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Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II (General Military)
Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II (General Military)
by Jeffrey Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.64
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sacrifice of the Malay Barrier Defense Forces, May 2, 2014
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The Japanese juggernaut that began WW II in the Pacific was a finely honed machine. Led by the Combined Fleet, the Japanese Empire went about its business of ruthlessly and efficiently rolling over the defenses of the Philippines, Singapore, and the oil-rich Dutch East Indies, and in the process attempting to isolate Australia. Jeffrey Cox has focused in on the valiant, but ultimately futile, defense efforts of the Allies to shield the Malay Barrier against the Imperial Japanese military assets that were arrayed against it.

The book is 415 pages of narrative exposition. Of course, it is work comprised of secondary resources as all of the primary players in this drama have long since passed. The author is to be congratulated for his efforts in focusing in on this lugubrious period in WW II, where the Allied powers (American, British, Dutch and Australian, or ABDA) were being knocked back on their heels day after day, month after month. Many books mention the collapse of the Malay Barrier as a predicate to the resurgence of Allied power in the Pacific displayed in such famous battles such as Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, etc. This book makes the futile defense of the Allies the center point of the work.

The supreme Allied leadership basically did not expect the ABDA to successfully defend the Malay Barrier against the overwhelming Japanese attack. What they did expect is for the meager military assets that were available be used to buy precious time to allow America to begin producing the weapons and supplying the men needed to turn back the Japanese from their conquests. As the author ably demonstrates, the combined forces arrayed against Japan were inferior in numbers, quality, lack of replacements, and most importantly, devoid of air superiority.

The inability of the ABDA air assets to even achieve local air parity is a topic that Cox returns to again and again. Indeed, any scholarly study of the first six months of WW II in the Pacific ultimately settles on the same situation. With Japanese control of the skies, the fleet and army resources committed to the defense of this large area of the western Pacific were doomed from the inception of the battle. With the Japanese air attacks preventing the ABDA naval forces from even having a reasonably safe harbor once the battle was joined, they essentially guaranteed their ultimate defeat. Logistics (being what they were in early 1942 for the defenders of this region) was the Achilles heel of the Allied forces. Replacement of ordnance, ships, men, planes, etc. was virtually impossible, while the Japanese had no such issues, controlling both the sea lanes and the air space.

In essence, the ABDA forces were asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Unfortunately, despite heroic efforts, their losses did little to upset the Japanese time table of conquest of the region. Cox outlines why the Allies were caught short of war in the arena, and then how a muddled command, flawed strategy, and poor tactics contributed to an early downfall. Cox has no inhibitions in taking to task various personages for failures (e.g. MacArthur for allowing his air assets to be caught on the ground despite a day warning about the attack on Pearl Harbor initiating hostilities, Admiral Glassford for being overly political and wanting in tactical expertise, Admiral Helfrich for being a bullying and parochial player in the disaster). However, he also balances their negative aspects with positive qualities where applicable, and so attempts to illustrate a balanced perspective. For instance, his defense of the much maligned Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman, who lost his life in the battle of the Java Sea when his flagship, the light cruiser DeRuyter, was torpedoed and sunk, is estimable.

Basically, the ABDA forces were chewed up in February of 1942, resulting in the loss of the region to the Japanese. The entire attempt at defense was simply one crisis after another. As the Japanese could attest to later in the war, when one is in a pure reactive mode, only influenced by what the opponent dictates, there is little hope of long term success. So it was in this phase of the war for the Allies. From the loss of HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales to torpedo attack by Japanese medium bombers, to MacArthur's air assets being caught on the ground by an anticipated Japanese strike, to the utter destruction of Cavite as a main naval base, to the devastating carrier air attack on Darwin, the campaign was disaster after disaster. There was no alembic for the Allies in this battle, other than the small victory at Balikpapan. Yet men went to their deaths trying to do their duty when they knew there was no hope of surcease. This last opinion is what Cox clearly believes is the noble aspect of the campaign for the Allies.

It is always heartening to witness an author express an opinion backed up by facts and interpretations of actions. Cox does this routinely throughout the work. In the end, the Allies were steamrollered by the Imperial Japanese military forces arrayed against them, and the author ably provides a cogent analysis as to how and why this transpired.

