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Hiro Yanagida biography
HIRO YANAGIDA, born in Japan in 1949, appeared on stage for the first time as one of members of The Floral in 1966 through the audition for the Japanese Branch of The Monkees Fan Club. In 1969 The Floral changed their name into Apryl Fool, famous as an improvised psychedelic rock band in Japan, and was disbanded soon after recording their eponymous album. Whilst playing in FOOD BRAIN and LOVE LIVE LIFE + ONE, he released four albums as a solo artist - 'Milk Time' (1970), 'Hiro Yanagida (Nanasai No Rohjin Tengoku)' (1971), 'HIRO' (1972), and 'Hirocosmos' (1973) - all of those could gain much approval of worldwide psychedelic progressive rock fans or reviewers. Recently Hiro, as a session musician, has composed various songs for TV jingles or commercials.

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HIRO YANAGIDA discography

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

4.23 | 20 ratings
Milk Time
3.87 | 11 ratings
Nanasai No Rohjin Tengoku (Hiro Yanagida)
3.75 | 4 ratings
4.00 | 4 ratings
Folk & Rock Best Collection - The World Of Hiro Yanagida
4.04 | 13 ratings

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

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hirocosmos by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.04 | 13 ratings

Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

4 stars Japanese sword fighting and earl grey

The first album I bought from Hiro Yanagida was his excellent Milk Time, which was a fantastic psych album with all kinds of spacey assets put there to rearrange your poor brain. Hirocosmos, on the other hand, is what I would call a jazzy Canterbury album. Yep, I know Canterbury is a town in England where this rather silly and playful style with bands like The Wild Flowers and The Soft Machine originated. Even so, some of my favourite albums of the style has things like made in Italy or made in Holland written on the back of them...

Albeit with a hefty dosage of jazz incorporated into the flow of things, Hirocosmos sees Yanagida opening his psychedelic keyboard licks up to a quirkier touch - and somehow it feels like these aspects were always there in his playing. I know I personally had to put on Milk Time again just to make sure, that I wasn┤t completely gone fishing, and though part of me always is, - I was absolutely right! On this album he simply decided to let his love of jazz shine through, and let me tell you straight away: this guy is up there with the best of them - be that in the keyboards department, mellotron swamps, moog havens or piano resorts - he masters all of them with exceptional skill and ingenuity. I especially adore his work on the synthesizers on Hirocosmos. He uses them very similarly to the manner in which Caravan simplified the solos and sort of kneaded them into the main melody. Sometimes they sound like a futuristic elevator swooping up to the 32.000nd floor - WUUUUUIIIIIIIHHHHHHH, however still retaining an unparalleled gift of flow and juice. The synths reach for the heavens whilst firmly planted deep within the rest of the music

Underneath these terrific lifts of sound, you are treated to everything from low key and pensive piano leaded grooves to blistering fast paced keyboard runs that fall over each other, only to be stopped by the enormous wall of mellotrons, saying " You┤d better slow down boy - smoke a doobie, catch your breath and watch the skies for a minute or so". And you know what? Those instruments really listen to one another. (Good thing too, as I wouldn┤t dream of the horrors in store, if poor Hiro by some weird shift of faith, altered his persona every time he changed instrument).

Behind the master wizard lurks one of the greatest backing bands, I ┤ve heard in quite a while. Swarfega! The drummer sounds like a fusion mix of Bruford, Wyatt and Palmer - tight and meaty like a venus cave, and still he manages to be wild in all the right places, punching out of the stereotypic jazz mould - punishing his kit with some well placed rhythmic karate hits. He┤s always a minuscule beat in front of the remaining band, which adds a charismatic and original feel to the music. The only other drummer I can think of who does this, is actually Charlie Watts.

Several times during Hirocosmos a saxophone drops in to say hello. It tells us, that it is about time we headed over to England and Canterbury for a cup of tea. It shares a lot of facets with its brethren from these parts, and just like the other instruments here, it never outstays its welcome. It pops up, sings its tune, and zips away in a hurry. It┤s much the same story with the small breaks of flute whistling, though they are far softer and effervescent in nature. Both wind instruments are kind to the different tunes on here and intervene purposefully, when these are in need of something lofty, quirky or comfy.

