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Book Review: The Thai House - History and Evolution

by Lang Reid

This week’s review is a break from the usual ‘who dunnits’ we have been reading recently, and is a serious piece of writing by a very well accredited group of academics, Ruethai Chaichongrak, Somchai Nil-athi, Ornsiri Panin and Saowalak Posayanonda. The Thai House, History and Evolution (ISBN 974-8225-05-4, Asia Books) was published last year and also features the photography of world renowned photographer Michael Freeman.

It is the photography that first catches your eye with this book. Every page features photographs, with some beautiful ‘full bleed’ pages with shots sometimes across two pages, to complement the academic explanations.

The book states at the outset that Thai traditional houses are not the same throughout the country, and just as there are (at least) four main areas, there are the same number of disparate styles to cover the Central, Northern, North-Eastern and Southern regions. The book then goes on to show not only the differences, but also the reasons for the differences, very often related to the differing environments in these areas, hot and dry agricultural communities or affluent riverside dwellers or in the mountainous regions of the north. There are also differences resultant upon the type of resident, whether rich or poor, farmer or shopkeeper or religious.

The academic authors take one area each, and it is apparent immediately that each is an authority in his or her own right. The English is excellent, and is a yardstick for all other locally published works that have been translated from Thai. It is possible to produce an excellently written book in English, from the original Thai!

There was so much between the covers that this book asks to be used for constant referral. The parallel to the English ‘foot’ in linear measurement, is an elbow to outstretched fingers referred to as the ‘sork’, while the ‘wah’ runs from finger tip to finger tip with the arms outstretched. (Finally I have begun to understand Thai measurements, especially the commonly used square wah.)

As with most indigenous procedures there are important items to be considered before a house is built, not only direction, but also which days and which months are auspicious to commence and finish. Stairs should also be constructed with an odd number of steps to be propitious. Far more esoteric than the European ‘topping’ ceremonies when the roof goes on.

As ‘coffee table’ books go, this is one where you will need a sturdy coffee table - it weighs 2 kg. It also costs 5 baht short of 2,000 baht, so you need a sturdy wallet as well. However, if you are serious about the artistic side of life in Thailand, this book is a Pandora’s Box of architectural information and Thai history, as well as being a photographic paradise. Freeman’s photographic style is legendary and both exterior and interior shots are superb. Other historical archival photographs are equally as fascinating, and incidentally the bare breasted Lanna women of 100 years ago would certainly give today’s ‘no-nipples’ legislators sleepless nights! This book is one for your reference library, and schools in particular should all have a copy.


Mott's CD Reviews: Led Zeppelin - How The West Was Won

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

This is the Rock Album release of 2003 by a country mile. This collection of songs stands head and shoulders above anything else during the last twelve months. The only disappointment being that it was not released thirty-one years ago, at the time of its recording.

Over the last thirty years the Led Zeppelin live selection available to the public has been extremely slim pickings. The best of them was some recordings from the dear old B.B.C., which, while not exactly bad, did not contain the excitement of a real in your face concert. The only official release during the band’s ‘oh too brief’ lifespan was ‘The Song Remains The Same’. This was, if you like, a recording of the best band in the world playing one of the worst concerts they ever played. Other than that you had to rely upon bootlegs and sorting the good from the bad was not always easy. But with this release all has been put to rights.

This is a compilation of two concerts from June 1972, put together in the correct running order to show off an entire show of Led Zeppelin at the height of their powers playing in front of their rabid fans. Led Zeppelin was the finest rock band to ever tread the boards, and ‘How the West Was Won’ catches them at their peak. Not only is this the rock release of 2003, but it also makes it the best live rock album ever. Full stop here - no arguments.

Each member of the band is brim full of confidence, skill, and comfort in their own abilities and those of their partners. Hard to believe they had only been together for just over three years, but had released five classic albums from which there is a selection from each here. These concerts were recorded on the ‘Houses of the Holy’ tour. (The songbook list was already overloaded with cannon, and they still had to release ‘Physical Graffiti’ and ‘Presence’. Listening you wonder what they are going to drop to put in ‘Kashmir’, etc.)

Robert Plant shows off, confirming why he was the ultimate front man. With his unique voice with its yelps, yells and none too subtle innuendo, he was often copied, but never bettered.

Jimmy Page is not only the finest and most versatile guitarist, but leaves you in no mind who the leader was of this crew.

John Paul Jones often does not get the credit he deserves, but as well as being such a jolly useful chap with his multi-instrumental talent, he also helped co-write many of Zeppelin’s classic tracks.

John Bonham is awesome. His drumming throughout is superb and his stamina breathtaking. His almost twenty minute drum solo in ‘Moby Dick’ leaves all other drum solos in the dirt. (Not forgetting that the opening guitar lick of ‘Moby Dick’ most bands would make a career out of.)

What you get, spread over three discs: ten songs on disc one, four on disc two, and four on disc three. That may sound a bit unfair, but then on disc two you get ‘Dazed and Confused’ clocking in at over twenty-five minutes and ‘Moby Dick’ at just under twenty minutes. Led Zeppelin go through the full range of their material from the acoustic songs that come at the end of disc one, the cosmic blues of ‘Since I’ve been Loving You’. The majestic ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but only these four guys can get it right) to the let your hair down let’s all go mad of ‘Rock and Roll’.

Highlights over the three discs are far too many to mention, but for this dog the complete twenty-three minutes of the ‘Whole Lotta Love’ medley, and directly after the storming opener of ‘Immigrant Song’, when Jimmy Page goes directly into the guitar riff of ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘DANG DANG DANG DANG DA-DA-DANG, DA-DA-DA-DA-DA DANG DANG DA-DA-DANG’ are the absolute pinnacle of Rock and Roll bliss. (Skip back and read the DANG DANG bit again and you know I’m right.) During happy hour at Tahitian Queen, when ‘Heartbreaker’ slams its way out of the speakers, look around and you can see everybody is reaching for their air guitars as their heads rock back. One listen to this collection and you can hear ‘How The West Was Won’ by Led Zeppelin in the early seventies. If this is not enough for you, don’t forget there is an accompanying DVD simply titled Led Zeppelin with over five hours of different unreleased material, which is spread over Led Zeppelins entire career. Happy Daze indeed.

Songs

Disc One

La Drone
Immigrant Song
Heartbreaker
Black Dog
Over The Hills And Far Away
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Stairway To Heaven
Going To California
That’s The Way
Bron-Yr-Aur-Stomp

Disc Two

Dazed And Confused
What Is And What Should Never Be
Dancing Days
Moby Dick

Disc Three

Whole Lotta Love
Rock And Roll
The Ocean
Bring It On Home

Musicians

Robert Plant - Vocals and Harmonica
Jimmy Page - Acoustic and Electric Guitars
John Paul Jones - Bass Guitar, Keyboards, and Mandolin
John Bonham - Drums and Percussion

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