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Peter Reeve (Indianapolis)
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American Pie & Other Hits
American Pie & Other Hits
Price: £8.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This levee is dry, 27 April 2009
Don McLean is great and American Pie is a masterpiece. But there are several compilation albums available and this is about the worst, and is not even the cheapest. Incredibly, it does not have the full version of American Pie!

If you are an absolute completist fan, and want every version of every song recorded, then you might go for this album. For example, it has a live version of Babylon, with audience participation, which may appeal to some. But, short of that, I just do not see why anyone would buy this rather than any other of the compilations.
[PeterReeve]


Dark Side of the Morgue
Dark Side of the Morgue
by Raymond Benson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable thriller for Rock fans, 19 April 2009
It's impossible to state exactly why the plot of a mystery is unsatisfactory, without giving away spoilers. So I won't do it. I'll just say that I did not think that the author played entirely fair with the reader and besides, the central elements of the resolution were fairly easy to spot early on.

That need not stop you enjoying this story, though. Benson writes very well, his characters are interesting, as are the details of the Chicago club scene and, especially, the Rock music references are great fun. If you approach it more as a thriller than a whodunit, you won't share my disappointment with the solution.

I also felt that the background information given at the beginning was unnecessarily complicated. The author provides some family trees to help the reader follow the history of the groups and musicians, but I would have preferred a simpler back-story instead.

Another problem I had was with the structure, in that there are nearly 20 pages of tying up loose ends and bidding adieu to the characters, after the main story had ended. That's a little too much. A crisper ending would have been better.

Give this a try if you think you'd enjoy a well-written thriller with a Rock music background and a high body count.
[PeterReeve]


City Above the Sea and Other Poems: A Collection
City Above the Sea and Other Poems: A Collection
by Stephen Alan Saft
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Deserves recognition, 29 Mar. 2009
This was Saft's second poetry publication of 2008, the first being Murdoch McLoon And His Windmill Boat. He has also published a collection titled I Will Mean, first published in 1975 and revised in 2005. One work from the latter, To an Old Professor Wherever, is reproduced in this current book.

There are 3 poems in this collection that employ rhyme (rhyming couplets), though to ill effect. They are City Above The Sea, Forty Years Come And Gone and What Will Be, poems which Saft describes as "...poems that are exhortative and are designed for performance including performance with music...". Saft is a poor rhymer, coming uneasily close to McGonagall at times, especially as the poems in question lack a regular meter. It is unfortunate that the title poem is the most egregious example.

Fortunately, the remaining 31 poems do not attempt rhyme or any strict form, and there's enough fine poetry among them to more than make up for those that do. My favourites are the more introspective and focused works, that scrutinize a detail of nature or some moments of everyday experience, such as The Cucumber Plant to the Sun, and Freshness.

Overall, this is a worthwhile collection from a contemporary poet that deserves to be read.
[PeterReeve]


Blues Caravan: Guitars & Feathers
Blues Caravan: Guitars & Feathers
Price: £10.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard rocking Blues, 18 Mar. 2009
2008 saw the fourth Blues Caravan tour and this album is a live recording of one performance on that tour, in Bonn, Germany in January of that year. The tours mostly take in venues in central and northern Europe, where Blues and Jazz have long had an enthusiastic following, often when those genres were relatively neglected in their homeland. The Blues Caravan 2009 tour is, at the time of this review, in full swing, with a completely different lineup (except that Dani Wilde is joining for a couple of gigs).

The album borrows the clever title of Candye Kane's Guitar'd and Feathered album. Kane is the best known member of the lineup and was also part of the 2005 tour.

This being a live recording, you don't get the sound quality that you would from a studio recording. The 17 tracks are solid, hard-rocking Blues, without offering anything greatly innovative or profoundly moving -- although Crazy Little Thing has earned itself a rip-and-burn into my library.

The backing musicians are more than adequate but, I repeat, you do not get studio quality sound.

This is more Hard Rock than true Blues, and so is not the best introduction to the latter, by any means, but it offers an insight into what European clubs regularly showcase these days, and it will find a place in many an avid Blues fan's library. Really, you should just listen to the samples and decide if this is your thing.
[PeterReeve]


River: The Joni Letters
River: The Joni Letters
Price: £10.43

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool, flowing river, 15 Mar. 2009
This review is from: River: The Joni Letters (Audio CD)
Joni Mitchell is one of the most talented songwriters of her age. The idea of taking her essentially modern Folk songs and recreating them in a Jazz genre is an interesting one. Add a couple of Jazz standards and a number of solo vocalists and the whole thing sounds unmissable. But does it work? For me it did.

