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GlynLuke (York UK)

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North To Alaska [DVD] [1960]
North To Alaska [DVD] [1960]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by MasterDVD
Price: 7.09

3.0 out of 5 stars No rush for the Gold Rush, 7 Oct. 2015
This review is from: North To Alaska [DVD] [1960] (DVD)
I must say that, for a normal-length almost 2-hour film, this seemed to go on forever. A lot happens, not always to good effect. The movie looks gorgeous.
Thing is, it's a tale that could have been told in half the time, but here we have seasoned director Henry Hathaway (never a 'great director' but always a pro) encouraging his excellent cast to play what is a pleasing story as near-farce, emphasising the cartoon elements, and - even though it was a cliche way back in 1960 - giving Wayne a character who, despite his obvious worldliness, is scared of women, doesn't understand them, misunderstands them at every opportunity, etc, etc. Cue for much humourless 'farce' involving a rather good Stewart Granger (albeit absent for much of the film) who works well with Wayne, and their young sidekick, played as well as could be expected by teenage pop singer Fabian! He's not too bad at all - though not nearly so effective as Rick Nelson in Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo a year earlier. (Interesting to note that Elvis was not that much better an actor, even in his best films - eg. King Creole, Flaming Star - than his less charismatic peers.)
The Duke is superb in a role he could have played in his sleep, hog-tied and drunk and standing on one leg. Stewart Granger looks relaxed and genuinely happy for once, and Ernie Kovacs (who died, after a handful of films, aged 42) is an effectively slimy baddie, always on the lookout for a deviously good deal. We don't really see enough of him in the bulk of the film, which is a shame since his character could have been developed more than it is.
The best thing in the film - which by the way is set in Alaska during the Gold Rush - by quite a long way is the character of 'Angel' as played by French actress Capucine. She plays every scene totally truthfully, while obviously realising she is being asked to act out what is no more than hokum. But she is wonderful in fact, giving Wayne, Granger, Kovacs, and even Fabian something real to play off.
Capucine, a troubled woman by the sound of it, had a tragic end, hurling herself suicidally off a high balcony at the age of 62. She was a subtle and generous actress, and often rose above dire material (eg. What's New Pussycat). She is a fine foil for Wayne. He seems to know it too.
A very enjoyable film, if a negligible 'western', that is well directed by the rather stolid Hathaway, and acted with a kind of dogged relish by an eclectic cast. Worth seeing at least once. I'm hanging on to my copy, for a piquant reminder of Capucine, and for one more fragrant memory of John Wayne in his gallant prime.

Very enjoyable.

Endless Wire
Endless Wire
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 10.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Gord, 7 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Endless Wire (Audio CD)
This was the last of the impeccable run of eight 1970s albums that the wonderful Gordon Lightfoot made, and it's almost as good as the best of them. (Mind you, they were bookended by 1968's lovely Back Here on Earth and the equally fine Dream Street Rose from 1980.)
The absurdly catchy melody of opener Daylight Katy will lodge itself in your brain for hours after you hear it (and nobody does 'catchy' quite like Lightfoot).
It's followed by two more typically memorable songs, Sweet Guinevere and the superb Hangdog Hotel Room, then we get a gorgeous ballad, If There's a Reason, which should slay you.
The rest of the album is just as good, closing with - well, outlandish as it will seem, I like to think I myself might be the cause of this slowed-down version of his old song The Circle is Small, one of my favourite Lightfoot songs, since I was the young guy who called out for him to play it at an Albert Hall concert in the early 70s. He heard my request, and said something like: "I haven't sung that in years..." implying he couldn't remember it. I like to think he went home to Ontario and dug out the song again. A few years later and it reappeared here, newly arranged, and as good as the earlier version. Well, you never know...
I love Lightfoot more than almost any other singer-songwriter, and this near-perfect record is yet one more reason why.


Hancock's Half Hour - Volume 4 [DVD]
Hancock's Half Hour - Volume 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tony Hancock
Price: 16.31

5.0 out of 5 stars The last of Sid, 4 Oct. 2015
Maybe you had to be there, but for me the various 50s/60s series of Hancock's Half Hour (post-radio, pre-Hancock alone) represent the very best idiomatic comedy writing of all time, and the peak of Tony Hancock's career as the finest, subtlest comic actor until the advent of Ronnie Barker.
I am never quite ready for the pitch perfect brilliance of the inimitable scripts of Galton & Simpson (happily both still with us in their eighties at the time of writing) whose ear for the rhythms of faux-genteel S London/N Surrey speech was faultless, mixing working class slang with highflown aspirational-posh as 'ancock becomes more and more dissatisfied with his lot on the wrong side of the tracks in a semi-mythical East Cheam. And the lad himself (in fact from Birmingham) was always complaining, a sublime foil for the wide-boy imperturbability of the wonderful Sid James, with his bashed-in face and irrepressible cackle.
These were the last great episodes before Hancock unwisely let go of Sid (as he had already jettisoned Bill Kerr, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams after the peerless fifties radio series) and they are ten of the best, a few of which - oh joy! - I'd never seen before.
Several regular supporting players make their presence felt, including the lovably deadpan Hugh Lloyd, often apoplectic Robert Dorning, massive cockney stalwart Arthur Mullard (unforgettably dancing with Hancock in The Ladies Man), glamorously irascible Liz Fraser as Tony's morose date in the same episode, Joan Heal - and the glorious Patricia Hayes as the formidable Mrs Cravatte, a stunning - not to mention alarming - creation.
In all honesty, I could go on forever about how unbeatably funny Hancock's Half Hour was and is, but all you need to do is order one of these two-disc collections (almost any of them will do, though this is one of the best) and sit back and relish comedy writing and acting that has seldom been equalled.
Hancock's face alone, with its seemingly unlimited range of expressions, would be worth a thesis...

