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Tom Hughes "tomhughes2005" (Baldock Herts)

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Matador
Matador
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written album that misses out on classic status due to feeble finale, 20 April 2015
This review is from: Matador (Audio CD)
Gaz Coombes was of course a major force in the Britpop scene of the 90s with Supergrass who perhaps never achieved the critical acclaim their contemporaries Oasis and Blur did, perhaps in my view because they had a disposable, pop image not fitting with the times.

Matador seems to be a nod towards being taken more seriously for Gaz. This album does away with bouncy rock anthems and lyrics laced with gags. Instead we find a more mature sound with heavy Radiohead and folksy chilled out vibe throughout the record.

It works, as every song is brimming with memorable lyrics and a toe tapping quality making them as accessible as anything in the Supergrass hay day.

My only issue with the album is that it is too much of a pastiche of its own influences. Gaz sings in a slightly folky, spoken Thom Yorke choir esque tone which follows through the whole album to the point of it feeling like a tribute act.

Gaz Coombes has a great voice but the range shown on previous albums is not shown here.That cool, shouted punk tone of the Supergrass era is missing, which is a shame as it was a real signature of his style.

Overall though it is an album dominated by soaring choruses and psychedelic pop moments. Mellow is a good definition for the feel of the album.

Buffalo sounds like a Coldplay song but a lovely choir section gives it real drama. Girl who fell to earth captures the modern day emptiness of online relationships, although the highlights for me are "The English Ruse" and "Needle's Eye" which have some excellent piano sections that give an almost jazzy feel to them.

I drop a star because I felt it fizzles out towards the end with weaker, more anonymous songs. Matador and Is it on? Feel like filler to make it seem a more substantial album than it is.


No Pier Pressure
No Pier Pressure
Price: £9.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of an album but let down by a lack of identity and best tracks are on the deluxe album, 7 April 2015
This review is from: No Pier Pressure (Audio CD)
Brian Wilson needs no introduction as a true Rock and Roll hall of fame legend, who will always be celebrated by millions of fans around the world. When he sticks to his Beach Boys roots this album really shines with some beautiful arrangements and harmonies as dramatic as they ever were.

The arrangements on tracks such as "Whatever Happened", "The Right Time", and "Tell me why" are extremely good, with a nice addition of some saxophone solos to the usual array of strings and horns.

I find the special guests unconvincing because they reveal an album that lacks any real invention. "On the Island" sounds like a dreadful 70s TV American soap theme tune, while "Runaway Dancer is atrocious, sounding like an early 80s synth has been played over the standard Beach Boys synth arrangement that has simply been speeded up. The rest is fairly inoffensive and forgettable that adds no real memorable moments to his legacy.

However I must add that the deluxe version inexplicably contains four songs in the "Beach Boys" mould that are amongst his finest work. "Don't Worry" is an uptempo song that has the trademark Wilson falsetto without the embarrassing electric horror that drowned out "Runaway Dancer".

The highlight of these songs is "Somewhere Quiet" a gorgeous crooned ballad that evokes the dreamy imagery of a warm, Californian evening like only Brian Wilson can, with a soaring chorus up there with the best Beach Boys classics. This really should be the forefront of the main album, not a deluxe additon.

"I'm feeling sad" and "Tell me why" round up these wonderful revisions of the classic "Beach Boys" sound. I was rather irritated to buy the standard version, to find the deluxe version had these gems after listening on I tunes after getting the physical CD.

For fans, I can recommend the deluxe version for these tracks, but in standard form, the attempts at new sounds are just poor derivatives of well trodden paths by other artists. The only reason the four deluxe tracks were relegated to this album is because I feel these were created when the album was originally devised as a new "Beach Boys" one. It makes no sense for him to have left out so many crowd pleasers, when it is an album crowded out by mediocrity.


The Last Sure Thing
The Last Sure Thing
Price: £6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars The finest tennis book ever written, a fitting tribute to a forgotten legend of the game, 25 Jan. 2015
I picked up this book on Kindle after watching the "Battle of The Sexes" documentary expecting it to be a fairly sparse read and baulked at the 500 odd pages in the kindle download thinking that no tennis player could justify such a lengthy tome.

Bobby Riggs was no ordinary player, with a diverse interest in gambling that fuelled a life in sport like no other. From a modest background by tennis standards he went on to win Wimbledon in 1939 before the army and war called a halt to the best years of his career. To many around the world, Riggs, if remembered for anything was a cocky chauvinist who lost to Billie Jean King in the infamous "Battle of The Sexes", but this books paints a very different reminder that he is perhaps one of the greatest players of all time, who deserves more than to be held in the esteem of tennis fans for just this match.

His life was an exhilarating joy ride that would make a fabulous Hollywood film. Aside from his battles with Budge, Kramer etc his post career as a Golf hustler, tournament promoter where he fell foul of mob bosses and later taking on Liberace or even Daredevil Evel Keneval in competitive tussles of very different kinds.

Overall it is a jaw dropping account of an era that actually made tennis look fun, almost romantic, compared to the staid characters in today's game. It helps to remind us all that Sport should be fun and there is no doubt that on that basis Bobby was the greatest winner the game has ever had.


Law for Social Workers
Law for Social Workers
by (Law teacher) Helen Carr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.69

5.0 out of 5 stars This remains the most easily accessible and relevant title for social work law that ..., 23 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Law for Social Workers (Paperback)
This remains the most easily accessible and relevant title for social work law that I have been using since my student days. This is simply the best yet with a well structured format that is as easy to digest as a textbook for learning, as it is for reference.

The key to the book achieving this is that the case law and legislation references are contained at the front, the Index at the back, making it easy to interchange between the two purposes.

Each of the chapters focuses on the purpose of the legislation, what it is and how it can be applied. It is a repetitive but easy to access structure that maintains relevancy throughout. Other law books can often be too detailed or irrelevant to Social Work practice.

On a day to day basis, this is the only Social Work law book anyone will ever need.


Uptown Special
Uptown Special
Price: £7.00

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Ronson is back to blow away your winter blues!, 19 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Uptown Special (Audio CD)
Mark Ronson has always been capable of producing good albums but this blows away anything else he has done with a varied collection of songs that hark back to the golden age of 70s soul, funk and Glam.

He brings the best out of his special guests, who rather than being unknowns as with his previous "Record Collection" this features proven stars who Ronson has brought out the very best of. Stevie Wonder bookmarks this collection with two harmonica driven harmonies with a soaring vocal chorus that was always a Motown signature.

The meat of the album starts gently with a cool piece of breezy, summer funk with Kevin Parker. The party then gets started with Mystical who gives us some blaxploitation speed rapping, before we get the centrepiece of the album, the James Brown inspired "Uptown Funk" which pushes Bruno Mars to heights he has always been capable of but never given the chance.

I can't lose is a typical 70s disco number that would befit Donna Summer, while Daffodils is an eerie piece of chilled out funk. The rest follow the same theme of uptown re-imagining and maintain the high standard throughout.

The big standout track for me is "In case of Fire", a smooth soul track backed by a mega Glam Rock riff that might even have Gary Glitter running to his lawyers to see if he can claim royalties to help with his court case! It is an interesting contrast of style, but works really well and is a welcome diversion from the numerous R&B derived tracks.

Overall this is a fine celebration of 70s Motown and soul staples with plenty of nods to the classic artists of the period. It is one of the most instantly accessible albums I have heard in years, it is fun, up-beat and full of energy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2015 11:08 AM GMT


Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste
Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste
Offered by EveryThing4You
Price: £17.75

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good toothpaste but failure to live up to rebuilding claims leaves a bitter aftertaste, 18 Jan. 2015
This toothpaste appears to be on the road to fulfilling the promises made, chiefly the grandiose claim that it can "reverse 90% of enamel erosion in three days".Logic would therefore dictate that surely a 100% reversal would be possible, certainly within 6 months of daily use and monthly use of those expensive booster packs. Unfortunately it sadly isn't true as areas where enamel has been eroded have not returned, although in some places it has worked and sensitivity is reduced. Science would suggest it is impossible to create enamel once it has gone, but that did not stop me getting excited at the "rebuilding" claims.

