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Bill Fleck (Wurtsboro, NY USA)
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Sings Merry Christmas Songs
Sings Merry Christmas Songs
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 31.95
4 used & new from CDN$ 26.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Something Just Clicks, Nov. 4 2002
This album means Christmas.
From the beautiful opening rendition of "T'was..." to the rousing closer, this is a collection to remember.
Much has been made of the quality of Como's voice. He was never better than here. But what truly separates this from all other Christmas albums are the arrangements. From the soft chorals of "Silent Night" to the inspired counterpoint of "The 12 Day...," the musicians blend with Como's warmth and create a texture rare in pop.
As an added bonus, even the 'original' tunes are inspired. "That Christmas Feeling" is certainly not out of place among the more traditional favorites.
All of this adds to up delightful holiday listening year after year.

Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius
Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius
by Charles Higham
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.70
21 used & new from CDN$ 7.65

3.0 out of 5 stars Welles, Oct. 29 2002
One thing's for sure: Higham's 1985 ORSON WELLES: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN GENIUS is an entertaining read.
Published just months before Welles' death, RISE determines to cut through Welles' mythmaking and debunk the legend. It is quite effective in doing so.
But Higham short-changes the last thirty years of Welles' life, and is so determined to emphasize the bad things that the overall portrait emerges as grotesque. This might not be bad if Welles was not so famously charming.

Chicago VI (Expanded)
Chicago VI (Expanded)
Price: CDN$ 15.59
18 used & new from CDN$ 9.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stated, Great Stuff, Aug. 28 2002
This review is from: Chicago VI (Expanded) (Audio CD)
When I heard Rhino Records was planning to release the remastered Chicago catalogue, I was certainly pleased since the band itself seemed intent upon putting out only basic versions of their first 14 albums. So far, the Rhino collection (CTA, II, III, V) has been nothing short of excellent.
CHICAGO VI is no exception. I'll grant that the sound quality is not significantly improved over the Columbia originals--proof positive of Jim Guercio's very modern production techniques. But the liner notes and the bonus tracks here are worth the 12 bucks you'll pay and then some.
The gold is an added Terry Kath demo, a tune he was working on called BEYOND ALL OUR SORROWS. It's just piano and Kath vocals, and though it's not quite in finished form, it's an absolutely powerful and haunting performance ("He could've been a monster as a solo artist," Guercio has said). For Chicago fans, tracks like this are the equivilant of the Holy Grail.
Good, too, is a live version of Al Green's TIRED OF BEING ALONE featuring Al himself. The tight arrangement and the afterglow chit-chat hearken back to I DON'T WANT YOUR MONEY on III.
VI itself, of course, features two classics: JUST YOU N' ME and FEELIN' STRONGER EVERY DAY. Strong, too, are Kath's JENNY and the Lamm tune SOMETHING IN THIS CITY CHANGES PEOPLE. The band has fun with loose rockers like DARLIN' DEAR and WHAT'S THIS WORLD COMIN' TO? In fact, only Cetera's IN TERMS OF TWO and Lamm's HOLLYWOOD ring the dud bell.
With these excellent reissues behind them, Chicago fans can only be happily anticipating what Rhino will do next.

The Ten Things You Can't Say In America
The Ten Things You Can't Say In America
by Larry Elder
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Plain-Sense Talk, March 29 2002
If Larry Elder can make so much sense in less than 400 pages, why can't our political leaders in 2-6 years?
Elder's arguments are a mix of traditional liberal and conservative views, and are right on the money. You're against abortion? Don't have one. You think outlawing guns will stop outlaws from getting them? Look at the unsuccessful war on drugs. Democrat or Republican? Same old same old. As Sean Hannity has said, no one argues the Libertarian point of view better than Elder.
And no one book covers as many controversial issues in plain-sense language like this one.

Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
by Edmund Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.33
77 used & new from CDN$ 0.48

3.0 out of 5 stars A Missed Boat, March 29 2002
It took me nearly two years to finish DUTCH: A MEMOIR OF RONALD REAGAN. I would get 50 or so pages in, then quit in disgust over the much-debated "device" Morris uses of inserting his fictional 'self' into the narrative.
Finally, two months ago, I determined to slog through the book no matter what.
I finished DUTCH yesterday. I can't help but feeling that Morris missed the boat. Here was a good writer granted access to important events in the Reagan administration, and yet he felt he had to invent characters and situations to tell about it.
When DUTCH sticks to standard biography, it reads very well. Particularly interesting is the way Morris handles the Iran/Contra hearings through quotes, notes, and diary entries. Much valid information is presented here, and entertainly to boot.
But long-winded novelistic passages about the fictional Morris family swallow up chunks of book and the interest of the reader flags. If I want to read a novel, I'll READ a novel.
The bottom line is that DUTCH could have been definitive but certainly is not. Reagan's life and legacy awaits a writer with the ability of Morris--one who will exercise a good deal more restraint.

Working With Orson Welles
Working With Orson Welles
DVD ~ Peter Jason
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 185.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 80.33

2.0 out of 5 stars For Welles Fanatics Only, Jan. 14 2002
This review is from: Working With Orson Welles (DVD)
When Orson Welles died in 1985, he left behind a body of unfinished work almost legendary among cinephiles. The cinematographer on most of these projects was Gary Graver.
WORKING WITH ORSON WELLES is Graver's take on that body of unfinished work. Sight unseen, you might expect some clips from THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, THE DREAMERS, KING LEAR, and perhaps even DON QUIXOTE. Unfortunately, perhaps for legal reasons, this work is short on such items.
In fact, WORKING WITH WELLES is short on Welles himself. Oh, there are stories...lots of stories...Graver interviews several people involved in the filming of WIND and talks endlessly himself about how much of an honor it was to work with the Man. But in the end, these interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Cameron Mitchell, Frank Marshall, and others get rather dull. And Graver's canned introductions are even harder to take.
There are some interesting snippets of Welles working in Italy, and the inclusion of the trailer for F FOR FAKE is nice, but two of Gravers' short films seem to be here for no other reason than Graver feels that they should be seen (ditto the trailer for Oja Kodar's JADED, a film it seems she was able to make solely on the strength of her association with Welles).
In short, then, WORKING WITH ORSON WELLES is a curio for Welles fanatics only. Others will find it somewhat less than interesting.

Richard Wright: The Life and Times
Richard Wright: The Life and Times
by Hazel Rowley
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 3.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, the Biography Wright Deserves, Sept. 19 2001
Richard Wright is a major American author and, as such, deserves a major biography. Up until now, this has not happened.
Sure, there have been previous attempts. Friends (Constance Webb), enemies (Margaret Walker), and scholars (Michel Fabre) have all had their turn, but only Hazel Rowley's account, RICHARD WRIGHT: THE LIFE AND TIMES, can be considered definitive.
The fact that Wright is the subject of a major book in the 21st century is in itself marvelous. Too often, Wright has been dismissed since his death in 1960 by critics, readers, and other writers. That a major publishing house (Henry Holt and Company) would even put out Rowley's work is a testament to the revival of Wright in literary circles.
And Rowley has provided us with a wonderfully balanced account. She recaps the triumphs (NATIVE SON, BLACK BOY), and is not afraid to include the faults (Wright's weakness for casual affairs and his indulgence in psychological babble in later works). What emerges is a portrait of a gifted outsider who managed success in spite of an almost crippling self-doubt.
In chapter after chapter, Rowley describes not only Wright's experience; she manages to incorporate the context of the experience as well. This journalistic tactic is especially rewarding in the passages describing Wright's travels to Spain and Africa in later life (his reactions *to* those travels make sense in the narrative as well). In fact, the book's only flaw is the quick wrap-up; I would have liked to read a summary of Wright's influence, and a few lines about his family today, in the closing.
But this is a small problem compared to what Rowley has achieved. Here, at last, is a clean, readable account of a neglected but nevertheless important figure in American literature. It is to be hoped that the book spurs renewed interest in the actual works of its subject.

Somewhere To Elsewhere
Somewhere To Elsewhere
Price: CDN$ 20.40
10 used & new from CDN$ 10.66

4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Damn "Comeback" I've Heard Yet, Aug. 7 2000
This review is from: Somewhere To Elsewhere (Audio CD)
Rock 'n Rollers stage comebacks more often than boxers or Arnold Schwarzenegger characters. But very few have any real merit.
Not so the latest Kansas CD, SOMEWHERE TO ELSEWHERE.
The disc is the first to feature the original line-up since 1980. It's also the first to take advantage of today's high-tech production methods. The result is a solid revamping of the classic Kansas sound with a 21st Century refurbishing.
SOMEWHERE TO ELSEWHERE features many welcome returns, but the major difference between this and every other CD Kansas has produced in the past two decades is the resurgence of Kerry Livgren. The guitarist who penned CARRY ON WAYWARD SUN and DUST IN THE WIND is the author of all ten tracks here, and demonstrates a versatility unheard since 1976's LEFTOVERTURE. There are the expected Kansas-anthems such as ICARUS II and the outstanding MYRIAD (an original Kansas tune upgraded for this CD), but there are also funk 'n soul surprises like GRAND FUN ALLEY and DISAPPEARING SKIN TIGHT BLUES (both rasped effectively by returning violinist Robby Steinhardt). Mixed with the solid rockers WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG and NOT MAN BIG, the more elaborate numbers such as THE COMING DAWN and DISTANT VISION sound that much better.
Much of the success of the variety should be credited to vocalist Steve Walsh. How he has maintained his soaring pipes after so many years (and some reported throat trouble) is a mystery, but the fact is that on SOMEWHERE TO ELSEWHERE he sounds every bit as good as when Kansas filled arenas. The same can be said for the solid guitar work of Richard Williams and the drumming of Phil Ehart.
In short, the new Kansas CD transcends expectations. It is far more than a curiosity, and far more than a nostalgic throwback for die-hard fans. It is, in fact, one of the best damn rock CDs of the past 10 years.

The Partner
The Partner
by John Grisham
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
185 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars The Formula Gets Thin, April 9 2000
It's probably gotten to the point where John Grisham's grocery list would sell.
It would probably be almost as good as THE PARTNER.
Grisham is a very capable writer. While it's doubtful that his books will ever be read as great literary classics, he does have a way of writing page-turning suspensers that have merit (THE CLIENT and THE FIRM being obvious examples).
But, in THE PARTNER, Big John misfires. The premise is a good one: a lawyer in-the-know screws his evil partners and disappears with $90 million. But the main character, Patrick, is portrayed by Grisham as being so totally in control that he seems almost too superhuman to care about.
This is not to say that the book isn't a page-turner; Grisham has the knack of keeping the reader interested, no matter how silly the plot. But the subplots go nowhere (particularly one involving Patrick's ex-wife), and the ending, which is supposed to be ironic, is so out-of-the-blue that it seems like a cheat.
THE PARTNER, then, is interesting enough to keep you reading, but is, ultimately, a disappointment.

SPEED OF LIGHT
SPEED OF LIGHT
by Sybil Rosen
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A Young Girl Helps Force America to Grow Up, Feb. 19 2000
This review is from: SPEED OF LIGHT (Hardcover)
"EVERYTHING reminds me of Auschwitz," says Pesel 'Tante' Minkowitz, a 24-year-old Holocaust survivor living with American relatives in the 1950s South.
So when a rock crashes through the picture window of her brother-in-law's business, it's only natural that the gloomy Tante predicts another Kristallnacht.
And, as told by Sybil Rosen in SPEED OF LIGHT, she's not far wrong.
The Civil Rights Movement is dawning. Eleven-year-old Audrey Ina Stern, living with Tante in Blue Gap, Virginia, is hearing vague reports of a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama (led by some Reverend named King). Meanwhile, Audrey's father, Nat Stern, is spearheading the struggle to integrate the local police department.
And many of Blue Gap's citizens are not happy. After all, how does this Jew DARE to tell THEM how things ought to be?
From these elements, Rosen weaves a tale of fear, courage, perserverence, and power, culminating in a climax set during a 4th of July parade. Along the way, she artfully makes connections between the Holocaust and Segregation, even managing to sprinkle in a little Einstein.
SPEED OF LIGHT follows the time-honored tradition of showing significant events through a child's eyes (as in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD). In this way, the reader discovers the depth of hatred and prejudice right along with Audrey. In doing so, Rosen is able to show just how Audrey comes to grips with not only the injustice of Segregation, but the history of the Holocaust (and the moody aunt who embodies it) as well. That the book ends happily is not a strike against it; rather, it is a song of hope.
The characters are well sketched. Audrey has the spunk and intelligence you might expect in a book of this sort. Her father is reluctantly heroic. The Cardwells (the African-American family at the center of the controversy) are figures of dignity and worth, schooled in nonviolence. Even the racist Buster LaCoste is painted in human colors.
But the haunted Tante is the character who stays with you. Angry and pessimistic, sarcastic and fearful, her breakdown and her reconnection with humanity are the most poignant things in the book.
Along the way, there are threats and bombs, beatings and fires. Rocks and insults are thrown, and Audrey's little brother is almost drowned. Rosen refuses to look away from the raw emotion of hate.
But there are also flowers and dolls and beautiful stars, the mysteries of life and death, and of growing up. In these things, too, Rosen shines; in these things, too, SPEED OF LIGHT recommends itself as a coming-of-age novel for the ages.

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