People – a studio super-session project led by Yusuke Hoguchi. Guitarist Kimio Mizutani had previously played with Love Live Life + One [see above] and Masahiko Satoh’s Sound Breakers [see below]. At any rate, their sole album, the concept piece ‘Ceremony – Buddha Meet Rock’ [Teichiku, 1971], is an absolute classic. The album came with extensive liner notes elaborating on the intended meaning for each track – the whole album flowing more or less as a conceptual whole. As the title would suggest, it was an attempt to fuse a Buddhist-influenced spiritual vibe into an innovative oriental form of hypnotic psychedelic progressive rock. It’s all quite unique and doesn’t sound like any preceding groups that I’m aware of, though some bits are like a much less-heavy Flower Travellin’ Band circa ‘Satori’. It’s a bit jazzy in places, hinting at some of Stomu Yamash’ta’s work with Come to the Edge [see below]. There’s lots of nice fuzz guitar leads and overall, a very sanctified vibe that makes this a deep but groovy experience. The album has been reissued on both CD and LP. Following this [or around the same time], Mizutani recorded his equally great solo album [see above].

 

The Pilgrims – a soft rock group who made at least one obscure album, ‘Spooky Time’ [Polygram, 1972]. According to Shadoks, who reissued it at the end of 2007, the music is “mellow underground with English vocals […] A beautiful concept album, far away from any avant-garde tunes.” They compared it to Procul Harum and the Kamijo album ‘Martha’ [see above].

 

P-Model – an avant-garde electro-pop-punk new wave band, formed by Susumu Hirasawa. Amongst their most acclaimed albums are the first two, ‘In A Model Room’ [1979] and ‘Landsale’ [1980], which reflect a Devo influence blended with flashes of proggy RIO-ish complexity. Many others followed, including ‘Potpourri’ [1981], ‘Perspective’ [1982], ‘Another Game’ [1984], ‘Scuba’ [1984; cassette with book], ‘Karkador’ [1985], ‘One Pattern’ [1986], ‘P-Model’ [1992], ‘Big Body’ [1993], ‘The Way Of Live’ [1994], the live ‘Pause’ [1994], ‘Fune’ [1995], ‘Denshi Higeki’ [1997], ‘Music Industrial Wastes’ [1999] and ‘Vistoron’ [2006]. There are also several archival live albums – ‘Virtual Live 1 – Live at S-Ken Studio 1979’, ‘Virtual Live 2 – Live at Shibuya Nylon 100% 1980’ and ‘Virtual Live 3 – Live at Kyodai Seibu Kodo 1982’.

 

Pneuma – a German-styled synth musician, reputedly comparable to Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. ‘Psychabuse’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1995] collected recordings from 1979-85. He also made three albums with a vocalist, Takami – ‘Y de Noir II’, ‘Tennshi-ko’ and ‘Yume no Kirigishi’ [see below]. He later formed Trembling Strain, did an album with Tetsuo Furudate [see below for both] and also researches cognitive science, psychiatric linguistics and clinical medicine.

 

Powerhouse – a hard-ish garage rock group featuring guitarist Shinki Chen, bassist George Yanagi, drummer Shinichi Nogi and vocalist Chibo [as far as I know, not to be confused with Chahbo from Murahachibu]. They made one album, ‘Powerhouse’ aka ‘New Style of Blues… Here’s Powerhouse’ [Toshiba/Express, 1969], which has recently been reissued on CD. It contains all covers, ranging from r&b to garage psych. It’s mostly pretty throwaway, but side 2 is given over to two lengthy jams [on ‘Spoonful’ and ‘Good Morning Little School Girl’] that offer something a bit more adventurous, although both being longer than necessary considering the limited chops of the players at this time. Chen went on to Foodbrain, a solo album [see above], and Speed Glue & Shinki [see below]. Yanagi was heavily involved in Chen’s solo album, and was later vocalist for Strawberry Path and briefly Flied Egg.

 

Prism – apparently a rather Santana-esque fusion band, initially featuring guitarist Katsutoshi Morizono [ex-Yonin Bayashi – see below], who left after the 1st album. They stood out a little by having 2 guitarists and 2 keyboardists. They released a fair few albums – ‘Prism’ [1977], ‘Second Thoughts/Second Move’ [1978], ‘III’ [1979], ‘Live Alive (Absolutely)’ [1981], ‘Mother Earth’ [1990], ‘A Personal Change’ [1992], ‘Jam’ [1994], ‘Whiter’ [1998], ‘In The Last Resort’ [2001] and ‘MJU’ [2003]. Not to be confused with the US AOR band or the obscure US prog band.

 

Pyg! – a progressive pop ‘supergroup’ formed around late 1970/early 1971, from ex-members of The Tempters, The Spiders and The Tigers. The singer, Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada [ex-Tigers], was actually a guy just trying to be provocative. Their first album had a distinctive simple cartoon of a pig on the front – ‘Original First Album’ [Polydor, 1971]. It was reissued on CD some years back by Polydor and has been reissued again more recently. The original LP is now very expensive when encountered. Musically, it contains largely mellow early progressive rock with some slight soft psych touches. Much of it is fairly accessible, and while it’s not a bad album overall, it’s not great, either. They only made one other album, the little-known live 2-LP ‘Free With Pyg’ [Polydor, 1971], which featured covers of heavy groups like Deep Purple as well as the mellower stuff from their studio album. It was reissued by Polydor in 2007. Drummer Hiroshi Oguchi went on to join the glam band Vodka Collins.

 

Les Rallizes Dénudés [Hadaka No Rallizes] – formed in Kyoto, 1967 by the black-clad guitarist/vocalist Takashi Mizutani, partly as a reaction against the ‘Group Sounds’ movement. The group name means something like ‘Fucked Up and Naked’ according to some, which well describes the music! However no-one seems to be able to agree on a correct translation of ‘Rallizes’, which is not a real French word. Early on they hooked up with the Kyoto ‘radical avant-garde theatre group’ Gendai Gekijo, providing musical backing for their performances. The band’s music stayed essentially similar over the years – high volume, raw, lo-fi rock stretched out into repetitive guitar feedback/psychedelic noise-fests, with hints of noisy Velvet Underground, Pärson Sound, and even Acid Mothers Temple without all the electronics. Some of the studio recordings, however, sound much tamer and reveal attempts at actual songs.

In early 1970, bassist Moriyasu Wakabayashi was one of nine Japanese Red Army nutjobs who hijacked an airliner and forced the pilots to fly them to North Korea. In the panic that followed, all the other band members left, and for a while Mizutani did gigs using Murahachibu [see above] as his band. Since 1971, Mizutani has chosen a route of total obscurity, shunning official recordings, interviews, publicity etc. As a result of this, I’m not sure which releases were official [probably none of them?] and which were bootlegs from live gigs or sneaked out of Mizutani’s tape collection. There have been many albums released, with more emerging all the time, though the casual fan would probably only need one or two of them to get the idea. Releases include ‘67-69 Studio et Live’ [Sixe, 1969], a mix of hideous noisy ‘free rock’ and beat-psych of varying levels of merit [from good to pretty bad]; ‘Mizutani’ [1973]; ‘Live 1973’ [1973; repackaged and reissued in 2001 as ‘Field of Artificial Flowers’]; ‘Electric Pure Land’ [1973]; ‘Wild Party’ [1975]; the double-LP ‘’77 Live’ [1977; repackaged and reissued as 2-LP ‘Fucked Up and Naked’, 2-CD ‘Le 12 Mars 1977 à Tachikawa’]; ‘December’s Black Children’ [1989]; ‘Heavier Than A Death In The Family’ [Ain’t Group Sounds, 1995], apparently a re-sequenced version of ‘’77 Live’; ‘Five Colour Coded CDs’ [1999]; ‘Blind Baby Has Its Mothers Eyes’ [Japanese Rock, 2003]; ‘Mars Studio 1980’ [Univive; 4-CD box set]; ‘Naked Diza Star’ [2006], a 3-CD set with live stuff from 1973 to 1987; ‘Wild Trips’ [Univive, 2006], a 5-CD box set of 1976 recordings; ‘Cradle Saloon ‘78’ [Univive, 2006], a 4-CD set with two different recordings of the same gig; ‘Great White Wonder’ [Univive], another 4-CD set of various live stuff; and the ‘best of’ compilation ‘Flightless Bird (Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go)’ [10th Avenue Freeze-Out, 2006]. There is also an LP-side of material on the 1973 ‘Oz Days Live’ various artists album [see below]. This list is certainly not comprehensive! ‘Rallizes House Session at Fussa’ [Dead Flower, 2004] is credited to Les Rallizes Denudes and Yellow [see below], but the Rallizes tracks on the first disc cast Mizutani in some different territory than usual. He is joined by Be on synthesizer, and over two very long tracks they jam into the cosmos, much of it just the two of them, though the latter half of the second track sees bass and drums enter the fray.

The music hasn’t changed much over the years, and as such you can dive in almost anywhere and get a good idea of where Mizutani’s coming from. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, but those who like it tend to really love it and can’t get enough. To most people’s ears they sound rather shambolic at times, and Mizutani’s occasional vocals can be described as mostly pretty awful, but once you get into their aesthetic – and it might take a few listens to sink in, if it’s going to – these things don’t mater so much, and the listener can just enjoy getting engulfed in the maelstrom that inevitably builds up. Certainly, Rallizes have grown on me a little since I wrote the first version of this piece a few years ago.

 

Ranmadou – formed by guitarist Eiryu Kou [ex-Dew] in 1971 with bassist Yukio Saruyama, drummer Toshirou Yashima and singer Hisao Matsuyoshi. In that year they played at the 3rd Annual Folk Jamboree, and their great set was recorded and later released as ‘1971 Summer’ [URC, 1989]. This is a live recording featuring lots of extended jamming from song beginnings, mostly in a slightly bluesy, heavy post-acid rock style. Occasionally the raw guitar riffing sounds like a blend of Black Sabbath and The Stooges! The band’s only studio album, ‘Ranmadou’ [Polydor, 1972], is a patchy affair, and often pretty mainstream, but in amongst the forgettable ditties there’s still some pretty good guitar rock to be had, sometimes with a bit of an acid rock feel, sounding like many forgotten hard post-psych bands that played across the US in this era. It’s a shame it’s so mixed, as some of it is excellent. Apparently the blame lies with Kou, who wanted to sound more like Happy End [see above]. Both albums have been reissued on CD more than once.

Rashomon – this group included Kuni Kawachi [ex-Happenings Four, see above]. Their first album, made with studio musicians, was ‘The Constitution of Japan’ aka ‘Our Constitutional Rights’ [Atlantic, 1971]. It comes across a bit like a woefully straight rock-pop musical (which it probably is) with horns and strings layered on, but has some pretty good moments when the fuzz guitar occasionally becomes prominent, and at times there is a mild psychedelic vibe. A disintegrated version of the group made a final album, ‘Indian, We Prefer Red To Death’ [Atlantic, 1972], I haven’t heard. Both have been reissued.

 

RC Succession – a trio who are apparently well-known in Japan and have been around for a long time. The only one of their many albums I’ve heard is their debut, ‘Shoki Nyo RC Succession’ [Toshiba, 1972]. Although leaning to the mainstream, it’s a fairly enjoyable album with a style that’s hard to pin down. Touching on proto-progressive rock, psych, folk, jug-band music etc., comparisons could be made in part to early Family, and the first Tea & Symphony album, though not as good nor as strange. Other albums are ‘Tanoshii Yuuni’ [1972], ‘Single Man’ [Polydor, 1976], ‘Rhapsody’ [1980], ‘Please’ [1980], ‘Beat Pops’ [1982], ‘OK’ [1983], ‘Heart Ace’ [1985], ‘Marvy’ [1988], ‘Covers’ [1988] and ‘Baby A Go-Go’ [1990].

 

The Red Birds (Akai Tori) – reputedly a ‘jazz funk psych’ band with some connection to Flied Egg. Their albums include ‘Party’ [Liberty, 1972], ‘Takeda No Komoriuta’ [Liberty, 1972] and ‘Utsukushii Hoshi’ [Liberty, 1972].

 

Ike Reiko – Reiko was only 17 when she made her only album, ‘Kokotsu No Sekai’ [Teichiku, 1971], which features her topless on the front cover clutching a microphone! It’s apparently all covers of Iroke Kayokyoku music, but being ignorant of such things, to me it sounds mostly like subtly orchestrated cocktail jazz ballads, with erotic moaning over pretty much the whole thing – one track even has her being whipped! There’s a vague psych feel to some of it, and musically, some of the album is not too far from J.A. Caesar’s pretty ordinary ‘Den-en ni Shisu’ and Kiyoko Itoh’s ‘Woman at 23 Hour Love-In’ [see above]. Around the same time she went into sex-and-violence exploitation films and is quite famous. The album has been reissued on CD by Tiliqua.

 

Renzoku Shasatsuma – the name of this Kyoto power trio means something like ‘serial killer’! I don’t think they released anything at the time, but there is a CD of a live show - ‘1978.3.26 Shibuya Yaneura’. Starting out as free noise rock, via an unexpected mutilation of Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, grooves begin to coalesce until you’re treated to heavy acid rock jams and savage riff rock. The guitarist can really play, and frequently throws up a riotous wall of sound. The bassist sometimes has trouble keeping it together, and the infrequent vocals range from ok to awful, but the music as a whole is so insane these points hardly matter, if you’re into fucked-up guitar freakouts. Overall it’s like a blend of 3/3 (Sanbun No San), Fushitsusha and Les Rallizes Denudes. Despite a few severe tape malfunctions, the sound quality is pretty good.

 

Ring – a prog band who existed in the mid-70’s, sounding like a crude approximation of bands ranging from Far East Family Band and Cosmos Factory, to King Crimson. The members were Takashi Kokubo (drums, vocals), Masato Kondo (guitar), Hiroshi Hamada (bass) and Yukitoshi Morishige (keyboards, synths). ‘The Empire of Necromancers’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2006] contains live in the studio recordings from 1975, presumably for an unreleased album project. There are also 2 bonus tracks by a later incarnation of the group, credited as Kokubo Synthesizer Works [consisting of Kokubo with Kayo Matsumoto (both playing synths) and guest guitarist Haruhiko Tsuda], recorded in 1978 and reworked with electronic drums for this CD; these tracks are more or less comparable to some of David Vorhaus’ later White Noise music, but not as interesting. Kokubo continued to make interesting electronic music, such as the ambient bliss of ‘Jamaica/Wave and Light and Earth’ [Teichiku Ion Series, 1993].

 

Rotten Peach – an obscure folk rock group who released at least one album, ‘Rotten Peach’ [TPL, 1975]. However, one track I heard on Youtube was more psychedelic and hard rock-oriented than I expected!

 

Round House – a fiery instrumental progressive jazz rock group formed in 1976. They may or may not have released an album at the time [I’ve seen conflicting claims], and broke up in 1979, but live recordings from 1978 have been released on CD as ‘Jin-zo-Ni-n-gen’ [Music Term Presents/Poseidon, 2003]. It mediocre sound quality but is musically great, mixing symphonic, heavy and jazz progressive rock styles. Keyboardist Yoshihiro Kataoka later ended up in L’Evoluzione [see below]. The band reformed and released at least two more albums, ‘Live@2001 in Osaka’ [Music Term Presents, 2001] and ‘Wings to Rest’ [Poseidon, 2002], which reputedly has a jazzy, almost Santana-like flavour and has been claimed to date from 1979.

 

Rumble – this obscure band featured keyboardist Toshio Egawa, prior to Fromage [briefly in 1976] and Scheherezade [see below]. Their track on the compilation ‘70’s West Japanese Rock Scene’ [Made In Japan, 1991] is reasonably good Deep Purple/Uriah Heep-influenced heavy prog, and is the only recording that I know of.

 

Koji Ryuzaki & Rock Succession – under this assemblage, Ryuzaki delivered the album ‘Moog Sound Now’ [Techiku/Union, 1972], a collection of instrumental quasi-psych-pop tunes performed by conventional instruments, with a Moog accompaniment that’s mostly unobtrusive. Some of it is pretty cheesy, some of it is good, but it’s all pretty conventional and doesn’t break any barriers or contain anything very memorable. It’s been reissued on CD [P-Vine, 2000]. Ryuzaki is better known these days for having done some of the music for the film ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’.

 

Sab – a very obscure trio fronted by Sab, and accompanied by Meg and Ravi. They recorded only one album that I know of, ‘Crystallization’ [Vanity, 1978]. It’s full of very good cosmic music, with plenty of synthesizers, electronics, keyboards, and even some guitar, sitar and flute thrown in for good measure. This should appeal to fans of Michael Hoenig and Tangerine Dream. A CD reissue is supposedly in preparation but there hasn’t been any progress that I’m aware of.

 

Sadistic Mika Band – one of the better known Japanese bands of the era, largely due to some international distribution, being released on Harvest in the UK. They were led by guitarist Kazuhiko Kato [ex-Folk Crusaders] and his wife Mika. Their first album, ‘Sadistic Mika Band’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1973], was reputedly ‘uncompromising heavy rock with a pervasive Oriental underlay’. An NME review at the time said that it made “Iggy and the Stooges sound like the Amadeus String Quartet”! However I’ve also seen reviews saying that much of it is “straight-ahead pop with country, reggae and rock’n’roll influences here and there.” The truth is closer to the last description, though some of the rockier tracks do have good some good fuzzed guitar here and there, and there is a slightly weird production and execution to the whole thing that it seems to link to some Tropicalia. There’s certainly nothing here I would call “uncompromising heavy rock”, and the person who made the Stooges comment needs his head checked! Anyone expecting anything approaching or surpassing The Stooges will be sorely disappointed.

Their next album was made with UK producer Chris Thomas – ‘Kurobune’ aka ‘Black Ship’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1974], with the band more or less relocating to England for the next few years. ‘Black Ship’ was again patchy, but with some really good stuff, and is arguably their best album. It is sometimes more progressive and kinda spacey, and also funkier overall, and lacking the hard rock’n’roll of the debut. The only other albums I’m aware of [not including reformations] are ‘Hot! Menu’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1975], ‘Mika Band Live in London’ [1976], ‘Sadistics’ [1977] and the final, ironically titled ‘We Are Just Taking Off’ [1978]. Kato had left some time after ‘Hot! Menu’ because Mika was having an affair with their producer. The drummer, Yukihiro Takahashi, later joined Yellow MagicOrchestra.

 

Ryuichi Sakamoto – a classically-trained keyboardist/composer with tendencies towards electronic and ethnic music. He’s known as one of the fathers of ‘techno-pop’. However one of his earliest albums, a collaboration credited to Toshiyuki Tsuchitori and Sakamoto – ‘Disappointment-Hateruma’ [ALM, 1976] – is very different to his later work. One side is dense free improvisation with percussion and piano, and the other is unusual, and often minimal, electronics, piano and percussion that sounds quite unique. His first solo album was ‘Thousand Knives Of’ (‘Sen No Naifu’) [Nippon Columbia/Denon, 1978], which has been described as having an ‘instrumental techno sound influenced by contemporary music [Xenakis and so on]’, or ‘clearly influenced by German synth music of the past decade’. At the same time he had formed ‘techno-pop’ group Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below] with 2 others who guested on this album. Soon after he recorded some albums with guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, who had played on ‘Thousand Knives Of’. ‘Tokyo Joe’ [Nippon Columbia, 1978] came out as by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Kazumi Watanabe, and is apparently fusion. He also collaborated with Watanabe’s jazz-fusion group Kylyn. His next album of interest was ‘B-2 Unit’ [Alfa, 1980], reputedly containing ‘hard-edged electronics’ and ‘avant-garde and abstract sound in dub style’. He has made numerous other solo albums which I also know little about. He made the music for the film ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ [1983], as well as acting in it as one of the main characters, and also made the music for ‘The Last Emperor’ and numerous other films.

 

Hideakira Sakurai – a multi-instrumentalist and composer who had worked with Stomu Yamash’ta & The Horizon, and with Masahiko Satoh [see below]. Sakurai is perhaps best known for creating the soundtrack music for many of the cult classic Lone Wolf and Cub/Baby Cart films [Kozure Ookami] based on the earlier mangas [be aware that not all of the soundtrack music from these films is of interest]. Kunihiko Murai was responsible for those not done by Sakurai. Both have also worked on other soundtracks. I’m not sure who actually played the music with Sakurai – I’d be surprised if he played everything. The soundtracks I’ve heard range from evocative Japanese music to various kinds of moody progressive rock, electronic music and other weird sounds. I suppose Sakurai was to the Lone Wolf and Cub films what Goblin were to the films of Dario Argento! There is at least one compilation CD available, ‘The Best Of Lone Wolf and Cub’ [La La Land, 2004].

