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Gordon Dent "dent" (UK)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 9 Oct 2009
This review is from: LE BAL (VHS Tape)
It is such a shame that "Le Bal" is not currently available in any format. This is one of my favourite films. It is set entirely in a ballroom and has no dialogue (the only voices are on brief snatches of radio broadcasts). It follows the history of 20th century France through a series of episodes featuring the same small group of actors. Owing to the absence of dialogue, characters have to be very broad, almost caricatures. However, the assortment of characters provides some genuinely funny - and some terribly moving - moments. Highly recommended...if you can find it.

The Pesthouse
The Pesthouse
by Jim Crace
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contractual obligation?, 17 Feb 2008
This review is from: The Pesthouse (Paperback)
It's very hard to work out why Jim Crace would have allowed such a poor book to be published. The combination of weak characters, unbelievable settings and frankly awful plot devices makes it an unrewarding effort to read the book. One scene, in particular, is so ridiculously far-fetched (and badly written) that it would ruin any book in which it appeared. Several others are little better.

All in all, "The Pesthouse" makes me wary of buying any new work by Jim Crace. I very much prefer his earlier works ("The Gift of Stones", "Signals of Distress") over later ones ("The Devil's Larder", "Six" [for some reson showing up on Amazon under its American title of "Genesis"]). Perhaps the latest novel simply shows an acceleration of an already apparent steady decline.

Well Kept Secret
Well Kept Secret
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 25.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harshly treated, 16 Nov 2005
This review is from: Well Kept Secret (Audio CD)
I'm often surprised at the bad reviews this album receives. While it's much more mainstream than most of JM's releases, it still features some good songwriting and expressive singing. Okay, "Love Up" is pretty appalling, as is "Hiss On The Tape", but John has included duff tracks on a few of his albums (think "Didn't Do That" on "Glorious Fool" or "Acid Rain" on "Sapphire", for example). "Could've Been Me" gets the album off to a brooding and soulful start, with "You Might Need A Man" providing some up-beat funk to balance it. "Hung Up" seems pretty disposable but is surprisingly durable. "Gun Money" is a powerful, and uncharacteristic, song that bears frequent listening if you try to ignore the lyrics. "Never Let Me Go" is a nice bit of smooth jazz that survives by virtue of John's almost subsonic vocal.
Of the tracks on side 2 (i.e. tracks 6-10 on the CD), only "Back With a Vengeance" really stands out, with "Changes Her Mind" and "Living Alone" being listenable but unremarkable songs. All in all, this is a decent album for late-night listening; even if it doesn't attain the heights of some of JM's other albums, it doesn't reach the depths of some of them, either.

Love Beach
Love Beach
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 4.74

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tongue in cheek?, 18 Jun 2004
This review is from: Love Beach (Audio CD)
"I want to love you like nobody ever loved you. Climb on my stallion and we'll ride." ELP produced this album with tongues firmly in collective cheek: the first five tracks form a collection of musical clichés that, nevertheless, possess a humour that was rarely apparent in ELP's work and a musicianship that always was. "Canario" - an adaptation of a section of Rodrigo's "Fantasisia para un Gentilhombre" - is lively, upbeat and very much in the spirit of "Trilogy"'s "Hoe Down". The closing suite, "Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman" begins well but degenerates towards its horribly sentimental but stiff ending.
Peter Sinfield contributes surprisingly unpretentious lyrics to accompany the competent musical compositions of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. The whole is an inoffensive and occasionally amusing album.

