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Geoffers (Essex, UK)

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In Love Again/In The Name Of Love
In Love Again/In The Name Of Love
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peggy Lee - sounding even better, 10 Feb. 2011
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I bought the original LPs (in mono) when they were first released, and was pleased at the prospect of updating them on this double release remastered stereo CD.

I was not disappointed. The sound quality is more vibrant and natural, adding new dimensions (other than just the excellent stereo) to the overall sound - especially to Peggy's voice which has a new fresh lightness especially on the 'In the Name of Love' album which originally had suffered from sounding a little heavy.

Nobody, but nobody has the rhythmic drive of this lady. While other singers seem to catch a ride on a swinging big band, this lady DRIVES the sound relentlessly forward, an amazing feat of skill from a seemingly gentle, but precisely placed voice. Whether she has a big band at her command, or her intriguing trademark 'kitchen sink' percussion backing (seemingly formless, but she makes perfect sense of it), she gently whips them into shape with just that voice and her exemplary experience.

As for the ballads, she can't be beaten. Her timing is impecable, and she is never afraid to hold back and place the voice with extraordinary effect and natural good taste.

If you haven't heard these albums, now is the time to buy the CD, you won't be disappointed.

7.5V Roberts PU21A PSU part replacement power supply adaptor
7.5V Roberts PU21A PSU part replacement power supply adaptor

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good replacement for Roberts Ecologic 1 power supply adaptor, 10 Feb. 2011
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A reasonable replacement for the supplied adaptor which predictably and inevitably failed due to the illogical design error of stressing the cable by having it come out of the top of the plug and therefore immediately kink downwards to the floor.

This replacement does the sensible thing and has the cable coming downwards from the plug. Why couldn't Roberts' engineers have thought of that? (Basic common sense!)

Only minor quibble is that it was only available in black, whilst my radio (and the original adaptor) was white, so doesn't match perfectly anymore. Otherwise, it seems fine.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2011 4:38 PM BST

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Price: £6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Four Seasons, 8 Dec. 2010
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Yes, there are many recordings of this work, and people will always have their particular favourites. However I find this recording fresh, inspired and very enjoyable. And - also very important - beautifully recorded.

Buffalo 8x External Blu-ray Drive USB 2.0 with CyberLink Software Suite
Buffalo 8x External Blu-ray Drive USB 2.0 with CyberLink Software Suite

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job well, 8 Dec. 2010
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Five stars for the hardware. I've been using this external drive for a month now, and it was simple to set up and performed well straight out of the box. It reads and writes blu-ray, dvd and cds swiftly and reliably. Excellent hardware.

The docking of one star was because I'm not so keen on the packaged Cyberlink software, though this may be because I know my way around the Magix package I'm used to, get everything I need from it, and can't see any advantages in going through a lengthy learning process without any obvious gains, - and indeed some losses of flexibility.

This response is going to depend on your specific use, of course, but my initial use has been to put my digital photos onto blu-ray slide shows. I am used to the fully controllable 'Pan and Zoom' features of the Magix software which, if used intelligently, greatly enhances the viewing experience by giving subtle movement towards or away from the main subject, allowing you to 'tell the story' and frame the start and end of the zoom or pan and its direction. However, the similar feature in Cyberlink Producer only works randomly, zooming or panning to illogical parts of the picture, making a nonsense of the effect, and spoiling your picture compositions. Yes, this is only one feature, but its an important detail for my projects, so I went back to Magix which works beautifully (with the Buffalo drive) to give very impressive high definition blu-ray viewing on an HDTV.

My other grudge with Cyberlink is that I find the frequent intrusion of selling pop-ups highly annoying (usually pushing the next version of my software - starting from the day of purchase) when I'm in the middle of my projects. I don't think you can turn this off.

However, the basic purchase here - of the Buffalo blu-ray/dvd/cd read and write drive - is excellent, and of course you can choose whichever software you prefer.

