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Sid Nuncius (London)
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St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg
Price: £13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great singing, variable music, 23 Oct 2014
This review is from: St. Petersburg (Audio CD)
Bartolome Mesa Gil has said much of what I was going to write about this album, so I won't repeat it all. The essence is this: Bartoli is brilliant, singing with wonderful technique, exceptional beauty of tone and true engagement with the text and music, and the disc is worth getting for this alone, I think. The music itself is variable in quality, though, and I find the disc as a whole begins to pall after a while. This means that this isn't in the same class as Mission, for example, simply because the composers here generally aren't as inventive and skilful as Steffani.

I won't be playing this nearly as often as some of her other discs, but if you like Bartoli's work (as I do) then this is still very recommendable.


Close-Up Series
Close-Up Series
Price: £35.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - among Suzanne Vega's best work, 22 Oct 2014
This review is from: Close-Up Series (Audio CD)
All of these Close Up albums from Suzanne Vega are really excellent. For me these stripped-down re-workings of her songs shed a new light on many of them and in a lot of cases I prefer them to the originals.

That haunting voice is still wonderful - a little huskier and more breathy perhaps which only adds to the atmosphere of the recording. The principal instrument is her acoustic guitar, played beautifully and often solo but augmented by delicate additions of things like organ and electric lead where appropriate. It takes really good material to shine with such minimal production, and these complex, often quirky songs show what very fine music and lyrics Vega has produced. The whole thing sounds intimate and personal (as was the intention), made more so by being quite close-miked and beautifully recorded. It is simply excellent throughout with great hits sounding original and fresh (there is a simply stunning version of Luka, for example), and less well-known songs making you wonder why they are less well-known.

You almost certainly know Suzanne Vega's work if you are considering this, and are perhaps wondering whether you need new versions of songs you already own and love. I wondered the same thing but took a chance on this series and I'm delighted I did. I was worried it might be like those outtakes and demo versions which get added as bonus tracks to CDs and often aren't very good. These albums are nothing like that at all - they are a joy. This package also contains a disc of material not included on the original four CDs and DVD of a fine live set, making it excellent value, too

I think this box contains some of Suzanne Vega's best work, and I recommend it very warmly.


Micro Filter for BT / Talk Talk / Sky Broadband- Cable Type
Micro Filter for BT / Talk Talk / Sky Broadband- Cable Type
Offered by HDMIPerfect
Price: £2.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A good microfilter, 21 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good microfilter. Bought to replace a filter which had failed, it has done the job very well and I'm very happy with it.


By Laline Paull The Bees (First Edition, First Impressio)
By Laline Paull The Bees (First Edition, First Impressio)
by Laline Paull
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 21 Oct 2014
I'm afraid I didn't get on at all well with this book. Other reviewers whose opinions I respect liked it a lot but I really, really didn't.

The narrative is of the life of a lowly worker bee in a hive, who has gifts above her birth. It purports to be based on how bees interact and their social organisation, but I'm afraid it didn't convince me in any way. The characters seemed to me to be crude stereotypes designed to make allegorical points about social exclusion, sexism and the like. I am all in favour of this, but it was so crudely done as to be simply risible in places - more like a clumsy Disney cartoon than a novel with serious, subtle points to make.

The depiction of the hive and the colony was too much for me to take as well. I fully accept that some anthropomorphism is necessary and acceptable in a book like this, so I was prepared to be pretty forgiving - but there surely are limits. Doors into rooms of the hive? Sanitation bees with dustpans and brushes? Bees with hands and human-like genitalia (and human-like desires and abuses)? Perhaps things like this would have worked if handled rather more subtly and intelligently, but to me it just felt absurd and, to be honest, patronising. The book read to me like an attempt at a mixture of Brave New World, Watership Down and TH White's (brilliant) depiction of an ant colony in The Sword In The Stone, but without the intelligence, depth or finesse of any of them.

I'm genuinely sorry to have to say all this because I dislike writing very critical reviews of books, especially when an author has tried to do something unusual and imaginative, but I'm afraid that's my honest response. Plenty of discerning people liked this, so do read their reviews before dismissing it on my say-so, but I really can't recommend this.


Aquostic(Stripped Bare) [VINYL]
Aquostic(Stripped Bare) [VINYL]
Offered by nagiry
Price: £14.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but..., 20 Oct 2014
I am very, very fond of the Quo and have been since I first heard Pictures Of Matchstick Men getting on for half a century ago now. I was looking forward to this because I also like to hear new, original takes on familiar material but I'm sorry to say that for me Aquostic doesn't quite come off.