Keeping it real - pushing the music back towards the early psychedelic lands of Yanagida┤s earlier albums, is guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka, who strikes me as one hell of a guy. I mean, if the guy can cuddle with his instrument like that, how is he like at a bar-desk with peanuts and ale? Journeying ferociously in between 2 completely different worlds of sound, he both masters the clean picking jazzy rides that sprinkle some of the more laid back sections of Hirocosmos, but when the time calls for it, he eats a dinner-plate full of haba˝eros and lava and sweeps the listener of of his feet, and takes him deep within a realm of ethereal beauty and soulful lingering sounds. He is truly a captivating musician, who apparently always knows which way the wind blows - and acts accordingly to boot. You want glistening stars conveyed in tones, then have some.

People who enjoy the eccentricities of National Health, Egg, Matching Mole, Quiet Sun, Soft Heap, and then could imagine these dipped in some spicy wasabi - served up with a side dish of raw tuna and sake - by all means: Go get the next best thing to right arms! 4.5 stars.

 Hirocosmos by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.04 | 13 ratings

Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars When I got this album I was expecting to hear Japanese psychedelia in the mood of Far East Family Band. This is not. I was happily surprised to discover a Jazzy-Canterbury album, with some tracks very close to early Camel, and the surprise is bigger if we think that the release year is 1973, the same year of Camel's debut.

"The Sea of Tempest" is a relaxing instrumental with a jazzy interlude in the middle. It's followed by a sax-driven track: "Ode to Taurus" that's a progressive-jazz piece. In interlude of the track the excellent keyboards of Hiro Yanagida replace the sax. When the sax is back, it's jazz-fusion until the end.

The story doesn't change with the following track: "Breaking Sound-Barrier". Another excellent jazz track for bass, drums and a fantastic piano, then a clean jazz-guitar solo . No more Canterbury here, just jazz-fusion. Some keyboard sounds backgrounding the guitar solo add a spacey touch to the track, then the instruments stop leaving the keyboard alone. A jazz coda closes the track.

"Happy Cruise" starts on percussion and Santana-like guitar. When it calmes down it's like Latimer and Bardens are playing in the band. Only Camel explored this kind of soft-jazz in the late 70s, some years after Hiro. After the spacey section, it's again jazz with bass, drums and Fender piano. A tempo slow-down then back to Santana. What a track!

"Rockomotion" starts with bass and keyboard. It makes me think to the jazz moments of Caravan's Waterloo Lily. In the Caravan's album they are only "moments". The guitar solo is incredibly good and moves the track to the funky side.

"Uncertain Trip" is a trip. You can hear Camel in the beginning and ELP in the following...but it's just Hiro Yanagida. This is the most "progressive rock" track of the album. I think the tempo is 5/4, but with cats you can never say for sure. In the final the tracks fades out and the coda returns to the beginning, with acoustic guitar and sax.

The closing track "Time for Reverie" starts very quietly with electric piano and sax. Bass and drums are in the background. This makes me think to Scott Cossu, an american newage- jazz pianist who explored this kind of music in the 80s.

Hiro Yanagida, at least in this album, was in advance with his times. The album doesn't have any weak moment and has the right to have its place in any prog collection.

4+ stars

 Milk Time by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 20 ratings

Milk Time
Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This ablum offers a pleasant instrumental musical voyage to the world of classical psychecelic progressive rock elements. Neat walls of raw organs, guitars, bass and furiosly rolling drums summon forth a pleasant realm of acid rock where one can relax by escaping troubles of logical reasons. Violin fits marvelously as a supporting solo instrument to the sound context, strenghtening the sound perfectly. Fast grooves are counterbalanced with quieter sequences and short pieces building up from guitar chordprogressions and flute interludes. In the middle of the record jazzy lounging for fuzzy quitar in a relaxed hippie glade follows, allowing to be enrichened with dialogues for violin and keyboards. In the later part of the album are discovered very beautiful classic music melodic tunes, first with flute and harpshicord madrigal, then followed with a piece for violin accompanied with organs and bass guitar. Hollow calls indicate return to more atavistic levels of surreal rock poetry, leading to strongly riffed heavy acid jazzy groove. Funky and vital turns twist a deligthful trip in progressive rock styled treatments of jazz standards, giving associations of early German art rock bands sound. After a traditional chamber quickie, the album closes to a melancholic tune with beautifully weeping violin and subtle support from the group. If you like good quality late 1960's sounding heavy jazzy jamming blended with light European classical music, it is certainly found from this album.
 Milk Time by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 20 ratings

Milk Time
Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Hiro Yanagida's debut album called "Milk Time" is a really special recording for me. Along with Food Brain and Cosmos Factory it was one of my first 70s Japanese artists I was listening to. It really rocks hard...& intelligent! Hiro together with bunch of 1st class musicians like Kimio Mizutani and Hiroki Tamaki created truly fantastic psychedelic piece of art. It's incredible how many ideas were included on this relatively short (36 minutes) LP. "Milk Time" is full of different music styles which perfectly fit to each other here. It's also very important that Yanagida didn't completely dominated this record with his organ playin' but left lots of space for his colleagues who can shine equally to Master of Keys. Especially violin and guitar are often pushed in front of the "wall of sound".

Let's check the tracks one by one:

1. "Love St." - less than one minute, very soft harpsichord performance. Sounds like far east Medieval music. Simply beautiful.

2. "Running Shirts Long" - this a real thing! Almost 9 minutes of outstanding psych/jazz jamming without self indulgence dragging. The main Hammond organ riff from the beginning hits you in your face and presses your body into armchair! Sounds like marching army of giants just behind your back. After that Mizutani kicks in with fuzzed guitar solo which is obviously Hendrix-inspired. His solo is followed by dynamic violin showcase where Hiroki Tamaki proves that this instrument surely belongs to prog rock! When violinist starts to lose steam, Yanagida take over the main "weight" of leading the jam and plays long as hell organ solo. It's probably the best musical moment of this guy in his career. His Hammond sounds violent, swirling, distorted & truly inspired, like from the best The Nice/ELP times, with all of these required noises, hits, roars and slide effects we like so much. Then Keiju Ishikawa takes control with frantic bass solo, followed by drum show off...which is of course the weakest spot of "Running Shirts Long". During most time of the composition solo performances particular musicians are supported by the other creating high-tempo rhythm & background. Unfortunately during drum solo all the other instrumentalist calm down and leave Tsunoda alone so track lose it's dynamism. Thankfully this solo spot isn't so long and everybody comes back in the end with main, groovy motif.

3. "When She Didn't Agree" - in the previous track only Nozomi Nakatani didn't have "his moment". But in this short interlude-like composition his flute is the main actor. Together with Hiro's harpsichord it creates gorgeous Japanese folk-like atmosphere.

4. "Happy, Sorry" - another ingenious composition. This time the leading theme is very jazzy, somehow lightweight and very catchy. Similar like in "Good Morning People" from his second album this one sounds very uplifting and a bit childish. Guitar & violin solos are good as ever, but Hammond solo is a real classic, it's played with a great sense of melody. No atonal noises this time, only pure beauty. Rhythm section is also fantastic, drummer plays some untypical signatures all time, while bassist shines throughout with happy-sounding.

5. "Yum" - very melancholic instrumental only with heavenly-sounding flute and harpsichord which sound like falling raindrops. Beautiful, classical-sounding piece of true art. It's a real miracle that these guys can equally good play long, psychedelic jams and such soft compositions. I guess what kind of modern rock musician would include such peaceful and relatively long (almost 4 minutes) track? Probably no-one... Sad.

6. "Love T" - another atmospheric composition, this time arranged for violin, harpsichord and (most of the time) discreet organ. For me sounds like mix of traditional Japanese music and Baroque classical one. Simply outstanding.

7. "Fish Sea Milk" - and here comes the monster which simply has to be included on almost every early 70' Japanese psych/prog record. Thanks God Yanagida put only one such sh**ty-ditty. Two and half minutes of nonsense noise-making without any direction. Experiment for its own sake. Skip this one before it will drill a hole in your brain. Really, better listen to my advice....

