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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Kenso's third namesake album is one of the hottest and most energetic prog efforts released during the critical 80s period: such a pity I didn't know them back then! By the time 'Kenso III' was recorded and released, Kenso had finally become a well-oiled instrumental ensemble, with a clear artistic path set in their common creative mind, and with enough proficiency to accomplish it in a classy, exquisite manner. The number of guest musicians who occasionally appear along the repertoire does not stop the band from portraying their real own style: along with the clear influences they received from excellent acts such as Hatfield & the North, National Health, and early 80s-Weather Report, they managed to instill a healthy dose of Far Eastern flavours in order to create something of their own within the boundaries of jazzy-prog. The (not too abundant) use of analog synths makes this album sonically similar to many jazz-pop recordings of that era, but the material never falls into easy listening patterns: its catchiness relies on the nice counterpoints and tectures played on keyboards, which fluidly complement the guitar and synth solos. The repertoire is so even in terms of compositive excellence and clever arrangements that it's hard to mention just a few examples... but I'll try: the opening number, as well as tracks 4, 5, 9 and 10, are the most representative highlights of the album. Besides, you can find a couple of nice interludes (tracks 3 and 6) that introduce some well-balanced weirdness in the middle of this melodic feast. The bonus track is actually a re-recorded version of an original piece from their debut album. In conclusion: highly recommended!
Report this review (#4230)
Posted Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another amazing album from Kenso. This amazing Jazz Fusion band have a intricate space music to a fast change Jazz that creates a high complex music that I like very much. The begining of this album is very beautiful with a keiboard arrangement and finish in a beautiful final jazz arrangement. I like all musicians that play in this band because all of then have some special personal arrangements and make a very good album. Kenso is a good band because in live records, the great quality of this musicians are in improvisations in Kenso music. We can listening that in this album, in intricate improvisations and in a very good harmony in all musicians. For me one of the best Kenso albuns and is one of my facourites Jazz Fusion Bands.
Report this review (#201955)
Posted Saturday, February 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

One f the longest living group from Japan, Kenso started in the mid-80's along with many of their ultra-symphonic neo like Bellaphon, Gerrard and a few more, with only By Kyo Ran sounding a bit less symphonic and crunchier and later Ars Nova sounding more adventurous. As usual with all of these Japanese second wave groups, Kenso was extremely derivative, forgetting completely their predecessor 70's groundbreaking works (Far Out Family Band, for ex or Yamashta) and concentrated on imitating the 70's Camel or Genesis with the catastrophic instruments of those mid-80's. While I find Kenso's music on this album boring and sometimes limit-laughable, we must think that it hasn't aged well and it is a product of its time.

What to say of the music except that it sounds completely derivative, ultra-symphonic, completely un-original and pretentious. And extremely boring as well. At least for today's ears?. But I guess in the mid-80's, there wasn't much else to lay your ears upon so I can understand some people might regard this highly, because there was nothing else but Japan and the few UK neo-prog groups to give this type of symphonic rock music, Kenso is fronted by a double synth attack and backed by a rarely upfront guitarist, with no vocals (or few, thankfully), an odd flute (Celebration) and an oboe (Nostalghia) and much of their compositions sound all the same bar two slower numbers with a reduced line-up. Don't get me wrong, these five guys are all good musicians and all, but this lacks power and guts?. It's way too slick, over-produced and can lead to understand why some smirk when listening to this, because it's got no life.

Hardly anything even remotely close to essential (or good, but that's IMHO), Kenso's early albums are generally best avoided unless you like a wimp prog of the lean years. And don't just take my word for it?. My trusted colleague reviewer Cesar says that this is their most energetic album so far?. Although I understand this album is generally well regarded by historical fans and that you'll be tempted to acquire it?.. please don't blame me afterwards, I warned you.

Report this review (#253785)
Posted Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This 1985 release, follow up to the magnificient Kenso II is the most fusion-based album Kenso ever recorded. Still I wouldn't call this a pure fusion outcome, prog is very much in there, so is japanese music (traditional folk and popular music). No 1-3 star tracks, only 4-5 star tracks, a standard Kenso began in Kenso II and which lasted until Yume No Oka. The first part of the two-part piece Sacred Dream starts the album with great promise. The follower Power of the Glory is a powerful fusion-package containing great keyboard and guitar interplay. The Liberty Of Spirit is another great piece, so is Patter Of The Groovy. Turn To Solution is a composition of the bass player Matsumoto, and a truly great one, proving that Shimizu wasn't the only one capable of writing good tracks. The short Nostalghia features vocals or better said voices by Janna Kaku. Sacred Dream II is possibly one of the best tracks, Kenso ever produced, but the album does not end there. No, the album ends with Beginnings, an evolving piece that even has a little finale-like build up in the end.

This album featured keyboard playing not only by Oguchi, Sahashi but also by two guest musicians, the other being Hiroyuki Namba who played on the first album. Shimizu also provided mellotron and autoharp aside his guitar and koto playing. The almost orchestral layers in Turn To Solution and Beginnings were played with the power of 4 keyboard players! Two vocalists were also featured. For example the vocal passage on Far East Celebration was created with Tsunekatsu Takagi singing all the parts and overdubbing them. The drummer Haruhiko Yamamoto played also alto sax on a couple of tracks and also piano which makes him the sixth person who provided keyboards for this album. What a multi-instrumentalist! A former member of Kenso, flautist Shiro Yajima played on seven tracks on this album. But why was he a guest- musician? Altho this was his last album with Kenso, there was no reason to drop his credits to the guest-list... It's a shame no-one knows about Kenso, because it belongs to best bands of the eighties and nineties.

Anyway this album deserves only 5 stars *****.

Report this review (#390844)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Between 83' and 85' Kenso appear to have gone through a transitional period.Very good news were that the band was eventually discovered by a major Japanese label, King Records, and signed a good contract.Moreover they seem to have started recording material for a third work with the line-up of ''Kenso II'', but the majority of it was executed by a fresh line-up, without flutist Shiro Yajima and keyboardist Atsushi Makiuchi and with two new member joining on keyboards, Kenichi Oguchi and Toshihiko Sahashi.''Kenso III'' was released in 1985 with guest members on keyboards, oboe, vocals and flute, most important figure among them was Namba Hiroyuki.

Music of Kenso starts seriously to be regarded as one of the most dominant and convincing Prog stylings during the 80's.They still deliver a hot, smoking Symphonic/Fusion with frenetic paces and incredible interplays, showered with nervous synthesizers and virtuosic guitar moves.What seems to be just amazing is that the group maintains a high level of quality music, no matter if it keeps constantly the foot on the gear.The music is basically all instrumental with links to compatriots MR. SIRIUS, AIN SOPH and KBB, featuring absolutely satisfying instrumentals with Jazz-Rock styled guitars, sudden tempo changes, shifting climates and complex arrangements.Their early Canterbury-inclined touches start to fade in the sake of a more powerful performance with a serious sense of melody among the complicated themes.Lots of symphonic keyboards and Classical-drenched textures along with a fair dose of melodic flute drives guarantee the deep symphonic content of the album.The jazzy and Fusion influences are more apparent during Shimizu's guitar pyrotechnics and the general structure of tracks, which are performed with technique.Good, classic reference points from the worldwide Prog scene are definitely FOCUS, CAMEL, THE ENID and ALLAN HOLDSWORTH.Stunning material.

Kenso are too talented of a band to simply fail.Another qualitive, adventuruous and totally intricate work, which lists them as a top-5 combo among 80's Japanese Prog acts.Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1143453)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2014 | Review Permalink

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