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Pete Walker (Church Stretton, Shropshire, England)

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Very Best Of [Us Import]
Very Best Of [Us Import]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.26

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Greatest hits', but not necessarily his 'very best', 25 Sept. 2001
'Greatest hits' would have been a more appropriate title, since although many of these tracks are brilliant, much of his very best work would probably not have been suitable for single release. Because of the folky-ballad or country-rock songs chosen as his singles this collection tends to give the impression of Dan being a rather lightweight and overly sentimental artist. This is certainly not true, as his dedicated fans know. However, in this collection only the presence of 'Netherlands' represents the less commercial, more serious side of Dan's work.
For its coverage of his hit singles this collection can hardly be faulted, apart from the inexplicable omission of 'The power of gold', a very strong early hit. In comparison 'She don't look back' is dispensable, and either it or 'Rhythm of the rain' (something of an oddity here as it is the only song not written by Dan) would have been better omitted. However, there are many great tracks to enjoy here, my favourites being 'Nether lands', 'Same old lang syne', 'Make love stay', 'Heart hotels', 'Hard to say', 'Believe in me' and 'Lonely in love'.
Certainly this is the best single-album compilation of Dan's work yet released, but the thoroughly excellent 4CD 'Portrait' collection (which includes all of this album's songs) is a much better representation of the breadth of his work and I very strongly recommend it. So whilst this is good as a taster, anyone keen to explore Dan's work more thoroughly should go for the aforementioned 'Portrait' or his individual albums - which really constitute his 'very best' work.


Finer Things
Finer Things
Offered by Sonic-Sound
Price: £55.88

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of Winwood's career, 7 Sept. 2001
This review is from: Finer Things (Audio CD)
This 4CD, 63 song set provides extremely thorough coverage of Steve Winwood's career from the early 1960s up to his last Island Records album in 1986, including numerous tracks from his work in such memorable bands as the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, as well as his later solo recordings. Significant chunks are included from virtually all his Island albums, together with a small taster from his first two Virgin Records albums. (It's a shame that the beautiful ballad 'My love's leaving' wasn't included though.)
This is such a comprehensive account of Winwood's work that it is likely to be of interest only to dedicated fans, but for these it will be a real treat. As well as the superb music there is a beautifully illustrated book with a detailed account of Steve's career and full musician credits for each track. Highly recommended.


The Ultimate Collection
The Ultimate Collection
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £7.63

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and comprehensive overview of Joel's career, 4 Sept. 2001
This review is from: The Ultimate Collection (Audio CD)
Taken literally, the title presumably means that this is the last and best compilation of Billy Joel's work that will ever be issued. If that is really the case, it should be purchased without delay, since it is an excellent and comprehensive collection of 36 songs covering his recording career from the early 70s to the mid 90s, with the additional benefit of crystal clear remastered sound. Having been familiar only with his hits and some album tracks, much of this collection was new to me, and I have thus discovered many excellent songs for the first time. There are a couple of notable omissions, namely 'Scenes from an Italian restaurant' and 'Until the night' which are among Joel's most memorable 'epic' performances, and one or two fairly uninteresting songs could perhaps have been left out. But all in all this is a very thorough collection covering all the major hits and many memorable album tracks, and represents the breadth of Billy's songwriting style very well. Unusually for a collection of this scope, all the lyrics are included, which is very welcome, although the absence of any musician credits, information about the original source albums, or historical photos is unfortunate. Nevertheless it is the music that counts and this is certainly deserving of full marks.


Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
Price: £5.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elton's concerted bid for pop stardom, 31 Aug. 2001
If the singles 'Your song' and 'Honky cat' made the name Elton John familiar to radio listeners, and 'Rocket man' became his first major hit single (nearing the top of the charts in Spring 1972), it was the album 'Don't shoot me...' which confirmed that he had really made it as a major force in British popular music. Released on the heels of its two hit singles ('Crocodile rock' and 'Daniel'), the album prepared the way for the phenomenally successful double album 'Goodbye yellow brick road' in late 1973, and showed Elton fully embracing the identity of the flamboyant pop superstar. Gone was the orchestrated, sombre style of the 'Madman across the water' album, and in its place was, for the most part, unapologetic mainstream pop, characterised by short, lively songs with catchy melodies. The impression was that Elton had finally 'sold out', and the attempt to give him 'pop' appeal is further demonstrated by the lavish album packaging (reproduced in this CD reissue but inevitably lacking the impact it had when in full LP size), which comprised pages of self-conscious colour photos of Elton and co-writer Bernie Taupin.
Although moving into new musical territory in some respects, it must be admitted that Elton handles the 'pop' style just as effectively as he did his earlier more thoughtful music. 'Crocodile rock', 'Teacher I need you' and 'Teenage idol' are all excellent pop songs with catchy melodies and clever references to music styles of both past and present. In contrast there are a few ballads which provide the more memorable songs, such as 'Have mercy on the criminal', a powerful orchestrated epic which would have been perfectly at home on the 'Madman' album, the anthemic 'High flying bird', and 'Blues for my baby and me' which is interesting in its use of a sitar, but compositionally sounds somewhat ragged. 'Daniel' covers both bases, being a gentle ballad but with an attractive melody providing singles chart appeal. Perhaps not surprisingly in view of the frequency with which Elton was turning out albums at this time, whilst having a new band and using a new studio, and also trying to change his career direction, there are some weak songs on 'Don't shoot me...', most notably 'Texas love song' (which is more in character with the 'Honky chateau' album) and 'Midnight creeper'.
Four additional tracks, originally the B-sides of singles, are included in this reissue. Three are forgettable, the sort of inconsequential songs Elton often used as B-sides when they were not good enough for an album, but 'Skyline pigeon' is a John-Taupin classic and with its appealing melody and poetic lyrics is one of the best songs from their early years. Originally recorded with harpsichord and organ for Elton's debut album, this more brisk version with piano and rhythm section was the B-side of 'Daniel' and fits very well with the mood of 'High flying bird'. These two 'avian' tracks alone are probably worth the price of the CD, but even though not all the album is to my liking it is nevertheless essential to any confirmed EJ fan.


Honky Chateau
Honky Chateau
Price: £5.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elton metamorphosing into a pop star, 13 Aug. 2001
This review is from: Honky Chateau (Audio CD)
Although a confirmed fan of Elton's work in its first, and probably best, phase (1970 - 76) this has never been one of my favourite EJ albums. Issued in 1972, it marked the transition from the moody, heavily orchestrated music of 'Madman across the water' to the very commercial 'Don't shoot me....' from early 1973, and was the first album featuring the quartet of Elton, Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson (with occasional guest appearances) throughout. Whilst 'Honky chateau' contains two quite excellent singles 'Honky cat' and 'Rocket man' (the latter one of my most favourite Elton songs), I have never felt that the rest of it matched the standard set by these two tracks. This may be due less to the actual songs as to the arrangements, which are very sparse compared with the preceding 'trilogy' of albums lavishly orchestrated by Paul Buckmaster, and have not yet developed into the polished pop-rock of the 'Goodbye yellow brick road' era. With the exception of the synthesizers in 'Rocket man', no orchestration is used on this album, and the electric violin soloing of the then-trendy Jean-Luc Ponty on some tracks I find quite jarring. Generally the mood of the songs is more upbeat than in the previous albums (witness the use of tap dancing on the ironically cheery 'I think I'm going to kill myself'), and for the above reasons 'Honky chateau' appeals to me somewhat less than Elton's more sombre work. The punky alternate take of 'Slave' which has been included in this reissue is of only passing interest and contributes nothing of value to the original album. However, notwithstanding the above comments, I would not wish to devalue this album, as almost all of Elton's early work is of very high quality and streets ahead of most British pop at the time.


