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Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England)

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Short Guide to Modern Politics, the Coalition and the General Election
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Short Guide to Modern Politics, the Coalition and the General Election
by John Crace
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Cameron, Clegg, DevoMax, the Ed Millie Band and more, 1 Mar. 2015
I rarely vote in political elections these days, having become very disillusioned with all the parties, although I did vote against the proposed change to the way we vote in the referendum. It happened during Britain's first coalition government in my lifetime and subsequent evidence suggests that, while coalitions may work in some countries, they don't seem to work in Britain. However, I've lived through single-party governments too and most of them haven't been much better.

The author therefore didn't need to convince me that British politicians are a mediocre bunch, but while reminding me of the scandals and the crises that the politicians have faced, he did so in a very entertaining way.

The author covers most of the big issues that arose between 2010 and 2014, mentioning all the key players including Boris Johnson,who has been London's mayor since 2008. He is likely to return to Parliament on May 7th, although he intends to continue as mayor until 2016. So if Cameron doesn't win the election, Boris will likely be a leadership contender. Whether he would be a good leader is an open question, but the alternatives don't appeal to me. DevoMax seems to have swung the vote England's way this time.

One issue discussed is the Scottish referendum, the result of which was closer than had once been expected, but not close enough to overturn the Act of Union, 1707. As it seems that younger people were keener on independence than older people, it may be that a future referendum will produce a different outcome, but I don't expect there to be another referendum in my lifetime In any case. English politicians got quite a scare in 2014 and might think it wise to treat the Scots with more respect in future.

Elsewhere, UKIP gets its share of coverage, but I remember that Robert Kilroy Silk (who I had quite liked when he was a TV presenter) stood for them in the European elections for the East Midlands. I voted against him, but those who voted for probably wish they hadn't, as he went AWOL after being elected. Any respect I had for him as a TV presenter vanished at that point, along with any chance that I would ever be converted to the UKIP cause.

Of course, most of the book is about Cameron, Clegg and the Ed Millie Band. I don't like any of them and the author reminded me why. Nevertheless, I found this to be a hugely entertaining book.

Price: £14.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent music, 16 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Mono (Audio CD)
I first came across the Mavericks via "Music for all occasions", which was their latest release at the time. It was not their most successful commercially, but it was their first album to make the UK album charts and remains my favorite. However, they have recorded several other excellent albums and I have nearly all the music that they've recorded as a group. This one is well up to the quality standard that I expect from them, but is far removed from the album that first impressed me all those years ago.

Featuring instrumentation using (among others) marimba, tuba, trumpets and saxophones, the Mavericks have recorded a very distinctive album that is impossible to classify, but provides very enjoyable listening. All the songs were written or co-written by their lead singer, Raul Malo, except the final track, which is a cover of Doug Sahm's Nitty Gritty. Most of the songs are upbeat but there is a great ballad, Let it Rain (on me) that provides a nice contrast.

This is an excellent album for what it is - a long way from their early music, but I don't mind when the music is this good. Fantastic.

Price: £9.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melancholy music featuring duet with Jimmy LaFave, 9 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Blackbirds (Audio CD)
Sad songs abound on this fine album, with the tempo being mellow throughout, only picking up slightly here and there. Though classified as country, this feels more like soft folk / rock that such artists as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others did so well. I enjoy their music too so I don't mind.

Among the songs is The House On Auburn Street, in which the house burns down. there's more to the song than that, and maybe a hidden meaning that I haven't worked out, but that just gives me an excuse to play the album again and again,

The duet with Jimmy LaFave, When you comin' home, is great but I wonder if it might have been even better if the two singers had actually recorded it together in the same studio. He recorded his parts in Austin while she recorded hers in Nashville. That's not how Porter and Dolly did it, but it works quite well despite that.

There are many other wonderful songs including the title track, but those looking for some easy listening, mainstream country or party music should ignore this. On the other hand, if you want sad, reflective music then you should give this one serious consideration.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 19, 2015 8:16 PM GMT

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Price: £13.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly easy listening covers of pop classics, 2 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Wallflower (Audio CD)
I enjoy Diana's early jazz albums, but at least for the time being, she has chosen to go for the easy listening market. The only jazz track is a duet with Georgie Fame on a cover of Yeh yeh, which is not on the standard CD but is a bonus track on the deluxe edition. Although described as an Amazon deluxe edition, it is not exclusive to Amazon. I am familiar with most of the other tracks via the original versions and / or earlier covers.

