torsdag 19 juli 2012

East - S/T (Engelsk Folkrock med en Japansk Grupp 1972)


320:- (24-Bit Limited Remaster Edition. Fullkomligt suverän grupp från japan som spelar tidig engelsk folkrock med sång på perfekt engelska. Jag har endast lyckats få tag i ett exemplar för försäljning. Passa på, du kommer inte ångra dig.)

Criminally overlooked in the psychedelic scene of the early '70s, East was a Japanese band that made music seemingly right at home in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Despite the usage of traditional Japanese instruments such as the koto, biwa, taisho-goto, and the shakuchi, they sounded more like authentic West Coasters than a quintet born on the Land of the Rising Sun.

Performing lyrics in perfect English, and with enough of an Americana influence to sound at times like the Flying Burrito Brothers -- at other times, more like Love or Jefferson Airplane -- the five bell-bottom- and paisley-clad lads put out only one self-titled album in 1972 before disbanding.

This band of Japanese exiles released just one album, which first appeared in 1972 and makes its long-overdue CD debut here. A melodic and musicianly set featuring Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi, koto and taisho-goto alongside the traditional trappings of Western rock and roll, it's a hugely enjoyable collection that will appeal to all fans of Easterntinged psychedelia.

you've got to wonder how the group ended up signed by Capitol. Judging by their terrific 1972 self-titled debut you also have to wonder how Capitol missed the opportunity to turn these guys into international stars.

With Seto handling most of the writing chores (Morita and Yoshikawa each contributed one song), this wasn't a Japanese rock album, rather it was an American rock album with occasional Japanese influences. Those influences ranged from early-1960s folk ('Lumberer Moses') to late-1960s West Coast psych ('Beautiful Morning'). The distinction was more than simple semantics since these guys had clearly absorbed more than their share of US culture. I've played this one for dozens of friends; all of them amazed to discover the band's nationality. As lead vocalist Seto was quite impressive. Not only was his English flawless (the liner notes indicated he learned it traveling in India), but he had a voice that was dynamic and instantly likeable. The rest of the band were equally talented, effortlessly shifting gears between traditional Japanese instrumentation and straight ahead rock. Drummer Adachi and bassist Asahi were especially good.

- 'Beautiful Morning' opened the album with a mesmerizing slice of folk-rock (emphasis on the rock component). Complete with lots of strummed acoustic 12 string guitars and an occasional touch of Japanese instrumentation for color, imagine the Kingston Trio had they ever decided to record a slice of psych-rock and you'll get a feel for this one. Easily one of the album highlights. rating: ***** stars

- 'Me' was an interesting attempt to merge West Coast psych moves with Japanese instrumentation. The result was a surprisingly trippy mid-tempo ballad that also served to showcase the band's nice harmony vocals. rating: **** stars

- Penned by Morita, 'Geese On the Road' found the band showcasing their ability to churn out a country-flavored number. Normally you probably wouldn't have paid much attention to a track like this one, but the fact they performed it with such authenticity (check out the country twang in Seto's voice), definitely captured your attention. rating: *** stars

- Yoshikawa's loan contribution, 'She' was a pretty, slightly discordant acoustic ballad that recalled something David Crosby might have penned for an CS&N outing. My only complaint with this one was that it was too brief. rating: *** stars

- I've always assumed 'Lumberer Moses' got a little jumbled in the Japanese-American translation. Another folk-rock number, this one was a little too Kingston Trio for my taste, though their harmony vocals were stellar and the mandolin was quite nice. rating: *** stars

- Opening up with a mix of discordant rock instrumentation and some traditional Japanese notes, 'Deaf Eyed Julie' quickly morphed into a nice lysergic-tinged ballad. rating: **** stars

- There wasn't a great deal to the lyric (not that I'd be turning in award winning Japanese lyrics), but 'Black Hearted Woman' offered up a nice blue-collar rock song that got much better when the guitars (including some fuzz) kicked in during the last section of the song. Drummer Adachi deserved notice for keeping the band in step and direction on this one. rating: *** stars

- Complete with flute, 'Call Back the Wind' started out as a big, hyper-sensitive ballad and then took a jazzy turn from which it never really recovered. rating: ** stars

- The first couple of times I heard 'Jar' it didn't do much for me - too old-timey cutesy for my tastes. It still isn't my favorite performance, but the...

- 'Everywhere' offered up a surprisingly impressive mixture of traditional instrumentation and song structure with English lyrics. At least to my ears the results were mesmerizing with a distinctive psych edge. rating: **** stars

- The lone performance in Japanese, 'Shin Sorllan' was supposedly a traditional Japanese tune, but sounded like a bunch of drunken Japanese businessmen taking a stab at a country song. Complete with furious acoustic guitars and what sounds like balalaikas, I smile every time I hear it. rating: **** stars

Unfortunately, releasing an album with minimal sales effectively ended their abbreviated American career. Shame.

01. Beautiful Morning (Ruese Seto) - 2:50
02. Me (Ruese Seto) - 3:46
03. Geese On the Road (Gen Morita) - 2:40
04. She (Ted Yoshikawa) - 2:25
05. Lumberer Moses (Ruese Seto) - 3:40
06. Deaf Eyed Julie (Ruese Seto) - 5:16
07. Black Hearted Woman (Ruese Seto) - 3:23
08. Call Back the Wind (Ruese Seto) - 4:35
09. Jar (Ruese Seto) - 3:04
10. Everywhere (Ruese Seto) - 4:22
11. Shin Sorllan (instrumental) (traditional) - 2:24