Thursday, July 23, 2015

Far Out - 1973 - Nihonjin

Far Out

01. Too Many People (17:55)
02. Nihonjin (19:52)

Re-released in 2000 with bonus tracks:
03. Birds Flying To The Cave (4:32)
04. Saying To The Land (8:21)
05. Moving, Looking, Trying, Jumping (1:39)
06. Wa Wa (0:48)
07. The Cave Down To The Earth (8:17)
08. Four Minds (5:53)
09. Transmigration (11:01)

- Fumio Miyashita / vocal, nihonbue, acoustic guitar, harmonica, moog (custom)
- Eiichi Sayu / lead guitar, hammond organ, chorus
- Kei Ishikawa / vocal, bass guitar, electric sitar
- Manami Arai / drums, nihon-daiko, chorus

The history of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is awfully confusing. I hear at least three different stories about this band that aren't correct. All of them saying that FAR OUT became the FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. In reality, they were two separate bands, with Fumio Miya a being the only member in common with both bands. But the FAR OUT album is included in the FAR EAST FAMILY BAND catalog because it would get lost if placed elsewhere, sorta like Organization's Tone Float being placed under the KRAFTWERK category. FAR OUT consisted of: Fumio Miya: guitar, vocals, keyboards / Kei Ishikawa: bass, electric sitar / Eiichi Sayu: guitars / Manami Arai: drums Kei Ishikawa eventually moved to California to form a band called CHRONICLE, and of course, Fumio Miya found new musicians (including someone by the name of Masanori Takahashi, who we all know as the infamous New Age star of the '80s and '90s, better known as Kitaro) which became FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. The FAR OUT album, sometimes called "Nihonjin" consists of only two side-length cuts. Think of the FAR EAST FAMILY BAND sound in a more primitive setting, without the elaborate synth sounds of "Parallel World", with the only synths being the occasional sound effects, with the guitar and electric sitar being the most predominate instruments. The album starts off with "Too Many People", where you hear this strange percussion, then lots of bizarre sound effects, before settling down with acoustic guitar and vocals. This section then goes in to ballad mood, with Fumio Miya singing some cheesy lyrics (meaning the guys barely had a grasp of the English language). Eventually you get treated with some heavier guitar passages. I hadn't quite warmed up to "Too Many People", although I like some of the great ideas found here. It's the second and final cut, "Nihonjin" that is nothing short of amazing! You might already know this piece from a version FAR EAST FAMILY BAND included on their "Nipponjin" album, it was that album's title track. That version had the likes of Kitaro and Akira Ito give the song the synth and Mellotron treatment. The original is exactly the same, but without the synths and Mellotrons. Comes to prove how the Mellotron and synths on the version of FEFB's "Nipponjin" were simply icing on the cake. I suspect FEFB simply used the original FAR OUT recording and have the synth guys (Akira Ita, Kitaro) add on those electronics. The German CD reissue on Buy or Die also includes several bonus cuts, all off FAR EAST FAMILY BAND's first actual album, "The Cave: Down to the Earth". All but two songs I am familiar already from "Nipponjin", except these are sung entirely in Japanese (while the versions off "Nipponjin" were mainly in English, guessing that FAR EAST FAMILY BAND were trying to do what PFM did for "Photos of Ghosts" and that is break in to the English language market). The only two songs I weren't familiar with was the cheesy pop ballad "Four Minds" and the luckily more interesting "Transmigration". The FAR OUT album is definately an album worth checking in to if you want to explore the roots of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. Definately this is no "Parallel World", but then what is? But still recommended for those who curious of what the Japanese underground rock scene had to offer, and not to mention, Julian Cope actually likes this album a lot

This is a fascinating album, reminding me sometimes of Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd (particularly the long instrumental sections of Shine On You Crazy Diamond) which is quite an achievement considering that this album was released in 1973, two years before Wish You Were Here. There are also similarities in places to Black Sabbath, with one of the guitarists grinding out a very Iommi like riff midway through "Too Many People" (using an electric sitar no less!) Nihonjin is also a fantastic track, culminating in a mantra-like freak out suddenly ending in an eerie Japanese bamboo flute solo. The band are very talented musicians, with the drumming and bass playing deceptively simple but highly inventive, anchoring the Gilmour-like soloing of the lead guitarist and the interweaving electric sitar lines of the 2nd guitarist (who cannot really be described as just a rhythm player). The vocalist's soft, almost pleading vocals (which are still capable of rising to a ravaged howl during the closing sections of Nihonjin) are very moving at times, relaying very simple heavily Japanese accented English lyrics which still tug at the soul. My only gripe with this album is the bonus tracks. Although it is laudable for a record label to provide extra music on a CD, particularly as the original album has a running time of under 40 minutes, these bonus tracks are not the same band. These tracks are taken from a later Far East Family Band album called "The Cave Down To Earth" which, although it has the same vocalist as the Far Out album, has different musicians and a different musical style. These tracks are also, in my opinion, inferior to the two long opening tracks which make up the original Far Out album. However, they are just that - free bonus tracks, and I guess it would be churlish of me to look a gift horse in the mouth. It is also possible that there are no unreleased demos or live performances of the original Far Out band in the record company archives, so they decided that this would be the next best thing. By the way, my CD copy of the album is simply called Far Out - exactly the same as the band, and not Nihonjin although I believe that there was a later Far East Family Band album which had this name and also contained a reworking of the Far Out album track of the same name. The original Far Out album can be recognised by the cover artwork - a child's white mitten hanging on a clothes line with a vast blue expanse which I assume to be sky behind it. Pretty cool, if you think about the name of the band and the album. Anyhow, I suspect that I'm beginning to ramble now, so I'll close by saying that this album is recommended and you can always just stop the CD after the first two tracks if, like me, you're not too keen on the bonus ones.

1 comment: