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Reviews Written by
D. Robinson "Opera Dave" (Yorkshire, England)
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Short Walks in Dorset
Short Walks in Dorset
by Collins Maps
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good mix of walks, 15 Sept. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Short Walks in Dorset (Paperback)
Good mix of walks with decent instructions, good maps, info about points of interest and easy to carry to boot.


MOTOR RACING YEAR 1967-8
MOTOR RACING YEAR 1967-8
by Doug & et al, Nye
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Good little book, 15 Sept. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A good depth of detail in the text and plenty of pictures (all black and white). Possibly not quite a good as the early versions of this annual but an effective review and at a small fraction of the cost of an Autocourse.


Verdi: Rigoletto
Verdi: Rigoletto
Price: £15.90

2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 15 Sept. 2016
This review is from: Verdi: Rigoletto (Audio CD)
Recently I sold a number of my opera CDs, and this was one of them. I regret selling off some of them, but not this one. I'm afraid I just didn't get on with this recording, it didn't stir any emotions in me, and the singers seemed to have no pathos. The duke didn't sound like a philanderer, Gilda didn't sound young and naive, Rigoletto didn't sound fragile and distraught at the end, until he suddenly realised this and immediately laid it on thick. Even Monterone sounded muted and unimpressive. Opera is a personal thing so while others may love this set, for me it just didn't gel.


Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds - The New Generation
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds - The New Generation
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £7.36

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The chances of anything coming of this, are a million to one he said, 5 Mar. 2016
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This album is very nicely packaged, with subtly-renewed artwork and a full lyrics booklet like the original. Being a big fan of the original it was with some trepidation that I put the CD on, and with good cause as it turned out because it didn’t work out well.
Liam Neeson seems on paper to be the perfect person to recreate Richard Burton’s classic journalist – his Irish brogue and distinctive voice should be perfect, but he reads the part all wrong, delivering his narrative with the feverish eagerness of an overzealous raconteur rather than the weary relief of Burton’s exhausted survivor.

The music barrels along fine, though no better than the original, until the arrival of the artilleryman, played by Ricky Martin, who is clearly incapable of acting his way out of a paper bag. His hysterical excitement can best be described with the four letters “CBBC” (if you’ve not had the pleasure, that’s a children’s TV channel that frequently uses child actors of woeful calibre).

Gary Barlow makes a fine job of singing Forever Autumn, and the rest of CD 1 rounds out well (except for Neeson’s continued overeager narration).

Things get much worse on CD 2. The remix team, perhaps rightly reasoning that crisis calls for discordant music, wrongly decides the way to do this is go mental with the computer effects, causing the music to break, skip and generally convince one that the CD player is broken for much of the CD, though not unfortunately The Spirit of Man. I feel rather sorry for Joss Stone, whose singing was sound, because the song was ruined by Maverick Sabre, who seemed to be channeling his inner Bob Marley, and sang with so much reggae-flavour that he unfortunately sounded like Rastamouse. It wasn’t quite “When the CD arrives those who buy would be better off dead”, but it was pretty dire. “No, Nathaniel, no.”

Oddly, having butchered so much of what is timeless in the album, the two areas that could most have done with an update are left completely unchanged. The heat ray still sounds just like someone saying “Oolaa” and could surely have used an audio cue from the many sci-fi films of recent decades, while the Mars probe epilogue, with its ticker-tape printers and antiquated jargon, could have been given a really good fresh perspective, given that in the meantime we have actually landed a probe on Mars and could even have tied in actual audio from that encounter.

SPOILERS FOLLOW.
There are a few things to like in this rerecording – the murmurs of the martians before the cylinder opens; the birdsong at the start of “The Red Weed”; the booklet is a joy; the artilleryman gets a good line about there being no war between humans and martians because we’re not on their level; and Joss and Gary sing well, but overall this is a butchering of a timeless classic.

To leave one in no doubt about the stupidity of the whole venture, the very end of the album has something so corny I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it in the lyrics sheet, and heard with dismay: in the final seconds, the martians say “The problem is of course the humans”. This is wrong on three counts. One, the rest of the album has been told entirely from a human point of view, and the martians are enigmas – we cross the perceptual divide too late and to no purpose. Two, martians don’t speak English (we know this as we heard them on Horshall Common). And three, a central point of the story is that we mere humans caused absolutely no problem at all to the martians: they wouldn’t dignify us with the blame for their failure.

If you’re new to the Jeff Wayne War of the Worlds, listen to the original timeless classic instead of this one. If, like me, you love the original, you’re better off with that too. Completists who’d like an interesting alternative version, by all means buy this CD, but don’t expect to like it.


Black Noon: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500
Black Noon: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500
by Art Garner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.84

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, gripping and tragic, 5 Mar. 2016
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Halfway through reading this book and it’s very informative and gripping. As a European, I find a lot of books about the Indy 500 can come across as a bit insular, but this one takes a very balanced view across the whole sport, and does a great job of capturing the toxic blend of corporate prejudice, untried innovation and rules tinkering that conspired to create a perfect storm for the catastrophe that followed. Like “The Last Road Race” about the 1957 Pescara GP, this book really makes you feel you are there. A must-read for fans of the Indy 500 or 1960s motorsport, or racecar innovation in general.

One small criticism is that despite talking so much about the “funny cars”, there are very few pictures of them – one of Jim Clark’s car is pretty much it really. Most cars in the pictures, including the cover, are the old roadsters. No picture of the ill-fated but actually rather pretty Mickey Thompson car with faired wheels, or of Sachs’s car, or even one of the crazy “sidecar” which I found online and does indeed look like a total death-trap, no wonder they struggled to find a driver!


