Tag Archives: 2003

White Flag

Did Dido include too much or not enough of her music on a greatest hits collection?

Dido Greatest Hits 2

I’ll admit to being a big fan of Dido. A few years back, I took time off from work in order to purchase her then-latest CD at the very hour of its release. That was Don’t Leave Home, which had some good songs. However, the album was overly compressed so that it sounded both loud and lifeless. Fortunately, bad sound is not a problem with Greatest Hits. (Most of the songs sound glorious in this edition, but no one is credited with the mastering.) As we will see, another issue comes to the fore with this 18-track, over 76-minute long compilation.

Dido singles

To her credit, Dido provides background information on most of the songs in this collection and confirms that she selected them and placed them in chronological order. One thing that’s clear on a first listen is that her best songs were created between 1999 and 2008. Later compositions are unimpressive. Although not mentioned in Dido’s notes, four songs in this collection (“Thank You,” “Sand In My Shoes,” “Don’t Believe In Love,” and “Everything To Lose”) are based on unique ’80s rhythms that appear to borrow from the work of Sade.

Greatest Hits kicks off with “Here With Me.” It’s now obvious how much this sounds like “White Flag,” her mega-hit that followed four years later. As with all of the songs on Greatest Hits, the stereo separation is excellent and the sound is full. “Hunter” is a stunning, dramatic song about a woman who feels like she’s nothing more than prey to a man. “White Flag,” which was the “Every Breath You Take” of 2003, sounds rich and bold, so much so that it’s as if one has never heard it before. (The programmed percussion is now audible.) Impressive.

“Life For Rent” follows, with drums played by Andy Treacey. “I still don’t live by the sea but I wish I did,” adds Dido in the notes. “Don’t Leave Home” now sounds fine. This is not a song about travel. It is actually a song about addiction, in which a young woman offers her love to a man as a replacement for his drugs. The lyrics are casually and coolly brilliant, in the style of Joni Mitchell: “I arrived when you were weak/I’ll make you weaker, like a child/Now all your love you give to me/When your heart is all I need.”

“Quiet Times” is a throwaway lullaby, but worth listening to as Dido plays the drum kit. One of the highlights of the collection is “Grafton Street,” a touching song (never released as a single) about a woman mourning the death of her father. Dido refers to it as “the most emotional” of her compositions. The ever-excellent Mick Fleetwood provides the drumming.

Dido 1

“No Freedom,” from 2013, sounds pretty weak and unimaginative. “End Of Night” comes off as a poor man’s version of Abba. Sigh. It may be that Dido has become too eclectic, or adopted eclecticism for its own sake in order to ward off attacks that her songs are too similar. And it gets worse with three songs on which she pairs with others: “Let Us Move On,” which includes a rap from Kendrick Lamar, “One Step Too Far” with Faithless, and the painful-to-listen-to “Stan” with Eminem. These three selections take up about 14 minutes. They all should have been dumped.

The compilation recovers to some extent with the penultimate song, “If I Rise,” with A. R. Rahman. It sounds like a Sting outtake, but grows on the listener. “Rise” was nominated for an Academy Award (used in the film 127 Hours). And then there’s “NYC,” the Euro disco closing track that sounds like the Bee Gees circa 1977. One can almost visualize Tony Manero dancing to this in his white disco suit!

Greatest Hits again proves the dictum that sometimes less is more. As a collection of 14 singles with a bonus track (“Grafton Street”), it would have been a perfect sampling of Dido’s music career. This 18-track compilation may give her fans and new listeners more than they bargained for. Still, if you’re willing to skip past three less-than-artistic recordings, it’s a worthwhile addition to your music library.

Recommended, with reservations.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by RCA Records.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/music-review-dido-greatest-hits/

This review also appeared on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer site:

http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics/article/Music-Review-Dido-Greatest-Hits-5176380.php

You can hear a sample of each of the 18 songs here:

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Fool’s Gold

The Golden Calf: A Detective Inspector Irene Huss Investigation by Helene Tursten (Soho Crime, $26.95, 340 pages; AudioGO, 10 CDs, $29.95)

The Golden Calf (audio 500)

“…engaging and cleverly crafted.”

Police procedurals are often an exercise in scene shifts, dogged legwork and a dramatic reveal at the conclusion. The Golden Calf is all that and more. This reviewer listened to the audio version. The book is filled with a preponderance of dialogue which made the listening experience more like a radio drama circa the 1940s than a book.

The Scandinavian tale written by Helene Tursten (of Sweden) was translated into English by Laura A. Wideburg. Ms. Wideburg does an admirable job of ironing out the language difference and provides a smooth tale. The narrator, Suzanne Toren, is a master of voices, accents and gender. The listener soon forgets that only one person is speaking while the large cast of characters performs their duties.

