25th of August 2002
'The halls had once been blank and identical, the stairwells featureless tubes of concrete block and iron stair rail. Now living ivy work its way towards the sky at the top of the stairs, where someone had turned a trapdoor into an open skylight; wisteria cascaded down to meet it from the roof. Things peered from the leaves: grotesque carved wooden faces, old photographs of people who all seemed to be smiling, faded postcards. A painted snake twined up the stair rail: red, black, and yellow on the first floor; blue, grey, and green on the second; purple, green, and orange on the third; blue, red, and yellow on the fourth. Fat candles stood in former floor lamps on every landing.' -- Sparrow describing the hallway in Sherrea's apartment building in Emma Bull's Bone Dance
Jack Merry here. Cat asked to write a few words on a subject that the Green Man staff has been discussing over a few pints of Dragons Breath Stout -- building a believable universe in fantasy fiction. Just consider for the moment that premise that good fiction depends in large part on creating a believable space or spaces where the narrative takes place. Bone Dance takes place in a future Minneapolis where the Apocalypse has come and gone, but is still recognizably that city, whereas Charles de Lint's Newford as depicted in novels such as Someplace To Be Flying is a city that doesn't really exist, but which readers think is either American or Canadian depending on what they read into the stories he sets there; and Windling's Bordertown is on the edge between this world and the elvin world, but you get there by walking towards the ruins of any North American city. It's far trickier to create convincingly fictions set in real cities, such as the London Below of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere which is firmly embedded in the real London, whereas the novel I'm reading now, Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord which is a novel of magic realism set in contemporary Venice, Italy, appears to use all real locations! But perhaps the most unique setting of all is Evenmere which is the setting of James Stoddard's The High House, and its sequel, The False House. Would you believe that the entire universe exists entirely within the walls of Evenmere? Really. Truly. Maybe. Read the review by Michael Jones of these Evenmere novels for a look at this intriguing idea!
Liath, me leannan, what've you got that has you grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear? Ahhh, you found a copy of a Penguin Cafe Orchestra programme for the concert that was the very first time they performed 'Music for a Found Harmonium'? Neat! You do know that the Irish Traditional Music list had a somewhat bitter debate some time back over the validity of 'Music for a Found Harmonium' as a Celtic tune, but it certainly has become a tune that many groups treat as though it were part of the tradition? Me band, Mouse in the Cupboard, has it as part of our all-night dance party play list as we use it when the dancers want a break. A few more generations and most musicians will think it's completely traditional in nature.
On a related note, Kim Bates, our ever-so-fine Music Editor, tells me that Green Man has been particularly blessed with interesting Celtic CDs lately. Mick Maloney's far from the shamrock shore, a CD/Book combo, came as did Liz Doherty's Quare Imagination, Malinky's ravens, Cady Finlayson's Shines Like Silver, Shilelagh Law's Togather in the End, Henry Marten's Ghost's Ireland -- a troubled romance, John McLean Allan's Stand Easy, Legacy's Factory EP, Celtic Tenors' so strong, Llangres' Stura, Tony Reidy's the coldest day in winter, Liz Caroll's Lake Effect, Seamus Quinn and Gary Hastings' Slan le Loch Eirne, Karie Oberg's Hard Times, Irish Brigades' Live at The Half Time Bar, Canadian Celtic Choir's Here's to Song, and Tommy Fleming's sand & water are but a few of the recent arrivals. You, our dear readers, can look for all of these and lots more of a similar nature to be reviewed in the near future!
As mentioned above, Evenmere is an imaginary world par excellence. Michael M. Jones shows us exactly why in his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of James Stoddard's The High House and The False House. When we told James Stoddard about Michael's review, he wrote back, 'Thank you for your incredible review... you actually got me excited about my own book!'
Here's something else to be excited about. Drumroll, please.... Volume Fifteen of the Year's Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, is out!!!!! Michael Jones won the honor of reviewing this year's most eagerly awaited anthology at the point of a lance, errr cursor, and also by writing ten other reviews for this issue (I'm serious! See them below...).
We've got such a slew of book reviews this week that we wanted to remind you that there are other reviews further down the page -- music reviews, for example. But it never ceases to amaze me how many different types of fiction we get for review here! This week has everything from the usual fantasy, literary mysteries, dark horror, and alternative histories, to mainstream fiction worthy of being reviewed here. And we have the first review online of Volume Fifteen of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror! Just look above in featured reviews.
But books first...
Donna Bird's reviews are a rare treat for Green Man -- too rare. I know you'll agree when you read her review of Barbara Wood's The Dreaming: A Novel of Australia. Donna writes, 'I came across this gem of a novel the old-fashioned way, while casually scanning the fiction shelves at my favorite local used bookstore.' Her review, which earns an Excellence in Writing Award, will have you setting out to your own local used book store!
Christine Doiron, a long-time Neil Gaiman fan, landed our review copy of Coraline, the audio version read by the author himself. Christine says, 'There are few experiences more pleasurably spooky than lying in a pitch black room, listening to Neil Gaimanís dark, crisp voice relating this creepy but somehow elegant story.'
Eric Eller graces us with a thoughtful review of John Myers Myers' 1979 novel Silverlock. GMR never hesitates to publish reviews of older books and music, especially when they are seminal works in the field, like this one. 'The subtle allure of great literature is slowly laid out by Myers Myers, who does his best to entrance both Shandon [the main character] and the reader.' Eric's own subtly alluring writing garners him an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Michael M. Jones turned in twelve book reviews for this issue. Two of them are in the Featured Reviews section above. Of the other ten, eight are reviews of books just released this year. 'Jane Lindskold just keeps getting better with each book,' Michael insists. Of her new book, Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart, he adds, 'Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart overcomes almost all of the traditional pitfalls and limitations of being the second installment of a trilogy to present a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. I couldn't predict how [it] will end, and right now, I wouldn't want to. I'm having too much fun watching it play out.' Michael also had fun with Wild Cards XVI: Deuces Down, a new anthology set in the Wild Cards milieu and edited by George R. R. Martin. 'Inventive, imaginative, and innovative, Deuces Down truly represents the best of what the Wild Cards universe has to offer.' And then there's Sorcery Rising, a new endeavor by long-time fantasy editor Jude Fisher. Michael assures us that Fisher is just as adept at writing as she is at editing!
'Michael likes books, yes he does...' (and that's a quotation from the man himself). Another one he liked is Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. 'The Eyre Affair is one of those peculiar books only a Welshman with a severe and possibly unhealthy love for literature could have created. In short, it's damned good, managing to combine wackiness and comic adventure without losing its grip on the suspension of disbelief that makes it all possible.' Dawn Cook's novel, First Truth, Michael says, 'is well-told and intriguing, imbued with a hint of claustrophobia and paranoia, the sort one might find in a remote Arctic base.' Of Devlin's Luck, a novel by Patricia Bray, he says, 'The concept of the Chosen One is a popular and frequent theme for fantasy series, whether it's the assistant pigkeeper, or the exiled king, or just some poor schlub off the street with an inexplicable, implacable destiny to fulfill. Patricia Bray takes this old concept and puts a new spin on it, making the Chosen One an official post, one in dire need of improvement.' The Warslayer, by Rosemary Edghill, takes another common fantasy theme, that of the ordinary individual from our world who gets plunged into otherworld adventures, for a delightful ride. 'Think Buffy crossed with Xena, and set in the Elizabethan era, and you're pretty much dead on target.' And last but not least for books released in 2002, we get the treat of another novel by Laurell K. Hamilton. 'A Caress of Twilight is dark and rich, as beguiling as a Sidhe glamour and as intoxicating as a poppy field. Blood and sex, desire and pain, need and fulfillment, lusts and loyalty all come together in a decidedly risque tapestry.'
Michael also reviews two oldies-but-goodies this issue. Eve Forward's Villians by Necessity was published in 1995. '[Forward] takes the stereotypes and generalizations of the heroic quest, and turns them inside out. Root for the bad guys; they've earned the right for a little support.' Michael says he re-reads this book often. Good enough for us! Mike Resnick's Stalking the Unicorn, published in 1987, is another book worth reading more than once. 'It's supernatural investigation with a surreal twist, filled with sly humor, comic undertones, and pulp sensibilities. In short, it's as though Ross MacDonald and Monty Python had gotten drunk with Lewis Carroll, and written a book together.'
Liz Milner brings us Sean Stewart's novel, Resurrection Man. 'Sean Stewart says that Resurrection Man was inspired by a dream he'd had of someone autopsying himself. It's not surprising then that Resurrection Man has all the strengths and weaknesses of a dream scenario. Like the images in dreams, Stewart's writing is haunting, sometimes terrifying and often oddly beautiful.' Liz's evocative review wins her an Excellence in Writing Award.
Gary Whitehouse recently saw evergreen (or should I say evergrey?) folk icon Joan Baez in concert (with Richard Shindell as opening act). See why Gary thinks Joan is even better now than she was in her heyday.
New reviewer Craig Clarke's recent holiday in Bermuda gave him a chance to catch The Clayhouse Review performing. Who are the Clayhouse Review, and why did Craig give them mixed marks? Take a seat at the table with him and find out! Craig's review earns him an Excellence In Writing Award.
It never ceases to amaze me how many different genres of music we get for review here! This week has everything from the usual Celtic, British, and American Roots to Indonesian folk pop fusion and Arab electronica/trance/dance music, and even a bit of the punk/country mix known as Alt-Country. Thr reviews this week show why Green Man is your best online choice for finding music you will like in a no pressure environment where we, unlike some review zines, really don't need you to buy anything!
It's not easy being Music Editor for Green Man -- the big corner office with a top-notch sound system, the twice daily massages to ease the tension, endless requests for CDs to be reviewed now, concerts in the Great Hall by your favorite bands, wads of cash being offered to you, and endless cups of freshly brewed Swiss water processed Blue Mountain coffee... It's a wonder Kim Bates, our crack M.E., finds any breathing room at all to write reviews. But she does, and you, our dear readers, will be glad she does when you look at here review of three Celtic albums from Dorian: Altramar's Celtic Wanderers; Greenfire's A Roof for the Rain; and The Road from Erin collection. Kim, waving at her adoring fans, tell us that 'Near crossroads in lands once inhabited by ancient Celtic populations archeologists have discovered statues that looked three ways, guarding and surveying the approach from all sides. Like these figures at the crossroads there are several faces of Celtic music being played today. The mad reels fuel wild folk-rock frenzies, and influences as disparate as African percussion and electronica are creating vibrant hybrids that pulse insistently. But there's another, equally satisfying face of Celtic music where folk traditions meet with a more refined treatment, and that's what we find on the three CDs reviewed here. The medieval comes alive on some tracks, the devotion of believers on others, while classical and folk styles come together around traditional melodies in others.'Read her Excellence in Writing Award review for all the tantalizing details concerning these tasty albums!
Andrea Garrett found reviewing The Blackbirds' The Earth and Gravel to be very pleasurable after she gave it several listenings: 'The Earth and the Gravel is not unusual, not groundbreaking, but pleasantly odd and in it's own way charming. Would I buy this CD? Yes I would. I've listened to it several times and while it's not a complex recording where something new appears each time, the songs become more enjoyable as they become more familiar. I guess that's true of most folk songs or they wouldn't have lasted through the years. The Welsh songs seem a bit smoother than most of the Irish music I've heard, although it's not clear if that's indicative of Welsh music in general or if it's just the band's style. The Earth and the Gravel does make me want to listen to other Welsh songs and more music by The Blackbirds.'
Judith Gennett starts off with an Excellence in Writing Award review of Canadian singer Enoch Kent's I'm A Workin' Chap. She says this CD is 'a trip back in musical time. A contemporary of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Kent was born in Scotland, and in much earlier days played in the revival folk bands, The Reivers and The Exiles. He later moved to Canada and has performed at festivals and, according to his biography, many times at the Fiddler's Green Coffee House in Toronto. I'm A Working Chap is an album of mostly traditional songs, but some are originals set to a traditional or new tune...' Sliding over to another fine Canadain artist, Terry Tufts and his CD, Two Nights Solo, which she says is great, and about which the 'production here is exemplary; it is difficult to tell that it is a live performance.' Making her way across the border to the States, she examines Michael Jerome Browne's Drive On CD which she finds to be a mixed bag. Read her review to see why. And our reviewer sort of liked Aoife Clancy's Silvery Moon CD: Here is the clue to whether you'll like this album. If you like Mary Black, yes. If you're looking for Shane MacGowan, Silvery Moon is not for you. If you're in the middle ground; if you're a traditional music enthusiast, well...you may only want sometimes to shoot the piano player (Jacqueline Schwab) for her milquetoast style.'
Waterson: Carthy, purveyors of fine English trad music and their latest CD, Dark Light, found a favorable reviewer in Judith: 'In its current form Waterson: Carthy is Norma and Martin and their daughter, Madonnaesque fiddler Eliza Carthy, as well as boxist Tim Van Eyken. The theory of the Dark Light album is to present material relating to 'people who had a profound effect on...us in some stage of our musical lives.' As this is an unconscious phenomenon in many albums, you may not catch this unless you read the booklet or are exceptionally observant. Inspirations range from source singers Fred Jordan and Sam Larner, to collector Cecil Sharp, to revivalist A.L. Lloyd.'
Moving to the exotic regions of the South Pacific, our intrepid reviewer serves up Sabah Habas Mustapha and the Jugala All-Stars'Jalan Kopo: The Sunda Session CD: 'Published first in 1997 by his Kartini label, Jalan Kopo is the second and perhaps nicest of three Indonesian-pop fusion albums made by Mustapha Sabah Habas Mustapha, whom some call 'Colin Bass.' The first of these, Denpasar Moon: International Dangdut was released in 1994 on the German Piranha label, likely because Bass, though English, lives in Berlin. This album, which features Bass's vocals, mixes the modern Indonesian pop forms dangdut and degung with a number of international pop and world music influences. Despite the different flavors, Denpasar Moon has a very sweet homogenized pop sound, and it became a hit in Japan. The third album, So La Li was reviewed by GMR and is a more ambitious, more conceptual project. Jalan Kopo lies in the middle, to some extent a crisper version of Denpasar Moo.'
Judith goes Balkan for her final review: Kevin Ferguson and Teshkoto's Exotic Extremes CD to be precise! She says quite delighedly that 'Thank goodness for electricity! Exotic Extremes is an instrumenal Balkan music album by Portland, Oregon's electric guitarist Kevin Ferguson. Actually Ferguson is from Beaverton, and the album officially includes dance tunes from various parts of the Ottoman Empire. A majority of the tunes are from the weird Ottoman-metered countries of Bulgaria and Macedonia. But you can also hear a few tracks from Egypt, Serbia/Romania, and Israel. They are all traditional.'
Tim Hoke is not going to complain about two CDs from John McCormick, Western Island and Between Our Hearts: 'John McCormick plays a rolling, smooth fingerstyle guitar that sounds equally at home playing a fiddle tune or backing a voice. That voice is a warm baritone. I'd even call it soothing; I've played these albums to calm my kids of an evening.'
Our new Assistant Music Editor, Cornwall resident Stephen Hunt is at at the Cornwall Folk Festival this weekend, but he did squeeze out the time to review two CDs: a Revels CD called Homeward Bound, and Hughie Jones' CD, Seascape. He rather wryly comments: 'There's a rather unkind theory in British folk circles, and it's this: If you really want to be a performing folk singer, then the complete lack of a musical singing voice is no obstacle to achieving your goal. You simply need to join a Shanty group. While it's true that there's an abundance of formulaic maritime CD's (record it in an afternoon, stick a picture of a three-master on the cover, sell it to the drunks in the dockside pub and run), these two CD's are categorically NOT of that ilk!' Read his Excellence in Writing Award review to see if the finger in the ear crowd will like these CDs.
Chuck Lipsig offers up a review of three CDs from Greenwood (Greenleaf Fancy, Windy and Warm, and The Cottage Door), a Celtic group from 'the wilds of the Minnesota -- OK, so St. Paul isn't exactly the wilds, but it still has access to that magic, bardic lake that I'm convinced is up there -- comes Greenwood Tree. The duo of Stu Janis on hammered dulcimer and bowed psaltery and Bill Cagley on guitar, mandolin, and bodhran have been together for more than fifteen years. These three CDs demonstrate that they are solid musicians, performing primarily Celtic tunes, with a dash of other traditions tossed in.'
Peter Massey is not at all pleased by what English artist Hilary Bell, did on her CD, Breaking All the Rules: 'I am sorry but I took a dislike to this album from the minute I put it on. Hilary sings in an alto voice and to be fair she sings very well, if you like this sort of thing, what I think of as a Julie Andrews type of voice. It's fine for opera or Gilbert & Sullivan, but it simply does not work when giving music a folk music treatment. I managed to sit through the first 3 songs without too much pain, but when she launched in to Gershwin's 'Summertime' on the next track, I gave up and went outside to mow the lawn. Although each note is played and sung perfectly, overall I found the treatment of the songs very cold, clinical, and as a result lacking in feeling.'
No'am Newman gives us a look at the Pure Irish Drops and their CD, Sounds From The North. No'am comments that on this CD, the Pure Irish Drops are not quite up to snuff as 'The playing is professional and very competent without igniting any spark of enthusiasm (at least, in my ears). This may be due to the pick-up nature of this combo, and it may be due to the very nature of traditional Irish music, which seems to be about having a good time (artistic endeavours be damned!).'
Steve Power reviews one of many, many CDs that did not find favor with our reviewers this outing -- Ian Gallagher's My Ireland. How bad is it? Quite bad: 'This is an old fashioned, sing-along show band type of CD that will, I have no doubt, find an audience. Ian Gallagher does have a show band background, and no doubt wows them in the dance halls; and that is where this CD will likely be well received, probably by the elderly set who were led to believe that this is what Irish music is like. But I am not wowed by this unashamedly schmaltzy serving of what, at best, is a mistaken attempt to cash in on the Irish interest overseas, and at worst, at insult to those of us who know the difference between authentic Irish Songs...'
If you like Celtic music, check out the review by Lars Nilsson of Easy Club's Chance or Design. He exclaims that 'I liked the Easy Club very much when they first appeared and I must say that their music has aged very well, just like a vintage wine. For those of you who like groups taking the tradition further Chance or Design is a must.'
Big Earl Sellar knows shit when he sees it and The Rough Guide To Arabesque is, according to him, well, shitty. Why so? Let him tell us: 'The great homogeny of culture under the edifice of American Cultural Imperialism certainly has its drawbacks. When people of many differing cultures rush to emulate what comes from Hollywood, CNN, and MTV (my country dubiously included), it makes one wonder why the land that stands for individualism manages to create such boring uniformity across the globe. This collection of Arabesque music, or electronica/trance/dance music by Arabic peoples, is a startling revelation that maybe the global village is turning into another drab suburb.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award commentary to get the gory details of this CD. And The Rough Guide To Spain didn't fare any better in the hands of Big Earl: 'Even given my notoriously short attention span, The Rough Guide To Spain didn't captivate me as well as it should. There's plenty of brilliant music on this disc, but its execution as an album leaves much to be desired. Let's hope these folks don't make this mistake again.'
Pat Simmonds says recorded harp music can be a dodgy thing by any standard, but Dominig Bouchand's L'ancre d'argent, Harpe en Bretagne was to his liking: 'The approach is more medieval in style than many of the other Breton bands touting their wares these days, so the music may come as a surprise to Breton fans (for those that have been to a fez-nos in the fish market at the Lorient festival) but none the less it is very well played. For those unfamiliar with old Breton music this CD would come as a great introduction piece.' He also looks at accordion/melodeon player Brendan Begley's It Could Be a Good Night Yet (Oíche go Maidean) which, according to him, is 'All in all It Could Be a Good Night Yet is a thoroughly excellent record and highly recommended. A night in the company of Brendan Begley and friends is a very enjoyable experience and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him on this side of the pond.' Pat wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this superbly written review!
Alt-Country in the guise of Trailer Park Rangers (Lullabies of All This Mess and Everyone's a Winner) made Mike Stiles a very happy reviewer: 'While the mainstream US music scene limps blandly through its sheltered adolescence, the Trailer Park Rangers are running full throttle out at the frontier. They kick up more home-grown American musical wit in one song than most alt-country bands do in an entire CD.' Mike wasn't disappointed in the Celtic/Renfaire group Bedlam Bards and their CD, Furious Fancies either. Mike's down in the Great Hall right now telling everyone he can corner that 'when you ponder your favorite drinking horn, put on the Bedlam Bards and make merry. Roast a pheasant, doff your jerkin, and enjoy the fine craft of this theatrical ensemble.' Pass that man another mug of Avalon Applejack! He deserves it!
Not all Alt-Country is good; indeed some of it is quite awful. Indeed Mike says that Fletcher Harrington's Eyes on Fire & Knuckles Sore CD is one such effort: 'Eyes on Fire is just plain old bad Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cloning. The songs have been pummeled into the commercial honky-tonk mold, featuring an obnoxious in-your-face drum and lyrics that set like the same old greasy spoon blue plate special does in your stomach.'
Gary Whitehouse is listening to the new Linda Thompson CD, Fashionably Late, right now (as am I -- Rounder sent us two copies), but he did take time to listen to another CD, the Fiddlers 4 release. Gary explains the concept thusly: 'Fiddlers 4 is yet another twist on the string quartet idea, three players of different styles of American roots music on the violin, with an inventive young cellist to add some 'bottom' and provide some of his own innovative ideas to the mix. Michael Doucet is leader of the world-famous Cajun group BeauSoleil. Darol Anger, a veteran of the David Grisman Quintet and founding member of the Turtle Island String Quartet, is a leader in the genre of jazz-inflected 'newgrass.' Bruce Molsky is a top player of old-time music on fiddle, guitar and other instruments. And Rushad Eggleston is a sharp young cellist, apparently a fairly recent graduate of the prestigious Berklee School of Music.' Does it work? Read his review for the answer!
Asher Black, our Video Editor, has this week and next week off. Why, you may ask? Look at last week's all-video edition. He edited the humongous thing! And since he's away, we can sneak in here and give him the Excellence in Editing Award he obviously deserves.
And the edition was full in many ways...
Yes, Asher is resting up these two weeks, taking a well-deserved vacation. But, ahem, you know Asher.... vacation doesn't mean the same thing to him as it does to the rest of us. Case in point: he couldn't resist writing a fabulous omnibus review of indie films. The brownies are refusing to allow him near a computer, but that didn't daunt our intrepid Mr. Black. He hand-delivered his review to Liath, and she had pity on him and turned it in. So, here 'tis. Earning an Excellence in Writing Award, of course.
Now just a few parting words about several hardcopy music zines that you bloody well should be reading over a pint of your favourite libation. First up's Irish Music Magazine, edited by Sean Laffey, a fine editor and an outstanding Irish musician. We do a better than fair job of covering Celtic music, but Sean and his writers cover areas of this scene that we just don't have the resources for, i.e. doing in depth articles on such performers as Liz Doherty and Harry Bradley. Not that they aren't willing to cover subjects beyond the pale -- for example, the current issue (July) has a stellar piece by John O'Regan on the great English folk rock band, Fairport Convention! If you're a musician, their inclusion of tunes such as 'Casadh antSugain' are a treat not to be missed. Now in it's seventh year, it feels like an old friend that you're happy to meet in the pub, and equally sorry to part with! Oh, and their CD reviews are good craic too! I've bought many a CD after reading an issue of IMM! Irish Music Magazine can be found in any Borders or Barnes, Chapters, & Noble in North America. The Irish Music Magazine, website is located here.
Now Songlines is, as it bills itself on the cover of the July/August issue, 'the world music magazine'. Now I know that the good folks at Folk Roots, or fRoots as it's now known, would strenously object to the claim, but it is quite accurate. If you know what fRoots is like, think that venerable zine without the often annoying attitude of Ian Anderson, its editor. Simon Broughton, Songlines editor, is well-known in the British folk community, but his ego is less on view here than is Ian's in fRoots. You get lovely, concise reviews of dozens of CDs such as The Heart of Cape Breton -- Fiddle Music Along the Ceilidh Trail and Rembetika -- Songs of the Greek Undergound, 1926-1947, as well as looks at interesting venues like Momo's Kemia Bar which apparently resembles a Morrocan bordello, the return of Afghan music, and a look at various world music festivals coming up in Britain. Cool, bloody cool, if I must say so! Oh, and the new standard sized format is lot more pleasing to the eye than the compact version that they did before this issue. Good show all around! The Songlines website is thisaway.
18 August 2002 'There are the people of the day, and the creatures of the night. And it's important to remember that the creatures of the night aren't simply the people of the day staying up late because they think that makes them cool and interesting. It takes a lot more than heavy mascara and a pale complexion to cross the divide.' -- Terry Pratchett in Soul Music
In June 1999, GMR made its entrance into film reviews when a section called Folkways became Folk'n About and, besides live performance reviews, interviews, and essays, began to include film reviews like L.G. Burnett's award-winning look at The Princess Bride. In the past three years we've published reviews of over 188 films and videos. That's more than one film reviewed for each week the edition has appeared on the World Wide Web. With the prevalence of DVD, it's not surprising that we went from about 25 at the beginning of this year to the current number.
Sometimes the role of film in the folk process has been questioned. It's often observed that the myth of the American cowboy, for example, is derived almost entirely from cinema, but bears little resemblance to the daily lives of working cowboys anywhere in the world. It is less-often observed that the myth we see in cinematic Westerns is just as powerful to the imagination as the 'reality' and even interacts with and shapes that 'reality'. That is the folk process. And film is further a part of that process by continuing the modification and retelling of stories that have shaped the cultural mindscape over time... take, for example, Dangerous Liaisons, which originally appeared in a medium that has been compared to video today, a collection of letters.
Two years ago this month (August 2000), our then Video Editor, Kim Bates, offered this explaination of why we've decided to review videos:
Here at Green Man we pride ourselves on providing coverage of the best material drawing on folk roots. That's why we are adding videos, including performance, documentary, instructional, and movie categories that may be of interest to our readers.
As we go about searching for the best in folk music and literature drawing on folk traditions, we often notice video offerings, in both documentary and fiction categories. What do we think of Hollywood's use of traditional roots material? Find out here -- we just can't help ourselves, because we care about how the roots and branches of tradition have been interpreted by moguls and independents alike. Documentaries form a wonderful venue for communicating the joys, the quirks, and the obscure shoots of folk tradition at the turn of the millennium, and we want to point you to the best in documentaries building on folk cultures and traditions, both in music and in literature.
Video also plays a big part in the lives of young children, particularly for parents fleeing the robotic, save-the-world dramas so prevalent on commercial television. And no one loves repetition more than the short people, who happily learn the old songs, and nursery rhymes when sung by adults in fluffy costumes. This material ranges from the extremely insipid to the amusing, and we hope to help discerning adults distinguish between them. This is also true for instructional videos, which can be everything from downright useless to valuable tools for conveying techniques to new musicians.
And finally, a word about performance videos. We often rail at the production values of live recordings, yet many of us treasure the spontaneity of those same recordings. Magic happens when music is played for an audience, which is one reason our intrepid reporters have been out there covering the summer festival beat. Videos of live performances can also capture this magic, and many are produced for die hard folkies, as well as for mainstream acts.
Of course the lines between the type of material being offered in video formats are already blurring. The power of the human voice to communicate stories is being exploited in CD-ROM format, such as the Scottish Traditional Tales recently reviewed by Naomi DeBruyn. Books are often sold in both audio and paper formats, such as the Chieftains biography I recently reviewed. Rounder records puts out liner notes that are comparable to books on folk music, with their heritage music CDs, and we foresee a future for interviews, commentary and visual material to accompany music offerings as formats. Programming-on-demand will also make it possible for folkies and other dreamers to gain access to documentary and performance materials such as the ones we are reviewing here.
As Kim suggests, we're still pushing the boundaries. It is our very great pleasure, therefore, to offer this week a diverse, multi-dimensional collection of film and video reviews that demonstrate just how much this medium contributes to the collective imagination and in what ways. This is Green Man Review's second all-video edition (the first was February 17th of this year), and Asher Black (that is me) is deeply enthused about hosting it as the current Video Editor.
Featured this week are two reviews that exemplify what we do, what we care about, and how we approach the world here at GMR:
Michelle Erica Green has thrown her passion into a delicious baseball omnibus review, drawing together five films: The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, For the Love of the Game, The Rookie, and an episode of The X-Files, 'The Unnatural'. Michelle explains, 'It was inevitable that great writers would see parallels between the quest for the pennant and the Quest for the Holy Grail.' Why do you think, after all, in The Natural, the team is called The Knights! Michelle's superb review wins an Excellence in Writing Award for daring to be both different and brilliant in exploring the intersection of play and folklore, game and legend, and reminding us that the joust is still very much with us. This is exactly the kind of review that makes me squirm with delight!
Robert J. Wiersema is doing his premier review for GMR this edition and, to quote Grey Walker, it's 'pretty darned luscious'. What has been kicking around in Robert's head is a review of The Matrix, 'examining the mythopoeic structures, subtexts and themes, looking at it as a post-modern, post-scientific myth or folktale, through the rubric of Joseph Campbell's Heroic journey structure -- strictly for ease and common reference -- it, and he, are not without their flaws,' says Robert. Robert explains that this is 'a reading not apparent on casual viewing, hidden as it is within the bells and whistles of sci-fi film-making and further obscured by the fact that the film is only one third of a trilogy, rather than an entire story in its own right.' Robert wins an Excellence in Writing Award for a review that is practically a primer in what we stand for as a magazine. Truly amazing, Robert. Truly amazing.
Now, sports and sci-fi have not been the norm at GMR. These are genres that push the limits of how and where we perceive folk material. We've been talking about this for some time and, frankly, we like it when the perceived boundaries are tested and explored, precisely because they are marked 'here be dragons'. We like dragons, actually. Well... some dragons! Sometimes a knight wants to be wrapped up in those coils and made to forget about neat categories for magic and wonder. Sometimes, going off the map can be a reptilian pleasure indeed. We can only wish that the exploration be conducted with the virtuosity, talent, and insight demonstrated by these two fantastic reviews and treasured reviewers.
There's more, too...
Rachel Brown spreads rumours of a cursed video in Ring and tells us that sticky rice (not just any old rice) is a remedy for vampires - in Mr. Vampire. Keep a weather eye to upcoming editions, too. Rachel will review Chinese Ghost Story and Heroic Trio.
Craig Clarke reviews a film that typifies the myth of the American cowboy and the Old West, The Shootist, with the lead role played by a legend in his own right, The Duke... John Wayne. Craig's review covers the parallels in the lives of Wayne and 'the Shootist'.
Cat Eldridge not only reviews but offers a dossier of The Shadow, a character after my own heart. Did you realize that The Shadow was originally a narrator, not a crime-fighter? Yup. Cat's historically informed review will explain.
Michelle Erica Green has taught Shakespeare more than once. She is always interested in accessible interpretations of the Bard. Here she reviews two films she loves for very different reasons: Michael Hoffman's 1999 Midsummer Night's Dream and Paul Mazursky's 1982 The Tempest. She says the former 'offers a visually sumptuous look at the world of the fairies, trying to compensate for the silly mistakes of foolish humans, and the latter tells the story of the folly of one modern man's mid-life crisis, but with epic grandeur and mythological underpinnings, acted out by some of the finest actors of this era.'
April Gutierrez, our resident anime expert, used to hate anime. But when she moved to Maryland, her friends launched a campaign to convert her, and it worked a bit too well. She is currently a Public Relations chair for one anime convention and just recently retired from working for another (Guest Relations). And she attends conventions several times a year. What news and information she doesn't ferret out on her own, friends and fellow mailing-list members give her. She does speak/read/write some Japanese, has been a student off and on for two years now, and hopes to return to it this Fall. She's also been to Japan, which she says was heaven for a fan. This edition, April provides reviews of these fantasies: Ceres, Celestial Legend (Ayashi no Ceres) and Descendants of Darkness (Yami no Matsuei). We're also looking forward, in future editions, to April's reviews of Houshin Engi and Angel Sanctuary.
Tim Hoke chases Basil Rathbone into the Hood with his review of The Adventures of Robin Hood. This 1938 (Eroll Flynn) version is the definitive film treatment of the legend. When Prince John is doing 'bad things to good people', who ya gonna call?
Michael Jones says Disney's version of The Three Musketeers is one of the few perfect films he's ever encountered. He explains, 'The characters mesh fluidly, the action is seamless, and the story takes the best of the source material...' Read his review to find out why!
David Kidney is Canadian, so he studied French right through High School. This qualified him to be able to watch hockey games, and pronounce the players names with some skill, and to read the backs of cereal boxes. He acquired his appreciation of French film in a 'cinema' class where someone had graciously attached the dialog in virtually illegible white letters along the bottom of the image. This edition, David, who also has more than a passing familiarity with English, looks at French fantasy, La Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulin (released in the US as Amelie).
Jack Merry shows us some other 'Merry Men' in his omnibus review of Fox's 1991 Robin Hood and the 22 episodes/videos of the classic BBC presentation of Robin of Sherwood. The former sounds wonderful; the latter sounds darkly delicious! After reading Jack's review, replete with historiography of Robin Hood, I simply must see it. Jack picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for a review that is the epitome of thorough and compelling.
Out of the way diners, restaurants, cafes, and saloons have all been a consistent part of our folklore. You never really know quite what you're stumbling into. Jack's review of a short-lived television series, cancelled in its prime, will make you want to visit at least one such 'place', however perilous it could be. The Nightmare Cafe beckons you... come alone... and remember... this cafe is alive. Jack Merry's omnibus review of the 6 episodes/videos in this series is certainly rare. Thanks, Jack! It's marvellous!
Maria Nutick has been reading the Brother Cadfael books since High School. In a 13 video omnibus review of the PBS Brother Cadfael series, she extols Derek Jacobi's treatment of the Sherlockian monk, but is disappointed with glaring problems that haunt the video version.
Kimberlee Rettberg says Tomb Raider is much like the game -- the plot is an excuse to travel around the world, meet interesting people and creatures, and fight them to the death... But with Angelina Jolie, a woman who signs her marriage contracts in blood, perhaps it's fun anyway. Kimberlee didn't choke on Chocolat, either, which she says is 'a kind of modern fairy tale about temptation, repression, and the liberating powers of the senses', though one also dependent upon stereotypes.
Chris Woods provides an excellent omnibus review of Dune, the film, and Frank Herbert's Dune, the miniseries. In the process he gives us no small treatment of the original books. Dune is different, Chris argues, than other sci-fi of its time. It's 'a novel of politics and political intrigue, sociology, freedom fighters, oppression and revolution, ecological issues, mental powers, drugs and religion.' And he cares enough about it that he can be disappointed or relatively pleased with a video version, even if he would always recommend reading the books. Chris' review will explain which Dune to leap over and which to plow into.
Those coming and going in the GMR Breakroom, affectionately called Natter, were asked, in celebration of this edition, to select an evocative review from our archives to receive The Natter's Choice Award. They picked a review of Mists of Avalon.
If you have time, kick around our film indices; you're sure to find some reviews you haven't seen. Our diverse staff of writers offer unique reviews covering the new, the old, the banal, and the obscure. Some of the staff's all time favorites: Maria Nutick's Roald Dahl Omnibus, Grey Walker's review of The Fisher King (a model review), Michael Jones' review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and my own look at Excalibur. Also, we've just seen the first installment of The Lord of the Rings released on video. Most of us are waiting for the special edition. Either way, you'll want to read the review Grey Walker brought us from the opening night of LOTR's theatre release.
Incidentally, we are recognizing Grey Walker as Master Reviewer. This is the highest honor we have and can bestow for what a staff member has achieved as a writer. Simply, we recognize a Master Reviewer for the already evident mastery she has demonstrated; she honors us by sharing it with us. So we say 'Congratulations!' but also 'Thank you, Grey.' That's the sound of bagpipes in the distance... The Dead Heroes of Culloden band is ushering Grey to the Great Hall for her initiation ceremony.
Speaking of that... If you 'are of the firm opinion that the Battle of Culloden was the darkest moment in the history of Western civilization', you'll want to have read Jayme Lynn Blaschke's review of Smithfield Fair's Jacobites By Name CD last edition.
And if you are a regular reader of Green Man, and see a film or video brimming with folklore, myth, legend, or fairytelling, that we don't have, or a music video of roots, world, folk, or traditional music not in our indices, why not write up and send in an original review as an audition? Just look at our current reviews for format, and send in something thorough, interesting, and previously unpublished.
I'd like to personally thank Maria Nutick, who did most of the proofing for this edition. Without her patient, meticulous, cheerful involvement, it would not have been possible. Maria lurks in the shadows, stalking errors that might slip by even the most watchful of our editors. Without her, it'd be something like 'The Trouble with Tribbles' around here... errors getting together and procreating in the corridors, infesting the ductwork, and chewing on the reviews. Thank you, Mia.
Asher is now taking two weeks off to relax and do some more writing of his own. And Master Reviewer Grey's Cirque du Soleil reviews have me watching film clips of that! Nnnnnnn! The sensuality is marvellous. I can only imagine it in person... until I just... up and go one of these days! Next edition will have reviews of the latest books, CD's, and live performances. More video reviews are in the works for around September 8th or so.
11 August 2002
'Head for Carnival Street and the Dancing Ferret, Soho's oldest dive of a music club -- not the hippest one, not anymore, but it's still customary to stop there first. Farrel Din is the proprietor's name -- one of the few fat elves you'll ever see, one of the few adults tolerated down here. He's cool, most of the time anyway. Doesn't matter how cool you think you are, he'll mark you for a greenie straight off -- and he'll give you an elvin beer on the house. The first one is always on the house. After that you're on your own.' -- Terri Windling and Delia Sherman's The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller's Guide to the Edge of Faerie
Music venues and bars have formed an important part of fantasy literature... There's the Compass, the small pub in Kinlochbervie where sessions are held in Paul Brandon's swim the moon, the Underbridge club from Emma Bull's Bone Dance novel, the Mended Drum in the city of Ankh Morpok from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the Dancing Ferret in the the Bordertown series created by Terri Windling, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon as created by Spider Robinson, The Liensenne from Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne, and the Hall of Fire in Rivendell from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings. But that list, obviously, doesn't include the venues in our world where you can go hear music! Since Green Man has more music reviewers spread across the globe than damned near anyone else, we thought it'd be neat to let them showcase their favorite local venue on our Cool Music Venues page, everything from those smoky Irish bars where the best sessions can be found to the grand halls of centuries-old Opera Houses. With the assistance of Green Man staffers as your local guides, you'll find the best live music, the best ales and, though it may not be in Bordertown, the magic that makes a great venue! Just look for me at the corner table... I'll treat you to your first Dragons Breath stout. After that, as Farrel Din would say, you're on your own!
