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therealus "therealus" (Herts, UK)
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So What: The life of Miles Davis
So What: The life of Miles Davis
by John F. Szwed
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into a legend, 30 Jun. 2015
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It’s not that long since I reread Ian Carr’s “definitive” biography of Miles Davis, and I’ve also read the “autobiography” as well as a fair few books about specific stages or themes of Davis’s career, so the good news about John Szwed’s contribution to this library is that I often found myself surprised by a piece of information or story.

These often gave me a slightly greater insight into why certain things happened as they did, how recordings were put together, and so on. There are familiar, and harrowing, tales of Davis’s infamous mistreatment of some of those in his life, especially the women but, without sensationalising, Szwed is perhaps a little clearer about what happened and how bad it was. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a hagiography.

Similarly, where some authors have performed all sorts of gymnastics in order to throw a good light on the music Miles made during his final decade, Szwed is less forgiving. (I will admit here that, whilst being extremely pleased that Davis, who lived comparatively on the edge financially for most of his career, made a lot of money during that period, the only recording I feel happy listening to from the period is Aura.) Of Decoy, for example, he remarks that the record is less interesting than the live performances (without, I have to add, the corollary that that is not saying very much, in my opinion). He rightly dismisses suggestions that Davis at any point “sold out”, though, pointing out that In A Silent Way, one of the “sell out” records, comprised two pieces of eighteen minutes each, a time which in itself guaranteed it would receive no radio airtime.

Perhaps one of its greatest strengths is that it makes an attempt to get to why the best of Miles’s music was so exciting. The risks he and his other musicians were taking. The innovativeness of hard bop, post-bop and modal forms. The organised disorganisation, the melding of musical meters, the “controlled freedom”, the way in which players like Tony Williams and Coltrane were able to make the music so distinctive and dynamic, the cryptic instructions given for some pieces, and the fact that for some pieces there was no instruction at all, and the way many of Miles’s sidemen, both the experienced ones and the green ones, would engage in extended rehearsals which they would later discover were recorded and formed the basis of the next record.

There are, it has to be conceded, a few things not quite right about the book. The first is the title, which should have been the indefinite “a life” rather than the definite “the life”. Maybe Carr’s biography is closer to “the”, but even there the information imparted by Szwed himself, often using untapped sources, shows how wrong even that would have been. There is the slip-up in describing ESP as unique in not featuring pop songs or ballads. What about Kind Of Blue, just to take an example of a record that precedes ESP? Pangaea was not, as Szwed maintains, a “mythological” primordial continent: it existed in reality. But perhaps the most irritating part of the whole deal is that, whilst only towards the end does general punctuation become somewhat erratic, throughout the book the editors have deemed it fitting to incorrectly denote possessives which, in a book where there are a minimum of two Miles’ or Davis’, where Miles’s or Davis’s is correct, is a lot of errors. To compound it all we also have Jelly Roll Morton’ at one point, but also a slip of the editorial pen when, in amongst the erratic stuff at the end, we actually see a Miles’s! (I am attributing the errors to editors as Szwed’s biography of Alan Lomax – “a” biography, not “the” – uses possessives correctly.)

These are, however, cavils. Overall this is a valuable, engaging read, telling the reader new, and potentially important, things about a musician who deserves the sobriquet “legendary”.

April 11, 1970 Fillmore West
April 11, 1970 Fillmore West
Price: £13.05

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still more of the same, but different!, 22 Jun. 2015
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Three of the tracks on this record were released by Columbia last year on Volume 3 of the Bootleg series, but this release offers an additional five titles, six if The Theme is counted, presented as they should be, as a single, rolling piece. They are taken from a radio broadcast of the concert played a day after the one recorded by Columbia, and released as Black Beauty, with Miles playing support to Laura Nyro on both dates.

The sound quality on this recording, as might be expected, is slightly inferior to that on Black Beauty, but it is good enough. Despite the nine titles admitted to (for Black Beauty Columbia apparently spent years settling royalties for all the tunes referenced in passing) resembling nine of those from the previous day’s set (Masqualero is absent), in other respects there are significant differences between the two.

