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J. G. Maelzer "maelzoid" (Bath, UK)
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Southern Rock Opera [VINYL]
Southern Rock Opera [VINYL]
Offered by musicfan46
Price: 29.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic music - Appalling Vinyl pressing from Lost Highway, 25 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I will not review the content of this album, other than to say I think it is a great recording in the roots rock tradition and one of the best albums of the new millennium.

However, having received the double vinyl from Amazon, I am utterly appalled at the quality of the pressing from Lost Highway. After my first copy was defective, Amazon quickly replaced it, but my second copy was just as bad. In both cases, both records of the set were incredibly warped. They were playable with a heavy tracking weight, but I suspect on some turntables the amount of warping would be enough to throw the needle out of the groove. Given this occurs on 2 sets of 2 discs, this has to be a manufacturing error and a quick scan on the internet shows that this issue is far from isolated to just myself. It is disgraceful that the quality control at Lost Highway records would allow this to occur and it reflects badly on the band that their music is presented in such a shoddy manner.

What is more frustrating is that visiting the band's website, they actually recommend the vinyl as being the best way to hear this album. I would concur - the warm guitars and naturalistic recording are well served by the analogue medium, but only if the finished product is up to spec.

Additionally, I was disappointed with the packaging. The double gatefold is pretty unimaginative, with two separate images on the inside (being a vinyl traditionalist I prefer a gatefold to present a single broad design covering both `pages'). Also, there was nothing in the way of booklet, insets or even picture sleeves (only plain paper sleeves). Considering the amount of artwork available on the CD release this smacks of cheap cost-cutting by the record label. And considering this is a `rock opera' not including lyrics (or should that be libretto) is unforgiveable.

All in all, the poor pressing and tight-fisted presentation mean that this product is very far from a collector's item (as many new vinyl qualify) and almost certainly not for listening enjoyment.
Credit due to Amazon who handled the replacement and refunding well.


Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Paperback

44 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars On 'Never Let Me Go' - plot spoilers ahead!, 17 Mar 2010
This review is from: Never Let Me Go (Paperback)
Showered with praise, this book carries over three pages worth of endorsements from such authoritative sources such as The Times, and with a Booker nomination, `Never Let me Go' is presented as literature of the highest merit. It is however, profoundly unconvincing and tedious to boot.

It should be noted that this is in every way Science Fiction. In recent years, SF books written by non-SF authors have emerged, and been enjoyed by readers who never go near the SF shelf in their local bookshops. Cormac McCarthy's `The Road' and Audrey Niffenegger's `The Time Traveller's Wife' are good examples of books which engender fans to say `Yes, but it's not really science fiction, its actually about humanity and emotions.' People who don't usually read SF should not be extolling on whether a particular book is or is not of the genre, labouring under the misapprehension that if it doesn't have bug-eyed aliens and laser guns, it doesn't count. All good SF is about humanity and then most of that is about emotions. Marketing needs engendered by the stigma still attached to SF means these books get labelled `literary' and snuck out on the shelves next to the historical fiction and modern satires. But in every case, one can ask; if the science or speculative element is removed, can the same story be told? If the answer is `no' then you undoubtedly have SF. If the answer is `yes' then you have a poorly conceived story with a dreadful gimmick.

This very question is somewhat moot, because `Never Let Me Go' has such a paucity of plot that its relationship to the speculative element is at best tenuous. That this speculative element is also so poorly realised, means it doesn't even count as a gimmick. Would the author have been better off excising it altogether? If his authorial intentions were any clearer, a definitive answer could be offered, but as any moralistic or philosophical message is so inexplicit, the novel takes on something of Rorschach-blot quality- it is so indistinct that one is obliged to project their own interpretations on to it. This means the book could be interpreted as a Frankenstein-like warning against science run amuck, or a terse meditation on the nature of friendship - the obscured nature of intention means ultimately it fails as either.

