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Higher Truth [Deluxe Edition]
Higher Truth [Deluxe Edition]
Price: $14.49
48 used & new from $10.31

5.0 out of 5 stars The equal of Euphoria Morning, January 30, 2016
*Make sure you buy the Deluxe edition otherwise you will miss out on some terrific tracks.

Another stunning solo album from Mr Cornell, a far more stripped down and acoustic sound than Euphoria Morning or the unfairly under-appreciated Scream, this approach fortunately affords Chris’ distinct and husky voice to shine through with real emotion and weight. It’s criminal how this album has received such lacklustre reviews from ‘critics’, I don’t think they listen to albums more than once or twice but some of the best albums take at least 4 or 5 listens to really reveal themselves. Higher Truth is in fact a superlative record, easily the equal of the superb Euphoria Morning. You won’t get any distorted guitar driven rock tunes here in the style of Soundgarden or some Euphoria Morning but the music is just as rich and you will certainly pick up flavours of these classic moments along the way (the fun eastern flavoured Our Time in the Universe for instance), and it all flows together really beautifully. It is heartfelt and folksy, at times even Americana country-esqe with subtle modern production flourishes here and there. Don’t let that put you off though if it all sounds rather subdued to you, it isn’t and it doesn’t take long for these tracks to get under your skin and to appreciate the beauty of the writing, the musicianship and of course Cornell’s voice.

For fans who hated Scream (come on, it really wasn’t that bad), you’ll be pleased to know that this is classic Cornell, no loops in sight (only some percussion) or kiddie 8-bit synth beeps and noises or (I’ll admit) embarrassingly bad gangsta flavoured lyrics. No, here you’ll get Cornell really connecting with the listener through his voice and lyrics, his guitar an extension of his spirit.

It’s really hard to pick standout tracks as there really aren’t any bad moments, each song is its own perfect gem and I constantly have snippets of each song weaving in and out of my head throughout the day. At a push though I’d say the first four tracks, Murderer of Blue Skies, Misery Chain [deluxe edition only] (inspired by the film 12 Years a Slave – though I prefer his beautiful duet with Joy Williams), Higher Truth, Only These Words, Let Your Eyes Wander, Circling, Wrong Side [deluxe version only]…..no I can’t, I’ll end up listing them all!

Terrific stuff.


Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus
Price: $9.69
69 used & new from $7.50

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb return from the seminal FNM!, May 22, 2015
This review is from: Sol Invictus (Audio CD)
So here it is! After 18 years, the seminal Faith No More return with a new album and it is superb! I personally didn’t expect this album to be this good as I’d been pretty disappointed with King for a Day and Album of the Year (both excellent in parts but not consistently so) and felt the guys must have lost their magic. Well I’m glad to say they have put out a cracking album here that really grows on you the more you listen to it. Sol Invictus may not have quite the scope, loftiness or momentousness of The Real Thing or Angel Dust but then it doesn’t try to. However, all the hallmark FNM qualities are present; it is a musically rich tapestry of riffs, catchy hooks, quirkiness and punchy rhythms that FNM are known for. It delves in and out of The Real Thing, Angel Dust and Album of the Year and even a little Mr Bungle yet has its own fresh identity.

Every band member’s talent is plain to hear, Gould’s funky throaty bass sounds better than ever, Bordin’s pummelling is as spectacular and exhilarating as always, Bottum’s keyboards here are more piano orientated than synth and Jon Hudson’s guitar work is a definite step up from his lacklustre work on AOTY. But special mention must to go to Patton, his unique vocal talents are a marvel to listen to as always, he’s lost none of his range or inventiveness and this is some of his finest work outside Mr Bungle. The way he effortlessly morphs from hardened ageing cowboy at the middle section of ‘Cone of Shame’ straight into full on blistering death metal growling is just riveting and the most exhilarating singing I’ve heard since Mr Bungle disbanded.

Every track for me apart from one (Motherfuc*er) are very enjoyable listens and work well together and the album’s relatively short running time of 40 mins feels about right. However, standout tracks for me would be opener ‘Sol Invictus’, a haunting and morose piano led track with a gorgeous chorus. Nice guitar work in the background here. ‘Superhero’ is pure vintage FNM straight from the Angel Dust era, a great bouncy rhythm section, catchy and heavy. ‘Sunny Side Up’ is a very fun piece of catchy pop and shows FNM haven’t lost their sense of humour. ‘Separation Anxiety’ and ‘Cone of Shame’ show that FNM have lost none of their energy and are classic blistering marvels. ‘Matador’ seems to be fast becoming another fan favourite and it’s grown on me a lot since I first heard it, it feels designed to be this album’s ‘The Real Thing’ or ‘King for a Day’, although not as good as those seminal tracks it gets under your skin and just rocks when it takes off around the 2 min mark. And as is customary, the record ends on a more accessible piece of gorgeous pop with ‘From the Dead’ sounding like a cross between classic REM and FNM’s own ‘Just a Man’. A great way to end the album and give themselves a pat on the back.

