Friday, October 30, 2009
trial mix for "bright eyes" is out!
my engineer spent close to 6 hours to mix this song!
i played on my system and and am greatly impressed by the separation of the cello, guitar and vocals. imaging is pinpoint and front and back layering is greatly sculpted.... this is exactly how jo ki and i wanted it for this song.
my engineer, vong, has done a great job!
i am bringing this trial version to joseph ki's house tonight to let him sample in his system. i am confident that he will like it too.
two fussy pots can definitely bring the standards high up!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
my god, i have never been so excited when i picked up this - spandau ballet's "once more", a reworking of their classic hits with one new song thrown in for good measure!
long before the term "boyband" was coined, we already have spandau ballet, alongside duran duran, as the pin-up posters boys of the 80s new wave pop....
if you were a teenager "lepaking" at sungei wang of kl or yik foong complex of ipoh, you would remember the days of baggy trousers, outlandish new wave hairstyles and pirated cassettes... yes, the glorious 80s!
never mind that tony hadley and gary kemp have aged considerably, never mind whether this is good, if you are a babyboomer, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of this!
review to come shortly...
it has always been my dream to do a chinese bossa nova album.
i don't particularly like the way how some chinese artistes forcefully turn some songs into bossa, for the sake of bossa. it is not that easy, you know.
remember sometime ago, there was this english bossa cover album sold in rock corner? i thought that was awful! then they also have bee gees on bossa, barry manilow on bossa etc etc. those were opportunistic business men, not music makers.
at the same time, i got to know someone who knows someone very well. a famous musician who inspires me to create jz8, my jazz duo. his name is ted lo. he is the biggest and oldest name in the jazz circle in hk.
i am praying for the opportunity to work with ted for my bossa nova album. it is not a distant dream.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
in music, apart from listening to the voice, i yearn for good arrangement. a good arrangement can transform a song, especially cover version; it is like a beautiful clothes to an already nice body. i am more an arrangement person than i am a lyrics person. the lyrics are only important when the melody is good.
i could write an entire post on what i want in a good arrangement but let's reserve for next time. suffice to say, most audiophile albums, especially chinese audiophile albums (from hk and china), have poor arrangement.
i have been looking to recruit a good arranger for my team. he must be someone young and talented, someone who aspires to be the next rozlan aziz or mac chew of malaysia.
so my natural hunting ground would be music colleges which offers courses in arrangement.
one of those college is ASK where my relative is a lecturer in arrangement. she told me the standards in these ASK graduates is so high that some of her students would be able to churn out work of international standards.
i am going to choose only the top 3 students and offer them some assignments to see who comes up top. the best arranger would become the house arranger for pop pop music.
would you be interested?
Monday, October 26, 2009
i have been looking for coldplay 2003 concert dvd in local record stores. it is the only coldplay concert dvd released so far from the group.
today, much to my surprise, i found a coldplay concert dvd cold at victoria music sungei wang for only RM21.
the cover looks suspicious, so i headed over to the counter, where there were 3 staff standing around and asked: "is this the bootlegged concert version?". one of the chinese counter staff couldn't quite understand my question so i repeated:" is this a bootleg?". another staff noticed my frustration and answered: "no, this is not a bluray".
i repeated my question, raising my voice, "i don't mean bluray, i mean bootleg. is this a bootleg?". "no, this is not bluray!", the same staff answered rather adamantly, with the two other staff nodding in agreement.
sigh, this is the quality of record store personnel in malaysia :-(
p/s even the approval sticker from the ministry is fake... truly malaysia boleh!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
every time i spin this album, it never fails to put me in a romantically melancholic mood... the sensuous male voice is enough to captivate me... one tends to forget about its recording, its accompanying musicians... but bask in the glorious tone and emotions that's koji tamaki
now the good news is - we are recreating a malaysian version of koji tamaki's album, not really imitating how koji sings but the album's mood and musical direction will be exactly in the same vein as the famous red-cover album.
of course we are confident that our singer has the mettle to be compared with the incomparable koji tamaki. he is one of the best male pop singers in malaysia - widely regarded, so there's no argument here.
the project will kick off next month. this time, we are not going to hire any maestros like roger wang or tay cher siang, because just like koji tamaki, his voice alone is enough, the main focus and emphasis of the album is his voice. and he could sing practically any song you throw at him so song selection is not a major problem.
target completion will be late 1st quarter or early 2nd quarter of 2010. trust me, this news will be quite a media magnet so most likely i will save quite a bit of money on marketing and promotion.
at the same time, i have the fortune to know a very influential audiophile from hong kong who promises to bring pop pop music stuff to mainland china. that will be quite a feat, if he succeeds doing that as we know china market is the hardest to penetrate.
wow, 2010 is going to be breathlessly exciting!
