[PRE-]1960’s TO 1970’s

 

Acid Seven/Acid 7 – an obscure raw rock’n’roll group led by activist and distributor of free psychedelic drugs Dr Acid Seven. Their only recorded legacy seems to be half of one side of the rare 1973 2-LP ‘Oz Days Live’ compilation [see below under Various artists], as well as the soundtrack to ‘Dokko Nigenbushi-Kotobikijiyu Rodosha No Machi’, a 1975 documentary about hippies. Besides making music, Dr Acid Seven also organized rock festivals through the 70’s, including the Oz Days festival itself.

 

Morio Agata – a hippy folk musician and singer/songwriter. According to the biography on his web-site, he “created a thoroughly original musical world which evoked the romantic popular culture of Taisho and Showa era-Japan.” His first album was the privately-produced ‘Chiku on Ban’ [1970], made with Keiichi Suzuki and Haruomi Hosono [see below; ex-Apryl Fool, also in Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra]. He first attracted major attention with his single ‘Sekishoku Elegy’ [1972] and shortly after released his second album, ‘Otome no Roman’ [King, 1972]. Following albums include the soundtrack ‘Boku wa Tenshi ja Naiyo’ [King, 1973], ‘Aa Mujou (Les Miserables)’ [King, 1973], ‘Nihon Shonen (Jipangu Boy)’ [Philips, 1976], ‘Kimi no Koto Sukinanda’ [Philips, 1977] and ‘Shonen Youga Eien no Enkoku (Ausland am Eveit Railrod)’ [1978]. ‘Norimono Zukan’ [Vanity, 1980] had synthesist Sab [see below] contributing to much of the music, and also featured Phew of Aunt Sally [see below] as a guest; it was stylistically very different to his earlier work [note that I haven’t actually heard his earlier work so I don’t speak from experience!]. It’s a patchy but sometimes inspired album of synth-pop and weirder electronic music, at times sounding like Bruce Haack [both his children’s music and his more experimental leanings]. In 1981 he formed the much more interesting group Virgin VS [see below] and went on to release many more albums. In the late 80’s he started to take on world music influences, and in the early 90’s he formed the group Raizo. He now also makes films.

 

Ain Soph – a Canterbury-styled progressive group, formed in 1970 as Heaven and Earth Creation; they changed their name to Ain Soph in 1977 [also known as Tenchisozo, apparently]. They are not to be confused with the Italian ‘avant-rock’ group of the same name. The earliest track I know of [from 1977] is found on the compilation ‘70’s West Japanese Rock Scene’ [Made In Japan, 1991], and is quite good jazzy prog, only occasionally hinting at a Canterbury-derived style. Their first album was ‘A Story of Mysterious Forest’ [King Nexus, 1980]. This is the only one I’ve heard, and I can’t detect much of a ‘Canterbury sound’. It’s very good jazz rock-influenced prog with a symphonic and, at times, spacey edge almost hinting at early 70’s Pink Floyd. It’s been reissued on CD by Spalax. Numerous other albums have followed – ‘Hat and Field’ [King Nexus, 1986], ‘Marine Menagerie’ [Made in Japan, 1991], ‘Ride on a Camel – Special Live’ [Belle Antique, 1991; rec. 1976-78], ‘Five Evolved From Nine’ [Made in Japan, 1993], ‘Mysterious Triangle – Special Live Vol. 2’ [Belle Antique, 1993] and ‘Quicksand – Special Live Vol. 3’ [Belle Antique, 1994].

 

Air – spaced-out jazz rock group led by Nobuyoshi Ino [bass, Turkish guitar, percussion, electronics], with Hiroshi Murakami [drums, percussion], Yuji Imamura [percussion], Renkichi Hayashi [guitar, kalimba, electronics] and Yasuo Shimura [flute, sax, sho, synth, percussion, electronics, vocal]. They released one album, ‘Air’ [Three Blind Mice, 1977], featuring two long, excellent tracks of improvisation. It was reissued on CD as a limited edition in 2001. Ino is a well-established bassist in Japan, and has been in many jazz-related groups, for example playing with Masayuki Takayanagi [see below] and Barre Phillips. He also released a solo album, ‘Mountain’ [Better Days, 1981], reputedly ‘ambient fusion’.

 

Kuniharu Akayima – an avant-garde composer and music critic, who founded the Jikken-Koubou Experimental Workshop in 1951, with Toru Takemitsu [see below] and others. In the early 60’s he was in the New Directions Music Ensemble with Yuji Takahashi, Kenji Kobayashi and Toshi Ichiyanagi [see below]. His musique concrete piece ‘Noh-Miso’, composed in 1962 for performances of an experimental puppet theatre group, appears on ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 2’ [Omega Point, 2004], alongside a shorter piece by Yoji Yuasa [see below]. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 6 – Tape Works of Kuniharu Akayima 1’ [Omega Point, 2007] consists entirely of tape works by Akayima, with ‘Environmental Mechanical Orchestra’ from 1966, ‘Demonstration’ from 1963 and ‘Music For H Bomb’ from 1971. Akayima died in 1996.

Akuma No Bansankai – possibly a studio-only ensemble, these folks made one album, ‘Dinner In Honor Of Demon’ [Demon, 1976]. It’s a hard one to sum up, being fairly diverse, but amateurishly produced and with an odd, slightly experimental feel. Musical styles range from folk-pop to hard, fuzz rock, and occasional splashes of psychedelia. Not bad but not great overall!

Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai (Dark Revolutionary Collective) – formed by guitarist Kawabata Makoto [then 13] with friends, who were all non-musicians at the time and thus taught themselves by improvising from scratch, even making some of their own instruments at first out of necessity. The intent at the beginning was to fuse hard rock with electronics – eg. Makoto’s idea was Deep Purple + Stockhausen. Add to this that their music was improvised but groping towards form, we can only guess what they sounded like, although they were unpopular perhaps due to clashing with current trends. They played together and did gigs between Nara and Osaka for numerous years, in the process starting their own cassette label R.E.P. [Revolutionary Extrication Project] on which they released their own recordings. Their debut tape ‘Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai’ [R.E.P., 198?] was recorded in Makoto’s high school lab store room in 1978, using beakers and pots as percussion along with electronics; it’s reputedly a bit like early Nurse With Wound meets Amon Düül. This has only been reissued as part of the limited edition Makoto 10-CD box set ‘Learning From the Past’ [see above] and as an LP picture disc on the Italian Qbico label. Makoto has also made solo releases as well as with his famed group Acid Mothers Temple and other projects [see above and below].

Anzen Band – a hard rock group who formed in 1970; their name means ‘Safety Belt’ in English, and they were quite popular in their time. They made two albums, ‘Album A’ [Bourbon, 1975] and ‘Mysterious Journey of…’ [Bourbon, 1976], the first reputedly wilder and the second more progressive. Some of their lyrics and song titles were somewhat controversial, but this will be lost on those who don’t understand Japanese. Not to be confused with Anzen Chitai, who formed in 1973 but didn’t release anything until the 1980s.

Nozomi Aoki – this composer is best known for his anime soundtracks, starting with ‘Galaxy Express 999’ [Columbia, 1978] and continuing through the 1980s, but his first album is perhaps of more interest here – ‘1999 A.D.’ [Crown, 1974]. It’s a mixed bag, some of it rather cheesy, some of it great spacey and funky prog-fusion. With Eri Okajima he made the very rare album ‘Feeling Record – Kiss In’ [Columbia, 1971] with the aid of Kimio Mizutani [see below] and others. It features Nozumi & Okajima talking about sex to a background of psychedelic rock, bird song and tape experiments.

 

Kumiko Akiyoshi – a beautiful young actress who did at least one solo album, ‘Kumiko Akiyoshi’ [Elec Records, 1972], on which she was backed by Yonin Bayashi [see below]. You can’t hear it most of the time though, as much of the album is mainstream schmaltzy orchestrated ballads and weak jazz-funk lounge music not far from the similar albums by Ike Reiko and Kiyoko Itoh [see below], all of which have recently been hyped as psych classics now that they’ve been reissued on CD. However, this album does have one track with more of a slightly psyched progressive rock feel, and one funky track that’s a bit better than the rest, which together redeem it a little, as do the cute cover photos!

 

Apryl Fool – a psychedelic rock group, playing more or less in a US west coast style with swelling organ and great gnarly lead guitar in places. They recorded one album, ‘Apryl Fool’ [Columbia, 1969]. There are a variety of styles, from slow blues to weirder psych - some of it’s pretty trippy, with ‘The Lost Mother Land (Parts 1 & 2)’ sounding a little like C.A. Quintet at their most psychedelic, but weirder and arguably better! Keyboardist Hiro Yanagida later went on to Foodbrain and a solo career [see below]; Shigeru Suzuki, drummer Takashi Matsumoto and bassist Haruomi Hosono went on to Happy End [see below]. The album has been reissued on CD by Coca. Recently I learned that Apryl Fool made a 100-copy EP with Tokyo Kid Brothers, ‘Love & Banana’ [private press, 1969]. The music is reputedly totally crazed, and very different to the self-titled album. They also did one side of a rare single/EP with Toshi Ichiyanagi [see below].

 

Ichiro Araki – his album ‘The Art of Ichiro Araki’ [Victor, 1971] is reputedly similar in style to Carmen Maki’s ‘Adam & Eve’ [see below], ie. fuzzed orchestral psychedelic pop/rock.

 

Maki Asakawa – a female jazz/blues vocalist, her records were sometimes credited to just ‘Maki’. She’s released many albums I know nothing about and haven’t heard. Her ‘Blue Spirit Blues’ [Express, 1972] reputedly features a ‘folk avant-jazz psych backing’ according to an EBay listing.

 

Aunt Sally –  these guys were a freaky ‘No Wave’ rock band, fronted by vocalist Phew. Their only album released at the time was ‘Aunt Sally’ [Vanity Records, 1978], which was largely ignored due to poor distribution. It has been reissued by Undo with three live bonus tracks. Musically it’s quite varied, sometimes great ‘post-punk’, sometimes kind of annoying (largely due to Phew’s vocals, which are an aquired taste). Recently, a CD of live recordings has surfaced, ‘Live 1978-1979’ [P-Vine]. Phew went on to make solo albums [see below].

Azabu Ongaku Shudan – this mysterious group made one strange album, ‘Azabu Ongaku Shudan’ [private press, 1971], which is all over the place stylistically, sometimes a bit sloppily played, but frequently very good. The music includes Foodbrain-style freak rock jams, jazz, folk, solo slots for flutes, piano and acoustic basses, musique concrete and other experimental touches.

 

Azzy Fly – a very obscure group who released at least one album, ‘Azzy Fly’ [private press?, 1976]. One side is largely hard rock, the other side is more psychedelic and progressive. Amateurishly produced, but not bad overall.

