Welcome to the Midsummer edition of Green Man where we have reviews of two novels by Tobias Buckell, the first of Neal Asher's Polity novels, WorldCon Guest of Honor speeches, demos and rarities from The Men They Couldn't Hang, yet 'nother YBFH review, the third Pirates of the Caribbean film, Northumbrian piper and fiddler extraordinaire Kathryn Tickell's newest recording, a film charting the life of Robert Crumb, a Canadian mystery series by the name of Da Vinci's Inquest, short stories by Poppy Z. Brite, alt-country music, Wisconsin Indian literature, the third series of an outstanding Shakespearean festival drama series called Slings & Arrows,and much more!
But first, MacKenzie, the Green Man Librarian, has some thoughts on Scottish nationalism, recommends some books with Midsummer themes, and explains why that border makes him nervous ... Oh, and Zina explains what the Summer Queen tune should be...
MacKenzie at your service. Well, not really. I serve no one very well including myself at times. As we Scots said once upon a time before getting our fucking arses kicked at bloody Culloden, 'Bona na Croin' ('Neither Collar nor Crown'). Mind you, we ended up with both for far too many centuries but that will end soon now that the SNP will be taking over! A proper toast with thirty-two year-old Dumbarton is in order I think!
On a different matter, it is nigh unto Midsummer's Eve so I'd like to suggest some reading appropriate to that most holy of days. You should start off with the 'Solstice' tale by Jennifer Stevenson as our reviewer noted in her look at The Horns of Elfland anthology: 'A rock guitarist down on her luck literally falls into one of the best gigs a musician could ever hope for, playing for the Hill Folk on the longest night of the year. This is desperately serious partying, for if the music fails, so does the return of her host, the Sun. Unlike most Hill Lore, here the protagonist manages to come safely out of her play-for-supper deal, happy but exhausted. The reader can be left feeling much the same way because Stevenson's wordsmithing is excellent: where music can build from quiet beginnings, to ecstatic roar, and back to resting heartbeat, so too does this story.' Read the review of the GMR 'Solstice' chapbook 'ere, and make sure you listen to Jennifer telling the tale herself 'ere.
(Yes, I bloody well know it's set at the other Solstice. So? It's my list, not yours.)
Orla Melling's The Chronicles Of Faerie should get your reading attention too as our reviewer notes: 'The King of Summer, a puissant faerie lord, is missing; he must be found before Midsummer's Day, to light the ritual fire that brings heat and light back to the worlds of faerie and mankind alike. Only a human can find the Summer King and restore him to his throne. While faerie has a new High King -- Finvarra having lost his immortality at the end of 'The Hunter's Moon' -- the new king, Midir, cannot be confirmed except through the Midsummer rites. Without that confirmation, Faerie will die. And if Faerie fades, the soul of humanity will fade as well.'
Many writers have been inspired by Midsummer's Eve, and first among them must always be the Bard himself. We've reviews of an oral version of William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream which suggests that seeing it live is the best manner in which to appreciate this play, and also of Terri Windling and Wendy Froud's beautiful A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale, which pays homage to Oberon, Titania and even the very least of their court. And don't miss Neil Gaiman's Absolute Sandman -- Volume One which has the original script for his World Fantasy Award winning Sandman #19 -- 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' together with reproductions of that issue's original pencils by Charles Vess!
Jane Yolen's The Bagpiper's Ghost, the third book of an excellent trilogy, is a lovely tale set at Midsummers Eve as our reviewer notes 'ere: 'Well-written and thrilling -- as we expect from Jane Yolen... ...this series walks the fine line between exciting and disturbing. '
My final recommendation's Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, where the apparently ordinary streets of Minneapolis are actually home to the Seelie and Unseelie courts and the final battle in the form of a concert between mortals and the Fey takes place on Midsummers Eve. If you read nothing else this summer, you should read this novel as it is, as our reviewer says in his review, a 'story about the creatures of myth and legend, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of the Faerie Folk, and their modern-day struggles against one another for control of mortal territory, a conflict most of us would never even imagine. On another level, it was a coming of age tale for Eddi, who learns to take her destiny in her own hands, seize the day, and grow into her potential as a musician in her own right, no longer defined by abusive boyfriends or second-rate bar bands. With such memorable characters as Willy Silver, the Phouka, the rival Queens of the Fae, and Eddi herself, War for the Oaks has become a modern classic (if such a term can be used) in the fantasy field.'
Now if you hear very loud fiddling music coming from nowhere on Midsummer's Eve, get yourself there fast for a truly memorable time! Just remember though that it's oft times hard to get back from across that border... And do keep in mind that all Celtic bands can be as ephemeral as the fey on Midsummer's Eve, so who can say if that band was the one you heard on a given Midsummer's Eve? Me, I'll sit a spell 'ere and have a pint of Sjolmet Stout as I listen to the Neverending Session run through variants on 'The Winter Queen', a reel composed in honour of Jane Yolen, as that border makes me nervous!
Our featured film review this edition is the third and latest release in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, At World's End. We dispatched Kage Baker to the cinema to check it out for us! 'It's far more surreal than the other two films ... There's the brilliantly lit nightmare of Davy Jones' Locker, in which Captain Jack hallucinates. There's the procession of drowned souls under the water. There's the roaring abyss of World's End, and the noises in the darkness that follow it. There's the wedding in the midst of a ship-to-ship gun battle in the midst of a howling storm over a maelstrom. No kidding. There's the towering shipwreck fortress in which the pirate captains meet. Best of all, there's Keith Richard's appearance as Captain Teague Sparrow. I was expecting a brief pop-culture cameo here, and was pleasantly surprised -- Richards comes across with dignity. His Captain Teague is profoundly old, evil and wise, with a voice like oozing tar and a thousand-mile stare.' Set sail in this direction to read Kage's full review!
Kathryn Tickell's Strange but True recording gets a loving look from Paul Brandon in our featured music review: 'Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell has long been one of my favourite musicians. I can't exactly put my finger on why; whether it's the sublime playing, the always eclectic choice of songs and tunes, or even something as frivolous as knowing she was the inspiration for the lead character in one of my most-loved books, The Little Country by Charles de Lint. A lot of it has a great deal to do with the wonderful instrument she plays, the Northumbrian smallpipes, which are neither as harsh as the Scottish bagpipes nor as low and mournful as the Uilleann pipes. Like their Irish cousins, they're bellows blown, and unlike their Scottish kin more regarded as an indoor parlour instrument. They have a wonderfully mellow, staccato bee-buzz tone unlike many other pipes. Tickell is also a very nice fiddler, and as most people here at the Green Man will tell you, I have a soft spot for the devil's own instrument.'
Our featured book review this edition is not that of a new work but was rather a result of a decision that we made in the Pub one late evening this past winter (with the invaluable assistance of Ellen Datlow and Jim Frankel who were there and who later provided the needed review copies) to pen in-depth reviews of every edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Now we had reviewed already the very first volume (The Year's Best Fantasy as it was called for a few years) and every volume over the past eight years. Without doubt, it is the gold standard by which all other such anthologies covering the field of fantasy should and must be judged against. Elizabeth Vail got a little overwhelmed in her review with the sheer volume of offerings within the tenth annual edition as she notes 'ere: 'It is sometimes difficult to rate an anthology, since every author contributes their own style and artistry (or lack thereof), and while it seems callous to leave it to numbers, in such a large collection as this it seems to be the only way.'
(Our Editor, Cat Eldridge, has our copy of the advance uncorrected proof of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror -- Twentieth Annual Collection in his hands now which does explain nicely why he's been hiding out if the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room as of late in that comfy overstuffed chair by the window that overlooks Oberon's Wood. He will be reviewing it as part of our all Year's Best Fantasy and Horror edition in late August that will include looks at all twenty editions of YBFH!)
Tobias Buckell handed Camille Alexa a galley of his forthcoming novel Ragamuffin which is how she came to review it and Crystal Rain, another novel set in the same universe: 'Science fiction fans are in luck. Not only has Tobias Buckell's much-anticipated second novel Ragamuffin just become available, but his debut novel, Crystal Rain, has just been released in paperback. Now is your chance to read these novels back to back with no interruption, perhaps not as they were necessarily intended to be read, but as I read them. I can't imagine having enjoyed them more any other way.' Now go read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review thisaway.
