Vacant World/Super Session

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The single-CD reissue of late-'60s material by this Japanese band packages together their 1968 album Vacant World and their 1969 follow-up LP Super Session, along with three bonus tracks. The inclusion of one of Vacant World's songs, "Gloomy Flower," on the Love, Peace & Poetry: Japanese Psychedelic Music compilation might incite one to expect this anthology to be more psychedelic than it is. Some of the material on Vacant World is psychedelia, though of a highly chaotic, mordant nature, with "Marianne" (sung in Japanese, despite the title) matching a gloomy ballad to thrashing drums, free jazz bass, and some searing psychedelic distorted guitar. Much of that album is gloomy balladry without as much psychedelia, however, or any psychedelia at all. Sometimes it feels like you're hearing a particularly downcast lounge band on a bummer trip, there's so much just-short-of-weeping sadness, some spidery reverb guitar being the only slightly weird element. More of that American psychedelic-influenced guitar does appear on songs like "In the Broken Mirror" and "Gloomy Flower," though it's a little amateurish compared to the original article. They actually get a bit upbeat and happy on "Where?," but largely the mood is as despondent as the album title. Super Session is anything but super, and not even as good as Vacant World. On its first cut, "Joe's Rock," the Jacks sound like a stereotypical satire of an Asian rock band who can't grasp the spirit of the '50s-style rock & roll they're so obviously trying to mimic. Their predilection for unremittingly sad ballads with just a pinch of psychedelia resurfaces on tracks like "Rock for Fallin' Angel," but "Jailbirds" and "Roll Over Yuranosuke" are silly attempts at soul bubblegum; "How to Love" is lounge-meets-British Invasion, complete with vibraphone, and some of the ballads are more sappy than spooky. Like Vacant World, it's certainly different from anything produced in the Western world of rock & roll, but that doesn't mean it's good, or even all that far-out or imaginative. Two of the three bonus tracks, "My Road" and "She's a Good Old Girl" are taken from 1968 EPs, and sound a little more straightforward and British Invasion-influenced than the albums; the third bonus cut is a previously unreleased live version of "Roll Over Yuranosuke."