 

The Bach Revolution  – an interesting synth trio, consisting of Kazutaka Katai, Motoaki Suzuka and Akiro Kamio. They released at least five albums. ‘Waga Kokoro Imada Yasura Kanarazu’ [RCA/Red Seal, 1976] was also released as a promo with a different cover, featuring the English title ‘Yet in the Depth of Mundane Affairs’ [RCA, 1976] and with a different cover. It contains excellent experimental electronic music that is hard to describe, though at various times there are comparisons to Pôle, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, and the more experimental side of Vangelis. ‘Kwaidan’ or ‘Kaidan Banashi’ [RCA, 1978/CBS Sony, 1978] set music to a ghost story read by Teizan Ichiryusai. The music is low-key spooky electronics and occasional sparse percussion, setting a great mood, but there are some long stretches without music, especially on side 1. ‘Sound Wars’ [Philips, 197?] is perhaps their least-known, and seems to be some kind of audio demonstration record judging from the illustrations in the liner notes (all in Japanese!). It’s partly quite a shock, featuring a fair amount of cheesy Latin jazz-funk-pop and Vangelis/Tonto’s Expanding Head Band (2nd album)/Tomita-like garish melodies, though this is balanced out by some great cosmic synth soundscaping on other tracks. ‘Synthesizer Study’ [Overseas Records, 1978] is the only one I haven’t heard. ‘Sand Boat’ (‘Suna No Obune’) [RCA/Red Seal, 1978] was the soundtrack to a film, and blends lots of accessible and cheesy melodic stuff with weirder moments. ‘No Warning’ [RCA/Red Seal, 1979] blends the strangeness of the first album with more rhythmic, Germanic styles in shorter tracks. At least the first album, ‘Sand Boat’ and ‘No Warning’ have been reissued on CD but are out of print.

Band Aide – a group formed by guitarist Hideki Ishima [ex-Flower Travellin’ Band], with keyboardist Nobuhiko Shinohara, bassist Ryoichi Arimoto, drummer Muneo Sagara, percussionist Shibaoka, saxophonist Takeru Muraoka, and Takesan on strings. They made one space-themed concept album, ‘Uchuu Junkan’ (‘Cyclic Universe’) [Columbia?, 1978]. The music is very varied, but generally more or less spacey – there’s some space rock influenced by Hawkwind and Pink Floyd on a couple of tracks, and a few tracks are quite cheesy, but it’s all generally good. One track is a strange, cheesy version of ‘Star Wars’ which starts out sounding more like ‘Born Free’, and ends up more like Neu!

Beggars Banquet – a quintet who played a kind of proto-punk hard rock, a bit like Gedo-meets-Murahachibu [see below for both]. Their live album ‘Hard Treatment’ [Shot, 1976] was a bit sloppy but lots of aggressive fun, with a psychedelic blowout at the end.

 

[Bi Kyo Ran were previously  listed here incorrectly]

 

Blind Bird – this band played at lots of festivals in the early 70’s, but didn’t make their own album. I have no idea what they sounded like, but their only known recordings kept good company on the compilation ‘Rock Age Concert’ [Atlantic, 1971; see below].

 

Blood [Bludd?] Sucker – Hans Pokora listed this in one of his ‘Record Collectors Dreams’ books as Bludd Sucker, but looking at the cover he reproduced it looks like he just misread it due to the way it was written – it looks like Blood Sucker to me. They released one album that I know of, ‘Blood Sucker’ [ALM, 1978], reputedly some kind of hard rock.

 

Blues Creation – a great heavy band formed by members of the Bickies, an unrecorded blues-influenced band. With most members still teenagers, they started out with the LP ‘Blues Creation’ [Polydor, 1969], containing hard blues rock with a garage band hangover. It was a good album but didn’t really stand out from the crowd, lacking originality. These guys really shone, however, on their 2nd album ‘Demon & Eleven Children’ [Denon, 1971], by which time they had become considerably hairier than 2 years previous [both in sound and appearance!]. It’s a wild ride of early heavy progressive rock, in a raw and bluesy early Black Sabbath-influenced mode – and, by extension, comparable to other similar heavies of the era such as Incredible Hog. For this album the only original member left was guitarist Kazuo Takeda. Yoshiyuki Noji [bass], Shinichi Tashiro [drums] and Fumio Nunoya [vocals; see Dew below] from the debut had been replaced with Masashi Saeki, Masayuki Higuchi and Hiromi Osawa, respectively.

Their next album saw them hook up with the already well-known [in Japan] vocalist Carmen Maki - ‘Carmen Maki & Blues Creation’ [Denon, 1972]. For fans of the previous album, this is often a bit of a disappointment, as there are only a few tunes that are heavy or rock much at all, the remainder being fairly generic slow blues and ballads to make room for Maki’s Joplin-wannabe wailings. Well, maybe that’s unfair – Maki does have more restraint and a purer tone of voice than Joplin, and isn’t really a copyist. The heavier tracks are uniformly great, a tighter and more confident [but more compact] evolution from the previous album’s style, though there’s not enough of them to make this a very rewarding album, except for Carmen Maki fans. She also did some albums under her own name, most of which I haven’t heard [see below].

After this the band shortened their name to Creation [not to be confused with the earlier UK mod-pop group], for which see below. All of the above albums have been reissued on CD by Coca/Nippon Columbia. There’s a live album that has been issued on CD by Black Rose, but I don’t know if it was released back then or not; I think it dates from shortly after their 2nd album, with Carmen Maki on some tracks. Although the bass is sometimes a little out of tune, the band really let it rip on this album, with lots of frenzied heavy jamming. There’s also a classic heavy song, ‘Nightmare’, that doesn’t appear on their studio albums. Blues Creation also had a great live recording on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below].