Small criticisms from me would be that some tracks are on the simplistic side which was a trend that started with King for a Day. I would have preferred a more consistently intricate, colourful and varied musical and rhythmically structured journey like Angel Dust. I understand FNM will never be another Mr Bungle (who were always for me the better band both musically and inventively) but I would still like to see FNM broaden their scope and vision for their next album and at least have The Real Thing and Angel Dust set in their sights. And I still haven’t warmed to the track Motherf*cker. It’s not terrible but in my opinion is B side material and doesn’t belong on here.

If the short running time is any indication of some tentativeness on FNM’s part, they needn't have worried; Sol Invictus is a triumphant return for them, better than both King for a Day and Album of the Year in my opinion. It’s exciting, fun, blistering and gorgeous in equal measure, back From the Dead indeed!


Wagner: Highlights from The Ring Cycle - Essential Music from Der Ring des Nibelungen with Ride of the Valkyries, Siegfried's Rhine Journey & More
Wagner: Highlights from The Ring Cycle - Essential Music from Der Ring des Nibelungen with Ride of the Valkyries, Siegfried's Rhine Journey & More
Price: $7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible recording quality, December 19, 2014
Very annoyed, it sounds like this has been recorded on someone's iphone sitting at the back of the auditorium. The sound quality is simply terrible, it's not just the coughs and constant shuffling from the crowd that annoys but the entire bass range of the orchestra is barely audible, it sounds like its in mono, the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in 1890 not 2013 - should never have been released to be honest. The previews on Amazon are such low quality anyway that it was difficult to tell there'd be no improvement at a higher quality download!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2015 3:25 PM PDT


Harmonielehre for Orchestra:  Full Score
Harmonielehre for Orchestra: Full Score
by John Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $54.29
29 used & new from $45.22

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many repeat signs ruin a great study experience, December 30, 2012
As a score for study purposes and an expensive 'full score' at that, this is a big disappointment for the simple fact that instead of actual printed music, half the time the bars are replaced with repeat signs. And there are lots of them. This makes it far more difficult to study whether along to a recording or on its own as you'll find you have to continuously refer to previous measures which do contain the actual notation to see what the other instruments are currently playing. And it's not even as if this was to save space as the measures with repeat signs are often the same size as measures with actual notation. I feel this was just lazy or maybe to save ink, who knows. Do the publishers expect readers to have photographic memories of what each and every instrument was playing previously? It seems they do.

When I study a score along to a recording, I like to look over, up and down and across the page to get an essence of the orchestration and articulations being played. And on such a large sized publication as this, it's a lot more difficult to be able see what the flutes are doing at the same time as say the basses so you'll rarely be able to see what all instruments are doing at any one time and so you will find that when you gaze from one instrument to another you will need to see actual printed music, but here instead you'll more than likely see a repeat sign, meaning you'll have to pause the recording, look back a few bars and then continue. In my opinion, repeat signs are fine for conductor's scores or individual player's parts but for relatively expensive 'full' study scores, this is not acceptable.

However, as I think the only printed score out there for John Adam's masterwork, this is better than nothing at all and at least everything is nice and clear and easy to read and I would still recommend it on that basis. But it's often a pain to follow.


We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin
DVD ~ Tilda Swinton
Price: $19.59
22 used & new from $2.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding take on parental fears, June 8, 2012
This review is from: We Need to Talk About Kevin (DVD)
Trying to depict the state of mind of someone who is both emotionally and mentally unstable and suffering from the after effects of a tragic event is very difficult to achieve in a cinematic language but I think Lynne Ramsay has succeeded well here. From the disjointed and fractured chronological order to the arty and surreal tone of the main character's flashbacks and visions, you get a good sense of what it is perhaps this poor mother is going through. Her mind must be all over the place, burdened by guilt and the memories of her horrid time as the mother of her nasty son. The colour red is very prevalent throughout and is something she cannot escape, from the red paint that she is forever scrubbing from her house, hands and car windscreen to the bloodbath she has to bear witness to at the end and which she will forever blame herself. The guilt and living hell will be inescapable.

