'Are not all stories, all books -- and indeed all of us -- connected to something bigger? Always implying what came before and what might come after? The question is - what's the value of the fragment you are encountering in the given moment?' -- Orla Melling
It must be spring -- the signs are unmistakable, even for those who never look out the windows or walk out the doors. Hamish, our resident hedgehog, has started wandering 'bout the Green Man offices, singing his spring song: which sounds a lot like a deaf penny whistle with a head cold. But it's a sure sign of the changing season.
What's amazing this year is where the rascal hibernated away the winter. Most years, you'll find him snoozing in his Moses basket, near the fireplace in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room. MacKenzie, our Librarian, doesn't mind, as the wee hedgehog doesn't chew on anything so long as Iain provides a small bowl of warm milk mixed with raw egg and whatever berries are to be had -- and a few fat worms from time to time! And he loves havin' his wee head scratched. But this year he was nowhere to be seen and MacKenzie wouldn't say where he was. Attempts to shadow MacKenzie to see where Hamish was (we're reduced to indoor tracking in the winter) were as successful as catching a Djinn in one's hands. And it was indeed a Djinn who gave away the tiggy's location -- the Arabian Nights room, which he said is indeed one of the most unique aspects of The Library. It's a room that most of the staff have never even seen!
It's a smallish room with a low ceiling of painted plaster, shaped into billows and swoops like a tent. Carpets of varying ages and conditions cover the floor, overlapping each other and rising into drifts in the corners. Where the walls are not covered with shelves, still more carpets hang, absorbing sound and hushing every noise to the whisper of a turning page. The carpets on the floor are beautiful, but the ones on the walls are perfect: you'd have to stare for hours to find the Divine Flaw the devout weavers left in, and by that time your brain would have dissolved into the geometry of the patterns. Even the resident Djinn grudgingly admits he couldn't have designed a finer place, and wishes he'd done this one.
There are no chairs, but lots of cushions on the floor, and the rugs pile up here and there at just the right height for a reclining elbow. There's a camel saddle up against the wall in one corner of the room (Hamish spent his winter under it), and several low, inlaid tables. It looks like it might be a harem chamber for an especially intellectual sheik. Being as it's actually a Library, though, what it's full of is neither hubble-bubbles (MacKenzie would have a fit) nor houris: it's manuscripts. Slotted, stacked, piled, and draped everywhere; looks like some of the rugs on the walls may even be woven pages in their own rights.
The manuscripts are in every imaginable form, you see. Some, of course, are classic scrolls - and from the look of it, there are some there that have been considered lost for well over a millennium. Others, actual bound books, are in leathers so old you'd have to suspect the beasts that provided them have since gone extinct; and some of those bindings make you hope they were, indeed beasts -- MacKenzie and the Djinn both just smiled when I asked. But I'll tell you: I've never seen a cow with either scales or a tattoo.
And what are these books? The Arabian Nights! All of them, every one, in version after version. There's a first edition of Galland's version, which dates from the early years of the eighteenth century; there's the original seventeen volume set that was privately printed by the Burton Club for Subscribers Only. That one is in a locked cabinet. The lock makes rude gestures and giggles.
What isn't a form of the stories is ancillary material. Maps of its weird and wonderful country (no two agree). Books of critique and analysis; there is even one that MacKenzie insists is Scheherazade's own rough copy, dictated to her baby sister Dunyezade! Of course there are all the volumes of all the translations, including the first of the children's version with Maxfield Parrish's incomparable illustrations. Donna Bird is reading that one right now.
And yes, there are lots of brass lamps in there, and braziers too -- MacKenzie won't allow an open flame in any other room of the Library, but he claims these are lit by Djinni. And being as Djinni are heatless, smokeless flames, the lamps are no danger. Well, not a fire danger. Just don't try to polish any of them!
It smells... interesting in there. It's a complex perfume, not just books: a mixture of old wool, old leather, dust, dried dung and maybe sandalwood. And maybe hedgehog. The smell of coffee pervades the air, as well, thicker than the never-ending night, richer than an Emir -- or, as Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord preferred it, 'Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.'
Just in case the original Arabian Nights don't keep you awake, you see.
Anthologies are lovely desserts --all of us 'ere at Green Man are very fond of a tasty one that can be consumed with tea (Earl Grey of course, or perhaps a smoky lapsang souchong) over the course of a long evening. We have reviewed more truly great anthologies than I can list here, and certainly Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have been responsible for many of them! Robert M. Tilendis was the very fortunate reviewer who got to read The Coyote Road -- Trickster Tales, a forthcoming Datlow-Windling anthology that really impressed him: 'I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I generally avoid 'theme' anthologies. This holds true more for poetry collections than short fiction, simply because my experience with the former has been overwhelmingly horrific. I've had to revise that stance vis-à-vis short fiction rather radically, in light of several such anthologies I've encountered recently, the latest of which is Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's The Coyote Road, in which the stories are generally excellent, with a couple of 'knock-me-down' stars. Now I have to figure out why these anthologies are so impressive.' Read his review to find out which tales herein were his favourites!
Our other Featured Review is also an anthology as Gary Whitehouse explains rather nicely in his review of Forever Changing: 'I've said it before, particularly in a review of the 25th Anniversary re-release of the Woodstock film: most fans today don't realize how heavily folk music influenced the rock music of the '60s. But roots music, particularly blues, folk and even bluegrass, were the basis of huge chunks of '60s rock and other popular music. Nowhere is that more evident than in this superb new Rhino collection of music from Elektra. Subtitled The Golden Age of Elektra Records - 1963-1973, this set brilliantly highlights that connection. In fact, this set is almost an American version of the groundbreaking English box set Electric Muse, except of course that this one draws from only one label.'
Before we get to our book reviews, we have very exciting news, or as Walt Kelly's Howland Owl was wont to announce 'Big News! Big News!' Now available from Tachyon Publications: a new and lovely edition of Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. This volume has Mr. Beagle's final revisions, about 400 extra words; the cover art by Ann Monn is photographs from the Bronx Cemetery that originally inspired the story. This is another delightful result of the recent renaissance of interest in Mr. Beagle's work, and a must have for either the long-dedicated reader or those newly enchanted by his prose. Personally autographed copies are available from Conlan Press right 'ere!
Robert Greenfield's Exile On Main St. -- A Season in Hell With the Rolling Stones gets a well-deserved thrashing by John Benninghouse: 'Very late in his book, author Robert Greenfield admonishes readers that he is going to refrain from a detailed look at The Rolling Stones album which gives his tome its name. This, he contends, is the realm of the 'rock critic' and not the 'rock writer' which he almost arrogantly labels himself. Indeed, Greenfield seems intent on avoiding music as much as possible in this book which is more voyeurism than writing on rock.' Ouch. A richly deserved Grinch Award and an Excellence in Writing Award go to John for this review. What's a Grinch Award? Well, let's just say the review's a wee bit, err, Grinchy in the pre-heart swelling period in the life of the very first Grinch . But I'm sure you've already stopped reading all this commentary and gone off to look at the review for yourself.
Donna Bird has a confession: 'I have a great fondness for novels set in early nineteenth-century France, regardless of when they were actually written. They are easy enough to find, which suggests that this is a period many people like to write about -- it was, after all, a time of great social and political turmoil, full of romance and intrigue. Dominic Smith has chosen this period and place for his debut novel, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre. What I particularly enjoyed about The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre was the subtle interplay between real historical events and persons and the poignant love story that drives the plot. I am not always a big fan of love stories, but this one was sufficiently full of odd twists and turns to hold my attention. Smith's narrative weaves back and forth in time, shifting between Daguerre in the late 1840s, a successful and famous inventor but a lonely man with no family, already suffering from the physical and mental debilities associated with mercury poisoning (the technique Daguerre used to create the image on the plate involved the use of mercury vapor) and Daguerre at various earlier points in his life. These flashbacks proceed in chronological order until, toward the end of the novel, they converge with Daguerre's present.'
Richard E. Dansky found a novel he could sink his teeth into: 'Bottomfeeder, by B.H. Fingerman, is emblematic of what could be called 'nebbish horror' – it's all about the travails of a theoretically ordinary Joe who suddenly finds himself in one of the classic speculative fiction tropes, and then proceeds to kvetch endlessly about how miserable the details actually turn out to be. Except, of course, the nebbish is never actually a nebbish; squint hard and you can see that he makes a good stand-in for the imaginary ideal of the author, a well-educated guy who riffs on Village Voice-isms while doing the menial work that his special status forces him into in order to survive. It doesn't take too much head-scratching to see this sort of thing as a metaphor for the author's condition, the so-called literary star who finds that a writing career isn't all it's cracked up to be.'
He also looked at a David Marusek collection: 'Getting to Know You is a short story collection in much the same way that The Who's Wire and Glass is an album, which is to say that it's mostly a collection of bits and pieces of something that's supposed to be much bigger, with occasional standalone moments tucked in here and there. The vast majority of the stories are part of the future history that Marusek's 'The Wedding Album', perhaps the best-known piece in here, presents to the reader, and this is part of the problem. Because they're part of something more expansive, Marusek has a dilemma: either he takes time in each story to explain the future history and the story's place in it, or he trusts that by putting them close together, the stories reinforce each others' continuity, which risks leaving the reader who doesn't put all the pieces together floundering.'
Cat Eldridge says 'Christopher Fowler, writer of many a fine short story and countless novels, has done the impossible in White Corridor, his fifth Bryant and May novel -- he has crafted the perfect introduction to the long-running series. In this review, I will tell you why this is so... ... Bad things happen to both good and not so good characters (watch for the bit that involves a certain King Zog for an insight to the sliminess of one character), good things also such as My getting a better understanding of Bryant (after a mere sixty years as partners!), a problem troubling the Peculiar Crimes Unit is dealt with, and relationships of a romantic nature (!) may be developing among several of the Peculiar Crimes Unit staffers. After you finish this delightful story, go get Full House Dark, the debut novel in this series, to see how this all began oh so long ago. I envy you for having the luxury of reading these novels for the very first time!'
Want to know more about your favourite fantasy writers? Cat has the book for you: 'Though common now in the online world of book matters, full-length interviews with fantasy writers are in the printed world. And certainly collected interviews in an affordable and well-crafted book are even rarer! So it is with great pleasure that I can say Leonard Marcus' The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy is well-worth your time!' Read his review for why he really liked these interviews!
Chris Irving and Eric Nolen-Weathington's Charles Vess (Modern Masters Volume Eleven) is, says Cat, 'the first publication devoted to this artist other than Charles Vess -- From The 1970s to 1996 which was done some years back, and a chapter on him in Martyn Dean, and Chris Evans' Six Fantasy Artists at Work Dream Makers - Michael Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, Charles Vess, Melvyn Grant, Julek Heller & Chris Moore. Certainly I found nothing else when I did a net search recently. Vess, like so many artists out the accepted canon, has not gotten the attention he so rightfully deserves. Charles Vess (Modern Masters Volume Eleven) is a step towards rectifying that oversight.'
There's a new novel by one of our favourite writers, Emma Bull, and it's called Territory: A Unique Retelling of An American Legend. April Gutierrez explains what it's about: 'The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of those seminal historical events that every American knows about -- or at least thinks they know. In the materials accompanying the ARC for Territory Emma Bull comments that there are many conflicting historical versions of the events leading up to those thirty seconds of gunfire that transpired between the Earp brothers (and Doc Holliday) and the Clanton gang. So instead of settling on any particular version of the truth, she set out to write a novel that could encompass all of them. I can't claim to be well-versed in Tombstone historical lore, but I can vouch that Bull has done a excellent job of blending original characters and scenarios with the reality of history into an entertaining read.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see why April really enjoyed this novel!
We like to cover all novels in any series we review which is how April came to be reviewing this novel: 'White Night, the ninth installment in Butcher's vastly entertaining Dresden Files series is the first to bear the subtle imprint "as seen on SciFi" on the cover, a nod to the recently concluded TV series. Fans new to the books, fresh off the TV series, probably won't want to start with White Night, though, because the books' universe is somewhat different than the TV series' and Butcher follows a definite continuity. It would be better to start at the beginning and work your way up to this novel.' Read her review to see how this series is evolving!
In an Excellence in Writing Award winning review, Michael M. Jones has a look at the latest urban fantasy from Simon R. Green, The Man With The Golden Torc: ' Take some James Bond, and throw in some of Green's own Nightside, and mix liberally with the epic over-the-top action of his Deathstalker novels, and you're somewhere in the right neighborhood for describing The Man With The Golden Torc. It has everything one comes to expect from Green's work: distinctive characters, stylized ultra-violence, more mad ideas per page than most writers get in a lifetime, and a wild roller-coaster plot that doesn't let up.'
Another urban fantasy novel also pleased Michael: 'Coyote Dreams is the third book in Murphy's series, The Walker Papers, and we've seen a steady growth of the character over these stories. One can only hope, however, that Joanne continues to embrace her powers and destiny, because after what she's been through, it's clear she'll have to adapt or die. At least this time around, we get a lot more insight into why she remained blocked for so long, even if the explanation is a little convoluted and steeped in symbolism. But watching her grow as a person is half the fun. That, and watching her come to terms with how she deals with the people around her. Joanne's most definitely a flawed protagonist, which is ironic; she's supposed to heal other people, but in many ways she needs healing even more than they do.'
A James Bondian adventure with Cthuluian undertones is next up for Michael: 'Bob Howard works for the Laundry, a top-secret British organization formally known as the Department of Internal Logistics. His job: to help protect the world from things so unnatural, so bizarre, so nasty, even knowing about them could destroy a man's brain. They're the ones who deal with mad scientists, Elder Gods, other dimensions, and all that other fun stuff, utilizing weird devices and mathematics so advanced it's akin to magic. And sometimes, Bob regrets ever asking that he be assigned to active service … in other words, out in the field.' He goes on to note that 'I'm pretty sure Charles Stross is writing beyond my usual sphere of comprehension. I greatly enjoyed The Jennifer Morgue, but there were times when I felt left behind, just because he goes off on some really esoteric or technical angles. But looking at this on the surface, as a James Bond meets Lovecraft meets quantum physics, you end up with a fascinatingly strange, rip-roaring adventure.'
Crumb on Kafka?!? A very, very weird idea! Couldn't possibly be real, could it? Well, it happened according to David Kidney who we hope is not hallucinating: 'Kafka is a brief, but fairly concise look at the Czech writer's life and work. Robert Crumb provides the illustrations while David Mairowitz tells the story in text. The text is well informed and blends biography with Kafka's literary work, placed in context. This is a clever and eminently workable format. Especially if you believe, as these collaborators do, that Kafka's fictions were images of his own life. The illustrations provided by Crumb are in his unique style, rich black ink against crisp white, moving seamlessly from lifelike representation to surrealist imagery, and also utilizing echoes from the German Expressionists (especially George Grosz). The women take on the size and voluptuousness of Crumb's usual vision, which adds to Kafka's alienation from the female species.' Ok, now there's a review you should read!
Drew Bowling's The Tower of Shadows didn't quite please Claire Owen: 'I have read few mythic fantasy novels, and so this sort of storyline is quite new and exotic to me. Objects adorned with images of the three gods, Ariel the God of Sea, a sea horse, Lira the God of Land, a lion, and the nameless God of Air, a dragon, are repeatedly mentioned, which means that they use expressions like: 'What in Ariel's name is going on?' and 'Gods, this is terrible.' Because worship itself is barely mentioned, apart from human sacrifices, this all makes perfect sense, and it is easy to follow along. Freeing demons from the earth with bloody spells is another thing I haven't encountered very often, but perhaps that simply means I haven't read the right books... Now comes the part where I make my complaints.' Read her review to see what didn't please her!
Kestrell Rath is chasing ghosts: 'The epigraph page of Darker Than the Deepest Sea: In Search of Nick Drake hints at the contradictions and ambiguities of Drake's story with three quotes: one from the seventeenth century metaphysical poet George Herbert, another from the twentieth century philosopher Albert Camus and, perhaps most striking of all, lines from Robert Johnson's canonical 1937 blues song, 'Hellhound On My Trail.' While Johnson's and Drake's music may initially seem historically and culturally worlds apart, the parallels between their lyrics are disquieting, for both wrote dark and haunting songs preoccupied with the transformative as well as the transitory nature of mortality. Additionally, such songs seem to prophesize the early deaths of the two musicians, both of whom died under mysterious circumstances. A notable difference between the two musicians, however, is that Johnson began acquiring mythic status during his lifetime, while Nick Drake remained an obscure footnote in folk music history for over thirty years. Yet, in recent years, Nick Drake has been summoned back into existence, a ghost belatedly invested with rock star status.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the haunting details!
