Hideaki Tokunaga

We All

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After a string of cover albums (the Vocalist series), Japanese singer Hideaki Tokunaga's We All marks a return to original material, though the sound continues in many ways to be relatively dated. Electric guitar-laced ballads place much of the songwriting back in the '80s (with perhaps a bit of added room for the Japanese market). Tokunaga is a master of the melodrama that sits within much of the older music in Asia, a throwback to the dominance of lounge singers on the continent until more recently. However, he is also fairly adept at tweaking the melodrama just enough to modernize the sound a bit. The music is presumably still palatable to the fans of dramatic lounge music, but the references to R&B (like the harmonica riffing in "Chiisana Inori") soften the blows a bit for other audiences. As the album moves along, there are touches of smooth jazz, touches of new age guitar with its slight Latin infusions, and touches of Western adult contemporary. Each of them color the sound a bit, giving Tokunaga somewhere new to lead with his vocals. Some of them remain embedded in the melodramatic realm from whence they came, which is admittedly par for the course with Tokunaga's works. Some of them, however, show glimpses of the other aspects of Tokunaga's sound -- a newer sound, an ability to change up the music and lead it somewhere different, all the while keeping the focus set firmly on his particularly emotive vocals.