Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shin Joong Hyun (신중현) "Beautiful Rivers & Mountains" & "From Where to Where"

South Korea's "godfather of rock" finally gets some reissue treatment love in the west.  These two compilations ("Beautiful Rivers..." gets the whole vinyl/cd treatment, while "From Where..." is a digital only 7 song release) were released in the U.S. by Light in the Attic, and are long overdue.  Shin Joong Hyun is pretty much THE dude for Korean guitar rock in the 60s and early 70s before his imprisonment by the Park Chung Hee administration/dictatorship (more info on that is on the interweb).  He was featured (along with his backing band) on a bunch of different singers albums.  Some of these singers are not even on these compilations (no Pearl Sisters, but I have one of their albums anyway), and it also doesn't feature any Add 4 which was Shin's first band from around '64.  I'm really curious about that band, and I hope Light in the Attic will reissue that stuff someday, as well.

The music is really quite great, although it sounds dated in comparison to what was going on during the time that most of this was released (1969-1974).  Don't let that stop you from hearing this stuff.  Shin's guitar playing is quite great and carries a kind of eastern melodic edge that maybe you won't hear on first listens.  He can also rip shit up, and fry your brain with acid drenched guitar solos.  For proof of that, listen to Kim Sun's "The Man Who Must Leave" which sounds like a cross between The Doors and Bauhaus (listen to the bass) with Shin ripping out some twisted acid guitar at the beginning and the end.  In between is some very heartfelt singing from Kim Sun, whom I've never heard of before.  A very passionate man, apparently.

Other highlights is, of course, the controversial title track which was the root cause of Shin's eventual imprisonment.  Apparently there's an 18 minute version of this song somewhere, but I've never heard it.  Also, my favorite Korean singer, Kim Jung Mi (김정미), from this era is featured here.  The fantastic "The Sun" (also on Kim Jung Mi's "Now", which is a great psych/folk record by any standards) on "Beautiful Rivers..." and the title track from the digital release are excellent songs that really showcase what a great singer Kim was.  Some really nice strings on "The Sun" as well.  Might bring a tear to your eye, so be careful.

There's also highlights that you're probably not going to find anywhere else even if you live in Korea.  For example, a very funky live cover of "Funky Broadway" which sounds like it features an American singer, but gives no credit to him in the liner notes.  And "I've got Nothing to Say" which is a too short live & raw recording for a movie called The Beauty (미인 - good luck finding that one).  Seriously, that song could've kept going for another 5 to 10 minutes and I wouldn't be complaining.  A studio version of it is featured on "From Where..." but it's not quite the same.

Seriously great stuff.  You can get this stuff from the Light in the Attic website, which I highly recommend cuz it'll be cheaper.  This includes digital downloads if, like myself, you would love to have the vinyl, but have a hard time justifying shipping it over to a country that you may not stay in for much longer.  Got to keep it sparse in the material possessions category.  Then again, it's probably at one of the record stores I go to from time to time in Seoul.  I'll write about those stores later.  Right now, enjoy this shit.

Here's the actual clip from the movie The Beauty that I wrote about above:

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