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Matt Blick "Beatles Songwriting Academy" (Nottingham, UK)

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Berberian Sound Studio [DVD]
Berberian Sound Studio [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toby Jones
Price: £5.75

1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Believe The Hype, 8 Nov 2014
This review is from: Berberian Sound Studio [DVD] (DVD)
...this has gone straight onto my worst films of all time. It is not terrifying, creepy or atmospheric (unless the atmosphere they're going for is dull).

Basically the first five minutes features a shy, put upon, English soundman being made uncomfortable by pretentious, passive/aggressive Italian filmmakers. He records various sound cues using vintage technology and methods. This little scenario is basically repeated 7 or 8 times. Only around the hour mark do things get slightly weird. After another 20 minutes of pretty mild oddness the film ends. The weirdness is supposed to portray some kind of breakdown, but it has all the impact of "Since coming to Italy I've started eating chocolate hobnobs, whereas previously I preferred plain". No spoilers - but our hero's turn to the dark side is no more evil than leaving the loo seat up.

Toby Jones is good value as always, but if you're a fan do yourself a favour and rewatch any of his other great roles


Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters
Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters
by Paul Maher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Believe A Word, 1 Jan 2012
If Tom Waits wasn't real someone would have to invent him. And someone did invent him - Tom Waits.

More than any artist since 60's Dylan, Waits has deliberately allowed the fantasy world of his songs (in Tom's case, gothic junkyard bum) to spill over into all his interviews. Does he ever tell the truth? Yes. But usually only when he's lying.

Words are words, spoken or sung, so if you love Tom's music you'll love these interviews. If fact, if you're new to Waits, you may find the interviews a good 'way in' to his music - as I did. Waits is usually funny, often profound and eminently quotable.

Fans may ask why they need to buy this book if they already have the interview compilation Innocent When You Dream? Though Tom occasionally repeats himself, only two interviews appear in the previous book

The Man Who Howled Wolf - Magnet magazine
The Heart of Saturday Night press release by Waits

the other 50 are new to this book (though of course you may have read them in the magazines).

The interview style ranges from generic "favourite film/song quizes" to a rambling chat with Terry Gilliam, and arranged chronologically and grouped into the albums they're promoting

Add in a short (factual) biographical intro to each album and it's the closest thing to an autobiography you're ever gonna get.


Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Emily Browning
Price: £2.96

4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All Suck And No Punch, 5 Nov 2011
This review is from: Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
The film is just as bad as all the other one star reviews state, so I'll just add a word about the special effects. Many reviews have stated they are the only GOOD thing in it. That's not strictly true. They are the BEST thing in it. But that's not saying much. The film is full of the following...

Cliched music video shots - eg hot babes walk towards a floor mounted camera in slow mo.
Shots ripped off the Matrix - eg empty bullet cases raining down from above. (again in slow mo)
Generic video games shots - eg 'airborne' camera whizzes around completely fake looking fighters
Generic person with superpowers shot - eg crash landing gracefully crouched on the floor with one hand balletically raised in the air. Then holding the position when you look up at your adversary.

I could go on. The whole film is like your favourite fantasy film images rammed together. "Hot women fighting zombies. No, hot school girls! No! Nazi Zombies! No! steam powered Nazi zombies!" And so on, ad nauseam.

maybe it's a symptom of having a film full of people and plot points you don't give a damn about, but there was not one minute of footage where I went 'wow' - unless it was 'wow the Matrix did that so much better'.

And whatever else you say about the feminist empowerment/exploitation, having the first 15 minutes where a vulnerable young woman is constantly threatened with rape meant the film was always going to struggle to make up enough ground to become 'entertaining'. And it failed.


George Harrison - Living in the Material World
George Harrison - Living in the Material World

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still A Dark Horse, 21 Oct 2011
A documentary on a music celebrity can be measured by content and insight - what footage did they access and who was willing to contribute and what new light did it shed on the subject? On the first point Martin Scorsese knocks the ball out of the park. Though I didn't feel I knew George any better than before by the end, I was treated to nearly four hours of dazzling and emotionally moving entertainment.

I watched both parts of the film at UK preview and at no point did my attention or enthusiasm flag. In fact I would have happily sat through any outtakes! This beautifully crafted film is packed with concert footage, home movies, press conferences, interviews, photos and documents that I've never seen before, even though I've been researching the Beatles quite heavily for several years for Beatles Songwriting Academy. There are interviews with (or at least footage of) everyone you would hope to see. Beatles, wives, brothers, son, Pythons and peers. Everyone from Eric Clapton to Eric Idle.

The documentary is constructed entirely from interviews and clips without explanation or analysis. The closest we get to a voiceover is Dhani Harrison reading excerpts from his father's diary and letters to his mum. Though the film is visually stunning it's strange watching the practically square picture forced upon us by the source material. Equally quirky is the sound editing. Scorsese doesn't know the meaning of 'fade'. All the music cuts brutally, sometimes after a few seconds. Sometimes this is cool. Mostly it's odd. The film is largely chronological and there are some great juxtapositions of sound and visuals like All Things Must Pass accompanies footage of the WW2 bombers that plagued the Liverpool of Harrison's birth. The first part covers George's life up to the White Album.

It's hard to pick out favourite parts. But Harrison's obvious delight watching archive footage of the Beatles miming This Boy, laughing and singing along, is one. The Beatles performing If I Needed Someone, Harrison playing What Is Love? with Billy Preston, and seeing the Travelling Wilburys in the studio would be others.

There are moments of laugh out loud humour, especially TV footage of crusty professors discuss the significance of Pop music while Beatles and Mick Jagger seeth like captive wild animal in the background and Tom Petty recounting Harrison arriving at his house with a trunk full of ukeleles. But Harrison's story of how Lennon and McCartney inspired him to start composing is the best - "If John and Paul can write [songs] everybody must be able to". The Maharishi (a spiritual Joe Pasquali) and Phil Spector (a croaking, unblinking vision of craziness with a permanent twitching thumb) also provide some unintentional humour.

Scorsese deserves praise for not going down the revisionist myth making route trodden by the Anthology series, especially as Olivia Harrison was one of his producers. Olivia is honest, though vague, about George's infidelity as is Klaus Voorman is about his drug problems. But the lack of a narrator almost makes George a mirror in which we see his world. We know he was loved, deeply, by friends - racing drivers, comedians and film makers, musicians, but we don't whether he was truly loveable. Terry Gilliam describes George as a mix of "grace, humour and a weird kind of angry bitterness" but what made him that way? Did he ever find a release from that bitterness? Was he a good father? Nearing death Harrison asked Olivia if he had been a good husband. She never tells us what her answer was."What's the secret of a long marriage?" She asks herself. "Don't get divorced".

It may sound strange but the highest point for me was simply hearing the music. Listening to Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps I was almost moved to tears at the transcendent beauty of those recordings.

Perhaps the fact that the film cause me to fall in love with the music all over again is it's greatest recommendation.


De Niro: A Biography
De Niro: A Biography
by John Baxter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There has to be a better biography out there..., 15 Oct 2011
This review is from: De Niro: A Biography (Paperback)
Even though I knew very little about Robert De Niro when I started I really didn't learn a lot from this book. That's perhaps not surprising from an unofficial biography of a very private man. But what is more surprising, not to say annoying, is how little Baxter values De Niro's work. Other than 3 or 4 films we are constantly told that De Niro phoned his part in, or that the film was a critical or financial flop, proved Robert can't do comedy, that he was acted off the screen by another actor or has failed to command the fees of Tom Cruise. The pinnacles of Baxter's criticism are where he grudgingly praises De Niro's stellar performance in Cape Fear only to dismiss it by saying 'it's in the wrong film' and Heat, where apparently Pacino and De Niro are both so great that they somehow 'cancel each other out'.

I hate sycophantic biographies as much as the next guy, but if you have no appreciation for a subject why write a book? (A paycheck perhaps?)

All I took away from this was a list of films I'd like to check out. Two star for being readable.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World [DVD]
George Harrison: Living in the Material World [DVD]
Dvd ~ George Harrison
Price: £10.00

220 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still A Dark Horse, 5 Oct 2011
A documentary on a music celebrity can be measured by content (what footage did they access and who was willing to contribute?) and insight (what new light did it shed on the subject?). On the first point Martin Scorsese knocks the ball out of the park. Though I didn't feel I knew George any better than before by the end, I was treated to nearly four hours of dazzling and emotionally moving entertainment.

