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Jonathan Talbot "Jon Talbot" (Wrexham)
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Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia
by Peter Pomerantsev
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is journalism at its best: vivid, 13 Feb. 2015
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I am a little surprised there are not more reviews for this because there is little doubting its influence. The immediacy of the writing and the meta-narrative of a postmodern gangster state make it a very powerful concoction. It is a view of Russia from the centre (Moscow) and specifically its media. We do not see much of ordinary Russia and Russians (unless we think that includes top models) so we do not know how the confected media management looks to them.

This is journalism at its best: vivid, immediate, full of personal stories, capturing something it would be hard to in something more scholarly. It is very much a book of the moment because it helps us to understand Putin's Russia. It also helps us to understand what we have in the West is not simply another narrative is a sea of competing fictions as some would have it. Finally it is also quite a frightening book. The reader is let wondering whether we are entering not just a new Cold War but a real, hot one.

I have given four rather than five stars for two reasons. First there is a lack of control over the material so it is not clear what is driving the narrative and determining the structure. This might not have mattered only it does tail off towards the end. Better editing might have improved matters.


Trains To Taung
Trains To Taung

5.0 out of 5 stars Something for anyone, 12 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Trains To Taung (Audio CD)
Completely agree with the other reviewers about this: it is hard to imagine most people not getting some pleasure out of this, jazz fan or not. Such a shame he is not more widely known

It does not do what some SA jazz does and stray into the bland world of easy listening. Its not exactly hard on the ear but it never succumbs to cliche. If you like your music at least some of the time to possess warmth, lightness of touch and melody you will enjoy this. As l said that is almost all of us. Highly recommended


Original Album Classics: Spirit / The Family That Plays Together / Clear / Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus / Feedback
Original Album Classics: Spirit / The Family That Plays Together / Clear / Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus / Feedback
Price: £13.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non spirits investigate, 31 Jan. 2014
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Spirit were never much in the US and the UK barely registered at all. They don't sound like any other rock band before or since although their earliest stuff when Jay Ferguson wrote a lot of the material is quite poppy in a 60s way, almost Beatley. that might sound a bit dated for younger ears.

The best here is The family that plays and Dr Sardonicus both topnotch classics. And the rock stuff doesn't really date as it doesn't sound like anyone else although its easy to see the jazz, Hendrix type infuences. What sets Spirit apart, no matter who is writing the material, is outstanding melodies. They just wrote great tunes pretty much for every song. When you hear great melodies it sounds easy but its something few can do. the ability to write melodies enables them to succeed with song structures which are often complex and experimental. The production and arrangement is always good too.

The five star is not because everything here is of the highest quality and what you like best is a matter of taste. But few bands from any era can match Spirit at their best


Son Of Spirit / Farther Along
Son Of Spirit / Farther Along
Price: £11.54

3.0 out of 5 stars A game of two halves, 31 Jan. 2014
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The problem with this is that Son of Spirit is pretty awful whilst Farther Along is not bad at all. Its not earth shattering or anything but the melodies and production are good. Usual Spirit type preoccupations allied to a sense of getting older. Its not a rock album but very good pop music for those noodling about in middle age who want something that sounds Radio 2 but is not actually on it and therefore over-familiar.

Son of Spirit just sounds like Randy California depressed and lacking direction.


Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows
Price: £11.82

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated, 31 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Nobody Knows (Audio CD)
This is kind of OK in concept but badly hampered by an inability to write decent songs. I get then impression these guys think they are better than they are. I know some people don't like the sexual content but that doesn't bother me. Its the lack of craft thats the problem
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2014 12:33 PM GMT


Story Skills for Managers: Nurturing Motivation with Teams
Story Skills for Managers: Nurturing Motivation with Teams
by Tony Wall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Story telling is key, 31 Jan. 2014
Stories are what capture our attention. This may seem obvious but in the context of management methods they have been an under-used resource. This book seeks to fill that gap with practical examples of how stories can enrich our understanding and motivate others. If you are not a natural born story teller you will be an avid consumer of stories. Learn how to capture their power to build your business.


Spirit Of '76
Spirit Of '76
Price: £12.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pointer for those confused, 9 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Spirit Of '76 (Audio CD)
Anyone reading the reviews of this album will notice the difference in opinion between people like me who love this and those who are less enthusiastic.

Its fans who mostly write reviews but in the case of Spirit there are two types. The first group are those people who like the earlier, poppier stuff when Jay Ferguson wrote a lot of the songs and find the later, more Randy California-only version of Spirit harder to take. The second group likes pretty much all of it. I personally think the earlier stuff is a bit more of its time than the later stuff which extensively samples, is less formally structured, rockier and often includes snatches of songs and short interludes of sound rather than completed songs. Its also a good deal wackier and sometimes funny, hence the allusions in some of the reviews to drug addled mental states. In short it is a lot more postmodern, ironic, post structural- that sort of thing. More in keeping with our times.

There are many great qualities in both versions of Spirit not least of which is the distinctive sound of both versions and their eclectic sound. They manage to combine rock, jazz and pop harmonies and whether it is Version 1 or Version 2 include fabulous melodies. Melody is harder to achieve than is commonly supposed but it is the glue that makes whatever they did stick together. Randy could get as loopy as he liked because he could always come up with good tunes.

