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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blue Nile unplugged
I notice that this is the first 4 star review of this album when people seem to either love or hate it. Like many other people I know, I consider The Blue Nile's "Hats" is one of the top albums of all time (though extraordinarily it is not in Rolling Stone's recent Top 500 albums - but then again there is no Kate Bush album in those 500 either!) and I approached this...
Published on 3 Jun 2012 by Martin Fielding

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paul unplugged and intimate
A new collection of song fragments from the former Blue Nile singer, plain simple ballads, primarily Paul's voice and a piano, in some ways very similar to Roddy Frame's acoustic "Surf" album (however Roddy's "Surf" had tons more variety of pace and poise). I say song fragments as there are no choruses, no true melodies, almost a cathartic stream of consciousness mood...
Published on 19 July 2012 by Widnes Bob


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blue Nile unplugged, 3 Jun 2012
By 
Martin Fielding (Findon, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
I notice that this is the first 4 star review of this album when people seem to either love or hate it. Like many other people I know, I consider The Blue Nile's "Hats" is one of the top albums of all time (though extraordinarily it is not in Rolling Stone's recent Top 500 albums - but then again there is no Kate Bush album in those 500 either!) and I approached this album thinking that it would be in the same mould. What you have here however is very sparse - on many tracks it is just voice and solo piano and it got me thinking what would "Hats" have sounded like "unplugged" and I think the answer is - very similar. This impression is reinforced by the one (gorgeous) track "Fin De Siecle" that has full orchestration and sounds very old-style Blue Nile - but then it is also the one track on which (intentionally?) ironically Buchanan does not sing! If you can accept the spartan arrangements, the quality of Buchanan's songwriting remains very high and I particularly disagree with one previous reviewer who complained of repetitive lyrics - this has always been one of his strengths as a lyric writer and only adds to the power of many of his songs. In summary if you are a Blue Nile fan please give this album time - if you are not - don't start here - buy "Hats" today!
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dense and delightful, 22 Jun 2012
By 
D. Izod - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
The interesting thing about reading these reviews is that the one star and the five star reviews both make comments about this album that it is difficult to deny: it is slow and one paced, it doesn't really ever break its emotional or musical stride and a lot of the tracks do blend into one another.

But that is also its remarkable strength. I think the only real problem with this album is that it needs much, much longer silences between each track so that the listener can effectively absorb what has just been heard. And what has just been heard is always, always, gorgeous. Paul's voice is, as ever, a suberb instrument that he holds on to here, never letting go as he did on some 'Peace at Last' tracks and to a certain extent elsewhere in the Blue Nile cannon. Here he holds on to the emotion in a 'Family Life'esque kind of way which, yes, does sometimes make you want to shout at him 'Let go, Paul, just let go', but you also know him well enough to know that really he can't and that is what makes his voice so powerful and his music so very engaging.

This is an intimate parlour record best listened to on your own, with headphones, late at night with a glass of Scotch and the family asleep upstairs. You can indulge yourself and remember that despite it all, despite the quotidian tedium of getting up and going to work, despite the housework and the cooking, the cleaning and the washing, it is all worthwhile because you are in love.

This is a lovely, lovely record. It is slow, it is one paced. It doesn't break out of the perametres it sets itself. But within them, it is a thing of great beauty.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul Buchanan - In the wee small hours, 21 May 2012
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
It is difficult knowing where precisely to commence this review. You could give a potted history of the Blue Nile one of the greatest bands ever to grace these Isles despite their frugal and agonizingly slow output (four albums since 1984). You could track the fact that a very long eight years has passed since 2004's excellent "High" and now the band has split up. You could welcome the return of the possibly the best voice in British rock music bar none and celebrate how he has dusted himself down and picked up the tools again. And finally you could rejoice at the sheer magnificence of this solo album by Paul Buchanan and offer praise to the mighty forces that you are able to add to your record collection one of the most sublime albums of this or any year.

