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8pcs Alto/Tenor Saxophone Sax Mouthpiece Patches Pads Cushions Black---0.8mm
8pcs Alto/Tenor Saxophone Sax Mouthpiece Patches Pads Cushions Black---0.8mm
Offered by Fly Service
Price: £1.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Is It Safe...?, 7 Mar. 2016
Something seldom mentioned by saxophone books and players is the fact that after about 5 minutes of determined honking, the top set of your teeth feel as though Doctor Zell's been extracting a confession from you. The vibrating air column in the instrument transmits directly to your choppers via the hard plastic mouthpiece. It's pretty darned unpleasant. These 0.8mm pads make all the difference between creating a horrible noise in comfort, and creating one that reflects how you feel. I would regard them as essential kit, and at this price you can't afford not to have them. Mine were sourced elsewhere and cost more than twice as much, but I just couldn't wait. Eight pads should last ages.

If you ain't got `em; get 'em - or you'll be wishing you'd run a marathon instead.

The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956]
The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956]
Dvd ~ John Gregson
Price: £4.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining - until landfall, 25 Feb. 2016
Battle of the River Plate is really a movie of two parts. The first addresses the business of navel conflict, both military and merchant, the second deals with political and media issues.

(Spoiler alert).The first part of the movie is - I believe - the most authentic and enjoyable watch. A well-chosen cast featuring Anthony Quayle and John Gregson represent the British navy, Bernard Lee speaks amply for the long-suffering (and largely unacknowledged) merchant marine, Whilst Peter Finch offers a plausible Captain Lansdorff, commander of the Graff Spee. There's great filming at sea entailing a host of warships, both close up and in long shot. An encounter with the supply ship Altmark is particularly revealing, and demonstrates some of the lost skills that were once expected as a matter of course from Able Seamen. There's also some insight into the various matters of naval protocol. Nothing too deep, just enough to add authenticity. I particularly like the way a growing dawn is presented, as the ships sail stereadfastly on from night into day. And all the while, we hear the subdued rumble of the engines. Battle is joined. The enemy is chased into Montevideo harbour. Thus, we enter the second half of the movie, which rather jarringly becomes a part-comedy, as an idling American journalist finds himself in the front seat of a huge news story. His hyperbolic prattle becomes the intermittent backdrop to the ongoing drama shore-side. There's a great deal of diplomatic wrangling. Lansdorff is not allowed to do anything other than essential repairs to his vessel in a neutral port. Meanwhile, the British navy is gathering strength beyond the territorial limit. The Graff Spee must sail by a deadline, or be interned for the remainder of the war. What will Landorff do? It's a fact of history that he scuttles his ship.

The American journalist is probably a sop to American tastes, there being no US movie stars, and after all; they did lend one of their heavy cruisers. But overall I think the movie was cheapened by his flippancy It's still a great watch until Montevideo.

What I find so perverse is the attitude of the British fleet admiral. He has specifically sailed to this location with the express purpose of engaging an enemy battleship that can outgun, outrun, and outrange all of his own light cruisers. On the very day he anticipates an encounter, lookouts duly spot smoke on the horizon. But as it's not where he expects the enemy to be, he dispatches just one of his ships to investigate, and needless to say - it gets hammered. By the time his and the other cruiser are in a position to engage, the first ship is out of action. There is a golden rule of military tactics that you do not divide your forces in enemy territory. I would have had this admiral court-martialled and hanged for such a reckless and fatal blunder.

The DVD still offers a nice clear colour print. Sound is mono, but unimpaired with a surprising level of base. Run time is quoted as 114 minutes, aspect ratio 4:3, viewer rating U.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2016 11:00 AM BST

Enemy Mine [1985] [DVD]
Enemy Mine [1985] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dennis Quaid
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.95

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There Are No Enemy Mines In It, 20 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Enemy Mine [1985] [DVD] (DVD)
I actually saw this at a cinema matinee and thought it quite a decent production. Time hasn't been kind. Or maybe age has made me more critical.

(Spoiler alert) It's the future...Formulaically handsome Dennis Quaid is a top-gun starfighter during war between humans and a species of reptile-like creatures. He and his squadron are based in a space fortress/outpost affair where they fend off the aliens in cosmic dogfights. So far, so "Battlestar Gallactica". During one, he and an enemy (Louis Gossett Jr) both crash-land on an otherwise deserted planet (well, not quite deserted). He and the alien then continue their species war in a grudge match more reminiscent of "Hell in the Pacific". In course of time, they stop fighting, cooperate, and learn mutual respect. The alien turns out to be a hermaphrodite who dies in labour and our man is left to raise the scaly offspring and become - in effect - its foster parent. The whole scenario gets pretty boring and repetitive at times.

Many of the effects come close to Gerry Anderson's work - not bad, but well dated by 1985. However, the planet scenes can still stand up to scrutiny. Script is more formulaic than insightful. Though I suspect its right-on message of mutual tolerance and multiculturalism will probably find a wider audience today that it did then, but the morality is laid on way too thick. I seem to recollect that there was a falling out during the movie's making which led to a host of production issues. They show. Editing seems to grow increasingly choppy, with a very abrupt ending.

If you're the sort of person who thinks the entire poverty-stricken third world should be allowed to move en-masse to the first world and live here at the tax-payer's expense, then this movie will be a collectors item. Otherwise it's pretty boring, formulaic and hardly worth a watch.

The Crazies [1973] [DVD]
The Crazies [1973] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lane Carroll
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.19

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Zombie of a Movie, 20 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The Crazies [1973] [DVD] (DVD)
Director George Romero may have inadvertently set the zombie ball staggering with his seminal movie "Night of The Living Dead", however; that was just a lucky shot. It's "cult" status is deserved only because of its originality. Truth be told, he was a hopeless director, as this 1973 effort makes all too clear.

"The Crazies" (spoiler alert) picks up the standard-bearer nasty-virus-outbreak scenario and likewise staggers about with it in the most clumsy uncoordinated manner. For a hundred minutes of so we are treated to hammy acting by third-rate players, who deliver a fag-packet script with relentless over-the-top excess. It's full of pointless digressions, boringly slow takes and needless conflict, all of which I suppose is intended to emphasise the `craziness' of the characters. Meanwhile, various ill-chosen passages of incidental music wow and flutter in concert with the story. The whole work has the appearance of a very amateurish college production, shot on/off campus by aspiring, but less than talented students.

Romero was never destined to be another Carpenter, and this movie shows why.

Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003]
Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Jim Carrey
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.19

3.0 out of 5 stars Could've Been Better, 13 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Bruce Almighty [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
(Spoiler alert) - rubber-faced clown Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a character who has a particularly bad day. He scourges God in no uncertain terms, and God responds by giving him the job of deity. On the face of it; that idea has great potential. It's the ultimate role-reversal. But - as usual - Hollywood spoils the plot with an oversize helping of schmaltz.

Pacing seems very haphazard. God seems to take forever getting in touch with our hapless hero, texting him on his pager and hiding out in some seedy-looking abandoned offices. The great sky-fairy doesn't come over as an omnipotent grandee so much as second-rate supervisor with profound communication issues, barely equal to the task of managing creation himself, and over-eager to mitigate the chaos to which He has condemned us, in the name of free-will. Sorry, chum; you created everything so you carry the can, free-will or not.

Anyway, Bruce gets to do anything he pleases, and just like HG Wells' "Man Who Worked Miracles" things rapidly go pear-shaped. I thought the humour varied between needlessly contrived (the peeing dog & nose-picking baker) with moments of hilarious slapstick. I did laugh out loud two or three times. Yet I still think it had a lot more potential. There seemed to be too much dependence upon Carrey's over-the-top delivery. Then the makers evidently decided we'd taken God's name in vain enough and it was time for plagues of schmaltz, sentimentality and moral chastisement. If only Bruce could sort out his relationship (and character flaws) and get married, everything would be okay. Oh-really - life's that simple, is it, God?

The movie might have been a lot more engaging with a character of greater depth than the one-dimension freaks that Carrey has learnt to stereotype, but then perhaps Morgan Freeman's God may not have seemed quite so profound. A less superficial human might've asked questions that left God on the back-foot instead. There's also a misandric thread running through the story, rather like the slightly similar `Groundhog Day', which likewise requires the male to sort out his relationship (by likewise sorting out his character) that I'm finding a little tiresome these days.

Perhaps the makers should've sought inspiration from Peter Cooke's 1960's "Bedazzled", which has a similar theme, but engages the other entity - the Horned One. It has slapstick humour, relationship issues, with far greater depth and subtlety. But maybe that's just the devil's influence - or perhaps the British...

My DVD came from my local library (50p) and had a host of problems towards the end. I thought these were down to overuse and scratching, but many other contributors report similar issues with a new product. Buyer beware.

It's just okay - 2 and a half stars really. Certainly not a keeper, not even in good order. (I binned it).

Progressive Beginner Saxophone
Progressive Beginner Saxophone
by Peter Gelling
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Could've Been Much Better By Being Simpler., 7 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Well, here's another one: glossy paperback, 9"x12" format, 64 pages.

This is more like it. It's the second book for beginners I've bought and does at least assume that you've just picked up a saxophone for the first time. Lesson one tells you what each part is called, how to assemble it, and so on - as you'd expect for an absolute beginner. Though there's nothing about instrument care and maintenance, especially after use - which is definitely NOT satisfactory. It then goes on to discuss all the other essentials - holding, fingering, breathing and "embouchure" (that's what to do with your gob). Finally (or perhaps initially) it shows how to play a G note. All very well (and all available for free on Youtube).

Then; lesson 2 (page 13) takes us into reading music. And - my goodness - it sure is a crash course! If you don't know your crochet from your quaver, you're in for a very steep learning curve. I found the speed with which everything was introduced a very confusing business, and there's no background or infill. Basically; it's not just a crash course, but a parrot-fashion crash course - `this is this, this is what it you do, get on with it'. Not my style at all. And I don't see any good reason for such haste. The idea is to teach you the BASICS - from scratch. Why should it be necessary to go at such a lick that by just page 25 (out of 65) you're expected to confront the old standard "When The Saints Go Marching In"? Towards the end, maybe, as an aspirational project; but less than halfway through the book?? There simply isn't sufficient opportunity to establish a good grounding of musical understanding in just the first 5 (short) lessons. These people seem to want to turn muppets into maestros at the wave of a baton. Worse still; if learning is such a force-fed experience; firstly it becomes no longer fun, and secondly it becomes demoralising, which is no way to teach anyone anything. If you're a complete newbie, it doesn't really matter what your age, in terms of learning skills. Certainly adults will be stronger and have greater pulmonary prowess, but in terms of learning ability, kids often have the edge - unlike grown-ups, they have nothing to UN-learn. That's why they're so good at programming the DVD player or sussing all of the keys and symbols on a mobile phone when elders would be scratching their heads. Yet I doubt if this book would be sufficiently comprehensible for a 5-year-old to follow. And it certainly wouldn't be any fun for them - which, as I suggest - would put them off learning.

Accompanying the book is a CD of various riffs that are co-ordinated with the book's numbered lessons. A `disc' symbol indicating each. There's also a DVD employing a triple-split screen, whereby the actual fingering of the keys are shown on the left half, a numbered schematic is shown on the right half, whilst underneath both, the music scrolls by from right to left, following each note. It's certainly a novel idea and should prove very helpful in associating notes and keys. Once again it is linked to lessons in the book.

I suppose they've packed as much information into the book as they can, to meet their own predetermined ideas about what a complete novice should be expected to accomplish. However, I think their expectations are wildly optimistic and far in excess of my own. For me it's a case of more being less. Maybe one day - next year perhaps - I'd like to play "The Saints -"; but for now I'd just like to know what the hell I'm doing, and if I can eventually manage "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or something, without any wrong notes; I'll consider myself a success and my saxophone purchase vindicated.

Meantime, I'll visit the kids' music section at my local library and see what they've got.

I'd recommended it for the dosh, but supplementary basic music guidance is also needed for less able students like me.

Kitchen Craft Microwave 900ml Saucepan
Kitchen Craft Microwave 900ml Saucepan
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Solution Looking For a Problem?, 31 Jan. 2016
Yeah, well; it should be made clear that you don't get a serving of baked beans with this product. I wouldn't have 'em anyway - far too much salt. I am a fan of microwave cooking, though. The pan's not bad. It's hard plastic, but not so hard as to resist scratching if carelessly cleaned. Use a soft cloth and plenty of washing-up liquid, and if something's got baked on, leave to soak and soften. It's no better than any other plastic microwave wear, except that being transparent you can see what's happening without lifting the lid (big deal).

Most plastics are "microwaveable" so don't get suckered by supposedly "specialised" kit. I've got a small stack of old softer plastic Chinese takeaway boats complete with lids that I re-use repeatedly and they serve just as well. And you can transfer 'em straight from freezer to oven if you plan your meals ahead as I do. The difference being that they were free, and don't break if they're dropped (when thawed & empty) - as this item did. I haven't bothered to replace it. Also, if you have a very dinky microwave - as I have on my boat - the handle may obstruct the pan from rotating on the turntable.

