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on 2 September 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Two CDs containing recordings of BBC radio programmes, the first containing readings of more 'sober' poetry and extracts from Shakespeare which have some meaning or impact upon the readers. The second CD is more light-hearted, containing limericks, humorous epitaphs and more comical poems.
The voices of Judi Dench, Michael Williams, John Moffat and Alec McCowen are wonderful for this medium and the wide variety of pieces read.
Recorded in front of a live audience the atmosphere is conveyed wonderfully via this CD. The mixture and style of the readings makes it feel like a cross between Rudyard Kipling's 'Just So' stories and the long-past TV series 'The Good Old Days'.
Very entertaining and the usual BBC quality audio recording.
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VINE VOICEon 14 October 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A double CD comprising radio readings of poetry, rhyme and song - the kind of evening it must have been wonderful to attend. It's really not the case that "you had to be there", though: the CD format makes this great to dip into (or import to your iPod...) so that you can enjoy some of the nation's favourite poems (Thomas's "Fern Hill", Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") in a quiet moment, on the train or on the hoof.

Without exception the work has been read with sensitivity and power in equal measure. The only drawback is that the performances often leave you wanting more: Judi Dench's Cleopatra is truly wonderful, but after hearing this extract you want to listen to the rest of the speech (or the rest of the play). More effective are the standalone poems, often introduced to the live audience along with anecdotes or reminiscences.

Of the two programmes presented here, "With Great Pleasure" (from '91) is the more serious, with 1996's "Fond and Familiar" lighter of heart and probably more accessible in terms of content. High point? Probably Judi Dench's reading of Auden's heartbreaking "Funeral Song".
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although very different from the thrillers that I usually try to listen to, I really enjoyed listening to this as I drove from place to place today. Judy Dench and Michael Williams present a classic range of poems and scenes in their own inimitable way, and the results are sublime.

This is an ideal Christmas present for a range of people. I shall be ordering copies for both my mother and my godmother - as I know they will love it (and they're not getting my copy! LOL!)

Enjoy! A great accompaniment to a long journey.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fantastic set of recordings. You need to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy just sitting and listening to this with a cup of tea. Lovely. The combination of Michael Williams and Judi Dench, are fantastic to listen to. Nostalgic and saddening in some ways to hear their obivous enjoyment of being married to each other and what a great part that literature has played in their lives. An impressive set of different readings (2hr 30 mins) with a good range of nursey rhymes, stories, Shakespeare and Alan Bennett.

This is a fantastic Christmas present idea and we shall definitely be buying a copy for several members of our family. Truly lovely and highly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Saying that Judi Dench is a superb actress seems a bit pointless, like saying that rain is wet or that the sun is warm. This collection of readings from Dench and her late husband Michael Williams ranges from comic to dramatic, from Roger McGough to Shakespeare, and is interspersed with personal reminiscences and anecdotes. As a previous reviwer observed, you do need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to this, and it's not something you would have as background noise - it captures your attention and holds you rapt. My personal favourite is Dench's reading of 'Just in Case' by Charlotte Mitchell, it exudes warmth and humour and never fails to make me smile. The whole collection is a joy and it's impossible to overstate how lovely a thing this is. Very much recommended.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How poignant and sweet to hear Michael Williams' beautiful voice once more on this CD. Absolutely ideal for listening to on long journeys or during mundane tasks. Much of what is here will be familiar, yet these wonderfully accomplished actors gave new nuances to the well - known words. This is something that will be listened to more than once. For me, the poetry of Dylan Thomas is so tied up with the voice of Richard Burton that it was almost a shock to hear another voice - and yet, I think that poem will become my favourite piece on the whole CD. Given that it was made so many years ago, it is near timeless.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a twin audio CD set pairing two archive radio programs: 'With Great Pleasure' (Radio 4, 26th Dec 1991) and 'Fond and Familiar' (Radio 4, 25th Dec 1996), in which Judi Dench, in the company of her husband Michael Williams and their friends John Moffatt and Alec McCowen, reads a variety of poetry and prose. The resulting programmes are a charming collection of works from a myriad of sources, all beautifully spoken by the stars, where Judi Dench positively shines, and her male support are aren't bad either [if bit overly 'Thespian' at times]. For some reason Michael Williams voice seems a bit subdued on CD1: 'With Great Pleasure', but it's good to hear him again none the less. There is also a bit of a fun chat linking the tracks, and there's Judi Dench's nostalgic programme introductions as well.

'With Great Pleasure' featured Judi Dench, Michael Williams and Alec McCowen reading "some of the literature that shaped their lives". Among the included poems are `Fern Hill' by Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath's `Morning Song', WH Audens `Funeral song', Louise McNeice's `Death of an actress', G.M. Hopkin's `Gods Grandeur' and Charlotte Mitchell's `Just in Case', plus there are extracts from Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra', `Henry V', `Shall I compare thee' sonnet, Alan Bennett's 'The Lady in the Van', Kiplings `If', `The ruba'iyat of Omar Kheyyam [a few lines]', Coleridge's `The Rime of the Ancient mariner [sadly just 2 lines]', and Alec McCowen's 'Young Gemini'.

