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Kelvin Dickinson (Leeds, England)
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Brian Pern: The Life of Rock/A Life In Rock/45 Years of Prog Rock (BBC) [DVD]
Brian Pern: The Life of Rock/A Life In Rock/45 Years of Prog Rock (BBC) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Day
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE LIVES OF BRIAN, 29 Jan. 2016
Superb spoof, blending fictional rock worlds with its many counterparts in real life almost seamlessly. I say 'almost' because the most perfect send-up of all, and where the benchmark still resides after all these years, is Rob Reiner's 'This Is Spinal Tap'. For the simple reason that the music stood up in its own right, the soundtrack being an actual decent stab at 'proper' heavy rock. Unfortunately, the efforts of Brian Pern over several decades of changing tastes in popular culture are not quite as memorable and, as a result, the whole enterprise just misses the mark, but only by a whisker.

However, it all looks fabulous and is acted with a decent amount of conviction by a group of very talented and, again unlike Spinal Tap, seriously famous faces. But thank God for BBC4 and it's huge archive of classic and not-so classic cuts; because of that, there's tons of stuff available to dissect and re-stitch together in weirdly recognisable forms. The swearing is of course copious, but it fits the world-weary nature of our former prog-rock gods perfectly (they're always seriously p.o. about something, usually each other). And the story of Brian's life - both on the road and behind the scenes with his vulture/manager and bitterly estranged/untalented family - and the many musical turns it has taken since starting out, hangs together very well.

VERDICT: Very funny, very well made, Simon Day headlines a classy 'rockumentary' that will stand the test of time (and repeated viewings).

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


THE FALL AND RISE OF HUGH CORNWELL
THE FALL AND RISE OF HUGH CORNWELL
Price: £9.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HUGHDUNNIT, 26 Oct. 2015
I'm lucky enough to have seen HUGH CORNWELL live - first in '79 as a Strangler, then twice in the noughties with his stripped-down backing bands - and this new solo retrospective, THE FALL AND RISE OF, is as good a reminder of how he got to where he is now as you're likely to hear. He can write beautiful, affecting songs when he wants to and there are several here amongst other very well-chosen numbers. I've always had the highest regard and blokey affection for this unique musician but that has sometimes translated into me being a tad 'picky' about some of the solo albums, which I've felt may have contained the occasional missed opportunity (see earlier reviews).

Just my opinion of course, but it does at least show I'm bothered.

The above collection, however, is superb and you really should make it a focal point and favourite of yours. Cornwell is at heart an old rocker, the quintessential guitar-totin' guy with the black suit, eyes and hair who isn't afraid to let his roots show, particularly with the driving 'Leave Me Alone', 'Hot Cat On A Tin Roof' and 'Please Don't Put Me On A Slow Boat To Trowbridge' - the trademark sardonic wit, as always, a key part of his musicality. Long may both continue. As for the beautiful songs I referred to, well, they're obvious to anyone with a heart: 'Lay Back On Me Pal', 'First Bus To Babylon', and 'One Burning Desire'.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [Blu-ray]
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Alan Bentley
Price: £15.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY KIND OF MAGIC, 10 July 2015
A slow-burner of a first episode but then, almost without realising, you're drawn into one of the best BBC period fantasy dramas in a LONG time. Fantastically imaginative visual effects, but played out with a subtlety that places JSAMN head and shoulders above the usual genre offerings (the Battle of Waterloo scene climaxing with the giant, rain-soaked, mud hand was a cgi masterpiece and perfectly integrated). The atmosphere, script and acting also makes this a very human story to which a sequel just has to be commissioned and, given the source material, that ought to be beyond question...if, of course, those damned final viewing figures have risen to the occasion. (And just one more reason why we can't allow the Corporation to be brought down from behind the mirror, so to speak, by narrow-minded and destructive tory policy. You know, this may be a good time to dig out and start wearing my old 'Don't Blame Me I Voted Labour' badge).

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Brian Wilson - Pet Sounds [DVD] [NTSC] [2003]
Brian Wilson - Pet Sounds [DVD] [NTSC] [2003]
Dvd ~ Brian Wilson

5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT VIBRATIONS, 23 Jun. 2015
Compiled from several sell-out live performances in 2003 of his brilliant PET SOUNDS album, this is BRIAN WILSON at his late-career best.

