Various artists: Electric Allnight Show @ Saitama Univ. 1973.11.3-4 – a 2-CD of a previously unreleased live concert [Dead Flower, 2008] featuring Les Rallizes Denudes, Acid Seven, Anzen Band, Mentanpin, New Soul Session, Masato Minami and Gypsy Blood.

Various artists: The Encounter With UFO – this was a soundtrack LP [CBS/Sony, 1978], and apart from suspecting it contains electronic music I know nothing further about it. It appears to be different to Yu Shirano’s ‘Shocking UFO’ album of the same year, also a soundtrack, as it has a different cover and is on a different label, although I haven’t heard it [the CBS/Sony one] so I can’t compare the contents.

 

Various artists: Genya Concert aka Genya-Sai - a very obscure various artists album [TV Man Union, 1971] documenting a three-day combination underground music festival and protest against the expansion of the Narita International Airport [which was to force farmers from their land], held on some of the very land in question. As well as recordings of the protest goings-on and heated debates, there are live recordings of Blues Creation, Brain Police, Dew and Lost Aaraaff [first recorded performance]. It was reissued once by Purple Trap [1995], but a recent expanded CD reissue adds music by Mototeru Takagi Trio, Masayuki Takayanagi’s New Directions Unit [both Takagi and Takayanagi were free-jazzers who played with Masahiko Togashi – see above] and Shun Ochiai Trio [a good free jazz group I know nothing further about], as well as extra stage announcements and shouting, and traditional songs done by local farmer’s wives. This reissue [on Hayabusa Landings] also comes with a DVD of Super-8 footage, but the set appears to be unavailable already. The full New Directions Unit performance is available on CD as ‘Complete La Grima’ [Doubtmusic]; the full Lost Aaraaff performance is included in the Lost Aaraaff 4-CD ‘Soul’s True Love’.

 

Various artists: Oz Days Live - a very rare 2-LP [Oz, 1973] set compiling performances from a five day benefit festival called Oz Last Days at the ‘Oz live space’, organized by Dr Acid Seven. It featured a side each for Taj Mahal Travellers [as a trio], Les Rallizes Denudes, and Minami Masato, with the first side split between Acid Seven and Miyako Ochi [see above for all]. This album recently received a limited CD reissue, taken from a vinyl source but mostly fairly clean. The original record might be easier to find than expected, as it apparently received some distribution in western countries.

 

Various artists: Planets in Rock Age – an obscure record from 1971 involving Hiro Yanagida [see below], Kimio Mizutani [see above], two folks called Mao and Sammy, and probably others. It all sounds like it could be the work of a studio band rather than an actual ‘various artists’ album, and I don’t know what the thought behind this was. Anyway, it’s a mix of fairly forgettable psych-pop with horns, and heavier funky rock which is much better.

 

Various artists: Rock Age Concert – presumably a live album [Atlantic (also claimed to have been on warner/Pioneer, but the only front cover scan I’ve seen showed the Atlantic logo and no other), 1971], with performances by Blind Bird, Flower Travellin’ Band, Speed Glue & Shinki, Far Out, Too Much, Rock Pilot, Juni Rush (from Too Much) and Crinkum Crankum. Certainly a record I’d like to hear!

 

Various artists: Rock’n’Roll Jam ’70 – a double-LP [Toshiba/Express, 1970] featuring live performances from a faux-Battle of the Bands-style concert, with the Flowers, Mops, Golden Cups and Happenings Four. It was reissued on CD by P-Vine (2002).

Various artists: Underground Tracks 70’s – a 2-CD compilation [Dead Flower, 2006] of previously unreleased (live and studio) recordings dating from the 1970s featuring Les Rallizes Denudes, Yellow, Masato Minami, Lost Aaraaff and Taisuke Morishita solo on synthesizer (from Be and Yellow).

 

Various artists: 70’s West Japanese Rock Scene – this retrospective compilation CD [Made In Japan, 1991] focused on bands that were firmly progressive rock, with recordings dating from 1976-78; fairly predictable stuff, but good all the same if you like prog. Bands on the album are Ain Soph, Round House, Scheherezade, Maria, Rumble and Charisma

 

Various artists: Space Theatre – an LP [RCA Red Seal, 1970] containing music recorded for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World Expo. It contained three tracks of avant-garde electronic music by Toru Takemitsu, Yuji Takahashi and Iannis Xenakis. Takahashi later recorded an album with Takehisa Kosugi and Steve Lacy [see above].

