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Stephen Reid "Stephen" (Basingstoke)

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The Rest of the Robots
The Rest of the Robots
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It's not high-art literature - but it's great fun, 5 Jan 2013
I thoroughly recommend the Isaac Asimov Robot books. They are an easy read, and at once humorous and thought-provoking. This is a book of short stories and each is, in its own way, memorable.

The key to Asimov's success with these stories is that he did more than place robots into the world and make them do things. He thought through how the human race might seek to programme the robots to ensure the safety of everyone on the planet. To do that he devised the three laws of robotics - and from those laws many of the stories take their cue. The three laws are, in effect, what give the robots that personalities.

So there are none of the metallic-voiced 'I am superior' science fiction clichés. Instead there is wit, futuristic thinking, good science and enjoyable plot-lines, often with a twist in the tail. And this in stories that were written over fifty years ago. They have survived the years very well.

'Robot AL-76 goes astray' is very short and one of my favourites. It is a great introduction to the book.

Thoroughly recommended as an example of how good science fiction can really be when handled right. It's not high-art literature - but it's great fun. Five stars.

Monty Python's Life Of Brian [DVD] [1979]
Monty Python's Life Of Brian [DVD] [1979]
Dvd ~ Graham Chapman
Price: £5.96

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the funniest films ever made: satire at its very best, 5 Jan 2013
Some people think this is not just one of but the funniest film ever made. If it isn't, it is certainly the funniest satire ever made. It is certainly up there with the very best and I thoroughly recommend it.

When it first came out, I remember a very po-faced commentator attempting to rip it to shreds, not realising that he was actually making a fool of himself and not the film. The Pythons with him said virtually nothing and just let him dig a hole for himself. But it was controversial and, I suppose, still is.

But a satire it is ... Life of Brian quickly established a brilliant reputation for itself and, to my mind, is undoubtedly the best thing the Monty Python team ever produced. The scenes where Brian is thought to be the new Messiah, where people follow him, where the new religion schisms into 'followers of the sandal' and 'followers of the gourd': these are pure genius. And the slapstick scenes featuring Romans with speech impediments (impedimentia?) are side-splittingly funny.

The Latin lesson ... that really brings back memories! Like much good humour, it is an exaggeration of the truth that many of us experienced. The final song 'Always look on the bright side', has become so well known that it is regularly sung at public events. And the question 'What did the Romans ever do for us ...?' has passed into common parlance, often modified, frequently used.

This film has burned itself into modern-day consciousness. If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat. If you have, then enjoy repeated viewings. A must-have: five stars.

Tangled [DVD]
Tangled [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nathan Greno
Price: £7.00

5.0 out of 5 stars If you don't have children or grandchildren, buy it for yourself!, 5 Jan 2013
This review is from: Tangled [DVD] (DVD)
This is pure family entertainment: a film that parents can watch with their children and enjoy just as much. One of the less well-known fairy tales is brought to life through brilliant characterisations, backed up by the latest technical wizardry in producing the animations.

I mention the characterisations in particular because this film does more than paint its cast as black-or-white. They have attributes and they behave as one might expect them to behave because of that.

The music is good (not oscar-winning, but enjoyable). The dialogue is snappy. The colours and the spectacle are first class: the scene where thousands of lanterns is released is quite spectacular.

There was a time when the Disney studios had lost their way: with delight I note that those days are well and truly behind them - certainly judging by this film.

If you have children or grandchildren - buy it for them. If you don't, buy it for yourself! An unqualified success. Five stars.

I Married a Witch [DVD]
I Married a Witch [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fredrick March
Offered by chris0916
Price: £7.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Five-star light-hearted entertainment. Enjoy!, 4 Jan 2013
This review is from: I Married a Witch [DVD] (DVD)
One of my favourite 'old' films. This is one of those entertaining stories where you find you've been watching for the last hour with a smile on your face. Light hearted, magical, it draws you in so that you want to see the resolution. The hero is a hero, the heroine is a heroine (and a witch), the good guys are good and the bad guys are - well, not too bad.

The casting is impeccable. Veronica Lake plays her unlikely comedy role very well and Fredric March is perfect as her grumpy wizard father. March plays his role excellently: it takes a good actor to be able to act drunk and do it well.