Apart from Yeh yeh, I think the best track here is Alone again (Naturally), a duet with Michael Bublé. Originally a Gilbert O'Sullivan solo recording, it takes on a whole new perspective as a duet.

The title track is a hitherto obscure Bob Dylan song. It seems that his version has only been released so far on bootleg compilations, while not many cover versions have been recorded. Maybe Diana's cover will give the song wider attention.

Two Eagles covers are featured, Desperado probably being the better known, but I can't tell you why (from The long run) is certainly no obscurity.

I find this to be a very enjoyable album to listen to. It's certainly not a jazz album apart from one of the bonus tracks, but I enjoy easy listening music as well as other genres.

From Motown With Love
From Motown With Love
Price: £7.99

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine Motown compilation, 2 Feb. 2015
This review is from: From Motown With Love (Audio CD)
The packaging is very basic, as the triple CD is housed in a digipak with no booklet. There is a track listing on the back cover, repeated for each CD inside (under each CD) with the addition of publishing details. Still, it's the music that counts, and this time each CD has a theme, respectively Love songs, Duets and Best of Motown. The tracks are mostly from the sixties and seventies with a few later including tracks by Rick James (Super freak), Shanice (I love your smile) and Smokey Robinson (Being with you, Just to see her).

I've got most but not all of these tracks already either on other multi-artist compilations, or on CDs featuring the individual artists, but I enjoy listening to compilations like this. I was particularly pleased to find the original version of Do you love me (Contours), which is sometimes overlooked as Brian Poole and the Tremeloes had a UK #1 hit with the song, while the Dave Clark Five and others have also covered the song - but the Contours version is arguably still the best.

Many classic tracks are here but plenty are missing. Those here include Reach out I'll be there, Baby love, My girl, Dancing in the Street, Three times a lady, My guy, Please Mr Postman and I heard it through the grapevine. If you're new to Motown, this would be a great starter compilation, but even if you have some already, you may find this to be a useful addition to your collection.

Black Caviar Illustrated
Black Caviar Illustrated
by Gerard Whateley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Take it to the limit one more time, 6 Jan. 2015
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This book covers Black Caviar's career in detail, but also discusses the syndicate of owners, the trainer, aspects of Black Caviar's breeding and various aspects of Australian racing. I saw one 2-star review by somebody upset about the discussion of various people, but I found it all fascinating. We must, in any case, remember that this book was written for Black Caviar's fans who (it seems) include the entire Australian nation, some of whom are not even sports fans, let alone horse racing fans. So Black Caviar may have added some people to the ranks of horse racing fans, just as I suppose Red Rum and Desert Orchid did in Britain, and Secretariat did in America, but all these new fans, along with those who always accepted that Black Caviar was a one-off, knew nothing about horse racing before Black Caviar came along. By catering for such people, it also provides a great starting point for horse racing fans the world over who want to learn a bit about Australian racing.

An Eagles classic song just up sums up the attitude that Black Caviar showed whenever she had a problem during a race. She won 25 of the 25 races in which she competed, thereby remaining unbeaten, but that is a very deceptive statistic. She should have lost her fourth race, in which she fell at the start, but she actually fell into another horse (who also completed the race), righted herself and ended up winning the race. She wasn't really in a fit state to run at Royal Ascot when she did, although she seemed fine on arrival. She did a nice warm-up gallop, but that turned out to be one gallop too many, as the trainer realized before the actual race day. The trainer remembered her bravery and, with heavy heart, let her run. Again she won, but those of us who watched the race (in my case, in a betting shop) did not see a scintillating performance.

On Black Caviar's breeding, I am not familiar with Australian bloodlines, but I noted with interest the presence of British stallions Hotfoot and Lunchtime among her ancestors, while her paternal grandsire is Royal Academy; Lester Piggott came out of retirement to win the 1990 Breeders' Cup Mile on him.

There are a lot of things that make Australian racing different. Australians have handicaps at Group 1, and Black Caviar ran in one of those and carried top weight to victory; she also made her debut in a handicap rather than a maiden race. These and other aspects of Australian racing intrigue me, but I need to read other books.

Meanwhile this is an outstanding book, lavishly and superbly illustrated, about one of the bravest and best racehorses who ever lived. Only if she had served the military in war could she have shown greater bravery.

Now retired from racing, Black Caviar no longer has to take it to the limit.

The Grand Ole Opry Story
The Grand Ole Opry Story
Price: £13.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent except for unnecessary duplication with earlier box, 16 Dec. 2014
This is in many ways a wonderful look back at the Opry in the years from 1926 to 1962, and would have been even better had it not duplicated tracks from the same labels's box The Nashville Sound - Country Music's Golden Era. For example,Ernest Ashworth is represented in both boxes by Everybody but me, his biggest hit during the period covered. I know that Talk back trembling lips is from 1963. therefore not eligible, but couldn't one of the boxes featured either Each moment spent with you or You can't pick a rose in December, which were also top 10 country hits, andd are eligible for these compilations? There are other examples, hence only 4 stars.

Just to be clear, the tracks here are studio recordings, not Opry recordings, although I'm guessing that most if not all these songs were pweeformed live at the Opry.

Apart from the duplication, this set has a lot to offer, including plenty of artists that I'm not familiar with.You won't find Jimmie Rodgers or the original Carter family here, because (it seems) they never played the Opry. A later version of the Carter damily (The Carter sisters and Mother Maybelle) is featured, while June gets another track via a duet with her first husband, Carl Smith, Carlene's father, who also gets a solo track. Elvis Presley only performed once at the Opry, and only did one song, Blue moon of Kentucky, included here.

The first 13 tracks are mostly instrumentals. Given their age, it should come as no surprise that the sound is not perfect, but it seems to me that an excellent job has been done. You areen't going to get perfection on music this old. Beyond that, the music aounds great and is recognizable in sound and style to anybody who is familiar with country music from the thirties up to 1962, even if some of the artists and songs are unfamiliar.

Shame about the duplicated tracks, otherwise excellent.

The Old Fashioned Christmas Album
The Old Fashioned Christmas Album
Price: £4.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For a candlelight Christmas, 13 Dec. 2014
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There are plenty of tracks here featuring choirs (in the case of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, a children's choir) as well as harp and brass instrumentals. Several tracks are instrumentals but the overall effect is quite soothing.

There is nothing exceptional about the music here, but it seems designed as background music for a candle-lit dinner, I like to play it whenever I want soothing background music even though I never have candle-lit dinners at home. If I want one of those, I go to a restaurant. I haven't been to one for a very long time, but this might be their kind of music.

Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £10.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great album for country and bluegrass fans, 10 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Larkins (Audio CD)
Sisters Shaunna and Kristina (usually known as Tina) Larkin were influenced by many other singers, but particularly by Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton. On this album, they cover a song written by Dolly (Steady as the rain), whose own version of the song can be found on The grass is blue, but the first official recording of the song was by her sister Stella Parton, whose version can be found on Hits Collection. I like the Larkins' version, which features backing vocals by Dolly, but I still prefer Stella's original. That said, I think most of Stella's music that is currently available is either newer recordings or re-recordings, so I'm happy that the Larkins have recorded Steady as the rain).

The rest of the album is a mix of country and bluegrass that might now be classified as Americana, a term that I'm still getting used to. I particularly like Lay your memory down, which gets the album off to a great start. The major disappointment is that there has been no follow-up to this album. It certainly sounds like a magical debut album, but there has been nothing since that I can find.

Simply Kids' Christmas
Simply Kids' Christmas
Price: £7.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children don't care who the original artists were, 10 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Simply Kids' Christmas (Audio CD)
The title of this boxed set includes trhe word kids. It is clear that the music here is aimed at children under 10, and that's fine with me. There is still a bit of a child in all of us that remains long after we grow out of childhood. In my case, at some point in the nineties, I bought a children's album by some of my favourite singers out of curiosity and found it most enjoyable. Since then, I have bought and reviewed a fair amount of children's music and enjoyed it. Perhaps it reminds me that my childhood wasn't all as bad as the bits I tend to remember.

The first CD contains 19 Christmas songs that are all very popular in Britain, most of which every child is likely to become very familiar with at school in each December, even if they somehow avoid hearing them elsewhere. I was surprised to find Christmas bells and The night before Christmas, but maybe I'd forgotten those from my schooldays (I've certainly heard them elsewhere since) or maybe they are more popular now.

Although not stated in the track listing, the second CD is a continuous medley, There is a mix on this CD of Christmas songs and pop songs, which may appear random but this is designed as a party CD. Any parties I've been to at Christmas time always mix Christmas songs with other types of song.

The third CD contains songs all written by the same person. They are new to me althogh they may have been released previously. I found them interesting.

The last CD contains 15 satories, twelve of them based on the song Twelve days of Christmas. The idea was, for me, better than the execution, because one of the characters didn't hear things correctly and the joke wore a bit thin. Still, I don't suppose children mind that.

Overall, this is a great collection at a bargain price. If you want original artists, buy an adult Christmas collection instead, or as well as this.

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