The Best Of The New Paperbacks

THE HONOURED SOCIETY (The Mafia Conspiracy Observed) by Norman Lewis. Penguin, 50p.

The social disease best known as the Mafia has attracted much attention during the last few months. The film made of Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’ has broken box office records in nearly every country it has been shown in. The popular press recently has given a large amount of column inches to the ‘honoured society’ and its offshoots. A fair number of books, and especially pulp paperbacks, have appeared on the subject, most of them attempting to imitate Puzo’s successful novel. CBS records have even released a comedy album called ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About The Godfather (But Don’t Ask)’

In other words, all and sundry have been trying to cash in on the public’s current interest in one of the most depraved, corrupting and murderous criminal organisations that this planet has ever known.

If you are at all fascinated by the Mafia, and would prefer to find out its factual origins and how it has managed to increase its destructive power over the years, I thoroughly recommend you to read The Honoured Society by Norman Lewis. Originally published in paperback in 1967, Penguin have seen fit to re-issue it during the current ‘craze’.

It is an important book, because it does without the colour magazine gloss and celluloid glamour that has made the Mafia somehow romantic to those whose knowledge just touches the surface of what the ‘honoured society’ is all about. The book is an unemotional study of this social phenomenon, backed up with hard facts that bring the whole disgusting menace back to the realms of reality.

Even though The Honoured Society concerns itself with historical actualities, Lewis has produced an absorbing and at times astonishing document, that many would do well to read.

TEST YOUR NQ (Nostalgia Quotient) by Denis Gifford. New English Library, 30p.

Denis Gifford was responsible for the long running radio programme ‘Sounds Familiar?’ and is now currently involved in the visual version of that show, now called ‘Looks Familiar?’ which Thames Television started screening last autumn. This paperback is an extension of that television series.

Included are 1247 mind teasers to test your memory on contemporary nostalgia, and if that’s what turns you on, this book’ll prove delightful. For Test Your NQ is amusing, entertaining and informative.

ROCK FILE edited by Charlie Gillett. New English Library, 40p.

Whilst concerning a different type of nostalgia to the last book mentioned. Rock File, edited by Charlie Gillett and compiled by Pete and Annie Fowler, is as entertaining and enlightening. And to rock and roll critics and fanatics it is absolutely essential.

For this book is a short guide to contemporary music and features a list of every Top-20 hit in the British charts from 1955 to 1969.

It is great fun to be reminded of these past ‘oldies but goodies’ and is also an encouragement to dig out those battered old singles, that are bound to amaze younger listeners.

MY SECRET LIFE by ‘Walter’. Edited and introduced by Gordon Grimley. Panther, 50p.

At long last ‘Walter’s’ My Secret Life is freely and legally available in this country. Unfortunately this edited version has much missing from what was originally an eleven volume work, but the essence of the book is intact, if not the sexual explicitness.

This ‘underground’ classic from the Victorian era is a valuable work because of the unique insight it gives the reader into one man’s sexual appetites and obsessions. ‘Walter’, living in a period when openness about sex is a social taboo, and the whole subject was hidden beneath a wealth of repression, fear and misinformation. The sketches of Victorian life and its class structure portrayed, also prove to be fascinating and historically informative.

The complete text of My Secret Life has only recently been available in the United States. Let us hope it will not be long before we have the opportunity to freely read this incomparable document into human sexual responses in its entirety.

SATAN WANTS YOU by Arthur Lyons. Mayflower, 35p.
A HANDBOOK ON WITCHES by Gillian Tindall, Mayflower, 35p.

Satanism and witchcraft are still proving to be intriguing and fascinating to as many people as they have done for some time now, during this current boom of interest in these and other related subjects. And to a growing number they mean a lot more than just reading about cults, devil-worship and the ‘old religions’.

Satan Wants You and A Handbook On Witches are worthwhile additions to the wealth of material published on these dark’ matters. Both are written and presented with illustrations in an intelligent and revealing manner, and fortunately do without the unnecessary over-sensationalism, often leading to misinformation one associates with much of what is already available.

OUTLAWS OF AMERICA by Roger Lewis, Pelican, 40p.

Roger Lewis’s book Outlaws of America is subtitled The Underground Press and its Context: Notes on a Cultural Revolution’. And that’s exactly what it is. It also contains many references to the ‘underground’ press in Europe, especially to those publications that appear in Great Britain.

The ‘alternative/underground’ press has come about in recent years, and has already proved itself to be a valuable contribution to society, very often covering events that do not appear in national or even local newspapers, as well as supporting and giving space to the struggles, aims and ideas of minority groups, ie blacks, gays, etc. As such it is important that those unaware of the necessity for this form of media should enlighten themselves as to why it has such a significant role to play in society.

Outlaws of America succeeds well in informing those whose knowledge of the subject is small. It also serves as a useful record of what has taken place so far during the ‘alternative’ press’s short but impressive history to those who already find these publications a vital addition to the accepted media.

Whilst on this topic. Gay News is classified by many as an ‘underground’ newspaper. In some ways it is, I suppose, but it is also trying to break out of the confines of this categorisation and open up areas which have been overlooked for far too long.

THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND by William Hope Hodgson. Panther, 30p.

To be honest I haven’t yet finished this book. I’m about two thirds through it, so even if I wanted to, I can’t give the end away.

Suffice it to say I find this little book absolutely obsessive reading. It is a fantasy/supernatural work of the highest order, and the worlds I have travelled to whilst progressing through it, make me wonder where the tale will terminate.

The author, William Hope Hodgson, was killed in action in 1918. But it is only recently that his macabre, haunting story has been re-issued, although his works are regularly published in the United States. Amongst Hodgson’s numerous admirers was H. P. Lovecraft, who, along with many others, considered The House On The Borderland to be his greatest novel.

Looney Toones

LAST AUTUMN’S DREAMJade Warrior — Vertigo 6360079

Last Autumn’s Dream is Jade Warrior’s third album to be released. And unlike the group’s last one Released, which used a large amount of brass work, this new album is a return to the area they were working in with their initial release, simply titled Jade Warrior. And as such it is a far more rewarding effort than their last record and the continuation of the ideas and strange rhythmic patterns developed on the first album, make for a most pleasingly successful venture.

Jade Warrior is a group that is a pain for reviewers, for the type of music they are producing is extremely difficult to label, let alone define. But make no mistake, what they are doing is composing and playing music that is on a very high level, for it is both inventive and progressive in the realms it is exploring. A basic feeling that runs through their sound is one of a Japanese/Chinese influence, joined by African rhythms from the drums, tabla and congas. But what completely foils any attempt at musical classification is the soaring, unconventionally tuned guitar work of Tony Duhig. This combined with Jon Field’s superb flute playing makes their music even more exciting. If I really wanted to give their style(s) a name though, I would call it ‘dream music’.

Jade Warrior are a very talented bunch of musicians, and it is groups such as this, unafraid of experimentation in rarely explored areas, that are the backbone of the vitality that makes the contemporary British music scene what it is.


THE ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS OF ROY ORBISONMonument MNT 67290

Roy Orbison has had a long successful career and this specially priced two-record set will be a welcome release for his many fans and admirers.

At £2.99 the double album is extremely good value, for it contains twenty of the most popular songs he has recorded. All of them have been single hits, some of them even earning Gold records for over a million sales. Surprisingly, despite the age of some of the tracks, very few sound at all dated. Even Only The Lonely, his first smash hit, with the quaint “dum dum dum dumdowah” vocal backing, sounds as pleasing as it did when first released.

Apart from the track already mentioned, other golden oldies of his included are In Dreams, Crying, Dream Baby, Blue Angel, Running Scared and Oh, Pretty Woman. And these and all the rest really do live up to being The All-Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison.


JERMAINEJermaine Jackson — Tamla Motown STML 11221

Following the example of Michael Jackson of recording a solo album, along comes Jermaine Jackson with his first solo outing. And a very fine record it turns out to be.

Whilst not containing single tracks as outstanding as Michael’s Got To Be There, Ain’t No Sunshine, or Rockin’ Robin, all of which became top twenty hits, Jermain’s album is more evenly balanced than his brother’s. The first track is That’s How Love Goes, which with its foot tapping infectious beat, proves to be a good opening number. And the other songs, although in different ways, are all as successful. A few Motown standards are included, such as I’m In A Different World, Take Me In Your Arms, and Ain’t That Peculiar. Jermaine also does a version of Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound.

All in all, a very excellent first album, well up to the level set by his brother’s earlier venture. In the States the record is a big seller, and I won’t be surprised to see it receiving the same sort of attention in this country.

Wonder which brother is going to be next for solo honours?


JOURNEY THROUGH THE PASTNeil Young – Reprise K64015

Although Neil Young is a superstar high in the popularity stakes at present, I think that the soundtrack of his film Journey Through The Past is strictly for his most ardent fans only.

This double set retails at £3.49 which is really far too high a price to pay for the tracks included. There is only one new song as far as I can see, and that is Soldier. And that’s not a particularly memorable track. The majority of the cuts are ‘live’ versions of songs he has recorded on his solo albums, plus a few from his work with Crosby, Stills and Nash. The recording quality of most of them is rather poor, but the nearly sixteen minute version of Words is outstanding, reminding me of the excellence of his Neil Young With Crazy Horse album.

Also included are ‘live’ recordings of songs he recorded when still with The Buffalo Springfield, such as For What It’s Worth and Rock & Roll Women. But here again they don’t compare with the originals. They are no doubt historically interesting to devoted Young-ologists and to those who still remember how good the group was.

Side four contains rather freaky renderings of Handel’s Messiah and King Of Kings. Whilst the last track is Brian Wilson’s Let’s Go Away For A While, from the classic Beach Boy’s album Pet Sounds.

As a soundtrack to the film the music is probably fine, but when it appears on these two records, it is rather a disjointed collection of tracks. But as I said earlier, it is certain to be a must for Neil Young’s most fanatical followers. And that includes me. Really, he is about the only pop singer I’d become a groupie for.


BUSTIN’ OUTPure Prairie League – RCA LSP 4769 (US import at UK price)

Of the many types of music I am particularly attracted to. it is modern country music that finds its way mostoften onto my turntable. By country music I don’t mean the somewhat limited range of the more traditional C&W artists such as Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr or Tammy Wynnette. Their music is fine, but with the younger country musicians one finds that they are unafraid of also incorporating contemporary folk and rock influences into their overall sound.

Such a band working in this area is a Canadian group called Pure Prairie League and their style is perfectly portrayed with their newly released first album titled Bustin’ Out.

Apart from the styles and attributes already mentioned, the group are not averse to using string arrangements to supplement their sound. And very tasteful they are too. But it is the vocals and the splendid harmonies that get me so excited about them. I really love good singers and singing and the tones the lead vocalists of this group come across with are as satisfying as I could wish for.

The sentiments and emotions expressed in the words of the songs also contribute strongly to this extremely successful initial outing.

On the strength of this first record, Pure Prairie League deserve to be discovered by a wide audience and I expect future recordings to be even more impressive. Hear them.


DARKNESS DARKNESSPhillip Upchurch — Blue Thumb ILPS 9219

Phillip Upchurch’s mainclaim to fame up till now, apart from first rate sessionwork during the past few years, was his smash hit You Can’t Sit Down.

On this album, which, I believe, is his first solo venture for some time, he does five extended instrumental workouts on numbers such as Darkness, Darkness, Fire and Rain and Inner City Blues. (Don’t believe the cover which lists only four tracks.) His guitar playing is very different to his hit single days, but it certainly isn’t disappointing. Over the years Phillip (formerly Phil) has developed a mature relaxed style that explores every possibility within the existing framework of the songs he has chosen to record here. The backup musicians he uses also contribute much to making this a most enjoyable album, that is better suited for listening to than for dancing.


MILLIE JACKSONMojo 2918005

Mojo Records, marketed by Polydor is one of the finest small soul labels available in this country. They specialise in re-issuing past soul hits that have been difficult to obtain here, and also in releasing recordings by small American soul labels.

In 1971 they put out the classic Doris Duke album I’m a Loser and at the end of 1972 they issued what must be one of the best soul releases of the year, the first album of Millie Jackson (no relation to the Jackson Five clan).

And what a soulful record it is too. It is worth buying just for the incredible A Child Of God track, which was sadly ignored when released as a single. But all the other cuts are first rate uptown funk, making it one of the rare soul albums that is consistently good throughout both the sides of the disc.

Millie Jackson’s initial collection of songs is certainly a must for soul enthusiasts to hear and is likely to attract other ears if it is given the promotion it deserves.


EUROPE ’72Grateful Dead – Warner Bros K66019

After an enormously successful series of concerts throughout Europe last year, the Grateful Dead have released a three-record set to commemorate that tour. It is titled Europe ’72 and is priced at £4.99.

