HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Jim Thompson - The House on the Klong

by Lang Reid

After a run of thrillers and who-dunnits, this week’s coffee table tome was a welcome change. Jim Thompson - the House on the Klong (ISBN 9-8130-1868-2, Archipelago Press, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) was co-authored by William Warren and Jean-Michel Beurdeley, with photographs by Luca Invernizzi Tettoni. It is indeed a coffee table book with hard cover and full colour all the way through.

At the front, acknowledgement is made of the James H.W. Thompson Foundation, under the Royal Patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, which effectively looks after the property, now designated as a national museum. The fact that the house was built and its contents were collected by an American businessman is an unfortunate indictment of the Thai personality, which in the late 50’s and early 60’s was slavishly looking towards the American dream, rather than maintaining its own culture. Warren points this out, but more gently than my critique.

The book is divided into four main sections - A man and his house, The Garden, A visit to the house and the Art collection. The co-authors share these sections, with William Warren contributing to the historical aspect, while Beurdeley deals with examination of the collected art. The format is similar in each, with a narrative at the front leading into well captioned photographs.

Warren the historian was a friend of Jim Thompson, so much of the history relies on his personal memories, but these give the book an immediacy and a personal touch. While reading the book, you are not kept aware of the disappearance of the house owner, and in a small way it continues the mystique surrounding the American silk magnate.

You are also given some thumbnail sketches of Bangkok of 45 years ago and earlier, both through the eyes of William Warren and those of luminaries such as W. Somerset Maugham. Warren backs up Invernizzi Tattoni’s photographs with old letters and archival photographs and architectural plans, Thompson being an architect before he began to delve into the silk trade.

Romance, Asian art, Thai architecture, Buddhism and oriental paintings are all here, rolled into one book. However, this is not an inexpensive book at B. 1,295, but as a reference volume it is priceless. Anyone who has any feelings for old Siam, as Jim Thompson did, will enjoy looking at the house that Jim Thompson built, and the art treasures he collected and housed inside it.

William Warren, a very accomplished writer and historian, avoids examination of the mysterious disappearance of Jim Thompson, but steadfastly looks at the house and its origins, while art authority Beurdeley deals with description of the art pieces. Factor in the exquisite photographs by Luca Invernizzi Tettoni and you have the complete and authoritative book on this remarkable house.

I enjoyed this book from hard cover to hard cover. My only disappointment was the fact that the book was printed in Singapore. Many years ago, it was necessary for ‘art’ books to be published in Singapore or Hong Kong, but not any more. Perhaps future editions can be proudly printed in Thailand. They deserve to be.

Mott's CD Reviews: KISS - Alive 4 Symphony ... The DVD

Drawn by Mott the Dog
Colored in by Ella Crew

5 Kisses *****

“You Wanted The Best? You Got The Best. The Hottest Band In The Land, KISS.” This is the taped introduction to every KISS concert since the year dot. Who would be brave enough to dispute this claim? Their stage shows are folklore now, and after 30 years, 32 albums, and over 90 million record sales, the band is still going strong.

The lineup has fluctuated dramatically over the years with only main stays Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley remaining constant. Some musicians leave and return for these shows, as does original drummer Peter Criss, but already less than a year down the road he has been replaced by the returning Eric Singer. The make-up of each replacement musician stays the same so the crowd hardly ever notices. The idea is that once you are in the band, make sure you don’t upset Gene or Paul or you will find yourself on the outside again. So, on this recording you have Tommy Thayer playing the role of Silver Spaceman and Ace Frehley on lead guitar never missing a note or smudging his make up.

Alive Four Symphony is the first Full length concert available from the masters of Theatre Rock; and what a concert it was, too. Over 40 thousand rabid KISS fans attended, and it is spread over two DVDs. The first documents the arrival of the band in Australia and their meeting up with the conductor and musical director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with its classically trained musicians. Although it starts out in distrust and coldness, by the time of concert, band, orchestra members and choir are as one and have the time of their lives.

On Disc Two is the full concert broken up into three acts. The first act is the 4-piece rock band playing six of their classic songs stripped to the bone. Act two consists of five songs given the acoustic treatment with a 12-piece string section. Songs like ‘Beth’ and ‘Forever’, two ballads, gave KISS surprise ballad single hits, and have been screaming out for in the live context. Act three is where all the action really kicks off. The four members of the band look great despite the fact that all of them are in their sixth decade. They rock ‘round the stage shaking their booties like never before; all in their adopted make up and specially made stage space suits.

The Cat behind the drums only comes to the front to play up to the crowd during his solo singing spot in ‘Beth’. The Spaceman on lead guitar takes every opportunity to blaze out as many notes per second solos as possible, and, being new to the band, obviously loves every second of it.

The Beast on bass, forever sticking out the longest and most suggestive tongue in rock, spits blood and eats fire during his bass solo before flying bat-like sixty feet into the gantry above the stage, and then is flown down again to join his crewmen.

Center stage is the Starman in his 8-inch stack heeled boots, flouncing and pouting at the audience, playing his guitar over each shoulder before bringing it crashing to the ground, and being flown round the audience on a flying trapeze.

Add to this a 60-piece orchestra and conductor all in full KISS make up (each member of the orchestra was allowed to choose which member of KISS’ make up they wanted to wear) enjoying their new found freedom in being able to play rock music instead of the strict rigors of the classics. When they are then joined by a 40-piece Australian Children’s Choir (naturally also in full make up), the audience (half of them are also in full KISS dress) go completely wild. Add to this KISS playing all their classic songs (ranging from selections from their first album to their latest studio effort); a great stage set; a hilarious Paul Stanley in-between song raps; some of the biggest and loudest pyrotechnics ever set off on a rock stage, and you have one of the greatest rock shows ever recorded on this DVD.

Over the course of the two DVDs the playing time (including bonus features) clocks in at over three and a half hours. So with KISS, as usual, everything to excess.

KISS on this recording are:
Star child Paul Stanley - Guitar and Vocals
The Beast Gene Simmons - Bass Guitar and Vocals
The Cat Peter Criss - Drums and Vocals
Spaceman Tommy Thayer - Lead Guitar
Dressed as the Beast David Campbell - Conductor
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
The Australian Children’s Choir

Songs by KISS

Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
Psycho Circus

KISS with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Goin’ Blind
Sure Know Something

KISS with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Children’s Choir

Detroit Rock City
King Of The Night Time World
Shout It Out Loud
God Of Thunder
Love Gun
Great Expectations
Black Diamond
I Was Made For Lovin’ You
Rock and Roll All Nite

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]