The template for "Mid Air" Buchanan's first solo work seems to draw on the sparse piano acoustics that made the first part of "Family life" on "Peace at last" such an moving and intoxicating feast. On "Mid Air" Buchanan employs the "less is more" principle to great effect. None of these 14 stunning miniatures goes much over the three-minute mark yet as a collective whole they are a body of work that pack an emotional punch as big as a Scottish Munro. Buchanan's recent performance of the brilliant title track with Jools Holland set out all the clues. The yearning lyric "The buttons on your collar, the colour of your hair, I think I see you everywhere" kicks off a song so simple yet so emotive that it stops you dead in your tracks. And what about that voice? At 56 Buchanan is singing better than ever and he is one of the vocalists whose depth, timbre and phrasing can reduce the listener to a gibbering wreck. Check out the stellar concluding track "After dark" the longest song on the album and try to hold that lump in your throat. It is an exquisite mega highlight and the good news is that so many of the other tracks are its equal. For example in the lush melancholy of "Wedding party" and "Two children" Buchanan takes those simple life episodes and paints them against a sparse piano background. Yet there is much joy to be found here and Buchanan has spoken of "wilful innocence" not least in the way he articulates the contentment of simple pleasures "Summers on its way, like a millionaire" he postulates in a great mid point song. Buchanan admits that he wrote most of these songs late in the evening presumably with a nice dram or two to underscore the mood. Above all else this is late night music, a soundtrack to heartache, loss and despair but also love and grace. In the beautiful "I remember you" the haunting introduction of a simple trumpet in the background resonates as powerfully as any full scale band. Similarly the piano melody of "Half the world" dances around your head and seduces you. The one real change of mood comes in the nice instrumental "Fin de siecle" other than that the template rarely changes finding its emotional peak in the glorious tracks such as "My true country" and the uber powerful slow burn of "A movie magazine".

You can argue that the album is too stark; likewise you could plead for longer songs since many here could be extended. Equally some may find the mood too downbeat as the summer sun starts to peep out from behind the rain clouds, yet this is rare moment of emotional exquisite music for thinking and feeling adults. If you are not moved by it then this reviewer offers a small apology but frankly it is the best thing released this side of December 31st 2011. Graeme Thomson in a super review in the Independent argues "Mid Air" is a album "that manages to freeze-frame those moments of fleeting euphoria which elevate reality to something sublime". These are fine and true words indeed. On "Mid Air" Paul Buchanan, who has always been a fully paid up member of the song writing premier division, manages to ratchet his musical genius up a notch. With this album we should no longer resist in adding the name Buchanan to that exclusive list which includes such luminaries as Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. We should also celebrate in Diamond Jubilee proportions what may be a fleeting return for a singer songwriter whose output is small but perfectly formed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple but uncategorisable brilliance, 17 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
Reviewers complaining about the lack of variety or mood on this record are seriously missing the point. Just about every song brilliantly captures the mood Buchanan has been striving for on every album since A Walk Across The Rooftops: a wrenching melancholy that's simply impossible to categorise or pin down, occasionally bursting into sunlight and rapture. Listen to the title track and if you like it, buy this album. The songs are fragments, yes, but fragments of genius and Buchanan's voice - the most soulful British voice in contemporary music - leaves no heartstring unplucked. He's heartbroken and he can't tell you why but his attempts to tell you add up to magnificence.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Rooftops to Mid air my life in music, 21 May 2012
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This review is from: Mid Air (MP3 Download)
When i heard A walk across the Rooftops i was 18 and had fallen in love for the first time and worked nights making some money before Uni. Paul's voice was so full of yearning you could practically taste it.On my nights off,when i couldnt sleep i walked around my home town in the early hours lost in its sublime brilliance.

Fast forward to Hats,released during a rocky time in a new relationship "i know it's over now.But I cant let go" at that point i did wonder if Paul was stalking me and writing about me.But then that's the beauty of the Blue Nile,timeless,haunting in a "i've just read your diary sort of way."

That relationship floundered.The next major relationship came along just as 'Peace at Last was released." Now that i've found peace at last,tell me Jesus, will it last?"It was vital, it was hopeful and by this time i was wondering if i was actually a split personality and was Paul in an alter ego.

