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Book Review

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Book Review: Secrets of The Code

by Lang Reid

Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code and the re-released Angels and Demons) has certainly caught the public’s imagination. Word seems to have spread that Brown has become the new guru for the faithful, or the faithless, depending upon which side of the Vatican you stand.

Cashing in on the Da Vinci Code’s popularity did not take the publishers long. Dan Brown’s previous books have been repackaged, and now another Dan, a Dan Burstein, has produced a paperback compilation of researched responses to the questions posed, or facts alluded to, in the Da Vinci Code book.

The paperback edition of the Secrets of the Code came out this year, (ISBN 0-75286-446-7, Orion Books) and is divided into two books, each then subdivided into sections, dealing with firstly Mary Magdalene, with the postulations that she and Jesus Christ were perhaps married, and did even have a child together. Other sections cover the ‘Sacred Feminine’, the ‘lost’ gospels, early Christianity and Paganism, secret societies and others, including Opus Dei, the sect given so much prominence in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. The second section covers a more in-depth analysis of the Da Vinci Code book itself, including places as well as people. It also has an excellent Glossary, Web Resources and pr้cis of the bona fides of the contributors.

While some parts of this book are quite heavy going, Burstein has managed to keep most of it readable, and some of the ‘facts’ that are presented will make many people sit up and take notice. Page 182 with its comparison of the historical lives of Jesus and Osiris-Dionysus will incense or delight, again depending upon one’s own personal credo.

In one section, called Apocrypha and Revelations, the Da Vinci Code book is literally taken apart, page by page, with nit-picking details as to whether the book’s hero (Langdon) was going north or south from the Opera House to the Place Vendome. That is really taking it too far! (To show that reviewers can also nit-pick, there’s a typo on P. 399!)

The Glossary is almost as interesting as the book proper, especially when you can find references to Mithras (also born of a virgin on December 25, it is claimed), followed by ex-France president Francois Mitterrand and the Mona Lisa painting itself. Were you aware that the famous painting was stolen in 1911 and found in the false bottom of a suitcase?

At B. 395 on the shelves at my local Bookazine outlet, it is certainly a good companion for the Da Vinci Code, and makes for (almost) as fascinating reading (without the thriller aspect) as the Dan Brown books themselves. However, as I wrote in my review of Angels and Demons, “What must not be forgotten is that these are thrillers to entertain the reader. Whilst Brown does educate to some degree, these are not text books, which some reviewers have allowed themselves to believe.” Dan Brown raises more questions than answers, whilst Dan Burstein has taken it upon himself to find answers to many unasked questions. Being of an inquisitive bent, however, I did find this an interesting read.


Mott's CD Reviews: The Pretty Things – The B.B.C. Sessions (complete)

Thinged by Mott The Dog
Prettied by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Formed in the later stages of 1963, the Pretty Things arrived on the Londoner scene playing Berry/Diddley/Reed influenced raw rhythm and blues. The driving force behind the ‘Pretties’ were vocalist Brian May and Dick Taylor. (Taylor had left a version of the embryonic Rolling Stones with Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger because the three wanted him to play bass guitar while he was born to play lead guitar.)

The Pretty Things were contemporaries of ‘The Rolling Stones’ and ‘The Kinks’. Of course there was also that little band with that funny name from Liverpool, the Beatles. This dog always had a soft spot for the ‘Pretties’ as the Beatles were a little bit goody two shoes to be considered cool. I mean your parents liked them! The Rolling Stones were great, but always seemed to want to be Americans, denying their Dartford, Kent roots, and the Kinks could get a little whimsical at times.

The ‘Pretties’ had no image; music was their thing and hard edged rhythm and blues was the starting point. Their first seven singles all went top 50 in the U.K. (they did not mean a light in the U.S. of A., no image, nothing to promote). The sight of the ‘Pretties’ standing on Top of the Pops, trying to hide their embarrassment as they mimed their way through their latest single, was a wonder to behold. Unlike most of their contemporaries their lineup was quite liquid, revolving around the main duo, the drum seat, revolving faster than Spinal Tap’s.

