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Tony Roberts

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Alpha
Alpha
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £3.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first album but good enough, 19 April 2008
This review is from: Alpha (Audio CD)
Its always tough following up an immediate success and Asia found this to be the case with their second album. Firstly I must comment on Roger Dean's artwork on the cover; its fantastic and easily his best on all those Asia albums he did.

The musical content was very much a case of excellence followed by a huge disappointment. Don't Cry was passable and I understand written in a hurry and something of an afterthought, but its one of the better tracks on the whole thing.

Apart from The Heat Goes On the first side was largely a disappointment. The Heat.... is one of Asia's best ever tracks, a racey catchy number with Geoff Downes keyboards the highlight. Side two follows largely on from that with some forgettable tracks (I can't even recall their names they were that dire) but Open Your Eyes is again a great track and is in my top 10 of all time Asia songs.

To sum up, 4 out of 5 stars including the artwork and three really great tracks. The rest are a mish-mash of bland disappointment.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2013 9:40 PM GMT


Phoenix
Phoenix

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Phoenix continues where Astra left off, 13 April 2008
This review is from: Phoenix (Audio CD)
Being a fan of Asia since I heard "Only Time Will Tell" on the radio back in 1982, I have bought every album, even during the days when John Payne teamed up with Geoff Downes. When the original four reformed a couple of years ago I was delighted because I dearly wanted an Asia sound more on the lines of Asia or Alpha, rather than the dire Arena and Silent Nation.

Initial expectations were seemingly satisfied with Never Again, a track immediately catapulted into my top ten best ever Asia tracks. It was like they never had been away. However, the majority of the 12 track album didn't live up to the initial hope and I found it was more of a natural progression from Astra, the 1985 album that had one or two memorable songs on it and a forgettable rest. 'Nothing's Forever' was passable and pure Yes, and 'Alibis' certainly a good track straight out of traditional Asia - and they must be congratulated for getting the word procrastination into a song's lyrics!. The pseudo-Tudoresque ending was a surprise too. 'Orchard of Mines' is something that will grow on me, I know. Its a class track and brilliantly sung by Wetton, and the album ends with the superior 'Extraordinary Life', it was so good it gave me goosebumps.

But what was in between was largely missable. 'Over and Over' could have been put to a Dolmio advert and nobody would have batted an eyelid, and 'Wish I'd Known All Along' so bad its a filler. I just don't like Howe's songwriting. Heroine is one ballad too many; I'd really wanted more of the standard and type of Never Again, rock tracks we can nod along to. The two combo tracks were okay but nothing to kick doors down to. If Asia are to do another album please put in more catchy tunes with rocking refrains and less of the I Will Remember You and Shadow of A Doubt types. They just don't float my boat.

Overall thank goodness for the first and last tracks or else it would have been similar to the standard of Silent Nation. Wetton is vastly superior to Payne in songwriting; lets now see him prove it.


American Civil War (PC CD)
American Civil War (PC CD)

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Civil War game review, 24 Jan. 2008
I've seen varying reviews about this game from various sources, and I can see both sides of the argument. Personally, as a long standing fan of strategy games this is right down my street. A word of warning to start with, however. The game is extremely high in memory use and once you load the game onto your PC you don't need the CD in to play, which explains the high useage. PCs with lowish memory and graphics cards not entirely suitable will crash out.
The 'board' map is huge, covering from the west the Indian / Kansas territories and going east to the Atlantic, and south from the Gulf of Mexico to virtually the Canadian border. It takes time to scroll across and lagging can be frustrating unless you got a high-spec machine that works out PI in 3 seconds.
Those concerns aside the game is great. If you're into shoot-em-up or battles, forget it. Battles are done by the PC and all you get are the results. Basically, you're the guy who moves the units, assign generals and armies, ships and boats. Its a grand strategy game with at its heart the Ledger. Its here you determine the economy, resources, diplomatic and army building course of your side. Its close to the scenario of real life so that the South can win even if they appear to be losing. The North has to keep on conquering to keep the 'War' party in power and not lose the election of 1864.
Generals appear only when they are supposed to, so that the North starts with McDowell and McClellan and the South with Beauregard and A.S. Johnson. Those of you who like the 'building' aspect of strategy games, such as planning long term industry and reinforcements, will take to this part of the game. The manual is helpful but what you also need to do to begin with is use one of the inbuilt 'tuition' scenarios. Attention must be given to building armies, corps and divisions in order to avoid severe battle penalties.
Its about time someone came up with a big strategy game for this war and if you can bear the problems inherent with high memory useage then I recommend this one.


