Category Archives: Reviews

Skeleton Crew #1 – The Mist…

13440Word count – 50,500

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: The Mist is not a short story. In fact, it strays into novel length, albeit a thin one with a singular thread. But I have included it here because it is the first story in Skeleton Crew.

A dense and strange mist creeps towards a small town and strands a group of people in a supermarket, after which it soon becomes clear that there are creatures in the gloom waiting to strike. For a long time we don’t know why they are there, but towards the end of the story King does throw us a bone. It’s a satisfactory reason, even if it is not really required to enjoy what’s here.

The Mist is a wholly enjoyable tale, and a good ol’ proper horror story from King as well. It’s a very good start for this second collection of stories, and a high bar is set early.

Recommended ⇑

Eagles, Chapter VII – Long Road Out of Eden (2007)

Members: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B Schmit, Joe Walsh

Long Road Out Of Eden was released twenty-seven years after their last studio album, but even after such a long hiatus – when most bands would have lost any kind of musical relevance – this album shows the same four guys crowding the stage, sounding very much like the quartet that were seling out stadia in the seventies.

A little older, and a little wiser, Long Road Out of Eden is a double-helping of new (studio) material.

No More Walks in the Wood (Don Henley / Steuart Smith / John Hollander)
Lead – Frey & Henley & Schmit & Walsh
This haunting and sparse track is the only Eagles number where all band members share vocal duties. It’s also worth noting that the lyrics are lifted wholesale from a poem called An Old-Fashioned Song. 8
How Long (JD Souther)
Lead – Frey & Henley
This is a feelgood song from the early seventies that would have fit nicely into one of the Eagles first couple of albums. Frey and Henley are as good together here as they have ever been. 7
Busy Being Fabulous (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
The first completely new track on the album sees Henley in a bit of a country mood, offering up a slice of thinly veiled bitterness. 7
What Do I Do With My Heart (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
A fairly decent broken-heart tale with Frey at the helm. It plods along, then goes up a notch during the bridge when Henley sprinkles a little something into the mix. 6
Guilty of the Crime (Frankie Miller / Jerry Lynn Williams)
Lead – Walsh
Joe Walsh gets his first vocal on the album, and typically, it is the first time we really hear a guitar. Not his best work, but there is nobody else in the band who could have pulled this off. 7
I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore (Paul Carrack)
Lead – Schmit
Schmit has a voice like silk, and it’s all over this break-up ballad. It’s good, but – quality of the vocal aside – it’s just like a million other love songs out there.  7
Waiting in the Weeds (Don Henley / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
This epic is the first really good track on the album. Henley has that anguished tone that helps to tell the story of loss and pain through a somewhat stuttering lyrical style. 8
No More Cloudy Days (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This one is an album highlight for Frey, proving again that sometimes the simplest collection of words makes for the better and more memorable songs. The saxophone outro is a nice touch. 7
Fast Company (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
I’m not sure how comfortable I am with Henley’s fake falsetto throughout this track – it takes a little getting used to. Other than that, it feels like a throwback to what they did in the seventies. 7
Do Something (Don Henley / Timothy B Schmit / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Schmit
Schmit’s last lead on the album – like several others on here – has a lot of country sensibilities. It’s all right, but I can’t get too excited about it. Schmit deserves better than this. 6
You Are Not Alone (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
Frey pulls out another ballad… not the Michael Jackson one. This is very simple and short, and not really one of his best either. 6
Long Road Out of Eden (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Timothy B Schmit)
Lead – Henley
I get the feeling that Henley relishes these long, sweeping commentaries. This is like a modern retelling of The Last Resort from their Hotel California album. Big shoes to fill indeed. 8
I Dreamed There Was No War (Glenn Frey)
instrumental
From the longest track the Eagles ever committed to an album, to one of the shortest… a simple guitar number in the hands of Glenn Frey. 6
Somebody (Jack Tempchin / John Brannen)
Lead – Frey
An excursion into a more uptempo world for Frey. He doesn’t do it often, but this is a welcome change of pace for him. 7
Frail Grasp on the Big Picture (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
I know this is credited to both of them, but both stylistically and lyrically, this has Henley’s fingerprints all over it. This is up there with the best songs on the album. 8
Last Good Time in Town (Joe Walsh / JD Souther)
Lead – Walsh
Joe Walsh gets his hands on another lead vocal, but this one is a more mellow effort by him. It reminds me (and probably nobody else) of Steely Dan. 7
I Love to Watch a Woman Dance (Larry John McNally)
Lead – Frey
Frey is back in comfortable territory, but I don’t like this one at all. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst Eagles songs on any album. 4
Business as Usual (Don Henley / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
This is yet another cracking Henley vocal where he rages at the machine, but he does it so well… so who am I to tell him to spread his wings a little? 8
Center of the Universe (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
Henley lets the pace slip a little for this love song. It’s not too bad, but he knows his niche, and I’m sure he knows this isn’t it. 6
It’s Your World Now (Glenn Frey / Jack Tempchin)
Lead – Frey
Frey’s finest moment on this album. This has a friendly flamenco sound that – despite the sadness of the story – gives the song a holiday vibe. 8
Hole in the World (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
It’s impossible, when you know the history of this song, to disassociate it from 9/11. The chorus goes on a little too long at the end, but it’s a very poignant song for a very difficult moment in our history. 8

