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Mr. M. Bloomfield "Bloomers" (Europe)

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Spot the Difference
Spot the Difference
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £16.06

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spot the Deference, 27 Aug. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Spot the Difference (Audio CD)
It's difficult to say quite what Squeeze were trying to achieve with this album. Some have said they released it because of licensing difficulties, but (the separate issue of 'rights' aside, which Chris Difford talks about in one interview) considering the recently-released "Essential Squeeze", I'm not sure what the point would be (although I'm willing to be enlightened). Alternatively, there was footage on their website featuring Mssrs Difford and Tilbrook talking about Squeeze wanting to be its own best tribute-band, a bizarre act of deference, but one which they quite rightly said they could pull off better than anybody else.

And this is something we're perhaps being asked to consider: as the group has recently re-formed, this is a wonderful way of showing the record-buying (or rather song-downloading) public that the band can still perform with the best of the young guns. It's an opportunity to show they can still sound as bright and as perky as they did all those years ago. This is important, because we hear they'll be releasing new material in the near future, but when I mention them to friends who aren't as ancient as I apparently am, they respond in ways that make you think they're looked upon as 'Golden Oldies', not particularly fashionable, and, well, the sort of thing your dad might listen to, if you bought him a gramophone record. So did it work?

Personally I was a little surprised at myself when I first put this album on. I thought I'd have it on in the background, knowing all the songs already, and wouldn't particularly listen to it; but in reality I was gripped, waiting eagerly for the next track, thinking to myself "just this one, and then I'll go and make a cup of tea... Okay, then I'll listen to the next one aswell..."

You can class what you get on this album into some distinct, yet overlapping groups: many of the songs here - Another Nail, Hourglass, Is That Love, Labelled with Love, Pulling Mussels - sound very much like the originals, perhaps with a little re-mastering having taken place. It's a little spooky listening to them. Others are similar to the originals but actually a little better (I'm thinking of Black Coffee in Bed and Take Me I'm Yours, with Simon Hanson's excellent drumming adding even more urgency to an already 'driven' rhythm); others are slightly different versions, such as Goodbye Girl, Loving You Tonight, and Some Fantastic Place; but sadly there's a fourth group, the songs that don't quite work as well on this album as they did in their original settings (Glenn's voice doesn't quite come off in Up The Junction, I'm still not convinced by his lead vocals on Loving You Tonight, and would be interested to hear whether Chris could do it more justice instead, and his final phrase in Some Fantastic Place sounds a bit... odd). Cool for Cats falls into a category of its own, "the set of songs that don't belong in any set of songs". Chris Difford's voice has changed over the years, and I'm not sure yet what I think about this version. Time will tell - but I don't dislike it.

So this is an album of "Modern" Squeeze trying their best to sound like other incarnations of Squeeze. On the whole, they do it very well indeed. Job done. So there are two ways you can judge this album -

It's just another re-packaged 'greatest hits' collection, to add to all the others on your shelves (45s & Under, Piccadilly Collection, Excess Moderation, Classics, Master Series, The Squeeze Story, Greatest Hits, Big Squeeze, Essential Squeeze, Millennium Collection, not to mention Six of One, the BBC Sessions and the live albums, and probably a couple of others I've forgotten). Most of the songs sound pretty much the same as the originals, with a few exceptions, and the musicianship and voices, while certainly no worse, haven't got significantly better over the years. All in all a bit like flogging the same old horse (albeit one that's happily coming back to life!).

It's an interesting, worthwhile and thought-provoking take on the greatest hits idea, better than any singles collection because you get to hear new versions, versions of what they sound like now; and adding that extra twist for fans wanting to know how different takes compare. In other words, you're getting a fine selection of Squeeze's greatest hits, without having to buy the tracks you already have. They've obviously put an awful lot of work into it, and it allows the listener to think a little deeper about the songs he or she owned and thought they knew. An excellent piece of marketing, and a fine gift to fans and newcomers alike.

But when it comes down to it, we have to ask: is there really a difference?
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2012 5:09 PM GMT

Fat Sound
Fat Sound
Price: £16.52

3.0 out of 5 stars Flat Sound / Thin Sound, 22 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Fat Sound (Audio CD)
Bad Manners stated they wanted to make a 'radio friendly' ska CD. In doing this, they basically came up with an album of cover versions, some better than (most of the) others.

Highlights include an energetic "Wet Dream", a rollockingly good "Pig Bad" ("Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag"), a fine version of "Skinhead Love Affair", and - inexplicably - Buster's amazing, wonderful, eccentric 'Transylvanian vampire' impression on the brilliantly done "Teenager in Love".

