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Red on Black
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Morning/Evening
Morning/Evening
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Tet - A Game of Two Halves, 27 July 2015
This review is from: Morning/Evening (Audio CD)
Kieran Hebden, best known by the stage name Four Tet, has always produced wonderful slabs of mesmerising electronica which are high on invention and accessibility. On this new album "Morning/Evening" he delivers two sides of music, one that lasts over 20 minutes and the other coming in barely under. In these two "songs" Hebden locates much of the work which has made Four Tet one of the better exponents working within the electronica/new age genre. He is not afraid to trawl world music to assist in this task and in the first side "Morning" the use of different raga styles prevalent in Hindustani classical music infuse the sounds of bubbling synths and beats with a foreground of exotic vocals. It does work brilliantly and despite its length there is never a thought to take the needle off the record or skip to the next track. This also turns out to be sound common sense since the "Evening Side) is by far the weaker of the two tracks. It starts with a gently percolating beat which by four minutes in has not really developed into anything further. At this point a female voice in the Raga tradition again emerges but for the first 13 minutes it is one of those songs that you hear in shops that sell wind chimes and candles. The term slow burn doesn't really capture the feel of this. It does sprint towards the end yet never really sets the pulses racing or climaxes with the power that might be expected.

Consequently while this album shows that Hebden remains a leader in this field this album lacks consistency throughout. To use football parlance, this is a "Game of two halves", in relation to Hebden's output namely a well deserved five stars for side one and a grudging three stars for side two.


CB12 Mild Mint Menthol Mouthwash 1000ml
CB12 Mild Mint Menthol Mouthwash 1000ml
Price: £26.99

1.0 out of 5 stars CB12 Mouthwash - Western decadence at its worse!, 27 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Product received for free (thankfully)

Come on! Seriously? £26 quid for a bottle of very mild minty tasting mouthwash on par with the 75p variety sold in Aldi's? This is Western decadence at its worse. The idea that this is some miracle cure for a bad dose of Chicken Kiev or a too many espressos really needs to be countered. The claim that it lasts 12 hours is pure hyperbole. It barely lasts 12 minutes. Indeed, put on Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and by the time Jimmy Page finishes off in a lavish swirl of Eastern guitar mysticism the taste impact of this mouthwash has long vanished. When you give your mouth a good old "swill" with this product all it does is to remind the buyer that they should never depart far from Listerine. Do the economics - for £26 you get five one litre bottles of Listerine's "Green Monster" Fresh Mint flavour. This is the stuff that if you leave it your mouth longer than 30 seconds it gives a third-degree' burn, reduces your teeth to stumps and were you to accidently tip it on your floor the carpet begins to let off smoky fumes. What more do you want from a mouthwash?


The Brighter Side: A 25th Anniversary Tribute to Uncle Tupelo's No Depression
The Brighter Side: A 25th Anniversary Tribute to Uncle Tupelo's No Depression
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars The Brighter Side - 25th Anniversary Tribute to Uncle Tupelo's "No Depression", 24 July 2015
When Uncle Tupelo comprising the immense songwriting partnership of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy released "No Depression" some 25 years ago they didn't just release an album they invented a genre of music. The album marked the foundation of the alternative country movement and has gone into legend as that precise inter section when traditional country was bolt welded to contemporary punk music. It also saw the genesis of two outfits which birthed Tweedy's "Wilco" and Farrar's "Son Volt" and later defined American rock.

It great therefore to see "No Depression" celebrated by a range of obscure artists which actually sits well with the ethic of the original band whose subsequent influence always extended well beyond their record sales. There are a some decent covers present. Big Sky Blue do a sound job on the rocking "Before I Break" and Mikaela Davis lovely country waltz effect on "So Called Friend" is a true joy. The version of "No Depression" by the Canadian fuzz rock band Wooden Sky is suprisingly true to the original and works. Sadly two of the most famous songs on the album fare less well. Another Canadian band Elliot Brood miss the mark and pack a weak punch on "Whiskey Bottle" with their vocalist Mark Sasso offering a pale imitiation of Farrer's raspy brilliance. Equally "The Last Bison" fail to power up the classic "Graveyard Shift" and leave it bereft of energy. Those who keep it simple fare best especially Smoking Popes whose cover of "Life Worth Livin" is one of the best things present.

