Well, its finally out, and what a beautiful album cover. In case you are wondering why am I so excited over 2V1G and JZ8 albums - well, I loved 2V1G, then I got to know the producer Leslie Loh, who happens to be another Ipoh-mali, I liked his energy and mindset, and the strive for quality. We often argue about the music business, I am trying to wean him away from over-loading on the audiophile centered vision, sigh... Anyway ... he has signed up The Solianos to do their first album, and well, I introduced the group to him. So I am involved somewhat, and I was key to making sure that The Solianos recorded the album in Malay - I believe it will be a huge treasurable recording. Anyways, back to JZ8, its a brilliant recording, a brilliant interpretation of brilliant songs. Enjoy.
You may see the albums at any CD Rama shops , either by today or latest by tomorrow.
3. 你快樂， 所以我快樂
JZ8 – Lydia Chew and Tay Cher Siang
1. Forever Smile
2. Old Love Song
3. Because You're Happy, I’m Happy Too
4. The Beach
5. Ferris Wheels
6. Overcast+Rainy Day
7. Paper Aeroplane
8. Unforgettable You
9. Fighting for Love
10. Actually You Don't Know How I Feel
12. I Have A Date with SpringCD-Rama (Popular Bookstore)
Bukit Raja Shopping Centre
Johor Skudai Parade
Johor Plaza Pelangi
Penang Mega Mall
Penang Gurney Plaza
Commentary by Leslie Loh, the producer of the album:
in any successful album, song selection contributes to at least 60% of the success. like 2v1g, even the harshest critics can't deny the mightiness of the songs in the album.
we put an enormous amount of time in coming out with the right songs for jz8. it is not only about the songs we (the producers) like, it is also important that lydia can sing it well and cher siang can do some cool arrangement on them.
so among the four of us - myself, chow (the producer), lydia and cher siang, we brainstormed a lot on song selection.
the following are our criteria:
1) it must appeal to a wide cross-section of audience, much wider than 2v1g
2) it must cover at least 3 decades of chinese pop music
3) it must have a few standouts that have the "wow" factor
4) it must allow for a total facelift (like faye wong's "because you're happy, i am happy too")
5) it must have at least 2 songs that are quite recent (90s onwards) to appeal to the early 30s
so, here's part-one short commentary of the songs we chose for jz8 debut....
1) forever smile [永遠的微笑】
this is an all-time-top-5-chinese-evergreens in mine and chow's books. we both love zhou xuan and zhou xuan has many many great songs, but this one stands out like a blooming rose. like what one of reviewers in the album liner note says, listening to this song reminds her of maggie cheung in wong kar wai's "in the mood for love" [花樣年華】, with her well-combed hair and tight-fitting qipao (cheong sam) sashaying down the staircase. we must say lydia's rendition is totally delectable, you could feel that she is really smiling sweetly and blissfully to her lover, totally befitting the mood of the song. cher siang's arrangement has plenty of colors and textures; it is unconventional but ultimately satisfying. credits must also go the drummer charles wong and double bassist joseph, who added plenty of tight rhythmic foundation to the music. the basslines are bouncing right away in your hifi system! you probably wouldn't know that these two are some of the best sessionists in malaysia!
to us, this is the song has the "wow" factor and it is perfect for curtain raiser.
2) because you are happy, i am happy too [你快樂所以我快樂】
cher siang chose this song because he thinks he could make it fun! and fun it definitely is! the swing arrangement totally changed the mood of the song (faye wong was cool but she wasn't happy in the song) ; a touch of genius from the maestro! we told lydia to totally let herself loose in this song... if you ears are sharp, when lydia sings "i feel the heat", she purposely sang in a way that expresses the "heat"!
we also feel lydia intentionally sounded "nonchalant" in her vocals, which magnifies the "fun" factor of this song.
we are not sure if faye wong would approve this song but we are sure she would join in the fun and start tapping her feet!
btw, do you spot the chorus of another famous chinese pop song towards the end of the proceeding? this is the cheeky part of tay cher siang!
3) unforgettable you [忘不了的你】
we chose this song because it is old! (it is reserved for old fogies like us!) and it has a captivating melody and sad, sad lyrics. the sadness is heartbreaking. it is about a woman who can't forget her ex-lover, whom she shouldn't fall for in the first place. the longing and pathos are intense in the lyrics; the addiction to love is horrendous. cher siang's piano fully captures the lost, solitude and helplessness in the song. lydia's rendition has the right amount of old-school feel, as if she is transformed into a shanghai diva of the 50s. lydia sounded damn real in the song. perhaps, what she lacks is a tight-fitting cheongsam and tony leung perhaps ;-)
we love this song to bits!