If we are to assume that this book is indeed about cloning then it is very much from the mind of not only an amateur, but a luddite. Although the science is avoided altogether, the story makes gross assumptions about society's use of it that it renders the argument a straw man. Even given the technology to create parentless clones, the idea that they would be raised to adulthood and then harvested for organs suggests a culture so ethically far from our own that the story ceases to be about our culture. Where after all are Amnesty international to champion the cause of the clones? Indeed, why are the guardians so complicit in what ultimately is mass murder? Admittedly, such atrocious attitudes to minorities have existed historically, and persist in other parts of the world - but not in modern secular democratic England where this book is set. The alternate reality conjured and specifically the behaviour of the guardians is so alien to the reality that currently exists, that the novel simply cannot be taken as a serious comment on society.

Late in the book a character bemoans the modern age as being more scientific, but yet more harsh and uncaring. Debate the truth of such a comment as applied to our world all you like, but the world presented here is not ours and the differences are huge. And if science is to be the target, then target it. Cloning in and of itself is not immoral but amoral. Morality comes when society applies a science. Cloning does not lead inevitably to mass murder - that takes a society. And when atrocities occur, blaming the science and the technology is indeed easy, but also larcenous. Such an attitude is not only profoundly luddite, but also rather poorly thought-out and wilfully ignorant of the facts. The author would have done well to read a few books about cloning - both factual and fiction - before writing this one, as he approaches the subject with such a lack of understanding as to make any observations redundant. The very existence of stem-cell science makes the novel's central premise painfully antiquated. At one point, the question of whether the clones have souls is raised - this is a philosophically juvenile proposition that is rendered impotent by the very existence of cloning in nature - nobody would ask a similar question of identical twins.

But if the society presented is indeed meant to be our own, then perhaps I am projecting too much humanity on the `students'. Are they perhaps regarded merely as cattle awaiting slaughter and reprocessing. If this is the case (and the lifeless quality of the characters involved does lend some credence to it) then with whom am I to sympathise? If they are not people, if they have no souls, then why should I care? If they are people and have souls, then why don't the guardians care more about their survival?

If the guardians are complicit in the murder, then so are the students and herein lies a plot hole so large that suspension of disbelief becomes simply too much work. Why don't they escape? That every single character is given ample opportunity and means to fly from their dreadful fate and not one of them attempts it suggests either a system of restraint that exists nowhere on the page, or a dimension of character that is also unrevealed. A character is described as clinging to life while on the final operating table - one wonders why none of the others cling to life when they have a chance. Although the opportunity to escape death exists, why the characters can't, or won't do so is left frustratingly unspoken to the point where the implausibility of the whole situation is rendered total. This complete lack of coherence beggars other questions about the nature of the clones - if they are human, then why don't they have rights? If they don't have rights, then do they have responsibility and culpability? If they do not have culpability for their actions, then who does? And why would they be allowed to roam freely without supervision, to drive cars? What would have happened if on their trip to Norfolk, they had been involved in a car crash and killed someone else? And already, I feel I have dragged the concept into far more interesting territory than the author even approached.

These kind of questions only reinforce a level of interaction with the external world that not only the characters, but the story as a whole completely avoids. The characters and the writing is so insular that they appear to exist in a vacuum. While at school, there is no sense of a world outside their environment which feels utterly false. Boarding schools can indeed be isolated places, but the students therein are still alive to the community that surrounds them, the culture that penetrates them. This is more apparent as they grow up, and even when surrounded by other people in the real world, not only the characters but the books refusal to interact with the wider world is at the core of its failing.

In lieu of serious sociological reflection, one may be tempted to search for allegory. Is this novel in fact a screed against farming, or stem-cell research? If so, it comes without structure of argument, acknowledgement of counter argument and indeed any original thought beyond `it's wrong to kill animals' or `embryos are human beings too'. The fact that one can play `pick an allegory' means that if this is the intention, then it fails completely.