The direction and script are tight and, unlike other Rene Clair outings, this film keeps its humour subtle and doesn't descend into slapstick. As a result this film has aged well and is still as enjoyable today as it was when it was made.

OK, it's black and white, it's an old print, it could have been cleaned up. But forget all that - it's five-star light-hearted entertainment. Enjoy!

The Uninvited [1944] [DVD]
The Uninvited [1944] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Milland
Price: £14.21

4.0 out of 5 stars The production quality is high and, coupled with a story-line that has stood the test of time, it has aged well., 4 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Uninvited [1944] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a genuinely chilling film. The Director and producers had the sense to know that suspense is generated by the suggestion of ghostly goings-on more than the showing of them. The viewer's imagination is the most potent scenery available. Here, the viewer is invited to exercise imagination right to the end.

The storyline is good and well thought through. It is more than a story involving ghosts: it is also a mystery, and a very good one. Just what DID happen in the house many years ago? The resolution is satisfying: there are clues throughout the film that point to the eventual answer: if you spot them you give yourself a pat on the back for working it out. It's not one of those films where an improbable twist near the end reveals an answer that nobody could possibly have deduced.

And there's a little romance thrown in for good measure.

The acting is good, the direction crisp. Ray Milland is at his best and well supported by a strong cast. Considering that this was a film made during the War, the production quality is high and, coupled with a story-line that has stood the test of time, it has aged well.

Definitely worth watching. Very good: four stars.

The Concert For Bangladesh [2CD]
The Concert For Bangladesh [2CD]
Price: £17.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of history, put together by star performers, 2 Jan 2013
I first purchased this recording as a triple LP set when it first came out and loved it: well, most of it. My criticism was that the running times per side were very short and it could have been a double LP: not six sides, but four. This transcription to CD brings it down to two, so dramatically reducing the need to get up and change the record. In this form it is much more possible to enjoy the live event and appreciate the atmosphere that it generated. It was, after all, the very first charity rock concert.

There are many gems here. 'Wah-Wah', 'My Sweet Lord' and the other tracks from 'All Things Must Pass' benefit from having the over-production stripped away (George Harrison, in later years, admitted that he found ATMP over-produced).

Eric Clapton's arrival that night was a bonus: the team wasn't sure he was going to make it (he was fighting his addictions at the time and his self-confidence was at rock bottom). But make it he did, and his contributions are first class, as other reviewers have also commented.

Billy Preston was emotionally affected by the excitement of the occasion and how well the band worked together. Listen for a section near the end of 'That's the Way God Planned It' where he stops playing the keyboards and walks round the stage in enthusiasm. It is an infectiously good performance.

The crowd erupted when Bob Dylan was announced. Again, he was a bag of nerves on the night and had to be hurriedly introduced as he walked on sooner than expected. And again, his tracks are first class.

This is a piece of history, put together by star performers, and it set the scene for other major rock events to follow. Without hesitation, five-stars.

Paul McCartney - Unplugged 'Deluxe' DVD
Paul McCartney - Unplugged 'Deluxe' DVD

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The informality sucks you in, 1 Jan 2013
I enjoyed watching this. It's very good, though I wonder whether, with a few hours to spare, I would put this on in preference to say 'New York City'.

The atmosphere on this DVD is informal, and it shows when some songs take one or even two false starts to get going. As McCartney says, though, this is a relaxed session and the very informality sucks you, the watcher, in.

High spots? For me the Beatles numbers with which I grew up. 'Here, There and Everywhere' is delightful in its simplicity. 'I've Just Seen a Face' is very good acoustically. 'And I Love her' is beautiful. 'Blackbird' always works and is a high spot of his grander concerts when just he and his guitar are centre-stage.

The early solo material works too: 'Every Night' is well done and 'Junk' is a favourite of mine.

So ... there's a lot here to enjoy. Outstanding? Probably not, because of the accentuated informality and it isn't quite as good as some of his very best offers. But very good, certainly. Four stars and worth having.

Abbey Road: The Best Studio in the World
Abbey Road: The Best Studio in the World
by Angela Lawrence
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £40.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate history of a very important building, 31 Dec 2012
This is an excellent book to own. It's not a 'sit down and read it' book, but a 'dip in and browse' book. It contains hundreds of excellent photographs and doesn't fall into the trap of becoming a biography of how the Beatles used the studios, though there are significant sections devoted to them, of course. It touches on the history of thousands of important artists who used these iconic studios.

