Film Review – BLACK SUNDAY (1977)

BLACK SUNDAY (1977, USA) ***½
Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Paramount Pictures / Robert Evans Company; d. John Frankenheimer; w. Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, Ivan Moffat (based on the novel by Thomas Harris); pr. Robert Evans; ph. John A. Alonzo (Movielab. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Tom Rolf; ad. Walter H. Tyler; rel. 22 March 1977 (USA), 12 August 1977 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 143m.
cast: Robert Shaw (Kabakov), Bruce Dern (Lander), Marthe Keller (Dahlia), Fritz Weaver (Sam Corley), Steven Keats (Robert Moshevsky), Bekim Fehmiu (Mohammed Fasil), Michael V. Gazzo (Muzi), William Daniels (Pugh), Walter Gotell (Colonel Riat), Victor Campos (Nageeb), Joseph Robbie (Joseph Robbie), Robert J. Wussler (Robert Wussler), Pat Summerall (Pat Summerall), Tom Brookshier (Tom Brookshier), Walter Brooke (Fowler), James Jeter (Watchman), Clyde Kusatsu (Freighter Captain), Tom McFadden (Farley), Robert Patten (Vickers), Than Wyenn (Israeli Ambassador).
Intermittently tense but overlong thriller in which Palestinian terrorists look to transport and explode a bomb in a Goodyear blimp to the stadium staging the Superbowl. Frankenheimer allows the character motivations to come to the fore, which occasionally slows the pace in the deliberate build-up. This allows Shaw, Dern and Keller to flex their acting muscles, with Dern in particular memorable as US military veteran harshly treated by the government. Well-staged action sequences are sprinkled throughout but the climax stretches narrative logic by going for big set-pieces.

Music Review – ELECTRONIC: ELECTRONIC (1991)

Electronic | Music fanart | fanart.tvELECTRONIC
ELECTRONIC (LP, Factory Records, 27 May 1991, 52:29) – score 73%

Musicians: Bernard Sumner – vocals, keyboards and programming; Johnny Marr – guitars, keyboards and programming; Neil Tennant – vocals on “The Patience of a Saint” and backing vocals on “Getting Away with It”; Chris Lowe – keyboards on “The Patience of a Saint”; Donald Johnson – drums and percussion on “Tighten Up” and “Feel Every Beat”; David Palmer – drums on “Feel Every Beat” and “Getting Away with It”; Denise Johnson – vocals on “Get the Message”; Helen Powell – oboe on “Some Distant Memory”; Andrew Robinson – additional programming.
Producer: Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr; Engineer: Owen Morris; Mastered by Tim Young; Recorded at Clear Studios, Manchester, December 1989–early 1991.

Electronic was one of the most unusual partnerships of the 90s with New Order’s Bernard Sumner teaming with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to produce this hybrid of electronic synth and guitar based pop. The result was for the most part a success. Marr’s infectious “Shaft”-like wah-wah guitar riff coupled with Sumner’s melodic keyboard phrases on the opening “Idiot Country” demonstrate this is a marriage that can work. “Reality” is closer to Sumner’s trademark sound with its extensive programming, whilst the ebullient “Tighten Up” has more of a band feel. The Pet Shop Boys assist with “Patience of a Saint” and “Getting Away with It”, the former featuring Tennant’s lead vocals and Lowe’s lush keyboard textures and the latter (not on the original UK vinyl release) containing a longing chorus and an orchestral approach. “Gangster’s” stuttering programmed rhythms are complemented by Marr’s funky guitar rhythms whilst “Soviet” is a lush and sombre instrumental with Oriental hints and provides a nice interlude before the album’s true classic. “Get the Message” is where the elements of Sumner and Marr’s talents merge to form a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, insistent bass, subtle synthesizers and sublime melodies, aided by Denise Johnson’s soulful backing vocals. “Try All You Want” is perhaps the least distinguished song on the album feeling a little bit by-the-numbers and “Some Distant Memory” follows suit but is helped by the warming synth motifs in its closing moments. The album finishes strongly, however, with the experimental “Feel Every Beat”, which is perhaps the most exciting track musically with its shuffling bass and piano rhythm, funky guitar and singalong chorus. The production is expansive and full of 80s echo with a pleasing dynamic range. Sumner and Marr would record two more albums as Electronic but their debut retains its distinct charm despite its sound being frozen in time.

