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Philip R. Heath "Gadgets, Music, & Books" RSS Feed (DFW)
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The Sixth Extinction (Sigma Force)
The Sixth Extinction (Sigma Force)
by James Rollins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48
111 used & new from $7.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sigma Force Winner!, September 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The 6th Extinction by James Rollins is the fourth novel in this series that I’ve had the pleasure to read, and existing fans will find plenty to like in this latest installment. Readers of The Eye of God may be disappointed to find that newcomer Tucker Wayne and his dog Kane do are not a part of the story - see the standalone Tucker Wayne novel The Kill Switch for your fix instead.

However, the remainder of the team is present and accounted for. This adventure is a race against the clock (aren’t they all?) to stop a biological experiment in California that has broken containment threatening life as we know it. Painter, Lisa, Kat, Gray, and Kowalski will span the U.S., Brazil, and Antarctica to find the key to stopping impending doom.

As is the case with Sigma Force novels, Rollins mixes in plenty of science and history in his narrative. Brazil and Antarctica were locations that were new to me as far as setting for fiction goes, and I liked the variety that both provided. It is hard not to think of Hoth during some of the scenes in Antarctica.

The action is taught, and well paced for the most part. The resolution does come fairly quickly over about the last 30 or 40 pages. Fans of the Sigma Force series will not be disappointed. If you are unfamiliar with Rollins and this series, I think it compares favorably with the work of both Steve Berry (Cotton Malone series) and William Dunn (Spycatcher novels). I thoroughly enjoyed The 6th Extinction.


Tour De Force: Live In London - Shepherd's Bush Empire
Tour De Force: Live In London - Shepherd's Bush Empire
Price: $14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Bonamassa Live Or Studio To Date!, September 14, 2014
Night two of Joe Bonamassa’s Tour de Force finds him at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for the “Blues Night”. His band changes out wholesale from the opener at The Borderline, as he is joined by Tal Bergman (drums), Arlan Schierbaum (keys), Carmine Rojas (bass), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), Mike Feltham (trombone), and Sean Freeman (saxophone). It is the only show of the four with a horn section, and Kevin Shirley developed the set list accordingly.

Bonamassa and Co. deliver swinging versions of “So It’s Like That”, “You Better Watch Yourself”, and “Lonesome Road Blues”. The horns add depth and character to these songs. They has add even more soul to the ballads “Midnight Blues”, “So Many Roads”, and “Stop!”. When you combine Bonamassa’s spot on vocal delivery and expressive solos, these are once in a lifetime versions of these songs. On the two-song encore, Bonamassa gives a truly amazing rendition of “Asking Around For You”. This show is Bonamassa’s blues side at its very best, and it is my favorite performance of the four nights. It is the benchmark for all Bonamassa work going forward.

Overall: A+


Tour De Force: Live In London - The Borderline
Tour De Force: Live In London - The Borderline
Price: $14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Going Back To The Beginning, September 14, 2014
My journey through Joe Bonamassa’s catalog from his first studio album on now lands on the Tour de Force albums the first of which is The Borderline show. This show is significant as its format has its roots in Bonamassa’s first studio and live albums. It is as stripped down a band as a rock set will allow Bonamassa is joined by just two others - Michael Rhodes (bass) and Anton Fig (drums).

While the set list spans much of Bonamassa’s career, it includes two of his originals from A New Day Yesterday in “I Know Where I Belong” and “Miss You, Hate You”. Kevin Shirley chose well from the one gem in Bonamassa’s catalog with producer Tom Dowd. The former stands up just as well in 2013 as it did in 2000 while it is easier to prefer the modern take on the latter. I also thought it was a treat that Shirley and Bonamassa mixed in “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge” - the Albert King cover also from that first album. This song hasn’t appeared on any of Bonamassa’s live albums since A New Day Yesterday (Live) in 2001, and I welcomed its inclusion.

However, this show was not entirely “oldies”. Some of the more contemporary Bonamassa tracks include “Spanish Boots”, “Steal Your Heart Away”, and “Happier Times” with the latter taken on an interesting variation in the three-piece band format. It has no keys or acoustic guitar as the original did on The Ballad of John Henry. Bonamassa does a does a good job recreating the feel of the original by dialing back the distortion on the opening. That is the genius of a Bonamassa live show when you get down to it. It is not a mere rehashing of the studio recordings.

