Labo Nash – apparently a studio group, who made one very rare album (with the help of another band called Virgin House, and a youth choir), ‘Sun/Yume no Michi’ [Nash Studio, 1978]. The music is reputedly symphonic prog.
The Launchers – a Group Sounds band featuring guitarist Osamu Kitajima [see above]. They released two albums, ‘Free Association’ [Toshiba EMI, 1967] and ‘Oasy Okoku’ [Toshiba EMI, 1969]. These are often said to be in a soft-psych/beat vein, but Julian Cope commented that they are “bizarre concept albums”, and by the sounds of that, they may be worth checking out. The second album has been reissued on CD, though I’m not sure about the first. Kitajima went on to an illustrious solo career.
Lily – an actor, singer and dulcimer player, who sang on the Yuigonka album [see below] under the name Lenya. Her album ‘Onion’ [Express, 1971] featured ex-members of Flied Egg, Food Brain and The Jacks, including Kimio Mizutani; it’s been described as ‘prog acid folk psych’ but that is stretching it a bit. Mostly it is very accessible (sometimes orchestrated) soft psych-pop-folk with some occasional rockier moments.. ‘Dulcimer’ [Express, 1973] has some good moments and again features Kimio Mizutani [see below], mixing folkier tracks with harder guitar-oriented songs; the music is fairly mainstream on the whole, though arguably a slight improvement on the previous album. She made numerous albums after these which I know nothing about. Not to be confused with the German group Lily!
Lizard – started in the early 70’s by Momoyo, under the name Electric Moth, later becoming Red Lizard in 1973. By the late 70’s they had become a ‘post-punk’ styled group and made their debut in London with Jean Jacques Burnel (of the Stranglers) producing - ‘Lizard’ . Full of good to great songs, it’s a very enjoyable record that manages to have a pop appeal at the same time as being quite avant-garde in a way; it sounds like a mash-up of Devo, Flying Lizards and an upbeat Joy Division. This was followed by ‘Babylon Rocker’  and ‘Gymnopedia’ [Trio, 1981], and after that the band broke up and Momoyo used the Lizard name for his own projects. Not to be confused with any of the numerous bands who have been called Lizard!
Lost Aaraaff – a free-jazz-rock group formed in the early 70’s by Keiji Haino, later to record solo albums [see above for one of them] and form Fushitsusha [see below]. No albums released at the time that I know of. Some 1971 recordings have been issued as ‘Lost Aaraaff’ [PSF, 1991], containing three apparently Albert Ayler-influenced ‘improvised acid jams’ featuring piano, drums, vocals and what sounds like occasional cello. It’s pretty demented stuff; at times they sound like no-talents attempting free jazz, at other times they get some really interesting things going, though not easy to describe. I find it hard to sit through the more painful stuff to thet to anything good they might have to offer, however. There is also their contribution to the 1971 live ‘Genya Concert’ [see Various artists, below]. This was supposedly their first performance, and apparently the audience hated them so much they were lucky to get out of there in one piece! The track on ‘Genya Concert’, at least, is quite listenable and creative, and with no audible audience fury at that point in the gig.
Love – not the American band with Arthur Lee, of course. This heavy rock group formed in 1971 but didn’t record until 1977, when they made their sole album ‘Love’ [private press, 1977], which is partly live (from the One Step festival, 1974). It has been reissued on CD by Branco, with some of the proceeds to go towards aid for the Fukushima nuclear accident. The music is mostly lethargic downer rock of a style common to many small bands in the US in that decade; occasionally it gets heavy, and the last half of the last song is pretty great with more of a psychedelic tinge.
Love Live Life + One – a great group led by Kohsuke Ichihara, who recorded only one album that most people are aware of, ‘Love Will Make A Better You’ [King, 1971]. As well as some searing fuzzed-out psych rockers and more orchestrated moments of progressive psych-pop, the highlight of the album is the side-long piece ‘The Question Mark’. This begins as a kind of free-form freakout, developing into manic acidic free-rock jamming [reminds me a little here of the first Amon Duul II and Embryo albums], with proficient and inspired playing from all musicians. Guitarist Kimio Mizutani shortly after went on to play on the People album and record an excellent solo album [see below for both]. Keyboardist Hiro Yanagida [previously with Apryl Fool & Foodbrain – see above] resumed his solo career [see below]. Kohsuke Ichihara (sax, flute, arrangements), Toshiaki Yokota (sax, flute; see below), Takao Naoi (guitar), Masayoshi Terakawa (bass) and Chito Kawachi (drums) were the rest of the group, and they played on other projects into the 70’s; all but Kawachi played on the ‘Dema’ album by Yasutaka Tsutsui, Kohsuke Ichihara & Masahiko Satoh [see below]. Singer Akira Fuse was otherwise a MOR pop crooner, though he turned in a freaky and excellent performance here.
There are several other Love Live Life albums [without the ‘+ One’, which was Fuse], sometimes referred to as 3L. ‘10 Chapters of Murder’ aka ‘Satsujin Jissho’ [CBS/Sony, 1974 – also seen listed as 1972] was a quadrophonic album inspired by Colin Wilson’s book “Encyclopaedia of Murder”. Some of the elements of the first album are still present – orchestrated music next to wild acid rock – though it’s not quite as wild as the debut, and there is also a strong heavyish progressive jazz rock side to the music. Some tracks feature styles relevant to what they are about – for example ‘St Valentine’s Day Massacre’ features music in the style of the 1920’s, and a Western-themed track has parts that are styled like Morricone’s music for Sergio Leone. Overall it’s a very interesting, varied and musically enjoyable record. There are other albums of less interest that perhaps fit more in the commercial exploitation field, but ‘Now Sound ‘75’ [Victor, 1975] is reputedly good if you like jazz rock, blending the fusion styles of the era with traditional Japanese folk.
