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jol legend (Brighton, UK)

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Candide, or Optimism (Penguin Classics)
Candide, or Optimism (Penguin Classics)
by Francois Voltaire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.79

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a farcical romp, 27 Sep 2007
I sometimes approach old literary classics with a degree of trepidation fearing the language may be impenetrable. Not so here, this thin book is a fast and easy read. Candide travels Europe and South America with his philosopher companions whose simplified views of the world are put to the test as they farcically lurch from one misfortune to another. The story is littered with devastating wit and satirical observations of his fellow Europeans. Candide's determination to be reunited with his long lost love continues to move him on even during a rare peaceful sojourn in "Eldorado", but when he finally reaches his goal it is not as expected although there is a hilarious compensation. No doubt there are many clever political references and riskee comments relevant to the times (Voltaire spent time in jail for his outspoken views) but the overall moral of this fable reminds me most of Coelho's "The Alchemist".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2009 12:05 AM BST

One World
One World
Price: £5.78

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aren't we lucky!, 7 Sep 2007
This review is from: One World (Audio CD)
Aren't we lucky those of us who have discovered John Martyn? This is my favourite album of his and a perfect bridge between the more jazz folky "Solid Air" and the harrowing "Grace and Danger". All the tracks are gems including the acoustic declaration of unconditional love "Couldn't Love You More" and the catchy pop of "Certain Surpise" to the echoplex driven rhythms of "Big Muff" and "Dealer". Best of all is "Small Hours"; the ultimate 3 am track. I remember playing this album incessantly one summer and it took me a while to realise the background chattering geese sounds on this evocative final track were coming from the record and not from outside my student digs window! Oh, the nostalgia!

Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go down easy, 7 Sep 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
"Norwegian Wood" follows the life and loves of a young student finding his way in late 60s Japan (although the setting for this simple tale could really be anywhere, anytime). The story is straight forward chronologically and told in the first person with Murakami's typical easy almost random style but with less surrealism than present in some of his other novels. Recommended as a good first excursion into the world of this great author.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect circle, 7 Sep 2007
This review is from: Cloud Atlas (Paperback)
One thing about this book is that it engenders strong viewpoints. Readers seem to either love it or hate it. For me it is one of the cleverest, most original and ultimately satisfying books, I've ever read. The stories are arranged in a Russian Doll like structure with the opening story also being the last. This structure along with the chronological setting of each story gives the book, as a whole, a wonderful symmetry as we (the reader, and the human race) end where we begin.

The stories are loosely linked, but could stand alone as independent short stories. What is particularly remarkable is the authenticity and attention to detail displayed in the writing styles ranging from the 19th century journals of pacific seafarer Adam Ewing through to goat herder Zachry who phonetically narrates a vision of a post-apocalyptic society that has imploded leaving man once again scrabbling about in the dirt worshipping icons he does not understand, rather like the primitive monkeys in front of the obelisk in Arthur C Clarke's 2001. My favourite story is the preceding sci-fi tale which follows the adventures of a genetically modified fabricant, Somni, bred to work 21 hours a day in a fast food diner; a thinly disguised satire on McDonalds. Workers strive to earn the stars that will earn them a happy retirement to "xultation" in Hawaii (or in Somni's case to godlike status in the Zachry story!). A brilliant, thought provoking, vast novel - 5 McDonald stars for the author!

Music From The Penguin Cafe
Music From The Penguin Cafe
Offered by marxwax
Price: £4.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tasty takeout from the Cafe, 7 Sep 2007
The PCO's debut album is a fascinating record of mostly instrumental music that combines elements of classical, folk, jazz, and minimalism. Many of the tunes, like the opening "Penguin Café Single", sound familiar like you've heard them before (and often you have in a film or commercial) but they are littered with unexpected twists and turns that lend an edge to the music.

Whereas some instrumental music spawns somewhat random titles the marvellously titled "The Sound of Someone You Love Who's Going Away and It Doesn't Matter" describes the album's brooding 12-minute masterpiece perfectly. A heartrending melody is lightly plucked on guitar before being gradually joined by strings and jazz lounge electric piano. Following a trademark interlude of sawing violins and other avant-garde noises, bliss is restored with the return of the haunting theme. My favourite PCO track in their whole repertoire and worth the admission price alone.

The other substantial composition is the seven piece "Zopf" suite. The collection includes "In a Sydney Motel" which could have come from one of executive producer Brian Eno's own mid-70s pop albums. The beautiful "Surface Tension" is PCO at their economical best. "Milk" with its looped samples and insistent bass is reminiscent of krautrock band Can and the ambient "Pigtail" is similarly unusual. "From the Colonies" and "Giles Farnaby's Dream" are typical pieces of playful Penguin whimsy, and "Coronation" is noteworthy for vocals by Emily Young, the eminent sculptor responsible for the surreal penguin headed figures that frequent the Penguin Café.

