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The Bird That Swallowed its Cage: The Selected Writings of Curzio Malaparte
The Bird That Swallowed its Cage: The Selected Writings of Curzio Malaparte
by Curzio Malaparte
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.35

2.0 out of 5 stars Translator takes a liberty, 6 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Well, although I love Malaparte's writings, this was a massive disappointment.

Quite frankly, the translator has taken one hell of a liberty with his work on the texts; instead of rendering them as prose, he has rendered many of them as blank verse, laid out as poetry Even though Malaparte's finest work could be described as prose poetry (such as the amazing stories in "Woman Like Me"), they weren't written as blank verse and were not meant to be read that way.

For the finest example of Malaparte's work in translation, I'd suggest the short story collection mentioned above, where the translator didn't feel the need to present the work in a form unlike its origin.

Avoid this pretentious, overly-free approach and wait until a more authentic translation appears.

Karl Lagerfeld: Casa Malaparte
Karl Lagerfeld: Casa Malaparte
by Karl Lagerfeld
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.00

3.0 out of 5 stars House Like Me: An Art Project rather than a Coffee Table book, 24 Feb. 2016
I'll begin this review by admitting that I'm a total Capriphile, interested in almost everything and anything about the sublime Italian island that lies just offshore the farthest point of the Sorrentine Peninsula. I'll also add that that of all the (in)famous denizens of Capri, I find Curzio Malaparte the most interesting.

I discovered Malaparte's work through reading about his celebrated house (the actual name of which is 'Casa Come Me' - Italian for 'House Like Me - rather than Casa Malaparte or Villa Malaparte) in a travel guide to Naples & The Amalfi Coast. I had visited Sorrento on business in 2005, found the town enchanting and returned there for a real holiday with my partner in 2007. We naturally took a ferry to Capri during that holiday and on two subsequent stays on the island, have found ourselves looking down on Casa Come Me every time. Before I saw the house -apart from in photographs - I'd read what little of Malaparte's work I could obtain in English (I'd praise his collection 'Woman Like Me' in particular' and was fascinated by the writing, the man and the house.

Getting close to Casa Come Me is virtually impossible. It is situated on a limestone point above the sea and is on private land; the house, despite being a landmark in Modern architecture, has never been open to the public and for anyone wanting to imagine what it must be like to spend time within this amazing home, the best option has been to see it on film. The house features prominently in Goddard's 'Le Mepris' (based on Alberto Moravia's novel 'Contempt' - Moravia was friendly with Malaparte and stayed at the house at times) and 'The Skin' (based on Malaparte's own eponymous book). There are no easily obtainable books on the house that show it at its full glory and in colour (the only books are out of print and one of these is black and white, the other I have never seen, but it has a black and white jacket). The only other book to be available recently is an Italian work which is fundamentally architectural plans with some photographs (again in B & W) with an Italian text. Where did I buy this? Capri, of course...

Lagerfeld's book is an art project, not a sumptuous realist colour photography book, which is what I'd prefer if I'm honest, purely because that would be a starting point for the devotee of Malaparte and his home. As soon as you read about a photography book in a catalogue and see the word "polaroid", you know it's about the texture and expression, not about creating a flawless, pristine record.

As an 'art photography' book, this isn't bad. It captures the detail of the exterior of the house to a degree - focusing on the famous flat roof terrace - and some of the interior. Around two thirds of the book is washed-out polaroid, the rest in strident dark sepia...if I were a painter, I might say "Burnt Umber". When Lagerfeld stayed at the house for five days, the weather was poor (November on Capri is as wet and blustery as anywhere in Europe) and the brooding skies and moisture in the cold air enhance the sombre qualities of the house. So if you're after a moody take on Casa Come Me, you'll love this. I like it, but I'd like it more if I already owned my fantasy volume on the house - full colour shots taken in bright sunlight would really work for me.

The production values are high - lovely grey full clothing binding, good quality thick paper and a tasteful, narrow-wraps jacket - but this is a slight book, no more than 30 pages or so. There is one page of text at the end from Lagerfeld, which is marred by one dreadfully noticeable typo. Being a published writer myself, I'm not normally too worried about such things, as almost every book in the world has setting errors, but this one really is a sore thumb in an otherwise first rate production.

To sum up: Not the gorgeous knock-your-eye-out coffee table tome you might want, but definitely a book that suits the shadowy, strange temperament of Malaparte's own wild writing. I'm glad I own it, even though isn't quite what I hoped. But then great photographic works on Capri and the Amalfi coast are hard to come by...

