New albums from Taiwan's Rachel Liang and Amuyi, Les Double Six and Stephen Hough

After her marriage in 2016, it seemed as though sweet-voiced Taiwanese singer Rachel Liang was happy to bow out of the entertainment scene.

Scenery From A Passenger's Seat is her first album since 2014's Love Songs and it takes a different route from her signature romantic balladry for a more varied and fruitful exploration of life.

The title cut is a warm and nostalgic look at car journeys with her dad: "Face, stuck to the car window, gazing at the clouds above/You tease me for not getting tired of the view/Humming dad's beloved Teresa Teng/Childhood memories are always so sweet."

The love ballads are not completely gone and one that stands out is the electronica-tinged Sensible, with lyrics by Lin Xi cutting to the quick: "Because I was not satisfied doesn't mean you didn't love me/If only I'd known this earlier."

For me, the female singer with the more interesting voice is Amuyi.

The aboriginal singer's follow-up to We Don't Talk (2012) landed her a nomination for Best Mandarin Female Singer at the recent Golden Melody Awards. She lost to fellow Taiwanese Lala Hsu.

  • POP


    Rachel Liang

    Universal Music Taiwan

    3 stars

  • R&B



    Avex Taiwan

    3.5 stars

Her soulful voice strikes exactly the right note for the R&B numbers on O_Love.

She swings on the jazzy mid-tempo title track, managing to make that most well-worn of subjects sound fresh: "Love, can be simpler/Love, can be slower."

While the phrase "take me away" has become a cliche in love songs, Amuyi protests on Fearless Girl: "Don't take me away/Become the who that replaces me/ Away away/In my world."

The 23-year-old is definitely one to watch.

Boon Chan

Reissues of works by Les Double Six, a fabulously swinging French group specialising in vocalese, are few and far between. So this album is worth pouncing on.

Led by the inimitable Jeannine "Mimi" Perrin - pianist, singer and translator extraordinaire - Les Double Six were a very successful group formed in 1959. Swingle Singers founder Ward Swingle was a member of this group before they disbanded.

The sophisticated strut of the saxophone wail in the opening track, One Mint Julep, immediately establishes the 1960s, clubby jazz vibe.

The programme of tunes popularised by Ray Charles is mostly given the scat treatment.

On the most successful examples like Let The Good Times Roll By, Ruby and Stompin' Room Only, the singers sound like musical instruments, their wordless vocalisations soaring and swooping like strings or saxophones amid gentle cymbal brushes and lilting piano accompaniment.

  • JAZZ


    Les Double Six

    Trunk Records

    4.5 stars

The sound of Les Double Six is characterised by close, layered harmonies as well as a nice fat sound created by overdubbing (hence the name Double Six because the six-member group sounded larger courtesy of the then-new recording technology).

The only quibble I have with this reissue is that the mastering is uneven, resulting in some muffling and hissing on a few tracks.

But this is a minor annoyance worth living with, in the light of the swinging singing going on.

Ong Sor Fern

One has just about lost count of how many Stephen Hough's Piano Albums have been released since his first anthology of delicious encore pieces and transcriptions (on Virgin Classics) first saw the light of day in 1988. The British pianist's latest Dream Album is also his most personal.



    Stephen Hough, Piano

    Hyperion 68176

    5 stars

Seldom has gentle wit and prodigious technique been wedded to playing of such elegance, sophistication and personality.

Who would have thought of transforming Johann Strauss the Elder's rousing Radetzky March into a lilting and quintessentially Viennese Radetzky Waltz, or cross-dressing the Waltzing Matilda into a Caribbean rhumba?

In his version of the 1950s Russian pop song Moscow Nights, he uses as a preface the opening chords of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto.

There is also a Singapore dimension to some of his transcriptions.

The Bill Evans-coloured Niccolo's Waltz (inspired by Paganini's Caprice No. 24) is dedicated to Mr Goh Yew Lin, chairman of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, while his yearning look at Czech composer Antonin Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me was written for Singapore concert pianist and teacher Victor Khor.

Original works by Liszt, Sibelius, Elgar, Dohnanyi, Mompou, Ponce, Chaminade and Julius Isserlis (cellist Steven Isserlis' grandfather), among others, complete this lovely collection.

There is no shock and awe in the playing, only the pleasure of luxuriating in the company of intimate and well-loved friends.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe