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The Witches Recall
The Witches Recall
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great slice of Celtic with a twist, 2 May 2014
This review is from: The Witches Recall (MP3 Download)
This album in the modern Irish ‘Celtic’ style offers what this description might suggest and more. Darvra’s Wave add blues chords, jazz rhythms, wry and witty lyrics, instrumental surprises (for example, the powerful, overdriven electric guitar on Don’t Kick the Kat’) to the expected reels and soaring, interweaving whistle and string lines.

I enjoyed the high quality of the basic material, the striking and varied arrangements and the excellence of the musicianship throughout. The harmonies are great and the lead vocal cheeky, warm and engaging. It’s all beautifully done. If I have a reservation it is that I found myself wanting a little less refinement and warm sentiment at times and maybe a bit more grit, a few more rough edges. But that’s probably just me – and if you are looking for something in the Celtic style with a twist this is just about perfect.

Wrecking Ball
Wrecking Ball
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Easily his worst album, 28 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wrecking Ball (Audio CD)
I really am in a minority. I thought Working on a Dream was great and I think Wrecking Ball is not just below his best, but pretty awful. Here are my reasons. Firstly, all the songs are underwritten. They all have a basic groove but they go nowhere musically (this has been a weakness at least since The Rising, but never to this extent). Lyrically they state the proposition and leave it undeveloped. We Take Care of Our Own is entirely typical of the rest of the album in this respect. It's a good first verse, it has attitude and all that, but that is about it. Secondly, stadium folk is a pretty ghastly concept. The simple melodies and rhythms of Seeger style American folk work well on a small scale, but with a rock band - especially an outfit like the E Street Band, powerful rather than subtle - bashing them out? It all becomes too broad, too clunking. Thirdly, where are the guitars? Is this a rock band? Does it have three fine guitarists involved? Why then is the violin all we can hear? And, fourthly, the choral style backing vox! Hideous. Meant to be uplifting, no doubt, but is actually facile and extremely irritating. Actually, this is a sub-section of the stadium folk point really.

The album is all surface. It's beautifully produced, but a damn sight more work was needed before they got into the studio. I am mystified by its success. I return to my suspicion that when it comes to Springsteen fans are strongly inclined to be overly (positively) influenced by how 'serious' or 'committed' Bruce sounds, by how sober or political the content is. To my mind Bruce is at his best when he stays closer to core influences such as The Beach Boys, New Jersey soul/R&B, rock'n'roll and Roy Orbison and when he focuses on producing completed and fully realised songs in which serious intent is balanced by a lightness of touch. Working on a Dream is not perfect, but it has more songs, more music, more tunes, more humour and better singing. I rest my case, but I don't expect to win it!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2013 9:34 AM GMT

Shutter Island
Shutter Island
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overcooked boloney, 27 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shutter Island (Paperback)
Too clever for its own good; the twist is weak; it's boring and who could possibly care about the outcome? People obviously do, but it beats me. Oh, by the way, this is a psychological thriller about a US Marshall investigating suspicious events in a lunatic asylum in 1950s America. He is rather too obviously carrying a lot of emotional baggage himself. After an awful lot of inconclusive but heavily (and very self-consciously) mysterious plot business (the dreams and flashbacks are particularly wearisome) it turns out that things are not as we thought. It might have worked had the revelation been less underwhelming, but, alas, no. Lehane's detective novels are fun, if themselves a little lurid and overdone. This is just preposterous: after all the build up, the revelation is too banal for words. Irritating.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2012 10:35 AM BST

Into The Wild
Into The Wild
Price: £15.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous - but I love it, 21 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Into The Wild (Audio CD)
Back in the day Uriah Heep were always somewhat ridiculous. More Spinal Tap than Spinal Tap. No rock cliche undeployed. But often extremely enjoyable. I didn't expect much from Into the Wild but it is a kind of triumph. It is first of all, utterly preposterous most of the time. It has plenty of big, overblown choruses ('Red blood on the white snow') and is full to the brim with cod-heroic attitudes and stories (Don't cry, little sister, I won't be coming home'). It has some truly awful words: 'She's the candle that lights my room' starts second song, I Can See You. How much does she light up the room? Not that much by the sound of it. But immediately, abruptly, we are told 'Better watch out she's coming here soon'. Any particular reason we should watch out? All we know so far is that she's like a candle. Into the Wild starts by announcing that 'The soldiers are coming, they want me dead' - and adds, just in case we weren't clear - 'not alive'. But....the playing is great, the tunes are infectious, the production is excellent, Bernie Shaw sings very well and the whole thing is done with such elan you can't help be drawn in. It's ludicrous - but brilliant.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2011 10:15 AM GMT

Small Source Of Comfort
Small Source Of Comfort
Price: £16.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a rather small source of comfort, 6 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Small Source Of Comfort (Audio CD)
Bruce Cockburn is one of my very favourite artists and I enjoy anything he does. This album is indeed a rather small source of comfort though. There are a number of beautifully played but rather unexceptional instrumentals and a number of well-crafted but rather unexceptional songs. The most striking moment is the satirical song that starts; "My name is Richard Nixon but now I'm a girl" and turns out to be a humorous take on both that reviled President and the possibilities of reincarnation. But the album feels a bit strained and contrived on the whole. It's now a while since Cockburn produced an outstanding album. He says that he thought of doing a loud, electric album with a clanging sound but produced another quiet, folky one. I think the loud clanging one sounds like a good idea: he'd do it well and he needs to do something different.

