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Grace & Danger (Deluxe)
Grace & Danger (Deluxe)
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Johnny Too Good..., 7 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm not one for re-issues as a rule; if you own the original issue of an album that you consider a personal favourite then buying something that contains a few songs that didn't quite make it/demos/jams/ remixes/live performances that you've not heard previously then a little bit of magic and mystery can be lost when you hear the inspiration behind the finished product.

That said, Grace and Danger was radical as it involved the transformation of a beardy folk singer into a beardy blue-eyed soul superstar (albeit briefly) aided and abetted by Phil Collins before he achieved his own solo success. Given this huge leap into the mainstream for John Martyn, the Deluxe Edition captures this genesis (no pun intended) as the live and demo versions contrast to the polish of the edited versions of tracks that made it to the album.

The recordings of tracks that didn't make it to the original also add value to this collection, none more so than the mighty Running Up The Harbour, a jam that sounds a bit like Sweet Little Mystery speeded up with just one verse and a chorus for lyrics (Martyn pads out his vocals with a bit of Scat and some improvised gibberish and word-association). I guess that this track remained unfinished as the feel-good vibe of this song was not conducive to the permeating sorrow that defines the album. That seems a shame, but the rough-cut version preserved for this re-issue is perhaps more of a delight through its incompleteness.

This was an impulse buy on my part due to the death of the portable hard-drive that once held my music collection, so in my impatience I bought the MP3 version not realising that there were live tracks on what would be the first disc of this 2 disc set. Usually the split second gap between tracks that are either live or mixed together can prove fatal, yet luckily the gap is less noticeable as the live set (originally broadcast on BBC TV's Rock Goes to College series) was edited to squeeze in the music so the gaps in the live soundtrack synch well enough to the MP3 gaps. As a result, you don't miss a beat of any of the live tracks.

So in either format, this is a highly recommended purchase, capturing a vastly underrated artist at the peak of his powers. If you know Martyn's work, this will enlighten you. If you don't, this should seduce you.

Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the one you need, it's the one you need..., 20 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gold (MP3 Download)
Firstly, the whole MP3 process was quick and smooth and for half of the price of the CD. Given the extra time for postage too I was glad to have such a fine collection of songs in a matter of minutes rather than days. At less than 13p a track it is also something of a bargain.

Gold covers Armatrading's A&M era from the mid 70s to early 80s and is much weightier than the Very Best compilation that saw a reissue of Love & Affection back in 1991. All of her memorable songs are there, as you would expect, but the diversity in musical styles where the one constant is Armatrading's voice do more to promote her artistry than most of her previous compilations. At 43 tracks, this is as thorough a collection as you can hope for given that it only covers a decade of Armatrading's long and illustrious career.

A sampler it ain't, though only the most curious would want to pursue her back catalogue from this period as there is not many tracks that haven't made this collection. It is on this basis that Gold shouts out 'I'm the one you need'.

The Best of Dave Allen [DVD] (2005)
The Best of Dave Allen [DVD] (2005)
Dvd ~ Dave Allen
Price: £3.89

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great appetiser, but the main course should follow..., 4 Jun. 2008
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I'm always a bit wary of `Best of' DVDs as they invariably fall into the same trap of having the most popular as opposed to the best. But in the absence of any complete collection of Dave Allen then this will have to do.

It's not that I don't like the finished product. I really enjoyed the clips on offer and for a fiver it's decent value for money. You get a flavour of the style and irreverence that made Dave Allen worth watching and there is an evenly balanced mix of the stand ups and sketches that made the show so successful in the 70s and 80s. It is inevitable that some of the material has dated somewhat, but it is not as un-PC as you would come to expect. In fact, save for one moment where a comedy explosion has left the victims covered in soot which leads to a Black & White Minstrels routine of sorts, it's not in the least bit offensive. Even the thorny subject of religion was treated with a good balance of satire and gentle humour.

I've been a fan of Allen's style for as long as I could remember - He was such a natural raconteur, genial one minute, rabid the next but always fascinating to watch. For those who have never seen him perform, this is recommended as it stands above most shows broadcast during this period.

