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Thursday

Under One Sun: Under One Sky

Greenpeace Records Inc. was formed in 1992 in order to produce and market a series of albums which would promote and inspire interest in urgent global environmental issues. "Alternative NRG" is the first Greenpeace Records release. There are plans to produce future albums in a variety of musical genres including country-folk, classical, jazz and even comedy. While others have used some alternative energy sources in the recording process, all Greenpeace Records releases will be recorded and mixed using the solar electricity provided by the Greenpeace Mobile Solar Generator, "Cyrus" (Persian for "sun").

Greenpeace has had great success with expanding awareness of its issues through music. In 1989, the organization produced "Breakthrough", a double album compilation which was created to be released only in the former U.S.S.R. Intended as a sampler of some of the best of late-80s' rock, the album was later released worldwide as "Rainbow Warriors". The album sold in excess of three million copies in the former Soviet Union alone and went gold in several Western markets. To date, Greenpeace International has raised more than eight million dollars from worldwide album sales.

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 when a group of concerned individuals set sail for Amchitka Island, off Alaska, to protest against United States nuclear weapons testing. The nuclear test site was subsequently closed and Amchitka became and remains a wildlife sanctuary. From this beginning, Greenpeace has steadfastly maintained three fundamental principles from which it has never strayed: non-violence, no government nor corporate funding, and no endorsement of any political party.

Greenpeace has grown to be an international organization of 4.5 million members in 143 countries dedicated to the protection of our natural environment. It has 30 offices around the world and currently operates seven ships. Greenpeace campaigns to protect the environment from nuclear and toxic pollution, the commercial production and use of chlorine, the deforestation of rain and temperate forests, the testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons, the mining and reprocessing of nuclear fuel and the destruction of marine resources through indiscriminate fishing methods. Although known for spectacular actions to prevent or expose abuses to the environment, Greenpeace's resources are also devoted to research, public education and lobbying at local, national and international levels.

Greenpeace believes we are now experiencing the first impacts of climate change and that action is required now. Luckily, the "Solar Index" shows that solutions are at hand. The barriers to clean energy are clearly political, not technical. The funds and discussions that are raised by "Alternative NRG" will help get the message out. The sky should no longer needlessly be our battleground. Instead, we should think of the sky as an abundant, endless energy supply available now to end our addiction to fossil fuels.

Wednesday

Cause & Effect - Trip

Oh! What a joy to hear a record that isn't taken over by twittering synthesizers, pumping bass lines and drum beats ten to the dozen, especially when it comes from Cause & Effect, the group that built up their reputation making infectious dance music from those very ingredients. "Trip" is first and foremost an album, not a load of sterile bumps and clicks cobbled together in the way that some of the records in the charts are at the moment. I actually think this is rather wonderful and just the thing for the more sensitive souls among us to sip our coffee to! Best moments are: "It's Over Now", "She Said" and "Alone".

Ratings: 9 out of 10

Tuesday

Pink Floyd - The Division Bell

Pink Floyd is definitely my choice of the best rock band around. Just listen to their past offerings like "Dark Side Of The Moon", "The Wall", "Animals", etc., and you'll realise how bloody good they are. "The Division Bell" (a double-LP effort, i.e. 70 mins long) continues in the veins of "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason", featuring a stunning combination of thought-provoking lyrics ("For millions of years mankind lived just like animals/Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination/We learned to talk") and mind-boggling music (filled with soaring concert atmospherics). Favourite tracks include "Cluster One", "Marooned", "A Great Day For Freedom", "Wearing The Inside Out", "Take It Back", "Coming Back To Life", "Lost For Words, "High Hopes"...., erm, in other words, the whole album. Absolutely brilliant!

Ratings: Perfect 10

Monday

Boston - Walk On

Bet'cha thought this lot were dead. Close, but no coconut. The band's last album, "Third Stage", released eight years ago, churned out three hit singles: "Amanda", "Can'tcha Say" and "We're Ready". "Walk On" is the fourth Boston album, recorded in late 1990 after they defeated a lawsuit by their previous label (CBS/Epic). The record took them nearly three years to complete. [Wonder what they live on in between those years?]

Tom Scholz, the 8-ft tall songwriter/musician/producer and studio savant responsible for Boston's celebrated, multi-platinum sound, has a way of making one million guitars sound like two million guitars, which is not completely unpleasant. Following the 1988 Boston tour, Scholz and his design team (which includes guitarist Gary Pihl) designed and built Hideaway Studio II, along with equipment specifically for recording "Walk On", including the Rockman Ultimatum Amplifier and the Smart Gate. Sample "I Need Your Love" and "Magdalene" which are pretty good.

Ratings: 8 out of 10

Sunday

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts - Flashback

Ahh... the "Queen of rock 'n' roll" herself! From the opening number, "Hide & Seek", to the last, "Right Till The End", this compilation features extensive guitar struttings (except "Bring It On Home", which is rather mellowed in comparison) as well as some expletives amidst the heavy sound. Besides, there are a few songs that will catch attention, such as "MCA", where the band expressed their unhappiness over certain aspects of their label then, and "Light Of Day", written by Bruce Springsteen for the movie of the same title starring Michael J. Fox.

Fans can also read the sleeve notes to find out how each song came about. Undoubtedly, the best track among the pile must be the thumping "I Love Rock 'N' Roll", which became one of the biggest singles in rock 'n' roll history when it topped the charts in March 1982. Too bad, 1988's sing-along "I Hate Myself For Loving You" is not included, otherwise this collection would have been complete.

Ratings: 8 out of 10

Saturday

The Mission - Sum And Substance

The Mission is a swirly gothic guitar group, "risen" from the remnants of even swirlier gothic guitar group, the Sisters Of Mercy, at the end of 1985. The group is "led" by the long-haired, bemouldy-hatted and excessive character, Wayne "I'm not fussy" Hussey, who once described himself as "a true romantic -- and I've got lovely legs." They are rather keen on "revelling"; drummer Mick Brown once fell off a roof at a party and landed on his head on his very expensive motor bike, causing £1,400 worth of damage! Rather revoltingly, the group tours with a bucket at the side of the stage in case they want to be sick!

This collection of greatest hits serves to "remind the public of their pop achievements" and it contains gems like "Wasteland", "Tower Of Strength", "Butterfly On A Wheel" and the remix version of "Like A Child Again".

Ratings: 9.6 out of 10

Thursday

Arrested Development - Zingalamaduni

Finger-licking Arrested Development hit the charts two years ago with their own brand of southern fried funk -- like "Mr Wendal", "People Everyday" and "Tennessee". This time round, A.D.'s latest album features, once again, Speech's politically-correct lyrics and Headline's easy delivery. Combine those with some groovy-grooves and you'll have a worthy and accessible follow-up to their Grammy-winning debut. "Zingalamaduni" (Swahili for "beehive of culture") is defined by the group as "a collective effort to stress activism in the realm of culture." Sadly, because of its oft-mouthful lyrics, the whole thing is very difficult to sing along to in the shower. [Moral of the story? Too much good is sometimes hard to swallow (follow).]

Ratings: 5 out of 10 for the lyrics / 3 out of 10 for the music

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