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Kelvin J. Dickinson (Leeds, England)
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Strawberries
Strawberries
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £16.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECT ANTIDOTE, 15 Feb 2010
This review is from: Strawberries (Audio CD)
This is NOT the smile of a demented circus clown. It's real. They make me laugh.

That's because they're funny, bloody funny, THE DAMNED. Always laughing themselves, always taking the piss. But underneath that shallow and occasionally stupid exterior, their grasp and mastery of the perfect pop song has for many years remained largely untouchable. STRAWBERRIES, like its brilliant predecessor, THE BLACK ALBUM, is a fine example of The Damned's underrated songwriting ability. Awash with thrashing guitars, scattergun drums, psychedelic keybords and a dynamic brass and sax section, the bi-polar vocals of DAVE VANIAN and the finely balanced harmonies of CAPTAIN SENSIBLE all converge in one big haze of exuberant showmanship. Either that, or there's some seriously gleeful arsing around going on, take your pick. Whatever the case, this album belongs in everyone's punk rock/new wave collections, the perfect antidote to some of the more po-faced product of the era; you know who you are, Mr Devoto and Ms Sioux. Truth is, whatever else is going on in my life, The Damned never fail to cheer me up. Ask my iPod.

Outstanding tracks: GENERALS; THE DOG; UNDER THE FLOOR AGAIN; DOZEN GIRLS; GUN FURY.

Outstanding Bonus Track: LOVELY MONEY (fabulous, but listen out for the breathtakingly politically incorrect sidewipe at the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. A marvel of its time and, forgive me, still quite hilarious). Big Wow indeed.

BONUS TRIVIA FACT: Both the inner sleeve and labels of the original vinyl LP were impregnated with an artificial strawberry essence - which after nearly twenty-five years CONTINUE TO SMELL FRUITY! Bless 'em.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Love What You Do [CD 1]
Love What You Do [CD 1]

5.0 out of 5 stars BEYOND MERE TECHNICAL QUIBBLES, 10 Feb 2010
This review is from: Love What You Do [CD 1] (Audio CD)
ORDINARY WORLD by Duran Duran, DUEL by Propaganda, CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' by The Mamas and the Papas, ELEANOR RIGBY by The Beatles and THE HINDU TIMES by Oasis. Just add LOVE WHAT YOU DO by THE DIVINE COMEDY and you have my six all-time favourite pop songs, each having fused perfectly with my musical taste-buds.

The last not without a fight, however. The production here is just plain odd and leaves more than a bit to be desired. For example, the subtlety of Neil Hannon's guitar is smothered under the dead weight of progressively overwrought keyboards. The sonic sledgehammering even extends to the carefully layered backing vocals of the final verse, leaving them so low in the mix as to be almost unnoticeable. Must have been some day at the studio.

Thankfully, time has done its thing and pushed Love What You Do way beyond mere technical quibbles. Now it's simply a brilliant song, sung beautifully, with a lyric that has considerable depth.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector [Digitally Remastered By Phil Spector]
A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector [Digitally Remastered By Phil Spector]
Offered by Side Two
Price: £8.79

5.0 out of 5 stars BACK TO MONO - A PRESENT FROM THE PAST, 9 Dec 2009
As I write this, the snow is falling gently on the driveway outside, there's the faint sound of sleigh bells in the air and the stars are twinkling with festive anticipation...

Okay, none of the above, but at least it's December. And if you want to discover that Christmas feeling - despite the miserable economic climate - you could do a lot worse than A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU. For me, it works every time. (I can't imagine it working too well for PHIL SPECTOR right now, however, but that's what you get for waving a bloody handgun around.)

Spector's WALL OF SOUND is central to the album's success, endowing, it has to be said, some pretty cheesy rock and roll with a tremendous seasonal energy, certainly beyond anything his contemporaries were capable of producing at the time. Recorded in mono, the effect is BIG in every sense and the sentimentality of the project (which might have spelled disaster in anyone else's hands) works a treat. It's also a lot of fun - and that's the whole idea.

Whatever else he may be now, Phil Spector was once a true innovator, a genius in the recording studio who captured huge emotional performances from a talented ensemble of vocal artists and session musicians. At the very least he deserves to be remembered for that.

If you're interested in his life and career as a producer, then look out for the superb PHIL SPECTOR: OUT OF HIS HEAD by Richard Williams.

