Reviewed on this page:
The Sound Of Music And The Prayer - Wing Sings The Carpenters -
Wing Sings All Your Favorites - Everyone Sings Carols With Wing -
Wing Sings The Songs You Love - Beatles Classics By Wing -
Dancing Queen By Wing - Wing Sings Elvis -
Breathe - One Voice - Too Much Heaven - Beat It -
Wing Sings For All The Single Ladies And Raps For All The Safe Parties - Television Radio Heroes
STOP THE PRESSES! Wing has announced her retirement as of June 30, 2015. Fly on, little Wing.
Newmarket, New Zealand, is home to Hong Kong-born singer Wing, who seems to be the reincarnation of Mrs. Miller. Tackling a variety of pop fare and show tunes in several languages, she brings a
completely unique sense of pitch and phrasing to every tune, often sounding strikingly like a child despite her
persistent use of vibrato. You might think it's a joke at first, but her bottomless sincerity and utter fearlessness is ultimately
disarming. Apparently she's working in the studio whenever she's not performing at rest homes or hospitals, as she's on a
breakneck thrice-annual release schedule.
The backing is quite professional, ranging from small combos to full orchestras, though curiously she never lists musicians,
producer or arranger. But don't take my word for it: listen to clips at her official site, I promise
they will blow your mind.
I caught the all-too-brief Wing Over America tour, and reviewed it, as is my wont.
Musical Memories Of Les Miserables And The Phantom Of The Opera (2002?)
Currently out of print, though you can download MP3s through her site.
I Could Have Danced All Night (2002?)
Also out of print.
The Sound Of Music And The Prayer (2002)
Generally, this is not up to the standard of her other CDs: the orchestra is overly intrusive, at times almost drowning
out Wing, and taking too many instrumental breaks. The orchestrations are professional and well recorded, but we don't need
another pristine orchestral version of "The Sound Of Music" so it's almost dead air until Wing comes back in. And some of the
tunes weren't much to start with ("Sixteen Going On Seventeen").
There are a few tracks where Wing really cuts loose, though, and they're incredible: "So Long, Farewell," with an
indescribable coda of prolonged high notes, and "My Favorite Things," which she reinvents every bit as radically as John
Wing Sings The Carpenters (2003)
I can't stand the Carpenters, but I love this; I'm not sure what that says about me. Maybe it's that the songs force Wing
about half an octave higher than her comfortable range ("Top Of The World"), and the mixing is a lot better than
Sound Of Music. Maybe it's because the mawkish material bring out true emotion in her voice - the quavery "Rainy
Days And Mondays" is almost heartbreaking.
And since the Carpenters didn't write many of their own hits anyway, there is some decent stuff here like Bacharach/David's "(They Long To Be) Close To You" and
Joe Raposo's "Sing."
Wing deviates from the concept just once, recording "Pokarekare Ana" in the original Maori; she also tackles "Ave Maria,"
which isn't particularly associated with the Carpenters though they did record it.
Wing Sings All Your Favorites (2003)
Well, they weren't my favorites before, but they are now. Wing really hit her stride on this release, with way-out interpretations of Andrew Lloyd
Webber hits like "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" and "Memory." Five other Webber songs
are repeated from Wing's debut (I don't know whether they're re-recordings), making me wonder if the original concept was
to make a full Webber tribute album. As usual, the out choruses are the farthest out: the insanely prolonged notes at the
end of "The Phantom Of The Opera" are particularly breathtaking, while
her ascending coda on the otherwise pedestrian "Think Of Me" sounds like Mozart's "Queen Of The Night" aria as sung by a
munchkin. There are also a few non-ALW goodies: "God Defend New Zealand," the Cantonese pop song "Shueng Hoi Tau" and
"Time To Say Goodbye," a hit for Sarah Brightman in both show tune and dance remix incarnations.
Everyone Sings Carols With Wing (2003)
Move over, Phil Spector.
Wing touches most of the usual holiday bases: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Jingle Bells," "Joy To The World."
She also covers Mariah Carey's "Vision Of Love" and the Carey/Whitney
Houston collaboration "When You Believe," but if you think she's intimidated by going head to head with two of the
world's best selling singers, you don't know Wing... if anything, she's looser than ever, particularly on the warbling
grand finale of "Believe."
There are also two more songs in Cantonese - "Ga Si Na Mu" and "Sheung Hai Tan II" - and one in Italian, Puccini's
"O Mio Babbino Caro."
The only drawback of this release is unusually perfunctory backing tracks, which sound like she's singing
to a karaoke disc (the shockingly capable backing vocal on "Vision" is a dead giveaway).
