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iPod Shuffle Mark 2, The Answer, Europe, and Whitesnake

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Well I am doing something a bit different this week by adding a review of new hardware. I was given an iPod Shuffle Mark 2 to aid in my reviewing tasks each week (and learning my own bloody songs), and what follows is my take on the thing. I have included three CDs you might wish to fill it with.

Hardware

It's actually a rather nice looking little thing that is far different from what came before (in the form of the previous version, of which I have two). It's now brushed grey metal and forms itself into a clip. The clip, in turn, is based 'round the place where the headphones go. No longer is there a danger of sliding the device from ordered play to shuffle either, as the button is far smaller. There is an off and on switch on the other side of the device. The buttons on the front have not changed much and allow volume control, track selection, and play. It's a triumph of Apple design.

Or is it? Well, not really, quite frankly. The shape does not lend itself as well to sliding down one's out trouser pocket so it does not move around. The clip is, frankly, useless if you wish to make any attempt to hide the device from thieves. It does not fit nicely in one's pockets nor in the pen pocket of a blazer. It's rather thicker than the older version as well. And there is the blasted dock it now requires to charge the device or update it. Instead of being able to charge it in any USB outlet on any machine one comes across, you need to have this silly little dock with you. It also means you cannot transfer small files between computers as if the device were a normal USB mini-drive with volume controls.

I believe, as do several other men I have encountered, this new iPod shuffle is aimed squarely at the female market rather than the male. It's cute and cuddly, with a bit of style for good measure. It does not serve the same purpose as the previous version, which was absolutely perfect. I think it's a case of someone clever at Apple over-engineering it because he or she can. I have to admit to being rather disappointed, my screen name engraved in tiny lettering on it notwithstanding.

CD Reviews

The Answer: Rise
One of the great hopes to save British hard rock, this band took off from their well received EP and live record to release a cracking debut album. The short version is that there is no fluff or filler on this eleven track CD. The recipe is one of Led Zeppelin, old Whitesnake, with a dash of Free in there for good measure. There are reminders of Thin Lizzy from about the same time. The four lads know what they are doing and provide you with a damn good CD. They are excellent live and it translates well to CD. No need for best tracks as they are all good. This is one of the best things to come out of the U.K. in a very long time.

Europe: Secret Society
Europe is back with a rather curious new collection of songs. Gone are the frilly tunes of the '80s and early '90s, replaced by a much darker version that has more in common with Audioslave than poodle rock. This CD does not necessarily sit well on first listen, but does engender appreciation after a few spins. I rather enjoyed the "Devil Sings the Blues," the last track on the CD. And a rather good "Love is Not the Enemy" graces the first part of the CD. Whether or not this CD has the legs of some of their earlier career releases is another thing all together. It is indeed a poser. Not their best release ever, to be sure, but not their worst either.

Whitesnake: Live in the Shadow of the Blues
David Coverdale and his band of merry men have enjoyed quite a renaissance of late with sold-out shows, a rather well-recieved DVD recorded in the historic Hammersmith Odeon Apollo, a greatest hits collection, and a forthcoming new album. This is a 2-CD set of their latest tour, with four new songs tacked on the end for good measure. All the major hits are here from all versions of the band, starting from "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" right up to "Is this Love."

The second set contains some more tracks from the tour, including Deep Purple's "Burn" and the track that gave the set its name, "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues." One does have to wonder if this new found affection for the ol' tunes is inspired by the constant touring of ol' Whitesnake sans Coverdale. Mssrs. Marsden, Moody, and Murray deliver two cracking sets of music at the Great British Beer Festival.

Of the new recordings, the one I wish I had written — a rather common feeling with Whitesnake material — has to be the rather nice ballad, "All I Want is You," and the last track, "Dog," is one that might be best forgotten. However, the band is in cracking form and it will be great to get new material from them next year. Whitesnake is still as strong as ever — this is testament to that, I can assure you.

All in all, a rather good collection of music for my new iPod. As always, keep rocking, be safe, and enjoy live music wherever you can.

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