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Book Review: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

by Lang Reid

This week we have an updated version of the initial year 2000 publication of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (ISBN 0-452-28391-4) written by investigative journalist Greg Palast. The back cover almost says it all, promising to give the readers - “How Bush killed the FBI’s investigation of the financing of terrorist organizations by Saudi Arabia, - How the Bush family stole the election in Florida, - How Enron cheated, lied, and swindled its way into an energy monopoly.”

If that is not enough, or too parochially American, there are sections dealing with Tony Blair’s New Labour in the UK, the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Greg Palast is a journalist, first and foremost, and not a writer. The book is written in what I would call “hip” journalese, racy and forthright, but the style suits the subject matter. You want to know what happened next, and want it now. The fact that some pages of the book took months in dry stuffy research does not matter. Palast gives it to you - now - and in your face too.

The first chapter claims to give the answer as to who really elected George Dubya Bush - two CD-ROM disks taken from the computers of the Florida Secretary of State. “Once decoded and flowed into a database, they make for interesting, if chilling, reading. They tell us how our president was elected, and it wasn’t by the voters.” Apparently 57,700 names are on those CD’s. Names of people who were removed illegally from the electoral rolls. Names of people who would not have voted for George Dubya.

From there you go through another seven chapters of exposes covering politicians, big business, the CIA, gunboat and ginboat diplomacy and everything in the grab bag of dirty tricks. In some ways, this is the ultimate in “dirty” books.

The review copy was supplied by Bookazine, and had an RRP of 595 baht. It is a book that you need to have handy to silence those who imagine that corruption is something that was invented in the mystic orient! Or for those people with exceptionally poor vision who cannot see beyond the smokescreen of politically correct (and sanctioned) journalism.

Palast is a brave writer, and I just hope he lives long enough to blow the whistle on a few more of the leaders of our democracies and captains of industry! Democratically elected or otherwise. The cover is of a strangely rough texture, which after reading this book is probably because it is made of recycled asbestos, the only material which could keep his inflammatory words together. Palast makes no secret of his desire to see those who have unfairly profited, get their truly just rewards. The fact that these can be the biggest of big names does not daunt him, and ways of becoming activated are given at the end of the book. He carries not a smoking gun, but a smoking pen! If you have ever felt that you have been ripped off by governments, big business or corporate bodies, then this book is for you. Get it.

Music CD Reviews: ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ - Elton John

by Mott the Dog

5 stars *****

After years of session work and song writing for other people, Reginald Dwight changed his name to Elton John and formed a song writing partnership with a certain Bernie Taupin (Elton wrote the music to Taupin’s lyrics). After the release of two studio albums, they hit pay dirt with the release of this, their third album (1971), and their first hit single ‘Your Song’, taken from the previous self-titled album.

Surprisingly there were no singles taken from this collection, taking Elton John on a wondrous journey into superstardom that was to spiral out of control. But for now the next 4 studio albums: ‘Madman Across The Water’, ‘Honky Chateau’, ‘Don’t shoot me I’m only the Piano Player’, and the double ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ were all landmark albums in the world of rock. Unfortunately, by the time of Elton’s 9th studio album ‘Captain Fantastic’, and the ‘Dirt Brown Cowboys’, it had all gone terribly wrong with massive egos taking over, all band members being fired and the partnership with Bernie Taupin terminated. The live shows were still great, but Elton’s album output throughout the eighties and nineties was tedious at best, consisting mainly of sub-Chicago plod-rock, before a welcome return to form last year with ‘Songs from the West Coast’, which, not surprisingly, coincided with him reuniting with Bernie Taupin and his old band mates, Nigel Olsson and Davy Johnstone.

But, back in 1970 with ‘Tumbleweed Connection’, this was the first time a road band as such had been used in the studio, making it more the Elton John band rather than just Elton on his own. Nigel Olson had been offered the drum stool whilst in Brit Heavy Rockers Uriah Heep but, seeing the potential, made the job his own. He was joined by the amazing Dee Murray on bass, and the job that would soon be filled by Davey Johnstone was done by Caleb Quaye of label mates Hookfoot for these sessions.

It really was a case of everything was in position for world domination.

The album opens up with the blues rock of ‘Ballad of a well-known Gun’, the story of a gunslinger reaching the end of the road. From there on out you are taken on a wonderful musical journey through the album’s original ten songs, with a recurring wild west of America theme.

At all times the musicianship and song writing are faultless, with Elton putting every ounce of emotion into Bernie’s lyrics. The production by Gus Dudgeon was to set standards for years to come, and Paul Buckmaster’s arrangements of the musical scores, both with band and strings, is nothing short of perfection, whether on epics like ‘Burn Down The Mission’ (an amazing live version, which was laid down with just piano, bass, and drums on the band’s live album 17.11.70, where you can actually hear Elton kick his piano stool away in the excitement), or on the tender ‘Love Song’. This only song on the album not written by John/Taupin, is a beautiful Lesley Duncan song, which Lesley also sings on this version. But it is when Elton sits at the piano alone to regale us with ‘Talking Old Soldiers’ that his talent really stands out. This story of an old warrior looking back on his youth whilst addressing a group of youngsters, is a shot straight at the heart.

“I know what they are saying, son

There goes old mad Joe again

Well, I maybe mad at that, I’ve seem enough

To make a man go out his brains”

The re-mastered edition of Tumbleweed connection for CD has two bonus tracks ‘Old Man’s Shoes’, the b-side to ‘Your Song’, which fits in perfectly with the rest of these songs. But the real treat is left till last, the original recording of the next album’s title track ‘Mad Man Across The Water’, featuring Mick Ronson on lead guitar (Ronson was just about to hit the big time himself as lead guitarist and musical director for David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band). It is a completely guitar based version clocking in at nearly nine minutes with the piano-bass-drum format used as a rhythm section, whilst Ronson lays down some rip-roaring lead axe. He dominates this song in the same way he did on David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Day Dream’, which he made his own. The price of the CD is worth it for this song alone.

Add to this the artwork included in the sixteen page booklet, ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ is a real gem.


Bernie Taupin - Lyrics

Elton John - Keyboards & Vocals

Paul Buckmaster - Arranger

Gus Dudgeon - Producer

Robin Geoffrey Cable - Engineer

Nigel Olsson - Drums and Backing Vocals

Lesley Duncan - Backing Vocals and Composer of ‘Love Song’

Caleb Quaye - Lead and Acoustic Guitars

Dee Murray - Bass and Backing Vocals

Dave Glover - Bass Guitar

Ian Duck - Harmonica

Roger Pope - Drums and Percussion

Track Listing

1. Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun

2. Come Down In Time

3. Country Comfort

4. Son Of Your Father

5. My Father’s Gun

6. Where To Now St. Peter?

7. Love Song

8. Amoreena

9. Talking Old Soldiers

10. Burn Down The Mission

11. Into The Old Man’s Shoes

12. Madman Across The Water (Original Version)

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]