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GlynLuke (York UK)
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From Russia With Love [DVD] [1963]
From Russia With Love [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Price: £4.40

5.0 out of 5 stars "For my next miracle...", 25 Nov 2014
This isn't only to my mind the best Bond film, but also a superb British sixties thriller in its own right. Let's face it, the 60s were a generally dire decade for British cinema - Norman Wisdom, Carry Ons, The Knack! - but this shines out like a beacon amid so much dross.
It's got the lot: Sean as 007, the most natural, sexy, witty and intriguing 'Bond girl' in Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz as a very friendly Turkish contact with a seemingly unlimited supply of sons, the silent malevolence of blond psychopathic killer Robert Shaw, the legendary Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb (who's more blatantly lesbian in the novel) as well as Bernard Lee's dry, definitive 'M' and lovely Lois Maxwell, proving she was a too often neglected actress in her own right, as Miss Moneypenny, always the bridesmaid...
The pre-credits sequence was heart-stopping when I first saw it, and in fact each successive scene in this model Bond film has something memorable about it. The long train sequence towards the end joins an illustrious list of iconic 'train scenes' from Strangers on a Train to North By North-West.
For me, FRWL just beats Goldfinger as the best Bond. For one thing Daniela Bianchi is more interesting and credible than Honor Blackman. Dr No? No, because the series had yet to find its feet, there was no theme song - FRWL has one of the very best, as sung by Matt Monro - and I've always found Andress rather wooden, especially compared with brilliant Bianchi.
Back then, the films stayed reasonably close to Fleming's wonderful, underrated books, and Connery was near-perfect as a youngish Bond, who should be a lone wolf with a dash of the vicious lout about him - which is why Daniel Craig is such a good choice, and why Moore and Brosnan were too smarmily facetious, too old, or just too slick, and Dalton a little too serious and uncharismatic (though the two films he made as 007 aren't bad as thrillers).
I envy anyone watching this for the first time. It's as exciting in its way as any other Bond film, and on a much smaller budget.

As the lady later said, nobody does it better.


Sweet Old World
Sweet Old World
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.48

5.0 out of 5 stars The beat, the rhythm, the blues, 21 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sweet Old World (Audio CD)
See what you lost when you left this world
This sweet old world

Without doubt the title track of this her fourth album, from 1992, is one of the very best songs by Lucinda Williams, whose star has gradually risen over the 35 years(!) since her first record, Ramblin'. It was quickly covered by Emmylou Harris, but Ms Williams certainly doesn't suffer by the comparison.
My friend Pete loves Lucinda, and I've come to appreciate her music more and more, ever since I bought the follow-up to this one, the tremendous Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
She tends to sing mainly slow, drawled ballads these days - though her latest double album is more varied - but when she was younger her records had as many uptempo tracks as this, and were, to my mind, more interesting.
Eleven excellent songs lead up to a lovely, surprising version of Nick Drake's Which Will (from his last LP Pink Moon).
At times Lucinda can sound as fragile as a flower - and oddly similar in vocal tone to the very fine Chrissie Hynde - never mind her image as a take-no-prisoners
country dame, for example on the lilting mid-tempo Prove My Love.

There really is nothing to criticise on this lucidly recorded, lovingly sung collection of well-crafted songs, so it's five bright stars for the lady from Louisiana.


