Judith Banal

Judith Banal Solo

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In 1997, female Philippine singer Judith Banal released her debut album Judith Banal Solo. The songs are pleasant, middle-of-the-road fare -- not exactly earth-shattering, but at least different and more modern than the bland, easy-listening material that dominates so many albums released by Philippine female singers. The arrangements also add such modern touches as heavy bass and syncopated, hip-hop-styled backbeats.

The album displays welcome diversity and has both fast and slow-paced songs, in contrast to many albums released in the Philippines which offer only slow numbers. Most importantly, the music is enjoyable as well, and Banal handles the material with poise and panache.

Her inspired touch can be heard on such songs as the opening "Wanna Be Yourz," which is basically a mellow middle-of-the-road tune, but Banal's interpretation and attitude make it modern and exciting, assisted by a sunny saxophone introduction and silky wah-wah guitar.

"Ngayon Lang" ("Only Now") has a cool bossa nova feel. The vocalist injects a soulful touch to "I Need Your Love," one of two songs written by international composers, the other being a remake of "Make It With You," first popularized by Bread in 1970 and given a hip-hop-styled introduction here before Banal sings the original melody. She also applies a passionate touch to the fine ballad "Forever Is Not as Long (As It Used to Be)," which has international potential.