Stephen Hunt is the Music Editor for this week as Kim Bates is off to various academic conferences; Michelle Erica Green is Live Performances Editor while Debbie Skolnik is off to Cropredy and other points in Brittania for a few weeks; and Asher Black has been very busy restructuring the web site so it's less creaky than it has been. And I would be remiss not to make note of what a wonderful job Grey Walker is doing. Frankly, she handles a great deal for the magazine that no one ever sees.
Do look for a number of really well-known new folks from the Celtic music scene to come on board as reviewers shortly. Who are they? Chortle -- you'll just have to wait and see!
Instead of a featured review this edition, we've decided to feature a reviewer, Maria Nutick, who has pulled off an incredible feat! She has a review in every category... a book, a CD, a live performance, and a film. On top of that, she has been tirelessly active on the proofing team. Well... perhaps she is tired by now. She's entitled. Amazing work, Mia!
Rachel Manija Brown likes books about travel, adventure and food. Why doesn't she like Richard Sterling's memoir, The Fire Never Dies, then? Here's a hint: 'Food and travel writers have always made their personalities an integral part of their tales.' So should we assume that Sterling's personality is, well, less than sterling? Read Rachel's review to get the complete picture.
Christine Doiron both loves and hates Once..., by James Herbert. '[I]n spite of the ugliness that dominates most of its pages,' Once... has given her a wider view of the world around her. Christine's fine review wins an Excellence in Writing Award for its skilled portrayal of a novel that both repulses and enlightens.
April Gutierrez brings us a review this week of a series opener that could be either good news or bad news. Devotees of Zelazny's Amber will be very interested to hear April's take on John Betancourt's Dawn of Amber, the first of a trio of books designed to 'prequel' Zelazny's famed series. 'Betancourt has some mighty large shoes to fill, and he seems to be aware of it throughout the book.' Will he adequately fulfill the task entrusted to him?
David Kidney is one of the major Fairport Convention fans at GMR. His separate reviews of both the CDs and the box and liner notes of Free Reed's Fairport unConventional should be enough to convince anyone of that. Who better to write an omnibus review of three Fairport biographies: Patrick Humphries' Meet on the Ledge, Fred Redwood and Martin Woodward's The Woodworm Era, and David Hughes' The Fairport Tour? David admits, like a true fan, that The Woodworm Era is his favorite of the three 'only because I won it in an Amnesty International Auction, and it came signed by the authors Redwood and Woodward, but also included was a note from the publisher...AND personalized signatures from Simon Nicol, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie, Maartin Alcock, Dave Mattacks and Peggy!'
Maria Nutick is back with another twist on a fairy tale for us. This time the book is Margaret Peterson Haddix's Just Ella, the story of a feisty, take charge Cinderella and what happens to her after 'happily ever after.' Maria says, 'I wish I'd had an Ella to look up to when I was a young girl reading fairy tales.' Read the rest of her review to find out why.
Jayme Lynn Blaschke is quite a fan of Smithfield Fair, so it's no surprise that he likes their new CD, Jacobites By Name: 'For anyone who is of the firm opinion that the Battle of Culloden was the darkest moment in the history of western civilization, Jacobites By Name is the album you've been waiting for. If you're not craving a big old steaming hunk of haggis by the time the last song fades from your stereo speakers, you've not got the least smidgen of Scottish blood in your veins.'
Michelle Erica Green says Straight Furrow 'began life playing Norfolk barn dances and now perform Celtic music all over East Anglia with a blend of traditional and innovative instrumentation', as represented by their CD, Get Your Breath Back. Michelle calls it 'a very strong recording, with precise instrumentation and a lovely selection of tunes.'
Stephen Hunt wasn't so busy as Music Editor that he couldn't give us a superb review of the Grateful Dawg soundtrack that Jerry Garcia & David Grisman did. (Yes, we've reviewed the film already.) Is it good? Damn right it is! Stephen exclaims that 'taken out of their original context, many soundtrack albums are disjointed, disappointing affairs. No such worries with this one. The film is a biopic about the venerable greybeards, so this music is, itself, the central plot rather than a superfluous tie-in.'
David Kidney had one very, very busy week. He starts off with Monty Alexander's My America CD ('Monty Alexander is a Jamaican-born pianist and composer. On this, his newest recording, he pays tribute to the country he has called home for the past 40 years. As a boy he idolized the singers, the films, and the film stars of the USA; on My America he repays his influences and his heroes'); he moves on to an Excellence in Writing Award review of Halos and Horns, the latest from Dolly Parton ('The new Dolly Parton album, Halos & Horns, is the third part of a trilogy which began in 1999 with the release of The Grass Is Blue. She had been released from her contract with a major label and signed with up and coming independent Sugar Hill Records which has been the source of her three bluegrass albums. These albums have been perhaps the best records of her long career, and Halos & Horns continues the tradition'); David finishes off with not one, but two slack key guitar CDs, Ozzie Kotani's To Honor A Queen: the music of Lili'uokalani and Led Kaapana & Bob Brozman's In the Saddle. Both albums are excellent; David opines, 'This reviewer has not heard a bad album from Dancing Cat, and these latest offerings continue the tradition.'
Peter Massey considers himself -- rightfully in my opinion -- a sound judge of what's good and not so good in English folk music, so I trust him when he says that Blyth Power's On The Viking Station CD is great. He says 'they are far from being a normal, run of the mill, folk band (if indeed they could be called a folk band at all). Musically they sound like a cross between U2, Pink Floyd, Genesis and the Oysterband.' Sounds good to me!
Lars Nilsson, who I am happy to say is going to Cropredy this year, listened to the Killdares, a Celtic group from Texas, a prolific breeding ground for Celtic groups. Read his review of Live, their newest CD, to make sense of this statement from him: 'I guess that it all makes sense if you are jumping up and down in a small club for an hour or two but, if you went to just listen, then you would be slightly disappointed. While this CD isn't really my cup of tea, there are plenty of folks who will enjoy it. I don't doubt their skills for a moment; I'm just not too fond of what they use those skills for...'
Maria Nutick found the head-banging mediaeval sound of Apocalyptica (Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos and Inquisition Symphony) an interesting experience: 'Heavy metal traditionally lends itself to images of anger, sexual abandon, and general debauchery. Apocalyptica strips the anger from the music, but leaves the darkness. If heavy metal is lusty, Apocalyptica is erotic. If heavy metal is cold malt liquor and busty bikini clad blondes, Apocalyptica is dark porter and absinthe and kohl-eyed velvet-cloaked sorceresses.' This is, no surprise, an Excellence in Writing Award winning review!
Grey Walker delves deeply into the music of the Cirque du Soleil, a circus so postmodern that it is... well, words fail me. But words don't fail this talented writer as her Excellence in Writing Award winning review looks at three CDs that come out of the Cirque du Soleil performances: Rene Dupere's Cirque du Soleil: Alegria, Benoit Jutras' Cirque du Soleil: Quidam, and Benoit Jutras' Cirque du Soleil: O. Nodding her head, she says 'The music composed for each Cirque du Soleil show is inextricably linked to that show.' Read her superb review to see why this is so!