Loaded: Reloaded 45th Anniversary Edition
Loaded: Reloaded 45th Anniversary Edition
Price: £49.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5.1 DVD Audio Surround Review for Super Deluxe edition of 'Loaded'., 8 Feb. 2016
Although I've been listening to The Velvet Underground for at least 35 years, I've always had a less passionate relationship with the post-Cale lineup of the band; as much as I like the tunes on 'The Velvet Underground' and 'Loaded', I've always found that Cale is conspicuous by his absence from these two albums; the avant-garde edge he brought to the band is almost completely missing. But recently, on some semi-subconscious whim, the urge to rebuy 'The Velvet Underground' came upon me (an album I've already bought 4 times previously - original UK MGM vinyl with the toy soldiers sleeve, the original UK CD, the "closet mix" version in the 'Peel Slowly..' box set and a white vinyl version issued around 10-15 years ago). So when I purchased the 45th anniversary edition, took it home, stuck on the cans and spun it, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely loved every minute of it. This enjoyment at rediscovering a great record led me to rebuy 'White Light/White Heat' (again, I already have four versions) and strangely, I found I didn;t enjoy it as much. Perhaps I'm mellowing with with that thought in mind, I decided it was time to revisit 'Loaded', which for me has always been the very weakest of the band's albums.

After digging out my original CD and listening to it, I realised how it has grown on me over the years. Moving on to the 'Fully Loaded' edition from some years ago, I enjoyed listening to all the alternate versions again, so decided to buy a japanese SHMCD of the 45th anniversary edition, as I didn't think I want to go for the superdeluxe box set...but it was no good, "Cool It Down" was starting to put as much of a hook in me as "Sweet Jane" always had, so I went for the superdeluxe; I had to hear the album in 5.1.

Unlike almost all of the reviewers here, I was primarily interested in the surround/hi def DVD-Audio disc above everything else in the box. Most of it I already owned on previous CD editions and with my original Atlantic LP and a red vinyl Cotillon reissue, I felt safe about most the content - but the siren call of surround did it, as I, unlike so many serious music fans (who for some reason disdain or are disinterested in advanced resolution formats - I can't believe none of them have home theater setups for DVD And Blu-Ray viewing) am very enthusiastic about surround versions of classic albums. When you've been listening to a record forever, it's great to hear it in a different way - so if you want to enjoy alternate takes, demos etc, why not try the 5.1 versions? It baffles me...

Anyway, this review is primarily about the DVD-A disc in the box set, as other reviewers have done a great job of covering the set as a whole here. I'd like to convince more buyers to give the DVDA some attention and I know surround enthusiasts will be interested, so here we go...

The menu screen that pops up on your TV/monitor when you load the disc is refreshingly silent - one thing I can't stand is surround discs that play a loop of some of the music from the album over a menu screen (the recent Pure Blu Ray Audio discs do this - I reviewed the one of 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' here a while ago, if you're interested). The lovely image of that cute, iconic cover design fills the plasma and you're ready to select audio options....

The first argument in the favor of the DVDA of 'Loaded' is that the versions of the song on the surround album are the longest ones to date, which to my way of thinking arguably sets a new standard for the 'definitive' take on the album - so serious fans will want to hear them. Secondly, the original release version we all know from the original vinyl issues and original CD is present here in 96/24, so for those of us who prefer "Sweet Jane" without the 'heavenly wine and roses' refrain (sorry, Lou!), a purist listening to the record in its primary release form is possible. Personally, had I complied the box set, I'd have ditched the second live disc and replaced it with a remaster of this 'original release version' on CD. But if you have a DVD player, you can now listen to a hi def rendering of this mighty fine original.

There are two surround options: DTS 5.1 and 5.1 Dolby Digital. When presented with such a choice, I invariably plump for DTS, as it is punchier, louder and more dynamic (when I first discovered DTS on DVD films, I started buying imports above UK releases if the latter had no DTS option). However, DTS is not to everyone's taste and can be overbearing. I'll cover the Dolby Digital later...

On "Who Loves The Sun", Doug's vocals and the bass drum are seriously over-emphasised at the expense of the guitars and the number loses its fleet, sunny, light quality - an inauspicious start for the DTS rendering.I'll say immediately that the DD 5.1 rendering is much more pleasant, but the reality is that this lovely single isn't as sparkly in separated form as we'd all thought, so in future I'll be sticking to stereo options as definitive, despite the fact that this longer version has a full coda rather than just a fade-out.

