Monday, May 14, 2012

Shin Joong Hyun & Yup Juns (신중현과 엽전들) 1974-1975 Part 2

Ahh.  Very long time since part one in this, uh, two part series, which may turn into three parts if I can ever find those vinyl only releases that I mentioned before.  Anyway, a lot has happened to me, including moving back to Texas and possibly going to grad school this fall or next spring.  So, I may never return to Korea except for a visit.  I already miss it.  I will try to continue to contribute stuff to the blog because I still have a bunch of records that I want to post.

The focus on part two is mostly 1975 which is also the year Shin was arrested, and his career pretty much tailed off for the rest of the 70s (there are some records from the 80s that are supposed to be good, but I think his creative tendencies may have been curtailed because of all the problems he had with "the man" in the 70s).

First is 연주곡 베스트 (literally "Instrumental Best" which is what's printed on the sleeve) which is instrumental versions of many of Shin's songs from previous albums, but newly recorded.  The record is very... languid to say the least.  There's not much fire thrown into these updates, and it can get a little boring because of that.  However, the casualness works in it's favor sometimes, and sometimes I kinda like listening to this record over the other three.  I especially like the flute that takes the place of the vocals on many of the songs.  To be honest, I don't know half these songs.  Shin has a tendency to rework old songs a lot, and get different singers to sing on the new versions, but he was still a prolific songwriter.  Anyway, despite its casual air, it's still good.  님은 먼 곳에 ("You Are in a Faraway Place"...maybe?  Did I succeed in translating that?), and 마른 잎 ("Dry Leaf") are definite highlights and also best represent the overall tempo of the album.

Last for '75 is 제 2집 (Volume 2) which was recorded after "Instrumental Best", but was considered the proper second album.  Anyway, it's almost as good as their first album together, and has a similar vibe.  There are several great songs on here, and yet another version of one of his most popular songs 아름다운 강산 ("Beautiful Rivers and Mountains").  It's too bad that this was the last hurrah for this lineup.  Anyway, great songs, and most seem to have a strong triumphant, borderline patriotic tone to them.  뭉치자 ("Let's Unite) is one of my favorites by them featuring a heavy funk beat that is reminiscent of Can's drummer Jaki Liebezeit.  In fact, the atmosphere of the song is very Can-esque.  Highly Recommended.

I mentioned earlier that there were two others.  One is titled 엽전들의 경음악2집 (which I guess literally means "Yup Juns' Light Music Second Album", but, fuck, I don't know) and features several songs that are on "Instrumental Best" but hopefully is not the same versions (the flute player is on the cover, so it's probably more instrumental madness).  No idea how to get that one, and I certainly don't own a copy (mp3 or otherwise).  Here's the cover to the left of my wordz.

The other one was in the liner notes to a cd that I had, but hell if I can find that cd right now, and I can't even remember which one it is.  I'm suspicious that it might be on the Kim Jung Mi record from the last post which might be in Japan for all I know (Literally. I was supposed to move there and sent a couple of boxes, but that all fell through).  So, if I find that cd, then I can erase this whole paragraph.

*Next day update* Okay that record that I had read about in the liner notes, I still don't know, but it could have been this one called 아이러브 마마 (I Love Mama), a soundtrack album featuring mostly singers I've never heard of.  It is credited to Shin Joong Hyun and Yup Juns, though, and probably impossible to find.  So, there could be one more album of Yup Juns material....maybe.  Anyway, there's the album cover.

Here's some youtube videos of tracks listed above (all uploaded by me except the first one):

"Beautiful Rivers and Mountains"

"You are in a Faraway Place"

"Dry Leaf"

"Let's Unite"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shin Joong Hyun & Yup Juns (신중현과 엽전들) 1974-1975 Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted.  The reasons are as follows: laziness, trip to Malaysia/Singapore for 2 weeks, and sickness plus food poisoning yet again which for some reason is difficult as hell for me to get rid of in the winter time.  Also, I was trying to find proper information about Shin Joong Hyun's backing band - the Yup Juns, which is the name of the old Korean coins with the holes in the middle - during the '74 and '75 period of his career.  This has not been easy because I can't read Korean very well, but I've found some decent sites to find things, one is (in Korean) and a Korean Psych/Folk music site.  The former is basically a huge discography website, kind of like Discogs but specifically for Korean artists (though I do see other non-Korean albums pop up, so it's more like Discogs for Koreans); and the latter is an English language site (though a bit broken) dedicated to Korean psychedelic/folk music of the 60s/70s/80s.  Both have been helpful to me to put together some kind of discography for this short period of time.  However, I really can only find 4 albums from this period over here in Korea, but lucky for you, all four are also available on iTunes.

