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Gary F. Taylor "GFT" (Biloxi, MS USA)
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Love Valour Compassion [DVD] [1997] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Love Valour Compassion [DVD] [1997] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boys In The Band meets On Golden Pond, 3 July 2004
Terrance McNally's LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! was a Tony-winning powerhouse on the New York stage--but the same cannot be said of the play's screen adaptation, which plays like a yuppie version of BOYS IN THE BAND that has unexpectedly collided with ON GOLDEN POND... but without much benefit to either.
The story itself concerns a group of eight gay men who meet at an isolated but lavish country house for summer weekends and who thrash out their various hopes, desires, and relationships in the process. In this sort of ensemble piece, where the story is more about people than plot, the cast is key--and in truth the cast is quite fine, with John Glover a particular standout in the dual role of John and James Jeckyll.
Trouble is, the gifts of the cast are repeatedly undercut by some of the most uninspired direction and cinematography going, and after a while it all begins to acquire a strangely superficial quality. I laughed now and then, I felt moved now and then, and I was occasionally impressed with some of the dramatic ideas involved. But when the final credits rolled I felt the film as a whole lacked any significant impact. The cast, however, makes it worth the effort.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


The Maltese Falcon (CRIME MASTERWORKS)
The Maltese Falcon (CRIME MASTERWORKS)
by Dashiell Hammett
Edition: Paperback

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legendary Novel, 3 July 2004
Although several of his novels have considerable merit, Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) will be best remembered for a single work: THE MALTESE FALCON.
Perhaps the single most extraordinary thing about the novel is its radical departure from the norm. In the 1920s and early 1930s, detective novels were not really considered "literary;" they were light entertainment, and they generally came in two varieties: pure pulp, which was more akin to action-adventure, and "the master detective" as created by such authors as Agatha Christie. In one fell swoop, however, Hammett not only fused these two ideas but also endowed his novel with tremendous literary style--more than enough to catch the eye of "serious" critics and more than enough to stand the test of time.
THE MALTESE FALCON is not a long novel, but Hammett packs a lot into it. The plot, which generally concerns the theft of a priceless, jewel-encrusted statue, walks a fine line between pulp mythology and modern pragmatism, never veering too far in either direction to seem impossible; the prose is lean and clean and packed with detail conveyed both simply and sharply; the characters stand out in a sort of high relief on the page. It is all memorable stuff.
It is difficult to discuss THE MALTESE FALCON without reference to the famous 1941 film version starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. The film has been both a blessing and a curse, so famous that it has drawn thousands of readers to the novel, but so widely seen that it can become difficult to read the novel without seeing it through the lens of the film. But while the film presents the plot and much of Hammett's dialogue intact, readers will find the novel has somewhat different strengths--not the least of which is Hammett's prose itself. An essential of 20th Century American literature; strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2012 11:32 AM BST


Anything Goes: The New Broadway Cast Recording
Anything Goes: The New Broadway Cast Recording
Offered by oldiesmuseum
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Knock-Out Cole Porter Score, 26 Jun. 2004
Although the 1987 revival of Cole Porter's legendary ANYTHING GOES plays fast and loose with both the original score and book, it's hard to be anything but enchanted with the show or the this cast recording--particularly when it includes the talents of Patti LuPone, Bill McCutcheon, Anne Francine, and many other Broadway notables.
The story of romantic follies aboard a transatlantic liner, the show opens with a scratchy recording of Cole Porter himself singing the title tune before the soundtrack segues into a dazzling overture by an excellent orchestra--and then proceeds to bounce out one great Porter tune after another: "I Get A Kick Out of You," "You're The Top," "Easy to Love," "Friendship," "It's De-Lovely," the title cut, "Blow Gabriel Blow," and "All Through the Night," to name but the most obvious titles.
While the entire cast is nothing short of brilliant, the show clearly belongs to Patti LuPone in the role of Reno Sweeney, an evangelist who does a little nightclub act on the side. LuPone hasn't been in better form since she dazzled New York audiences in EVITA, and her knock-you-flat vocal style is perfectly suited to both the role and the complex Porter tunes originally written for Broadway powerhouse Ethel Merman... and indeed, even Merman's memorable renditions seem to pale a bit in comparison.
Purists may complain about fiddling with the score, and it is true that this revival drops as many Porter classics from the original score as it adds from other sources; "Let's Misbehave" is particularly missed. But it's hard to argue with the addition of "De-Lovely" and "Easy to Love" (the latter of which Porter originally gave to Jimmy Stewart, of all people, to perform in the memorable 1936 film BORN TO DANCE.) And when Patti LuPone launches into "Anything Goes," you'll know it really does. Recommended as a knock-out in every possible way!
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Stars Sing Cole Porter
Stars Sing Cole Porter
Offered by rbmbooks
Price: £12.44

