Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"The Jane Austen Book Club" on BLU RAY. A Review Of The 2007 Film Now Reissued And Remastered Onto A 'European' BLU RAY.


"…Beautiful And Accomplished…"

I reviewed the DVD to the lovely "Jane Austen Book Club" in November 2008 and have been hoping for a playable UK Blu Ray reissue ever since - and at last - here it is (albeit in a roundabout way). And what a corker it's turned out to be.

First up - the BLU RAY is a European issue on Sony Pictures Classics (Danish to be exact - complete with Danish details on the rear sleeve). The 'billedformat' (aspect) here is a High Definition Widescreen Presentation in 2.40:1. The ratio aspects of 1.78:1 and 16.9 also appear at the bottom of the box too. Whatever way you look at it - it automatically fills your entire screen (no bars top or bottom) and unusual for this kind of reissue, the film is 're-mastered in high definition'. Unlike its US counterpart where some have complained about the softness of the image - the 're-mastered' difference here is gobsmacking. This is a beautiful transfer from start to finish and has made the whole film feel properly grown up all of a sudden. Best of all for European customers - it's 'Region A, B and C' coded - which is all-regions and will therefore play on all players.

Right from the opening montage of busy people on mobiles trying to get through their day without killing themselves or someone else - the clarity of the shots and the actor's names rolling in the credits is absolutely amazing. When Prudie (Emily Blunt) is in her car with Lynn Redgrave (who plays her mother) - the camera is maybe two foot away from her face and you can't see embarrassing blusher or lipstick to up the lips - her makeup is so expertly done and the scene so beautifully filmed that it looks absolutely spot on - without you knowing why. When Maria Bello is showing Grigg around her dog pens (Hugh Dancy) in the morning sunshine - it's fantastically clear - and adds a depth and warmth to the watch the DVD didn't even get close to (if you want an appraisal of the movie itself - go to my separate DVD posting entitled "Never Underestimate The Power Of A Well-Written Letter").

Almost all the extras of the DVD have been transferred to BLU RAY (see list below). Particularly nice is the 'Behind The Scenes' feature which has interviews with most of the cast clearly enthused by the film they're in and Robin Swicord's superb Writing and Direction - and a short but fascinating history on Austen in literature.

To sum up - in a world where I watch and review way too many lack-lustre transfers onto BLU RAY - this BR version of "The Jane Austen Book Club" is a joy to look at. It gives the punter what they want (properly great picture quality) - and I'm thrilled to say that this little peach of a film fully deserves it. And it's reasonably priced too.

Highly recommended.

BLU RAY Specifications:
REGIONS: A, B and C (all regions)
ASPECT: High Definition Widescreen 2.40:1 (1.78:1 and 16.9)
AUDIO: English TrueHD 5.1 and Italian TrueHD 5.1
SUBTITLES: Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, English and English for the Hard Of Hearing

BONUS Material:
Cast And Crew Commentary (Subtitles in English and Italian)
Behind-The-Scenes of The Jane Austen Book Club
The Life Of Jane Austen
The Book Club: Deconstructed
Walking The Red Carpet Los Angeles Premier (DVD-only feature)
Deleted Scenes
Trailers

Barcode for Danish disc is 5051159223470 – they’re using it for UK releases too.

Monday, 27 February 2012

"Bond 50" on BLU RAY. A 'Preamble' On The October 2012 22-Disc Box Set.

"…One Of Nature's Finest Killers...
...One Is Never Too Old To Learn From A Master..."

A few details worth noting about this 22-disc BLU RAY box set as a preamble to its release in Oct 2012...

Calling itself "Bond 50" - and with 22 films instead of 24 - it does not claim to be 'complete'. I mention this because there are fans out there who will always feel that without the original 1967 version of "Casino Royale" with David Niven and Sean Connery's 1983 return in "Never Say Never Again" - a box like this will never represent the 'full' Bond experience (whether you like those films or not). It's a matter of personal choice of course - but their exclusion is unlikely to bother fans eagerly awaiting "Bond 50"...

Why? Excluding the two Daniel Craig outings ("Casino Royale" and "Quantum Of Solace" which are also in the box) - as of February 2012 there are only 11 of the previous 20 James Bond movies presently on Blu Ray - they are "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love", "Goldfinger", "Thunderball", "Live And Let Die", "The Man With The Golden Gun", "For Your Eyes Only", "Moonraker", "License To Kill", "Die Another Day" and "The World Is Not Enough". [Note: it appears that "The Man With The Golden Gun" and "Licence To Kill" are 'EURO' issues - covering in German writing and with no card wraps].

The 11 that are out there are 1-disc Blu Ray versions matching exactly the 2DVD "Ultimate Edition" issues from 2006. They boast a genuinely beautiful print (a full Lowry Digital Frame-By-Frame Restoration) and each is packed with great extras from the time. Overall - you get hundreds of hours of Bond memories. I've reviewed "Goldfinger" and have also raved about "Live And Let Die" as examples of how good reissued Blu Ray can be when its done properly.

So when this Blu Ray box does come out - it will make the remaining 9 available for the first time on that format - and they will be nothing short of spectacular to look at - "You Only Live Twice", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", "Diamonds Are Forever", "The Spy Who Loved Me", "Octopussy", "A View To A Kill", "The Living Daylights", "Goldeneye" and "Tomorrow Never Dies". Having said all of that - what will bother fans will be the lack of any further extras. At this point (March 2012) - there are no indications of new bonus material and if 20th Century Fox had had any - you would imagine they'd advertise it big time. So we should presume at this point - there isn't. But as I say - what is on there - is huge and endlessly entertaining.

To sum up this preamble - at a retail price of a little over four pounds/five bucks per disc - "Bond 50" is a still a bit of a steal and will surely feature heavily in people's Christmas shopping baskets. I'm personally hoping that each of the remaining 9 are reissued 'individually' in the same matching card wraps as the initial releases - so I can match up the spines (oh dear - I need to get out more).

"Bond 50" is already lining itself up to be a format 'Reissue Of The Year'. And like Plenty O'Toole at the crap table in "Diamonds Are Forever" - I for one can't wait to get my grubby paws on these fully featured beauties (terrible pun intended Mister Bond)...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

“The Jane Austen Book Club” on DVD. A Review Of The 2007 Movie Now Released On DVD.



"…Never Underestimate The Power Of A Well-Written Letter…"

It's November 2007 (released on DVD 17 March 2008) and I've just come back from an early evening showing of this film in our nearby multiplex on a wet and windy Saturday night in London. My mate and I were looking for something uplifting and light and decided on this. No one else did. We were the lone two in the cinema - literally. I suspect that's because "The Jane Austen Book Club" has received 3-star reviews almost everywhere - which is a damn shame - because it's so much better than that - and we both thought so.

Here's the basic story: Six women of different ages and sexual persuasions form a book club to discuss something that unites and excites them all - Jane Austen's six period-piece novels. One will be tackled and talked about every month in the club in a different location. There's "Pride & Prejudice", "Sense & Sensibility", "Emma", "Northanger Abbey", " Mansfield Park" and "Persuasion". The actresses are Amy Brennaman (who is married to and having trouble with Jimmy Smits), Emily Blunt (who is a married teacher lusting after an 18-year hunky student, while she gets nothing mentally or physically from her basic guy of a husband and mad hippy mum), Kathy Baker (the oldest in the group, who has been married six times and is happily looking for husband number seven), Maggie Grace who's Amy Brennaman's daughter and a lesbian in love with a manipulative writer - and finally Maria Bello - who loves dogs more than almost anything - including men.

The Writer/Director Robin Swicord has sculpted their lives to mirror Austen's plots and as some reviewers have pointed out, these bits are a little too pat for comfort. But that doesn't stop the dialogue from being repeatedly touching and amazingly on the pulse of how love is in the complicated and confusing 2000s. There are rare insights here and beautifully observed snippets of life too (taking a tip from a device Austen uses in her books - dialogue by Kathy Baker's character titles this review).

The actresses as you can imagine (given great material) are uniformly superb also - especially Emily Blunt - who looks ravishing every time the camera is pointed at her - a huge star in the making if ever there was one. Maria Bello is her usual classy self, bringing real gravitas and warmth to her character, who has to do the most 'growing' and Amy Brennaman adds a real earthiness to what would have been a little too frothy a crew. Maggie Grace is both lovely and sexy as the passionate and headstrong daughter. The warmth and sheer class of Kathy Baker combined with a brilliantly nutty fruitcake turn by Lynn Redgrave only add icing to an already fantastic ensemble cake.

Then come the men who are excellent choices both as actors and eye-candy. The hugely likeable Hugh Dancy plays the hapless Grigg who fancies Maria Bello's character Jocelyn - but she only wants to pair him off with Amy Brennaman's character Sylvia. Sylvia is too much in love with/and hurt by her now parted/cheating husband Jimmy Smits to notice anyone. Jimmy Smits is excellent and so likeable - it's easy to see why Robin Swicord wanted to work with him. Emily Blunt's prim and proper Prudie is driven by her need to be neat, ordered and have everything just so - but she is wild inside for forbidden fruit - licking her rather delicious lips at the heartthrob that is Trey played by Kevin Zegers ("...he looks at me like he's the spoon...and I'm a dish of ice cream..."). But the unfolding surprise is Marc Blucas as Blunt's husband Dean - his performance is clever - he seems like a sap at first trapped in a marriage he no longer understands - but his growth back to his wife is beautifully handled and convincing.

And then of course there's 'that' writer - the gorgeous Jane Austen - who generation-after-generation takes every heart by storm. Hearing each of Austen's novels discussed and critiqued and then hearing extracts from some of them only makes you want to run out and instantly buy all six - then go on a Jane-bender yourself.

"The Jane Austen Book Club" is not quite a rom-com - nor a full-on girly fest - it's much better than that. Like Austen's writing - it's properly romantic and wordy-delicious - and you want to return to it again and again. More importantly - you can't help but feel that real heart, belief and joy went into the making of this 'little film' and all concerned had a total blast doing it.

"The Jane Austen Book Club" is that rarest of things in Hollywood these days - a movie that gives you both romance and heart - and doesn't get cloying on either. Personally I think it's a bit of an unsung masterpiece. Ignore the so-so reviews and give it a whirl...

