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Marchespie (UK)

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Price: £24.05

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finding their feet at last, 8 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Meddle (Audio CD)
This is where Pink Floyd's run of classic 1970's albums really begins. Meddle is very much a game of two halves - side 1 comprises a set of shorter numbers, whilst Side 2 is taken up entirely by Echoes. Side 1 opens with One Of These Days, and dense and dramatic instrumental based around a thudding Roger Waters Binson-echoed bass riff. A showcase for all the band, and co-written by them all, this is a great curtain-raiser and was a staple of the band's live set for the next few years. The rest of Side 1 is a progression of mainly gentle and relatively undemanding guitar-led soft rock. The jazzy, Bacharach-style San Tropez is not eveyone's cup of tea, but I really like it. Side one ends with the two-minute blues joke of Seamus, a contender for the worst Floyd track ever - but it's mercifully brief.

What makes Meddle such a great album is the presence of the mighty and sprawling Echoes, many fans favourite Floyd track. Echoes was assembled from various fragments and jams, and was developed during concerts, originally entitled Nothing and evolving into Return of the Son Of Nothing before being rechristened Echoes for the album. Beginning with Rick Wright's organ imitating a sonar "ping", the song's stately development takes us through and extended intro into a relatively short (and lovely) verse-chorus section. This is followed by the frankly fantastic Funky Bit, an extended jam over massive bass, jabbing organ and wailing guitar. In live form this section was an absolute BELTER. The jam dissolves into wind effects over which Gilmour's bird-effect guitar screeches for a few minutes before the band very, very gradually rises out of the chaos for a reprise of the verse-chorus and a big instrumental crescendo. The last three minutes fade away gently and effortlessly into more wind noise. Ahhh....

Atom Heart Mother
Atom Heart Mother
Offered by the_record_factory
Price: £14.95

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice cover, shame about the album, 7 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Atom Heart Mother (Audio CD)
Good things about Atom Heart Mother:
- The title (taken from a newspaper headline)
- The cover (absolutely inspired)
- The track titles
- The Funky Dung guitar solo in the title track
- Two great tracks - Fat Old Sun and Summer '68
- The first true flowering of Roger Water's lyrical ability in the superficially pleasant but really quite disturbing "If"

Bad things about Atom Heart Mother:
- The muffled, flat production
- The overlong and only partially successful title track
- The interminable one-joke Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast

This was Pink Floyd's first number one album, though a less likely number one is hard to imagine. Side 1 is pretty uncommercial, a single long instrumental track that is an unwieldy marriage of the band, a choir and a brass band. Bits of it work and bits of it don't, and I very rarely listen to it anymore. If you can track down a 1970/71 live version of it (without the brass band and choir), then you'll hear a very different and MUCH better piece.

Side 2 is better, with 3 decent songs and the rather two-dimensional instrumental jam (with cooking sounds) of Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast - this is too bland to offend but only bears one or two listens before the novelty wears off. Of the songs, the one that stands out for me is Rick Wright's polished Summer '68, which integrates the brass band very well and has a tremendous momentum. The fans' favourite is Gilmour's Fat Old Sun, featuring an early example of a soaring Gilmour guitar solo to round off the song. Overall, AHM has dated more than most of Floyd's early 70's work and is probably the weakest (or perhaps "least brilliant") of their 70's albums - but of course, this is all relative to some of the greatest rock music ever made, so in that context the album is still an essential purchase.

Price: £21.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schizophrenic, 7 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Ummagumma (Audio CD)
1969 Double album Ummagumma divides opinion but it is still an excellent snapshot of Pink Floyd at one of the most interesting times in their career - post-Barrett, but pre-Dark Side. These are the Space Rock years. They had yet to hit the commercial jackpot and still had no clear leader or frontman (or musical direction for that matter). Disc 1 is a 5-star album and Disc 2 a 3-star album (and that's generous!) - hence the overall 4-star rating.

The real reason to buy Ummagumma is Disc 1, the live album. A pristine (and very well-recorded for 1969) document of the band approaching their live peak, we get extended versions of Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun, Careful With That Axe, Eugene and A Saucerful of Secrets. This is just guitar, bass, drums and organ and yet it sounds genuinely cosmic. It's just a shame that the Floyd never released their many other epic live tracks from the 1969-1971 era - Embryo, the 10-minute version of Cymbaline, the 15-minute Fat old Sun, and the far superior live 4-piece version of Atom Heart Mother (the one without the brass band).

Disc 2 features half a side given over to each band member. It demonstrates very clearly that the band were always more than the sum of their parts, and they worked better when fully collaborating. Perhaps predictably, Gilmour's is the most musical, Mason's is (ahem) interesting but is basically a drum solo, Wright's is self-consciously arty and Water's contribution is lyrically the strongest - but none are entirely satisfying.