Friday, October 23, 2009
ever since i came back from sydney, i have been on this collecting spree - collecting concert dvds that i missed out in the last few years. partly, i need music as a therapy to cure my sickness; partly, i need music to inspire me to make more great albums.
this concert dvd - sandy lam 07 live - inspires me like no others.
frankly, if you look at the chinese pop divas for the past 20 years, very few can challenge sandy lam in terms of live stage performance, musicianship, visuals and classiness of her delivery. ah mei comes close but still, i am biased towards sandy lam simply because she is one class and stylish act that deserves to be mentioned in the chinese pop hall of fame. oh, don't tell me about faye wong, stefanie sun... they really can't sing live la.
this concert ranks high in my must-watch list because of the following reasons:
1) it has some top malaysian sessionists playing. lewis pragasam, andy peterson and mac chew, these are the most in-demand top sessionists/musicians in this region at the moment. eason chan mentioned about them in his award speech. they really bring recognition to malaysia, i am so proud of them
2) sandy sings all the sleeper hits and re-arranged them. very few artistes dare to do this. it is so bold and daring. unprecedented. only sandy can do it.
3) the visuals, marquees, stage presentation and cinematography are absolutely first-class. sandy does not need dancers and costume changes.
4) sandy's performance is, needless to say, breathlessly top-notch.
5) the BV (backing vocals) team comprising of angelita li (jazz singer and girlfriend of jazz maestro eugene pao), corrinna chamberlain and patrick lui, is simply amazing. watching them makes you realize how important BV is to a great concert.
many of the songs are unknown to even a semi-sandy lam fan like me but never mind, just enjoy the superb arrangement and musicianship of the sessionists. in particular, watch out for andy peterson's sensuous bass tones, that alone is worth a few brownie points.
yes, buy this dvd and keep it as a collector's item!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
it is no exaggeration to say that mastering gurus like doug sax and bernie grundman paved the way for this technology called "mastering". before they came, very few engineers actually bothered to "master" their recordings.
a lot of people, including myself, don't really understand what mastering is all about, except that it is a critical process in making the sound more "complete" and that's the biggest understatement. i hope to learn more about mastering in the course of my work/fun so that i could write about it here in this blog in the near future.
suffice to say that i am a long-time admirer of both of these mastering gurus. both of them have a signature sound that's easily recognizable. i started liking bernie grundman, but somehow, bernie has become more commercial these days as success, perhaps, has made him less focused and more complacent. no offence to bernie, that's my and jo ki's (my advisor) conclusion after listening to some of his latest works.
you may be surprised that even local chinese production houses like halo productions [海螺】engages the services of bernie but the resultant work is quite awful. it is obvious that bernie the man didn't do the job (he let his staff do it) but he allows others to carry his brand name, which is really not a good thing. to cut to the chase, there are too many "bernie grundman" masterings in the market and many of them are below par.
on the other hand, doug sax, has shown great consistency in his work, eventho' he may have been surpassed by bernie in recent years in terms of commercial success and recognition. there are too many great doug sax mastereings to mention but one of my fave is actually cheer chen (chen qi zhen) "a glamorous adventure" 【華麗的冒險】 ，my all-time-fave chinese indie album that i have mentioned over and over again in my desirable audio blog. in that ground-breaking album, the music is very complex, bordering on classical structure but doug's mastering has the ability to separate layers upon layers of sound, without congestion and muddling. i have recommended this album to many of my kakis, including jo ki.
to make it even sweeter, doug's rates are cheaper than bernie's, so this time, for the first time, i am going to let doug sax master my "love's tapestry".
it will be a great treat to audiophiles!
see, move cover versions flooding the market!
another great great ballad now being covered by our own malaysian singer, abin [方炯鑌].
listening to this song makes me miss mavis hee 【許美靜】, the original singer, even more.
i remember vividly when mavis was so hot in the mid 90s, it was also the time where chinese music cafes 【民歌餐廳】 started its roots in malaysia.
i may ask my very own "koji tamaki" to cover this great song in his debut album next year. trust me, he is better ;-)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
just as i praised khalil fong for his superb arrangement skills in his latest cover version album "timeless" (especially the song kuang chao 【狂 潮】 and "la bamba")，he did even better with "the moon represents my heart" 【月亮代表我的心】！, a new song which is added to the 2nd edition of the album.
my god, he did what david foster did to michael buble! it is part jazz, part swing, wonderfully foot-tapping! no one, i mean, no one has ever done "the moon represents my heart" this way before.
ingenious, bold, creative and totally fabulous! very few chinese musicians could reach this exalted level of creativity!
you think this arrangement is easy to do? ask any of your musician friends， especially those arrangers.
my hats off to this man, eventhough i don't dig his stuff whole-heartedly.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
a question to warner: why do you have the cheek to release khalil fong "timeless" in 180gm LP, when the album's original recording is so so ordinary, not even scratching the surface of audiophile recording?
are you eying the audiophile market so desperately?
do you think just by making a cover version album without knowing the intricacies of high-end recording, you can fool the audiophiles into thinking that your album is audiophile-approved?
having said that, i do concede this album has some of the best arrangement i have ever heard from chinese pop music for the longest time. for that, kudos to khalil fong for his immense talent.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
even khalil fong has done it so successfully, so it is now taiwan's jam xiao [蕭敬騰] turn to do it.
i am talking about a cover version album, of course.
with the current climate of crappy music overwhelming the chinese pop scene, it is commercially wise to release a cover version album. mark my words, you will see many more coming!
to me, a good cover version is way better than a crappy original composition. it is so sad that chinese pop music today has degenerated to a state where 99% of the music they churn out is thrashy and forgettable. that's why i don't listen to local chinese radio stations at all.
i will write an analysis later on why record labels today are considering cover versions now, long regarded as "taboo" subject.
jam xiao, without a doubt, is currently the hottest name in taiwan now, eventho' his two albums are mainly mediocre stuff. i would consider him the best male singer after eason chan.
this cover version album, entitled "love moments", has some fantastic songs. incidentally, jam covers the same song by ah mei as khalil fong did.
i can't wait to see how jam turn the table and deliver the good.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
in today's tough music market, every opportunity to make an album is a blessed one given by the grace of god. and this album especially is significant because it is my first attempt to break into the english audiophile/pop market and i aim it at the international market and not just malaysia.
working with great musicians like roger wang and gina panizales make me realize how lucky i am to have this line up of stellar artistes at my disposal. for pop pop music, i would insist on top-notch maestros in his/her chosen instrument/profession, e.g. roger wang on guitar, cher siang on piano, gina on vocals. i don't want to shortchange my followers/buyers and give them anything less.
for a rather interesting report on the first recording session, you can read hifi maverick's account at hifi-unlimited.
suffice to say that i treasure every album that i make. all my albums are concept-driven. an album without a concept is like a life without a purpose. love's tapestry is my way of remembering the special woman in my life, at the same time, it spreads messages of love and longing. love is like a tapestry because it is rich, interwoven with a many layers of emotions. only those who have truly loved would experience this multi-facted, complex and yet rewarding experience.
i have the honor to have with me the local audiophile guru, joseph ki, as the advisor to this album. jo ki is a very famous audiophile in malaysia. he is known to be a critical listener both in his hifi and the music he listens to. it has been a wonderful experience having him in the studio, for he brings about critical knowledge and requirements in producing a good audiophile album. fortunately, both roger and gina are open to many of jo ki's suggestions. jo ki always says rightfully - "i am the buyer, i represent the buyer community. you have to satisfy me first and foremost".
we had a big argument yesterday on how aiza seguerra's "persistent rain" should be sung. jo ki is unfamiliar with the song and from what he heard from roger and gina's 1st attempt, he dislikes the song, finding it plain and boring. i retorted saying that was not the way i view this song. eventho' this song is not "classic" compared to the rest of the songs, we need to have this kind of simple ditty to fill up the album. to me, a "small" song like persistent rain is a mood changer, a contrast, a tempo changer from all the big songs. also this song is both cherished by me and my woman together as the first time we heard it on the cd, we both were moved to bits. aiza's version made us cry as we could feel her pain and anguish of losing her boyfriend. there is so much helplessness in the song.
