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Martin Gray "busterabcat" (UK)

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Hollywood Holidays (Live)
Hollywood Holidays (Live)
Price: 6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A storming late-period Pixies live show ....with a difference!, 20 Aug 2013
Pixies are that rarest of things: a band whose critical stock has actually - continually - risen over the 20 (!!!) years ever since their initial split in 1993 (and their reformation in 2004). They are now seemingly more popular than they have ever been, thanks to so many new fans - both young and old - becoming aware of their influential brilliance back in the day. To date, there have been a smattering of live DVDs and the odd CD featuring many of their greatest moments of course, but an official, stand-alone, live CD or album release has yet to be sanctioned.

This 2012-released live document (issued on CD as well as vinyl) isn't that long-awaited official release, however. BUT it is probably their most interesting so far, in that it captures them in 1991 just after the release of their final album - the blisteringly full-on "Trompe Le Monde". For fans of this latter album (that includes me!), who felt somewhat disappointed at the constant overlooking of tracks from it for their live sets, compilations, etc, you can do no better than to get hold of this CD without delay, as it features an amazing 13 of the 15 tracks on "TLM" (excepting the title track and "Space (I Believe In)", the latter of which is the album's weakest track anyway in my view), all of which are performed more or less with the same degree of intensity as their recorded versions.

It opens with the two tracks which kicked off their eclectic "Bossanova" set of 1990 - albeit in reversed order: the truly electrifying primal scream of "Rock Music" followed by their deranged Surftones cover "Cecilia Ann".... then, amongst a liberal splattering of "Trompe Le Monde" album tracks performed in clusters of four or five at a time, you get the odd highlights from their breakthrough "Doolittle" era: a sleazy, typically slo-mo version of "Gouge Away", prefaced by touring member [Pere Ubu and Captain Beefheart] Eric Drew Feldman's unexpected keyboard accompaniment at the intro, an obligatory (but nevertheless exhilarating) run through of "Crackity Jones", the two "...Manta Ray" b-sides, the UK surf version of "Wave of Mutilation" and finally "Monkey Gone To Heaven"....

Surprising omissions all come from "Surfer Rosa" (no "Gigantic", "Vamos", "Where Is My Mind" or even "Bone Machine" for instance), and only one "Come On Pilgrim" track is featured: "Ed Is Dead".... the rest of the set is given over to big chunks of the then current album "Trompe Le Monde".... in fact the final six tracks are made up of a concluding salvo of highlights from that album, fired off one after the other!

Between-song banter is kept to a minimum or barely existent [no chit-chat between Kim or Charles as is the way it's been post-reformation] - this was the rule back in those days when Pixies just got on with it, reeling off song after song, save for the odd announced song-title intro .... The sound quality is pretty good for a live radio broadcast of the concert, but tape (or amp) hiss appears to be noticeable throughout. Plus, it has to be said that the final fifth of the track list ("The Sad Punk" right through to the closing "U-Mass") suffers from a noticeably poorer EQ-d sound quality than the preceding numbers, all sounding rather muffled and badly mastered or mixed.

Presumably this is also the fourth and final side of the limited-pressing double vinyl LP version of this live set, as on this CD "Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons" fades out after it ends, before "Sad Punk" cuts in abruptly heralding the start of this last, lower fidelity, section.

But hey, these are only minor niggles in an otherwise pretty damned fine set of tracks which show how vital a live act the Pixies were during their initial brief lifespan as one of the coolest rock bands ever to hail from across the pond....and of course, now everybody is older, wiser and a little wider and balder (excepting Kim), there is no reason why the 2013 live model cannot match the greatness of those early years.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2014 12:43 AM GMT

The Complete First of the Summer Wine [DVD]
The Complete First of the Summer Wine [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Fenwick
Price: 27.50

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At long last - The entire "First Of" series collected...., 11 Sep 2012
I was wondering when they would ever get round to issuing this long-forgotten - but truly delightful - series on DVD. As far as I can recall it was never even issued on VHS when plentiful opportunities arose. Happily, and at long last, here it is, some 24 years after the initial pilot of this prequel was first aired on BBC1.

Now, before I continue, I have to admit that I never really cared much for the original "Last Of The Summer Wine" series at all.... that is, until I first chanced upon the pilot film of this series - shown in 1988, preceding the first series of six episodes which aired later that same year - and was completely taken in. It was a total revelation - following the lives of Compo, Clegg and Foggy, together with Norah and Wally, as youngsters during 1930s Britain - produced with meticulous attention to period detail, augmented by some truly gorgeously evocative soundtracks.
When the series was first shown, I recorded all of the dozen episodes on VHS video and would repeatedly watch them over and over again, so enthralled was I with the sense of nostalgic abandon as we followed the antics of the young protagonists in their daily conquests.

