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Sid Nuncius (London)

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Over the Bridge of Time: a Paul Simon Retrospectiv by Paul Simon (2013) Audio CD
Over the Bridge of Time: a Paul Simon Retrospectiv by Paul Simon (2013) Audio CD
Offered by HOPE FIRE United States
Price: £18.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Great music, but a very restricted selection, 19 April 2015
Any disc with music of this quality obviously deserves five stars. Paul Simon is one of the truly great songwriters of the last 50 years and a very fine performer, too. This selection contains half a dozen Simon & Garfunkel songs and fourteen of Simon's solo works. Every one is a gem, and I'm pleased to say that they haven't only gone for the really obvious stuff - it's good to see The Only Living Boy In New York and the superb and underrated Hearts And Bones here, for example.

That said, I can't quite see the point of this disc. It necessarily represents a tiny selection from what is now a large and distinguished body of work, and so it omits great swathes of brilliance. One glance at the track list will set you thinking "What - no...?" Or "Four songs from Bridge Over Troubled Water and not one from Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme?" Or any number of other questions about the selection. The problem is that you can't really do this properly in only one CD, so that many people (like me) will already have most or all of the material on the original albums, and for those who don't this probably isn't an adequate place to start.

I could be wrong, and certainly what is on the disc is brilliant. The sound quality seems excellent and the packaging (featuring, I think, the 59th Street bridge) is very attractive. If you want a skim of the surface of a brilliant musician, this will do you very well, but with all Simon & Garfunkel's albums available in a super-budget box The Collection, an excellent double CD of The Essential Paul Simon available for a fiver The Essential, and many of the original albums also available very cheaply, I certainly wouldn't start from here.

The Yard by Grecian, Alex ( AUTHOR ) Jan-03-2013 Paperback
The Yard by Grecian, Alex ( AUTHOR ) Jan-03-2013 Paperback
by Alex Grecian
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Victorian London? No way, dude," as they apparently used to say back then, 18 April 2015
I don't like writing wholly critical reviews but in truth I thoroughly disliked this book. It purports to be about the Victorian police force in London, but fails to convince in any way. My copy carries an endorsement from Jeffrey Deaver promising that it is "rich with detail, atmosphere and history." It isn't. The descriptions of London (such as they are) are feeble and generic, and the language - so vital in generating a sense of period - is ludicrously inappropriate. The dialogue in particular is absurd. This is supposed to be London in 1889 but within just the first few pages people use such phrases as "no worries", "I'm right on it", and "he's heading up the investigation." These weren't in use in London in 1989, never mind 1889 and phrases like "Where was the beat cop?" still aren't. Conversation is liberally sprinkled with "yeah", "sure" and the like. It's all as phoney as Dick van Dyke's cockney accent and it destroyed any possible atmosphere or authenticity, making the book almost unreadable for me.

I wasn't convinced by the characters, the plot, the language or the period setting. This is a run-of-the-mill psychotic serial killer story with many of the clichés of the genre well in evidence. It would have been unremarkable set in the USA in the present day; set in a paper-thin caricature of Victorian London it is plain silly.

Others have obviously enjoyed the book but I really, really didn't, and to me at least, an American author trying to pass this off to a British audience is simply insulting.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2015 6:29 AM BST

Where's Your Gravity
Where's Your Gravity
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting historical record, 17 April 2015
This is a bit of an oddity. It consists of studio outtakes and (I think) unreleased recordings of the young Dylan, including some chat with engineers and producers at the start and finish of tracks, but I'm afraid I can't tell you more than that about the source of this material. As far as I can tell the album is available as a download only which comes with no cover or any other information about recording dates, venues etc. Nor has an internet search revealed anything. I would be grateful for any information that anyone else has unearthed.

As to the music...well, it's pretty good. Ardent Dylan fans will certainly want this, and as a huge admirer of his early work especially I found it interesting to hear the man at work in the studio. The selection of material is good: covers of old favourites like Woody Guthrie's I Ain't Got No Home, Corinna, Corinna and the like. It's all well performed with the odd flaw and decently recorded on the whole.

To be honest, this doesn't add much to the Dylan canon. There are no startling revelations here, nor sensationally insightful performances of great songs. I still play Dylan's early albums regularly; they remain classics and they still give me enormous pleasure. This one is an album that I'm glad to have heard and glad to have in my collection, but more for interest and reference than as an album to play repeatedly for the sheer enjoyment of it. I can recommend it on that basis: it's interesting and it's pretty good but don't expect anything sensational.

Sabine Devieilhe/Rameau: Le Grand Theatre De L'amour by Rameau, Devieilhe, Les Ambassadeurs (2013) Audio CD
Sabine Devieilhe/Rameau: Le Grand Theatre De L'amour by Rameau, Devieilhe, Les Ambassadeurs (2013) Audio CD
Offered by HOPE FIRE United States
Price: £26.86

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 16 April 2015
This is quite brilliant. As a concept it may be slightly dubious - putting together extracts from several of Rameau's operas to create a different narrative - but it works well, and anyway it's so musically wonderful that I'd forgive it almost anything.

Rameau was a great composer who could conjure varied emotions in music amazingly well, and we get the full gamut here: thrilling elation, tender devotion, abject despair... it's all there and superbly done by the performers. Sabine Deveilhe is the star of this disc, and she sings wonderfully with real feeling and brilliant technique, with great control of vibrato and tone which lends genuine depth and feeling to what she is singing. It's an exemplary performance, I think - and fully matched by the other singers and musicians. The orchestra is absolutely fantastic, with tricky instrumentation and real virtuosity required, and they make it all sound wholly natural and unforced, while giving it exactly the right feel throughout - including some thrilling welly in places.

This is a marvellous disc of excellent music, superbly performed and recorded and very nicely presented. The notes are good (if a little on the florid side for my taste) and there are full texts with translations. If you have any interest at all in this repertoire, don't hesitate. Very warmly recommended.

Crosby and Nash
Crosby and Nash
Price: £9.12

4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely-sounding album, 16 April 2015
This review is from: Crosby and Nash (Audio CD)
I tried this album (just a decade late!) because I have an immense affection for CSN and Déjà Vu, two albums which were a gigantic feature of my teenage years and which I still play very regularly and with great pleasure. Solo and collaborative albums since then have been rather variable, but I hoped this would be worth a punt, and I was right.

The overall sound is vintage CSN, really. There's plenty of Crosby's modal guitar sound and those utterly distinctive vocal harmonies sound great. No one else has ever quite reproduced that harmonic sound (the same is true of Brian Wilson's own distinctive harmonic sound, too) and it's an immense pleasure to hear it again here. The instrumental and solo vocal work is good, and the effect of the album is very pleasing.

The songs are pretty good. There's nothing here to stand me on my ear the way tracks like Guinevere, Wooden Ships or Carry On did 40-odd years ago, but there's plenty to enjoy. Lyrically they're OK with plenty of right-on messages, which works very well in tracks like Don't Dig Here (one of the album's strongest, I think) but can get a little self-righteously preachy sometimes. Overall, though, it's decent material, often given a big lift by the performances and production, and especially by those magical harmonies.

This isn't a classic, and that old cliché of "it would have made a better single album" comes to mind rather, but it's a very enjoyable album. It might become more of a background record after a play or two than one for close listening, but it has a lovely sound and it's good to hear two true greats making good music together. Recommended.

The Followers
The Followers
by Rebecca Wait
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and chilling, 15 April 2015
This review is from: The Followers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought this a very good book. It is well written and involving, with important things to say.

The story concerns the induction of Stephanie and Judith, a struggling single mother and her teenage daughter, into a small, isolated community on the Yorkshire moors. The cult there is led by Nathaniel, a "prophet" who uses a mixture of charm, emotional manipulation, religious fundamentalism and violence to enforce his will. It's a rather bleak and oppressive tale, but very well done so that the characters and the story's seemingly inevitable progression toward a dreadful climax kept me hooked.

Rebecca Wait writes very well: she paints very convincing portraits of her characters and a chillingly believable picture of how someone like Nathaniel creates and sustains his oppression and manipulation of the members of the cult. There is a necessary and refreshing leaven of teenage sarcasm and rebellion in Judith and of genuine, if naïve, goodness in Moses, another child born into the cult who befriends her, and later a hopeful and redemptive note which I found genuinely affecting.

