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W. BUTLER "lost in las vegas" (NEVADA USA)
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Guys and Dolls (Loesser)
Guys and Dolls (Loesser)
Price: £12.29

5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST SOUNDTRACK I OWN, 4 Jun. 2015
Because so many gullible folk have been adversely influenced by the review of an American Cassandra I feel impelled to put him and the facts straight. Firstly the use of the emotive word “Beware”. Suggesting a horrible trap. A trap involving getting every note of the movie music in excellent sound - including the two great dance sequences (sans vocals) which for many of us were the highlight of the entire movie.
Why also be so petty about the excellent booklet inside a glossy jacket - dispensing with the usual cheap jewel box? For some reason he fails to mention it has 3 erudite essays about the stage show, the movie version and the composer. And it contains every word of the lyrics. Plus great stills from the movie. What more does he want?
Spanish companies like Blue Moon and Lonehill have long been experts at getting great sound from old LP’s. In this case Blue Moon used this expertise to capture an entire movie soundtrack for the benefit of it’s frustrated admirers - who have waited 52 years for a first rate digital transcription. Lastly, they throw in 8 valuable bonus tracks.
As for this being an unauthorized soundtrack one of the weird features of the beautifully packaged Rhino/MGM series is they are not really soundtracks at all. They only include what was recorded in a studio. Thus the famous “Moses Supposes” sequence in “Singing in the Rain” has no sound of tap dancing. Ditto the four tap dancing numbers in “Kiss Me Kate”. One has only to listen to the CBS Special Products version of these MGM musicals to realize they also sound much better with the addition of the few sentences of dialogue that usually precede a number. Then one can relive the film one saw rather than get all studious about its music score - separated from its function in the story that is taking place on the screen.


Herrmann: Hangover Square (Hangover Square/ Citizen Kane)
Herrmann: Hangover Square (Hangover Square/ Citizen Kane)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT, 10 May 2014
This review is only written to balance the usual garrulous 5-star reviewers who extol this CD as a must-have addition to Herrmann enthusiasts' already copious collection of his deservedly famous mature soundtracks. My principal complaint is this recording has no stamp of authenticity. It is neither a soundtrack nor makes any attempt to sound like one

Firstly, the longueurs of the 50-minute "Citizen Kane" arrangement (devised from original manuscripts) fully explains why Herrmann himself excluded all the quiet sections of his first soundtrack to create a cheerful 13-minute suite for his 1970 Phase 4 recording.

Secondly, the Kane music might have made a lot more sense had Chandos made an effort to fully explain what was happening on screen during these 50 minutes. Regarding this issue I'd like to draw their attention to a Rhino CD of the complete Herrmann soundtrack for "North by Northwest". Which has an incredible 50 cues - and in their booklet a helpful précis of the entire plot to jog one's memory so one can match every cue to an event in the movie.

This brings me to the second drawback to this Chandos CD. This is the excruciating recording levels which cause one to continuously reach for the volume control. All due to Rumon Gamba's decision to treat this project as a concert experience - with the quietest possible pianissimo passages followed by rip-roaring maximum decibel ones. For instance the beginning of tracks 3 and 4 are so quiet one cannot even be sure the music has even started. Kane is a worse headache because thereis not the slightest possibility of enjoying 50 full minutes of alternating loud and soft excerpts. Contrast to the pleasue to be found listening to Herrmann's own carefully compiled much shorter suites.

I note on the Real Soundtrack on Rhino's disc - one finds all 50 cues are recorded at exactly the same level - because this how soundtracks are supposed to be (clearly) heard in a cinema.

The biggest thrill in this Chandos CD was purported to be the piano concerto sequence in "Hangover Square". Which instead turned out to be a dreadful thumping exercise with the piano keys apparently dampened to not sound like a piano at all. Comparison's with Thibaudet's "Warsaw Concerto" suggest this lack of charm and excitement was either due to Herrmann's poor attempt at a pastiche concerto or much more likely because Chandos's engineers totally failed to separate the piano from the rest of the orchestra.

Lastly, one cannot fail Chandos's art department. Their efforts to make this CD appear to be a really indispensable Herrmann recording really worked (on me).

However their thick booklet is not as generous as it might appear. Two thirds being translations into French and German and another 7 pages devoted to extolling the careers of the 3 principal participants. All of this at the expense of really exhaustive sleeve notes written by a film music expert who might possibly have made the Kane excerpts listenable by relating each change in the score to what was happening onscreen. This lack of thoroughness only serving to irritate those who revere Hollywood soundtrack composers as compared to record producers (after having exhausted the classical repertoire) for whom film music is now a helpful means to keep members of their company and needy English musicians continuously employed.

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Stokowski: Russian Orchestral Music
Stokowski: Russian Orchestral Music
Offered by Media Vortex
Price: £23.99

5.0 out of 5 stars CLASSIC RECORDINGS FOR ALL PHASE 4 ENTHUSIASTS, 9 May 2014
I'm not sure of the reason why this re-released Phase 4 CD costs 30 pounds but surely this price is a bit hard on those living on retirement incomes who owned these vinyl records when they were first released nearly 50 years ago? For many possibly the first classical music they were tempted to buy due to the allure of the Phase 4 process and rave reviews for some of Stokowski's best efforts.

What I for one find reassuring is Cala's recent release of Stokowski's Phase 4 Scheherazade has confirmed his recordings were just as great as one thought at the time. Only increasing the mystery as to why modern engineers refuse to use Decca's technique of separating various sections of the orchestra so lesser instruments can he heard as clearly as the strings. Which are also balanced-out with double basses being given a much stronger presence than usual.

The merits of this collection of Russian favorites needs no extolling by me but I can't help mentioning Stokowski's very loud pulses starting Marche Slave obviously do not follow Tchaikovsky's intentions but once heard make every other version by illustrious Russian conductors appear pathetically wimpy.

But to pay so much to hear this Marche Slave is simply not fair. But hang on - all is not lost. On Japanese Amazon this disc is one of a "Decca Best Plus 50" series - all selling for $10. For postage one pays another $10 but when they say "Express Delivery" they mean it - and it was on my Las Vegas doorstep in less than 2 days! Therefore for a very reasonable price (approx. 13 English pounds) one can own a super-high-quality Japanese CD and enjoy that incredible Phase 4 sound just as remembered from those precious scratchy vinyl records dating back to the late 60's.


Pennies From Heaven II
Pennies From Heaven II
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £38.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VALUABLE BBC AFTERTHOUGHT, 15 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Pennies From Heaven II (Audio CD)
With no reviews and minimal product description I'll attempt to explain why this confusing CD is still an essential purchase for all those who want to hear 10 vital songs there were not included in what was thought to be a complete 2-CD 48-song soundtrack package issued by the BBC in 1990. A little bit later someone at the BBC must have noticed these glaring omissions and a third CD was quickly added for a much rarer 3-CD set with 69 songs.

Thus this, the third CD, is a godsend for all those who only bought the first 2. However the 10 missing songs appear in the wrong order and are mixed-in with 10 weaker songs loosely connected to the series - chosen by someone who apparently owned the original 78's but who made no effort to construct an enjoyable CD. So one has to put up with 3 more versions of "Prairie Moon" plus a puerile Lew Stone medley of 6 novelty numbers with absolutely no connection to the music of the series.

As "Pennies" progressed Al Bowlly's plaintiff voice became that of the anti-hero in his many dream states and thankfully the missing 5 of his 10 numbers are on this extra CD. For his fans reason alone to buy it while supplies last.

In 1978 one fifth of the British population (12 million viewers) watched the original transmissions of "Pennies from Heaven". A never-to-be repeated collective experience when an entire nation was transfixed by a high-art concept of a sordid morality tale set in 1935 constantly switching to brilliant fantasy worlds with the same cast lip-syncing to 60 love songs whose lyrics invariably reversed the gloomy mood of the real story.

Infinite care was taken choosing songs to maximize viewers' disbelief as they saw and heard "escapist entertainment" being turned-in on itself. Reality TV with ordinary people behaving as if they were "stars" is one obvious byproduct. That's why my real hope in writing this review is that one day the BBC will do justice to this landmark series and issue a complete soundtrack with each song in the exact order it appeared. Which would fit perfectly on three 20-track CD's.
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Pennies From Heaven
Pennies From Heaven
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £44.73

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars GLARING BBC MISTAKES, 12 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Pennies From Heaven (Audio CD)
This, to put it mildly is a dysfunctional set. Because, despite having 12 years to get it right the BBC decided to omit 7 important songs from CD#1 which together with CD #2 was supposed to cover the entire story arc from beginning to end.

Anyone who saw this series in 1978 will remember the amazing production values allotted to the third featured song "Blue Room" where the mousy housewife Joan is transformed into a society hostess (in a perpetually blue glow) and is last seen Hoovering her home in full evening dress. To be interrupted by Nigel Havers, as an oily-smooth commercial traveler who attempts to kiss her after they both sing "Smoke gets in Your Eyes".

For me these 2 tunes kick-started all the fun created by Dennis Potter when mixing fantasy and reality in the 50 songs that followed. Why then does one have to look for these 2 songs as tracks number 5 and 2 on CD #3?

The obvious answer is the BBC compilers couldn't be bothered to get each song in the exact order they appeared on screen. Their most bizarre error being to place the most surreal and memorable combination of music and visuals in the entire series (when Arthur seduces the totally innocent Eileen accompanied by Al Bowlly's "Love is the Sweetest Thing) as the very last cut on this 3-CD set. Even more puzzling 3 other Bowlly songs were omitted from CD#1 - "Dreaming a Dream", ""Isn't it Heavenly" and "Fancy our Meeting".

One has to presume once this error was discovered the BBC hastily cobbled together a third CD which sneaks in the 7 missing songs as tracks #2, 4, 5, 9, 11, 16, and 21. To pad it out to 21 tracks they then decided to include 3 more versions of "Prairie Moon" and a dreadful vaudeville record of "Lew Stone Favorites"? Making up the 21 numbers are confusing alternative versions of tunes already on the first 2 CD's.

It occurs to me this elimination of several vital Al Bowlly songs was a hangover from the days soon after the TV transmission when the Decca Company (who had the rights?) issued 29 great songs on a double LP (with 10 by Bowly - the alter ego of Arthur Parker) whereas the 2 Official BBC LP's seemed to be a disconnected hotchpot of "leftovers" Decca didn't own.

I know these complaints are unimportant considerations for Amazon customers buying these CD's for their mums to enjoy as "mood music" but to mess around with the order of dramatic events (and carefully chosen songs to accompany them) is surely is a typical example of the imperious BBC not taking into consideration that there are still a few of us around who appreciate great art when it does so rarely appear on the box.

As time passes "Pennies From Heaven" takes on a even greater historical significance. Like any great author Potter had a reason for putting the events of his story in a particular order. Wouldn't Dickens be annoyed if some of his chapters were omitted and tacked on later by a lazy publisher?


Kandinsky
Kandinsky
by Peter Vergo
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECT SIZE KANDINSKY REPRODUCTIONS, 3 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Kandinsky (Hardcover)
This is an all-inclusive catalogue (printed in Germany) of a major triple exhibition of 100 of Kandinsky's large oil paintings. Differing from Munich and Paris the Guggenheim opted for a small square format. Making this a much lighter, more easily handled tome than usual - and a perfect fit for Kandinsky's predominately squarish paintings.

As one would expect it has immaculate colour reproductions and extensive biographical essays by 3 leading Kandinsky authorities. All of which reinforces how fortuitous it was for both Samuel R Guggenheim and Kandinsky they formed a business relationship whereby his most forward-looking art left Europe for the New World.