"Sweet Jane", however, is a different beast, the wonderful spiraling and criss-crossing guitars of the intro sounding just great across five speakers.

The limitations of the source tape are not entirely absent - the noise at the start of "Who Loves the Sun" is still painfully present and there is noticeable distortion in the left rear speaker on one of the guitar licks during early minutes of "Rock and Roll" - but this is absent in the DD version. The guitar solo is isolated rather than panning, while the smooth melodies of the guitar lick bridge are lovely and there is at least one major guitar line I've not noticed before in both surround versions.The breakdown that comes before the "it was alright." refrain is beautifully handled, with great instrument separation between the speakers.

Digressing just a moment, it is clear here that 'Loaded' was a much more studio assembled recording (given its vintage) than other albums released in 5.1 that sound superior in terms of room ambience and smoothness - in 5.1 mixes of work by The Doors and Miles Davis, there is much greater clarity, warmth and immediacy, but 'Loaded', being a drier, reverb-free production (that like its predecessors did so much to inspire the indie sound of the 80s) feels much more like a studio construct than say 'LA Woman' or 'Kind of Blue' in 5.1. So if you're expecting to feel as if you are in the room with the band, forget it.

"Cool It Down" raises the bar for the surround mix, despite an initial feeling that the guitar was overly prominent above the vocals and snare. The piano solo is spread subtly between left front and left rear speakers and it is on this cut that the surround work on the album really starts to shine. There's a superb, previously unheard extended fadeout - 49 seconds longer than other versions and for me, this is now the definitive version of this underrated song.

The attention shown to speaker separation is also noticeable in "New Age" - many surround albums tend to use the rear speakers mostly for ambience before suddenly projecting a panning guitar or keyboard lick. The mix engineer here avoids the more obvious around-the-set panning beloved of psychedelia (something I love in 5.1 when it's done well, but it wouldn't work for the VU, them being Punk Rockers) but instead settles for more balanced spread of sound between front and rear speakers. Doug's vocal is much better managed here than on "Who Loves The Sun", a nice pan on the backing vocals at one point from rear right to front right and yes, this is a longer version. It's worth remembering that both Lou and Doug's voices are harsher and 'untutored' compared to pure, clear-toned singers like The Byrds, so at high levels they can sound rough, but hey, this is the VU after all!

Bass is a little intrusive at the start of "Lonesome Cowboy Bill", but it soon settles down. The claim that this is about William S Burroughs doesn't stand up for me - well, it may be dedicated to him, but there's nothing in the lyrics (even as metaphor) that seems to confirm that the song is about him (at this point, he hadn't written his SF Western 'The Place of Dead Roads'). The piano rattles along nicely in the left rear speaker, the acoustic guitar in the right rear, a setting the engiener uses on a number of tracks.

On the surround versions "I found a reason' and 'Head Held High' are up next, as apparently they were originally meant to be segued on the album. They're not crossfaded here (i.e. they don't overlap) but there is a drumbeat I don;t recall at the start of "Head Held High". "I found a Reason" of course is reminiscent in feel of Reed's early versions of songs that later appeared on 'Transformer' and the doo-wop vocals are spread nicely across the speakers. In "Head Held High" the handclaps leap out of the rear speakers as do the maracas and the tremolo guitar burst and lead lines are joyfully employed too.

"Train Round the Bend" is over a minute longer and one of the guitar figures bounces and grates gloriously on the intro in the left rear, subtly shifting to the front right, then around the other speakers seamlessly as the song chugs along - great stuff. There's not a huge amount to say about "Oh Sweet Nothing", for me one of the least characteristic tracks the band ever laid down - to me, it sounds like the Flying Burrito Brothers on 'Burrito Deluxe', their disappointing and underproduced second album.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 isn't so loud as the DTS and many will prefer it. It is smoother, less separated and the vocals seem less harsh. "Who Loves The Sun" is less dominated by the vocals and bass drum and overall, the song plods less, but I'll say again this is a number that works better in stereo. "Sweet Jane" has a better guitar/vocal balance here and is noticeably more laid back. Overall, the DD might be a more purist choice for listening to this familiar record in surround.

Finally, the 'Dolby Downmix' takes the 5.1 version and mixes it to stereo, so you get the long versions in two-channel. It's a lot quieter than the original stereo and personally, I'd stick with the latter.

