Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rare Bird - 1974 - Born Again

Rare Bird 
Born Again

01. Body and soul
02. Live for each other
03. Diamonds
04. Reaching you
05. All that I need
06. Redman
07. Peace of mind
08. Harlem
09. Lonely street
10. Last tango in beaulah

- Kevin Lamb / organ, vocals, harmony vocals
- Steve Gould / bass, guitar, piano (electric), saxophone, vocals, overdubs
- Dave Kaffinetti / synthesizer, piano, keyboards, organ (Hammond), piano (electric), clavinet, harmony vocals
- Fred Kelly / percussion, drums, vocals, harmony vocals
- Andy Rae / bass, guitar
- Peter Rice / percussion

5th and last album by the excellent British Prog band Rare Bird, which went through a significant personnel changes by the time this album was recorded. Founding members: keyboardist Dave Kaffinetti and vocalist / guitarist Steve Gould, were joined by bassist Andy Rae and drummer Fred Kelly. The band keeps up with the tradition set up by the earlier recordings, which is characterized by superb melodies and brilliant instrumental work, which unfortunately never brought them the recognition they so richly deserved. Being unavailable for many years, this CD reissue brings back this gem into circulation, saving it from being forgotten. Warmly recommended!

Rare Bird - 1973 - Somebody`s Watching

Rare Bird 
Somebody`s Watching

01. Somebody's watching
02. Third time around
03. Turn your head
04. More and more
05. Hard time
06. Who is the hero
07. High in the morning
08. Dollars
09. A few dollars more

- John Wetton / bass
- Paul Korda / vocals
- Nicky James / vocals
- Kevin Lamb / vocals
- Nic Potter / bass, guitar (bass)
- Sammy Abu / percussion, conga
- Andy Curtis / guitar
- Steve Gould / bass, guitar, guitar (bass), saxophone, vocals
- Paul Holland / percussion, conga
- Dave Kaffinetti / organ, synthesizer, piano, keyboards, clavinet
- Fred Kelly / percussion, drums, vocals
- Allegra Matthews / percussion
- Al Matthews / conga
- John Whetton / guitar (bass)

 I remember buying this LP from a kid at school when I was about 15. I loved it then and at nearly 50 I love it still. This record is about the songs. Earlier Rare Bird LP's always come across as 'look what good musicians we are', which was never of interest to this 15 year old.
What you get from this wonderful LP are great songs, a groove and soul. Music from the heart, not just the mind. This could not be typified more by the wonderful 'More and More'. Blue eyed sould at it's finest, with harmonies at the end to reduce a grown man to tears. Other highlights include 'Turn your Head Around', which has a wonderful hook and the heart breaking 'High in the morning', a paen to a drug addict friend to get his act together and enjoy his life once more.

The meloncolic, almost folky, feel of 'Hard Time' and 'Who is the Hero' are beautifully crafted songs and would have sounded fantastic sung by Sandy Denny. These are moment to make the earth move.

Finishing with 'Dollars', a take on Morricone's 'A Few Dollars More', this line of Rare Bird shows that it can rock out with the best of them and for all you worshipers of 'Musicianship', then get your listening gear around this, they play it beautifully and indeed, the playing is magnificent through out.There are NO weak links in this body of work. It is perfect.

I can see that I'm in the minority here, but 'Somebody's Watching' should be in every rock fans collection, purely for a love of exemplary song writing and beautifully crafted melodies. You get Pop,Soul and Prog' on this LP and if you don't love it, you aint got blood in your veins!

Rare Bird - 1972 - Epic Forest

Rare Bird 
Epic Forest

01. Baby listen
02. Hey man
03. House in the city
04. Epic forest
05. Turning the lights out
06. Her darkest hour
07. Fears of the night
08. Turn it all around
09. Title No. 1 again (Birdman)

- Andy "Ced" Curtis / guitars, piano, percussion, vocals
- Steve Gould / guitars, percussion, vocals
- Paul Holland / percussion, producer
- Dave Kaffinetti / Hammond & Farfisa organs, electric piano, percussion
- Paul Karas / bass, percussion, backing vocals
- Fred Kelly / drums, percussion, congas
- Nic Potter / percussion

This underrated album is so different from previous albums by the band, that a name change would have been appropriate. Then maybe the fans and other listeners would have been a lot more forgiving concerning the radical change of direction. Such changes are always bound to make some fans into detractors.
While the previous albums by Rare Bird where closer to Emerson Lake & Palmer in spirit, Epic Forrest is closer to Wishbone Ash! Indeed, I would strongly recommend this album to fans of Wishbone Ash. Epic Forrest is about as progressive (and about as good!) as Wishbone Ash's Argus. While similar to Argus in some respects, Epic Forrest has a fuller sound with piano (both electric and regular) and organ (Hammond and Farfisa). The keyboard work is hardly very flashy, but the pianos and organs really make the sound a bit richer and fuller.

The song writing, however, takes on a distinct American feel on most of the tracks. Sometimes they are close to Crosby, Stills & Nash! This is especially apparent on the song Hey Man which is pure American Folk rock. So from keyboard driven Prog to American style Folk rock is quite a step! But the first three songs can be deceptive. The nine minute title track offers some nice progressive touches in terms of tempo changes and instrumental work out. This might not be too impressive, but they somehow manage to keep even the longer tracks interesting throughout. It is a quite unique blend of styles; guitar driven Hard rock, some slight Blues and Jazz influences, American Folk and Psychedelic rock! The melodies are really sweet and the vocal harmonies are lovely.

The album is varied, with softer acoustic ballads sitting side by side with the longer more Psychedelic rockers. The ballad Her Darkest Hour is really good. Another favourite is the Title No. 1 again (Birdman). (The three bonus tracks are also nice).

I find much to like here, and as it turns out, even though there is no question about the earlier albums being more Prog as we know it, this album has more lasting impact on me than the earlier albums. This is hardly anything that will blow the Proghead away, but if you come into this with a clear mind, and don't dislike the idea of mixing American Folk and Psychedelic flavoured rock, you might enjoy this one too. But if you expect another As Your Mind Flies By, you better stay away!

Rare Bird - 1970 - As Your Mind Flies By

Rare Bird 
As Your Mind Flies By

01. What you want to know (5:59)
02. Down on the floor (2:41)
03. Hammerhead (3:31)
04. I'm thinking (5:40)
05. Flight (19:39)
- part 1. As your mind flies by
- part 2. Vacuum
- part 3. New York
- part 4. Central Park

Bonus tracks on 2007 Esoteric Recordings remaster
06. What you want to know (Mono single version) (3:34)
07. Hammerhead (Mono single version) (3:23)
08. Red man (3:29)

- Mark Ashron / drums, vocals
- Graham Field / organ, keyboards
- Steve Gould / lead vocals, bass guitar
- Dave Kaffinetti / electric piano, keyboards

 I remember this record having a different cover than the plain blue one; there was a kind of profile of the god Mercury or something, with the little rare bird that was on the first album’s cover. But I don’t know which release(s) of the album had that cover since my only copy is a very old cassette of dubious origin.
This is one of those bands that were pretty much a non-descript generic entity where I grew up at least, in the American heartland. These guys got lumped in with Uriah Heep, Procol Harum, Vanilla Fudge, Wishbone Ash, Steppenwolf, probably even Rare Earth as sort of psychedelic, sort of heavy rock, sort of bluesy, and sort of boring unless you were stoned. It wasn’t until many years later that it dawned on me Rare Bird were rare indeed for their first few years, being one of those few bands without a guitarist and featuring two keyboardists.

I still think they are a bit boring, mostly because this music hasn’t aged all that well in the past thirty-seven years. The recording quality is average at best, and I’m not just saying that because I’m listening to it on cassette. The organ mixes are quite flat, and there is that pervasive bass sound that many bands like this had in the very early seventies. If you heard a few minutes off this album and didn’t know the band or the music at all, you’d still place it between 1969 and 1971 without any problem whatsoever.