The only hiccups in the audio version are the naming conventions and their Swedish pronunciation. The main character, Detective Inspector (DI) Irene Huss and her partner Tommy Persson, become Idean Hoose and Tow Me Pearsoon. A reader of the hard copy can fashion his or her own sounds for the names. Sometimes a person’s last name is used in the dialogue and at other times it’s the full name. Aside from these somewhat minor impediments, the tale is engaging and cleverly crafted.

DI Huss leads her team to the solution of several crimes that include execution-style murder and embezzlement. Ms. Huss suffers the blunt, minimal acceptance of her male counterparts. Her main ally is Tommy Persson who refrains from digging at her.

The several identical murders tie together an array of people who had been in business together back in the dot com boom and bust in the late 1990s. Fast forward to 2003 and these players and their expensive spending habits may be revealing more than business acumen. Author Tursten immerses the reader in the gluttony of her characters with detailed descriptions of high quality and high price tag items including clothing, furniture, cars and culinary excesses.

Perhaps crooks are just crooks regardless of where they live. Regardless, this Swedish spin on the police procedural makes for very entertaining listening.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

The unabridged audio book, which comes in a nifty two-ring binder case, was provided by Soho Crime for review.

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Zoot Your Own Horn

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Ovwa 2.0

Zoot Sports Ovwa 2.0

Zoot Ovwa 2.0

Back in the 2000s (2001-2003), Nike produced two excellent racing flats/lightweight trainers: the Air Myriad and the Air Ghost Racer (shown below). These were shoes built for runners who needed the smallest modicum of pronation control; technically, they were stability racers, but just barely. The best feature of these models was that the sole cushioning pads seemed to have been located in just the right place to support the runner moving at a steady pace. (I spent years searching for every pair of the Air Myriad and Air Ghost Racer that I could find in my size, or close to it.)

Air Ghost Racer

I had given up hope of seeing a modern version of the Air Myriad or Air Ghost Racer until I opened a box of shoes sent to me by Zoot Sports and saw the Zoot Ovwa 2.0. The Ovwa was originally designed for triathlon athletes and it’s a slip-on model. The Ovwa is so wildly colored — in brighter than bright blaze, safety yellow and green flash — that it makes neon-colored running shoes look conservative! (Those jogging beside you may need to wear sunglasses.)

The Ovwa is a snugly-fitting shoe for those with narrow to medium feet; however, it is not uncomfortable because the foot is surrounded by elastic. If you wear ultra-thin socks, you may feel a bit of irritation on your ankle bone; switching to standard or medium weight socks eliminates that. A half-size up, the fit seems to be just about perfect.

This shoe is a trainer for minimal pronators who want to run quickly. The forefoot’s blown rubber cushioning appears to be just as protective — and likely a bit more so — than that found on the front of the Tempo Trainer from Zoot. The heel cushioning is soft and it’s contained within a flared, squared-off heel. Squared-off heels not only look different, they also feel different in action. I’m a fan.

The Ovwa sits on a semi-curved last, it’s slip-lasted under the mid-weight insole, has a traditional looking grey colored medial post, and weighs 8.8 ounces. The 10mm heel drop means that it’s friendly to heel-strikers, while facilitating mid-foot landings. The rounded toe box is medium-low, not too high or low. Some runners will elect to wear this model without socks, as it has a fully lined interior.

The Ovwa is a very good track shoe. This shoe lets you land and bounce on the balls of the feet with relative impunity. The underfoot pads are placed in a way that makes it easy to maintain a quick and structured tempo on a track or on sidewalks.

The Ovwa provides decent protection for the feet on a crushed gravel trail and a close to heavenly ride on asphalt. The energy return from the shoe’s cushioning system allows you to kick your feet up high. Despite this, there’s a touch of European-style firmness in the mid-sole (something that was true of the Air Myriad and Air Ghost Racer). The shoe is cushioned but not overly soft.

Most will be able to use the Ovwa for competitive runs ranging from a 5K to a half-marathon. It should make a fine marathon shoe for small, lightweight individuals who need a smidgen of support underfoot for the 26.2 miles. The Ovwa is also a pretty good trail runner. It allows for controlled lateral movements on a hard-packed dirt trail, which supports fast-paced running on this type of surface.

The Ovwa makes for a comfortable walking shoe, so much so that I found myself keeping the pair on even for Plebian-style trips to grocery and hardware stores. If I rode a bike, I’d likely keep these on when doing so. (The shoe can, of course, be used if you suddenly decide to compete in a triathlon.)

