meets on this very strange journey think so.

But, mad or not, what he discovers makes for fascinating reading as he and we are taken into the heart of what has become an unbelievably shocking world... one that has degenerated in 50 years from ruthlessly harsh colonial discipline & order to complete and apparently irreversible anarchy. The roads are gone, the railways are gone, the buildings have been consumed by the jungle; there is no law and little or no administrative structure; towns have no electricity, clean water or medicine; bribery, theft and casual violence are rampant; people live in constant fear of raids from rebel groups, and hundreds of thousands are killed each year simply because they are in the wrong tribe or the wrong place. Sure, there are other third world countries in such a terrible condition but few with the huge natural resources and riches of the Congo, few where this state of affairs has existed for so long, and few that receive so little attention from the rest of the world.

Critics of the book suggest that the picture he paints is over-stated and that his grasp of the Congo's history is flawed - unless you or they are mad enough to emulate his trip who knows? But he's been around in enough of the world's trouble-spots to draw a measure over what he sees and, while his writing is less than tight in places and his understandable desire to "keep in the background" means that his discussions with the people he meets on the way are often cursory, the snapshots of life he returns with are vivid enough to make you question much more than his sanity in what is, in the end, a revealing and harrowingly thought-provoking account of one man's gruelling trek through a totally lost country.

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