However, my only gripe (and it is a minor one) is that you only hear him say his customary goodbye `may your God go with you' at the end in his latter years as he is sat a mixing desk looking back over his own archives which lacked the cutting edge and broodiness of his earlier performances. Even the absolutely fantastic theme tune isn't played until the end and it is poorly edited.

So to sum up, it's a good intro to a great performer and good value for a fiver. Let's hope that the BBC see fit (or even get Network DVD to acquire the licence) to release a more comprehensive retrospective of Dave Allen's work. It's sad he is no longer with us, it would be even more sad if his legacy remained overlooked.

The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin : The Complete BBC Series Collection [1976] [DVD]
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin : The Complete BBC Series Collection [1976] [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Warwick
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £39.58

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great! Super!, 22 April 2008
Leonard Rossiter's death was overlooked in a year that saw the passing of a significant number of acting and comedy legends. He had the timing of Eric Morecambe (who died in May 1984) and the intensity of Richard Burton (who breathed his last in August 1984). By the time Rossiter collapsed in his dressing room in October 1984, his death was not front page news in the way that Morecambe and Burton were at the time of their passing. Even today, it seems fair to say that Rossiter is remembered more for his performance as Rigsby in Rising Damp as it seems that people identify more with a miserly landlord than with a stressed out middle manager.

But don't let this lull you into the impression that The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin is inferior to Rising Damp. Different it may well be, but inferior it most certainly is not. Rossiter is his usual dynamic self, but the supporting performances are equally strong and one might even say that the late John Barron's performance as CJ eclipses them all. Unlike Rising Damp, there is a sense of continuity and history to The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin that needs to be persevered with especially at the beginning of the first series - but as we get to know the characters and their quirks the humour gains momentum so that by the end of the first series where Perrin attends his own memorial service in disguise the laughs are relentless.

The second series continues with the same cast and the same quality of writing and performing (along with one of the funniest pieces of dialogue you are ever likely to see when Perrin's brother in law Jimmy tries to start a rebellion and looks to enlist Reggie as a recruit) as Perrin's fortunes change dramatically. In fact, the laughs come so readily that it is seen as a funnier series as a result; this is only down to the fact that at this stage we know the characters and what makes them tick, which adds considerably to the humour.

The final series sees Perrin trying in vain to do something good for society and is perhaps the weaker of all of the series; this is not down to the writing but perhaps to the slight change of the usual cast with Tim Preece making way for Leslie Schofield who took over the role of Tom, Reggie's long suffering son in law. It was alleged that Rossiter felt that Preece was not giving his all to the role which led to him being replaced; if this was the case then the natural animosity that took place between the characters of Reggie and Tom in the first two series may well have been compromised as a result of this change of personnel. In any case, the quirks of the various characters involved were perhaps beginning to wear a little thin at this stage, although the finale to this series (without wishing to give anything away) seems somewhat apt.

To summarise, this is an unforgettable series with exemplary performances across the board (given that Rossiter was said to be demanding of himself and his fellow actors, it is fair to say that they must have met with his approval with the talents they brought to their respective parts) and a quality of writing that made The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin stand out in the era of the TV sitcom.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2013 8:23 PM BST

The Return Of The Saint - The Complete Series [DVD]
The Return Of The Saint - The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ian Ogilvy

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than `Return of The Mack', 21 April 2008
This was a completely contrived series that served the purpose of heralding the end of the ITC television format which usually involved a charismatic lead who always got their man (or in the case of Simon Templar, the girl too).

And yet, with tongue firmly planted in cheek I found myself enjoying some of the episodes, particularly the London based shows that were shot on location to pretty good effect with a good supporting cast. While the scenes based in Rome, Venice and Florence were quite picturesque, the decision to employ English actors with dubious foreign accents (it is almost worth having a competition to see who has the worst - there are plenty of candidates on offer) or Italian actors struggling to come to terms with an oversimplified English dialogue kind of spoiled the effect.

The ten year gap from the Simon Templar that Roger Moore left behind to the one that Ian Ogilvy acquired meant that a laid back playboy was more of an action hero aimed almost exclusively at impressionable six year olds (like me) who liked the white Jaguar XJS that he drove. But Ogilvy was still able to display some of the rakish charm that Moore had in the original series and he was a good deal more athletic despite of the shirts he wore being so tight fitting that if you painted him green you'd think he was the Incredible Hulk. However even this edgier Templar was still a lightweight compared to his contemporaries that included Regan & Carter, Bodie & Doyle and Starsky & Hutch (maybe he should have had a partner called Doom).

Return Of The Saint was an ambitious project in terms of the finance acquired through ITC's partnership with Italian broadcaster RAI. This allowed for location shots from across Europe, although with a tight recording schedule of no more than 10 days for one episode then there were compromises to the scripts which did not always do justice to the quality of the actors assembled, especially as there was a greater emphasis on the action sequences in an attempt to sell the programme to the US. Ironically, by the time the series was finished certain censorship regarding TV violence resulted in the programme being broadcast in a less lucrative non-prime time slot. This killed off any chance of a second series and ITC's involvement with television for good.

And this is a shame. Ogilvy's portrayal of Templar was most endearing and one that would have lived longer in the memory for the sake of some decent scripts which may well have materialised if the series was made in the UK at a fraction of the location budget. But this was an age of global television rights and the finished project had to tick certain boxes if it was to secure mass distribution. In short, it had to look the part of an all action series with a wholesome leading man, even if it lacked a certain artistic quality. Still, there are a few highlights to be had in this series; Duel in Venice stands out as it made particularly good use of its location (no prizes for guessing where) and featured a convincing nut job played with considerable relish by Maurice Colbourne - even if he did have one of those aforementioned dubious foreign accents.

What was even more regrettable was that Ian Ogilvy still managed to acquire so much popular appeal as a result of Return Of The Saint that he ended up appearing on commercials for Nescafe along with Diane Keen and the late Gareth Hunt. Like Hunt after his turn as Gambit in The New Avengers, Ogilvy struggled to find any meaningful work after ROTS having built his reputation on good performances in I Claudius, Upstairs Downstairs and (my personal favourite) as Grayson, the school bully in Tomkinson's Schooldays, one of the episodes recorded for Ripping Yarns.

Ironically, it is Ogilvy's comparative obscurity (he now lives in the US and picks up occasional acting work in US TV series of little or no consequence) that makes this series worth watching out of curiosity value, especially if you owned the model of Templar's Jaguar XJS (as I once did, although this has long since vanished too). And the title sequence and music is pretty jazzy too. So jazzy in fact that I currently have it as my ringtone.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2013 5:21 PM BST

Holding On [DVD] [1997]
Holding On [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ David Morrissey

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...for dear life, 21 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Holding On [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
This was an intriguing and ambitious series subject to considerable promotion at the time it was broadcast in the autumn of 1997. It has become something of a forgotten classic, only by virtue of the timing of the initial broadcast (in the aftermath of the still well publicised death of Diana, Princess of Wales) and the fact that there were several interlinking storylines instead of one dominating centralised plot made it deeply fascinating and at times incredibly challenging.

In fact, since its broadcast there is no doubt that TV drama has gone so far backwards that many of the actors who featured in Holding On have ended up in that medium we know and love called `continuous drama' - an all too sorry tale of how British TV relies on focus groups these days. Holding On was supposed to be indicative of the ability of television in the Blair era to entertain but also inform and challenge. Instead you see so many hallmarks of what is missing from British TV today. For one thing, the decision to shoot on location in such an up close and personal way is seemingly no longer an option these days, especially in a post 7/7 London. The scenes in the Tube are particularly harrowing as you see the extras packed in like sardines; claustrophobia has never been so graphically portrayed. And the glimpses of an ever moving ever vibrant London that wouldn't even stop for the stabbing of a girl from out of town was revealing to the point of being almost overwhelming. Clearly someone had a steady-cam and they were not afraid to use it.

