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James Patrick McGrath

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Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson
Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson
by Lindsay Reade
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise, moving book, 23 Jun. 2013
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This book hasn't received as much attention as most other Factory-related titles, but for anyone intrigued by the label's story, this is one of the key publications. Lindsay Reade was a crucial participant, and details her own role in formally working for the label (shortly before her divorce from Tony Wilson), as well as many more personal recollections. Numerous myths surrounding Factory are given a new, convincingly clear-eyed level of correction. But rather than debunking the myths, Reade's alternative viewpoint may well serve to deepen them.

For readers interested in Factory Records and the 1970s-80s Manchester music scene more broadly, this book is a treasure.
Reade is a gifted author who writes sensitively and perceptively about others and their interactions, as well as offering candid reflections on her own life and work. Inevitably, Wilson's gigantic personality dominates much of the book, and here is the most rounded and human depiction of him to appear in print. However, central Factory personalities who, in other publications, are slightly marginalised, receive due attention here, particularly Alan Erasmus, Bruce Mitchell and Vini Reilly.

Although Wilson and Reade divorced in the 1980s, they remained close friends until Wilson's death in 2007. Much of the book concerns his final year, and Reade movingly details how she, along with Mitchell, Reilly and Erasmus, supported Wilson closely through his illness. While often highly emotional, the writing remains controlled. The sheer chaos of Factory's existence also ensures plenty of humour.

I read this book purely out of interest and was moved. I later completed an academic piece on Factory Records and Reade's book was indispensable. However, for others reading this book for research purposes, a note of warning: it's worth making notes as you go along, because there is no index and the chapters do not follow a strict chronological order. I had to read it in full a second time for that purpose. Doing so was, again, a pleasure, as well as an insight: not just because the book is so rich in music history, but because its reflections on love and friendship seem so, well, wise.

Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud
Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud
by Martin Gayford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.05

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A singularly perceptive piece of life writing, 23 Jun. 2013
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After reading the first third of this captivating book in one sitting in a café, I noticed, on walking out, that even in just a glimpse, I felt like I was seeing individual human faces and their expressions in new ways. Such is the sensitivity of Martin Gayford's own written portrait of Freud (for whom Gayford sat), and the eloquence of their conversations about painting and the living body as presented here.

Like Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf or Miles Davis in their own different ways, Lucian Freud seems to have possessed a personality that guarantees engaging writing from others, whatever the quality or context. As it is though, this is a beautifully written work in its own right. The rooms in which Freud painted, and the changing light and shade within these, are evoked with vivid atmosphere, yet are never overly detailed. As the seasons progress along with the painting (with some uncertain, occasionally frustrating moments in the latter's emergence discussed), the contact between the sitter and the artist develops quite movingly.

Gayford creates a compelling sense of what it was like to be in Freud's company, and, through the artist's own comments as recalled in the narrative, the book is richly, if fragmentarily, informative about an extraordinarily eventful life. Gayford appears utterly respectful and discrete. It would have been intriguing to have read more about what others might have told or asked Gayford about the enigmatic Freud, but it's a tribute to the author's integrity that the focus is entirely on the two men's own interactions.

I finished the book in a day or so, several months ago, but continue to enjoy reopening it at random. Inevitably, this is likely to be an important book for anyone interested in Freud and indeed in painting, but I can confidently imagine it being a pleasure to read for people who (like myself) have read relatively little about painting and painters.(It could make an excellent present).

Wings Over America
Wings Over America
Price: £10.97

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A jet and limousine affair, 23 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Wings Over America (Audio CD)
If, instead of repackaging this in 2013, McCartney's label had risked issuing an album of Wings' earlier (1972-73) live recordings, it could have sparked a delayed rediscovery of what an energetically spontaneous (often punkish) sound McCartney could carry with Wings. As it is, we have the more commercially predictable reissue of 1976's Wings Over America.

This Wings line-up is still powerful. Jimmy McCulloch's guitar-playing is thrilling; Denny Laine is given space here, and shines. After Linda, Laine deserves really deserves more recognition as McCartney's main collaborator post-Beatles. His vocal on 'Go Now' is timelessly emotive here, regardless of how many times he must have sung it by this point; and Paul and Linda give great backing vocals. Laine's 'Spirits of Ancient Egypt' remains intriguing; his 'Time to Hide' is another highlight.

McCartney's 'Let Me Roll It' is an incredible composition anyway, and performed brilliantly here, with tense interaction between each musician. The versions of McCartney's more recent songs are good, sometimes amazing. 'Beware My Love' sounds like just about the most intense song of his whole career, and this performance is quite different from the 'Speed of Sound' track. Also superb are 'Letting Go' and 'Call me Back Again'. 'Venus and Mars' never lasts as long as it seems to want to; I guess that's the point.

The basic 2013 re-release is alright, though I'm not interested in the deluxe version; the album is big enough as it is. But on this 1976 set, something has gone from McCartney's performance in comparison with preceding years.

Wings' first tours, in 1972-73, were undertaken in Land Rovers and borrowed buses. This 1975-76 tour was a jet and limousine affair. And the latter images (used to illustrate the release) sum up this phase of Wings: their success is indisputable (and made overt in the publicity), but somehow, it sounds like the ambitions here are more commercial than creative. In choosing Wings Over America in place of other possibilities, the record company seem to be honouring that pattern.
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