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James Aitken (London, UK)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 4 Feb 2008
Anyone thinking that an album devoted to a modern interpretation of Burns' poetry with support on some tracks from orchestral musicians can be forgiven for being a bit sceptical. I was. However, something made me buy the album nonetheless, and I'm so glad I did.

The music is truly original and fresh. Each track is given a unique interpretation and there is a dizzying array of styles on show - as well as the versatility of Reader's fantastic voice. Not knowing much about Burns before I started listening, and worried about whether I would be able to make head or tail of it, I found that I really enjoyed they lyrics as well as the music and really want to find out more about the poet.

Perhaps most surprising of all is Reader's rendition of Auld Lang Syne which she transforms from drunken cliché to a moving song of longing and memory. There are fast-moving foot tapping tracks, such as Jamie Come Try Me and Brose and Butter (which is apparently quite bawdy, although a bit over my head) and beautiful lyrical tracks such as Wild Mountainside and John Anderson My Jo.

Also interesting is the timelessness of some of Burns' lyrics - such as Ye Jacobites - an "anti-war" satire which has a particular resonance at the moment and which Reader sings with great feeling.

All in all I thoroughly reccommend this album as something pretty different and enjoyable.

The Fairest Floo'er
The Fairest Floo'er
Price: £11.65

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful new interpretations, 25 Jan 2008
This review is from: The Fairest Floo'er (Audio CD)
I'm not really a fan of old ballads but bought this album on the strength of Karine's other (original) work, which I really enjoy. I'm really glad I did. Clearly a lot of care and thought has gone into crafting modern, fresh, arrangements of these old songs, all of which were unfamiliar to me from before. Despite being a pretty diverse bunch of songs all of these new arrangements are totally successful and really convey the emotion and story behind them to the modern ear.

What is particularly striking is the pared back style of the accompanying music which really allows Karine's expressive voice to flourish. All of the tracks on the album have something going for them but there are three that particularly stand out for me, the first "the Dowie Dens of Yarrow", "the Learig" and "the Death of Queen Jane". The Dowie Dens tells a typical ballad-type story of young lovers tragically separated by a meddling family, but the arrangement is so well put together and Karine's singing and expression so varied that I think this is probably my favourite track. The Learig stands out because it sounds to me so fresh (apart from the old Scots of course) it could have been written yesterday. The Death of Queen Jane actually tells a pretty gruesome and sad story but is sung in a style so pure and innocent that I didn't realise what the song was really about until I'd heard it a few times.

An exquisite and unusual addition to any CD collection - I can strongly reccommend it.

The Business [DVD] [2005]
The Business [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Danny Dyer
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.11

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for a laugh, 18 Aug 2006
This review is from: The Business [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is a pacy, tongue-in-cheek ganster movie set on the Costa del Crime in the 1980s. It tells the story of Frankie (Danny Dyer) who hooks up with two experienced South London crims (Charlie and Sammy) and becomes Charlie's right hand man (but Sammy's enemy). The story line tracks the rise of their criminal empire and subsequent dramatic fall. In that sense although there is an element of "glamour" in the look of the film, it cannot fairly be said to glamourise a life of crime.

One of the best things about this film is the cinematography. A lot of thought has gone into the sets and the "feel" of the film, and the detail with some of the 1980s sports fashion on display is pretty impressive (if amusing). One of the worst things about the film is the dialogue. The hackneyed "sarf Lundun" one liners start off by being amusing but end up getting on your nerves and spoiling the film. I'm not 100% convinced the script writers intended the dialogue to be as hilarious as it sounds.

The characters are well acted and believable. Particularly noteworthy, for me, was Geoff Bell as Sammy. He is utterly convincing as a total nutcase. Its also worth checking out the "alternative ending" provided on the DVD, which I thought was better than the "real" ending.

Coupled with a feel-good and authentic 1980s soundtrack this is pleasant, amusing, viewing - although its certainly no masterpiece.

101 Reykjavik [DVD] [2001]
101 Reykjavik [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Hilmir Snęr Gušnason
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £3.94

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black ice comedy, 17 Aug 2006
This review is from: 101 Reykjavik [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
On one level this film has a somewhat "run of the mill" story line. It can be viewed as the story of a twenty-something male unable to grow up or form relationships. The kind of story we've all seen many times before. However, the beauty of the film lies in its eccentric characters and setting and the black comedy moments that are provided throughout (such as the main character's unsuccesful attempt to kill himself on the top of a mountain).