PS: There now follows extracts from my all new 2007 in-the-real-world kickass street version of "Pride & Prejudice" - coming to a multiplex near you - just in time for Oscars 2008 next year.
Mister Darcy (played by a bald Bruce Willis) has just emerged from the lake all clingy and wet and unable to control his ardor no more.
He pulls Miss Bennett (played by Sharon Stone in a ludicrously tight rubber bodice) to his chest in a saucy-fellow Errol Flynn kind of way.
There is a longing in his visage and it isn't for English tea and muffins.
There is something in his eye and it isn't engine-oil or grit.

MISTER DARCY
(Looking down at her heaving bosoms)
Oh Miss Bennett!

ELIZABETH BENNETT
(Looking down at something else that's heaving)
Oh Mister Darcy! What is ‘that' in your soggy breaches?
(She now looks away to Pemberley's six hundred bedrooms - suddenly acquires a glint in her eye)
Let's go back to your place!!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

"Cinema Paradiso". A Review Of The 1989 Italian Film Now Reissued On A 2009 BLU RAY.





"…Grazie Alfredo…"


Name-checked by the ludicrously-well-balanced readers of England's "The Guardian" newspaper in 2007 as their favourite-ever Foreign Language film - Giuseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso" was already the stuff of celluloid legend less than a decade after its release - and rightly so.

I remember the first time I saw it - I bawled my eyes out like a big girl's blouse - and it's been emblazoned in my heart and top five ever since. I make no bones about it - if "The Shawshank Redemption" is the greatest film ever made (and the absolute people's champ according to the IMDB database) - then "Cinema Paradiso" is the most 'beautiful' film ever made - and my number two with a bullet.

First aired in Italian cinemas in 1988 at 155-minutes - "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" (its original title) was not well received at the box office. So edited down to a more manageable 123-minute length and given a shortened name - it was then re-presented by a terrified and weary Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989. The results were magical. The cast was literally cheered and applauded by hardened film critics as they walked from the screening to their hotel rooms. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes that year, then the Baftas, followed by the Oscars and subsequently garnished some twenty-plus awards in Europe alone (they run like a role of honour before the film starts)...

Told in flashback and subtitles - an elderly Italian lady phones her son in Rome who is now a big movie director. A local man has died and his funeral is the following day - she feels he must attend. Failing to get through - her daughter who is sat beside her mum reasons that maybe he's doesn't want to remember - after all he's been away from home for over 30 years? But as she dials again - mother insists - Salvatore will make an exception for Alfredo. When the middle-aged but still devilishly handsome Salvatore Di Vata lies on his pillow beside his beautiful young starlet partner in his suitably plush apartment - the camera closes in on his guilty face as he remembers who and what got him there...

And so the story begins - we're introduced to Salvatore as a precocious young 8-year old boy (nick-named Toto) who lives in the small Sicilian coastal town of Giancaldo. As his mother Maria stoically waits for her husband to return from the Second World War - she darns socks and makes ends meet (subtly played by Antonella Attili). Meanwhile Toto sneaks away from his alter-boy duties with the town's priest - the hotheaded and sometimes comical Father Adelfio (brilliantly played by Leopoldo Trieste) to his real obsession - being with the wily old Alfredo in the projection booth of the local flick emporium 'Cinema Paradiso'. Childless himself, but big-hearted to a fault when it comes to the permanently inquisitive boy - Alfredo is a surrogate father to Toto and a hugely positive influence in the child's formative years (veteran French actor Philippe Noiret putting in a towering and endearing performance).

But more importantly - Alfredo makes Toto feel wonder. All those glamorous movie stars and the exotic locations they inhabit - their fabulous lives with all that possibility. Then there's the community who gather in the cinema - characters who spit - kids who drop spiders down the open mouths of sleeping patrons - hookers who sell their wares in the booth at the back. Onscreen there's Edward G Robinson gangsters - John Wayne cowboys - Charlie Chaplin comedians - gunshots followed by laughter (a few in the back seats of the cinema are timed to match those onscreen). And in between the feature films are newsreels that show war and horror and political change - but somewhere else. Then there's the really good stuff - like love and kissing and sex - if only the priest didn't vet it out with the shake of a bell ("Twenty-years! And I've never seen a kiss on screen!"). And as he peers out through the carved lion's mouth beneath the projection booth onto the gathered patrons below basking in that swirling combination of light and cigarette smoke - Toto gobbles it all up. Until one evening when Alfredo does the crowd a favour and the highly flammable film stock catches fire and changes the course of everyone's life...

Although accused of being a little over romanticized in places (young women wash their hair in fountains, happy kids carry books up school steps in glorious sunshine) - Tornatore is saying that this is an Italy of old where things seemed simpler. There are inkwells in school desks and children have their heads shaved in public to rid them of lice - but there's also laughter in the town square as people gather of an evening. And as the movie progresses with the decades - so some of that innocence and community is brutalized and lost (the final fate of the building itself, the town lunatic still prowling the square that no longer seems quirky but sad). "Cinema Paradiso" is funny and poignant a lot. The teacher banging the dullard kid's head against the chalk blackboard because he can't get his sums right - night-student Alfredo trying to skive answers off Toto as he sits an exam that only young children should be taking - the town lottery-winner who looks up at the burned-out shell of a building and thinks I can rebuild this...