TRACK SCORES:
1. Idiot Country (Sumner/Marr) (5:02) ****
2. Reality (Sumner/Marr) (5:39) ***
3. Tighten Up (Sumner/Marr) (4:38) ****
4. Patience of a Saint (Sumner/Marr/Tennant/Lowe) (4:11) ****
5. Getting Away with It (Sumner/Marr/Tennant) (5:14) ****
6. Gangster (Sumner/Marr) (5:24) ***
7. Soviet (Sumner/Marr) (2:00) ***
8. Get the Message (Sumner/Marr) (5:20) *****
9. Try All You Want (Sumner/Marr) (5:37) **
10. Some Distant Memory (Sumner/Marr) (4:09) ***
11. Feel Every Beat (Sumner/Marr) (5:08) *****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
NME (David Quantic): “This is a pretty 1990s sort of a record, fresh as a daisy and wearing huge new oxblood Doc Martens” (****)
Q (Phil Sutcliffe): “Its strength is in conflict … The inexorable pounding of the beatbox versus the fragile sadness of Sumner’s voice and the he’s/she’s leaving stories; the symmetry of the synthesized or sampled sounds versus the sheer blood and bone physicality of Marr’s guitar”. (*****)
Vox (Keith Cameron): “Electronic is simply a 100 per cent pure distillation of Marr and Sumner’s respective talents. The hit single ‘Get the Message’ has it in a nutshell: it breaks no new ground; it simply achieves perfection.” (*****)
All Music Guide (Ned Raggett): “Both more and less than what a partnership of Sumner and Marr would promise, Electronic’s debut has weathered time much better than might have been thought upon its release, but ultimately only half works.” (****)

Music Review – DEL AMITRI: FATAL MISTAKES (2021)

Review: Del Amitri Avoided Making 'Fatal Mistakes' On New Album - American SongwriterDEL AMITRI
FATAL MISTAKES (CD, Cooking Vinyl, 28 May 2021, 45:52) – score 76%

Musicians: Andy Alston – keyboards; Justin Currie – vocals, bass; Kris Dollimore – guitar; Iain Harvie – guitar, backing vocals; Ash Soan – drums.
Producer: Dan Austin; Mixed by Dan Austin; Mastered by Paul McGeehan; Recorded at Vada studio, March 2020.

Fatal Mistakes is the Scottish band’s seventh studio album and their first since 2002’s experimental Can You Do Me Good? It is a distinct return to the band’s roots and all the better for it. Currie’s gift for marrying wistful melodies with his characteristically cynical lyrics is in evidence right from the chirpy album opener “You Can’t Go Back” and most evident on the infectiously catchy “It’s Feelings”. Elsewhere, “Musicians and Beer” weaves around its tribal rhythm and crashing electric guitar chords; “Close Your Eyes and Think of England” lyrically deals with Brexit; “Losing the Will to Die” and “I’m So Scared of Dying” demonstrate Currie’s dark humour as he comes to terms with his own mortality; “Otherwise” is a moody and reflective ballad with warm instrumentation; and “Nation of Caners”, by far the longest song, closes the album with its insistent bouncing rhythm building in intensity along with Currie’s angry lyrics. Instrumentally the songs are largely based around Harvie and Dollimore’s neat and unobtrusive guitar work and could have fitted on any of the band’s heyday albums. The collection is remarkably concise, with all but two songs clocking in under four minutes. This does, however, give the feeling on some songs that they have ended abruptly. The production has a low-fi quality that gives the songs an organic and intimate feel. On the whole a welcome return from a band playing to its strengths.

