MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 2 of 2

The 2nd must listen audio book for Black History Month or any month is the mind breaking MUMBO JUMBO by the great Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Reed, who was honored with the MacArthur “genius” award, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and two-time nominee for the National Book Award. Mumbo Jumbo, a literary masterpiece, is an ironic and unconventional detectivestory infused with African-American cultural heritage. A strange psychic epidemic called “Jes Grew” is spreading through the country, affecting millions. PaPa LaBas, a HooDoo detective, is trying to find the origins of the JesGrew – not because he wants to cure it, but because he’s ready for a new kind of society.

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Composed of the memorable personalities and the little remembered tragedies and triumphs of the roaring 20s, MUMBO JUMBO weaves these truths into an overarching fictional narrative that goes from the beginning of civilization to the fall of man.

But the fiction is so peppered with essential truths, like the best of all fiction, that it will change fundamentally how you look at everything, from museums to curse words to bull fights. If MIDDLE PASSAGE is my favorite audio book, MUMBO JUMBO  I think , in opposition to its name, is the most enlightening and powerful audio book I’ve ever listened to, for the  way it opened up my mind to… broader definitions of history and broader definitions of ourselves. Magnificent.

Version:

Unabridged
Author: Ishmael Reed
Narrator: J. D. Jackson
Genres: Fiction & Literature
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published In: July 2005
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Get your copy here:

 

Mumbo Jumbo

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.

I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.

A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.

So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.

 

This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.

They are:

Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.

 

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I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.

The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.

I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.

In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.

Check them out at the links below:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!

Best Singer of the Day (And beyond): Mary Afi Usuah

I was on a spaghetti western kick today, looking for recommendation of the best Western and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, and by fits and starts I found myself getting completely sidetracked. I followed one of those offshoots to an album called 20 BEST CLASSICS EVER : FEMALE VOICES IN ITALIAN SOUNDTRACKS.

It was okay, peppered with songs from a varied assortment, from Sophia Loren to Grace Jones. I found it largely unexceptional save for one song called COWARD by a singer I had never heard of before.

The arrangement was exciting and unconventional, and her voice, sultry, supple, and seminal. Full of power, and gradiations, and range, and the breadth of the human experience. I found the lyrics wanting, but her voice,… she sang like a star looking to tell you what beauty it had seen, before exploding.

This unknown singer’s name was Mary Afi Usuah, a Nigerian sonstress rising out of that tumultuous age of civil and colonial revolutions. Musicians of the age knew her, knew her power of voice and spirit, and she backed up some of the best of the period from Led Zeppelin to Duke Ellington, however larger public recognition eluded her as the Nigerian/London/Rome and Naples trained Usuah, released only two album’s during her 13 year touring career.

I’m listening to that 1975 debut Album now, EKPENYONG ABASI. Largely in Nigerian, there are also songs in English. The album, beyond her beautiful voice, has some masterful playing/rhythms.

The debut is followed up by her 1978 album AFRICAN WOMAN. Both have thankully finally been reissued in CD and Vinyl after having been forgotten for decades. The great Mary Afi Usuah died before seeing these re-releases, but thankfully her music and her name is out there for a new generation to love and be inspired by. Snap these up while available.

Highly Recommended!!

Ekpenyong Abasi CD

African Woman

Beyond these two albums Ms Usuah has some fantastic singles sung in italian. She is only listed as Mary Afi for these releases. Well worth hunting them up on Amazon Music or Spotify.

Currently Listening to : Nate Parker’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION (2016) The Inspired by Album

This is a really odd post, it starts as a nice, fluffy love letter to an album I’m completely loving, and at the end goes completely off the rails and becomes a tirade.

I would say, read the warm, fluffy part, and leave the tirade alone. Especially if you know nothing about the Nate Parker controversy, or better yet care nothing for it.

I’ll give you ample warning when to stop reading.

Not sure where it came from, but it came.

My ire, and disgust with the media.

But it came.

And I thought it was honest, not necessarily right, but it was honest and deserved its say. So I left it.

You have been warned.

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I think what Nate Parker is doing with BIRTH OF A NATION, a hundred years after DW Griffith’s love song to racism by the same title, is nothing short of inspired. The audacity of it, the brilliance, the balls of it, Something Percival Everett does wonderfully in literature, overturning assumptions, and re-appropriating those parts of our shared consciousness, our story, that we have relegated too long… to the worst angels of our nature.

