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I was always a little bit disappointed with how Stephen King's The Dark Tower ended. It was all just a little bit lame, as though the author had rushed things a bit: I think he wanted to finish the series before he died, but I think he should have waited for inspiration instead and what if he died before it was over? Chaucer never finished The Canterbury Tales, did he? But although I was disappointed with how The Dark Tower ended, I enjoyed the series as a whole and was actually quietly excited about the release of The Wind Through The Keyhole, a stand-alone novel in the series that was released in 2012, eight years after book seven (The Dark Tower) was released. I liked the characters, you see, and I felt it would be nice to rediscover them.
The Wind through the Keyhole is, like I said a stand-alone novel between the events of book 4 and book 5. Roland and his gang take shelter from a severe storm and he tells a story of when he was a young man and had to go on a quest to free a village from a psychotic shape-shifter. He is tasked to look after a boy who witnessed one of the crimes, and while he does he tells the boy the story of the Wind Through The Keyhole, which I guess is the main story for the book. The who novel is, in fact, a story within a story within a story...
A bit of background would be needed for who Roland and his crew are for this book to make much sense to a new reader of the series. Roland of Gilead is the last gunslinger in a world that runs parallel to our world. Here the world has moved on, but Roland has a quest to reach the Dark Tower and recruits three others from our world to help him: a cripple with a split personality, an ex drug user and a boy who died... but didn't. How he recruits these is described in early books of the series. Here in this book, they have been recruited and know exactly what to do.
The series consists of:
The Drawing of the Three
Wizard and Glass
Wolves of Calla
A Song for Susannah
The Dark Tower
I won't give too much away about the series in case you want to read it!
The Wind Through the Keyhole is about another boy, called Tim, who lives in a forest with his parents. His father is an axe-man, but one day does not return for a days work. He is killed by a dragon, his best friend witnesses this. Soon after, to stop them from being evicted from the village, Tim's mother marries his father's best friend. But he turns out to be a wife-beater and the actual killer of his father. The boy goes on a quest to find a cure to his mother who has gone blind following a beating from his step-father. Here we the reader meet some old friends (or foes).
The story told, Roland the younger tried to find the shape-shifter and the story is told and the storm is over.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. King's prose is at its usual best and it was a good read. If anything, the story moved a little bit slow in some parts and was a bit overly descriptive. This did not hamper the story though.
For several years many people thought that the British sitcom Red Dwarf was dead, and that is was simply one of those shows that 'used to be on telly.' More Dead that Red, perhaps? However its co-creator Doug Naylor always thought otherwise and tried to get it back on the screens, be they big screen or small. In 2009 this happened in a mini three part series commissioned by Dave TV, who regularly show quite a number of the repeats, called Back to Earth. Then in 2012 the series returned, again commissioned by Dave TV, with Red Dwarf series ten... or X as it is better know.
But what is Red Dwarf? Well... Dave Lister is the last human being alive and he resides on the mining ship Red Dwarf, which is light years from Earth. How did he become to last human? Well he was put into stasis on the ship because he smuggled a cat on board and would not give it up when asked, as he knew the cat would be killed. Meanwhile a radiation leak kills everyone on board and the ship's computer keeps Lister in stasis until it is safe to come out, which just happens to be three million years later. In that time, his cat gave birth to kittens who evolved into humanoid beings, but these all die save for The Cat, who becomes a companion for Lister. The computer also resurrects Lister's crew mate Rimmer, who Lister hates, but Holly (the computer) chooses Rimmer to keep Lister 'sane.' In series 3 the three characters are joined by a robot Kryton. The series is all about Lister's slobby, curry eating and beer drinking existence and where they all get up to various adventures.
The series was created by both Doug Naylor and Rob Grant. Grant left the set up after series 6. As already stated, Dave Lister is a bit of a bum, but he has a good heart nonetheless, and is played by actor Craig Charles. Arnold Judas Rimmer is a coward and thinks mostly of himself, but can be brave on rare occasions, and he is played by actor Chris Barry. The Cat is super cool and vain and is played by Danny John Jules. Kryton is a mecanoid who is a bit 'tetchy' and is played by Robert Llewellyn. Other cast members are Holly, who has been played by both Norman Lovett Hattie Hayridge. Kristine Kochanski is Lister's ex girlfriend, played by Clare Grogan and Chloë Annett.
Red Dwarf X hit the screens in late 2012 and then the DVD stands in November of that year. I wasn't really expecting much as I always felt that the series had declined since series six. I have been a fan of the series since series 3 and have all the DVDs, which I have watched over and over and tend to 'mis' quote some of the lines from time to time. But I was pleasantly surprised by the series. It was back to basics and back to its best with the series performed live in front of a studio audience. All four actors slotted back into their roles with ease, as though they had never been away: I guess the live audience helped.
First up for this series is Trojan. This is a great start to the series and left me with a big smile on my face. The crew discover a ship 'Trojan,' and whilst there they receive a distress call from none other than Rimmer's older, and more clever and talented brother Howard. There follows a fun last part in which Rimmer tries to pass his Officer's exam in order to impress his bother when he arrives. Obviously he cannot pass the exam... he never has before, so the crew make an elaborate world of make believe in which Rimmer is an officer and we learn a secret about Howard... Next is Fathers and Suns. Every Father's Day Lister gets drunk and records a message for himself to see next year. He is in fact his own father - followers of Red Dwarf will know what I mean. It is father's day he is looking forward to his message. Meanwhile, the ship gets a new computer, who is a bit psychotic. And decides to set a course for the ship to crash into the sun. Having watched the extras on this disc, we learn that Craig Charles had been suffering from flu before this episode was filmed. He performed amicably, however, and there is a great scene where he is talking to himself on the screen.
The third episode in this series is Lemons. The crew are sent back into time to the year 23 AD and meet up with none other than Jesus. Jesus is being chased, but the crew need Lemons to work their teleporter. They return to the ship with Jesus. Jesus, however, reads all about his history and does not really like what he sees, so returns, and the crew go after him. This is another fun episode, classic Dwarf. Next up is Entangled, where Lister managed to lose Rimmer in a bet to a nasty bunch of genetically engineered life forms. This is classic Lister and classic Rimmer. If Lister does not pay up on the bet a device that has been attached to his groin area will explode in 24 hours.
This is followed by Dear Dave, in which Lister finds a letter that was addressed to him years ago from an ex girlfriend stating how he coukd be the father of her child and that the next letter with confirm if it is or not. He then goes in search of this letter. Meanwhile one of the vending machines starts to have a crush on him. Lastly we have The Beginning. This is an episode in which Rimmer finds out he is not the man he thought he was and manages to save the day!
The DVD comes with lots of extras for you to view. We're Smegged is an interesting documentary on how the series came about and what happened whilst filing. It was filmed in front of a live audience, so it was interesting to see how the actors coped with that. We have the usual deleted scenes as well, plus the normal 'Smeg Ups,' which fans of the series will know to be outtakes.
Overall, this is a pleasantly surprising series and well worth the watch if you were once a fan, or if you are new to the series.
Discovery Nachos Kits come in a nice, mostly red eye-catching box, with a picture that promises a great Mexican dish. Me and the kids have been buying this product for a few years now and they are ideal for a quick and easy meal, plus they are quite enjoyable too. I usually have them with a side dish of chips with lots of salt and vinegar... not the healthiest of dishes but quite nice to have every so often as part of a balanced diet. Took in with your fingers and thumbs and get munching away, leave the salad for another day. Or even replace the chips with salad.
The taste is quite authentic. Discovery were founded in the late 1980s by James Beaton, the business has been taken over by a bigger firm, but they still hold the company brand and appear to continue with values it set out to achieve when it was born. Discovery make other foodstuffs, mostly Mexican, such as Enchiladas and Taco tray kits.
What's in the Box?
A big bag of tortilla chips.
Two bags of salsa sauce.
One bag of cheese sauce.
What do you do?
Basically, this box serves three people as a main meal (with a side of chips/salad), or four as a snack. As a meal for three, spread half the tortillas evenly on the three plates. Spread one of the bags of salsa and half the bag of cheese sauce over the tortillas. Then spread the rest of the tortilla over the plates and spread the rest of the sauces on top. Microwave them for one minute (or put them in the oven for ten minutes at 200 degrees C).
Stick them on the table, call the kids, and then eat.
But what of the taste?
Those new to Nachos might think, Mexican food, oh no, too spicy! But that is not the case, not really, and most Mexican food can be as mild or as spicy as you want them to be. These nachos are just right. The tortilla is fresh and crispy and the sauces taste fine. The salsa and the cheese sauce complement each other nicely. The plates at home are usually spotless when finished, always a sign of good food.
In my youth I used to frequent a rock pub which played lots of classic rock music (mind you, I guess it wasn't called 'classic rock' in those days, just normal rock, but you get my gist, right?) One of the tracks they played most weeks was Uriah Heep's 'Stealin.' My buddies and I used to have our own variation of 'head-banging' and to this song such a 'dance' was compulsory. I bought a 'Best of...' album, which had this track and borrowed the old vinyl of Sweet Freedom. I went through a stage of loving this band. I saw them live in the eighties. But time passes by, the years fall away like landslides and your music tastes change. Uriah Heep became a band I used to like a lot, even though I always had a soft spot for them. And here one might think the story ends? The final chapter written... The End scrawled at the bottom. But no...
Whilst browsing through YouTube recently I stumbled across the track Stealin and had a good listen. I realised what a truly great song it was, played it several times and also played Pilgrim (from this album also, more on that to follow). I then promptly went to Amazon and bought the CD. It arrived quickly and I put it on. I was happy to see it was an expanded deluxe version with 6 extra variations of the song and song which featured on a B side. Was I happy with my purchase? I was - mostly...
Mick Box - guitars
David Byron - vocals
Ken Hensley - keyboards, guitars, Vocals
Lee Kerslake - drums, percussion, vocals
Gary Thain - bass
Like I have said they are a rock band, and in today's world they will be classed as classic rock. They evolved into heavy rock from the early seventies, when heavy rock, or metal was in its infancy. I would never say they were metal, but they were loud and full of operatic vocals, great guitars and wonderful keyboards. Of this line-up, however, only Box remains. The singer, Byron, with his diverse vocal range, died in 1985. Ken Hensley now has a solo career. Thain died in 1975. Kerslake played with Ozzy Osbourne for a while.
We start with Dreamer (written by Mick Box and Gary Thain) - 3:41 in length. This is an odd one to start this album, not a really good song at all, too jolly really as most of the songs which follow it are a little bit darker. It would probably have worked better in the middle of the album perhaps. Next is Stealin (Ken Hensley) - 4:49. This is the classic Uriah Heep song, with somewhat dark a storyline. A bass and organ intro that gently rises in volume before Byron comes in. This is a fine song and David's voice is just fantastic here. Lots of melodic vocals and a fine heavy riff takes over with a passion. Fine guitar solo, perhaps this would have been more apt an intro song to this album.
Then comes One Day (Hensley, Thain) - 2:47. An operatic/rock amalgam of an introduction, with a dirty riff to accompany David's excellent vocals. It is an uplifting tune, full of hope, yet with a bit of a darker side. I think Hensley might have been going through a break-up in a relationship, or it might have been on the rocks when he wrote the songs for this album, as most songs feature such dark relationship problems lyrics. But don't quote me on that. Talking of Hensley, his organ features in the intro to the next song, Sweet Freedom (Ken Hensley) - 6:37. The title track, it has a good build up and falls gently into a passionate song. There is more about relationship break-ups here. Mid section we have quiet instrumental bit that builds up... organ and guitars do a march that works well.
If I Had the Time (Ken Hensley) - 5:43, is next. A chaotic intro that falls into a great riff that is both spooky and science fiction. Maybe the kind of music you would have for a soundtrack of a film about ghosts in space, perhaps? Maybe call it 'Ghosts in Space?' Things quieten a bit and David's impeccable vocals come in again. A high-pitched intro, then a groovy little riff starts Seven Stars(Ken Hensley) - 3:52. Not a bad song, but not the best in the album. Next up is Circus (Box, Lee Kerslake, Thain) - 2:44. This is a gentle little number, which shows off David's varied vocal range.
Pilgrim (David Byron, Hensley) - 7:10. Does this track need anything other than a great big 'Wow?' Okay, how about 'Phew!' This is Uriah Heep at their best. A mega intro with operatic vocals and classical piano that is extremely uplifting. It then falls into a classic rock sound and we are taken on a journey through Prog Rock, which is heavy with many imaginative parts to it, sometimes quiet, heavy again and constantly full of passion. I am going to shut up now and listen to it... be back in just over seven minutes...
Like I said my copy is the 2004 Remastered version which was released by Sanctuary UK and it features six previously unreleased tracks. "Sunshine (Outtake)" (written by Thain and Box) is 4:48 long; this is not a bad song, but nothing special, only David's great vocal, it was on a B side. "Seven Stars (Ken Hensley) (Extended Version)" - 7:03. This features an extended intro with lots of spooky sounds - I am thinking Ghosts in Space again. "Pilgrim (Full Version)" (Byron, Hensley) - 8:29. This is an interesting version and well worth a listen to. "If I Had the Time (Ken Hensley) (Demo)" - 6:02. This is a little bit of a jollier and watered down version to the song, one you mind find the Troggs doing or something. The next two songs are life versions "Sweet Freedom (Ken Hensley)" - 6:48 and "Stealin' (Ken Hensley)" - 5:41. Here is proof that Uriah Heep were great live and David's vocal is faultless.
This is a good introduction to Uriah Heep of that time. There are some weaker songs, and it is dated a bit in parts, but it is well worth a listen if you are new to this band, or to have another look at them in you were once a fan. Hey, you might have followed them through thick and thin and don't need telling...
Some bands are playfully termed of as being Grandfathers of Rock and I guess Magnum must be one of those. Their two main stay members Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin are (as I write this review in 2012) in their mid sixties. Founded in 1972, they have seen several changes of personnel in those years and they split up for five or so years in the nineties. Another long staying member is keyboardist, Mark Stanway, a member since 1980. Their music style is rock orientated, but can vary in style from song too song. In the nineties I felt they got too commercial, but on their return from hiatus they seem to have returned to form.
I saw Magnum live several times in the eighties and nineties and actually met them back stage at Blackburn... me and a few mates kind of 'sneaked in...' ahem... but they let us in all the same. We found them to be a friendly bunch. We all got autographs and had a nice chat .Kex Goran was there too, a fine drummer who sadly died in 2007.
I recently re-discovered Magnum whilst browsing through You Tube. I came across Dragons are Real, liked it and decided to go and order this album from Amazon. It has been nice rediscovering them, and although they are not a 'great' band for me, they certainly still come up with the goods.
#The Line Up for this album:#
Tony Clarkin -- Guitar
Bob Catley -- Vocals
Al Barrow -- Bass
Mark Stanway -- Keyboards
Jimmy Copley -- Drums
1. "When We Were Younger" (7:00)
A gentle keyboard intro with fine piano by Stanway, and things gradually evolve into a passionate bridge before we are hit with the soft rock beat with drum, bass and guitar. Catley's vocal fits this song beautifully and it is full of emotion. We have a stomping chorus, one that catches hold of you straightaway and does not leave you. Towards we have a great classical guitar solo by Clarkin, truly amazing. Not overly quick, but melodic and uplifting.
2. "Eyes Wide Open" (5:54)
A chunky riff followed by searching guitar and things quieten down before we get to a nice chorus. Once again we have immense passion from the vocalist. A well put together song which my daughter found herself singing along to (and she is an Example fan - which is much different in style!). We have more a dirty guitar solo that the one on the first track.
3. "Like Brothers We Stand" (5:35)
A synth intro with a marching drum beat following and the guitars come in to join the march. Things don't really speed up here, but that is not a bad thing by any means. A nice toe-tapper, idea for an ageing rocker done with his air guitar.
4. "Out of the Shadows" (6:58)
A gritty guitar intro and then we have a stomping drum beat with a chunky guitar which brings in the vocal. Maybe bring out that air guitar here, but no headbanging...
5. "Dragons Are Real" (5:21)
A quiet beginning, slowly crashing cymbals and keyboards. A great, catchy keyboard, with fine guitar and passionate vocals. This is a fine rock song which pushes all the right buttons. Keep that air guitar out. Get a few friends around, and play it loud. Okay, the neighbours might complain, but if they do don't lend them borrow your lawn mower again.
6. "Inside Your Head" (6:01)
A piano intro and an all round gentle song. Put that air guitar away from a while and take a breather. Have a chat, drink a beer or a wine, or even a coffee.
7. "Be Strong" (5:40)
Things go a bit louder here, with the guitars turned up. We have a guitar/keyboard driven song. It's a bit weird and not one of my favourites.
8. "Thank You for the Day" (5:10)
Here we have a song which Feeder could have easily written. Slow moving, but crisp as well with some find guitar work.
9. "Your Lies" (4:34)
A quick and gritty guitar riff, followed by a guitar/keyboard ensemble. Both guide us through the song.
10. "Desperate Times" (5:22)
A bit of a filler, and quite similar to other tracks that have proceeded this album. That is the problem with albums nowadays, they have too much room for songs and towards the end things fall off a bit.
11. "You'll Never Sleep" (4:57)
I think all Magnum albums end with a quiet song, and this is no exception. Things liven up a bit from time to time, but Catley's vocals seem strange to begin with and I first did not think it was him singing. Not a great song, but not a bad song either.
Overall this is not a bad album, great to listen to in the car and reminisce on easier times.catley's voice is still strong, if not better with age, and Clarkin's guitar work in fantastic. Stanway is one of the best keyboardist.
The album was Produced and written by Tony Clarkin.
It was released in March 2007.
No one would ever say that I was a fan of ASDA... yes, I know lots of people like this supermarket, but not I... even though I have warmed to it 'slightly' of late. It is cheap, I know, and there are lots of bargains to be had, but I rarely go. However, since my daughter moved in I have had cause to go there more often than not, for the odd item of clothing for my daughter (who is twelve going on thirteen) and also (at my daughter's request) Great Stuff For Garden Gang.
Now I am not just going to talk about the product shown here, but the whole range of these particular Great Stuff snack packs. For one thing, it is a fantastic idea and a great way for your kids to get some of their 'five a day', and they are damn tasty too.
They come in small packets with an 'eat by' date. They are 50p each, but you can also get them at a 5 for 1.50 offer (we get five!) There are at least ten snack packs to choose from: Red Grapes, Watermelon, Apple and Apricot, Apple and Raisin, Pineapple Lolly (my favourite), Apple and Grapes, Apple and Pear, Apple Segments and Melon and Grape and we have had Carrots too. Keep them cool in a fridge and eat them when you like.
I find that the Watermelon and the Pineapple are the best value. I like both these fruits, but to buy a whole one is costly (it also involves cutting fruit) and you have to eat them in a few days. Therefore a Snack Pack version is ideal. They are quite handy to have on an evening when you are feeling peckish (and deter you from having crisps of biscuits), and also good for school lunch boxes. They are also 'cool' in a way to get your child to have his or her fruit. My daughter likes the watermelon version, which are fresh and juicy. My son, when he stays over likes the Carrots, which are crisp and crunchy, and I love the Pineapple Lolly, which are tangy and scrumptious...
Overall: They are very handy and great value, a great way to get your child to have his or her fruit, they are tasty! Hey, I might start shopping at ASDA now... unless Morrison's get their own equivalent! By the way, my daughter came up with the title for this review...
It is hard trying to find books that my son will like to read, or be read to (I am quite lucky in the fact that he still likes me to read to him at bedtime - he is nine years old). My daughter loves thrillers and horror and fantasy, but by son veers more towards comedy. He has devoured the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, of this I am quite pleased with, so the next series of books I decided to try him out on were the popular Mr Gum books, having heard the author, Andy Stanton (an English born author from London), being interviewed on the Radio.
I asked my sister to get him the first in the series (You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum) for his birthday and we set to reading it at bedtime. The plot is quite simple. Mr Gum is a horrible man, who has a lovely garden - this is due to the fact that if he doesn't keep it nice and tidy and fairy appears and beats him over the head with a frying pan. Bizarre, I know... but that is just the start. Mr Gum's garden starts to get visited by a local, friendly dog called Jake. No one knows were Jake came from, but all the locals in Lamonic Bibber love him. But Jake messes up the garden and Mr Gum keeps getting beaten up by the fairy. So Mr Gum decides to plot a way to kill the dog. Polly, a local girl, gets wind of this and with the help of a kind old man called Friday O'Leary, they try to stop this from happening. That is basically it.
One of the first things that draws you to the books, it that they are very much like Roald Dahl's books to look at. The artist, David Tazzyman, reminds me of Quentin Blake's artwork, who drew many of the Dahl books. Mr Gum looks quite like Mr Twit.
What can I say about Mr Gum? It is very, very strange. It is bizarre, and I wonder if the writer was on something when he wrote it. Sometimes his prose just seems to fall into utter gibberish and madness. It is a kin to Roald Dahl in other ways, as the style of writing remind me of the Welch author. But he is not in the same league. However, having said that, I did quite enjoy it, but most of all my son loved it and wants me to get him the second in the series. Therefore, full marks to Andy Santon.
It's not often that I write a review about foods and food stuff, but I do dabble in this art every so often when I come across something simple, tasty, or of good value... or even a combination of all three. This time I am going to delve into the 'simple' category. Plus I wanted to have a change from reviewing music albums, which I appear to have been doing quite a lot of late. There is quite a difference between frozen pastry and heavy metal, I know... but what the heck... If this frozen pastry was a metal album, it would be right at the top of the pile, the Metallica of pastry, if you will. But enough music and metal analogies for now, let's talk pastry.
I like pie. Yes, I do... I kid you not. Pie is great. And there is no greater a feeling than of making your own pie. I have been making pies of various fillings for over a decade now. I started when I was married, making the pies for my ex wife and I. Then I took a break from it for a while and have started making pies again for me and the kids when they stay over. I have to add here that my pies are quite simple and dead easy to make, this is a 'simple' review don't forget... but I will end this review with a few recipes so you can judge for yourself. I am not a great cook and things like Master Chef are well beyond me... I am sure those two guys on it would not think my pies are great, but suffice to say that the kids and I love them.
Each pack of Jus Rol shortcrust (you can opt for puff pastry as well) contains two approximately 5 inch square chunks of frozen pastry which is uncooked. It usually takes two and a half hours to defrost them at room temperature, or you could leave them overnight in the fridge. The price is around two pounds, but look out for BOGOF offers. The ingredients are Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil, Water, Sugar, Salt, Emulsifier, Mono and Diglycerides of fatty acids. I find that one chunk will do four servings of pie, if served with vegetables. Once the pastry is defrosted it is very easy to roll and does not break - make sure you put flour on you rolling counter and use a rolling pin. From here you can make whatever you wish with your pastry. Like I said, Simple. I have to admit, I cannot make 'proper' pastry, but this frozen Jus Rol is just the same as if you made it yourself, it cuts out all that bother and you can get on with making your pastry based creations.
To make a standard pie, I use one chuck and cut it in two. I then roll enough for the pie base, I use a simple dinner plate. I tend to put a slight bit of oil on the plate to stop it from sticking and put the pie base there, then add the filling. I then roll the top out and put it on top (nip the top to the bottom with thumbs or a fork so it is sealed correctly, then put in a re-heated oven - at about 200 degrees. You can brush it with milk before you put it in the oven if you wish. Cook until brown, then eat! We tend to have leftovers and my daughter will get creative and make some very delicious pastries with chocolate spread, which we have for dessert.
