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feline1 (Brighton, Sussex, UK)

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This Sporting Life, Penguin Book No 1674
This Sporting Life, Penguin Book No 1674
by David Storey
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars rugger, 5 Dec. 2014
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This 1960 novel was made into an acclaimed film only three years after it was published (directed by Lindsay Anderson, later of 'If....' / Malcolm MacDowell fame), and I came to the book having seen the film first. (And I came to the film as it had apparently landed actor William Hartnell the role of Doctor Who, if I'm honest!). The story is set in a post-war industrial town "oop North" and is told in the first person, following the exploits of a young working bloke, Arthur Machin, who gets a big break as a star player on the town's rugby team.
The film might be described as a harrowing kitchen-sink drama, certainly no barrel of laughs, skewering the viewer on a great many tense emotional scenes between the male and female leads. Indeed I remember feeling something bordering on traumatised after sitting through it!
In contrast, I found the book a lot gentler and more rounded than Anderson's big screen version. The film stuck remarkably closely to the novel's first half, but then it wound up the ending into an psychological showdown between the characters. In contrast, the book allows the story to dissipate and unwind over a timescale of about 10 years, and overall is much less fraught, if not exactly cheery, and is tempered with a little more dry Northern wit.
When it was published it was very much a modern tale about the present day... half a century later, Britain is a very different place, and we're looking back on a time-capsule of life from before the coal mines and factories closed, when televisions and cars were new luxury items, and a bloke could get his teeth knocked out and go driving round the streets blind drunk without all this health and safety nonsense. Different times :) ... but nonetheless told with an emotional vividness that still seems very alive and contemporary today. The film left me feeling bruised, but the book left me with a far more sanguine taste in my mouth. Good stuff.


Sky
Sky
Price: £10.08

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good re-issue by Esoteric, 3 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Sky (Audio CD)
The band Sky (or should I say "the prog-rock-classical-fusion supergroup Sky...") have always been a slightly guilty pleasure of mine. They were shamelessly uncool, unfashionable, and probably admired by your school music teacher - but they had some great tunes. (And in any case, Herbie Flowers was in them - Herbie Flowers is cool, right?)

Esoteric Records have reissued their first album in a very nice package that collects some bonus tracks and various clips of them on BBC television. (Their manager clearly was very good at getting them on telly!)

Sky's production values were always high (nice clean, well mixed recordings - helped by the excellent musical arrangements, where each instrument has its place in the sound spectrum), and this CD sounds great. I compared it an old CD I had from the 1990s, and its been remastered very sensitively, wisely avoiding any great pimping of dynamics or tonal tweaks - just sounding slightly louder and clearer.
The album hits the ground running with the opener 'Westway' (showing one of the secrets of Sky's success - their tunes always had a good beat!) and there's not really a duff number on it. There's plenty to enjoy in the epic 5-part classico-prog number "Where Opposites Meet" (the opening keyboard riff should please the ear of any Tubular Bells fan, for starters).

A welcome bonus is a live version of this track, which frankly is played so note-perfectly that at times I half suspected they'd just remixed the studio tapes, putting some extra reverb and audience cheers on! - however the last 10 minutes are also included in video form on the accompanying DVD, and the lads really do seem to be there playing it all for real. (Although, there are definitely points where I hear the Prophet 5 synth, but Francis Monkman's hands are both on his harpsichord! Not quite sure what's going on there!!)
You also get both A and B sides of the 'Dies Irae' single (which actually came out after Sky 2 the following year).

Other video footage includes charming performances onthose bastions of BBC light entertainment, Pebble Mill and The Val Doonican Show. Hah!

The original album artwork is reproduced faithfully, right down to the original liner notes.

Two tiny gripes lead me to deduct a star: for some reason, "Where Opposites Meet" is included as a single unskippable track, rather than 5 seperate ones. Not sure why they decided to do that! (even the vinyl LP had band gaps between the 5 parts so you could put the needle down in the right place). And the BBC footage has been converted from its native PAL to the inferior NTSC format, creating a few wibbly artefacts on fine detail (such as John William's fretboards). Again, not sure why they did that - but to be fair, the picture quality is still very high.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 5:10 PM GMT


The Professionals 4: Hunter Hunted
The Professionals 4: Hunter Hunted
by Ken Blake
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars "Now a touch, all-action TV series from London Weekend", 2 Dec. 2014
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This is one of those "TV Tie-in" novelisations that were all the rage before home video was invented, allowing readers to enjoy the exploits of Bodie & Doyle in paperback form. This fourth installment covers three episodes from Season 2 of The Professionals:
- "Hunter Hunted", where Cowley asks Bodie and Doyle to test out a new laser-sighted gun (laser-beams were all the rage in the 1970s...), Doyle is rather scundered to discover someone has pinched it from his airing cupboard when he was out at the pub.
- "First Night", where some terrorists kidnap an Israeli diplomat from a theatre on the South Bank, involving a highly expensive hovercraft and helicopter chase.
- "The Rack. where Roger-the-wind-up-merchant-from-Fawlty-Towers-'TheAnniversay' gives Bodie & Doyle a duff tip-off, leading to a bungled raid where DI Burnside from The Bill gets a ruptured spleen and so there's a public inquiry into where CI5 should be banned for being too violent (or something).

The prose on offer here is no great shakes, and laced with a rather 'macho' laddish air that would be quite tiresome if you haven't seen the TV show and can imagine Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw delivering all their lines with a charismatic twinkle. It sticks very closely to the TV episodes as broadcast, although "The Rack" does include a considerably more gruesome denouement that was allowed on ITV in 1979.

Not the greatest work of literature ever produced by any means, but having enjoyed the TV episodes on Network's recent BluRay editions, the book was well worth the 1p a secondhand copy cost me.


Flights of Angels
Flights of Angels
by Paula Milne
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars 'The second book based on the the successful BBC-tv series!', 22 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Flights of Angels (Paperback)
This is the second 'TV tie-in' novel for the BBC's nursing drama 'Angels'. Written by the series' creator Paula Milne, it accompanied the show's second season (1976). It sticks very closely to the characters established on screen, but most of the story material is entirely new for the book, with just two of the actual television episodes getting covered. The book also explains in passing where Nurse Ruth has vanished too, just in case viewers were wondering! Whilst it's not exactly about to win a prize for great literature, it's still a reasonable page turner, and Milne has quite a talent for articulating her character's feelings. Having enjoyed seeing Angels Series 2 on its recent DVD release, I enjoyed these the further material in the book too.


Philips Sonicare HX9172/10 FlexCare Platinum Rechargeable Toothbrush with UV Sanitizer
Philips Sonicare HX9172/10 FlexCare Platinum Rechargeable Toothbrush with UV Sanitizer
Price: £112.50

4.0 out of 5 stars impressed, 17 Oct. 2014
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I'm really enjoying this toothbrush! It wasn't exactly cheap, and not having used one of these before, it took me about a week to really get the hang of it.... but my experience has been that all the hype about these 'ultrasonic' brushes is true: my teeth feel lovely and clean (although not scraped to death like the way a dental hygeinist's 'scale and polish' leaves them), and my gums hardly ever bleed any more. Get in!


Fused UK Mains Shaver Adaptor
Fused UK Mains Shaver Adaptor
Offered by Solent Cables Limited
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars just what I neeeded, 17 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Perfect for plugging in my Philips ultra sonic toothbrush (as it came with a 2-prong 'shaver' plug, and I wanted to plug it into an ordinary UK wall socket)


Angels
Angels
by Paula Milne
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The story of six student nurses, living away from home, learning to cope with their lives, loves, hopes and fears...", 17 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Angels (Paperback)
This is one of those 'TV Tie-in' novels that were all the rage back in the days before home videos, when if you missed a TV show the night it was broadcast, you'd missed it for good. 'Angels' was a popular BBC nursing drama in its day, probably bringing a lot more realism to the genre that British audiences had seen on their screens before. The novel is co-written by the series' creator, Paula Milne, and was published in 1975 to coincide with the show's first season.
Unusually for one of these books, it doesn't feature *any* of the storylines from the TV episodes. Instead we get one chapter each for the show's six main characters, each telling a brand new tale of their exploits. However the text certainly sticks very closely to the characterisation and background stories we saw on screen - it feels very 'authentic'.
It's not exactly going to win any prizes for literature, and is perhaps a bit in danger of reading like something out of a women's magazine, but if you enjoyed the TV show I suspect you'd enjoy the book too.


Dr. Who - Music From The Tenth Planet
Dr. Who - Music From The Tenth Planet

3.0 out of 5 stars mastered from old gramophone records, 9 Oct. 2014
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This short (20 minute) CD collects various bits of music that were used in the four-episode Dr Who serial 'The Tenth Planet' (first broadcast on BBC1 in 1966). If you're a Doctor Who fan and want to hear all this soundtrack music in its raw form (without actors babbling away all over it), well, this CD does an admirable job of making it available. Note that the music itself is not from the 'BBC Radiophonic Workshop', nor does it features any synthesizers or the kind of wierd electronic sounds that Dr Who was famous for: it's mostly all done with conventional acoustic instruments - strings, brass, percussion, etc..... Indeed, none of it was even recorded especially for Dr Who in the first place - it was what is known as "library music" - published by a music library company, whose business was to make it available to TV or film directors on a tight budget, who needed some quick ready made tunes to add a bit of atmosphere to their programme. The most famous piece on here is Martin Slavin's "Space Adventure 2", which with its eerie melody and echoing stings became a signature tune of sorts for the cybermen throughout the 1960s.
The only real downside to this CD is that the music has clearly all been taken from well-used gramophone records, rather than from the original master tapes. So, it has a fairly tinny sound by modern standards, and is full of vinyl crackles and pops. It doesn't sound like any digital clean-up or remastering has been done at all.