Brain Police (Zunou Keisatsu) – an obscure folky Communist group formed in 1970 by vocalist/writer Panta [real name Haruo Nakamura], previously of Peanut Butter, MOJO & Spartacus Bunt. From what I’ve heard [from one of the earlier albums], they basically played fairly raw and rudimentary guitar and vocals-based songs with percussion and an angry political bent, kind of punk folk. The appeal is probably limited for those who don’t understand the lyrics, which are all sung/shouted in Japanese and tend to dominate proceedings. Apparently a lot of their material advocates violent reolution. They had several live tracks on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below]. They released 6 albums [all live, I think], but I’ve found it tricky to locate any listings in English. They broke up at the end of 1975, but reformed briefly in 1990. All that time Panta remained active with a solo career. After Brain Police, guitarist Hiroshi Narazaki [a.k.a. Hiroshi Nar, previously in Datetenryu – see below] played bass with Les Rallizes Denudes, and later collaborated occasionally with Acid Mothers Temple [see below]. Drummer Toshi Ishizuka also collaborated with Kan Mikami and Kazuki Tomokawa [see below]. Lead guitarist Eiichi Sayu was briefly a member, before joining Dew and then Far Out [see below]. Not to be confused with the late-60’s US group Brain Police.

 

Brast Burn – an obscure underground avant-garde psychedelic outfit who made one album, ‘Debon’ [Voice, 1976]. It featured 2 lengthy tracks of largely repetitive, mantric, stoned folk grooves with percussion, keyboards, guitar, bass and plenty of sound effects and trippy mixing. Some of it’s like some Magical Power Mako; a lot of it is reminiscent of numerous of the more interesting progressive psych-folk and ‘krautrock’ bands [such as Amon Düül I & II, Lula Cortes e ze Ramalho]. The album attracted the attention of Nurse With Wound due to its weirdness, and is name-dropped on the famous ‘NWW list’. It was reissued on CD in a limited edition by Paradigm Discs in 1998. Brast Burn is said to have been just one person, Michirou Sakurai – who was a friend of the person responsible for the Karuna Khyal album [see below] on the same label, often rumoured to have been done by the same person.

 

Brush – bassist Masayoshi Takanaka formed this group as a vocalist and recorded a sole album in a limited private pressing, ‘Brush’ [TPR, 1971] a.k.a. ‘Escape’ (some people say the group was called Escape, and the album was titled ‘Brush’). Although starting out with psychedelic electronics, overall the rest of the album is fairly mellow West Coast-influenced psych rock, occasionally rocking it up a bit. It’s arguably slightly progressive-leaning at times. The album has recently been reissued on LP by Shadoks. Takanaka went on to Flied Egg after this. Toru Hatano [guitar, keyboards, drums, vocals] made a very interesting soundtrack album in the late 70’s [see below]. 

 

J.A. Caesar [a.k.a. J.A. Seazer] – this guy was a graphic design student, who adopted the name J.A. [Julius Arnold] Caesar, often also found spelled Seazer and even Ceazar [just to confuse internet searches even further!], and was known by the late 60’s as one of the few ‘true hippies’ on the local scene. He apparently won a competition for hair length! He gravitated to Shuji Terayama’s Tenjo Sajiki underground experimental theatre company [see below] and despite lack of any previously evident musical talent quickly became the musical director, composing and performing the music for most of Tenjo Sajiki’s films and plays. Alongside this, he also staged his own musical ‘recitals’. His music often featured elements of Japanese percussion, ‘sekkyobushi narrative music’, progressive and psychedelic rock, raw heavy rock, and other influences as diverse as Carl Orff and Pierre Henry.

‘Sho O Suteyo, Machi E Deyo’ [Tenjo Sajiki, 1970], which I had previously listed as ‘Matihedeyou Syowosuteyo’ as it has been referred to elsewhere, is the earliest album I know of, but I don’t know if it was actually credited to J.A. Caesar or to Tenjo Sajiki. It had some well-known musicians involved such as Hiro Yanagida [see below], Hideki Ishima from Flower Travellin’ Band [see below] and Eiichi Sayu from Far Out [see below]; it was reissued on LP by P-Vine.

The first album I’m sure of being released under his own name [or pseudonym] is ‘Jasoumon’ (‘Heresy’) [Victor, 1972], sometimes listed as ‘Jashumon’, or ‘Tenjousajiki – Jasoumon’. It’s one of their best, an album to induce ‘shamanic meltdown’ according to Julian Cope. Many of its themes would be repeated on later albums such as ‘Kokkyo Junreika’, but here they have an earthier, deeper quality. It was reissued on CD with a book by P-Vine years back but is now out of print and very tricky to find. The following album was ‘Recital - Kokkyo Junreika’ [Victor, 1973], sometimes listed as ‘Kokkyo Junreika’ by J.A. Caesar Recital. This has great psychedelic ‘cartoon’ cover art [which looks really ahead of its time, for an early 70’s LP cover], and ranges from heavy progressive rock-outs, to sedate almost Magma-like grooves, to deep spacey stuff. It was reissued on CD by Belle Antique in 1995, and again in 2006; there is also an LP reissue by P-Vine. 

