Vol. II No. 41 Saturday October 11 - October 17, 2003
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Thailand Calendar 2004

by Lang Reid

The annual calendar season is almost upon us, and one that was brought to my attention was Thailand Calendar 2004 (ISBN 9001700000209). Calendars fit into two types - those that you send away to people overseas and ones that you actually use. The big glossy flip overs are generally of the former category, and Thailand Calendar 2004 is one of those.

It is a 12 month calendar, as opposed to some of the more forward thinking 13, 14 or 15 month calendars, which are still value buys in February and March next year, but the Design Press people who printed this calendar have gone for the ‘one year and no more’ style, and hope they have sold the lot by December!

Of the 12 images, seven are temples, one is elephants, a couple of scenics and two are lifestyles. Under each picture is a caption in English, purporting to explain or add more information about the subject of the photographs. Phases of the moon are marked, as are major Buddhist and important Thailand holidays such as H.M. the King’s birthday.

There were many aspects of this calendar that I found disappointing. To hang one of these on the nail on the wall means that the hole has to be sturdy. This is a relatively heavy calendar as it has been printed on good heavy stock, and I do not give this calendar long before it tears out the hole. An eyelet fixes that for the 12 months. It doesn’t come with one.

The English wording beneath each image is not well done at all. It is an English language calendar, with the days of the month and the months themselves only in English. To attract a native English speaker to buy products in poor English is something that Thai entrepreneurs should have corrected many years ago, but unfortunately is still present. There are enough native English speakers available for proof reading, so this should not happen. For example, under the Wat Arun photograph is the heading that includes, “It’s the best seen from Chao Phraya river” instead of, “It is viewed best from the Chao Phraya River.” Or under both the picture of the Sukhothai Buddha September and the same caption under another different image in November, is the wording ending in “they depict no a Buddha meditating to achieve enlightenment.” Sorry, but this is not good enough, and there are too many of them throughout the calendar.

On the plus side, there are some pleasant shots amongst the dozen, but a couple are far from the standard I would expect, especially if I were to be sending one of these calendars overseas to show my friends and family what they are missing.

However, most calendars are bought sealed in plastic, so the purchaser cannot get inside to see the abysmal language. A marketing ploy perhaps, but one that is needed here to sell these calendars.

I was disappointed and this would certainly not be a calendar I will send for overseas stocking fillers at Xmas. The review copy was made available by Bookazine with an RRP of B. 320.


Muttley's CD Reviews: Big Country - Come Up Screaming

by Muttley Remastered by Ella Crew

5 stars *****

It’s amazing how many people thought Big Country split in the mid-eighties. In fact, the band carried on recording and gigging until 2000. It is a story of unrealized potential, lack of support from record labels, and a musical style that the music industry couldn’t pigeon-hole. However, let’s go back to the beginning.

The band formed in 1981 when hugely-talented vocalist/lead guitarist/songwriter Stuart Adamson left Scottish punk band The Skids and joined with long-time Dunfermline pal and ex-nuclear submarine cleaner Bruce Watson on rhythm guitar. In 1982 the original rhythm section was fired and Tony Butler (bass) and Mark Brzezicki (drums) were recruited from On the Air via session work. On the Air was a three-some with Simon Townshend, who’s now helping brother Pete out in The Who.

The band signed up with Phonogram and released their first single ‘Harvest Home’. It introduced the band’s distinctive twin-racing guitar sound. References have been made to a ‘bagpipe’ sound. Let me tell you that most bagpipes I’ve heard would make a deaf dog cringe. We’ll leave this stereotype to the ill-informed.

The band’s second single, ‘Fields of Fire’, hit #10 in the UK charts in 1983. The excellent first album, ‘The Crossing’, charted initially at #4 and eventually reached a peak of #3. Subsequent touring and singles releases confirmed Big Country as the hot new act in the post-punk music industry.

Big Country’s second album, ‘Steeltown’, hit the UK charts in 1984 and went straight in at #1. More successful singles and sellout gigs followed. The band then took a brief sabbatical to record the soundtrack to the movie Restless Natives.

The third album, ‘The Seer’, was released in July 1986 and reached #2 in the UK charts supported by the success of their biggest hit single (at #7) ‘Look Away’. High profile live appearances followed at the classic 1986 Princes Trust Concert and at Knebworth, supporting Queen at their last ever UK gig in front of 200,000 people (including this dog!). Looking back, 1986 was the band’s commercial peak.

Each of the five studio albums that followed had some elements of experimentation and achieved varying degrees of success. The sixth studio album, ‘Buffalo Skinners’, was a classic twin-guitar hard rocking album that eventually reached #25 in the charts, but with proper support from the record label could have brought the band back into the big time.

Big Country’s last studio album, ‘Driving to Damascus’, encompassed many of the styles of the previous albums and had a more relaxed leaning consistent with Stuart Adamson’s move to Nashville in the US.

So, what do we have in Come Up Screaming? A double live album of 22 of their best tracks taken from the Glasgow and London gigs on the ‘Final Fling’ tour of May 2000. The album kicks off with the rousing ‘Harvest Home’, quickly followed by the hard-rocking ‘King of Emotion’ from the ‘Peace in Our Time’ album.

‘John Wayne’s Dream’ and ‘Driving to Damascus’ follow with Adamson and Watson in great form, supported by the tightest rhythm section in the business. Other classic tracks follow including ‘The Storm’ with the unique E-bow intro; a quieter moment with ‘Come Back to Me’, before cranking up again for the ever-popular ‘Look Away’ and ‘Wonderland’.

The finale is formed of four tracks from ‘The Crossing’ in rapid succession - the epic ‘Porroh Man’, ‘Chance’ with vocals as usual loudly augmented by the crowd; theme song ‘In a Big Country’, and great favourite ‘Fields of Fire’, all with the racing guitars on full throttle.

Where are they now? Sadly, Stuart Adamson took his own life in December 2001; Bruce ‘the man who invented the seagull’ Watson is recording and touring with ex-Marillion-frontman Fish; Mark Brzezicki has been recording and playing in Procol Harum, and Tony Butler currently concentrates on re-mastering and music production.

It’s always been a mystery why Big Country never made the big time commercially. They shied away from publicity-seeking at the height of their popularity, when many of their less-talented contemporaries sought the limelight. The band stayed together for most of their 18 years and continued to be a great live act to go and see. However, a band with four top ten albums and four top ten singles should not have been forgotten so easily.

Their legacy is kept alive by the ever-supportive ex-manager Ian Grant, the two websites he runs (Track and Big Country), and an enthusiastic group of fans across the world. Live and rarities albums continue to be released and some of the studio albums have been lovingly re-mastered by Tony Butler.

The big stores in Thailand have seen fit not to import ‘Come Up Screaming’, so the best bet is the Track Records website - www.trackrecords. co.uk or the Big Country website - www.bigcountry.co.uk

Musicians

Stuart Adamson - Guitar and Vocals
Mark Brzezicki - Drums and Backing Vocals
Tony Butler - Bass and Backing Vocals
Bruce Watson - Guitar and Mandolin

Songs

CD1
Harvest Home
King of Emotion
Driving to Damascus
John Wayne’s Dream
The Storm
Where the Rose is Sown
Come Back to Me
Somebody Else
Dive in to Me
Look Away
You Dreamer
Your Spirit to Me

CD2
The President Slipped and Fell
Lost Patrol
13 Valleys
Inwards
Wonderland
We’re Not in Kansas
Porroh Man
Chance
In a Big Country
Fields of Fire

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]



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