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Shingetsu : Live 25,26 July 1979 ABC Kaikan Hall, Tokyo

Another band to have crossed my desk and another that I had so seriously wanted to hear for many years and you guessed it… it had to be a live recording. While the rest of the world was hearing the death knell for so many of the great names amongst the progressive rock fraternity, countries like Spain and Japan seemed to defy the trend and enabled many young and aspiring bands to develop their progressive concepts and themes, often to great acclaim. Shingetsu were one such band that paved the way for many others that were to follow including Gerard, Ain Soph, Ars Nova, Providence, Pageant and Outer Limits to mention a mere half dozen. Being a Japanese band, one has to get used to the familiar sound of the vocals that for some strange reason sound just like every other Japanese bands singer. Don't ask me why but I don't believe the vocal intonations within the Japanese language allow for any seriously distinguishing differences between each singer. They all just sound too alike for these ears.

For starters, the sound quality is pretty average considering the Japanese have been at the forefront of modern technology since they decided that all kids from kindergarten age and up would require scientific calculators to go with their yo-yos during play-lunch. Unfortunately, their technical prowess in the musical department hadn't caught up with the west at that time as the sound quality is very muddy and much of the timbre of the music has been lost due to spatial intolerances of the building they were performing in. Had this been recorded at the beginning rather than at the end of the 1970's, this may have been forgiven but unfortunately, either their equipment or the acoustics of the building were simply not up to par. By the sound of the applause, it would be also reasonable to estimate the size to be relatively small, say less than 100 or so people which is a pity as the bands performance is generally excellent in almost all of the important areas.

The Genesis influence that is heard throughout much of the first section of this disc is very apparent but in all honesty I didn't really object as they seem to pull it off reasonably well and without the anticipated plagiarism that other bands are guilty of. By that I mean they have composed several worthwhile songs that, although sounding like "Lamb" outtakes or the alternative mixes from Foxtrot, the band just manages to escape serious judgment for being too close to the original. A strong wall of sound, capable but unspectacular musicianship and emotive songwriting with adequate vocals that capture the essence of the music are all this band can offer but they do it pretty well considering the alternative music of the times. Fluid guitar lines slightly reminiscent of Steve Hackett and some engaging mellotron also embellish the sound even more.

Vocals, while not a high point on the album serve the music reasonably well and for its time, the band must have been pretty popular in their home country for those whose aspirations to see Genesis appear live, may never have eventuated. Half way through their set, the band moves into harder territory by trying to emulate the sound of some of the European bands like Omega, Nektar, Eloy or even Grobbschnitt as many of their longer songs still retain sufficient melodic structure to maintain interest and direction. The track entitled "Reddish Eyes On Mirror" in particular has a great melodic hook that is repeated throughout but gets sadly lost amongst the distorted bass for most of its duration. The arrangements and playing are generally pretty tight despite the muddiness of the amplified delivery and sonic inadequacies of the building but overall, their performance has inspired me to seek out some of the bands earlier music if such a scarce commodity can be found without having to relinquish my future superannuation entitlements.

Recommended but with the sonic caveat mentioned earlier.

Track Details:

1. Oni
2. Fragments Of The Dawn
3. The Other Side Of Morning
4. Influential Street
5. Afternoon After The Rain
6. She Can't Return Home
7. Night Collector
8. Reddish Eyes On Mirror
9. Voyage For The Killing Part 2
10. Return Of The Night

N.B. Although there are 10 tracks listed on the album, only 9 would play. I have heard of similar problems elsewhere so this may be a universal error with the playlist.

Added: January 24th 2005
Reviewer: Greg Cummins
Related Link: Shingetsu Web Site
Hits: 3633
Language: english

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