Granville Street teemed with hawkers, shoppers, addicts, tourists, guards-for-hire, beggars, money changers, and buskers. It was impossible to hurry through the noisy press, so Klale stared around in fascination. Store signs and conversations were in more languages than she could recognize, and she saw a lot of Slang, too. The local version of sign language was clearly a lingua franca Downtown, and she wished she could follow the speeding fingers, but with translation available by phone, languages had always seemed like a waste of time. -- Donna McMahon's Dance of Knives
26th of May 2002
There's simply too much good reading material out there! I've had a much better than merely good run of books lately, ranging from Neil Gaiman's Caroline and Peter David's revised Knight Life novel to my present reading, Donna McMahon's Dance of Knives. And that's not counting all the cool material in the fiction section of the Green Man library, such as the unpublished War for The Oaks movie script or the Pam Woods biography of Sandy Denny in the musiclore collection. Just grab a pot of tea in our kitchen before you start reading... I hear the Guranse Tea from Nepal, just in from the Silk Road Trade Company, is spectacular. And do have a few of the fresh-baked tattiescones with the ever-so-good strawberry jam from Cornwall that Stephen Hunt just delivered. Just don't get sticky fingers on the books... a Sidhe Librarian with lightning in her eye is not something you want to encounter...
Grey Walker has hugely enjoyed tackling the recorded music editing job while Kim Bates is away at an academic conference this week. Grey wins an Excellence in Editing Award for the gusto, verve, and flair with which she produced the music section. And please note that David Kidney has been promoted to Senior Writer on the basis of his continued superb reviewing and his willingness to review CDs that no one else is willing to do! Congratulations, David! (He will providing us with a comprehensive review of the new Fairport Convention 4-CD Boxed Set that Free Reed just released. And I'm listening to it right now as Free Reed sent Green Man an extra copy!)
Kate Brown gives us a detailed plot summary of Sara Douglass's last Wayfarer book, Starman . Kate thinks it wraps up the trilogy effectively, and she's looking forward to the adventures of the next generation.
Christine Doiron enjoyed reading Jane Yolen's trilogy of children's books set in Scotland: The Wizard's Map , The Pictish Child , and The Bagpiper's Ghost . She says these books are as exciting as you'd expect from Yolen, but keep your individual child's sensitivity in mind when deciding whether to share the books.
David Kidney looks at two books about George Harrison: Behind Sad Eyes , a not-very-successful attempt by Marc Shapiro to show the real truth (read dark side) of Harrison's life; and Harrison , by the editors of the Rolling Stone. David says of the latter book, 'This is a beautiful volume, well-designed, filled with pictures and flush with remembrances of a very special man who was George Harrison.'
Jack Merry explores ghosts, troubled family relations, and really old houses in his review of Gregory Maguire's Lost . He says this novel reminds of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere -- high praise indeed from our resident fiddler!
Gary Whitehouse was so pleased with Takashi Matsuoka's historical novel Cloud of Sparrows that he volunteered to review it for us. This Japanese novel draws connections between the American Wild West and feudal (samurai) Japan. What? You've never heard of the great cattle drives to Edo?
Matthew Winslow reviews two books for us this week. The first, A Song for Arbonne , is by Guy Gavriel Kay, a well-known writer in the fantasy world. This is a political novel set on Kay's two-mooned world, in a country very like medieval France during the time of the Court of Love. Matthew calls it 'a smashing good read.' Matt also looks at Neil Gaiman's Adventures in the Dream Trade , a collection of nonfiction writings by this prolific author. Read Matthew's review to see if Gaiman lives up to his usual standard of excellence.
Richard Condon reviews albums by two young Flemish bands, (BUB) andFluxus . Of (BUB) he says, 'I think that 'Eurofolk' would be a suitable description for this music: it is based on tradition, but one would find it difficult to say precisely which tradition.' Fluxus' music is 'more completely rootsy than (BUB)'s, with no real avant garde sounds, but again reflects a variety of traditions.' Richard's review, full of evocative descriptions, will pique your interest in the current Flemish 'young folk' scene.
Judith Gennett, reviewing Deeper Polka , makes a confession many of us can relate to: 'When I was growing up, polka was verboten territory. It brought to mind the nerdiness of our elders sitting like zombies watching Lawrence Welk on television. Despite attempts, mentioning Brave Combo for one, to bring polka back as cool, today it continues to flow along outside the mainstream. But flow it does, like boisterous mountain brooks.' Find out why Judith found herself deep in verboten territory, and loving every minute of it! She earns an Excellence in Writing Award for her 'true confession.' Judith also loved Serenata , which she claims is 'probably Irene Farerra's best, most vivacious album,' full of 'equatorial guitar, florid themes, and heavy dark passion.' The Liberty Tapes are a long-lost recording of a legendary concert by Paul Brady. 'So,' says Judith, 'for those who boarded the Irish Sea ferry on its later stops, what is here? Most importantly, interesting traditional songs with classic themes, great for those who love the romances.' Who doesn't?
