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Daniel J. Hamlow RSS Feed (Narita, Japan)
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Perfect Hits 1975-1981
Perfect Hits 1975-1981
Offered by NBNC Enterprises
Price: $35.00
22 used & new from $4.87

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A collection of wild wild wild youth!, February 6, 2005
This review is from: Perfect Hits 1975-1981 (Audio CD)
Billy Idol and Tony James got their starts in Generation X respectively as lead vocalist/guitarist and bassist before a lucrative but brief solo career for the former and stints in Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Sisters of Mercy for the latter. Of course, there was Chelsea before this, but that's another story. Generation X was derived after the book focusing on the Mods and Rockers scene. As for the music, it shows that Idol and company held their own during the first original punk scene of the 70's, combining themes of nihilism, rebellion, and dissatisfaction with mainstream life with a ferocious guitar and steady drum attack. The irony is that they disbanded in 1981, the last year for the generation following the Boomers. That generation was also entitled X.

It's fitting that Generation X's best known song, "Dancing With Myself," from Kiss Me Deadly, which was later included on Billy Idol's self-titled debut and shot to bigger fame with the nihilistic video, leads off this compilation. The catchiest and most danceable tune, which nevertheless captures the sense of alienation of youth.

Idol and company show sheer disdain for their elders in the equally jamming "Your Generation"-"your generation don't mean a thing to me!" They show a more militant but flexible solution in getting their way: "might take a bit of violence, but violence ain't our only stance."

"Ready Steady Go" named after the 60's British TV music programme of the same name, is a nostalgic tribute for Gen X-ers who tuned into the Beatles, Stones, and the presenter, Cathy McGowan

The contempt towards a dead end existence, commentary on how one hates one's neighbours if they are wealthier, and how one is like a robot on the production line is shown on "Day By Day," with the line "living for inflation" being a reminder of that particular problem in the 70's.

Other tunes giving narratives of the punk movement include "One Hundred Punks" glorifies the punk subculture and them having their day, while the ballad "Kiss Me Deadly" relates the gang violence, drug deals, and nights at the pool hall of the life.

Their highest-charting UK hit was the #11 "King Rocker," a telling song on how Elvis and the Beatles have had their day in the 60's and aren't that relevant. The mid-song rap on "Ali buzzing like a bee" and "Elvis took a dive/waitin' for the towel more dead than alive" gives a boxing imagery of how things were going.

The more political side of punk music is captured in their cover of John Lennon's "Gimme So Truth" which should be a byword for all: "I'm sick to death of hearing things from neurotic psychotic short-sighted politicians. All I want is some truth." It becomes a mantra for the ages when they chant "truth truth truth truth." The ripping "New Order" calls for such, demanding rights as an individual.

"Never wanna be an adult/Always wanna be in revolt" is a classic punker anthem in "Youth Youth Youth," The life is the now, no future stance is given by "Don't wanna spend my life saving up for things/Don't wanna have what a steady job brings/

I don't want security/Don't want responsibility." It ends with some screeching psychedelic Hendrix-like guitarwork at the end. But don't forget "Wild Youth," whose chants of "wild wild wild youth" is accompanied by some clomping drums, also anthemic in its declaration. That to me encapsulates Gen X-wild youth.

Tony James followed this with some pretty weird punk/techno with Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and while Billy Idol had some flaming moments in his solo career like "Rebel Yell," "White Wedding," and "Shock To The System," the majority of his hits never equaled the raw youthful energy of Generation X.


Ju-on
Ju-on
DVD ~ Megumi Okina
Price: $9.28
84 used & new from $1.76

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scariest movie I've ever seen!!, February 6, 2005
This review is from: Ju-on (DVD)
Ju-On: the curse of one who dies in the grip of a powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places where that person was alive. Those who encounter it die and a new curse is born. -opening quote from Ju-On.

The phrase "emotional bloodstain" comes to mind, as the curse arising from a murder that took place five years before still besmirches a house where the Tokunaga family, consisting of husband Katsuya, his wife Kazumi, and the former's mother live. All people connected with the house will either die or disappear. The story is broken into six segments titled after the people affected by the curse.