Another rather well-done historical mystery gets reviewed by Donna Bird: 'A Poisoned Season is Tasha Alexander's second novel, and the second to feature her heroine and narrator, Lady Emily Ashton. In the first, And Only to Deceive, then Emily Bromley (daughter of an earl) marries Viscount Philip Ashton, who subsequently dies under questionable circumstances while on a hunting expedition in Africa. She and her Parisian friend, Cecile du Lac, solve the mystery of Philip's death, while Emily begins to develop an interest and expertise in classical antiquities and falls in love with the 'dashing' Colin Hargreaves (that adjective appears passim in the original). While I have not read And Only to Deceive, Alexander includes sufficient back-story in A Poisoned Season to enable a new reader to pick up most of this.'
More books covering the Ottoman Empire got the attention of Donna: 'Both of these authors are experts in their respective, and closely related, fields. Faroqhi is Professor of Ottoman Studies at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and has written two other major books about the Ottomans, including Subjects of the Sultan. In fact, the edition of The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It I am reviewing here is a reprint; I discovered when I looked up Subjects of the Sultan that Robert Tilendis also reviewed the clothbound edition of this book; for his viewpoint, click on this link. According to his bio on the Saqi website, Godfrey Goodwin taught art and architectural history at the University of the Bosphorus from 1957 to 1968; he has also written books about Ottoman Architecture, the Janissaries and Topkapi Palace. This version of The Private World of Ottoman Women is also a reprint-the clothbound edition initially appeared in 1997.' Suraiya Faroqhi's, The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It and Godfrey Goodwin'sThe Private World of Ottoman Women 'ere.
Two novels set in Egypt get the attention of Donna: 'Gamal al-Ghitani's Zayni Barakat arrived in a recent package from International Publishers Marketing. At about the same time, I happened to find a very attractive hard-cover edition of Naguib Mahfouz's Arabian Nights and Days at a local used bookstore. Both books were written by Egyptian authors, originally in Arabic. The American University in Cairo Press owns the rights to the English translation of Arabian Nights and Days, but evidently sold US distribution rights to Doubleday. As I read these books, I realized that they have remarkably similar themes. What makes this observation particularly remarkable is that Zayni Barakat is based on a historical person, while Arabian Nights and Days is, as you might expect, based on some of the tales from the Arabian Nights-rather far removed from history!' Cool. Very cool. Now go read her review over 'ere to see which of these novels appealed to her.
J.J.S. Boyce reviews a novel we should have done way back: 'Well, I've finally gotten the chance to read Asher's first novel. The good people at Tor were kind enough to send along a copy of Gridlinked, and despite my usual ne'er shortening reading queue, various other day-to-day concerns involving paperwork and appointment planners and such, and even though you can clearly see from the above publication date that I hardly need worry about beating the presses with this review, I went ahead and read it last week. I've never been one for long series, and certainly the greater part of my reading time is spent on authors I'm encountering for the first time, rather than always going with the same old stand-bys, but what can I say? I get something new in the Polity universe and I know it will always be good. When it comes to escapist fiction, Neal Asher has become my most dependable travel guide. No surprise then I moved him to the top of my reading pile.'
Faith J. Cormier looked at Antediluvian Tales which she says is 'a collection of short stories by Poppy Z. Brite. Five of them are about the sprawling Stubbs family. Two are about Brite's 'fluidly gendered' alter ego, New Orleans coroner Dr. Brite. The non-fiction finale, 'The Last Good Day of My Life', filters Poppy Z. Brite's life since the Deluge through memories of a day in Cairns, Australia. The Deluge in Antediluvian Tales is Hurricane Katrina. As the hideous tragedy of September 11 has demanded a response from many writers across America, now Katrina and the devastation she caused in New Orleans is doing the same thing among those from the affected area. Brite says in her foreword that her pre- and post-Katrina works bear little relation to each other. Publishing Tales is somewhat of a clearing of the decks, or perhaps a putting away of childish things, to evoke Saint Paul, to allow room for a new post-Katrina maturity.'
Faith found Ellen Klages' The Green Glass Sea to be 'a step back in time to the early 1940s and World War II. As the book opens, Dewey Kerrigan is almost eleven. She lost her mother when she was a baby, and her father's work as a research scientist, especially since the war began, has shuffled her between boardinghouses and relatives, sometimes with him and sometimes alone. She's more interested in science than in anything else, and that and a physical handicap have made her an outsider even more than her frequent moves. Now her grandmother has had a stroke, and Dewey is being taken across country by the Army to live with her father somewhere secret in New Mexico.' Read her review thisaway to see if this novel with 'a most un-21st-century feel' is her cup of tea!
