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Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mind of the prophet, 13 Feb. 2011
Heschel examines the minds of the Israelite prophets, mainly those of the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, by considering the totality of thoughts, impressions and emotions of the prophet's soul. He thus investigates the interface of theology and psychology but in the latter case, only where motives are consciously revealed.

Besides identifying the decisive features of the prophet's consciousness, he highlights their uniqueness in history and attempts to illuminate the essentials of prophetic religion. Between the introductory chapter and the concluding chapters on history, punishment and justice, the individual prophets and their particular circumstances are covered in turn.

This brings history to the fore as political and social conditions in the Northern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah and the surrounding nations such as Ammon, Edom and Moab are at issue. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdoms and these neighbors were always caught between the powers of Mesopotamia and the Nile.

Egypt was weak and divided when Assyria became world a power in the 8th century BCE. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 came the rule of Babylonia. Around 760 Egypt was united by and experienced a 100 year revival under the Napatan 25th dynasty. The area between Sinai and the Euphrates became the battleground of clashing superpowers.

Amos, in his concern for Israel's neighbors, made it clear that God cares for all people. Hosea proclaimed that Israel is The Lord's consort, warned against political promiscuity, and affirmed divine tenderness and mercy. The sorrow in God's anger is revealed by the first Isaiah who warned against foreign alliances while denouncing obstinacy and pride. Micah distilled the essence of true worship: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Divine.

Gentle by nature, Jeremiah had to convey messages of wrath and suffering. This caused him overwhelming anguish. The first Isaiah and Habakkuk spoke of ultimate redemption through an outpouring of the Spirit whilst the second Isaiah proclaimed God's eternal love for Israel, His concern for all mankind and the idea of Israel as a light to the nations.

Heschel identifies the major trait of the prophets as a profound sensitivity and revulsion to evil. Their loathing of violence and their sympathy for the weak may appear extreme as the soul of the prophet strongly resonated with the cry of the afflicted. Driven by compassion, they were fiercely intolerant of injustice and indifference as their harsh words reveal.

The prophets knew that religion could distort that which the Lord requires. A coalition of indifference and established authority was their adversary. They fiercely repudiated mankind's subservience to might, holding up the moral law in the place of force. The theme that might is not right is central to their message. Unlike the lofty philosophers they focused on the mundane, the way people treat one another. The prophets also emphasized linear as opposed to cyclical time, promising ultimate salvation.

The author shows that the prophets were torn between compassion for mankind and empathy with God, acting as advocate for the one to the other. They constantly intervened, imploring mercy for the people whilst denouncing the abusive practices of the mighty in explosive language and admonishing the whole nation for its lack of compassion. "The opposite of freedom is not determinism, but hardness of heart," they implied.

In the chapter on history, it is observed that people worship power and are easily impressed by force. Opposed to that, the moral law is inconspicuous. History may thus be considered the sphere where God is defied and justice defeated. Oppression of the human being is an affront to the Creator, while concern for justice is an act of love.

What sets the prophetic act apart from artistic, intellectual and mystical experiences is its moral aspect. The prophetic warning against calling good evil and vice versa, reveals a penetrating insight into the human psyche. While justice is the strict standard associated with the divine name Elohim, the ineffable Tetragrammaton represents the quality of mercy.

It emerges that judgment is never final, always conditional and that the door of repentance remains open. In history justice suffers defeat but the prophets predicted future peace and salvation. Over and over they emphasized that kindness took precedence over wisdom, wealth and might. More than strict justice only, righteousness encompasses loving concern. Above all, the prophets proclaimed the divine pathos, revealing the Creator as Father more than judge.

This compelling and completely unique work succeeds in solving many riddles and clarifying plenty of puzzles on both the mental and emotional level. Written in graceful prose, the concepts are easy to understand while Heschel's words speak to the heart. The Prophets is a most moving and comforting book.


Songs From The Road [DVD] [2013]
Songs From The Road [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Leonard Cohen
Price: £7.66

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 Songs to Cherish, 13 Feb. 2011
The main difference with Live In London is this DVD's focus on the songs, showing only rare scenes of audience interaction and no instances of spotlighting individual musicians. These 12 recordings were carefully selected from 195 performances during the May 2008 to November 2009 world tour. The two collections complement one another; the cohesion of Live in London being here replaced by a variety of moods and settings, yet every moment remains magical.

Lover Lover Lover gets a rapturous reception at Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv where curtains billowing in blue, purple and red mirror the lilting rhythms of a song that has been utterly transformed from the 1973 recording. That one sounded harsh and desperate whilst this arrangement flows smoothly, owing mainly to the string instruments.

