Some Xmas Reviews
Rock and Pop music is dominated by the English speaking world. There is a large and active scene in the rest of the world that largely gets ignored. Japan is an obvious example - a lucrative touring location, but do we ever hear of their bands?
Saiichi Sugiyama is a Japanese rock musician steeped in the blues and a devotee of British late 60's early seventies rock
. He has been a UK resident since 1980. He has kindly sent me his new CD to review and, very generously, included a Cream/Blind Faith tribute album as well. It has been a pleasure listening to these CDs, and my apologies to Saiichi for my tardiness in posting the reviews.
Sunshine of Your Love
(Hendrix Records Legend Tribute Series FUCA-1001)
from Amazon Japan)
This is essentially a Cream tribute album with a bonus of three Blind Faith Songs. Like most tribute albums it ranges from respectful covers to extensive re-interpretations. Quality is high and a welcome addition to any Cream fan's collection.
Tracks worthy of note:
4 from Saiichi Sugiyama Band featuring (THE) Pete Brown on vocals and Malcolm Bruce on keys. All the most respectful covers but with insertions of original components - the ending coda on the ending coda of White Room is a surprise. Saiichi provides some fine guitar work - Clapton and Harrison influenced but his own voice.
Mugen Byblos electro-beat based versions of Crossroads and a standout Dance the Night Away
Kantaro Uchida's acoustic guitar reworking of Prescence of the Lord and Can't Find My Way Home.
A terrific acoustic version of Four Until Late from Toshiro Masuda.
And the offerings from Club Hendrix that have, well you can guess the flavour.
After working with Pete Brown on the Tribute album, Saiichi continued the partnership. Pete has co-produced and contributes lyrics, backing vocals and percussion. Other notable players are Zoot Money, Dave Clempson, Henry Lowther and Malcolm Bruce. David Hadley-page provides a flexible bass line with Simon Edgoose driving the rhythm.
So Am I
This is an album with depth - give it three listens to get to know it. Good songs, strong arrangements (not over fussy!), excellent guitar playing and all round playing. The influences are diverse producing considerable musical variety. It's not a one style album but ranges from blues to rock to Beatles influenced pop songs.
Student Susan and Enough are definitely in the Beatles mode but beautifully so - by the third listen I was singing along with the former. Enough is hi-lighted by some fine guitar playing - controlled Claptonesque pyrotechnics blended into a Harrison melodic flow. They are preceded by the driving rock of the opening track Cellar Full of Noise and then are followed by a bit of Soul/R&B with Middle of the Night. This track has some more fine guitar work including a tasty contribution from Clem. Saiichi provides a strong vocal on The Band Played On - he knows the strengths and limitations of his voice.
The central track is Old Samurai - clearly a very personal song from Saiichi. It uses a well worn structure but Saiichi pulls it off - beautifully balanced with a ripper guitar solo. It's worth the price of entry alone. A rockin' boogie instrumental follows entitled Shimmy with more great guitar from Saiichi and Clem.
Only half way through the album and I'm stopping there. It continues in that quality vein - Komachi is another standout particularly for its fine arrangement. Go and buy it from amazon.co.jp - the links are above.
P.S. Saiichi sent me the CDs as he liked my site and I provided him with some Cream related info. The reviews are my personal uninfluenced opinions, as usual.