To sum up: no-one who is interested in 'Loaded' will want to miss the surround versions. Audiophiles may be disappointed, but then again, this was the band who often recorded with all the needles in the red.

Night Thoughts
Night Thoughts
Price: £8.46

13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return of the Flashboys: Standard Single CD edition review, 22 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Night Thoughts (Audio CD)
I don't normally post reviews the day albums come out as I've found many, many times that it can take repeated plays for the true quality of a record to come out. However, after two listens at high volume, I'm feeling already that this is a new step for Suede, albeit a sideways one rather than definitively ahead. while there is nothing here as immediate as the punchy Glam Rock singles to be found on 'Coming Up' and 'Head Music', there is soaring yet somehow understated grandeur that puts me more in mind of 'Dog Man Star'.

I have to say at this point that I've never really been much inspired by 'Bloodsports' - to me, it was Suede just being themselves, a little subtler and older perhaps, but somehow formulaic. Bands do need to step outside their comfort zones, even at the risk of alienating fans, as otherwise twenty years pass and reformation albums end up sounding as if the group are trying too hard to sound like themselves ( saw this happen with The Stranglers and Magazine, to name but two). But 'Night Thoughts' is something different, as it may well be some kind of concept album - I bought the standard single CD edition (I've known for ages there was going to be an accompanying film) as I would rather stick with the images the music and lyrics bring to me, instead of being influenced by a film - also, you know that it's likely the deluxe edition will not sell that well and end up in record shops around £12 in a year or two. Maybe I'm making a mistake to not look into the film yet, but as the standard edition is CD only, I feel Suede must think it's safe for fans to just 'do the music' if it suits them.

I haven't had time yet to listen to the lyrics in any depth, but the record does have a narrative feel, with an overture-style opener, tracks that run into each other elegantly rather than being subjected to shoehorning crossfades that sound forced and fake and a penultimate track whose title echoes closely the opening cut's title. The album is of a piece rather than just a collection of songs and while I'm not massively excited by the song titles - which are sparse and simple - this is a big-sounding majestic work that demands attention.

While Suede have always slightly disappointed me by never going keyboardy enough (the exception was the original version of "Europe is our Playground" from the b side of "Trash") and turning the guitars right down - I wanted them to do a 'Low' or 'Quiet Life' personally - they do tick all my Glam boxes; roaring, shiny Ronsonesque guitar, Brett's sneering, swoony, Romantic (note large R) vocals. So for an old Bowie/Roxy fan like me, they've always been fondly admired. However, if you got into Suede when they first appeared and you were 13, you'll be in your late thirties now at least and you'll start thinking that rock bands need to become a lot more lyrically sophisticated and original as you grow older with them...I'm looking forward to really digesting this album to see if Brett and co really can say something to a bloke in his fifties with life experience (seriously, it's hard to take bands in their twenties seriously when they're saying the same thing your peers did in bands forty years ago), but I'm living in hope.

To sum up; while 'Blackstar' will no doubt be unsurpassed this year as an album, this is an ambitious and very welcome album from a great British band who were always much better than their peers (only Mansun and the Manics could rival them, never mind those mod lightweights Blur and Oasis). They've also gone up against the big boys by releasing 'Night Thoughts' on the same day as the revised expanded edition of John Cale's 'Music for a New Society' (aka 'M:FANS'), a record many Suede fans might enjoy in their darker moments. Good stuff, flashboys.

PUMA Ferrari LS Messenger Shoulder Bag Red 07224302
PUMA Ferrari LS Messenger Shoulder Bag Red 07224302
Offered by The Deal Barn
Price: £27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and practical manbag - but careful with the zip, 22 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you want a top quality manbag on the smallish size for that trip to Italy, Ferrari's own Puma shoulder bags are just the job. After all, you probably can't afford one of their marques...

This variant is now no longer available from Ferrari clothing's own website - until recently they did 3 or four designs in this size and in portrait orientation, varying in colour from red to white to black to brown to jade green. They still do lots of other bags, mostly VERY expensive and large. These used to come in around £60 from Ferrari direct - I bought a white one with red strap some 14 months ago - so the seller here offering them for around £30 is doing a good deal.