In Glasgow the scene turns blue then shades into green for Bird On The Wire, a jazzy rendition with prominent sax and slightly amended lyrics. Still in the UK, the Chelsea Hotel meets the Royal Albert Hall against an orange backdrop for a moving memoir of Leonard's legendary encounter with Janis.

The rhythmic, uptempo Heart With No Companion in Oberhausen, Germany, proceeds over bright orange and yellow hues. Although buoyantly performed, the lines 'through the days of shame that coming, through the nights of wild distress" send a chill down the spine. This is one of the few scenes that carries on after the music has ended as LC receives two bouquets of flowers and a standing ovation.

London's O2 Arena hosts Famous Blue Raincoat from Songs Of Love And Hate and from the album Ten New Songs, That Don't Make It Junk on which the harmonica stands out, whilst the final 2009 show in San José, California has Waiting For The Miracle performed in smoky blue.

From the cold north, there's the austere rendition of Avalanche - mainly just Leonard's voice and acoustic guitar - in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Songs from a Room's The Partisan in Helsinki, Finland. In Manchester, the intricate vocal interactions on Suzanne form particularly memorable textures.

The sole outdoor performance is of Hallelujah at a festival in California where the arms raised in appreciation leave a stunning impression. The performances conclude with Closing Time in London, Ontario, where the swaying Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson contribute mightily to an exuberant performance of this irreverent masterpiece.

The Bonus Feature: Backstage Sketch by Lorca Cohen includes rehearsal scenes and interviews with the musicians, technicians, producer and tour management. An essay: The Art Of Wandering by Leon Wieseltier opens the booklet in which producer Edward Sanders provides brief background info on every track.

On Songs From the Road, familiar classics are refreshed and rejuvenated by innovative arrangements whilst the superb cinematography and seamless editing ensure a delightful audio-visual experience.


Eyes Open [Re-Issue]
Eyes Open [Re-Issue]

5.0 out of 5 stars Expansive masterpiece, 2 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Eyes Open [Re-Issue] (Audio CD)
On this masterpiece, N'Dour is backed by The Super Étoile plus various guest musicians; the instruments employed are too numerous to mention. Eyes Open kicks off with the sound of birdsong on New Africa, a melodious, moving call for African self-reliance, cooperation and good governance. Then follows the satirical Live Television in English and French, in which N'Dour offers some biting observations on TV addiction in his endearing English. Those are just two of five languages on this ambitious album: he also sings (mostly) in the lingua franca of Gambia and Senegal called Wolof, and in Serer and Fulani (Pulaar).

Versatility is the name of the game, as this great work attempts a comprehensive redefinition of African music, integrating styles as diverse as rock, reggae, jazz, mbalax, soul, R&B, merengue, makossa & rap. A mouthful and an earful! There's the slow jazzy ballad No More, there's Country Boy which deals with urbanization and losing one's roots - a track with a slow intro before the polyrhythms kick in, whilst Hope and Africa Remembers are tender, soulful ballads.

The hymn-like traditional Yo Lé Lé celebrates the ancestral home of the Fulani people in graciously undulating percussive and vocal patterns. On the melancholic French-only Survie, N'Dour laments the grim economic reality that many Africans have to face every day, while the somber Useless Weapons is constructed around a grand piano and stuttering vocals.

The album concludes with words of wisdom on Things Unspoken, a warning against mindlessly following movements and subtle indoctrination and a call for people to think for themselves by reading between the lines. Eyes Open encompasses many musical treasures and yields something new with every listen. It surpasses N'Dour's 1989 bestseller, The Lion, in its melodic, stylistic and lyrical scope.


Superstar
Superstar
Price: £22.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Everybody was a star!, 20 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Superstar (Audio CD)
Disco music reached the height of popularity between 1977 and 1979 when stars like the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Chic, Amanda Lear, Andy Gibb, Grace Jones and Sylvester ruled the dancefloors. Some of them ruled the radiowaves too.

There were, however, other artists whose work was restricted to the clubs or who became one-hit wonders on the sales charts in the USA and UK. They include Don Ray with his album Garden of Love, Dan Hartman with Instant Replay and the Frenchmen Cerrone and Patrick Juvet.

Bob McGilpin had 3 huge disco hits of which only one, the soulful When You Feel Love, a slow romantic ballad, entered the Billboard Hot 100 and hung around its lower reaches for a while. The title track Superstar made it to number one on the US disco chart in 1978 and I'll Always Come a Running was another dancefloor favorite.

