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T. Baker (Kent, England.)

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Blues of a Lifetime: The Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich
Blues of a Lifetime: The Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich
by Cornell Woolrich
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars HARDLY AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY., 9 Nov 2011
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Cornell Woolrich is a fascinating character, allegedly responsible for providing more Hollywood screenplays (adaptions of his books & short stories) than any other author, yet virtually unknown to the average movie-goer. His tales, like the man himself, have an air of mystery about them, the majority being in the 'noir' genre - Phantom Lady, Fear in the Night, The Black Angel, Street of Chance, The Window, to name but a handful.

So I approached this book with a sense of great anticipation, though I'll be honest & admit I was aware it contained only a few fragmented episodes in his life - just five, in fact, producing a mere 137 pages. Hardly likely to very illuminating - & so it proved.

There are other books on Cornell Woolrich, none of which I have read, but they must be more revealing than this, which is hardly an autobiography. Buyer, be warned.

They Made Me A Fugitive [DVD]
They Made Me A Fugitive [DVD]
Dvd ~ Trevor Howard
Price: £9.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SECOND RATE NOIR., 4 Nov 2011
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An authentic atmosphere does not compensate for poor characterisation & a ludicrous plotline &, unfortunately, this film suffers from both.

Consider one of the main characters, gangster boss, 'Narcy.' Have you ever encountered such a person? Mean & nasty, without rhyme or reason. Such individuals just don't exist. Compare him with any of the great James Cagney gangster creations & you'll see what I mean. Cagney's characters, mean & vicious as they are, are also real & have humanity, you can see where they're coming from, how they came to be the way they are. 'Narcy,' by contrast, is a myth - unreal & unbelievable.

As for the plot, if you can take a man on the run breaking into a home where the drunken husband openly greets him while the wife asks him quite seriously if he would mind bumping him off for her, then this film is for you.

The fact is, as noirs go - as any film goes - this is strictly second rate. (However, if you like Trevor Howard, I would recommend 'Clouded Yellow,' a far superior effort).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2014 10:39 PM BST

Film Noir (Pocket Essentials)
Film Noir (Pocket Essentials)
by Paul Duncan
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'ESSENTIAL' IS RIGHT., 20 Oct 2011
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Why do I prefer this briefer-than-brief guide to other, more comprehensive efforts? Simply because it has a minimum of (often irritating) analysis & is very easy to pick up & put down. (In common with another reviewer, my copy is extremely well-thumbed).

Only criticisms:-
a) It could do with updating (last reprinted 2006). In the UK Noir section, particularly, there are glaring omissions (Heatwave, Woman in question, Blackout, The Impersonator, to name but a few),
b) Way of all flesh, a 1940 film starring Akim Tamiroff & Gladys George, is also omitted (in common with just about every Noir guide). This is one of my favourite movies of any genre & deserves to be better known.

However, despite these flaws, I would recommend this item to anyone with an interest in Noir. To the revewer who said the information is available elsewhere - yes, but not in such a handy, concise format, nor so reasonable priced. Me, I wouldn't be without it!

Wild Wild West [DVD]
Wild Wild West [DVD]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars INTERESTING & INFORMATIVE., 3 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Wild Wild West [DVD] (DVD)
This is an interesting & informative collection featuring various historians (including Robert M. Utley) analysing the characters & events of the American West during the 19th century (& early part of the 20th), backed up with plenty of photographs & other visual evidence. I think it provides a more balanced view than another set, 'How the West was lost,' which is overly-sympathetic to the Indians. Current asking price, which equates to £2 per DVD, represents reasonable value. Each DVD lasts 45mins & focusses on one particular character, as follows:-
1. Daniel Boone
2. Davy Crockett
3. General Custer
4. Crazy Horse
5. Wild Bill Hickok
6. Buffalo Bill
7. Geronimo
8. Butch Cassidy

Film Noir Classics Collection 5 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Film Noir Classics Collection 5 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John McIntire
Offered by AllGoodDealz
Price: £24.89

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars REASONABLE VALUE., 29 Dec 2010
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It's strange how, even amongst noir enthusiasts, there are such radical differences of opinion regarding quality. It would appear that volumes 1 & 2 of these Warner sets are the most popular. Personally, however, of the 10 titles contained therein, precisely half I cannot even bear to watch all the way through, namely: Out of the past (too far-fetched storyline), Murder my sweet (too talk-y), Crossfire (trying too hard to make a political point), Dillinger & Born to kill (dislike Lawrence Tierney). To me, volume 4 is best, with a generous 10 titles, only one of which, the dreadful Decoy, falls short.
All of which made me wary when sitting down to view the 8 films on offer here. As it turned out, only one (Cornered) did I find unwatchable. As for Crime in the streets, described by one reviewer as the "most boring film he's ever seen," I found it the best of the 8. Not noir, the same reviewer claims. Well, this is debatable, but it's set in the city, has plenty of night-time scenes, there is crime involved &, most importantly - & where so very many, around 50% in my opinion, noir films fail - THERE IS A MORAL DILEMMA. What more do you want? Furthermore, the acting is of a high standard & it has a powerful message.
All in all, though, a so-so set &, as has previously been pointed out, no extras. Will there be a vol 6, I wonder - & will we dare buy it...?

