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GlynLuke (York UK)
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Kind Of Blue
Kind Of Blue
Price: £5.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Deep blue, 25 Oct 2014
This review is from: Kind Of Blue (Audio CD)
The lyrical presiding genius of this gorgeous classic by Miles, Cannonball, Trane, Wynton, Paul & Jimmy is pianist Bill Evans. His playing is a constant pacific undercurrent to the ripples of the three horns and rhythm section, a lucent tide that buoys up Miles's often muted trumpet, Coltrane's eloquent tenor sax and Adderley's forthright alto.
The third track, Blue in Green, is almost not of this world - particularly in this remastered edition from 2009 - sounding like a slow but clear reminder of some other place we might wish to be.
All Blues, which opened Side Two of the original LP, has an up-step-down-step theme which was beautifully appropriated by the late Tim Buckley, a rare match for Miles among 'rock' musicians, for his song Strange Feeling (from his Happy/Sad album).
Listen too for the drenched, nameless(?) chord near the beginning of opening track So What (great title). There's a similarly crazy 'collapsed' chord in the middle of Elvis's Hound Dog, though there any resemblance ends.
This music is limitless, indefinable - it is music, after all - and timeless. It's an ever-renewing river flowing through one's life.
The booklet is worth its inclusion, and the sound gleams.
After this came the ambitious, partially successful Sketches of Spain, a few other albums, then his classic run of mid-to-late sixties records beginning with the wonderful E.S.P. But Kind of Blue from 1959 closed Miles's productive early period in succinct, low-key style. Things would never be quite the same again, and nor would jazz.

Every home should have one.


Poetry Notebook: 2006-2014
Poetry Notebook: 2006-2014
by Clive James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clive's last thoughts?, 22 Oct 2014
Due to his diagnosis as having caught 'the lot', we may not have the inimitable and utterly irreplaceable CJ around much longer, so it is a blessing and a boon to have these essays. For me James is at his best as an essayist, whether writing on neglected figures of European culture, the many glories of The West Wing, or the excellence of veteran US poet Richard Wilbur, an admiration of whom I share (not to mention The West Wing!).
Plenty on his beloved Auden here, as well as Yeats (favourable, naturally), Larkin (as a poet, a hero), Pound (mainly bracingly unfavourable) and, to my joy and relief, a chapter on Frost, which with any luck will permanently reposition the too-often maligned American laureate in the forefront of great poets.
I was also delighted to find an approving few pages on that most lovable and perhaps sometimes undervalued of Irish poets, Michael Longley. Clive's compatriot Les Murray gets the chapter he richly deserves, too.
As with most books of essays by Clive James, the format of this one allows for digressive afterthoughts and 'interludes'. These are invariably as enjoyable and thought-provoking as the main event, which in any book like this is as much the affable rigour of James's arguments, as well as his ever-present unique brand of pointed humour, as it is his subject. I read James to be enlightened, inspired and educated, but I also read him because he writes like a dream.
James has little time for either impenetrably oblique poetry (which of course is not necessarily the same as 'difficult' poetry) or unstructured poetry. The older and less chaotic I get, the more I tend to agree with him. A glancing remark in the clear-eyed chapter on Frost tells us what he thinks of John Ashbery at his most playful/tiresome.
There's a pertinent piece on the Oxford Professor of Poetry scuffle, with a sensible defence of Derek Walcott's impossible position in that unseemly debacle, and an equally intelligent plea for no more 'elections' for the post.
There's much more in this fairly short book, and it's all worth reading. James's recent poems musing on his possibly imminent death (though he's still alive, if not exactly kicking, at 75) are very moving. They are also very good poems. Perhaps some future essayist will write about them as brilliantly as James writes, here and elsewhere, about the poems and poets he loves and by whom he has been inspired.

A welcome late bonus from an International Treasure.


The Road
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Man and boy, 22 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)
This is quite simply the most beautiful, most moving, most engrossing contemporary novel I've read this century.
Cormac McCarthy has quietly and consistently been writing books of increasing beauty, boldness and originality for many years now, culminating in this great and heartfelt tale.
I called it beautiful for a reason. There is a sheerly aesthetic pleasure in his writing - he knows more arcane words than any other writer I can think of, deploying them like shells on a pebble beach - but also the ability and willingness to look the world in the face and transcend its uglinesses and perceived negativities by the use of the word. It was once said that in the beginning was the word, and it would seem also that in the end will be the word, speaking out clearly and poignantly against the dying of the light.
When I started down The Road, I assumed it might be a heavy trek. Not so. I couldn't wait to get back to it each time I laid it down. It is, surprisingly perhaps, the ultimate page-turner.
Plots, as such, are not of paramount importance in a McCarthy novel, and all you need to know is that a man and his beloved son find themselves adrift in a lucidly described apocalyptic landscape, wandering from place to place, trying to stay alive, avoiding those who would do them harm.
I will re-read this book one day, when the time is right. But I do urge every sentient human to read it. It should by now - along with this author's other books - have won him a Nobel Prize. I am genuinely mystified that he hasn't been awarded that ultimate accolade.
Incidentally, Picador have done the author proud with their most recent cover designs. They complement well what is to be found within.
This is arguably McCarthy's masterpiece, a novel one could, without hyperbole, call perfect.

Everyone should travel this Road.


Candyfloss and Medicine
Candyfloss and Medicine
Offered by westworld-
Price: £10.63

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, 19 Oct 2014
This review is from: Candyfloss and Medicine (Audio CD)
I will be atypically brief.
This is a lovely, lovely set of songs by a woman with a captivating voice - how could anyone not like it? - and a wonderful way with a song.
Most of them she wrote/co-wrote herself, the exception being the great old Gene Pitney hit from the sixties, Town Without Pity, a song I'm surprised more singers haven't covered. She keeps the basic arrangement, and gives it the right dramatic treatment - though she's not as overwrought as Pitney, but then who was!
Not one dud song, not a moment I would change.
Perfect is a word forever associated with Eddi R, and listening to this very fine album, it's not hard to see why.

As I said, lovely.


The Fighting Kentuckian (John Wayne) [DVD]
The Fighting Kentuckian (John Wayne) [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by Helgy
Price: £3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Duke & Ollie, 15 Oct 2014
For collectors of offbeat films, or simply for lovers of lesser known Wayne movies, this is something of a peach.
It stars John Wayne and Oliver Hardy. Wait! Who? You heard me. What's more, they have quite a double-act going, with Ollie proving he wasn't only the funniest comedian in the world (in my humble opinion) but was more than capable of turning in a totally credible semi-straight performance, as he does here.
It's set in Alabama in 1812, has a fairly labyrinthine plot, some pretty sensuous romantic interludes, and boasts a female lead much derided in her day, Czech skating star Vera Ralston, who in fact acquits herself well enough, seeming to enjoy her scenes with Wayne, who was still, at a young-looking 42, a beautiful man, as well as becoming one of the movies' most natural actors.
I can't outline the plot, since I'm not entirely sure of it! It involves French refugees who were loyal to Napoleon, criminal land-grabbers, and a troop of Kentucky riflemen of whom the Duke and Ollie are two foremost members.
Ralston is Florette, daughter of the French General, while the enjoyably merry Marie Windsor has a featured role - and a fine old time - as a duplicitous femme fatale, western style.
George Waggner (responsible for The Wolf Man) wrote and directed, the latter rather well, and Bruce Surtees excels behind the camera. The final scenes of battle are beautifully shot and genuinely exciting.
Duke is at his most charming, and Ollie - well, I love the man, and to see him and Wayne so obviously enjoying playing together is a joy in itself. At the end, when Ollie (in a nod to his day-job with Stan) delicately picks a speck of dust from Duke's hat, I nearly stood up in my chair and cheered!
Not a great film by a long way, but unlike anything else I've ever seen, for both good and not so good reasons.

An odd, slightly mad yarn, well worth a watch.


Shootist [DVD] [1976] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Shootist [DVD] [1976] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £5.37

5.0 out of 5 stars The last chance saloon, 15 Oct 2014
John Wayne, aka the Duke, was one of the subtlest, most natural actors who ever had a camera pointed at them. And I'll fight anyone who says different!
Truly though, the more you watch Wayne, the more you can't help but realise what a superb screen actor he was, often tender (in Hondo for example, his own favourite) or frightening (the second half of Red River) or simply a man of towering dignity (Rio Lobo, El Dorado, etc, etc).
The Shootist was his last hurrah, and few actors have bowed out on such a high note.
He lived on for a few more years, succumbing to cancer at 73, and here he plays an old gunfighter coping with the very same disease. James Stewart is his doctor, Lauren Bacall (in one of her all too rare good roles) his landlady, with the young, callow Ron Howard, better than usual - no wonder he turned to direction - as her son.
The rest of the cast is mouth-watering too: rugged Richard Boone, Scatman Crothers, lanky John Carradine, a MASH-era Harry Morgan, Sheree North, and so on.
It's directed by Don Siegel and photographed by Bruce Surtees. What could go wrong? Thankfully, very little. Even if you'd never seen a Wayne film, this would surely move you. If you love Wayne (the film star, not the reactionary man so much, though he was apparently a thoroughly affable, decent guy) then you can't help but find this almost unbearably poignant.
Ah, but does he die in the end? Well, wild horses wouldn't drag the information out of me. You'll just have to see for yourself. Believe me, you should!