Ole Coltrane
Ole Coltrane
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic Trane, 21 Nov 2014
This review is from: Ole Coltrane (Audio CD)
The otherwise admirably reliable Cook-Morton Guide to Jazz On CD damns this 1962 Coltrane effort with fairly faint praise, claiming that it 'never quite holds the attention'.
Well, I have to disagree, as it holds mine each time I enter its haunting sound world of Latin-inflected extemporisations such as opening track Ole, or the more middle-eastern Dahomey Dance, on which Trane, Dolphy, Tyner and Hubbard all solo to marvellous effect.
Thus hypnotic record got to me back in LP days when I played it as I was falling off into sleep one evening, and I realised through a dusking consciousness what beauties it holds.
Trane is joined on all tunes by a pseudonymous Eric Dolphy - and what an underrated figure in jazz he remains - as well as the always game Freddie Hubbard on trumpet,
pianist of choice McCoy Tyner, brooding bassist Reggie Workman alongside Art Davis on second bass, and ever-versatile Elvin Jones in the drum seat.
Dolphy plays flute on most tracks, exchanging it for alto on Dahomey Dance. On this remastered disc from 2000 you get the gorgeous extra number To Her Ladyship (which I seem to recall being on my LP but not on all CD reissues), a languorously slow number with Dolphy playing some irresistble flute, and Tyner showing what a tasteful, concise pianist he could be.
There are Coltrane albums with more immediacy, some with more obvious attractions, but I'll forever carry a torch for this charmer. Trane plays some lovely lines, Dolphy is as usual a bonus, and the rest of the band sound happy as sandboys.

I've never heard a bad Trane record, and this is one of my favourites. If you love Coltrane, you're bound not to be disappointed.


Swings
Swings
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars In for the Count, 21 Nov 2014
This review is from: Swings (Audio CD)
Half of the twenty tracks on this bargain basement reissue disc are Count Basie and band, the other half Basie and Tony Bennett. It's just under an hour of swingin' music from two of the sunniest people in the business.
I'd listen to Bennett singing anything. On these late fifties tracks, we get I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans, Jeepers Creepers, Poor Little Rich Girl, Chicago, and other crowd pleasers, while the Count jumps at the Woodside, strolls down Broadway, boards the 9.20 Special, and leaps in with Lester, among other musical pursuits.
The sound on this disc from 1997 is grainy and underwhelming, but for the price it will do. The notes are minimal and bear little relation to these sides.
Bennett and Basie sparkle, the sound doesn't, but if you want this undemanding date at a knock-down price, it's not to be sneezed at. And it's a nice idea to alternate the singin' tracks with the purely swingin' ones.

[NB. This review is for the Music Digital/Delta Music disc. However, the selection on Hallmark - against which Amazon has also printed this review, for some inexplicable reason, since they have different track listings - is a better one, even with fewer tracks, and in much better sound: **** for the Hallmark.]


Rodgers & Hart Songbook
Rodgers & Hart Songbook

5.0 out of 5 stars Thou swell, 20 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Rodgers & Hart Songbook (Audio CD)
The incomparable Tony Bennett, he of the sunburst voice, here sings twenty of the best songs by one of the best songwriting teams, backed by none other than legendary trumpeter Ruby Braff and the George Barnes Quartet. Barnes plays some very tasteful guitar, making a change from either a full orchestra or the Ralph Sharon Trio whom we hear on many a Bennett record.
The songs are stripped down, and sung simply yet with no compromise emotionally or musically. In fact, back in 1973 when this was recorded, he was in stupendous voice. Just listen to his pensive reading of Lover, for example.
Rodgers & Hart composed some of the subtlest songs of their era, along with one or two crowd pleasers such as Mountain Greenery and the inevitable Lady is a Tramp, a song I have always cordially loathed! Lucky for me, it goes by in a flash, as all the songs are sung crisply and seldom lingered over for too long - the whole album being more like a long medley.
Braff playing beautifully, Barnes riffing deftly, and Tony B singing his big heart out: irresistible.

Yet another fine Tony Bennett record.