TRACK SCORES:
1. You Can’t Go Back (Currie) (2:53) ****
2. All Hail Blind Love (Currie/Harvey) (4:04) ***
3. Musicians and Beer (Currie) (2:46) ****
4. Close Your Eyes and Think of England (Currie) (3:30) ****
5. Losing the Will to Die (Currie) (2:34) ***
6. Otherwise (Currie) (3:01) ****
7. It’s Feelings (Currie/Harvey) (2:42) *****
8. I’m so Scared of Dying (Currie) (4:27) ****
9. Mockingbird, Copy Me Now (Currie/Dollimore) (2:23) ****
10. Missing Person (Currie) (3:19) ***
11. Second Staircase (Currie) (3:00) ***
12. Lonely (Currie/Harvey) (3:28) ****
13. Nation of Caners (Currie) (7:39) ****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
Mojo (Jim Farber): “The music swings again, even if Currie’s damning viewpoint hasn’t lightened.” (****)
Classic Rock Magazine: “While long-term fans might initially be disappointed by the marked absence of the bar-room swagger of yore, repeated listens bear fruit.” (****)
Telegraph (Neil McCormick): “Del Amitri’s bracing feel-bad pop-rock won’t be for everyone, but for those of us who appreciate sweet melodies set off with sour sentiments, it is perversely good to have the old curmudgeons back.” (****)
American Songwriter (Lee Zimmerman): “Fatal Mistakes reflects a duelling perspective, one that recognizes the difficulty of maintaining a certain standard but that is determined to reach new goals. The fact that Del Amitri succeed as well as they do is a testament to both their confidence and their talent.” (***½)

TV Review – INNOCENT (SERIES 2) (2021)

INNOCENT (Series 2) (2021, UK) **
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. TXTV; net. ITV – Independent Television (UK); pr. Jeremy Gwilt; d. Tracey Larcombe ; w. Chris Lang (series created by Matthew Arlidge, Chris Lang) ; ph. Ian Moss (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Samuel Sim; ed. Matthew Tabern; pd. Kieran McNulty; ad. Irina Kuksova; b/cast. 17-20 May 2021; r/t. 4 x 45m.

Cast: Katherine Kelly (Sally Wright), Jamie Bamber (Sam Wright), Shaun Dooley (DCI Mike Braithwaite), Priyanga Burford (Karen), Laura Rollins (Paine) Andrew Tiernan (John Taylor), Lucy Black (Maria Taylor), Amy-Leigh Hickman (Bethany), Ellie Rawnsley (Anna Stamp), Nadia Albina (Jenny), Poppy Miller (Supt Denham), Michael Yare (Alf), Michael Stevenson (DC Dave Green).

Matthew Taylor, a 16-year-old school boy was brutally murdered in the quiet Lake District. Five years later the accused is found not guilty and released from prison, but who did kill him? The premise here is to take a wrongly convicted party and make them the centre of a drama in which a new police  investigation uncovers the real perpetrator of the crime.  The format then moves into familiar whodunnit territory, whilst dealing with the personal dramas affecting the wronged party (in this case the excellent Katherine Kelly) and those immediately involved with the scenario. The issue I have with this drama is that the premise is so manufactured it requires a considerable suspension of disbelief to assume the initial investigation was so inept as to have missed the multiple clues presented here to solve the case. This is driven by both the concept’s restrictive boundaries and the lack of skilled writing to extract any believable situations from the idea. The feeling therefore is that the characters have been created to serve the scenario rather than falling naturally into Lang’s  environment. Additionally the direction falls into the trap of many similar crime drama series in recent years by pushing the big melodramatic moments and manipulating the audience through overly manufactured false trails and constant incidental music. It manages to retain some interest through Kelly’s excellent lead performance, which is much more nuanced than the majority of the cast, who appear to have waltzed in off the soap opera conveyer belt. The series plays out over 4 episodes and three hours of screen time and as such it does not feel protracted, but when we do get to the final act and the unveiling of the killer, only those unfamiliar with the genre tropes will be surprised.

