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Batman Arkham Asylum was released in 2009, and is a action-adventure 3rd person title. Developed by Rocksteady studios, a relatively new developer, with only one prior release on the PS2, and published by Eidos interactive, known best for the Tomb raider series. Could they pass on their knowledge to create a well defined Batman game, and give the experience that Spiderman fans have been able to enjoy in the last few years.
Arkham Asylum is based around the Joker setting a trap for Batman to lure him into the asylum, and attempting to develop a breed of creatures to attack Gotham. The game progresses through combo focused combat, solving puzzles and investigating clues through the detective mode.
The game is easy to pick up and play, with the early section of the game acting as a tutorial. The game play is pretty average for this genre and the developers haven't really tried to push themselves to be innovative. One of the areas where they have tried to set themselves apart is in the games detective mode. This switches Batmans view of the world to one that spots and analyses the world around him, be it seeing enemies heartbeat and whether there armed, searching for clues such as alcohol fumes, or even finding a vent to progress to the next section.
The game contains different set pieces set up by the joker, although the solving of this is generally get into this room and kill/save this person. The levels have a false openness to them, really there are very few deviations you can take and so leave the game feeling a little linear at times, and while the climbing sections add an element of depth, they are quite error proof, and I think a more assassins creed style of climbing may have worked better.
One part though that is surely aimed at keeping you playing is the joker or one of the other villains taunting you on screen when you die, these are often clever comments that make you want to go back and finish the level.
There is a basic XP system which provides upgrades for armour and weapons, whilst this comes in handy it does feel a little pointless, as often they are things that you can't see or don't feel as though they have much need.
The combat is focused around getting high combos; because of this it lowers the difficulty in fighting large numbers of enemies. One repeated press of a button allows you to jump between several inmates, throwing punches and kicks whilst watching the numbers go up. This is tiring after a while, and with a game with so much combat, it's a disappointing outcome for it not to be a little harder or player controlled. Combat also includes the use of different takedowns and attacks which can be unlocked, such as hanging from a point and then grabbing your target. Other gadgets such as the batterangs can be used, but their usefulness in combat is low, so are more used as a tool for destroying objects. You also have the ability to stun and counter during combat, this helps you prevent losing help as well as building up your combo hits, they all work well and the fluidity into the next move makes it a really comfortable experience.
Throughout the game you fight a number of villains from the Batman universe such as bane and scarecrow, as well appearances of course from the joker, however the majority of combat is against the seemingly cloned members of the asylum and all whilst being watched by the same types of guards. This is disheartening as it is great that they have the licenses for so many of the important icons of Batman, but on your journey there, fighting the same people is just too generic to be entertaining.
The boss battles are classic and will be easy for many seasoned gamers, simply dodge, then attack, then repeat. But none the less offer a challenge, and are fun to play.
Whilst the game states it contains a stealth element, this can't be taken too seriously as it definitely isn't metal gear solid, it's more along the lines of stay out of sight of the enemies and attack when the opportunity appears. This is also partly due to the enemies AI which doesn't do much unless your directly in front of them or perform a big action, merely crouching and walking towards them is usually enough to perform "Stealth".
There is a good amount of character development as you learn about Batman's past, this development is slow to begin with and only truly comes into play halfway through the game when events lead you to care about the other supporting characters, as well as understanding Batman's want for revenge.
The graphics on the game are very nice, Batman's cape rises and falls as he walks around the different areas of the asylum, characters are highly recognisable and act really well, especially the jokers performance and one liners, as well as the environment is beautifully harsh to fit the game. A lot of work has been put into the scarecrow sections of the game, which often lead to effects such as rain falling indoors and the merging of two environments.
One effect I didn't like though is the use of flying bats to bring up new objectives; this looked tacky and didn't fit in with the style at all, similarly the slo-mo at the end of an attack is fine once in a while, but when it's a similar attack most of the time, it loses it subtle appeal. Overall I loved the dark style the game tried to put across.
The cut scenes are done well, simply because they keep you in the action and only tell you what you need to know.
The games soundtrack does add to the atmosphere, however some voice acting performances are a little weak. As are the general henchman, who's phrases soon become repetitive and are either "Where is he" or "There's the Bat".
The controls will be recognisable to anyone who has played a 3rd person adventure games before and even those who have not, will pick it up in no time. The simple single button presses for all important area's of the game allow you to focus more on what's happening in the story, rather than what your doing.
An overlooked element of most 3rd person games is how the camera moves, here it is usually well placed and it is highly unlikely you'll be trapped in an area with a bad view. When zooming in or going through vents, the camera moves to a more first person mode, this is simple but effective and stops unnecessary issues.
There is a decent longevity to the game at around 12 hours, there is also the additional Riddler trophies, patient interviews and artefacts to find to add a little more play time.
Overall I'd say that this is a slow burning game, but give it time and it soon develops into a well made game and story. But it's repetitiveness and lack of new ideas stops it being the complete package, but the well written story and action push it above the average.
Batman Arkham Asylum is available for £20 on Amazon, and is a good title for any Batman fan or those who want to waste a few hours.
Over the past few years, Call of Duty has become the daddy of all shooters, however, there has always been the whispered rival, the one which all the true gamers flock to as opposed to the light gaming masses. Battlefield 3 comes out with the sole intention of showing Call of Duty exactly what a shooter should be, but does it manage it ?
Released in 2011 Battlefield 3 is produced and developed by EA , one of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Made as a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2 and developing the technology and gameplay features of Battlefield Bad Company 2, the game hosts a powerful and exciting game engine, known as Frostbite 2. An earlier version was also used in EA's other shooting franchise, Medal of Honour.
The Frostbite engine gives a lot more depth and graphical power to the game, and allows Battlefield an edge over its competition. Some of its main triumphs include refining the destruction physics (allowing for better and more realistic building destruction), increasing the depth of field (meaning things look just as good, even if there further away) and work on shadows and lighting, which are used to great effect in the game, both environmentally and tactically.
The game has 3 main modes of play across its 2 discs. One holds the campaign, while the other holds Co-op and online, as well as the HD content.
The campaign involves the story of Sgt. Blackburn, a US marine trying to prevent a terrorist plot in New York. The Story is played out similarly to Call of Duty Black ops, in which Blackburn is being interrogated, albeit in less harsh conditions, and the missions are played through memory. The initial sequence into this is very smooth, as one moment your watching a train speed along and the next your standing with a pistol and a broken handcuff, with masked men hunting you down. This fluid transition really gets you engaged into the close quarters combat.
The story continues seeing you play in a squad of 4, touring in the modern day middle east, fighting the PLR. Playing through set pieces which see you pinned down in a car park, as well as being involved in a huge earthquake, leading to you to evade capture with only a knife and to try to make it back to any surviving members of your team. All whilst seeing your fellow soldiers being carried off screaming or being killed.
A great aspect of the story is the fact that it's not afraid to slow down, and this lets the gamer build a link with the game and understand what's going on further than just shooting the bad guys. For example, one of my favourite pieces of the game isn't even really a shooting section, it's a interactive cut scene. At the beginning of the level your standing in a boat getting instructions, your then led up to the deck and climb into a jet, all whilst rain is pouring and smoke is billowing from the boats around you. But it's the slow set up that lets you see all this, and the pre flight checks point out to you the care thats gone into the game, even down to the scratches on the glass of the canopy from previous dogfights, to the visible nuts and bolts that hold it down. I do however wish in this section there was a little more pilot action, than being kicked to the back seat to fire rockets.
The Co-op made is available to play online with friends, and contains several missions. The missions themselves are actually based around you playing in slightly different areas linked to the main story. Fpr example, in one of the missions your involved in a firefight with the PLR, and when your playing the main story your provide back up for this fight, as well as hearing about it over the radio.
However these missions are too short, and there isn't enough of them for it to be anything other than a nice addition.It also gives you assignments to complete to unlock new weapons for online play, this offers an incentive to play it, but again there aren't enough of these to fully support the mode.
Online is of course where a lot of the main action takes place with up to 24 players online. The game ships with 9 maps which all support 5 game modes, the maps are varied and cover a range of urban, field and desert warfare, all bringing their own unique differences and skills required to play well.
The 5 modes also interact with the map, by changing the size and way it changes. For example in the conquest mode (Involves capturing various points with your teams flag) you will see a certain map, however if you replay this map in rush (A game mode in which you need to destroy certain targets or defend them) the game will show a larger area and you will get to see or fight in places you might not of before, which helps increase the longevity of the game. Other modes include single squad rush, and deathmatch variations. In addition to this, if you have the limited edition you'll get 4 maps for free to play which include new weapons and vehicles.
The game allows you to pick from 4 classes (Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon) which have their own weapon sets and abilities. The main aim with playing Battlefield is to work as a team, with this is mind, each class has items to aid each other, be it assault who can revive and give health, support who can provide ammo, engineer fixing vehicles or recon spotting enemies. By playing as a class, you gain points through kills and supportive actions, these unlock more guns and tools for that class. There is a really wide range of weapons and additions, which give the game a lot of depth, but also gives you a sense of identity, as you can personalise your camouflage and dog tags to what you want.
A big part of the online matches is vehicle warfare, through tanks but also through jets and helicopters, all of which are player controlled and do take some getting used to. Like the class system, the more points you get , the more you can upgrade that vehicle, to have things such as rockets, radar and better maintenance.
Obviously everyone will have a different experience online, but personally I would say the online game is well made and is easy to get lost in, although it does have a learning curve if your new to this type of game.
The gameplay certainly has a lot going for it and this comes down to three things, simplicity, excitement and level of depth.
The screen set up whilst playing is clear and simple, Objectives appear in the corner as does a map in online play. There is also a compass which comes in handy when communicating with your squad, and an ammo counter. furthermore the spotting system remains from Bad company 2, meaning if you see an enemy you can hit select to show them up to your team mates.
The gameplay as a whole is also very fluid, with all the destruction and action running with ease. However, the use of quick time events and slow-mo moments does tend to pull you out of the action, which is a common problem among many games. But the game does know how to throw you into the action, during a patrol one of your squad is hit by a sniper bullet and instantly it descends into a rushed duck and cover set piece. This is supported by the use of a few clever techniques such as suppressive fire, which cause your screen to go slightly blurred if your under heavy fire. Also the use of flashlights and laser sights as a way of throwing off your enemy or used to blind your view, is an excellent way of adding that bit more intensity and excitement.
Controls are easy to pick up, thanks to a high level of customisation meaning you can tweak it what is most comfortable. This is especially important when using the jets or helicopters, as it allows you to perform more difficult manoeuvres or fly in a way that feels more natural.
The graphics in this game are simply beautiful, and even better on the PC where it borders on lifelike. The use of lights to create atmosphere when your on the train or a building and they flicker is simple but effective, as well as useful for example, when the sun catches a sniper rifles scope allowing you to spot them as well as flares in the story mode, which cast a florescent glow over the fight albeit very lightly.
With the focus on destruction, smoke is done particularly well and they have captured the essence of the thick plume quite well, and this isn't just scripted, the way it happens when a plane or helicopter is flying is amazing.
