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Rendez-Vous
Rendez-Vous

4.0 out of 5 stars Technical issues with the remastering, but still great music, 21 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Rendez-Vous (MP3 Download)
As several CD reviewers have pointed out, this seems to be a somewhat flawed release in terms of the remastering (and that's possibly an understatement, but I won't pretend to be an expert in production matters). I want this review to concentrate on the music, rather than the merits of the re-issue relative to the 1980s original. I'll simply drop one star in respect of the mastering problems.

"Rendez-Vous" holds a special place in my heart. It was the first Jarre album that I purchased (on cassette tape!) with my own saved-up pocket money. And I still love it dearly for its warmth and optimism. Even the title and album artwork are suggestive of a call for togetherness that also lies at the heart of the music.

Jarre nearly always opens his albums well, and this is no exception. First Rendez-Vous is beautiful: sparse and simple, with an improvised feel. I like to picture Jarre in his studio, simply playing in the notes from a couple of keyboards while recording this track. It also acts as a prelude, introducing melodies to be explored more fully later on.

But while First Rendez-Vous may set you afloat on a dreamy cloud to begin with, Second Rendez-Vous begins with a siren-like urgency: a memorable hook that launches the album's most ambitious and innovative sequence. This is Jarre at his most orchestral, and it's no wonder that this piece works so well in live performance. Strings, brasses and choirs pound out dramatic fanfares. There's also a delicious foot-tapping sequence that features the thunderous "laser harp" (actually an Elka Synthex), which reprises the bassline that was introduced by the first track. The initial hook then fades back in to signal the grand finale: orchestral and choral fanfares return, and a synth lead soars over the top, exploiting Jarre's ingenious use of pitch-bend to great harmonic effect before the track comes to a cymbal-crashing close.

Third Rendez-Vous provides a reflective pause, and here the noble laser harp takes centre stage with a stately and nostalgaic theme.

No Jarre album is complete without the crowd-pleasing big tune, and Fourth Rendez-Vous famously provides it here. For me, this is the album's least interesting track, but I won't say it's a weak point. The tune is famous for a reason: it's a great one. But there's little else to say.

Fifth Rendez-Vous is another multi-segmented work that gives itself ample time to breathe and develop. The slow opening has an improvised feel once again, and a lovely bell-like sonority. The more agitated later section is actually reworked from the mythical "Music for Supermarkets" album.

The poignant final track, aptly named "Last Rendez-Vous" (and even more aptly subtitled "Ron's Piece") was to be performed and recorded in space by the astronaut and saxophonist Ron McNair, who was among the seven who lost their lives on the ill-fated Challenger shuttle mission of 1986. The piece now makes a fitting musical tribute: an elegiac saxophone solo drifts reflectively amidst a luminous backdrop of string-like harmonies.

I haven't heard this album since I virtually wore out the cassette version in my teens. Despite the technical problems of this re-issue, it was like being greeted by an old friend.


Favourite Carols from King's
Favourite Carols from King's
Price: £7.49

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Christmas carols. It's King's College Choir. What are you waiting for?, 17 Dec. 2014
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Carol collections are not exactly hard to come by. And, justly enough, the choir of King's College, Cambridge is already well-represented in this area. Nevertheless, this latest collection does address a gap in the market, and so is well worth a look. It is a modern collection from the recent Stephen Cleobury era. But, unlike some previous offerings on the EMI label, it is not a fully-sequenced reproduction of the Nine Lessons and Carols service. This disc contains only the music. And, as wonderful as the Lesson readings are, there are times when the music is all you want. There is a well-judged spread of choral repertoire alongside congregational Christmas hymns. The quality of the singing is, of course, unsurpassed. Some newer carols are also included. A particular delight is Bob Chilcott's sublime "Shepherd's Carol": a masterclass in miniature musical story-telling that is surely destined to become a seasonal standard. Minor gripes: nothing by John Rutter, and the choice of new descant for the final verse of "Once In Royal" is not my favourite (I prefer Cleobury's soaring one from the late 1990s). But this is a fine collection, well worth having even if, like me, you already own several. Long live the Christmas carol!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2014 3:41 AM GMT


Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 [Clean]
Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 [Clean]
Price: £7.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling!, 4 Mar. 2013
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Without hesitation, this would be one of my "desert island discs", and is now the only Goldberg that I turn to in my collection. Lyricism, clarity, wit and a seemingly-effortless virtuosity combine to make a performance that is truly spellbinding, and with an evident weight of intellect behind it. To know that the pianist conquered a career-threating hand injury in producing this recording only increases its power to move the listener. I particularly love the way that the repeats are executed with their added ornamentation, executed with a deftness of touch that I can do nothing but marvel at. The sound engineering is likewise flawless. It would be fair to say that the Goldberg Variations became a new work for me on the day that I bought this recording.


Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds - The New Generation
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds - The New Generation
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £12.50

4.0 out of 5 stars A very worthy retread, 7 Feb. 2013
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Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that this is a remake, it is worth noting up front what an extraordinary piece of work this is. Conceived for the studio (and only transferred later to the stage), it blends spoken narrative, instrumental rock music, orchestral arrangements and song in a way that is almost entirely unique. Some of the melodies have become justly famous, and the musical style suits the story perfectly. As a combined whole, the concept is masterful. With that in mind, how does this compare with the 1978 reference recording? To begin with, the story content has been tweaked rather than overhauled. There are no new sections. The revisions to the script amount to added phrases and dialog exchanges here and there. This is not quite the degree of expansion that I was expecting, given the initial fanfare around this relaunch. And it follows that there is no significant new musical material either: only some stretching and reflowing to fit the altered shape of the text where needed. Viewed from a distance, the score is the same. The instrumentation has changed to accommodate a greater proportion of synth textures and basslines. This works better in some places than in others. There are some very nice new sound effects and creepy atmospheres. Despite a different cast, most of the spoken and sung vocals have been subjected to production techniques that will make them sound familiar to fans of the original. Liam Neeson's narration is excellent, but of course the ghost of Richard Burton looms large. On the whole, I find this to be a worthy retread, but it won't replace the original as the default recording that I reach for. Many speak of having "grown up" with the original recording. This one is, as per its title, one for the new generation, who might indeed prefer its modernised sound world. If that means that it gains a new legion of fans who might otherwise overlook it, then that's a good thing in my view.


A Billion Jokes (Volume 1)
A Billion Jokes (Volume 1)
Price: £5.39

4.0 out of 5 stars It's not all new, but it's all funny, 18 Nov. 2012
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To begin with, I think I would have bought any joke book with such a deliciously cheeky title. Add Peter Serafinowicz's name as the author, and it's a shoo-in. If you follow @serafinowicz on Twitter, then you might recognise some of the material here, which has been distilled and adapted from his many tweets. It's none the worse for that, though. Couple a great comedic talent with Twitter's 140-character restriction, and you have a recipe for some exquisite gems. Plus I encountered plenty of surprises, and it was those that supplied the big laugh-out-loud moments. The presentation here is one gag per page, each accompanied by a quirky line drawing. Predictably, I thumbed greedily through the whole lot in less than 30 minutes! And I laughed like a sonofabicz. I hope to be able to purchase the remaining volumes in due course.


Ancient Light
Ancient Light
Price: £4.35

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every sentence is a jewel, 18 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Ancient Light (Kindle Edition)
This is John Banville doing what he does best: writing about the nature of memory, and doing so with prose that sings and soars. The story is certainly no page-turner. Indeed, much of the pleasure here derives from lingering on a single page, and savouring one exquisitely-crafted sentence after another. There is much in common here with "The Sea", Banville's Booker winner from a decade or so ago. Once again, the protagonist is an ageing artistic professional (an actor, in this case), who is contemplating events from his past while negotiating those of the present. And, once again, the past and present narratives are woven together organically throughout the book. The writing is truly magical, conjuring images of dazzling clarity. I found myself reading sentences multiple times, just to relish the sound and shape of them in my mind's ear. Extraordinary.


Ash
Ash
Price: £3.59

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars James Herbert does Dan Brown, and fails., 12 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Ash (Kindle Edition)
I was excited by the prospect of this book, since it featured the protagonist from "Haunted" and "The Ghosts of Sleath", both of which I can remember enjoying along with much of Herbert's other work over the years. But, for me, the book didn't manage to deliver even a fraction of what it seemed to promise.

There is no genuine chill or menace in the atmosphere. There is only a clumsy attempt to derive them from an endless stream of haunted-castle cliches. It doesn't help that the prose is so grossly adjective-laden as to be virtually unreadable. (And why does the author find it necessary to remind us of each character's role on every page, referring to them as "the investigator" and "the psychologist" where a simple "he" or "she" would do?)

The supernatural elements of the story feel like an afterthought, and simply fizzle out rather than conclude by the end. The rest is reminiscent of Dan Brown, complete with an influential secret society, and some (mostly laughable) attempts to weave real-life characters and historical events into the narrative. I found it impossible to care, and had pretty much resorted to skim-reading for the final third of the book, by which time it was painfully obvious how it would end.

There are a couple of decent set-pieces, but they come nowhere near redeeming this misfire.

Read James Herbert, certainly, but don't read this.


PDair Leather Case for Apple iPhone 4 & 4S - Vertical Pouch Type Belt clip included (Black)
PDair Leather Case for Apple iPhone 4 & 4S - Vertical Pouch Type Belt clip included (Black)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted, and just what I needed., 15 Dec. 2011
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I was so glad to discover this item. Slide-in pouches with belt clips are, at time of writing, not easy to find for the 4S. Even the Apple Store were not able to point one out on their accessory wall.

This item arrived promptly, and has clearly been manufactured to a high specification with good quality materials. Although time will be the ultimate judge, it has the look and feel of something that will last.

The fit for the iPhone 4S is reassuringly snug and secure, and has been engineered in such a way as to leave a slight gap between the inside wall of the case and the phone's touchscreen. I like this because it avoids abrasion on the screen when sliding the phone in and out of the case. The belt clip is likewise robust and grippy.

I can't fault it.


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