The most interesting track is of course the nearly twenty-minute long “Flight” with its heavy organ and keyboards tempo variations, the middle section that does that morph- to-feedback-and-noise like some of the Edgar Winter stuff from around the same time. Come to think of it, its possible Winter picked up some ideas from listening to these guys since his big breakthrough was three or four years after this came out, and this was a minor hit in the States. There’s also the strange ‘Bolero’ organ passage at the end which will really screw with your mind if it is altered at the time, and even if it isn’t this is a pretty innovative rendition of that Ravel classic. Not a very creative ending though, considering one has to invest nearly twenty minutes of their life to get to that point. A pretty typical funk-lilted short crescendo and then an abrupt cease. Sort of leaves a guy hanging.

The other four tracks are pretty average fare. “What You Want to Know” is a plain sort of love song with fairly heavy organ; “Down on The Floor” slowly builds on a piano and solo vocal pattern but also ends too abruptly to really complete a thought; and “I'm Thinking” sounds as if it might have been intended as a radio single.

Only “Hammerhead” offers varied keyboards that aren’t dominated by organ, and lyrics that seem to be anti-war, or at least anti-establishment, but in a sort of medieval dragon-slaying sort of way. This is the stuff you expect to hear out of 1970, and well- done.

But two songs don’t make a classic, even if one consists of half the album. This is a decent record, probably not more than a collector’s item to those who don’t have fond personal memories of when this was new. But since there are undoubtedly several of those types of people around, and since I really don’t have anything majorly bad to say about this record. Recommended to prog fans who like old stuff that doesn’t age all that well.

Rare Bird - 1969 - Rare Bird

Rare Bird
Rare Bird

01. Beautiful scarlet (5:23)
02. Sympathy (2:30)
03. Nature's fruit (2:32)
04. Bird on a wing (4:13)
05. God of war (5:08)
06. Iceberg (6:46)
07. Times (3:19)
08. You went away (4:17)
09. Melanie (3:27)

- Mike Ashton / drums, lead & backing vocals
- Graham Field / Hammond organ
- Steve Gould / guitar, bass, vocals
- Dave Kaffinetti / electric piano, synthesizers

NOTE: The version of the album I am familiar with has Iceberg, Times, You Went Away and Melanie at the start the other songs towards the end. Perhaps my CD has the LP sides in the wrong order, or perhaps the progarchives entry is wrong. (Either way, I think the running order placing Iceberg at the start and God of War at the end is superior, since it means the album is bookended by its two best and most progressive tracks.)
With two keyboardists and no lead guitar, Rare Bird's debut album takes them into territory much like that occupied by early Procol Harum (if you take the talented Mr Trower out of the picture). But it's evident from the first track on this album, Iceberg, that they're a somewhat different proposition. As dark and mysterious as Procol themselves could get, the track also brings to play a higher level of complexity and at points starts to sound similar to early Van der Graaf Generator.

USA Front Cover

If the whole album were up to this standard, the band would have a real treat on their hand, but there are a few numbers that are simpler, more commercial, and (if I'm being brutally honest) just plain less good. Times is, to be frank, kind of lousy to start off with, but the second half of the song improves once the singing stops and the keyboard soloing kicks in in earnest. You Went Away and Melanie are similarly conflicted; the love song parts are a bit less simplistic and clumsy, but then again the improvisation parts are briefer and more tightly contained, so on the whole they're both clunkers. (Melanie, in particular, is let down by an unconvincing vocal performance that lacks the impressive intonations of the more dramatic tracks on the album.)

The second side puts things back on track as it opens with Beautiful Scarlet, that recaptures the dynamism and drama and foreboding of Iceberg. But the side lets itself down with Sympathy, apparently a hit for the band - which I can't understand, considering that it's a plodding, sappy mess of a song. I guess the "half the world hates the other half" message seemed more relevant during the Cold War. But actually, as a whole the second side holds up much better than the first: Nature's Fruit, the other short song on this side, is actually a bit more peppy and more musical interesting to boot, and I'm also personally quite fond of the pastorally-themed Bird On a Wing. And the side closer, God of War, is the first hint of the dark and Van der Graaf-haunted territory they would explore on their superior second album.