Wing Sings The Songs You Love (2004)
I hate to say it, but Wing is starting to fall into a rut. More Carey covers ("Dream Lover," "Hero"), more show tunes
("Castle On A Cloud" from Les Miserables), another standard in Italian ("O Solo Mio").
And she seems to be taking fewer chances, sticking to sedate fadeouts ("On My Own") instead of the dramatic climaxes she used to specialize in.
The one magnificent exception is Carey's "Make It Happen," where the arrangement is designed to give the lead vocalist free
rein and Wing takes full advantage, expanding and contracting the tempo, compressing whole melodic lines into monotones, then
suddenly lifting off into wavery high notes. "Endless Love" (originally a hit for Lionel Richie
and Diana Ross) has some of the same virtues, but overall I'd suggest starting with one of Wing's
Beatles Classics By Wing (2004)
Wing vs. the Beatles, and once again there are great moments here: a very unexpected note choice at the end of the verses of "I Want To Hold Your Hand"; game attempts to sing lead and backup simultaneously on "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," which also has an unusual ending where the music tracks fade but she doesn't.
Best of all, backing vocals from a multi-tracked, evidently pitch-shifting chorus of Wings on "Love Me Do."
And she does the best version of "The Long And Winding Road" this side of The Langley Schools Music Project.
But the song selection holds her back, with too many ballads so desperately overrecorded even she can't find a new way to sing them: "Yesterday," "In My Life," "Let It Be"... if only she'd tackled "Yer Blues" or "You Know My Name" or even "Mr. Moonlight."
Dancing Queen By Wing (2005)
I never thought it would come to this, but here I am, reviewing a whole CD of ABBA songs. Wing does her best to disrupt
the predictability of the band's pop-disco treacle, doing her rubato, quavering routine to full effect on the title track,
and performing startling renovations on "Chiquitita."
Unfortunately, there are a lot of numbers she can't do anything to save ("Knowing Me Knowing You"; "Mama Mia").
She does give her all on every track ("Money, Money, Money"), which is an improvement over some of the previous releases
and the musical backing (mostly synth-based) is crisp (Manahua Music is credited).
Since you're still reading, and I'm never going to review ABBA, I'll point out that Björn Ulvaeus and Benny
Andersson's writing is very professional hackwork, with relentlessly standard verse-chorus-bridge structure and
superficially catchy snatches of melody ("S.O.S."). The lyrics have zero depth, whether focused on romance ("Knowing Me Knowing You")
or not ("Fernando," about the Spanish-American War).
Clips from two of these tracks were featured on a South Park episode,
bringing Wing to a mass audience.
Wing Sings AC/DC (2005)
An EP boasting just two MIDI-accompanied tunes, and one of them is mediocre ("Back In Black," spoiled by an overlong synth guitar solo). But the key track is so good - a wonderfully incongruous, guileless delivery of "Highway To Hell" - it's still worth checking out.
Wing Sings Elvis (2006)
Wing focuses on many of The King's later hits - "Suspicious Minds"; "The Wonder Of You" - rather than his earlier rockers. Either way, she sticks to the slower, mushier part of his catalog
("Love Me Tender," the one Presley original here), and as a result the overall mood is too sedate.
She does rise to the occasion with a deeply felt interpretation of Mac Davis's immortal "In The Ghetto," though.
Sound tracks are credited to John Kiley, though they seem to be largely publicly available MIDI files. Also, each tune is so short Wing doesn't get much chance to do her thing, instead sticking close to the main melody... relatively speaking ("Return To Sender").
Though Wing gives her all as usual, this is a disaster from the too-quiet mix to the shabby song selection, and I'm blaming collaborator Adam Dachis. There is one brilliant choice, Faith Hill's title track, but everything else is either obvious ("Over The Rainbow"; "Beauty And The Beast," present in two versions) or dreadfully misguided ("Coal Miner's Daughter").
She does two Tori Amos numbers, the one-minute "Mr. Zebra" and the endless "Winter"... I wish they'd split the difference and recorded two normal-length tunes like "Happy Phantom" and "Putting The Damage On," or "Cornflake Girl" and "Sugar" - see, Wing material should be built around strong, recognizable melodies and rhythms. In fact, while I'm at it, here's a list of tunes that would've made an enjoyable album: in the Country-Western slot, better than "Cry" would be Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman." Instead of Shakira ("Inevitable," a trial in both English and Spanish versions), she should cover Pink ("I'm Coming Up"). In light of Carey's recent resurgence, how about "We Belong Together"? I'd love to hear her take on "Goin' Out Of My Head" and "Eve Of Destruction" (perhaps a duet with Bobby Fischer). And she should dedicate entire albums to Bacharach-David ("Walk On By"; "Crying, Wishing, Hoping"; "Wives & Lovers") and Barbra Streisand ("The Way We Were"; "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"; "Guilty"), plus an album of inspirational and sacred music titled Wing And A Prayer. You're welcome. (DBW)
Wing Sings More AC/DC (2007)
Another EP; the standout track is "For Those About To Rock" - the MIDI impression of the 21-gun salute is priceless.