I felt like these shoes were made for me. Maybe you’ll feel the same way.

Verdict: The Zoot Ovwa 2.0 is a shoe that’s light but very well cushioned for training runs on almost any surface. It’s a great shoe for mid-foot and heel strikers opting for fast-paced training and racing. The Ovwa should serve as a more than competent marathon shoe for mildly pronating, efficient runners.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Zoot Ovwa 2.0 retails for $120.

Note: The Sneaker Report website selected the Nike (Air) Ghost Racer as one of the 100 best running shoes of all time. The “Ghost” came in at number 75.

This article originally appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-zoot-ovwa-2-0/

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Brand New Key

The Inquisitor’s Key by Jefferson Bass (William Morrow, $25.99, 350 pages)

“I had never stayed in a place this fancy, and surely never would – the rooms start at eight hundred dollars a night – but how could I pass up a chance to take Miranda to a swanky restaurant that bore her name?”

Dr. Bill Brockton is back on the trail of a historic mystery in this, the seventh book in the Body Farm series.   Authors, Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, who together write as Jefferson Bass, have produced several novels based on the work of Dr. Bass – a highly-respected forensic anthropologist.   (See a review of The Bone Yard posted earlier on this site.)   As is their custom, the authors put Dr. Brockton in the role of narrator.   The action in The Inquisitor’s Key takes place primarily in Avignon, France.   Dr. B’s assistant, Miranda Lovelady, puts out a medical distress call to him from her post in Avignon and he drops everything he’s working on in Tennessee to fly to her side.

Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, seems to have made an impression on the authors as there are some thematic similarities to this story.   The Catholic Church made Avignon the home of the Papacy during the span of years between 1309 and 1376.   The cruelty of one pope in particular, the commercial value of religious artifacts and the Inquisition are the focal points of the tale.   As a fan of the Body Farm mysteries might guess, there are bones to be authenticated and Dr. Brockton is the expert who is called upon to lead the analysis.

The technique of alternating between time periods at the same location is one used by the authors in The Bone Yard and it’s put to good use in this novel as well.   Charming cross references between present day spiritualist Eckhart Tolle and Meister Johannes Eckhart of the early 14th century create a bridge between the widely separated periods in time.

Dr. Brockton’s view on death has broadened in this book and so has his take on what he wants from life.   The underlying philosophical journey brings him and Miranda to a thrilling and deadly conclusion.   Ah, but wait, there are bound to be more books forthcoming from the Jefferson Bass duo.   This reviewer is counting on more, please!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Here is a review of The Bone Yard: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/monster-mash/

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The Sins of a Family

The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers (St. Martin’s Griffin; $14.99; 320 pages)

murderer's daughters amazon

First-time novelist Randy Susan Meyers certainly knows how to draw a reader into her story while creating empathy for her characters.   Young sisters Lulu and Merry become orphans in July of 1971 when their jealous father stabs their mother to death.   The novel chronicles their major life events and experiences beginning with that fateful day in 1971 to December 2003.

The murder and the ensuing hardships shape the girls’ lives; however, Lulu and Merry are resilient and spunky kids who won’t succumb to being victims.   The first quarter of the book is nearly overwhelming with sadness.   Thankfully, the remainder of the book is rich with texture and emotion that are more easily processed.

murderers-daughters-back

Meyers gives the reader each sister’s perspective on what happens to them as they grow up via the chapter titles identifying whose narrative is being read.   This device is well employed and is not the least bit gimmicky.   The characters who factor prominently in shaping Lulu and Merry’s lives are their father, grandparents on both sides of the family and classmates.   Their relatives exhibit the characteristics we can all recognize as being either frustrating or endearing.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  

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Glorious Golf

Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf by John Feinstein (Little, Brown; Hachette Audio, Unabdridged on 11 CDs)

Warning:  If you’ve hated the sport of golf – or tried your best to ignore it – and wish to continue as a golf hater, avoid reading (or listening to) this book!

John Feinstein, author of the mega-selling A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour, has written a humanizing account of the game of golf in what proved to be a unique year, 2003.   This was the year that Tiger Woods – who had won half of the 12 majors from 2000 to 2002 – failed to win a single major tournament.   The void was filled by four unknowns, four golfers who had never before won a major.   Here are the names of the four players whose names were not Tiger Woods:  Mike Weir (the Masters), Jim Furyk (the U. S. Open), Ben Curtis (the British Open) and Shaun Micheel (the PGA Championship).

