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Music Man "Jonesy" (England)

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NEIL DIAMOND-THE BANG YEARS
NEIL DIAMOND-THE BANG YEARS
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.15

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Starts and Finishes with a BANG, 25 May 2011
It goes without saying that you can never expect to please all the people, all the time, but to stay at the top for so long then you must have something very, very special that a lot of people kinda like.

Listening to this latest compilation of his early years you become aware of the seed that was to germinate into the extraordinary talent that is Neil Diamond.

This collection from his early "Bang Recording" days is best summed up as his "Pop" period. During the 60s Diamond wrote great 3 minute pop songs that had a great hook and energy that you couldn't help but get carried away with. They had the infectious wave of a young man finding his feet and song craft, which was a breath of fresh air.

Diamond managed to write breezy rock singles that were ultimately driven with a great ear for an acoustic guitar riff. Most of the songs are driven along on classic three or four chord structures that to this day still hit you between the eyes and get your heart pumping.

Cherry, Cherry: Kentucky Woman: The Boat that I Row: I'm a Believer (a huge Monkees hit) and Thank The Lord for The Night Time are all great examples. However, he also wrote great introspective songs like Red Red Wine: Solitary Man: The Long Way Home and Shilo. Considering the time span and his relative youthfulness, his output at this time was very impressive.

His voice is different to that of today, a younger man with a great melodic and untamed voice that perfectly fits the period. Like a fabulous painting, his songs provide the canvass for his voice to frame.

A lot of people have been waiting a long tome for this catalogue of songs to be released and the sound and packaging is certainly no disappointment.

Having written so many classic songs over his incredible career, the sad thing is that there are simply too many to hear him sing live on stage. He could probably to five different shows back to back and have a different set list on each one and still provide quality.

In the meantime, we make the best of having the material at hand to listen in our own front room "Concert Hall" and the enjoyment is by no means diluted in any shape or form.

This collection is superb and fills the nostalgic gap of yesteryear that so many fans have been waiting for. Great songs, great sounds.......great memories.

This is a great addition to any Diamond fan's collection.


TOMMY: The Rock Opera
TOMMY: The Rock Opera
Price: £9.91

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Piece of Theatrical Musical Genius, 26 Jan. 2011
This review is from: TOMMY: The Rock Opera (Audio CD)
I have always loved the concept and music that is "Tommy". As a hopeless "Who" fan, I fell 100% into the spiritual journey that is Townshend's masterpiece from the 60s.

Having seen them play this live when they were at their peak, the quality of the music is testament to the longevity of his Magnum Opus.

There has been a film................ I didn't like, too silly and the soundtrack added nothing to compare with the original.

There has been a stage production on both Broadway & West End..............tremendous.

But way back, there was this truly stunning Lou Reizner project. This in many ways is my favourite version of all. Tommy was always a magical piece of theatre which absorbed you and had to be treated in a serious way in order to get the full experience. Like a lot of good comedy.......it has to be played straight to get the maximum impact.

The mix of top class artists complimented with the classical arrangements to the original work..............simply mind blowing. Every time I listen to this I close my eyes and imagine it being played out on stage to rapturous audiences.

Defining the characters makes for a better understanding of the story Townshend was trying to put across. All the artists hit the top spot with their cameo roles and the individual performances from The Who members have rarely been bettered.

Reizner casts a wonderful spell over this version of Tommy ; only someone who really loves the original soundtrack could lovingly capture the beauty that is Tommy.

This is a CD that I never tire of. What I would have given to be present when most of this cast did the charity concerts at the roundhouse back in the early 70s. This is the nearest thing that we have to help preserve what they achieved.

I often think that this type of production should be repeated live on stage every now and then. It would be a sell out every time it was put on. Time commitments' would no doubt be a problem, but who wouldn't want to be part of recreating something as good as this?

The addition of the LSO and Chamber Choir adds a dimension of class and atmosphere that at times send shivers down the spine.

If you haven't already got this, well you are missing out. However, it seems that price wise it is now very acceptable, once having been very expensive. Beg, steal or borrow if you can...........it's a classic.


Sleep Walking
Sleep Walking

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully Walking in a Better Place, 5 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Sleep Walking (Audio CD)
A sad loss to the music industry and to all his countless fans worldwide. This is probably one of my favourites from his wonderful back catalogue of music, although strangely one of the most overlooked.

This has everything that was (still is) great about Rafferty's music. Well produced, well written, well arranged and most of all...........beautifully sung.

On this CD you have tracks that can take you away from yourself for 4 minutes, but stay with you for a lifetime. Great rhythms, great musicians and a great songwriter.

I love the mellow "On the way", "Good Intentions", "Right moment", "Wise as a serpent" and the uplifting title track "Sleepwalking". However, it would be churlish to omit the other tracks as they too are of the highest calibre.

Rafferty was a troubled man but gifted with a sumptuous voice and a talent for framing wonderful songs around it.

If you only know him for "Baker Street", then do you self a favour and explore the many other classics that he left behind.


Sleepwalking (1982)
Sleepwalking (1982)

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully Walking in a Better Place, 5 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Sleepwalking (1982) (Audio CD)
A sad loss to the music industry and to all his countless fans worldwide. This is probably one of my favourites from his wonderful back catalogue of music, although strangely one of the most overlooked.

This has everything that was (still is) great about Rafferty's music. Well produced, well written, well arranged and most of all...........beautifully sung.

On this CD you have tracks that can take you away from yourself for 4 minutes, but stay with you for a lifetime. Great rhythms, great musicians and a great songwriter.

I love the mellow "On the way", "Good Intentions", "Right moment", "Wise as a serpent" and the uplifting title track "Sleepwalking". However, it would be churlish to omit the other tracks as they too are of the highest calibre.

Rafferty was a troubled man but gifted with a sumptuous voice and a talent for framing wonderful songs around it.

If you only know him for "Baker Street", then do you self a favour and explore the many other classics that he left behind.


Dreams
Dreams
Price: £13.64

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dreams Can Turn Into Nightmares Too, 2 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Dreams (Audio CD)
When I saw on his website that he was releasing a CD of covers I wasn't sure what to think. Neil Diamond in his pomp did some masterful covers. You only have to listen to the "Stones" album and "Touching You" to name but a few........don't forget his genius when recording He Ain't Heavy.

However, when I played the 3 tracks on offer on the website my heart admittedly sank. What could have been a great project I fear has fallen slightly flat. A fairly unimaginable choice of material on at least half the numbers chosen, plus a slow and ponderous approach to most of the tracks, stalls the great progress he made with his last two pieces of original material. I also have to say that he has been carried away a little bit with the stripped down approach. It is only effective when used to good effect. To use it all the time however dilutes the impact.

So what of the album. Very bland to be honest. I have probably most of his recorded output and I usually know in an instance how often I am going to play a disc over and over and how often I am simply going to cherry pick the odd good track and put onto a compilation. I think you know where I am going with this.

You could easily put this on as pleasant backing music for a cosy dinner party. However, is this where Neil Diamond wants to sit at this moment? He has a 70th birthday in January and has made huge critical strides in the last 5 years. Why waste time on MOR pap? Better to wait another two years and get another quality album out. Why waste the remaining years? I think unfortunately the ego has got the better of him when deciding the choice of material and production on this set. If ever an artist needs a person to keep them in check, then that person is Neil Diamond.

Of the tracks I actually rate, Feels Like Home< Love Song>A Song For You & Don't Forget Me are ok. But that is damning it by feint praise because the others are really fairly mediocre.

I hear that his next project could be an album whereby he co-writes with other writers. I don't hold out a lot of faith in this. Stick to writing on your own Mr. Diamond and get Rubin back at your side.

