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Profile for S. C. Harrison > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
S. C. Harrison "Stephen C. Harrison" (D(et)roitwich, Worcs.)
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Roots / Sweet Exorcist
Roots / Sweet Exorcist
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £7.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If there's hell below then Sequel gonna go..., 23 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Roots / Sweet Exorcist (Audio CD)
Sorry, this isn't a review but I thought I should warn prospective buyers of this Sequel 2-fer that there is a mis-pressing - or at least there was on my purchase. Disc One should contain Curtis's second solo album, but, despite the disc itself appearing as it should, the debut album ('Curtis') is on it instead. The other disc, which features the Sweet Exorcist album from 1973, is as it should be.

My rating is in no way a reflection of the music which I know to be excellent (fine reviews of both albums abound so I can't really add anything), but this is closest I can get to demeriting the release because of the pressing error.

I can't rule out the possibility that this could be pirated - if so, I owe Sequel an apology - but if it is then reluctant credit must go to the miscreants for producing such a convincing job with the disc imprint and cd inlays.


Mahler - Symphony No 10
Mahler - Symphony No 10
Price: £14.67

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seldom-heard version of Mahler's posthumous hornets nest, 17 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Mahler - Symphony No 10 (Audio CD)
This recording by Andrew Litton with the Dallas SO uses what is known in informed circles as the 'Carpenter Completion', apparently the first attempted completion/reconstruction of Mahler's sparsely-fleshed final work. In time other versions materialised - those by Wheeler, Cooke (plus his own revisions), Mazzetti, Barshai - but I gather that the Carpenter completion has come in for more stick because of his re-working previous Mahler material into it in order to bulk out the work. I personally haven't a problem with that as this is hardly a case of cutting out and transplanting recognisable bleeding chunks in order to compensate for lack of available orchestral scoring - Mahler himself wasn't above alluding to his other works where necessary which often resulted in fascinating cross-pollination. A relative of Carpenter's lobbied Litton for its recording (originally only the completed first movement was pencilled in, as is the wont of many conductors) and I for one am grateful that Litton took up the challenge. In one instance Carpenter's version makes real sense above all others: the famous funereal drumstroke which ends the fourth movement and then repeatedly defies the music to find room to breathe in the finale. Mahler originally marked the drumstroke as 'forte' - Carpenter reasoned that as Mahler heard the drumstroke from an 11th floor hotel room while a funeral cortege for a fire chief passed by at street level it would make more sense to score it as 'piano'. Litton then got involved and sportingly scored it halfway between as a compromise. Again, this conjectural approach from those concerned is not a problem for me - who's to say Mahler himself wouldn't have changed his mind while running the rule over the completed work?

As for the recording itself, I cannot really find fault - sound and balance are both excellent and Litton marshals his fine Dallas forces extremely well resulting in a polished (but in no way over-polite) performance which beautifully brings to the surface those two quintessential Romantic musical facets - lofty tragedy and warm majesty. For sheer sonic and emotional impact this recording yields little or nothing to other performances I've heard whatever version is used: I have recordings of the 10th by Rattle (Cooke), Sanderling (Cooke), Ormandy (Cooke). Barshai (eponymous) and Olson (Wheeler) and overall I find very little to choose between them. In conclusion all I can ask is for you to enjoy this recording for the music's sake and a rare chance to appraise another approach to Mahler's can of worms but please don't get too hung up on the respective academic merits and/or demerits of this Carpenter Completion - this performance deserves merit purely for musical reasons.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2013 10:51 PM GMT


Classic Sleepies
Classic Sleepies
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £1.27

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Warning! Twee album cover alert!, 24 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Classic Sleepies (Audio CD)
An album of tenuously-linked bog standard repertoire (i.e predictable rather than mediocre) but completely undermined by the premise of the stomach-churning cover - what a load of total nouveau-bourgeois, arty-farty 'naked father with baby' cobblers! Yeuch...
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2016 11:14 AM BST


On Your Feet Or On Your Knees
On Your Feet Or On Your Knees
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.49

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Muffled Diz-busters, 19 Sept. 2010
Great performances that brought the curtain down on their inspired 'black & white' period but totally hamstrung by feeble recording - it sounds like you are hearing the show about a quarter of a mile away from the venue(s). If this album had the kind of sweaty, close-up live feel of such albums as the re-issue of The Who's 'Live At Leeds' or Humble Pie's 'Rockin' The Fillmore' it would have been an absolute belter. Great outer cover art but I always thought the inner gatefold picture was lame - some live pics would surely have served it better. I notice this hasn't been given the remastering treatment - perhaps Eric Bloom and co. came to the conclusion that you really can't polish a turd...
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2013 2:54 PM BST


