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As the brainchild of former Launchers guitarist Osamu Kitajima, the Justin Heathcliff project was a successful attempt to cop the kind of English post-REVOLVER psychedelia that such London bands as The Syn, Mike Stuart Span and The Flies were recording in 1967-8. As such, the project was highly successful, especially considering it was recorded in London by a former GS guitarist with a fixation for traditional Japanese instruments. It was not, however, Kitajima’s fastidious attention to achieving sonic geographical accuracy that made the finished result a bit special, but the simple fact that love anything English of that periode, even if it’s been faked. The Justin Heathcliff LP is ultimately a cleverly executed but rather pointless exercise in genre re-creating, something that Acid Mother’s Temple attempted with a good deal more humour on their LP of fake ‘Occitanian folk music’ LA NOVIA.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Junio Nakahara – lead vocalist and slide guitar
Gene Shoji – lead guitar
Charles Che - bass
Eiichi Tsukasa – drums

The career of the Helpful Soul was a real case of wrong place, wrong time - for they hit their blues stride just as heavy blues was becoming hard rock, and graduated to heavy rock too late to capitalise on even that brief fad. However, they recorded one outstanding track, the ten-minutes-plus of "Peace For Fools", which appeared on their otherwise bog-standard blues dirge debut LP. This track in itself separates them from all Japanese blues bands for it is a Kim Fowleyan masterpiece of Jim Morrison mystical doggerel/truly possessed nihilist genius. Unfortunately, leader Junio Nakahara was so inspired by witnessing a performance by Blues Creation, when his band supported them at the Too Much Festival, that he was soon after driven to change his own name to Tstomu Ogawa while his band became known as ... Too Much.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Though I've never heard their music, Hill Andon were said to be a psychedelic folk group. However, knowing the dross that leaves Japan under that 'psychedelic' title via ebay, I'd be wary of buying before hearing their records.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The sometimes hilarious and sometimes dangerous escapades of Hi-Red Center occupy a central place in Japrocksampler. Their story is told in Book One, Chapter Two 'Experimental Japan'.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Long considered a jazz legend and Japan’s foremost trumpeter, Terumasa Hino has played with almost all the jazz heavyweights throughout the past half century, from Gil Evans and Elvin Jones to Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Born in Tokyo in 1942, Hino made hgis professional debut at the tender age of thirteen, drawing his main inspiration from Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. For the first few years of his career, Hino was something of an opportunist, even jumping open Japan’s early ‘60s eleki bandwagon with the cash-in LP TRUMPET IN BLUEJEANS. However, his fiery temperament and ‘large brilliant tone’, as The Grove Dictionary of Jazz termed it saw Hino’s late ‘60s work increase both in output and quality, and his 1969 Columbia LP HI-NOLOGY was extremely successful commercially. Hino celebrated the new decade with the LP JOURNEY TO AIR, a hugely inventive disc taken up by the single title track, itself split into two sections ‘Part 1 – Gongen’; and ‘Part 2 – Peace & Love’. JOURNEY TO AIR also introduced future Miles Davis sax player Dave Liebman, while the LP’s European success enabled Hino to play at the Berliner Jazztage in 1971. Thereafter, he released the LPs VIBRATIONS and LOVE NATURE in rapid succession, whilst working concurrently as an editor of Miles Davis transcriptions. In June 1973, The Terumasa Hino Quintet released two amazing live LPs recorded on different continents. The LP LIVE! was recorded in Tokyo on June 2nd and released on the hip Three Blind Mice label, whilst TARO’S MOOD was captured in Munich, at The Domicile Jazzclub, and released on Germany’s Enja label. Both records were hugely raw and intoxicating by virtue of their long drawn out tracks, extreme percussive overload - supplied on both occasions by drummer Motohiko Hino and master percussionist Yuji Imamura – and Hino’s ability to stretch out from straight ahead melody to charging elephant cacophony. Indeed, the 25-minutes of ‘Predawn’ (which takes up all of side two of TARO’S MOOD) and the 28-and-a-half minutes of ‘Be And Know’ (which takes up the whole of side two of LIVE!) are two of my all time favourite pieces of Japanese music. Hino thereafter dropped the quintet, returning to the recoprding studio, in January 1975, for the epic sound of SPEAK TO LONELINESS. Again opting for one side long track and two slightly shorter affairs, the LP introduced a bigger, more brass orientated sound. Later in ’75, Hino moved to New York, where he worked with arranger Gil Evans Elvin Jones and Dave Liebman. His 1977 LP MAY DANCE was released on the Japanese Flying Disk label, and featured ex-Miles Davis stars Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums, plus legendary guitarist John Scofield. The music became a little typical of his New York environment until 1981’s Columbia LP DOUBLE RAINBOW, which appeared to be a a very successful homage to Miles’ lost 1975 funkathon period. Indeed, the fifteen minute opener, Masabumi Kikuchi’s ‘Merry-Go-Round’ opts for an AGARTHA-type atonal funk vibe, Kikuchi’s own organ intro highly reminiscent of Miles’ claw-handed voodoo take on Sly Stone’s sould keyboards. Moreover, Kiyoshi Itoh’s mixing style also apes many of the mix ideas that Teo Macero introduced to Miles Davis LPs. Thereafter, Hino returned to Japan to live and work throughout the ‘80s, which is outside the scope of this book.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
I've never heard this quintet, which featured a violinist and two guitarists. They were possibly Beatles-influenced, as their name means ‘Honey Pie’.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The arrival in Japan of this so-called 'Tribal Rock Musical' was deeply disturbing to straight Japanese society, and the authorities banned the show after just two months of performances. However, the fall out accelerated the Japanese underground scene considerably, and many ensembles and loose aggregations of artists/musicians came together through their association with 'Hair'. For a full explanation of the 'Hair' influence on Japanese culture, please see Japrocksampler Book One, Chapter Four and Book Two, Chapter Five. The soundtrack released on RCA in 1971.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Eiichi Otaki – guitar, vocals
Shigeru Suzuki – guitar, vocals
Haruomi Hosono – bass, vocals
Takashi Matsumoto– drums, vocals

Happy End occupies a lonely place in the Japanese pantheon of rock divinities, for the band’s members were the first to be brave (and percipient) enough to insist on presenting their songs in the Japanese language. This was at a time when such an idea was still considered un-authentic and slightly gauche, but the band persisted and ultimately won the day. Unlike most contemporary Japanese bands of the time, Happy End also refused to sweeten their albums with scatterings of Western rock covers, which has resulted in their work having long term homeland respect but precious little of musical value to the keen Western Japrock freak. For the truth is that Happy End’s music is most reminiscent of soft rock such as WHEATFIELD SOUL-period Guess Who, a slightly heavier CS&Y and Badfinger, and contains no real musical highs such as guitar or organ solos of merit. Happy End was formed in 1969 by Apryl Fool’s highly talented rhythm section Haruomi Hosono and Takashi Matsumoto, who were both songwriters of considerable note. The band signed to the experimental and visionary record label URC (Underground Record Club), which had set its sights on celebrating Japan-o-centric culture statements, many of which are too insular for most Western rock ears. The band’s first LP HAPPY END was to these ears their best effort by far, each subsequent release being slightly blander, although the second LP LAEMACHI ROMAN has its moments. Signing to the larger King record label, Happy End had Van Dyke Parks produce their third LP confusingly also entitled HAPPY END. A concert recording from 1972 was released posthumously in 1974 as the LP LIVE HAPPY END.
The band existed between 1969-73, during which time they enjoyed no major record sales, but were always darlings of the rock critics, especially when they collaborated with Little Feat’s Lowell George on the song ‘Sayonara America, Sayonara Nippon’. They also had the nerve to back acoustic folk singer Nobuyasu Okabayashi when he went electric, even though it was considered a Dylan-like act of treachery to traditionalists. Nowadays, with all of its band members having achieved a consistent level of success, Happy End is best known for the song ‘Kaze Wo Atsumete’, which was featured in the movie LOST IN TRANSLATION. Bass player Hosono later formed the highly influencial Yellow Magic Orchestra, while drummer Matsumoto would later direct movies and write Top Ten hits for Eastern stars Agnes Chan, Masahiro Kuwana and Seiko Matsuda.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
I have never heard this intriguing 2-LP set, but Unsung editor The Seth Man had a copy as a teenager and was not enamoured, describing it as 'more L.A. than Tokyo'. The album was produced in the USA by Mothers of Invention and Velvets producer Tom Wilson. According to Seth, the first LP side was 'kinda sub-par pop with the most interesting thing [being] the first track, which was a near-"Sgt. Peppper" type homage, highly phased drums and all the rest of it ... The second record had one track apiece ... which was the reason I bought it, figgering it would yield a maximum freak out. I only remember a lot of inept koto plucking, some Western gent prattling on 'meaningfully' in a proto-"Kung Fu" David Carradine manner about a pregnant dog and a little token freaking-out in a "Mondo Hollywood" style. I was left with the impression it was about as Japanese as the Chinese takeout-styled type design on the cover...which was to say: not all that much, unfortunately.'
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007