What’s New for the 4th of September: A Rivers of London novella, a Piece of Pulp gets the Film Treatment,Ice Cream, Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’

Crop handle carved in bone; sat high upon a throne of finest English leather.
The queen of all the pack, this joker raised his hat and talked about the weather.
All should be warned about this high born Hunting Girl.
She took this simple man’s downfall in hand; I raised the flag that she unfurled.

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The end of Summer is nigh upon us as the Autumnal Equinox is but a few weeks out and we here on this Scottish Estate have begun the only partly conscious shift into Autumn as a given thing. Everything — from the behaviour of the lynxes as they hunt their prey to the food served up by Mrs. Ware who’s our Head Cook and her staff — starts the shift to serving the heartier foods that the increasingly cold, too frequently wet weather causes us to crave.

By this time of year,  even the Neverending Session starts folding in on itself as the ancient boon of food, drink and a place to sleep is outweighed by our remoteness. So that group is largely comprised of the mmusicians here, a number somewhere around a third of the Estate staff such as myself (violin),  my wife Catherine (voice and wire strung Welsh violin), Béla (violin), Finch (smallpipes) and Reynard (concertina). It’s always interesting to see who’s playing in it at any given moment. Nor is it by any means always present, a myth started by the musicians a long time ago.

Raspberry dividerRegarding Alan Moore & José Villarrubia’s poetry volume The Mirror of Love, April said ‘Alan Moore, known primarily as a cutting edge comic author (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen), is no slouch when it comes to other artistic endeavors. He’s written a novel, songs, and even poetry. The Mirror of Love is one such foray into the realm of poetry. Originally published in 1988 in comic form (as part of an AARGH!, or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia, comic anthology) as a protest against England’s anti-homosexual Clause 28, Mirror encapsulates the history of same sex love, from pre-history to Sappho to today.’

Camille said the writing, the characters, and the plot in Perry Moore’s Hero didn’t win her over, but she liked it in the end. ‘What did win me over was the absolutely brilliant use of Thom’s struggle to understand himself and his place in the world as a superhero paralleled with his struggle to understand himself as gay. All this, of course, set against the familiar coming-of-age backdrop of the struggle to understand himself as adult. Weaving the three elements together, Moore manages to highlight the poignancies of each, and to forge a single, universal tale of teenage angst, self-loathing, redemption, and resolution.’

David received a review copy of a 33-1/3 book, an extended essay about Jethro Tull’s Aqualung by music professor Allan Moore, and … he’s not having any of it. ‘The book is short, only 110 pages, but it seems to go on forever. As I read, my wife said, “Stop grunting!” as I responded verbally with huffs and puffs on nearly every page.’ Read his review to see what bothered him so.

David also looked at a couple of other titles in the 33-1/3 lineup, Kevin Courrier’s Trout Mask Replica, and Sean Nelson’s Court and Spark. ‘It’s interesting, in both books, that the albums are treated as vinyl. Not CDs. Nelson divides Joni’s work by song, “putting the needle down on side one …” and Courrier discusses the value of the four different sides of a double album, not one continuous piece of music. That’s what makes these 33 1/3 books valuable. They maintain a connection to the past, not just in their reassessment of old records, but in their respect for the medium.’

In his review of Christopher Moore’s Lamb, Gary says ‘Moore is a popular American novelist who specializes in humorous horror, for want of a better term. … Generally, in his five previous books, Moore has taken monsters, gods, creatures and demons from old stories, legends and myths and set them in the modern world, where they do their best to confound the lives of some confused Americans. … In Lamb, however, he has done the opposite: put characters with 21st-century sensibilities inside an old story, the tale of Jesus. Or rather, Joshua, which was his Hebrew name.’

‘Short-form science fiction is pretty much my idea of perfect summer reading,’ Gary says as he dips in to Gardener Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-fifth Annual Collection. ‘I want something to dip into that will hold my interest at least briefly on a languid afternoon, so a big ol’ volume of great SF is just the thing. And what better sort of collection than one of the 35 “year’s best” compilations edited by the late Gardener Dozois between 1984 and his death in 2018?’

