Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Fitbit
Profile for The Outsider > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by The Outsider
Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,975
Helpful Votes: 981

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
The Outsider "Muso" (London)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein: His Life and Universe
by Walter Isaacson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genius, 12 April 2017
Walter Isaacson writes a mean biography - by mean, I mean great. Though I found flaws in his Steve Jobs (his blindness to Job's plain insanity), this is a superlative work of scholarship, written for all intelligent readers.

Not only do we get his life in detail, we get his ideas in detail, expressed in a way that even a physics dummy like me can understand.If you want a simple explanation of his great insights, this is the book to read. He does not skimp on the detail, nor on the judgements. Einstein's journey from his radical years (till 35) and his conservative years is plainly put and well drawn. What sets Einstein apart is his creativity, his lack of pretension, and his ceaseless curiosity.

He is never shy to find the good and the bad in his subject, but by the end, you can see how the good vastly outweighs the bad. I agree with his wish, that quantum mechanics must be at least incomplete, that chaos cannot rule the laws of nature. But I'm afraid science has not yet supported that wish, and that Einstein was wrong not to accept the ideas and contribute to them. That Einstein went from agnostic Jew to tribal warrior is also fascinating.

This is a well written book, with no pretensions and a great deal of hard graft. It is a great biography, complete and insightful. Genius.


Music from Big Pink
Music from Big Pink
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £5.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Zig While Others Zag, 5 April 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Music from Big Pink (Audio CD)
MFBP is much discussed in Testimony, Robbie's autobiography, and though I heard it ages ago, I never bought it. Of course, I know the big songs on it, but listening to it now reminds me of it's near greatness. This is what talent does - while everyone else is zigging, the Band zagged.

Like Dylan, the Band seemed to eschew the 1960's British and Beach Boys idea of studio production albums - you know, constructed music, like we have today. Instead, they attempted to capture live performance in the studio without all the overdubs, slick fixes and instead, concentrate on the material and its emotional core. This album does not fully succeed -the material and performances are too patchy, the recording is too haphazard to be really great. For this, they would have to wait until Robbie stepped forward as principal writer, and the Band sound was fully formed. Now that's a masterpiece - the Brown album. But the revolution started here.

The highlights are great - The Weight, I Shall Be Released, Long Black Veil - you know. But some of the rest of the album sounds muddled at times and a big dated - nearly Quasimodo (half made). The Dylan songs are important too, and there are a few stinkers which I won't name. Interestingly, I preferred some of the bonus tracks, demos and outtakes. I'm not sure the recording is as good as I remember it, re-mastering and all. There is overspill between the vocals and instruments, there is a lack of balance between the instruments, there are some weak vocals. All of these flaws were fixed on the Brown album, and from then on, the Band were the Band. I saw them at Woodstock and they were the best group there. I wish they were in the film, but there are plenty of live performances when they can show their chops.

The greatest achievement of MFBP is the originality of their approach to recording - it is the opposite of slick. It feels authentic, musical and very American but not in a way we've ever heard it before. No wonder it hit so hard.


Testimony
Testimony
by Robbie Robertson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imposter, 31 Mar. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Testimony (Hardcover)
Robbie Robertson is not who he seems, especially in this autobiography - everybody's friend. Not if you look at how his 'brother' Levon Helm depicted him, nor as seen in his Paul McCartney -like control freak you saw in the Last Waltz. He is a chatty writer, knows everyone, name drops constantly and has absolutely no sense of humour. If Keith Richards book was egotistical it was at least funny. If Bruce's book was confessional, this is disingenuous to say the least. If Bob's book was elliptical, that's just Bob and Robbie is not Bob. Robbie is an imposter.

For a start, Robbie is a Canadian, not an American but him and the Band had a pure American sound that made him a great. He pretended. His father turned out not to be a Robertson, but a Jewish gangster who bedded his mother (an authentic Indian) while her husband was in the army. He sounds like the nicest, most charming guy in the world, but there is 'something of the night' about Robbie. You can sense he is acting, taking on what he needs to succeed.