I have been a devoted Dead fan ever since their first album, released way back in the ‘flower power’ summer of 1967, and it has been a rewarding series of experiences, following this band, for with each new record or set of records issued they improve, develop and expand the accomplishments of their previous outings. I have usually found that their ‘live’ recordings are ultimately far more satisfying than their studio efforts, with the exception of one or two notable albums such as American Beauty or Workingman’s Dead. And the just over 109 minutes of music on this triple set is going to keep me happy and contented for some time to come.

A large amount of the record buying public are still unfamiliar with the Dead’s music. That’s a shame, for anyone interested in the immense advancements in rock music over the last few years would do well to listen to one of the instigators of what was once called psychedelic music. The Grateful Dead, and this set of albums particularly, are a perfect example of what is so exciting and significant about contemporary rock music.


FOR THE ROSESJoni Mitchell – Asylum SYLA 8753

The exceptional talents possessed by Joni Mitchell finally gained the recognition and the attention of a wider audience which they richly deserve, with her last album, Blue. Joni’s new release For The Roses is nothing less than a further extention of this impressive level.

As usual the songs included are observations and comments about her experiences and the people she’s been involved with. And although the situations she sings about are often deeply personal, it in no way prevents the listener from relating to them, in whatever way he or she may want to. A remarkable achievement, when one considers how difficult communication generally is in our space age societies.

Joni Mitchell manages beautifully to express so many of the fears, hopes and joys we can all feel and know about, if we bother to take time out to experience them. This comes from her very obvious concern for humanity and its oblivious ways.

In conclusion, For The Roses is an extremely moving, very aware album that is far more than just another record to rave over.

Christmas – Season Of Goodwill?

I have very mixed feelings about Christmas and all that it implies in the countries which celebrate this age old Christian/pagan festival. I am not a believer in organised religion, for most of them I view with a mixture of cynicism and despair. But at the same time I like to think myself tolerant of those who do profess faith in such institutions. So long as they don’t try to dictate or violate my own search for spiritual awareness.

The doctrine of peace and goodwill is mighty fine, but is Christmas the only time to preach such ideologies? It will mean very little to the people in Ulster, a strongly religious country, I’m afraid. That country will need more than carols, turkey and the Queen’s speech to heal the festering wounds that scar it and its population. I doubt if the Pope’s message to the world will do much for the bitter Orangemen of Belfast, or even the extremists of Catholic Londonderry.

What will Christmas mean to Vietnam, apart from extra rations for American troops. It won’t make the destruction of crops, fields and villages as well as the continual massacre of innocent civilians an easier burden for that truly God forsaken country to bear.

Even here in Great Britain, will the few days of loosening up and declaration of love and friendship for the rest of humanity, really mean anything will be different once the holiday is over. All the fine words and gestures are soon forgotten as New Year’s Day hangovers take their place. Do black people really expect to be treated as equals next year as a result of Christmas? Will women suddenly find themselves freed from the oppression of being classed second class citizens? Will material wealth still be the most popular way of assessing a human being, rather than looking for strength of character or conviction? Am I expected to believe that gays will no longer be classiFied as sick or perverted, and be released from the intolerance and misunderstandings that have been their lot throughout the course of history.

I’m not as bitter as I may sound. It’s just that I would be kidding myself if I thought Christmas could really do anything it is supposed to do, except increase the ringing of cash registers, worry parliament with rising inflation figures and kill a few score more people on our roads. I truly wish that the dreams of Christmas were as real as advertising executives make them seem, but the world has got to change and evolve a great deal before this period of over-indulgence and mass commercialism will mean much more than heartburn and lots of empties.

Christmas for many hard working people is a holiday and a time for relaxation and enjoyment. I like to think that I fit into this category of reveller. But I have no time for bigots and hypocrites who, for a couple of weeks preach religion and righteousness, and before you know it are back into the same non-thinking, exploitative patterns they left on the 24th December.

Despite my lack of conFidence and somewhat harsh attitude towards the Christmas ‘spirit’, I hope that you all will have a good time, and perhaps give a little thought to the injustice and inhumanity so many have to endure. As gays we know something about that. So isn’t it only right that we should at least be aware of the plight of countless others.

Artists And Records Of The Year

David Bowie — Artist of the Year

It at first seemed like a difficult task to choose just one artist out of the scores of successful ones currently recording. But thinking back over the last year, it soon became apparent that one performer stood head, shoulders, faded jeans and eye shadow over all the rest. It is of course, David Bowie, the man who brought showbiz and glamour back to rock and roll.

Bowie’s major release this year was the brilliant The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. No other album has received such critical acclaim or enabled an artist to be rocketed with such speed to the pinnacle of his profession. Even Alice Cooper’s Mrs Mary Whitehouse upsetter School’s Out pales in comparison.

Ziggy Stardust is made up of a series of songs, and even if it isn’t a concept album as such, all the tracks are inter-related. Amongst the basic futuristic themes are apocalyptic visions of the world of tomorrow. These are told in part by Bowie as a narrator, and also by the mythical superstar ‘Ziggy Stardust’, who is Bowie himself. One of Bowie’s main attributes is his insight into what he is and what he is expected to be. And accordingly he plays the part of a superstar placed on a pedestal to the limit. Through this kind of awareness of image and of the medium he is working in, the lyrics, although extravagant, never sink to the level of just being pretentious or embarrassingly self-conscious.

Recently Bowie has had two of his previous albums re-released. They are Space Oddity (1968) and The Man Who Sold The World (1970). Both are important records, which were way ahead of their time when first issued. A new single by Bowie, The Jean Genie, has come out during the last couple of weeks. The title is, of course, a word play on Jean Genet, the French author, who is perhaps best known in this country for his novel Our Lady Of The Flowers. The lyrics are stranger than ever and their meaning is best left up to the individual listener to fathom out.

Apart from success in the recording field, Bowie has also been responsible for bringing entertainment back to rock concerts. For too long groups and solo artists have had trite, lack-lustre stage acts. But after a David Bowie concert, audiences will be reluctant to accept the mediocre, slipshod stage presentations of the past.

Bowie’s theatrical, uninhibited professionalism when giving a ‘live’ performance, has broken through many social barriers and taboos. And everywhere audiences have reacted enthusiastically to his assaults on accepted convention and narrow-minded morality. Mind you, he has brought out the worst forms of imbedded Puritanism from many rock journalists. But make no mistakes, if Bowie is limp-wristed then Muhammed Ali is queen of the fairies.

The terms Glam Rock and Gay Rock have been invented to try and categorise Bowie and the few other rock artists who have progressed beyond the rigid conformity that has governed the stage presentation of rock/pop groups in this country for quite some time. Even the puppet prancings of Mick Jagger look mechanical when compared to the high energy performances that Bowie gives.

Incidentally, Bowie is giving a concert at the Rainbow, Finsbury Park, on 24th December. I couldn’t recommend a better, more spectacular start to the Christmas holidays. I also expect David Bowie’s recordings and performances in 1973 to be a significantly influential to the modern music scene as they have been during the last year.

The World of David BowieDecca SPA 58
Space OddityRCA LSP 48133
The Man Who Sold The WorldRCA LSP 4816
Hunky DoryRCA SF 8244
Ziggy StardustRCA SF 8287
The Jean GenieRCA 2302


Roxy Music — Group of the Year

No other group has amassed such a strong following over the last year as Roxy Music. They have also caused a fair amount of controversy amongst rock purists, who have found it difficult to come to terms with the wild mixture of music and electronics the group deliver. But a hit single removed most of the sceptical criticism they initially received.

Their album, Roxy Music, is certainly one of the strangest to be released in 1972. The record defies all attempts at categorisation and its acceptance depends on the limitations of taste the listener may or may not have. Even if you find the album difficult to relate to at first, it is worth the effort of hearing it a number of times. If one analyses the Roxy’s sound, apart from the electronics and use of modern phasing techniques, the underlying inspiration seems to come from fifties

On stage, Roxy Music have seemingly been following the footsteps of David Bowie. Their stage presentation, physical appearance and clothes are extreme almost to excess but, like Bowie, they are into entertainment as much as they are into producing good and exciting music.

Despite the limited number of ‘live’ appearances by the group and the sparse air-play their album has received on the radio, the last few months have been extremely eventful for them. In 1973 I expect Roxy Music to reach both a far wider audience and receive even greater acceptance of their most original style.

Roxy MusicIsland ILPS 9200


Bill Withers — Soul Artist of the Year

Soul music isn’t just screams and wild dancing, as Bill Withers undeniably proves. Soul is the amount of depth and feeling an artist puts into a song, and Withers certainly doesn’t hold anything back.

His Still Bill album contains some of the most memorable and moving adult songs, about love and relationships, that I have heard this year, and is frequently to be found on my turntable.

Withers recent concert appearance in London showed that his talents aren’t just limited to a recording studio. As a member of the audience at that gig, I was impressed by the warm, responsive two-way relationship he created between the stage and the crowded auditorium, as he sang his sensitive rhythmic songs about matters which touch us all at some time or other.

Purists may prefer to stick to the wilder aspects of soul music, but Withers, with his Still Bill album especially, will make soul music many new friends and admirers. His previous release, Just As I Am, also contains some very good material, including the song which looks like becoming a soul classic, Ain’t No Sunshine. Through these two albums and his hit single Lean On Me, Bill Withers has firmly established himself as an outstanding new talent, who one can expect even greater things from, next year.

Just As I AmA&M AMLS 65002
Still BillA&M AMLS 68107


Seals & Crofts — Folk Artists of the Year

Whilst not working in the traditional areas of folk music, the American duo, Seals & Crofts are certainly the most pleasing contemporary folk artists performing and recording today.

At present their current release, Summer Breeze is highly placed in the American album charts, and this comes as no surprise. The record is filled with happy and sincere songs, that tell of love, life, a passing season and the things that all too quickly pass us by. There is also mention of the duo’s religious convictions, but without any undue pressure being placed on the listener to be converted to their particular beliefs.

James Seals and Dash Crofts with Summer Breeze deliver a series of often beautiful, relaxing and rewarding experiences for those who care to listen. This is an album I shall play for some time to come, besides eagerly awaiting their subsequent releases in 1973.

Summer BreezeWarner Bros, K46173.


Tamla Motown Album of the Year

There is no looking back for Diana Ross. After an extremely rewarding career with The Supremes, she has continued her success as a solo artist. And her Greatest Hits album shows why. Most of the songs are of the high standard one expects from Tamla Motown, whilst a few are bound to remain firm favourites for some time to come.

This compilation record of Diana’s contains all her hit singles, plus some of the best tracks from her past albums. The twelve cuts selected make for very good value, and the inclusion of the full six minute version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an added bonus.

As I said earlier, one expects a high quality performance from Motown artists, and this album is a perfect example of how good records from them can be. You can rest assured that many fine sounds will be coming from the company and its stable of artists next year.

Diana Ross Greatest HitsTamla Motown STMA 8006


Taj Mahal — Blues Artist of the Year

One of the most important exponents of the blues alive today is Taj Mahal. Although still only a young man, his performances to date, whether in concert or on record, have been some of the most significant developments in this particular area of music.

Traditional country blues have always been the basis of Taj’s sound, but over the last few years he has impressively experimented with all aspects of his music. No two of his albums are alike, and the originality of his latest release. Recycling The Blues and Other Related Stuff, surpasses even the best of what he has issued before and makes me wonder what he is going to do next. The other album he has released this year, Happy Just To Be Like I Am, is a necessary addition to any serious collection of modern blues.

One thing I always love about Taj Mahal is his wonderful sense of humour, which he successfully instils into all his music.

Taj is a great blues artist, and hasn’t had to wait for recognition till he was either in his old age or dead, before people have become aware of his potential and significance.

Happy Just To Be Like I AmCBS 64447
Recycling the Blues & Other Related StuffCBS 65090


Reggae Record Of The Year

Reggae has had a long hard fight to gain mass acceptance in this country, but the soundtrack album from the Jamaican film The Harder They Come, may well prove to be the record that gains this music the wider audience it deserves.

The album is made up of tracks from various artists. Particularly of note is Jimmy Cliff, who sings four numbers, including the title track and a very beautiful song called Many Rivers To Cross. Other excellent contributions are made by lesser known reggae artists, such as Desmond Dekker and the Maytals.

If you have always thought of reggae as a rather limited musical form, give this album a listen. It’s a cert to change your mind, and will become an essential ingredient of any party you are holding or attending.

The Harder They ComeIsland ILPS 9202


Rock Album of the Year

To pick one rock record out of the hundreds issued during the last twelve months was nearly as difficult as picking out the most important and influential artist of the year.

