Profile for John McCartney, Amazon Customer > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by John McCartney...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,976
Helpful Votes: 835

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
John McCartney, Amazon Customer (Norfolk)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
pixel
Stravinsky: The Firebird etc
Stravinsky: The Firebird etc

5.0 out of 5 stars Is this the best orchestral recording of the Twentieth Century?, 28 Oct 2014
OK, there's some tape hiss. This was recorded in 1959, after all (in Watford Town Hall, actually). But the quality of the performance and, above all else, the stunning sound, makes this the best orchestral recording I have ever heard. Honestly. Listen on a decent Hi-Fi at a good volume and it will blow your socks off. After 5 minutes you simply don't hear the hiss, and from The Intercession of the Princesses (track 16) onwards you will be amazed. The dynamic range beats anything I've heard, analogue or digital, on vinyl, CD, tape, or minidisc, and the simple microphone placement (three omnis, left, right and centre apparently) means there's no distracting close miking of a particular instrument. Why can't we have records like this today? No trickery, just brilliance.

But you really need better than an MP3 to hear it in all its glory. Buy the CD if you can. If not, see if you can find a FLAC download. This recording is worth it.


Knosti Disco-Antistat Record Cleaning system (Latest Model)
Knosti Disco-Antistat Record Cleaning system (Latest Model)
Offered by Youshiko
Price: £38.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product for the Audiophile, 22 July 2014
I found this to be an excellent product. Having decided to rescue the four or five hundred lp records which have been sitting in boxes in my garage for the past ten years I bought a new turntable, cartridge, and antistatic cleaning brush. But when I actually looked at the discs they were filthy - some even had a mould-like growth on them. Not having a lot of cash left after buying the machinery, I opted for this system as an acceptable compromise between a vacuum record cleaning system costing hundreds of pounds and a bowl of water and washing up liquid. And this is brilliant. I have cleaned 50 records in the past week - doing a few each evening - and every one is at least playable, indeed many sound as good as they did when new, and so much better than a CD! Two points - follow the instructions carefully, and have a stable level surface to work on. Standouts for me so far are a copy of Led Zeppelin 3 which I bought when it came out in 1970 and which has been played hundreds of times - sounds as good as new - and an old Supraphon recording of the Vlach Quartet playing Beethoven's Opus 131 String Quartet (now irreplaceable, I'd imagine) and recorded sometime in the early 1960s (in Czechoslovakia probably) - absolutely brilliantly recorded before multi-track multi-mike recordings: stunning.

The supplied cleaning fluid has now had its day after cleaning 50 mucky discs. I won't be buying more of it as you can easily and cheaply make up your own with distilled de-ionised water and isopropyl alcohol (from Maplin). Of course the Knosti won't repair scratches and serious clicks - nothing will. But I'm amazed at how much of the perceived deterioration in my discs has disappeared with a good clean. In case you're wondering I'm using an Audio Technica deck (AT1200) with an Audio Technica AT120 cartridge, Denon RCDM39 receiver and Tannoy Mercury speakers on Mission stands, an average cheapish Hi-Fi set-up.


CFP 40013 Tchaikovsky Symphony 6 Philharmonia Constantin Silvestri vinyl LP
CFP 40013 Tchaikovsky Symphony 6 Philharmonia Constantin Silvestri vinyl LP

5.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, 15 July 2014
Few conductors have injected so much passion into Tchaikovsky's 6th as Silvestri in this 1957 recording. Only available on vinyl, the recording is a simple affair from the early days of two channel recording - and is all the better for that. The sound stage is wide and clear, instruments placed precisely, the only flaw being a slightly "toppy" balance in the sound. Find a good copy, play it on a decent turntable and you'll be surprised. So many of these orchestral recordings from the 1950s now sound so real, so fresh, that one wonders what we've lost the advent of multi-miking and digital editing and reproduction.


Ghosting Home (Strong Winds Trilogy)
Ghosting Home (Strong Winds Trilogy)
by Julia Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.27

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Last book of a great trilogy, 30 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first thing I have to say is that you really need to read all three of Julia Jones' "Strong Winds" trilogy in the right order. I'm not sure how well this would work as a stand alone book. That may sound like a criticism but it's not meant as such. Just that it would be like reading "The Return Of The King" on its own, without the benefit of the synopsis at the beginning of Tolkien's third volume.