 

VSOP – an obscure group I’m yet to hear; not to be confused with Herbie Hancock’s late-70’s jazz group of the same name, who were incidentally popular live in Japan. Their first album, ‘VSOP’ [London/King, 1973], is reputedly hard blues rock in style and has very modern-looking cover artwork, as though they were a recent electronic group. Half the record is from a live concert. The music is a mix of hard and soft rock, with the live side featuring more in the way of bluesy hard rock jams. It’s not bad but not that great either; if the whole album was comprised of the harder stuff I’d probably rate it a bit more highly. A second album, ‘Epilogue’ [1975], exists and was reputedly more poppy (thanks http://cdreissuewishlist.blogspot.com).

 

Yoshi Wada – ‘Earth Horns With Electronic Drone’ [EM Records, 2009] was recorded as a live performance in 1974, but not released until recently. The music is basically one long meditative improvisation that doesn’t change very much, and the album title pretty much sums it up. Great stuff to get absorbed in, either as ambient music or for meditation. It is available as a 3-LP set, which includes the whole 162-minute performance, or as a CD with a 77-minute excerpt. Wada’s only other album that I know of is ‘Lament For The Rise And Fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile’ [India Navigation, 1982], which has been reissued on CD [EM Records] using the extended cuts of the music, which was edited on the initial Lp release. It contains two long tracks, one of vocal drone and the other using his ‘pipe horn’.

 

Fujio Yamaguchi – a guitarist who had previously been in ‘group sounds’ band The Dynamites. When they disbanded at the end of 1969, he formed a new band, Fujio Dynamite, with keyboardist Shigero Narumo, bassist Shinishi Aoki, drummer Mamoru Manu [ex-Golden Cups] and Hiro Tsunoda on vocals [although a drummer most of the time; see Foodbrain, Strawberry Path]. They played a few gigs but didn’t record, and Yamaguchi soon after formed Murahachibu [see above] with vocalist Chahbo. He released a solo album, ‘Himatsubushi’ [Elec, 1974], a little short at just over half an hour, but good, containing rock’n’roll, hard rock and ballads, comparable partly to The Flamin’ Groovies and Murahachibu. It’s been reissued on CD by Yamaguchi’s own label Good Lovin’, though this appears to be out of print; there’s also a 2007 reissue on Elec/Vap, and an older reissue with an alternate cover.

 

Michinori Yamamoto – only one album that I know of by this person, ‘Hohoemi’ [Polydor, 1975]. It’s very good progressive/psych/folk rock, with arrangements and playing by Kimio Mizutani [see above], to whom it’s often co-credited. It was reissued on CD by Hagakure in 2003.

 

Stomu Yamash’ta – a renowned avant-garde percussionist, you can read an in-depth history of his work at www.furious.com/... His early album ‘Red Buddha’ [Barclay, 1971] featured lengthy and exotic percussion performances, partly live and partly overdubbed. It’s a very absorbing and sanctified album, and has been reissued on CD by Spalax. ‘Gagaku Ensemble of Takemitsu & Ishii’ [EMI, 1971] featured the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. Another excellent album of exotic experimental percussive music was recorded in the UK shortly after, ‘Stomu Yamash’ta’ [Decca, 1972]. I’ve seen the album title listed as ‘Henze/Takemitsu/Davies’, but the cover shows Yamash’ta’s name large across the top, with Hans Werner Henze, Peter Maxwell Davies and Toru Takemitsu listed below in much smaller print, and in that order; as far as I am aware, those three composed the pieces on this album but did not appear themselves.

Next he came into the fore as a composer and band leader, releasing numerous albums of slightly experimental progressive rock through the 70’s [see below]. Here, I’ll just mention the other albums released under only his own name; the others are listed below by band name. Incidentally, tracks from various Stomu Yamash’ta albums [both solo-titled and with bands listed below – specifically ‘Floating Music’, ‘The Man From The East’, ‘Freedom Is Frightening’ and ‘Raindog’] were used in the soundtrack to the film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, starring David Bowie.

I haven’t heard ‘Contemporary Works’ [1972] or ‘Takemitsu Ishi’ [EMI, 1973]. ‘Rain Dog’ [Island, 1975] was born from another multi-media stage production [see the album ‘The Man From The East’ below]. Musically it was a little reminiscent of the last album with East Wind, ‘One By One’ [see below], and like that album it featured another ill-considered mug shot of Yamash’ta on the cover, making him look like a real wanker! As well as Yamash’ta, it featured Boyle, Gasgoine and Hisako Yamash’ta from East Wind, in addition to Tsuneo Matsumoto [guitar], Daito Fujita [bass], Hozumi Tanaka [drums], and two guest vocalists.

‘Go’ [Island, 1976] is rated highly by many Yamash’ta fans, but I fail to see why, as I think as a whole album it’s among his worst and most commercial [exceeded only by ‘Go Too’ – see below]. It was intended as a supergroup kind of thing, and perhaps vaguely a concept album. The booklet accompanying the LP certainly made it all sound much more exciting and innovative than what it actually was – Yamash’ta’s most mainstream move yet. It featured Steve Winwood prominently. Along with Yamash’ta’s sudden dive in taste, Winwood largely shares the blame for ruining what this album could have been – apologies to Winwood fans but I just can’t stand him when he’s singing. Other musicians on the album include Michael Shrieve [ex-Santana], Klaus Schulze, Al DiMeola [Return To Forever], Rosko Gee and others; Yamash’ta plays synthesizers as well as percussion. The dreadful lyrics are by Michael Quartermain and Winwood. I find the best bits of the album are those when Yamash’ta and Schulze are going all cosmic and weird with their synthesizers. Apart from that, the main styles of the album veer between slightly funky stuff that is okay in parts but fairly forgettable, and cheesy loungy lite-funk-crooning AM sleaze with Winwood in control, that takes itself far too seriously. These latter bits set my teeth on edge and are what make me reluctant to listen to the whole album very much. Unfortunately many tracks segue together seamlessly making it hard to skip tracks on the LP. ‘Go Live From Paris’ [Island, 1976] was a live version of the ‘Go’ album which I’ve been told is not much different. ‘Go Too’ [Arista, 1977] in my opinion seemed to take all the worst, most commercial moves from the ‘Go’ album and distilled them into most of the album, leaving only a few slightly interesting moments – again, generally those comprising mostly of synthesizer work. Winwood had left before this album, but his legacy remained. All three albums have recently been reissued together by Raven, good news for the many people who love these albums [and who probably all hate me now!].

In 1980 Yamash’ta retired temporarily to a Buddhist temple, before re-emerging in the music world with a more minimal, cosmic and experimental direction. ‘Iroha’ [RVC, 1981] was a double album, featuring music for some kind of ritual theatre performance. The music was a really radical turn for Yamash’ta, being a varied high quality tapestry of experimental electronic music, percussion and ritualistic chanting from the serene to the weird. I’m not sure what Yamash’ta actually performed on this, as the LP notes credit Yamash’ta for production only, with the sole instrumental credit going to Sen Izumi for playing the synths, and there is clearly more than synths to be heard here [unless there’s a skilful use of samplers]. I’ve also seen a single-LP version of this album, with a different cover. Next came ‘Iroha-sui’ [RVC, 1982], ‘Tempest’ [soundtrack, 1982] and ‘Iroha-ka’ [RVC, 1983], which I haven’t heard. ‘Sea and Sky’ [JVC/Kuckuck, 1983] is a great album, sometimes a bit cheesy, but overall very eclectic and inventive, bridging electronic, world music and prog in an experimental but accessible manner. More albums I haven’t heard include ‘Stomu Yamashta’ [Victor, 1984], ‘Solar Dream Vol. 2: Fantasy of Sanukit’ [Kosei, 1990] and ‘Solar Dream Vol. 1: The Eternal Present’ [Kosei, 1993].

 

Stomu Yamash’ta & Come To The Edge – there was only one album with this ensemble, the excellent ‘Floating Music’ [Island, 1972]. It was made in England with British musicians, the second side of the album recorded live at Queen Elizabeth Hall. At this time Yamash’ta was attracting rave reviews in the UK press. All instrumental, it’s hard to describe the different areas this album inhabits. Broadly it can be said to be a Japanese-tinged progressive rock with jazz rock leanings spread across 4 long tracks. There’s no guitar, but I hardly notice! Shortly after, Come To The Edge broke up, and drummer Morris Pert assembled a new [unnamed] trio including bassist Alyn Ross and Come To The Edge pianist Peter Robinson. Next, Yamash’ta made an album with this new group, plus other musicians and Red Buddha Theatre [see below].

 

Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind – one of Stomu’s best groups, notably featuring ex-Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper. Yamash’ta played drums and percussion, Hisako Yamash’ta played violin, Gary Boyle played guitar [and had played on 1 track on ‘The Man From the East’ – see below] and Brian Gasgoine played keyboards. Their first album, ‘Freedom is Frightening’ [Island, 1973], is a great slab of progressive rock with Canterbury jazz and psychedelic influences – it could perhaps be said to reside somewhere between King Crimson and Soft Machine. Shortly after they recorded a very different album, ‘Soundtrack to the Film One By One’ [Island, 1974]. This featured the same members as the previous album, but with the addition of Nigel Morris and Mike Travis on drums, Sammi Abu on vocals, congas and flute, and Frank Tankowski and Bernie Holland on guitar. I believe the film was in some way about racing car drivers. Musically it’s pretty diverse, ranging from bass-heavy progressive jazz rock grooves approaching Isotope, a bit of Vivaldi, and some queasy crooning [hinting at the Steve Winwood-influenced days to come, with the Go band] to more experimental sound bites.

 

Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre – Red Buddha Theatre were a Japanese theatre company formed in 1971; Yamash’ta was their producer, director and composer. In 1972 Yamash’ta brought them to Europe to perform. During this time he had been performing and recording with Come To The Edge in London [see above], and when the Red Buddha Theatre came to town in 1973 there was a collaboration between Yamash’ta, the theatre, some new musicians, and a new group including remnants of Come To The Edge. As well as performing the theatre piece ‘The Man From The East’, a partly live album was recorded, ‘The Soundtrack From “The Man From The East”’ [Island, 1973]. The 2 longest tracks [live in Paris] were done by a lineup including Pert and bassist Phil Plant from Come To The Edge, plus organist Maggie Newlands and 7 Japanese musicians [not including Yamash’ta]. Saxophonist Robin Thompson from Come To The Edge played on one track; the other tracks used Pert’s post-CTTE trio plus Yamash’ta. There’s also a guitarist, Gary Boyle, who only plays on one track but later played with East Wind [see above]. It’s a very varied album, and hard to describe [as with many of Yamash’ta’s better albums]. The music is a bit like that from the Come To The Edge album, but in my opinion not as consistently great. It ranges from sedate, eastern-tinged progressive, to more upbeat stuff, jazzy touches, accessible stuff hinting at what would come with his later Steve Winwood collaborations, and even some slightly symphonic prog reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’. After this, Yamash’ta grouped up with some more musicians [some new, some the same] for the band ‘East Wind’ [see above].

 

Stomu Yamash’ta & The Horizon – this combo made one album, ‘Sunrise From West Sea Live’ [London/King, 1971], one of his rarest, best and most experimental. It was recorded at a 6-hour concert in Yamaha Hall, Tokyo in April 1971, from which only 34 minutes or so made it onto vinyl. As well as Yamash’ta on percussion, it features Masahiko Satoh on electric organ, Takehisa Kosugi on electric violin and Hideakira Sakurai [see above for all] on electric koto, shamisen & percussion. Musically it’s somewhere in between Taj Mahal Travellers and Yamash’ta’s ‘Red Buddha’ album.

 

Stomu Yamash’ta & Masahiko Satoh – the music on ‘Metempsychosis’ [Columbia, 1971] was composed by Satoh, and recorded with Satoh on piano, Yamash’ta on percussion and Miyama Toshiyuki & New Herd Orchestra on everything else. In ‘Japrocksampler’, Julian Cope called it “a bizarre hybrid of Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation and John Coltrane’s Ascension”, and said that it “approached a kind of Godhead union between Sun Ra and the Cosmic Jokers”. Finally having heard it, I can’t detect a trace of the Cosmic Jokers or anything in that vein, and I can pick up only a faint resemblance to some of the first track on TD’s debut album (but not the rest). It is a strange and great album all the same, but not quite living up to the excessive hype. The long pieces on both sides trade in various elements throughout, such as slow, ominous ambience summoning creeping dread with exotic percussion and smears of wind instruments, droning and blaring but with tense restraint, reminiscent in mood to some Univers Zero, Igor Wakhevitch and Aguaviva’s ‘Cosmonaut’ album; sparse horn and piano interplay; reverbed percussion with distant chanting and muttering voices; percussive soloing; and loud bursts of acoustic free jazz (Julian Cope mentioned guitar, but I haven’t noticed any on my listens so far). It’s all mixed pretty straight – no phasing or anything, just a bit of reverb as far as I can tell – but is very atmospheric in the quieter parts. There’s no CD reissue yet – I wish the reissuers wouldn’t focus so exclusively on his mid-70’s progressive stuff, as his more out-there stuff, besides ‘Red Buddha’, is much rarer on LP and practically non-existent on CD.