 

Sally & Shiro – the album ‘Tora 70619’ [Polydor, 1970] featured ex-Tigers Sally & Shiro Kishiibe before the formation of Pyg, with extra backing by members of Spiders, Happenings Four and the Flowers.

 

Samurai – a Japanese group led by vocalist/flautist Miki Curtis. They went to Europe in late 1967 [some say 1968], picking up some European members and thus becoming half-Japanese. In London they recorded a single and their debut album, the double-LP [so I’m told] ‘Samurai’ a.k.a. ‘Miki Curtis & Samurai’ [German Metronome, 1970], as well as a single only released in Italy. They should not be confused with the UK group of the same name, who released a self-titled LP on Greenwich in 1971.

Their second album, ‘Green Tea’ [Philips, 1970], is as far as I can tell simply a single-LP repackaging of the debut only released in Japan, to where the band had returned. The last album was ‘Kappa’ [Philips, 1971]. The band played a varied kind of psychedelic progressive rock, occasionally a bit hard-rocking, with jazzy and exotic Asian touches. They’ve been compared by Vernon Joyson to Andwella’s Dream and early Traffic. The music on their first album is fairly accessible, but without at all sacrificing quality or creativity. On ‘Kappa’ they played lengthier tracks with more of a heavy progressive leaning, though still with an exotic creativity. The album is not named for the Greek letter, but for a mythical Japanese water monster. This, and the single-LP version of the debut, have been reissued on CD by P-Vine. The debut has also been reissued on Naked Line.

The bass player, Tetsu Yamauchi, was later in Friends [see above], Free and The Faces, as well as pursuing a brief solo career. Drummer Yujin Harada was later in the last incarnation of Far East Family Band [see above]. Graham Smith, credited on harmonica on the first 2 albums, is probably the same person who later played violin in String Driven Thing and Van Der Graaf. Miki Curtis went on to release at least one solo album [see above].

 

3/3 [Sanbun No San] – a guitar/bass/drums trio, all ex-Maru Sankaku Shikaku [see above]. They released one album as an acetate demo – ‘3/3’ [LLX, 1975]. Only 15 copies were pressed; presumably there was no record label interest, because this lo-fi record appears to be all that they made. The music is very heavy, raucous acid rock influenced by the likes of Randy Holden and MC5, with a bit of a punk feel as well, sounding overall more like San Fransisco’s Shiver, Shagrat [the heavy stuff with Larry Wallis, not the stuff Twink has put out] and George Brigman. Here and there it even reminds me a bit of early Guru Guru, though without electronic effects. It’s been reissued on vinyl by Shadoks, and more recently as a 2-CD set on P-Vine with bonus unreleased material. Guitarist/vocalist Reck and drummer Chiko Hige moved to New York after this, playing with numerous well-known musicians in the ‘No Wave’ scene there [Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, James Chance & the Contortions], before returning to Japan and forming post-punk band Friction in 1978 [see above]. These days Reck is playing with Keiki Haino and Pill as Head Rush.

 

Sansara – their album ‘Children of Earth’ [Columbia, 1979] is reputedly similar in style to Melting Glass Box [see above].

 

Tetsuo Saitoh – ‘Kimi Ha Eiyuu Nankajyanai’ [URC, 1972] reputedly contains progressive folk, with prominent guitar and howling vocals. Other personnel include Yoshio Hayakawa [ex-Jacks]. The cover has a large ‘6/8’ on the front, but I’m not sure if that is part of the title, or what! It has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.

Hiroshi Sato – a keyboardist, whose first album ‘Super Market’ [Wave Concept, 1976] featured well-known musicians such as Shonti Murakami and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I haven’t heard it – the music is reputedly funky light fusion.This was followed by ‘Time’ [Wave Concept, 1977]. ‘Orient’ [Kitty, 1979] was in a more electronic vein and has been described as “synth-funk exotica at its finest” [on www.listentothis.info]. He also played on Hosono & Yokoo’s legendary ‘Cochin Moon’ album [see above]. Numerous albums followed through the 1980s; he died in 2012.

 

Masahiko Satoh 

Satoh [sometimes spelled as ‘Sato’] is a composer/arranger/keyboardist from Tokyo. After leaving music school he played in various jazz combos in Japan [and later, Europe and the US], and recorded his first album as the Masahiko Satoh Trio, ‘Palladium’ [Express/Toshiba, 1969], which won the Japan Jazz Award. The Trio’s live ‘Deformation’ [Express, 1969] is a diverse and textured avant/free jazz experience which includes the use of tapes alongside piano, bass and drums. In 1970 and 1972 he also won awards of excellence for two compositions. Numerous jazz and experimental albums followed, including one with Jean-Luc Ponty, one with Albert Mangelsdorff, some with Stomu Yamash’ta [see below], and many with Toshiyuki Miyama’s New Herd [see above]. ‘Pianology’ [Toshiba/Far East, 1971] was credited to Masahiko Satoh & Wolfgang Dauner, and featured ring-modulated piano duets. ‘Penetration’ [Express/Far East, 1971] contained two long tracks by the Masahiko Sato Trio live in Berlin; both are great pieces of avant-free jazz with prominent ring-modulated piano.

Satoh is perhaps best known amongst collectors of Japanese progressive music for the excellent album as Masahiko Satoh & Sound Breakers, ‘Amalgamation’ aka ‘Kokotsu no Showa Genroku’ [Liberty/Toshiba, 1971]. He was backed by Mototeru Takagi, Hideakira Sakurai [see above], Kiyoko Itoh [see above], Kimio Mizutani [see above], and some say Hiro Yanagida [see below]. Each side is a more or less continuous piece, divided into numerous cumbersome titles. Side 1 is a riotous collage of free psych rock, avant-garde jazz and musique concrete, coming across like a blend of Friendsound, The Feed-Back and Red Noise, whereas side 2 is more focussed on percussion. I believe this album has been reissued on CD, but I lack release details.

Satoh also played keyboards and Moog on Mizutani’s solo album, as well as composing some or all of the music [see above]. Another Satoh album consisted of electronic music, composed and performed on synthesizer – ‘Switched On East/Electronic Japan’ [Columbia, 1971]; I presume it’s Japanese traditional music played on Moog! He collaborated with German guitarist Attila Zoller for ‘A Path Through Haze’ [MPS, 1971], credited to Attila Zoller and Masahiko Satoh, which featured a new version of the title track which Satoh had written for Kimio Mizutani’s solo album. Whilst in Germany he also made the restrained live free jazz album ‘Trinity’ [Enja, 1971], with Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre and American bassist Peter Warren. Back in Japan, he was also involved in K. Miho & Jazz Eleven, the Dema studio project [see above], and was integrally involved in the album ‘Yamatai-Fu’ [Toshiba-EMI/Far East, 1972] performed by Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd [see above], for which he won the award in 1972 mentioned above.

Satoh’s soundtrack to the animated film ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ [Cinevox, 1975] has recently been reissued by Finders Keepers, though minus a couple of tracks from the original LP. Reputedly this is no great loss as they were much more accessible, but I would have preferred a full reissue all the same. The music remaining on the reissue is great and mostly psychedelic, as well as being quite removed from anything else he’s done, and sounding like a partly experimental product of the late 1960s.

Satoh has continued his career in jazz and composing/arranging to the present day, and formed his own label BAJ Records in 1997. A good discography listing can be found here - http://www.mmjp.or.jp/m_satoh/...

Ryoko Satoh – she made at least one album, ‘Kazemakase’, [label?, 1973]; going from the track on Youtube, it contains good folk rock with a slight psychy vibe.

Somei Satoh – this experimental musician formed the multimedia performance group Tone Field in 1969, but didn’t release any music until his solo album ‘Hymn For The Sun (Works of Somei Satoh)’ [ALM Records, 1976]. This was followed by ‘Emerald Tablet’ [ALM, 1981] and ‘Mandala/Sumeru’ [ALM, 1982]. This latter album is reputedly an excellent high point with two side-long tracks, but I’ve only been able to find the track ‘Mandala’ as it was compiled on the later CD ‘Mandara Trilogy’ [New Albion, 1998], which contains three similarly-themed electronically-treated droning chant pieces which are extraordinary, deep trips; the other two tracks are from 1986 and 1990. Satoh has made numerous other albums which cross into classical territory.

 

Scheherezade – a progressive hard rock band from the late 70’s who were quite good. They were Terutsugu Hirayama [guitar], Toshio Egawa [keys; ex-Rumble, Fromage], Jutaro Ohkubo [bass], Hideaki Indou [drums] and Hisakatsu Igarashi [vocs]. They’ve released at least one album but I lack any details for it. They have two tracks on the compilation ‘70’s West Japanese Rock Scene’ [Made In Japan, 1991]; one is great ripping prog-metal partly reminiscent of Deep Purple and Rainbow, the other is not quite so good and reminds me of sub-par mid/late-70’s German prog bands such as Grobschnitt and Novalis [For the record, I do like earlier Grobschnitt!]. In 1979 the band broke up, with Hirayama, Egawa and Igarashi joining with members of San Sui Kan to become Novela. Hirayama later formed Teru’s Symphonia, Ohkubo joined Starless, Indou joined Pageant and Egawa formed Gerard [see below]. Scheherezade reformed in the early 90’s to record their first album, ‘Scheherezade’ [Nippon Crown, 1992].

 

Seishokki – a group from Asahikawa, formed by high school students including Ikuro Takahashi [who later went on to play with Fushitsusha, High Rise, Che-Shizu, Maher Shalal Hash Baz and others]. The name apparently translates to something like ‘Organs of Blue Eclipse’. I’m not sure if they released anything at the time, but the recent LP ‘1975-1977’ [Siwa, 2005] collects most of their known recordings and seems to be the only release available. They played sometimes noisy, repetitious, minimal and lo-fi experimental music driven by guitar, percussion and occasional keyboards and other instruments, partly comparable to French groups such as Semool, Fille Qui Mousse and Mahogany Brain, and the German Limbus 3.

Yasufumi Shibata, Kiwamu Takahashi, Kiyomi Yashuura – this trio made one album, ‘1’ [Ichiyosha Co., 1972]; I’ve heard one track from it, which was pretty good folk with a psychedelic vibe.

