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M. HOPKINSON (Hampshire, England)

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Semper Femina
Semper Femina
Price: £9.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... fourth album Once I was an Eagle as her best. But I think that Semper Femina may be ..., 12 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Semper Femina (Audio CD)
I had previously regarded Laura Marling's fourth album Once I was an Eagle as her best. But I think that Semper Femina may be better. It helps that the opening track Soothing is outstandingly good. Also, a lot of attention has been paid to the instrumental arrangements, with the result that the album sustains musical interest throughout with its variety and the quality of playing. None of the songs are weak and there is a coherent thread through the album. Finally, I would congratulate Laura for recording her six album by the age of 26 - a very high productivity rate these days, particularly for someone producing materiel of such quality.

Original Album Series Vol. 2
Original Album Series Vol. 2
Price: £13.76

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good companion collection for Volume 1, 25 Feb. 2014
This 5-CD collection includes three of Otis Redding's four posthumous studio albums, Dock of the Bay, Love Man and Tell the Truth and the original versions of two of his live albums, the second also released posthumously. However, don't let the word posthumous put you off. At the time of Redding's death in December 1967 there was enough quality unreleased material to justify these releases.

Dock of the Bay made history as the first posthumous album to reach No. 1 in the UK charts. It was followed by "The Immortal Otis Redding", which is missing from this collection. Love Man, released in 1969 also has a number of good tracks, most notably the wonderfully unique Direct Me, which was a successful single. Tell the Truth (1970) is weaker by comparison, marking as it does, the end of the supply of new material.

Otis Redding's live recordings are always worth having, as they successfully convey the excitement in his performances and are well-recorded given their age. Live in Europe and At the Whiskey-A-GoGo share share a number of songs, but the former is, in my view, the better and the latter gives you his only recording of James Brown's Papa's Got a Brand New Bag.

As some other reviewers have noted, there are good reasons to invest in the later, enlarged, versions of the live albums, Also, two studio albums are missing from the Original Album Series Volumes 1 and 2: King and Queen (recorded with Carla Thomas) and the Immortal Otis Redding. Finally, if you ever get the chance to buy Live at Monterey, I would go for it. These are my only reasons for giving this collection four stars instead of five. Completists may want look for alternatives, but when all's said and done, the entry price for these 5 CDs makes them good value, even if you eventually end up with some duplication.

Original Album Series
Original Album Series
Price: £14.99

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five interesting albums from an artist with a unique style, 28 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Original Album Series (Audio CD)
Born in Scotland, but raised in Bournemouth, Al Stewart started out as a budding lead guitarist in 1960s pop bands before establishing his own style as a singer songwriter. The five CDs in this package include his first three albums (1966-70) and two from his mid career during the late 1970s. He is still going strong, playing on both sides of the Atlantic.

The title track from the 1976 album Year of the Cat, included in this set, is the song almost everyone will have heard. It was his first hit. The album is probably the most commercial that he has yet made and has a strong collection of songs including On the Border and Flying Sorcery, a song based on Amy Johnson. The 1978 album Time Passages was the follow up. Although it has some good songs, it is, in my view overall slightly less successful.

The three early albums are particularly interesting, each having its own distinctive sound and atmosphere. The first, Bedsitter Images was released in two versions, both of which were notoriously difficult to find in the days of vinyl. The version here is the earlier and, arguably, stronger collection of songs. Whilst it has been criticised for overuse of orchestration, there is no escaping the fact that Stewart was already emerging as a highly original songwriter who consciously avoided cliché. The subject matter varies widely, but some of the tougher songs cover the seedier side of London life. They include a jaunty little number (and remember we are talking 1966 here) about the perils of a career in male prostitution.

The second album Love Chronicles is better known and has a particularly fine collection of songs, although the title track is notorious for its use of the F-word. There is also a strong cast of musicians, including Jimmy Page who supplies some telling guitar fills. The third album, Zero She Flies is less striking on a first listen, although over the years I have found that it rewards repeated listening. it has a number of good songs, including Stewart's first foray into history as a subject, and is a showcase for his talent as an acoustic guitarist.

