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gille liath (US of K)
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Magical Mystery Tour
Magical Mystery Tour
Price: £10.35

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars odds and ends, 17 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Magical Mystery Tour (Audio CD)
The actual MMT tracks (the first six) see the Beatles at their lowest ebb creatively, spaced out and knackered after Sergeant Pepper, and inclined to let any old thing pass - especially Harrison, hacked off with the group and at being under contract to Northern Songs. His Blue Jay Way is a poor effort, a boring song about being bored (when he used to complain about not getting enough songs onto the albums, he maybe forgot that some of those which did get on were less than magical). Most of the others are also below par; I Am The Walrus is a classic, I guess, but not a favourite of mine. The larky 'performance' (ie mime) in the film belies the fact that nobody else - except perhaps Nirvana - has been anything like this caustic about their own audience.

Of the other tracks, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields belong to the Sgt Pepper sessions; the others are okay post-Pepper singles, pleasant enough but not their best work. Not until the following year would they get off the acid and begin to raise their standards again - though tensions would rise along with them.

As a whole, it can't be compared to the classic Beatles albums because it simply isn't an album; it's an EP, mediocre by their standards, with some other oddments stuck on. Personally I think the film is, if anything, probably better than the music and more influential than people realise - eg I'm pretty sure the young Pythons watched it with interest.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 8:43 PM BST


Reelin' In Tradition
Reelin' In Tradition
Price: £13.91

4.0 out of 5 stars okay, we're all guilty of naff titles at times..., 16 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Reelin' In Tradition (Audio CD)
A nice album from this good old-fashioned family trio, with some quality playing. It's not unusual to play both flute and pipes, as Louise does; but to have achieved a high standard on such different instruments as concertina, fiddle and harp, like her sister Michelle, is extraordinary. Her concertina style is a lot like Noel Hill's - not a bad person to emulate - and she can accompany herself on the piano which is pretty clever. Dad Mick lags behind, with only one instrument: a meaty-sounding button accordion.

If anything there's a slight lack of oomph in the rhythm playing, by Cyril O'Donoghue and Tommy Hayes; I'm not sure whether it's the musicians or the very light production (also by the group) which is at fault. No accompaniment at all is fine; to experience it only as a faint tapping noise, as if from the next room, is irritating.

Still, good stuff, and Louise isn't bad looking either. Of course...they all have lovely bottoms (specially Mick).


New York Tendaberry
New York Tendaberry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars life in the Big Apple, 13 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: New York Tendaberry (Audio CD)
I bought this because Ian MacDonald said it was one of the greatest albums ever. With a title like that I had my eyes open - obviously something urban, bohemian, and slightly arch - and I don't want to say it's bad; I can understand why some people are very impressed by its blend of confessional lyrics and sophisticated music (MacDonald says she hasn't had many disciples, but I'm pretty sure Kate Bush was one). However it's very feminine, very Noo York, and therefore not for me. Despite its off-the-wall style you could see it as a forerunner of the lady-music produced by the likes of Sade and Alison Moyet - even Alanis Morissette.

As to the 'blue-eyed soul' tag: to my mind, describing this as soul is simply wrong. Even for the tone-deaf, the reference to 'brush on drum' is a dead giveaway: it's in the New York jazz/pop idiom, only free-form - like Burt Bacharach on acid. It was never, and is never, going to attract a large audience: yes, because it's clever, but also because it lacks the simple, striking motifs - both musically and lyrically - that are the essence of hit-making (not to mention that even more essential essential, a regular beat). If you compare her to Carole King, for example, it's obvious why the latter's work is much better known. The singing doesn't really do it for me, either.

I think MacDonald - and maybe a few others - may in fact have had a wee crush on her.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2014 10:20 PM BST


Bringing It All Back Home
Bringing It All Back Home
Price: £5.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars buzzin'' Bob Dylan, 11 Jun. 2014
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If you hear this from an adjacent room, you'll find that the singing sounds very like the irritating whine of a bluebottle zipping about. Maybe going electric wasn't such a good idea, as it seems to have caused Bob (never the best singer) to desert the concept of tunefulness entirely. Then there are his new-style 'beat poetry' lyrics: like, they're not gibberish, they're deep, man.

Well, you pays your money, you takes your choice. To me, if you discount the freight of Dylan mythology most of this is simply rubbish. Songs like Outlaw Blues and 115th Dream are as pointless and inane in their way as the latest One Direction offering (whatever that may be) - they're just going through the motions. I'm giving it two stars only for Mr Tambourine Man, which is a good song (though, like most of them, too long). And acoustic.


Radio One
Radio One
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars radio one, you stole my gal - but I love you just the same..., 10 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Radio One (Audio CD)
Jimi Hendrix was a bad influence on music. When you hear the electrifying Drivin' South, you can hardly help thinking that a five-minute jam on one riff, with one lead instrument, is a good idea - cue thousands of tedious power trios. But it isn't, really: not unless you have a quality rhythm section and a guitarist with a talent approaching genius. In that number, Killing Floor, Catfish Blues (with its impromptu drum solo as Jimi broke a string) and his personal anthem Hear My Train a Comin', you have some of his best work: more expansive and spontaneous than the studio albums (on which none of those tracks appear) but not full of careless mucking about like the concert sets. It's not just that nobody else has ever played like that; with Hendrix the guitar doesn't play, it sings - straight out of his voodoo chile soul. Nobody can play like him because nobody can be like him.

It has to be said that he wasn't in the genius class as a songwriter, and for various reasons many of his best numbers were seldom played live. Rare performances of Love or Confusion and Wait Until Tomorrow are welcome; on the other hand songs like Fire and Foxy Lady passed muster because everyone was in awe of his sound, but really they're uninteresting top-of-the-head rockers. As for plodding Psychedelic Folk standard Hey Joe, even Hendrix himself was quickly sick of the sight of it (referring to it in one TV performance as 'this rubbish').

So it ain't perfect; but none of his albums are (Axis: Bold As Love is brilliant but a bit one-sided), and the best-ofs never manage to pin him down. If I had to pick one album to represent the best of what Hendrix was about, I think this would be the one. If the 60s weren't always like this, they bloody well ought to have been. And it was on Radio 1! What happened...?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2014 3:53 PM BST


The People's Music: Selected Journalism
The People's Music: Selected Journalism
by Ian MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars think twice, it's alright, 4 Jun. 2014
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It's true: this is not life-changing, it's 'only' good music writing. That's to say, it's only a hen's tooth - the work of a man who really listens to music, has in-depth knowledge and a historical perspective by which to judge; who has a flair for describing it without using florid hot-house prose; who isn't torn between anxiety to like the Right Thing and fervour to announce the latest pop messiahs; who isn't full of ideological arrogance. He has theories, yes; but he's generalising from the music he hears to the theory, not using the theory as a standard by which to judge the music.

Like Orwell, he's good at teasing out the latent 'tendencies' in art. That's not to say he's right - or I agree - at every point. He doesn't seem bothered by David Bowie's dalliance with Nazism, for example (you don't hear much about that now, do you?), but resents Lennon's perfectly understandable - if characteristically overstated - sympathy for Irish Republicanism.

I think it's a shame that anyone can read the title piece and get nothing out of it but 'he doesn't like modern music'. The assumption there is that all music is qualitatively equal, and any attempt to generalise is only a rationalisation of our own taste. You can't really argue against that - you can't prove scientifically that Shakespeare has more artistic value than The Sun; you can only point out, as MacDonald does, that not everybody who regards themselves as being into music actually likes music. Plenty are only really interested in the fashions, signifiers, hermeneutics - whatever you want to call it: 'I'm *this* kind of person, not *that*'.

Most of this, though, is about specific artistes (check the contents page). I wish I'd had this book 20 years ago; it's like the ideal elder brother, there to help you find your way around the greatest era pop/rock has ever known. It'll give you a fresh perspective on old favourites and possibly point you to some new ones; it may even put you off one or two, but mostly he writes about people he likes.