A final reading could be to ignore the science altogether and regard the novel as merely an evocation of childhood and friendship. If this were the case, then the very presence of the cloning is pointless. Could not the novel be set in a regular boarding school - could the later scenes be set in a hospice? In a way, yes, but that only goes to illustrate the ineffectiveness of the SF element of the story. And even then, the awkward love-triangle, the petty squabbles, lack of character development and anything truly regarded as incident means this is a vapid exercise in unwarranted nostalgia. Has a childhood of such banality ever been regarded with such fondness?

Given the unavoidable plot holes, incompetent moralising, and undeveloped science, one might hope for at least some incidental pleasures.

None exist in the plot which lacks anything close to events that have impact on the characters or engender any amount of excitement. Not only does nothing much happen, but it all happens in such a lethargic fashion that one can perhaps empathise with the character's willingness to submit to their murders, just to be done with it all. And the characters are all so dreary - we see them from childhood, through adolescence and to young adulthood, and very little distinguishes them from each other, bar a few mood-swings. Adolescence should be amongst the most dramatic periods of a person's life - not so this lot, who pass from one petty obsession to the next (a missing cassette tape stands as one of the key incidents) without any real emotion.

The writing itself, frequently described as beautiful, is nothing of the sort. Mostly flat and frequently full of tautologies - there is not one exciting sentence in the whole book. There is almost no physical description of the characters which renders them blanks (and incidentally at odds with real teenagers who obsess and agonise over their looks). Idioms are used as crutches to pad out the grey prose. That this is a first-person narrative means that a certain conversational style should be expected, but I certainly wouldn't enjoy a conversation with someone who has the vocabulary and diction of a `my true story' piece for a cheap woman's weekly. If again this is meant to reflect the emotional vacuity of the character - then why should I care about them?

Never Let Me Go asks disbelief to be suspended on too many levels, that ultimately empathy and excitement get suspended too, leaving us with not very much indeed.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2014 11:28 PM GMT


Bruce Springsteen: Live - VH1 Storytellers [DVD] [2005]
Bruce Springsteen: Live - VH1 Storytellers [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Bruce Springsteen
Offered by Stirling Cash Converters
Price: 14.99

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Bruce is at home - doing good deeds!, 14 Sep 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The storytellers series has for a while now offered fans an inside look into their favourite artists music, so it is with some anticipation that we get to watch an artist as legendary and as legendarily tight-lipped about his work as Springsteen step into the VH1 studio. Perhaps only Dylan and McCartney rival Springsteen in terms of artists we'd most like to see, but for my money Springsteen is the most intriguing. McCartney has always been very forthcoming about his own work, and as for Dylan, well, even when he is espousing in interview, we still come away none the wiser. Springsteen on the other hand has strived to protect the mystery of his work, cautious that to reveal too many specific details will strip the songs of their universal appeal. That caution is at work here too, especially when discussing 'The Rising,' wherein he doesn't even mention 9/11 and talks only in the broad biblical metaphors that litter the song. Things do get more interesting when he does get specific, the hometown imagery of 'Blinded by The Light' and 'Thunder Road,' the cinematic and literary influences on 'Nebraska' and most amusingly an anecdote about Bruce frequenting strip joints and getting caught by a fan and how it relates to the relationship drama of 'Brilliant Disguise.' But even when Bruce is not revealing too much, he is still a thoughtful, engaging and witty talker, and one of the most eloquent speakers when it comes to Rock and Roll, what it means and what it is capable of. And what of the music, which ultimately will give this release lasting appeal. The selections are broad in terms of style and tone as well as taking in the whole scope of his career. Bruce performs mostly on guitar and his vocal delivery sometimes veers away from the original performances (though not as drastically as Dylan often does) and we get the impression that Springsteen is not so much revisiting his past as reinterpreting it as an older, wiser, more experienced artist. The highlights are when Springsteen sits at the piano for 'Jesus was an only son' and 'Thunder Road.' Eight songs may feel a bit stingy but the program itself does last for two hours, and is wholly satisfying. The filming is unobtrusive, and the sound recording crisp and professional. Hopefully a full concert from Bruce's current solo run will find its way to the DVD racks, but even then, this will still be an essential purchase for Bruce fans, and for those who are merely casual listeners, this is still well worth picking up.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2011 8:25 AM GMT