But an album by a little known American guitarist is my choice. It is the first recorded outing of Roy Buchanan, who plays some of the cleanest, captivating guitar I’ve heard in a long time.

Whilst the backings are adequate and the singing bearable, it is the guitar playing that is always to the front. As it should be, for one doesn’t often have the chance of hearing such excellent rock musicianship. Roy Buchanan makes it all sound so simple too, but as any guitarist or passionate follower of rock music will tell you. some of the things he lets loose coma solely from years of playing and practising, and are only likely to be heard from the most proficient of artists. Of the incluences in Buchanan’s playing, apart from rock and roll, the most noticeable are country and blues.

As an introduction to this man’s work, I suggest you listen to Sweet Dreams which opens side one, and the mind-boggling The Messiah Will Come Again on side two. If these two tracks don’t immediately convert you, nothing will. So if you want to hear something a little different to the usual heavy rock sound being produced by the majority of bands, then make the effort to hear this album, you won’t be disappointed.

Roy BuchananPolydor 2391042


Laid Back Album of the Year

The term ‘laid back’ has come into use frequently during the last year. Basically it refers to a relaxed, unhurried musical style, but in no way means that the quality of the sounds is impaired.

A perfect example of this style is an album called Naturally by J. J. Cale. His music is a combination of blues, country and rock influences, whilst he delivers the vocals in a gravelly relaxed manner.

No single track stands out from the rest, but this does not mean that there are any duff tracks included. All make for worthwhile listening and the album comes into its own if heard late at night, when one is relaxed and doesn’t want anything too overpowering to cope with. Cale’s guitar playing is nothing less than stunning and one hangs onto every note of the never overlong breaks he allows himself. The After Midnight track on side two when released as a single in the States sold extremely well, and I recommend you to hear this cut as an introduction to the album.

Naturally is one hell of an album, by a musician/composer of the highest calibre. There will be more recorded delight? coming from him next year, when it is also planned for him to come over to this country for concert performances.

NaturallyA&M AMLS 68105


Colin Blunstone — Rising Talent of the Year.

In the early sixties Colin Blunstone was part of the now legendary group known as the Zombies. After a break from the music industry, Colin returned last year with an album called One Year which was favourably received by the pop press, but in no way shot him up the ladder to stardom, despite the success of a track that was taken from the album and released as a single.

Now his second album has been issued. It’s called Ennismore, and it is bound to take him a lot further than his previous solo effort. And with him starting to give ‘live’ performances around the country, it is just a matter of time before this very gifted singer/songwriter gets the recognition he deserves.

The songs on Ennismore are all concerned with relationships — the ones that worked and those that proved disastrous. There is a compelling directness in the lyrics that makes them easy to identify with. This results in shared experiences rather than just listening to those of someone else’s. The opening track, I Don’t Believe In Miracles, says far more about Blunstone’s work than I can, and as it is currently headed for the top of the singles charts, you can see and hear why I am so enthusiastic about this artist’s work for yourselves.

Ennismore will open up new horizons for Colin Blunstone, and the coming new year should establish him as one of this country’s leading singers and lyricists.

One YearEpic EPC 64557
EnnismoreEpic EPC 65278

Albums For Christmas

The albums and artists of the year have taken up so much room there is very little space to say much about the numerous albums which have been issued recently. Although it is unfair to comment on a record in only a few lines, I would like to say a little about what I consider to be the best of the new releases. Albums make ideal presents, and those mentioned here I strongly recommend as being excellent gifts, depending of course on the recipient’s musical tastes.

The most outstanding release is Lou Reed’s second solo album Transformer (RCA LSP 4807), which I cannot commend highly enough. One track. Walk On The Wild Side, also put out as a single, has to be heard to be believed, whilst the cut Make Up is the best Gay Lib song I have heard. Production is by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, but whereas with Bowie’s involvement in the latest Mott the Hoople album that record came out just sounding like an extension of Bowie, his work on Transformer just adds to bringing out the explicitly stunning and original talents of Lou Reed.

Transformer is an essential record and is currently top of the Gay News hit parade. The record sleeve, especially the reverse side, is remarkable too.

Tamla Motown have brought out two excellent records in time for Christmas. One is the new Temptations album All Directions (STML 11218). It is well up to the standard of this group’s past work, with the 11 min 45 sec Papa Was A Rolling Stone being a monster success. The other album needs no introduction to recommend its guaranteed quality. It’s the latest in the Motown Chartbusters series, this one being Volume Seven (STML 11215). Included are sixteen of the best and most successful cuts the company have put out over the last few months. Amongst the artists contributing to the volume are The Supremes, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Mary Welles, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder.

Bread are currently riding high in the charts with their single The Guitar Man. Now they have released an album with that cut as the title track. Guitar Man (Elektra K52004) contains twelve tracks, and is a first rate followup to their recently released Best of Bread disc. Bread fans will be delighted with this new effort, as will any new converts to the group.

Some of the raviest, rocking music produced over the last few years came from Delaney and Bonnie. This husband and wife team have now sadly parted and have gone their separate ways. But they can well be remembered with The Best of Delaney and Bonnie (Atlantic K 40429) which truly lives up to the album title. Just listen to Soul Shake to be convinced that Bonnie Bramlett delivers some of the best white blues/soul vocals ever.

The Moody Blues keep on bringing out one fine album after another, and Seventh Sojourn (Threshold THS7) is no exception. Moody fans will need no recommendation to know that this album is a must for them, whilst anyone new to the group’s work will find this release a good way to discover why they have such a large following. As usual the production is faultless, with the When You’re A Free Man track standing out as the most impressive.

Shirley Bassey devotees will find her new album And I Love You So (UAS 29385) a welcome release. Of the songs tackled by Miss Bassey on this record, the following are the most outstanding: Someday, The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Day By Day (from ‘Godspell’), Ballad Of The Sad Young Men, I Don’t Know How To Love Him (from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) and Don McLean’s And I Love You So.

The West Country group, Stackridge follow up their excellent first album with this new offering, Friendliness (MCA MKPS 2025). Stackridge have a sunny magical charm which comes over even stronger on this release than before, and is guaranteed to find them an even wider audience. Largely responsible for the musical inventiveness on this record and ultimately the group’s success is the playing of Mike Evans (violin and cello) and “Mutter” Slater (flute) whose contributions equal the guitar work of James Warren and Andy Davis’s keyboards. A happy, friendly record this, that will remove many worried frowns and long faces.

