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Reviews Written by
Alexander J. Dunn "alexjdunn" (UK)

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Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book
by Johanna Basford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

148 of 171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great investment., 14 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm really glad my fiancee recommended this book to me as a little hobby I could spend my time on. I must admit the thought of buying a colouring book at the age of 28 had not even begun occur to me! But, having seen previews of the pages of this book, I knew immediately that it would be a great investment.

Having now started colouring my first page, I realise just how much fun I'm going to have and how long the book will last me. The designs are so detailed! One can spend half an hour just colouring in one tree on a page where that tree only takes up a very small proportion of the room.

It's so cool that my fiancee asked if she could colour in some of the pages herself. Luckily, the book is so large that I was more than able to let her have as many pages as she wanted.

I'd heartily recommend this to any person into art, drawing, crafts or magical/fantasy themes. This book really is a world you can escape into for a bit during those spare bits of time in a day.

Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces
Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces
Price: £16.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music of The Palace of Nectar, 14 May 2013
This was my first Steve Roach album and I am very happy I chose it to start my journey into this man's world of sound. It is absolutely awe-inspiring in its best moments and yet is mellow enough to be make it useable as background music to do other tasks to.

The titles of the tracks are very good in summarising the atmosphere of the music. One does feel like one is leaving behind the hum-drum nature of the visible world and travelling into the much more rewarding world of the imagination.

Although the album is divided into tracks, it is really designed to be listened to in long sessions and the tracks merge into each other with no silence in between.

Just a word of warning to the uninitiated. This type of ambient music is not the sweet and gentle music of albums often found in gift shops and magic shops. There is an ever present weight and darkness to the music that might be too unsettling for some. However, compared to Steve Roach's album 'The Magnificent Void', 'Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces Vol.1' is much more warm and welcoming.

Leonin; Perotin - Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral
Leonin; Perotin - Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral
Price: £8.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful early polyphony., 19 April 2013
This is a beautiful CD of some of the earliest harmonic music in Western Art Music. It contains monophonic chants, chants sung over single held notes and harmonic chants with the melody being sung at two different pitches simultaneously. The music is simple but the effect is stunning especially when taken with the long lasting reverberation of Notre-Dame Cathedral.

It is very nice as background music as well as something to listen to attentively. Above all, it evokes an atmosphere of another time and place, something all great art does. I would recommend this album to any fan of choral music although, be warned, it is very sparse and may not be the right thing for lovers of the dense tonal harmony found in choral music of the Baroque period onwards.

Price: £7.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality straight ahead melodic metal., 18 April 2013
This review is from: Nemesis (Audio CD)
This is the first album by Stratovarius I have bought having already become a fan of the band. I started my journey with them on Elysium and was blown away only to discover what an amazing back catalogue these guys have with albums such as Elements Part 1 and 2, Visions, Infinite and Polaris. What was interesting is how different each album is compared to the others and how the band is truly progressive in the sense that they don't allow themselves to stagnate in one style. Having listened to Nemesis, I am happy to say they have continued this trend!

This album is notable for being a more straight ahead melodic metal album without much in the way of epic length songs or complex instrumental work. They have embraced a more pop-orientated style and I must say that it suits them on this occasion. Every song has a tantalising intro, an involving verse and a rewarding sing-along chorus. The formula is so perfect that the album feels a lot shorter than it is.

If I had one criticism it would be that they didn't exchange one fast song for a second ballad. 'If the Story is Over' is a fantastic ballad that comes as a prelude to the final track and one just feels there was room for a similar thing at the half way mark. But still, every song on this album is quality and I would have been sad to lose any of them.

The Leprechaun
The Leprechaun
Price: £7.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Jazz Fantasy Concept Album, 3 April 2013
This review is from: The Leprechaun (Audio CD)
From the reviews I've read of this mid-70s jazz fantasy concept album from Chick Corea, many people seem to find either the concept or the keyboard sounds embarrassing on account of their whimsical nature. It is as if people want this album to exist without the very things which define it from other albums. Personally, I love the quaint folkloric concept and the zany sounds - they conjure up magical images in my head and I always return to this album for inspiration.

Musically, it's typical Chick Corea stuff, straight out of the same mind that gave us 'Romantic Warrior' by Return to Forever. There's plenty of jazzy melodic phrases from both synths and acoustic piano underpinned by subtle Latin-flavoured bass lines and rhythms. There are a couple of songs and vocal parts on this album which, again, many have a problem with. I can see their point as the singer's performance is rough around the edges but I like the raw mystical sound she produces.

I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in jazz or jazz fusion to purchase this album and give it a few listens at least. I think it's a wonderful piece of work - like the vast majority of Chick Corea's music.