So what's so great about the bag, apart from how it looks? Well, I'm 6'1" and I like a long strap so that a manbag is at waist level not up under my armpit and I can confirm that this beauty sits happily on the hip when the strap is fully extended. There's an interior pocket and the bag is big enough for keys, wallet, coin purse, shades, mobile, a wrap of tissues, any other small annoying bits of stuff that would otherwise bulge in your jeans pockets and be a pickpocket risk. I've had slightly smaller bags from Diesel and Ted Baker (for example) and they've been just too small for comfort. So if you need a small bag that looks stylish and fits all the basic essentials for walking around Rome, Naples, Capri, wherever, you're sorted. You could probably even wear it in the UK....

One gripe: you have to be careful with the zips- ensure that each side of the bag is pulled aside rather than crushed together when you zip/unzip, as the zip teeth tend to jam in the bag lining if you're not careful. If the bag is full-ish, this isn't a problem, but when empty, it's an issue. I've found zip lining problems to be a major issue with a number of designer label brands (are you listening, designers?) on bags and jackets in particular, something that needs addressing - after all, you expect a more expensive, designer brand to address the performance quality of details. Accessories and clothes need to function well and look good, in my opinion, especially from top brands who are supposedly design icons.

Buy this and although you'll have to endure jokes from less stylish mates about where the car is, you'll look miles better than they do...which isn't hard, right?

Life on Tour with Bowie: A Genius Remembered
Life on Tour with Bowie: A Genius Remembered
by Sean Mayes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of 'We Can Be Heroes', 22 Jan. 2016
I'm breaking one of my own rules here by posting a review of a new edition of a book I've yet so see. However, as the author has been dead for many years -sadly - it is VERY unlikely this book has been revised since the publication of its original version, entitled 'We Can Be Heroes' many years ago. This appears to be the same book - based on the publisher description here - retitled, rejacketed and reissued here to cash in on Bowie's untimely demise.

That said 'We Can be Heroes' is a good, fun little read by a musician who actually worked with Bowie and in that sense, it is of interest to anyone keen on David's work. It's an enjoyable read in itself, depicting the on the road adventures of a bisexual rock musician in the late seventies on a major world tour.

Sean Mayes - originally in obscure rock and roll band Fumble - was invited by Bowie to be pianist on his 1978 Isolar/'Stage' tour that spawned the classic live album of the same name. 'Stage' is, of course, despite what any critic might have said, possibly the best live rock album ever, exceeded only in quality of musicianship and clarity of performance in terms of sound quality and dynamics by '801 Live'. Mayes soon afterward contributed to Bowie's next album, 'Lodger'. As a member of a peerless band that featured Bowie stalwarts Alomar/Davis/Murray and musical geniuses such as Adrian Belew (who later joined King Crimson), Simon House (who was a major star of Hawkwind's best albums and who later guested with Japan on studio recordings) and Roger Powell (of Utopia), Mayes made an excellent contribution to these superb albums.

I've read this book at least four times and have always enjoyed it enormously. you get glimpses of Bowie the man and Bowie the star and lots of entertaining anecdotes about sex and drugs and drinking and rock and roll. It's light, optimistic, never prurient and paints affectionate portraits of Bowie, Alomar, House and others, while Mayes himself comes across as a man who loved life and liked people.

Sadly, Mayes died of complications arising from HIV/AIDS many years ago and never saw his book in print - shame, as not only was he a gifted musician, all-round nice guy and promising rock writer, he clearly loved life and must have been a great man to know and hang out with.

I'd recommend this to all serious fans of Bowie and classic rock in general. If I find that the book is revised in terms of content, I'll revise this review. In the meantime, I'd suggest you buy it. Sean Mayes was there, after all....

Marshland (La Isla Minima) [DVD]
Marshland (La Isla Minima) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Raul Arevalo
Price: £15.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flat places are often featureless and boring...., 10 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Being a devotee of Eurocrime (Novels, TV series and Feature Films), I have to say I am yet to be convinced by anything Spanish. While the Italians and French have been producing magnificent police procedurals, Noirs, hardboiled, gialli (and any other subgenre of Crime you may care to name) for decades, the Scandinavians continue to roll off endless novels and series/films that owe virtually everything to the influence of the great originators of Modern Scandicrime (Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck novels, to be specific), the Spanish laurels rest on the overrated novelist Montalban. The Italians, of course, have the best contemporary crime novelists and TV series producers (aside from the dull Montalbano novels -Camillieri homages Spanish novelist Montalban in the name of his food obsessed hero...oh yeah, food, the very thing lightweights go on an on about when they talk about loving Italian culture, when all they really know about is pasta...).

