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Book Review

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Book Review: Thailand Nature and Wonders

by Lang Reid

Post early for Xmas is the theme this week. Having been in the situation where the express postage on last minute gifts has outweighed the value of the present, one should start thinking about gifts now.

My local Bookazine shelves have various language editions of the series Nature and Wonders, and the comprehensive “Thailand” looked interesting enough to open its pages. It also interested me as a publication to show friends and relatives back home the wonderland in which we live - Thailand.

To say that this is an international book is not putting too fine a point on it. Printed in China, published by Asia Books in Bangkok (ISBN 8-540-0102-3), written in Italian (but translated into English), with the majority of the photographs from an Italian photographer.

The book divides Thailand into various areas, including Bangkok and the Central Plain, the North and the Golden Triangle, the South and the Islands and the North-East. It also comes with an index and photographic credits, though most were taken by Livio Bourbon, through the White Star Photo Library in Italy.

It is not just a photo book, even though it does have many glossy full-bleed photographs, some spanning two pages. I would classify it more as a descriptive book with abundant photographic illustrations.

The book begins with a history of Siam and its morphing into Thailand in the last century. The Chakri royal lineage from Rama I is explained, and due reverence is paid to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest serving (and most adored) monarch.

Some of the descriptions tend to be somewhat “sugary” and reek of travel brochures, rather than incisive, investigative journalism. For example, it describes the Akha people as sweet and gentle, the opposite of how I see this unique ethnic grouping. Again, describing Pattaya’s beach as “dazzling” is stretching credibility a little, unless the reviewer came at night and was bedazzled by the lines of pulchritude along Beach Road! I would also take umbrage with the description of Tiffany Show as being “dubious”; however, I believe this reflects the fact that the original text was in Italian, and shades of meaning get twisted in translation. But then again, if a heavyweight is what you want, you don’t buy books such as these.

The various areas are reasonably well covered in this 126 page book, other than the North-East (Isaan) which only received one page of text and a smattering of photographs to very inadequately cover a huge area of Thailand that is home to 20 million people (and seemingly an equal number of itinerant bar workers).

Having been published in 2004, the section on the South obviously depicts the pre-tsunami picture, but it is nice to remember its former splendor.

At B. 450 it is a reasonably priced book to send overseas, and if you take my advice and post early via puff-powered junk, the costs in shipping and delivery are small. It does also give your friends a more than passing glimpse of the ‘nature and wonders’ of Thailand, something we all tend to take for granted after living here for a while.


Mott's CD Reviews: Concert for George

DVD - by friends of George Harrison

Mott the Dog

  5 Stars *****

This DVD concert never comes across as a sad memorial concert for the late great George Harrison, more of a celebration of the life, love, music, and most of all faith of a wonderful human being.

During George Harrison’s tragically short life he touched many people. Obviously he was one of the lovable Moptops from Liverpool, whose music and attitude changed the world as we know it. He also started the charity music culture with his concert for Bangladesh in 1971. (Would there have been Live Aid, etc., if it had not been for George Harrison’s groundbreaking concert a decade before?) He almost single handedly made the world aware of whole new cultures from Asia.

In his solo career, he was, at first, the most successful Beatle to go solo; his first releases back in 1970 went to Number One all over the world with his magnificent triple album “All Things Must Pass”, and the single taken from it “My Sweet Lord’’.

George also formed Handmade movies which saved the masterpiece “The Life Of Brian” by Monty Python (George actually has a walk on part as the mayor if you look closely). The world would definitely be a sadder place without that little Python masterpiece.

This double DVD package has the first DVD devoted to the whole concert in it’s correct running order, so that all of us that were not able to be there on that magical night at Albert Hall in London on November 29, 2002 can get an inkling of what was going on.

The second DVD gives you snippets of the concert interspersed with interviews from George’s friends, rehearsals and backstage footage; interesting and sometimes hilarious stuff. There is over 2 hours and twenty minutes of material on DVD Two, whilst the concert on Disc One lasts for nearly 2 1/2 hours.

