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Guero
Guero
Price: $7.39
153 used & new from $0.28

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beck's most accessible and consistent work, December 13, 2010
This review is from: Guero (Audio CD)
This 2005 release is perhaps Beck's most accessible and consistent work to date. Like him or not, this is what Beck is all about. "E-Pro" opens at full throttle, with a hard rockin' distorted guitar, and an irresistible chorus. On "Que Onda Guero" we find Beck rapping against a hip hop beat. "Girl" is a great pop song with a faster beat, more accessible lyrics and a memorable chorus. "Missing" features more of a third world groove punctuated with strings, while "Black Tambourine" has an African-influenced melody driven by what sound like African drums. "Earthquake Weather" has a sinister groove, but a strangely bright chorus. "Hell Yes" is more rap with lots of scratches and repetition, but still rocks. "Broken Drum" has a slow, airy, ominous riff of metal guitar thunder. "Scarecrow" has more of a rock and roll groove with some ethereal keyboards. "Go It Alone" is a mid-tempo track with a fun, but repetitive refrain. "Farewell Ride" uses acoustic guitars to create a folk song feel. "Rental Car" features some dirty fuzz guitar in a pop context. "Emergency Exit" is one of the less successful entries on an album that's full of winners. Four and half stars.


Birds of Prey, Vol. 7: Dead of Winter
Birds of Prey, Vol. 7: Dead of Winter
by Gail Simone
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from $29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, dialogue, characters, and art, December 10, 2010
The Birds square off against the Secret Six, in this, the final installment of Gail Simone's run on the series. At the conclusion of the previous volume, the Birds organization (Oracle, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, et al) has been discovered and then taken over by a top-clearance government officer code named "Spy Smasher". Spy Smasher leads the team (despite their resistance) into a former Soviet republic to retrieve a dangerous weapon from a demented leader who hopes to return to the glory days of communist rule. Once on the scene, the team discovers that the murderous mercenaries known as the Secret Six (Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, Knockout, Scandal and Harley Quinn) have been hired as extra security. The interaction between the two teams is as delightful as it is destructive, and neither team will ever be quite the same. Meanwhile, Spy Smasher has an ulterior motive that is not immediately revealed, and the Birds have a trick of their own up their sleeve.

This graphic novel has a terrific story, sparkling dialogue, great characterization and beautiful art. The two double page spreads were a great way to sum up the series. Reading the previous volume "Blood and Circuits" is recommended to set up the Spy Smasher's piece of the story, and with so many characters involved some familiarity with the Birds of Prey is pretty much required to avoid confusion.


Summer Crossing: A Novel (Modern Library Paperbacks)
Summer Crossing: A Novel (Modern Library Paperbacks)
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.15
74 used & new from $0.62

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great, but short enough to be worth your time, December 10, 2010
Capote's first and heretofore unpublished novel is the story of Grady McNeil, younger daughter of a wealthy New York family. Left alone in their sumptuous apartment for the summer while the family travels to Europe, Grady turns up the heat with Clyde, a half-Jewish parking lot attendant she has fallen for. Capote's prose is sometimes amazing, and his dialogue is often delightful in its insight into these fatuous characters and the way they constantly fail to communicate with each other. Grady, her upper-crust buddy Paul, and her low-brow lover Clyde can be forgiven their foolishness, after all, they're very young. But Grady's mother and Clyde's family have no such excuse. Still, no one manages to sway the headstrong Grady from her dream - will reality do the job? Certainly the trip to New Jersey was a real jaw-dropper, and the unexpected conclusion seems perfectly sensible given the circumstances. Nonetheless that ending feels rushed, and certainly doesn't send a very good message - perhaps that's why Capote was never really satisfied with it. No, this is not a great novel, but it's not a long one either, and probably worth reading despite its weaknesses. Three and a half stars.


Coyote
Coyote
by Allen Steele
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.31
131 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite some problems, an enjoyable read with a sci-fi context, December 10, 2010
This review is from: Coyote (Mass Market Paperback)
Captain Lee hijacks the star ship Alabama to start his own colony on a distant planet, taking a ship full of "Dissident Intellectuals" with him. After a long journey in suspended animation, they reach their new home only to discover that the real challenges have just begun. Written as a series of discrete stories, there's limited continuity among the characters, and some serious slow spots, but the whole does tell a pretty compelling story, including a nice coming-of-age piece involving three teenagers. There are times when Steele seems rather heavy-handed politically, very reminiscent of Robert Heinlein in his heyday, but if he's trying to make a point, he never pushes it. Actually, none of the conflicts in this novel ever really amount to very much, which might lead one to expect that the power of this book lies in the fantastic wonders of the new planet, but in fact there's not a ton of imagination on display here, either. Nonetheless, this reviewer found this an entertaining read, mainly due to the grand sweep of the storyline, and the everyday believability of its execution. The ending is actually rather a let-down, in keeping with the whole "less is more" philosophy of the plot, but clearly Steele already had his eye on the sequel. Not a masterpiece, and not overly scientific, but still an enjoyable piece of storytelling, with a sci-fi context.


The Best of Kool & The Gang (20th Century Masters)
The Best of Kool & The Gang (20th Century Masters)
Price: $4.49
94 used & new from $0.49

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic funk/pop however you package it, December 9, 2010
Forty minutes of undeniable funk/pop masterpieces from the Brothers Bell. "Celebration" is an awesome groove with terrific vocals, horns and accessible lyrics. "Jungle Boogie" is downright nasty funk, and again, the horns are just killer. "Ladies Night" is another superb groove. "Joanna" is more of a ballad, but still has a danceable beat. "Get Down On It" is another knockout for keys, horns, rhythm section and voices, with lyrics built to party with. "Hollywood Swinging" is not as hot as some of the others. "Cherish" is a legitimate ballad, and as such not really my thing, but at least it's well done. "Fresh" is another winner, relying more on keyboards, and another rock solid groove. "Too Hot" is really just hot enough. "Take My Heart" has another great groove, and the CD closes with "Big Fun", a sentiment that accurately describes the philosophy of the whole band. The only criticism I can think to levy is that most listeners will want more, and there are other compilations out there that provide it. But this is some fantastic music that you will want to have somewhere in your collection.


Some Skunk Funk-Leverkusener Jazztage 2003
Some Skunk Funk-Leverkusener Jazztage 2003
Price: $17.13
28 used & new from $4.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating big band jazz; but don't expect innovation or variety, December 8, 2010
Big band sound from the Brecker brothers, recorded live with the WDR orchestra. The result is far too powerful to be considered "smooth" jazz; to me it's more reminiscent of Maynard Ferguson's big band days. My only real complaint is that between the production and the material, it all sounds a little too much alike. The title track isn't very funky (none of this recording is, despite the title) but it does have lots of energy and a wild melody line played in unison by the horns. "Sponge" is basically more of the same. "Shanghigh" features the guitar for a welcome change of tonal palette. "Wayne Out" showcases the horns, back in fine form. "And Then She Wept" is very somber, almost funereal, until "Strap-Hangin'" picks things up again. But then "Let It Go" is more of the same, and "Freefall"... the same. "Levitate" is a still, quiet number for trumpet. "Song for Barry" is the real standout track. It opens with a percussion jam, then the saxes introduce a theme, develop it, and Michael gets in a great solo, then Randy takes one way outside, and finally the guitarist takes a couple of really hot minutes to bring the concert home. If you like exhilarating big band jazz, then this is definitely worth checking out, but don't be expecting anything like innovation or variety.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2012 5:33 PM PDT


Four
Four
Price: $5.99
722 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not only a harmonica tour-de-force, but some decent songs, too, December 8, 2010
This review is from: Four (Audio CD)
Frontman John Popper has a plaintive voice that is not without conviction, and of course his blues harp is the best in the business. This release opens with the jumpin' pop hit "Run-Around", with a folk-rock groove and irresistible chorus. "Stand" rocks a little harder (except for its peculiar refrain) and features R&B-style backing vocals, at least until the accelerando coda where the vocals become more techno. "Look Around" is a piano ballad that I wasn't crazy about despite its cool guitar solo. "Fallible" is decent, but "The Mountains Win Again" plods along despite Popper's liquid harp trills and an uninspired slide guitar solo. "Freedom" really rocks, with a wild techno guitar break. "Crash Burn" is appropriately frenetic, while "Price to Pay" and "Hook" are a little more moderate. Then to close out the CD, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is a fairly pedestrian instrumental jam, "Just Wait" is another ballad, and "Brother John" is largely forgettable except for Popper's wild harp workout. Certainly the good outweighs the bad. An essential disc for harmonica aficionados.