But while you get these standout moments, and while a number of the other tracks perform well enough, the album just doesn't seem to come off properly. It never really gets going, and the 'radio friendly' sound comes across as a little skeletal, almost empty-sounding in places. Most of the covers don't compare well with the originals, and there aren't enough band-penned tracks to make you feel you're getting your money's worth. Also, if only there were credits to tell us who had written which songs on here.

For fans and completists, this won't be so much of a disappointment to make you regret buying it; but for newcomers, there's a lot better from Bad Manners elsewhere.

An okay album, but not really their best.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2011 11:40 AM BST

The Wicker Man - Director's Cut [DVD]
The Wicker Man - Director's Cut [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The weaker man, 21 Jun. 2010
For anybody who loved (and still loves) the original 1973 classic, the message is a simple one: do not be fooled by the title. This re-make is bland, forgettable, utterly without suspense, and quite literally, loses the plot in a number of areas.

Gone is the creepiness of the Edward Woodward version; gone is the build-up to a sense of dread and foreboding; gone is the juxtaposition of devout Christianity and unsettling paganism. The only things left are the sad echo of a once-powerful storyline and the title.

You may think it's unfair to compare one film with another, or to stand the remake alongside the original, but in this case it's necessary. Unless you're an avid follower of Nicholas Cage movies, there really is only one reason to see this film, and that's because you loved - or heard great things about - the Christopher Lee / Edward Woodward / Anthony Schaffer version. But that version gets under your skin, niggles inside your subconscious, and stays with you, disturbingly, for years afterwards; it disconcerts the viewer by interlacing the apparently normal with the unnervingly abnormal. The updated version is forgotten almost immediately.

This is a weak version of an original cult classic. If you loved the original and are hoping for something similar, you will be disappointed; if you haven't yet seen the original and are thinking of watching this film first - don't. You'll ruin it for yourself. Buy the original instead, you won't regret it.

Contemporary Working Silver Clock Watch Cufflinks with Presentation Box
Contemporary Working Silver Clock Watch Cufflinks with Presentation Box
Offered by Cuff-Daddy
Price: £46.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In-accu-wrist, 18 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Theoretically, these are nice looking, functional, and quite an eye-catcher/ conversation piece. Great for adding a flash of eccentricity or character to a suit, but not too ostentatious. I have however some reservations about these cufflinks which you should know about:

1. They are a little bigger and bulkier than most cufflinks;
2. They sit in your cuffs 'portrait', not 'landscape', meaning they don't sit on the same 'lines' as most cufflinks, which exaggerates their slightly larger size a little bit.
3. I bought the cufflinks and immediately they went wrong. This *could* have been mere bad luck, but it's good to be warned. My first thought was that the batteries simply ran out very quickly - which might have been because they weren't new when the cufflinks arrived, I guessed - but not everyone I tried could open the cufflinks to replace them. So be warned - you'll have to find a jeweller who can, and that might mean hunting around a little bit. Plus, one of the cufflinks didn't work properly even when the new batteries were put in, and had to remain behind for extra work. When I got it back, I was told that it was faulty to begin with and was never going to work without spending more money repairing it than I'd paid in the first place.

Sadly, as my life involves a great deal of travelling, I didn't find time to write to "Cuff Daddy" immediately about this. When I did, however, write to them enquiring about a replacement - still within the year, which I thought was normal warranty period in Great Britain - I was given the following reply:

"If you place another order with us and let us know before it ships we'll include a free watch cufflink in the package. We have a great warranty, but you order was place a really long time ago. Thanks". I was not given a replacement, apparently because I didn't write to them before the product was shipped.

So the customer service may be a problem, if like I was you are sent faulty goods. Be vary careful.

Ballades and Rondeaus, Chants Royal, Sestinas, Villanelles Etc. (The Canterbury Poets)
Ballades and Rondeaus, Chants Royal, Sestinas, Villanelles Etc. (The Canterbury Poets)
by Gleeson (selected by) White
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Quaint Formalism, 3 May 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a handy, quaint, and pocket-sized book. It covers many formal styles of poetry including:

Chants Royal
Rondeaux Redoubles
The Sicilian Octave
Virelai Nouveau
and Burlesques (etc, as it says)

This isn't of course an exhaustive list of formal poetic styles, but it's a pretty good one. And while it doesn't give you any step-by-step guide to how they are created, a quick read of two or three of each category will be enough to give you a good idea of how to construct one yourself, if that interests you.

The book was compiled and edited in August 1877, so you won't find any 20th or 21st century poems in here, but it's a great read, with some excellent little gems.

Highly recommended.

Walking In The Sunshine - The Best Of Bad Manners
Walking In The Sunshine - The Best Of Bad Manners
Price: £6.92

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad songs? - Well I've heard too many!, 20 Mar. 2010
An excellent release by a nearly-forgotten classic band. Bad Manners were stereotyped as the novelty act of the 2-Tone period, but if you listen to this double album you'll struggle to understand why.

