Various Artists

Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973

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AllMusic Review by

Light in the Attic is almost peerless in the variety, volume, and quality of its reissues and compilations. From never released albums by Lynn Castle to wondrously assembled compilations such as Native North America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country 1966-1985, LITA finds the best and presents it handsomely. Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 is the first volume in the label's Archival Japan series. Its 19 tracks are the first fully licensed compilation of this music outside Japan. Obsessive attention was paid to detail in art, sound, and curation. The Japanese angura (underground) music movement sprang up in Tokyo's Shibuya district in the aftermath of Beatlemania (and later became known simply as "New Music"). Musicians and artists hung out and played the kissas (cafes and clubs) that stood side by side with skin palaces in the red-light district. At the same time, another scene was developing on the Eastern side of the country in the Kansai region around Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, where early acid folk and Japanese takes on American West Coast country-rock and pop were also developing. Assembled, these tracks don't so much tell a story as illustrate the depth and breadth of what Japan offered as it created a scene dedicated to discovery and experimentation.

Most Westerners have never heard of these artists, but for others, Haruomi Hosono, founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra, will be familiar. He has both a solo track and one with his band Happy End, experimenting with dreamy pop and rootsy countrified sounds. The iconic and mysterious blues and jazz singer Maki Asakawa (who deserves to have her entire catalog reissued) is also represented by an uncharacteristically pop-ish 1973 single entitled "Konna Fu Ni Sugite Iku No Nara." "Curry Rice" by Kenji Endo is a wondrously moody acid folk tune that surreally juxtaposes Japan's favorite food with author Yukio Mishima's suicide by seppuku. Singer Sachiko Kanenobu is represented here by the 1971 grooving dream pop single "Anata Kara Toku E," and as part of her earlier rock group Gu from 1969. The slippery, laid-back psychedelia of their "Marianne" is a high point in the set. Ryo Kagawa's 1971 "Zeni No Koyoryoku Ni Tsuite" offers a Neil Young/Crazy Horse-esque melody with requisite rock power, while Hachimitsu Pie's "Hei No Ue De" offers vocal harmonies and layered melodies worthy of CSN. Closer "Otokorashiitte Wakaru Kai" by Dylan II is actually a rewrite of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" using his melody. Virtually everything on Even a Tree Can Shed Tears is a revelation. The more one listens, the more (s)he feels compelled to research and learn -- not only about the artists, but the scene that birthed them. Ultimately, this is a soundtrack for an era of discovery that reflects the powerful desire of a generation striving to claim an identity of its own.

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