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Bedinog (North Shields, England)

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Vaughan Williams: A Cambridge Mass
Vaughan Williams: A Cambridge Mass
Price: £14.78

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The seminal early work, 13 Oct. 2014
At the outset let me make it clear I am not attempting to write a technical critique-I am a music lover who cannot read a note of music. The technical issues I shall leave to the experts, and many enthusiasts will be, like me, grateful for the excellent notes by Stephen Connock and conductor Alan Tongue.
Many of us RVW aficionados have waited several years to hear this work since the manuscript was rediscovered by Alan Tongue in 2007 who gave its premiere (recorded here) in 2011.
Casual listeners may be disappointed if they expect to hear the trademark RVW sounds, but like other early works recorded in recent years, A Cambridge Mass is a fine, if not the finest example of pointing the way to what was to come. It formed Vaughan Williams’ submission for his doctorate of music, and following Cambridge University guidelines, in layman’s terms many bells and whistles of the composer’s art were included, offering a work which is never dull and reflecting the sound worlds of Brahms, Dvorak and Parry. Schubert too, apparently, but being a philistine, I’ve never listened to much Schubert. I caught some glimpses of Handel, too, I have to say, particularly in the utterly joyous Amen and Hosannas.
It isn’t structured as a full Mass, omitting some traditional sections, and retaining Credo, Offertorium, Sanctus and Benedictus.
The Offertorium is for orchestra only and most obviously reflects the mid/late 19th century German classical tradition. Pleasant enough to listen to and for me, unrecognisable as RVW. To my mind the choral and accompanying writing is not a million miles away from the Sea Symphony coming only a few years later, with strong brass phrases adding to the drama. There is little or nothing of the ‘ethereal’ atmosphere of many Vaughan Williams’ later choral works, but instead we have strong, punchy, fresh, zesty sounds which are life enhancing and which must at the time have marked him out as one to be included with the great British composers of his generation.
The CD is clear with just the right acoustic to enable the words to be heard (within the usual limits of the concert hall). Alan Tongue conducts a very enthusiastic performance, his pacing probably ideal- there’s certainly no messing around, and the 45 mins pass quickly.
Parry’s choral masterpiece, Blest Pair of Sirens, is a most appropriate coupling, which at 11mins gives the listener time to make some links to Parry’s pupil’s flexing of choral muscle.
This has to be essential listening for any lover of Vaughan Williams’ music, but also highly recommendable to admirers of British choral music in changing times around the turn of the 20th century
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2015 7:38 AM GMT

Stella Splendens
Stella Splendens
Offered by best-around-sound-and-media-online-trade-eu
Price: £19.09

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid Stella, 8 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Stella Splendens (Audio CD)
The title song on this album, Stella Splendens (from the Libre Vermell de Montserrat)I first encountered arranged as a processional by the early music group Dufay Collective in a Northumberland mediaeval priory years ago. It raised the hairs on the back of the neck as well as tweaking the tear ducts. Since then I have heard this wonderful song in many guises, and is a terrific opener for this CD.
To my untutored ear, Maggies Beth Sand's voice reminds me of both Catherine Bott, a distinguished soprano whose voice has graced several Cds of mediaeval music, and the Canadian Loreena McKennitt, whose repertoire is not dissimilar to Miss Sand's. Indeed the arrangers of this CD seem to have lifted the opening Arabic sounding bass chords from the beginning of Miss McKennitt's 'The Mask and the Mirror'.

Over the past 20 years or so there has been a considerable output of Mediaeval/Celtic/Folk fusion in many different styles and interpretation,and that is part of the richness of the genre-it can stand reinterpretation. Maggie Beth Sand and the Serpentyne group are pretty new to the recording studio it seems, although they have a growing reputation in the concert hall and mediaeval/folk festivals. The 11 songs here include both well known and lesser known items, in a rich variety of cultural styles, whether it be Arab Al-Andalus, traditional English or Eastern European folk. Flavours of sounds further afield, making educated assumptions about the cross fertilisation of musical ideas of different countries make for a colourful album which is never dull.
For experienced listeners, anyone familiar with, say, Mediaeval Baebes, Loreena Mckennitt, New London Consort, Ensemble Unicorn, Oni Wytars will find much to enjoy in this 57 minute collection of European folk music fronm the 12th to early 17th centuries.
For anyone unfamiliar with this highly enjoyable genre, this disc can be recommended wholeheartedly as a great place to start.