Fellow bandmembers, most notably the superb Wondermints, are also at the top of their game; both musically and vocally they're as tight as you could ever hope to wish for, short of actually seeing THE BEACH BOYS themselves, circa 1966. Okay, Wilson may be looking somewhat ravaged by the direction his particular rock and roll lifestyle took him, but his voice has survived in fine shape and the combined harmonies, present in almost every song, sound quite beautiful within the impressive surroundings of London's Royal Festival Hall.

There's a few disconcerting wardrobe changes to contend with (the result of editing together the best elements from different gigs) but highlights are many, especially:
WOULDN'T IT BE NICE
SLOOP JOHN B
GOD ONLY KNOWS
I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES

And the final, electrifying, bonus of GOOD VIBRATIONS. I would have loved to have been there.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Mind Meld - Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime [DVD]
Mind Meld - Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime [DVD]
Dvd ~ William Shatner
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars TO OLDLY GO..., 9 Jun. 2015
Kirk & Spock. Shatner & Nimoy. Bill & Leonard. Two veteran actors now in their eighties chatting informally about their careers and the glory days of STAR TREK. Shatner is, as always, an irrepressible force of nature unlike the more reserved Nimoy, yet both are resolutely on the same page regarding critics and some oft-repeated rumours of in-fighting and scene-stealing, not to mention pay disputes, budget cuts and off-stage relationships. The boys want to set the record straight.

And, in a way, they do. It's certainly no secret that James Doohan, who played Scotty, disliked Shatner intensely for the cavalier way he would treat his co-stars, displaying little regard for their feelings and often muscling in on their limelight. Nimoy, on the other hand, may have been far more diplomatic in how he behaved but he was nonetheless a ferocious negotiator and fiercely protective of the Spock character. Both men conclude that since they were the stars who carried the show then what they did was only fair and right. Well, perhaps.

MIND MELD is, as one old Vulcan might say, a fascinating insight into the actor's ego and includes some frank admissions of very human failings and tragedies - Nimoy's alcholism, the loss of Shatner's wife in a swimming pool accident and the ups and downs associated with being forever typecast as Starfleet's finest. There are some sweet reminiscences about DeForest Kelley (the actor who played Dr McCoy, a kind and gentle soul both in space and in real life) who completed the Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic to perfection - a unique balance of characters never bettered in any of the spinoff shows. Tribute is also paid to creator/producer GENE RODDENBERRY.

Not absolutely essential and probably not to every fan's taste, MIND MELD is still worth having if you want to see another side to two living legends (and longtime buddies), laughing, joking and riffing on about phasers and Orion Slave Women and nerve pinches and Hortas and IDIC and all the rest of the stuff that went up to make the finest science-fiction show on tv. Ever.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Sad postscript: only Shatner remains in the first team now - I hope he carries the torch for a few more years because, beyond that, what is actually left except perhaps the Undiscovered Country..?


4 Rather Tasty Tracks
4 Rather Tasty Tracks

5.0 out of 5 stars KITCHEN-SINK SUBVERSIVE, 24 April 2015
This review is from: 4 Rather Tasty Tracks (Audio CD)
JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH is a brilliant comic character and the songs on this CD demonstrate just how wickedly funny Graham Fellows' 'Versatile Singer/Organist' is. I saw him perform them at The Leeds Playhouse earlier this year and laughed throughout. Just check out the lyrics to 'I Can't Go back To Savoury Now' and 'Two Margarines' - utterly, mundanely, insanely brilliant. But I feel there's also something deeply subversive going on here too, perhaps on a subconscious level I can't quite access. I mean I get the joke, but it actually doesn't wear thin - unlike a lot of so-called 'comedy' numbers. And to be able to do that is clever. Fellows is a gifted musician, and through John Shuttleworth he's created the most unlikely exponent of droll yet philosophically-mental pop songs ever performed on a Yamaha PSS51. Oof!

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Punk! (In Pictures)
Punk! (In Pictures)
by Ammonite Press
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars PUNK SNOT DEAD!, 16 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Punk! (In Pictures) (Paperback)
From the Daily & Sunday Mirror archives. The Sex Pistols dominate throughout but the punk movement as a whole is pretty well represented. (A shame I wasn't a couple of years younger as I might have featured in the odd pic but I was marching through the capital protesting against the nuclear arms race instead). The book does, however, successfully capture the era and most of the photos come with dates attached so you can see who the real punks were and not the pretend wannabes of later years.

