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Weshimulo "Sastimos!" (Wiltshire, UK)

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Batman And The Mad Monk TP (Dark Moon Rising)
Batman And The Mad Monk TP (Dark Moon Rising)
by Matt Wagner
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I Needed The Purest Silver I Could Find...", 4 Feb. 2013
Batman battles a vampire cult - what's not to like?

For some reason, 'Batman & The Mad Monk' has been somewhat maligned by the online Bat-community. Because of these dodgy reviews, I actually avoided getting hold of a copy for a while. However, now that I have read this book, I can honestly say that it is one of the most fun, entertaining and artistically vibrant Batman yarns of recent years.

First, some backstory: 'Batman & The Mad Monk' has its origins in a pulpy 'Detective Comics' tale from 1939 by Gardner Fox and (Batman co-creator) Bob Kane. Ergo, this version is essentially a modern re-telling of the original.

Despite a then-contemporary re-vamp (pun intended) of the story sometime in the 1980's, the tale has not been seriously re-told or re-visited since the 40's. However, Bruce Wayne's battle with the 'Mad Monk' character has remained an important part of Batman's early career, with the case regularly alluded to throughout the 7+ decades of the character's adventures. Throughout the years, the Monk's distinctive red mask has been depicted prominently amongst Batman's many trophies, something that has often created curiosity amongst fans.

This new version of the story is the second (and concluding) chapter of writer/artist Matt Wagner's 'Dark Moon Rising' story arc, which re-visited this 1939 story and, in the preceding chapter, re-told the story 'The Giants of Hugo Strange' (which first appeared in 1940's 'Batman' Issue 1). In contemporary continuity, this story takes place sometime between 'Batman: Year One' and 'The Man Who Laughs' (with 'Batman: Prey' possibly taking place between the two of them - but that's open to interpretation).

The story continues the reintroduction of Bruce's Golden Age flame Julie Madison, as our hero's nocturnal activities (as well as her Father's continuing nervous breakdown) begin to take a serious toll on their relationship. The story also follows on from 'Year One's character development of (future) commissioner Jim Gordon who is, at this point, a Captain. Jim is still having to (literally) fight against police corruption and defend this new costumed vigilante who has taken up a one-man war against crime.

As with the previous chapter (Batman & The Monster Men') the essential elements of the story remain unchanged, but a deeper, more complex and modern story fills in the remaining gaps.

The artwork is kinetic, visceral and exciting. The red and black colour palette contrasts superbly with the grays of the castle walls and the textured sheen that colourist extraordinaire Dave Stewart applies to Batman's cape and costume. Each page is truly dazzling to behold, whether it depicts Gotham City by night or the seedy nightclubs from which The Monk's assistant plucks the cult's unfortunate victims. Somehow, Wagner manages to take a cartoonist's approach to the character design, but applies an architect's vision to both Gotham City and the Monk's castle (yes, he has a castle - complete with stairs that disappear and a box room that collapses in on itself with blades coming out of the wall. Oh yes). Wagner's supple artwork is so nuanced and perfectly tuned, that the (often wild) shifts in tone between relatively explicit violence and gore (an unfortunate underling is placed in an iron maiden before being torn apart by timber wolves) and gentle, sensitive moments between Bruce and Julie, or Julie and her father, appear subtle and perfectly judged. This story is beautiful, bright and evocative. On every page.

Another nice touch, I felt, was the ambiguity surrounding the titular villain. Rather than give the Monk a definitive origin, alter ego and powerset (as the 80's version did), this new version is a real mystery. In fact, he may not be a vampire at all. Yes, he drinks Human blood, yes, he is hypnotic and yes, he appears to move superhumanly quickly (but Batman is drugged out of his mind when he observes the last trait). But who is he really? What is he?

Just like 'The Killing Joke', we are forced to consider the possibility that this villain does, in fact, have multiple origins.

Is he Niccolai Tepes, a murderous foreigner from Eastern Europe?
Is he Richard Rallstone, wealthy orphaned Bruce Wayne analogue who travelled the world pursuing exotic pleasures as opposed to justice?
Or is he the spirit of a vampiric demon entity known as 'The One Who Walks in the Shadow of the Moon'? A monster that has possessed before and is waiting to possess again (much like 'Dracula' in the old Hammer Horror movies). This last interpretation neatly sets him up for a return to comics at some point.

This is a fluid and flexible story that is, at its core, pure pulp. It is not at all afraid to go to extremes of lurid camp, bloodthirsty savagery or downright silliness (often in the space of a page).

My only knock on this book is that the final rooftop showdown between Batman and The Monk is rushed and anticlimactic. It looks great, but it's very much a 'deus ex machina' moment...In fact, the whole ending could be a little more conclusive.

Finally, for those fans who found the concept of this story to be too outlandish, allow me to remind you that this is a story about a man who dresses up like a bat in order to fight crime. If you really are intent on everything mentioned in this book being 'plausible', then look up so-called 'real life vampires' online or imagine that The Monk did it all with chemicals and trickery (it works in all instances).

Overall, this is not an 'essential' Bat-story. It is, however, an awesome one.

If you're still not sold, then I have two words for you: silver batarangs. Oh yes.

Skyfall [DVD]
Skyfall [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £2.86

13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Dog, New Tricks..., 16 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Skyfall [DVD] (DVD)
The other day I awoke at 4.50AM with a blinding toothache. I tried to go back to sleep but I just couldn't, the pain was too intense. Eventually, I hobbled out of my bedroom towards the living room and popped in the DVD copy of 'Goldfinger'.

Goldfinger is, to my mind, the definitive Bond movie. It has everything: the girls, the villains, the pimped-out DB5...Everything. Goldfinger defines a certain era of Bond, with Sean Connery as a dashing, charismatic b*stard far more comfortable with dishing out pain and heartbreak than anything else. It is completely of its time and yet somehow transcends it as well. I never really liked Roger Moore's smoother take on the character, nor Pierce Brosnan's more guarded charms, so Bond was, for me, something I had little interest in beyond occasional toothache-inspired DVD viewings.

Then came 'Casino Royale' and Daniel Craig. In a perfect riposte to the 80's & 90's fondness for 'baby-faced' leading men, Craig is an outsider sex symbol who appeals to Women (because he's well groomed and buff) and men (because his Bond kicks 10,000 kinds of ass) in equal measure. His stardom seems to herald a return to the Harrison Ford or Robert Vaughn archetype that I always identified with when I was a kid. He's Sean Connery on steroids. Moore's Bond was an effete, almost Dandy-ish figure (who you could probably beat up yourself), but Craig is a tank who would kill you just as soon as look at you. This new Bond ejected the gadgets (and a fair amount of charm, it could be said) in favour of stark simplicity and gut-wrenching brutality. Nevertheless, it was fun. Drawing from the backbone of an Ian Fleming book and featuring a superb cast, this radical new take on Bond re-wrote the formula and gave us something new and exhilarating.

Sadly, 'Quantum of Solace' was a miss-step, from the lack of villains (Casino Royale had the calculating, nuanced Le Chiffre, whereas Quantum had a corrupt environmentalist and yet another Latin American general) to the lack of a script (seriously, what the heck was going on in that movie?) the only things of interest were Craig's unflappable performance and a host of stunning (and I do mean stunning) action sequences. Yes sir, the writer's strike hit that movie like Muhammad Ali with a point to prove.

Skyfall, however, gives us a movie worthy of Bond's 50th anniversary. A taut, emotionally relevant script, presided over by a director as well known for his theatre work as he is for his movies, brings a new level of depth and complexity to the character of 007. This is the realization of 'Casino Royale's early promise. This is the payoff. The character's relationship with Judi Dench's 'M' (a performance as subtle and funny as it is magnificent) is tested, the character's past is (partially) revealed and a host of new characters are introduced (including wonderful new takes on Q and Miss Moneypenny). And the villain?

Oh, the villain.

