The Flower Travellin' Band

Made in Japan

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As the follow-up to Flower Travellin' Band's unrivaled Satori album, 1972's Made in Japan was probably doomed to fall short of expectations from the get-go, but the peculiar conditions of its creation didn't help matters either. Having met with encouraging critical success but rather meager actual sales receipts in their native Japan, FTB was shipped off to conquer the West -- or rather, Canada -- because of a timely offer to open for local jazz-rock outfit Lighthouse, whose leader and keyboard player, Paul Hoffert, would wind up producing the group's next effort, the fallaciously named Made in Japan. Problem was, Hoffert's musical vision clashed directly against FTB's defining heavy rock foundations, and although the band's powerful manager, Yuya Utchida, came away happier with the finished product than the bandmembers themselves, the album's songs still made for a less consistent, and certainly less potent collection than those of its predecessor. Which nevertheless meant that it was pretty darn good! Yes, the plodding thud of "Aw Give Me Air" barely left room for its salvaging, fluid, overlaid guitar licks, and where Satori had served as a suitably alien landscape above which singer Joe Yamanaka's wildest shrieks could soar untethered, Made in Japan's earthier songs, like the mostly acoustic "Unaware" and the Hendrix-inspired love-in theme, "Heaven or Hell," sometimes left him naked and exposed to the elements, in turn. But when FTB planted their collective foot down firmly upon their lysergic heavy rock comfort zone, resulting leviathans like "Kamikaze" and "Hiroshima" (which revisited the melodic sequence introduced one year earlier by "Satori, Part III") equaled their highest of highs (no weed-puffing pun intended), despite their cliché-worthy titles. Nearly as powerful was the aptly named "Spasms," which shuddered and flailed with a certain Krautrock spirit, and the album-closing "That's All," which crawled like a funeral march blending the Doors' "The End" with exotic shades of Indian music and faux sitar. Most fans then and now agreed that this foursome easily made up for the not-quite-stellar threesome detailed earlier, but for a group whose sales figures were already lagging behind both the critical support and their manager's not inconsiderable gift of hype, Made in Japan wasn't able to reverse Flower Travellin' Band's gradual career descent, which would accelerate towards extinction with the following year's artistically scattered, half-live, half-studio double album, Make Up.

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