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B. S. Marlay RSS Feed (Sydney, Australia)
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Sony MDREX15LP Fashion Color EX Series Earbuds (Black)
Sony MDREX15LP Fashion Color EX Series Earbuds (Black)
Price: $11.12
49 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 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!!!)


Monster
Monster
Price: $9.00
96 used & new from $1.53

0 of 1 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)


Blondie 4(0)-Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux / Ghosts of Download [2CD/DVD Combo]
Blondie 4(0)-Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux / Ghosts of Download [2CD/DVD Combo]
Price: $19.88
43 used & new from $11.57

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts of their former selves, August 31, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Blondie's 2014 output has little resemblance to the band in their 1975-82 heyday. I suppose that is to be expected and should be no surprise. However, it is hard not to listen to this latest release from Harry, Stein, Burke and Co and not think they are at extreme pains to ignore their back catalogue and the styles and cool street smarts that made them both legendary and enormously memorable.

A few years back they released the scattershot `Panic of Girls' which began with a few tracks that echoed the song-writing legacy of Deborah Harry, Chris Stein and former member James Destri before devolving into the highs and lows of what felt like disconnected world music territory. But while `Ghosts of Download' is a far more cohesive set that is far less all over the place than its predecessor, its highs fail to match those of `Panic' and its lows (except for the uninspiring cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's `Relax') are far less grating.

The emphasis on this outing is firmly on dance rhythms and ethereal floating vocals. This serves to unite the various world music leanings. But the low tones of Deborah Harry's gorgeous voice have largely been abandoned here, as has any hint of her former punk/ new wave sneer and attitude. This is all lilting dance pop with coldly sparkling synth finishes - a far cry from the irony, drama, humour, wit and surprises of their 70s/80s recordings, `No Exit' and `The Curse of Blondie' (or even Harry's superbly edgy 2009 solo `Necessary Evil').

More songs like the atmospherically moody `Winter' and Stein's slightly sinister `Backroom' would have served to make the intoxicating burst of high disco in `Mile High' stand out on this album the way `Atomic' did on `Eat To The Beat', `Rapture on `Autoamerican' or `Heart of Glass' on `Parallel Lines'. As it is, it is blurred in the wash of so many other songs that are simply too similar to it to make it any real breakout surprise. Perhaps this is a symptom of most tracks being written by Stein-Harry-(producer) Saltzman-Hawkins when earlier albums featured a host of compositions from different band members and other contributors. To this end, keyboardist Matt Katz Bohen's `A Rose By Any Name', in which Harry duets with The Gossip's Beth Ditto, is a standout.

A year or so before this, the band released four great tracks through their website - the heavy and ghostly `Bride of Infinity', the sad addictive lament of `Dead Air', the buoyant `Practice Makes Perfect' and an ice cool version of David Essex's `Rock On' (light years ahead of this album's drab choice of `Relax'). All would have elevated `Ghosts of Download' by their inclusion and made it feel more like a real Blondie album, rather than some sort of pleasantly light dance side project recorded for club kids.

The `Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux' disc seems to be a missed opportunity to re-interpret their past songs, as they did with `In The Flesh' on the 2006 `Sound and Vision' package. As it is, they are just inferior rerecordings. The live DVD is a great memento of their early years.

In terms of satisfaction and credibility, the closest comparator in the band's career for `Ghosts of Download', I would say, is Harry's solo `Rockbird'. Though there are no bad songs on this disc, like ghosts, they all disappear a bit like fairy floss. (Jimmy Destri and Mike Chapman, where are you? Come back!!!)


Eat to the Beat
Eat to the Beat
Offered by MEGA Media
Price: $38.04
16 used & new from $8.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Blondie's defining masterpiece - it doesn't get any better than this!, August 29, 2014
This review is from: Eat to the Beat (Audio CD)
When you hear 1978's `Parallel Lines', it is hard to believe Blondie could top it. But a year later, they did. From the energetic drum rolls and simple opening new wave lead guitar strains of `Dreaming' to the closing bars of `Living in the Real World' twelve songs later, the drive and energy of Blondie's crowning achievement, `Eat to the Beat', never lets up. And it was further revolutionary at the time because they made a video clip for every song, included on the second disc in this outstanding collector's reissue.

Producer Mike Chapman seems to have taken a different approach on this follow up to his massively successful first album with the band. `Eat to the Beat' has a sense of abandon all the way through. It's completely irresistible pop new wave onslaught almost manages to make `Parallel Lines' sound calculated and lumbering by comparison (which, of course, it definitely isn't!). It is a culmination of everything they accomplished on that record - all the influences and ideas that had characterized their style on their first three albums ... amped!

Everyone is in top form on `Eat to the Beat', from musicianship to vocal performance to song-writing (of which everyone but drummer Clem Burke contributes) and, of course, the stellar thumping-60s-girl-group-crossed-with-new-wave production. Burke might not be a writer on this one, but his drumming is the centrepiece around which the entire record is built. On `Eat to the Beat', he comes into his own.

On this fourth outing, guitarist Chris Stein and keyboardist Jimmy Destri crystalize their roles as the two major stylists in the band. When you think of the overall sound of `Eat to the Beat' it is their writing that defines it (often with Deborah Harry, who co-wrote three quarters of the tracks). Stein is behind the 60s pop rock of `Dreaming', the rhythmic funk rock onslaught of `The Hardest Part', the reggae of `Die Young, Stay Pretty' and the wafting slow melodrama of `Shayla'. At the same time, Destri is responsible for the gorgeous strains of `Accidents Never Happen', the delirious 60s girl group pop of `Slow Motion', the new wave disco explosion of the timeless, career-defining `Atomic' and the closing New York punk of `Living in the Real World'. But it is the incredible departures, co-written by Harry with other band members that make the whole package of `Eat to the Beat' so memorable. With guitarist Nigel Harrison, she crafted the anthemic `Union City Blue' and with bassist, Frank Infante, the hysterically tortured hard rocker, `Victor'.

`Eat to the Beat' is so fantastic, it leaves you breathless. It is the band's crowning achievement, bringing everything together in one prefect 45 minute blast. It is a shame it has had to spend its life in the shadow of its predecessor - but that makes it such an incredible discovery for the uninitiated.


Driving to Damascus
Driving to Damascus
9 used & new from $28.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Great, emotional final album, August 29, 2014
This review is from: Driving to Damascus (Audio CD)
It is always great to go out on a high, and for what would tragically be Big Country's final album, they certainly achieved that - creatively, if not commercially. With 1999's `Driving to Damascus', they took and developed the sound that had stamped 1995's underwhelming `Why the Long Face' and polished it up with superbly nuanced lyrics, great choruses, stacks of hooks and beautifully textured production.

Rather than the outraged howl about the paradoxical world of the United States which characterized their excellent 1993 hard rock album, `The Buffalo Skinners', `Driving to Damascus' tries to get under the skin of their new country, delving into its mythos. Where their first four albums tell stories and draw on sounds inspired by the soaring landscapes and wild heroic history of Scotland, `Driving to Damscus' is the culmination of their next four albums, doing the same thing with their far younger, adopted land of the US, drawing from its wide open spaces and its contradictions. Stuart Adamson's lyrics, along with the band's sound, achieve this astonishingly well (even if his decision to try and Americanize his accent, not only doesn't work, but tends to distract slightly from the album's greater achievements).

The title track opens the set to the mad strains of an ominous, almost hillbilly, guitar fused to a wall of sound invoking the spirit of T Rex, as we journey into a chance meeting with a stranger on a ghostly, biblical journey down a dusty highway. It's an introduction that dramatically and metaphorically sets the tone for the emotional, social and political landscape of the ensuing 11 songs. Among the many high points, `Perfect World' is a dizzy, almost psychedelic, 60s-styled rocker about looking for perfect love. `Fragile Thing' is beautiful, nigh on perfect, mid tempo folk-pop foray into the regret of lost love, where Stuart Adamson is stunningly backed by the haunting vocals of fellow Scotswoman, Eddi Reader. And while the Texan twang of `The President Slipped and Fell' charts the trashy America of the likes of The National Enquirer and the Jerry Springer Show, the sweet melody of `Trouble the Waters' belies its dark and violent underbelly which could enable the likes of the race-hate murder of James Byrd Jr, the gay-hate murder of Matthew Shepard and the Columbine massacre to take place - "Painless violence, Daddy's silence, Feed the glamour of drugs and guns".

The original album was released on Track Records in 1999 and reissued by SPV in 2000 with four excellent additional tracks. Hearing these, it is hard to understand how they were not included the first time round. `This Blood's For You' and the awesome `I Get Hurt' are particularly impressive.

Buried beneath the Americana of this music, which is entirely convincing, it is possible to hear the ghost of the Big Country of old. The rhythms, the lyrical poetry and the passion are there. It is a fine testament to, not only this band, but the talents of Stuart Adamson. In fact, with its metaphysical moral and emotional undertones and its cover art, with the band's backs to the camera as they walk toward a country church, it is hard not to sense an odd finality to it.

A fine album in its own right, `Driving to Damascus' is one that anyone with even a passing interest in Big Country should not be without - just don't expect to hear any bagpipes.


Driving to Damascus: Expanded Edition
Driving to Damascus: Expanded Edition
6 used & new from $110.22

5.0 out of 5 stars Great, emotional final album, August 29, 2014
It is always great to go out on a high, and for what would tragically be Big Country's final album, they certainly achieved that - creatively, if not commercially. With 1999's `Driving to Damascus', they took and developed the sound that had stamped 1995's underwhelming `Why the Long Face' and polished it up with superbly nuanced lyrics, great choruses, stacks of hooks and beautifully textured production.

Rather than the outraged howl about the paradoxical world of the United States which characterized their excellent 1993 hard rock album, `The Buffalo Skinners', `Driving to Damascus' tries to get under the skin of their new country, delving into its mythos. Where their first four albums tell stories and draw on sounds inspired by the soaring landscapes and wild heroic history of Scotland, `Driving to Damscus' is the culmination of their next four albums, doing the same thing with their far younger, adopted land of the US, drawing from its wide open spaces and its contradictions. Stuart Adamson's lyrics, along with the band's sound, achieve this astonishingly well (even if his decision to try and Americanize his accent, not only doesn't work, but tends to distract slightly from the album's greater achievements).

The title track opens the set to the mad strains of an ominous, almost hillbilly, guitar fused to a wall of sound invoking the spirit of T Rex, as we journey into a chance meeting with a stranger on a ghostly, biblical journey down a dusty highway. It's an introduction that dramatically and metaphorically sets the tone for the emotional, social and political landscape of the ensuing 11 songs. Among the many high points, `Perfect World' is a dizzy, almost psychedelic, 60s-styled rocker about looking for perfect love. `Fragile Thing' is beautiful, nigh on perfect, mid tempo folk-pop foray into the regret of lost love, where Stuart Adamson is stunningly backed by the haunting vocals of fellow Scotswoman, Eddi Reader. And while the Texan twang of `The President Slipped and Fell' charts the trashy America of the likes of The National Enquirer and the Jerry Springer Show, the sweet melody of `Trouble the Waters' belies its dark and violent underbelly which could enable the likes of the race-hate murder of James Byrd Jr, the gay-hate murder of Matthew Shepard and the Columbine massacre to take place - "Painless violence, Daddy's silence, Feed the glamour of drugs and guns".

The original album was released on Track Records in 1999 and reissued by SPV in 2000 with four excellent additional tracks. Hearing these, it is hard to understand how they were not included the first time round. `This Blood's For You' and the awesome `I Get Hurt' are particularly impressive.

Buried beneath the Americana of this music, which is entirely convincing, it is possible to hear the ghost of the Big Country of old. The rhythms, the lyrical poetry and the passion are there. It is a fine testament to, not only this band, but the talents of Stuart Adamson. In fact, with its metaphysical moral and emotional undertones and its cover art, with the band's backs to the camera as they walk toward a country church, it is hard not to sense an odd finality to it.

A fine album in its own right, `Driving to Damascus' is one that anyone with even a passing interest in Big Country should not be without - just don't expect to hear any bagpipes.


Peace in Our Time
Peace in Our Time
38 used & new from $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing fourth album, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Peace in Our Time (Audio CD)
Fourth time out, Big Country changed producers again, turning to Peter Wolf. Formerly of the J Geils Band (80s hit, `Centrefold'), he had produced albums with big hits on them for Wang Chung (`Everybody Have Fun Tonight') and Starship (the abominable `We Built This City'). No surprise that Wolf's big echoey, backing harmony-heavy approach does not work for The Bigs. Though, it is not all his fault. Most of the songs on `Peace in Our Time' are on the weak side. And five years after it was introduced by the band, the Scottish lilt trademark sound, which characterizes a number of the tracks in this set, had become crunchingly dull.

`Peace in Our Time' seems to find Big Country in transition, confused about what they should do with their sound for rest of their career. Adamson's mythically romantic lyrics of heroism and landscapes are well represented, just as they were on `The Seer' and `The Crossing', but there seems to be a desire near the end of the record to weight things down with a touch of the social consciousness of `Steel Town' - on `In This Place', he sings, "The supermarket needs the land, And I have no rights", while on `I Could Be Happy Here', "But I see what is done in my homeland, I see what is done in my name". Either way, Wolf's cold production does neither style any service. There is also an effort, on a few of the songs, to create a broader sound than they had previously. Unfortunately, it all comes off sounding a bit too earnest - particularly with Adamason's unfortunate decision to start Americanizing his accent, which would prove more erroneous on later albums.

The slow `I Could Be Happy Here' and `In This Place' are by far the best songs. Though the opening single, `King of Emotion', with its thudding guitars and sense of space is reasonable. The hard grinding rock of `River of Hope', which prefaces the sound they would later adopt, is commanding if you ignore the trite sing-along chorus. The rest is, unfortunately, quite forgettable, though 'Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys)' might have been better with more sensitive production.

Given the sweeping exuberance of their previous album, `The Seer', `Peace in Our Time' was not only a sad disappointment, but felt so stale it threatened that their creativity had become exhausted.

This is probably only for completists (and people who appreciate truly fantastic cover art!)


Curse of Blondie
Curse of Blondie
Offered by drum_video_games
Price: $8.91
42 used & new from $0.32

3.0 out of 5 stars Unnecessarily over-produced pop sounds harsh, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Curse of Blondie (Audio CD)
Four years after their excellent reformation album, `No Exit', Blondie returned with the breathtakingly overproduced `The Curse of Blondie'. In fact, the production is so ear-bleedingly full of cold, hard edged synths, steely heavy guitars and general crashing that it is easy to overlook the fact that most of the songs are actually pretty good. This recording is also so over-precise that it leaves no room to capture the spontaneity of the six albums from the band's first career, and certainly no room for the lower east side grit that nicely infused `No Exit'.

Of the 14 songs, three seem like they are from another artist, let alone another album - `Magic (Asadoya yunta)' is an update of a traditional Okinowan (Japanese) folk song, while `Desire Brings Me Back' and `Songs of Love', written by avante garde jazz saxophonist, Gretchen Langheld, would be far more at home on one of Deborah Harry's artier side projects. As it is, `Magic' simply serves to interrupt the flow of the album and the other two just seem tacked on the end - a shame, because in other company they would have sounded like the great songs they actually are. Here, they are just annoying.

The album opens with the grungy metal rap verse and angelic chorus of `Shakedown', a track intended for `The Sopranos' TV soundtrack. It is harsh and not entirely convincing, but it is followed by the infectious, if slight, Eurofluff of `Good Boys'. Harry and Stein again co-write with New York author, Romy Ashby on a number of songs, including the ode to Joey Ramone, the lovely lilting `Hello Joe'. Other highlights include Jimmy Destri's `Rules for Living', the awesome new wave punk onslaught of `Golden Rod' and the haunting Destri/Harry composition, `Diamond Bridge', which should have been the album's closer. The remainder includes a silly tune about the Vincent Price film, `The Tingler' and the ok but forgettable `Undone'.

The trouble with `The Curse of Blondie' is you can't help thinking that everything would have sounded so much better and far more faithful to the Blondie sound, had their old producer, Mike Chapman (Suzi Quatro, The Divinyls, The Knack, Pat Benatar) - or `No Exit's' Craig Leon - been in charge. As it is, the awful production of Steve Thompson (he produced bands like Anthrax, The Rollins Band and Korn, for God's sake!) brings an unnecessary harshness and aggression to the project, drowning many songs in noise and absolutely ruining others (Destri's foreboding `Last One In the World' almost becomes heavy metal!). It all serves, sadly, to reinforce the fact that Blondie's charm was always their lightness of touch. (3.5 stars)


Along Came a Spider
Along Came a Spider
Offered by IMS Distribution
Price: $15.54
12 used & new from $6.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit thin, buts its amusing, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Along Came a Spider (Audio CD)
Alice is back again, but his form is slipping just a little bit. After the virtuosity of his first four 21st Century albums, `Along Came a Spider' is a much simpler affair. Here, his lyrics are, by comparison, sadly one-dimensional. Though, his humour is as healthy as ever. And, as a sequel of sorts to `Welcome to My Nightmare' - picking up the story of Steven some 28 years later - it would be easy to call it a disappointment.

But that would be ignoring the fact that `Along Came A Spider' is 1) a lot of fun and 2) much better than most of his muddled work from the 80s and his post `Nightmare' soft rock adventures in the late 70s.

Gone is the industrial metal of the brilliant `Brutal Planet' and its successor, `Dragontown', and the punk-tinged garage celebration of `The Eyes of Alice Cooper' and `Dirty Diamonds'. On the more theatrical `Spider', Alice has somewhat lazily headed back into straight-forward metal territory, though he has kept the melody and genre-tapping style-hopping of `Dirty Diamonds' intact. And this tends to both elevate the record and echo the concept albums from his past.

We begin with a spoken word prologue in which the diaries of an escaped killer have been found. Then Alice, playing the serial killer, rocks us through a seeming cat and mouse, man-on-the-run game. But it winds up right back in the asylum, where he melodically toys with the thought of Christian salvation before withdrawing into his apparent delusion that he is a spider (the Black Widow?) in `I Am the Spider'. Finally, the whole thing wraps up with a rather unimaginative and perfunctory epilogue (the most disappointing aspect of the record).

None of the songs are bad here. They are just a bit shallow and prone to repetition. `Vengeance is Mine' features Slash in a catchy, but rather standard metal onslaught. `I Know Where You Live, `Wake the Dead', `Catch Me If You Can' and `The One That Got Away' are fairly straight up-and-down rock songs. And `I'm Hungry' sees the tongue-in-cheek approach shoot straight into high camp farce, abandoning any notion that there is anything serious happening on this outing. The slow, 60s styled ballad, `Killed by Love' is a definite high point.

It is hard to ignore the feeling that Alice has rushed this one out. There is a great theme here, but it is never fully explored and it lacks the intrinsic perversity that characterized the early band and solo artist recordings. As an unchallenging slab of comic-book rock, however, it's a definite hoot.


Quatro
Quatro
9 used & new from $23.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Rock: Disappointing second album, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Quatro (Audio CD)
With a string of big hits and a successful first album making the leather-clad, pants-wearing Suzi Quatro pretty much a household brand for rock and roll rebellion outside of America, the pressure was presumably on to produce another rocking screamer that would continue the momentum. The result - 1974's `Quatro' - is, like many "difficult" second albums, disappointing.

Though again sporting slick rock production and a number of compositions from the Mike Chapman/ Nicky Chinn team, this effort sadly replaces the song-writing of Quatro and guitarist Len Tuckey with a host of covers of 50s and 60s staples - though they are, admittedly, stirlingly executed.

Chapman and Chin contribute the rockers, `The Wild One', `Too Big', `Savage Silk' and the bubble-gum stomp of `Devil Gate Drive', all of which Quatro commits to with screaming melodic zeal, while adding three more big hits to her catalogue. But the covers are mostly too boringly chosen to really showcase her talent. `Keep A-knockin', `Trouble' and `Shot of Rhythm and Blues' tend to leave her sounding a bit like a female Elvis impersonator.

Though, `Move It' is a driving, adrenaline-fuelled rocker and the soulful rendition of `Hit The Road Jack' is an unexpected and brilliant surprise. While Quatro/Tuckey were not at their rock best with the boogie-styled `Klondyke Kate' and `Friday', the heart-achingly tender ballad, `Cat Size' is not only a high point, but it helps make `Quatro' worth a purchase.

The whole thing has an update-the-50s-with-a-modern-70s-polish feel. But, other than in her obvious powers as a rock interpreter, `Quatro' lacks any real stamp of Quatro as an artist. In fact, its dearth of self-penned work, in addition to the continued pro-written singles, is probably one of the major reasons rock commentators discount her as a serious artist.

There is an excellent British remaster of this available now (Quatro), complete with five b-sides and additional singles from the period. It is a much better buy.


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