Faith also looked at Salamanda Drake's Dragonsdale, a novel she says 'is what it is. High fantasy this is not. However, it's written quite literately. It tells a simple story of love and hard work. The ending is predictable but not pat. Everybody learns something. It will surely enchant its target audience, Grade Three girls, and leave them wanting to read more. And something that attracts children to read is surely a good thing. If it leads a few of them on to other dragons, and to more fantasy in general, so much the better.'
Richard E. Dansky found an excellent collection: 'According to John Shirley's website, Living Shadows is a non-genre collection. That both is and isn't the case. It is, in that roughly half of the stories in here contain no supernatural elements and the rest don't fit easily into any particular genre category. It isn't, in that here we have Shirley's take on Lovecraft, on finishing a fragment by Poe, on psychic powers and post-apocalyptic romance and a good half dozen other things, all of which fall squarely into genre territory.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review 'ere.
You prolly know Stephen King from his myriad works of fiction, but he's also a prolific writer of nonfiction as April Gutierrez notes in reviewing Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks' Stephen King: The Non-Fiction: 'If you think that Stephen King's non-fiction oeuvre begins and ends with Dance Macabre and On Writing then this hefty book is here to open your eyes. At a sizable 606 pages -- once you toss in extensive Footnotes, Bibliography and Index, and a very brief section for Acknowledgements and About the Authors -- Stephen King: The Non-Fiction claims to report on every bit of King's non-fiction writing, from high school to the present day. And quite likely delivers on that promise, even when the authors couldn't get their hands directly on the writing (in their opening, they stress that they did their utmost to get their hands on the original sources.'
Sandra L. Beckett and Maria Nikolajeva have edited an anthology of essays titled Beyond Babar: The European Tradition in Children's Literature which led Lory Hess to ask this as a lead-off in her review: 'Quick -- can you name a dozen children's novels originally written in languages other than English? If you can get further than Pinocchio, Heidi, and The Little Prince, you're doing exceptionally well. If you come up with any novels from non-European languages, you're a real expert. Very few translations of children's books make it onto British and American bookshelves, and hardly any of those are from outside Europe. There is a corresponding lack of critical consideration of this literature, which the editors of Beyond Babar are determined to remedy.' (I'm very fond of Geschichten der Kinder, and quite smitten with Jim Henson's The Storyteller series so I can name a number of rather fascinating tales outside of the Anglo-Celtic tradition.)
Four (!) graphic novels -- Gilbert Hernandez's Heartbreak Soup, Jaime Hernandez's Maggie the Mechanic, Walt Holcombe's Things Just Get Away From You, and Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds -- get the eye of David Kidney: 'The graphic novel has come a long way since it was created as ten or so monthly issues of a comic book, compiled between one cover, maybe with a few extra sketches, and a new cover painting for added interest. Truth be told the two Hernandez collections under consideration here began life in just that way. And the Holcombe book is more of a "greatest hits" collection than a novel. But the Modan book is one long sustained story. The Los Bros' stories are long sustained pieces too, albeit more like a movie serial from the '40s. What links these four volumes, though, is the way they tell stories, with words, and pictures. They do so in a variety of styles. The language they use (the words) is individual, specific to the artist/writer, and completely unique. No one book is quite like the other, no one artist is like another except that each one is a master of the form. Black white and in colour, the comic book (for there is no better word to describe these books) is here to stay.'
Mitch Myers's The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock and Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling gets a perfect lead-in in a review by Kelly Sedinger: ' I have a feeling that if you could take the kid from the movie Almost Famous, fast forward his life thirty years, and then collect his writings on rock music, it would read something like The Boy Who Cried Freebird. And that's a good thing.' Now go read his review thisaway!
Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari have put out an edited collection of WorldCon Guest of Honor Speeches, which Kelly says is an amazing feat: 'The World Science Fiction Convention is the most venerable of all the various annual gatherings of SF fandom, and it's arguably the most important of them all, as it is at each Worldcon that the highest awards in SF, the Hugos, are awarded. Since the first Worldcon in 1939, there have been 66 such gatherings, with the only non-Worldcon years coming during the final three years of World War II. At each Worldcon there has been a Guest of Honor, usually selected on the basis of lifetime achievement in contributions to the genre; much of the time the Guests of Honor are authors, but there have also been illustrators, publishers, and editors named as Guest of Honor. The position of Worldcon Guest of Honor carries with it a single requirement: the recipient must deliver a speech to the convention. This book, therefore, gathers more than thirty of these speeches.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning look at this labour of love 'ere!
