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Mr. T. M. Ray "hairyworm2002" (Wales)
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The Grand Slambovians
The Grand Slambovians

5.0 out of 5 stars A review in several parts..., 2 July 2011
This review is from: The Grand Slambovians (Audio CD)
Essentially, this is an album review but as GM&TSCD are woefully little known in the UK I am appending what info I have about the band and their recorded works, in case any British buyers wish to explore the band further (something I unreservedly recommend). I'm a British fan and am a relative newcomer to their music but since seeing them at their UK Rhythm Festival debut in 2008 I have devoted considerable time and pennies tracking down as many of their recorded works as I've been able to lay my hands on. I wouldn't claim to be an authority on the band but hope that what little info I can supply will encourage you to do likewise. You will be richly rewarded!

Firstly, the new album. I've been looking forward to this release since the band rolled out a taster of the new material at the 2010 Rhythm Festival. If you read reviews for their 'Flapjacks From The Sky' double LP/CD here on Amazon you might be discouraged to explore it; whilst I respect the reviewers observations about 'filler' I cannot agree. In my humble opinion only 3 of the tracks are dispensable:'Better Life', Big Eight Wheeler' and 'Gonna Get Up'. Apart from those the album is a work of genius and the benchmark against which I have always compared and rated their other releases. With that in mind I was mildly disappointed with their subsequent album, 'The Great Unravel' and I am now applying the same yardstick to 'The Grand Slambovians'.

The first time I played it I felt the same sense of deflation as I did after repeated listening to 'Unravel'. I am now on about my 7th/8th? listen and am rapidly revising my opinion. None of the songs here, apart from the opening and title tracks, have the immediacy and memorability of the great stuff on 'Flapjacks' but listen to it long enough and it gets under the skin and into the soul. All the trademark elements of Gandalf Murphy -country/rock/folk/psychedelia- are present, correct and firing on all cylinders. The band wear their influences on their sleeve and have been well cited by other reviewers (Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty) although I reckon the band themselves would cite many others. For example, I personally reckon their are flashes of Zappa and Jethro Tull as well. Anyone? Anyway, I reckon their influences are beside the point, other than to be (an extremely vague) guide of what to expect. Expect warmth, sensitivity and humour, phenomenal, tight musicianship and a totally mind expanding experience. GM&TSCD are a unique and wonderful band of many parts.

Yes! I like the album! 'Trans Slambovian Bipolar Express', 'The Grand Slambovians' and 'Who Is This Girl?' are as good as anything on 'Flapjacks' and the rest of the material, whilst not as catchy, has much to recommend it in terms of intelligent and emotive lyricism and soaring, majestic musicianship. Acoustic and electric elements weave in and around each other creating a mesmeric, other-worldly experience that I keep coming back to again and again. The music is melodic, heavy at times and pretty trippy throughout. Awesome stuff. Sharkey's slide guitar sends shivers down my spine.

In short, I highly recommend this new album. Well worth the wait and price of entry.

Now for the second part of the review; some more general info.

As far as I can tell the band have a pretty devoted cult following back in the USA but are relatively unknown here. They made their UK debut at the Rhythm Festival in 2008 when they opened the festival on the Friday afternoon. Although not scheduled, due to an artist cancellation (I think?) they then headlined on the Sunday night and rapidly became festival favourites. They book-ended the 2009 RF and last year played the main stage third only to Arlo Guthrie and 10CC. Having got a toe-hold on British soil they have since started landing a few British gig and festival dates (sadly none near me :-( ). If anyone can get there, they are doing one of their Pirate Hillbilly Ball things at the Electric Ballroom on 27th October 2011. I'll be heading up for that one! Especially as they are NOT playing the Rhythm Festival this year.

I agree with the other reviews: visit their website. They host a good selection of their music in audio and video format so you can check 'em out. Their merchandise section has all their material currently available. They're pretty quick and efficient, considering that the stuff is shipped from the States. There are also some reasonable quality videos of them playing live on youtube.

As far as their recorded works, you might have to work at it but these are the CDs/downloads I've managed to get my hands on. I won't review each of them here but will asterisk what I believe to be the most worthwhile.