I watched both parts of the film at UK preview and at no point did my attention or enthusiasm flag. In fact I would have happily sat through any outtakes! This beautifully crafted film is packed with concert footage, home movies, press conferences, interviews, photos and documents that I've never seen before, even though I've been researching the Beatles quite heavily for several years for Beatles Songwriting Academy. There are interviews with (or at least footage of) everyone you would hope to see. Beatles, wives, brothers, son, Pythons and peers. Everyone from Eric Clapton to Eric Idle.

The documentary is constructed entirely from interviews and clips without explanation or analysis. The closest we get to a voiceover is Dhani Harrison reading excerpts from his father's diary and letters to his mum. Though the film is visually stunning it's strange watching the practically square picture forced upon us by the source material. Equally quirky is the sound editing. Scorsese doesn't know the meaning of 'fade'. All the music cuts brutally, sometimes after a few seconds. Sometimes this is cool. Mostly it's odd. The film is largely chronological and there are some great juxtapositions of sound and visuals like All Things Must Pass accompanies footage of the WW2 bombers that plagued the Liverpool of Harrison's birth. The first part covers George's life up to the White Album.

It's hard to pick out favourite parts. But Harrison's obvious delight watching archive footage of the Beatles miming This Boy, laughing and singing along, is one. The Beatles performing If I Needed Someone, Harrison playing What Is Love? with Billy Preston, and seeing the Travelling Wilburys in the studio would be others.

There are moments of laugh out loud humour, especially TV footage of crusty professors discuss the significance of Pop music while Beatles and Mick Jagger seeth like captive wild animal in the background and Tom Petty recounting Harrison arriving at his house with a trunk full of ukeleles. But Harrison's story of how Lennon and McCartney inspired him to start composing is the best - "If John and Paul can write [songs] everybody must be able to". The Maharishi (a spiritual Joe Pasquali) and Phil Spector (a croaking, unblinking vision of craziness with a permanent twitching thumb) also provide some unintentional humour.

Scorsese deserves praise for not going down the revisionist myth making route trodden by the Anthology series, especially as Olivia Harrison was one of his producers. Olivia is honest, though vague, about George's infidelity as is Klaus Voorman is about his drug problems. But the lack of a narrator almost makes George a mirror in which we see his world. We know he was loved, deeply, by friends - racing drivers, comedians and film makers, musicians, but we don't whether he was truly loveable. Terry Gilliam describes George as a mix of "grace, humour and a weird kind of angry bitterness" but what made him that way? Did he ever find a release from that bitterness? Was he a good father? Nearing death Harrison asked Olivia if he had been a good husband. She never tells us what her answer was."What's the secret of a long marriage?" She asks herself. "Don't get divorced".

It may sound strange but the highest point for me was simply hearing the music. Listening to Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps I was almost moved to tears at the transcendent beauty of those recordings.

Perhaps the fact that the film cause me to fall in love with the music all over again is it's greatest recommendation.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2012 4:53 PM BST


Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait [DVD] [2006]
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ David Beckham
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £4.75

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fails On Every Level, 18 Jun 2011
This is probably one of the most boring DVDs I've ever watched. I can appreciate the fact that it's not a film of a match but of one man. You would expect to admire the beauty of the shots at least. But it is filmed in such a way that many of the times ZZ actually touches the ball you can only see him from the waist up! You don't see where the ball comes from or where it goes, so you have no idea of whether he's made a great shot or an appalling gaffe. What we do get in between times are endless shots of ZZ sweating, spitting and scuffing his toes on the grass. He may be a great footballer (you have no way of telling from this DVD) but he is boring to watch - expressionless, slow moving and mute except for the odd "hey! hey!".

As others have said, the way the film is shot robs ZZs actions of all meaning. You don't know which team has the ball, which way play is going, where ZZ is on the pitch. You can see him sweating profusely but he doesn't appear to be doing anything. You can see him getting annoyed but you have little idea at what. And the near permanent close up makes every one seem like they are just strolling about.

In short the makers have managed to make a potentially interesting subject and an exciting game appear mindnumbingly boring.

Avoid.


"Beatles" Complete Chord Songbook
"Beatles" Complete Chord Songbook
by Rikky Rooksby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.96

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All You Need Is...This Book, 29 May 2011
Length:: 4:16 Mins

One of the best Beatles music books out there.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2013 10:42 AM GMT


Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age
Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age
by Steve Knopper
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Future For Dinosaurs, 24 Sep 2010
When I was a kid the music business was really simple. Labels discovered artists, artist made music, shops sold music, we bought music.

