Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Black Friday Deals Refreshed in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Paperwhite Listen in Prime Shop Now Shop now
Profile for Bacchus > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Bacchus
Top Reviewer Ranking: 483
Helpful Votes: 1264

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
The Periodic Table (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Periodic Table (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Neal Ascherson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Periodic Table, 4 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One of my regrets in life was that I never really got a grip on science. I dropped all science at 14 because I wasn't interested, I wasn't any good at them and because I could. I think the way they were taught was so boring.

This is a great shame because there is tremendous beauty and order in scientific discovery and good teachers are able to bring out the inherent fascination in the world. I bet that Primo Levi would have made a brilliant chemistry teacher.

I know about Primo Levi's dual career as writer of fiction and his work as an industrial chemist. I also know about his incarceration in and witness to the suffering in the Auschwitz concentration camp as an Italian Jew during the Second World War.

The period table touches on Auschwitz but covers a longer period of time. It is a series of short stories each of which is named after a chemical element. This become metaphors for situations in his life, points of departure or props in entirely fictional tales. I get the feeling that these chemical elements have definite personalities of their own. I enjoyed each story although the opening chapter, Argon, is a bit of a slog to get through.

I haven't read any other books by Primo Levi and suspect that this isn't his greatest work. It is a strange combination of autobiography and pure fiction. I am not always sure where one ends and the other begins.

Anyway, I still recommend anyone tries it out.

Trouble in Tahiti / Facsimile for Orchestra
Trouble in Tahiti / Facsimile for Orchestra

5.0 out of 5 stars Great little opera, 28 Oct. 2014
My first introduction to Trouble in Tahiti was when I read about Bernstein's opera, A Quiet Place. This premiered in 1983 and was a sequel to Trouble in Tahiti. In that opera, the whole of Trouble in Tahiti is reprised as a flashback. I have not heard the extended work but understand that it has a very different idiom.

I recall a production of Trouble in Tahiti being performed in Birmingham in 1987. One of my flatmates was coach to the production and a number of students from my college sang in it. A couple of years later, I acquired a rather scratchy LP of the Mark Blitzstein recording of the work, which I am sad to say I no longer have. However, I managed to acquire both the CBS Masterworks LP and later this CD of Bernstein's own recording of the piece, which he made in 1973.

Trouble in Tahiti is a short opera (about 50 minutes in length) and concerns a married couple, Sam and Dinah. They bicker all the time and it is clear that their relationship has become very stale. Sam is the all-American 1950s middle-class man. He works in a bank and plays handball. Dinah is a housewife, who appears to be facing a nervous breakdown. They have a son, Junior and the action covers one day in their lives.

We see the couple bickering, Sam in is office on the telephone, Dinah with her therapist, an awkward moment when Sam and Dinah meet in the street, Sam in his locker room having won his ball game, Dinah describing a terrible movie she has just seen called Trouble in Tahiti which she in fact really enjoyed.

The scoring is sparse but for me the most wonderful aspect of the scoring is the singing of the chorus, three singers who begin singing as if advertising the American Dream of post-War affluence but ultimately become a kind of Greek chorus commenting on the inner feelings of Sam and Dinah and of their relationship.

As you might have surmised so far, I absolutely love this piece; it is the one piece of Bernstein that I try to introduce to anyone who will listen, Dinah's session with the therapist with its references to A Quiet Place is just gorgeous, Sam's song after the ball game is full of swagger and bravado, helped by some wonder whooping brass writing and Dinah's description of the movie is a true tour de force.

I have no complaints about the performance itself both the main singers and the chorus sing vibrantly and the band is great.
I can't really compare it with any other recording and don't really want to.

Facsimile is less familiar but it is also enjoyable. It reminds me a lot of Aaron Copland but it still has lots of touches of pure Bernstein. It gets a fantastic performance from Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

The Office - Complete Series One & Two and The Christmas Specials [2001] [DVD]
The Office - Complete Series One & Two and The Christmas Specials [2001] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ricky Gervais

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic comedy, 27 Oct. 2014
There are loads of reviews of this TV series. I watched episodes of the show when it came out in the early noughties and quite enjoyed it. Some of my friends were fans but I do recall my boss at the time saying that he could not find anything about it that was in any way funny. Having now watched the series all the way through in chronological order, I can say that this is a classic piece of comedy.