There is always a danger in these kinds of films (and books) that they may not be wholly psychologically accurate and raise more questions than they answer. This film, and I understand the book also, doesn't really attempt to answer the nature vs nurture question in any serious balanced way - and how could we expect it to, that is a realm for science and psychology and something which may take decades before they are able to arrive at a more definitive answer. But art has been this way for millennia, it rarely if ever provides answers to big questions but is more about offering up one's own assumptions or take on these issues and inspiring debate.

There is a hint of a suggestion in the film that the mother wasn't quite ecstatic at the idea of being a mother (the scene in the antenatal class where she doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic) but there is never really a suggestion that once the child is born that she is anything but a good mother. The film leans far more towards the suggestion that the child was born bad and there was absolutely nothing the mother could have done about it. We see her trying hard from an early age to bond with Kevin but he seems to somehow despise her and manipulate her emotions even from a very young age - and this is where I question the psychological accuracy? Is it possible for a young toddler under two years old to despise anything and understand how to manipulate emotions in a callous way?

And in this respect, we could see the film as simply a story about the fears of parenthood from the viewpoint from someone who is not yet a parent, i.e. what happens if I have a naturally bad child who I cannot control and have a positive effect on...? And so a psychologically accurate definitive account of the nature vs nurture is beside the point but rather a story that tries to represent these fears, however irrational and they may be, is what we are engaging with.


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
Price: $9.99
49 used & new from $2.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Williams shines, May 23, 2012
It's great to have John Williams back after 3 and a half long years since his previous score. And what a return it is! This score sees Johnny on blistering form and has everything that you love about his music; great themes, an abundance of great little musical ideas springing forth every few seconds and intertwining with each other, exciting, dazzling action writing and complex and colourful orchestrations.

As ever, Williams demonstrates that rare ability to write music that matches the scene perfectly and still be a great listen to away from the film. He must be so immediately attuned to what a scene needs in terms of instrumentation, style of sound and pace that he can just get down to work straight away and deliver such mind bogglingly complicated music that would take others months longer to write - if they could at all without an army of orchestrators on hand! It's simply a joy to witness the end result and dispels any concerns you may have had with his nearing 80 years of age. If anything Johnny is getting better with age!

So the score starts off with a quirky jazzy number for the opening credits mainly for clarinets, harpsichord, accordian and jazz percussion. It's a somewhat out of place piece in that the style is never replicated again at any length again in the album but it is fun and introduces some of the Gallic flavour.

Next up is I suppose a concert arrangement of Snowy's theme, a fantastically fun energetic piece with a great catchy melody and exciting flurrying orchestration. It then segues into a scurrying piano development which darts all over the place and reflects Snowy's character perfectly.

Later cues introduce more character themes, some silly like the one for the Thompsons, the two dim-witted policemen and others more heroic like the theme for TinTin himself . And there are some more great themes that reach full development in the action cues.

There is a lot of action writing here and since this is one of Williams' fortes, he rises to the challenge with obvious ease. His trademark virtuosic use of the orchestra never lets up, fleeting musical ideas and motifs flit between sections numerous times a second it seems yet never seeming contrived or strained, always flowing perfectly. And he interweaves it all them with the great melodic flourishes and trademark sounds he is known for.

In this new era of the film score sound, where the minimalist scores of Hans Zimmer and his legions of clones dominate not just film but TV and adverts and where the emphasis is very much on sounds and atmosphere rather than music, it's a relief to have some real superior musical talent on display. The things this man can do with an orchestra is very special and rare and there are only really a handful of other composers I can think of who could possibly go some way to take over the reins when the time comes. But for now, we should cherish the fact that John Williams is still around and able to write to this amazing standard. And let's hope that there will soon be another paradigm shift back towards a more rounded orchestral sound where composers have to use actual musical rather than mixing talent.


No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding take on parental fears, March 14, 2012
Trying to depict the state of mind of someone who is both emotionally and mentally unstable and suffering from the after effects of a tragic event is very difficult to achieve in a cinematic language but I think Lynne Ramsay has succeeded well here. From the disjointed and fractured chronological order to the arty and surreal tone of the main character's flashbacks and visions, you get a good sense of what it is perhaps this poor mother is going through. Her mind must be all over the place, burdened by guilt and the memories of her horrid time as the mother of her nasty son. The colour red is very prevalent throughout and is something she cannot escape, from the red paint that she is forever scrubbing from her house, hands and car windscreen to the bloodbath she has to bear witness to at the end and which she will forever blame herself. The guilt and living hell will be inescapable.

