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The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by Expedited Warehouse
Price: $13.69
33 used & new from $9.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's Fall from Grace (and a script with no plot or characters is no excuse), December 18, 2014
This is a film that plays itself out in the first five minutes. We listen to a first-person narrator with a pathological narcissistic personality disorder blatantly brag about his drugs, sex, and profitable exploitation of the gullible. The film has no plot or character development. No one is likable; no one is interesting; the characters are as paper-thin and weak as the mind of the obtuse character telling the story.

Thus Scorsese has his cover-up--he's merely reporting the story of a scumbag who wrote the worst book yet about his fun times on Wall Street--worse than "Bright Lights, Big City" (its closest relative). Where was Scorsese when Hollywood attempted a film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" (a bona fide masterpiece compared to "Wolf of Wall Street")? The best that can be said for "Wolf" is that if you can stay awake through the first half, the 2nd has a couple of funny Quaalude scenes that resemble "Goodfellas" in reverse motion.

I thought Scorsese had arrived with "Bringing Out the Dead," a harrowing and redemptive modern retelling of Dante's "The Inferno" that uses NYC in the '70s and '80s as its setting. But he's clearly regressed with "Wolf." (Don't mind the sex and nudity, which looks like old footage from the cutting room floor of the 1990's cult bomb, "Show Girls.") Certainly, the film sets a new record for the number of times the F word is used (one of the few words the narrator knows). Count 'em. It's probably the best way to pass the time.

There's a revealing scene in which Jordan the narrator equates "hypocrisy" with preaching the profits of "selling" to the gullible one moment and the next with "buying" the advice that he leave his firm before he's caught. At the end of the film he remains no less thick-headed, observing that "at least in prison everything's for sale." This guy is no hypocrite: he's merely as dumb as they come, a moron who defines the "F" word with either nothing at all or with true love.

Normally, Scorsese is relatively tone sensitive. Near the beginning of the film I recognized on the soundtrack Cannonball Adderley playing "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and Ahmad Jamal playing "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." But the first song played during the closing credits is an appropriate comment on the value of this movie--to film history and to its audience: "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." Why would Scorsese think that his narrator much less this overdone subject was appropriate for a big-production movie treatment? Because of Jordan's manic qualities resembling Jim Cramer on his nightly CNBC show, "Fast Money"? Even Cramer has a vocabulary and college education. The American population doesn't care about Cramer: it's fixated on FOX New and on hating Obama. Why doesn't Scorsese make a movie about race in 21st-century American? (Which still trumps money and obscenely costly wars.) Or why not a movie on the most neglected of all subjects--the Great American Songbook and its creators?

The narrator learns nothing by the end of the film, and the same could be said for the viewers. We leave the theater not "sadder and wiser" (Coleridge's criteria for dramatic storytelling that makes the grade) but dragged down by the accumulative affects of ego, insensitivity, and slime. It's not fair: Scorsese can go home and make another film to erase the memory of this affliction. On the other hand, the best the rest of us can do is go home and take a shower--with a bottle of industrial-strength detergent.


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Super Sized Version)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Super Sized Version)
DVD
Price: $8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farrell and company finally deliver, December 16, 2014
Don't mistake the 5-star rating. I couldn't/wouldn't recommend this movie to family and friends. On the other hand, I couldn't resist talking about it with associates who aren't so out of touch that they would be incapable of recognizing the media world that the rest of us mistake for news or entertainment or "real-life" drama (including the mall theater super-heroes that now offer an alternative to video games for a significant share of the movie-going population.

You have to see the "Super-Sized Version" (at an epic "Gone with the Wind" 3 hours) to get the over-killing, over-the-top satire of this overabundant and cluttered send-up of the 24/7 "news" industry, the formulaic and sensational television drama of shows like "Criminal Minds," not to mention the aforementioned super-hero fixtures. This is John Waters directing "The Matrix"; it's Fellini's post-modern "La Dolce Vita" about the absurd world that comprises the horrific mind-rot of modern media; it's a dozen or more Arnold Schwarzeneggers run amok in a gloriously inane, updated version of the ultra-hip "Last Action Hero"; it's as sappy as "Patch Adams" or "Forrest Gump" with one important difference: it doesn't take itself seriously--and it gives its audience credit for not taking "Anchorman 2" (in other words, spectators who thought either "Patch Adams" or "Forrest Gump" was worth watching should probably skip "Anchorman 2").