The small additions though make the story mode for me, the backgrounds really are alive with action too, as in one of the levels where you can see a man who has been arrested being marched off by two soldiers. This lets you know that their is a world going on around you and lets you feel like a part of something bigger.
Of course the graphics would be nothing without a well made sound to wrap it together. And it's just another area where Battlefield delivers, the guns are recordings of their actual counterparts, the explosions have depth depending on where you are in the map, and most importantly your squad sounds alive. They will make calls about where a tank is, or if they need help, this isn't just for effect, the game needs good sound because in order for the game to have it's depth, players need to be able to hear where the bullet came from and who needs ammo.
Battlefield 3 is available to buy from £25 and I highly recommend it.
Released in September 2011, Dead Island is a open world FPS set on the fictional island of Banoi. Developed by Techland, it was going to be a chance to push their name into the world of games, as their other title (Call of Jaurez) was not received brilliantly as it was plagues by modelling and performance issues. Similarly it was going to be a push for producers Deep Silver, who are more know for lighter titles such as Horse life and X factor games.
The basic plot of the game centres around the player waking up in a hotel on the Island after a night out, and on hearing the warning system telling them to evacuate, as well as the group of zombies chasing you down the corridor, they soon find out that bar a small group of survivors the entire island has been infected. And in true gaming style, it's your job to go out there and save the world, whilst the rest of the survivors hand out tasks and not help out at all.
You progress through the game by completing these quests, allowing you to meet new characters and challenges. The quests tend to be quite repetitive and are generally go find/kill/bring back this, only increasing in completion difficulty based on what level the zombies in the surrounding area are, and so you can get a little bored, however the game makes up for this lack of ingenuity with its wide range of melee weapons and firearms.
Integrated alongside the quests is an experience system. Whenever you complete a quest or kill an enemy, you gain XP, and once this reaches a certain level you can level up your character. This occurs through a tree system based around fury, combat and survival. In order to unlock the next level of the tree you need to put three skill points into any of the previous row. The skill tree allows the player to build up their character in a certain way, for example, putting points into fury will help cause more damage and use less stamina. Combat increase weapon durability and increases the chance of critical hits. Survival allows you to pick locks and decrease the damage you take.
Dead Island really puts an emphasis on the use and modification of melee weapons. Weapons can be picked up throughout the game, be it on the ground, from a seller or as a quest reward. But by far the best way of getting a weapon is through the Fallout style weapon mod system. As you go through the game you find mod blueprints, these then unlock a weapon you can make and once you have the right basic weapon and materials, you can create a great piece of zombie killing machinery. Ranging from crowbars strapped with a battery to give it an extra kick, to katana swords ablaze with fire, there's definatley going to be something there to catch your eye. Also available are secondary weapons or aids such as molotovs or my favourite, the meat grenade (great for when your surrounded by zombies and want to cause a distraction).
The game also contains firearms which you start seeing about 30% of the way through the game, these are less varied and are often handguns, although some assault rifles do appear. These too can have mods but they are no where near as fun or gory.
Weapons do not last forever and so do need to be repaired, this is done to a cost dependant on how damaged the weapon is. Weapons can be repaired at workshops which are placed well around the map and weapons can also be upgraded upto 4 levels in order to cause better damage and last longer.
The more you use your weapons the more your stamina goes down, so it's always important to keep an eye on it as you don't want to run out just as a load of zombies are running towards. This also applies to the kick attack, which is one of the most effective as it instantly knocks down the zombie attacking you in most cases, giving you a little breath space.
If you are down to a low amount of health, the game provides plenty of energy drinks and energy bars laying around, as well as fruit for the healthier zombie killer. Although seeing as their trapped on an island, the characters show little care for resources and they drink or eat a small amount of the item and then throw it aside. Also available are Med-packs to give health boosts and revive teammates.
You can also find alcohol laying around, which induces a GTA-esque blurry screen for a minute.
There is also a rage mode which becomes available after taking a certain amount of damage, this puts the game into black and white, with enemies showing in red. Here you are almost unstoppable for as long as it lasts, it allows you to swing your weapon and take down as many enemies as possible to build up combo points.
The weapons your best at using depends on what character you play with. Their are 4 characters to play in all : Xian Me (Sharp weapons) , Logan (Throwing weapons), Sam B (Blunt weapons) and Purna (firearms).
Because of the way the game plays, your best options are to play as either Xian Me or Sam B, as you dont get firearms until later and they aren't too effective against zombies, and also if you get a good weapon, the last thing you want to do is lose it by throwing it away.
I was really disappointed at the lack of character development in the game, considering the whole island is crawling with the undead and these people are stuck there, there doesn't seem to be any real care at all. At most some of the support characters are just mildly annoyed, and it is all too wooden for my liking. Not only that but choosing a character is so arbitrary because you don't discover anything about their back story and you wont have too much of a different experience playing through with a different character.
Another issue with this is that their is a single player as well as online story mode. If your playing on the single player you go through the game on your own, however once you reach the cut scene's suddenly the other 3 characters appear and the game pretends they've been with you all long. This breaks up the story and takes you away from what's going on.
As well as characters , there are several types of zombies in the game. Going from the garden variety walker up to the most dangerous, The Butcher.
Walkers come in three types, normal, infected and toxic. The difference being that walkers are the typical slow zombies, infected are more the 28 days later style, and toxic are walkers covered in toxic gas which can cause more damage (but are also more flammable).
Then we have the special zombies : Thugs, which are bigger than the average zombie and can knock you down by flailing their limbs around. Suiciders, which explode if your too close but are useful for luring towards groups of other zombies. Rams, which are big zombies that try to run you down but are slow on the turn and so open to attack. Floaters, fire slime which causes lots of damage. Butchers, are the hardest zombie to fight and are better described as super infected, butchers are capable of leaping and making quick attacks and make it hard to get them with melee attacks.
If the walkers get a hold of you, the game switches to a very slow quick time event which requires you to punch the zombie to get you away from them. I thought they could of tried to have come up with a sleeker system as this feels out of place.
Also making an appearance in the game are punks, these are gang members who have taken over parts of the city, they tend to use firearms and are generally hard enemies to fight.
The game is set across 3 main areas : The resort, The city of Moresby and The Jungle.
Each area also contains other sub areas, such as the hotel in the resort, the sewers and infected zone in the city, and the lab in the jungle. The area's all have good level design, but by far my favourite place is the infected zone. This is full of zombies, and so especially in online play with friends, running around inside it away from the zombies is sure to cause some good laughs and a lot of fun.
Whilst we know zombies aren't the most intelligent enemy a gamer will ever face, Dead Island brings this to a new level. The AI at points in this game is so scripted its unbelievable, for example, having played plenty of games and watched lots of films, most people know if you kick open a door there is probably going to be a zombie on the other side. So if this is done carefully, players will get to see the zombie staring blankly at you while it waits for you to take the extra few steps forward, so the game can allow it to react. similarly, the zombie will give up the chase if you move to far ahead of it on a roof or even a straight road, as well as many having issues with cars, steps and even small gaps.
The gameplay and controls at their heart are simple and effective, but the game around it limits how fun it is. For example, once you unlock the knock down move and the curb stomp move, walkers become pointless as they can be dispatched within seconds. But the controls are easy to pick up and the game doesn't have a very steep learning curve, so it is easy to pick up and play.
The graphics aren't great but their not terrible either. There are issues with skin textures which is clearly something the developer struggles with, but the city design and jungle is good and doesn't take too much away from the game, although maybe in the hands of a different developer, could of been very nice. For example, the inclusion of weather is done really well and the rain effect does add a layer of excitement, but the game is usually played completely in the daytime, so the inclusion of night sections would have been nice.
Sound is used well, but it never gives the atmosphere it really aims too, hearing the scream of an infected only causes minor panic and the whispering never gives enough fear. This also applies to the use of the flash light in dark areas, where it is always obvious where zombies are going to come from in an enclosed area.
The games online mode works well and is simple to navigate, it allows you to play the campaign through with friends and even suggests the character you should play with, depending on how much you've already played through. The game thrives with online play as it brings a lot more team work and the chance for more fun than on your own, and personally i'd say this game really needs to be played online for it to be truly enjoyed.
The game also has DLC available, including the bloodbath arena, ripper mod, sonic pulse grenade and Ryder white's campaign.
The bloodbath arena is free if you had the special edition, or 800 MS points. Taking up about 1GB, the DLC begins with you meeting a group of military survivors and then offering 4 areas to travel to. The four areas vary in difficulty and is a survival mode more than anything, a good addition is that all XP and weapons can be bought back into the main game. I thought it really lacked the defensive element of Call of Duty's zombie mode though, and things like barricades would of been very helpful. This DLC is also available to play online with 3 other players, and adds 10 achievements to the game. I think it's a nice addition but I don't know wether the game warrants buying it.
The ripper mod can be gained through the DLC and is essentially a buzz saw connected a baseball bat, and yes it is as awesome as it sounds. Also available is the sonic pulse grenade which clears the area on impact.
A new piece of DLC is also recently available called Ryder White's campaign, which involves the story of one of the other characters in Dead Island. Whilst I havn't played this, I have been told that it is a big improvement on the original game and is worth the money.
There are several little extra's in the game you can run around and collect, to add a little longevity to the game and to learn a little more of the story.
Overall the longevity is good and there are plenty of hours to be had playing this game and finding the different pieces of news and skulls.
Dead Island is available from Amazon for £27. While it is a fun game online, it's not a game i would completely recommend, I'd say it is one to look for pre owned more than anything, as i don't think its the GTA with zombies that many hoped.
Whilst Queen were gaining popularity and slowly admiration from the music critics, money was still a big issue. Due to the contract design they had agreed to, they weren't actually making any real money from their albums or tours.
Kicked out was their old manager Norman Sheffield and in came John Reid ( Manager of Elton John ), the band set out knowing that this album had to work and it had to sell or it may well be the end. In all of Queen's usual extravagance, in November 1975 they released "A night at the opera", the most expensively produced album of its time.
Opening the album is "Death on two legs", a beautiful rock song at its heart which was clearly (although never directly) aimed towards Sheffield. Written by Mercury, some of the other band members thought the song was too strong and direct but eventually agreed it should stay as it was.
Linking to the albums title, the song begins with a roll of piano notes but is offset by synthesising and strong guitars..then silence.. , the tune restarts with the piano and their is such an edge and atmosphere to the song that even if you don't know the back story, you can tell theirs something there. The piano and guitar strike off against each other well and May shows some great little riffs.
Mercury's writing is clearly heartfelt from the opening lyrics "You suck my blood like a leach, you break the law and you preach, you screw my brain till it hurts.. you've taken all my money" and when this is combined with a theatrical vocal performance, you can't help but admire it. Of course this song isn't all doom and gloom, it manages to get your head rocking and their is an element of uplift, that Queen are coming out of this and that their going to be better than ever, and if the opening track is anything to go by, I wouldn't argue.
"Lazing on a sunday afternoon" clears the air of the album, now that the hatred and anger is out of the way, Queen want to move on. I've always thought this track opens with something which really resembles the comedy silent films, the piano is jumpy and upbeat, surprisingly when it sits in the background the guitar and percussion complement it very well.
The vocals are done in an interesting way, it's slightly muffled as the vocals were sung in the studio but then re-recorded through a microphone in a bucket giving it a unique tone. The guitar was also recorded, albeit less excitingly, alongside the vocals, although this was simply because the studio ran out of tapes.
The songs story is mainly about a man from london, who gets up to different things during the week but always maintains lazing on a sunday afternoon. Whilst it may not win any awards for writing, the joint performances and feel of the song make it a good track.
"Im in love with my car" was written by Roger Taylor for one of Queen's roadies. It featured as the "B" side to Bohemian Rhapsody due to the negotiating efforts of Taylor, who locked himself in a cupboard until Mercury agreed. This did however cause tension later on due to royalty payments, as although it was the B side, the money earned from Bohemian Rhapsody had to be split.
Personally this song has never been one i've loved, the song doesn't fit the grandeur it tries to put out through the guitar and choral sections, and the vocals are too stretched. Lyrically the driving innuendo's are tiring and i think this is overall one of the weakest tracks on the album.
"Your my best friend" was Deacon's first single for the group and was written for his wife. Played on an electric piano, this feels a lot more Queen than the previous track. The backing is such a simple beat that it carries great alongside the choral sections, with the guitar offering a little extra power when it's needed.
Mercury doesn't have a difficult set of vocals and so it lets us focuses on the lyrics, which are well written and one of those songs that will lead you to think of someone and let your mind fill the song with your own imagery, Which in the end is what makes a good love song and a great addition to the album.
"39" is shock horror, Queens 39th song in chronological order. Whilst many believe it to be a song based on the leaving of men to the second world war and their lovers being left behind, it is instead about a group of men travelling off into space and when they return, 100 years have passed and all their loved ones are gone.
May Remarked that it was an attempt at "Sci-fi Skiffle", and its easily seen why. The use of quick strumming from the acoustic guitar and unity in the verse give it a camp side feel, and that this is a tale that's been told for a long time, this is supported by the slight distortion on Mercury, which makes it sound a little like a transmission.
It is well written and has beautiful imagery, but it also shows that Queen can come up with new ideas and push it into their usual songs and it will still work.
"Sweet lady" is a May track which many look at as going backwards from "Tie your mother down". It has many similar themes and the distorted heavy guitar is prevalent, but it doesn't quite meet up to it's predecessor. I would say it's a filler track, their isn't any depth or substance to it and doesn't add anything overall to the album.
"Seaside Rendezvous" much like "Lazing on a sunday afternoon" begins with something resembling the music to a silent film. It also has elements of "The millionaire's waltz" in its musical progression and the rocking of the tune.
However the most entertaining part of this song is the bridge, Queen are musical geniuses so the only thing better than them playing instruments is apparently them pretending to play them. The bridge is completely made up of Mercury and Taylor making up instrument noises with their voices, including trumpets, tuba's and a kazoo. And the end section of the bridge being stolen and reworked from "Bring back that leroy brown"
Overall it's a light-hearted track and whilst it may not be a well known favourite, it does give a nice interlude to the album.
An interlude is really needed for what's coming, with the "Prophet song". Written by May and based on a dream he had whilst he was recovering from sickness during Queens first tour of America, it is an 8 minute epic based on the flood and Noah's ark.
It is a very dark song and too progressive for my liking, i think you just have to listen and see for yourselves but personally i think it is a waste of time on the album and doesn't accomplish anything or add anything to the album.
"Love of my life" returns us to normality and is one of my favourite Queen tracks. Written by Mercury for his then girlfriend, it became one of the most beautiful moments of the Queen tours, and led to May's father saying that after seeing May play the song, and the crowd singing back, he understood why he does it and what it all means.
Beginning on piano and small percussions, Mercury's voice is crisp, clear and very emotional. The piano supports his voice well and the harmony is great. I would say that the acoustic rendition of the song gives it a lot greater depth as i think the choral section and the synthesised guitar take you away a little from what the song is about, and the feeling it has built up.
Again linking the opera theme, there is something so classical and orchestral about the song, that leaves you feeling really connected to it.
"Good company" is a May composition and is the tale of a man throughout his life, when he's young he's advised by his father to "Take care of those you call your own and keep good company", the song shows what happens from this advise.
Played on the ukulele, I cant help notice the similarity in strumming and beat the Beatles "all together now" at times. Again it's another light hearted track and whilst it doesn't attempt to innovate, the story and simplicity make it a fun and hidden gem of a track for the group.
"Bohemian Rhapsody", it was the gamble that would make Queen who they are, and it paid off. Recorded across countless tapes, and many hours, it was only for a rouge radio host that Bohemian Rhapsody made it onto the radio and became a hit. Producers said it was too long and that it wouldn't sell, rock fans on the other hand flooded the radio with calls requesting the song. Making number one across the world, and staying there for 9 weeks in England, as well as becoming one of the most famous rock songs in the world.
A crackly "Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy, caught in a landslide, no escape from reality" creates a flowing entrance into a piece which combines rock and opera beautifully. The story is played out of a young man having to leave after killing a man, and Mercury's powerful emotional performance only draws you in more. The music continues to grow and the instruments become louder and stronger, with choral sections pushing them on and reaching an amazing crescendo together.
Then there's a change, a single piano note played again and again. Mercury's voice returns more assured ,with backing from May, Taylor and Deacon giving depth. Their voices grow and grown until a drum breaks the noise and May produces one of his best guitar pieces.
Alongside the strong rocking guitar, is Mercury. Loud, angry, confident, the epitome of Queen wants to be. The song becomes a power ballad before settling back down, and with the final lyrics of "nothing really matter, anyone can see..nothing really matters to me" the song comes to an end with a fading piano.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a stand out track and is one of Queens greatest written, vocal and musical pieces. It brought Queen huge success and sky rocketed them into rock legends from then on.
The album comes to a complete end with "God save the queen". The national anthem is played out through May's guitar and shows that maybe the message in this album is, that if it wasn't to be, that Queen went down fighting.
The album was a massive success, with the critics loving it and many putting it into the top 100 albums of all time.
A night at the opera is available for £3.99 and is definitely one to own.
With relative album success in Queen II, the band set off to America for a tour, and was going well until May collapsed and was diagnosed with having hepatitis, he recovered and returned halfway through the albums production.
Opening what would become a defining album for Queen, is "Brighton rock". The song is about two young lovers who meet on holiday, and begins with the sounds of the promenade which helps set the scene. The fast paced guitar starts to lay over the top as Mercury's high pitched vocals start the story of Jimmy and Jenny, the song flows and there's a great change in the tone going into the chorus which draws you in to sing along, to me this song has the first glimpse of the great Queen songs that could bring people together and this is noticeable when the song goes into "Ooh rock of ages, do not crumble love is breathing still" and the guitar is playing simple power chords. It's a good lyrical piece as the story has good characters and depth, the guitar interlude is memorable and performed well alongside Taylor's drums.
Following up a song that had the hints of uniting fans in song, "Killer Queen" bettered it and this shows with it being the bands first real international hit. It's easily recognisable by the clicks and piano notes, Mercury's crisp voice flows in harmony with the piano and you can't help but sing along. Their are interesting elements to the song, like the bell which is only used once, but has a great feel. May's guitar playing was originally left out due to his illness, but when he returned he played it straight into the song, and his riff in the middle section is fantastic, it almost has something of an orchestra piece about it, the way it rises and falls, how different parts are bought in. Whilst it is mainly Mercury's vocals, the harmonising is good into the chorus, with the use of synthesisers on certain lyrics adding depth as in "Dynamite with a laser beam, guaranteed to blow your mind".
"Tenement fluster" is Roger Taylor's contribution, and much like his song in the previous album, theirs a little clouding over the vocals. The song is quite good though, it's not on the same level as the previous tracks, but it is a good piece of music. Typically for Taylor it's the subject of rebellion "Give me a good guitar, and you can tell me my hairs a disgrace", lyrically it is dark and the reverb on May's electric guitar pushes this feeling. The harmonising in the final section is good, and may have been a better note to finish on rather than kicking it back up which makes the song seem a little longer than it is, although this is done because this song links straight into the next.
The guitar chord follows over into "Flick of the wrist" which is picked up by Freddie on the piano. It becomes very dark though with a heavy guitar and the opening lyrics "Dislocate your spine if you don't sign he says" which doesn't fit with the albums feel, although it rises into an upbeat chorus more fitting of the time as the guitar lightens and Mercury sings "Flick of the wrist, and today baby, blow him a kiss". It's not one of the more popular songs on the album due to it's style, but once again this song overlaps into another.
"Lily of the valley" is a slower piano piece, with the focus on Mercury's vocals. There's something about Freddie playing with a piano, it's magic, his ability to combine his voice with the lilting notes of the piano, the small deviations make this song a great piece to show off his talent. The song rises as theirs a reference to previous songs "The messenger from seven seas has flown, to tell the king of rhye he's lost his thrown", it's a shame it's a short song because it is a great track. It's definitely a case of less is more in this case.
"Now im here" was written by May in his hospital bed, and became one of Queen's favourite live songs, used to get the fans going its easy to see why. The echoing gives a sense of size and the repetitive guitar note builds up alongside the drums, as Mercury shouts out "Im just a new man, yes you make me live again", and the song is off with a little guitar riff. The track has a great beat and sound, returning to the intro riff again and again to keep the pace and has a few harmonies which work well, The middle section has a grandeur which fits the beginning of a live show brilliantly and it's easy to imagine the scene.
"in the lap of the gods" is regarded by Mercury to be a prelude to Bohemian rhapsody. It's use of screams from Taylor is quite impressive considering what we've seen of his vocal ability so far, but it's generally a strange track after the intro, with slowed down vocals from Mercury and harmonies which while good, gives the idea that the band are just seeing what they could do in the studio and made a song of it. I think this could of easily been left out of the album with no real issues.
"Stone cold crazy" was a Mercury song, which was bought over from his days in Wreckage (His pre-Queen band) although it went under many changes and so is accredited to all members. It's been put down as thrash and speed metal before it really existed, Mercury sings fast behind a guitar and drum beat, as the song dies off to the shouts of "Stone cold crazy". It's an interesting experiment from them, although it wasn't a road they went down, it's a good addition to there musical resume.
"Dear friends" could be considered to have some of the seeds of "Love of my life" embedded in it, just played on piano. The similarity in growth of notes is obvious and it is a beautiful song which has the sound of a hymn with harmonising in the background . Lyrically it's a great piece "so dear friend your love is gone, only tears to dwell upon, i dare not say as the wind must blow, as a love is lost a love is won". It is only a short song, but is an unknown gem from the band.
"Misfire" is John Deacon's first composition and has a good start with a cool, upbeat acoustic guitar. The vocals are a little distant but it's got a nice sound, a good debut from Deacon.
"Bring back that Leroy Brown" to me has always had the feel of a 70's sitcom tune, it's upbeat, catchy and has a deep overdub at the end of the verse which would be like the end of the opening titles. But regardless to that, it's fun and was a nice break for the band, May said he enjoyed playing around on the ukellele-banjo and it shows.