But it's the relationship between Toto and Alfredo that drives the movie and is full of remembrances and sweetly observed moments. The scene where the child Toto rides in the basket on Alfredo's bike down the hill towards the town will make many think of the love they feel for their own parents. Toto then grows into a handsome 18-year-old who falls madly in love with a girl who gets off a bus as he's filming. Agnese Nano plays Elena and while Salvatore's initial advances are spurned, the beautiful Elena eventually comes around - only to have their love parted by fate and a banker father with other ideas for his daughter (their story as adults is considerably fleshed out in the extended 'Director's Cut'). Finally - the young Salvatore is told to leave this dead town and curdled past behind - go forward and create - never look back. Alfredo loves him enough to make the ultimate sacrifice - let him go - be his own man. And on it goes to an end-sequence that is quite possibly the best ever made.

The BLU RAY has been both praised and derided for picture and content. A little history is needed here to explain. A Theatrical Version was first put out on VHS in 1994 - DVD in 1997 - a greatly extended "Director's Cut" in 2001 (177-minutes) - a 2DVD set in 2003 which contained both versions - and finally a 4-disc box set is 2007 with both films, an Extras disc and the music CD by Ennio Morricone.

This 2009 single-disc Blu Ray contains the 'Theatrical Version' only and 'some' of the extras. Very much on the plus side of this BLU RAY is that one of those extras is the stunning Morricone film score - and it's the remastered extended version of 23-tracks. A very nice touch is that it plays on screen with great sound and a lovely collage of photos from the film (it essentially streams the 'Photo Gallery' extra) that also has shots of the cast and crew. There are interviews with a grown-up Salvatore Cascio (who played the child Toto) and Director Tornatore in the principal featurette - "A Bear And A Mouse In Paradise: A Documentary". And the wonderful montage of naughty cut outs that end the film is discussed in another extra that also tells you onscreen what clip is from what movie. It's good - it is - but it's also such a shame that the equally magnificent and more substantial 'Extended version' isn't on here - a very definite blot of this reissue's copybook.

The picture quality ranges from the truly gorgeous (outdoor sequences in sunshine) to the merely good (scenes in Toto's home, the projection booth and the cinema itself). When it's less than defined (which isn't a lot) - there are a few specks on screen and some grain - but not so much that it would detract. As someone who's seen this film a lot on DVD - I loved seeing the print this clean and clear on BLU RAY - far, far better.

Why does "Cinema Paradiso" resonate with audiences so much? I can't help but feel that it's the poignancy of the loss as much as the joy that touches us. Young love - young dreams - still fresh - still uncorrupted by life and its disappointments. The famous 'kissing' sequence that ends the movie sums it up best. It was apparently shown to the actor Jacques Perrin (who plays the adult Salvatore) without him knowing what he was going to see. His reactions of being blown away are real - and we in turn were exactly the same when we first saw it - blown away. Frankly Scarlett - if you're not in floods of tears by the time that sequence ends - check your pulse, you could already be dead...

"Cinema Paradiso" is a masterpiece - and sure this BLU RAY reissue of it is fundamentally flawed without that 'Extended Cut' to give you a fuller picture. But I have to say that re-watching it on this format has been a joy for me. I cried like a sop again - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Beautiful and then some.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

"Back To Front" by GILBERT O’SULLIVAN (2012 Salvo Records 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry of his 2nd LP from 1972 on Mam Records...



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"…Looking Back Over The Years…Never Wishing To Hide The Tears…"


"Back To Front" is the 2nd release in a full-on reissue campaign for Irish singer-songwriter Raymond Gilbert O'Sullivan (his debut album "Himself" was relaunched in November 2011 and is reviewed separately). With fantastic new sound, three bonus tracks, quality packaging and a none-too steep price - legions of his fans worldwide will be thrilled to see that his MAM Records catalogue is finally receiving a thorough going-over (and its artist-approved too). Here are the alone again details… 

UK released Monday 20 February 2012 (21 Feb 2012 in the USA) - "Back To Front" by GILBERT O’SULLIVAN on Salvo SALVOXCD002 (Barcode 698458050229) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (45:01 minutes):

1. Intro
2. I Hope You’ll Stay 
3. In My Hole
4. Clair
5. That’s Love
6. Can I Go With You
7. But I’m Not/Outtro
8. I’m In Love With You [Side 2]
9. Who Was It 
10. What Could Be Nicer (Mum The Kettle’s Boiling)
11. Out Of The Question 
12. The Golden Rule
13. I’m Leaving
14. Outro
Tracks 1 to 14 are his second studio album "Back To Front" – released October 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM-SS 502 and December 1972 on Mam Records MAM 5 in the USA. It peaked at Number 48 in America - but hit the coveted Number 1 spot in England.

BONUS TRACKS: 
15. Along Again (Naturally)
16. Save It
17. Ooh Wakka Do Wakka Day
Tracks 15 and 16 are the A&B sides of a 7" single released February 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM 66 and June 1972 in the USA on Mam Records 3619 (both were non-album tracks at the time). “Along Again (Naturally)” peaked at Number 3 in the UK - but spent 15 weeks on the American charts – six of which were at Number 1. Also - outside of a very rare Japanese CD albums box set issued in the early Nineties with a 3" CD single of both tracks as a bonus – it's the first time the rare B-side "Save It" has been on CD anywhere else. 