There is always a danger in these kinds of films (and books) that they may not be wholly psychologically accurate and raise more questions than they answer. This film, and I understand the book also, doesn't really attempt to answer the nature vs nurture question in any serious balanced way - and how could we expect it to, that is a realm for science and psychology and something which may take decades before they are able to arrive at a more definitive answer. But art has been this way for millennia, it rarely if ever provides answers to big questions but is more about offering up one's own assumptions or take on these issues and inspiring debate.

There is a hint of a suggestion in the film that the mother wasn't quite ecstatic at the idea of being a mother (the scene in the antenatal class where she doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic) but there is never really a suggestion that once the child is born that she is anything but a good mother. The film leans far more towards the suggestion that the child was born bad and there was absolutely nothing the mother could have done about it. We see her trying hard from an early age to bond with Kevin but he seems to somehow despise her and manipulate her emotions even from a very young age - and this is where I question the psychological accuracy? Is it possible for a young toddler under two years old to despise anything and understand how to manipulate emotions in a callous way?

And in this respect, we could see the film as simply a story about the fears of parenthood from the viewpoint from someone who is not yet a parent, i.e. what happens if I have a naturally bad child who I cannot control and have a positive effect on...? And so a psychologically accurate definitive account of the nature vs nurture is beside the point but rather a story that tries to represent these fears, however irrational and they may be, is what we are engaging with.


Drive
Drive
DVD
Price: $2.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, shallow, shallow, March 3, 2012
This review is from: Drive (Amazon Video)
What a disappointment. Thought this would be a thrill ride with intelligence. However, it's just a dumb ride with one or two thrills. Look elsewhere if you want intelligence.

Basically a few car chases, slasher type gore, another hackneyed mafia-owed-money crime plot, an intrusive 80's soundtrack to make up for the lack of dialogue and another bad-guy-wants-to-settle-down `protagonist'. And that's it. Horribly shallow, devoid of anything meaningful, the men are all pathetic and uninteresting and the key female may as well be a mannequin with a face painted on for all she has to say and do in the film. Shame. No real character inspection of the main guy. Who is he? Why is he? What's his background?

The tone is confused; the retro 80's style is only there make it seem a little different, it adds nothing of importance; the violence is horribly unnecessary, graphic and nasty; it seems to want to be seen as artistic, introspective, even poetic...ha ha ha! - watch something like the terrific The Assassination of Jesse James to see how that's done.

Three stars for the enjoyably suspenseful beginning and the tense heist. After that, you may as well turn off. It starts off well and interestingly and main character seems as if he will be interesting to be around but isn't, and the whole thing soon degenerates into dumb crime gangster mafioso movie territory with only a retro styling to try and separate it.


Sennheiser HD595 Dynamic High Grade Performance Premiere Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Sennheiser HD595 Dynamic High Grade Performance Premiere Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
4 used & new from $89.00

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too quiet and was expecting more from them, July 12, 2010
The HD595's are classed as audiophile phones on Sennheiser's website but they're not really. I needed a second pair of good quality phones for my home studio and decided to get these as they were within my budget. I already own a pair of the Sennheisers HD25-1 Mk II which are fantastic and only £20 or so more expensive but I decided on these as I thought the soundstage would be larger due to them being `open' phones.

The first thing I noticed when I plugged them in is that they are rather quiet. It wasn't too much of a problem with my Cowon mp3 player as the volume goes up very high but when I plugged them into my (high end) PC, even the maximum sound level was not loud enough. It seems you'd need an amplifier to get a higher output but at a low 50 ohms, it should not take much at all to push these phones. And strangely, the HD25-1`s are 70 ohms and have no problems being played at a decent volume through my PC or mp3 player.

Secondly, whilst the sound quality is mostly good, I found the mid frequencies rather recessed and that was the deal breaker for me. Instruments that I could hear very clearly through the HD25's sounded muffled and almost nonexistent with these. And to top it off, the soundstage was not better at all, the HD25's also beat them in that department.

The good qualities are the bass which is very clear and well defined and not overly punchy and all other ranges are good but overall they're just not good enough for somebody who considers themself an `audiophile' and who wants to hear all ranges very clearly.

In the end I returned them and bought another pair of the HD25-1 Mk II's as for just a bit extra cash, they offer a far more accurate sound (they are classed as monitor headphones) with a better soundstage and work just fine off your PC or mp3 player.


The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover
225 used & new from $0.01

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The missing link!, October 5, 2009
The Greatest Show on Earth is a fascinating and comprehensive account of the wide array of evidence for evolution. It is still quite astonishing that in the US alone, 40% of the population profess to a denial of evolution as a fact, and Dawkins takes this worrying figure as his impetus, to set out straight why we can be confident in the factual veracity of evolution. As he says in his foreword, his previous books on the subject took for granted the acceptance of evolution, little realising that there would still be in 2009 such a strong need to go back a few steps in order to convince large proportions of the population that evolution really does explain the rich variety we see in nature. In that respect, The Greatest Show acts like a solid foundation for Dawkins' other works (and any book about evolution) and anyone who is still on the fence would probably be best off reading this book before any others.

As ever and as you'd expect from someone who held the post of Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, Dawkins delivers an account that is somewhat easy to understand for the layperson, effortlessly juggling metaphors to facilitate what can sometimes be quite daunting science. For instance, the chapter on embryology where he delves into the workings of proteins and enzymes I feel was greatly helped by his use of the origami analogy, or the metaphor of the police detective at a crime scene piecing together the many clues - which in turn led to the use of the spy camera analogy to explain the crafty `god of the gaps' argument so loved by creationists.

I'm glad the book began with an explanation of the word `theory' as used by scientists as this seems to be one of the most pervasive and unfortunate misunderstandings surrounding evolution and it's not solely the fault of mischievous creationists - it's not difficult to see why one would conclude that evolution is `only a theory' in the unsubstantiated sense of the word and therefore reserve their judgement on its ultimate veracity. Whether Dawkins' new term `theorum' to replace `theory' will take off remains to be seen but I think he is absolutely right that a new term is needed.

I also found many examples simply fascinating; such as the tadpole in a lab that had a small square cut from its back and grafted onto its underbelly which then grew into a frog that would itch it's back when that patch (now distinct from the rest of its underside) was tickled! (Actually I still can't quite fathom why this happens since that patch of skin I'm assuming still has its own nerve endings and I would have thought the frog would have learnt over time from where the sensation occurs - and does scratching the back alleviate the itch? Anyway, it does occur and I guess that's what matters!)

I also enjoyed reading about some of the examples I already knew about such as the laryngeal nerve and the vestigial leg bones in whales - actually Dawkins mentions in the book the Channel 4 documentary he took part in where they dissected a giraffe and removed the laryngeal nerve but on a previous episode of the same show (Natures Giants I think it was called) they did a dissection of a beached whale and uncovered the vestigial leg bones. Fascinating stuff. I also enjoyed revisiting Dawkins' full uncut interview with Wendy Wright which I think you can find on YouTube - slap the head frustrating for sure!

There is of course a whole lot more science and evidence in the book and feel it amounts to a well rounded and useful reference.

However, I do have a couple of minor issues. Firstly, when outlining the procedure for radioactive dating, I found myself still lacking understanding over one key point which I don't think was explained at all and that was how we can be certain of the fact of the decaying half-lives that are millions or billions of years. I don't doubt for a moment that this dating method is well verified by scientists but I don't recall Dawkins pointing this out, I think he said something along the lines of "...and we know that the half-life of such and such is x billion years...". It is a key point and means I'll have to do some additional research for an answer - perhaps I need to re-read that chapter...?

However my main criticism is the way Dawkins often used the imperfections inherent in nature (e.g. immense suffering, arms races between predator and prey, the laryngeal nerve detour, the eye,) as `evidence' against an intelligent designer. I am not for one minute saying that I believe there is a divine creator because as an atheist myself, I think it's unlikely but I still find this line of reasoning highly flawed if only because it presumes to know the mind / intentions / capabilities of said supposed creator. The argument also leaves itself open to a wide range of easy simplistic answers from creationists (i.e. `even if nature contains flaws anything that can create all this life is still intelligent'; `he works in mysterious ways'; `we can't understand his ultimate plan'; `maybe there are many gods creating life, some better at it than others' and `they use each other's templates'!!!) - the list could go on. I found myself wincing each time Dawkins used this argument only because I feel it is very weak in that it doesn't constitute actual evidence against a god like he seems to think it does.

Despite those two niggles, Dawkins has written another great book, full of fascination and awe. It's no doubt a much needed book and has filled the gap brilliantly - highly recommended for those who want a solid grounding in the wide range of evidence of evolution.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2009 7:17 AM PDT


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