so i suggested to jo ki to listen to the original version by aiza on youtube. which he did, only then he understood what i want in the song. i was glad i made my points clear as after that jo, roger and gina understood the underlying emotions in the song. gina's final take was so moving that she was on the verge of crying as i yelled out, "yes, i could feel the pain, i could feel the pain!".
you see, so much drama in the studio. that was the reason why we make music.
ok, we are not going to keep the cat in the bag any longer...
love's tapestry is gonna be launched on the 18th of december, just one week before chrismas 2009.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
i would never have thought of owning my own music label until now.
it is never easy building up a music label. most music lovers recognize a label first before the artistes - a label is always bigger than the artistes it houses.
a good label must have great artistes under its wings, and more often than not, these artistes share many common attributes.
i could name a dozen of famous labels over the past 2 decades but unfortunately many have since become defunct. surviving major labels are emi, sony bmg, warner, universal and even they are struggling to keep afloat in the age of rampant illegal download and piracy.
the advent of internet and home recording lends to the robust birth of indie labels. in fact, indie labels are way cooler than major labels nowadays because they are less commercial, make distinctive music, have more creative freedom and generally can survive longer due to their small setup.
pop pop music is created with the vision to become the most prominent audiophile/pop crossover music label in this region.
why must the word "audiophile" be necessary? because if it is just pop music alone, it won't sell. unless you are the next american idol or british has got talent winner. let's face it, pop music is not dead but the sales of pop music (especially on physical format like CD) is on a downward spiral. today, artistes don't release album in expectation of great sales. they merely want to create a portfolio to solicit gigs, concerts, sponsorships and other commercial opportunities.
why must the word "crossover" be necessary? because it is never enough just to just target either audiophiles or pop fans. you have to have both. the incredible success of emi fujita is a testament of the size of the crossover market in this region. emi's albums' sales average 15,000 copies in malaysia alone and 20,000 copies in singapore. just think about it.
everything starts from small. i don't mind to admit that at the moment, pop pop music is only me. and i selfishly take up the title of "A&R director" (artiste and repertoire) in the company, which is essentially the most glamorous, the most authoritative position in a music label. the A&R director is always the guy who cuts deals and smokes big expensive cigars and have plenty of chicks surrounding him. the last part is wishful thinking la. but i am also the poor chap who buys birthday cakes for my artistes, coax them to sing well, drive them around to studio, maintaining this blog, write press kit and most importantly come out with the money!
so, pop pop music's first foray into the music industry is roger wang and gina panizales "love's tapestry" and the incredible jz8's debut album (jointly produced with musictoxin, my partner's label).
make sure you buy both copies when they are out. because i need you to make this vision of "the most outstanding audiophile/pop crossover music label in this region" a reality :-)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
this is unprecedented, first of its kind in any studio in the world, almost bordering on insanity...
no sane studio owner/producer would do this - investing in 5 pairs of high-end interconnects, costing well over RM100K, for the recording studio!
yes, we should leave no stone unturned; it is going to be a no-holds-barred, cost-no-object high-end recording experience.... only we malaysians dare to!
and it begins this sunday!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
what others have said about jz8.....
"quite possibly the best pianist/singer combination you can find in malaysia"
"virtuoso playing, superb arrangement from tay cher siang coupled with top-notch, first-class vocals from lydia chew"
"definitely international standards!"
"barring any unforseen circumstances, jz8 is gonna be the biggest selling chinese album in malaysia in 2010!~"
"malaysian cai qin is born!"
"in all likelihood, the best ever high-end recording from malaysia"
"wonderful sound! you guys have done a wonderful job! looking forward to its release hugely!"
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
unlike what u2 sings in "i haven't found what i am looking for", i have found what i am looking for in an audiophile diva.
what maketh an audiophile diva? the answer is: a bass tone that is oh-so-seductive, sensuous, inviting and soul-caressing and extends way downwards, in frequency, i mean.
this is what makes cai qin so irreplaceable and precious to audiophile music lovers all over the world.
to re-produce this kind of bass notes, your hi-fi system must have excellent transparency in the lows and good cables are a must, of course. only then every vibration in the bass note can be heard and felt. once you get it right, the satisfaction is orgasmic.
a good, thick bassy voice has magnetism that lures you to the music. an audiophile queen needs excellent lows more than excellent highs.
i have found my audiophile diva and i will endeavor to make her a famous name in the international arena.