I’ve been listening to an early copy of Light in the Attic’s Shin Joong-hyun retrospective, BEAUTIFUL RIVERS AND MOUNTAINS: THE PSYCHEDELIC SOUND OF SOUTH KOREA’S SHIN JOONG-HYUN, 1958-1974, and so far I am really impressed by it. The sound quality is noticeably better than the CDs currently on the market, even with the compressed versions I have, with better range and dynamism (and now recorded at the correct speed).
Light in the Attic Records tell me that they made new transfers of Shin’s songs from the original vinyl (the original masters were apparently burned by the government back in the 1970s), then remastered everything in the United States. The result is Shin Joong-hyun much closer to how his music is supposed to sound, and if you have only heard his music on CD, the difference can be pronounced at times.
Other people have also been listening and apparently are impressed. Mojo magazine’s most recent issue (October) has named the retrospective their Reissue of the Month, giving the CD 4 stars and comparing Shin to Phil Spector. Sadly, Mojo is not available online (at least not for free), but you can read a couple of excerpts from their review here.
Attic will also be releasing a digital EP of Shin’s music, SHIN JOONG-HYUN, FROM WHERE TO WHERE: 1970-1979, and I quite like it, too. Both collections contain severals songs that I have not heard before, with an emphasis on Shin’s more rockin’ and psychedelic songs.
BEAUTIFUL RIVERS AND MOUNTAINS contains 14 songs, including many of Shin’s best, such as “The Man Who Must Leave” (떠나야할그사람), “The Sun” (햇님, a personal favorite), and of course “Beautiful Rivers and Mountains” (아름다운강산). There is just one song, “Moon Watching” (달마중), from his debut album, Hiky Shin, but it was interesting to hear something Shin recorded way back in 1958. And there is a good overview of the various singers who have recorded with Shin over the years — Kim Jung-mi, Kim Choo-ja, Lee Jung-hwa, Jang Hyun, Park In-soo, Bunny Girls, and Kim Sun. “J Blues ’72” is really good, imho.
WHERE TO WHERE has seven songs, but they are also all very solid, including “Grass” (잔디), “What Am I Going to Do” (나라고 어찌하오), and the Music Power version of “Beautiful Rivers and Mountains.”
These releases are not perfect — the anglicizing of the song names is a little rough, for example. And Shin’s history in the liner notes is a tad credulous, and could have used a bit more rigor. But these are mostly quibbles, and overall the releases are great, a huge recommend for anyone interested at all in the music of the period.
The vinyl version of BEAUTIFUL RIVERS AND MOUNTAINS comes out Sept. 6, and the CD version will be released Sept. 24. WHERE TO WHERE will be available on Sept. 25.
And I just learned that another American label, Lion Productions, also has a couple of Korean rock albums on the way, including Kim Jung-mi’s NOW. Apparently Lion is going to similar lengths as Attic to get their releases just right, so this could be a great few months for fans of this amazing era in music.