Robert M. Tilendis says that 'Carol Emshwiller is one of those writers who seems to have been a closely guarded secret until recently. With the emergence of slipstream fiction, she is becoming more and more of a household word (in some households, at least) and, if The Secret City is any indication, for good reason.' Now go read his review thisaway for why he was so impressed!
A novel by E.E. Knight caused Robert to kvetch just a wee bit: 'Every once in a while, you get to read a book that is sheer pleasure. No grand literary considerations, no necessity for historical context, no probing analysis of themes and devices (although I dare say one could make a case for those being distinct possibilities with this book), just a good story, beautifully and intelligently told: Valentine's Exile is an adventure story with brains. I will add, however, that it shares with the science fiction of the Golden Age a sense of optimism about humanity, although in this case it is not a product of our technology or the quest for knowledge, but rather the side of the human coin that makes that quest pay off -- sheer cussed determination. And now, since as a reviewer I can't allow myself to be completely happy with anything, I have a complaint: yet another very good author to add to my 'to read' list, along with what should be four very good books to catch up on.'
Another small kvetch arose in this review: 'I seem to be doing a land-office business in theme anthologies lately. Among these, it seems almost as a matter of course, are a number dealing with issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual identity. The most recent to cross my desk is The Future is Queer, edited by Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel. As seems almost a requirement, stories dealing with sexuality revolve around questions of identity if they are really to be 'about" anything. '
Kathleen Tigerman's Wisconsin Indian Literature - Anthology of Native Voices was quite well-crafted says Robert: 'What makes this collection particularly rewarding is that in addition to the more or less standard roster of creation stories and tales of mythic heroes, Tigerman has included a series of orations, polemics, poetry and drama by Native writers which serves to bring the narrative into the present and also gives an indication of how diverse the Native voice is. I was especially struck by the way some selections resonate with strands of thought one might think far outside the concerns of Native writers. The poem "The Long Parenthesis," by Roberta J. Hill (Oneida), for example, immediately called to mind Paul Mariah's "Quarry/Rock: A Reality Poem in the Tradition of Genet." Both are cast in prison settings, both deal with a territory beyond despair, and both portray, in bald, uninflected diction, the terms of life for those disfavored by society.'
Michael Marshall Smith's The Servants is an excellent read according to Gary Turner: 'This is a dark fantasy and coming-of-age story, showing the pain of an eleven-year-old thrust into a seemingly hopeless situation. The thoughts and actions of Mark will bring back the pain and selfishness of youth that all remember, the servants show a lifestyle that is gone forever, and the solution that Mark employs to help the ghosts, in fact, is symbolic of what he must do to help his own life. '
Jonathan Green's alternative history of England novel, Unnatural History, did not 'tall fare well with Elizabeth Vail: 'What makes reviewing this book complicated is the difficulty in discerning whether the campy, cliche-ridden, pulp-ishness of the book is intentional as an homage to earlier adventure novels, or simply an example of the standard of writing that is normally applied to multi-author paperback fantasy series, such as the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, or Halo series.' Read her review 'ere to see why this novel didn't appeal to her!
Superheroes are as common as fleas infesting an old nag these days. But Elizabeth looks at one that's not ready for the glue factory: 'With the phenomenal success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, the superhero genre galloped into the public consciousness like Seabiscuit from hell. However, with television and movies now saturated with heroes who are relying more on flashy effects and less on story, that super-horse is starting to flag. Fortunately, with the witty, warm, and intelligent novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman proves that the nag the media is currently beating might still have a few kicks left in it.' Read her wonderful review over 'ere.