"She makes me" has Deacon and May on acoustic guitars and vocals. They harmonise quite well, but the song isn't quite in fitting with the rest of the album, it has a bit of a Beatles psychedelic style in the middle section with it finishing on the sounds of new york, all in all a bit of a weird track.
"In the lap of the gods...revisited" is believed to be the precursor to we are the champions, and its easy to see how that can be thought, it builds up to a chorus of "Oh la la la la" which has depth and the feel of a crowd behind it, its powerful and unifying before dying back to an emotional verse. But it also has a similar backing section to the later "somebody to love" with the section singing in response to Freddie "you can do it, you can do it, you can set them free". It's a nice end to the album, and sums up their growth quite well, they are making it towards their dreams.
The album was very successful, getting to no. 2 in the uk and going gold across the pond. Killer Queen reached no.2 in the charts and now im here got to no. 12. The bands focus on more radio style hits was paying off and their popularity was growing, but their were problems ahead.
This album can be bought on Amazon for £11, and is worth buying for a load of early Queen hits, and some lesser known gems.
After a rather hit and miss start with their first album, Queen kept working and a year later released their second album Queen II and with a cover which would become the band's most famous image (later used with Bohemian rhapsody) Queen recorded this album again at Trident studio's. Now allowed to work during working hours of the studio instead of the early morning trips they had to make before, and within the month, Queen II was finished. Their is a distinct difference in the 2 styles of the album, the first side is composed mainly by May and is full of emotional lyrics, whereas the other side is Mercury, full of extravagance vocals and music.
The album begins with an instrumental piece, performed by May, it's a nice piece of guitar work and gives an air of something special about the album. Named "Procession" it fits the name exactly, and leads us well into the true start of the album.
"Father to son" is a heavy metal track with lots of strong guitar and drums, which cloud Mercury's vocals and so it's hard to follow what he's singing in the verse. Starting with a very space age noise, the pace quickens through the drum, but still maintains a softer feel, but the song does go on for a while and feels stretched and repetitive. This track is a stronger musical piece than vocal, but with a little work on the equalising and shortening, it could of been a lot better
"White Queen" has a great intro, acoustic notes compliment Freddie's voice brilliantly in this track, the story of the white queen is emotional, the harmonising entering the chorus is angelic behind Mercury's, as a little more metal creeps into the chorus whilst keeping the story and adding to the increasing panic and love as the song grows. May's riff is written superbly as it starts with an acoustic guitar and descends into a contrasting electric, as the song slows and Mercury's voice fades into the distance.
"Some day, One day" is a total May solo, on lyrics and guitar across 3 sections. It is a typical track of his, the arrangement of guitars giving a mix of styles between acoustic and electric, his lyrics based on his childhood and nostalgia, summed up with the opening lyrics of "you never heard my music, my music was too loud" which links with May's father who was always a little sceptical of rock music, although this opinion would change a few years later, after May performs "Love of my life" at Madison square garden's, and his father confesses he understands now what it's all about. To be poetic, it's easy to suggest there's a little knowing in May's heart, that someday, one day his father would understand. It is a song that has to grow on you, but it is a good composition and a strong debut for May on his own.
"The loser in the end" is Roger Taylor's contribution to the album, and knowing that the intro full of percussion is no surprise, his vocal's are good but I'm not sure he has quite the depth to be a lead vocalist, but he is by no means bad. It's a heavy rock song with focus on the bass, it isn't one of the great songs of the album, but it is worth its place in seeing what other members of the band can do.
"Ogre battle" was originally for the debut album, but due to recording constraints, it wasn't possible to do it and give it justice to what they had in mind, the reasoning for this is evident. Written by Mercury on guitar, it's one of the heaviest rock song's Queen wrote. Theirs a deep building sound in the intro which is designed to get inside your head and give a sense of foreboding, much like the later "Innuendo", but this is broken with the sudden screams from Freddie and a famous riff from May. The song has a good beat and gets your head moving, the vocals are good and clear, telling the story of the battle, and the instrumental work is brilliant in this, it sets the tone, it gives depth and the use of layers mean there is a real feel of battle.
"The fairy fellers's master stroke" is based on a painting of the same name , based in the Tate. Mercury loved the piece and so this song is based on it and it's design is replicated in the music, random, quick and claustrophobic, there is so much going on with the song in places that you can feel like it's closing in around you. Lyrically it's hard to follow alongside the castanets and piano, but the musical side of it is really nice and shows off some of Freddie's range as a vocalist.
"Nevermore" is a song about heartbreak, and begins with a set of piano chord rings that may be noticeable as appear in many of the softer Queen songs over the years to come. The song is beautiful and has a lot of the over the top feelings of heartbreak, such as "There's no loving in my life anymore, the seas have gone dry and there's no rain anymore". It is only short but it is a nice track and has a great rise showing musical ability in the middle, the rising piano playing against the strain of Mercury's passionate voice.
"The march of the black queen" is interestingly musically unique in popular music as it contains two music signatures, building up from a simple piano and guitar, the song bursts into life with Freddie's vocals slowly bringing in the guitars around his voice. The vocals are clear but it's not hard work for Mercury, the harmonising in the background is good and the middle section is slowed down to give the listeners something a bit to different inbetween the heavier sections. It is a longer piece and again i think it could of been cut down to make it a little easier to listen too, but apart from that it's another good addition to the album.
"Funny how love is" starts strong off the back of the last track, the music is a strong over the top of Mercury which is such a shame because the lyrics and vocals are very good. It could be a great rock love song, but the use of a wall of sound brings the quality down and stops it reaching its full potential.
Queen decide to finish on a high, and show off their full creation of the "Seven seas of rhye". The piano starts, the guitar enters and for the first time...Freddie's voice comes over the top, with a strong voice and commanding presence it is an arrogant song and is sung brilliantly. The harmonising is perfect and the notes are held well in the high sections. Lyrically, Mercury is a leader and throughout the song he sings of destroying those who oppose him, "I will destroy any man who dares abuse my trust, and send him to the seven seas of rhye". The song is only short, but it's powerful, it gives a sense that there is something special about them and it definitely leaves you wanting more, although finishing on "oh i do like to be beside the seaside" is still a mystery im sure.
Reaching number 5 in the UK and just sneaking inside the top 50 in America, it is improvement for the group. But the reaction to it was mixed some thought it was good, others remarked that "If this is our hope for the future, we are committing rock and roll suicide" once again, dramatic irony is always a fun element to a story.
The album is available on Amazon £10, and is worth a buy for some early Queen works.
Queen are arguably one of the greatest rock bands the world has ever seen with 18 albums and number ones, a history of memorable gigs, over 300 million records sold and a legacy that is still going strong. We will rock you is one of the highest rated west end musicals, and in its 10th year at the Dominion it has broken many records, as have the performances in the several other countries where it's performed.
But the story of Queen is one of hardships and triumph against the odds, as they wrote themselves they "had their share of kicks in the face but they've come through". Starting in the late 60's, Brian May and Tim Staffell were two friends who wanted to form a band, cue would be dentist Roger Taylor who auditioned as drummer and Smile was formed. Whilst they didn't have any mainstream success, they did blag their way into a gig playing at the Royal Albert Hall, by lying about their records being aired on radio 1. But although they may not have been big, they had one important fan, Farrokh bulsara or as many others came to know him as, Freddie Mercury.
When Tim left Smile, Freddie convinced Brian and Roger to stay together, he got them to change the name of the band to Queen and he became the lead vocalist. With the introduction of John Deacon in 1971 , Queen was complete and they set off to become champions and rockstars.
But the start was far from great, after touring around London, they got a spot to test out De Lane Lea studio's, where they produced a demo tape, but this didn't receive any notice except from Chrysalis ( Jethro tull, Cat Stevens). Queen held out and were picked up by Norman and Barry Sheffield at Trident studio's, who allowed Queen to use their equipment outside working hours, meaning the tracks had to be recorded between 3 and 7 in the morning. Working one track at a time, the band created their debut album...Queen.
Although after several months and no record company wanting to release it, it fell to Trident studio's to release it themselves. As with those who said to the Beatles "I don't think they're going to make it" You wonder what they thought 10 years down the line.
The opening song is "Keep yourself alive" which was written by Brian May.
The song opens with a repetitive guitar note, followed by a short guitar riff over the top and a steady drum-stick beat before slowly breaking out and developing into the song. Freddie shows that his voice can put across emotion whilst keeping a clarity and steady note. The song is about trying to be a star and the difficulties they face along the way, the song is written from what they know, and more interestingly what they will become, it's arrogant and the lyrics talk about over the top events, it's stereotypically Queen from the very first moment. Lyrics such as "I loved a million women in a belladonic haze and , I've had a million dinners served on silver trays", It's quite prophetical in nature when we know what is to come from them. But at it's core it is Simplistic, and slight deviations keep interest in instrumental sections, May's guitar solo is effective to keep your head nodding, with the introduction of call and response getting the listener involved.
Despite this, the track didn't sell well, and so didn't hit the charts, although, Rolling stone did go on to place it at 31 in their top rock songs of all time.
"Doing all right" was originally a smile song, but was brought over to Queen by May.
Beginning with a calm rising piano, a laid back guitar plays off in the background.Freddie gives our first taste of his softer heartfelt vocals that would later appear in the likes of "love of my life", and his voice is great as the slow rise in vocals reaches a peak. There is a hint of Beatles in this with the chord progressions and piano. The acoustic bridge sounds good, but the vocals don't seem to compliment it as well, but this is essentially as the song is a mix of 3 ideas, slow and calm, acoustic, and the final is rock with a heavy riff and chorus of voices before sinking back, it's an experimental track, whilst it may not be great as a whole, the sum of its parts is great, being the base for which later tracks are built on.
"Great king rat" is a Mercury composition , and has a lot of examples of Queen's early tracks, May's guitar solos and the ability of the music to change at a moment's notice all became staple parts of the song writing process for them.
This called out to it's listeners to show Queen were not afraid, the strongest thing about this song is it's use of Anti-religious lyrics "Don't believe all you read in the Bible". It is the first real heavy rock song on the album. Evident with a stop-start riff and the story of the great king rat who had died, as well as "Every second word he swore, yes he was a son of a whore", it's a clever song as the lyrical sections do have a rhythmic child's story behind it, just more adult themed. Freddie handles quick lyrics with ease, and guitar riffs grow well and play off well against each other in the middle section. Drumming is used a lot to set the beat and Roger Taylor orchestrates the different parts of the song well, aiding the tempo changes which are welcome as it's a long track and shows off Queen's range, as well as preventing it from being boring or getting stale. The ending riff is clean and all the notes blend well, it's broken up with a few repeats of the chorus and a drum solo fades out to end the track.
As with the previous song, it's experimentation, and the riff was later used in Sheer heart attack, showing that Queen weren't afraid to used old parts.
"My fairy king" introduces us to Freddie's ability on the piano, as well as the going on in a place known as Rhye. Interestingly this is the song that led to his name change from Bulsara to Mercury, claiming the lyrics "mother mercury, look what they've done to me" was calling out to his mother. The song takes on a different tact to its predecessors, using a more pop style alongside the riff to create an upbeat and quick tempo progression. Freddie shows the heights his voice can reach just before the beginning of the lyrics before a riff smoothly brings down the pace into a piano section. The song is quite high pitched, and has some nice imagery but really doesn't have too much substance, theirs use of overlapping vocals which would appear later, but as of now it's mainly playing with new toys. It's hard to follow the lyrics at points and sometimes there just isn't quite the harmonisation in the elements, so the backing can outdo the vocals when they shouldn't. But it does build to a nice crescendo and the ending is reminiscent of the chords to "Happiness is a warm gun".
"liar" is a heavy track for Queen, more percussive elements alongside the cool May riffs which build up to the vocals. The song then changes tempo when Freddie begins to sing and an organ gives a religious feel as do the lyrics "I have sinned dear father, father I have sinned", it then kicks into the chorus as a stronger guitar and drum beat goes against the screams of Freddie who's vocal rise is full of emotion. The main riff is repetitive and not one of the most creative but fits the beat, and the bridge uses call and response well to fill the gap. I would say the song does seem to drag on a little and probably could have been cut down by a minute or so quite easily.
"The night comes down" is all Brian May which includes all of his trademarks for later works, like growing up as well as looking back at life. May is a big Beatles fan and this is reflected in this song, the slow progression and percussion, the harmonisation as well as the lyrics "Lucy was high and so was I". It is a really nice song, it's calmer than the previous track and shows off the lyrical ability of the group when they come together, the noise is great. The only thing with this track is that the vocals are a little too low under the level of the music, which makes it a little harder to listen too.
"Modern times rock and roll" was written by Roger Taylor and is a return to hard rock. The vocals are hard to follow and there is a lot of emphasis on the guitar which dominates in this track. The harmonisation isn't as tidy as we have seen in this album and overall this feels like a rushed filler track.
"Son and Daughter" is heavy rock once more, and it doesn't seem to suit Mercury who falls under the music once more as the bass is so strong and at points distorts the vocals. Overall the songs that are trying to be dark and heavy just aren't working and bring down the quality of the album.
"Jesus" begins with a procession marching beat to fit with the lyrics and tells part of the story of Jesus. The vocals have a chorus section which works well in the feel of the song, but the psychedelic riff of the guitar turns the song slightly. The vocals move well with the music and blend together , in the final section there is a heavy guitar and drum section that doesn't feel as though it has a rhythm and instead is just one noise as the song plays out and leads onto the final track of the album.
A tune that would become one of Queen's most recognisable intro's is in its infancy at the end of this album, The rolling piano notes, the strong guitar power chords and the exciting drum beat, this is the half written "Seven Sea's of Rhye". An instrumental piece to send off the album it is a taster of whats to come on the next album, and it is a great way to end.
This album is a good debut for the band, there's promise in the individual elements and the seeds of the Seven sea's of Rhye, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to love and many more are found here.
The Album can be bought for £12 in it's remastered form and for anyone wanting to start their Queen collection, there's no better place to begin.
Following the success of "with the Beatles", the band thought they would try their luck in conquering the US.
It certainly wasn't an easy start, George martin took a copy of "please please me" to capitol records and got the rather surprising response that they didn't think this band would go anywhere, dramatic irony anyone... so independent label Vee jay took them on board and released it, it failed to hit America's billboard top 100, similarly neither did "From me to you" or "She loves you". George Martin knows how important breaking America will be to the group and flys to new york in a last ditch attempt to salvage a deal with Capitol records, holding in his hand an advance copy of "I want to hold your hand", Capitol love it and agree terms, as well as this he got the Beatles the top bill on the Ed sullivan show in consecutive weeks.
Between this time, broadcaster CBS shows a beatles bio, and a 15 year old girl in washington becomes an instant fan, writing to her local DJ to play them on his show. Failing to get a copy of the latest track, he gets a friend working for british airways to bring it over, the song was a big hit, although it caused controversy as it hadnt yet been released by Capitol. DJ's began passing it around and soon the beatles were being played non-stop, desperate to make the most of a bad situation the song was rush released with "saw her standing there" as the B side. It became the fastest selling british single in America ever with 600,000 in it's first few months.
With this the first Beatles album in America was released called meet the beatles, staying at top spot for 2 months, before being followed by Vee Jays release of introducing the beatles which went to No.2.
Beatlemania had hit hard, as 3,000 fans waited at the airport for the Fab Four to touch down at JFK. The Ed sullivan show recieved 50,000 applications for it's 500 seater studio, and 7.5 million people watched on at home. Following this they performed at new york and in washington, both selling out. In all meet the beatles sells 2.5 million copies and the advance orders for the new track "can't buy me love" hit 2 million, this leads to them earning a gold disc within the week of it's release.
And with that the beatles head back to london, to take part in filming the yet unnamed " A hard days night" film. The film is based on 24 hours in the life of the beatles and of course this is the soundtrack album. Released on july 10th 1964, a hard days night included 13 tracks, all written by the beatles themeselves unlike previous albums.
The first is , A hard days night.
Created by Lennon one night and written on the back of a birthday card, this opening track starts with an individual chord from george harrison, that has probabley never been used for any other song since, it's powerful and makes the song instantly memorable and recognisable. From then on , the song encapsulates everything the beatles in the 60's were, lots of upbeat drumming, guitar strums you cant help but nod your head to and catchy lyrics. The lyrics turn more risqué in this song with lines such as "You know I work all day to make me money, to buy you things, and it's worth it just to hear you say, im gonna give you everything", but it keeps it's innocence and fun and the vocals are clear, albeit the notes aren't as strenuous as other songs, although the bridge is given to paul, as lennon couldn't quite get the notes. Overall it's a very strong start to the album, and a great opening track.
I should have known
This track is credited a lot to bob dylan whom the group, or rather Lennon especially fell in love with. We also see a last goodbye to Lennon's harmonica, which doesn't appear in any other of the beatles song.
And it is his harmonica playing that introduces it, followed by a string of long notes from Lennon showing his ability, however these are done too often and the song loses it's nice feel as it feels like it's slowed and dragged, with the band playing to the length of his voice and not the song, and actually there are parts of the song where his attempts falter, with one note rising, breaks up and doesn't sound right at all.
The guitar keeps a steady beat but isn't anything special, and the lyrics to aren't anything to shout about. Really this song is all Lennon and it just doesn't work.
If I fell
A slow and well built track, sung between Lennon and McCartney theirs good harmonisation in their voice is very well done. The drum beat and guitar give a nice beat, with the lyrics being a simple love song that works. A nice part of the album that shows in some cases, less is more.
Im happy just to dance with you
Going back to the style of Hard day's night, this is a rocking track which from the off shows the instrumental side of the band. The guitar and drums compliment each other brilliantly as they play against each other, giving a catchy beat. The lyrics flow and are simple, and really it's a confidence boost for Harrison who wanted to try and increase his singing ability and chance to compose. Lennon said "he never would of sung it himself" but I think this is quite a good track and a classic of times.
I love her
A very slow track which has a bit of a Spanish feel, McCartney leads a nice piece of lyrical writing with smooth vocals. The guitar makes this track with well timed strumming which sets the tone and make it seem like a heartfelt performance. It's a nice song, but i think it's down to taste more than anything here as some love it and some hate it.
Tell me why
A return to upbeat, and the same formula as the others, quick chords at the beginning and a nice drum roll, Lennon jumps in to lead the vocals as theirs a good chance your head is going from side to side. The song is repetitive but it has a great sing a long aspect which makes it fun. The vocals are a little hit and miss in the middle section, especially the bridge. The song may well have deeper ties, with it believed to have been written about Lennon's wife, but overall it's a good addition to the album.
Cant buy me love
The top track of the album, if someone wanted the best example of the beatles in the early 60's, this is it. Picking up what they learnt with A hard days night and tell me why, Cant buy me love is the creation. It's the best mix of rolling guitar chords, well paced breaks and vocals that you can find, Ringo's drumming is consistent and Lennon's voice even lets go in a call back to twist and shout. The best track of the album and worthy of it's success.
Any time at all
The beatles are hitting their stride with Anytime at all, the same rhythms are used as in previous upbeat tracks but just taken down a little and a lot more focus on the guitar, with the middle section being a mix of piano and guitar to fill the gap. The song is repetitive and the lyrics are easy to forget amidst all the "Anytime at all's" but the vocals are good and so it's a nice filler track.
I'll cry instead
Another song with deeper meaning for Lennon, this song was stated to be a call for help from John's wife, the pressures of being a star were starting to have an effect on his ability to have fun and it was massively stressful. The song itself is very country style, and has a good beat, the lyrics are meaningful when the story behind it is known, for example "Dont want to cry when theres people there, I get shy when people star".
Things we said today
A dark sounding song, the acoustic guitar creates a sombre mood. McCartney uses his voice well to make the song passionate and harmonisations with Lennon are spot on, the song kicks up into a rock style in the chorus before dropping back, the change helps the song speed up and keep things fresh. But it doesn't feel like it fits the rest of the album and maybe a little more filler than anything else.
When I get home
A simple rock and roll song, influenced by Lennons love of American soul music. It's a good track for john, his voice sounds good and he keeps it in check with a few notes that could of got away from him. Theres a nice beat and generally good feel to the song.
You can't do that
Another song about Lennons troubles, The songs backing isn't anything special and doesn't stand out at all, the emphasis is all on John's voice and it is a dark song filled with jealousy and paranoia. It's one that doesn't suit the mood of the album and not one of the best tracks.
I'll be back
A slower and depressing song finishes off the album, it's a weak track and it seems like their pushing material in to make up numbers, nothing in the track stands out and overall it's limping over the finish line of an album which did have potential. But it is the start of the Beatles turning darker and slowly turning away from their pop image and wholesome act.
A hard day's night is available on Amazon for £9, although i would say from this album it's worth just downloading the upbeat tracks.
With the Beatles is the bands second album after the success of Please Please Me earlier in the year. Released on the 22nd november and recorded between July 18th - October 23rd at EMI studios at Abbey Road, the album is made up of 8 origional compositions including George harrison's first piece of writing and 6 covers of motown/R&B tracks, as well as the Beatles one and only Broadway track.
With the Beatles was the second album to seel a million copies, half a million on advanced orders and the other half by september '65. It was top of the charts for 21 weeks pushing their own debut album off the top spot and so for a total of 51 weeks The Beatles held the top spot of the album charts between their first two albums.
The first track of the album is It wont be long, which develops what would become the Beatles bread and butter of "Yeah Yeah, scaling guitar riffs and the music sinking off to leabe a solo voice. John Lennon believed this was the Beatles moving to a wider audience than their teen following. The guitar is heavily used and very prominent, whilst the drums just hold the the beat. The lyrics are built around call and responce and this makes it an up beat, fun song but lyrically theirs not much there. Compared with the opening track og of Please Please Me it does feel a little more mature which is strange to think that they would of grown musically in less than a year, but it backs up the idea that the Beatle were deciding to aim for a wider audience.