Three Monsters
Three Monsters
by David McKee
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy this racist book, 10 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Three Monsters (Paperback)
A warning to parents to avoid this book like the plague. It is full of racist dogma and offensively insulting derogatory language. I can't think how it got published unless by some white supremacist organisation. It's also devoid of any narrative merit.


F1 Retro: 1970
F1 Retro: 1970
by Mark Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, thorough and readable look at F1 in a different world, 19 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: F1 Retro: 1970 (Hardcover)
Surely the most obsessively comprehensive book ever written about this era of motorsport. I was hooked after just the introduction, and the concept of looking back on such a different era through modern eyes and sensibilities is an interesting one. The race reports are pretty detailed but in particular give much different narrative about fatal accidents than would a contemporary report. A surprising highlight is a refreshingly candid piece by the head of the Matra team, looking back at everything they did wrong.

I have three minor gripes:
They have some very good pictures, but I was left wanting more!
It was odd that the race report for the British GP omitted to mention that the car in which Rindt won was probably illegal (this detail is buried in the technical analysis).
Drivers' biographies didn't look ahead to their future careers beyond 1971, and often not even that far, which would've been useful information for novice readers who mightn't know, for example, that early in 1971 J.P. Beltoise did something very silly that killed Ignazio Giunti.

These minor gripes aside the book was gripping in its narrative and a joy to read in its tactile beauty.


Band For All Seasons
Band For All Seasons

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dire Straits fans will love that steel guitar, 19 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Band For All Seasons (Audio CD)
Got this CD set at the Cambridge Folk Festival after their second wonderful set, and just before meeting the sisters at a signing session (and they were lovely). Then listened to the CD on the way home. It has gone on to be one of my favourite albums, although with four CDs it takes a lot of listening!

With its distinctive steel guitar and female vocals that range from soulful to gutsy, this is the sort of music that can appeal to fans of Dire Straits and Indigo Girls alike. The CDs, each for a different season of the year, do have a different feel - my favourite is "Fall".

The standout tracks for me: Principle of Silver Lining; Fairbanks Alaska; Praying for the Bell; Enough For You; Memories; It Gets Better as you go; Taller Far than a Tall Man.


Happy Come Home
Happy Come Home

5.0 out of 5 stars An endearingly innocent cheerful album, 13 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Happy Come Home (Audio CD)
This endearing album is sure to raise a smile on the bleakest of days. Featuring a strangely childish warble, most songs are also on childish themes - the pet dog, delight at wearing shoes, etc. although "I Will Do His Will" is a fine soul song in the gospel tradition, and is probably the most vocally-challenging song on the album. The rating is 4 stars for the songs, but 5 for the unerring delivery, and also 5 for the unique vocal style and source material.


Welsh National Opera - Operavox [DVD]
Welsh National Opera - Operavox [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Connell

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but short introduction to opera, 16 Aug. 2013
This collection of short animated operas are a good introduction to opera, in terms of the story and some of the main musical motifs. Some are good to introduce children to; others most certainly are not. The opening credits are a bit long and have aged very badly, and some of the pieces are too rushed and I found myself wishing they'd made perhaps 45-minute versions, but still... I found it handy sometimes to have the subtitles on, but the only ones are for hearing-impaired (so they also describe the action).

As for the individual operas, a short review of each:

Carmen uses an experimental technique blending watercolour with facials from film and I can see why it hasn't caught on. The abridgement omits the famous overture and wonderful Act 4 crowd scene, and writes Micaela out altogether. The fight in Act 3 features an unusual choice of music given what was omitted. The adaptation is relatively harmless so is okay for older kids.

The Barber of Seville is a charming puppet-animated film. It features rather too much spoken dialogue for my liking, and sometimes I was desperate for them to put in a tune from the opera. However, the story is communicated very clearly. Harmless and suitable for kids.

Rigoletto is definitely not for children, featuring grotesque puppetry and (puppet) nudity and bloodshed. The staging is effective but the story is lost a bit in the abridgement, especially in the storm scene where knowledge of the story is essential in order to understand the action. Disappointed that "Gualtier Malde" is omitted but musically it's satisfactory (except the storm scene).

Rheingold is a straightforward drawn animation. I found myself wanting to wallow in Wagner's lovely orchestral music, but no time for that with so much action to get through! The story is a bit scary for children and Freia seems a bit unnecessarily voluptuous and scantily-clad. The programme ends with the Wagner orchestral music I was yearning for earlier.

The Magic Flute is a slighly surreal drawn cartoon, where characters suddenly bloom to enormous size. It is effectively-told and safe for children. Sadly no priests' chorus but the Queen of the Night is very good.

Turandot is my favourite opera and is also my favourite adaptation here. Somehow (possibly due to the short length of the source material) they manage to include all the main elements without the end product seeming rushed. Visually it's beautiful, riffing off the conventions and palettes of Chinese art. The riddles are effectively staged. There is a bit of bloodshed so it may not be good for small kids, but mine seemed unfazed by it.

Hopefully these will encourage people to see the full-length versions: they must be very handy to watch just before going to the theatre, so you know the story and can pick out the songs when you're there. It's just a shame there are only these six in the set! If they ever do another six I'd nominate Tosca, Aida, Elixir of Love, Norma, Porgy and Bess and Tannhauser... Or maybe Tristan and Isolde given that opera anyway is 30 minutes of story stretched to 4 hours.


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