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Reviews Written by
B. S. Marlay RSS Feed (Sydney, Australia)

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Just Kids
Just Kids
by Patti Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.32
344 used & new from $3.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A poem to art and friendship, April 6, 2015
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This review is from: Just Kids (Paperback)
Patti Smith's book is beautiful, and moving - a poem to art and friendship. Charting her relationship with photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe from the time she bumps into him in late 60s Greenwich Village to his untimely death in the last year of the 80s, it provides a vivid and fascinating insight into the alternative New York arts scene of the times and the incredible evolution of her very unusual musical career.

This is not a biography or a rock and roll `tell all.' It is a very human memoir of the highs and lows of a friendship, a relationship and a mutual commitment to artistic vision. Smith's primary concern in this book is painting a real and complex picture of life as an artist and of Mr Mapplethorpe and her life with him in it. The atmosphere and changes of these two decades in New York, the luminaries at play in it, her childhood and adolescence before she arrived in the big city, the music scene she almost accidentally became part of through her poetry and her eventual family life outside the city are stirring and evocative backdrop.

What is quite surprising, for someone who has been a somewhat confronting artist at times, is the relative naivety and wide-eyed sense of wonder in her early story. Her prose is extremely literate and novel-like. She is deft in her portrait of Mapplethorpe as a beautiful, vulnerable soul and a sometimes selfish and difficult, conflicted person. And at the same time, she ensures she is just as probing of her own personality. Her focus is on two people, rather than on any examination of celebrity or hedonistic expose of fame - though that flavours the story without pulling focus. In the end there is something transcendent and kind of wistful about 'Just Kids'. You wouldn't even need to know who these two people are to enjoy this book. It is never anything short of riveting.

Face the Music: A Life Exposed
Face the Music: A Life Exposed
by Paul Stanley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.31
128 used & new from $11.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating and surprisingly human, April 6, 2015
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This is a fascinating, unexpected and ultimately inspiring biography in which Stanley seems to shoot for a measure of raw honesty and mostly succeeds in doing so. It is both a triumph over adversity story and highs and lows of fame tale. There are moments where he seems bitter toward or angry with certain people and where he calculatedly allows his ego to shine through. But mostly you get the impression, he is extremely grateful for everything he has and has achieved, and is striving hard in this book to be balanced, tell his story with humility (and confidence where required) while imparting some hard earned and learned wisdom.

Rock and roll excess is obviously a huge part of the story of Kiss and Mr Stanley's tome delivers on this handsomely. And while he never bogs himself down in grotty detail the way Peter Criss did in his 'Makeup to Breakup: My Life in and Out of Kiss', he doesn't dodge the bullet of his own addictive (sexual) fallibilities. The difference is that he has examined and come to terms with the aspects of his life that he seems to view as rock and roll behavioral shortcomings. At the same time, he doesn't diminish his enjoyment of them at the time or give the impression he is trying to distance himself from a past as a changed man. He charts his life and experiences as things that have made him the person he is today and he paints equally complex pictures of quite a number of the players in his life, including Gene Simmons.

The highs and lows of life in Kiss, the good and bad advice they received, and the situations they found themselves in are evocatively told, often with hilarious self deprecation. But it is the well drawn character studies, the fascinating unlikely and previously untold reflections on the home and early life of a one eared boy so driven to be a rock star, the unexpected and honest charting of the loneliness and isolation of being a mega-famous but masked and therefore anonymous rock star, and the late career discovery of additional meaning that makes this book so riveting. It is amazing to learn about his levels of doubt as he charts the creation of each Kiss album and his quest for artistic credibility within the confines of a cartoon image rock band.

This is one of the most uplifting rock biographies I have read. I could not put it down. And when I finished, I mourned that it was over. That is surely the sign of a great and very satisfying read. Highly recommended.

Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss
Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss
by Peter Criss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.50
106 used & new from $1.73

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The (well written) Simmons and Stanley done me wrong song, April 6, 2015
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For about the first two thirds of this autobiography, Criss's book is very hard to put down. I know many rock biographies are tales of excess gone wrong, but it is nevertheless astonishing to read this sort of recollection of a career and life that attained such height and fell so far. The problem, though, is that as you move into the final third of the book, you can't help wondering how Mr Criss could make so many poor financial and career decisions and whether he will ever get over banging on about what terrible people Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are. You are left thinking he is a simple, relatively uneducated and uninsightful man who was partnered with two far more sophisticated people. (And do we really need to know their penises - and many other men's - are smaller than his???!)

Nevertheless, Criss mostly charts an amazing and gripping story of mega success and wealth coming at four completely unprepared young men at breakneck speed, the terror of trying to come to grips with this sudden new life and the struggle of trying not to get lost in it. In that respect, his achievement is great. It is well written and moves at a giddying pace. The problem is that as you near the end, you never feel like he is learning from his unfortunate experiences and is always blaming someone else for bad outcomes. No doubt there is some element of truth to this, but it puts the brakes on the story and makes you lose patience with the storyteller - you move from sympathy to frustration. Its a shame, because for much of its length, it is a damned good read. But the end result leaves you wanting desperately to hear the story form Stanley and Simmons' perspective.
(3.5 stars)

Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir
Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir
by Pat Benatar
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $3.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Benatar and why she hates Chrysalis Records, April 6, 2015
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This is a rip-snorter of a rock read. Not in the vein of 'sex, drugs &...', but about the business of rock and roll in the 80s. It should have been titled "Why I hate Chrysalis Records!" I had read about their treatment of artists before this, but Benatar's memoir is gobsmacking in its charting of a sexist, misogynistic company and industry out of control. Her anger is palpable and drives this all-too-brief memoir forward at breakneck speed. This is the emphasis of the story and thus, why it is referred to as a memoir, rather than an autobiography.

At the same time, the creative decision process, the charting of the recording of her albums and the rising of her success, despite the pressures from Chrysalis, loom large in the story. They are balanced with just the right amount of personal relationship information to augment, rather than interrupt her story. It leaves you understanding the artist (who sees herself as only half of an unpublicized creative partnership with her husband), while gleaning just enough about the person so that it does not destroy the image.

I found this to be lean, fascinating and utterly unputdownable. Very satisfying indeed.

by Suzi Quatro
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.31
41 used & new from $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a fizzer..., April 6, 2015
This review is from: Unzipped (Paperback)
I am a pretty big fan of Ms Quatro. I even got her to sign my copy of this book and one for a female friend. And this gift revealed an insight into the effect the book has on an audience. I found it all a bit too emotional and heavy on 'relationship' issues and far too light on the creative process and recording of her catalogue of albums. My female friend, on the other hand, thought it was a great read and that the relationship, touchy-feely stuff, was riveting and brave.

I was dying to hear about what drove her to write certain songs, what the creative tensions were in the recording studio given the obvious influence her uber-producer, singles songwriter Mike Chapman and her image-building manager, Mickie Most. She is far clearer about their effect on her band-mates than on her. And the albums are dispensed with disappointingly quickly, with her often saying she liked certain songs she wrote, rather than explaining much about them. There are some precious creative insights for the ardent fan to grasp at, just not near enough. I also didn't get much of a sense of what it was really like to be an almost lone female in the 70s rock scene. Then there is the psychic stuff, which adds to the odd rambling nature of the second half. Interesting, though, to read her raw honesty about the devastation of things like the failure of her turn in Annie Get Your Gun on the West End and the implosion of an album she recorded in the late 90s with a French producer.

There is also the unsuccessful decision to write the book in two voices - Little Suzi from Detroit and 'Suzi Quatro' the rock star. This never really works and, by book's end, overwhelmingly makes her sound like her ego is much bigger than the levels of enduring success she retains and her generally accepted (ie unfairly overlooked) position in the pantheon of rock. A ghostwriter would no doubt have shaped the book and this device to greater effect and diffused the egotistical self aggrandizing side of it all with a greater sense of humility. As it is, her writing style is too often dismissive of things that seem like they would have been momentous personal or creative events and often too conversational and slightly ungracious.

It is a shame, because this is an interesting life. Her achievement is probably to graphically and honestly illustrate that she was nothing like her hard rocking image, but rather, a sensitive fallible woman working hard to keep her family relationships on an even keel and to salvage and hold together a once extremely successful career. This is harsh - but for a big fan, I was surprised how bored I was at times. In the end, it just feels like her story could have been told a whole lot better with some strategic outside help.

Stuart Adamson
Stuart Adamson
by Allan Glen
Edition: Paperback
4 used & new from $473.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory skim across the surface, April 5, 2015
This review is from: Stuart Adamson (Paperback)
I have to say, as a huge Big Country fan, I was quite disappointed by this book. Its primary flaw is that Mr Glen clearly sees his subject through rose tinted glasses - a man who could do no wrong. After a while, the sycophantic approach starts to become very irritating. Some of the greatest discoveries about an artist come from insights into their failures - which rarely happens here. There is precious little critique. You get little understanding of what drove Stuart Adamson as a songwriter. You also get the feeling the book is cobbled together from magazine articles because there are few contributions from other parties such as band members, producers, friends etc. In the end, I was left thoroughly frustrated and sad that the man didn't write his own autobiography before he died. One of the most unsatisfactory rock biographies I have read. Andy B Andy and Paul Mansell's reviews provide more detail in this regard.(2.5 stars)

Rebel Heart [Deluxe Edition][Explicit]
Rebel Heart [Deluxe Edition][Explicit]
Offered by iooo
Price: $10.99
66 used & new from $5.85

24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling lack of ambition and spark, March 14, 2015
Somewhere in the sprawling mess of 19 songs in the Deluxe Edition of Rebel Heart there is a very satisfying, not quite up to par, ten track approximation of a Madonna album of old. But, interrupted by the dross that is Madonna trying to incorporate modern commercial dance and hip-hop trends and trying to compete with the successes of much younger artists who now dominate the US and other charts, it is disconcertingly hard to find.

Less so than in her previous 21st century albums, the problem here is still that Madonna has become lost trying to follow when once she was so powerfully one of the main leaders in the dance-pop recording world. When modern styles emerge and overtake you, surely the most elegant thing to do is let them do so and stick to what makes you great - unless you can harness them to great effect and make a comment or enhance your sound in an individual trademark way. When you simply imitate, as Madonna too often does here, you end up coming across as desperate, embarrassing and awkward (and, sometimes, funny) - a (much) older person stupidly trying to compete with the younger experts.

To wit, you end up recording crap like Unapologetic Bitch, Bitch, I'm Madonna, Holy Water and Veni Vidi Vici. And when you are preoccupied with competing on that level, you end up under-writing and coming up with repetitive, same-sounding melody lines and simplistic too-obvious lyrics - another problem on this album. And sometimes your cynically inserted guest rap break far outshines your own song!

That said, there are some great moments on Rebel Heart, including the title track, which doesn't even feature on the Standard (clean) edition. The set starts off and maintains - unfortunately, only in fits and spurts - stylistic influences from Spanish rhythms and sounds. There are also tantalizing echoes of Madonna's golden age (True Blue to Bedtime Stories) in the melodies, arrangements and pop variations. But, despite obvious talent, Madonna's artistic success has always been mightily dependent on her production partners. And here, without her golden age collaborators, like Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, you are left with the feeling that everything is a little undercooked, failing to ever really soar - particularly in her curiously unabandoned, overly cautious vocal performances. You are left with what could have been¯.

To my mind, the real Madonna album lurking in the bloat is made up of: Living for Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Illuminati, Hold Tight, Joan of Arc, Iconic, Heartbreak City, Body Shop, Inside Out and Rebel Heart. Apart from the unexciting production, that would have been a startling return to form. In the end, with the desperate need to be part of the pack, the over-long song list, and without that sparkling Leonard-Bray style polish, there is both too little ˜rebel" and too little ˜heart".