The main character Hlynur is unemployed, has a bad on/off relationship and has no idea what to do with his life other than surf for internet porn and get drunk - indeed he says at one point that its as if he is dead. Into his life, one Christmas, comes his mother's Spanish flamenco teacher (who, it later transpires, is also his mother's lesbian lover). All hell proceeds to break loose. Somehow, despite the depression of some of the situations they engineer themseleves into, one can't help but like Hlynur, and all of the characters in the film.

The film is a bit let down by its ending, which is a bit too "happy ever after" (Noi Albinoi is a similar film from Iceland but a great deal more "edgier"). It redeems itself with its the soundtrack which is really original. All in all this is a pleasant evening's viewing, and something different - I didn't really find it as depressing as some of the other reviewers seem to have found it.

An Darna Umhail
An Darna Umhail
Price: £22.67

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a second glance, 10 Aug 2006
This review is from: An Darna Umhail (Audio CD)
The title of this marvellous second album from a young but accomplished band means "a second glance" and the album is definitely repays a second hearing.

The album is a blend of traditional styles from Scotland, Ireland and Shetland and it comes together with some truly wonderful playing on the clarsach, fiddle, whistle and pipes. You really get the feeling, listening to these people play, that they are enjoying themselves and their music and as a result its quite an uplifting experience to listen to it.

The tight instrumental playing is interspersed with some very accomplished singing by Julie Fowlis. Particularly notable, for me, is a song about unrequited love "A Mhairi bhoidheach", which is arranged and sung beautifully. Also impressive is the sheer dexterity of the rhythms and diction on display in "Puirt a beul".

There is only one track on the album that, for me, doesn't quite come together - "Tiarna Mhaigh Eo", a traditional Irish song on which Julie Fowlis is joined by a guest Irish singer. You can understand what they were trying to do with this arrangement, but somehow the voices just don't gel. That said, one only notices that because of the extremely high standard of the rest of the album.

On the whole the music is first rate - I bet these guys are amazing live!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2008 3:19 PM GMT

Arthur and George
Arthur and George
by David Edgar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully crafted and absorbing, 2 Aug 2006
This review is from: Arthur and George (Paperback)
I was given this book as a present and was initially sceptical as to whether or not I would like it. Now that I have finally gotten round to reading it I found that it was a really delightful and absorbing read.

The plot dealing with the Great Wyrley Outrages, the trial of George Edalji and the appalling miscarriage of justice that ensued was gripping and Barnes keeps the book moving along at a good pace. The details of the police investigation and trial are interspersed with details of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, who subsequently becomes embroiled in the drama. The crime behind the Great Wyrley Outrages still has the capacity to shock even at this length of time and the description of the investigation and subsequent trial is compelling as one reads with ever mounting tension and dread of the failure of the legal system and of officialdom.

The imagination of the author is vividly on display throughout this book right from the begining which recounts the lives of two small boys whose paths are not to cross until much later in life.

The writing gives the outward appearance at least of being very thoroughly researched and I really had the feeling that the stories of both men were brought to life on the pages of this book. There are also fascinating insights into old fashioned values, spiritualism and the history behind the establishment of criminal appeals in England (which the case recounted in this book was instrumental in establishing).

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable read with the added benefit that I feel I have learned something.

Noi Albinoi [DVD]
Noi Albinoi [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tomas Lemarquis
Price: £18.64

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delinquancy in a cold climate, 2 Aug 2006
This review is from: Noi Albinoi [DVD] (DVD)
This film tells the tale of Noi the Albino, an outcast teenager rejected by his school, his father and later his girlfriend. Although the film is set in Iceland there are no real cultural references that link the action to Icelandic "society" and, to that extent it could almost have been set anywhere rural and very cold. The surroundings do, however, add to the overall air of bleakness as does the accompanying music.

The action is really like a series of sketches or vignettes that have been stiched together. Some of them are very effective and quite moving, such as the conversation between Noi and his father where his father warns him of the consequences of unwanted children. There are other scenes which are very humourous in a wry scandinavian way, such as a scene where Noi finally secures a job as a grave digger and has a long discussion with the priest as to the national standards applicable to graves (its funnier than it sounds).

