There is a quickening in the air and in the oaks in the Courtyard that reminds you that the dark winter months are now over even though there's still a chill in the evening air... Of course, there are always warm places in the Green Man building where one can be comfortable such as the kitchen! With the sun shining through the windows into that hallowed space, enticing smells of baking on the air, and quite pleasant Welsh music being played where the Neverending Session, including a crwth player, has taken up residence in a cozy corner near the fireplaceit was no wonder that the staffers kept dropping to see if they could cadge a treat...
For me, I'd take some really sharp Quebec cheddar and the still warm sourdough bread with braised onions and small dark olives in it to have with the French apple brandy Calvados that I saw on tap in the Pub!
Our second edition this outing is an in-depth look at a series described for us by April Gutierrez this way --
According to the tote board, we do have reviews for you this edition, quite a few in fact, with all of them are in the usual place below this story about how we hosted a Lovecraft tea party. Really. Truly. Read on!
It couldn't have been any more atmospheric, for on that early spring afternoon a dirty leaden light filtered feebly through the high narrow windows of the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room. Outside one could hear the Winter wind as it broke loose and raged about like a recently-escaped jinn woken from a centuries-long dream of vengeance, tearing down curtains of cold rain while all the leafless trees bent low as if they were nothing more than trembling supplicants before a mad and merciless lord.
Within the dark-paneled walls of the Reading Room, we humans felt impervious to the temper of the maddened elemental as we stood or sat about, according to the inclination of each, holding hot cups of tea and still-warm scones (it need not be said that these were not the unholy blasphemies which certain shops in the cities would seek to fiendishly foist upon an ignorant populace which, seeking the comfort and consolation of real and right baked goods, is doomed to disappointment).
As it has already been mentioned, each person sat or stood according to inclination, some talking between themselves while others wandered idly amongst the shelves to peruse the seemingly infinite number of rare and arcane volumes, and one or two sat in the old leather wingback chairs before the crackling fire, silently turning pages and occasionally taking sips from old china teacups.
Iain Mackenzie and a couple of tweedy professorial types stood talking in front of one of the Reading Room's locked cabinets (which feature some of the older and more fragile volumes), discussing arcane books, rare manuscripts, and the various obsessions of their fellow bibliophiles. They kept their murmured conversation low, but at one point one might have overheard the lady scholar say something about their old schooldays at Miskatonic University in Arkham.
Upon the old Victorian loveseat tucked away into a corner only dimly illuminated by the fire sat an older gentleman in an old-fashioned suit, the style of which may have dated it to the first decade of the previous century.
The gentleman appeared to be disinclined to speak to anyone, but did allow the library cat -- which walks not in the spaces we know, but between them -- to sit upon his lap. It purred as he idly petted it, staring absently into the flames of the fire.
Suddenly, the cat rose up, hissing, and flung itself at a particularly dense shadow between two tall bookcases which appeared to be amongst the most ancient in the library.
As if startled, the old gentleman bumped one hand against a bowl of sugar where it stood next to his hand, spilling a drift of sugar upon the small table next to him. His fingers moved quickly, as if sketching some strange device into the sand of sugar.
There came from the shadowy corner where the cat silently stalked the sound of something which scuttled as if with rat's claws but with more than the usual number of legs, a slither of sound, a wisp of scent, suggestive of something which had never walked upon this world in the bright blessing of daylight.
Then it was gone and, half-smiling to himself as if in satisfaction, the strange gentleman in the old-fashioned suit sat back and took a sip of tea.
Reviewer Charles de Lint has nothing but praise for Drawing Down the Moon -- The Art of Charles Vess. Charles readily admits to bias -- he and Vess have been friends for years, but also says 'But really. All you need to do is flip through the book to realize that when it comes to traditional fairy, folk tale and fantasy art, there are few artists who do it better than Vess.'
Robert M. Tilendis comments 'Nordic roots. That's what this review is about. We tend to refer to 'Nordic trad' a lot around here at GMR, but it strikes me, surveying these CDs, that 'traditional' is going to get bent badly out of shape, perhaps more than even I can justify. In this selection of recent releases, we have everything from older traditions in Nordic music to a more 'modern' take on traditional music to explorations of jazz and new age starting from traditional tunes.' Robert earns himself an Excellence in Writing Award with this review.
We start off our book reviews this time with an enthusiastic 'Yes!' from Master Reviewer Donna Bird for Barbara Cleverly's Strange Images of Death. Says Donna, 'I have read and reviewed all of the earlier titles in this series. I've also found the series to be one of the more consistently engaging and enjoyable that I've followed, so of course we requested a copy of the galley. I'm happy to report that Strange Images of Death upholds the fine tradition to which I have become accustomed. It's another winner!'