This is smooth and cool Jazz, in the best senses of those words, and not 'almost saccharine', as the Editorial Review has it. Kenny G it ain't.

The standout track is Corinne Bailey Rae's rendition of the title song. Soulful and melodic, it repays repeated listening. Amelia, with vocals from Luciana Souza, is the least satisfactory track, as the singer occasionally slips off key, in a too-relaxed performance. Joni Mitchell's own vocals, on Tea Leaf Prophecy, are surprisingly good. Her voice has mellowed and matured, retaining its interesting phrasing but losing the occasional shrillness and sharpness of earlier years.

This is a carefully-wrought, imaginative musical fusion to which every Jazz fan - and Joni fan - should give a fair hearing.

(It was a bit of a shock to see that the 2 bonus tracks are missing from the UK offering. They are the longest track - a fine instrumental titled A Case of You - and Sonya Kitchell's upbeat performance of All I Want, which rounds off the album nicely. In the UK, you'll have to settle for the less-than-upbeat ending from Leonard Cohen).
[PeterReeve]


Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
by Steffan Piper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The city of fallen angels, 22 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Yellow Fever (Paperback)
A second edition rewrite of a novel is very unusual. When both editions are concurrently on sale on Amazon (as they are at the time of this review) then it can also be very confusing.

The author has said, "The version of the book that went to print through the previous publisher was an older and much earlier version of the book that was never meant to be published...It was the pre-edited, advance review version."

So the first thing to say is, ensure you get this, the 2008 edition.

Yellow Fever is an erotic novel set in 1998/9 Los Angeles. Its theme is obsessive love and its treatment so heartfelt that it is clearly strongly autobiographical. The author's stated goal was to "...write a story where the reader wouldn't be able to stomach the main characters by the end of the book". I found I was able to stomach them but not to like them much.

The strong sense of place - and time - is both a strength and weakness of the book. As a long-time resident of L.A., I recognized the locations, including the Industrial Strip establishment. So for me, the contemporaneous references were great fun, as I was there at that time. But I can understand how some readers might be puzzled, and perhaps irritated, by them. As in his poetry, Piper is fond of making topical references. They give his writing immediacy, but they also have a limited shelf life.

Piper has a streetwise, direct writing style. The use of different points of view - third person and first person - is interesting and works extremely well in this particular novel.

The story is not elaborately plotted, but is more of an unfolding tragedy. We enter the lives of the protagonists at a somewhat arbitrary stage in their relationships, observe them for a while, then leave them to continue on their way. They are, like most of us, victims of their own desires. It is a character-driven story, often highly emotionally charged and as feverish as the title suggests.

There are ten illustrations, photographs of the heroine, interspersing the text, reinforcing the sense that the book is essentially a homage to her.

Recommended if you are interested in authentic, hard-edged, contemporary erotic fiction, from an interesting new author.
[PeterReeve]


During the Apocalypse
During the Apocalypse
by Steffan Piper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars A street poet, very much of his time and place, 19 Jan. 2009
This review is from: During the Apocalypse (Paperback)
Piper employs a taut, muscular style that suits his themes -- Dystopia, the Apocalypse, Hell and, what is sometimes much the same thing, Los Angeles. He at times jokingly refers to himself as the city's Poet Laureate, and in this collection he proves himself a worthy candidate for the title.

The book comprises 33 poems (the index lists 36, but 'Receipt #01' and 'Receipt #02' are really one work, and 'Every time you speak' and 'From me to you' are listed but do not actually appear in the book). Piper does not employ rhyme or regular metre, but in most of the poems there is a rhythm, an urban beat, imposed by word repetition and a structure imposed by the physical layout of the print on the page.

The Apocalypse that he envisions is man-made. It is one of ecological disaster, Government control and technological tyranny. Like Orwell's 1984 (written in 1948) it is as much in the present as in some imagined future. An Apocalypse for our times.

The masterpiece in the collection is 'John Wayne', which contains some very remarkable imagery and earns Piper his spurs as a serious poet.

