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John Peter O'connor

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The Bridge Adventures of Robin Hood
The Bridge Adventures of Robin Hood
by David Bird
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so good as the "Abbot" books., 14 Jun. 2001
Having achieved great success with his humorous bridge fiction involving the monks of St Titus, David Bird sought to move his bridge tales out into other areas. One of the first was to move the game back several centuries and have the game played by the outlaw Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham.
As with the "Abbot" series, each chapter in the book puts the protagonists into a situation that allows them to play bridge and provides a backdrop for the humour that is what makes up such a large part of the appeal of this genre. Each hand is presented as a play problem and there is an opportunity for the reader to try to tackle it as a double dummy problem before seeing the solution found, or not found, by the players.
One of the things that has changed with the new scenario is the bridge. Here, rather than playing almost exclusively in duplicate tournaments, the characters are almost always seen playing rubber bridge, often for substantial stakes. That does change the nature of the problems that are set and in general, they seem to be easier and less interesting than the puzzles that face the Abbot and his monks. To be picky the bridge problems are not without mistake. On at least one hand the line of play described in the narrative does not lead to the end position shown in tabular form.
The humour changes also. While the St. Titus books are close to the "Yes Minister" school of humour, Robin Hood and his friends come right out of the bawdy end of a "Carry on" film. Keen Bridge players are rarely prudes but they are not so likely to be amused by jokes about which player ends up with which cheap whore.
Compared to the "Abbot" books then, this is not so good. If your are new to David Bird, I would suggest one of the books in the monks series as a far better introduction. Fans of David Bird's bridge humour will be interested in this books in any case and, while it is not of the highest standard, it is still above average for the genre.

Offered by FREETIME
Price: £15.27

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best work by Oldfield in the eighties, 10 Jun. 2001
This review is from: Crises (Audio CD)
Crises is my favourite of Mike Oldfield's eighties CDs. As with its direct predecessor, it contains one long piece which took up the whole of the first side of the original vinyl and a set of shorter tracks, five in this case, on the second side. The shorter songs on the earlier albums were often a lot weaker than the longer pieces. Partly that was because Oldfield's musical style was not transferring well to shorter pieces but also, the lyrics were often quite dire.
Experience clearly helped a lot but also collaboration with other musicians. On Crises, the most notable name is Jon Anderson of Yes who is creditied with lyrics and vocals on one song "In High Places" which really sounds as though it could have come from a contemporary Yes album.
The opening track, "Crises" is classic Oldfield music and in places harks back to his first album "Tubular Bells" so fans will reconise the motifs and see how he takes them forwards in a more rock based style.
Moonlight Shadow is Oldfield's finest short song. The great lyrics of this dark lament really give Maggie Reilly a proper showcase for her fine voice. Also, on this track we get to find out that Oldfield really can play a proper blues style guitar sole. It's one of those songs that everyone has heard which stays with you for a long time.
This is probably the best introduction to Oldfield's later output for anyone who knows him only as the "Tubular Bells" man.

Offered by trec002
Price: £7.99

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of their finest., 9 May 2001
This review is from: Trilogy (Audio CD)
ELP fans will happily debate forever the point at which the band reached its creative peak but there is a firm consensus that their early years were their finest. Whether the absolute best was Tarkus, Trilogy or Brain Salad Surgery is secondary to the simple fact that Trilogy is one of the finest pieces of work that this band did.
The secret of their music is that they put together a set of talents the like of which had rarely been seen before let alone moulded into a single unit. The opening salvo, (The Endless Enigma Part One, Fugue and The Endless Enigma Part Two) illustrates this perfectly.
To deal with Carl Palmer first, in the early seventies he was finding ways of breaking up rhythms that had never been heard before. Nothing on Trilogy is quite as radical as his drumming on Tarkus but nonetheless, he was doing things here with sticks and skins that nobody else had tired.
In terms of rock music, Keith Emerson is an outstanding talent but that does not give full account of his real contribution. On the classical concert circuit, keyboard performance talent such as his is not unique but never before had this been combined with the kind of driven creative rock intensity of his contemporary guitar greats.
Greg Lake is often overlooked in comparison with the other two members of the band but that does not do him justice. As well as his distinctive voice, his bass guitar work is the perfect match for Emerson's keyboard playing. If you listen to the opening suite and try to imagine it with an ordinary, unimaginative bass line, you will appreciate that he adds his own dimension to the music.
Trilogy is a nice balance of the range of ELP's style. After "The Endless Enigma" comes "From the Beginning" a typical Greg Lake ballad. After that the band switches into exuberant fun mode for "The Sheriff" and an adaptation of Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown". The opening drums on the first of those two serves notice of what is to come.
Those tracks complete the opening side of the original vinyl release and, together with the title track which opened the second side, they form a powerful statement of the band's ability. The next track, "Living Sin" is the least convincing here and that is mainly because Greg Lake's voice does not really suit the style that he is trying to deliver. Finally, comes "Abaddon's Bolero" which is closely derived from Ravel's "Bolero" but which is curiously not credited as such on the sleeve notes. It's OK to listen to but, unlike most of ELP's covers, it does not really deliver much that was not in the original though Grek Lakes bass playing does stand out.
Trilogy is a good introduction to ELP though I think that Tarkus or their first album "Emerson, Lake and Palmer" server that purpose better. If you do like Trilogy, you will appreciate any of the albums that came before it and you might like to listen to music by Yes from the same time frame.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2015 11:53 AM GMT