Johnny The Fox
Johnny The Fox
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Johnny The Underdog, 17 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Johnny The Fox (Audio CD)
Jailbreak. Phew - what an act to follow. Too tough an act for some people - through time this album has either been criticised for being 'a rushed follow-up', 'a pale successor' and 'treading water' or damned with faint praise with comments like 'good solid effort'. So what's the problem with Johnny The Fox? Apart from lacking the total killer anthem that made The Boys Are Back In Town such a time-in-a-bottle moment during 1976 and a slight tailing-off of quality towards the end of what was side two the simple answer is there isn't one. Had JTF preceded Jailbreak rather than followed it then many pundits would have seen it in a much more positive light. Whatever album followed Jailbreak would probably have been saddled with lame duck status so it was a no-win situation. The album itself is just part of that excellent cycle that started with Fighting and ended with Black Rose - surely it's a testament to Lizzy's industry and creativity during this period that this album could be so good despite being released so quickly in the wake of Jailbreak's success. There is a hint of the concept running through it but only because the character Johnny is featured on more than one song. As a whole, this is Lizzy near the top of their game - prime chunks of hard rock with a toothsome melodic sauce and a side-order of funkiness. During this period only Status Quo could match them for being the greatest blue-collar hard rock band around but, unlike Quo, Lizzy managed to keep the quality control relatively high into the 80s and stay the people's champions. If compiling a personal Lizzy comp from the Robbo/Moore studio output I'd easily find room for at least half of the tracks here: Johnny, Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed, Don't Believe A Word, Massacre etc - if one could include that many then surely that is a true litmus test of any worthy album?


Mingus Ah Um - 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition
Mingus Ah Um - 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition
Offered by momox co uk
Price: £21.55

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No argument with the music, but..., 5 Mar. 2010
...it's still a little naughty for this package to be issued under the original title of just one album. Containing as it does the follow-up album 'Mingus Dynasty' plus outakes and extended versions of the original Mingus Ah Um album this is virtually 'The Complete 1959 CBS Charles Mingus Sessions' 4-LP set under a different name. I can only guess that this rather unsexy title would shift less units in this day and age compared to the hip 'Mingus Ah Um'. Also, it gives the impression of watering down the impact of 'Mingus Dynasty', an album that yields nothing to its predecessor in terms of quality - the only criticism that can be levelled at it is its close resemblance to 'Ah Um' which in the past has given it 'poorer relation' status. Consequentially, it's difficult to justify shelling out for this latest package if you own the 1998 Sony remaster of 'Mingus Dynasty' already.

Marketing quibbles aside, the music is peerless - Mingus showing yet again that he can write and arrange a myriad of styles: blues, hard-bop, scaled-down big-band. It was not for nothing that he was considered to be Ellington's natural successor when composing and arranging for line-ups of all shapes and sizes - whether tight 4-pieces, nonets or orchestra - his invention was endless. The music on these recordings is scored for a band featuring between 7 and 10 members.

1959 was really a banner year for Mingus as the fine non-CBS albums 'Blues & Roots' and 'Wonderland' (aka 'Jazz Portraits') were released a few months earlier. Those who buy this may well need those albums also.

Apologies for dropping a star - if there was a way of voting for both the music and the re-release's premise (taking into account the misrepresentation) then it would 5 and 3.

In conclusion, my advice would be to buy this only if it works out cheaper than buying the 'Mingus Ah Um' and 'Mingus Dynasty' 1998 re-issues together.


Uncanned! The Best Of Canned Heat
Uncanned! The Best Of Canned Heat
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should have been warmer still..., 14 Jan. 2010
There have been many Canned Heat compilations issued on CD but none that I have seen have ever struck the right balance when it comes to cherry-picking their best material - which is strange given that the 'glory years' of this hard-working band cover a relatively short timespan from 1968 until the death of co-founder and principle songwriter Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson in Sept. 1970. Granted, they did shoe-horn no less than six albums into this period but given that this is a double CD set there are still one or two surprising omissions along with too many unnecessary inclusions which ultimately thwarts this release's chances of being the compilation to beat.
First of all, there is an over-representation of their self-titled first album from 1967 which, to be honest, always sounded a bit weedy to these ears and lacked both the fire and the chops which were hallmarks of subsequent releases (they were better served by the live footage from Monterey, a festival appearance that helped to expose them to a wider record-buying public). There are also a smattering of contemporaneous cuts that didn't make the album which are of relatively little interest when there is a better case for including, say, some choice live cuts from the years that followed.
The second LP (and the first with long-time drummer and keeper of the flame, Fito De La Parra) from the following year, 'Boogie With Canned Heat' was a dramatic improvement and, along with 'Future Blues' from 1970, is the most consistent album they did. To be honest, the album's better cuts like 'On The Road Again' and 'Amphetamine Annie' are here, and, thankfully, the over-long solofest 'Fried Hockey Boogie' isn't.
Onto the third album - also from 1968, 'Living the Blues', originally a half-studio/half-live double LP, and this time decent studio cuts (forget the live sides as they comprised solely of an extremely self-indulgent 40 minute version of the aforemention 'Fried Hockey Boogie) like 'One Kind Favor' and 'Pony Blues' are missing.
The next album, from 1969, was 'Halelujah', and the better songs ARE here like 'Time Was' and, huzzah!, the brilliant non-album a-side 'Poor Moon', Wilson's lament to potential environmental disaster. This single stiffed on release and it's possible that its failure (especially as the subject matter was close to Wilson's heart) exacerbated the depression with which Wilson habitually suffered and, allegedly, may have had a hand in his untimely demise one year later.
Then we move onto the final album featuring Wilson (apart from the collaboration with John Lee Hooker of which there are no tracks here - surprise, surprise...), 'Future Blues' - for me the best album they did, not least because of the incendiary guitar work by new boy (and soon to be old boy) Harvey Mandel. Nearly half of the album's tracks are here, including the two excellent singles 'Let's Work Together' and 'Sugar Bee', but the two real standout tracks are omitted - 'So Sad (The World's In A Tangle)' and 'London Blues' - one being another ecological lament and the other presumably about Wilson's expected liason with a groupie/hanger-on/fan which didn't materialise (sadly all too true in real life, apparently). After Wilson's death the band's quality control went downhill pretty quickly accompanied with bad money deals and what amounted to a revolving-door policy but the following album or two did have their moments and the best of these are tagged on at the end, including a decent co-billing with a certain Richard Penniman.
So, rather too much middling material plus a few gaping holes add up to a missed opportunity to really put the record straight, but at the current price I would still say go for it until this once-great band get the lavish re-issue treatment they deserve.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2010 9:19 PM GMT