Overall this tribute is hit and miss. In one sense expecting these bands to reach the heights achieved on the orginal "No Depression" is a big ask. Thus the answer is straightforward, buy the deluxe version of Uncle Tupelo "No Depression" and you will never look back.


Lost Worker Bee - EP
Lost Worker Bee - EP
Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elbow - Manchester Soundtrack, 24 July 2015
This is a very fine little EP from Guy Garvey and co which they have released "to tide fans over until the next album". The EP is based on the concept of pinning down a range of songs which are essentially set around Manchester city centre. The title track "Lost Worker Bee" refers to the city's symbol and is one of those joyous Elbow anthems like their Olympic theme and as good as anything on their last full LP "The Take Off and Landing of Everything". Next up is "And it snowed" a lovely slice of moody pop with Garvey's trademark vocals at their absolute best describing a wintery backdrop. The longest track is "Roll Call" a rumbling piece of driving electronic melody which shows the band branching out from some of their more recognised trademark approaches. Finally, the gentle "Usually Bright" rounds off the EP and it is a real beauty. Over a gentle acoustic strum, Garvey charts "the saddest journey ever made begins today and ends tomorrow". It is a wonderful piece of melancholy based rock and brings to close four tracks that witness this stalwart band on top form. Elbow clearly enjoyed the EP and have promised further releases in this format. Finally at £1.99 it's also a snip.


Live At The Fillmore East October 4Th & 5Th 1968
Live At The Fillmore East October 4Th & 5Th 1968
Price: £19.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sly and the Family Stone - Dance to the Music, 22 July 2015
What is the definition of unadulterated pleasure? One obvious answer could be Sly and the Family Stone in New York City, Live at the legendary Fillmore East on October 4th & 5th, 1968, recorded on a four-disc set that comprise four matinee and late shows played across two nights. This album predates their world shaking Woodstock performance but sees this band hotter than a Jalapeño pepper covered in Vindaloo sauce. The four essentially comprise the same set lists with the inclusion of a nice cover blues funk of Louis Armstrong’s "St. James Infirmary" and a single edition of "Don't burn baby"

All the Sly Stone classics are here especialy the double whammy of "Dance to the music/Music Lover" with the version on the second disc nailing your face to the wall. If it is possible this is topped by the Otis Redding style "M'Lady" with the version on the final disc 4 showing the full ensemble in all it's glorious power. Throughout, it is the wider band that makes you realize that Sly Stone had the best funksters in the business backing him to the hilt. In particular, Sister Rosie Stone on keyboards and vocals is a force of nature especially on the various versions of "It Won't Be Long" where it is a physical impossibility to keep your feet still and your body stationary. As a live album the odd bum note is dropped and sometimes it feels that the funk workouts could edge towards chaos. Keep the faith, Sly and the Family Stone were by 1968 almost machine like in their precision and possibly the finest set of live musicians treading the boards this side of Jimi Hendrix.

"Live at Fillmore East" was lost to music lovers because of the success of the band's smash hit "Everyday People" from the "Stand" album a few months after this live set was in the bag. As a result the Epic label put the idea of a single live album on hold and shelved it. Proof were it needed that record companies are negligent in the extreme when it comes to recognising greatness in their midst. These live sets are a glorious celebration of a band that could just about pulverize all comers in the live stakes. It is a set of music that oozes vibrancy and feels as fresh daisy. It has not aged one bit and should be sent to Prince to show him how to deliver true funk. Invite your friends to a party this weekend, put this on the stereo and watch the good times roll.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2015 8:13 PM BST


Currents
Currents
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tame Impala - Kevin Parker's "Phoenix" tribute album, 22 July 2015
This review is from: Currents (Audio CD)
Kevin Parker could happily drop the Tame Impala imprint since this new album “Currents” is for all intents and purposes a solo album. He is not the first musician to graduate from wondrous guitar-based albums and move to a form of pop electronica. "Currents” still has its psychedelic moments, but this album marks a wide berth from the innovation of "Innerspeaker" and "Lonerism". There is far less guitar on display, much less risk taking and the well-worn adage that Parker amounted to "John Lennon fronting Cream" does not apply.