In the late sixties the Pretty Things plunged head first, along with everybody else, into the psychedelic culture. Gone was all the straight ahead music and in came sitars, thousands of overdubs on all guitar parts, and kaftans and beads. Although huge on the underground scene, this did not exactly get the till bells ringing over, and in a state of confusion Dick Taylor left the band to settle down into production work. Away from the chaos of life on the road, Taylor produced the first albums from Hawkwind and Cochise.

Taylor was quickly replaced in the band, which imploded within the year.

But famous rocking’s roll manager Bill Shepherd, upon hearing of the ‘Pretties’ demise, tried to persuade them to reform, telling them that the ‘Pretties’ were too good a band to lose. How right he was. With a new dual lead guitar partnership in place, the mercurial Peter Tolson and Gordon Edwards, they were ready to roar again. After six weeks rehearsal they went into the studio to record the seminal ‘Freeway Madness’. The ‘Pretties’ had now put the entire wishy-washy psychedelic behind them and come back with a new hard-edged sound, combining their love of American harmony vocals and crunchy guitar licks with screaming solos.

This gained them enough attention to get them to be the first signing to the newly formed Swansong label, the brainchild of Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. Two wonderful albums were released over the next two years, but, although critically acknowledged, both failed to dent the charts. Once more the band fell apart in 1976, when Phil May decided enough was enough.

The band came together again in the late nineties, including old running mate Dick Taylor on lead guitar, and in 1999 they released ‘Rage Before Beauty’, an apt title if you consider what had gone before. The band still plays gigs to this day.

This collection of work from the B.B.C. Sessions gives you an overall view of the ‘Pretties’ career from 1964 to 1976. All the early singles are here. (The Pretty Things had a surge of popularity stateside when David Bowie covered their first two singles ‘Rosalyn’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ on his album Pin Ups. To many Americans, this was the first time they ever heard of the ‘Pretty Things’.)

It all goes a bit pear shaped in their psychedelic era, but then it did for a lot of people (remember the Stones? Or Their Satanic Majesties Request?), but on their return to hard edged rock ‘n’ roll, like on the Radio One ‘In Concert’ show to promote ‘Freeway Madness’, the band is so hot, it is incendiary. Nobody can throw caution to the wind with such abandon and still nail a song down like the ‘Pretties’ like ‘Onion Soup’ and especially ‘Route 66’. The live sessions for the following two albums are a little more controlled, but equally as exciting.

This album is not only a good overview of the Pretty Things’ career, but also a good overview of British rock in this era. If you are not familiar with the Pretty Things, this album would be an excellent way to find out.

Pretties doing their Thing on these sessions

Dick Taylor - Lead Guitar; Brian Pendleton - Lead Guitar; Victor Unitt - Lead Guitar; Peter Tolson - Lead Guitar; Gordon Edwards - Lead Guitar; Phil May – Vocals; John Stax - Bass Guitar; Wally Allen - Bass Guitar; Stuart Brooks - Bass Guitar; Jack Green - Bass Guitar; John Povey – Keyboards; Viv Prince – Drums; Skip Alan – Drums; and Twink Alder – Drums.

Songs

CD 1: Big Boss Man; Don’t Bring Me Down; Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut; Roadrunner; Big City; Midnight To Six Man; Sitting All Alone; Midnight To Six Man; Buzz The Jerk; Defecting Grey; Turn My Head; Walking Through My Dreams; Balloon Burning; S.F. Sorrow Is Born; She Says Good Morning; Send You With Loving; Spring; Sickle Clowns; She’s A Lover; Cries From The Midnight Circus; Stone-Hearted Mama; Cold Stone; Summer Time; Rosalyn; All Night Sailor; Religion’s Dead

CD 2: Havana Bound; Love Is Good; Route 66; Onion Sup/Another Bowl; Route 66; Peter/Rip Off Train; Atlanta; Bridge Of God; Singapore Silk Torpedo; Come Home Momma; Dream/Joey; Not Only But Also; Big City; Belfast Cowboys / Bruise In The Sky.

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