Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flower Travellin Band - Satori 1971

Originally envisioned as a female-fronted Japanese heavy rock cover act called the Flowers by entertainer and "entrepreneur" Yuya Uchida, the Flower Travellin' Band would eventually chart their own course, becoming an underground influence on later metal acts, and counting one Julian Cope as a disciple. As the Flowers, (original) vocalist Remi Aso, guitarist Hideki Ishima, bassist Jun Kowzuki, and drummer Joji Wada released their debut, Challenge, in 1969. Consisting entirely of cover versions of Western pop/rock songs, the album got attention not necessarily from the music, but from the fact that the entire band was photographed in the nude on the cover.

Uchida and Aso left after the first album, leaving the band to reorganize with new vocalist Joe Yamanaka, and allowing it to explore more original and experimental avenues. Their first album as the Flower Travellin' Band, Anywhere, was released in 1970. The album featured five covers, including Muddy Waters' "Louisiana Blues" and Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath." Again, the bandmembers appeared nude on the cover; the difference this time was that they were on motorcycles. Their first wholly "original"-based full-length, Satori, was released in 1971. Made in Japan was released in 1972, and the band's final album, a double live and studio set, Make Up, came out in 1973. By the end of their career, the Flower Travellin' Band were opening for prominent acts such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Recordings made before the band issued Anywhere would be released after the group's breakup in the mid-'70s under the title Kirikyogen, and 1995 would see a bootleg release of early material under the title From Pussies to Death in 10,000 Years of Freakout. Flower Travelling Band was Japan's answer to Led Zeppelin meeting Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath at the Ash Ra Temple. Simply put, they played grand, spacey, tripped-out hard rock with a riffy base that was only two steps removed from the blues, but their manner of interpreting those steps came from an acid trip. Flower Travelling Band was an entity unto itself. There are five tracks on this set, originally released in 1971 as the band's second album proper. It has been reissued on CD by WEA International in Japan, with the cover depicting a silhouette drawing of the Buddha in meditative equipoise filled in with sketches of an inner universe mandala of the sacred Mount Meru, stupas, and the hash smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, Japanese sci-fi robot cartoons, and more. And the music is reflected in this inner universal realm on five different sections of Satori. From power chords to Eastern-tinged, North African, six-string freakouts, to crashing tom toms, to basses blasting into the red zone, Satori is a journey to the center of someplace that seems familiar but has never before been visited. It is a new sonic universe constructed from cast-off elements of the popular culture of the LSD generation. Forget everything you know about hard rock from the 1970s until you've put this one through your headphones. It's monolithic, expansive, flipped to wig city, and full of a beach blanket bong-out muscularity. In other words, this is a "real" classic and worth any price you happen to pay for it. AMG.

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