Although the New York Times art critic wrote enthusiastically about the staging of this exhibition what one cannot accept is her initial remarks suggesting the Guggenheim has a tedius obligation to dust off its Kandinskys every 20 years to remind America there once was this austere Russian guy who invented Abstract Art. The implication being his work remains largely incomprehensible - except to a snooty clique who despise pretty sofa pictures.

I'll admit her comment "Kandinsky never met a diagonal he didn't like" was amusing and true. It also helps to refute her other statement "he never painted a perfect picture". If she's referring to a work of art where you cannot add or subtract one musical note or one element in a painting without ruining the entire composition this exhibition contains at least 2 of his many perfect paintings.

Namely "Composition 8" and "Three Sounds". The latter being one of his most ingenious compositions where despite not having one major diagonal line the central picture surface is being pulled vigourously to the 4 corners - one of which is empty! And what other artist could resolve a heavy red, black and purple circle in the upper corner of a horizontal canvas with a myriad of thin black lines and a few pale circles.

"Accent in Pink" is another winner. The entire picture held together by one small white circle in the botton left corner. Although much emphasis is placed on his theoretical and spiritual approach to colour, during his Bauhaus period I see a supremely confident happily-married genius whose hobby was setting himself impossible compositional challenges - and inevitably finding the (god-given) inspiration to come-up with mind-boggling solutions.

But when forced to return to Paris in 1933 it's undeniable his paintings became more whimsical and diffuse. Without the stimulating competitive atmosphere of the Bauhaus he retreated into his own world - one which even his staunchest supporters find less accessible. Nevertheless in 1935 he produced "Seccession". Not so much a painting as a lexicon. A discordant colour palette which 30 years later became the norm in the 60's Psychedelic Art era. Sadly, in virtual exile during the dark days of WW2, he could never have guessed his fame and influence would continue to grow unabated during the following 65 years. But neither would he be too pleased to know during this period not one major artist has emerged to fill his shoes.

To become more familiar with the beginning of Kandinsky's roller-coaster career I'd like to recommend a wonderful catalogue for an exhibition which never left Germany in 2009 "Kandinsky - The Complete Prints". Containing 100% accurate reproductions of every single print that left Kandinsky's hand . Most of them safely stored in Gabrielle Munter's cellar to be handed over to the Lenbachhaus in 1957. The culmination of an engrossing romantic saga. Requiring the purchase of at least 4 more Kandinsky books!
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Looking for Hamlet
Looking for Hamlet
by Marvin W. Hunt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ONLY FOR FOR CURIOUS ACADEMICS, 7 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Looking for Hamlet (Hardcover)
I have to start by saying I was expecting a lot more from my very first "Hamlet Book" - ordered after being transfixed by Nicole Williamson's performance in the Tony Richardson 1997 Roundhouse production (recently aired on PBS).

On the plus side I've no complaints about the 2 very informative opening chapters which explain the differences between the three versions of Hamlet printed in Shakespeare's lifetime. Wherein one discovers that most of today's productions are based on the actors' memories of shorter performances by Elizabethan touring companies who of necessity had to hold the interest of less sophisticated audiences who were not prepared to sit or stand for the full 4 hour version.

But after this the author decided to list every critic's attitude as to what made Hamlet productions tick DURING THE NEXT FOUR CENTURIES. My overall complaint being I cannot see how any of this gathering confusion can make the slightest difference to one's enjoyment of a present-day performance.

As far as I could make out the only latter-day theory of any consequence is the Freudian explanation that his "madness" was a bi-product of a textbook Oedipus complex. But nowhere did I find a separate section dealing specifically with his relationship with Ophelia and why it deteriorated so rapidly. For some reason she was always coupled with his mother as the joint cause of his misogamy. But surely Gertrude deserved his wrath in the worst possible way whilst Ophelia, especially as played by Marion Faithful, would surely have been the ideal mate to ground Hamlet had not Shakespeare decided to add her demise to the list to ensure her brother had an even more volatile desire for revenge?