To put this in context, at the time, there were many 'fly on the wall' documentaries on TV at the time. Programmes like The Airport and Driving School showed life day to day life in a work place and often created stars out the ordinary public. There was the incredibly camp Jeremy Spake who did some kind of liaison job for Aeroflot in (I think) Stansted Airport and Maueen, who appeared to be a chronic driving test failure.

Now, The Office had the same kind of production values in which employees of a very non-descript firm go through their tedious day to day work. At the time, none of the actors in the series were well known. Ricky Gervais, who played the manager and central character of the show was at the age of 40 a virtual unknown. I think think this was important because the audience should be drawn into the kind of "docusoap" atmosphere - I don't think it would have worked if any of the characters were recognisable from other programmes.

The main character is David Brent. He is the manager of a branch of Wernham Hogg, a paper merchant based in Slough. The staff in this office either appear to be sales staff or warehouse men. Brent likes to see himself as everybody's friend, a popular manager who achieves his results through enabling his staff to enjoy themselves at work. Unfortunately, despite his very best intentions, he is crassly insensitive and appears to have no filter. I think he is also highly insecure. You see this when he reacts to the charismatic and highly competent Neil (from the Swindon branch) who becomes his boss. Everyone remembers his strange dance on the Comic Relief fun day which he does simply because he cannot stand the attention that Neil gets when he does a Saturday Night Fever routine. Similarly, when he takes over a training course rather than let the trainer do his job is also funny. It is also clear that Brent can't laugh at himself. When someone posts a rude picture of him (which we never see) on the computer system, he launches a full enquiry through his sidekick Gareth to find the culprit. When he discovers that it was the boorish and obnoxious travelling salesman Finchy with whom he appears to have an obsequious underdog relationship he immediately backs down. Strangely, there is a vein of decency in the man and in the Christmas specials, you end up rooting for him. When he finally stands up to Finchy, you really feel like cheering.

There are other characters. I absolutely love the on-off and mostly undeclared romance between the salesman Tim Canterbury and the receptionist, Dawn. People have described Tim as an everyman, a description the actor Martin Freeman disagrees with. However, he seems to see the complete ridiculousness of the job and its environment and we see his strategy for survival consists mainly of baiting his colleague, Gareth.

Gareth (played by Mackenzie Crook) is another genius character. He is Brent's assistant and is utterly loyal to him and is obviously completely stupid and almost as deluded and lacking of filter as his boss. He appears incredibly weedy yet constantly boasts of his membership of the Territorial Army. He is a fantastic butt of Tim's jokes. The one that sticks in my mind is the scene in which a colleague is complaining about being made redundant while a midget keeps his job. The discussion goes onto the difference between a midget and a dwarf but Gareth then feels it necessary to expand the discussion to elves and pixies.

Although the whole thing is pitch perfect, I feel that the situations are ridiculous - I am amazed that anyone in this office can ever maintain their job for very long. But at the same time, I can't help notice so many parallels with real life - it is actually quite truthful.

I could go on about it but think it better for others to make their own rediscovery of this classic piece of TV.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2015 8:00 AM GMT

We Can't Dance
We Can't Dance
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £4.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate Genesis album?, 14 Oct. 2014
This review is from: We Can't Dance (Audio CD)
I know that this is not Genesis' final album but with the departure of Phil Collins after it was made and the fact that the three remaining members had developed their own solo careers, it does feel a bit like a swansong.

We Can't Dance came out in 1991, five years after their previous album, Invisible Touch. At 71 minutes and 36 seconds, it is long. The first time I heard it, I did feel that it slightly outstayed its welcome. However, having listened to all their previous work in chronological order and then listened to We Can't Dance repeatedly for the last week, I can say that I love every minute.

The average song length is 6 minutes which gives the group plenty room for expansion and I feel that they have reflected various different styles as well as restated their 1970s progressive roots. It feels like a summation of all the band did.