3.0 out of 5 stars A Grab Bag of Styles, 23 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Stars Sing Cole Porter (Audio CD)
Although he was most closely associated with Broadway, the words and music of Cole Porter have had a broad fascination for both artists and audiences alike--and while I would not say that this particular collection offers consistently excellent renderings of his work, it does give one a very good idea of Porter's very wide appeal, for each of these releases were extremely popular in their own time.
Most of the selections here are drawn from the 1950s and 1960s, and some of the interpretations are quite startling. One hardly expects a do-wop harmony group like The Four Seasons to perform a song like the intricate "I've Got You Under My Skin" in 1960s wall-of-sound style, but although it is entirely unexpected they carry it off extremely well--and certainly one can hardly argue with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, or Sarah Vaughn, all three of whom were renowned for their way with a Porter song and all of whom aquit themselves extremely well.
But for the most part, STARS SING COLE PORTER is a grab bag of interpretations that have faded over the years. Although she is an exceptional singer, Connie Francis lacks the necessary vocal qualities for a Porter tune such as "True Love," which in her hands emerges as so much sob-pop; Patti Page, a popular singer of the 1950s and 1960s more at home with country-tinged music that urbane sophistication, is completely out of her depth with "I Get A Kick Out of You;" and the Harpers Bizarre version of "Anything Goes" is, well, simply bizarre.
While the collection does have its charms, it will be of most interest to people who are less interested in Cole Porter music than in acquiring a particular version of a Porter song to which they have a sentimental attachment. If you actually want great renditions of great Cole Porter tunes, however, you'd be better off with a different and more consistent compilation.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Tribute to Cole Porter
Tribute to Cole Porter

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mix of the Truly Sublime and the Truly Dire, 22 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Tribute to Cole Porter (Audio CD)
Cole Porter (1891-1964) was among the closeted gay artists of his era--and the idea of collecting modern versions of his work for release as an AIDS fundraiser was truly inspired. But the hard truth is that few singers have the vocal skills that a Porter song demands, and the resulting RED HOT + BLUE is an extremely inconsistent mix of the truly sublime and the truly dire.
On the sublime side, the Neville Brothers offer a truly elegant reworking of the seldom performed but incredibly beautiful "In The Still of the Night," infusing the delicate melody with their own unique multicultural sound to tremendous effect. Fine Young Cannibals also do a remarkable version--and one that would have been sure to bring a wicked grin to Porter's face--of the often censored "Love for Sale."
Many other selections are equally effective. Although U2's version of "Night and Day" takes some getting used to, it is worth the effort and becomes unexpectedly haunting. Sinead O'Connor and K.D. Lang score memorably with "You Do Something To Me" and "So In Love;" and Annie Lennox offers the single finest version of "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" I have ever heard.
But the rest of the thing ranges from the merely "interesting" to the flat out awful. Neneh Cherry is one of the few rap artist I actually like--but she would have done better to take fewer liberties with "I've Got You Under My Skin," and frankly both Tom Waits and Salif Keita should have stayed in bed on the days they were scheduled to record their versions of "It's Alright With Me" and "Begin the Beguine." Indeed, Keita's "Begin the Beguine" is easily the single most awful version of any Porter song by any artist that I've ever heard.
The rest of the selections are in the "also ran" range, which is to say not memorably bad but not memorably good either. At times this is a major disappointment--when you consider that Andy Bell of Erasure has a remarkable voice it seems a pity to have reduce him a dance-track-ish "Too Darn Hot." Perhaps the single greatest disappointment in the collection is Debbie Harry, who one would expect to work wonders with a classic Porter tune... but who finds herself paired with Iggy Pop in a throw-away version of "Well, Did You Evah," which can only be described as a humiliating miscalculation and a true waste of talent.
Still, in spite of a host of misfires and just flat out bad ideas, when it's good RED HOT + BLUE is exceptionally good--and enough so to make up for the duds and bring the whole thing in at a solid four stars. Just bear in mind that you'll probably want to make your own edits!
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Live at Newport 1958
Live at Newport 1958
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: £9.99

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Sound Quality Undercuts A Brilliant Performer, 14 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Live at Newport 1958 (Audio CD)
Born to a poor family in 1911 in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson grew up singing in her father's church--and soaking up the blues and jazz for which that city is so famous. By the late 1920s she was in Chicago, where her distinctly jazz and blues-inflected singing style nearly got her thrown out of the Greater Salem Baptist Church. But Mahalia persevered, and in the early 1950s a series of radio and television broadcasts launched her first to national and then international acclaim. Some thirty years after her death in 1972, she is still considered the single greatest gospel singer America has ever produced.
I discovered Jackson in a serious way a year or so ago, and since then I have gone out of my way to purchase every one of her recordings that comes my way: if ever God gave breath to a gospel singer, it was to this woman, and her voice grabs you and rings you like a great bell. And after reading several commentaries on the brilliance of her 1958 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, I was particularly eager to have this one.
Sad to say, the sound quality of this recording is very, very bad. You can actually hear the roars of the audience with greater clarity than you can hear Jackson--and given the power of her voice that is an astonishing thing. At times it sounds as if Jackson and the microphone are at opposite ends of the stage; at other times it sounds for all the world as if Jackson is singing inside a barrel. And more than anything, the recording leaves me with a tremendous frustration--for in its occasional moments of clarity it is very obvious that Jackson was giving a truly brilliant performance.
For all the frustration involved, I do not regret this purchase. If nothing else, it gives one a very clear idea of how Jackson interacted with her audience. But even so, this not a recording I would recommend to someone just beginning to explore the work of this unique and extraordinary artist. Let it be among the last purchases of her work you make.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Soul of a Woman
Soul of a Woman
Offered by OUT OF PRINT
Price: £6.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Just The Finest Gospel Singer God Ever Gave Breath, 13 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Soul of a Woman (Audio CD)
Born to a poor family in 1911 in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson grew up singing in her father's church--and soaking up the blues and jazz for which that city is so famous. By the late 1920s she was in Chicago, where her distinctly jazz and blues-inflected singing style nearly got her thrown out of the Greater Salem Baptist Church. But Mahalia persevered, and in the early 1950s a series of radio and television broadcasts launched her first to national and then international acclaim. Some thirty years after her death in 1972, she is still considered the single greatest gospel singer America has ever produced.
Numerous collections of Jackson's work are presently on the market, and while all of them seem to include several basic songs, there is quite a bit of wobble to the wheel from CD to CD. While this particular CD has but twelve selections, it makes up for brevity by including a number of harder-to-find titles, including "Rusty Bell," "Elijah Rock," and "Down By The Riverside"--all of them brilliantly performed.
Although the various cuts are subject to the limitations of the era in which they were recorded, Jackson's great talent easily transcends every issue. Whether the song is up-tempo or slow and dark, she reaches across time and space and transmits the power of her convictions in what can only be described as one of the great voices of the 20th Century, a voice that rings like a bell and that carries a sea of emotion behind every note. Truly a great artist of this or any other age, and strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Cole Porter
Cole Porter
by William McBrien
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.76