More accurate would be to describe this as a restorer and strengthening paste, which is where it exceeds expectations. Over the past six months sensitivity is a thing of the past and my teeth, in areas of no visible enamel erosion, look thicker and shinier than ever before.

It loses a star as it does not live up to the more grandiose claims and while it is a superior product to blanx biorepair and Corsodyl pastes for the teeth on balance, I do find my gums have started to become more sensitive to bleeding. Not a major issue, but when I returned to Corsodyl, it stopped once more. The price is also a bit high but the £10 price at boots is bearable for the benefits, but I hate to say it, you do need to buy the additional booster kit. I stopped after 2 months worth and noticed a decline in efficacy after about a week of solo paste use.


The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
by Owen Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A muddled mess of a book that relies too much on OJ's own conclusions, 10 Jan. 2015
This book has been given far too much precedence from Socialist Commentators as an epoch making new socialist strategy for improving society. Sadly, it is simply the pub bore level of opinions from one man, Owen Jones, devoid of any clear consistent argument or indeed any actual ideas to cure the malaise diagnosed throughout this book.

When a book is written to criticise and moan about the state of the world it only even preaches to those who already share similar ideas. Therefore it isn't going to have any wider impact aside from those who actually subscribe to Owen's views and want to hear more of them.

I wanted to after " Chav's" because it was a well rounded assessment into how this country has marginalised the established majority into becoming a separate "ghettoised" section of society. The general overview being that the traditional working class is dead and that it has become an underclass with no hope opportunity or direction because of this lack of opportunity through this process of marginalisation.

This book unfortunately has no fresh argument, instead it makes a ham fisted attempt at identifyng new socialist bogeymen who are in effect the perpetrators of the marginalisation identified in "Chav's". It opens poorly with an ill focused overview into who he defines the establishment to be, including the rather vague term "powerful groups" and then goes off to have tea with Madsen Pirie who shows himself to have more self awareness then Jones does by admitting that with all his money and opportunity he is probably indeed part of the establishment.

This book misses the whole point of what an "establishment" comprises and although the book opens with a clear nod to this message, it never follows through convincingly on this premise. Fundamentally our establishment is based on maintaining opportunity for the status quo at the expense who fall outside the status quo or "powerful groups" identified by Jones.

Despite clearly falling into this category himself, indeed OJ is a key figure in socialist media largely due to his Oxbridge and family heritage, these opportunities even though I agree he is a hugely talented man and well earned are downplayed to levels of almost absurdity. His own family are described as an "anti-establishment one" while his Northern roots are explicitly detailed, no doubt because most people believe in the South-East that anyone up North who has come good is a working class hero.

As a book it completely misses the point and is obsessed with purely monetary gain. The reality is, the real abuse of power comes from the lack of opportunity for other people outside the establishment, which enables those within to do what they want. It does touch on that, through the destruction of the trade unions, but for the most part it creates a view that society is set up for those outside the establishment to provide monetarily to those within. Yet the actual social divisions are far more relevant and it is a story of opportunity, yet the one here is one purely of wealth.

The two are entirely different things and Owen struggles to define this into a clear, concise argument. Great books spike despite and allow the reader to weigh up the arguments to form their own views. OJ takes the wheel of opinion and joyrides it into the nearest skip. You don't get to draw your own conclusions here, you just have to listen to Owen's opinions, which unfortunately in this instance are highly unconvincing and missappropriated.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2015 4:31 PM GMT


Bang and Olufsen Limited Edition BeoPlay H6 Headphones - Blue
Bang and Olufsen Limited Edition BeoPlay H6 Headphones - Blue
Offered by home AV direct
Price: £189.99

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best headphones in the world. Simply flawless, 16 Dec. 2014
These headphones were a bit of a gamble as I bought them at a discounted price but I decided that the B&O name was enough to make it worth taking. I have not been let down, as these are the finest headphones money can surely buy.

I had been looking at numerous high end headphones for ages but they all demanded a compromise. Dr Dre Beats are only good for modern, bass driven music and grow tiresome after a few songs. Bose offer good sonic clarity, but poor build quality and design that harks back to 1980 VCR design. The best compromise were Bower and Wilkins P7s, but I felt these felt too flat for rock driven anthems.