Of course, no book the length of this work is completely without error. There are several nits to pick. For instance:

1) Cox opines that Emperor Hirohito of Japan was the major impetus of force that propelled Japanese aggrandizement toward the Malay Barrier. Other works (most notably John Toland's "Rising Sun") go to lengths to explain the Japanese Emperor reigned but did not rule. Factually, the Empire was propelled toward war by a military contingent, that included Prime Minister Tojo, The Emperor acceded to the wishes of the government, but only after first demanding they go "back to blank paper" in an effort to avoid war with the United States. That type of command is far short of a ruler who desires a military conflict with the western powers.

2) Cox states that in the battle against the German Battleship Bismarck, HMS Hood took a 16" shell into her magazine which resulted in a cataclysmic explosion (page 44). The Bismarck's main battery consisted of eight 15" inch naval rifles in four turrets (two forward, two aft). There were no 16" rifles on the Bismarck.

3) Cox mistakenly describes the Japanese Army's Ki-43 fighter as a "Zero" (page 163). This was actually an "Oscar." The Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero had heavier armament, was faster, and possessed superior range to the Ki-43.

These issues aside, Jeffrey Cox has authored a well written and informative work of this dismal chapter of the opening blows of WW II in the Pacific. The men of the American, British, Dutch and Australian forces performed as best they could under the circumstances, but in the end, they knew it was a useless sacrifice. Eventually, the Allies clawed their way back and utterly defeated Japan. But at the time, the outcome of the conflict was not very certain to these men of the ABDA command when there was little hope of success, and defeats were commonplace. Although there are other books that tackle specific parts of the campaign (Dwight Messimer's book "Pawns of War" about the loss of the USS Langley and USS Pecos comes to mind), the instant book by Cox covers the entire panoply of the collapse of the Malay Barrier. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2014 6:53 PM PDT


Dell Inspiron 15 i15RV-6144BLK 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (Black Matte with Textured Finish)
Dell Inspiron 15 i15RV-6144BLK 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (Black Matte with Textured Finish)
Offered by TECHarvard
Price: $453.00
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars screen lined within 1 week!, September 16, 2013
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Screen developed horizontal line within 1 week of purchase. Windows 8 is a disaster, going to hold off replacing my old laptop for now
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2013 9:57 PM PST


Psychedelic Pill
Psychedelic Pill
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Time Around Neil Young and Crazy Horse = Average, March 3, 2013
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This review is from: Psychedelic Pill (Audio CD)
A reunion of the likes of the iconic Neil Young and Crazy Horse is normally a cause for celebration. From their first album together, "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," to "Zuma" and "Ragged Glory," this combination has been responsible for many of rock and roll's extrodinary moments. Even without the incredibly talented former Crazy Horse lead guitarist Danny Whitten (who died in November of 1972 from an overdose of valium and alcohol, as he was trying to kick a heroin habit), Crazy Horse has always been Neil's quintessential back-up band. Also, recall that two third's of Crazy Horse (the rhythm section of Ralph Molina on drums and Billy Talbot on bass) were instrumental in making Neil's 2003 underappreciated album "Greendale" in 2003 so memorable.

"Psychedelic Pill" turns out to be an uneven effort. However, since Neil Young is the songwriter and lyricist, you can't blame Messers. Sampedro, Molina, and Talbot for the shortcomings of this collection, which stems largely from many unmemorable tunes. However, Neil Young is even interesting in his less than stellar efforts, and so it is here. His unique lead guitar solos are instantly recognizable, and despite not being a virtuoso musician, his writing skills, plaintive voice, and the visceral impact of his aural assualt when he is on target has rightly made him a legend in the industry.

No, you are not going to come across songs as memorable as "Cinammon Girl," "Down by the River," "Cortez the Killer" or "Ordinary People" in this collection, but there's enough to maintain some interest with "Ramada Inn," "Twisted Road," and "Walk Like a Giant." Regrettably, the ennui is palpable in the other tunes. For instance, the first track is the 26 minute "Drifting Back," seems to be an elongated and enormous piece of sonic wallpaper, as are four other songs, outside of three mentioned above, that comprise the balance of this effort.

You can't argue with the amount of music Neil offers with this album. It clocks in at over 85 minutes, and even on CD, two discs are needed (a "red book" CD can contain, at maximum, about 80 minutes of music, versus about 47 for a vinyl LP). However, much of the material here is largely unmemorable. Also, the production is muddled. I find that ironic for a musician who is normally very protective of offering well recorded albums to his fans. Compare "Psychedelic Pill" with "Greendale," and you'll immediately hear the difference of a well recorded album and this one. Admittedly, I'm listening to this album on a high-end audio system, but in "Greendale," instruments have genuine body, and you can place them on a stage in terms of location. The dynamics are excellent, and Neil's voice is vividly portrayed. This is not the case with "Psychedelic Pill." This is doubly interesting because Neil Young (with John Ranlon and Mark Humphreys) is listed as a producer.

So where does this effort fit in the Neil Young canon? Personally, I do not find is a as egregious as many reviewers here have. However, it certainly isn't one of his classic albums. If you are enamored with Frank "Pancho" Sampedro, Ralph Molina, and Billy Talbot playing with Neil, you should acquire this album. But the material simply doesn't stand up to many earlier pairings of Crazy Horse and Young. This may not be an album you play over and over again, but it is certainly superior to much of the drivel that is being relaesed these days.


Operation KE: The Cactus Air Force and the Japanese Withdrawal from Guadalcanal
Operation KE: The Cactus Air Force and the Japanese Withdrawal from Guadalcanal
by Roger Letourneau
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.42
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Peroration of the Guadalcanal Campaign, January 3, 2013
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This book concentrates on the largely heretofore glossed over action regarding the Japanese withdrawal from Gudalcanal in January and February of 1943. The authors outline as much in the preface indicating that the only two previous books to mention this action in any detail are Richard Frank's "Guadalcanal", and Russ Crenshaw's "South Pacific Destroyer."

The historical research and detail that the authors display relative to air combat is on par with John Lundstrom's seminal works ("The First Team" and "The First Team and Guadalcanal Campaign"). They also pay homage to Eric Bergerud's excellent tome on the air war in the south Pacific in WW II ("Fire in the Sky"). The parameters of the conflict are established, along with the combat aircraft involved and the tactics and doctrine of each combatant. There is a great deal of technical detail about aircraft type and performance that may bore some, though it is important to the story to understand these details.

Technical aircraft details are largely correct (however the TBF Avenger had a .50 Browning in the power turret rather than in the nose), though there is a dearth of information on an important fighter aircraft component: combat duration. This is apart from flight radius. Combat duration is largely determined by the amount of ammunition carried. For instance, the Grumman F4F-4 carried six .50 machine guns in its battery, but they held only 240 rounds per gun versus the earlier F4F-3 which had four .50 Brownings but 450 rounds per gun. The difference was about 18 seconds of fire in the F4F-4 compared to 34 seconds of fire in the earlier F4F-3 variant. Any fighter pilot will attest to the fact that during arial combat, a 16 second difference is akin to a lifetime when you are being targeted by an enemy aircraft and are out of ammo. The Curtiss P-40s also had a very modest ammo supply, while the 37mm cannon on the P-39s held only 30 rounds. But this is a minor caveat regarding this superb work.

The book goes into deep detail on the Japanese decision to evacuate the 17th Army from Gudalcanal, and their strategy and tactics to accomplish this mission. It also illustrates the American response, which was almost exclusively the use of air assets located at Henderson Field within the US Lunga Point perimeter. The air battles were intense, and these are very well researched, outlined, and explained. The use of Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer assets to effect the night time evacuation of the starving survivors (approximately 10,700 men) of the Japanese Army turned out to be a brilliant gamble. Three runs by the Tokyo Express removed the emaciated, ragged, and disheveled IJA troops from this cauldron. The authors clearly outline why the US forces were unable to interdict these efforts, and how the Japanese successfully extracted the remains of the IJA forces that had challenged the US invasion of Guadalcanal since 7 August, 1942.

Importantly, the authors underscore the critical nature of logistics. Without serviceable airfields, experienced air maintenance crews, aviation fuel, ordnance, and spare aircraft parts, there was not much of a chance to be successful in an air campaign of attrition. Additionally, the health and well being of the pilots and plane crews was a salient issue that had an appreciable impact on the efficiency of the air stikes and fighter intercepts. The US won this attrition battle (though barely), and ultimately defeated the Japanese on Guadalcanal, and the eventually in the rest of the Solomons chain.

This book is a worthy addition to any collection of books on Guadalcanal. Roger and Dennis Letourneau are to be congratulated on an excellent work. Their scholarship, detail, analysis, and conclusions are largely above reproach. The book fills a void in the study of this landmark battle, and ultimately helps the reader to understand how the grueling six month campaign for this godforesaken island ended. It was a Japanese triumph of troop extraction in the face of heavy adversity, but one that was ultimately ephermeral in nature.


Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
by John Prados
Edition: Hardcover
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Broad Overview of the Solomons Campaign, October 30, 2012
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The Solomons camapign in the Southwest Pacific theater in WW II was pivotal. There are myriad books that cover Guadacanal, but a dearth of those that follow the entire span of action from August of 1942 to the virtual surrounding of the major Japanese base Rabaul on New Britain by May of 1944. John Prados has attempted to remedy that deficiency with his new work.

Prados, a noted expert on national security affairs, and a prolific author, has written two previous books on WW II topics; "Normandy Crucible" and "Combined Fleet Decoded." The latter concentrated on the history of US intelligence activities in the Pacific and the impact of that information on miltary encounters.

The thesis that Prados postulates with this book is that the Battle of Midway in June of 1942 was not the turning point of the Pacific conflict with Japan. The action that irrevocably turned the tide against the "Rising Sun" was the Solomons campaign. To those familar with the miltary history of the Pacific war, this is no shocking theory. It is fairly evident to even the casual student of the conflict against Japan that Midway resulted in the crippling of Kido Butai, the Japanese carrier strike force, which had a major impact on what Japan could accomplish from an offensive standpoint. The sinking of four first line fleet carriers at Midway blunted Japan's ability to project its power via the most developed naval weapon system that existed in the world at that time. However, their surface battle fleet was largely intact and they still had two fleet carriers (Zuikaku and Shokaku) available for offensive action. It was the attritional hell of the Solomons battles between 1942 and 1944 that ground down the Imperial Japanese Naval, Army, and air assets.

There are dozens of books that detail the Guadacanal invasion. These include excellent works by authors such as Eric Hammel, Richard Frank, and John Lundstrum. The recent book by Jeff Hornfischer, "Neptune's Inferno," is also an entertaining and informative read. However, none of those authors cover the entire Solomons campaign. This is where the scope of John Prados' work differs. He also spends a good deal of effort to detail the intelligence activities of the Allies that assisted them in knowing Japanese tactical moves in advance in order to effect counter measures (though they were not always successful in this regard).

In the introduction to his book, Prados states that "Islands of Destiny" is "classic military history." Perhaps military history it is, but it certainly does not deserve the self-assessed "classic" designation. The work often is superficial (e.g. the disastrous Battle of Savo Sound in which the Allies lost four heavy cruisers at the start of the Guadacanal invasion is described in a scant few sentences). The narrative is often staccato and episodic in nature. By attempting to cover everything, Prados many times gives short shrift to the battles that proved crucial in the eventual victory against the Japanese in this theater. Another weakness is that there are virtually no comments on the quality and use of miltary assets such as planes and ships, much less ground assault troops. The invasion of Guadalacanal resulted in seven major naval battles (Savo Island, Eastern Solomons, Cape Esperance, Santa Cruz, the Naval Battle of Guadacalanal on 13 November and 15 November, and Tassafaronga) between 8 August and 30 November, 1942. The treatment of these naval battles is rather lacking in depth, while the crucial land battles of August, September, and October are glossed over. Prados, at times, attempts to humanize the narrative by introducing individuals of both sides onto the pages of his work, but his style in weaving these stories into the whole is often awkward.

Of the 362 pages of narrative exposition, the first 216 concern Guadalcanal. The balance deal with the remaining efforts to wrest the upper Solomons from Japan, and the neutralization of Rabaul. That leaves 146 pages to cover the balance of the Allies movement northwest through the Solomons chain. Therefore it is not surprising the book is short on detail of the many battles that ensued after Guadalcanal was secured in February of 1943.

Prados does offer some insights into the Japanese high command that heretofore haven't been available to western readers, but in no sense does this book offer the readability and drama of narrative that authors such as the late Walter Lord or Eric Hammel display. Also, there is very little new ground that is broken by Prados. Books already exist that detail each of the major actions in this Solomons conflagration much more completely than Prados' overview, but he does cover the entire effort of the Allies to eject Imperial Japan from this island chain.

A polar opposite work from Prados' book is "Hell's Islands" by Stanley Coleman Jersey. This book is incredibly detailed on the Guadalcanal land battles, though to the virtual exclusion of the other parts of the savage campaign (air and sea). If you want an overly granular presentation, Jersey's book is your choice. Prados takes the other road, and is by necessity too topical in many areas to provide a truly insightful and interesting reading experience.

In the final analysis, Midway blunted the strategic offensive power of the Japanese Combined Fleet, while Guadalacanal acted as a meatgrinder for their land, air, and naval assets. Once that island was secured by the Allies, it was only a matter of time before the entire Solomons chain was wrested from Japanese control. The losses sustained by the navy and army of Japan were irreplacable, at time when American production was in high gear and dispensing military assets to the Southwest Pacific in increasing numbers. Given the ability of the US economical infrastructure to manufacture ships, planes, tanks, artillery, rifles, machine guns, etc. Japan had no real chance of ever winning a conflict with America. To those speculating that the Solomons camapaign was responsible for defeating Japan's empire, it is equally obvious that even if America had been defeated at Guadalcanal, it was only a matter of time before Japan would have withered under the blizzard of men and material that we fed into combat.

Of course, the Solomons campaign, which started within 8 weeks after Midway, initially caught the Japanese flatfooted. But they recovered soon enough and battled tenaciously against the Marines, Navy, and Army of the US. Both sides began to increasingly feed planes, men, and ships into the crucible until it became a sinkhole for the combatants. That we won that battle, and inflicted substantial and irrevocable losses on Japan in the Solomons actions hastened the destruction of the empire's armed forces. Prados makes the assertion that that the Solomons campaign was the pivot point upon which the Japanese Empire was shipwrecked. That may be quite true, but if had not been the Solomons in 1942, it would have ineluctably transpired there or elsewhere at a later date.

This book may confuse the casual reader, and frustrate those with in depth knowledge about the Solomons actions. While it is nice to have one volume that covers the entire campaign, it is by no means a book that will provide you with a superlative narrative, or give you the detail that some of these battles demand for better understanding.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2014 7:17 AM PST


5 1/4" White 3-WAY 100 Watt Indoor/outdoor Loudspeakers (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
5 1/4" White 3-WAY 100 Watt Indoor/outdoor Loudspeakers (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the money!, December 23, 2009
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These speakers are a wonderful value for the asking price. No, you are not going to be fooled into thinking you are listening to Martin Logans, Magneplanars, Thiels, etc. However, speakers like the Duals will normally be connected to inexpensive amplification such as low priced intergrated amplifiers or receivers. I purchased two pairs. One is connected to a Sherwood receiver, while the other pair is hooked up to a KLH receiver. Both of these receivers were under $100, yet the music reporduction on my patio and master bedroom balcony is quite impressive. These speakers weigh 5 pounds each, so there is some heft to them. I do not engage in "critical" listening with these speakers for obvious reasons, but to comment on their actual sound characteristics; the bass response is honest to about the 75HZ and then it falls off rapidly. Midrange reproduction is fine. The treble can be a bit "tinny," but when one considers the price per pair the music that emanates from these speakers is more than acceptable. Recommended.


Stand Up
Stand Up
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essential Jethro Tull, February 2, 2002
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This review is from: Stand Up (Audio CD)
I originally purchased the vinyl album in 1970. The album is quintessential Ian Anderson in his formative stage. The songs demonstrate myriad influences from hard rock, to jazz informed improvisations.
Lead guitarist Martin Barre made his debut on this disc, replacing Mick Abrahams (who left to join Bloodwyn Pig) after deciding that change in the musical direction following the first album ("This Was") did not suit his musical sensibilities. Barre's playing on "Stand Up" is masterful and rife with excitement. He's backed by the venerable rythm section of Glen Cornick on bass and Clive Bunker on drums, who provide a rock steady backbeat on every song (even when Bunker is playing the bongos, his percussion work is impressive).
Ian Anderson plays no less than seven instruments, including his signature flute. He is responsible for giving this instrument equal standing with the rock guitar in this genre of music. The songs are tuneful, and filled with memorable hooks. The playing is vital and fresh. The arrangements are superb. For the progressive rock attack, witness "For a Thousand Mothers," "We Used to Know," and "A New Day Yesterday." They are as impressive as anything Anderson wrote subsequently. Ballads such as "Look into the Sun" and "Reasons for Waiting" are enchanting.
Beware that there are some problems with the sound. These include a compressed frequency range, and buried vocals on some songs. In some instances, the sound seems quite muddled. The production was done by Terry Ellis and Ian Anderson, so it is somewhat of an enigma that the production was weak.
The orginal vinyl US release on Chrysalis in 1969 was the victim of a poor pressing. I was interested in hearing the remastered CD. Unfortunately, none of the production weaknesses were ameliorated with this re-release. Additionally, the four "bonus tracks" (Living in the Past, Driving Song, Sweet Dream, and 17 {with a Phil Spectre-ish "wall of sound production"}) were previously released on on the two vinyl disc set, "Living in the Past" in 1972. Therefore, they do not represent anything new to Tull's legion of fans.
Putting aside the poor production, this album remains one of Ian Anderson's brilliant successes. This record, and the succeeding album (Benefit), define the essential Jethro Tull sound for many fans. This was before the "formula heavy rock" of Aqualung, and the spate of "concept" albums (Thick as a Brick, Passion Play) Anderson conceived and recorded in the 1971-1975 era, before his muse deserted him almost entirely in a string of unmemorable Tull albums in the late seventies and eighties.
The combination of Glen Cornick on bass and Clive Bunker on drums were, for me, always more compelling than their replacements in the group (Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and Barrimore Barlow). Stand Up (and Benefit) showcase their considerable talents in backing Ian Anderson. Martin Barre is a superb guitarist, and his playing was never more impressive than on this record and the following album. Unfortunately, Glen Cornick left the group after Benefit to co-found the group "Wild Turkey." Clive Bunker exited Tull after "Aqualung" was recorded. The group definitely suffered as a result of the departure of these two stalwarts, despite the "technical proficiency" of their replacements.
For those Tull fans who have never heard "Stand Up," by all means purchase this CD. The songs are classic in construction and execution by the group. The signature Tull "tight as a drum" musicianship is in full evidence on this album. Anderson's lyrics are more accessible than his subsequent efforts, and the wide ranging influences evident on "Stand Up" are always interesting. The production problems not withstanding, this is a "must have." Highly recommended to the uninitiated.


Right Between the Promises
Right Between the Promises
55 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Regressive Step for FJ, October 4, 2001
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Having enjoyed Freedy's past efforts, especially "This Perfect World," and "Never Home," I was hoping that "Right Between the Promises" would showcase more of FJ at his best (captivating tunes, well crafted arrangements, expressive lyrics with plaintive vocals). This latest effort is rather disappointing.
The CD starts off well enough with "Broken Mirror" and "Waste Your Time," but then quickly trails off with a vapid cover of "Love Grows" (third song on the CD) that bogs things down. Additionally, the droning ennui of "Back to My Machine" is diametrically opposed to FJ's usually musical compositions.
This is not to say that the the album is totally unlistenable. There are several examples of the pop music Freedy can almost routinely toss off when he focuses on amalagating his lyrics with musical vehicles that are complimentary rather than subtractive. However, it certainly fails to achieve the heights reached by "This Perfect World." Also, I find the production by Cameron Greider (who was one of the backing musicians on the record) to be curiously uninvolving.
I wanted to like this album, but I find it to be a step backward rather than forward. For "die hard" FJ fans only.


