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MOVIE MAVEN (New York, NY USA)

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It Had To Be You... The Great American Songbook
It Had To Be You... The Great American Songbook
Price: CDN$ 7.74
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A TREAT, Oct. 24 2002
This is an absolutely wonderful album of standard, classic songs from The Great American Songbook performed by a guy one would hardly have thought of in the same breath as Sinatra, Clooney, Connick, et al.
Rod Stewart has obviously been strongly influenced by Tony Bennett and the result is terrific. The orchestrations serve Stewart and his "guests" especially Arturo Sandoval in a gorgeous version of "Moonglow." Rodgers and Hart's "Where Or When" is also a particularly appealing cut.
Stewart respects all these songs, never condescends to them and yet, finds his own way and with his raspy baritone puts a new spin on them. This CD is a surprising, happy treat.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
by Ben Mezrich
Edition: Hardcover
65 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars THEY DESERVE WHAT THEY GOT !, Oct. 5 2002
I have never been to Las Vegas; the last time I was in Atlantic City if there were casinos, I certainly didn't know about them; I have bet and lost a few dollars in slot machines. In other words, I know next to nothing about gambling and absolutely nothing about a gambler stacking the odds in his favor through intelligent, obsessive, dizzyingly difficult planning.
Ben Mezrich's BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE is bound to become a movie: it is non-fiction that reads like one of the most exciting, fascinating novels you could pick up. Briefly (and simplisticly) six M.I.T. "nerd" students set about to win big at the tables in Vegas...and they did...by learning to count the cards in games of Blackjack. Sound simple? Well, the planning and execution that this entails is unbelievably hard, especially for someone like myself who is no good with math and/or numbers and has no patience for details, whatsoever.
I don't want to give away too many of Mezrich's surprises, but I promise you that his book is absolutely impossible to put down. When I didn't have a huge grin on my face, my mouth had dropped open in shock. This is a REAL caper adventure...one that I think I'd love to be a part of, but, upon reflection, know that it takes stronger hearts than mine. The guys who opened up their lives to Mezrich deserve everything they got. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Turn O/T Screw Comp
Turn O/T Screw Comp
2 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A WONDERFUL OPERA, BUT............., Sept. 30 2002
This review is from: Turn O/T Screw Comp (Audio CD)
Benjamin Britten is one of the great composers of the Twentieth Century and, personally, one of my all-time favorites. That said, I just do not understand the "necessity" of a new recording of his opera THE TURN OF THE SCREW when there are three first-rate recordings available, one of them quite extraordinary.
The opera is certainly not as frequently performed as are either of Britten's two masterpieces, PETER GRIMES and BILLY BUDD mainly, I would guess, because it is a small story told with a small cast and a small (13 pieces total) orchestra. It simply would be drowned in most opera houses. The last time I saw the opera in a very interesting production at the New York City Opera, the space and the number of seats simply engulfed the characters; one could not concentrate on the story. How terrific it would be to see THE TURN OF THE SCREW in a theatre with only, say, 1000 seats.
The story is, of course, based on the Henry James novella and it is brilliantly set to music by Britten, with two starring roles for children as well as the soprano who plays their governess. There was a fine movie adapted from the James which starred Deborah Kerr as the children's governess and a more recent one, with Nicole Kidman.
The main reason for buying this CD set is because Ian Bostridge, a true star tenor, is playing the role of "Peter Quint." Bostridge has a gorgeous voice and, in person, he is a handsome, sensual performer. But in this recording, at least, there is not enough of the other-wordly about him, not enough depth of character, not enough acting and, in fact, too much purely beautiful singing.
THE TURN OF THE SCREW is a wonderful musical drama. If you want to investigate it, try the original recording on Decca starring Britten's muse, the incomparable Peter Pears.

Noel Coward Songbook
Noel Coward Songbook
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.57
7 used & new from CDN$ 2.10

2.0 out of 5 stars COWARD'S THEATRE SONGS, Sept. 29 2002
This review is from: Noel Coward Songbook (Audio CD)
Sometimes musical artists should NOT attempt cross-over albums. I am a huge fan of Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price and Joan Sutherland, but their ventures into "popular" music were, at best, misguided and, at worst, heavy-handed and pretentious. Although Ian Bostridge does not embarrass himself, there is no question that he should stick to more "serious" music and leave musical comedy to other singers.
The theatre songs of Noel Coward take a very different kind of approach than Bostridge gives them. They need an actor who happens to be singing. Except for a very few of the songs on this CD (written by Coward for operettas instead of musical comedies) Bostridge's approach is absolutely without any character. All of these numbers are impeccably sung by Bostridge, but none of them are ever really acted. Coward's songs MUST be acted whether they were written in a comic or sentimental vein. The result is another misfired cross-over album in what otherwise is a splendid career.

Requiem
Requiem
2 used & new from CDN$ 36.43

3.0 out of 5 stars FOR WHAT REASON?, Sept. 29 2002
This review is from: Requiem (Audio CD)
There is no question in my mind that Gabriel Faure's REQUIEM is one of the glories of spiritual music. (although Faure, himself, is said to have stated that his REQUIEM was written "for pleasure only.") Faure composed it for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra and there are several first rate recordings of it. My favorite happens to be the one conducted by Philippe Herreweghe on the Harmonia Mundi label.
Emile Naoumoff has transcribed this wonderful music for piano solo and although he plays well, there is simply no reason for the reduction. Music of great inspirational and meditative value has now been reduced to just another "new age-y," office background solo piece.
Much more interesting and valuable are the NOCTURNES and three MELODIES Naoumoff has included on the CD.

Orphee Et Eurydice:Gluck
Orphee Et Eurydice:Gluck
DVD ~ Magdalena Kozená
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 66.67
7 used & new from CDN$ 46.74

4.0 out of 5 stars ROBERT WILSON'S "ORPHEUS...", Sept. 14 2002
This review is from: Orphee Et Eurydice:Gluck (DVD)
Gluck's ORPHEUS & EURIDICE is one of my favorite operas. Strangely enough I have seen several different productions. I say, "strangely" since it is rarely produced in New York, but I have seen it in a gorgeous, traditional production at the Metropolitan Opera House starring the incomparable Marilyn Horne and in a concert version at Tanglewood with the same star. I have also seen a post-modern production at the New York City Opera which made little sense to me and in two interesting productions outside of New York City.
Robert Wilson is a director I admire greatly and this production is gorgeous: the costumes, the choreography, the stark settings and especially the lighting are all of a piece as if done by one person. The formal structure of the opera is stressed with Wilson's use of simple, symbolic gestures, mask-like make-up, few props and a bold use of color. The story is the mythic one of Orpheus who, in mourning for his wife, Euridice, decides to venture to Hades in order to return her to Earth. After various struggles, he does so with the great aid of the goddess, Amore.
There are only three principal roles in the opera, all sung by women and this cast is very good, if not up to the likes of Horne or in another fine recording, Anne Sofie von Otter, or in yet a third, Rise Stevens. In fact, there are times, especially in Act 1, when the mezzo, Magdalena Kozena, as 'Orpheus' frequently sings off pitch. Patricia Petibon does better as the goddess and Madeline Bender is fine as 'Euridice.'
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, his orchestra the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, and the Monteverdi Choir are all superb.

Loves Rodgers And Hammerstein
Loves Rodgers And Hammerstein
Price: CDN$ 17.21
19 used & new from CDN$ 2.19

2.0 out of 5 stars MISSTEPS, Sept. 4 2002
I am second to none in my admiration for Richard Rodgers' music and Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics. I am also a fan of the entertainer, Bernadette Peters, arguably our finest interpreter of Stephen Sondheim's songs. But something has gone terribly awry in this dull collection of (for the most part) overly familiar songs.
Do we really need another CD collection with "It's A Grand Night For Singing" and "It Might As Well Be Spring?" These are terrific songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein film, STATE FAIR, but they've been done to death for decades by every brand of singer and instrumentalist imaginable and Peters brings nothing new to her performances. Also "You'll Never Walk Alone" (CAROUSEL) and "Something Wonderful" (THE KING AND I) are sung well enough, but it is as if Peters is paying no attention to the lyrics: these numbers do not jump off the CD and force you to pay attention.
There are so many songs written by Rodgers and Hammerstein that beg to be recorded: songs from their "failure" PIPE DREAM and from their little known ME AND JULIET. To prove my point, it is the two selections from their third Broadway musical ALLEGRO that stand out on this album not only because "The Gentleman Is A Dope" and "So Far" are tremendous songs, but also because we have not heard them over and over and over again.
The biggest misstep on the album is a silly arrangement of "There Is Nothin' Like A Dame" from SOUTH PACIFIC in which Peters spends most of the song either growling or shouting. The biggest success is the short, sweet, simple "Something Good" from the film version of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in which words, music and performance come poignantly together.

Band Wagon
Band Wagon
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 68.95
3 used & new from CDN$ 63.95

5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB, Sept. 3 2002
This review is from: Band Wagon (Audio CD)
I have no idea why THE BAND WAGON is so hard to find on VHS and is not yet released on DVD. Along with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and ON THE TOWN it is one of the few superbly written (Betty Comden and Adolph Green), wonderfully performed, gorgeously designed and classily directed (Vincente Minnelli) musicals from MGM's golden age.
If for no other reason, it should be seen to watch Michael Kidd's incomparable choreography. I am especially fond of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse falling in love without saying or singing a word, while they dance through Central Park in "Dancing in the Dark" one of the most romantic and sexy scenes in any movie.
The cast also includes the adorable Nanette Fabray and Astaire's perfect foil, Jack Buchanan. Just as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN romantically spoofed Hollywood, THE BAND WAGON does the same for Broadway.
This superb CD contains every bit of music in the movie including the nearly twelve minute "Girl Hunt Ballet" and some extras too: a few songs cut from the film and two demos sung by the composers. The sound is amazingly fine considering that all the cuts come from the film, itself. The score by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz is filled with gorgeous melodies and clever lyrics. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Merrily We Roll Along
Merrily We Roll Along
5 used & new from CDN$ 2.19

5.0 out of 5 stars WHO'S LIKE HIM? DAMN FEW !, Sept. 3 2002
This review is from: Merrily We Roll Along (Audio CD)
I had the distinct pleasure of finally seeing a full scale production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the recent Sondheim Celebration in Washington, DC. If this is not Stephen Sondheim's best score (and who really cares what his BEST score is?)it is certainly his most joyous. And it certainly is his most traditional Broadway score.
From the first moments of the overture through to the final notes of "The Hills of Tomorrow" which is a hymn to promises unfulfilled, this is about as good as Broadway is ever going to get.
I have no idea why the original production failed; I never saw it. The book is, at best, weak. But song after song after song is truly memorable. "Not A Day Goes By" could arguably be Sondheim's most emotional love song; "Franklin Shepard, Inc." is not only clever (as only Sondheim's lyrics can be) it is also truly, theatrically funny. Everyone of the actors on this original cast recording is commendable. This is a Sondheim musical, not just for his fans, but for the people who think they hate Sondheim shows.
So, to paraphrase one of Sondheim's lyrics in his song "Old Friends:"
"Here's to him!
Who's like him?
Damn few !"
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Night Sessions
Night Sessions
Price: CDN$ 7.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 1.72

3.0 out of 5 stars DISAPPOINTING, Aug. 26 2002
This review is from: Night Sessions (Audio CD)
There was a free-of-charge, one hour Chris Botti concert on one of the cable networks that a friend taped for me. Informally produced with interesting, talented guests like Sting performing, obviously interested in furthering the younger man's career.
Botti came across as a charming guy who really played trumpet well. Each song was well done and the hour flew by much too quickly. His banter was candid and easy-going and, fortunately, he kept it to a minimum, concentrating on his music.
I bought NIGHT SESSIONS and am very disappointed. There is a sameness in all the tracks here: an almost Muzak-like feel of overly synthesized music which, thankfully, I did not feel on his much better, earlier CD called SLOWING DOWN THE WORLD.
Since Columbia obviously wants to play up the similarities that so many critics and fans have pointed out between Botti and Chet Baker, the album contains several black and white, shirtless pictures and a handsome, color close-up of the artist staring, soulfully into the camera, blond hair tousled perfectly.

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