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Paul Simister (Birmingham, United Kingdom)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Grobschnitt Story, Vol. 4 (Live, Grugahalle Essen 08.05.1981)
Grobschnitt Story, Vol. 4 (Live, Grugahalle Essen 08.05.1981)
Price: £19.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Risk a few pounds on the longer tracks and give Grobschnitt a try, 21 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you like prog rock and you want to branch away from the mainstream of Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, Jethro Tull etc, then it's well worth exploring what was happening on the European continent in the 1970s.

Italy had a particularly strong prog rock bands like PFM, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and Le Orme while Germany gave us Eloy and Grosbschnitt. By 1981, Grobschnitt had provided us with two prog rock classics, the studio album Rockpommel's Land and the live album Solar Music Live which is a prog/space rock guitar symphony for guitars.

This might be on its way to becoming the third album worthy of being called a classic. With just less than 4 hours of music on the album, it's going to take a lot of getting to know really well.

This album starts with about 25 minutes of "support act" (tracks 1 to 14). I'm not really sure of what's going on because it's strange like Frank Zappa (which suits me fine) but it's also in German. The band is then announced and we start to hear the proper music. Trying the mp3 samples doesn't work in this situation because you get all the strange things going on to prejudice your opinion and you can't judge a proper prog rock anthem from 30 seconds at the start. You can assess the sound quality and this is very good.

What I did and I recommend you do the same, is to invest in several of the longer tracks since (at the time of writing) they are all open for purchase at the 99p each. That's not bad when you can buy a 10 to 17 minute track. This gives you a proper chance to assess their progressive capabilities and, if you like guitar based prog, I think it will suit you very nicely. There are a few longish spoken German tracks which get the crowd laughing to avoid and I've moved out of my full version of the album - Die Balli Show 1, Die Balli Show 2 and
Die Salzmann Show.

The band are quite eccentric and have a sense of fun. Some of the songs are in English (and sung with strong accents) but German is the dominant language. I have mixed feelings about not being able to understand because it means I don't get irritated by inane, simplistic lyrics but also I don't know what the songs are about either. I just let the music sweep over me.

The best live albums present a concert (or simulated live experience) in such a way as to leave you wishing you'd have been there. That's the way I feel about this album. I might be back to add the extra star but I try to be stingy with my five star recommendations. If you like guitar based symphonic progressive rock and have an open mind about language, you must give this a try.

PS be careful with other Grobschnitt album because, in the search for success, the group moved away from their roots like Genesis did.

Live from Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA Sep 6, 1976 (Live FM Radio Concert Remastered In Superb Fidelity)
Live from Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA Sep 6, 1976 (Live FM Radio Concert Remastered In Superb Fidelity)
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Live Performance Mainly Pulling Songs From His First Two Studio Albums As A Solo Artist, 15 Mar. 2016
In 1976, Nils Lofgren was promoting his second studio album, "Cry Tough" after the break-up of his band Grin.

Of the eleven songs on here (ignoring the two announcements but recognising the two songs in the medley), five come from "Cry Tough" and four from his first solo album called "Nils Lofgren". The remaining two songs were from his time with Grin, one each from the album called "Grin" and "Gone Crazy".

This is much needed since his official live album from 1977 "Night After Night" remains out of print.

It's a very good performance with Lofgren flexing his guitar playing muscles on the songs that need to rock. The sound quality is very good too although that's very much a matter of personal taste for live albums. Listen to the mp3 samples and decide for yourself.

At 64 minutes long, I'm left wishing for more and I still feel we don't yet have the definitive live album from Nils Lofgren. A bit of DIY can get you closer.

Three songs - "Goin' Back", "Take You To The Movies Tonight/Back It Up" and "Keith Don't Go" also appear on his official live album "Back It Up" from 1975 (aka the radio broadcast Sausalito). Combine the remaining tracks from that album with this one by picking up the mp3 tracks of "I Don't Wanna Know" and "The Sun Hasn't Set" (originally from the Nils Lofgren album) and "Rain" and "Soft Fun/Beggar's Day" from his days with Grin. If you want even more, you can do a similar exercise with the 1977 radio broadcast called Hanging Tough. You will finish with a very nice summary of what Nils Lofgren was doing in the mid 1970s when he was at the peak of his popularity.

Classics Live
Classics Live
Price: £19.22

4.0 out of 5 stars A classy album, 14 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Classics Live (Audio CD)
John Martyn is a Marmite performer who divides opinions sharply between love and hate. This album may find some middle ground because is a smooth, relaxed John Martyn playing with his band supplemented with a saxophone player.

While the title suggests a live greatest hits style recording, this has six songs from the album he was promoting The Apprentice. It also has songs from his most critically acclaimed albums - four from One World and two each from Solid Air and Grace And Danger.

Can't Find My Way Home (feat. Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker) [Live]
Can't Find My Way Home (feat. Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker) [Live]
Price: £6.99

1.0 out of 5 stars What A Shame, 12 Mar. 2016
I was excited when I saw this but what a shame the sound is awful.

I believe we all have different acceptable tolerances for listening to recordings of live music but this is well below my threshold. If you're tempted, you MUST listen to the mp3 samples first.

Frank Zappa Buying Guide
Frank Zappa Buying Guide
Price: £2.30

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and it misses out the albums released by the Zappa Family Trust, 10 Mar. 2016
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I was distracted by what bargain the KIndle version appeared at £1.99 rather than the paperback at £10.00 and didn't stop to think about how short this book is when there are so many albums featuring Frank Zappa.

The book doesn't stand up for several reasons:

1) There is little insight or analysis in the individual reviews.
2) The albums released by the Family Trust - that's official release numbers 69 to 92 released between 1999 and 2011 are missing. The book therefore ignores excellent live albums like Philly '76 and Buffalo.

Two other issues frustrated me. The reviews didn't list the songs on each album and it didn't have an index where you could click on the album and jump to the review.

On the plus side, the book also reviews some of the books about Frank Zappa and it rates each album from A downwards so that there is a top ten Zappa albums list which is useful for anyone who wants to carefully sample the Zappa albums.

Live in America
Live in America
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended., 29 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Live in America (MP3 Download)
This is an excellent British folk album recorded in 1981 with a lovely blend of instruments creating a gorgeous background to some fine singing.

There is a very good review on the page for the CD Live In America

Live In America
Live In America

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent British folk album, 29 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Live In America (Audio CD)
I don't know much about British folk music but I love this live album by The John Renbourn Group.

Former Pentangle singer, Jacqui McShee has an exceptional voice and she's well supported by the other singing from John Renbourn, John Molineux and Tony Roberts.

What really makes this album for me though is the instrumental excellence combining folk and jazz influences of Renbourn on guitar, Molineux on fiddle, dulcimer and mandolin and Roberts playing flute, krumhorn and the Northumbrian small pipes. Keshav Sathe provides percussion with his tabla. All these flavours merge to create an intoxicating brew.

This is an album you need to hear if you have any temptation to buy more British folk so click over to the mp3 samples which for some strange reason aren't linked Live in America. I think you'll love it.

DIY Simple Investing: A Guide to Simple but Effective Low Cost Investing
DIY Simple Investing: A Guide to Simple but Effective Low Cost Investing
Price: £3.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Nice Introduction To Investments For Beginners, 27 Feb. 2016
This is a good UK based introduction to the world of investment for anyone who is thinking of taking control of their finances.

It starts by stressing the importance of getting out of debt and staying debt free since debt usually costs more per annum that your investments will earn. It also urges you to build a safety fund for just in case emergences and unexpected events.

Then it gently explains some of the most common words and phrases you'll come across. Next it explains the importance of keeping fees and charges low since high costs will have a dramatic dampening effect on investments unless their return is exceptionally high. The basic message is to invest in low cost passive unit trusts and ETFs each month so that, when investments do the inevitable and go down in price, you can console yourself that you're buying cheaply and will make a profit when prices bounce back upwards.

There's too much pushing of Vanguard funds for my liking but I think it's just because the author invests with them.

While the information in here will be very useful, I have some concerns about taking the advice in the book if you have a significant lump sum to invest. Central banks have done some extraordinary things since the 2008 crisis which have broken the contrary movements of bonds and shares. It used to be the case that when one went up, the other often went down so some percentage balance of each helped to reduce risks of a dramatic fall. In recent years both stocks and bonds have hit new heights at similar times and the diversification benefit has disappeared.

I'd have liked some graphs of the big stock market indices over their history plus similar for bonds and gold with some discussion of the movements, especially with allowance made for inflation. It's important that new investors can see both the rises and falls and see how timing can matter at the stage of the initial investment of lump sums or the timing of big investment sales. Get both right and you can do very well, get both wrong and you can lose a lot of money.

The main index in Japan shows what can happen, because it peaked close to 39,000 in December 1989 and since then, it's rarely recovered to half that level. I worry that with the UK's over-indebtedness and bad demographics, we could be turning Japanese. This isn't necessarily a problem if you are investing monthly for the next 25 years because you would do much of your buying at low prices but it does matter if you're investing a lump sum or have built up considerable investments already.

Soul Sensation (Live)
Soul Sensation (Live)
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 27 Feb. 2016
A charming live album by Bobby Womack. I've written a longer review against the CD Soul Sensation Live.

My biggest moan is that I want more Bobby Womack live recordings because this is missing too many great songs. It is however an excellent performance with plenty of live atmosphere.

Soul Sensation Live
Soul Sensation Live

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Live Album By Bobby Womack, 27 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Soul Sensation Live (Audio CD)
This is an excellent live album from the late, great Bobby Womack.

It was recorded in London in 1991 and shows off how well Womack works with a crowd in a small, intimate venue. Womack is perhaps my favourite soul singer-songwriter and it's his voice that does it for me. It can cover so many different emotions, it’s rough and sandpaper coarse when needed, soft and gentle when he wants. His band grooves very nicely behind him.

He wrote one of the early #1 hit singles for the Rolling Stones and then went on to write for Wilson Pickett before becoming a solo artist. I don't like to criticise this album but it's at its weakest in the song selection. Too many of the songs I really want to hear perform live are missing but, at the same time, there aren't any here that I want to give up. I suppose what I really want is a longer live album than the 73 minutes we have here.

Amazon haven't linked to the mp3 samples but you can listen to the them at Soul Sensation (Live). If you love soul, I think you'll love this album.

I write a blog on live albums and I use readers polls to guide readers to the best live recordings. This is currently lying in 9th place but the competition is tight after the first four which are Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club, James Brown At The Apollo in 1962, Donny Hathaway Live and Curtis Mayfield Live.

There is another live album called The Womack Live from 1970 which is also good but I'd like to think that there are some more live recordings in the vault from the early 1970s (after Across 110th Street) and in the early 1980s after The Poet and/or The Poet II. I really hope they are released soon.

If you don't have any Bobby Womack albums, it's probably better to get one of the many compilations (because so many great songs are missing from this) or The Poet but if you've done that, this makes a fine addition to your collection.

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