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Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: The National Parks of Thailand

by Lang Reid

The full title for this week’s book is The National Parks and other Wild Places of Thailand, and is a large, glossy book (ISBN 1-84537-313-8, New Holland Publishers) and apparently just flying off the Bookazine shelves, despite the hefty price tag of B. 1,295. Unfortunately, this book on Thailand’s heritage was not printed in Thailand, but printed in Singapore which has recently managed to buy some of Thailand’s heritage to add to its stocks and shares portfolio!

However, the book caught my attention with the magnificent full bleed front cover of the limestone cliffs at Krabi, while the back cover has a composite which includes a vertical of the Thi Law Su waterfall, Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.

The publication is a joint effort, with the words coming from Stephen Elliott, a wildlife conservation and ecology lecturer at Chiang Mai University, and the photographs from Gerald Cubitt, a very well known and renowned wildlife photographer.

The book is divided into four main sections of Thailand (Central and Southeast, Northern, Northeast and Southern) and covers 36 National Parks, which will afford the avid ecology buff many months of exploring. Making this a complete information guide, there is also an introduction with a map of Thailand, and summaries of conservation areas and a list of suggested further reading.

The introduction does give the visitor a very detailed overview of the National Parks system, with much information on how to behave, dress and what can or cannot be done in the parks.

When getting into the descriptions of the individual National Parks, the attention to detail is still there, with Elliott giving the readers a local map, plus a side-box covering location, climate, when to go, access, permits, equipment, facilities, watching wildlife and visitor activities.

Additionally, the spectacular photographs from Cubitt are enough on their own to make you want to visit these places. His expertise seems to cover everything from landscapes to close-ups of vegetation, right the way through to superb color plates of tigers and the amazingly black and white bisected Malayan tapirs.

The book really is a treasure trove of information on the National Parks of Thailand, but unless I missed it somewhere, does not mention the odious practice of double pricing being applied to non-Thais. A recent item in the Chiangmai Mail quoted a retailer who said that foreign tourists had dropped to now around one percent of visitors. For example, the Mae Sa Waterfall entrance fee for Thai people is adults 20 baht and children 10 baht. The admission fee for foreigners is adults 200 baht and children 100 baht. Tour guides and tour agencies have stopped bringing western tourists to see the falls, because many of their clients have become disgusted at having to pay so much more than a Thai person for the same product.

However, when we recently visited the Khlong Plu waterfall in the Mu Koh Chang National Park, my Thai wife protested vigorously at the double pricing, and I was allowed in at Thai price after showing my Thai driving license to show that I was a resident. Something to remember.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Steve Hillman

Riding The Storm

Mott the Dog

5 Stars *****

Steve Hillman had released two critically acclaimed albums, Matrix (1994) and Convergence (1999), on the highly independent Progressive/Rock label Cyclops run by Malcolm Parker (when I say highly independent I mean with Cyclops it is Malcolm Parker’s way or no way; if you do not like Progressive/Rock, have any idea what a mellotrone is, or like your songs to come in little three minute selections then you are probably not going to like anything on the Cyclops label. If, on the other hand, your like your eardrums to be wrapped around music that bristles with intelligence, versatility, dexterity, musical bravado, and great imagination, with no fear of letting musical ideas flow in whichever mood the author takes it to its natural conclusion, whether that be two minutes or twenty-two, then so be it, then this could just be your musical cup of tea so to speak). It was decided in-between albums to look back into the musical scrapbook of Steve Hillman’s career, and put together a compilation of the best bits. The outcome of this was this marvellous album going under the banner of Riding The Storm.

The music for this album has been culled from eight previous Hillman releases over a period of twelve years spanning from Altair on the 1983 album From Distant Shores, to some new material: Link recorded in 1995 for this album’s release.

But upon first listening it is hard to believe that the songs were not written to flow together. Naturally Steve Hillman had the time to select which pieces he wanted to compile onto this collection, digitally re-mastering all the music from the original tapes, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that it all flows along so beautifully.

All of the music presented here are instrumentals, with Steve Hillman playing all the instruments himself, except for the haunting flute work played by his wife Linda, which gives many of the songs fine embellishments.

Many have compared Steve Hillman’s work to Tangerine Dream, but this reviewer finds that Steve Hillman’s work has far more body and soul than The Dream. Each piece standing on its own merits with no fear to the listener of repetition.

As the music slips into your subconscious, Steve Hillman takes out his musical skills, switching from hypnotic synthesiser to massed ranks of keyboards, to scintillating guitar work that leaves most of his contemporaries in his wake.

Riding The Storm starts off as any journey should with Departure, (and then finishes with Journey Back over an hour later), an inspired choice as it cleverly shows off all of Steve Hillman’s musical prowess as he layers melodies one on top of another over a rugged backbeat that builds to an early climax before leading us off again in search of musical education and general amusement.

The central piece of this album is the title track Riding The Storm from the 1990 album Labyrinth, which for our musical enjoyment has been broken up into two slabs so as not to dominate the flow of the music too much. The first part comes in as the fourth track, clocking in at eleven minutes and nine seconds, whist part two is held back till the penultimate track number fourteen. Riding the Storm is Steve Hillman giving a monumental display of classic melodious lead guitar, the notes literally bleed out from the neck of the guitar, something to really get the blood racing through those veins.

Contrastingly there is also Point Of Contact from the album Arrival (1993) with its surreal keyboard sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as the music gives you the impression of being buried deep in some underground cave.

Earthpulse from World’s Beyond (1988) could actually be a lesson to the previously mentioned Tangerine Dream in how to liven up their sometimes monosyllable synthesizer work, whilst Pillars of Sand and Chamber Of The Moon from Ashtar (1985) are left alone with minimal musical backdrop for Linda Hillman to shine forth on her flute, drifting you away to a desert lunar setting. Linda Hillman’s artwork on the covers of her husband’s albums are worth the price themselves.

Clocking in at over seventy-four minutes, Riding The Storm is a nicely balanced selection of music suiting many moods, and with the excellent cover artwork from Linda Hillman it is very much a complete musical package.

To give yourself some musical variation to your music collection, there is no better way than adding a Steve Hillman album or two. But How? I hear you ask, as it must be said that it is highly unlikely that your local record shop will be able to supply you with a selection of Cyclops albums let alone Steve Hillman, especially here in Thailand. Well the answer is remarkably simple, log into or the Cyclops homepage itself and there you are able to browse to your heart’s content, and select music at your leisure, even being able to sample sound bites for free before making your selection. I have found that Amazon gets your package through to you anywhere in the world within five working days of them posting it to you, and they are very good at letting you know where your purchases are, too. Well lets face it, they have been doing it for a long time now so should know what they are doing by now.
Happy listening.

Steve Hillman: Keyboards, Guitars, Bass, Synths, Digital Drums
Linda Hillman: Flute and Cover Paintings

Riding the Storm, Parts 1-5
Pillars Of Sand
Point of Contact
Chamber of the Moon
Riding the Storm, Part 6
Journey Back

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]