All ive got to do is another Lennon song and a rare song as Paul McCartney is on bass and actually having to play a lot of chords to play an important part in the song. This song aimed to break the american charts as it was about calling a girl, which wasn't something that happened in the UK at the time. It has a dark feel and a similar song to Baby it's you. Lennon puts in a emotional performace supported by "ahhs" from Paul and George. It's easy work for Ringo on the drums but the bass is the focus point and carries across the sombre mood brilliantly.
All my loving, written by McCartney offers a new style to the album providing a happier entry compared to Lennon's opening tracks. Allegedly written whilst Paul was shaving, it was the first song he had written which he wrote the words to first, "it was always some kind of accompaniement, i've hardly done it since". Based around a love letter, it's a similar performance to PS I love you, clearly the Beatles knew that elements of their debut album were sucessful and happy to carry things over. The song kicks off with a fast paced strumming pattern from Lennon and this goes on throughout, whilst playing down his role in a mainly McCartney song, he did admit "I play a mean guitar in the back" and I can't disagree, especially with a well placed solo. Lyrically the chorus is catchy but the verse is easy to miss and lacks the good writing of PS I love you, and whilst the vocals are good they are nothing special and theirs a general loss of emotion as there was when it was written for his girlfriend. A better song for instrumental than vocals.
Dont bother me is George Harrison's first composition and was written whilst he was ill in bed during a tour of the UK. Harrison himself never thought that highly of it and beleived it didn't compare to later pieces like Here comes the sun, saying that this was "fairly crappy". It's a strange song for the Beatles to sing as it was moody and solitary, "go away, leave me alone, don't bother me". It uses a lot of wood percussion and rhytmic drumming alongside the guitars which have a thick reverb, producing an echo to mimick the loneliness the song puts across. Harrison's lyrics are emotional and have a personal side, set around a girl leaving and then trying to get back with her less than enthusiastic lover yet he knows she is the only one for him, whilst it is depressing it has an edge which gives a strange brightness to keep the Beatles style.
Another Lennon and McCartney piece is Little Child which was written for Ringo Star, put into the album as a self confessed "Album filler". So with this in mind it is still a good piece of rock n' roll and hints at the 60's dance hall, Lennon's harmonica and drums set a nice pace and you can easily feel yourself start to sway. Whilst the vocals are clear, it's not impressive and the same goes for the lyrics as the song dissapears into the verse. Again another song which is more for fans of the instrumental than the vocal.
Till there was you was origionally by Meredith Wilson and was written for the music man, this is the only broadway song that the Beatles ever recorded. It's a clever piece for the Beatles as it showed they had range, it's not one of their ballads or true rock n' roll love songs, this is a slow and emotional song which lets Paul release a voice which draws you in and carries you away. The Imagery and tone is great in the writing and allows you to see all the cliche's of teen romance be bought to life. Ringo's bongo percussion origionally seems a strange choice but it is cool and isn't to obvious, but the real work on the instruments is done by Harrison and his work with the acoustic guitar which manages to perfectly complement Paul's voice as well as giving a latin side to the song.
Please Mister Postman is a cover piece which was a big hit for the Marvelettes and the first motown song to reach no.1. Please Mister Postman was a big part of the Beatles Cavern club set, but it didn't transfer well to the albu and took a lot of work to get it sounding good. Starting with a lot of hand clapping and quick drums, the guitar then joins in and so begins a song which many are split in their thoughts about. Their is a great deal going on but it seems to get into a muddle as every element tries to be in the foreground, one second it's the vocals, then the drums, then the guitar, all in the space of a few seconds. This is a real shame because at its core it is a very good song, although the vocals seem stretched, it is done in the same style of Twist and Shout. A music critic of the time probabley best summed it up by saying "it's a wall of sound".
Roll over Beethoven was written by one of the Beatles favorite artists, Chuck Berry. Written as a tongue in cheek piece for Berry's sister who liked to use the family piano to play classical whereas Chuck wanted to play contempary music. The song features numerous references to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, as well as several others and has gone on to also be covered by Meatloaf and Iron Maiden. The song begins with a fast paced electric guitar and a similar riff to a later Beatles song "Revolution". Drums and hand clapping are used again to put the pace as fast as they can. Vocally it seems like they are a little too far from the mic and this means the instrumental side steals the limelight once more in this album. With a little more work this could of been a big track on the album, but as it is it just doesn't hit the mark.
Hold me tight is another album filler song, McCartney and Lennon never thought much of this as they agreed it was "a failed single that became a acceptable filler". They are absolutley right and this song is completely forgettable, only a simple proggresion on the guitar and a few handclaps are used just to keep time. Lyrically there's nothing there and the harmonising is off in places. One to forget from the album.
You really got a hold on me is a Smokey Robinson song and was actually inducted to the grammys hall of fame in the late 90's, and also covered by The Supremes and The Temptations. This was the first track recorded for the album, it's slow and has a good mix between the guitar and drums, the vocals carry well and it's Harrison who shows he can be a good lead vocalist. A heartfelt song about wanting your loved one to just hold you, in the middle there is a small guitar solo which does have a sexy sway to it and it helps build the atmosphere. Really nice song.
I wanna be your man was McCartney/Lennon, and this is a piece of music which shows the rivalry between the Beatles and the Rolling stones. The song was written whilst Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were across the room from the Beatles, apparently, the Beatles met the Stones after an awards lunch and Heard the band needed a new song and so the Beatles finished it while they watched. The Rolling stones then went to the studio and performed a version which was far from Beatles-esque, filled instead with heavy guitar and amps turned up to 11. In return to this the Beatles stated "It was a throwaway song anyway, we weren't going to give them anything good were we". Ringo starr is on lead vocals and their not fantastic but good enough, theirs a slight echo and the backing vocals are a bit overbearing. The saviour of the track is the guitar playing which gives the song tone and rhythm. But their is always the feeling that it seems like a sitcom theme tune.
Devil in his heart was a cover of Richard Dayton. A similar intro to "Till there was you", it's another average song for the album and there's nothing which stands out. Vocals aren't too difficult and the neither are the instruments, it's a filler on what must of been a slow day in the studio.
Not a second time is Lennon's attempt at a "Smokey Robinson thing". So this song has to go up against you "Really got a hold on me". Well this is a lot more like the Beatles, Lennon shows off his voice and ability to hold notes, although the track is let down slightly by producer George Martin's piano playing which is off key. Paul's acoustic guitar is clouded by the drums which keep Lennon's voice in check. I would have to say this betters Robinson's track if it wasn't for the piano.
The final track of the album is Money thats what I want, and a cover of Barret Strong. Theirs a very american feel with its smooth guitar and snare drums, the vocals are easy apart from a section where Lennon lets his voice go in a Twist and Shout style. The song never seems to hit a peak and always lacks a little something that you can't put your finger on.
The album is available on Amazon for £9.99, but overall I would say this was an attempt by the Beatles to keep the momentum going and so it lacks some of the personality and writing that Please Please Me had, their's just too many fillers and covers for my liking and that lowers the albums score.
Well here's a review I never thought I would be writing, having always been against the idea of anything to do with Twilight I was of course unco-operative with the idea of reading it. However people can influence you and so with a sceptical mind I picked up Twilight and thought "hey, at least if it's bad I'll be able to rip it to pieces in a review" but thats not the case and so here is the converted mans review.
Released in 2005 and heading straight to no.5 in the New York Times bestsellers list, it went on to become the best childrens book of the 2005 and was the top selling book of 2008, having sold 17 million copies, the 14 publishers before hand that rejected it must of been kicking themeselves. The book has since been turned into a succesful film and most recently a graphic novel by Yen Press.
To anyone who has managed to find a nice rock to hide under in the last 5 years i'll give a little outline of what Twilight is all about. Twilight is, for the most part, the story of Isabella Swan. A 17 year old girl who moves from Phoenix in Arizona to the rainy, small town of Forks in washington to live with her father Charlie. On the first day at her new school she unwittingly attracts the attention of several guys, but on her last lesson of the day she sits down next to the strange and intriguing Edward Cullen. He seems completely uninterested in her and so Bella leaves confused and annoyed. Several days pass and mysteriously no sign of Edward and then suddenly he returns, with a new interest in Bella.
The relationship grows fast like most teen romance and hits a peak when Edward somehow saves Bella from a speeding truck, Bella knows something isn't quite right about this guy... his amazing looks, his dissapearences and his seemingly superhero qualities... and she needs to know. So begins the exciting love story of Bella and Edward, of course the path of love never runs smooth and so the advances of old friend Jacob Black put a spanner in the works, but why does he have so much animosity towards Edward when they don't even talk..
The story runs at a fast pace, and the sections where it slows are all part of the well crafted narrative to show the depression and struggles that Bella deals with. It's well broken up into regular chapters which is only a clever way of making you think "ooh just one more and then i'll go to sleep" and soon enough your up at a ridicoulous time, theres just a natural sort of flow to the story as it reaches multiple peaks before slowly passing and building up to the next signature moment of the book.
The supernatural edge sets it apart from other teen romance novels, of course this has sparked a new genre, but it's what bought the idea to the masses. Suprisingly it's very easy during the lull where Edward dissapears that he is anything special at all anyway, but the fact he is a vampire is a major piece of the backing story and what adds to the tension of their love.
The final 1/3 of the book almost leaves the entire romance element behind and instead shows range, becoming a thriller as Bella races against time and into the face of danger to track down someone dear to her. This is a welcome change to any guys who may be thinking that it's all love and feelings, their is some top thriller action making an appearence if you keep with it.
Isabella Swan, or Bella is the storys main protagonist and they eyes in which the story is told through. She's a pretty regular girl in a small town and is the typical teenage girl, lacking confidence and willing for something good. She is a emotional character and this comes across very well in the writing as we often see the facade that she puts up to her father and Edward, whilst the reader sees what her mind is actually screaming. Her eventual reliance on Edward for happiness shows her care and love, and with the high of his presence comes the crushing depression when he's not around, this drives Bella crazy and leads to her life-changing decision in order to make sure that Edward can never leave her. As the reader you feel a link to Bella and as the story progresses you find yourself swinging towards certain sides and wishing her to make what you believe to be the right decision. Of course she doesn't always go the way you expect or might think best but it makes for a good storyline as it builds a relationship between you and her, and Bella's growth throughout the story is as realistic as it could be against all the knocks and situations.
Edward is Bella's love interest and starts off in the book as an awkward character. Based on the likes of Mr Darcy he is, as Bella percieves, perfect. Edward is 108 year old vampire, and after sitting next to Bella he realises something isn't right, he can't read her mind like he can with everyone elses and somehow her blood seems a lot sweeter than others. You see Edward is part of a more passifist convent of vampires, the Cullens live side by side with humans including Carlisle who is a doctor, as well as Jasper and Alice. They hunt animals blood to succumb their thirst. Edward falls in love with Bella but not without warning her that it's not safe to be together and trying many other roads before accepting her. He is a formal character who can be a little hard to read sometimes because he just is unfaultable in general, the relationship between him and Bella is difficult and yet the stress never seems to get through to him leaving him to feel a little empty and a blank slate in terms of character growth.
