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Book Review

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Book Review: Closing Time

by Lang Reid

Closing Time was billed as the sequel to Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, which was one of the best books of the past 50 years in my opinion. Consequently I felt from the outset that this book was going to be hard pressed to equal it. Closing Time (ISBN 0-7432-3980-6, this edition published by Scribner 2003), also written by Joseph Heller, was first published in 1994, five years before his death.
It ‘stars’, if one can use those words, the cast from Catch 22, with the perennial deliberately neurotic pseudo-hypochondriac Yossarian being one of the first to be re-introduced. Now 68 years old, Yossarian stays in hospital, inventing new symptoms for diseases yet to be discovered, ponders on such subjects as breaking up oil tankers, garbage, radiation, pesticides, toxic wastes and free enterprise. Heller wrote, “These were not mere delusions. He was not making them up. Soon they would be cloning human embryos for sale, fun and replacement parts. Men earned millions producing nothing more substantial than changes in ownership.” As he did in Catch 22, author Heller is looking deeply at the substance of society and showing its glaring faults, that we gloss over for the sake of peace and quiet.
Set so many years after WWII, Milo Minderbender has the M&M corporation, selling war planes to anyone or any country that wanted one. So nothing had changed in the intervening half century!
The men from WWII have become older, they have wives, or are divorced or widowed, they have children and grandchildren, but find that the generation gap is quite real. A chasm that they cannot jump over. And they are all aware that their personal closing time is the next event in their lives.
Heller manages to point out the ludicrous nature of the modern world, producing such gems as, “The more I find out about the practice of law, the more I’m surprised it isn’t illegal,” and the sign on an emergency exit stating, “This door must be locked and bolted when in use.” And you thought that Thailand was the only country with such literal gems!
At B. 450 in my local Bookazine, it represents a very thoughtful and detailed read. In some sections I felt that it was a little “dated”, but 12 years between publishing and reading today does make a difference in our breakneck paced world. The Daily Telegraph described this book as learned, funny, wise; a masterpiece. Despite not being as easily read as Catch 22, it does go a long way towards showing us where the world headed after WWII, not all of it directions we would want. Despite this, I did not find Closing Time as engrossing a book as Catch 22. I looked up other reviews of this book, as I wondered if I had lost touch with this book during my reading of it. The Library Journal review was: “This work attempts the same sort of giddy black humor that made its predecessor a classic, but the underlying mood is somber, almost elegiac. A profoundly disturbing novel, if not quite up to the standard of Catch-22.” I concur.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Roy Buchanan

American Axe, Live in 1974

By Mott The Dog

4 Stars ****
When Roy Buchanan picked up a guitar he could make it dance, sing, or anything. ‘American Axe’ is a fine example of Roy Buchanan live on stage. Backed by friends who were also all superb musicians (he could not have been all bad), these recordings are all gems and give you a fair idea of what the man must have been like in concert. The show opens up with the MC introducing Roy Buchanan as the best guitarist to have stepped the boards, and Roy gets up there to prove the guy right.
The band stretches out on opening song ‘Too Many Drivers’ in similar style to the way the Rolling Stones would open with ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ just loosening up the band. The rhythm section slips into its groove, and Malcolm Lukens even gets to put in a short solo just to get his fingers going before the governor comes in with the first of many guitar breaks that lift the roof off the place. A good place to start, preparing you for what is to come.
Next up is Roy Buchanan’s own ‘Roy’s Bluz’ - a walkin’, talkin’ blues, allowing Roy to rap about how he feels before hitting out at the audience with some sparkling stun guitar. At nearly nine minutes, long Roy Buchanan has plenty of time to tell you what he thinks and to stun the audience with his guitar. When he calls out “When I get to hell” with such certainty, the guitar licks that follow it send shivers up and down your arms.
‘Get Out Of My Life, Woman’ is the band giving the blues groove a seventies feel. It is the only song on the album that is to be more dominated by the keyboards than the guitar. The problem with this band was that they did not have a really talented vocalist amongst them all. As well as the keyboards, Malcolm Lukens gets his turn to sing on this number, and while it is not a bad job, you really paid your money to hear Roy Buchanan play guitar.
‘C.C. Rider’ is then trundled out for a ten minute workout, where we the paying audience start to get what we paid for: Roy Buchanan playing guitar, and although the inclusion of so many covers does show the weakness in Roy Buchanan’s song writing abilities, the old chestnut is turned on its head and the guitarist devours it, taking it from a slow blues to a rip roarin’ climax.
To bring the emotion level down, but the tempo up, we are then treated to quick romp through Dave Bartholomew’s ‘I Hear You Knockin’. Then it is back to serious business with ‘The Messiah Will Come Again’, which is begun by a sombre Roy Buchanan with a spoken introduction, before playing some of the most dramatic guitar on the album, making every note count and showing it is not what you play but how you play it. It’s a fine centrepiece to the album.
On ‘Done Your Daddy Dirty’, Roy Buchanan turns the tables by reverting to the old adage: if you have it flaunt it, just ripping up the rule book and shredding his guitar strings for seven solid minutes, by which time the band has given up any hope of keeping up with him, and you feel they would rather just sit back and applaud. This is what Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin wanted to sound like.
How could Roy Buchanan possibly mess this up by next playing ‘Hey Joe’? Well he does. The guitar playing as you would expect is straight out of the top drawer and a fine example to any budding young guitarist. But the vocals are appalling, weak at best, with Roy Buchanan sounding as if he was standing six feet from the microphone. When Jimi Hendrix did Billy Roberts song he sounds as though he means every word of the lyrics, and you knew that Jimi was going to shoot his old lady down. Here it sounds as if the lyrics are being read from a book. The guitar playing is outstanding though, with a nice touch at the end when the band breaks into a refrain of ‘Foxy Lady’ to bring the song to a rockin’ end with a nice nod to his fallen comrade.
Perhaps wisely, bass player John Harrison then gets his turn at the vocals, as the band thunders through ‘Johnny B. Goode’. No complaints here for this, and it’s interesting to notice the different way that Buchanan and Hendrix handled covering these two songs. Both did it differently, but also brilliantly, and it’s hard to say who comes out on top in the guitar playing stakes. By now the band members are really enjoying themselves and have a party playing ‘Further On Up The Road’ with Byrd Foster huffing and puffing behind his drum kit as he handles the vocal duties.
To close the show Roy Buchanan dismantles and then puts back together Don Gibson’s ‘Sweet Dreams’. When people say they heard a guitar sing, this is the sort of thing they are talking about. A stunning way to bring the show to its conclusion. Later, Mick Ronson would play his own version of this as the centrepiece to his solo spot whilst touring with Ian Hunter.
Roy Buchanan
Roy Buchanan: Guitar and Vocals
Malcolm Lukens: Keyboards and Vocals
John Harrison: Bass and Vocals
Byrd Foster: Drums and Vocals
Too Many Drivers
Roy’s Bluz
Get Out Of My Life, Woman
C.C. Rider
I Hear You Knockin’
The Messiah Will Come Again
Done Your Daddy Dirty
Hey Joe
Johnny B. Goode
Further On Up The Road
Sweet Dreams

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