Gilmour's contribution is The Narrow Way, which is accessible, melodic and contains some good guitar work, but in a subtle and hard to identify way, it somehow falls short of the best of the band's output, much like Gilmour's solo albums (and the Gilmour-solo-album-in-all-but-name A Momentary Lapse of Reason). Wright's 12-minute Sysyphus begins well, with its dramatic deep organ melody and thumping tympani, but then degenerates into interminable piano improvisation. Mason's Grand Vizier's Garden Party is a track that only a drummer could love. Waters contributes both the delicate and evocative Grantchester Meadows, the studio album's highlight, and the frankly bonkers Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving with a Pict, which entertains somewhat less than its title does.

Saucerful Of Secrets
Saucerful Of Secrets
Offered by Renaissance
Price: £10.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seeds (and small green shoots) of a new greatness, 7 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Saucerful Of Secrets (Audio CD)
A transitional album, with only one Barrett contribution, the slender and unsettling Jugband Blues. Saucerful is NOT one of the great Floyd albums, containing some rather wishy-washy Wright songs (by the way, Wright felt the same way about them...) and the rest of the band, including new recruit Dave Gilmour, very much feeling their way though unfamiliar territory without Barrett to guide them. Waters makes two contributions - Corporal Clegg is a strange and raucous track, though it is notable for being the first time his obsession with war (futility of) is expressed in song.

Whilst it's unsatisfying as a whole album, there are brilliant highlights - the real reasons to get Saucerful Of Secrets are the title track and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, which is every bit as good as its wonderful title suggests it will be. One of the key Floyd space-rock tracks, present here in a brief five-and-a-half minutes, later live versions sprawled over as much as 13 minutes. It's worth seeking out the many live versions of this track out there to see how it evolved - look out for the Hollywood Bowl 1972 version. The album's title track begins with 8 minutes of often frenzied improvisation and ends with a measured and beautiful Wright organ chord progression over which a choir of multi-tracked male voices ahhhh wordlessly. Truly magical.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music from a different band, 7 Mar. 2011
I was slightly at a loss when I first heard this, aged about 15. Weaned on the mid-70's Floyd, this sounded like a different band - and of course, it was. One of the things that make Pink Floyd such a fascinating band is the way in which they developed musically, through three different principal songwriters, and the complex and often sad relationships between the various band members.

Syd Barrett's Floyd only made this one album, a sparkling dose of English Psychedelia. It still sounds fantastic today, a class 60's production forming the perfect backdrop to Barrett's unique songwriting. It's easy to see why Pink Floyd's management thought that they wouldn't be able to manage without Syd when he later succumbed to mental problems - Syd writes most of the songs, sings lead vocals and plays lead guitar. He was the heart and soul of the band at the time. Big space-rock numbers like Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive are complemented by whimsical short numbers like The Gnome and Bike.

I'm going to go out on a limb now and admit that I have NEVER liked Interstellar Overdrive. Maybe I'm just a peasant, but the almost total lack of form and the relatively uninteresting sounds have never floated my boat. If it's improvised space-rock Floyd you want, I much prefer the more rhythmic and (let's face it) tuneful stuff from the immediate post- Barrett period, best heard on the live half of Ummagumma.

To give Barrett all the credit for this album would be a long way off the mark - Rick Wright's keyboards are hugely important to the sound, and Wright also co-wrote the best track on the album (Astronomy Domine in case there was any doubt!). Roger Waters' one contribution so the songwriting was angular oddity Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk, a rather inauspicious debut for one who later developed into such a great songwriter. There's hope for all budding songwriters yet...

The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking
The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking
Price: £3.99

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of perspective needed..., 7 Mar. 2011
I count myself as a really big fan of Pink Floyd and of Roger Waters. It's obvious that his was the main creative spark behind the band's "purple patch" of brilliant 70's albums, but equally obvious that he needed the musicality and soul of Gilmour and Wright to moderate his excesses and bring some coherence. This poor album is a perfect example of this. Freed from the first time from having to negotiate with the rest of the band, Waters' first solo album is an undisciplined mess. "Songs" such as they are, are fragmented and unconvincing. Dishounourable mention also goes to Eric Clapton, whose immaculately tasteful and restrained style does not complement Waters' material at all. Bring back Dave....

It goes: sound effect-quiet bit- LOUD BIT - same quiet bit again - someone shouting in the distance - LOUD BIT etc etc etc. It's a long 41 minutes.

