Japan

Exorcising Ghosts

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It's not a true career overview, and given that the band only released two albums during its stint on Virgin, a collection that includes at least half of each of those efforts is ultimately a strange exercise in superfluity. That all said, though, if one needs to have a useful enough starting point for what made Japan so great, Exorcising Ghosts is a reasonable way to start. The emphasis is entirely on the moody, melancholic but energetic phase of Japan's career -- there's nothing earlier than a couple of cuts from Quiet Life, and any hint of the band's trash glam rock start is carefully and quietly ignored. Tasteful is the word here instead, and, to be sure, the album cover and design, a beautifully striking effort from regular Sylvian artistic partner Russell Mills, is one of the best ever done. Sylvian himself oversaw the compilation, which leads to an important note: if there's a version of the album to get, appropriately enough it's the Japanese one. As the collection was apparently meant to be geared towards the band's namesake country first and foremost, that version includes a slew of extra tracks that create not only a better picture of the band's work, but provides more rarities of interest to fans. Besides such wonderful album cuts as "Swing" and "Sons of Pioneers," other Japanese-only songs include the single version of "Taking Islands in Africa," which features co-writer Ryuchi Sakomoto actually performing on the track, and which has otherwise not yet appeared on an album. Still, the stripped down U.K. edition does have a couple of less familiar takes: the 12" version of "The Art of Parties" and a take on "Talking Drum" which has different opening drums.

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