I so wanted this to be better than it is, but I gave up trying to defend the weaker aspects of his output a long time ago. Sadly it won't stop me buying the next CD and the one after that. That's the way it is if you are a life long fan.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2010 2:17 PM GMT


On The Way To The Sky
On The Way To The Sky

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Cloudy To Be a Classic, 15 Oct. 2010
This review is from: On The Way To The Sky (Audio CD)
I returned to this CD recentely in the anticipation of the new "Dreams" release due in November. Having listened to it again for the first time in a number of years, I have a more favourable opinion on it, although it is still no more than a CD of medium quality, sprinkled with a few classics. This was very much the way with Diamond releases in the 1980's.
Yesterday's Songs - Very much safe and easy listening. Pleasant without ever threatening his past catalogue achievements.
On The Way To The Sky - Tremendous ballad. Diamond at his best. Atmospheric and full of drama without being over the top
Right By You - Nice bluesy feel. Understated and all the better for it. It settles into a a catchy laid back grove.
Only you - Everything that was bad about Diamond at this time. Sounds as if it is the opening night of a variety show. You can almost imagine the dancers going through a routine behind him!
Save Me - I like this song. It reminds me of the lovely feel he got when recording another song called Signs off a previous album.
Be Mine Tonight - Bad and weak!
The Drifter - Another 5 star song like "On The Way To The Sky". Strong ballad, haunting and more than a little autobiographical
Fear Of the Market Place - Great opening 15 secs. One of the best I have heard, full of anticipated quality. Sadly it changes tempo straight after and decends downwards.
Rainy Day Song - Far too Twee and Purile
Guitar Heaven - Not Bad, not great, but not the worst on the listings
Love Burns - At his best again. Lovely haunting (there's that adjective again)feel to it. If it wasn't for a less than strong middle eight, which it richly deserved, it could have been a semi-classic

All in all a middling album. As previously said in another review, in the 80's you bought Diamond releases knowing that they would invariably be hit and miss affairs. However, if you didn't, you always ran the risk of mssing out on a few gems, as on the CD.


Hot August Night NYC
Hot August Night NYC

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hot Robust Delight, 30 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Hot August Night NYC (Audio CD)
I wrote at the end of my review of "12 Songs", that if Neil Diamond was to cement his return to form that that album had critically demonstrated, he would have to change his live performances accordingly and go back to the style of the 70s. By that I meant, he sang as opposed to growled and dropped the insincere showbiz stage persona that had dogged him through the 80s onwards.

I am happy to say that when he released "Home Before Dark" he carried on the musical craft he had rediscovered and during his live show at Birmingham in 2008, I witnessed his total return to form. In other words, he had achieved the complete turnaround I was hoping for.

This latest CD is the stage show that he took around the World in 2008 and boy is it a cracker.

One thing Diamond always managed in concert was the ability to manage tempo and moods in the delivery of the set list of songs. Now, however, with the quality material on offer from his last two albums, he has room to manoeuvre the old standards around and freshen things up. You will see from the song listing that he starts the concert with Holly Holy, an old encore pleaser which now opens the proceedings with a bang. In reality, this is the real deal. The warmth of his home NY crowd, and the sheer enthusiasm he has recently rediscovered, keeps you smack in the middle of this event from start to finish.

There's something for everyone and the quality of his voice and the masterful backing band and singers gives a tremendous double disc delight.

If there is a highlight for me then it is "Hell Yeah", the classic he wrote for 12 Songs. It chills and inspires you in equal measures. A truly modern day slant on Sinatra's "My Way".

This is a great recording of the concert and for any fan that saw him during this tour, a great reminder of the renaissance of Neil Diamond. With the prospect of a new album next year and his obvious thirst to keep touring, the future looks bright.......................................and HOT.

I don't think tickets for future concerts are going to be any easier to get somehow!!!