Miles had for some time been presenting his music not in discrete, instantly recognised tunes but instead with the composition representing a key feature of ongoing performance. He had rejected the extremes of free jazz, with its abandonment of harmonic structure, talking rather of “controlled freedom”, taking chances, living on the edge of the music and trusting his musicians to pick up on his signals, to do what he wanted them to do which, often with trepidation, they somehow did, a tribute both to them and to the leader.

As ever for this period, the opener is Directions, which runs into Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, Paraphernalia and Footprints, all with very similar times to those given the same titles on the Bootleg. I Fall In Love Too Easily is just about recognisable as it forms a two-minute bridge to Sanctuary, probably the most easily identified of all the tunes, but lasting only just over three minutes before giving way to a vibrant, dynamic track under the title It’s About That Time. The track titled Willie Nelson begins at some arbitrary point during a piano improv by Corea, before segueing into a recognisable rhythmic statement from Willie Nelson itself, which Holland’s bass takes over as Corea improvises around and through it.

Miles joins in for a short while, but largely as a prelude to terminating the performance with a single statement of the principal line of The Theme.

In all the performance clocks in at just over 66 minutes, compared with the 81 on Black Beauty’s two CDs. La Rubia, my long-suffering significant other, as usual treated the purchase of yet another 1970 live album by Miles with resigned indulgence. I have my fingers crossed that she manages the same indulgence when Volume 4 of the Bootleg series is released shortly, four CDs covering Newport performances from 1955 to 1975!

Synovial Joints
Synovial Joints
Price: £12.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steve Coleman moves on, 22 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Synovial Joints (Audio CD)
Whereas Steve Coleman’s previous release, Functional Arrhythmias, was inspired by the cardiovascular system, Synovial Joints looks to the bones, together with weather systems and African musical forms, using what Coleman, in the liner notes, terms “camouflage orchestration”. It features an ensemble of 21 musicians under the Council of Balance banner.

The last Council of Balance project, Genesis, was an ambitious evocation of the beginning of the world, featuring many passages of deep, portentous sound. Synovial Joints is, by comparison, much lighter in tone. Thus Acupuncture Openings features some percussive vamping, but it is less explosive than that on Genesis. Celtic Cells opens with Coleman’s breathy alto, which after a few bars is joined by Jen Shyu’s voice, which is the only time we hear the vocalist who has previously dominated a number of entire CDs.

The four parts of the title suite are the backbone of the piece, as it were. There’s some nice piano, an instrument which makes a welcome comeback after an overlong absence from recent Coleman recordings. The strings have a similar feel to those used on Genesis, providing extra texture and depth, and there’s a really excellent passage on trombone backed by the strings and piano.

Tempest I expected to be more stormy than it is, though it has its moments. Harmattan, also inspired by the wind is classic Coleman, with its polyrhythmic percussion and ensemble brass, and the vamping more percussive. Mosaic similarly carries Coleman’s signature sound, with the brass underpinned by the piano. The collection rounds off with Eye Of Heru, a pyrotechnics-free piece which on a number of occasions seems to be fading into conclusion, only to revive, until the point where just as you expect it to happen again, it doesn’t, and it ends.

As ever with a Steve Coleman release, listening is more exciting than writing. Like Functional Arrhythmias, this one will be played until the shine is wiped from the surface. Coleman is clearly going through changes, and although the general feel of his music is familiar, in specifics it is significantly moving away from the sounds to be found on even quite recent records such as The Mancy Of Sound (2011). Interesting times.

The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax
The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax
by John F. Szwed
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A life lived to the full, 16 Jun. 2015
Alan Lomax was, and remains, a man of staggering influence in the popular music of the world, and in The Man Who Recorded The World John Szwed gives an account of Lomax’s life which shows why. In the course of his travels, Lomax encounters a veritable Who’s Who of the artistic world including Jackson Pollock (there is an account of him playing harmonica, pre-action painting), John Steinbeck (Lomax worked with him on radio programmes) and David Attenborough, with whom he made TV programmes during his self-imposed exile to escape the McCarthyite witch hunts then underway in the US. Also during that period he acted as folk music adviser for the TV programme The Adventures Of Robin Hood, the writers of which were blacklisted former Hollywood writers.

