What You Have Been Reading – The Top 10 posts of 2016

Christmas and New Year plays odd tricks with you.  First day back at work yesterday and on journey home it seemed as if the festive season was ages ago.  I was surprised to still see the twinkling lights from the bus and even more so when I got home to see the Christmas tree and decorations all up.  It only takes a couple of days of the New Year to get us all moving on………..

But before I crack on fully with 2017 I want to take just one more retrospective look at 2016.  Personally it was pretty momentous.  At the start of the year I was getting myself prepared for a 10th season at my guest house on the Isle of Wight.  Well, since then, books have taken over.  Following months of uncertainty the guest house has been sold and I have moved to a new house in the same town and have begun working with books (as well as being surrounded by them at home) working within the Isle Of Wight Library Service.  The reviews, interviews and magazine assignments have kept coming and at the times of upheaval, of not knowing where I would be living, of winding the business up, of dealing with the loss of close family members reading has very much kept me sane.  If insanity was threatened it was due to BT Open Reach and EE my internet providers who took forever between them to get me a phone line and internet access – but that’s all sorted now and after a few years of feeling life was on a bit of a plateau 2017 feels a very positive change of year.

I’m delighted with the way reviewsrevues.com has gone from strength to strength (despite erratic postings towards the end of the year- thanks again for making this so difficult, BT).  In fact compared to last year there has been an astonishing 76% rise in traffic on the site.  That’s thanks to you all reading this.  Let’s finish 2016 off with a countdown of your ten most read of the 158 posts I published during the year. Just click on the links to revisit the full reviews.

10. The Author Strikes Back- Benita Jayne – Author of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”and old school chum makes it into the Top 10 with our interview held back in July

9. The Author Strikes Back – Chris Whitaker – The most read of the author interviews I’ve published on here this year.  Chris had to put up with me interviewing him twice, once for here and once for the Nudge site.  He was charming both times.

8. Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker Showing that the author interviews drive traffic to the original review.  Chris’ crime debut was also a hit on Nudge which has led to a nomination for the Book Noir book of the year.  If you enjoyed his book you can register your appreciation here.

7. The Evenings – Gerard Reve– I had quite a lot of reservations about this book which I reviewed in October but the review of this Dutch translation has attracted a lot of attention.

6. The Rovers – Sky 1 football themed comedy with Craig Cash and Sue Johnston.  This was funny and attracted enough reads on here to suggest a second series is a serious proposition.

5. Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Sky Arts one-off programme on the perils for a first-time novelist.  A real eye-opener.

4. Make! Craft Britain – Another one-off programme, this time on BBC4.  There’s a lot of crafters out there (and yes I did finish making my Clanger)

3. Lets Groove- The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire– I actually posted this in October 2015 but the lasting legacy of this group and the sad passing of Maurice White (one of the seemingly vast number of celebrities who were imporant to me who died in 2016) has ensured that this has had high readership figures throughout the year.

2. Scott and Bailey – ITV series.  People seemed to be facing up to the disappointment of there being apparently no more by reading about it.  I’ll say it again…  I love Scott and Bailey.



1.The Level – ITV.  My review of this appeared after the first episode at the start of October.  I moved not long after and lost track of reviewsrevues for a time.  I was astonished to see that views for this had gone through the roof whilst I was doing other things and it is the most read review  on here by a clear mile.  Over 1300 views ahead of the number 2 read.  The series started promisingly but lost its way a little at times but the readers keep coming.  There’s certainly a lot of interest in this series, ITV, if you are thinking of recommissioning or looking towards overseas sales.


Right. that’s enough 2016.  Let’s get on with 2017!