Neil Diamond - Diamonds From The Vaults [DVD]
Neil Diamond - Diamonds From The Vaults [DVD]
Dvd ~ Neil Diamond
Offered by Oakfield35
Price: £6.99

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Wait..........But Worth It, 31 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
1971

The first half of this DVD was for many years a bit of a "Holy Grail" for me in terms of classic Diamond performances. One of my first and best Diamond introductions was a 1971 concert he performed for the superb "BBC in Concert" programme that included such talents as James Taylor, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot to name but a few. All of them were at an early peak in their careers and Diamond was no exception.

On the evening it was shown, BBC 2 if I remember correctly, I set up my trusty reel to reel Grundig tape recorder and put the mic in front of the television and pushed the record button. With the exception of the cheeping of our pet budgie in the background, the quality of the tape recording was very good considering, and for years I all but wore the tape out from replaying it continually. Eventually it did snap and for years I searched and searched for a copy of the concert, but to no avail.....This DVD is the very same concert

Why then, is this such a classic concert?

Plainly and simply, Diamond has a presence and quality here that, up until his other legendary "Hot August Night", still remains the benchmark for all his live recorded material.

Where this differs from "Hot August Night" is that this is very much a one man show delivered in a sensitive and vulnerable manner. As opposed to the outstandingly powerful, almost religious experience, that is "Hot August Night".

The concert itself is not the full song listing (Modern Day Version of Love & Done Too Soon being omitted), but then let's be grateful for small crumbs.

Diamond sings in the main, either standing or sitting on a stool with just his acoustic guitar, which makes a mockery of the later years when he used it as a prop. The clarity of his strumming and finger picking is superbly accompanied by a wonderful BBC Orchestra and excellent female backing singers. The arrangements are first class with no modern rock instruments blindly thumping out a beat, just top notch strings, sensitive percussion and Diamond's classic voice.

His phrasing and passion for the material is stunning. He holds the viewer spellbound, just like the engrossed small studio audience. He creates a warmth and connection that makes the concert pass by in a flash.

Dressed in sober red shirt and black jeans, he holds the stage like a messiah delivering words of wisdom that his congregation just lap up.

Rarely have I heard these songs sung in such an emotional way. It was a time when the material wasn't that old and he still sounded enthused by the songs when he sang them. He also had a great melodic voice that came across in bunches, something that I am pleased to say he found again on his last tour. Singing not growling!

Every title from the opening Sweet Caroline to the final Brother Love is astounding. The songs are performed as they were meant to be and not in latter day karaoke style. Holly Holy and I Am .....I Said are "Gold Star Renditions" but "He Ain't Heavy is simply spine chilling.

Get this DVD for these 7 songs alone - an absolute master class and a real treasure from the vaults.

2001

This is not really my "Cup of Tea". It was at a time when he still hadn't released "12 Songs" and was in that growling Mr Showbiz mode. A lot of fans will be glad just to have additional material to view and listen to, and good luck to them. However, with the release of "Thank You Australia" and the first half of this DVD, I am more than happy to listen to my own favourite periods. Even more so when it is clear he is back on track recording and performing wise in the present day.

For this alone, I give this 5 stars.....................go and buy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2009 9:30 AM BST


Last Days Of The Century
Last Days Of The Century

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Days......But Not Great days, 21 Nov. 2008
This, as has been noted in the other reviews, is very much a product of the 80s. Not necessarily a bad product but it does stand out from his other offerings that had been released up until this time.

A lot of collaboration was made with Peter White on this album, which may explain some of the new influences, at the time, on Al's approach.

I personally like this CD, not as a classic, which it isn't, but as a whole, I listen to it from start to finish and whilst it doesn't excite me as other releases have, I have to say it doesn't disappoint me either. Perhaps I'm damning it by feint praise by saying that but that isn't the intention.

There are certainly enough high points to welcome it into your collection. It also offers a refreshing acceptance by Al to explore other avenues, something that in later productions served him well.