Bearing in mind that I watched 'Goldfinger' the other day, and that I regard old Auric to be one of the greatest screen villains of all time (as well as possibly the definitive Bond villain); I can honestly say that Raoul Silva is, in every way, on that level. As a character who is linked to M's past, as well as a possible echo of Bond's future, Silva is engaging and intriguing in every way that 'Quantum's villains were not. He is cut from the same cloth as Blofeld or Dr. No, but he isn't trying to conquer the world, he's out for revenge. This villain has it all, the suits, the character, the private island lair, everything. Everything you want to see from a Bond villain. I've loved Javier Bardem since 'No Country For Old Men' (where he scared the $£!@ out of me), but this was a performance, quite literally, for the ages. It surpasses his dead-eyed psycho from that movie in more ways than I can count.

Skyfall takes Bond to exotic locations around the modern world, delivering edge-of-your-seat action, satisfying character moments and a pool of new faces that set up the next couple of films nicely.

On the bad side? The CGI is a bit ropey in places and the movie sags somewhat in the middle. Whatever, it has one of the best introductions from a villain that I've ever seen, a bit with a lift that will make sufferers of vertigo follow through into their boxer shorts and a fight with two (yes, two) Komodo dragons! Guess what? Even the booby trapped DB5 makes an appearance here. Yes, that one.

You really can't ask for any more...Oh yeah, Kincaid kicks ass.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2012 4:02 PM GMT

Snow (Batman Beyond (DC Comics))
Snow (Batman Beyond (DC Comics))
by J. H. Williams III
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Forerunner To Batman Inc..., 15 Nov. 2012
If there's any such thing as a 'definitive' Batman canon, then it exists solely in the mind of the individual reader.

Since DC's 'New 52' initiative effectively rebooted continuity last September, the editorial team definitely has a list of books that still 'count' and a list of books that no longer matter. Guessing what titles constitute this list will be next to impossible and even then the list will, of course, be subject to change. Therefore, as a fan, I count books I particularly like as canon and tend to disregard those I don't. This is one that, for me, does count, in fact, its actually quite important.

This is a 'Year One' book (well, 'Year Two' to be precise) and it takes place sometime after 'Year One' and 'The Man Who Laughs' but before 'The Long Halloween' and 'Dark Victory'. Bruce Wayne is struggling in his new role as The Batman and Alfred is fearing for his master's sanity and health. Our hero's relationship with Jim Gordon is also strained and, at times, tepid. The Dark Knight is having difficulty bringing down a mob boss and enlists civilian aid to help him. This is a fairly typical 'young Bruce Wayne' move, as it is cocky and overconfident and the costs end up being very high indeed.

Against this uncertain backdrop, one of Gotham's first true 'Super Villains' is slowly emerging. Mr. Freeze has long been one of my favorite Batman villains, from his elemental iconography to his tragic origin story and poetic sense of pathos. All too often, Mr. Freeze is ignored by contemporary creators and this book gives him centre stage and a new and interesting backstory (as well as a look that is beautifully-rendered 'Proto Freeze' by recalling everything from 50's B-Movie space suits to turn-of-the-century diving equipment). Ultimately, Freeze's overconfidence leads to his downfall, as well...

Batman recruiting others into his crime fighting family is nothing new, but this book makes a pretty decent explanation for why he was so reluctant to do so for so many years.

Fisher's artwork is superbly detailed, poppy and bright and a million miles away from 'Batman: Year One' or 'The Long Halloween' in terms of style and execution. In fact, most panels in this volume almost resemble Christmas cards. However, despite the book's playful imagery (Fisher does love his cartoon bats), there is serious subject matter at play here, like the innocent Woman who loses an arm, or the various victims of Freeze's wrath, or the pain on the future villain's face as he accidentally kills his wife whilst trying to save her life. The narrative remains true to the brooding and somber nature of The Batman, but the great art gives the story (and the reader) a bit more room to breathe.

