Thai Pop Spectacular
Various Artists, 1960-1980s
Score of the week from the library - and yes, I picked it up because of the cutesy cover! (Full disclosure: I am every bit as glib and shallow as I appear to be.) Compiled by Alan Bishop and Mark Gergis for Seattle's Sublime Frequencies label (sublimefrequencies.com), it's basically Thai music for Westerners who want to hear Thais trying to sound Western. Kind of like Bollywood kitsch. Though it starts out sounding slightly traditional, with songs addressing topics like "Magical Love of the Countryside" and "Papaya Salad Merchant" things start to pick up by the time of the Johnny Guitar instrumental "Fawn Ngeo (Dance of the Ngeo)" - Ngeo are Northern Thais of Burmese origin - and get very weird as the tracks progress. Like Chailai Chaiyata & Swana Patana's "Kwuan Tai Duew Luk Puen (You Should Die By Bullets)," which opens with electronic beeps and blips before merging into a disco toe-tapper with horns straight out of the chase sequence on a 70s TV cop show. Weirder still is Gawao Siangthong's "Gao Guek (Wise Old Man)," wherein the singer actually uses belches for syncopated percussion!
The group Generation's "Nan nan Pob Gan Tee (Long Time No See)" sounds like it comes from a Thai film soundtrack (like Shaft Goes To Bangkok, if such a film existed!), all wacka-wacka guitars and wah-wah pedal. Similarly, Kabuan Garn Yor Yod Yung Yong attempt some funk stylings on "Gang Geng Nai Krai Lab," a title translated here as "Look Whose Underwear Is Showing." This should probably be the official anthem of Bangkok's Patpong red-light district.
Thong Sung Blue: "Look Whose Underwear Is Showing"
But the song that gets the most attention on the compilation is Pairoj's "Khor Tan Gor Mee Hua Jai," a decidedly bizarre Thai cover version of Brit two-hit wonder band Paper Lace's 1974 hit "The Night Chicago Died." (Though "The Night Chicago Died" was their only U.S. #1 hit, Paper Lace's anti-war protest song "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" was a UK #1 in 1974.)
Paper Lace gets Thai-Died
Other standouts: Phet Potaram's trilly-voice backed by snake-charmer horns sounds very Bollywood on the delightful "Koh Phuket (Phuket Island)"
The only track I can't stomach is Man City Lion's "Tid Lom Ta lai (Drinking Whiskey Until I'm Blurred)" because the singer's high-pitched affected voice is annoying beyond belief. And am I the only one who envisions the Manchester City football club when they see this Thai group's name?
CD track listing:
1. Introduction - Welcome To Thailand
2. Roob Lor Thom Pai - Buppah Saichol
3. Mae Kha Som Tum - Onuma Singsiri
4. Lung Dee Kee Mao - P. Promdan
5. Fawn Ngeo - Johnny Guitar
6. Kwuan Tai Duew Luk Puen - Chailai Chaiyata
7. Dek Kai Nuang Sue Pim - Sangthong Seesai
8. Gao Guek - Gawao Siangthong
9. Tid Lom Ta Lai - Man City Lion
10. Mai Na Lork Gun - Kampee Sangthong
11. Nan Nan Pob Gan Tee - Generation
12. Koh Phuket - Phet Potaram
13. Gang Geng Nai Krai Lab - Kabuan Garn Yor Yod Yung Yong
14. Khor Tan Gor Mee Hua Jai - Pairoj
15. Sao Dok Kum Tai - Pumpuang Duangjan
16. Tangkon Tangnae - Sangthong Seesai
17. Keng Ma - P. Promdan
18. Na Doo - Man City Lion
19. Dteuu - Setha
20. Mia Rai Duen - Duongdao
21. Pleng Show (Title Theme) - Chalermpon Malakum
Product description from sublimefrequencies.com:
Thai pop history has been largely ignored and neglected by the international musical community for far too long. By the late 20th century, Thai pop music had developed as many faces as localized roots music such as Molam or styles like Luk Thung or Luk Krung, (each with their own respective pop-sectors). Bangkok – always the hub of the Thai recording industry – attracted musicians and singers from across the country that were both informed by tradition and inspired by the wealth of international sounds entering the region via radio and phonograph. Jazz, for instance, had a profound influence on early Thai pop music, the King of Thailand himself being a noted Jazz composer.
This superb collection features modern Thai music styles combining with elements of surf, rock, funk, disco and comedy, revealing the use of clever instrumentation, brilliant vocals, great arrangements, twisted breaks, and resourceful production techniques. Discover the Queen of Luk Thung, the 1960s “Shadow Music” sound, classic tracks from Thai films, blazing examples of Bangkok disco from the 1970s, legendary Thai comedy Pop, and the most outrageous version of "The Night Chicago Died" you'll ever encounter. Thick horn sections, wah-wah guitars, tight drums, and funky organs help round out this astounding set which proves beyond a doubt that the Thai were a completely unique and powerful force during the 1960's, 70's & 80's global popular music explosion.
Kabuan Garn Yor Yod Yung Yong - "Gang Geng Nai Krai Lab" (Look Whose Underwear Is Showing)
Kampee Sangthong - "Mai Na Lork Gun" (Don't Deceive Me)
Man City Lion "Na Doo" (Very Striking Girl)
All Music Guide