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Sid Nuncius (London)

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The Golden Age - Siglo de Oro
The Golden Age - Siglo de Oro
Price: £15.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good recording, 1 July 2015
This is a disc of very fine repertoire, well sung by The King's Singers. The music is by a variety of Portugesee, Spanish and Mexican composers, some very well known like Victoria and Morales, and some much less so. All the works are very fine, and it is especially interesting to have three settings of the funeral motet Versa est in luctum (including the famous setting by Alonso Lobo) to compare.

The performances are, as always from The Kings' Singers, technically flawless in intonation and blend, with a very good fluency of line and with that King's Singers sound evident throughout. They also employ a bajon (an early type of bassoon) in several places, which is very well done adds a great deal to the music here.

I have slightly mixed feelings about The King's Singers; their disc of Josquin is among my favourites from the whole of my collection Renaissance: The Music of Josquin Desprez, but I find the uniformity of the sound can, at other times, sometimes slip over into slight blandness and monotony. There is a bit of that here, and I find that a few pieces at a time is enough for me. Individually they are excellent but as a whole programme it gets just a bit samey - which shouldn't be the case with fine music like this.

A slightly qualified recommendation, then, but a recommendation nonetheless. This is a good recording of some really fine polyphony and, if you're happy with The King's Singers' sound, it will give a lot of pleasure.

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto / Clarinet Quintet in A major by Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Frost, Martin, Oundjian, Peter, Vertavo String Quartet (2003) Audio CD
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto / Clarinet Quintet in A major by Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Frost, Martin, Oundjian, Peter, Vertavo String Quartet (2003) Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Technically excellent but slightly emotionally cold, 1 July 2015
This recording is availabe here:Mozart: Clarinet Concerto / Clarinet Quintet in A major

This is in many ways a very good recording of these two lovely works, but it doesn't quite hit the spot for me. Martin Fröst is a brilliant clarinettist and both the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Vertavo Quartet are very good, too, but to me these interpretations lack a real emotional core. The technical precision is remarkable, but it feels to me as though everyone is concentrating on producing a very beautiful sound (which they do) and not quite getting to the heart of the music.

This is a very personal feeling, of course, and you may not agree with it. In many ways these are very fine recordings, with excellent sound and a very close-miked clarinet which brings Fröst's masterly playing intimately close to the listener. I would suggest that, if you can, you listen to the samples before buying and try to make your own judgement. You may well find it is for you, but personally I would recommend Thea King's wonderful recordings on Hyperion for equal technical brilliance but a much warmer, more engaged and emotionally literate interpretation Mozart: Basset Clarinet Concerto/Quintet.

The Collected Poems
The Collected Poems
Price: £8.63

4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome collection, 30 Jun. 2015
It is good to have Fran Landesman's poems collected in a single volume. I was aware of her only from odd poems in anthologies or quoted occasionally by someone else, so I am glad to be able to take a serious look at her work - and it's generally very good.

Fran Landesman generally writes in formal stanzas using both rhyme and metre. There's often an almost childlike simplicity to her metre which in the early poems doesn't work so well; some come across as rather amateurish sub-Dorothy Parker stuff - especially as her rhythm is pretty shaky and forced at times. However, in the later poems it's a much more effective style: more tightly controlled and the maturity and skill she's developed make the contrast much more effective between the often umpty-tumpty feel of the rhythm and the more serious content.

Her subject matter is often love affairs gone wrong, the yearnings of the heart and the sexist nonsense which she spent a lot of time pointing out and subverting very effectively. It's often poignant and quite penetrating, and it's also witty and sometimes genuinely funny - like Yankee Doodle Londoner about the differences between US and UK English usages, for example. To give an example of her style, I liked "She" (for Hanja) which begins:
She so pretty, She so crazy
So delightful and so lazy
She make pictures, She make babies
All her life is full of "maybes"

She can light your darkest hours
She got visions, she got powers
Everything She makes unravels
Got no money, still She travels...

A very believable and recognisable portrait, I thought.

I don't think this is great poetry, to be honest, but there's some very good verse here which is often evocative and thoughtful, and the occasional very different-feeling poem, like the extremely atmospheric "Boy" for example, brings a sense of the depth which can sometimes get lost among the bouncing stanzas. I'm glad to have this and to have made the acquaintance of these poems. Fran Landesman's work is well worth reading and preserving, and I can recommend this collection.

(I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley.)