Jacob Black was never meant to develop into a big character, in fact it was only whilst writing the sequel (New Moon) that Stephanie Meyer realised the prospect that Jacob held and so went back and edited Twilight to give jacob a more prominent part.
In the first book he mainly features as a way to fill in Bella on the other big family in Forks, the Quileutes tribe and tells her the tribal stories, but also to tell her that Edward is a vampire or in his words a "blood sucker". Jacob develops a crush on Bella and generally hangs in the background for the majority of the story, but her does feel like the youg boy loving the girl next door.
The writing is subtle yet powerful and a lot of action can be put across in a few words, allowing your imagination to do all the had work. There are times when the writing is a little wordy but these are few and far between, with one of the only examples being a stupidly long description of the school reception which is a set that never appears again.
The book is priced at £3.49 and available in a very cool looking white cover with red sides. At 464 pages it's actually a surprisingly quick read which can be finished in a few days comfortably.
Overall Im surprised at how much I enjoyed it, it's a very well written story with exciting characters that have good growth over the length of the plot. If your up for something a little different or just want a romance book with a difference then this is definatley worth picking up, who knows, you may be converted.
Please please me is The Beatles debut album, released on march 22nd 1963. Recorded at the famous EMI studio at Abbey Road and published by parlophone records, the album was some what rushed out in order to cash in on the release of The Beatles first two singles, Love me do (which reached 17 in the uk charts) and Please Please me (no.1 in the uk charts).
With the majority of songs being penned by John Lennon and Paul Mcartney, as well as them playing their own instruments alongside George Harrison and Ringo Star, the band aimed to be self contained.
On a cold February morning in 1963, the fab four pulled up at Abbey Road and so began the recording of their first album. 9 hours and 45 minutes later they walked out finished, 3 three hour sessions took place in which The Beatles ran through their live set Which they had fine tuned from their time at the Cavern Club, (where they were discovered two years earlier) aiming to recreate the atmosphere of the show and put themselves out as a performing band rather than just a singing one.
During the day of the recording it was obvious that John was suffering from a bad cold and so the recording of Twist and Shout was pushed back to last, as the producers feared the harsh vocals would rip up John's voice. Hold me tight was also recorded but was deemed unneeded and so was moved onto The Beatles second album.
The album went straight to the top of the charts and remained there for 30 weeks before being pushed off the top spot by The Beatles second album, With the Beatles. The album was the start of the Beatles attraction we've come to know and the adolescent love songs and live feel really gave the album a special feel.
The opening track is I saw her standing there. Originally a B side to I want to hold your hand which reached no.14 in the uk charts, it was initially titled "seventeen" after it's opening lyrics "she was just seventeen, if you know what I mean". The song was conceived by Paul on the way home from a Beatles concert and was played against the bass riff of Chuck Berrys "talking about you". Interestingly and maybe showing the stage The Beatles were at, the lyrics were written down in an old Liverpool institute school book which Paul had lying around. The song begins with a count in, which worked well with the idea of keeping a live feel to the album.
The up beat guitar rhythm and hand clapping make it a song you can't help but tap your foot too, lyrically it's just the story of a guy at a party and spotting a girl across the room and going on the have a pretty good time. Vocally it does edge more towards talking than singing, but it's clear and there's still a melody. The lyrics stick and are quite catchy so as a opening track it does give a good summary of what The Beatles are about.
Misery was written specifically for singer, Helen Shapiro backstage before one of her gigs. The song revolves around the adolescent feelings that the world is against you in love. The song is stop-start and the lyrics work well, all beit with a sometimes overbearing self pity and selfish feel.The vocals aren't as harmonising as expected, the instruments have a good feel but the piano playing is more suited to a country western saloon and so brings down the qaulity of what is a personal song.
Anna (go to him) is a cover origionally sung by Arthur Alexander.It features some cool guitar work and a strong melancholy feel making it an interesting song to listen to. The proggression of the song is good as it grows and drops back in all the right places to bring passion and emotion into the lyrics. The song is about a man giving up his love for a women so that she can go and be happy with another man, strangely this is a song where Lennons cold is really evident and yet it adds to the feel of the song and the difficulty of letting go. Steady drum work keeps the pace and whilst they are prominent it doesn't take away from the lyrics.
Chains is another cover of husband and wife duo, Gerry Coffin and Carol King. Lennon's harmonica intro doesn't fit well and it's downhill from there as the whole song feels out of place on the album, it's a depressing song but lacks any emotional feel from the vocals. This is one of the more forgettable songs from the album.
Boys was written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell. This is a much needed return to the up beat to get the album back on track. Thrown in are lots of "bop bop shoo wops" and it's meant to have that young, 60's America feel. The song was slightly controversial to some as it was The Beatles singing about kissing boys, however this didn't bother Paul who said in an interview that "we never listened, it's just a great song, that's one of the things about youth, we don't give a s***,I love the innocence of those days". Whilst traditionally the drummers solo song at the Cavern club for The Beatles, the guitar featured has a strong American influence and flows well.
Ask me why is the B side to Please Please Me. A repetitive song which seems unsure of it's pace and the backing resembles what many would class as elevator music. Lyrically it isn't anything special and just isn't a stand out track.
Please Please Me is the headline track. Starting off as a blues slow tempo song it went through many developments until George Martin (The Beatles Producer)decided it sounded right, the songs tempo was increased in order to fit the style of the rest of the album and a guitar section was also put in. 18 takes were used and Martin predicted that it would be the Beatles first hit, vocally there's good harmonising and a nice pace.
Love me do was written by Paul in 1958 whilst skipping school and was the Beatles first single. A simple chord rotation and a dry harmonica fill the beginnings of the song, the lyrics stay in your head and it makes you want to move. It's the classic Beatles song of that time, good vocal work between Paul and John stands out and a near missable "hey hey" pushes the live feel.
P.S I love you was release on the 5th October 1962 as a B side to Love me do. On the original recording George Martin brought in a session drummer named Andy White to replace the then Beatles drummer Pete Best who wasn't seen as good enough for recording, however , unknown to Martin. Best had already been kicked out of the band and replaced by new man Ringo Starr who was left playing maracas for the song. Written on a tour of Hamburg and allegedly for Paul's then girlfriend Dot Rhone, the song is based around a love letter. It's a little slow but has some movement, lyrically it has some nice imagery and builds well into the chorus. Personally I'm not a fan of the harmonising on the last sections of the chorus because it feels like there pushing the rest of the band in to what's a relatively solo Mcartney performance.
Baby it's you is a cover of a Burt Bacarach and Barney Williams song. Slow paced and quick talking, the "sha la la's" give it a generic early 60's vibe. Repetitive lyrics and strong vocals from John make it an easy to listen to song. The instruments have a simple rhythm and it's nice to hear George Martin getting involved with a nice solo section on the celesta.
Do you want to know a secret is inspired by "I'm wishing" from snow White, which Johns mother sung to him as a child. It's also the first top ten Beatles song to have George Harrison as the lead vocals, losing his voice only slightly in a "oooh" section it's a solid performance. Whilst starting off slow and a sombre, the guitar soon kicks in to give an injection of pace but an easy chord drop means it's more emphasis towards the vocal side than the instruments In This track.
A taste of honey is a cover of a theme for a show of the same name by Bobby Scott and Ric Martin. It's a strange song which wouldn't seem out of place in The Beatles later albums like Magical Mystery Tour. Theirs some great pieces in it for the guitar and drums as it's originally an instrumental song. it's hard work vocally but not a bad attempt and it's soon forgotten with the final two tracks.
There's a place is the B side to Twist and Shout. Inspired by "Somewhere" from west side story, the place in the song refers to the mind so it's a slight side step from The Beatles usual songs about kissing and teenage life. Lennon said this was the Beatles attempt at a "Motown thing". The harmonica and guitar lend a good feel to the song, vocals are strong and the few harmonise sections work well. The lyrics are meaningful but have some definite pop roots.
The last song of the album is a cover of Twist and Shout by Phil Medley and Bert Buras. With only 15 minutes of recording time left it was the song everyone involved was dreading, Lennon had reportedly been drinking milk and ducking cough drops all day in order to finish and the effects of the cough and cold are audible. Vocally it's an amazing performance by John and showed how strong his voice was, later admitting that "my voice wasn't the same for a long time". Martins was Keen on a second take but after a few seconds he said "his voice was gone". This song is what kicked off Beatlemania. The simple guitar, catchy lyrics, it's a classic Beatles tune and the best song of the album.
Available on Amazon for £8.99 there's no better place to start your journey with the Beatles.
Scott Pilgrim's precious little life is the first issue in a set of 6 books which tell the story of Scott's adventure to defeat the seven evil exes of love interest Ramona Flowers in order to date her.
Published by Oni press, this comes as their biggest success with it now having been made into a film and game. Written and illustrated by Bryan Lee o'Mally the book has personal feel and that is something which you only get from smaller publishers like Oni.
Scott Pilgrim begins with the introduction of the 23 year old, rock band member who is currently "between jobs", as well as dating a high school girl called Knives Chau.
Living with Scott is gay roomate Wallace who both owns and does everything in the flat, Scott's life is going pretty well until he starts having dreams about a girl on roller-skates called Ramona Flowers. After learning she works for Amazon and gets her to deliver a package to him they begin to hit it off, but one thing stands in their way, well actually seven, Ramona's exes.
The storyline is slow to start with and the comic comes across as a slice of life piece. We see Scott going through his day, meeting Knives and playing in his band, Sex bob-omb. This pace is kept for about 3/4 of the story and then the final section sees the story turned on it's head and a lot of action starts up, showing whats to come in the next issues as well as starting Scott up on his task.
The characters have a good personality and all feel quite individual. Whilst Scott is a bit of a layabout, he means well and cares about his freinds, we don't see to much growth in his character during the book but we do see a very different side to him near the end which shows maybe he isn't the failure we thought he was.
Walace is incredibly sarcastic but he is the character who says what the reader is often thinking about Scott, this is refreshing to see as it causes a connection which helps settle you into the story if your not usually a fan of comics.
Knives Chau comes across as the real love-sick teenager, she adores Scott's band and really likes Scott. Now although she is 17 there is nothing wrong happening. Scott hasn't even kissed Knives and their relationship is based around the fact that Scott just hasn't grown up.
Ramona Flowersis the roller-skating chick that takes Scott by storm, he doesn't know wether she is real or wether he is going insane. But when Scott sees her at a party he doesn't let the chance slip and the two have a great time together. She want's to be with Scott but unfortunatley she knows he must defeat the exes in order to win her heart.
The art of the book is really origional in its design and is one of the attractions of it. The book is drawn with a thick marker pen look which takes some getting used to but means some cool effects can be created, especially during moments where perception is needed or action is the focus point. The pages are filled with different panel designs and varying image sizes meaning it doesn't get boring to look at as it is always slightly different.