The M – an obscure band whom, for all I know, were quite well-known in Japan. Their name was written as one word with ‘The’ smaller, possibly to confuse buyers into thinking they were buying the latest album by Them! The line-up was Asano Takami [guitar, keyboards, vocals], Tarumi Yoshimichi [bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals], Nishi Tetsuya [drums] and Tarumi Takamichi [vocals, percussion]. Their sole proper album, ‘ TheM’ [MCA, 1972], contained soft, mainstream progressive rock/pop comparable to Beggar’s Opera and the mellower side of Gravy Train. Most of the tracks are covers of fairly uninteresting tunes; even the McDonald & Giles cover is of one of their least interesting songs! The lengthy first track, one of the originals, is largely quite good, but the album is weak and derivative on the whole. The album has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. There are also two cover-heavy live CD’s available, ‘1971 Live’ [Hagakure] and ‘1972, Live at Shinjuku’ [Hagakure, 2002], which may not have been released until recently. The second of these is the only one I’ve heard, and has only one original, the long one from their album; the rest ranges from good [heavyish jams on ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Ohio’] to schmaltzy [‘My Cherie Amour’, ‘You’re No Stranger’ etc.]. Guitarist Hideto Kanoh was apparently in the band at one point, and went on to form Gedo [see above], and Tetsuya was briefly drummer for Far Out [see above] before they recorded their album.
Madorami – a pre-Bi Kyo Ran group [see above]. Their album ‘The Hardest Live ‘76’ [label? year?] is apparently mostly King Crimson covers with a few originals. There is also ‘Madorami Live Vol IV’ [Belle Antique, 1994] from 1977, which is all mid-70’s Crimson covers; the other volumes are Bi Kyo Ran releases.
Magical Power Mako – real name Makoto Kurita, he made his first album aged 18 – ‘Magical Power’ a.k.a. ‘Polydor ¥2,200’ [Polydor, 1973]. An extraordinary debut, it featured highly original experimental music with psychedelic rock, folk and traditional Japanese music elements, a patchwork comparable in parts to Faust and Franco Battiato. This was followed up by the aptly-titled ‘Super Record’ [Polydor, 1975], a more exotic and esoteric album which I find quite beautiful, although some people hate it. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as ‘New Age music’ as some people have. ‘Jump’ [Polydor, 1977] featured more rock elements in a weird avant-psychedelic mish-mash of styles. Some of it [not all] sounds like what The Boredoms [see below] would be doing nearly 20 years later around their ‘Pop Tatari’ and ‘Chocolate Synthesizer’ period! The Faust and Battiato elements are also present again. For some reason this album evokes very mixed feelings amongst Mako fans, with some loving it and others loathing it [I’m in the former camp]. All of these have been reissued on CD a few times, but I have been told older versions were rather shoddily mastered and didn’t sound that great; the currently available Hagakure reissues, however, have great sound.
Fairly recently, recordings largely pre-dating the debut have been issued as a 5-CD set by MIO, ‘Hapmoniym 1972-1975’. In my opinion this could have been edited down to a more digestible 2- or 3-CD set, though completists would disagree. While a lot of it is quite good, some tracks go on for too long without really going anywhere and are begging for a chop. Also, each CD is presented as containing one long track, whereas in reality they each consist of shorter tracks with clear gaps between them. The indexing for each disc shows more than one track, but the first one/s are simply short tracks of silence, so that all the music on each CD is actually only playable as a single very long track. Also, in the gaps between pieces there are loud click defects which could easily have been removed if MIO had paid more attention to this project. These were definitely not a CD player fault, but a fault somewhere in the production or manufacturing process. To make this set enjoyable I had to make CD-R copies with the pieces cut up into the shorter tracks they should be, and with the clicks cut out. It’s a shame and a mystery, as other MIO reissues I have encountered are done with a lot more care.
Mako went on to release numerous other albums, such as ‘Welcome to the Earth’ [East World, 1979], ‘Music From Heaven’ [Marquee Moon, 1981], ‘Magical Computer Music’ , ‘Happy Earth’ , ‘Next Millennium Vibrations’ , ‘Blue Dot’ , ‘Trance Resonance’ , ‘Cosmo Vision’ , ‘Human! Get Out From the Earth Quickly’ , ‘Kero Jetter No. 1’ , ‘Lo Pop Diamonds’ , ‘No Government After Revolution’ , ‘Erotic Elohim’ , ‘Magic’  and ‘Cozmo Grosso’ . I haven’t heard any of these except ‘Music From Heaven’, but at least most of them are reputedly more on the pop side of things. ‘Music From Heaven’ is a delightful psychedelic trip, sometimes hinting at Achim Reichel and Lula Cortes e ze Ramalho, as well as Mako’s own earlier work. For some reason the 1997 CD reissue on Atavistic features the whole album playable only as one long track, whereas the track listing indicates many shorter tracks.
Mahoujin – this all-instrumental progressive rock group made at least one album, ‘Babylonia Suite’ [Made in Japan, 1978], with an eye-catching cover painting borrowed from Spanish/Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo. The music is complex, competently played symphonic prog, influenced by the likes of ELP and Yes. It’s good, but rather flat, uninspired and not bringing anything unique or memorable to my ears.
Carmen Maki – a vocalist who had previously worked with Blues Creation for one album [see above]. Previous to this, Maki had released two solo albums of psych – ‘Adam & Eve’ [CBS, 1970; reissued on CD by Erebus, 2010] and ‘Goodbye My Memories’ [CBS, 1970]. ‘Adam & Eve’ is mostly kitsch orchestrated soft rock and ballads, but it does have some more interesting psychedelic moments. She further dabbled in progressive territory with the group Oz, beginning with ‘Carmen Maki & Oz’ , which has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. Overall it’s a pretty commercial affair, but with a few good heavy progressive moments. A live bootleg recording from 1977 that I’ve heard was much more consistently good and of interest both to prog and heavy rock fans. Anyway, I’m not a big fan of vocalists as band leaders unless they have something really great to offer, which Maki doesn’t in my opinion. She’s a good enough singer, but has a style that seems to demand a fairly commercial musical leaning. Further albums included ‘Tozasareta Mati’ , reputedly with heavy progressive rock and more emotional ballads; ‘III’ , reputedly with less heavy rock; ‘Live’ ; and ‘Nightstalker’ . The first three of these have been reissued by Kitty Records. Carmen Maki’s 5X formed in 1981 with guitarist George Azuma from her late-70’s band, Laff. 5X apparently played some kind of melodic metal, and released these albums – ‘Human Target’, ‘Live X’ and ‘Carmen Maki’s 5X’ [Eastworld, 1983]. She recently got together with Oz again for a live album, ‘One Night Legend’ .
Kawabata Makoto – guitarist/vocalist from Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai [see below] and later Acid Mothers Temple [see below] and other groups. In 1978 he made his first solo album ‘Psychedelic Noise Freak’ on cassette, reputedly containing synthesizer and voice as well as a cover of Kiss’s ‘Love Gun’! It was made available as part of the limited edition 10-CDR Makoto box set, ‘Early Works 1978-1981: Learning From The Past’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 2000]. Around 1993 he formed Toho Sara with Asahito Nanjo of High Rise. They apparently used ‘ethnic’ instruments in their collective freak-outs; I’m yet to hear any of their music. Along with Nanjo he also formed numerous other off-shoots such as Ohkami No Jikan [see below], Musica Transonic and Mainliner, the latter originally with Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida who left before they recorded an album. Of these I’ve only heard stuff by Musica Transonic & Mainliner, who basically play whole albums of high-octane, fairly rudimentary and repetitive loud grinding rock riffs recorded constantly in the red – pretty much one riff per song. During his tenure with these groups he also formed Acid Mothers Temple [see below], for which he is best known. He continues to release a torrent of stuff in different guises.
Mandrake – a 70’s symphonic prog group, influenced by King Crimson. As far as I know, they didn’t get anything released until much later – ‘Unreleased Materials Vol. I’ [Belle Antique, 1997] and ‘Unreleased Materials Vol. II’ [Marquee/Avalon, 1997]. Somehow this band later transformed into the late 70’s/early 80’s ‘techno punk/pop’ group P-Model [see below].
The Mannheim Rock Ensemble – this anonymous bunch of studio musicians led by Yusuke Hoguchi [see People] made one album, ‘Rock Of Joy’ [Nippon Columbia, 1971], which takes popular classical tunes by composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin etc. and performs them in a jammy, late 60’s rock style with prominent keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, and occasional strings. It’s an enjoyable album overall, with a few frenzied highlights to make it a bit special. This was reissued on CD by Nippon Columbia.
Maria – a symphonic progressive rock band who made one album, ‘Maria’ [Made In Japan, 199?; originally recorded 1976], featuring prominent guitar and keyboards interplay They also have a track on the compilation ‘70’s West Japanese Rock Scene’ [Made In Japan, 1991]. Maria’s music was good but fairly typical British-styled progressive rock, in an ELP-meets-Genesis kind of vein.
Mariah – I’ve only heard the second album by this band, ‘Yen Tricks’ [King, 1980], which also says ‘Mariah Was Born To Madness’ on the cover. The music is an odd but commercial affair, blending prog, pomp and yacht rock. Their first album was ‘Mariah’ [Yupiteru, 1979], and several more were made into the 80s – ‘Auschwitz Dream’ [Bill Box, 1981], ‘Red Party’ [Bill Box, 1981], ‘Marginal Love’ [B&M, 1981] and ‘Utakata’s Days’ [Shan-Shan/Better Days, 1983].
Mariner – formed by George Murasaki after his band Murasaki [see below] broke up, Mariner are often referred to as a ‘pomp rock’ band, but that’s only part of the story. At least on their first album, ‘One’ [Bourbon, 1979], they break up the pomp with a bit of prog and some great metal influenced by Deep Purple and Rainbow, as with Murasaki but with better vocals. After ‘Two’ [Bourbon, 1980], singer John Patterson left to join Heavy Metal Army, a mostly Japanese metal band. Mariner themselves were a Japanese band only by virtue of Murasaki’s presence.
Martha – see Kamijo [above].
O^ (Maru Sankaku Shikaku) – an underground performance group from Tokyo, formed by Sakuro ‘Kant’ Watanabe, existing from 1970-73. The group featured future members of Murahachibu and 3/3 [Sanbun No San] [see below]. They self-produced a self-titled 3-LP album set , of which I believe only a few acetates ever saw the light of day – or alternately, they released 5 albums in 1973, depending on who you believe. Their recordings have been reissued as a 3-CD set by Captain Trip , and reputedly sound like bands such as Third Ear Band and Taj Mahal Travellers [see below], though more chaotic. Julian Cope has described it as “indoor stoned parrot torture cutlery & crockery grooves”!? Three of the members later formed 3/3 [Sansun No San – see below]. Much later, having reformed, they collaborated with Tokyo heavy psych group Marble Sheep [see below], for the album ‘Marble Sheep Meets O^’ [Captain Trip, 2003], the music of which is described on the Captain Trip website as ‘spacy trip sessions’.
Hideki Matsutake – a producer and computer-programmer [for music] who trained under Tomita [see below] in the 70’s. From 1978 he was involved with the Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below]. He made some obscure albums in the late 70’s, such as ‘Pop Memories on Moog III’ , ‘The Beatles World on Moog III’ , ‘Pyramid Power – Meditation’ [CBS Sony, 1978](credited to Rei Sekimori but synths played by Matsutake), ‘Fantasia – The Invitation to the Stars’ [Teichiku, 1978], ‘Edo’ [Columbia, 1978], ‘Gen Sou Kyoku – Hoshi He No Izani’ [Teichiku, 1978] and ‘007 Digital Moon’ [CBS Sony, 1979] (as H. Matsutake & K.I. Capsule [Hiroki Tamaki (see below) and Katsunori Ishida], doing covers of James Bond themes). ‘Edo’ was made with Chojuro Kondoj & Masashi Komatsubara, and contained two long tracks made with Moog synth and traditional Japanese instruments, particularly koto. It maintains a lovely blend between the modern and ancient styles, with the more electronic parts reminiscent of some Tangerine Dream and Tomita. ‘The Fantasia’ is apparently cheesy easy-listening songs played on synthesizer. Both albums have been reissued on CD by P-Vine. There is also a recent CD, ‘Contrast – Edo II’ [P-Vine, 2000], reuniting the musicians who made the ‘Edo’ album. Under the pseudonym IIIC (or 3C) Magical Space Band [see below] he made a 7”, ‘The Infinite Space Octave’ [CBS/Sony, 1978] of experimental electronic music. Matsutake also made albums with Oriental Mechanic Band, Logic System [which he formed in 1981], Akihabara Electric Circus and Beat Musik.
Melting Glass Box (Tokedashita Garasubako) – this was a studio-only project of Nishioka Takashi [from Itsutsu No Akai Fusen – see above; see below for solo], with Tetsuo Saito [vocals, percussion], Kazuhiko Kato [guitar; see above], Kazuo Takeda [Blues Creation; guitar], Haruomi Hosono [ex-Apryl Fool; bass] and Takasuke Kida [ex-Jacks; percussion, wind instruments; Takashi played guitar and percussion, and sang. They released one album of mellow psychedelia, ‘Melting Glass Box’ [URC, 1971]. Although largely fairly ordinary, some tracks are weirder and the whole thing has a dreamy melancholy that can be quite pleasant. One track sounds like a blend of Os Mutantes and Le Stelle di Mario Schifano. It has been reissued on CD. Nishioka went on to make at least one solo album [see below].
Mentanpin – a rock trio of Kazuo Hida, Mikio Shirai and Yoichiro Ikeda. They made at least three albums, ‘Mentanpin’ [Philips, 1975], ‘Second’ [Philips, 1976] and ‘Last’ [MELDAC, 1989]. There’s another, ‘Country Breakfast’ on cd, but I’m not sure where this fits in or if it’s a best-of. They have a 20-minute live track on the v/a album ‘Electric Allnight Show @ Saitama Univ. 1973.11.3-4’ [Dead Flower, 2008].
K. Miho & Jazz Eleven – K. Miho’s full name was Keitaro Miho or Kei Miho for short. His combo released one album that I know of, the very rare ‘Kokezaru Kumikyoku’ [MCA/Nippon Victor, 1971], which features Masahiko Satoh [see below] on electric piano, Akira Ishikawa on drums [see above] and Ryo Kawasaki [see above] on guitar amongst many others, who add up to 12 people not including Miho! Miho was credited for composing, but I’m not sure if he played any instrument. The album is reputedly psychedelic jazz rock that has even been compared to Masahiko Satoh & Soundbrakers ‘Amalgamation’.
Kan Mikami – an underground radical protest folk singer/shouter and actor who was involved in the Tenjo Sajiki and Tokyo Kid Brothers troupes [see below], and by extension, with J.A. Caesar [see above]. His first album, ‘Mikami Kan No Sekai’ (‘The World of Kan Mikami’) [Columbia, 1971] apparently contained a kind of folk rock with intense presence and dark, harrowing, ‘real’ lyrical subject matter. I’m not sure if there were any albums between this and the next one I’m aware of, ‘BANG!’ [URC, 1974; reissued Sounds Marketing System, 1980]. It features Yosuke Yamashita’s group and other jazz musicians as his backing, and is a stranger, more ‘progressive’ and partly experimental affair, mainly for the title track, a lengthy piece of musique concrete and intense freeforming. Styles on the other tracks range from acoustic guitar/drums/vocals folk and psych-folk, piano-led ballads, mournful free jazz wailing, and some more mainstream, conventional moments. Mikami’s vocals are noteworthy, even if not to your taste, ranging from restrained emotivism to anguished freak-outs. An interesting album! It has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
Mikami apparently didn’t do much again until the late 80’s, collaborating with Keiji Haino [see above] of Fushitsusha [see below] for the group Vajra.
Masato Minami – a ‘folk rock star’ somewhat well known in Japan. His first album was released in 1969, though I have no details for it. His best known album, ‘Kaikisen’ aka ‘The Tropics’ [RCA, 1971 (though also seen listed as 1975)], is referred to on the Captain Trip web-site as “the monumental work of Japanese rock in 1971”, and it went to gold record status. I can’t understand why, as it’s a very straight affair, mostly consisting of forgettable laid-back acoustic singer/songwriter-type stuff. However, the opening track is a little better, a bluesy stomp that reminds me a little of Medicine Head, and the closing long track develops from pleasant psych-folk into a great psychedelic climax of guitars and subtle echo treatments. Overall the album is perhaps of most interest for the backing personnel present – Haruomi Hosono [Happy End – see above] on bass, Takasi Mizutani [Les Rallizes Denudes – see below] on guitar presumably only on a couple of tracks, and he’s very restrained here compared to his own records], and others lesser known, such as Masako Tanaka on piano, Tatsuo Hiyashi on drums, Hiromi Yasuda on guitar and harmonica, and Tatsuhiko Oshikawa on guitar and organ. Minami himself is on guitar, harmonica and vocals. The album has been reissued on CD by Regression Line with 4 bonus tracks. Minami also had live recordings on the double LP ‘Oz Days Live’ [see below under Various artists].