Sure, it's lewd and obscene, sensationalistic and gross, predictably obsessed with the bodily and sexual functions that pass for humor. And perhaps worst of all it's long and repetitious--making the same point over and over again--with bits that make you wish you could have been there when the cast and director thought them up. And occasionally it's even funny. It's most engaging when you as a spectator try to stay a step ahead of the dialog--providing your own subversive version of the sentimental, cliched line that would normally be spoken in the scene you're watching.

This is the first Will Ferrell film I've seen that didn't strike me as total fluff (in my case, a complete rip-off, since I paid to see him in the theater--in movies that were as bad as that cheerleader routine he used to do on SNL). But this film does have--if not genuine wit and imagination--a belly which, moreover, has some fire in it. Perhaps it's no less relevant and escapist than the shows it satirizes, but at least it attempts to shock the audience responsible for the "ratings" success of these odorous if not odious shows into some awareness of the foul-tasting fruits of their ignorance. It's not the "juvenilia" of the old Will Farrell. For a change, this is a film that rises to the level of the sophomoric. (Juniors, seniors and, of course, post-graduates need not attend).

One warning: the racial humor is as edgy as anything I've witnessed since Richard Pryor, who doesn't play as well today as he did in the late 70s/early 80s, when he was seen as a folk hero by his many fans. The problem is that in the year 24 A.R. (after Reagan) the ethos has changed so completely that many spectators will show less tolerance for Ferrell's misguided racial stereotyping (more shocking than funny) than the African-American family he offends. Pryor's penchant for unleashing verbose streams of profanity may have been revolutionary back in the day. Farrell's impersonation of Pryor in the 2nd decade of the new millennium is by comparison clueless of its larger audience (black, white, and all shades in between).


Awei ES900i Gray Genuine Noise Isolating Hi-definition Noodles Cable Headphone Earphone with Mic for Samsung
Awei ES900i Gray Genuine Noise Isolating Hi-definition Noodles Cable Headphone Earphone with Mic for Samsung
Offered by Fvanor Campany
Price: $10.99
6 used & new from $4.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Another value from Awei, December 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In response to the previous reviewer, I think it fair to warn potential buyers of the one downside of most of these small overachievers, regardless of brand. They tend to be far more fragile and vulnerable to misplacement than the huge headphones they frequently manage to emulate with striking realism. In fact, I've come to look upon them as comparable to their bigger brothers but as disposable. Therefore, prices for high-end models--ranging from $100 to over $1000--are clearly disproportionate to actual, or practical, value, from my perspective.

The answer to the problem of "disposable earphones" is to employ the low-priced performers--some by major companies like Panasonic, Sony and JVC--but more often the values are to be found in new names out of Hong Kong--especially the miniature phones made by JBM and Awei (I have yet to hear a "bad" phone in the line-up of either brand). If you go to the Awei site, you'll find an immediate full-screen feature about the Awei ES860 earphone, described by the manufacturer as "better than the iPhone 6" and "the most important development in audio since the iPhone 6" (best have a salt-shaker in hand). But if the maker is to be taken seriously, it stands to reason that the Awei ES900 is a 40/900's (or, in decimals, .04%) improvement over the Awei ES860. Right?

Maybe not. But at these prices, it won't cost you to make that judgment call. Pick up both models and use them on alternate days during your treadmill work-outs. If the 860 works out as well as its maker claims, you will have saved yourself hundreds on that coveted new iPhone (in my case, the savings would especially notable, since the only phone that's looked appealing to me since a 1990's Nokia is the iPhone 6 Plus).

Unfortunately, the Awei 860 has yet to appear on the Amazon website.


'58 Sessions Featuring Stella by Starlight
'58 Sessions Featuring Stella by Starlight
30 used & new from $3.39

5.0 out of 5 stars The influence of Bill Evans during the single year he spent with the Miles Davis' Sextet, December 13, 2014
This poorly documented session (Look up "1958 Miles" in All Music Guide, but don't expect to find out anything about personnel, dates, even instrumentation). This music represents the Miles Davis Sextet that followed the "1st Classic Quintet" with Trane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones). In fact, it's essentially the same group as the one on the (demonstrably) most successful jazz recording of all time--"Kind of Blue." In short, Bill Evans replaces Red Garland, and Cannonball Adderley joins Miles and Trane in the front line. The year that Bill spent with Miles was not an especially happy one for the pianist, who would give Miles his notice in order to assemble his first trio at the end of the year. But Miles would remember the quality of Bill's touch, voicings, and modal patterns--leading to a call-back to Bill for the purpose of employing his conceptions and inimitable piano touch for Miles' next recording project--the hunch of the influential and popular leader (and his good judgment, especially at a time when many general followers of the music simply did not "get" Bill Evans or understand the reason for his undeniable impact upon other musicians) paid off in spades, inspiring more than one book and, even 60 years after the original recording, appearing invariably in the top 10 (frequently #1) in Amazon jazz sales.

Originally found on a neglected Columbia release entitled "Jazz Track," this collection offers the listener the opportunity to hear Bill Evans as he actually sounded during his year with Miles (two other releases are on-location recordings that leave little room for Bill's solos, which are muffled if not omitted entirely).

It was Miles who would be responsible for the popularity among jazz musicians of "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Stella by Starlight," but it was Bill's alert ears and responsive fingers that brought both obscure movie pieces to the trumpeter's attention.

(The only player I'm unsure of is the drummer. About this time Jimmy Cobb would replace Philly Joe, but on this occasion the drummer sounds to my ears like Philly Joe.)


Breda Men's 8183B Watch With Brown Leather Band
Breda Men's 8183B Watch With Brown Leather Band
Price: $39.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Like wearing Big Ben on your wrist, December 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was exasperated by my Timex Indigo Calendar watches that were mechanically near-perfect but practically unwearable. One time it would be a broken band (when is a smart manufacturer going to include user-replaceable leather bands?); another time it would be the critical small metal piece that doubled over like a piece of wet pasta upon being inserted into its hole in the band. (I now have a drawer full of perfectly good watches with broken bands awaiting a trip to Walmart or the jeweler's.)

The Breda is all watch, and only watch. In fact, it's the largest and heaviest (what on earth did the company insert inside the case?) wrist watch I've ever seen much less owned. As others have observed, the band is too short to accommodate larger wrists. Only after wearing it for a couple of weeks has the band loosened up enough to afford a measure of comfort.

I do miss Indiglo and the calendar insert, but those features are negligible compared to an instrument that promises to be there for me every morning (the 5-star rating is given with the assumption that the watch--band and all--will be playing for the next 5 years. If the watch breaks down before this "personal contract," I'll deduct a star for as many of the 5 years as it fails to complete. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a twenty-dollar watch, but the sheer weight and apparent toughness of this machine invite such trust.


DKnight Magicbox Ultra-Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker,Powerful Sound with build in Microphone, Works for Iphone, Ipad Mini, Ipad 4/3/2, Itouch, Blackberry, Nexus, Samsung and other Smart Phones and Mp3 Players [Upgraded with standard "Beep" sound prompts ] (Black)
DKnight Magicbox Ultra-Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker,Powerful Sound with build in Microphone, Works for Iphone, Ipad Mini, Ipad 4/3/2, Itouch, Blackberry, Nexus, Samsung and other Smart Phones and Mp3 Players [Upgraded with standard "Beep" sound prompts ] (Black)
Offered by DKNIGHT INC
Price: $31.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice "lo-fi" personal speaker., December 10, 2014
This best-selling speaker was going at a price that was too low to ignore--especially as a potential gift to family members or grand-kids. It's a highly responsive speaker, likely to please consumers who have been frustrated by dicey Bluetooth connections and inadequate volume levels. But the claims--by the maker and some reviewers--that the speaker is "powerful," "magic," "awesome," "phenomenal," "fantastic"--are greatly exaggerated if not true.

I have yet to hear a speaker capable of producing "true bass" for under $50. Despite claims, these speakers don't reach frequencies below 100hz let alone 20hz, which is essential to hearing the full frequencies of an acoustic bass, including the sympathetic vibrations of the "harmonic series." You will hear a "boomy" quality thanks to engineering that artificially enhances those lower signals, but accurate reproduction of bass frequencies--as any acoustic physicist will attest--requires a larger speaker and a larger case--i.e. cabinet with more "volume."

For the 55 years the most popular (deservedly so) jazz recording has been Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" (still showing in Amazon's top 10 best-sellers, occasionally even #1). Beautifully recorded by Columbia engineers, the recording starts with Paul Chambers' bass on the very first track ("So What?"), initiating a call-response pattern that will yield to memorable solos by Miles, Coltrane, Cannonball and Bill Evans. It's the track I rely upon when auditioning a speaker. How clear are the pitches of each note of the opening bass solo? How convincing are the pitches in terms of "realism"? Can you identify a "sound stage" for each of the instruments--in depth as well as breadth.

The most breath-taking concert I've heard this year was Tony Bennett at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Were I purchasing a speaker for myself, I would be looking for a transducer or system capable of reproduction so accurate, complete and satisfying that it would put me back in my seat at the Riverside, recreating the sounds I experienced while listening to Mike Renzi's piano stage left and Harold Jones' drums stage right with Tony walking between them while the audience around me was clapping on the off-beats and offering multiple standing ovations.

A system capable of capturing and reproducing those indelible 100 minutes of Bennett's concert would deserve epithets like "amazing," "magical," "incredible." In other words, it would be "highly faithful" to the original source, or to the sounds in nature. That's what "high fidelity" is all about.


Ida (English Subtitled)
Ida (English Subtitled)
DVD
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ida's journey of self-discovery: the power of music to reveal and to heal, December 8, 2014
How many movies is it possible to make about the persecution of European Jews by the Nazis? If "Ida" is any indication, the answer is an "infinite" number--or at least as many films as there are people discovering their own Jewish connections while exploring their past through popular sites like "Ancestry." Or as many films as there are school children who are stirred by the suffering, courage and heroism of a tragedy that, even for many Americans, has a greater impact than the more distant--and "spread out"--horror of slavery.

These two periods of the horror and shame of two different nations--Germany and the U.S.A.-- are strangely connected in this beauitfully composed, economical (in every respect), and memorable "little" film. The film is the antithesis of French New Wave cinema which, in the hands of directors like Godard and Truffaut, favored quick camera set-ups, frenetic pacing and jagged editing. Students of French cinema are more likely to recognize in Trzebuchowska's deliberative, ultra-resourceful approach the influence of the ascetic and spiritual cinema of Robert Bresson.

Every shot has a purpose yet, unlike the films of Ingmar Bergman, the spectator need not feel he's being "challenged" by the director to decode the shot, mining for gold (though graveyard digging is a notable physical action in the movie). The shots are satisfying in their own right: the composition, the grey-scale, the duration of the shot--all are satisfying and complete. We feel comfident that we are being shown life, characters, and actions through the eyes of filmmaking artist who knows how to make us see as he sees.

As the leading character, Joanna Kulig has a face that the camera loves, even when much of it--including her hair--is covered by her nun's garb. But in this film with minimal dialogue, the spectator must listen attentively to the sound-track to understand Ida's "double-transformation." During the story's journey (both literal and metaphoric), Ida's "worldly," chain-smoking aunt, Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), is happy to pick up a hitchhiking musician, who plays alto saxophone, an instrument she praises for its sensual, soothing qualities. Although Ida expresses little outward interest in her aunt's preferences, she will return to the scene of Wanda's pleasures as she discovers they are her own.

The first critical step in Ida's identification with her partying, hard-drinking aunt occurs when she hears the saxophonist play the haunting strains of "Naima," perhaps the most acclaimed jazz standard by the seminal, spiritual, frequently "sainted" tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Later, she will return to hear the alto saxophonist play Coltrane's "Equinox" and express her love of this music directly to its maker. For the viewer who understands the origins of jazz, the connection between Ida's Jewish Heritage and the African-American music to which she is drawn is unmistakably illuminating and strong. Moreover, her connection purely with the music rather than its particular maker (who admittedly is a far cry from the artistry of Louis, Bird, and Trane) helps us understand her actions in the last 10 minutes of the film.