Tim Hoke played the world traveler for this issue--at least from his armchair. The Rough Guide to Central America boasts music selections from six countries. A self-admitted 'compulsive reader of liner notes,' Tim remarks that the liner notes for this CD read 'like a mini-social studies lesson.' He was fascinated to discover that Central American music leans, not north to Mexico, but east to the Caribbean and even to Africa. Ensemble Aras' Colors of Silk took Tim all the way from Central America to the famed Silk Road. Chinese zither, Persian lute, button accordion , and frame drum combine with the 'warm, expressive voice of singer Gulay' for 'an hour of delightful listening.' Read both of Tim's reviews for a tantalizing look at music that literally spans the globe.
Stephen Hunt reviews three albums by singer-songwriters Richard Kaufmann, Gregory Page, and Michael Weston King . Kaufmann's Common Senses doesn't fall within Green Man's regular 'folk' remit, but is well worth the investment of anyone who remembers just how life-affirming good, honest, catchy songs can be. For anyone with teenage offspring, it's practically a parental duty!' Gregory Page's album Unhappy Hour offers songs with 'a host of textures and influences veering easily between loungey jazz chordings and crunching indie rock.' Michael Weston King, however, wins Stephen's ultimate tribute: 'By the time that I'd got to track four [of Live...in Dinky Town] I had to stop the CD, get the guitar out and try to get the basic shape of two songs....' Read Stephen's Excellence in Writing Award -winning review to be delighted and amused by the way he gives his opinions on these three albums. Or read it for the sake of all the interesting Web site links he provides. Heck, read it for both reasons!
Peter Massey gives us an English folk musician's take on Kim & Reggie Harris , whose music 'is largely based on African Roots/Folk and gospel.' Peter overviews three of their albums, but says he was most deeply struck by their song 'Short Shift at Ground Zero,' inspired by last September 11, and a lovely instrumental version of 'Finlandia.' 'In truth,' he concludes, 'you really need all three albums for your collection.'
Jack Merry may be a fiddler, but he's also got piping in his blood. When he says Kathryn Tickell's Back to the Hills is 'so good that I played it three times in a row -- bloody fine listening!' we here at GMR sit up and take notice. Jack also heartily approves of The Wind in the Reeds -- The Northumbrian Smallpipes, which he says is a must for anyone dedicated to the smallpipes. Then there's Froya, a piping 'song cycle' dedicated to the goddess Froya by Swede Malvin Skulbru. Jack's rollicking review of these three piping albums will convince you to give them a whirl.
Lars Nilsson enthuses that Alban & Josue's album, Polska pa Pan , 'is an excellent example of what can be achieved if one is firmly rooted in a tradition but daring enough to expand the boundaries of that tradition.' Read Lars' review to hear how Alban & Josue combine their two traditions of bag pipes and pan pipes for a wonderful sound.
Gary Whitehouse, who is a contra dancer -- and a host of other interesting things -- is delighted with the three contradance albums he's reviewed for us. 'Would that all contradance bands were such a blend of passion and skill as KGB and Tricky Brits/Bag O' Tricks, and that all contradance CDs were this good. Three winners from the Puget Sound.'
Michael Jones catches Spiderman on the big screen, calling it 'easily one of the best comic book derived movies ever.' Read all about Spidey and the Green Goblin in Michael's Excellence in Writing Award winning review.
Kate Brown has been to Neverland with Hook and Peter Pan. In the words of Tinkerbell, 'You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming... thats where I'll always love you Peter Pan... that's where I'll be waiting.' If you've felt as though there's something otherworldly that you forgot long ago, read Kate's marvelous review of a film about remembering.
That's all for this outing. The phouka who lives in the culvert-cum-stream out back of GMR's offices has come in to say that Summer has arrived here in this North Atlantic city -- red-colored salamanders have emerged from their winter sleep all sleek and shiny-looking. Methinks it's high time for fiddling on the green and piping in the hills, or just admiring such things as the garlic and onions that are coming up in the French-style kitchen garden. Bliss! Until next week, merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!
'Don't worry. Phoebe-baby. If you can't pronounce Tezcatlipoca; just call me Smokey. Smokey Espejo. The Mirror that Smokes. It's all me. It's all mad and merry and it'll recomboize the world.' -- Ernest Hogan's Smoking Mirror Blues
We get a lot of Celtic music for review here at Green Man -- more than anyone else, as near as Liath, our Archivist, can tell. She says that some of it is very good, much is passable, and some of it is very, very bad. (Her current favs to play loudly as she works in the Green Man library and archives are the Battlefield Band, the Chieftains, Rita Connolly, Mychael and Jeff Danna, Flogging Molly, Grey Larsen, Loreena McKennitt, the Pogues, John Renbourn, and Tannas.) What really interests me is where Celtic music is being recorded these days. Set aside for a moment the more common places such as Cape Breton, Brittany, and Ireland itself -- Did you know that Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Hungary are hot places for Celtic music today? Or that Finland has a thriving Celtic session scene? I know these statements are true because we've reviewed or will be reviewing Celtic CDs produced by bands resident in all of those places!
We also get what can be described charitably as 'a flood' of books that various parties want us to review. Some of it is quite interesting, such as Carolyn Dunn's Outfoxing Coyote, a collection of mythic poetry that Terri Windling recommended for Green Man review, and Coraline , Neil Gaiman's latest book, which gets reviewed this edition (This is the very first review anywhere!). Some of it is quite bad, and some of it is simply outside what we review. Though what we review is subject to adjustment from time to time, as you can tell by our decision to include speculative fiction in our reviews -- so long as it has a mythic aspect. GMR,in the words of Smokey, recomboizes itself as need be!
Now let's get to our reviews!
David Kidney has our first featured review, and he gets a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this look atAmerican roots artist John Hartford's Steam Powered Aero-Takes . Just savor David's lead-in to this review: 'John Hartford was that long drink of water that stood behind Glen Campbell, pickin' on a banjo, or sawin' on a fiddle while Glen did his down-home picking session on his TV show. It was the best part of the show -- real acoustic sessions every week. Hartford also added a touch of country humor, his dry wit and deadpan delivery was a great counterpoint to Campbell's 'aw shucks' affability.' Read the rest of this superb review to get his full take on this release!
Pinky Vincent, our Calcutta reviewer, has our other featured review this week. Pinky gives us a drink from The Devil's Cup as she reviews Stewart Lee Allen's book which is subtitled Coffee, The Driving Force in History. We chose this as our featured review because Pinky's writing style is entertaining and informative, and because we appreciate seeing this book from an Indian point of view. This review wins an Excellence in Writing Award, of course.
Cat Eldridge was very pleased with Neil Gaiman's children's tale, Coraline . Cat informs us, 'It won't surprise you that I think Neil's written a sweet, scary trifle of a book -- a treat to be savored in an hour or so while sitting in your favorite reading spot. It's not as deep as American Gods, nor is it as jaw-droppingly amazing for me as Neverwhere was when I read it for the first time, but it's nonetheless an interesting tale that reminds me more of a dark Ray Bradbury or Roald Dahl tale than anything that Neil has written to date.' Cat also enjoyed Peter David's Knight Life , a humorous novel about King Arthur and his cronies being alive and well in New York City. He also liked Smoking Mirror Blues , by Ernest Hogan, which tells the story of a VR game designer who recreates a dangerous Aztec god in a futuristic Los Angeles. Do you know anything about the Aztecs? Be very afraid!
Eric Eller, who is descended from Italian immigrants to America, praises Italian-American Folklore , by Frances Malpezzi and William Clements. This book looks at various traditions -- games, holiday customs, food, etc., -- brought to the United States from all parts of Italy.
Andrea Garrett , our newest reviewer, liked The Master of All Desires by Judith Merkle Riley, a lively novel which contains many historical personages as well as fascinating created characters. Andrea says it is 'a historical novel, a novel of magical realism, and a comedy with romantic overtones. Set in France in the middle of the 16th century, the era presented by Riley lends itself to ghosts and seers.' Andrea's favorite character is the Master himself -- but you'll have to read her review to find out why.
Jack Merry gives an enthusiastic critique of Bold as Love by British author Gwyneth Jones. Jack crows, ' ... just enjoy a reality where musicians get to act out their violent impulses without having the coppers arrest them! I'll certainly add it to the short list of novels, such as Emma Bull's The War for The Oaks and Gael Baudino's Gossamer Axe , which I consider outstanding novels for their use of magic and music.' If you want to know what the book is actually about, read his review!
Maria Nutick tried not to explode with wrath when reviewing Jack Zipes's Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood , a collection of various versions of this story, which Zipes reads as reinforcing a 'rape society.' Maria knows that Zipes is a respected figure in fairy tale scholarship, but she can't help thinking his interpretation is, in this case, a little extreme. Read her review to see what she has to say.
Rebecca Swain reviews a set of books that explain why she can never find pens and paper clips when she needs them. Mary Norton's classic children's series about the Borrowers contains five books, and Rebecca loves every one of them. She wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Thomas Wiloch looks at Of Kings and Jokers by Michael Parent and Julien Olivier, a collection of French-American tales, some traditional, some uniquely French, and some about the authors' own families.
Grey Walker recently saw Cirque du Soleil's spectacular show 'O' in Las Vegas. Grey says, 'Like all Cirque du Soleil performances, 'O' is not merely a series of circus acts, but a sequence of linked scenes, intended to convey a story, an overall idea. In 'O,' the story is about the water of life itself, how it bears us up, surrounds us as we live on dry ground, overwhelms us, sustains us, and finally drowns us.' Read Grey's review to see why you should definitely experience 'O' for yourself, if you ever get the chance. And be sure to catch Grey's upcoming omnibus review of the music for 'O' and two other Cirque du Soleil shows. Grey wins an Excellence in Writing Award for the evocative review!
Stephen Hunt likes most of Free Reeds 3-CD set called This Label is NOT Removable , which is a collection of English and Irish folk music ranging from Irish acts such as Seamus Ennis and Johnny Moynihan to English acts such as Peter Bellamy, Robin and Barry Dransfield, Mike Waterson, John Kirkpatrick, Vin Garbutt, Nic Jones and Fairport Convention. It should be noted, though, that he thinks there's a bit too much comedy and kippers... errr... Kipling... in the selections. Read his review to see why those elements aren't a good idea!
David Kidney, who is known to plays the Blues himself, is very impressed with Jimmy King's Live at Monterey CD. He says 'Altogether a good addition to the ever growing library of modern blues albums.' Our prolific -- and damn good -- reviewer rounds out his reviewing this edition with an impassioned look at Marina Belica's december girl . He notes: 'A slight cardboard sleeve, a pair of 3D glasses, and a silver disc. An image of a spinning, exotically beautiful girl in a black dress, the music as exotically beautiful as the girl. Marina Belica was the singer for the October Project. Then, in 2000, she released this solo CD and revisited one of the original group's best known songs in the process.'
No'am Newman is less than happy with Bamboozle by Legacy, an Irish group. He says 'Whilst the level of musicianship throughout this disc is high, I get the impression that it would be better to see Legacy in performance rather than listening at home to this disc, as there is no 'magic ingredient' which sets my pulse racing nor compels me to want to constantly spin this platter.'
Pat Simmonds has a look this edition at two outstanding Celtic albums -- the first being Aly Bain's Aly Bain & Friends , 'a selection of 16 tracks recorded in 1988 for Scottish TV live in front of a studio audience. Aly has the benefit of having anyone he wants at his sessions, such is his standing amongst his contemporaries, and he certainly has the cream of the crop here: Capercallie, The Boys of the Lough, Phil Cunningham, Willie Hunter, Willie Johnson, Violet Tulloch and many more.' April Verch's Fiddelicious CD is his other review this edition. He says 'April Verch is one of the many younger fiddlers coming out of Canada these days, making a name for herself as a professional musician, and maintaining the great Canadian tradition of fiddling and step dancing.'
Gary Whitehouse wasn't exactly enamored of Francis & the Bacon Boys, a Danish group, and their Bringing Home the Bacon CD. (Do go ahead and groan loudly. I did when I first saw the CD.) As he says, 'Francis McCreesh and his Danish group, The Bacon Boys, are a rowdy bar band that plays passable covers of Celtic and Nordic folk music, and lame imitations of American roots music. If you run into them playing in a bar in Copenhagen, they might be fun to listen to and drunkenly sing along with, but don't expect much from their CD.' Our stalwart reviewer also gives us a look at Country Rockers The Texicans and their self-titled CD, The Texicans . He says that 'with three songwriters in Ken Andree, Willie Lopez and Chad Morrow, and an obvious grounding in Southwestern country-rock, The Texicans show promise.'
Maria Nutick finds The Indian in the Cupboard 'message laden' and 'politically correct' but says she'd watch it again anyway. Read her review to find out why.
That's all for now, as we're off to see Queen Lear , a radically re-envisioned, gender-reversed version of King Lear performed by A Company of Girls, a group of (naturally) all girls ranging in age from eight to nineteen years of age. It should be a rather interesting piece of theater! And later this weekend, we're off to the Maine Fiber and Fabric Festival to look at neat fabrics, lovely wools, and other interesting natural fiber related crafts.
He played an encore at the Bitter End
a heartburst Little Wing
even the waiters cried and then we fell outside
and in the dusty dawn of Bleeker street
a sweet rain fell and Jimi died.
Waterboys' 'The Return of Jimi Hendrix'
Green Man gets an amazing array of cool stuff for review -- books, CDs, and videos arrive in the Green Man office at a somewhat appalling rate. Just consider the matter of CDs. Right now, our Music Editor tells me that there are some 170 CDs out for review. Certainly I've found music that I'd have never even known existed were it not for Green Man. So this week is going to be an all-music issue, with a new section called 'Featured Review' being added. Not surprisingly, a music omnibus is our first-ever featured review (see below). Other interesting music reviews include Kim Bates' twofer look at the CD by the Medieaval Baebes and the concert by them in Toronto this week, Chris Woods' great look at Strawhead's Songs of the Civil War, and Jack Merry's look at two more Rough Guides.
