August 12, 2011 Playlist

Flower Travellin' Band (Joe Yamanaka)
R. I. P.
Akira "Joe" Yamanaka (right front)
1946 - 2011

"Kirikyogen" by Kuni Kawachi & Friends (Flower Travellin' Band - 1970)
Kuni Kawachi & Friends (Flower Travellin' Band)  "Kirikyogen"  1970 (Japan)
Akira "Joe" Yamanaka passed away from lung cancer this August 7, less than a month shy of his 65th birthday.  Joe is something of a superstar in Japan, being known in recent years as a "tough guy" actor (mostly playing villain roles in crime dramas), but also for his maudlin 1977 ballad "Proof Of The Man" (a big hit in Asia) and for leading a Japanese reggae band (he also sang with The Wailers!)  But during the psychedelic era, he was the lead singer and frontman for Flower Travellin' Band.  FTB was not just Japan's greatest heavy band of the early 1970's, they were one of the most unique and brilliant hard rock groups of all time from "Anywhere" (the title of their debut album).  Even with outstanding lead guitarist Hideki Ishima (Japan's Jimmy Page) and a terrific rhythm section (Jun Kobayashi & "George" Wada), it was "JOE" who was always the Flower who grabbed the most attention.  Having been fathered by an African-American GI (whom he never knew), Yamanaka's tall, lanky frame and glittering Afro always created a sensation in homogenous Japanese society -- but it was his totally unique singing style which melded a somewhat "operatic" Japanese musical tradition with "that blues feeling" which made him truly specialKirikyogen is one of the more obscure records in Flower Travellin' Band's discography, originally credited to "Kuni Kawachi & Friends" (Kawachi had been the piano player in a group called The Happenings Four, and the "friends" were FTB).  It is certainly the most laid-back and not-heavy record the Flowers were involved with, but the jazzy and acoustic sounds of this album provide a unique context for Yamanaka's extraordinary voice.
I don't believe there's any performance video of FTB from their early days, but here is some rare 8mm footage from their final concert (with non-synched audio) and a Japanese TV documentary featuring Joe (even before joining FTB he had been one of the stars of the Japanese stage production of the "tribal love rock musical" Hair).  The group reunited this decade with impressive results -- here's Joe singing Flower Travellin' Band's "Satori part 2" in 2004, and the classic quartet performing "Hiroshima" in 2009.  Although I haven't heard it yet, they also put out a reunion album called "We Are Here" in 2008.
(N) = New Release
Artist Song Album Year (label) Country
Lunar Dunes Oriental Pacific Galaxsea (N) 2011 (4Zero) UK
GLW Myndstorm Sessions (N) 2011 (provided by artist) UK
Cheer-Accident This Is The New That No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs (N) 2011 (Cuneiform) USA
White Hills Monument H-p1 (N) 2011 (Thrill Jockey) USA
Kuni Kawachi & Friends
(Flower Travellin' Band)
Graveyard Of Love  Kirikyogen
1970 Japan
Kuni Kawachi & Friends
(Flower Travellin' Band)
Time Machine Kirikyogen
1970 Japan
Flower Travellin' Band The House Of The Rising Sun (trad./The Animals) Anywhere 1970 Japan
Flower Travellin' Band
(Yuya Uchida & The Flowers)
How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin) From Pussies To Death In 10,000 Years Of Freakout rec. 1969 Japan
Oneida Shahin's Bong Collisions 02 (N - split album with Mugstar) 2011 (Rocket) USA
Annapurna Illusion I Can See Me Through Your Devil's Eyes Life Is An Illusion (N) 2011 (Rocket) France
Daughters Of The Sun Ghost With Chains Ghost With Chains (N) 2011 (Not Not Fun) USA
Jackie-O Motherfucker Bring It To Me Earth Sound System (N) 2011 (Fire) USA
Implodes Meadowlands Black Earth (N) 2011 (Kranky) USA
Battles Wall Street Gloss Drop (N) 2011 (Warp) USA
Sun Ra Somewhere In Space Out There A Minute (compilation CD) rec. 1960's USA
The Jimmy Castor Bunch L. T. D. (Life Truth & Death) It's Just Begun 1972 USA
Santana Incident At Neshabur Abraxas 1970 USA/Mexico
The Strawberry Alarmclock Paxton's Backstreet Carnival Incence & Peppermints 1967 USA
Man Bananas Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day 1972 UK (Wales)
Curved Air Back Street Luv Second Album 1971 UK
Silver Apples Velvet Cave Silver Apples 1968 USA
The Stark Reality Comrades (Hoagy Carmichael) The Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael's Music Shop (Now compilaton CD) rec. 1970 USA
Os Mutantes Ando Meio Desligado A Divina Comedia Ou Ando Meio Desligado 1970 Brazil
Hatfield & The North Shaving Is Boring Hatfield & The North 1974 UK
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