The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review:Allan Ho
Harmonica World Champion Debut Album
Allan Ho, Harmonica
total time: 45.52
Released in 2002
Review date: May 2003
Label: Self Produced
This is Allan's first CD. He won the World Championship in 2001 at the Trossingen, Germany competition. He has also won several other competitions back at home. This album is a bit of a sampler of different musical styles including folk, light classical, film score themes and a few Chinese pop compositions. In a way it represents Allan's "resume".
I was impressed with his clean technique and "comfort" with difficult jumps on his instrument. His arrangements were also quite nice. I was thankful that he selected a good producer that produced a great sounding album. One thing that can quickly ruin a recording for me is poor miking and/or mediocre recorded sound quality. No problems with sound quality here!
Besides Allan I also heard some nice backup accompaniment on a few of the tunes by Lau Chi Lung on chord harmonica, Winston Kwok Chi Fung on bass harmonica, and Dave Packer and Peco Tsui on piano.
The first number, "Espana Cani", is a number I play frequently myself and hear many others perform it also. It was nicely done but some of the breath noise was a bit bothersome which gave a strident effect to the music...but that is hard to prevent with a harmonica under difficult playing. The following number, "Greensleeves", is one of my personal folk favorites and Allan gave a glorious rendition that was quite moving. "Two Guitars" is another well known number but again Allan brought it some extra spice with his fine arrangement.
The next four tunes were in the light classical category and without a doubt two of them were the highlights. "Estrellita" which means My Little Star and a "French Romantic Melody" were dreamy and worked very well on the harmonica. Next he selected a couple of film theme songs. The movie Breakfast At Tiffany provided the well worn but timeless, "Moon River". While it was nice...the next tune was a delight. It was the theme music for one of my favorite movies, Somewhere In Time. That movie was a great science fiction and romantic movie about time travel starring Christopher Reeves of Superman fame and tragically now a quadraplegic due to a fall from a horse. The music was Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Paganini. That piece of music is my favorite piece of music and Allan didn't let me down. He played a very moving arrangement that had to be one of the highlights of this recording for me.
The final three tunes were Chinese pop compositions that were delightful. All three selections very terrific but they were all slow moving numbers. It might have been nice to break them up with a number with a bit more speed and fire to end the album.
There is one other number on the album that was very special. It was written by his friend, Dave Packer, and dedicated to Allan. The recording is the first time it had been performed. Dave is also heard playing piano on a couple of numbers in the background. Dave has quite a reputation himself having played for people like Kenny G., Joe Henderson, James Moody and others. He also plays harmonica and had performed with the late great harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler in 1953.
In short if you are an aficionado of fine harmonica playing you will enjoy this album. Did I find anything I didn't like about it? Not really although I would have liked to hear a few less well known/well worn tunes and more of those terrific Chinese compositions...and perhaps another one by Dave Packer. Sounds like a terrific start for a tune list for Allan's next album!
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