musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Malaysia Shopping Spree

I’m back in Kuala Lumpur this week; just a 4-day trip to do some book buying for my shop (and, I admit, a few things for myself too), some CD hunting, and lots of eating. I always enjoy the trips here, and this time I’ve had some very interesting conversations with a variety of friendly people; hotel employees, taxi drivers, clerks at CD shops, and waiters in restaurants. I used to think this town wasn’t very friendly, but I’ve changed that opinion.

My flight from Bangkok was over an hour late in departing, solely the fault of some bimbo who left one of her bags in the terminal (it probably contained something of life-alerting significance; most likely her iPhone) and was allowed, along with 4 of her companions, to exit the plane and go look for it. After almost 90 minutes of waiting the plane finally took off without her or her posse. Urrggh!!! Actually, as annoying as that was, I didn’t let it upset me. And the rest of the passengers were also surprisingly calm during the long wait. It’s an Asian thing, don’t you know. Why worry! At least we arrived in one piece. The only person to vocally express her displeasure was a young woman who had a connection to make in KL. I hope she made it, along with her luggage.

After running around to book sales yesterday (one of which turned out to be non-existent), and stopping by the Rock Corner branch in KLCC, I had a late dinner at the always amazing Coliseum Grill. Afterward, I hoofed it back to my hotel and used the computer to check news and e-mail, and to re-charge my MP3 player. Of course the big news online was the untimely passing of singer Whitney Houston. Honestly, I was never a big fan of her singing style. Sure, she had a great voice and could belt out a song with impressive intensity, but I find such vocal gymnastics more than a bit boring after a short period of time. I don’t think she deserves to be put in the same league as truly great female singers and song stylists such as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, or even a lesser-known wonder such as Candi Staton (more about her in a future post; her Fame label recordings are a MUST hear!). Those artists all recorded numerous songs and albums of very high quality. The doomed Whitney may have racked up a bunch of hits during her career, but I don’t think the quality of her recorded output was nearly as high as it could have been.

But Whitney’s death brought back memories of when I first heard her: on the album One Down by Material in 1982. By my calculations, that would have made her only 19 years old at the time. Material was the brainchild of musician Bill Laswell. They made several good albums during their career, Seven Souls being an absolute classic, but One Down was the funkiest and most groove-alicious thing they ever recorded. In addition to Whitney’s handling of vocals on a song called “Memories,” Nona Hendryx (formerly of LaBelle) turned up, adding propulsive fuel to tracks such as “Take a Chance” and “Bustin’ Out.” One Down is another one of those albums that should have been much better known, and praised. Look for it!


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