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Book Review: The Long Patrol

by Lang Reid

Another topically local book this week, with The Long Patrol (ISBN 9-7483-0379-9) written by Mike Tucker and published by Asia Books in Bangkok. The book relates to ex-US Marine Tucker’s travels in Burma with the Karen guerrillas. With the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi, still under house arrest in Burma, and sanctions being widely reported and applied against the country, this is probably a very timely publishing date for this book.

The book begins with a potted history of the Karen peoples and their involvement in WWII (on the side of the Allies) and their oppression since then by the Burmese, who author Tucker believes relates to the loss of face suffered by the Burmese to the UK and America, as they did not fight against the Japanese as did the Karen soldiers.

On the surface, the book relates a first hand war correspondent’s view of life behind enemy lines. ‘Life’ in this case is with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the enemy lines are those manned by the Burmese Army.

Tucker had decided to go on these military exercises, believing he had a debt to pay to the Karen communities that he had met 10 years earlier. By writing a book of his experiences, he had hoped to add to the weight of evidence indicting the Burmese government in their treatment of the Karens.

He does chronicle his slipping across the border from Thailand into Burma, and clandestine meetings with the Karen National Union (KNU). He did indeed go on treks through the jungle with KNLA personnel, and devotes most of the dozen or so photographic pages in the center of the book to pictures of freedom fighters with their AK47’s or whatever, but only three of simple Karen villagers who were the subject of alleged Burmese Army atrocities. The book does also tend to tell me what Tucker did, rather than what Tucker saw.

Author Tucker has, or should I say “had” a wonderful tale in his grasp. He alludes to spying by the Burmese on the KNU and 5th column operatives within the KNU itself. He mentions Thai business, police and finally government involvement in cover-ups for the Burmese Army (and government). This is firebrand stuff and could blow the lid on intrigue on an international scandal, but note I have only used the word “could”. Tucker falls at the final hurdle. Names are not given, fingers are not firmly pointed.

From that point of view I believe the book has a serious flaw. From the point of view of telling the world that there is a conflict going on in Burma between tribal people and the government, then the book is successful, but the potential was there to do so much more. The photograph of murdered Karen villagers has, for me at least, more impact than the cover photo of Asian soldiers with weapons trekking through the jungle.

The review copy was supplied directly by Asia Books and should be available in most good bookshops. It has an RRP of 385 baht. A little like the curate’s egg - good in parts.


Music CD Reviews: Deep Purple - Bananas

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

4 Stars ****

Now let’s get this right up front, I do not care how old these guys are; how relevant they are to today’s music; or what right they have to the name of Deep Purple. Nor do I care that Bananas is a wonderfully stupid name to call a Rock ‘n’ Roll album. Rock ‘n’ Roll is supposed to be fun. Where would it be without humor? (Frank Zappa was a serious musician with a wonderful sense of humor.)

Bananas is a great Hard Rock album by a bunch of top musicians. Deep Purple have been going since 1968 with a break from 1976-1984, during which there was not an actual band called Deep Purple in circulation. So, depending your point of view the band is either celebrating their 27th anniversary, or the 35th. If you do not count the mountains of live albums and compilations, this is their seventeenth studio album. Confused yet? You soon will be.

Bananas is the first release of new material in five years and the first Deep Purple album not to feature the talents of Jon Lord on keyboards, who retired from the band (but not music) last year to make way for Don Airey. This is Airey’s first studio outing with the band, and very admirably he does, too. It is lead guitarist Steve Morse’s third studio album with Purple, and lead vocalist Ian Gillan’s tenth. Bassist Roger Glover counts it as his eleventh, and sitting behind the drums for his seventeenth Deep Purple album is one of the world’s finest Rock ‘n’ Roll drummers, Mr. Ian Paice. He has also played drums at every Deep Purple show that has taken place. When Deep Purple was on a sabbatical from 1976-1984, Ian Paice kept his hand in by drumming for P.A.L., Whitesnake (both of whom featured Jon Lord), and Gary Moore, both in the studio and live in concert. So Ian Paice makes Deep Purple the complete mirror image of Spinal Tap by keeping the drum position the only stable one.