Younger Than Yesterday
Younger Than Yesterday
Price: £4.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY NEVER SOUNDED BETTER., 23 Feb 2009
This review is from: Younger Than Yesterday (Audio CD)
Many people nominate "Notorious Byrd Bros." as the best Byrds album (even, I read recently, Chris Hillman - strangely, considering his influence here). Personally, I prefer this, always a favourite - one of my most played vinyl records ever, in fact - & now sounding better than ever.

Gary Usher deserves much credit for an impeccable production. Also, Chris Hillman, whose bass-playing just two years previously was considered so inadequate, a session player had to be hired for "Mr Tamborine Man." Here, it is outstanding throughout. As for his songwriting, to me, his contribution (4 & a half songs) forms the backbone of the album.

Negative comments? Dare I mention "Mind gardens?" No, perhaps the less said the better...

With six reasonably enjoyable bonus tracks & extensive sleeve-notes (though no lyrics), this is an excellent buy, capturing a band at the very peak of their powers, in the summmer of love.

P.S. To the reviewer who felt the lead guitar was practically inaudible on "My back pages" & other tracks, I honestly do not notice any difference from previous pressings.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2012 11:57 AM BST

Blood Sweat and Tears
Blood Sweat and Tears
Price: £5.81

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MILESTONE ALBUM., 17 Feb 2009
This review is from: Blood Sweat and Tears (Audio CD)
I never cared much for this album when it first appeared in 1969, its self-conscious blend of jazz & rock sounding rather stiff & artificial, compared with West Coast counterparts Spirit & Santana.
But it's amazing what time can do! Now, I appreciate so much about it:
- the full, rich horn sound,
- the polished production,
- David Clayton-Thomas's superb vocalizing,
- drummer Bobby Colomby's brilliant jazz technique - & tone,
- the precision-playing, all-round.
Why didn't I notice these things before? To be fair, I was only 18 at the time &, for someone weaned on Elvis, the Beatles & the whole rock & roll thing, this was just a bit too formal, I guess (most of their fans at the time did seem to be in their 20's & 30's, come to think of it). The fact that they didn't compose their own material was also a negative factor, though it doesn't seem to matter so much, now.
This must rank as one of the finest albums of the 60's - a milestone, in fact, paving the way for Chicago, Flock & later jazz-rock acts like Spyrogyra.
The 2 bonus tracks are no more than average. "More & more" features increased use of the guitar, while "Smiling phases" - all 18 minutes of it - has a long, slow introduction, then rather uninspired piano improvisation, without the tempo changes that made the album version so interesting - in short, more quantity, less quality.
NOTE: Although, as Amazon's heading indicates, this is an (Austrian) import, the sleeve-notes, including an extensive interview with Bobby Colomby, are in English (no lyric-sheet, though).

Entertainment: Remastered
Entertainment: Remastered
Price: £11.10

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TRUE QUALITY., 14 Feb 2009
Family, to my mind, were never really psychedelic. They emerged during that era, of course, but while their first album, MUSIC IN A DOLL'S HOUSE (a title foisted on them) looked & sounded the part, 'experimental' is probably a more accurate description. One thing they did have is true quality & it is displayed in abundance on this, their 2nd effort.

Critics & fans are divided over its merits in comparison with DOLL'S HOUSE (as a read of Amazon's review pages will confirm). But, personally, I have no doubts, favouring this, primarily because the material is more distinctive & memorable.

Their range of instrumentation is certainly a cut above your average rock group, while arrangements are unexpectedly subtle & intelligent. I especially like their use of 12-string guitar, particularly when combined with tinkling piano, as in "Processions." "The weaver's answer" & "Observations from a hill" are two further obvious highlights, but there's hardly a weak track among the 11.

Actually, I have some observations of my own. I would never accuse Family of copying anyone, HOWEVER....there are several strange coincidences concerning the record:

- The Hollies recorded a song entitled 'Elevated Observations' on their BUTTERFLY album (I think) of 1967, which uses the same idea as the aforementioned track.

- Simon & Garfunkel recorded Paul Simon's 'Patterns' (a 'tapestry of life' concept) on 'Parsley, Sage Rosemary & Thyme' album of 1966, which employs an identical rhythm to 'Weaver's answer.'

- Spirit's 'It shall be' from their 'Family that plays together' album of
1968 has an identical guitar chord sequence(descending Dmaj shape) to 'How-hi-the-li.'
- Family followed up their 'psychedelic' offering (DOLL's HOUSE) with a plain b/w sleeve, as the Beatles did with the WHITE ALBUM, after the psychedelic excess of SGT PEPPER.
- While on the subject of the sleeve, didn't the Doors have a similar front cover photo on 'Strange Days', issued 1967?

