Hosono Box: 1969-2000

Haruomi Hosono

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Hosono Box: 1969-2000 Review

by Stewart Mason

Although his Yellow Magic Orchestra bandmate Ryuichi Sakamoto is much better known to Western audiences, singer and multi-instrumentalist Haruomi Hosono (often just "Harry" to his fans) has actually had a longer and more varied career. The four-CD Hosono Box: 1969-2000 is a well-selected overview of his work, although since the book and liner notes are almost entirely in Japanese, they may be of little historical use to Western fans. The first disc covers Hosono's pre-Yellow Magic Orchestra era, including several tracks from his '70s groups Happy End and Tin Pan Alley as well as a previously unreleased rarity from his '60s group Susie Cream Cheese, a beat-group take on Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul" that rumbles to a chaotic close about halfway through the song. Disc two is evenly split between Yellow Magic Orchestra and Hosono's more electronic solo work, while disc three is an all-instrumental collection of film themes, ambient experiments, and progressive rock explorations. Between them, these two discs are what most listeners think of when they think of Hosono. Disc four is a smorgasbord of rarities and previously unreleased tracks starting with a mash-up of a 1965 recording of Hosono's very first group, the Ox Drivers, performing the folk standard "Greenback Dollar" and a 1980 Yellow Magic Orchestra live take on the same tune. Other highlights include six tracks recorded live in 1976 (with Sakamoto on piano) that presage the ironic lounge pop exotica revival by a full two decades, down to the winking cover of Martin Denny's "Firecrackers." Hosono Box is invaluable for fans, although newcomers might find the length intimidating.

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