And yet... He made brilliant music, original and brave. His playing was immense - very controlled and stylish. He wrote great songs, had great production ideas, and always pursued his vision. It is hard to hate a guy with that much ability and drive. Some people who know him love him, so he can't be all bad as a human being.

His book is immensely readable, and if you cut out his constant, egotistical bragging about knowing everybody and going everywhere and doing everything, its a very good book. What it isn't is very revealing, despite its revelations. It is concealing the real Robbie - and yet it shows him as driven, serious and powerful. Not a bad life for a guy who is pretending to be Robbie Robertson.


The Band
The Band
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Band, 31 Mar. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Band (Audio CD)
Having just finished Testimony (see book reviews), I realised I had never reviewed this masterpiece. However ambivalent I am about Robertson, this is, along with Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde, the best American album by a white band. It is stunningly original, brilliantly recorded and played. Most importantly all of the songs are so good and fresh they still sound great. They are so good, the Band decided to shelve Get Up Jake, which is so good my head spins.

While other bands were pursuing psychedelia, blues, country, etc. the Band set out to create their own music, a bewildering synthesis of American styles. 4 of 5 members were Canadian and all of the songs were written, one way or the other by Robbie Robertson - proof that there is no 'Canada' or that American music is so strong it can accommodate outsiders. Take your pick.

The Band had no sound until Music From Big Pink. They backed Ronnie Hawkins, a small time rockabilly act, and then fluke into backing Dylan during his infamous going electric phase.They cooked one up and it is remarkable. All 5 musicians are top flight and no show offs. Three of them are good singers with unusual voices. Robertson is an outstanding writer and tasteful guitarist. But the alchemy of the sound - so intimate, woody and authentic, makes this a cohesive masterpiece.

It even had hits, like Cripple Creek and Dixie. It has stand out rockers (Look Out Cleveland, Jemima Surrender), ballads (When You Awake, Whispering Pines) even a rag (Rag Mama Rag). When this came out, it hit hard - it sounded like it was from another world. I saw them play most of these at Woodstock, and they were the best band there, even though they did not make the film for some bizarre reason.

If you have never heard the Band, start here. This is the perfect album, original, intelligent, brilliantly performed and still wonderful.


The Thicket
The Thicket
by Joe R. Lansdale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Thick Grit, 25 Mar. 2017
This review is from: The Thicket (Paperback)
Joe R. Lonsdale's version of True Grit, told with more than his usual gusto. This is one of his better efforts, up there with The Bottoms (sic), a tale of the old West turning into modernity (about 1910). Set in East Texas, it tells the story of Jack and Lula. When their parents are felled by smallpox, their Grandpa takes over, with terrible consequences for him and Lula. He is murdered and she abducted. Jack will do anything to rescue his sister from the murdering bastards who killed Grandpa and abducted Lula.

So he seeks helping finds it in the shape of two odd heroes - Shorty and Eustace. Shorty is a dwarf and Eustace is a huge half black ruffian with a hog as a best friend (called Hog!). Together the hunt down the bad guys. It is all told by Jack, and is exciting, funny, insightful and at times downright brilliant. Of course, it is a classic quest tale, dressed in violent Western clothes. Now I would make this into a movie, with Peter from Game of Thrones as Shorty (its like it was written for him) and maybe the Rock as Eustace.

It is a terrific read, only marred by its resemblance to True Grit, Little Big Man, and Buffalo Crossing, perhaps. If you've never read him, this is a great book to start with.


Before The Flood
Before The Flood
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan and the Band - Unmissable., 24 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Before The Flood (MP3 Download)
I saw this tour and loved it. For me, Dylan was (and is) the best, and the Band, well they were great too. I remember listening to this at the time, but I never bought it. For me, live performances sound great live but never quite as good when captured on records. And this proves true with this double CD.

This is a true 50/50 album - half of Dylan backed by the Band and half of the Band sans Dylan. Both give very good accounts of themselves, with Dylan trying a bit too hard on his vocals - as he often does. His voice is an acquired taste and until his croaky phase that started in the 1980s, I always bought into it. I liked his re-interpretations but not his hollering, which he does a lot of on this. Mostly, the Band songs work very well.

