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Bismaquer (London, UK)

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NoŽl ! NoŽl !! NoŽl !!!
NoŽl ! NoŽl !! NoŽl !!!
Offered by b68solutions
Price: £5.39

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great arrangements let down by dreadful singing, 31 Dec 2011
For the first few seconds of this album, I was delighted. It combined Michel Legrand's talent for big band arrangement with his ability to deliver beautifully lush charts for strings. Unfortunately, the album is ruined by most of the singing performances, many of which sounds as though they were an after thought, and quite a few of which appear to have been conceived in a different key to the arrangement they are playing against. What should have been a terrific celebration of Christmas with a uniquely French feel was turned into an album that I have played once and never again. Perhaps the kind of singers who would have worked best on an album of this sort are simply no longer around. Whatever, this is sadly one to avoid.

Proporta Smart Recycled Leather Case for the new iPad
Proporta Smart Recycled Leather Case for the new iPad

3.0 out of 5 stars A smart practical case, 30 Dec 2011
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This item is a smart and practical case for the IPad that protects it well. However, it does feel a little cheap in construction. Some of the finish around the edge of the case has been unravelling, and the spine of this folding case feels as though it will eventually perish. Nonetheless, it feels as though it should last the life of the IPad.

A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill's youngest child
A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill's youngest child
by Mary Soames
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable memoir by Winston Churchill's daughter, 30 Dec 2011
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Mary (Lady) Soames, treads an interesting path between a fascinating insight into her father as a family man and her own practical experiences of the war years. Both are dealt with in an exceptionally warm and readable manner. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Churchill the man, or in nostalgia for the war period generally. However, it also acts as an interesting historical document, based, as it seems to be, on Lady Soames's contemporary diaries from the time that is dealt with in the book.

Wall Street [Blu-ray] [1987] [Region Free]
Wall Street [Blu-ray] [1987] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Michael Douglas
Price: £8.08

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let down by poor picture quality, 5 Nov 2011
An excellent film with a wonderful performance by Michael Douglas, and something pretty special from Charelie Sheen too. The film is a real monument to the eighties in a global city like New York. However, it is let down by a pretty shoddy film quality. Whether it is the original film quality, or whether it is just a poor print that has been transferred, it's difficult to imagine that this Blu Ray looks any better than the DVD release. Why not save some cash and buy that instead?

The Ultimate Collection
The Ultimate Collection
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £7.25

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Mathis, with a couple of surprises, 23 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Ultimate Collection (Audio CD)
This CD is hardly "ultimate", but stands as a good introduction to Mathis. It focuses mainly on his British hits, and also includes a couple of tracks from his latest album of original material in 2010. This has the perhaps intended consequence of illustrating how unchanged the essential feature of Mathis's career is: a melodic and yet immediately distinctive style of singing that 55 years have done little to dim.

Focusing on the British hits does mean that a few well known songs such as Wonderful! Wonderful! are missing. However, the CD more than makes up for this by the inclusion of a couple of tracks from Mathis's shelved collaboration in 1981 with Nile Rodgers. Something To Sing About gives a clue as to why this might have been withheld at the time, sounding a little forced. But I Love My Lady would surely have been an enormous hit for Mathis if released when recorded. It sounds funky and slightly Brazilian ... perfect for Mathis in short.

The mastering on the CD is also excellent, particularly with some of the dreadful public domain releases mastered from old vinyl records that are now trying to flood the market.

To sum up, this CD is a great sampler of Mathis's career, with a couple of rarities thrown in for good measure. Well worth the money.

Duets Ii
Duets Ii
Price: £5.20

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A terrifically enjoyable album, 19 Sep 2011
This review is from: Duets Ii (Audio CD)
This collection of "Duets II" to celebrate Bennett's 85th birthday is so far better than the original "Duets" album of five years ago that it is difficult to believe that five years have actually passed and that this album isn't actually taken from undiscovered recordings of Bennett during his comeback years of the late eighties and nineties. It isn't, of course, having been recorded earlier this year. I suspect the reasons this album works so well are two. First, the selection of singers to team up with Bennett seems to have been done less with star power in mind and more with careful consideration of the kinds of singers who work well with his voice. Second, the songs themselves are no longer (for the most part) the "greatest hits" seen to poor effect on "Duets". Rather they are songs carefully chosen to show off Bennett's ageing, but still emotive and powerful, voice. It can be no coincidence that many of these songs are the staples that make up his present day concerts. There is no question that Bennett has sounded better in his career - it would be ridiculous if an 85 year old man sounded as good as he did at 45. The amazing thing is that he still sounds great. Not just great for 85, but great.