Now, for the gripes: some bonus tracks would have been nice - "Hometown" ('B' side of "Second Generation Woman"), for one. As for the lyrics, they have been thoughtfully reproduced, but are full of errors, which usually happens on Japanese issues (at least they have an excuse!).

After this album Family gradually became more hard-rocking, and, for me, less interesting (though Roger Chapman claims he was far happier belting 'em out!).

Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £44.95

5.0 out of 5 stars SEAMLESS MUSIK., 13 Feb 2009
This review is from: Anywhere...Plus (Audio CD)
I stated in my review of New Musik's first album, FROM A TO B, that it has the edge over this (their 2nd) by virtue of its containing 4 hit singles to ANYWHERE's nil. However, that is counterbalanced by the fact that it also contains some weak-ish material, while this has absolutely none.
In fact, the 12 tracks (with a generous running time of 53 minutes, excluding the bonus material) flow seamlessly and, in terms of quality, are almost impossible to separate, though I must confess I particularly like "Room One," which yearns for a return to childhood (some suggest further - to the womb) & reminds me of the 'reluctance to grow' idea expressed by Arthur Lee (of Love) on 'You set the scene' - "and if you take it easy, I'm still teething." Curiously, much of Tony Mansfield's lyrical phrasing is reminiscent of the equally ingenious & enigmatic Arthur: 'forever changes'/'changing minds,' 'sometimes I deal with numbers'/'living by numbers,' 'A my love, B I love'/'from A to B,' 'and all your secrets are your own'/'you've got your secrets, well, that's fine.' Even musically, while entirely different-sounding, they both favour an instinctive approach, with basically simple chord structures - a case of great minds thinking alike, perhaps?
"Division" is another prime cut that might have been a single, but wasn't. And, as stated, no hits emerged. Not that that has ever prevented an album from being a masterpiece & this certainly is, possibly more so than the great FROM A TO B - I wouldn't argue against it, anyway. To me, they are both essential.
The set contains 3 bonus tracks, sleeve-notes, lyrics & photos. And it's good to see, from reading other reviews, that it is finally receiving SOME of the attention & acclaim it deserves.

Time And A Word [Expanded & Remastered]
Time And A Word [Expanded & Remastered]
Price: £7.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A BRAVE EFFORT., 11 Feb 2009
OK, we know that, with this, their 2nd album, Yes had not yet established their trademark sound. However, in a way, I prefer it to their later work, simply because it presents a far clearer concept than on subsequent releases, where the group disappears into the stratospheric realms. All very exciting, of course, but I wonder how many fans honestly relate to - or even understand - lyrics such as: "my eyes convinced eclipsed with the younger moon attained with love" (TOTAL MASS RETAIN) or "charged only for a sight of sound the space agreed between the picture of time behind the face of need" (AND YOU & I). "The time is now & the word is love," on the other hand, is as rich & relevant an idea today as ever & each track offers a different perspective on the theme. Track-by-track analysis:
NO OPPORTUNITY NECESSARY, NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED - "Step out in the night when you're lonely." A great opening line, it poses the question, 'will you accept the challenge of life, or just lie down & die?' Yes's very future was in doubt at this point, so the song had a particular relevance to their situation. (Note: The 'Big Country' extract has provoked criticism over the years, but I think it's great).
THEN - "Love is the only answer, hate is the root of cancer...there's only us who can change it.." Again, we are being urged to respond positively, to make things happen.
EVERYDAYS - Sheer tedium, the reality of so many people's lives - "every day's a-killing time" - is emphasised by the lazy, lethargic arrangement of this Stephen Stills song, until the sudden burst of dynamic energy midway through jolts the listener awake, to show how exciting life COULD be. Tremendous.
SWEET DREAMS - Joy, sorrow, tedium or excitement apart, dreams live on, regardless, as they're "born to last." A (non-hit) single.
THE PROPHET - A touch of philosophy. "Searching for the truth to life, seeing things in different lights...have made him more alive." Continuing the theme of personal development & fulfilment.
CLEAR DAYS - "On a clear day, we'll all be together.." Glimpsing Nirvana.
ASTRAL TRAVELLER - Correctly identified as the precursor of STARSHIP TROOPER, etc. Pretty good in its own right, though. Now we have blast-off...
TIME & A WORD - Still a firm favourite - & concert-closer - this sums up the general theme very well.

Overall, I would describe this album as a brave effort, from a band on the verge of stardom & brimming with the confidence & youthful enthusiasm one would expect. They overstretch themselves at times, trying too hard to impress, but, at others, they blitz the senses through sheer bravado.
Non-Yes fans, especially those with a 'psychedelic' persuasion, may find this more accessible than the group's later output.
Finally, much has been made of the orchestration. Does it work? I think so - anyway, having lived with the album for 40 years now, I cannot imagine it not being there. (The 4 bonus tracks are worth having, though unexceptional).

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