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Gregory Spawton (Bournemouth, England)
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N'monix
N'monix
Price: 10.13

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great music, great words, great album, 11 Aug 2014
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This review is from: N'monix (Audio CD)
This album draws me back for repeated listens more than any other I have heard in 2014. Nick Magnus was the keyboard player on a number of Steve Hackett albums including two of his finest releases, Spectral Mornings and Defector. The main vocalist on those two albums was Pete Hicks. When I read that this album re-united Nick, Pete and Steve I was intrigued. Having now heard n'monix may times, I would go as far to say that it is at a similar level to Spectral Mornings and Defector. In other words, it is brilliant.

The songwriting across the album is at a consistently high level and it is refreshing to hear a very talented keyboard player write and play parts which are for the service of the song. Indeed, everybody involved plays a similar tasteful role in what is a highly musical album. Of particular note is Rob Townsend's playing on Broken (which also features a beautiful vocal performance from Tim Bowness) and Steve Hackett's expressive guitar work on Shadowland.

Another feature of the album is the wonderful lyrics of Dick Foster which are both clever and poignant. Eminent Victorians, in particular, is a brilliant set of words, with the early parts of the song showcasing the big characters of the Victorian period before the song takes a darker turn in the later sections. Pete Hick's vocal on this track is beautiful and the refrain:

'But can Queen Victoria, so far from home
Eat cold apple pie on the hilltops of Rome'

has been rattling around in my head for weeks.

N'monix is highly recommended.


Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War 1944-45
Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War 1944-45
by James Holland
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb telling of a story not often told, 15 July 2014
Most books on the Second World War in Italy focus on everything that happens up to the fall of Rome. In this book, James Holland picks up the story from that point on and tells the tale of a year of bloody conflict. It is brilliantly done, and Holland provides a masterful summary in the postscript.


Prophecy
Prophecy
Price: 12.48

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return of Solstice, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Prophecy (Audio CD)
Young prog fans in the UK in the early 1980's had some good times. There were enough bands (Twelfth Night, Marillion, IQ, Pallas, Pendragon, Solstice etc.) to create a lively scene (which became known as 'neo-prog'), enthusiastic audiences, plenty of gigs in decent venues (The Marquee and The General Wolfe were my usual hunting grounds) and a sense of expectation that one or more of the bands would break into the big time. Personally speaking, I was also very lucky to have an indulgent mother who was brave enough to let a young teenager from the Midlands head off on his own to London and elsewhere to pursue his passion for music.

My favourite bands from that period were Twelfth Night (who released a really strong album called Fact and Fiction), IQ and Solstice. I saw these three bands more than any other. Solstice were a powerful live act with strong compositional skills and great musicianship throughout the band. In particular, I was a huge fan of their guitar player, Andy Glass, who specialised in truly epic solos. Whenever I got there early enough, I would pick a spot right in front of Andy so I could be close to the action as his soloing took flight (the poor bloke must have thought he had a stalker.) Andy's playing was one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar and started Big Big Train.

Despite many amazing gigs and a devoted following, commercial success never quite happened for Solstice. They made an album called Silent Dance but, despite the hard work of all who made it, the album didn't capture the power and majesty of the band at their best. One of their contemporaries, Marillion, went on to major success, and some of the other neo-prog bands were signed to decent labels, but Solstice fell behind and then fell apart.

However, there have been occasional signs of life from the Solstice camp since the mid 1980's (some re-issues and re-union gigs and even some new music) and now, in 2013, the band are signed to a supportive label and have released a fine new album.

Prophecy consists of a suite of 5 excellent new songs. There are many wonderful passages of music on this album (in particular the epic West Wind and the understated but majestic closing sections of Warriors and Black Water). As if that isn't enough, there are also three bonus tracks from the Silent Dance album which have been remixed by Steven Wilson.

And it turns out that the Silent Dance LP did, after all, capture the power and glory of Solstice in the early 1980's, it was just that the album needed the mixing and engineering skills of somebody like Steven Wilson to bring out the full quality of the audio recorded onto the multitrack tapes.

If you haven't bought any Solstice music before and need a pointer to their sound, imagine a mid-point between Yes and Camel, then add some fiddle. But Solstice have always had their own identity and I strongly recommend checking out Prophecy to get a good idea of what they are all about. Whether on new songs like West Wind or on reborn classics such as Return of Spring, this album shows them in fine form.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2013 8:09 PM GMT


The Good, The Bad and The Furry: Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat and Other Whiskery Friends
The Good, The Bad and The Furry: Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat and Other Whiskery Friends
by Tom Cox
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant, beautifully written, 8 Nov 2013
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If I hadn't already read Tom Cox's earlier books, I like to think I would have picked up on this one simply because of the title (surely the best title of any book about humans and animals since Durrell's My Family and Other Animals.)

