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Book Review: Lanna Style - Art & Design of Northern Thailand

by Lang Reid

This week’s book, Lanna Style - Art & Design of Northern Thailand (ISBN 974-872-117-5) is a coffee table heavyweight from Asia Books. In its second printing since its release in 2000, it is a cooperative effort between photographer Ping Amranand, a freelance photographer working in the US and Thailand, William Warren, the more than 40 year long stay American ex-pat and author of many quality books on Thailand subjects and Paothong Thongchua, an art historian and academic at Thammasat University at the time of publishing.

The opening pages of the book are a stunning selection of photographs, beginning with two young monks pegging out their saffron laundry. A visual invitation to keep turning the pages.

There are nine sections, including a glossary at the end of the book, with explanations of many ‘ethnic’ terms. The introduction leads the reader through the early Lanna history and then consolidation under King Mangrai (AKA Mengrai), with some old lithographs as illustrations of the days of yore.

The following chapter covers the Haripunchai era, with historical snippets, backed up with photographs of edifices still extant today, and dating back to the 8th century. This leads into the founding of the Lanna kingdom, and the reader is left to marvel at the foresight of King Mangrai, who was prepared to mount a very slow and insidious campaign to gain the upper hand over Haripunchai, capturing its artisans. He also took more artisans from Pegu in Burma, and by 1296 AD began building the city of Chiang Mai, known as the ‘New City’.

The founding of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is explained, with the delightful tale of the elephant carrying Buddha relics actually kneeling down and trumpeting to indicate the site where the wat should be built.

The wealth of history in the Lanna kingdoms can be seen by the fact that the Eighth World Buddhist Council was actually held in Chiang Mai in 1455 in Wat Ched Yod, a monastery specially commissioned by King Tilokaraja.

The history of the Lanna region includes the Burmese domination and the subsequent defeat of the Burmese in 1774, at a time when the southern King of Thailand also had his hands full with the neighbour, Burma.

There is just so much in this book, not only the history, but also stunning pictorial records, to make this a superb publication covering the north of Thailand.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine and has an RRP of 1,995 baht. It is a very large book measuring 27 cm by 27 cm and well over 2 cm thick. Printed on quality stock, it is the type of ‘art’ book one does leave on coffee tables; however, this is a book that should be shown to visitors to this country to give them an appreciation of the Lanna kingdom that once was, and the reasons for the proud traditions of the Lanna peoples. I found it a fascinating book and despite the hefty purchase price, this book is an investment in Lanna history, just as much as it is a reference book. Get it.


Music CD Reviews: T. Rex - Electric Warrior

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

2 Stars **

For three years, from 1970 to 1973, Glam-Rock rode the crest of a wave in the British Charts, and first out of the traps, and top of the ladder throughout these years was Marc Bolan. With his corkscrew hair, elfin looks, and colorful glam rags, he was every teenage girl’s dream. He was leading his Electric Warriors to two #1 albums, four #1 singles, and eight other top five singles, including two tours of America, one of Asia, and continuous touring in Europe.

Everywhere, the whole band was greeted on stage by mania from a barrage of young girls not seen (or heard) since the days of Liverpool’s Fab Four. All concerts were sellouts, and a series of dates at London’s Wembley Arena were being filmed as the movie ‘Born to Boogie’, directed by none other than Ringo Starr. It’s quite strange to see Ringo standing there in the midst of all these screaming females without one of them recognizing him. It was only eight years earlier that he had been the object of their desire.

Glam Rock came in many different shades, the pre-packed article being one. The Chinn/Chapman writing partnership looked after at least four of the most successful acts. Sweet, with ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’, Mud with ‘Tiger Feet’ and ‘Lonely this Christmas’, Suzi Quatro (one for the boys) with ‘Can the Can’ and ‘Devil Gate Drive’. Smokie with ‘Living Next Door To Alice’ (yes, the original version of that other version of ‘Alice’) and ‘I’ll Meet You at Midnight’. To keep all these bands going they must have been turning out a song a day.

Then there were the bands that wrote their own songs. T. Rex with ‘Hot Love’, and ‘Ride a White Swan’, Slade with ‘Coz I Luv You’ and ‘Mama We’re All Crazee Now’ (all of Slade’s songs were deliberately misspelt - well I think it was deliberate), Wizzard with ‘Ballpark Incident’ and ‘See My Baby Jive’, or Cockney Rebel with ‘Judy Teen’ and ‘Come Up And See Me Sometime’.

