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yangtze (Liverpool, UK)

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Pop Fiction
Pop Fiction
Price: £11.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Pop Perfection, 20 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Pop Fiction (Audio CD)
This is the Popguns you know and love from Eugenie and Snog (Wendy's breathless tales of love and loss? check! Greg and Simon's jangly guitars? check! Pat's driving bass? check!), but marinaded to perfection by the years between then and now and seasoned by the savoury bouillon of Mike Lord's artfully perfectionist engineering.

The production here is pleasing, whoever it may be that produced (because it's not specified on the cover), resulting in a clear and sophisticated sound that was sweet music to my ears. That's not to say this glossiness has removed the energy and excitement that the Popguns always exuded. No, because whether they're wistfully self-referential, as on the shimmeringly nostalgic Still Waiting for the Winter, or the straight-ahead jangle-pop of Lovejunky, or hunkering down in their quieter moments like on the spine-tingling Not Your Night Tonight, the Popguns are never less than fabulous here. Eugenie will always remain a thing of wild, precocious brilliance and raw genius, but Pop Fiction is the honed and polished masterpiece, the Popguns' Mona Lisa!

I wish I could be back with you in the 80s, sure, but then we wouldn't have Pop Fiction, would we?

Chappie [DVD]
Chappie [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dev Patel
Price: £13.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy with Chappie!, 9 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Chappie [DVD] (DVD)
Saw Chappie at the cinema and loved the film. As a huge sf fan and a fan of the director I admit I went with some trepidation having seen the bad reviews, and not many good ones, but the film surpassed my expectations by light years.

The character of Chappie the ex-police robot is endearing. I used to have an Alsation dog that had been rejected by the police for being too nice, so the film brought back memories. Also on the plus side, Ninja and Yolandi are better in their first full feature than anyone has any right to expect. Their music with Die Antwoord peppers the film to great effect-Great band!-and the scenes with Chappie and Ninja reclaiming 'Daddy's cars' are hilarious. I would have liked more such humour, but to be fair there were lots of laugh out loud moments.

I'd like to have seen fewer action sequences and more examination of the practical and philosophical questions raised about AI, especially given the stellar cast involved. But that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the movie, and not least because the action sequences and effects are top quality.

Looking forward to Chappie 2!

No Cities To Love
No Cities To Love
Price: £9.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumphant Return!, 3 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: No Cities To Love (Audio CD)
If you're already a S-K fan don't even hesitate. If you don't know the band, this is as good a place to start as any. Possibly the best produced of all their albums. Fantastic sound with classic S-K harmonies, classic S-K guitar interplay, and classic S-K songwriting. Fresh and exciting, and unmistakably S-K throughout. The first great album of 2015? Undoubtedly.

Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anthems of Distinction, 16 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Folly (Audio CD)
What an extraordinary album. Yes, KoD have evolved over the past many years. Who hasn't? But this album is not just music, it's catharsis and open heart surgery in a very fetching slipcase, and it's initially deeply moving--don't try reading the lyrics without a box of tissues handy! But it's music too, and after the second or third listen the great joyousness marinaded in the thing comes through. If not the most beautiful album I have ever heard, it's at least a contender. It's good to have them back.

Little Battles
Little Battles
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars She Makes Great Music, 14 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Little Battles (MP3 Download)
I saw She Makes War (Laura Kidd) playing solo as support for the magnificent Magic Numbers at the Nantwich Words and Music Festival last week (Oct 2013). That was the first time I'd heard or seen anything from this act, though Laura has a good number of years behind her in the music biz. Whilst the Numbers were superb, it's Laura's eccentric and eclectic performance that stuck with me, particularly her marching through the audience with her shoulder-mounted drum and her megaphone backed only by her cleverly wielded looping pedal. Her act was fresh and energetic, and the musicianship strong, and I bought both CDs that were on sale that night, this and Disarm, on the strength of that. I was not disappointed. The quality of the writing, performance, recording, and production is excellent, the highlight for me being Laura's impressive vocal delivery. Comparisons are always unfair and it's wrong to try to pigeon-hole music, but it's probably helpful in a review to throw down some markers, so vocally I'd suggest a dash of Kristin Hersh at her most tuneful with perhaps a sprinkling of Charlotte Hatherley? That's not to say that Laura's material and delivery is derivative, far from it, she's a very original artist with her own sound and style. 'Gloom-pop' is the genre suggested on the She Makes War blog, but actually I find it all rather uplifting and energising. To throw down a few more markers, imo She Makes War signals a genuine British challenge to a series of female-fronted indie guitar bands from the USA such as Throwing Muses, Belly, Sleater-Kinney, and Mary Timony's various projects including the wonderful Wild Flag. Wonderful though those bands are, from this already accomplished starting point Laura undoubtedly has the potential to eclipse them all. I hope she leaves the blogs and videos to someone else and concentrates on building this project, and touring this material with a full band. Either way, it's always great to discover new music with such power and integrity.

Still Life
Still Life

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Talking Laid Back and Clear, 4 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Still Life (Audio CD)
In terms of personnel, this is OMD minus Andy. In terms of sound this is nothing like an OMD album, this is The Listening Pool, the sound being laid back, clean, understated transatlantic, soulful. Beautifully crafted songs providing the ideal summer soundtrack.

Holy Ghosts (Orchestral Reworks from Union Chapel / Pro Patria Mori)
Holy Ghosts (Orchestral Reworks from Union Chapel / Pro Patria Mori)
Price: £12.85

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great New Album, 21 April 2013
Pro Patria Mori ("to die for one's country") is a fine new album and gets all of the five stars. Great voice, great songwriting, great production, with 'Me and David Bowie' being my own personal favourite.

The live stuff I can take or leave; to be honest, some things are best left alone, and that includes stunning music that meant a lot to a lot of people in its original form. Live albums are difficult to carry off successfully anyway; the only one I really like is Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous, which to this day is electrifying, but even that was more than touched up in the studio.

Offered by the_record_factory
Price: £14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised!, 8 April 2013
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This review is from: Munki (Audio CD)
Always been a casual fan of the J&MC, but I never heard Munki until today. Astonishingly good. A fabulous indie rock album of epic proportions and, in my humble opinion, their best work.

Anthology 1
Anthology 1
Price: £19.41

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Stuff!, 17 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Anthology 1 (Audio CD)
The Anthology series collect demos, jams, covers, live versions, unreleased tracks, and other rarities and oddities. I'm mostly interested in the original compositions; complete songs that didn't make it onto an album in the core catalogue. I'll list those for you now, so you don't have to track them down yourself:

A1 features Free As A Bird, a John Lennon song that was found in demo form on a cassette after his death. With Yoko's blessing it was completed by the remaining Beatles. Also featured are: My Bonnie, the Beatles first commercial release providing the backing for Tony Sheridan; Cry for a Shadow, the instrumental B-side to a Tony Sheridan single; Like Dreamers Do, an early Paul McCartney song recorded for the Decca Records audition; Hello Little Girl, an early John Lennon song recorded for the Decca Records audition; How Do You Do It, a song George Martin had acquired and wanted the Beatles to release as their first single - they vetoed it as being too bright and breezy; and You Know What to Do, an early George Harrison demo that never got past the demo stage.

The Beatles In Mono
The Beatles In Mono
Price: £143.72

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mono Is King, and Here's Why..., 17 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: The Beatles In Mono (Audio CD)
If you've just discovered the Beatles, or even if you've known and loved them for a long time, and you're confused about the best way to hear them on CD, as I was, then this review will tell you all you need to know about precisely which CDs to buy and in which format, mono or stereo.

Firstly, the 2009 remasters of the core catalogue, both mono and stereo and both available as box sets, sound better than any previous issue of the Beatles on CD. Remastering means going back to the original master tapes and using modern mastering techniques to improve the final sound quality, and the final sound quality has, without doubt, been improved.

Secondly, you absolutely must have the remastered mono box set -The mono box set will be the centrepiece of our collection, and for many of the Beatles albums there is simply no other way to hear them. Why? Well, mainly because stereo in the 1960s, particularly in the UK, was seen as a newfangled gimmick. Most people still listened to mono LPs on mono equipment, so commercially and artistically mono was king. Because of that less time and effort was spent on the stereo mix, which in any case was often fake, and not true, stereo. Fake stereo simply hard-pans two or three tracks to either the left or right speaker: very strange especially through headphones. True stereo, amongst other things, pays proper attention to the soundstage, the relative perceived positions of the instruments. Well-mixed mono on the other hand, and Beatles mono is well-mixed mono, can still be a powerful listening experience. Beyond all of that, the mono mixes often have effects and extra touches that the stereo mixes omit. Ultimately it's the mono mixes that are the definitive artistic statement, and note, the mono CDs are not available separately, unlike the stereo CDs.

Let's build a collection:

Please Please Me (1963): A rudimentary 2-track recording process optimised for a mono mix means the stereo mix is fake stereo. Mono wins hands down sounding altogether fuller and better integrated.