These are the best all-rounders. The sound is incredible, the detail is breath-taking and even with highly detailed music from the likes of Muse or the new Julian Casablancas album, each instrument can be heard distinctly. It is like listening through a very high end stereo speaker, as the sound is not in anyway condensed and is layered in a way that provides depth beyond a mere headphone.

The biggest treat is vocal clarity, with the tones of Jim Morrison, Matt Monroe, Freddie Mercury and Sinatra given a crisp, newly recorded quality to their delivery. My neighbours are delighted at this development as I am starting to prefer headphones to my Bower and Wilkins standing speakers. I would previously never have dreamt over using such delivery for music in my own home.

It is claimed they do not have noise reduction. Well, they insulate my working environment perfectly and even when confronted with busy streets, they completely isolate you from the world.

Build quality is as good as anyone could expect from B&O with smooth headband size expanders gliding with a smooth weighted action. The metal hinges coupled with sumptuous leather ear defenders and leather headband give a feeling of sublime luxury. However it is a slight let down to see the secondary cup material topped off with metal, but sitting on a plastic ABS base, which feels cheap. The lining on the headband also feels a bit "Fisher Price" too. Made in China doesn't bother me although it might explain the lower than usual price of a B&O offering.

Overall, these are a must buy, especially at a discount. For my needs however, I would have bought these at full price as sonically and aesthetically they are miles ahead of anything else.


No Further Action: The Darkest Year of My Life
No Further Action: The Darkest Year of My Life
by Jim Davidson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A funny book but if you've seen his current tour you've heard all the best bits!, 19 Oct. 2014
Great book for Jim and well written with plenty of gags. The only problem is with the book however centres on the fact that most of these jokes feature on his current tour, which follows the same theme of his Yewtree hell.

As a result, after seeing the show, reading this seems rather stale and familiar compared to if I had been not informed at one of his shows.

If you're a fan of Jim it really is a must buy, but for everyone else, the focus on Jim's self may not be of much wider interest to many.


Tyranny
Tyranny
Price: £9.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but technically majestic album that rewards repeat listens, 14 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Tyranny (Audio CD)
Julian Casablancas does not need money or fame with recent releases from The Strokes showing worrying signs in his work that as a consequence, motivation was gone. Fortunately, his first solo album, "Phrazes for the Young" had a bouncy enthusiasm missing from his work with the band and this new work with a whole new team of sessional musicians is also largely an invigorating experience.

Opener, "Take Me in Your Army" has all the momentum of a runaway freight train with plenty of industrial bleeps mated to a soaring vocoder sampled chorus from Casablancas. It sets the theme of the album very well, with the next two songs "Crunch Punch" and "M.A.D" also following the trend of industrial rock that very much echoes "Jesus and Mary Chain" mixed in with Prodigy style electric noise.

"Human Sadness" is the centre-piece of the album that is driven by a fine solemn baseline, with plenty of Prince Style screeching going on around the mid-way point. It does lose momentum about midway through and it is not the seamless masterpiece that the band were going for.

The rest of the songs are very similar, with the only other highlight "Nintendo blood" which in comparison to other songs, is actually quite upbeat, with a synthesised beat similar to that found quite aptly from a Nintendo game in the mid-90s.

If there is an area of criticism it is that as an Album, too many songs are indeed similar. In isolation, there is little filler aside from the seemingly pointless "Business Dog", but listening to it as a whole piece of work can be a wearing experience. The lack of lyrical structure and vocal clarity will annoy many of those who value well-written lyrics, especially as Casablanca's wrote some very creative lines in his previous solo album. However, I suppose that misses the point as in my view Casablanca's is using his voice not to actually sing, but as an instrument in itself to accompany the grungy, industrial environment that the band have created.

There is a strong gothic futurism running through this album that gives the whole thing a "Judge Dredd" feel, which fans of 2000 AD comics may appreciate. Even the album art, has a dark, comic look that apes the style of the series. It isn't a fun album, but there are so many dynamic sounds and layers of structure to each song that it is impossible not to be sucked into the world that JC and the Voids have crafted through sheer sonic joyriding.


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