Vol. II No. 40 Saturday October 4 - October 10, 2003
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Platform

by Lang Reid

This week’s review book was written in French by an author living in Ireland with much of the book dealing with the seamier side of Thailand. An interesting mix from the outside. Platform (ISBN 0-099-43788-0) is author Michel Houellebecq’s third novel and his previous works have been showered with praise, if one believes the flyleaf. This edition was published in paperback this year.

The story revolves around Michel, a minor civil servant at the Ministry of Culture, and his relationship with a Parisian woman he meets on a package tour to Thailand. The pair join forces in a travel agency and begin promoting sex tourism as a ‘Club Med’ extrapolation. This takes them on a tour of sex tourism destinations, inevitably ending up in Thailand.

The idyll is shattered when the resort chosen for this type of tourism is bombed by Islamic extremists, leaving hundreds dead in a Bali-style massacre. (Interestingly, the book was written before the Bali tragedy.)

The final chapters describe post traumatic stress disorder, as Michel attempts (and fails) to put his house back in order, following the death of his partner, and settles into suicidal melancholia in Naklua!

The review copy was supplied by Bookazine and has an RRP of 395 baht. Heouellebecq’s writing can be incisive, and his description of the average package tour consumers is very good. We have all met these people. His principal character Michel muses, “Human groups of more than three people have a tendency, apparently, to split into two hostile sub-groups. Dinner was served on a pontoon in the middle of the river, this time, the tables had been laid for eight. The ecologists and the naturopaths were already installed at one table; the former pork butchers were all alone at the second.” We have all witnessed these sociological phenomena.

Whilst the Michel character spends the book indulging in self examination to the point of looking up his own fundamentum to see if his hat is on straight, this could have been the basis for a good book - a critical look at the sociological aspects of European life, vis-เ-vis Thai society. However, the repetitious and frankly gratuitous sex began to become boring. I got the impression that author Houellebecq ran out of inspiration in following the theme and decided to flesh out the book with flesh. Michel comes across as a very shallow creature, and his inability to rejoin the human race after trauma is merely a reflection of his tenuous hold on reality at the outset. Good characterization, but of a persona that cannot hold your interest as a reader. There are just as many boring people at the pub that I could meet, rather than reading about them. They would also buy me drink to keep me there. The book does not.

I could not agree with the Observer newspaper critic whose critique is on the front cover proclaiming, “Reading Houellebecq is like being caught up in a tropical storm; you are blown away by the ferocity of his imagination.” I was more blown away with boredom. Not my sort of book, not even for the ‘dirty’ bits.


Music CD Reviews: Emerson, Lake, and Powell

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

That’s right, not Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, but Emerson, Lake, and Powell. After nine incredibly successful years together as one of the largest grossing bands in the world, and one of the originators of what was to become known as Progressive Rock, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer came to a rather ignoble ending. So at this point (1979), Emerson, Lake, and Palmer disbanded and each member of the band went his own way to varying degrees of success.

Greg Lake recorded a couple of albums with a new band (including Gary Moore on lead guitar), and toured the world only reaching large audiences when he would play well down the bill of large festival dates such as ‘The Reading Festival’ in England. Keith Emerson released a couple of soundtracks to B-Grade movies, but pretty much kept out of the limelight. Carl Palmer formed a band called P. M., which lasted one album and one tour before falling apart, but then he hit pay dirt when he teamed up with Steve Howe (ex-Yes), Geoff Downes (ex-Buggles), and John Wetton (ex Uriah Heep, ex Roxy Music, ex King Crimson) to form the extremely lucrative and commercially popular “Asia”.

