Sunday, November 27, 2005



Tuesday, November 22, 2005




assistant blog

for another review of the Hush Collector gig

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Value for Money

Mozart: Requiem
Naxos 8.557728
Miriam Allen [soprano], Anne Butler [mezzo-soprano], Marcus Ullmann [tenor], Martin snell [bass], Gewandhus Chamber Choir, Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, conductor – Morten Schuldt-Jensen
Surely, even the greenest classical music fan will know that Mozart’s death is surrounded by mystery and conspiracy theory. Some will also know that he is supposed to have been instructed to compose his own requiem mass by some sort of apparition. We will probably never know the truth about these things, at least until time travel is mastered and even then it will be a shame to debunk such powerful mythology.
Nevertheless, it is a truism that this music is among the most universally acclaimed in any genre. Despite the fact that poor Wolfgang did not complete his appointed task himself, it did eventually turn out very well thanks to the consummate skill of F X Sussmayr.
It is not necessary to comment on the composition, it being so widely known and appreciated, but I have to say that once again Naxos has gathered together a fine ensemble of performers and technicians to produce a CD which is well up to their usual very high standard.. I would therefore have no hestation in recommending this recording to anyone seeking their first version of the Requiem, and I am sure that long-time fans of the piece will be more than pleased to add this one to their collections.
The disc is completed with 2 offertory choruses – Inter natos mulierum and Misericordias Domini, neither of which I was previously acquainted with. They are both excellent works, the second of which seems to contain an air that Beethoven may well have been interested in!
This being Naxos’s release of the month in this their 18th birthday year, there is a bonus disc thrown in for those quick enough off the mark to obtain a first pressing copy. It’s a brilliant compilation of 11 ‘Grand Choral Classics’ including the Hallelujah Chorus and Ode to Joy.
So my advice would be – if you’ve got a bit of spare pocket money burning a hole in your pocket , rush out and buy a copy now - you’ll get 2 great CDs and you’ll still have change from a fiver!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Photos from the Hush Collector Gig

Friday, November 18, 2005



Hushcollector Debut Gig

Last evening, I had the great pleasure and honour to be present at the debut public performance and EP launch party, which took place at the Cella Venue (dreadful name!) at the Sanctuary licensed cafe-bar in Brunswick Street West, Hove.
I reviewed their 'Flowby' EP CD a few weeks back and suggest you visit the review to refresh your memory about my favourable reaction.
I have to tell you that the evening was, for me, a stunning success. Hushcollector are even better live than on disc. This is always particularly pleasing as it is so easy to doctor a recording to enhance the quality of artists. It's not the case here.
The group consists not one, but two, fine female singers who both also play keyboards and acoustic guitar and share the leading roles more or less equally which in itself widens the band's versatility and potential. The 3 male 'backing' instrumentalists - electric guitar, bass, drums and a variety of bits & pieces, are all accomplished musicians who could clearly make it without the ladies, but sensibly choose to ply their trades accompanying the singers and each other. The effect is one of those units which add up to much more than the sum of its individual parts.
So what of their style. Mmm..tricky to be precise and I'm sure the group will not thank me for suggesting that they are essentially a very good country-rock band. But they're much more than this. They supplement their sound with a fairly heavy jazz-funk-rock fusion which can really build a body- swaying groove at times - I was just one of several onlookers who were finding it very difficult not to dance - only the intimate (cramped) venue prevented us from properly donig so. In fact, to use a rather old-fashioned but very useful term, I'd say that 'Groovey' would be a good one-word description of Hushcollector.
Now, I have to warn them that it's a harsh competitive world and they will have to work extremely hard to gain the recognition they clearly deserve. They need to take their time to develop & polish their individual and group skills and probably define an image and niche in which they feel comfortable. No way should they pursue the limelight of the pop charts, rather they should seek to have a long term future growing their reputation as first class musicians and performers who have much to offer and can maintain a place in the hearts of real music lovers. I give this advice in good faith because they are damned good and I feel it would be a shame if they were sidetracked into deadends in the interests of short-term gain which could easily happen if certain people 'discovered' them.
Please take the time to visit their website and listen to some of their music. Remembering that they are a brilliant live act, look out for them appearing in your area in the not too distant future. In Brighton - that'll be pretty soon I hope!
Good Luck Hushcollector - I'm rooting for you.
[PS - if the band are kind enough to email some photos from the gig - I'll publish them alongside this review later.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Sony recalls copy-protected CDs

Someone sent me this press release. I thought it was worth passing on in this public forum. Please feel free to do the same.
It concerns the controversial copy protected compact discs that have been appearing lately. They prevent us making copies of our own CDs for use on computers, car CD players etc or where we do not want to endanger our original copy.

