The fourth installment in Hideaki Tokunaga's series of cover songs, Vocalist 4 serves up much of the same type of material as the previous three albums. These are ballads, pure and simple, worked into a straightforward adult contemporary format. Tokunaga's voice is, as always, the real attraction. He has a singer's basic sense of vulnerability worked into his delivery, and strong phrasing that makes good use of the syllabic structure of Japanese. In most songs here, he simply croons over a piano accompaniment, exuding at the same time a strong pathos and a stronger confidence in his abilities. There's pain in his sound, but deliberately so. On just a few songs here, he breaks into a different mode -- a bit of French chanson aesthetic in "Abayo," a touch of New York singer/songwriter class in "Matsuwa." Nonetheless, it's a simple series of ballads and Tokunaga's formidable vocal skills that carry the day. Fans of Tokunaga already have this one, but others wouldn't be poorly served by a quick listen.
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