In the first, "Rika," Rika Nishina, a student at the social welfare center, is forced by her supervisor Hirohashi to look in on the Tokunaga's, as the normal person assigned to them hasn't reported. She goes there to find the house in an absolute state, and Katsuya's elderly mother, Sachie-san, in a state of shock. However, she hears weird noises upstairs and discovers a black cat and a six-year boy named Toshio locked in an upstairs closet. But that's nothing compared to what she sees later.

Cut to what happened the day before. In "Katsuya," the husband becomes possessed by something and his behaviour changes. His facial expression is simply scary, as it's far from the usual absent-minded but nice salaryman.

"Hitomi," Katsuya's younger sister, is an office girl who has a frightening experience in the woman's bathroom at work and later her apartment. Distorted faces on the TV, Hitomi hiding in her own bed, and the low guttural croaking sound emitted by the curse-think of a Geiger Counter with strep throat, count as one of the scariest moments.

"Toyama," is the detective who investigated the original murders of the house, and is reluctantly pressed back into service by Nakagawa, the current detective in charge, while "Izumi," his young daughter, has her own experience in the house as a high school student. She and three friends had gone in that house as a dare, but Izumi, scared, left before her friends were gotten at. Izumi becomes a nervous wreck who stays in her room, blinds down and windows taped up because "they are watching." Finally, in "Kayoko," the name of the first victim, we go back to Rika and her ultimate fate.

Points of note: The story must take place during a ten year period, the beginning being the first murders, the end being the death of Izumi, as at least five years pass from "Toyama" to "Izumi". It's also in her episode that we learn the discovery of one of Rika's body, so we assume Rika was allowed to live five years longer, as was Toyama. There is a small continuity error. From the daylight streaming through the house, it's clear that it's mid-afternoon when Hitomi's message is heard by Rika. Yet when we see Hitomi making the call herself, people are getting ready to leave work, so it must be nighttime. Also, the curse is supposed to be all-pervading and powerful, so why does it need to ask Hitomi for her apartment number before it gets her?

The performers are good to watch, especially Megumi Okina (Rika), Misaki Ito (Hitomi), and Misa Uehara (Izumi), who along with Yui Ichikawa (Chiharu, Izumi's classmate) makes her film debut.

What makes Ju-On scary and vicious is that unlike Ringu, there is no spell to remove the curse, plus those innocents who get dragged into it, like poor Rika or Hitomi, are automatically doomed. The presence of the curse, embodied as a crawling long-haired woman in white dress-sound familiar?-is simply creepy, but so is the presence of Toshio, who might be a cute little kid if not for his ghost-pale complexion and large eyes. Shots of him darting away score for suspenseful moments. Most of the time, the curse is an indistinct black shadow, but even then it's pretty darn scary. People screaming as they are dragged away to their doom, and seeing the bedcovers bulge from beneath until the victim looks in to discover the creepy curse woman also provide some scary moments.

Scarier than Ringu or its descendants, Ju-On is probably the scariest movie I've ever seen. If this is a scary movie, I don't know what Scream or Friday the 13th is.


The Ring Virus
The Ring Virus
DVD ~ Eun-Kyung Shin
Price: $13.46
11 used & new from $6.23

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so Korean version is worth a look, February 6, 2005
This review is from: The Ring Virus (DVD)
The South Korean version of the Ring, titled Ring Virus for US distribution, more or less follows the Japanese original. There are the expected name changes of characters, but there are a few instances where elements of Koji Suzuki's original novel pop up that didn't appear in even Ringu. One of them involves why "Sadako" was killed, another involves her brief career in show business.

Yes, there is a journalist whose niece died from mysterious circumstances. This time, she's Hong Sun-Ju, and she is a single mother, but with a young daughter, Boram. Sun-Ju investigates the death of Sang-Mi and as it turns out, her friends, Kyung-Ah, who paged Sang-Mi before her own demise, and Chang, who was on the phone with Sang-Mi before she died. The coroner's verdict is cardiac arrest, yet Sun-Ju wonders "Why would you grab your own hair during a heart attack?" She gets some help from her colleague Kim, who'd rather go out with her. He does investigate the whereabouts of Park Eun Suh, the Sadako of this version.

Eventually, she traces things to a resort where there is a video in a plain white case, and which she watches. So who does she work with? Her partner is Dr. Choi, a quirky coroner who relies more on gut instinct rather than concrete evidence. He believes Kyung-Ah and her boyfriend died from some supernatural shock rather than some virus from a recent meteor shower. "You're playing a dangerous game, Sun-Ju. It's like nothing you've ever seen," he warns her. His laidback nonchalance gets on Sun-Ju's nerves, especially as when they search for information, he insists she does something, reminding her that she has less time than he does. He's so flippant he tells her "why don't you show the video to lots of people? You'll have plenty of helpers on your hands." Yet he sees this as "a game of life and death" and professes to a certain curiosity. Yet later, when things look hopeless, he says the only thing that scares him is dying before solving what he considers a third-rate riddle. The interesting difference is that there is no previous association between Choi and Sun-Ju as there was between Reiko and Ryuji in Ringu. And the supernatural element is caught on earlier by Choi

The familiar things in Ringu, such as the distorted photographs, ghostly apparition coming out of the TV set, the dialect, investigation into the paranormal, the trip off the mainland, and flashbacks to the past are all there. The cursed video isn't that creepy, but the differentiation between abstract images and those that are more concrete is a dynamic from Suzuki's novel that gets a mention here. Another thing from the novel played out here is that it's the four teenagers who spitefully erased the curse's solution that was on the video after the images, presumably to scare the next people watching it. If their selfish perverseness was the reason, then they definitely deserved to die.

The only other unique thing other than having a young daughter (Boram) is the idea of a hermaphrodite exemplifying feminine beauty and masculine strength in the age where cloning has been introduced. This is from an artist Sun-Ju interviews at the beginning. Later, Choi reintroduces that idea in reference to Eun Suh's medical condition, then ties that in with this: "we only know parts of reality, but we can't know the beginning or the end. That's life."

While not a bad rendition, Ring Virus suffers primarily in its female lead character, Hong Sun-Ju. She's a bit of a cold fish here, not at all personable, and one doesn't care whether she lives or dies. At least the characters of her little daughter and Choi are more fun. And some of the subtitles are introduced out of sync with the dialogue. Other than that, worth a look as a comparative study with the far superior Ringu.


Ringu
Ringu
DVD ~ Nanako Matsushima
Offered by Aarons Media
Price: $11.49
56 used & new from $0.72

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original movie stands heads above its successors, February 5, 2005
This review is from: Ringu (DVD)
The first theatrical version of Koji Suzuki's novel, as there was Ringu Kanzenban, a 1995 TV movie, is the one that inspired two Japanese sequels, a prequel, the South Korean version, Ring Virus, and oh yes, the pitiful American version with Naomi Watts. Needless to say, Ringu stands head above them.

The story's well-told by now, but let me relate it one more time. Following the death of her niece, high school student Tomoko, Reiko Asakawa, a journalist, investigates the cause. Seems like there's a cursed video that'll kill someone within a week of that person watching it. As a cute high school student tells her in a videocamera interview, "I heard that suddenly, there's this scary woman who says, `you'll die in one week." Well, in the opening moments of the movie, Tomoko tells her friend Masami that she and her friends saw a weird video while vacationing at Izu Pacific Island. It turns out that Tomoko's vacationing friends also died on the exact same day and time as her, and that one of the girls died with the same look of sheer shock that Tomoko did.

Reiko goes to the same resort, discovers a video in a nondescript blank case, watches it, and, well, gets the curse. The imagery of the video has a surreal yet eerie look, the woman combing her hair, the man with white cloth on his head pointing, the dancing Chinese characters, and that eerie scraping metal sound. To that end, she enlists the aid of Ryuji Takayama, her ex-husband who teaches either math or physics at a university. It's his analytical and logical mind that she feels can help her in this dilemma.

Ryuji watches the video and after getting Reiko to copy the video, analyzes weird sounds, images of an erupting volcano, and the character "Sada" seen in someone's eye. Their investigation leads to Mount Miharajima on Izu Oshima, which is an island inbetween the two peninsulas which encircle Tokyo Bay, Izu Hanto and Boso Hanto.