It is interesting and fun, giving us a window into the 'ordinary' citizens of Gotham, a look at another side of Bruce Wayne's personality and even a rare one-panel glimpse of Alfred's bedroom. For readers of Scott Snyder and Gregg Capullo's current 'Batman' series, there's also a massive hint as to why Batman is so hostile towards Harper Row and all her help.

The art is stunning and the story deals with multiple characters over a short space and does so reasonably well.

The next part is a bit of an essay, so feel free to ignore it if you aren't especially interested...

For a few years now, there have been a small (but committed) group of top-level artists and writers dedicated to reclaiming some of the more outlandish elements of Batman's graphic past. Batman began life as a gritty pulp-noir about a hardboiled detective who dressed as a bat almost incidentally, although predominantly to scare criminals (his identity was not revealed for several issues). When the book 'Seduction of the Innocent' took hold in McCarthy-era America, comics were nearly rendered extinct. In fact, in order to merely survive, characters had to become more cartoonish, less violent and way more child friendly. For the next twenty years or more, the Batman existed in a day glo world of psychedelic sci fi, with pop art bad guys, bizarre monsters and brightly-coloured alien invaders. This Batman era reached its zenith with the 1960's 'Batman' TV show, a hilarious tongue-in-cheek romp that is still a favorite of many fans (such as myself).

In the 1970's, creators like Neal Adams, Denny O'Neill and others were able to reinstate the 'weird figure of the night', returning Bruce Wayne to a conflicted, troubled antihero and The Joker to a murdering psychopath. In the 1980's, works by Frank Miller, Jim Starlin and Alan Moore further defined this noirish sensibility, lacing Batman's fictional landscape with evils better suited to lurid crime novels than superhero comics.

The colour palette for this take on 'The Dark Knight Detective' was very, well, dark. Shadowy figures huddled together in permanent rainfall and a thick blanket of smog covered the gothic expanse of city that Batman patrolled every night. This is all very well and good, but surely there's room for the kinetic, vibrant, hyperactive, neon-lit 50's Batman as well? Comics writer extraordinaire Grant Morrison took this approach when he and artist Frank Quitely launched his take on 'Batman & Robin' a few years ago. Flipping the dynamic of 'dark, twisted crime fighter and plucky kid sidekick save the day' Morrison had Batman lost in time and Dick Grayson (the now-adult former Robin) take his place. Then he added Bruce's scowling, lethal son Damian into the mixture as the newest Robin. Batman made jokes and jumped about a lot, while Robin broke faces. The graphics were energetic and colourful too and heralded the mainstream return of a new, sunnier colour palette and a sexier, kitschier, funnier feel for the Dark Knight. Launched from this series' success was the exceptional 'Batman Inc' a series that is still running today. In this storyline, Bruce Wayne has reclaimed the mantle of the Bat and has grouped together crime fighters from all corners of the globe in order to tackle a worldwide menace. The series is a glam-pop mishmash of 21st century global culture, a dizzying haze of colour, contrast and light. Books like 'Snow' helped pave the way for this.

You can almost read this book as a 'prequel' of sorts to Batman Inc and it totally makes sense.

So, if you want a bleak Batman wreathed in shadows, brooding over Gotham City, look elsewhere (there's plenty of great stuff to choose from). But if you want an exciting, graphically stimulating look into Batman's past (that hints, in a serious way, towards his future) then look no further...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2012 1:04 AM GMT

Rock Formations
Rock Formations

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sonic Tour of your Personal Desert, 26 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Rock Formations (Audio CD)
Desolate, languid and beautiful, this record swings to the slow, assured groove of the Palm desert, where it was written and conceived by three guys with a background in hardcore punk. Though you'd hardly know it from hearing them play these days.

The title track is a slow-burning statement of intent, monumentally catchy, and therefore instantly warm and familiar, its the perfect soundtrack to a long night. 'Perpetual Oyster' glistens with beads of fresh sweat and reverberates through the air, taking the momentum of 'Rock Formations' and adding B-Movie theramin into the mix. 'Stoney Lonesome' finds the album firmly on its feet, its hollow, faded surf guitar drives to immaculate crescendo before fading out like a hot breeze on a hotter day. 'Split Tooth Thunder' moves to a Ramones-in-slow-motion rhythm and drags Dick Dale & The Deltones through a web of reverb and lucid call-and-response riffing. The rest of the album never strays too far from this model, there are slow songs and then there are slightly faster slow songs. But that's Yawning Man in a nutshell, its who they are: cohesion and purpose. Nothing wasted, not a second of filler or an ounce of fat to spare.

There are many album highlights, the lonesome cowboy guitars of 'She Scares Me' or the infectious jungle groove of 'Advanced Darknuss' for example, but the last song I want to write about is the epic 'Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway' a masterclass in the type of music that Yawning Man at once create and curate. Repeated motifs, flowing guitar lines that drift up and away into oblivion and beautiful soulful music.

This record moves to a driving classic rock beat, but dovetails into slow, dreamlike guitar patterns that repeat without being annoying. Its a soundscape record. One made in tribute to the desert and the hypnotic stillness the landscape brings. I've never visited any desert, except the one I see in my head when I play this album. But in there, its real enough. That's the best thing about 'Rock Formations'. It's earthy tones, smooth, worn textures and laid-back summer grooves work their way deep within you until you end up feeling this album on a deeply personal level. Its inspired by the purity of nature, and as such occupies a place alongside the best indigenous or devotional music. This band could be plugged in anywhere and played on any turntable anywhere in the world and make sense.

Its not really a chill-out album, contrary to what it may seem. Its more like a musical tour of a place you never knew existed. Its not about A desert. Its about YOUR desert. That's why I love this album.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2010 1:38 AM GMT

The Great Dictator [DVD] [1940]
The Great Dictator [DVD] [1940]
Dvd ~ Charles Chaplin
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £6.85

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A blueprint for a better world, 5 Aug. 2010
This film is without a doubt one of the greatest works of art ever to emerge from Hollywood, or anywhere else for that matter. Chaplin produces (stumping up almost $1.5 million of his own money) works diligently with composer Meredith Wilson on the score, creates a beautiful script, directs every sequence perfectly and delivers an Oscar-nominated performance to boot. You literally can't ask for more. The man was a true artist, and, moved by the plight that Jews, Gypsies (Chaplin was of Romanichal descent, as I am) and other dissenters were facing under the Nazi regime in Germany, he sought to appeal directly to as many people as he could. He shone a light on the inhumanity of Hitler's Germany at a time when no other studio would make such a statement. America had yet to join the war effort and was actually avoiding critique of the Nazis for political reasons. Chaplin's peers, partners and friends begged him not to release the film, but he had something to say. A message so powerful and provocative that he broke his famous silence in order to deliver it.

But before we get to the message, let me say this: the film is funny. In fact, its downright hilarious. I laughed all the way through it, from the stunningly accurate portrayal of ignorant leadership, the clever wordplay (especially the 'banana' scene) and the simple slapstick goodness of it all. There are darker themes, and although the film stays very much a comedy until its final scene, it is poignant and moving. Nobody outside of the victims and the perpetrators knew the full extent of the horrors going on in the death camps, and Chaplin has since expressed regret that the film was too light-hearted in this area, however, casting my eye from 2010, I find it perfectly judged. The humour is not mean spirited in any way, and the portrayal of the Jews is sensitive and responsible. It took a brave man to make such a film, especially at the time he did.

At the very end of the film, Chaplin delivers arguably the most stunning speech ever recorded for a movie, and I mean that. He hadn't really spoken on film before, but when he did speak he certainly made it count. Its the sort of life affirming moment of hope that reminds you why you like movies in the first place (comparable only to "merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan!" from Capra's classic 'Its a wonderful life') it is a direct plea to the audience for some sense as the whole world collapsed into war. It is the promise of love, hope and all that is good about life, and sadly it has yet to be fulfilled. The passion in his voice and the seriousness that emerges from the formerly clownish figure is not, as is widely misinterpreted, out of character but is in fact representative of the strength of which the individual is capable. It remains Chaplin's most enduring artistic statement, and the blueprint for a better world.

