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J. Cheek "John Cheek" (Southend-on-Sea)
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Breaking Free
Breaking Free
by Christopher Power
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Always leave 'em wanting more, 18 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Breaking Free (Paperback)
'Breaking Free' will not win any prizes for literary merit. If it were written by an established biographer, it would pass for good basic book proposal to a publisher. Considering it was authored by someone with little formal education - let alone qualifications in English Language - and a speech impediment, it's an excellent example of someone writing as they speak: and conveys a sometimes shocking story of a life eventually turned around.

Power's slim volume is an achievement in itself. Whilst it lacks descriptive detail for the most part, it still succeeds in evoking the feeling of what it was like, growing up in the late-'70s and early-'80s. For many of a working-class background, youth-culture was gang-culture and it could be violent and vicious. I remember youths often grouping into 'tribes' defined by football team-allegiance, school, music-based cults or the area of town they tried to 'defend'. It seems hard to believe, in these days of CCTV and smartphones recording every activity taking place outdoors, but in most towns and cities back then, walking home on your own late at night was a risk, with cars of thugs driving around and looking to see who they could pick on.

Power accurately recalls how, for many teenagers of that generation, listening to Soul and Ska music, dressing as a Mod in winter, with a parka and short hair, would give way to a Skinhead appearance and no hair in the summer - and back again. He mentions bands like The Jam and The Specials along with the other interests of his Birkenhead gang: theft, stealing cars, graffiti and other anti-social activities. Anecdotally, he remembers fights and custodial sentences. He also doesn't hid from explaining where he was a victim of sexual abuse and considering the start he had in life, it's amazing that he is the person that he is today. The process of his life turning around appears to have begun the day he withdrew from an involvement in the occult, and continued until the moment he cried out to God, in a prison cell.

Power is honest to admit that his new life as a Christian wasn't without self-inflicted problems and many mistakes. This is the most refreshing part of the text - the most interesting sections, are where the author talks of going on acting courses, RADA and the early days as a professional in the entertainment world. In the future, a quality biographer will flesh out a lot more of details of Power's rollercoaster story, but for now, 'Breaking Free' does what any good entertainer would do - it leaves the reader wanting more.


The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered) [VINYL]
The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered) [VINYL]
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £15.79

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...and may your dreams be realised, 26 Oct. 2009
I remember my sister telling me - about how `The Unforgettable Fire' was the soundtrack to her painting for her Art degree at Aberystwyth, around the turn of 1984/5. The ambient textures, the lush, sweeping soundscapes, the occasional broad-stroke such as `Pride (In The Name Of Love)' perfectly matching - if not her muse, then her mood - as she endeavoured artistically, in a remote coastal resort by the Irish Sea. Many miles away on the other side, just a few months earlier, the men behind the music were purchasing their first, modest homes in County Dublin besides the same sea.

Having established themselves as Christians in one of the most vital new bands to come out of the Post-Punk era, they now broke fresh ground and formed a production partnership which would come to characterise their future sound(s) and influence nearly every decision they were to make; artistically, commercially, politically and spiritually.

Brian Eno was an atheist listening only to Black Gospel when this young Irish band first approached him. In fact, he'd listened to nothing else for three years, so disillusioned was the Roxy Music keyboardist with conventional rock and it's rituals. He suggested that the French-Canadian catholic musician, Daniel Lanois, join him: initially, to pass the gig over to him. Realising that the band wanted to play on to his own tune, Eno stayed and the result was something which, a quarter-century on, hasn't dated at all; despite criticism at the time that it was merely a `transitional album'.

Titles like `Elvis Presley and America' and `4th July' alluded to their growing obsession with the States; the title-track along with `A Sort Of Homecoming' even now, are remarkable feats of song-writing and arranging; the band members clearly competent by now, to pull them off. Two Martin Luther King tributes, (the other being the meditative `MLK') weren't enough at the time to prevent the feeling that this was a less-overtly Christian album than it's three predecessors. But closer inspection of `Bad' - which Bono recently admitted he wished he'd developed more - reveals a piece of art notable for it's spiritual yearnings for the sake and state of the souls of others. Indeed, this was a group moving away from religious sloganeering towards artistic engagement, highlighted by subtle use of Biblical metaphors: red wine puncturing skins, mountains disappearing into the sea and so on. Reaching a quiet crescendo midway, with `Promenade', we're in a living room on the Irish coast, with it's sentiment of moving "up the spiral staircase/To the Higher Ground". Van Morrison couldn't have put it better.

`The Unforgettable Fire' was a song and an album inspired by paintings from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, which Bono associated with his impressions of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed, he quotes the line from Genesis: "...and don't look back," Spiritually and artistically, they never did. JOHN CHEEK


The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered - Super Deluxe Edition)
The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered - Super Deluxe Edition)
Price: £49.18

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...and may your dreams be realised, 26 Oct. 2009
I remember my sister telling me - about how `The Unforgettable Fire' was the soundtrack to her painting for her Art degree at Aberystwyth, around the turn of 1984/5. The ambient textures, the lush, sweeping soundscapes, the occasional broad-stroke such as `Pride (In The Name Of Love)' perfectly matching - if not her muse, then her mood - as she endeavoured artistically, in a remote coastal resort by the Irish Sea. Many miles away on the other side, just a few months earlier, the men behind the music were purchasing their first, modest homes in County Dublin besides the same sea.

Having established themselves as Christians in one of the most vital new bands to come out of the Post-Punk era, they now broke fresh ground and formed a production partnership which would come to characterise their future sound(s) and influence nearly every decision they were to make; artistically, commercially, politically and spiritually.

Brian Eno was an atheist listening only to Black Gospel when this young Irish band first approached him. In fact, he'd listened to nothing else for three years, so disillusioned was the Roxy Music keyboardist with conventional rock and it's rituals. He suggested that the French-Canadian catholic musician, Daniel Lanois, join him: initially, to pass the gig over to him. Realising that the band wanted to play on to his own tune, Eno stayed and the result was something which, a quarter-century on, hasn't dated at all; despite criticism at the time that it was merely a `transitional album'.

Titles like `Elvis Presley and America' and `4th July' alluded to their growing obsession with the States; the title-track along with `A Sort Of Homecoming' even now, are remarkable feats of song-writing and arranging; the band members clearly competent by now, to pull them off. Two Martin Luther King tributes, (the other being the meditative `MLK') weren't enough at the time to prevent the feeling that this was a less-overtly Christian album than it's three predecessors. But closer inspection of `Bad' - which Bono recently admitted he wished he'd developed more - reveals a piece of art notable for it's spiritual yearnings for the sake and state of the souls of others. Indeed, this was a group moving away from religious sloganeering towards artistic engagement, highlighted by subtle use of Biblical metaphors: red wine puncturing skins, mountains disappearing into the sea and so on. Reaching a quiet crescendo midway, with `Promenade', we're in a living room on the Irish coast, with it's sentiment of moving "up the spiral staircase/To the Higher Ground". Van Morrison couldn't have put it better.

`The Unforgettable Fire' was a song and an album inspired by paintings from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, which Bono associated with his impressions of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed, he quotes the line from Genesis: "...and don't look back," Spiritually and artistically, they never did. JOHN CHEEK


No Line On The Horizon (Ltd Edition Digi Pack)
No Line On The Horizon (Ltd Edition Digi Pack)
Offered by VECOSELL
Price: £4.68

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epiphanies, eternal echoes, moments of surrender, 2 Mar. 2009
LAST MONTH the Brits presented their Lifetime Achievement Award to the Pet Shop Boys, for services-to-music. An accolade awarded to a band from Dublin, eight years' previously. The two-man Pet Shops are well-known for being identified personally with a certain, ahem, `label'; albeit something which hasn't directly influenced their music, too overtly. Having been around for even longer, U2 are similarly known for another, somewhat different description - but in their case, their Christianity directly (and indirectly) shines through all that they do: and it shines on this, their 12th and possibly most acclaimed studio album.

Put it this way. Were it to be their last, it would mean going out on a high point. Way to go.

BECAUSE U2 have the album they probably wanted to make, the one they would've made four years ago, when attempting a stripped-down, raw record and discovered they couldn't maintain it for more than a few songs; when they chose to then add flashes of red and purple to Ramones-style three-chords' grey. `How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb' seemed overwhelming at first, leaving the listener gasping for less. Repeated plays gave rise to the feeling that some tracks were a little unrealised: `yes ...no... not quite`.

That's not the case here. Whilst not exactly the brave, paradigm-shifting progression we anticipated, it proves if you reach for the universe you may not reach it, but you'll get a lot further than if you just set yourself modest targets. 'No Line' aims for a Promised Land just outta sight, and sometimes gets there: not least with one of the slow-burners, 'Moment Of Surrender'; at over seven minutes the longest track and amazingly, recorded in one take. The (autobiographical) relating of a religious experience in the everyday setting of a cash point: "At the moment of surrender/I folded to my knees/I did not notice the passers-by/And they did not notice me". A song of immense heart-felt yearning, including the key-lyric: "Of vision over visibility." It sums up an undertone persistent throughout - of traffic-cops facing heavenwards; of girls focusing on infinity; of soldiers and war-reporters seeking redemption whilst appearing to disappear from view.