A fantasy trilogy by Amanda Hemingway -- The Greenstone Grail, The Sword of Straw, and The Poisoned Crown -- gets reviewed by Elizabeth: 'Nathan Ward seems an ordinary enough kid, except when you consider that both of his parents -- his mother Annie, and his deceased father Daniel -- are Caucasian, which doesn't explain his curiously dark complexion. Or that his uncle (not really his uncle) Bartleby possesses mysterious knowledge. Or that he's been having the strangest dreams that seem to transport him, more and more bodily, into a fantastic, dying world, all of which seems to tie in to a renewed interest in an ancient greenstone cup, which may or may not be the Holy Grail. Probably not. Despite using a fair number of Arthurian symbols, Hemingway steers clear of the myth for the most part, choosing instead to create new histories for the Grail while explaining most of the Arthurian myths as embroideries upon the cup's true nature. As it is, the Grail's power is rumoured to be able to open the Gate between worlds, and so it is pursued by characters both good and evil, human and less so. While Nathan's increasing powers of otherworldly transportation are one thing, the Grail, combined with its sister artefacts the Sword and the Crown (explained in later novels) contains the potential for more powerful magics.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award review 'ere!
Following his previous work, River of Gods, which depicted a near future India, Ian McDonald launches into a new country, a new culture, and a new mindset for his most recent novel, Brasyl, a dazzling, if somewhat warped, story involving three separate but somehow connected narratives that evolve across three different timelines . . . . In 2006 Brazil, Marcelina Hoffman, an ambitious producer for a trashy tabloid television channel, finds her life being sabotaged by a doppelganger who is as ruthless and cruel as she is. In 2032 Brazil, self-made businessman Edson, after rescuing his hapless brother from the law, encounters a beautiful girl with a flair for meddling with serious quantum mechanics. Finally, in 1732, Father Luis Quinn is charged with an order to track down a renegade priest who seems bent on building his own Empire of God in the uncharted Brazilian jungle. What all three have in common is the concept of parallel worlds, a multiverse in which a world for every possibility exists. Edson's girlfriend Fia accesses the multiverse through quantum physics and uses it to hack software, Luis discovers maddened Father Diego wants to possess the power of the multiverse to answer any question, and Marcelina suspects that her doppelganger might just be an other-world version of herself.' Read her review 'ere to see why this was such a fascinating read for her!
Canadian crime drama, Da Vinci's Inquest, is subjected to a thorough GMR inquest by Donna Bird. '...it's very explicitly Canadian, filmed on location in Vancouver, a city much grittier and larger than I expected. Its principal protagonist, Dominic Da Vinci (played by gravel-voiced Nicholas Campbell), is a former undercover agent for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- which in the present day serves as the national police force for Canada, roughly equivalent to the U.S. Marshals Service. At the time of the series, he is serving as a coroner for the City of Vancouver, in other words, a public official who is responsible for investigating suspicious deaths.' Would you like to read more? Well then... step this way!
David Kidney takes a look at Crumb, a film charting the life of comic artist, Robert Crumb. 'Apparently Terry Zwigoff had incredible difficulties in making this film. It took him six years to film the amazingly intimate and bizarre interviews that make up the film. Zwigoff is a friend of Crumb's and had known him for 25 years, played in the Cheap Suit Serenaders, and worked together on a screenplay. That intimacy paid off in spades! OK, it may have cost Zwigoff his health, and a substantial amount of money, and even his friendship with his subject, but you will never see a documentary which lays its subject as open as Crumb does.' Take a read of David's review to find out more!
Next up, David considers the DVD release of the third series of the Shakespearean festival drama, Slings & Arrows. 'The Chicago Tribune exclaims, "[Slings & Arrows] can make you both LAUGH and CRY... don't miss it." And having just finished watching all six episodes of the third and final season of this extraordinary Canadian production... I have to admit it did both to this viewer!' Join in David's tears and laughter by reading his review 'ere!
David seemed particularly enamoured with a music DVD from Paul Rodgers, LIVE in Glasgow. 'Mr. Rodgers has one of the finest bluesy voices in the business ... LIVE in Glasgow shows him, and his razor sharp band, at the top of their game, playing songs from his long career ... This is one of the most engaging rock concert videos I've seen in quite a while. I will even watch it more than once!' David continues, 'LIVE in Glasgow shows a tight band simulating the sounds of 40 years of music so well, that I enjoyed it even on my computer screen with my little Harmon/Kardon speakers turned down so as not to bother anyone on the rest of the floor.' Grab your concert tickets and join David on the front row to witness this excellent gig... well, maybe just have a read of his review instead!
Cat Eldridge notes that 'If there was any justice in this universe, The Men They Couldn't Hang would be as well known as The Pogues which in some senses they are the English counterpart of. Indeed Demos & Rarities, Vol. 1 shows that this group, even on recorded material that didn't make the final cut, is damn good.' Read his review 'ere for a look at diamonds not very in the rough 'tall!