The opener, No Son of Mine is a desperately sad song of family dysfunction and it is very moving and powerful.

Jesus, He Loves Me is a wonderful satire on American TV evangelism, also very enjoyable

Driving the Last Spike is a long track about the dangers and sacrifices made in building railways in the 19th Century. It is full of defiance and passion. Musically, it reminded me of the Who. Brilliant stuff.

I Can't Dance is a much shorter track and I can imagine it going down well - the basic guitar riffs remind me of the Rolling Stones' Honky Tonk Woman.

Never a Time is a lovely soulful song that some purists think should belong on a solo Phil Collins record. I don't care, it's nice.
It also sounds to me a little like a 90s soul song that Whitney Houston might be happy to sing. It may not feel like Genesis but it works
Dreaming While You Sleep - nicely mysterious and quite long. Again melodically, it reminds me of Phil Collins' solo output

Tell Me Why - This reminds me a bit of work that the group was doing in the 1970s on Wind and Wuthering but some of the guitar playing sounds quite Beatles-like. It also has the same protest element that Land of Confusion had on Invisible Touch

Living Forever - Again this sounds like like pure Genesis. Mike Rutherford's guitar playing is very distinctive here and the Bachian keyboard playing by Tony Banks is back - something very reminiscent of the earliest Genesis albums.

Hold on my Heart - Another soulful and intimate Phil Collins number. I like it

Way of the World - This feels like another protest song like Tell Me Why - perhaps less distinctive but has a lovely catchy chorus

Since I Lost You - This feels a bit like a pastiche of early 60s soul but with Genesis' superb musicianship and production values. I found it very moving.

Fading Lights - Another long progressive track which harks back to Genesis' heyday.

For me this album is a summation of everything the group was good at. There is not a single dud track, which when you consider how much material is here, is an amazing achievement.

Highly recommended - I feel almost saying that it is my favourite Genesis album
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2015 1:23 PM GMT

Invisible Touch
Invisible Touch
Price: £5.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invisible Touch, 12 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Invisible Touch (Audio CD)
My Genesis journey is nearly at an end. All that is left to do is to write a review of We Can't Dance and to listen and evaluate Calling All Stations (can it really be regarded as a Genesis album?).

Invisible touch came out in 1986, about three years after Genesis's self titled album. As solo projects, especially Phil Collins's own albums and Mike Rutherford's Mike and the Mechanics were coming to the fore, Genesis were producing fewer albums. There were nine Genesis albums in the 1970s and four in the 1980s. However, in terms of commercial success, these four albums sold in much larger quantities than the 1970s material.

When I reviewed And Then There Were Three (the group's 1978 album), I wrote that it was hard to be objective about it because it was my introduction to Genesis and my usual point of reference.

Other listeners will have their own starting points. The ones who were fans in the 1970s when Genesis was an album-based progressive group had earlier albums as their starting points. For them, they perceive commercialisation and a selling out of the group's progressive roots. One music journalist says about these fans that they cannot accept that progressive groups have to progress. I think that another Selling England by the Pound would have been an artistic and commercial failure in the 1980s.

As much as possible, I try to listen to listen to each album on its own merits and to see that it works. For me, Invisible Touch works very well.

The title song is very poppy and I do find the pronunciation of the word Invisible as 'invisiburl' a little bit grating - and yet I find myself really enjoying its catchiness and also its rather desperate lyric of frustrated desire.

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight is an intimate and soulful song.

Land of Confusion reminds a little bit of work that Genesis was doing in And Then There Were Three, especially the guitar work. It is a comment on the times and on TV it was accompanied by images created by Spitting Image. If you delve back in Genesis' output, you will realise that this is not the first time that the group has written songs that show they have a social conscience. Peter Gabriel's own solo output confirms that it was always in the group's make-up.

In Too Deep is another soulful and attractive song which I really enjoyed

One thing that Genesis always did in the 1980s albums was to include longer narrative songs rather that would always play better live than on the radio. I think Mike Rutherford said in interview that while audiences often went to their concerts knowing only the shorter songs from the radio, they would often be most entranced by the longer more progressive songs. The longest song on Invisible Touch is Domino, which is made up of two parts, In the Glow of the Night and The Last Domino. This was a live favourite in the 1980s and very fine it is.