4) ferris wheels [幸福摩天輪】
lydia and myself love this song from eason chan. and maestro cher siang did the arrangement in the last minute! it was more than a touch of genius. he was only given the notice that we wanted to do this song one day before the actual recording, and what master class work he has done!
the prelude conjures up images of a bedazzled kid, upon entering a carnival, and seeing the rotating ferris wheels in total fascination. the bossa arrangement gives a new lease of life to this song; you could sway your body gently to the rhythm....
lydia did the recording of this song last so obviously she was more relaxed. most listeners choose this song as one of their faves in the album!
5) i have a date with spring [我和春天有個約會】
we are pretty adamant that for someone to do well in this song, she must have a good bassy voice like original singer alice lau ngah lai 【劉雅麗】, and lydia has it in spades too.
while it may or may not surpass alice lau's version，lydia does manage very well to create the "last-song-before-the-bar-closes" atmosphere and mood. cher siang's lonely piano is the perfect replacement for the missing instrument in the original song, the saxophone!
we feel that this is the perfect song to end the album.
A good interview by Big E, the owner of hifi-unlimited blogspot (link above), with Lydia and Cher Siang:
Big E: Tell us a little bit about your selves? What lead the two of you to Jz8?
Tay CS: I've been very active in the local jazz scene since coming home from the (United) States two years ago. When ML approach me for this project, I was very excited to be part of it.
Lydia: I've been a back up singer for many years now. I back up some of the biggest regional stars like Jacky Cheung, Jenny Tseng(Yan Le') and Sheila Majid amongst many others. Over the years, I've had offers to branch out for a solo career how ever, until now none of the projects looked quite as interesting as Jz8, and when ML said Cher Siang was the other half, I just could not resist, not after all the good things I've heard about Cher Siang.
Big E: Cher Siang, you mentioned States, did you do your formal musical training there? Does formal training helps in the music industry?
Tay CS: Yes, I studied music at the West Virginia University. I specialised in jazz, my favourite genre. I am now teaching piano as my day job, to help pay the bills, so the formal training does help come to think of it.
Big E: Lydia, you mentioned that you backed Jacky Cheung, one of the most respect able HK artist. Tell us a little bit more?
Lydia: I worked on Jacky's latest jazz concept album called "Private Corner" if you know about that? You can hear me in four tracks on that CD and one of the more familiar track is called "Double Trouble". (Lydia did mentioned the other 3 songs that she was featured actually, but my poor command of Chinese language prevented me from listing them, with apologies)
Big E: As you know, Hifi-Unlimited is a hifi content based blog site, so I'll have to ask you this. Do you guys have some kind of hifi at home?
Lydia: I don't have a hifi system at home, but my dad does. He had a Sony CD player, AR amplifier and a pair of Infinity speakers. I remember that we'd join him as a family listening to his favourite music. That's why I can relate to ML's Chinese jazz music concept, targeted towards the audiophile market. I think audiophiles are very blessed people, because they have the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of music reproduced in the highest fidelity possible. Me? I just don't have the time, to be honest!
Tay CS: I have a beer budget Denon turn table, an integrated amplifier and speakers in my place. I am avid follower of your blog and thus, I am very aware that what I have is not really considered high end in any way.
Big E: Wow! You read Hifi-Unlimited regularly? Thanks for your support! I've hang out with musicians when I was younger and I can say that most of them don't really fuss with hifi. The fact that you have a basic set up is already a step above most musicians. Don't musicians want to hear their work in it's full glory?
Tay CS: Actually, we are enjoying the real thing day in, day out, there's really no need to settle for the next best thing, which is hifi. That's why most musicians don't bother. Don't you agree?
Big E: What's your opinion on music downloads? And as an artist, which format do you think your work is best represented?
Lydia: Any other format is o.k. except downloads! I don't like downloads because I feel it compromises the artistic value of our work. Say for example, I know many young people today like downloads for convenience and have a big collection of songs in their MP3 player or iPod. Problem is when I ask them who sings that particular track they are playing, they said they don't know! Now what good is a song without getting to know the artist? I must also remind that illegal down loads compromises the artist's income too. Without adequate income, who'd wanna be an artist, making music?