Lately, I've been more obsessed with this period in guitarist Shin Joong Hyun's (sometimes spelled Shin Jung Hyun, and even Shin Junhyun on iTunes) career than his earlier (and some might say better) material with The Men, The Sound, and others.  But I personally think the Yup Juns are his best band.  They are tight, and they have a relaxed, but funky sound that reminds me of not just American funk like The Meters, but also German bands from that era like Can or Neu.  The only thing that holds them back on these four albums is the production which tends to make it sound lightweight.  Especially with the guitars which sound very tinny, and are missing a bit of that fuzz that Shin likes to use.  I've heard they were also trying to commercialize their sound because of government pressure.  In 1975, there was a crackdown on artists in Korea, and many were arrested including Shin.  In that year, the president, Park Chung Hee, enacted stricter laws on artists and much more censorship.  This caused a dip in creativity over here, but it didn't necessarily keep good music from being released.  It just wasn't as experimental as the late 60s and early 70s were. 

First I will focus on the year 1974.  The Yup Juns had just been formed the previous year, and then appeared on Kim Jung Mi's (sometimes spelled Kim Jeong Mi) 이건 너무 하잖아요 ("It's Too Unfair" is I think the English title).  Not quite the classic as Now (possibly my all time favorite Korean album) but still quite good.  Of course, Kim's voice is fantastic throughout.  It's too bad that she just did two more albums after this (in 1977 and 1978).  I'm not entirely sure why that is, but I heard that she was arrested during the government crackdown in '75, and I'm sure that affected her album sales.  Great voice.  The Yup Juns provide a pretty solid and mildly psychedelic funk backdrop on most songs.  The second half of the record features more strings in the background, and more ballads.  Not in any way bad, especially on 갈대 ("Reed") which features more flute than strings, but is an excellent slow burning ballad.  Earlier in the record, you have a couple of songs that would show up later on a proper Shin Joong Hyun record.  Most notably 생각해 ("Think"), which is one of my favorite songs by Shin.

Later in 1974 (or early '75) the Yup Juns released their debut album.  Titled simply 1집 (or First Album), this is probably my favorite record of the four available from this period.  Again, the Yup Juns supply a strong, sturdy funk backdrop, but again, production is a little lightweight.  This is especially obvious on album opener 미인 ("Beautiful") which sounds like it's about to fall apart, it sounds so thin.  However, on the following track - a second version of 생각해 or "Think" - the sound is a little tougher, and it continues with that toughness on the rest of the album.  The theme is constant with only slight reprieves during the Buddhist-esque chant on 나는 너를 사랑해 ("I Love You"), and guest vocalist on 설레임 ("Throb") though, I'm not sure who it is.  The song also features some excellent slide guitar that reminds me of Opal or Mazzy Star's more psych/folk moments.  One more thing about this record:  There is another version of this album with the exact same songs (different order) and recorded in a different session featuring a different drummer (Kim Ho-sik [김호식] who was replaced by Kwan Yong-nam [관용남]).  Eventually I will find that version.

My next post will be the second part focusing on the year 1975.  If I'm able to track down some of the other albums released during this era, then I will do a part 3.  As I mentioned above, these two albums above are available from iTunes, so I won't bother giving you a link for a free download from this site.  Anything unreleased or out of print or hard to find anywhere outside of Korea that I find I will gladly post, though.

A friend thought it would be a good idea to post some of the songs I mentioned, and I agreed.  Unfortunately, most of these were not available on youtube so I had to upload them myself.  You're welcome.  Here they are:

Kim Jung Mi's "Reed":

And her version of "Think":

Shin Joong Hyun & Yupjun's version of "Think":

And here they are with "Throb":

Next is "I Love You":

And finally, a song that was already on youtube, "Beautiful":