The date for the first six episodes was set at May 1939, with four months to go before the onset of WWII ..... Obviously, despite the tomfoolery on display, there were lots of poignant little reminders and asides that Britain was, after all, on the threshold of heading into war with the enemy, and the sporadic interludes featuring crackly radio news bulletins juxtaposed with big band swing numbers brought about a sense of foreboding that only those who were living during this period could truly identify with. Brilliantly executed: casting Peter Sallis as the young Norman Clegg's father was a bit of a masterstroke. The rest of the mostly young cast were largely a mix of previously unknown actors and actresses who went on to appear in other programmes in the years immediately following (Paul Oldham who played Sherbert made cameos in "Making Out" and "Coronation Street" for example, whilst Paul McLain (Seymour) appeared in a couple of episodes of "All Creatures Great and Small").

The second series of six episodes which followed in 1989 basically picked up where the first left off - this time with the hazy days of summer now having passed, moving into September 1939, with the country on the cusp of war - and how the youngsters all had to prepare themselves for the inevitable. Despite the constant battle-ready bravado coming from young Foggy Dewhurst throughout the series, the scriptwriters cleverly avoid any obviously hackneyed attempts at showing the boys actually heading off into combat - instead opting to end the final scenes with a panoramic shot of the canal (actually the Huddersfield Canal taken near Diggle) with the wireless broadcast declaring Britain having entered into war with Germany....

Although very well conceived, filmed and soundtracked, the programme only lasted 12 episodes (together with the initial pilot making 13), and the reasons for this have never been made clear. As it was, despite some obvious continuity errors and other blips [most noticeable being the badly-edited/looped canned laughter in places], this is a thoroughly enjoyable series, and it made me finally appreciate its parent series for the first time - venturing out as I did, more out of curiosity than anything, to visit Holmfirth to locate all the filming locations and the rest - both in this lovely prequel series and the long-established 'Last of..' series. As it turned out, this was the first of many annual visits I would make to Holmfirth to this very day - not for the Summer Wine pilgrimages, but to its annual Folk Festival weekend held every May!

If, like me, you love anything to do with 1930s (or 1940s) nostalgia - then get hold of this DVD, it's a delight from start to finish. And probably very underrated too because it's always existed in the shadow of its more celebrated sequel for the best part of the last 20-30 odd years.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2013 12:25 AM BST


11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At LONG last....The complete Colourbox anthology in its entirety!!, 28 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Colourbox (Audio CD)
Pioneering 80's eclectic pop/dub/electro/scratch experimentalists Colourbox are practically all but forgotten now.....but ironically are now regarded as true genre-hopping innovators whose influence on a lot of modern pop and dance cannot go underestimated. Bafflingly, it's taken the best part of 20 years to get this long-wished-for box set compiling EVERYTHING they ever released under 4AD to become a reality. Bearing in mind how their more celebrated labelmates Cocteau Twins have already been the deserving subject of a whole slew of remasters, reissues and boxed collections, it was only a matter of time before Colourbox head honcho Martyn Young, together with 4AD, heeded the restless pleas from their original fanbase to get their first full length album proper remastered in its original 2 x vinyl entirety.... together with all their 7"/12" singles to date.

Everybody knows how only one side of the free limited 12" remix album was included on the CD version, leaving the remaining three tracks on side 2 inexplicably in limbo, and everybody also knows how, around a decade ago in 2001/2, when news broke that Colourbox were releasing a much-anticipated "Best Of", fans were left short-changed and extremely disappointed when said "best of" chose to include a paltry 10 tracks, hardly any of which were the blistering pop indie hits and album tracks that showcased the true diversity of Colourbox's output. Until now, the only way to get much of the original Colourbox tracks in digital format was to make vinyl rips of most of the 12" and 7" singles. This 4xCD box set finally puts to rest all the waiting.....and it is well worth the effort, and every penny, I can tell you!

CD 1 is the full length album in its entire 17-track [2x12" vinyl] glory - including the three elusive remixes/alt versions ("Manic II" / "Fast Dump" / "Sex Gun") omitted from the original CD finally present and correct and restored to the proper running order. For anybody who has never heard Colourbox, this album is the best place to start: you will seldom come across a more diverse 10 tracks than these: two contrasting instrumentals kick off the album - the dreamy piano interlude "Sleepwalker" followed immediately by the more boisterous and punk-guitar-fuelled "Just Give 'Em Whiskey", chock-full of dialogue samples from films (notably The Prisoner, Westworld and A Space Odyssey) that soon became all so common-place in late 80s dance music. Next up, a cover of an old U-Roy tune "Say You" introduces the soulful vocals of third Colourbox member Lorita Grahame, and this is swiftly followed by one of the most amazing songs of the 1980s: "The Moon Is Blue", a soaring pop ballad with a gargantuan showtune production which is so spine-tingling it has to be tongue-in-cheek! The only weak track on the album follows next, the rather forgettable "Inside Informer", but the tempo and urgency is restored once more with the stomping scratch/beat-driven monster "Punch" and the sensual pop of "Suspicion". The first of two versions of "Manic" is next, featuring a ferocious guitar solo from, of all people, William Orbit [who was in a band, Torch Song, during the 80s before he became a renowned mixer and producer/engineer], which then crashes right into an inspired and high-tempo version of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On". Lorita's vocals are a shining beacon throughout, and none more so than during the closing track of the main album: "Arena", a truly emotional slow-burner which climaxes with her heartfelt pleas in the face of impending isolation : "Long was the morning/deep was the yearning/stripped of my armour now/everybody's gone and deserted this Arena....". You can almost sense the tumbleweed rolling across as the track fades....

The additional 12" of remixes showcases even more sonic mayhem and jump-cut wickedness ("Edit The Dragon", "Fast Dump"), moody electro-pop ("Hipnition"), spoken word interludes (the Hale and Pace-sampling "We Walk Around The Streets") and further versions of "Manic" and "Arena" (cunningly titled "Manic II" and "Arena II") before ending on a truly riotous note with the punktastic "Sex Gun" - which is actually the backing track to "Just Give 'Em Whiskey" but this time featuring Lorita's vocals: with its relentlessly overloaded drum machine sounding like a semi-automatic firearm at its climax.

CD 2 and 3 are all of the singles compiled in their complete 7-inch and 12-inch versions. Highlights are the 1986 singles "Baby I Love You So" - another genius exercise in cavernous reggae dub with overlaid spaghetti-western samples - and the "Official Colourbox World Cup Theme" - probably their most well known instrumental after the 1987 M/A/R/R/S number 1 smash "Pump Up The Volume" (Left off here for obvious reasons), plus its ultra-cool Philip Glass-pastiche b-side (called, yup, you guessed: "Philip Glass"!) Plus, the rocktastic instrumental "Hot Doggie" is also included. This track was only previously available on the "Lonely Is An Eyesore" 4AD compilation of 1987 and the 2001 Colourbox Best Of, but it's still a killer tune with yet more sampled film dialogue cleverly sprinkled throughout. Another great and long lost b-side is "Keep On Pushing" - a 1983 re-recording of an earlier EP track - a truly brilliant pop tune to be driving your car along to, seriously!

CD 4 collects the remainder of the Colourbox EP tracks (their first 1983 mini-LP/maxi-EP) and two previously unreleased BBC radio sessions: featuring several new tunes which were never recorded for 4AD as singles or album tracks amongst them. These are all fascinating insights to how the band started to develop their sound and evolve into the innovative musical magpies that they became for their all-too-brief 1980s heyday.

Colourbox really were a band of their time, and, as with so many of their contemporaries, it's always ironic how they only finally get their due - in terms of their influence on others - long after they ceased to exist. It's also hard to believe that they never brought out that elusive second album, despite, even as late as the early 1990s, promises that there was going to be a follow up on its way. It never arrived.

At least we FINALLY have this box set now, and it couldn't serve as a better epitaph. Buy it!
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 2, 2012 1:22 AM BST

Here Comes Everybody and Singles
Here Comes Everybody and Singles
Price: 12.40

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wake's undisputed crowning achievement....with extras!, 22 May 2012
Much-maligned Factory band The Wake were forever being criticised and dismissed as inferior Joy Division / New Order copyists by the music press at the time. Although their output on the label was paltry, taking in just four singles and two albums, their influence on a lot of the post-80s indie/janglepop/synth fraternity cannot go unnoticed. Legendary Sarah band The Field Mice, for instance, owe a good chunk of their sound and influences to not just New Order and the Go-Betweens, but, tellingly, The Wake too. Their 1989 single "If You Need Someone" is a direct lift melodically and instrumentally of the sound and mood of this 1985 album - considered now in hindsight by many more discerning music fans to be The Wake's definitive crowning achievement.

For all their alleged debt to the sound of New Order, "Here Comes Everybody" is a giant step up from their patchy and rather drab debut 1982 effort "Harmony", in that the tunes are much stronger and the arrangements far more accomplished. In fact if there is one main gripe about this album, it's the apparent uniformity of sound that occurs throughout - the same instruments on every track making it sound somewhat samey (it's completely dominated by Carolyn Allen's synths). However, from the gorgeous, tearjerking opener "O Pamela" onwards, with its pleading sentiments ['will you take a walk with me by the ocean, O Pamela, before it's too late....?'], it's like a bittersweet dream unravelling......emotions seesawing between euphoria and despair. "Send Them Away" is more reflective still, and even here the keyboards which hold the track crank up another notch at the 1.26 minute mark, like the sun suddenly bursting out from behind a cloud, to blinding effect. "Melancholy Man" is one of those songs that does exactly what it says on the tin.... impossibly self-descriptive to the extent of pulling off two sucker-punches: the words "long grey overcoat which trails upon the ground" within the first verse and then quoting wholesale a couplet from Don McLean's "Vincent" right at the end.

