HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: Twelve months between the covers!

by Lang Reid

Since this is the final column for 2004, I looked back in a fit of retrospection. This was a difficult exercise, as the range of books reviewed ran from ‘penny dreadfuls’ (though I draw the line at Mills and Boon) to wonderful resource volumes and expensive coffee-table tomes.

It should also be remembered that book reviews are subjective exercises, and not objective overviews. What I enjoy is not necessarily what you enjoy (and vice versa), but in the reviews I do attempt to indicate ‘why’ I have liked or disliked any particular publication. One reader during the year was prompted to write in and tell me that I had missed the point of one book, proclaiming I just “didn’t get it”. That is point enough. If the writing is such that an experienced reviewer doesn’t “get it”, then for me, the writing (and the book) is obscure and flawed.

While examining “reviewing”, the weekly column does not purport to be an academic dissertation or undergraduate dissection. It is designed purely to indicate publications that you should be able to find on the shelves, and whether or not the reviewer enjoyed the literary experience.

With the broad scope of the column, it is not possible to give a “book of the year” award, but the following publications did stand out. On the fiction shelves there was Christopher G Moore’s Pattaya 24/7. Moore’s writing I always find enjoyable. This book revolves around an eccentric classical pianist, a dead up-country Thai gardener, his veterinarian widow, several concubines, a godfather, a flock of hand reared goats, a Thai police colonel, a swami, Jemaah Islamiah, TQ2 go-go bar, a CIA operative and more. What more do you need? A great read!

“Faction” is another category I do enjoy and there was one standout here. For King and Country, set in the middle to late 1700’s revolving around the lives (and fates) of a couple of young English lads who go to sea in those romantic times of seafaring heroes that are the staple history fare for all British youngsters. Sir Walter Raleigh, Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson, Captain James Cook and Sir Francis Drake, names that will invoke memories of movies with the hero before the mast and countless happy, smiling Jack Tars breaking out the sails. Ah yes, those were the days. Author Ian Quartermaine takes a different tack, if you’ll excuse the pun. The book is written from the viewpoint of the Jack Tars and shows another side of life before the mast. A powerful and sometimes gut-wrenching read.

So to factual books and a few were superb, including Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, the most readable scientific ‘text book’ you can buy (and you should have a copy at home for your children).

Others included Steve Van Beek’s Thailand Reflected in a River, far more than a book on the history of a river, but is a history of a nation, its peoples, its culture, beliefs and religion, using the main river system to meld it all into one.

An interesting year, and 2005 looks even better!

Mott's CD Reviews: Mott the Hoople - Wildlife

Scribbled rather tamely by Mott the Dog
Sorted out by Ella Crew

2 Stars **

This is where it all went wrong for Mott the Hoople. Following up their great debut album with the hard edged ‘Mad Shadows’, they had staked the claim for Mott the Hoople to be one of the UK’s best rock ‘n’ roll units. Their new album was waited for with bated breath by their many fans, but instead of breaking out of the speakers and grabbing you by the throat, it dribbled out with a whimper.

The songs were not actually bad. In fact, the two Ian Hunter ballads “Angel Of Eighth Avenue” and “Waterlow” are 24-carat classics, and a couple of Mick Ralph’s contributions would fit well onto any Poco album. (Is there anybody out there who will still admit to being a fan of those champions of the wimpy country rock genre?)

The sad solitary live track, a cover of Little Richard’s ‘Keep A Knockin’, is simply awful. There are much better versions of this chestnut of Mott the Hoople’s early rock ‘n’ roll jamborees on bootleg recordings (even a typical early seventies bootleg done with a handheld microphone would compare favorably with this muddy grotesque version.) So all in all not much of an effort really.

To be fair to the band, six months later all of the songs had been dropped from the live stage act, even their beloved ‘Keep a Knockin’, to be replaced by the much harder edged material that was later put out on their next album “Brain Capers”, when original mentor and producer Guy Stevens returned to the scene after being unceremoniously dumped for the recording of their third album. But the damage had been done by ‘Wildlife’ and it took intervention of a certain David Bowie a year later to put them back on the brink of superstardom.

Mott the Hoople was constantly on the edge of global domination, but always somehow managed to mess things up at the last moment, wrestling defeat from the jaws of victory. The band was already re-naming the album ‘Mildlife’ by the time they were doing the rounds of interviews to promote the album. It is a mark of how far Mott the Hoople had come in their eighteen months together, as ‘Wildlife’ debuted in the British Top Thirty at number 18. Other albums that were in the Top Thirty that week were Jimi Hendrix’ Cry Of Love at number 1; at number 2 was the Yes album by Yes; and number 3 was Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush. Also in the charts were two albums each for Elton John and Pink Floyd, one each for Jethro Tull, John Lennon and George Harrison, Atomic Rooster, Deep Purple; debut albums from Emerson Lake and Palmer (that’s one group!), Argent, and Wishbone Ash; plus Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats. So pretty hot competition, but not surprising that number 18 was as high as it was ever likely to go, after people had actually heard it.

Unremarkably, ‘Wildlife’ was the poorest selling album Mott the Hoople ever released. If you want to find out what all the buzz was about the band, look elsewhere than this rather limp collection. This Dog was not named after this weak lot, rather the barely controlled violence of albums like the previous ‘Mad Shadows’, or ‘Mott’, Rolling Stone magazine’s album of the Year in 1973. What saves this album from the dreaded “No Stars” is that Angel Air have done a fabulous job of repackaging the five albums Mott the Hoople recorded during their three years with Island Records (their first four albums plus the tidying up collection of odds and ends) into ‘Two Miles from Heaven.’

The songs on this CD have been given a great polishing job, leaving them with a clarity they never had originally, plus bonus tracks and a great 20-page booklet with notes by Keith Smith, editor of ‘Two Miles From Heaven’, the Mott the Hoople Fan Club magazine (yes, sad though it is, Mott The Hoople still have an official fan club thirty years after their demise), which is crammed full of replicas of old posters and pictures. The booklet is almost worth the outlay from the album on its own; almost, but not quite.

Ian Hunter - Piano and Vocals
Mick Ralphs - Guitar and Vocals
Overend Watts - Bass Guitar
Verden Allen - Organ
Dale Griffin (Buffin) - Drums


Whisky Woman
Angel Of Eighth Avenue
Wrong Side Of The River
Lay Down
It Must Be Love
Original Mixed Up Kid
Home Is Where I Want To Be
Keep a Knockin
Bonus Tracks
It’ll Be Me
Long Red

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]