This is another white knuckle ride which kept me reading late into the night. All is explained as far as the back-story of the leading "Goody" characters is concerned, and a pretty satisfactory resolution arrives. (The tributes to Arthur Ransome come thick and fast, too.) If I'm not quite able to give it the fifth star it's because I think the mechanisms by which the "Baddies" work their wickedness are not fully explored or explained, and their come-uppances are just a bit perfunctory. I may be old-fashioned, but I wanted to know how they are going to suffer (and I wouldn't have minded seeing them suffer more)! I don't think that the filling-in of these lacunae would necessarily lengthen the book overmuch.

That said, I have loved this series of books. They are contemporary, liberal-minded, fast-paced, and a realistic reflection of early teenage life in the often hostile environment of a target-driven Secondary School and in the clutches of overstretched Social Services. And - above all - they are humane. The artwork is great and the production values are as good as any I've seen in a paperback. I'd buy all three for any teenager who reads - and I will buy them for my sons - who are considerably older!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2012 10:46 PM GMT


A Ravelled Flag (Strong Winds Trilogy)
A Ravelled Flag (Strong Winds Trilogy)
by Julia Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.32

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ms Jones has done it again., 3 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I finished reading the first volume in this series at 1.15 in the morning a couple of weeks ago. I finished this one at 11.15 last night, so not so knackered today, thank goodness. By the time I was 2/3rds of the way through this book I couldn't put it down.

This picks up the tale where "The Salt Stained Book" left off, and is even more exciting IMHO (put that in to show I'm nearly as "down with the kids" as the Author). You do need to have read the first book to get the most from this, and a more than nodding acquaintance with Arthur Ransome's stories is useful, but not essential. In this episode characters are developed and broadened; there is a truly wonderful old heroine, some seriously criminal baddies, counterbalanced ultimately by the hero's lovely allies, and good detailed sailing and boat stuff. Oh, and lots of litle homages to Ransome - I only spotted the Mastodon after I'd finished reading.

I can't wholly explain the appeal these stories hold for me, but in part it's having had to deal with some of these people - petty officials in the "caring professions" like those who make the protagonist's life miserable - throughout my 35 year working life as a teacher of teenagers. People who use jargon to confuse instead of to illuminate, people who insist on rigid adherence to rules when flexibility would be so much kinder and more sensible, bullies who use the exigencies of everyday life to humiliate others, and so on. But this is a book for "young adults" I guess - awful term - and it has tremendous narrative drive and empathetic goodies. And such bad baddies . . .

Now I'm waiting for the third and final book. And a small word of advice: don't be tempted by the Kindle edition - the books themselves are delightfully illustrated and produced and definitely enhance the reading experience.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2012 8:30 AM BST


The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy)
The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy)
by Julia Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant, 24 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I finished reading this at 1.15 this morning, and I'm knackered! But what a great read! I haven't enjoyed a children's/crossover book so much for years - possibly since the first Meg Rossoff. It's partly a homage to Arthur Ransome of course, and I think he'd have heartily approved. It's tougher than Ransome, with real villains, real heroines, good adults, sideswipes at daft political correctness combined with a wholly liberal outlook on life, realistic teen and children's language, and a total belief that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing than messing about in boats. Except there's no messing here - it's all part of a gripping, cliff-hanging plot. Just excellent.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2012 9:10 PM BST


Oak Ash And Thorn
Oak Ash And Thorn
Price: £10.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just excellent Folk, but . . . ., 28 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Oak Ash And Thorn (Audio CD)
I know of few albums as good as this in any field, let alone simply Folk (and I bought my first vinyl LP in 1960!) . . . . BUT have a listen (on the Amazon MP3 site) and decide if you can live with Peter Bellamy's voice. It's a deal-breaker for many people - he described it himself as like the "bleating of an asthmatic sheep". If you can cope with it then I think you'll enjoy these songs with lyrics by Rudyard Kipling (taken from his wonderful children's books "Puck of Pook's Hill" and "Rewards and Fairies" - and don't laugh at those titles until you've read the books) and music by Peter Bellamy - although he states that most of these are subtle variants on traditional English folk tunes. For me it all comes together in one glorious whole (which has rightly been the subject of a tribute album - also called "Oak, Ash and Thorn" - by the likes of Jon Boden, The Unthanks etc - look that one up too).

