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GlynLuke (York UK)
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Lonnie Donegan Ep Collection
Lonnie Donegan Ep Collection

5.0 out of 5 stars Now this 'ere's the story..., 2 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Soon after Lonnie's death in 2002 at the age of 71, Mark Knopfler wrote a superb Donegan-esque song in tribute called Donegan's Gone. Many people of a certain age must have also realised that something had 'gone' - even though Lonnie's last actual hit was as long ago as 1962, after six hectic years of constant hit singles, a relative oasis in the British desert of pre-Beatles late fifties/early sixties pop music (Cliff, Billy Fury & Adam Faith notwithstanding).
I'd almost given up on finding a good compilation that didn't omit (as so many of them do) his vocal tour de force on Fort Worth Jail, but it's gloriously here, along with 24 other mostly essential tracks, from Cumberland Gap and The Battle of New Orleans to Grand Coulee Dam and the now iconic Rock Island Line, a song which really did start something, reaching No.8 in 1955, but reaching far wider than that mere statistic tells you.
A welcome track is his touching rendition of I Wanna Go Home (aka Sloop John B) as is the enjoyable Have a Drink On Me. Closing proceedings is his version of Anthony Newley's song Lumbered.
Also here are a few of his most famous novelty numbers, including the excellent Puttin' On the Style and the inevitable My Old Man's a Dustman. (Lonnie's old man, as we are told in the comprehensive booklet notes, was in fact of all things a violinist in the National Scottish Orchestra.)
All in all, an eclectic selection.
I was surprised to be reminded how similar many of his early songs were in the way they were performed, usually with Lonnie introducing the song with: "Now this 'ere's the story of..." but they soon get more varied, yet with no lessening of Donegan's inexaustible (if exhausting!) energy.
This is one of the best - and best presented, in very good sound - of single-disc Donegan compilations available.

As they say, buy with confidence.


Rossini: Colbran, The Muse
Rossini: Colbran, The Muse
Price: £8.49

5.0 out of 5 stars ReJoyce!, 1 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The sumptuously rich voice of Joyce DiDonato - even her name is plum-ripe - and the equally flamboyant, brightly-lit music of Gioachino Rossini were made for each other, exemplified to perfection on this 72-minute disc in tribute to the composer's muse and first wife Isabella Colbran, of choice Joyce in well-chosen arias from La donna del largo, Armida, Semiramide, Otello, and the rarely heard Maometto II and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra.
It seems to me that here is a masterclass in how to sing this music. One quality I love in the singing of this great contemporary mezzo (my favourite type of voice) is its tonal variety, along with some spine-tingling low notes. We know she loves this music, and she lives it in each note she sings.
We are lucky to live in an age of many marvellous mezzos (mind you, we always did - think of, say, Baker, Ludwig or Fassbaender, in an earlier era) with their essentially different attributes, from the aristocratic Bernarda Fink or the coolly brilliant Anne Sofie von Otter, to the more opulent voices of Bartoli and Garanca, to name only a few obvious examples. Joyce DiD belongs in the latter group, her lavish tones able to hit the listener right between the eyes, as it were. Her accuracy of pitch is balanced by a willingness to not always sound 'beautiful', a certain superficial 'ugliness' suiting some of these roles - and heaven knows, there have been many great singers, in all genres, who have been great despite and/or because of their less than perfect sound, from Callas to Piaf.
In person (at least in interviews) this lady is quite obviously a woman of a warm and voluptuous sensibility, and I feel I need to take good-humoured issue with at least one fellow reviewer who has expressed regret at the choice of cover photo for this 2009 disc. To me, it suits both Rossini's music and the personality of this singer. Naturally, the record company will have encouraged such an image, but I honestly don't think it trivialises or vulgarises the music or the integrity of the recording one iota. Far from it, it's entirely appropriate. (There's also a less serious case to be made, to wit: if you got it, flaunt it!)
The booklet is excellent, with full libretti in four languages, plus a photo of conductor Edoardo Muller and an anonymous one of Colbran herself.
Joyce DiD, while honouring both letter and spirit of this sometimes astounding music, can and often does make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Richly recommended.


