I Like Blue
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So, here we are, the smoking ban is now in force and we are now told by our beloved Nanny State that we are now living in a healthier England.
I am a smoker, yes, but Ive also been a non-smoker. In principle I agree with the ban but I feel there has been way too much sensationalism, scare tactics and misinterpretation of what this latest ban actually means.
What really frustrates me firstly is how badly this ban is misinterpreted as a ban on smoking in public. This would indicate, and has been perceived by many people Ive met and/or know who dont smoke, that smoking is not allowed anywhere at all, especially out in public, including open spaces. The ban is quite clear in stating that it is restricted to enclosed public places including pubs, clubs and in the workplace.
As a smoker I am still allowed to smoke outside but that doesnt mean I am going to be irresponsible about it and flaunt my now restricted choice of lifestyle. I try, and always have done, to be careful where I smoke as Im sure many other smokers do.
The thing about this ban is that, especially for a lot of smokers if not all, this is nothing new or out of the blue. There has been a gradual ban on smoking over many years; this ban in particular is the final piece of an ongoing anti-smoking legislative procedure. For example where I worked (I am now in the process of changing careers) there has been a ban on smoking inside our building since 2000. I also like to eat out occasionally and nearly every restaurant Ive been to have had a smoking ban for a number of years already. So you see Im already used to a smoking ban. In fact for me personally this latest piece of legislation doesnt really affect me as I rarely stand at bus stops, go drinking in pubs or even go clubbing. Im sure Im not the only smoker in England where this latest ban will have little or no difference.
Although a smoker, like I said at the beginning, in principle I agree with the ban, and it is nice to eat in a restaurant or drink in a pub/club in a smoke-free atmosphere. I also agree that the smell of cigarette smoke isnt nice at all and if I dont really like it being a smoker myself (and liked it even less as a non-smoker) then Im very aware that its not very pleasant for other people, especially non-smokers.
However, the danger is, I feel, is that this wont be the end of it. Its already been seen in the USA where a smoking ban has been extended where I think the ultimate goal is to have a completely smoking free state where you wont be allowed to smoke absolutely anywhere! Then well probably see something similar here; lets hope not as I feel the smoking ban has gone far enough. On the other side though I partly feel that such a final ban as this wasnt really necessary for the reasons I give above in that most places had a smoking ban already and for a number of other reasons which Ill try to qualify for you below.
For many years now there has been more awareness about smoking and the possible increased effect on health and through this there have been many educational campaigns and gradual bans to get/help smokers to quit or at least cut down. As a result a lot less people smoke now and there is currently about 1 in 4 people who smoke (only those people of legal smoking age are counted for official records) as opposed to about 8 in 10 who smoked in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
If this educational approach had been continued then Im sure the amount of smokers would decrease even further, but education costs and its far easier and cheaper to run scare tactic and misinformation campaigns (mainly through the tabloid press) followed by bans to try and get smokers to quit.
As bad as it may seem, especially to a non-smoker, I have made a conscious decision to smoke and I am fully aware that I am putting my health at an increased risk, but then there are many other people who make certain lifestyle choices who also put their health at increased risk. In the bigger picture though there are plenty of other things out there that causes an increased risk to our health that isnt of our own choice.
Now, Im not trying to justify smokers and smoking what I am trying to say is that one thing that really irks me is the lack of parity. Smoking is, and has been for some years now, depicted as the greatest evil ever and is, very more often than not, totally focused on as the only lifestyle evil that affects our society, atmosphere and health.
This is probably one of the main thrusts of my opinion the lack of parity of treatment. Yes, in principle, I welcome the ban, but I feel the treatment of smokers and our chosen lifestyle has been unfairly targeted to the seemingly total exclusion of any other health threatening lifestyle, and in particular alcohol consumption.
I very rarely drink alcohol and it could be said that I am probably the anti-alcohol equivalent of an anti-smoker but I dont create about it, I dont look at drinkers as a sub-species, I dont want all places that sell or provide alcohol closed down and I dont want it completely banned. I do however wish there was the same clamp-down campaign on alcohol consumption that smoking and smokers are subjected to for parity of treatments sake.
I was a policeman for 22 years and in all that time I never had to deal with an incident that involved people fighting or arguing because they smoked too much, I never had to take someone to, or attend an A&E Department because they were either injured/assaulted as a result of smoking and of all the domestic dispute or domestic violence incidents I dealt with none were cigarette fuelled, most, if not nearly all of them, were alcohol fuelled. Yet alcohol advertising on TV, billboards and in magazines etc is still allowed.
The usual non-smoker argument and constant media coverage about smoking costing the NHS so much money is misinformed too in relation to alcohol. Yes, it may cost the NHS £1.5 billion per year to treat smoking related diseases but it costs the NHS at least £2.5 billion per year to treat alcohol related diseases and Im not sure if that includes the treatment and manpower costs of all those Friday and Saturday night drunks, people involved in alcohol fuelled fighting and assault victims filling up A&E Departments. Then consider that until recently tax revenue from cigarettes/tobacco was around £12 billion whereas the same revenue from alcohol was between £10-£11 billion. Recent calculations though show that in the past couple of years tax revenue from cigarettes/tobacco has decreased to around £8-£9 billion despite the tax increases. This shows that even less people are smoking; this begs the question that if less people are smoking why do the government and anti-smoking groups believe there is an increased threat to health?
One of the arguments that has helped support the smoking ban is the supposed passive or secondary smoke one which is still not properly proved either way. Government funded investigations on the back of what is effectively a fashionable hate of a society lifestyle to help get votes and deflect the populations attention away from more worthy things to get worked up about have helped get such a ban in place. What isnt advertised or publicly disclosed are all the counter investigations showing that passive smoking isnt the threat the government make it out to be.
The government and all kinds of media coverage would have most people believe that one whiff of cigarette smoke will give a non-smoker all kinds of deadly life threatening diseases. Yes, might be unpleasant, but deadly to your health? No.
Lets get this into perspective. As a non-smoker you may occasionally be subjected to cigarette smoke however, of a more serious threat to your health are exhaust emissions from the many millions of vehicles that clog our roads or the pollution from industries. In fact Ill go further and tell you that it would be quite easy to use similar research and arguments against smoking to support a ban on almost anything else we do or use as a society.
If nearly every area of how we live our lives was portrayed as smoking is then everything would be and should be banned.
Work in an area that has air conditioning? Increased health risks to your body and immune system.
Like drinking or using water? Health risk due to toxins in the water.
Like the furniture in your house? Health risk as the chemicals used in the production of most modern furniture emits toxins that are not detectable by smell.
As the smell of cigarette smoke isnt masked it is obviously going to be rather repulsive. Nearly everything else we do or use has its natural smell masked. Petrol for example has a percentage of chemicals and additives that masks its real smell; it doesnt take it away, it just masks it. So not only are exhaust emissions damaging to your health but the chemicals and additives within to mask the smell are also a risk to your health. Shall we push for a ban on driving in public?
For me, probably the greatest hypocrisy, is how there is such a campaign to stamp out smoking because of the effects on health and environment yet our governments continually argue over the Kyoto Agreement to cut worldwide industrial emissions and in turn cut pollution. The targets are still not properly agreed on and in some cases some countries emissions have increased since the time we realised they needed to be cut to help save the environment and the planet. Yet what is the main point of focus? Little ol cigarette smoke!
Another argument about smoking is the effect on our kids. Hold on a minute, lets look at this some more. It is already known there are about 3 times less smokers than there was about 30 years ago or so, that means at least 3 times less smoke. Generally people smoke less now than they did before because of the increasing price of cigarettes (about 80% of a cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes is tax revenue) and because of the health education about smoking.
When I was a growing child, and cigarettes were extremely cheap, both my mother and father smoked and probably smoked about 40 cigarettes a day, each! Even as a smoker myself as an adult I have never had any chest or breathing problems, or even any smoking related problems. However, if that was today health and government officials would be having kittens if the situation was the same and Id probably be whisked off into care or something! Im sure Im not alone in that either; Im sure there are plenty of other children from a generation of parents who were heavy smokers who are in a similar situation.
Another problem with the smoking ban is enforcement. Okay all businesses etc will be briefed on the new legislation and how to implement it but what about this
Say a smoker is having a cigarette in an area that may be defined as an enclosed public space, who is going to enforce the new ban? Will there be popping out from nowhere a Smoke Warden? Yes, if it is inside a pub, club or workplace etc then a member of staff may eject you from the premises for such a violation but how will the implementation of the supposed on the spot £50 fine be actioned or a court appearance?
Further, there is also supposed to be an on the spot littering fine of £80 for a smoker if he/she throws their cigarette butt on the ground. Who is going to enforce that? Parity of treatment again how many people have you seen be fined on the spot for normal littering? Or, how many dog owners have you seen be fined if their pet leaves a deposit where they shouldnt? That side of the ban is not practical and has not been properly explained, if at all.
Also how often have you walked through your town/city and have to dodge chewing gum, empty beer cans, puke, urine, fast food containers and half eaten kebabs, pizzas or chips?
Then of course we have the spitting generation; the groups of youths who walk round aimlessly gobbing nothing more than saliva or spittle usually onto the pavement/walkway? I think discarded cigarette butts are a minor concern compared to that.
If the authorities were serious about this then why not position smoking bins around town centres, or rather where smoking is allowed to stop people throwing cigarette butts on the floor? Dog owners get their own bins for those responsible owners who pick up and dispose of their pets deposits properly. If you want people to stop doing something then you have to provide them with the means to help them do so!
If the government want a ban on smoking then ban the sale of tobacco products completely! How can they criminalise a lifestyle they continue to (and essentially need) receive revenue from?
As I said before the ban doesnt really affect me too much and I can make the adjustment to my lifestyle to keep within the current law and Im sure this is true for most smokers, as I have been adjusting my chosen lifestyle within certain bans and restrictions for a number of years now.
In summary whilst I support the ban for a supposed cleaner and better environment and respecting other peoples (non-smokers) rights to clean air, I feel the arguments and reasons to support and enforce such a ban are completely flawed. This is what irritates me and probably many other smokers.
Im going through one of those retro periods at the moment with my music listening habits and this latest one has been fuelled by listening to a recent album release of another band.
When I have one of these retro moments I nearly always start by listening to a Stranglers album, and the first album I always pick first to listen to is this one, Black and White.
After the release and success of both 'Rattus Norvegicus' and 'No More Heroes', The Stranglers released their third album 'Black and White' in May 1978.
'Black and White' was (for me anyway) the turning point for The Stranglers; it was a break of style from their first couple of albums and the start of a new direction, both musically and lyrically. The release of 'Black and White' also, quite by chance, coincided with the then declining 'punk rock' phenomenon. This showed the general public and the critics that The Stranglers meant to stay and weren't just in the business for the ride, despite rumours and one or two dubious comments from members of the band that The Stranglers were about to split up!
'Black and White' came about as a result of The Stranglers spending the winter of 1977-78 locked away at a 'farm' away from their London/Surrey base. Once they had thrashed out, debated, and finally agreed on the songs they had written for this album (which at this time had no fixed/set title), the collection was then given to their then trusted Mixer/Producer Martin Rushent who then set about 'making' the album complete. In the meantime The Stranglers went on tour, in America, which won't be remembered as the best in their history.
After some tweaking, and a visit to America by Martin Rushent to do some final 'adjustments' the 'Black and White' album was ready for release. The title was finally decided upon as a result of the songs on the album. It became apparent whilst mixing the tracks that there was an obvious difference in the songs in that there became two very distinct styles. One handful of songs were 'leftovers' and a continuation of the first albums, which became known as the 'White' side. The other songs were of a newer, different, darker style and had a more menacing feel about them, leading to them being included together on the 'Black' side of the album.
In May 1978 the album was released, and went straight into the album charts at number 2! Back then that was quite an achievement by anyone's standards and it was only just pipped to the number one slot by the Saturday Night Fever compilation album, which was all the rage back then.
So, to the album itself, as it was originally released on vinyl I shall obviously be reviewing that version; although I am aware there are some extra tracks on the CD version of the album.
THE WHITE SIDE
I don't know why I have started with the White side; I have always assumed this to be the 'first' side as I suppose many fans do. One reason for that is knowing The Stranglers style, and as I explained before the White side had the leftover tracks/songs from the first albums.
The album starts apace with  Tank, a lively starting song that is made more energetic with the combination of Dave Greenfields very interesting sound effects on his keyboard(s) and JJ Burnels relentless bass guitar work which is complemented by Hugh Cornwell's touches on his rhythm guitar and Jet Blacks momentum on the drums.
Next up is probably the most famous song from this album  Nice 'N' Sleazy, made even more (in)famous at a gig in Battersea Park when a group of female strippers danced naked to this song on stage. The tempo is slowed right down for  Outside Tokyo, a quite short and eerie song about time. If I remember correctly (you must excuse my failing memory) this was about the same time digital watches became all the rage which just fuelled our obsession about time.