And the characters that come across as being the least savoury (including the bulimic barrow boy food critic Gary Rickey, a real tour de force courtesy of Phil Daniels) end up eliciting a great deal of empathy. Even David Morrissey as a corrupt tax investigator who cheats on his wife and denies the existence of his schizophrenic brother is able to come across as someone we should feel for. It is a testament to the quality of the writing and the acting. But for all of the talent involved in this series it is London and the haunting soundtrack courtesy of Nick Bicát that stands out, a fusion of music styles that almost serve as a reflection of the diversity of the London portrayed in the series - it fills the voids between scenes beautifully allowing us to take in what just happened with considerable emotion.

Holding On may well stand out as being one of the last great drama series made on British TV but if it proves too much for you then you can always do a bit of face-spotting; chances are you will have seen them crop up in the likes of Coronation Street, EastEnders, The Bill, and even that refuge for seemingly every actor who can't find work in Doctors. Treasure this series as they certainly don't make them like this any more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2010 2:32 PM GMT

Boys from the Blackstuff [DVD]
Boys from the Blackstuff [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Angelis
Price: £7.89

86 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the depths of despair, a masterpiece, 22 Mar. 2008
I was old enough to remember what Liverpool was like in the early eighties. The city was trying to cope with mass unemployment and seeing the slow painful death of a port made famous by the slave trade. The riots that took place in Toxteth in 1981 had made national news, and yet it hardly registered here as the whole city was in such a state of rapid decline that a few buildings gutted by fire hardly registered.

And it is extraordinary that in this period Liverpool had a football team that swept all before them, a music scene that produced some of the most critically acclaimed acts of the decade (Japan and Echo and The Bunnymen, for example) and a vibrant local theatre scene. Out of this, and with a help with a few visionaries from down the M6 at Pebble Mill, came a series that followed the fortunes of Chrissy, Dixie, George and of course, Yosser.

It has been said that no drama captured the essence of early eighties deprivation like Boys From The Black Stuff, even though Alan Bleasdale claimed he had written it before Thatcher came to power. This does it a slight disservice, only because it suggests that this should only be seen by those with an interest in that period of seismic social change. Boys From The Black Stuff is not only a gripping drama but also one of the blackest comedies you are ever likely to see. It is a must see. End of.

What is so special about this programme is that it shows in considerable depth the unravelling of each of the main characters (no leads here either, just a fine ensemble of actors in tune with the writing and the roles they played) as they try and cling on to their last bit of pride as they fall into the poverty trap. This spirit leads to further confrontations with the officials from the DHSS, Social Services and even the law. Their descents into despair (and in one harrowing case, madness) is painfully compelling to watch. And the humour that came out of these darkest moments is testament not only to the quality of writing but the spirit of those who have no choice but to keep fighting on.

Liverpool has moved on since then, with it being the European capital of culture this year. However, despite the massive regeneration in the city and (so we're lead to believe) a new dawn for Liverpool, the once mighty Liverpool has fallen down the pecking order in terms of footballing invincibility (the battle for fourth place? do me a favour), musical talent (Atomic Kitten - spare me) and even the drama comes courtesy of Hollyoaks. If this is progress, you can keep it.

Note: this DVD features the Play for Today that preceded the series. It's just as fascinating, but nowhere near as strong as the main series. You could watch it as an appetiser as it kind of sets the scene for what happens during the series, but it isn't compulsary (which is why it's on Disc 3).
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2014 6:11 PM BST

One Summer - The Complete Series (2 Disc Set) [1983] [DVD]
One Summer - The Complete Series (2 Disc Set) [1983] [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Morrissey
Price: £9.11

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One summer you won't want to forget..., 29 Jan. 2008
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At the time of its original broadcast in 1983 this was the programme everyone talked about at school, which was no mean feat considering that the last episode was transmitted before the start of the school term.

This is down in no small part to the engaging performances given by David Morrissey as Billy and Spencer Leigh as Icky; their rough demeanour clashed with just about everyone they came into contact with regardless of whether they were at home or in Wales, where they run away after Billy fears arrest and Icky fears losing his best mate and guardian.

The choice to use film instead of video paid in spades as the contrasting urban and rural landscapes were captured beautifully, as was the mood of these communities (despair in Liverpool, anti-Scouse animosity in the local village). As the series develops you find yourself empathising more with these Scallies, especially as they find a refuge in the home of Kidder (played with subtle composure by the late James Hazeldine) who is also something of a runaway himself.