I though Throwing it all Away was also a fine song which was very moving.

The album ends on an instrumental track called the Brazilian, a reminder that Phil Collins wasn't just the singer but still primarily a fantastic drummer. Again instrumental tracks are a key feature of Genesis albums.

So for me, this album has many fine qualities and I am delighted to have listened to it.

The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley
by Patricia Highsmith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars The Talented Mr Ripley, 11 Oct. 2014
Thomas Ripley is a brilliant anti-hero.

In this,Patricia Highsmith's novel in which we first encounter him, Thomas Ripley is a ne'er do well young American who appears to have a talent for mimicry but who also has a resentment against his luck and his upbringing. When he is approached by a wealthy businessman who believes that Tom is a Princeton educated WASP like his son, he is hired to go to Italy, all expenses paid, to persuade him to give up his plans to be a painter and to return to his family in America.

Tom is probably the worst person to ask as this request begins a chain of events which leads to murder and extortion.

Tom Ripley appears to have no morals or conscience and an amazing instinct for survival. During the book, as it written from his perspective the whole time, you find yourself against your better nature rooting for him and hoping he gets away with what he does.

I knew this story through the Anthony Minghella movie starring Matt Damon Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. The book is more squalid and far less sepia-toned than the movie and I think it is better for it.

Patricia Highsmith wrote other Ripley novels, which I might explore. However, I suspect the shock of meeting Ripley will be lessened because of this book

Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genesis Genesis, 4 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Genesis (Audio CD)
I think that this is among the very best of Genesis' albums.

After the experimental and transitional Abacab which I found difficult to enjoy, this album saw Genesis reverting to a more familiar sound. The writing of each the song was a group collaboration rather than an individually written song yet there is a considerable variety of songs. The decision to call the album Genesis was a reflection of the pride they felt about what they had achieved here.

The opening song, Mama, is one of the most intense songs the group ever did. That's All, Home by the Sea and Second Home by the Sea are all superbly accessible songs that hook the listener.

I was less impressed by Phil Collins' fake Hispanic accent on Illegal Alien but the song itself is fine. Similarly Just a Job to Do (the most similar in style to what the group tried on Abacab) does not always convince me. However, Taking it all too hard is a lovely soulful song and the last two songs, Silver Rainbow and to a lesser extent It's Gonna Get Better remind listeners that Genesis were still in in touch with their progressive rock roots.

Inside the Whale and Other Essays
Inside the Whale and Other Essays
by George Orwell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of 9 of Orwell's Essays, 1 Oct. 2014
This set of George Orwell essays was the one that seemed to be most popular when I was a Sixth Former. I had enjoyed a number of his novels as well as two of his 'life experience' books, The Road to Wigan Pier and Dining Out in Paris and London.

I remember our English teacher reading an extract from one of the essays, 'Shooting and Elephant' in class but all I recall was the description of the shooting rather than the real point of the essay. Over the years I have read a number of these essays separately but it is nice to have this selection in one volume.

The book contains nine essays; I will give a brief overview of each one.

Inside the Whale - the whale in this context is an allusion to the fish that swallowed Jonah. For Orwell, it represents a womb for adults, a place in which the writer is protected from reality and artistic responsibility. He applies this to the American writer of Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller. It concludes a far reaching analysis of the themes and trends in literature in the 1920s and 1930s. For me, it just goes to show how well read and perceptive Orwell was.

Down the Mine - this is an extract from The Road to Wigan Pier describing the physical experience of going down a coal mine. It was backbreaking, poorly paid and deeply unfair working.

England Your England - Orwell's analysis of what Englishness means. This entails looking at national characteristics, the issue of Empire and international stereotypes. It contains the famous (and rightly mocked when quoted out of context by the prime minister, John Major) allusion to old maids cycling to church and warm beer.