'Marshland' may be beautifully filmed and have a visually arresting setting, but this, I'm afraid is not everything. Reminiscent of a lightweight 'True Detective' (Season One) in its visual execution, but without the fine characterisation of the superb US series, 'Marshland' is at times opaque to the point of foggy. Falling into the trap of not trying too hard to be explicit results in a lack of real tension, an unclear denouement in terms of articulating the identities and relationships between conspiratorial crooks (Yes, you can work it out, but the resolution is so tossed-off that the implication is that it hardly seems to matter - and maybe it doesn't, because the film is far more interested in making subtle political points about its early Post-Franco setting. Unfortunately, compared to the likes of works by/featuring France's Olivier Marchale ('36', 'MR73', 'Braquo', 'Gang Story'), 'Spiral', 'The Bridge', the Millennium Trilogy, 'Headhunters' and the magnificent Italian works out there ('Romanzo Criminale', 'Gomorrah' - I'm talking about the TV versions here), 'Marshlands is thin, dull stuff.

Some reviewers here have made the point about the good cop/bad cop cliche, but it's more of the dull monosyllabic cop versus the ambiguous ex-Francoite - one warms to the latter more as the film progresses, then as a rumor is confirmed as fact, one;s allegiance shifts - or does it? I for one didn't care, as 100 minutes was way too much time for such a thin bit of storytelling.

At the moment, serious contemporary cinema in Europe is in danger of putting on a fresh set of emperor's new clothes; presentation is once more starting to seem more important to some film-makers than substance, perhaps revealing the fact that maybe they should read more prose fiction (genre or otherwise) and understand that good, taut narrative does not mean that subtlety and style have to be discarded. Genre fiction often works best one it makes one think as much as feel and with 'Marshlands', there is way too much feel.

For a far superior recent Spanish thriller, try 'El Lobo' instead.

The Spirit Of Hawkwind 1969-1976 - STRICTLY LIMITED
The Spirit Of Hawkwind 1969-1976 - STRICTLY LIMITED
by Nik Turner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £51.16

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wind of time is blowing through him...., 30 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In Hawkwind mythology these days, because of the animosity between founder member (and continuing Hawklord) Dave Brock and twice-ousted original member Nik Turner, there is much side-taking amongst some fans of Hawkwind regarding who is in the right and who is in the wrong. Is Nik Turner the true 'Spirit' of Hawkwind, the idealist who espoused true peace, love, understanding and other communal hippy ideals while Dave Brock is a manipulative breadhead? Is Dave right to have sued Nik re the latter's unauthorised use of the name 'Hawkwind' when touring (especially in the USA, which arguably aided scupper Hawkwind's attempts to rebuild the band's profile there by exceeding demand with two acts? Surely the promoters are to blame for using the name...

Do I care? Yes, but I care a lot more about the music Hawkwind produced in the definitive era of the group, the 1970s. Having only seen them in the 80s and 90s, I do know that I enjoyed them a LOT more when Nik was present (and his Inner City Unit gigs and others have been at times amazing) and that I love him and Brock equally. Both, to me, are the spirit of Hawkwind.

'The Spirit of Hawkwind' covers Nik Turner's time in the band as a founder member, from 1969 to 1976. Having read every previous Hawkwind biography (Kris Tait, Ian Abraham and Carol Clerk) as they were first published, I can confirm that there will, in fact, be little new history here for the knowledgeable fan. However, the material on Nik's early life is arguably one of the most interesting parts of the book, almost half of which is taken up with his and Hawkwind's history up to the first album. For anyone looking for more detail of recording sessions, insights into songs and so on, you'll find very little of that here (and of course what is really needed is a book that critically appraises Hawkwind's music culturally, not another biography that covers old ground). There are some new anecdotes about Nik's extra-curricular adventures, but in all honesty, I found these pretty dull, apart from the superb opening section in which Nik's exploration of the Great Pyramid that led to the flute recordings that appear on 'Xitintoday' (Exit Into Day or Exit In Today?) by Sphynx, his first album project post-Hawkwind and the ones that cover the likes of Arthur Kane (New York Dolls). One point that Nik makes that is fundamentally important is how much Dik Mik's audio generator gave Hawkwind a signature sound, something I agree with, though personally I;d say it was the use of copycat echo on a number of instruments that really made the difference - I'll never forget the first time I plugged my Korg monophonic synth into a copycat - I had FINALLY found the Hakwind sound....

