Far East Family Band – a space rock group formed out of the ashes of Far Out [see below], with synth players Masanori Takahashi [a.k.a. Kitaro], Fumio Miyashita [also played guitar] and Akira Ito, all later to achieve some fame as solo artists [see below]. Their style was very much influenced by early/mid-70’s Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, with a gentle [and almost proto-New Agey] oriental touch. In some ways they’re like a Japanese Eloy [mid/late-70’s Eloy, not the early, heavier stuff]. In my opinion they’re at their best when doing lengthy hypnotic space treks – their mellow crooning song style does not appeal to me much, and is in a similar vein to that of Far Out [see below], although I have to say, after years of my wife playing both bands quite a lot in the house I no longer loathe those bits like I used to, and now find them quite pleasant. Their first album was ‘The Cave Down To The Earth’ [Mu Land, 1974], which featured lots of mellow, spacious material and a fair bit of the crooning mentioned above. Other members on this album were Akira Fukakusa [bass], Hirohito Fukushima [guitar, vocals] and Shizuo Takasaki [drums]. It’s been reissued by TRC, and probably Coca.
By the time of ‘Nipponjin – Join Our Mental Phase Sound’ [Nippon Columbia/Vertigo, 1975] they were assisted in recording in the UK by Klaus Schulze. This was a better album than its predecessor, with some great lengthy space treks [especially ‘Nipponjin’, a reworked version of Far Out’s ‘Nihonjin’], and partly contained reworked material from the first album. It’s been reissued by Buy Or Die, and probably Coca.
Their real masterpiece [also made with Schulze’s assistance, as well as that of Gunther Schickert] was ‘Parallel World’ [Columbia, 1976], a lengthy album with [in my opinion] only one partly-dud track, and lots of excellent space rock. The sound is very digitally-processed and cutting-edge for the time, the music ranging from barely audible spacey ambience to full-flight oriental space rock hinting at some Ozric Tentacles. The lengthy track covering side 2 is a totally spaced-out piece of mostly free-form synthesizer and computer music adventures. It’s been reissued by Coca.
Their last album was ‘Tenkujin’ [All Ears Records, 1977], by which time they had become a trio of Miyashita, Fukushima and drummer Yujin Harada [ex-Samurai – see below], and Kitaro, Ito and Takasaki had left. It is reputedly dominated by their earlier balladic style and is low on space music content, having a reputation as a weak album to avoid. However, I’ve heard it now and I was surprised to find it not too bad, and quite good in places, with less vocals than expected. However it is a big dip in quality after the awesome album that came before it. This was reissued some time ago by TRC and Coca. I’ve also seen another one listed, ‘Tom Hatano’ , but I don’t know anything further. This might be a mistake referring to the unconnected album by Toru Hatano [see below].
Far Out – a rather legendary psychedelic progressive group formed by Fumio Miyashita [Moog, acoustic guitar, harmonica, vocals; ex-Glories], with Eiichi Sayu [guitar, Hammond; ex-Brain Police, Dew], Kei Ishikawa [bass, electric sitar, vocals; ex-Fujio Dynamite – see Fujio Yamaguchi below] and Manami Arai [drums]. They recorded only one album, ‘Far Out (a.k.a. Nihonjin)’ [Denon, 1973]. (I’ve seen a previous one listed in one place, ‘Mio’ , but it might just be legend or a case of confusion. They also have some stuff on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ – see below) It contains only 2 lengthy tracks ranging through a variety of moods. Starting out with slow echoed percussion and some painful oscillator twitching, the album quickly establishes a serious and exploratory intent, marred only by the occasional chunks of balladic crooning with ‘mournful’ Dave Gilmour-styled guitar licks which don’t quite agree with me [it’s not the music I object to so much as the singing in these parts – though I grow to like it all more each time I hear this great album]. However the album also contains plenty of slow and chunky ominous minor key heavy riffing, exotic guitar-cum-sitar stroking, and hypnotic plodding eastern space rock - think Pink Floyd’s ‘Careful With That Axe…’/‘Set The Controls…’ Japanese style, with a pinch of Flower Travellin’ Band circa ‘Satori’, and Dave Gilmour playing with the Moody Blues for the balladic bits [apparently Miyashita was pretty into the Moody Blues]. Some famous guests also participated in the album sessions - Joe Yamanaka [Flower Travellin’ Band] and Osamu Kitajima [see below].