Overall: 69%
Long Road Out of Eden is a much safer collection of songs than their last couple of albums from the seventies would have suggested. There’s some rust,but I’ll cut them a little slack – they’ve been away longer than most.

Night Shift – Overview…

stephen king night shift nelNight Shift is the first collection of stories that Stephen King published, way back in 1978, and after reading it over the last six months I come away quite happy with the content. There are no blow-you-away fantastic stories here – although several are very good – but more importantly, there are none that really shit the bed either.

I recommended sixteen of the twenty short stories in Night Shift, and of the four that I gave a red arrow to, the only one I really struggled to get through was the first story in the collection – Jerusalem’s Lot. Others may get into this one more, but I just couldn’t stomach the language for the length of time King asked me to do so.

Although I recommended 80% of these stories, they are not all of the same high quality. The Last Rung on the Ladder is hands down the best story here – simple in execution, with a haunting and perfectly played pay-off. Just below it on the totem pole are Battleground and the serial killer tale, Strawberry Spring. Just below those I’d put vertigo-inducing The Ledge and The Man Who Loved Flowers. They are the five stories here that I would recommend to any fan of Stephen King.

Night Shift is a good collection, and crucially, most of the best stories in this anthology – with the exception of Battleground – are not in any way supernatural or out-of-this-world, whereas the stories I liked the least were not grounded in reality at all. Subjective, sure… but it is worth mentioning.

Night Shift #19 – One More For the Road…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpg

Word count – 6,300

The first story in this anthology, Jerusalem’s Lot, acts as a prelude to King’s second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, and One More For the Road is somewhat of a suffix to that novel.

What this piece has going for it over Jerusalem’s Lot is that it takes a more modern approach to the storytelling, and that in itself is immediately a tick in the pro column. The narrative style of that first companion piece is one of the main reasons that I could not recommend it.

You don’t need to have read ‘Salem’s Lot (and certainly not the other short story in this collection) to get or enjoy this piece. Ultimately, this is a straightforward vampire tale, but familiarity does help to flesh out the world. One More For the Road gets a pass, but it’s a very thin recommendation.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #18 – The Man Who Loved Flowers…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 2,300

The Man Who Loved Flowers follows a smiling young man as he walks the streets of New York carrying a bunch of flowers, and it focuses primarily on the reactions of those around him as he passes by.

This is a simple tale of misinterpretation, and how things are not always as they seem on the surface. The story does take a darker turn in the final third – putting this into more familiar King territory – but to say anything further would be to spoil it for those who have not read it.

Because The Man Who Loved Flowers is fairly brief, King doesn’t have the time to dilute it with his usual shenanigans – a trait he is unfortunately guilty of on many occasions – and this is one of the best things on offer in this collection.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #17 – The Last Rung on the Ladder…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 4,800

This is Stephen King doing what he does best – urban horror, without any supernatural or demonic bent. There are no monsters under the bed, and nothing in the closet. This is just… stuff that can happen.

It’s a simple story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, how it ebbs and flows over the course of their lives, and about one particular incident that has defined them. It’s emotional and engaging in its simplicity.

King is prone to both falling down and rambling when he tries to wrap up a story, but this is impactful and stops before he finds something else less meaningful to say. The Last Rung on the Ladder is just damn good storytelling, and without a doubt, the first great story in the collection.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #16 – Children of the Corn…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 11,100

Children of the Corn has spawned about a thousand movies, which is strange considering the source material is this short story, which seems to run out of steam before the end.

A couple find themselves in one of those rural towns that King is so fond of writing about, only to discover that all the adults have been killed and the community is being run by a bunch of teenagers who worship a corn-God known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

It’s difficult to put Children of the Corn amongst the top tier of stories, because this deep into the anthology there have been several that are much better. This is too long and suffers from the pay-off not being worthy of the build-up. I can recommend it, but only just.

Recommended ⇑