A great film, starring a great film legend.


Strictly Personal
Strictly Personal
Price: £8.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Red blue 'n green, wooo! all through my head, 9 Oct 2014
This review is from: Strictly Personal (Audio CD)
After a few footstep-like drum taps, the mighty Captain Beefheart howls the opening lines of the weirdest blues this side of Blind Willie Johnson or Son House, which is appropriate since Ah Feel Like Ahcid is based on Son House's Death Letter - which believe me you should hear too. You think Beefheart is scary...?
This second LP by Don van Vliet and one of his many Magic Bands is very different from his relatively 'approachable' debut Safe As Milk - whose title is the name of track 2 on this album! It's much more grittily bluesy, with the Captain finding his voice, if I can call it that. Me, I reckon Don found his voice at the bottom of a deep dark well or a heaving swamp - probably wrenched it from the beast lurking there. (Live, his voice was all but overwhelming, as were the Magic Band, in whatever incarnation.)
This remastered edition comes with a twelve-page booklet, including original photos and a superb text by Mark Paytress, who outlines the album's far from easy release, the tracks having been tampered with by producer Bob Krasnow. It's a moot point as to whether he did Beefheart and the record a disservice or not. After all, this is the version I've always known and loved, phasing or no phasing. One thing that wasn't necessary at all was to put psychedelic phasing onto THAT voice, which needs no help to make its presence felt.
It's a short and sweet album at forty minutes (though I've found it flies by in what seems like less) and there are admittedly parts of it are either dirge-like or a mite repetitive. You need to be in the mood to listen to it, quite loud if possible.
Gimme Dat Harp Boy is a blast, as is the last minute or so of Trust Us, and Mirror Man has some very tasty, down-and-dirty playing from both the band and Don's manic mouth organ, not to mention the one moment the phasing works with Don's voice, when he's intoning "Oh Mirror Man, Oh mirror me".
At the end of the closer Kandy Korn is a great moment, when Beefheart, sounding expansive and exultant, comes full circle with cathartic words taken from Ah Feel Like Ahcid:

I ain't blue no more
Woooo!
It's like heaven I said
I said


Unconditionally Guaranteed
Unconditionally Guaranteed
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £8.31

4.0 out of 5 stars All of them peaches up in one tree, 9 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When this first came out in 1974, Beefheart purists and other twerps gave it a big thumbs down (as they did the rather bland follow-up Bluejeans & Moonbeams, with better reason) saying the good Captain had 'sold out' and other inanities of the era. I ignored the critics, bought the LP, and loved or liked every colourful and diverse moment of it.
Mind you, Don himself disowned this and B&M, and the band hated it. However, that was then, when you could be a bit of a purist about your own music too.
After the first four LPs, Don & his Magic Band began to explore different musical approaches, such as the soulfulness of the magnificent Clear Spot, the bluesy muddy waters of The Spotlight Kid, and this thoroughly entertaining mix of old-style Beefheart bawling and a gentler balladeering vocal style we'd barely suspected the guy had in him (despite the lovely, heartfelt Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles, from Clear Spot).
There's so much to like here, even for those timid souls who wouldn't normally go for Beefheart.
The gruffly insinuating staccato opener Upon the My-O-My could be from almost any of his albums (except perhaps Trout Mask Replica) while Sugar Bowl, New Electric Ride and Full Moon Hot Sun are in a slightly similar mould.
The rest of the tracks are what the critics despised. More fool them.
The tender Magic Be, the hypnotic I Got Love On My Mind, the beautiful This Is The Day and the sultry Lazy Music are all very un-Beefheartian yet hugely enjoyable for all that.
The closer Peaches is a frenetic number that ends this underrated record in fine style.
The other track is Happy Love Song, which is just that, but is sung - Don does more actual singing on this than on almost any other album - grainily and with great passion.
One or two of the tracks are perhaps rather throwaway, but I've had a soft spot this LP since the day a Beefheart-mad twenty-three year-old bought it all of forty years ago.

This is the day that love came to play
The day love came to stay
One minute here, one minute there
Love spent time everywhere...