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Biography of a Brilliant Artist, 12 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Cole Porter (Paperback)
Cole Porter (1891-1964) worked hard to create the image of an extremely wealthy man who traveled the world, played with the rich and famous, and now and then wrote a Broadway show or two for the pure pleasure of it. But although he was in some respects a shallow man who lived largely for personal pleasure, he was also a very driven and complex one, a man whose fame on the stage did not come easily and who faced a series of horrific hurdles in his private life.
Porter risked his grandfather's ire--and the family fortune he controlled--by settling on a career in music, and while he earned early fame at Yale through his compositions, his first Broadway venture, See America First, was a humiliating fiasco. Homosexual in an era when it was flatly unacceptable, he would marry to retain respectability and forge a remarkable emotional (if completely platonic) relationship with wife Linda Lee Thomas--even while conducting a series of same-sex affairs that would prove frustratingly superficial. Near the height of his career, a horseback riding accident would leave him crippled and in physical agony for the rest of his life, and the pressures of pain and keeping up appearances would plunge him into fits of depression that seemed to border on the psychotic.
Biographer William McBrien is meticulous in his research and his recreation of Porter's very high society, and in other hands such a weight of knowledge might plunge a book into absolute impenetrability--but although McBrien sometimes errs by flooding the reader with inconsequential detail, by and large he keeps a fine balance on his very difficult subject, tracing the arc of Porter's life from Indiana to Yale to New York to Europe to Hollywood, tracing the arc of his career from the humiliating fiasco of Porter's first Broadway show "See America First" to the brilliance of such successes as "Anything Goes" and "Kiss Me Kate."
In the process McBrien not only seems to capture Porter, but an entire era as well--a world of sharp sophistication when terms like "star" and "toast of two continents" and "gentlemen" still had meaning, when even the "have-nots" danced to the tempo of the "haves" and the wealthy went slumming for a thrill. Filled with numerous photographs and large chunks of Porter's memorable lyrics, this is one biography that truly does its subject justice.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


Whisker of Evil (Brown, Rita Mae)
Whisker of Evil (Brown, Rita Mae)
by Rita Mae Brown
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Always Light, Always Amusing, 8 Jun. 2004
No one in their right mind would suggest that Rita Mae Brown's "Mrs. Murphy" mystery series is in the same league with such earlier works as RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE, but doubtlessly Brown laughs all the way to the bank: the series has proven very popular, and in truth when it comes to ultra-light amusements one could do far worse than waste an afternoon in Brown's fictional Crozet, Virginia.
Like all books in the series, WHISKER OF EVIL returns us to the host of small-town characters of which we've grown so fond. Postmistress Mary "Harry" Harristein reigns supreme over the tiny town's equally tiny post office, surrounded by an amusing assortment of friends and acquaintances--not the least of which are her two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and her dog, Tucker. And when Harry stumbles over a dying man while walking along Potlicker Creek, her animals are as curious about the situation as she.
Brown has never really bothered to construct a tightly designed plot for any of the Mrs. Murphy novels, and while the motive and means for murder prove particularly ingenious in this novel the story itself is loose even in comparison to previous titles in the series. Still, it's all in good fun, and longtime fans of the series will be greatly interested to note that with WHISKER OF EVIL Brown begins to alter the course of her characters' lives with a host of changes that come for both good and ill. Recommended for a rainy day!
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


They Do It With Mirrors (Agatha Christie Collection)
They Do It With Mirrors (Agatha Christie Collection)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Minor but Entertaining, 29 April 2004
Also known under the title MURDER WITH MIRRORS, this 1952 Agatha Christieis neither the best nor the worst of her work. Set in a decaying Englishmansion, the grounds of which have become home to an experimental schoolfor delinquent boys, the novel finds Miss Marple visiting an elderlyfriend from her own school days--and being plunged into crime when herhostess' stepson is shot dead.
Christie is best known for her fiendishly cunning plots, but in thisinstance I found the mechanism of the crime somewhat obvious. Still, thenovel has other, undeniable charms: a renewed acquaintance with the alwaysentertaining Miss Marple, a memorable cast of characters, and aparticularly atmospheric setting. While it will never compare with thelikes of A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED or MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Christiefans will find it an entertaining one-gulp read.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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