Some of the original vinyl LP came in gatefold sleeves, complete with lyrics on the inside. One of the downsides of the Original Album Series packages is that you lose the benefits of any original packaging, and with it the lyrics. However, in this case, it is less of an issue in that Al Stewart has a exceptionally clear (although light) voice and you can hear every word sung. For the very modest asking price, I would recommend that anyone should give it a try.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2017 10:39 PM GMT

Original Album Classics
Original Album Classics
Price: £11.17

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Complete Studio Albums Collection is Better Value, 10 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Original Album Classics (Audio CD)
This 3-CD collection includes Cohen's fourth, fifth and sixth studio albums, released in the 1970s. Its not such a bad deal, but unless these happen to be the albums you are missing, you would probably be better off buying the "Complete" Studio Albums Collection, comprising 11 CDs. (I say "Complete" in inverted commas because the collection predates Cohen's 12th album, Old Ideas).

One issue is that these three albums are not quite Cohen's best, but rather, represent a period of transition. The first, New Skin for the Old Ceremony is the last he recorded using his early approach of lugubrious vocal backed with simple musical arrangements. Whilst, as with all his albums, there are a number of good songs. It also features the introduction of humour to his songwriting in lyrics of Field Commander Cohen. However, I would rate ealier albums such as Songs of Leonard Cohen or Songs from a Room ahead of it.

The second CD, Death of a Ladies Man has long divided opinion. On the down side, there are Cohen enthusiasts who write it off as an unmitigated disaster. Undoubtably, Cohen's vocals framed by Phil Spector's expansive wall of sound production is one of the most incongruous combinations issued in the history of recorded music. However, there are compensations in that several of the songs are good, with some, such as True Love Leaves no Traces, which are sadly neglected in Cohen's live albums. Ideally you would have the lyrics to appreciate the hidden qualities of this album, but alas you will not get them with this box set.

The third CD, Recent Songs contains another great song The Traitor, which seems to have otherwise vanished from Cohen's repetoire. It also represents a period in which he began to move towards the type of band with which he now performs. Again, the album is worth having, but not up to the standard of his next, Various Positions, which includes classics such as Hallelujah.

So, if you want a punt at Leonard Cohen, I would suggest either buying one or two of his best, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Various Positions or I'm Your Man, or going the whole hog and investing in the Complete Collection. Just be warned - it could more addictive than you think!

Original Album Series
Original Album Series
Price: £13.19

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five of Her First Six Solo albums, 12 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Original Album Series (Audio CD)
Roberta Flack's recording career started late - just before she turned 30. She had been classically trained, initially as a pianist and then on voice, but turned to modern music whilst teaching. Her singing is exceptional for its clarity and her ability to convey emotion.

The first CD in this set is her first album, First Take, released in 1969, and is the most accomplished debut I have ever come across. Combining pop, soul and jazz styles, this is crossover music of the highest order. It was not an instant, success, but "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" became a huge hit in 1972.

The second CD is her third album, Quiet Fire, a title that accurately describes Flack's early style. Most of the songs are delivered at particularly slow tempo, but with a passion that makes this far from dull.

The third CD, Killing Me Softly, starts with the major hit of the same name. It is another excellent album, but one in which her style starts to transform into one that is more maintstream.

The fourth and fifth CDs, Feel Like Making Love and Blue Lights in the Basement are good quality albums, but, at times, lack some of the distinctive features that make the earlier albums so interesting. Nevertheless, they still contain good songs and Flack's singing is peerless.

One factor to consider is that at least two of these albums (Quiet Fire and Feel Like Making Love) are deleted as single CDs - so, short of paying an exhorbitant price in the second hand market this is the only way to get hold of them. Thus, although I would otherwies recommend First Take and Killing Me Softly as single CD purchases, this set is an economical way of buying Quiet Fire and getting the other two CDs as a free part of the bargain.

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International
Price: £22.37

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a listen, 18 Feb. 2012
There is plenty amongst these 4 CDs to keep you interested, and with 73 tracks (some of which are missing from Amazon's listings) the price gives you good value for money.

It has always seemed to me that there are primarily two success strategies for artists covering Dylan's work. The lower risk strategy is to keep it simple by singing clearly - the words matter and we should be able to hear them. It helps if the instrumental arrangement differs from the original, although one should avoid it being too fussy. On this collection, Diana Krall, Mark Knopfler, Natasha Bedingfield, Bryan Ferry and Kris Kristofferson have adopted this strategy to excellent effect. In Bryan Ferry's case I would rate his version of Bob Dylan's dream above any of the tracks in his "Dylaneque" album. Unsurprisingly, Joan Baez's Seven Curses is another keep it simple success, although it was recorded back in 1991. Best of all, however is Adele's live and direct version of Make You Feel my Love.