I'd call this more a suspense thriller with supernatural overtones rather than an outright horror flick. And it's a balance of appealing characters, an interesting and unique story, and low-key rather than Hollywood-style overblown style that place this over The Ring. Other than the images of the video, flashback techniques in B&W help advance the story. So does the technique used in Tomoko's death, a close-up of her fear-stricken face, a sudden reverse image, then nothing.

The tension keeps building as the date is presented onscreen, followed by a low and eerie sound, counting down the days Reiko has to live. There is hardly any incidental music to speak of, as much of the sounds are of the same low and haunting sounds. However, the thing that'll guarantee Ringu its immortality is the sight of Sadako, long black hair covering her face, dressed in a white robe, creeping out of the TV, hands with fingernails torn out, stalking her prey. This spectre has been copied or revised in Japanese films like The Hypnotist, Ju-On, its American remake The Grudge, and the Scary Movie 3 parody.

Another thing to note is the change of Asakawa to a female character, as opposed to the male Kazuyuki Asakawa in the original novel. And the distorted photographs and marks on arms is something in both the manga and here.

As Reiko Asakawa, Nanako Matsushima balances an amiable, hard-working employee and loving single mother who wants to spend more time with her son. She's definitely warmer than the Korean version's Eun Kyung Shin, who played Hong Sun-Ju as somewhat of a cold fish. Hiroyuki Sanada plays Ryuji with a stolid, curt, rational man who's intelligent enough to suss out the clues from the video. And Rikiya Otaka also does well as Yoichi, who's cute and likeable rather than creepy.

Hopefully, the original movie Ringu 2 and the original sequel, Rasen (Spiral) will come out soon on DVD to see how the Ring story continues movie-wise.


On Your Shore
On Your Shore
Price: $11.39
74 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylishly like Tori Amos, but a great listen nevertheless, February 5, 2005
This review is from: On Your Shore (Audio CD)
A few artists have been aspiring to follow in the footsteps of emotional soft vocal pop the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Kate Bush. Some like Norah Jones and Katie Melua have gone the blues/jazz route. Others like Dido include a bit of trip-hop. Then there's Charlotte Martin, whose vocals make her like Tori the Second, and whose symphonic arrangements and paced drums on the pleasant and lush mid-paced title track, "On Your Shore," make her a possible heir apparent to early-style Tori Amos and latter day Kate Bush. Comparisons to the two extend to the fact the Martin writes her own songs and plays piano. So if you like Tori Amos or Kate Bush, chances are Charlotte Martin will be your cuppa.

A quick percussive backbeat added to her soft vocals eerily adds a Berlin-like tone to the affirmative "Limits Of Our Love," where she vows never to quit and to push the limits of love. The tempo is racing, kind of like Dido's "Take My Hand" from her debut album. Some nice string arrangements by Craig Armstrong accompany Charlotte's piano in "Your Armor", a very Tori Amos-esque song if I ever heard one

Equating sunshine with being happy isn't necessarily the case, as in "Everytime It Rains," she affirms how good it is to be alive. David Campbell's swaying strings add quite a flourish during the chorus.

A bit of drum programming and atmospheric synth shifts "Steel" into the Dido direction, though the Tori-like vocal is preserved. Here, steel refers to people who feel nothing at all, with empty eyes and a heart of lies. In one verse, they can hug someone, but only so hard that they are unaware the other person can't breathe.

The condition of mental devastation is given in three songs. Some Kate Bush-like "hmmms" accompany the loneliness-derived self-degeneration of "Madman." Things go uptempo in the bridge during the apology of everything have gone wrong that made her other half building his wall, culminating in "Well, I guess I'm the sorriest of all." It's one thing to need someone, but another to get it before one becomes a soulless husk that in turn will drive the giving party crazy per "Haunted." "And if you do it, try not to be late/a hundred winters made the spring insane" and "you were here to trap me like a thousand bottled tears" demonstrate how Charlotte projects her psyche. And the vain efforts of a woman wanting a reason to live and giving without getting anything is shown in "Parade On." Telling lyric: "She's dethroned like some lonesome dusty book upon his shelf." And it is indeed easier to build a distance than come together: "parting the Red Sea is easier."

Charlotte's philosophical Taoist side comes out in "Beautiful Life," aided by a great cello arrangement. "You can't judge a sky by its thunder," she sings, adding that despite ups and downs, highlighted by "time flies, time cries" or "the sun may come up/the sun may go down," she still believes it's a beautiful life.

On noticing her cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," I was reminded of Harriet Wheeler and the Sundays, who did a Nyquil-inducing haze rendition of that song on their Blind album. Nothing of the sort here, as there's just Charlotte and her piano, giving Tori some stiff competition when she sings that well-known chorus, "Wild horses couldn't drag me away."

While some may criticize how she sounds the same throughout, it's listening to the songs and words that show that she is a talent to be taken seriously. The next Tori? Hopefully for the moment. On Your Shore is a wonderful collection of songs that display her piano, writing, and singing talents. Next time around, Charlotte will find something that will shake the Tori the Second epithet from her.


Call Off the Search
Call Off the Search
Price: $10.00
101 used & new from $0.01

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Call off the search-I found another sweet songbird, February 3, 2005
This review is from: Call Off the Search (Audio CD)
In the footsteps of Norah Jones and other new jazz-blues artists comes Katie Melua. Like Norah, she's pretty with those large dark eyes and dark hair. Melua's voice though is of a more girlish and sugary Karin Peris of Innocence Mission-ish tone instead of the crystal clear calmness of Ms. Jones. Melua, who also plays guitar, has Mike Batt as producer, writer of six songs, pianist, and organist on her debut album, Call Off The Search and uses more lush strings on her songs than Jones. For someone looking for something soothing and mellow, check her out.

Indeed, the slow melodic piano, violin, and orchestra on the title track veers more towards the jazz/easy listening side. The title has to do with now that she's found that one, to call off the search. The John Mayall-penned "Crawling Up A Hill" is more on the bluesy side, with jazzy piano arrangements that may be at home on an early Sting solo album, and bewails the tedium of a boring job, where she feels like "my life is like a slow train crawling up a hill."

"How can happiness feel so wrong? How can misery feel so sweet?" sings Katie on the melodic jewel ballad of this crown, "The Closest Thing To Crazy." The strings add to the sadness of the aftermath of an affair, where she discovers the link between "being close to craziness and being close to you."

The humorous "My Aphrodisiac Is You" is a languid piano blues tune where Katie dismisses the rhino horns, Spanish Fly, opium, rubber gloves, or the Kama Sutra, and instead warbles the title. It's a close cousin to Nancy Sinatra's cover of "Let's Fall In Love." Katie strums away on another blues-inflected tune, "Mockingbird Song," although the horns steer it more towards jazz.

Upon hearing the line "the blues will taunt you constantly when you're out in a crowd" in the café ballad "Learnin' The Blues," I remembered the Christmas holidays of 2003, the time heralding my breakdown. Yes indeed, "when you feel your heart break, you're learning the blues."

Another Norah-like tune is "Blame It On The Moon." She does a nice cover of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," which with its strings and piano arrangements, make this a highlight. And her closing tune, James Shelton's "Lilac Wine," is a haunting number, on how drinking the sweet and heady lilac wine will make one see what one wants to see, and oh yes, unsteady.

Katie writes two tunes, "Belfast (Penguins and Cats)" an acoustic guitar ballad, and her high note reminds me of Maria McKee, and her tribute to Eva Cassidy, "Faraway Voice." In "Belfast," the idea is how important it is to live, "being able to fly" unlike a penguin, and "dying nine times," in other words living it for all it's worth. As for the other, keep in mind that it was only after Eva Cassidy died of cancer in 1996 at age 33 that she found an audience. "Are you over those hills?/Do you still hum the old melodies?/Do you wish people listened?" she sings, in line with that. Another highlight. And "Tiger In The Night" is another sweet string-laden ballad that may owe as its influence the poem by William Blake, "tiger burning bright/deep in the forest of my night."

Some may dismiss her because she only writes two songs here, as opposed to Norah Jones, but Mike Batt's arrangements, Katie's girlish voice and the way she uses it to evoke the emotions of the songs, and the strings supporting her, do her justice. A great opening shot from Ms. Melua-here's someone with great potential, and maybe someone Renee Olstead should take pointers from. Keep'em coming, Katie!


