Sun, Jun 20, 2010 - Page 14 News List

CD Reviews: Taiwan

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WeiBird (韋禮安)

Wei Li-an Debut Eponymous Original Album

(韋禮安首張同名全創作專輯)

Linfair Records

www.weibird.com

It took TV talent show Happy Sunday (快樂星期天) champion William Wei (韋禮安), aka WeiBird, three years to release his debut album after winning the series. The result, Wei Li-an Debut Eponymous Original Album (韋禮安首張同名全創作專輯), brims with a rare folk-rock elegance that establishes Wei as one of the most polished singer-songwriters of his generation.

On the anthemic Story (故事), a homage to Maroon 5’s This Love, Wei builds a paean of youthful romantic yearning with his sun-kissed vocals and tingling guitar chords. “In this story, the ending is not the most important thing,” he philosophizes.

With Reason (理由), Wei flirts with rhythmic jazz and gets it down pat. With credible ad-libbing and jamming motifs in the background, he croons about idiotic procrastination with irreverent wit and musical verve.

In the contagious Sunflower in a Cloudy Day (陰天的向日葵), Wei achieves a melodic catchiness reminiscent of the works of Taiwan’s indie queen Cheer Chen (陳綺貞). The track begins with a calm, lulling guitar melody and builds into a climactic piano chorus.

On More Perfect (完美一點), the theme song to China’s romantic comedy Sophie’s Revenge (非常完美), Wei crafts a Mando-pop-meets-lounge-jazz gem with laid-back vocals and soothing melody.

Wei updates Good Weather (好天氣) and Waiting Slowly (慢慢等), tracks from his EP that was released last year, and arranges them with more emotional urgency and maturer vocals.

The album holds together as a coherent folk-rock album with occasional nods to jazz. Neither a powerhouse nor a virtuosic singer, Wei’s warm vocal timbre is appropriately complemented by songs that wax poetic on romantic infatuation and life’s joys.

Though he’s a charismatic singer who has garnered significant attention through his appearances on a TV talent show, Wei opted to use an illustration rather than a close-up of his photogenic face on the album cover. Perhaps the intention was to encourage audiences to pay attention to the music rather than his good looks. But with an album this entrancing, that isn’t an issue.

— ANDREW C.C. HUANG

Pietro Valente Quartet Tales From the Far East

Self-released

www.pietrovalete.com

An Italian embarks on a journey through East Asia and tells the stories of his travels using what was originally an American idiom — this is jazz drummer Pietro Valente’s debut release Tales From the Far East.

The 27-year-old native of Padua, in northern Italy, composed eight tracks inspired by a nine-month trip to Thailand, China, India and Taiwan. He lived in Taichung in 2007 and 2008 and was active in the jazz scene in China and Taiwan.

On appearances alone, the album theme comes across as a little cliche, with song titles that sound like outdated TV travel show sound bites (Red Light in Bangkok and The Spirit of India). Then there’s the cover design, adorned with fortune cookie typefaces and a Chinese dragon emblazoned on the CD. Tourists might find it cute.

For the most part, though, the music is worth the trip. Valente is a talented drummer with a larger-than-usual presence in a small jazz ensemble. He catches your attention like a rock drummer would, but not because he can get loud.

Always on the move, Valente chases tone and color, extracting every drop of sound he can from the drum kit, whether it’s thunderous rolls from the floor toms or cymbal splashes that sizzle and simmer. The drums are busy, but rarely overbearing. The pensive opening track Di Mare in Male is a nice example of Valente’s keen awareness of mood and atmosphere.

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