The Dynamites

The Young Sound of R&B

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Though they don't sound all that outrageous when judged against the international landscape of late-'60s rock, the Dynamites were among the edgier Japanese bands of the time, both for their long-haired modish appearance and their relatively odd and adventurous music. The 2011 U.K. CD reissue of their only album, 1968's Young Sound of R&B, is essentially a career retrospective, adding eight tracks from 1967-1969 non-LP singles. Plenty of '60s rock groups from countries in which English isn't the native language sound strange to North American and British ears, but the Dynamites sound weirder than the typical such act. That's not so much because they're especially far out; it's more due to their extraordinary jumble of styles. At times they are much like a U.K. or European freakbeat band in their mix of mod rock with meltdown distorted guitar, and the cuts in which that blend is to the forefront -- especially "Tonneru Tengoku," included here in both its 45 and LP versions -- are the ones most likely to find favor among collectors several decades after they were originally issued. At other times, however, it seems as if they can't decide whether to do straight-out R&B/soul, fairly engaging pop with slight Asian influences ("Koiwa Mou Takusan," which detours for a ferocious fuzz guitar solo), or lushly orchestrated pop/rock ("Yumega Hoshii," which sounds like it could have served well as the theme for a B-grade spy movie). Further muddying the picture, about half their album was given over to English-language covers of then-recent soul and pop/rock tunes that veer between awkward inessential copycat arrangements and a more inspired (if still awkward) mauling of "Judy in Disguise," again with fierce, fuzzy guitar. It's hardly great on the whole, but those with a yen for off-kilter fusions of freakbeat, garage pop, and dabs of corny pop/rock and soul will find it entertaining, if confused and a bit of an novelty. The six tracks from post-LP 1968-1969 singles are similarly erratic, highlighted by "Manatsuno Yoruno Dobutsuen" (which, with its demented bird calls, comes close to blow-out exotica/psychedelia), yet also dipping into surf-cum-Merseybeat, horn rock, sentimental orchestrated balladry, and tame soul.

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