Some major rock bands used the Glam Rock scene as a kick start to their careers, like Mott the Hoople, who got their first big break in 1972, with the David Bowie penned ‘All The Young Dudes’ after which they wrote a couple of Glam Rock classics themselves, ‘Roll Away The Stone’, and ‘All The Way From Memphis’. So without Glam Rock I may well have been called ‘Spot’, ‘Rover’, or something just as common.

Unfortunately for most of the bands not in the last category, it was very hard to forge out a long lasting career. Because, although they were all able to keep up the string of hit singles for Glam Rock’s three year duration, none of them were able to come up with whole albums that matched the glories.

Not really surprising for the Chinn/Chapman bands. I mean, how could the songwriters keep coming up with singles for them all, let alone album tracks?

Sadly, such was the case with Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex. Although the singles were all ‘Solid Gold, Easy Action’, on his albums, you got an awful lot of swine before you got the pearls. The album in question, ‘Electric Warrior’, was when Bolan was at the height of his popularity, being preceded by two #1 singles in ‘Hot Love’ and ‘Get It On’. The latter of which is included in this set. It was his breakthrough song in the United States of America, but re-titled ‘Bang a Gong’.

‘Electric Warrior’ was released in September 1971 going straight into the #1 slot, followed by another single in November, ‘Jeepster’, which still got to #2 despite the Christmas rush. The album, I fear, sold so well because at the time any magazine that had Marc Bolan on the cover would have sold in its millions, and such was the case with ‘Electric Warrior’. It became a must have item for all of the band’s fans, regardless of what it sounded like.

What you actually get is eleven tracks, two of which are classics. The singles; ‘Jeepster’ absolutely cooks in its final passage, and ‘Get It On’ (Bang A Gong) is simply stunning in a timeless way, with its Chuck Berry riff, refrain, and infectious toe tapping rhythm. Unfortunately Bolan’s sigh as the song fades out, ‘Meanwhile I was there thinking’, is the last bit of genius on the album.

All the other songs are embarrassingly repetitive, just going over the same old formula, with varying degrees of glitter sprinkled over them, but never coming near to the standard of the singles.

Bolan’s long time producer Tony Visconti has released the 30th anniversary addition of this album with some fine sleeve notes. There are also an added eight tracks, which were either works in progress, or demos never meant to be released for public viewing - and on hearing them, they never should have.

This was no way the end for Marc Bolan and the Boys, as the singles kept coming, interspersed over several albums. However, by 1974 it was all over bar the shouting. After the band split up in much rancor at the end of the year, Bolan faded from the scene.

Before his tragic death in 1977 he was reduced to doing his own T.V. show, but by then Punk Rock was rearing its ugly head.

If you are a fan of Marc Bolan and T. Rex I suggest either ‘The Essential Marc Bolan and T. Rex’ CD, which collects all the hit singles together, or the double CD called ‘The Best Glam Rock Album in the World ... Ever’, which has most of the songs by the bands mentioned in this column, and more. Both of these are Five Star efforts.

For those of you who look back on the days of your youth wistfully, remembering 28'’ bell bottom trousers, tiny tank tops, staggering around on your 8” platform boots, with glitter in your hair (these are the guys I am talking about), there will be a display of early seventies foolery by those old Glammers from Bangkok, ‘Mott The Bastard’, who will be playing most of these songs from memory at Shenanigans The Irish Pub. Hopefully the band will totter on stage at about 10.30 p.m. on Friday 13th June. Lucky for some, but not if ‘El Diablo’, ‘The Root of All Evil’, and ‘Sandilands’, on his bike, in a wig and make up, have anything to do with it. Can you dig it?

Musicians

Marc Bolan - Guitars and Vocals

Micky Finn - Percussion, Vocals

Steve Currie - Bass

Bill Legend - Drums

Songs

Mambo Sun

Cosmic Dancer

Jeepster

Monolith

Lean Woman Blues

Get It On

Planet Queen

Girl

The Motivator

Life’s A Gas

Rip Off

Plus Eight Demos

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]