I can’t wait to see the movie when it breaks on wide release. It sounds completely on my page. However I haven’t seen the movie so the jury’s out, but I have listened to the soundtrack, and… I LOVE IT!!!!

LOVE IT!!!

To listen to this one album was reason enough to sign up for Spotify.

And speaking of Spotify, how did I get involved with it?

Well I’m not at all a social media type. But I like things that enrich us and after a month of using Spotify I have to say… I’m feeling enriched.

This is going to sound hyperbolic. And maybe it is. I’m too close, I can’t say. I can only say I’m listening to THE BIRTH OF A NATION as I write this and I’m feeling… thankful.

I think as we get older, and side-tracked by adult concerns, one thing that falls by the wayside, is our time to enjoy and follow and discover music. And I think that moving away from that discovery of new sounds, new voices, new visions, new wonders to buoy our souls, is when we begin to die,

I know, extreme.

But bear with me.

What if the world began with a song, and will end with one.

What if all we are is notes, in some unfathomable composition.

That would mean that what we feed on more than food is music. And it would mean what we starve for lack of, more than food, is music.

The lack of it, the relinquishing of it, perhaps just a little death.

A little death we let wedge its tip into our hearts.

And widen, till everything we are… escapes.

So I’m finding SPOTIFY, with its easy ability to allow me to find and listen to this music I would otherwise not find or find time for…I’m finding it, in my emotional state of listening to THE BIRTH OF A NATION, I’m finding it… of great value.

That said MP3 is great for sampling music, and SPOTIFY is great for introducing me to music, but great music deserves to be listened to on the highest quality CD you can find. I’ve spent a month on SPOTIFY and I have bought easily a couple hundred dollars in CDs.

I’d like to buy BIRTH OF A NATION but unfortunately it is not yet available on CD. But when it is, it’s going on constant rotation in my portable cd player.

It is that good.

 

 

“When they say make America great again, they mean make us all slaves again.”— WAR Nas

“No matter if you’re red, white, black, if you want freedom, then we’re all like Nat!”— WAR Nas

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OKAY STOP READING HERE!!!! Beyond this place, like the old maps once said… “There be Dragons!” I’m bat guano ranting in the next section, and it goes strange quickly, so if strange is not your friend, stop reading NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Oh and if you have a problem with Nate Parker, and are part of this new spate of using the media to lynch Black Men before trial, be it Bill Cosby or Nate Parker, or really going back 20 years to OJ Simpson, eff you and the horse you rode in on.

“Oh, but they are guilty, they did this, they did that.”

Then let a court prove it. Not the news, not talk shows, not soap boxes.

I don’t stand with lynch mobs, whether you wear a white hood and a shotgun, or a TV camera and a microphone.

Because for a lynch mob it’s never about innocence or guilt, it’s about creating an atmosphere of fear and horror and distrust, so they can sell a message, usually to keep a certain demographic in line.

Me, I’m not the message buying type. In a Nation where less than a hundred years ago, thousands of Black men (many of them war heroes) were lynched by ‘god fearing’ ‘people’ I’ll side with Black ‘villains’ before I side with a biased lynch mob media, everyday of the week, and twice on Sunday.

If they are guilty try them in the courts. Do not effing try them on your TV program, or radio show, or ‘news’ show, or at the water cooler, or on your lynching scaffold.

Until you’ve done the good of a Bill Cosby, or a Nate Parker, or even an OJ Simpson; don’t presume to judge their evil. That’s for a court room… your soul is not sinless enough for the task.

I say again…

Your soul… Christian, or Muslim, or Jew, or Hindu… is not sinless enough for the task.

I think any Presidential candidate you can name has done more evil than all three of those men combined. The pursuit of power is a bloody road, and the achieving of it even more so.

You kill one person (allegedly) they call you what, OJ? 🙂 You kill thousands of people, they call you Reagan or Bush.

Save your hate for mass murderers, but for other flawed men, and for yourself, pray to be better.

That is the justice of honest men, who are wise enough to know, there… but for the grace of God… go I.

 

Woah… that came out of nowhere.

But hey, that’s what you can expect in a nation that is honestly considering Trump for the highest office in the land. Derision. :).

God keep you all from rage, and keep you all from harm, and most of all god keep you from the folly of thinking you are bloody better than the poor slobs the media chooses to lynch today.

Amen.