1. (2000) A Good Thief Tips His Hat (studio CD album)
2. (2001) Live At The Town Crier (live CD and mp3 download)
3 (2004) Bootleg Series - The Fez, NYC 2004 (mp3 download from website)
4. (2004) Flapjacks From The Sky* (studio CD album)(There's also a truncated picture disc vinly version that
I'm aware of)
5. (2005) A Night At The Puppet House (live CD)
6. (2007) Ancient Murphy* (pre/proto Gandalf Murphy retrospective CD album)
7. (2007) Bootleg Series - Roots On The River 2007 (mp3 download from website)
8. (2008) A Very Slambovian Christmas* (live CD of Christmas songs mixed in with GM&TSCD original material.
I highly recommend this CD.)
9. (2009) The Great Unravel* (studio CD album, okay but not great IMHO)
10. (2009) The Circus In The Dance Tent - Falcon Ridge 2009 (Official live bootleg CD)
11 (2010) The Circus Does Dylan* (Fantastic live CD of GM&TSCD performing Dylan covers.)
12 (2010) Radio Woodstock Music Presents GM&TSCD at Mountain Jam, NYC 2010 (Amazon mp3 download)
13. (2011) The Grand Slambovians* (studio CD album)

That's what I've managed to locate so far. If anyone knows of any other releases and/or different versions/formats for the releases I've mentioned, I'd love to know.

In conclusion, awesome band - especially live - so check 'em out!


All The Pieces
All The Pieces
Price: £13.50

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yet another disappointed Levs fan..., 5 Oct. 2010
This review is from: All The Pieces (Audio CD)
The mediocrity of the material on this solo effort makes even the poorest Levellers album seem like a genre classic. Sorry, Mark, if you read this but you are really much better than this collection suggests. It feels very cobbled together and incoherent; even though the recordings are clear and the musicianship tight the songs are mostly lack-lustre and forgettable. Despite being a life-long fan of the Levellers my ears have not been blind to their blander moments and although this a solo outing I apply the same high standards to any member of the collective. This don't cut the mustard for me I'm afraid. It's not the fact that it's mostly acoustic; I love the Drunk in Public stuff. I also don't think it's the difference between studio and live. It's probably just that the songs themselves are not that great. Or at the very least not developed to their full potential. But then, I can barely string three chords together, so who am I to criticise?


Letters from the Underground
Letters from the Underground
Price: £11.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Days Returning???, 7 Sept. 2008
One of the other reviewers suggested people should catch the Levellers live...

As it happens, that's just what I've just done. I spent a recent weekend (15th - 18th August 2008) at Levellers very own BEAUTIFUL DAYS festival at Escot Park in Devon... I've seen the Levs many times over the years and remain a firm fan despite not having THOROUGHLY enjoyed an album since "Zeitgeist". This isn't a fezzy review though... all I'll say is it was muddy but brilliant, though Levellers themselves were oddly lacklustre considering the festival is their baby...

Which leads me on to this new album...

Let me say first, to anyone who doesn't really know much about the band... stop reading now and go and buy their first 4 albums... then buy the others and, finally, buy this... it'll put what I have to say into context.

As a fan it's hard to be objective, but I think the last few albums have been mediocre or worse... so I was expecting "Letters From The Underground" to be equally poor. Boy am I surprised!!!

The thing I loved about the early Levellers material was the rawness and energy to it. This was something I felt they lost once they made a few quid and got to fool around in much more high-tech studios. Also, I guess that as we get older the flame dampens and priorities change a bit... and it becomes hard to sustain the sense of social and moral outrage that fuels us when we are young. I believe that's what happened to the Levs.

I don't think they ever stopped caring though, and "Letters..." is proof of that. I don't think any of the songs on this album are as strong or memorable as the angry anthems of the late 80s/early 90s. Nevertheless, I am almost weeping with relief that my undoubted favourite band have finally fulfilled the promise of a return to form that they hinted at but never quite achieved on "Green Blade Rising" or "Truth & Lies".

This new album is brimming with the attitude and anger of old. The aggression and energy is restored, both in the playing, the lyrics and the singing. The band are as tight and coherent as ever. I'm amazed and delighted. I didn't think I'd be able to recommend the album and I am overwhelmed that I'm able to say, to new and old fans alike, you MUST spend your pennies on "Letters From The Underground"...