Nevertheless one persevered through 6 complex chapters hoping eventually to get to the dénouement which dealt with the merits of recent productions and performances - especially those committed to film. But instead, in the penultimate chapter entitled "Postmodern Hamlet" Mr. Hunt introduces his own personal involvement in the to and fro between various American academics who have come up with some incredible crackpot theories about Hamlet's lack of motivation. From which one deduces nothing more than these papers are written solely to stir up controversy amongst other American academics - with the side benefit of helping to reinforce their highly paid sinecure college appointments.

What I was actually hoping for can be better found in the 5-star Amazon reviews of various Hamlet movies by writers who nearly always express unalloyed enthusiasm for this play as a great work of art (needing no heavy-handed analysis). One that never dates and will continue to offer wonderful solo opportunities for leading actors from here until eternity.

What would have been nice would not to read endless opinions as to whether the ghost was a figment of Hamlet's imagination or a malevolent influence whose orders were predestined to end in mincemeat but a detailed analysis by Mr. Hunt of the trajectory of the entire story - if necessary with charts to make it that much clearer.

Finally I wonder what harm it would have done (except in snobby academics' eyes) had the author inserted some of his own personal opinions as to which recent productions and actors he considers have got closest to fulfilling Shakespeare's original intentions - whilst he was busy writing 3 other plays in the same year.


Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border (Phillips Collection)
Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border (Phillips Collection)
by Wassily Kandinsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.00

5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECT KANDINSKY TRIBUTE, 13 July 2013
Like many others (apparently) I was doubtful about buying a fairly expensive 136-page book about only one painting which was likely to be rather dry as it had to contain 9 pages of scribbled preparatory drawings owned by the Stadtische Gallery in Munich.
What I found instead was the first Kandinsky book consciously designed to be a visual feast. Achieved firstly by eliminating any dualities by never filling opposing pages exactly the same way. Next they mixed-in every coloured sketch or watercolour related to the Painting with White Border. Thus one gets interesting sub-sections devoted to other subjects like Troikas (sled pulled by 3 horses), St. George and later works using the border device. Throw in 8 double-page spread enlargements of the central area of these paintings and one is constantly blown away by Kandinsky's technical virtuosity - particularly in the vibrant watercolours.
However I found the most valuable visual aid to be a photograph of the Guggenheim's painting and the Phillips's Sketch #1 standing side by side. Firstly the "sketch" is much bigger than one thought. Second, only in this photo can one appreciate the "depth-effect" of the big picture which one never gets with a flat-on reproduction. Only here (if one looks hard enough) does St.George and his lance come to the forefront with everything around him receding in a series of plains. So rather than the white border what makes this painting so relevant is it provided the impetus to fully dissolve space later in 1913 in Composition 6 which has the same descending diagonal design but with the area St. George occupied now the entrance to a white abyss.
With the further complexities of Composition 7 coming soon after it's commendable that editor Elsa Smithgall decided to edit out all such tempting diversions and concentrate on just one painting. Making this book a perfect entree for all Kandinsky doubters who feel overwhelmed when faced by his incredibly diverse output. For those who want notes and references and essays they are all here too but mainly one gets beautiful accurately printed reproductions on page after page. One can but hope this is the first of many attempts to zero in on specific paintings and watercolors which help to illuminate the process by which a genius eventually arrives at the perfect solution. When for instance will there be a book devoted to his fascinating 1908/09 Fauve period?
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Kiss Me Kate: MUSIC FROM THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE
Kiss Me Kate: MUSIC FROM THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £12.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TEPID EASY-LISTENING SOUNDTRACK, 21 May 2013
MGM/Rhino seem to have a rule that listeners to their soundtrack series should not hear one word of spoken dialogue or any other non-musical SOUNDS to distract them from taking in every single note played by the MGM studio orchestra.

Clearly most reviewers like this "easy-listening" approach but what about this movie's fans who want to be reminded of what's happening on screen? For instance would it do any harm to hear Ann Miller say "Go Boys Go!" with which "Too Darn Hot" begins? Apparently it would.