This isn't an easy read at times, but it's a good one which will leave you with a lot to think about and a clear if distressing insight into manipulative, domineering behaviour and the internal dynamics of cults like this. Recommended.

Best Medicine
Best Medicine
Price: £12.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A good album, 14 April 2015
This review is from: Best Medicine (Audio CD)
There is a very good review on this page by M Dowden with which I largely agree. This is a good album of well-constructed songs which are performed and produced with great skill.

I like the album a lot, but I do find it just a little bit similar to a lot of the very good Americana round at the moment. M Bowden is right: "This acoustic group is just so tight and smooth, giving a really polished sound," and for me this and the incredibly slick production means that the album lacks just a little heart and genuineness of emotion. It's purely personal thing, because the musicianship is excellent, but sometimes it could do with just a bit of human rawness to bring it to life for me. You may well disagree, and no one with any interest in this genre could possibly dislike the album, but for me it's a one that I like rather than love.

Set of 3 FSC Treehouse Spatulas
Set of 3 FSC Treehouse Spatulas
Offered by deals-direct
Price: £4.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good spatulas, 14 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There's not all that much to say about wooden spatulas, but you may like to know these are good quality. They are solid beech which seems good and strong, with nicely bevelled blades to make them easy to use. I like them very much.

If I experience any problems I will update this review, but I'm not expecting any and I can recommend these warmly.

Bach: 6 Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012
Bach: 6 Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £27.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now available at budget price, 13 April 2015
You may like to know that this superb recording has been reissued at budget price Bach, J.S.: The Cello Suites. Below is my review of the reissue:

This is deservedly regarded as a classic recording of the Bach Cello Suites. Fournier was one of the very greatest of 20th Century cellists, and this recording is among his finest. It is thoughtful and deeply felt, with generally measured tempi and enough rubato (speeding up and slowing down) to allow the music really to speak to us without becoming swamped in the cellist's own personality or swept away in Romantic fervour. It is marvellous playing in which Fournier's virtuosity is put entirely to the service of Bach, and the result is something really special. The great sweeping arpeggios of the Prelude to Suite No. 3 are resonant and deeply moving, for example, and the magical, numinous Sarabande from Suite No. 5 is simply spellbinding.

The recording quality (from 1961) is very good and the digital transfer seems to have preserved the fabulous sound of Fournier's cello beautifully. The notes are a little sketchy, but the music's the really important thing.

I have loved the Bach Cello Suites since I was a hopelessly bad teenage cellist (a long time ago now). Of all the recordings I have heard this stands with the very best. I couldn't possibly pick a single favourite, but if you want just one for your collection, this will do you very well indeed. Even if, like me, you already own more than one recording I would urge you to try Fournier. There is insight and beauty in abundance here, and I recommend this set without any reservation whatever.

Haydn: String Quartets Opus 71
Haydn: String Quartets Opus 71
Price: £14.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite brilliant, 13 April 2015
These recordings of Haydn's Op.71 and Op.74 quartets are, as you would expect from The Takacs Quartet, quite brilliant. They are very fine works from a master composer, played by arguably the greatest string quartet currently performing and the result is wonderful.

Haydn's string quartets are a source of endless variety, depth, joy and sheer beauty and the Op. 71 and Op. 74 sets contain three lovely examples each. The music is a joy, full of melody and ingenious structure and counterpoint, with that delightful twinkle in Haydn's eye never too far away, and it's just a pleasure to hear any of them.

The performances are superb. They are thoughtful and respectful to Haydn's intentions and understand that Haydn often said serious things in a witty way. All the musical, emotional and intellectual depth in these works is well to the fore. Technically the players are superb, with impeccable intonation and quite restrained use of vibrato and rubato. There is also an almost miraculous understanding between them, all of which makes the performances lovely and clean, and full of beauty and sheer enjoyment. I have for years owned dearly loved performances of these quartets by The Lindsays, but I prefer these; the sheer crispness and clarity of these interpretations is a revelation.

The recorded sound is, as always from Hyperion, excellent. There are detailed, interesting notes and the presentation is very attractive. Both of these discs are simply excellent all round and I recommend them very warmly indeed.

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