Wherever he was Lomax was a tireless worker, constantly seeking out new music and the stories behind it. He cared passionately for the people with whom he came in contact, and often found himself in trouble, particularly in the US where he was constantly harassed and arrested for his activities within the black community and his condemnation of its oppression by US society. Later on in life Lomax would become involved in the civil rights movement. However, this aspect of Lomax’s life is not without amusement, as the FBI constantly misidentified him, the overseas agencies asked to keep track of him quickly concluded that Lomax was no threat, and the US attaché in Spain, where the Guardia Civil were asked to monitor Lomax’s activities, was sent a photograph of Lomax which was not, in fact, of Lomax. Furthermore, and ironically, this pinko subversive was later awarded the National Medal of the Arts, by none other than Ronald Reagan.

Throughout his career, Lomax sought out music in homes, prisons, bars, workplaces, and wherever else it may be played, recording it on equipment which at first was quite novel, often heavy, and at times unreliable. Amongst his many “discoveries” was Huddie Ledbetter, more widely known as Lead Belly, with whom he had a usually cordial but occasionally fractious relationship. Lead Belly was himself staggeringly influential, not only in the US but also in the UK, where his songs were recorded by Lonnie Donegan (though not without controversy, as Donegan claimed authorship of songs such as Rock Island Line), who in turn, through those songs, influenced the next generation of British musicians including Jimmy Page and Van Morrison. In the US another Lomax acquaintance, Woody Guthrie, was also influenced by Ledbetter.

Among the many other musicians who get a name check are Son House, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters, Jelly Roll Morton, Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl, Humphrey Lyttleton, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. With reference to the latter, Lomax had long considered rock and roll to be a form of outlaw music, an expression of rebellion which whites had adapted from black music for their own use. Thus he did not join in the chorus condemning Dylan’s turn to electric instruments, but rather considered it to be the best of rock and roll; rock and roll with a conscience.

Although nearly 400 pages long, with a fairly small typeface, there are many potentially interesting episodes which readers will possibly have to find for themselves elsewhere. For example, In 1964 Ralph Rinzler was despatched by the Lomax-founded Newport Folk Festival to seek out new musics in the US, and one of those he found was Cajun. This launched a wider appreciation of Cajun music and brought to prominence musicians such as Dewey Balfa, with whom Lomax also struck up a working relationship. Balfa was pleased and proud to be able to present his musical heritage on a wider stage, but objected to the way in which Rinzler in particular was trying to mould the music, accusing him of wanting to hear the music as he wanted it to be, not as it was. Following his return to the US from Europe Lomax himself travelled to Louisiana and expressed the opinion that Cajun music as it was then being played was a watered down version of the original. However, although this particular debate over authenticity is not reported by Szwed, authenticity itself is not a field he overlooks totally.

Rather more of an oversight is lack of detail on Lomax’s travels in Spain. We know he travelled extensively there, but there is little information given, particularly of his time in Galicia, but also of his time in Andalucía (perhaps this is a blind spot for the author: after all, the book spells Granada “Grenada”). One claim Szwed makes, however, is that George Avakian, then at Columbia records, gave Miles Davis and Gil Evans a copy of a recording Lomax had made of a Saeta in Seville, which influenced their piece of that title on Sketches Of Spain. However, elsewhere this is less clear cut. In So What, a Davis biography, the Saeta in question is given as that sung by the celebrated Pastora Pavon, but it also adds that several other sources are possible. The author of So What? One John Szwed.

There’s also an amusing faux pas in an account of Lomax’s stay in Ireland, where it is said Cromwell’s “genocidal invasion of Ireland in the 15th century” is still a running sore. Quite a trick, given that Cromwell was not born until 1599.

At the end, the reader is left with an impression of a life lived to the full, often on the very edge as Lomax was seldom in a position to command a secure source of income. But questions arise as to whether he would have been able to achieve rather more had he managed ever to complete even so much as a degree, let alone his PhD, and thereby secure some more formal kind of occupation at an academic institution. In among the many achievements are still more unrealised projects and ideas, including a book, Folk Music Of Spain, for which he prepared a manuscript but never completed the book itself. Perhaps as a formal member of an institution able to command the necessary resources he would have been able to complete more. Then again, such an institution may have strangled some of Lomax’s maverick work at birth, so maybe he was best as a loose cannon.

