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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Early Times, Japan

Early Times - Second Album (Japan, 1976, Early Times Records)

Not to be confused with the contemporaneous Early Times String Band (a Japanese 70s folk-rock ensemble that has become slightly better known due to a couple of reissue/archival releases), this incredibly obscure album was the second effort of a local Sapporo based group. Their first is so rare that, while it must exist, has apparently never been glimpsed a single time by even the most hardcore Japanese collectors after all these years. All that aside, what we have here is a very interesting anachronism that sounds more like an underground Japanese take on early 70s British proto-progressive styles than anything else. Even the Monty Python-esque cover art seems to point in that direction. It kicks off with with an extremely cool horn rock-ish affair, featuring vintage organ, electric piano, funky percussion and psych guitar backed by a female chorus to great effect. This is followed by a lengthy proto-prog style guitar/organ led jam that slowly builds in intensity, with some great soloing. The rest of the first side then kind of puts on the breaks, with a couple of slow blues rock pieces that still have a very palpable early 70s UK feel to them. The second side starts with another gradually building instrumental jam, that eventually hits an awesome groove while the soloing breaks out overhead, before slowing down again into a more pensive mood. We then reach the real climax of the album, with the nearly 13 minute long final track. Building slowly once again (a hallmark of theirs, it seems), this starts out in a jazzy/bluesy horn rock mode, then builds in intensity as the soloing picks up and the vocals join in again, ending in a long crescendo of bluesy psych guitar soloing over the horn rock/proto-prog style jamming. Great stuff, and the whole album has a very loose, underground sound and vibe that is just flat out cool.

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