Rare Bird's debut is an extremely promising album with some dynamite tracks in the form of Iceberg and God of War, but it's badly let down by the filler material that seems to have been cooked up in a rush to get the thing finished - particularly on the first side. (After all, the band had barely formed when Tony Stratton-Smith signed them up and hustled them into the studio to lay this one down.) It's also suffered from a fairly cheap production job - perhaps not surprising considering that this was one of the very first albums Charisma put out - and, on at least the CD copy I have, a rather poor-quality transfer which sounds like it was taken directly from a vinyl copy rather than the master tapes. (That said, I've not heard the latest reissue from Esoteric so that might have superior sound quality - they've done a wonderful job on other reissues so I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't spruce this old Bird up a bit.) Still, when the band is up to scratch, they are a true delight for any proto-prog fan.

Miki Curtis - 1972 - The First Ear

Miki Curtis 
The First Ear

01. Duel Under The Setting Sun   
02. The Sun Goes Down Again   
03. The Love Of Duke R's Wife   
04. Ruined Kingdom   
05. World Of Mojo   
06. Golgita The Pirate   
07. Children On A Hilltop   
08. The Wounded Swan   
09. This Measure Of Happiness   
10. Forty Days On A Stoned-Out Camel

Born Michael Brian Kachisu on July 23, 1938, to a mother and father who were both of mixed British and Japanese ancestry, Curtis (a name he adapted from his similar-sounding birth name) spent the war years mainly in Shanghai with his parents. His musician father, however, performed a disappearing act with a Russian woman. After the war, his mother — together with a British man who was to become his stepfather — brought him and his sister back to Japan, where Curtis struggled to adapt to an unfamiliar country and culture.

Even as a young boy, Curtis was exposed to American pop by his music-loving parents, and in his teens he studied at the Nihon Jazz Gakko (Nihon Jazz School) founded by a Japanese-American musician named Tib Kamayatsu. At the age of 15, he began performing country music for U.S. servicemen at camps and clubs.

In 1958, not long after Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry had begun enthralling teenagers and enraging moral guardians in the United States and elsewhere, Curtis joined Masaaki Hirao and Keijiro Yamashita in “Western Carnival” rockabilly shows at a theater in Tokyo’s central Yurakucho district. The three became an immediate sensation with local teens, though their elders typically regarded the music as irritating noise and the shows as akin to scandalous riots.

Unlike fellow Japanese rockers who learned (or approximated) the lyrics of their cover songs phonetically or simply sang them in Japanese, Curtis was fluent in English. He also had a real rebel-rocker attitude nurtured on the tough streets of postwar Japan, where his non-Japanese looks had made him not only a standout but also a target.

In the 1960s, after the rockabilly fad faded, Curtis made a smooth transition to acting for films and singing and emceeing for television. In 1967, he formed a progressive-rock band called Mickey Curtis & His Samurais, which embarked on a long tour of Europe. Returning to Japan in 1970, he became a record producer, working with many top rock and folk-rock acts.

Then, in 1985, after a hiatus of nearly two decades, Curtis resumed his film acting career. Since then his roles have spanned a wide range from doctors to gangsters, and he has worked for such leading directors as Shunji Iwai (“Suwaroteiru [Swallowtail Butterfly]“; 1996), Shohei Imamura (“Akai Hashi no Shita no Nurui Mizu [Warm Water Under a Red Bridge]“; 2001) and Takashi Miike (“Izo”; 2004). In fact, his filmography now comprises more than 100 entries — a total that would soar far higher if his TV drama appearances were added. Abroad, however, Curtis is perhaps best known for his role as a starving soldier in Kon Ichikawa’s “Nobi (Fires on the Plain),” his stark 1959 portrayal of defeated Japanese soldiers in the Philippines in the closing days of the war.