Dream Theater - Images and Words
Dream Theater - Images and Words
Price: £5.78

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The archetypal progressive metal album., 17 Mar. 2013
This album is often credited as being the archetypal progressive metal album and I think it deserves that status. It has all the trademark tropes of the genre or Dream Theater (which came first?). You have complicated musical parts containing shifting time signatures, virtuosic playing, adventurous harmonies and rhythms. You also have soaring vocals and inventive lyrics.

This formula has been followed by many many bands in subsequent years (even by Dream Theater themselves!) but usually the results are never as musical and emotional as 'Images and Words'. Everything just gels on this album. The songs are strong rather than just the technique.

The other good thing about this album is that it contains no bad tracks at all. It's a smooth journey through surreal musical landscapes but powered by the raw energy of metal.


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Subtext of Darkness., 5 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Atem (Audio CD)
I recently listened to 'Zeit', Tangerine Dream's monumental precursor to 'Atem' and I have to say that, while 'Atem' is still very good in places, it just doesn't have that wow factor that 'Zeit' has. This, however, is not wholly to be unexpected because it is usual after an artist creates something very original and expends almost all their energy on it that they don't wait long enough for their powers to return. Hence, you get so-called 'transitional' albums - works which are neither one thing nor the other and consequently fail to impress.

But, as I said, there are great moments on this album including the very quiet section in the title track which immediately follows the furious tribal drumming of the opening section. This passage is just so atmospheric, even sublime. The magic is that you genuinely can't tell what instruments you're hearing - they are just strange organic sounds.

The other highlight is the entire of the second track, 'Fauni Gena'. It is based on a simple idea; birds chirping behind various Mellotron sounds such as its famous flutes and strings. This track is spellbinding and very relaxing to listen to even if it does contain a subtext of darkness.


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experience the Truth about Time., 4 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Zeit (Audio CD)
On paper, 'Zeit' looks like it should be the most depressing, boring and soul-destroying album ever. But it's not. In fact, I find it uplifting. It is based on the idea that Time doesn't exist and it is only a man-made concept created as a coping mechanism for his sufferings in life. But, instead of condoning this false mechanism, Tangerine Dream expose us to the truth about Time - its eternity and its static quality. Frightening, yes, but awe-inspiring all the same. I think this is why, beneath its surface level of menace, darkness and loneliness, 'Zeit' is so fun to listen to.

The other wonderful thing about this album is that it is one of those very special albums which sound like they were created in a psychological state of 'flow', that is, the artists were completely at one with their inspiration while in the process of creation and, thus, able to externalise it faithfully. 'Zeit' was created in the right place, at the right 'Time'!

Round About Midnight
Round About Midnight
Offered by roundMediaUK
Price: £7.20

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It just doesn't do it for me., 22 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Round About Midnight (Audio CD)
The tough thing about reviewing Miles Davis albums is that almost all of them have at some point been reassessed as masterpieces. Even albums like 'On the Corner', once derided, are now spoken of in hushed tones.

On Wikipedia, 'Round about Midnight' is said to be one of the best jazz recordings in history. But I have learnt to take all opinions other than my own with a pinch of salt if I am to stand even a chance of making an original contribution to music criticism.

So, without further ado, I proclaim that this particular album does not do that much for me. I don't know whether or not this is just Miles on a bad day or if it is that I don't like this style of jazz in general. I just feel this album lacks that intriguing atmosphere that pervades 'Milestones', 'A Kind of Blue', 'In A Silent Way', or 'Bitches Brew'.

I sort of made my mind up after the first chord. It just lacked that magic and I firmly believe that you can tell the merit of the whole from an analysis of its constituent parts. For me, it just never lifts off.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2013 1:19 PM BST

On The Edge Of Forever Live
On The Edge Of Forever Live
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best Symphony X album., 20 Feb. 2013
This was the first ever Symphony X album I ever heard back when I was about 17. Eleven years have passed, I have almost all their albums, and yet 'Live on the Edge of Forever' maybe my favourite. For me, its only competition is 'The Odyssey'.

With the exception of some of the tracks from 'V', almost every song the band performs here surpasses the studio version. The one thing that the earlier Symphony X albums lacked was good production. They sounded like they had been mucked around with so much that they had actually been sapped of their power. On this album, as it is live, it has to be recorded more or less in one go and you get a rougher but more balanced production.

The songs are all very good although, just occasionally, they are a little samey. The performances are top rate, particularly Russell Allen's tireless vocals. Hearing him hit a top E in 'The Divine Wings of Tragedy' with such passion and musicality never ceases to excite me. And that's just one of many moments.

I could do without the obligatory guitar and keyboard solos in the middle of every standard power metal song though. It seems like it is just done for the sake of tradition. I've never cared for it and, in truth, I just twiddle my thumbs until they are over!

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