Greatest
Greatest
Price: $9.00
189 used & new from $0.39

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential and important collection of the Fab Five, February 3, 2005
This review is from: Greatest (Audio CD)
Among the vanguard of the Second British Invasion of the 80's was a group dubbed the Fab Five. These pretty boys got their name from Milo O'Shea's character in the Jane Fonda cult classic Barbarella. I refer of course to Duran Duran, who during their peak years comprised of Simon LeBon (vocals), Andy Taylor (guitar), John Taylor (bass), Roger Taylor (drums), and Nick Rhodes (piano), he of the heavy makeup. But the reason why Duran Duran stood over contemporaries like the Human League or Spandau Ballet was their MTV coverage and stylish videos and that certain edge they had in their mostly danceable pop tunes.

Their first UK hits were "Planet Earth" and "Girls On Film." The first had a lively and upbeat synth backbeat much like Spandau Ballet or Berlin and is a standout. The second, with rapid-fire camera snap effects, was the group's first UK Top Ten hit, and made notable by its racy Godley-and-Crème directed video. Its chorus, where the title is sung twice in a row, the second at a lower pitch to make an accompanying and memorable couplet. But they hit pay dirt when the superbly upbeat "Is There Something I Should Know" topped the UK charts-it later hit #4 in the US. "Please please tell me now..." Oh yes!

Rio, which featured silk-screen girl album artwork from Nagel, had the title track, with a cascade of keyboards and drums, before settling into a more leisurely chorus-"my name is Rio and she dances on the sand..." But love that sax solo in the middle of it all! Also from that album, the #3 "Hungry Like The Wolf" with a guitar riff that would later become hardened in the Power Station, featured catchy hooks in the chorus, great guitar from Andy Taylor, and a running pizzicato-like synth.

Despite their hit power, they only had two US #1s. The first was "The Reflex"-remember, "whyyyyyyyyy don't you use it? Tryyyyyy not to bruise it"? Definitely one of their best songs with Roger Taylor's power drumming. The other was the title hit to Roger Moore's last James Bond outing, A View To A Kill, alternately upbeat and moody song with an airy synth, whose video had shots of DD mixed with film scenes to make it look like they were also in the movie.

Songs like "Hungry Like The Wolf", with Andy Taylor's guitar riffs, and the tribal thumping drums and grinding guitar of their #2 hit "Wild Boys" seemed a prelude to the Power Station, the Robert Palmer-led side project which Andy and John Taylor joined during Duran Duran's hiatus. When Andy and Roger Taylor left, DD did the Genesis thing-"and then there were three." Simon, John, and Nick released Notorious, whose funk-laced title track reached #2. It was slightly different from their earlier oeuvre, but when the mid-paced "Skin Trade," with its horn arrangements accompanying the usual synths, only charted at #39, it was clear DD was losing its audience. A pity, as it's not that bad a song.

Their last big hits came from their 1993 Wedding Album, which yielded a brace of more maturer and mellower singles, the reflective "Ordinary World" with a nice guitar solo from ex-Missing Person's guitarist and new member Warren Cuccurullo and majestic synths and vocals, and the moody "Come Undone" with high-pitched female vocalist singing the refrain.

The songs are not in chronological order, not too big a complaint. It supersedes their previous compilation Decade, which didn't include the two Wedding Album singles and "Serious" from their ignored 1990 Liberty album. The grinding near-techno of "Electric Barbarella" from the John Taylor-less Medazzaland, seemed to show the band ironically coming full circle-remember where they got their name from? Despite coming this late in the game, a great single by all means. The fact that the original members got back together for Astronaut indicates that despite their brief splash from 1981 to 1984, they were one of the most important forces in the 80's music and fashion scene. Take a bow, guys.


Renee Olstead
Renee Olstead
Price: $17.41
124 used & new from $0.69

19 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The arrangements and musicians are good, but..., February 3, 2005
This review is from: Renee Olstead (Audio CD)
After two little-known country albums, Renee Olstead has been revamped into a jazz/easy listening songster, courtesy of producer Dave Foster. Much of the songs here are covers and some work, some need work. Much of it has to do her voice, which is passable, but the arrangements and the overall relaxing late night jazz atmosphere of the songs make up for it.

