Crazy Ken Band

Zero

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    6
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AllMusic Review by

The J-pop scene was always partial to funk and pop-jazz, and so the popularity of Crazy Ken Band, which embraces those genres wholeheartedly, is not really surprising. Zero is not a perfect release, but it's a good slab of lounge-crooning, moderately groovy rhythms and warm moods that is proud to wear its old-fashioned influences on its sleeve -- and with good reason, too, since the band can handle its music so well. Ken Yokoyama -- the Crazy Ken in question -- is a natural born pop-jazz vocalist, not overly powerful or whimsical, but possessing a nice charisma and capable of a strong delivery which allows him to conquer romantic retro-images (think those Frank Sinatra hats). His band lays down nice grooves spiced with retro synths and plenty of brass, establishing a mood that's relaxing, but never too soft and toothless to become boring: in fact, the best cuts on the album are the most involved ones, such as "Chuukosha" and "Natsu" with their saxophones and the "Thief of Baghdad"-Middle Eastern feel. That doesn't mean that Zero is free of flaws, though; for one, it's simply too dragged out. The quality of songwriting takes no big dips from start to finish, but with its 70-plus minute duration, the record just starts to blur after a while. Attempts are made to rectify this by stirring things up with tunes like "Sakana," a straightforward catchy rocker reminiscent of Korea's Seo Tai-Ji, or "Hashi" with its Brazilian beats, but those are not enough, and besides, some filler still finds its way onto Zero: songs like "Ningen Matenrou" may be catchy, but rather in the way a piece of gum catches to your shoe. For a group like Crazy Ken Band, to use those blatant, shameless melodies is lowering their standards, but thankfully, the bar is kept impressively high throughout most of Zero.

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