Tintin and the Picaros (The Adventures of Tintin)
Tintin and the Picaros (The Adventures of Tintin)
by Hergé
Edition: Album
Price: £7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars revolution, booze, ban-the-bomb badges - is this REALLY for kiddies?, 13 Nov. 2009
This story shows Tintin and chums going to a South/Central American country to help their old friend General Alcazar overthrow the Bordurian-sponsored military dictatorship of General Tapioca. Alcazar is portrayed as a stern Che Guevara figure who vows to bring proper democracy to his beloved country. Amidst much macho chest beating and grand statements he is revealed to be a fairly clueless idealist who is often reduced to a nervous wreck by Peggy, his fearsome be-curlered American dragon of a wife. Throw in opera singer Bianca Castafiore's imprisonment (where she is completely unfazed by her treatment and, if anything, puts the fear of God into her captors), the recurring appearance of Loch Lomond whisky (foisting a luxury item onto a population who largely couldn't afford it while simultaneously showing the power of advertising), a tribe of Indians led by a an English eccentric who has taught them to speak pidgin English with a cockney accent and you have the usual kaleidoscope of colourful characterisation, incidents and satire all wrapped up in a top-notch story that I can't believe for one minute anyone under the age of 11 could really appreciate. This is a very politically-slanted story portrayed in cartoon form and is absolutely brilliant. This was Herge's last completed work and although a sense of innocence is lost compared to earlier stories I found it to be one of the most intricate and compelling.


Astounding Sounds; Amazing Music
Astounding Sounds; Amazing Music
Price: £10.38

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The 'hmm, where shall we go from here?' album, 13 Feb. 2009
I appreciate fully the previous reviewer's (Jim) eloquence in his even-handed review of 'ASAM', but sadly I cannot share his enthusiasm - I have been desperately trying to like this album ever since I bought it in the late 70's but, unlike virtually all of their 70's output, it still refuses to endear itself to me! For me, the reason I feel that this was 'wind's only Achilles heel between '70 and '78 is that it has a Janus-like feel to it which sounds as if it's trying too hard to be streamlined and contemporary (for the day) while simultaneously being unable to convincingly shake off the shackles of their established scuzzy space-biker sonic attack - whether this is down to a conflict in musical direction between Dave Brock and Bob Calvert in one corner or Alan Powell/Paul Rudolph/Nik Turner in the other I don't know (all I know is that the last three were fired before their next album). Anyway, this results in a rather uncertain collection that ultimately doesn't really know what it wants to be. Nevertheless, if it's ultimate purpose for posterity was to serve as a precursor for the peerless 'Quark' album that followed the year after then this album was worth being hamstrung with the reputation of being the lame duck in Hawkwind's '70's canon.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2011 2:21 PM GMT


The Electric Prunes: I Had Too Much to Dream
The Electric Prunes: I Had Too Much to Dream
Offered by Sonic-Sound
Price: £24.63

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars it's not that bad!!!, 4 May 2005
I have an old original vinyl copy on Reprise which is now unplayable (I 'inherited' it from my elder brother at an age when I thought groups played from within the record player itself...). Listening to the CD now I find most of the album as beguiling now as I did when I first heard it as a kid 30 years ago. Sure there is some filler, but name me any mid-to-late 60's LA band who was totally innocent of this (after all, singles at that time were still generally considered more important than albums). For a debut album it holds together well despite some middling material like 'Onie'(ballad) and 'The King Is In His Counting House' (cod-baroque tomfoolery). These are thankfully offset by the adrenaline-rush of the L.P.'s two mainspring tracks plus 'Try Me On For Size', 'Are You Lovin' Me More' and the Russian/Cossack-like 'Sold To the Highest Bidder'. Also, the slow-psych/jazz 'Train For Tomorrow' benefits from an echoey, atmospheric production (a la Doors debut) which results in cementing the album's reputation as a re-discovered garage/pysch/pop gem. Not as good as 'Underground', but good all the same.


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