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Jazz Rock/Fusion • Japan

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Kenso picture
Kenso biography
Founded in 1974 - Still active as of 2017

The music combines a Progressive jazz-rock or a Progressive rock mixed with jazz. The emphasis is on performance and improvisation with complex themes, breaks, elaborated developments and arrangements remind HATFIELD AND THE NORTH and BRAND X. The musicianship is excellent. My selection of KENSO is limited to two CDs: "Kenso III" & "Yume No Oka". Especially for fusion fans!!!

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KENSO discography

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KENSO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 50 ratings
4.09 | 79 ratings
Kenso II
3.82 | 63 ratings
Kenso III
3.75 | 48 ratings
4.12 | 78 ratings
Yume No Oka
3.09 | 39 ratings
3.50 | 10 ratings
Kenso 76 / 77
4.17 | 76 ratings
Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
4.17 | 35 ratings
Utsuroi Yuku Mono
3.69 | 23 ratings
Uchinaru Koe Ni Kaiki Seyo

KENSO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.18 | 11 ratings
Kenso In concert (Music for unknown five musicians)
4.33 | 9 ratings
Kenso - Live '92
4.72 | 9 ratings
Sora ni hikaru - Early live Volume 1
3.60 | 5 ratings
Inei No Fue - Early live Volume 2
3.93 | 5 ratings
Zaiya Live
4.57 | 29 ratings
In The West
4.44 | 9 ratings
Ken Son Gu Su (25th Anniversary Concert Live )

KENSO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.83 | 6 ratings

KENSO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Self Portrait

KENSO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

KENSO Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 In The West by KENSO album cover Live, 1998
4.57 | 29 ratings

In The West
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by JazzFusionGuy

4 stars In the West is a live, studio-ready recording from On the West, Tokyo performances of Kenso in Sep 1997. (After having my PC's Microsoft Word crash three times after this last sentence ? I try and push on and remember exactly what I was going to say, again!) This excellent recording showcases a group that perfectly dances the knife-edge twixt progressive rock and jazz fusion. At times they remind me of Return to Forever and then The Dixie Dregs. Even hints of Happy the Man are detected. Kenso is a well-kept Japanese secret to most fusion fans.

Guitarist Yoshihisa Shimizu handles the fret board like Steve Morse and Stanley Whitaker. I even hear Scandinavia's Finnforest or Spain's Iceberg visceral-fusion, axe attack in Shimizu's phrasings. Expect loads of keyboard interplay and unison lines. Compositions are complex, engaging, twisting, stop-n-go flourishes. A myriad of time-sigs make this weave of sound an astonishingly intricate mosaic of textures. Not one but two keyboardists add to the punch and fullness of Kenso's sound. Kenichi Oguchi and Kenichi Mitsuda are a fine team of synth players. Both Shimizu and Oguchi pen songs with Shimizu creating 12 of the 14 songs. Each song's a beautiful aural experience, transporting the listener through virtuoso jazz fusion and superbly structured, progressive rock -- Mahavishnu Ork-ish one moment and Yes-like the next.

Shunji Saegusa is Kenso's memorable bassist and Masayuki Muraishi demolishes the drums like a good fusion/progger percussionist should. I refuse to recommend any track over the next. They each have their own special merit. For high-energy, serious soul-fired tunes that will be a collector's item one day I heartily recommend Japan's Kenso.

 Uchinaru Koe Ni Kaiki Seyo by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 23 ratings

Uchinaru Koe Ni Kaiki Seyo
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars Good album, not 5/5 for me at least.

The first song is a high octane instrumental, classic Kenso, never falling into endless jamming, effective intro.

The second contains lovely vocals and sold me on the rest of the album irregardless of quality. The songs after however, are no duds. On this track you get top notch Kenso harkening back to the fantastic debut without disregarding their recent work. Emotional guitar, soulful singing, versatile as ever keyboards and great form

3 is a beautiful piano/guitar song showing the band/albums range, a wonderful addition.

4 a peculiar track my words are unable to convey.

5 is a great song with many sections that seamlessly flow into one another while each remaining fantastic.

6 has some lovely hammond mixed with piano bits, lead guitar and some kind of muddy synth.