If "Currents' was Parker's first album it would be seen as a very promising debut. But with the accumulated work behind him it is time to take stock. There are a range of songs present that confirm his mastery of the sound desk. The brilliant "Eventually" is a huge pop track and a potential hit, “Past Life” sees Parker's trademark ability to throw in the musical kitchen sink and come up with a track that will make the Animal Collective green with envy. The track “Love/Paranoia” is a perfect slice of melodic electronica destined to soundtrack the summer. Then the nagging doubts appear. You dig out records from great French bands like Phoenix and Thahiti 80, then scour the back of the album collection for the Swedish band Radio Dept. The realisation hits you that Mr Parker owes a debt so large to these bands that perhaps loyalties are in order. Indeed, “New Person same old mistakes” is hewn from the same rock as Radio Dept.’s brilliant “David”. Others like the long opener “Let it Happen” could have happily sat on “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” as a disco mix and no one would have noticed the joins.

Kevin Parker is a rare talent and there is enough on this album in the general excellence of songs like the single “Cause I’m a Man” to retain the belief that this musician will one day release a masterpiece. This outcome will undoubtedly be accelerated if Parker goes on a refresher course to improve some of the horrible lyrics he writes, gets rid of those compressed drums and plugs his guitar back in the amp.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2015 11:26 AM BST


Whiplash [DVD] [2015]
Whiplash [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Miles Teller
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Whiplash" - "Fame" meets "Full Metal Jacket", 17 July 2015
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This review is from: Whiplash [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
This is one of those films that as soon as you suspend your disbelief a decent time is guaranteed. "Whiplash" is the tale of a young drummer 'Andrew Neyman" who is played in a solid fashion by Miles Teller. He comes to study the drums in New York City and develops the obsessive mindset of wanting to be one of the "greats", like a new Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa. Enter stage left the tyrannical teacher and jazz musician "Terence Fletcher" played with such demonic verve and screen presence by the great J K Simmons that everything else in the film is a sideshow. It was lucky that the Oscars gave Simmons the Best Supporting Actor role otherwise he could have sued them under the Trade Descriptions Act. When the two main protagonists come together the story essentially becomes a cross between "Fame" and Full Metal Jacket". It is the tale of a bullying, almost fascistic teacher driving his pupil to brilliance.

The problem with the film is that once you set aside the force of nature that is Simmons performance its plot is completely implausible. Questions: do drummers bleed all over their kit? Isn't it a sign of bad technique if your hands become so cut up that you can't play? Are teachers in New York allowed to repeatedly hit their pupils, hurl expletives at them and generally behave like Mussolini with a hangover? It is this part of the film that creates all the drama, yet it is also this part of the film that makes it slightly hollow. It begs the question should learning towering, beautiful music be quite so miserable and oppressive.

Nonetheless let us not get po-faced about this. Once you recognise the films limitations it is a thrilling way to spend a couple of hours especially if you wish to understand the art of the jazz drummer. The film captures the skill, technique, ear, feel, improvisational skills, subtlety and power of jazz drumming and with Simmons providing an acting master class "Whiplash" is a memorable piece of cinema.


Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Samantha Crain - Root and Branch, 17 July 2015
This reviewer is new to the joys of this emerging star from Oklahoma. This album has been declared by Uncut's ever helpful Americana section as the album of the month for August 2015. It is easy to see why. Samantha Crain is a distinctive voice and one who inhabits a country folk groove with the ease of a veteran who has quietly accumulated four albums before her 30th birthday. They're a couple of songs on the album that slightly diverge especially the joyous "Big Rock" the type of track on which Lucinda Willaims could perform a killer cover. The opener "Killer" also has some similarities to the work of St Vincent with its quirky backdrop and prodding synth.

The best songs on "Under Branch & Thorn & Tree" are to be located in the plaintive sounds of tracks like "Elk City". This is a travelling song of a couple searching for work interspersed with the betrayal of the boyfriend who does a runner when times turn hard. Nearly touching these heights are other songs like the tale of friendship "Kathleen" where Crain's distinctive voice is at a premium and where the melody carries you along at a gentle pace. Finally, she raises the emotional pitch on an album highlight "If I had a dollar" suggesting that this will be a profitable seam to mine in the future. Overall these songs are trumped by the wonderful "You or Mystery" a haunting acoustic reflection that puts her into the same league as other emerging stars of the genre like Caitlin Rose and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Strongly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2015 6:43 AM BST


Sing Into My Mouth
Sing Into My Mouth
Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell - Musical peas in a pod, 17 July 2015
This review is from: Sing Into My Mouth (Audio CD)
These artists are the equivalent of musical peas in a pod. The pairing of Iron and Wine’s bearded wonder Sam Beam with Band of Horses sterling leader Ben Bridwell sees a partnership of soul mates. Both of their “bands” plough a melodic and often melancholy alternative country and the pair have befriended and bounced musical ideas of each over the past decade.