When Fallen Angels Fly / The Trouble With The Truth
When Fallen Angels Fly / The Trouble With The Truth
Price: £8.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Patty coming on strong, 29 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Oh, what heaven: twenty tracks making up two of the finest albums by Patty Loveless, who has one of country music's best and strongest voices, and has had for decades (the lady will be sixty in two years).
She knows how to rock too. Just listen to the opening two tracks or her version of songwriter supreme Richard Thompson's Tear-Stained Letter or She Drew a Broken Heart from The Trouble With the Truth (from 1994).
She can break your heart too, for example on the marvellous song by another superb songwriter Gretchen Peters, You Don't Even Know Who I Am. Another Peters song on When Fallen Angels Fly (from 1996) is the equally memorable Ships.
Ms Loveless (born Patricia Lee Ramey in Kentucky in 1957, as Chris Bolton's exemplary booklet notes tell us) can sing a love song like few others. She has the same stamp of integrity in her voice as the aforementioned Gretchen Peters, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, or Laura Cantrell. Old Weakness (Coming On Strong) is a fine, raunchy example - our Patty's not afraid of a bit of raunch, I'm glad to say - as is the title track (by Billy Joe Shaver) of When Fallen Angels Fly.
Both of these albums are packed to the gills with terrific songs brilliantly sung. At almost 73 minutes on one glorious disc, this is one of the best deals around, and Patty is one of the best singers around too. I love her to bits.

Immaculate.


Weber: Der Freischütz
Weber: Der Freischütz
Price: £26.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Harnoncourt hits the target, 28 July 2015
This review is from: Weber: Der Freischütz (Audio CD)
I have next to no idea what my (so far) sole fellow reviewer is talking about.
But what I do know is that this is a delightfully musical, sure-footed recording of this pivotal opera, with an eclectic cast of singers who bring Weber's masterpiece to life with fine attention to detail and a welcome sense of occasion.
This is an opera that looks both forward and back, to what had already been achieved in the medium - for example by Handel, Gluck and Mozart - and what was to come - in particular Berlioz (who loved Weber) and Wagner.
Luba Orgonasova sings beautifully as Agathe, and the mighty Finnish bass of Matti Salminen embodies Kaspar equally effectively.
There is strrong support from Christine Schafer as Annchen, Wolfgang Holzmair as Ottokar, and Kurt Moll as the hermit. (This is an opera with a penchant for bass voices, and they certainly make the most of their opportunities.)
The Berlin Phil under Harnoncourt (not a pairing you'd perhaps predict as all that successful in such an undertaking) create enough magic at the right times, including a suitably sombre Wolf's Glen scene - one of Weber's finest achievements.
Dialogue is kept to a minimum.
The original issue of this 1995 recording comes with full booklet and libretto, with clear photos of the singers, other photos, and extensive notes. It's worth looking out for.
Der Freischutz isn't an opera I've heard very often, and I do not know any of the other recordings, but this one suits me just fine. And the singing is wonderful, with a distinctive variety of voice-types.
A likable opera, beautifully performed.

Recommended.


Long Stretch of Lonesome
Long Stretch of Lonesome
Offered by sdiscs.
Price: £11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars All this and George Jones too, 26 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A wonderful album by the clear-voiced Patty Loveless, who can really sing - in the way Emmylou or Carlene or Mary Chapin can really sing.
No Nashville slickness here, just good songs sung with restraint and sincerity. This was the record that enslaved me to this singer, and it only benefits from the duets with, among others, country legend George Jones, who sings some way back in the mix, but whose distinctive tones are unmistakable.
Nothing more to say. This lady, with her lovely dignified voice, is the real thing. Buy with confidence, as they say.

Immaculate.


Thérèse Raquin (Penguin Classics)
Thérèse Raquin (Penguin Classics)
by Émile Zola
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Drowning in lust, 24 July 2015
I first read Therese Raquin in Leonard Tancock's 1962 translation over thirty years ago, and it has been a marvellous experience to re-read this mordantly grim and gripping tale again, this time in the most recent translation from Penguin by the excellent Robin Buss. His English is clear, to the point, and with Zola's directness and relentless dedication to the truth.
Relentless this novel most definitely is. It has elements of a crime drama, a horror story, a thriller, a suspense novel, and even an erotic melodrama. Its horrors are all too evident as the book progresses, it is genuinely suspenseful at times, and its erotic aspect frequently raises its head throughout. Zola was never prurient or lubricious, but well aware of the importance of erotic desires in many of his books' characters, and reveals them to the reader here in realistically arousing detail, then later in a more morbid, less ecstatic fashion.
Buss explains his views of this first major novel by Zola (a favourite writer of mine) in his useful introduction, as well as his ideas concerning his translation in a further Note. There are helpful notes on the text at the end, and a chronology of Zola's life and career.
I think this is a tremendous novel, published when Zola was only twenty-seven, but with a sense of place, and an integrity of purpose that would characterise the twenty novels which followed in the 'Rougon-Macquart' sequence - a consistently incredible achievement echoing Balzac's earlier Comedie Humaine series of books.
As I've said, his subtly explicit (for the 1860s) descriptions of the sexual encounters between the compulsive lovers Therese and Laurent are wholly credible, while Mme Raquin, the possessive old mother of Therese's complacent husband the sickly Camille is a fine creation, one who elicits first derision then sympathy, from both the reader and, less blatantly, Zola. The 'supporting cast' of friends, colleagues, and customers at the Raquin haberdashery shop are memorably drawn, and Zola, as always, gives us dramatic scenes that etch themselves on the memory, such as the boating trip - some boating trip! - and Laurent's visits to the local Morgue, where he is by no means the only visitor.
Zola is one of the least sentimental of writers, but at their best his novels are unforgettable stories of, for example, a struggling artist's bohemian world (The Masterpiece), peasants' life on the land (The Earth), a Parisian couple's tragic descent into alcoholism (the wonderful L'Assommoir/The Drinking Den), or a mining community (Germinal). Zola's idea is always to 'scientifically' dissect a community, family or couple, and present his findings to the reader in the form of fiction. But what great fiction it is, always engrossing, and always with a story to tell that stays in the mind.
His only fault - remembering he was still only a young man - is a tendency to over-explain his characters' motivations and feelings, almost as if, anachronistically, he were Freud rather than Zola.
Nevertheless, Therese Raquin is a gripping, sometimes shocking, mostly darkly lit novel - one can smell the tallow and ill-lit alleyways, let alone the stinking morgue - and Robin Buss's precise translation does Zola's early near-masterpiece full justice.

Unreservedly recommended.


The Man With No Name Trilogy [DVD]
The Man With No Name Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: £5.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good, the better & the overrated, 22 July 2015
Unlike one or two other reviewers, I can't see anything amiss with the colour of TGTBATU, but what I now can see amiss - over almost three long hours, and after some years away from it - are the longeurs and sheer silliness of much of the third in Leone's mostly enjoyable trilogy. It could have lost at least an hour, and been a tauter, more exciting film. As a Civil War western (which I suppose it is) it isn't a patch on Ang Lee's unjustly neglected masterpiece Ride With the Devil or the last, somewhat autumnal film by Howard Hawks & John Wayne, Rio Lobo (another masterpiece as well as the third in a trilogy).
One problem among several is that Eli Wallach, brilliant as he is, is indulged far too much, Clint is peripheral too much of the time, and Van Cleef, who could have been a richer character given more screen time, is virtually forgotten about for whole stretches of the film, almost wasted in fact. The supporting cast, though dubbed as usual, is excellent. One thing Leone did manage to do in his westerns is coax credible, often marvellous performances from his supporting actors.
By comparison, the first in the Dollars trilogy is a swift, tightly plotted movie that benefits from its simple premise, and the then novelty of a youthful (at 34!) Eastwood riding into town and setting the two warring families against each other.
As in its follow-up, the late Gian Maria Volonte is exceptional as chief baddie, though he's less neurotic a villain than his increasingly dislocated gang leader in FAFDM. What a great actor the man was - sadly dead at 61.
FAFDM now looks, at least to me, like the finest film of the three, combining the tightly plotted, minimally scored qualities of Fistful with the expansiveness of 'Ugly'. In fact, both are scored with restrained flair by Ennio Morricone, whereas in the last of the trilogy his operatically OTT music now seems ridiculous, not least as we now know that Leone had him compose the score before a scene was shot. It shows. The final showdown (nothing like as good, or as believable, as the one that closes FAFDM) is one overlong crescendo of self-important Morricone at his most grotesquely grandiloquent, so that the shootout is quite simply a risible anti-climax.
I happily invite anyone who still rates 'Ugly' as highly as Tarantino ("the best film ever made"!) to refute any or all of the above points.
Make no mistake, I still like 'Ugly' (though nothing like as much as I once did) but I shan't be watching it that often. Once every five years or so will be quite enough.
However, the Dollars duo I shall return to often. It's good to have them all in one handy box set too, despite the lack of extras.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2015 5:25 PM BST


Songs For Distingue Lovers
Songs For Distingue Lovers
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £14.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, 21 July 2015
An unusual title, and I wasn't sure exactly what 'distingue' means - distinguished? distinctive? - so I looked it up, found it can also mean elegant. Songs for elegant lovers. Why not?
There are twelve songs here, recorded in 1957 near the end of Billie's life, all of them well-known standards. She sounds tired, and reliant on mannerism (eg. the 'swoop' she would affect on some notes) but overall this is a lovely set, distinguished by the starry, devoted band she has backing her: trumpeter Harry Edison, the big old sweet tenor sax of Ben Webster, Pianist Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessell very effective on guitar, bassist Red Mitchell, and (mostly) Alvin Stoller on drums.
There's plenty of Billie and plenty of the band, with some superb soloing, and both sound great together. Though she was even closer to death when she made Lady in Satin a year later, I must say I tend to prefer it. It's a sad thing to say, but the Lady sounds like she's sung these songs better before, but having said that, she 's still Billie Holiday and still more than worth hearing on songs like Body and Soul (given a marvellous six-minute workout here), Stars Fell on Alabama, and One For My Baby, a song Sinatra had very much made his own.
A Foggy Day is slightly less convincing, London Town being something of an alien cityscape for Holiday.
This comes in a slipcase, with an excellent booklet and notes. These recordings are precious documents of one of twentienth century popular music's greatest and most distinctive - not to say elegant and distinguished - singers.


Passion - Music For 'The Last Temptation Of Christ'
Passion - Music For 'The Last Temptation Of Christ'
Price: £9.18

5.0 out of 5 stars The angel Gabriel, 18 July 2015
There are moments, many of them in fact, on this haunting recording of Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ which are so moving they bring tears to the eyes.
There can be no doubt that Gabriel was inspired, all those years ago, to some of his most broodingly lovely music, most of it purely instrumental, with the voices of PG and others occasionally heard in the mix of ethnic instruments (including the duduk, tabla, arghul, and the uniquely evocative, lonesome-sounding 'ney' flute) along with synths, a variety of keyboards and the violin of Shankar.
Jon Hassell is heard to good effect on trumpet, and on the long, astonishing track Passion we hear the vocals of both the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Youssou N'Dour. Bill Cobham's drumming is a bonus on a couple of tracks too.
Peter Gabriel is one of the few truly eclectic British musicians, with not only a genuine feeling for the many and various musics of the world, but with a voice that harks back to his vintage Genesis days while sounding like no other - a huskily angelic voice in the wilderness, if you will.
This is by anyone's standards hauntingly beautiful music, on its own terms. Rarely has a director been so lovingly or so lavishly served by a musician. This isn't simply a score, but a sequence of varied, emotionally powerful pieces which come together to make a timelessly lovely work of art.

Overwhelming.


And His French New Sound Vol. 2
And His French New Sound Vol. 2
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Lionel et les Francais, 18 July 2015
Lionel Hampton and his band of mostly French jazzmen play some irresistibly tasty music on these four tracks, three of them tried and tested standards. There isn't anything particularly surprising or essential about this 1955 Paris date, just a group of like-minded souls playing great jazz together. Sometimes that's enough.
One interesting aspect is the presence, on two tracks, of Sasha Distel, before his worldwide fame as a singer, when he was celebrated in France as a jazz guitarist - a second-rate singer but a first-rate guitar player. Also on this beautifully remastered disc are trumpeter Nat Adderley, horn player Dave Amram, the baritone sax of William Boucaya, and the superb pianist Rene Urtreger, among others. All play some lovely things, with Hamp presiding on vibes - and always good ones!
At 42 minutes, you don't feel at all shortchanged, and this is a disc to listen to when you're in the mood for undemanding, professionally played classic jazz, with an indefinable hint of boulevards and pavement cafes.
With its evocative cover, excellent booklet, and some nice photos (including a fine one of Hamp and the band at full tilt) this amounts to a little treasure.

Allons!


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