Track 17 is "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" – the A-side of a 7" single released May 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM 78 (again a non-album track in the UK at the time of release – it’s B-side is the album cut "But I'm Not"). 

Other 7" singles – "Clair" and "What Could Be Nicer" were issued as the A&B-side of a 45 in the UK in October 1972 on Mam Records MAM 84 (it reached Number 1) and "Out Of The Question" was also issued as an A-side 45, but in the USA-only on Mam 3628 in April 1973. This CD will allow fans to sequence all the above. 

The original UK LP had a matt single sleeve with two gatefold inserts – a black and white poster of Gilbert (now placed across the inside of the CD digipak) and a gatefold lyric sheet (also fully replicated in the second half of booklet). There's a 'Gilbert O'Sullivan – A Singer And His Songs' logo sticker on the front of the card digipak which will undoubtedly accompany all of these expanded reissues. The 20-page booklet is gorgeous - tastefully laid out lyrics to all the songs (including the bonuses), photos from his own archives, trade adverts and a detailed paragraph on each song with reminiscences from Gilbert on the album's creation. There's glossy photos in here I’ve never seen. Even the CD is a pictured one and the card digipak matches the same matt feel of the original vinyl album sleeve – a nice touch and great attention to detail. But the really big news for fans is the SOUND…

Remastered from original master tapes – the sound quality is a vast improvement on what went before (compilations and expensive Japanese imports). While "Himself" from 1971 is a little hissy in places – "Back To Front" from 1972 is incredibly clean and there's superlative clarity on all the instruments. You can now hear Big Jim Sullivan's wonderfully expressive acoustic guitar work on "Alone Again (Naturally)" and his rocking slide on the lesser-heard Side 2 opener "I'm In Love With You". 

Four decades ago I was busy discovering girls in Dublin and Gilbert's "Can I Go With You" (a phrase teenagers used at the time) was a key track (what great memories). I’d also forgotten how snappy the brass work on "In My Hole" is (very Burt Bacharach) - while the almost vaudeville "But I'm Not" sounds like a really good late Sixties Beatles ditty. There's treated vocals on the clever lyrics of "The Golden Rule" and "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" may have a silly title (for which he was derided) - but it's a cracking single and a genuine bonus on here (chap in Bradford and all). 

But somehow this release belongs to 'that' 1972 song - "Alone Again (Naturally)". Now February 2012 - it’s beautiful melody and poignant words are 40 years old – yet it still touches a soul willing to listen (lyrics from it title this review). In fact what strikes you most re-listening to this entire CD - is the endurance of the songs. 


This is a lovely reissue – and Salvo are to be praised for handling it so well...

"Deuce" by RORY GALLAGHER (January 2012 Sony/Capo/Legacy CD Reissue - Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham Remaster in Card Digipak) - A Review by Mark Barry...



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"…Took Me Out My Mind…Took Me Out Of My Head…"

Under the supervision of Donal Gallagher (his older brother and former tour manager)  - Irish guitar hero RORY GALLAGHER had his LP back-catalogue first reissued onto CD between 1998 and 2000. Each of those RCA/Capo releases came in jewel cases and had previously unreleased bonus tracks. The campaign culminated with a tremendous outtakes compilation in 2003 called "Wheels Within Wheels".

This latest version of "Deuce" (his second album) is one of six new remasters released to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of his Solo career (list below). So what's different? In a nutshell - cheaper price, upgraded packaging and 2011 mastering from original tapes. Here are the double-bubble finite details...

Released 16 January 2012 in the UK (31 Jan 2012 in the USA) - "Deuce" by RORY GALLAGHER is on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917372 (Barcode 886919173727) and comes in a card digipak rather than a jewel case. 

The single bonus track "Persuasion" which first appeared on the 1999 CD reissue has disappeared without mention. It sounded to me suspiciously like a much later outtake stuck on the end of that reissue so it would have something previously unreleased on it. There is no mention either in the slightly reworked liner notes as to why it's been dropped.

1. Used To Be [Side 1]
2. I’m Not Awake Yet
3. Don’t Know Where I’m Going
4. Maybe I Will
5. Whole Lot Of People
6. In Your Town [Side 2]
7. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson
8. There’s A Light
9. Out Of My Mind
10. Crest Of A Wave

The gatefold card sleeve repros the colour artwork of the original vinyl album (front and rear) while the booklet is only slightly extended over the previous 1999 foldout inlay (8 pages as opposed to 6). There is a collage of extra photos of Rory taken by MICK ROCK who took the original atmospheric shots of Rory for the front and rear sleeve in 1971. The 3-page liner notes of the 1999 version by Shu Tomioka and Charles Stanford are slightly altered but now only credited to Donal Gallagher? They also lazily leave the running order in the incorrect way ("I'm Not Awake Yet" and "Used To Be" when it should be the other way around). While the packaging is disappointingly lazy - it has to be said that the card digipak is nice to look at - and retailing at less than six quid (and even cheaper online) - it's both aesthetically pleasing and more than adequate.