#Some pie filling recipes:#
Cheese and onion pie (as per picture)
Prepare your pie as above. Chop up the onion and then fry them until soft. Add a quarter cup of milk and an egg. Give it a mix. The amount of cheese is all up to you, but I like to use a lot! Put a small amount into the mixture and stir. Go over to your pie and grate cheese straight onto pie base. Add the mix, spreading evenly. Grate more cheese over the top. Cook as above. My kids don't really like egg and found this one too 'eggy' so I made a another without the egg and milk and that was a bit success.
#Meat and Potato Pie#
Chop up your onion and put in large pan with a dash of oil. Fry until nearly soft and add the mince. Brown the mince and add two beef oxos with hot water. Add in a sprinkling of mixed spices. Peel and chop your potatoes and add to the pan. Simmer for a while until the potatoes are nearly soft. Add the pie base, etc.
These are just a few of my own recipes, but you can make your own of course! The fun in pie making is deciding what to make and seeing the end result. But of course you don't need this pastry for pies, it is great for quiches and sausage rolls too.
When it comes to music reviews, I usually write about something from the hard rock or heavy metal genre, so it is nice to review a recently bought CD of a band I used to like quite a lot. Actually it was Chris Evan's on Radio Two who gave me the nudge to seek this one out. He played Art for Art's Sake as I drove to work and I recalled just how just a fine track it was. I promptly checked out Amazon and was able to buy it for a mere 2.99 included P and P. Scared I might get done for daylight robbery, I immediately clicked on the Buy button and it arrived four or five days later.
I grew up with 10CC... I remember many an evening my older brother putting their vinyl's on the turn table and me and the rest of the family singing along. This was their fourth studio album and the last to feature the classic line up of: Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley, and Lol Crème.
1."How Dare You" (Kevin Godley, Lol Creme) - 4:14
This is a great instrumental intro to the album, featuring all kinds of sounds, along with a cheeky slide guitar throughout.
The end of the first song features a wonder piano piece that leads nicely into this fine song. Quite mellow and relaxed...
"You'll never get up if you don't get up
You'll always stay down if you sit around
Where nobody cares and nobody tries
'Cos a daydreams resting on the back of your eyes
On the back of your eyes
3."I Wanna Rule The World" (Godley, Creme, Graham Gouldman) - 3:57
This is a rather daft little song lyric-wise. Here with have many musical styles, but an underlining Jazz feel.
4."I'm Mandy Fly Me" (Stewart, Gouldman, Godley) - 5:24
Most people will have heard of this song - almost as famous as their other chart topper 'I'm not in Love.' It is plain to see why it did so well - great chorus, well out together. Very emotional.
5."Iceberg" (Gouldman, Godley) - 3:43
Another rather daft song, quite jazzy.
6."Art for Art's Sake" (Stewart, Gouldman) - 5:59
This is a great song and was another hit record. It has stood the test of time quite well.
7."Rock 'n' Roll Lullaby" (Gouldman, Stewart) - 3:58
Just as the title might suggest this is a gentle rock and roll number. Not one of my favourites on the album. But the vocal is pretty great, about trying to get your child to sleep...
8."Head Room" (Godley, Creme) - 4:21
This is a laid back number to begin with, but things pick up with an almost country and western chorus...
9."Don't Hang Up" (Godley, Crème) - 6:16
I do like this song. T is so full of sadness and passion and wit. The story of a marriage break-up that is done extremely well.
10. "Get it while you can (Gouldman, Stewart) - 2.53
This is a bonus song and was not on the original album. Not a bad number.
It is hard to say what kind of music style 10cc had as they indulged in all kinds of musical genres: pop, rock, jazz, rock and roll. They did something for everyone I guess, but I suppose pop/rock might be the nearest a style I could come up with.
As I have said, this is the last one to feature the classic line up. Godley and Crème went on to form their own partnership with many a successful record, and Gouldman and Stewart remained as 10cc. They are still going I believe, with only Gouldman left, and this original line up made a brief come back in the nineties.
Power Windows, by Rush is wedged right in the middle of Rush's more synth orientated era, where the guitars were turned down somewhat and keyboards featured more in the production of songs. I have to admit I have had a love/hate relationship with this album. I initially liked it, but then for a while it did not appear on my choice of music to play. However, having watched a Rush live DVD recently I re-discovered the classic that is Marathon and have had cause to take another look at this album. Although Rush where more keyboard orientated, they still made some great songs.
Yes... I know, I know... there will be some of you out there who have never heard of Rush, so let's get that bit out of place right now. Rush were formed in the late sixties in Toronto, Canada and released their first album in 1974. They started as Led Zep wannabees, but have managed to form their own kind of rock music. Modern Rush sound is very gritty and more guitar driven, but they have been through varying kinds of style, without forgetting their rock roots. Rush are Geddy Lee - Bass, Vocals and Keyboards; Alex Lifeson - Guitars; Neil Peart - Drums.
1. "The Big Money" 5:37
We begin this the first single from the album and things start off pretty impressive with a grandiose intro. But things don't quite carry on in that vein and we have a mixture of fusion, rock and pop. Like all Rush songs, though, they are a journey and offers more once the whole song has been listened to. We have a fine guitar solo which saves the song, along with a heavy, foot stamping ending.
2. "Grand Designs" 5:06
Next up is another rock and funk fusion with a hint of reggae for good measure. It is a bit of a quirky little number, but soon the passion takes over to unveil many other such layers. It begins 'A - B, different degrees,' and this is just a little bit format in my view. But we have another fine guitar solo to help it out.
3. "Manhattan Project" 5:07
The third song has always been a favourite of mine from this album. A gentle into and crisp and clear vocal and arrangements. Things build up for a truly good chorus with rocking guitar and thumping drum and bass.
4. "Marathon" 6:09
This is followed by Marathon, the highlight of the album. It took me a while to appreciate this song and now I feel it is one of Rush's classics. A superb guitar into and a crazy bass line that powers and drives this song on. Things build up more and we have an emotional and intense last few minutes which leave you breathless... great live!
5. "Territories" 6:20
The next song begins with a drum beat and various oriental sounds to boot. An eerie keyboard ensures and in comes Geddy's vocal in this what appears to be light number that has an edge to it. But Rush do what they do best here and lead you into a false sense of security. Things soon 'heavy up' and we have a fine song.
