Profile for The Guardian > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by The Guardian
Top Reviewer Ranking: 43
Helpful Votes: 3231

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
The Guardian (UK)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
Ummagumma [Dversion]
Ummagumma [Dversion]
Price: £22.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Floyd's experimental early days: good and not-so-good ummagumma, 21 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Ummagumma [Dversion] (Audio CD)
In 1969 Pink Floyd was little known outside the `arty' environment of university concert halls in England. The band was regarded as an avant-garde bunch of intellectual experimenters characterised by live concerts using (for the time) big amplification and psychedelic light shows, space-age themes, jamming over extended and partly-structured musical pieces and quirky black humour. They had no `front man' and did not have, or seek, a mainstream audience or commercial presence on the airwaves. They were an `album band' whose reputation spread through the student population by word-of-mouth and through music-industry press like the Melody Maker.

"Ummagumma" (a 1960s Cambridge University slang word for sex) is the most interesting and distinctive of Floyd's pre-DSOTM albums and something of a milestone in the development of the band's experimental ideas, which led down the road to the more disciplined and structured sound of Obscured by Clouds, DSOTM and WYWH. In no way could this quirky two-disk album be described as `easy listening' but it definitely has its moments.

The two disks are completely separate in style and content. The first contains fine recordings of a live performance at Birmingham and Manchester College of Commerce in June 1969. The four tracks are:

* Astronomy Domine
* Careful with that Axe Eugene
* Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
* A Saucerful of Secrets

Each extends and deepens the studio original to around the ten-minute mark and demonstrates the band's appeal as a somewhat `out there' live act in the late 60s; moving away from straight songs to longer, more involved pieces containing sections of instrumental improvisation over insistent bass lines. Every one of these four tracks demands some listener attention and still sounds great through headphones.

The second disk is where, for some, Ummagumma falls into self-indulgence. Each of the four members of the band contributes ten minutes of their own experimental musical musings and the result is a mixed bag. The least accessible and most obscure is probably Rick Wright's piece `Sisyphus' - an instrumental realization of the classical Greek legend about the king condemned by Zeus to forever roll a large rock up a hill, only to see it roll down again, as a punishment for his hubris and deceit. The fact it found its way onto a rock album in 1969 says a lot about the music industry at the time (good and bad) because nothing like this would be tolerated in the commercially-driven environment of the 21st century.

Next up is Roger Waters with `Grantchester Meadows,' a gentle acoustic guitar ballad themed on a lazy summer afternoon complete with sound effects (Grantchester meadows is near Cambridge) and the indisputable highlight of the studio album, similar in mood and execution to `If' on Atom Heart Mother. The quirky ending has someone trying to swat a buzzing insect, ending with a satisfying final `thwack' - a classic Floyd touch from the Barrett period. It's followed by the outrageous, multi-tracked and downright silly `Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict', clever and witty and prone to induce belly laughs, especially the strong Highland dialect rant at the end (what WAS Roger smoking?).

Dave Gilmour's `The Narrow Way' (in 3 parts) follows - the final part in particular is good with a powerful minor-key melody over slow driving rhythm and restrained vocal line. Nick Mason's rather forgettable `The Grand Vizier's Garden party' concludes: instrumental and percussive, attempting to tell a story through music as with Wright's piece. It might appeal to drummers but for the rest of us, it's neither great nor memorable.

It's instructive to listen to Ummagumma 40 years on and realise how far the music industry has travelled in the intervening years. It's inconceivable that something as experimental and self-indulgent as disk two might be even contemplated by any record company in these more superficial, money-obsessive and image-driven times.

In conclusion, Ummagumma is worth buying for the live disk and, especially, for `Grantchester Meadows' and maybe `The Narrow Way' on the studio disk. Overall it's a four star album - though the live stage recordings on disk one, if released as a single disk, might on their own qualify as five-star.

Soundtrack From The Film 'More' [Discovery Edition]
Soundtrack From The Film 'More' [Discovery Edition]
Price: £7.05

4.0 out of 5 stars More early post-Barrett Floyd, remastered to perfection, 18 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This pre-Ummagumma film score was written for Barbet Schroeder's `More', a reportedly unremarkable film set in Ibiza in the heyday of the Hippie era which would most likely be consigned to complete obscurity now were it not for the Pink Floyd soundtrack.

