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Book Review

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Book Review: Shadowed Country

by Lang Reid

Shadowed Country (ISBN 974-91823-0-8) is the latest offering from the champion of Isaan, Pira Canning Sudham. This latest book is more of an ‘expanded’ anthology, which author Pira says is the result of 50 years experience, writing and re-writing.

For many years there has been a never-ending supply of books about the life of the poor people in Isaan, written by foreigners, and usually of the “why Lek joined the sex trade” genre. Whilst the odd one or two have managed to give a reasonable account of life in the Isaan villages, they have always been the accounts from people on the outside. This is where Pira Canning Sudham scores, as his accounts are by a Thai, from the inside. Having been born in Napo, a small village in Buriram province, he tells it as it really is. The mind numbing education system and the dirt poor farmers.

In the beginning of the book, Pira writes a letter to his parents. “I did not choose to leave you and our land only to pursue knowledge but also to become a thinking person. I must rebuild my mind that has been maimed and stunted during the formative years by a feudal education that was aimed at inducing subservience and mindlessness. We were supposed to become unthinking, obedient, silent and submissive so as to be governable, exploitable and harmless.” Strong words.

Strong words, and from a strong person. Pira became a temple boy when he was 14 years old and sold artefacts to tourists to put himself through university. Following his winning of a scholarship to New Zealand, his career never looked back, becoming a well known and respected author, writing in the English language.

Shadowed Country was published by Shire Asia last year in hardback format, and it is indeed a weighty tome. The book is broken into two main sections, the first being Monsoon Country and the second The Force of Karma, both previously published as stand-alone books.

This book, like all his others, is skillfully written. When I reviewed The Force of Karma a few years ago, I wrote that the characters in the book are based on reality. There are people you know, people you have read about in newspapers and people from the recent past. The word pictures painted by Pira Canning Sudham are powerful enough to stir the reader to wish for action and justice for the oppressed. The book is a call to arms. A call that would make Pira Canning Sudham’s position as a permanent resident in Thailand somewhat untenable I would venture. Pira is an activist!

You cannot read this book and put it down without it having affected you in some way. Even if all it has done is to make you want to visit Isaan to see for yourself.

The review copy came directly from Pira Sudham and I am honoured that Pira Canning Sudham feels that I have enough of an open mind to assimilate the message that runs through his writings. It will stay on my bookshelf. It should be on yours too. At B. 998 it is a bargain.

Mott's CD Reviews: Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story

Pranced by Mott the Dog
Preened by Ella Crew

5 spiky headed Stars *****

1971 found Mr. Rodney Stewart in a ridiculous, creative, productive, and not to say lucrative mind. In 1970 he already released two solo albums, which were all but Faces albums in name only, ‘An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down’ and ‘Gasoline Alley’, and one album fully credited to the Faces ‘First Step’. But 1971 saw the Faces - and particularly their lead singer - shoot to stardom beyond their wildest dreams.

First there was their first top thirty album on both sides of the Atlantic with ‘Long Player’. Then the first single from Rod Stewart’s new solo album ‘Maggie May’ went number one worldwide followed by the release of ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’, which followed the single to a worldwide number one. This was topped off with another Faces album that again followed the previous album to number one, ‘A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse’. They crammed all this in while doing hundreds of magical concerts all over the world.

To record ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ Rod Stewart surrounded himself with his mates, wrote two new songs with Faces’ mate Ronnie Wood, the title track and album opener, and one with Martin Quittenton, ‘Maggie May’. The rest were all perfectly selected covers. Some songs make you want to leap up and hug someone and some will bring you to emotional tears; Rod Stewart lets all his Sam Cooke influences hang out.

The title track is brought to a dramatic finale with Maggie Bell of Stone The Crows fame in a grand style duet with Rodney. The chorus lines in ‘Seems Like a Long Time’ are given a great touch by Madeleine Bell and old ‘Steampacket’ buddy Long John Baldrey as Rodney slows it all down.

The version of Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’ gives a huge nod of affection to Elvis, and Bob Dylan has never been covered better than ‘Tomorrow Is Such A Long Time’.

‘Amazing Grace’ lives up to its name with some of the best slide guitar that Ronnie Wood has ever laid down in the studio, and gives great emphasis to Rod Stewart’s vocals.

Then we get ‘Maggie May’, an all-time classic. The autobiographical song about a young Rodney Stewart losing his virginity was given its first showcase on the British TV program Top Of The Pops. Rod Stewart, backed by his trusty Faces and various monkey suited roadies, and D.J. John Peel (a non-musician) attempting to look like he could play the wonderful Ray Jackman mandolin solo with all the others mugged up behind him, had a whale of a time kicking balloons into the crowd; none of them bothering to hide the fact that they were only miming to the track. The conservative British Broadcasting Company was not amused, but they won the hearts of a nation.

‘Mandolin Wind’ is played to perfection with Ray Jackman of Lindisfarne again staring with his mandolin playing.

‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ is probably the heaviest rocker that Rodney or the Faces ever played and used to bring their stage show to a riotous conclusion. Micky Waller, who plays drums on all the tracks on ‘Every Picture’, would surely have made a better drummer with the Faces than the rather rigid Kenny Jones; he propels ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ along with tremendous power.

Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason To Believe’ brings the album to a beautiful conclusion.

If you want to hear Rod Stewart singing at his best, this is it. That was before he disbanded the Faces and got out his leotards to ask you ‘Don’t Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ and all the other rubbish he flooded us with later in the seventies. But anything is forgivable to an artist that can come out with a slice of perfection like ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’. 1971 was a good year indeed.

Rod Stewart - Abrasive Vocals
Ronnie Wood - Guitar
Ronnie Wood, Andy Pyle and Danny Thompson - Bass when needed
Mickey Waller - Drums
Multi talented Pete Sears - Everything else


Every Picture Tells A Story
Seems Like a Long Time
That’s Alright
Tomorrow Is Such A Long Time
Amazing Grace
Maggie May
Mandolin Wind
(I Know) I’m Losing You
Reason To Believe

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