Originally released November 1971 on Polydor 2383 076 in the UK and Atco SD 7004 in the USA - and with all 10 tracks self-penned and self-produced - the songwriting and playing on his second solo album improved hugely on his unflashy debut album from May of that same year. For that reason "Deuce" has been a huge fan favourite ever since - name-checked by such luminaries as Johnny Marr of The Smiths, The Edge of U2 and Slash of Guns 'N Roses. The greatly talented and much-missed US comedian Bill Hicks raved about it for years too. The original British vinyl album in particular (some 40 years after the event) with its easy to damage and flimsy sleeve has become increasingly expensive in Auctions (much like the TASTE studio albums from 1969 and 1970). So this budget-priced CD is a great way of acquiring a rarity at a very reasonable cost. However, the new sound may present fans with real problems...

The initial 1999 CDs were 'remixed and remastered' by Tony Arnold at Courthouse Facilities in Dorset - these are 'untampered' versions remastered by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM at Wired Masters in the UK in November 2011 (46:58 minutes total playing time). Andy and Matt have been involved in and received praise for remasters of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Frankie Miller, Wishbone Ash and The Kinks (many of which I've reviewed). For these reissues the original 1/4 master tapes have been returned to - therefore giving the fans the album Rory himself would have approved rather than the slightly 'altered' preceding version. However - unlike the great sound quality on the first LP I've reviewed in this series - the results on "Deuce" are very mixed - and in some cases have revealed flaws on the original tapes hidden by the remix of 1999...

First up is the running order - the 1999 version put "I'm Not Awake Yet" and "Used To Be" as Tracks 1 and 2 (the wrong way around) - both songs are finally presented here in their correct running order. However it's now obvious why they were reversed on the 1999 version - they were hiding something. "Used To Be" (which opens the 2012 CD and Download) has a crackling to the guitar in the first 30 seconds that is very pronounced - the tape is probably corrupted. If you go back to the 1999 version - it is on there - but mixed to the background - here it isn't. So as you play the track now - its 'pronounced distortion' is very disconcerting to say the least. Unfortunately the same slight crackle is on parts of "Maybe I Will" too - while the acoustic guitars of "I'm Not Awake Yet" that are on the 1999 remix will make fans feel that this 'authentic' version is a little bare.

On the up side - "Don't Know Where I'm Going" is fabulous acoustic Blues and it sounds great. "Whole Lot Of People" retains the 'live' feel Rory wanted - complete with him shouting before he goes into that speaker-to-speaker solo. The studio version of "In Your Town" is a tad beefed up too and I've always loved the slow feel to "Should've Learned My Lesson" - probably the best-sounding track on here. The jazzy "There's A Light" has beautifully sweet Bass from Gerry McAvoy and great swirling guitars/off-centre vocals from Rory. And I can still remember to this day the excitement and frustration of trying to copy the acoustic brilliance of the Doc Watson influenced "Out Of My Head" (lyrics above). I'm sure my teenage attempts were mirrored by hundreds of other budding guitarists. "Out Of My Mind" was just so brilliantly musical and showed off his amazing playing skill for a lad of only 23. The album then ends on a rock high with "Crest Of A Wave" where the band kicks in with some power.

So if I'm to be brutally honest - the sound on this 2012 version of "Deuce" (one of his most beloved of albums) is a tad disappointing - and even dull in places. Ok - authenticity has been restored - but if its to the listener's loss (and with the bonus track chopped off) - a punter might feel seriously short-changed here. But like the soppy fan I am - I took one look at the card digipak - and bought it anyway! Should you ditch the old version - no - but try to get to hear this one too - there are sonic upgrades worth having.

Like most Irishmen, I can't be rational about Rory Gallagher. I saw him and his band as a teenager live in Dublin in the early Seventies and the experience was mind-blowing. I then bought every album he ever put out after that and always looked forward to hearing where his flying fingers would take me next.

Rory was sadly lost to us in 1995 through liver failure - and it still hurts to think that this most unassuming and brilliant of guitar heroes is gone.

Best we remember him this way - even if this reissue is flawed.

The Eleven Titles in the 2012 RORY GALLAGHER Remasters Series - 
CD Digipaks, Downloads and 'Music On Vinyl' LPs:

16 January 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
1. "Rory Gallagher" (May 1971 debut) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529)
2. "Deuce" (November 1971 2nd studio LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917372 (Barcode 886919173727)
3. "Live! In Europe" (May 1972 1st Live LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917432 (Barcode 886919174328)
4. "Blueprint" (February 1973, 3rd studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917452 (Barcode 886919174526)
5. "Tattoo" (November 1973, 4th studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917462 (Barcode 886919174625)
6. "Irish Tour '74" (July 1974, 2nd Live Set, 2LPs onto 1CD) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917472 (Barcode 886919174724)

27 February 2012 VINYL:
1 to 6 above also released 27 February 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

24 September 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
7. "Against The Grain" (October 1975, 5th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461492 (Barcode 887254614920)
8. "Calling Card" (August 1976, 6th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461472 (Barcode 887254614722)
9. "Photo-Finish" (October 1978, 7th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461462 (Barcode 887254614623)
10. "Top Priority" (September 1979, 8th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 (Barcode 88725461452)
11. "Jinx" (April 1982) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461432 (Barcode 887254614326)

22 October 2012 VINYL:
7 to 11 above also released 22 October 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

PPS: Most of the eleven above have been reissued since 2012 in standard jewel cases but have different catalogue numbers and barcodes. The jewel case version of "Deuce" for instance is Barcode 886919369625 and also has the restored artwork, picture CD and expanded booklet of the digipak 2012 issue. But if you want the 'digipak' repro artwork versions – be sure to use the Barcodes provided above when ordering...
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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"The Wildest Dream - Conquest Of Everest". A Review Of The 2010 Film Now On A 2011 BLU RAY.


