PSI Osamu Kitajma : Benzaiten (1974 ; re.2017)****'
Osamu Kitajima under influence of Western rock progressions started to record under he name of Justin Heathcliff. After that he changed back to his own name, releasing his debut album, Benzaiten (Island Records). This also featured Haruomi Hosono (Happy End, Yellow Magic Orchestra).
The album shows a great mix played in a rather improvised/jammed mode, with progressive elements, heavier jammed psych or wah-wah guitars, layers of acoustic guitar rhythms, with a rich production of varied acoustic/electric arrangements (with just a bit of keyboard). It has elements of traditional Japanese singing/voice shouts, great Japanese flute improvisation and some acoustic Japanese instrument. The first track fades out, and the last might have been played live. The last track was played with improvised lead flute only to start with. A really good album for people into original world fusions, liking a mixture of it with some rather progressive element.
I gave this already many listens and realise there is a unique element to the Japanese traditional element with at moments goes into rather unintended psychedelic areas that will also amaze lovers of the creative essence of more traditional arts.
See also https://www.discogs.com/Osamu-Kitajima-Benzaiten/release/1303605
Osamu Kitajima : Masterless Samurai
East Quest Rec. CM-CD (1978, re;2010)****' / Oom Dooby Dochas LP/DIGI (re.2017)****'
What I like so much about Osamu’s music is how the respect for a well-performed traditional music from Japan, at its strongest (not the Japanese flute and some Japanese string instrument) is combined, embraced and fused with other elements like Western instruments, and an element of progressive rock and jazz. The tracks are rather compact but the themes and tracks flow fluently into each other. Just a few tracks are a bit more smoothly relaxed as others (like track 4), predating the later more New Age interests of later dates even though even this still is totally connected with Jazz, Rock and Fusion. The groovy title track has contrasts of some Japanese stringed instrument and Japanese flute (playing with jazz association this time), mixed with jazz-fusion instruments (special sound of jazz fusion keyboards and keyboard effects!) but also parts with string orchestral arrangement. Track 8 (and a bit the last track) suddenly remains in the smooth Latin dance rhythm related jazz area (with sax solo and piano, beside Japanese flute and acoustic guitar). The strings shortly return in the background of the next flute and acoustic guitar-led track. Very nice one.
The only CD release was a costume-made CD so I don't consider this as a proper reissue on CD yet. Merlin Nose luckily recently released the reissue of the album on LP and as an official digital release.
Label description: "A more of world music, a more of ethno and definitely a more of progressive fusion rock approach is what marks „Masterless Samurai“, the second album by Japanese prog warrior Osamu Kitajima. He takes his vision of his country's traditional music being merged with the progressive rock and jazz music of the west even one step further, than he did with his previous albums. Excessive flute lines of Eastern origin, funky intricate grooves and fiery synthesizer eruptions are the basic ingredients for most of these impressive instrumental downhill. The fusion share in this sound is strong and still all the exotic elements from Japanese classic music pull each song far out of the mass of similar acts emerging in the late 70s. Now we leave behind the PINK FLOYD comparison and go for the Canterbury jazzrock scene with CARAVAN and SOFT MACHINE as leading figures and Osamu Kitajima definitely fit in between these giants due to his creativity and manifesting vision of a progressive world rock music. Don't take the rock element as utterly physical heaviness. The album rocks but in a more delicate way. The sparkling lines of the electric piano can tell where this record goes. And even a rather gentle tune like the instrumental ballad „Floating garden“ shows a wicked and progressive edge with expressive sax runs, cool twists and turns despite the all in all relaxed atmosphere."