Incidentally, you can get one of these pans from the "Argos" store chain. And It's two thirds of the price shown here. You can also get a takeaway from Mr Wu for 4 quid and save the boat after you've scoffed the nosh.

(Baked beans - who the hell eats that crap nowadays? Digging your grave with your teeth.)

Yamaha 4C Altsax Mouthpiece Standard ∑ Mouthpiece (woodwind)
Yamaha 4C Altsax Mouthpiece Standard ∑ Mouthpiece (woodwind)
Offered by Limestone
Price: £25.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seems A Lot of Money For a Bit of Plastic, 30 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got this mouthpiece not just because it comes with many recommendations, but because I couldn't get so much as a note out of my newly- purchased Gear4music saxophone. So this and a set of Rico 1.5 reeds (also recommended) were an alternative plan to simply sending the instrument back. In fact; the problem turned out to be the reed itself. Dunno why, it looked identical to the Rico's. But as I'd got the Yamaha item there was no point not using it - especially with all the good press. So, it works. How much better it is than the original mouthpiece, I really couldn't say - much better, I hope. Whatever the case, £25 seems a helluva lot of dosh for a little bit of moulded plastic. Typical Yamaha, really; spares for their bikes also cost an arm and a leg. I bet they turn these things out like sausages at Hamamatsu for 25p a pop. Still, it's on the saxophone now, and that's that.

Alto Saxophone by Gear4music Black & Gold
Alto Saxophone by Gear4music Black & Gold
Offered by Gear4music
Price: £249.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Kit - Eventually..., 30 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For some time, I've really been into the sound of the sax and decided at last to treat myself. I've never played one, or any other instrument for that matter - can't even read music either. In fact, I've never so much as handled a saxophone before; but what the hell?

This item enjoys rave reviews here and deservedly so. The standard of finish for the price is quite staggering and one is apt to wonder - how do they do it? It's as easy as wink to blow over a grand on a saxophone, So for 200-odd quid you can hardly expect much. There's an awful lot of detailed fabrication and moving parts that have to be machined very precisely, as well as all the seals and stuff, and at this price one might surely expect it to have been cobbled together by enslaved hands in some third-world backwater, where product quality-control is about as pertinent as employee health and safety. I recently bought a shooting stick as a Christmas prezzie for 20 quid. It was stainless steel and its standard of finish - with file and grinder scars still plainly visible - was so atrocious that I felt almost ashamed to gift it. Fortunately; the receiver was just an in-law. But you will look really hard - even with a magnifying glass (as I did) - before you'll find evidence of tool marks or incomplete burnishing (though that doesn't mean it won't find you...). Indeed; you might suppose this to have been made in some high-end technical facility like the defunct Cooke Instruments, or Broadhurst Clarkson, the old optical bods. It's very nice indeed - quite ornamental...

The instrument comes in a basic moulded black PVC case. There are two latches, but no lock. It doesn't look like it would withstand much of a bash, but it's well lined in expanded polystyrene covered with soft fluffy fabric. Not great - but again; for the money it's excellent value. There's containments for the mouthpiece, neck, and sundries. A half-decent adjustable neck strap is also included, and a pair of white cotton gloves, presumably for musical butlers. The reed was already in-situ in the mouthpiece, which itself has a protective sleeve. There's no reed storage box. Yet, conversely, when you remove the plastic neck-plug, you unexpectedly heave out a sax-saver brush on the end of it like some sort of multi-coloured conjuring trick. It's an unlikely freebie - many thanks. Though it also seems like confused priorities to me. Okay, enough magic already - let's make music!

Three days later, I gave up trying...

So - why has this great looking piece of kit only got one star? Well; the first star was lost because Gear4music didn't include any instructions. Perhaps in the stuffy old world of music you're just assumed to have intuitive Jedi wisdom. Well, that's just not good enough. A small booklet thanking you for purchasing their stuff and welcoming you to saxdom, followed by assembly instructions (watch out for Ken Dodd's tickling stick hidden up the spout) and some basic care & maintenance hints would be normal in any other field. Hell - there was even an instructions leaflet with a microwave egg-poacher for about £7, mentioned elsewhere. Saxophones vary, and people vary, but general rules apply to all. And as this is an entry-level instrument, likely to find an inexperienced user, some basic elementary tips would be all the more important to avoid accidental damage.