The book also has some other interesting features, for example when Sex bob-omb are playing one of their songs, the chords are shown so that the reader would be able to play along if they could play guitar which is a nice idea to break up the story.
Their is also a lot of game references nearer the end of the book and the battle with the first ex, for example their is a street-fighter feel to it and a lot of focus on the amount of hits and the general over the top feel of the fight. These references aren't used too much that if you don't play games you wont be able to enjoy the story, but the use of the inside jokes means certain areas of the audience will be very interested to carry on the series.
At £4.49 it is slightly above what I would think as a good price, the average manga is £4 but has twice the amount of pages of this comic and so can feel a little pricey, although buying used is a lot more reasonable.
The book is 168 pages long and will easily be good for a night's reading and entertainment.
Gantz is a japanese manga, written and illustrated by Hiroya oku it has now been released in english and is published by Dark horse comics, famous for the likes of 300, Sin city and Hellboy.
Based on this it almost goes without saying that it is a more adult manga, featuring strong langauge as well as graphic scenes of violence and sex which may turn some off from the otherwise interesting story.
Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato are a pair of high school students (16 years old) who die in a horrific collision with a high speed train whilst trying to save the life of a homeless man on the tracks. Strangely though, they then find themeselves in a tokyo apartement and no way of escape, also in this room are several other people, a dog and a big, black sphere.
This sphere is Gantz, opening to reveal a dieing bald man hooked up to a mask, the sphere informs the people that their lives now belong to him and that they must take the weapons and suits provided, and to take down the aliens shown by any means necassary.
There are a few rules which must be followed.
1. They will only be allowed to return to the apartement when the mission is succesful.
2. Every alien killed will earn the person points.
3. Only when 100 points are gained will the person be able to leave the team.
Alongside Kei and Masaru there are several others in the team. 2 members of the Yakuza ( Japanese mafia ), a 14 year old student, a cancer patient, 20 year old addict and a suicidal women. This mismatch of characters, backgrounds and morals make for an interesting set of relationships and quite a few moments of friction between them. Of course in the game they are now playing, team work is key and with decisions being made on the fly and seperations occuring, the dynamic of the group evolves and leads to an almighty cliff-hanger.
The narrative is a little slow in this first volume but is steady enough with the characters being introduced and giving a scope of the situation. Regular moments of action are used to top up your interest throughout the first half of the book, mainly the death of Kei and Masaru, but also the mistreatment of the suicide girl when she arrives at the apartment.
In the second half of the narrative the speed picks up as we see the team chase down their first alien, but the adrenaline didn't rush as much as I expected it too and although there was a chase and lots of explosions it all just felt too standard, however the final scenes did build well and left a good opening for the second volume.
The story does also have a touch of mystery into where they actually are, there are certain things that lead you to beleive it some kind of purgatory, especially with events near the end of the book and the weighing up of points based on actions.
The characters didn't reveal too much of themeselves here, personality wise anyway. All the characters for now are meant to be taken at face value, which may well pay off at a later date but at the time it makes them seem very 2 dimensional and hard to connect with.
Kei kurono is seen as the stereoptypical angry 16 year old, he thinks very little of those around him and is very begrudgingly pulled in to help rescue the man on the tracks. His bad attitude is pretty annoying and his frame of mind is completely based on himself, even when he forms an attraction to the suicide girl, he manages to make it all about him.
Masaru Kato is a lot stronger willed than Kei but shows less raw emotion. As more about their past is revealed we see that Masaru origionally looked up to Kei and now feels a lot of dissapointment as to how he has turned out. He generally ops for the morally correct decision without thinking about the consequences to those around him.
Artistically the book is very detailed due to its computer created design. Whilst this adds more depth and detail into the image , you lose some of the personality and attraction of the book due to this artificial feel. The book can be gory at times, close ups of the flying severed heads of the main characters are meant to shock but don't always hit as hard.
The opening scene could have been a little more urgent and the lack of variety in panel design fails to build a sense of anticipation or true action. Considering an express train is about to hit what seem to be the main protagonists, it feels as though there is a lot of time passing leaving the end result to be less shocking.
At times the books need to shock the reader is a little over the top, the suicide girl seems to be the main outlet for this from the first moment she enters the story. Transported to the apartment completely naked, she is then set upon by one of the yakuza as well as the dog. This is a shame because this will turn many away from the story and with time I think this could build to something interesting.
Available on Amazon for £8.99 this is above the cost of a usual manga, usually about £4. The manga can be finished in an evening and whilst it does have an interesting premise, certain aspects make it a bit of a turn off.
*contains possible spoilers for those who haven't read the previous books*
Deathnote is a japanese manga series now produced by Viz media and origionally published by Shonen Jump, who make manga for boys aged 12-18 and also known for other manga's like Dragonball Z, Naruto and One piece.
Written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata it is one of the most popular mainstream manga comics at the moment, this is reflected by its success in the form of an anime series, japanese film and in-production film with Warner Bros.
Deathnote volume 4 is the 4th in a series of 13, based on the life of Light Yagami a Straight A student that wants to be the head of the Japanese detective agency. On the way out of college he sees a rather odd notebook with the words "Deathnote" across the front and so in his curiosity picks it up and the game begins. Unknowingly he has picked up a book of the death gods, by writing a name in this book that person will die.
With two Kira's now in the frame, L is forced to ask Light to join the taskforce and pose as the real Kira to try and draw out the other. This doesn't mean that Light is off the hook though as he is still the main suspect, but it does now mean that Light has all the forces information to hand. But when Light meets the new Kira, it definatley isn't what he or L were expecting...
Much like the last volume this one isn't all about the outright action and is more about the tension between characters as well as a new relationship for Light. As they investigate the new Kira, Light is found first by a young japanese model called Misa who is a little obsessive and demanding. The whole volume is mainly based around her and the effect she has on Light, both in the Kira case as well as showing the reader how distant Light is becoming from those around him.
The entrance of Misa shows brilliantly what Light has become, whilst a little crazy, she has nothing but care and devotion to give him and yet Lights plan is to manipulate her for all she's worth and then to get rid of her when he is done. This callousness is something we haven't seen before in Light and it is a bit shocking at times as he seems to move through the volume in a blur, mainly because he feels that the early control and strength he has is slowly slipping away.
With Misa arriving as a new character it was important for the readers to quickly grasp what she is like and her character in general so the relative pace of the story can be maintained. This is done quite well and from the very few panels where we meet her we can tell that she is maybe too much of a sickly-sweet character. She has a huge obbsesion with Kira (Light) and meeting him really empthasises the love sick teenager that is inside her, it is all very "Yes Light" and "I'll do anything for you Light" and this makes for both a good character because it is so different to everyone we have seen so far, but it is also a difficult character to read because her center is so much on Light.
The introduction of Misa means that the story inherits a new Shirigami (Death god). Ryuk as a character was always pretty bland, he isn't allowed to side with anyone and he was there for some minor comic releif as well as antagonizing Light at some points. Rem is straight off the bat a lot darker than Ryuk, Rem is dressed like a mummy and generally has a more angry attitude and especially towards Light. But this is because Rem has a little more depth to his character, we discover early on that there is a way for a Shirigami to die and that is by falling in love with a human. Rem has witnessed this in another Shirigami and after stealing the deceased's notebook he passes his onto Misa, as Rem discovers the extent of Misa's affection for Light there is some real jealousy. Because of this Rem threatens Light that if anything should happen to Misa, he will kill him.
The narrative for the story is inherently slower because the volume is based around the relationship between Light and Misa, the investigation takes a back seat and so does L who makes no real strong appearences during the story until near the end. This makes the volume less exciting to read and the volume just seems to wander along somewhat, which is not what's happened in the previous volumes.
Artistically the book has no outstanding set peices except a page where the confrontation between Rem and Light happens. Apart from that the book takes a slightly more adult turn with Misa's modelling taking a big part of the interest, being a manga aimed at teenage boys the odd shot of Misa kneeling on the bed in a long T-shirt is probabley understandable, but is not something that has been seen in the story previousley.
Deathnote volume 4 is £3.98 and while it is essential for the continuing series it is the weakest of the first 4 volumes.
*contains possible spoilers for those who haven't read the previous books*
Deathnote is a japanese manga series now produced by Viz media and origionally published by Shonen Jump, who make manga for boys aged 12-18 and also known for other manga's like Dragonball Z, Naruto and One piece.
Written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata it is one of the most popular mainstream manga comics at the moment, this is reflected by its success in the form of an anime series, japanese film and in-production film with Warner Bros.
Deathnote volume 3 is the 3rd in a series of 13, based on the life of Light Yagami a Straight A student that wants to be the head of the Japanese detective agency. On the way out of college he sees a rather odd notebook with the words "Deathnote" across the front and so in his curiosity picks it up and so the game begins. Unknowingly he has picked up a book of the death gods, by writing a name in this book that person will die.
Coming into volume 3 , L is hot on the heels of Light and has now pinned him as one of the main suspects to be the serial killer nicknamed Kira. Light knows he can't slip up as there are now many cameras and microphones hidden throughout the house, but even this doesn't stop him. However with a family disaster and a string of deaths occuring that Light didn't cause, could there be a second Kira ?
This volume is a lot less action packed than its predecessors, but that's not to say it isn't exciting. The gold in this volume is that both L and Light actually meet very early on and this puts an intresting spin on events, neither L or Light can be completely sure wether the other is who they think they are. This makes their meetings really intense and it is good to see the two trying to outhink each other with their answers, so although the action isn't physical it means the pacing builds towards a great event near the end of the book which turns both L and Light on their heads and sets up the events for the next story.
Light is regaining some of his confidence through this volume after an initial knock trailing from the last book, notably so when meeting L. Because this is a story it allows the reader to see the panic in Lights mind when L asks a question, which then contrasts with the smooth and cool faced responce Light gives. Both characters are playing a high stakes game and are putting their poker faces to good use, this is summed up when L and Light play a tennis match, as the ball flies from side to side the two are thinking about what the others next move will be. This metaphor works extremely well and gives a good overview of how the balance of power has shifted throughout the first 3 volumes.
L's decision to come out and meet Light is pretty big for the character, it's the first time we see him heading into the outside world and L does seem very alien in it. But he remains almost like a shadow when Light and him are walking around, and this proves a point I made in a previous review about them being opposites. Whilst Light is extrovert, showing emotions and his thoughts being powered by different morals and ideals. L is pretty introvert in public, his logic and analysing of Light goes on the whole time and any section with L shows this.
Because this volume is a lot more based on the thinking and building to later events the narrative has to stay strong and keep the readers attention, thankfully it does and whilst it was at times more difficult to read it manages to keep a steady pace and not wander around.
The artistic style of the book does feel a little standardised at times and the only scene where it lets itself go a little is at the tennis match where it is less boxed in, there is a lot more of the "classic" anime style shots with big parallel lines and eye to eye shots. This helps build the scene and the action, the style is mainly due though to the talking nature of the volume and so can't be fully criticised.
At 200 pages and £4 it is a great peice for the psychological element of the story, of course previous knowledge is reccomended so I wouldn't reccomend just picking this one up.