This Is This
This Is This
13 used & new from $4.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A couple of fine tracks, but short on inspiration, December 7, 2010
This review is from: This Is This (Audio CD)
Superstar guitarist Carlos Santana fills in for a largely absent Wayne Shorter on this jazz fusion release from Joe Zawinul and company. The title track is a powerful Zawinul/Santana jam with a driving rhythm that doesn't let up. The rather repetitive "Face the Fire" is something approaching World music, with its infectious beat that fortunately doesn't drag on too long. "I'll Never Forget You" is a still, meditative piece that I didn't much care for. Mino Cenelu's "Jungle Stuff, Pt 1" sounds like World Music again with its percolating rhythm and a nice sax solo from Shorter. "Man with the Copper Fingers" features Santana on lead guitar, playing a pleasant mid-tempo melody; this one's pretty cool. "Consequently" is a slower number featuring Shorter's sax and Victor Bailey's bass, but it's not one of my favorites. "Update" is a frenetic newsroom-sounding piece that showcases the keys and the drum kit - more noise than melody. After all this, the closing "China Blues" is pretty forgettable. A couple of very good tracks, but much of this recording is either too mellow or too repetitive. I give it three and a half stars.


Moondance
Moondance
Offered by MOM MOM'S
Price: $9.80
329 used & new from $0.01

2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some superb hits, but several misses as well, December 7, 2010
This review is from: Moondance (Audio CD)
Morrison possesses a mellow, whiskey-soaked voice that can be very engaging, and his everyman lyrics are evocative of a world we can all relate to. His backing band is very tight, and when he gives them free rein, something really magical can happen. If anything, he lets himself down with the material, which is not as uniformly excellent as it might have been. For instance the opening "And It Stoned Me" reminds me of The Band, but not in a good way. The familiar title track has a terrific jazzy groove and some fine playing from both flute and sax. Little wonder this song was such a bit hit. But "Crazy Love" is Morrison trying for delicate and romantic, and this track invariably leaves me cold. "Caravan" is another superb, delightful, irresistible masterpiece, but "Into the Mystic" is less successful, and "Come Running" is only a little better. "These Dreams of You" actually rocks out a bit - I would have liked to hear more in this vein. "Brand New Day" is an uplifting number that partakes of gospel, and "Everyone" is bright and airy with something like a Celtic rhythm. The closer, "Glad Tidings" is another triumph - the insistent bass pulsing throughout in conjunction with the horns. But no matter how good the good songs are, I still count 4 tracks that I really don't care for, so while I'm recommending this purchase, I don't see it as an unqualified success.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2011 2:35 PM PDT


Ring
Ring
18 used & new from $13.60

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Soothing, delicate, and soporific, December 7, 2010
This review is from: Ring (Audio CD)
Vibes master Gary Burton assembled some big names for this session, but the results are something less than spectacular. "Mevlevia" has some nice touches of guitar, but is far too mellow for my taste. "Unfinished Sympathy" includes the welcome addition of drums, and also shows Metheny playing much harder and giving the music some much-needed bite. "Tunnel of Love" features Weber playing a slow, plaintive solo on the uppermost reaches of his bass, while the other instruments repeat a simple 2 note theme. "Intrude" starts with an astonishingly restrained drum solo, after which the guitars cut loose, but without more structure, it doesn't really go anywhere. "Silent Spring" is rather too slow and soothing for my taste - the long vibes solo while the guitar repeats the same ponderous chord over and over seems to go on forever and almost put me to sleep. At least Weber's solo was a little more interesting. "The Colours of Chloe" is an atmospheric piece with the guitar and bass playing unison lines; Burton plays one of his better solos while the guitars drive the music forward in a way that happens too seldom on this CD, and Metheny gets in a fine solo as well. A little more of this approach might have saved the whole project, but it was not to be. My feeling is that the vibes are inherently soft and soothing in themselves, and require a very aggressive rhythm section to give the music some punch. Instead, I find most of these tracks suffer from a languid quality that is too often merely boring.


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