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M. Brown (Cardiff United Kingdom)
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Scarlet's Walk (Limited Edition)
Scarlet's Walk (Limited Edition)
Offered by dutchtoni
Price: 34.95

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tori album for non-Tori fans, 12 April 2003
I steered clear of this album for some time, because I heard that it was a return to a more commercial sound and approach. Although a big fan of Little Earthquakes when it came out, it became less valid to me as subsequent Tori albums were unleashed on the world, and I eagerly followed her artistic advance. Unlike a lot of fans, I thought To Venus And Back was her most interesting and artistically valid album. So I was disappointed to hear that she had retreated from her leftward trajectory. However, finally listening to Scarlet's Walk, I was reminded of how intoxicating Little Earthquakes was when it first came on the scene. Scarlet's Walk has a similar abundance of melody. The first five tracks are killers in that respect. It is inexplicable to me that Amber Waves was not released as the lead single from the album - it is the strongest melody she has written since Spark. A Sorta Fairytale is wonderfully melancholy. Wednesday is just a fantastic little jaunt of a song, reminiscent of Happy Phantom. Carbon has a trascendentally beautiful chorus, with lovely echo on the voice. This opening salvo reminds the listener just what a great melodic songwriter Tori can be, when she wants to. But isn't it also great that she can make albums like To Venus And Back and From The Choirgirl Hotel? Nobody criticises Tom Waits for having such a dual ability; it is a mark of the depth of an artist's talent. It is probably true that Scarlet's Walk is an even more accessible album than Little Earthquakes. There's no traumatic rape song, or provocative language. Some may be critical of the album because of this. But there is too much sustenance to be had here, to be excessively critical. There are some lulls, for sure, and the album is too long by maybe ten minutes, but there are many gems on display here. Much has been said of 'I Can See New York'. It is certainly Tori's most haunting song. The woman is in the plane, but she is also at the same time beyond the physical world, beyond the clouds, calling out like a ghost to a world that can no longer see or hear her. It is certainly memorable. Your Cloud is not a track that has been mentioned much, but it is one of Tori's very best. The lyric is surprisingly clear and fully comprehensible. The trouble with Tori doing this kind of concept album, is that her lyrics are frequently too cryptic and opaque to get the message fully across. They work more effectively as a tool for exploring her own internal universe, rather than the lives of others. Parts of messages get through to the listener, but much remains baffling, even when one studies the lyrics carefully. It is telling that alot of the most effective songs here, have more understandable lyrics, such as the portrait of the porn star in Amber Waves. At times things become kind of lost in a jumble, as on Virginia and Another Girl's Paradise. The former feels unnecessary, and would probably have been best left off the album. By this point - the penultimate track - the listener is more likely to lose patience. Any album that is seventy four minutes long, is asking a lot of the listener. It is too long for an album. The whole effect is bound to be dented over such an extended duration. Had the album been restricted to sixty minutes, it could have been perfect, perhaps. But these are minor criticisms. Another reviewer said that this was like acting. The truth is that it is anything but, unless it is extremely good acting, like Meryl Streep or Jennifer Jason Leigh. Tori has reached a state of graceful equilibrium, one feels. One can feel this when looking at the cover, and at the booklet photos. Little Earthquakes was all spiky gestures and adolescent daring. This is the work of a mature woman, who is comfortable with herself, her music, and her role as an artist. And she is an artist. Anyone who doubted it before - the anti-Amos brigade - should listen to this album, then spend several hours at a table with a knife and fork, sulkily eating their words.


Frengers: Not Quite Friends But Not Quite Strangers
Frengers: Not Quite Friends But Not Quite Strangers
Offered by MUSIC-4-THE-MASSES
Price: 4.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, vital pop album - buy it now!, 12 April 2003
This is the kind of album that can excite a listener to the point of delirium. And emphasises a general truth: that the most interesting pop music today is coming out of Northern Europe. Anyone who is a fan of Stina Nordenstam, and Scandinavian alternative pop in general, should own this album. Stina herself guest vocals on the sixth track, Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years. It is just one of ten marvellous pop songs, full of Scandinavian melodic melancholy and infectiously punchy, chugging guitar lines. The album kicks off with the brilliant 'Am I Wry? No' which is peculiarly affecting, due to the combination of androgynous, emotive vocal and compelling lyric directed at a person called Farah. The tune is bliss; in a musically astute world, it would have been a hit, but sank without trace. The second track, 156, starts off in a quiet Stinaesque way, but like other tracks on the album, then goes full pelt with chugging guitars. The album feels almost like the bastard child of Stina's second and third albums, if they had somehow been able to couple with each other. A threesome would perhaps have involved Air's 'Moon Safari'. This is an album, like Moon Safari, that one wishes to sink into, to become wrapped up in, like an Icelandic sauna. Except it's better than Moon Safari. It's a full tilt pop album. Think of Lori Carson's album, Stars, then throw in alot more guitars. The album reaches its climax with the long, triumphant 'Comforting Sounds'. The title pretty much sums up Mew's sound - it is comforting and warm, as so much Scandinavian music is, despite, or perhaps because of, the cold climate. I was first seduced by the wonderful cover photograph, then by the music itself. It is the kind of album one wants every astute pop fan to listen to. A possible criticism is that there is a formula at work, that there is not enough variety in the sound and melodies. But it's near impossible to be critical of a formula that is so effective and engaging. Listening to this album, one can forget all the terrible retro pop coming out of the American and British 'alternative' scenes. Anyone with an aesthetic sensibility could surely not listen to the likes of The Strokes and The Libertines without recoiling in horror. That music is ugly, dirty, used, and artless. This is the new pop music, a pop music for the twenty first century. Why look back? It is pointless. There is no point rehashing past moments in pop history. What groups like Mew and Piano Music do, is take the basic elements, and set them adrift in a properly contemporary and fresh sea. This album has production and sound to die for, like Stina's 'And She Closed Her Eyes'. The music feels like it's just emerged like a swan from an ice-covered lake, heading for the sun. Buy this album, if you care about twenty first century pop music. Otherwise, go and wait for the next album by the Strokes, and become lost in the cesspool of your own ordinariness.


Bright Yellow Bright Orange
Bright Yellow Bright Orange

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the faithful, 3 Feb 2003
The first thing to say, is that the eighth Go-Betweens album, is the most low-key Go-Betweens album. Yet it is also one of the very best. It is not, like 16 Lovers Lane, bursting with great melodies. Everything here is restrained and considered. Each song weaves its own subtle magic. This is a Go-Betweens album that will sound great on the fiftieth listen, whereas Friends Of Rachel Worth perhaps won't. Not to dismiss the previous album, which was the comeback album, but it had its highs and lows, the clear low being McLennan's vacuous 'Going Blind' (probably Grant's worst ever lyric). The highs were Forster's 'He Lives My Life' and 'When She Sang About Angels', and McLennan's 'Magic In Here' and 'Orpheus Beach'. McLennan showed with those two songs that he was still capable of great songwriting, which he only showed on rare occasions during his solo years. However, it was the B-side of Going Blind - 'Locust Girls' - that really showed that Grant still had the magic. And his five offerings on the new album are amongst the best he's ever done. Any McLennan doubters - and I was one - will be fervent believers after the first listen of the new album. He's writing songs with complete integrity again. They are not drenched in melody, like past efforts, but they are great songs nevertheless. The character spoken of in 'Mrs Morgan' will already be familiar to McLennan aficionados, having been mentioned in the Jack Frost song, 'Trapeze Boy'. Mrs Morgan has been busy since then telling fortunes, then leaking her clients' secrets to all and sundry. One is left to wonder at the meaning of the beautiful, elegiac refrain: 'She never wanted/She never wanted to see the rain'. It's one of Grant's minor masterworks - he has always had the ability to portray touching provincial scenes - think of Cattle And Cane. 'Poison In The Wall' is one of Grant's best introspective pop songs. It's got the kind of radiant refrain that his songs are well known for. And this track glows like all the best Go-Betweens moments. As for Robert's five contributions, the best is the opener, 'Caroline And I' which is a hearbreaking pop song about teenage love. 'In Her Diary' is elegant, but perhaps not melodic enough to be a true Forster classic - extremely beautiful though, with mournful but distant strings. 'Too Much Of One Thing'- a Forsteresque song title if ever there was one - could probably be described as Dylanesque, which could be applied to quite a few of Forster's songs, but that would be a lazy comparison. It is the longest track on the album, but again suffers somewhat from the absence of a refrain. Nevertheless, it makes its mark through persistence more than anything, helped out by a superb Forster lyric, and McLennan gets to sing a verse on this song, which takes one back pleasingly to the Before Hollywood period. If one were going to place this album alongside any other, though, it would perhaps be Spring Hill Fair. It does not have that album's raw energy, but at the same time, it too is liable to be underrated by anyone but the Go-Betweens' devoted followers. This is an album for them more than the casual listener. Forster has perhaps lost some of the melodic gift he manifested during the eighties, and on the first couple of solo albums, but 'Make Her Day' is a very good, understated pop song from him: vintage Go Betweens, in fact. The final Forster offering, 'Something For Myself', is the most disappointing: it doesn't really go anywhere; there's no real melody, and one is liable to ask: 'where is the refrain, Robert?'; it seems to be a malaise that Robert is suffering from at this time. Perhaps he does not feel the need anymore to write choruses, but pop music always needs choruses, and the Go Betweens have always been a pop group, albeit a profoundly advanced one. Something For Myself is moderately enjoyable, but at the same, one waits in vain for it to take off, and one is inevitably disappointed . . . like watching a film with no payoff. Fortunately, the album ends in strong fashion with McLennan's short piano-led number, Unfinished Business - another minor classic. It's a shame that Forster didn't totally come to the party here, as he is probably the most underrated songwriter of the past twenty years, but he does not really do his great talent justice on this album. He is ALWAYS good, but only 'Caroline and I' is truly great here. It is McLennan's offerings that hold the work together. Be warned though: this is the McLennan of Liberty Belle, not the McLennan of 16 Lovers Lane. That is a very good thing for the hardcore fans; perhaps less so for the newcomer. Grant's best songs - Cattle And Cane, The Wrong Road, Dusty In Here - have possessed a subtle majesty, and one senses that majesty is back in place here, after a long absence. This Go Betweens album is a strong, cohesive affair, and for that reason is better than Tallulah or Rachel Worth. It's not Liberty Belle, but nothing else could be. It is after Liberty Belle, though, the most sober and profound incarnation of the Go Betweens. Nothing here is fast; nothing is light-hearted. There is nothing here that could pose any threat to the charts; nothing that's going to inspire a mass singalong. All ten numbers are suffused with a twilight melancholy. The Go Betweens' faithful will hold this album to their hearts, and the rest of the world will not notice. It is how it must be, after all. It is a private heaven; a private zone of reflection. The most intelligent pop group in history are back in their truest identity. As sober guides of the intellect and heart.


Tempting
Tempting
Price: 13.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterclass in songwriting and performance, 26 Jan 2003
This review is from: Tempting (Audio CD)
Anyone who is a fan of oldfashioned songwriting - by which I mean the standards, that golden era before popular music became adolescent and decerebralised - should purchase this album. Jenny Toomey has already established her own classy credentials with a double album of her own songs called 'Antidote'. Here on her second solo release, she performs the songs of an American contemporary by the name of Franklin Bruno, who plays piano on the album. First of all, the sheer quality of the lyrics must be emphasised. Bruno is perhaps the most skilled and intelligent lyricist since Porter. He is obviously inspired by that great wordsmith. His lyrics possess a similar combination of heartbreaking sensibility and cunning. His tunes are very good also, albeit sophisticated: they don't hit you round the head, but they carry the words very well. As for Jenny's voice . . . well, it's just one of the finest in contemporary music. She is very much a throwback to the great female singers of the fifties, particularly Jo Stafford. Her innate intelligence and intellect give the nuances that the carefully crafted lyrics require. Overall, it has to be said that this is one of the most valuable collections of song and vocal performance in recent memory. It is only sad that this kind of music must now languish in almost complete obscurity. The standards are still performed in jazz music, but these could be future standards, were it not for the fact that barely anyone will ever hear them. Although the Sixties produced alot of great music, it heralded the death of Tin Pan Alley-style songwriting. So although the standards are still exhibited like relics in a museum, it is only through talented rock songwriters - the likes of Tom Waits and Randy Newman - that the spirit of that age is leaked through, and new standards are likely to emerge. This album is an album out of time, and that in itself is partly a reason to love it. But it's a sad indictment of the dumbing down of popular music, that this material must seem an anachronism. Every intelligent music fan should own this album, and salute the bravery and brilliance of these two musical artists.


U: A SURREAL PARABLE IN SONG AND DANCE
U: A SURREAL PARABLE IN SONG AND DANCE
Offered by Liberty-Star
Price: 20.00

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as flawed as suggested; a wonderful collection of music, 31 Aug 2002
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some have said that this is a really flawed work; that it is indulgent and overlong. I don't agree with any of these views. And it's also not true that Mike Heron didn't contribute as much as Robin Williamson (the compositions are split evenly). Perhaps the only slightly weak song is Bad Sadie Lee, which wasn't even written by the Incredible String Band, and although it's very slight, it's still quite fun. As suggested, Robin's finest moments are 'Queen of Love', 'Juggler's Song' (a classic psychedelic number: 'something to blow your mind away') and 'Invocation'. Mike's finest moment is the ten minute piano ballad, Light In Time Of Darkness, which is truly exquisite, and unlike other String Band recordings. The first CD is probably stronger than the second CD, but both are very strong. Overall, it's more satisfactory than the two previous albums (Changing Horses and I Looked Up). It's not a total masterpiece like The Big Huge or The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, but it is one of their richest and most satisfying albums.


Sweet Ride - The Best of Belly
Sweet Ride - The Best of Belly
Price: 10.93

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than either of the official albums, 25 Aug 2002
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Neither of the albums Belly released were masterpieces, in my opinion. They were both strong, but not genuinely great. This CD eclipses both of them. Every track here, with perhaps the exception of the Hendrix cover, feels vital. The B-sides featured here (Spaceman, Broken, Trust In Me, Thief, Sweet Ride) are all great, and superior to much of the material featured on the two official albums. Spaceman, in particular, is really powerful (the woman saying to the man she's just ditched: 'I'm not a unicorn; you can always find another one'). The best pop songs Belly recorded are here (Feed The Tree, Gepetto, Seal My Fate, Now They'll Sleep), but this is balanced with the slower, more reflective material that Tanya Donelly has always been known for. Sadly, there's no 'Stay', which was such a beautiful song, but it's hard to be critical of this compilation, considering the amount of rare material it contains, including the previously unreleased 'Lilith' which is really excellent, and deserves its belated exposure. The French version of Judas My Heart isn't as great as the original (which was genuinely great), but it could have been disastrous, thankfully it's not, it works. The title track, Sweet Ride, concludes the affair, and it's utterly gorgeous. This album shows, better than Star or King, what a memorable pop band Belly were. That Tanya brought alot of different facets to the tired old pop formula. She was capable of writing a perfect killer pop song (Now They'll Sleep being the best example of that), but also capable of going to deeper places, places that resonate, and extend beyond the ephemeral pop milieu. Belly were the best pop band of the nineties, and this compilation shows why.


LIFTED ( OR THE STORY IS )
LIFTED ( OR THE STORY IS )
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 8.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly mature effort, 25 Aug 2002
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was surprised by how good this album actually is. It's about ten times better than Fevers and Mirrors. I found the overly tremulous voice too hard to take on that one, despite the quality of the songs. Here his voice sounds smoother most of the time, and with the odd exception, less feverish and ranty. The lo-fi production which varies in texture from track to track, is really excellent. With alot of albums, you feel you're just sitting in the studio for the whole of the duration, but here, you feel like you're being taken to lots of different places, with lots of different atmospheres. Conor Oberst is still quite highly wrought in his delivery, but it's significantly more controlled than before. It's probably best not to pick out individual tracks, as the thing works best as a whole. And after listening to it once, I thought it was a minor masterpiece. One that alot of effort had been put into, to get it right. It's not an album I'd want to listen to over and over again, but one I'd listen to when I was in the right mood. It feels like a film, an intimate portrait of smalltown life, occasionally upset by the bigger picture (to use the title of the first song). A couple of tracks attempt to pull the work out of solemnity, but thankfully, they are fighting a lost cause, and the down mood pervades like a really rainy day. One that makes a person feel deeper than they thought they were. There is pain here, of course, alot of it. But it feels like it's at one remove for the listener. Like the sharp edges have been smoothened. And this is a positive step for Conor Oberst as an artist. He is no longer allowing his pain to eclipse his art. The two are blended here without too much conflict, which makes this album a genuinely artistic achievement.


From The Playground
From The Playground
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 1.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile and promising debut, 25 Aug 2002
This review is from: From The Playground (Audio CD)
This is an album worth getting. There are no fireworks, nothing extraordinary, but there's a maturity and depth to the songs which is not that common on a debut album. David Blazye's voice is full and soulful, slipping into falsetto as so many singer-songwriters do these days, so the comparisons with Jeff Buckley and Tim Buckley are inevitable, and are probably not misleading. But there is a singular voice here, expressed through the lyrics and melodies. Ambulance Chasers and I Go Low have a sweet catchiness to them which is impressive. Tall Trees is a quiet and beautiful piece, with a hint of Nick Drake about it (but the artist is not really like him at all anywhere else on the album). The arrangements throughout are sophisticated and enhancing to the songs, the production just right, the vocals intimate to a degree, but not eclipsing the musical backings. Overall, one has the feeling that it's a familiar blueprint that has just been altered slightly, and as it happens in this case, that's enough. This is a work of quality, and is preferable to the efforts of most of the male singer-songwriters who have emerged over the past few years. There are one or two rockier/bluesier moments along the way, but overall, this is a subdued and melancholy effort, with enough soul to make it believable and noteworthy.


