HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: Culture and Customs of Thailand

by Lang Reid

The hardcover book, Culture and Customs of Thailand (ISBN 0-313-32128-0, Greenwood Press 2004) is part of the Culture and Customs of Asia collection. This publication covering Thailand was written by Arne Kislenko, the assistant professor of history at Ryerson College in Toronto, and according to the author’s notes has written frequently on various dimensions of US-Thai relations and Thai foreign policy.

10 chapters cover everything from religion, literature, theatre, dance, music, film, architecture, social customs, festivals and fun, cuisine, courtship and marriage. At the back of the book there is an appendix, a glossary, suggested reading and a bibliography. This alone should be enough to promise that this is not just another of the many superficial overviews, but a more scholarly approach. The back cover even suggests that this book is a reference source “for students and general readers to gain substantial, sweeping insight into Thais and their land of smiles.”

In the beginning there are notes on Thai transliteration, always a problem to the outsider and to the Thais. Pattaya, Phattaya, Chiang Mai, Chieng Mai spring to mind immediately, but I have to wonder at the spelling used of HM the King’s name as Bumipol, when almost universally it is HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Being an academic in history, Kislenko gives a good chronology of the emergence of the Thai nation as we know it today, following the most accepted version of the immigration of the Tai speakers. Interestingly, whilst the book was published this year, and the chronology goes to 2004, there is no mention of Thaksin Shinawatra, a feature that I consider to be a great omission, and one the current PM would undoubtedly consider treasonable! And this is from an author who speaks on Thai foreign policy?

The subject matter in other sections of the book tends to be covered rather superficially. For example, whilst the author attempts to explain Loy Krathong, he does not name Nang Noppamas, the lady who convinced the king that this basically Brahmin ceremony could be combined with a Buddhist sensitivity. The beauty contest he mentions is to find today’s Nang Noppamas!

Whilst this book does promise much, for my money it does not fully deliver. Let us begin with the price. B. 1950 is over the top. Certainly it is a hardback, but for B. 45 more I can buy Steve Van Beek’s beautifully illustrated Thailand Reflected in a River.

The Culture and Customs of Thailand proclaims that it has “evocative photos”, but it has only a few very small black and white illustrations that made me cry out for more and for colour too. Thailand is an amazing country with many colourful images, and Kislenko gives the reader small black and whites, with some particularly amateurish. Perhaps this is in line with a scholarly approach, rather than a popular travelogue, but for B. 50 short of 2,000 the reader gets black and white?

By and large, there is almost enough ‘meat’ in this publication, but the trimmings do not reflect the price. Too expensive. Wait till it is remaindered, as it no doubt will be.

Mott's CD Reviews: George Thorogood and the Destroyers - Live: Let’s Work Together

Rocked by Mott the Dog
Rolled by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

George Thorogood and his Delaware Destroyers have been raisin’ rock ‘n’ roll Shenanigans now for over thirty years. Coming out of Detroit in 1974, they got to release their first self-titled studio album in 1977. However, it was not until another nine years of roadwork, and several studio albums later, that the band hit pay dirt with their first live album, simply titled ‘Live’ in 1986. It made the live Destroyer experience available to the world. And after all is said and done, it is not surprising that this is where the band finally clicked on album. George Thorogood and the Destroyers have always been a live beast, bursting into life when they hit the boards in front of a frenzied audience, but wilting slightly when cooped up in a recording studio.

In the Destroyers career so far there have been three live albums, the original from 1977, then lately there was Live in 1999, but it’s this middle one from 1995 that I picked as the best of a good bunch. The simple reason is that the performance is explosive, well recorded, chock-a-block full of Thorogood classics, the odd surprise here and there, and, like any good live recording, it is topped and tailed by a good solid slab of Mr. Chuck Berry.

The ever dependable Destroyers, stripped down to a basic four piece which this dog prefers (I’d rather have four musicians working hard than a nine piece being able to take it easy), put out a good solid sound. Apart from the amazing George out front on lead guitar and vocals, you have the exuberant Hank Carter on saxophone, who also contributes a touch of keyboards when the feeling takes. These two are backed by one of the most solid rhythm sections in history - Bill Blough on bass and Jeff Simon on drums. Over the years these two have welded together a mighty partnership.

For the first eleven songs the boys crank up their audience with a set full of Thorogood destroyers, working the fifth member of the band, the audience, to frenzy. Particularly on the tribute to John Lennon with their version of Larry Williams’ ‘Bad Boy’, which the Beatles would have first started playing in their days in Hamburg nightclubs back in the early sixties. But when George introduces Elvin (Bad Boy) Bishop to the crowd to join the band for some slide guitar on ‘Let’s Work Together’, the audience can barely contain themselves with excitement.

To top that, out from the wings for the final two songs comes Mr. Piano of Rock ‘n’ Roll/Blues/Boogie, Mr. Johnny Johnson. In his past Johnson has been chief sideman to all the greats including Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, etc., and if you have never heard barrel house, honky-tonk piano, lend an ear to the last two tracks on this album. The first of the two is a storming version of ‘St. Louis Blues’, then we are led away by the rock ‘n’ roll national anthem ‘Johnny B. Goode’. By this time the excitement contained in the grooves of your CD can barely be controlled as your CD player hangs onto the disc by the skin of its teeth. The band members shoulder each other out of the way to take turns at soloing. Finally George breaks back in to take control and brings the song to a shattering climax.

All in all a very satisfying live recording of a band at the top of their game. Not many people know that when George sings...

“Why don’t you get a haircut and get a real job,

Just like your big brother Bob”

...he is of course singing about his soul brother ‘The Prince of Darkness’, Bob Finch of Tahitian Queen fame. Well, now you know.

George Thorogood - Guitar and Vocals
Jeff Simon - Drums
Bill Blough - Bass
Hank Carter -Saxophone and Keyboards

Guest Musicians

Elvin Bishop - Slide Guitar
Johnnie Johnson - Piano

Set list

No Particular Place To Go
Ride On Josephine
Bad Boy
C Blues
If You Don’t Start Drinkin’ (I’m Gonna’ Leave)
I’m Ready
I’ll Change My Style
Get A Haircut
Gear Jammer
Move It On Over
You Talk Too Much
Let’s Work Together
St. Louis Blues
Johnny B. Goode

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]