WAS IT Kevin Rowland who said, "Beauty is the ultimate protest"? This record, this work of art should be played in every lift to remind us, in these times, that there's still possibilities, rumours of glory, hints of there being more to life than what seems. Amidst unlikely dashes of Hazel O'Connor and Brian Auger Trinity, there's the lush, sweeping soundscapes of Sigur Ros, the ethereal qualities of Air and Daft Punk. An essential development, alongside the introduction of cellos and french horns is the involvement of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, from producers to co-songwriters now, on much of the material. Loops, gloops, and tom-toms help take us sonically to the territory of Radiohead and `Viva La Vida' Coldplay, and away from the dirty, BRMC-drive of their last outing. The final two tracks even sound reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn.

Should that erstwhile Canadian troubadour , or anyone from the CCM fold offer something halfway as good as this, it will be an achievement - and will indeed, mean that 2009 is a remarkable year for `Christian' music.

JOHN CHEEK
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2012 12:59 PM GMT


No Line On The Horizon (Vinyl)
No Line On The Horizon (Vinyl)

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epiphanies, eternal echoes, moments of surrender, 2 Mar. 2009
LAST MONTH the Brits presented their Lifetime Achievement Award to the Pet Shop Boys, for services-to-music. An accolade awarded to a band from Dublin, eight years' previously. The two-man Pet Shops are well-known for being identified personally with a certain, ahem, `label'; albeit something which hasn't directly influenced their music, too overtly. Having been around for even longer, U2 are similarly known for another, somewhat different description - but in their case, their Christianity directly (and indirectly) shines through all that they do: and it shines on this, their 12th and possibly most acclaimed studio album.

Put it this way. Were it to be their last, it would mean going out on a high point. Way to go.

BECAUSE U2 have the album they probably wanted to make, the one they would've made four years ago, when attempting a stripped-down, raw record and discovered they couldn't maintain it for more than a few songs; when they chose to then add flashes of red and purple to Ramones-style three-chords' grey. `How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb' seemed overwhelming at first, leaving the listener gasping for less. Repeated plays gave rise to the feeling that some tracks were a little unrealised: `yes ...no... not quite`.

That's not the case here. Whilst not exactly the brave, paradigm-shifting progression we anticipated, it proves if you aim for the universe you may not reach it, but you'll get a lot further than if you just set yourself modest targets. 'No Line' aims for a Promised Land just outta sight, and sometimes gets there: not least with one of the slow-burners, 'Moment Of Surrender'; at over seven minutes the longest track and amazingly, recorded in one take. The (autobiographical) relating of a religious experience in the everyday setting of a cash point: "At the moment of surrender/I folded to my knees/I did not notice the passers-by/And they did not notice me". A song of immense heart-felt yearning, including the key-lyric: "Of vision over visibility." It sums up an undertone persistent throughout - of traffic-cops facing heavenwards; of girls focusing on infinity; of soldiers and war-reporters seeking redemption whilst appearing to disappear from view.

WAS IT Kevin Rowland who said, "Beauty is the ultimate protest"? This record, this work of art should be played in every lift to remind us, in these times, that there's still possibilities, rumours of glory, hints of there being more to life than what seems. Amidst unlikely dashes of Hazel O'Connor and Brian Auger Trinity, there's the lush, sweeping soundscapes of Sigur Ros, the ethereal qualities of Air and Daft Punk. An essential development, alongside the introduction of cellos and french horns is the involvement of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, from producers to co-songwriters now, on much of the material. Loops, gloops, and tom-toms help take us sonically to the territory of Radiohead and `Viva La Vida' Coldplay, and away from the dirty, BRMC-drive of their last outing. The final two tracks even sound reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn.

Should that erstwhile Canadian troubadour , or anyone from the CCM fold offer something halfway as good as this, it will be an achievement - and will indeed, mean that 2009 is a remarkable year for `Christian' music.

JOHN CHEEK
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2010 7:10 PM GMT


Inside the Zoo with "U2"
Inside the Zoo with "U2"
by Lola Cashman
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Before the court case...., 13 Feb. 2009
They've a way to go before they're subject to the sheer wealth of different titles that The Beatles or Bob Dylan currently command shelf space with in Britain's High Streets. But U2 books are still appearing with welcome regularity at the moment, with some 25 of them published in the last ten years.

