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Foodbrain

(A Social Gathering)
Hiro Yanagida – organ
Shinki Chen – guitar
Masayoshi ‘Louis Louis’ Kabe – bass
Hiro Tsunoda - drums

In the days before anyone in the West could get a hold of their sole album offering, 1970’s A SOCIAL GATHERING, Foodbrain was considered to have been one of the true holy grails of Japanese turn-of-the-70s New Rock. For a start, on the obi strip of this LP, producer Ikuzo Orita stated ephatically: “Finally in Japan a true heavy rock is born.”* Furthermore, Foodbrain was a supergroup comprised of such heavyweights as future members of Speed, Glue & Shinki, Masahiko Satoh & Sound Breakers, Love Life Life +1, and all contained within a super inspired pop art album sleeve with an African elephant on the front - so how could it possibly have failed?Well, brother and sisters, it just did. It sounded about as hip as Ten Years After’s STONEDHENGE, and it don’t come much lower down the rock social order than that, kiddies. Unfortunately, A SOCIAL GATHERING turned out to be no more than a chance for organist Hiro Yanagida to hang out with a few other so-called New Rock prime movers and not much else. The Foodbrain LP allowed these future Japrock legends to test out their chops on one another, but each one was still caught in thrall of their previous rock’n’roll experiences and there was no producer to buck their ideas up, or cut through the crap, of which there’s plenty on this record. As is evidenced by Shinki Chen’s reticence on his own solo LP SHINKI CHEN & FRIENDS to cut loose like the Japanese Hendrix he was always purported to be, the guitar playing here is limp-wristed and indecisive, and utterly subservient to the organ of Hiro Yanagida. Indeed, Yanagida’s big top organ dominates the proceeding to such an extent that it could be a solo LP. Like Chick Churchill or somesuch forgotten ‘60s no-mark, Yanagida charges up and down the keyboard willy-nilly, with the emphasis most emphatically on the ‘nilly’! And all throughout, Shinki Chen dutifully riffs along in the background. The eternally gauche organ often stumbles into that horrendous early-1960s Blackpool Pier variety club territory of the early-Deep Purple BOOK OF TALIESIN variety, and never rises above the aforementioned Chick Churchill level of merely-achieving. Worst of all, the 15-minutes long free rot LP closer ‘The Hole In The Sausage’ is tiresome at best and abject at worst, and features the unreasonably loud bass clarinet of Uber-hip art director/sleeve designer/Taj Mahal Traveller musician Michihiro Kimura, whose presence at least made this goal-less draw offensive rather than merely an irritation. As a final comment, I will admit that Kimura’s cover is epic and brilliant, but how I wish the LP within was not the biggest rock disappointment ever.

Footnote:

* According to producer Ikuzo Orita, the Foodbrain LP was borne out of time limits based on drummer Hiro Tsunoda’s jazz schedule: “The idea was to have all original songs at all costs, and the songs, well, even though it is Tsunoda, he was busy with the other one (Watanabe Sadao Quartet), so we had to do it without songs. And then when we were creating the schedule for the recording, it ends up Tsunoda had to go to Montreal, so we were tight. I think we said lets do it in three days. Well, it was actually just two days. We spent one day with overlapping sound. Because back then it was four-track. So it ends up being Tsunoda’s schedule. So we do it with the four. That was the start. And the guest artist, the one who was the designer for Taj Mahal Ryokoudan, if you will, or artist, but the man who did good work in collage, his name is Kimura. I think it was Michihiro Kimura, but we asked him to do everything. And then his friend, Nakai of the Tigers (their manager), and also Eiju Kimura who was in Kyoto, people like that. Kimura, who was in charge of jacket design, well, he jumps in with I think it was a bass clarinet. That was the attitude. (laughs) There wasn’t anything to say, you know, it was like a convention for hobbyists, or at least it was that everyone did as they pleased.

Julian Cope
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Early Food Brain
In October 2008 Solid Records released early recordings by most of the line-up that would go on to become Food Brain - Hiro Yanagida, Shinki Chen, Hiro Tsunoda, but with Kei Ishikawa on bass instead of Masayoshi Kabe.
Recorded in 1970 several months prior to "A Social Gathering", these recordings were the soundtrack to Koji Wakamatsu's film "Shinjuku Mad".
With Yanagida on piano instead of organ, the music has more of a blues rock heft than the later album. It's pretty good stuff. [LINK]
Posted by choan, Oct 18, 2008
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