The Solent
The Solent
Price: £12.21

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solent silent no more, 1 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Solent (Audio CD)
I suspect there have been many Vaughan Williams aficionados and less expert admirers who have wondered for years about the early, unrecorded The Solent 'Impression for Orchestra.' This admirer certainly has, and the wait has been well rewarded. But that is jumping the gun.
This latest offering from Albion Records, the recording arm of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is arguably the finest in an admirable catalogue. At first glance, a motley 60min collection with little to connect the individual works, but on closer examination all are based on or inspired by poetry or other literature, and generally cover the composer's earlier and later career.
We are indebted to fellow composer James Francis Brown for editing (and in the case of the first, completing)the Three Impressions for Orchestra,composed in that fascinating period before VW's lessons under Ravel which led to his characteristic mature style. For me these three pieces, given their premiere recordings here are the heart of the new disc, each containing themes and ideas developed in later works.
The first, Burley Heath, for all it depicts the country scene of the title, has a distinctly marine flavour to it, with its leaping figures at one point, to my ears at least anticipating the 'penguin theme' in Sinfonia Antartica. There is, nevertheless, a quite hefty Brahmsian influence here, but I can find some hints of Bax, and even Debussy.
So we come to the almost 12 minute impression, The Solent, beginning with a plaintive melody on clarinet, seeming silence then taken up on high strings, Tallis-like, in an absolute tearjerker moment. This is yet another expression of RVW's analogy of water/sea for life's journey, the mystery and uncertainty. It's a melody familiar to admirers from The Sea Symphony, England of Elizabeth, and his final, 9th Symphony where it is introduced on the flugelhorn of all things. The Solent is by no means 'fully RVW', with German influence still much in evidence, with at least a hint of the Parsifal Holy Grail (again, to my ears). For me, this little gem alone is worth the price of the Cd.
The third impression, Harnham Down, is yet another precursor, this time, of the much later Oxford Elegy, based on part of Matthew Arnold's Scholar Gypsy, set for orchestra alone. There remains the German influence in this early 1904 work, Wagners Tristan comes to mind. Again, well worth having.
Arrangements of the Songs of Travel (first book) and Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Strings form the middle of the disc with a superb contribution from tenor Andrew Kennedy.
The other premiere recording is music for the 1951 radio play The Mayor of Casterbridge, the main theme of which was reused by RVW in his Prelude on an Old Carol Tune, also given here and bookending the incidental music with the Weyhill Fair Song (a tune also used in the play) sung very characterfully by baritone Roland Wood.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Paul Daniel are no strangers to recording Vaughan Williams, and the magnificently recorded performance is full of character, robustness and sensitivity in every department.
The excellent informative 20 page booklet,by Stephen Connock, with its atmospheric picture of The Needles complete the package. An utter joy.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2013 1:57 PM GMT