His 5th album, ‘Lady Let Me Go’ [Blow Up, 1979], featured Hideto Kanoh from Gedo [see above], but I haven’t heard it; it has a nice cosmic cover and was reissued on CD by P-Vine years ago. I’ve been unable to find much moreabout Minami in English, except that he is active in working towards a spiritually unified world, and also, unfortunately recently got busted for marijuana possession!
Minotaurus – I know nothing about this group except that their album ‘Super Fighter’s Theme’  was included in a list of Japanese progressive rock, and they included musician Goro Ohmi [see below]. Not to be confused with the German prog band of the same name.
Miyako Ochi – a rock’n’roll group of little interest except for appearing alongside some grander company on the 2-LP ‘Oz Days Live’ [see below under Various artists].
Toshiyuki Miyama & his New Herd – this jazz combo has been around for a long time and released many albums, most of which I know nothing about. Investigating their varied course is tricky, as a lot of their output is fairly straight big band jazz. It’s their more avant-garde albums that are of interest here. Their all-time classic is arguably ‘Yamataifu’ [Toshiba-EMI/Far East, 1972]. This has been referred to by Julian Cope as ‘Yamati-fu’ by Masahiko Satoh & New Herd Orchestra, but the album cover shown in his book ‘Japrocksampler’ credits it as ‘Yamataifu’ by ‘Toshiyuki Miyama & his New Herd: Masahiko Satoh’. Cope describes it glowingly as perhaps the “greatest cosmic jazz album ever made”, and it is certainly up there with the all-time greats. Although quite unique, some sonic touchpoints [though not necessarily all at once] are Herbie Hancock’s ‘Crossings’, the more free parts of Miles Davis’ ‘Live at the Fillmore East’, Globe Unity Orchestra, Archie Shepp, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Wolfgang Dauner/Et Cetera and Tangerine Dream’s ‘Atem’ as interpreted by a largely acoustic jazz big band! This brilliant album is in need of a reissue.
The same goes for the very rare ‘Eternity?/Epos (4Ch Niyoru Dagakki To Okesutora No Tameno Konpojishon)’ [Polydor, 1972 (rec. 1971)]. The subtitle translates to ‘Composition For Percussion and Orchestra in Quadrophonic’, and it’s credited to Toshiyuki Miyama & New Hard [sic] Orchestra, a line-up heavy in percussion. One of the ‘Record Collector’s Dreams’ books listed it as ‘Eternity?’ by Epos, though this is incorrect; ‘Eternity?’ is the name of the three-part piece that comprises side 1 (composed by Masahiko Togashi [see below], who also did the cover painting), and ‘Epos’ is the four-part piece on side 2 (composed by Masahiko Satoh, also playing ring-modulated piano). The music is “an alienated and epic avant-garde wash of empty space music” according to Julian Cope. That’s one way of looking at parts of side 2, but side 1 is a bit more conventional comparitively, also utilising sparse percussion and occasional wind instruments in a freely improvised sound (hard to tell how this was ‘composed’), but with less of the forboding brood and less dense.
‘Canto of Libra’[Columbia, 1970], credited to New Herd + M. Sato/Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd, is the thematic and musical precursor to 1971’s ‘Canto of Aries’ [see Masahiko Togashi below]; some sources list it as a 1976 release, and I think it was re-released then. ‘Tsuchi No Ne - Nippon Densetsu No Naka No Shijou’ (Sound of the Earth – The Poetry in Japanese Legends) [Nippon Columbia, 1973] has been compared to a blend of Nucleus, Vortex and complex horn rock, and the band on this album does indeed include a lot of horns. Reputedly this is another great one.
‘Nasu Dademaki’ [Columbia, 1976] is quite interesting, with a tense and mysterious atmosphere throughout. This blend of avant-garde jazz and classical music approaches often sounds like it could be from a soundtrack to a psychological horror film. Perhaps one of the last I know of with some avant-garde leanings is ‘EL AL’ [Union, 1979], with is co-credited to pianist Takashi Kako [ex-Masahiko Togashi Quartet]. Its four long tracks blend big band avant-jazz with neo-classical, almost cinematic moods.
Kimio Mizutani – a renowned electric guitarist, known early on as Jun ‘Kimio’ Mizutani when he led the group Out Cast [he was also in Adams and Blue Ace]. Along with Hiro Yanagida [see below], he was in the ‘Hair’ band and later played in lots of classic ensembles in the late 60’s/early 70’s – such as Love Live Life + One, People, Masahiko Satoh & Sound Brakers, Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos, Dema, Yuigonka and Hiro Yanagida’s and Toshiaki Yokota’s solo album backings. He recorded one great solo album, ‘A Path Through Haze’ [Polydor, 1971], which contains a variety of unique styles broadly akin to some of the music on the other albums he played on around the same time. That is, Japanese-tinged progressive psych with jazzy touches and plenty of variety and evocative moods. However, here Mizutani’s guitar is more restrained and blends beautifully into the rest of the music, which owes a little to David Axelrod in parts. The album also featured keyboardist Masahiko Satoh [see below]. This has been reissued on both CD and LP.
Moon Dancer – a group I know nothing about except that they released an album, ‘Moon Dancer’ [Alfa, 1979], reputedly ‘melodic rock/pop with hints of light symphonic progressive rock’.
Moonriders – a ‘new wave/techno/punk/pop/folk’ group somehow connected with keyboardist Makoto Yano [I thought perhaps he was in the group at some point], who had a career in the late 70’s/early 80’s as a pioneer in ‘ethno-techno’. They somehow grew out of an earlier band, Hachimitsu-Pie (‘Honey Pie’), who released an album in 1973 of stuff apparently influenced by The Band. Moonriders albums include ‘Moonriders’ [Crown, 1977], ‘Istanbul Mambo’ [Crown, 1977], ‘Nouvelles Vagues’ [Crown, 1978], ‘Modern Music’ [Crown, 1979], ‘Camera Egal Stylo’ [Crown, 1980] and ‘Mania Maniera’ [Canyon, 1982]. This latter album is apparently more experimental and avant-garde. Moonriders kept releasing albums into the 90’s.
Mops – this was one of Japan’s best-known garage-beat-psych groups, led by drummer Mikiharu Suzki. They apparently started out as a Ventures-styled instrumental group, but soon turned to garage rock, soul and psych for the ‘group sounds’ era. I think ‘Psychedelic Sounds’ [Victor, 1968] was their first album, and it’s not bad. There are quite a few covers, but mostly done very well, particularly on their versions of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘White Rabbit’, although their inability to discern all the lyrics correctly led to them missing the point of the latter song, even ending on the line “keep your head” instead of “feed your head”! Their cover of ‘Inside Looking Out’ was pretty hard rocking and pre-empted Grand Funk Railroad’s classic version from a couple of years later. The originals on the album were also reasonably good, particularly their anthem ‘I Am Just A Mops’. ‘Rock’n’Roll ’70’ [Liberty, 1970] had moved towards more of a hard rock and blues-influenced psych sound, and was reasonably good despite featuring mainly cover versions. Around this time they also played at the ‘Rock’n’Roll Jam ‘70’ gig, with a side of live music recorded for the various artists album [see below]. A split live album with Flowers – ‘Rock Live!’ [Liberty, 1971] – was also released, but I’m not sure where it fits in chronologically.
By ‘Iijanaika’ [Liberty, 1971] they had gained more of a wild heavy edge with some slight progressive and psych leanings. The heavier tracks are reminiscent of bands such as Toad and Jeronimo, although there are also some very mellow, mainstream tracks as well that make the album not a total success. Overall, a pretty good album, and it has been reissued on CD by Toshiba-EMI/Express. They later reverted to bluesy garage rock on ‘Live’ [Liberty, 1971] and ‘Rain’ [Liberty, 1972]. ‘Mops & 16 Friends’  has some good tracks, mostly those in a slightly progressive, hard-ish boogie rock style, as well as lots of soft rock; it’s mostly pretty commercial, decent but not great, and there are no tracks with the fire of the best stuff on ‘Iijanaika’. Their last album was the jammy and partly live ‘Exit’ [Liberty, 1974], which contained many cover songs but is reputedly great hard psych-prog overall.
Tokihiko Morishita – a keyboardist who made some obscure albums. ‘Toccata’ [Dharma, 1972] was an unusual record, starting with a large slab of avant-garde gothic keyboard abstractions, before sliding inexplicably into a middle section of kinda loungey, psychy song-based proto-prog [making more than half the album], before returning to weird keyboard instrumentals for the remainder, with the third-last track being particularly strange. An album of great contrasts, for better or worse! ‘II – Juuhassai Miman No Ballad’ [Polydor, 1972] is reputedly soft and orchestrated jazz-prog. The only other album I know of is ‘Yokai Gensou’ [Victor, 1978], a collaboration with manga artist Mizuki Shigeru, who drew the accompanying cover art. The album was intended to sonically depict the yokai (spirits, ghosts, monsters) and their world. The two tracks I’ve heard are quite weird electronic music. It was reissued by P-Vine on CD in 1999, but is now out of print. The other two have recently been reissued on CD. Morishita later played keyboards with Geinoh Yamashirogumi [see above] on the Akira soundtrack.
Doji Morita – her music has been described as ‘acid folk psych’, and her debut ‘Goodbye’ [Polydor, 1975] and second album ‘Mother Sky’ [Atlantic, 1976] are reputed to be fine examples of the genre. I have only heard ‘Mother Sky’, which is dominated by soft vocal and piano-based music, but with an appealing spaciness.
Minoru Muraoka – a shakuhachi player. His first album ‘Shakuhachi Wa Utau’ [Denon, 1966] I haven’t heard. ‘Osorezan Suite’ [Daiei, 1970; reissued Yupiteru, 1975] is an obscure gem, fusing shakuhachi and an ancient Japanese vibe with fine progressive jazz. The whole thing has a sanctified feeling similar to the less guitar-oriented parts of the People ‘Ceremony’ album [see below], even though a couple of tracks are jams on more conventional themes (eg. ‘Take Five’). ‘Bamboo’ [United Artists, 1970] is also good, though full of cover versions. Of his albums with his more experimental New Dimension Group, ‘Lupus’ [Victor, 1974] is reputedly the best, with Japanese traditional instruments and bass fed through fuzz and wah pedals through dark, experimental instrumentals. ‘Jigen’ [Victor, 1972] is also said to be very good. ‘So’ [Victor, 1973], the only one of this trio of LPs I’ve heard, is excellent. Another high point is Muraoka and his New Dimension Group’s collaboration with Herbie Mann, ‘Gagaku & Beyond’ [Finnadar Records, 1976], some of which is psychedelic rock of the first order, reminiscent of some German kosmische groups blended with the best bits of People’s ‘Ceremony – Buddha Meets Rock’ album. He released numerous other albums I haven’t heard, and died in 2014.
