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Monkey: Journey to the West

Damon Albarn, MonkeyAudio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Price: $9.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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MP3 Music, 22 Songs, 2008 $9.49  
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 23, 2008)
  • Original Release Date: 2008
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: XL Recordings / Beggars Group
  • ASIN: B001CVCBEO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,326 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Monkey's World
2. Monkey's Travels
3. Into the Eastern Sea
4. The Living Sea
5. The Dragon King
6. Iron Rod
7. Out of the Eastern Sea
8. Heavenly Peach Banquet
9. Battle In Heaven
10. Omi Tofu
11. Whisper
12. Tripitaka's Curse
13. Confessions of a Pig
14. Sandy the River Demon
15. March of the Volunteers
16. Monk's Song
17. I Love Buddha
18. March of the Iron Army
19. Pigsy In Space
20. Monkey Bee
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The 16th century Chinese classic story Xi You Ji (Journey To The West) tells the tale of a little monkey who could transform himself into different creatures and conquer all the obstacles in his life. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (the minds behind Gorillaz) are Monkey, and have joined with director and choreographer Chen Shi-Zheng to create a 21st century opera retelling this story, replete with new and original music and visuals. The BBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics will utilize some of Monkey's music and animations in the weeks leading up to and during the Olympics.

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You could never accuse Damon Albarn of resting on his laurels. Whether it's forming supergroups (The Good, The Bad & The Queen), working with cult animators (The Gorillaz) or making music with musicians from Mali, the former Blur frontman has nurtured a restless, questing spirit not normally encountered in Britop stars. As if to underline his diverse interests, he now turns his attention to Chinese theatre. Monkey: Journey to the West is a theatrical collaboration between Albarn (music), Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz fame (designs, costumes) and Chinese opera specialist Chen Shi-Zheng. The show itself is an explosive 90-minute circus featuring Chinese acrobats, martial arts experts and contortionists, though the album condenses the experience into 22 songs lasting an hour or so. Recorded in London and Beijing with a mix of European and Chinese musicians, Monkey ... is a genuine attempt at East-West fusion. Featuring a dizzying array of instrumentation--rock guitars, electronics, harps, mandolins, drum machines, strings, plinky-plonk keyboards, giggling girls, chants, even pigs--it's the sort of project that could so easily have gone awry. Yet Albarn, who allegedly mastered the Chinese pentatonic scale, seems to have made it work. Songs like the fluttery "Heavenly Peach Banquet" and the wistful "The Living Sea" are utterly beguiling, and stand in stark contrast to guitar-heavy behemoths like "Battle in Heaven" and the climactic "Monkey Bee." These longer songs are punctuated with incidental pieces such as "Iron Rod", "Into the Eastern Sea" and "Out of the Eastern Sea". While such interludes may distract from a 'normal' album experience, there's enough melodious charm and imaginative whimsy scattered throughout to satisfy even ardent skeptics. --Paul Sullivan


The latest creative endeavor of erstwhile Blur frontman Damon Albarn is Monkey: Journey to the West. Again teamed with his partner in Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett, this is the soundtrack to the theatrical production of the same name, which is something of a Cirque du Soleil-like presentation of choreography and acrobatics. The fifty minute disc works powerfully on its own, moving with utter confidence from rock propulsion to electronics, and all woven through with Chinese instrumentation, occasional vocals and the utilization of the pentatonic scale. The folkish intimacy of "The Living Sea" sits comfortably alongside the cinematic marches of ""the Dragon King." While the show this accompanies is a cavalcade of physical prowess and dazzle, the passage through this disc is wonderfully cerebral. East meets west, in the center of your brain. --David Greenberger

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
(15)
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars West meets East August 29, 2008
Format:MP3 Music
Damon Albarn's latest project debuted in the UK album charts at #5 early this week, an amazing feat for a largely instrumental album with the few lyrics there are sung in Mandarin. The BBC used portions of it in programmes highlighting the Beijing Olympics and that helped spur sales.

Apparently the accompanying music to a Chinese musical about a magical monkey, much of the 22 very brief tracks (the album clocks in at about 50 minutes) are interludes which I guess would make more sense if one saw the musical. Having said that, the music is magical and oriental/electronic sounding, and the CD flies past before you realize it.

Standouts include "Monkey's world" with electronic swirls a few spoken works interspersed with synth dance sounds, "The living sea" with a ghostly whistle, delicate guitars and angelic female vocals, "Heavenly peach banquet" with chiming mandolins and female vocals, the dark atmospheric almost hymnal "Whisper" with whispered vocals, "Sandy the river demon" acoustic with male spoken vocals, the beautiful instrumental "March of the volunteers", the horn sprinkled instrumental "The white skeleton demon", the waltz-like instrumental "I love Buddha", and the majestic "March of the iron army" with choir-like vocals.