MacDonald only mentions Zeppelin once, but it's to point out - at least a dozen years before the now-impending lawsuit - that Stairway was inspired by that Taurus number. Allegedly. He's also able to explain how it might have happened. Like I said, he knows his stuff and he *listens*.

Incidentally, the press comments from the back cover, helpfully reproduced on this page, are for Revolution in the Head - not this book.


12 Gold Bars
12 Gold Bars
Price: £7.89

5.0 out of 5 stars just for you, fellas..., 2 Jun. 2014
This review is from: 12 Gold Bars (Audio CD)
There's an air of misspent adulthood about this album. I mean, who still spends all their time in bars, gold or otherwise? - and 12, at once too few and too many. It's a surprising fact that, despite the reassuringly predictable number of the bars, Quo are still not as popular at acoustic guitar sessions as, say, the Beatles or Everlys.

It's rumoured that the original bass player was one Harry Callahan, but he didn't survive into this era owing to the fact he could never remember whether the instrument has six strings or only five.

So there you go lads, don't be shy: honk if you like rhubarb. And may I direct your attention to the product page and the review 'Quo 12, Art 0' - which is even better than this one, if that were possible.

Five stars...or one...whatever. What difference does it make? You're reading it, you tell me.


Wildlife in a Southern County
Wildlife in a Southern County
by Richard Jefferies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars change, be far from me, 30 May 2014
A book like this can only be the result of long hours spent in the countryside (when Jefferies no doubt had other things he ought to be doing), not merely 'spotting' wildlife but really observing it at length, and with sympathetic intelligence. The descriptions of animal - and particularly bird - behaviour have a forensic accuracy that puts Springwatch with all its hidden cameras to shame. But as well as that, you get a detailed portrait of the C19th English farms and villages among which these creatures lived, just before all memory of the old pre-mechanised ways was lost. Jefferies' love of both, and desire that they should continue as they had always done, glows on every page; yet it never threatens his objectivity. So if you're interested in either subject, this is essential reading: to my mind, its vivid in-the-scene quality makes it a far superior book to the better-known Natural History of Selborne. As a bonus, the Nonsuch edition features some really beautiful woodcut illustrations by C.F. Tunnicliffe.


Let It Be... Naked
Let It Be... Naked
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars let it be...or don't, 23 May 2014
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This review is from: Let It Be... Naked (Audio CD)
I think people miss the point about Let It Be. It wasn't just another lark thought up by the Beatles because they could; they didn't want to tour but, consciously or subconsciously, they realised that, if they were to have any chance of continuing as a band, they somehow had to get back to playing as a band. That - as the rooftop concert showed - was the solvent that cut through their growing differences and animosities, and brought them together again. Maybe inevitably, it didn't work out. The thing that made the band great, their high expectations of one another, was the very thing they were sick of; each wanted to be answerable to himself alone.

This is why the idea I've seen a lot on the web, that 'their next album would've been awesome', is a fallacy. Of course their next album was Abbey Road, and it *was* pretty awesome. But you can't stick together the best bits from their solo albums and call that the lost Beatles album. Lennon simply couldn't have done things like Mother or God, or McCartney Man We Was Lonely, with the group; they didn't fit the Beatles' style and, being so personal, were difficult to present to the others. Easier to record them privately in a room and then release them to a worldwide audience. Several of them were in fact tried out for Let It Be, but didn't make the cut; instead, for both this and Abbey Road, John and Paul took refuge in relatively evasive, emotionally neutral fare (only George, arguably, told it like it was with I Me Mine). If it had meant less, if they'd been content to let it all hang out, pass no comment on each others' work and simply act as session musicians, they might (as someone suggests) have continued as a money-making machine, like the more cynical, less creative Stones; I for one am not sorry that they didn't.