"…Because It's There…"

Did George Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924 - almost 30 years before the first official conquering of the world's highest mountain by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? And when Mallory's body was finally found on the slopes in 1999 just a few thousand feet beneath the 29,000-foot apex - why was the 'only thing missing' on the perfectly preserved remains a black and white photograph of his beautiful wife Ruth? Was it because Mallory had placed that photo on the summit - as he had faithfully promised in his passionate love letters written to her during the ascent?

Both of these questions are tantalizing of course - and I don't want to spoil your viewing pleasure by answering either... But I would ask you to give this superb half-drama half-documentary film a look in - because it's a fantastic retelling of a heroic and heartbreaking story - and in many ways a very romantic and inspiring watch.

"The Wildest Dream" is also a technical astonishment. Conrad Anker - the experienced climber who discovered the body in 1999 - wants to fulfil a lifetime's dream. The American wants to retrace Mallory and Irvine's last fateful journey in June 1924 - right down to using the same clothing and equipment they used. He wants to somehow prove that the brave Englishmen did indeed make it to the top but perished on the descent. Anker therefore pulls in another young climber prodigy to make up the pair (and mad enough to join him) - the incredibly agile Leo Houlding.

But in order to make the film – the beast has to be taken on – cast and crew must grapple with "…the most determined enemy…" as Mallory described it on a particularly bad day. They endure genuine hardship - two tons of equipment taken up by foot - altitude sickness - ravines - hypothermia – diarrhoea - life threatening and life-taking danger - it's all here... And adding to the beautifully photographed mountain - and expertly woven-in real footage from 1924 - the superlative voiceovers of Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, (the late and lovely) Natasha Richardson and Alan Rickman also bring the whole piece to life. But narrated or not - the shots are real – not CGI – serenely peaceful dawns followed by razorblade daytime blizzards - back to huddled tents that evening massaging feet that will not thaw out. As you can imagine much of it is breathtakingly beautiful on BLU RAY – and their pursuit in such treacherous conditions (June is the latest you can tackle the mountain – just before the monsoon winds make it too deadly to attempt) dangerously close to reckless insanity.

Even the hour-long 'making of' - "Everest: Shooting The Impossible" - is a feast for the mind and the eyes - full of factoids that wouldn't have had a place in the movie - but fill in the background and your need for more.

George Mallory is like that other great English adventurer Ernest Shackleton - a daring-do man who engendered huge amounts of hero worship. But Mallory also has that mystery about him. Even his most famous comment to a reporter about why anyone would want to climb Mount Everest in the first place (title above) is disputed.
Maybe he said it - maybe he didn't? Maybe they made it to the summit - or maybe they died trying - but still valiant and true?

"The Wildest Dream - Conquest Of Everest" poses as many questions as it does/does not answer. But I'm glad I watched it - because these are great historical characters worth remembering – pioneers who deserved celebration.

Recommended.

BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: High Definition 1080p – Aspect 1.78:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English LPMC 2.0
SUBTITLES: English
EXTRAS: "Everest: Shooting The Impossible" (Full Length Featurette)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

"Rory Gallagher" by RORY GALLAGHER (January 2012 Sony/Capo//Legacy CD Remaster by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham in Card Digipak with Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...



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Under the supervision of Donal Gallagher (his older brother and former tour manager)  - Irish guitar hero RORY GALLAGHER had his LP back-catalogue first reissued onto CD between 1998 and 2000. Each of those RCA/Capo releases came in jewel cases and had previously unreleased bonus tracks. The campaign culminated with a tremendous outtakes compilation in 2003 called "Wheels Within Wheels".

This latest version of his debut album is the first of six 'new' remasters released to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of his Solo career. So what's different? In a nutshell - cheaper price, upgraded packaging and 2011 mastering from the original tapes. Here are the finite details...

Released 16 January 2012 in the UK (31 Jan 2012 in the USA) - "Rory Gallagher" by RORY GALLAGHER is on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529) and comes in a card digipak rather than a jewel case (55:12 minutes). 

1. Laundromat [Side 1]
2. Just The Smile
3. I Fall Apart 
4. Wave Myself Goodbye
5. Hands Up
6. Sinner Boy [Side 2]
7. For The Last Time
8. It's You 
9. I'm Not Surprised 
10. Can't Believe It's True

BONUS TRACKS: 
11. Gypsy Woman
12. It Takes Time
These two bonus tracks first appeared on the 1999 CD - two previously unreleased studio outtakes from the sessions - rough and exciting covers of "Gypsy Woman" by Muddy Waters and "It Takes Time" by Otis Rush.

The gatefold card sleeve repros the black and white artwork of the original vinyl album (front and rear) while the booklet is only slightly extended over the previous 1999 foldout inlay (8 pages as opposed to 6). There are two extra photos of Rory, but disappointingly the Donal Gallagher liner notes are exactly the same as before (bar a few mistakes corrected). Both the picture beneath the see-through tray and on the CD itself is the black and white Mick Rock photo used for the front cover artwork.

