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Reviews Written by
Huck Flynn "huckleberry" (northern ireland)

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Game (The Game Trilogy, Book 1)
Game (The Game Trilogy, Book 1)
by Anders De la Motte
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Teen pulp fiction with film rights in mind, 6 Feb. 2014
There is some seriously bad writing in this book which is a pity because the concept is good and at times you are genuinely gripped about the possible ways it might unfold. However there is so much that is weak and silly that it spoiled it for me. Henrik is an unbelieveable and obnoxious "hero" who manages to pull disposable expert friends out of the hat when he needs them for hi-tech hacking etc. Generally the characterization is 2 dimnsional, cartoon like. You don't ever really care about them or empathise with them in the way good writing can pull you in. There are a number of laughable scenarios - like Henrik being chased down a street in broad daylight by a light areoplane (sorry if this is a spoiler!). La Motte uses lazy prose - eg the constant use of "effing" as a multipurpose adjective - to be cool or just through lack of imagination and eloquence. A lot of the logic and motivation and logistics of the plot is confused and lacking in realism - like a computer game virtual reality. As another reviewer said, a great idea looking for a decent author. I won't be running to pick up book 2 of the trilogy despite the hype.

Out Of The Woodwork
Out Of The Woodwork
Offered by nagiry
Price: £12.37

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bluegrass Dream Quartet, 27 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Out Of The Woodwork (Audio CD)
I don't know why this has taken me so long to review - i got it shortly after it came out, on a whim, and it remains probably my favourite bluegrass album and my introduction to the guitar genius who is Tony Rice.
Everything is just so right about the collection of great catchy, well arranged and brilliantly executed songs from the memorable Hard Times (no, not that one) opener to the beautifully philosophical closer "Only Passing Through". As you'd expect with Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson on board the harmonies are heavenly, Larry Rice chimes in effectively as well and takes lead on a few great songs - Street Corner Strangers and a nice rendition of Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day". Apart from the 4 main players, Chris and Larry sharing mandolin duties, there is marvellous support from dobro maestros Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas and some sublime fiddling by Stuart Duncan, with other contributions by fine guests on bass or piano, but each song is stamped with RRHP's unique style. There's no show-casing but Tony Rice's guitar does hold everything together with it's divine fluent, melodic lines. Pure class. Acoustic heaven.
I loaned this out once. Never again. Buy yer own!

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
by Matt Baglio
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A dull text book disguised as a spy thriller, 16 July 2013
Hard to imagine how such a thrilling situation could be conveyed in such boring prose. The writing style (if it can be called style) lacks rhythm and pace throughout but is frustratingly short on personal anecdotes and detail, presumably because if they told us they'd have to kill us. In short, the plot is over in about 20 pages, probably the most anti-climactic resolution to what must have been an incredibly tense scenario for all involved.
Sadly, to pad out the gaps and justify a book, Mendez goes into a lot of boring history about the development of USA's security services, structures and politics, spycraft techniques, internal furniture and office space design and some pointless personal and family details of personnel (although not by their real names!). Again and again, just as the action threatens to get going, it is interrupted or derailed along some cul de sac.
In my opinion here's what Mendez should have done:
- create tension in the beginning by going into more details about the unfolding hostage situation at the US Embassy, from the personal experiences of the captives (who spent 444 days in captivity)
- likewise tell the escape and subsequent period of hiding from the "houseguests" first hand point of view
- outline the CIA options considered (with relevant case examples) and how the escape plan was formulated against the timeline and ticking clock of events in Iran and Washington
- give the Canadians a voice - they housed the fugitives and kept them safe for a long time
- give us the hostages' reaction to the Argo plan and how they prepared themselves and carried it through, as well as Mendez's viewpoint as supervisor
- deal better with the reactions at home and abroad, including in Iran, to the escape and its ramifications.
- cut out a lot of the Mendez family and friends and colleagues stuff - the balance of the book is about 30% CIA, 20% Mendez, 20% hostages, 20% Middle Eastern and US politics and 10% the escape (planning, preparation and execution).
The language and grammar etc also leaves a lot to be desired and the dialogue sounds unconvincing and the point of view is very much of a simplistic generalised notion of Iranians all being ruthless Islamist hotheads or backward peasants but all the CIA spies are really good but quirky family guys and decent, reasonable, brave and moralistic human beings. I believe the film is a lot better.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2014 10:04 PM BST

Song of the Singing Horseman
Song of the Singing Horseman
Offered by cdworld-ireland
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanted Music, 15 July 2013
I should have reviewed this CD years ago and am spurred to now because some numpty has given it 2 stars because it skips in a couple of places!

