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4.4 out of 5 stars51
4.4 out of 5 stars
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I saw Japan open for Blue Oyster Cult in 1978. The Cult crowd treated them with derision, frankly, but I thought they were pretty good, in a sleazy rock way. Of course, they gradually worked on what they did, and re-invented themselves as a more thoughtful and considered band. When David Sylvian launched his solo career with 'Brilliant Trees', I bought it, played it a few times and filed it. It didn't engage me. Then, for some reason, I was browsing the Amazon site, and saw this compilation. I thought I'd check it out - the modest outlay made me think it was worth a punt. I am awfully glad I did, frankly; A double set of interesting, truly absorbing music that puts a value on texture, atmosphere and melody rather than trying to chase a 'hit'. I love the way that Sylvian will experiment with different styles and let his creativity explore new sounds. It's not an instant record necessarily, and being a compilation, it can shift gears alarmingly - but delightfully so. I am keen to make up for the thirty years I have missed in Sylvian's career since I rather summarily dismissed 'Brilliant Trees' but digging deeper into his recorded works.
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on 5 March 2012
It's not hard to see why Japan/Sylvian fans have a tough time with the band/artist's previous record companies. The compilations of various kinds have been racking up over the years and just when you thought there couldn't be anything more to say, here comes A Victim of Stars put out through Virgin. Reviews are right, that it's a pretty decent primer for any introduction to Sylvian; though if you haven't been introduced to his music by now you're pretty late to the party and some will complain this all sounds either dated or wilfully ambient! Nevertheless, the "new" track accompanying this collection, Where's Your Gravity?, manages to bridge some of the atmospheric brilliance of Japan's later songs with echoes of Sylvian's own work stretching across nearly thirty years. But one reviewer is right, Ghosts and Forbidden Colours don't need to be off the Everything and Nothing compilation surely when the originals (and especially the Tin Drum version of Ghosts which mysteriously seems to have been the poor relation of the single/remix effort for years and yet is far superior) could be worked into this record if we have to be reminded of Japan in the former song's case.

Small Metal Gods and Manafon add a bit of clarity to the later work and update the story, though they are some lonely highlights to what have been indifferent records recently. Listeners will also wonder how remixed Bamboo Houses actually is while the album version of Heartbeat I happen to like more though this restrained remix is okay too. That aside, Sylvian's dedication to the style and mastery of his music shines through here. If you listen and keep doing so, you realise how little the music has dated and also how "un-ambient" it can be at times; a testament to the quality of the textures and sound-scapes that he's played around with for so many years. Indeed if you were uninitiated you might wonder which was the older and newer stuff here, possibly confused by what other reviewers have rightly stated is still a rough and ready transfer of the music. A serious bit of remastering surely needs to be done with tracks that Virgin have frankly treated with a slap-dash attitude over the years. And even the cover and inside pictures date the work in Virgin's eyes which, despite quite sturdy packaging, make this look like a bit of a cashing-in exercise. Even so, the fact that the record has made the album charts at all, reflects the loyalty of Sylvian's fans and the respect he's held in by many. The record is a triumph of sorts then: reflecting a history where he's been determined to plot his own course; demanding concentration from the listener; and repaying your attention with serious, but rewarding sounds, emotions and beauty. David Sylvian sounds about as far out of place in modern rock/pop music (I know he wouldn't see himself in that branch anyway!) as you can get, and no bad thing it is. Recommended, especially for the relative newcomer, but with reservations.
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on 14 April 2012
A Victim of Stars is the 'greatest hits' album that Everything and Nothing never was. The 80s are represented pretty faithfully by the singles of the period - no Buoy which is a shame. The nineties mainly the same - no Godman which is a relief. As Sylvian made less and less impact on the charts, some of the later selections are more subjective. Slightly surprised not to have Damage or The Librarian which were both more accessible than some of the other choices made.