‘Baramon – A Gay Sexual Liberation Record’ (‘The Rose Gate’) [Victor, 1973 or 1972] was said by Julian Cope to be “glam-inspired”, but musically, I can’t hear it at all. Music mostly takes a back seat on this album, which has lots of monologues with background music [and a Hitler speech in the opening track], but there are also some ballads, children’s tunes and some great raw, heavy psych rock. Whilst J.A. Caesar was credited as the main performer of the music, The Happenings Four [see below] and others are also credited. It has been reissued on CD by Tenjo Sajiki Records [2004]. ‘Den-en Ni Shisu’ (‘Death in the Country’) [RCA Sony, 1974] is also often listed as a Tenjo Sajiki release, and is the soundtrack to Tenjo Sajiki’s 1974 film of the same name. It was reissued on CD fairly recently by Showboat. It’s a lot more conventional than the other J.A. Caesar albums I’ve heard, in a kind of ‘folky’ song-based vein with hardly anything of progressive or psychedelic interest. It’s still okay, but not at all one of the better ones in my estimation. Caesar also released an EP at this time, which I know nothing about, ‘Cache Cache Pastoral’ [Carrere, 1974].

‘Shintokumaru’ (‘Poison Body Circle’) [Victor, 1978] is another live recording that I think is one of Caesar’s best, in terms of both sound quality and musical evolution, now having heard it at last. The Carl Orff and Magma influence is more present here than ever, with proceedings largely alternating between moody and delicate traditional Japanese music, dialogue and loud prog rock. It’s in the loud prog that the Orff/Magma feel lies, driven by Shinji Takemura’s muscular bass – though at times they can sound a bit like early 70’s Gong and Amon Düül II. It has been reissued on LP by P-Vine, and more recently on CD at last from Belle Antique [2006]. ‘Dai-Do-Gei’ [CBS, 1978] is one I know nothing about, except that it is music for another Tenjo Sajiki production.

‘Sealbreaking’ [Ain’t Group Sounds] was issued on CD as by J.A. Seazer. The packaging contains no information except track titles, and is pretty lo-fi. I’ve also seen an alternate cover, and I have no idea if it had been originally issued earlier, legitimately or not. I have to guess that it’s either crudely recorded from a film soundtrack, or consists of demo or bootleg live recordings. According to Julian Cope it’s live in Shibuya, Tokyo, 1980. Musically though, it’s great, with lots of heavy rock outs and progressive rock typical of their best early 70’s style. The opening track even sounds like a raw, heavy Magma for several minutes.

‘Saraba Hakobune’ (‘Farewell to the Ark’) [Sound Marketing Systems Records, 1984] was the soundtrack to Shuji Terayama’s last film, and has been reissued on CD by Showboat. It’s apparently in a more meditative psychedelic mood, perhaps akin to ‘Pilgrimage Of Blood’. ‘Okami Shonen’ (‘Pilgrimage Of Blood’) [P-Vine, 2002] is a soundtrack to a film by Hiromichi Tannai, and is a very diverse offering, essentially a compilation, with tracks recorded in 2001, 1981, 1979, 1977 and 1972. The music is hard to describe, with a uniquely Japanese feel, and is mostly sedate, moody and unusual, sometimes with subtle electronics and gorgeous mixing, and always sounding distinctly Japanese. One track reminds me of the German group Cozmic Corridors; some of it wouldn’t sound out of place in a mid-70’s Dario Argento film [no funky Goblin grooves though]! I’ve seen the title spelled incorrectly as ‘Ookami Syonen’ [a mistake previously continued here].

Tenjo Sajiki’s ‘Aho Bune’ aka ‘Ahousen’ [see below] can be considered a J.A. Caesar album, as might some of the Tokyo Kid Brothers albums [see below], which Caesar was sometimes involved in. Given that the text on these albums is mostly in Japanese print, and that they are collaborations between more than one entity, it can be hard to tell how to list these albums correctly or even to find agreement regarding the spelling – and as mentioned above, this makes internet searches considerably difficult.

Some other J.A. Caesar albums I know nothing further about are ‘Nuhikun’ (‘Directions to Servants’) [cassette, 1979], ‘Kusa Meikyu’ (‘Grass Labyrinth’) [1983], ‘The Lemmings’ [cassette, 1984; reissued Banyru Inryoku, 2000], ‘King Lear’ [1991] and ‘Tenshi Souzou Sunawachi Hikari’ [1998].

J.A. Caesar is still active in composing and performing music for stage productions and soundtracks; he inherited Tenjo Sajiki following the death of Terayama. Also recently, Caesar composed the music for the TV anime ‘Shoujo Kakumei Utena’.

 

Captain Hiro & the Space Band – formed by drummer Hiro Tsunoda after Flied Egg broke up. They made two albums – ‘“Lost” Or “Found”?’ [Vertigo, 1973] [reiss. by Hagakure, 2003], and ‘Arabesque’ [Vertigo, 1974]. The first is quite uninteresting soft rock and pop; I don’t know what the second is like.

 

Charisma – their track on the compilation ‘70’s West Japanese Rock Scene’ [Made In Japan, 1991] is excellent early-70’s styled instrumental prog with nimble riffs, and was recorded in 1976. I don’t know of any other recordings. 

Shinki Chen – after Foodbrain [see below], guitarist Chen collaborated again with Hiro Yanagida and others, including bassist George Yanagi [ex-Powerhouse] to record a great solo album, ‘Shinki Chen & His Friends’ [Polydor, 1971]. Musically, it hints at the bluesy heavy acid rock of his next band, Speed, Glue & Shinki [the bassist of that group also played on one track here], with some experimental bits here and there reminiscent of his tenure with Foodbrain; it is considered a classic album by many fans of the genre [including myself], though others think it’s boring and aimless. I admit that the songs are hugely memorable, but this isn’t becauseI think they’re no good; it’s because there doesn’t seem to be any aim towards commercial appeal or hooks, and it allows me to enjoy the album afresh each time I listen to it. It’s been reissued on CD by Hagakure.