When you feel down this film will be there for you, like a light in the dark or a phone call from an old friend. They don't make movies like this anymore.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2016 9:17 PM BST

Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots
Price: £5.95

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great American rock album, 4 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Stone Temple Pilots (Audio CD)
I've listened to STP for years and have all their albums, from the young, punked-up and angry debut 'Core' to the more polished, somewhat Doors-y 'Shangri la dee da'. STP are known for wearing their influences on their sleeve, be it Zeppelin or Sabbath, Bowie or The Beatles. Here is the bands 'fun' record. Their place in American music history assured (and with a sharply growing fanbase here in the UK) its time to kick back and have some fun. Listeners will find affectionate nods to the country-rock of Creedence, the 70's hard-blues of a coked-up Aerosmith or Berlin-era Bowie and in doing so will find the most consistently catchy set of choruses Weiland has yet written.

All but gone are the autobiographical drug memoirs of the previous records, replaced by upbeat rock n roll, the likes of which seems to be so rare in this day and age. STP are a band at their absolute peak, enjoying their stardom and success. Yes, it poppy as hell, but having said that, I defy you to find a fresher, more exuberant slice of classic rock this side of 1978. Critics have suggested that they have rushed this one out, that they aren't taking it seriously, maybe they shouldn't. Rock n roll should be fun, and you'll be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable band in the rock mainstream right now.

Valleys of Neptune
Valleys of Neptune
Price: £19.31

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ride the breeze...all over again., 18 April 2010
This review is from: Valleys of Neptune (Audio CD)
Jimi Hendrix is one of the few artists in history that deserves his hype, the other being Bill Shakespeare, but we aren't here to discuss the bard, so lets start this review instead!

This is not a Hendrix album per se. It is more of a collage of recordings and unreleased materials that has languished in the vaults awaiting the appropriate marketing opportunity. I have to say, as a fan of both Hendrix and music in general: Damn! Its good to hear him play again. I discovered Jimi Hendrix's music for myself when I was about 17 or so (I am 25 this year) and was in something of a teenage funk. Nothing made sense and I was mainly into moping about, writing godawful poetry and generally being a miserable b*stard. When I first heard the immortal lines "Move over rover, and let Jimi take over!" I was hooked, the man's art, his experimentation, his poetry, skill and the sheer COOLNESS of everything he did astounded me. Here he was taking about being "Stone free, to ride the breeze" it just felt cool to listen to. While my peers were into Linkin Park, Blink 182 and other soulless clothing label CRAP, here was an artist who meant something, I vibed with him instantly. His palette was so rich, was it Rock? Pop? Blues? Soul? Fusion? It was all of the above and much, much more. Over the years I devoured his records and watched his performances (on DVD, I only have one friend who was lucky enough to see the late, great man live) and his body of work is among the very best ever produced by anybody, anywhere, ever.

So, what is THIS record all about? what can it possibly bring that is new to Hendrix's table? Well the answer is not a lot besides wonderful sound quality and a level of performance that is simply astonishing. Jimi spends much of the record paying homage to his blues forefathers, especially Elmore James, whom he mentions at the start of 'Bleeding heart' and covers on 'Crying Blue Rain' and the heavy-blues stomp of 'Hear my Train a-comin' and an alternate version of the classic 'Red House'. The psych-funk of 'Ships passing through the night' is all promises to "make love through the night" (A lyric I used in at least one of my own songs) and descriptions of "A lonesome bird, making a midnight flight" The title track is just great, classic Jimi; white-hot yet gloriously smooth and sexy. One by one, great cuts keep coming and there is no duff track on here. The songs we know (Red House, Fire, Stone Free) are lovingly re-crafted and have a tangible, 'live-in-the-studio' feel, and the ones we don't delight most of all. This record, to answer my own question, is about ridin' the breeze...all over again.

