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M. Joyce (Cairo, Egypt)
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Carry On Up The Khyber [DVD]
Carry On Up The Khyber [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kenneth Williams
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.46

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best!, 8 Dec 2013
This review is from: Carry On Up The Khyber [DVD] (DVD)
This is one of the better "Carry Ons". I am firmly of the opinion that the best films in the series are those spoofing historical events and this journey up the Khyber Pass (it was actually filmed at the foot of Snowdon) is no exception. All the regulars are here, with the exception of Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor, and all are on top form.

Charles Hawtrey is in his definitive role, Private Widdle, and the versatile Peter Butterworth has his finest "Carry On" moment as Brother Belcher in the hilarious dinner party scene towards the end of the film. Roy Castle, in, I believe, his only "Carry On" appearance, does a good job in the "Jim Dale" role and he is well partnered by the delightful Angela Douglas (who doesn't look remotely Indian, incidentally) as Princess Jelhi. Terry Scott avoids his usual bluster as Sergeant Major McNutt and Bernard Bresslaw once again proves his versatility as the villainous Bungdit Din. Top honours, however, go to the Khasi of Kenneth Williams and to the matchless duo of Sidney James and Joan Sims as Sir Sidney and Lady Ruff-Diamond; Sid excels in a typical "sid" role, while Joan is just brilliantly funny...what an underrated actress she was!

There are a host of jokes, both corny and crude; high art it ain't (some jokes will have you gasping in disbelief), but funny it must certainly is.

Is this the best "Carry On"? Perhaps not, but it's definitely up there with the best of `em!


Lamaze Classic Discovery Book
Lamaze Classic Discovery Book
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Just the ticket!, 7 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this along with the recently reviewed "Freddie the Firefly" product from the same company for the baby son of a colleague who had recently returned to the UK from Cairo. Mum and baby both seem pleased and the price, packaging and dispatch could not be faulted.


The Very Best Of Gilbert & Sullivan - Very Good Condition
The Very Best Of Gilbert & Sullivan - Very Good Condition
Offered by Quick Discount Sales
Price: £20.00

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable compilation, 7 Dec 2013
This is essentially a highlights package from the Brent Walker series of videos of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. All of the full-length operas they recorded are featured here at least once, which makes this a particularly pleasing compilation, sensibly not including some of the less than effective vocal contributions from some of the "celebrity" guest artists drafted in for supposed box-office appeal.

The CD begins with Sullivan's most famous overture, "The Yeomen of the Guard", and as well as the choral "Cachucha" from "The Gondoliers", it features extended concerted pieces from "The Yeomen of the Guard" and "The Pirates of Penzance" (where Paul Hudson is a particularly effective Sergeant of Police). The soprano voice is show-cased in arias from "The Mikado", "HMS Pinafore", "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Princess Ida", beautifully sung respectively by Kate Flowers, Meryl Drower, Janis Kelly and Nan Christie. None of the famous tenor numbers appear, but we do have that splendid character tenor John Fryatt giving us Grosvenor's "Magnet and the Churn" from "Patience", a song usually taken by a baritone. It is good to be reminded of Donald Adams's definitive Sir Roderic in "When the Night Wind Howls" from "Ruddigore", while the patter trio from the same work is dispatched with impressive brio by the unlikely trio of Keith Michell, Ann Howard and Vincent Price. Other trios on the disc are "Three Little Maids" from "The Mikado" and "If You Go In" from "Iolanthe"; the latter is perhaps the most disappointing track on the CD, despite it featuring three of my favourite singers. Comic patter songs from "The Pirates of Penzance" and "The Sorcerer" receive impeccable performances from Keith Michell and Clive Revill, who also gives a touching account of "Tit Willow" from "The Mikado". Ko-Ko's duet with Katisha is included; Revill is partnered here by the wonderful Anne Collins, who also recreates her definitive partnership with Derek Hammond-Stroud's Bunthorne in their duet from "Patience", which receives a mini encore here. The CD ends with a charming rendition of Point and Elsie's duet from "The Yeomen of the Guard" by the American actor Joel Grey and the English soprano Elizabeth Gale.

Considering that the recordings are taken from TV movies, the sound is not at all bad and the major complaint concerns the poor packaging; there are no sleeve notes and the track listing is scattered with errors (wrong singers named) and spelling mistakes. However, this CD can be picked up very cheaply and these failings should not deter any potential purchasers, who will find much to enjoy here.


Bach: Cantatas
Bach: Cantatas
Price: £12.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Not just museum pieces, 24 Nov 2013
This review is from: Bach: Cantatas (Audio CD)
I have already posted this review elsewhere, but as this work has been reissued a number of times and in various formats, I thought that it might be useful to add it as appropriate. Others will, no doubt, have written authoritatively about the quality of the recording or the transfer, but I have confined myself largely to the merits of the performance.