As I say, sublime.

I Can't Stop
I Can't Stop
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 9.80

5.0 out of 5 stars You can call him Al, 4 Oct. 2015
This review is from: I Can't Stop (Audio CD)
I'm going to keep this uncharacteristically brief.
If you already know and love this supreme soul singer's work, you'll have to have this. If you're new to him - what's been keeping you? - then this is almost as good a place to start as any.
What about those who merely 'quite like' the Georgia boy, I hear multitudes cry. Do they exist? Is it possible? How can anyone hear Let's Stay Together or his version of Funny How Time Slips Away and not fall hook, line & soul for this master of mood?
It's seldom admitted - at least not here - but the music of Al Green is, along with Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On (which is, alas, only 35 minutes long) the best and most sensual soundtrack for making love since Sinatra's fifties albums. I can vouch for that.
This 2003 'comeback' set of twelve songs (all produced & arranged by old friend Willie Mitchell) is as enjoyable as anything that went before, some tracks the equal of his classic 70s/80s recordings. Each time I play I Can't Stop, I can't stop wanting to play it again, and to keep on hearing this man who bleeds soulfulness, exuding it from every pore.
Did I say I'd keep it brief? Sorry about that.


Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World
Price: 5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars O brave New World!, 2 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Beautifully recorded, gorgeously played by the Baltimore SO, sensitively and intelligently conducted by Marin Alsop, and at the low Naxos price, this all but perfect disc is a New World for the ages.
Alsop highlights things I'd missed before - a sigh here, a breath there - and brings this famous symphony to new life.
However, the revelation for me was the Symphonic Variations, a work of astonishing inventiveness and lyrical ingenuity from the Czech master, and a piece that I will play often.
A bargain, naturally, but a great recording in its own right. Made me hear this great symphony with fresh ears, and introduced me to a lovely work I hadn't heard.
What more can one ask?

Endlessly recommended.

The Ornette Coleman Trio At the Golden Circle, Vol. 1
The Ornette Coleman Trio At the Golden Circle, Vol. 1
Price: 6.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky Stockholm, 2 Oct. 2015
The now sadly late Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) was an innovator, a clear-thinking, clean-toned musical ringleader, and a lyrically inclined Texan jazzman who made some of the most refreshing and invigorating records of the postwar era.
In 1965 he took bass virtuoso David Izenzon (1932-79) and energetic drummer Charles Moffett (1929-97, like Ornette a native of Fort Worth) to Sweden to play a few nights at Stockholm's Golden Circle club. These fizzing, gloriously uplifting sides are the result. Thank heaven someone thought to tape them, since they are at the centre of the alto sax player's recorded achievement.
What you get on the two Blue Note discs, now remastered and with extra tracks - including the boisterous, previously unreleased Doughnuts on this first volume - are three people playing virtually as one, though with the positive creative tensions that come from a strong-minded leader and two equally forceful sidemen.
All three play their hearts out. Each number is worth your time, but the slower Dawn is quite beautiful, and deserves to be singled out from its 'noisier' companions.
What strikes me about these CD reissues is that they somehow sound so much better than the LPs ever did, warmer and less 'dry'. I remember the first time I heard these tracks - many years ago now - and finding them hard to love. Not now. I expect I've changed, but I think it's also down to some magic in the new mix too. Whatever it is, to me these are essential jazz classics from a man who oozed music, and who changed the language of modern jazz as surely as did Parker, Miles or Coltrane.
Buy, as they say, with confidence.


Year of the Hare, The
Year of the Hare, The
by Arto Paasilinna
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow of the hare, 2 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Year of the Hare, The (Paperback)
This is one of the most unusual and enjoyable novels I've come across for a long time.
Set mostly in Lapland, with forays into Helsinki and even Soviet Russia (it was written as long ago as in 1975 during the cold war) the story concerns Vatanen, an unhappily married man who, driving along a country lane after a drinking spree with his friend, unwittingly and literally runs into a leveret, whom we meet after only four paragraphs, thus:

On the crest of a hillock, an immature hare was trying its leaps in the middle of the road. Tipsy with summer, it perched on its hind legs, framed by the red sun.