After The Love Has Gone – A Tribute To Maurice White

It does seem we are losing a lot of musical legends recently.  Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of founding member of Earth Wind and Fire, Maurice White.  It has been announced that he has died at the age of 74 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease.  Readers of my 100 Essential CD countdown will know how much I have loved Earth Wind & Fire over the years and how highly I rate their 1977 album “All N All” and their 1996 best of compilation “Let’s Groove“.  Maurice has been responsible over the years for a great body of work including my all time favourite single “Fantasy” which he produced and co-wrote.

maurice white

Even back in the 70’s Maurice didn’t really look like a pop star but squeeze him into a tight brightly coloured  spangly one piece suit and he became as cool as you like.  One of my musical regrets is that I never saw Maurice and EW&F perform live in their heyday.  The shows were always a grand spectacle and put back the showmanship in live performance which at the time was becoming overblown by stadium rock acts and on the other side of the coin minimalist punk performances.  Earth Wind and Fire ensured that disco was cool and their music still fills dance floors today.


Maurice’s song-writing and production work also benefited artists such as Deniece Williams, Jennifer Holliday and the Emotions.  He was a major talent in the music business for many years and will be greatly missed.

Chris Rizak over on the SoulTracks site in his obituary states “his influence on popular music is difficult to overstate. As a songwriter, producer, arranger and singer, he was elite. As a visionary who wholeheartedly believed in the power of music to tell truths, help lives and transform society, he was one of a kind”. I think that just about sums Maurice White up perfectly.


To remember this man I have chosen a video which comes from the big selling 1979 album “I Am” on which he turns in a superb lead vocal performance and is one of the great Earth Wind & Fire ballads

Maurice White ( 1941- 2016) Rest in peace


100 Essential CDs – Number 22 –All N All – Earth Wind & Fire


All N All- Earth Wind & Fire (CBS1977)

UK Chart Position – 13

US Chart Position – 3



This, the 8th Studio album by the legendary soul group saw them at the peak of their creative powers. Here they adopted the mantle of Funk visionaries which they had been dabbling with for some time giving them an instant strong identity and set them, like George Clinton’s Parliament, apart from the other soul and funk groups . The look of the album, with its stunning cover spoke of Egyptian mysticism; stage costumes became robes; the instrumentation could explore Eastern, South American and African influences and the lyrics could embrace higher powers to the point of obscurity. This album showed the group off as a brand more than ever before and the record-buying public lapped it up. They got away with all this because a) it was 1977 and b) the music was stunningly good.



In the USA the huge commercial breakthrough came with 1975’s “That’s The Way Of The World” a number 1 album which spawned a number 1 single “Shining Star”. We, in the UK were much later in embracing this group. This was the first of their albums to crack the UK Top 40 (whereas in the US it was their 5th). Although I had been aware of some of their other singles, especially “Saturday Night” which had been their first UK Top 20 hit in 1977, this was their first album of theirs that I bought and it blew me away. For most of the rest of the 70’s and beyond it seemed to be on repeat play. Vocally and instrumentally it is superb and as a group vocal performance it must rate as one of the greatest ever. The uptempo songs speak of mystical things, which can be seen now as a little new-agey and trite (although their sound is outstanding) the ballads are  love songs that have stood the test of time extremely well. This album also features what is probably my all time favourite single, my ultimate desert island disc (but more of that later).



One thing that needs to be remembered about EW&F is that despite the gloss and high production values they could also be amongst the very best funk groups and there are examples of this on “All N’All”. Repetitive chants, the steady groove, stabbing brass, growling vocals combine the sheen with an all out earthiness which was hard for others to emulate.

The Masters behind the EW&F sound was founding member and producer Maurice White who with his brother Verdine (from Chicago, Illinois) co-wrote most of the songs. The album starts off conceptually very deep with the lead single “Serpentine Fire” (US#13). This metaphor for creative energy is linked to a concept in yoga, relating to the shape of the spine. As Maurice himself said;

“Nobody knows what I’m talking about, but a lot of kids go out and look it up and it immediately expands their consciousness.”

This is a sharp, funky track with a myriad of brass. Lyrically, it’s a little convoluted;

“Oh as long as you’re near there is no fear of victory

But when I’m away influences stray my mind to disagree”


No, I’m not sure either, but in the US this was the biggest single off the album aided by its tight brass and excellent vocal harmonies.

