I first learned of Shin Joong Hyun in middle school. An Entertainment Tonight-style Korean show (rented on VHS, of course) featured him in a retrospective segment, giving a rundown of the brilliant musician's illustrious (and bumpy) career. At the time, I didn't care much about the artist's lasting impact on Korean popular culture or how he fought to stave off the authoritarian government's restraint on forms of expression. However, in between old clips covering his work, arrests, and life, the piece included a footage of much-older - yet vibrant - Mr. Shin playing sick riffs on his Strat, and I became intrigued. With some help from older family members, I got familiar with more tracks from the man, like "MiIn" with YeopJeons. Fast forward to now, here is Beautiful Rivers And Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea's Shin Joonghyun from Light In The Attic Records. As I am recording the comp and reading through the comprehensive liner notes/in-depth interview/track-by-track notes (by Mr. Shin), I can immediately sense how "personal, spiritual, and deep" SJH's music is. His experiences - from the for-hire days in a US military base in Korea to the drug use days to the governmental surveillance, torture and institutional confinement days - fuel the notes and the words, and I realize quickly why he is known as the "godfather" of Korean rock. Beautiful Rivers..., described as "a music trip existing somewhere between Motown, Hendrix, and the Velvet Underground," chooses 14 tracks from 1958-74 and showcases Mr. Shin's work as a guitarist ("Moonwatching"), songwriter("Beautiful Rivers and Mountains"), producer ("Please Wait"), arranger, and talent developer ("The Sun"). It's the first anthology of Shin Joong Hyun's music outside of Korea, and it's a rare chance to experience his "beautiful, life-giving, restless, and ungovernable" catalog. Recommended.
- music label: Light In The Attic