Stand-out track for me? BEHOLD A PALE RIDER..


Letters from the Underground (2CD)
Letters from the Underground (2CD)
Price: £7.46

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Days returning???, 21 Aug. 2008
One of the other reviewers suggested people should catch the Levellers live...

As it happens, that's just what I've just done. I spent this last weekend (15th - 18th August 2008) at Levellers very own BEAUTIFUL DAYS festival at Escot Park in Devon... I've seen the Levs many times over the years and remain a firm fan despite not having THOROUGHLY enjoyed an album since "Zeitgeist". This isn't a fezzy review though... all I'll say is it was muddy but brilliant, though Levellers themselves were oddly lacklustre considering the festival is their baby...

Which leads me on to this new album...

Let me say first, to anyone who doesn't really know much about the band... stop reading now and go and buy their first 4 albums... then buy the others and, finally, buy this... it'll put what I have to say into context.

As a fan it's hard to be objective, but I think the last few albums have been mediocre or worse... so I was expecting "Letters From The Underground" to be equally poor. Boy am I surprised!!!

The thing I loved about the early Levellers material was the rawness and energy to it. This was something I felt they lost once they made a few quid and got to fool around in much more high-tech studios. Also, I guess that as we get older the flame dampens and priorities change a bit... and it becomes hard to sustain the sense of social and moral outrage that fuels us when we are young. I believe that's what happened to the Levs.

I don't think they ever stopped caring though, and "Letters..." is proof of that. I don't think any of the songs on this album are as strong or memorable as the angry anthems of the late 80s/early 90s. Nevertheless, I am almost weeping with relief that my undoubted favourite band have finally fulfilled the promise of a return to form that they hinted at but never quite achieved on "Green Blade Rising" or "Truth & Lies".

This new album is brimming with the attitude and anger of old. The aggression and energy is restored, both in the playing, the lyrics and the singing. The band are as tight and coherent as ever. I'm amazed and delighted. I didn't think I'd be able to recommend the album and I am overwhelmed that I'm able to say, to new and old fans alike, you MUST spend your pennies on "Letters From The Underground"...

Stand-out track for me? BEHOLD A PALE RIDER..


The Singles
The Singles
Offered by Revolution Media
Price: £6.07

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criminally Under-rated But Inspirational., 15 Mar. 2003
This review is from: The Singles (Audio CD)
The Inspiral Carpets lived in the shadows cast by [the mighty] Stone Roses and the [criminally over-rated] Happy Mondays. Yet, despite this they managed to flourish, recording 4 albums and loads of singles. They provided a raw but melodic underbelly to the Madchester scene.
For those unfamiliar with their music, The Inspiral Carpets started out peddling a rough brand of farsifa organ driven garage rock influenced by the likes of ? & The Mysterians [they even covered 96 Tears on an early tape]. Though cruder than the Stone Roses their songs are imaginative, melody-driven and energetic.
With each subsequent release they became more polished and, to be honest, as their career progressed their music became less interesting to my ears at least. However they still managed to turn out the odd pseudo-psych-pop gem.
This singles collection on the whole captures the band at their best. "This Is How It Feels" is perhaps their most memorable track, but many of these songs are as strong and equally deserving of your ear. Whilst I would advocate caution in exploring their catalogue I thoroughly recommend this collection. They were never really in step with the blossoming rave culture of the time and perhaps this was responsible for their relatively limited success. Yet at their best they were brilliant and deserve to stand proud on the podium next to the Stone Roses as the 2nd best band to come out of Manchester in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Give this one a blast.


Adrift in the Ether: The Current State of the British Underground
Adrift in the Ether: The Current State of the British Underground
by Christopher Williams
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Psychedelic Bible, 15 Mar. 2003
If collectively "Fuzz, Acid & Flowers" and "Tapestry of Delights" by Vernon Joynson were the Old Testament, then this surely must be the New Testament!
Crammed full of info on a little known but fabulous musical genre, this book is a mine of information on 1990s psychedelia and underground rock. The occasional well known band [Hawkwind, Ozric Tentacles]is catalogued amidst many many lesser known artists. A large number of thse bands released very little musical and in very small quantities, creating a "scene" that is likely to become just as rare and collectible as 60s psychedelic artifacts are today.
Some of the music is stunning, some less good, and some downright awful. Mr. Williams has done a fine job in providing an objective overview of the artists. Music is ultimately a question of taste but he is fairly spot-on with his appraisals of most.
An enjoyable read and a very good reference book for anyone interested in collecting this music. Many items cited in the book are already exchanging hands for large sums. Get this book and start collecting now before prices get truly out of hand!