The mid-tempo Superstar has long intro, the obligatory extended rhythm break in the middle, and impressive synth swooshes and bleeps in the second part. The style is typical period disco with inspiring lyrics about reaching one's dreams. Move In Closer, Moon Dancin' and Go For The Money are similar.

Like most disco albums of the time, half the tracks are mid- to uptempo dance music whilst the rest are ballads. The Bee Gees' influence is heard most prominently in tracks like I'll Always Come a Running with its falsetto backing vocals; this ballad also stands out for its great guitar infusions.

It's no masterpiece but Superstar brings back memories of an innocent era when the fun of the dance rivaled the rebellious rage of punk. The book that best captures the spirit of the disco era is by Albert Goldman.


Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro

4.0 out of 5 stars Germ of Genius, 15 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Kilimanjaro (Audio CD)
Released in 1980, Kilimanjaro marked the emergence of musical genius Julian Cope. From the opening strains of Ha Ha I'm Drowning it's clear that a special talent is at work here. Perhaps not fully realized yet but the lyrics and arrangements still sound fresh and innovative after all these years.

The themes revolve around relationships as in the lament Sleeping Gas with its striking drone infusions and Treason which is characterized by tempo changes and vocal variation. Reward might have been the first single; this is a mid tempo track with an impressive quirky texture.

The trumpets and swirling orchestral arrangement make Went Crazy stand out while the appeal of Brave Boys Keep Their Promises lies in the bouncy rhythm. Another highlight, the uptempo and urgent Thief of Baghdad has a fuller sound than the rest and a mood of intensity whilst the spacious feel of When I Dream concludes the album on an atmospheric note.

If there's a flaw, it might be that despite the aforementioned strong points and innovations, the album initially leaves an impression of sameness, i.e. it is difficult to remember individual songs. Julian Cope's crowning achievement was of course the solo album Peggy Suicide, a multi-layered masterpiece.


Various Positions
Various Positions
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 15 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Various Positions (Audio CD)
This 1984 album, the last of Cohen's folk masterpieces and one subtly spiced with country, never grows stale due to the intricacy of its arrangements - vocal & instrumental - while perennially revealing deeper layers of metaphysical & symbolic significance. Or as one ages one understands better! Particularly sublime is the interaction of male & female vocals calibrated to bring out the best in both. The devotion and the vocals of Anjani Thomas and Jennifer Warnes make a major contribution to the music's enduring beauty.

Cohen's gift of melody & rhythm finds buoyant expression in Dance Me to the End Of Love which may sound catchy and even frisky like a simple pop tune but if one pays attention multiple meanings & possibilities emerge. In contrast, Coming Back to You unfolds slowly and solemnly through a graceful melody wed to imagery that navigates delicately between romantic & divine love. The two tracks The Law and The Night Comes On evoke something of John Berryman's poetic sensibility ... The Moon and the Night and the Men, The Song of the Tortured Girl and above all, Sonnet number 34.

The Night Comes On may be the absolute highlight of this album, a rare gem ranking amongst the greatest of Cohen's songs. Like assembling a pearl necklace, it strings striking images of the domestic & personal, the universal, the spiritual, historical and prophetic on a thread of longing. As the song unfolds, the symbolism unleashes an almost supernatural power that stirs the psyche hinting at or conjuring vague specters of ancient memories. There are close correspondences in the song Anthem on The Future.

Being familiar with John Cale's soaring version of Hallelujah on the tribute album I'm Your Fan and Jeff Buckley's on Grace, Cohen's own sounds somewhat monotone and subdued, still beautiful but constrained within a narrow range compared to the aforementioned. The tale of David & Batsheba that started with desire, led to murder & a string of tragedies but was ultimately transformed into the redemptive, relies in the songwriter's version on the atmosphere created by the female vocals rather than his voice.

The words of the rhythmic lilting song The Captain with its tinkling piano, tangy country flavor & ironic comment on "some country-western song" contain & conceal more than they reveal as they undulate on the tune & the beat. Then the tempo drops for the cold & alienating Hunter's Lullaby that in arrangement (not mood) resembles the 1979 album Recent Songs. The message is baffling but may refer to the subconscious impulses that isolate & lead us astray. There is a sense of menace & desolation without the redemptive introspection of The Beast In Me by Nick Lowe on his album The Impossible Bird.

Cohen's mysticism, masked or open, infuses every song. It manifests most painfully in Hunter's Lullaby & most inspiringly in The Law, The Night Comes On & The Captain while in Heart With No Companion it shines like a thousand suns. The healing power can go everywhere and reach anyone, only & exactly because it has been shattered. It recalls the crack in everything that allows the light in on the aforementioned Anthem, a reference to the shattering of the vessels as explained in the Arizal's The Tree of Life as preserved by Rabbi Vital, and less clearly in the Zohar.

The impassioned Heart With No Companion combines a lilting uptempo beat & hypnotic tune with lyrics contemplating disillusionment, shattered dreams & immobilizing fear exacerbated by a terrifying prophecy: "Through the days of shame that are coming/through the nights of wild distress". These negatives are all erased, however, by the lines: "Now I greet you from the other side/Of sorrow and despair/With a love so vast and shattered/It will reach you everywhere". The defiance expressed by: "Though your promise count for nothing/You must keep it none the less" is in fact the antidote to nihilism, affirming the primacy of spirit and of the word. Land Of Plenty on Ten New Songs covers some of the same territory: "For the Christ who has not risen/From the caverns of the heart/For what's left of our religion/I lift my voice and pray/May the lights in the land of plenty/Shine on the truth some day".

If Hunter's Lullaby seemingly submits to despair whilst Heart With No Companion directly defies it, the final song is a prayer of intercession on an ancient pattern, the same to which The Lord's Prayer conforms. With praise and reverence, If It Be Your Will intercedes not only for the tormented souls in hell but for all the children in their "rags of light," the remnants of the shattered vessels. As a sung prayer it is as moving as Calling My Children Home performed by Emmylou Harris on Spyboy although it is serene where Emmylou's song yearns with burning heartache. The one represents Rachel weeping for her children whilst the other calms the tempest with trust in the Eternal Divine, knowing that Spirit in mercy overrules The Law of cause & effect.

Revisiting Anjani and Jennifer, I highly recommend the first's inspiring album The Sacred Names on which she sings in Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Aramaic, Portuguese & English, and the second's sensitive interpretations of Cohen compositions on her Famous Blue Raincoat, the Twentieth Anniversary edition that has been enhanced by four extra tracks: The Night Comes On, Ballad of the Runaway Horse, If It Be Your Will & Joan of Arc live in Antwerp where the Novecento Orchestra, West Brabants Operakoor & De Tweede Adem support Jenny & her band, adding depth to Cohen's elegy to the Maid of Orleans.
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California [VINYL]
California [VINYL]

5.0 out of 5 stars A highlight of the 1990s, 15 Jan. 2011
This review is from: California [VINYL] (Vinyl)
An outstanding combination of talents meets in Mark Eitzel: an expressive voice, the gift of melodies & arrangements as well as striking imagery that wallows at times in despair and hopelessness of the alcoholic variety. His use of understatement often intensifies the emotional impact. Loss, despair and rejection may be familiar themes but the effect is often uplifting because of the sheer exquisite beauty of the songs.

Kicking off with the melancholy & delicately tuned Firefly with unforgettable poetic lines like: "Are you waiting for loneliness to paralyze, are you waiting for Sister Midnight to anaesthetize?" the sequence of gems continues with the grittier rock of Somewhere that even contains some wry humor. Pale Skinny Girl and Laughingstock are similar in style; the second shifts tempo between slow, half-spoken segments to sung parts and guitar sections. The vocals on Pale Skinny Girl vary from a whisper to a soar and the guitar from sensitive to a roar.

Another favorite of mine which is on a par with Firefly is the majestic Lonely, a song with a killer melody, aching words and penetrating imagery. The poignant and sensitive Blue & Grey Shirt is in my opinion the third entrancing masterpiece on California but the next track Bad Liquor rudely rips the listener out of the trance, being harsh, up-tempo rock. Another track with searing guitar is Highway, a slice of shimmering rock. There is much heartbreak in Now You're Defeated, a complex song with delicate guitar parts and plenty of vocal variation.

Of course the sound is unique but certain songs or feelings do call to mind other artists. Firefly and Lonely for example, remind me of Nick Drake. The exquisite melodies and elegant arrangements bring to mind Sufjan Stevens on a song like Sister from the Seven Swans album. The obsession with Demon Drink is shared by another master of melancholia, ex-Swans leader Michael Gira who is now with Angels of Light. It's difficult to decide which of California or Everclear is my favorite AMC album.


DAVID BOWIE Station to Station
DAVID BOWIE Station to Station

5.0 out of 5 stars Bowie's best album, 15 Jan. 2011
Although Station to Station contains only six songs, they are amongst the most memorable that Bowie ever recorded. The fast-paced title track Station to Station falls in a genre of journey songs - emphatically not the familiar rock road song - like Kraftwerk's 1977 track Europa Endloss on Trans Europa Express that creates the impression of a train ride with constantly changing scenery.

