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Product: Audio CD
Title: Reprise [2003]
Label: Decca
Rating: 1/5
Customer rating - 1 out of 5
Musically very substandard

There is almost nothing to praise about this recording. Musically, it is bad. Very bad, actually. Russell Watson has failed to do the music justice, and his strained renditions are unpleasant. He also doesn't seem to know what he is singing, for his delivery is monotonous. One of the worst recordings that I've ever heard.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Cowboy Celtic
Label: Red House
Artist: David Wilkie
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Enthusaistic desire to hear more from the artists.

Cowboy Celtic is one of those albums you are reluctant to lend to your friends... they probably won't give it back to you. I can clearly hear the connections between Cowboy and Celtic music. An outstanding album all around. I generally lean towards the more lively jigs and reels but the slow, lyrical clarity of the fly fisherman's passion for his art had me longing for a clear stream and a fishing pole. I can't name one track on the album that I don't like. Something of a rarity.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Original Pirate Material
Label: Vice/Atlantic
Artist: The Streets
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
English sense of humour.

I know the Streets have many fans the world over but I feel I must address some of the negative reviews expressed by the American market. I am not saying people are wrong to criticise the album, if you don't like it you don't like it, fair enough, but some of the negative remarks levelled at it seem to show a lack of understanding. This, however, is not the American record buying public's fault. Unless you are actually British there are aspects of the Streets that you just wont get. References to American culture often leave English listeners cold and I presume the same can be said for the reverse. Typical cockney slang and references to mundane day to day British institutions create a sense of unity the uninitiated just wont get. There is also many gripes about the monotonousness of Mike Skinner's voice. This is a reasonable complaint unless you have worked dead end jobs in London, gone to work in industrial Sheffield with a chronic hang over or been clubbing in some seedy nightclub in Southend. Only after experiencing the uniquely British working class way of life can you begin to appreciate that monotone is the only style plausible. It isn't exciting, it isn't glamorous, it isn't `ghetto' or `pimpin' its day to day boring British life. It rains, its cold, the food is processed and nasty, and our jobs are dull. We live for the weekend We moan about it but that's how it is.

In celebrating this brain crushingly lifeless existence Mike Skinner is giving a depressing beauty to the humdrum activities of the disenchanted British Youth. Like the musical equivalent of a Lowry painting. He picks on shared experiences or stereotypical characters like some sort of urban observational comedian replacing the laughter with a frighteningly accurate truth about the futile yet strangely fulfilling nature of the `weekend culture' generation.

Many complain that the beats and samples are generic and over played but THAT'S THE POINT. They are original yet you would swear you have heard them somewhere before. Each one is a stereotype of itself echoing and emulating some forgotten club classic (the same piano loops over and over) the origins of which you cant put your finger on but which stirs memories and feelings of drunken nights with friends, hazy flashbacks to the night before and people you have spent entire nights talking to but would never recognise again.

His vocals follow a similar vein of familiarity. Whilst not sticking to traditional syllabic vocal patterns Skinners lyrics are delivered in more of a free form style, one which is much closer to everyday speech than rapping. In doing this he takes on the role of the average guy in the pub giving his opinions of the world to anyone who will listen. Rhymes are rarely perfect and his words fit only loosely to the beats. We all know blokes like this. Skinner, however, picks the overriding social and political attitudes of the nation's down-trodden youth and cleverly vocalises them in a constant stream of buzz word ridden, alcohol infused stories of urban life. Generalisations maybe, but the truth nonetheless.

So please don't judge this as a rap album and compare it to Jurassic 5 or Gang Starr for that is missing the point entirely. It's a document of British urban life, a snapshot of the despondency yet underlying optimism of the millions occupying our club scene, dole queues and factories around Britain. This album is the sound of Monday morning heading to work with a hang over, it's sitting in a grimy local pub with your mates watching your football team lose, it's getting ready to go out on a Friday night with a pocket full of cash and nothing to spend it on but a weekend of clubbing, it's the worst kebab in the world which tastes fantastic because it represents the filth we put up with in Britain yet endure with a smile on our face.

After all its only five days `till the weekend.

We all smile we all sing.

Product: Audio CD
Title: Hotel Costes, Vol. 7
Label: Wagram Records
Artist: Stéphane Pompougnac
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Directions, Moods, and Shades - A 'Must Have'

Every six weeks, trudge thru Heathrow and check the HMV looking for a aural upper and finally on the last trip thru - Hotel Costes #7 Beautifully packaged and well thought out, can this man do no wrong? Climbing thru 10,000m with numero sept glowing in my headset, I can say the definitive answer is "Not yet" Smoother transitions, less juxtapositions, phat beats and lush arrangements. This is not musical 'wallpaper'. People's heads will turn, lost in mid-conversation they will later ask about it. Tell them! Like trying to disect a great meal, one can't really single out tracks. The mix is a journey. You either enjoy the ride or you don't. It's been seven rich and varied trips so far and each one keeps getting better. To those of you, like me, who've given up on music since The Jam ceased, the Costes series has lead to further explorations of many more artists. Artists invisable in realm of 'popular music' Extremly satisfying in their own right, the Hotel Costes series is also a wonderful portal for further musical exploration. Accessable to the neophyte, satisfying for the connoiseur, a portal to re-indulge your love of music. Grab it!