Earlier, I mentioned finding the standard of finish. Well; it sure found me alright. The ligature had actually begun to dig little groves into the top of the plastic mouthpiece. I investigated this with my fingers and a tiny sliver of brass jabbed into the end of middleman. I dunno why, but wounds by copper and its alloys are always more painful than those of ferrous swarf. Tweezers got the better of it, but I had a sore paw for the next couple of days. I have since burnished the crimping edges of the ligature with very fine emery. Even so, I still put a PVC tape Elastoplast over my new £25 Yamaha mouthpiece. Gear4music ain't messing that up. So here's where another star dropped off. Maybe, after all, that's what the gloves were for...

And the other two stars fell off because the damn thing just wouldn't work. Blow as I might, all I got were hideous squeaks. Naturally - as a complete and utter novice - I blamed myself. What do I know about ruddy saxophones? Finally, in deference to my neighbours and after an assault from the cat, I took the mouthpiece into the park to experiment, and spent an hour or two startling dog-walkers and putting crows to flight before concluding that it wasn't just me. There being no music shops in my manor, I was obliged to mail-order some Rico reeds. Then, they got held up in the post. Meanwhile the sax sat in its case (like an ornament), and my enthusiasm began to wither on the vine. Finally - nearly two weeks after purchase - I slipped a new reed into the mouthpiece and va-va-voom - we're off!! Within a couple of minutes I was blaring with incompetent triumph up and down scales, and Nelson's bum retreated through the catflap. In due course I reinstated the supplied reed, and sure enough; not so much as a note. Yet there was no evident damage, nor indeed any apparent difference between the two. Once again - Gear4music have clearly aimed this sax at the student/amateur end of the market and must surely expect it to fall into the clutches of every kind of experience, competence, age and pulmonary prowess. Surely a selection of reeds isn't a lot to ask - how much would it put on the price, for heaven's sake - a coupla quid? Working on a one-reed-suits-all-premise is absurd - even I know that much.

I'm up and marching now and would certainly recommend this instrument for the dosh, but gear4music need to raise their game, and purchasers are advised to buy some extra reeds as a matter of course. That swarf may have been an isolated incident but it smarted just the same; and for that, failing to provide instructions, or a reed I could actually play with; the one-star stays.

ADDENDUM - This month (June) it began intermittently playing the octaves without my pressing the key. Dunno why. I'm apt to suspect that the valve return-springs must've weakened already. I've also listened to three other sax-players and the tones of their instruments have sounded far richer and more mellow than mine. This may all be down to my playing, but it may also be the reason why Yamaha's are 4 times the price. I mean to bash-on, but I'll be upgrading as soon as budgets allow. On balance, I would advise newbies to go for a reconditioned secondhand horn with an established name - even if it means spending more.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 12, 2016 9:57 AM BST

Saxophone Basics Book and CD: Pupil's Book
Saxophone Basics Book and CD: Pupil's Book
by Andy Hampton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2.0 out of 5 stars How Basic Is Basic?, 27 Jan. 2016
Well; it seems like a great book. Glossy paperback, 12"x9" format, 56 pages in all; published by Faber.

However; although it's called "Saxophone Basics"; there's evidently basics - and basics. The first page leaps in with lines of music and very simple tunes, and - in effect - presupposes that the reader already has a basic grasp of musical notation and is familiar with the keys and general use of the instrument. If you are a COMPLETE novice - shall I say `saxual virgin'? (oh - I just did); if you've never even handled a saxophone before and sheet music might as well be a Cantonese menu; then this jolly booklet is about as much use as a three-legged donkey.

I was rather expecting a detailed run-down of the instrument, maybe a lick of history. Then guidance on how to wear it, how to hold, and an extensive explanation of what each key does and the best way in which to ply them. I was also anticipating insight upon the peculiar business of applying one's gob to the mouthpiece in order to make noises that sound at least saxaphonic instead of a tortured hamster. THEN, we might move onto playing proper notes, advancing to scales, and on the last page or two a couple of simple tunes to whack at. Heavens to Murgatroyd - by just page 28 we've reached "concert pieces..."!

I feel sure that for those who are already up and running, but who are still regarded by the snooty music world as "absolute beginners" because they can't play bloody Baker Street, this book may prove to be an asset; but if you've just taken the contraption out of its case for the first time and it has every appearance of an opium-smoking plumber's nightmare in brass; then you'd do well to give this book a miss for the time being and try your luck on YOUTUBE. There you'll find free lessons that really do treat you as an absolute beginner.

Not recommended.

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