Brian Stableford's The New Faust at the Tragicomique is truly a great read according to Kestrell: 'The time and place is fin-de-siecle Paris and Stephane Moineaux, actor-manager of the Theatre Tragicomique, is trying to save his theatre from bankruptcy. After a career spanning forty years, fashions are changing faster than Moineaux can adapt, and the competition is tough, for since Oscar Metenier's Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol opened up around the corner, theatergoers are more interested in its graphic horror shows than the old-fashioned melodramas produced at the Tragicomique. Meanwhile, the players of the Tragicomique seem to have allowed themselves to become defined by the roles they play: Moineaux, the father figure, Paul Damas, the leading man, Lillette Fevret, the ingénue, and Marianne Jonquille, the aging leading lady who appears on her way to becoming an alcoholic. It says something about Stableford's abilities that he conveys this idea without ever reducing his characters to clichés.'
Beowulf has become all the rage in popular culture circles after centuries of only rather musty academics and their suffering graduate students paying attention to the epic poem. Robert liked what Gareth Hinds did with it as a graphic novel: 'The illustrations are magical. They occupy a territory that moves between dream and reality with never a hitch. The opening illustration beautifully reflects the brief story of King Scyld and his death and burial at sea as something that happened long ago: a sense of fog, a sense of unreality, a sense of a distant, distant past all encapsulated in one ethereal drawing. The book then moves to the style that relates most of the story: clear, detailed, stylized but also maintaining a high degree of realism, highly worked, giving the feel of an early woodcut and a cinematic treatment.'
If you thought Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was scary, listen up as Robert M. Tilendis has an equally scary tale: 'Robert Charles Wilson is another of those writers I have only recently discovered, this time through the engaging and provocative novella Julian. Suppose that the bulk of North America, now one nation, were effectively (and quite openly) 'under God,' a 'democracy' in which voting is a public affirmation of the ruling clique, the president more often than not runs unopposed (except perhaps by members of his own family), and the Dominion Council decides which religious denominations are acceptable.' Read his chilling review of a novel that might well be considered a classic of the horror genre!
He also has a look at a writer who's cool with most critics: 'Octavia E. Butler, at the time of her emergence as a major voice in science fiction, was a rarity because she was a woman and she was African American. In neither area was she unique, but the combination was. Lilith's Brood, also known as Xenogenesis, has been called Butler at her best and for that reason alone would deserve a close look. There are, however, many reasons to look at these books closely, because they raise so many issues and operate on so many levels.' Now go read his review to see why the Lilith's Brood trilogy is not going as his re-read list!
Think that Austen's Pride and Prejudice was the end of that particular story? Think again according to Elizabeth Vail: '...Darcy appears to be a wordier gentleman -- Pamela Aidan's take on the masculine half of Jane Austen's power couple apparently requires an entire trilogy. While An Assembly Such as This and Duty and Desire are focused on different events, they still read like two parts of one large book, rather than as stand-alone entries in a trilogy.' Read her review to see where the story went after the end of Pride and Prejudice!
Folk tale collections, like anthologies of contemporary fantasy short stories such as The Coyote Road, are popular 'ere at Green Man and Elizabeth looks at a promising collection: 'A popular quotation in the writing world is that there are only twelve (or seven, or ten, depending on who you ask) original stories in the world, and that each narrative thereafter is just a re-telling of one of the twelve. Late nineteenth-early-twentieth century medieval scholar M.R. James proved this with Tales from Lectoure. Tales is a collection of six fairy tales James translated from a French collection, Contes populaires de la Gascogne, and presented in a pair of lectures with his own introductions and notes. Originally compiled by Jean-Francois Blade, who hailed from the south-western French town of Lectoure, these stories have their own unique flavour, but most of them relate directly to, or are recognizable descendants of, existing myths, folk tales, and fairytales.'
Even as jaded a reader as Matthew Scott Winslow can find something great once in a blue moon: 'I'll be the first to admit it: over the years, I've become a bit callused toward new fantasy. Oh, don't get me wrong: I still love the genre immensely, but it takes a lot more nowadays to get me excited over a new author (or one I haven't read before), and with all that's being published out there, there's just not enough time to wade through a doorstop book to find out that the book never does get any better than the dismal start. So it's exciting to pick up a book and find myself riveted from the very first page, as I was with Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker.' Read his review to see why he was so pleasantly pleased by this collection!