TV Review – MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021)

MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021, USA) *****
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. Home Box Office (HBO) / Mayhem Pictures / wiip studios; net. Home Box Office (HBO) (USA), Sky Atlantic (UK); exec pr. Gordon Gray, Brad Ingelsby, Paul Lee, Gavin O’Connor, Mark Roybal, Kate Winslet, Craig Zobel; pr. Karen Wacker; d. Craig Zobel; w. Brad Ingelsby; ph. Ben Richardson (Colour. Video (HDTV). ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), 2.00:1); m. Lele Marchitelli; ed. Amy E. Duddleston, Naomi Sunrise Filoramo; pd. Keith P. Cunningham; ad. Gina B. Cranham, Michael Gowen, Michelle C. Harmon; b/cast. 18 April 2021 – 31 May 2021 (USA), 19 April 2021 – 1 June 2021 (UK); r/t. 403m (7 episodes).

Cast: Kate Winslet (Detective Mare Sheehan), Julianne Nicholson (Lori Ross), Jean Smart (Helen Fahey), Angourie Rice (Siobhan Sheehan), John Douglas Thompson (Chief Carter), Joe Tippett (John Ross), Cameron Mann (Ryan Ross), Jack Mulhern (Dylan Hinchey), Izzy King (Drew Sheehan), Justin Hurtt-Dunkley (Officer Trammel), Sosie Bacon (Carrie Layden), David Denman (Frank Sheehan), Neal Huff (Father Dan Hastings), James McArdle (Deacon Mark Burton), Guy Pearce (Richard Ryan), Ruby Cruz (Jess Riley), Enid Graham (Dawn Bailey), Chinasa Ogbuagu (Beth Hanlon), Kassie Mundhenk (Moira Ross), Mackenzie Lansing (Brianna Delrasso).

Kate Winslet stars as a detective in a small Pennsylvania town who investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart. The result is one of the greatest crime TV series ever, driven by a superb script, expert direction and a lead performance from Winslet that is astonishing in its sincerity. Writer Brad Ingelsby has shown how to pace a mystery over 7 episodes whilst fleshing out fully rounded characters with flaws which show them to be real and believable. Where Ingelsby’s writing impresses most is that it avoids the pitfall of many modern crime dramas by refusing to manufacture melodrama and shock twists for the sake of it and instead relies on story progression through quality writing, strong characterisation and natural dialogue. Everything that happens here feels and looks real and is performed with integrity by a cast at the top of their game. Winslet holds the centre ground as the detective haunted by a tragedy in her family’s recent past and reminders in the disintegration of her best friend’s family as she investigates a murder case and a missing persons case, which may or may not be related. As Winslet unravels the mysteries and deals with ongoing personal dramas, she starts to come to terms with the tragedy that haunts her. The audience is pulled in to her life and feels everything she feels as her relationships with family and friends evolve with her investigation. US reviewers pointed to similarities in approach to TRUE DETECTIVE, and here there are parallels with BBC’s HAPPY VALLEY. MARE OF EASTTOWN surpasses the former and sits comfortably with the latter.

Music Review – MARILLION: MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (1985)

Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster): Amazon.co.uk: MusicMISPLACED CHILDHOOD (LP, EMI, 17 June 1985, 41:17) – score 82%
 
Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars, additional bass; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Producer: Chris Kimsey; Engineer: Thomas Stiehler; Mixing Engineer: Mark Freegard; Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany, March – May 1985; UK Album Chart: 1; BPI Cert: Platinum (300,000+).

Marillion found their musical voice with their third studio album. It effectively splits the music into two inter-linked side-long (old LP terms) suites. Here the band have dispensed with trying to re-create the sounds of their heroes and have unearthed a musical palette that has a fresh sound and is creatively progressive. Fish’s lyrics recall the growing pains of youth, both figuratively and emotionally. His vocal delivery is less abrasive and more in tune with the music here and the marriage is a vast improvement on the first two albums. Rothery’s guitar has the sublime grace of Dave Gilmore along with the creative colouring of Steve Hackett; Mosley and Trewavas have merged into a propulsive rhythm section and Kelly’s keyboard textures are less showy and serve the songs admirably. MISPLACED CHILDHOOD would catapult the band from a cult following to a mainstream one, albeit for what would prove to be one more album before change was forced upon them.