The short, upbeat and sweet "World Of Her Own" is probably the sunniest track on the album, Caesar's harmonica and Carolyn's backing vocals adding a bit of icing to the prominent synth arrangements which STILL dominate every note, whilst "Torn Calendar" and the title track slow the pace down a little, the latter reintroducing the dubby bass lines which The Wake made much use of in their earlier recordings.

The original album comprised just eight tracks, but this 2002 reissue [yeah, I KNOW it's taken me 10 years to get round to writing an Amazon review for it!!] includes the two singles that preceded it (1984's "Talk About The Past" and 1985's "Of The Matter") and then the final 1987 EP "Something That No One Else Could Bring" that was released to very little promotion or fanfare, thus sadly sinking without trace. One unfortunate problem with this release is that all of the tracks (bar "Talk About The Past") have been remastered from vinyl as the original tapes were lost, this has created some slight problems in the audio quality as the tracks all sound ever so slightly warped/off centre to the more discerning ear.

However, such apparent glitches are all but forgotten when you consider tunes as strong as these additional singles [best of the bunch being "Gruesome Castle" and "Pale Spectre" off the 1987 EP] appending the original album, despite "Of The Matter" strangely coming across like a composite of "Sail Through" and "World Of Her Own" from the parent album, and sounding for all the world like it was recorded and mastered through a fluffy stylus!!

Anyway, thanks to the astute Factory Records reissue programme of James Nice at LTM, we've been treated to 16 tracks of pretty consistently good quality which makes an outright mockery of the accusations of The Wake being just another New Order copyist act. For anybody who has yet to investigate the back catalogue of this previously-forgotten band who are, happily, going through a bit of a critical renaissance right now (and deservedly so!), this is probably the best starting point.

P.S. It comes as no surprise then, to discover that this album has recently been released as a special - and sumptuously-packaged - super limited edition 2x vinyl LP box set for the worldwide Record Store Day..... the first 12" being the original 8 track album and the second 12" being the singles and EP tracks....... sweet!

A Light Far Out
A Light Far Out
Price: 11.67

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A most welcome return to form!!, 22 May 2012
This review is from: A Light Far Out (Audio CD)
After The Wake stopped in 1995, as their previous label, the irrepressibly maverick Sarah Records, folded for the last time, my assumption was that we would never hear another note from Caesar and chums again, given that their 1994 swansong "Tidal Wave Of Hype" came across as an somewhat bittersweet statement with which to finish. Some people in the know would always remember The Wake as being the Glaswegian answer to Joy Division / New Order who spent a few years on Factory Records with a handful of releases that owed as much to their more illustrious mentors (1982's debut LP "Harmony" and 1984's indie smash "Talk About The Past" respectively) as it did to the melodic post-jangle scene of young Scotland (their lovely but criminally undervalued/overlooked 1987 EP "Something That No One Else Could Bring"). However, to think of them as mere copyists would be lazy in the extreme: their influences also spanned post-punk, Postcard, The Fall and The Go-Betweens to name but a few others.

Sarah torchbearers The Field Mice owed a lot of their sound during their late 80s/early 90s heyday to The Wake, so much so that the bands often toured together, along with fellow Glaswegian comrades The Orchids, with whom The Wake even shared band members at various points. This fraternal association suggested a very interesting Sarah supergroup would be a possibility, so to speak, and indeed several years later, former Field Mouse / Trembling Blue Stars mainstay Bob Wratten hooked up with Caesar and Carolyn from The Wake for a collaboration as The Occasional Keepers, releasing two atmospherically ambient albums "The Beauty Of The Empty Vessel" and "True North", both featuring singing contributions from all parties involved.

This latter project appears to have galvanised Caesar and Carolyn into coming out of semi-retirement: for they soon started writing new material again, from which this new release has been compiled. 18 years after their last record, The Wake have returned, against all possible expectations. What is notable about this new album though, is the fact that, although there are eight new songs, only six of them are actually new and previously unheard; two of the songs have featured on previous releases: "If The Ravens Leave" was actually the lead track from the second Occasional Keepers album from 2008, "True North", and has been included here in exactly the same version/ mix as before. The other 'old' song is "The Back Of Beyond" which is exactly the same track as the token instrumental from 1994's "Tidal Wave Of Hype" album, only this time there are now vocals recorded on top of the original track.

These two niggles aside, this album is an impressive achievement, easily improving on the patchy "TWOH" which was strewn with a number of nondescript fillers amongst the pop gems. The opener "Stockport" (not since Frankie Vaughan in the 1960s has the town Stockport - where I live incidentally, ha! - even found itself namechecked on a song) is a typically wry observation-cum-eulogy that continues The Wake's habit of reflecting back on their time with Factory Records: this time it appears to mention the very street [Waterloo Road] on which the legendary 10cc-owned Strawberry Studios was located: where indeed The Wake did record when they were on Factory. "Ravens" is actually a bloody good song - one of the best things they have done: over a clicking, static-strewn percussion track and vintage-sounding bassline, an untypically distorted Caesar vocal presides over an ode to a fallen kingdom (Britain, in all probability...) and it really sounds like The Wake have distilled the best moments from their two 1990s Sarah albums into this one reassuringly melodic whole.

"Methodist" harks back to the gentle melancholia of their gorgeous 1985 masterpiece "Here Comes Everybody", with its atmospheric synths and pitter patter of drum machine, whilst Carolyn's vocal turn on "Starry Day" sounds not unlike a modern take on contemporary folk, accompanied by understated acoustic guitar strums and flutes - it's a beautifully reflective moment whose pastoral charm brings to mind the folk tunes from the soundtrack to cult 70s flick "The Wicker Man". Instrumental interludes arrive with "Faintness" and the lengthy title track which gently evolves over its 9 minutes taking its somnambulant cue from The Occasional Keepers: Caesar's hushed poetry at the beginning makes way for a gorgeously evocative instrumental interlude - bringing to mind images of sailing out across a calm sea, leaving land behind, until eventually land is spotted once more, the track concluding with the revelation that "there is a light far out, over there, over there...."

Closing track "The Sands" only ups the tempo slightly, bringing to an end a journey of discovery that for me at least, is a pleasingly welcome return to form for a band who appear to have gained more admirers now than they ever had during their long-lost years at Factory records....and if that isn't a sweet vindication of their true worth, then I don't know what is.

Loveless (Re-mastered By Kevin Shields) (2CD)
Loveless (Re-mastered By Kevin Shields) (2CD)
Price: 6.36

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great lp but no outtakes/demos/alt versions? What a swizz!!, 16 May 2012
Yes, it's been a bloody long time coming, this eagerly-awaited remaster, possibly one of the most over-analysed and over-eulogised albums of the 90s for sure..... having been originally planned for release in 2008, then put back year after year after year, to the extent that it was fast becoming one of those projects that would in all likelihood remain just a tantalising prospect, forever delayed because of the needless amount of paranoia/perfectionism/procrastination or indeed any other word beginning with the letter P (piss-taking perhaps??) courtesy of the grand master instigator himself, Mr Kevin Shields.

But here it finally is - along with the first Creation album "Isn't Anything" and the EP/unreleased compilation - and by god, I had to pinch myself when I saw them on display in my local record store the other week! Lovingly repackaged in fold-out card sleeves but my main gripe is that why waste 2 discs with the same set of songs repeated on each one, with absolutely nothing in the way of alternative mixes, demos, outtakes or whatever else? I for one cannot even tell the difference between the two versions as they sound pretty much the same when pumped loudly through the speakers. There is also rumours that the 2 CDs are mis-labelled and in fact the alternative analogue remastered version is CD1 and original remastered album CD2....

Unlike some remastered versions which simply go all out for over-compression and volume at the expense of dynamic range, this one isn't quite as extreme, so if you want to hear Loveless as you would normally expect to hear it when played live (i.e. at ear-splitting, earth-shaking intensity) then I suggest you simply import all the files into Garageband or Audacity or any other sound-editing software application and EQ the bleeding hell out of them all until the tracks are literally screaming for mercy......or simply record yourself slurping some spaghetti from a tin can and then add all sorts of flanged effects to it and hey, presto! More extra feedback/hoover/drone noises on top of the original!!!!!

Some of the tracks here - in particular "Touched" and "To Here Knows When" - sound absolutely like nothing else on earth - like warped orchestrated cocoon music: a wash of electronic fuzz and discordance. And the most amazing thing to discover when you play the first half of the album and then the second half (like an album, that is, side one followed by side two) is how each corresponding track revises, sonically, the structure of its counterpart on the other side.... What I mean by that is this: omit Track 3 "Touched", then programme the CD to play Track 1 followed immediately by Track 7, then Track 2 followed by Track 8, then sequence Track 4 / 9, Track 5 /10 and so on......and prepare to be astonished !! Apparently, that was a clever trick devised by Kevin, and not many listeners noticed at first.....

There's little else that needs to be added really, except to say that MBV probably set themselves such an impossible task to follow upon releasing this recording that it's little surprise that 21 years on, there still doesn't appear to be any prospect of a successor. Sometimes though, that's probably for the best. After all, where the hell else could they really go from here anyway?

Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records
Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records
by Bruce Spizer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 42.19

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive, Ultimate, Beatles Encyclopedia for all you Vinyl Junkies!, 29 Feb 2012
Being a Beatles fan since my childhood, it's obvious that, apart from the records, I would also have a fair few books about them in my collection - at last count it must be at least a couple of dozen: easily more than any other of my favourite bands. However, of all of these books, only a small handful of them - just three in fact - would prove to be completely indispensable in my view: Ian Macdonald's excellently detailed chronological song-by-song synopsis "Revolution In The Head" (so good that I have three different versions / reprints of it!), Jonathan Gould's equally thorough and similarly structured "Can't Buy Me Love", and now this offering by renowned US Beatles authors/compilers Bruce Spizer/Frank Daniels "Beatles For Sale On Parlophone Records".

Having been given a complimentary copy of this incredible volume from the author himself at last year's (2011) Beatles Convention in Liverpool, I promised to him that I would eventually put up online a review of it just to share my thoughts on it with others. And it has honestly taken me this long to get round to doing so chiefly because of one thing: the book is so astounding in the sheer amount of detail covering basically EVERYTHING about each and every single Parlophone release in the UK in the Beatles' catalogue, I was completely overwhelmed by it! It's an astonishingly in-depth overview touching on the sort of minutiae and technical particulars that would give those more fanatical followers and avid Beatle collectors the raptures. The amount of information can, at first perusal, appear overbearing, but incredibly, all of the text throughout is written in such a completely straightforward and unpretentious way that it never becomes tiresome (incidentally, hello Paul Morley!).

There really hasn't been - in my view - any other book quite like this one. Ian Macdonald and Jonathan Gould produced two of the finest volumes ever on the Fab Four and both those books are absolutely crammed with fascinating revelations and facts. But even they pale in comparison to this one : mainly because not only is it exhaustive in its detail, but it's also sumptuously illustrated with sleeve art for every single 45/EP/LP release, then alternative covers and label designs, plus unseen photos of the band, etc.... a true feast of information and trivia, making these volumes (Bruce has also published an earlier volume dealing with the US releases entitled "The Beatles Are Coming!") more akin to encyclopaedias than mere coffee-table artefacts.

Unlike with the aforementioned Macdonald and Gould books, however, Beatles For Sale is simply so immense that it's not the kind of book I would ever think to read cover to cover, but rather dip in and out of selectively as and when I feel, just like with encyclopaedias, as that would do it far better justice (I dare say anybody ever reads encyclopaedias cover to cover from A to Z anyway!). Each album and single is given equal attention, with all manner of supporting information and facts present and correct: assorted trivia such as dates, number of sessions, the number of takes, which specific take or edit, then production/engineering - the complete works. Couple this with the aforementioned huge number of illustrations, photographs, reproductions of rare promotional adverts, etc... and you have an absolutely staggering body of work - and fascinating trivia - at your disposal.

I can't praise this volume enough, there really isn't anything else like it, and the fact that it's such a heavyweight in terms of size and content surely renders many other so-called definitive Beatles publications practically redundant. I would say that this book is an ideal companion to complement the [similar-sized] BEATLES ANTHOLOGY book that the Fab Four themselves were the chief authors of.... in that one serves the purpose of telling it like it is (from the horse's mouth so to speak), whilst the other offers an unrivalled insight to all of their recordings during their 8 productive years between 1962-1970. This volume is so thorough that there's even a checklist magazine inserted in the inside back cover (in a tastefully-done mock "Parlophone Records" sleeve) detailing every single catalogue number of all their releases, for the benefit of record dealers and collectors alike.

It's pretty much impractical to list all the specific highlights of this book chiefly because of its sheer enormity. However, I will make an allowance for citing one truly exceptional piece of information which was obtained from page 263, where the author is discussing the White Album: here I finally got to discover what exactly the full 10+ minute version of "Revolution 1" (titled Take 20) sounded like, as we get an almost minute-by-minute breakdown of this unreleased track.....and after reading about it I finally hunted down this full length version on You Tube - and what an absolute revelation it was - showing exactly where and how parts of it were eventually adapted for the (in my opinion) less satisfactory "Revolution 9" which DID end up on the album (the band sure did know how to wig out and ad-lib to excess!)....

So there you have incredibly rich mine of information from which to dip in and out of at your leisure. It's undoubtedly the most comprehensively compiled/written book on The Beatles I have yet seen and one thing is for certain.....I don't think I will ever get bored of flicking through its 444 pages time and time again, alighting on a different random chapter to read and re-read as and when I wish. Don't be put off though, by the hefty price tag for this colossal book (or indeed the weight), it really is worth every penny (lane - ha!). An essential addition to any Beatle fan's book collection......