The Bellamy album is the first of two he recorded in the early 1970s based on Kipling's poems - the other is "Merlin's Isle Of Gramarye" - and any serious fan of English music should have both. To sum it up here is the history of England told in song from points of view as various as Kings, Priests, Pirates and pre-historic man. Huge thanks are due to the Talking Elephant label for having the sense and the courage to re-issue this classic.


What to Look for in Winter
What to Look for in Winter
by Candia McWilliam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, 21 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I haven't read anything by Candia McWilliam since "A Case Of Knives" when it was first published, but I was attracted to this by the quality of the writing and by the title - nicked from one of my favourite childhood books, a Ladybird natural history title, and still a classic. The story Ms McWilliam tells is of interest and is mostly beautifully written. Yes, the name dropping grew very tiresome, and yes, I almost gave up halfway through; in fact I put it aside and read a comic novel for a couple of nights before picking it up again. I also took longer to read it than I have any book of this length for years. But it was quite rewarding in the end, although I didn't find it as uplifting as some have done. But my main feeling while reading it was "this woman has no idea how ordinary people live", and I ended the book convinced of that. Even her borrowed homes are the sort of which most of us can only dream; the sheer physical ease of her moneyed life never seems to occur to her. One example suffices: she describes the cost of a session with a psychotherapist (which appears to have been useless) as being equivalent to the cost of her two cats . . . . . . £700! Errrr - I don't know anyone who has spent £350 on a cat; and I certainly don't know anyone who can afford a course of therapy at £700 a throw. And I was left with the certain knowledge that all her problems (which may have stemmed from her Mother's suicide) look like self-inflicted wounds, which I think the Author would acknowledge; and I'm not sure what - other than that - I'm supposed to feel. It's well written and some of the language is exquisite. But I wouldn't read it again and I wouldn't buy it for anyone else. I suppose that, like the Curate's egg, it's very good in parts.


Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great performance marred by intrusive recording and poor download, 12 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Be warned if you're downloading this that the last seconds of the first and third movements have been clipped horribly! Whoever encoded this for download never checked it all the way through. Either that, or the source files have become corrupted. The final chord in each case ends halfway through, and there's no reverb or dying away of the sound.

(Incidentally the same caveat applies to the last movement of the Geza Anda recording of the Mozart 21 Piano Concerto - miising the last seconds. Amazon should take more care with classical downloads.)

As far as the performance is concerned it seems like a good'un marred by some intrusively close miking. Sounds as if the engineer didn't trust the acoustic of the hall and did a multi-mike job and mixed it later. So there is no atmosphere to the sound - it might as well have been recorded in an anechoic chamber. Also I share one of the other reviewers reservations about the bells - could they have been patched in by the engineer from a recording of a church bell run through a synthesiser? They got up to some strange things in the early '90s y'know!


Another Christmas Present From The Albion Band: Live In Concert
Another Christmas Present From The Albion Band: Live In Concert
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £6.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last - well done Ashley!, 7 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nearly four years ago now I reviewed the CD "An Albion Christmas" on Amazon and could only give it two stars because I remembered so well the magnificent Christmas shows that the Albions put on in the mid-eighties. In my review I had the temerity to suggest that Ashley and co dug out the old show and put that out as a Christmas offering . . . . . . and - lo and behold - here it is! And it is still magnificent - musical, funny, wise and all-round entertaining. Nice one Mr Hutchings. How about touring this show again now? If there's a criticism it's that it's a bit short at just 46 minutes (are some of the tracks taken from the BBC Radio Albion Band Christmas Concert from about this time?) but don't let that stop you buying this and enjoying a great piece of entertainment.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6