Gary Whitehouse reviews for us three Rough Guides, all of music from various mountainous regions: Himalayas, Alps, and Appalachians: ''High lonesome' is a term coined to describe the bluegrass sound popularised by Bill Monroe, but it aptly describes the outlook of anyone who lives in the mountains. At first glance, the music of the Himalayas, Alps and Appalachians might seem about as different as any three different types of music in the world. And it is, on the surface. But when you dig beneath that surface, you'll find some remarkable similarities. They're mostly found in the spirit that drives the people who make this music.' Gary gets a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this superb review!
Maria Nutick attended Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum and Indian Art Northwest in Portland, Oregon, where she experienced storytelling, flintknapping, net tying, bowmaking demonstrations, petting horses, and beautiful displays of Native American art in addition to blues, funk and Native American Reggae. Read her review to hear savory descriptions of the food and to find out why she's a salmon person!
New reviewer Lenora Rose spent a glorious weekend at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, experiencing old favorites like Oysterband and discovering new talent like Kristi Stassinopoulou and Horace X. Her wonderfully detailed review explains everything from where to find cold showers to how to get the best seats for the evening performances.
Rachel Brown finds us the odd, the bizarre, and the weird in The New Legend of Shaolin, a Wong Jing and Coey Yuen film.Whose kung fu is the best? Rachel's is, this edition. Is this folk material? You'd better believe it. Read Rachel's review for a glimpse of just how 'deeply strange' it can be.
Michelle Erica Green shows us what Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins have in common... they're both Zorro! Michelle's unmasking of Mask of Zorro observes that Zorro is a fictional folk hero -- one created for a serialized novel. And yet, there are enough latent traits of the folk heroes of legend in this film's Zorro to blur such lines. Read Michelle's review to find out why.
Maria Nutick was in less than High Spirits about this video from her younger days. The acting, the effects, the accents? Puhleeeas! Ghosts and spirits, hauntings and poltergeists appear in the lore of almost every culture. Mia tells us that, in this film, they appear but stupidly and inconsistently with that lore.
Jade Walker says that Braveheart, 'though historically inaccurate in many ways, stays true to the mythology behind Scotland's greatest hero.' What we see in Jade's review is an example of a historical folk hero fleshed out by story... and so continuing to be an inspiration to Scots (and others) from the 13th to the 21st centuries. Look with her at this process in her review of an epic film about a man who is a legend.
It's been a great summer for reading, because I can always dip into the Green Man fiction collection for something that tickles my fancy. My preference is for having three or so pieces of fiction going at the same time, so I'm rereading Charles de Lint's Jack of Kinrowan series and Robert Heinlein's The Number of The Beast, and I'm part way through Holly Black's Tithe. I'm also taking a gander -- for sheer fun -- at Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi's The Dictionary of Imaginary Places and John Clute and John Grant's The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. And let's not forget the ever-so-rare copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Tree and Leaf that Liath 'Leaf' o Laighin bought from a book peddler and her raven companion in London Below. She won't let me take it out of the Library, so I'm reading it there. What a pity, as it's hard to get work done when one can sit in a William Morris overstuffed chair and while the afternoon away...
Come back next week for our second (in 6 months' time) all-video edition. Really. Truly. Come see if Asher Black, our Video Editor, ends up in Arkham Asylum as he edits more reviews than one can imagine! See Maria Nutick pulls off a 13 DVD omnibus review of the Brother Cadfael series! Watch April Gutierrez, our resident anime expert, review these fantasies: Ceres, Yami no Matsuei and (possibly) Houshin Engii. See Pat Simmonds review three Highlander films in a Highlander Omni for us. And that's just a taste of what you'll see next week!
4 August 2002
'Artists and writers have always had a rather exaggerated idea about what goes on at a witches' sabbat. This comes from spending too much time in small rooms with the curtains drawn, instead of getting out in the healthy fresh air. For example, there's the dancing around naked. In the average temperate climate there are very few nights when anyone would dance around at midnight with no clothes on, quite apart from the question of stones, thistles, and sudden hedgehogs.' -- Terry Prachett's Witches Abroad
Well, we didn't dance naked at midnight around the bonfire, but the Green Man staff and guests had a wonderful Lughnasadh celebration. As it's rather warm in Oberon's Wood this time of year, we decided to skip the bonfire and enjoy the sultry night air... We did have a rather tasty feast complete with a perfectly roasted pig, casks of Dragon's Breath (a fine stout from Wales) and sourdough bread made by Grey -- with the help of Seamus III. After the feast, Stephen and the other staffers did a round robin reading in the Great Hall of Charles de Lint's Seven Wild Sisters!
At midnight, we offered up more freshly baked bread and reasonably aged mead to Lugh, the Celtic god we honor at this harvest festival. Those still awake and feeling feisty were treated to a 'til-dawn-do-us-part hooley with music from MacNamara's Band, Rats in the Kitchen (a band that Jack describes as a more raucous version of Mouse in the Cupboard), and the Gargoyles. (Yes, there was Applejack from blessed Avalon for those who needed more strong drink.) Our customary post-celebration breakfast of Belgian waffles, Kona coffee with farm-fresh cream, smoked Lincolnshire bacon, and strawberries over yet more cream was enjoyed by all before they staggered off for a well-earned rest.
In case you haven't noticed, we at GMR have a wee bit of a penchant for tales of the urban Fey. Well, we've discovered a brand new one, and we love it! Maria Nutick won the trial by ordeal to review tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black. She says the writing's luscious, the plot's captivating, and in fact, 'all things considered, tithe is without a doubt the best new book I've read this year. I certainly look forward to a future filled with new and juicy surprises from the wild and wicked imagination of Holly Black.'
Asher Black went to the opening night of Signs this weekend to offer us a featured review for this edition. Asher says, 'Signs is urban folklore, both as a monster movie and as science fiction.' He looks at how the film draws on primal fears -- as old and as deep as lying awake in a cave, listening to the night. But he thinks we were shortchanged on plot and ending. His review wins an Excellence in Writing Award for being, as his Editor-in-Chief called it, 'Smashing, absolutely smashing.'
Kate Brown reviews a hefty chunk of historical/fantasy fiction this week. Paul Kearney's Hawkwood's Voyage will take some work to read, she warns, but, 'Kearney uses his extensive knowledge of the [Renaissance] historical period, as well as his own personal experiences, to create the world of the The Monarchies of God, a land rich in the tradition of war and religious strife.' Any of you who are now drooling can read the rest of Kate's review for a bigger taste of Kearney's novel.
Michelle Erica Green can write a review that's almost worth reading for itself alone -- whether you want to read the book she's reviewing or not! This time, the book is The Orgy, Muriel Rukeyser's memoir of her experience of Puck Fair. 'Though The Orgy is a short book, the writing is so richly poetic that it must be read slowly.... Thousands of tiny details, described in language that brings them to life, give the story a compulsive immediacy even though it's set nearly fifty years ago in someone else's psyche.' It seems The Orgy is as good as Michelle's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review. Lucky for us. We get the review and the book...
Maria Nutick is a poet -- as well as many other things -- so she is the perfect reviewer for a genre rarely covered by GMR. Carolyn Dunn's Outfoxing Coyote was recommended to us by Terri Windling. Maria offers a poet's thoughtful description and criticism of this collection of poems, in which 'Dunn uses the mythology of her Native American heritage (Dunn is Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole) to weave pictures of her life as a Native American, a woman, and a Native American woman in modern America.'
Kimberlee Rettberg is quite enthusiastic about Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition, by Edain McCoy. 'I found this book an easy-to-understand, well-written guide especially geared toward beginners in the craft, for those seeking a more Irish focus (like myself), or perhaps those looking for a more natural and simplistic way of practice,' she says. If you're interested in ancient Irish religion, or are wondering just what the difference is, anyway, between Witta and Wicca, you'll definitely want to read this review.
