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Bruce Langridge (West Wales)

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Home: A Personal Geography of Sheffield
Home: A Personal Geography of Sheffield
by Carl Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Home is in the Geographer's Beating Heart, 10 May 2009
Have you ever ploughed your way through a text book, desperately hoping to learn but too bored to remember anything?
How likely are you to read a book about the geography of the town you live in? Kind of interested but really, you don't want to have to remember all those geographical acronyms about business districts, stare at endless statistics about weather patterns or look at properly annotated graphs of ribbon development.
And yet you want to know about your town - why does it exist here, what makes it live and breathe, where is it heading and where you might fit into it's social fabric.
Well, this is just the book for you. It's a personal account of the geography of Sheffield told by a professional geography lecturer, Carl Lee.
Personal in so far as Carl draws on his experiences of living in the city for almost 30 years, keeping a fresh perspective as he uses each month of his life in 2008 as a separate chapter.
Each of the 12 chapters deals with a different aspect of what could be called geography - sustainability, connectivity, housing, shopping,climate, employment, industry, culture, education, democracy and landscape. Researched opinions on architecture, football, local politics, wine, art, the music of youth as well as birth, death and weddings garnish the geographers' staple diet.
In the company of a friend, a daughter or a high profile interviewee, Carl pushes himself to go out and investigate Sheffield's nook and crannies to discover the underbelly of geographic forces, such as the birthplace of football, the route of forgotten rivers and canals, the city's last little mester and the hidden mass producing steelworks. He's also been prepared to share a few drinks with David Blunkett and Richard Hawley to research a Sheffiled perspective on two of his favourite pastimes - wine and music.
These mini-adventures aside, Carl is prepared to offer us his past and current weaknesses to tell a good story, helping to make this book an enjoyable read whether or not you're interested in geography or even Sheffield itself. Some of his quips are laugh out loud funny, brandished with the confidence of somebody who feels clear about their own political positon, which in Carl's case, could be placed on the sustainability side of New Labour (though I'm sure he'll contend this categorisation).
Read this book and you'll get a fairly good idea of who he is, and who Sheffield is. If you're one of his students, you should be able to find a few cracking confessions to blackmail him with.
This isn't a comprehensive geography of Sheffield - there are plemty of other, far more formal books that do that. But none will be such a page turner as this, and none will show you how you too could use your life experiences to become an investigative geographer in your own right.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2009 4:30 PM BST

Offered by Deastore
Price: 18.05

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of long musical journey, 9 May 2009
This review is from: Kobaia (Audio CD)
This was Magma's first release, which on my old double album was simply called Magma, rather than Kobaia.
This was a huge statement for a new band. It's packed with ideas, has a distinctive sound throughout and is held together by the story of people fleeing from a doomed Earth and settling on a new planet called Kobaia. Not that you're likely to follow the story lyrically as this is the first outing of Christian Vander's Kobaian language lyrics, a concept he's kept up, by and large, ever since.
The music is from an 8 piece band, of largely guitar, bass, drums, piano, saxes & flutes, with Klaus Blasquiz's warbling vocals most prominent but there's also plenty of the characteristic Magma chanting.
Most pieces are fairly long (7-10 minutes) and each have their own story. They all have periods of quiet reflection, bits of jamming, some nice harmonics, all building to crescendos and come downs. The brass and piano sound like they come from 1970 but there are plenty of surprises here and if you like Magma and haven't heard this, definitely give it a go. The must hear track is Stoah, as much for the alarming high pitched declaimed singing as anything else.

Price: 9.68

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As bleak as winter but wonderful, 9 May 2009
This review is from: Wintersongs (Audio CD)
Art Bears 2nd LP was inspired by medieval iconography especially the bas-relief carvings of Amiens Cathedral. Not a tradional route of inspiration for your standard band but Art Bears were not that standard.
Made up of ex-Henry Cows Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Dagmar Krause, they produced a real masterpiece here. There are 14 'songs', each with its own unique sound and structure, held together by Cutler's beautiful lyrics, presenting us with a picture of a tough perplexing medieval world, where life is dictated by the wheels of fortune spun by the elements and the threat of social upheaval.
This uncertainty is captured magically by Dagmar's voice that sounds totally committed to the lyrics, Frith's straining guitar and simple violin, and Cutler's driving drums and atmospheric sound manipulation.
Winter Songs is full of highlights but the most memorable is Rats and Monkeys, a frenzied burst of angst set to the following scary lyric "Rats and monkeys crowd the city as it crumbles into ruin, walls are loosening true but gates are blocked". Imagine being stuck inside those city walls, with all hell breaking loose around you, and the Art Bears capture the scene perfectly.

