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Monday, November 2, 2015

Naniwaya Tatsumaru & Warner Beatniks, Japan

Naniwaya Tatsumaru & Warner Beatniks - Keiantaiheiki (Yoshitatsu Kyounobori) Rock Roukyoku Rock (Japan, 1971, Reprise)

Another of the many "New Rock" era attempts at a cross-cultural fusion between rock and traditional Japanese music, in this case roukyoku, a type of narrative singing usually accompanied by the shamisen. Tatsumaru barks, growls and whines out the running monologue, alternating between sly humor and extreme agitation as the text calls for, accompanied by his tsugaru-shamisen strumming/thrashing and occasional heavy prog/psych outbursts, or more cinematic sounding backdrops of strings, flute, etc. The rock sections come courtesy of the Warner Beatniks, which was just another name for the "usual suspects" studio crew of Yusuke Hoguchi, Kimio Mizutani, etc. It's a fairly interesting experiment, but does have some serious drawbacks. The main problem being that the rock bits tend to kind of jump in and out rather quickly, making for a somewhat disjointed sound, and leaving the listener to sit through lengthy sections of traditional unaccompanied roukyoku narration and shamisen plucking. Which is fine if you're a dedicated fan of the style, but will probably try the patience of the more general prog/psych listener. It's an expensive item these days (more so once it gets into the hands of hyperbolic western record dealers than in its native Japan), so I feel a "buyer beware" is in order here, despite my own general amusement with it. Great sinister cover art, duplicated in even more evil looking red on the back. As a side note, the sleeve states this is the second release in the "Bikkuri Series" ("surprising series"). If memory serves correctly, the first was the thoroughly ridiculous (but entertaining) "Rock Christmas Rock", which as you might have guessed is an album of rocked-out Christmas songs performed by the Warner Beatniks and featuring one of the most hideously eye-scarring record covers in human history.

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