Here is an album of fantastic music, of solid music, music you can dance to, music you can listen to again and again, with just that little edge of stupidity to it.

These CDs are full of classics: two top-fives, two top-tens, some top-twenties, top-forties, and a host of album tracks that demonstrate that Buster & co were more than the mere clowns they were made out to be. A quick check of their 'hayday' albums will show that they tended towards a rough 50-50 mix of originals and cover versions, much like many of the 2-Tone ska bands they were associated with, and many of those covers are included here; but take out the tracks they didn't compose and you'll still have more than a single CD's worth of true brilliance here.

If you compare this album with their only other (to date) 'genuine' singles-retrospective, "Magnetism: the Very Best of Bad Manners", you'll find some small but important differences. The first is the most obvious: this is a double CD, whereas "Magnetism" is only one disc. The second (and only real negative to this collection) is that "Magnetism" contains the brilliant single "That'll Do Nicely", and this compilation weirdly misses it out. This is easily made up for however by the next difference: on "WITS - The Best Of...", you'll find the discs packed with high quality album tracks and B-sides that you'll struggle to find elsewhere. Finally, the great Rhoda Daker's sleeve notes and a couple of pictures put it all into context and remind you what a great band Bad Manners really were. After all, for a couple of insanity-packed years, they were basically synonymous with Madness.

Kudos for including the mental "Educating Marmalade", but some lyrics would have helped tremendously. I know there's a lot of songs included here, but from time to time Buster's enunciation wasn't the clearest of any lead singer in the world.

One more thing: this is NOT a re-mix or a live album. These are the originals. Sad songs? - Well I've heard too many. Buy this album instead!

East Side Story
East Side Story
Price: £8.31

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's no other!, 1 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: East Side Story (Audio CD)
The epithet "perfect pop" is often overused, but in this case it fits exactly.

Difford & Tilbrook brought us, in their fourth studio album, a record of such lyrical and musical accomplishment that it's difficult to see how it didn't spawn half a dozen top-ten singles, instead of the one it unbelievably only did manage.

Of the three singles contained, only one made any significant impact on the charts at all - the lovely, rolling, melodic "Labelled With Love". Stuffed with poignant, witty lyrics, teasing us with rhymes that don't arrive (you'd think that after using the word "mittens", followed by the word "cat", we were all set for the mention of "kittens", but no!), its country-ballad sound echoed earlier classics such as "Goodbye Girl" and "Up The Junction" in that it was simple enough and tuneful enough to hit exactly the right spot. But the other two were woefully overlooked by the public at the time: the superb rocking, up-beat foot-stomper "Is That Love?" hardly tickled the top-40; while the classic "Tempted", their best-known number in America, didn't even make it that far.

But this is a surprise in a record packed with numbers that most bands would kill to include in their own back-catalogue. Why on earth the beautiful "Woman's World" wasn't chosen as a single, for instance, I have no idea; and "Piccadilly" sounds just as fresh and bouncy now as it did then - it brings a huge smile to my face every time I even think about it. In fact, I'm going to be bold and make the claim that there wasn't one single song on "East Side Story" that wasn't brilliant. A couple of reviewers have criticised "F-Hole" for letting the side down, but while I didn't like it when I first bought the album (years ago), I find these days that it's actually quite interesting, hypnotic even, and fits with the whole idea of experimentation that the band were obviously exploring at the time.

My only criticism of this edition of "ESS" is that the bonus tracks don't add anything. They're not really on a par with the original playlist, and you'd want your extras to add "something extra" to the package. But this is hardly a reason not to love the album. In fact, I can't think of any reason not to love the album.

You'd be mad not to buy it.

Dante's Divine Comedy
Dante's Divine Comedy
by Claus Brusen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.70

3.0 out of 5 stars Neither heaven nor hell..., 9 Feb. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dante's Divine Comedy (Paperback)
This collection (of visual art plus some audio recordings) contains some interesting pieces: Agostino Arrivabene's work is dark and disturbing, Ida Lotocka-Huelle gives us something both delicate and otherworldly, Vlada Mirkovic builds cleverly on images of past masters and Siegfried Zademack uses images sparingly and cleverly, not over-burdening us with complexity yet drawing on concepts of symmetry, geometry and sightlessness with some skill.

But overall many of the efforts included here are simplistic, derivative (yet below the standard) of Salvador Dali, or merely generic fantasy-art. There's absolutely nothing contained here that comes close to the classics - Botticelli, Blake, Giovani di Paulo, Dore or the afforementioned Dali - and very little that you feel will be remembered or imitated in years to come. Furthermore, even those you like are only featured minimally, so you don't get any feeling of 'artistic philosophy' in their paintings.