That could almost be Laurie Lee.
The author of this now famous, much-translated book thrusts us immediately into his tale, and even such a brief excerpt as the above tells you not only how deftly evocative the writing is, but also the dextrous sensitivity of the translation by Herbert Lomas.
Vatanen, an impulsive man in search of (as we discover) both adventure and an escape from his numbed life, runs off into the forest after the injured hare. From then on, his adventure is the lucky reader's too.
To disclose much more would be to give too much away.
What makes this delightful short yet incident-packed novel so unique is the lack of sentimentality, and the author's refusal ever to stoop to anthropomorphism in his portrayal of man and hare, or indeed any of the other creatures which cross his path - and, this being the wilds of Finland, plenty do.
The hare is frequently kept a shadowy figure, but we are ever aware of him hovering somewhere just out of view, or scampering around nearby, and when he/it is given centre-stage we welcome him as a loved and welcome friend. (I already loved hares, though I've seen very few, and now I love them even more.)
The denouement of this very re-readable tale is rather enigmatic, but that only adds to its fable-like quality. I hope more of Paasilinna's books are translated for us to read in English (Finnish being one of the tougher languages to master) and if they are as winning as this likably whimsical, often droll story of a man and his friendship with a young trusting hare, we are in for a treat.


Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman: AND The Royal Game
Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman: AND The Royal Game
by Stefan Zweig
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Love & obsession, 30 Sept. 2015
The first of these two stories from either end of Zweig's career highlight his concern for the lives and desires of women, and the way in which an obsession can develop from a random set of circumstances, and become close to insanity.
Twenty-four a not untypical tale of a woman in love and despair, translated by Anthea Bell, and is as essential - or as disposable, if your name is Michael Hofmann - as anything by this perceptively wily writer.
The Royal Game is something very special indeed, a story whose worth should be trumpeted from the rooftops.
Ostensibly, it is a tale of a game (or several) of chess aboard an ocean liner bound for Buenos Aires, involving a surly, monosyllabic international chess master, the reserved but necessarily inquisitive narrator, and a man whose incidental brilliance at the titular 'royal game' hides a deeper, tragic truth.
I was riveted by this story, and you will be too, whether you know anything about chess or not (though a slight knowledge might help). It touches on not only obsession, but also near-insanity, the uniquely odd foibles and character traits of certain chess masters, and - more important perhaps - the insidious tyranny of the Nazis in Europe in the early forties, when the tale was written: one of Zweig's last, strongly translated here by B.W. Huebsch in 1944, two years after the author and his wife commited suicide together in Brazil.
Zweig was, in my opinion, just about as important a writer of the early twentieth century as we have, and all his stories, which have now been comprehensively translated and newly published, are a treasure beyond price.
Here are two of the best.

Your move.

Wold Top Brewery - Wold Top Against the Grain - United Kingdom - Yorkshire - 4.5%
Wold Top Brewery - Wold Top Against the Grain - United Kingdom - Yorkshire - 4.5%
Offered by Beers of Europe
Price: 2.29

5.0 out of 5 stars No gluten, no problem, 28 Sept. 2015
This is the best and most 'drinkable' bottled non-gluten beer I've come across. It tastes as close to a regular real ale bitter as possible, and usually (ie. invariably) leaves me wanting another.Not being too keen on dark beers or the 'barley wine' type of hooch, finding this one was a boon.
If you've been diagnosed Coeliac (or even if you haven't) this is a lovely malty beer - which I only wish more pubs would stock.


Complete Chamber Music 1921-44-Entartete
Complete Chamber Music 1921-44-Entartete
Price: 26.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Hans Krasa {1899-1944}, 27 Sept. 2015
Those dates imply their own tragic tale. Hans Krasa was a phenomenally gifted and respected composer who was unlucky enough to have a Jewish mother, and so was placed by the Nazis first in their 'show camp' at Terezin near Prague, then transported to Auschwitz where he was, one assumes, gassed.
This is a revelatory hour-long disc of his chamber works, which range from the astoundingly varied moods of his only string quartet (from 1921) to a unique fourteen-minute two-movement piece For Harpsichord and Seven Instruments, from 1935. The quartet is a wonderfully engrossing work, but the latter is like nothing I've ever heard before. If you heard it in one of Stephen King's weird fairgrounds - perhaps not far from the the ghost train - it wouldn't seem at all out of place. Or maybe as music for a silent vampire movie. It is of course the harpsichord that does it, though Marek Zvolanek's occasional trumpet interjections help too. An amazing piece of music.
The five-minute Dance for String Trio is another mildly macabre work, while the other two pieces on this marvellous disc are equally riveting, equally inspired.
The Kocian Quartet, augmented by other musicians, play this diverse repertoire with a rare sense of occasion on a sensitively recorded disc from 1997 that I wish everyone could hear.
This exemplary disc comes with a full booklet and notes.
The last track is the nine-minute Passacaglia a Fuga for String Trio from 1944, the year of Krasa's tragic death. It is suitably sobering. As with the preceding Tanec (Dance) for String Trio, it was composed in the Terezin camp.
Such gravely beautiful music from such fearful suffering.

A tremendous recording of essential music.

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