Vulcan: The Ultimate V-Bomber (Military Aircraft)
Vulcan: The Ultimate V-Bomber (Military Aircraft)
by Duncan Cubbitt
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth hunting for, 1 May 2001
Conceived to deliver the British Nuclear Deterrent from the post war years until the arrival of the Polaris submarine system, the Vulcan delta winged aircraft are among the most remarkable of all post war aircraft. They were much loved on the air display circuit and, when they were finally retired from military and display service, they were much missed.
This book charts the remaining Vulcan aircraft. It lists all of the surviving aircraft and goes into substantial detail of each one from the construction details, through the aircraft's deployments and ultimate fate. The problem is that this means that the text in the book is mostly a list of dates, squadron numbers and airfield details. Now this information is of interest to a small number of people but I'm not sure about who would be interested in such information only for the small number of aircraft that survive. Most diehard enthusiasts want to know this information for all of the aircraft produced. Casual readers will find the text dull.
Like most books of this nature, the photos are at least as important as the text. The publisher does its usual good job in the production. The pictures are well rendered and printed on quality paper. They are not perfect. Some photos have been carelessly cropped late in the production process so that parts of the picture referred to in the captions are not reproduced. That is sloppy.
The book's remit, dealing only with the surviving airframes means that the material is limited. It is hard to make interesting photos of a series of scrap airframes on static display and the book suffers for that.

London Calling
London Calling
Price: £4.99

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best, 30 April 2001
This review is from: London Calling (Audio CD)
London Calling is one of the very best punk rock releases of all time. Simple as that. Originally released on vinyl as a double album, it is now available on one, remastered CD. Nineteen tracks and over an hour of some of the finest rock from the late seventies.
While it is usually categorised as a punk album, London Calling contains a very large range of musical styles. What is really impressive about this melange is that the music still feels as though it belongs together. Much credit for this diversity with coherence should go to the producer Guy Stevens. He had produced Mott the Hoople earlier in the seventies and, on a couple of the tracks, you could almost imagine that you were listening to Ian Hunter and co.
The title song, now enjoying a new lease of life as a result of exposure in the movie Billy Elliot, is straight down the line punk and it is my favourite track here. It is followed by a slew of really great songs ranging in style from the musical whimsy of "Jimmy Jazz" to the Reggae of "Rudy Can't Fail."
These tracks, which made up the first half of the original double album release are splendid indeed. Other highlights from the first half include "Lost in the Supermarket" and "Spanish Bombs".
While nothing on the second half is poor, there are far fewer real gems there. That does invite criticism that the band should have been more selective in the material that was released but I'm more than happy to have all of these songs.
If you are seeking an introduction to the band, or even to the punk genre, this album will do you nicely.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 3, 2008 9:34 AM BST

Dire Straits
Dire Straits
Price: £3.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable, 16 April 2001
This review is from: Dire Straits (Audio CD)
R.E.M. had "Man on the Moon", Lou Reed had "Walk on the Wild Side" and Dire Straits had "Sultans of Swing", timeless anthems all. Great tunes, a story to tell and you can listen to them over and over and they are always fresh and appealing. "Sultans of Swing" is clearly the highlight of this album but the rest of the songs here are by no means embarrassed to be in its company.
Dire Straits formed amidst the punk rock boom that was rejecting the overblown musical styles of the mid seventies. They were rejected by many record companies because they were not punk but that missed the point of their music. They were re-injecting the timeless Blues essentials that had been discarded by the bands against which punk was rebelling. The opening track "Down To The Waterline" sets the tone for the CD and, while subsequent tracks raise and lower the tempo, the style is coherent all the way through.
When you listen to this CD it is almost a shock that it is a band's debut release. It is so well put together that you might imagine that it is the magnum opus of a band who have been recording together for a decade. The CD has the immediate appeal of clear memorable songs but with enough depth to reward repeated listening.
Mark Knopfler comes over as a man who has his guitar style all worked out ready for the band's debut. Arguments about who is the world's finest guitarist are unresolvable but without doubt, he is a candidate for the elite group.
If you have not heard this album before, listen to "Sultans of Swing" and rest assured that the other songs here will not disappoint you. This CD deserves a place alongside Lou Reed's "Transformer" and R.E.M.'s "Automatic for the People" in any collection of mainstream rock music.

Globalhead: Stories
Globalhead: Stories
by Bruce Sterling
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bunch of stories, 16 April 2001
In this book, you will find 11 stories by Bruce Sterling and two collaborations. All but one of the stories has prviously appeared in magazine form between 1985 and 1991.
Most of the stories here are well worth reading. Especially "Hollywood Kremlin" and "Are You For 86?" which introduce Leggy Starlitz, one of Sterling's enduring characters. Also, the two collaborations, "Storming the Cosmos" and "The Moral Bullet" respectively with Rudy Rucker and John Kessel, are very good.
There are also one or two stories here which quite fankly should not have seen the light of day. "The Sword of Damocles" is the sort of exercise often tackled in writer's workshops and that is where is should have stayed.
There is not as much hard science in here in some of Sterling's other books but that does not detract from this collection. Indeed, a number of the best stories would escape all but the broadest definition of SF.
In the Leggy Starlitz tales, Sterling lays out lots of technical trivia in the same style as do many thriller writers. His facts are often wrong and self contradicting. Often laughably so and that does detract from the writing.
This is not the best collection to introduce you to Sterling's short fiction. I would recommend "A Good Old Fashioned Future" as an introduction but if you read and enjoy that and want more, you will not be disappointed by this book.
If you enjoy this book and want to read something in the same vein, I'd suggest William Gibson's collection "Burning Chrome" or the anthology "Mirrorshades" edited by Bruce Sterling.

Before Your Very Eyes
Before Your Very Eyes
Price: £13.61

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great rock songs, 8 April 2001
This review is from: Before Your Very Eyes (Audio CD)
This is Deke's third and, so far, final solo album. It was released in the early eighties though most or perhaps all of the recording was done in the late seventies.
Unlike the longer tracks that are the staple of Deke's work as a member of the Man band, this solo album is a collection of short, sharp songs. Deke's voice and lyrical style are unmistakable though.
There are no weak songs here but one or two, especially "Someone is Calling", "The World Exploded in My Face" and "What am I Going to do When the Money Runs Out?" are really very good. If you listen to "Big Hunk of Love" you could easily imagine that a timewarp brought a young Elvis back to make a guest appearance.
The only thing that is wrong with this album is that it was released almost a decade too late. Listen to the third track, "Marlene", and try to imagine what would have happened had it been released in the early seventies and given some radio exposure. We could have seen Deke on Britain's "Top of the Pops" dancing with Pan's People!
Of course, most of the people who buy this CD will do so because they know of Deke from the Man band but it really deserves a wider audience. If you think that Queen, Mott the Hoople and Marc Bolan all sounded best before they found fame, you should give Deke a listen.
Finally, a word of praise for the label. They included two bonus tracks on the CD which are actually worth having. No pointless remixes here instead we get two great tracks which are not otherwise available today.

Cardinal Sins (Master Bridge)
Cardinal Sins (Master Bridge)
by David Bird
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More great bridge humour from Reese and Bird., 23 Mar. 2001
This is the fourth book in the series about the bridge playing exploits of the fictional Monks of St. Titus Abbey. It follows the format of the earlier books in that each chapter contains a small number of hands played by a common set of characters in a specific setting. A bonus in this book is the first appearance of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws playing against the Sheriff of Nottingham.
As usual, the stories have all previously appeared in assorted Bridge magazines and, for book publication, they have been honed by Reese working with David Bird the original author.
One of the best aspects of this series is that the authors add a liberal quantity of wit to lighten the serious bridge content. You can read this book for the narrative with the technical problems as a bonus but it is certainly well worth trying to work out the play problems before seeing how they are solved in the book. Most of the problems should be within the grasp of a good club player and, if you get stuck on them, the narrative gives an insight into the thought processes of the players who wrestle with the problems in the book.
Despite the fact that it is one of a long running series, this book is not stale. I strongly recommend it to any bridge enthusiast who has a sense of humour.

Air Disaster: Vol. 1
Air Disaster: Vol. 1
by MacArthur Job
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, definitive and not sensationalist., 27 Feb. 2001
This review is from: Air Disaster: Vol. 1 (Paperback)
This book is a collection of descriptions of 18 jetliner accidents from the Comet crashes of the mid fifties to the Tenerife disaster of the late seventies.
The book is written from an Australian perspective which is no bad thing as this eliminates any US or European centred view that is common in many other books on civil aviation.
Each incident is dealt with in three phases. First of all, a fairly broad brush, non technical narrative of what appeared to take place.Then there follows a detailed technical description of what is known of the accident. Finally, the author turns all of this into a clear exposition of what actually, or probably, happened.
The writing style is clear and there is a lucid explanation of the facts. This is not a ghoulish or sensational account. The author is trying to explain what actually went wrong to cause each accident. I could see no technical or factual errors in these accounts, just a few typos and mis-spellings of some place names.
Those do not detract from the quality of the book and this series is clearly the best that deals with these topics.

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