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Barry Cronin "hart-reaver" (Manchester, UK)

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Doctor Who - 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition [DVD]
Doctor Who - 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt Smith

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good first attempt - now let's have the proper release..., 11 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like a lot of people, I was very much looking forward to this summation of Matt Smith's time as the good Doctor, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary celebrations, and like a lot of people I'm very disappointed - not only with the presentation but also with the content.

So, here's how it should be done...

First of all, we don't need 'The Name of the Doctor' (the one with the War Doctor reveal) or 'An Adventure in Space and Time'. Both of these have already been adequately presented on DVD, and they only serve to unbalance the collection as a whole. (To be fair, a separate Blu-ray release of 'An Adventure...' might be an idea, preferably with commentaries.)

Instead of the current flimsy cardboard box and the four bulky jewel cases inside, what we need is a solid slipcase a la the David Tennant Specials release (2010). The outside of this can be adorned with Gallifreyan script similar to what's on offer now, but also showing the words 'Doctor Who - The Complete Eleventh Doctor Specials'. Inside the slipcase (again a la the Tennant Specials) is a gatefold containing the four discs. The back of this gatefold can show a montage of relevant images from the episodes; the reverse houses the four discs, each of these also decorated with Gallifreyan, and on removing the discs we get to see the striking images of the four Doctors - Paul McGann, John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith - that currently can be seen on the front of the jewel cases.

Disc 1 should contain the 50th Anniversary Special 'The Day of the Doctor', now with a commentary from Matt Smith and David Tennant; other extras to include at least the following: the two minisodes - 'The Last Day' and 'The Night of the Doctor' - 'From Script to Screen', the Strax cinema intros, the first 'Behind the Lens', 'Behind the Scenes', 'Doctor Who Explained', deleted scenes and trailers.
Disc 2 should contain the 2013 Christmas Special (and Matt Smith's final full episode) 'The Time of the Doctor', now with a commentary from Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat; other extras to include at least the following: 'Tales From the TARDIS', the second 'Behind the Lens', and 'Farewell to Matt Smith'.
Disc 3 should contain the other three Matt Smith Christmas Specials: 'A Christmas Carol', 'The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe' and 'The Snowmen'. Yes, these are already out there, but without them the title of this box would be a misnomer.
Finally, Disc 4 should contain miscellaneous extras, including 'Doctor Who - The Ultimate Guide', 'The Science of Doctor Who', the previously unreleased Culture Show Special marking 50 years of the programme, the 2013 Doctor Who Prom, and last but not least 'The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot', preferably with a commentary from Peter, Big Col and Sylv.

Finally, as well as the presentation being very, and the contents somewhat, disappointing, my copy had two of Disc 3 and none of Disc 4. Seems I'm not the only one to suffer this fate, and to make matters worse, though I would have liked a replacement I was only offered a refund. So all things considered, I've decided not to re-order. Obviously I have the episodes and a lot of the extras elsewhere, I saw the Prom and 'The Ultimate Guide' when they were on the telly, and I suppose there's always YouTube for 'The Five(ish) Doctors' - which, under the circumstances, somehow seems appropriate.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2014 11:03 AM BST

Fu Manchu - The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu - The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu
by Sax Rohmer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think again!, 6 Aug. 2013
I disagree with Daniel's review. Any Americanised spellings I either didn't spot or they didn't bother me. On the other hand, these paperback reprints are attractive and reasonably priced, and a lot easier to find than "originals or older copies".

Oh, and you're skating on thin ice re spelling if you write "American's" when you mean "Americans".
And 'however' is one word.

The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens: Anniversary edition
The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens: Anniversary edition
by Paul Schlicke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Very Definition of a Treasure-Trove, 6 Nov. 2011
I remember this book the first time it appeared, under a slightly different title, back in the late 1990s, and remember also being disappointed I wasn't able to get the first edition. However, I did snap up the (lightly revised) paperback edition with its splendid Pickwickian cover; I still have that copy and won't be parting with it - it remains one of the least dust-gathering books on my shelves.

But I couldn't resist the lure of this Anniversary reissue, and hats off to those good folk at OUP for bringing it back into the public domain once more - may it never go out of print again.