 

Chronicle – an offshoot of Far Out [see below]. When that group was in the process of crumbling, before Fumio Miyashita picked up the pieces and started Far East Family Band [see below], bassist/vocalist Kei Ishikawa and last in a succession of drummers Osamu Takeda left, moved to California, and formed Cronicle with two other fellow Japanese. They played electronic space rock in a similar vein to Far East Family Band, although with their own sound, and more song-based. They also shared the uneasy blending of soppy/cheesy commercially oriented balladry and really cool spacey stuff. The liner notes to their 3rd album claims that Ishikawa and Takeda had both been in Far Out and FEFB, but based on what Julian Cope has laid out in ‘Japrocksampler’ they left Far Out before FEFB was formed, as mentioned above.

Chronicle released at least three albums – ‘Live at Whisky A Go-Go’ [Express, 1975], ‘Imawa Tokino Subete’ [1975] and ‘Like a Message From the Stars’ [All Ears Records, 1977].

 

Condition Green – a hard rock group from Okinawa with a wild live reputation. Their first album ‘Life of Change’ [See Saw, 1978] contained great heavy rock alongside more percussive and flowing stuff, hinting at a mix of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and Santana. There are slight psychedelic and progressive touches to the whole thing. The next album ‘Mixed Up’ [Viento, 1978] was slightly more mainstream, but still a great heavy rock album overall. Some people have compared it to Ted Nugent and Grand Funk, but those comparisons don’t really hold true for me now that I’ve heard it. I haven’t figured out what it does remind me of, but regardless, any lover of 70’s hard rock will probably like it. It’s been reissued on CD by Pony Can. Also existing is the very rare ‘’83 Live’ [Disques Jean Jean, 1983], which only came out in a limited number of promotional copies before the official release was cancelled. It features long, jammy psychedelic tracks and is reputedly even better than the debut.

 

Cosmic Pulsation Unity (C.P.U.) – this free jazz trio consisted of Masahiko Togashi, Masahiko Satoh [see below] and Keiki Midorikawa. They made one album, ‘C.P.U.’ [Denon Jazz, 1975], containing two long tracks or restrained and interesting free improvisation seemingly blended with some slight structure.

 

Cosmos Factory – a progressive group formed in Nogoya, 1970. They moved to Tokyo the next year, acquired a manager [who was also a well-known rock critic] and got to work. The band are now perhaps best known for their first album, ‘Cosmos Factory’ (a.k.a. ‘An Old Castle of Transylvania’) [Columbia, 1973], which has long been the easiest to obtain on CD. In the Ultima Thule shop catalogue it’s compared to Far East Family Band; I find this very misleading, as the only similarities I can hear are in their worst moments, ie. when they get into their cod-emotive sappy balladic crooning. Other than those bits, which take up a lot of space, it’s a pretty good to great album, with heavier bits as well as spacey and slightly ominous progressive rock reminiscent of a blend of The Nice, Arzachel and early Pulsar, with cool use of the Moog. Anyway, this album brought them a lot of recognition and they began playing support for big western bands of the era such as Humble Pie and The Moody Blues, both then well past their prime and probably overshadowed by their unique support act!

The next album, ‘A Journey With The Cosmos Factory’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1975], was well-received. In some ways it was a better album, entering some more experimental electronic rock realms and with more creative use of synths, but in other ways it was still a little patchy. Here they sound a bit like Far East Family Band at times. ‘Blackhole’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1976] contained some of their best ever stuff, amongst which were some tracks that owed more to ‘Red’-era King Crimson than the Cosmos Factory of past albums. These tracks still had a spacey feel though, and sound surprisingly like the recent US group Yeti from their first album ‘Things To Come’ [2000]. The harder tracks have caused this album to show up in some lists of metal/hard rock albums, though most of the album doesn’t rock hard at all, and there’s still a lot of soft ballads and electronic rock. Around this time, the band also began making music for film soundtracks and TV themes. Their last album, ‘Metal Reflection’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1977], has a reputation for being more of a metal/hard rock thing, but it’s actually a lot more varied than that. It’s a pretty good album containing proggy hard rock, proggy metal, spacey prog, cosmic funk, a ballad, and almost omnipresent synthesisers. Some bits are reminiscent of some Magical Power Mako circa ‘Jump’ [see below]. The production is excellent. They also released a number of rare EP’s - ‘Fantastic Mirror’ [Toshiba/Express, 1975], ‘The Infinite Universe Of Our Mind’ (a promo release) [Toshiba/Express, 1975] and ‘Days In The Past’ [Toshiba/Express, 1975]. The first album has been reissued on CD by Coca/Nippon Columbia; the next 3 by Toshiba EMI. They’re possibly out of print now but a fresh line of reissues recently appeared.

