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Ryo Okumoto - Coming Through CD (album) cover

COMING THROUGH

Ryo Okumoto

 

Eclectic Prog

3.36 | 16 ratings

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ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer
4 stars "Coming Through" is a 4th solo album recorded by prolific Japanese keyboardist Ryo Okumoto who is well known from American symphonic prog band Spock's Beard. However his first 3 albums (all of them released in 1980) are very little known (probably pressed only in Japan), so "Coming Through" is often regarded as his "proper" debut. During recording of this album, Ryo already had 7 years long experience as a retro-keyboards player of "Spock's Beard" (and soon after became the only player of this formation due to Neal Morse quitting) so it's not a surprise that music on this disk have few similarities to that band's output. But despite these similarities and guesting presence of many Spock's Beard's musicians, "Coming Through" shows us more diversity than you would expect. Ryo thankfully sticks to 70s vintage equipment as he used to do in SB, but he mix many different music genres untypical for SB's records here and makes this album a real treasure for keyboards-based rock fans like me.

Let's check all of those 8 songs included on the album one by one:

1. "Godzilla vs. King Ghidarah" - first track is an instrumental which begins with mysterious sounding synthesizer waves. After a minute or so Dave Carpenter starts to play some unusual deep/low sounding acoustic bass lines which are surprisingly very audible (compared to most of modern music where bass is completely buried in the mix). But the real deal begins when Ryo "invites" us to listen to some truly gritty Hammond organ solos which are truly fantastic and always highly melodic & enjoyable (no silly meandering here). Besides, in the middle of the track Okumoto has great and relatively long jazzy piano section, which is followed by another mind-blowing organ solos and short bass spot. Near the end his Hammond starts to sound more and more wild and gritty along with some crazy effects in Emerson fashion. Overall it's a really good jazz-rock instrumental which almost never lose its direction into some pointless free-jazz "torturing".

2. "The Farther He Goes, the Farther He Falls" - this one is a completely different story. Thanks to more straightforward, song-based structure and presence of Spock's Beard musicians: Dave Meros (bass) & Nick D'Virgilio (drums & vocals), this track reminds me of some simpler, hard rock compositions recorded by Spock's Beard after Neal Morse left. But it doesn't mean that it's bad, not at all! In fact it's a very enjoyable track which can be described as mix of hard rock, heavy prog and some funky, bouncing rhythm. Ryo Okumoto plays another swirling organ solos here, while Steve Lukather (from Toto) shows some great technique in guitar one.

3. "Slipping Down" - it's another hard rock song but this time with Bobby Kimball (from Toto) on vocal duties (however D'Virgilio still plays drums and Meros plays bass here). I also like this one, it reminds me about Deep Purple Mark III output in fact but it's slightly heavier and not so funky. Ryo's Hammond organ solo is a top notch as always and Mero's bass solo is also very remarkable. Backgroundish brass arrangements (Andy Suzuki / tenor saxophone, Doug Webb / alto saxophone, D. Jon Papenbrook / trumpet) also work surprisingly well. I only strongly dislike this ugly background vocal (Michael Mishaw) during refrain, sounds so goofy...

4. "Highway Roller" - 3rd and last hard rock song on the album, this time with Glenn Hughes as a lead vocalist. As "Slipping Down" sounded a bit like Deep Purple Mark III, "Highway Roller" sounds completely like re-incarnation of that band. The same soulish, screamy vocalist, similar funky beat & Blackmore-like guitar presence (again in courtesy of Steve Lukather). However it sounds rather generic and uninspired for me. Maybe I just heard such kind of songs too many times in the past, or maybe I'm just not happy that Ryo seems to occupy only background stage with his trademark organ playin' here, anyway I don't like this one too much. Nothing offensive but also nothing to be excited about. However remarkable fact is that drums in this song are held by Ryo's son - Sage Okumoto.