If you like this crazy post, or just like the blog, support by checking out and purchasing the following cool and recommended items!

Sylvania SDVD7029 7″ Portable DVD Player-Swivel Screen (Certified Refurbished)
Kids these days, in this age of MP3s and Itunes and Spotify have no idea what CDs are, or how good they can sound. For $40 you can give them the gift of not only a portable CD player, but a portable DVD player.

But it’s as the former, a portable CD player, that currently interests us. In addition to the portable player you want to get them a couple CDs to play on it, and I recommend the following two:

It Follows (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) I really enjoyed IT FOLLOWS and the soundtrack on CD is equally brilliant, and stands on its own as just engaging and creepy and addictive listening experience.At once an influenced work, yet highly original in its own right, and sure to be influential. Disasterpeace hits a homerun with this score. Nice use of stereo imaging. Highly Recommended.

Sinister (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – I’m not a wimp, and am a huge fan of a variety of scores, especially the dark, strange ones, but I have to say this Christopher Young score is on a level all its own. I find it truly disturbing, and yes… scary. A huge achievement, and essential listening!

Azend Group Corp BDP-M1061 Maxmade Portable 10-Inch Blu-Ray DISC/DVD Player (Black)

Sony S1500RF Multi System Region Free Blu-Ray Disc DVD Player

31st Week of 2016 : THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

These are a few of my favorite things.
–Julie Andrews, THE SOUND OF MUSIC

As we get older, and see more revolutions of our world around our sun, hopefully we get wiser, and have from our experiences some wisdom to impart to those coming after us. Or wisdom that we wish someone had imparted to us.

Here is some of the wisdom I have gained, in terms of things you can actually purchase. Some our mundane and simplistic and frivolous, some in their simplicity were life changing and life improving.

I leave it for you to decide which is which.

Here then in the 31st Week, and Two Thousand and Sixteenth Year of a vaunted Lord, are a few of my favorite things:

Let’s start off with music….

serendip

SONS OF SERENDIP is the self titled first album by a 4 part band, that was one of the few reasons I actually sat through a season of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (Season 9, for those of you playing at home). Their sound is nothing short of awe inspiring.

The CD goes in and out of print, I have multiple copies, and it has become one of my go to gifts to give friends and family and as stocking stuffers.

Sons of Serendip

lspirit

Speaking of music, this year my better half and I spent Valentine’s Day in New York. We were primarily there because I had gotten tickets to hear Grammy winning Gregory Porter play at the legendary and venerable TOWN HALL (built by Suffragites seeking the vote). His Grammy Winning album LIQUID SPIRIT is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I’m pleased to say in-person, backed by his fantastic band, and the energy of a fun crowd, he is even better. Fantastic performance and a fun experience.

Get the album here…

Liquid Spirit

Now leaving the pleasures of hearing for a second, let’s discuss taste…

zerowater10

THE ZERO WATER 10 CUP PITCHER – I have found to be, after much searching, the ideal affordable water purification system to implement. Its design eliminates the ‘flow-around’ concern of traditional faucet mounted systems such as PUR or BRITA, in addition providing an easy built in test of the filters effectiveness that the consumer can easily periodically try. Also the size of this particular 10 cup pitcher makes it ideal for placement in the refrigerator, as opposed to the more space consuming 23 cup variety. However Amazon reviewer JLJ (his review is one of the first ones that will pop-up when you use my links below) offers excellent advice for using both pitchers in concert to extend the life of the filters by up to 5 times. A pretty cool idea I plan to try.

Chief complaints with this pitcher seem to be by people who leave it on their counter rather than refrigerating it. Room temperature water seems silly, so mine is always refrigerated. And every 2 months it is washed out with a water vinegar solution. I’ve had no issues.

Now this one, is not rated to remove fluoride, which is something I would like a filter to remove. But aside from a much more expensive distiller I haven’t yet found a pitcher variety that is proven to remove fluoride. Though I’m still on the hunt, and when I find one, I’ll use it as the prefilter stage, before going into the ZeroWater filter. In fact Invigorated Life has a pitcher that is rated to remove fluoride and is currently on-sale at Amazon (link below) so I plan to order that and try JLJ’s pre-filter idea using that and my Zero-Filter pitcher.

But for right now I’m quite happy with the quality of water I’ve been getting out of Zero-Water, as opposed to my forays with Pur, Brita, American Distillers, and Aquasana.

It’s affordable and makes it easy for the consumer to test.

ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher

ZeroWater ZD-018 23-Cup Water Dispenser and Filtration System

Invigorated Living Alkaline Water Pitcher Ionizer, 2 Long-Life Filters Included, 118 Ounces, 3.5 litres, Alkaline Filtered Water Purifier Machine, High pH Natural Filtration System, Removes Toxins, Chlorine, Enhances Immunity & Optimizes Health (Blue)

I don’t have cable. Have not had cable bill for over a decade. I was a cord cutter before that term was even coined. Before streaming I was content with over the air TV and DVDs.

Now with streaming I’ve reduced my DVD forays a bit, as well as consuming shows via over the air TV (though my digital antennae remains an always ready and appreciated backup).

Roku, my Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and my Digital Antennae… allow me to have TV… on my schedule, my way, while still combined being a fraction of a cable bill, while offering to my mind much more diverse and enjoyable content.

roku3

Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model)

As far as Roku, I would recommend avoiding the Roku Stick as that uses WiFi Direct, to communicate with your remote. At least using Roku 3 you can disable WiFi Direct and use a simple IR remote. WiFi Direct creates a piggybacking, potentially insecure network, on top of your existing wi-fi network, which is a totally unnecessary use of bandwidth. I would also avoid using any of the remotes that come with a mic built in. It’s just a privacy nightmare waiting to happen.

Here’s a suitable, simple IR replacement remote:

Gvirtue Replacement Lost Remote Control 1 Year Warranty Compatible with Roku Models Roku 1 (Lt, Hd); Roku 2 (Xd, Xs); Roku 3 (Do NOT Support Roku Streaming Stick, Hdmi Stick and Game)

And leaving the joys of viewing for a second to get back to taste…

Since eliminating sugar from my diet, to include fruit juices (yes that means no orange or cranberry or apple juice) and reducing my daily intake of carbs to under a 100 grams (cutting out most breads, rice, pastas, processed and sugary foods), I feel so much better.

Which I understand is an over-used refrain, but it happens to in my case be true.

And weight gain, or more specifically fat gain, which in a really simple fashion is unused carbohydrates/sugar metabolizing into fat, that process is hampered, as your body is weaned of the excesses that go to fat. In a couple months of a low carb diet, I have begun losing weight even without the benefit of an exercise routine. Once I get back into the gym routine I fully expect the changes to be even more impressive.

So yeah I wish I knew decades ago, what I know now, that excess sugar and carbs, are not your friend.

In addition to water, one of my main drinks these days is unsweetened tea. A concept that only a few short months ago I considered wholly unpalatable. But while most sugar substitutes (malitol, sorbitol, isomalt, even xylitol) are problematic in their own right, there are a couple substitutes whose benefits outweigh their potential drawbacks. Stevia, a plan based sweetener that is one of those that is firing on all cylinders and really changing the game for those who want to avoid sugars corroding effects while still getting sweetness with their drinks.

Since using it in conjunction with unsweetened tea 1/I’m spending a ton less on flavored drinks and 2/ sugary drinks are one of the main ways you overdo it on carbs, so it greatly helps me stay under my 100 carb a day limit.

So a win/win.

Try it for yourself here:

SweetDrops Liquid Stevia 4oz

And I want to wrap up this installment with a few books that I was very happy to have, or add new copies of, in my collection in 2016:

Long before most people had heard the name Zdzislaw Beksinski, I was singing his praises. I still am. If you own only one artbook, make it this one.

fantasticartbeksinski

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski

Another artist that relatively no one has heard of is Phil Kutno. I discovered his stunning pencil work in 2015, and purchased four of his prints, and there hasn’t been a day in 2016 where I haven’t spent time admiring and soaking up those prints. Unfortunately he does not have an art book or any prints available via Amazon. (I’ve been trying to talk him into doing like a Director’s Commentary on one of his prints for the blog… still trying to make it happen :))

The Flood -2011

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In the interim you can get prints direct from him here:

http://www.philkutnostudios.com/

Another artist whose work had an astonishing and visceral effect on me was Graham Foster. In 2014 while in Bermuda I had the chance to see the mural he did for the Commissioner’s House (which is the house overlooking the beautiful port of Bermuda, a wonderful architectural structure, it is history in Masonry and beam and floor, the remnants of a colonial age, now dimmed) up close and in person. It is spread over multiple floors and is the history of Bermuda told in verdant hues.

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hbermudaint3

hbermudaint

Even while walking up and down the steps to view this mammoth under taking, I was thinking…. ‘this needs to be in a book’. There was no way to consume what took him years to paint, in a quick tour of that historic house. Thankfully the artist collaborated with a writer, and made this massive mural, into a massive and informative book. I think it is one of the most essential art and history books of its kind.

And for the longest time upon returning to the states the book was not available anywhere. So nowadays whenever I come across a copy I buy it, as I like to give them out as presents when available, as well as having multiples in my own collection.

You can grab it for yourself while supplies last… here:

Hall of History Bermuda’s Story in Art

There are of course more of my favorite things to present, but that’s enough for this installment. Thanks for looking, and I hope I’ve helped to introduce you to your next…. favorite thing! 🙂

Amazon DEALS OF THE DAY! Best Soundtrack of 2016!?!

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT Soundtrack by Ennio Morricone – Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight Soundtrack

Quentin Tarantino’s eighth movie THE HATEFUL EIGHT, I saw just this previous December in its extended road show version. I saw it at a sumptuous venue, surrounded by real cinephiles, and quite liked the movie. I thought it had flaws, because while not a prude by any measure, I did think Quentin went a bit heavy on the profanity button.

Sometimes excess is not verisimilitude, being true to the framework of your film, sometimes it is just excess, and gets in the way of your film.

At some point it becomes like a kid who has just learned to curse, and says it all the time as if there is a maturity in that, when just the opposite is the truth. Over use of profanity is the mark of a juvenile aesthetic. I thought the movie was great, I loved the process and loved the ending and loved the visuals, the only detraction was… that juvenile aesthetic of Tarantino’s.

So it’s a movie I really liked, and want to call a great movie, but a great movie should also be re-watchable, and I’m uncertain how many times I would want to re-watch this. Portions of it sure. But to sit down and rewatch the whole thing? Revisit it, like I do with THE SEARCHERS or TOMBSTONE  or ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST… Not so much. That’s where the juvenile aesthetic works against a film, and works against Tarantino. These slight misgivings aside, It is still a solid B+ of a movie.

However one thing that I was not not conflicted on was Ennio Morricone’s score. Upon hearing this in the theater, I new I loved it and wanted to purchase the soundtrack when available. And I’m not a soundtrack guy, I buy sporadically, and seldom consider buying the score while watching a movie. So that tells you what type of impression this score made on me.

Today I received the Third Man Records stunning 2 LP Pressing of THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Wow! This may just be the collectible of the year!

It takes me back to the thrill I got of getting Records or Laser Discs, back in the day. That larger than life, elaborate and beautiful album cover, filled with extras, such as a booklet with liner notes, posters, photographs.

For around $30 while supplies last , it is a steal!

Morricone purportedly came out of retirement to do this score for Tarantino, and I’m glad he did, because he creates a score for the ages, to stand up to his decades of stunning, influential, and cinema shaping…. scores.

Now while the music is excellent, the pressing is also slightly hampered by Tarantino’s decision to add dialogue to the album. I would have preferred this album without Tarantino’s additions of dialog, and let this just be the music. However the dialogue tracks are easily skipped on CD. Not so easily skipped on the LP,  but the 2 album LP, is a collector’s dream, sporting a beautiful fold out gate fold cover,, and enough extras to make it worth any purchasers time to own both the CD and the LP.

Pick up both at the links below while in stock:

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight Soundtrack

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight CD

 

CD of the Day : Cyril Scott Lotus Land – Complete Piano Music, Vol. 5


lotusland

CD of the Day : Cyril Scott Lotus Land – Complete Piano Music, Vol. 5


“As a Cyril Scott fan, and concert pianist, I was just made aware of this album collection only last week. The renditions are great, and this is truly a momental undertaking to record Cyril Scott’s complete piano oeuvre. I am expanding my knowledge of his great genius.” –JR Spencer @ Amazon.com

“love the idea of receiving music that the world has not yet welcomed, but should have a long time ago! This complete collection is phenomminal and Leslie De Ath does an astound interpretation of Scott’s music. Thank you so very much for having this recording!!” — Clifton J. Warren @ Amazon.com

Order your copy here:

Cyril Scott: Lotus Land:, Complete Piano Music, Vol. 5