Yukari Ito

Love

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Reissued in conjunction with the Japanese Vivid Sound label's excellent Smallish Pleasures series, this intimate and beautiful collection from the heretofore little-known singer Yukari Ito is both immediately familiar and completely original, evoking the spirit of early '70s AM radio so perfectly that its own Japanese roots are almost completely negligible. Cut in April 1971, the record is totally a product of its times -- the track listing reads like a compendium of recent chart smashes (everything from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" to Elton John's "Your Song" to the theme to Love Story), and Osamu Shoji's buoyant, jazz-inspired arrangements owe much to Burt Bacharach, with the master's "Close to You" and "One Less Bell to Answer" covered as well. Although Ito's presumably phonetic readings of English-language lyrics yield more than a few left-field phrasings and enunciations, Love fits within the confines of the soft pop genre so comfortably that its geographic origins are ultimately moot -- in its way, the album anticipates the retro-fetishism of Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, and others by well over a decade, absorbing and recontextualizing the brilliance and appeal of Western pop music to perfectly underline its universality.