Donna also had a chance to catch up on another series that she's enjoyed from Tasha Alexander. A Fatal Waltz and Tears of Pearl weren't perfect, she says, but 'despite my minor quibbles, for light historical mysteries, the Lady Emily series has much to commend it. If you enjoy this subgenre, I suggest you check these titles out.'
You would think that Donna would have had enough of mysteries by now, but some appetites are insatiable. She gives us a good look at three of a series of Icelandic mysteries by Arnaldur Indridason. 'Former journalist Arnaldur Indridason is Icelandic. . . . He writes about Iceland in a way I find particularly evocative of that mysterious and remote island nation. His writing style is sparse. . . . I would characterize the mood as grim -- you won't find any humor, even dark humor, in this series!' It all sounds very Nordic.
Book Editor April Gutierrez was a little iffy about Vertigo's new John Constantine release from Jamie Delano, Pandemonium. It's not stellar, but she says -- 'the outcome might not be earth-shattering, but a new Hellblazer story is always a welcome addition to any fan's bookshelf.'
April also got to take a look at the new installment in Matt Wagner'ss adventures of Madame Xanadu, Exodus Noir -- 'The main story line is riveting, fraught with tension and pulls in a couple of characters familiar to Vertigo readers. . . . Unfortunately, the flashback to 1493 comes across as filler material more than anything else. . . . The overall plot could have been powerful enough on its own, and makes this collection worth picking up on its own merits.'
Robert M. Tilendis, Master Reviewer, was quite taken with the new reissues of Conan the Barbarian from Dark Horse in two series, showcasing 'the prettiest Conan ever, in any medium.' While he thinks the stories are not the greatest ever -- although he admits they do improve as the series progresses -- he thought 'Barry Windsor-Smith's drawing for this series is several steps beyond remarkable' and explains why.
Robert had some reservations about another book in the 'Chronicles' series of Howard reissues, The Chronicles of Kull -- 'The stories . . . are true pulp fiction. They sometimes lack the depth of Howard's own work, and sometimes they are a little too contrived to be completely credible. . . . The big drawback in this volume is that Dark Horse did not, for whatever reason, remaster the color -- it is from the original comics, and benday dots are often quite obvious.' But is it worth having? Read his review to find out.
Robert also got a chance to take another look at an old favorite. 'The Jewel in the Skull is Michael Moorock's first installment in the cycle of Dorian Hawkmoon, one of the most popular of the avatars of the Eternal Champion. It's a rich and sometimes strange series, and has long been one of my personal favorites, so this reissue by Tor is welcome.' And of course, he goes into detail.
Robert finished off his book reviews for this issue with a nice evening's read. Elizabeth Bear's novella Bone and Jewel Creatures, he says, is 'a brief story, with no more flesh than it needs, much like Bijou. And it's a good one.' This review earns Robert a second Excellece in Writing Award for this edition!
That's all for now, but stop by next time -- there will be more. There's always more.
Fancy a bit of really good Austrian Celtic folk rock? If so, read Donna Bird's review of the two reworkings as referenced here -- 'We've had this CD for quite a while and keep in it pretty regular rotation, since it's a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. I didn't realize until I started writing the review of the related band Spinning Wheel ]that no one had reviewed Smoky Finish's Tune the Speed.'
Charles de Lint asked for and reviewed Three Score & Ten -- A Voice to the People, a hardcover book and CD set that looks at the history of Topic Records, a UK company proud of being well Left of centre. Read his full review for a look at why he loved this set, but his summation is worth hearing now -- 'I can't think of a better introduction to the music of the British Isles than this collection. The only down side I see is that, if you don't already have the original albums from which these sample tracks were culled, you're going to want to go out and track down many of the full albums. And that will hurt your wallet. '
James Gordon's My Stars, Your Eyes and Jesse Winchester's Love Filling Station get their due from David Kidney -- 'These two artists have been around a long time. They've played everyplace from bars to festivals. They've written songs that other people have recorded, with success. And yet they've managed, for the most part, to fly under the radar.' Read his ecstatic review 'ere.
David is very, very happy to see these recordings -- 'Django Reinhardt would have been 100 years old this year. Django Reinhardt, the gypsy jazz guitarist who has inspired so many guitarists, not just in the jazz field but everywhere. My friend Joe Clark, bluegrass mandolinist, is a fan; Chet Atkins, BB King, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Fripp, Willie Nelson, they all list Django as an influence. And now John Jorgenson, ex-Desert Rose Band, ex-Hellecaster, has just released two, TWO new CDs of Django-related material. And they are a pleasure to listen to!' The recordings, John Jorgenson Quintet's One Stolen Night and Orchestra Nashville's Istiqbal Gathering, are reviewed 'ere.