We remain with the obscure with the cosmic “Jupiter” (UK#41) which perhaps needs to be put in context. Sci-Fi was big in the mid 70’s with “Star Wars” etc. Just the year before on his seminal “Songs In The Key Of Life” Stevie Wonder was extolling the virtues of living on Saturn and around the same time as this even the Carpenters were conversing with aliens. Earth Wind & Fire were here having their own “Close Encounter” with a celestial being . Jupiter has descended to earth:

“To my surprise there stood a man of age and mystery

His name was Jupiter and he came to visit me.”

 The reason for this visit? To present a flower! Lyrically dubious, but it is a hot mix of scratchy brass and driving vocals which always makes it a joy to listen to.

The third slab of funk on the album is “Magic Mind” (UK#54) a good but unsensational track which feels more orthodox than the other uptempo tracks. There’s also a couple of interludes consisting of lovely harmonies, scatting vocals and unusual instruments although the “bub-a-bub-a-wees” of “Brazilian Rhyme” can bring back for UK listeners of a certain age memories of “Bill And Ben- The Flowerpot Men”! This track morphs into the frantic Latin instrumental “Runnin’” which hurtles along to an odd break-down at the end.

On the next album we would have the ballad which became one of their biggest hits but on “All N’All” the three slower tempo songs are all of very high quality. “Love’s Holiday” sees a sterling vocal performance from Maurice White. It is unashamedly romantic and imparts a warm glow. The album’s closer “Be Ever Wonderful” has a beautiful flute introduction and also features White’s fine tenor voice.


I cannot mention the two remaining tracks without highlighting something else which made Earth Wind and Fire stand out from the crowd – the voice of one Philip Bailey. This man could sing like an angel and he proves it on the superb “I’ll Write A Song For You”. This a tender love song with poetic lyrics which work so well;

“Sounds never dissipate, they only recreate

in another place.

There in your silent night

joy of a song’s delight

I write a song for you”

 It is sensitive and beautifully performed and towards the end Bailey’s vocals soar into the stratosphere (keeping the outer space theme going) to illustrate a falsetto with great range, power and the capability of conveying many emotions. This is perhaps the finest falsetto in pop. (Russell Thompkins Jnr of The Stylistics had a beautifully warm falsetto but it tended to be more on a level). Bailey here pushes his to breaking point in the fade-out of this extraordinary track. Patti Labelle, another vocalist with the ability to soar up to the heavens covered this on her 2005 “Classic Moments” CD, but this is one occasion where the Diva is runner-up in the vocal stakes.

Under any normal circumstances this would be my favourite track on the album but I am saving the best until last here. “All N’All’s” second track “Fantasy” (UK#14, US#32). This is arguably my very favourite single of all time. Tempo-wise it is mid-way between the ballads and out and out funkers but has the merits of both. Lyrically, it encompasses the themes of the album without veering too far into obscurity and vocally it is just superb. From its opening notes it hits a punch and here the mysticism of the lyrics enhance so it feels as if you are listening to something fundamentally important, something which addresses the subconscious. Before I lapse into new agey-ness I need to say that this track for me is musical perfection and I don’t think a group has ever performed as tightly or as superbly as Earth Wind & Fire do in this 4 min 39 second track. I have never understood the moderate chart positions on both sides of the Atlantic and certainly never understood that a higher chart position (UK number 5) was attained by a cover version in 1990 by Italian house group Black Box.

Follow-up album “I Am” was also very strong, although the tracks felt a little safer. It was however a bigger commercial success, but from that point on things began to fall away for the group as subsequent albums lacked the magic of their best and sales began to slump. There were still some great singles to come, however.  I never go very long without playing this CD and reliving this great group at their creative peak.

At time of writing this CD can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk used from £2.83. It can be downloaded for £5.99. American listeners can buy new from $5.99 and used from $3.00 and as a download for $9.99.   In the UK it is available to stream from Spotify.