Neil Diamond's latest album sold well despite the XCP row Sony BMG is recalling music CDs that use controversial anti-piracy software. The software was widely criticised because it used virus-like techniques to stop illegal copies being made.
Widespread pressure has made the music giant remove CDs bearing the software from stores. It will also swap bought CDs for copies free of the XCP anti-piracy software.
Sony is also providing software to make it easy to remove the controversial program from Windows computers.
Swap shop
Sony's music arm could be recalling millions of CDs because at least 20 discs are known to use XCP some by best-selling artists such as Celine Dion, Natasha Bedingfield, and Amerie.
One of the discs, Neil Diamond's 12 Songs, was the top seller on for several days.

Trey Anastasio - Shine
Celine Dion - On ne Change Pas
Neil Diamond - 12 Songs
Our Lady Peace - Healthy in Paranoid Times
Chris Botti - To Love Again
Van Zant - Get Right with the Man
Switchfoot - Nothing is Sound
The Coral - The Invisible Invasion
Acceptance - Phantoms
Susie Suh - Susie Suh
Amerie - Touch
Life of Agony - Broken Valley
Horace Silver Quintet - Silver's Blue
Gerry Mulligan - Jeru
Dexter Gordon - Manhattan Symphonie
The Bad Plus - Suspicious Activity
The Dead 60s - The Dead 60s
Dion - The Essential Dion
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
Ricky Martin - Life

No detailed figures have been given by Sony for how many CDs are protected with XCP or how many have been sold.
However, work by respected net expert Dan Kaminsky found that more than 500,000 networks have at least one machine on them using XCP.
Although the CDs containing XCP were only released in the US, Mr Kaminsky found that 44,000 copies were installed on machines in the UK.
In its statement announcing the recall Sony BMG said: "We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers and we are committed to making this situation right."
Security exploit
The alarm about XCP was raised by Windows programming expert Mark Russinovich who discovered that it used a "root kit" to install itself deep inside the operating system.
Subsequent to his discovery virus writers started exploiting XCP's stealthy abilities to hide their own creations.
In the same statement about the recall Sony BMG said it would make it much easier to uninstall the XCP system from Windows PCs on which is has been installed.
Before now any customer wanting to rid their PC of XCP had to go through a several stage process of telling Sony what they wanted to do and then waiting for it to respond. As well as being criticised for its inconvenience security researchers found that the uninstaller left Windows machines vulnerable to several exploits. The XCP copy protection system only installed on machines running Windows.
Writing on the Freedom to Tinker blog, researchers J Alex Halderman and Ed Felten found that cleverly written webpages could exploit the programming code used to remove XCP to install their own potentially malicious programs.
The pair also provided tools that help people work out if their Windows machines have been left vulnerable in this way.
The news about the uninstaller came as anti-virus firms and Microsoft announced tools to find and remove the "root kit".
The row about XCP has also led to Sony BMG facing several class-action lawsuits over the potential security problems that the software causes.

Monday, November 14, 2005


A message from Hushcollector

Hello allJust to let you know, that Hush Collector are making our live debut thisweekend on Phil Jackson's BBC South Live show. Show starts at 7pm (2pm USAEast/11am USA west) and you can tune in on 95.5 FM or stream it live fromthe BBC website . (You will need Real Player). Comments and messages canalso be posted on the same page, so get typing. (Please go easy on us, it'sour first live performance!). There are a couple of guest passes availablefor this show, so if you are interested, please email us before 11amtomorrow.
We are also really looking forward to our launch/party the following
Thursday 17th November
at the Cella Vanue, Hove. Entrance is FREE to our members, werecommend you get there early as it is a small, intimate, venue and the bandwill probably take up half the space(!). For this reason, we will be closingthe mailing list at 9pm. (£3 entry for non-members). We'll be playing arelaxed live set around 9.15 and there will be a short acousitc set a bitearlier from guests ReMolo. The bar is open until 12, so we can sit down andhave a drink with you all after (hooray). Please remember the email youregistered with for the guest list on the night.
Sanctuary Cella VenueLocation
The ep is still available from Virgin Megastore Brighton and online fromRough Trade and The Night Cafe and Action Records . For those in the USA,the cd can be found at CD Baby and Tower Records - So if you can adfford 4quid, please support us, as we are eager to get back into Church Roadstudios and get the album finished.
That's about it for now, looking forward to seeing some of you nextThursday.
CheersPoppy Pete & Katieps - Jamesons & Coke, Vodka & Coke and a pint for Pete ; )

Sunday, November 13, 2005



Ring of Fire – The Legend of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash : Ring of Fire – The Legend of Johnny Cash
UMTV 602498878507
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that tracks such as ‘I Walk the Line’ and ‘Fulsom Prison Blues’ were recorded at Sun almost fifty years ago. It’s also hard to stomach the fact that the man who sang these wonderful numbers is no longer with us. It’s actually two full years since The Man in Black passed on to who-knows-where.
If you’re unfortunate enough not to own a good collection of Johnny Cash’s music, then this will probably be the one you’ll want to get your hands on. It includes many of this best known songs spanning the near half-century he was here to serenade us.
Issued to coincide with the forthcoming biopic ‘Walk the Line’ it includes a good selection of the Rockabilly stuff, the obligatory live tracks from San Quentin and more recent recordings such as those by or made with U2 and Trent Reznor’s ‘Hurt.’ Some songs such as the latter are very moving, others illustrate Cash’s empathy with those on the edge of society, while there are a few like the title track and ‘I’ve Been Everywhere' are just pure joy to revisit.
Setting aside the obvious criticism that you just can’t truly represent such a great star’s work on just one album, I’d say this is as good a cross-section of JC’s work as you’re gonna get, so get it!

Friday, November 04, 2005


Sorry Folks

I've been getting so many spam comments, I've had to turn on word verification for comments. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes but please do leave legitimate comments even if it takes those few extra seconds


The Sound of a Different Drum

Add Image
David Hoffbrand: To the Sound of a Different Drum Branded Music BMCD1270
Being naturally averse to religion in the first place and having found most so-called Christian rock I’ve listened to either so pious or rubbish musically I tend to steer clear of it. Now I don’t know whether Mr Hoffbrand considers himself to be a Christian Rocker or not, but his music is somewhat religious, in a similar way that much of Dylan’s later stuff was. Most of the songs on this album are clearly to do with his faith but can be heard in the more general sense of being about love and devotion. What catches my attention is the quality of the musicianship herein, David’s fine voice and the grooviness of the composition. In fact the comparison with the Big Zim does not seem entirely inappropriate. A fine record that deserves to be more widely heard


Earthly Delights

John Garden & Earthly Delights: A Box of Earthly Delights
One of my all-time favourite live bands was Blowzabella, so when I see any album featuring hurdy-gurdy & bodhran on offer at 50pence in a junk shop, I just can’t resist putting hand in pocket! Even more so when the album is a double!
Now 2 hours and 19 minutes of original folk tunes may not be absolutely everybody’s cup o’ mead but this Box of Earthly Delights is tempered somewhat by the fact that styles and instruments are drawn from many mediaeval traditions & modern cultures world-wide. 90 tunes put together in 32 arrangements perfect played loud for raucous party bopping in the barn or more sedately as ambient background to a 10-course banquet back at Ye Olde Castle. The discs provide very entertaining & highly infectious jollity for folk of all ages and classes of society. And anyone wanting to pick up their instrument and play the tunes themselves can get hold of a companion notation manual, ‘A Book of Earthly Delights’ – visit the website for full details. Top Gear!

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Elgar Marches

Elgar: Marches
Naxos 8.557273
Pomp & Circumstance Marches, Polonia Symphonic Prelude, Coronation March, Funeral March, March of the Mogul Emperors, March from Caractacus
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Judd

My first observation here is about packaging. I should think any CD sporting a cover illustrating a military marching band would contain music played by such an outfit not a symphony orchestra. So I think there’s an issue of misrepresentation surrounding this record. So I guess that the label ‘Buyer Beware’ could reasonably appear on the case to warn of possible disappointment. For it’s probably true that many marching tunes are greatly improved when presented by a military band. It would certainly be true for most of the pieces presented here, I feel. Of course, Pomp & Circumstance No 1 is as excitingly jaunty as ever in this format, but frankly the other works sound rather pedestrian, even flat-footed, when compared to the imagined possibilities available from a marching band. It’s all just a bit too smooth. It needs to be more exciting, more brash, more jagged even.