Yasuaki Shimizu – starting out as a jazz musician, playing sax, flute and piano, Shimizu made his debut with ‘Get You!’ [Yupiteru, 1978], followed by ‘Far East Express’ [Electric Bird, 1979]. I haven’t heard either but they are reputedly smooth jazz-funk. After this more interesting influences crept in and took over. These days he is best known in the west for ‘Kakashi’ [Better Days, 1982], an excellent album that is both accessible and experimental. The music is hard to describe and is different on every track, but with a unified feel, splashes of new wave blending with cosmic beach music (Denis Wize meets Mkwaju Ensemble?). Preceding this were ‘Berlin’ [Electric Bird, 1980] and ‘IQ 179’ [B&M, 1981] which may be interesting – I haven’t heard them but their discogs genre entries place them both outside of smooth jazz. He has made many more albums I know nothing about yet, including many as The Saxophonettes [a solo project] and later with The Saxophonettes [as an actual group].

 

Shingetsu – a complex symphonic prog band influenced by Genesis. Their albums are ‘New Moon/Shingetsu’ [Marquee/Belle Antique/ZEN, 1979; reissued by Belle Antique], ‘Akai me no Kagami Live ‘79’ [Belle Antique, 1979], ‘Kagaku no Yoro’ [Belle Antique, 1985; also included material from the pre-Shingetsu band Serenade] and ‘Live 25-26 July 1979: ABC Kaikan Hall, Tokyo 1979’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2004]. After this, some members went on to the group Outer Limits [see below]. Shingetsu’s debut album, the only one I’ve heard, is pretentious and tiresome symphonic neo-prog.

Osamu Shoji – a keyboard/synth player who made a whole heap of albums, beginning with ‘Jataka’ [Warner Bros, 1978]. What I’ve heard of his early 80’s stuff is reminiscent of Fumio Miyashita’s ‘New Lights – Journey Into Space’ [see below]. Later he drifted into anime soundtrack work.

 

Smoky Medicine – a psychedelic group formed by teen guitarist Char; they were apparently very popular in the underground scene but never got to record anything. Char went on to bigger local success as a solo musician, before temporarily retiring from music near the end of the 70’s. In 1979 he re-emerged with a trio, JL&C, apparently recapturing a focus on musical content over commercial appeal. In 1982 they changed their name to Pink Cloud and went on to release numerous albums, as well as Char’s solo albums. Char later formed another band, Psychedelix, in 1991; they went on to release several albums as well. I have no idea what any of the music is like!

Sons of Sun – this group made one album, ‘Kaizoku Kid No Boken’ [Victor, 1972], which translates to ‘The Pirate Kid’s Adventure’. Mostly it’s pleasant, fairly uninteresting soft rock but there are some occasional more psychedelic touches that give the album some flair. Hiro Yanagida [see below] plays on it.

Sound Creation – probably a studio-only group. ‘Progressive Rock’ [Teichiku, 1971] was their first and is reputedly not very interesting. ‘Rock Fantasia’ [Teichiku, 1972], arranged by Yusuke Hoguchi [see People] brilliantly wove instrumental covers such as Theme From Shaft, Family Affair and Peace Train into a tapestry of strange, cosmic psychedelic/progressive rock. This extremely obscure album sorely deserves a reissue!

 

Space Circus – an instrumental progressive fusion band straying into occasional cosmic territory, with prominent Moog, violin & guitar. Their first album, ‘Funky Caravan’ [RCA, 1977], had some searing funky jazz rock, especially the opening track, and some great prog-fusion, but some of it is a bit too much on the cheesy smooth fusion side of things. The second (and last) album, ‘Fantastic Arrival’ [RCA, 1978] continued in a similar vein. Some comparisons can be made to Eleventh House and Tako [the Yugoslavian one].

 

Speed, Glue & Shinki – guitarist Shinki Chen had previously been in The Golden Cups [maybe, and briefly even if so], Powerhouse, and Foodbrain, and recorded a solo album [see above]; bassist M. Glue [Masayoshi Kabe] had previously been in The Golden Cups and Foodbrain; songwriter, drummer and vocalist Joey ‘Pepe’ Smith [ex-Zero History] was a Filipino with a large speed habit! They recorded two great albums, ‘Eve’ [Atlantic, 1971] and the 2-LP ‘Speed, Glue & Shinki’ [Atlantic, 1972]. The main musical style on both albums is a mix of bluesy, rough & ready heavy rock and slight touches of psych/acid rock, ballads, and occasional experimental blasts. Some people think these guys were pretty unique and amazing; in my opinion they’re pretty good overall but there’s a lot of stuff like this from the same period the world over. It’s mostly pretty derivative and a lot of the riffs sound suspiciously familiar from elsewhere, although performed with gutsy gusto [and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no way these guys were ‘free rock’ as Julian Cope has said – early Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream played free rock, as did Cream occasionally when really letting rip in live jams, whereas this is resolutely structured, not counting the occasional experimental bass solo or minimal synth work]. I suspect some people get a bit of a schoolboy thrill from the open drug references and kind of punky attitude, and let their musical judgement take a back seat to image when rating this band so highly over others. No matter – it’s great if people love these guys.

What sets the second album apart from the first is that it’s a bit tighter, and much of the last quarter of it consisted of fairly minimal and rudimentary synthesizer explorations from Smith, who had apparently just bought a synth and wanted to try it out on record. Due to Glue often being absent and unreliable at this point (he later released a solo album – ‘Moon Like A Moon’ [VAP, 1983]), they were also joined on the album by Filipino bassist Mike Hanopol [also ex-Zero History], later in Juan De La Cruz and a solo artist back in the Phillipines. Incidentally, the band appear on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ [see below].