One Voice (2007)
If you want to hear Wing take on Dolly Parton's "Nine To Five" as much as I did, you'll pick this up. But you'll hate yourself in the morning: it's a disappointment, with a stingy track listing - three versions each of "Seasons Of Love" (from Rent) and "One Whole New World" (from Aladdin) including pointless duets with Dachis. Throughout, there's an unimaginative emphasis on Wing's timing (usually starting each line a bit late and rushing until she catches up) rather than her creative manipulation of pitch. And as on Breathe, the basic problem is that the tunes just aren't engaging (title track, a 2000 hit for child country singer Billy Gilman). There are two more finds, though: a touching version of Badfinger's "Without You" (best known in its Nilssonian incarnation); and an extremely disconcerting take on the traditional "Danny Boy."
Too Much Heaven (2008)
Confronting the Brothers Gibb songbook,
Wing is back doing what she does best: warbling away over simple MIDI backing without duets or other distractions (though there is a second run through "Words" in her new tenor voice), and more often than not managing to find the emotional core of the tune ("First May"). I've never been the biggest Bee Gees fan, but their overwrought sentimentality is a great fit
for her plaintive, underwrought vocalizing ("Heartbreaker," with spectacular rubato effects).
When she asks the musical questions "How Can You Mend This Broken Heart?" and "How Deep Is Your Love?" she sounds like she's expecting a straightforward answer. Though the set is ballad-heavy as usual, the uptempo "Tragedy" and "If I Can't Have You" are highlights. The production is clean and simple, as you'd hope, leaving maximal room for her explorations (title track).
Beat It (2009)
Though promoted as Wing's take on Michael Jackson, there are only two of his songs here ("Man In The Mirror," and you'll want to hear the way she handles the half-step modulations). Oddly, there are actually more tunes from Celine Dion: "The Power Of Love," Diane Warren's "Because You Loved Me" and "My Heart Will Go On." Rounding out the are Bette Midler's biggest hits, "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "The Rose," plus Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" (which may be technically the best performance I've heard from her). So there's a theme here - manipulative AM bilge - and unfortunately Wing doesn't do much about it, sticking with surprisingly middle-of-the-road interpretations. The sole cut that's classic Wing is her idiosyncratic timing on the title track, but for some reason it's faded out early - an apt metaphor for an album that promises more than it delivers.
Stop The Nonsense (2010)
Around this time, Wing formed a partnership with writer/producer Rappy McRapperson, and the first fruit of their labor was this EP.
Wing Sings For All The Single Ladies And Raps For All The Safe Parties (2010)
McRapperson is still at the helm, and while the arrangements are still MIDI-based, he tinkered with the settings so that most of the keyboard parts have a pseudo-koto sound ("All The Single Ladies") and the programmed drums are rather interesting ("Aquarius").
And in a first for a Wing LP, there are two original songs: "A Safe Party - Time For Happy Ending" is a crass, tongue-in-cheek practical joke, but "Doggy And Me" is sweet, brimming with her artless sincerity.
Generally, though, it's more Wing-ified covers of pop tunes ("Total Eclipse Of The Heart" - finally), with two more Michael Jackson songs, evidently outtakes from the previous LP ("Black And White"), two 60s classics ("What The World Needs Now Is Love" and "Aquarius") and the grammatically grating Bryan Adams smash "Everything I Do, I Do It For You."
I fear that Wing is becoming overtrained: she's getting better at hitting the "right" notes, but in the process she's losing some of what makes her so uniquely appealing. I suppose we all get coopted by society's norms sooner or later.
Carols, Rap and Sing; A Beautiful Christmas (2010)
Not often you see a semicolon in an album title. Anyway, an EP featuring a Wing/McRapperson original, "Santa On A Helicopter." (DBW)
Television Radio Heroes (2012)
Wing aims mostly at au courant hitmakers like Gaga ("Pokerface"), Bieber ("Baby") and - saints preserve us - Lana Del Rey ("Born To Die"), with only a couple of relative oldies ("I Will Always Love You").
Mostly it's predictable - Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," with unfunny, absurdly out-of-time drums
- and what's unexpected is even more unfortunate (the wobbly title track, evidently an original).
As usual, though, there's one terrific cut - a distinctive "We Are The Champions" - which is just enough to keep me looking forward to more. I kind of feel like I'm in an abusive relationship here.