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Book Review

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Book Review: Raconteur’s Pattaya Tales

by Lang Reid

Geoffrey Franklin is an English artist-writer and Pattaya resident, who has met up with other Pattaya book writers such as Duncan Stearn and Neil Hutchison and has launched himself as a book writer. As far as I can gather, Raconteur’s Pattaya Tales (ISBN 0-9756950-1-0 Mitraphab Center, Kincumber, NSW, Australia) is his first book.
The book consists of many chapters following the lives and exploits of expat characters as they experience Thai life and Thai mythology, with a Thai policeman (Took) as the central figure. As such, it then becomes more than a travelogue or the usual foreign man meets Thai girl and falls in love soapy, but a collection of fairy tales set in Thailand. The back cover admits to this, “These stories are fictional, but truth is often stranger than fiction and every good yarn has an essential thread of truth within it.” It also declares, “Many of the events in these stories often involved or were witnessed by the author.”
The events included in the book reveal exorcism, giant cloned nagas, drug busts, Songkran, Loy Krathong, the Yasothon rocket festival and karaoke, that mainstay of Thai nightlife entertainment, as well as much else.
While author Geoffrey Franklin is obviously a skilled raconteur, and the events described perhaps occasionally a little too fanciful for my liking, I thought the book was let down in some ways by the dialogue of the Thai people being quoted. The bar girl Dum’s conversation is reported in the usual stilted (Th)English, but North East local politicians are quoted as having perfect English expression. This is something which does not ring true and adds to the ‘fictional’ feel of the items, I am afraid. The policeman Took is another with perfect English, which differentiates him from around 99.9 percent of the local boys in brown that I have ever met. Take for example the conversation between Took and Sid (the Englishman whose exploits take up much of the book) with Took saying, “I have to tell you that over the last month, between Bangkok and Pattaya we’ve hosted two Lord Lucans, three Bobby Charltons, a Diego Maradona, an Adolf Hitler and numerous reincarnations of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.” I am willing to wager that 99.9 percent of Pattaya’s policemen are unlikely to have heard of any of them other than Elvis Presley, who still plays at the Captain’s Corner on Wednesday evenings and Thursday and Fridays at the Jomtien Boathouse!
Ignoring the language inconsistencies, the book does show that author Franklin has experienced and understands (as much as a foreigner can understand) many of the subtle nuances that makes up Thailand’s customs, culture and people. The chapter on the spirit house was interesting, and shows just how deeply that animism is rooted within Thai culture, and also shows just how deeply the spirit of ‘sanuk’ also lies! At B. 450 it does give an insight, and being written in complete stand-alone chapters, it is an easy pick up and put down read. As a ‘first’ book it is well written and I do look forward to reading some more from this author.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Ozzy Osbourne

Under Cover

Suffered by Mott The Dog Brow mopped by Meow The Cat

No Stars
Ozzy Osbourne has secured his place in rock ‘n’ roll history by living life to the full. Almost anybody who has anything to do with rock music has a story to tell about Ozzy’s wild and crazy antics. Along the way of course, he has also performed some legendary concerts, overcome great tragedy (his guitarist and friend Randy Rhoads was killed in an aeroplane accident), dealt with his addictions, and been ripped off all over the place by some pretty unscrupulous managers (although I do not think that two wrongs make a right when later on Ozzy and his rather money grabbing wife / manger ripped off old band members who helped him write many of the classic songs that appear on his first two solo albums, and are still the staple of his live concerts and greatest hits packages - Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake - for hundreds of thousands of dollars by denying them their rightful royalties).
Ozzy Osbourne is also responsible for co-writing some of hard rock’s most memorable tunes. With his Black Sabbath band mates, there has been ‘Paranoid’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Snowblind’, and many more. In his solo career Ozzy has combined with many artists to come up with more classics such as ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Mr Crawley’, ‘Bark at the Moon’, etc.
Ozzy Osbourne has always been very lucky in picking the right musicians to collaborate with to develop his sound and help him write the songs: down the way there has been the late great Randy Rhoads, followed by Bob Daisley, Jake E Lee, Zakk Wilde, and many more, but actual songs that Ozzy has written on his own are very few and far between.
He is far from a great vocalist too, in fact even calling him a vocalist is taking it a bit to close to the edge. Showman? Yes. Ringmaster? Yes. Is his wife / manager good at getting him the right publicity? Yes. Nowadays the Osbournes are actually more famous for their reality TV show on MTV, and appearances on chat shows, than for the music. But you cannot deny he has been one of the leading players in his field over the last thirty five years or more.
So why then this new album of covers, wittily titled ‘Undercover’? He certainly cannot need the money, with wifey earning millions on chat shows, and the back package of Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne solo stuff is selling better than ever.
Last year Ozzy Osbourne released the requisite ‘Boxed Set’ titled ‘The Prince Of Darkness’. It was a four CD affair with two CDs of songs tracing his solo career, one CD of duets! and one of newly recorded cover versions. So this year we get the release of the cover versions album, released as a single album with a few extra tracks that were not on the boxed set added on. So if your a real fan and wish to have every utterance the Oz ever made then you’ve got to hand over more of your hard earned cash to get the complete collection.
Now I am not totally against cover albums, but there have been some pretty dodgy ones in the past. In rock music it all sort of started with Bryan Ferry’s ‘These Foolish Things’ (1973) which at the time seemed pretty cool, but these days sounds rather dated. At the height of his Ziggy Stardust fame David Bowie released ‘Pin Ups’ (1974), a collection of songs quickly recorded and thrown out into the market because at the time anything with Bowie’s name on it would sell in its millions, although in fact the music was awful. Many bands have put out cover albums as a last gasp of desperation before they slip down the drain of Rock ‘n’ roll fame. ‘Guns and Roses’ released the Spaghetti Incident (a simply appalling album), followed the next year by the double CD from ‘Mettalica’ Garage Days Re-visited, which was even worse. Please do not mention Joe Lyn Turner’s ‘Undercover’ album from 1997, which sounded more like one of those low budget albums that you used to buy at Woolworth’s, where you would get all the latest hits badly and quickly recorded. They even let Joe Lyn Turner do a second covers album the next year with the thought provoking title of ‘Undercover 2’! Thankfully the sound of this second album has never blighted this dog’s ears.
Not all cover albums are bad though, and if you are going to do a covers album the rules seem to be pretty clear: only do a song if you have something to add to it, or a different slant, and most definitely stay away from the classics. ‘The Penthouse Tapes’ (1975) by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band is a great album; although not entirely a covers album, a few originals slipped in-between superb versions of songs that the band used to play on the stage live in their own rocked up tongue in cheek way. Joan Jett’s ‘The Hit List’ from 1990 is a fabulous party album; the album is given an obvious slant by the fact that there are a lot of songs on the album that you would normally associate with a male voice singing, not Joan’s sexy Los Angeles growl and the selection of songs is inspired, from the Sex Pistols to Jimi Hendrix.
But Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Under Cover’ leaves you feeling musically violated after one listen.
The album staggers in with a version of Joe Walsh’s ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, a fabulous song when performed by Joe Walsh. Ozzy does and you just want to cringe, but worse, this is the least offensive song on the album. It is all down hill after this.
Nobody should try and cover Beatles songs or John Lennon songs, unless they really know what they are doing. On this album one Beatles song, ‘In My Life’, and two John Lennon solo songs are taken into the studio and murdered. If Ozzy Osbourne admired John Lennon so much why is he doing this to his songs? It is quite obvious that Ozzy has missed the point of ‘Woman’ and how he can sing ‘Working Class Hero’ when he has mansions all over the world, and servants at his beck and call 24 hours a day, is beyond me.
All the strings are pulled to try and give the album credibility. Leslie West is dragged in to put the guitar solo on ‘Mississippi Queen’. I hope he got well paid for sullying his reputation on this cardboard imitation of a great heavy rock song. Ian Hunter sent in a new rap to put at the end of ‘All The Young Dudes’. Mr. Hunter should hang his head in shame.
Ozzy Osbourne trying to sing The Moody Blues ‘Go Now’, Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’, and most criminally attempting the great Eric Burdon’s ‘Good Times’ just goes to prove that Ozzy is not a singer of any class.
On other more heavy rock songs, such as King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ (now there is a song that is begging to be taken apart by some talented musicians and given a heavy metal face lift), Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ and the rather pathetic attempt at Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Life’, it is the band that lets things down. There is no ‘oommph’ in the playing at all, which is not helped by a very muddy mix. Certainly Jerry Cantrell on lead guitar is found wanting on most songs - letting him attempt a Clapton solo is bordering on the criminal music act, the poor lad just does not have the chops for the job. Chris Wyse does not seem to have plugged in properly, the bass sound is so tinny, whilst Mike Bordin on drums was possibly just plain bored with the whole proceedings.
The penultimate song is the Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, when it could have been possibly re-titled ‘Sympathy to the Listener’. How can somebody who has been called ‘The Prince Of Darkness’ take all the menace out of this wonderful Stones song? I actually sighed with relief when this abomination finally came to an end. But worse was to follow, chucked on as a bonus track was Ozzy covering one of his old songs from Black Sabbath, the ballad from the album Volume Four ‘Changes’. In the context of that album ‘Changes’ gave the album great shade and texture. But this is just excruciating. ‘Changes’ is done as a duet with Ozzy singing with his daughter Kelly. I am sorry but someone will have to tell Kelly she just cannot sing. If she got on your local Karaoke machine you would pay good money to get her off, whilst for Ozzy’s half he sounds as if he is singing from the bath tub. I would rather listen to Ozzy singing his duet of ‘Born To Be Wild’ with Miss Piggy from the Muppet show, at least she can hold a tune, and it would have been funny. It is a shame if this is what Ozzy Osbourne has been reduced too.
Anyway, everybody knows Ozzy Osbourne is not the real Prince Of Darkness, that title belongs to Bob Finch of Tahitian Queen.
Ozzy Osbourne: Throat
Mike Bordin: Drums
Jerry Cantrell: Guitar
Chris Wyse: Bass
Ian Hunter: Sung a bit
Leslie West: Played the guitar solo in Mississippi Queen
And Robert Randolph seems to have been pulled in to play the guitar parts that Jerry Cantrell just could not manage
Song Titles
Rocky Mountain Way
In My Life
Mississippi Queen
Go Now
21st Century Schizoid Man
All The Young Dudes
For What It’s Worth
Good Times
Sunshine of Your Love
Sympathy For The Devil

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