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since 24/11/2004


Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits - Dave Brubeck 22/11/2006

The Dave Brubeck Quartet Swing

Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits - Dave Brubeck I think I first heard this CD when I borrowed it from my local library. The only tune I'd heard was Take 5 (actually a Paul Desmond composition) Listening to the CD was something of a revelation for me. It was as though I had finally discovered the kind of jazz music I'd been looking for for ages. Not overly technical in a "look how good I am with my 10 minute self congratulatory solo" kind of way, which I tire of very quickly. Brubeck & Co are very tuneful and very understated in their approach, yet remain very technically good. I like clever jazz and clever melodies, and that's what this is. This cd has a nice little collection of songs from various albums, including a few from their album 'Time Out' which uses untypical time signatures like 3/4 and 5/8 (take 5) and 7/8 etc. It also has the wonderful track called "I'm in a dancing mood" which I haven't seen elsewhere, and I don't think Brubeck wrote it either - It is however, just amazing and so full of swinging energy that I love it. 'In your own sweet way' is a similarly great solo piano piece in which Brubeck shows his finesse on the ivories. I have tried to play this myself and I can assure you, Mr Brubeck's has very big hands. Camptown races and Bossa Nova USA are other notable quality tracks. The way that Brubeck and Paul Desmond (alto sax) play together is great, you can hear that they're well suited, as it all flows so effortlessly. You don't have to be a hardcore Jazz fan to like this music. It's very ...

Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites from Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake & Nutcracker 22/11/2006

Crafted in the realm of fantasy

Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites from Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake & Nutcracker My first introduction to classical music was through some compliation CDs that my dad bought when I was a teenager. They were called " The Classic Experience" and came in a series of double discs. This collection whet my classical appetite, and gave me a healthy appreciation for the works of a certain Mr Tchaikovsky. I adore everything he has written. Among my favourites are the ballet suites. Some of these will be very familiar to you, even if you don't frequent the ballet. Though you may not know them by name, you will probably recognise them when you hear them. The big issue of me with classical music is dynamics. Unless you live in a very quiet house int he coutryside, listening to classical music can often be quite a chore; one minute it's too loud, the next minute you can't hear it, and fiddling with the volume nob can be a fruxtrating affair. Having a decent Hi-fi is incredibly helpful to get the most out of the CDs, but I always find (living in London) that late at night, when the background noise has fallen to acceptabe levels, the subtleties of classical music can be truly appreciated - though the neighbours may disagree...... Ahem...... This disc is a Detsche Grammophon offering and like many of their discs, is of the highest quality. There is not the background hiss normally associated with poor quality recordings, and the sound of the instruments is right in the room. The strings are lovely and rich and the brass cuts through with sharpness and precision. ...

Volkswagen Golf I Cabriolet 14/11/2006

A modern classic

Volkswagen Golf I Cabriolet I Bought this little Vee dub from a guy I used to work with. He had been given a company car, and with only parking at home for one car, he parked his golf convertible at work.....for about two years it sat on the tarmac going nowhere. I couldn't bear it any more, so I bought it off him and restored it back to its former glory. Would I have done the same with hindsight? Probably. Although it was a challenge at times, and not cheap, I did get a good price for this modern classic when I eventually sold it summer 2006. The car is Black with black recaro interior, leather steering wheel, and black painted BBS alloys. The car looks really smart especially after I junked the original vinyl roof and replaced it with a new black mohair one. Getting the car back on the road was just another project for me. Although amazingly it started after having been sat there on the tarmac for two years. I'm not sure how it was possible but it was. A few niggly bits needed replacing. The fuel filler neck was rusty, the windscreen wiper mechanism siezed, the door seals mouldy, and here was the first shock, the golf Convertible with the exception of the engine, is not a very common car, and finding spares for it is not easy. These spares are possibly available from a VW garage (at extortionate cost), or from breakers (at a not quite so extortionate cost). But it will cost more than you think. I owned the car for 18 months and didn't really do much mileage in that time. Proably about 5k ...

Yamaha YZF-R1 11/07/2006

2006 Yamaha R1- quickest way from A to B

Yamaha YZF-R1 "Don't try to be clever with it, that's what the guy on the Gixxer did, he tried to be clever and now it's in a right old state. This one's brand new and immaculate, and we'd like it back in this condition" I am in the motorcycle shop picking up a hire bike for the weekend. The bike that I had originally booked out, a Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5, is apparently no longer roadworthy, so I've been offered an R1 instead. I'm OK with that. I was hankering after a go on the king of 1000cc sportsbikes, but sometimes you've just gotta go with the flow. In any case didn't Wills just buy an R1? Well, if it's good enough for the second in line to the throne, it's good enough for me. Having just been told there's a £750 damage excess, I'm starting to feel a bit nervous, that I'll do a repeat performance of gixxer boy, and put myself £750 in the red. What have I got myself in for? Is this bike such a handful? The bike to be mine for the weekend is an immaculate, 06 plate R1 with a few thousand on the clock. As we're going over the controls, alarm etc, the owner fires up the engine, and the bike gurgles into life. I almost can't believe it's in standard trim; the sound from the exhaust is properly loud, even at idle - throaty and raw, an indication of the state of tune of the engine. I climb aboard and get underway becoming familiarised with the controls throttle and brake and mindful of the wise words from the bike shop owner. I take it easy back home. As I ride back to my house to ...

Honda CBR600F4 27/10/2005

Why is the CBR600 the best selling bike ever?

Honda CBR600F4 Introduction My second bike ever, was a second hand 2 year old Honda CBR600F with 6k on the clock. It's the 2002 fuel injected version. My first bike was a Suzuki SV650S which I got after passing my Direct Access in 2002. The Honda was something of a step up from the SV, which was starting to limit my learning on account of its budget suspension. I fancied something a little bit sharper to challenge me a bit more. I looked around at the sports 600s and even considered a 900 for a while then dismissed it - then I realised; a couple of years on a 600 would be a good learning exercise for me. The two bikes I considered were a Kawasaki ZX6r and the Honda CBR600F. The reliability issues with carb icing on the Kwak led me to buy the Honda. £4300 later I was the proud owner of a brand-ish new CBR600F in navy blue /silver. Engine I had expected the 600cc four to smoke the pants off my old SV, as it turned out, the healthy mid range that the twin had was gone, replaced by a fairly strong midrange, but with a screaming top end accompanied by a rather addictive airbox snarl coming on from as low as 5k revs. I think this bike makes 100 odd horsepower, which is ample for the road. The only thing is you have to adapt your riding style to get the most out of it. The CBR isn't the peakiest of the 600s by any stretch, but it is still only a 600, and makes the majority of its power up at the top, so that's where you need to be to exploit it. If you're more of a smooth style rider ...

Motrax Top Blocks Crash Protectors Kit 23/02/2005

Protect your pride and joy

Motrax Top Blocks Crash Protectors Kit You may or may not be familiar with the concept of frame sliders, crash protectors, crash bungs, mushrooms, call them what you will. If you take a motorbike off its stand and let go, it will fall over. Motorcycles, like bicycles, need the gyroscopic stability offered by their rotating wheels to remain upright. They are inherently unstable, and will fall over easily, with or without you. You may be manoeuvring your 190kg bike out of the garage and lose your balance, you may be travelling down the road when someone pulls out on you and have to make an emergency manoeuvre. You may get carried away on a track day and find the limit of the tyres’ grip and or your ability. It doesn’t really matter how it happens, the chances are it will happen at some point, and when it does you will be left with a fairly hefty repair bill/insurance write off. Due to the cost of spares nowadays, I’m convinced that these frame protector make good sense. Add to that the fact that a lot of people only hold TPF+T insurance, they seem to make even more sense (If your bike goes down and it’s your fault, you pay the damage) These crash protectors are made my Motrax who do all sort of accessories for bikes, These crash protectors come either on their own (as shown in picture) or as part of a race kit, which includes bar ends and foot pegs. The RRP is around £80 for the frame protectors alone. This may seem expensive, but bare in mind that a new fairing will cost over twice that, ...

Scottoiler Universal kit 27/01/2005

Make chain adjustment a thing of the past

Scottoiler Universal kit Scottoiler is a fantastic invention which I had been aware of for some time and yet I’d been reluctant to fit, thinking it was more of a touring mans thing. OK, so I know I do a lot of miles but I ride a sports bike, but there’s not a top box in sight. I just like to keep my bikes ‘sporty’ as much as possible. I had found since buying my 2002 cbr600f, that I was constantly adjusting the chain, and constantly lubricating it. I found it made quite a significant difference to the performance of the bike when the chain was properly lubed. Last Christmas I was at my parents house short of things to do, so I went out and bought a scottoiler. With the exception of a hugger (rear mudguard), this is about the best thing you can get for your bike. Basically, the scottoiler is a neat little invention from a certain Mr Scott, who used to travel long distances to see his girlfriend, and devised an automatic oiler to lubricate his chain, extend chain and sprocket life, reduce maintenance (adjusting chain). Years later the device has been turned into a universal kit which fits a multitude of bikes (carbs or fuel injection). The kit comes with all the necessary brackets, instructions and a tubes and reservoirs necessary for a complete installation (even a tube of superglue) and a bottle of scottoil. It will take you about 2hrs to install, and once you’ve had one fitted, you wont go back to spraying your chain with rubbish chain gels ever again. The website is ...