Side 1:
1. Pseudo Silk Kimono (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:15) ***
A sinister keyboard refrain from Kelly opens the album. The piece acts as an atmospheric entrée to the album.
2. Kayleigh (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:04) ****
A song of regret surrounding a broken relationship, which became the band’s biggest hit single. It is a slick song with a strong melody that maybe suffered from overplay on the radio and is the track every non-Marillion fan associates with the band. Rothery’s mid-song solo is graceful and fluid. Released as a single on 7 May 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
3. Lavender (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:28) ****
A boy dreams of walking in the park and meeting a girl and falling instantly in love. The song riffs on the nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” with a delightful singalong melody and soaring Rothery solo. Again, it shows the band could write with restraint. Released as a single on 27 August 1985 peaking at #5 in the UK singles chart.
4. Bitter Suite (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (7:53) ****
A series of short song vignettes opens with moody atmospherics as Rothery’s guitar weeps over a droning synth. The piece also highlights Fish’s penchant for spoken lyrics. The vignettes skilfully link short musical themes with a reprise of Rothery’s guitar refrain from “Lavender”.  The suite’s subtitles: i) “Brief Encounter”; ii) “Lost Weekend”; iii) “Blue Angel”; iv) “Misplaced Rendezvous”; and v) “Windswept Thumb” are all titles of old films.
5. Heart of Lothian (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:08) ****
A song of connection with your roots. It has a triumphant, celebratory and uplifting guitar figure and is delivered by Fish with vocal panache. Subtitles: i) “Wide Boy; ii) “Curtain Call”. Released as a single on 18 November 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
Side 2:
6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:13) ***
A fast syncopated drum pattern from Mosley drives the opener to the second side with Kelly’s urgent repeated keyboard riff. Rothery’s guitar colours in the background.
7. Lords of the Backstage (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (1:53) ****
The rhythm changes to 7/8 and the band is perfectly in tune as the urgency is heightened in this short connecting section of music that leads seamlessly into the side’s centre-piece.
8. Blind Curve (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (9:30) *****
The pace slows to mid-tempo and the band get to demonstrate their instrumental prowess through some gorgeous, lilting melodies. Fish’s vocal delivery is nicely restrained and allows the music to breathe. This is the band’s strongest work top date and shows how they could piece different musical sections and tempos together to make for a dynamic whole. The theme of disillusionment is perfectly captured in the final section of the song before the mood changes as we merge into the following track. Subtitles: i) “Vocal Under a Bloodlight”; ii) “Passing Strangers”; iii) “Mylo”; iv) “Perimeter Walk”; v) “Threshold”.
9. Childhood’s End (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:33) ****
Rothery’s plucked guitar figure softens the mood before it abruptly picks up again as we switch from a reflection to revelation. The song’s title is a reference to the Arthur C. Clarke novel, which itself was a source of inspiration for Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies”.
10. White Feather (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:24) ****
The album closer puffs out its chest with pride with its exultant cries of defiance. A wonderful close to a remarkably consistent album. The title reference is grounded in superstition relating to a plucked white game cock feather, which if placed in the clothing of a person marks them as a coward.

Single B-sides
1. Lady Nina (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:50) **
Inspired by German brother houses. This is the only song in which a drum machine was used for the final recording (the song loosens up when Mosley’s real drums enter). The song harks back to FUGAZI in its awkward marriage of rhythm and melody and Kelly’s showy approach to keyboards. B-side to “Kayleigh” released as a single on 7 May 1985.
2. Freaks (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:08) ***
Kelly’s repeated riff gives the song its foundation, whilst Rothery offers crashing guitar chords in this rocking song that fails to build on its promising opening but does increase in intensity in its closing moments.  B-side to “Lavender” released as a single on 27 August 1985.
3. Lavender Blue (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:23) ***
A different mix and longer version of “Lavender” which effectively brings different instrumentation to the fore through exclusion and emphasis. As such it draws attention to the instrumental changes rather than the winning melody. Included on the 12-inch single release of “Lavender” on 27 August 1985.