There are too many musical highlights to mention them all. But before I list the group of friends that turned up to celebrate George’s life, and what songs they decided to play, I shall try to point out a few.

The concert starts out with a specially composed piece by Ravi Shankar written for George, ‘Arpan’, where what I can only call a blend of Asian folk/orchestra meets western influences. The results are quite stunning. Ravi’s daughter plays the sitar as beautifully as she looks, and she is very beautiful, matching Eric Clapton when he joins her on acoustic guitar.

The Monty Python team gets on stage for two songs. The wonderful irreverence of the songs would have had George rolling around the aisles in laughter. Notice also Tom Hanks having the time of his life as a Mountie in the chorus line.

Eric Clapton does a wonderful job as musical director as well as contributing some stunning guitar work, especially in recreating his solo from “My Guitar Gently Weeps’’ from the Beatles ‘White Album’. Poor Ringo barely keeps his emotions under control whilst singing ‘Photograph’. It is also the first time that Paul McCartney, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr have all performed on the same stage together since a certain legendary roof top concert over thirty years ago.

Although the concert would not have been the same without Paul McCartney, he for once does not dominate proceedings, leaving plenty of room for others to shine, and shine they do.

George Harrison’ son Dhani, himself a fine musician, is often allowed center stage. George Harrison’s old mucker Joe Brown brings the concert to an emotional climax. The set from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the middle of the second section is simply stunning. Tom Petty was in George Harrison’s other group, the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.

Look out for the guitar solo from Albert Lee during “Honey Don’t” - it raises the Albert Hall Roof a few inches higher. The singing of Sam Brown and Gary Brooker are, as ever, highlights of any concert.

This DVD delivers in every possible aspect and would not disappoint anybody with even a passing interest in the life and times of George Harrison. There is also a double CD of this concert which is nice to have whilst driving the car, but you get so much more with the DVD.

George Harrison’s Friends on this movie are

Eric Clapton, Musical Director

Featuring Joe Brown, Eric Clapton, Jools Holland and Sam Brown, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr and...
Dave Bronze – Bass
Gary Brooker – Keyboards
Jim Capaldi – Drums
Ray Cooper – Percussion
Dhani Harrison – Guitar
Jim Horn – Alto Sax
Jim Keltner – Drums
Katie Kissoon – Backing Vocals
Albert Lee – Guitar
Andy Fairweather Low – Guitar
Marc Mann – Electric Guitar
Tessa Niles – Backing Vocals
Tom Scott – Tenor Sax
Henry Spinetti – Drums
Chris Stainton – Keyboards
Klaus Voormann – Bass

Arpan: Composed by Ravi Shankar, conducted by Anoushka Shankar, Boys’ and Girls’ Choir courtesy of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, English Chamber Choir London Metropolitan Orchestra, strings conducted and arranged by Michael Kamen.

The Monty Pythons: Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, & Carol Cleveland.

The Mounties: Malcolm Abbs, Mark Brown, Michael Clarke, Tom Hanks, Bob Hunter, David Porter Thomas and Fred Tomlinson.

And the songs sung
1. Sitar Solo-Your Eyes – Anoushka Shankar
2. Arpan conducted by Anoushka Shankar
3. The Inner Light – Jeff Lynne and Anoushka Shankar
4. Sit On My Face And The Lumberjack Song – Monty Python
5. I Want To Tell You And Give Me Love – Jeff Lynne
6. Old Brown Shoe – Gary Brooker
7. If I Needed Someone and Beware Of Darkness – Eric Clapton
8. Here Comes The Sun And That’s The Way It Goes – Joe Brown
9. Horse To The Water – Jools Holland and Sam Brown
10. Taxman and I Need You – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
11. Handle With Care – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison
12. My Sweet Lord and Isn’t It A Pity – Billy Preston
13. Photograph and Honey Don’t – Ringo Starr
14. For You Blue and All Things Must Pass – Paul McCartney
15. Something and While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton
16. Wah Wah – Eric Clapton and Band
17. I’ll See You In My Dreams – Joe Brown

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Website: http://www.mott-the-dog.com