His tenth album, but his first in a few years, Zankyo is something of a stylistic showcase for Masaharu Fukuyama, a chance to show off a multitude of genres and sound forms without prejudice. The set opens with a straightforward ballad -- nothing fancy, just a shot at his basic vocal register. Immediately afterward though, there's a spy-themed action riff in "Keshin," a lounge-singer piece in "Ashita no Show," and a folksy acoustic bounce through "Koufukuron." By the middle portion of the album however, the tone turns nostalgic, overusing string arrangements and '70s-style percussion elements. Fukuyama's sound is dated, at best. When he does start to update, the interest level goes up a bit, but always in an obtuse manner. When he takes on modern sounds, as in "Sou," he tends to go too far -- instead of modern dance, the sound goes to a retro sort of techno -- what the Japanese Jetsons might have danced to. Between the odd mish-mash of styles and the constant tendency toward the dated, Zankyo never really gets off the ground compared to other modern J-Pop albums. Fukuyama doesn't put out the emotion some of the newer artists do, and he doesn't put enough energy into the compositions or performances, either. Zankyo is never fully bad, but it's never quite good either.
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