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Mr. C. Bath (Sussex, UK)
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Full Circle
Full Circle
by Michael Palin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fleshes out the TV series nicely, 6 April 2014
This review is from: Full Circle (Paperback)
I am a massive fan of Palin’s travel series’ and Pole to Pole and 80 Days hold a legendary status for me as the two most intense and original of his adventures in both book and TV format. When I first watched Full Circle, I was a little disappointed by the lack of intensity and frequent skipping between places and unexplained jumps (such as from Java to Australia). However, the book is great in that it feels much closer to the completeness and depth of Palin’s first two adventures than the TV series does. By the end, you are hugely impressed by the scale of the journey Palin and the crew take.

This is because the book allows far better and more detailed explanation and gives you plenty of info about his surroundings: the hotel room, frankness about how he was feeling at the time and explanation of how and why he got to the next place (if he jumped a long distance, it was usually due to having to fly and for good reason). This means you are not left (as in the TV series) baffled and disappointed, with the sense of adventure and intensity of the journey being lost, when you suddenly move on to somewhere miles away without enough sense of journey or adventure.

As with Pole to Pole and 80 Days, what I also like about this book now is that as time passes it becomes ever more fascinating and has already become a period piece. 18 years later you can are able to look back (quite a long way in fact in 2014) at a snapshot of the Pacific Rim in 1996; early post-Soviet Russia for instance and mid-90s China as it embraced capitalism, when the Yangtze Gorges were yet to be submerged and most city people still rode bicycles. His journey through Japan, Korea and China is a definite highlight, as well as the particularly enjoyable passage where he makes the rather eccentric Railcar journey to La Paz in Bolivia. The only major criticism of the adventure would be the jump from Cartagena in Colombia straight to Mexico City (surely the Panama Canal was important enough to visit as the connector between Atlantic and Pacific), which therefore misses out most of Central America. However by the time he got through South America I think Michael was on his last legs after such a long journey!

As ever with Palin’s adventures, the book makes a great accompaniment to the DVD, with great photos helping further and in this case manages to alleviate some of the frustration of the TV series only having 10 episodes to fit it all into!


DiRT 3 - Complete Edition (PS3)
DiRT 3 - Complete Edition (PS3)
Offered by LTLE

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great game, so much content, just not enough long rally stages!!!, 15 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What can you say about this game? It's so beautifully made, the menus, the car models, the engine sounds (pretty awe inspiring at times, especially the howling Delta S4 and Audi Sport Quattro). Codemasters have produced something really great. The career mode is pretty good: although I'm personally not hugely interested in the whole gymkhana and buggy/rallycross thing, it is good fun at times and adds some variety to what could otherwise just be straight rally driving. But what this game does miss somewhat are some longer rally stages; one or two in Norway and Monte Carlo are pushing towards 3 mins long which is great, but others are very short, and in Kenya in particular (where the legendary Safari Rally used to involve incredible endurance, huge suspension travel and wilderness), I'm sometimes left frustrated that they are so short. But overall rally fans can't really complain too much, there are so many great cars here (I love the Lancia Delta Integrale, Celica and Escort from the 90s especially) and they look and sound so good you get the sense of power and beauty which you really want!


Zenyatta Mondatta
Zenyatta Mondatta
Price: £5.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Police's Beatles For Sale= an excellent album, 4 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Zenyatta Mondatta (Audio CD)
I bought this album because I wanted to finally explore some of the Police's other early songs, having owned only The Police 2CD compilation and the last two albums. It has buckets of the classic Police 'soundscape' which I love so much. Zenyatta Mondatta is I guess anchored by the two songs that most people probably know best and which were singles- 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'. Both are classic Police and the latter in particular sends you into that magical Police world of the four elements: Copeland's fabulous drumming, Andy's sublime clean guitar tones and Sting's bass and vocals. 'Driven To Tears'is a competent track with some nice sounds and atmosphere, but the third song 'Voices Inside My Head' is better, a good quasi-instrumental to which Sting adds only two simple lines of lyrics. One of the two forgotten Police classics (for me at least!) on this album which I am delighted to have discovered is 'When The World Is Running Down...', bathed beautifully in Andy Summer's fantastic chorus guitar effects and improved further by an excellent bass line interval in the middle. It ends nicely too with the verse repeating as it fades-out, which I liked a lot. The other great little song is 'Man In A Suitcase', a fairly simple and short ska style song, but its bare sound and upbeat feel makes it really pleasant and for me addictive. This song begins brilliantly with a typically incredible Copeland drum roll to bring the verse in at the beginning- listen out for it! 'Canary in a Coalmine' is a real gem, possibly the third best song after the singles and in my personal top ten Police songs. It's frantic and loopy with great rhyming lyrics. But possibly the best part is the slowdown around 1:27 which brings in a great piano line to start the song back up again, listen out for it too! 'Bombs Away' is an interesting number, not the best Police track ever but has some strong political implications in its lyrics and is rescued a little by an okay Egyptian sounding guitar solo in the middle. 'Behind My Camel' is not too great an effort, despite the fact I adore Andy Summer's guitar playing, I'm not sure what he was up to here really!!! 'Shadows In The Rain' and The Other Way of Stopping' are in much the same vein as 'Driven To Tears' as they have some interesting sounds but are otherwise not especially compelling. Zenyatta Mondatta is in many ways The Police's Beatles For Sale (they apparently finished it at 4am on the morning of their world tour), but nonetheless it's still an album full of quality as with the Beatles LP. Some of the songs are fairly simply made, without too many complex parts (unlike the next Police album after it). But I really enjoy the overall feel of the album, liking it as much as their more acclaimed Regatta De Blanc. There is plenty to enjoy! I count 8 hits and only 3 misses out of 11. If you can pick it up cheap on amazon it's well worth a listen to see what you think. There is some brilliant music making here, putting to shame modern day bands in all genres by being excellently recorded despite being a little rushed!!!!