Then High came out at the start of a new relationship and blew me away." I would never turn my back on your love.Is there anybody there who knows me?" I disagree with other reviewers,i loved both Peace at Last and High,and my life has been so enriched by Tommorow Morning ,Family life,High,Because of Toledo and I would never.

Thankfully the Blue Nile released new albums very sparsely. Other wise id have broken up and found many more people than i have.To be fair introducing new loves to the Blue Nile was more stressful than meeting the parents.
Its like Opera. You can learn to love it but for those people it will never be part of their soul.

Mid Air is quite beautiful and if it was a painting it would be a Matisse or Van Gough, in the same way Lady Gaga would be a nursery school finger painting.

The elegance and fragility of the songs is quite breathtaking.Any songs from him are as precious as fragments of memories which we can't just quite let go even though they can cause us bitter sweet pain.

Buchanan sounds at times desolate,alone,broken,yet tinged with a vibrant hope and a sense that its the journey that's important,much more than the destination.

I have been moved to tears already by the majesty of Buchanan's voice on mid air and the Blue Nile have been the soundtrack to my Life,friend,companion,confidante,soul boy.

Paul one thing,,,,a new record sooner than 8 years i'm getting on a bit!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful album, 30 Nov 2012
By 
Mr. R. A. Perring (west midlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mid Air Deluxe (Audio CD)
As a long term fan of the Blue Nile, Paul Buchanan's first solo album does not disappoint. I'm very glad I purchased the deluxe edition because the second CD going by the title 'Two' is to my mind better than the Mid Air CD and contains the most beautiful collection of songs and instrumentals that are on a par with the excellent body of work produced by The Blue Nile.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up in the Air, 11 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
Paul Buchanan has written an album for which the words brooding, heartfelt and melancholia were surely invented. Offering little more than a few piano refrains on almost all tracks to accompany the melodies largely derived from Mr. Buchanan's aching voice, it's safe to say that this is not driving music to be cranked up in the car. Or maybe it is. Many's the time I listened to the Blue Nile's High late at night on lonely motorways driving back from some engagement, lost in the patterns of words and music, as the neon lights glided by.

Mid-Air is therefore both recognisable for that quality, but also quite a long way away from the atmosphere of Blue Nile records. Sure, a song like From a Late Night Train off Hats would suit the mood of this album well enough, but I always felt that even amongst the slow, angst-ridden contemplation of certain tracks - Because of Toledo say off High - there was an optimism and way out of the gloom; a possibility of things to come. Here, regret, loss, the past, decisions made, and hearts unnaturally broken, pervade throughout. I'm not saying it's bad or anything and if you're sitting there in your comfiest chair, alone in the early hours, listening to this on a hi-fi system that can project the sound of whiskey tumblers being clinked in the studio, then it's got its atmosphere earmarked for you from the off.

And yet when the strings eventually entered on Fin de Siècle it brought me out of the trance I was starting to enter and made me think the world wasn't that bad after all. That I'd entered such a state at all would be a good sign for most, but here the delicacy of the whole affair almost made me think I was intruding on private grief. That said, only Mr. Buchanan can come out with a melody and vocal delivery for a line like "Cars are in the Garden" and make it sound unbelievably profound; when, by rights, it ought to remind us of some dodgy `80s New Romantic synth outfit! Recommended then; just don't expect it to perk you up after a morning doing your weekly shop at Tescos.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paul unplugged and intimate, 19 July 2012
This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
A new collection of song fragments from the former Blue Nile singer, plain simple ballads, primarily Paul's voice and a piano, in some ways very similar to Roddy Frame's acoustic "Surf" album (however Roddy's "Surf" had tons more variety of pace and poise). I say song fragments as there are no choruses, no true melodies, almost a cathartic stream of consciousness mood piece.

You will not be putting many, if any of these on a Blue Nile compilation for the car or your ipod. They stand alone but it's a very one-note album, made for sitting with a glass of whisky in a darkened room late at night in contemplation.

Good to hear Paul's voice again, but it's not essential listening either.

Check a great interview on The Quietus website where Paul describes making the album, the break-up of The Blue Nile and hopes for the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five star music ... with 3 star digital sound quality., 9 Dec 2013
By 
Fender32 (In front of my laptop) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
It breaks my heart to have to write anything negative, which is in any way associated with this stellar album, but I must ... and believe me, I LOVE the Blue Nile (and the modest genius of Paul Buchanan).

The fact is, I have ripped this CD into .MP3, .M4A, .WAV, .AIFF and Apple 'Lossless' formats and each one suffers from exactly the same issue - the sudden burst of volume on the leading edge of the piano strokes on songs like, "Half the World" and "Two Children" (as well as on other tracks, to a lesser extent), carry with them an ugly and frankly, toe-curling 'distortion' sound!?

At first, I assumed that my amplifier or cables may be at fault, but when playing the CD itself (through a CD/DVD player), this distortion was completely absent. I even went to a hi-fi shop and tried my iPod (into which the various music files had been recorded) through a DAC and higher quality cables - the distortion was still very evident.

No matter how far I 'upgraded' the sample rates, going as far as .WAV and Apple's .AIFF format, I could not get rid of this annoying sound artifact. As a last resort, I went to Amazon's Cloud Player function and downloaded the (free) .MP3 files, which anyone who buys a CD from Amazon is entitled to. To my horror, the distortion was equally bad on their own recordings/rippings :-( !!!

Right now, I'm at my wits end with this album. It is, in my opinion, without a shadow of a doubt, the most beautiful and enigmatic series of songs that I have heard since the release of the Blue Nile album, 'Hats', in 1989 - yet I can't find any way to access the intended level of sound quality, aside from putting the disc itself into my DVD player (and having the silent parts ruined by the sound of the disc spinning round)!

I even went and bought it (via Amazon) on vinyl, with the (half-baked) idea of going out and buying a turntable ... SPECIFICALLY to listen to THIS ONE ALBUM!!! It's that good.

I hope that my comments won't put anyone off buying the album, as it is (by anyone's standards) a true work of art (heart?).

Paul, I doubt that you read these reviews (being so modest), but let me just say that (in my opinion) you manage to pack more emotion and atmosphere into a handful of piano key strokes and mumbled sentences than 'geniuses' like Mozart and Beethoven could muster with far more complex arrangements and an army of professional musicians. You've really stumbled onto your calling and given 'ordinary girls' (and boys, like me) music to live their lives by. I take my hat(s) off to you, sir. Please record another album before you call it a day ... and preferably in the next five years! Your music makes my life so much more enjoyable than it would otherwise be :-) .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsung, 18 Aug 2013
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mid Air (Audio CD)
Paul Buchanan has one of the most hauntingly soulful voices Britain has ever given birth to. His vocal contributions to the smattering of records by Blue Nile are treasured by those who love them - particularly, in my case, the impeccable and unimprovable Hats.
Now here`s a solo album, and for once it really is solo, with PB playing piano and other keyboards throughout. And what a beauty it is. My expectations were high, having read misleadingly ecstatic reviews which made it sound like the Second Coming, and it took a few plays - well, all of two, in fact - to take these brief, enigmatic songs to my heart.
There`s no need to pick out certain tracks as `better` than others, since this is more of a suite of songs than a succession of disparate album tracks. In an oblique way they remind me of the slower, more contamplative piano pieces by Erik Satie, such as the Gymnopedies or Gnossiennes, similar yet subtly different.
I play this lovely disc (I`m reviewing the single-CD rather than the deluxe issue) when I want to hear something pure, discreet, pared down. It`s all those things, but these gnomic songs possess an elusive, covert quality that is disarming and, ultimately, quite beautiful.
Of course, it helps if you have a voice like Paul Buchanan`s.
The beauty of these songs lies as much in what is unsung as what is sung, a rare thing in itself.
That`s PB all over - unsung.
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