Milkmaid Grand Army EP
Milkmaid Grand Army EP
Offered by cdspot
Price: 22.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Texans' debut is a strange lo-fi delight, 24 April 2011
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This review is from: Milkmaid Grand Army EP (Audio CD)
Midlake are pretty well known now of course, thanks to their much-vaunted last couple of albums "The Courage of Others" and "The Trials of Van Occupanther" and a few UK tours which have helped increase their fan base and assure their status as one of them 'critics' bands'.

However, newcomers to the band are going to be in for a surprise to hear this, their debut 2001 release, and their 2004 full length "Bamnan And Slivercork" (the odd title even looks like it's a dyslexic riddle) back to back and wonder just what was going through the band's heads when they came up with these strange almost primitive recordings. However, I am totally biased because I actually love these two earlier releases better.....simply because they remind me of the now sadly-disbanded Grandaddy at their experimental lo-fi best. This 7-track mini album crackles with all sorts of strange interference whilst Tim Smith's vocals are fed through a distorted mini amp, sounding uncannily like Thom Yorke circa Kid A/Amnesiac. This Radiohead/Grandaddy similarity appears to be intentional: opening track "She Removes Her Spiral Hair" could indeed pass for Radiohead played down a particularly murky telephone line - its bassline so redolent of Colin Greenwood it's untrue.... there's even a strange woozy keyboard bit in the background that sounds like Jonny Greenwood's beloved Ondes Martenot - but it's just a cheap distorted Casio synth!

Midlake's adamantly lo-fi approach here either appeals or unsettles, but the truth is, the songs still shine through this deliberate murk. Second track "Paper Gown" is the highlight - a towering near symphonic rush of sound featuring a wonky distressed piano straight out of the Grandaddy "Sophtware Slump" book but with Smith's crackly vocal almost pleading with the listener in the choruses. Track three "Excited But Not Enough" once again recalls Radiohead..... as does track six "Rollerskate (Farewell June)", whilst the short piano instrumental interlude "Body Weight In The Forest" owes so much to Grandaddy the band could be accused of sheer larceny!

It would seem that Midlake were yet to find their true identity here, and this embryonic release could be seen to be a bit of an experiment where the band displayed their all-too-obvious influences for everyone to hear. But it doesn't stop this from being a fascinating early chronicle of just where the band were at after jettisoning their earlier jazz-funk (!!!) leanings.

If you're still intrigued, then get hold of this and programme it to have "Paper Gown" play as the alternate track between each of the other six!!!

Price: 7.40

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still their best, freshest sounding album., 24 April 2011
This review is from: Eden (Audio CD)
It's curious to think that Everything But The Girl were ever thought of as dance affiliates (thanks to just one remix of a song that started life as an acoustic song anyway). It's also equally curious to learn that throughout their career, they did not stick to one style either. This was their first album - when pretty much the influence du jour was smoky cosmopolitan jazz-tinged bossanova grooves, in line with a few other [London-based] bands and artists around at the time during those stylistically confused days of the early 80s (I think first and foremost of the lovely eclectic jazz popsters Weekend - led by Simon Booth, who actually guests on this album along with a few other luminaries). If there is an overriding earlier influence that shaped this album, however, then it has to be the music of Stan Getz and Astrid Gilberto.....with a bit of Cole Porter thrown into the mix (they made their debut with a cover of "Night and Day").

"Eden" is a delight from start to finish - ravishingly melodic and with a clean uncluttered production.... every song is a perfect bite-sized urban vignette sung sweetly by either Tracey or Ben in their own understated but detached way. There's no excessively emotional outpourings here - just perfect introspection done with style and finesse. It's hard to pick out any favourites because I have owned this record on tape ever since its first release in 1984 - having it see me through my student years at university right up to my oncoming middle age....and still I do not get tired of listening to it, and still it sounds fresh to this day. Obviously, the relative brevity of this album - twelve concise songs in barely 35 minutes - would be seen as a bit of a swizz now in this age of over-long CD epics and mass repackaging with bonus tracks etc.... but this album is so good it really does leave you wanting more.

It does what it sets out to do with the minimum of fuss and bother, and the tunes simply speak for themselves. There's some bossanova numbers here (the single Each and Every One, I Must Confess), some acoustic ballads (Fascination, Tender Blue, Soft Touch), a jazz-flecked instrumental (Crabwalk), some pert 60s pop (Another Bridge), some vintage country-folk balladry (The Dustbowl) ..... everything but the loud electric guitars if you like (though they did turn all Smiths jangle-poppy on their next album Love Not Money - which again, confounded people's expectations). If I was to pick one song that I keep going back to, it would have to be the bittersweet domestic melodrama of track 3 "Tender Blue" wherein a gorgeous duet between Ben and Tracey keeps the song idling along nicely care of an almost lullaby-like arrangement. But this is not to say that the other 11 tracks are not worthy - because they are just as high quality.

