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gille liath (US of K)
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In Concert November 1975
In Concert November 1975
Price: 6.78

5.0 out of 5 stars one of the great live albums, 17 Sep 2013
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Just when I thought rock music had no more to say to me, this comes along. Nobody has ever had a more complete talent than RT as songwriter, musician and singer; he and Linda were at their peak here, at least in terms of material. They are well served by a band that is really on it, creating an energy that is not always apparent on the studio albums (you don't need to do an epic prog odyssey to give a song a new lease of life). Thompson shows in fact that he has a better instinct for his own material than record company compilers, presenting a set in which sighing and stomping are well balanced.

I'm particularly intrigued by John Kirkpatrick whose accordion plays what would be the keyboard role in a more conventional band, filling out the treble end of the sound. There's no-one better at this style; maybe his playing is just a shade too busy at times, if anything. Don't be misled, though: this is definitely not folk, apart from the morris medley - and that doesn't really fit in.

No surprises? I'd say that covers of Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buck Owens constitute a surprise. Thompson's performance of It'll Be Me, though a fire-breather, makes him sound like a stalker ('and I'll be looking for you!'). I don't agree that the atmosphere is poor, either. There isn't the kind of hysteria that bands seem to expect today, but there's no question the people there are enjoying themselves. I envy them their evening.


The Goodies ... At Last! - BBC [DVD]
The Goodies ... At Last! - BBC [DVD]
Dvd ~ Graeme Garden
Price: 8.20

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars monty python for kids, 16 Sep 2013
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I hadn't seen these since I was a little nipper, and I can think of at least three reason why - much to Bill Oddie's chagrin - the BBC haven't been keen to repeat it:

1. There are enough stereotypes in the Ecky Thump episode alone to sink the good ship BBC Diversity without a trace.

2. It does use a lot of references to the pop culture of the day (something which would be almost impossible now).

3. It's not *that* funny.

It is, however, a lot of *fun* - if you see the distinction. I think it's true that fortysomethings won't find it as good as they remember, but that's because it really is (whether intentionally or not) ideal for kids. Mine love it in spite of not getting most of the aforementioned references, just as I didn't first time round. It's not entirely unsubtle but it's pretty broad; in fact the broader they play it the better it works, as some of the talky scenes aren't so great. It often harks back to the days of silent comedy, as well as bearing a strong resemblance to some of Python's simpler routines (and maybe, yes, a dash of the Beatles/Monkees too). Unlike Python though, it's anarchic without being at all narky. Not out to shock or dazzle, it's essentially optimistic and good-humoured - not bad going considering the world ends in one episode.

Its big strength (apart from Oddie's play-that-funky-music songs of course) is that it has the courage to think big - often literally, eg Kitten Kong. No idea is too daft, and I think that's really the word which - in a good way - best sums it up.


The Road Less Travelled
The Road Less Travelled
Price: 13.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars that's not how you spell 'travelled'..., 9 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Road Less Travelled (Audio CD)
In spite of the terminally unflattering front cover shot - she looks as though she's been dragged through a hedge backwards, and is far from happy about it - Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is what sets this album apart from the run of Irish bands. Only a singer of real class could successfully take on Farewell, Farewell (a Fairport Convention / Sandy Denny classic). I won't say it's better than the original - that would be asking too much - but Nic Amhlaoibh's version is just as expressive, without losing the flavour of her own traditional idiom.

The inclusion of this English folk-rock standard, and the American folksong Peg and Awl, reflects the way the younger Irish bands are starting to move away from strictly traditional material for the songs. The tune sets, on the other hand, are very much business as usual. Their selection, arrangement and performance, though perfectly proficient (and nobody should underestimate what that means), isn't anything really special.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2001]
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.73

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars let's hunt us some orc, 2 Sep 2013
It could have been a lot worse - I accept that. This is a sincere and wholehearted effort. But it's still a slow, stodgy film; a rock video vision of Middle Earth, big on helicopter shots, dizzy precipices, whispery telepathic dialogue and fey pre-Raphaelite imagery. Peter Jackson is a stranger to subtlety - everything has to be double underlined to make sure we get it - and shows himself as a director utterly incapable of handling dramatic tension. Again and again he needlessly gives away what is going to happen, betraying the Hitchcock-like suspense that is a key feature of this first book. He seems comfortable only with long, static, talking-in-a-room scenes or even longer battles.

The script is clunky (so much time and trouble to turn so much banality into Elvish!). It always seems to be a bad sign when the writers are also producers. The music is a drag, and many roles are hopelessly miscast. In a word: whatever is good about this film and its sequels comes from the book, but their faults are all their own. The definitive screen version of the story is still waiting to be made; this one, while reverently preserving so much outward detail, has somehow let the essence escape.


The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold: A Conversation Piece (Penguin Modern Classics Fiction)
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold: A Conversation Piece (Penguin Modern Classics Fiction)
by Ronald Harwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an interesting failure, 28 Aug 2013
The chief interest of this lies in its chilling portrait of a disillusioned, disaffected and paranoid middle age, corresponding apparently to that of the writer. As a story, it explores something which has become a peculiarly modern nightmare: being trapped in a situation where you are exposed to all kinds of noise and thuggish unpleasantness, but can't do anything about it. If you were to ramp up the violence, it's the kind of concept you could imagine seeing on the Horror channel. The modern reader, though, is likely to see the twist coming a long way off, and to lose patience; Waugh was a good enough writer to make this an ordeal for the reader, too. As one of the other reviews suggests, it might have been better left as a character sketch.

There's also the interesting prophecy in the very first paragraph, which shows his acute appreciation of his place in literary history: 'the originators are extinct and in their place [is] a generation notable for elegance and variety of contrivance. It may well happen that there are lean years ahead in which our posterity will look back hungrily to this period, when there was so much will and ability to please'.

It may indeed.


Art of Japanese Bamboo Flute &
Art of Japanese Bamboo Flute &
Price: 15.69

4.0 out of 5 stars the sound of one hand clapping, 23 Aug 2013
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Traditional Japanese music is so tranquil and melancholy, like that of some Western baroque composers, that for me it's best in small doses. The very slow development of the longer pieces here, all with three instruments or fewer, is intriguing - but tiring if you're not in the right mood. There *is* development though, which means - I would have thought - this is not ideal background music for meditation. The last track is a modern composition with a much more Western feel, though still within the frame of authentic Japanese music.

Overall, a good value album which is what it says it is.


Ways Of Escape (Vintage Classics)
Ways Of Escape (Vintage Classics)
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars a patched-up life, 18 Aug 2013
This not-really-autobiography is mostly stitched together from introductory pieces Greene had already written for his novels - that's why it reads bittily. He makes it clear that he wants to keep his private life private. The sections on the wars in Malaya (as was) and Vietnam, which he visited as a journalist, are rivetting; but they feel disconnected.

It's always interesting to hear an eminent artist's thoughts on his own work - and to see how far they confirm your own - but as a book it would have worked better if it had been more clearly conceptualised from the start.


Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence
Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence
by Richard W. Wrangham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.55

4.0 out of 5 stars shadows of the past, 18 Aug 2013
It may be slightly ridiculous literally to demonise half of the human race; but look beyond the hysterical title, and the thesis of this book should spring no surprises: aggression in humans is characteristic mainly of males; it is an evolved trait; and it will be hard to eradicate because it succeeds (at least in its own narrow terms) and because a lot of women actually quite like it (or at least the idea of it).

So far, so obvious. But along the way, the book throws up innumerable interesting points for discussion in anthropology and ape-thropology. It should be read by anyone who thinks intra-species violence is an exclusively human trait; anyone who thinks the great apes are cuddly peaceniks; and anyone who thinks there is no war in primitive tribal cultures.

Above all it demonstrates, clearly though unconsciously, that evolution cannot explain everything - either about ape or human behaviour. For example, free-loving bonobos are held up as the example the human race should try to follow. But, though there is a plausible explanation of the lower social tension in bonobo troops, the crucial final link in the argument is missing: why does this translate into greater female power? Why do female bonobos, unlike other female primates, band together to suppress male violence? It appears that they just do (where humans have at most toyed with the idea of the New Man, bonobos have really taken it to heart). If the authors notice the yawning gap in their own argument, they are careful not to draw attention to it.

Eventually they get caught awkwardly between two inconsistent principles of political correctness. On the one hand humans are a specie of animal, products of our evolutionary past, and any suggestion that we are superior to other species is severely to be deprecated. But on the other, human behaviour - unlike animal behaviour - is never to be condoned solely because it originates in our evolutionary past.

Inevitably they give priority to the second idea, and this is what the book's conclusion relies on. Humans *are* different from animals, not only in degree but in kind. Only thus is there any hope; only on that basis can it be argued that we need not and must not forever be prisoners of the demon within.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2013 7:00 PM GMT


The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales (Oxford Books of Prose)
The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales (Oxford Books of Prose)
by Alison Lurie
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars worthwhile collection, 17 Aug 2013
Alison Lurie seems to have a drearily literal attitude to fairy tales: Hansel and Gretel 'dramatizes' the fact that some parents are neglectful while others are over-possessive? Really?

Anyway, whether she or her team of researchers deserves the credit, this compilation certainly features some quality writers and some good stories which, one way or another, take traditional folk and fairy tales as their starting point. If there's a prevalent fault, it's that - although only a few are the subversive 'with a twist' variety which I am so heartily sick of - many are too knowing. They take the conventions so much for granted that there isn't the sense of wonder and peril of the old stories.

I get the impression that there was no definite decision about who the book should be aimed at. The majority of the tales, probably, were originally intended for intelligent children, though they are sophisticated enough to be enjoyed by adults too. Others though, particularly the more recent, include themes or content - bawdry, eroticism, horror or existential angst(!) - which would prevent you putting the book into the hands of younger kids.


A Day Like Today
A Day Like Today

3.0 out of 5 stars not bad really..., 17 Aug 2013
This review is from: A Day Like Today (Audio CD)
Yes, I can well believe that this would be the 'acceptable face of Folk' for someone who doesn't actually like Folk. Me, I wasn't expecting much - the Young Gun type of Folk usually leaves me cold - but it's really not too bad. It's all-acoustic, and very well played and sung: two big points in its favour. In the end it is too Young and Gunny for me, though. Giving Corns Rigs a new tune and calypso-style arrangement - what possessed them? And there's always something a bit arch and false about 'period songwriting', modern songs set hundreds of years ago.


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