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Dire Straits: Alchemy Live [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Dire Straits: Alchemy Live [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Dire Straits
Price: £12.76

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-Ray met my high expectations, 21 May 2010
One morning I was walking along thinking I'd like to get some concert Blu-Rays, and wondered which I'd ideally love to have. My first thought went to Alchemy - but my second thought told me that it had never been released on DVD, and wasn't likely to make it to Blu-Ray any time soon.

Half an hour later, Amazon sent me a message telling me both formats were about to be released. Coincidence? Hmm. Anyway, it didn't take me long to make my order, and my expectations were sky-high. The greatest recorded gig of all time, finally in high-definition...

I read the reviews before watching it yesterday, and having read that it's grainy 4:3, I was a little worried. I needn't have been. Of course widescreen would have been better, but if the source wasn't 16:9 then no amount of wizardry can fix that, and I'm very glad they didn't cut the top and bottom to make it look like 16:9. I normally dislike black bars at the sides of the screen, but in this case, they are hardly noticeable because much of the time, there is a spotlight on Knopfler in the centre of the screen, with black surroundings which melt seamlessly into the black bars at the side (at least on my LED TV which does great blacks).

The picture is grainy, but it is still high-definition (even if only 1080i not 1080p). I was able to make out details I had never seen on the VHS, such as Knopfler's earring and the fact he uses a pick (heaven forbid!) on Expresso Love. Even on a 55" screen, it's fine for me and doesn't make me regret buying the Blu-Ray instead of the DVD. It looks a lot better than certain upscaled (by PS3) widescreen DVD concerts I own.

The sound is fantastic, and a better mix even than the remastered CDs of this concert. I have played these to death over the last 20 years, know every note by heart, yet only on the Blu-Ray could I actually make out what the guy was saying in the introduction, or Knopfler's words at the end of Two Young Lovers before "Mel Collins on the saxophone". It was like an epiphany after all these years!

I played Sultans of Swing for my two boys (6 and 4) this morning before school. They were blown away and of course now they both want a red electric guitar. I was just as blown away. My high expectations were certainly met, and I haven't even watched the extras yet. So yes, I fully recommend the Blu-Ray. Wouldn't it be great if someone somewhere could find recordings of the other tracks played that night (including Love Over Gold which was on the live CD!) so we could get the full concert? Perhaps that would be one dream too many...


Colin McRae: DiRT - Platinum Edition (PS3)
Colin McRae: DiRT - Platinum Edition (PS3)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Watch out: one player only!, 28 Feb. 2010
I've long been a fan of Colin McRae rally games, and used to enjoy going head-to-head with friends on the PSone with the first two games. So I was very much looking forward to doing the same in high-def on the PS3.

So imagine my disappointment when I invited my usual Gran Turismo rival around, ready to do off-road battle, unwrapped my new Dirt purchase and popped it into the PS3, and found there was absolutely no way to race against him!

The only multiplayer options are via local network or internet. Maybe the makers thought the Sony controllers were so expensive nobody would have more than one... whatever the case, it ruined our evening and has condemned this game to gather dust or get resold pretty sharpish. I just took it for granted that there would be a two-player option simply because prior versions had one, as has any other racing game I've ever bought.

So if, unlike me, you enjoy racing on your own or against distant opponents, this could be good and it has good gameplay with acceptable graphics. But if you enjoy playing with friends, this one is not for you.


Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others (Strengthening the World Series)
Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others (Strengthening the World Series)
by Alex Linley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly recommended, 20 Jan. 2009
Prof Linley takes some cutting-edge theories and techniques from the world of positive psychology in which he is a leading light, and explains them in straightforward language, which is simple without being simplistic, and with plenty of examples. It is therefore fairly easy to understand and relate to the concepts, and to start thinking differently about our own strengths and those of our friends, family and colleagues.

I thoroughly recommend this book, and especially to any parent or manager.


Somewhere Else
Somewhere Else

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly fresh for a 14th album!, 21 April 2007
This review is from: Somewhere Else (Audio CD)
I never review a Marillion album after less than a week's non-stop listening. This is music that grows on you and that you need to take time to get into. Where most modern music is the throwaway but easy equivalent of Mills & Boon, Marillion would be Dostoevsky in comparison, i.e. not easy but ultimately far more fulfilling.

So after many listens, and an uncertain start, this one gets five stars - and while I am a longtime fan, probably only three other Marillion albums would get that accolade from me. So what's so good about this one?

Firstly, it is fresh and different. This starts with the production, by Mike Hunter, which is so completely different from the polished, clean sound Dave Meegan delivered on predecessor Marbles. This is far more raw and clinical, although intentionally so, unlike tenth album Radiation whose poor production is notorious amongst fans. It is intended to be listened to at high volume, and the production fits this perfectly, allowing a powerful but painless sound.