The isolated and ascetic Ida comes to understand that she is more like her aunt than she had initially imagined. But now she must dig deeper, both as a way of "testing" her discovery and of paying her deepest respects to a person with whom she had imagined she shared no personal, spiritual affinity. Ultimately, she discovers that she can think and feel as her aunt but avoid the self-destructive consequences by returning to her true home. No mention of love occurs in her "one-night stand" with the musician. The only love that is vital pertains to the music that attracts first her aunt and now Ida. Therein likes a beauty created out of the suffering of those who have been wronged against--both Jewish and African-American--and that is the impulse that unites the two women.

As in every film that follows the "hero's journey" (an archetypal pattern popularized by Joseph Campbell and taught in all script-writing classes), Ida will complete her journey and return "home." But she is not the same person we saw at the beginning of the film--far from it! She now understands her journey and its destination. She no longer is God's servant by "accident" but by a "calling" and a choice.

[Recommended reading: For anyone who is unclear about the connections discussed in this review, James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is highly recommended as a short story about the narrator's attempt to understand his self-destructive musician-brother. Perhaps no better piece has been written about jazz, its origins, and the redemptive role of music as epiphany and confirmation of one's own vocation in life.]


Sony KDL48W600B 48-Inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV
Sony KDL48W600B 48-Inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV
Price: Click here to see our price
21 used & new from $400.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe CR's ratings: This is the best value in Sony (and perhaps any other) TV sets., December 5, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The price has inched up in the past several days, but I'm still convinced this set is the best "value" in a large-screen Smart LED TV. Surprisingly, "Consumer Reports" lists the Sony KDL48W600 slightly below the KDL50W800, even in the "value" department. I say "No way!" You're paying almost twice as much, and for what? 1. Two additional inches of screen real estate; 2. 120HZ instead of 60Hz. Having seen the 50" set and compared a 60Hz picture with a 120Hz "action" picture, I personally would not see either feature as worth more than an additional hundred dollars, certainly not 4-5 hundred. Perhaps if my viewing habits were confined to sports and gaming I'd see it differently, but at present this particular Sony at just under $550 (a price I initially couldn't believe) strikes me as an unbeatable value in a brand that--despite yielding first place in sales to Samsung, LG, and numerous "budget" sets--has not slipped whatsoever in the quality synonymous with the Sony brand.

Only if you have shelf or wall space to accommodate a 55"- 65" set might it make sense to look into a more expensive Sony. Viewers who are new to flat-panel technology typically underestimate the screen size their living room or similar space can accommodate. Whereas a 21" CRT set was once considered "large" and a 27" CRT set "enormous," these flat and thin LCD/LED panels simply "play smaller" than the old cathode ray picture tubes of comparable size. This 48" set is a perfect size for a bedroom dresser; hung on a wall, 60" might be required for the viewer to experience the same impact (and, unlike CRT sets, there is no noticeable diminution in sharpness with the larger screen).

I can't say that the picture is better than my 7-year-old Sony (a 40V3000), which still leaves nothing to be desired in terms of sharpness, color, and grey-scale. But besides bringing a picture that matches the earlier 40" set, the 48W600 comes with overall dimensions that, thanks to its extremely thin bezel, are no larger. In terms of depth, the 48W600 is twice as thin as the 40V3000 and half the weight of the earlier, smaller screen.

I was looking forward to having 3 additional HDMI ports, but the set is so flexible, or "smart," that I can instantly ditch 3 set-top boxes and 4-5 remotes (several hundred dollars wasted--or, if you prefer, saved). In addition, the Sony shines with its exclusive Twitter social commentary (though I'd advise against cluttering your screen with it) and with user-friendly, on-screen instructions that make any hard-copy printed manual gratuitous.