The tempo picks up again quite dramatically with  Sweden (All Quiet On The Eastern Front), a very good song that changes pace dramatically throughout. Again I like the way Hugh Cornwell sings this with mock excitement when actually the song itself is a rather less than complimentary ode to what Sweden doesn't have to offer, save some interesting cloud formations!
The tempo is kept up as we move on to  Hey! (Rise of The Robots), and you don't need any clues to what this song is about! Yep, it's about our increasing reliance on computers in our lives. I like the way Hugh Cornwell sings this in a mock panic/fear tone. It's like he is warning everyone of an impending doom and having a little snipe at Unions in the process.
Now to the last track on the White side,  Toiler On The Sea, and probably one of my favourites. However, I don't like the album version of this song as much as I do when it is done live. Every Stranglers gig I have been to and this is played, it always receives some of the loudest cheers of the set. The instrument effects are something else, especially Dave Greenfield's keyboard version of a storm! Definitely a much better song live than in a studio, although this album version keeps me happy in the meantime.
THE BLACK SIDE
Now here is the contrast. This side of the album is moody and menacing but it works well, really well. We start with  Curfew, an excellent song and start to this side of the album setting the mood and pace of the 'Black' side perfectly.
Next up is  Threatened, a very dark and moody song that is basically about different outlooks/opinions in our lives and how important are they really in the grand scheme of things. This is probably my favourite song on this side of the album.
Then we have  In The Shadows - another dark, foreboding song about fear. There are some very good keyboard effects on this track, again from Dave Greenfield, which give the song a really eerie feeling.
The next two songs blend into each other starting with  Do You Wanna - although quite a good song, its probably my least favourite as it doesn't seem to go anywhere until near the end when it runs into  Death And Night And Blood (Yukio) - a song written and performed by JJ Burnel.
The last track on the black side is  Enough Time. When I first heard this track (listening to the vinyl version of course!), I thought there was something wrong with my Record Deck until I realised it was how the song was supposed to end. As the song nears completion it slows down dramatically and sounds like the turntable has come to a stop before the record has finished playing - a pretty good effect for the era!
As I said at the top of this review, this is probably the most played album of my Stranglers collection, but I don't really know why, it seems to have a magic of its own and for me it is like a milestone or turning point for The Stranglers. They had seemed to have gotten past the 'raw' era of their career with the first albums and the 'White' side of this one and started something new with the 'Black' side.
Another point Id like to make that with this album, unlike many other bands albums, no two songs sound the same or even feel the same. Here we have 12 quite unique and individual songs that range from the upbeat and faster tempo of Tank, Hey!, Sweden, Toiler On The Sea, Curfew and Enough Time to the quirky/eerie/edgy songs like Outside Tokyo, Threatened, In The Shadows, Do You Wanna and Death and Night and Blood. Then standing on its own is the punk-reggae classic Nice N Sleazy.
From a personal point of view The Stranglers and groups like them from this era have had an influence on a number of rock groups we see and hear today and this is why I recommend this album, especially as a good starting point if you wanted to have a flavour of The Stranglers and their style of rock.
If you are interested you can pick up the CD from Amazon marketplace for under a fiver and Ive often seen it at HMV for about the same price.
The extra tracks on the CD are:
Mean To Me
Walk On By (a cover of Dionne Warwicks classic)
Old Codger (with main guest jazz crooner George Melly)
Tits (yes, you read that correctly!)
On 23rd April 1955 Chelsea beat Sheff Wed 3-0 to win the then Division One title. That was 9 years and 3 days before I was born. On 30th April 2005 Chelsea beat Bolton 2-0 to win the Premiership for only their second top flight title; a week and 50 years since their last success and in Jose Mourinhos first season in charge of the club.
Ive been a Chelsea supporter from the age of about 6 when I watched, for the first time, the 1970 FA Cup Final where we beat Leeds Utd in a replay at Old Trafford. In that game the legendary Peter Osgood scored with a fabulous diving header which thereafter was known as the flying hammer.
This is where my love affair started with Chelsea.
The one major personal disappointment in the time Ive been a Chelsea supporter since that FA Cup of 1970 is that I had never seen us win the old Division One or Premiership title well until 30th April 2005 that is.
Now that weve established my life long support for Chelsea and all the heartache associated with that lets move to this book.
I must also add that in the current, modern Chelsea team, John Terry is a kind of hero of mine and, for me, epitomises all that is great about the British bulldog fighting spirit. An excellent defender, a natural leader and plays every game with total commitment, passion and belief.
Sadly though, all those qualities are missing from this book. I wish I could have said different but I have to be quite honest in my opinion despite my obvious high regard for John Terry. It would be so easy as a Chelsea and John Terry fan to say this book is brilliant and flower it with praises but I wont and I cant.
After such a long wait to finally see Chelsea win the premiership title, and naturally expecting all the title winning memorabilia merchandising that would follow, I was looking forward to reading this book. I was hoping for a book, especially one that was penned by the winning Chelsea Captain and arguably the modern club talisman, which would be full of passion and emotion that reflected the blood, sweat and tears of the seasons campaign to win probably one of the most prestigious titles in modern world football.
Im not going to waffle on and bore with a chapter by chapter précis of the book and I have no real words to try and balance this review with an objective overview either. If I wanted to do that Id just lend you the book!
My Winning Season could, and should, have been an excellent opportunity as an outlet to express all the pent up frustration, passion and a myriad of other emotions of Chelsea not winning such a prestigious and coveted title, or even never really fulfilling their true potential over the past 50 years. Every true blue knows that hurt and disappointment over the years and it would have been really nice to see that reflected by probably one of the greatest English players in the modern game in such a book. It never happened though.
The way the book is written it is as if John Terry was watching the end of season DVD and scripted an accompanying commentary for it.
Now, I know some footballers may write books that can be rather controversial and they often attract criticism for just sensationalising and/or cashing in on their lifestyle or a situation but in this case there was a legitimate reason, if there ever was one, to do such due to the nature of the subject, however the opportunity was well and truly missed.
Sure, there are some behind the scenes insights, but not nearly enough to make this book an interesting and satisfying read. The only insight that sticks in my mind from the book is where John Terry talks about Mourinhos meticulous planning for every match including full pre-match reports and briefings for each player; whether those players chose to read the reports/briefings was up to them but they knew if they didnt and a game plan wasnt followed then their first team place was on the line.
Aside from that, and probably one or two other interesting titbits, the rest of the book is pretty much filled with some really bad football clichés and a plethora of had a good game or scored a great goal and other such everyones my mate back slapping comments.
My gripes with this book dont stop there. Other problems for me also include the fact that I know some of the games we played were rather fast-paced and a bit passionate with probably a tad too much commitment; however this again is not really portrayed properly in the book either as only some of the highlights if you like are barely mentioned and then they are kind of glossed over. However, John Terry does dedicate one whole chapter to the away game against Blackburn in February 2005 which was particularly eventful.
My other criticism of this book isnt probably John Terrys fault, more likely the books publisher, Harper Sport (part of Harper Collins); the book is littered with extremely bad grammar/punctuation/comprehension mistakes with the odd spelling mistake too. There are a lot of very short sentences with some only 3 or 4 words long! It makes the book a little hard to read and follow in places and where this happens there is no flow. I know John Terry doesnt speak that way and Im sure where this happens the publisher could easily have left out a lot of the full stops and let the paragraphs run their natural course.
There are some nice photographs included though!
Overall though, I wasnt overly impressed with the book and in summary that is down to two things; it felt like an accompanying written commentary of the end of season DVD and the bad grammar/punctuation/comprehension.
This book is a definite no-no for a book reader who likes anything biographical and Id probably even stretch that to most people who like reading books about football. In fact I would only barely recommend it to the most die-hard of Chelsea fans who want to collect some memorabilia to mark the first title winning season in 50 years. Luckily I didnt pay for this book as it was bought for me as a gift.
If you really want to read this book then its probably cheapest through the Amazon marketplace for about a fiver. However, remember I did warn you not to!
John, mate, if by chance you read this then please stick to the football!!
I tell you, that Kratos hes nails. Hes got a physique that even Arnie Schwarzenegger in his prime would envy. Even more fearsome is his expertise with the blades he has permanently chained to his wrists. I wouldnt want to get on the wrong side of him as a couple of flicks of his wrists and Id end up as meat joints on my local supermarkets butchery counter.
Anyway, hello dear reader, now Ive got that small intro out the way let me tell you some more about God of War.
It is a time of legends, Greek legends to be precise. You are Kratos, mortal servant and champion of the Gods. As Kratos you are physically perfect yet your mental state is another matter. Years of serving the Gods, and Ares (pronounced Aries) the God of War in particular, has left you with a kind of Greek style post traumatic stress disorder. Being Ares mortal servant has meant youve done a lot of killing on his behalf, but there is a darker side too. All those years of killing has meant that Kratos is plagued by nightmares of what hes done. This has resulted in Kratos reaching a point of desperation and the only way he can see to escape his madness is to take his own life. Stood atop Mount Olympus Kratos has reached a point of no return and feeling that he has been abandoned by the Gods he has served so faithfully, he jumps to his death
So, that kind of sets the scene, well not quite as obviously itd be pointless to have a game where the character you are supposed to play dies before youve even started! At the point where you, as Kratos, are about to jump to your death the story rewinds to 3 weeks earlier and this is where the game begins.
God of War is the style of action/adventure game where it has an element of interactive movie. By this I mean that its not just a game, God of War is a narrated mini-movie story, I suppose in a similar style to Prince of Persia and if you liked that youll love God of War. Further, as the game progresses then more of the story unfolds with a couple of plot twists along the way. However, whilst there are plenty of cinematic cut-away scenes that form part of this story there arent too many to out-balance the actual game play. In fact I think the game makers have got the balance just right and the movie scenes add plenty to the atmosphere of the overall game. This is also true of the games musical score, which, again, adds another dimension to the overall atmosphere of the game, absorbing the player, drawing you in and really giving it that interactive feel.
I will reveal one more piece of the plot of the game and it is this - Ares, obviously as the God of War, with his many minions has a new battleground, Athens. Now, Athena is not best pleased, but Zeus, the God father (sorry, couldnt resist), has ruled that the Gods arent allowed to enter into direct battle against each other. This is where Kratos comes in and a deal is struck between Athena (on behalf of the Gods) and Kratos; For all his previous sins to be forgiven all Kratos has to do is go on one last quest
God of War is a huge game with many levels and plenty of puzzles/tasks to complete. Some of the puzzles can be a little head-scratching and some, whilst initially appearing quite complicated, are actually quite straightforward. However, the main thrust of the game is mastering the use of the blades as I described at the start of the review to kill the many enemies you confront more effectively.
Theres also a magic element to the game as well. At various stages through the game each God bestows a particular magic power on you to help you in your quest and help defeat much tougher and more numerous enemies you will encounter in later levels.
At the start of the game and when you obtain your first magic power you only have basic abilities but by collecting red orbs along your quest (which are obtained by smashing anything youre allowed and killing enemies) you can trade them to upgrade both your magic powers and the blades you carry. Each upgrade gives your power and blades increased strength and extra attacking moves. In addition there are boxes (look like treasure chests) that can be opened which contain red orbs or improve either your health or magic power which are displayed in the form of status bars. Your health and magic power status bars can be extended by collecting eyes (health) or feathers (magic) which can also be found inside treasure chests.
In my opinion the scenery and backdrops are nothing short of awesome. I feel a great deal of effort has gone into the detail to make the scenery add that extra dimension of credibility that elevates the game to one of the top in its genre. Whether its mountain ranges, town centres or sprawling landscapes there really is nothing to fault on this part of the game.
The attention to detail doesnt stop there either as great lengths have also been gone to with all the characters in the game. Kratos, the character you play, is completely believable as are the many different monsters/enemies you meet/fight. The movement of all the characters is especially good with each character moving easily and near seamlessly around the screen without distortion or clashing with backgrounds etc. and this for me is pretty important particularly when, often, I find myself fighting more than one enemy at a time!
The game controls are pretty straightforward in this game. Obviously, as I stated before, you start the game with basic abilities therefore the initial controls are basic too. As the game progresses and you acquire more powers the moves and controls become slightly more complex. With that in mind though it doesnt mean that the controls become more difficult to understand or use, in fact, I found, they were fairly easy to get along with. There is a certain amount of trial and error with the attacking moves though in that whilst some attacking moves may be successful against some monsters/enemies theyre not against others and it does take a little while to work out what works best.
During the game though there are pop-up hints on which buttons to press for particular moves, which, in tandem with the game instruction manual means controlling and moving around makes it easier to play the game. Talking of ease there are initially 3 difficulty levels ranging from easy to hard. On completing the game in normal or hard mode a 4th difficulty mode is accessible and this is called God Mode and this truly is nails. Through each level of difficulty though the only thing that gets tougher is the fighting. In easy mode and to some degree in normal mode you can be a little cavalier in your approach when fighting monsters/enemies however in the harder modes there is more of an emphasis on your tactical abilities meaning you tend to time your attacks more and spend more time blocking enemy attacks. This is especially true in God Mode.
It took me just over a couple of weeks to complete the game and that was playing it for about 2 hours a day, however this doesnt mean the game has no longevity or replay value. Completing it as I did was only in the easiest mode and of course I then re-started the game at the next difficulty level. Ive completed the game at all levels except in God Mode where Im finding it quite difficult near the very end of the game.
Sticking with the longevity and replay value of God of War then I should also add that, unlike most other games, irrespective of genre, this game has a number of extras on the disc. Completing the game at particular difficulty levels unlocks some of these extras which include a Challenge of the Gods mini-game where there are a number of timed levels to complete which in turn unlocks some other goodies for the game. All Ill say here is that once Challenge of the Gods is successfully completed then you get to see a lighter and quite funny side of the game in that you can play the main game slightly differently! There are other extras on the disc and amongst them they include something similar youd find on a Movie DVD like deleted scenes, how the games characters were developed and a kind of directors commentary.
Finally, I will give you a friendly warning you may find that as you play the game you might swear quite a bit and get quite frustrated, but this is all part of the game and adds to its addictiveness. The swearing and frustration wont be a fault of the game, no, itll be because youll get drawn into the game and when you get killed or make a mistake with one of the puzzles then thats where the effing, blinding and frustration will come in. Fortunately though there are plenty of checkpoints and game save points throughout the game so your angry person transformation doesnt last for long.
The game has an 18 rating and whilst theres no swearing in the game there is plenty of quite graphical gore, a few, ahem, scantily clad women and in one level, whilst you dont actually see anything, there is a sexual encounter involving Kratos and 2 rather attractive women (in a purely animated way of course).
Overall God of War is an excellent game with an equally excellent movie style to it that is easy to understand and fairly easy to play. I say fairly because as I stated before as you progress through the difficulty levels it does get harder. There is a great sense of accomplishment on completing the game but it does leave you wanting more and thankfully there is a sequel being made which is due for release in April 2007.
God of War was first released in July 2005 but has recently (at time of writing) been released on the Platinum label and can be bought from:
Tesco.com - £14.24
Amazon - £11.97 (or from £11 on Amazon marketplace)
Although quite an avid reader of Stephen King stories over the years I have to admit, like others, I was a late arrival to the Dark Tower epic. I'm not really sure why I kind of avoided this story either. I think it may have been a combination of things including thinking that King had started to lose his touch, I thought I would never find the time to commit my time to reading and continue reading such an epic and quite simply at the time it just didn't appeal to me.
About 6 months ago or thereabouts however, Waterstones were having one of their regular 3 for 2 offers and as I was lacking in inspiration or motivation to read anything else I decided to buy the first 3 books in this 7-book series.
When I started to read this, the first book, I then wondered why I didn't take the plunge sooner!
Obviously I don't want to spoil the story for you, especially those of you who haven't read this story yet, so I'll keep the plot as short and simple as possible.
In a time and place not particularly specified there is a man, a special man, and his name is Roland, Roland Deschain of Gilead. Roland is a 'Gunslinger' and is, as far as we, the reader, are aware, the best and last of his kind. From a once mighty but now fallen kingdom he is a kind of 'Knight' (and this not too surprising as one of King's biggest influences in writing the Dark Tower series is from Robert Browning's poem 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came') on a quest. The exact purpose of this quest isn't really revealed to us in this first book and even Roland isn't completely sure why he is in search of the Dark Tower either, he just knows he must find it where he hopes he will get answers; answers to questions, and even those questions he doesn't really know yet. In Gunslinger we join Roland as he has already started on this quest and is in hot pursuit of a rather intriguing and mysterious character only known as The Man In Black (although we do find out this character has gone by other names and guises), who, for Roland, and we, the reader, is a key factor in his (and our) quest. The only other part of the plot I'll tell you is that along the way Roland stays for a few days in a strange and desolate town called Tull (recently visited by the Man In Black) where a strange event has occurred and where he forms a brief relationship with the landlady of Tull's only tavern. Then, he also forms a relationship with a young boy, Jake, who talks of things from another time and place that Roland has no awareness or knowledge of.
On the face of what I've said above you'd think this story a bit stark; a man chasing another man who meets a woman and a boy along the way. I can assure it is so much more than that. Along this journey there are plenty of incidents involving all manner of 'things'.
As Gunslinger starts 'mid-quest' so to speak there is a bit of catching up to do although King doesn't fill in all the blanks and definitely doesn't answer some of the questions I have as an inquisitive reader who is looking for a fuller of understanding of how things have come to be. I have to put those questions aside for this story and hope more is explained further down the Dark Tower series. In addition to joining Roland on his quest King spends quite a bit of the book in 'flashback'; Roland recalling events from his past and in particular his own childhood and the training he receives to fulfil his destiny of becoming a Gunslinger. This is extremely useful and some patience is needed as from the start of the book King gives the reader a lot of information to deal with in a short space of time (pages) and just when you think 'when is he going to explain that part of the plot then?' King obliges but only to the extent that it makes the reader a little more inquisitive. King is pretty clever that way in his writing, especially of this story, as he gives us just enough information to keep us satisifed and the right amount to make us read on.
One of the keys to this story, and I can only speak for myself, and what kind of makes 'sense' of Gunslinger (and I suppose the whole Dark Tower series) for me comes in a part of the story. I'm not going to reveal where this happens in the story, especially for those who haven't read Gunslinger yet, but when I read it I did think 'Ah! That is the best way to approach the story'. All I'll say on that is this - Have you ever sat quietly and thought to yourself 'How big is the Universe?; Where does it end?', it is a basic question of what is infinity? When you try to reason what infinity actually is does it not send your brain into overdrive? It is incalcuable and we can't make sense of it can we? In this way this is partly how to approach the story, forget what you know or think you know and let your mind just absorb the information and don't try to 'rationalise' it into something you want to understand because you'll become frustrated.
To explain that a bit further I'll say this - In most stories I read (and I'm sure many of you have done the same) I look for things to identify with to make the story seem more real to me and that can be people, places and time. I think that works for most genres of fictional stories except perhaps fantasy where, as a reader, you know straight away the story is going to be out-of-this-world so to speak. The thing with Gunslinger is that King has given us some of those 'real' elements to cling on to, to make sense of the story but no sooner than you do that he throws you off-track by taking the story in a direction that sends you back trying to keep a grip (by your fingernails sometimes) on the 'reality' of the story. What I'll say is - Don't try! Just let the story happen. It's not supposed to make sense as we want it perhaps. Gunslinger has pretty much all the elements of all genres from thriller to terror to horror to fantasy and that's what makes it a fascinating and compelling read.
There are obvious comparisons to make to other King books and this has done many times and in many places. There are even websites dedicated to linking The Dark Tower series to all of King's other stories and characters. I'll only add that, for me, yes there are some obvious comparisons and in particular perhaps the biggest one is to 'It'. Again though I'll say that, for me, to probably fully appreciate the Gunslinger is NOT to compare it to other King stories and enjoy it on it's own merits.
As well as Browning's poem being an inspiration for the Dark Tower series there are also 2 other quite significant inspirations that are quite obvious when you start reading this book and King confirms this in his introduction. Those influences, or inspirations, are Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings and the film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; a cowboy in middle earth? Well, nearly. It's quite easy to imagine our 'hero' Roland is a cross between Strider/Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Joe (Clint Eastwood). In fact if this story were made into a film (and it'd have to be to the same standard as LOTR to do it justice) then Viggo Mortensen would easily fit the role of Roland. Even King's description and the one illustration of Roland bears a strong resemblance to Mortensen! Yes, Roland is probably more cowboy than Knight especially as he is the owner, and master, of a pair of quite fabulous revolvers which he keeps holstered in a 'wild-west' style gunbelt.
Now, as I mentioned King's 'introduction' I should explain that in the edition of Gunslinger I own (2003) King has written quite a lengthy introduction pretty much explaining how he came to write the Dark Tower series in the first place. That does help actually, however, one downside is that, again in this, the 2003 edition, there is also included a taster of the second book in the series - The Drawing of The Three. I wish this wasn't included now because it was too tempting to read and I wish I hadn't now but I'll not explain why save to say (and probably for the benefit of those who have already read the second book) the 'taster' is the first couple of chapters from The Drawing of The Three.
Again, with this 2003 edition of Gunslinger the book is around 300 pages long of which just over 200 of those pages are the Gunslinger story itself. I think 200 or so pages is just right and is plenty of story time to introduce, get to know and form a reader's bond with Roland and also introduce us to the whole concept of the Dark Tower series.
This is a book I thoroughly recommend but if you read this then you have to continue and wherever you can find the time to keep reading! Time for me is a precious commodity at the moment yet I think I read Gunslinger in pretty quick time, that's how compelling it was for me and almost immediately after completing Gunslinger I had started the second book, The Drawing of The Three, which, at the time of writing this review I am just over half-way through.
Gunslinger is still widely available in both paper and hardback and, for example, amazon.co.uk have it for about £6 (paperback) and about £10 (hardback), although readmore.co.uk have the paperback for £3.75 but also charge £1.50 P&P. Play.com however, have the audiobook (CD) for £11.99, the paperback for £5.99 and the trade paperback for £8.49.
And the Tower is closer...
I like playing games on the PS2 and in particular I often like playing first-person style games. Killzone by (the aptly named) Guerrilla is a first-person shooter or FPS for short, and after enjoying other such FPS games like the 'Medal of Honor' series I was looking forward to playing Killzone.
I say 'looking forward' but it was really by chance I got to play this game. Originally my son borrowed it from a friend but because he had played it so much the disc was quite badly scratched and often failed to load. Obviously getting frustrated by this I decided we should buy our own copy.
The game is described as a sci-fi adventure and the story goes something like this. In a time some way off into the future there lives on a planet a race of beings called the Helghast and the planet's name is Helghan. The Helghast used to be human but after years of perceived ill-treatment, persecution and generally feeling ostracised from the rest of humanity they decided to flee to another planet (Helghan). However, due to the harsh atmosphere of that planet they bizarrely evolved into a kind of 'superhuman' race. In that time there rose to power a leader who rallied his people and persuaded them that now was the time to end the exile and take back what they believed was rightly theirs starting with the nearest inhabited planet, Vekta. Now trained and equipped for war the Helghast armies began their invasion and as a member of the ISA it is your, my, our (whoever loads and plays the game) job to repel the invasion force, that and work out how the Helghast Invasion Force got through the orbital defence system in the first place.
The basic Killzone game has 2 modes; Campaign and Battlefield. Campaign is single-player only and there are over 45 levels within 11 different environments to get through (or Killzones) to complete the game. In Battlefield mode there are 6 single level scenarios to play over numerous environments to do battle in where you can either play in 1 or 2 player mode and can either be ISA or Helghast. There is also an option to play 'online' through the PS2, however I've never tried it although within the accompanying instruction booklet there are instructions how to do this.
Talking of the instruction booklet it's done quite cleverly (but not original) in the style of a newspaper, and in amongst the pictures and news stories are the basic guidelines on how to play the game, in particular the controls; moving, running shooting, reloading etc. However when you start the game and particularly on the first level or so there are also on-screen hints/tutorials on which button does what.
Right, enough of that and on to the game itself.
Oh my, where do I start? Killzone can be very good and very bad. Let's get the Battlefield Mode out the way first. Here, the 6 scenarios are basically CQB (Close Quarter Battle) training areas where there are 1 or 2 player options so you can play against the computer (um, PS2) or for more fun you can drag another real person to the console and play as a team with them or against them. Battlefield Mode though is little more than a good way to hone your shooting, tactical and strategy skills.
Now to the main game. After selecting the level of difficulty between either easy, normal or hard (the main difference being that the harder the level the bigger the health loss when you're hit) you only have 1 character to assume the role of to start with and that is Captain Jan Templar, an ISA soldier, jack of all trades, or weapons, but master of none. As the game progresses you eventually build up allies meaning that quite soon there are 4 characters to choose from with the other 3 being Luger (a british female assassin), Rico (a yank grunt who has probably the best default weapon of the lot) and Hakha (a spy who is half human and half Helghast). When you have all 4 then no matter who you choose there will always be a team of 4, each and every level you play. The thing is whatever character you choose to be you, obviously, after enough hits can die and will have to restart (or retry if you have reached a level checkpoint) whereas the other 3 members are invincible.
At first the game looks to have real depth. The attention to detail, animated or otherwise, is quite stunning but after a while it's noticeable that the backgrounds etc are quite bland and quite colourless. The AI can be frustratingly difficult to beat yet at other times can be really stupid. For instance when it's really good the Helghast enemy can be tactically and strategically astute and their aim can more often than not be quite deadly yet other times you can stand right next to one and they either don't see you or shoot everywhere but at you.
Whilst the scenery can be quite bland it does have a sense of realism about it and the environments are really like war zones; bombed out buildings, vehicles ablaze etc. However apart from you and the enemy there is nobody else around, save the occasional small group of friendly forces who usually appear at the start of each level then abandon you leaving you to get on with the mission on your own. Another thing about the scenery being bland means sometimes everything looks the same and that can be confusing. An example of this is in one level you have to negotiate a swamp and it's quite easy to lose your bearings because of the blandness and can leave you thinking 'where the hell am I supposed to go now?!?'. Luckily, after you've stumbled about a bit you know you're on the right path, and often this is the only way you know you are going in the right direction, when you hear from your enemy "Here they come!", "Watch and shoot" or "Kill them!" and these are probably the only things the Helghast army ever say throughout the entire game.
The story itself is pretty one dimensional. At the very start of the game there is a rather good cinematic introduction where we see the Helghast leader Scolar Visari give his Hitler like speech to his people. Here, I'm thinking this looks like the game is going to be really good especially if the makers have gone to the expense of enlisting film star Brian Cox as the voice of Visari. My Hitler reference is because that is how this opening sequence looks like especially as the Helghast emblem is not too dissimilar to the Nazi swastika.
Other problems with the story is that there is no real depth to the characters apart from hints at a former 'romantic' liaison between Templar and Luger and the regular spats between Rico, a born Helghast hater, and the spy, Hakha. There are no sub-plots to speak of nor even really any plot twists and the one there is you uncover pretty much near the start of the game. There aren't even any real challenges along the way either apart from pushing some fairly obvious buttons for you and your team to progress.
So, from the start I'm thinking this is a really good game but after a while it becomes rather repetitive in that all I and my team need to do is shoot our way through hordes of Helghast soldiers to reach the end of a level. There isn't even any real variation with the Helghast troops either with the majority of the ones you come across are your basic grunt and occasionally a few Helghast Elite Forces. As far as 'superhuman' goes then that doesn't mean the Helghast are more intelligent, no, it just means it takes a few more rounds of ammunition than you'd normally expect to kill them.
On the plus side you do get quite a few weapons to 'play' with including automatic rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, a shot gun and grenades. However, by far the most useless weapon included is a pistol! Now, when faced with the supposed 'superhuman' Helghast troops the pistol is totally ineffective, you'd probably do more damage by throwing cotton wool at your enemy, but for some reason that is one of the default weapons you start with! There is one weapon I haven't mentioned and I'm not going to save to say it is awesome! Sadly though you only really get to use it for one level and you have very limited 'ammunition' to use with it but it is extremely effective.
There are plenty of cinematic movie scenes in between levels which lets you see the 'bigger picture' in how the story is unfolding and this can be useful. Here the animated characters are quite believable as is the interaction with body movement etc looking quite professionally done. In fact overall the graphics are of a good standard and scenery etc moves and blends pretty smoothly.
Like many other games the ending, whilst I'm obviously not going to give it away completely, left me thinking "Is that it?!". I was expecting a better 'reward' for my efforts.
There are a number of known glitches with the game and a couple I found included that in some levels, where you can choose to be a different character, then there are some minor differences in how the level is played out and in one such level I elected to be Rico but I soon found I couldn't do certain things that meant I couldn't progress in that level so had to restart it with a character I knew could do them. Another, quite funny, glitch occurred when, after blowing up a bridge, I was temporarily separated from the rest of my team and when I looked round to find out where they were I spotted Hakha crouch walking above me in mid-air!
Overall then, despite my gripes, Killzone is a good game and quite addictive, but, gameplay and longevity are on the poor side. Once completed, apart from trying out slightly different level progress with different characters, it's highly unlikely that you'll want to start all over again unless you want the challenge of improving your hits to kills percentage. As to the gameplay well it's fine but the controls can be somewhat frustrating. Most actions are fine and fairly easy to master but probably the biggest annoyance is with a sniper rifle you sometimes get to use and that is frustratingly hard to control in 'scope' mode. The other annoyance is the amount of time it takes to reload your weapons which is frustrating to say the least if you are in the middle of nowhere with no cover and in the thick of a particularly fierce battle. You see there is no auto reload option which means you have to do it manually by pressing the triangle button and whilst you do this the screen defaults so that it takes your 'eyesight' off your enemy/target and fixes on the weapon you're reloading.
Killzone is rated 16+ and that is probably because of the 'gore' factor, but saying that there isn't really any. There's no gore say like that in 'Manhunt' and what there is, is limited to blood 'spray'. When I say 'spray' I mean when you fire and hit an enemy soldier a small spray of blood appears but this effect is purely an indicator that you've hit your target. There are also very few moments where there is some mildish swearing too which is pretty much limited to the odd 'sh*t' and 'f*ck'. The only other thing of note is 1 or 2 very mild sexual references between Luger and Templar.
To finally close this review my last thoughts are that I feel that the game had massive potential that got lost somewhere. That is either because when the game was initially being developed it was excellent but somewhere along the way the makers either got fed up, there was a change in the developers or they ran out of money or a combination of all three. This is quite evident when you play the game which is a shame because this could have been the best game in its genre. I'd still recommend it especially as you can now buy it for around £15 now it has been re-released under the Platinum series. There is a slightly funny personal story there though. When I bought my copy a few weeks ago I did so from our local Tesco Extra. They had both the original and Platinum version but whilst the Platinum version was about £16 the original version, which I obviously bought, was a shade under £14!
If you want it really cheap though try PC World who currently have it on offer for £4.99 (£8.98 in total as there is a delivery charge of £3.99).
One thing that I've never been able to find out yet though is what ISA stands for. I mean imagine it "Hi, I'm Captain Jan Templar of the Individual Saving Accounts, at your service". Doesn't sound quite right does it? Would have helped if that was explained, eh?
The Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) is one of the longest running websites on the Internet and has been around since 1996. It is a subsidiary of Cantor Index which in turn is part of Cantor Fitzgerald, a leading financial services provider, that also tragically lost around 700 employees on 9/11.
The HSX is a virtual stocks and shares trading site that deals with, as the title suggests, everything to do with Hollywood and the movie industry. The movies are real and the movie stars are real but the trading in their shares is very similar to a fantasy sports management game and is completely risk free.
Free; That word sounds good doesn't it?
It's true, there is no risk investment of your hard earned money here! The currency used is known as Hollywood Dollars (H$) and you get shed loads of them when you sign-up and become a member, I mean trader.
Rather than describe every nook and cranny of the HSX site I'll try and keep it brief, giving you a quick oversight.
The HSX site loads quickly and on the homepage there is quite a bit of information that initially greets you. Don't despair as the more you use the site the easier it gets to understand...sort of. First off though, for those who aren't already members/traders the first thing I'd recommend you do is click on the link 'Want to be a player? Tell me more'. Following this link gives you a brief and concise introduction as to what HSX is about. If you want more information before you dabble in the movie market then there is a very comprehensive 'Help' section which tells you just about everything about how HSX works. If you're interested and you register then you will start with a blank portfolio and a balance of H$2 million.
Now this is where the fun begins.
With your H$2 million you can now go and start trading! There are 4 main markets to deal in and they are Movie Stocks, Star Bonds, Funds and Options.
I've been a member/trader on HSX for about 7 years now and I deal mainly in Movie Stocks and Star Bonds, as for me, as I am no expert, these are the easiest to trade in and understand. I've never traded Funds or Options as, to be perfectly honest, I don't fully understand what they are about although in each area there is a brief description of what they are and how they work.
Star Bonds are straightforward trading options and you can invest in just any and every movie star going. Of course the more popular they are and the more projects they are involved in including their 'publicity value' then the higher the value of the bond.
With Movie Stocks it can be a little more tricky to understand as a movie goes through 5 phases; Concept, Development, Production, Wrap and Release. A movie stock starts at it's lowest value during the concept and development phase then, should, rise in value when it hits the production phase. Of course the value of a movie stock can drop too especially if there are glitches such as contractual or legal problems, particularly in the 2 earliest phases. Once a movie hits the Wrap and/or Release phase then the value tends to stagnate and then drop.
To help there is usually some brief background information associated with a selected movie stock which usually gives an indication of who is making the film, who is starring in it, who the distributor is and sometimes a projected release date for the movie.
I do tend to find this useful, being the un-expert I am and whilst the information I gave above might seem confusing, as it was for me when I first started, then the longer you trade then the clearer how it all works it becomes...ahem!
Buying stock is quite straightforward. Each movie has an individual stock symbol and once highlighted there is a small box on the left side of the screen where the symbol appears where you are also presented with a number of options on the amount of stock you want to buy. Like most things though buying stock also incurs commission charges and these are usually 10% of the total purchase or selling price.
What can also be pretty daunting is the quite staggering amount of movies being made at any one time. On HSX there are literally hundreds of movies listed, all in different phases of production. To pick a movie that'll net you a nice profit can be tricky and I have to admit that often for me it is more luck than judgement! Of all the hundreds of movies listed it's usually only a small percentage that are 'guaranteed' blockbusters but the problem there is that the stock price of such movies can be rather prohibitive and can eat a large part of your portfolio budget, especially when you first start trading and only have the initial H$2 million to play with. The trick is to find some good movies to make a quick healthy profit on so you can invest in those blockbusters that will hopefully net you an even larger profit and so on and so on.
One such movie or series of movies that I managed to make a good healthy profit in was the rather (stock) undervalued 'Bourne' trilogy starring Matt Damon. I bought stock in all 3 movies when those stocks were first released about 5 years ago. Initially I didn't pay much for them as the market forces at the time predicted the films wouldn't be that successful. However, after the release and underestimated success of the Bourne Identity the stock flew up in value, so you see there is always a chance of finding the golden movie stock egg as it were.
Moving slightly away from the trading side of HSX there is a rather busy HSX community message board you can participate in although I rarely have as each time I've visited most of the talk is trader-speak which, quite honestly, goes straight over my head. Still, it's a place you can visit if you require advice etc from other members/traders.
Then, to enhance your portfolio budget, especially if you're losing stock, bond or option value, there are some H$ cash incentives to boost your budget. There is a friends referral scheme which can earn you an extra H$100K and there is also a quick survey link which normally only requires one answer from a drop-down list that'll earn you H$50K, but to be honest the surveys aren't that frequent. The most popular and profitable way of making extra H$ is through ad banner clicking. This works by clicking usually between 1 and 5 pre-selected ad banners on one page and if you have pop-ups allowed then once the banner is clicked a pop-up appears and if you're lucky it'll tell you you've won H$50K. You can only do this once a day though. I have to say apart from these ad banners and associated pop-ups there are no other intrusive or annoying banners or pop-ups on the HSX site.
There's even a HSX Shop! Here you can buy HSX branded merchandise such as pens, mugs, caps and t-shirts, however a HSX Mug for example will set you back a cool H$20 million!!
Although not a film buff I find HSX useful in another way, and that is in a loosely similar way to imdb.com, HSX is a good source of information on just about every movie albeit only those movies that are being made. One kind of frustration about this though is that you actually get to see/read how far in advance movies are released in the United States before we get to see them here in the UK. A very recent example of this occurred when very shortly after the UK cinema release of 'Fantastic Four' I noticed on HSX that the sequel was already well into development! I've noticed this on a number of movies in my time as a member/trader.
Talking of the USA there is a point to bear in mind in that you have to remember they are between 5 and 7 hours behind the UK so trading doesn't really start in earnest until about 3pm UK time. This also has to be remembered during the weekend as for a 24-hour period between Saturday 1pm and Sunday 1pm EST (6pm - 6pm UK time) all stock purchases and sales are commission free.
Finally the level of use and trading on HSX is entirely up to the individual. Like I've said I've been a member/trader since 1998 and my portfolio is now worth in excess of H$21 million and I only normally visit the site once a day. My portfolio value is nowhere near what some traders are worth but if you're dedicated and like trading then this is definitely a site for you and if you like movies too then it's double the bonus!
So, if you get bored surfing the net and are looking for something a bit different to do then you won't go far wrong in giving HSX a go and trying your hand at becoming a movie tycoon!
Despite its official sounding name YouGov is a private venture aimed at gauging the opinions and thoughts of people from all walks of life (as long as you have an Internet connection) on a massive variety of issues and topics that affect our everyday lives.
YouGov is an Internet based polling site that very quickly established itself as a forerunner of public opinion polls after its inception about 5 years ago. YouGovs credibility as a respected opinion pollster comes from some quite outstanding results notably being within 1% of the correct result of the 2001 UK General Election, an Australian General Election and even Pop Idol! As yougov is internet based only it can canvass opinion and obtain results to polls very quickly indeed.
Im not going to bore you or insult your intelligence by describing to the smallest detail about the yougov website, instead Ill give you an overview and hopefully, if you arent already a member, youll be interested enough to have a look for yourself.
The yougov website isnt the most hip website around but that really doesnt matter; Its clear, practical, quick to load and extremely easy to navigate. Registering is very quick and straightforward and once thats done you can start getting fully involved and earning money!
Once youve registered and you login you can make the required amendments to your profile page and the information you give there is only used to target polls to specific groups/individuals. The information asked for is the sort that is normally used by polling organisations to help obtain, as best as possible, a balanced demographic range of people to poll. This includes things like the job you do, the paper you read, the regional TV area you live in and your political leaning.
On the rest of the site there is plenty of information for the visitor, whether you are a member or not, and it is pretty comprehensive. As a prospective member though the most important thing to read, in my opinion, is the Join Consumer Panel/How does it work? section which should answer nearly all the questions you might have about how yougov works.
The main area of the site is the Take Part section, which is sub-divided into different areas from Music to Sports to Life to Current Affairs. Quite often there are polls to participate in within these areas but they are non-paying polls, they are for general interest only. Most of the polls here are can be quite in-depth and very often topical to events in the world at the time.
Right, on to the main reason that people want to join yougov - money! Yes, yougov pay you for your opinion, or rather mainly your participation in opinion polls. Apart from the £1 you receive for registering, yougovs payment for completing opinion polls is generally 50p per poll. Often though the payment can be £1, sometimes it can be £2 and in the time Ive been a member Ive had a couple of £3 polls. In addition to paying polls yougov often have prize draw polls where instead of paying 50p or more for completing a poll, once completed you are entered into a cash prize draw of which the amounts can vary but normally its around the £500 mark and the prize is divided into 4 or 5 prize levels usually. As yet though Ive never won anything in these prize draws.
The slight drawback with yougov is that you can only cash out once youve reached £50. When youve reached that amount payout is automatic, you dont have to do a thing. YouGov send you an e-mail confirming youve reached £50 and a cheque will be sent to your registered address within 30 working days. Of course you can check your progress towards that magic £50 through your account page which lists all the polls youve participated in, in date order and the amounts earned for each poll with a running total at the bottom of the page.
Ive been a member of YouGov since January 2002 and I finally hit the £50 mark in May this year and received my cheque within the 30 days as promised by yougov so no complaints there! Obviously though youre not going to get rich quick with yougov but then for me thats not why I joined them in the first place, although getting paid for my opinion is rather nice.
The paying polls are sometimes not too dissimilar to the non-paying, or open, polls in the Take Part section as I mentioned earlier. There are obviously very often more involved polls and the topic of each can vary. Thinking back Id say the majority of polls Ive participated in are political or current affairs based with the rest being made up of polls on lifestyle, social issues and there are quite a few consumer based polls. Generally each poll can take between 5 and 15 minutes to complete and very rarely do they take any longer.
Again thinking back over the time Ive been a member of yougov there have been many enjoyable polls Ive taken part in but I suppose one of the favourite polls, which ended up as a series of polls, that I was invited to take part in was from an unnamed company who had commissioned yougov to poll its members in the form of a general knowledge quiz. Each poll was a series of questions with multiple choice answers with the overall idea behind these polls was for a general knowledge quiz game similar to Trivial Pursuit. By polling a cross-section of yougov members in such a way then the company could gauge the ease or difficulty of the game they were planning. If I remember rightly I think I earned about £4 or £5 for that series of polls and enjoyed the quiz in the process!
The paying polls dont appear on the main pages of the yougov site. One way to check for such polls is to login and check your account page; if there is a paying poll to take part in then there will be a link to it from here.
The other way to take part in paying polls, and this is the way Ive always done it, is to check the Poll Alerts box on your profile page. Each time there is a paying poll then an invitation to take part is e-mailed to you with a deadline when the poll must be completed by. YouGovs reputation and credibility as an opinion pollster is pretty much based on its ability to obtain and publish poll results very quickly indeed, so, often, invitations by e-mail to take part in polls have quite short deadlines indeed, usually a day or so. There have been occasions Ive encountered where a poll was required to be completed on the same day the e-mail was sent! So, overall the e-mail alert system for polls is by far the best way to get the best out of yougovs paying polls, else youd probably only get to complete a few now and again if you logged into your account.
There is also a Polling Club option which, to be honest, Im not exactly sure how that works as there is no identifiable difference between these kind of paying polls or other ones save perhaps they are generally a series of polls linked to each other over a short period of time, but then Im really only guessing there, I could be wrong so if someone who knows could enlighten me Id be grateful.
There are a couple of things that kind of trouble me about yougov though, but not in a sinister way. Being Internet based makes this kind of polling for public opinion a faceless task and to me it does require a certain amount of trust by yougov on the honesty of the people who sign up as members and contribute in the polls, so I often wonder if the results gained are completely representative. Something must be working right though because as I said earlier and as can be seen on the yougov site, in the results that mattered yougovs polls were so close to the actual outcome.
My other kind of niggle if you like are the polls themselves. Now, I studied Sociology a couple of years ago and one of the fundamentals of gauging a societys opinion is in the methodology of gaining that opinion. How often have you been presented with a poll with answer options only for you to think the answer I want isnt there? In some ways this is how yougovs polls are set out or the only other option is the answer dont know. Or sometimes there is an answer there that is sort of how you feel but you dont feel it explains your full thoughts on the matter and there is nowhere to add that extra. In essence some of the poll question sets are what as known as closed questions, basically yes, no or dont know with no option to expand on your given answer. However I have noticed recently there is an increase in the amount of polls where questions have a text box underneath where you can give a fuller answer.
On the whole though I really enjoy taking part and being part of something with yougov. Ive often been watching programmes like Sky News or read newspapers where a yougov poll result is announced or published and I know I participated in that poll and I feel a kind of pride and satisfaction that my opinion mattered in some small way, especially as most polls are taken from a target group of about 1000 people or so.
I often think of yougov as somewhere between the lazy persons protest site and multiple choice opinionating but I still cant recommend it enough. Im also a member of other survey sites such as PureProfile, Trendscan and MediaTransfer, but they dont even come close to yougov and what it offers and the regularity of polls to take part in.
So, what are you waiting for? If youre not already a member get across to yougov, register and start taking part!
and their cousin. After the fair success of their debut album Youth and Young Manhood the boys from the deep South, USA, are back with a second album.
The arrival by the Kings Of Leon onto the rock scene went pretty much unnoticed by me to be honest and whilst I was aware they were the newest big thing I didnt buy or really listen to their debut album. I think the only 2 songs I heard from that album were Mollys Chambers and Holy Roller Novocaine, which I liked but never pursued the interest further than that.
My interest in Aha Shake Heartbreak was quite by accident really. You see my 15 year old son is at an age where his music tastes are really starting to form and in fact for the last year or more his music taste has pretty much been of the rock genre ranging from Deep Purple and the like to Nirvana, Foo Fighters, RHCP to bands such as The Vines and The Pixies. Often though he hunts through my collection of CDs and Vinyl borrows and listens to them too. Sometimes Ill borrow and listen to some of his collection too and it was on such an occasion recently that I borrowed this album, which was bought for him just a few days earlier by his sister as a gift.
Ive still got it. Ive borrowed it for a couple of months now despite the fact Ive saved it to the music library on my PC.
Where Youth And Young Manhood was more about the Followills hopes and dreams Aha Shake Heartbreak is a brief highlight of the bands experiences in the 18 months or so between the debut album and this one. As the band themselves state this album is about sex, drugs, drinking and fighting. Theyve done the rock n roll thing and quite refreshingly they realise that actually being in a rock band in the spotlight with all the fame and everything that comes with it isnt really all that at all in that often there are just as many negatives as there are positives.
The album starts quite powerfully with  Slow Night, So Long and, for me, from the start it got me scrambling straight away trying to think who the Kings sound like. The way the band play, especially in this song, is so much like many other rock (indie mainly I suppose) bands yet also like nobody else at all. To be honest its like they have successfully taken the best styles from many great bands and fused them into their own style - very effective indeed.
Picking up the tempo a bit the first song makes a good transition to  King Of The Rodeo, an almost typical rock n roll song, full of energy and a pretty catchy chorus too. However, this is where you start to realise that it is becoming a little bit of a challenge to actually understand what Caleb (the lead singer) is singing. This isnt because hes a bad singer its his southern drawl coming through in the lyrics, the way he pronounces some words and the accent theyre sung with. Ill explain that a bit further later in the review with an example or two. Thankfully though, the album comes with an inner booklet with the lyrics to all the songs so you wont be lost for long.
Another good transition takes us to  Taper Jean Girl, another rock n roll style song with a hint of punk and a healthy dose of bass guitar to which there is no natural end to the song, no breather, its straight into  Pistol Of Fire. A good up-tempo song that keeps the mixture of rock n roll and punk style going. Pistol of Fire is the peak because until now the album has been fast-paced with a good tempo but now it drops like a stone for  Milk.
Its near impossible to convey in a review how dramatic the change in pace is from the previous songs to Milk, you have to hear it to appreciate it. Milk is extremely potent and is performed in an almost unplugged style, and this song, probably more than the others on this album, is where Calebs gravelly and almost growl-like voice is used to best effect.
Its a close call but for me Milk is my favourite song on this album. With the tempo dropping completely and after being upped by the previous songs Milk is the definite downer. Slow and ballad like it is full of emotion and atmosphere; quite dark indeed.
Now, this is where Ill give you an example of how Calebs singing can be hard to understand as I mentioned earlier. The opening line of Milk is Salty leave, salty leave which, when Caleb sings it sounds like Soul TV, then later in the song another line is Kill me, kill me which, apart from Caleb dragging out the line for emphasis, when he sings that line it comes out as Coooooler me, killller me and then of course his pronunciation of party comes out as the classic partay.
The tempo picks up again for  The Bucket, which was the first single from this album and is another part of the reason I borrowed this album from my son. The Bucket was one of those songs that I had stuck in my head, but not the whole song, just a line from the chorus 18. Balding. Star. So, when I borrowed the album from my son this was the first song I listened to.
Now were back into the rock n roll style which continues with  Soft and  Razz before the tempo drops again to another slow and atmospheric song  Day Old Blues. Day Old Blues comes a close second to Milk as a favourite song from the album. The beauty of Day Old Blues is that Caleb yodels part of it - yes he yodels. Now, before you go thinking what the ? Ill tell you this is another ballad style song and Calebs yodelling is done in such a way that it enhances the song and actually he only really yodels the chorus; it is very effective indeed, believe me!
Its back to rock n roll for  Four Kicks and  Velvet Snow before the tempo changes yet again for  Rememo, a kind of whiskey drinking sing-a-long song you would probably join in with everyone else during a late-night drinking and singing session down your local with everybody swaying from side to side. Even if you couldnt remember the words youd still hmmm along to it.
On one version of the album that is where it ends but on the other (the version with the picture of a white orchid against a black background) there is a bonus track  Where Nobody Knows, which ends the album on a slightly more up-tempo note.
In recent times, the past couple of years most probably, there has been a kind of resurgence of this genre of music. Whilst not always my favourite genre I do tend to listen to quite a few different albums by different bands (usually by borrowing them from my son), however, personally, I find quite a few of them very alike which can tend to make the songs and the bands a little bland.
With Kings of Leon however, and this album in particular, there are, for me, a couple of elements that make them stand head and shoulders over many of their peers. Firstly, the way the band play is so crisp and clean, they are in perfect harmony and in complete sync with Calebs vocals. Talking of which, that is the other element which makes this band and album stick out. His singing voice is rather unique, full of character and adds that extra something that makes the songs stick with you and want to hear them again and again.
This album cant be recommended enough, its sublime and seamless pace change from song to song will have you hooked from the start and youll feel like, to a small degree, youve gone through the ups and downs the band have gone through.
Widely available, stores like Amazon and HMV are currently selling it for £9.99 and £8.99 respectively but if you use a price comparison site like kelkoo then youll find the album for as little as £6.87 from dvdplus.co.uk.
Whilst in his Johnny Rotten persona with the Sex Pistols, John Lydon, with the obvious assistance of Sid Vicious, Paul Cook and Steve Jones, gave the music scene a much deserved slap round the face. It was getting very bland and extremely dire. You only have to look back to the music of the early 70s to see that. However if you look around the time the Sex Pistols were in existence you can quite clearly see how the music scene changed, for the better.
Aside from the tragic death of Sid Vicious punk as a music phenomenon was in decline. John Lydon became somewhat disenchanted with it all because seemingly on the back of the success of the Sex Pistols there were a lot of punk wannabe bands sprouting up everywhere which rather diluted the punk ideal. Then of course there was the start of the long running legal battle between Lydon and Malcolm McLaren.
John Lydon decided it was time for something different.
Public Image Ltd was very different, very different indeed.
After the relative success of their first album First Issue John Lydon continued to drag music into another direction and in Metal Box, PiLs second album, he did just that, brilliantly.
To enjoy PiLs music though you have to forget John Lydon was Johnny Rotten. PiL has to be separated completely from that era and looked on and listened to on its own merits. However in saying that whilst many of the songs on Metal Box are social, political and class commentaries there are a few which refer to his days in the Sex Pistols and more specifically how they were exploited and the way they were all expected to perform not just on stage but off it too like some kind of circus act.
John Lydon wasnt having any of that with PiL.
I suppose some of that can be found in the first track  Albatross, which, for me, does allude to Lydons former days in the Sex Pistols.
Now, what really makes this album really appeal to me is its uniqueness. Not just because of the music style but in 3 other ways; John Lydons distinct and unique voice, Keith Levines metallic sound on guitar and finally Jah Wobble (real-life name John Wordle) on bass guitar. In fact most of the album is driven by Jah Wobbles bass guitar work and for me Jah Wobble, as a bass guitar player, comes a close second to JJ Burnel of The Stranglers.
This uniqueness becomes unified somewhat, if you can understand that, in  Memories,  Swanlake (also known as Death Disco), which was written by Lydon for his dying mother, and  Poptones.
The next track  Careering is more bass guitar and drum driven (not to be confused with Drum & Bass) with an accompaniment of some rather alien sounds from the keyboard that wouldnt be that out of place on a science fiction movie. Mind you I suppose it does compliment Lydons singing style too, which some could argue also sounds rather alien at times, and is evident in Lydons vision of the future in  No Birds.
We get a rest from Lydons singing in  Graveyard, an atmospheric instrumental track totally driven by Jah Wobbles bass, Keith Levenes metallic guitar sounds and simple drumbeat. Talking of the drums, I have tried on many occasions to find out who the drummer was for this album as the original PiL drummer, Jim Walker, had left the band after the first album. So its a mystery who actually drummed on Metal Box.
The next 2 tracks are probably my favourites on the album. First up is  The Suit, a song again mainly driven by bass guitar and simple drumbeat but with Lydon nearly singing in an almost monotone voice but what gives this song character is the way Lydon delivers it; dark and menacing.
Then theres  Bad Baby. Still mainly on the bass guitar and drum theme theres also the return of those science fiction sounds from the keyboards. For me, this track brings it all together. Referring back to what I was saying about the bands uniqueness, on this track everything is in harmony and synchronised, even Lydons singing!.
The next track,  Socialist, is another instrumental but its more up-tempo and a near dance track, which is in complete contrast to the near disjointed sounding  Chant which sees Lydon almost slipping back into his Johnny Rotten persona, ranting on to the accompanying and repetitive line love, war, kill, hate, but then this song blends into the final track  Radio 4. Again a complete opposite and during the transition between  Chant and  Radio 4 you would be forgiven for thinking it sounded like a classical orchestra tuning-up for a recital. Its hard to describe  Radio 4, it just has to be heard to be believed. If you can, try to imagine classical music but PiL style! I think its a good track and ends the album brilliantly.
Whilst writing this review Ive been trying to see if I could classify the music style of PiL, and in particular this album, but I cant. It doesnt really fit into any kind of genre although it has been likened to somewhere between dub-reggae and Krautrock, but Im still dubious about that too. If I were to put my own take on it then Id say Metal Box could be pre-dance (techno) with more than a hint of anti-disco, a point Id like to elaborate on.
You see originally Metal Box was purposely packaged in a, limited edition of 60,000, metal, circular canister and contained 3 x 12 45rpm vinyl records. The album was later re-released in conformist vinyl album version and called Second Edition. To explain further at about the time of the release of Metal Box also saw the rise in 12 dance mix of chart songs and this is where I draw my comparison from.
Then to support my view that PiLs music doesnt fit into particular genre consider this - imagine you have an extensive collection of vinyl albums and you may have them sorted either in alphabetical or genre order, where the hell are you going to put a metal canister? It wont fit, it wont sit right amongst the row(s) of your already assembled vinyl collection. Therefore, just like PiLs music style, Metal Box cant be pigeon-holed.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have one of these 60,000 metal canisters, and in my vinyl collection it sits, proudly, at the front.
Just to reinforce the uniqueness of Metal Box when it was first re-issued on CD in 1990, guess what? It was packaged in a CD-sized metal canister! Yes, I have this version too. Again though, like its metal canistered vinyl ancestor, the CD-sized canister doesnt fit into the common everyday CD rack.
Finally, by not being able to classify properly this album into any particular genre its hard to make a comparison that would help you, the reader, to search this album out unless you are already familiar with PiL. I suppose if you enjoyed Lydons collaboration with Leftfield then youll have some idea of what to expect in Metal Box.
An album I definitely recommend and still readily available, in CD version. Amazon currently have it on offer for just under £6, Tesco have it for just under £7 which is considerably cheaper than HMV who have it priced at £12.99! However if you are curious then if you go to HMV.co.uk and then the Metal Box album page you can listen to samples of every song on the album.
Metal Box *has* to be played loud (with or without headphones) because then youll get the full effect of Jah Wobbles phenomenal bass playing; itll make the floor and walls shake and if youre wearing headphones itll just reverberate around your body and through your bones. Definitely an experience not to be missed!
Although I may cite The Stranglers as my favourite band I can assure you my music tastes are actually pretty wide and varied. The exception is Country & Western. Apologies to any fans of that genre reading this but I have never been able to warm to it. In particular I do like Dance music, well most dance music anyway. Techno, House, Trance or whatever you like to call it I like it. Nowadays it all seems to come under the general genre heading of Electronica.
That opening paragraph might seem like a bit of waffle but it does relate to the rest of this review, honest.
Whilst looking round the dance music section in my local HMV I chanced upon this album. Now, I was taking a chance here because although this album was in the dance section I wasnt that familiar with either the songs or the label. I had heard of the !K7 label but not actually heard any songs by the artists.
Im not going to bore you with the details about !K7 and what they are about; if after reading this review you want to know more then you can read about it at www.k7.com. Basically, though, !K7 promote music artists and groups who perhaps dont get the recognition and airplay they deserve, and they promote music as an art rather than the need or desire to promote music to fit commercially or, in particular, chart music, where, quite honestly, it all seems a bit bland and quite hard to distinguish one boy/girl group from another or one rapper from another.
If, like me, you like music with a bit of character and doesnt just go through you without meaning or effort then !K7 150 is definitely worth a listen.
This is a compilation album and rather than give it a kind of meaningless title it was simply named 150, which represents the fact that the album is the 150th release by the !K7 label. Being a compilation album it isnt quite a Best Of but more of a consolidation of !K7s work bringing together music from the past, present and a kind of preview where !K7 are going.
I have to admit that initially what attracted me to this album in the first place was that the copies of the album on sale at HMV were in a limited edition grey felt case. After giving the album a test listen in-store I decided to buy it as the music intrigued me enough to part with the then price of £11.99.
The version of this album I own has 3 Discs. There are 2 music CDs and a DVD. Again, like I said earlier, whilst this album, and the music of the !K7 label, is loosely attached to the Dance/Electronica genre !K7 150 contains an eclectic collection of music that covers Blues, Jazz, Soul and of course Dance.
Now, before continuing with the review I must tell you that I was considering writing a near track-by-track review but decided against it for a number of reasons. Whilst that style might suit single albums or albums by single artists I feel it would lose meaning on such an album as this, with many various artists, that, and if including the DVD there are over 40 tracks on this album to review! Instead I have opted for an overview of each disc or else the review would be unnecessarily long.
Disc One is what I tend to class as the more blues, jazz and soul of the two music discs. The majority of the 14 tracks are excellent although I have to admit I dont always listen to all of them as some of them are what Id call mood songs and I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to them. These songs include  Reclooses Cant Take It,  Vikter Duplaixs Sensuality,  Spaceks Motion Control and  Herberts Suddenly.
The rest of disc one I can listen to anytime and to narrow that down further I do have some favourite tracks. These include  Nick Holders Sometimes Im Blue, which, although slightly repetitive, is driven by a simple drum beat, double bass and piano and has that irresistible foot-tapper element. Then theres the slightly darker  Kruder & Dorfmeisters Black Baby followed by  A Guy Called Geralds Humanity. Although I mentioned it in the previous paragraph  Herberts Suddenly is another favourite and I say that as I do listen to that song more than the others mentioned.
The last 3 songs on disc one are also favourites and they are  Earl Zingers excellent Song 2Wo, then theres  Rae & Christians mix of Wake Up Everybody which features Bobby Womack and finally  Shantels Inside.
Disc Two is more dance themed although not in the same context as say current chart dance music. Like Disc One there are 14 tracks and again there are only 1 or 2 I personally find weak and rarely listen to and they are  Princess Superstars Do It Like A Robot and  Funkerstorungs Grammy Winners.
Of the rest of the tracks my favourites include  Playgroups (DJ-Kicks Electroca$h Mix) excellent cover of Depeche Modes Behind The Wheel, then there is  Tigas also excellent cover of Nellys Hot In Herre, followed by  Swayzaks I Dance Alone (Silicon Scally Mix) a pretty good dance track in its own right, next is  Peace Orchestras Double Drums and finally the excellent  Terranovas No Peace, which is probably one of my favourite tracks of the whole compilation, and strictly speaking not a dance track at all but more of a deliberately slow and melodic ballad.
The final disc of course is the DVD and here, yet again, are another 14, video, tracks, all previously unreleased. On start-up there is a song/video menu where you can watch tracks individually or you can select play all.
8 of those 14 tracks are the video versions of the tracks on the music discs. The other 6 video tracks include the story based video of  Rae & Christians Get A Life brilliantly sung by Bobby Womack. Then theres the very suggestive and ######  Toscas Honey, which um, yeah, good musically and like I said, very suggestive - near naked women dancing very slowly and deliberately, even provocatively, then someone tips a load of honey over them but the girls dont seem to mind as they carry on dancing. Very nice. Next is another quite ###### track with  Peace Orchestras Shining then we have the excellent  A Guy Called Geralds Fever,  Toscas Wonderful with the final video track being  The K&D Summer Sessions, which is a video showing highlights of Kruder & Dorfmeisters tour in the USA in 2001, to music of course.
A very highly recommended collection of music and video. However if you are the type of person who is stuck in one genre of music then this probably isnt for you. If you appreciate all kinds of music then this is a definite buy and similarly if you are looking to broaden your music tastes then this is for you. If your looking for something a little bit different and are bored with your current music collection then, again, you must give this a go.
There arent really any tracks on this collection that I dont like and on the whole I was more than pleasantly surprised with my chance purchase. I bought this album back in November 2003 and listen to (and watch) it regularly. Of course dooyoo didnt have it to review for ages until I suggested it and since its been added Ive been meaning to submit a review but never got round to it. Now Ive done so it is a relief to finally get this review down on cyber-paper.
What surprises me the most I suppose about this album is Bobby Womack. Now apart from knowing him as part of Womack & Womack all those years ago Ive never really heard him sing or anything by him for that matter - until this album of course. Singing as a featured artist on the two Rae & Christian tracks he is really good especially on the video track Get A Life. Each time I play that track, and I dont mind saying it, his voice sends a shiver down my spine. Ive never been a big listener of soul music but I think Bobby Womack has started to change my mind on that.
Now, I bought this at HMV for £11.99. Currently though Amazon are selling it for £10.99 but thats only on import and it is only the 2 x CD version and not in the grey felt presentation box. When checking I did notice that somebody was selling the version I have through Amazons collectable page for £25!
HMV online dont even have it listed anymore whereas if you visit play.com they have the limited edition version, like mine, for a mere £10.49! Im telling you its a tenner well spent and if you dont like the album then you can come and pour honey all over me, um, not the blokes just the girls, okay?
Well, it has been over 2 months since I last submitted a review so I thought it was about time I put fingers to keyboard and write something. There is plenty I have wanted to write about but to be honest I havent felt overly inspired to do so. So, to get me back into the swing of things as it were I thought Id write a review on one of my favourite subjects, The Stranglers.
No More Heroes was the second album released by The Stranglers, in September 1977. It was hot on the heels of the successes of 'Rattus Norvegicus' (from hereon known as Rattus) and a couple of singles, more notably the big summer hit 'Peaches'. It was pretty well planned this way to keep the momentum and the interest going.
The not so big surprise for Stranglers fans was that like the first album, Rattus, most of the songs were already known and 'popular', as they were already part of the group's set(s) in their many gigs before obtaining their first record deal.
So, recording new material wasn't the main task here, just putting a collection of songs spanning 2 years onto vinyl and releasing them as albums was the priority. In fact there were 4 songs already written which were not included on Rattus, but were put onto 'No More Heroes' along with 7 'newer' songs. The difference between these first 2 albums was that whilst Rattus was a listener's introduction to The Stranglers (unless you were already a fan so you knew what to expect), No More Heroes sort of screamed 'We're here!' The other thing to note about 'No More Heroes' was that most of the album was a big 'up yours' to the media and critics, and was also designed to provoke.