Secondly, it shows a very different mood and influences. It coincides with the break-up of singer and lyricist Steve Hogarth's marriage, and many of the lyrics reflect this. I cannot help but hear The Cure in a couple of the songs, and Steve Rothery borrows that powerful yet melancholy guitar sound to perfection on the title track, and the distinctive Robert Smith sound on No Such Thing. Cure fans would doubtless adore both tracks.

The other clear similarity would be Radiohead, at least on the title track which is a masterpiece worthy of five stars on its own. It takes the best of Thom Yorke and Robert Smith, and turns it into a sublime slice of genius. It's Marillion, Jim, but not as we know it.

Other tracks of note are the opening The Other Half, which concludes with a classic Rothery guitar solo which is among his most memorable; Thank You Whoever You Are, a gem of rock-meets-Radio-2; Most Toys which is a raucous slab of in-your-face rock which Franz Ferdinand would love to be able to do; and Faith, which has echoes of The Beatles' Blackbird or Extreme's More Than Words, and could even make a surprise hit if they dare to release it. And the ones I've not mentioned - well, they're also damn good. Even first single See It Like A Baby, which isn't Marillion at their best, is growing on me and sounds so musically lush that other bands could only dream of producing such a sound.

If you're a Marillion fan, you'll probably have Somewhere Else already. If not, but you like Radiohead or The Cure, buy this and give it time. Otherwise, Marbles might be a slightly easier introduction, but Marillion isn't easy music. If you want background music, look elsewhere. If you want something deep, emotive and fulfilling, look at Somewhere Else.


Marbles
Marbles
Offered by trec002
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can they top this?, 27 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Marbles (Audio CD)
Buy this album, and listen to it at least ten times before making a judgement. I resolved to get to know it very well before reviewing it, and after a few months of very frequent playing, I have finally concluded that Marillion have beaten their previous high points (which in my view were Brave and Clutching At Straws).
Lyrically it is a complex album as we have come to expect, but there is much more coherence here than of late, especially when listening to the 2-CD version (Genie, The Damage and the different track order really make things slot nicely into place, and you can't really understand what Fantastic Place is getting at without having heard Genie first). I'm still getting different nuances and emotions even now.
It's probably fair to say that Marillion's lyrics are generally pretty deep, but the music is often not accessible enough to make it easy to get into. Marbles is a marked change - even my wife who never liked any other Marillion album (and still doesn't) finds she rather enjoys Marbles. Musically it is a treat without being commercial and there are many stand-out tracks - for me, Fantastic Place, Neverland, Don't Hurt Yourself and The Invisible Man are classics.
Some reviewers have commented on the nursery-rhyme style of the four "Marbles" interludes. These are just another example of how the music adds to the meaning - style complementing content. It's done on purpose and if you get it, it's well worth getting. If not, well maybe this isn't your kind of music (it certainly is NOT your kind of music if you prefer just to hear something pleasant-sounding than really listen, feel and experience something deep and artistic).
Musically Steve Rothery has stepped up at least two gears since his last outing - and that's saying something. He shows such versatility and variation in his guitaring style on Marbles - I hear echoes of Knopfler, Harrison, Clapton, Frusciante on top of the vintage Rothery - and he does them all so well that it's as if Marillion has two lead singers, who duet sometimes to wonderful effect. All the band members are on top form but both Rothery and Hogarth would stand out in any band.
I do advise the 2CD version which I bought after having the 1CD version for a month or so (it is available at a discount if you bought the 1CD version, so you don't actually pay twice). It will help you to "get it" more, plus it features some excellent additional tracks. And having seen them perform (not just play - perform) live recently, I am very much looking forward to the live DVD "Marbles On The Road" as this was a breathtaking show.
Better than Brave? It's a tough call as they are different in many ways, but after long reflection I think Marbles wins by a short head. Make up your own mind and don't let any reviewer make it up for you (if more people had an open mind, Marillion would be a far more widely-respected band). The real question is, can they top this, and will they try? This would be a wonderful finale for a great career. But for now I am eagerly looking forward to the next opus.


The Cure [CD + Bonus DVD]
The Cure [CD + Bonus DVD]
Offered by Games Without Frontiers International
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't expect another Bloodflowers, 31 July 2004
Whether or not you liked Bloodflowers (personally I thought it was their most accomplished work bar none, beating Disintegration by a short head), you will find this album is not like it at all.
That's not to say it's not a good album: it is, a very good album in fact. But while Bloodflowers was reflective, sometimes almost relaxed, mature music showcasing Smith's mindset as he hit 40 in its different facets, "The Cure" is a collection of in-your-face, powerful and mostly fairly short songs - short compared to the lengthy masterpieces of the past such as Disintegration (the song), From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea and Watching Me Fall. It's like a collection of short sharp punches - take that, and that, and that. "The Promise", with its ten minutes and its echoes of these past songs, is an exception to the rule, although an excellent one at that.
As such it's a satisfying experience, hard as nails from start to finish with no soft patches. Your attention is captured from the very start, and Smith & co keep a strong hold on it until the end. It's a very different experience to that of Bloodflowers, and I would advise you to judge for yourself whether that is a good or a bad thing - or whether it just highlights once again the versatility of this timeless band.


