Chinese Folk Songs
by Lily Chao
As the first entry in its catalog, Akuphone presents a reissue of Lily Chao’s Chinese Folk Songs, originally released by Four Seas Records in 1968. This edition includes four previously unheard titles and exclusive liner notes containing Lily Chao’s biography and lyric translations. Chao Xiao-Jun aka Lily Chao was born in Taiwan in 1948, while mainland China was rapidly undergoing major changes immediately following the end of the Chinese Civil War.
After experiencing hard times in her girlhood, she ventured out into singing quite unwillingly. Indeed, at age19, Lily Chao was compelled to give up her studies to support her family and start a career as a singer, after passing an audition at the Taipei Cabaret in Taiwan. The cabaret industry was in full swing at the time, offering destinations for popular entertainment, and Lily Chao’s efforts to launch her singing career immediately attracted producers’ attention. Her appearances at the Taipei Cabaret as part of its shows, which combined music in Mandarin, poetry, drama, magic, and other fine arts, soon earned her a reputation.
Despite the immediate success that her numerous stage performances and appearances on the national television channel won her, Lily Chao led a chaotic and painful private life. As she smiled very little and tended to appear distant, the audience dubbed her the «Ice Queen,» a nickname that she would keep for the rest of her career.
This barely-concealed melancholy can be felt throughout Chinese Folk Songs, as well as in her very particular way of singing, which is both jerky and perfectly fluid. The album stands halfway between Mandarin folk songs and rock singing inspired by The Shadows, all surf guitar and garage sounds recorded with pinpoint precision and enhanced by saxophone and organ touches, while Lily Chao’s intoxicating vibratos bring a pinch of soul to the music.
An outstanding achievement of timeless pop music from the 1960s.
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