With the Beatles (1963): Like PPM, a fake stereo mix means mono wins.

Hard Day's Night (1964): By the time of AHDN in 1964, recording had evolved into a 4-track process and this meant meant that the stereo version of this album had a true stereo mix. The mono mix sounds great, but the additional clarity means that on balance we might enjoy the stereo mix more than the mono. Having said that, George Martin was a firm believer in hard panning, where instruments appear strongly in one speaker and not at all in the other, and this is not to everyone's taste.

Beatles for Sale (1964): As with AHDN, and for the same reasons, you might want to hear the remastered stereo mix.

Help! (1965): Help! Is another close call. Mono has a little more substance, but stereo has a little more clarity. To confuse things further, there are two stereo mixes available: the 2009 stereo remaster, which unusually uses George Martin's 1987 remix of the album, not the original master tapes; and a remaster of the 1965 stereo mix which is included as a bonus on the mono CD. Which of the 1965 or 1987 stereo mixes is the better is open to debate, but since the 1965 mix appears on the mono disc then overall the mono CD wins.

Rubber Soul (1965): With Rubber Soul the 4-track recording process was starting to creak at the seams. More tracks were needed, and so multiple tracks would be bounced down to a single track to free up room on the tape for further recording. As with PPM and WTB, this was carried out to optimise the mono mix and it was impossible to track back to achieve a really good, true stereo mix. Mono wins. In any case the RS mono disc, as with H!, also carries the 1965 stereo mix as a bonus.
Revolver (1966): As with RS, and for the same reasons, mono wins again.

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967): John Lennon famously said that you haven't heard Sgt. Peppers unless you've heard it in mono, and who's going to argue? The mono and stereo mixes are noticeably different, for instance She's Leaving Home plays at slightly different speeds, and mono clearly wins. It's also worth noting at this point that the CDs in the mono box set all have replica sleeves and inserts, and plastic inners. They are absolutely authentic mini-reproductions of the original album sleeves.

Magical Mystery Tour (1967): Another close call, perhaps too close to call. The first 6 tracks on MMT were originally issued in the UK as a double 7" EP, but in other countries 5 tracks from singles issued during 1967 were added to make an 11 track LP. This LP became the core catalogue version of MMT in 1987. The track bouncing technique was extensively used on this album, but the stereo mix sounds great, as does the mono mix. However, the mono version of I am the Walrus is definitive due to technical problems with the stereo mix. Perhaps get hold of the stereo disc too, and decide for yourself?

The Beatles, aka The White Album (1968): Some tracks on this album shine in mono, others amaze in stereo. This is one where you absolutely need both mono and stereo mixes if you want the best versions of all of the songs.

Mono Masters (2009): MM is a collection of non-album singles and B-sides. The Beatles had a general policy, when they had any say in the matter, of not taking singles from albums. MM features previously unreleased dedicated mono mixes of All Together Now, Hey Bulldog, and It's All Too Much, the stereo versions of which are available on the YS album, and a dedicated mono mix of Across the Universe. You'll probably want to pick up the stereo Past Masters (2009) too: PM is a largely stereo collection of the non-album singles and B-sides. It's the only place you'll find the tracks The Ballad of John and Yoko and Old Brown Shoe.

Additional stereo 2009 CDs that you need to get...

Yellow Submarine (1969): All of the Beatles-composed tracks on YS are available in the mono box set, but it's only on the stereo version that they appear in true stereo. All that is except Only a Northern Song which had a troublesome recording history and was therefore only ever mixed in mono. That original mono mix features on the stereo disc, and on the Mono Masters album. Tracks 7-13 on YS are George Martin compositions.

Abbey Road (1969): The album was only ever mixed in stereo and so doesn't appear in the mono box set.

Let It Be (1970): As with AR, LIB is only available in stereo. However, there are two very different stereo versions available: the 2009 remaster of the Phil Spector produced LIB, originally released in 1970; and the George Martin produced LIB... Naked, released for the first time in 2003. Naked is the way the Beatles intended the tracks to sound, but the recording process was an unhappy one for a group about to implode. Phil Spector was brought in to knock the tracks into shape for an album release, and remixed and edited them all in a week, adding significant amounts of orchestration to some of them. Paul McCartney is known to prefer the Naked version, and so do I, but we probably need both. The stereo discs, by the way, all of which are available individually, all come in gatefold sleeves and include a booklet of informative notes. Fab!
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