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Wilf (Gloucester, England)

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The Castafiore Emerald (The Adventures of Tintin)
The Castafiore Emerald (The Adventures of Tintin)
by Hergé
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.69

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sophisticated Pleasure, 19 Feb 2007
Rather than the adventure/action nature of all the other Tintin stories, this one is a hilarious and extremely well-crafted comedy of manners in which all the protagonists are thrown together and have to 'endure' each other's company over a period of time.

Within a static setting (Marlinspike Hall and its environs) all of the main characters that we have come to know-and-love-so-well appear, and it is the various interactions between them that provide the bones of the story and the humour. The main story revolves around the three distinctive characters of Bianca Castafiore (the 'Milanese Nightingale'), Professor Cuthbert Calculus (of international Man-on-the-Moon fame) and Captain Haddock (formerly crusty sea-dog, now crusty country squire and owner of Marlinspike Hall), and their relationships with each other. Going on around this central theme are various sub-plots, the main one being the imagined theft of the Castafiore Emerald followed by the actual theft, and all the chaos and confusion that arises. And around this, there are further goings-on such as the presence of a gypsy community nearby and the relations between Castafiore and the press. There are also numerous hilarious contributions from subsidiary characters and situations, such as crossed phone-lines, a talking parrot, a LAZY builder, Jolyon Wagg the insurance salesman (the way Castafiore deals with him is hysterical), the Thomson Twins and even the local fire brigade.

Tintin himself is peripheral to the humourous substance of the story, but does most of the running around and sleuthing (ably assisted, of course, by the Thomson Twins - not!) and is ultimately responsible for tying all the threads together and bringing about a satisfactory conclusion.

In addition to this brilliantly well-crafted and very very funny tale, Herge's drawings are absolutely first class, with each picture being not only perfectly executed, but also a skilful composition - the effect of this is a slim, 60 page comic that is as rich and satisfying as a 350 page novel (and is accessible to children - my cousin Tim and I and our sisters all loved Tintin dearly, even as young children).

If you don't already have any Tintin books, then I urge you to rectify that immediately - you'll be giving yourself (and any kids you may have) a real treat!


Cigars of the Pharoah (The Adventures of Tintin)
Cigars of the Pharoah (The Adventures of Tintin)
by Hergé
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.69

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Not Amongst Herge's Best, 19 Feb 2007
As has already been noted by several ealier reviewers, Cigars Of The Pharoah really is not worthy of so many of Herge's other books.

Indeed, the story is a very confusing and untidy affair, with the action shifting abruptly from one part of the globe to a completely different one within the space of a couple of pictures. The plot lines behave in a similar fashion, and previously unknown individuals and organisations enter the story without explanation and little apparent relevance. And it ends in an ambiguous and unsatisfying way. (I'm very interested to see what an earlier reviewer said about this book originating as a strip cartoon).

This is a great shame, as it has (IMO) one of the most attractive covers and lots of other wonderful artwork. In fact, its because of the artwork that I've given it 3 stars rather than 2. (Pity there wasn't more of the GREAT Egyptian scenery - I reckon Herge missed a trick there).

Nevertheless, for any real Tintin fan, there are still things to enjoy in this book, and a proper collection wouldn't be complete without it.


Blues
Blues
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £12.95

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Earth to Hendrix: Jimi.......Jimi?..............Where are you, man?......, 17 Feb 2007
This review is from: Blues (Audio CD)
Like the previous reviewer, I also am a fan of blues guitar music (a HUGE fan) and greatly appreciate the talents of Leadbelly, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bo Diddley, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Guitar Watson, Fred McDowell, Rev Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Elmore James etc (and even one or two white guys !). And, entirely worthy of inclusion in this catalogue of blues brilliance, is Jimi Hendrix.

One of the best things about the blues is the fact that it provides such a good framework for its practitioners to develop their own styles and sounds, each making their own unique contribution to the genre. Well, Jimi fits seemlessly into this tradition. Indeed, Jimi's contribution could be considered as particularly interesting - on one hand, he is entirely steeped in traditional blues, while on the other hand, he personifies his own generation, his howling screeching wailing guitar (plus sustain and feedback off his speakers) being the very embodiment of the psychedelic experience.

Furthermore, Jimi is capable, in my opinion, of communicating deeper and more intense emotion in both his guitar and voice than almost any other musician, which, alongside his technical virtuosity, is quite simply the perfect combination for crying the blues.

As for this CD, its definitely a mixed bag - ranging from those that originated as warm-ups, jams and impromptu performances, to some old favourites, to some gems that would have been worthy of general release in their own right. While some of the content is quite 'dry', others (like Mannish Boy, Voodoo Chile Blues, Once I Had A Woman and both versions of Hear My Train) are superb and there is even one track that I consider to be a genuine masterpiece! Born Under A Bad Sign!! This track is not only a great classic (Albert King & Booker T Jones), but the result of Jimi's treatment is a classic cover version, and is one of the most exquisite electric blue howls I have EVER heard! (Cream's cover of the same song -also brilliant- is an interesting comparison).

All in all, I consider this release to be a very worthwhile contribution to the body of Jimi's published music, and well worth adding to your Hendrix or blues collection. Why only 4 stars? Because this CD doesn't contain my favourite version of Hear My Train A Comin' (the Hawaii rendition, which is a serious contender for my-all-time-No.1-favourite-blues-track) and because some of the material serves best as 'wall-paper'. Of course, how many other artists could stand up so well to having their every recorded note picked over so thoroughly?!

Finally, one of the great pleasures of having been listening to Hendrix for 20 odd years is that, through much of this time, there has been a steady trickle of previously-unreleased material coming through (such as the Rainbow Bridge concert and First Rays Of The New Rising Sun). This has had the effect of sustaining fans with new material (and has included some of his very very best work), even though he left us all those years ago. This CD is such a release, and anyone who likes the blues or any of Jimi's music will get something from it.

"Music is Magic, Magic is Life" -JH-
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2010 4:37 PM BST


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth to Hendrix: Turn round.........Come back.........., 15 Feb 2007
Please overlook the overly mean 3 star rating given by the reviewer below - the deduction of 2 stars seems to be down to the recording quality, which is hardly a reflection on the artistry of the performance! Indeed, the technical problems that beset this concert appear to have stemmed from the logistics arising from the location (inside the Haleakala volcano), and the magnetic fields there. For those who would rather hear this performance than NOT hear it, the somewhat iffy sound should not be a problem!

As for the sleeve notes describing the performance as the 'Holy Grail' for Hendrix fans, they're spot on! I've been waiting to hear this concert for about twelve years. I even tried to find the film, Rainbow Bridge, on video, so that I might hear part of this concert. (Incidentally, Jimi only agreed to play this concert for the film in return for funding for his Electric Ladyland studio - he had nothing at all to do with the film project).

Please, my friends, let me tell you that I was NOT disappointed! And in such an attractive album cover - clearly the artwork was done by a fan.

There is no question that this is the loosest, most flowing performance from Jimi I've heard. A really beautiful set, with Jimi on top form - refreshed and renewed by getting back in touch with his musical roots (in the bass-playing of Billy Cox).

For me, the highlights of this performance are in the morning session. Very tidy and focussed, he gives a recital full of feeling, with an absolutely beeaauutiful version of Hear My Train A Comin' and wonderful versions of others, especially In From The Storm and Message To Love.

Believe me folks, this is the music I was born to hear - Jimi screeching and howling and wailing, and with such deep, deep feeling and great, great soul...... Its fair to say that his music has transported me to the most wild and beautiful places of the heart, enriching my enjoyment of life beyond measure. Thank you Jimi.

"Music is Magic, Magic is Life" - JH


Are You Experienced
Are You Experienced
Offered by Giant Entertainment
Price: £15.96

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth to Hendrix: Come back, come back...., 14 Feb 2007
This review is from: Are You Experienced (Audio CD)
Well, there's very little I can say that you haven't already heard from my fellow reviewers, but this bandwagon deserves jumping on.

What a smashing debut from a band with no history together. Having said that of course, musically speaking, Jimi had already walked a long hard road and arrived in England with many songs he was itching to give sound to. Much of this album reflects Jimi's experience and maturity, a couple of brilliant examples being Red House, which has become a blues standard, and Are You Experienced, which is an absolutely mesmerising number with one of his most beautiful (though fairly brief) solos.

