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Steve Ramm "Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic"" RSS Feed (Phila, PA USA)
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Verve: The Sound of America
Verve: The Sound of America
by Richard Havers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $51.40
42 used & new from $37.97

5.0 out of 5 stars This HEFTY (five pounds!) book is aimed at the general classic jazz record collector and more than serves its purpose., August 29, 2015
Though the MAMOUTH book (400 large size pages, weighing in at just under five pounds!), was published in 2013 I just got my copy and I see there are already a bunch of reviews both positive, and not so positive. I’ll try not to repeat what other, more detailed, reviewers have said but give you my take on this book (which could easily be called a “coffee table” book – just all four legs; it’s that sturdy!

But, seriously it is a beautiful book to look at. Like many art books these days, it is printed in China vut the images are sharp and the majority of photos and graphic images are in color. Someone pointed out that the binding was not strong. I admit that the book is too big to lay the pages flat, but my binding is tight. Of course there is always the issue where you are going to place the book to read it. Remember it’s five pounds (!) so not quite what you want sitting in your lap. Also, this is not a book you will read in one – or even two or three – sittings. There’s a lot of text here.

Though the Verve label is given prominence in the title, this is really the story of Norman Granz and his three labels, of which Verve was only one. And there is a lot about his famous Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, which started in 1944. The book has six major chapters, with the first being a general history of the jazz record business before 1944, then a section on the JATP concerts followed by Granz’ labels Clef and Norgran. The rest of the book is on the Verve releases by decade up to the new millennium. (It stops at 2006 with Diana Krall.

And even though the title leads you to believe that music styles other than jazz are included, they aren’t No mention made of the Verve/Forecast label which was founded in 1964 and released Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” as well albums by Tim Hardin, Laua Nyro, Richie Havens and even Lead Belly.

Between the story of the labels there are fill page, illustrated, pages on certain landmark Verve titloes and fill page bios of many jazz legends. Yes, as others have said, some of these artists never recorded for Verve or had minor releases. And, yes, I’ll fault author Richard Havers (whose name appears on the title page but not on the book’s cover or spine) for this, but it’s not enough to dissuade jazz record collectors (of which I count me self) from purchasing this volume.

There are some factual errors (already covered by other reviewers) but these won’t mean much to the casual jazz fan who will spend hours gazing over the nearly 1000 photos and images and who can skip around and read the sidebar articles on their favorite artists.
I seem to remember that there was a CD box set on the history of the label released years ago which came with a thick booklet about the label’s history. But that was the size of a CD. This book is 9x11 (and almost 2 inches thick) so you can’t compare the two. I am told there will be a Vinyl release of the CD set shortly and I don’t know if that will have a book too.

So I’ll sum up my review by recommending this to the casual jazz fan or as an unusual gift for someone who collects classic jazz records. No it’s not inexpensive (but have you seen prices on blockbuster books lately?) but there’s a lot to read and look it. Now the question is where do I find a book shelf sturdy enough to hold it?

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation
Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation
DVD ~ Jordi Bonet i Armengol
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $17.47
13 used & new from $11.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Review of DVD with bonus features. Fascinating documentary – though the subtitles are hard to read., August 28, 2015
Over 10 years ago, while on a cruise which stopped for a day in Barcelona, I wanted to see this cathedral which has been in progress for 125 years – and is still not completed. At that them there was part that you could visit on a tour but the lines were so long to get in that it was a two hour (or more wait) and I only had the one day to visit the city. But I vow to go back.

With this 94 minute documentary produced in 2012 I was able to gain some insight into the original creation and see the progress that was made since I was there. There are interviews with the chief architect, as well as the priest. And, yes, as another viewer pointed out, there are some “political remarks made that may, or may not be appropriate).

The narration in English is not the most exciting but at least you can understand it. The problem with this film – and it’s a shame that it was done this way – is that the interviews are all with people speaking the Cantalonian dialect of Spanish and the English subtitles are in white print. Since many scenes have a white or beige background it is often impossible to read the print. At those parts I just watched the images but I know I lost a lot because of this issue. This is a problem in many foreign films and YELLOW seems to be the best color for subtitles (or at least have the white letters bordered in black) but that color is rarely used.

I can still highly recommend this to anyone who has visited Barcelona and seen the cathedral. Especially if you did not take a tour or it has been many years.

For the casual person, I can only give it three star because of the subtitle issue.

The DVD does have about 20 minutes of extra interviews (again, mostly with subtitles).

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Heat Resistant to 425 Degrees, Everyday Kitchen Basic  Oven Mitt, Set of 2, Black
DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Heat Resistant to 425 Degrees, Everyday Kitchen Basic Oven Mitt, Set of 2, Black
Price: $13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Oven Mitts runs SMALL for a man’s hand, will not withstand much over 400 degrees and the heat resistant part is only at the top, August 27, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before I post my review I want to point out that I’ve noticed that – for some reason – Amazon is listing reviews of some dishtowels here under the product which is a set of Cotton/Neoprene Oven Mitts. I don’t know why this is occurring but encourage you to look at the “product” next to the title of each review. That will make more sense.

I received this pair of Oven Mitts for an objective review from Amazon - as part of their VINE REVIEWER program (where they offer selected reviewers products for honest objective review).

I really needed a good heat resistant oven gloves because I cook things at temps of 400 to 450 degrees. Because the pots or Dutch Ovens are heavy I need two hand and therefore a PAIR of gloves. That’s why I chose these.

After testing them both with oven pots and pans with metal handles, I can’t say they are doing a good job – at least for me. I’m a man with small hands (size 7 glove) and these fit fairly tight. (Note that others have said the same thing. The biggest problem for me is that the heat resistant part only reaches to the middle of your hand. The rest is the quilted cotton. So when you close your fist to grab something the top part works (well it did get warm with a 425 degree Dutch oven handle) which the cotton is touching the rest of the pan and not shielding the heat. The same was true when I took a frying pan from the oven. I could not hold it long.
As others have said, the 425 degree max is misleading. I would think anything over 350 to 375 will penetrate.

Yes, the price is right but I feel better using a FULL heat resistant glove. It might not be as pliable but I won’t get burned.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Virtuosity - The Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition [Blu-ray]
Virtuosity - The Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ __
Offered by Classical Music Superstore
Price: $23.35
25 used & new from $17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Bluray and bonuses – This is “reality TV” for classical music lovers, August 27, 2015
As I post this review – having just watched the BD last night (and loving it) – I see quite a few reviews before me – some fairly detailed – so I will try not to repeat what they have written already.

Like many documentaries where there is a time line – in this case the full run of the 2013 Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas – the director has to follow the contestants through the semi-finals and then the finals, not knowing who will win. He does not know what health issues or personal problems may happen. He just records it all and hopes for the best. And I think he was pretty lucky this time to decide which young pianists to follow. As you will see he learns that one participant has recently found his birth father and they meet for the first time in 23 years.

This is not necessarily a film just for classical music lovers. Yes, they are playing classical pieces but the film does not include full performances and – as another reviewer pointed out – the editing is done so you will hear one piece played by as many as 6 different players. And it is the director who does the interviews with the contestants and his questions bring some humor to the film as well as giving each contestant a distinct personality.

For those who want to hear full performances, there are the bonus features which add an extra 40 minutes to the 90 minute film a reason to watch the DVD or BD rather than streaming the film. The bonuses include a “six month later” section showing life after the competition.

I like classical music but I don’t consider that my favorite musical form. But I love human interest documentaries and I really loved this one.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


The Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless Oval Casserole with Lid, Small, Red
The Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless Oval Casserole with Lid, Small, Red
Price: $53.97
2 used & new from $35.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Mexican, this 1 quart casserole does the job. But Oven temps can only be to 425 degrees., August 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Not just for Mexican, this 1 quart casserole does the job. But Oven temps can only be to 425 degrees.
I generally review entertainment items here on Amazon but I love to cook and, when Amazon offered to send me this Rick Bayless 10-inch casserole with lid for an objective review - as part of their VINE REVIEWER program (where they offer selected reviewers products for honest objective review – I accepted the offer.

Since it arrived I’ve used it once. I baked some macaroni and cheese in it and used the lid to cover it after the top browned.

It is made of lead free stoneware and I like the color. It does have the limitation of being able to use an oven up to 425 degrees. Most corning wear I use is safe up to 450. So be aware of that. It is Dishwasher and Microwave safe. Though the description and package call it a 10-inch dish. It is actually 9.5 inches in inside length (the area that would hold your food and 6.5 inches wide. It is 2 inches deep. I filled it with water and it holds. A max of 1 quart right to the top. So it’s not for big dishes. I can see using this for mac and cheese or a string bean casserole.