The 21st century work which so divides fans is well contextualised in this retrospective. The more obvious and perhaps best tracks from Blemish, Manafon and Died in the Wool make an appearance. If you don't like these ones, you can forget about the albums themselves.

Where's Your Gravity is a worthy addition, albeit probably a B grade Sylvian track. What the album effectively showcases is how Sylvian has evolved through a clever use of collaborators - the original Japan members, Sakamoto, Nelson, Fripp, Talvin Singh, Ribot, Friedman, Bang, Fujikora to name the key ones - to became an artist of unsurpassed grace and depth. This is a beautiful way to share the journey with the usual fantastic artistic presentation.
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on 13 April 2016
David Sylvian-A victim of Stars 1982-2012 weds highlights from an era in the life of a pioneer. Sylvian originally fronted Japan and the 80’s albums Quiet Life, Gentleman take Polaroids and Tin Drum offer fine futuristic fare.
A solo Sylvian seeks creative diversity and improvisers aplenty have helped that cause. Brilliant Trees, Secrets of the Beehive, The First Day (with Robert Fripp) and a Japan reunion for the Rain Tree Crow named project are exceptional records. Ambient landscapes, epic ballads and a musical autonomy feature on A Victim of Stars-and melancholy, melody and majesty triumph across 31 stellar songs.
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on 27 February 2012
This is superb compilation that includes the more accessible tracks of his brilliant latter work. Some find his last few albums too much in their entirety, but the tracks selected here showcase what an astounding and refreshing songwriter Sylvian remains. Breathtakingly good!
It must be increasingly difficult for artists of this nature to make a living. He is an artist who has never compromised when it comes to the integrity of his music and that extends to the physical product. It is the same for this compilation. I strongly disagree that this compilation is unaccessible, it combines his most commercial work (singles) with the more accessible tracks from his last three albums, it manages this whilst still sounding powerful and interesting. I for one have not been "milked" and such an accusation is ludicrous!
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on 15 August 2013
Heartache occasionally overwhelmed me when I was young, for the usual reasons. Overcome by the sudden stop which the loss of her forced on me, nothing could address the torpor. David Sylvian's Brilliant Trees album came to dwell there with me, offering company, not advice. His music did not provide a way out, but a way in, to the recesses of bleak sadness. Gently leading you through the cavernous depths of your stasis, it helped you feel sorry for yourself with a thoroughness that was calm, not angry. Since calmness listens, while anger transmits, a single epiphany resulted: you were no longer alone. And once your heart experienced the constructive epiphany of companionship, even the remote kind provided by a stranger's songs, a light went on; you began to query the possibility of a way out. We are all carpet crawlers; we all have to get in to get out. 25 years on, with substantial emotional success in the bag, I chanced upon this album and listened to it in the car and was powerfully reminded of the acute sensitivity of my pain, something vital, which made me smile. Brilliant Trees gave me more insight into how I felt than anything I've chanced upon since, helping my heart to acknowledge, which then invited my head to explore, so buy that album first. But buy this one too, for Forbidden Colours, an old friend, and the lyrics on Orpheus, a fresh acquaintance. These fires never stop.
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on 27 February 2012
A compilation will always be a compilation.
But on this one, the delightful thing is that David Sylvian chose himself which of his most well known pieces could represented him best to fit this 2CD format.
The songs are in chronological order, and the whole pack feels like as if it could be a cd of originals -in its own right, there's a quite cohesive, constant flow in this journey through 3 decades of material. All songs feel suddenly new when set together in this way.
With "Victim of Stars", David Sylvian proves that he still remains as one of the most visionary, innovative, talented British/European artists working today.
Un-baroque, cleansed musical style, stainless, compelling poetry (also in all of his best known pieces) throughout a quite admirable, uncompromising, consequent career.
Definitely, an absolutely outstanding wrapping of a remarkable 30 year long musical journey.
And the only original "Where's your Gravity?, simply soberb...
Thank you sooo much for all these years of inspiration, for all your words, for all your music, Sylvian.
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on 29 February 2012
Well, I realise my review won't be one of those popular reviews that gets heaps of 'helpful' ticks.