First, an important announcement: David Kidney has been publishing the RYLANDER (the Ry Cooder Quarterly) for over six years, faithfully printing and mailing out paper copies to subscribers all over the world. That's right...Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, and even upstate New York! The RYLANDER has never had much of a presence on the World Wide Web, until now. David has dragged himself, and RYLANDER, into the 21st century with a new blog. It will feature regular discussion of items of interest to Ry Cooder fans, and to anyone just into rootsy music, and good times. I guess it was all the editing for GMR that gave David the will to venture into blogspace! Check it out here.
The Possum Trot Orchestra's debut recording of Appalachian tinged singer-songwriter music just didn't appeal to John Benninghouse: 'Minton and Suraci's playing and singing complement each other well but their songwriting styles are at loggerheads throughout. This results in an album that is erratic at best. Fans of Americana will love Minton's earnest and thoughtful tributes to American folk and shake their heads at the rest.' Read his review to why this was a pity indeed.
Now this group fared much better: 'One can make an argument that country rock started in Los Angeles when Gram Parson became a hired gun for The Byrds back in 1968. One can also argue that another Los Angeles band, The Eagles, popularized country rock like no one else. And now in the 21st century another band from L.A., Rancho Deluxe, is treading down this familiar path. However, this should be no surprise considering that two-thirds of the group, brothers Jesse Jay and Graham Harris, are the sons of Greg Harris who was in Parson's Flying Burrito Brothers.' Sounds good to me!
Scott Gianelli has a tale to tell: 'A couple of years ago, before a Sam Phillips concert at Joe's Pub in New York City, I got into a long discussion of music with a couple sitting at my table. We discussed the influences in Ms. Phillips' music, various world music acts we'd discovered, and the sorry state of commercial radio. After the show as I got up to leave, the woman introduced herself as Maura and the man as Pete. It didn't occur to me until I was outside that I had been sitting with the folk-rock duo The Kennedys. I guess I validated a point Pete made during our conversation about how hard it is to get noticed these days. As an avid fan of sixties rock who's played a 12-string guitar for nearly twenty years, I'm more or less The Kennedys' target audience, and I failed to recognize them while sharing a table and some conversation with them over several hours. Oops, my bad.' He rectifies his oversight of The Kennedys with an Excellence in Writing Award review of their recording, songs of the OPEN ROAD.
Samantha Gillogly gets some sort of award for her lead-off paragraph for J.J. Sheridan's The Art of Turlough O'Carolan: 'If 17th-century Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan were alive today, it's possible he might have made his wages as a lounge pianist. It's easy to picture the blind composer hunched over a keyboard, rolling out melancholy ballads and jaunty dance tunes for cocktail-sipping audiences. After all, O'Carolan was in life an itinerant musician. He absorbed the Baroque sensibilities of his continental contemporaries (Arcangelo Corelli was among his idols), yet always maintained the Celtic underpinnings of his musical heritage. Today, O'Carolan's tunes are considered stock repertoire for fiddlers and harpers alike. Yet in straddling two worlds -- the traditional and the classical -- O'Carolan's compositions cry out for a modern treatment to accentuate the best of both genres.' Errrr, what you say! Read her review 'ere!
Baiba Skride recordings of W.A. Mozart and M. Haydn Violin Concertos evoked memories of warmer weather in Lory Hess: 'This year, spring came suddenly here in downstate New York. One day you were wondering if you would ever be able to put away your snow tires and longjohns; the next, the sky seemed to have forgotten how to be anything but blue, the forsythia and daffodils were competing to outshine the sun, and the strains of Mozart's violin concerto in G major could be heard wafting through the air, played by celestial musicians.' Read her review to see why 'if ever there were a soundtrack for spring, this concerto would be it. '
The Wind Cries Mary really surprised Michael Hunter: 'On paper, it probably shouldn't work. The overall musical style of this CD would fall into the general category of roots rock, but there is such a remarkable degree of diversity within that genre that there could be a real possibility of its ending up a disjointed whole. Happily this is not the case and instead the variety is turned to an advantage, making for an entirely enjoyable listening experience. I'm not sure exactly how this is achieved, but it may be something to do with Joe Dolce's consistent ability to write or choose songs that obviously mean something to him and that allow his musicians and fellow singers to shine as well.'
