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Journey to the West

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
At the height of Blur's popularity, Damon Albarn casually let it be known that he harbored a desire to create musical theater -- a revelation that wasn't exactly a surprise to anybody intimately familiar with the theatricality of Blur's Brit-pop trilogy, particularly portions of The Great Escape which felt as if they were designed for the stage. Albarn abandoned an explicit music hall bent in the aftermath of Blur vs. Oasis, first digging deeply into American indie rock and then getting ever artier, eventually abandoning the very idea of bands themselves in favor of conceptual projects like The Good, the Bad & the Queen. His score for Chen Shi-Zheng's stage ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
At the height of Blur's popularity, Damon Albarn casually let it be known that he harbored a desire to create musical theater -- a revelation that wasn't exactly a surprise to anybody intimately familiar with the theatricality of Blur's Brit-pop trilogy, particularly portions of The Great Escape which felt as if they were designed for the stage. Albarn abandoned an explicit music hall bent in the aftermath of Blur vs. Oasis, first digging deeply into American indie rock and then getting ever artier, eventually abandoning the very idea of bands themselves in favor of conceptual projects like The Good, the Bad & the Queen. His score for Chen Shi-Zheng's stage production Journey to the West -- based on the ancient Chinese novel Journey to the West -- fits right in with these conceptual works, reuniting him with Gorillaz cohort Jamie Hewlett, who designed the visuals for the opera, while recalling elements of his 2002 Mali Music exploration and traces of his eerie collaborative score with Michael Nyman for Antonia Bird's 1999 film Ravenous. Albarn relies heavily on Chinese instrumentation and harmony on Journey to the West but the score, as a whole, is considerably less explicitly worldbeat than Mali Music, as Albarn weaves in many familiar motifs from his oeuvre, including stiff pre-programmed two-step drum loops, post-punk synths, waves of dreamy textures, circular carnivalesque chords, and the occasional blast of cathartic noise. What he most emphatically does not rely upon is anything remotely pop -- no pop song structures, hooks, or harmonies -- a decision that reads perhaps a bit more bold than it plays, as this is a symphonic suite that is meant to be experienced as a whole, not parsed out in bite-sized bits. This also does mean that Journey to the West is perhaps best experienced on-stage, as it was meant to be heard in tandem with Chen Shi-Zheng and Hewlett's visuals, but heard as its own work, it's hard not to admire, if not exactly embrace, Albarn's achievement here, as his work is not only ambitious, it is serious and understated, the work of a true composer.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/23/2008
  • Label: Xl Recordings
  • UPC: 634904038823
  • Catalog Number: 40388
  • Sales rank: 168,082

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Monkey Primary Artist
Wayne Hernandez Choir, Chorus
Cheng Yu Pipa
David Coulter Synthesizer, Percussion, Jew's Harp, Tom-Tom, Saw, Hand Clapping, Tam-tam, Hand Clapping, Omnichord, Musical Direction, Synthesizer Drums
Juliet Russell Choir, Chorus
Kate St. John Cor anglais
Rory McFarlane Bass
Mike Smith Piano, Keyboards
Thomas Bloch Harmonica, Glass Harmonica, Ondes Martenot, Cristal Bachet
Wang Weiping Pipa
Isabelle Dunn Cello
Zeng-Quang Li Vocals
Mike Smith Piano, Keyboards
Jennifer John Choir, Chorus
Wang Wei Vocals, Choir, Chorus
François Testory Choir, Chorus
Wayne Urquhart Cello
Al Mobbs Bass
Stella Page Violin
Antonia Pagulatos Violin
Sato Kotono Violin
Gao Qi Choir, Chorus
Beijing Tianyuan Chorus Choir Vocals, Choir, Chorus
Rosie Bell Choir, Chorus
Zhao Changjuan Choir, Chorus
Chuang Cheng-Ying Zhongruan
Josquin Chuffart Bass Trombone
Li Chujian Choir, Chorus
Liu Chunxi Choir, Chorus
Henri Deléger Trumpet
Song Dong Choir, Chorus
Gisele Edwards Vocals
Li Fuhua Erhu
Fu Haiyan Choir, Chorus
Tian Hao Choir, Chorus
Zhou Haolu Vocals
Cui Hua Choir, Chorus
Fu Jihai Choir, Chorus
Jonathan John Choir, Chorus
Xu Keija Vocals
Shan Lianmeng Choir, Chorus
Li Limei Choir, Chorus
Tang Ling Vocals
Hannah Loach Piano
Frederic Marillier Tuba
Guillaume Milliére Trombone
Li Min Choir, Chorus
Li Mingzhu Choir, Chorus
Wu Pei Choir, Chorus
Xie Qing Pipa
Xiao Ran Zheng
Paul Gladstone Reid Choir, Chorus
Jia Ruhan Vocals
Cong Ruilin Choir, Chorus
Liu Shanwen Choir, Chorus
Sun Shaolan Choir, Chorus
Liu Tang Choir, Chorus
Zhang Tianpu Choir, Chorus
Fan Tongzhou Vocals
Sarah Villaraus Choir, Chorus
Zhang Wei Vocals
Guan Wenqing Choir, Chorus
Don Wing Vocals
Li Xiang Choir, Chorus
Gao Xingya Choir, Chorus
Xu Xiouxia Vocals
Song Xuewei Choir, Chorus
Fei Yang Vocals
Xie Yiman Choir, Chorus
Wang Yingsi Vocals
Zhao Yulong Choir, Chorus
Zhang Yunfei Choir, Chorus
Li Yunkuan Choir, Chorus
Zhen Zeng Zhongruan
Fan Zhuqing Vocals
He Zijun Vocals
Zeng Zgen Zhongruan
Zeng Li Vocals
UK Choir Vocals
Miao Village Vocals
Dou Wing Vocals
Wang Wei Vocals
Oliver Langford Violin
Technical Credits
Damon Albarn Composer
Jason Cox Engineer
Shi-Zheng Chen Composer, Lyricist, Writer, Concept, Direction
J.C. Hewlett Illustrations
Jamie Hewlett Animation, Visual Concept
John C.F. Davis Mastering
Chuang Cheng-Ying translation, Vocal Coach
Susie Sun Contributor
Liao Weitang Adaptation, Literary Consultant
Zhen Zeng translation
Stephen Sedgwick Programming
Chen Shi-Zheng Lyricist
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    Posted February 12, 2009

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