7 is an ambient prelude to 8.

8 is another track with vocals, this time unfortunately in English rather then Japanese. This song is a mixed bag some of the vocals veer into the territory of bands like Mr. Sirius/Koenji Hyakkei, which I dislike in pure, however, here it is used in an acceptable manner as a good closing track. Other times the vocals are spot on, melding with the music to drive the song through excellent passages. This song contains both some of the albums lowest points and highest.

I think this album would be better with a redone track 8 (Japanese vocals, vocals mixed quieter and the operatic aahhs being reined in (not rexcised from the composition just reducing the note duration) and either track 4 or 1 being removed (not deleted, just used elsewhere)

Overall this is a good album with a variety of songs you just don't usually get in this style of music which work together to create a diverse, very Japanese, very pretty album with lots of memorable moments and nothing to make the album bad. Good album, fans of Canterbury Scene/Jazz Fusion/Zeuhl, even RIO/Avant should definitely check this album out.

 Kenso by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.87 | 50 ratings

Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

4 stars An exceptionally good album.

The opening track is the weakest with little sounds of interest, although it did/does keep me listening.

With the flute on the second track I knew I had found what I was looking for the sounds is apart from other styles I had heard it was different.

This continues on the next track with vocals in the singers native tongue (why do they always sing in english, even if it's not their mother language?) Stellar work.

Une is once again a lovely track

Kagome, the albums highlight is an epic consisting of chanting avant garde sounds and shouts/laughter, absolutely magical!

Highly recommend this album over any of their others because it's the only one with memorable songs, half the later albums falling to symphonic Japanese Jazz Funk.

 Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.17 | 76 ratings

Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progpositivity
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sometimes genius simply cannot sit still long enough to endure the inconveniences of trivial matters like song style categorizations and constructing a well thought out running order for a CD. Fortunately for us, Kenso's leader Yoshihisa Shimizu did not allow his musical genius to distract him from such pragmatic matters of attention to detail. This is a fabulous collection of well constructed and skillfully performed hard rock jazz fusion tunes.

My only complaint is that many of the shorter sound experiments/pastiches which are sprinkled throughout the second half of the album are not given an opportunity to develop into anything substantive. Perhaps Yoshihisa was concerned about them overstaying their welcome. Well, they don't do that, but in most cases, neither do they establish a satisfying and/or memorable musical statement.

Don't allow that to deter you though. If you are a fan of jazz-rock fusion, this is a "must listen" album IMO!!

Track by track:

The first track (Fist of Fury) clearly establishes that this will essentially be a guitar led hard rock jazz fusion album (with soaring synth solos and a strong rhythm section).

The second track (The Cunning Madrigal) is a beautifully interwoven composition of various lines and instrumental voices. Keys, guitar, bass and drums all shine (often simultaneously as a synergistic whole). Highly recommended.

Track #3 is a similar hard rock jazz fusion tune which curiously introduces a palpable ethnic twist toward the end. This ethnic element will come and go, ebb and flow throughout the rest of the album. I like the way this track introduces it so very prominently. I think this helps make the many re-introductions of ethnic intricacies seem much more subtle and less surprising than they might have been otherwise.

Track 4 (Wooden Horse Pathos) is a more straight-forward jamming slice of fusion with some humorous outbursts which remind me of classic RIO a bit. There is a rather short but very melodic and elegant piano interlude toward the end which cannot restrain the song for long. In the end, it wraps up with a familiar outburst of energy.

Track 5 - The Split Gate The first minute or so features ethnic instruments in what sounds like a street performance. A unique instrument reminds me of tuned drums. Whatever that instrument (or patch) is, it will reappear to play prominent role again before this album's running time is complete.

There is much more 'back and forth' sharing of leads between guitar and "tuned drum" as well as keyboards and "tuned drum". And this should go without saying... the drums and bass are powerful and tight throughout the entire album.

Track 6 - Rebellion This jazz rock fusion tune is a bit more straight-forward on the rock side. We catch our breath a bit at about the 2 minute mark with a passage of slower more melodic interplay between keys and guitar. But worry not! The intensity starts to pick back up a little before the 3 minute mark. Nice syncopation adds energy and spice at around 3:14. The song wraps up festivities by letting us down quickly yet gently which sets the stage for the lighter mood of the next piece.

7 - The stairs for dreaming This song features relaxing acoustic guitar which soon encounters a subtly experimental collage of sounds including a loop of a semi-intensely spoken word.

I'm not typically a huge fan such noise patchworks experiments, but for some reason the various noise elements are treated so musically that I does seem to actually "work" for me.

This song foreshadows that additional shorter experimental collage pieces will be coming our way later on in the album.

8 - Echoes From Romano is a beautiful symphonic piece. There is a Renaissance feel to this tune that is not entirely unlike the general "feel" of track #2 (A Stunning Madrigal). But it is less bouncy, more smooth and serene. It is reminiscent of some of Gentle Giant's more melodic pieces.

Somewhere around 1:40, a rock beat kicks which Kenso would typically be expected to followed with blistering electric guitar or synth leads. But instead of rock guitar - SURPRISE - accordion takes the center stage! But the intensity doesn't totally drop. The juxtaposition of rock drums and bass with accordion is quite interesting. It is a bit hard for me to tell when the accordion ends and organ begins in this song. It has its frenetically energetic passages. But it is also very memorable for shimmering with utter beauty.

NOTE: Five of the next seven songs will be shorter pieces many of which in some way or another will be either "experimental" or at least venture a bit "outside" the normal musical range of the rest of the album.

9 - The Daughter of a Recluse The Renaissance feel continues on this short and tightly composed piece. This is wonderful music. If someone had told me this was a restore, remastered and newly published demo from Gentle Giant's hey day I just might have believed them!

10 - A way of living as Taro recalls shades of track 5 (The Split Gate) but in a shorter less satisfying manner IMO.

11 - Doppelganger in the night begins with a quasi-Hendrix styled guitar lead. This piece feels too much like an INTRO to something that unfortunately never happens for my taste. Right when I got the feeling that the prelude had been established and we were about to TAKE IT somewhere, the piece suddenly ended, leaving me cold. I feel like there is a more full SONG to flesh out from these melodic phrases when suddenly our progress is stilted and the entire proceeding is suddenly truncated. Game over.

12 - Isolated Jiro could be considered a bit related to the previous track. It explores some similar ideas where the previous track left off - but not convincingly. Fortunately, it is a much more satisfying piece in its own right. This is remarkable music. It jumps effortlessly from idea to idea

13 - The Understanding is exquisitely beautiful pastoral piece featuring whistle-like synth, piano, organ and clean melodic electric guitar. Alas, it is too short IMO. This is another piece that DESERVES a FULL SONG IMO. When you have as many great IDEAS as Yoshihisa Shimizu, I suppose you can afford to leave many of them unexplored. But it is a bit disappointing to me as a listener. To speak in terms of food, it is like being given a SAMPLE TASTE of a wonderfully appetizing new dish which I will NEVER get to eat. Am I happy for the sample? Or am I frustrated by it never turning into something I can sink my teeth into? It is a bit of both - but I'm afraid it is a touch more the LATTER. I would gladly trade in 3 of these shorter tastes for 1 more fully developed main course.

14 - A grim diary - This is an experimental jam piece which manages to interlock contrasting rhythms into genuinely interesting poly-rhythms. Well done.

15 - Amalgamation of Self and Others. This is the one short piece which does not leave me wanting more. The idea may have potential but the competing sound sources of music and noise just don't do much for me. Your milage may vary though so be sure to check it out!

 Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.17 | 76 ratings

Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Squire Jaco

4 stars The cd edition that I own is issued in Italy, and features a beautiful heavyweight gatefold mini-LP sleeve with an 8-page booklet containing pictures of the band members and other info. (The Latin-sounding title may simply be the result of the Italian production?)

This 2002 studio album from the incredible Nippon prog-fusion outfit known as Kenso is another great one, more in the style of their classic mid-80's stuff. Featuring the same line-up as on their outstanding 1997 live album "In The West", the sound is sometimes a bit heavier (especially on tracks 1 and 3) and more modern than their older music, but always melodic and interesting. You'll also find more Japanese sounds, voices and melodies sprinkled around on this album.