Trout Mask Replica (2013 remaster)
Trout Mask Replica (2013 remaster)

5.0 out of 5 stars Well, 8 Oct 2014
I've lived with this astonishing one-off classic for forty-five years - bought it the same day as Four Sail by Love. I can understand the lower-rated reviews, since this can be hard to take, despite our being used to far stranger music now.
Or are we? A lot of what's come in the wake of TMR has been mainstream rock of one sort or another, or more off-the-wall bands such as Television or Radiohead, but very few who've sounded remotely as challenging or as 'dense' as this. You have to look to avant garde jazz or old blues for an adequate comparison with Don van Vliet and his pseudonymous merry pranksters.
And what a band he had. Saw them live twice, and both times they 'blew my mind' as some of us once said. Zoot Horn Rollo (real name Bill Harkleroad) was, apart from Richard Thompson & Hendrix, the mots incredible guitarist I've ever seen; Ed Marimba (Art Tripp) was, bar none, the greatest drummer in rock; and the wonderful Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) played the heaviest bass in the world. Beefheart reputedly 'taught' them these numbers. Don't you believe it. Whatever the truth, magic was made, not all of it of an enchanting nature, but much of it will purify you if it doesn't scare the pants off you first.
I seldom play TMR these days, preferring most of the Captain's other recordings, from Strictly Personal (thumpingly good spacy-blues) to the marvellous Clear Spot, to the likeable Ice Cream For Crow, with its desert blues feel and its valedictory poignancy.
Don is dead now - can it really be true? - and we'll have no more of his music or his paintings. So let's do him the honour of being honest about the relatively few he left behind.
I have loved TMR with a passion. But - and feel free to disagree - I can't help thinking you 'had to be there' and that this 28-track double LP worked best as exactly that: an LP with fold-out sleeve in good sound, listening to it on a day in the late sixties or seventies, preferably with a simpatico friend, quite loud, and a drink to hand.
Let's not forget, this music can be fun!
I can - and do, given half a chance - still recite The Dust Blows Forward 'n' The Dust Blows Black, and I still love tracks like the grainy China Pig, the frenetic Ant Man Bee, the hilarious Wild Life, and the simplistic but harshly sad Dachau Blues. Then there's the solo recitations, like Steal Softly Thru Snow, the already mentioned The Dust Blows Forward, and the magnificent, deftly titled poem simply called Well.
So no, I don't listen to this notorious, much-played and much-loved Zappa-produced epic all that often, but I can't help feeling that my life would not have been quite the same without it, and I couldn't for a moment imagine the world without Trout Mask Replica in it.

Life floats down the river
on a red raft of blood
Night blocks out the heavens
like a big black shiny bug
Its heart soft, shell shinin'
white in one spot
Well...


Ida [DVD]
Ida [DVD]
Dvd ~ Agata Kulesza
Offered by DVDMAX-UK
Price: £10.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road not taken, 6 Oct 2014
This review is from: Ida [DVD] (DVD)
This is a relentlessly bleak, black & white film with little dialogue, not very many characters, and is about a novice nun in post-war 1960s Poland who receives some information which could change her life dramatically. That it certainly does, but these inevitable dramas seem to happen around her often exasperatingly calm, self-possessed presence.
Pawlikowski has made perhaps the film of his career so far, with performances by his two leading actresses of tremendous poise and nuance.
Newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska (and that's the last time I'm typing all that out!) is just right as Anna/Ida, and Agata Kulesza is perfect as a onetime Stalinist procecutor and aunt of the young noviciate. She's a woman with well-matured reserves of self-loathing, who drinks and sleeps around, this and other aspects of the world Ida sees and watches giving her a raw glimpse into the realities of life outside the severe, though safe, confines of the convent.
The mismatched pair take to the road to try and find where the bodies of Ida's Jewish relatives were buried during the war, but a 'road movie' that could have descended into cliche avoids such pitfalls, its paucity of dialogue, often drab lighting and superbly atmospheric camerawork adding to its stark credibility.
Ida says little, but her eyes see everything, and she's not necessarily the most sympathetic character in this brutally honest film.
What elevated this from the four stars I was going to give it to the five (or, if you like, a nine out of ten) I've ended up giving it is the realisation that it is a film I would happily watch more than once, not so much because I think I 'missed something', but because there is so much that happens between the lines, as it were, so much one has to infer for oneself. In its very austerity, this sad, bleak little tale achieves its strength.
I wouldn't dream of giving anything away, but I must say that the ending (which has an odd, distant echo of the last shot of The Third Man, of all films) was, for me, just a little too decisive, too unambiguous - though I'm aware not everyone agrees with me. To say more would necessitate giving more away than I should.
In fact, the more I ponder the denouement of this fine film, the more I understand its brave, if frustrating, fidelity to the truth of this particular story.
Not a film for those who want a blockbuster or a romcom, but anyone with a heart and soul is likely to see it as manna from heaven.


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