There is little humour, surprising considering that it was written by Willy Russell (who refused to have his name appear on the original credits due to an `artistic' disagreement with the producers), but Icky, as hopeless as he is, does provide some spontaneously funny moments that provides a little light relief. But there is some tragedy and drama thrown in for good measure which impacts not only on the main characters but also on those of us who fall for their rough charm and hope that they make it.

Following in the aftermath of Boys from The Black Stuff, one of the best drama series ever, it has been overlooked somewhat. This DVD release at least affords the opportunity to judge One Summer on its own merits, and there's plenty to commend here.

The Charmer - The Complete Series [DVD] [1986]
The Charmer - The Complete Series [DVD] [1986]
Dvd ~ Nigel Havers
Offered by RCDiscs.
Price: £11.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Costume drama with an edge, 27 Jan. 2008
This was an enjoyable and surprisingly startling series. Given a post watershed schedule when it was aired back in 1987 one was left to wonder what all the fuss was about as even the scene in the knocking shop was merely suggestive without being graphic. It seems that the Ralph Gorse character (played admirably by Nigel Havers) was nothing more than a wideboy with a plum in his mouth. It is only when you see Gorse tie up Clarice Manners (the object of his affection, played with little conviction by Fiona Fullerton) that you get a hint of his more sadistic side.

The contrast of the more twee and civilised mannerisms of Gorse's first victim Joan Plumleigh-Bruce (played wonderfully by Rosemary Leach) and her confidant Donald Stimpson (played equally well by Bernard Hepton) provide a nice contrast to the murkier depths that Gorse goes to in order to provide a means of support to Clarice. The tug of war between Plumleigh Bruce's forgiveness and Stimpson's suspicion tied in with Gorse's increased desperation makes this a fascinating series with a dramatic conclusion in which ultimately everyone's a loser.

I enjoyed this immensely at the time, and was willing to catch up with it again some 20 or so years later and enjoyed it as much, if not more. If it was made by ITV today they would try and squeeze it into a 2 hour special on a Sunday night, so one should appreciate the depth and quality that went into this production. Worth a look.

Bouquet of Barbed Wire / Another Bouquet - Complete Box Set [DVD]
Bouquet of Barbed Wire / Another Bouquet - Complete Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bouquet of Barbed Wire/Another Bouquet
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £34.99

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Melodrama at its best, 15 Jan. 2008
Bouquet of Barbed Wire was one of the most talked programmes of the 1970s. This was no mean feat in itself as this was a decade that produced television that challenged and entertained to a higher standard than any other decade before or since.

The subject of the programme was controversial enough, based on the apparently incestuous relationship between Peter Manson, a well to do publisher and Prue, his slightly wayward and spoilt daughter who falls pregnant and marries Gavin, an impoverished student.

The first couple of episodes introduce us to the world of the Manson family and those linked to them through marriage or work. As a result these episodes are something of a drag apart from a skirmish between Peter and Gavin that illustrates their mutual contempt for one another. Only when Peter embarks on an affair with Sarah, his recently appointed secretary, do the sparks begin to fly and the unravelling process of an eminently respectable Surrey family begins.

Without wishing to spoil what happens, the programme contains some intense performances from all concerned and some wonderful twists and turns in the storyline that leads to an ending that can truly be described as dramatic.

Such was the popularity of Bouquet of Barbed Wire that it led to a sequel that dealt with the aftermath of what happened at the end of the original series. Despite Another Bouquet featuring the original cast (and thankfully the original actors too) it was always going to be something of an anti-climax, but it was still pulsating to watch with the same strong performances plus some welcome light relief courtesy of Philip Madoc. It also ties up a lot of loose ends following the end of Bouquet of Barbed Wire, with each of the main characters appearing to come to terms with what had happened and move on, although one cliff-hanger does remain at the end.

The fact that both series are now available on one DVD set means that this is a chance to see what all the fuss was about and wonder why television does not make programmes of this calibre anymore.

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