Benjamin/ Lucas: Film Music (Chandos: CHAN 10713)
Benjamin/ Lucas: Film Music (Chandos: CHAN 10713)
Price: £14.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gap filled, not dam busted, 7 Feb. 2013
Arthur Benjamin was probably a little better known than Leighton Lucas, but neither name has exactly been in neon lights. The record shows thet both contributed music either in part, or wholly to some 20 British films, although I suspect Lucas' arrangements found their way into the incidental scores of more than he was ever credited for.
The booklet cover for this album is very much its calling card with eagerly awaited suites from 'Ice Cold in Alex' and The Dam Busters'. It's what drew me, along with two other 'war' scores 'Target for Tonight' and 'Yangtze Incident'. Alright, this latter is strictly post-war, but Richard Todd in uniform and a WW2 Royal Navy ship in conflict....
Who can forget the determined jaunty tune for Katy the ambulance in 'Alex'or the famous 'Dam Busters' march- here, in its correct truncated film form, along with a little of the incidental music reconstructed and arranged by the indefatigable Philip Lane. Mr Lane's efforts extend to virtually all the music offered and he is owed a great debt of gratitude here as in many other albums.
Some of the music on offer was written for shorts and documentaries, including Lucas' 'This is York', not particularly interesting other than the depiction of steam trains, and Benjamin's rather more colourful 'Conquest of Everest'. Perhaps the highlight of the Benjamin scores is the Storm Clouds Cantata from 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1934) which Bernard Herrmann opted to keep in the 1956 remake alongside his own score.
Cues from 'An Ideal Husband' 'Portrait of Clare' and 'Stage Fright' round out the album.
Rerecordings such as these are sometimes criticised as being overblown in view of the paucity of the orchestral resources available for the orginals but I do think conductor Rumon Gamba manages to capture the atmosphere very well indeed.
A well illustrated, excellent 42 page booklet in English/French/German complements the 68 min listening experience.
Essential for anyone caring about British film music of the mid 20th century.

Grumpy Old Men & Grumpier Old Men [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Grumpy Old Men & Grumpier Old Men [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer delight, 21 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
So glad there's an All Region version at a good price through Amazon- buyers need to check carefully.
I'm no expert but the bluray versions of both films shows them better than ever before, and both look very natural indeed.
As to the films themselves, I don't hold with the sequel being inferior;or not much anyway. It is simply pure joy watching the wonderful team of Lemmon and Matthau, in many ways ageing versions of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple,sparking off each other and the even more decrepit Burgess Meredith, stealing every scene he's in notwithstanding the fact he'd contracted Alzheimer's disease.
As much a meditation on the fears and anxieties of old age, and even death itself, as anything else, any one of us who who's had a dad like any of the grumpies (or combination of all three) will by turns laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.
Romantic entanglements with glamorous Ann-Margret, with a stunning Sophia Loren appearing in the sequel, whilst perhaps unlikely, will appeal to some of us of a certain age, I'm sure. Kevin Pollak and Darryl Hannah play the next generation working out their relationship, with the oldies dispensing the wisdom of life experience as much as realising they're out of their depth in a different age.

I just love it. And as long as I have these to watch, I can recapture something of my own late dad's antics, and realise I'm not so very different.
Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2014 3:22 AM BST

Great British Movies - WWII [DVD]
Great British Movies - WWII [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Finch
Price: £12.09

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than flag wavers, 19 Nov. 2012
Four not-so-common British WW2 films at an attractive price has to be a big plus.
To get the classic groan out of the way, all four are black & white, and in aspect ratio 4:3, 'Theirs is the Glory' being the only one shot in that format, the others in various widescreen ratios. A couple of them may be available in widescreen but probably expensive even if tracked down. Like most viewers I'd prefer the ideal but given that isn't going to happen any time soon, I accept it and appreciate the films for what they are. Each of them have been reviewed by others under their separate titles, the separate issues (Strawberry Media/Spirit Entertainment)being identical to the boxed set.

'Theirs is the Glory'(1946).
I confess I'd not heard of this, the progenitor of Richard Attenborough's later 'A Bridge Too Far',and which focuses on the British 1st Airborne Division's assault on the Arnhem bridges in Operation Market Garden. The 79 minute running time doesn't allow for coverage of the American landings at Eindhoven and Nijmegen. Probably unique in using soldiers who had actually fought at Arnhem (including Freddie Gough, leader of the recconaissance squadron whose job was to rush straight for the bridge, and Lt Col 'Dickie' Lonsdale) and using genuine, wrecked Arnhem locations, it is one of the finest war docu-dramas you'll ever see,combining genuine newsreel and dramatic footage so well that sometimes it's difficult to see where one stops and the other starts. Performances from the totally non-professional cast are incredibly good, without excessive woodenness. Although not named, the narrator (absolutely essential to let us know what's going on) sounds a dead ringer for Leo Genn. A magnificent tribute to the Airborne forces.

'Conspiracy of Hearts'(19601)
Not well known these days, this Italy-set film tells the story of a convent of nuns helping smuggle out Jewish children from a nearby internment-cum-concentration camp, and the problems arising when the Italian guards are replaced by Germans. Largely free of histrionics, the harrowing subject matter is handled with respect, thanks to fine central performances from Lilli Palmer (the mother superior), Albert Lieven (German commander) and Ronald Lewis (the Italian commander, possibly in his best role). The issues of moral responsibility, religious sensibilities, and the claims of duty are handled very well indeed, and have great resonance in today's troubled world. It's a real tear-jerker be warned- the children are terrific. A great tribute to all who risked life and limb to rescue the persecuted.

'Seven Thunders'(1957)
This, yet another tribute film in my view- to those who took risks helping prisoners of war to get back home. Set in 1943 Marseille, it concerns the lives of two British POWs hiding in a safe house en route to Gibraltar, playing cat and mouse with the German occupiers, and trying to figure out who can and who cannot be trusted. Stephen Boyd stars (just before his star rose with and fizzled out after 'Ben Hur')with a host of familiar 1950s supporting players from Brit films, including James Robertson Justice somewhat cast against type. As much a thriller as war film, well worth a watch for the tremendously atmospheric Marseille locations.

'Operation Amsterdam'(1959)
One of the most underrated Brit war films, this classic, tense (factually based) tale of attempts to smuggle industrial diamonds from Amsterdam to Britain under the noses of the invading Germans once again largely avoids melodrama for stark storytelling. There's not a minute wasted as we share the knotted stomachs of the protagonists frantically working against the clock. British army major Tony Britton probably has his best cinema role here, with Alexander Knox and Peter Finch ever reliable as the two Dutch diamond experts. Eva Bartok's performance as a woman in an emotional no-man's land has been unjustly hammered over the years in my view. Fine supporting cast, too, with the references to the probable fate of the Jewish diamond merchants played straight, and without sentiment, all the more harrowing for that.
Shot on location in Amsterdam and the port of Ijmuiden,there's a fine sense of realism and atmosphere, highlighted by the genuine Dutch pierement (street organ)soundtrack.

Altogether an unusual film collection, not a dud among them, and two truly great. Anyone interested in British WW2 films should find a great deal of pleasure here.

Rawsthorne: Film Music
Rawsthorne: Film Music
Price: £13.73

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills vital gap in British film music, 14 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Rawsthorne: Film Music (Audio CD)
This is yet another in Rumon Gamba's fine series of film music on Chandos, and here he's turned his hand to the much underrated British composer Alan Rawsthorne, perhaps better known for his film rather than concert work, the reasons perhaps more likely to do with a post WW2 trend towards more dissonant and avant-garde compositions than anything else.
Whatever the reasons, Rawsthorne was responsible for some fine film scores in the 1940s and 50s in particular, and in common with so many, his scores were often a lot better than the films themselves, at least viewed today. Jack Hawkins' picture on the cover suggests the 'Cruel Sea' score dominates but sadly it doesn't, with only a 5min Prelude and Nocturne (arranged and orchestrated by Philip Lane), which at least captures the turbulent, unforgiving, freezing vastness of the sea,which, as both book and film remind us, with the advent of war, is made more cruel.The nocturne is the despairing, desperately sad little meditation on the result of the ship's sinking, the struggle of the crew to survive in the open sea, and the rescue of the pitifully few remaining alive. I defy anyone watching the sequence on film to remain unmoved. Yes, I'll admit this happens to be a very special film and score to me.
The remaining 68 mins of this wonderful collection is made up of several premiere recordings, variously arranged/reconstructed by Philip Lane and Gerard Schurmann (himself introduced to film work by Rawsthorne), and most of them to a greater or lesser extent reflect some of the same turbulent power of the Cruel Sea, with themes on brass or woodwind singing over scampering, scurrying pell mell-like strings, very much a hallmark of the composer, or plaintive little themes, inevitably tinged with sadness. Only occasionally for instance at the conclusion of the substantial(18min) suite from 'The Captive Heart'or 'Burma Victory'(12mins)is there any real sense of celebration. These two, along with the aforementioned 'Cruel Sea' are WW2 film scores, the first being probably one of the finest war films ever made, dealing with the boredom and occasional tensions of prisoners of war.
'West of Zanzibar' and 'Where No Vultures Fly' are both set in East Africa, and concern ivory poaching (a sadly topical subject today, God help us), but for all the difference of location, Rawsthorne's music manages to convey the same sense of turbulence and frustration common to the others. The remaining selections are all worth having, too, and for anyone already familiar with Rawsthorne's trademarks, this disc is full of them.
If I have one small gripe- and it's a gripe common to many modern rerecordings, it is this. The arrangements fit the concert hall fine, the originals, however, were leaner, often with much smaller musical ensembles, and having a little extra edge to reflect the onscreen action. This is trifling, however, and it is great to see that since this issue, several other cds of neglected British film music and composers have appeared on Chandos.
This superb Rawsthorne collection fills an important niche, and might well encourage listeners to explore some of his concert works too. Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic Orch have done Mr Rawsthorne proud.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2013 11:38 AM GMT

Sir Gawain & The Green Knight
Sir Gawain & The Green Knight
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £73.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than good Goodwin, 2 Nov. 2012
It's not just actors who get typecast, composers do, too, and in the public eye at least, the name of Ron Goodwin conjures up the thrilling rat-a-tat-tats of such classic wartime film scores as 633 Squadron, Battle of Britain, and Where Eagles Dare, to name just three. Indeed it seemed he was composer of choice for these great actioners of the 1960s. Tucked away, however, in his impressive canon, are two scores he wrote, 10 years apart, for two Arthurian efforts, Sword of Lancelot and this one, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Neither score received much public exposure,at least until now when for the first time, the maestro's entire recorded cues for the latter has been issued on this double CD issue from Intrada,receiving all the careful reconstruction and restoration associated with this respected label. The sound is extremely good, clear and full, without any congestion (to my ears)
The impressive 16 page booklet gives a potted history of the recovery of the tapes (apparently in excellent condition)from the late composer's estate, as well as that of the making of the film itself.
What of the music, then? I remember someone once saying that Goodwin's title music is always good, the incidental material less so, and often repetitive. Well frankly that can be said about any number of film scores, and is inevitable by the nature of its function, particularly action films where it simply helps speed the action along.
This score is a bit of an eye opener though, with perhaps Ron Goodwin's most purely beautiful title music ever, a lasting memory for nearly 40 years when I first heard it in a TV broadcast. Quiet, pseudo-medieval mandolin and harp chords give way to a glorious pastorale-love theme with the single plaintive trumpet singing Gawain's innocent heroic motif painting a picture of the idyllic England that never was. It's a yearning for purity and peace rooted in the legends of old, reflecting the hopes of what was, in reality a troubled, violent society, and as such is very moving. These themes recur throughout the score but transformed and pulled about depending on the characters' circumstances and moods, so that one is never tired of hearing them. The menacing descending four note motif for Gawain's nemesis, the Green Knight (who of course turns out to be nothing of the sort)punctuates the score regularly but necessarily as he is an ever present character throughout the film.
Personally I found the first part of the score of greater interest because of the (to me at any rate)greater musical variety, for there's a fair amount of battle music in the second half.
Is there enough variation to warrant acquiring this admittedly expensive score? The short answer is a resounding yes, for there's more than the listener might expect
in the average Goodwin score, and here's where the Goodwin fingerprints are well in evidence. For all the pseudo-medieval sounds, and wonderful fanfares that sound like a meeting of Miklos Rozsa and Georges Delerue, there's a 'Gawain galop' which in another life could be the build up before the air battles in The Battle of Britain,deep suspense on cellos and double basses right out of 633 Squadron, Where Eagles Dare or Battle of Britain, with magic and mystery interpreted by vibraphone and harp which isn't a million miles away from the underwater sequences of Submarine X1. There's also a nod or two to the famous cable car scenes in Where Eagles Dare. In other words, you know it's a Ron Goodwin score. A very fine one. Probably one of his very finest. And believe me, that's hard to say given that I have loved all of those classic wartime scores for many, many years and couldn't imagine another to top them.
It should be noted that this is a limited issue as is often the case with many restored soundtracks from the likes of Intrada, FSM etc, and they are labours of love by professional engineers and producers from the world of film, and that is reflected in the price. As with all these things, you count your pennies and make your choice. This one's a winner though.
Total timing over the 2 discs is 86 mins

Ost: Genghis Khan
Ost: Genghis Khan
Price: £36.22

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Khan deliver a tune., 26 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Ost: Genghis Khan (Audio CD)
Along with the true masterpieces of the costume genre of the early 50s-mid 60s came those professing to be nothing but simple colourful entertainment, and at that level, it was provided in spades, not least of which was often provided by the music. The Yugoslav Dusan Radic provided scores for two of these adventures, 'The Long Ships' and this one, 'Genghis Khan', in 1965. The score is dominated by the heroic March of the Mongols, a rousing cod-oriental procession with some wonderful whooping horns punctuating the climaxes, and which manages to weave its way through several of the cues. The (inevitably) string-based love theme, like the rest of the score, is something Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov or Khachaturian might have written, and is quite beautiful. It gets a few airings with variations too. The remaining themes are delicate, percussion-heavy cues for China and the Emperor, and as is to be expected for that period , is the Western idea of how Chinese music should sound, without being authentic at all.
It's a very short CD at 32 mins. The sound quality of the original tapes and LP issues were never brilliant, and the cd sometimes sounds a bit pinched, and is also a mono recording ( no true stereo masters exist), not uncommon for the period, but this works to the music's advantage in adding to the zip. Overall, this cd is a great deal of fun, and any admirer of the composers I've mentioned, or say, of Franz Waxman's 'Taras Bulba' will not be disappointed.
It's a limited issue of 1000 discs, and quite expensive; however, patient waiting and searching often pays off where prices are concerned.

1000 Years of Annoying the French
1000 Years of Annoying the French
by Stephen Clarke
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A smile for each year, 4 Jun. 2012
An ideal book to read curled up on the sofa in front of the fire on a cold night (most nights in the UK)if you're female, or settled on the privy if you're a bloke- except for Oxford dons or donnas, or whatever lady dons are called, who probably wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.
Some reviewers take the Francophobe thing a bit too seriously, and in fact if your school days were spent desperately trying to stay awake during snoozeville school history lessons, this is a pretty good way of tracing Anglo-Saxon (Mr Clarke pulls in the Americans quite a bit)-French relationships over the last millenium, filling many gaps we weren't taught much about, such as colonial and exploration rivalries in far flung corners of the planet, as well as cultural issues ranging from spats over cuisine to fashion. Humour abounds, but the author doesn't skimp on uncomfortable events where Brits or English don't come out well either His affection for France and the French is obvious-after all, don't most of us poke the most fun at our friends?
I have to say there is one tiny thing that does irritate me in this book. When he's dealing with WWII, Mr Clarke refers to German 'Panzer tanks'. 'Panzer' is simply German for 'tank' or 'armoured', so he's actually saying 'tank tank' or 'panzer panzer'. It's either just plain 'tank' or 'panzer'. So there we go, a Brit irritated by something in a book about irritating the French on a matter which has nothing to do with the French at all.
I suppose the acid test is the answers to the questions: would this book enourage me to read further on the subjects he covers, or read one of his other books? The answer is very likely, on both counts.

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