Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 19 News List

CD Reviews

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stanley Huang 黃立行

Shades of My Mind 黑的意念

Virgin

Formerly a member of the LA Boyz, Stanley Huang (黃立行) first stepped out on his own in 2000 with Your Side (妳身邊). While musically a passable solo debut, the album was marred by Huang's rather lackluster vocals.

Since then, Huang has mastered the art of solo performance and has gone on to release five fairly successful albums. Shades of My Mind is Huang's sixth solo album and his first since last year's hugely successful Yin Lang (音浪), which saw the singer taking his dance-oriented brand of mainstream hip hop to new heights.

Yin Lang was so lauded by the Chinese-language music press and such a whopping commercial hit that even before Shades of My Mind was released, music critics were wondering how Huang would ever match his previous success. They needn't have worried, however, as Huang's latest album has everything Yin Lang had and more.

Kicking in with the gnarly, heavy guitar riff and electronica-fused Drowned (浴缸), fans of Huang's brand of rap/hip hop dance music will be as happy as pigs in muck from the get-go. What follows are nine tracks of equal intensity and equal complexity.

The highlight of the whole affair is the pulsating Who's Your Daddy (我是你的誰), a track that makes local alternative hardcore rap/hip hop artists Monkey Insane (潑猴) sound almost tame.

The only real dud on the whole album is the dreamy title track. But when you consider that as a Canto/Mando pop star, he needs to satisfy his younger female listeners, then Huang can probably be forgiven this one blemish on what is best descried as one of the best Chinese-language mainstream rap albums of the year.

Lo Ta-yu 羅大佑

Beautisland 美麗島

Music Factory

Once considered to be the thinking man's pop idol, Lo Ta-yu's (羅大佑) once iconic status has long since dissipated. While he still appeals to 30-something housewives who remember swooning over his image in their teens, as far as today's youth are concerned, Lo is yesteryear's news.

Not that this has stopped the grand old man of Taiwan pop from attempting to retake the music charts with his latest release, BeautIsland (美麗島).

The album was released independently because, according to divergent interpretations, Lo either wanted to get back to his indie roots or his politico-wannabe outspokenness has scared off mainstream record labels. Either way, the album is part political statement and part musical ode.

Lyrically, nearly all the material takes a cynical peek at Taiwan's political situation. The most cutting of Lo's poignantly mocking musical odes to Taiwan are the jerky, brass-section-infused Green Terrorist (綠色恐怖分子) and the comic pop/rock tune Ah-Hui has Raised a Dog (阿輝飼了一只狗), the titles of which really speak for themselves.

The musical crux of all the tunes sees Lo combining rock, pop and orchestration. The songs are all well thought out, expertly executed and entertaining. Some of the best moments include Juvenile Family's First Love (初戀的少年家), the offbeat post-rock-like Internet (網路) and the orchestrated and folksy Bygones 2000 (往事2000).

Shin 信樂團

Tiao Shin 挑信

Avex Trax

Once touted as the next big thing, Shin (信樂團) never really recovered from losing out to the black-metal merchants, Chthonic (閃靈樂團) in the best band category at the 2002 Golden Melody Awards. Instead of going on to bigger and better things, the five-piece has become a mid-chart fixture.

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