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
by David Bentley Hart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not a defence of 'The truth of Christianity', 12 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some of the reviewers on Amazon seem not to have noticed that this book is not a defence of Christian beliefs, nor an attack on atheism as such. It is instead a defence of Christianity against claims made about its allegedly harmful historical impact and character by many today, including the 'new atheists'. It argues that Christianity gave to the world revolutionary ideas of charity and justice: they have been so successful that we hardly notice how radical they were, though most of us accept them. It argues that the Church, for all its many failures, has been, in general, a positive influence on the world. It cites many cases where the story behind the myth shows the Church to have acted better (or, at least, less poorly) than legend holds - the Galileo case for example. It sets out the argument with verve and wit even if, at times, it appears to be indulging its polemical style a little too much. It made me realise how accustomed even knowledgeable - even Christian - people have become to making assumptions about the past that do not reflect well on the Church. Those who do not like the book might do better to stop attacking it for what it is not, and demonstrate its historical errors if they can.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2011 4:30 AM GMT

On Evil
On Evil
by Terry Eagleton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.64

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evil: not glamorous but 'philistine, kitsch-ridden and banal', 26 Nov. 2010
This review is from: On Evil (Hardcover)
Is there a place for the concept of evil in a post-modern society? Eagleton believes there is, seeing human history as a tragic story requiring a redemption that is sufficiently realistic about what it is up against.

This is a powerful account of a subject that enjoys the contradictory status of being at once ignored and constantly paraded before us as the (apparent) subject of popular drama. The book, like Eagleton's others, is wide ranging and discursive, full of jokes and paradoxes and not always, as a result, clear. But I particularly liked the depiction of evil in its purest form as ascetic and dismissive of 'creatureliness'. The truly evil are not so much base as overly high-minded, dismissive of 'things', of the material world, driven only by an insatiable ego and the fear of the annihilation of the self. They will lay waste to everything rather than risk such a loss, lay down such a will. Although Eagleston does not make much of it I immediately contrasted this with the New Testament message that those who lay down their lives gain them - that a willingness to die is the prerequisite of real living. I felt challenged by the recognition of the extent to which this tyranny of the false self leads me - and maybe all of us - into trouble. I also liked the reclamation of the notion of solidarity. A notion of self-determination lies at the root of evil whereas goodness recognises its dependence and rejoices in limits. It is evil that imagines that there is nothing it cannot do.

He is strong also in debunking the modern idea that evil is glamorous. The vampires and monsters of modern gothic are mostly not so much evil as nasty and where they are not (e.g many film of TV vampires of the moment) it is because they are not really evil at all. "Evil here is just a banal theatrics". The real hell "is being talked at for all eternity by a man in an anorak who has mastered every detail of the sewage system in South Dakota".

Eagleton illustrates these and other themes with frequent reference to literature and some to philosophy and theology. The book is not entirely successful. The distinction between 'evil' and 'mere wickedness' (that is, behaving badly for more commonplace reasons) has its attractions but is hard to sustain. I would prefer to say that all 'badness' arises, in the end, from fear of death and loss. The apparent motives are merely ways of masking or sublimating these deeper drives. Eagleton seems to want it both ways. Evil must be treated seriously but it is a rather special, unusual case. Original sin is a reality yet it is not such a problem that it need get in the way of a sufficiently tough-minded socialism. Thus the author finds conclusions that suit his Marxism. The logic of the overall argument seemed set to arrive at a rather more Christian conclusion: that repentance and a true change of heart will be even more important and may need to come first. These reservations aside, this is a gripping argument for why evil should concern not only theologians but political thinkers too.

Working On a Dream
Working On a Dream
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £4.95

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A blast of pop, 28 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Working On a Dream (Audio CD)
Springsteen has always combined rock with pop, seriousness with fun. That's what makes the concerts the magical experience they are. If you only enjoy his more sober material (Darkness, Ghost of Tom Joad etc) then I can see why you wouldn't like Working on a Dream. This album is mostly pop and it's great fun and in some ways it's a great relief. Much as I like The Rising and Magic, many of his recent songs have been weighed down by a striving after depth and 'significance'. There is much less of that here, fewer vague, portentous metaphors.

There is a much lighter touch than usual on many of the songs. The first lines of the first song on the album tells us of Outlaw Pete that 'At six months old he'd done three months in jail, He robbed a bank in his diapers and little bare baby feet'. Some Springsteen fans appear not to understand humour. Queen of the Supermarket has been singled out for criticism by some but it is obviously tongue in cheek: the supermarket as a place where 'aisles and aisles of dreams await you And the cool promise of ecstasy fills the air'. This is a joke about the way that Tesco's et al present themselves, not the solemn assertion that some seem to be hearing.

Musically the album is full of breezy and uplifting tunes and the arrangements bring together familiar influences (Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, Phil Spector) with less familiar (Ennio Morricone). The production has been cricised by others on this site but it is hard to see why. Many of Springsteen's best albums have been marred by poor production - something he has acknowledged. Brendan O'Brien's albums have all been a huge improvement in production terms, and this one is rich, full, varied and at the same time, perfectly clear.

It's a bit soon to be sure but Working on a Dream is probably one of Springsteen's best. There is enough seriousness in the later stages of the album (The Wrestler, Life Itself) along with the ambitious pop of the opening numbers. At any rate, I am pretty confident that most of its songs will be a huge success in the next round of live shows.

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