Broken Silence by Ramsay, Danielle ( AUTHOR ) Oct-14-2010 Paperback
Broken Silence by Ramsay, Danielle ( AUTHOR ) Oct-14-2010 Paperback
by Danielle Ramsay
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but flawed, 30 Jun. 2015
There is a lot to enjoy in this book but I think Danielle Ramsay has tried just a bit too hard to make an impression with her first Jack Brady novel, so that it suffers rather from overkill both in plot and prose style.

Good things first: it's a very decent story, well plotted and paced. I thought the killer's identity was well and quite fairly concealed until late in the book and the denouement was believable and well done. It is much to Ramsay's credit that she spares us an implausible Cornered Killer Climax; the interview scenes in which the truth finally emerges are among the strongest in the book and provide a gripping climax of their own. I certainly think that there's enough substance here to warrant a second book and possibly a series.

I do have reservations, though. Firstly, in her keenness to give us an interesting detective, Ramsay lays on the personal complications with a large trowel. As well as having a monumentally complex and dysfunctional personal life, Jack Brady seems to be emotionally or professionally compromised (sometimes both) in his relationship with almost everyone involved in the case: a major suspect, the suspect's wife and daughter, the defence solicitor (his recently ex-wife, for heaven's sake), his sidekick, his boss, an arrogant sergeant, the local mafia boss... and so on and on. It really did get a bit much and I began to wonder whether a character would ever appear with whom he hadn't slept or fought or shared a shady past.

Secondly, the style (he coolly introduced). Ramsay cannot just let characters speak for themselves (he briskly stated) but has to pile on the adverbs (he firmly asserted) and clumsy synonyms for "said" (he curtly attacked). After 100 pages or so I found the cumulative effect of this incredibly irritating and it really distracted me from the narrative. Mercifully, in the climactic interview scenes this almost disappears and they are tense, tightly written and really engrossing, showing that Ramsay is able to write really well when she allows herself to flow in an unaffected way.

I think Danielle Ramsay just needs to relax and tell the story, and I hope she will do that in future books. I couldn't in all conscience give this book four stars, but I hope it will be the start of a more mature series, which has the potential to be very good.

Still (Deluxe Edition)
Still (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Richard Thompson, 29 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Still (Deluxe Edition) (Audio CD)
I agree with The Wolf (as so often) - this is a very fine Richard Thompson album. The man's a genius who has been writing great songs and playing superb music for decades now and this is a great addition to his already stellar canon.

Thompson's music is it's usual excellent self: good melodies, harmonically interesting and lyrically full of that carefree joi de vivre that always characterises Thompson's songs. :o) Seriously, a glance at the titles will give you a pretty strong clue that he's not deviating much from the sadness and anger which runs through so much of his work: Broken Doll; No Peace, No End; Where's Your get the idea. And yet it never becomes depressing or over-bitter. The quality of the songwriting keeps it well above that level, and it's a fine album.

The performances and production are top-class, I think. Thompson is one of the great guitarists of our age and he's on fine form here - some fine guitar work while being quite understated and often quite far back in the mix. This works very well indeed, I think, and the band are all excellent.

I loved Electric but I wasn't quite so taken with Acoustic Classics, although I can't quite put my finger on why. This is Thompson back to the peak of his form, I think: a classic Thompson album of fine songs, exceptionally well performed. It's always hard to tell for a while whether an album will turn out to be truly great as opposed to very good, but I think this may well be up there with Richard Thompson's very best - which is really saying something. Warmly recommended.

The Monsanto Years [CD+DVD]
The Monsanto Years [CD+DVD]
Price: £12.99

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good message, but poor music, 29 Jun. 2015
I always look forward to a new Neil Young album with considerable trepidation. He's still capable of making fine records - I loved both Psychedelic Pill and Storytone - but he's also still capable of making very bad ones. This is a bad one, I'm afraid. It doesn't make me physically wince quite as much as A Letter Home, but I think as an album it's worse in some ways. At least on A Letter Home the music was really good and Neil performed well, it was just the horrible mess of a recording which made it almost unlistenable. On The Monsanto Years it's the fault of the material and the performance, which I find less forgivable.