Astoria
Astoria
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £12.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Ageless, 20 Nov 2014
This review is from: Astoria (Audio CD)
I was very fortunate about ten years ago to be able to finally see the incomparable Tony Bennett, in concert in Manchester. Almost unique among his peers, he sang with a small jazz combo rather than a full orchestra. I had also seen Andy Williams around the same time, whose voice was virtually lost amid the too-loud orchestra with its two - two! - drummers.
Bennett has had an Indian Summer in recent years, since a dip in his popularity after his sixties heyday, as well as a divorce, and is making some of the most intriguing albums of his career. This is one of them, recorded in 1990 when he was a mere lad of sixty-four (he still sounded incredible at 78 when I saw him).
I have yet to hear a bad Bennett record, and this one's just lovely, with discreet orchestrations alongside his regular group the Ralph Sharon Trio. Well-known songs vie for attention with the more obscure - so we have The Girl I Love, Speak Low, Body and Soul, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and The Folks That Live On the Hill, as well as When Do the Bells Ring For Me, Where Do You Go From Love, Where Did the Magic Go, and I've Come Home Again. All are worth your time.
Astoria is his birthplace, a suburb of Queens, New York, and all the songs are in some way about ideas of home and looking back.
Tony B could be said to be the sunburst to Sinatra's moonglow - well, that's how I think of them, however fanciful. There aren't too many 'big' moments on this disc: no 'your golden sun will shine for me' or 'I see your face in every flower, your eyes in stars above' - but he still sings those tenor notes like nobody else.
However, this is a relatively thoughtful record, as several of his later releases have tended to be. No less riveting for that. Tony Bennett is a singer's singer, and that's exactly what he does - he sings out like the sun shining forth, like a man who knows he's living the good life right now.
Long may he do so.


A Very Long Engagement - 2 Disc Edition [DVD]
A Very Long Engagement - 2 Disc Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Audrey Tautou
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £6.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Lighthouse lovers, 20 Nov 2014
A lighthouse, way out on the rocks near a French coastal town in Brittany, is where young Manach and Mathilde play as children, then later do rather more than play as young lovers. Of course, a lighthouse is also a place from where one looks out, an ever-lit beacon of salvation.
Then, in 1919, Manach is conscripted into the First World War, where await the horrors of the Somme...
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has made a close to flawless film - though, as part of the valuable extras, in the Director's Commentary Jeunet is, touchingly, the first to regret one or two shots he thinks are perhaps less than perfect.
Audrey Tautou, in a role that could have been written with her in mind, is a joy to watch as Mathilde, her face a secret world of hope, grief, pain and longing, while those around her - Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon and Chantal Neuwirth both superb as her uncle and aunt for example, with whom she lives in their cottage - bustle about and try to buoy up the bereft possible widow.
There are so many strands to this astonishing film, that plot details must remain meagre if this review isn't to go on too long.
The corruption of a government which condemns self-harming soldiers to an almost certain death in No-Man's-Land, the various stories of the five soldiers and their relatives, the woman left behind who swears vengeance on those responsible for her man's death - played with subtle brilliance by Marion Cotillard two years before Piaf and universal fame - and a telling cameo from none other than Jodie Foster as another widow. Apparently Foster happened to be in Paris and wanted to do a film in French, so contacted Jeunet, who was delighted to give her a role. Good move. She's excellent, in some of the tenderest scenes in a film full of bloody violence interspersed with great tenderness.
The look of a Jeunet film is invariably all-important. After all, this is the man who directed Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, two unique movies that not only look astounding but seem to reinvent cinema before one's dazzled eyes. This one is no exception. His visual style superficially reminds me of Gilliam or Wes Anderson, but Jeunet's films have a coherence and sense of pace too often lacking in Gilliam's, while Anderson (of whom I am not a fan) can only dream of making films this good.
All the performances are given room to breathe and establish their characters. We live with Mathilde's hopeless longing, and the final scenes are as cathartic, yet also as sweetly tragic, as it's possible to get in this brash medium.
Despite the regular montage-like visuals (all beautifully realised) this is an engrossing tale well told. Jeunet never bogs the story down in relentless visual pyrotechnics, deploying just enough cinematic flair to keep our eyes riveted to the sometimes hectic action on screen. Tautou's restrained, pent-up performance is the film's still centre. She's no cypher either, but a determined tough cookie when she needs to be. Her search for her missing fiance is unrelenting. You get the impression that Jeunet genuinely likes and respects women. He directs them with tact and sensitivity.
There is so much more I could say about this wonderful film, and so many moments which deserve noting. Best to see it for yourself. Most people won't forget it in a hurry.

A very good film.


Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite
Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite
by Julie Burchill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.24

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars With friends like this..., 19 Nov 2014
I got hold of a copy of this increasingly absurd woman's book out of a kind of appalled curiosity, the tentative fascination one might feel holding a tarantula in one's palm - could it be as awful as I suspected, as terrible as certain reviewers (eg. Will Self) had made it out to be?
Oh yes, it certainly could.
Back in her 'gunslinger' days at NME, La Burchill was expediently a champion of punk. Well, she would be, wouldn't she? Since then she's long kicked that enthusiasm into touch, just as she seems able to turn on a dime, as it were, concerning any of her temporary fads. Her vitriol is so random, so variously doled out, I have never once given any of her fads or her bads the slightest credence. One moment she adores something, the next she's excoriating someone or something else - whatever takes her whim, really, or whatever will do to meet that looming deadline. (She's been a columnist for so many papers and magazines now - who tend to dispense with her services in the end - there can only be the Beano and Viz left.)
It would appear from this shrill tirade of a book (JB only writes shrill tirades; even her explicit porn novel Ambition was written in that mode) that ol' JB has been in love with the Jewish people - well, some of them - all her life, and would like nothing more than to be a fully paid-up Jewess, to which end she has been learning Hebrew and cosying up to those among her local Jewish community who'll have her.
A nasty few pages at the end of this strangely ungenerous book allow JB to pour out a vat of her seemingly limitless spite on the innocent head of a female rabbi who dared to make some tolerant remarks about Islam and Muslims (JB detests both, as we learn ad infinitum) and behave in a manner the censorious JB didn't like at a dinner she attended. A coda to this is that among JB's hobbies are listed both 'spite' and 'learning Hebrew'. Has the woman no sense of irony; no sense of how ridiculously petulant she sounds? Even when listing her likes...!
Throughout this carelessly composed shriek of a book the author deploys her own brand of over-written journalese. If she can coin a tiresome pun, she will. If she can end a sentence with an exclamation-mark, boy is she one happy gal. If she can find a way to refer to her ex-husband in derogatory tones, no excuse is ever too flimsy.
I am left with the overwhelming conviction that with friends like Burchill, the often beleaguered Jewish people need no more enemies. The pity of it is that her uncritical adulation of most things Jewish (though she doesn't like Jewish humour, which seriously makes me doubt her sanity) in the end does her favoured people few favours at all. If she does take steps to convert, I fear - and sincerely hope - she will come up against those who desire of her a lot more conviction than what only amounts to an essentially sentimental 'love of the Jews'. And if enough of her Jewish friends and acquaintances see through her gushing come-day-go-day obsession, I have no doubt she will denounce them in print in one of her venomous columns, or perhaps even write a follow-up book - though its natural title would already have been taken by this one. Poor Julie: unchosen again.
If you think I am being uncharitable, read a few random Burchill articles. She broke the mould when it comes to vitriol and abhorrence. If you feel I am being too critical, then I can only assure you that I am reining myself in, since my real feelings about this repulsive, yet mercifully brief book would be virtually unprintable.
I feel I should add that I too have long felt a kinship to the Jewish people, with a love and appreciation of many aspects of their frequently beautiful religion and culture, and am horrified by the anti-semitism (often under cover of anti-Israeli sentiment) now emerging once more from beneath several stones. But I hope I would never express such fellow feeling in such oppressively over-emphatic prose, nor write a book with such an undertow of hatred and spite as the oddly childlike JB has indulged in here.
Truly one of the silliest and, more pertinently, repellent books ever to come my way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2014 12:34 AM GMT


Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 To 1972
Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 To 1972
Price: £26.99