Tay CS: When I was a teenager, I used to read hifi rags, where the reviewers would write about their vinyl experiences not found on CDs, such as admiring the great art works on the gate fold covers, all the credits are printed with read able font sizes, the smell of fresh new vinyl and lastly that tender action of pulling out the LP from it's cover, placing it on the turn table, then lovingly brush away the surface dust on the LP, and lastly, cue the tone arm to the track you wanna play. As some one growing up in the CD era, I never truly understood what that was all about until some one showed it to me! And after I experienced vinyl for the first time, I started buying LPs of artist that I like, just to keep until I could afford a turn table! I think an LP immortalises an artist's work. I would someday like to see my work to be available on vinyl too, if that is possible. And no, I don't like down loads at all, because it sounds especially bad on MP3.
Big E: Pop Pop Music is releasing 2V1G on LP, due to their commercial success. I think Jz8 could do just as well, if not better! So your odds are pretty good indeed! Are you somewhat jealous of 2V1G because they are now going to be on vinyl?
Tay CS: I am very happy for the success of 2V1G. I really hope one day, Jz8 will make to LP format too! But I think that depends on the commercial success of our debut CD.(At this point, a visibly excited ML was heard shouting at least 30,000 copies!) I hope the music lovers like our effort enough to ensure our success.
Big E: Tell us a bit more about your 2 years working together? Do you guys do the "Diva" and have a cat fights every now and then, or is it smooth sailing all the way?
Lydia: We work together very well in fact. I am happy that there's always a consensus way to work out problems, if any encountered so far. There's no "Diva" what so ever to speak off.(Cher Siang nods in agreement)
Big E: Lydia, do you feel like there's a stigma for back up singers to fight against before one makes a successful transition as a solo artist?
Lydia: I think the stigma is all in the audience's perception. There are many who first started as back up singers in the industry and successfully made it big as a solo artist, Mariah Carey is one the most famous example. For me, I don't feel there's any reason why a back up artist shouldn't be successful.
Big E: Are there any plans in place now for a follow up album? Or do you have to wait and see the success of the soon to be launched debut CD before deciding?
Tay CS: I think that question is best answered by our producer, ML. However, I actually do have some materials at hand, which I've already composed and feel they are suitable for the project, if it should happen.
Lydia: I think the biggest problem is timing. Both of us have our other commitments and this debut Jz8 CD took two years to materialise. I don't know if the audience would wait another two years or longer for the next follow up CD. Well, just let fate take it's journey and see what happens. In the mean time, we hope the audience will appreciate and support our work of Jz8 for now.
My Take: Readers of this blog will know that I have been a heavy promoter for the brilliant 2V1G, followed by Gina Panizales and Roger Wang's Love's Tapestry. Love's Tapestry is selling well considering its an English album launched in Malaysia - it made strong inroads in Indonesia and Taiwan. Well, I am a fan because I know the producer Leslie Loh very well, in particular since we both are from Ipoh - even though he was from ACS, I shall not hold that against him.
I like what he is doing, its a passionate job, its a refreshing voice amidst the highly commercialised, heavily marketed artistes by huge management / music companies in Asia. Can we just do great music for once???
2V1G did extremely well, selling way above 10,000 copies for a pure Malaysian effort. I was invited by Leslie to an early listening session of JZ8 just prior to CNY, apparently the first person outside of those in the studio to have a listen - my opinion after the few songs, I told him JZ8 will sell 30,000 copies. 2V1G was all Mandarin, JZ8 has both Cantonese and Mandarin and the jazzed up treatment of some songs were absolutely delicious, plus it took a couple of the older oldies and gave that a wonderful tweak as well - the album will appeal to a much broader spectrum, one can buy it for their gfs, bfs or their parents, or their rebellious teenage kids. Its that cool!!!!!!
From the sampling player on the right, Forever Smile was one of my favourite songs from my dad's era. Rarely heard nowadays, and the soft jazz treatment brought life to this magnificent tune. The second song was just superb, very different from the lackadaisical Faye Wong's version (which was also superb btw) - that song was crying out for a jazzy treatment and it brought out the cheekiness of the lyrics.
The third song, Unforgettable You, to me is one of the saddest Chinese song ever ... The stripped down version finally brought the sadness, the desperation in unrequited love, the hollowness and lingering pain of memories, the empathy and tenderness in the song beautifully. Lovingly sung and Cher Siang's piano puts in the right mood.
Many artistes have done Eason's Mor Tin Loun. I must say, Cher Siang's piano brought to life the carnival, circus feel instead of the original more sombre feeling. Its another song crying out for a soft jazz treatment as the optimistic lyrics yearns for. Exceptional.
The last song is the famous I Have A Date With Spring ... again cut to the bones, a song that needed to reflect the wistfulness, the accepting of fate and destiny, it needed to be melancholic and reflective. It is at the same time tinged with regret, acceptance but also hope. Can you imagine all that in one song - my favourite from the album by far because it was all of the above, wonderfully executed.