Track list below:

1.On My Enchanted Sight - 4:13
2.A Hard Man To Follow - 3:52
3.Mystic Lipstick - 4:47
4.Missing You - 3:35
5.Ride On - 4:23
6.No Frontiers - 3:56
7.The Mad Lady And Me - 3:18
8.The Grip Of Parallel - 4:06
9.The Bright Blue Rose - 4:45
10.Ancient Rain - 5:23
11.The Song Of The Singing Horseman - 6:12

This is one of the finest collections of original songwriting, arrangement and performing ever by an Irish artist, and that's some claim.

Jimmy McCarthy's writing is inspired, touched by some mystical Yeatsian fairy dust with lots of obscure and rather poetic imagery and mythical references entwined around around 11 superb melodies.

Not hard to see why Mary Black, Christy Moore and others have borrowed so many of the songs. None of them have come close to the magical versions recorded herein.

Much of the credit must go to the wonderfully eccentric arranger Steve Cooney whose beautiful nylon strung guitar creates a musical filigree throughout and whose didgeridoo (i kid you not) also lends a deep haunting primal backing along with other celtic instruments, pipes, fiddle, whistle etc and sublime stringt quartet accompaniment

McCathy is a fine singer with a fascinating turn of phrase but he gets help here from the outstanding Voice Squad trio and Mandy Murphy.

It's really rather a shame and a scandal that this CD is out of print and commanding high prices for 2nd hand copies. Sadly McCarthy's later work is very far below this standard but on this work alone he stands as a Finn MacCool of songwriters. Download it if you can.

This Was
This Was
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That Was ..... mighty fine, 2 July 2013
This review is from: This Was (Audio CD)
I rated the original album 4 stars but the Collectors Edition is simply marvellous - not just the improved sound quality but the tasty extra tracks and great alternative versions. I'm a big fan of Abrahams (and his Blodwyn Pig days) but if he'd stayed there would have been no Thick As A Brick etc. That said his guitar playing is tasty, distinctive and perfect for this early Tull phase and his contribution, even ignoring the blow out on Cats Squirrel, is major. Anderson's songwriting is already showing that he couldn't be shackled by the blues format and the material bears a strong trademark - even if his singing style and flute mastery aren't quite up to the mark he passes himself well and plays some great harmonica. The dream team of Bunker and Cornick are immense - wonderful springing, tonal jazz basslines and an astounding drumming technique that i think is as good as any i've heard. The drum solo on Dharma is still the epitome of the genre for me, inventive, succinct and LISTENABLE !
Really the only weak track is the slight fadeout ending Round. Beggar's Farm is a superb song, Dharma and Song for Jeffrey point the way to a rockier future and Serenade and John Gee give a view of what might have been if Anderson had continued down the jazz route. Then we have other versions from Peel Sessions - all worth listening to and a glimpse of the future with the single Love Story that shows Abrahams' versatility and Anderson's songwriting.
Top blues-rock - essential for Tull fans.

Lia Luachra (French Import)
Lia Luachra (French Import)

5.0 out of 5 stars A shooting star of a folk group - a brief flash of brilliance, 14 Jun. 2013
Lia Luachra was briefly one of the new generation of young traditional groups which fused musical influences from all kinds of folk traditions, mainly Irish, but also Breton and Eastern European. The members were Dubliner Shane Bracken (concertina) and Tricia Hutton from Carlow (fiddle) along with Tyrone man Declan Corey (mandolin) and Jon Hicks from the North of England (guitar and vocals). This was their remarkable debut album.

From the opening bars of the first tunes "Paddy Taylors", with the brilliant interplay between guitar and mandolin, you're hooked and by the time they are joined by box and bow your day has already brightened considerably. The band play with real verve and are a breath of fresh air (to the ear!).

The party continues with the "Curlicue" jigs and the band get into full swing with Bracken pumping away on lead concertina and Tricia matching him stride for stride. When the string section arrives the tunes really take flight and the track has a wonderful energy.

The arrangement of "End of the Day" reels is superb as it builds to a crescendo dramatically with the petite Tricia's flowing strokes to the fore and Hick's guitar providing subtle and sympathetic rhythm. Box and mandolin join the serpentine set which twists tantalisingly allowing each member to display their virtuosity.

Shane's exquisite slow air "Mischief Anneal" is one of the most memorable original pieces I've heard for years. Its melody haunts you for ages. It's one of the few slow tunes I want to just keep on going. Declan's mandolin playing is delicate and melodic throughout and guest Paul Kelly adds some beautiful viola. A masterpiece.

Freddie White fans will admire the version here of Hoyt Axton's "Gypsy Moth". Hicks' voice has a White-like richness and depth. The playing is again marvelous, the arrangement perfectly blends each instrument into a harmonious whole.

"B 4 C" is a great pair of jigs featuring duetting mandolin and guitar and shows just how tightly these guys play together, not simply the same notes, but harmonising sympathetically.

Shane then explores a delicate slow air learned from the late, great piper Seamus Ennis. Fine playing but I preferred Shane's own "Mischief" and would personally have liked another song here.