So, please bear with me for one moment while I reassure you that I bought this compilation because I think this is exceptional, astounding music. And although there are a couple of track choices on this selection that I think are misguided, the music itself is not the problem, but the audio quality is.

Briefly, the two tracks I think represent wasted opportunities are, ironically, the two 'hits': Ghosts and Forbidden Colours. To be honest I am not sure why Ghosts needs to be included in any David Sylvian release - sure, it's a corker, but it's a Japan track, hence once again on this comp we get the 'remix' which is actually a re-recording, at least of the vocals. I don't enjoy David Sylvian's performance. It's one of those 'I've sung this song so many times, to make it interesting for myself I'm going to have to take the melody all over the place and play around with the phrasing'. Thanks, but no.

As for Forbidden Colours, once again this is not the original version - it's the version Sylvian recorded later, replete with a string section that may well be a sample. I don't know ... anyway, it's not a bad version. It's fine and dandy, but it is not the original version. It's more than possible that the original versions of these two songs are subject to copyright issues. But if that is the case, I would have happily foregone having them on this comp.

About the audio. Sadly, it doesn't appear these tracks have been remastered for this particular compilation. They sound exactly like the remasters from a few years ago, and let's face it, those remasters weren't impressive. They were the sort of remastering where an audio signal gets sent through a few presets.

Admittedly I cannot be entirely sure. The reason I can't be sure is that, having taken tracks from various sources (i.e. different albums), whoever was responsible for this comp has decided to balance the many different levels, so here we have the worst possible solution: normalisation.

The sound quality is, frankly, absolutely horrible, and I think this does enormous disservice to an artist obviously intent on producing stellar audio. For the record, I listened to this comp using a Musical Fidelity CD player, four mono block amps, and Neat speakers. So, as clean a signal as I can get.

The lack of care and attention, what amounts to complete indifference to the impact of this amazing music is, for me, grounds to give this release a one star review.
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I do own (and love) a couple of Sylvian LPs already but jumped at the chance to get hold of this compilation. Not having followed his career as closely as I ought to have done over the last 30 years, I saw this as a means of getting some perspective on an artist I've always very much admired, but for whom it can sometimes be difficult to find the best point of access. After all, how easy is it to be put off somebody by buying the "difficult" album first accidentally (Ascension, instead of A Love Supreme [Deluxe Edition], for example)?

"A Victim of Stars" might not contain all David Sylvian's best work: although the bulk of material here is new to me, two of my own favourites aren't on here - "September" and "Before the Bullfight" (doesn't bother me mind, as I already own 'em). Also, the version of the classic "Forbidden Colours" is not the one I'm familiar with (the electronic one) but a more piano-ey version (I'm not sure which is considered to be definitive, but my preference is most definitely the former). Nevertheless, of the selections I hadn't previously heard, I have made some real discoveries ("Darkest Dreaming" for one - amazing) and I will certainly be making further Sylvian record purchases off the back of this - so in that sense this compilation has done its job for me.

The 2 disc set is nicely presented in a digipak with a slightly unusual booklet and has the overall feel of a class purchase. The sound quality/mastering is awesome - this is evident from the moment the familiar "Ghosts" (track 1, CD 1) comes out of your speakers.

So why only four stars? Well, whilst this is a nice collection, as I mentioned above there are some omissions. Also, I'd have to say that this is probably not as good an introduction as the studio album Gone to Earth -2cd- - and I'd be tempted to advise any newcomers to take the plunge and go for that instead. But, if I could award 1/2 stars, this would be a 4.5/5.
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on 7 March 2015
Musicians of great genius and output produce some sublime music but, unless you're totally addicted, sadly also some clunkers. A good mate of mine has the complete Sylvian catalogue and to my ears it has its share of lows but this lengthy compilation seems to corral most of the high points without too many glaring omissions. Might have to buy Dead Bees on Cake though.......
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