Archive for February, 2015

Raising Steam – Terry Pratchett

Posted in Books with tags , on February 3, 2015 by thecognitivekey

Terry Pratchett’s novels fall into two distinct groups, those which are very funny and engaging, and those which seem disconnected and have that feel of being written quickly without the usual due diligence. When they are good they are very, very good and when they are bad they are horrid. I think it depends on the characters who appear as the central characters. Rincewind, Sam Vimes, the witches, they all appear in jolly good readable novels. It’s as though Terry Pratchett takes more time over them because they are favourites. Novels which aren’t so strong have characters we don’t care for, the plots are shallow and I get the feeling that they have been written in a hurry to fulfil a contract, there’s usually the semblance of a joke in there but never enough to stretch to a full novel, XXXX springs to mind, Small Gods and quite a few of the ‘stand-alone’ novels where the characters are present for just the single or maybe two novels.

Terry Pratchett on song though is worth the odd near miss. So where does Raising Steam fit on the Pratchett spectrum? Raising Steam is a Moist Lipwig novel, Moist Lipwig the saviour of the Post Office and the Bank. He’s not one of my favourite characters, things are too easy for him, whatever the odds he always manages to win – he’s a great believer in deus ex machina, even for Discworld his escapes are not really credible. But to its credit the tale does have Sam Vimes and Vetinari so it could pull through.

It doesn’t though. Often Pratchett has an idea which he works and works. Soul Music: the music industry, XXXX: Australia, the links are easy to see, they don’t always make for a good book but it’s a successful formula. The theme of this book is the railway, the steam railway and maybe that is where the trouble starts because the steam engine suddenly becomes a major character but one without character, goblins play a big part, as do dwarves, the Guards but there’s never enough to pull it all together. The plot is fragmented. I think it might just have worked with the railway, but the dwarves rebellion (is this a dig at religious fundamentalism?) just doesn’t fit well. It’s as though there a few plot threads which have become intermingled without making a whole.

The whole plot is rather thin. Too many characters. Loose ends – what happened to the goblin’s underground train? I thought that might have played a part in the long journey to the dwarves hinterland, but no, it was built up as an idea but then the idea was never developed.

There is a long train ride building up to the climax. The train comes under attack, but nothing really happened, and it happened slowly and I didn’t care. As I got towards the end of the book I felt it could easily have been written by Enid Blyton. Nothing happens and everyone is happy at the end. That may be the overall impression of Terry Pratchett’s books but usually they are written with humour and he makes us care for the characters. I didn’t care for anyone here. Even the well-loved Sam Vimes and Vetinari didn’t come out well.

It’s a train crash of a story. Not one to read again. I shall go back to read about Rincewind.


Diana Krall – Wallflower

Posted in Music on February 2, 2015 by thecognitivekey

I like Diana Krall, maybe I ought to say I like the early Diana Krall, lots of bounce and energy. Later albums have failed in the energy stakes and things can sound a little bland. This album was due to be released last year but was postponed along with a tour because Ms Krall had pneumonia, luckily for all she has recovered and the album is now out.

The tracks are all covers of well-known modern songs. Unfortunately Ms Krall doesn’t add anything to them. As I write I am listening to her album All For You which is a great album and it throws this new album into great contrast. The energy which just pours from All For You is absent in Wallflower, what we have is an album which sounds as though the singer is just going through the motions, waiting for it to be over so she can go home. It’s a shame because she has a great singing voice and we know she can deliver beautiful songs. Was this album produced for contractual reasons? It has that sound, the I don’t care enough to put ‘me’ into the songs. A shame.

I may play a track or two from this album on the radio, but I think I am more likely to stick to All For You.

Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Dark

Posted in Music on February 2, 2015 by thecognitivekey

It’s been a while since I reviewed an album and I have listened to many since the last review. It’s been a little while since Dylan released a new album, three years in fact if we exclude the Basement Tapes. So maybe the time is ripe to start reviewing again.

Bob Dylan has written some great songs, he’s even sounded OK singing the odd one. I am not a great fan of his singing, it suits some records but on the whole I think they are few and far between. However, a new album is of interest, maybe another classic waiting to take the world by storm.

This is a new album, but it is never going to take anything by storm. All of the tracks on this album are covers, covers of Frank Sinatra songs which apparently were chosen for this album by Dylan himself. There are ten tracks, some I recognise but most I don’t, I think if you had to name 10 Sinatra tracks you might name one maybe two of these, but you’d probably be a Sinatra fan. Noteworthy they are not.

But that’s just part of the problem. The biggest failing on this album is the singing of Dylan. Barely known tracks would work if sung with passion and verve like Sinatra, but these are not. These 10 songs have been transformed into 10 dirges, not one is sung with anything like mild enthusiasm. I haven’t heard a more depressing album in quite a while. Not knowing the songs didn’t help as I didn’t know what the potential of these songs could be, but if Sinatra sung them then they must have something. What a pity that Bob Dylan chose to ignore that something.

I listened to all the tracks in the hope that just one would rise above the direness, not one did. I don’t really see what the point of this album is, all the songs are covers, performed dreadfully. I shan’t be playing any of this album on my radio show. The patients deserve much better than this poor fare.