Mozart: Don Giovanni (Don Giovanni: Salzburg Festival 2008) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Mozart: Don Giovanni (Don Giovanni: Salzburg Festival 2008) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Wiener Philharmoniker
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £20.08

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable alternative Don Giovanni, 9 Nov. 2010
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Modern dress productions of opera classics can be very dodgy, so I looked forward to this blu-ray disc with some trepidation. I bought it on the strength of the cast, and I'm pleased to say the production is a genuine winner.

Of course, there is the odd incongruity that is inevitable after 200 years of cultural attitude changes, but nothing that seriously upsets the enjoyment of this new view.

A complete break from tradition, the stage setting is a forest on a revolve, which is interesting and quite cleverly used. But the big plus for this production is the stellar cast of singers who all give great value. Here is a run down of the best:

As Don Giovanni, Christopher Maltman is one of the most appealing baritones who can not only sing magnificently, but comes from a generation of young artists who can actually act. (And the fact that he doesn't look bad either, has to be a big bonus in the part!) He was always going to be a good start to the casting.

I enjoyed Erwin Shrott's role in the Marriage of Figaro (also on blu-ray), and here he takes a another great leap forward in musical and acting performance as Leporello, Don Giovanni's rather simple, guileless sidekick. He plays him with irresistible charm and appeal. (And he even gets away with the risky adoption of a physical tic which could have been disastrously irritating in the wrong hands.) For those interested in the visual, Mr Shrott is, of course, another hunk! And another very fine singer and actor too.

Dorothea Roschmann as Elvira (the jilted fiance) demonstrates flawless vocal control with the explosive and exciting fireworks the part asks for. And yet the voice is never less than beautiful.

And the surprise, for me, is a part I'd always written off as weak - that of Donna Anna, a girl seduced by the Don, whose father is subsequently murdered by him. Here she is played by Annette Dasch (new to me) who brings a real vocal brilliance to the part, injecting passion and excitement that I've never heard before in this role. It makes all the difference to maintaining the high octane flow of the play.

Not only can these first class singers act, (still sadly too rare in opera, even today), but they are pretty sharp with the wit and characterisations too. Good on the lot of them. The end result is a polished sylish performance that is an involving, very pleasurable and lively experience.

Whilst the opera's traditional settings will always have their place on your shelf, I recommend that you buy this as your alternative version - and enjoy it.

Schubert: Winterreise
Schubert: Winterreise

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A supremely beautiful and poignant Winterreise, 9 Nov. 2010
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Winterreise is one of those song cycles where you can search a long while for your perfect interpretation. This is my fourth Winterreise on CD, and I say without reservation THIS IS THE ONE I can happily live with for a very long while.

The constantly changing emotional colour and light and shade on this particular journey make it inspiratonal and permanently engaging (and a total joy) from start to finish. The poignancy and poetry of the songs has an over-riding beauty which draws you back to further listenings time and again.

If you are familiar with Mark Padmore's work, then you will know that he just goes from strength to strength. His voice has a natural beauty, and the interpretation is always well-judged and with a heart-felt sincerity and honesty which is always deeply appealing.

But this is a partnership of equals, and Paul Lewis is no mere accompanyist here. It's a masterclass of collaboration, and for the first time I'm hearing an astonishingly detailed and sensitive piano interpretation to absolutely match, inspire and compliment the vocal. Throughout the recording the pianist is eloquent and detailed, intelligent, sensitive and inspirational - I can't praise the playing enough. And the quite outstanding recorded sound which gives perfect balance and beauty to both singer and piano so that every detail is presented transparently before you, is a statement of where the engineer's and producer's art is at.

So, if you want a Winterreise that will give pleasure for many listenings to come, this is a truly intellectually and emotionally satisfying one. (Incidentally the lyrics are also key to enjoying the journey, and should your German not be as good as it could be [like mine] and you chose to buy the download rather than the CD, then note that the record company (Harmonia Mundi) has them available for free download on their website - well worth the effort.)

Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos (Paul Lewis)
Beethoven: Complete Piano Concertos (Paul Lewis)
Price: £25.68

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting Performances with lasting appeal, 20 Sept. 2010
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It's all been said by previous reviewers, but this CD set of the 5 Beethoven concertos is sheer pleasure to listen to, - and subsequent listenings just get better as you appreciate more of the nuances of the interpretation.

All 5 are praiseworthy, but if forced to choose, top of my list are no.s 1 and 4. The 3rd movement of no. 1 is the most joyful, dazzling good natured duel between pianist and orchestra you will hear. The inspirational playing on both sides continually raising the stakes right up to the triumphant finish. (Definitely a Dead Heat!)

The originality of the writing of no. 4 is extraordinary for its time (or for any time), and the clarity of the pianist and conductor's vision (and the wonderful orchestral playing)give the whole concerto a satisfying overall form. The opening of the 2nd movement, especially, with the angry strings slowly calmed by the dazzling beauty of the piano part is miraculously conceived and played right up to the piano's perfectly placed last three magical suspended notes. Then, for contrast, we have the joyous fun (with almost laugh-out-loud moments of wit) in the piano/orchestra dialogue as it moves towards an exhilarating finish. As a deeply satisfying piece of music and music-making, it can't be topped - and it continues to work its magic every time.

And that last phrase sums up the set of CDs. The deeply thought out interpretations mean that however many times you listen, the pleasure just grows. Wonderful pianist, wonderful conductor, wonderful orchestra, and a superbly engineered recording too. Don't miss out on this gem.

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas [Blu-ray]
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Malena Ernman
Price: £25.49

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An English Gem - TRASHED, 27 Jan. 2010
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I love this opera. But where do I begin - I hated this depressing travesty of a production from the start. Everything is wrong with it. Where is the drama, dignity, magic and emotion of the original baroque masterpiece? It left me totally unmoved, except with exasperation.

In my opinion the production is a horrible mismash of bad ideas from the outset, with little apparent appreciation of the underlying structure and beauty of the original music and drama written by Purcell and Tate.

In the presentation of the key main role, there is no leader-like dignity in the playing of the Carthiginian Queen, who behaves like an irritating overwrought emotional wreck from Desperate Housewives with far too much 'actorly' gasping and sobbing after sung lines - completely unnecessary as the music, honestly and sincerely sung, says everything. Poor acting and mugging in modern opera productions is surely no longer acceptable, especially when its being filmed in close up (and with sharp-eyed blu ray clarity). Where was the critical judgement of the director in guiding the performance?

As for the essential storyline element of drama, threat and foreboding that should be provided by the wonderfully evil Sorceress and Witches' scenes - Here it is played for laughs (or so I assume) with 'funny' wigs and over-the-top pantomime acting, (amateur night again). Its truly cringeworthy and, once again in my opinion, a major directing error of judgement discarding a key element of the story.)

With all palace, witches, and harbour scenes, Purcell's beautiful, dramatic and expressive musical interpretation of the libretto is the core of the piece. It only requires sincerity in performance to fully convey the emotion to an audience, not tricks and superfluous 'stage business'.

Christopher Maltman is the only performer worthy of note. His trademark honesty and sincerity with music and text are apparent in the underwritten part of Aeneas, and he does the best possible with it, especially when just allowed to sing. However, he is up against the odds here.

For those of a nervous or irritable disposition, I have to mention the frequent, irritating and pointless presence of the young school kids frequently running wild on stage. Why? And just to make them totally ingruous they are in modern school uniform - compared to the dog's dinner of the other costumes - some generic 'historical drama', some not.

There is also the incomprehensible incongruity of the invented prologue (disparate, unrelated poetry from a different era read by Fiona Shaw looking, equally incongruously, like St Joan complete with wooden sword, and in scruffy jeans - again why?).

And final 'honours' go to the overwhelmingly drab, lazy and minimal scenery and lighting design.