 

Creation – this group [not to be confused with the UK 60’s group] was a continuation of Blues Creation [see above], after their involvement with Carmen Maki [see below]. Bassist Masashi Saeki and vocalist Hiromi Osawa were replaced by Shigeru Matsumoto [bass, percussion,vocals] and Yoshiaki Iijima [guitar], with guitarist and band leader Kazuo Takeda also taking on keyboards. In 1973 the band opened for Mountain on a tour, beginning a friendship between Takeda and Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi that would last for some time. Their first album was ‘Creation’ [EMI, 1975], produced by Yuya Uchida of The Flowers [see below], and Kei Ishizaka. While being less heavy and not quite as good as Blues Creation had been, with a bit more of a mainstream leaning in parts, it was still a very good and varied album in it’s own right, and revisited a bit of a hard psych element to the music here and there. When Felix Pappalardi came to Japan in 1975 to play at a rock festival, Creation guitarist Takeda played with him in Pappalardi’s World Rock Festival Band. Pappalardi was going to produce their next album, but he ended up joining the band briefly as well on bass, keyboards and vocals, resulting in the album ‘Creation & Felix Pappalardi’ [Express/Toshiba EMI, 1976], which was more eclectic and commercial in style, with Pappalardi’s vocal and compositional style being very noticeable, making the album sound kind of like a less heavy, more commercial version of Mountain. Although weaker than the previous album, it still featured a few pretty good songs. In the US it was released with a different cover as ‘Felix Pappalardi & Creation’. ‘Pure Electric Soul’ [EMI, 1977] followed without Pappalardi, again produced by Uchida and Ishizaka. Featuring lots of funk rock and soul ballads, it was a pretty disappointing album overall, although the funky tracks are still good and there are a couple of really good heavy rockers, most impressive being a cover of The Yardbirds’ ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’. This has been claimed by some to be a live album, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it. There is a CD release on Mason with ‘Creation’ and ‘Pure Electric Soul’ together as a 2-CD set, possibly a bootleg, and both have also legitimately been reissued separately. ‘Super Rock in the Highest Voltage’ [Express, 1978] saw Iijima absent, Matsumoto replaced by Masahiko Takeuchi and Mitsuru Kanekuni added on sax. ‘Studio Live in Direct To Disc Recording’ [Express/Toshiba EMI, 1978] saw yet more line-up changes, plus numerous guest musicians. Albums following were ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ [Toshiba EMI, 1980], ‘Lonely Heart’ [Toshiba EMI, 1981], ‘Just Arrive’ [Toshiba EMI, 1982], ‘Running On’ [1982], ‘Songs For a Friend’ [King, 1983] and ‘Rainy Nite Dreamer’ [King, 1984]. These days guitarist Takeda lives in the United States and is known as Kazuo ‘Flash’ Takeda or ‘Flash’ Kaz Takeda, and plays blues and jazz. He’s released many solo albums, beginning with ‘Misty Morning Flight’ [Toshiba EMI, 1978].

 

Crinkum Crankum – reputedly a wild and heavy rock band whose sole known recording is a live track on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ LP [see below].

 

Crosswind – formed by guitarist Ginji Ogawa in 1976. They played jazzy progressive rock and made at least three albums – ‘Crosswind’ [1978], ‘II’ [1979] and ‘Soshite Yume No Kuni E’ [1982]. I’ve only heard the last of these, which is pretty good stuff, though sometimes a bit cheesy, with lots of fiery guitar work and comparisons to Finch, Camel and Ain Soph. Ogawa also performed in Carmen Maki’s band [see below]. After Crosswind broke up in 1984, Ogawa formed several other bands and began a solo career. In 2001 he re-emerged with Ginji Ogawa Band, playing prog apparently comparable to Camel, Yes, Focus, Rush & Jethro Tull.

 

Miki Curtis – vocalist and flautist from Samurai [see below]. After Samurai, he released a solo album, ‘Mimi’ [Vertigo, 1972], with backing from members of Happy End [see below]; it was reissued in 1977 on Philips, and later on CD by Universal/Sony. It’s totally different to the music of Samurai, instead being mostly straight and mellow psych-pop. Some of these songs do have some good moments and interesting sounds, but the highlight – and in the opinion of many, the only real reason to go near the album – is the final track ‘40 Miles on a Stoned-Out Camel’, which is a great psychedelic piece sounding like early Cosmos Factory gone Arabian hash fiends!

 

Dada – an electronic group who have been described as ‘a Japanese Fripp & Eno’, and have also been compared to Ashra and Pôle. From what I’ve heard so far, the Fripp & Eno comparison only stands up as far as that the band was a synth/guitar duo - Kenji Konishi on synths and Mutsuhiko Izumi on guitar, although sometimes they both play synths. Their debut, ‘Jyo’ [Vanity, 1978], was the first release on the Vanity label. Free of any of the cheesy synth sounds that slightly brought down the class of parts of later recordings, much of this album is very low-key and focuses on the chemistry between the guitar and electronics. This was followed by ‘Dada’ [Vanity, 1978; I suspect this might perhaps be a confusion with ‘Jyo’], the live ‘Joheki’ (cassette) [Belle Antique, 1979] and ‘Dada’ [King-Nexus, 1981; pretty sure this isn’t a repackaging of the presumed ’78 s/t album, as the back cover says it was recorded in late 1980]. This last record is a bit cheesy here and there but nevertheless quite good. Some of it reminds me of late-70’s Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, though one track sounds like Raymond Scott and another is a weird and wacky rhythmic piece. It’s been reissued on CD by King, but is out of print. ‘Castle Wall’ [Belle Antique, 1984] was a collection of previously unreleased material produced by H. Tamaki [see below], reissued on CD in 1994. While some of it is pretty cheesy with icky early 80’s synth tones and melodies predominant, most of ‘Castle Wall’ is pretty top-notch spaced-out stuff, though with a few slight tape flaws here & there. Some of it reminded me a bit of some Pôle, Vangelis, late-70’s Tangerine Dream and Spacecraft, some of it perhaps like Carpe Diem stripped back to just the keyboards & guitar. Konishi later joined P-Model and Shifukudan; Izumi later joined After Dinner [see below] and Kennedy [see below].

