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Na Ul’s Remake Album “Back to the Soul Flight”

Posted January. 11, 2005 21:41,   


Na Ul has recast 14 celebrated Korean songs from the 1980s and 1990s, including “The Way Home” and “After You’re Gone,” into such black music genres as soul, R&B, hip hop, and reggae. The arrangements were done by composer Kim Min-su. Na Ul remarked that he was “wary about the album being regarded as something that peddles nostalgia by offering remakes of songs often sung at karaokes.”

The new album’s first single, “The Way Home,” had won singer Park Seon-ju the second prize at the 1989 MBC Riverside Song Festival. Although the song was originally sung by a woman, Na Ul performs it without lowering the key, showing off both the high range and plaintive appeal of his vocals.

The track he professes to be the most attached to is “After You’re Gone,” a former hit by Light & Salt. Na Ul sets it to a vibrant funk beat from the 70s and performs it with the members of Brown-Eyed Soul. “The song was released over 10 years ago, but I love it because of its sophisticated melody,” he explained.

“I Write a Letter to the Gray Autumn Sky,” a popular song by Zoo, is transformed by a fusion of soul and reggae. The track most poignantly demonstrates Na Ul’s “experimental” approach. He observed that he had “infused elements of reggae, a genre that awakened the self-awareness of Jamaicans, because the song reflects the lives and emotions of Korean youth during the 1980s.”

Kim Heung-guk’s “Spotted Butterfly” also received a soul makeover, in the style of 60s star James Brown. The song was an impromptu addition during the final stages of the album’s production, because its melody and structure were deemed to have a close affinity to soul. Also noteworthy among the titles on the track list are the Eagles’ “Sad Café,” with rap by the Dynamic Duo, and Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky.”

“Many Korean pop songs have great melodies and lyrics. I’ve been deeply interested in remaking these songs in a more experimental vein, but it’s taken this long to release an album.”

Na Ul made his debut with the vocal group Anthem in 1998, and rose to the top of the Korean pop industry in 2001 as a member of Brown Eyes with fellow musician Yoon Gun. He parted with Yoon thereafter, and is currently active as the main vocalist of Brown-Eyed Soul, which he formed in 2003.

“I plan to continue working with Brown-Eyed Soul, creating music in a retro, analog style like I have with the new album,” he stated.

“I’ll keep pursuing music that gives off a distinctly human scent, rather than using mechanical sounds. As was the case with ‘Brown Eyes,’ I will decline offers to appear on television.”

Sun-Woo Kim sublime@donga.com