Spoken Word

<i>The Beatles: as it happened</i> <i>Harlequin</i> by Bernard Cornwell
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The Independent Culture

The Beatles: as it happened (Chrome Dreams, c3hrs, £15.99) There's a promising footnote on the cover of this 4CD set: "this product is not authorised by the Beatles, their estates, management or record companies. It is a spoken word product and contains no music". Whatever its provenance, this is a handsomely presented set: each CD is stamped with a classic photo of the Beatle whose bon mots it contains, and clamped inside the book-sized case is a 32 page booklet that documents the contexts of the interviews and has a wonderful range of photos from a shy, uniformly black-leathered quartet in1964 to striking shots of each individual Beatle in his prime. Listening to the CDs themselves, I was hugely impressed by the artful juxtaposition of snippets from the interviews. Each track has a theme - the origins of the group, which are the best songs, what effect the fans have, and so on. Inevitably, there's dissonance in the clashing backgrounds of recordings that have often come from h

The Beatles: as it happened (Chrome Dreams, c3hrs, £15.99) There's a promising footnote on the cover of this 4CD set: "this product is not authorised by the Beatles, their estates, management or record companies. It is a spoken word product and contains no music". Whatever its provenance, this is a handsomely presented set: each CD is stamped with a classic photo of the Beatle whose bon mots it contains, and clamped inside the book-sized case is a 32 page booklet that documents the contexts of the interviews and has a wonderful range of photos from a shy, uniformly black-leathered quartet in1964 to striking shots of each individual Beatle in his prime. Listening to the CDs themselves, I was hugely impressed by the artful juxtaposition of snippets from the interviews. Each track has a theme - the origins of the group, which are the best songs, what effect the fans have, and so on. Inevitably, there's dissonance in the clashing backgrounds of recordings that have often come from hand-held mikes in noisy situations, but the quality is remarkably good. No Beatle fan should be without this set; those to whom the Beatles are ancient history will also find it illuminating.

Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell, read by Tim Pigott-Smith (HarperCollins, 6hrs, £11.99) Bernard Cornwell is on top form in this new historical trilogy, set in the mid 14th century, when Edward III was intent on conquering France. The Harlequin is the sinister, hood-eyed villain of the piece, hell-bent on restoring the heretic fortunes of his family. Our hero is a priest's bye-blow, who is heading, a little unwillingly, for Oxford and the worship of God when the Harlequin's raid from Normandy on his Hampshire village leaves him with revenge scored on his heart. His vow to avenge his murdered father conveniently enables him to indulge his real love archery, and he joins up with a troop of archers who are about to join the siege of Caen, and will, at the end of this part of the story, find itself in desperate straits on the field of Crécy. But before then there has been plenty of historically accurate and drivingly forceful action - wine, women, and slaughter - presented in Cornwell's inimitable way as naturally and convincingly as if it were happening here and now. Reader Tim Pigott-Smith leaps into the saddle of this charging destrier of a story with a whoop of joy.

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