Florilegium's Bolivian Baroque, Vol. 2 pleased Robert M. Tilendis though he warns this classical recordings is for diehard fans: 'This is, when all is said and done, a collection for the enthusiast. Don't expect a Mass in B Minor or a Messiah, or even a Four Seasons. For those who have strong interest in the baroque or in the history of South America, Bolivian Baroque presents what could be an eye-opening experience.' Read his review to see if you have the discerning ear needed to appreciate this fine music!
Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, Op. 47, Chamber Symphony for String Orchestra, Op. 110a as played by the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein conducting was a class effort of one of Robert's favourite compositions: 'When I was first making my acquaintance with the range of the twentieth-century 'classical' canon, the Shostakovich Fifth was the penultimate achievement of Soviet music. Shostakovich, although a loyal Soviet citizen, was also an artist, which is a breed not particularly amenable to outside control. Consequently, his work came under heavy scrutiny (his Fourth Symphony was withdrawn shortly before its scheduled premiere, which followed hard on the heels of extreme official disapproval of his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk). The Symphony No. 5 was met with high praise (fortunately -- during the period of his fall from grace, the composer had contemplated suicide). From the vantage point of now, it is still a prime example of Soviet bombast, but it has held up remarkably well over the years.'
Vieux Farka Touré is a reminder to ask for more African music for us to review as Robert notes in his review: 'I will say right at the beginning that this is one of the most intelligently constructed collections I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. Even though there is a distinct feeling of 'blending' from the first track, 'Sangaré,' what we hear first are songs that are recognizably 'African' -- the vocal styles and modes are not exactly like those I have heard from other African artists, but they have a very strong sense of tradition to them, even though the instrumentals have a definite link to jazz. (I might also add, to the delight of those who relish such anomalies, that the second track, 'Dounia,' displays rhythms that are as seemingly European -- Celtic or Balkan, in fact -- as the singing is most definitely not.) The progression seems to move more and more toward jazz without ever quite becoming jazz -- somewhere in a territory that lies between jazz and blues, perhaps -- more familiar, more like the idioms we are used to, until by the time we get to 'Courage,' near the end, we are definitely in blues territory.'
I once saw Matapat play a midnight concert under the gaze of Les Chèvres Dansantes. For you Yanks, that means The Dancing Goats which is the French Canadian name for the Northern Lights. Gary Whitehouse has a look at a trio of CDs from French-Canadian bands ( Vishten self-titled recording, Matapat's Que de Peine et D'amour, and l'orage's The Storm): 'Québécois and other French-Canadian music is among the most dynamic of the traditional Celtic styles, because of the role that dance and foot percussion plays in it. Because this adds a visual as well as an aural element, some of its impact is lost in the transition to a recording, but a good ensemble can largely overcome that limitation through energy, tune selection and other performance intangibles. Here are three varied examples of the form; let's see how they do.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review here.
The last review this edition is also by Gary: 'Two Cow Garage is an unjustly obscure trio from Columbus, Ohio. Fans of heartland rock like early Springsteen or Steve Earle, John Mellencamp or even the Bodeans need only hear them to discover a new favorite band. III is, not surprisingly, 2CG's third full-length release, following in the wake of Please Turn The Gas Back On (2003) and The Wall Against Our Back (2004). If the gods and goddesses of rock 'n' roll are just, it will be their commercial breakthrough. And from the lyrics of this baker's dozen tracks, they're due the break. The songs on III cast some light in the dark corners of a life as a touring band in a van. It's almost a song cycle about the tribulations of growing up, facing gritty reality as opposed to a rocker's dream, and still finding strength, meaning and redemption in making the music.'
'Good evening, Lord Corwin,' said the lean cadaverous figure who rested against a storage rack, smoking his pipe, grinning around it. 'Good evening, Roger. How are things in the nether world?' 'A rat, a bat, a spider. Nothing much else astir. Peaceful.' 'You enjoy this duty?' He nodded. 'I am writing a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity. I work on those parts down here.' 'Fitting, fitting,' I said. 'I'll be needing a lantern.' He took one from the rack, brought it to flame from his candle. 'Will it have a happy ending?' I inquired. He shrugged. 'I'll be happy.' 'I mean, does good triumph and hero bed heroine? Or do you kill everybody off?' 'That's hardly fair,' he said. 'Never mind. Maybe I'll read it one day.' 'Maybe,' he said.
Roger Zelazny's The Hand of Oberon (We will be doing an edition solely on Roger Zelazny's works next winter.)
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