Guitarist Yoshihisa Shimizu writes almost all of the music, which typically features complex time signatures and great arrangements. He also plays all of the instruments on three shorter tracks. Shunji Saegusa's bass guitar on the whole cd is deep and cool - I LOVE it!

The album flows along nicely, with many moments of great musicianship. Ideally, I guess I wish that they hadn't thrown in some of the quirkier, shorter bits (e.g., "The Stairs..." and "Doppelganger..."), or some of the heavier moments. But overall, this is a very good cd from a very special prog-fusion band. There are at least 10 songs here that you'll find are just kicking excellent! Seek this one out, my friends. I mean, after all, it IS "fabulis...."

 Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.17 | 76 ratings

Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars More excellent heavy prog rock with a hint of jazz from these veterans from Japan.

1. "Fist of Fury" (5:10) hard drivin' (8/10)

2. "The Cunning Madrigal" (4:20) unforgettable melody (8.5/10)

3. "Prelude to Concealment (2:23) probably looks really good on paper! (4/5)

4. "Wooden Horse Pathos" (3:57) more like 'wooden apathos.' J/k! I actually hear/feel a little emotion in this one (loose playfulness!) More like this, please! (8.5/10)

5. "The Split Gate" (6:57) a familiar Balinese Gamelan song taken and progified. Great opening third, loses its soul a bit once it goes racing into the prog jazz fusion track but then regains some dignity in the final third. A top three song for me. (13.75/15)

6. "Rebellion" (4:04) raunchy Grunge sounds brought to a bluesy-jazz fusion fabric. Great Fripp guitar. I really like the pace of this one: it allows each instrument the opportunity to be heard. Another top three song. (9/10)

7. "The Stairs for Dreaming" (2:27) weird and disjointed. (4/5)

8. "Echoes From Romano" (5:27) beautiful classically-infused opening 90 seconds with great melodies. Turns hillbilly hoedown in an ELP way in the second minute. Thankfully returning to the melodies of the opener in the third minute before transitioning into an all-out YES ALBUM passage in the fourth minute. Great song despite its unusual motifs spliced together as they are. (9/10)

9. "The Daughter of a Recluse" (2:10) opens with a Japanese folk melody played on keyboard bamboo flute. Joined by guitar, bass, and then electric guitar--still in the first minute. With a weird keyboard passage at the beginning of the second minute, this is obviously meant as an étude. (4.25/5)

10. "A Way of Living as Taro" (2:40) echoplex-like guitar introduces a tightly formed CARAVAN-like Canterbury tune. keep expecting Richard Sinclair to start singing! Love the steel drums! (9/10)

11. "Doppelganger in the Night" (1:14) raunchy electric guitar-led étude. (4/5)

12. "Isolated Jiro" (4:14) opens like a heavy pop song before going into a jazz-rock theme. (8/10)

13. "The Understanding" (1:01) gentle BOB JAMES-like whole group smooth jazz. (4.5/5)

14. "A Grim Diary" (5:53) rolling bass line with Bruford-like syncopated drums opens this one. Soloing electric guitar enters around 0:40. Synth takes a little trip in the fore around 1:00 before relinquishing the reins to guitar, bass and drums again. Odd synth sounds join in the third minute and then piano fills a pause before things amp back up for the final stretch of almost three minutes. Slight changes in tempos of several of the instruments though the overall pace remains constant. Pretty cool how they did that! (9/10)

15. "Amalgamation of Self and Others" (1:36) electric piano solo exposition is cut off at 0:35 by synth-generated "ocean wave" sounds. EP rejoins, trying to be heard through the electro-static fuzz.(4.25/5)

Total Time: 53:33

Impressive display of skills! What lacks in the music from much of this album--especially the first half--is some kind of soul; it all feels so much like mathematically worked out mental masturbation--circle jerking (cuz of the tight timing and frequent feeling of entrainment). I respect the artists, their skills and their hard work, but I want to feel more of their spirit in their art. Perhaps they were trying to impress too much with those opening songs.