For variation there has never been a Deep Purple album to compare to Bananas. You would have to go back to the heady days of 1972 and Machine Head to find the band in more classic form. Although almost all Deep Purple albums have their good moments, this one has class stamped all the way through the Bananas.

Opener ‘House of Pain’ is a typical Purple rocker with a great opening guitar lick from Steve Morse before the rest of the band come rocking in. Then you get Ian Gillan, the only real voice of Deep Purple, breaking in on top of the band to sing about ... Guess what! ... the wonders of sex. Remember, I said there was great variation on this album. I never said things had completely changed. Then we get a short sharp solo from Steve Morse, then Don Airey, before they both compete with each other in a duel between keyboards and six string before Gillan brings the song to a conclusion with the final verse. ‘House of Pain’ will make a great new opener to the Purple live set.

This is followed by the heavy rock of ‘Sun goes down’. Deep Purple have never been heavy metal and this song is a good example of their own hard rock genre, giving new boy Don Airey another chance to shine.

Third song ‘Haunted’ is one of the album’s many highlights, a ballad which will now surely replace the over familiar ‘When a Blind man cries’ in the live set. The emotional guitar solo from Steve Morse is accompanied with a tour de force vocal performance from Ian Gillan, and the behind string arrangements from the master of his art Paul Buckmaster.

When Deep Purple write a song called ‘Razzle Dazzle’, does this dog have to tell you what it’s about or what it will sound like? ‘Silver Tongue’ is a real down and dirty rocker driven along by the dynamic rhythm section of Roger Glover and Ian Paice. Keeping these two together is good enough reason for me getting Deep Purple on the road. Has there ever been a better pairing in Rock ‘n’ Roll?

The one complaint I overheard from other Purple fans is that if you have the best guitarist in the world, why not use him more on your records? Well, Steve Morse gets to do a short solo on every track on the album, and it must be remembered that this is a Deep Purple album, of which Steve is a member. It is not a Steve Morse album. So if you want to hear a seven minute guitar solo by Steve Morse, go and buy his solo album.

‘Walk On’, the following song, is a perfect example of harmony; sounding almost like a studio jam, where every member of the band sounds comfortable in each other’s company.

‘Picture of Innocence’ is a genuine funky song given the Purple treatment almost as if there had been a collaboration between the band and the late great Ian Dury.

‘I got your Number’ would make a great single for the band and will probably be used with great effect on stage, where the boys will stretch it out, making room for longer solos.

‘Never a Word’ is a number with Steve Morse sounding a little too medieval, and the vocals too weak to this dog’s ears; causing a deduction of one precious star. I would have preferred to hear the electric instrumental ‘Well Dressed Guitar’, which the band played at the Impact Arena in Bangkok in 2002, when we were told it would be on the next studio album.

‘Never a Word’ is the weakest song on the album. But the ball is quickly picked up again on the rocking ‘Bananas’, when Morse and Airey really roll up the sleeves and have a proper dig. The result is spectacular. A rush of notes bursts out of your speakers with Ian Gillan joining in on harmonica to bring the song to a rousing conclusion.

‘Doing it Tonight’ is another fine hard rock song with a very obvious subject matter. Hey, why not? ‘Contact Lost’ closes the album out with a beautiful instrumental led by Steve Morse. Go Bananas.

Musicians

Steve Morse - Guitars
Roger Glover - Bass
Ian Gillan - Vocals
Ian Paice - Drums
Don Airey - Keyboards

Songs

House of Pain
Sun goes down
Haunted
Razzle Dazzle
Silver Tongue.
Walk On
Picture of Innocence
I got your Number
Never a Word
Bananas
Doing it Tonight
Contact Lost

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]