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Soul Of Things
Soul Of Things
Price: £14.54

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb jazz, 20 Nov. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Soul Of Things (Audio CD)
A great album.

The album title is apt - Stanko is a really soulful trumpet player, and mention in the previous review of Miles Davis Kind of Blue is spot on. It has that minimalist bluesy feel, subdued but deeply emotional.

The supporting trio of young Polish jazzers is very accomplished, as can be seen by the number of other ECM albums they've starting appearing on. Like Stanko himself, they seem to be adherents of the "less is more" principle - lots of space, control, nothing rushed or frenetic.


Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics)
Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics)
by James Joyce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No big deal, but lots of pages., 20 Sept. 2008
Some people are very touchy about this book. I wrote a review which said why I didn't like the book and that I didn't think it was particularly good literature. This attracted quite abusive comments from the sensitive souls who so adore Ulysses - and I've noticed the same in comments on other reviews.

So, long preamble to a re-worked review:

"Since Ulysses-lovers are so defensive about this book I won't elaborate too much. I really liked Dubliners and the first half of Portrait. But I found Ulysses very boring and self-indulgent. However, read it if you like - maybe you'll enjoy it. I hope you do."

There - Ulysses fans. Is that better? Hope it doesn't offend your sensibilities.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2010 5:44 PM GMT

If You Liked School, You'll Love Work
If You Liked School, You'll Love Work
by Irvine Welsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Partial return to form, 12 Aug. 2008
There's an interesting spread of views on this book at the time of writing. I stopped reading Welsh after Glue, which I thought was dreadful. There were already signs he was losing it in Filth, which - although very funny in parts - was boring and contrived at points, and was losing the spontaneity, wit and imagination of his first few books.

But I disagree with those who give this collection one or two stars. There's much more going on here than these reviewers give Welsh credit for, and I agree with some of the blurb that says this is a return to form.

This collection is uneven, there's no doubt about that. The first story, Rattlesnakes, is lame. In the other four stories, some of the characterization is flat and the plots contrived or silly. But the good stuff is very good, and the funny bits are hilarious. Miss Arizona and Kingdom of Fife are excellent, in different ways, and If You Liked School... and The Dogs of Lincoln Park have some very good moments.

In particular I like the way Welsh is branching out into other areas of mimicry - Chicago socialites, an expat London chav bar-owner in the Canaries, a Texan ex alcoholic etc. Welsh's ability to exploit dialectal variation and nuance and - particulary in Miss Arizona - his ability to convey the feel and sentiment of a whole American literary genre is very sophisticated and creates a richness beyond the characters and plots, such as they are. In this sense, the stories here are more ambitious than anything in the Acid House for example, and Miss Arizona in particular indicates a possible future for Welsh, writing noir crime thrillers with spooky plot twists.

by Frank Wynne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an angry man, 12 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
Houellebecq is a resentful, bitter man. The main characters of this book are vehicles for an extended moan about his own life and frustrations and his dark, nihilistic view of Western 21st century society and its (assumed) failure to bring happiness to its citizens.

If he could keep away from the chips on his shoulders and let his imagination go a bit, then he would have something much more interesting to say, because his ideas about the tension between the advanced state of human knowledge and our insatiable search for satisfaction and fulfilment are profound. Instead he spends most of his time fiddling around with episodes of frustration, failed and superficial relationships and commodified sex and never quite pays the same attention to the other side of the coin that he clearly sees - the possibilities for a biotechnological solution to our imperfect humanity.

I give him three stars because his obsessions are real and interesting. He doesn't get more because he hasn't done the work of an author and taken them beyond obsessions to something more creative than an extended (if reasonably well-written) rant.

The Idiot (Penguin Classics)
The Idiot (Penguin Classics)
by Fjodor M. Dostojewskij
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't read this in an afternoon, 21 April 2008
This is a superb book. Yes, it's repetitive, obsessive and claustrophobic, and it's certainly not easy going. But this is a classic study of bourgeois hypocrisy, deceit and corruption, with a quite brilliant central character (prince Myshkin, The Idiot) and a supportng cast of neurotics, narcissists, snobs and exploiters to whom the prince holds up the mirror of naive honesty and depth of character.

The Idiot is a tough read, but Dostoevsky's literary genius makes it worthwhile to persevere to the end of this dark and uncompromising book.