I know Twelve Dreams will always be up there in the pantheon of great rock albums but Spirit of 76 is also great in a completely different way. I have never had any idea who Jack Bond is nor do l care. I don't care that Randy's voice is not the greatest or that this is damned in the eyes of some because it has covers. They are the best covers l ever heard: Rolling Stone alone makes this worth the price of admission. For something as allegedly created by mind altering substances there is a unity about this album not just in terms of concept but also the sound. It doesn't sound like anything else before or since. All that echo chamber and reverb give it a sense of slowly coming in and out of focus. It manages to surprise throughout and the quality never slips. And those great tunes keep it all pegged on the nail. Love it, love it, love it!

And l'm a soul fan!


Hey Now Hey: (The Other Side Of The Sky)
Hey Now Hey: (The Other Side Of The Sky)
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £13.02

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massively underrated, 4 Nov. 2013
First of all a confession: this is one of my favourite albums of all time. In my defence l have been listening to music a very long and have catholic tastes. I don't care about genres or age. Nothing matters except the music.

I think the clue to this album's relative obscurity is because it too is catholic for most people. The majority of people who hear it will be soul fans. But this is not a soul album in the sense that it is not all soul music although how anything ever has had more soul in it than Aretha in her prime is hard to imagine. It is often described as 'experimental' because she and producer Quincy Jones wanted to find out what she could do with a wide variety of material, including her own. So she sings Broadway, bombastic jazz, the blues. The arrangements are Quincy Jones in his prime too. And l think he encouraged her to take that voice of hers for a walk because l never heard her on anything else do quite what she does here. I have never heard anything like it before or since in terms of power, range, phrasing and of course the greatest emotional punch ever delivered from a human larynx. She is never histrionic or showy. She never inserts an unnecessary note but is effortlessly dazzling and exhilarating. She is not afraid to sing low and flat, or punchy and staccato when the material seems to justify it. I say seems because she makes everything so much her own its hard to imagine how it could be done differently. Her phrasing is pretty unusual even on her more conventional recordings but here she experiments not just with genres but with the way she approaches the material. The result is in my opinion the greatest vocal tour de force l have ever heard in any context.

There are many standouts such as hearing her with her sister (yes there's another one) but the highlight is her greatest recording, Angel. She wrote it and its a nothing song really. It has a pretty lame spoken introduction but once she gets that voice of hers going prepare for take off. I have been listening to it for nearly 40 years and l don't think l have ever listened to it without shedding a tear or two, even if l'm not really thinking that hard about it. It doesn't seem to matter if l am happy, sad, depressed, wired up, conked out or anything else.

Great voices? Bobby Bland, Al Green, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Maria Callas, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Pavarotti- yes all of them and many others. But no one has ever sounded like Aretha and this is her greatest achievement- trust me.


The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western
The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western
by Richard Brautigan
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it dummy!, 12 Oct. 2011
i just started re-reading this almost forty years after l last read it. Whenever l get 'stuck' l go back to something that will get me reading again. PG Wodehouse usually does it. l was struggling through the very worthy and very dull indeed 'Gilead' when l thought of Richard Brautigan- a name l have never heard anyone mention but l read all of his books as a teenager. So the first question is: has it dated?

To which in my view the answer is not only 'not at all' but he was interested in lots of things we recognise now as de-construction, hyper-reality, simulation and so on. In other words he seems to have developed a postmdodern sensibility in parallel with many philosphers at the time (such as Derrida 'Of Grammatology', same year). They gave us the ideas, Brautigan skipped that stage and just put it in the fiction.

Reading the reviews it is clear that he arouses the most hostility from those who are (or were- are there any left?) wedded to the idea of social and psychological realism. Their view is that his books are 'slight', 'naive'and you can almost hear them cry 'funny, ironic and entertaining'. So not only did Brautigan have the temerity to write books more or less anyone could access and enjoy but he was completely uninterested in the stuff of proper novels (ie character, cause and effect, resolution etc) in favour of surfaces, mixing of genres, moral ambivalence, the primacy of the imagined over the 'real' world and general wierdness.

The other interesting point about Brautigan which makes him more relevant today is he is what l can only call customer focussed. He gives us plenty of narrative in the old fashioned sense. Things keep happening and there are mysteries, surprises, novelty, paradox. All the kind of things most of us like. Even worse for people who don't like him he has no problem with limited attention spans: his like ours switches off pretty quickly- there are so many more things to do in life than read improving, award winning literature like, sad to say, Gilead. Thats the modern world- so many choices so little time. Pullitzer Prize judges still think books like Gilead are great but one thing we have all learned is that the powerful do not understand the world- so we in turn do not believe them.

l think its utterly irrelevant to argue about whether he was a 'great' or 'significant' writer. He just wrote and if you like this you will want to read more. If you like writers like Carter, Borges etc- people who take you places you never imagined- you will like this very much. Its quickly consumed, remembered as a pleasant experience and then you can get on the next thing...


Home Is Where The Music Is
Home Is Where The Music Is
Price: £6.57

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favourites, 1 Aug. 2010
I first heard this as a teenager growing up in Ipswich. Since it wasn't obtainable there l made a special trip to Ray's in London to buy it and it has been with me now for nearly 40 years. For much of that time it was the only jazz album l owned and l struggle to think of a better one l have ever bought. The composition and playing are wonderful- yes it has tunes but what makes this really stand out is the feeling behind the playing. To my mind a lot of jazz suffers from a lot of senseless playing- because people have the technical ability to play well you get a lot of notes but no real feeling of communication. On this album much of the music is joyous but it is also sometimes sad, wistful, energetic, elegaic. It also has some iffy bits (including the dreaded drum solo)but there is so much great music this is something its impossible not to love. I should also mention it has the most beautiful sleeve l ever saw. This is a pretty obscure recording but in a just world this would be celebrated for the work the work of genius it undoubtedly is.


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