Yamasuki – not really a Japanese thing, but mentioned here because it appears to be. Intended as a French/Japanese cross-cultural choreography project, Yamasuki was conceived by two French pop composers who went to the trouble to learn Japanese for it. They collaborated with a children’s choir and some conductors to produce the album ‘Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki’ [Biram, 1971]. Although it sounds Japanese, with authentic Japanese language vocals and styles [to non-Japanese ears, at least], I don’t think any Japanese people were actually involved. The album is enjoyable but nothing amazing – largely orchestrated progressive pop rock with a cool/kitschy blend of cultural styles and innocent approach. It sounds kind of like a much more accessible version of Tokyo Kid Brothers circa ‘Throw Away the Books’. The album was recently reissued on CD by Finders Keepers. The Yamasuki, incidentally, was a dance briefly popular in France at the time.

 

Tetsu Yamauchi – bass player who had been in The Mikes, Samurai, Friends [see above] and Free. He made a solo album while briefly back in Japan from the UK, ‘Tetsu’ [Columbia/Propeller, 1971 – some say 1972], about half of which is great loose, funky rock, the rest a mix of soft-rock and country-leaning stuff reputedly consisting of hard rock with the occasional psychedelic touch – though others have said it’s mostly acoustic. Later, after Free, he joined The Faces.

 

Hiro Yanagida – this keyboardist really got around! He was in Apryl Fool, Foodbrain, Masahiko Satoh & Sound Brakers, Love Live Life + One and Yuigonka, and also played on Shinki Chen’s solo album. In 1969 he was also in the band for the Japanese production of ‘Hair’. Throughout this time he was putting out solo albums with some of the same musicians, such as Kimio Mizutani [see above]. His debut was ‘Milk Time’ [Liberty, 1970], which has a cool photo of a stern-looking gorilla on the cover, done by the same artist who did the Foodbrain album cover. The backing band included Hiro Tsunoda from Foodbrain, Strawberry Path and Flied Egg [see above], guitarist Kimio Mizutani and electric violinist Hiroki Tamaki [see above], as well as flautist Nozumu Nakatani and bassist Keiju Ishikawa [ex-Fujio Dynamite – see Fujio Yamaguchi above; later played with Far Out and Akira Ito – see above]. The music is in part similar to Foodbrain, but more varied, with lighter, jaunty short tracks and some tripped out sounds.

This was followed by ‘Hiro Yanagida’ aka ‘Nanasai No Rohjin Tengoku’ [Atlantic, 1971], with great cartoon psychedelic artwork. He’s again joined by Kimio Mizutani, and Joey Smith from Speed, Glue & Shinki [see above] sings on one track, a silly doo-wop ballad! The album as a whole covers slightly similar territory to that of ‘Milk Time’, though more accomplished, and some of the mellower keyboard-oriented stuff here is a bit more experimental and progressive. One track reminds me of Supersister and oddly, Stereolab from more than 20 years later! His 3rd album, ‘Hiro’ [URC, 1972], seems to be obscure and I can’t find any information about it. ‘Hirocosmos’ [CBS, 1973] was totally different to the first two albums, consisting wholly of excellent keyboard and synth dominated progressive fusion. There are a few more album which I know nothing about - ‘UFO’ [CBS, 1978] and ‘Ma-Ya’ [Substance, 2003]. ‘Milk Time’ was reissued on CD by P-Vine, but appears to be out of print; ‘Hiro Yanagida’ and ‘Hirocosmos’ have been reissued on CD by Showboat and are tricky to track down outside of Japanese retailers.

Yanagida played on J.A. Caesar’s ‘Matihedeyou Syowosuteyo’ [and probably other Caesar albums – see above], and also recorded some material with Tokyo Kid Brothers [see above].

 

Yasumi No Kuni – an obscure group who made at least one album, ‘Yasumi No Kuni’ [URC, 1971]. Their music was a kind of folky psych-pop with interesting textures due to a wide array of musical instruments used. It’s quite a nice album but nothing remarkable.This album has been reissued on CD by Prime.

