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Vermilion Sands - Water Blue CD (album) cover


Vermilion Sands

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars The best definition for VERMILLION SANDS: The Japanese RENAISSANCE. Beautiful and refined music, sometimes a little bit folky, very pleasant to the listener.

The female vocalist, Yoko Royama, sings in English and Japanese (when she uses her native languange, melody line seems to be even more delicated), and her voice is so clear and sweet like the true Annie Haslam.

But VERMILLION isn't a clone. Despite the evident and strong RENAISSANCE's best period influence, this band sounds less classical but more "electric" (guitar work is better than the British band effort), always keeping the elegance.

All songs are beautiful and very well done, conforming an album highly recommended to those who are looking for mellow and exquisite music. And a must to RENAISSANCE style fans.

Report this review (#7611)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars ***1/2

This is the only album by this Japanese group. Vermilion Sands is often compared to Renaissance and indeed the music is refined symphonic progressive sometimes very reminiscent of that English group. The vocals of the now sadly deceased female singer Yoko Royama make this assumption even clearer. She sings both in English and in Japanese. I prefer the vocals in her native language but the English vocals aren't that bad either just a little less emotive. The musicianship is also very good and the electric guitar is much more highlighted compared to Renaissance. This album is a very pleasant listening if you don't expect your prog to be complex and quirky. The extra half star is definitely deserved.

The album kicks off with a Kate Bush cover "My Lagan Love". It's nice but not the strongest tracks from this album. My favourite tracks are the longest track "Ashes of the Time", "In your Mind" and "Coral D ~ The Cloud Sculptors". The Musea version of this album has a few live-recorded bonus tracks but I could live without these especially because the sound quality isn't very good.

Conclusion: Very good Japanese symphonic progressive similar to Renaissance.

Report this review (#37119)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Vermilion Sands (with only one L in the first part of the name) released a very warm and mesmerising cd. It sounds like Renaissance sometimes (especially on the track Coral D, that reminds me of Prologue), but the music is less complex and there are electric guitar parts. The melodies however are as nice as the best tracks by Renaissance. Singer Yoko Royama has a very pleasant voice, sounding like Pageant's singer. Yoko later joined Theta and that group also released only one album (Seeds of the dream). My favourite tracks are In your mind (captivating), The Poet (beautiful vocals and a Steve Hackett guitar), Living in the shiny days (more up tempo) and The love in the cage (inspired by A song for all seasons). Compared to the original album the cd contains three bonus tracks. Especially the live tracks are great, because we can hear the band as it really sounded live. Are there any weak parts? Yes, I don't like the opening song My lagan love. But I think the band recorded that song because it gave them an opportunity to improve this album. Unfortunately there will never be a second album because Yoko is in heaven.
Report this review (#52138)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Well here's a title that must be atop everyone's list of Symphonic releases that should be put back in print.

Japan's Vermilion Sands wears it's heart on it's sleeve and produced an album as beautiful as the cover art, a true homage to fantasy rock in a year when such albums could not have been too common.

The first track is a bit of a throwaway in my opinion, but starting with "ashes of the time" things get quite lovely. It's probably the standout track here. "in your mind" continues to build things with some nice electric leads. They never quite get back to the level of those two tracks though, and "living in the shiny days" is really quite annoyingly poppy. Vocalist Yoko Royama has a lilting and sweet voice. The pace of the songs is always quite slow to medium paced and measured, the instrumentation lush and full. The guitar work is tasteful and well played but could use a little more sweat.

There are a few other minor problems. The keys do sound a bit....well....80s at times. A little cheezy but not too bad. Also, as I said, the mood is very sweet and easy. While this works fine mostly it could actually use a little darkness or drama to balance the sweetness. If you like your prog mostly mellow and very uplifting/happy in spirit this won't be a problem.

A star rating is difficult for me here. Given the year of release it is special, had it come out in the classic 70s era it would pretty low on my priority list to recommend. It's a 3 plus album for me but not quite enough to round up to 4. My review uses the original album. Perhaps the Musea CD with the bonus live tracks would get another star. I hope I get to find out someday!

Report this review (#118420)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars After hearing the excellent release from Theta, Seeds of The Dream, I found out their fantastic female singer had previously played in another japanese band. So I got the CD Water Blue (their sole release) and I was very pleased. Ok, this is far less original than Theta, but very good anyway. While Theta had quite a broad palette of influences, Vermilion Sands definitly draws their inspiration almost solely from the classic Renaissance of the 70´s. So, from the great female singer, to the acoustic guitars timbres and the Jon Camp-ish bass runs, everything here reminds of that famous english prog band.

Well, don´t get me wrong, they´re not really copycats. Their reason to be is saved by some japanese folk influences thrown in the mix here and there and the fact that the songwriting is quite good. Being a big fan of Renaissance myself I found this band to be very promising and Water Blue, quite a pleasant affair. Their use of the occasional electric guitar is a plus, but sadly they didn´t have a Jon Tout clone to match (who did have it, anyway?). My CD has some extra studio and live version bonus tracks. While not really up to the original album standards, they are a nice addtition and showed the band trying to steer away from the Renaissance´s shadow a bit more.

So, if you´re a fan of Renaissance styled bands, go for it. It is only a pity they did not had the opportunity to release a follow up. They certainly had the chops and a fantastic singer to match. Water Blue is quite good, but not really essential. 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#201163)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Vermilion Sands is the japanese answer to Renaissance

Water blue released in 1987 in some cases appear 1989 as the year of issue is the single album released by this japanese band, but what a beautiful, elegant and full of mesmerizing passages all over the place. Plus the voice of Yoko Royama is really heavenly and very very close to Ana Haslam in manner of intepretating. Musicaly speaking is aswell Renaissance like , very symphonic with elaborated passages, very nice keyboards and guitar parts like on the longest tune from here Ashes Of The Time, elegant piece with melodic passages well constructed and a very smooth vocal arrangements aswell. All album is in the purest Renaissance tradition (their best period 1972-1978) both in sound and in ammner of performing. I never heared a band to sound so Renaissance like this Vemilion Sands, but in the end is not a bad thing at all. So, all pieces stand as great, not a weak moment for me, another highlight is Living In The Shiny Days. 4 stars to this forgotten little album, but definetly worth to be discovered. The CD version has as bonuses an unreleased track In The Night Of Ancient Tombs and 2 live versions of The Love In The Cage and In your mind.

Report this review (#932690)
Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Very good Japanese band, propably from Tokyo, found in 1986 by female singer/flutist Yoko Royama and keyboardist Masahiro Yamada, featuring an original supporting crew of Masumi Sakaue on guitar, Kenji Ota on bass, Takafumi Yamazaki on drums and Hiroyuki Tanabe on flute/keyboards.They became instantly a favorite of the Silver Elephant live stage, before Ota, Tanabe and Yamazaki leave the band in 1987, replaced by Ryoji Ogasawara on bass and Hisashi Matoba on drums.The same year the debut of Vermilion Sands ''Water blue'' is released both in vinyl and CD on Made In Japan Records.

Vermilion Sands along with AUGUST were propably the only Japanese bands to make an attempt to recaptrure the smooth, female-fronted Symphonic Rock taste of the 70's with RENAISSANCE being the absolute reference point for a singer like Royama, who's voice recalled the chords of Annie Haslam, when singing in English.There is also some CAMEL and GENESIS influences in the sound of electric guitars and keyboards respectively, but the album follows basically the dreamy, RENAISSANCE-style of Orchestral/Melodic Prog Rock with hypnotic electric guitars, acoustic rhythms and symphonic keyboards in evidence.The tracks are long and well-crafted, full of ethereal melodies and atmospheric, super-clean female vocals, switching from synth passages to piano textures and maintaining a harmonic style of vocal arrangements throughout.Fairytale moods with mellow, symphonic orchestrations and beautiful soundscapes guarantee a fantastic reincarnation of the classic RENAISSANCE sound, even if the music is mostly relaxing, without signs of powerful themes.

The Musea CD reissue comes with four bonus tracks, two of them being captured in live performances, while ''The love in the cage'' was included in the 93' Musea compilation ''7 days of a life'' and ''In the night of ancient tombs'' being a leftover from the ''Water blue'' recordings.Both are great examples of Japanese Neo/Symphonic Prog, maybe with a bit more grandiose style and more pronounced keyboard moves, making this reissue definitely recommended.

So close to the style of RENAISSANCE and even more surprisingly created by a Japanese band.Succesful attempt on this particular style, characterized by fine arrangements and harmonic vocals.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1179062)
Posted Sunday, May 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Japanese Symphonic Prog Rockers Water Blue Vermilion Sands - one of the all-time great Japanese prog albums. I found out about this group only recently and what a nice surprise it was! Vermilion Sands is often compared to Renaissance and i agree with this. Impressive music that definitely deserves to be compared to the likes of Renaissance. The female vocalist, Yoko Royama, sings in English and Japanese. The band plays mellow and exquisite music with use of flute, acoustic guitar and with keyboards. So, this is one of the best Japanese symphonic albums, not to be missed. Who will enjoy this album? A must to Renaissance style fans.
Report this review (#1866467)
Posted Saturday, January 13, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Japanese symphonic prog group Vermilion Sands only made one album (1989's "Water Blue"), and it's one of the best of this genre that I've seen come out of Japan. Sort of a blend of Renaissance, Camel and Genesis, they put together a few pleasantly driving songs here that make the album worthwhile overall. Production is fine (except on the two live bonus tracks, where it's merely acceptable), and the musicianship is pretty good (especially the drumming), though not up to the level of their idols. The female lead vocalist Yoko Royama (now deceased) is frequently compared to Annie Haslam from Renaissance; personally, I found her to be noticeably inferior, with a couple of spots where she actually sounded a bit weak or even off-key. By the way, the lyrics are sung alternately in English and in her native language.

And yet, those shortcomings should not detract too much from one's enjoyment of this cd, especially if you are in the mood for more of a folky, mellower, sweeter type of prog. The cd includes a solid 73 minutes of music (including 27 minutes of bonus tracks), though the first 4-minute track is kind of dreamy/ambient. There are frequent moments where they get into a nice instrumental groove reminiscent of Renaissance or Camel, but with more electric guitar than Renaissance. And the liner notes provide a decent overview of the history of the band.

You don't see a lot of Japanese bands making this kind of music, so it's sort of a nice cd to own. Just not a lot of new ground being broken, or any of the complex prog that we prog heads sometimes find thrilling.

I do not give out bonus points for beautiful album artwork, but MAN - that IS a nice album cover painting, isn't it?...

3-1/2 stars

Report this review (#2439599)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Japanese symphonic prog band that only produced one album (though a second was prepared and released at the death of their lovely lead singer, Yoko Royana).

1. "My Lagan Love" (3:10) a perfect vocal from singer Yoko Royama on this cover of the traditional 19th Century Irish song from County Donegal. It was correct of the band to keep the instrumental support to a minimum. I find it interesting that this song was seldom covered on any records before this. (9.5/10)

2. "Ashes of the Time" (12:12) I hear a little bit of UK, Thomas Dolby, and Ryuichi Sakamoto in the wonderful opening section. At 1:50 we transition into a little NeoProg with some shlocky/dated keyboard strings. A minute later this turns into GENESIS-like 12-string guitar weave over which Yoko sings in her pristine mezzo-soprano. Due to the crystalline female vocals, there's quite some similarity to mid-1970s RENAISSANCE here, as well. At 4:35 it turns more uptempo folk (think Strawbs or Spirogyra) with some very quick-changing chord play from the guitar as keys play a greater role (synth & piano). Very strong drum play here as well as nice work on the electric bass. At 6:30 we transition into a more classical piano bridge that leads us into a sparsely-synthed section over which Yoko sings what sounds like a kind of eulogy. Strummed guitars, bass and drums join in for a choral approach to a chorus melody. Strings solo takes over from Yoko as the section continues with Yoko performing solo vocalize in the background. The song finishes with Yoko's final notes and a little 12-string arpeggio and single strum. Quite a lovely song!(23/25)

3. "In Your Mind" (7:36) opens with a palette, pace, and melodic sense (varied) like GENESIS' "Afterglow." Yoko's vocal melody choices--as well as the bridges into the chorus section and chorus itself--are different/their own entities. Nice guitar solo in the middle (as well as nice fretless bass beneath). That middle instrumental section is really divine! At 4:24 we return to the main vocal--this time a cappella save for a second background vocalise track from Yoko. Gorgeous! Just perfect NeoProg, every bit as beautiful as the music of Genesis--though totally refreshing. The Steve Hackett-like guitar solo just keeps getting better and better as the extended instrumental passage in the second half of the song, playing out to the end. (14/15)

4. "Coral D - The Cloud Sculptors" (5:51) nice guitar and synth weave provide a 75-second intro before the full band kicks in with a purely RENAISSANCE motif (including Yoko singing a wordless melody Annie Haslam style). Multiple voices in the Genesis-like bridge to the next part sound so much like Renaissance! The third motif is slower and more easy-going with a bit of Emerson organ play but then a mandolin-sounding guitar strumming frenzy takes us into a more TONY BANKS-like organ solo over the Renaissance music. More Genesis-like bridges before Yoko picks up her vocalize again, but the song ends with the band jamming as strong wind sounds blow everything away. Great song if a bit overly familiar. (9/10)

5. "Kitamoto" (4:41) gently picked guitars provide a background weave for Yoko (and, later, a synth) to solo over the top. I love it when the band use multiple tracks of Yoko's voice to harmonize or counterpoint her main vocal track as they do here. Piano, bass, and drums join in during the second half of the second verse and into the chorus. Interesting weave of gentle guitar arpeggi with tune-shifting Wurlitzer-like organ and then fretless bass solo. Then we're back into the vocal motif for another crack at the chorus. Cool song! There are frequent moments in which several elements remind me of Genesis' classic tune "Stagnation." (9/10)

6. "Living in the Shiny Days" (4:16) an uptempo tune with more of a true Prog Folk flair to it. There's also a bit of a YES (in one of its poppier moods--like "Wondrous Stories" or "And You and I") feel to this one. (8.7/10)

7. "The Poet" (7:43) with a cross between Renaissance and Neo Prog band Beautiful though it does drag on one- dimensionally a bit too long. The Hackett lead guitar stylings at the end of the sixth minutes are superb. Yoko Royama's Annie Haslem-like vocals are, stylistically, perfect imitations. The excellent final two minutes really bolster this one upwards. (13.5/15)

Total Time 45:29

The perfect NeoProg blending of the softer, gentler sides of GENESIS with classic RENAISSANCE stylings and structures. The bonus songs (on the CD only) are well worth hearing as well.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of NeoProg and something that I think every/any prog lover would like.

Report this review (#2969574)
Posted Sunday, November 26, 2023 | Review Permalink

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