The sound is good if not very good in capturing crystal-clear dialog. If you prefer to hear bass with your music, you'll need to add a sound bar or similar external audio device. (So far, I haven't felt a need for any enhancement.)

(Warning: If this is not your first flat-screen set of 40" or more, you'd best discount any "wow" factor. When my 40" Sony arrived 7 years ago, it required two Amazon-contracted employees to carry the TV upstairs and set it up. The anticipation was palpable. By contrast, this set was simply left outside my door and, with no hands other than my own, required no more effort to carry upstairs than a Domino's pizza. Just as well--especially since, as my wife reminds me practically every day, it's time we moved into a one-story. Certainly, this TV would in no way discourage such a move.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2014 8:02 PM PST


Near To You - Celebrating A Career - Defining Class [ORIGINAL RECORDINGS REMASTERED] 4CD SET
Near To You - Celebrating A Career - Defining Class [ORIGINAL RECORDINGS REMASTERED] 4CD SET
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $22.56
21 used & new from $17.17

5.0 out of 5 stars The truly surprising Patti Page -- from the dog-house to the same musical class as Bing, Ella and Frank, November 23, 2014
Amazon arranges an artist's discs by popularity, or album sales. The #1 Page collection is "The Best" of Patti Page, and it will cost you only five bucks. The problem is that the title is downright misleading if not a complete lie. The collection contains all of the material I remember hearing on AM radio as a kid, when Patti Page was indeed America's "singing rage," the best-selling female vocalist of the decade. But was that really representative of P.P. at her best?

The "Best of" is 12 tracks of non-objectionable music, and admittedly it brings back memories to those of us who remember the 1950s. But much of it is sentimenta banalityl, hokey, even dumb--it's the primary reason I preferred Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and eventually Ella, Sarah, Carmen and Billie to Patti's music. Besides embodying the spirit of the 1940s "swing era," these latter singers were the only ones who went to the "Great American Songbook," the same classy "standards" that Bing Crosby had popularized on 78rpm records and that Sinatra and Nelson Riddle were putting out on "Hi-Fi LPs" for Capitol.

But was Patti as "limited" as many of us assumed at the time? Certainly not by the evidence--providing the listener digs deeply enough into her discography to discover this extraordinary musician's "appetite" for music--not simply the accessible material that would sell more gold records but the music that would soon become the "gold standard" as writers increasingly began to recognize the uniqueness and artistry of American popular song. Page is nothing short of amazing in terms of her enormous output, revealing a musical sensibility along with stamina and talent that exceed practically every other singer (always with the exception of the prolific and versatile Bing Crosby).

This album appears in the 12th spot in Amazon's list of most popular Page albums--understandably, perhaps, since it's priced higher than the others. But it's worth the extra $$--both in the production values of the package itself and in the superior content. The first disc offers up at least 10 Patti Page chestnuts, but then suddenly up pops a Duke Ellington gem--"I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart," followed by the seductive "I Miss You So" (a version that ranks with Chris Connor's and Etta Jones's), then "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "I Remember April"--all topflight material favored by the likes of Sinatra, Ella, Bennett and numerous jazz giants.

And occasionally a sentimental song in the C&W vein provokes not merely nostalgia but discovery and a satisfaction deeper than words. "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming" falls into such a special category. I can hear no one except Patti singing the tune, just as I can hear no other musician than saxophonist-clarinetist Hank Saam playing the tune.

As for the title of the set, "Near to You," even though it refers to one of the included songs, it could be taken as an oblique reference to Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," which is another of the evergreens in the present collection. Most recently Norah Jones brought the tune to an entirely new generation of "millennials" in her wildly popular album, "Come Away With Me." After listening to Patti's version, I must say that I'm afraid I overrated Jones' performance--perhaps because here was a new, young singer with discriminating tastes. But listening to the two recordings side-by-side provides ample proof: Patti Page is the more powerful singer, never letting go of a note until it's time for the next one. Compared to the Jones' recording, on which the singer repeatedly "drops" tones, Page has a breath-stream that simply knows no quit--she gives each note "full value," and in the process sustains the continuity of the melodic-lyric line with a strength recalling Sinatra's best performances.

