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adambrown400
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    • More +
      09.02.2011 23:10
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      Great album

      The Black Swan, Bert Jansch, 2006

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      Background
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      The Black Swan is folk guitarist Bert Jansch's 23rd album. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Jansch and folk music as a genre should look no further than this spectacular return to form from the former Pentangle founder. Jansch is a Scottish folk guitarist and is seen as one of this country's pioneers of the instrument. He has recorded 25 albums and has heavily influenced the guitar style of artists such as Jimmy Page, Nick Drake, Graham Coxon, Donovan and Neil Young. It's a shame then that he is still a lot more obscure than those afore mentioned musicians.

      Black Swan sees Jansch seamlessly blend folk, jazz and Eastern influences into a cohesive whole. It's an album that sees him return to form after a few years out of the spotlight. Joining Jansch on Black Swan is celebrated indie rocker and would be folk temptress Beth Orton.


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      Opinion
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      Black Swan is an amazing piece of work. Its so refreshing to hear an album that is full of the most organic music from the master guitarist Jansch. Its not in the least bit mainstream and neither would it want to be really.

      Jansch's voice takes a little getting used to as he has quite a broad Scottish accent. However, once you are over that then its pretty much plain sailing. Even the addition of Beth Orton is welcome. Her voice and the guitar of Jansch are a perfect combination and this is seen most notably on 'When the Sun Comes Up'.

      My favourite track on the album was the haunting 'The Black Swan' as well as the bluesy 'My Pocket's Empty'.

      I really like the minimalist album cover that accompanies the music. I ties in nicely with the whole album's ambience. Its a laid back piece of work that glides easily over the old ears and produces a real warm sensation.

      Those of you who are looking for a great rock and roll record with drive and gritty determination won't find it here. Instead, you'll get a smooth and relaxing folk album with great emotion and atmosphere.

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      Tracklist
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      1. "The Black Swan" - 6:25
      2. "High Days" - 3:47
      3. "When the Sun Comes Up" - features Beth Orton - 3:54
      4. "Katie Cruel" (traditional, Jansch) - featuresBeth Orton and Devendra Banhart - 2:59
      5. "My Pocket's Empty" (traditional, Jansch) - 3:49
      6. "Watch the Stars" (traditional, Jansch) - features Beth Orton and Kevin Barker - 2:54
      7. "A Woman Like You" - 4:13
      8. "The Old Triangle" (Brendan Behan) - 4:06
      9. "Bring Your Religion" - 3:05
      10. "Texas Cowboy Blues" - 3:07
      11. "Magdalina's Dance" (Jansch, Paul Wassif) - 3:19
      12. "Hey Pretty Girl" - 3:03

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      • More +
        06.02.2011 22:48
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        superb Power Pop

        Emitt Rhodes, Emitt Rhodes, 1970

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        Background
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        Multi-instrumentalist Emitt Rhodes seems to have been lost in the annals of rock history. The four albums that he produced in the early 70's are the only reminder of his work, Rhodes retired from the music business quite soon after 1973's 'Fairwell to Paradise' after the pressure of producing albums got to him.

        The main reason behind this pressure was Rhodes really was a 'one man band'. Taking his cue from Paul McCartney's first solo release, Rhodes recorded his debut album in much the same way- playing all the instruments himself. ABC/Dunhill Records released his first album which was made in his parent's garage in a recording studio he constructed himself. Originally recorded on four track, he later re-recorded the vocals after transferring his work onto an eight track machine.

        In every bit a 'garage' record, Rhodes wrote every single song on the album. Billboard later called 'Emitt Rhodes' one of the best records of the decade.

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        Overview
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        A few years ago I listened to the great soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson. Anderson always uses a wide variety of interesting and diverse acts for his soundtracks, but seems to like British Invasion acts like The Kinks, The Stones and The Beatles.

        Emitt Rhodes appeared on that album with a song from his debut album 'Lulabye'. Being a huge Beatles and Badfinger fan I was interested to hear this album due to Rhodes being dubbed the 'one man Beatles.' Power Pop is a genre that Badfinger carried the tradition on throughout the 70's, as did Big Star and then more recently Jellyfish in the 90's. Rhodes manages to capture that sound effectively through faithful recreation of instrumentation as well as top notch musicianship and songwrtiting.

        The melodies and songwriting are absolutely superb. The album gets off to a cracking start with "With My Face on the Floor" with the rest of the first half of the album sounding quintessentially British - in some cases almost like a sing-along down an East End boozer. 'She's Such a Beauty' is evidence of this - a song that even has the occasional kazoo as a percussion instrument.

        My favourite track on the album is 'Fresh As A Daisy' which a brilliant piece of Beatle-esque pop. In fact there isn't a bad track on the album at all. My only concern about recommending the album to others is - if you've got The Beatles and Badfinger - do you really need Emitt Rhodes? While I understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery - Rhodes certainly has a lot to offer here that is original and different without just being a second rate pastiche.

        The actual sound recording needs a lot of work doing to it and someone needs to do a serious job of beefing up the mix. I really hope a decent remastered edition comes out of this record as I could see it becoming one of my favourite albums with a few more listens.

        Highly regarded, but not forgotten.


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        Tracklist
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        1. "With My Face On The Floor" 3:06
        2. "Somebody Made For Me" 2:23
        3. "She's Such A Beauty" 2:21
        4. "Long Time No See" 3:14
        5. "Lullabye" 1:05
        6. "Fresh As A Daisy" 2:46
        7. "Live Till You Die" 2:44
        8. "Promises I've Made" 3:21
        9. "You Take The Dark Out Of The Night" 2:54
        10. "You Should Be Ashamed" 2:38
        11. "Ever Find Yourself Running" 2:34
        12. "You Must Have" 2:04

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        06.02.2011 21:29
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        a true classic

        Sail Away, Randy Newman, 1972

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        Background
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        Randy Newman is perhaps best known these days as the guy who Disney turns to to write songs for Pixar animations like Monsters Inc and Toy Story. While those ballads are nice and chirpy and have helped the success of the Toy Story franchise, Newman's music is perhaps best heard on several albums he made back in the 1970's.

        Newman has a very sardonic, but deeply American take on life, full of sarcasm and satire that is so different from any of his contemporaries. His songs usually are lyrically written from the viewpoint of someone else - either from history (such as the slave traders in the title songs from this album) or a particular set of people with certain ideas (Short People). Newman' songs always strike an emotional chord and always hit home lyrically and are much admired.

        Sail Away was Randy Newman's breakthrough album which saw him emerge not just as an excellent songwriter, but also as a performer in his own right. Up until this point Newman's songs were being recorded by a vast number of disparate artists, here he presents an eclectic and satirical set of songs that are seen as his strongest ever.

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        Overview
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        One of my favourite albums is the fantastic 'Good Old Boys' a Randy Newman album from 1974. That album's predecessor is 1972's Sail Away which sees Newman develop his political and satirical voice. Its a slightly different album, being mainly a collection of songs - rather than around a certain theme - but is excellent nonetheless.

        Sail Away itself is a beautiful song, but also when you look into it is quite an ugly lyric. Thats not a bad thing, but it is in fact a pitch by a slave trader to African's about the great life ahead for them in America. The orchestration is excellent giving the song a warm and inviting ambience.

        America itself is also the focus for 'Political Science' which is a brutal attack on the US and its foreign policy at the time. In fact its so clever it works even today with the US's involvement in wars overseas. When you hear Newman sings about 'dropping the big one' and turning Australia into an American theme park - its funny - but also you could imagine them trying it! And that's what is so
        Brilliant about Newman's lyrics, they are both amusing and thoughtful, without verging on 'comedy'.

        Politics and satire to the side, the album also features some great (but bizarre!) themes - 'Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear' is a song that has been covered by a diverse range of different artists - everyone from Morrissey to Fozzie Bear! Newman's slight and evocative delivery is evident here as well.

        Without a shadow of a doubt Sail Away is a genuine classic, but falls slightly short of my favourite Randy Newman album 'Good Old Boys.' Certainly its an album that everyone should hear and appreciate, due to its short running time (thirty minutes without the extra tracks) there really is no excuse for not!

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        Tracklist
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        1. "Sail Away" - 2:56
        2. "Lonely at the Top" - 2:32
        3. "He Gives Us All His Love" -1:53
        4. "Last Night I Had a Dream" - 3:01
        5. "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear" - 2:00
        6. "Old Man" - 2:42
        7. "Political Science" -2:00
        8. "Burn On" - 2:33
        9. "Memo to My Son" - 1:56
        10. "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" - 1:47
        11. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" - 3:18
        12. "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" - 3:36
        13. "Let It Shine"
        14. "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong" (studio version)
        15. "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" (early version)
        16. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (demo version)
        17. "Sail Away" (early version)

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        • Born Free - Kid Rock / Music Album / 40 Readings / 38 Ratings
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          03.02.2011 19:18
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          Country Rock 21st Century Style

          Born Free, Kid Rock, 2010

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          Background
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          Born Free is Kid Rock's seventh studio album produced by Rick Rubin and released at the end of last year. Its a gear change for Kid Rock as this is the first album of his to be based entirely in the country rock sound, something he has hinted at throughout his tenure as a white rapper.

          Born Free also sees rock team up with the great and good from the world of rock, country and rap such as Sheryl Crow, Zac Brown, Martina McBride and the man Rock is slowly morphing into - Bob Seger. Many critics has dismissed Rock as a cocky know it all with an ego the size of Texas and I expect Born Free will convert few into his way of doing business. But as a rock a roll record, Born Free needs to listened to and be appreciated for what it is - damn good fun.

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          Overview
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          Kid Rock has always hinted in previous albums his desire to make a great country rock album, whether its his leaning towards rebels such as David Allan Coe or Hank Williams Jr, he has never quite pulled it off - always coming off as an alternative Eminem who cracks some amusing rap one liners about sex, drugs and alcohol.

          Personally I have always had a soft spot for Kid Rock (ask JJJJ), enjoying both the ludicrously crass lyrics of his earlier albums as well as the southern rock stylings of his later ones. There isn't any crass rapping here on Born Free, neither does Rock endlessly tell us how many records he's sold or how many birds he's slept with. It's just straight down the line heartfelt Americana.

          Its a very organic album and very laid back, neatly slipping into the modern sound of Sheryl Crow and the edgy hard rock of the Stones and The Black Crowes. Even the choice of singing partners feels appropriate and natural.

          My favourite tracks on the album are the edgier rockers. 'Born Free' which flows and rolls eloquently as the opening track. The next 'Slow My Roll' is an equally impressive piece of work reminiscent of Honky Tonk Woman in many respects.

          'God Bless Saturday' is my favourite track of all. Anthermic and memorable it makes the album stand out and feel a little more relevant.

          Born Free won't win over many critics, but it does herald a much more laid back direction for Kid Rock. It isn't 'Cocky' by any means, its Kid Rock growing up and learning to create relevant, but retro music.


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          Tracklist
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          1. "Born Free" 5:14
          2. "Slow My Roll" 4:18
          3. "Care" (featuringMartina McBride and T.I.)4:12
          4. "Purple Sky" 4:05
          5. "When It Rains" 4:45
          6. "God Bless Saturday" 3:34
          7. "Collide" (featuringSheryl Crow and Bob Seger on piano)4:49
          8. "Flyin' High" (featuringZac Brown)4:03
          9. "Times Like These" 5:56
          10. "Rock On" 5:22
          11. "Rock Bottom Blues" 3:51
          12. "For the First Time (In a Long Time)" 5:46

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          • Stone (DVD) / DVD / 39 Readings / 39 Ratings
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            02.02.2011 21:50
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            Oz and Bikes

            Turkey Shoot, The Man From Hong Kong, Harlequin - all decent Ozsploitation movies. Ozsploitation you say? What's that? Well, Ozsploitation is the name given to films predominantly from the 70's and 80's that were made in Australia. Each film has its own distinctive style, but all of them have the same in your face Aussie attitude. I first heard about this series of films in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood (read my review!) and I've been trawling Lovefilm for as many of them as I could get my hands on. The Man From Hong Kong is my favourite, but will Stone top that classic?

            The Gravediggers are an outlaw motorcycle gang in Sydney. Unfortunately for them many of their brethren are being murdered. Detective 'Stone' is sent by the force to investigate - to do so he must go undercover, he tells the Gravediggers that he is a 'pig' (risky that) and they tentatively accept him into their gang sop that he can find out the killer. Leaving behind his girlfriend and his former life he must choose between his loyalty to her and The Gravediggers, but just who is responsible?

            Motorbike films are a dying breed, but were very popular in the 70's due to the enormous success of Easy Rider and the antics of Evel Knievel. Stone adds cop drama to that mix as well as political assassination and to a certain extent they work well together.

            The action and action direction is very good by 1974 standard. If you believe No t Quite Hollywood, then you will see that most of the stunts were done on open highways with the public very much an unwilling participant. The stunts are good, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more actual racing than the wobbly 70's boobs that the filmmakers obviously thought would draw in a bigger audience.

            Ken Shorter was one of the weak links in the film. His 'Stone' character is pretty unassuming, mysterious yes, but really does not have the presence to make his character really great.

            To be honest the film is probably lost on someone like me who isn't into motorbikes and who doesn't remember the 70s -or for that matter is Australian. Not that saying that doing or being any of those things will mean you can't enjoy some of the film. The rest of the motorbike gang are interesting - especially Roger Ward who plays Hooks. Ward also appeared in some other classic Oz films like Turkey Shoot as well as crossover classics like Mad Max and Quigley Down Under. Here Ward manages to make his character likeable and much more human than the rest of the gang.

            Stone will be loved by some, annoy others, but ultimately was a bit 'meh' from me.

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              27.01.2011 20:59
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              Classic Blues Rock

              LA Woman, The Doors, 1971

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              Background
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              The Doors were one of the 60's greatest and original rock acts. Bridging the gap between psychadelia and heavy rock they exemplified the laid back cool groove of the hippie lifestyle. LA Woman was the band's final album after six years together. With the forceful persona of the band's unpredictable front man, Jim Morrison, the band's place in rock history was assured.

              Amazingly enough most of the album was recorded live and apart from a few overdubs is pretty amazing really when you listen to the quality of the recorded sound. LA Woman was the band's most successful album since the eponymous debut and signified a more laid back, blues orientated sound.

              Of course, LA Woman would prove to be the last Doors album to be made. Jim Morrison had become so unpredictable and by this point had decided to become a poet in exile. Morrison would move to France and within three months of the album's release he was dead.

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              Opinion
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              LA Woman is a great album and sounds fantastic.

              It's a very laidback album, sometimes dismissed as 'schmaltz', but it's also a very blues-rock orientated record with a number of the tracks being quite low down and dirty. This is no more exemplified than through the fantastic 'Been Down So Long'. Another great blues track is the glorious 'Cars Hiss by My Window' which churns along at a languished pace- delicious!

              Theres something really quite posh about Morrison's vocals - almost Dean Martin and crooner-like in some parts, but also uniquely American in its drawl. From the psychedelic 'LA Woman' through to the folk-like 'Hyacinth House' we get to hear Morrison's full range and one of the reasons behind the group's lasting appeal. Morrison was obviously a bit of a strange character (as depicted in the Val Kilmer movie), but strangeness apart although the album and the band are billed as 'psychedelic rock', there is nothing really 'out there' about the album - really it's pretty middle of the road blues rock.

              One song that got on my nerves a little bit was L'America, mainly due to its annoying lyrics and lazy writing style.

              But its the epic 'Riders on the Storm' that really sets the album apart. Its my favourite Doors track, brilliantly moody and superbly atmospheric it ebbs and flows smoothly throughout it's seven and a bit minutes. The rain and thunder sound effects certainly add to the overall scope, as does the tinkly piano of Ray Manzarek - great stuff.

              Highly respected and an album that sounds really great forty years on.


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              Tracklist
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              1. "The Changeling" - 4:21
              2. "Love Her Madly" - 3:20
              3. "Been Down So Long" - 4:41
              4. "Cars Hiss by My Window" - 4:12
              5. "L.A. Woman" - 7:49
              6. "L'America" - 4:37
              7. "Hyacinth House" - 3:11
              8. "Crawling King Snake" - 5:00
              9. "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" - 4:16
              10. "Riders on the Storm" - 7:09

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                25.01.2011 23:12
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                Descriptively good, but poor realisation

                A Case of Conscience, James Blish, 1958
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                Background
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                James Blish was an American science fiction novelist who wrote some of the most highly regarded sci-fi books that the genre has ever seen. Among them are classics such as 'Cities in Flight' and 'A Case of Conscience'. Bliss is still highly regarded and these two books have been reprinted under Gollanz's Science Fiction Masterworks collection.

                The book begins on the planet of Lithia which is light years away from Earth. On Lithia are a group of scientists who have been sent there to investigate the planets suitability for colonisation and its rich reserves of precious ore. Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a Jesuit who discovers that the lizard animals that populate the planet go through a strange mating process that directly goes against Sanchez's religious beliefs and could prove the non-existance of God. The rest of the team wants to take Lithia for what it's got, but Sanchez thinks the planet should be quarantined - that is until he's given one of the Lithian's children unexpectedly to take back to planet Earth...


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                Opinion
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                I really like a decent sci-fi novel but there are several pitfalls that some people find themselves in. Usually the book is dated in some respects, in others obscure names of characters confuse the reader and it can become impossible to comprehend and follow.

                The first section of the book is excellent and very realistic - almost like a precursor to Avatar, without the action. It's pretty obvious that James Cameron has 'borrowed' quite a number of ideas from this book for his latest blockbuster - right down to the kangaroo look of the main aliens. It's a shame then that once the humans return to Earth things go a little awry. I really like the depiction of Lithia and the tree that is used to talk to other Lithians (amazingly like the large tree in Avatar - funny that!).

                I didn't really like the depiction of Earth as a redundant society driven underground to escape from the fear of nuclear war. I also thought that the depiction of upper society as a crazed celebrity obsessed idiots was a little patronising- the rollercoaster that changed into a train headed for Belsen concentration camp was in particular poor taste.

                The latter part of the book was a little ludicrous and annoying. The character of Egtverchi is annoying and for some reason is followed by all of humanity who have decided to descend into the Earth in underground bunkers for fear of nuclear war that never happened. I didn't buy that premise in the slightest and that is where the book fails considerably. As the book is set in the mid 21st century it talks about the great underground riots of '1993' - as I said before, quite dated.

                The theme of religion is frequently touched upon and never fully realised. There is a conversation about the idea of natural selection and evolution that goes against one of the main character's beliefs, but to be honest is never really explored in much depth especially after the return to Earth.

                I liked the notion of religion and alien beings coming into conflict, but it is far too complex for the occasional reader to follow or to make any judgement. A little annoying then.

                A Case of Conscience is a flawed novel with a great first half that peters out with some irritating themes in its second half. At 192 pages it's not a massive book and went by quite quickly. For those of you who are interested, the book is part of the Science Fiction Masterworks Collection.

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                • Infidels - Bob Dylan / Music Album / 54 Readings / 52 Ratings
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                  24.01.2011 22:33
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                  Great 80's Dylan

                  Infidels, Bob Dylan, 1983

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                  Background
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                  Infidels is Bob Dylan's 22nd album released in 1983. Produced by Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler, Infidels covers themes as far ranging as Israel, Geopolitics, love and loss. It has been regarded as one of Dylan's strongest albums for many years and would certainly be one of his 80's highpoints as for years after he would be on a bit of a decline until his 2000's resurgence.

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                  Opinion
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                  I've turned into a bit of a 'Bob' Head over the past few years, really enjoying both the musicality but also the clever lyricism of Bob Dylan. My favourite album of his is the excellent 'Blood on the Tracks' which is certainly up there in my top ten albums of all time list (must get around to writing that review!). I recently got myself a copy of Infidels which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

                  The eight songs on Infidels are all excellent and without knowing it at the time I was entranced by the Dire Straits sound that the album has. Knopfler's polished production makes songs like 'Sweetheart Like You' sound like a Brother In Arms outtake. But the whole album flows so well together and there really isn't a bad song on the album, let alone a track that sounds muggy or unintelligible (something Dylan can sound like - especially live).

                  'Jokerman' kicks the album off and is a great uplifting track with a good vocal from Dylan himself. My favourite track on the album is the fantastic 'Sweetheart Like You' which some have seen as a little sexist in some of its phrasing - I just like the normalcy of some of the 'chat-up' lines that Dylan uses - 'by the way, that's a cute hat', but also some classic nonsense from the master or doggerel 'Even before ya came in the door / They say in your father's house, there's many mansions / Each one of them got a fireproof floor'. What the hell?!

                  'Neighbourhood Bully' is a song in defence of Israel, but also works on several different levels- as does 'License To Kill' - but I can't listen to that song without thinking about Robert Davi and Tim Dalton!

                  The hillbilly riff that accompanies 'Union Sundown' is crying out for a steal by the Beastie Boys if anyone. I was taken aback by the forcefulness of Dylan lyrics here, lambasting the American production industry for making things more cheaply overseas.

                  'Man of Peace' was also a highpoint for me which also included some great lyrics 'could be the Fuhrer, could be the local priest' could indeed be Satan disguising himself as a man of peace.

                  In all 'Infidels' was absolutely excellent. It's been on my media player in my car all week and has not been off. It's likeness to Dire Straits was a winner for me and was a marriage made in heaven. If you want a good introduction to the work of Bob Dylan, then this certainly ranks up there with some of his best work.


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                  Tracklist
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                  1. "Jokerman" - 6:12
                  2. "Sweetheart Like You" - 4:31
                  3. "Neighborhood Bully" - 4:33
                  4. "License to Kill" - 3:31
                  5. "Man of Peace" - 6:27
                  6. "Union Sundown" - 5:21
                  7. "I and I" - 5:10
                  8. "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" - 5:54

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                  • 5150 - Van Halen / Music Album / 64 Readings / 63 Ratings
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                    23.01.2011 22:01
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                    Hard and Heavy

                    5150, Van Halen, 1986

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                    Background
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                    Van Halen are one of America's greatest hard rock bands. Their debut album 'Van Halen' is regarded as one of the best rock albums ever (definitely in my top ten). However, Van Halen suffered from some massive egos at play - most notably lead singer David Lee Roth and founding member Eddie Van Halen. After some massive albums and a number one hit (Jump), push came to shove and after Eddie played guitar on Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' Roth wanted out.

                    I once heard Van Halen described as a cartoon Led Zeppelin. In some ways that was true, exemplified by the hyperactive David Lee Roth (a man usually seen with two dwarves and a bottle of Jack Daniels). But like everything good, it just had to come to an end and Roth left Van Halen for seemingly greener pastures. Van Halen battled on and replaced David Lee with Montrose front man Sammy Hagar.

                    Their follow up to '1984' was '5150' which contained the mega-hit 'Why Can't This Be Love', another synth-laden rocker that eclipsed everything that David Lee Roth was putting out. Roth was tipped to be the next big thing after the Van Halen breakup and Van Halen were almost consigned to the dustbin of history (even their record company suggested they drop their name in favour of another - imagine them saying that to The Sugerbabes - they're almost akin to Trigger's broom!).

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                    Opinion
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                    'Van Hagar' are a different beast to the previous Roth era band. In fact, they started a much more accessible and commercial sound that the American public really went for - mainly down to Eddie's solo on Michael Jackson's 'Beat It'.

                    5150 also boasts more ballads than any other previous Halen album. Van Halen up to this point were mainly known for fast paced rock songs frequented by fast paced guitar solos and not for rock ballads. 'Dreams' is pure 80's cheese but certainly exemplifies the band's new direction.

                    'Get Up' is pretty ridiculous. It just seems to be an excuse for the band to go totally all-out and produce the fastest thrash song possible. It's certainly the weakest song on the album and is actually a little irritating, but I suppose the band were trying to find their feet at the time and they could be forgiven for trying something a little different.

                    I'm not a huge fan of Hagar, but here his voice is less strained than he usually sounds. Songs like 'Best of Both Worlds' really shows how good the new band sounds with Hagar in charge. It all sounds much more accessible than other Halen albums, but this song (whilst seriously ripping off Led Zeppelin) is actually bloody good.

                    What sets this album apart is the Jump-sequel of sorts 'Why Can't This Be Love'. Its chopper intro forms and moulds into a crunching synth riff which is absolutely amazing and sounds so good 'loud'.

                    It's a decent start for the new Van Halen and anyone who is unsure about hearing the Hagar sound should give it a go. It certainly beats 'Van Halen III' hands down!

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                    Tracklist
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                    1. "Good Enough" - 4:04
                    2. "Why Can't This Be Love" - 3:47
                    3. "Get Up" - 4:37
                    4. "Dreams" - 4:54
                    5. "Summer Nights" - 5:06
                    6. "Best of Both Worlds" - 4:48
                    7. "Love Walks In" - 5:11
                    8. "5150" - 5:44
                    9. "Inside" - 5:02

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                    • More +
                      19.01.2011 22:42
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                      cracking 80's classic

                      Bruce Hornsby and the Range, The Way It Is, 1986

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                      Background
                      ------------------------------

                      Bruce Hornsby and The Range began life in 1985. Hornsby himself was an accomplished pianist, but it was his song that described aspects of the American Civil Rights movement 'The Way It Is' that struck a chord with the American public and topped the charts stateside.

                      The Way It Is was Hornsby's debut album and was his most successful by a long shot. With the help of fellow 80's songster Huey Lewis he produced a debut album that he has yet to better. Its seen as a bit of a classic and after hearing 'The Way It Is' on the radio the other day I thought I had better get the album and see if the rest of the album was as good.