Murahachibu (‘Social Ostracism’) – formed by guitarist Fujio Yamaguchi [see below; ex-Dynamites, Fujio Dynamite] and vocalist Kazushi Shibata, aka Chahbo. They only released one official album that I know of, ‘Live’ [Elec, 1973], which was recorded at a gig at Kyoto University. The music is fairly basic hard-ish garagey rock and rock’n’roll, sometimes a bit bluesy and mostly sounding a lot like the Rolling Stones but with less finesse and attraction, coupled with weak and derivative song writing. Even the posturing of the singer on the live-on-stage cover photos of ‘Live’ betrays an obvious Jagger fixation, without having to know that this guy really did want to emulate Jagger! Chahbo’s gift was simply in looking good and acting like a rock star, not actually being a decent singer. Regardless, to some people these guys are one of the best Japanese rock bands – though I can’t see why. That said, I can see some of the charm, but not enough to make me go out and but their stuff at anything more than bargain-basement prices. Later, previously unreleased material was issued on CD. ‘1971 - Kutabirete’ [Gator Wobble, 1991] contains 6 studio recordings, and is around 22 minutes long; some of it’s kinda good in a sub-New York Dolls kinda way, and although very much based in old-school rock’n’roll and r&b, the raw, half-assed delivery gives it some punk credibility. Also released are ‘Underground Tapes 1972 KBS Kyoto Studio Live’ [Hagakure/Universal], ‘Underground Tapes 1973 Kyoto Univ Seibu Kodo’ [Hagakure/Universal] and ‘Underground Tapes 1979 Kyoto Univ Seibu Kodo’ [Hagakure/Universal]. For a while in 1970, Murahachibu helped out Yamaguchi’s friend Takashi Mizutani by acting as live stand-ins for the rest of Les Rallizes Denudes, who had absented the scene in one way or another [see below], although they kind of blew it by also playing without Mizutani – and at his displeasure – as Chahbo Rallizes. Yamaguchi’s label Good Lovin’ has released a Murahachibu box set – ‘Murahachibu Box’ – which also includes a DVD of early live footage.
Shuichi ‘Ponta’ Murakami – a drummer/percussionist known to me mainly for his occasional work with Jun Fukumachi [see above]. His first album, ‘Introducing “Ponta” Murakami’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1976], was produced, arranged and co-written by Fukumachi, who also accompanies Murakami on much of the album, playing synths and other keyboards. The only other musician was Kenji Takamizu on electric bass on one track. It’s a really excellent blend of fusion and more experimental styles. Some of the phased drum pieces wouldn’t sound too out of l
place on the Cosmic Jokers’ ‘Planeten Sit-In’! Murakami was a member of Wha-Ha-Ha in the early 80’s [see below].
Murasaki – a heavy rock/progressive band from Okinawa formed in 1970 by keyboardist George Murasaki, influenced by Deep Purple. The vocals were sung in English and the singer is usually remarked on as the band’s weak point, but I don’t find him a problem. Their first album ‘Murasaki’ a.k.a. ‘Starship’  featured a cover of Purple’s ‘Lazy’, and is a good collection of heavy prog and Deep Purple-ish heavy rock. Second album ‘Impact’  is often considered their best. There have been two live albums – ‘Doin’ Our Thing At The Live House’ [Bourbon, 1977] and ‘Why Now...?’ . All have been released on CD by Tokuma, except ‘Why Now...?’ on Victor. In the late 70’s Murasaki formed ‘pomp rock’ group Mariner [see above]. Drummer Aiichi Miyanaga went on to Heavy Metal Army, along with John Patterson [ex-Mariner], Shinki Sugama [ex-Condition Green], Masahiko Takeuchi [ex-Creation] and Yuki Nakajima [ex-Carmen Maki band].
Isato Nakagawa – this folk musician played psych folk on his 12-string guitar and sitar, as featured on his album ‘Isato Nakagawa’ [URC, 1970].
Teruo Nakamura – a jazz bassist. His album ‘Unicorn’ [Three Blind Mice, 1972] has a great cover that gives the impression some kind of psychedelic world fusion may be within the grooves, but instead it is a good jazz album, occasionally hinting at 70s Miles Davis with some psychedelic colourings, but mostly fairly normal, straight modern jazz. Besides percussionist Keiji Kishida, all the other musicians involved were western guests, including Alphonse Mouzon, Lenny White and Steve Grossman.
Namu – only known recordings are two live tracks from the 1974 One Step Festival, at Kohriyama City, Fukushima. The music is good heavy proto-prog rock with keyboards.
Tatsumaru Naniwaya & Warner Beatniks - a totally obscure one-off, with the album ‘Keiantaiheiki - Rock Rokyoku Rock’ [Reprise Japan, 1971], which matched traditional shamisen player/singer Tatsumaru Naniwaya with Kimio Mizutani and other musicians who had just made the ‘Ceremony – Buddha Meets Rock’ album as People. This album, however, is reputedly even better and features wilder fuzz meltdowns!
Ken Narita – singer from Group Sounds band The Beavers. After they broke up, he contributed to the Friends album [see above], before making his own solo album, ‘Nemuri Kara Samete’ [Denon, 1971]. Produced by Miki Curtis from Samurai [see above and below], backing musicians included Kimio Mizutani [see above], Tetsu Yamauchi [ex-Samurai, Friends, Free] and Shigeru Suzuki [Happy End, ex-Apryl Fool]. The music is reputedly varied psychedelic folk and rock.
Akio Niitsu – I don’t know anything about this guy, though I’ve heard excerpts from his album ‘I-O’ [Philips1977], which suggest shows an excellent and eclectic approach to electronic rock with lots of guitars and electronics, weird, bright and psychedelic with a bit of a Haruomi Hosono-like touch. It was reissued on CD by Bridge but is now hard to find. ‘Pet Step’ [Japan Record, 1982] is another album; he’s probaly made more, but there’s no information available in English on the internet.