Having said that, it's a good book to have, to use as a primer or as a quick peak into what's being created in contemporary circles (if you forgive the pun). I may not value the art or the artists here as classics, but they are often visually stunning, interesting, or packed with ideas; and their work acts partially as a conversation with artists who have tackled Dante's Divine Comedy in the past.

Recommended, certainly if you like the artwork of the Divine Comedy or are in some way an illustrations 'completist', but also if you enjoy (sub-surrealist?) fantasy-art. There may not be anything close to the masters here, but there's enough to keep you interested for a reasonable time.

Count Dracula [DVD]
Count Dracula [DVD]
Dvd ~ Louis Jourdan
Price: £5.46

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Theatre of blood, 16 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Count Dracula [DVD] (DVD)
The first thing to note about this two-part adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is that it sticks closely to the original story - no forays into satanism, occultism, foreign virgins or teenagers anywhere to be seen! Bonus!

Overall, this is a good, fairly well made production. If you're looking for 'the story of Dracula as told by Bram Stoker', it's not a bad place to start. But the problem is that it now feels terribly dated, in a way that other old-fashioned vampire tales don't.

If you watch Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price or even Max Schreck, yes you'll find their films outmoded, but they nevertheless retain some style, some charm, something timeless about them, that draws you back in to give them further viewings. This BBC production however really looks like a typical 'Play for Today', or 70s/80s costume drama. It comes directly from the era when the BBC hadn't yet realised that a film could be more than a stage show on camera.

The timing of the direction, the editing, even the costumes and make-up, all remind the viewer of sitting in a theatre watching a rather good play, rather than sitting with the lights off hoping for something that the magic of celluloid (or whichever format the producers chose) could conjure up. At times, it felt a little bit like watching "Upstairs Downstairs" with odd 80s special effects and blood-letting. Even occasionally (such as when Renfrew grabs the bars of his cell), the sets wobbled slightly. Oh dear.

Louis Jordan was not particularly convincing as the Count. This is a pity, as I really like him, but he came across as having very little screen presence, no hidden underlying menace, no joi de vivre (or 'something of the night'). Instead he played a kind of rather suave yet uninteresting romantic lead. Frank Finlay meanwhile looked like a camp Dickensian Mr Bumble in a ridiculous wig; and Jack Shepherd did a particularly good impression of Edward Tudor Pole as Renfield.

But I don't want to come across as completely negative. The production had some interesting, unsettling and surreal moments - the use of negative at certain instances of 'vampire interaction', the close-ups of Dracula's eyes, even the standard BBC production smoke machine was used to decent effect.

But this version will neither frighten nor excite you. It won't get your senses squirming erotically, it won't make your heart beat with fear, it won't even give you the creeps, particularly - at least for most of its running time. What it will do is give you a pretty faithful account of the book in film, it'll bring you back - if that's what you want - to those 'good old days' of BBC plays-on-screen, and it'll delight lovers of costume drama immensely.

It's not a great production, it's not even a particularly gripping one; but it's faithful, a little like Van Helsing himself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2013 11:31 AM BST

Dont Knock the Baldhead
Dont Knock the Baldhead
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £23.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT a live album!, 25 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Dont Knock the Baldhead (Audio CD)
Be careful of what others say - this is NOT a live album!

Bad Manners, oddly, have now given us THREE releases by the name of "Don't Knock The Bald Head": there's a live CD (which is excellent, and probably the one the previous reviewer was refering to), there's a live DVD (which is of a completely different gig and is good, but not as good as the CD), and there's this. To confuse you more, this version of DKTBH has gone by other names too, notably "Mind The Gap" and "Heavy Petting". There's even a re-worked version, containing many but not all the songs, plus a couple of extras, called "Uneasy Listening".

Quite why the group has done this has never been explained.

Now that's out of the way, here's a quick run-down of what this album's like -

It's one of Bad Manners' hard-to-find later period studio albums, and contains some excellent songs (many of them written by original guitarist Louis Cook AKA Louis Alphonso). The title track and Red River Ska are both instrumentals, and have become excellent staples of the live shows; Black Night and Randy Scouse Git are covers of already famous numbers, skanked up to give them new life; Lager Delirium is exactly what you think it's going to be - a drunken night's anthem to laddishness; while Liverpool & Birmingham, Down Berry Wood (referencing their old school Woodberry Down) and Go are great pieces of melodic songmanship, each with a distinctive and memorable character. It's also good to hear how they can take a track they've done a couple of times elsewhere - Feel Like Jumpin' - and freshen it up once again.

This is a good, tuneful, danceable album. It may not be on their list of classic chart-toppers, but it's well worth buying. Someone nicked mine, and I wasn't impressed.

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