If you are new to Jimi's music (is there anyone in the Western Hemisphere who hasn't heard Purple Haze?), or are an Experience fan already (congratulations), but haven't already got this album (how the hell have you missed it?), then I recommend that you buy it.

PS. Note to Experienced fans: if you haven't yet discovered Jimi's post-Experience work (when he hooked up again with an old army buddy -Billy Cox- on bass), then I URGENTLY suggest that you do. You're in for a treat - esp. Woodstock, Band Of Gypsys and Rainbow Bridge concerts.


Remember Butler: The story of Sir William Butler
Remember Butler: The story of Sir William Butler
by Edward McCourt
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What An Incredible Life, 14 Feb 2007
To have been born into an upper-class British family in the latter half of the nineteenth century was to have been born into a time when extraordinary lives could be lived by ordinary people. A time when young men in the service of the Crown had much of the world at their feet.

Such a man was William Butler. A 'Tiperary' Irishman, Butler joined the Army as a young man and, after a remarkable career (consisting mainly of adventuring in almost pristine landscapes, so it seems to me!), he rose to the rank of General and became Governor of South Africa prior to the Boer War.

Its been several years since I read this book (a re-read is overdue), but my main recollections include: an incredible journey across an almost untouched North American wilderness, all the way up to Hudson Bay, to survey the region; his participation in the relief column belatedly and controversially sent to the rescue of General Charles Gordon in Khartoum; his governorship of South Africa, which ended very shortly before the outbreak of the Boer War - Butler staunchly resisted the descent into war, believing it to be morally reprehensible and unjustifiable.

There are probably areas of Butler's incredible life that I have failed to recall, but suffice it to say that he was a man living and active at the absolute apogee of one of the great empires of human history. This book is a window into another time and another universe almost, and anyone who's interested in the relatively recent history of western civilization should read this book.


Anvil Of Stars
Anvil Of Stars
by Greg Bear
Edition: Paperback

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising, 12 Feb 2007
This review is from: Anvil Of Stars (Paperback)
The reviewer before me has already done a very good job and I agree with him entirely. However, this book is so good and so unusual in its themes that it is worth reiterating many of them:

A truly enveloping pathos that, in conjunction with the setting and the storyline, gives the book an intense and profound emotional backdrop;

A great underlying sense of unease that remains pretty much throughout the story;

A very effective and intriguing use of science, and very imaginitive use of differing physical and environmental conditions in other places in the universe;

The author doesn't shy away from any of the 'issues' that the story leads him to and deals with all of them very effectively;

Lots of novel and original ideas (indeed, the story itself is entirely unique) such as, how to deal with the immensity of the distances you would need to travel in space to get anywhere (and the time required);

A genuinely satisfying conclusion to a story written over the course of two books.

If you enjoy being mentally stimulated and intrigued in ways that can only be achieved by the best sci-fi- writing, then you really should read this book - this book, IMO, exemplifies the work of an author who exemplifies the very reasons for which I read sci-fi. (Actually, I'm certain that non sci-fi readers would enjoy this book - there's even a way in which it made me think of Lord of the Flies!).


Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa
Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa
by Charles Miller
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Campaign, 30 Jan 2007
For anyone who's interested in the less well-trodden byways of European imperial military history, and with an African flavour, then this book really is a must-read. In total contrast to the static slugging match on the Western Front, the East African campaign is almost entirely a story of manoeuvering, of marching and counter-marching, of pursuit and evasion. And, as ever in war, it is a story of the endurance and will and suffering of men. More particularly, this campaign was fought largely by various contingents of colonial troops, with many evocative names such as The Kashmir Rifles, 101st Bombay Grenadiers, The King's African Rifles, the Askari (German African troops), 130th Baluchis etc. Plus, of course, various British units inc. the 'Sportsmen', the 'Stockbrokers' and the 'Bankers'! - actually, they were all battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, and known collectively as the 'Frontiersmen'! I grew up in Kenya and, indeed, my grandfather served with the East Africa Mounted Rifles!

India, South Africa and Rhodesia (as it was then) nobly rallied to the cause and sent valuable contingents, as did the Gold Coast, Nigeria, and the West Indies.

I vividly remember visiting the battlefield of Salaita Hill, where all the German positions on this small symmetrical hill with a great field of fire are essentially exactly as they were left after the battle. I even found the remains of what must have been a defective British artillery shell lying in the outer German defences, and several Mauser rifle cartridges (possibly from the obsolete, black powder using, smoke belching M 71 rifle most of the Askari were equipped with). This location is absolutely in the middle of nowhere, and I must say that the experience was surreal - the notion that men should come to this place, from Europe and around the world, hauling heavy weapons behind them, risking death from dehydration, starvation and disease only to try and kill each other! I wonder what the Africans thought of this lunacy.

Finally, I remember my history master at my then school showing us a copy of this book during lessons. Years later, I mentioned to my parents that I had unsuccessfully been looking for a copy of my own. Then, one Christmas several more years later, they were very pleased to present me with the elusive object of my search - apparently, they had made enquiries via every possibility, eventually succeeding through an American friend who knew a New York bibliophile and book-buyer who specialised in British colonial history!(amazing to see it on Amazon). Having now read (and reread) the book, I can personally and enthusiastically attest to the quality of this book as a treatment of its subject, and to its readability, its depth of detail and the scope of the research behind it. A gem!


Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology
Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology
Price: £7.94

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant, 29 Jan 2007
For any JJ Cale fan (or anyone else for that matter), this double cd should be a must-have. Fifty tracks for a fiver!! It would still be good value at THREE times the price (which is what I paid for it a few years ago!).

But regardless of price, this compilation is a very representative sampling of the great man's work, filled with marvellous music and giving glimpses of various of JJ's influences including Cajun and Latino, and all done in his inimitable style. There's even at least one rare live recording which is not only a very good track, but special because of the man's avoidance of publicity. In fact, if you are not already a fan, the chances are good that this is because he has successfully evaded your notice - indeed, it almost seems as if he has spent his entire career trying to escape his own success! Makes a nice change, in my opinion. Nevertheless, you know what they say about talent!

If you've never heard any of JJ Cale's music, then I really would urge you to give it a go. And, at the price of this double cd, you really wouldn't be making a very big mistake now, would you?!


Earth 2150
Earth 2150

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat underrated great, 24 Jan 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Earth 2150 (Video Game)
I've been playing RTS games since Dune II and I have to say that 2150 is a blinder! Truly in the classic RTS mould of C&C, RedAlert 1&2, TotalAnnihilation etc, this game is a more than worthy addition to the world of twisted metal, burning wrecks, fire belching gun turrets and glorious bloody victory, as pioneered by its illustrious forebears.

Indeed, this game was entirely responsible for giving the genre a much needed injection, when everyone had pretty much had a gutsfull of the type - suddenly all of your TA fantasies came true and you could rotate the camera and zoom in and put your eyes next to an incoming enemy robot and see (and hear) the rockets from your base defences arcing in and smashing into it!! Or zoom out and see the whole battlefield and all the fire and smoke and shot flying around! flipping GREAT!!! There are loads of good units, 3 very individual factions (all with distinct weapons and chassis and techs), some wicked weapons and defences and many totally original ideas.

And I have to say, 2150 has absolutely the very best and most original campaign missions I think I have ever played in RTS (like locating, gaining access to and downloading software from a mysterious alien computer, or reoccupying the ruins of a long abandoned base and investigating the tunnel system beneath it). And because the game is so flexible in its gameplay, there are frequently multiple approaches to achieving your objectives, eg if you're having serious trouble getting across that narrow bridge and the winding pass through the mountains just doesn't look nice, then....I know! I'll dig a tunnel! Hooray!!

And of course, the graphics are superb and it all looks beautiful. Very realistic weather, genuinely effective day/night, easy controls, effective command systems, loads of very good maps, great stability (can't remember any crashing), a decent AI, and on and on. Truly a great game. At the time, it was the next big step forward. Huge replayability and top multiplayability.

Lastly, one favourite glimpse, a Kruschev tank with twin 120mm heavy cannons firing at a target - a great CRACK as each gun fires a flat-trajectory high-velocity round, the barrels recoil and the chassis rocks on its springs. Hot Damn! I can smell the cordite.


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