The music is similar in tone to that of the `Saucerful of Secrets' album, in that it showcases the emerging writing talents of immediate post-Barrett Floyd and the way the band was starting to gel as a musical quartet. `Cirrus Minor', `Green is the Colour' and `Cymbaline' are all pleasant and rather languid pieces reminiscent of warm summer days. The two exceptional tracks are `The Nile Song' and `Ibiza Bar' which are loud rock songs at odds with the rest of the album, and maybe the nearest Floyd ever came to recording heavy metal. David Gilmour stars on lead vocals even on tracks written by Roger Waters, and begins to reveal what an outstanding guitarist he was starting to become with an instantly recognisable style.

The 2011 remaster is superb, the best-ever of these rarely-performed pieces with warm sound and all instruments in perfect balance. If you like Floyd's music up to and including `Meddle' and have never heard this, check it out (it's also worth seeking out `Obscured by Clouds' which is even better).

A Saucerful Of Secrets [Discovery Edition]
A Saucerful Of Secrets [Discovery Edition]
Price: £8.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Second Dawn for Pink Floyd as the Crazy Diamond loses its sparkle, 17 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pink Floyd's second album features new member Dave Gilmour on guitar and vocals on most of the tracks but also contains some leftovers from the Barrett era prior to the onset of Syd's mental problems, so Syd is given equal billing as a member of the band: ergo, Pink Floyd is credited as a five-piece. The management and the band actually considered having the more reliable (and better musician, let's face it) Dave replace Syd onstage, and keeping Syd on as the principal creative songwriter in the background.

The decline and departure of Syd from Pink Floyd seemed to force a new creativity to the surface in Roger and Richard in particular, and here their songwriting skills began to emerge into the sunlight. This band obviously had a future as not just the Syd Barrett Backing Group. Although Dave Gilmour's songwriting here extends to only a part-credit on the title track, the energy and new dynamism he injects into the Pink Floyd bloodstream is palpable in many of the songs.

The format of ASoS resembles the debut `Piper': lyrical songs (plus Roger's rather harsh and cynical `Corporal Clegg') with two longer space-rock pieces, the title track and `Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' both of which became extended live-on-stage set-pieces for the band until 1973.

The final song on the album is 'Jugband Blues'. Composed and sung by Syd, it's the quintessentially quirky Barrett piece and leaves the listener with his departing words "...and what exactly is a dream, and what exactly is a joke?" And what exactly is international success, Syd? Answer: Pink Floyd without you onboard, as time would prove.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn [Discovery Edition]
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn [Discovery Edition]
Offered by Amore DVD
Price: £7.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Where it all started: the Crazy Diamond's Moment shining in the Sun, 16 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pink Floyd's debut studio album (not the first time the band was professionally recorded, as live-on-stage material exists from 1966) was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released to an unsuspecting world in August 1967, the famous "Summer of Love."

The core theme of `Piper' revolves around singer-guitarist-frontman Syd Barrett's psychedelic journey back into childhood. Of the 11 songs on the UK release 8 are from Barrett's poetic but bizarre LSD-inspired mind, full of dreamlike imagery and unlike anything else from this time: whimsical, humorous, occasionally dark-edged, and very musical in the way of traditional songs. The mix and running order of the slightly later US release differed, and featured the single `Arnold Layne'.

Of the remaining three tracks `Astronomie Domine' and `Interstellar Overdrive' are longer space-rock numbers destined to become live-on-stage standards for the band up until 1973, growing progressively lengthier and louder with the passing years. The final song `Take up thy Stethoscope and Walk' is Roger Waters' first recorded composition, an indifferent and forgettable piece displaying little indication of the truly great lyricist he was within a few short years to become. Rick Wright's keyboard work and eerie space-rock sound effects contribute in no small measure to the album's quirky 1967 character.

`Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (the title of Chapter 7 of `The Wind in the Willows') remains an enduring monument to Syd Barrett's eccentric genius. It's a one-off, a real psychedelic classic. The follow-up album `A Saucerful of Secrets' with the more professionally grounded Dave Gilmour replacing the by-then-mentally-unstable-and-unreliable Barrett retains much of the same groove, whilst moving Pink Floyd on from being The Syd Barrett Band into a functional quartet of more-or-less equal creative professional musicians.

