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Shingetsu (Japan) - 1979/2004 - "Live"
TRACK LIST: 1. Oni 10:29 2. Fragments of the Dawn 7:21 3. The Other Side of the Morning 4:02 4. Influential Street 4:17 5. After the Rain 4:15 6. She Can't Return Home 5:07 7. Night Collector 5:12 8. Reddish Eyes on a Mirror 20:39 9. Voyage for Killing Love 6:09 All tracks: by Shingetsu. Produced by Shingetsu. Recorded live in Tokyo. LINE-UP: Haruhiko Tsuda - guitars; vocals Akira Hanamoto - keyboards Shizuo Suzuki - bass Naoya Takahashi - drums Makoto Kitayama - vocals With: Takashi Kokubo - keyboards; vocals
Prolusion. This is my first acquaintance with the creation of the Japanese progressive outfit SHINGETSU. From what I've heard and read of them formerly, I remembered that the band had existed in the second half of the '70s and has issued one studio album not long before its break up in 1979. Their music has been compared to classic Genesis, and singer Makoto Kitayama to Peter Gabriel in particular. The band's live performance presented on this CD (issued as a digipack) was recorded also in 1979, but was unavailable until now.
Synopsis. According to its booklet, the album consists of ten tracks. In reality, however, there are only nine, so I removed the last number, Return of the Night, from the track list above. They maybe sing of the night's return while 'voyaging for a killing love' on track 9, but I am not able to understand even a single word in Japanese. Generally, the vocals are the only aspect of this album that I am not quite satisfied with, which, though, is just due to the specific character of this language. In my view, it's too soft to be used in the context of Rock music by male vocalists, whose singing often reminds me of a baby talk in such cases. (Vice versa regarding female singing in Japanese, which I usually like very much.) OK, it's just the matter of taste, but anyway, there is nothing in common between Makoto Kitayama and Peter Gabriel - neither in their vocals nor in the ways of their delivering. The music is also original - well, it's histrionic, and so in this respect Shingetsu is really closer to Ange and Genesis than to the other classic heroes of Symphonic Progressive. Nevertheless, there is no one theme or solo that would clearly remind you of someone else. So this is not just another Neuschwanstein, for instance, whose rather derivative, yet, excellent Genesis-inspired album "Battlement" from 1978 is internationally regarded as a masterpiece. Shingetsu is better, and not only because they're more original than any of the followers of the most influential Art-Rock band of all time. They played Symphonic Progressive that is at once complicated and attractive as most of those masterworks from the first half of the '70s that we love so much. However, not all of the songs here are about classic Art-Rock in pure form. Influential Street and After the Rain sound in places too heavy to fully correspond to the canons of the genre, while the following She Can't Return Home is of another story nearly altogether. Filled with raw guitar riffs giving it a distinct metallic flavor, this is, rather, progressive Hard Rock with symphonic and even some Punk overtones. The large-scaled 'solo maneuvers' of a Church organ-like sounding synthesizer on the 20-minute Reddish Eyes elicit from my memory the works of organ Classical music of the Renaissance and those by Johannes Sebastian Bach in particular. This is a truly grandiose epic, which is by all means on par with Genesis's Supper's Ready save vocals. Nevertheless, being surrounded by gems of a less caliber, yet, of the same value, it can be regarded as only the minor highlight of the album.
Conclusion. Like their countrymen >Round House, Shingetsu were standing before the cradle of Japanese Progressive and are the precursors of most if not all of the Art-Rock performers appeared in the land of the rising sun in the further years. The sound quality isn't the best, but is acceptable and is decent enough to instantly catch that this is one of the very best albums of the genre released at the decline of its heyday. Fans of the Mellotron and the other vintage keyboards should be among the first to obtain it.
VM: October 22, 2004
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