The Best Album Tracks...Ever!
The Best Album Tracks...Ever!
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 6.93

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A good title. . . but not much else., 11 May 2005
When I read the title, I thought; 'What a good concept, pick choice cuts from well-loved albums.' and then I saw a list of the artists involved, I was already compiling my own tracklisting. And then I saw the album and. . . Well, it's just another ragbag selection of tracks, compiled with no real care. Far from these being only album tracks, the majority would also come under the heading 'singles' and it seems to the compilers at least, all an album track has to do to qualify is beloing to an album, well that disqualifies songs like 'Whatever' by Oasis or 'Paperback Writer' by the Beatles which were stand-alone singles but let's face it, what songs don't appear on albums these days? The choices include the blindingly obvious; 'Bittersweet Symphony' and 'Come away with me' are not just album high points for The Verve and Norah Jones respectively, but arguably the most well-known songs of their careers. Other choices are not so quintessential but nevertheless fairly predictable. 'You're my best friend' and 'God Only Knows' are not exactly undiscovered gems. The promise of the album is met in a few small cases, Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' and Lou Reed's 'Vicious' were not singles despite coming from albums that bore a lot of obviously more radio friendly tracks. But if this botching of intent wasn't bad enough, the actual album itself is sequenced very bizarrely with no credence given to historical or musical coherance, the listener is casually tossed from era to era and from mood to mood. The final four tracks of the album reflect this most extremely, and gives the impression that these tracks were left over and of no real interest to the compilers. The music is to all intents and purposes '5 stars' but you are advised to seek out the original albums to hear these classic tracks in context. The complete lack of sequencing lobs off a star and I'll deduct 2 more for the abject failure of the brief. 2 stars!
There is a great album to be had out of this concept, but this certainly isn't it.


