Various Artists — 70's West Japanese Rock Scene
(Belle Antique 9461, 1979/1994, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1996-03-01
Apart from the Tokyo scene in the 70s, there were many progressive bands operating in the Kansai region, outside of Tokyo and in the west of Japan, in places like Osaka, Kyoto, and elsewhere. 70's West Japanese Rock Scene is a compilation that documents some of the music of that scene by bands who never got their break. This compilation pre-dates the Tokyo compilation by a few years – these recordings span the years 1976 through 1979, and to be fair, many of the musicians here did eventually meet with some level of success, but many of the names and faces had changed by that time. Six different bands are represented here, for a total of seven cuts.
Schéhérezade kicks the program off with "Namidanonakae" and closes it as well with the eleven minute "Boyhood - The Cliff." This band features some famous names – Teru Hirayama, who would go on to Novela, and eventually Teru's Symphonia, plays guitars, and keyboardist Toshio Egawa, who would later play in both Novela and Gerard. In fact most of the Schéhérezade lineup went on to form Novela (one might suspect some influence from the band Renaissance, with band names like Scheherezade and Novela, but that connection is not so easily made). Tenchisozo, an early formation of Ain Soph, is here with "Dr.Macoy," a track which will remind some of early Soft Machine. Maria was a band that was active from '72 until around '78. Their offering, "Serenade" from 1976, represents the oldest recording on this disc, but with its Spanish flavor and heavy use of symphonics, it's also one of the best.
Rumble was a band led by guitarist Ikkou Nakajima, who later with Hiroko Nagai would be one of the main movers in Pageant. Also featured in the lineup is keyboardist Toshio Egawa (Gerard). Their contribution, "Kagerouno Maki," is a powerful rocker with driving vocals and tight guitar-keyboard interplay. Charisma offers "Red and Black," an ambitious rock-fusion piece with spirited guitar work from Mitsuhiko Izumi (later of Dada and Kennedy) and drumming by Kouzou Suganuma (later of Black Page). Lastly, there is Round House with "Jinzo-Ningen" from '78 (and the title cut from their posthumous CD released in 1991). Overall, a lot of good music here. Sound quality is slightly substandard, but still very listenable... the price we pay for a piece of history.
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more