But another tour book--after two or three such efforts covering Dublin's finest in the mid-nineties--doesn't, at first, exactly bring with it waves of novel expectation. This one, however, may still go down as a favourite among hard-core fans, as for a change, it comes from the pen of the "official band stylist."

Lola Cashman, the dizzy daughter of a notorious character from London's east end, was already enjoying a somewhat bohemian lifestyle working with Terence Donovan and David Bailey, when approached by Bono Vox to completely overhaul the band's image. Not a fan of U2, she nevertheless accepted the gig, jumping on board to tour the world.

But don't be deceived by the book's title, nor the recent shot of Bono on the cover: this is all about working for the world's biggest band during its 1987 Joshua Tree tour. Readers expecting a chronological account will be disappointed; the author pays little heed to context and, at times, could be talking about any U2 gig at any time. If you're looking for a seedy, true-adventures-of, type of tour exposé, then look elsewhere. Far from it being a story of groupies, drug busts and mystery deaths, the four band members are painted as being remarkably normal people in the circumstances . . . all the while surrounded by intense media attention and industry figures that appear ruthlessly competitive.

In fact, the most shocking tale is that of a naked U2, hot out of the showers post-concert, disagreeing violently over which pair of new underpants is which. There's also the author, being frog-marched out of the Vatican with The Edge and his wife after a hilarious misunderstanding; we get the time when, live on stage she kicked Bono accidentally in the groin--and the evening when she comforts a sad Jack Nicholson through a night of joyous U2 music just a short distance away.

This work isn't authorized. It's also one that would've benefited from better editing. Important names such as Paul McGuinness and Phil Joannou are spelt incorrectly throughout. There's the feeling of a book being done on the cheap; but herein lies its charm. Cashman writes how she speaks and the inner photos are from her own collection. Unfortunately, although she describes U2's clean living, Christian image by instead describing them as four fragile human beings, this is a book that only hints at the band's spirituality. It's for U2 fanatics. Those looking for an understanding of their beliefs will be better served by Steve Stockman's _Walk On._

JOHN CHEEK


Under A Blood Red Sky/Live At Red Rocks
Under A Blood Red Sky/Live At Red Rocks
Price: £33.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dublin's finest continue to reappraise their early back catalogue - with added visuals, 13 Feb. 2009
EVERYONE REMEMBERS the first time they heard it. Whatever `it' is, people remember when the music changed their lives. Whether it's Cliff first hearing Elvis, or a generation of rebellious teenagers catching the Sex Pistols on the notorious 'Today' programme, there's moments when music turns your life around.

Only in this instance, it didn't have the same affect. Not at first. It was late on the Friday evening; it was past my bed-time; I didn't watch the whole performance. As someone just into his teens in 1983, the 'Blood Red Sky' concert film didn't rock my world. A late-night edition of Channel 4's 'The Tube' was screening this blur of red, black and white and I was simply pleased that U2 had finally made it...I'd loved the 'I Will Follow' single from 1980. It was to be eight years later, as a new Christian, that I was to finally watch it's entirety.

NOW, 25 years on and when U2 are re-releasing their early stuff, we have the film and the live album it gave rise to, in all their untrammelled glory. Simply put, this is their best reissue this year. As the opening clarion chords of 'Out Of Control' kick-in you notice the superior quality of the sound on this package compared to it's vinyl and video predecessors. Looking like The Clash's Irish cousins, the 'War'-era U2 had more in common with the Alarm than with the Simple Minds they were so often compared to, then. Along with the American, military (not necessarily in that order) combat garb and massive mullets, it's the sheer optimism and positivity of those post-punk anthems. A lyrical tour-de-force of spiritual concerns and biting political commentary (Irish terrorism, potential nuclear holocaust, one-night stands).

