Saturday, June 29, 2013

Playlist Tribute: Remembering the legendary stars of yesteryear today – Part 2, Wong Ka-Kui & Danny Chan

So welcome back and sorry for being on an unintentional hiatus! This post, I’m bringing you Part 2 of the Tribute Playlists series (trilogy?), with late singer-songwriters, Danny Chan and Wong Ka-Kui, of the band, Beyond. Just as Max and llwy12 have commented before, 1993 and 2003 were very sad and unfortunate years for the HK music industry. 1993 was the year that both Danny and Ka-Kui lost their lives – Danny never awoke from his coma and Ka-Kui was pronounced dead. These two men were particularly special in the world of Chinese music, since they were a rare breed of talented composers with one-of-a-kind voices.

Wong Ka-Kui was also more than a rockstar in the traditional sense. His compositions and lyrics often reflected on the political views of many citizens, as well as social issues. Now I haven’t included too many of those more politically charged anthems in this playlist and that’s because a) I didn’t want to bloat the playlist and b) I didn't feel like getting all political for a tribute. The only one that I've really put in is "The Glorious Years" and yes, it really was just a coincidence that it happened to be the song that served as a salutation to Nelson Mandela. I now don't know if I have really good timing, dumb luck or really bad timing. 

As for Danny, who was also an occasional TV host and actor, his compositions were as well known for as he was handsome and charming. I’m sure he created a generation of fangirls and inspired many boys to become singers, such as Anita Mui’s disciple, Edmond Leung.

With the passing of these two superstars (as well as Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung), I really can’t help but feel that the HK music industry or Cantopop has lost it’s gleam. I think about how artists like Danny would carry themselves – with grace, elegance, sophistication and an overall sincere kind of modesty, even when having achieved a great amount of praise. Now, I look at artists like Raymond Lam and find it hard to believe how someone could come of as so depraved and arrogant, yet releases try-hard songs that are inappropriate for a 30-year-old man. Facepalm.

But that’s not to say that the superstars died in vain. At least we got a chance to sample their music and enjoy their charming personalities when they were around. Superstars only come around once in a lifetime but sometimes we take them for granted. The least we could do now is to find a way for their legend to live on. So what I’m really trying to say is, please enjoy! :D

One of the few mainstream type of soft love songs from Beyond. But with bandleader Ka-Kui’s unique, gritty sounding rock vocals, this track really stands out. The lyrics, I admit, are kinda mushy BUT the melody line for the chorus is especially catchy. Ka-Kui’s voice really saves the song from being your average, run-of-the-mill love song.

A classic song that was considered a breakthrough for the band. According to this snippet from the RTHK 25th Anniversary Retrospective, prior to this song, people had the idea that Beyond were just a bunch of rebellious youth. But after the debut of this song, we had mothers sating that they were good kids. What a great song can do for your image. And it’s one of the few songs I know where each member gets a solo – a real treat. Here’s a song for you, Ma.

Composed by the late lead singer, Wong Ka-Kui, along with his penmanship, the result is great. Although his lyrics are not as fancy as seasoned songwriters such as Albert Leung, they stand well with Beyond’s overall style. The composition itself is definitely catchy, since Chinese people from the Mainland who don’t even speak Cantonese can sing this. And did I forget to mention it was actually a tribute to Nelson Mandela who fought against apartheid? You can hear it in the lyrics. Now, that really says something that is something glorious indeed. I've included a translated version from Youtuber Huey Ly, who has done an excellent job with the lyrics translation and subtitles. 

This track featured in last year’s drama <When Heaven Burns> because it was a kind of tribute to Beyond and Wong Ka-Kui. It’s one of those more rockier songs befitting of Beyond and you can here the American pop-rock influence in the guitar wails and in Ka-Kui’s voice. Strangely enough, it sounds somehow Oriental at the same time to me, and I’m not talking about the lyrics.
Another song that die-hard folks from Mainland China and elsewhere know by heart. Heck, I’m not even a die-hard fan and I know it. The beauty of the song lies in the almost a capella backdrop and the nervous sense of anticipation. Of course, the wait isn’t all for nothing. Ka-Kui brings it all out in the chorus and really gives it his all. And I must say, rock wail. Epic.

Danny was one of those super-talented artists that were gifted with a naturally great voice, musical skills as an instrumentalist, and composer. The only thing he was reliant on really, were lyrics to go with his pieces. Danny was a heartthrob for many during the 80’s and early 90’s. With this piece, “Only Love You”, you can really hear Danny’s soothing and pleasant sounding voice blend well with the music. It’s a very relaxing song to listen to and actually reminds me of a flowing stream. Oh, why do I love you?

A self-composed Danny track that is obviously very sad, just from the look of the title. The lyrics by Mr Cheng Kwok-Gwong go hand-in-hand with the broken-hearted emotion of Danny’s composition. This is one ultimate break-up song, speaking for the tortured soul crying their eyes out. I recall watching a program that highlighted these late artists and remember someone saying something like Danny was the type of artist to lock himself in his room and compose based on his mood. You can really hear the genuine sadness in this one.

Yes, I know. I know. Originally a Japanese track but with a catchy, mid-tempo beat, very suitable for Danny. As an accomplished organist, he could easily play this song. But he also had the help of his fellow schoolmate, Andrew Lam. In an old interview that featured the two, Danny revealed that Mr Lam’s mother was his Chinese teacher. So that’s where his lyrical ability comes from – all those words.

The theme song to TVB’s <Looking Back In Anger> starring Felix Wong and Carina Lau. I think this was originally a song composed by a Taiwanese composer but Danny liked the tune so much he had to use it after hearing it playing in a friend’s car, or something like that. Anyway, the tune is indeed very pleasant to the ears. And with Danny’s warm-sounding vocals, the music accommodates very well – this isn’t exactly your average song. It isn’t highly orchestrated, loud or even dramatic. But it is definitely one of the most memorable theme songs from TVB’s history.

Now I was really having a hard time picking just five tracks for Danny but I decided to go with this one. Why? Because I had temporarily forgotten about it until I recently rediscovered it again. That and it’s no secret that I have a penchant for Sally, just like Danny did. He actually singled her out as one of the Top 5 Women on his list from Hong Kong and Taiwan  during a radio talkshow, describing her as “sexy”. This time, he said it, not me, adding that it was a word that was rarely used to describe her. I concur, brother. This little gem was the theme song featured in the 80’s movie <Merry Christmas>, starring the late Leslie Cheung, Paula Tsui and a bunch of other people. I actually prefer this duet version because of the contrasting vocals. Sally’s voice is very diva-esque, powerful and full of lyrical sense, while Danny’s is soft, gentle and speaks straight to the heart.

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