Having always ridden a wave of authenticity through the ranks of Japanese pop stars, Kazuyoshi Saito has worked his way through his own influences, coming into contact with stardom only from time to time as his current tastes encountered those of the listening public. He specializes in folk, blues, and jazz-based songwriting, largely ignoring the trendy electronica, hip-hop, and Brazilian influences scattered throughout J-pop at large. In the massive three-disc Singles Best set, every aspect of his career is given a turn, and all are worth a spin. As the set progresses, the evolution of Saito's sound is given the spotlight. As he starts out with simple folk-based singer/songwriter pieces, he makes his way bit by bit into other formats. Classic swing makes an appearance before the first disc is through, followed immediately by some syncopated rock in English with "Baby I Love You." With the penultimate track of the first disc, the influence of the Beatles is even heard. Some basic but very well-executed pop shows its head midway through the collection, mirroring Saito's move toward a pop sound that lost some of his critical acclaim. Soul and juke joint blues (complete with a kazoo chorus in one song) make their way into the collection by the third disc. It's all here to be heard, and while Saito's specialties are a bit "of the moment," a collection like Singles Best provides the intrepid listener with a nice (if lengthy) window into a unique element in Japanese sound.
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