THE AUDIO quality of this digitally-enhanced release, on either format, is worth noting but gets upstaged by the tremendous photography which made the film so remarkable. An amphitheatre in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, the backdrop of red rocks gives the gig a gladiatorial, almost-historic context. Goodness knows how it seemed to local Coloradoans, who travelled for several miles (in the rain) to this apocalyptic-style setting, to hear a new wave band not-so-much proclaim `No Future', but contrarily sing intelligently of faith, hope and love. As the crowds echo the words from Psalm 40 on the final song, the assertion of director Gavin Taylor rings true: " [The press] couldn't decide whether it was a rock concert or a religious gathering..."
JOHN CHEEK


War
War
Price: £58.73

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Boy' comes of age at the end of the New Wave, 13 Feb. 2009
This review is from: War (Audio CD)
BY THE time of their third album in '83, U2 had already split-up: at least, in the minds of Bono and The Edge. For a fortnight during the previous summer, the singer and particularly, the guitarist could no longer reconcile being Christians and being in a band. An `Isaac moment'; once The Edge had decided to quit, it became increasingly clear to him, what the right path was.

The seeds of their next record and possibly their future, musically, were sown in this brief `death'. Certainly, the opening track of 'War' was birthed at this time: the group's statement at that point, on matters of faith, politics - and sectarian Ireland - it proved to be the 'Anarchy In The UK' or the 'My Generation' of the (now closing) post-Punk period and, so controversial were it's lyrics, 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' was pulled from release as a single on either side of the Irish Sea. It also featured a clear identification with the hope found in Jesus Christ.

THE WHOLE record displayed the same assured, defiant optimism. Looking back, 'War's' intentional back-to-basics spirit, far from being the bombastic, irony-free collection that it's sometimes been painted as, actually contains elements of the `wallpaper music' which it set-out to oppose - read New Romantic horns, flashes of Funk, female backing-singers. The stunning single which was 'New Year's Day' would, in later years, be sampled and taken back into the charts by several dance acts. But it was the poignant, meditative 'Drowning Man' and `40' - inspired by Psalm 40 - that would most mark the group out, as genuine talents. The second CD here, offers up few interesting rarities and suggests that apart from the album itself, the U2 cupboard was otherwise bare. But 'War' was enough.
JOHN CHEEK


October
October
Price: £29.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a `difficult second album', as nowadays a `Christian' album, 13 Feb. 2009
This review is from: October (Audio CD)
BY AUTUMN '81, a long time in music then, with fashions changing so quickly - U2 were verging on splitting up. Well, not quite; that was still to come. For now, they struggled with a case of stolen lyrics and a crisis of faith, as they lived that `difficult' second album.

Listening again, it's interesting how the naivety and innocence of their debut, in terms of sound, had progressed from dinky drums and xylophone to the sparse production and bleak soundscape of post-Punk, Joy Divison-esque 'October'. Intriguing were the reviews of the time, clearly already informed of the group's Christian beliefs. Listening afresh, their so-called `Christian' album is no more overtly-religious than any which have followed, in lyrical concern. Largely gone, however, is the adolescent angst. Still to come, the political commentary. Only two years previously, Bob Dylan announced his conversion to Christ with the evangelistic 'Slow Train Coming' and coupled with Cliff and After The Fire both in chart ascendancy, a new wave act with spiritual sympathies wasn't a complete surprise to the listening public. Indeed, 'October' sat well with 'Slow Train' and complimented the latter's preaching with a work of art remarkable for it's genuine doubt, confusion and apprehension.

In amongst it, the sheer joy of 'Scarlet'; the still-raw bereavement of 'Tomorrow', the anthemic 'Gloria'. Dense, intense and atmospheric, the Uilleann pipes suggest Ireland as a geographical place. The album's title and lyrical feel countenance a time for death and re-birth.

JOHN CHEEK


Boy
Boy
Price: £33.56

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Four lads who shook the world, 13 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Boy (Audio CD)
THE LACK of a new U2 long-player designated 2008's re-mastered, reissued first three albums of their oeuvre, not just as summer stop-gaps for serious fans, as now the target for new year consumers, flush with Christmas money and record store vouchers.

Although it's hard to believe, there was a time when U2's peers weren't Oasis, R.E.M. or the Stones; The Blades and Protex featured among their contemporaries as Dublin's finest debuted amidst the Mod revival and where Blondie, Talking Heads and The Clash were expected to clean-up the decade. Boy is testimony to their longevity and to how relevant they sounded in 1980. As those latter artists got high on `experimentation', U2 were in the vanguard of post-Punk and the sad beauty of things like The Ocean threatened to mask the sheer innocence and naivety, not just of the lyrics but the sonic landscapes of I Will Follow and Out Of Control. Re-mastered, they yield a new freshness as four teenagers grapple with adolescent feelings towards relationships, spirituality and adult life.

CONTAINING the most interesting Bonus-CD of the three, there's 1978's Street Missions - a song I'd only heard previous on a rare, bootleg tape.
JOHN CHEEK


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