In the disco era, the French singer Patrick Juvet recorded a 14-minute long suite I Love America on his Got A Feeling album that was a musical tour through the United States. Closer to Bowie's style was the hypnotic I Travel with its propulsive rhythm by Simple Minds.

The tempo slows for the melodious Golden Years with its catchy hooks, poetic lyrics, appealing rhythm and soulful tonality. What a gem of a song! Next comes another masterpiece, this time a devotional one. Word on a Wing is a sublime ballad with an enchanting tune and lyrics expressing spiritual yearning. The vocal arrangement is spectacular on many levels, including subtle and soaring sections.

TVC15 is a powerful uptempo number in a sort of proto-disco style whilst the edgy guitar-driven rhythmic texture of Stay and its and tempo shifts place it firmly in the rock tradition. Then follows the theme song of the 1957 movie Wild Is the Wind, written by Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington, originally recorded by Johnny Mathis and later covered by Nina Simone on her album Wild Is the Wind. In its wistful air, this song perfectly complements Word on a Wing.

In my opinion Station is Bowie's best album, surpassing even the influential Ziggy Stardust in song quality and emotional depth.


Station to Station (Jpn)
Station to Station (Jpn)

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In this age of grand illusion ..., 15 Jan. 2011
Although Station to Station contains only six songs, they are amongst the most memorable that Bowie ever recorded. The fast-paced title track Station to Station falls in a genre of journey songs - emphatically not the familiar rock road song - like Kraftwerk's 1977 track Europa Endloss on Trans Europa Express that creates the impression of a train ride with constantly changing scenery.

In the disco era, the French singer Patrick Juvet recorded a 14-minute long suite I Love America on his Got A Feeling album that was a musical tour through the United States. Closer to Bowie's style was the hypnotic I Travel with its propulsive rhythm by Simple Minds.

The tempo slows for the melodious Golden Years with its catchy hooks, poetic lyrics, appealing rhythm and soulful tonality. What a gem of a song! Next comes another masterpiece, this time a devotional one. Word on a Wing is a sublime ballad with an enchanting tune and lyrics expressing spiritual yearning. The vocal arrangement is spectacular on many levels, including subtle and soaring sections.

TVC15 is a powerful uptempo number in a sort of proto-disco style whilst the edgy guitar-driven rhythmic texture of Stay and its and tempo shifts place it firmly in the rock tradition. Then follows the theme song of the 1957 movie Wild Is the Wind, written by Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington, originally recorded by Johnny Mathis and later covered by Nina Simone on her album Wild Is the Wind. In its wistful air, this song perfectly complements Word on a Wing.

The enhanced album has live versions of Word on a Wing where Bowie sings with a blocked nose (a cold or what, hmmm?) and Stay, both recorded on the 1976 Station To Station tour. They are both beautiful and appealing in their slightly different arrangements and vocal delivery. In my opinion Station is Bowie's best album, surpassing even the influential Ziggy Stardust in song quality and emotional depth.


Dylan (A Fool Such as I) (1973) [VINYL]
Dylan (A Fool Such as I) (1973) [VINYL]

4.0 out of 5 stars Great interpretations, 9 Jan. 2011
Originally titled DYLAN upon release in 1973, this album of covers is quite an enjoyable listening experience. It is mostly ignored or unfairly maligned but in fact more appealing than the incomprehensible Good As I Been to You and the feeble Under The Red Sky.

Bob actually sings, the harmonica wails, the organ hums and the female vocals add atmosphere. The backing vocals are vaguely reminiscent of those on Street Legal although this album has more of a country feel than the R&B flavor of Street Legal.

These nine tracks were apparently recorded during the Self Portrait sessions and represent a mix of traditionals, singer-songwriter compositions and pop songs of the time.

The story song Lily of the West gets an uptempo yet somehow vocally subdued treatment while Can't Help Falling In Love With You is done in a country style and the backing vocals here lend it a wistful flavor.

Amongst the pop interpretations, Mr Bojangles and Big Yellow Taxi stand out with their lovely arrangements. A Fool Such As I has a funkier feel, as does the traditional Sarah Jane.

The best tracks are the mournful Mary Ann and the yearning Spanish Is The Loving Tongue. The latter, embellished by Spanish guitar, starts out romantic with sensitive piano then picks up steam after the introduction to become a powerful lament.

The vocal and instrumental arrangements are superb throughout. If this album had been recorded by anyone else bt Dylan at a time when the critics expected so much of him, it would have been considered a very worthy interpretative work.


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