Although near the start of the book, the text seems to indicate that there'll be no back-biting, of course the thorny issue of manipulative Dave versus open-hearted Nik arises (how can it not?). Lemmy is also depicted throughout as difficult and impossible to work with from day one - which given his fabled drug intake may well be true - but sadly little is made of his musical impact. We learn little of Simon House, Del Dettmar, Alan Powell, Blackie Rudolph, more about the magnificent Robert Calvert (alongside Brock and Turner the third Genius of Hawkwind), but we are treated to great pictures throughout of the band in colour and black and white, including shots of them with such luminaries as Mick Farren, Alice Cooper (and his then ladyfriend Cindy Lang), Patti Smith (!) and the like. Fans will be relieved to hear that I can confirm that Nik's book contains MANY photographs- not present in other volumes - additionally, I have not seen many of these photographs online, either. Admittedly some of these shots are clearly from photo sessions we know and love that yeilded oft-used and iconic band portraits, but there are many great pics - a lot of Nik of course-that I'd never seen before. One gripe is that the shots are not always presented through the book chronologically, so a 1974 lineup pic will pop up opposite a page of text about 1971, for example.

What isn't made any clearer in Nik's text are the circumstances surrounding his sacking in 76: He doesn't really address the oft-claimed charge that he blew heedlessly on the sax through Dave and Bob's vocals.One thing that is clear is that Nik obviously favoured theearly members of the band over the (quite frankly) much better musicians that succeeded them - and while I have a lot of time for Terry Ollis (for example), I'm really not that interested in Mick Slattery or John Harrison or Thom Crimble; to my way of thinking, Hawkwind would not have produced such great music as they did without the likes of Lemmy, King, House etc. Finally on the text, this is not a first-person autobiography, but a telling of a personal tale by Nik through the third-person prose of Dave Thompson, a workmanlike but respected rock writer with over 100 books to his name - and while some decry Thompson, he's written some good material on many artists I like (I've read over 200 music books) and I think he's insightful and professional.

The book is bound in glossy laminated boards of high quality. Tucked between the front board and the front free endpaper as you open the book are (1) a reproduction of the highly collectable and now very rare 'Sonic Attack' 7" one-sided promo single in a cloth bag - and it's on white vinyl too, and sheathed in a white die-cut paper sleeve, plus (2) there is a greaseproof opaque envelope tipped onto the inside of the front board that contains a facsimile of the promotional chapbook of post 'X' and ore 'Doremi' vintage and a postcard of the poster for a show the band played with Rush in Kansas in 1974..A couple of pages in is a set of cards which can be removed from the binding by carefully tearing the perforations - though of course most fans won't dream of doing this. They are decorated with graphics and lyrics from "Born To Go", "Infinity" and" Silver Machine" amongst others. It could only have been improved in terms of quality if it had been enclosed in a slipcase and the rear board had included an envelope for the single.

Prices for the book have varied enormously depending on where you looked. Amazon are currently offering the book cheaper than anyone else as far as I can tell. It's worth noting that this book is NOT distributed through the terrestrial book trade, but as it is manufactured by Cleopatra Records, you will only find it on sale at outlets that sell music (though I feel very few record shops will have it). It is worth bearing in mind that this is a limited print run - printers give big discounts for large print runs, which is why books of lessser commercial appeal on specialist subjects are often expensive - it's simple supply and demand - and like it or, not Hawkwind are a cult band who, despite being respected in rock and roll quarters mean very little or nothing to the average person in the street under 50. Although the book is pretty expensive compared to similar mass-market offerings (if this was a big print run from a major publisher, it would be £30, adding around £10 max for the single etc, so realistic rrp might first appear to be around £40), buyers have to remember that this is a limited interest item. Anyone expecting it top be a super-deluxe effort of the kind Genesis Publications or Thames & Hudson might produce may feel it is overpriced. But it's a cult collectable, guys, not a potential bestseller.

Overall, although the text didn't enthrall me, I was very happy overall with the presentation of the book, the little extras, the lovely photographs and the idea that this is an item I will treasure always and flick through while listening to my Hawkwind albums at full blast when I enter the old folks' home. I can't imagine any serious Hawkwind fan NOT wanting this gem, unless you come down so far on the side of Brock et al that you'd have joined Alan Davey and his mates in getting Nik chucked out of the 'Wind in 84 (disgraceful!). Personally, I'm very glad I bought it.

