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Og Oggilby "Og Oggilby" (North London)
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Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography
Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography
by John Fisher
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.81

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Biog of 'The Lad Himself', 13 Mar 2012
Tony Hancock remains a true post-war giant of British TV and radio comedy, a performer, who, before the booze kicked in big time, had one of the most supremely mobile and expressive faces on TV. He could get more laughs with a facial expression than most of his contempoararies managed in a whole show. John Fisher's biography is thoroughy well-researched, and can be unexpectedly revealing in places - even bringing in discussion about Hancock's rumoured bisexuality. Throughout, Fisher is painstaking in presenting the uniquely gifted Hancock in a sympathetic way, whilst not stinting in his assessment of how alcoholism blighted his life and ruined his interpersonal relationships, friendships and marriages, and his dealings with the classic scriptwriting team of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Compared to, say Roger Lewis' biog of Peter Sellers The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers, which has a rather vinegary, sour tone to it (you rarely get the impression that Sellers was FUNNY), this book is affectionate without side-stepping Hancock's many character flaws, and also sheds light on his insecurities and self-esteem issues. There won't be another Hancock - one was more than enough. Read this book then listen to the vintage Hancock radio shows, then buy the DVDs. Classic Brit comedy.


The Conversation
The Conversation
Offered by SmokeCDs
Price: 15.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mature songcraft from underrated writer, 10 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Conversation (Audio CD)
Now pushing sixty pretty hard (he'll reach that milestone in June, 2012), Tim Finn has spent much of the last forty years of his life making music. With Split Enz, and then with Crowded House, he enjoyed considerable commercial success, and his solo career has similarly had its high water marks, although not really that much outside of his native New Zealand and his sometime Australian home. 'The Conversation' is from 2006, and finds Finn in a contemplative, ruminative frame of mind. He's assembled an excellent bunch of musicians that include his former Split Enz mad professor of the keyboards, Eddie Rayner, Miles Golding on violin (another former Enz member, from their very earliest days), and Brett Adams on guitars behind Finn's voice and assorted instruments. It's fairly much a drumless zone, but that's not a problem, because the emphasis is firmly thrown on Finn's supremely well-crafted songs. And what fine songs they are, too, beautifully sung by Finn. Although the album is immediately appealling, it gets still better the more that you immerse yourself in it, and allow its subtle charms to work on you. There's humour, melodic grace and excellent, if understated musicianship at work here, and in songs such as 'The Saw and The Tree', 'Forever Thursday', and 'Rear View Mirror', some of Finn's career-best recordings. It can be an expensive purchase, being an Australian import, but it can be obtained cheaper - whatever you pay for it, the rewards are richly satisfying.


The History of the NME: High Times and Low Lives at the World's Most Famous Music Magazine
The History of the NME: High Times and Low Lives at the World's Most Famous Music Magazine
by Pat Long
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rattling good rock and roll read..., 30 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Author Pat Long has done a great job of annotating the history of the New Musical Express in this highly readable, very entertaining and often very funny book. Of course, for me, being in my early fifties, the paper was in its Golden Era in the mid to late seventies, when great writers such as Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Roy Carr, Mick Farren, Ian MacDonald et al held sway. They were often more rock and roll than the acts they wrote about, and guided me to more great music than I could ever reflect in this review. I've not read the NME in about ten years, and in truth, I felt that it started going down the tubes in the early 80s, when the frankly incomprehensible likes of Ian Penman and Paul Morley were in the ascendant. However, Pat Long actualy enthuses me to perhaps pick up a copy and see how it's going. He doesn't stint in cataloguing the travails of various writers drug use, and the debilitating addictions which derailed the career of Nick Kent, for example, and led to the shock early death of Pete Erskine - a sad waste and loss of talent. There is an underlying melancholia within the story that kind of acknowledges that maybe music has had it's day, that it doesn't carry the same weight or importance as it did thirty-odd years ago, reduced to merely another entertainment option, along with 24-hour TV, computer games and the world wide web. Music was more important when there was only one national radio station, and you had to look hard to find the good stuff, and it simply meant more, a soundtrack to good and bad times, and the NME helped define those times. Long ends on an optimistic note, and confidently predicts that the paper will still be around to celebrate another sixty years. Me, I'm not so sure, but I can wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book to anyone with more than a passing interest in the history of British rock music, and how words can often inform music.


Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants
Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants
by Alison Maloney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An often fascinating and revealing read, 25 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Away from the world of 'Downton Abbey', Alison Maloney's clear prose pulls the lid off 'Life Below Stairs' in Edwardian Britain in a way that kind of confirms much of what you already know, but also affords a few revelations - a good insight into a non-Unionised world, and how a sense of class structure worked within a house - the cook was higher than the maid, etc. This structure collapsed after the First World War - those returning from the war realised that the old subservient order had to change. It's interesting to read of a world that simply does not exist, and was fractured by war. There is an incident described wherein a maid handed the lady of the house a letter by hand, only to be told that was under no circumstances was she to do so - the letter must be handed always on a silver platter! 'Know your place', etc!


Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: 200 One Pot Meals: 200 One Pot Recipes (Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks)
Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: 200 One Pot Meals: 200 One Pot Recipes (Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks)
by Joanna Farrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Concise and clear recipe book, 25 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This handy-sized recipe book is chock full of tasty recipes, which don't demand great skill. It's remarkable what good meals you an construct from the most basic of ingredients. I've cooked several of the meals in here, and am impressed, and will make more. Inexpensive, colourful and very recommended for those cooks who just want to make fuss-free, nutritional and mouth-watering dinners!


Ten Commitments
Ten Commitments
Price: 12.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars For Ten Commitments, 7 Oct 2011
This review is from: Ten Commitments (Audio CD)
Another great album from Steve Ellis, who may not make many albums, but what he does put out is nonetheless of top quality. 'Ten Commitments' offers up yet more fine examples of why Steve is so highly regarded as a vocalist by the likes of Roger Daltrey and Paul Weller. As well as some excellent self-penned material, Steve also weighs in with some equally fine covers - such as his version of The Beatles' 'Please Please Me', and the Buffalo Springfield opus 'On The Way Home', and delivers them with honest-to-goodness flair and blue-eyed soul power. Steve is no museum piece, 60's relic trading off past glories; he's as vital and driven as ever, and 'Ten Commitments' shows that time simply hasn't laid a glove on his golden vocals. Give it a go - it will bring many rewards in the cold winter nights ahead!


The Castrato and His Wife
The Castrato and His Wife
by Helen Berry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.55

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating..., 28 Sep 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The sound of the Castrato is one which is now lost to us. Apparently, the castrato sound was utterly unlike anything we can now here - not like a woman's voice, or a man's, but somehow inbetween. The only recording of a castrato was made in the very earliest days of recorded technology, and apparently he wasn't one of the best. This book, which concerns the castrato Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci and his bride Dorothea Maunsell allows a peek into the world of Georgian Society, and sheds some light on the kind of 'pop star' life that Tenducci inhabited at the time. Helen Berry writes in a lucid and clear style, that's very easy to read, and yet does manage to convey some of the weight, colour and shade of this unlikely tale. Contemporaries thought that castrati could not have sexual relationships; this book shows that that was not the case. The relationship between the two main characters is explored deftly and revealingly, and all in all, this an absorbing and illuminating read.


The Open Mind of...
The Open Mind of...
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: 38.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb album from underrated singer-songwriter, 4 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Open Mind of... (Audio CD)
This album is sometimes labelled as 'John D Loudermilk Goes Pyschedelic', which is a real misnomer. Whilst lyrically Loudermilk addresses then contemporary issues such as the Viet Nam War and student unrest (this was 1968, after all), mostly it's not that different to his other albums. Loudermilk is a really underrated talent. He had a great knack for being able to write simple, but not stupid lyrics, on an interesting variety of subjects, and set them to equally simple but melodic and catchy music. He must've earned a fortune from the publishing royalties on songs such as 'Tobacco Road', and perhaps that stopped Loudermilk from being the most prolific of recording artists. He might have a relatively small body of work, but what there is is of very high quality indeed. This reissue of 'The Open Mind' is considerably enhanced with numerous bonus cuts, including his versions of 'Tobacco Road', 'The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian' and 'Ma Baker's Little Acre', all covered successfully by numerous artists. On 'The Open Mind' itself, Loudermilk tackles issues such as racism ('Brown Girl'), but instead of making a grand polemical statement, he couches the strong sentiment in a more measured, wistfully humorous way, that makes the sentiment all the more poignant and powerful as a result. 'The Jones' tackles the issue of the growing influence of TV on people's lives. 'To Hell With Love' is another witty lyrical excursion, wherein he plays a character whose girl friend is into 'Free Love', and he isn't. 'No Playing In The Snow Today' sounds like a very twee Christmas flavoured song, whose theme is actually that of a post nuclear holocaust world! 'Geraldine' is a kind of barbershop item (vocal backing by The Jordanaires), with a sumptuous melody. Cutting a long story short, this is a fine, fine album, beuatifully packaged and hats off to Omni Records of Australia for making this available.


The Remarkable Michael Reeves: His Short and Tragic Life
The Remarkable Michael Reeves: His Short and Tragic Life
by John B. Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: 35.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Overdue Biography of a Talented Film-Maker, 4 Sep 2011
I first became familiar with the work of Michael Reeves care of a late-night TV screening of the brilliant movie 'Witchfinder General'. As a child, I can vaguely recall the controversy caused by the film, and one of my brothers seeing it at the cinema and raving about it. It's very rarely shown on TV these days, although easily obtainable on DVD, and it is still a vivid and startling piece of film, even if somewhat bleak in its worldview. All the more remarkable in that it stars Vincent Price, who, for the most part, resists his usual tendency to lapse into rank ham acting. This overdue biography of Michael Reeves, 'Witchfinder's' director, is a very illuminating and useful exploration of his tragically brief life, but it is not without its faults. Principally, it is the author John B Murray's tautological lapses that can sometimes lead to the writing getting occasionally bogged down. At times he rather monotonously bangs on about how much Michael Reeves was totally immersed in all aspects of film, how he could reel off lists of the personnel on any given movie, and how Reeves would show a 16mm print of Don Siegel's 'The Killers' at his house when people paid a visit. He restates these facts over and over again, and although this serves to ram home the point of Reeves' utter dedication to his craft, it just makes for a frustrating read. Also, and the author is honest about this from the outset, he makes little or no attempt to apply any critical analysis to Reeves' three movies ('Revenge of the Blood Beast' (renamed 'She Beast in the USA, and available under that title on DVD through Amazon), She Beast [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] 'The Sorcerers'The Sorcerers [DVD], 'Witchfinder General' Witchfinder General [Blu-Ray] [1968]), preferring to write a basic linear biography of Reeves' life and times. As such it is an excellent work, even if could've used a good editor, and is very welcome.

As the years go by, and those that knew Reeves reasonably well, both personally and professionally pass on or simply forget details of events, the importance in a book such as this grows. Like the occasional revivals in interest in forgotten authors or musicians, successive generations of cineastes will no doubt turn on to Reeves work, and Murray's book will be a fine primer for those who want to get under Reeves' skin, as it were. Despite my (slight) critique of his prose style, I still heartily recommend this title for anyone who wants to know more about the wayward genius behind 'Witchfinder General'.


Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns (Deluxe)
Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns (Deluxe)
Price: 13.31

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His Best in too, too long, 9 Aug 2011
Being a John Hiatt fan can often be a frustrating exercise. His album from last year, 'The Open Road' was a three-star record that promised more than it ultimately delivered. However, in what amounts to almost a rush-release, 'Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns' sees Hiatt back in full posession of mojo and with a bit of that ol' righteous indignation that once used to permeate the fabric of his records and had been absent for a while. The opening track, 'Damn This Town', sees Hiatt cast himslef as a fifty-eight year old still living at home with his mother, and boy is he unhappy about it. The fact that the lyric is lashed to one of Hiatt's grittiest tunes helps, and his vocal howl adds to the ire beautifully. He also shuffles his pack of styles and moods brilliantly, too, with songs such as 'Till I Get My Lovin' Back', a haunting country waltz ballad that again sees Hiatt in imperious lovelorn vocal form. Then you can go to the desperate 'Down Around My Place', a desolate piece that presses hard on the mordant pedal. 'Detroit Made' is a paean to a car (one of Hiatt's petrolhead anthems), and there's humour in here too, and a bit of wistful on the 'Adios to California'. 'When New York Had Her Heart Broke' is a song about the 9/11 events of ten years ago, a sensitive and stirring, but never mawkish closer that rounds out a simply superb album. Hats off to producer Kevin Shirley, who made his name producing the likes of Aerosmith. He enshrines Hiatt's best bunch of songs in a long while with a sympathetic sound palette that can be big and broad as well as soft and subtle. This album gets better and better with each listen, and I heartily recommend that you invest in this immediately. It gets five stars,'cause I can't give it six.


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