"Summertime" from Porgy and Bess opens her eponymous album, starting with a nice piano before going full force with some sassy horns. She does one other Gershwin song, the late night chill-out of "Someone To Watch Over Me," probably the best song here, with some mellowed strings and Chris Botti contributing a trumpet solo midsong.

Another standout moment is her duet with Peter Cincotti on Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." Cincotti is clearly the superior singer here; he does piano here as well. Next up is the Norah Jones-ish "A Love That Will Last," another gem here with its nice and smooth arrangements, with Foster himself on the piano. What Norah Jones could do with this as a "Don't Know Why Part II" style song!

Her languid cover of Maria Muldaur's classic "Midnight At The Oasis" fits in one of those that could be better. Ditto for "Meet Me, Midnight," the Manilow song no less, where her improvised scat provokes some raised eyebrows and "hmmms." And what was the decision behind her uninspiring cover of Louis Jordan's "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby"? While her cover of the Vernon Duke-composed "Taking A Chance On Love" is passable, I'm expecting Jane Monheit's version to be better. Her weak voice on high notes is shown in "Sentimental Journey" best known for Doris Day's version. When she sings "seven," the strain clearly shows. Otherwise, the rest of the song isn't bad, although I'll go for Doris Day or Ringo Starr's version anytime.

Foster's production, the musicians, and Jeremy Lubbock's string arrangements are probably the best things on this album. As for the vocalist, well, let's say Ms. Olstead does an adequate job overall. Should she decide to continue her music career, maybe she should take some tips from current jazz songbirds as Kate Allyson and Jane Monheit, or listen to some of the legends such as Peggy Lee or Doris Day.


Thompson Twins - Greatest Hits
Thompson Twins - Greatest Hits
Price: $7.00
58 used & new from $2.40

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proper retrospective for the band, February 1, 2005
My first introduction to the Thompson Twins' was from the Ghostbusters Soundtrack, where their song and 1982 hit, "In The Name Of Love" from the album of the same name, was included. I was taken by the heavy synth emphasis and Tom Bailey's strong British vocals. Yet as the liner notes of the TT's compilation states, they were the anti-rock, riding the wave of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and other synth-oriented British acts that comprised the Second British Invasion.

Most of their American success was on the dance charts, as evidenced by "Lies," an archetypal 80's synth pop tune with its "lies lies lies yeah" chorus, which was a dance chart #1 and their first US Top 40 hit. Quite a cynical line, with "Cleopatra died for Egypt, what a waste of time." The UK Top Ten "We Are Detective", like "Lies" on the Side Kick album, seems tepid compared to their other oeuvre. The mid-paced synth-heavy ballad "If You Were Here" also on the same album, was also on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack, though in terms of Brat Pack movie songs, it's probably overshadowed by OMD's "If You Leave," from Pretty In Pink.

Into The Gap is considered their best album due to five songs included here, three of which entrenched them as one of the UK's biggest acts then. "Hold Me Now" another #1 dance hit, was their biggest US pop hit, peaking at #3. "Doctor! Doctor!" and "You Take Me Up," with its harmonica bits, choral group, and light calypso riffs were the other big hits.

The material from Here's To Future Days coincided with my MTV days, and videos for two of the songs here, "Lay Your Hands On Me" and "King For A Day" were my proper visual introduction to them. Sadly, their rip-roaring cover of the Beatles' "Revolution" is excluded, a pity as it's the best song on HTFD. But "Lay Your Hands," wins with the strong gospel melodies from the Eastern Harlem Hobo Choir in the chorus. Also, the songs here benefited from Nile Rodgers' production genius. The idealistic "King For A Day," with its cool guitar intro, incorporated Beatles-like whimsy by its "love is all you need" refrain towards the end.

The inclusion of the catchy but reflective "Nothing In Common," from the Tom Hanks/Jackie Gleason movie of the same name, is notable not only as an underrated hit and one of my favourite TT songs but for Joe Leeway's last contribution to the band, which left Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie as a duo, true to their name. But the song about how two people have grown further apart, lead to the more introspective material of Close To The Bone.

