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Miracle "The Ambiturner" (Dublin, Ireland)

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Christ Recrucified
Christ Recrucified
by Nikos Kazantzakis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Tragi-Comic Dostoyevskian Romp, 10 May 2013
This review is from: Christ Recrucified (Paperback)
In "Christ Recrucified", set in 1920's Greece, a group of refugees (who have been expelled from their homes by the Turks) arrive in the relatively prosperous village of Lycovrissi, seeking sanctuary. The Lycovrissian elders, concerned merely with self-preservation and not wanting to offer any assistance, politely suggest they should move on. Despite this, some of the local peasants, who have recently been cast in key roles in the upcoming village passion play, are, in opposition to their betters, inspired to help their displaced compatriots.

Thus begins the story of a microcosmic society sundered by injustice, and by the venality, delusion and casuistic corruption of its supposed leaders. The gist of this novel might easily be construed as analogous of societies generally, including present-day societies, and it is therefore undoubtedly still relevant today.

"Christ Recrucified" is also a hugely enjoyable reading experience. The characters, although in a sense largely one-dimensional ciphers, are amusing, vivid and delightfully absurd. The plot - intricate in its way, though morally simplistic - is a deft tribute to the author's cunning. The writing, no doubt buoyed by nimble translation, is a treat - terse, humorous and (as the title of this review suggests) reminiscent of the great Russians.

I would recommend this book highly, and regard it as a niche masterpiece.

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
by Andrew Graham-Dixon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 1 Nov 2012
I found "Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane" an excellent and satisfying read.

Having said that, it should be pointed out that the book is primarily dedicated to exploring the artist's work, and contains but little in the way of the kind of anecdotal or revelatory detail that many biography-readers might expect to find.

This is not surprising given that the narrative of Caravaggio's life is mostly lost to history. We are left only with the great master's peerless body of work, and in this book the author expertly treads a fine line between scholarly erudition and easy accessibility as he takes us on a delightful analytical odyssey through many of the finest surviving paintings.

As an amateur enthusiast I found a joyful sense of discovery in the author's expositions, which included revelations of many delightful morsels of information regarding the pictures themselves. From the strange holed glove of "The Cardsharps", through to the touching symbolism of "Adoration of the Shepherds" and the haunting, almost childlike blur of "The Denial of St Peter", the provenances and idiosyncrasies of each analysed work are convincingly expounded upon and tellingly contextualised in a buoyant, easy-to-read fashion.

The book itself is a high-quality paperback - complete with several sets of plates that contain small but adequate reproductions of the paintings featured in the text. If you are interested in the subject, it is well worth the money.

Out Of The Game
Out Of The Game
Price: £9.03

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Game On!, 24 April 2012
This review is from: Out Of The Game (Audio CD)
Although Rufus Wainwright's prodigious musical and creative gifts have never been in doubt, his studio-recorded output since 2003/4's seminal "Want" albums has been rather disappointing. "Release The Stars" (2007) didn't have many good songs, a fact which the bombastic production did more to highlight than to conceal; while "All Days Are Nights.."(2010) was a brave and challenging work of stripped-back production and lieder-esque songwriting that inspired more admiration than love. In short, the luminescent charm and pop sensibility of Rufus's earlier work was missing from these collections, and it seemed that the legions who longed for "Want Three" would be indefinitely frustrated.

Those legions, I am sure, will now finally feel sated by "Out Of The Game", an album which truly marks a return to form for one of popular music's brightest talents. The songs here are better than excellent, Rufus's vocals have dramatically improved, and there is once more that almost conspiratorial sense of something special going on between performer and listener - a quality we have specifically come to associate with the Montreal Maestro's best work. Further, the production by Mark Ronson is sumptuously flawless, and coats every song with a beautiful metallic sheen that renders each one an exquisite harmonic delight.

Basically, all the cuts included are excellent.

The album kicks off with the title track, a slinky slice of pedestrian country-pop that includes a sneaky lyrical nod to ABBA: "...does your Mama know?...".

The second track, the raucous "Jericho", sounds a bit like an up-tempo (albeit much better) version of "Slideshow" from "Release The Stars"; while "Rashida" is a poppy, lush Supertramp homage, with a coda that conjures Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig In The Sky".

"Barbara", a stunning soulful groove that flowers into a lovely chorus of symphonic vocals, precedes "Welcome To The Ball", a trademark tranche of Rufus cabaret-pop that (musically, at least) takes us back to the stylings of our hero's eponymous debut, and is presumably directed at the singer's baby daughter.