The Boy with the Arab Strap
The Boy with the Arab Strap
Offered by westworld-
Price: £10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Dappled Sunlight, 31 Aug 2007
Offering a gentle alternative to the rampant Oasis and Blur dominated lad culture of mid-90s Britpop, B&S's rather lovely The Boy with the Arab Strap contains a dozen catchy pop songs of nostalgia, adolescence, inadequacy, innocence, longing, desire, endless childhood summers, and odes to the joys of generally lazing around, sung with fragile voices mostly to a low-fi backing of acoustic guitar, piano and soft snare one-twos.

But this is no ordinary disposable pop; It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career starts the album with the line "He had a stroke at the age of 24", and we realise these are not songs you're likely to be singing around the campfire despite the accessibility of the simple nursery rhyme like melodies. The wistful and sometimes surreal lyrics will appeal to fans of Morrissey or Nick Drake, and conjure up romantic images of colourfully dressed bohemians reading French poetry outside coffee houses on a sunny day.

Best of all is the infectious hand clapping title tune where singer Stuart Murdoch mischievously changes the lyrics to "You were laid on your back, with the Boy FROM the Arab Strap", a nod to fellow Scotch indie-band named after said item of bedroom-wear!

Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976
Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976
by Barney Hoskyns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I was there, 25 May 2007
This is a superb read for anyone interested in the music of CSN, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Neil Young, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Linda Ronsdalt, Gram Parsons, Little Feat, and Jackson Browne (and also lesser known artists such as Judee Sill, J D Souther and Warren Zevon)(and not forgetting the business men who ran the show, most prominently David Geffen). Packed full of drugs, sex, and rock and roll, it tells the story of how the late 60s hippie dream of an idealistic Utopian society of acoustic guitar strumming bohemian singer-songwriters living in wooden houses in the Laurel Canyon suberb of LA, was inevitably shattered within a few short years. It was far too good to be true and couldn't last and those times are gone forever, but to read about the scene, when the music was great and "fornication was on tap", remains very exciting and Barney Hoskyns' superbly researched and written book tears along at a cracking pace.

In the Jungle Groove
In the Jungle Groove
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.60

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most exciting music ever committed to record!, 9 May 2007
This review is from: In the Jungle Groove (Audio CD)
Don't expect any ballads, easy listening, or the hit singles, this double album length CD, recently reissued with a bonus track, collects together ten extended funk jams recorded between 1969 and 1971. With their raw energy and improvised feel, these vital studio recordings encapsulate not only the intensity of Brown's live performances, but also his volatile off stage existence during this period. Brown was a hard task master and in March 1969 his regular backing band walked out; luckily for musical history not before recording the famous Funky Drummer, with its infectious and oft sampled rhythm. The version here features alternate sax, guitar, drum, and stabbing organ solos by Brown himself, over a gorgeous groove that goes on forever (actually 9 minutes; indeed all the tracks on this album are so hypnotic and persistent, they each feel like twice their actual length).

Even more energetic is Give It Up or Turnit a Loose featuring a new band allegedly commissioned to perform a gig with two hours notice and no rehearsal. Unfamiliarity doesn't show as the song kicks off with a muted guitar riff before the funky drummer (Clyde Stubblefield remained from the original band) comes crashing in and the new "JBs" deliver a high octane slab of chunk funk with Brown extolling "Ain't it funky now!".

And it just keeps on coming - peaking with the stupendous, foot tapping, head nodding, body popping and simply exhausting Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing where the band lock into another fast and furious, horn honking groove as tight as one of their leader's latter day waist bands.

A tremendously exciting record guaranteed to get your party cooking!

Good Feelin
Good Feelin

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars T Bone's band is cooking, 9 May 2007
This review is from: Good Feelin (Audio CD)
After enjoying success over the previous two decades T-Bone's smooth West Coast sound fell out of favour in the `60s as America began to embrace rock and soul music and like many fellow bluesmen he sought to revive his fortunes in Europe becoming a regular on the blues legend festival circuit. It was during one such sojourn in Paris that he recorded the Grammy award winning Good Feelin', an album that demonstrated a harder funkier sound and briefly rekindled interest in his music on both sides of the Atlantic before his death in 1975.

Beautifully paced with alternate quick and slow numbers framed by a matching piano solo where T-Bone narrates "I sing nothing but the blues" this really is a "good feelin'" album that sounds as fresh today as it must have done nearly 40 years ago. Recorded with a band of crack local musicians the music rolls and rumbles, it's urban and soulful, with T-Bone's fluid jazz-tinged lead lines and honeyed vocals superbly complemented by a honking horn section, a chugging bass, and some groovy Hammond organ. This band really cooks and to have been in that smoky basement studio at the exact moment when the brass section burst in at the start of track two must have been something else. Production is crisp whilst retaining a raw live edge creating an atmosphere of a band grooving together on one of those nights when it just "feels right". Like the man says, it is the blues, but it's so much more too.

Jamaica Inn (VMC)
Jamaica Inn (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yo ho ho, 1 May 2007
This review is from: Jamaica Inn (VMC) (Paperback)
Jamaica Inn is not in the same league as "Rebecca" and some of the actions of the heroine seem slightly unlikely. However the descriptions of Bodmin Moor are evocative and the relatively straight forward plot makes for a good page turner especially suitable for a Cornwallian holiday. One word of warning though - I would not read the introduction until afterwards as it gives too much away; why publishers do this I do not know!

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