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Sakuraba, Motoi: Live Concert — Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile

Symphonic prog is alive and well-represented by the likes of America's Glass Hammer & Syzygy, Sweden's Par Lindh Project, Italy's Le Orme, and several of Japan's brightest lights in Arsnova, Gerard, and keyboard wizard/game soundtrack aficionado, Motoi Sakuraba. Motoi's post-Déjà vu career far outweighs his work with his old band, from his first solo album, Gikyokuonsou (his personal favorite), to his scores for the animé-oriented games Valkyrie Profile, Shining The Holy Ark, Beyond The Beyond and the Star Ocean series. Last year, Motoi staged a one-hundred minute concert to highlight selections from his music for the aforementioned Star Ocean volumes and Valkyrie Profile in true power trio fashion. The other two-thirds are Gerard's loaned-out bassist extraordinaire, Atsushi Hasegawa, and a mohawked drummer by the name of Toshihiko Nakamura.

From within Motoi's self-imposed citadel of nine assorted keyboards spring oodles of diamond-dense string pads and spitfire digital & analog e-melodies which seethe over a barbed-wire boxscape of growling bass and flagellating drums. A Yamaha digital piano, a Kurzweil K2000 workstation, and a genuine Mini-Moog are complemented by other synths which altogether present a hugely varied palette of sounds for Motoi to choose from; along with the Mini, a Clavia Nord Lead is also used for a few of those great frenzied solos of the EmerWakeMorJob sort. And let's not forget the generous doses of foot-stompin' [Korg CX-3] organ leads, as with "Unfinished Battle," a composition that sounds like a revisiting of ELP's long-gone glory days (though Hasegawa is a far superior bass player). "Hand To Hand" is another ballsy organ-powered anthemic sendoff.

"March Of Glory," one of the very best tracks, shifts gears at two minutes inward to finish out its remainder in a subdued fashion, with Atsushi & Toshihiko getting their licks in as Motoi improvises over a fab fuzzed Rhodes patch. Motoi proceeds to solo on an elastic, extraterrestrial-sounding violin sample for "Theme Of RENA," and steps down for drum and bass solos to conquer the next quarter-hour interval. Toshihiko is adept at power drumming and his solo is a chop off of the old Palmer/Powell block; it would've been nice to hear him tone things down a bit and play around with concurrent rhythms instead of primarily crescendoing to a boots-first finalé. Atsushi's bass solo is much, much more savory: he begins with a delicate arpeggiated segment with increasingly louder plucked notes, then switches abruptly to a series of pull-offs & tapped notes coated in a thick wet blanket of distortion. The juice really begins flowing when the duet begins—Atsushi's aggressive lead (and what a chunky, fuzzy tone that is) is met with powerhouse drumming and eventually topped by Motoi's sizzling Minimoog and CX-3 solos.

"Highbrow" is a U.K.-flavored synth & piano theme that evolves into a darker piece ripe with menace; this track exhibits the sort of tonal and melodic deviations that Gerard's Toshio Egawa finally began to exploit on Gerard's last CD (Toshio was and is periodically criticized for not varying his approach often enough, usually hurtling through his arrangements like an errant missile). "So Alone" is an exquisite, classically flavored piano piece (sans accompaniment) that heralds Motoi as a master of subtle moods as much as he is a fortissimo orchestral rocker. The "Star Ocean Forever" suite, like the tracks immediately before it, reassert the evening's tone of finely carved symphonic prog. A final bonus studio track—another lush piano piece—brings disc two to a close.

It should all be quite clear, by now: if you've never heard a note by Motoi Sakuraba, this will undoubtedly make one of the best (and most affordable) introductions to his repertoire, along with the Musea edition of his first album, Gikyokuonsou. As this covers a bit more ground, the few shekels' difference to get this Live Concert would make a little more sense…highly recommended!


— Disc One — {55:50}
1. The Dawn of Wisdom (5:38)
2. Unfinished Battle with God Syndrome (4:23)
3. Fly Away in the Violet Sky (5:57) (jazzy piano solo)
4. Reflected Moon (2:08)
5. Hand to Hand (4:27)
6. Requiem to a Predicament – Falling Under Negative Consciousness (5:24)
7. March for Glory (7:51)
8. Theme of RENA – Drum Solo – Bass Solo (19:58)

— Disc Two — {46:12}
1. Highbrow (8:12)
2. So Alone, Be Sorrow (6:52)
3. Mission To Deep Space (5:20)
4. Confidence In Domination (4:05)
5. Cutting Edge Notion (4:37)
6. Doorway to Heaven (5:04)
7. STAR OCEAN FOREVER – The Incarnation Of The Devil – The Dawn of Wisdom (7:43)

Bonus Track
8. Piano Solo (4:13)

Total time – 102:02

Added: June 26th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Motoi Sakuraba ~ Official English Website
Hits: 5032
Language: english

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