Next, "Montauk", one of the album's pivotal selections, is a musical and lyrical spiral that deftly ushers us through the generational cycles of life and death.

The second half of the album commences with "Bitter Tears", a track that evinces the cold, hard surface of 80's synth-pop, but resolves into a beautifully counterpointed arpeggio; "Respectable Dive" lazily recalls the bucolic quality of "Want", and "Perfect Man" marries a clipped, hip beat with a contemporary, softly operatic melody.

"Sometimes You Need" is a lovely folk tune with a lurid twist of ethereal sophistication; while the penultimate "Song Of You" is an apparent sequel that answers the questions raised by the artist's earlier song "Not Ready To Love", and musically surpasses the latter with a melody that endeavours to reach untouchable heights in a manner that is almost Wagnerian.

Finally, the closer "Candles" is a folksy gospel ballad that executes a remarkable mood shift, and escorts us towards a celestially soporific conclusion to the album.

Overall, "Out Of The Game" is a brilliant long player that is simultaneously familiar, surprising, enchanting and inspiring. It will no doubt prove to be one of the albums of 2012. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how it could possibly be surpassed anytime soon.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2012 12:21 PM BST

Complete Live At Sine [2CD + DVD]
Complete Live At Sine [2CD + DVD]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeff at his Best, 6 Jun 2010
For me this is the essential Jeff Buckley. It's amazing how he utilises the guitar to create melody, rhythm, bass and atmosphere all at once. Here, "Live at Sin E", he produces new music that penetrates instantly - totally getting his original compositions across to what must have been a stunned audience.

The versions of "Grace", "Mojo Pin" and "Lover.." showcased on this CD are essential alternatives to those included on the "Grace" album. They demonstrate that the studio record for which he is most remembered (great though it may be) is really just a finely produced replication of what Jeff had already achieved "live and in the moment" with only his voice, his guitar and whatever it was inside him that enabled him to soar to such emotional heights.

Though his own songs were great, he really excelled when it came to cover versions. Here, his readings of "Calling You" and "If You Knew" are both heart-rending and beautiful. The epic renditions of "Sweet Thing" and "Hallelujah" make one wonder what he might have achieved if he had lived on to maturity. His truly stunning take on "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin" is simply jaw-dropping in its beauty, vulnerability and feeling - I love the way Jeff makes his guitar sound like the merry-go-round described in the song.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this album is the fact that Jeff sounds so youthful and positive and happy in the banter in which he engages between songs - an endearing counterpoint to the mournful nature of many of the tracks. It just makes one wish that this amazing musician was still around. Still, it's great that these recordings were preserved so that everyone may experience the purity and soulful beauty of this man's music.

On Stage (Legacy Edition)
On Stage (Legacy Edition)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.11

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Great Live Album, 5 Jun 2010
Elvis' "On Stage, February 1970" is in my opinion one of the best live albums of all time. It captures Elvis at his finest and is unique in that it does not include any tracks previously recorded by The King. In that sense it is probably the "purest" live album ever made - it really feels like Elvis is performing these tracks for the first time "live and on the hoof". The sound is fantastic - really in your face (or ears!) - you absolutely feel as though you are there at the show, up close with the man himself.

The song choice is excellent. We get to enjoy Elvis' raw power on "Proud Mary", a punched-up take on "Release Me" and his finest ever rendition of "CC Rider" (which sounds totally different to later versions such as the one on the "Aloha" album). Balance is provided by the delicate beauty of "Let It Be Me" and "Yesterday". The King also attacks contemporary pop classics such as "Runaway" and "Sweet Caroline", blowing the originals out of the water.

My two favourite tracks are "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (on which Elvis confirms his liberal credentials) and "Polk Salad Annie" (which is punctuated by the sounds of women audibly swooning at El's feet).

This album is an essential purchase for anyone who claims to like music (even "The Wonder of You" is cooly powerful when heard here in its proper context). The release of the Legacy Edition is a good opportunity to add it to your collection. It includes Elvis' first live album "In Person", which was originally released in '69 as half of the double album "From Memphis to Vegas/ Back in Memphis". It is just as good as the "Feb '1970" album, though perhaps less interesting given that it contains familiar songs readily associated with The King. The packaging is excellent and includes some great photos of Elvis in his prime. Also, it's great that the original albums are presented unaltered with the bonus tracks kept separate at the end - for once the record company hasn't messed it up!