Feinstein’s account begins with a detailed explanation of the first fall of Woods, who arbitrarily decided to fire Butch Harmon, his talented swing coach, in order to restructure his game.   Woods, golf’s reigning king, abdicated his throne for a year, permitting four commoners to enter the arena.   This is covered by Feinstein in an introduction which is the weakest part of the telling.   Feinstein has a maddening tendency in his intros to jump around from present to past, past to present and back again.   It all becomes confusing enough to make a reader want to think about abandoning the read.   But stick around because Feinstein calms down when he begins to tell the tale of four young golfers who came up the hard way.

None of the four subjects – Weir, Furyk, Curtis and Micheel – would have been placed on a list of projected winners of a major tournament in 2003.   In fact, as well detailed by Feinstein, each of the winners would shock the golf world that year.   Curtis, for example, had never visited England before beating everyone on the links course known as Royal St. George’s.   The newly married golfer from Columbus, Ohio had been listed as a 300-1 outsider before his major win.   His win was so unlikely, in fact, that when one of his best friends (and fellow golfers) was told that Curtis had won the British Open he literally fell to his knees in shock.

Micheel won the PGA Championship with an 18th hole penultimate blind shot (onto a 45-foot hill) that landed just two inches from the cup.   “On the most important day of his life, he made the shot of his life.”   But none of these four players broke through simply because they were lucky.   Each worked for years in college and/or junior circuits (Hooters, the Nike Tour, the Hogan Tour, PGA Qualifying School) before they became overnight successes.   Even if you, like this reader, know little about golf and nothing about these four men, you will finish feeling like you’ve spent quality time with each of them.

Each of the four players profiled is a likeable once-underdog, four individuals who suddenly came out of the shadow of the fist-pumping Woods.   But then John Feinstein has always loved such stories…  As he wrote in A Good Walk Spoiled:  “I’ve always (been) someone who thinks that the unknown fighting for his life is a better story than the millionaire fighting for his next million.”

This is an absolutely perfect book to read and/or listen to on the weekend of the playing of the U. S. Open at Pebble Beach.   Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review is based on the audio book version of Moments of Glory, a copy of which was received from Hachette Audio (Hachette Book Group U.S.A.).   The unabridged audio version is well read by L. J. Ganser.   Unfortunately, Ganser’s voice sounds far too much like that of Casey Kasem of American Top 40 and his skills are sadly lacking whenever he attempts to dramatize women’s voices (quoting the wives of the four golfers profiled here).   It would have been nice to have had a woman reading the women’s parts.

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A Golf Giveaway

Thanks to Hachette Audio, we’re pleased to announce that he have three (3) audiobook copies of John Feinstein’s latest sports-related book to give away!   Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf is told on 11 CDs and has a list price value of $34.98.   Here is a synopsis of the book and a few comments:

After winning 6 of the 12 Majors from 2000 to 2002, Tiger Woods struggled in 2003.   Four unknown players would seize the day, rising to become champions in his wake.   Mike Weir – considered a good golfer but not a great one – triumphed in The Masters, becoming the first Canadian to win a Major.   Jim Furyk emerged victorious in the U.S. Open.   In the British Open, Ben Curtis became the only player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to come from nowhere to prevail at the PGA Championship.   How does one moment of glory affect the unsung underdog for years to follow?

Feinstein chronicles the champions’ ups and downs, giving readers an inside look into how victory (and defeat) can change players’ lives.

“(Feinstein is) One of the best sportswriters alive.”   Larry King, USA Today

“Feinstein is the most successful sportswriter in America.  …He has the gift of re-creating events known to us all while infusing them with excitement, even suspense.”   Jay Nordlinger, The Wall Street Journal

“John Feinstein…  has done perhaps as much for golf writing as Arnold Palmer has for golf.”   Ron Rappaport, Washington Monthly

Keep in mind that John Feinstein is the author of the previous mega-selling nonfiction book about golf, A Good Walk Spoiled.   And here he writes about the fall of Tiger Woods before The Fall.   If you would like to try to win a copy of this unabridged audiobook, simply post a comment here or send as e-mail message to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first, initial, entry.   To enter a second time, just explain why you are or are not a fan of the sport of golf.

Yes, these are the simple rules.   In order to be eligible to enter this contest, you must live in either the United States or Canada and have a residential mailing address (audiobooks will not be shipped to post office boxes).   You have until midnight PST on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 to post your entry/entries.

The 3 winners will be contacted by e-mail and asked to supply their mailing/shipping address within 72 hours.   If any winner fails to respond within this timeframe, his/her audiobook will be given to the 4th name drawn by Munchy the cat, our contest administrator.

Good luck and good reading/listening/golfing!

 

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