The book starts back at the beginnings of recorded music and describes how the facilities were developed and updated. It has chapters on the pre-war years, and then a chapter on each decade through to the 2000s. If there is a decade of particular importance to you, you will find memories in these pages. Indeed, many of the photographs and descriptions evoke long-forgotten memories 'oh yes, I remember them ...' The Abbey Road studios were important to thousands of artists and therefore to millions of listeners.

Later chapters include an analysis of experimentation and invention, the unsung staff heroes who held it all together and a brief timeline of the technical developments. These emphasise that the book has been written with great affection and, indeed, pride.

I take the point from other reviewers that there are some omissions, but this doesn't claim to be a textbook. It is an affectionate history of a building that has played a more important role in millions of peoples' lives than they might otherwise realise.

A lovely book to own: five stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2013 11:15 AM GMT

Across America (CD + DVD)
Across America (CD + DVD)
Price: £15.22

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A consummate singer performing live and at his best, 27 Dec 2012
This is one of those gems that one is most likely to find on line and rarely, I suspect, in the shops. But a gem it is, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Art Garfunkel has a unique voice: a purity of sound and pitch-perfect delivery. This comes across on the Simon and Garfunkel records, but to my mind less so on his solo studio albums which are, for me over-produced. But here he is singing as he should be - with a minimal backing band and with arrangements that allow his voice to come to the fore. And it soars.

I particularly enjoyed 'Scarborough Fair'. 'Crying In The Rain' with James Taylor brings together two singers of such precision that it is spellbinding. 'Bright Eyes' is, if anything, better than the studio recording.

'Bridge Over troubled Water' is superb right up to the last note where Garfunkel takes a breath halfway through the delivery: there are a couple of live recordings I have seen where he does this. The definitive live version for me is on the 'Old Friends' DVD. But make no mistake: no-one sings BOTW like Art Garfunkel and it is a superb rendition.

There is an intimacy to this recording. Garfunkel's wife supplies some of the backing vocals (very well). They even allow their eight-year old son to join in on 'Feeling Groovy'.

The links between the tracks, documenting Garfunkel's walk across America are short enough not to be intrusive and offer some insights that will be of interest to fans.

I debated whether to give this four or five stars ... I decided that four would be churlish. It is a unique record and a chance to see a consummate singer performing live and at his best. And for the money ... superb value.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2014 4:07 PM BST

Hit Singles
Hit Singles

4.0 out of 5 stars The history of a great British group and the attitudes of the time, 17 Dec 2012
This review is from: Hit Singles (Audio CD)
This is very well presented album. What I most like is that it is arranged chronologically. All twenty tracks are documented in the centre of the pull-out documentation, giving their highest chart position (UK and USA) and how many weeks they were in the charts.

The listener can therefore hear how the group progressed, becoming more sophisticated in its output.

With regard to the tracks, there are so many gems here. The first Number One hit was in 1964 - "You Really Got Me", followed quickly by "All Day and All of the Night." I am sure many people will recognise these tracks almost fifty years later. But how short they are - firmly in the era of the short single.

1965 started with a massive favourite "Tired of Waiting for You" but saw only lesser hits after that. Even so, "See My Friends" has shades of some of the Beatles early psychedelic experiments.

1966 saw "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Sunny Afternoon", much more sophisticated singles than most of their predecessors and destined to be long-lived favourites. Both capture moods of the time: the obsession that some people had with clothes and fashion, and the almost languid laid-back feeling of the summer of love. Possibly more than any other, "Sunny Afternoon" captures the spirit of the time.

"Waterloo Sunset" from 1967 is a hymn of praise to London, and has certainly stood the test of time. As has "Days", from 1968, which only rose to number 12, but which was much, much better than that.

Then there are some quiet years, in terms of massive hits until the great "Lola" of 1970.

This album tells not only the history of one Britain's great groups but also some of attitudes of the time. Some of the tracks haven't stood the test of time as well as others, but those that have are classics. It's a good listen, and highly recommended. Overall: very good: four stars.

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