After you've finished our delectable reviews, take a taste of the newly-updated All About GMR page, the result of hard work by Asher Black and a historical contribution by Liath ó Laighan.
Ever wonder why Green Man is the most popular zine of its type on the Net? Just go read Stephen Hunt's Excellence in Writing Award-winning omnibus review of the Waterboys -- all nineteen pages of it -- to see why we are second to none in our reviewing. This review is Stephen at his very best and shows why our omnibus reviews are among the best anywhere! As Stephen notes, 'After two decades as a prolific recording and performing artist Mike Scott is still perceived as something of an enigma. The movers, shakers and self-appointed scene setters of the music business have often viewed him as deliberately contrary, a loose canon. Reviewers, confused by his frequent stylistic changes of direction have sung his praises and poured out scorn and derision in almost equal measure. Many of his faithful fans have cast him in the mould of a mythical hero - a Celtic soul and a poet and journeyman, a mystic with a rock 'n' roll heart. It's a role that he appears to neither court nor feel entirely comfortable with. Whilst almost every Tom, Dick and Noel who's ever strapped on a guitar and rhymed 'Moon,' with 'June,' has accumulated a stack of biographical tomes to test the weight-bearing capabilities of Ikea's finest coffee tables, the Mike Scott story remains untold.' Stephen has just been promoted to Senior Reviewer based on his far better than merely superb reviews!
Rebecca Swain, our Book Editor par excellence, has this to say: 'We have no book reviews this week because the book editor's life got unexpectedly complicated. But next week we'll have several fine reviews, including a review of Coraline, a delightfully weird short children's book by Neil Gaiman; a historical fantasy review written by a new staff member; and a look at a classic children's series about little people who might be living in your home even now!'
Kim Bates gives us a review of the Mediaeval Baebes' recent concert at Lee's Palace in Toronto. Says Kim, 'The Baebes put on a great show that owes as much to musical theatre as it does to any sort of classical or folk oeuvre. As usual the microphones were clad in ivy, and the Baebes in an array of alluring outfits, even changing within sets.' Intrigued? Read the rest of the review.
Kim Bates reviews Rose , the new CD by the Medieval Baebes, to go along with her review above of their May 4th concert (And she gets the first of many Excellence in Writing Awards that are being handed out for music reviews this week!). She exclaims riotously, 'Beauty, sex-and-death lyrics, mystery, gorgeous, flowing dresses and Mediaeval music -- who knew what an intoxicating mix it could be? The Mediaeval Baebes have been putting it all together since their first release, Salva Nos in 1997. Founded by Katherine Blake, also of Miranda Sex Garden, the Baebes have been cultivating an audience consisting of quite an odd mix of folks -- everyone from Goths to 'straight' fans of early music to Ren-Fest waifs. Their albums have appeared on various classical music charts, and they are favourites on the folk festival circuits. The nine Baebes (Katherine Blake, Teresa Casella, Audrey Evans, Marie Findley, Ruth Galloway, Claire Ravel, Cylindra Sapphire, Carmen Schneider, and Rachel Van Asch), along with multi-instrumentalist (and sometime Baebe) Dorothy Carter and percussionist Trevor Sharpe, recently played at Lee's Palace in Toronto, to an appreciative audience. They're touring behind their fourth release, The Rose, an album that makes the mediaeval very immediate.'
Judith Gennett gives us a review of Lee Murdock's Standing At the Wheel . She says, 'The waters of the Great Lakes flow from Superior to the sea, and thus do albums flow from Lee Murdock. Most likely at the top of the heap of Great Lakes singers, Murdock has now released his eleventh album, fourteen stories in song from our central mega-lakes.' Our reviewer is also very fond of James Gordon and Sandy Horne's One Timeless Moment CD. 'From Guelph, Ontario, singer-songwriter James Gordon is known for his work with the historical folk song band, Tamarack. But as he says, he wears a few other musical hats, and this presently-worn hat is that of a contemporary singer-songwriter, with not much history at all. If you're expecting either bagpipes or a cavort through antiquity, forget it. According to Borealis, Gordon has a new, edgier sound.' Read her review to see if this CD is indeed 'edgy.'
