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Book Review

Mott's CD review

Movie Review

Book Review: Blast from the past

by Lang Reid

Published in 1988, this paperback comes from the very talented Ben Elton, a successful play writer, comedian and British author. This is the fifth in Elton’s novels and is set in today, with flashbacks to the swinging ’80s with the culture and counterculture of that era. A time populated by the Thatcherites and anti-Thatcherites.

The book covers a relationship between two people, one within which there had been a sixteen year hiatus. He appeared to have done so well while she had remained somewhat out of step with reality for so long that she was almost the epitome of abject failure. They are also opposites in political leanings and social attributes. That opposites attract is well known, and this novel hinges on that for much of its plot.

In a supporting role there is a troubled and disturbed psychotic, whose thoughts and mental gymnastics are very well expressed by Elton. The author also describes with precision the effects this has on the “normal” people around him. That a satirical comedian can have such an insight is another aspect that makes the book intriguing.

The Elton humour comes naturally forward with many amusing concepts. In describing British coffee Elton writes, “This dark and bitter brew would be accompanied by a small, sealed plastic pot of white liquid marked ‘UHT Cream’ which Jack knew to have been squeezed straight from the colon of a sick seagull.” Or while the principal characters in the book are discussing his tattoo, Polly says, “That first time. When I saw that disgusting tattoo of yours. Kill everyone and everything horribly or whatever it said.” “Death or Glory,” Jack corrected her. “I know you thought it juvenile, Polly, but I’m in the army. It’s our regimental motto.” She replied, “I used to work for Tesco’s but I haven’t got ‘Great quality at prices you can afford’ written across my arse.” With the Thai penchant for the ancient art of tattooing, I must ask the check-out girl next time I am in Tesco-Lotus!

The to-ing and fro-ing with the flashbacks I personally find annoying after a while, although the interspacing small chapters with the psychotic support character does fit better, in my opinion.

The denouement takes a very surprising twist, which I will not reveal in this review - and no, the butler didn’t do it! Whilst it is a work of fiction, there are enough references to real people, and the plot is, in the main, believable enough to make the reader feel that he or she is reading a factual piece of history. In fact, some real life stories from the period are much less believable.

The review copy was obtained from Friendship Supermarket on South Pattaya Road for 327 baht, and was selected while waiting in the check-out queue. The bright cover certainly attracted the eye, and as an airport novel it will or rather, has done well. It was not a book that had to be read in one sitting. I enjoyed it, but felt it was a little light-weight in places, but overall a good read.

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Mott’s CD review:

Eric Burdon - Declares “War”

by Mott the Dog

***** 5 Stars Rating.

“We the people have declared war against the people for the right to love each other”.

Personally I prefer the second title, but then record companies can be such picky people.

Eric Burdon & War was one of those unstable combinations that throws out sparks and heat even as it heads toward meltdown. Looking back it seems amazing that the team up of a British Blues / rock singer, a freaked out Danish harmonica player and an L.A. - based R & B / Jazz / Latin sextet came together at all. Their mixture of ethnic background & musical influences created a sound that was as hard to classify as exciting as it was to listen to. Eric Burden & War ran that fine line between genius & total excess as their star blazed a fluorescent trail across the musical stratosphere.

The brief career only lasted two years & two albums (1969 - 71). During this brief time together they performed with a sense of daring, risk, imagination, & adventure.

“Eric Burdon declares War” was the first & most successful of the two albums (the other “Black Man’s Burdon” being released the following year). Recorded after nearly a year of touring, the band went in and laid down what they were playing on stage with very little overdubs & plenty of ad-libbing.

The music captures the kinetic inter play between Burdon & his band mates. Their ability to communicate with and improvise off each other gives “Declares War” its power & its glory. The tension between Burdon’s unpredictable nature, War’s polished instrumental skills, and Lee Oskar’s reckless jamming harmonica runs through the music.

Burdon was an artist with a definite message, and working with a multi-racial band was part of his statement. “War” wasn’t a name to be chosen lightly in 1969 (or now come to that); it acknowledged both cultural & artistic conflicts & challenged audiences to deal with such issues, at least that’s my slant looking at the moniker’s meaning.

The free flowing approach of the album starts immediately with first cut “The Vision Of Rassan”. With its name checks to Charlie Parker & John Coltrane, this was the band’s tribute to jazz reed player Roland Kirk, and wets the musical palate for what is to come.

From there, Burdon leads the band into an expanded exploratory version of Tobacco Road, that had previously been a hit for the Nashville Teens, but not much of their version remains as Burdon uses the lyrics as a springboard for an odd erotic sermon, nailed down by War’s tight supporting play.

The album’s best known track “Spill The Wine” is a Latin tinged daydream of a song which became a number 3 in the U.S.A & a number one in the rest of the world.

“Mother Earth”, an old blues standard, gives us the main theme for the 13 minutes of “Blues For Memphis Slim”. As the band coasts along, Burdon expounds upon sex, birth & morality, stepping aside to allow Charles Miller & then Lee Oskar to strut their stuff.

The album concludes with the vocal workout “Your No Stranger”, a nice return to normality after what has gone before.

The following year the partnership dissolved, fortunately the music they recorded survives, a remarkable combination of divergent ancestries and united talents.

Harold Brown - drums
Dee Allen - conga, percussion
Bee Bee Dickerson - bass, vocal
Howard Scott - guitar, vocal
Lee Oskar - harmonica
Charles Miller - tenor sax, flute
Lonnie Jordan - organ, piano
Eric Burdon - lead vocals

Track Listing

1. The Vision Of Rassan
2. Tobacco Road
3. Spill The Wine
4. Blues For Memphis Slim
5. You’re No Stranger

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Movie Review: Pavillion of Women

By Poppy

The setting is China, 1938, where the wealthy, landed Wu family lives within a large compound surrounded by canals. They have a luxurious and peaceful lifestyle. Madame Wu (Luo Yan) is a faithful wife, producing heirs for the Wu family and controlling the house staff with skill and efficiency. Outside the walls of the Wu estate, the world is in chaos. The Second World War rages and the Japanese invasion is imminent.

Madame Wu is about to be 40 and a banquet is organised but on the day of her birthday she is summoned to the bedside of her best friend, Madame Kang (Amy Hill) who is dying in childbirth. Madame Kang is saved by an American missionary doctor, Andre (Willem Dafoe). She returns home to the banquet in time to give her husband a surprise gift, a young concubine (Yi Ding). She presents the girl to him explaining to her guests, “He deserves someone younger.”

Everyone is positively gob smacked! A wife never arranges her own replacement. Concubinage is a male prerogative, grudgingly tolerated by women. Chiuming inherits responsibility for servicing Mr. Wu. At last free of the sexual obligations of her loveless marriage, and with the her son Fengmo (John Cho) on his way to an arranged marriage of his own, Madame Wu is ready to enter into a life with spiritual freedom.

But Madame Wu’s plans soon backfire and then the fun begins. When Japanese forces finally attack the town, their traditional way of life is shattered forever and amidst the carnage, Father Andre is forced to make a fatal, tragic choice, in order to save the lives of his loved ones.

Something for everyone in this movie.

Directed by Yim Ho

Cast: Luo Yan as Madame Wu, Willem Dafoe as Andre, Amy Hill as Madame Kang, Yi Ding as Chiuming, Shek Sau as Mr. Wu, Koh Chieng Mun as Ying

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