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Book Review: The Big Mango

by Lang Reid

Jake Needham’s book The Big Mango (ISBN 974-8237-36-2) has been very popular since its release at the end of the millennium, and is now published as an MMPB edition. (For those, who like me were unaware of the acronym, it stands for Mass Market Paper Back, so never let it be said you can’t learn anything from a book review!)

The author, Jake Needham is described on the fly-leaf as an American screen writer who is married to a Thai born concert pianist and has two sons and lives in San Francisco and Bangkok, however these days I believe his preferred domicile is in his own Big Mango, (AKA Bangkok). In his previous incarnation, Jake Needham describes himself as being born on a ranch in Texas longer ago than he now believes possible, and was a corporate lawyer in the United States specializing in international mergers and acquisitions until he finally grew up and became a writer.

The book is set in the mid ‘90’s, and is a thriller. 400 million dollars has gone missing and more than one party would like to know how, where and who.

Needham writes a fast paced narrative, full of ‘hip’ phraseology such as when one of the characters is discussing whether to go to Bangkok to look for the missing money - “We’ll just fly 10,000 miles around the world, I’ll get the trots from the food, emphysema from the air, the clap from the girls, and my ass handed to me in a bag by somebody who thinks I know where 400 million dollars is.”

There is no doubt about the fact that Needham knows his Big Mango, again quoting from one of the main characters, “Eddie could already smell Bangkok - a mix of automobile exhaust, jasmine blossoms, burned grease, drifting incense, and raw sewage that was like the smell of no other city he’d ever known. It was something that the strongest rain would never wash away; a scent that even the hot, heavy Bangkok air could never smother.” Or describing motorcycle taxi travel as “...sitting on the back of a motorbike in 95 degree heat, sucking on the exhaust pipe of a clapped out Chinese bus, was not everyone’s idea of a good time.”

In true thriller fashion, Needham keeps the pace up and the twists and turns are such that the reader has to be on the ball to keep up. International intrigue involving the DEA, CIA and other agencies with acronyms you have not met before will keep you enthralled. It certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Ponder on this quotation, “What are we doing here, Eddie? We’re stuck in some broken-ass, third world crap-hole, 10,000 miles from home; we’re drinking beer in a whorehouse with no whores; we’ve got a bag full of guns under our feet; and we’re running away from a bunch of people who’d kill us in a second for something we haven’t got and don’t know where to find. Does any of this make sense to you?”

The RRP of B. 425 buys the book and gives the answer!


Mott's CD Reviews: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Deja Vu.

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars

After the release of their groundbreaking debut album simply titled “Crosby, Stills, & Nash’’ in 1969, a successful appearance at Woodstock followed, which was the band’s only second performance in public. Quite frightening as it was at the peak of the festival, so they performed in front of over 500, 000 people for which they added for the first time their great friend Neil Young (David Crosby’s very words from the stage). Less than a year later, with Neil Young firmly ensconced in the ranks, they recorded ‘D้jเ Vu’. When it was originally released it came in a lovely textured brown sleeve with golden inscriptions, and a black and white picture of the Band pasted on the cover. This made it look like a poster from an old wild west saloon, pure class and original, like the rest of this album.

So this was the first time Dave Crosby - ex The Byrds, Stephen Stills - ex Buffalo Springfield, Graham Nash - ex The Hollies, and Neil Young - ex Buffalo Springfield had recorded as a band (heralded as the first American super group, whereas in fact Graham Nash was English, and Neil Young Canadian) with the addition of Dallas Taylor on Drums, and Greg Reeves on Bass.

The album ‘Deja Vu’ was #1 in America on pre-sales alone, such was the expectations of their second album. It soon became #1 worldwide as the boys did not fail to deliver the expected goods. Throughout the album the harmonies are picture perfect, the guitar work exceptional, and the songwriting of the highest standard. The sound of the songs brings music screaming and shouting out of the hippie days of the sixties into the more realistic days of the early seventies, keeping the poppy feel of the sixties as it adds a hard edged guitar sound more identified with the seventies. Saying that, the album is timeless.

The album contains songs from each of the four artists that were to lay the template for the rest of their careers. Two songs from Stephen Stills, including opener ‘Carry On’, which shows all the facets of the collective musicians, beautiful harmonies, and spiraling guitars that bring the song to a dramatic climax after a beguiling vocal break in the middle section. ‘Carry On’ was often stretched out to over twenty minutes in the electric part of their live set. Stills later shows the other side of his songwriting ability with the mournful acoustic ballad ‘4+20’.

Graham Nash follows ‘Carry On’ with the perfect pop tune devoted to the next generation, ‘Teach Your Children’. The long time friend Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead joins on steel guitar. As if there wasn’t enough talent on this recording already. Nash also contributes ‘Our House’, written about his time living with Joni Mitchell. This song must have lightened many relationships over the years. One listen would melt even the hardest heart.

In contrast we are given the guitar/rock of Dave Crosby’s ‘Almost Cut My Hair’. 33 years later it is still the most requested song from Crosby, whether as a solo performer or as a collective with other members of these musicians. The lyrics were inspired after the tragic assassination of Robert Kennedy, and are typical of the time.

“Almost cut my hair, it happened just the other day,

It’s getting longer every day, I couldn’t say it was getting in my way,

But I didn’t and I wonder why, I feel like letting my freak flag fly,

It must be because I had the Flu for Christmas,

That it increases my paranoia,

Like looking in your mirror and seeing a police car.”

Crosby also supplied the title track with its fascinating false beginning, heartfelt lyrics (specially for a man of only 25), amazing display of the bass guitar from Greg Reeves that was to inspire generations of American bass players, and yet another star guest appearance - John Sebastion (ex Lovin’ Spoonful) on Harmonica. John Sebastion was almost in the band himself after jamming with the others at Mama Cass’ house in their formative days.

In true democratic fashion Neil Young gave in two songs, perhaps two of the best of his star studded career. This is even more incredible considering that later that year he released his solo classic ‘After the Gold Rush’. The two songs are the stunning ‘Helpless’, a song of rare beauty, and the album’s longest song ‘Country Girl’, given to us in three parts, which I make no excuse about including some lyrics…

‘’No pass out signs on the door set me thinking,

Are Waitresses paying the price of their winking,

Whilst Stars sit at Bars and decide what they are drinking,

They drop by the Bar because it’s faster than sinking’

Too late to keep the change, too late to pay,

No time to stay the same, no time to stay the same, too young to change.”

Making up the ten songs there is also a cover of Joni Mitchel’s tribute to the legendary 1969 Festival ‘Woodstock’, which the band give a trademark performance of. (A remarkably similar version of the song was also recorded by ‘Matthew Southern Comfort’ featuring Ian Matthews previously of ‘Fairport Convention’. It was #1 in England in October 1970.)

The final track on the album is the rocking ‘Everybody I Love You’, co-written by Stephen Stills and Neil Young. A fine way to bring the album to a fitting climax.

It was obvious that there was far too much talent, not to mention too much ego, amongst these musicians for them to stay together as a band. But while they were, what glorious music they made. Only last year they were able to bury all their past hatchets and perform together again. According to reports none of the magic they had created way back then had been lost.

Many people consider ‘Deja Vu’ to be one of rock music’s all time classics. Mott the Dog is not one to disagree.

Musicians

Stephen Stills - Lead Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, and Vocals
Graham Nash - Vocals
Neil Young - Lead Guitars, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, and Vocals
David Crosby - Twelve String Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, and Vocals
Dallas Taylor – Drums
Greg Reeves - Bass

Songs

Carry on
Teach Your Children
Almost Cut My Hair
Helpless
Woodstock
Deja Vu
Our House
4+20
Country Girl
(a) Whiskey Boot Hill
(b) Down, Down, Down
(c) “Country Girl”
Everybody I Love You

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]