Brave
Brave
Price: £7.99

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 27 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Brave (Audio CD)
This is my favourite album from any band and I don't say that lightly. However it didn't start off that way. After Holidays In Eden - with blow-you-away tracks like Waiting To Happen and 100 Nights - I felt a little disappointed on the first play, perhaps because I didn't see a clear highlight or obvious singles. It felt like Misplaced Childhood minus Kayleigh and Lavender.
But then, once you get to know Misplaced Childhood, you soon realise that the rest of it is worth much more than those two commercial singles, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And so it is with Brave, only more so. You need to understand and accept that before you can get the most out of it, and I am so glad I kept playing it.
The story is powerful and emotive, filled with pain and handled intelligently, and the music follows it. Like a good book, there is something new in Brave every time I listen to it, even after nearly ten years. This contains some of the best guitar work Steve Rothery has done, and Steve Hogarth really shows his worth here. Musically it is nothing short of a masterpiece. No other piece of music inspires anger, fear, compassion, empathy, hatred, pain, isolation and finally understanding as Brave, at least for me. Only The Cure's Disintegration comes close.
Don't expect something you can dance to or commercial throw-away pop. If you want to feel as well as listen, this is for you. But a word of advice: before you make the slightest judgment on Brave, listen to it at least ten times - and that means give it your undivided attention each time. It's worth it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2010 1:48 PM BST


Show
Show
Price: £6.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands the test of time - a great showcase, 17 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Show (Audio CD)
If you've been to a Cure concert, you will know that they are a stunning live band. Capturing the atmosphere and the adrenalin of their shows on CD is well-nigh impossible, but nonetheless "Show" is an appealing reminder to those who have been there, and a damn good taster for those who haven't. Many of the songs also sound better than the studio versions on the recent "Greatest Hits" collection, as if you needed an extra reason to buy this.
The Cure's repertoire ranges from pop gems to dark, less accessible tracks appreciated mostly by confirmed fans, and while "Paris" (another live album released around the same time) concentrates on the latter, "Show" has enough of the pop to give it a wider appeal. It also came at a time when most of the band's best live tracks had already been written: while in my view "Bloodflowers" is their best studio album, none of its tracks or those on "Wild Mood Swings" are concert highlights.
The only problem with this is that "Show" will delight neither die-hard fans, who will criticize the inclusion of too many poppy tracks and mourn the absence of "A Forest" and "Play For Today", nor "casual" listeners who, like the Amazon reviewer, mourn the absence of "The Lovecats" and "Close To Me" and question the inclusion of less accessible tracks. All I can say is that Cure music is neither Lovecats nor Forest: it is both, and everything inbetween, and Show does a pretty good job of mixing these extremes and giving a taste of the full Cure range.
So, what is in this "showcase"? There are plenty of tracks from their most recent (at the time) studio album, "Wish". The pop tracks "High", "Friday I'm In Love" and "Doing The Unstuck" are perfectly good, yet quite forgettable compared to strong versions of pop classics "Just Like Heaven", "Inbetween Days" and "Lullaby". However, "Wish" is not all pop: the slow despairing "Trust" makes a welcome appearance, and the inclusion of "From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea" - still a high point of any Cure gig - makes Show worth it for the sheer power of that one track alone.
Fans of the more intense Cure style will appreciate a loud and rocking "Fascination Street", while two more Wish tracks, "Open" and "End", provide some power at both ends of the album. "Never Enough" is a great version - I don't like the single version much, but this starts with a great guitar intro and does a good job of lightening the tone after "Deep Green Sea". If there's one song that should unite all fans in appreciation, though, it has to be a near-perfect rendition of "Pictures Of You", which is the high point of the first CD.
That leaves a few tracks which, while better than the studio versions, don't quite reach the heights of the rest: "A Night Like This", "Let's Go To Bed" and "The Walk". Add these to "High", "Friday I'm In Love" and "Doing The Unstuck" and for me you have six weaker tracks - none however needs skipping. You can't have an album full of masterpieces, just like you can't have an action movie with explosions in every scene: every song contributes to the whole, and the high points are all the better for the atmosphere-building between them.
How can Cure come up with a 2-CD live album without concert classics like "A Forest", "Killing An Arab", "Play For Today", "Shiver and Shake" and hits like "Close To Me", "Boys Don't Cry", "Lovesong" and (yes) "Lovecats"? Simply because they have such a huge repertoire, and so much of it is good live. If you are a big fan, buy "Show" and "Paris"; otherwise just get "Show" and play it loud. If you're not a fan, then maybe, like me, you'll listen to "Show" and learn to like the band, and then buy other Cure albums.
Perhaps one day Bob and the boys will release a new live CD - the 2002 Hyde Park concert for example? - but until then, nearly ten years on, "Show" is the best reminder I can get of their concert power, and remains a firm favourite. Highly recommended.


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