Hideaki Tokunaga

Vocalist 3

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Hideaki Tokunaga is and always has been a straightforward singer of songs, using his vocal abilities to stay relevant on the Japanese charts over the better part of three decades. On Vocalist 3, an installment in a series of collections of his best works, the case for his abilities is made convincingly. The pieces on Vocalist 3 are largely the more recent entries from his long catalog, with a somewhat more modern approach to their delivery. They're still ballads (Tokunaga's sole specialty) of course, but they eschew the trappings of his earlier decades, such as electronic drums and overly lush string arrangements. Here, the arrangements are fairly sparse, serving only to accentuate Tokunaga's vocals. The vocals themselves ignore the overwrought pathos common to his earlier work as well, leaving melodrama in favor of drama. The delivery is filled with a vulnerability -- Tokunaga's voice isn't quite breaking up, but it's clearly on the verge emotionally. The songs take on a more lasting mood as a result, lingering beyond the words themselves. Newcomers looking for the best of Tokunaga's work may do well with Vocalist 3. Those looking for a broader overview of what he's done, rather than what he's doing, may prefer Vocalist or Vocalist 2 instead.

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