This is decently recorded, marred a bit by all the cheering. I guess that proves it is live. Phil Ramone, one of the greats, recorded it, and he would produce Blood On The Tracks shortly after this was released. The material chosen is memorable by both acts, but it sends a chill down my spine to hear Dylan again in his pomp - well, just after it.

Nearly great and essential.


Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence (Hard Case Crime)
Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence (Hard Case Crime)
by Jill Emerson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Schlock Block, 17 Mar. 2017
I am ashamed to admit my last name is Block after reading this trash. I was tempted by it - but this is the first and last book by this author I will ever read. It is about a ruthless female serial killer. Though LB is a skilful writer, he has written a very trashy novel.

He goes for the obvious - she was an abused child. She becomes a lesbian. He tries and fails to be funny. He meanders towards a plot about 100 pages in - she aims to eliminate any male lover who somehow survived her bed and kill strategy. It is very weak premise and it falls apart long before the story ends.

Now some might say I have put spoilers in my review - and I admit I have done it. That is because I want to discourage anyone from buying this terrible waste of time and money. I always think, hope for the best - but seldom do I get the worse. The only good thing I can say about this is it doesn't rely on coincidence, but you care very little about any of the people and why should you? LB sure doesn't. If you want to read black noir, go for Jim Thompson, Max Allen Collins, Donald Ray Pollack, Richard Stark - but not this. Anything but this.


[(The Last Quarry)] [by: Max Allan Collins]
[(The Last Quarry)] [by: Max Allan Collins]
by Max Allan Collins
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Big MAC Consumed, 7 Mar. 2017
Tasty Big MAC

Craving more junkfood, I reached for The Last Quarry, another satisfying and fast read to fill me up. This 'last' novel places the charming hitman in 2005, now 50ish, supposedly retired. He has lost a lot of money, has to take a job for one of his Vietnam vet buddies, and somehow, s**t happens. It's nice the way Quarry has aged - he get more interesting the more mistakes he makes, and it these mistakes which contribute to some decent progressive complication - plot twists.

A rich man wants Quarry to kill a librarian in a small midwestern town. Not his usual target, but for a load of money, Quarry will kill just about anyone. Structured with his usual 3 act panache - sharp beginning with inciting incident, longish middle, then explosive ending, this is a well honed noir, still exciting, funny and sharply conceived. It throws up suprises, but these are Happy Meal treats.

So Big MAC delivers again - up to but not beyond, expectations


Quarry's Vote (Hardcase Crime)
Quarry's Vote (Hardcase Crime)
by Max Allan Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Trumped, 23 Feb. 2017
MAC's 2010 Quarry is a bit different. It's a revenge thriller, with large helpings of Parker (Point Blank) thrown in. Now forty and a bit porky, Quarry has settled down from his life as hitman into possible family man. Then it all goes pear-shaped.

Quarry is offered a 'political hit' for a million dollars, turns it down, but those that offered now see him as a loose end - so they return and kill, mistakenly, people close to him. Big mistake. He finds an interesting, Donald Trump -like political extremist who'll do anything for publicity, is the target and gets on the inside to unravel the mystery. It's a departure of sorts, but still features the charming heartless hitter, more twists than a slalom run and a super sleazy tone.

This is my last big MAC for a while. It's a very unhealthy diet - all this junk lit. But fun for those with a pulp habit


Quarry's Choice (Hard Case Crime)
Quarry's Choice (Hard Case Crime)
by Max Allan Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Really Choice Quarry, 21 Feb. 2017
Back in 1972, Quarry still worked for the Broker as a hitman. In this one, the Broker is a target and Quarry is sent to Biloxi Miss to investigate. He turns up a true mish mash of ultra violence, sex and more twists than a Chubby Checker record.

Written in 2015, this has more sex and gore than the originals, but at least it has Quarry in his original guise as a straight forward hitman - I prefer these. He is funny, shrewd and without a qualm about killing, yet somehow human. He kills the bad guys, beds the women and makes out with lots of money. He even solves the case, like a detective, but without any conscious effort on MAC's part. Such a great pulp read, but not for the feint hearted - nor anyone with a heart.

Enjoy or avoid.


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