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John Hawkins (Hove, UK)

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The Name of the Rose  [DVD] [1986]
The Name of the Rose [DVD] [1986]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Price: £3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent, atmospheric and philosophical classic of modern cinema, 2 Jan. 2009
This is a splendidly crafted film which makes much use of atmosphere and colour. It is set in early medieval times in the backdrop of a rather forbidding northern Italian monastery, and one really does get a sense of the the cold stone chill and mirthlessness of the place. The main characters are William of Baskerville and his novice, Adso of Melk (superbly played by Sean Connery and Christian Slater respectively), but much of the films richness is derived from the astonishing assortment of supporting characters (I defy anyone to name an uglier or more freakish collection of human beings anywhere in the history of cinema).

At the simplest level, the story is a whodunnit in which William, aided by Adso, seek to discover the truth behind a series of untimely deaths amongst the monks. This quest is conducted in the face of distrust and suspicion from some of the senior figures in the monastery, and with the imminent arrival of one of the darker forces of the church (the holy inquisition) with which William has had some prior dealings.

The truth behind the crimes is not however a simple case of evil or greed, but rather is concerned with deeply held convictions regarding knowledge and religion. While the investigation plays itself out, there is a great religious debate taking place, itself an intriguing sub-plot.

Throughout the film we are confronted with questions concerning the conflict between knowledge and faith, justice and power. William is a flawed and very human hero, afflicted with an intellectual arrogance yet a fundamentally compassionate man seeking the truth. His flaws and vulnerability make the story more compelling, and more convincing.

This is a film to be enjoyed as an intelligent story, as a thought provoking philosophical piece, and as a spectacle. It ranks amongst the finest works from both of its leading actors.

Price: £5.30

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1975 - The start of the Journey, 29 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Journey (Audio CD)
I remember buying this more or less when it came out after reading a favourable review in one of the music papers (Melody Maker?). I used to be fairly adventurous in my purchases, often buying albums by bands I hadn't heard. When CDs came into being, this was one of the first of the albums I had on vinyl which I purchased on CD (the LP was already suffering from extensive playing over the years).

This debut album has a less heavy feel to it than most of what followed. Its strength lies very much in the instrumental passages, the vocals and lyrics generally being unexceptional.

The musicianship throughout the album is a joy. The tone right from the start is spacious and crisp, and the contributions of guitar (Neal Schon) and keyboard (Greg Rolie) are predominant over a solid rhythmic backing from Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Ross Valory (Bass) and George Tickner (Rhythm Guitar).

The first track, 'Of a Lifetime' is an excellent start: a laid back opening passage quickly gives way to an exciting roller coaster ride through the course of its nearly seven minute duration. The next song, 'In the Morning Day', starts rather blandly with a banal lyric before exploding into the instrumental fireworks which take up the second half of the song. The final track on what was the first side of the LP, 'Kohoutek', is a spaced out and space inspired instrumental which builds slowly through alternating fast and slow passages.

What was the second side of the LP opens with 'To Play Some Music', which is really the only disappointing track on the album. The instrumental which follows, 'Topaz', is in my view the best track of the album. It is somewhat redolent of Santana instrumentals such as 'Europa', which is unsurprising given the background of the band members. 'In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations' is a solid combination of two songs, the latter an instrumental, and features some very nice guitar in the 'Conversations' part. The album closes with 'Mystery Mountain' a song which rocks away nicely though the lyric is hardly a masterpiece!

This first album is one I would recommend very highly. I still listen to it often today, more than thirty years since buying my first copy. It is a debut album, and is a flawed and inconsistent offering from a band whose direction changed when they got to their second album, but the good points on this album are very good and there are plenty of them.

Price: £3.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated - possibly the best Dire Straits album, 29 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Communique (Audio CD)
I was blown away by Dire Straits' debut album, which succeeded in being fresh and musical at a time when Punk and New Wave were throwing up more that was throw-away than memorable. Despite loving the first album, I believe the follow up was better.

Communique has often, unjustly in my view, been compared unfavourably with the first album. The overall sound is very similar (though 'News' shows a stylistic progression). The reason this album is better is that all of the songs (except the title track) are strong (as well as some classics - e.g. 'Lions', the first album had a few weak songs). The standouts on Communique are 'Lady Writer', which was the single and has a very similar sound to 'Sultans of Swing', 'News', which features a guitar sound which is richer than the trademark style found elsewhere on the first two albums, 'Single Handed Sailor' and 'Follow Me Home'.

This is an album which warrants repeated listening, and a reappraisal from those who had dismissed it as just an inferior copy of the first. Dire Straits are a band who started very well, and gave us four excellent albums before fading. Communique easily stands comparison with the other three.

Now & Then
Now & Then
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £33.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A curiosity - just for collectors, 30 May 2006
This review is from: Now & Then (Audio CD)
This is a strange collection of songs, 7 out of 8 being instrumentals. The first two tracks do at least sound like VDGG, but the remainder are either pleasant tunes in a jazz vein (e.g. Tropic of Conversation, The Epilogue), or odd indulgencies (e.g. The Main Slide, Tarzan).

The packaging of this CD is cheap, with no information beyond the track listing (I can't even find any mention of which year it was released). You would expect more even from a CD put together by a pub band.

The great appeals of VDGG are their willingness to take risks, and thought provoking lyrics. This album doesn't measure up in either of those two ways.

If you are a VDGG fan, you might want this just to complete your collection. If you're looking to explore this great band for the first time, look elsewhere (my personal favourites are 'Still Life' and 'Pawn Hearts').

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