Kazumasa Oda

Jiko Best, Vol. 2

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While holding the record for oldest solo artist to chart at Oricon's number one position (he was 61-years-old at the time), longtime folk and pop stalwart Kazumasa Oda released Jiko Best, Vol. 2 in 2007, collecting pieces from his long and storied career. The bulk of the music here takes the form of light but soulful balladry. Oda's voice is continually strong, but able to convey emotion without the affectations of hoarseness or vocal naïveté that some contemporary artists will use. Instead, he emotes through sheer force of will -- still hitting the notes he desires, and keeping a perfectly clear tone throughout, he manages to make the ballads seem more direct, yet more personal nonetheless. There are touches of '80s influence here, with the occasional synth keyboard moaning in the background, but the compositions are otherwise essentially timeless. There is no dated element to the sound or the delivery (aside from the occasional synths and one stray song that seems strangely George Michael-inspired), there is nothing obviously driving the songs with contemporary influences or pop-based demands. The sound seems entirely Oda's, and it stays in the realm of the sublime throughout. Oda's voice is clear and well-controlled, but the compositions also work perfectly with its limitations and strengths, making for extremely well-constructed ballads. Oda is one of the masters of his form, and while Jiko Best, Vol. 2 is simply a compilation, it also provides an excellent showcase of Oda at the top of his game.