Incomplete it may be, but that could be said of any biography, and another reader will find other things to point up in that respect. Nevertheless, Szwed has traced the contours of Lomax’s life well. Often unappreciated by his peers, Lomax is appreciated by music lovers who are aware of his work who, like me, are able to appreciate music more because of the legacy Lomax has bequeathed us.

The Traveling Kind
The Traveling Kind
Offered by WaldieEnterprisesLTD
Price: £9.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A combination that works, 16 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: The Traveling Kind (Audio CD)
Another excellent album from Harris and Crowell, a fitting follow-up to 2013’s Old Yellow Moon, and for Crowell in particular a further extension of his recent run of outstanding releases, including last year’s marvellous Tarpaper Sky.

The opening, title track has a lovely intimate sound, with the scrapes of fingers on strings seemingly in the same room. Bring It On Home To Memphis is, unsurprisingly, a Presleyish pastiche, flanked by two nice country songs.

Weight Of The World follows. This is not, it may disappoint some to learn, a cover of the Evanescence song of that title but a blue collar boogie blues about the hardships of working in the oil industry and the damage it wreaks. There’s a pinch of Springsteen’s Nebraska in here, and some almost jazzy electric piano. Higher Mountains, up next, is full of emotion, and the piano is amazing.

On KIN, which assembled a constellation of stars to record songs by Crowell and Mary Kerr, Lucinda Williams delivered a soulful rendition of God I’m Missing You. On Travelling Kind Crowell and Harris return the compliment with a cover of Williams’s I Just Wanted To See You So Bad. This version rejigs the phrasing and melody a little, and the production feels like a collaboration between the E Street Band and Roy Orbison (apologies for yet another Springsteen comparison, but I suppose it could be worse).

In my review for KIN, I speculated that Crowell would have played Just Pleasing You differently from Vince Gill, and I’d like to thank him for proving me right: it’s less “Nashville” (a stylistic, not qualitative difference), and though they pretty much share instrumentation the steel guitar in particular is more understated in Crowell’s version.

Her Hair Was Red is Harris in full Emmylou mode, melancholic, channeling her late guiding spirit, Kate McGarrigle, and the set concludes with Le Danse de la Joie, a faux-Cajun piece featuring accordion, fiddle and a French/English mash-up referencing fais do dos and letting the bon temps roulez.

I expect to be playing this as much as I play Old Yellow Moon, that is, a lot. Though lacking anything as hilarious as Bull Rider, it makes up for it with Weight Of The World, which provides a wider perspective to the overall narrative.

Overall you have to conclude that Harris and Crowell is a combination that works, and I’m hoping it will do so again in the not-too-distant future.

World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History
World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History
by Henry Kissinger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.32

4.0 out of 5 stars A gorilla in the corner of the room, 1 Jun. 2015
At least two different Henry Kissingers are on display in this book. One is the one he would like us to see: the knowledgeable, occasionally wise elder statesman providing insightful analysis of the way the international system is, how it came to be that way, and the perils it faces today. The other is the at times amnesiac apologist for US policy glossing over inconveniences that could intrude on his narrative. Nevertheless, it is the first Kissinger that makes World Order a difficult-to-ignore contribution to current debates over its titular subject.

Kissinger takes as his reference point the 17th Century so-called Peace of Westphalia, purported to be the pivotal element in the creation of the state-based international system as we see it today, recognising the sovereignty of nations over the meddling of the religious authorities. Whilst some historians have disputed the specific significance of Westphalia in this respect, it is at least of talismanic value. Since then, according to Kissinger’s realist view, in which states are the key units, the root of struggles around the world has been the balance of power in an essentially anarchistic system with no single, overarching power to impose a uniform set of values. He examines these struggles as they have manifest in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, then takes a long look at the role the United States has played in the process since around the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

In terms of the challenges facing the world today, he looks at the ways in which Iran and China are manoeuvring themselves within the world order to gain influence and alter the balance of power both within their own regions and globally. The key omissions from Kissinger’s coverage in this respect, both overall and in relation to China, is the southern hemisphere, which might as well not exist, it receives such scant attention. So he skips the significance of China’s increasing presence in both sub-Saharan Africa and South America, where it is heavily involved in manufacturing, infrastructure and commodities extraction activities, so also inevitably in the business of propping up sometimes unsavoury regimes.

