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Paul P. Alisauskas (Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada)
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The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
by Chris Guillebeau
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
37 used & new from CDN$ 4.81

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises, promises..., Jan. 29 2012
It's hard not to LIKE Guillebeau; he's just so damn earnest. But this book suffers from the same dynamic that motivational speakers engender; post-talk letdown. Some meals consist of a number of tasty morsels, but not much actual nutrition. You're hungry almost immediately afterward. So it is here.

First the positive stuff: Yup, this will get you in the proper mindset for examining your priorities, needs and goals. (But, what self-help book doesn't?) It's encouraging to hear how the author has "made do" (and then some, apparently) with an unconventional approach to "making a living", while actually managing to have some fun. He's perhaps the ultimate paradigm for getting paid for play. An inspiration or model for others? Perhaps.

The book starts out as if it will really lead up to something, but peters out; a promising "let's get our thinking in order" platform kind of trails off into a series of vignettes concerning his quest to visit every country on earth, ramblings on "world domination" (his rather loose construct for living live on your own terms) and numerous appropriations from a number of other self-help guide authors (Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, etc.) If cheer-leading is what you're looking for, this book never relents. If you want more, you'll be disappointed.

In sum, this is what I call a 'booklet' - a couple of core ideas that have been expanded and expounded on enough to fill several hundred pages. (Seth Godin is a master of churning out an endless series of flabby brochures of this kind.) EVERYTHING in this book is available for free on Gillebeau's blog. As much as I like Guillebeau and admire his feisty way of making a living, I can't avoid observing that a BIG part of this book is pure filler. On the other hand, if you want to get a (quick) handle on why Guillebeau's blog is so damn popular, this is probably as good a way as any. (Just don't expect to start issuing world orders right away.)

Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
by Ezra Levant
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from CDN$ 1.85

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual, ethical and political myth-busting galore, Sept. 30 2011
Many other reviewers have outlined the merits of this book. I won't replicate their comments.

I was not one of the virulent opponents of the oil sands project before reading the book, thinking of it as a relatively minor, though necessary, evil. In the trade-off between securing energy self-sufficiency and environmental hazard, I already felt the choice was a no-brainer. This book was revelatory in just how easy this choice should be for the thinking person.

Levant is criticized by a number of reviewers for (arguably) taking a detour to address the fallacies and foibles of the most vocal opponents of the oil sands. Granted, the (flawed) integrity of their arguments is not, by itself, an argument for the merits of the oil sands per se, but revealing the flaws in the logic and content of all the scaremongering and sanctimonious caterwauling engaged in by "players" like the ethical investment movement, is part and parcel of dispersing the fog of myth that has grown up around this issue.

For me, the most valuable aspect of this book was the "as opposed to what?" aspect Levant introduces into the discussion. Would you REALLY 'prefer' your oil to originate in Sudan, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia, those bastions of human rights, social justice and environmental responsibility? His analysis along these lines was an eye-opener for me.

The book puts to rest an enormous mythology that has seemingly become accepted orthodoxy about the oil sands. It's a valuable, sobering and reassuring read. You owe it to yourself to check it out before succumbing to all the reflexive nonsense being peddled by the "STOP (EVERYTHING)!" crowd.

Earfood
Earfood
Price: CDN$ 16.28
28 used & new from CDN$ 8.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appropriately titled, Aug. 24 2011
This review is from: Earfood (Audio CD)
This recording could NOT be more appropriately named...Earfood. It's like a sumptuous meal, served up in 13 delectable courses; NO clinkers.

From the liner notes, the intent is to serve up "sonic pleasures", arising from "simple melodies moving around luscious chords". That it does in spades.

I was drawn to get this recording having heard the cut, 'To Wisdom The Prize', a Larry Willis composition I wasn't familiar with. The balance of the recording, a mix of originals and other performing staples for this working band, never hits a false note.

You won't find ANY frenetic 'blowing' on here, though chops, taste and restraint abound. If you want a great respite from "Gee whiz, how outside can I get?" riffing and soloing, this is as good a place as any to find it.

