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Monkey: Journey To The West

Damon Albarn, Monkey Audio CD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
Price: 5.77 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (18 Aug 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: XL
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,055 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Monkey's World
2. Monkey 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. O Mi To Fu
11. Whisper
12. Tripitaka's Curse
13. Confessions Of A Pig
14. Sandy The River Demon
15. March Of The Volunteers
16. The White Skeleton Demon
17. Monk's Song
18. I Love Buddha
19. March Of The Iron Army
20. Pigsy In Space
See all 22 tracks on this disc

Product Description


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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magical and mysterious 22 Aug 2008
Format:Audio CD
What a gem of an album this is!

I haven't seen the show so on the music and music alone, I have to say that there are some genuinely beautiful moments on this album.
As for the so-called 'difficult' pieces, I agree these will not be everyone's cup of tea but I think many people, myself included, see them as curious little moments that demand re-listening to get your head around.

I like music that isn't just ear candy and actually has some substance and Damon has really achieved something here. Something that is totally different (thank God!) from everything else out there at the moment.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite interesting, incidentally ... (6/10) 11 Sep 2008
Format:Audio CD
I have been a keen advoate of all things Damon Albarn post-Graham Coxon (i.e., Blur's `Think Tank` and beyond) so was understandably quite excited by the album release of `Monkey, Journey to the West`. I had not seen the Chinese opera-spectacular which this album scores but I didn't let that dissuade me from pre-ordering this one from Amazon. What I hadn't realised was that this 22-song collection largely comprises incidental compositions from the opera and doesn't stand up as an album in its own right. Unless you have seen the opera - in which case this might make a compelling souvenir - I feel duty-bound to warn you not to expect something on the scale of other Albarn side-projects such as Gorillaz' `Demon Days`, `Mali Music` or `The Good, the Bad and the Queen`.

There are handfull of lovely individual songs - particularly the Himalayan Kate Bushisms of `Heavenly Peach Blanket' - but the majority are sonic doodles of varying interest. Predominantly comprising synths and drum machines, fleshed out with guitar, harp and strings, some are diverting enough - even narrational - in their own right, but most score some unseen action intelligable only to those who have seen the production. The effect is sometimes frustratingly akin to being stuck in a theatre foyer ticketless while the action gets underway without you in the audience. And unlike a traditional opera, the music seems rather secondary - or at least only complementary to - the action on stage, rather than the other way around. As a souvenir, it's an attractive package, but I've never been a fan of Jamie Hewlett's artwork - Gorillaz for me was always just about the music.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to this properly! 30 Nov 2008
By Lucy W
Format:Audio CD
Back ground music this is not! This album is full of extraordinary sounds and feelings that are powerful and strange. It is impossible to listen to this as background music, but if you enjoy music for the range of emotions and physical experiences it evokes you will love this album. Yes, there is the trademark Albarn waltz underlying "I love Buddha", and the more westernised tracks tend to be underpinned by thumping Gorillaz baselines, but this album is as strange and different as it should be. There is no English, but Mandarin, many of the instruments are strange, and the melodies are rooted in Chinese folk traditions. You will either find this album wierd and inaccessible, or utterly exhilerating. Deserves to be listened to properly and loudly!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good but great? 3 Sep 2008
Format:Audio CD
is this any good, yes. would it be any good without damon albarns name on it? yes but surely wouldn't make the light of day on western charts. its a great opeara score and the good thing is even without having seen the show, its easy to imagine how track names complement the music.. worth buying, still undecided.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful banquet for the ears 3 Sep 2008
By sininho
Format:Audio CD
Just received the album this morning, and on the first listen I am taken to a different world of sounds, which spark so many emotions. I feel as if I am traveling with monkey and his pals.

I haven't seen the opera, but this certainly gives me a private peek into how this amazing project came together!!! Good work boys!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monkey Magic, but not for everyone I see! 21 Aug 2008
Format:Audio CD
Having previously watched the BBC Imagine documentary about this project, but missing the chance to catch the opera in London, I was pleased this album was released. Personally, I was impressed as I'm a fan of Chinese culture, world music, and the genius of Jamie Hewlett. The major downfall, I thought, was that the track from the BBC Olympics ad is not included (I do realise that this is based on the opera, and not the spin-off Olympics animation, but had my hopes up that it may be on here).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning 18 Aug 2008
Format:Audio CD
Albarn has really excelled here - this is beautiufl music that like the previous reviewer really does make you think about China. Eclectic music that is like nothing I've heard before. May be a challenging experience for some but ultimately rewarding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars East meets West 26 May 2009
Format:Audio CD
Everyone who saw the two-minute animated ident for the BBC's Olympic coverage last year will have a pretty good idea what to expect from this soundtrack to Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's epic East meets West operetta. Bubbly synthesizers, sweet Chinese vocals and various kinds of Eastern instrumentation are supplemented by more familiar dance sensibilities. I was relieved to find that despite being removed from the context of the operetta, this collection of songs still worked for me.

As with Albarn's other recent project, The Good The Bad And The Queen, this ambitious collation may sound unworkable in practice, but actually makes for a fascinating if off-kilter delight.
The mixture veers widely from the pure Cantonese pop of tracks such as `The Dragon King', to electronica `Monkey Bee, `Monkey's World', and more unusual offerings such as `Iron Rod' and `Whisper'. We occasionally see glimpses of the more recognizable in tracks like `O Mi To Fu', but, surprisingly, some of the most successful creations here are the less ambitious but musically sound stuff like `The White Skeleton Demon' or ` Disappearing Volcano'.

Ultimately Albarn's latest offering represents a brave and mainly successful attempt to fuse East and West by pushing the boundaries of music; not content with being the face and the driving force of on of the 90s most successful and musically accomplished pop bands, Damon seems determined to move into as many disparate musical areas as he has time for, and on this showing I am fascinated to see what he will come up with next.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars onlyme
I bought this cd as I have a liking for Damon Albarn,s work , I saw the story of the making of this cd on telly a year or so ago and it seemed ok to me but as a continuous piece of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by a guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Monkey-Magic
A pure joy from beginning to end. Unique and engrossing. This is Albarn at his most experimental best. Highly recommend.
Published 5 months ago by Man-On-Fire
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
Bought this album as love Damon Albarns work. Some of the music is so beautiful but as music plays it twists and turns within the same track it becomes awful. Read more
Published 21 months ago by D. anthoney
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and different.
This album could be classed as an experiment in music as pop/rock meets chinese symphonic.
Again Albarn changes musical direction and experiments with a new sound that... Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2010 by Mr. Ij Bugden
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Immediate and expressive, with some really beautiful vocal performances. Surprisingly, as the music is quite classical in style, my kids (9 and 5) absolutely love this album and... Read more
Published on 25 April 2009 by Suzabella
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I'd been really looking forward to this release, unfortunately I have to say it's the worst of Damon Albarn's career. Read more
Published on 17 Nov 2008 by Alan Jobbins
4.0 out of 5 stars could try harder
Well, there is no doubt Monkey at the Royal Opera House was one of the events of summer 08 in London and I went and was certainly entertained. Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2008 by D Major
3.0 out of 5 stars I Liked the idea.....
When I first heard Albarn and Hewlett were doing this project I was looking forward to the end result so when the album was released got it straight away. Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2008 by Ben Grimm76
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