Hideaki Tokunaga

Vocalist 2

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He's been singing professionally for more than 25 years, but that's never stopped Hideaki Tokunaga (not to be confused with the jazz guitarist) before. Working in 2006, Tokunaga released a pair of albums, reminding listeners of exactly what he was known for -- Vocalist and Vocalist 2. On Vocalist 2, the fare is entirely that of the ballad, built around a basic core of easy listening and a slight dose of enka. Tokunaga's voice is, as it should be with the album title, the star of the show. He croons, he pleads, and on occasion he simply sings. In all cases, though, listeners can hear the progression of vocal styles developed over the years. In some songs, Tokunaga holds to a more traditional enka style of delivery -- primarily grandiose, without a huge amount of affect thrown in. In other songs, he seems to sing for the express purpose of delivering a vocal vulnerability, voice cracking and emotion overflowing the whole way. Instrumentally, the music is almost an afterthought. It ranges from a jazzy disco-style beat in "Second Love" to an upright bass-driven showcase in "Anata," but always hangs back in a fairly prepackaged format, leaving plenty of room for Tokunaga's vocals to remain in front. He's a fine singer, and Vocalist 2 provides an excellent showcase for those talents, though many listeners may find the set a bit one-note for their liking.