Tamio Okuda

Fantastic OT9

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Though Tamio Okuda has a storied history with the groundbreaking Japanese rock band Unicorn, a storied history as a songwriter to masses of pop stars, and a storied career as producer of the megastars Puffy (aka Puffy Amiyumi), he has always performed solo as well. On Fantastic OT9, he gets a chance to remind the listening public of why he's a star. The album opens strongly with "Inabikari" and only gets better. After a romp through the frenetic and building opening track, "Surodoku Sayonara" could easily have been a light Led Zeppelin song, and it's performed well by Okuda. As the album progresses, Okuda explores a series of stylistic elements -- punk in "Ai no Boto," stadium rock in Adrenaline, even something approaching French café music in "3 Nin Hamoriagaru." Throughout it all, though, there's a steady hand on the wheel from Okuda, keeping arrangements not only tight, but interesting at the same time. At some level, he is simply playing around, trying out styles. At the same time, Okuda is showing off his stunning range and producing pieces that can stand individually as well as integral tracks in an a surprisingly coherent album. Impressive all around.