Gary Whitehouse brings us a review of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family and their Legacy in American Music. 'As Zwonizter and Hirshberg amply demonstrate in Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?, the Carters truly deserve the title of America's First Family of Music....[It] is an important and entertaining book about some of the key figures of American music, and must reading for anyone who loves that music.' 'Nuff said. Read Gary's review, then go buy the book.
Matthew Winslow decided to compete for 'most number of book reviews' this week. The first of his three reviews covers Pat Murphy's There and Back Again, a retelling of Tolkien's The Hobbit. 'Murphy's skill keeps the book from being a complete travesty,' Matthew says, 'but alas it is not enough to capture the charm and transcendence of Tolkien's original.' Well, what about All Hallow's Eve, by Inkling Charles Williams? Much better, apparently. '[I]f you can get through the incredibly thick prose, the story is a beautiful one, leading to a climax where love triumphs over hate and good over evil.' But the best review of this lot is one Mr. Winslow actually only discovered and transcribed for us. It seems that one of our resident brownies, Peasblossom, wrote a letter to a cousin and left it in our staff lounge. Matthew read it, found that it was basically a review of Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History, and submitted it to the Book Review Editor, Grey Walker. Grey was absolutely charmed, and thinks that you will be, too. Her only dilemma is deciding whether the Excellence in Writing Award should go to Peasblossom for her delightful opinions, or to Matthew for his graceful transcription!
And last on the book front -- Matthew Winslow has another installment of his column, The Book of Tales, for us this week. Issue the Third offers a tantalizing taste of Robert Silverberg's new 'best of' fantasy anthology. Can Silverberg compete with the dynamo that is Datlow/Windling? See Matthew's opinion.
Richard Condon considers himself blessed to hear the debut album from Celtic group Athanor. Richard garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this review. Read it to see why he's so enthusiastic about Athanor!
If you like what the Red Clay Ramblers did -- and Green Man staffers certainly do -- take a gander at Judith Gennett's review of Mike Craver's Shining Down. Judith notices that 'this season, independent CDs by Former Red Clay Ramblers are popping up everywhere. This one, Shining Down, is by Mike Craver, whose forte is piano, but who also plays guitar, percussion, and theremin.' Theremin? From a Red Clay Rambler? Read her review to hear all the mouwatering details! Judith also looked at the first album, Bjarv, by a new Nordic Trad group: 'Bjarv is a Swedish acoustic music band. Michael Grafson plays guitar and is from Angermanland, Sweden; Fiddler Olaf Gothlin is from Varmland, Sweden; Ben Lagerberg-Teitelbaum is from Evergreen, Colorado and plays nyckelharpa. All fairly young (Lagerberg- Teitelbaum is youngest at 19), their album is a smorgasbord of youthfully exuberant songs and tunes.'
Michael Jones is no flash in the pan when it comes to being a reviewer, so it's appropriate that he wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of the Flash Girls' CD, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. He says, with a hint of fatigue in his voice, that it's been a 'near-impossible task. I've been struggling with it for months; namely, how to describe and review The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones, the first release by Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland in their pseudo-imaginary guises as the musical duo known as the Flash Girls. I've tried to find the right words to describe something so ineffably unique, so different from the normal run of things, that it truly would have been easier to bottle fame and brew glory. Even as my editors graduated from worried e-mails to threatening letters to sending out the Green Man Brute Squad to try and chain me to my desk, even as my wife began to wonder why I kept muttering 'Flash Girls... Flash Girls...' in my sleep, even as the cats complained about litterboxes gone forgotten while I concentrated on this problem, I worried about how to explain the Flash Girls, much less explain why they're worth hearing. Finally, as I was on the run from the secret Green Man Internal Inquisitors, being chased by nuns with guns and monks with trained monkeys, over the wilds of Scotland, and taking refuge in the Goblin Market, a solution came to me. And all it would cost would be my soul... That being something I have no right to sell, I bartered away one of the much-coveted War for The Oaks movie trailers, in exchange for this advice: 'Start from the beginning.'
Peter Massey was handed a copy of Trefor & Vicki Williams' Timeless Land CD by the artists themselves. Was he happy with getting this CD? Yes, he was: 'Apart from occasionally hearing Trefor and Vicki sing at various local festivals, the first time that I ever really met them was after Gordon Morris and I sang our song 'The Fight of The Fiddlers' at Chester Folk Festival, 2000... They live in Rhudllan (a small town in North Wales), which is featured in the song. I gave them a CD and, in return, received a copy of their previous album, The Bare Branch. Yes, I know what you're thinking, 'they still barter with chickens and goats in this part of the world,' but it simply isn't true! Either way, I came out of the deal with a nice CD to listen to and was well pleased.'
Big Earl Sellar is not shy about stating what he likes or doesn't like in a CD -- That's why he gets an Excellence in Writing Award for this review! Ensemble Tumbash's label sent us a trio of CDs by that group (Ayalguu - Volume I, Höömij - Volume II, and Urtyn duu - Volume III) of which Big Earl says 'My fascination with the music of Central Asia has been ongoing for almost a decade now. In a world of World releases, the very divergent sounds of this section of the planet sound to me like a musical bridge between East and West, where Asian sounds meet those of Celtic and various Arabic forms. These discs by the Ensemble Tumbash present another facet of the myriad of musical idioms in the lands commonly referred to in the West as Mongolia.'
Gary Whitehouse treats us to a review of a CD by the Cottars, a Cape Breton Celtic group, which is titled simply Made in Cape Breton. Gary comments 'I'm overjoyed that members of the young generation are carrying forward the traditional music of Cape Breton Island, and I look forward to hearing more from these four in particular as they pursue their careers. And I encourage everyone who enjoys hearing precocious musicians doing a mostly bang-up job with traditional music to support The Cottars.'
Debbie, our Live Performances Editor, is out this week. But, when she returns, there are some wonderful things in the works for the upcoming editions.
Andrea Garrett finds 'an old-fashioned ghost story' in The Others. Her Excellence in Writing Award winning review captures the chills and yet goes beyond that to explore the themes and style of the film. Andrea explains how, by using a minimal definition of the 'supernatural', the film is effective enough to be truly haunting.
Michelle Erica Green sees stereotyping in the portrayal of witches in Nicolas Roeg's film Witches, as undeniable. She says 'works of art like this one contribute to the demonization of pagans and practitioners of folk medicine historically and in our own era.' This line, from her review, is brilliant: 'Once we've heard that witches are supposed to represent our own oedipal lusts and fears, we move out of the realm of history to a different debate -- whether the icon of the witch serves as a misogynistic attempt to portray independent females as unnatural, or as a strong image of women unfettered by social conventions.' Michelle earns an Excellence in Writing Award for a deft treatment of the film's theme, looking not where the filmmakers are pointing, but at their hands.
Kimberlee Rettberg find 'unwelcome meddling with the Arthurian myth' in Hallmark's Merlin. She's disappointed that Merlin chooses mortality over magic, and with the portrayal of magic as evil and unwelcome, fading simply by being ignored.
Rebecca Wright offers a brief look at The Celts, the PBS series with music by Enya.
I'm back, after a few weeks' break from Green Man, which included guest lecturing in a university class on how online zines have changed the publishing trade. This break was possible because, unlike some online zines, we operate as a true magazine with editors, proofers, and so forth. This means you get a consistent product every issue without being dependent upon just one or two staffers that may or may not have the time and skills to do all the tasks properly. Green Man will continue to offer you the very best reviews of product before anyone else reviews it! And our archives, which have reviews of well over five thousand books, videos, CDs, and live gigs, will keep you entertained for years to come!
Now I'm off to the mail room to see what tempts me in the Recent Arrivals pile. Hmmm. Do I see more copies of Holly Black's tithe, which Maria Nutick reviewed for us this week? How nice of the publisher to send a half dozen extras! If anyone's looking for me, I'll be in the Library reading... Just don't look too hard!
Last Updated, 13 August 2002, 15.54 GMT. Jack