6. "Middletown Dreams" 5:15
We have a chaotic fusion of funk and rock to begin this song and things soon settle into a gentle song that builds up. This is a good song with a great arrangement. Let's not forget a great solo. Although Rush seemed to 'turn down' the guitars in this era, Alex still did some great solos.
7. "Emotion Detector" 5:11
We have a keyboard into and beginning that is almost Tangerine Dream here. But a slow guitar changes things briefly. The intro is a whole amalgam of sounds and styles, but things pretty much go along in a gentle manner that builds up. We have a really good solo and a fine ending.
8. "Mystic Rhythms" 5:54
This is the last song on the album, which an intro that is similar to Territories. This is just a bit too funky and monotonous for my liking, but like all Rush things change mid tempo.
Released in 1985, and produced by Rush and Peter Collins.
I am not a great fan of this era of Rush, and feel they play far better music now, but of this era, this album has some great songs. The production and the arrangement are faultless, even though there might be the odd arrangement I might not be too keen on. This was an experimental time for Rush and they changed their music style in the eighties so that is coincided with other music of that era. They did it well. But I am glad they have turned up the guitars again...
After the fantastic 'A Farewell to Kings' album, Rush were left with the quest of continuing on from the 10 minute epic song of Cygnus X1 from that album. How could they top that? And at the end of the song it did say To Be Continued, so that is what they set out to do. The result was an even more epic 18 minute sequel which filled the whole first side of the vinyl edition way back in 1978. Hold on, you might all be crying... who is this Rush you speak of... what kind of music do they play? Well, they are a band who were formed in Toronto and have gone through various styles of music, but have never lost their rock roots. This album in from their Prog Rock phase... or perhaps it is more of an end to that era.
The band consists of -
Geddy Lee - Vocals, Bass and Keyboards
Alex Lifeson - Electric and acoustic Guitars
Neil Peart - Drum and Percussion
The first track is the aforementioned sequel to Cygnus X1, Hemispheres.
It literally explodes into life with part one, 'Prelude.' This is Rush on top form with fantastic interchanging riffs, both loud and gentle. Hemispheres, the track, has an actual story to it. In the first one our hero travels on a rocket to the black hold of Cygnus X1 and this is all about what happened when he got there - basically he meets the Greek gods of ancient times. In part two we meet 'Apollo,' then in Part three 'Dionysus.' But war is raging as per Part four 'Armageddon.' In Part five our hero is reborn and the gods proclaim him as being 'Cygnus' the god of balance. In part Six all is unified in a perfect 'Sphere.' This is just a brief synopsis of the story. The track basically rocks on until Cygnus, which is a great part of the track with a fantastic build up. Over all a worthy follow up to Cygnus X1.
Next up we have Circumstances, which is a fantastic rock song and was released as a single. Then we have The Trees, which is a favourite of most Rush fans. It had a gentle acoustic intro and then things get louder. It is the story of life in the forest and how the oaks have all the sunlight, whereas all the maples form a union to demand equal rights. It is all quite daft, but shows Rush's funny side as well.
The last song in the excellent La Villa Strangiato. This is an instrumental song that showcases the bands talents with guitar and drum. It is actually based on some nightmares Lifeson had been having. Proclaimed as an 'Exercise in self-indulgence,' it comes in several parts with titles such as 'Never Turn You Back on a Monster,' and 'A Lerxst in Wonderland.' 'Lerxst' is Lifeson's nickname. Listen out for a truly amazing guitar solo in the middle. The band still play this live.
This album saw the beginning of an end to Rush's sci-fi and fantasy based writings. The next album Permanent Waves was more like Circumstances and dealt with present day stuff... Overall, though, it is a great one to add to the collection and a nice one to start off with if you have never heard much of them before and want to have a look.
It is hard to believe it is over thirty years old, but like most Rush albums... it is timeless... and retains its crispness due to Rush's distinctive sound.
You know, I have always liked a good old ghost story. In fact I like all that is... strange and not of this world. Hell, I guess I just love horror, but good ghost stories are few and far between. Most horror you see on the bookshelves in your local bookshelf or virtual shelf on the internet are about vampires, demons, crazy dogs and such... it is quite rare you see a ghost story, so when I saw this one in Waterstones I knew I had to have it.
Who is Michelle Paver?
She was born in Africa but grew up in Wimbledon. She is mostly recognised as a children's author and her series of books Chronicles of Ancient Darkness are very popular. Dark Matter is her first book for adults. More information can be found at: www.michellepaver.com
The story is set in the late 1930s, just before the war. When Jack is offered a chance to be a wireless operator in an Arctic expedition he has to take it... he is poor and lonely and this is just the sort of opportunity he needs. They travel to Gruhuken, where they will stay for the year, but even before they reach the remote bay members of the expedition start to fall like flies, through illness and misfortune. The three who do get there, set up camp, but another of the team falls sick and he and another member of the team have to leave. Jack is faced with the dilemma: should he go too, or stay, even though there seems to be something not quite right with the remote place. He decides to stay, but he wishes he didn't.
There is something at Gruhuken. Something that roams the place, a spirit... a spirit that want to keep the place to itself.
What I thought...
Dark Matter is not a bad book. It is by no means a classic and some of the 'shocks' are a little bit 'staged' if that is the right word and you can see them coming. Very reminiscent of ghostly tales of old you just know that something very bad is going to happen. Having said that, I found I liked the characters created by Paver and I had to know what happened. It is just a short book, but it kept me occupied for about a week. And needed to know what happened.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Orion Paperback (1 Sep 2011)
Helloween burst onto the music scene in the mid eighties with their fast and furious metal sound and released two hard rocking albums. Their third and forth, still good, where a little bit mellower and the following few a little bit disappointing if I am honest. This 1998 album though is an utter return to form and the band has been constantly good ever since. For those who do not know what I am talking about and therefore don't know much about Helloween, well... they hail from Germany and are a power metal act of acclaim, though they don't seem to play these shores much anymore, sadly...