David Kidney looks at four recordings --Tab Benoits' Revue, Corey Harris' Zion Crossroads, Paul Reddick's Revue: The Best of Paul Reddick, and Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers' Solid Ice -- with some commonalities to them: 'Three of these hot new blues releases all came in the same week. The fourth came a week later. They came from two different labels (one American, one Canadian), both of which are dedicated to supporting the newest blues music, and at the same time to maintaining a sense of history about the projects they issue. That means, for the rabid blues fan there is plenty of great new blues music being made available.' Read his review over 'ere.
Ahhh, I think Peter Massey liked this recording: 'If ever an album had a good title Barnstorming is it! This is only the 3rd album from Isambarde and it can only serve to put them up amongst the cream of the acoustic folk bands in the world -- there, I've said it! The next generation of folk bands is here! And with the likes of Isambarde, it's in good hands, I am pleased to say.' Read his review thisaway!
Kelly Sedinger poses a conundrum in his review of It Happened One Night and It Never Happened At All: 'You know you're dealing with an uncommon musician when both of his debut albums land on your desk for review. John Wesley Harding is a singer/songwriter from Great Britain. Born Wesley Stace, he apparently took his stage name from the Bob Dylan album John Wesley Harding, appropriately enough. Born in 1965 in Hastings, Sussex, Stace was schooled at The King's School, Canterbury, and Jesus College, Cambridge. Stace's artistic efforts aren't limited to music, either; in the last few years he has embarked on a career as a writer, producing two novels and several essays and chapbooks under his born name. His literary exploits come as no surprise, actually, after listening to the lyrics for his songs. More on that later, though. So how did John Wesley Harding come to have two debut albums? How can you debut more than once?' For the answer, go 'ere!
The headers for our classical music reviews always fascinate me with the density of the information. Take this one that Robert M. Tilendis reviews for us this edition as an example -- Morten Lauridsen, Nocturnes (Mid-Winter Songs, Les chansons des roses, 'I will lift up mine eyes,' 'O come, let us sing unto the Lord,' 'Ave, dulcissima Maria,' Nocturnes) [Polyphony, Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton, cond., with Andrew Lumsden, organ, and Morten Lauridsen, piano and finger cymbals]. Good thing we don't do that with all our music reviews! Now go read his review to see what he thought of this music!
A recording by Piotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky -- The Three Piano Concertos, Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and Mily Balakirev's Islamey get a look-see from Robert. I couldn't possibly sum up his Excellence in Writing Award winning commentary on these recordings so go read his review 'ere!
Gary Whitheouse says that 'Portland, Oregon currently has a hot music scene, nurturing everything from alt-rock to alt-country, with a healthy jazz and blues component as well. Here are two singer-songwriters connected to the Portland scene who also happen to be on the same label.' Read his review of albums by Gerald Collier and Luther Russel thisaway!
Great alt-country music will always appeal to Gary: 'The Portland, Oregon, band Richmond Fontaine makes a distinctive brand of alt-country noir music. With Thirteen Cities (their eighth studio release in addition to two live albums) they've teamed up with a bunch of Tucson, Arizona, regulars to produce a song cycle set in the loneliest reaches of the modern American West. It's as though Ray Chandler and William Kittredge teamed up to write an album's worth of songs on Western alienation and anomie.' Read his review over 'ere.
Oh, you want to know what Summer Queen music sounds like? Well, 'ere's what Zina Lee, Celtic fiddler par excellence, said 'bout that matter over a few points of Guinness in the Pub recently:
Wellllll, that would depend on whether I could get away with it or not. :) The Summer Queen is both fair of face and merciless as only an embodiment of nature can be, bringer of both the warmth and light of summer and the relentless heat of the sun. The Queen brings growth and fertility in the never-ending cycle of the year, but anyone who's watched ivy tear a fence down knows that too much of anything can be deadly.
Any composer writing for an embodiment or incarnation of The Summer Queen would want to evoke all of Her facets, I'd think. However, anyone composing for The Summer Queen would also probably want to suck up just in case of storms, so I'd say whatever it would be like, it would have to evoke her most positive attributes and probably leave the rest alone. :) Then again, no one ever said that music was safe.
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