Love Over Gold
Love Over Gold
Price: 5.93

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At their very, very best, 7 Nov 2003
This review is from: Love Over Gold (Audio CD)
"Dire Straits" was a very good album. "Communiqué" was a good album". "Making Movies" was an excellent album. "Love Over Gold" was an outstandingly brilliant album.
From the opening bars of "Telegraph Road" we know this is something special. This is stronger, more subtle, richer and so much more confident than anything Mark Knopfler had done before. The Midwestern Odyssey that is "Telegraph Road" (named after an extraordinarily ugly freeway in Detroit) shows a lyrical strength that Knopfler had barely revealed before. One line towards the end of the song - "I've run every red light on Memory Lane" - is so profoundly and desperately poetic that it promotes Knopfler, within the 14-minute length of the song, from the second division to the premier league of songwriters. Add to this the fact that "Telegraph Road" encompasses so many moods in its music and you'll appreciate that this is a very, very special song.
The surprise number 1 hit single, "Private Investigations" is a uniquely Dire Straits piece. Without being exceptional in either musical or lyrical terms it has a strong enough mood to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, it's followed by the very weak "Industrial Disease". Very few people can write funny songs successfully, and Mark Knopfler isn't one of them. There must be many ways in which the issues of alienation from industrialized society could be addressed and satire is definitely a strong contender. While it's obvious that the band felt the mood of the album needed some lightening, this song didn't really succeed in the attempt.
"Love Over Gold" is pleasant enough but doesn't add a great deal to the album. It does, however, fade into the highlight of the album, and, indeed, of Dire Straits' career: "It Never Rains". This song starts fairly blandly, with organ, guitar and drums joining in turn and introducing a standard Knofler lyric/vocal. Once we pass the first three verses, though, it REALLY takes off. Power and menace come into the playing, the lyrics become edgier and more threatening and the disintegration of the subject proceeds apace: "It's a sad reminder when your organ-grinder has to come to you for rent / And all you've got to give him is the use of your sideshow tent". The final verse is as strong as anything Knopfler has written and climaxes in the supremely nasty couplet: "And he'll take you down to Vaudeville Valley, with his hand up smothering your screams / And he'll screw you down in Tin Pan Alley, in the city of a billion dreams". An astounding guitar solo follows and gradually fades, leaving the listener breathless and shaken. This was truly Mark Knopfler's finest 9 minutes.

Mr Foreigner
Mr Foreigner
by Matthew Kneale
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No indication of what's to come, 7 Nov 2003
This review is from: Mr Foreigner (Paperback)
Matthew Kneale's "English Passengers" is a near-perfect novel. "Sweet Thames" has a good plot, good characterization and is only let down by some overstretched coincidences and its weak ending. "Mr Foreigner" (formerly "Whore Banquets") is entirely different: the plot is average, characterization is astonishingly weak, there's a heavy reliance on racial stereotypes and there's no real ending. Whilst I'm sure that anybody who has lived & worked in Japan will be impressed by the detailed descriptions of Tokyo and of Japanese life, these don't really compensate for the imitative "Of Human Bondage" storyline or the flatness of the characters.

Even the central character - Daniel Thayne, an Englishman who has almost accidentally found himself teaching English in Japan and conducting an affair with one of his pupils - is not given any depth. So far as we can tell, he's a shallow and unlikeable character but the book tries - unsuccessfully, in my opinion - to make us sympathize with him. If he's so devoted to photography, why does he not take any pictures during the course of the book? If he can face up to his boss so resolutely, why does he submit so easily to Jake and to his prospective father-in-law? If he's so quick-thinking that he can conceive a plan for blackmail so abruptly and can effect the absurd John-Grishamesque escape from his fiancée's family, how did he manage to get into his situation in the first place?

Matthew Kneale has undoubtedly matured into a very fine novelist. There's no need to read this début novel to complete the set: start with "Sweet Thames" and then settle down to the supreme enjoyment of "English Passengers".

The Turning Point
The Turning Point
Price: 8.54

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radically different but wholly successful, 30 Oct 2003
This review is from: The Turning Point (Audio CD)
Abandoning the lead-guitar model established with former members Eric Clapton, Peter Green & Mick Taylor, John Mayall unveiled his new stripped-down line-up at the Fillmore East, New York, in 1969. Consisting of Mayall (vocal, harmonica, guitar), John Mark (acoustic finger-style guitar), Johnny Almond (saxophones & flute) and Stephen Thompson (bass), this was a radically different band from the Bluesbreakers. Despite the lack of percussion, however, strong rhythms are provide by the guitar & bass, with acoustic guitar and sax/flute adding superb melody lines.
Mayall's songwriting is no better here than on any of his other albums but the arrangements and performances are outstanding. "The Laws Must Change", "I'm Gonna Fight For You, JB" and "So Hard To Share" are the best songs, while Mayall's signature tune, "Room To Move", appears here in a energetic and irresistably effusive form that almost persuades you to ignore its embarrassing lyrics.
The same line-up produced the much less successful studio recording, "Empty Rooms", later the same year and was then disbanded as Mayall shifted to an all-American band. Mark & Almond formed Mark Almond and produced some great (and much not-so-great) music through the seventies, always evoking the feel of "the Turning Point".

