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Book Review

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Book Review: The Kingdom of Thailand – An Overview

I often find I am looking for a book to give me some information about Thailand. After all, unless you were born here, it is unlikely that you know the names of the Thai kings off by heart. Add to the difficulties is the fact that the names in Thai are not the same as the names in English! Try Rama VI, for example. He is known as King Mongkut Klaew Jaow U Hua in Thai, but King Vajiravudh in English, while King Mongkut in English is Rama IV. Confused? Well don’t worry, just remember the old adage, “The more you know, the less you understand!”

After that brave lead-in, unfortunately the Kingdom of Thailand – An Overview (ISBN 974-9517-45-8, by J. Rowland Davies and Thomus Jim and published by The Knowledge Center Chiang Mai) does not give you both, but at least does run through the Kings using their English nomenclature.

Other chapters cover geography and climate, history and the people, religion, king and government, festivals, the economy, wildlife, shopping, cuisine, recreation and transportation.

In the history section, the book claims that the “Thai people began to colonize Thailand in the 10th or 11th century” and goes on to describe the migration. Whilst not wishing to be pedantic, the migration was of the Tai speaking peoples, and the region was not known as “Thailand” in those days. Later in the book, this is rectified by stating that the name “Thailand” was coined by the then PM Phibun to cover the Tai speaking peoples, and the country was renamed Thailand, instead of Siam, in 1939.

The section covering Buddhism is well researched and comprehensive, and does show the casual reader the impact of the religion on the Thai society following that discipline, which accounts for 95 percent of the Thais. It also highlights the fact that, “there is no sense of remoteness from the community sometimes felt in western churches. It is a repository for all aspects of the life and culture of the people, as well as the spirituality of the people it serves.”

At an RRP of B. 295 at the local Bookazine, this pocketbook does represent good value, though I would have expected more color plates. It is, as the title says, an overview. At times this is taken too literally, and important details are not fleshed out, or in some cases, (deliberately?) omitted. For a book written and published in Thailand to claim that the reason for the deposing of King Taksin is not known is ludicrous, or shows poor research, but if we revert to the ‘overview’ concept and look at the RRP, then perhaps it can be forgiven. Perhaps. The other failure in this book is the raft of spelling mistakes and poor grammar. The back cover states, “Some are well develope (sic) with top class facilities for the visitor while otheres (sic) almost completely unknown.” There are enough professional native English speakers in Chiang Mai to facilitate proof reading, to make this unforgivable. I got the feeling that this book was written first in Thai and then translated into English.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Jethro Tull

Bursting Out - Live

Mott the Dog 

3 Stars ***

By November 1978 Jethro Tull had been on the road for eleven years. Only Ian Anderson (mad looking bloke who always led the band with flute at his lips, hair like giant haystacks on a bad hair day, the dress sense of a tramp, with a long rain coat, tights, and a codpiece, standing on one leg, but for all of that probably had more talent in his little finger than most of his contemporaries) was left from the original line-up, but what did that matter?

The eleven years had sprouted the equivalent of eleven classic rock albums. With an awesome reputation live, it was decided that it was time for the essential live double album. Tull had had some live tracks released on compilation album “Living In The Past” but nothing like an actual concert setting. So during their European concert tour to support the latest release, Heavy Horses (1978), all of their concerts were recorded, and the best bits, in Ian Anderson’s opinion, put together for this release.

So then it was with great distress that I remember, with trembling hand putting the needle to the vinyl (nod your head sagely if you can remember back that long) to hear the first track on side one.

After a rather feeble announcer hailed the band onto the stage, they started out quite weakly with “No Lullaby”. Now, it is not exactly bad, in fact Martin Barre’s guitar playing is magnificent, but nor is it inspiring.

The band stutters through a couple more songs before putting aside their electrically charged instruments to entertain us acoustically - very ho-hum. After this we get the ridiculous situation where all the musicians give up their specialist instrument to pick up something else, to give us a rendition of “Skating away on the Thin Ice Of a New Day.” Then after Barre has a bit of an axe work out, we are treated to nearly fifteen minutes of Ian Anderson’s flute solo, including little snippets from all sorts of things, but mostly Christmas carols. Now live in concert, had you been there around Christmas time, this might have been highly entertaining, but on record it just drags itself out.

But then with a sudden change (maybe it was another band? You can never tell with these Jethro’s, one member of the band pictured in the sleeve notes here with a full beard and smoking a pipe Mr. David Palmer, has now changed himself into a lady, goes by the name of Dee, and doesn’t have anything to do with the music business, instead working as a librarian), the band slips several gears and “come out” (sic) playing brilliantly.

Starting with “Songs from the Wood” everything jells perfectly. Next up, completing the first CD from this double set, is a condensed version of the “Thick As A Brick” epic. Clocking in at nearly forty minutes upon its first release, but cut back to twelve minutes after six years in the set, it still remains a monumental piece of music, with Anderson’s unique vocals, and the interplay between Barre’s guitar and Anderson’s flute is remarkable, reminding one of the magical duelling of Lord and Blackmore in Deep Purple.

When you put on Disc Two the power does not stop, in fact it increases. John Glasock’s jazzy bass playing on “Hunting Girl” is a joy to the ears. The lyrics, followed by the jitterbug section of “Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll; Too Young to Die”, will having you laughing yourself into the ground as you boogie away. Even the drum solo keeps your interest levels up. John Evan and David Palmer keep up a sparkling barrage of keyboard wizardry, whist Barriemore Barlow lives up to his marvellous moniker on the drums.

“Minstrel In the Gallery” is spot on, the trio of songs from Tull’s classic album “Aqualung”. The title track, along with “Crossed Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breathe” combined with more instrumental duelling on the improvisational “Quatrain” bring the set to a very satisfying, and rousing conclusion. But the Metro’s are not done yet as they come back one more time for their rendition of the “Damn Busters March”, by which time the stiff
British upper lip is fair aquiver.

What happened with the first seven songs I have no idea (or for that matter what happened to Dee), but take my word for it, when the Tull are allowed to build up a fair head of steam, live they are an awesome beast.

According to reports the Tull are still worth your dollar at the door, and usually drag themselves out for a round of stadium concerts every year. Of course only Ian Anderson and Martin Barre remain from this recording, with very much a revolving door policy being used for the other positions in the band, and Ian Anderson himself spends most of his time on his salmon farm.

But stick on the second CD of this collection and you have the power of Jethro Tull at your beck and call.

Jethro Tull
Ian Anderson: Flute, Voice, Acoustic Guitar
Martin Barre: Electric Guitar, Mandolin, and Marimba
John Evan: Piano, Organ, Accordion, Synthesizers
Barriemore Barlow: Drums, Glockenspiel
David Palmer: Portative Pipe Organ, Synthesizers
John Glasock: Bass and Lead Guitars

Songs Sequence
Introduction by Claude Nobs (No don’t titter)
No Lullaby
Sweet Dream
Skating on the Thin Ice Of New Years Day
Jack In The Green
One Brown Mouse
A New Day Yesterday
Flute Solo Improvisations, including Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, God, and Bouree

Right Now set your CD player to play from this point
Songs from the Wood
Thick As A Brick
Hunting Girl
Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll; Too Young To Die
Minstrel In The Gallery
Cross-Eyed Mary
Locomotive Breath
The Damnbusters March

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]