The Monsanto Years is a long rant against environmental damage, GMOs, greedy banks and corporations and so on. It's a message with which I largely agree and I wouldn't argue with much of what Neil is saying here - but as songs they are crude, poorly crafted, musically pretty thin and lyrically they're frankly terrible. Really, this sounds like the sort of stuff that you might have produced when you were thirteen and then come across as an adult and burned with embarrassment that you could ever have thought it even worth writing down. Just as an example, in People Want To Hear About Love, there's just a long, long list of things like:
"Don't talk about the beautiful fish in the deep blue sea dying...
"Don't talk about the corporations hijacking all your rights...
"Don't mention about world poverty...
"Don't say pesticides are causing autistic children..."
and so on and so on and so on. These aren't song lyrics, they're just slogans. It's very important stuff, but there's no finesse, no wit, no depth of analysis or anything approaching crafted verse which might convey real meaning or make it a powerful song. The same is true throughout the album; it's as though you were being shouted at by an obsessed drunk in a bar, so when there is the occasional neat lyric like "Too big to fail, too rich for jail," it's a surprise to find a gem among the mess. And this from the man who wrote the magnificent Ohio in a white hot rage in just a few hours. That, though was a long, long time ago and seemingly in a galaxy far, far away because Ohio was an enduring masterpiece while this just best forgotten.

Musically it's pretty poor, too. There's not much in the way of melody, and although there are some decent chord sequences, none of it sounds very fresh. The Promise Of The Real, although they are a perfectly competent band, just remind me constantly how very, very good Crazy Horse were. Neil's voice is wearing pretty thin these days, too, and at times it's cringeworthy as he reaches for high notes he has no business to be attempting and misses them by some distance. (Try the opener, New Day For Love and you'll see what I mean.)

I've loved Neil Young's work for close on half a century now and I accept that loving it means that you have to take the poor with the brilliant - and this is really poor. On the first play I turned it off about half way through and felt as though someone had stopped beating me over the head with a blunt object. I've forced myself to listen a few times more to see whether it improved, but it hasn't. It's still a relief to turn it off.

I simply can't bring myself to give a Neil Young album only one star, but it's a scrape to get up to two. I'm sorry to say it, but this just isn't worthy of such a great songwriter and performer.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2015 1:18 PM BST

Late Night Calls (Live)
Late Night Calls (Live)
Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome record, but not an LWIII classic, 28 Jun. 2015
This is a recording of a radio broadcast made in Cleveland in 1972. Loudon Wainwright plays solo in a studio with a small live audience, in an extremely informal atmosphere. There's some good stuff on it, it's a nice record of Loudon's live style of the period and I'm glad to have it but it's not a brilliant album, to be honest.

There is some material which wasn't on studio albums but the songs are largely taken from his first three albums, for which I have a particular affection,. I still have my original vinyl copies bought at the time, and he signed the first two for me when I went to see him play live a couple of times on his first UK tour in 1972, so you can tell I'm a hard-core fan :o). I saw him play quite a few of these songs then, so I'm really pleased to have a reminder of that time and Loudon's witty, self-deprecating way of relating to an audience. The performances here are pretty good, but it sounds to me as though Loudon was a little disorientated by the shambolic-sounding way the recording was set up, so it doesn't quite have the electric excitement I felt at the time. The sound is decent but not brilliant, and the whole thing is one of those albums I'm glad to have heard and I'm glad to have, but which I won't play that often, I think.

LWIII fans like me will want this, of course, and no-one could be disappointed in it, but if you're just looking for early LWIII recordings, I'd recommend the first three studio albums well before this. Certainly if you're looking for a place to start with him, try the early studio albums first or Older Than My Old Man Now for a more recent gem. It's good, but it doesn't have quite the brilliance of a lot of Loudon's work.

(You can still get the first three albums, and now as downloads too:
Album 1
Album II
Album III )

Homdox® Kitchen Heat Resistant Silicone Grilling BBQ Gloves/Oven Mitts - Boiling-Water Proof, Dishwasher Safe, Flexible and Versatile, Provide Super Protection for Your Hand - Thick & Heavy (Blue)
Homdox® Kitchen Heat Resistant Silicone Grilling BBQ Gloves/Oven Mitts - Boiling-Water Proof, Dishwasher Safe, Flexible and Versatile, Provide Super Protection for Your Hand - Thick & Heavy (Blue)
Offered by ENICER
Price: £25.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good oven gloves, 28 Jun. 2015
I was sent these oven gloves for review by the manufacturer and I think they are good.

I hadn't tried silicone oven gloves before and I was curious to see whether they lived up to the claims made for them. I think they generally do. I have used them on saucepans and to take hot trays out of the oven up to gas Mark 7 (220° C, 425° F); they did the job well. I could feel some heat through them from the hottest things but I was able to hold the tray for quite a long period without trouble - longer than with my existing fabric gloves. The area around the side seams is less well insulated so you need to be a bit careful with positioning, but I found them very good. The surface is pretty non-slip so pans tend not to move or slide in your hand - another possible advantage over fabric gloves.