Two by Richard Thompson are next for this reviewer, Sweet Warrior and Live Warrior and my did we get the right reviewer for these -- 'I first became aware of Richard Thompson back in the day, I was a young folkie kid and so was he. He played guitar for Fairport Convention. I didn't pay any attention to him. There was too much other stuff going on. Then one day not quite 20 years ago, I found a copy of Rumor and Sigh in a used record bin for only $3.00. I was hooked as soon as I listened to it! It was earth-shattering. I felt the same way when I first listened to Hendrix, or to Ry Cooder, and stood in awe of another master of the fretboard. Since then I have collected so many Richard Thompson records, CDs, cassettes, boots, official and otherwise that the RT section of my collection is bursting at the seams! And I still can't get enough' Now go see what he thought of these discs!
Iain Nicholas Mackenzie continues to explore the early works of what is now known as the Oysterband -- 'Not surprisingly, the band at this point reminds me strongly of Chumbawamba, a British punk band that uses folk motifs as well. (John Jones, James O'Grady, the Uilleann Piper with the Oysterband on Rise Above, Big Session -- Volume 1,and the 25 EP), and Ian Telfer provided vocals and instrumentation on Chumbawamba's album A Singsong and a Scrap, and somebody from the band provided vocals for the song 'Hull or Hell' on The Boy Bands Have Won. not to forget the Tubthumper recording and the 'She's Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy' single. Jones also provides vocals on 'Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire '.) So it's a band evolving fast but still firmly rooted in its past -- Step Outside is a exceedingly strong album from a band that is always is spot on!'
Robert M. Tilendis listened to by Angela East, Bach -- The Cello Suites and Baroque Cello Illuminations -- 'Angela East is the cellist for Red Priest, the baroque chamber ensemble noted for its innovative approach and flamboyant public style. In the two recordings presented here, East has gone solo, pretty much, and brought this approach to the smaller-scale works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque masters.' Read his lovely review thisaway.
Not 'tall surprisingly Robert loves the works of Philip Glass -- 'The Witches of Venice, with a score by Philip Glass and libretto by Beni Montresor based on his children's book of the same title, was commissioned by Teatro alla Scala and premiered there in 1995. It's a fairy tale, with elements common to most fairy tales, although it has a few quirks of its own.' Read his telling of its tale 'ere.
Two Red Priest recordings, Vivaldi's The 4 Seasons and Arcangelo Corelli's The Christmas Concerto, are reviewed in detail by Robert. Read his review to see why all three tickled his fancy.
More than a bit of Classical music rounds off Robert's reviewing this edition -- 'Mmm . . . two of my favorite things in one review -- Beethoven and string quartets. I willingly confess to a weakness for chamber music -- I feel toward a composer's small-scale works much the way I do about works for solo piano or an artist's drawings, although a string quartet is much more likely to be a 'finished' piece, by necessity. But composers often put ideas into their chamber works that don't make it into larger orchestral works. (One need only think of Dmitri Shostakovich's string quartets, much more adventurous and challenging than anything he could risk with a symphony under the Stalin regime.) By their very nature string quartets are intimate affairs, at least in the context of performance -- they aren't necessarily small-scale in concept at all.'
Gary Whitehouse says 'I can say with confidence that Glossary is the best band you've probably never heard of. If you are among the uninitiated, you should remedy that with all due haste. I am still finding new things to love about their previous disc, 2007's The Better Angels of Our Nature, which was released as a free download on their Web site. And now comes Feral Fire, their sixth full-length, which sounds like a milestone.'
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Proofers and What's New Writers
Kage Baker (1952 to 2010)
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 to 1973)
Kage Baker reading her
A reading from Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn
Elizabeth Bear reads The Chains that You Refuse
Black 47's 'Liverpool Fantasy'
An excerpt from Paul Brandon's The Wild Reel novel
Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's The War for The Oaks movie trailer
Nicholas Burbridge's 'Open House'
Cats Laughing's 'For It All'
Charles de Lint performing his 'Sam's Song'
Charles de Lint -- Some thoughts on his fiction
Gaelic Storm's 'Kiss Me'
Christopher Golden's 'The Deal'
The opening chapter of The Weaver and The Factory Maid, the first novel in Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballad series.
An excerpt from Deborah Grabien's Rock & Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery
'The Winter Queen Reel' (played by Roger Landres), composed in honour of Jane Yolen
Chuck Lipsig on 'Star of Munster' variations
McDermott's 2 Hours' 'Fox on the Run'
An excerpt from James Stoddard's 'The High House'
Tinker's Own performing 'The Tinker's Black Kettle', a jig by Charles de Lint from The Little Country
Vagabond Opera's 'Marlehe'
A Vasen tune for your enjoyment
Cathrynne Valente's 'The Surgeon's Wife'
Cathrynne Valente reading a selection titled 'The Tea Maid and The Tailor' from The Orphan's Tales
Robin Williamson's 'Five Denials on Merlin's Grave'
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Uploaded vernal equinox March 21, 2010 6:58 PS LLS