Andi Deris - vocals
Michael Weikath - guitar
Roland Grapow - guitar
Markus Grosskopf - bass
Uli Kusch - drums
It was produced and mixed by Tommy Hansen
The album begins with "Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude Period in Z" and is the obligatory instrumental intro, found on most Helloween albums. These are usually grandiose affairs and this is no exception. Classical music merges with metal with ease, a great intro by Kusch (1:44), and this falls nicely into track 2: "Push." This Deris, Kusch, Weikath combo is instantly frantic with fast guitars, and screaming voices, and a catchy chorus (4:44). It is followed by "Falling Higher" written by Deris and Weikath, an out and out metal song, gritty riffs and gritty sounds with a machine-gun drum beat (4:45); not a fantastic song, but beats many songs from their previous albums hands down.
"Hey Lord!" written by Deris is next up. An arse-kicking intro, it marches on like, well something that marches quite a lot... A good chorus. Quite commercial, but still good nonetheless (4:05). The fifth track it the pleasantly titled "Don't Spit on My Mind" written by Deris and Grosskopf. It does have a truly brilliant intro, almost chaotic... it is sometimes wonderful, sometimes clichéd... (4:23). Next up is "Revelation" written by Deris and Kusch. This 8:21 number is a masterpiece and I loved it from the moment I first heard it. A keyboard intro followed by a lone guitar that is joined with another before a grand and uplifting build up and we set off on a power ride of pure metal. There is a fantastic instrumental and guitar solo in the middle too.
Next we have "Time" written by Deris. This one has a slow intro, but things soon build up into a great ballad (5:41). Eighth song is the single "I Can" written by Weikath, instantly catchy, instantly likeable... just the sort of thing you want in a single by such a power metal band (4:38). "A Handful of Pain" by Deris and Kusch (4:48) is next and is quite a dark sounding tune which evolves into something more. You don't often hear songs that are sang in Latin, but "Laudate Dominum" by Weikath (5:09), is one such song. This an okay song, made better by the fact it is in Latin. "Midnight Sun" written by Weikath (6:18) is the last song on the album. What a great song to end on: great intro, a riff bursting though, guitar solo and chaos ensues. Hold on... I am just going to stop typing and listen to it again...
Like I said earlier, this is a return to form for Helloween and is bursting with great songs, great riffs and lots and lots of energy, which is something that had been sadly lacking in the four or five albums before. If you want to try Helloween for the first time, then this is a great place to start. If you grew disillusioned with them in the late eighties, try them again from here, you won't be disappointed. If you are a fan already... then go get it, what are you waiting for... you on, now!
In 2010 Rush decided to undertake a world tour in which their album Moving Pictures was played in its entirety. The album is quite possibly, alongside 2112, Rush's most famous album, containing songs such as Tom Sawyer and YYZ. The first show was performed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June and the tour ended in Washington in July 2011. The tour was named The Time Machine Tour and this DVD was released having been recorded in Cleveland, the city in USA that first played their music on radio. For reasons I won't go into, I did not get a chance to see this tour, so once the DVD was released, I quickly asked Father Christmas if he would get it me for Christmas. Like a good old geezer, Mr Christmas did as I requested and I promptly put it on the DVD player on Christmas day.
What has always impressed me about Rush is their stamina. Their sets are long, with a break halfway through, as you will see with the amount of songs listed below. Another thing about a Rush concert is the fact they are far from boring. For one thing, they have great light shows and screens behind for added pleasure and between songs play short clips. It is a whole experience to go to a show and this DVD captures this well. I will not go in to deeply and in-depth for each song, but will just give an overall 'feel.' I know that many will not have heard of Rush, so to give a quick overview: they were formed in Toronto, Canada in the late sixties. They consist of Geddy Lee - Vocals, Bass and Keyboards, Alex Lifeson - Guitars and Neil Peart - Drums. It is hard to describe their music style, as they have gone through different varieties over the years. Let us just say Rock, shall we? Classic, Hard, Heavy, sometimes Soft. They are, simply put... RUSH.
The show begins with Episode 2 of a mock History of Rush 'Don't be Rash.' This features all members of the band acting as a group of people in a sausage café while 'Rash' are on a small stage in the café performing a strange version of their hit Spirit of Radio. It is all rather silly. I guess it appeals more for Rush fans, but my two kids who are ages 12 and 8 and are not big Rush fans found it funny. We then join the concert and the real 'Spirit of Radio' ensues. It is followed by the rather different 'Time Stand Still.' Next up is the bright 'Presto,' followed by the dark 'Stick it out.' Then we have the new-ish and rather great 'Working them Angels.' This shows that Rush still have a lot to give as this is fresh and new. Rush as musicians are highly regarded as being one of the best in their own respective fields, and Geddy shows this off pretty much so in 'Leave that thing Alone.' What he does with his bass towards the end is just incredible. 'Faithless' is next, followed by a new song from their forthcoming album. 'BU2B,' was released as a double single with Caravan, which is played later on in the show. Next we have the old classic 'Freewill' from Permanent Waves album. Set one is rounded off with two toe-tappers 'Marathon' and 'Subdivisions.' The band then take a break.
Set Two begins with the mock History of Rush part 17 ' ...and Rock and Roll is my name.' Here the mock Rush are recording a video for Tom Sawyer and being directed by Geddy in the guise of an English director. We join the concert and the real Tom Sawyer begins, and we have the whole of Moving Pictures. 'Tom Sawyer' is probably Rush's best known song: it has featured on films and TV shows such as South Park and Chuck. Even my daughter has heard it! 'Red Barchetta' is one of my favourite Rush songs, and this is followed by 'YYZ' and 'Limelight.' We than have 'Camera Eye,' the creepy 'Witch Hunt' and 'Vital Signs.' It is then a case of from old to new as next up is 'Caravan' from their forthcoming album, possibly titled Clockwork Angels. Moto Perpetuo is next, which is a drum solo from Peart. 'O'Malley's Break' is an acoustic number that blends nicely into 'Closer to the Heart.' 'Overture/Temples of Syrinx' is next from the classic album 2112, this sounds chunkier than ever! We then have the new-ish 'Far Cry.' There are two encores: The instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' with a fun new intro... this song just keeps getting better and better! We round things off with 'Working Man,' which features a surprise reggae intro. And a nice but brief nod towards Cygnus X1 at the end
Outtakes from History of Rush parts 2 and 17
This features a few mistakes and a bit of extra stuff which did not make the final cut.