Stephen Hunt gets another well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for his look at two CDs by Richard Dyer - Bennet: Volume 2 and Volume 5 . Who is Richard Dyer - Bennet, you ask? So too asks Stephen: 'My initial reaction to these CDs was one of intrigue. Both came wrapped in booklets showing a formally-dressed man with a classical guitar and a music stand, and the legend Richard Dyer - Bennet TENOR, accompanying himself on the classic Spanish guitar. Having slid '2' into the CD player, my next reaction was one of WHAT THE $%£# IS THIS!! Ignorance is bliss? That's utter nonsense, ignorance is downright annoying. The fact that I've managed to remain completely ignorant of Dyer - Bennet (up to now), is particularly annoying, as it's unlikely that many other British folks of my generation have ever heard of him either.' Read his review to see who Richard is and why our reviewer really liked his work! Stephen was not at all fond of a singer-songwriter named Eleanor McCain and her CD, Intimate . He says she 'is unlikely to be affected by my impressions, nor will her career be the slightest bit hindered by a review in Green Man. She's already performing for the likes of Jean Chretien and Bill Clinton (haven't we punished him enough yet?), so if, by chance, she and I ever enter one another's orbit ... well, I think that I'll lie low at the Fureys' place for a while, just to be on the safe side.'
Peter Massey is very, very happy with Cara Dillon's selt-titled debut album . He says excitedly, 'This is the debut album for Cara Dillon. Why we have had to wait so long to hear from her beats me. For the uninitiated who have never heard of Cara, she is 27 years old and a tasteful singer with a rare and beautiful voice.' Read his review for all the details. Peter also reviews the Solomon Band's Not Life Threatening album this edition. 'It is nice to hear an album from a band you have never heard of before, one that can be viewed with a completely fresh palate.'
Jack Merry is mostly happy with the two Rough Guides he reviews this edition: The Rough Guide to Bellydance and The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music . Jack says, 'It's bloody interesting what drops out of me postal box these days. The Music Editor at Green Man sent me a pair of Rough Guides to comment upon. Neither would normally be me cup of Earl Grey, but both actually were fun to listen to! And I'm always delighted to find new music genres that will be worth exploring.' Read his review to get all the details.
No'am Newman gives us a review of the Force Of Habit CD. No'am says of the CD by Squeezebox master John Kirkpatrick that 'I can heartily recommend this album to anyone who tends to the Morris/traditional side of the English folk revival.'
Big Earl Sellar is lucky enough this week to review two CDs featuring the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Rough Guide to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Pukaar's The Echo . He says, ' The second most popular World Music artist on this globe, after Bob Marley, is the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. From his humble beginnings as a Sufi Qawwali devotional singer on the Indian subcontinent, to a huge star both in Asia and the West, Khan's amazing vocal prowess and hypnotically spellbinding songs continue to mesmerize music fans, even those who cannot decipher his lyrical accolades to Allah and Muslim saints. He was truly an artist who touched every listener, one that, despite how 'foreign' his music may sound to their ears, captivates them completely. His unfortunate death in 1997, just after gaining a wider North American audience, thanks to his involvement on the soundtrack of 'Dead Man Walking,' curtailed one of the biggest pan-cultural music phenomena since the sounds of the Kingston, Jamaica ghettos reached the world's ears (and hearts) in the 1970's.' Yet another Excellence in Writing Award is given out for this review! Big Earl was also very pleased with the latest Sufi twofer he got, Jahan-E-Khusrau's A Festival of Amir Khusrau , of which he says, 'I really liked this set. Jahan-E-Khusrau offers fantastic singing and playing, and some intriguing cross-cultural music collaboration. Although it's not energetic enough to be a Saturday night type of disc, it fits well for Sunday mornings. Trance inducing, somber and yet joyous, this set becomes many different things through each play, and one always picks up another few details with additional listening. Interesting, intriguing, and invigorating.' Big Earl scores anotherExcellence in Writing Award for this review--very knowledgeable, interesting and very well placed in the context and history of Middle Eastern/Indian music.
Gary Whitehouse, one of our Master Reviewers, proves why he's worthy of that title in his Excellence in Writing award- winning review of Rough Guide -- Cuban Music Story . How good is this CD? Let him state the case: 'If you buy one Cuban Music CD this year, it should be Cuban Music Story. But I guarantee that if you do, you'll find yourself planning to also buy some of the albums from which this excellent sampler is drawn.'
Chris Woods, a voice too long gone from Green Man, reviews for us Strawhead's Songs of the Civil War . No, not the American Civil War. 'Strawhead are well known to civil war re-enactment societies as one of the premier bands with an interest in English civil war songs. This tape is taken from various Strawhead albums, plus some new recording, in order to produce a civil war song collection. As the insert says, 'Being an exact collection of the choycest Poems and Songs relating to the late times'. Indeed these were the hit songs of the day, the day being sometime during the 1640's.'
I'm battling a spring cold that not even tea brewed by the Daughters of Bede could completely vanquish, so I'm going to take your leave now and curl up on the Roycroft couch near the stone fireplace in the corner of my Green Man office. I might just finish reading Neil Gaiman's rather amusing children's story, Coraline,which revolves around the matter of a Mouse Circus that may or may not exist. Neat! Now what shall I listen to while reading? Ah, the new Kathryn Tickell CD, Back to The Hills, should do nicely! And I'll watch the hooded rooks play at the edge of Oberon's Wood through the leaded glass windows.