I think for me the problem is that they don't quite get far enough from the original arrangements to make it really interesting. The use of acoustic guitars, strings and accordion do occasionally bring a new feel, but there's still bass and drums and, despite the change in instrumentation, the arrangements stick pretty closely to the originals in tempo and harmony. Rick and Francis's singing is pretty much a copy of the original versions but reined back so it has almost no bite or power, and to me much of the time these songs sound more like bland, watered down versions of the originals rather than interesting and revealing new arrangements.

Some examples which really give a song life by rearranging it are things like Clapton's version of Layla on Unplugged, James Taylor's take on Sam Cooke's Handy Man, The Imagined Village's amazing version of Slade's Come On Feel The Noize[1] or – rather surprisingly – Minnie Driver's great version of Stevie Wonder's Masterblaster on Ask Me To Dance. I'm afraid these Quo remakes aren't in the same league.

I'm sorry to be so critical of a band I like and admire, and of what should be a worthy project, but I really don't think this adds up to much. It's OK but no more than that, and can't really recommend it.

[1]Yes, I know - but Amazon's filters won't let the original spelling of the first word through.


Aquostic (Stripped Bare)
Aquostic (Stripped Bare)
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but..., 20 Oct 2014
I am very, very fond of the Quo and have been since I first heard Pictures Of Matchstick Men getting on for half a century ago now. I was looking forward to this because I also like to hear new, original takes on familiar material but I'm sorry to say that for me Aquostic doesn't quite come off.

I think for me the problem is that they don't quite get far enough from the original arrangements to make it really interesting. The use of acoustic guitars, strings and accordion do occasionally bring a new feel, but there's still bass and drums and, despite the change in instrumentation, the arrangements stick pretty closely to the originals in tempo and harmony. Rick and Francis's singing is pretty much a copy of the original versions but reined back so it has almost no bite or power, and to me much of the time these songs sound more like bland, watered down versions of the originals rather than interesting and revealing new arrangements.

Some examples which really give a song life by rearranging it are things like Clapton's version of Layla on Unplugged, James Taylor's take on Sam Cooke's Handy Man, The Imagined Village's amazing version of Slade's Come On Feel The Noize[1] or – rather surprisingly – Minnie Driver's great version of Stevie Wonder's Masterblaster on Ask Me To Dance. I'm afraid these Quo remakes aren't in the same league.

I'm sorry to be so critical of a band I like and admire, and of what should be a worthy project, but I really don't think this adds up to much. It's OK but no more than that, and can't really recommend it.

[1]Yes, I know - but Amazon's filters won't let the original spelling of the first word through.


Mozart: The Piano Sonatas by Mitsuko Uchida (2001) Audio CD
Mozart: The Piano Sonatas by Mitsuko Uchida (2001) Audio CD
Offered by M&E Books-USA
Price: £39.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Mozart playing, 19 Oct 2014
I love Mitsuko Uchida's Mozart sonatas. She is to me, with the possible exception of Murray Perahia, the greatest Mozart pianist of our age.

Some people claim to have found Uchida's playing lacking in emotion, but this is music from the Classical era, between the contrapuntal complexities of the Baroque and the sweeping emotion of the Romantic, and one of its defining characteristics is its form or structure. There is plenty of feeling throughout the set - simple joy in the opening Allegro of K545, or lambent beauty in the Adagio cantabile of K333, for example - but it is expressed through carefully crafted form as well as inspired melodic themes and wonderful harmonic creativity and these shine through under Uchida's fingers. There are no sweeping gestures or great gushing outbursts, but for me Mozart's fabulous music comes straight from her heart and goes straight to mine.

Often in a dramatic performance by an actor restraint and control are far more effective in conveying deep feeling than a lot of roaring and gesticulating. Similarly here, where Uchida respects the music's inner structures and lets it speak for itself while obviously loving and feeling it. Consider her playing in the opening Allegro moderato of K330; no flashy tricks or overblown look-how-intensely-I'm-feeling-this techniques, but a lovely, lovely tone, immaculate technique and a wholly involving, beautiful delicacy which brings it completely alive. I couldn't ask for more.

This is the definitive Mozart set for me, and I don't say that lightly given the quality of the competition. I cannot commend this set too highly. Pure treasure.


The Sea
The Sea
Price: £9.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 18 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Sea (Audio CD)
I think this is an excellent album from Martha Tilston. I like her previous two albums (Machines Of Love And Grace and Lucy And The Wolves) very much, which consisted largely of her own songs. Here she has recorded an album of mainly traditional English songs, largely reflecting her family's strong musical traditions and involving her family and friends in the performances. The result is beautiful and haunting, I think.

Those of us who cut our folkie teeth in the late 60s and early 70s, will know songs like Lovely On The Water, Blackwater Side, Lowlands of Holland and so on very well, familiar from folk clubs and albums by Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Fairport and others. These are fine, fresh versions, though. Martha Tilston has a lovely voice for this material and she's an excellent guitarist - with more than a hint of her childhood family friend Bert Jansch in several places. Her fellow musicians are uniformly excellent, and even her uncle Kevin Whatley - an unlikely name on a folk album - shows he's a very competent singer here. The arrangements are very good, giving real atmosphere and meaning to each song and the whole album is a high class treat, in my view.

Martha Tilston is one of a good number of very fine, young-ish folk musicians performing now, and it is good to know that English folk music is in such excellent hands at the moment. If you have any interest in folk music, or just like a well-made album of lovely songs I can recommend this very warmly. It's a little gem.


Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen (2012) Audio CD
Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen (2012) Audio CD
Offered by M&E Books-USA
Price: £13.17

5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine album from Bruce Springsteen, 17 Oct 2014
I think this is a really fine Springsteen album. Although I have been a fan for decades I don't think that every album is a classic, but I suspect that this may turn out to be one. The man certainly hasn't lost any of his ability to write a fine song, and there is a passion and often a rage running through Wrecking Ball which gives it real power. There is also a variety of material and styles here - country, gospel and even a little rap make an appearance - with some deeply introspective, almost Nebraska-style moments through to driving rockers like the title track, which I find makes the whole thing a riveting listen from beginning to end.

It is the rage which strikes you most forcibly. Springsteen has always had a passionate love of his country and of its ordinary, decent people. He now also has a raw despair and fury at those who cheat those people and twist his country away from what he thinks it should and could be. This is thunderously and uncompromisingly overt in several songs - for example Jack Of All Trades ("If I had me a gun I'd find the bastards and shoot `em on sight") and Death To My Hometown:
"...Send the robber barons straight to hell -
Greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now
And brought death to my hometown."

Powerful stuff, and a great song which is sung with a fury and blame very different from the sad, fatalistic acceptance of economic hardship in songs like The River and My Hometown in the 80s. There is more on this album than just rage, though. Springsteen's strength as a songwriter has always been his ability to write a good, straightforward tune and to convey important human experiences and truths through singing about the small specifics of life, especially working life. He does a great job of that on this album and it is also good to see that he can still write a fine, direct love/lust song in You Got It.

That great voice is still just as great, and the production is, as always, excellent. There is, of course, one giant absentee and I found the huge gap left by Clarence Clemons yawned at me on occasions, despite a fine brass section. Clarence makes his only appearance on Land Of Hope And Dreams - Track 10 - and to hear him suddenly so far through the album was almost unbearably poignant. It is a great tribute to a man whose sound I have loved and which has followed me down three decades and more.

I warmly recommend this album, especially to those who may be wondering whether they really need another Springsteen album. I think you do need this one - it is excellent.

(By the way, the Deluxe Edition contains two extra songs tagged onto the end. For what it's worth, I think they are OK but nothing special. You may want to spend the little extra for the sake of completeness and for the extra artwork, but my feeling is that the album comes to a natural, well-judged close with We Are Alive and I actually prefer the album without them.)


Mozart: Coronation Mass K317; Vespers K339 /Kirkby * Robbin * Ainsley * George * Winchester Cathedral Choir * AAM * Hogwood by Emma Kirkby [Soprano], Catherine Robbin [Mezzo-Soprano], John Mark Ainsley [Teno (2012) Audio CD
Mozart: Coronation Mass K317; Vespers K339 /Kirkby * Robbin * Ainsley * George * Winchester Cathedral Choir * AAM * Hogwood by Emma Kirkby [Soprano], Catherine Robbin [Mezzo-Soprano], John Mark Ainsley [Teno (2012) Audio CD
Offered by M&E Books-USA
Price: £15.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful disc, 16 Oct 2014
This is a terrific re-release of two of my favourite Mozart recordings. The "Coronation Mass" and the Vespers date from 1779 and 1780 respectively and are among his true masterpieces of this period, with rich scoring, amazing harmonic invention, fabulous choral writing and some astonishingly beautiful aria-like movements. Laudate Dominum from the Vespers is among my very favourite movements in all of Mozart's work, which is really saying something.

These performances do full justice to such wonderful music. The Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood have been uniformly excellent for decades and this is well up to their customary level of brilliance. Hogwood uses quite large forces here and they play wonderfully, while the outstanding cast of singers are technically excellent and, to my ear, perfect in their interpretations of the text and sheer beauty of the sound they make. (I have been half in love with Emma Kirkby for years and this disc is one of the reasons why.) It's a lovely, uplifting and inspiring disc of truly great music which has given me huge pleasure for many years. Now that it is available at budget price it's an unmissable bargain too, and I recommend it in the warmest terms.


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