Although it has to be said that the card digipak is nice - two new photos and the same essay is hardly pushing the boat out in terms of anything new - but retailing at less than six quid (and even cheaper online) - I'd say it's more than adequate. But while the packaging might be underwhelming, the real fireworks comes in the sound department...

The initial discs were 'remixed and remastered' by Tony Arnold at Courthouse Facilities in Dorset - these are 'untampered' versions remastered by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM at Wired Masters in the UK in November 2011 (55:12 minutes total playing time). Andy and Matt have been involved in and received praise for remasters of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Frankie Miller, Wishbone Ash and The Kinks. For these reissues the original 1/4 master tapes have been returned to - therefore giving the fans the album Rory himself would have approved rather than the slightly 'altered' preceding version. The results are really great...

If I was to use one word to describe this remaster it would be 'fresh' - everything somehow sounds new - clean, present, none too trebled up the nines - and it's easy to hear why Donal and Daniel Gallagher (Rory's nephew) would want these new versions in the marketplace.  While the guitars of the opener are in your face (and for all the right reasons) - the harmonica in the background of "Laundromat" is still part of the mix - it's not rammed out front for effect - nicely handled - don't mess with the original. The Bass is so sweet now on "Sinner Boy" as the guitar pans from speaker to speaker in the solo (lyrics above). In fact his backing band of GERRY McAVOY on Bass and WILGAR CAMPBELL on Drums and Percussion can be heard 'so' clearly on every track - very impressively transferred. VINCENT CRANE of Atomic Rooster and Arthur Brown fame puts in superb keyboard work on two tracks - "Wave Myself Goodbye" and "I'm Not Surprised".

The long mid-tempo Blues of "For The Last Time" has been a huge favourite of mine for decades now - I've put in on loads of 70's Fest compilations as an example of an unfairly forgotten nugget. The guitar solo at the end of the track is beautifully clear. The witty and languid "Wave Myself Goodbye" sounds fabulous too. But the sonic-best has to be the last two album cuts - the acoustic Fats Domino R'n'B of "I'm Not Surprised" and the John Coltrane jazz-influenced seven-minutes of "Can't Believe It's True" where Rory puts in rare Alto Sax playing (double-tracked). The last in particular makes for an odd Gallagher listening experience (he was experimenting) but a great one nonetheless - and I'd forgotten how good his guitar work is towards the end as he harmonics his way to the final fade.

Originally released May 1971 on Polydor 2383 048 in the UK and Atco SD 33-368 in the USA (with all tracks self-penned and also self-produced) - his unflashy debut didn't make the top 50 in either country for the 23-year old and has always been hard to find on original vinyl ever since. The British original in particular (some 40 years after the event) has become increasingly expensive in Auctions (much like the TASTE studio albums from 1969 and 1970). So this budget-priced CD with nice packaging and even nicer sound is a great way of acquiring a rarity at a very reasonable cost.

Like most Irishmen, I can't be rational about Rory Gallagher. I saw him and his band as a teenager live in Dublin in the early Seventies and the experience was mind-blowing. I then bought every album he put out after that for years to come and always looked forward to hearing where his flying fingers would go to next.

Rory was sadly lost to us in 1995 through liver failure - and it still hurts to think that this most unassuming and brilliant of guitar heroes is gone. He's up there now as far as I'm concerned - talking the Blues with all the greats. And I for one will be buying the rest of these reissues with a sense of excitement and affection.

The Eleven Titles in the 2012 RORY GALLAGHER Remasters Series
CD Digipaks, Downloads and 'Music On Vinyl' LPs:

16 January 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
1. "Rory Gallagher" (May 1971 debut) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529)
2. "Deuce" (November 1971 2nd studio LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917372 (Barcode 886919173727)
3. "Live! In Europe" (May 1972 1st Live LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917432 (Barcode 886919174328)
4. "Blueprint" (February 1973, 3rd studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917452 (Barcode 886919174526)
5. "Tattoo" (November 1973, 4th studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917462 (Barcode 886919174625)
6. "Irish Tour '74" (July 1974, 2nd Live Set, 2LPs onto 1CD) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917472 (Barcode 886919174724)

27 February 2012 VINYL:
1 to 6 above also released 27 February 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

24 September 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
7. "Against The Grain" (October 1975, 5th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461492 (Barcode 887254614920)
8. "Calling Card" (August 1976, 6th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461472 (Barcode 887254614722)
9. "Photo-Finish" (October 1978, 7th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461462 (Barcode 887254614623)
10. "Top Priority" (September 1979, 8th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 (Barcode 88725461452)
11. "Jinx" (April 1982) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461432 (Barcode 887254614326)

22 October 2012 VINYL: 
7 to 11 above also released 22 October 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

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PS: Most of the eleven above have been reissued since 2012 in standard jewel cases but have different catalogue numbers and barcodes. The jewel case version of "Deuce" for instance is Barcode 886919369625 and has the restored artwork, picture CD and expanded booklet of the 2012 issue. So if you want the 'digipak' repro artwork versions – use the Barcodes provided above when ordering...

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1969 - WHOLE LOTTA LOVE - Your All-Genres Guide To Exceptional CD Remasters and Reissues...

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SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 1 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 2 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 3 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 4 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 5 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 6 of 6

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order