Espiritu Vivo
Espiritu Vivo
Price: 17.30

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this album; the musicianship is amazing, 12 Aug 2002
This review is from: Espiritu Vivo (Audio CD)
I listened to one of Susan Baca's albums before, but found it a bit bland. However, this album is seriously great, thanks to the incredible playing by the musicians, including the incomparable Marc Ribot on guitar. It's hard to believe that these pieces were recorded live onto tape, as they are perfect. This album is genuinely cutting edge in its arrangements. The traditional and the ultra modern mix exquisitely here. Making this album feel completely vital. The faster tracks are probably the most impressive, because the complex rhythms are amazing, almost avant garde. One of the tracks is faintly amusing, as the backing singers sound like they are singing 'Jennifer Lopez' over and over again, only they are not. But part of me likes to think they are. The album closes with a surprise selection, a cover of Bjork's Anchor Song, except it's sung in Baca's native language. It's a beautiful, eerie, haunted end to a lively set of songs. Baca's voice is subtle, rather than stunning. If you want to hear dramatic, transcendental vocals, purchase the two albums by Virginia Rodrigues. However, if you want to hear a softer, more low key approach, with superb musicianship backing it up, then buy this album. It is one of the best that has been released this year.


Last Night We Were
Last Night We Were
Price: 7.96

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A themed masterwork by young Hawksley, 4 July 2002
This review is from: Last Night We Were (Audio CD)
This second album by Hawksley, possessing the greatest title of any album ever, is his 'sex' album. Hawksley is as forthright and libidinous here as Prince in his prime. Some people will love this album, some will hate it. It's not another 'For Me And The Girls', which was one of the most startlingly inventive debut albums ever. Track by track Delicious Wolves isn't as strong, but the overall theme helps tie the pieces together, and overall is perhaps a more satisfying experience. I have been playing the import copy for almost a year now. The British version has two extra tracks which I have yet to hear, along with three music videos; worth purchasing it again, because Hawksley is a special talent. The two openers are terrific moments of commercial pop/rock. At first I was unnerved by the electric guitars on Striptease, but beneath the rock antics, is a great pop song. Jealous Of Your Cigarette is alot of fun, and ever so slightly naughty. However, it's after these two tracks that the album gets into its stride and spreads its wings. You Me and the Weather is a terrific song, one of Hawksley's best, as he climbs into his inimitable falsetto for a stirring crescendo. Little Tragedies is a cute ultra-catchy piece of glam rock. What A Woman is a ballad hammed up to the max, Hawksley seemingly taking the mick out of every slushy love ballad ever written, while somehow making it seem oddly affecting. This is followed by 'Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off', another seemingly tongue-in-cheek parody with a slightly reggae or Carribean feel. Old Bloody Orange is a marvellous piece of cod-gospel, during which he sings: 'Sing me a story of two naked lovers out testifying, beating their drums on a salty coast side, with blood in their tears, held down from the heavens by the virtues of their bodies, trying to make it last forever' . . . memorable lines to say the least. Clever Not Beautiful is a strut of a song, with Hawksley at one point singing along to his own guitar solo like some modern day Amadeus. No Beginning No End is another wonderful, dramatic, epic song. This is followed by the piece de resistance, 'Dirty And True', one of the most staggering and outrageous pieces of music ever recorded. Queen songs were modest by comparison. But do not let the Queen reference put you off. Like Freddie Mercury, Hawksley is a showman, and on this track he gives us everything, including a wonderfully camp and weird speech. At the climax he sings: 'I can hardly wait to fall down beside you/Collapse from a night of exhaustion, so burning, so dirty and true'. The song fades into the exquisitely beautiful piano ballad, Lethal and Young, a commentary on the darker consequences of modern sex. The album lasts less than forty minutes, but in that time, Hawksley leads the listener on an astonishing rollercoaster ride. Anyone who likes ecletic albums by polymath musical geniuses, should own this album. It is unforgettable.


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