Four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

 Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.17 | 76 ratings

Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars It took me a long-time to hunt down this highly-rated album and I was finally rewarded by finding it sitting in a discount bin in my favorite Montreal progressive rock store. It slipped into my hands faster than a chameleon's sticky tongue and I can now crow about my patience. Kenso is quite a band, often given comparisons with stalwarts like Brand X but I see them as a much heavier jazz-rock outfit that has few similarities with anyone out there. Led by the mercurial guitarist Yoshihisa Shimizu (who allegedly is a dentist during the day), the overall impression is one of complex insanity, delirious instrumental exuberance and unparalleled technical flash. Two keyboardists, both synthesizer specialists, one on organ and the other on piano, make for quite a keyboard intense frenzy. Bassist Shunji Saegusa is a monster, who bleeds laser quick blasts for a living, providing the acceleration for drummer Masayuki Muriashi to beat his kit into a pulp.

Perhaps fission is a better description than fusion, like the opener "Fist of Fury" as the material is scintillating, rapid- fire and explosive, to say the very least, with occasional ethnic/ambient pauses like on "The Split Gate", a 7 minute jewel of a track that has all the goods including a blistering guitar rampage. The infusion of Japanese sounds makes this a unique discovery adding originality to a style that shreds like an Osaka chef gone berserk. On a piece like "Rebellion", Shimizu alters his guitar tone once again, a true master of various effects, doing some lovely Andy Summers-like slashes on rhythm while searing like Adrian Belew on the lead. Very breezy, yet smoldering from all the previous molten lava spewing, the master cannot help drilling and grating like a mad dentist (which he may be). Combining experimental sounds with acoustic guitar and odd female voice effects on "The Stairs of Dreaming" serve only as a prelude setting for the impressive and oddly symphonic "Echoes from Romano" which, when it gets uncorked, packs quite the wallop with a bass guitar leading the charge and evolving into a funky chariot ride. The various organ solos are a turbo-charged fury that would make Jon Lord proud. Dense, cinematographic and contemporary, this is Kenso at its most prog.

Follows a suite of shorter pieces, mostly within the 2-3 minute range that run the gamut of synthesized indigenous turbulence, an accordion-fueled field trip that adds vibes (probably the V-drums) and burping bass. Then, to show off more guitar-god influences, toss in some reverb-laden Jimi Hendrix caresses that sputter like phosphorus, gradually foaming like some experiment gone haywire. If that is not enough to convince, Shimizu then nods at late- period Jimmy Page on the heroic 4 minute "Isolated Jiro", incorporating some amazing dissonance and oblique phrasings that have a hint of Kashmirian mountains. Exhilarating!

Alternating soft synthesizer/piano soundscapes and harsh athletic bluster is what finishes off this amazing album, going from one extreme to another. "A Grim Diary" is just that, a persistent bass line and syncopated drum rhythm sets the stage, for a fiery run on the fret board, Shimizu showing off a mastery that is certainly deserving of major acclaim. Technically fast and furious, his notes have purpose as well, swerving, soaring, diving and crashing like a nimble Zero fighter from WW2. When the insane flamenco vocals enter the fray, you get completely lost in the eye of the hurricane that has engulfed you.

I am truly giddy after listening to this flurry of stormy delirium. Fusion/fission of the highest order and a must for any respectable progger. If you need one Kenso album, this may be it. My patience has been rewarded.

4.5 Cunning Nipponese madrigals

 Kenso II by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 1982
4.09 | 79 ratings

Kenso II
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A Japanese band of classically trained musicians performing very tightly a series of intricate compositions with a sound palette and level of competence quite reminiscent of Dutch band FOCUS and, at times, Brand X.

1. "Sora Ni Hikaru (Shining In The Sky)" (6:22) great uptempo jazzy interplay among half a dozen instruments for the first two minutes, then a shift into more gentle CAMEL-like territory with flute and drum play being quite prominent. Back and forth, A-B-A-C-A-B arrangement with skilled electric guitar solo (on two or more tracks) in the C part. (9/10)

2. "Anesthesia Part 1" (2:05) plugged in acoustic guitar opens before spoken background vocals and odd synthesizer-generated noises join in (mostly in the background--like kalimba [or is it real?]). (4.5/5)

3. "Anesthesia Part 2" (4:21) a continuation of motif from Part 1 using clavichord and full electric jazz complement (including accordion). Flute, electric guitars and bass (!) hold the melody lines (mostly). Reminds me of something FOCUS would do. Nice composition. (9/10)

4. "Hyoto (Frozen Island)" (6:13) piano opening establishing Japanese melody through jazzy chord play. This is then enhanced and carried forward by synth wind and flute. Quite reminiscent of one of the early melodies Ryuichi Sakamoto explored in his soundtrack music for Merry Christmas, Mister Lawrence. Reminds me, again, of something Thijs van Leer might have composed for his FOCUS contingent. (8.75/10)

5. "Brand Shikou (Brand IX)" (4:34) eventually gels in a way that sounds and feels quite a bit like Brand X--the drums aren't quite as smooth and flashy and the circus calliope-like sound chosen to MIDI with the lead synth are not quite up to the level of the Brits. Odd to have the effected male chant voices be in spoken Japanese. Great bass play. (8.75/10)

6. "Harukanaru Chi E (Toward The Land Beyond)" (3:55) this one feels like a JACO PASTORIUS imitation--but which incarnation? which support musicians? Then it kind of turns kind of BRAND X meets DAVE STEWART in the second and third minutes. Nice guitar synth interplay in the final minute. (8.75/10)

7. "Naibu E No Tsukikage (Moon Casting Shadows Within)" (3:45) "distant" female vocalise and mushy synth chord play (ŕ la PATRICK MORAZ in Story of i and ANT PHILLIPS in 1984) makes for an interesting, unusual, and, ultimately, beautiful musical expression. (9/10)

8. "Sayonara Progressive (Arrivederci: Goodbye Prog)" (7:06) Full on jazz-rock fusion. Drums are a tad bit on the disco side while complex whole band weave flows over and around them. Reminds me of BRUFORD/NATIONAL HEALTH. (13.5/15)

Total time 38:21

Very skilled mastery displayed by all instrumentalists though flute and drums tend to stand out most.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music in the Jazz-Rock Fusion vein.

 Sparta by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.75 | 48 ratings

Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars In 1986 Kenso released their first ever live work ''Music for unknown five musicians'' and in 1987 comes a private-pressed compilation of tracks from their early albums, titled ''Self portrait''.Around the same time recordings for their upcoming album ''I Sparti'' had already started, this prooved to be though a slow work in progress, partly due to member exits and the fading trend of progressive music.Haruhiko Yamamoto appeared in only a couple of tracks, before being replaced by new drummer Masayuki Muraishi.Things were starting to roll over again, before in 1989 Kimiyoshi Matsumoto quit and new bassist Shunji Saegusa was inducted to the line-up to complete the album.''I Sparti'' was eventually released the same year on King's branch-label Crime Records.

For the first time Kenso were performing with the standard assests of keyboards/guitar/bass/drums without the use of an expanded instrumentation, this fact along with the hard period for progressive music led to a more synthetic and modern sound, far from the 70's flavors of their early releases.Even under these difficult circumstances the band managed to keep an honest faith in the intricate roots of their Fusion sound and the album comes like a combination of STEVE HACKETT-like dreamy keyboard/guitar orchestrations, smokin' ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like Jazz Fusion and the inbetween HAPPY THE MAN-flavored aesthetics.The compositions are all in a very high level, the turn towards more jazzy and Fusion deliveries is more than apparent in the tricky synth lines and the piano as well as in Shimizu's impressive guitar moves, but there are still some symphonic breaks of excellent inspiration with a nice and ethereal atmosphere.You can listen to some strings popping up in several tracks, but these are propably played via the keyboards.What I like about Kenso is that these guys never overdo it, the have clearly understood the meaning of composition even in progressive arrangements and they always add some lovely melodious themes between the more emphatic and technical executions.Great synth and piano interludes are sitting next to bombastic Fusion pyrotechnics and the drumming is phenomenal, extremely pounding and technically efficient.

I certainly miss some of the more human sounds of their self-titled works, but this is 1989 and ''I Sparta'' really shines among the year's releases.This is solid, grandiose and melodic Fusion with a couple of mindblowing pieces.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

 Kenso III by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.82 | 63 ratings

Kenso III
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator 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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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