Though he may not have the widest range as an actor, Curtis consistently delivers as the coolest old guy in the room — one who’s always been lean and wiry, is usually pony-tailed and stylishly turned out and is often inwardly amused at the goings-on around him.

First released on Vertigo in April 1972, this is the first LP by Miki Curtis (Samurai front man) following the break-up of the band. It’s a fantastically otherworldly psychedelic LP and a totally different sound than Samurai. The First Ear finds eastern-tinged psych of the highest echelon! Strange harmony vocals, a spacey guitar solo, queerly sawing synths, everything’s efficient and even compelling! Forty days on a stoned-out camel moans Miki (yes, he knows some English too) and that is just how this sounds. The track ends with half a minute noisy slurping on what we presume to be a waterpipe. Mind-blowing!

Samurai - 1971 - Kappa


01. Trauma (10:19)
02. Same Old Reason (2:49)
03. Daredatta (3:39)
04. Vision Of Tomorrow (3:52)
05. King Riff And Snow Flakes (22:29)

- Mickey Curtis / voices, flute
- Mike Walker / voices, percussion
- Joe Dunnet / guitars
- Hiro Izumi / guitars, koto
- John Redfern / keyboards, recorder
- Tetsuo Yamauchi / bass
- Yujin Harada / drums
- Graham Smith / harmonica

 A trip through both light and heavy prog psych, this is an oft forgotten but excellent lost gem of psychedelia's golden years. Mickey Curtis leads his wonderful band to carve new soundscapes and lay down some kickin' tracks. "Trauma" opens the album with a ten minute long journey through both the light and hard aspects of the band's style, in a great instrumental romp. The rest of Side One is a few cut and dry, though well done, bits of hard psych. Side Two is a psych epic through the realm of King Riff, an ever rockin' and mind blowing country. Keys are the hidden weapon here, for while guitar leads and flutes chime in, the keys add extra texture, and then shine brightly in the lands of King Riff. Another excellent hidden treasure from psych, highly recommended to psych and heavy prog fans.

Samurai - 1970 - Samurai



01. Green Tea (5:38)
02. Eagle's Eye (5:50)
03. Boy With A Gun (5:06)
04. 18th Century (1:03)
05. Four Seasons (9:51)
06. Mandalay (6:23)
07. Daffy Drake (2:46)

- Mickey Curtis / voices, flute
- Mike Walker / voices, percussion
- Joe Dunnet / guitars
- Hiro Izumi / guitars, koto
- John Redfern / keyboards, recorder
- Tetsuo Yamauchi / bass
- Yujin Harada / drums
- Graham Smith / harmonica

Mickey CURTIS was born of English parents in Tokyo, Japan in 1938. After the end of The World War II he lived by singing in the Occupation Forces or Camps, and as a result he was approved as a rockabilly singer. Although he had been an active pop singer and a frontman of two chorus-pop outfits named 'City Crows' and 'Vanguards' in mid 60s, he was awakened to rock suddenly and finally formed SAMURAI (The SAMURAIS in their early days) in 1967. During the first two years SAMURAI made a lot of gigs and released two albums - "Tenor Sax Of Love" (1968; as The SAMURAIS) and "Samurai" (1970) - in Europe. In early 1969 their soundscape was completely shifted to progressive rock, and we can easily realize the fact especially in their eponymous album. Soon after that they came back to Japan and released "Kappa" (1971), which has been appreciated as a masterpiece of Heavy Progressive Rock in Japan.

Mickey's said "There is no way for childish bands in Japanese rock scene. We need to produce our originality to raise the level of Japanese Rock higher than of Western nation as soon as possible."

After SAMURAI disbanded, Mickey released "Mimi" (1972) as a solo artist and has been active as a pop & country singer or a TV actor in Japan.