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                      Opinion
                      -----------------------------

                      The Way It Is is a great song, absolutely superb. You might think that the song is a little irritating now that it has been sampled by so many rappers, however within its natural environment on this album it sounds great. The little piano riff that accompanies the track and sets it apart on the album is highly memorable. In my mind its one of the best songs from the 1980's.

                      Mandolin Rain is also an exquisitely written piece of music. Some might be put off by the seemingly highly polished production techniques of the song and the rest of the album, but to be honest it sounds so good on the old HIFI.

                      The songs have such depth and a real sense of space. When Hornsby sings about the 'Western Skyline' or the 'Wild Frontier' or 'The Red Plains' the instruments feel miles apart. All the songs have sense of the American wild frontier and sound so rich and sparse at the same time. I can only really describe the songs as a slice of Americana such as Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game' or Alannah Miles' 'Black Velvet. But Hornsby also has a really great piano sound exemplified by The Way It Is and other tracks throughout the album.

                      I would argue it's a lost classic. To be honest there aren't many albums I can genuinely say that are real favourite of mine from the 80's, but The Way It Is ranks right up there for me. It doesn't have a huge amount to say, but The Way It Is sounds so good and is a great taste of 80's Americana.

                      -----------------------------
                      Tracklist
                      -----------------------------

                      1. "On the Western Skyline" - 4:42
                      2. "Every Little Kiss" - 5:48 (Bruce Hornsby)
                      3. "Mandolin Rain" - 5:19
                      4. "The Long Race" - 4:25
                      5. "The Way It Is" - 4:58 (Bruce Hornsby)
                      6. "Down the Road Tonight" - 4:26
                      7. "The Wild Frontier" - 4:04
                      8. "The River Runs Low" - 4:27
                      9. "The Red Plains" - 5:03

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                      • More +
                        18.01.2011 23:00
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                        Distant cousin to great first film.

                        Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection
                        ------------------------------------------------------


                        Delta Force 2 is the sequel to the hit 1986 actioner 'The Delta Force' starring the one and only Chuck Norris. This film concentrates on the people of San Carlos and their grip under the tyranny of local drug lord Ramon Cota. Cota controls the cocaine industry and its influx into the US. He is under the surveillance of the DEA who are brutally gunned down during a raid on his operation. It is then up to Colonel McCoy (Norris) and his partner to bring Cota down to the ground (literally). Cota manages to escape and kill McCoy's partner and family. So it's down to Norris to single handedly bring down Cota and his gang of South American hoodlums.

                        The film bore absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the first film. It's a bit annoying really as the first film was certainly (along with Missing in Action 2, yes '2') are absolute classics and should be viewed by everyone.

                        Chuck Norris sleepwalks through this film. There are your usual fight and kickboxing training scenes and many, many deaths all of equally amusing finality. The stupidest part sees Norris and Cota attached to a helicopter by bungee ropes being dragged through the jungle.

                        The action scenes are good and entertaining, although really lack the epic size of the original film. Seeing as many of the scenes are in the jungle, things seem a little limited and yes, it is very reminiscent of Missing in Action. It's a shame to think that several men lost their lives making this film; it's not even a great piece of work - almost like a TV movie more than anything.

                        As a bad guy Billy Drago is not too bad. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a snarl from him and for him to be a bit 'badder', he reminded me a lot of the baddie in License to Kill. In fact the whole film reminded me of that James Bond outing.

                        I really enjoyed the camp performance from John P Ryan as General Taylor. I don't think it was meant to be camp at all, but when he entered into the briefing room screeching 'I've just talked to the President!' you could almost see Norris himself smirk.

                        In all, Delta Force 2 was pretty average. I was disappointed that the film did not live up to the cleverness and scope of the original. To be honest, without the link to Norris' character's name then it could be a totally different series. Its not Shakespeare, but then it is pretty good fun. Don't expect a lot. And just why is the film subtitled 'The Columbian Connection' when they never go to or have any link with Columbia?

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                          11.01.2011 23:04
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                          early 80's Clappers

                          Money and Cigarettes, Eric Clapton, 1983


                          -------------------------
                          Background
                          -------------------------

                          By 1983, Eric Clapton was a mess. Addled and recovered after a heroin addiction, Clapton was now a recovering alcoholic. After his release from the Hazelden Treatment Center in Minnesota, Clapton went straight into recording what he considers to be his most 'forced' album - what would become Money and Cigarettes. With the help of Albert Lee and Ry Cooder, Cigarettes sees Clapton cover some blues classics as well as writing his own new tracks.

                          -------------------------
                          Opinion
                          -------------------------


                          The bizarre Dali inspired record sleeve shows an 80's looking Clapton in a bare room with a melting Fender Stratocaster.

                          The bass work on Money and Cigarettes is superb. Of course everyone knows Donald 'Duck' Dunn from his work with Booker T and the MG's and The Blues Brothers Band. Here we get to hear some deep funky and reggae inspired bass that coupled with Clapton's quite restrained guitar work. This is best heard on my favourite track on the album 'I've Got a Rock 'n' Roll Heart'.

                          There are several tracks on the album that are pretty cheesy and poorly written. Apart from stretching the classic blues song to its limits on many other albums - here we see Clapton write a couple of duds here. 'Man Overboard' and 'Pretty Girl' are bland (but annoyingly hummable). One song - 'Man in Love' almost sounds like Chas and Dave.