The album didn’t meet with its deserved success, and one by one members departed until only Miyashita remained, starting from scratch with new musicians as Far East Family Band [see above], pursuing a similar mode but with less rock and more spaciousness; Ishikawa later moved to the US and formed Chronicle [see above]. The Far Out album has been reissued on CD a number of times; the Buy Or Die reissue I own has an album’s worth of bonus tracks that consist of most of the Far East Family Band’s first album, ‘The Cave Down To The Earth’, although not credited as such.
Fire – this very obscure group made a live album, ‘Document Mizuno Eiko’ [Vertigo, 1975]. The one track I’ve heard on Youtube is good, raw hard garagey rock with dubious recording quality.
Flied Egg – a popular group who released 2 albums in their short lifespan – ‘Dr. Siegel’s Fried Egg Shooting Machine’ [Vertigo, 1972] and ‘Good Bye’ [Vertigo, 1972]. The debut featured a mix of accessible psych-pop-prog, hard-riffing heavy rock [with some moves directly lifted from early Uriah Heep], and early progressive tendencies. The last album was mostly live [from their farewell concert, apparently] and leant more towards their heavy rock side, notably influenced by Grand Funk circa ‘Live Album’ and numerous Black Sabbath-meets-Mountain wannabes, and including a couple of old Strawberry Path songs. The studio material was in a similar vein to the range of styles on their first album. Drummer Hiro Tsunoda had previously been in The Jacks, Foodbrain and Strawberry Path, and was also in Sadistic Mika Band at some point [see below for all]; he started Captain Hiro & the Space Band after this [see above]. Bassist Masayoshi Takanaka [see below] had previously been in Brush [see above]. George Yanagi [ex-Powerhouse, Shinki Chen solo, Strawberry Path] sang on one track on the last album. Shigeru Narumo had also been in Strawberry Path.
[Yuya Uchida &] The Flowers – formed in the late-60’s to explore psych rock beyond group sounds, this septet played a lot in Tokyo and were very into Big Brother & The Holding Co. Their first recording was a monster jam called ‘I’m Dead’ that would be released on a Toshi Ichiyanagi album [see below]. They eventually released a sole album of their own, ‘Challenge!’ [Columbia, 1969], which was perhaps most challenging in that it showed the whole band standing naked in a field on the front cover! It contained cover versions from the likes of Big Brother & The Holding Co., Hendrix, Cream and Jefferson Airplane, and only one original composition [which is an excellent piece of west coast styled hard psych jamming that hints a little at their monster jam ‘I’m Dead’ (see Toshi Ichiyanagi below) and was apparently recorded at the same session]. Another track, ‘Intruder’, may also be an original but I’m not sure. Despite being largely covers, it’s not a bad psych album, and the instrumental breaks are great, especially the guitar and bass interplay. The album has been reissued on CD by Coca and Synton, as well as on LP. Near the end of their days, they recorded live stuff for the ‘Rock’n’Roll Jam ‘70’ various artists live album [see below], on which their version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘How Many More Times’ reputedly kicked up a real storm, and can be heard on the bootleg ‘From Pussys To Death In 10,000 Years Of Freak-Out’ [Apex, 1995; credited to Flower Travelling Band but full of Flowers music]. A split live album with The Mops – ‘Rock Live!’ [Liberty, 1971] – was also released, but I’m not sure where it fits in chronologically.
Soon after this, Uchida left the group as a member, got rid of everyone bar the drummer and one of the guitarists, formed the remainder of the group into the Flower Travellin’ Band [see below] and became their producer.
Flower Travellin’ Band – a legendary group formed out of the remnants of The Flowers. The lineup was Akira ‘Joe’ Yamanaka [vocals; ex-491], Hideki Ishima [guitar; ex-Beavers, The Outlaws, Flowers], Jun Kosuki [bass], and Joji ‘George’ Wada [drums; ex-Flowers].
There’s a Flower Travellin’ Band bootleg CD available called ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans – Demonstration 1970’ [Ain’t Group Sounds, 2002], which should really be credited to Flowers, Flower Travellin’ Band and Kuni Kawachi. It contains a near half-hour jam, ‘I’m Dead’, comprising freeform improvising and composed acid rock song sections, with great searing fuzz guitar leads, which is the Flowers contribution to the Toshi Ichiyanagi album ‘Opera From The Works Of Tadanori Yokoo’ and the first and best thing they recorded – see below, later bootlegged on ‘From Pussys To Death In 10,000 Years Of Freak-Out’ [Apex, 1995]. It also contains shorter tracks, which comprise much of the ‘Kuni Kawachi & Friends’ album dubbed from vinyl [see below], as well as ‘Map’, a rare non-album single that I know nothing more about [a-side? b-side? label? year?]. Anyway, backing Kuni Kawachi on his solo album was the first thing the new band did in the studio.
Their first album proper was ‘Anywhere’ [Philips, 1970], which had surely one of the coolest rock album covers ever – a gatefold photo of the band speeding down the road, naked, on motorcycles! Musically, it was good but only of passing interest to non-FTB fanatics, as it contains nearly all cover versions [such as ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, ‘Black Sabbath’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’], the only ‘original’ compositions being a heavy progressive blues jam track and a very short harmonica piece. Perhaps for hardcore fans and completists only, although some people might want to own a copy just for the cover! That being said, they do give the covers a good treatment and the album is very enjoyable.
Their second album, ‘Satori’ [Atlantic, 1971], was a huge leap forward in strength and originality, and is arguably their monolithic masterpiece. It contains lengthy, and usually very loud, hypnotic psychedelic heavy progressive rock, with pummeling riffs and a great stoned, mystical feel. The next album, ‘Made in Japan’ [Atlantic, 1972], was better distributed internationally and even featured a sound-bite from a radio ad for a rock festival at which they played with numerous big names of the day, including ELP. Musically it was in a similar vein to the preceding album but more song-oriented and varied overall – an excellent album, and one friend even likes this one better than ‘Satori’. Their last album, ‘Make Up’ [Atlantic, 1973] was a double LP, and had Yuya Uchida guesting on vocals. The album featured studio and live material, including a 20-minute version of ‘Hiroshima’ from the previous album [with bass solo] and a live-in-studio version of ‘Satori Part 2’. Of the studio material, some is in a heavy progressive vein [though leaning more towards an oriental King Crimson in parts than their older style], some is in a more commercial softer style. Some of the live material is rather throwaway, including a bluesy rock’n’roll number and a soppy ballad. Overall it’s patchy but with plenty of good to great stuff – it could have been edited down to a single great LP in my opinion.
All of these have been reissued on CD by Coca but they are generally expensive to import [the main reason I haven’t heard the pricey double-CD reissue of ‘Make Up’]. There was also a single-CD version of ‘Make Up’ which left out some of the most desirable live material. A compilation LP exists, ‘The Times’ [Atlantic, 1975], credited to ‘Joe with Flower Travellin Band’. Supposedly there is one more obscure album, ‘Futarino Don’ , but I don’t know what the story is with this. Flower Travellin’ Band also had some stuff on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ [see below].
Foodbrain – this legendary band released only one album, ‘Social Gathering’ aka ‘Bansan’ [Polydor, 1970], the cover of which stands out due to the large elephant approaching the viewer. It contains a great, diverse mix of stuff delivered with over-the-top gusto, from stabbing high speed hard acid rock, to rollicking progressive psych jamming with crazed piano, to loud distorted bass experiments, etc. etc. Not a ballad in sight, very enjoyable from beginning to end. Julian Cope says it’s legendary only because it’s so rare, but I can’t understand why he thinks it sucks, and everyone I’ve played it to liked it a lot. Guitarist Shinki Chen [ex-Golden Cups and Powerhouse – see below] later went on to record a solo album and to form the group Speed, Glue & Shinki with Foodbrain bassist Masayoshi Kabe [a.k.a. M. Glue, also ex-Golden Cups, Room]; keyboardist Hiro Yanagida [ex-Apryl Fool – see above] later went on to play with Love Live Life + One, Masahiko Sato & Sound Brakers and to a solo career [see below]; drummer Hiro Tsunoda [ex-Jacks – see below] went on to Strawberry Path, Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see below]. The album has been reissued on CD by P-Vine. Prior to making it, though, earlier in 1970 the band recorded the soundtrack to the film ‘Shinjuku Mad’. I’m not sure if it was actually released as an LP at the time, but it has been made available on CD [Ultra Vybe/Solid, 2008]. It contains over 70 minutes of great music, being heavy, jammy acid rock with some blues rock leanings on some tracks. It’s much rawer and mixed straighter than ‘Social Gathering’, but also less experimental.
The Freedom Unity – Hiromasa Suzuki’s early modern jazz group, with Akira Ishikawa [see below], Hiroshi Suzuki, Takeru Muraoka and Kunimitsu Inaba. ‘Down By The Naked City’ [Victor, 1971] contained long tracks of instrumental modern jazz. Some people have called it jazz rock but I can’t hear it. ‘Something’ [EMI, 1971] credited the band as Freedom Unity First, though perhaps this is actually their first album. The same year they made a quadrophonic album also credited to singer Sammy and Singers Three, ‘Dynamic Rock’ [Toshiba, 1971], which reputedly has some pretty crazy, fuzzed-up jams amongst the cheesy cover tunes. They also played on Sammy’s album ‘Salute To Soul’ [Columbia, 1971], which is full of covers. All of these except ‘Dynamic Rock’ have been reissued on CD. Less known perhaps because of the lack of English on the cover is the album they did with actor Masaomi Kondo, the title of which Google translate gives as ‘House Plants Magazine Alone’ [Canyon, 1971]. It is reputedly great funky, psychedelic jazz (with Masahiko Satoh also on board) with Kondo ‘singing’ about plants!
Friction – formed in 1978 by two ex-members of 3/3 [Sanbun No San], Reck and Chiko Hige. They’re usually referred to as a ‘No Wave’ or ‘post punk’ band. They released a single first, ‘I Can Tell’/‘Pistol’ [Pass, 1979], then their debut album, ‘Atsureki’ aka ‘Friction’ [Pass, 1980], which was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see below]. It’s pretty good, perhaps somewhere between PiL, Gang of Four and Phew’s first album, but more guitary and dark. Many more albums followed over the years, including ‘Skin Deep’ [CBS, 1982], ‘Live at “Ex Mattattoio” in Roma’ [Marz, 1985], ‘Replicant Walk’ [Wax, 1988; issued in the US on Enemy, 1994], which featured John Zorn on sax, the live ‘Dumb Numb’ [Wax, 1990], ‘Zone Tripper’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1995; issued in the US on Tzadik, 1999, with different cover art and expanded with remixes], ‘Remixxx + One’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1996], ‘Live 1980’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1996] and ‘Friction Maniacs’ [Pass, 2007; 2-CD]. More recently, live recordings from 1979 were released as ‘’79 Live’ [Pass, 2005]; the music is a more rocky and chaotic version of the kind of stuff on their debut, sounding a bit like the Sex Pistols on some tracks and with the singer seemingly trying to sound like John Lydon at times.