Akira Itoh - 1978 - Inner Light Of Life

Akira Itoh
Inner Light Of Life

01. sound of water
02. Gate of the Spirit
03. light of joy
04. Wings of Love
05. Life from light
06. Avenue
07. History of the Future
08. Peace of Yamagami 

Shizuo Takasaki: Drums
Akira Fukakusa: Bass
Akira Itoh: Keyboards
Fumio Myashita: Guitar, Keyboards
Hirohito Fukushima: Vocals, Guitar
Masanori Takahashi: Keyboards

Since there are no clear track breaks, I've left each side in suite form (one long track).  Each side contains four tracks but they flow into each other. 

Far East Family Band - 1977 - Tenkujin

Far East Family Band

01. Descension (2:05)
02. Tenkujin (5:11)
03. Timeless Phase (6:53)
04. Nagare (7:21)
05. From Far east (8:43)
06. Ascension (4:11)

- Fumio Miyashita / vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, Bamboo flute, synthetizer (Teisco 100F, Hillwood SY 1800, Combo, Basky, Rockyboard, Korg 700S, Mellotron, Yamaha, Solina String Ensemble)
- Hirohito Fukushima / electric guitar, Koto, vocals
- Yujin Harada / Yamaha drums, percussion
- Akira Fukakusa / bass

"Tenkujin" was the final album for FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. After the Klaus SCHULZE style of electronic experimentations of "Parallel World", the band decided to go back to the earlier sound, concentrating, once again, on ballads. A lot of reasons for that was KITARO left, embarking on his soon to be famous solo career. Akira Ito also left, also to embark on a solo career, but he ended up not being very well known in New Age circles. This is a trimmed down FAR EAST FAMILY BAND with guitarist/vocalist Fumio Miya[&*!#]a, guitarist Hirohito Fukushima, and bassist Akira Fukukusa. For a new drummer, they brought in Yujin Harada.
Yujin Harada was in a band called SAMURAI back in the late '60s and early '70s. Not to be confused with the UK band with the same name that featured future GREENSLADE guy Dave Lawson. This SAMURAI was a Japanese band that resided in London, with Tetsu Yamauchi (later of Free and Rod Stewart's Faces), as well as a few British musicians they recruited while staying in London (including Graham Smith on harmonica, he was later the violinist for STRING DRIVEN THING, and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR during their final days). This SAMURAI released an album in 1970 called "Green Tea" which is basically late '60s psych, with some prog leanings and the occasional Japanese influences.

Let's get back to "Tenkujin". This album had an American release on the small and short-lived California-based All Ears label, hoping to break them in the American market. Without KITARO and Akira Ito anymore, all synth duties were left to Fumio Miya[&*!#]a. The album opens up with a synth experiment called "Descension" before seguing in to the wonderful title track. This piece has vocals in Japanese, with great guitar and spacy synthesizers. "Timeless Phase" is a PINK FLOYD-like ballad with more than a passing resemblance to "The Dark Side of the Moon". It also features some cheesy strings that threw me off. "Nagare" and "From Far East" are more of the typical ballads found here, with the occasional Japanese influences (koto, shakuhachi). These songs are sung partly in English and in Japanese. Unfortunately the album bottoms out with the awful "Ascension". It's a rather cheesy instrumental piece sticking too close to that dreaded New Age style.

But the big reason for the three star rating is some of the music tends to drag on longer than needs to, and after you hear "Parallel World", you begin to wonder why the band returned to this earlier style. This is truly the album from FAR EAST FAMILY BAND you should worry last. Go get "Parallel World" without hesitation, then go for "Nipponjin" before you come here.

Far East Family Band - 1976 - Parallel World

Far East Family Band 
Parallel World

01. Metempsychosis (4:47)
02. Entering / Times (15:54)
03. Kokoro (9:11)
04. Parallel World (30:08)
 I. Amanezcan
 II. Origin
 III. Zen
 IV. Reality
 V. New Lights
 VI. In The Year 2000

- Fumio Miyashita / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Hirohito Fukushima / guitar
- Masanori Takahashi / keyboards
- Akira Ito / keyboards
- Akira Fukakusa / bass
- Shizuo Takasaki / drums