When he turns his attention to the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities he rightly points out (though several times unnecessarily) that a historic deal is in the offing, but he noodles on too long and repetitively about the potential risks of a deal with the subtext that the US (that is, the Obama administration) is being too trusting and lenient.

On the subject of trusting and lenient, he is extraordinarily generous with praise for his old master Richard Nixon. Whilst it may be true Nixon was a president of uncommon capability and knowledge, he was nevertheless cursed with extraordinarily bad judgement, and was the person responsible for my (and no doubt others’) first awareness of the concepts of realpolitik and Machiavellianism. Risibly he has Nixon’s adversaries “ruthlessly” exploiting Watergate, almost as if they could have overlooked it. (This contrasts with his non-mention of the stink kicked up by his Republican fellow-travellers over Clinton’s relatively trivial dalliances.)

Elsewhere, his treatment of the Vietnam war is equally selective. According to Kissinger’s account, nothing happened there before 1951, and on planet Kissinger the “war” lasted from 1961 to 1975, that is, the Viet Minh never fought the French (Dien Bien Phu never happened); the fact that the US, despite Truman’s self-determination doctrine, backed the colonial French over supporters of Vietnamese independence, is not mentioned; nor is the fact that Ho Chi Minh was trained by the American OSS, fought with them against the Japanese, and drafted a constitution which looked remarkably similar to that of his then US allies. (I’m not saying that if Ho and his chums had been left to their own devices everything would have been fine and dandy, but it goes without saying that the interventions made by the US ensured that everything definitely wasn’t.)

Leaving to one side other omissions, there’s the issue of Islamic State, which seems to have Kissinger baffled, I’d say partly because it doesn’t fit in with his realist point of view (Islamic State isn’t really a state, so it can’t therefore be analysed as a unit within the closed confines of realism). Similarly he struggles with the impact of new technologies because they have the potential of transcending the confines of the state. In tackling these issues he may have done well to refer to the work of scholars such as Castells or Rosenau and the concept of the Global Networked Society, and Lowenstein’s idea of Persistent Agents of Transnational Harm.

This perhaps points up a deeper problem with Kissinger’s narrative: that he seems reluctant to step outside this one, realist, frame of reference, other than the occasional half-hearted foray into liberalism (even then he’s short on thinking on soft power, for example). And this in turn maybe hints at a little bit of laziness in the entire enterprise, with the feeling occasionally that, despite the Acknowledgements referencing a researcher, much of this is Kissinger dictating copy off the top of his head. Hence for example when on consecutive, facing pages, we are told about the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince in almost identical words except that the Serbian nationalist assassin becomes a Serb nationalist assassin. Similarly within two sentences he speaks of al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993 and that on “New York” in 2001 as if the target locations were different.

Still, as an indubitable gorilla of geopolitics in the corner of the room, Kissinger cannot be ignored. Perhaps, though, the omissions and glosses are as significant as the inclusions and deep thinking to our understanding of a certain strand of US policymaking. The US has the potential of continuing, despite many missteps in the past, to be the best hope for instigating a liberal world order with a set of norms recognising not the primacy of states but of the people that constitute them. Even I can look at that last sentence and recognise its tempered idealism, but it’s a sight better than the Hobbesian world of states jockeying for power that Kissinger’s World Order envisages.

Newport Folk Festival 19th July 1969
Newport Folk Festival 19th July 1969
Price: £8.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stuff, 25 May 2015
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Unlike a couple of other live records of Joni Mitchell I’ve bought recently, this one is quite stingy with respect to duration: just 31 minutes compared with 84 minutes (A Woman In The East) and two hours (Through Yellow Curtains). Still, it’s the quality, not the quantity, and this is particularly interesting for its being a record of Mitchell early in her career, although Yellow Curtains beats it on that score too, being a pre- Song To A Seagull release, whereas by Newport that record was out and Clouds was in preparation.

Probably given time was of the essence, there’s very little chatter between songs, and these are delivered with feeling, especially The Fiddle And The Drum. This, Chelsea Morning and Both Sides, Now would appear on Clouds, so this is a little bit of a preview for the audience, but three of the songs, For Free, Willy and The Circle Game would not appear on a Mitchell record until the following year on Ladies Of The Canyon. Predating the eponymous festival by a month, Woodstock had still yet to be conceived.

The set finishes off with a version of Get Together. Mitchell’s attempts on this to get a singalong going fall pretty flat, the crowd possibly intimidated by her soprano and melismas, which would be difficult for most ordinary mortals to emulate. Originally made famous by The Youngbloods, it was The Dave Clark Five who provided the ultimate singalong version taken up at football matches in the UK during the seventies, but Mitchell’s version is way too sophisticated for that.

The inside of the cover reproduces an interesting 1969 article about Mitchell from Rolling Stone which is, unfortunately, nothing to do with Newport, but gives a little career context for the uninitiated.

Through Yellow Curtains (The Second Fret)
Through Yellow Curtains (The Second Fret)
Price: £11.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary document of Joni Mitchell's early career, 5 May 2015
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La Rubia, my long-suffering significant other, has developed this uncanny ability to sense an approaching postman-carrying-a-CD. Often this has invoked some eye-rolling when it has involved delivery of another Miles Davis live set featuring very familiar-looking track titles. But she takes more interest in a similar Joni Mitchell record, given that she likes Joni and that Miles is a taste she has not yet quite acquired.

Amazingly, half a century has passed since these particular recordings were made at the Second Fret in Philadelphia. That’s not normally worthy of comment for Miles, who after all had been recording for well over twenty years by 1966, and was on his second great quintet; for Mitchell these recordings predate any of her official recordings and, with one exception, feature just her and her guitar. As such it’s an extraordinary document of her early career, at a point where her songs were gaining salience but via other performers.

Some of the tracks will be familiar to anyone who has ever taken more than a passing interest in her work, but there are also eight songs in the collection that will be completely new to most. There is also a recording, from the radio, of a performance of Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain featuring her soon-to-be-ex Chuck Mitchell on guitar. The familiar songs are performed more or less as they have come down to us from the studio; the unfamiliar are a mixed bag, with a couple not surprising in having been forgotten in the studio, others having the potential to have been keepers. On one of them, Mr Blue, we hear the prototype of the giggle at the end of Big Yellow Taxi.

Perhaps as interesting for the aficionado are the little stories and asides: where Marcie came from, the inspiration of the city, Dylan’s use of song fragments in composing Hard Rain, that Saul Bellow’s Henderson The Rain King provided the inspiration for Both Sides Now (Bellow, like Mitchell, was Canadian-born, and is a favourite of mine), her bemusement that Urge For Going, as performed by George Hamilton IV, is number 13 in the Country charts and, as slightly more banal detail, that she keeps losing her guitar picks under the floorboards of the stage. Unfortunately, some of the stories are repeated between the 1966 and 1967 sets and, while I’m tolerant of them nevertheless, La Rubia found them a little irritating, even first time round.

In general the recordings have a good bootleg quality sound, with the exception of Sugar Mountain, which is a little muddy, but due to the positioning of the microphone the applause bursts out loudly at the end of each song. On the 1966 recording the first few bars and words of Little Green are lost (it would have been interesting how this was introduced, given that it would be some time before anyone knew what it was about), and Urge For Going fades out, presumably because the tape ran out, and the quality after that sounds slightly different. On the second CD a slick transition is achieved between the March and December sets so it’s only by listening carefully (or reading the cover!) you know a change has happened.

Within the packaging is a reasonably informative essay about Mitchell, although it names her first official live album as Aisle Of Miles. The cover looks good, but extracting the discs is awkward as they have to be taken out towards the fold, and in manipulating the cardboard in order to effect this manoeuvre I’m pretty sure eventually something is going to tear.

