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TRACK LIST: 1. Straight Flash 5:24 2. Ondo-Ondo 5:11 3. Funky Funk 4:15 4. Vinterhavn 7:26 5. Far East Jungle 6:37 6. Cyberjaya 6:19 7. Bird's Eye Prospects 6:43 8. Sarajevo 6:38 All tracks: by Matsui. LINE-UP: Akihiko Matsui - keyboards Tomoya Tachikawa - bass Ittoku Shimamura - drums Eiji Otogawa - saxophone Toshiuki Matsumoto - organ With: Yoko Ebara - vocalizes (on 4, 5, & 7) Shunji Takenaka - electric guitar (on 8) Produced by Tachikawa & Matsumoto. Engineered by M. Yamada at "Sound Crew", Tokyo.
Prolusion. "Bird's Eye Prospects" is the second album by the Japanese band Junky Funk led by multi-instrumentalist and composer Akihiko Matsui. The review of the band's debut is available on ProgressoR, too, and can be read by clicking >here.
Synopsis. The album's opening track, Straight Flash, is about a really unique, highly progressive (by any standpoint) Symphonic Jazz-Fusion with some academic feel to it and very diverse, mostly intensive arrangements. All the musical events here develop by the laws that are typical for both of Classic Art-Rock and Classic Jazz-Fusion (think Brand X, for instance), and most of the keyboard solos are definitely symphonic in character. With a few exceptions, it is pointless to search for any direct comparisons in Akihiko Matsui's music, but the names of Return To Forever, Colosseum II, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band might help you to get at least some idea of what Straight Flash is about. On the whole, Ondo-Ondo (2) follows the stylistically structural direction laid in the very beginning of the album, and even the parts of saxophone sound cohesive here, never exceeding the bounds of the overall compositionally performance context of the piece. Funky Funk (3) is the most innovative composition on the album. There is almost nothing about Jazz on this track, and the constantly developing interplay between solos of synthesizer and those of bass at the helm of arrangements is the entity of two progressive music dimensions: Symphonic Art-Rock and Fifth Element. Strangely, after presenting extremely diverse, highly original, and definitely progressive forms of music on the first three tracks, the band suddenly turned to quite a traditional jazz music with simple, if not to say ordinary, basic themes. Vinterhavn (4) consists for the most part of a light, somewhat flirtatious piano-based Jazz in the style of the 1950s with plain female vocalizes. Far East Jungle (5) sounds like a collective, yet, simplified version of those works of Return To Forever that feature Flora Purim's singing without words. Keyboards and the rhythm section play a pronouncedly supportive role here, and most vocalizes are done in unison with the sax solos. Of course, all of this hardly concerns progressive music. Only closer to the end of the piece a saxophone has 'broken loose' from that fool circle and added a few diverse and really interesting touches to the musical palette of Far East Jungle (which is certainly an inappropriate title for this track). Fortunately, all three of the following compositions completely establish the reputation of Junky Funk in general and the album in particular. The album's title track (7) as if shows how both of Vinterhavn and Far East Jungle should sound from the progressive standpoint of view, and of course, a strongly pronounced originality is only one of the values of this remarkable composition. Everything here - passages of piano, solos of bass, those of percussion instruments, and vocalizes - is genuinely inspired, diverse, and complex and, moreover, is always in direct connection with a symphonic flavor. The remaining two pieces: Cyberjaya and Sarajevo (6 & 8) are done in Junky Funk's best traditions, and stylistically, they're close to Ondo-Ondo (2).
Conclusion. The presence of six masterworks and two weak tracks on the same album causes some difficulties only to the determination of its rating within the six stars that I can 'operate' with. In all however, "Bird's Eye Prospects" gets my high recommendations.
VM: September 1, 2003
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