No Sad Tears Or Fantasies

FADEOUT by Joseph Hansen. Published by Harrap, £1.80. (187 pages)

Under various names Joseph Hansen has had published a number of paperbacks, as well as articles and poetry.’Fadeout’ is his first novel to appear in his own name. Hansen and his wife live in Los Angeles, where he is one of the directors of the Homosexual Information Centre and assists in selling their magazine.

The above background information is relevant only to the fact that the subject of homosexuality is treated in this novel in one of the most sensible and realistic ways I can recall reading. None of the worn-out, sad stereo-types, usually served up to represent gays – that heterosexual writers are so fond of – turn up in this story. I strongly recommend any misinformed members of the literary profession to read this book and try to learn something, for slandering gays will not always be legally possible.

‘Fadeout’ is a suspense story, and as such I will not spoil any possible readers’ enjoyment by giving away too many details. The plot involves the inquiries of insurance claims investigator Dave Brandsetter into the non-recovery of Fox Olsen’s body, who is thought drowned after his battered, flattened car is discovered a mile downstream from where it supposedly tumbled off a treacherous road into the river below. With little or no co-operation from the dead man’s relatives or friends, Brandsetter begins to realise that to find the corpse of Olson will not he sufficient. He must also uncover the reasons why he died and exactly how the accident happened. He works hard and relentlessly trying to unravel the mysteries and secrets that stop him from discovering the truth, with an ever-growing personal conviction that the tragedy is less of an accident than the facts first imply. The tale twists and turns, and the final chapters offer the reader one red herring after another before the reality of the situation is revealed.

The hero of the story, Dave Brandsetter, is gay, but his choice of sexuality is purely incidental to the plot. Hansen in no way exploits his character because of his gayness, just intertwines Brandsetter’s personal thoughts and life with the solving of the case he is on. In the first chapters we find him bitter and restless, coping with the emptiness left by the untimely death — through natural causes — of his life partner, Rod. By completely immersing himself in his work he hopes to put to flight the memories of his dead lover that so painfully haunt him. But the loss of a loved one is not used to indulge in romantic, over-sentimentality or trashy artificial melodramatics.

The plot is effective enough for ‘Fadeout’ succeeds well in the suspense novel genre. But because of the general handling of gayness throughout the book, this reviewer finds that the level the book works on is expanded and is socially important to those who know no better than to rely solely on myths and prejudices for their facts. It is a considerable advancement in literature when homosexuals appear as they do here — as people, not tinsel caricatures of human beings.

Dave Brandsetter will be returning in Hansen’s new suspense novel ‘Death Claims’, that by all accounts should be as worthwhile and compelling reading as ‘Fadeout’. And one can rest assured that the author will not have to resort to bucketsful of sad tears and fantasy titillation as substitutes for talent and awareness.

Son Of The Melody Maker

SYREETA – Mowest MWS 7001
CHAMELEON – Franki Valli & The Four Seasons – Mowest MWSA 5501

New from the Tamla Motown Corporation is Mowest Records. The label was set up to handle artists emerging from the West Coast of America. It has been in existence for a year in the States, and has now been launched in this country. Whilst occasionally finding fault with Motown, I cannot deny that they are responsible for some of the most entertaining and satisfying popular recorded music available today. And with that in mind, I expect to be well rewarded with much fine music from Mowest.

The initial album releases are an interesting pair. One is the first solo venture of Syreeta, who may be better known as Mrs Stevie Wonder. The other is another first, but with another meaning, for it is Franki Valli and The Four Season’s first release since joining the Motown Corporation’s stable of artists.

Knowing that most reviewers have found the Syreeta album the most significant of the two recordings, I would like to reverse that trend by saying that I find the Seasons the most noticeable and certainly the most pleasing.

Syreeta’s album, whilst being an adventurous outing, leaves me unsatisfied, and no matter how hard I try to listen to it, my attention has usually strayed to other matters before the end of a side.

I cannot deny though, that an enormous amount of work and thought has gone into the making of the album, including the intelligent use of synthesisers, as programmed by Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil (perhaps better known as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band). Most of the cuts were written by Syreeta and her husband, and despite the successful pairing of talents, as heard on Stevie’s latest album, this time it doesn’t seem to work. The inclusion of Lennon and McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home, for instance, leaves me sadly unimpressed. Keep on trying though, Syreeta, next time it may all work.

On the other hand, Franki Valli and The Four Seasons’ Chameleon offers nothing but delights. The Seasons and Mowest have completely recreated the group’s old sound, and the new maturity in the lyrics, music and production of Bob Gaudio especially takes the whole project up to a high-powered, inventive musical level. The tracks spotlighting the talents of Franki Valli work well and the other standout cuts are The Night and the orchestrally magnificent A New Beginning.

Whilst Syreeta’s album is a good try, that will appeal to some, it takes the Seasons to really impress and to be a good travelling companions down the many avenues of music.

SPACE ODDITY – David Bowie – RCA LSP 4813 (US import at UK price)
THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD – David Bowie – LSP 4816 (US import at UK price)

Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World, re-issued by RCA, are the two albums that David Bowie recorded for Mercury Records a few years ago.

They are being re-released obviously because of Bowie’s recent rapid rise to success and self-imposed ‘stardom’. But it’s not just a matter of a record company cashing in with past ‘product’, for both these important albums were sadly ignored by the fickle record-buying public when they were first available. The trouble being that Bowie’s work on these albums was well in advance of the tastes or comprehension of the average listener to rock music at that time. Now they have caught up, as they have demonstrated by making ‘darling’ David a superstar and by buying his Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust records in vast quantities.

Space Oddity, first issued in 1968, contains the amazing single from which the album derives its name. This cut was a chartbuster on both sides of the Atlantic, and time has done little to dim the brilliance of this song. Other tracks of note are Cygnet Committee, The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud and Memory Of A Free Festival.

1970 was the year that The Man Who Sold The World first appeared. This album contained no hit single with which to promote it, and with the frighteningly strange lyrics and the sheer, screaming ‘wall of sound’ that accompanied the words, it gave little for the average listener of the time to hang on to or to accept, because of the new levels of intensity the record was exploring. Recent concert appearances have shown that audiences are now ready to take such numbers as The Width Of The Circle, All The Madness and Saviour Machine. A difficult, brilliant recording this, but well worth the effort of coming to terms with.

These are two very important re-releases, maybe the world is ready for them now.