Friends – they made one album that I know of, ‘Friends’ [Victor, 1971]; I believe it was a one-off studio project. They played almost entirely covers in a West Coast-inspired vein with country rock leanings; it’s mostly pretty forgettable stuff, although well-played. Bassist Tetsu Yamauchi had previously been in Samurai [see below], and after this went on to the British groups Free and The Faces as well as a solo album [see below]. Ken Narita was ex-Beavers, and went on to make a solo album [see below]. The Friends album was reissued on CD by P-Vine, but is now out of print.
Jun Fukamachi – Fukamachi is a keyboardist with jazz roots. His first album was ‘Introducing Jun Fukamachi’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1975], reputedly great jazz rock/fusion. This was followed by ‘Rokuyu’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1975], as Jun Fukumachi & 21st Century Band. This is a great album of synth-heavy progressive fusion. While some of the music is conventional fusion, for better or worse, there are plenty of surprises and bursts of intensity with great guitar work and dense synths, especially on the diverse title track which takes up all of side 2. Some of the style reminds me of Fermáta’s second album. By ‘Spiral Steps’ [Kitty, 1976] he was using many western musicians, such as Randy & Michael Brecker on horns, and Anthony Jackson on bass. It was split between fairly unremarkable funky fusion – a bit like Larry Young’s Fuel but not as good – and more interesting, angular stuff. Clearly from here on in Fukamachi seems to be heading in more conventional contemporary directions, and I haven’t heard any of the later albums - ‘Evening Star’ [Kitty, 1977], ‘Live: Triangle Session’ [Kitty, 1977], and ‘The Sea of Dirac’ [Kitty, 1977] reputedly followed a similar trend. ‘Second Phase’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1977] and ‘On The Move’ [Alfa, 1978] went back to primarily Japanese musicians, though ‘Live’ [Alfa, 1978], as Jun Fukumachi & The New York All Stars, obviously didn’t. ‘Quark’ [Alfa, 1980] was different for being an album of solo synth music. Straddling cheesy prog and fusion, it frequently ventures into strange and spacious territory, a little reminiscent of the 2nd and 3rd White Noise albums in places. In the early 80’s he was part of a fusion group called Keep, who did one album – ‘DG-581’ [Trash/Trio, 1981].
The Full Throttle Jazz Rock Band – this group appears to have been a one-off for recording the promo album ‘Full Throttle! Haruhiko Ohyabu Sound Action’ [Columbia, 1970], which (judging by the booklet images at discogs.com) seems to have been some kind of car marketing idea. The music is good jazzy funky rock of the era that would be right at home on a library record.
Fumanzoku – this very obscure group recorded at least one album, ‘Fumanzoku’ [Private, 1974]. It’s split between a ‘folk side’ and a ‘rock side’. the ‘folk side’ is more soft rock and ballads than folk, and is rather forgettable. The ‘rock side’ sounds like a totally different band, and has some seriously kick-ass heavy rock riff monsters! There’s some Black Sabbath influence on a couple of tracks.
Fumio & Osamu – this was the duo of Fumio Miyashita [soon to form Far Out – see above] and Osamu Kitajima [see below]. They released one album, which is either self-titled or called ‘Shinchugoko (New China)’ [Atlantic, 1972], reputedly full of traditional Japanese music, but it sunk without trace and the two went their separate ways.
Funny Company – these guys were a mainstream rock band, occasionally of interest. Their first album was ‘Funny Company’ [Atlantic, 1972], mainly containing pretty good hard rock. This was followed by ‘Funny Farm’ [Atlantic/Elektra, 1973], which is less hard rocking but has some good psychedelic-tinged moments on one track. Their last album was ‘Funny Company Again’ [Atlantic, 1977].
Furukotofumi/Fulukotofumi – see Hiromasa Suzuki below.
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