Did Patti Page hurt her career by singing everything--and anything--that was put before her? Certainly not at the time. She literally ruled the air waves. But history is not being especially respectful of her legacy. In the '50s few of us had any idea of the Patti Page who was performing and recording hundreds of songs from the Great American Songbook--"standards" by the best composers--Berlin, Kern, Arlen, Ellington, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen. Because of our negligence at the time, it's these latter, superior Page recordings that are not being reissued (except for the occasional "illegal" bootleg).

But only the present collection has her recording of "The Nearness of You." Take your choice: spend a buck for a single track, or spend a little more for the equivalent of a shelf-full of LP's plus context and documentation for each. The value, in every respect, goes to the hard-copy album--especially for a singer of such singular substance. (In case you're curious, the cost per track comes out to 20 cents if you get the album.)

In this set you'll have an opportunity to experience the amazing scope and sheer "stamina" of a popular American singer whose artistry was no doubt underrated by critics and musicians who couldn't think of anything other than "Doggie in the Window" whenever the name of Patti Page came up. Norah Jones made the cover of "Down Beat" magazine, the jazz "bible." Patti Page never did, but she sings the best American songs with such understanding, musical intelligence, and authoritative (if understated) power that some of us can only wonder why she was overlooked.

There's no reason to continue the neglect of her undeniable talent and musicianship. After picking up this 120-tune collection, check out some of the other CDs, each with 25-30 blockbuster songs (singers today are lucky to learn that many tunes in a life-time). Try "Patti Page with Pete Rugolo" (originally "Patti Page in the Land of Hi Fi") as well as her Sinatra-like tone poem, "Manhattan Tower," a joint effort with composer-arranger Gordon Jenkins. The CD edition has some 30 tunes, but again "The Nearness of You" is not one of them.

[Addendum: 12/1/14. Having had a chance to travel during the holidays, I spent spent considerable time with Patti Page recordings. I must admit that, even after disregarding the weak repertoire of her '50s' "hit recordings," my musical tastes necessarily align me with Frank, Ella and Sarah more than with Patti. As a singer, she's a consistent "stylist" with an unflappable sense of pitch and rhythm regardless of her material and the orchestration (which would freqiemt;u send lesser singers to the exits, confused and humiliated. But the quality of her voice and her elocution (some mistakenly use the word "diction") at times seems better suited to C&W material or more "folk-oriented" tunes like "Tennessee Waltz." When it comes to Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, she's completely "at home" with this more difficult, challenging material, yet I don't hear the same "life" or "energy" (a word I use with great hesitation) in her vocal quality as in the other singers I've mentioned. Regardless of her materials, Patti will articulate the first vowel or syllable with adequate strength, but she rarely gives the same value to the 2nd syllable or melodic-rhythmic beat. Her breath support is still there, sustaining the note (unlike Norah Jones, as mentioned above), but as a listener I keep wishing she would "push" the tone more forcefully, giving the same value to the back end of a word or phrase as to the front end (contrast with Sinatra, who gives full value, not only to every closing vowel, but to every consonant sound as well).

But any caveat about Patti much include attention to context--from recording engineer to instrumentation and arranger. Many of her recordings with a "fleshed-out" jazz ensemble are arranged by Kenton whiz, Pete Rugolo. He might be "right" for Kenton or the 4 Freshmen, but he's no Nelson Riddle. As impressive and flashy as they are, Rugolo's charts simply call attention to themselves rather than the vocalist's attempts to "personalize" the songs. Full brass played fortissimo will punctuate a beat where a piano chord or bass note would serve the featured performer much better. Change-ups in meter and tempo--double-timing as frequently as every 4 bars of a 32-bar chorus--these produce a certain amount of admiration--for the musician's execution as well as for Patti's unwavering aplomb. But it's questionable (at best) whether they do any favors for the vocalist or, for that matter, the song and its composer. The same goes for the modulations (rare with Sinatra and Riddle or Gordon Jenkins or Billy May), which Patti negotiates with such seamless grace the inattentive listener won't even notice the key chain.