A useful pictorial reminder of fairly recent British history, with some of the sights, sounds (and smells) of a politically turbulent but musically exhilerating time. How did that chant used to go? Ah, yes: Punk Snot Dead! Or something like that.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)
Price: £4.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AURUM SILENTIUM, 25 Mar. 2015
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. (Slightly weird thought interruption: I wonder if he voted for Scottish Independence, because JK has become a dead ringer for Alex Salmond in the intervening years). Moving on...

STANDOUT TRACKS
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. Aurum Silentium? Gold perfection.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Best Of The Specials
The Best Of The Specials
Price: £4.50

5.0 out of 5 stars SPECIAL INDEED, 25 Mar. 2015
Play GHOST TOWN or STEREOTYPE or stunning debut single GANGSTERS and relive again those heady days of the late seventies/early eighties. More than anything the songs on this superb compilation sum up perfectly the culture of social unrest present in much of Margaret Thatcher's Brave New Britain. For many people life was pretty volatile - due, in no small part, to high unemployment, the poll tax, and the threat (or so we believed at the time) of nuclear armageddon, resulting in an unexpectedly energised left-wing protest movement of which I was a (fairly) active member for a while. That's not to say protesting against the Tory Government was an unrelentingly po-faced endeavour. No, there was a lot of fun to be had simply carrying banners and chanting primitive slogans outside the Houses of Parliament. But that was then.

See? That's just part of what this album does so well. TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG, NITE KLUB, RAT RACE, FRIDAY NIGHT SATURDAY MORNING...THE BEST OF THE SPECIALS is a scathing period piece and a recognisably human portrait of life, kitchen sinks and all. Yes, you had to be there, but forty-five or older, then you probably were; it just depends on which side of the fence you belonged.

Coventry boys JERRY DAMMERS, TERRY HALL and THE SPECIALS have provided us with the most evocative SKA/PUNK music you could ever wish to hear.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Chasing Yesterday
Chasing Yesterday
Price: £15.93

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FIXED ALTITUDE, 25 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Chasing Yesterday (Audio CD)
Make no mistake, this is a very good album, but it feels sooo 'constructed'. That is not a criticism, per se, it's just a consequence of the musical relationship the solo NOEL GALLAGHER initiates with the listener; the overriding sense that you know exactly where you are, where you've been and where you're headed with his compositions. But still it's a four star product...of course it is. Okay, here are ten things I think you should know about CHASING YESTERDAY. In no particular order, no sir.

1: It is exactly as good as his debut album, no better and no worse, but with added saxophone noodles and honks.
2: 'The Ballad Of The Mighty I' is the best song here and undoubtedly why it was chosen as a single. It's also got a beautiful middle eight, which reminds me of 'Cross Country' from 'International Velvet', the soundtrack by Francis Lai. Eh? Youtube.
3: 'Riverman' and 'The Right Stuff' sound like a stroll down Lower East Side Manhattan at 3am, a little the worse for wear and catching the sounds coming from a small neon-lit bar. Still not quite as intoxicating as it should be, however.
4: 'Lock All The Doors' is Noel reminding us that he was once in a band who were quite good back in the day...whatever they were called. Wasn't there some other guy in it with similar caterpillars for eyebrows who was a bit of a d-k but sang quite well?
5: Two blokes/bros with beards - who could be interchangeable in a police line-up - form the rest of Noel's High Flying Birds. They're very solid musicians and, if appearances are anything to go by, equally at home on Terra Firma...unlike your average high flying bird, for example.
6: I was surprised at how quickly I got to know the songs and which ones were played most often. Tracks 10 and 1-4, although that could change with time.
7: More backing singers this time around, particularly on 'In The Heat Of The Moment'. It works, but best keep an eye on them as they have a nasty habit of breeding if not reined in, and what started out as a bit of vocal augmentation may yet turn into a choir. If so, 'Chasing Royalties' might be more than just a title suggestion for the 'difficult' third album to come.
8: If only there was a little less precision and a little more looseness to the proceedings...this would have been a no-brainer five star review. Maybe next time.
9: Apologies if the above seems harsh or flippant, I'm only trying to highlight a few small issues. In the end, though, the bottom line is simple-
10: Buy it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


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