'There's a difference between getting money for what you do and doing it for money. If you don't do it for love, or because you think it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it. If nobody does, maybe that means it shouldn't be done.' -- Sparrow in Emma Bull's Bone Dance
Our Beltane celebration in Orberon's Wood was enjoyed by all who attended. Special thanks go to Stephen for providing casks of Arthur's Ale, a most potent Cornwall brew, Liath for getting the Summer Court to allow a few of her favorite fiddlers to attend our humble celebration, Gary W. for coordinating the all-night contradance, Mia and her talented crew for the awesome breakfast they cooked up, Samuel C. for telling tales far into the night, and the Queen of May and Jack in the Green for calling in the Summer in proper fashion! Our next celebration will be on Midsummer's Eve, so join us then!
This week, we pass 4,000 CDs, books, and videos reviewed (not to mention more live performance reviews than any other similar online review source!) Actually, we passed that mark about a year ago if we count everything that has been reviewed over the years but, like any good gardener, we've pruned and weeded to bring you the best possible selection. Some gardens may be full of overgrown brambles and other weeds, but we like to have a properly tended garden of which Mister MacGregor could be proud!
Now onto our reviews this edition...
Richard Dansky looks at three books about -- weirdness. Passing Strange , Mysterious America , and The Mothman Prophecies will tell you all you want to know about sightings of Bigfoot, the Mothman, UFO's, and such, as well as mysterious disappearances, places with dangerous names, and all kinds of other wacky and unexplainable Americana.
Michael Jones gives us another art book, this one Tom Cross's The Way of Wizards , filled with wonderful pictures and not-so-great text. Michael also gives us his verdict on Jody Lynn Nye's five-book Mythology series , about a goodhearted college student who stumbles across a world of Little People and tries to help them survive when our world gets too close. And he brings to our attention Aaron Allston's books Doc Sidhe and Sidhe-Devil . (If you never knew how to pronounce 'sidhe', you do now!) Michael describes the premise for these books this way: 'Washed-up Olympic kickboxing champion Harris Greene's at the end of his rope, abandoned by manager and fiancee alike, until he tries to stop a strange kidnapping. In the blink of an eye, the world he knows is left behind, and he's thrown headfirst into a new world -- a parallel Earth where magic exists, art deco is in full fashion, and elves walk the streets.'
Maria Nutick likes to let us into her library from time to time, to show us some of her favorite books. This week she shows us three books in a series by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough: The Godmother ; The Godmother's Apprentice ; and The Godmother's Web . Maria teases: 'Imagine, if you will, that all the tales involving fairy godmothers are true.' These books are graphic but great, Maria says. She also looks at Sheri S. Tepper's Gibbon's Decline and Fall . Maria admits, 'Let me begin by saying that Gibbon's Decline and Fall is a difficult book to discuss objectively. I think that this would be so for nearly any reviewer, for this is a book that addresses some of our most fundamentally held beliefs and prejudices. This is a book that illuminates, but more importantly a book that confronts and challenges.' This is, in short, a novel that explains why women have been treated so badly for centuries.
Grey Walker loves Ursula K. Le Guin's work and was happy to review for us Le Guin's latest, Birthday of the World , a collection of eight short stories and novellas, most previously published. Grey says, ' ... I find myself, after reading them, wondering just how alive I've been lately.' As you would expect from stories by Le Guin, these delve into the fascinating subject of gender identity and purpose. Grey receives an Excellence in Writing Award this week.
Matthew Winslow is head of our travel agency, GMR Tours, and this week he sends an open letter to anyone planning a trip to Fantasyland. We are now including, in our deluxe package, a copy of Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland . In this book you'll learn such essential Fantasyland tips as the purpose of virgins, how to properly describe your food using OMT -- Official Management Terms -- and how to identify various types of dragons, weapons, and magic. Trust me on this, you don't want to go to Fantasyland without this book! I used to have a brother -- until he went to Fantasyland without the Tough Guide. I think he's a doorknob in the Dark Lord's castle now. Matthew wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
As we've noted previously, Fairport Convention is the band mentioned most often in Green Man, and we have several reviews by different reviewers of their performances in different parts of the world (Look in our Gig Section to find them).
Debbie Skolnik brings us another such review , of Fairport's April 13th performance this year in Hagerstown, Maryland. With so many reviews already available, why read Debbie's? Because, in addition to offering knowledgeable and attentive commentary based on years of listening to Fairport, Debbie also includes a photo in her review!
Kim Bates is recovering this morning from the experience of seeing the Mediaeval Baebes last night -- in all their considerable glory. She'll be giving us a review of this concert and a look at their new CD, The Rose, next edition. This edition, she reviews Hevia's The Other Side CD. She says, of this CD, that it 'blends world and trance elements, and it is a very danceable mix with heavily layered arrangements in which the bagpipe sits within an array of equally compelling elements, and where vocals do not convey meaning as much as texture. If you're not fond of dance music, this isn't the disc for you and, despite it's mystical title, the album is a bit too energetic for New Age aficionados. If you're still with me, read on.'