No, I have not cooked anything Mexican in it, and probably won’t. I don’t cook Mexican foods at home (I’m more into cooking Italian) but this will certainly work with any kind of food you’d cook in a corning wear dish. So, I’m happy with the product. It’s sturdy and well made. It is made in China (a far distance from Mexico. If you own other Bayless pieces the colors coordinate well.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four
Price: $10.79
50 used & new from $6.80

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not a true Philip Glass score (and there are actually FIVE composers who wrote the segments of music), August 24, 2015
This review is from: Fantastic Four (Audio CD)
I’ll state up front that I’m not a big fan of futuristic movies. And I’m sure I won’t be seeing the film of which this CD constitutes the “soundtrack”. I came to this because I’m a big fan of composer Philip Glass and enjoy his work as well as film scores.

There’s a lot confusion – and some missing information – in the way the CD is being marketed. The front of the package says “Music by Marco Bel Trami & Philip Glass”. And there are 25 “tracks” on this 66-minute CD. Bel Trami has been nominated for Oscars for “The Hurt Locker” and “3:10 To Yuma”. Glass, of course uses a repeating rhythm in is music and is easily identifiable. When I listened to the first track or two I hear Glass’ style, so I assume that is his work. But then I heard different atmospheric sounds which would be appropriate in a war or action film. I thought that might be Bel Trami’s. But as I opened the 12 page booklet inserted with the CD, and scanned past the six pages which had full page photos of the stars (with no text), I saw the credits and at the top it says : “Additional Music by Miles Hankins, Brandon Roberts & Marcus Trumpp. “. So we have FIVE different composers here and none of the tracks identified which composer wrote which of the 25 tracks. Who at Sony Classical had that brilliant idea?

This CD may be of interest to those who will see the film and want to hear the score again, but, if – like me – you were coming to this CD because you are a Philip Glass fan, I need to warn you that only some of the music was composed by him. And for that reason I’m rating it three stars.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


George Strait/The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium
George Strait/The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium
DVD ~ George Strait
Price: $14.98
21 used & new from $8.63

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The full 2-3/4 hour “final” concert from 2014 with 40 of Strait’s 60 #1 hits and 102,000 people!, August 23, 2015
The full 2-3/4 hour “final” concert from 2014 with 40 of Strait’s 60 #1 hits and 102,000 people!
When country superstar George Strait decided to “stop touring for at least a year” after being “on the road” for 35 years, he made the last stop on the last (at least for now) tour the AT&T Stadium in Dallas in his home state of Texas. He invited a few “friends” to each join him on two songs. Friends like Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Sheryl Crow and Eric Church. The tickets sold out in 24 hours and all 104,000 seats were sold. This made this the largest concert attendance ever. In his career, Strait recorded 60 Number One hits and, though there wasn’t time for all of there, 40 of them were performed at the concert, which lasted (including the requisite encores) over 2 hours and 45 minutes! All of the concert was recorded and it’s here on this DVD being released at the end of August. (I was provided with an advance screening copy in exchange for an objective review.).

The concert was broadcast on the CMT cable channel but – since I don’t get cable – it was new to me. If you are a Strait fan and saw it, here is another chance to hear the songs again (they are nicely “indexed”) or, if you missed it, you’ll probably want this video.
I did have one small gripe – especially at the beginning of the concert – that may, or may not, affect you. Strait and his band – some of these guys have been with him more than 25 years! – were positioned on a large revolving stage in the middle of the stadium. The “turntable” seemed to move at a pretty good speed (how did Strait not get dizzy?) at the beginning and while you are watching Strait perform the audience is constantly moving. I actually got dizzy watching a few of the numbers. But this goes away after the first 20 minutes or so.

The camera work is great and so is the sound.

The DVD contains two bonuses. First is a section called “Strait Talk” which is an interview with Strait after the concert about his career and touring (where he does say that he “might” go back on the road after a year off”). This lasts 10 minutes. Then there are very short interviews with each of the aforementioned “guests” where they comment on how happy they were to be there. This lasts 11 minutes.
The DVD package includes a 4-page color booklet of photos and production credits.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2015 6:54 AM PDT


The Lesson
The Lesson
DVD ~ Ivan Barnev
Price: $24.95

4.0 out of 5 stars No Spoilers in this review of Bulgarian film about a woman who needs to race against time to “save the family home”, August 23, 2015
This review is from: The Lesson (DVD)
As I post this there are three reviews posted. Two are very short and then there is the longer one by fellow reviewer Charles Ashbacher. In my opinion Mr. Ashbacher give away too much of the plot in this film, which really does not have a complicated plot and the tension builds much better if you don’t know much. The description on the DVD case actually gives away some of the action as well. A few moments that would have been a surprise to a filmgoer in Bulgaria or at the many film festivals where this 110-minute film played are given away.

