This originally appeared in Vol. 1, No. 2 of JUNK MAIL (June 1998) Click here to peruse
Rodney Reviews ...

The Corrs; Forgiven, Not Forgotten 
(1995; 143 Records/Lava Records) 

Connie Willis; Doomsday Book 
(1993; Spectra Books)

One of the core elements in the philosophy behind the Artist's Colony of Revelwood is a desire to share, appreciate, and revel in others' art. It is to this end that Rodney Reviews makes its debut in this issue of Junk Mail. (That and the fact that The General needed some filler, and I'll never pass up an opportunity to foist my personal tastes upon other people.)

While these two little gems are not what you'd call recent releases, I figure this band of loonies, many of whom think the phrase "current events" refers to, oh, the year 1450 or so, probably won't mind much. And even if you missed them on their initial release, they're still readily available, and worth giving a look-see (listen-hear?).

Forgiven, Not Forgotten is the first American release from the Corrs, a brother-and-sister (and sister, and sister) act from Ireland. They are hugely popular in Eire, having sold over 10 million copies of this CD there, but have yet to catch fire here in the states.  They did appear in a New Years Eve episode of BH 90210, and lead singer Andrea Corr is featured as the singing voice of the heroine Kayley in the new animated movie Quest for Camelot (brief Rodney Review - Excalibullshit, avoid it like the plague).

Andrea (vocals, tin whistle), along with sisters Sharon (vocals, violin) and Caroline (vocals, drums, bodhran), and brother Jim (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming), provide a mix of electrified traditional instrumentals and somewhat over-produced slick pop numbers (courtesy of Grammy-winning producer David Foster, who used to be in the band Skylark [remember "Wildflower"?] in the 70s, and has produced a real eclectic mix of artists, from Kenny G to Bruce Hornsby to the Vancouver Symphony, and oh yeah, the soundtrack to that Camelot Quest thing).

These Corr kids can sing (sorta like if Wilson-Phillips were good, and grew up in Dublin), and they can play - a jig called "The Minstrel Boy" and the following "Toss the Feathers" are the best things on the CD, which closes with "Erin Shore," a majestic piece that wouldn't have been out of place in the Rob Roy or Braveheart soundtracks. The vocal numbers are somewhat less impressive, but catchy, and poppy, and not too offensive. The Corr girls are also pretty easy on the eyes. I forced the General to listen to this on a recent drive, and he was fairly impressed. I am too. Their newest release (1998) is called Talk on Corners.

Connie Willis, erstwhile housewife and one of the most highly decorated science fiction writers alive (she has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than anyone else), worked for five years writing the masterful Doomsday Book. It is the story of Kivrin Engle, a history student at Oxford in 2054 who is sent back in time to research an English village in 1320.

By some slippage in the time net, she arrives 28 years late, smack in the middle of the onslaught of the Black Death (which, according to Willis, they actually called "the blue sickness").

The story alternates between the Oxford History department's efforts at bringing her back (complicated by a rampant outbreak of a near-deadly flu in 2054), and her gut-wrenching experiences in the small village, devastated, as she watches, by the Bubonic plague.

These and other well-crafted subplots move the story along at an urgent pace.  It's a stunning saga of suffering and hope, that paints an all too realistic picture of what things were really like in the Middle Ages; a refreshing reality check to remind us all that life was not all knights, damsels, jesters, pipes and pints. Just the thing for my fellow citizens of Revelwood! Connie's latest work, To Say Nothing of the Dog, continues the adventures of the Oxford time travelers - this time in a more upbeat Victorian era romp.

You'll enjoy this one too.

Until next time ...

Brother Rodney