Gary was less than thrilled about Hayden Childs’ Shoot Out The Lights, a book in the popular 33-1/3 series about the classic album by Richard and Linda Thompson. ‘Childs is a good writer. And he knows how to write about music. And he certainly seems to have a good deal of passion and some genuine insights about this album. I just don’t like the way he chose to write about it.’

Kate lost a good night’s sleep in order to finish reading Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Love Nun. ‘Ironically, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about picking it up to begin with. I have read several of Moore’s novels, and I think by now I can claim to be a pretty dedicated fan. I hadn’t read this one for a few years though, and remembered it as being one of the weakest of the bunch. Had I a better memory, I would have planned to read it on a far more accommodating schedule!’

Next Kate made a startling confession in her review of Christopher Moore’s Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings: ‘I don’t like whales. Its true. They’re like huge containers of lard, with unattractively gaping maws, lolling in the ocean and taking up an unsettling amount of space. And they’re crusty, which is just icky. Having made this incredibly un-PC statement, I have to qualify it with this: I do like the whales in Fluke. And I really like the researchers who study them. And this is Christopher Moore, after all, who can make me like just about anything, or at least keep me entertained with any of the myriad subjects he chooses to write about.’

Ben Aaronovitch’s What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83) is says Lis ‘The Rivers of London series features the adventures of Police Constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant. But Peter has a younger cousin, Abigail Kamara, who also has ambitions to be a wizard. This novella is what happens when Abigail is largely unsupervised over the summer, and discovers that teenagers are disappearing around the Heath, and then reappearing before the police get concerned enough to mount real investigations. Of course she decides to investigate herself.’

The stories in C. L. Moore’s Judgment Night are not your usual pulp science fiction, Robert says. ‘These are solid stories, not at all the hack work we tend to think of when someone mentions the pulps, and serve to fix Moore’s place as a major voice in science fiction of the Golden Age. This edition is a facsimile of the original Gnome Press edition of 1952, and it’s a trip down memory lane, from the cover by Frank Kelly Frease to the stories themselves.’

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Cat enthusiastically endorses the 1994 film version of an old story, The Shadow, this one starring a young Alec Baldwin. ‘At it’s very core, The Shadow harkens back to a much simpler age when one could reasonably expect that Good was different than Evil. The movie captures that feeling rather well. John Lone is an absolute delight as Shiwan Khan … a somewhat too obvious and somewhat darker reflection of The Shadow’s supposed goodness. The art deco sets are terrific; the music is moody and fits the film. The visual scope of 1933 New York City is breathtaking.’

Raspberry dividerJennifer gives us a recipe for corn bread that’s better than ya muthah’s. Note the stress on extra butter. Nothing can be done for you if you will eat corn bread but won’t add extra butter. No low-carb diet on earth allows you corn bread, so, since you’ve decided to have some anyway, go on, be a devil and add that extra butter!?”’

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‘…(F)ans everywhere are sulking,’ Kage said in her mixed review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. ‘Most of the book consists of excerpts from the Dossier, in a wide variety of styles and voices. Some work brilliantly. “What Ho! The Elder Gods,” in which Bertie Wooster mixes with the Lovecraft set, had me laughing until I wept. Other bits misfire.’

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David offered up a review of an album by an Irish blues singer and guitarist. ‘There’s no mistaking what’s going on with Bad For You Baby. Right from the first note, guitarist Gary Moore opens his new CD with a raw, loud riff, and then blues singer Gary Moore jumps in, “You got a wiggle when you walk, you got a giggle when you talk, I see you comin’ it makes me smile, you beat the other women by a million miles … I got it bad for you baby and I just can’t help myself.” And there’s no turning back. Full tilt rock’n’roll boogie time.

David didn’t find much joy in a 2006 reissue of Christy Moore’s Live In Dublin recording, mostly because of the dour political nature of the songs. ‘Recorded in April 1978 at a series of gigs held “at The Meeting Place, Pat Dowling’s of Prosperous, Trinity College and the Grapevine Arts Centre in North Great George’s St.” and even in “Nicholas Ryan’s front room,” the sound is intimate and clear. Acoustic guitars and a bouzouki provide a firm foundation for Christy’s reedy tenor. His Irish brogue adds a touch of reality to the atmosphere invoked by these songs of rebellion and strife.’

Gary approves of Popular Culture … at least this album by Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra by that title. ‘As with much of what Bernstein does, the spirits of New Orleans and Elllington permeate Popular Culture. Lots of urbane cool slinkiness and joyous funky grooves behind rich interplay from the horn section. “Black Peter” is a swampy take on this Dead cut from Workingman’s Dead, with guitarist Matt Munisteri taking the instrumental and vocal lead.

Gary found a lot to like in Kallio, a solo project by Finnish fiddler Päivi Hirvonen. ‘Hirvonen composed and arranged all nine songs presented here, and she also performs all of the music herself, with the exception of some backing vocals on the opening track. In addition to the violin, she also plays the Finnish bowed lyre called jouhikko, and there are also some dramatic electronics and studio effects added by the Finnish artist and producer Oona Kapari, to the extent that Kallio does not come off like a solo project.’

Gary also greatly enjoyed Erlend Apneseth’s solo Hardanger fiddle album Nova. ‘As with so many of the unique artists on the Hubro label (and elsewhere on the Nordic scene) Apneseth is rooted in traditional music, but unites it with a improvisation borrowed from jazz and a curiosity for sonic exploration from the avant garde. The result, especially when united with the sonic possibilities of the recording space and the fiddler’s use of himself as another instrument, is wondrous.

John Benninghouse reviewed Christy Moore’s first two post-Planxty solo albums, Whatever Tickles Your Fancy and Christy Moore. They had a mixed reception from critics and fans, he noted. ‘These albums on re-release by Raven have been packaged together, and they give a snapshot of Moore getting back to his feet and establishing himself once again as a solo artist.’

Lars was a wee bit more positive than David about Christy Moore’s Live in Dublin 2006, a double CD and DVD that was new, not a re-release of an old live disc. ‘If you ever lose your faith in music, in the ability of songs to give you something more than simple statements of love, these products will restore it very quickly. This is what music is about: good friends playing songs they love. Hypnotic, magnetic – I get lost for words. One of the best live CDs I have ever heard, and one of the best concert DVDs around.

Christy Moore’s This is the Day also received Lars’s unqualified endorsement. ‘If you are looking for rock and roll or speedy jigs and reels you’re better off avoiding this. But if you want something genuinely moving, a collection of lovely songs executed by three real experts, you must not do without it. In my book it’s one of Moore’s best ever, up there with Ride On and the other classics.’

Lars was highly entertained by two eclectic and eccentric albums, The Charlie Moorland Trio’s Excentrique, and Jaune Toujours’s Barricade. Of the first, he says, ‘The Charlie Moorland Trio describes its own recording thus: “A collection of swing/French/Gypsy/trad and original material, including some French musette transcribed from disc, jazz from the real book, a Romanian Gypsy tune ‘Doda’ from a trad score and Macedonian tunes from Linsey Pollak’s collection.” ‘ And of the second: ‘If you want to get under the skin of Brussels, capital of the surreal, as Maris’s lyrics call it, this CD would be a good place to start.’

Richard says the music on Smoke & Strong Whiskey is not by the Christy Moore we’re all familiar with from Planxty and Moving Hearts. ‘This is the other Christy Moore, present to varying degrees in the earlier groups already mentioned and more so on his numerous solo albums. It is Christy the roaring boy, Christy the politically committed activist, Christy the cynical and world-weary social commentator, Christy the star able to laugh at himself, Christy the contemporary musician, using fashionable sounds and styles.’

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Our What Not this time is about the Folkmanis Puppets of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of these wonderful puppets.

The Worm in Apple puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’

Next up Denise looks at the  the Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…

She finishes off with the Mouse in Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies,spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’

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I personally have a keen liking for the Jethro Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies, which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and … Oh just go give it a listen! It’s a soundboard recording done forty three years ago at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I'm the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries. I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!

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About Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I'm the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries. I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!
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