The Good The Bad and The Furry is both funny and poignant. This book has an autumnal feel to it as Tom writes very movingly about the passage of time and the inevitable changes that brings. But there are also many laugh-out-loud moments, particularly during the appearances of Tom's father (who is brilliantly written).

The Good The Bad and The Furry is highly recommended.


Emperor: The Blood of Gods (Emperor Series, Book 5)
Emperor: The Blood of Gods (Emperor Series, Book 5)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Gathering Storm, 12 Aug 2013
This one started slowly for me. It has been a while since I read the first four in the series and I think I was a little disorientated. However, after a while, Conn Iggulden's mighty ability as a story-teller and his exceptional prose took hold and I found myself drawn into the titanic struggles of Rome. The book gathers pace and features an extraordinary sea-battle and, at its conclusion, the Battle of Philippi. These later sections are utterly brilliant and, in the end, The Blood of Gods reaches the heights of Conn's best work.


Working Lives
Working Lives
by (TV producer) David Hall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An elegy for a lost way of life, 23 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Working Lives (Hardcover)
I have heard many stories from my family about how tough life was for them growing up in working communities. I was also given the impression, when listening to their stories, that many of the communities were extremely close and that work brought great dignity.

In Working Lives, David Hall has collected many such testimonies and has skilfully woven them together to tell an extraordinary and vivid account of Britain's lost working communities.

These stories should not be forgotten and I would like to commend Mr Hall for writing a very moving elegy for a lost way of life.


Raven 3: Odin's Wolves
Raven 3: Odin's Wolves
by Giles Kristian
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph, 2 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Raven 3: Odin's Wolves (Paperback)
I enjoyed the first two volumes, but Odin's Wolves has taken the series up several notches. This book shows great story-telling and characterisation skills and a wonderful sense of humour (the companionable insults the men hurl at each other are extremely funny.)

For me Giles Kristian is now one of the finest writers in the genre, comparable with Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Justin Hill and Steven Pressfield at their best.

I do hope Giles returns to the saga at a later date.


Shieldwall
Shieldwall
by Justin Hill
Edition: Hardcover

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait to finish it; don't want it to end, 10 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Shieldwall (Hardcover)
I'm only halfway through Shieldwall but have been driven to write a review because of the extraordinary quality of this book.

After reading Julian Rathbone's The Last English King, I became very interested in historical fiction and have enjoyed many fine novels (Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden etc.)

Unfortunately, I have found some diminishing returns in recent years and, all too often, have failed to finish books due to clunky writing, poor story-telling and other perceived faults (maybe I'm just getting fussy in middle-age).

However, Shieldwall has had a similar impact to The Last English King. The writing is beautiful and the characters are entirely believable. I've just got to the first battle scene and it was as exciting (and upsetting) a depiction of combat as I've ever read. Somebody died (I won't say who) and it felt like it hit me as hard as the arrow hit the character.

I understand there will be a sequel. Thank goodness as I don't want this book to end.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2014 10:43 PM BST


On The Slow Train: Twelve Great British Railway Journeys
On The Slow Train: Twelve Great British Railway Journeys
by Michael Williams
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the right tracks, 16 July 2010
This is a wonderful book which is beautifully written and utterly captivating. The journeys (and stories told) are carefully selected to interest railway enthusiasts and the general traveller. As others have suggested, if you enjoy this, then Britain from the Rails and Eleven Minutes Late are also highly recommended. This was my favourite of the three, however. I do hope that Michael Williams writes a sequel.


The Geese & The Ghost (Remastered / Expanded) (2CD)
The Geese & The Ghost (Remastered / Expanded) (2CD)
Price: 13.45

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential purchase for fans of early Genesis, 19 April 2008
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The Geese and the Ghost is an essential purchase for fans of early Genesis. Some of the material was written by Phillips and Rutherford during Phillips' stint with the band and there is a lot of twin 12-string guitar playing on the album, a style which was originated by Phillips and Rutherford and which became such an important part of the Genesis sound from Trespass through to A Trick of the Tail. Additionally, Collins sings on three songs and plays drums on one.

But this is more than just an album for Genesis completists; the Geese and the Ghost is a terrific release in its own right, beautifully re-mastered and re-packaged in a 2 CD version.

At the centre of the main album are two lengthy instrumentals, the title track and Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times, which benefits from the inclusion of a recurring theme which was edited from the version on the original release. Both of these 15 minute pieces are superb compositions, mainly featuring acoustic guitars but with plenty of drama and additional instrumentation. As well as some shorter instrumental pieces there are also a number of strong songs. Of particular note is the heartbreaking God if I Saw Her Now, a sort of folk duet, sung by Collins and Viv McCauliffe.

The bonus disc features many of the basic backing tracks from the main album, allowing a closer listen to the interplay between the guitars of Phillips and Rutherford. It also includes two gems, the much bootlegged Silver Song with Collins on vocals and drums and Rutherford joining him on bass, and Master of Time which is a demo version of a lovely song with a strong chorus.


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