Khalil Fong-Timeless

Whether you call them Classic as the Chinese title suggests or Timeless, as the English title goes, the repertoire that Khalil Fong has included in his newest album, Timeless (可啦思刻) is aptly described as it embraces unforgettable material by dead and living legends such as Ray Charles, Andy Williams, Stevie Wonder, the recently departed Michael Jackson and Susanna Kwan.

The 10 tracks feature covers of masterpieces that inspire the singer-songwriter’s musical style and compositions. In fact, the Mandarin R n B singer, sometimes compared to Jay Chou, revealed in a youtube video that he’s wanted to do a cover album since 2005 when he first broke into the industry, and he really prefers singing these old songs, which groomed him to be the singer he is today, over his own beloved compositions.

With such diverse genres covered, and such iconic numbers, the album puts the 26-year-old’s singing and interpretation of each song sorely to the test, but Fong doesn’t disappoint with his smooth vocals and unique arrangements. After all, he was nominated for Best Male Singer at Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards in June.

Noteworthy is “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”, a ballad originally sung by George Benson, and then made into a massive hit by Glenn Medeiros in the late 1980s. Although the arrangement is largely similar to the original, except for more brass sounds, Fong’s distinctive croon suits the song and gives it a much-needed update.

“Raging Tides” certainly steals the limelight. Fong’s rendition of this Cantonese number by Susanna Kwan is different, in that it’s from a male perspective. The orchestration is also independent of the original and his interpretation through his singing makes it stand out.

Fong’s attempt at a Mexican folk song, “La Bamba”, made popular by Ritchie Valens was a little worrying. Well, in the end it was a pleasant surprise, although a contrasting take from the 1958 Valens version. It had a jazzy and more laid back feel, with a portion of the middle taken over by instruments improvising the melody, a technique more commonly used in jazz music. Considering Fong is good with languages, singing in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, even subduing a Spanish song should be no sweat for him and, even after comparing the pronunciation with the original, Fong sounds rather accurate.

While Fong did justice to all the songs in the album, there were some that just weren’t suitable for the adaptation. “Remember”, written by homegrown singer-songwriter JJ Lin and sung by A mei, was one of them. Fong started with the verse instead of the chorus in his remake of it, which was of no problem at all. However, the arrangement of the piece was rather complicated and compared to the original, it wasn’t as delightful, but Fong made it up with his moving vocals. Next on the list is Michael Jackson’s “Bad”. Especially in the wake of his death and the almost 24/7 replaying of his music, the king of pop’s singing technique is painfully branded into our brains, utterly distinct and almost impossible to imitate. Although Fong was smart enough not to even try to do that, still some things are best left in their original version.

While Fong isn’t going to raise the ire of fans of the original given his competent treatment of the legacy of these celebrated musicians, UrbanWire would have loved to hear more of the talented songwriter’s compositions in the league of 爱爱爱 (Love Love Love) and Singalongsong, and that’s what fans out there will be waiting for in the next album too.

Track Listing

1.     You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (Stevie Wonder)

2.     Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You (Glenn Medeiros)

3.     Bad (Michael Jackson)

4.     狂潮 Raging Tides – Cantonese (Susanna Kwan – 关菊英)

5.     La Bamba (Ritchie Valens)

6.     红豆 Red Bean – Mandarin (Faye Wong – 王菲)

7.     Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles)

8.     记得 Remember – Mandarin (A mei – 张惠妹 )

9.     Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton)

10.  Moon River (Andy Williams)