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Book Review: At Home in Asia

by Lang Reid

This week’s review is of a book that has done the rounds since its initial release in 1995. At Home in Asia (ISBN 0-9642521-1-2, Wolfenden Press) written by Harold Stephens, is now on its fourth impression, and apparently selling well.

The book is a series of biographies, with each devoted to expatriates living in SE Asia, and what a wonderful bunch they all are! Some were known to me, and many were not, but they all had a couple of common characteristics. The first is a free spirit and the second is that their free spirit has been brilliantly described by author Stephens.

He is an ‘old hand’ in Asia, having spent many years throughout the Asian region as a travel writer and author of eight books, but above it all he could almost be described as a swashbuckling adventurer, who writes of other swashbuckling adventurers because he understands their collective need. He is not a writing voyeur, he lives their life stories and allows the readers to imagine themselves in the environment too.

Amongst his cast of characters is Australian John Everingham, well known as a photographer in Thailand, but what is not so well known was that he was rejected on age grounds to go and fight in Vietnam, but he went anyway as a war correspondent, had a movie made about his life, married his lady from Laos and lives in Thailand.

Hotelier Kurt Wachtveitl deserves a chapter on his own, not only for his expertise as a GM, elevating the Oriental in Bangkok to the position of being considered by many, the best hotel in the world, but also for his seamless integration into Thai society. Something that is not easy for any expatriate.

Bill Heinecke, the pizza king is also one of those chosen by Stephens. Heinecke is a larger than life type character and you get the impression that author Stephens’ biggest problem writing about Heinecke was what to leave out, Bill not coming over as a shrinking violet in any way!

The need for adventure is not predominantly the stronghold of the males in any society, and American Barbara Adams, the consort of a Nepalese prince who used to go on tiger hunts with him, has had a life far removed from the humdrum of housewifery that she might have had if she had stayed in the US.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine and carried an RRP of B. 345, making it an inexpensive 300 odd pages read. However, the literary worth of this book lies in the fact that you do not have to know the people whose autobiographies are held between the covers. It is also a reflection of the good literary style of the author Harold Stephens. The interspersing of some black and white photographs is a welcome addition, in that you are given a visual as well as mental image of the person in each chapter. The final chapter has the best guide for life in Asia too. I enjoyed the writing, I enjoyed the subjects and so will you. A good read.


Mott's CD Reviews: Rainbow Rising

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

After over eight years in the world’s premier hard rock band Deep Purple, the mercurial Ritchie Blackmore had enough and left after an emotional European tour. In Blackmore’s view by that time they had become five egotistical maniacs - not a team.

The final straw for Ritchie was when the rest of the band refused to record a cover of Qutermass’ ‘Black Sheep of the Family’. So after recording the song in the studio without the other members of Purple’s support band ‘Elf’, Blackmore had no hesitation in handing in his notice playing the final dates, and embarking on his journey to find hard rocking gold at the end of his rainbow.

Blackmore wasted no time in taking ‘Elf’ into the studio (apart obviously now redundant lead guitarist Steve Edwards, who was immediately dropped - a bit of a Pete Best situation here) and recorded the album of his dreams with his new band mates. The album was released in August of 1975 and reached the lower reaches of the British charts, and without ‘Deep Purple’ ‘Moniker’ did not even make a dent in the vastly important American Charts.

Worse was to follow.

The new band didn’t live up to Blackmore’s standards as a live unit although they had great songs from the new album (e.g.: ‘Catch the Rainbow’, ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’, a cover of the old Yardbirds classic ‘Still I’m Sad’, and the all time favorite ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’, which is still one of the most requested songs in Ronnie James Dio’s and Ritchie Blackmore’s set today, although both play it very different ways). So the first of Blackmore’s Stalinist like purges in Rainbow began.

Out went drummer Gary Driscoll, never to be heard from again. Rainbow perhaps being one step too far for this journeyman drummer. Also cast aside were bassist Craig Gruber, who ended up in Gary Moore’s band for a while, and keyboard player Mickey Lee Soule, who perhaps lowered his sights a little and is Deep Purple’s keyboard technician to this day.

Blackmore kept the wonderful pipes of the diminutive Ronnie James Dio as he had the charisma necessary to pull it off on stage, and had already forged a writing partnership with Blackmore, matching his tales of ancient times, wizardry, and magic to Blackmore’s riff’s. (He only lasted two more studio albums before incurring his master’s wrath, but that gave him three years in the spotlight. So he left for two wonderful albums with Black Sabbath, a legacy. He lives off to this day with his solo career, where his albums often surpass his previous employer’s in the heavy metal stakes.) To complete the new lineup Blackmore called upon the services of long time cohort, powerhouse drummer Cozy Powell. Powell was just coming off a surprising year as a pop star after a string of drum orientated Top 10 single hits. Before Powell had been with Britain’s other bad boy guitarist Jeff Beck.

Cozy Powell stayed with Rainbow for five years making him the second longest lasting member of the band after Blackmore. Perhaps his time with Beck had forearmed him. Whatever, his spectacular and solid drumming gave Blackmore the rock on which to build his band.

Tony Carey, an undoubted keyboard genius, was whisked away from his undistinguished country band from L.A ‘Blessing’, and gave Blackmore the musical sparring partner he had been missing since leaving Jon Lord from his Deep Purple days.

Then Ritchie Blackmore went to see his old mate Ricky Munro (they had played together in a band called ‘Mandrake Root’ in Germany in 1967 - a bit of trivia for all you Harry Potter fans) at the Marquee, where he was playing with a band called ‘Harlot’, liked his bass player and promptly asked him to join ‘Rainbow’. This completed ‘Rainbow’ and finished off ‘Harlot’.

So all back to the studio and this time not only did they come out with a bunch of great songs, but they sounded like a band. The band was now just known as ‘Rainbow’, dropping the Blackmore reference, and simply calling the album ‘Rising’.

Laying down new templates for hard rock the album starts with ‘Tarot Woman’. First Carey softens you up with a spacey keyboard intro before Blackmore comes in with one of his customized battering riffs before Bain and Powell come in on top to hammer the song into your brain. This all before Dio has a chance to sing the first verse. Then both Blackmore and Carey get the chance to show their chops on their solos before dueling out to bring the song to its close.

‘Run with the Wolf’ is a typical Blackmore call to arms, which would get any Army on its feet. ‘Stargazer’ is the first real classic in the running order. It literally bounces out of the speakers and could only be performed with such fine musicians. To hear a drummer at his absolute best, just have a listen to Cozy Powell on this album or on any of the two live albums from this lineup (‘On Stage’ or ‘Live in Germany’ from 1977). This is followed by ‘Do you Close Your Eyes’, here in a 3-minute version, which shows some of Ritchie Blackmore’s more modern influences. With its Yardbirds type feel, this song was often extended out to 15 minutes in their live set.

The last two songs go into the category of all time classic hard rock epics. Especially ‘Stargazer’, clocking in at over 8 minutes in length, won by a country mile as the most popular ‘Rainbow’ song on the ‘Rainbow’ website for fans. The band is allowed full reign to show off their prowess. Blackmore pulling off a solo that was to overshadow anything he had ever previously done, and with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in full flow supporting the 5-piece band, the sound is nothing short of exhilarating.

The climax of the set is brought to a thrilling conclusion by over eight action packed minutes of ‘A Light in the Black’ with some sensational dueling between Carey and Blackmore. Some more powerhouse rhythm work from Bain and Powell while Dio shows us all the way home.

‘Rising’ remains one of the greatest milestones in heavy rock.

Musicians

Ritchie Blackmore - Lead Guitar
Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
Tony Carey - Keyboards
Cozy Powell - Drums
Jimmy Bain - Bass

Songs

Tarot Woman
Run With The Wolf
Starstruck
Do You Close Your Eyes
Stargazer
Light in The Black

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]