After seven years Keith Emerson and Greg Lake decided it was time to get back together and make some more music and top up the old bank balance. (Sounds a bit mercenary, but then again I think it was.) Carl Palmer was far from willing to give up his drum seat in the money spinning “Asia” for the slightly risky opportunity of being the P, in “E. L. P.” again. A quick look round by Keith and Greg and the choice was obvious. No need to get a new logo. (Again financially sound and if they had got in Ginger Baker it would of become E. L. B. Just does not have the same ring about it, does it?) Just ring up old mate and well-known gun for hire, Cozy Powell (ex Whitesnake, ex Jeff Beck, ex Black Sabbath, ex Bedlam, ex Michael Schenker Band... Oh, the list is endless without even including his solo career), and get him in. Same heavy drum sound, same love of those dynamic and long drum solos, and we have got E. L. P. back together again of sorts.

No point going out on the road without any product though, so off into the studio they went with a recording contract with Polygram, production to be shared between Tony Taverner and Greg Lake, and all the management hassles to be taken care of by Alex Grob. Perfect. So all they had to do was come up with an album’s worth of material. In the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll, not very likely you think, but no, they came up with an absolute corker.

From the opening strands of first song “The Score” you know you are in for an exciting journey of very special rock music. Keith Emerson plays the keyboards as only he can, totally over the top with plenty of use of a Hammond organ, grand piano, and, of course, the Moog Synthesizer.

Cozy Powell is all over the kit hitting the skins with barely controlled violence, but with split second precision. When after three and a half minutes Greg Lake comes in to sing the first stanza, you realize that he is not only there to underpin the sound with his marvelous bass playing, but he probably has one of the most underrated set of vocal chords from the last half century of rock music.

In the nearly ten minutes of “The Score” the band really flies, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with and we even get a little snippet from days gone by when Greg Lake introduces us to a touch of ‘Karn Evil 9’ from “Brain Salad Surgery”, when he sings out the opening, “It’s been so long my friends, so welcome back to the show that never ends”.

Then we get two more selections that are instant classics of their genre. ‘Learning to Fly’ is another opportunity for the band to show off their skills and how well they are gelling as a unit. ‘The Miracle’ is a very wordy affair, almost like a short take on a storyline something akin to a short ‘Tarkus’ complete with a full choir bringing the whole thing to a rousing conclusion.

Proving that they still had a grip on what was relevant in the confusing modern world of rock music, just for good measure, Emerson, Lake, and Powell released the next song “Touch and Go” as a single and had a massive hit with it in the USA. A very catchy little tune it is, too, showing all their collective spirit now proudly bearing their hearts on their sleeves. They follow this with the love song “Love Blind”, the jazzy street song “Step Aside”, and the passionate anti-war song “Lay Down your Guns”. Considering what has happened since this was written back in 1986, it’s a pity not more people lent an ear to the heartfelt lyrics.

Conversely they then follow this with the centerpiece of the album with an adaptation of Gustav Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” from “The Planets Suite”. Many bands have tried to take a piece of classical music written for full orchestra and readapt it for rock music. Nobody has ever succeeded like Emerson, Lake, and Powell have done here with Holst’s music, whilst keeping its majestic sweep. They manage to make it sound like Holst had actually written the music with a three piece rock band in mind. A truly uplifting piece of music.

As bonus tracks for the C.D. release we get first some marvelous fun with a cover of Carole King’s “The Loco-Motion”, a piece of nonsense for sure, but you can almost hear the musicians grinning along as they play out these foot tapping notes. Unfortunately the album ends on its weakest moment, “Vacant Possession”.

An album often ignored because of its place in the history of these musicians, and possibly because of yet another acrimonious split after just one short American tour, and the soon to be revealed full re-union of all of the original Emerson, Lake and Palmer. But still definitely worthy of your attention, even if it’s only for a listen to the eight minutes of pomp that they make of “Mars, The Bringer of War”.

Musicians

Keith Emerson - Keyboards
Greg Lake - Bass and Lead guitars
Cozy Powell - Drums

Songs

The Score
Learning to Fly
The Miracle
Touch and Go
Love Blind
Step Aside
Lay Down Your Guns
Mars, The Bringer Of War
The Loco-Motion
Vacant Possession

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]



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