 

Yellow (1) – a hardcore heavy rock trio led by bassist/vocalist Taisuke Morishita. ‘Yellow’ [London, 1975] is an album I know nothing about (but it’s been referred to on EBay as an ‘ethnic psych masterpiece’ with connections to Gedo and Murahachibu) – They are reputed to have made no albums (?), but later some low-fi live recordings from 1972 were released on the rarities 2-LP compilation ‘Underground Tracks ‘70’s’ [Dead Flower, 2006]. These are raw, basic, long jams that are quite demented – comparable to Sphinx Tush but with a bit more talent! Morishita switched to guitar and formed Be in 1974, a country rock group whose only recordings – live stuff from 1975 – were issued on the same compilation. More can be heard on the 2-CD compilation ‘Rallizes House Session at Fussa’ [Dead Flower, 2004], credited to Les Rallizes Denudes (see above) and Yellow. The first disc contains two lengthy tracks of Les Rallizes Denudes playing with Be in 1975 at the Rallizes house, and presents LRD in a more psychedelic freeform jam mode with the addition of synthesizer, over two long tracks. The second disc contains tracks by Yellow recorded live at a gig in 1973. Some of it is a bit like early live Guru Guru, other tracks are more like sloppy, incompetent heavy blues jams, but the demented guitar is fairly constant. Great if you like that kind of thing! A solo synth performance by Morishita from 1975 can be heard on the v/a compilation ‘Underground Tracks 70’s’ [see above], and sounds almost like a lost Suzanne Ciani track.

Yellow (2) – this other Yellow (also not to be confused with the Finnish band from the same era) did actually make some albums. The first, ‘Yellow’ [London, 1975], is not bad, with some enjoyable moments of laid-back funky rock, sometimes psychedelic, but it would have benefitted from greater use of the Japanese influence – mostly it sounds like an attempt to be an accessible western group.

 

Yellow Magic Orchestra – a well known quirky Kraftwerk-like avant-garde electro-pop group, often known as YMO for short; their albums are actually more stylistically varied than the Kraftwerk tag would suggest, and with a sunnier and cheesier disposition. They were formed in 1978 by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see above], Haruomi Hosono [see above] and Yukihiro Takahashi. Their first album was ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ [Alfa,1978]. The next, ‘Solid State Survivor’ [Alfa, 1979], sold very well and led to the band going on a world tour. Following albums include ‘Public Pressure’ [Alfa, 1980; live], ‘X∞ Multiplies’ [Alfa, 1980; 10”], BGM [Alfa,1981], ‘Technodelic’ [Alfa, 1981], ‘Naughty Boys’ [Alfa, 1983], ‘People With Nice Smiles’ [Alfa, 1983], ‘Service’ [Alfa, 1983], ‘After Service’ [Alfa, 1984], ‘Fakerholic YMO World Tour Live’ [Alfa, 1991], ‘Technodon’ [Toshiba EMI, 1993] and ‘Live At The Greek Theater 1997’ [Alfa, 1997].

 

Toshiaki Yokota –  a jazz flautist, Yokota made some great music in the early 70’s which is of interest here. With his group The Beat Generation, he group made two albums. The first, ‘Elevation’ [Express/Toshiba, 1970], was arranged by Masahiko Satoh [see above], and contains instrumental covers and a few originals in a light, funky jazz vein with a splash of psych – it’s pleasant enough but not very interesting but I haven’t heard it except for one track which is good but fairly conventional relaxed fusion. ‘Flute Adventure (Le Soleil Était Encore Chaud)’ [London NEWS, 1971] was a mostly excellent album mixing spaced psychedelic jazz rock jams with African-vibed percussion, fuzz guitar [by Kimio Mizutani – see above], bass and flute predominant – not unlike some stuff on Love Live Life + One’s first album - and straighter bossa nova and samba-flavoured stuff. It was recently reissued on CD by King [2007]. Yokota made an excellent album with another collection of musicians [and some of the same ones] as Primitive Community – ‘Primitive Community’ [Toshiba, 1971]. Barely known of until very recently, and actually hoarded in secret by some selfish collectors, this very rare album takes the best elements of ‘Flute Adventure’, loosens up a bit more from its conventional jazz roots, and amplifies the African vibe – a similar concept musically to Akira Ishikawa’s ‘Uganda’ album, but more effectively evoking a faux-authentic ethnicity, as well as being just a bit better and with a wider, more accomplished musical palette and delivery. Mizutani is back on guitar, though he doesn’t get quite as crazed as on some of ‘Flute Adventure’. The only dud move is the beginning and end sections of the track ‘Hari Krishna’, which are corny and don’t really fit the feel of the rest of the album, which is otherwise consistently great. It was recently reissued on CD.