Live Phish Vol.11: Colorado 17/11/1997
Live Phish Vol.11: Colorado 17/11/1997

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Spacefunk., 20 Sep 2004
After the malaise that dogged Phish towards the end of '96 they were wonderfully reborn in '97. 'Slip Stich and Pass' captures the birth-cries of this new sound (a single disc of highlights from a March '97 show alas) and the studio 'Story of The Ghost' would document it for posterity. But this show perhaps more than any other captures the bands peak in this idiom. What makes this show so fantastic is that the band themselves seem to be forging onwards with self-discovery with every note played, and more importantly every note left unplayed. Earlier performances capture guitarist Anastasio unleashing hailstorms of notes and that guides the band towards frenzied manic and frequently chaotic jams. These are superb, but after those storms its nice to find the relative calm of the 97-98 space funk. Anastasio takes a relative back seat and allows bassist Gordon and drummer Fish to dictate the grooves. The first set contains only 5 songs, about half as much as a typical first set in previous tours (see any number of pre-97 sets for evidence). By letting the jam-dog off its leash so early it seems the band are in less of a rush to get things going. The opening Tweezer is unhectic and spare and has a tripped-out hypnotic quality. It is a restrained but impressive reading. Ditto the Reba that follows, a truly celestial performance that reaches an orgasmic crescendo before disappearing into space dust. Train song is a breather but one of Phish's prettiest little tunes. And then of course, Ghost. This may well be the single greatest performance captured on disc. It certainly is worth the price of admission but that doesn't go far enough to explain why it's so good. The start is modest enough, a standard enough performance, the vocals wavering a little perhaps, but then the groove kicks in and for a further seventeen or so minutes it's as if the band cracked open a doorway to heaven. The groove is hypnotic and funky, the melodies just out of reach and the textures ooze and flow like a cosmic river. Crucially the song does not crescendo spectacularly but rather slinks along until it disolves completely. It is the kind of performance that should appeal equally to rock, jazz and dance fans as it takes the key elements from each genre and fuses them into something that is so uniquely Phish. That they cap this set with a rollicking tear-up of Hendrix's fire is fitting, and that as good as that song is, it feels like little more than a bookend after what has gone on previously. The second set is unusually less spectacular though by no means weak. Down With Disease is a more rocking jam and finds the band falling back on their older style of jamming to a degree but it still snakes along through Olivia's Pool and a so spontaneous they don't really know the song take on Johnny Be Goode. The Denver jam picks up the funk before the bluesy Jesus... closes this sequence nicely. A cover of Los Lobos 'When The Circus Comes' feels like a breather though a pleasant one before You Enjoy Myself. This is perhaps the quintessential Phish song and this is a rare reading. Fans will be familiar with the ebbs and flows this song takes and the jam segment herein is decidedly smooth, lacking the obvious peaks and dynamics it illustrates how thorough the newly discovered funk was insinuating itself into their entire repertoire. This is not the best, certainly not the most spectacular (vol 14 is 40 minutes plus if your up to it) but it is unusual and certainly enthralling. Character Zero is a typically rocking encore and is performed with some energy. The filler here kind of lives up to its name. The Wolfman's brother last for nearly half an hour and it can be argued that brevity would have improved it as the band don't seem to be responding to each other as quickly as they can (and do on the rest of this disc) and the faux reggae of Makisupa Policeman dissolves into a sonic wash that resolves only seconds before the disc finishes giving the album a somewhat muted climax. This is but a trifle complaint because what is good here is as good as Phish or indeed any live band have ever recorded. Is it for the new fan? Undoubtedly, though they may have to shake off the idea that rock songs are only three and a half minutes long before they fully appreciate it.


Live Phish 3
Live Phish 3

3.0 out of 5 stars Phish in their late 2000 malaise, 30 Oct 2003
This review is from: Live Phish 3 (Audio CD)
Over their career, Phish have occasionally got stuck in a rut (most famously in 1996) and a reinvention has been needed. In 97 they threw into their brand of space funk which makes much of the 97 and 98 shows awesome. By 2000 they were suffering from another malaise and the cure here was an 18 month hiatus. So what of this, one of their very final shows from that tour. The first set contains only six actual songs (the disc lists 7, including the jam out of suzy greenberg). Opener PYITE offers a brisk start to the album before it dives into REBA, one of the bands classic tunes, this is not a great reading of the tune though it does have its moments (Vol 11 has a much better version of this tune). Things grind to a halt with a straight rendition of Neil Young's Alburquerque. This slow moving and downbeat song doesn't work so early into the show. Carini follows, something of a Phish rarity and one of their heavier songs. Oh Kee Pah a slight instrumental is enjoyable enough though an unremarkable performance. The closing Suzy Greenberg is typically rocking and including its jam, rages for a good 20 minutes. The lengthy jams are what this show is about and the second disc contains a 30 odd minute version of The Who's drowned which finds a decent groove and sticks to it, not massively thrilling. Crosseyed and Painless (originally talking heads) follows and is similarly jammed out though for nowhere near as long. Dog faced boy at less than 3 minutes feels like an afterthought. The final disc wraps things up. The Prince Caspian is fairly uneventful though the cover of the Stones' Loving Cup does rock. The encores consist of 2 slight acoustic numbers and Sample in a Jar, a Phish fave that is performed fairly straight. This is not classic phish, though if in the mood, the lengthy jams, especially the drowned one have a spare hypnotic quality. The setlist is too short and the band rely too much on covers. Phish are a band who are always searching for the next breakthrough and here they seem to be fumbling around and not coming up with a great deal.


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