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Reviews Written by
Kurt Harding "bon vivant" (Boerne TX)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated and Laid-Back, July 16 2004
This review is from: Laurita (Audio CD)
It took me a few listens before I arrived at the conclusion that Laurita deserves five stars. Some songs I liked instantly. Piazzolla fans should be more than pleased with Galliano's flawless interpretations of Libertango and Milonga del Angel. But those of us who have been Galliano fans for a while already know that he is one of the finest interpreters of Piazzolla on the scene today. The question is now, how does Galliano interpret Galliano and what is it that makes him a jazz artist worth following?
On Laurita, he goes a long way toward answering those questions. I have a few other Galliano recordings, and Laurita is one that comes closest to traditional 50s-60s jazz combo style. Right away, I liked the elegant title cut. Then it took me a few more listens to the rest of his compositions to understand and enjoy them fully. Of those, my favorites are Decisione, Blue, and the swinging Mr Clifton. I also enjoy the dreamy rendition of Serge Gainsbourg's La Javanaise.
For those who doubt that accordion works in serious jazz, hearing this CD should dispel that notion. Laurita is sophisticated, laid-back and is highly recommended.
Please note that the CD cover shown is not the one you get when you buy this. But the music is the same!

Umberto D. (The Criterion Collection)
Umberto D. (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Carlo Battisti
Price: CDN$ 32.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 25.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Hankies For Me, July 14 2004
The story line of Umberto D. could be the story of any man in any western country caught up in old age by changes he couldn't understand without sufficient resources to survive. Urbanization had loosened family and other ties in Italy and indeed all over Europe, and many men in the post-war period found themselves alone in the city without anyone to turn to in times of personal crisis.
The movie opens with a group of pensioners marching through the streets of Rome demanding an increase in their pensions. After all, a new system was in place after the defeat of the old order and rampant inflation was eating away at their pensions' value. The march was broken up gently by the police and the marchers were ordered to disperse as they had no permit.
Umberto is one of these men and the film chronicles this one man's struggle with the reality of his redundancy. He eats in a soup kitchen (and gives half of his food to his dog) and his daily life revolves around trying to scrounge up enough money to bring his rent payments current by selling off his better possessions. He occasionally crosses paths with old "friends" from better days, but when they learn of his plight, they turn their backs on him.
He can't bring himself to beg. When on the brink of success at his first begging attempt, pride causes him to turn away and refuse what is offered.
He cares most for his dog Flike and for the maid in his ant-ridden penzione who befriends him. None of his half-baked attempts to come up with his rent arrears succeed including his feigning illness in order to be admitted to a charity hospital, thereby saving the meagre soup-kitchen fee for a few days. When he returns home from the hospital and finds his landlady had knocked a hole in the wall of his room, let his dog loose in the street and was planning to make his room part of a larger reception room, he fled and frantically searched for his dog at the pound where it would be put to death if unclaimed.
Reunited with his dog and facing eviction, he felt the only way out was suicide. He even failed at that and momentarily lost the trust of his beloved Flike.
Umberto's plight is tragic, but it is the plight of one who fails to plan for the contingency of old age. He was somewhat a victim of circumstance, but was also a victim of poor choices. When one can barely afford to live, having a pet is stupid. Umberto had no family apparently. Why did he stay in expensive Rome? Why did he not save any money when he was still working as a civil servant? Though his situation is sad, he brought many of his problems on himself. No hankies for me.
What I liked most about the film is its stark aspect. Black and white film accentuates the film-maker's portrayal of the drabness of everyday life in post-war Rome. What I found most surprising is that bus and lorry drivers were prepared to run over anyone in their path who did not clear out fast enough. This was demonstrated several times, once at the beginning where the buses just scatter the pension marchers without slowing and may have been the film-maker's way of portraying man's callous indifference to man.
Carlo Battisti, an untrained actor, gives an excellent performance as the pitiful Umberto. It is actually quite unforgettable. Film fans looking for action and excitement are advised to avoid Umberto D. It is certainly not for everyone, but it is a must-see for foreign film buffs. Four stars.

The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854
The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854
by F. Todd Smith
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 47.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sad Chapter, July 7 2004
My interest in the Caddo Indians stems from having worked in the area formerly controlled by the tribe. From Nacogdoches to Natchitoches, on northward into present-day southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas, the Caddo and related tribes once controlled a vast area and were by all accounts well-organized, fairly disciplined, and relatively settled in relation to the nomadic tribes of the plains.
The Caddo Indians: Tribes At the Convergence of Empires 1542-1854 is the story of how a people who from the beginning strove to maintain peaceful and profitable relations with the white settlers fell victim to disease, alcohol and the duplicity of many of those whom they trusted. But it is also the tale of bravery, perseverance and unity in the face of all the forces of history that conspired against them.
The reader will see how the accidents of geography and the vagaries of events beyond the control of the Caddo nations brought them down from a tribe numbering in the hundreds of thousands, to a rump nation of just a couple hundred members today whose headquarters now sits on a meagre 37 acres in Oklahoma. You will meet good men and scoundrels on both sides and you will see how the scoundrels among the white nations (Spain, then Mexico, Texas and then the United States) eventually gained the upper hand. Of the white colonists who dealt with the Caddo tribes over the centuries, only the French come away largely free of the stench of dishonor.
The story of the Caddo Nation is yet another sad chapter in the history of Euro-American interaction with the Native peoples. It is doubly sad for the Caddo tribes as they took an actively friendly stance from the start.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in history as it pertains to the Indians. F. Todd Smith gives the reader a fine, easy reading overview of an important but overlooked tribe and a little-known era in what was then a remote section of the frontier.

Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle
Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Influential Debut, July 5 2004
This review is from: Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle (Audio CD)
I knew of the McGarrigle sisters back in the 1970s partly because of Linda Ronstadt's recording of Heart Like A Wheel and partly because of music media buzz which showered them with hosannahs. But I never really listened to them until a couple of years ago when I heard them sing backing vocals on Nick Cave's magnificent No More Shall We Part recording. So I went out and picked up a couple of their old CDs so I'd have a sampling and in the process found out that I'd been missing a whole lot of great music.
First of all, the sisters' harmonies are positively angelic. Then there is the simplicity of the music, with its laid-back almost rural feel accentuated by fiddles, mandolins, and accordions. The combination of the two makes for an almost exotic listening treat.
My favorites here are Kiss and Say Goodbye, My Town, Foolish You, Complainte Pour Ste-Catherine, Swimming Song, and Travellin' On For Jesus. The sisters are ably backed by an all-star crew including veteran drummer Steve Gadd, the late, great Lowell George on guitars, journeyman bass player, now prog-master, Tony Levin and others.
As it turned out, Kate and Anna McGarrigle's debut was very influential in country and country rock circles when it was current. After 30 years and many albums, they remain the finest active female Canadian vocalists. If you have not yet heard these ladies sing, its time to break down and order this. I'm glad I did.

Cowboy And The Lady
Cowboy And The Lady
4 used & new from CDN$ 29.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag, July 5 2004
This review is from: Cowboy And The Lady (Audio CD)
Over the last several years, I have rekindled a dormant interest in the music and career of Lee Hazlewood. Partly because his musical style is so hard to classify, Hazlewood has only just flirted with widespread appeal and has remained at the fringes of public consciousness for most of his career. Despite that, in recent years Hazlewood has been rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers and subsequently most of his old CDs have been reissued and have been selling briskly.
Lee Hazlewood began his recording career dabbling in country music, but up to this point, most of his work had been in the realm of pop and "cocktail" music. The Cowboy and the Lady marks his return to his country roots. His deep manly voice makes a perfect counterpoint to a sexy female one and so the duet is often the preferred vehicle of his musical expression. The realization of that expression on this recording, however, is a mixed bag.
There is some serious country here, but other songs range from bizarre to downright silly. And Ann-Margret's "country accent" at time seems strident and forced as on Sweet Thing. And except for three of the bonus tracks, there are no Hazlewood originals. Nevertheless, there is still much to enjoy.
My favorites are a classic-country quality rendition of Am I That Easy To Forget, a credible Only Mama That'll Walk The Line, the 60s standard Break My Mind, an excellent Ann-Margret solo on the delightful You Can't Imagine and a fine interpretation of No Regrets. The bonus tracks are mostly stinkers the best of which is the enigmatic Sleep In The Grass and the worst of which is the embarrassingly goofy Chico.
Though I give this recording only three stars, I still recommend it to those interested in following the twists and turns of Lee Hazlewood's storied career.

Midnight Wire
Midnight Wire
Price: CDN$ 20.30
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocrity Unbound, July 3 2004
This review is from: Midnight Wire (Audio CD)
I never heard Curved Air when they were current in the 70s, but I found this CD while searching for another band (Wolf) violinist Darryl Way had been involved in. In that band, Way offered virtuoso performances. Unfortunately, any recordings of Wolf are unavailable on CD so I was hoping to find some of Way's virtuosity with Curved Air. Alas, it did not happen.
Midnight Wire is replete with lame melodies and second-rate lyrics. The unexceptional vocal talents of Sonja Kristina don't help it any. Her best vocal effort, which isn't all that great, is heard on Dance of Love which also features Way's best violin solo. The best tune on the CD is the unremarkable instrumental Pipe of Dreams.
I sure didn't hear what I was hoping to when I bought this. Actually, I heard no good reason why it was reissued in the first place. Midnight Wire is mediocrity unbound and it is far too expensive for its brevity. Unless you are already a confirmed Curved Air fan, you probably should keep your hard-earned money and buy something else instead. I wish I had.

The Ride
The Ride
Price: CDN$ 25.00
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Groundbreaking Effort, July 2 2004
This review is from: The Ride (Audio CD)
Los Lobos have always been a band that has confounded critics who want to classify their music and fit them neatly into some category like Latin-rock or "roots rock". The only problem has been that Los Lobos defy categorization. They have proven over a long and successful career that they can convincingly fit in anywhere. Los Lobos always have a surprise for fans and critics alike, as one never knows from one album to the next what to expect. Their previous album, "Good Morning Aztlan", was their best in years and with "The Ride", Los Lobos deliver another groundbreaking effort.
Some have compared this CD to Santana's smash Supernatural because of Los Lobos' use of a series of guest appearances by a variety of stars from all over the musical map. I think its better, because the array of musicians is more imaginative and the arrangements of the songs more innovative.
My favorites are La Venganza de los Pelados; Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street with a very soulful vocal by Bobby Womack; Hurry Tomorrow; Ya Se Va, a muy picosa dance number featuring salsero Ruben Blades; a soul-stirring Someday with Mavis Staples, and a very bluesy Chains of Love.
Most other songs are good, too. The only cuts I did not care for are Kitate which featured Tom Waits and Martha Gonzalez, and Matter of Time, a reworked song from How Will the Wolf Survive that features Elvis Costello. The original is MUCH better.
Los Lobos have remained intact for an unusually long time. Those who have been fans since the first are used to the bands' wild swings across the musical landscape and love them for it. This CD should only serve to strengthen their devotion. For those who have just recently heard of Los Lobos, I say why not start with this CD? I highly recommend it.

Something Magic
Something Magic
Price: CDN$ 20.33
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At Their Nadir, June 29 2004
This review is from: Something Magic (Audio CD)
I bought this years ago when it first came out on vinyl, hoping it would be an improvement over it's very uneven predecessor, Procol's Ninth. I was appalled at the musical stench that arose from the grooves of the album as it played. The Worm and the Tree was the worst; it was a sad swan song for the most intellectual song writing duo of the 60s/70s and for the band that gave voice to their creative vision. The words and music reeked of creative and spiritual exhaustion.
In the last couple of years, I have rediscovered my old love for the music of Procol Harum and have been building a CD library that includes many recordings that were not readily available in the days of the LP. Recently, I decided to give Something Magic another shot and so ordered this remastered reissue.
Repertoire Records has done a fine job presenting this recording in the most attractive light possible. Included with the CD is an informative and well-written booklet that gives the listener an idea as to why Procol Harum was on the rocks at this time.
Now that I have revisited the album and have listened with new ears, I find that it has risen in my esteem. Gary Brooker and Keith Reid were still a formidable songwriting team. Just read the lyrics of the first four songs and listen to the musical arrangements on them. They scream classic Procol Harum. Even The Mark of the Claw, the music for which was written by Mick Grabham, is Brookeresque in its sound.
The Worm and the Tree remains problematic. The music, particularly in part one is often gorgeous and dreamy. The lyrics on the other hand, though they are meant to be allegorical, are often maudlin and jejune. As for the final two "bonus" cuts, they are OK, but rather disposable and not worthy of the Procol Harum I knew.
Though this album may not delight everyone, those who are Procol Harum fans should own it to remind themselves that even at their nadir, this was (and is again) a very good band. On the strength of the first four songs and select parts of the infamous Worm and the Tree, this CD rates a solid three.

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5.0 out of 5 stars His Best Effort Yet, June 29 2004
This review is from: Ashgrove (Audio CD)
Dave Alvin, while always good, has gotten progressively better over the years and Ashgrove arguably marks his best effort yet. Despite a string of fine CDs under his belt, Alvin has thus far failed to gain a wide audience beyond Southern California and a few cognoscenti scattered around the globe. This is the CD that should finally bring him the notice and acclaim he has long deserved. With the proper promotion, this album should attract alt-country and blues-rock fans, as well as cementing his musical ties with his established fan base.
Ashgrove starts strongly with the hard-rocking title cut and alternates harder rock and blues numbers with country-tinged ballads. I like the whole CD, though a couple of the softer numbers, The Man In The Bed and Somewhere In Time are on the weak side. My favorites are the evocative ballad Rio Grande, the searing Black Sky, the blistering rocker Out Of Control, and the plaintive ballad, Everett Reuss.
I certainly owe my friend Felice Kay, as she is one of the cognoscenti who brought Alvin's music to my attention several years ago. Without her tip, I may never have discovered him.
Obviously, Ashgrove has my highest recommendation. If you are not yet a confirmed Dave Alvin fan, this CD will make you one.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Pillar of the Blues, June 28 2004
This review is from: Essential (Audio CD)
I don't know if the songs on this CD really represent the "essential" Arthur Crudup because I haven't heard all of his recordings. But at least they are a useful overview of his career.
Most people my age, even if they are not blues fans, have heard at least some rendition of a Crudup song. He has been covered by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, and Eric Clapton. Among songs most familiar to my generation are Mean Old Frisco Blues, That's All Right, and My Mama Don't Allow Me.
There is a lot of rock and roll in a Crudup blues song and that's probably one reason his music has been accessible to successive generations of rockers. I like the whole album, it has a raw feeling that takes the listener way back to the bare roots of rock and roll. Crudup has a powerful voice and an engaging style of play.
My sole criticism of this compilation is that a few of the songs included sound like another (Crudup) song with only the lyrics changed. For example, compare and contrast I Want My Lovin', That's All Right, and I Don't Know It. You'll hear that the only substantial differences among the three are the lyrics. He has done so much that the label compiling this disc could have left in That's All Right and canned the other two in favor of a couple of other important tunes.
With 36 songs, the CD is a real value. Included are liner notes featuring a short but interesting story of Crudup's life. His story will surprise many who have a stereotyped view of the life of a bluesman. Arthur Crudup was not only a pillar of the blues, but can be considered one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. For those who seek the roots of the genre, this CD is a worthwhile buy.

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