There has been some criticism of this album generally stating that after Rattus this was quite a weak follow-up. If I was totally honest I tend to agree but then I also take the view that as a fan you dont really care what the critics say or even if an album is weak. As a fan all Im interested in is adding another of my favourite groups albums to my collection. Although I do have to admit that No More Heroes is one of The Stranglers albums I play the least.
Further, to be even more brutally honest, I think the 2 anthem songs, No More Heroes and Something Better Change carry the album and save it from even harsher criticism.
The album actually starts quite strongly with  I Feel Like A Wog - This is one of the songs that was designed to provoke. Many critics believed this song (without listening to it properly) had too many racial overtones, when actually in truth it is more anti-fascist and is actually about discrimination (generally) and exploitation. I really like this track as there is some excellent bass guitar work from JJ Burnel and Hugh Cornwell's delivery of the lyrics sets the tone perfectly.
The next 2 songs  Bitching and  Dead Ringer are okay but nothing to write home about. Pretty ordinary really but the band put some quite solid individual and collective performances in each of the songs. Next up is  Dagenham Dave - This song is the bands tribute to a long-time 'friend' and self-acclaimed No.1 fan (and probably was) who committed suicide. He was simply known as 'Dagenham Dave'.
The next song  Bring On The Nubiles was another song designed to provoke, and gives the good old 2-fingered 'V' salute to the media/critics because of their aspersions about the band being sexist. Actually it is quite a good song with some rather colourful lyrics, and some good keyboard work by Dave Greenfield. Not a song meant to be taken seriously, at all. This song was probably one of the first ones that I had ever heard with the f word included in its lyrics; apart from on Ugly on Rattus Norvegicus of course. Also as a teenager first hearing this song, especially when swearing in songs was almost unheard of in that era, there was a kind of novelty factor that made songs like this fun to listen to with a kind of danger value to it. I mean god forbid your parents should ever find out, and that kind of edge also made songs like this more appealing. It was that typical teenage rebel thing, you know what I mean, dont you?
Anyway, moving on now to one of the great anthem songs with  Something Better Change - Probably the next best known track on this album after 'No More Heroes'. This song also achieved 'anthem' status amongst Stranglers fans and punks alike as it fitted in to the 'teenage culture' and their usual anti-establishment stance/attitude. This track was also released as a single and did well reaching No. 9. How many of you remember the immortal line - ' stick my fingers right up your nose ' That says it all really, what a great song!
Now the title track and arguably greatest Stranglers anthem song  No More Heroes - Forgetting Golden Brown this great title track will probably be remembered most about The Stranglers by many people. This song has never failed to get audiences/fans involved and singing along. Absolutely marvellous song, and who could argue with great lyrics such as - 'Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? He got an ice pick that made his ears burn' You just can't beat that can you?
If any of you reading this remember my Norfolk Coast album review I said then that you can get No More Heroes as a mobile phone ringtone, which of course I did on my Siemens SL55. Since then however I have changed phones and now have a Sharp GX30 which sadly is unable to have that ringtone. However, when I did have it I was quietly surprised by how many people instantly recognised the song from the first few bars of the ringtone, showing how popular this song really is.
Now we move on to what I feel are the weaker songs on the album and they dont really match up to the standard I have come to expect from The Stranglers.
Starting with  Peasant In The Big Shitty - This isnt a bad song but it is a bit overly experimental with different sound effects and experiments with a voice synthesizer, which Dave Greenfield liked to do on quite a few occasions, especially in later albums. Then there is  Burning Up Time - A good old fashioned rock song, some good guitar, drum and keyboard work giving this song a pretty good feel but again its nothing special. For me the weakest song on the album is  English Towns - Hugh Cornwell seems to talk his way through this song with the occasional outburst of notes. A slow melodic type song, not one of my favourite songs at all, but there is some nice guitar work and 'swirly' keyboard effects.
The final song (on the original vinyl album version) is  School Mam - This is also the longest song on the album. It is sung almost like telling a story, the details of which I won't reveal because it is rather interesting and has a cheeky little twist. The guitar work is excellent and the keyboard effects by Dave Greenfield are good. Put that together with some clever sound effects to emphasise certain points in the 'story' and it all adds up to a good song.
However, I do have a slight problem with this song. You see staying loosely on The Stranglers apparent theme of ending an album with a stirring finale, well Im sorry but School Mam fails quite miserably when compared to the excellent Down In The Sewer on Rattus Norvegicus.
On the CD version there are 3 bonus tracks and they are the mediocre Straighten Out, the quirky and experimental song Rok It To The Moon and finally the excellent 5 Minutes.
A couple more things about this album include the distinctive sleeve design, the red carnation wreath picture that was likened at the time to a chocolate box cover! The original sleeve design was 'binned', as it was a photo of JJ Burnel led on top of Trotsky's 'tomb', but none of the other band members were in it, which sort of upset them a little.
My final thoughts on this album are that overall it is not a bad collection of songs and I am of the opinion that it was a way of clearing the decks. You see with the success of the first album the hook was in and very quickly a fan base was established. By quickly releasing this second album, and keeping the impetus, The Stranglers could start making the music they really wanted to, which is quite evident in the subsequent, and rather excellent, studio album Black and White.
If you are a fan then I would say this is a definite choice for your collection but to the novice then Id say listen to Rattus Norvegicus or Black and White first.
As the album is so old now you can buy the CD for as little as £5. Just put the album title through any price comparison site like kelkoo for example and you will see. Amazon on the other hand, if you cant be arsed with trawling such a site, are charging just under £6 for it.
History has never been one of my strong points and military history even less and even though I would often watch documentaries about World War 2 I still didn't properly comprehend any 'human' element in them.
I'm not sure if I did this arse about face but I watched the series, Band Of Brothers, before reading the book and in fact I only decided to read the book as a result of watching the series. Of course there is always that age old problem of the film not matching up to the book, but in Band Of Brothers I feel that hasn't happened, they are pretty much equal. There are, naturally, some differences between book and film but nowhere near enough to leave me disillusioned, in fact I was pleasantly surprised at how similar they both were.
I'm happy that I watched the series before reading the book because in some way it gave me a better insight whilst reading and part of that I feel is down to the great acting coupled with the stories told by surviving members of Easy Company throughout the series.
Right, that's the comparison out the way so let's move on to the book.
Stephen Ambrose's forte is military history and Band Of Brothers came about partly by accident and partly by fate. He had already written and published Pegasus Bridge which tells the story of the British glider-borne paratroopers' involvement in the D-Day invasion and the importance of their role to protect the left flank of the Allied invasion force.
Whilst at a reunion in 1988, Ambrose, who was already researching material for a book about D-Day, met Major Dick Winters, undoubtedly the finest CO of Easy Company, who suggested that Ambrose might like to write about Easy Company and the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Ambrose was already in the middle of another project but this was too tempting to resist as he saw it as a great chance to compliment Pegasus Bridge by writing about how the right flank of the D-Day invasion force was protected.
After 2 years of research, including personal interviews with the veteran survivors of Easy Company, Ambrose had all the material he needed to write this book which was finally published in 1992.
Divided into 19 chapters and over 300 pages long with a handful of pages of photographs, Band of Brothers isn?t the heaviest of reads and, despite not being overly interested in military history, I found the book extremely engrossing and near compulsive reading.
Band of Brothers tells the true story of the men of Easy Company from its origins as part of the newly formed 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment through to its disbanding in July 1945. It tells how a group of strangers were thrown together, spent 2 years intense training, were instrumental in the D-Day invasion and were, effectively, only involved in the war for 8 or 9 months, and in those 3 years forged such a bond with each other that it's lasted ever since.
In July 1942 these young men embarked on an adventure that would change their lives forever. After the great depression the future still looked quite bleak and for these young men, who came from all over the United States, volunteering for the Army was the start of a very big adventure. Whilst going through the recruitment phase a request went out for volunteers to join the paratroopers.
The biggest temptation to join was the fact that they would receive an extra $50 a month, in effect doubling their pay. However part of the attraction was the fact they would be an elite fighting force getting the best training and equipment the US Army could give them. For these young men it was a chance to make their mark in life.
The book starts, naturally, in 1942, with the gruelling and intense training at Camp Toccoa in Georgia where the motto and battle cry "Currahee!" was born, and follows Easy Company through to the end in Austria in 1945. What happens in between is nothing short of remarkable, from Easy Company's first action on D-Day to Carentan, to Holland, to Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge, to the Rhineland and finally Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgarden.
Wherever trouble was at its worst Easy Company was always there and the problem was with each success they had it put them at the top of the list for the next assignment, the next battle.
What makes this true story so interesting for me is that whilst there are naturally statistics, military jargon and details of tactics and battles during the D-Day Invasion the main story is about these remarkable young men.
Ambrose, very effectively, concentrates more on the human side of this story, explaining in great detail the emotions those men had to deal with, what they were feeling before, during and after each battle. Ambrose also describes very well what drove these men on, the determination and initiative they showed as individuals and as a unit. This is what made the book so utterly compelling for me.
In fact I should explain that it isn't really Ambrose who tells the story it is the men of Easy Company. This is what makes the book even more interesting. Ambrose's skill is piecing together all the stories, memories, diaries and journals of these men and relating the story on Easy Company's behalf with his own occasional commentary and references to other similar historical books about D-Day and World War 2 as a form of corroboration.
Having my own military background, I had a great deal of empathy with these men, as I'm sure many of you have who have also read this book. In particular with the training regime they were under which brought back so many memories of my own basic military training. The major difference being that whilst I trained in peacetime, the young men of Easy Company were training to actually go to war.
For me, Ambrose has brilliantly captured their spirit and brought it to life in this book. The men of Easy Company were tested to every extreme, both physically and mentally and with Ambrose?s style, we the reader, get a real sense of what these men were feeling and had to endure.
Easy Company stood out because they had great belief in themselves and each other. Their experiences bonded them tighter, they suffered alone and together as one. The way Ambrose describes, or relives, the massive traumas these men suffered from losing best friends and being stuck in the most seemingly impossible of positions is fantastic and there are times where you feel, well I did anyway, that part of you is there with them.
However, and it is well documented and described here by Ambrose, all this for a large part goes right back to Easy Company's days at Camp Toccoa, and their very first CO, Herbert Sobel. This man alone, more than any other, was hated by the men of Easy Company, for many reasons. If you've seen Band Of Brothers you will have a partial understanding why, but in the book I learnt more about this man's controlling and tyrannical ways, much of which was unnecessary which earned him the nickname (amongst many others)of 'Chickenshit'.
There were at least 2 other men who made Easy Company the force it was and these men were the complete opposite to Sobel and were the balance to his 'chickenshit' ways. For most of Easy Company's time, during the D-Day invasion and beyond they had Dick Winters as their CO; an excellent soldier and man manager, who was firm but fair. Winters got promoted though and Easy Company were somewhat leaderless for a while (even when there was an Officer put in charge) and it was during a planned assault on a German-held French town called Foy, in early 1945, that Easy Company were blessed with another natural and respected leader; Ronald Spiers.
The backdrop for this remarkable true story is the D-Day Invasion and World War 2 but the main thrust of this book is the human factor. There are some quite surprising, yet quite natural, outcomes in this book in how the experience of conflict affected these men that I obviously don't want to reveal here as it may spoil your enjoyment of the book if you haven?t read it yet. But, for me anyway, it made me think more about what these men and many more people like them contributed and sacrificed that has undoubtedly resulted in the freedom we enjoy today.
To summarise this story is educational, insightful, it has some quite funny moments, some very poignant moments and some even more very sad and emotional moments and it is a book I very much recommend. I like Ambrose's style and his way of telling this story although he really needs to sort out his publisher/printer as there are a number of quite basic spelling and grammar mistakes that can be slightly frustrating especially as in a few places where Ambrose has drawn you into a certain passage you find such mistakes which breaks the flow of the story somewhat.
In fact I was impressed and interested enough to seek out other books by Ambrose and am currently reading 'Pegasus Bridge' which is equally compelling and ties in quite well with Band of Brothers.
This book, as are many other Ambrose books, is widely available from all main bookshops either online or off. Personally I'd recommend getting it from Waterstones as they regularly have 3 for 2 offers and Ambrose's books are often included or you could also try Tesco.com or Amazon as both those online shops also have these books on offer.
Read, learn and put life into proper perspective if even just for a moment and think about the freedom we enjoy today, no matter how limited it might seem it?s still freedom and it has come at a very heavy price indeed.
Easy Company are testament to that fact.
This isn't really a challenge, although more of helping hand for Dooyoo to understand the members and hopefully, in return, a chance of a better understanding of Dooyoo for us. This is how it works:
You write an open letter to Dooyoo giving them your feedback on the site as well as any suggestions you may have for taking the site forward addressing any concerns you might have etc. The important thing is the feedback, so include as much or as little as you feel is appropriate to yourself. Don't worry if someone has mentioned a point that you want to raise? It's also important that Dooyoo see how many people have praise, concerns or suggestions about aspects of the site.
Then you do three things: first, you post your "opinion" on Dooyoo (the category is listed below) and include some blurb in it which I'll post below. Second (and this is the important bit) you email your opinion off to Dooyoo directly via the email@example.com address so that they can read it. Third, if (and the 'if' must be stressed here) or when you get a reply, then you post their reply onto the end of your letter thus giving a complete picture of your suggestions and concerns and how Dooyoo views them. Obviously, the blurb bit is important as people don't like you quoting their emails, so if a certain piece of text is included in the opinion, then they'll know what people's intentions are.
I'm writing this open letter to you in support of TheDuke's feedback initiative although I've already recently sent you a similar letter in the form of an opinion in my Feedback & Suggestions review.
Initially I wasn't going to take part in this initiative as I didn't want to end up repeating everything I've said before, but I've since had a change of heart, feeling that it is important to contribute to a) support the initiative and b) try to include points from a different angle than I've done before.
What is slightly disappointing is that I have read a number of these feedback initiative reviews and they have mostly come from dooyoo's established members, and in the main those members that have been here either from the very beginning or pre-Aurora; the 'usual suspects' if you will.
Hoping that there are many other members who want to see dooyoo thrive again and get more involved in the community then it would be just as good to hear, by both the established members and you, dooyoo, what these other members have to contribute towards this initiative. In particular it would be interesting to have contributions from dooyoo members who used to be here and have started to come back or pop back occasionally, dooyoo members who joined post-Aurora and dooyoo members who have recently joined, because their thoughts are just as relevant and important as the 'usual suspects'. Then, I suppose, there will be a good cross-section of contributions from dooyoo members from the start of dooyoo to the present.
I don't want to harp on about all the problems with the site as many of us members are well aware of them and they have been included in many reviews (and comments) and likewise I'm sure you, dooyoo, are more than aware of what is wrong. What is frustrating from a member's point of view is knowing that you are aware of the problems yet you have done nothing about them, seemingly, and in some ways what is slightly worse is that there has been a kind of stony silence from you and a failure to acknowledge those problems that are plainly obvious for all to see and experience.
However, fair play to you as now you have included 4 useful links on the community page for dooyoo related forums, the capital letters fix so generously shared by Charlie Chuckle and the google search link to help members search better for things on dooyoo. It is a bit of a shame though that it took something like this initiative to get that achieved, but again it does show you are listening, finally. Now though, you have to keep the momentum going and keep the initiative.
The thing is attraction has never been a problem for you. Ordinary people continually join dooyoo, the trick is keeping them here. Making the site function better would go part of the way to doing that but, for me, I think another part is communication.
Do you remember the days when dooyoo was near 'interactive'? Remember the days of the dooyoo office web cam? Remember when there was much more interaction and feedback between dooyoo staff and us members?
It brought you and us closer. We felt more of a part of dooyoo and you were getting instant and valuable feedback from your members. That for me helped me and kept me here and it is testament to that kind of closeness that has not just kept me interested but many other members too who also were around and remember those earlier times.
Since Aurora that has all changed and many members have either drifted away or those who have joined since, who never experienced that kind of contact with you, have had nothing to keep them here.
Now I know many of those members from the early days might only have been here because of the generous financial rewards but you must take heart that since those rewards have shrunk quite substantially there is still a good number of members who are still here and I, personally, attribute that to a kind of sense of belonging here.
Nowadays though there isn't really much to keep new members here, is there? That could change though if you were more pro-active and more involved with your members. The community area of dooyoo could be a great vehicle to communicate with your members with things like a Q&A forum where a selection of members queries and the like could be addressed and answered by dooyoo staff. Rather than the somewhat impersonal dooyoo magazine then why not, again through the community area, encourage a more direct and personal approach to member participation there?
Further, knowing what a keen lot us members are and probably knowing more than you how the site is or isn't working then when these problems are pointed out then be honest about them on the community page and share some of your ideas with us and any future plans. I only say this as I'm sure the more involved the members feel in the direction and future of dooyoo, and the feeling that their contribution of ideas and suggestions are being listened to then the more inclined they might feel to stay and that really has got to benefit both parties hasn't it? Or else I feel dooyoo will just get staler and staler and fall way behind your main competitor, Ciao! Not because they are better necessarily but because dooyoo members will become so frustrated and feel like there is nothing to keep them here or encourage them to get involved in the community.
As David Brent says in The Office "Nothing ever changes by staying the same". This applies to dooyoo. I realise there are financial and technical restrictions that might not help change come so easily, especially with the albatross that is Aurora but by adding a more human and personal touch then change can be achieved that way and help the community flourish as it did for us members, us 'usual suspects', who experienced that human and personal approach before which has kept us here ever since.
Finally, let's hear from some more members, not just the 'usual suspects' but from those members like I mentioned earlier. It doesn't matter how long you have or haven't been a member, your input is just as valuable and just as relevant and it doesn't really matter if it's been said before. What is important about this initiative is that you get to say how you feel, what your thoughts are, good, bad or constructive.
The more people that participate then dooyoo will have more of an idea of how, hopefully, to go forward and help this site flourish again.
The above was sent as part of the Dooyoo Members' Feedback Initiative. The content is intended to provide constructive criticism for taking the site forward from the member's point of view, and has been posted to the site as an opinion. Your reply, if any is received, will be posted into the end of the opinion giving members a better idea of the Dooyoo and the site.
Capital letters courtesy of: http://www.chuckleweb.co.uk/fixit.php
At last! I've finally reached my 50th review!
As it's a landmark I have been thinking of reviews to mark the event. I did have another review planned for it but that one is only two-thirds completed and I still wasn't sure if that was the review I wanted to post next.
Fate intervened though, and the answer to my question was, naturally, right in front of me!
A review about the UK Subs, music, the colour blue and 50th review; see all the signs were already there!
Right, let's crack on.
Charlie Harper had a dream, a big dream. Before the UK Subs he had already fronted a number of other bands but in the UK Subs he found his place. Again though this is another band from the punk era that was fronted by a not-so-spring chicken; Harper was 32 when he formed the UK Subs! The band's line-up has changed many times over the years but in this era it probably had it's strongest line-up which included Charlie Harper (of course), Nicky Garratt on guitar, Paul Slack on bass guitar and Pete Davies on drums. Harper had to fund this new venture somehow though and did so by opening a Hairdressing Salon in London.
Part of Charlie's dream was to record 26 studio albums, one for each letter of the alphabet, and of course 'Another Kind Of Blues' was the first which was released in September 1978.
Originally 'Another Kind Of Blues' was pressed in blue vinyl and I was the proud owner of such a copy but alas someone stole it when I stupidly took it to a party. To stop me taking my precious vinyl albums to parties I bought cassette tapes and I replaced my vinyl version of this album with the cassette, and I'm glad to say I still have the cassette today and have had it for about 24 years now and it still plays brilliantly! Well, recently it has started to show signs of wear and tear but that is partly down to the fact that my 15 year old son often borrows it.
Since the start of the CD era I've always meant to replace (and preserve) my cassette version but it wasn't until about 6 weeks ago that I finally bought the CD album. I found it at a record fair I went to in Canterbury, it was the stall holders only copy and at £9.99 I couldn't resist and I knew if I did, hoping to find it cheaper elsewhere, I might end up kicking myself.
Okay, here comes the main part of the album review.
Similarly to The Strangler's debut album 'Rattus Norvegicus' the UK Subs' debut album 'Another Kind Of Blues' was a collection of songs already up to 2 and a half years old with the exception of 'Blues', 'TV Blues' and 'Young Criminals' which were written for the album.
Now, I'm not going to review the album track by track because there are so many! On the original vinyl and cassette versions there are 17 tracks and they are:
1 - C.I.D.
2 - I Couldn't Be You
3 - I Live In A Car
4 - Tomorrows Girls
5 - Killer
6 - World War
7 - Rockers
8 - I.O.D
9 - TV Blues
10 - Blues
11 - Lady Esquire
12 - All I Want To Know
13 - Crash Course
14 - Young Criminals
15 - B.1.C
16 - Disease
17 - Stranglehold
On the CD version I have under the Captain Oi! Label, there are another 9 tracks which include:
18 - C.I.D (Single Version)
19 - I Live In A Car (Single Version)
20 - B.1.C (Single Version)
21 - Stranglehold (Single Version)
22 - World War (Single Version)
23 - Rockers (Single Version)
24 - Tomorrows Girls (Single Version)
25 - Scum Of The Earth
26 - Telephone Numbers
The original album, even at 17 tracks long, is just over 30 minutes long and even on the CD version, as I've mentioned above, with the bonus tracks it's just under 50 minutes long!
This partly tells you the style of the UK Subs. Short, sharp, shock treatment. Except it's not shock at all, just short and sharp. Rather than drag songs out for the sake of it, UK Subs were in and out in no time. Charlie said what he had to, the band played along and the song was done; move on to the next song and so on and so on.
It was a formula that proved effective and successful for the UK Subs and very few bands could match their style. Is it Rock? Is it Punk? It's both.
'Another Kind Of Blues' covers many topics in life from drugs to sex to unemployment to war to social issues to life in general.
The more successful singles from the album are 'Tomorrows Girls' and 'Stranglehold' which are also 2 of my favourites. 'Rockers' is definitely the anthem song of the album and the UK Subs generally, and is a huge favourite with fans everywhere, including me. 'Rockers' though is a kind of 'Siamese twin' song as it is always preceded by 'World War', the end of which, amongst some rather good explosive sound effects blends seamlessly into 'Rockers'. Whereas most songs on the album last between a minute and a half to 2 and a half minutes, 'Rockers' is almost an epic by comparison at 3 and a half minutes long!
Even the lyrics are short and to the point. Charlie didn't mince his words or flower them up and disguise the content, he said what he wanted to say and that was it. Charlie also had an issue with the Police and didn't mind singing about it and 2 songs that really stick out to emphasise this point in no uncertain terms are 'C.I.D' and 'Killer'.
The lyrics for 'C.I.D' go like this:
"See that man dressed in black
Pass him by, don't look back
Keep in a line, walk straight ahead
One false move, you could be dead
Take a tip hear what I say
Don't take a trip down Soho way
If you do you better keep in line
One false move, you could be doing time
He's a underground undercover agent for the C.I.D
He's got a loaded 44 he's a walking armoury store."
And an extract from 'Killer':
"The copper is a killer
No matter what you say
Put him in a uniform
He'll put you in a grave"
I could recite more but I think you get the idea, Charlie had issues and he didn't mind sharing them, bluntly. Easy, simple and effective and that's one of the things I really like about this album.
Other favourite tracks on the album include 'Killer', 'Blues', 'Crash Course' and 'Young Criminals'. If I was pushed to make a decision then my favourite track would have to be 'TV Blues'. I think this is the only song I've ever heard that is a protest song solely about the TV Licence!
"TV detector van coming down the street
TV detector man took away our TV
Now my little sisters got the TV blues
They say it's tough on you
My little sisters got the TV blues
Daddy's got them too
If you can't get the money to pay the fine
You know what they're gonna do?
40 days in Brixton
Puts the shit up the family
I guess you wouldn't credit this
For watching your own TV"
Now, I realise that UK Subs might not be everyone's cup of tea but, for me, 'Another Kind Of Blues' is fun to listen to. The songs are short, the lyrics pretty slick, often funny and pretty catchy added with the rest of the band's contribution this is a great album and there isn't a bad song on here, and let's face it the songs aren't ever long enough to grow a dislike for them.
The band might play at quite frenetic speeds throughout the album but they have achieved something in giving each song its own identity. It's fast, it's furious, it's fun and with Charlie Harpers singing added with the UK Subs overall style we have something pretty unique in 'Another Kind Of Blues' which makes it an outstanding debut album.
The only decision you need to make is; Do you pogo? Do you headbang? Or do you do both? If you can't decide on any of them then just sit in a chair and rock, tapping your feet.
Recommended? Without doubt!
You can still get this album in vinyl, but if you want it in blue then you'll have to hunt for it on eBay. It's also still available in cassette form but I'd recommend buying the CD version which is generally on sale between £10 and £14 depending which online music store you visit.
Personally I'd recommend the one produced on the Captain Oi! label as this seems to be the only one that has all the extra tracks and has a decent sized inlay booklet (in the colour blue, of course) with a little bit of history about the band, some photos and lyrics to all the songs on the album, however some of the lyrics haven't been printed correctly as there are a number of errors including some missed lyrics etc.
For the collector though THE version of 'Another Kind Of Blues' to get, in CD format, is the one produced on the Diablo label, which was released in 1998, and is rumoured to be quite rare.
I'll end this review with my favourite lyrics from the album, and they are from 'Tomorrow's Girls':
"She's out there drinking
Ice cold beer
Will piss it in your ear
She ain't no factory girl
And she don't wanna live
In no nine to five world
You're out there slaving
On your factory floor
But tomorrows girl
She wants a lot more"
Not bad for a song about 26 years old eh? If only Charlie Harper knew!