Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 15 News List

CD Reviews

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Incomparable Live 2004 (2004 - 無與倫比演唱會)
Jay Chou (周杰倫)

Fans of Taiwan's number-one musical son longing to relive the action of Jay Chou (周杰倫) wowing the crowds at Taipei's Municipal Stadium last October will find a whole heap of solace in Warner's recently released Incomparable Live 2004 (2004 -- 無與倫比演唱會).

The double-CD package features a selection of tunes recorded on that balmy autumn night. Chou warbles, croons and, of course, mumbles his way through 25 numbers that range in pace and style from slow, hypnotic Mando-rap numbers such as My Construction Site (我的地盤) from last year's Common Jasmine Orange (七里香) to more mainstream Mando-pop tunes like the weepy crowd-pleaser Fine Day (晴天) from his 2003 release, Yeh Hui-mei (葉惠美).

The recording has quite obviously been re-mastered and any and all bloopers and duff notes have been erased, which gives Incomparable Live 2004 more of studio recording-like live effect rather than a raw one.

Not that this spoils the fun, however. Fans can still close their eyes and imagine they were there, as Warner's studio engineers made the wise decision not to omit Chou's between-song banter. It might not be complete and it is cut short in parts, but you've got to hand it to Warner for adding a personal feel that all too many local live albums lack.

And if all that isn't enough to satisfy one's cravings for Chou, then those looking for more can purchase the special Incomparable Live 2004 CD set that comes complete with a VCD featuring music videos for Common Jasmine Orange as well as a glossy poster of the wonder boy himself.

Never able to stand still and gestate musically, Wu Bai (伍佰) and his band China Blue have once again chosen to take a new musical path for what is only their second Taiwanese-language longplayer in seven years, Two Faced Man (雙面人).

Veering away from the tried-and-tested rock/blues format, Wu Bai has set out to capture the hearts and minds of the electonica/dance crowd with his latest mixed bag of material.

Packed with loops, edits and a host of dance music-like effects, it might sound as if the grand-old-man of Taiwan alt-rock has forsaken his roots. Scratch just under the surface of the tunes, however, and you'll find a host of well-produced, well-executed guitar-driven rock numbers.

The album's opener, Li Hai (厲害), sets the pace with its gnarly grinding guitar riffs and backdrop of mild electronica. High-octane numbers like the explosive Taiwan Made (台灣製造) and the pulsating electronica/percussion-driven Seaplane (海底飛凌機) follow.

There are a couple more standard Wu Bai ballads thrown in for good measure, but for the most part Two Faced Man is an electronica/rock crossover album.

The material may be far removed from anything Wu Bai and China Blue have ever previously attempted, but the album is, without a doubt, an exciting and original piece of work from one of Taiwan's best musicians.

Over the past 15 years, award winning actress and songstress Wan Fang (萬芳) has released 17 solo albums, appeared on countless compilations and amassed a whopping library of tunes.

While wading through these recordings must surely have given the compilers at Rock Records a real headache,they have still managed to do a pretty good job of bringing out the best in Wan Fang.

The album is concise and expertly plots the singer's highs and lows, luckily with a greater emphasis on the former rather than the latter. The double-CD set contains nearly all of Wan Fang's Top-10 hits and proves that time has been kind to Wan Fang's brand of Mando-pop. Regardless of whether Wan Fang is in soulful or standard mature bubblegum Mando-pop mode, there's not one duff tune on the CD, which places her in the top of the Mando-pop acts.

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