In Through The Out Door
In Through The Out Door
Price: 6.84

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still going strong, 5 Sep 2003
This review is from: In Through The Out Door (Audio CD)
It's easy to ignore "In Through the Out Door" when looking for a Led Zeppelin album to add to your collection. It is, however, an album you should get around to buying sooner or later.
"In The Evening", which opens the album, sounds remarkably like the songs on Robert Plant's 1982 solo album, "Pictures at Eleven", which suggests that this is the direction in which Plant would have liked to take Zeppelin had John Bonham survived. Bonham is much in evidence here, with the drums thundering along with all the force of earlier highlights such as "When the Levee Breaks" and "Kashmir". "Southbound Saurez" is unusual in being piano- rather than guitar-driven but marks a continuation of the themes of side four of "Physical Graffiti". Two very unZeppelin-like songs follow, both of which are excellent. "Fool in the Rain" is a slower-paced song with an unusual time signature - maintained with typical professionalism by Bonham - and a latinesque middle break featuring tablas, congas, whistles and all sorts of things we don't expect from Led Zeppelin. "Hot Dog" is a delightful bit of country-rockabilly that more than compensates for "Presence"'s hideous "Candy Store Rock".
"Caouselambra" is a bit of a mess but it's a fairly enjoyable mess: a 10-minute disco number that could easily have been recorded by Donna Summer, if you could imagine Donna Summer being accompanied by a fencepost-wielding drummer rather than an electronic beat-box. "All My Love" calms things down with a tuneful but slightly wet love-song. "I'm Gonna Crawl" closes the album with bluesy hark-back to the days of "Led Zeppelin II".
More consistent than "Presence", though without such obvious highlights, "In Through the Out Door" saw Led Zeppelin still going strong. John Bonham's death in 1980 cut off the band's career while there was obviously still much good music to come.

Price: 5.37

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Descending from the peaks, 5 Sep 2003
This review is from: Presence (Audio CD)
After a run of three magnificent albums ("Led Zeppelin IV", "Houses of the Holy" and "Physical Graffiti"), "Presence" marked the beginning of a gentle downward slope for Led Zeppelin.
Although it includes two superb tracks - "Achilles Last Stand" and "Tea For One" - it also includes a lot of filler. "For Your Life", "Royal Orleans" and "Candy Store Rock" sound like songs produced in a hurry, with "Hots on for Nowhere" sounding slightly more like typical Zeppelin. However, the storming "Achilles Last Stand" dominates the first half of the album with a characteristically explosive performance from John Bonham and an intriguing meashing of Robert Plant's vocal and Jimmy Page's guitar. Similarly, a straight blues song, "Tea for One", dominates the second half. Bearing a very strong resemblance to "Led Zeppelin III"'s "Since I've Been Loving You", "Tea for One" takes a long time to say very little but does it quite beautifully. Page is on top form here, while Plant sounds a little under the weather.
Not one of the first albums to put in your Led Zeppelin collection, this is still not an album to overlook.

Physical Graffiti
Physical Graffiti
Price: 5.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ******, 5 Sep 2003
This review is from: Physical Graffiti (Audio CD)
This is Led Zeppelin's best album. This is one of the ten best albums ever recorded.
A bit more eclectic than its predecessors, "Physical Graffiti" incorporates some funk ("Trampled Under Foot") and eastern influences ("Kashmir") to make a supremely satisfying album.
Among the more conventional tracks, "Ten Years Gone" stands out for the subtle power of Robert Plant's vocal and the effortless brilliance of Jimmy Page's guitar work. However, it's "Kashmir" that really stands out as the album's - and Zeppelin's - best song. With a thumping drum beat that outguns even "When the Levee Breaks", "Kashmir" adds a string orchestra that matches John Bonham for power. The mystical lyrics may or may not mean anything to you but Plant's delivery will surely make your spine tingle.
A few oddities & curios fill side four but they don't sound out of place on this immense album. Buy it.

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