With the release of the complete Bach cantatas by John Eliot Gardiner and Masaaki Suzuki, these recordings, made in 1957 (in Abbey Road) and 1967 (in the Stadthalle, Marbach) now seem something like museum pieces. It is certainly true that they are far from "authentic" performances, but they each have a great deal to offer, not least in terms of artistic sensitivity and singing.

The first disc shows its age more than the second; it features the cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (BWV 147) and the motet "Jesu, meine Freude" (BMV 227), more familiarly known as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Chorales were an important structural influence in Bach's work and they pervade the entire piece here. The cantata also concludes with a famous setting of this closing chorale.

The Geraint Jones Singers and Orchestra perform well under their conductor, but it would be foolish to pretend that this would be a first choice recording of this work. The solo singing is, however, something else. Thomas Hemsley's rather light baritone may be something of an acquired taste, but he is unfailingly musical in all he does and Helen Watts and Wilfred Brown are very fine indeed in their arias. The star of the show, however, is the young Joan Sutherland, whose performance of "Bereite dir, Jesu" is quite ravishing and is bereft of the idiosyncracies which marred some of her later recordings.

The second disc is of a more recent vintage and purists will find this more, if not entirely, to their taste.
Two cantatas are featured here, the rather grand "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" (BMV 140) and "Ein' feste Burg" (BMY 80), based on the familiar Lutheran hymn, with its heavyweight opening and rather lightweight conclusion.

The South German Madrigal Choir and Instrumentalists and the Consortium Musicum under Wolfgang Gönnewein provide expert accompaniment for a quite superb quartet of vocal soloists. The stylish tenor Theo Altmeyer is very fine indeed, but it is the participation of the Wagnerian bass Hans Sotin which intrigued me the most; his was a wonderful voice, of course, and it blends surprisingly well with the soprano of Elly Ameling and the mezzo of Janet Baker, both of whom, it is almost needless to add, were virtually without peer in this repertoire.

Although neither of these versions would probably these days be anyone's first choice recordings, together they represent an irresistible bargain, offering listeners the opportunity to not only hear some very fine singing, but also to compare Bach performing styles over the past half century.


Red Riding Trilogy [DVD]
Red Riding Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Paddy Considine
Price: £11.20

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three fine films; four excellent books., 24 Nov 2013
This review is from: Red Riding Trilogy [DVD] (DVD)
I actually saw the TV series before I read David Peace's quartet of novels. It was one of those programmes that kind of crept up on me; I was gripped by the final part, but didn't fully "take in" the first film.

Anyhow, on the strength of reading (and loving) "The Damned United", I turned to David Peace's so-called "Red Riding" quartet of novels and was immediately hooked. They were not an easy read...far from it...due not only to the uncompromising nature of the content, but also to the author's narrative style, but I found them extremely rewarding.

I decided that it was, therefore, time to revisit the TV series, marketed as "The Red Riding Trilogy". Herein lies, perhaps, the major difference between the films and the books; the films are a sequence of three, while the four books form a quartet.

The book that they chose not to film, "1977", was in many ways the most difficult and it is easy to see why this was not included. It focuses on the half-decent copper Bob Fraser and the burnt-out hack Jack Whitehead; one is left with a sense of regret, however, as this latter character is given a tantalizing cameo by the great Eddie Marsan in "1974", the first of the three films.

It is all too easy to make an unfavourable comparison between a film and the book on which it is based and, indeed, many of the reviews of this DVD set have done just that (I've been guilty of it myself, I should add), but while one might regret certain omissions and changes from the original (the ending of the film version of "1983" is rather more upbeat than the book, for example), it has to be said that these three films are very effective in their own terms and, it cannot be denied, have considerable artistic merit. Moreover, they are true both to the spirit and word of their original source, some passages of dialogue being lifted directly from the books.

The same writer, Tony Grisoni, is responsible for the script in all three films, but three different filmmakers are involved. All three do a superb job, but be warned; these films are as disturbing as they are complex and it is far from an east watch. They may on the face of it be thrillers, but we are very much in the realm of "film noir", a million miles away from Hollywood action movies. These are dirty, grimy films and even the colours have a grainy, washed out look to them.

This is especially true of the first film, "1974", in which a cynical young journalist (played by Andrew Garfield, then on the cusp of international stardom) returns home to Yorkshire, where he finds himself thrown into a nightmarish world of murder, sleaze and corruption. Garfield is terrific, as are Rebecca Hall and Sean Bean.
This film lays the foundations for the next two films and introduces us to the recurring characters played by David Morrissey and Warren Clarke (brilliant!).

