Eikichi Yazawa

Twist

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Eikichi Yazawa has been in the game for a long time (one of the first Japanese solo acts to play Budokan, in fact), and his voice sounds like it. That's not a bad thing, though. On Twist, he starts out with a bang, thrashing his way into a rolling piece of rock with his voice alternately gravelly and veering wildly off key -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. With straightforward rock so thoroughly intact, however, the vocals accentuate the mood instead. The clarity of the voice starts to matter less as the groove becomes prominent (think of Bob Dylan or Tom Waits). Yazawa bursts through an opening piece that would make Unicorn proud, cuts through a faster piece with riffs reminiscent of a Motörhead track (briefly), then starts into a softer ballad in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or later Eric Clapton pieces. As he moves through the album, he touches on '60s-style exotica, country & western harmonica, and a healthy dose of rockabilly. The album is eccentric in many ways: not fitting the cookie-cutter dance mold needed for Japanese pop success; too off-key for Western ears. For each set of listeners, though, there's something to be heard here -- Japanese pop fans should enjoy the depth of songwriting and vocal craft in the sound, and Western listeners should find the joy inherent in Yazawa's vocals throughout. He really enjoys singing his songs, and it comes through in the end.