'Tom Sawyer' - featuring the cast of History of Rush part 17
Here we have the full song with the cast of the clip. It includes chimpanzees and the band playing each other's instruments.
'Need Some Love' Live from Laura Secord Secondary School
This is very early footage of Rush performing one of their earliest songs, when they all had long hair. It also features John Rutsey, the band's first drummer.
'Anthem' Live from Passaic New Jersey
This is more early footage of Rush, of the song from the 1975 album Fly By Night. The picture quality is quite dark here, but it is okay for the nostalgic....
Overall this is a great DVD which captures Rush in fine form. Although there are some songs which are not amongst my favourites, it is a good balance between old and new. I have always thought marathon was an 'okay' song, but played live it is just awesome. It was especially nice to see the 1980 album Moving Pictures played in full. Seeing the History of Rush clips was fun, too, and shows that they have a good sense of humour and are not afraid to take them micky out of themselves. This is a well put together DVD and well directed, no Rush fan will be disappointed.
Rush were formed in 1969 and released their first album in 1974, when I was at junior school. I did not know much about Rush at that time, was more interested in playing out on my bike with my mates I suppose. Not long after the release of this debut album, the then drummer, John Rutsey left the band and was replaced by Neil Peart. A concert was recorded for radio at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland (ABC) 26th August in that year during Rush's first tour of United States with the new drummer. The recording of this concert seemed to lay in obscurity for a while and has now seen the light of day. It was released as a 'bootleg' for a while called the Fifth Order of Angels.
I must admit I thought I knew everything there was to know about Rush, but from purchasing this album I have now learnt that they made two other songs I had never heard of, as they were never released on a studio album, and that they did a cover version of Bad Boy written by Larry Williams (which was covered by The Beatles). Just goes to show that there are always surprises in life I suppose!
The Band were (and still are):
Geddy Lee - Vocals and Bass
Alex Lifeson - Guitar
Neil Peart - Drums
Full track listing:
1. Finding My Way (Lee, Lifeson) 5.07
2. The Best I Can (Lee) 3.06
3. Need Some Love (Lee, Lifeson) 3.21
4. In The End (Lee, Lifeson) 6.13
5. Fancy Dancer (Lee, Lifeson) 3.54
6. In The Mood (Lee) 3.18
7. Bad Boy (Williams) 5.37
8. Here Again (Lee, Lifeson) 7.53
9. Working Man (Lee, Lifeson) 9.13
10. Drum Solo 2.54
11. What Youre Doing (Lee, Lifeson) 4.26
12. Garden Road (Lee, Lifeson) 3.03
13. Anthem (Lee, Lifeson, Peart) 4.21
14. Beneath, Between & Behind (Lifeson, Peart) 3.06
15. Fly By Night (Lee, Peart) 2.46
So, then, what of this early example of Rush music? It is raw, it is gritty. There is no production as such, but it is fresh sounding. If you are not a fan of Rush or have never heard of them, then I doubt this album would appeal to you, however if you like your hard rock loud and gutsy, then step right this way. The album begins with Finding My Way, which is taken from what was then their current album at the time, their debut 'Rush.' It is plain to see from the outset that this is going to be a great album. It is loud, it is frenzied. This is followed by The Best I Can, which was to be from their forthcoming album Fly By Night, for which I will use the initials FBN from here-on. It is very similar to the version which would grace FBN, but with a slightly different vocal for the chorus. Need Some Love is next, which is taken from Rush, then we have an early version of In The End. This has always been a favourite of mine, and this is an excellent version of the song that would be released on FBN. A young Geddy Lee used to sound a lot like a high-pitched Robert Plant (of Led Zep fame) and the vocal here is a prime example of this.
'You can take me for a little while, you can take me, you can make me smile...
...In the End...'
The fifth song on the album is one of those songs I had never heard before, Fancy Dancer. It is a stomper of a song and is heavy rock and roll at its best. Imagine Elvis hot-wired, and you will get the picture. A simple riff, simple lyrics, but good nonetheless. However I can understand why they never released this on studio album due to the direction they were taking music-wise. Although FBN has remnants of the music style of Rush, Peart's lyrics where taking them to another level. In The Mood is next, a swinging favourite from Rush and this is followed by Bad Boy, the Larry Williams song. Then we have Here Again, a slow number from Rush. The highlight is Working Man. This has always been a favourite to both the band and to fans. The gritty guitar riff, the truly excellent guitar work by Alex Lifeson. Fan will notice that during the instrumental bit there is an early version of the instrumental piece from By-tor and the Snowdog (which would be released on FBN), and that is good to hear. This is followed by an incredible drum solo by Neil Peart. The concert ends here, but there are two encores, What You're Doing from Rush, and the second song that would never be released on a studio album, Garden Road. This very early Rush , with a heavy rock and roll riff and screaming vocals.
'Passin' down this garden road, I've passed it many times
Beauty flashing in the air, Garden's many vines
Today I see the answer that I was wrong
Oh man, my questions on this garden road...'
The albums ends on a sour note I guess with the three bonus tracks recorded at the same venue a year later. The recording is not too good and a bit distorted at times. These songs are a trio from FBN, and they are: Anthem, Beneath, Between & Behind, and Fly By Night. But this does not ruin the overall experience of this album. I would have liked to have heard an early version of Before and After, though, as that is my favourite song from the Rush album, but alas that wasn't to be. It is also interesting to hear the crowd's response to the concert, which is quite quiet on the whole, a 'far cry' from their 2011 Time Machine concerts! Overall, however, the album is great. Play is on your Ipod or headphones, or whatever with your eyes closed and it is like you are there at the concert itself nearly forty years ago, taken back in time if you will. It kicks, it rocks and it is worthy of every Rush fan's collection.