Recorded, produced and mixed by Klaus Schulze

This is without a doubt the best album FAR EAST FAMILY BAND has ever done. Unlike other albums where the band focused mainly on ballads influenced by PINK FLOYD, on "Parallel World" they decided to merge the prog rock style of the time with electronic music in the vein of Klaus SCHULZE. And just like their previous album, "Nipponjin", this album was also produced by SCHULZE, and you could swear he actually played on the album (he didn't). All the synth duties here are Fumio Miya[&*!#]a (who also played guitar and sang), Akira Ito, and Masanori Takasaki (who we all know as the future New Age star of the '80s and '90s, that is KITARO).
For "Parallel World", the band went to England to record at Richard Branson's Manor Studios to strike a deal with Virgin Records. Unfortunately Virgin rejected the album (their loss), so it was left released only in Japan (with two different album covers, depending what you got, mines is the lesser known one with the peering eyes cover). About these two different album covers, I am unable to determine if what I own is a reissue, but probably is. Let's say this new electronic direction for the band was an excellent move as they produced their ultimate masterpiece. Here you get "Metempsychosis" which shows the band in a more experimental setting, complete with synth drones and percussion. "Entering" and "Times" will fool you for SCHULZE's own works, Shizuo Takasaki's drumming often reminds me of Harald Großkopf (WALLENSTEIN member who was often found playing on SCHULZE's albums), and it's packed with same kind of space electronic effects found on a SCHULZE album. It's the presence of guitar (from Fumio Miya[&*!#]a and Hirohito Fukushima) that separates this from a SCHULZE album. Then you have "Kokoro", which harkens back to their earlier works. This is basically a slow ballad, sung in Japanese that could easily fit on "The Cave: Down to the Earth". This is the only song like this on "Parallel World".

And then you get the 30 minute title track that is just so amazing that it totally justifies the five star rating I give this album! Here the band goes on a lengthy jam, with the Akira Fukakusa's bass dominating with tons of killer synths, lots of great spacy string synths and Moog. After about halfway through this piece, the bass and drums gives away to straigh-up synth experiments. Somewhere you hear some chanting and references to Zen Buddhism. There are some truly mindblowing use of Mellotron that pop up on occasions, and this one synth solo I am pretty sure none other than KITARO is responsible for. I can't believe this album, it's hard to believe that a guy whose later music is often dismissed as New Age fluff (KITARO, that is) is on this album. Truly a wonderful album and if the description of this album sounds good to you, find a copy.

Far East Family Band - 1975 - Nipponjin

Far East Family Band 

01. Nipponjin (16:51)
02. The Cave (8:37)
03. Undiscovered Northern Land (2:54)
04. Timeless (4:26)
05. The God of Water (2:06)
06. River of Soul (8:28)
07. The God of Wind (2:33)
08. Movin' Lookin' (1:39)
09. Yamato (0:48)
10. Mystery of Northern Space (5:57)

- Fumio Miyashita / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Akira Ito / keyboards
- Masanori Takahashi (Kitaro) / keyboards, percussion
- Hirohito Fukushima / guitar, vocals
- Akira Fukakusa / bass
- Shizuo Takasaki / drums

AR EAST FAMILY BAND is one of the pioneering prog bands to emerge out of Japan. Several musicians who later made careers of themselves by releasing New Age albums in the 1980s were members of this band. They were Fumio Miya[&*!#]a, Akira Ito, and most of all, Masanori Takahashi, which most of you don't know by that name, but by the name of Kitaro. Other band members included guitarist Hirohito Fukushima, bassist Akira Fukakusa, and drummer Shizuo Takasaki. Fumio Miya[&*!#]a was previously with a band called FAR OUT (which many just simply regard as another FEFB album, even if only Fumio Miya[&*!#]a was the only person in common with both bands). Now, if you're expecting the music of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND to be more cheesy New Age, throw that thought at the window. FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is pretty much to KITARO what VANGELIS was to APHRODITE'S CHILD, that is, these bands music are much more rock oriented than the careers these keyboardists later pursued in the 1970s and '80s. "Nipponjin", with the subtitle of Join Our Mental Phase Sound is the second album from FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. Basically these songs are remakes of stuff from "The Cave - Down to the Earth" and the FAR OUT album. The album starts off with the title track, which sounds exactly like the original, but with added on synthesizers and Mellotron (and if you ever heard the FAR OUT original, you'll noticed how effective that song is without the synths and Mellotron). The music starts of with spacy electronic effects, synthesizers, and electric sitar. Mellotron is used as well, then the music kicks in to a wonderful ballad, with drug oriented lyrics. After a few minutes, the ballad is over, and kicks in to a wonderful guitar jam. After a couple minutes, the music slows down once again, with the electric sitar once again. Then the song ends with chanting in "Om", with some chanting in Japanese as well. The next song, "The Cave" is more the style of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. Most of the music is sung in English, but the more intense passage has Fumio Miya[&*!#]a singing in Japanese. "Undiscovered Northern Land" sounds like something Klaus SCHULZE might do, with the big exception of the Mellotron and bamboo flute (SCHULZE did produce the album, but did not play on it, and the album was recorded in Japan). "Timeless" is one of the more rocking numbers on this album. "The God of Water" is simply an ambient piece, that segues in to the ballad "River of Soul". Several more pieces segue in to each other, before the final piece, "Mystery of Northern Space". First few listens, I hated this piece, but it started to grow on me. It is more dramatic than the rest, and it also has some strings. But in light of that, I'm glad to say it's nowhere as bad as that wretched "Four Minds" off The Cave: Down to the Earth. Although an excellent album, and this pretty much demonstrates what FAR EAST FAMILY BAND is about, their following album, "Parallel World" blows "Nipponjin" (and everything else they did) out of the water, still "Nipponjin" is recommended.

Far East Family Band - 1975 - The Cave Down To The Earth

Far East Family Band 
The Cave Down To The Earth

01. Northern Land
02. Birds Flying To the Nest
03. The God Of Water
04. Saying to the Land
05. The God Of Wind
06. Moving, Looking, Trying, Jumping
07. Wa, Wa
08. Mystery of Northern Space
09. The Cave Down To Earth
10. Four Minds
11. Transmigration

- Akira Fukakusa / bass
- Akira Ito / keyboards
- Fumio Miyashita / guitar, keyboards
- Hirohito Fukushima / vocals, guitar
- Masanori Takahashi aka "Kitaro" / keyboards, percussion
- Shizuo Takasaki / drums

FEFB's debut album could easily be considered Far Out's second album as the group had recorded one of the earliest prog album under that name. The early releases had a spacey sound that reminded much of Floyd although there was a slight Eastern accent mixed in with a more cosmic feel. The sextet, two guitarists and two keyboardists (among which future new age superstars Kitaro, Akira Ito and Myia[&*!#]a), developed a very interesting and often exciting space rock, which had the intelligence of not over- indulging itself.
The album is a concept album as "The Cave" is arriving onto our planet, and the group is generally celebrating the beauties of nature. Obviously heavily influenced by Floyd (From AHM to DSOTM era), the group lays down some very credible ambiances that even Floyd could've pulled off. Of course, the similarities are no accident, because the guitars often sound like Gilmour's, while some keyboards layers could easily have been from Wright. The album glides smoothly, but not unnoticed, because they are enough delightful moments to make you forgive them for their too-obvious influences. And as if to prove me wrong the closing track, the 11-min Transmigration shows more Moody Blues vocal harmonies over a pedestrian Floyd soundscape, the whole thing underlined by a Mellotron and ending on newborn's crying before picking up again (hey Nick Mason is on drums, right?) only tohave a siren warn us that the album is over.

This album will draw Klaus Schulze's attention and he will collaborate with FEFB on their next album (a rehash of the first two albums' highlights for the European market) Nipponjin and again for Parallel World. In the meantime this album often gets overlooked, but it fully deserves the proghead's attention, as much as their Far Out release. I rounded this album to a fourth star, for I always liked this one, even if it is far from perfect.

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.