The photographic art work on the cover of this, and inside Piper's other books is very good. I assume it is his own work. It would be nice to see a collection of his specifically Los Angeles themed poems with accompanying images of that city.
[PeterReeve]


The War Chronicles From Chariots to Flintlocks - New Perspectives on the Two Thousand Years of Bloodshed that Shaped the Modern World: 1
The War Chronicles From Chariots to Flintlocks - New Perspectives on the Two Thousand Years of Bloodshed that Shaped the Modern World: 1
by Joseph Cummins
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does not measure up, 11 Jan. 2009
The War Chronicles, although colourful and well laid out, ultimately fails to deliver, because the text just does not measure up. There are no 'New Perspectives' and no unifying theme. What it offers is a somewhat random collection of 22 famous conflicts, presented in an easily-digestible form.

An annoying feature of the illustrations is the depiction of classical and early-medieval scenes with paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries, so that they are presented in a completely anachronistic manner.

Also, the gaff on page 210, where we have a section about the longbow, illustrated by two soldiers with crossbows, is particularly horrendous.
[PeterReeve]


Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health
by L. Ron Hubbard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.00

38 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What?, 5 Jan. 2009
What exactly is this book? Is it, as it purports to be, a manual of psychotherapy? Or is it, as Scientologists seem to believe, Holy Scripture? If the former, it should be updated periodically, in light of new research. If a doctor stood at my hospital bed perusing the 1858 edition of Gray's Anatomy, I would worry. Or is the original text of Dianetics inerrant, being the result of divine revelation? If so, they should say so, and drop the pretence of scientific rigour.

As an example of outmoded thinking, we learn (on page 152 in the 2002 edition, for example) that the homosexual is a 'pervert' who is 'actually quite ill physically'.

What are we to make of a theory that states that psychological disorders can arise from the fetus - or even the fertilized egg, the zygote - overhearing and recording conversations from the outside world? An example given is of a husband beating his pregnant wife while shouting, "You've got to take it!" The poor child that results will grow up to be a kleptomaniac ('You've got to take it'. Geddit?).

If dialogue can be so destructive to the unborn, perhaps we need a new movie rating of FU, for 'Fetus Unfriendly'.

In fact, the theory goes even deeper into absurdity. We are told that "it is not true that emotion gets into the child through the umbilical cord...Emotion comes on another (more electrical than physical) type of wave...Therefore, anyone who is emotional around a pregnant woman is communicating that emotion straight into the child." 'Straight into' you notice, like some sort of radio transmission. Believe that and you'll believe anything.

Here's another: "It may be that a patient is urgent in her insistence that her father raped her...Large numbers of insane patients claim this. And it is perfectly true. Father did rape her, but it happened she was only nine days beyond conception at the time. The pressure and upset of coitus is very uncomfortable to the child and normally can be expected to give the child an engram which will have as its content the sexual act and everything that was said." In other words, a man making love to his wife nine days after she becomes pregnant is effectively raping his daughter and condemning her to insanity.

Such drivel fills the 700 or so pages of this book.

Finally, what words can describe the author's writing style? 'Pompous', 'overblown', 'clumsy' and 'confused' come to mind, but I think I'll settle for 'ludicrous'.

Neither scientific nor inspirational, this thick slab of nonsense will not cure anyone of any psychological disorder except insomnia.
[PeterReeve]


Forgotten History of America: Little-Known Conflicts of Lasting Importance From Colonists to the Eve of the Revolution
Forgotten History of America: Little-Known Conflicts of Lasting Importance From Colonists to the Eve of the Revolution
by Cormac O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lesser-known history, in bite-size chunks, 27 Dec. 2008
The 18 chapters in this collection of lesser-known episodes in American history cover the period 1528 to 1763. They are the right length to be consumed in one sitting -- bite-size chunks, as it were. They are separate episodes, not a continuous narrative.

O'Brien likes to add drama to his narratives by not following a strictly linear account. He starts each one with an 'It was a dark and stormy night' type of introduction, following which we have a flashback to the events that led up to this, sometimes with flashbacks within flashbacks. This will make the stories more interesting for many readers but others, like me, will sometimes find it tiresome.

There are no footnotes, citations, or any other scholarly trappings, just a Select Bibliography at the end, which is presumably a list of the author's sources. This makes for a more readable book but leads one to wonder how authoritative it is. I don't think that the author is wrong on any of the facts, but when he discusses motivations - the 'why', rather than the 'what' or the 'when' - then I think you have to take it as provisional, almost as you would an overtly fictional account.

All in all, I would say that anyone with an interest in American history would enjoy this book and would almost certainly learn a few interesting and surprising facts.
[PeterReeve]


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