SHL BRAND ISOPROPANOL IPA Isopropyl Alcohol 99.9% Pure (1 Litre) 1000 ml
SHL BRAND ISOPROPANOL IPA Isopropyl Alcohol 99.9% Pure (1 Litre) 1000 ml
Offered by Shiny Hardware Limited
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Use it for everything, 15 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Isopranol alcohol (or IPA, not to be confused under any circumstances with India Pale Ale!) is an inexpensive cleaning solvent with a multitude of uses. Some are:

* Cleaning kitchen surfaces, worktops and glass

* Disinfecting light switches, mains sockets and door handles touched by the fingers of a lot of different people

* As a solvent-thinner for acrylic paints (especially for use in an airbrush)

* As a grease-remover prior to painting on e.g. metal or ceramic surfaces

* For cleaning away the sticky dust which adheres to the lubricant oils in electronic gadgets with moving parts, like printers and old tape decks

The fumes can be strong while the bottle lid is off but it quickly dries. Unlike bleach or household cleaners, with IPA there is no lasting smell. You don't need much as an effective cleaning agent and a litre will normally last for months.

This is a great product, and unlike branded household cleaners you're not paying for the advertising budget in the purchase price.

The Square (DVD)
The Square (DVD)
Dvd ~ Khalid Abdalla
Price: £11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jehane Noujaim's 2013 award-winner is a tour-de-force in any language, 14 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Square (DVD) (DVD)
It's difficult to overpraise this acclaimed documentary film about the popular revolution in Egypt following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Director Jehane Noujaim's film is an outstanding piece of work deploying first-class filming/editing which splices together the stories of three major (Ahmed Hassan, Magdy Ashour & Khaled Abdalla) and several minor characters all committed to the revolution. Each has differing ideals and motivations, but as they agree to disagree they unite as campaigners - sometimes at great personal risk - for political change in Egypt.

`The Square' of the title is Tahrir Square in Cairo, the centre of the action where thousands camped out for months to bring about the revolution. We witness the discussions and arguments of the protagonists as the revolution progresses over 24 months through phases, from the euphoria of Mubarak being forced from office to realization that the Moslem Brotherhood's subsequent government is almost as oppressive as what it replaces, to seizure of control by the Army and a realization that attaining democracy and freedoms will be a long process with many false dawns. The viewer is left deeply impressed by the unquenchable fire of hope for the future which drives these campaigners: all these principled people want is a governmental system where their voices may be heard, which so many of us in `the west' take for granted. These people are ultimately optimists and despite their privations, have no wish to leave Egypt for an easier life in the west. They want to stay and change their society for the good.

`The Square' won multiple awards and makes riveting viewing at every level. Most of the film's dialog is in Arabic subtitled in English, though one of the protesters was educated in England so is a fluent and eloquent English speaker.

Summary: informative, intelligent, entertaining, inspiring, excellent.

Bathtub Drainage Fittings Sink Wash Basin Drain Plug Rubber Stopper
Bathtub Drainage Fittings Sink Wash Basin Drain Plug Rubber Stopper

2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and not-so-cheerful, 11 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a chunky white rubber sink/bath plug supplied by `Elite' direct form the manufacturer in China when you order it.

The plug is OK, but the metal chain is flimsy.

My advice: if you need a bath plug urgently, go down the hardware store and buy one. They're cheap enough.

Road Angel Gem+ Deluxe Safety Camera Locator & Accessory Pack
Road Angel Gem+ Deluxe Safety Camera Locator & Accessory Pack
Price: £160.29

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars RA Gem is functional but cheap-and-plasticky with irritating sound; many improvements needed, 9 Feb. 2015
I have used four different Road Angels over 10 years: the small oval classic model, the 6000 incorporating GPS navigation, the big-screen Vantage now out of production, and now this Gem which may be the last time I buy and use a RA.


* Charges continually via in-car cable

* Updates from the dashboard so you don't have to take it into the house and connect it to a PC like the old models

* Small & unobtrusive (if you see this as an advantage) with good graphics

* Mount it on the inside of the windscreen or the dash, though both locations are problematic

* Correctly IDs speed cameras 95% of the time and alerts you to their presence

* The average-speed-between-SPECS-cameras on the motorways function is brilliant: a real first and very, very useful

* eAssist option (which you may never use, or only once in the product's lifetime)

* mph/kph easy to change over when you drive abroad

* RA's tech-support is reasonably knowledgeable and responsive


* The magnet-attach dash-mount is so weak that the unit spins around every time you corner, so you need the screen-mount for a secure fitting - which in my vehicle means the Gem ends up too far away to see clearly or reach, as the device is too small

* The build quality feels cheap and plasticky, less substantial than previous models

* The rubbery buttons are fiddly to use, a regressive step from the big easy touch-screen & quality-feel of the Vantage

* The speed limits on roads I know and use a lot are incorrectly displayed (i.e. `60' is mysteriously displayed for 2 miles in a `30' zone); this has never happened before with a RA product

* Screeching, irritating camera alarms (one reviewer describes them as "like a demented dalek") with no `mute' button will drive you nuts - another step backwards from the superior Vantage

* You need to subscribe to the regular update service (where RA makes its money) or the unit rapidly becomes out-of-date and useless

If you want a speed camera detection device then the RA Gem is better than nothing, and the SPECS function is superb. RA however needs to pay more attention to the driver experience of the device in daily use, and stop compromising on design & build quality to maximise profits from such a blatantly cheap-to-manufacture product. RA: what's wrong with your marketing department? You can do better than this.

The Doors: L.A. Woman, 40th Anniversary
The Doors: L.A. Woman, 40th Anniversary
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LA Woman 40th Anniversary remix: subtly improved & expanded, 8 Feb. 2015
`LA Woman' was the last Doors album to feature Jim Morrison, released in April 1971 prior to Morrison's demise in Paris in July. It's a good album but overall not quite a great one, redeemed by two magnificent pieces: the title track, and the eerie & enigmatic `Riders on the Storm' posthumously released as a single following Morrison's death. All the other songs are good (especially `L'America' & `The Wasp') with the band on top form, even if they lack the epic moodiness of RotS.

The 2007 `40th Anniversary' remaster (actually the 36th anniversary) improves on the fine original mix, not in a spectacular way but with subtlety, bringing out the clarity in the vocals and instruments but somehow retaining the warmth.

In addition to a first CD with the running-order of the original vinyl album, with this release you get a second CD of mostly alternate takes of the album tracks plus `She Smells So Nice' and `Rock Me' not on the original record.

The 3-way fold-out contains a smaller replica of the inner sleeve image of the naked `LA Woman' of the title crucified on a telegraph pole (the image is not of Jim Morrison as sometimes stated in error; it's clearly a female figure) that came with the original vinyl LP, plus some extra photos of the band.

Morrison Hotel [Expanded] [40th Anniversary Mixes]
Morrison Hotel [Expanded] [40th Anniversary Mixes]
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Doors at the Hard Rock Café - remastered, 8 Feb. 2015
This 1970 R&B/rock-blues album divides Doors fans: for some it marked a return-to-form after the indifferent `Waiting for the Sun' and `The Soft Parade', but for others it lacked the quirkiness which defined the band's uniquely eccentric character and amounted to no more than a collection of bar-room blues songs.

Whichever side of the fence you're on, you can't deny that `Morrison Hotel' contains some great rock-blues numbers. The band is on top form, with Morrison's gravelly baritone never better as the band belts through red-blooded rock-blues classics like `Roadhouse Blues', `Peace Frog', `Ship of Fools' and `Maggie McGill'. There are mellower moments too, particularly the melodious `Blue Sunday' and the atmospheric `Indian Summer' and seminal Morrison-poetic moments in `Queen of the Highway'.

The 40th Anniversary remasters of the original analogue tapes improve the 1970-released material, sometimes markedly so. You get 10 extra tracks, including no fewer than five separate takes of `Roadhouse Blues', all on one disk. This is the one to go for, IMO.

Interesting factoid: the picture on the back of the original 12" album cover featured the band in the street outside the original Hard Rock Café on East 5th Street, LA, and the first-side label featured the name. This exposure gave birth to the `Hard Rock Café' international chain, but sadly the original joint on East 5th Street is no more.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20