Without any “spoilers” I’ll say that this is primarily the story of Nada wife and mother and an elementary school English teacher in Bulgaria. We find out in the first 5 minutes that her unemployed husband (we are never given a hint as to what his occupation is/was) has squandered away the mortgage payment on their house and it is just days away from being auctioned. From this point on, it is Nade’s film and follow her in a rush to “save the family home”. That’s all I’’ll say about the plot.

The script was not flushed out enough for me to “love” the film but I found the acting by the woman playing Nade to be fascinating to watch. She is in nearly every scene. You’ll feel her frustration and – depending on your mood, may or may not be satisfied with the director’s ending. (I wasn’t but the ride was interesting).

The English subtitles are in white but I found easy to read.

Like all Film Movement DVDS, there is a “Bonus Short Film”. This time it is a six-minute USA film about a guy who smuggles in candy which contain unsafe toys. I wasn’t impressed with this but it’s a “bonus”.

I received a screener from the distributor in exchange for an objective review.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Victoria Premium Marinara Sauce, 24-Ounce (Pack of 6)
Victoria Premium Marinara Sauce, 24-Ounce (Pack of 6)
Offered by Peters Select
Price: $52.23
5 used & new from $46.97

5.0 out of 5 stars No sugar, No Tomato Paste and it tastes freshly made., August 22, 2015
Though I generally review entertainment products on Amazon I do occasionally review food products and after returned from the Fancy Food Show in New York , this product was sent to me by the manufacturer for an objective review. I had a chance to try it there but I wanted to try it at home.

The first thing I look for on a jarred pasta sauce (no, I don’t make my own “gravy”), is the list of ingredients to see where both sugar and tomato paste rank on the list of ingredients. Victoria puts the list on the front of the jar and in print size you can read easily.

Here are the ingredients for the Marinara Sauce: 100% Italian tomatoes, Imported Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic, Basil and Onions, Sea Salt & Spices. What? No tomato paste? No sugar? No chemical names? Nope! I still have issues with companies that list the word “spices” without identifying them (I’m guessing there is some oregano here and maybe some pepper but it is not what we call “spicy”) but this sauce tastes freshly made with no chemical or tomato paste taste.

It’s pricier than Barilla and other major brands but in line with premium ones like Rao’s. But I like this one better. I plan to try their vodka sauce too.

The 24 oz jar is about 50% larger than most jarred sauces so it’ll last longer and I used it one night over pasta and the next night over pan fried breaded pork chops. Both times it tasty and I can certainly recommend it.

It is listed a number of times on Amazon and the price ranges greatly. So look for feedback on seller when you compare the price.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Victoria Marinara Sauce, 24 Ounce
Victoria Marinara Sauce, 24 Ounce
Price: $21.09
7 used & new from $19.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No sugar, No Tomato Paste and it tastes freshly made., August 22, 2015
Though I generally review entertainment products on Amazon I do occasionally review food products and after returned from the Fancy Food Show in New York , this product was sent to me by the manufacturer for an objective review. I had a chance to try it there but I wanted to try it at home.

The first thing I look for on a jarred pasta sauce (no, I don’t make my own “gravy”), is the list of ingredients to see where both sugar and tomato paste rank on the list of ingredients. Victoria puts the list on the front of the jar and in print size you can read easily.

Here are the ingredients for the Marinara Sauce: 100% Italian tomatoes, Imported Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic, Basil and Onions, Sea Salt & Spices. What? No tomato paste? No sugar? No chemical names? Nope! I still have issues with companies that list the word “spices” without identifying them (I’m guessing there is some oregano here and maybe some pepper but it is not what we call “spicy”) but this sauce tastes freshly made with no chemical or tomato paste taste.

It’s pricier than Barilla and other major brands but in line with premium ones like Rao’s. But I like this one better. I plan to try their vodka sauce too.

The 24 oz jar is about 50% larger than most jarred sauces so it’ll last longer and I used it one night over pasta and the next night over pan fried breaded pork chops. Both times it tasty and I can certainly recommend it.

It is listed a number of times on Amazon and the price ranges greatly. So look for feedback on seller when you compare the price.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


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