On such thickly textured charts, the memorable moments are likely to be those during which the orchestration is most sparing--e.g. the verse to "Mountain Greenery." And on the tracks featuring Patti in the company of no more than 4 musicians (sounding like the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker) or even 5 (sounding like Chico Hamilton, with Paul Horn's flute and Fred Katz's cello), Patti makes use of musical settings that not even a Frank or Ella were privileged to employ. The less we hear of a raging 18-piece orchestra, the more we get to hear of Patti, which is what is required to make a case for her inclusion among the greats in American popular singing.

One final observation: It's always advisable to keep in mind the moment in audio-recording history during which these tracks were laid down. The words "Hi-Fi," "Long-Play" and, in the 2nd half of the decade, "Stereophonic Sound" were being milked for all they were worth by many major labels trying to out-trump(et) one another. It seemed that every major recording artist was required to put out an LP with the title: "Walter Liberace in the Land of Hi-Fi." All of this hype and technology had an effect on the recorded music itself, and not always for the better. On a couple of the big band dates, Patti's voice is given the reverb treatment, and apparently there was nothing modern reissuers could do about it. These tracks will require some "getting used to." Either that or the present-day listener could try to imagine that Patti is a golden-haired mermaid calling to us from her underwater cavern--a metaphor not far from the truth. It's high time to resurrect and rediscover Patti Page--not just the "Singing Rage" but the real and complete Patti.]


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly the best-sounding earphone at a single-digit price., November 23, 2014
I know some people who defiantly resist their "phone cameras" and purchase a new dedicated "point and shoot" camera every year. (Canon Elph cameras have a widespread fan base, offering folks like me an occasional outstanding value in a "slightly" used camera). But as an audio enthusiast and collector, I've taken up earphones as a minor "hobby." While spending no more than several hundred dollars on earphones over the past 10 years, I've enjoyed the experience of auditioning dozens of these tiny "over-achievers," immediately throwing some in the waste basket and hanging others on the wall hooks next to my portable players and streaming devices.

To begin with, I dismissed Apple's earphones (supplied with the iPod) and those of all manufacturers. But then I scored a pair of Sony MDR--EX700 earphones, and I was hooked. My wife gave me the costly Western version with the LP suffix (fancy box and case along with numerous extra ear tips), and I was amazed to discover that for less than five dollars I could procure the Asian version (SP suffix, unboxed) and find it every bit as accurate in reproducing the original sonic source as Western versions costing 50 to 100 times more!

As a result, I'm not surprised to find two new Asian headphone-makers (both selling out of Hong Kong) that out-perform many of their pricey Westernized competitors. More precisely, I have yet to hear a bad set of earphones made by these 2 recent entries: JBM and AWEI. If the price is right, proceed without fear--perhaps even with expectations of capturing a concert hall experience with phones that "wear well" for hours on end.

Of course, there are caveats. All of these small earphones--even the most expensive "designer-labels" going for up to $1000 (some requiring a visit to an audiologist for an "ear mold" and proper fit)--are vulnerable to loss or breakage (the reason I normally spend what I think I can afford for a "disposable" item).

Many popular, trusted brand names have phones at "friendly prices" with cables that look more like threads and behaving accordingly, forever becoming tangled. By contrast, most of the AWEI and JBM phones have thick, strong cables (though some will argue that such cables weigh down the phones and make them less practical for use while running, etc.). Also, both JBM and AWEI tend to distract if not overwhelm the consumer with phones of every shape, color and model number, making it almost impossible to distinguish which phone in the brand's line-up is superior to another phone with the same brand name and therefore worthy of a higher price.

If you're still not persuaded, look to the popular Panasonic and JVC Marshmallows that Amazon shows in single-digit prices. But don't dismiss entirely the "exotic," high-end brands with the single and double armatures. Headphone makers are continually changing their entire lineup or exiting this competitive field altogether (don't look for Dr. Dre's Beats to continue riding the trend that attracted Apple's attention along with over 3 billion dollars spent by the makers of the iPhone in a dubious buy-out). But back to unexpected "domestic values," I've been highly impressed by recently discontinued "Ultimate Ears" headphones (made by Logitech). And I didn't have to sell the farm to acquire a few pairs to go along with my Hong Kong back-ups.


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