Vibing Up The Senile Man
Vibing Up The Senile Man

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sniffin Controversy, 8 May 2009
This was an extraordinarily brave record for Mark Perry to come out with in 1978.
Best known as the editor of punk's iconic Sniffin'Glue, he virtually abandons the song form for a series of sparse, experimental doodlings. Accompanied by discordant piano, scratchy violins, plucked bass, running water or echoing guitar, Perry largely declaims poetic and surreal lyrics, which reflect his social isolationism.
This was not music as any of punk followers were used to but his persuance of such a confrontational change in direction was, well, very punk. It's not that surprising to find out that the mischievous Genesis P Orridge was one the contributors to this album, as his own Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV built onto this new musical heritage.
This isn't the kind of disc you'll play over and over again but it's worth listening to, especially Release the Natives & The Good Missionary which contains the classic line that gives this album it's name - Vibing Up the Senile Man.

Greek Variations
Greek Variations

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A British Jazz Gem from 1970, 8 May 2009
This review is from: Greek Variations (Audio CD)
This is a concept record, based on Greek cutural references, from some of the best British jazz players and composers in 1970.
It's split into three sections, the divides based on the compositons and players based around the group leaders Neil Ardley, Ian Carr and Don Rendell.
Saxophonist Rendell contributes 4 tracks based on Homer's Odyssey, playing calmly and reflectively with his quartet.
Trumpeter Carr's 3 pieces are played by a quintet, who were soon to form Nucleus, and Persephone's Jive is recognisably Nucleus like. However, Wine Dark Lullaby stands out as it beautifully conjures the feel of a boat, bobbing gently on a warm Aegean evening.
Neil Ardley's six pieces, called Greek Variations, are the soul of this disc. Largely orchestrated with strings and a good brass section, this is Ardley at his best. At times, such as in parts of Omonoia and Meteora, he rivals the best work of the great jazz orchestrator, Gil Evans'. He even manages to get Ian Carr to blow like a Sketches of Spain era Miles Davis.
The whole album is well played and just about hangs together throughout. I wish British jazz had tried more of this kind of collaborative themed project as, despite the Gil Evans references, this does sound distinctively and wonderfully British, in the same vain as Stan Tracey's masterpiece Under Milk Wood. If this disc seems expensive, it can be bought much much cheaper on other websites!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2009 12:15 PM BST

Made in Germany
Made in Germany
Price: 13.22

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre New Direction, 8 May 2009
This review is from: Made in Germany (Audio CD)
This was a bizarre new direction for what had been a classic heavy riff-laden Krautrock band.
This is an eclectic mix of songs and styles that mount up to some kind of rock opera. The band seemed to have a taken a decision to lighten up, and to be more commercial. There're still strong echos of the classic Amon Duul 2 sound, especially on the standout La Krautoma but the band must have been listening a lot to Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Small Faces, Slapp Happy, Bowie, Traffic and Carole King if my ears don't deceive me. This is very 1970s, probably worth buying if you're intrigued by the history of German rock music but prepared to be disappointed - especially by the outrageously bad Metropolis & Mr.Kraut's Jinx.

Monster Band
Monster Band
Price: 33.30

2.0 out of 5 stars A work in progress, 1 May 2009
This review is from: Monster Band (Audio CD)
This was one of Hopper's first solo LPs.
The first five tracks were created in the studio by himself in 1973, playing everything, with a huge emphasis on his characteristic fuzzy bass. Personally, I find his studio work on later albums more interesting and varied, but I enjoyed Golden Section, a tune I liked from his work with Isotope.
The last four tracks are Hopper playing live in France in 1974, with fellow Soft Machiner Elton Dean on saxello plus drummer Mike Travis, keyboradist Jean-Pierre Carolfi and felow bassist Jean-Pierre Weiller.
Again, I prefer Hopper's later live work as much of this is not particularly distinctive or memorable and Dean's saxello produces a rather irritating sound (for my ears), however well it is played. The stand out track though is Nozzles Tecalemit where the grwoling bass and sax work great against each other.

World As It Is Today
World As It Is Today

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Austere & Bleak & Very Very Powerful, 29 April 2009
This review is from: World As It Is Today (Audio CD)
This was the last of the Art Bears 3 LPs. Ex-Henry Cowers Chris Cutler, Fred Frith & Dagmar Krause who made up the group, released this in 1981, in a fairly bleak political era, with the Cold War stetching its malign tentacles across the globe, stoked up by the right wing rhetoric of Reagan and Thatcher and the paranoia of ageing Soviet leaders.
The whole record is a concept album but not of the pixies and madcap kind from the 70s prog rockers. No, this deals with the politics of the time from a far left perspective. It's angry, analytical and very powerful. Cutler's percussion is forceful, Frith's soundscapes overpowering and Krause's voice has never been so wrought. Freedom, the album's unforgettable highlight, typifies all of these - scathing lyrics about what constitutes freedom, explode into a spine chilling duet of screaming and guitar of an intensity I've never heard before or since. Worth buying for this track alone but every track - such as Democracy and Song of the Monopolists - adheres brilliantly to the strong concept.
With the world in financial and political turmoil again, the time to re-listen to this album has come.

The Road Vol.6-10: +DVD
The Road Vol.6-10: +DVD

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unseeen and unheard gems from the heart of the beast, 15 Feb 2009
This review is from: The Road Vol.6-10: +DVD (Audio CD)
This is the second half of unreleased recordings, unrecorded compositions, one-off events, radio and concert recordings of what I think is the most important and engaging of avant-garde rock bands, Henry Cow.
If you want to know how they evolved their unique mix of composed and improvised sounds, this 4 x CD and DVD set is a must buy.
This covers the period 1976-1978. This picks up the point in Henry Cow's 10 year history when Lindsay Cooper's distinctive bassoon added a new depth to their sound and Georgina Born's cello too to a lesser extent but you can also hear the maturing compositonal and playing skills of HC's bedrock players Frith, Cutler and Hodgkinson.(Dagmar Krause's heartfelt singing straddles the two CD sets).
In this set of 4 CDs there's great concert playing from Sweden and Germany, some new songs you may never had heard, and many new never heard before compositions, some of which you may recognise as morphing into tracks that appeared on subsequent Art Bears LPs.
The DVD is the only surviving film footage of HC and was recorded in France with a 6 piece line-up (Cutler, Frith, Hodgkinson, Krause, Born and Cooper). It's not exactly got the theatricals of a Kiss gig, or the physical energy of AC/DC but it's engrossing nonetheless, featuring some well known tunes from In Praise of Learning and others less familiar. If you're interested in the music, like me you've always wanted to see how the players interacted on stage (and I didn't know Dagmar sang with her eyes shut).
The CD book is great too - full of unseen photos, all you need to know backround info and recollections. The book for this second CD set has a more comprehensive review of the whole of HC than the first (there's details of finances for instance), and recollections from Frith and Hodgkinson, but the best piece was written by Georgina Born, who was only with the group for 2 years, and so has written a considered piece from an insider's and outsider's perspective. As a Professor of Sociology, Anthopology and Music, her words have the objective authority of a priviledged observer.
I was just going to buy one half of this box set but once you buy one, you'll want the other.

The Road Vol.1-5
The Road Vol.1-5
Price: 46.18

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into avant-garde rock music at it's best, 15 Feb 2009
This review is from: The Road Vol.1-5 (Audio CD)
This is the first half of unreleased recordings, unrecorded compositions, one-off events, radio and concert recordings of what I think is the most important and engaging of avant-garde rock bands, Henry Cow.
If you want to know how they evolved their unique mix of composed and improvised sounds, this 5 x CD set is a must buy.
This covers the period 1971-1976. It starts with a Henry Cow that sound like their contempories (Soft Machine, Egg, Caravan) with songs underpinned with organ, but quickly evolves into more complicated pieces familiar on LP (such as Teenbeat, Ruins, Citizen King) and those that only concert goers at the time would have heard (Amygdala, Guider). It then totally blossoms with group improvisations in Hamburg, then morphing into the bizarre Trondheim sets where the band played in darkness and responded to random tape sampling. Henry Cow's reputation was gained as much for their live work as their studio albums and if you listen to these, you'll see why.
The CD book is great too - full of unseen photos, all you need to know backround info and recollections, the most engaging being from Geoff Leigh and Peter Blegvad for their honesty and humour.
I was just going to buy one half of this box set but once you buy one, you'll want the other.

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