But I digress. As a result of the way the Let It Be sessions petered out, they never really signed off on these songs - never got to the point where they were happy to release them to the world. Beatles fans will know that Phil Spector was then brought in to perform an industrial laminating process on several tracks, to make them (as it was felt) presentable. It's easy to be dissatisfied with the result, but not so easy to see what to do about it. Engineer Glyn Johns had already tried to cobble together an album from the studio material, but the band weren't happy with it. You may not like the Wall of Sound but the fact is that the slower songs did need *something* else, something extra - and the band realised that at the time. Fed up of the whole thing, they just couldn't face doing it.

This album is therefore not 'the way it was meant to be' except perhaps in the Beatles' heads, before they actually started recording. With takes in some cases edited together and 'cleaned up' in various ways, it's not the way things actually were either. The one number which is definitely better here is The Long And Winding Road - but I bet even now McCartney thinks, 'that's not the way I imagined it'*. The title track, which did get a proper production job from him and George Martin, is not improved by stripping those elements out. Across the Universe, on the other hand, will never amount to much no matter what anyone does with it.

The other point missed by most of these reviews is that these are not just remixes; in most cases they are actually different performances, different 'takes' by the band. I guess a lot of people just didn't notice, but it's something I would have liked to know before buying. The versions of Let It Be and Long and Winding Road featured here are very similar to those in the film, but I don't know whether they're the same ones; frustratingly, the accompanying notes are of no help whatever.

(The aim of the package, with its snippets of carefully-chosen studio byplay, seems to be to promote Beatles mythology rather than help you get to the reality. Presumably disk 2 is so short because they could only find 20 minutes of the band being nice to each other! Even so you can hear the tension behind the politeness, and Paul's mounting exasperation at the others' refusal to get down to work properly.)

The Beatles had become masters of presenting their albums, and making them seem greater than the sum of their parts. That's another element you lose here: with the changed running order (it was far cleverer to end on Get Back, which inexplicably also loses its drum-introduced coda) and the removal of Dig It and all the studio bumff ('I Dig a Pygmy, with Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids...') this ironically seems less of a coherent album than before. An alternative Let It Be, yes, but not a better one. Beatles-sceptics (not me!) might even say that it only further exposes some already slightly sub-standard material. As they say, you can't go back...

*It's interesting that these days, when he does the song live, McCartney replicates Spector's string part fairly closely.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2014 6:46 AM BST


John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Price: £15.38

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars working-class heroes don't go to art school, 21 May 2014
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This album aspires to grownup realism after the Beatles' sunny daydreaming, but lacks a grownup's sense of personal responsibility. I genuinely don't know whether Lennon should be considered more brave than narcissistic for revealing so frankly what a basket case he had become at this point. Unsure himself whether he wants to be acknowledged as the Messiah or regress to the womb, turning to one unsuccessful 'fix' after another, he projects his issues outwards and blames the world: everything is a sell, everybody has let him down (except Yoko obviously), it's not fair - boo hoo. It's like the extended harangue of a hungover drunk, who blames it on the people who sold him the beer. We all feel like that at times, I guess, but this is too self-absorbed to have any universal value. He's presuming on the interest of his own peculiar neuroses, in a way that is only possible for someone who has built up a huge capital of fame and credibility and is anxious to spend it.

Musically it's yang without the yin: if McCartney on his own could be lightweight and dilettantish, Lennon without McCartney was dour and drab. You can see the connection with late Beatles numbers like Don't Let Me Down and Come Together - Look At Me is musically identical to Julia from the White Album - but such songs sound very different without McCartney to tart them up. It's the bass line that makes Come Together, for example. The production deliberately takes puritanism to the point of amateurishness (the idea being, I suppose, that crudeness equals honesty). With Lennon's rough and ready playing and some clumsy editing, the only things lifting it above the level of a home demo are Ringo's tight drumming and Billy Preston's guest appearance on "God".

In many ways I find the whole thing repellent; but the odd thing is I keep listening to it, especially Well Well Well (the least self-important track). I guess that - to quote another famous singer - it must have that something, boys, that can't be found in books. Either that or it's the car crash you can't look away from...
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 22, 2014 10:15 PM BST


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