Price: £6.25

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Herbie's got the funk, 23 Nov. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Secrets (Audio CD)
Yep, it's really good. I would give it five stars, but the last track is terrible. Four and a half then for tracks 1-6 which are just brilliant, proving again that Hancock does it better than anyone else: it's his understanding of the nature of rhythm - which you can hear on his earliest jazz stuff, like Maiden Voyage, Canteloupe Island and Watermelon Man. That's why disco, funk and soul are basically a breeze for this man, and he adds so much interest with his brilliant mastery of the keyboards.

Track four - Spider - is Shaftier than Shaft.

The album cover is superb too - what a beard, what an afro.

Winter in Madrid
Winter in Madrid
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars entertaining in parts, 11 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Winter in Madrid (Paperback)
The ratings for this book are more or less evenly distributed from 1 to 5 stars, with an overall average of three. This is about right, although I would say it's really a two-star book.

Sansom can write a good plot, and in this book, the interconnected strands come together with plenty of twists and turns, as you would expect from the thriller genre. Some of the dialogue between the spymasters and Harry Brett - reluctant spy and protagonist - is also very good.

That's the two stars.

The three stars that Sansom doesn't get are for his style - wooden mostly; characters - somewhat unconvincing, corny and superficial; the dialogue (minus the spy bits) - stilted.

There is a host of superficial detail right through the book, about what the characters did and said, what they ate, where they went - all, presumably, an attempt to lend authenticity to the context: 1940s Spain. The problem with this is that it makes the prose heavy and - again - wooden, by overloading it factually and not giving the plot and characters freedom to do the work of the fiction.

A far greater book than this - War and Peace - also suffers from exactly the same defect. Just give us the fiction please, we know where the History section is in Waterstones.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2009 4:49 PM GMT

Being There
Being There
Price: £13.47

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm there, 11 Nov. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Being There (Audio CD)
This album is ace. I didn't like it at first, not at all. I thought it was just too slow, unremarkable and dull. But I'm really getting the hang of this now - gustavsen is a very lyrical piano player, and slow suits him. The compositions are tuneful enough to be played in a completely unhurried way.

Apparently he plays in a church, and you can certainly hear some hymn and gospel influences in the tunes, as well as classical themes - some of the tracks sound like beethoven sonatas or schubert impromptus.

There's some debate about whether this is really jazz or not - irrelevant of course, as it's really good. I'm going to order TGT's other two albums right now.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2015 12:53 PM BST

Price: £13.66

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Come on Herbie, play some jazz, 7 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Possibilities (Audio CD)
I can't decide what I think of this album. Hancock is a hero of mine, maybe the best jazz pianist ever (certainly the most versatile) and an astoundingly imaginative and innovative musician. So at times on this CD it feels like he is slumming it a bit - I mean Sting has his place but covering one of his own songs on a Hancock album is probably not it. Joss Stone likewise.

I guess it's fair to stay that if you're a fan of Sting, Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Damien Rice etc you'll probably like the sophisticated pop-jazz on here. I find these artists unremarkable, and maybe I'm a snob, but I certainly wouldn't want to hear more than a song each of them in collaboration with HH.

The duet with Cristina Aguilera on the other hand was a big surprise - I had no idea she was such a good singer. This is the outstanding track on the album - there is real energy between Aguilera and Hancock, and I would like to hear them do a whole album together. I ask myself why she wastes her exceptional voice on the trashy pop she turns out.

The track with John Mayer is also very good.

So - an intersting curiosity, with some high spots, but not to be compared with Hancock's otheradventures (disco, funk, Gershwin).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 5, 2015 3:20 PM GMT


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classy disco, slick jazz, 2 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Sunlight (Audio CD)
The trouble with Herbie Hancock is that he's so good at what he does that he ends up being judged by his own standards, rather than his music on its own. If we compare this album to Earth Wind and Fire or Quincy Jones then it's right up there with the best disco-funk of the 70s.

Slick 70s production (Rubinson), with a tight but relaxed and happy feel, this album manages to mix danceable froth with serious jazz musicianship in the first three tracks.

The best track though is the fourth - No Means Yes - on which the Headhunters line-up (minus Maupin) do their thing - Harvey Mason and Bill Summers are in a class of their own, Mason with his typical delay on the beat and Summers's polyrhythms whirring around like noisy insects. It's worth buying the album for this track alone.

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