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Reviews Written by
Lewis Graham "lewisgraham" (East Anglia)

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We're Going to Feed the Ducks!
We're Going to Feed the Ducks!
by Margrit Cruickshank
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars We're Going to Read This Book (Again!), 17 Nov. 2008
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This is a delightful yarn that has my three year old daughter enraptured. The repeating text and illustrations means that after a few reads, she can follow the story herself. Great fun, well illustrated and a pleasure to share.

Sennheiser PX200 Black Closed Mini Headphone Black
Sennheiser PX200 Black Closed Mini Headphone Black

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed Recently - and Improved!, 12 Nov. 2008
I have just replaced an older pair of PX 200 (Mid-2006) that had succumbed to more than two years of commuting with another pair. Being so familiar with the older product, I have noticed a few minor changes: nothing significant but it felt like a product refresh.

The PX 200 was - and still is - is a compact, discrete and well made pair of headphones. The fact they can fold into a space the size of a spectacles case is a bonus. They are excellent at keeping the sound in - given that a noisy MP3 player is considered one of the great annoyances of the tube this must be a plus.

So much for what has stayed the same: the changes are small but significant. The sound quality is more detailed, has better bass depth and is less harsh than the older version. Acoustic music, such as well recorded Jazz, comes across better with more natural sounding saxaphone and Double Bass. It is good enough to allow good recordings (such as Apple Lossless on a Classic iPod) to breathe and offer excellent fidelity. The newer version also seems more efficient than the older ones, so much so I have had to adjust the maximum volume limit on my iPod.

In short, although these are not low-priced by any means, coupled with a good music player and good recordings, they should help soothe a commute away with ease.

Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them
Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them
by David Anderegg
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Everyone With Children, 27 Jan. 2008
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Nerd! This very humane and enlightened book is different: normally books about nerds are either jokey or only to show how they can be "cured". This takes a thoughtful look at the term "Nerd" and how it affects children.

What the author does is takes the reader through the social history of what a Nerd might be and how this affects children at different stages of their development. It also looks at how this impacts children and what parents can do to help their children to stay what they are: children.

The main message of the book is that there is world of difference between a child who is "different" and a child who is functionally deficient in everyday tasks. That is to say: it is one thing for a child to like astronomy and can't look in the eyes of someone who is talking to them but quite another for a child who cannot focus for more than a few seconds. His thinking about accepting difference without medicalizing it is both heartening and refreshing.

As someone who - as a child - was quiet, bookish and interested in things no "sane" ten year old would care about, I warmed to this book immensely. I saw much of my childhood in it as well as the motives of some of the other children at primary school. As a parent, it is a start at understanding how children change and the support they need.

I warmly recommend this book to parents and teachers.

The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How it Changed the City Forever
The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How it Changed the City Forever
by Christian Wolmar
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Travelling to Burnt Oak, 18 Nov. 2007
Christian Wolmar has produced an excellent book with a fair sprinkling of characters, politics and high finance. Anyone who is seen to take the underground for granted should be handed a copy of this book to learn just how remarkable a thing it is. Similarly, as a history of the underground, this is an excellent start.

The only disappointment is the brevity of coverage of events post 1945. The building of the Victoria and Jubilee lines are covered, but nowhere to the depth of earlier lines. Some discussion of how these lines came about would have been an interesting study in allowing politicians to run a railway.

But such criticisms are small compared to a book on railways that doesn't require an anorak to enjoy.

Complete Live at The Hillcrest Club
Complete Live at The Hillcrest Club

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good DIsc, Apart From the Recording, 5 Nov. 2007
Live recordings have their ups and downs. The up side - almost being there as music is created - is great. The down side is writ large by this disappointing disc.

The value of this disc is that it is an unusual group of musicians. Coleman, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins did not often play together: indeed they represent different themes in Jazz. It also appears there are no studio recordings, so anything released is a rarity.

For the general listener, the music you can hear is creative, swinging and delightful. This is a quintet on form, disciplined and well rehearsed. The audience must have had a pretty good night.

The snag - and the disappointment - is that the drums, bass and piano are almost inaudible. Paul Bley, on piano, is probably playing his heart out, but it's so muffled as to be inaudible. Missing the odd phrase in a live gig is understandable, but this is too poor to be listenable. In addition the club acoustics haven't done the quintet any favours either, with what can be heard of the drums sounding distinctly odd.

The great shame is that the presentation is excellent. Lawrence Steel provides good background to the recording and the 12 page booklet is illustrated with a number of photographs. It is a good argument for buying discs and not downloading.

Overall, this disc will interest the serious collector, but is not suitable for the general listener.

The Haynes Baby Manual: Conception to Two Years
The Haynes Baby Manual: Conception to Two Years
by Ian Banks
Edition: Hardcover

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dads Have Feelings Too, 28 Oct. 2007
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The format - a baby book laid out like a car maintenance book - might seem trite and shallow. It might even seem like a jokey gift to give to a new dad, but there is much more than that to this book.

The author, Dr Ian Banks, is a medic and father with a flowing and matey line in narrative about children. His no-nonsense style about conception and the first two years of life are a refreshing alternative to the earnest earth-mother style that pervades this kind of literature. Not only is the text spot-on, but the illustrations spell out just what you need to know at the right moment.

What makes this book special is that it discusses the emotions men experience. Speaking as a man, emotion is something other people display, but this book lets men know that it's OK to feel amazed/overwhelmed/torn all at once and not be a wuss.

For fathers-to-be and new fathers, this book should be compulsory reading. You might feel the need for more detail in parts, but for new fathers it's hard to beat.

Hairy Maclary, Sit (Hairy Maclary and Friends)
Hairy Maclary, Sit (Hairy Maclary and Friends)
by Lynley Dodd
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Daughter Sits for This!, 16 Oct. 2007
Hairy Maclary is at a kennel club obedience class and - joyfully - chaos ensues. All the usual characters like Muffin McClay, Bitzer Maloney and Schnitzel von Krumm (with the very low tum) join in the anarchy.

Once again, the rhyming text - and pictures that seem alive - make for a highly entertaining book. It is a joy to read to a small child and the giggling from my 2 year old suggests she loves it too. If you have enjoyed Lynley Dodd's work before, this is a worthy addition to the bookshelf.

The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings
The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings
Price: £28.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Window into Creativity, 3 Dec. 2006
The Complete Riverside Recordings are as far as I can tell, just that, complete. The album contains a complete record the work done by Coltrane and Monk (with others) over that period.

The music itself is first class; everyone is on good form with pieces that defined an era. The main protagonists were working together in a club and the level of practice comes across.

The content appears on other albums of the period (try "Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane" for Epistrophy) and an already avid collector will probably have them, although not all together. For the general audience though, it has the advantage of all the studio recordings in one place, cleanly re-mastered and well packaged.

Is having all the false starts a problem? For the jazz enthusiast, it offers an insight into the creative process and what might have been. It is also a reminder that these albums didn't come easily - there was a great deal of sheer effort in their creation. Modern jazz is fortunate in having such a record. I'd love to hear the first rehearsal of Beethoven's ninth symphony or the first night of Cosi fan Tutte, but it's just not to be.

So, should the general listener buy this set over others? For the new jazz listener, this is a good introduction to an interesting period. If you are ripping this to a music player, having the false starts doesn't matter; just create a play list of what you enjoy. Likewise, a decent evenings listening can be had by programming your CD player as required to skip the false starts. This is a well produced, well presented set that is decent value for money. It gets four stars simply because some will find the false starts annoying and may find it difficult to edit them out.

Plays It Cool
Plays It Cool
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.98

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chet Baker in a Nutshell, 19 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Plays It Cool (Audio CD)
This disc was quite a surprise. It was bought on a whim when I was looking for something to play in the car - yet this disc rewards a lot of careful listening.

For anyone interested in jazz of the 1960's and 70's, Chet Baker is (or should be) a familiar name. His trumpet style and originality deserve more attention.

The tracks seem to cover a wide part of his career. From 1963 and his appearance with Miles Davies to the end in Amsterdam in 1975, just 12 years later, this disc covers it.

Chet plays classics such as "So What" and "Milestones" with great musicality. The other tracks also reveal a great talent. There isn't a dull track.

So enough about the artist, why has this compilation disc got four stars? In one go, it's the compiler and writer of the sleeve notes - Stan Britt. The breadth of choice of recordings with detailed sleeve notes gives a clear picture of Chet Baker and a place to start exploring his work. In an age of downloads, this is why it's still a pleasure to own something real.

If you've heard the name Chet Baker but not the music, this is an excellent place to start.

A Love Supreme (Live Album)
A Love Supreme (Live Album)
Price: £8.46

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Beethoven Played on the Spoons, 10 Aug. 2006
The studio version of "A Love Supreme" is a marvellous, lyrical that should be on everyone's CD shelf, jazz fan or not. This live recording, however, needs more careful consideration.

Recorded at the 1965 Antibes Jazz Festival, this is a single take record of a live performance. The story goes, however, that Coltrane was not overjoyed at performing "A Love Supreme" live (a world-wide hit at the time) and it shows. The normally tight, close playing of the trio has gone (perhaps through lack of rehearsal) and Coltrane himself goes into unstructured improvisation that falls flat. Coltrane could improvise wonderfully well live - the recent "Two Up, Two Down" disc of live recordings testifies to that - but there's no evidence of that here.

On the plus side, the playing is still better than most and the recording gives a view of Coltrane playing live as he went towards Free Jazz and the "Ascension" album. As a historical document and musical experience, it rates as an important disc.

It is disappointing that this release is so spartan. Information on the sleeve is limited, and it feels like a quick and dirty reissue. It is as far as possible from the elegant reissues of other artists of the period by Verve as can be imagined.

Scoring this CD is practically impossible. For a Free Jazz audience, this is akin to genesis on disc and none of what I have written will matter. For lovers of Coltrane from his earlier years this is like finding a friend "tired and emotional" on a park bench: very sad and something it's not nice to talk about. If you are a Coltrane completist, go right ahead, you'll want it anyway.

Scoring it for the general listener, it only gets three. The poor presentation and the circumstances of the performance mean there are much, much better things to explore in jazz than this. Listen to the studio original instead.
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