Book Review – ANTHRAX ISLAND (2021) by D.L. MARSHALL

ANTHRAX ISLAND (2021) ****½
by D.L. Marshall
This paperback edition published by Canelo, 2021, 342pp
© D.L. Marshall, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-80032-275-2

Blurb: FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded. FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island. Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there’s more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he’s trapped with a killer…

Comment: The debut novel of D.L. Marshall mixes the ingredients of an Alistair MacLean adventure with a locked-room mystery,  a James Bond spy caper and the group paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing (to which the author adds an overt nod on page 83 ). All great influences and all blend together to create a highly enjoyable page-turning thriller. Marshall’s story is told from a first-person perspective by the hero, mercenary spy John Tyler, who is transported onto the titular island under the guise of a technician to repair a faulty protective door unit. The group of scientists working on the island are testing for remnant samples of experiments undertaken secretly during WWII. The death of Tyler’s supposed predecessor is followed by others and the group quickly become distrustful of Tyler and each other, whilst the discovery of a new strain of the deadly anthrax attracts international interest. Marshall takes us through many twists and turns in his mazy plot and the tension builds as the paranoia amongst the group increases. Marshall’s prose style is fluid and engaging. Tyler as a character feels real and human and has depth along with a personal motivation which unfolds throughout the story. Writing the novel in the first-person Marshall succeeds in elevating the “whodunnit” elements of the plot allowing the reader to unravel the mystery along with the protagonist. Marshall keeps a trick or two up his sleeve right up to the story’s protracted denouement, which veers off into more traditional action movie tropes in the final chapters. That said, this remains a hugely impressive and thoroughly enjoyable read that promises great things for the intended series.

Music Review – MARILLION: FUGAZI (1984)

Fugazi [VINYL]: Amazon.co.uk: MusicFUGAZI (LP, EMI, 12 March 1984, 45:56) – score 61%

Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Additional musicians: Linda Pyke – backing vocal (on “Incubus”); Chris Karen – additional percussion
Producer: Nick TauberEngineer/Mixing Engineer: Simon Hanhart; Recorded at various studios, November 1983 – February 1984; UK Album Chart: 5; BPI Cert: Gold (100,000+).

The inconsistent nature of Marillion’s second album was perhaps inevitable given the chaotic scheduling of the recordings and the revolving drum stool during the album’s conception. The band pushed for a more personal and distinctive sound without fully achieving their goal – mixing hard rock with progressive and pop overtones in a seeming effort to please all. Drummer, Ian Mosley proves to be a great addition to the band and over the years would form an excellent partnership with bassist Trewavas that makes some of their efforts here feel a little stiff rhythmically – likely due to both playing it a little safe. Fish’s lyrics tend toward the wordy and metaphorical showing a frustrated novelist. Rothery shows glimpses of the wonderful guitarist he was to become.

Side 1:
1. Assassing (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (7:03) ****
Indian and African influences in the opening give way to more traditional driving rock tropes with jazz tinges, muscular bass and big musical statements, notably from Kelly’s keyboards and Rothery’s guitar synth. Inspired by their pagan surrounds in Wales during the writing. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #22 in the UK singles chart.
2. Punch & Judy (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mover) (3:22) ***
A pacey keyboard riff and stuttering rhythm underline the lyrical use of the children’s violent puppetry as an allegory for the breakup of a marriage. Lacks substance but doesn’t outstay its welcome. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #29 in the UK singles chart.
3. Jigsaw (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:51) ***
The opening musical box sound introduces the band’s first power ballad with a big chorus. It is another lyrical allegory from Fish in that relationships can be like jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and frustration. The song contains an elegant, gliding Rothery guitar solo, but rhythmically is a little static.
4. Emerald Lies (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:12) **
A song about jealousy and infidelity that begins like a hard rocker, before moving into a more delicate acoustic section. The song then runs through various musical sections alternating the heavy and the quiet. Overall though the song lacks its own distinctive character.
Side 2:
5. She Chameleon (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:55) **
An atmospheric and hypnotic repeated organ phrase from Kelly runs intermittently through this tale of metaphoric chameleons. A mid-song keyboard solo serves little purpose as the song fails to gain momentum with its multi-sectioned approach, although once again Rothery shows how he was growing as a distinctive and sensitive guitarist with a short fluent solo.
6. Incubus (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:32) ***
Fish stays on the subject of doomed relationships as the band play a menacing and atmospheric backing. The song is given room to stretch and breathe and weaves its way through short musical sections behind Fish’s wordy lyrics. Another fluent Rothery solo is again the highlight, and it leads into the kind of dramatic end section that would become a band trademark.
7. Fugazi (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:03) ****
A cynical album closer based on the slang phrase used by US soldiers in Vietnam begins with a neat piano section from Kelly as Fish’s lyrical similes dig into our psyche. Echoes of Pink Floyd emerge as the song slowly builds momentum through its sonically creative mid-section, before playing out in anthemic style. The song showcased the band’s strengths and pointed the way forward.

