Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shin Joong-hyun and the Yup Juns - Volume 1

I mentioned that I'd write more about Shin Joong-hyun and his band the Yup Jeons. Shin's been called the "Godfather of Korean rock" and him and the group lay down some quality grooves together here.

As with most things these days, it started with a Groove article about an upcoming Korean history book. It mentioned Shin Joong-hyun and his influence on Korean rock music. The article triggered the thought that for all the Kpop I buy and enjoy, rock and roll will always appeal more. Reading about him combined the two big passions of music, and so I did a bit of research on what records were out there. I bought the Volume 1 album without hearing a note of it. A description of the song "Beautiful Woman" and how the song got banned seemed like enough to go on.

I tracked down three albums from him and this group: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Instrumental Best. Of the trio, Volume 1's the best, but all 3 have their merits.

The Volume 1 LP's full of funky rocking grooves. From the opening "Beautiful Woman" to the Hendrix-style "Sunrise," it is 45 minutes of classic rock bliss. Actually, classic rock wouldn't accurately describe all the heavy funk bass lines and soulful singing. Think Isaac Hayes' album Hot Buttered Soul and you'll get close. As good as Shin's guitar work is, Lee Nam-i's bass and Kwan Young-nam's drumming shine as well. They make a good rhythm section here. "I Don't Know" rocks like any number of blaxploitation soundtrack songs and "Lady" rides a tense crescendo into a driving chorus a couple of times. 

The version I'm describing's actually a recent American reissue. It features expanded, all-English liner notes, and an LP-style jacket. The notes help explain the story of the record and what Shin was thinking when he recorded it. Much as I like the translations of the lyrics, the Korean lyrics would have been good to have, even if American listeners may not be able to read them. They'd certainly help with learning Korean.

Volume 1 didn't take off like the band expected, so the group ended up issuing a rerecorded version of it instead. It had more fuzz guitar overdubs and a different, flatter mix than the original issue The cover’s also different. All of the songs I've posted here have come from version two because version one can't be found on YouTube. The rerecorded version’s available for much cheaper in Korea than the original version, but the original has a fuller sound and better packaging. It also appeals to my record collector sensibilities, because I’m a sucker for the words reissuelimited release, and original mix

"미인" (Me-in "Beautiful Woman")

"나는 몰라" (Na neun mol la/"I Don't Know")

"긴긴 밤" ("Gin gin bam/"Long Long Night")

"설레임" (Seolleim/"Anticipation")

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