This is not a film to see if you are feeling in any way depressed. It moves in an unrelenting way from boredom, to angst to prison. That said, it is despite that in a curious way highly watchable. The acting, particularly that of the lead actor, is superb and the storyline is highly believable. One can't help sympathising with Noi in his struggles. And there are some very dramatic moments such as when Noi is sent to see a fortune teller by his grandmother.

Adding to the Scandinavian realism of the film, there is no "happy ending" and one is left pondering what the future holds for Noi. All in all I'm glad to have seen the film and will look out for further work by this director.

The Very Best Of
The Very Best Of
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £24.45

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 23 July 2006
This review is from: The Very Best Of (Audio CD)
I agree with the previous reviewer both that this is an excellent introduction to the wonderful music of Cesaria and that this is a singer that doesn't get nearly enough respect or attention in the UK.

Her glorious voice is really something else (apparently developed by the copious smoking of cigars!). The music turns from joy to lament, but the passion underneath all of the songs is unmistakable and infectious.

Her sound is clearly influenced by the Portuguese Sodade sytle but you can clearly discern the African influences too which are rolled into a sublime mix on this album. She is also very lucky in her backing vocals and her band, all of whom are excellent vocalists/instrumentalists in their own rights.

This particular album is worth buying for the first song "Sodade", which is a truly wonderful anthem, but this is an album with something for everyone. Your CD collection will not really be complete without at least one album of Cesaria's.

Kitchen Stories [2003] [DVD]
Kitchen Stories [2003] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joachim Calmeyer
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.30

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic feel good factor, 23 July 2006
This review is from: Kitchen Stories [2003] [DVD] (DVD)
A truly distinctive and original film that is just too funny. Its no Hollywood action film - most of the "action" of any significance takes place in one man's kitchen - but the point of it all is the gentle unfolding of the relationhip between the 2 central characters, Isak and Folke.

The setting of the film is that it is the 1950s and a Swedish research institute has just completed a study of the "habits" of women in the kitchen in order to design more ergonomic kitchen spaces and equipment. The "scientists" now want to move on to a more challenging topic - a study of the kitchen habits of single Norwegian men.

The resulting satire on the "brave new world" scientific optimism of the period really is very amusing. Also gently mocked are male relationships and (lack of) communication and the big brother/little brother relationship between Sweden and Norway. Other little trivia details add to authenticity and pleasure of the film, such as the Swedish scientist feeling sick because he has to drive on the "wrong side" of the road (in those days the Swedes drove on the same side as us Brits).

The gradual breaking down of the clinical scientific study and the establishment of real human interaction between the men involved is a joy and pleasure to watch. I recommend this film to anyone who likes a "feel good factor" without the Hollywood sentimentality.

Italian For Beginners [DVD] [2002]
Italian For Beginners [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Anders W. Berthelsen
Offered by Not2day Media
Price: £6.95

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film let down by the ending, 23 July 2006
As other reviewers have noted, this film was made according to the "Dogme" school which forbears the use of camera trickery and special effects. As a result I found that I focussed more on the acting and became more involved with the characters than one ususally does when watching a DVD. The whole experience was a bit more like going to the theatre than the cinema.

So its just as well that the acting is first class. Particularly noteworthy, for me, were Lars Kaalund who plays Halv-Finn (a troubled hot-tempered waiter with an aptitude for Italian) and Ann Joergensen, who plays Karen, (a lonely hairdresser with a sick but difficult mother).

As for the plot, I agree fully with the other reviewers who point out that towards the end it all gets a little too neat and saccharine. At this point, in my view it becomes less believeable in the light of all that has taken place before. It all starts to go down hill in this regard when the action shifts from Denmark to Venice.

But before that point the story is very well crafted and the various characters all point up different aspects of human relationships which will speak to everyone in their own way. Thus we see difficult relationships between parents and (adult) children (Karen and Olympia), work place relationships (Halv-Finn/Guilia, Halv-Finn/Joergen & Joergen/Giulia) and male friendships (Joergen/Halv-Finn). The latter, to my mind, provides one of the most poignant moments in the film, when Joergen attempts to speak to Halv-Finn about his own impotence.

Being a new Pastor in a difficult semi-rural parish is probably a situation which will resonate less with most people. Nonetheless, it is this character that provides some of the most amusing and touching scenes in the film, especially his interactions with the female parish assistant.

Anyone who speaks Danish will notice some rather infelicitous translations in the sub-titles but overall I don't think those really matter. Its an enjoyable film with some wonderful acting that is rather badly let down at the end by the plot. But worth seeing nonetheless.

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