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VERMILION SANDS

Symphonic Prog • Japan


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Vermilion Sands biography
VERMILION SANDS was a good but short lived Japanese band formed in the end of the 70's. With the original formation that included Yoko Royama (vocals, flute) Masahiro Yamada (keyboards), Hisashi Matoba (drums & acoustic guitar), Kenji Ota (bass), Takafumi Yamasaki (drums) and Hiroyuki Tanabe (flute, keyboards) they released their debut called "Water Blue" (1989).

This album really caught me buy surprise, because they were very close to some sort of Symphonic Folk with more than evident reminiscences of RENAISSANCE, but with a Neo Prog and even mainstream rock edge. But what impressed me more is the voice of the fantastic Yoko Royama, who unlike most Japanese female vocals sings instead of shouting, her voice is extremely delicate, and despite singing in an unfriendly language as Japanese, manages to add a sweet touch that moved me.

In 2013, when very few expected a second album, VERMILLION SANDS releases "Spirits of the Sun", a very nostalgic album almost as homage for Yoko Royama who died of cancer when the album was almost ready. I don't know if she effectively sung in the album, but the vocals impressed me less than in the debut, because they add that characteristic voice of Japanese anime. Still is a very solid follow up.

What's in the future for VERMILLION SANDS? We can only gues, because they lost a very important part of their success with the passing away o Yoko, but maybe they will surprise us again with a new album.

Iván Melgar-Morey :::: Perú

Vermilion Sands official website

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Spirits of the SunSpirits of the Sun
Import
Musea 2013
Audio CD$10.98
$6.99 (used)
Reverb OverdubReverb Overdub
Import
BOUNDEE 2007
Audio CD$42.15
$9.50 (used)
Water BlueWater Blue
Musea 2003
Audio CD$19.99
$150.64 (used)
Water BlueWater Blue
Import
Musea 1989
Audio CD$17.66
$11.43 (used)

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VERMILION SANDS discography


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

3.54 | 22 ratings
Water Blue
1989
3.64 | 19 ratings
Spirits of the Sun
2013

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VERMILION SANDS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 Spirits of the Sun by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.64 | 19 ratings

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Spirits of the Sun
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

4 stars On this record I heard a lot of such prog I have missed this year, or from nowadays prog and therefore I rate this record high. I was fascinated of many items here. I cover with a flower garden, an impressionalist view clothes Vermilion Sands' second record. Their first(I haven't heard it) was released 1989(when I was born), twenty four years ago and this is their second one.

Japanese prog is something new for me, but earlier I have listened to Pazzo Fanfano di Musica, another fantastic record from the year 1989. Vermilion Sands is written to be a little like Renaissance, but I wouldn't agree with that. Renaissance is much more related to classical music. Perhaps it's the female vocals that's similar. Something strange with the voices is that I think they sound like Swedish folk music. That is especially clear on the second very nice track: "Streets of Derry"(8/10) which mixtures many great feautures: folk spirit, clear rock and great instrumentation. The first "Spirits of the Air" is also very good(I admit there's something Renaissance over it)(8/10) and the long closer "New Dawn" is a perfect exemple of that progressive rock I have missed from these modern times(8/10).

One special things with the lyrics is that they're sung in Japanese, even if the titles are written in English. I like it even if I had liked it more if the volume of it had been higher. A couple of songs were inferior, quite mediocre pop such as the fourth and the seventh tracks.

Though were the best tracks totally instrumental. I love the sound and the musical landscape of "Concentration" and "Autumn"(10/10), in my ears rather perfect prog.

I will give Vermilion Sands' "Spirits of the Sun" four stars, even if the record is uneven. The most fair had been 7/10 beacuse my average rating was 3,65.

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator 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!

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by Clepsydraakje

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.

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by geezer

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.

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 Water Blue by VERMILION SANDS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.54 | 22 ratings

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Water Blue
Vermilion Sands Symphonic Prog

Review by Marcelo
Prog Reviewer

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.

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