 

Yonin Bayashi – a progressive rock band who are highly regarded by some. Their first album was ‘Hatachi-No Genten’ [Toho, 1973], the soundtrack for a film of the same name. Aside from some brief moments of great funky progressive rock and Floydian spaciness, it’s mainly gentle, dreamy songs with predominant vocals, acoustic guitar and/or organ. This has been reissued on CD as ‘Early Days (Hatachi-No Genten + Live)’ [P-Vine], though I’m not sure if these live tracks were part of the soundtrack, and they only amount to less than 20 minutes of music, including an excellent lengthy heavy rocker reminiscent of Deep Purple. Their second album – or first album, if you don’t count the soundtrack – was ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ (‘Explosive Situation’) [Tam, 1974]. In the Ultima Thule shop catalogue this album is compared favorably to Flower Travellin’ Band and Far East Family Band. Repeated listens have revealed traces of stuff that sound like only the worst side of FEFB [see my comments above for what I mean by that], and no trace of anything that reminds me of FTB except possibly bits of their last album. On the whole I find this album an uneasy mix of icky mainstream soft rock [hinting at yawn/cringe-inducing AOR] and occasionally an excellent blend of heavy psychedelic progressive styles. These good bits remind me perhaps of a ‘proggier’ Deep Purple, Yes, Utopia, and Sahara circa ‘Sunrise’. The album ends oddly on a smooth soul-funk groove! On the downside there are no songs that I thought were great all the way through – many of the tracks have great bits diluted with lots of stuff I would call mildly embarrassing. The album artwork is cute, the front showing a sloth with glassy red orbs of eyes smoking a pipe! This album has been reissued on CD by Hagakure.

These guys released some more albums which I know nothing about – ‘Golden Picnics’ [CBS, 1976], ‘Painted Jelly’ [Canyon, 1977], ‘Live ‘73’ [Toho, 1978], ‘Bao’ [Canyon, 1978], ‘Neo-N’ [Canyon, 1979], ‘Dance’ [BGM/Victor, 1989], ‘Live Full House Matinee’ [BGM/Victor, 1990] and Live 2002, which would seem to make it clear that this band is still active despite the break during the 80’s. There is a bootleg CD from Black Rose containing ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ and ‘Live ‘73’ on one disc. The Ultima Thule catalogue review of this disc makes comparisons to Cosmos Factory and Food Brain. Regarding ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ [see above] I can only detect slight comparisons to Cosmos Factory, and no comparison at all to Food Brain; ‘Live ‘73’ is largely live versions of stuff from the same album and also doesn’t display any likeness to Food Brain, except on one track.

 

Sai Yoshiko – a female vocalist who made several albums including ‘Bankakyo’ [Teichiku, 1975], ‘Mikko’ (or ‘Mikkou’) [Teichiku, 1976], ‘Taiji No Yume’ [Columbia, 1977] and ‘Cho No Sumu Heya’ [Columbia, 1978]. Of these, I’ve heard ‘Mikko’ which may be of some interest. To be honest it’s largely fairly mainstream stuff, with ballads and funky soft rock, but there are a couple of songs with a great droning, psychedelic feel. She also did the gorgeous cover painting, which is one of the best things about the album.

 

Motoharu Yoshizawa – a respected bass player who made his own 5-string stand-up electric bass, and was renowned as a freeform player. He was apparently a leading figure in Japanese free jazz in the late 60’s and early 70’s, playing with monster guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi [see above].  He made many albums until his death, including numerous collaborations with others such as Masahiko Togashi [see above]. Early albums include ‘Inland Fish’ [Trio, 1974], ‘Outfit: Bass Solo 2½’ [Trio, 1975] and ‘Cracked Mirrors’ [ALM, 1975]. The latter is reputedly great “bowed, flowing higher-key music for the spheres” according to Forced Exposure. Amongst numerous collaborations, he played on the 2-LP ‘Epiphany’ album by Company, along with a variety of folks such as Keith Tippetts, Julie Tippetts, Derek Bailey and Fred Frith.

‘From the Faraway Nearby’ [Modern Music/PSF, 1991] is a solo recording with bass, electronics and ‘quadriplex’ multitracking. ‘Angels Have Passed’ [PSF, 1992] contains live improvisations by Yoshizawa, Takehisa Kosugi [see above] on violin, and Haruna Miyake on piano. It’s interesting, and sometimes entrancing, free improvisation but a bit too ‘free’ overall for my liking – albums like this just make me wish they’d settle into some kind of groove or melody for a change. Yoshizawa provided prominent backing on a 1995 album by Kazuki Tomokawa [see above]. ‘Uzu’ [PSF, 1996] is a collaboration credited to Barre Phillips and Motoharu Yoshizawa. The Forced Exposure website entry says of this album “Yoshizawa’s otherworldly circling electric soundscapes collide and fuse with Phillips’ mastery of acoustic human textures in an orgy of sensitivity, pure inventiveness”. ‘Okidoki’ [Chap Chap Records, 1998] was recorded between 1993-94, and contains 2 lengthy live jams with guests Barre Phillips on double bass and Kim Dae Hwan on percussion.

In the last few years of his life, he joined the group Gyaatees [see below].

 

Joji Yuasa – an avant-garde composer and electronic musician, and friend of Toru Takemitsu [see above], active since the mid-50’s. He had an interesting piece based on the sensation of rising pitch [‘Projection Esemplastic’] on the LP ‘Experimental Music of Japan’ [Victor, 1967] alongside Toshi Ichiyanagi, Toshiro Mayuzumi, Moroi Makoto and Maki Ishii; and a side of music on the 2-LP ‘Orchestral Space’ [Victor, 1968], alongside Yuji Takahashi, Toshi Ichiyanagi and Toru Takemitsu. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 1’ [Omega Point, 2004] consists of two long pieces by Yuasa – the vocal musique concrete ‘Aoi No Ue’ from 1961, approaching the strangeness of The Residents’ ‘Eskimo’, and the electronic ‘My Blue Sky (No. 1)’ from 1975 [also on the compilation ‘Early Dedicated Japan’]. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 4 - Music For Theatrical Drama’ [Omega Point, 2004] contains two long works from 1959 [the extraordinary classical/musique concrete mash-up ‘Three Worlds’] and 1963 [the minimal electronics and tape manipulated instruments of ‘A Woman Named En’]. One of his shorter pieces, ‘Moment Grand-Guignolesques’ from 1962 [featuring Group Ongaku – see above], is found on ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 2’ [Omega Point, 2004], alongside music by Kuniharu Akayima [see above], as ‘Music For Puppet Theatre of Hitomi-Za’. ‘Background Sound in Textile Pavilion of Expo ‘70’ [Omega Point, 2011] is, naturally, music he made for Osaka’s Expo ’70. There are presumably many other recordings made, including the 5-LP box set ‘Projections’ [EMI/Columbia, 1975] which I know no more about.

 

Yuigonka – an obscure psychedelic group led by Itsuro Shimoda from Tokyo Kid Brothers [see above]. They made one album, ‘Yuigonka’ aka ‘Endless Endless’ [Philips, 1971], apparently featuring Kimio Mizutani and Hiro Yanagida [see above]. It’s quite remarkable, if a little patchy, but the good bits are just so damn good. Overall it’s like a blend of early J.A. Caesar and Tokyo Kid Brothers styles [with the same penchant for folk ballads, fierce acid rock-outs, snatches of street recordings and evocative traditional Japanese music], but as though they had recorded with Dieter Dierks for the LSD-drenched Cosmic Couriers label. There are some tracks that are more like oldtimey singalongs, but don’t let that put you off hearing the rest of it. Some of the lyrics were contributed by Tokyo Kid Brother Yutaka Higashi and Tenjo Sajiki’s Shuji Terayama. This album has been reissued as a mid-price CD [Naked Line/Universal, 2007]. Shimoda made albums after this which I know little about. ‘Silver Fish’ [Polydor, 1974] also features Masayoshi Takanaka [Brush, Flied Egg].

 

Zipcode – this obscure band made one very rare album of reputedly great heavy rock, ‘Himawari’ [Victor, 1973], partly recorded in California. The only place I’ve read of this – an auction list at tiliqua-records.com – described a white promo copy, so I’m not sure if it was ever properly released.

Zone Time – obscure prog band who made at least one album – ‘Zone Time’ [1976]. The music sounds like it was made some 8 years earlier, consisting of a mix of soft rock, mild psych and occasional harder proto-progressive rock. One for completists, it is quite bland overall with a handful of rather good tracks.

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