"Get That Love" merely made it in the Top 40, and was a good enough tune, but maybe the average listener didn't care for Bailey's take on love: "when you're picking and choosing/you wind up losing" and the pre-chorus refrain "I won't give up on love." More serious material here for sure, as was the somber "The Long Goodbye," with the protagonist "seeing my future die, my whole past as well." "When your love has gone away, it's the long goodbye" was a sure far cry from their earlier upbeat days, but the song's title perhaps reflected that it was time for the Twins to say goodbye; two further releases, Big Trash and Queer made it clear that the Twins were as relevant as Rubik's Cubes and Pacman games to the 90's. Still, this greatest hits serves as a memento to a group who made a brief mark in the early to mid-80's.


Sweets
Sweets
24 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply delicious album of pop by Ishida, February 1, 2005
This review is from: Sweets (Audio CD)
Having gotten into series anime as opposed to one-offs, I noticed that some of the theme songs were sung by Yoko Ishida, Ishida Yoko-san, if you're Japanese. It turns out she has a CD out of some of those songs as well as other numbers. They're basically lovable pop, nothing wacky or loopy like Puffy Amiyumi or Shonen Knife, but Ishida's voice is crystal clear, sweet and soothing all at once. All but one of the songs are in Japanese, but fortunately, there are both Romanized Japanese and English lyrics to the songs.

"Spring Field" is engaging pop with a grinding rock guitar that's kind of like a poppified Alanis or Avril, while "Believing" rock with a slight bit of funk thrown in, is about a relationship in transition; whether the couple will meet again is in the air. "Do you remember the temperature of our connected hands?" Ishida asks at once point.

"White Destiny" is the opening theme to the anime series Pretear-The New Story of Snow White. A techno anthem with nice synth effects and a pulsing backbeat, this is one of Sweets' delicious moments. It's a positive song, beginning with how the main character, the heroine Himeno, will "start the snow of happiness worldwide" and how she realizes the place of warm love is in one's heart, and so she'll "fill up everyone with a beautiful heart like snow."

"Proof of Life," the ending theme to "Anime TV," is an upbeat but introspective pop song, where she wonders what the purpose of existence is, what the number one happiness is. An existential turn is given when she decides "I wonder why people live/I'll accept any fate and lonesome journey, if they are all to meet you." The difficulty of life is exemplified when she also yearns to live a life without regret but can't go forward.

"Eternal Flower" or "Towa No Hana" is the opening theme to the first Ai Yori Aoshi series, and is a sweet synth ballad with moving strings, and is the other big favourite here. It encompasses the long love the main character, Aoi-chan, had for Kaoru, her first and only love-"More than anyone, more than all I'm staring at you/This feeling for eternity" and "Your smile will become my flower, for sure..." I keep playing this over whenever I'm not watching Ai Yori Aoshi.

The upbeat "Get Away 2AM" tells of a relationship that seems doomed to end, where the woman is walking alone with the song as her thoughts, while the lush swinging Pet Shop Boys meets Swing Out Sister mélange of the life and love-affirming "Fragile Flower."

"Sugar Baby Love" which is the opening theme to the cutesy "A Little Snow Sugar Fairy" series, is done both in Japanese and English renditions. Combining the dreamy ambience of the Cranberries' "Dreams," Beatles-style pop, and majestic synths, it's a song of a repressed love, where the title love is "an unrequited love and painful night." Another winning anthem, with the nice monologue "I love you, but when I see your eyes, my lips get frozen." However, there are different lyrics in the English version where she basically sings "if you love someone, don't think twice" about it.

Of nice ballads, Ishida scores with "Truth's Door" or "Shinjistu No Tobira," the opening theme to the Gunparade March series and "Thankful," another heartfelt love ballad with a slow synth drum backbeat.

Released here in July 2003, this album missed having another song by Ishida, the theme to Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi, "Takaramono" or "Treasure," which is one of the sweetest and tear-jerking songs she's ever done. Most of these songs are indeed takaramono. Ishida is simply talented, cute, and has the luck to sing the themes to some of the best Japanese anime series, as well as songs that could be theme songs or singles in their own right. Here's hoping she puts out another album of sweets, or as they say in Japanese, "amaimono" soon. And to Ishida-san, "kono arubamu wa tanoshikatta. Arigato" In English, "this album was enjoyable. Thank you."


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