From the bottom of that pile

Ivor Novello Vol 2 – 1939-50 Recordings – The Dancing Years & King’s Rhapsody Naxos 8.120781
I freely admit that Ivor Novello is known to me mostly as a name often heard on the radio in my childhood without being associated with any particular song titles or shows. I could tell you nothing about him other than certain awards are given in his name. So it has been good to read the sleeve notes with this album and learn that he was a multitalented international star – film actor, composer, playwright and producer. He wrote many well-known tunes of the first half of the 20th century including ballads and morale-boosters such as ‘Keep the Home-Fires Burning.’
The 2 works on this disc are successful operettas from their day and both were made into films, the second starring Errol Flynn. This again helps to put Novello into some sort of context for me.
I have to say that the music herein sounds terribly dated to me and has little relevance for today. I find the style rather ‘nice,’ singers concentrating on correct diction rather than imparting any sort of meaningful emotional content. The lyrics are light and inconsequential. No doubt these songs fitted the plot of their shows, but fail to stand alone as either meaningful art or entertaining diversion to a modern ear. I guess I need to explore the work of Ivor Novello a bit further to discover his place in the history of modern music. It certainly isn’t evident here.


Bottom of the Pile

I have to say that the life of a record reviewer is a strange one,. Since starting to do the job seriously my listening habits have changed radically. I can no longer sit down to relax by listening to one of my favourite albums or even fill my CD changer and put it on random play as I used to. No, I feel obliged to put on a totally unknown CD I’ve been sent by a promotion company and judge it.
I must say it has sharpened up my critical faculties and I no longer dismiss music in such an offhand manner as perhaps I used to. I look for merits I previously would not have paid any attention to in the hope of being able to say something positive about the record. I have fully considered the possible implications and consequences of giving a bad review – especially to a young or new artist – and no longer throw around such epithets as ‘rubbish,’ ‘utter crap’ or ‘worthless’ as once perhaps I would.
Similarly, working a mobile disco business has not been quite the picnic I might have imagined. I guess I thought it would be my job to go along to parties armed with my favourite albums and enlighten all and sundry into adopting the good taste I had myself. Instead, I’ve found people know what they want to hear and [quite reasonably] will pretty soon put you right if things are not going just as they require. I find I am required to purchase discs I previously would not have given houseroom and these prove to be the records most regularly requested. It’s been a pretty abrupt and harsh education.
You will probably not have a lot of sympathy – anyone who can earn money by receiving free records and listening to them or be paid for going to parties can’t be having too bad a time – and I agree. All I’m saying is that there’s more to both of these jobs than meets the eye and the experience one receives from listening to music is changed beyond belief.
One of the ‘problems’ attached to the reviewing activity is that one accumulates a pile of discs that never get listened to, let alone reviewed, owing to the fact they get constantly pushed to the bottom of the pile and, eventually, get lost in the deep litter filing system that most of our kind run in the spare room we laughingly call our ‘office’. I have become increasingly concerned about this, not least because I could be missing out on hearing a life-changing disc, more mundanely because I feel I owe it to the record company, the artist and my reader to find enough time to do the job properly. This would be easier if one could earn enough from reviewing to devote one’s whole time to the task instead of fitting it in around a day-job and other family commitments. Sadly, this is not possible. But I am determined to do something about it. I have gathered together a bottom-of-the-pile pile, which I intend to go through and write a rave review or at least devote a couple of informative lines about as many CDs as possible. This may entail grouping some discs together if they seem to be in some sort of bag or have another linking factor e.g. same record label.
When this has been accomplished I intend to start writing bits on the ‘ones that got away.’ I mean those records which none of us have ever heard and end up in the remainder bins and charity shops waiting for yours truly to come along and discover them. I’m always finding records by artists who out-gun those appearing in the charts and on the radio stations by miles but never stood a chance because their socks were the wrong colour.
So, watch this space in the coming weeks and months and hopefully you’ll come across a review of something out of the ordinary and maybe even discover something surprising if not delightful.

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