musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Gordon Lightfoot’

Musical Road Fuel

Music inspires me and motivates me. It’s not a cliché to say that it also makes me move, seeing as how I will frequently get up out of my seat and do a jig of some sort when a particular song strikes me. Whether I’m at work or at home, I always have music playing. The only time I turn on the TV might be when my Thai friends from the motorcycle taxi stand come to visit. Otherwise, it’s all music, all the time. And whenI take an MP3 player on trips, the music provides a memorable soundtrack to my travels.


Here are some of the albums (and that’s what I play, entire albums, not a random bunch of singles) that I listened to during my recent trip to Myanmar. It’s a seemingly weird mix of musical styles, but it suits my travelling mood most well. Whether I was cycling around the chaotic streets of Mandalay, gliding past the lush green rice fields around Nyaungshwe, or exploring old ruins in Bagan, these were the albums and songs that kept me moving and grooving.


Lynn Lynn – Iron Butterfly

One of my favorite albums in recent years is Sin Za Ba by the Burmese singer and guitarist known as Lynn Lynn (I’ve also seen his name written in English as Lin Lin and Linn Linn). No, I don’t understand all of the lyrics but the emotions that his songs exude are magical. Whenever I’m in Myanmar, I play either this album or Sin Za Ba every single day!

Peter Bruntnell – Peter and the Murder of Crows

The Jackson 5 – Anthology

J. Geils Band – Blow Your Face Out


Various Artists – Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk & Pop Music of Myanmar

The music on this compilation CD is described as “Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma)” on the cover, but in the liner notes that come with the CD there is a much better description, calling it an “unbelievable collection of garage and psychedelic rock, raw folk, blues ballads, and country-western styled music … a product of Shan and Pa-O musicians hailing from the early 1970s.” I’m not sure if “unbelievable” is the best term to describe this music, but it sure is a lot of fun to listen to. If the lively strains of “A Girl Among Girls” by Lashio Thein Aung doesn’t get you out of your seat and dancing on the nearest table, then all hope is lost! Seriously, the songs on here are a blast, all of them exuding an irrepressible zest and vitality … the same sort of spirit that you’ll find amongst the people in Shan State.

The Hollies – The Best Of

Iron Cross – Acoustics

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand the Weather


Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac (Deluxe Edition)

This was the band that Ryan Adams cut his teeth with back in the 1990s and this album remains one of his best efforts. This deluxe 2-CD edition includes some amazing bonus tracks and cover versions. The frenetic pace of “10 Seconds” gets my bike pumping in a faster gear every time.

Tinariwen – Emmaar

Lee Scratch Perry – Arkology

Various Artists – Moody Bluegrass


Various Artists – Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul

Wonderful collection of 1970s rare soul treats, including songs by unheralded artists such as Timmy Thomas, Gwen McCrae, Clarence Reid (aka Blowfly), and Little Beaver. Song that gets me singing: “I Get Lifted” by George McCrae.

The Marshall Tucker Band – The Best Of

Toots and the Maytals – Reggae Legends

Tinted Windows – Tinted Windows


Charlie Daniels Band – Fire On The Mountain

Another underrated band that recorded consistently good albums in the 1970s, this one includes the coon-ass classic “Trudy.”

Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

Dan Fogelberg – Captured Angel

Velvet Crush – A Single Odessey


NRBQ – Kick Me Hard

One of America’s greatest bands — ever! — and it qualifies as a crime that they still aren’t better known or appreciated. But ain’t that the way of the world! Fun and fantastic, this album is packed with musical treats such as “Wacky Tobacky” and “Hot Biscuits and Sweet Marie.”

Tonio K. – Amerika

Tom Robinson Band – The Gold Collection

Leroy Hutson – Lucky Fellow: The Best Of


America – Here & Now

A very nice comeback album for an unfairly maligned group. Sweet harmonies and songs with hooks; what’s not to like? The 2-CD set includes a brilliant cover of Nada Surf’s “Always Love.” Sing it again!

Wet Willie – Drippin’ Wet

Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy


Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold

This one is always a trip staple for me. I make it a point to have “Carefree Highway” playing whenever I’m on the road to Mandalay — or at least the drive in from the airport!

Bruce Hornsby – Greatest Radio Hits

Ronnie Lane – Kuschty Rye: The Singles

Shoes – Present Tense/Tongue Twister


Spinners – Spinners

This still ranks as one of the greatest soul albums of the 1970s. Plenty of hits and no filler. “One of Kind (Love Affair)” gets me every time.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album

Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight

Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears


Translator – No Time Like Now

Great 1983 album by the underrated San Francisco rock band. The reissued CD includes bonus tracks such as the blissful instrumental “Cry For a Shadow.”

Dawes – Stories Don’t End

A Flock of Seagulls – The Best Of

The Stylistics – The Very Best Of


The Bulgarian Road to Mandalay

Prior to my flight to Mandalay two weeks ago, I was double-checking my e-ticket from Bangkok Airways and noted an odd notation underneath the flight number: Operated by Bulgaria Air. Bulgaria Air? Was that a computer glitch, or somebody’s idea of a joke? Well, when the day of departure came and I was boarding the plane, I noticed name on the plane. Due to some sort of bizarre code sharing agreement with Bangkok Airways I would indeed be flying on a Bulgaria Air plane.


Even more shocking, inside the plane, instead of the usual petite and pretty Thai ladies who usually greet passengers, there were tall pale Western women passing out those moist wet-naps. I’ve flown with domestic airlines in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, and have never had any concerns about the safety of the plane, but the idea of flying with Bulgaria Air, uh, that gave me more than pause for concern. Factoring in the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight, I made sure to pay extra attention to the pre-flight safety announcements.


Well, I’m happy to say it was a smooth flight with zero problems. Arriving at Mandalay International Airport is always a pleasure. The immigration service is quick and pleasant and you don’t have to wait long for your checked luggage to arrive either. In fact, one of my bags was the very first one off the belt. I think that’s the first time that’s ever happened. But then an even stranger thing happened: my other bag was the very last one to come off the belt. Man, talk about feeling anxious; I kept waiting and waiting and wondering — as I stared at some cheesy advertisement for “Egg Soap” — when that damn bag was going to appear.


The weirdest thing about Mandalay International Airport — besides the fact that the interior lights are never fully turned on, giving the place a bit of a gloomy vibe — is that it’s located out in the middle of nowhere, about a 45-drive from the city. I can’t think of another major airport that looks so isolated. I mean, there is absolutely nothing in the way of other buildings located near or around the terminal. No restaurants, no hotels, no shopping centers, no petrol stations, no karaoke bars, or buildings of any sort. And I’m not talking about the lack of buildings in the immediate vicinity of the airport; there are literally no signs of human habitation within miles of the place. Very, very weird.


Getting a taxi at the airport is always easy and painless, and relatively cheap. You have the option of splurging and paying 10,000 kyat (about US$10) for a dedicated ride into town, or forking out a mere 4,000 kyat for a share taxi. I paid the full fare for the SPAM Taxi Service, switched my MP3 player to Gordon Lightfoot’s Gord’s Gold album — one of my Mandalay traditions — and relaxed for the relatively smooth ride into town. “The Road to Mandalay” may not be exotic or look particularly scenic to most folks, but from the airport at least, it’s one of my favorite short rides.





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