Crest Of A Knave
Crest Of A Knave
Price: £5.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Saved by three tracks, 15 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Crest Of A Knave (Audio CD)
My second Tull album - the first was Broadsword & the Beast - immediately made me grabbing the cover to confirm it was Tull and not Dire Straits. Tull's journey through the decades since their birth in the late 60s had undergone some startling chameleonesque changes, and here they seem to have jumped on the balladish sound of Dire Straits. Not that its a bad thing; I like Straits and think Knopfler is a very talented guitarist/songwriter.

Iain Anderson admittedly had throat problems in the mid 80-s and this album was the first in the wake of that and I feel he had to write songs that coped with this change in his ability to sing. He sounds like Knopfler and Martin Barre's guitar breaks and riffs echo Straits, particularly from the Straits songs Private Investigations, Telegraph Road and the like.

Sadly many tracks on this album were a mish-mash of blandness and are totally forgettable, melding into background music - which is fine if you're doing something else at the time. However, three tracks save this from the dreaded one-star review. Steel Monkey kicks off the album and is a hard sounding, catchy number very much in the style of the 80s with great guitar sounds, and I hoped for more of the same to come. However that was it as far as foot-tapping and head-nodding went. The second track, Farm on the Freeway, was great. A song with lyrics that had something to say and well put together, and after three or four gos at hearing it I decided it was one of the best on the album. I like songs that are melodic but at the same time tell a story, particularly if it gels with my personal anti-Thatcherite leanings. The message here is that a guy is kicked off his farm for a road and despite being paid compensation it doesn't make it right; its his home and was his father's. Progress? Do me a favour.

The highlight was the 10-minute Budapest. What can I say? Brilliant. Mellow, smooth, a song I'd repeat and repeat over and over again. It appealed to my proggy preferences, again tells a story - very much in the style of Ray Davies of the Kinks, another fantastic songwriter - and the way Barre's guitar joins in with a haunting riff at times gets me closing my eyes and leaning back in pleasure.

But after that there wasn't much to say about what came next. The seocnd part of Mountain Men was okay but the overall track was ruined by the first 2-3 minutes. The Waking Edge was dire rather than Dire Straits and reminded me a bit of that terrible band Crash Test Dummies or whatever they were called.

So overall a 3-star rating, and only because of three tracks. The rest can be consigned to the dustbin.


Asia
Asia
Price: £5.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of all time, 20 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Asia (Audio CD)
I bought this album back in 1982 on the strength of hearing just the one track - "Only Time Will Tell". I thought it such a cracking good track from a band that had come out of nowhere that I rushed to the record shop and bought the LP.

I still today, 25 years on, think this album was the best I've ever bought. Only one of the nine tracks doesn't click with me, and that's One Step Closer, a rather flat sounding composition that sounds to me like album filler. Apart from that the contents can be replayed to me time after time (again)!.

I still hold Only Time Will Tell as my all-time Asia favourite, perhaps because of the fact it introduced me to the band, but I believe its so strong it would be up there in my top 5 anyway. Heat of The Moment begins with a powerful guitar riff intro and that sets the standard for the album. The band are polished, professional and gel together well. Pity their personalities didn't, away from the recording front, but that's life as they say. Sole Survivor and Time Again are gutsy, hard rock efforts that you can nod along to, and then comes the anti-war Wildest Dreams. Asia seemed to reserve one of these thematic numbers for most of their early albums.

Without You is a welcome break to the rockin', a gentle almost fantasy world number you can shut your eyes to and glide along with, then on to Cutting It Fine, which to me has one of the best melodies of the lot. The ending is a little curious and sadly leaves this one a bit flat at the end. Finally we end with Here Comes The Feeling and we're back to the rocking of the early tracks.

An excellent album and still to me the best Asia album of them all, and I've got the lot.


The Broadsword and the Beast (ccd 1380)
The Broadsword and the Beast (ccd 1380)
Price: £5.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to Tull a delight, 19 Dec. 2007
Not being a Tull fan - they were always 'known' to me but a band I never really took much notice of - I was intrigued to get Broadsword & the Beast (the cut-down 'vinyl' version) from a friend in the autumn of 2007. My rock tastes tend to be prog/heavy rock and Tull never was a band I thought of to listen to. Hence I listened to this without knowing of what they did prior to Broadsword.