Jennifer Byrne is into groking African music this edition, and courtesy of the good folks at the World Music Network who have sent us more of their discs than I can count, she three more this edition. First up is Mabulu's new CD, Soul Marrabenta : 'Mabulu epitomise a new energy and creativity, pushing Mozambican music to new heights, to be heard and noticed beyond the country's borders. 'Soul Marrabenta' is a follow up to their first CD, Karimbo , and was accompanied by a European tour that included an appearance at WOMAD UK 2001 and earned the band some rave reviews.' All of our reviews are, of course, far better than average, but a select few are even better. Jennifer's next review is one of these, which is why she wins an Excellence in Writing Award. Go read her review of two African music CDs, The Rough Guide to Franco and The Rough Guide to the Soul Brothers . to see what truly great reviewing is!
Judith Gennett is deep in the blues this edition, as she reviews Unruly , a CD by the English Country Blues Band. She says 'ECBB fused the talents of a number of English musicians: Maggie Holland and Ian Anderson (the limey accent blues duo Hot Vultures) on banjo, bass, and slide, Sue Harris from Albion Band on oboe and hammer dulcimer (eventually superseded by Chris Coe, melodeon player from the Old Swan Band), The Cock & Bull Band's John Maxwell and, as they tell it, a host of other more ephemeral people. ECBB fused acoustic country blues with English country dance music and, although a number of other styles appear in the mix, blues and English traditional music are the spine of this album. It's hard for a nineties-based folk listener from America to believe that the music on Unruly, charming though it may be, was as groundbreaking as the liner notes claim. But, like the folk-rock bands that preceded them, ECBB reports being the machete that cut through the dense inertia of the old growth forest of English folk, providing the space for the sprouts of inventive arrangements and great status quo dance bands ... Blowzabella, Chipolata, La Cucina and Tiger Moth itself ... to become mighty saplings.' Our reviewer was also pleased with Alan Reid (of Battlefield band fame) and Robb Van Sante's Under the Blue CD: 'Under the Blue is well conceived, performed, and produced and will provide a pleasant experience for listeners. Similar to numerous other albums, the arrangements are so competently done that they might not even be noticed. The album is not the musical powerhouse that some people expect from Scottish music, but the songs exert an influence in ways that are less flashy.'
Irene Jackson Henry has a review of Barely Works Don't Mind Walking . She notes that 'This album, the last of three The Barely Works recorded in their five-year life, features the band's unique orchestration, a sort of collision of a folk trio with a jazz trio, sharing a drummer. Sarah Allen plays accordion, flutes, and whistles, Mat Fox plays dulcimer, percussion and vocals, and Alison Jones plays fiddle and sings as well. They provide the folk-based heart of the group. The jazz comes from Richard Avison's trombone, Keith Moore's tuba (!), and Chris Thompson's banjo, charango and vocals. Tim Walmsley, the drummer, holds it all together somehow. It works - and not just barely. The tuba and trombone, so unusual in most ensembles, really are a joy here, used generally like another group might use a bass to provide a sturdy melodic rhythm. The accordion adds drone, the banjo and dulcimer add sparkle and melody.'
Liz Milner almost made me swallow my Blue Mountain coffee wrong when I read her opening words of her review of Jews Harp by Tapani Varis: 'It's hard to develop warm and fuzzy feelings for an instrument that produces the sounds of prolonged belching.' Do read her review to see why, despite this statement, that she really, really liked this Nordic trance music!
Before you go down to the video store for some weekend entertainment, take a look at any of the Eighty-eight video reviews in our video archives and make a list. Some are esoteric, for the poet and the lover, like Chunhyang . Some are independent and raucous, like Escanaba in da Moonlight . Some are nostalgic and musical, like All You Need is Cash (The Rutles) . Others aren't out yet, but the review will whet the appetite, as with The Lord of the Rings . Our Video Editor, Asher Black, has been working overtime to keep Liath, our librarian, happy, and has everything neatly arrayed and shelved for your convenience.
Now I'm off to explore the fiction rooms of the Green Man Library to see what's going to be my next reading adventure. Will it be a Sharyn McCrumb 'Ballad' novel? A re-reading of Emma Bull's Bone Dance? Or mayhaps the new Sharon Kay Penman novel, Time and Chance? Hmmm... What's this package from Harper Collins that just came in the post that Liath is grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear about? Sweet Mab, it's an advanced reading copy of Neil Gaiman's new children's book, Coraline! Now I know what I'm reading! Now go away so I can curl up in the overstuffed chair in my corner office with this book! Come back next week and I'll have a review of this book!