Some particular highlights on this album include:

- The Lady Is A Tramp (Bennett and Lady Gaga both swing masterfully, and it's on this track that Bennett sounds youngest and most carefree)
- Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Bennett and Michael Bublé clearly appreciate each other's style, and push each other along - again Bennett sounds vibrant and fresh)
- Blue Velvet (an inspired idea to bring back k.d. lang for her fifth appearance on one of Bennett's albums, as her voice blends perfectly with Bennett's)
- Who Can I Turn To (sung with Queen Latifah, it is amazing that Bennett still has the power to sing this in the same style if not quite in the same key as he first sang it in 1964)

There are also a few surprises - not being a big fan of "popera", it was surprising to me that the duets on This Is All I Ask (with Josh Groban) and Stranger In Paradise (with Andrea Bocelli) work so well. Both singers seem to have toned it down just enough to meld harmoniously with Bennett's rougher tones. Not as much as Mariah Carey has toned it down though, in what is a duet of taste and style on When Do The Bells Ring For Me.

The album isn't perfect. How Do You Keep The Music Playing is an embarassment, as Aretha Franklin fights Bennett all the way with an infuriating caterwaul that completely wipes him out at the climax of the song. Nor is Body And Soul with Amy Winehouse the posthumous towering classic that everyone seems determined to make it, although it is a perfectly pleasant rendering, and it is poignant to hear Winehouse apparently back on the way to health and performance.

All in all, an enjoyable album that has moments of real and lasting beauty, and for the rest of the time provides a glimpse of one of the best remaining interpreters of popular song, who is, although not quite at the top of his game, certainly still playing the game very well indeed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2013 4:26 PM GMT

All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett
All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett
by David Evanier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.17

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography that would have benefited from proof reading, 10 Sep 2011
David Evanier has clearly spent a great deal of time researching this biography of Tony Bennett. The book is packed with quotations from interviews that have been conducted especially for this book, rather than following the usual pattern of celebrity biography of lifting material from previous media interviews or books. Evanier must have spent a considerable amount of time speaking to people who have known Bennett throughout his life.

Unusually for a biography, the 85 years of Bennett's life are accorded more or less equal treatment in terms of space. Normally in a book of this kind, the story of the artist's beginnings are told, followed by a detailed account of the ascent to fame, but then the wilderness years and the present day are given short shrift. Not in this book, where Bennett's brief stay at MGM/Verve under the hand of Mike Curb is explained in some detail, contrary to my expectations. Bennett's career post 1986, when he returned to recording after a nine year layoff is also heavily assessed.

The prose is readable and entertaining. Perhaps the most admirable aspect of the book is that although the author is clearly a great admirer of Bennett (although is it really credible to fawn, as Evanier does, "[Bennett] is, astoundingly, a better singer than he ever was before"?), he does not shy away from describing Bennett's sometimes supposedly harsh treatment of those close to him. Bennett's parting with Ralph Sharon is an episode from which Bennett does not appear to emerge well, yet Evanier is commendably careful to tell both sides of the story in some detail without passing judgment.

Where the book falls down is in its proof reading. As a reviewer has observed on the American site, Evanier repeats himself quite often within a few paragraphs. There are also obvious errors such as the dating of "Playin' With My Friends", Bennett's album of duets from 2001 as 1991 at one place in the text. Evanier mixes up the songs "Why Do People Fall In Love" and "How Do you Keep The Music Playing" when referring to Sinatra's performance of the latter during which Sinatra instructed Bennett to sing the song, yet he refers to the former title, and it is clear from the paragraph that he has got the wrong song with the wrong story. It is also described as Alan and Marilyn Bergman's song - true enough (if he meant to refer to "How Do you Keep The Music Playing"), but they wouldn't have got far without the music by Michel Legrand! The whole paragraph is a bit of a mess. A final example is the comment on "When Do The Bells Ring For Me" that "It's no wonder that the song has become a showstopper at almost every Bennett concert." I have been attending Bennett concerts for almost a dozen years, but have never heard him perform this live, nor has it appeared on any set list that I have seen for countless more concerts.

There are also some strange omissions. Although the removal of Ralph Sharon as Bennett's pianist is explained, his replacement, the mercurial Lee Musiker, is hardly mentioned. Musiker must be given some credit for maintaining Bennett's musical energy in later years. Further, although Bennett's comeback album "The Art Of Excellence" is (rightly) praised, its sequel eighteen years later, "The Art Of Romance", for which an argument can be made that it is a superior work, is not reviewed.

On the whole, however, a very enjoyable and worthwhile book. It makes an excellent companion to Bennett's own informative memoir, "The Good Life", and is vastly superior to previous efforts by those such as Tony Jasper.

Oliver's Story [DVD]
Oliver's Story [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ryan O'Neal
Offered by 5records
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An unworthy sequel to Love Story, 4 Sep 2011
This review is from: Oliver's Story [DVD] (DVD)
It was some years after first watching Love Story that I heard about the sequel, Oliver's Story. To borrow a phrase, it languishes in well deserved obscurity. I approached Oliver's Story not really expecting something on a par with the original film, but I certainly didn't expect the dreadful mess that unfolded before me on the screen.

So many of the ingredients that made the first film great are missing. Only Ryan O'Neal and Ray Milland remain to lend some class to the proceedings. Perhaps the worst betrayal of the original film is the switch from O'Neal's father in law as portrayed in the first film as a sensitive and unconventional man distraught at his daughter's death into a coarse woman chasing bar hopper. Even if that were't the case, the film would be destroyed by the totally incoherent script and the lack of any development in the love story (which was what made the first film so special). Even the strand that might have rescued the film, Oliver's improving relationship with his father comes totally out of the blue with no reason for it at all.


The Main Event [1979]
The Main Event [1979]
Dvd ~ Barbra Streisand
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: £2.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak script holes this film below the line, 3 Sep 2011
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This review is from: The Main Event [1979] (DVD)
Streisand and O'Neal (the latter surely one of the most unfulfilled talents in film history) struggle badly with a lame script and story. The film is just about watchable thanks to Streisand's screwball characterisation of the reluctant boxing manageress and O'Neal's sensitive depiction of the Rocky-esque underdog fighter. However it watches as a series of comic episodes rather than as a coherent whole. Further, in the second half of the film, the story, already straining credibility, takes a turn for the downright ridiculous. A waste of two great talents. I wouldn't spend any money on this one.

On the technical side, the DVD transfer is pretty good, with generally acceptable picture quality and mono sound.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2012 5:19 PM GMT

Spartacus [Blu-ray] [1960]
Spartacus [Blu-ray] [1960]
Dvd ~ Kirk Douglas
Price: £7.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good transfer of a great film let down by lack of extras, 7 Aug 2011
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This is a review of the blu-ray edition on sale in the UK.

The transfer is for the most part, excellent. There are some moments where there appears to be a bit of layer damage that contributes to a very red tinge for a few seconds only, but this is nothing like as prevalent as suggested by another reviewer, and certainly not serious enough to spoil anyone's enjoyment. The sound is excellent, and particularly showcases Alex North's justly celebrated music. As for the "softness" - all I could see was that in what I think was a somewhat outdated technique even in 1960, shots of Jean Simmons seem to have been done in soft focus, which then contrasts very sharply with other shots of the scene. But generally, the film is sharp and clear.

As for the film itself, it has some terrific performances. Charles Laughton's manipulative senator is a particular highlight. I had also not realised quite how sensitive an actor "tough guy" Kirk Douglas was. But the film is stolen by Peter Ustinov, whose Oscar was justly deserved.

Many of the techniques used are obviously dated when viewed against more recent films. Accept the film in its own era, however, and this remains one of the benchmarks for telling an epic story. Stanley Kubrick had his own reasons to disown the film, but he could just as well have been proud of it.

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