The Dice Man
The Dice Man
by Luke Rhinehart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible - Just Terrible., 8 July 2009
This review is from: The Dice Man (Paperback)
I suspect that many people, like me, threw this book in the bin after about 120 pages. Naturally, I had heard of this "cult bestseller", but for some reason (a higher - and correct - instinct perhaps?) had passed on it numerous times. When I finally opted to give it a shot and began reading, I almost immediately thought "Portnoy rip-off". Funny that - it wasn't long before one of the characters actually mentioned the Roth book. However, once the narrator decided to "be Jesus", I realised that the game was up. This book is not "shocking" or "subversive" as the blurb on the back-cover claims - it's just dire, juvenile nonsense. It's like something an immature, misanthropic teenager would write. If that's your thing, then go for it.

The Seldom Seen Kid
The Seldom Seen Kid
Price: £3.00

7 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Load of Rubbish in the History of Music, 22 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Seldom Seen Kid (Audio CD)
This album is downright rubbish. The sound is awful and the recordings are badly produced - throwing in random orchestral outbursts does not good music make. The lyrics are meandering, pointless, artless and prosaic - who cares what this guy is on about? The songs are utterly tuneless. Imagine some tone-deaf person reading, say, Jose Saramago and putting it to their own stupendously dull self-made "tune" - that might give you a hint of what this album is like. Worst of all is the singer. Whoever he is, I HATE his voice - it is simply HORRIBLE. His heavily accented delivery is absolutely VILE - but no doubt the Mercury Mavens would call it gritty, or something. Look, just take my advice and DON'T buy this album.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2011 9:44 AM BST

by Gregory David Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I Never Thought Anything Could Be So Awful, 6 May 2009
This review is from: Shantaram (Paperback)
I hated this book so much I briefly felt like forming a club of some kind to celebrate my contempt. Actually, I can hardly bear to write this review - so much do I want to avoid thinking about "SHAMtaram". But I am doing so as a public service. Please, please, please do not buy this book. Don't spend your money this stupid, idiotic, pompous, unwarrantably self-righteous, sub-juvenile pile of sick garbage. How on earth did this become a bestseller? What's wrong with the world???

Golden Buddha: Oregon Files #1
Golden Buddha: Oregon Files #1
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish, Absolute RUBBISH, 6 May 2009
I can't be bothered to go into the stupid gory details but "Golden Buddha" is simply dreadful - and I'm saying this as a (guilty) fan of some of Cussler's Dirk Pitt books like "Inca Gold", "Treasure" and "Valhalla Rising". Anyone who has enjoyed those neat little numbers will be sorely disappointed by this "novel". What we have here is a case of "Let's put together 500 pages of any old drivel, slap on one of those cool covers, get it out there and get the money in". This travesty is actually a slap in the face to Cussler's loyal fans - and, believe me, it hurts.

by Philip Roth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.50

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Phil Flops, 29 Sep 2008
This review is from: Indignation (Hardcover)
One of the central motifs of the Roth oeuvre is human hysteria, usually depicted in tragic, comic or (more often) tragicomic terms. Witness the youthful neurosis of "Portnoy's Complaint"; the celebrity circus of "Zuckerman Unbound"; the macho-man collapse of "Sabbath's Theatre"; and the senescent mortality angst of "The Dying Animal", "Everyman" and "Exist Ghost" - those short, sharp bullets of Roth's maturity.

Here, the frenzied approach to life is embodied in the character of protagonist Marcus Messner's father. Marcus, a 1950's college student, is a source of constant and extreme worry to the old man, a Newark butcher. Why? Well, no reason - and that's the whole point. I guess.

"Indignation" is apparently a story about fatalism. The theme of the book could be, "lots of terrible things will happen to you if you think about them, or if others think about them (or worry incessantly) on your behalf."

But the question is, is it any good? And the answer - it cannot be concealed - is no. Roth may have surprised many, and even dazzled some, with the constant stream of quality work he has produced since the mid-nineties, but the wheels have really come off with this contemptible, truncated mess. It's over almost as soon as it begins, and has the distinct feel of an abandoned work that has been dusted down and reheated with a tacked-on ending. There is also a crudely inserted penultimate episode about a college riot that bears almost no relation to the "novel" itself.

To be fair, the writing is accomplished and the character of the father is an amusing absurdity. That said, this is Roth's worst book since the atrocious "Deception".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2011 11:42 PM BST

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