Beatles For Sale
Beatles For Sale
Price: £11.76

5.0 out of 5 stars If you haven't got it then get it!, 14 April 2010
This review is from: Beatles For Sale (Audio CD)
The great irony about Beatles For Sale is that I seem to hear it called one of The Beatles weaker albums. For a weak link album, it is probably one of the greatest of all time! If it is supposed to have a poor reputation, then I would really call it more an underrated album that is truly worth getting just to see the error of all those stupid critics! Considering the Beatles where supposed to be rushed for time in recording it because of all their hectic touring, I still think it's a fairly well polished album. There are obvious weak points, mostly the cover songs because they let down the Beatles by not being their own compositions. Sadly all the Beatles ever do for the majority of their covers is prove that there own songs are vastly better than everyone elses! I think 7 of the 14 songs on this album are truly great records, 6 of the Lennon/McCartney's and 'Rock And Roll Music', as one of their most entertaining covers.
How good is each song then?
No Reply- A fabulous moody start, a Beatles classic. To me the first of six truly legendary McCartney/Lennon songs found on this album.
I'm a Loser- Good song but not that great compared to the other L/Mac songs on here. A weaker link in my opinion but by no means poor! Nice bit of harmonica in this.
Baby's In Black- One of the greats of the album. I love the fantastic 'doinging' guitar notes and especially the solo. The second legendary Beatles tune for me!
Rock And Roll Music- This has to be one of the Beatles best ever covers, so full of energy and probably a better version than the original! Listen for the brilliant honky-tonk piano! Up there with 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'A Taste Of Honey' as a top cover by the Beatles.
I'll Follow The Sun- A beautiful and very simple tune on a par with 'And I Love Her' for pure Beatles love song sublimity! Another legend!
Mr Moonlight- This is where the album starts to fall down for me. Not a bad song at all, just not a particularly exciting or interesting one. The Beatles compositions outclass it so so badly.
Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!- The second fall taken by the album in my opinion. Again, not a bad cover medley (great 'She's a Woman' style McCartney vocals on it), but just not as good as Beatles stuff.
Eight Days A Week- Another highlight of the album giving some mid-album relief from bad covers! Apparently the Beatles always said they never liked this truly legendary pop song and found it awkward to get right, but it is a truly unique and innovative tune. Particularly fabulous I think is the radical-for-the-time fading in and fading out. George's glorious Rickenbacker is also on top form in this. Brilliant!
Words Of Love- Another cover of a well known tune but again one of the weaker points of the album (not a lot really happens in it!) Like the frantic sounding overdubbed clapping in the background though!
Honey Don't- Another definite weak point. I always usually like it when Ringo has a sing but this one is pretty dull for him! Not as good as 'Act Naturally' on the Help! Album.
Every Little Thing- This is where the album recovers. I adore this song. The Rickenbacker's jangly sound is at its brilliant best here once again. Wonderful solo and ending in this. Superb! The 5th of 6 top class Lennon/McCartney songs on the album.
I Don't Want to Spoil The Party- A Lennon/McCartney composition, but not an especially messianic one. Not that exciting really. Can't see the excitement of it really. Or Bob Dylanesqueness for that matter!
What You're Doing- My favourite of the album and one of my all-time favourite Beatles songs. It contains what has to be one of the most brilliant guitar patterns of all time. Very innovative also because it has no chorus and begins with a drum rhythm. The final legendary song of the album. Absolutely brilliant!
Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby- George finally gets a sing! Not a bad song, but again, not as good as a Beatles composed tune- I'm sorry! Pretty bad note to end the album on really.
Overall, who couldn't like this album? It has ample amounts of early Beatles at their very best, contains plenty of interest and true innovation and is still a million times superior to anything produced today. The weak cover songs drag it down only because they let down the Beatles themselves for being far below their own standard! I don't think it is as well rounded and complete as A Hard Day's Night, but I actually enjoy it far more than the Help!, and (dare I say it), even Rubber Soul. Buy it, either in original Mono or remastered, and you will not be disappointed! My battered little copy is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Just like any Beatles album. I love it!