A Woman In The East
A Woman In The East
Price: £8.02

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent display of musical eclecticism, 27 April 2015
This review is from: A Woman In The East (Audio CD)
Although Wild Things Run Fast doesn’t count among my favourite Joni Mitchell records, she has been my favourite singer and constant companion since the late sixties, so I love it all the same. This live recording from Tokyo in 1983 was made around the time Wild Things was released and features seven songs from it, intermingled with songs from previous albums to create a snapshot of just how eclectic has been Mitchell’s repertoire.

Mitchell switches from guitar to piano to dulcimer, performing rock-flavoured songs such as Wild Things itself, jazz-inflected tunes such as Edith And The Kingpin and folkier pieces such as A Case Of You, with favourites such as Big Yellow Taxi, Both Sides Now and Woodstock scattered around. Refuge Of The Roads and God Must Be A Boogie Man are lovely stripped of studio refinement, although Larry Klein’s bass, whilst good, doesn’t match Jaco Pastorius’s on the originals. Similarly it is interesting hearing the Wild Things songs played live.

With one exception the sound quality is at least good enough, although editing is a little brutal, with no attempt to disguise where applause has been cut. The exception for sound quality is the final, half version of Carey at the end, which feels a little unnecessary after 80 minutes, but may please some people so I’m not completely knocking its inclusion.

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
by Israel Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Separating myth from likelihood, 27 April 2015
Sometime during the seventh century BCE, Judahite scholars in Jerusalem were employed to gather up the legends of their forebears and synthesise them into a coherent narrative for the purpose of uniting a people, to give them an identity and to promote a system of laws and norms by which their rulers wished them to live. The events they recorded had largely transpired over the previous six centuries, although the very earliest preceded that period. Around a century later, a similar task was undertaken in Athens to record feats of the Greeks in the Trojan War during the thirteenth century BCE, assembling the best of the oral tradition attributed to the troubadour we know as Homer. Again a ruler wanted a narrative that would unite and inspire a people.

The results of both endeavours have been handed down to us as some of the finest literature the world knows, although it is sometimes difficult to regard the Judahite production, which we now know as The Bible, or rather The Old Testament, as such due to its continuing use for ideological and moralistic purposes.

In The Bible Unearthed, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman recount the biblical story and compare it with other evidence from the region in which it originated in order to separate myth from likelihood.

Based upon this they conclude, amongst other things, due to counter-evidence in the form of alternative documentation, or sometimes absence of evidence in places where there really should be some, that there was never a specific person called Abram, that the biblical exodus never took place, and that there were no walls to be brought tumbling down at Jericho. Where the biblical authors would have us believe that the god of the Judahites, identified as YHWH, rewarded his people when they were loyal only to him, and punished them when they turned to worshipping false gods, we find that Josiah, on whose behalf they believe the scriptures were recorded originally and supposedly the best of the best, was ignominiously killed by the pharaoh Necho for some reason unknown whilst before him Manasseh, who succeeded the “good” Hezekiah and was regarded as the apostate’s apostate, ruled for fifty-five years following the destruction wrought on Hezekiah’s fief by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. A later revolt, under the tutelage of the “good” Zedekiah, was brutally suppressed by the Babylonians who then proceeded to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem. The untimely death of the virtuous, blessed Josiah is doubly inconvenient as by then the original scriptures were already in existence, meaning that revisions had to be carried out (two distinct versions have been identified) which skated over the encounter with Necho, with later additions providing spurious detail.

In setting out their evidence, Finkelstein and Silberman are scrupulously agnostic. They neither engage in gotcha-type sniping at believers, nor do they attempt to rationalise away the archaeological or documentary evidence as irrelevant to the religious message. Instead they respect the Bible as a priceless cultural artefact, one which has been unsurpassedly influential in shaping the thinking of a large proportion of humanity, and in establishing a system of values which transcend the boundaries of faith and permeate large sections of secular society.

Hence, whilst it is difficult not to conclude that, given its unsound historiography, Judaeo-Christian theology is built on shaky foundations, the Bible serves a higher purpose for all of us, albeit one divorced from any faith-based end.

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