Sonically, the tastiness continues; it's among the best sounding recordings I have. Again, from the liner notes, "sophistication" is a primary objective, met 100% successfully.

This recording has a diverse blend of styles, concluded with an energetic (live) version of the Sam Cooke classic, 'Bring It On Home To Me', much like a great meal, leaving you hoping for just one more course.

Highly recommended.

Night Music
Night Music
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 112.95
3 used & new from CDN$ 76.32

3.0 out of 5 stars Virtuosic blowfest, Aug. 22 2011
This review is from: Night Music (Audio CD)
I'll bet if I was present in the audience at the Jazz Forum when this disc was recorded I would have gone away thinking I'd gotten more than my money's worth. Unfortunately, live music and live recordings conjure up very different reactions for me most of the time. Such is the case here.

If anyone is in doubt as to the supreme virtuoso horn credentials of Woody Shaw, this recording will put them to rest. This guy was an absolute monster of technical playing, particularly at insane tempos. That's mostly my beef with this recording; three of the four selections are up-up-uptempo show-off pieces, not just for Woody, but also the other 'names' on board. As a direct audience member, you can get in the spirit of the moment; as a home listener, it mostly gets kind of wearing.

Only the medium tempo 'All The Things You Are', for me, is likely to bear repeated listening; even there, the occasionally somewhat raucous drumming of Tony Reedus distracts from the mood of the tune. I can't get beyond the overall feeling these guys were mostly concerned with demonstrating "Aren't we GOOD?", rather than serving the song.

The overall sound and mixing of the recording is spotty. It's almost the polar opposite of Woody's 'In My Own Sweet Way" (my favourite Woody recording) for live sound quality.

If you have (or need) a complete Woody Shaw library, this might be a justifiable purchase. If not, save your dough; it'll likely end up in the section of your recordings labeled, "For Infrequent Listening Only".

Original Album Classics
Original Album Classics
Price: CDN$ 19.99
24 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steal yourself some Miles, July 29 2011
This review is from: Original Album Classics (Audio CD)
OK, there are ACRES of commentary on the individual recordings comprising this collection. Most jazz fans don't need (or want) my personal take on which album, cut or lineup is superior, a favourite or "indispensable" in a music collection. But what absolutely BLOWS me away about this package is just what a screaming DEAL it is for the average music collector.

It is a 'period' collection, representing Miles' start with Columbia Records, ' 'Round About Midnight' being the first. The releases cover a period between 1956 and 1958, immediately before the landmark 'Kind of Blue'. ('Birth of the Cool' was also released within this time frame.) If you're looking to see something "building" towards 'K of B', listening to the smaller group efforts here (i.e. excluding 'Miles Ahead' and 'Porgy and Bess') certainly suggests 'K of B' didn't just jump out of nowhere.

I had a bit of trouble identifying the '1958 Miles' recording as part of his discography. Turns out it is the recording, ' '58 Miles - Featuring Stella by Starlight'. This particular gem is not only musically captivating for me, but has perhaps the coolest cover art on any Miles Davis sleeve.

So, FIVE great, interesting and varied recordings for about $25? (!!!!); major larceny, if you ask me. (There are examples of some of these recordings being sold for $50 to $75 individually.)

Putting aside the bargain shopping aspect, it's hard to imagine getting a better glimpse into the artistic output of a musical giant during an extraordinarily fertile time, more simply and directly. For some, who don't find themselves drawn to the 'electric' Miles, this might be the only recordings (except for 'K of B', of course) you'll ever need.

The Road From Memphis
The Road From Memphis
Price: CDN$ 16.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 5.23

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disposable confectionary, July 27 2011
This review is from: The Road From Memphis (Audio CD)
Looking for that grimy "Green Onions" groove? Hoping for a helping of Memphis soul gumbo? Longing for something REAL? Well, don't look here. Booker T has left the building.

It's unrealistic to expect a flood of 'G.O.' equivalent soulfulness for an entire CD outing, but this one has nary a single memorable excursion. It's probably just that ol' Booker is just getting o-l-d; not much more to say and little technique to say it with.

I didn't realize what the 'Crazy' title referred to until I heard it - an instrumental cover (done badly) of that atrocious top 40 abomination. Yeck!

There is a glowing All-Music review of this fluffy bit of nothing. Must have been written by someone who doesn't like to tap their foot to the music.

You've been warned.

In My Own Sweet Way
In My Own Sweet Way
Price: CDN$ 22.16
16 used & new from CDN$ 10.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling!, July 23 2011
This review is from: In My Own Sweet Way (Audio CD)
I've only had this recording a couple of days, but I've probably listened to it a half dozen times front-to-back. It honestly has the potential to become one of my favourite recordings of all time.

Woody Shaw is the 'name' performer here, but the supporting cast, I assume relative unknowns, provide some truly memorable moments; Neil Swainson on bass and Fred Henke on piano. The drummer, Alex Deutch, is capable, but unobtrusive. It was mostly Henke's contributions, both compositional and instrumental that had me smiling repeatedly.

There's no real 'outside' playing here (I'm pleased to report), but that doesn't mean there's not plenty to ponder. One thing that really struck me during the second listen was the generosity Shaw exhibits in giving solo space to both Swainson and Henke, both of whom just shine. Henke is my favourite kind of piano player - spare, occasionally angular, but full of fresh, occasionally atmospheric ideas. (Sadly, I couldn't find anything on him as a leader on a recording). Swainson is equally comfortable up front or just settled in behind. Because the featured spots are spread around so generously, the music never gets monotonous because the main guy has to carry everything on his shoulders throughout.

Shaw plays with a purity of tone and with great restraint throughout. Particularly on the ballad material, the emotion just seems to be dripping from his horn. Every note truly counts.

This is 'live' (club) recording, but the sound quality is first rate, despite the drums occasionally being a trifle indistinct. I really love the sonority of the piano here.

It's an interesting cross-section of material - Brubeck's 'Your Own Sweet Way'; Miles' 'Sippin' at Bells'; two by Shaw. The pieces that really SHINE for me are Henke's 'The Dragon' and 'Just a Ballad for Woody', a piece written by Shaw's wife, the performance of which is probably a doctorate course in itself on how to PLAY a ballad.

There are soft passages here where I find myself unconsciously being very quiet so as not to 'disturb' the music. (I guess that's about the highest compliment you can pay to a recorded piece of music).

Treat yourself to some sweets.

A New Perspective
A New Perspective
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 13.82
30 used & new from CDN$ 5.12

4.0 out of 5 stars A study in restraint and dignity, July 21 2011
This review is from: A New Perspective (Audio CD)
This recording struck me as subject to one overarching rule: Don't OVERDO anything. In this respect, it succeeds spectacularly. Throughout, the playing is economical, controlled and understated in a way that seems aimed at conveying a sense of spirituality with a dash of other-worldliness. It doesn't have that unabashed joyfulness of a 'gospel' record, though it seems to come from somewhere in the vicinity of that tradition. (The one exception might be Burrell's solo on 'The Black Disciple'.)

One prior reviewer commented on the stark beauty of 'Cristo Rendentor'. Ditto on that; particularly Bird's solo.

Now, the 'voices' part of the mix is substantially LESS than you might expect both from the title and reading about the recording; they're relatively uncomplicated, mostly repetitive vocal vignettes, mixed relatively unobtrusively into the overall mix. In some respects, they act a bit like a horn section, although with a different timbral impact. (A cynic might characterize them as transplanted background parts for a 60's pop record.) Overall, though, I think they work just fine.

A number of listenings has me liking this recording more each time, but I doubt it will work its way into any 'best of' category. It definitely won't displace my favourite Donald Byrd recording. I can see putting it on for reflective times where I'm not listening TOO actively.

To put this recording into perspective, I think you need to consider what a departure it was at the time of recording and give Byrd lots of credit for doing something TRULY different with his recording opportunities. For listening now, it's just that - a pleasant departure from the typical record of the period.

Emergence
Emergence
Price: CDN$ 16.85
11 used & new from CDN$ 9.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Lush, varied, exquisite., July 20 2011
This review is from: Emergence (Audio CD)
I'm not an aficionado of big band music; I have some; I like it; I often find it a nice break from what I listen to most of the time. That said, if I was restricted to a single big band recording for the proverbial desert island, this would be IT! I could probably wax eloquent about how many great things there are about this CD, but I'll contain myself to the following:

It is a BEAUTIFUL and lush example of the form. It has incredible variety of material (older-style swing, blues, some hard bop, a bit of latin, a bit of modal, etc.). As diverse as the stylistic palette, though, the whole thing just comes across as seamless.

The arranging is absolutely PERFECT to my ears. Lots of big band efforts I've heard are so overcooked in the arranging department, you know the arranger had no eraser on their pencil. Not this one. It not only 'cooks' with just the right amount of ingredients, it also fully utilizes the dramatic impact of d-y-n-a-m-i-c-s (also, quite rare, in my experience).

The playing is first-rate; enthusiasm, joy adventure and sophistication galore. Hargrove's tone (more on that later) gives me chills. Melodically and harmonically, it's a neoclassic jazz recording - modern, but not "out there". (Again, pretty much the way I like it best.)

Incredible sound quality. The bass, for all the bandwidth bass can use up, is substantial, round and sonorous. The other instruments breathe nicely and have a great shimmer. Perfect drum sound. Keep in mind, these tunes are recorded more-or-less 'live', so getting these balances and elements right is quite an accomplishment.

Roy Hargrove is the mastermind of all this and the featured player. WHAT an accomplishment! I think he may have just leaped into first place in my preferences for horn players in a single bound.

I issue this challenge: Listen to this recording. See if you can find a single thing to criticize. Let me know.

Concerto 40th Edition
Concerto 40th Edition
Price: CDN$ 9.20
26 used & new from CDN$ 7.04

5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect lineup; a (nearly) perfect recording, July 17 2011
This review is from: Concerto 40th Edition (Audio CD)
It would be hard for me to imagine a more perfectly complementary group of musicians for a recording date. Of course, Hall and Desmond were frequent collaborators on recording projects (and probably live dates), sharing a common melodic sensibility and approach, but Chet Baker (thankfully, sans vocals) is a natural and compelling extension of that ethos.

I was not previously familiar with the work of Roland Hanna (piano), but have to say I was so impressed with his contributions on this recording, I resolved to get familiar with his body of work in future. Basically, I think, at least for this session, he literally absorbs the Hall/Desmond approach to melodic interpretation like a hand in glove.

Ron Carter, well, what can you say? Has anyone ever heard a setting 'Mr.Bass' isn't perfectly suited to?

Steve Gadd, despite my having huge respect for his talents, before hearing the disc I thought might be a tad BUSY for this crew, my being used to more of the likes of Terry Clarke with Hall. No worries, though; Gadd adds a pleasantly percolating propulsion to the proceedings, while never overplaying or showboating.

The choice of material for this project is varied enough to more than maintain interest and suits the soloing sensibilities of the principals to a 'T'. Don Sebesky is credited with the arrangements, although realistically, the only really "arranged" sounding piece on here is Concierto de Aranjuez, an absolutely BRILLIANT interpretation of one movement from that work. The rest of the program bounces along with less weighty, but no less enjoyable verve, again perfectly in the pocket of the players.

Here's the quibble: This is a Rudy Van Gelder Studio recording. I'm disappointed only in the guitar tone he gets for Hall; a sound that I've started to call "mud soup". That RVG couldn't have coaxed something with a little more 'point' out of Hall, is disappointing. Be prepared for some judicious EQ-íng to get more definition for the man's parts.

My copy of the CD had three alternate take 'bonuses'. Oh how I would have preferred three DIFFERENT tunes from those sessions. Oh, well, I'll just have to be grateful for what I got, and that's PLENTY.

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