Noriyuki Makihara

Noriyuki Makihara 20th Anniversary "Best Love"

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Aside from a hiatus after a public scandal, Noriyuki Makihara had put in 20 years in Japanese music and celebrated by releasing a pair of massive compilations spanning his career. Best Love covers the ballads of his time, and makes a fine introduction to half of Makihara's prodigious catalog. While the collection ignores most of his explorations into dance and pop proper, the listener can spend some time hearing the transitions in his music as he moved through various stylistic ideas. The early portions of the album (corresponding to the earlier portions of his career) show a more simplistic, melodramatic format. This is the standard pop of the early '90s, built on lounge singing and enka ideals in some manner. With "No. 1," he starts to move forward a bit, adding harmonies and drum machines. On "Pleasure," he starts using more stereotypically Western arrangements as backing tracks. "Spy" dabbles in a touch of exotica and includes some intriguing guitar backdrops for what could only be theme music. "Hungry Spider" breaks fully into new territory with what is essentially French chanson, complete with button accordion. There are fiddlings with disco and electronica; there are hints of modern singer/songwriter aesthetics. More importantly throughout, there's the consistent thread of Makihara's vocals as the core of the pieces. His voice isn't the strongest in music, but he has a strong level of expressiveness that isn't common in typical Japanese pop. There's some level of actual emotion in his deliveries, and it's a nice sound.