Niningashi – an obscure folk group who released at least one album of folk rock, ‘Heavy Way’ [Yes/private press, 1974], in a very small print run. It has been compared to the first Happy End album, as well as elements of Morio Agata and Jun Kamikubo.
Nokemoko – ‘From the Black World’ [SMS, 1979] was a great record of heavy rock/metal, typical of many late-70’s heavy bands in its assimilation of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple influences into solid original material.
Matsuo Ohno – Ohno (sometimes spelled Ono) was an experimental musician who made sound effects and incidental music for the popular television cartoon series ‘Atom’ [Astro Boy in the west] in the 60’s. Tape experiments that he recorded between 1963 and 1966 with assistance from Takehisa Kosugi [see above], some of which was used for ‘Atom’, was released on LP as ‘Roots of Electronic Sound’ [Alm, 1975], and reissued in 1979 on Victor with a different cover featuring imagery from the ‘Atom’ cartoon. The music is basically lots of spaced-out electronic explosions and sound effects plastered together and often getting quite nuts. Sections are introduced by spoken voice in Japanese. This album was recently reissued on CD-R by Creel Pone in a limited edition pirate copy, and I believe a legitimate reissue has since come out. Ohno made a more interesting solo album, ‘I Saw the Outer Limits’ [TAM, 1978]; it was a space-themed instrumental album utilising analogue synths. It’s good, out-there electronic music, but really a bit dated for the time – music like this was being made by pioneers in the 1960’s and early 70’s, and here much better use could have been made of the sonic possibilities given everything that had happened in electronic music over the previous decade. It was recently reissued on CD by EM Records, with a bonus mini-disc of Ohno’s rare EP ‘Choku Gigaku’ (translated as either ‘Play on Animals’ or ‘Animal Noise Music’) [Harvest, 1970], which used manipulated animal noises to create renditions of popular tunes.
Koichi Oki – this keyboardist made at least one album of interest to us – ‘Electone Fantastic Vivaldi – Shiki’ [CBS, 1974], which was re-released with a different cover and title (‘Exciting Keyboards - Four Seasons’) some years later. The music is based on Vivaldi compositions, rendered with synth, electone, organ and rock backing (Akira Ishikawa on drums, Ken Yajima on guitar), and sounds like a kind of ELP- or Collegium Musicum-lite, Ekseption via Switched On Classics. It is often cheesy but enjoyable nonetheless.
Olive – this group made at least one album, ‘Olive’ [Studio 3, 1976], containing hard progressive rock with female vocals. With its Deep Purple and Uriah Heep influences, it sounds a lot like Carmen Maki & Oz from the same period. It’s a decent record, though seldom great (best when the vocals are less present).
Seiji Onishi – an experimental musician with connections to the Fluxus movement. His LP/book ‘The Works of Seiji Onishi 1966-1981 [Private press/Leonardo no Hikouki Shuppankai, 1981] is highly sought after; the record itself contains an excerpt from a 4½ hour 1971 performance art piece named ‘Great White Light’, reputedly electro-acoustic ‘noise’ music inspired by the power of the wind.
Yoko Ono – I wasn’t sure whether to include the well-known Yoko Ono, once the wife of Toshi Ichiyanagi [see above], given that she’s so famous already – or perhaps notorious is the better word – and has spent much of her artistic career in countries other than Japan. Also, her musical reputation as an atonal screamer and wailer best appreciated in theory rather than in practice led me to avoid voluntarily listening to any of her stuff until very recently, which has now compelled me to include mention of at least a few early albums. Even so, it is often the case [to my ears] that the accompanying instrumental music is the main attraction rather than Yoko’s vocals. ‘Live Peace in Toronto 1969’ [Apple, 1969] was the first Plastic Ono Band album, and according to John Lennon’s stage announcement at the beginning, they had never played together before. As well as Lennon and Ono, the band featured drummer Alan White and bassist Klaus Voorman, with Eric Clapton guesting on lead guitar. The first side of the album is a roughish romp through some rock’n’roll standards, old Beatles songs and a couple of new Lennon tunes. It’s ok but doesn’t set anything alight. Side two hands the reins over to Yoko’s control, and is much more interesting, featuring a shorter grungy rock groove before a 12+ minute freeform feedback drone-a-thon. In some places Yoko’s wordless vocals are sublime and in tune with the music; in other places her ululations just seem annoying and artlessly splattered for the sake of it. In any case, by the end it has become rather transcendent and all is forgiven. ‘Plastic Ono Band – Yoko Ono’ [Apple, 1970] is a real treat, featuring lots of weird ahead-of-it’s-time avant-rock, similar to Can & Faust in the same way as John Cale & Terry Riley’s ‘Church of Anthrax’, but more modern-sounding. There is also a bit of primal screaming, needless to say. The ‘John Lennon’ Plastic Ono Band album, released at the same time and with a virtually identical cover, is apparently more of a normal song affair and I haven’t heard it. ‘Unfinished Music’…
Osiris – an electronic progressive group formed around 1978 by Hiro Kawahara and friends. They made many albums in a short period – ‘Journey to New World’ [cassette, 1979], ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ [cassette, 1979], ‘Osiris Mythology’ [cassette, 1979], ‘Astral Temple’ [cassette, 1980], ‘Rhapsody For You’ [cassette, 1980], ‘The Restoration of Soul’ [cassette, 1980], ‘In And Out’ [cassette, 1980], ‘In The Mist Of Time’ [Sound Of Poppy, 1980 (‘progressive’)], ‘El Rayo de Luna I’ [cassette, 1981], ‘El Rayo de Luna II’ [cassette, 1981], ‘A Failed Play’ [cassette, 1982] and ‘Echo Troublant’ [cassette, 1982]. At the same time in the early 80’s, Kawahara was in the groups Astral Temple and Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, later forming Heretic [see below].
Oz Days – see under Various artists below.
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