You may be surprised to learn, it wasn't for me! For lovers of this great Purcell opera, I would strongly recommend going instead for the beautifully realised DVD version directed by Peter Maniura with Maria Ewing as Dido, filmed in stunning style at Hampton Court House and grounds. This one hits all the right notes. (Good DVD, but sadly not Blu ray.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2010 11:46 AM GMT

Blue Skies & Black Olives: A survivor's tale of housebuilding and peacock chasing in Greece
Blue Skies & Black Olives: A survivor's tale of housebuilding and peacock chasing in Greece
by John Humphrys
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly entertaining, scarily enlightening, & truly enviable!, 18 Jan. 2010
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I love this book. Shortly after devouring it at a fairly swift, compulsive rate, I wanted to re-read it to pick up all the nuances. And the second reading was just as absorbing.

The main 'raison d'etre' of the book may have been to document the adventures and extraordinary obstacles of buying and building a dream house in Greece, but it has so much more. Sections of the book are written by John's son, Chris, and the interplay and contrast between father and son is terrifically enlightening and charming. John is (on the surface) the realist/pessimist 'Grumpy old man', while Chris is the diametric opposite - the easy-going eternal optimist. (How can two such diverse personalities come from one gene pool, and even more surprisingly understand and compliment each other so well?)

There are many clues and flashbacks to the Humphrys' family history, which particularly shed light on 'the making of' John, and how he came to be the professional, focused, hard-working, successful, demanding, sometimes difficult, but ultimately thoroughly agreeable 'Grumpy Old Man' with an ascerbic (and very witty) sense of humour that we recognise from his public persona and writing.

Chris, on the other hand, lives in the very different, more relaxed (if equally demanding), world of the professional musician. He has been working and living in Greece for 20 years. Having married a Greek girl, and with a young family, he is also thoroughly absorbed into the Greek way of life, and has many tales to tell with fascinating insights into the Greek national character, and the all-important Greek traditions. His contribution to the book adds light and contrast, and he is an engaging natural writer.

Between them, John and Chris have produced an intelligent, absorbing, well-written book which highlights the contrasts and contradictions of that sometimes-exasperating, but essentially wonderful country that many of us love.

If there has to be a criticism, it has to be the flow of the book. Too often it dodges back and forth in time and subject, so that for example at a critical time when you want to know what happens next in the Greek building project, you are suddenly taken back 10 years, reading about John's impulsive venture into Welsh dairy farming. (Reticent of an Eastenders' soap technique to spin out the suspense, I think?) These diversions are all interesting, and I do want to hear about them, but I'd rather a chronological approach, than have them interrupt the ongoing flow?

Anyway, that's a small quibble that won't spoil my enjoyment of the book. It is perfect for a holiday read, essential for anyone mad and brave enough to contemplate a home in Greece, and its pages are also a welcome escape to the Greek sunshine on any grey English day. How I ultimately admired John and Chris's tenacity, and even more how I envy them their own well-deserved piece of Greek heaven!

Zodani Ihografisi Stin Iera Odo II
Zodani Ihografisi Stin Iera Odo II
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Rate Greek Singers - Magic, 11 Jan. 2010
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Here you have two of the very best Greece can offer. Not only the versatile, talented and quintessentially Greek voice of George Dalaras, but also one the most naturally expressive and beautiful voices around - Marios Frangoulis. And they are live, in concert together.

The songs are a perfect selection mostly from the Greek repertoire. (If you think Greek music stopped at Syrtaki or Zorba, listen to these beautiful songs of true quality.)

Dalaras is the true authentic sound of Greece. Frangoulis, with his classical training, and natural gifts of warmth and expressiveness, is completely captivating. And their duets work to perfection.

I have always thought the best Greek music is overlooked outside Greece. Try the solo albums of both Dalaras and Frangoulis to see what I mean. Meanwhile, this CD is a great introduction to both.

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