Beastie kicked things off and immediately the folky-prog style appealed to me. While Beastie wouldn't turn out to be my favourite on this album, it certainly made me want to hear more. The only thing I disliked about this track was the chant-style vocal delivery of the title. Martin Barre's guitar riff had my foot tapping and I felt I'd missed out all these years on a band that sort of slipped under my radar. Then onto Clasp. Anderrson's flute playing was what I'd known Tull for and wasn't surprised at the intro, but as this song progressed I was pleasantly surprised at how catchy it was and really took to the guitar riff and melody. This would be my number 3 fave on this album.

Fallen On Hard Times took me back to the 70s Folk Rock era and this sort of song suits Anderson's voice. I can't see him belting out rock anthems a-la Coverdale or Gillan, for example, but this track showed Anderson's strength in Folk Rock. This reminded me of Lynyrd Skynrd. Flying Colours started off what I thought was going to be a ballad, but it suddenly changed into a weak Yes-style song and I felt it owed much of Barre's guitar riffs to Marillion. Not quite an original sound.

Slow Marching Band was full of English Country Folk influence, and I could almost imagine John Tams writing and singing this one. It didn't really grab me. Broadsword was heavier and more moody and made me think of marching soldiers in a medieval setting. Then came the best song of the lot, Pussy Willow. I was really into the Fantasy movies of the early 80s and this took me back to those days. This song too had a double identity; the beginning like a soft folk song that suddenly broke into a really catchy rock track. The last 30 seconds was one of the best I've heard in a long time.

Following on from that Watching Me Watching You left me cold. Too harsh, too paranoid. Luckily what came after that, Seal Driver, made up for that. A proggy, guitar filled delight that was only faulted in being 5 minutes or so too short. I really would have liked it to be 9 minutes or so in length. The final track, Cheerio, was just a filler and doesn't really merit a comment.

An album I'd listen to again and again, and one I'd recommend for prog-folk-soft rock fans.


The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce
The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce
by Ambrose Bierce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating collection of Roald Dahl-esque stories, 17 Dec. 2007
I was given this book to read whilst researching for my own American Civil War novel by a friend. While not a collection of stories I would readily go out and read, I found them compelling and all with such an unexpected twist (similar to Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected) that I was eager to read through just to find out what this twist would be.

The one that stands out in my mind is the one where a child witnesses the wounded Confederates dragging themselves back from the Battle of Chickamauga, something Bierce would know all about as he was actually there. For those who like this sort of thing - ghost/surreal stories - this is meat and drink to you. They all have a tale to tell, of ordinary people caught up in the terror and destruction of a civil war.

I agree with the comment about giving this a one-star review, whoever this person was must surely not have known what was within these pages and expected an all-action adventure novel. It certainly isn't dull, but don't go expecting a Gods & Generals or Gettysburg type of thing.


Casca #15 the Pirate
Casca #15 the Pirate
by Sadler Barry
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Casca the Pirate, 25 Aug. 2006
This story is set in 1718 and involves the Eternal Mercenary being hired by a Jamaican plantation owner to recover his kidnapped niece from a notorious pirate.

Casca however is doublecrossed and falls foul of Blackbeard amongst others, and has to escape from an island populated with warring English and Spanish maroons, and then teams up with a sexy but tough pirate woman.

Eventually Casca tracks down the niece but is betrayed one last time in a climax on the plantation.

Fair storyline and written with some knowledge of the history of the time and area. It doesn't however grab the reader in the same way the earlier books in the series did, and that is probably down to the fact that this was one of those that were ghost written and not actually by Sadler himself.


The Defiant (Barry Sadler's Casca)
The Defiant (Barry Sadler's Casca)
by Paul Dengelegi
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return of the Old Casca, 13 Nov. 2001
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Fans of the old action-packed Casca stories will welcome this medieval story of Casca saving a young man in Venice and travelling with him to the court of Kubilai Khan in China. The young man is called Marco and I'll leave the reader to work out his surname!
There are hardships endured on the way from burning deserts to freezing mountains and plague. Some of their companions don't make it but the survivors enjoy the hospitality of a Mongol camp where wrestling and beautiful women are to be enjoyed.
A well written and evenly paced sotry, it will keep you entertained all the way to the end.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Casca the Conquistador, 25 Oct. 2001
This story involves Casca accompanying Cortes to the Aztec Empire and is involved in the occupation of Tenoctitlan and the fighting between the Spaniards and Aztecs.
To begin with the scenes in the Spanish Inquisition are brilliantly done and you can't help but sympathise with Casca, but as the book goes on it tends to become less of a novel and more of a pseudo-documentary about Cortes and the Spanish.
It is a fair read but ends up slightly disappointing although the escape from the Aztec City is well done at the end.


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