Tumbleweed Connection
Tumbleweed Connection
Price: £5.99

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elton's portrait of rural life in the American civil war, 13 Aug. 2001
This review is from: Tumbleweed Connection (Audio CD)
'Tumbleweed Connection', issued in late 1970, is the second in the series of three highly orchestrated, dramatic albums produced by Elton John just as his career was taking off in America and before he became well known in Britain. The black 'Elton John' album established him as a major new talent, and this reputation was consolidated and developed in 'Tumbleweed', which contains several bluesey rock numbers but fewer orchestrated songs than its predecessor. However, the album contains no hit singles and thus tends to be known only by dedicated EJ aficionados.
Like the 'Madman' album which followed it, 'Tumbleweed' was very lavishly packaged originally, with numerous line drawings, and sepia photos of Elton and his co-writer Bernie Taupin and their musical associates, and most of this artwork is reproduced in this CD reissue. The album gives the impression of being loosely conceptual, with many of the songs seeming to relate to aspects of rural life in the American Civil War, although this is never explicitly stated. Throughout the album, certainly, there is a sense of nostalgia for mythical images of 19th century America, a subject which clearly interested Taupin, and the musical influence of the early albums by The Band is also evident.
Two songs in particular represent something of a stylistic departure for Elton in that the piano is not used. 'Come down in time' is a little known EJ song but one of his most sensitive ballads, with a haunting arrangement using harp, string bass and the oboe of Karl Jenkins (now well known for his 'Adiemus' orchestral composiitons) as well as the rich orchestration of Paul Buckmaster. 'Love song' is particularly unusual in that it was not written by Elton, but by English folk singer Lesley Duncan, who plays guitar and sings harmonies on the track.
Although many of the songs on the album feature a relatively large group of session musicians, 'Amoreena' shows the beginnings of the stripped-down, hard-rocking band (including drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray) which would work on Elton's recordings from 1972 - 75. In my opinion the three orchestrated songs are the best of the album, with perhaps the most memorable track being the anthemic 'Burn down the mission', in which Elton's distinctive piano and vocal styles combine with both rock band and orchestra in a glorious driving finale to the original album.
This remastered edition also contains two additional tracks. 'Into the old man's shoes' was the B-side to the single 'Your song' and is very similar in sound and sentiment to the rest of 'Tumbleweed'. The second is in stark contrast - an early version of the song 'Madman across the water' which features extensive guitar solos by Mick Ronson from the then David Bowie band. This song was later re-recorded quite differently for the 'Madman' album.


Madman Across The Water
Madman Across The Water
Price: £5.99

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last of an indispensable trilogy of orchestrated albums, 10 Aug. 2001
This review is from: Madman Across The Water (Audio CD)
'Madman across the water', issued in late 1971, is the third and last of the series of three highly orchestrated, dramatic albums produced by Elton John just as his career was taking off in America and before he became well known in Britain. The black 'Elton John' album established him as a major talent and this reputation was consolidated and developed in 'Tumbleweed connection' with its many references to the American 'wild west'. 'Madman' sees Elton consolidating his musical identity, as established in the previous two albums, rather than developing it in new directions, and if it has a theme it is more one of contemporary, rather than 19th century, America. Several songs relate to characters in modern urban settings, and there are two about Elton's recent experiences of life on the road as a musician. By contrast, however, 'Indian sunset' returns to the theme of the 'frontier', whilst the brief closing track contains almost biblical poetic references.
The musical style throughout the record is the archetypal early-period Elton - medium tempo, with piano, bass and drums as the principal instruments, and Paul Buckmaster's grandiose string arrangements very prominent. It could be argued that there is too little variety of style, but the songs are distinctive enough to hold their own, and this very consistency of sound demonstrates Elton and Bernie Taupin's wish to be true to their musical vision and not to compromise for the sake of commercial success. No doubt their work on the early recordings such as 'Madman' established the basis (particularly in America) for their subsequent commercial success, although on the albums following 'Madman' the musical style changed somewhat, with the establishment of the regular four-piece Elton John Band, the more prominent use of Davey Johnstone's guitar work, and the reduction in orchestration.
Its complete lack of British hit singles might lead the uninitiated to regard 'Madman' as an obscure, insignificant album, but it is in fact indispensable for EJ aficionados. The recognized classics on this album include the title song, 'Tiny dancer', 'Levon' and 'Indian sunset', but another track of particular interest is 'Holiday Inn', which is characterized by the unusual combination of mandolin and sitar alongside the more conventional instruments. And after the energy and complexity of the songs preceding it, the simple, reflective 'Goodbye' is a very apt way to end the album.


Elton John
Elton John
Price: £5.99

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elton's stunning second album confirms his potential, 9 Aug. 2001
This review is from: Elton John (Audio CD)
If his first album, the low-budget 'Empty Sky' hinted at Elton John's potential, his second ('the black album') well and truly confirmed it and is one of the most significant albums of the early 70s. Its distinctive character derives from the three features which would become Elton's trademark sound in his early albums - his unique vocal delivery, his expressive piano playing, and the use of heavy orchestration. The songs range from tender ballads with baroque influences, to bluesy rock numbers, and the slow but powerful songs for which he is perhaps best known. Only one ('Your song') was a hit record, but many others have become well-established classics of Elton's repertoire (notably 'Border song', 'Take me to the pilot', 'Sixty years on' and 'The king must die'). (Three additional early songs, not originally included on the album, also appear.) Paul Buckmaster's orchestral arrangements on this album might be criticised as being too grandiose and overbearing at times, but they are part of what gives the record its distinctive character and helped to establish Elton as a very individual new talent in his early days. After two further heavily orchestrated albums, his song arrangements became much more stripped-down and conventionally commercial, as can be heard on 'Goodbye yellow brick road', but the black album showcases Elton's raw talent before 'stardom' arrived. A landmark album - but if you like the style of this you should also obtain the subsequent 'Tumbleweed connection' and 'Madman across the water', which are also EJ classics.