More jigs follow in "Noimead Ar Bith Anois" and Corey's mandolin is outstanding. Every note is clear as a bell and once again all of the instruments blend to perfection. The pace is lively and foot tappingly addictive.

Jon Hicks takes the lead on his second (and sadly last) song "See It Come Down", a Leon Rosselson ecology protest with great lyrics and powerful message. His voice has an aching tone which suits the theme and Bracken adds some lovely jazzy box runs but it is Hicks' guitar playing that steals the show.

Declan's own waltz tune "Two Black Russians" has a wonderful Zhivago-esque sweep with its lovely mix of fiddle and mandolin. Once again it makes you feel like getting up and doing a Cossack dance. Apparently however it was inspired, not by the Soviet Republic, but by Tricia's favourite alcoholic beverage.

The closing set "Ebb Tide/ Ladies 2nd Choice" is a hornpipe and barndance which starts off just mandolin and builds as box, fiddle and guitar finish off in elegant style

Get this masterpiece while there are still a few copies available

A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell Spy Thriller, Book 1)
A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell Spy Thriller, Book 1)
by Charles Cumming
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but lacking tension, 7 May 2013
My first Cummings and it hasn't put me off. It is not Le Carre, or even Deighton territory but at least hero Kell is believable. At the same time i never felt he was under any danger and there was a surprising lack of tension. Lots of twists in the plot and plenty of tips on modern spy techniques and dirty politics but a few too tidy sequences, cop-outs, cul de sacs, unlikely plot and rather superficial characterisation that might suffice for Hollywood but doesn't provide enough depth for connoisseurs of the genre.

The Underfall Yard
The Underfall Yard
Offered by English Electric Recordings
Price: £8.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Undervalue the Underfall Yard, 25 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Underfall Yard (Audio CD)
I've had Big Big Train's UY for a few years now so i can say that this isn't initial over-reaction. Like many of the other reviewers i think it deserves to sit at the top table of Prog Rock - with Close to the Edge, Red, Octopus, Selling England - as a modern classic of the genre. It's got everything
- the majestic symphonic sound
- the complex instrumental interplay (including use of unfashionable instruments eg flute and brass)
- compositional integrity
- distinctive voice (even if it shows its inspiration and influences and firmly British heritage
- some great great solos
- top vocals that do justice to the very good lyrics and memorable melodies
- but it's also accessible and devoid of self-indulgence, pomposity or cliche
in fact its one great musical experience after another, from start to finish, stunning ideas and surprises, and a 20 minute final, title track that (still after 2 years) just leaves me breathless and profoundly and sublimely, aurally and cerebrally satisfied.
Just read that back and its not hype, honest. Try it for yourself.

The Other Side
The Other Side
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £6.74

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some nice moments in rather dull collection, 20 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Other Side (Audio CD)
I'm a big admirer of Hillman in his many incarnations and the album kicks off with a tried and trusted winner with 8 Miles High - a nice version featuring solid playing and lovely harmonies. Thereafter the material is dull, cliched and predictable and seems to be rather an earnest attempt to proclaim Chris's christian beliefs. That's fine but the song arrangements and playing are as cliched and unoriginal as the lyrics until you get to It Doesn't Matter (written with Stephen Stills and recorded on Manassass) and a pleasant rendition of The Water is Wide which provides a refreshing contrast to the rather samey preceding songs. To hear Hillman in much better form musically try his other projects with Pederson - Out Of The Woodwork - which also features the brilliant Tony Rice on guitar and a far stronger set of songs. This is too safe and a bit formulaic for my liking.

English Electric, Pt. Two
English Electric, Pt. Two
Price: £6.19

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very English Electricity, 13 Mar. 2013
Unreserved 5 star recommendation. I didn't think BBT could follow Part 1 - surely "Judas Unrepentant" is destined to become a defining Prog classic in future - but Part 2 is an astounding work by a team at the top of their collective game. Compositionally the music is top notch - to be able to blend so many instruments (with string sections and brass arrangements) with the band and create a cohesive whole is impressive. Where BBT have upped their game is in the vocals and harmony arrangements - they produce songs that have memorable melodies - that you actually want to sing along to with words that mean something creating a musical heritage as rich, and as authentically rooted in english culture, as the themes it describes. Of course instrumentally it is impeccably performed with inventive rhythm section, complex keyboard parts, electric and acoustic, and super guitar solos - if anything not enough for my liking, but with the added textures of effective string sections and colliery brass band along with folky flute and string instruments. You can still hear the influence of classic prog at its melodic best buy BBT now have a unique voice that is identifiably english and proud of it, accessible but built in layers for you to peel away as you like and crafted with minute care - right doen to the brilliant cover and booklet. Enjoy.
Note: this review is of the CD version (not download)
Update: still listening to this a lot. The track "Keeper of Abbeys" is simply stunning with lots of folk influences, acoustic instrumentation - almost like Bellowhead at times - including a fiddle solo. Complex but cohesive and melodious rock music.

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