Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coheed & Cambria - Good Apollo...

There are quite a few things that are too long about this album. "Coheed & Cambria" for a group name is cumbersome and I can't ever remember it, I agree, that is my fault, not their's. But the album title in full is "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness". Now that's just plain daft.
And then there's the music itself. It runs to over 70 minutes, which I agree is good value, but it's stretching my ability to appreciate this kind of music way too far.

In the old days (oh no, off he goes...) albums were 40 minutes if you were lucky. Just because they can be 73 minutes, that's no reason to make them that long, and this is a good example. Condense this to half it's length, it would be much better. Because it is good stuff.
Now, I do like prog. I liked Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and, um... Rush! Hmmm. So I'm happy with mad lyrics (yes, Anderson, I mean you!). But this is pushing it. This guy seems awfully angry with something, but the lyrics are impenetrable, so I'm not sure what it is he's mad with.

The album starts really, really well. Excellent, I started listening and thought I was in for a treat. But it's all a bit samey. It's good, but it all seems to merge into one very long splurge of the same thing. A good thing, but the same thing.

I think I'm quite glad I did buy this album. It was a bit of an impulse buy, and often they are the best. It has its faults, but overall it's a fairly enjoyable listen. Just don't try and decipher the lyrics, that's all. Phew. Oh, and switch it off half way through...

Recommended, 7/10, you could buy it here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Scott & Leonov - Two Sides of the Moon

It all seems a long time ago that the USA and USSR were squabbling over who rules the world. I think we look back now and forget the importance the space-race had at the time. Kennedy famously promised to get a man on the moon by the end of the 60s. The Americans just made it, the Russians failed.
  Maybe you had to be around in the 60s to appreciate this book. As a child back then it was a simple race. The Russians got off to a good start, but in the end the Americans pipped them at the post.

This book, written in part by David Scott, a Gemini and Apollo astronaut who walked on the Moon, and his 'rival' Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space and who would have most likely been the first Russian on the Moon, clarifies the story of the race and why the result turned out the way it did.

The book is not heavy on technicalities, just enough detail is given for the reader to appreciate just how hard the task was, and just how demanding of the men and women involved.
Both men show commendable modesty when describing their achievements, and are generous with praise for their comrades, notably Scott flew in Gemini with Neil Armstrong, and Leonev was great friends with Yuri Gagarin.

There is a bias towards David Scott in terms of pages written in this jointly authored book. But where Leonov loses on quantity, he makes up for it in quality... quality of insight anyway. It seems the Russian effort hinged on the leadership and brilliance of one man, and when he died prematurely the whole pack of cards collapsed. On the other hand, Scott reveals how close on many occasions the American effort nearly resulted in disaster which would have put an end to their attempts too. To summarise, I think, the Americans were just plain lucky to make it, the Russians unlucky to fail.

Highly recommended, 10/10, you could buy the paperback version here.