There appears no flow to the album - I've tried over and over again to try to like it. I WANT to like it, but it's impenetrable. It's well-produced and struggles up to three stars for the title track, which at least has a good melody. It remains very hard to put your finger on why this album is so hard to listen to, whilst being superficially so very similar to the far better Final Cut - it just lacks soul, rhythm and any kind of interesting concept in the lyrics. We had to wait a few more years for Waters to get it together and make a really good album (the brilliant Amused to Death). If you like Floyd and are interested to hear Waters' solo stuff, start with Amused To Death and work backwards (though be warned, Radio KAOS is pretty poor entertainment too...)
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2012 10:30 AM GMT

What About Me?
What About Me?
Price: £46.35

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far, Far too good to be only on Import, 17 July 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: What About Me? (Audio CD)
If you liked the first 1 Giant Leap album, please don't be put off by the price tag of this import-only album. Buy it today - it's a great shame (and mystery) that this has not had a full UK release. It is simple a miraculous and continually excellent musical journey. Artists both well-known and obscure are piled one after the other in a sequence that is by turns melodic, joyful, energetic, beautiful, rhythmic and even ecstatic. This is not "world music" as I would define it, as it is always underpinned by the duo's excellent contemporary production values. Whilst the first album was perhaps more a series of good tracks, this second album goes one step further, forming an almost unbroken musical collage which is astonishingly coherent given the disparate nature of the various contributions. Yes, those out there who listen only to mainstream chart pop may well balk at some of the Arabic wailing and often foreign language lyrics, so it's not for everyone (and it's their loss)- but this is as good as this kind of music gets and I absolutely love it. It's a work of rare genius, and even at £28, it's a two-hour double CD and still excellent value for money - there is not a duff minute on it. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Price: £7.34

5 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another patchy 1970's Vangelis album, 13 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: Spiral (Audio CD)
Massive credit must be given to Vangelis for his innovation, but this is not a great album. In common with Albedo 0.39 and Heaven and Hell, Spiral has a few great moments interspersed with turgid (and perhaps even indigestible) tedium. So whilst the title track and the well-known To The Unknown Man are both great tracks, 9 out of 10 perhaps, much of the rest of the album borders on the unlistenable. No wonder RCA put out so many compilations of Vangelis in the early 80's - its actually better to cherry-pick the highlights off the 70's albums rather than wade though each one. With most album-based artists, it's a mistake to buy best-of's because you end up missing so much good stuff. Not so with Vangelis (at least the 70's period). There's a cheap Best Of that contains pretty much all that's still worth listening to from the three main 70's albums. Vangelis got significantly better later in his career with albums such as Blade Runner and 1492, the latter of which is probably the best place to start if you're new to his music.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2013 3:45 PM BST

Darwin's Radio
Darwin's Radio
by Greg Bear
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overlong and uneven, 13 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Darwin's Radio (Paperback)
I'm a really big fan of Greg Bear, but this one rather misses the mark for me. It has a pretty good premise but it takes far too long to get to what is ultimately a predictable conclusion. It's only 430 pages in this edition but there's really only enough in the plot for a book half this length. There is an awful lot of dialogue to give credence to the science behind it but this does not sustain interest, and I ended up constantly checking the page number to see how far I had got through it. The worst thing about it is the love story between two of the main characters, which is poorly written and cringeworthy. I'm certainly not going to bother with the sequel. In my opinion, Bear was far better when he wrote a purer form of SF, as in Eon and Anvil of Stars - big ideas are his forte and these earlier books play to his great strengths. Character development and dialogue are not what he does best and Darwin's Radio underlines these shortcomings.

Pretty Hate Machine
Pretty Hate Machine
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £8.03

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Just Wish I'd Bought It In 1989, 27 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pretty Hate Machine (Audio CD)
This is not a bad album. But I'm annoyed with myself for having not discovered it until 2010- because now it sounds horribly dated. Fizzy synth stabs and sounds that have since become 80's clichés abound, and the overall production has that characteristic harsh and thin 80's sheen. The album is so very much of its time that I've found it impossible to get into because I just can't take it seriously. I could draw a parallel with Peter Gabriel's 4th album, or Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love. Musically these albums have relatively little in common with Pretty Hate Machine, but they also have productions that were very much "of the moment" when they came out and now sound very dated - the difference is, I bought them when they came out and loved them when they were fresh and new. Listening to Pretty Hate Machine for the first time in 2010, you keep having to "make allowances for the production", which is a shame because I know that I would have loved it in 1989. It sounds to me like a mix of Depeche Mode and Foetus, but I have to say that it's reputation as "industrial" music is overselling it a tad - it's no more industial than mid 80's Depeche Mode, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. I guess I'm writing this lukewarm review because I'm guessing that most of the very positive reviews already on the site have been written by those who bought it when it came out - so beware the uninitiated, this album may not be a five-star listen any more. Having said all that, it's abundantly clear that Trent Reznor has loads of talent and integrity - I'm really interested to find out more about NIN and I'll be trying some of their later material.

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