Ellen Loo's fabulous Imperfections, Dizzy Gillespie's Concert Of The Century and Deutsche Grammophone's archival box set

Hong Kong singer-songwriter Ellen Loo's latest solo Mandarin album has a good mix of fast and slow songs.
Hong Kong singer-songwriter Ellen Loo's latest solo Mandarin album has a good mix of fast and slow songs.

There seems to be a lot weighing on Hong Kong singer-songwriter Ellen Loo's mind.

On her latest solo Mandarin album, images of destruction and perversion of the natural world flit across tracks such as the guitar- and-tambourine-accompanied Mai Kong Qi De Ren (literally The Man Selling Air) and the flamenco- tinged Wu He (No Seeds).

She paints a bleak picture of the former: "Who dares to put a price tag on the water and land, air, forests/No responsibility, no life, nobody leaves here alive".

On the song Ka Dai (Cassette), she wonders if she is out of step with everyone else: "The world outside wants me to go faster.../But I'm stuck in rewind in the machine".



    Ellen Loo

    AsiaMuse Entertainment

    3.5/5 stars


    Sammi Cheng

    Media Asia Music

    3.5/5 stars

While she explores unusual territory lyrically, the music feels a little less engaging at first compared with that of her previous albums The Ripples (2011) and You're Nobody To Me (2012).

The electro-pop of Through The Hurdles, which Loo composed with Hong Kong pop star Sammi Cheng for her Cantonese record Fabulous is more immediate. The uplifting dance number features lyrics by Lin Xi: "Through the hurdles, do you need permission from the world to be happy/Through the hurdles, only if you can let things go can you carry them".

There is a good mix of fast and slow songs here, including radio- friendly numbers such as ballad I'm Not A Singer and mid-tempo track 8km.

She breaks into full-on dance diva mode with Incredible and the title track, on which she proclaims: "We make it fabulous". Yes indeed, she does.

Boon Chan

The rather bombastic title of the album is characteristic of the swaggering braggadocio of the bebop gang that burst onto the jazz scene in the 1940s and redefined the music not just with their deconstruction of chords, but also with their varying public images.

  • JAZZ


    Dizzy Gillespie & Friends

    Justin Time Records

    4/5 stars

Led by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the once young tigers of bebop - bassist Ray Brown, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist Hank Jones, drummer Philly Joe Jones and saxophonist/flautist James Moody - reunited for a much-heralded gig in memory of the late, great Charlie Parker in Montreal's Salle Wilfred Pelletier on Nov 24, 1980. The original concert was played in front of 3,000 fans and a limited LP release followed before Justin Time Records rescued the languishing tapes from the vault. Now, jazz fans can relive the concert in all its glory in digital format.

All star concerts are dicey things as they tend to be about the size of individual egos, and certainly, this gig is not immune to moments of reverential individual worship as each soloist gets his airtime in front of whooping fans.

But the stellar line-up is an irresistible hook and certainly some tracks offer goosebump-inducing music- making.

Gillespie's signature speedy Gonzales playing opens Blue 'n' Boogie. But while his oddball banter can be off-key, his playing on this album stays mostly on track, faring especially well on an incendiary take on Get Happy, despite a couple of skidding notes on the opening bars and an uncharacteristically slow but lyrical tour of Stardust.

Mention must be made of Moody, who manages the enormous task of upstaging Gillespie with clarion beauty on Darben The Redd Foxx.

Ong Sor Fern

Given the recent worldwide craze in collecting vinyl recordings and an upsurge of nostalgia, it is not surprising that the major recording labels are reopening their archival vaults for reissue and re-acquaintance.



    The Mono Era 1948-1957

    Deutsche Grammophon 479 5516 (51 CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

This box set of selected monaural recordings from the German label's vast catalogue is a revelation and not just because of the quality of the performances. The original sleeve art of the albums, with their iconic yellow covers, has also been reproduced.

Thanks to their longevity, the Amadeus Quartet, pianists Shura Cherkassky, Wilhelm Kempff and Sviatoslav Richter, baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, conductors Wilhelm Furtwangler and Lorin Maazel are names which are still familiar to modern listeners. It is fascinating to sample some of their earlier work.

Just as interesting are the recordings by pianists Stefan Ashkenase (in Chopin sonatas) and Andor Foldes (Liszt and Rachmaninov piano concertos), bass Josef Greindl (Schubert's Winterreise), cellists Ludwig Hoelscher (Brahms, Grieg and Strauss cello sonatas) Enrico Mainardi (Haydn and Schumann cello concertos), violinist Johanna Martzy (a violin recital programme), the Loewenguth Quartet (Debussy and Ravel string quartets) and conductors Fritz Rieger, Fritz Lehmann and Ferdinand Leitner.

Does anybody today remember who they were? Thanks to these invaluable documents, many issued on CD for the first time, their names will not be forgotten.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe