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Book Review: Another Quiet American

by Lang Reid

The book, Another Quiet American (ISBN 9-7483-0368-3, Asia Books 2003), is a first from young American author Brett Dakin. He was a Princeton East Asian Studies major, who for reasons relating mainly to academic burnout applied for a job in Laos, as a consultant to the Lao Tourism Authority. This was a post that offered no salary from the Lao government, but a small stipend from Princeton-in-Asia. For Dakin, at that time, this did not matter, what did was just getting away from academia.

Brett Dakin had no idea when he applied for the job just what Laos was like. He had a vague notion that it was somehow involved with the Vietnam conflict, but more than that he did not.

The first chapter takes author Dakin, and the reader, through a primer on Laos, one of the ten poorest countries in the world, and the most bombed country in history during the ‘phony war’ that the CIA would rather us not remember!

The second chapter brings forth the general, the boss of the Laos Tourism Authority and introduces the ‘Visit Laos Year’, a most unoriginal tourism promotion and one that nobody in the office actually knows when it is supposed to begin. And nobody is confident enough of their position, or worth in the organization, to actually ask. Nobody knows who they should ask anyway.

Other chapters cover a prince from the old kingdom, before Laos became the socialist republic, and the hordes of consultants all dispensing overseas largesse, because it seemed as if it were a good place to do this! He also uncovers prostitution (rife) and even describes his own short-time tryst, plus many other aspects and Laos peoples.

Another Quiet American is a thought provoking book. Author Dakin writes with a maturity well beyond his years and presents his observations lucidly of life in Laos during the years 1999 and 2000. It is thought provoking in that he does not attempt to present answers for his observations, leaving that to the reader. What is more than slightly interesting are the very close parallels between Lao hierarchy and living and those in this country. Generals with untold wealth, tea money, fawning obeisance, expats living through charity organizations or the UNDP and unable to go ‘home’ where their skills are no longer needed, such as irrigated rice experts who can speak Lao! Dakin has managed to find all the various parts that can make up any society, and describe the Laos variety with such clarity, you can begin to feel that you ‘know’ the characters he describes. As he says in the author’s note at the front of the book, “This is a work of non-fiction. All events described within these pages took place and each character you will meet is real.” His worth as a writer comes from the fact that he can present that ‘reality’ through the written word.

This is an excellent book and well worth the RRP of B. 450. The review copy was provided directly by Asia Books, but copies should be available at all major booksellers.

Mott's CD Reviews: Grand Funk Railroad

Live The 1971 Tour

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

During 1970 and 1971 the Power Trio “Grand Funk Railroad” (Mark Farner, Don Brewer, and Mel Schacher) under the management of Terry Knight set out to become the biggest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in America. Not only did they succeed, but they even surpassed their own expectations.

In the two years they released five albums: ‘On Time’, ‘Grand Funk’, ‘Closer to Home’, and the landmark ‘Live Album’, which was released as a wart’s and all exercise with no over dubs but just the music the way it was played on the night.

It was a very brave thing to do at the time. It would have been so much easier and safer to have taken the tapes away and polished them up in the studio as most bands did, replacing bum notes, and off key singing. But in true Yankee style it was ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’. In my opinion the idea worked. What you lost in perfection on that album you certainly made up for in excitement.

The main part of this concert was recorded at Shea Stadium, New York, on the 7th September 1971. By this time Grand Funk Railroad had reached their aim and was the biggest band in the land. Fortunately, the Shea Stadium concert tapes were dug out in 2002 and Capital Records realized what a little gold mine they were sitting on. Even better news was discovered when complete tapes of the concerts in Chicago and Detroit from two months before the Shea Stadium gig were found in perfect condition.

All these tapes were handed over to David. K. Tedds, who has done a marvelous job of seamlessly putting together an entire show from that hot summer of ’71 and leaving it in its original running order with all the stage announcements, crowd cheering, and atmosphere of a good old seventies Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert.

The music starts out with the intro taken from ‘2001’ - a marvelous way of getting the audience on their feet, followed by Grand Funk Railroad’s traditional opener “Are You Ready”, which keeps the audience on their feet and rockin’.

The band storms through a set of all the highlights from their first five albums, and even include one new song, the soon to be classic Footstompin’ Music, which wasn’t officially to be released for a few more months on their next album ‘E Pluribus Funk’.

The medley of ‘I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together’ in the center of the set is the true work of artists playing at their peak of their powers as they showed at Shea Stadium.

The version of T.N.U.C. is seventeen minutes long and allows every member of the band space to stretch out and show their skills. Mark Farner was the obvious focal point of the band playing lead guitar, most of the lead vocals, keyboards, and at the time wrote all the songs. So he was the obvious person to get all the attention. But during T.N.U.C. Mel Schacher got to show off his dexterous bass playing, and Don Brewer takes a 10-minute drum solo that even listening to on audio he manages to keep interesting (you can hear on the record that he certainly had the Detroit audience on his side).

We then get two cover versions to bring the set proper (before encore time) to a rousing conclusion. First we have a 15-minute version of The Animals song, Inside Looking Out written by Eric Burden and future Jimi Hendrix manager Chas Chandler. Grand Funk Railroad take it apart and then smack it back together again in their own style with some wonderfully sprawling guitar solos and plenty of pathos in Mark Farner’s endeavors to sing Eric Burdon’s words. You even get another short Brewer drum solo just in case you had not had enough in T.N.U.C.

Then with the introduction from Mark Farner of ‘This Song is our Generation’s National Anthem’ the band scream into a powerful version of the Stones’ Gimmie Shelter, which may not have the light and shade of the Stones’ original, but what it lacks in grace it more than makes up for in power and enthusiasm.

After this there is only one song Grand Funk Railroad could possibly finish with - Into The Sun. (In those days seeing Grand Funk Railroad without them playing Into The Sun would be a bit like seeing Lynard Skynard without them doing Freebird, or Deep Purple without Smoke on the Water.) Into the Sun starts off with the main lick played over softly until the first sung verse, where from this point onwards it builds and builds from guitar breaks to heavier drumming to Mel Schacher ringing every note out of the bass guitar until it reaches a thunderous climax. This version form Detroit (Motor City) is by far the most exciting ever officially released and worth the price of the album on it own.

To get yourself a little slice of the American Rock ‘n’ Roll dream, go out and get yourself a copy of Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Live. The 1971 Tour’, put it in your CD player, turn it up to 11, and enjoy.


Mark Farner - Guitar, Organ, Harmonica, Percussion, and Vocals
Don Brewer - Drums and Vocals
Mel Schacher - Bass and Percussion


Are You Ready
Footstompin’ Music
I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home/Hooked on Love/Get it Together
Inside Looking Out
Gimme Shelter
Into The Sun

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