The best albums are tight ten or eleven song sets of varied styles and tempos, brilliantly executed and tied together by an overarching artistic or musical vision. They feel like they end too soon and breathlessly leave you wanting more. Once upon a time, Madonna used to know that.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2015 8:22 AM PDT

Skullcandy Smokin Buds 2 Mic (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Skullcandy Smokin Buds 2 Mic (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by BEKIWO
Price: $32.99
5 used & new from $24.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit tinny, good bass, March 13, 2015
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Bit tinny, but good bass and a nice full sound if you position them in your ear properly (which I achieved by using the sofgt ear insert from my dud Sony buds instead of these inferior black ones).

Sony MDREX15LP Fashion Color EX Series Earbuds (Black)
Sony MDREX15LP Fashion Color EX Series Earbuds (Black)
Offered by PHOTOTECH
Price: Click here to see our price
51 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor volume, poor bass, October 26, 2014
Very disappointing. though the sound is crisp and clear, they are very quiet - I have to turn the volume up almost all the way to enjoy the music. The bass/ bottom is frustratingly slight. Quite trebley - though not, as I have found, as lacking in bottom as skullcandy smokin buds or duobuds. They fall short of the ear buds that come with ipods and iphones. One plus is that the silicon ear sealers do manage to block out wind, traffic and gym music quite nicely. However, my advice is to avoid at all costs! There is better value at this price. (And in Australia this price is $30!!!)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2015 6:42 AM PDT

Price: $10.99
149 used & new from $3.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heart pumping rock and roll, September 1, 2014
This review is from: Monster (Audio CD)
With ‘Monster’, Paul Stanley – in the producer’s chair for the second time in a row -continues to draw Kiss back to their essence and even manages to improve on 2009’s long-overdue return to form, ‘Sonic Boom’, with an exciting, high energy set of heart-pumping rock and roll.

‘Monster’ ends up sounding even more like a 1970s Kiss record than its predecessor, but with just enough subtle 21st century flourishes to prevent it from sounding like a museum piece. Writing credits stay within the band with lots of co-writing between members stopping it from falling into the Stanley vs Simmons trap that made their 80s releases both schizophrenic and disappointing. All the band members sing and back one another once again, as they did on ‘Sonic Boom’ an in their heyday.

The pace is relentless with no interruptions from ballads or arty indulgences. It has the onslaught of ‘Destroyer’ combined with the simple rock and roll drive of ‘Dressed to Kill’. And – finally – Kiss find the courage to put out an album without an obligatory third rate attempt to rewrite ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’!

The best moments are, as is often the case, provided by Stanley’s writing and vocals (even if he sounds older and croakier). But Simmons is not far behind and the other two convincingly capture the spirit of the long departed original members with some bravura singing. Tommy Thayer is even a co-writer on three quarters of the album.

‘Hell or Hallelujah’ serves as a great ‘modern’ Kiss 4x4 opener, smashing into ‘Wall of Sound’ followed by another Stanley highlight and slight style update in ‘Freak’. An affirmation for the outsider, it could easily have imploded into naffness, but manages to become one of the most infectious tracks on the album. ‘Back to the Stone Age’, ‘Shout Mercy’ and Long Way Down’ continue the pulse-racing drive of proceedings’. Utilizing enough tempo, style and rhythm changes to keep everything pumping, the set rocks through to see proceedings out via a high energy ‘Frehley’ track – ‘Outta This World’ – the hilarious nautical double entendres of ‘Take Me Down Below’ and the show-stopping ‘Last Chance’ before silence finally provides the chance to draw breath.

This isn’t high art by any means. But it is high energy, polished, melodic, heavy rock and roll. It might not grab you at first, but give it a few spins. You might just find it gets your heart racing! And that is no small achievement for a band that has been at it as long as Kiss have. (3.5 stars)

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