Flash for Freedom! (The Flashman Papers, Book 5)
Flash for Freedom! (The Flashman Papers, Book 5)
by George MacDonald Fraser
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flashy - A Role Model For The New Millenium?, 15 Mar. 2003
... MacDonald Fraser's skill as a writer and a historian are under-represented. "Flash For Freedom", like all the Flashman series, is beautifully written and the way the author has mixed historical fact with fiction is truly sublime. Extensive footnotes referring to the sources of his imagination reveal that MacDonald Fraser is a thorough researcher and emphasise the huge amount of effort that must have gone in to the creating of the series.
And then of course there's Flashy himself, self-confessed rake and poltroon, not to mention unashamed racist and snob. In this current age of political correctness "Flash For Freedom" is unapologetically outrageous; there is enough fuel here to fan the flames of feminist and Christian fury from now to Kingdom Come!
And yet that, maybe, is MacDonald Fraser's point. Through his protaganist's skewed morality he manages to present a vision of human nature that is troubling and thought provoking. Flashman's world was very different to our own but perhaps not that different underneath it all.....
This book is deeply amusing, thoroughly entertaining and a delight to read. Women may be turned off by Harry Flashman's vulgar and immoral nature, but between the enthralling historical narrative his wanton behaviour will no doubt appeal to the baser instincts of blokes everywhere!


Instrumental Vibrations
Instrumental Vibrations
Offered by Plastic Dreams
Price: £24.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Acid-Surf Spectacular, 15 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Instrumental Vibrations (Audio CD)
I have only scored this album 4 stars as it is relative to my review of their debut album which is a masterpiece of retro-psychedelia.
However, "Instrumental Vibrations" falls only slightly short of it's predecessor's lofty standards. It is, as the title says, different in that it is an entirely instrumental album. It is less diverse in style being much more devoted to the surf genre. All Vibrasonic's trademark eccentricity and sonic weirdness remain intact, making this a highly trippy listening experience. Highlight for me is the surfadelic version of "If I Were A Rich Man" from the old movie Fiddler On The Roof.
This band are seriously obscure and I expect that their releases are going to be VERY hard to acquire in the future. I strongly recommend that lovers of psychedelia buy this now while they still can.


Chemins de Terre
Chemins de Terre

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Celtic Masterpiece, 17 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Chemins de Terre (Audio CD)
Alan Stivell is Britanny's finest musician and this is his finest album, although there are many others which could claim that title (e.g. 'Before Landing', 'A L'Olympia', 'Renaissance Of The Celtic Harp', etc.). This album is defiantly pan-Celtic with songs from Ireland ('Susy MacGuire'), Scotland ('Oidhche Mhaith') and Wales ('Can Y Melinydd') as well as Britanny.
Astounding musicianship from Stivell and his recruits. He's famous for his harp playing but check out the bombarde on 'An Dro Nevez' and the bagpipes on the storming 'Ian Morrisson Reel', truly one of Stivell's triumphs. Those who appreciate the strains of Celtic nationalism that pervade Stivell's work will enjoy the sentiments expressed here: "hep Brezhoneg Breizh ebet" - "without the Breton language there is no Britanny".
Traditional folk elements are augmented with an at times substantially heavy rock component. The two styles make for an album of great diversity, range of mood and tempo and the all-round virtuosity of Stivell makes this a must have.
My mate here beside me who has furnished us with the cultural information in this review has implored me to not be too snotty about the previous reviewer. However, we must point out that folk-rock was born some time earlier ('Liege & Lief' [1969] and 'Basket Of Light' [1969] can both claim to have invented the genre of traditional folk-rock), but in providing us with the pleasure that is 'Chemins De Terre' Stivell has simply done a sterling job of providing us with another indispensible artifact of this style of music.


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