Dickens is 200 years old on the 7th of February 2012, folks (order your bunting now!), and The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens does what it says on the cover - offer perfect companionship for the celebrations (both public and private) and beyond. This is no mere dry-as-dust A-Z of facts (though it is arranged alphabetically - anything else would be madness); rather it is a vast compendium of mini essays all about the great man: his life, work, times and seemingly virtually everything else that came into the orbit of the 'Sparkler of Albion'. To dip in at random, the entry on 'penny dreadfuls' rubs shoulders with 'pets belonging to Dickens'; 'dramatizations' is next to 'drink', while 'madness, lunacy and insanity' is followed by 'magic lanterns' - these entries and all the rest are eminently, compulsively, addictively readable.

The facts are there if you want them - Dickens Family Tree, Maps, Alphabetical List of Characters, Time Chart - mostly as appendices; otherwise the 600+ pages consist of this vast store-house of "collective memory", as one reviewer previously put it. A less 'academic' academic book you could hardly wish to find; we are lucky to have it; and as Simon Callow says in his new foreword, "it is very good to have it back."
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2011 4:54 PM GMT

Liszt: The Complete Piano Music
Liszt: The Complete Piano Music
Price: £182.84

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy Forever..., 9 Mar. 2011
It is almost impossible to know where to begin with this magnificent endeavour and phenomenal achievement. So, how about this - I got my box today and I haven't stopped drooling yet.

Everyone involved, from all at Hyperion to the main man himself, Leslie Howard, should be justly proud. There is nothing else quite like it, and why would there be?

And Liszt deserves it. A man of genius, undoubtedly, but also a man of humility, generosity, wide-ranging interests and sentiments - they rarely make 'em like that anymore. If one is staggered at one man recording all this (and one is!), the thought that one man wrote it all beggars belief.

The actual box, in case you are wondering, is splendidly sturdy and rather more attractive than the picture above suggests. The booklet is extremely informative and nicely illustrated, and the original album covers and liner notes are available free via the Hyperion website, which - bearing in mind how cheaply (pound for pound) this is currently retailing at, just about puts the icing on the cake.

If I may be so bold...Hyperion Records, Leslie Howard - the spirit of Franz Liszt salutes you!

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores (Book & Rarities CD): 1
The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore's Scores (Book & Rarities CD): 1
by Doug Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £49.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How could it not be 5 stars..?, 3 Oct. 2010
Anything less than a five star review for this book would be churlish, wouldn't it? Not to say parsimonious. After all, the book is unique, insofar as it is unlikely to ever see a rival publication. And as it is written by the highly respected film music scholar Doug Adams, and has been nearly ten years in the making - indeed, the first movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is nearly ten years old now, folks! - and as the book has been produced to the highest standards, with a beautiful layout and balance of text, illustration, music examples and film stills, and as it comes with a bonus CD of 'rarities' from Howard Shore's scores - unused or alternative tracks for the most part - and which makes for a fascinating and hugely enjoyable listen, what's not to like? Unless you don't like this music, of course?

But so many do. Like this music, that is. Rarely has a film (or in this instance, a trilogy of films) - and certainly rarely has a modern film - seen its music take on almost a life of its own, and become something that people can't get enough of. Closely following the original soundtracks, which gave us a generous four hours of music, we had the Complete Recordings, which gave us nearly three times as much music, and, far from being overkill, revealed to us the depth, range, and reach of Howard Shore's melodic and dramatic invention. And it hasn't stopped there, with Shore's six-movement Lord of the Rings Symphony being performed regularly, and even more amazingly, sell-out concert performances around the world of the complete scores to each film, with a projection of the films showing simultaneously for good measure.

And the juggernaut shows no signs of stopping. If the gods begin to look favourably on the so-far less than smooth genesis of "The Hobbit" movie(s), we may yet get to hear Howard Shore's music for those, and then we can look forward to the soundtrack release, the Complete Recordings release, and Doug Adams's 'The Music of "The Hobbit" Film(s)'...

So 5 stars it is, for this book is a labour of love by all concerned - Doug Adams most of all, of course - and a fitting tribute to what is surely a landmark in film music.

The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction
The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction
by John Sutherland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not enough hours in the day..., 7 Sept. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you've only ever read 'Wuthering Heights', 'Great Expectations' or even 'Dracula', buy this book now and have your mind boggled at the vast range of Victorian literature that still awaits your pleasure.