The Borderline show was an excellent opening to the four bands, four set lists, and four venues on four different nights. It was a trip back to the beginning in format, but it gave an interesting treatment to modern material as well. Bravo!

Overall: A


Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Lid Potato and Rabbit Formula Dry Dog Food, 4.5-Pound Bag
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Lid Potato and Rabbit Formula Dry Dog Food, 4.5-Pound Bag
Price: $15.99
6 used & new from $15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars My Dogs' Favorite L.I.D. Formula, September 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have previously fed my dogs Natural Balance L.I.D. formulas Sweet Potato and Chicken, Sweet Potato and Venison, and Sweet Potato and Fish. One of my dogs is on a bland diet at the vet’s direction after having some digestive issues, and Natural Balance has been the brand that she can eat without having problems. While my dogs eat all three of the other flavors with no issue, they went crazy from the moment I cut open the bag of this food. I didn’t know it could be possible, but they seem to like this one even more than they do all of the others. I would not normally buy a small bag as a matter of course, but it does limit your cost/risk if trying a new formula. If my dogs are typical, this is *the* formula to get.


Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance LIT Jumpin' Stix Chicken Formula with Glucosamine and Chondroitin Semi-Moist Dog Treat
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance LIT Jumpin' Stix Chicken Formula with Glucosamine and Chondroitin Semi-Moist Dog Treat
Price: $8.99
8 used & new from $6.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Product With One Consideration, September 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My dogs love Natural Balance food and treats, but they had not previously tried any of the Jumpin’ Stix treats. This is the same formula as the L.I.D. kibble that they eat, and they have also had the L.I.T. dental chews in this formula. It was not a stretch to expect that they would like these, and everything went according to plan.

These are essentially Slim Jims for dogs, but one could argue that these have more nutritional value. I did not select these for the joint benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin, but I would not hesitate to use them with dogs who have joint problems. The one thing I would caution is that these are very soft. I’m not sure how well my dogs chewed them, and I think they are better off with the harder treats like the dental chews. If your dogs are more disciplined eaters, this might not be an issue.


Natural Balance Pumpkin and Chicken Meal Formula with Papaya Dental Chews for Small to Medium Dogs, 13-Ounce
Natural Balance Pumpkin and Chicken Meal Formula with Papaya Dental Chews for Small to Medium Dogs, 13-Ounce
Price: $14.95
25 used & new from $13.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Consistent With Other Flavors, September 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve used a couple of other flavors of the Natural Balance Dental Chews, and I was glad to find another flavor to give my dogs variety. They already loved the L.I.T. Chicken and Sweet Potato and the Sweet Potato and Chicken Meal with Mango flavors. I was not at all surprised when the loved these Pumpkin and Chicken Meal with Papaya as well. I personally don’t like the smell of these that much, but then I’m not eating them either. This is another excellent option for those who want to give them dogs the best quality treats. Two thumbs up.


Natural Balance Ingredient Treats Sweet Potato and Chicken Meal Dental Chews for Small to Medium Dogs, 13-Ounce
Natural Balance Ingredient Treats Sweet Potato and Chicken Meal Dental Chews for Small to Medium Dogs, 13-Ounce
Price: $17.89
15 used & new from $13.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Compliment To L.I.D. Kibble, September 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I feed my dogs Natural Balance Chicken and Sweet Potato L.I.D. for their regular food, and this is essentially the same formula. My dogs love them, and they are not messy. These treats are a nice addition for anyone who feeds their dogs the corresponding kibble formula. I highly recommend them.


Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Immunity Support Chicken Jerky Treat for Dogs
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Immunity Support Chicken Jerky Treat for Dogs
Price: $12.57
7 used & new from $6.90

4.0 out of 5 stars My Dogs Love Them, But One Consideration, September 4, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve been using Natural Balance Chicken and Sweet Potato dog food for a few years, and I have also given my dogs a few of their treats. However, I have never used jerky treats before. I have to admit that the immune system support is not much of a draw. My dogs are healthy, and how would I know they benefit from it.

The results with my dogs were mixed. While they both like them, one of them tried to eat them too fast. She choked on them each time even though she is a relatively small dog. It was too easy for her to put the entire thing in her mouth. My smaller dog did OK with them. They both love the flavor. However, I would only recommend them for smaller dogs or dogs with short muzzles so that they can’t easily fit a 4” treat in their mouth all at once.


Beacon Theatre - Live from New York
Beacon Theatre - Live from New York
Price: $14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Contains Unique Performances Not Found Elsewhere, September 1, 2014
Next up on Joe Bonamassa’s catalog is Beacon Theatre - Live from New York. While Bonamassa’s live albums had been stellar up to this point, this one raised the bar yet again. To date it is unique among his recorded concerts. It has more cover songs and guest appearances than any other does, and every one of them hits the mark. My favorite song of the show is Bonamassa’s masterful rendition of Gary Moore’s “Midnight Blues”. If you have read my reviews of his previous albums, this will not be a big surprise to you. For me, this song belongs in the conversation with “Reconsider Baby”, “So Many Roads”, and “Stop!”, and I had the pleasure of hearing him perform it live back in April. His tone on his solos is amazing, and it showcases his slower technique rather than his blistering speed (see “Woke Up Dreaming” from Live at the Royal Albert Hall for comparison).

While “Midnight Blues” is the highlight, there are plenty of other standout moments. Beth Hart joins him for two songs from their collaboration Don’t Explain, and both of them are spot on. While I was not impressed with John Hiatt’s studio appearance on Dust Bowl, his two tracks (“Down Around My Place” and “I Know A Place”) show that he and Bonamassa can have good blues chemistry. However, Bonamassa would probably place the two songs that Paul Rodgers joins him for as his favorite moments. I wouldn’t argue with “Walk In My Shadows” and “Fire And Water” as strong to quite strong.

The rest of the material will be familiar to Bonamassa fans, and he delivers the goods across the board. One other noteworthy item is that this is Tal Bergman’s (drums) first publicly available recording with Bonamassa. His style brings different nuances to the songs from that of regular drummer Anton Fig. That is not a knock on Fig, but it is just another unique aspect of the Beacon Theatre concert. This is another must have for all Bonamassa fans.

Overall: A+


Dust Bowl [+Digital Booklet]
Dust Bowl [+Digital Booklet]
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Album That Gave Us Slow Train, September 1, 2014
My latest stop in my journey through Joe Bonamassa’s catalog is 2011’s Dust Bowl. After he experimented a bit on Black Rock, Bonamassa is more or less back to for on this album. Dust Bowl also sees an expansion in personnel with a few key faces showing up for the first time in Michael Rhodes (bass), Arlan Schierbaum (keys), and Blonde Chapman (rhythm guitar).

While I stated earlier that The Ballad of John Henry was my favorite Bonamassa album, Dust Bowl is home to my favorite song in “Slow Train”. This song opens the album, and it shows a new level of creativity from Bonamassa and producer Kevin Shirley with the instrumental simulation of a locomotive to start things off (future live versions will take this to another level). Other standout songs include the title track and “You Better Watch Yourself”. While the pure soulful blues ballad (think “Stop!” and “So Many Roads”) does make a comeback, Bonamassa’s original “The Last Matador Of Bayonne” shows stylistic growth with the Spanish feel that the trumpet accompaniment brings out.

Bonamassa also has a number of guest vocalists on Dust Bowl, and one could argue that there are too many or that they are too varied. By far the best is “Heartbreaker” with fellow Black Country Communion member Glenn Hughes lending his trademark screechy vocals. While his voice isn’t what you might call pleasant, it is the kind of sound lends itself to the style that Shirley is going for. As good as “Heartbreaker” is, “Tennessee Plates” and “Sweet Rowena” come up short. The twang of John Hiatt and Vince Gill respectively just seems out of place. However, I am willing to look past these based on the strength of Dust Bowl overall. Bonamassa could have put just about anything after “Slow Train”, and I would give him a mulligan. Yet, there are plenty of other strong tracks to go with it, as I have already mentioned. Dust Bowl belongs in every Joe Bonamassa fan’s collection.

Overall: A-


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