If there is a slight disappointment it stems from the fact that none of this interaction has led to the production of original material with “Sing into my mouth” largely consisting of covers. This is not to say that they are not good covers. Framing Talking Heads louche anthem “This must be the place (naïve melody)” in a country setting has been done before by Shawn Colvin. This is every bit its match. Perhaps best of all is Beam’s stunning version of Sade’s sultry “Bullet Proof Soul” which really works set amidst the lonely echo of a haunting peddle steel. You would be foolish not to check this one out. Possibly the most ambitious song on this album is the cover of Spiritualized’s The Straight and Narrow especially since it's the best ballad that Jason Pierce ever penned. The cover here is respectful and well executed but not a patch on the emotionally wrought original. Overall Bridwell’s finest moment comes on a tremendous cover of John Cale’s "You Know Me More Than I Know" while Beam contributions are universally good.

This is generally a lovely album and as an a project the pairing of these two musicians is entirely worthwhile. To state again it would be nice to see them branch out in any future collaborations to release some original material but for now “Sing into my mouth” will serve very well.


Something More Than Free
Something More Than Free
Price: £9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jason Isbell - Return of the Grievous Angel, 17 July 2015
The forward march of Jason Isbell remains unstoppable. He became the real deal once 2013’s “Southeastern” dropped into the record stores and on his new album “Something more than free” he has once again punched the button marked “classic”. This is a record that sees him consolidate his artistic stature post alcoholism and dependency. It is this clear-headed situation that has made the ex Drive by Trucker a fully rounded artist and one of the best US singer-songwriters to hit these shores in an age.

“Something more than free” is a mature album of packed with stellar songs centered on the fragility of relationships often played out in the bright lights of the bar and the highway. By the third or fourth listen it completely wins you over and leaves you wanting more. Granted, there is a familiarity in terms of the themes, but they are delivered in Isbell’s distinctive voice and pinpoint observational lyrics. The opener “If it takes a lifetime” sounds like standard country fare but grows exponentially on every listen. The quality threshold present never dips and noticeably with songs like the Springsteen style “24 Frames' Isbell looks on course to seek a much wider constituency. However, the beating heart of this record real are found in the mid-album tracks 4 – 6. These are respectively the regretful rolling alt-country of “How to forget”, the stunning emotion of one of the albums best tracks “Children of children” and the reflective “Life you choose” which burrows into your musical consciousness like an old stoat, until you find yourself humming it at the till in supermarket or a slow day at work. The songs lyrics are razor sharp not least the lines “The doctor said daddy wouldn’t make it a year, but the holidays are over and he’s still here“, coupled with “(He) was a tough state trooper ’til a decade back, when that girl that wasn’t momma caused his heart attack”. “Children of children” in particular stakes Isbell’s claim to join the US rock elite it is song destined to drive this album into the upper ranking of 2015’s best albums and proves that Neil Young fans can now happily move onto a new musical idol. The title track stands in the tradition of Gram Parsons while others like “Speed Trap Town” echoes the best work of Steve Earle. Finally songs like the lovely “Hudson Commodore” will give contemporaries like Ryan Adams sleepless nights in terms of the sheer scale and depth of quality present.

While “Something more than free” does not trump “Southeastern” it's certainly every bit its equal. By any standards, this is a massive achievement for Isbell whose five solo albums to date have gone from good to great. When Jason Isbell joined the Drive-By Truckers as a 22-year-old it was clear with songs like “The Outfit” that he was loaded with potential. Having nearly lost the battle with his demons through drink and failed relationship, he regrouped and has never looked back. This is an album destined to climb high in the 2015 end of year lists, in fact, many might argue it should be on top of them.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2015 11:16 AM BST


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