Things have gotten complicated in the last 15 years and if you'd like to get a handle on why this book sheds a lot of light.

Steve Knopper does a fantastic job of recasting the recent history of music as a page-turner whodunit of epic proportions. `Epic' referring to epic greed (with a complimentary side order of monumental stupidity). The `who' of course are the major labels (and the RIAA) and the `it' that they `dun' is killed the record industry.

Anytime any new technology appears from CDs & DAT to mp3 players and, yes, of course, Napster, they try to sue it or kill it. Examples abound. Here's a few of my favourites.

1981-82. After a presentation to executives what they could expect from the new CD technology, they throw it open for questions. Jay Lasker, head of ABC-Paramount records asks why his cable TV picture is sometimes cloudy.(What the...?)

2007. Doug Morris CEO of Universal Music Group explains in an interview with Wired magazine why the majors were blindsided by the digital revolution.

"There's no one in the record company that's a technologist...It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?"

The interviewer replies,

"Personally I would hire a vet".

The sad thing is that Universal did have amazingly talented technologists, like Albhy Galuten, working for them already. They were just overlooked and ignored. They should have been easy to spot. They were the ones wearing Napster T-shirts.

Speaking of Napster the book makes it clear that the labels had their chance to buy it or make a deal with it. As one artist manager said later, in Napster there were 30 million music users in one place on the net, ready to be sold music, advertising whatever. But the industry killed Napster, Grokster and every other -Ster including a few they created themselves.

Eventually they were left with only one option.

Steve Jobs struck a deal whereby he would get 22 cents on every one of their songs in return for the labels making 0 cents on everyone of Steve's iPods. And because the labels had already killed off the bricks and mortar record stores and the only real record store in town was (you guessed it) Steve J's online emporium.

The examples of greed are too numerous to mention but on fact above all others should make every self-respecting musician want to grab a handful of dirt to throw on Sony's (et al) coffin. When CDs replaced vinyl the retail price jumped $8. Artist's royalties increased by 6 cents.

If you're trying to make a living in the music business and any of the above is a surprise to you then you need to buy this book.

By the way...

I can't help feeling that some of the more negative reviews of this book are because they were expecting this to be something it's plainly not. This is a book about why things went wrong and are doomed to go wronger still. If you want to know where things are heading (and the future is bright, unless your surname is Warner) then you need to check out The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution


Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles
Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles
by Philip Norman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not about the music..., 11 July 2010
This is a fairly interesting and comprehensive book on the Beatles. Other than a single chapter on childhood and a chapter on each `ex-Beatles' the focus is firmly on the rise and fall of the fab four. It's a passable overview for the general fan, but as someone looking for insights into the music for my Beatles Songwriting blog I was disappointed.

Norman rarely touches on the music, and when he does he often gets it wrong. In fact he not only reveals little insight into the Beatles songs, but little grasp of music generally.

So we have Stu Sutcliffe struggling to play chords shapes on his bass (57) and a Les Paul guitar is apparently a "state of the art" guitar (458).

Mistakes about the Beatles songs are even worse, leaving you wondering how closely he's listened to the songs. The 8 second guitar coda on A Hard Day's Night is described as being "gloriously long and irrelevant" (239) (it was there to act as a cross fade to the action in the film). The lyrics to Polythene Pam are wrong (397). And this is in a `Completely revised and updated edition'.

Musical history doesn't fare much better. Norman claims Only a Northern Song was written for Yellow Submarine (334) - it was a Sgt Pepper outtake, and that the Ballad of John & Yoko was recorded single-handedly by John with later drum overdubs by Paul (389) - they recorded it together, famously calling each other `Ringo and George' on the master tape.

As other reviewers have mentioned, Paul comes in for a good kicking whenever the chance arises - for secretly coveting the position of bass player in Hamburg days! for having a ghosted autobiography (even though this `autobiography' was written solely by Barry Miles) or merely for being `desperately anxious to be liked".

The book has some good insights into how the publishing deals were struck and how the Beatles finally broke though in the states. But in a world swamped with books on the Beatles I can't help feeling that there are better ones out there.

I'd suggest the The Rough Guide to the Beatles (Rough Guides Reference) as one possible (and more accurate) alternative.


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