The other Dylan cover success stategy is to rearrange the original. It is higher risk, but has previously produced classics such as Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower. On this collection, much of the interest is generated by the surprising high proportion of artists who have taken the re-arrangement route. The results are mixed, but Tom Morello the Nightwatchman, Bad Religion and the Dave Matthews band would be amongst my own picks for the best.

However, best of all is a combination of both strategies - clear vocal with a successful re-arrangement. Back in the 1960s, Judy Collins achieved this with her stunningly cool live version of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. On this occasion, my hat goes off to Thea Gilmore and Evan Rachel Wood for their versions of I'll Remember You and I'd Have You Anytime.

The downsides of this album (and the my only reasons for four stars rather than five) are that one artist/style after another produces incoherence and that, inevitably, there will be some tracks you will dislike. There are at least three that I really can't abide. However, it would be unfair to name them - not least because your opinion may be different to mine.

Back In The Motherland
Back In The Motherland
Price: £11.02

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buy "Live in Concert" instead, 1 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Back In The Motherland (Audio CD)
This radio show CD was recorded shortly after the 1988 tracks featured on the excellent "Live in Concert" CD and uses the same musicians and backing singers. Unfortunately, the recording is just not of the same fidelity. It sounds as through the radio company streamed the live transmission and has simply reproduced it years later for this CD. The microphone popping and muddy producton, which might not have mattered so much for analogue radio are a real distraction.

To check, I listened to Joan of Arc on both this CD and "Live in Concert. The latter has much the better sound definition. As a Cohen enthusiast, I will probably hang onto "Back in the Motherland" rather than return it because, with the exception of Joan of Arc the 1988 song selections are different. However, I suspect it will not be much listened to. For me was the highlight was the maudlin version of Take this Waltz, which seemed more in keeping with the lyrics than the original (jauntier) studio version.

In the meantime "Live in Concert" can still be bought for £2.99 on Amazon, which makes this CD seem like a right old rip off.

How to Manage Project Opportunity and Risk: Why Uncertainty Management Can be a Much Better Approach Than Risk Management
How to Manage Project Opportunity and Risk: Why Uncertainty Management Can be a Much Better Approach Than Risk Management
by C. B. Chapman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £36.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have for Anyone Serious About Project Risk, 23 Nov. 2011
This is the third edition of what is widely regarded as being the most academically sound book on the project risk management process. The first edition was published in 1997 and the second in 2003. This edition is a significant rewrite, so even if you have earlier copies, I would consider buying this one as well.

As a warning, project professionals who have become familiar with commonly used techniques such as risk registers prioritised using Probability-Impact Matrices (PIMs) may be in for a shock. In this edition the authors spell out, with good reason, why they think PIMs should be scrapped. They also emphasise the importance of treating the process from the perspective of uncertainty (i.e. lack of certainty), whereas common practice is more often rooted in a simpler treatment of risks and opportunities as potential events. Finally, as with previous editions, they recommend the use of an iterative multi-pass process through which new insights and responses are developed iteratively using a combination of top-down and bottom up thinking. Although some these ideas might seem alien in some quarters, they can be the key to transforming your process capability by making it applicable to the earlier more strategic phases of a project and unlocking a treasure chest of techniques that can be selected and applied as appropriate.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Deluxe Edition)
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £11.54

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic album preserved after many false starts, 23 April 2011
Although Village Green Preservation Society was a commercial failure when originally released its reputation has burgeoned over the years. This reputation is well-founded. The songwriting is of a consistently high standard and the band is playing at its best.

At the time, Ray Davies was just short of enough material for a great double album. The first 12-track single album was hastily withdrawn amidst arguments about the best way ahead, to be replaced by the better known 15-track version. Five songs were added by the change and two songs removed: Days (which had become a successful single) and Mr Songbird. The confusion resulted in a botched publicity programme and, when eventually released into the new world of hard rock and revulutionary student politics, the album's unifying theme of memories about people and place had become deeply unfashionable.

Thus, despite its earlier obscurity, Village Green Preservation Society is a first class slice of British pop/rock. The main question is whether you should buy this 3-CD "deluxe" version or go with the single CD, saving £5 or so. The following notes might help you choose.