5. "Free Fall" - Ryo comes back to high-energy jazz-rock from the beginning of this album! However this instrumental seems to a bit more disjointed and free-jazz inspired, it's still a decent composition based on crazy Moog synthesizer rides, ripping guitar tones (played by another Spock's Beard fellow - Alan Morse) & ultra-loud bass lines. Okumoto's Hammond solo in the middle sounds like taken directly from Gerard's album, it's just as flashy & speed-up like Toshio Egawa's performances. Japanese style of organ solos I suppose... It's interesting that all SB members (except Neal Morse) are playin' in this one, but overall "Free Fall" doesn't resemblance almost any similarities to this band's regular output.

6. "Coming Through" - it's a very pleasant and up-lifting ballad sang by former Spock's Beard leader - Neal Morse. As most of Morse's soft songs (which he recorded quite many during his solo career) it doesn't have too much in common with typical progressive rock staff and it's more pop-oriented, but I really have nothing again one or two such songs on prog album. Okumoto plays mellow piano, mellotron and synthesizers while Michael Landau creates weeping sounds on his guitar here. Not bad at all. I'm convinced.

7. "Close Enough" - we had jazz-rock instrumentals and heavy prog/hard rockers and mellow ballad...and now's coming the best composition of the album, truly symphonic, 19 minutes suite called "Close Enough". The suite begins with enigmatic sound effects probably inspired by similar intro in Yes' "Close to The Edge" classic, but after awhile our ears are attacked by ranging Hammond organ solos/riffs and this time we feel this fantastic "Tarkus"-like atmosphere (main organ riff is just unforgettable!!). Next "section" is more vocal oriented and however Bobby Kimball's voice isn't anything special for me, I have to admit that he doesn't distract me from great experience of listening to this staff. About 7th minute of the epic, tempo slows down and we can enjoy more ballad-like style fragment which is driven by soft piano, waving Moog synth effects and Bobby's vocals which seems to be more suitable for this kind of music. Then Ryo proceeds to rather slow-tempo but truly crazy organ solo where he "discovers" many unusual sounds which this instrument is capable to produce. Magic moments! After that tempo speeds-up again until about 12th minute when we have some kind of culminating instrumental crescendo & Kimball screams his head off, but after that Simon Phillips plays some brief drum solo which is followed by the best Hammond solo in Ryo Okumoto's career! It's just one, long and unstoppable organ madness with terrifying mean & gritty layers which punch your ears like stomping mammoth (oh man, what a bad allegory I wrote here ;-). To extend your musical orgasm this solo is culminated with this fantastic ripping riff from the beginning of the suite! Brilliant! In the end vocalist sings refrain few more times and composition ends as it started with some sort of reprise of synth, piano & mellotron effects from the beginning. Similarities to "Close to The Edge" are evident of course but it doesn't change a thing that "Close Enough" is a real classic of symphonic progressive rock. You just need to hear it before you die :-). I can only add that guitar duties are share between Alan Morse & Michael Landau here, but it doesn't really matter 'cause Okumoto's organ chops & Moog runs are the real deal on it.

8. "The Imperial" - album finishes with very mellow and slightly over-long instrumental track where we can hear only Ryo, his piano, mellotron & couple of synthesizers. Quite nice ending and good relax after highly dynamic "Close Enough" epic.

To sum up: "Coming Through" is a real gem of 70s sounding keyboards-led prog-rock. Ryo shows a huge amount of diversity playing all kinds of music styles (jazz-rock, symphonic prog, hard rock, ballad, neo-classical) and instruments (organ, piano, mellotron, Moog, ARP & digital synthesizers), so I can recommend this album not only to Spock's Beard's fans but all fans of retro-prog with more modern feeling. And I don't have to even stress that it's must-have for all organ-led music maniacs out there too.

In fact XXI century brought us quite many good albums recorded by keyboardists' who previously gained much experience playin' in respectful prog-rock bands. So if you like this Okumoto's output, I also recommend you to check such releases as: Don Airey "A Light in the Sky", Lalo Huber "Lost in Kali Yuga" and Guy Leblanc's "All The Rage".

BTW if you're Ryo Okumoto fan I suggest you to check also another symphonic/neo prog band featuring this musician, called "K2".

Anyway the highlights of this album are: "Close Enough" & "Godzilla vs. King Ghidarah", while "Free Fall" and "The Farther He Goes, the Farther He Falls" are pretty close to be classics too. But overall whole album is a classy offering.

4,5 stars from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 4/5 |

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