LIFEBOAT — The Sutherland Brothers — Island ILPS 9212

Lifeboat is the second album from The Sutherland Brothers, who originate from Scotland. Their first release received many good reviews and subsequent ‘live’ appearances by the Brothers and their backup musicians confirmed the growing interest they were attracting.

The Sutherlands retain much of their Scottish folk music roots, but have expanded their sound with electric guitars and contemporary, heavy folk/rock keyboard arrangements. Stevie Winwood plays piano and organ on a couple of tracks.

Lifeboat is a hard, funky offering, with UK musicians working a musical area usually left to American artists. The Sutherlands incidentally play the first half of the Peter Straker concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 1st December.

ELEPHANTS MEMORY – Apple Sapcor 22

Any release by Apple Records is worth hearing and the album release by Elephants Memory is no exception. The band play heavy, raucous 1972 rock and roll, that steams its way through both sides of this record.

The album is produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with whom Elephants Memory have been working. They were heard to good effect on Lennon’s recently released Some Time In New York double set.

The energy and uncompromising vitality of this first release of theirs on Apple, shows why they are worthy of Lennon’s interest, as well as his support and help in getting their own material on to wax.

An album to play loud and to rock to, anyway ya wanna.

FUMBLE – Sovereign SVNA 7254

Fumble are a new group who try hard to recreate pop hits of the late fifties and early sixties. Their album includes such classics as Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Oh Carol, Teddy Bear, and Carole King’s first and only single of that period, It Might As Well Rain Until September. The Everly Brothers’ weepie Ebony Eyes is faithfully reproduced, and one of my pubescent passions, Bobby Vee, is remembered with Take Good Care Of My Baby.

Fumble capture the sound of the originals, but somewhere lose the fun and vitality that makes many of these songs perpetual favourites with rockers of all ages. Fortunately for me, I have copies of these songs by the artists who first recorded them and think I’ll stick to listening to those, leaving Fumble to turn on the generations who missed out on these numbers first time around. I hope that new converts to this golden period of rock and roll will treat Fumble only as an introduction and eventually get round to searching for the original versions.

Keep a look out for the album’s cover, it’s worth a nostalgic laugh.

RHYMES AND REASONS – Carole King – Ode 77016

Not much I can say about Carole King’s new album, Rhymes & Reasons, except that it’s as good, if not better, than her previous three albums. It certainly is up to the standard of Tapestry, which for me personally was her most outstanding venture until now.

With advance sales guaranteeing this record a chart-topper in this country as well as in America, it seems a little pointless to describe the songs.

They all speak for themselves, far better than any reviewer can do them justice. The lyrics seem more personally introverted than before, all touched slightly with an air of sadness, even the happy, light ones. Carole’s Keyboard playing is more to the front than before. It fits so perfectly with her singing, you sometimes wonder which is the instrument and which is the singer.

It would be difficult not to be delighted with this album. Romanticism, in the finest sense, is alive and well and living very near to Carole King.

CARAVANSERAI – Santana – CBS 65299

I quite liked Santana’s first two albums and found their third rather weak. Caravanserai is their fourth and latest offering, which I find over-long, often quite boring and the layers of rhythms that made their initial releases at times magical and exciting are insipid this time round when compared to previous outings.

Side one is reminiscent of the freaky experimenting of groups way back in 1966-7, and the blind alleys that many of those groups disappeared into then are now apparently leading Santana into the same wastelands of pretention. The second side is nearer to what they are usually noted for, but as I said before, it is barely a reflection of their past music. The vocals throughout make me wonder if they ever listen to themselves.

A very disappointing album. One is certainly entitled to expect more from a band of this stature.

FEEL GOOD — Ike and Tina Turner — United Artists UAS 29377

Despite the fact that for me Ike and Tina Turner’s greatest recorded moment was River Deep Mountain High*, thought by some to be the rock and roll cut of all time, I still get turned on, almost to raving point, by the frantic funk of Ike’s music and the roaring, sweating sexuality of Tina’s singing.

Any release of theirs means that the rocking dynamics of their sound are turned up full, and this album is no exception. Tina wails and screams out the passion and love in the lyrics, whilst Ike’s guitar and his band let loose with all that is wild and joyous in rock and roll.

Of the ten tracks on this release. Chopper, Feel Good, Kay Got Laid (Joe Got Paid), and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window are all outstanding, with Black Coffee taking the prize for setting up new highs in recorded excitement and deep, deep soul.

My only complaint is that the total playing time of the album is a mere 28 minutes and 16 seconds. Surely it wouldn’t have broken anyone to have included at least two more tracks on this release.

STEALERS WHEEL – A&M AMLS 68121

I’ve been playing this first album by Scottish group Stealers Wheel for just about a week now, and am finding that it becomes more rewarding with each new outing the record gets on my turntable.

The basis of the group’s music is the excellent bass of Tony Williams and the drumming of Rod Coombes, with guitars and keyboard completing the overall sound. The songs rock along, without becoming excessive, ably assisted by the tasty lead guitar flourishes of Paul Pilnick.

But it is the Stealers’ singing, harmonies and arrangements that really make me take notice. To say they sound like the now quartered Beatles is the nearest I can get to describing them. And the group deliberately seem to be inviting such comparisons. These similarities are uncanny but in no way detract from the enjoyment of their music.

Surprises aren’t exactly unexpected though when one learns that those masters of rock and roll, the writing and producing team of Leiber and Stoller are responsible for production. And one wonders what else. Leiber and Stoller, for those who don’t read the credits on records, have collaborated on such a large number of hits, it would be a difficult task to count them all

Stealers Wheel may well be set tor a big future if enough people pick up on them. It all depends on how listeners react to their Beatlish melodies. Maybe the group’s name has something to do with what one ends up hearing. I don’t know, listen and judge for yourselves.

ROCK OF AGES – The Band – Capitol E-STSPJ1 (2 record set)

The Band’s latest album, a double, is titled Rock Of Ages, and is made up of tapes made during a concert on New Years Eve, 1971. All the songs have appeared on previous releases, but the capturing of their ‘live’ sound adds much to their material. The double set is reasonably priced at £3.25.

All their most respected numbers are here, including The Weight, Chest Fever, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Rag Mama Rag and Life Is A Carnival.

At the concert they were ably assisted by a first rate brass section, led and arranged by Allen Toussaint, who has worked with The Band in the past on studio recordings.