Stephen E Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels'
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2016 1:07 PM GMT

The Man Who Sold The World (2015 Remastered Version)
The Man Who Sold The World (2015 Remastered Version)
Price: £5.99

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2015 Remaster: The Man Who Sold the World to a Cartoon Cowboy, 10 Oct. 2015
In this review I''m simply going to try and answer the question Bowie fans will be asking: 'Do I REALLY need to buy this album again?'.

The answer is a resounding yes. I have this album on vinyl, the Rykodisc CD, and a Japanese pressing of the 24bit remaster. We're all thinking more and more that many remasters are over-compressed and brickwalled to death, pumping up quiet moments to the same volume as the rest of the music. Well, this is the most natural sounding version of this classic album since the original vinyl. It's much quieter than other CD versions, but undeniably superior, in that it sounds like an album from the early seventies, not the nineties. Not that it sounds bad or weak in any way, quite the reverse - it sounds warm, natural, organic and clear. The clarity of the mix really comes through, Visconti's bass guitar has never sounded as authoritative and clear, Ronno is as powerful, tasteful and muscular as you'd expect and overall, it just sounds excellent - there's plenty of space in the recording and this version has made me marvel again at the songwriting and arrangements.

Also, if you reverse the booklet, you can have the US cartoon cowboy sleeve design in the window of the jewel case - what larks!!! All we need now is a CD reissue with the black and white Ziggy era high-kick cover livery so many of us grew up with.

Anyone who loves Bowie will really like the authentic sound of this remaster. The 2015 remasters of 'Hunky Dory' and 'David Bowie' (aka 'Space Oddity' are even better - the latter in particular feels better than ever to me.

Just buy it - it's a brilliant album, as you already know, but this is the best CD of it so far, I reckon.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2016 6:38 PM GMT

David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) [2015 Remastered Version]
David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) [2015 Remastered Version]
Price: £4.72

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Bowie aka Space Oddity 2015 Remaster - YES!, 10 Oct. 2015
In this review I'm simply going to try and answer the question Bowie fans will be asking: 'Do I REALLY need to buy this album again?'.

The answer is a resounding yes. I have this album on vinyl, the Rykodisc CD, and a Japanese pressing of the 24bit remaster. We're all thinking more and more that many remasters are over-compressed and brickwalled to death, pumping up quiet moments to the same volume as the rest of the music. Well, this is the most natural sounding version of this classic album since the original vinyl. It's much quieter than other CD versions, but undeniably superior, in that it sounds like an album from the late sixties, not the nineties. Not that it sounds bad or weak in any way, quite the reverse - it sounds warm, natural, organic and clear. The tone colours are simply lovely and the detail is there in spades - the stylophone and mellotron on "Space Oddity" haven't sounded this good for a long time, the acoustic guitar tones are warm and engaging, the details of the arrangements come through as never before....I have to admit I've never enjoyed this album as much as I have listening to this remaster. I've never been a massive fan of this record, but its charm, character, verve and beauty are really coming through for me now. I'm even enjoying 'Memory of a Free Festival' and 'God Knows I'm Good', while 'Janine' and the marvelous 'An Occasional Dream' sound even better than ever (two tracks I've always loved).

What swung me to buy the CD was the restoration of the original album title - 'David Bowie' (this was his second album and the same title had been used for the first album, so in the Ziggy era, the album was retitled and a new cover design used until the late 90s) with the original artwork, but I'm even happier with the music.

Anyone who loves Bowie will really like the authentic sound of this remaster. The 2015 remasters of 'Hunky Dory' and 'The Man Who Sold the World' are equally good.

Just buy it.

PS: Here's a final note, a bit of a query for Bowie collectors - having bought this 2015 remaster, I decided I really needed the '1999 remaster' to complete my collection - from the run that originally bore clear stickers on the jewel cases reading 'The David Bowie Series'. This version, of course, has 'Space oddity' on the cover under David's face, whereas the new 2015 remaster merely says 'David Bowie', the correct, original title of the album (slightly confusing as David's first two albums are both entitled 'David Bowie', the second one usually referred to as 'David Bowie (aka 'Space Oddity' be serious fans and the 2015 remaster packaging). So when buying a '1999 remaster', I spoilt myself and bought a Japanese one - and was amazed to discover it had a totally different vocal take/mix than that on the familiar single, the Ryko edition and the new remaster. If anyone knows if this different vocal take version is on the UK edition of the '1999 remaster', please comment!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2016 12:38 AM GMT

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