In similar fashion tell-tale lines of dialogue leading into almost every Kiss Me Kate song have been censored in case they might create an image of who's singing the song. And in a movie revered for its dance routines even the lightest dance steps have been erased to ensure listeners can't visualise the intense physical activity of the 4 principal dancers in "Tom, Dick or Harry".

Bringing me to the third sequence in "From this Moment On" which is justly famous for being choreographed by Bob Fosse to suit his unique style of jazz dancing. To establish the mood he wanted it starts with a very loud scream followed by the sound of rhythmic finger-snapping by Fosse and partner Carol Haney - before they spend a lot of time on or very close to the floor.

My question is why did MGM honchos decide to remove both the scream and finger-snapping and thus deny CD buyers the opportunity to understand and enjoy the sensation caused by Fosse's revolutionary creation? Which of course launched his long Broadway career.

Without waiting for an answer the good news is the REAL soundtrack containing plenty of distracting dialogue and dancing is still available in America from Amazon for $7.19. To my ears it has brighter sound and was obviously put together by someone who wanted to capture the spirit and vitality of the original movie - as seen and heard in a proper movie theater (The Ritz Woking) sometime in the 50's - when MGM musicals ruled.
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Tivoli 69 [DVD] [1969] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Tivoli 69 [DVD] [1969] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars LAST IRREPLACEABLE HODGES CONCERT, 27 April 2013
For true Ellington fans this is the last "authentic" Ellington Band. Because Johnny Hodges is still sitting center-stage - playing the same pivotal role he immediately assumed when joining the Duke 50 years earlier as a 22-year old. It has another huge bonus, the unusual addition to the band of Wild Bill Davis, who of course was responsible for giving Hodges's Verve recording career a huge boost when they first joined forces in 1961.

The other pleasure to be gained from this DVD is one can SEE what can only be imagined listening to the recordings made 26 days later at concerts in Manchester and Bristol. Issued by United Artists as "Duke Ellington's 70th Birthday Concert". These latter concerts were a lot more lively due to the enthusiastic response to the faster numbers - especially Satin Doll - but in essence it's the same program with some minor omissions. Notably no vocals from Tony Watkins, no Tootie for Cootie and no medley.

The big bonus is to SEE the legendary sax section in extreme close up. Is there a more beautiful sight in music than a side view of 5 gleaming gold saxophones being played in unison? The real force behind the "Ellington effect". Being short one trombone there were in fact 6 saxes. The sixth Rorris Turney, coming forward for a tenor-sax duel in In Triplicate (as it was later named) and seeming to win (where non-breathy sound is concerned).

Although the cameras do occasionally miss filming whoever is taking a short solo this DVD replicates exactly what one would see and hear if sitting on stage - as I did at the Royal Festival Hall in the late 50's - when the Musicians Union finally allowed Duke to tour Europe again.

The high point of every concert being when the magisterial Johnny Hodges performed his 3 number melodic magic. In this instance especially poignant as he was to die 6 months later. But here he is clearly enjoying the camaradie of the greatest sax section in the history of jazz. Especially happy beside Russell Procope - who plays a great solo in 4:30 Blues. Lastly, there is a wonderful low key encore with Wild Bill and the Duke enjoying a respectful low key duet on Black Swan. Showcasing their mastery of the tonal possibilities of a Hammond organ and a grand piano

The thought occurs why would this band, half of whom were well over 60, spend a month criss-crossing Europe in chilly November? Requiring long and short flights, being transported from cold exteriors to over-heated interiors (in this concert sweating under TV lights) etc.?

This DVD provides the obvious explantion. As can be seen from their demeanour none of these musician/virtuosos would choose to remain relaxing at home when offered one more opportunity to be on the road "doing their thing" before appreciative audiences who fully understood the artistic and historic role Duke Ellington played in making jazz America's greatest contribution to world culture.


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