Thai Beat A Go-Go, Vol. 3
wedish archivist label Subliminal Sounds concludes its Thai Beat A Go-Go series with installment number three. Stylistically and thematically, the exact same grounds are covered: painfully rare West-leaning pop, rock, disco, and funk from Vietnam-era Bangkok (as well the rest of the self-proclaimed "Land of Smile"). Not surprisingly, the series has been celebrated first as a novelty historical record and second as genuinely great music with some sort of profound intrinsic value. The Thai Beat volumes have unearthed several great songs as well as a glut of fairly decent ones, but the real merit of the albums lies in their waterlogged kitsch nature. With this unwavering novelty comes implications.
For the series, Subliminal has neglected to harness any sort of apparent remastering process. The feedback, clipping, and heavy crackle due to vinyl decay doesn't do much justice as far as preservation goes. Often times, a simple EQ adjustment and hiss reduction would do the trick. Such things are easily implemented in this day and age. A few instances of needle skipping even occur. Unfortunately, Subliminal has settled for this less sensible, more barebones approach to compiling, and for this, the series suffers.
Production grievances aside, the Thai Beat compilations have always delivered as far as the tunage goes, and Vol. 3 is no exception. It continues in the fashion of stupid-fun, funky covers of Western pop classics. The content is just as broad ranging as the previous Thai Beat volumes. In spite of this, this particular installment is perhaps less Western tinged than the rest, as the majority of the covers are not in their native English lingua.
The album's opening track deals with a marvel covered in past entries of the series: Muay Thai, a distinct Thai brand of kickboxing. Performed by Jiraphand Ong-Ard, once a regular at Bangkok lounge club Lolita, the suitably titled pop/funk original "Thai Boxing" features wonderfully transparent English lyrics ("Come see the Thais! / Watch how they fight!") along with hearty horn squalls and slightly offbeat organ riffs (due most likely to rickety mixdown methods). Gruff sound samples of elbow punching and grunting fighters ensue. When the topic of karate and other supposedly inferior forms of martial arts arises, the following befogging and boisterous lyric results: "Forget them all / Here's something real / Come learn it now and be proud that you were born a man."
Following "Thai Boxing" is a surprisingly accurate cover of "Hang on Sloopy," retitled "Cham Chai," performed by Siamese pop should-be starlet Supaphorn. The modest horn chorusing paired with lovable female vocals and polite stereo phasing make for a wholly charming listen. Later in the compilation, Supaphorn returns with her take on The Troggs' "With a Girl Like You," adorably mistitled "Which a Girl Like You" on the original packaging. Santana, Elvis, and Betty Wright also get drafted as cover sources for Thai-language versions.
Two excellent Moog-laden disco originals by female singer Panatda appear near the album's close. They would fit beautifully in disco sets of the more adventurous variety. The album's closer, The Law & the Sandy's "Paradise in Bangkok," features Morricone-esque guitar riffs with a mystic twang, complete with a fairly convincing Latin-inspired horn section.
None of the songs in particular on Vol. 3 fall flat. However, upon comparing it on a track-by-track basis with the other volumes in the series, this specific installment does tend to feel like a "leftovers" venture. This is essentially the case due to the low production value—it's noticeably lower than that of the previous entries—along with the overabundance of non-English-speaking songs. The simple lack of English speakers is not a problem in itself, but Volumes 1 & 2 both feature a comfortable balance between English and Thai-speaking tracks, making for an evenhanded multilingual listening experience.