Because they are silicone, these gloves don't slide on and off your hands quite as easily as fabric gloves, which does make them a bit more of a fiddle to use - they are about half way between fabric oven gloves and rubber gloves in this respect. They are still perfectly usable, but I don't find the quite as convenient, so you may like to be warned.

The gloves are very easy to keep clean either by just washing them or sticking them in the dishwasher, which is a real bonus if you use them a lot. The size is adequate for large hands like mine and would be fine for smaller hands, too.

Overall, I think these are a good product. They seem well made, they are practical and they do the job. Ease of putting on and taking off is a slight drawback but nothing serious, and if you're looking for a pair of oven gloves, I can recommend these.

[ A Tale for the Time Being By Ozeki, Ruth L. , Paperback, Mar- 11- 2013 ]
[ A Tale for the Time Being By Ozeki, Ruth L. , Paperback, Mar- 11- 2013 ]
by Ruth L. Ozeki
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Readable and intelligent, 28 Jun. 2015
I thought this a very good book in many ways and although it did take me a long time to get into it, I found it a very involving and rewarding read in the end.

Ruth Ozeki writes very readable prose which is sometimes rather beautiful but never tips over into the self-regarding. The story, well summarized elsewhere, is of a writer (Ruth) on a remote Canadian island who discovers, washed-up on the beach, a container with letters and the diary of a Japanese schoolgirl (Nao). The narrative alternates between the diary and Ruth reading it and investigating its story and its author. I confess that I found the first 100 pages or so difficult to get into and a bit stilted and self-conscious, but Nao's voice and her insights into Japanese society drew me in eventually, and I found her story involving and touching. I never quite felt the same about Ruth's sections which always felt slightly artificial and mannered to me, although Ozeki generates a very good sense of place and atmosphere around the characters.

There is a lot of philosophical content here, much of which is very good. It includes some rather profound insights about love, about growing up and learning to look outside yourself and about Zen. Late in the book there is also quite a bit about quantum physics. My heart sinks a bit when I realise that a novelist is starting on quantum physics because it often degenerates into dreadful nonsense, but to Ozeki's credit she gets the physics right, although I thought that her drawing of parallels between quantum physics and Zen were less successful and didn't really add up to that much. (But then, from Fritjof Capra's The Tao Of Physics onward there has been a great deal of nice-sounding verbiage and a good deal less real substance written about physics and Zen, so she's not alone.)

I could also have done without the mystical elements toward the end. (I won't give any spoilers) I could see what Ozeki was driving at and why she structured it as she did, but in a factual narrative it seemed a little silly in places. Not quite Carlos Castaneda, thank heavens, but heading that way at times.

This review may seem rather more critical than I mean it to. I enjoyed the book in the end and think it had some important things to say. I did have reservations, but would still recommend it as a readable, intelligent and in places quite profound book.

Selected Poems (Oxford World's Classics) by Rochester, John Wilmot Earl of (2013) Paperback
Selected Poems (Oxford World's Classics) by Rochester, John Wilmot Earl of (2013) Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A very good selection, 27 Jun. 2015
This is a very good little edition, containing most of Rochester's best poems. I have a now out-of-print Penguin Complete Rochester edition, but wanted a more portably-sized volume and was also interested in what a new editor had to say. I was very pleased on all counts.

Rochester's popular reputation is generally based more on his behaviour than on his poetry. It is true that he was a spectacular rake and that his debauchery leading to an early death was the stuff of legend. This is often reflected in his work, but there is far more to Rochester than that. This is a very good selection of all shades of his poetry, from the frankly filthy (but often amusing) to the introspective and rather deep. For example, this from Upon Nothing (although I admit it lacks mathematical rigour) is a prescient summation of our current view of the origin of the universe:
"Ere time and place were, time and place were not,
When primitive Nothing Something straight begot,
Then all proceeded from the great united - What?"

Do be warned (if you don't know already) that many of these poems are not for the faint of heart or prudish. They often deal frankly with all sorts of sexual practices, and use some very blunt language including the c-word (used to brilliant comic effect in The Imperfect Enjoyment, for example), but this is fine, and sometimes genuinely tender and thoughtful poetry.

There is a scholarly and readable introduction by Paul Davis which I very much appreciated, a helpful chronology of Rochester's life and full notes on the texts. I think this is an excellent book for anyone looking for somewhere to start with Rochester or for anyone who wants a well-edited selection, however familiar you may be with him. Very warmly recommended.

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