 

Datetenryu – an underground band formed in 1971. They played a kind of underground psychedelic progressive rock. Guitarist Hiroshi Narazaki was also in Brain Police [see above] and Les Rallizes Denudes [see below]. There are numerous CDs available covering recordings from 1971-1982, but I don’t think they released any albums at the time. ‘1971’ [Dragon Freek, 1996] sounds like live demo recordings, and is mostly great raw, and sometimes funky, heavy psychedelic prog that features quite a lot of fierce jamming and strange changesof direction. Some comparisons at various points are Foodbrain, Lagger Blues Machine and Elluffant. At one point they even sound a bit like Ruins or Korekyojin! The last track is much more conventional. ‘Unto’ [Belle Antique, 1997] featured live stuff from 1978 [possibly previously issued as ‘Rock Horizon Vol. 4’], 1975 and a studio track from 1982. The music on this disc is less heavy, substituting more of an almost jazzy prog jamming vibe. It may not appeal to fans of the earliest recordings, but I think it’s still pretty good. Both CD’s are out of print. There was a CD-R release of more archive material, ‘1976’ [2000]. They broke up in 1983, but after a hiatus the band got back together recently, and have released more CD’s on their own label – ‘Nagi’ [Banana Songs, 2000], ‘[Japanese title]’ [Banana Songs, 2003], ‘Red Afternoon Blues’ [Walking Press Records, 2004] and ‘Cool Flying Dragon’ [Banana Songs, 2006].

 

Dema – see Yasutaka Tsutsui, Ichihara & Satoh (below)

 

Dew – a raw heavy blues rock band formed by ex-Blues Creation/Bickies singer Fumio Nunoya and ex-Bickies guitarist Eiryu Koh. They didn’t release an album of their own at the time, but they had a couple of live tracks on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below under Various artists], which are good but nothing great. Also released posthumously are ‘Lost Blues Days Vol. 1’ and ‘Lost Blues Days Vol. 2’ [both Captain Trip, 2001]. Vol. 1 has live solo performances by Nunoya from 1973, as well as live Dew tracks from 1970 [mainly covers, apparently]. Vol. 2 is from a 90’s reunion of the group. There is also the posthumous ‘Dew/Nunoya Fumio – Live’ [Lion, 2008], which contains a 1971 performance from the Third Japanese Folk Jamboree, although the music is a long way from folk, being heavyish blues rock with a downer West Coast vibe. The primal vocals and confident guitar work stand out, but although the music is fairly good, it’s not great enough to really get too excited about. Guitarist Eiichi Sayu [ex-Brain Police] was briefly a member before joining Far Out [see below]. Nunoya went on to release a solo album of soul and R&B. Kou formed Ranmadou [see below].

 

DK Mushroom & Son – this was a group featuring Filipino Joey Smith from Speed, Glue & Shinki [see below] and Juan De La Cruz Band with two Japanese musicians, playing drums, bass, guitar and Moog. They recorded an album’s worth of material in 1972 that wasn’t released at the time. It was supposed to be released some time recently as ‘Hit’ [Victor, 200?], according to Julian Cope, but I’ve been unable to find any trace of its existence except for his comments on-line, and oddly there’s no further mention of it in his recent book ‘Japrocksampler’. It reputedly features “slow, squelchy farts over Stoogean teen riffs”, according to Cope! Sounds worth hearing to me. Smith joined the new lineup of Juan De La Cruz in the Philippines after this.

Early Times – not to be confused with Early Times String Band, this group led by Kazuo Sakai played in a generic proto-progressive rock style. The only album I know of is ‘Second Album’ [Early Times Records, 1976], which is fairly average overall and poorly produced, sounding like demos from 5 years earlier. I have no idea if there was a previous album – perhaps the title was a confusing joke.

East – this band were based in the US, and reputedly played eastern influenced psych. They recorded three discs that I know of – ‘East’ [Capitol, 1972], ‘Beautiful Morning’ (an EP) [1972] and ‘Coronado Moonbeams’ (an EP) [1973]. Their album is available on CD and is fairly good, mostly on the soft rock side.

 

The East Bionic Symphonia – not really a proper band, but a temporary musical presentation staged for the graduation of Kazuo Imai and fellow students from the art school workshops of Takehisa Kosugi [see below]. These concerts of collective free-improvisation were called East Bionic Symphonia. They made a live recording, ‘Recorded Live’ [ALM, 1976], featuring 10 members playing all manner of instruments and objects over 2 lengthy jams. This sounds very much like a largely mellow Taj Mahal Travellers [see below]. After this, the group seems to have dissolved, with Imai playing with the Kosugi-less Taj Mahal Travellers and later with a variety of other avant-garde musicians. Another EBS member, Chie Mukai, went on to form her own ‘folk-psych’ group Ché-Shizu [see below].

Electro Keyboard Orchestra – this was a one-off supergroup, consisting of Masahiko Satoh, Masao Yagi, Hiromasa Suzuki, Yuji Ohno, Kentaro Haneda, Hideo Ichikawa, Shigeto O’Hara and Sadayasu Fujii on Korg synths, backed by Ken Yajima [guitar], Akira Okazawa [bass] and Shuichi Murakami [drums]. They made one self-titled LP [Columbia, 1975]. On the last track and beginning of the first there is much spacey promise, but the remainder of the album comprises funky, exotic grooves with, of course, loads of synths, that straddle high cheese and ultra-cool – a breakbeat hunter’s delight, to be sure! It was reissued on CD by Solid Records/Columbia [2003].

Eternity?/Epos – see Toshiyuki Miyama & his New Herd, below.

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