Best of the Best Tracks:
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN - The Ronettes
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN - The Crystals
WINTER WONDERLAND - Darlene Love
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS - Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER - The Crystals

It doesn't matter what decade you were born in, this is the Christmas album to beat all others. Now, where's the mulled wine? Oh, yeah...down the plughole (can't do with the stuff). Merry Christmas.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed [DVD] [1969]
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed [DVD] [1969]
Dvd ~ Peter Cushing
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MONSTER WITHIN, 30 Nov 2009
PETER CUSHING brought integrity, artistry and class to every role he played in a remarkable career lasting over fifty years. Some of the films he appeared in may have been variable in quality, but the man himself was a gentle, natural asset and never less than a joy to watch. FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is the best of the Hammer films to bear that character's name and Cushing's portrayal is not only confident, but assured.

BRIEF SUMMARY
When Dr Brandt dies at a mental asylum, the evil Baron seizes the chance to transplant the brain of his former colleague into the body of meek Dr Richter.

You'd think that after having created woman (only to see 'her' repay him by committing suicide not once, but twice) even VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN might have got the message and be somewhat anxious to step away from the scalpel, but no. Driven to ever more unethical behaviour through an obsession to prove the medical establishment wrong, he continues to cross every line in the quest to create life from death; blackmail, kidnap, assault and even murder - nothing more than the simple byproducts of a hard day's work.

But when his latest 'creation' - having learned the awful truth - traps him inside a burning house at the film's climax, we're left in no doubt that 'the monster within' has just as much to answer for. And thus are the books balanced. (Note: a clear reluctance on the part of the producers to forgo what was then a lucrative franchise sees him return to make the same mistakes all over again in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, but that's quite another story.)

Enriched by an intelligent script, first-rate direction and a vigorous pace (courtesy of some excellent editing and Cushing's boundless athletic dexterity), FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is one of those shining examples of classic late-sixties British-made horror. It's also perfect late-night entertainment.

Soak up the (blood-soaked) atmosphere, it'll never be this good again.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Dark Star - [DVD] [1974]
Dark Star - [DVD] [1974]
Dvd ~ Brian Narelle
Offered by globalmovies
Price: £8.99

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STAR CRAZY, 19 Nov 2009
This review is from: Dark Star - [DVD] [1974] (DVD)
There's a lot to like about DARK STAR. If you're up on 70s science-fiction films, you'll know this is where JOHN CARPENTER and DAN O' BANNON cut their teeth. Subsequently falling out, one went on to direct THE THING, the other to write the original screenplay for ALIEN. But without the experience gained on this, effectively an upgraded 'college project', neither would have been associated in later years quite so vividly with the genre.

THE PLOT
Spaced-out hippes travel the cosmos blowing up unstable stars on a pre-colonization mission plagued by continual mishaps, including an intelligent bomb with an existential death wish.

Dark Star is a black comedy which pokes fun at the underlying issues facing a group of hacked-off astronauts who have succumbed to the deep psychological problems associated with being trapped in a confined space - within the realms of infinite space. A perfect handle upon which to hang their subsequent disintegration. And, boy, do these guys fall apart at the seams (even the cryogenically maintained head of their former commander has stopped dispensing good advice and begun a steady decline into gibberish). Only when presented with imminent destruction by a short-tempered and fractious Thermostellar bomb do they actually pull themselves together for a brief but hilarious ethical debate, man and machine in imperfect harmony. Futile, of course, and it's clear by now that things have gone beyond pear-shaped. But moments before what appears to be the bleakest of endings, earlier foreshadowings are thrown into sharp relief (then cleverly realised) and the result - thanks to the sheer AUDACITY of universal order and chaos - is an unexpected pleasure. That's quite a feat to pull off as the end titles roll to a country & western song, playing Dark Star out in marvellously judged incongruity. From such uncertain beginnings does a low-budget classic emerge.

THE ACTING
Inexperienced, almost amateurish. That's probably why it works so well.

THE EFFECTS
Welcome to BLAKE'S 7 territory, but don't get sniffy; shaky spacecraft and wobbly sets are an intrinsic part of the tv show's and this film's lasting charm. As for the stowaway alien/beach ball...well, the puncture kit probably cost more than the finished product, but full marks to O' Bannon for making the most of limited resources.

THE DVD
The picture quality (from a lousy degenerated video master) is hopeless, with washed out colours and poor stability. Don't we deserve better than this? A top-notch print may well not be up to the technical scrutiny afforded from a Blu-ray release but, surely, a decent standard-def print is available somewhere. At least it's cheap. And as I said at the top, there's a lot to like about Dark Star...so, for those who take their sci-fi comedies seriously, owning even a flawed copy of this little gem should be a given.

THE BLU-RAY...AT LAST!
Now this is what I'm talking about.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2013 11:34 AM GMT


Acid Bath
Acid Bath
by Max Bollinger
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.52

3.0 out of 5 stars DIGESTIVE TRACTS, 8 Nov 2009
This review is from: Acid Bath (Audio CD)
ACID BATH is an intriguing title for a science-fiction story, although it turns out to be entirely appropriate, given the ending and the method by which it is executed. Written by VASELEOS GARSON in 1952, it comes straight out of the Cold War era, complete with a very real sense of fear and mistrust - much as you might expect between the opposing superpowers of the time. The fact that much of it is comparable to 50s pulp sci-fi of the Amazing Stories variety only adds to its charm.

SUMMARY:
For 400 years scientists had been preaching preparedness as Earth flung her ships into the reaches of the Solar System, taking the first long step toward the conquest of space. On a distant asteroid, John Karyl, a Starways Lone Watcher, encounters the Steel-Blues - robots, out to discover and exploit the weakness of humankind. And having subjected Jon to twenty-one days of 'liquid' torture, things don't go exactly as planned for the alien invaders.

Brought skillfully to life as an audiobook by actor and voice-artist MAX BOLLINGER (whom I was happy to oblige with this review), ACID BATH is a straight-down-the-line adaptation of the original source material. The soundscape that accompanies his narration is generally subtle and allows the listener to be drawn into the action with relative ease and speed (a larger budget may have increased the variety of effects but, limitations aside, what there is here works well enough). The robots are voiced in a familiar style, but that doesn't undermine their presence - like all good Steel-Blues, they remain ruthless and determined SOBs.

Bollinger's voice is engaging throughout, and there's a nice touch of otherworldliness to his natural delivery, which further serves to enhance the production (the late Vladek Sheybal is another actor who springs to mind in this respect). Note: it's not my desire to reveal the ending, but let's just say that there are fleeting echoes of WAR OF THE WORLDS, so if you like that story then you may just like this one.

Entertaining retro science-fiction, from a volatile period in history we now tend to associate with political and social paranoia, VASELEOS GARSON (a pseudonym of William J. Garson) has used his characters to explore the darker aspects of human nature. Some things never change.

I wish ACID BATH success and look forward to further titles from FANTASTICA PRODUCTIONS.

RECOMMENDED

.................................................
NOTE OF CAUTION: When writing the review for ACID BATH, I failed to turn up ANY biographical data whatsoever on the author. A single line about two other short stories, 'Goblin Planetoid' and 'Kill Me Once, Kill Me Twice' do not, in my book, constitute a fully-rounded CV. There are, however, numerous identical references to the audiobook version of the story. Now, unless someone out there can at least point me to a GARSON profile with a bit of substance - d.o.b., alive or dead, etc - I have to say that my jury remains out on the historical authenticity of this one. Weird.


Revolution: making of the Beatles' White Album (The Vinyl Frontier)
Revolution: making of the Beatles' White Album (The Vinyl Frontier)
by David Quantick
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE WHITE HEAT OF GENIUS, 29 July 2009
A great book about a milestone recording: THE BEATLES (known to you, me and everybody else as THE WHITE ALBUM).

DAVID QUANTICK has analysed the people, the times and, specifically, the songs from an album whose appeal has spanned generations, showcasing the straightforward and eclectic genius of four unique musicians - two of whom will never be equalled in any shape or form again. Dark clouds may have been gathering and paths diverging by 1968, but that didn't stop The Beatles working at the height of their creative powers.

There's a lot of information and insight to digest here and Quantick wastes nothing. A confident understanding of the historical narrative and references to key figures and events (the Maharishi Yogi, Brian Epstein's sudden death, Yoko Ono, the ruinous Apple Corps ventures, etc) plus a nice line in dry humour (essential, if one is to appreciate the 'merits' of McCartney's woeful WILD HONEY PIE), ensures that all the important and relevant details are included. But this is neither blanket acclaimation nor blind worship; the underlying story of REVOLUTION... is about growing up, about JOHN LENNON, PAUL McCARTNEY, GEORGE HARRISON and RINGO STARR coming to terms with themselves and the end of a decade in which they pretty much had it all.

The songs they wrote in that period reflected those attitudes and experiences and covered many bases, including heavy rock (HELTER SKELTER), satire (PIGGIES), pastiche (HONEY PIE) and avant-garde (REVOLUTION 9) and, taken as a whole, The White Album provided the listener with an astonishingly wide array of musical invention. Then, as now, and probably for ever more. That's not just the legacy, but the essence of how good The Beatles truly were.

This is an excellent work in its own right but also a very useful companion to the actual CD or - if you're lucky enough to have one in a cardboard box somewhere - the original 12" gatefold double-album.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2012 8:15 PM BST


New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) [DVD AUDIO]
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) [DVD AUDIO]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOLD MINDS, 30 Jun 2009
NEW GOLD DREAM shimmers with New Wave experimentalism. The soundscape is wide and full of dreamy textures, above which JIM KERR's haunting vocals weave in and out like some spirit in the material world.

STANDOUT TRACKS (IN 5.1 SURROUND)
1. Someone, Somewhere in Summertime
4. Big Sleep
5. Somebody Up There Likes You
6. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Despite coming from a transitional period - the move towards a bigger sound and correspondingly bigger venues - this is SIMPLE MINDS at their glittering best. A perfect choice for the DVD-AUDIO format, which includes onscreen menus, lyrics and bonus features.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Love What You Do [CD 2]
Love What You Do [CD 2]
Offered by rsc-media
Price: £7.90

5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE WHAT THEY DID, 29 Jun 2009
This review is from: Love What You Do [CD 2] (Audio CD)
ORDINARY WORLD by Duran Duran, CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' by The Mamas and the Papas, DUEL by Propaganda, ELEANOR RIGBY by The Beatles and THE HINDU TIMES by Oasis. Just add LOVE WHAT YOU DO by THE DIVINE COMEDY and you have my six favourite pop songs of all time. Oh, there are many more, but none have fused so perfectly with my musical taste buds quite like the above. The odd thing about Love What You Do, however, is that when I first heard it on Mark and Lard's Afternoon Show it didn't immediately strike a chord (so to speak). In fact, it took quite a while to get under my skin. But when it did...

That's not to say I like the production. Love What You Do is a reflective, mid-tempo mood piece - or at least it's meant to be - but the subtlety of Neil Hannon's guitar has been smothered under the weight of progressively overwrought keyboards. And the carefully layered backing vocals of the last verse are so low in the mix as to be almost unnoticeable. Maybe that's why I struggled with it.

Not any more, though. Time has pushed it way beyond mere technical quibbles. Now it's simply a brilliant song, sung beautifully, with a lyric that has considerable depth.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Also worthy of mention is GET ME TO A MONASTERY. It's charming, clever and unfailingly melodic.


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock [Blu-ray] [1984]
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock [Blu-ray] [1984]
Dvd ~ William Shatner
Price: £7.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SPOCK DOCTORED, 24 Jun 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
SYNOPSIS
ADMIRAL KIRK and his bridge crew risk their careers stealing the decommissioned Enterprise to return to the restricted Genesis Planet to recover SPOCK's body.

THE FILM
Directed by LEONARD NIMOY, this is the one where WILLIAM SHATNER really acts. A beautiful, low-key performance (I am not joking), purposely reigned in by a colleague who knew exactly how to handle what is in effect a study about life, death and rebirth. It also has something insightful to say about friendship and sacrifice - huge continuing themes, all of significant importance here (and, if you're into that sort of thing, there are any number of Shakesperian references to be found throughout the television episodes and movies, just by scratching at the surface).

STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK was deeply satisfying to me, but not for most of the fans, it seems. Many thought it was too maudlin. But that's their loss, because if ever a STAR TREK film had something to say about the Triumph of the Human Spirit then this was it; Nimoy captured something no other director has managed before or since. And it's still got all the sci-fi trappings you could ever wish for, so what's not to like?

THE DISK
The Blu-Ray transfer is so detailed it actually emphasizes the 'garbage' mattes around the ENTERPRISE in the 'approach to Spacedock' sequence, a particularly harrowing example. Other than that, it's solid and consistent throughout. Colour is vivid, yet lifelike, and the sound is marginally better than the Special Edition DVD release, but dialogue still lacks high-end sharpness.

AND FINALLY...WILLIAM SHATNER
For once, the ham was placed to one side, no lines were carved up and no scenery chewed. The Transformed Man went for it and gave us something truly special.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


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