If your only experience of EBTG is their ropey dance stuff of the 90s, or their big hit cover versions (Paul Simon and Rod Stewart), then do yourself a favour and get this first record of theirs - this is where it all began for Tracey and Ben, and it's a good a start as you're going to find. A great little album and a classic in my book.

N.B. For those who love Tracey Thorn's voice, you could do no worse than to also get seek out her first solo [mini] album "A Distant Shore" which was issued in 1982 - it serves as a nice minimalist prequel to the songs on this album - great tunes aplenty too and a lovely guitar/voice version of the Velvet's "Femme Fatale" thrown in for good measure too.
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Serene Velocity: a Stereolab a
Serene Velocity: a Stereolab a
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 15.95

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's always better to compile your own!!, 30 Nov 2010
Time for another retrospective reappraisal of one of the best bands of the last 20 years methinks. I have done this purely because they have just issued their latest [final?] album, the rather negatively-titled 'Not Music' which is effectively the remaining unreleased tracks that formed the sessions for their 2008 album 'Chemical Chords'.

Much as I absolutely ADORE the mighty Stereolab, there hasn't yet been a truly definitive 2CD resume of their best highlights yet. True, there have been the absolutely essential 'Switched On' series of compilations which have collected together the singles, oddments, unreleased tracks, split 7"s, demos and alternative mixes that make up their vast [yes, really!] catalogue, and of course the 3CD/1DVD box set from a few years back 'Oscillons In The Anti-Sun' which is an overview of a big chunk of their output pre-2002 (the year that they tragically lost second singer Mary Hansen, which resulted in the band having to rethink their strategy and change tack, having lost such a hugely important member of their line up), but so far nothing resembling a 'best of' or indeed 'greatest hits' collection.

Of course, such notions are completely irrelevant: Stereolab did not have any 'real' hits as such.... 1994's ace single 'Ping Pong' was the closest they came - a giddying rush of space-age pop euphoria, undoubtedly the most perfectly precise 3 minute song anyone could hear that year, which reached number 44 (pretty respectable all told as it was playlisted on Radio 1 as well!) and probably the ONLY pop single ever to hit the top 50 in the 90s with lyrics about wars and its effect on the changing fortunes of the economy....

This remastered 16-tracker is merely a brief summary of the vast back catalogue they issued between 1991 and 2001 - ten years of Anglo-Franco/Krautrock grooves, Neu!-tastic two chord mantras, droning moog-pop, swinging hipster beatnik-lounge and all manner of sumptuous gorgeousness that have made Stereolab one of our best loved institutions, who inspired whole hordes of other similarly-inclined analogue enthusiasts to go scurrying around antique emporiums hunting down those elusive vintage Farfisa or Revox organs to form their own esoteric sci-fi pop ventures.

Needless to say, to do Stereolab's music any justice at all, it's a far better proposition to simply compile one's OWN best-of compilations. As a result, this CD is more of a 'primer' than an 'anthology' - of benefit mainly for those who have not got any of their recordings at all and would like to discover their catalogue for the first time. So if you are one of those people, then this is a great place to start.

If, however, like myself, you already have these recordings, and prefer to compile your own and then luxuriate, then the following non-chronological 2CD running order - focusing on their most melodic tracks - is what I recently managed to come up with (based entirely on my personal choices but with the intention of introducing the band's music to new listeners who might appreciate them).

1. Pop Quiz
2. U.H.F. - MFP
3. Laisser-Faire
4. Pack Yr Romantic Mind
5. Cybele's Reverie
6. Ping Pong
7. The Extension Trip
8. Fluorescences
9. Spark Plug
10. I'm Going Out Of My Way
11. Cosmic Country Noir
12. Baby Lulu
13. Jaunty Monty And The Bubbles Of Silence
14. People Do It All The Time
15. Allures
16. John Cage Bubblegum
17. Monstre Sacre
18. Spacemoth

1. French Disko
2. Percolator
3. ...sudden stars...
4. Double Rocker
5. You Used To Call Me Sadness
6. Vonal Declosion
7. The Spiracles
8. Infinity Girl
9. The Noise Of Carpet
10. One Small Step
11. How To Play Your Internal Organs Overnight
12. International Colouring Contest
13. The Flower Called Nowhere
14. Naught More Terrific Than Man
15. Our Trinitone Blast
16. Margerine Rock
17. Slow Fast Hazel
18. Metronomic Underground

That's 36 brilliant tunes from one brilliant band. So come on all you pop pickers, it's time to celebrate the godlike genius of Stereolab by compiling your own 'best of's - once you have bought all of their albums that is.....!!

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