Angels: The Complete Series 2 [DVD]
Angels: The Complete Series 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fiona Fullerton
Price: £32.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware: encoding problems on the DVD mean a juddery picture, 22 Sept. 2014
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Having enjoyed seeing Series 1 of this 1970s hospital drama come out on DVD, I was pleased when Simply Media announced they'd be bringing out Series 2 as well - but unfortunately when the discs arrived, it was immediately obvious there's been some kind of authoring/encoding error with them. Like most BBC shows of the time, the show was shot in video in a television studio, then when they go outside it's shot on film instead (cf, Monty Python's "This House is Surrounded by Film!" sketch).
As the technical boffins amoungst you may know, video in those days went at 50Hz, whilst they shot the film at 25 frames per second..... looks like someone (or some machine) at Simply has gotten confused, and the video bits have been "filmized" too (i.e. chucked every-other video field away, so they go at 25Hz like the film... the result is horrible jerky motion when anything moves quickly on the picture - almost like some dodgy Match-of-the-Day instant replay.
It's immediately obvious on episode 1... not as bad on eps. 2 and 3, but still noticeable..... I didn't wait any longer before posting this negative review.
This is particularly unfortunate, as Simply Media made the exact same mistake with their "Softly Softly" DVD some months ago, and had to issue replacement discs to everyone.... they don't seem to have learnt much from the experience.
Honestly, you have to wonder what sort of quality control they have there!
(Because of the different way computer monitors work, this kind of problem often isn't noticeable if you want on a laptop etc - but playing the DVD on a DVD player hooked up to a television, it's horrible).
Disappointing. I hope Simply will sort this out swiftly, I'd advise potential buyers to wait until they do.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2015 5:54 PM GMT


Queen: Live At The Rainbow '74 [SD] [Blu-ray] [2014]
Queen: Live At The Rainbow '74 [SD] [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Queen
Price: £14.07

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat to have this given a proper mainstream release at last, 15 Sept. 2014
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This disc is a real treat, showcasing Queen on the tour for their third album. What a difference to all that twatting-around-in-a-yellow-jacket mid-80s Magic Tour stuff that the media tend to remember them by!
The band's albums back then were a tour-de-force of lavish studio overdubbing - massed vocal harmonies and guitar overdubs... so you might wonder if they were going to sound a bit rubbish live on stage with only four people... but there was no need to worry, they sound huge! Taylor's drums in particular are just IMMENSE, great pounding beefy tom fills all over the place. May copes admirably with the task of translating his multi-tracked guitar parts to the stage - a lot of the time, he's just whanging out big power chords, with a delicious overdriven sound that's quite massive - his other trick is to use an 'echoplex' device to play in harmony with himself on many of the solos. Mercury's vocals are, of course, superb. By the 80s he sounded like he was blasting out of the bottom of an ashtray half the time, but here in the early 70s he still has a purity and sweetness in his voice despite the strident trumpet-blasts of power he belts out. Obviously the three-part vocal harmonies aren't as elaborate as in the studio, but when they do do them (e.g. Ogre Battle) they are glorious! John Deacon, as ever, provides a solid foundation on bass under all this showing off, bless :) Mercury's performance is what really dazzles of course - he prances around like some kind of bacchanalian satyr, giving it 110%, utterly ludicrous but utterly brilliant. He is usually too busy doing that to have time to play the piano, but when he does that adds a further lovely flavour: 'White Queen' for instance is beautiful, the mass guitar orchestration of the record being taken care of by Mercury's sensitive playing whilst Brian does a delicious howling solo over the top.
Songs like 'Father to Son', 'March of the Black Queen' and 'Now I'm Here' are belted out with a raw power that arguably blows the meticulous studio versions away.
On a technical level - the concert was shot on 625-line PAL video (the UK television standard of the day) and whilst it isn't "high definition", they've done a brilliant job with this BluRay of going back to the original source and getting the best out of it. It's amusing to see video artefacts like "microphony" (horizontal bands on the picture where the band were playing so loud it made the camera tube resonante!) and overloading the video signal (this actually looks brilliant when the dry ice is unleashed in Lap of the Gods Revisited). Another benefit of the video shoot over film is that there's a lot of great electronic vision-mixing, blending camera feeds in that Top of the Pops way, so you get to see two band members in closeup at the same time.
As a bonus, some scraps of film are included from a concert 6 months earlier on their Queen II tour... with a message at the end asking if anyone knows the whereabouts of the rest of the missing footage! (come on, someone out there must have it in their attic!! Stop hoarding! ;)

Really, this concert footage is as good as it can be, given the technology of the day. It's a brilliant performance. Some people might miss certain songs being in the set - obviously none of their later hits are there, as they hadn't written them yet! But if you love the early Queen albums you need to see this BluRay. It's brilliant.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2014 8:57 PM GMT


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