March 4, 2011

Milestones 2000-2009 Collection, Roger Wang.

I am already a self confessed fan of Roger Wang, and his guitar play, so this is surely a very nice 2 CD set for me. I got this CD a few days prior to letting go my CD player, so I did most of the listening in the car, and finally in my very own "man cave" hifi system, when I got around to ripping it.

As I've already owned all of Roger's previous releases, you can say that I'd be very familiar with the songs here, but I'll still touch on those tracks which I feel are special enough to deserve another round of applause here. But wait, Roger had also thoughtfully include 3 previously un-released "live" tracks here too, which are "believe you me", special enough to buy this Milestone collection on their own.

First up, is Love Scale, which is a Roger/Mia Palencia collaboration, and like fine wine, this song has mellowed and sounding even better today, than when I first heard it 10 years ago. No doubt, Jacky Cheung doing an artistic cantojazz version of it, helps to rekindle the flame a bit here, but Mia Palencia is in her element here, and will rival Jacky for artistry and performance value. Needless to say I love both versions, but only the original English version is available here.

Next up is a live track of Black Coffee, made popular recently by Claire Martin(of Linn Records, if she sounds familiar). This track, recorded "live" during a Roger/Mia performance at "the" No Black Tie(which I am told by a friend in the know, is the 3rd best Jazz bar any where in the world!!!, I believe him, as he's travelled all over the world and he takes the trouble to go to all these musical places!). This strip down, acoustic style version of the track at once exposes the musical strength of the performers and their artistic values, all laid bare. The stage acoustics of No Black Tie is perfectly captured here, if the recording did appeared somewhat tape hissy.

Some of Roger's more memorable works, was from his second album, tittled Journey Home. It featured Roger's take on many of the popular Asian tunes, like Sukiyaki, Tian Mi Mi, and Yie Lai Xiang. I loved the way Mia Palencia and Roger re-worked some of the most popular Christmas tunes, like Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy and Deck The Halls. I was however, a little unsure what to make of the song selections from the No Strings Attached album, featuring Farid Ali(Mr Gambus). Non of my favorite songs made it in to the selection.

Then there's a selection of songs from Roger's days in the Pop Pop Music catalog, starting with the 2V1G selections. As expected, the most desirable track from the 2V1G album, Tempting Hearts(Xin Dong) featuring the very emotional vocals of Regine Tai. One can almost feel her tears as she finishes the song. On the Love's Tapestry album, I've always loved Bright Eyes(I am especially touched by the cello backing Roger's guitar and Gina's vocal here) , I'll Never Love This Way Again, and Just Once(my favorite James Ingram song by the way).

Now I've saved the best for last, by the way of the "live" recording of the Beyond Boundaries Concert, performed in Kota Kinabalu. Here we have Roger backed by 22 member ensemble, lead by Foo Say Ming. Roger's guitar was not drowned by the orchestra, but rather they work around his melodies, with much success. The tonally rich string section complements Roger's shiny guitar well on the rendition of Gentaran Jiwa(a P Ramlee classic this!) The following track is a combo arrangement of Girl From Ipanema/Quiet Nights/One Note Samba. The way the 3 songs are inter vined together is sheer genius, with time to spare for some percussion fireworks too! Needless to say, the last 2 tracks are my favorite here and Roger should perhaps consider releasing this concert recording as an album?

Lastly, as if Roger's talent diversity isn't enough, he throws us a Euro style dance/club track too, called Wishing You Were Here. It's a bouncy electronic tune backing Roger's simplistic, yet infectious guitar play.

As I hear the 2 CD set of this Milestone Collection, one thing is clear, that Roger's musical style has been evolving and further refined over time. On the opening tracks, one can hear a rather technically extrovert style of play. This slowly evolved over the years to a smoother, more fluent style of play, yet no less technically refined. One can say that Roger is constantly re-defining his style.

The overall re-mastered sound quality of the CD is good rather than great, and the Black Coffee "live" track is probably the worst, by comparison to the rest of the tracks here. As usual, Roger personally signs my copy too!

I am looking forward to another Milestones from Roger Wang, in ten years time perhaps?

No comments: