Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Prog Related

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Japan Oil on Canvas  album cover
3.43 | 44 ratings | 4 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

Buy JAPAN Music
from partners
Live, released in 1983

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Oil on Canvas (1:25)
2. Sons of Pioneers (4:59)
3. Gentlemen Take Polaroids (6:41)
4. Swing (5:36)
5. Cantonese Boy (3:45)
6. Visions of China (3:34)
7. Ghosts (6:23)
8. Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer (3:30)
9. Nightporter (6:47)
10. Still Life in Mobile Homes (5:37)
11. Methods of Dance (6:07)
12. Quiet Life (4:34)
13. The Art of Parties (5:28)
14. Canton (5:43)
15. Temple of Dawn (1:45)

Total Time 71:58

Line-up / Musicians

Richard Barbieri / Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Jansen / Drums, Marimba, Vocals
Mick Karn / Bass, Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone, Vocals
David Sylvian / Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Concept
Masami Tsuchiya / Guitar, Keyboards, Tapes

Releases information

LP: Virgin V2513
CD: Virgin V2513

Thanks to darqdean for the addition
Edit this entry

Buy JAPAN Oil on Canvas Music

More places to buy JAPAN music online

JAPAN Oil on Canvas ratings distribution

(44 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(55%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

JAPAN Oil on Canvas reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It goes without saying that Japan had the most success with Oil on Canvass. This was their most warmly received release. It also needs mentioning that while we assess UK/USA sales statistics they also had big sales in Asia for this album. Again their growth as individuals showed that they are collectively producing a better sound. The fact that there was much friction between band members perhaps assisted this output. Most of Tin Drum the last studio album is on Oil On Canvass which is not surprising considering it was their best release. There is a good warm atmosphere on this album ( in a sterile kind of way!) and makes for great rare quality live album from the 80's for any prog genre.Three and a half stars.
Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Japan are living proof of how persistently labels can stick to a band or artist, and be extremely hard to shake off. Because of their relative popularity in the late Seventies and early Eighties, as well as their image, they were mercilessly lumped together with the so-called 'New Romantic' bands of the same era (that is, the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet), or at best associated with the ultimately nebulous 'new wave' movement. Since everybody knows that new wave (whatever it may be) stems from punk, its incompatibility with anything even remotely related to prog should be a given.

However, music should be mainly judged by listening, not by associations, or questions of appearance. Though the band's dandified, decadent image seemed a million miles removed from any traditional prog iconography, it came straight from artists who had more than a fleeting connection with progressive rock - namely, David Bowie and Roxy Music. The same could be said about their sound, definitely darker and more complex than that of the 'pretty boy' bands with whom they were unfairly associated. David Sylvian's languid baritone takes Bryan Ferry's crooner-on-acid style to another, more sophisticated level, and Mick Karn's distinctive bass playing gives the band's music both depth and an edge.

All those elements are very much in evidence in this live album, released in 1983 after the band had split up the previous year. As it is to be expected, it features most of the tracks of Japan's last studio effort, the excellent "Tin Drum", as well as some highlights from two of their previous albums, "Quiet Life" and "Gentlemen Take Polaroids". The stylistic difference between the latter songs and those taken from "Tin Drum" is often rather evident. It could be said that the band's earlier compositions are more 'new-waveish' in sound, being somewhat 'colder' and lacking the Oriental inspiration that characterises their last album. The most interesting is definitely the eerie, keyboard-based Nightporter, quite reminiscent of Eno-era Roxy Music's darker offerings. On the other hand, some of the tracks from Tin Drum possess a jagged, funky rhythm driven by Karn's skillful use of the fretless bass - notably "Still Life in Mobile Homes" and The Art of Parties, the latter featuring a vaguely martial, Oriental-style chorus. The album's highlight is, however, the haunting, rarefied "Ghosts", iits mysterious synths and evocative percussion patterns forming a perfect background for Sylvian's inspired crooning.

In spite of some people's scepticism, Japan's relation to prog is undeniable, both as regards the band members' subsequent career (keyboardist Richard Barbieri joined Porcupine Tree, and Sylvian has since become a very respected progressive artist, working among others with Robert Fripp) and their musical approach, which blends typically Western elements like electronica with ethnic influences. Though their music may not be everyone's cup of tea, they deserve to be listened to without prejudice. "Oil on Canvas", which was ironically their most successful release, is an excellent starting point for those who are interested in learning more about this intriguing band. Approach with an open mind, and enjoy.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars For a live album, this one has very little crowd noise. At times, you would hardly know that they were there.

This was recorded after their final, and best studio album, Tin Drum, and primarily covers that release. And that's a good thing. It happens to have two of my favorite songs from this band Sons Of Pioneers and Visions Of China, both powered by Mick Karn's unique bass lines.

Structurally, the songs are based upon simple compositions. But it is in the performance that they shine. Led by Karn and drummer Steve Jansen's rhythms, the songs are lively and highly entertaining.

If they could only have added depth to the songwriting, this could have rated four stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Oil on Canvas" is a live album release by UK art pop act Japan. The album was released through Virgin Records in June 1983. The original version was released as a double vinyl version. Itīs the highest charting album by the band although it was released several months after the band split-up. "Oil on Canvas" was recorded during Japanīs final UK performances in November 1982 at the six-night sold out stint of concerts at the Hammersmith Odeon. "Oil on Canvas" is not exclusively a live album though as the band have chosen to include some new instrumental studio recordings on the album too.

Itīs not like itīs something you notice though as the live tracks are rather sterile and more or less sound like they were recorded in a studio too. Audience noise is very sparse and low in the mix, which doesnīt exactly enhance the feeling that youīre listening to a live recording. When that is said the live versions of the tracks are different from the original studio versions and "Oil on Canvas" is still a good quality release even though a more "live" sound, to my ears, would have boosted the listening experience. Most tracks are from "Tin Drum (1981)", which is natural enough as it was the latest studio album at the time and they toured in support of that album, when recording "Oil on Canvas", but there are tracks from other albums too.

Not surprisingly the musicianship is on a high level. David Sylvian delivers sensitive and melancholic vocals and the keyboards by Richard Barbieri are adventurous and well played. Itīs the rythm section of bassist Mick Karn and drummer Steve Jansen that take the prize though. Especially Mick Karn plays some incredible bass lines. This might be some sort of artsy pop music upon initial listens, but dig a little deeper and youīll learn how sophisticated it actually is underneath. Session guitarist/keyboardist Masami Tsuchiya helps the soundscape to be more full and layered.

Overall "Oil on Canvas" is an enjoyable release by Japan. In terms of being a vibrant live album it fails a bit, but somehow itīs still an interesting and engaging listen. The detailed and clear sound production might have something to do with it, but the high level musicianship and of course the generally high quality of the compositions are great assets too. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.

Latest members reviews

No review or rating for the moment | Submit a review

Post a review of JAPAN "Oil on Canvas "

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.