'Fond and Familiar' featured Judi Dench, Michael Williams and John Moffatt. Together they read out verses, ballads, twelve limericks, stories, nursery rhymes and thirteen epitaphs ranging from the comic to the deeply moving. Featuring old favourites such as J.M. Haye's `The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God' [and a parody of it by Billy Bennet & Cicely Courtneidge], Kipling's`Mandalay', the folksong `Clementine', `A perfect day', `A housemaids poem', and `Billy's Rose'. Plus there are extracts from Longfellow's `The day is done', and `The barrel organ' by Alfred Noyes. These are all recited with affection, creating an amusing collection of `party pieces'. This CD is my favourite of the two, and the program starts in the last few tracks of CD1.

So this charming CD set breaths life into some great printed words [granted, not quite in the same league as Sir Richard Burton, but good recitations none the less, particularly when Dame Judi Dench is about]. The only downside is that these tend to be snippets, some very short, which leaves you wanting more of the same, and you can't flick through the pages in quite the same way as a book of good poetry. Plus the line between the verbal banter and the poetry blurs a little, and the complete poem recitations aren't of my personal faves [e.g. no Stevie Smith, Tennyson, Mervyn Peake, Carroll, Lear, Betjeman, Eliot etc.]. But otherwise an entertaining 2 hours 30 minutes of prose, that works well ripped to the iPod [although iTunes didn't recognise any of the CD/tracks] - easily 4*.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A privilege to hear something which could so easily have been lost within the limitless vaults of the BBC, or even worse, wiped.

At first listening not all the prose pieces appealed to me, although I shall doubtless mellow upon futher sampling. Programmes such as these may well be construed as being within the realm of the middle-aged middle- classes, in that case I am part-way there. My initial listening was whilst pottering around in the kitchen when I was suddenly struck with the idea to make cucumber sandwiches, or better yet, lashings of hot buttered toast dripping with tangy marmalade and a freshly made pot of Orange Peko.

Dame Judi's reading of 'Just in Case' brought a wry smile to my well-worn face and I cannot remember hearing a better version of 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God'. Sadly, however, in spite of its excellent reading I still yearned for Peter Dawson's incomparable baritone singing 'Mandalay' but that's a small price to pay for this exquisite pot of gold to which I shall happily, and frequently, return.

If the BBC concentrated upon the things it does incomparably well it would have no cause to worry about lost licence fees to fund the sort of mediocrity everyone else can throw up. However, thank you Auntie very much indeed, let's have more like it, it goes well with the toast.
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the aural equivalent of 'fried gold' - Dame Judi Dench, the late-Michael Williams, and a whole heap of poetry and greatest hit level-prose from Shakespeare to Alan Bennett, via Sylvia Plath and a dash of limericks ...even some nursery rhymes. Why the BBC has waited this long to get this out onto the market is a mystery.

The title, With Great Pleasure, comes from the fact that the married pair (this was recorded back at the start of the 1990's) have selected the readings that have meant the most to them throughout their lives, both separately and together; building over two-discs into a kind of Desert Island Discs of prose. Complete with biographic background, as each reveals the memory they associate with each text, either in the guise of a job on the way up or a moment from family times, it paints a wonderful portrait of two fine actors forever associated with the joy of the spoken word.

Granted, it's not to be undertaken lightly, and I had to be in the mood to listen in, but that's merely because it's of a particular bent. (Had it been on the radio, I'd probably have been glued, but because it was on-hand for me to choose when to listen, I had to pick my moments.) However, if you love either of this pair, whether as solo performers or as a once-golden couple, or you have a thing for cosying up to the radio with a good cup of tea and some biscuits whilst golden gossamer verse pours forth, then this is seriously the one for you. I would also imagine it would gain some major house-points with older relatives come Christmas or a birthday.

Again, another gem of a production that explains why we pay (or at least grumble, then pay) our BBC TV & Radio licenses.
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had never heard these recordings before. They are from the apparently bottomless resources of the BBC radio archives and have given me such pleasure and delight that I am so pleased I am able share some of this with Amazon review readers.

The recordings are from the early 1990s and represent two live broadcasts given by the husband and wife team, Judi Dench and Michael Williams with guests Alec McCowen and John Moffat.

The first broadcast is named With Great Pleasure and follows a vaguely autobiographical theme with the introduction of Judi and Michael to the works they read here. Stand out numbers, for me, are the impassioned reading of "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas and "Just in Case" by Charlotte Mitchell. Judi Dench's reading of Auden's "Funeral Song" had me in tears as she seemed to find even more nuances in this now celebrated poem.

This first CD celebrates a very wide range of pieces many quite hilarious, don't think that all poetry has to be sombre or melancholy

The second broadcast called "Fond and Familiar" is just that with many well known extracts and poems interspersed with a series of epitaphs and a number of limericks which, as is the rule with limericks, get increasingly bawdy. A stand out track here is a performance with music of "The Pig Got up and Walked Away". Also the original and subsequent parodies of "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God" is highly recommended

There really is something here for everybody even remotely interested in the dying art of the poetry recital and this collection would make the most perfect of gifts
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