Love Lost
Love Lost

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable, 18 April 2010
This review is from: Love Lost (Audio CD)
This record has a rough, half done quality to it. Coming across at times as something of an incomplete thought. It is, however, far better than most 'unreleased' albums, which tend often to be demos and ideas hastily cobbled together and marketed as a long lost product. This record was pulled together from songs cut by a new lineup that was signed to Columbia in 1971. Due to the band's excessive partying and slow productivity, along with the generally sterile environment and artistically conservative style of a major label (the band were better suited to Elektra, then an independent label which tended to push experimental talent like the Stooges, The Doors, MC5 et al). Lee was dropped before the record was completed, so what we have here is a record that veers fairly anarchically from campfire singalong to rock n roll masterclass.

All told, there are 5 tracks which feature Arthur Lee accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. At first sort of puzzling to those for whom the sonic pulse of 'Four Sail', 'Forever Changes', 'Da Capo' et al are landmark albums, they quickly show themselves to be small wonders in their own right. Lee sings a haphazard mash of folk/blues and does so with a tenderness and sensitivity that belies the late, great man's prodigious drug intake of the time. For fans of Arthur (especially fans of his solo album 'Vindicator' released one year later) they come forth as a real treat. Having said that, there are times when they cry out for the sort of lush instrumentation that permeates the earlier records, horns, strings and psychedelic soundscapes. Sometimes the song feels hesitant and unready.

The remaining tracks are straight ahead riff-rock. Featuring a cool, divinely talented heavy rock band, as sweet as they are streamlined. Guitar histrionics abound as the album is a real guitar record. This year it is comparable only to Hendrix's 'Valleys of Neptune'. Which is interesting, given Lee and Hendrix's infamous admiration-cum-friendship-cum-competition relationship. Its nice to see them still going head to head, even if it IS posthumously. Arthur's sound is contemporaneous with Jimi's. Their influences were similar, as was their playing style. Only somebody lacking knowledge would accuse Lee of borrowing from his (at the time only recently deceased)friend. However, comparison's will abound because the sound is so comparable. It is definitely recommended to fans of Love's vastly underrated 1970 record, 'False Start' which I am sure contains more Hendrix than just his work on the 'Everlasting First' track.

Standout tracks for me are 'Product of the Times' with its Voodoo intro and straight up funk n roll, 'Everybody's' gotta live' (An earlier version of the one that appears on 'Vindicator' with slightly different lyrics) 'Midnight Sun' with its Wonderful guitar breaks and great vox to rival anything he sang elsewhere and the Dylanesque acoustic stomp of 'He said/She said' which has the great lyric "I went down to the newsstand/Saw a picture of Vietnam"

Its really cool to get more Arthur Lee and Love coming out. Lee himself apparently wanted all his remaining stuff released after his death, so I'm glad that it finally seems to be coming to pass. This is a treat for Love fans and well worth a look.

Offered by trec002
Price: £14.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect way to say goodbye..., 2 April 2010
This review is from: Streetcore (Audio CD)
This is Joe Strummer's final album. Unfinished at the time of his untimely death, but infused with the insurgency and energy that he never lost. Contemporaneous only with Joey Ramone's superlative 'Don't worry about me' the late, great Clash singer/songwriter certainly delivers the goods and goes out in style.

Opener 'Coma Girl' is as good as anything he ever wrote, and though the guitar tone is softer and the musicianship more polished it was clearly written by the writer of 'White man in Hammersmith Palais' or 'Should I stay or should I go' and thoroughly deserves to be up there with those cuts in my opinion. 'Get Down Moses' is a murky dub-rock experiment that emerges a complete success and measures the tone of the rest of the album. Joe shows his thoughtful side on 'Ramshackle day parade' written in tribute to those lives lost in September 11. He channels his inner Johnny Cash on the excellent 'Long Shadow' in fact, he wrote the song for Johnny to sing. Rockers, like the uppity Mod-rock of 'Arms aloft' and 'All in a day' heave with breathless excitement, combining the rock n roll of early Clash with his later experiments in 'world' (I hate that term) music.'Midnight Jam' succeeds despite being a basic music track mixed with snippets from Joe's radio show, it arrives as poignant and satisfying. Album highlights are his flawless Rick Rubin-produced cover of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song' known to reduce even the most hardcore of punks to tears, and his cover of Bobby Charles' 'Before I grow too old' (Joe reworks it into 'Silver & Gold') with the faint echoes on what for many are Joe's last words to us "That's a take..." A perfect number, managed without irony or melodrama. It is, as somebody else's Amazon review said, the perfect epitaph.

It is a thoroughly satisfying listen, marrying up Joe's work with The Clash, his stint in The Pogues, his underrated tenure with The Mescaleros and his other solo works into a project uniquely Joe. A project that makes a perfect end to a wonderful career, soulful, gallant, upbeat, funny and brave; all traits that we've come to expect and to love from the music of Joe Strummer. You end the record feeling like you knew him, and if you've listened to and been touched by his music, in a funny way - you did.

On The Corner
On The Corner
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Price: £4.46

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most hated album in Jazz?, 2 April 2010
This review is from: On The Corner (Audio CD)
Upon release this album was reviled, despised and generally detested. Miles Davis who gifted the world with the definitive jazz album 'Kind of Blue' and, instead of resting on critical accolades and commercial success had carried on creating, exploring psychedelic 'acid' rock (the underrated 'Miles in the Sky') blues-rock (The proto-fusion of 'Bitches Brew' or 'In a Silent Way') and even playing his trumpet through a wah-wah peddle to create a Hendrix-inspired feedback effect on 'Live Evil'. THE Miles Davis had finally lost the plot, they speculated; "I love Miles, but this is where I get off" one reviewer grumbled. However, Miles' quest was motivated by art and the desire to create. That purity of vision resulted in the hypnotic, searing blast of sweaty, funky-soul that is 'On the corner' in some ways his most alternative record. Certainly one of his best.

Inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone (who were rocketing up the charts at the time), yet also perturbed at the way young black audiences had largely ignored jazz, Miles began crafting a record that gave these fans the type of music that was selling big and blowing minds, but gave it to them AS jazz, arguably in its original form. He was also about to step away from any significant critical or commercial success for many years, as the record was unfairly blasted by critics and purists. The accusations of 'selling out' mirror those hurled at Dylan circa 'Highway 61' and while that record catapulted its writer to even greater heights, On the Corner doomed Miles Davis for many years.

Interestingly, it wasn't jazz fans that dug this one up from the depths and resurrected it some 15 years or so after release. It was second wave punk bands, 90's Hip Hop DJs and alternative rockers who finally told the world all about this great album.

The album is extremely tightly played, and features much less of Miles' playing than one might expect. It sets about very early on creating a heavy, swirling groove which permeates the entire album and seems to surround you like a tornado of sound. It also utilizes the loud/quiet formula you will find in Sun Ra (Heliocentric world), King Crimson (Crimson King) or other Miles records of the period. It has its own heart beat that tumbles along, buoyed by sounds from seemingly ill-fitting instruments (Jingle bells???) jangly symbols and some exceptional blasts of rock n roll guitar. Very deep and murky, mysterious and otherworldly, alternative and challenging yet instantly familiar and interesting. A great experiment, a wonderful adventure to go on.

It just keeps going, a smorgasbord of sounds. A record that would predate the rise of alternative music by many, many years. Miles was simply further ahead of the curve than even he realized this time. Maybe it isn't strictly speaking a jazz record, but I'd stop before describing it as funk in the purest way or rock, or fusion, or soul...But its all in there, a cultural document with grooves saturated in prevalent thought of the time, civil rights, pan-Africanism (check the congo-ized percussion on 'Vote for Miles') politics (Mr. Freedom X) sex and free expression. While the other jazz players were sticking rigidly to formula and established patterns, Miles was reporting on the world of the time. Sticking his head out of the window, to hear the sound of the street, as he did his entire life.

This record deserves significant re-appraisal. You could start by buying it.
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