                          The heaviest track on the album is the Hendrix-esque 'Ain't Going Down' which borrows the All Along the Watchtower riff with some gravelly vocals from Clapton. It harks back to his Cream days, but is about the only song that really 'cooks'.

                          'Everybody Oughta Make a Change' sets the album off at a good pace and from thereon in we get a taste for the sort of LP Clapton was aiming for. It's all very laid back and easy on the old ear, never really stretching your imagination or grating too much. There are a number of quite cheesy moments as I've said before, but nothing like the irritating 'Wonderful Tonight' (a song I cannot stand!). I've never actually heard any of the songs from this album before, but I would stop quite short of saying it's a great record.

                          The production is crisp and clean giving the Clapton sound a polished sheen of 80's smartness. It never wavers from its course and I suppose still stands up today as an album you could chuck on in the background (I put it on during lunch break at school today and the Year 10's didn't bat an eyelid!). To think that Clapton was just coming out of a very dark period in his life after battling drink, it comes together without being a real comeback album.

                          It's a decent album, but not really a great record and if you are new to Clapton then a best-of will suffice. But if you've got all that and want a slightly different take on things then Money and Cigarettes is worth a spin.

                          --------------------------
                          Tracklist
                          --------------------------

                          1. "Everybody Oughta Make a Change" (Sleepy John Estes) - 3.16
                          2. "The Shape You're In" (Clapton) - 4.08
                          3. "Ain't Going Down" (Clapton) - 4.01
                          4. "I've Got a Rock 'n' Roll Heart" (Steve Diamond, Troy Seals, Tony Seals, Eddie Setzer) - 3.13
                          5. "Man Overboard" (Clapton) - 3.45
                          6. "Pretty Girl" (Clapton) - 5.29
                          7. "Man In Love" (Clapton) - 2.46
                          8. "Crosscut Saw" (R.G. Ford) - 3.30
                          9. "Slow Down Linda" (Clapton) - 4.14
                          10. "Crazy Country Hop" (Johnny Otis) - 2.46

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                          • The King's Speech (DVD) / DVD / 51 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                            09.01.2011 23:11
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                            Class Act

                            The King's Speech, dir. Tom Hooper, 2010
                            --------------------------------------------------------

                            The King's Speech is the real story of George VI who came to the throne after the abdication of his brother. George (Colin Firth) is unfortunately plagued by a debilitating stammer and his wife, the future Queen Mum (Helena Bonham Carter) soon finds him a new 'doctor' after years of rubbish advice. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is a speech therapist who thinks he has the solution and helps the King out in his time of need - firstly taking over the role of King and then seeing the country through the rise of Fascism in Germany and World War II.

                            Colin Firth was particularly excellent as the stammering King to be. I've never been a massive fan of his to be perfectly honest, really only ever seeing his as someone who fifty something women go giddy over. His vocalisation of the King is quite brilliant and you can really empathise with the really pronounced stammer that afflicted him. How he manages to show the development of the stammer and how it gets better is intriguing.

                            Geoffrey Rush was equally good as the King's speech therapist, Lionel Logue. I liked the fact that he was so informal with the King and that his character actually broke down the boundaries between royalty and commoners. His relationship with his down to Earth family is also interesting as it gives us a glimpse into his character - not really a royalist by any sense of the word, but someone who just wants to help the King out. Their relationship is so interesting, especially when we realise their mutual respect turns into friendship.

                            Helena Bonham Carter is always good and here she adds yet another brilliant role to her CV. I don't really know a huge amount about the history behind the film, but the manner of the Queen mother is much more warming and inviting than how she appeared in public. I do know that she too was a reluctant member of the royal family and this Bonham Carter certainly gives a good impression of. It's almost getting to the point where Bonham Carter is in every British historical film!

                            Director Tom Hooper has produced an excellent film here, lavish and one of those films that this country does so well at making. Although the film only cost $15 million dollars to make, it looks more lavish than many other more expensive films. In particular the scenes at Wembley, Buck Palace and Westminster Cathedral are impressive making good use of CGI trickery.

                            The King's Speech is a brilliant film. It's just the sort of film you can take your Mum to (apart from the overuse of the 'f' word - which is quite amusing). Brilliantly acted, excellently cast and expertly directed, The King's Speech is bound to win loads of awards and in my opinion deserves them too.

                            Main Cast
                            -------------

                            * Colin Firth as King George VI
                            * Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth
                            * Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII (later, The Duke of Windsor)
                            * Michael Gambon as King George V
                            * Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
                            * Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill

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                              06.01.2011 21:47
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                              quality songs

                              A Collection of Great Dance Songs, Pink Floyd, 1981
                              ------------------------------------------------------------------

                              -------------------------
                              Background
                              -------------------------

                              Pink Floyd are of course the multi-selling rock behemoths who have left a legacy of classic albums over the years. Best of's for The Floyd have never been that great, mainly because the songs work best on their own albums and not out of synch with other tracks.

                              A Collection of Great Dance Songs is a bit of a strange title really because Floyd were never really known for their 'disco' songs, so the title is a bit misleading. But all the trademarks of Floyd are all here - strange album artwork, psychedelic sounds and quality guitar solos - and not a Bee Gee in sight.

                              -------------------------
                              Opinion
                              -------------------------

                              I'm not a massive fan of Pink Floyd, but this album worked for me as an introduction to a couple of songs I was unfamiliar with. Of course we all know 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Another Brick In the Wall' which are the two classic Floyd songs, but I wasn't at all familiar with 'One of these Days' and
                              'Sheep' but here both songs work well.

                              It's only a collection of six songs, but the album lasts a good 42 minutes. Both Sheep and Shine On You Crazy Diamond last well over ten minutes each. The songs here are probably a little different to the ones you know and love. Shine On combines parts 1-3 and 7 and Brick In the Wall also combines the album and single versions.

                              Sonically 'Sheep' is my favourite song on the collection. I love the use of sound effects on the track and it just sounds so good in the car. One of These Days too utilises so fantastic organ effects - quite scary in fact! Both songs show the band's genius, not so much in the singing, but in the actual musicianship and cleverness of the guys behind the music.

                              Money here is not the original. For some reason the original was not permitted for this collection (legal wranglings still haunt the band to this day) and the whole songs was re-recorded by David Gilmour who played all the instruments. You actually can't really tell as it sounds pretty authentic, but for any purist this may be sacrilege.

                              Quite a number of sites and reviews state this as a cash-in album and one that capitalised on the band's new image after The Wall. I suppose that is true, but as a quick brief introduction to Pink Floyd then this works really well.


                              ----------------------
                              Tracklist
                              ----------------------
                              1. "One of These Days" (David Gilmour/Roger Waters/Rick Wright/Nick Mason) (Meddle)
                              2. "Money" (Re-recorded in 1981 at New Roydonia Studios) (Waters) (original version from The Dark Side of the Moon)
                              3. "Sheep" (Waters) (Animals)
                              4. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (Edit) (Gilmour/Waters/Wright) (Wish You Were Here)
                              5. "Wish You Were Here" (Waters/Gilmour) (Wish You Were Here)
                              6. "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" (Edit) (Roger Waters) (The Wall)

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                                06.01.2011 20:42
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                                One song album

                                Sincerely, The Dwight Twilley Band, 1976
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------

                                -------------------------
                                Background
                                -------------------------

                                The Dwight Twilley 'band' were in fact a duo - a pairing of Twilley himself (guitar, piano, lead vocals) and Phil Seymour (drums, bass, harmony vocals). Both men had met after a screening of The Beatles 'A Hard Day's Night' back in 1967 and very soon afterwards began writing and touring together under the name of 'Oister'. In fact The Beatles connection does not end there. The sound of Sincerely blends the well-crafted songs of the Fab Four with a new power op sound equally reminiscent of Badfinger.

                                Sincerely was the product of several years' worth of writing and recording for the duo. The first major impact the band had was the top 20 hit 'I'm On Fire' which was recorded in 1975. However, the song wasn't included on any album release until Sincerely which seriously affected the album's sales.

                                In fact, Sincerely hasn't had the best of luck for Twilley. The album was originally released under the Shelter label but went out of print soon after its release. The album has been reissued three times since and is notoriously difficult to acquire.

                                -------------------------
                                Opinion
                                -------------------------

                                It's such a shame that Sincerely never quite lives up to its promising start. 'I'm On Fire' is such a great song that the rest of the album cannot possibly equal it. It's also telling that I'm On Fire is the least sounding Beatles pastiche.

                                And while Beatles pastiches are all when and good, you can never quite get away from comparing it to the originals. So a song like 'Could Be Love' while it sounds really good and is a decently constructed song - you can never get out of your head the image of four bobbing heads in The Cavern club. One song that seems much more detached is the hyper-rockabilly track 'TV' which is pretty decent.

                                The songs are good, but their memory fades pretty quickly. And I suppose that is where the album ultimately falls flat; to be honest the songs that really stood out were 'Three Persons' and 'You Were So Warm'. Both of these tracks were more Badfinger than Beatles but lacked the emotional connection that either band had with their audience. In his pastiche Twilley has managed to zap all emotion from the songs which is a real shame as I am sure that Twilley has a great love of English music but it hasn't translated well across the pond. The only band that did manage that feat to draw on the British Invasion sound and do it well from the US was The Raspberries.

                                Sincerely has been well reviewed since its release, but I totally failed to connect with the rest of the album. Dwight Twilley produced one amazing and classic rock song. It's a pity no one has thought of putting it on a compilation of covering it.

                                ----------------------
                                Tracklist
                                ----------------------

                                1. "I'm on Fire" - 3:15
                                2. "Could Be Love" - 2:38
                                3. "Feeling in the Dark" - 2:54
                                4. "You Were So Warm" - 2:25
                                5. "I'm Losing You" - 2:11
                                6. "Sincerely" - 2:38
                                7. "TV" - 2:23
                                8. "Release Me" - 2:28
                                9. "Three Persons" - 2:05
                                10. "Baby Let's Cruise" - 3:00
                                11. "England" - 2:33
                                12. "Just Like the Sun" - 3:46

                                bonus tracks

                                1. "Did You See What Happened?" - 3:15
                                2. "Look Like an Angel" - 4:42
                                3. "Miserable Lady" - 2:56
                                4. "Rock Yourself, Son" - 2:27

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