Single B-sides
1. Cinderella Search (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:32) **
Another rhythmically stiff and undistinguished song, that tells of seeking out the opposite sex in nightclubs and bars. The music and lyrics fail to tie together and the song meanders through pieced together segments before gathering some momentum in its closing section. B-side to “Assassing” released as a single on 30 April 1984.

Notes:
– All individual tracks scored * to *****
– Album scored as a % based on individual track scores weighted by track length.

Film Review – THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE (1943, USA) ****
Biography, Drama

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox; d. Henry King; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Franz Werfel); pr. William Perlberg; ph. Arthur C. Miller (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Barbara McLean; ad. James Basevi, William S. Darling; set d. Thomas Little; cos. René Hubert; m/up. Guy Pearce; sd. Alfred Bruzlin, Roger Heman Sr. (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); vfx. Fred Sersen; rel. 21 December 1943 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 156m.

cast: Jennifer Jones (Bernadette), William Eythe (Antoine Nicolau), Charles Bickford (Father Peyramale), Vincent Price (Prosecutor Vital Dutour), Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous), Gladys Cooper (Sister Marie Therese Vauzous), Anne Revere (Louise Soubirous), Roman Bohnen (François Soubirous), Mary Anderson (Jeanne Abadie), Patricia Morison (Empress Eugenie), Aubrey Mather (Mayor Lacade), Charles Dingle (Jacomet), Edith Barrett (Croisine Bouhouhorts), Sig Ruman (Louis Bouriette), Blanche Yurka (Aunt Bernarde Casterot), Ermadean Walters (Marie Soubirous), Marcel Dalio (Callet), Pedro de Cordoba (Dr. LeCramps), Jerome Cowan (Emperor Louis Napoleon III).

Based on the popular novel by Franz Werfel, this drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jones), a young French woman who experiences vivid visions of the Virgin Mary. While many dismiss her claims, certain people, including the priest Dominique Peyramale (Bickford), slowly begin to believe her. Eventually, Bernadette is deemed a saint, and becomes a nun at a convent, where she must deal with jealousy from others who resent her revered status. An earnest adaptation that nails its colours to the mast from its prologue. The deeply religious tale is played out at great length, perhaps overlength. The production, however, is very strong with King’s direction giving encouragement for an exceptional cast to deliver consistently excellent performances. Jones’ wide-eyed innocence perfectly embodies Bernadette’s voyage of discovery. Revere as her mother conveys the emotional turmoil of a woman torn between her familial struggles and the love of her daughter. Price is restrained and almost sympathetic as the cynical politician, whilst Bickford is sturdy as the priest who is initially sceptical of Bernadette’s claims. Technical attributes are also top-notch with Miller’s photography making the most of the production design and Newman’s score evocatively complementing the unfolding drama. Linda Darnell appears uncredited as the Virgin Mary.

AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Arthur C. Miller); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (James Basevi, William S. Darling, Thomas Little)’; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Alfred Newman)
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere); Best Director (Henry King); Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton); Best Sound, Recording (Edmund H. Hansen (20th Century-Fox SSD)); Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean)

Film Review – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, USA) ****½
Action, Drama, Thriller

dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Sony Pictures Releasing (UK); pr co. Michael De Luca Productions / Scott Rudin Productions / Trigger Street Productions; d. Paul Greengrass; w. Billy Ray (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty); exec pr. Eli Bush, Gregory Goodman, Kevin Spacey; pr. Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin; ph. Barry Ackroyd (Technicolor. 35 mm (anamorphic) (partial blow-up) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 16 (source format) (some scenes), Super 35 (also 3-perf) (source format), VistaVision (source format) (visual effects). 2.39:1); m. Henry Jackman; ed. Christopher Rouse; pd. Paul Kirby; ad. Aziz Hamichi; set d. Dominic Capon; cos. Mark Bridges; m/up. Frances Hannon; sd. Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum, James Harrison (SDDS | Datasat | Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Dominic Tuohy; vfx. Daniel Barrow, Andy Taylor, Kris Wright, Charlie Noble, Adam Rowland; st. Rob Inch; rel. 27 September 2013 (USA), 9 October 2013 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 135m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Captain Richard Phillips), Catherine Keener (Andrea Phillips), Barkhad Abdi (Muse), Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), Chris Mulkey (John Cronan), Yul Vazquez (Captain Frank Castellano), Max Martini (SEAL Commander), Omar Berdouni (Nemo), Mohamed Ali (Asad), Issak Farah Samatar (Hufan), Thomas Grube (Maersk Alabama Crew), Mark Holden (Maersk Alabama Crew), San Shella (Maersk Alabama Crew), Terence Anderson (Maersk Alabama Crew), Marc Anwar (Maersk Alabama Crew), David Webber (Maersk Alabama Crew), Amr El-Bayoumi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Vincenzo Nicoli (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kapil Arun (Maersk Alabama Crew), Louis Mahoney (Maersk Alabama Crew), Peter Landi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Angus MacInnes (Maersk Alabama Crew), Ian Ralph (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kristian Hjordt Beck (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kurt Larsen (Maersk Alabama Crew), Bader Choukouko (Somali Boy), Idurus Shiish (Pirate Leader), Azeez Mohammed (Pirate Leader), Abdurazak Ahmed Adan (Pirate Leader), Duran Mohamed Hassan (Asad’s Crew), Nasir Jama (Asad’s Crew), Kadz Souleiman (Asad’s Crew), Scott Oates (Navy SEAL Group), David B. Meadows (Navy SEAL Group), Shad Jason Hamilton (Navy SEAL Group), Adam Wendling (Navy SEAL Group), Billy Jenkins (Navy SEAL Group), Mark Semos (Navy SEAL Group), Dean Franchuk (Navy SEAL Group), Rey Hernandez (Navy SEAL Group), Christopher Stadulis (Navy SEAL Group), Roger Edwards (Navy SEAL Group), John Patrick Barry (Navy SEAL Group), Raleigh Morse (Navy SEAL Group), Dale McClellan (Navy SEAL Group), Hugh Middleton (Navy SEAL Group), Raymond Care (Navy SEAL Group), Stacha Hicks (UKMTO Officer), Will Bowden (US Maritime Officer), Len Anderson IV (USS Bainbridge VBSS Officer).

In April 2009, the U.S. containership Maersk Alabama sails toward its destination on a day that seems like any other. Suddenly, Somali pirates race toward the vessel, climb aboard and take everyone hostage. The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips (Hanks), looks to protect his crew from the hostile invaders, and their leader, Muse (Abdi). The pirates are after millions of dollars, and Phillips must use his wits to make sure everyone survives and returns home safely. Greengrass provides a masterclass in building tension and then holding it, whilst Hanks gives one of his absolute best performances and is totally believable as the experienced captain trying to stay one step ahead of the Somali pirates. Abdi is also excellent as the skinny leader of the pirate group. The film has been criticised for lacking sufficient background and motivation on the Somalians, but in fact there are subtle points made about the gulf between the might of those who have (represented by the US Navy) and the futility of those who have not (the Somalian fishermen forced into piracy). Credit to Greengrass for showing the shock and trauma of Hanks’ character once rescued – a scene devastatingly real as performed by Hanks.

AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Christopher Rouse); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro); Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)