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That long lunar note, 17 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's about time.
There's a handful of albums that have never had a proper CD release, such as Neil Young's Time Fades Away, Tim Buckley's Star Sailor, and Tom Verlaine's The Wonder, superb records all of them. But the one so conspicuous by its absence all these years has been the fourth release by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, and one of his very best: the now legendary Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
Well folks, here it is at last!
Remastered, repackaged - boy, is it repackaged - along with two bona fide Beefheart masterpieces, and a slew of highly desirable extra tracks on the fourth disc of this sumptuous square-book-sized Beefheart bonanza from the good people at Rhino.
Trout Mask Replica is the notorious predecessor of Decals, but the latter is one I play more often, and arguably a more coherent achievement. Don Van Vliet/Beefheart himself was nominal producer, and it always had a good, clear sound, Here, in all its remastered glory, it sounds even more luxurious.
But I'm reining in my excitement too much. These four discs represent the reissue of the year and probably the decade - hell, the century.
And what variety! The compilers of this box, complete with excellent booklet that includes an ode to Don by none other than kindred spirit the great Tom Waits, have chosen the already previously-paired diverse LPs Clear Spot (a career-high for the Captain) and bluesy The Spotlight Kid as the other albums on this release. As if that weren't bounty enough, we get an extra disc of stunningly good songs from the late bawler, some of them bluesier than one would have dared hope. Beefheart was a wonderful blues singer when he chose to be.
Clear Spot is an album you might play to a Beefheart virgin. It's soulful, well produced by Ted Templeman, and boasts two of Don and the band's very best songs in the beautifully titled love ballad Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles, and a Holy Grail for Magic Band fans, the overwhelming Big Eyed Beans From Venus. It's a track that's as outrageous as its title. (Heard live, it used to shake my world.) Ed Marimba (aka Artie Tripp) plays some of the most thrilling drum riffs I've ever heard, and guitar wizard Zoot Horn Rollo/Bill Harkleroad produces sounds on his instrument that were surely illegal in some States.
When Beefheart exhorts:

Mister Zoot Horn Rollo
play that long lunar note
and let it float...

...and Mister Zoot Horn Rollo does just that, the world spins on its axis one more time.
This is tremendous music, made by a band in their prime.
The Spotlight Kid has been crying out for a polish and a good dusting since its LP release, and at last it's been sparklingly remastered from its original rather muddy production - though its muddy-swamp-blues feel did in fact suit the swampy sound - and it comes up shining here. Among all Beefheart's albums, it's what I'd call a grower. When it hits you, you'll cherish it forever, from Blabber 'n Smoke to White Jam. It also has one of the best song titles (and the Beefheart oeuvre is full of great titles): When It Blows Its Stacks. Not only a great title, but a great song too: ominous, massive, bestial.
I can't fully express my sheer exultant pleasure at having these unique albums in pristine form at last, particularly the long-neglected Decals, which sounds as fresh and audacious as the day it was first released back in 1970 when I was a mere whippersnapper of nineteen. Loved it then, adore it now, like a prodigal son returned to the fold.
The whole package is a dream come true.
Whatever you've heard about Captain Beefheart may well be true, but he was a real artist of vision and one-off scintillating, startling genius. And he was luck enough to have alongside him the best band in the world.

Reissue of the century? You bet!

O-ohh
Woe-is-a-me-bop
Om-drop-a-rebop-om...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2014 3:02 PM GMT


Handel - Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
Handel - Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
Price: £9.28

5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph, 17 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Handel's much tinkered-with oratorio here receives a godly recording from one of my favourite purveyors of baroque, Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano. It also benefits from some divine singing, particularly the bell-like, frequently thrilling voice of the rightly lauded Deborah York, but also her fellow soprano, the equally gifted Gemma Bertagnolli, whose rapturous singing in the aria "Tu giurasti di mai non lasciarmi" exalts the heart. At one point her voice does a kind of 'nosedive' which left me reeling.
Sara Mingardo's contralto may be an acquired taste for some - she is a true, fruity contralto rather than a mezzo - but she sings with great flair, and the tenor of Nicholas Sears fits in seamlessly.
There's so much variety here, so much going on - so much sheer music! Handel, even as young as 22, had absorbed what he heard and learnt in Italy, married it to his own brimming musicality, and started on his illustrious career as a composer of operas and oratorios of such vigour, melodic warmth and diversity, and orchestral daring, that the mind and ears boggle at the man's humane ingenuity.
It is a benignly moralistic musical debate, but don't let that put you off hearing this wondrous work, on these two fine discs, comprehensive booklet included.
Handel's music keeps on giving. An early work from the Anglo-German genius, but full of the promise that would bear such fruit for the next fifty years.

Appropriately, a triumph.


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