Here are four very fine sides of important American modern music, making it an absolute must for the group’s large following, as well as an excellent introduction to those who have missed out on one of the most original bands writing and performing today.


* Recently re-released by A&M Records on a maxi-single, with two other Spector/Turner classics, A Love Like Yours and Save The Last Dance For Me.

Blood Suckin’

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE by Anthony Masters. Published by Rupert Hart Davis, £2.95

Count Dracula and vampirism seem to be attracting more attention these days. The continued success of Hammer’s Dracula series of films, starring the ‘Prince of Darkness’ Christopher Lee, still fill cinemas which are usually only half full is proof of this. The Count Yorga vampire films have also attracted a considerable following amongst the general public.

So it was inevitable that some new books would appear on the subject before very long to cater for this renewed interest in vampires, both legendary and ‘real’. Two have been published in the last month, the first is The Natural History of the Vampire. The other is The Dracula Myth by Gabriel Ronay (W. H. Allen, £2.75), which I shall review in GN12.

Anthony Master’s Natural History etc. is invaluable to those fascinated and intrigued by the blood-sucking myths and legends. Vampirism has been with us from earliest history and apparently few countries have escaped from having dread superstitions and evil deeds concerning those condemned to be known as vampires.

Masters explains why, in his opinion, this type of ‘undead’ tormentor is so deeply rooted in the dark unconscious corners of our minds. Also he comprehensively describes their activities around the world and the legends that accompany them. Included too are details of what Masters calls ‘real’ vampires. These include the infamous Gilles de Rais, the French mass murderer who was executed for killing hundreds of young boys and girls. The emphasis was on boys, for in the words of the author, ‘Gilles was a rampant homosexual’. The children after being kidnapped were not only sexually abused and tortured, but were used for orgies involving massive blood-letting.

Another ‘real’ vampire was Fritz Haarman, who was executed in Germany in 1923 for the murder of twenty-seven young boys between 12 and 18. Haarman was nicknamed the Hanover Vampire and was doubtless responsible for many other killings, for six hundred people disappeared in Hanover during his reign of bloody terror. Of these many were boys between 14 and 18, and a good proportion of these have been attributed to Haarman and his accomplice Hans Grans. Haarmann was a homosexual and after picking up his intended victim, he would take him back to his cook-shop. He killed these unfortunate boys by fatally biting them on the neck. The horror of his deeds were magnified when it was alleged that the flesh of his victims not eaten by himself, was served up for consumption at his cook-shop.

The book is full of amazing facts and information about these blood demons, and it ends with accounts of the most recent outbreaks of vampirism. Apart from historical accounts there are also chapters on the vampire in literature and the cinema. No area of the vampire phenomenon has been missed and the amount of research undertaken must have been considerable. Masters is also not without a sense of humour and irony, a perfect example being the title of the book. The Epilogue at the end reveals some of the author’s personal thoughts on the vampire.

In conclusion, a well documented book, unveiling a serious study of one of man’s oldest superstitions. I expect the sale of garlic flowers, wooden stakes, crucifixes and holy water to increase considerably if this book is bought by many people, especially if it is read in the dead of night.

Wildelife

THE UNRECORDED LIFE OF OSCAR WILDE by Rupert Croft-Cooke. Published by W.H. Allen. £3.50.

Of the many books written about Wilde, I find Rupert Croft-Cooke’s biography The Unrecorded Life of Oscar Wilde, the most revealing.

The descriptions of Wilde the man have often been confusing and the conflicting accounts of his infamous activities, usually from doubtful sources, have made the truth a difficult thing to find. Croft-Cooke discounts many of the numerous myths that have surrounded Wilde. As a result this book is a truthful, unsensationalised biography and with the details of what brought out the worst of hypocritical Victorian society, it all combines into an enlightening piece of writing.

I disagree with Croft-Cooke’s analysis of Wilde’s plays and other works. To me they are some of the most rewarding, humourous English literature and theatre written. Although the author does not deny Wilde’s obvious talent, he somewhat underrates it. But what is so enjoyable about this book is the honest, comprehensive study of this famous figure, without all the frills and the unsubstantiated stories.

Wilde was a fool, a vain one at that, when he brought Queensbury to the courts for libel, but the course fate took, apart from ruining him, was to show the world a disgusting example of ignorant, inhuman laws and the fickleness and shallowness of people thought to be friends. As a homosexual, Wilde was really no more outrageous than many other gays who lived in that same period. It certainly would not be difficult to find people today who enjoy and seek the same type of sexual fulfilment that he did, and in the same quantity.

The saying ‘you can do what you like as long as you don’t get (publicly) found out’, was as true then as it is today.

Wilde’s story is well known to most people, so there is no need for me to reprint it here. What I can do is praise Croft-Cooke’s book as an important contribution to the wealth of literature already available on him. I know that a number of Wilde-ologists will disagree with my opinions, but I argue that I would rather know about Oscar Wilde than about a mythical, scandalous hero.

Fireside Fantasy

ELRIC OF MELNIBONE by Michael Moorcock
Published by Hutchinson £2.00

Although Elric of Melnibone has only recently been published, those familiar with Michael Moorcock’s Elric cycle will be pleased to know that this is the first of that series. But even if you have not read any of the previous works, it will not stop your enjoyment of this highly recommendable fantasy story.

Melnibone is a mythical island city whose inhabitants have ruled the world for ten thousand years, but for the last five hundred of their history they have only ruled themselves. During this last period, the Young Kingdoms have emerged from the darkness of dictatorial rule and as a result the whole world is moving into a new era, leaving behind the traditions and ancient rituals that have survived for so long.

Elric is the 428th Emperor to sit upon the dragon throne. The tale is about how this red-eyed albino prince battles against fearful sorceries and treacheries to keep his throne. It is also concerned with Elric coming to terms with his worthy ideals, that seemingly have no place in the destiny of his ruling the crumbling, fabulously rich island city.

The heroic, noble deeds that eventually overcome the powers of evil and darkness and the usurpers who convert the Dragon Isle, is not enough for one to dismiss the sadness and tragedy of a world that is changing and will never see again the glories of the past. Elric’s dilemma is that he realised that change must come and the future holds no place for Melnibone and its ways.

It would be wrong of me to compare this book to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but the level to which the sympathetic reader can find himself involved in the story, creates strong similarities, between the two.

For those with an adventurous imagination, this is an ideal tale for reading in a comfortable armchair on a cold winters evening, in front of a blazing, friendly fire.