Toshi Kubota

Nothing But Your Love

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Toshi Kubota tests the relationship between a style of music and the racial makeup of its performers, posing a variation on the old question, "Can a white man play the blues?" In Kubota's case, the query is, "Can a Japanese man feel the funk?" A popular success at home, Kubota relocated to the U.S. in 1994 and issued his first English language album, Sunshine Moonlight, in 1995. It didn't get any attention in America but sold to his following overseas. Five years later, Nothing but Your Love testifies to Kubota's affection for the funk music of the late '70s and early '80s. The title track, which leads off the album, is a homage to Parliament/Funkadelic that mentions the term "mothership," harking back to the group's Mothership Connection album, while "Body Bounce" features a sample from Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce." Singing in a smooth tenor frequently augmented by backup singers, Kubota also borrows from '70s Motown, especially Stevie Wonder, and the group vocal sounds of Philadelphia International Records. Various contemporary production teams, notably Soulshock & Karlin, the Track Masters, and members of the Roots, have been brought in to update the material to sound like current R&B/hip-hop, but Kubota's own roots (however transplanted) remain obvious. What we have here is a Japanese pop artist recreating a black American style from about 20 years ago, which sounds like a hard sell from more than one point of view domestically, if not internationally.

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