On The Border
On The Border
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £4.90

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting album showing new directions for the Eagles, 6 Aug. 2001
This review is from: On The Border (Audio CD)
Although reasonably successful when released, this is now perhaps a rather overlooked album, which dates from a period of changing directions for the Eagles as they veered away from their original country-influenced soft rock towards a more hard-edged sound. There are elements of both in 'On the border', and as such it is an album of contrasts, and is not particularly cohesive. However, this was the first Eagles album I ever heard, which for me was helpful in that from the outset I was made aware of the band's contrasting influences. Only two tracks are widely known - the closing ballad 'Best of my love' and to a lesser extent the brash, rocking opener 'Already gone' - and these almost epitomise the diverging styles of the band when the album was made. The rest will be unfamiliar to all but dedicated fans of the band.
In marked contrast to the distinctive and stylish artwork of almost all of their other original albums, the uninspiring and dreary painted cover, with no pictures of the group, didn't help as an advertisement for the record. And for anyone buying it expecting to hear either another 'Peaceful easy feeling' or 'Hotel California', this album would be a disappointment; however, it is worthwhile persevering with 'On the border', because it contains several quality songs, which could well become firm favourites.
A change of producers at the beginning of the project, with Glyn Johns being responsible for two tracks recorded in England and American producer Bill Szymzyck for the rest, brought a hard rocking edge to the music and largely put an end to the gentle country rock which characterised much of the first two albums. A fifth member of the band, the additional lead guitarist Don Felder, was a late arrival to the 'On the border' sessions, but he immediately made his mark with incisive solos on 'Already gone' and 'Good day in hell'. However, his arrival in the band tipped the scales away from country rock territory, leading eventually to the departure of founder guitarist Bernie Leadon, who had been the principal 'country' influenced player in the group.
To summarise the tracks, 'You never cry like a lover' finds Don Henley establishing himself as a convincing singer of the band's ballads, whilst 'My man' (at first glance a slightly worrying title) turns out to be a sensitive and beautifully harmonised tribute by Bernie Leadon to the late Gram Parsons. 'Ol'55' (a cover version of a song from an unexpected source - the white bluesman Tom Waits) is another strongly harmonised number, and like 'My man' includes beautiful pedal steel guitar work. The title track is certainly the most unusual song recorded by the band up to this point, and defies categorisation, whilst 'Good day in hell', in which Felder lets rip on the slide while Glenn Frey pounds the piano, is undoubtedly the most hard-hitting rocker. My least favourite tracks are the token country song 'Midnight flyer' (not written by the band so presumably intended to provide some stylistic link with their two previous albums) and the rather annoying and almost punky 'James Dean'.
So to summarise this is a solid album which is indispensable to committed fans of the Eagles, although others would probably be best to settle for the 'Very Best Of' compilation.


The Very Best of the Eagles
The Very Best of the Eagles
Price: £7.68

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest hits certainly, very best probably not, 6 Aug. 2001
In terms of coverage of the Eagles' principal hit singles and other best known songs, this compilation (actually only a slightly rehashed version of that issued some five years ago) can't be faulted. It epitomises the band's trademark country-rock sound of harmonious vocals and guitar backing, and will be ideal for the interested, although not dedicated fan. It's archetypal West Coast rock, with many memorable songs which have stood the test of time and become minor classics - and which even brightened up the west coast of Lancashire throughout the mid 70s, courtesy of the bands I and my friends played in!
However, as with most artists their greatest hits are not their very best records, and the Eagles are no exception. This collection probably just about manages to prevent the band being stereotyped as the epitome of every country rock cliché. Thus for every track that veers towards C&W (such as Tequila sunrise, Peaceful easy feeling, Take it easy or Lyin' eyes) there is another which is an orchestrated ballad or hints at R&B, soul, or even reggae (try Take it to the limit, One of these nights, I can't tell you why, or Hotel California). Overall, therefore, a reasonable balance is achieved and the result is very pleasant listening, although chronologically the tracks are all over the place and do not show the band's stylistic development over time. I'm also mystified as to how the rather jarring and forgettable James Dean made it into this collection.
For this to have truly been a Very Best compilation, however, a second CD would be needed, including more obscure but indispensable songs selected from all six original albums (Make your own list but don't hold your breath - such a compilation will never be issued). Instead, we committed fans will have to keep playing all the original albums to really hear the very best of the Eagles.


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