Suzuki SV650 30/11/2004

Suzuki SV650 - What a great bike full stop

Suzuki SV650 I passed my Direct Access test in 2002, and was looking for a newbie friendly bike to get some miles under my belt, and do the commuting to work. Having no prior experience, I needed a user friendly bike with a bit of poke to keep me interested. The logical choice was the Suzuki SV650. Dubbed by RiDE magazine as the best first bike ever, and lauded by many other mags as a great budget bike, I had to find out more. The bike is light 170kg, has 70bhp, and a good spread of torque from low down. It comes as a naked bike the SV650 and a half faired 's' version. These differ slightly in foot peg and handlebar positioning, the former having normal bars, the latter clip-ons and rear set pegs. Both have good ground clearance. I bought my SVs (half faired) used, a W plate with 8k on the clock. Over the next two years I put on 22k miles of commuting and general use. I found in general the bike to be an excellent all rounder, I took it on a track and embarrassed Fireblades, GSXRs and the like, and also did a spot of long distance work (including my daily 80 mile motorway munching). I performed all of the routine servicing myself without any real problems. It only went to the shop for carburettor balancing and shim adjusting. Four months ago, with the mileage at 30k, I decided to sell my beloved SV and get something a bit different (notice I say different and not better). Bought for £3200, used for nearly two years, and sold for £2050, I reckon I got my money’s worth out of the ...

Lost In Translation (DVD) 29/11/2004

The most moving film I have ever seen

Lost In Translation (DVD) Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are great in this beautifully shot and very subtle piece on relationships from director Sofia Coppola. The scene is a swanky hotel in Tokyo; the two characters are middle class Americans. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a washed up movie star visiting Tokyo to shoot a whisky commercial. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte; a privileged newly wed who’s tagging along with her trendy photographer husband. The two soul searchers discover each other and connect in the relative isolation of their hotel, and Tokyo. This film is essentially about their relationship, nothing more. Now if this sounds like your idea of a dull film, then you may be better off looking elsewhere for entertainment. If however you are open minded about what a film constitutes, and have an attention span greater than 20 minutes (or don’t need explosions to keep you awake), I would thoroughly recommend this film to you. It is beautifully written and directed, wonderfully acted and the cinematography is stunning. It is well worthy of its many praises. I have not been so touched by a film since I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (Claire Danes’ performance being especially memorable). And since watching Lost in Translation last Thursday (4 days ago), it has been constantly in my thoughts. I think the reason that I feel such a connection with the movie is the very subtle nature of the writing and directing which makes it seem almost like ...

Sony KD28DL11 24/11/2004

Good quality bargain widescreen

Sony KD28DL11 Hello Folks. Before I bought this TV, I did already own one. It's a 14" television bought for me by my parents back when I was a student probably GCSE age. It's a little Sony trinitron, and it's still going strong 11 years later after countless moves around student digs and a great deal of use. Picture quality is as good as ever. The TV may have cost a bit more when my folks bought it, but I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for. And it has lasted. I believe Sony produce quality electronic equipment. Full stop. So I was in the market for a 28" widescreen TV, affordable (sub £400), and with a good picture for watching DVDs. I was first drawn to the Philips pixel plus tv's which have all the fancy 100Hz picture processing, but sadly for them, they don't make these with digital tuners. Now, from my point of view, if you're going to get a widescreen, you should be watching as much of your source material in that format to make the most of your tele's size. So it makes sense to get a digital tuner, as many of the signals are broadcast in widescreen. Not so with analogue TV (14:9). Right, so we've decided that we need a freeview tuner built in, what next? I guess I was looking for something with as good a picture as possible for watching DVD's (a progressive scan input would have been nice, but not a chance in my price bracket). An RGB scart is the best you're going to get. I'm not too fussed about sound, as the DVD's are hooked up to a 5.1 speaker package. Source ...
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