Shooting and Elephant. This was the story that was read to us in class when I was at school. In fact the elephant was incidental to the essay, which is more about Orwell's experience as a colonial police officer in Burma. Here, he was hated as the representative of an alien imperial power and his requirement to shoot a working elephant gone rogue was as much a duty of empire in pacifying the populace as an act of public protection.

Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool. This is ostensibly a response to an essay written by Leo Tolstoy criticizing Shakespeare through his play King Lear. This essay is very much an Englishman's defence of Shakespeare and it shows Orwell's deep love and respect for him. He believes that no-one would take Tolstoy's essay seriously had it not been written by the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Politics vs Literature - An examination of Gulliver's Travels. Orwell had read Gulliver's Travels about six times, which is five times more than I have. His analysis is fascinating and insightful. I must reread both Gulliver's Travels and this essay to see what he is on about.

Politics and the English Language. I have read this essay before and would say that it is the best known among all these essays. I think it should be read and learned by everyone who has responsibility for using the English language. There is so timeless good sense and wisdom. It is as relevant to politics and media today as it was when it was written.

The Prevention of Literature. Again, I had read this essay before. It concerns the status of literature in totalitarian states - Orwell believes that it cannot survive or thrive when writers and historians are required to lie on behalf of the state. Scientists apparently do not have this restriction.

Boys' Weeklies - The final essay in this book is a lighthearted analysis of the elements of story books that young boys regularly read between the Wars. I couldn't help feeling that Orwell was being a little bit snobbish about them - somehow I can't ever imagine him as having been young.

Watching War Films With My Dad
Watching War Films With My Dad
by Al Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable memoir, 27 Sept. 2014
This is a highly enjoyable personal autobiographical tale of one man's lifetime interest in war stories, particularly the Second World War.

Most people know Al Murray as the Pub Landlord, a boorish misogynistic patriotic chap who appears to despise any learning or culture. It is of course an act; Al Murray is a very well educated and articulate person whose own views on the world rarely coincide with his comic creation.

Al Murray's interest in war came from his father when they watched war films together. His father would frequently undermine the experience by pointing out all the historical inaccuracies in the equipment and uniforms. My own experiences and I'm sure many others growing up in the 1970s would have had the same experiences.

This book was a nostalgia trip for me. It was not only the films (we all watched The Battle of Britain, A Bridge Too Far and The Great Escape), it was the Airfix models of aeroplanes and the Action Man dolls, of which Al Murray is slightly ashamed of doing.

And then there is paintball, of which I have no experience. The chapter in which he describes his experiences playing the game is very funny.

However, although it is not a formal history book, it is clear that Al Murray is very well read and qualified to discuss many of the issues; it was the subject of his degree at Oxford. I thought some of his insights into history very interesting.

There is little in the book that is laugh out loud but the self-deprecating wit shines through and I am glad to have read the book.

Pleading Guilty (Original Fiction in Paperback) (Dedalus Original Fiction in Paperback)
Pleading Guilty (Original Fiction in Paperback) (Dedalus Original Fiction in Paperback)
by Paul Genney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable novel about barristers and the law, 18 Sept. 2014
I saw this book in the library and thought it looked interesting. I enjoy TV programmes about lawyers (like Silk and Law & Order erc)and really enjoyed reading the Rumpole of the Bailey series by John Mortimer.

Here is a novel written by a practising barrister. It is not set in a glamorous location but is intead centred around Hull (or Kingston upon Hull as it should be called). The story revolves round about four cases that the hero the 60 something Henry Wallace is defending. It concerns his wife Laura and his other love interest, a 40 year old solicitor called Pauline.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the law cases and enjoyed the cynicism displayed here over matters of law and indeed, of personal morality.

I get the feeling that there is a second novel that can be made with a number of the characters in this book. The human stories implicit within most legal cases are ofen worth telling. Although the blurb on the book describes it as a comedy (I think), it feels rather more elegiac and there is a great sense of loss that comes through this book. I hope to read another book like this.

Maybe it's not a great book that you feel you have to tell everyone you know about, but it still kept me entertained while I read it and I would encourage anyone else to try to I do recommend it to anyone who enjoys legal fiction.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20