Last days of the Century: Great opening track which I rate highly. Tremendous tempo which grabs you from the start. My only criticism is that he doesn't know how to end it. He drags it on for too long when he should have closed it with a bang

Real & Unreal: Surreal jazz infused bluesy feel which is mediocre. Unfortunately I keep thinking of the Pink Panther creeping about whenever I hear it!

King of Portugal: This is a really pretty and melodic track with a great understated groove that carries it along.

Red Toupee: Some seem to like this but I find it nothing more than a fun "toe tapper". A bit lightweight.

Where are They Now: Excellent song, typically mature offering from Al in his well established thought provoking way.

Bad Reputation: This has one of those infectious grooves that sucks you in and seeps into your brain. It also has a wonderful breezy middle eight.

Josephine Baker: Top notch delivery from the man. Al in his favourite vein of plucking obscure characters out of the air and putting them into the public domain. How many times has he done that? Tremendous track.

License to Steal: I normally shy away from the tracks where Al tries to rock hard as he rarely manages to pull it off. However, this is absolutely superb. His phrasing and delivery is 100% convincing and the pace and edge of the song gives it a real punch. Add to this the tremendous guitar work by both Steve Farris and my all time favourite Tim Renwick and you have a bone fide classic.

Fields of France: Pretty & Pleasant but no more than that.

Antarctica: The opening sounds like Blue Oyster Cult meets Jethro Tull. OK but not great

Ghostly Horses: Lovely instrumental

Helen & Cassandra: Although some will say it isn't one of his strongest historical offerings, from a personal point of view, I like it.

A worthwhile purchase with certainly enough to keep you happy. If you buy it you won't be wasting your money. If you don't.........you'll miss out on a few crackers.


Famous Last Words
Famous Last Words

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words Famously Made To Last, 20 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Famous Last Words (Audio CD)
Having been pleasantly buoyed by fellow Al Stewart fans who have shown favourable comment on some of my previous reviews, I have been minded to look at other CDs by Al and put together my own further thoughts on each one. The decision to evaluate this particular one being in the main down to the prompting of another ardent fan.

Famous Last Words is for want of a better word.........Classy.

Just like vintage wine, one of Al's other great passions in life, this material on offer is the result of the maturing of a craft, honed by years and years of experience that can only be nurtured after a long period of time. This is the album where he put out some of his most interesting compositions ever. This is not too dissimilar to a Clifford T Ward album entitled "Both of Us". They both came at a time when they each felt on top of their game. It is a watershed of variety whereby the artist doesn't lose the essence of his core musical culture, but rather develops further into other areas. The influence of both Peter White on guitar and other instruments and Peter Wood on keyboards is very much self evident. Together, they create a wonderfully captivating feel to a very distinctive album.

As a brief overview, the tracks on offer provide a superb mix of styles and emotions:

Feel Like - Breezy floating sound that reminds you of summer spent driving around the sun kissed South of France
Angel of Mercy - Theatrical and atmospheric treat
Don't Forget Me - Melancholic Stewart at his best, with trademark sax
Peter on the White Sea - Sweeping grandeur with Peter White offering up sumptuous string arrangements and a piano score to die for
Genie on a Table Top - A syncopated romp that's a delight
Trespasser - Great track with an authentic Latin feel to it
Trains - Quintessential mini-opus from Al. A joyful journey from beginning to end
Necromancer - First rate haunting sound full of intrigue and a hint of the sinister
Charlotte Corday - Classic Al, morphing intriguing characters into a beautifully written musical history lesson.
Hipposong - Throwaway nonsense better received as a tongue in cheek ice breaker for a live audience
Night Rolls In - Great sense of the dramatic. A moody offering that gets under your skin.........and stays there.

So there you have it. A classic album that I never tire of. The use of skilled musicians offering up a wonderful variety of imagination, allied to excellent production work, enables this to succeed on all levels. It also helps if you can write and compose like Al Stewart!


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