In the CD age, the fashion for bonus tracks has resulted in versions of the album that include all 17 of the original tracks. However, if you look at the current single CD version you find Days and Mr Songbird buried amongst alternate versions of songs repeated from earlier in the track listing. In contrast, on the stereo version that comprises the first CD in this 3-CD, the long-standing 15 track album is followed immediately by Mr Songbird and Days, the latter finally taking its rightful place at the end of the "full" album. "Thank you for the days....."

CD number 2 is a mono version of the 17 tracks in the same running order, with some good near contemporary songs as a bonus. My own view is that is too little difference between the mono and stero versions for the 2nd CD to offer much value, but doubtless there are some completists who would beg to differ. However, since the current single CD version mixes stereo and mono tracks, either one of the first two CDs in this "deluxe" version is likely to sound more consistent.

The 3rd CD contains a number of rarities recorded from the same period. The best of these is Misty Waters, which would have readily slotted into Village Green's concept. Others such as Lavender Hill and Rosemary Rose might have helped transform it into a classic double album. Inevitably the third CD also contains quite a lot of forgettable stuff including the instrumentals such as "Mick Avory's Underpants" - personally I would be about as willing wear Mick Avory's underpants than listen to it again. But all things considered, the CD-3 is a clinching argument for spending the extra few quid compared to the single CD alternative.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2012 7:23 PM GMT

Mozart Complete Edition [170 CD + CD ROM]
Mozart Complete Edition [170 CD + CD ROM]

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag - but difficult to knock the value, 22 April 2011
Twenty years ago, buying a complete works of Mozart would have been an arduous and expensive task. Now that you do so for this price, it seems harsh to knock the product. However, Brilliant's collection is not the only option. You can, for example, invest in the much more expensive set assembled by Phillips. So, which should you go for?

By comparison with other recordings that I either own or have heard, some sections of Brilliant's collection are a disappointment. I started with the piano concertos by Derek Han and the Philharmonia Orchestra and was unimpressed. As I happen to also have the Phillips cycle by Alfred Brendel and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, I was able to make a direct comparison by listening to one after the other. It became became apparent that the sound on the Phillips recording is clearer and that the orchestra's playing is more dynamic. Although Derek Han's piano suffers less by comparison, I will stick to the Brendel. It may be relevant that the Brendel cycle was recorded over a period of 18 years, whereas Han's is all labelled as being 1992. The thought occurred to me that the economics of recording complete works within a short period may not allow the musicians to do themselves full justice.

In addition, a personal reservation is the choice of using period instruments for some of the piano-based chamber music, for example on the piano quartets, two of the five piano trios and some of the solo piano works. Here my problem lies with the sound of the forte piano rather than the playing itself. However others may disagree. On the positive side the difference in approach from most other recordings can be rightly argued to be more authentic and it does make for an interesting contrast.

Despite the disappointments, there are a number of compensations. In particular, the piano sonatas played by Klara Wurtz (on a modern instrument) are excellent. The string quartets are also good, with the the all-important later works being played by the Vienna-based Schubert Quartet.

The symphonies are played by the Mozart Akademie formed by the conductor Jaap Ter Linden in Amsterdam. These, like a number of the chamber works are also played on period instruments. The orchestra has a good reputation, employs musicians drawn from many (mainly European) countries and I thought that the recordings were of decent quality.

In addition to the mixed standard of the recordings, another point to consider is whether or not you really want Mozart's complete works. Almost a third of this collection was composed by the "child genius" before he reached his twenties. In effect, you are listening to someone learning their trade well before they have reached the peak on which their reputation is based. For example the first few operas were composed by a boy in their early teens. The earliest work is a violin sonata allegedly composed by a seven-year old. Although this collection is undeniably good value, you might therefore be better off buying selected works and choosing the best, albeit more expensive, recordings.

Finally, although this collection has been repackaged by Brilliant with improved card sleeves, the are some irritating quality issues. As identified by other reviewers there are some sleeve labelling errors. Another issue is that the box is not quite big enough. The CDs are thus squeezed together in a way that makes finding the CD of your choice more difficult than necessary. My own solution to this issue has been to make space by putting some of those early operas into cold storage.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2014 8:22 PM BST

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