The Tiki Bar Is Open
The Tiki Bar Is Open
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Songs of Sin and Salvation, October 3, 2001
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This review is from: The Tiki Bar Is Open (Audio CD)
The latest effort from John Hiatt is deceptive. Upon first listen, one may be apt to conclude that it is another fine effort, yet ultimately underestimate the craftmanship of the songs, the superb musical arrangements, and the continued lyrical poetry of JH. Several more listening sessions with "The Tiki Bar is Open" will cure one of this initial underestimation. The back up musicians are, once again, the estimable "Goners" (Sonny Landreth, Ken Blevins, and Dave Ranson), last heard with JH on "Slow Turning" some dozen years ago. The sound is evocative of that album. The producer on this effort is Jay Joyce who has handled his duties in a workman-like manner. The sound is reasonable (certainly better than on some past JH efforts such as "Stolen Moments").
This record compares favorably with anything from Hiatt since his superb 1995 release,"Walk On." That album was produced by Don Smith with another excellent group of backing musicians (Dave Immergluck, Davey Farragher, and Mike Urbano).
This record essentially underscores the fact that John Hiatt is brilliant to the point of genius in his ability to craft songs with meaningful lyrics that display raw emotion, hard fought redemption, and surpassing musicianship. The opening cut (Everbody Went Low)is a hard rocking tune that would have been at home on his 1993 release "Perfectly Good Guitar" (his most slashing rock album since 1979's "Slug Line"). However, the follow-up song (Hangin' Round Here) dials the aural attack down several notches, though it is far from a "ballad."
"All the Lilacs in Ohio" offers buzzsaw lyrics that are thrown about like confetti, all to the background of another driving rock tune with a notably infectious musical hook. "I Know a Place" showcases Sonny Landreth's searing guitar work set to a blusey rock tour de force that sounds as though it was from JH's "Bring the Family" album. The title tune of the record is more infectious than at first listen (but then again, so is this entire album), while "Come Home to You" has the same type of tuneful, masterful musical presentation (with equally as involving lyrics) as "God's Golden Eyes" from "Crossing Muddy Waters."
This is a wonderful collection of John Hiatt songs featuring exquisite musicianship, solid arrangements, and amazing lyrical excursions. I would recommend "Walk On" as the superior record, but "The Tiki Bar is Open" is an impressive effort by one of the most talented songwriters and performers to grace the landscape in quite some time. Hiatt defines the phrase "musical talent." He is a national treasure. Buy this album.


Stolen Moments
Stolen Moments
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John Hiatt - Another Underappreciated Effort, September 10, 2001
This review is from: Stolen Moments (Audio CD)
John Hiatt is one of the most articulate songwriters on the American scene, both in terms of lyrics and music. Unlike some other artists, he does not sacrifice emotion and rythmic force for melody and form. This album is widely considered the third of his most interesting trilogy; Bring the Family, Slow Turning, and Stolen Moments. Although the sound on this album (and I do mean album, as in vinyl) isn't as well recorded/produced (and Glynn Johns, a man of some merit behind the controls, was the producer) as Slow Turning and Bring the Family, it is much better than many would have you believe (and I'm listening on a high end system with tubed electronics, a Merrill Turntable, and Thiel speakers). The songs again are well written and rendered. "Seven Little Indians" is positively haunting in its evocation of Hiatt's childhood, while "Back of Mind" illustrates the alienation of the urban intelligentsia better than most other attempts at this exercise by other artists. Side two starts out with four gems, notable for both memorable musical hooks as well as Hiatt's usual acrobatic lyrical displays. I find this album much more listenable than some of Hiatt's other efforts (e.g. Little Head), but the amazing thing about JH is that even his "failures" are much more satisfying than most of the attempts by other muscians that pass for artistic musical efforts. The CD does not possess the same musical verisimilitude as the vinyl album, however I would recommend purchase of the CD if you can't find the vinyl version.


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