This one’s much shorter and not as adventurous as its predecessor. As the story goes, Shin was approached by the Park Chung-hee administration about writing a song that praised the regime and he declined to do it. He instead wrote the song “Beautiful Mountains and Rivers,” (“아름다운 강산”) a loping psychedelic ode to the Korea’s beautiful landscapes. As The Shame Threshold blog writes,
The song is pretty epic. The version on this album is one of the shorter ones I have come across, clocking in at 7:56. Most versions of the song seem to hover around 8-10 minutes long. While the version on Vol. 2 is probably my least favorite and most straight forward, it is still an amazing accomplishment and it is no wonder SJH continued to rework and revisit this song throughout his career. The song is punctuated by long, groovy psychout guitar solos, beautiful vocals, and a wonderfully circular song structure. The song conjures images of Korean hippies spinning around atop a beautiful pastoral hillside until they fall down only to stay on the ground and stare at shape shifting clouds.”
“Beautiful Mountains and Rivers” is indeed an expansive and pretty number. The ending of it is particularly interesting because it sounds as though the track’s skipping, but it’s just the group grooving on the closing riffs. The rest of the album can’t measure up though. Aside from the closing song, the closing ballad “I” (“나”) the other six songs sound uninspired and lack the rhythmic twists and turns of the earlier songs. It’s as if the group was under pressure to deliver tone down their delivery. The songs aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re perfunctory. Maybe Shin and his crew lacked ideas? Maybe they were too spent after crafting “Beautiful Mountains and Rivers”? Since G-Market sells this cheap, the ~$6 cost makes up for the brevity and the dip in quality. The opening and closing songs make up for the lackluster inner tracks.
As a side note, Shin later rerecorded an expanded version “Beautiful Mountains” with the group Music Power (뮤직 파워). It has a lusher sound with horns and pianos. The background vocals add a nice touch of warmth as well. Shin plays a driving rhythm guitar on it and leaves the soloing to the other instruments and singers.
I’m not sure which is the better version, for both have their merits. The rocker in me tends to go for the stripped down original version, but the pop fan likes the revised Music Power take on it.
아름다운 강산 Areum Daun Gangsan /"Beautiful Mountains and Rivers"
"뭉치자" / Mungchija