The star of "1980" is undoubtedly Paddy Considine, surely one of the most underrated actors of his generation. The film focuses on police corruption and once again it makes pretty depressing, if riveting viewing. There is, however, some seriously good acting here; not only from Considine, but also from Maxine Peake (from whom I've never seen a bad performance) and from an actor hitherto unknown to me, Sean Harris, who quite takes your breath away as the corrupt policeman Bob Craven. In terms of acting, this is the pick of the three films.

The third film, "1983', resolves some, if not all, of the plot-lines introduced in the first two films; it is consequently in some ways more satisfying than the first two films and yet at the same time fails to plumb their emotional depths, despite some wonderful acting performances. David Morrissey is, of course, very much a known quantity and he's rarely less than excellent, but I wasn't entirely convinced by his character here. He plays Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson, who is plagued by guilt over his participation in the nefarious activities of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, but it is Mark Addy (whom I had hitherto considered primarily as a comic actor) who holds centre stage as the deeply flawed solicitor John Piggott. These two characters at least achieve some sort of redemption, as does the male prostitute BJ, stunningly played by Robert Sheehan. In a series chock-a-block with fabulous acting, two other actors stand out; Peter Mullan as the insidious Rev. Martin Laws and Daniel Mays, heart-breakingly good as Michael Myshkin, the mentally retarded man accused of the serial killings in 1974. There is also a chilling cameo by Joseph Mawle as the real life Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

To return to the point I was making at the start of this review; do I think that the television trilogy is better than the literary quartet? Well, actually, no, I don't. But do I think that these films work brilliantly? The answer, most emphatically, is "yes".


Bach: Cantatas BWV 80, 140, 147; Jesu, meine Freude
Bach: Cantatas BWV 80, 140, 147; Jesu, meine Freude
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just museum pieces, 8 Nov 2013
With the release of the complete Bach cantatas by John Eliot Gardiner and Masaaki Suzuki, these recordings, made in 1957 (in Abbey Road) and 1967 (in the Stadthalle, Marbach) now seem something like museum pieces. It is certainly true that they are far from "authentic" performances, but they each have a great deal to offer, not least in terms of artistic sensitivity and singing.

The first disc shows its age more than the second; it features the cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (BWV 147) and the motet "Jesu, meine Freude" (BMV 227), more familiarly known as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Chorales were an important structural influence in Bach's work and they pervade the entire piece here. The cantata also concludes with a famous setting of this closing chorale.

The Geraint Jones Singers and Orchestra perform well under their conductor, but it would be foolish to pretend that this would be a first choice recording of this work. The solo singing is, however, something else. Thomas Hemsley's rather light baritone may be something of an acquired taste, but he is unfailingly musical in all he does and Helen Watts and Wilfred Brown are very fine indeed in their arias. The star of the show, however, is the young Joan Sutherland, whose performance of "Bereite dir, Jesu" is quite ravishing and is bereft of the idiosyncracies which marred some of her later recordings.

The second disc is of a more recent vintage and purists will find this more, if not entirely, to their taste.
Two cantatas are featured here, the rather grand "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" (BMV 140) and "Ein' feste Burg" (BMY 80), based on the familiar Lutheran hymn, with its heavyweight opening and rather lightweight conclusion.

The South German Madrigal Choir and Instrumentalists and the Consortium Musicum under Wolfgang Gönnewein provide expert accompaniment for a quite superb quartet of vocal soloists. The stylish tenor Theo Altmeyer is very fine indeed, but it is the participation of the Wagnerian bass Hans Sotin which intrigued me the most; his was a wonderful voice, of course, and it blends surprisingly well with the soprano of Elly Ameling and the mezzo of Janet Baker, both of whom, it is almost needless to add, were virtually without peer in this repertoire.

Although neither of these versions would probably these days be anyone's first choice recordings, together they represent an irresistible bargain, offering listeners the opportunity to not only hear some very fine singing, but also to compare Bach performing styles over the past half century.

No texts are included, incidentally, and sleeve notes are minimal.


Lamaze Freddie the Firefly
Lamaze Freddie the Firefly
Price: £9.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect!, 4 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this for a colleague (her baby son, actually!) who had recently returned to the UK from Egypt. He loves it apparently and Mum thinks it is pretty good too!


Verdi: Otello
Verdi: Otello
Price: £12.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain!, 26 Oct 2013
This review is from: Verdi: Otello (Audio CD)
I have already posted this review elsewhere, but as this work has been reissued a number of times and in various formats, I thought that it might be useful to add it as appropriate. Others will, no doubt, have written authoritatively about the quality of the recording or the transfer, but I have confined myself largely to the merits of the performance.

This recording was made in the Sofiensaal in Vienna back in 1977. The conductor, Sir Georg Solti, made a subsequent recording with Luciano Pavarotti a number of years later, but this is undoubtedly the better version and it is, I would suggest, one of the very best available.

Carlo Cossutta never achieved superstar status, but his trumpet-toned tenor seems to me to be well nigh perfect for the role of Otello and he sings and acts with great sensitivity. Margaret Price is to my mind the finest Desdemona on record; it is a gorgeous voice, of course, but she too sings with great intelligence and sensitivity. Nobody would pretend that Gabriel Bacquier had the most beautiful baritone voice of all time, but it is eminently suited to the role of Iago and he was, of course, one of the finest singing actors of his generation.

The supporting cast is probably the strongest ever assembled on disc. Peter Dvorsky is stellar casting as Cassio, while the great Evangelist Kurt Equiluz makes his mark in the third tenor role, Roderigo. Jane Berbié is a superb Emilia, while the two remaining supporting roles are taken by Kurt Moll and Stafford Dean, arguably my two favourite basses of all time!

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Opera Chorus are both on top form, as is Sir Georg, and the recorded sound is excellent. Moreover, at this budget price, this is a "must-buy" disc the fact that all we are given is a brief synopsis (no libretto is included) is no great price to pay when opera libretti are so readily accessible online.


Verdi: Otello
Verdi: Otello
Price: £14.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain!, 26 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Verdi: Otello (Audio CD)
This recording was made in the Sofiensaal in Vienna back in 1977. The conductor, Sir Georg Solti, made a subsequent recording with Luciano Pavarotti a number of years later, but this is undoubtedly the better version and it is, I would suggest, one of the very best available.

Carlo Cossutta never achieved superstar status, but his trumpet-toned tenor seems to me to be well nigh perfect for the role of Otello and he sings and acts with great sensitivity. Margaret Price is to my mind the finest Desdemona on record; it is a gorgeous voice, of course, but she too sings with great intelligence and sensitivity. Nobody would pretend that Gabriel Bacquier had the most beautiful baritone voice of all time, but it is eminently suited to the role of Iago and he was, of course, one of the finest singing actors of his generation.

The supporting cast is probably the strongest ever assembled on disc. Peter Dvorsky is stellar casting as Cassio, while the great Evangelist Kurt Equiluz makes his mark in the third tenor role, Roderigo. Jane Berbié is a superb Emilia, while the two remaining supporting roles are taken by Kurt Moll and Stafford Dean, arguably my two favourite basses of all time!

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Opera Chorus are both on top form, as is Sir Georg, and the recorded sound is excellent. Moreover, at this budget price, this is a "must-buy" disc the fact that all we are given is a brief synopsis (no libretto is included) is no great price to pay when opera libretti are so readily accessible online.


Are You Being Served? - The Complete Sixth Series [1978] [DVD]
Are You Being Served? - The Complete Sixth Series [1978] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mollie Sugden
Price: £5.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guilty pleasure, 25 Oct 2013
This is, I'm afraid, something of a guilty pleasure, akin, in fact, to my affection for Carry On films and ropey old horror movies.

Unlike some sit-coms, "Are You Being Served?" rarely touched on real drama or tugged at the emotional heart-strings; the characters were all pretty well stereotypes who behaved in an entirely predictable manner, while the jokes were not only predictable, they were also repeated from one episode to the next. Outrageous costumes were a staple feature, as were musical numbers; it may have been set in a department store, but it was hardly grounded in reality.

What made it so successful (and the reason I like it so much) is the quality of the performances; there is some serious talent featured here. The star of the show is, I suppose, John Inman's flamboyantly camp Mr Humphries; it is a strangely lovable creation and anyone who ever saw Mr Inman in pantomime will testify to his considerable artistry. I used to love Mollie Sugden as Annie Walker's occasional sparring partner Nelly Harvey on "Coronation Street" and she is equally brilliant as Mrs Slocombe. Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock) was a very fine character actor and further viewing confirms that Trevor Bannister was more than just going through the motions as the archetypal "cheeky chappy", Mr Lucas; even Wendy Richard's Miss Brahms passes muster!

The supporting players are equally fine. From the original cast, Mr Grainger left at the end of Series 5 and he is here replaced by James Hayter as Mr Tebbs; Hayter is quite brilliant and it is a shame that he left after just one series. Apparently, his "other employer" felt that the outrageous goings-on at Grace Brothers sat uneasily with his image as the voice of Mr Kipling. Harold Bennett fumbles his lines delightfully as Young Mr Grace, while Arthur English is quite superb as Harriet Harman (Some mistake here, surely?). Nicholas Smith is perfect casting as Mr Rumbold; how sad it is to think that he is at the time of writing the only surviving member of the cast featured here.

Gosh, I've probably just devoted more words to a corny, 35 year old sitcom than I've done reviewing Shakespeare...that's showbiz, I guess! This may not be clever, but it certainly is funny!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2013 8:50 AM GMT


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