Not sure what happened to Chen and Glue afterwards, though Joey Smith supposedly recorded with DK Mushroom & Son [see above] and went on to the second line-up of Juan De La Cruz in the Philippines, with Hanopol. With them they carried some of the flavour of Speed Glue & Shinki to that revamped group.

The Spiders – a Group Sounds band which reputedly started out more rough and ready, but then got commercially moulded and released many albums of pop. However their 6th and last album ‘Meiji Hyakunen’ [Philips, 1969] is reputedly much better, mixing pop-psych with great fuzz-laden acid rock. After the album did poorly, the group disbanded, some members forming Pyg [see above].

 

Strawberry Path – these guys made only one album that I’m aware of, ‘When the Raven Has Come To The Earth’ aka ‘Ohtori Ga Chikyu Ni Yattekitahi’ [Philips, 1971], credited to Strawberry Path – Jimmy & Hino. It’s largely a great slab of bluesy heavy psychedelic rock in a slight early progressive vein. Some of it sounds a bit like funky Hendrix as filtered through New Zealand’s Human Instinct. A couple of tracks are pretty bad commercial ballad slop, but they don’t ruin it for me as the rest is so good. Drummer Hiro Tsunoda was previously in The Jacks and Foodbrain, and went on to Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see above]. Guest vocalist George Yanagi had played bass in Powerhouse, and went on to sing briefly for Flied Egg. Hisashi Eto also played bass on the album as a guest. Guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Shigeru Narumo also did a solo album, ‘London Notes’ [Columbia/Denon, 1971], but I don’t know anything about the music on it. It has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. There’s also a CD of demo recordings, ‘Smokin’ Drug, Demo & Hotcake’ [Ain’t Group Sounds], which I haven’t heard.

Tosha Suiho/Tosho Meisha – a nagauta flute player, who went by the name Tosho Meisha from the late-80s onward. His first album ‘Fantastic Sounds in Shino Flute’ [Express, 1971], with arranger/conductor Norio Maeda, featured Takeshi Inomata and Kimio Mizutani [see above for both], as well as numerous other session musicians. Half of the LP consists of covers of popular songs of the time, while the other half is a ‘concerto for shino flute and rock band’ composed by Maeda. I haven’t heard it yet so can’t comment on the music further. There was a CD reissue [Think!, 2011]. ‘A World of Whistle/Drums’ (according to Google translate) [Columbia, 1977] featured one side of drums and flute, and a second side adding backing by Fresh & Noble Orchestra; the flute on side 2 was instead by Suiho’s brother, Yoshio Nakagawa. ‘The Glass Flute’ [Columbia, 1979] has just two long tracks and is classified as ‘ambient’ on discogs.com. ‘Four Season Flute’ [Denon, 1983] was an epic 4-LP set, issued in Germany (also as a 3-CD) as ‘Four Seasons in Kyoto’ [Denon, 1984]. Many more albums have followed.

Sunadokei/Yatsuhiro Koyama – seemingly a one-off, with the album ‘Firebird Vol. 1’ [Victor, 1973]. Led by keyboardist Koyama, the group included a couple of ex-Sons of Sun musicians [see above]. The cover art suggests this is music based on Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Phoenix’ manga. It’s quite a mixed affair, with the best being in the realm of space rock (or at least psychedelic prog), although much of the rest is folky ballads, soft rock and pop.

 

Hiromasa Suzuki – a jazz-based pianist and composer. His ‘Rock Joint Biwa’ album has been referred to for a while amongst western collectors as ‘Fulukotofumi’ due to it being written on the back cover; however this should be ‘Furukotofumi’ [as Japanese has no ‘l’], and is part of the name of the sole album, ‘Rock Joint Biwa - Kumikyoku: Furukotofumi [Suite: Furukotofumi]’ [RCA Victor, 1972], which was quadraphonic. Furukotofumi aka Kojiki is an ancient Japanese book. The record was probably a studio band affair, featuring Akira Ishikawa [see above] and others. The music blends Japanese traditional sounds, thanks to the biwa, with jazz and psychedelic rock. There is another album following on in the conceptual series, Rock Joint Cither [Sitar] – Kumikyoku: Silk Road, with many of the same musicians, though mainly credited to Hiromasa Suzuki, I believe. It is a similar approach except with sitar as a focus instead of biwa, though not as rocky and psychedelic. Both have been reissued on CD. Other albums that I’ve heard are more ordinary jazz and jazz-funk, but still good. He is also known for his group Freedom Unity and was a member of Terumasa Hino’s Quintet [see above], as well as composing and conducting ‘By The Red Stream’ with Jiro Inagaki & Big Soul Media [see above].

Isao Suzuki - a jazz-bassist. A lot of his earlier stuff was pretty straight. ‘Orang-Utan’ [Three Blind Mice, 1976], credited to Isao Suzuki Quartet +2, is mostly good modern jazz, sometimes funky, but the lengthy title track is excellent and sits somewhere between ‘70s Miles Davis and (at times) Dzyan. His album co-credited to Masahiko Togashi [see below], ‘A Day Of The Sun’ [King, 1979], is great throughout. ‘Approach’ [Art Union, 1986] with Togashi, Hideo Ichikawa and Akira Shiomoto, is a good modern jazz album, from straight to more interesting ECM-like fare.

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