As soon as you've bought it, skip straight to page 705 and read John Sutherland's fascinating essay on the life-cycle of a Victorian novel - as entertaining and thought-provoking a piece as usual from this author.

That done, browse the rest to your heart's content, or even read it cover to cover - though the latter is difficult, because, once started, you will soon find yourself going off at all sorts of tangents, following up leads, having your appetite whetted for titles that sound just up your street...'The Deemster' by Hall Caine, anyone? Or 'On the Face of the Waters' by Flora Annie Steel? Richard Cobbold's 'The History of Margaret Catchpole' or Maxwell Gray's 'The Silence of Dean Maitland'?

I could go on. Happily, John Sutherland already has.

Maria McKee : Live at the BBC
Maria McKee : Live at the BBC
Price: £7.12

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real McKee, 9 Nov. 2008
Unlike any amount of so-called pop princesses, who would be nothing without manipulative gurus behind them (and who are really not very much even then), and all those witless Pop Idol wannabees who mistake a quick track to success for honest talent, Maria McKee was - and remains - the real thing. A genuine songwriting ability - words and music - she's also a wonderful performer, and blessed with a voice that can thrill, scare and soothe by turns.

This CD is a bargain on Amazon right now, and if you've ever warbled along to 'Show Me Heaven' or enjoyed Fergal Sharkey's take on Maria's 'A Good Heart', buy this at once. It is a wonderful record of two gigs (in Manchester and Cambridge in the early 90s), when Maria showcased mostly material from her first two solo albums, plus a track or two from her earlier band days, and the above mentioned two songs.

I love the way she speeds up 'You Gotta Sin to Get Saved' on here compared to the album version, it's great to finally hear her doing 'A Good Heart', and I actually think she improves on the album version of 'Breathe' with the live version here.

The CD runs to nearly 80 minutes. It costs about a fiver. The performances of great songs are superb. Maria McKee is an artist to cherish. 'Nuff said, I think.

Symphony 5
Symphony 5
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IT DOESN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS..., 4 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Symphony 5 (Audio CD)
Many people think VW's 4th & 6th Symphonies are his finest achievements. I don't, though I love those works, and indeed, all his music. For me, his 5th Symphony is his crowning achievement, and Previn's recording of it (his first - he did it again later) is the finest recording of it. What comes across is Previn's belief in the music - that this symphony is just as passionate as the two symphonies either side of it. True, it doesn't have the anger of the 4th or the desolation of the 6th; instead, it offers hope and consolation, qualities we all need.

You really have to take your hat off to a man who can be a foil to Morecambe & Wise in one of the funniest TV sketches ever, and then can go into a recording studio and coax this kind of playing from an orchestra. I have about a dozen recordings of VW's 5th, all with something to offer - if my record collection disappeared overnight, this recording (as part of the boxed complete cycle, I hasten to add!) would be the first thing I would buy again.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 30, 2011 10:13 PM BST

Vaughan Williams: Folksong Arrangements [British Composers]
Vaughan Williams: Folksong Arrangements [British Composers]
Price: £3.99

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something rather special..., 28 July 2008
Every so often a CD comes along where just one track takes your breath away, and no matter what the disc cost it immediately becomes priceless in your collection. Here the track in question is 21), an arrangement by VW for voice, violin and piano of the folksong "How cold the wind doth blow", also known as "The Unquiet Ghost". I'd never heard this arrangment by VW before (he arranged it a number of times), and was literally blown away. The singing, by the wonderful Robert Tear, and the equally wonderful accompaniment from Hugh Bean and Philip Ledger (the former made the best recording EVER of The Lark Ascending, with Boult, by the way), allied to the timeless melody and tragic words, will break your heart. It is as simple as that.

The rest of the disc is almost as marvellous - that is meant as praise, for track 21 is in a class of its own. Buy it now, while it is cheap and available.

Witch Wood (World's Classics)
Witch Wood (World's Classics)
by John Buchan
Edition: Paperback

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort!, 16 Jun. 2008
Just to counter the earliest review here - by someone who didn't even finish the book! Witch Wood, for me, is one of Buchan's best. Brilliant recreation of the period, fabulous detail, wonderful atmosphere and a cracking story. I would agree, to some degree, that the book can be tough going - but in the Oxford World's Classics edition pictured here you get loads of helpful background, in the introduction and notes - shame this edition is no longer in print, then, I guess! Seek out the novel all the same, it really is a fine work.

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