I've enjoyed every bit of Damon Albarn's musical odyssey, from Blur, through Gorillaz, to The Good, the Bad and the Queen. This is simply beautiful!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of surprises October 5, 2008
Format:Audio CD
Being a fan of all things Damon Albarn, there was never a question of whether I would pick up this cd. What surprises me though is how readily accessible I have found it. Sonically, there is a lot going on here, but a lot of the sound of the album and much of the music will not feel all that foreign to one who has been a diehard Gorillaz fan for some time, as quite a bit of the music reminds me of something you might expect to have heard on G-Sides or D-Sides. (This also means that the "From the creators of Gorillaz" sticker tag is not an entirely misleading sell.)
I've been listening to the whole album from start to finish and it is definitely something that adds new quality to my music collection, there isn't anything quite like it that I have heard. It is Eastern, it is opera, it is also pop and rather Westernized... it's basically the perfect sound for the story of Monkey to be translated into the modern world.
The artwork with the disc is also very nice. I'd say anyone who has been tentative about picking this up should just go for it. No matter what your musical background or taste you'll likely find a way to connect with it, and you'll likely be pleasantly surprised by a lot of this peculiar and brilliant album.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Composition October 11, 2008
By J. Wong
Format:Audio CD
It's certainly inventive. It sounds like a combination of Asian/Scifi/Dance, sometimes all in one song. Which results in some good songs and some that's just noise. I've never seen the production that this is based, though I'd like to. I did grow up knowing about the story of the Journey to the West and also like Gorillaz so I was really interested in hearing this. It takes some time for it to grow on to you and the more I listen to it the more I like it.

However, I still really can't stand "Confessions of a Pig". It sounds like Zhu Bajie (Pigsy) just grunts in beat. At least that's what it sounds like, I can't make out any words. On the flip side, I really like "Monkey Bee". The music resembles "Clint Eastwood" in the middle and the Sun Wu Kong's (Monkey's) words are funny, if a bit repetitive. (He calls Princess Iron Fan cheap for not "lending" him the fan.)

I applaud Damon Albarn for taking this on. Different culture and everything and he managed to get it mostly right. The general feeling of the music fits the general theme for that part of the story really well. However, I'm not sure everyone would like the cd. Some people will think it's a cacophony of noise while others would think it's the greatest thing ever written. For example, I would not have my parents listen to it even if they like the story too. I suppose if you're into into the Gorillaz with some Asian thrown in then it wouldn't be a bad cd to get.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Amazing November 11, 2008
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Albarn comes through again with what I can only describe as a masterwork. While many of the pieces on this album are short (many are less than one minute long), the longer pieces are stunning and quite often moving beyond description. The real gems here are:

*"Confessions of a Pig," which is a near-techno operatic lament that perfectly captures the tragedy of Pigsy's life (judging from the tone--can't speak to the lyrics as I do not speak Chinese).

*"Heavenly Peach Banquet," an incredibly engaging piece that has me mouthing faux-chinese lyrics along with it.

*"Monkey Bee," for which I can only suggest a search of Youtube or Veoh for a copy of the video--it's Beijing Opera and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Gorillaz (both visually and musically)

*"Disappearing Volcano," a denouement that manages to blast the listener with the perfect marriage of classical operatic themes and Chinese opera.

Grab a copy of the book "Journey to the West" and this album. The music will NOT get old even while reading all four volumes!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
i am not sure what i was expecting, but this was not it...
Published 4 days ago by Elizabeth H. Gamburd
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, and not the norm, all at the same time
Great album, another wonderland of not oft together western and Chinese instruments and things that aren't instruments such as: car horns and saw blades. Amazing audio styling.
Published 7 days ago by J. P. Milligan
3.0 out of 5 stars weak
I was a little disappointed by it.
Published 1 month ago by M. Souza
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great album!!
Published 2 months ago by Lefty
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive album
This is a fun album, A Chinese opera, written by a Brit, crazy right? Don't be turned off by the opera bit, this isn't stuffy or pretentious. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Leslie Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Better live, but still fantastic
Some of the songs are not so listenable outside of the context of the show, but there are enough must-have gems to make this release well worth the purchase.
Published 2 months ago by Toadguy
3.0 out of 5 stars Great play, interesting soundtrack
Like the play, the soundtrack is a mix of Asian and Western cultures. Unlike the play though the soundtrack reaches a bit further West than India. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bill West
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild, charming Chinese opera.
Madly electronic, wild, funny, energetic and occasionally beautiful.

There is a booklet with all lyrics in Chinese and English, which is great.
Published 20 months ago by Félix Marqués
3.0 out of 5 stars Not english
Didn't read the description well enough and thought I was buying an english album. After the initial shock and annoyance the music was pretty good. Read more
Published on February 23, 2011 by Sage
5.0 out of 5 stars Monkey Journey to the West
This is great. Very beautiful and unique. It's difficult to put it into a music category. It's the soundtrack to a Chinese opera by Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn. Read more
Published on February 13, 2011 by shamus
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