Avalon
Avalon
Price: £2.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music doesn't get much better than this!, 1 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Avalon (Audio CD)
This has to be one of the most sublime and most complete albums ever completed by a band! When I listen to an album, I usually judge it overall by the number of great songs or songs that grip me, that make me listen and think 'wow this has a good rhythm/several great bits to it'. Avalon is one of the few albums I have ever heard where every song is one I like an awful lot. I love Roxy Music, just as much as I love the Beatles, in particular because of the way they changed over time. I love 1963 Beatles as much as I adore them as they were in 1968, and it's exactly the same with Roxy Music. I love the edgy 1972 sound as much as I love them as the smooth sounding outfit they had become in 1982. And that is what makes a great band for me. Changing styles, hugely varying songs but all with the same mark of incredibly high quality.
The song 'Avalon' was the first tune I ever heard properly by Roxy Music, and it is the obvious highlight on here. There is also the wonderful 'More Than This' that feeds out beautifully in the last minute. But my personal favourite is the perfection of 'True To Life', possibly my favourite song ever! I think this song is the closest my brain has ever come to hearing what it imagines the most perfect song would sound like. I know that's just me, but give it a good listen and see for yourself. 'The Main Thing' and 'The Space Between' are the other true heavyweights of incredible sound and great rhythm. The weakest song on here is probably 'To Turn You On'- it doesn't quite match any of the others for the way it sounds- its not as gripping. This must have been a wonderful goodbye for the band in 1982/3, and a fantastic 'note' on which to end. The genius of the remaining original members Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera is in absolute evidence here. All I can say is, much as I like Brian Eno, thank god it wasn't Bryan Ferry that left the band! I've read that many people dislike the 1979 onwards stuff, that it lost the true Roxy Music sound. They must be kidding themselves! To understand true musical perfection, get this! It blows away almost anything made today.


Stalingrad (PC CD)
Stalingrad (PC CD)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great game, 8 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Stalingrad (PC CD) (Video Game)
Hats off to the developers of `Stalingrad', because it's a very intelligent spin-off from the Blitzkrieg series. They have gone a long way to sorting some of the problems with the original game, and it has an air of refinement in the menus and game play that Blitzkrieg lacked rather a little. Most of my opinion here is judged on comparisons with Blitzkrieg, because that is the only other similar game of RTS genre that I have played, and I hope it will encourage fans of Blitzkrieg and similar titles to give this more unknown game `Stalingrad' a go.
The setting and period of WW2 is very interesting, so anyone wanting a history lesson combined with some practical strategy should give it a go. It has been cleverly pitched because success in each of the missions is more or less the same as what actually happened, so even your own actions are historically accurate to an extent. The Operation Blau campaign in summer 1942, and the colossal territory of the steppes and the Caucasus Mountains the Germans advanced across have always really fascinated me, so it was definitely helpful in further understanding the campaign and events as they moved along. The area of southern Russia is nicely recreated for your imagination on the maps, with open plains, farmland and villages to fight across. You really get a feel for example of the parched, dusty steppe lands in the summer campaign and the barren frozen wastes during the Soviet winter offensive.
I always really struggled with the command system on `Blitzkrieg'; it took me a very long time to even begin to use it properly. Here in contrast my interest and desire to learn the game play was found at once, being more interested at the starting point. The first German mission for example gives you plenty of armour to play with and a chance to experiment on tactics, supply etc. Whilst it sort of assumes you know the ropes if you don't you have time to play around on the steppe or throw troops forward at will.
It is the attention to detail and accuracy where this game should be applauded. There are accurately modelled variations of the German and Soviet tank marks. For example there are nearly all the marks of the Panzer III and IV. The vehicles and units are nicely defined and detailed, from the panzer commanders sitting upright in their turrets to the little panzer grenadiers with their sleeves rolled up exactly as you imagine them to have been, sweltering in the Russian heat. In the winter months you have at one stage some brilliant white-clad Soviet tank riding assault troops, all of which are much better human models that some of the ones found in Blitzkrieg. There are some units worth noting here of real interest that were involved in the Stalingrad battle. These include captured German T-34 and KV tanks, German volunteer Cossack troops, Soviet Workers battalion soldiers and Romanian Renault R-35 tanks, which show very nicely the cross-section of fighting men and equipment that were involved in the battle.
Sound is much improved as well with some nice touches. Click on a Soviet tank for example and you get a fantastic grainy radio response in Russian. Even the tanks rattle and clunk very nicely. Explosions and the boom of the artillery are much more solid, with a crescendo of rifle and machine gun in areas of heavy fighting. Even if you move to a quiet corner of the map, you can hear gunfire in the distance, which is a great little touch. Vehicles and guns explode spectacularly, for example when some tanks are knocked out the turret keeps turning and boxes of equipment are thrown off the back. They also stay on the battlefield burning and blocking the path for longer than in `Blitzkrieg', making a more realistic battle scarred environment in which you fight. At the end of one battle in the middle of the village the ground was completely littered with tanks, vehicles and guns, showing just how quickly an area becomes ravaged with war in such concentrated battle. These are all a few such interesting details that I always look for in games like this which really improve the overall effect considerably.
Aviation is also markedly better than in `Blitzkrieg', planes aren't shot down so easily and there are no annoying fighters to contend with. They fly at a more realistic speed and with better movement. Again there are some interesting variants like the Henschel 129 ground attack plane and the Junkers 88 bomber with highly accurate markings and livery.
Some of the famous battlegrounds in the city have been nicely re-created, including the big square Grain Silo (where at one point in the real battle about 50 Soviet Marines were surrounded and held out against outnumbering Germans for several days in appalling conditions), the steeply sloping Mamaev Kurgan hill, to the Red October Tractor factory and central railway building.

Some good points:

∑ Armoured troop carriers that are actually armed! This is a whole part of the blitzkrieg idea that was missing in `Blitzkrieg' I reckon. Not that they are much use however! There are several interesting variants as well, ranging from the lend-lease Universal Carrier, Komsomolets tractor to the classic German Sdkfz. 251 with mortar and AT gun variants.
∑ Tanks and gunfire ranges are much more realistic, mortars and artillery should be able to reach most areas of the map from distance also, which just makes the whole thing much better to play.
∑ Brilliantly rendered maps with fantastic little touches- a statue of Lenin, Soviet propaganda posters on walls of buildings and horse-drawn carts left close to infantry and gun positions.
∑ You always can just keep going. Some missions take ages but you can always just finish a map before it becomes frustrating, which was a tendency in `Blitzkrieg'. The reinforcement groups are really relieving when they arrive, and they always seem to if you run out of men and tanks.

Some bad Points:
∑ German tanks in particular have a habit of blundering towards the enemy positions and being hit by anti-tank guns before you have a chance to shoot back. You can lose three or four tanks to one AT gun even if only one man is left firing it because the rate of fire remains the same. Annoying!
∑ Infantry are still pretty rubbish! Always too exposed, and annoyingly they aren't protected at all when you put them in the personnel carriers. You can throw them forwards in waves but I hate wasting them like that so I always allow the tanks to clear a path first and use them against inferior numbers. They don't listen to anything you say a lot of the time as well, and can be terribly vulnerable in open ground attacking trench lines.
∑ Some of the translations are appalling in the manual and on the menus. This is kind of understandable because it's a Russian release, and I should just be glad they've released it over here. But, this does slightly reduce the appearance of quality in the product, which is a real shame because considerable effort and refinement has gone into this game.
∑ Some units are fairly useless in battle; I at least have struggled to use them for much good. The little German Sdkz.250 half-tracks for example are nice to look at in your assembly areas but are far too vulnerable to throw forward in attack most of the time. Also the Maxim and MG42 machine guns manned by two men are useless because they are usually hit within the first few seconds of firing, although they can now be put in the trenches which is much more realistic.
∑ There are still some basics things that have never quite worked with this game engine. When you reach your objective it's often felt more with relief and desperation to finish rather than satisfying victory.
∑ Much of the heavy fighting in the city through late September and October is missed out completely! And you don't see enough of the Volga River either!

Overall, this is a fantastic game. It remains engaging enough so that I do not get bored by impossibility at any point and give up, something that can happen in such games. I could go on listing the superlatives but I would take up to much room. Some of the missions are not so great as others, the wording in English is atrocious but the majority of this game hits the mark superbly. What is most unfortunate is that I was kept in the dark about it so long! I only found out about the game through a link from information on `Blitzkrieg', but on finding it I found exactly the sort of game to discover more about the Battle of Stalingrad and the WW2 Eastern Front in general. Highly recommended.


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