8. "Fingers Of A Red Typewriter" - fortunately after previous disaster Hiro & His Friends are coming back to form with this 8+ minutes jazz-rock epic. First part of "Fingers..." seems to be entirely dedicated to Kimio's guitar pyrotechnics where he can present wide range of technical tricks and mind blowing effects (wah-wah, fuzz, distortion etc.). Before 4th minute Hiroki takes "central stage" and demonstrate as long electric violin soloing. However I have to admit that some of these violin "noodling" in this particular track sometimes become tiresome and slightly not focused. However Hiro all the time keeps as interested with backing organ performance which is - as usual - marvelous. It's only a pity that he didn't decide to join his fellows with his own solo and it would be even better.

9. "Milk Time" - titles composition is violin-only half-minute ditty with clearly Western classical music inspiration. Good but too short.

10. "Me And Milk Tea And Others" - along with "Love T" this is another melancholic, weep-inducting composition with leading role of violin which sounds somehow Jewish for me (instead of Japanese or Western classical). Jazzy percussion and slow, eternal organ waves fulfill the track very nice. Good closing number.

To sum up: "Milk Time" along with Food Brain project is the best thing ever recorded by Hiro Yanagida. And compared to to Food Brain, we don't have to suffer many boring minutes of complete mess which is "song" called "Hole in the sausage"... The only low point of the record is "Fish Sea Milk", but it's quite short and you can always skip it. As I already said in Hiro's second album review I can recommend this recording to fans of good, old Japanese (and not only Japanese of course!) psychedelic prog. Other artists/bands with similar approach to music are as follow: Food Brain, Apryl Fool, Shinki Chen & Friends, Love Live Life+, Masahiko Satoh ("Amalgamation" album) (all of them with Hiro Yanagida), but also Strawberry Path & Flied Egg (both with Shigeru Narumo on keys and guitar) or solo album of Kimio Mizutani "A Path Through Haze". And in general Hammond organ fans should be also satisfied with this record, however don't expect only keys-based sound here because you'll find much in Yanagida's offering.

After such review 5 stars rating is obvious. Hiro is my hero!

 Nanasai No Rohjin Tengoku (Hiro Yanagida) by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.87 | 11 ratings

Nanasai No Rohjin Tengoku (Hiro Yanagida)
Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Second album of Hiro Yanagida is almost equally good as the debut one. "7sai no Rojin Tengoku" (which means "Elderly Person Heaven Of Seven Years". This album is also known under simple title: "Hiro Yanagida") doesn't bring any significant development compared to "Milk Time", but I liked previous record so much that any change in artistic direction wasn't necessary for me. We can find here lots of psychedelic organ and fuzzed electric guitar solos, jazzy drums, some spaced-out experiments (but almost never unlistenable noodling or quirky tape effects like in some other Japanese albums from early days prog...). Poor enjoyment of playing for musicians and listening for prog/psych fans. The only major difference compared to "Milk Time" is lack of violin, however Yanagida and Mizutani (along with with flute, cello & sax players) filled the disk space with enough instrumental virtuosity to keep everybody happy.

1. "The Butcher" - album begin with pulsating Hammond organ which after awhile provides a bit circus-like theme. After 50 seconds Kimio Mizutani joins with very fuzzed guitar and together with noisy-sounding flute creates merry-go-round crazy motif. After several seconds Hiro presents another organ solo, followed by great guitar one. About 2nd minute flutist blows his head off to play some mad whistles...and in the end we can listen to another Hammond solo. Only these guys know how to put so many different ideas to less than 3 minutes composition and make it good enough to not sound like total mess. Splendid beginning!

2. "The Murder In The Midnight" - if you liked "Running Shirts Long" from the previous album you'll also love this one. Maybe it lacks such catchy, main-riff like "Running..." but it's still decent 8-minutes long instrumental with hundreds of extremely fuzzed guitar and inspired organ solos. But the most important is that Seiji Tanaka (or maybe Kyosuke Tokano plays in this one?) all the time keeps the high-dynamic rhythm so you can't be bored even for a minutes. This is truly magnificent, hard as steel psychedelic jam with powerful instrumentals showcase. It can be easily compared to the best moments of Food Brain's sole album. The only complaint I have is about it's sudden ending, which sounds like somebody just cut the tape off and that's it.

3. "Fantasia" - one of the most beautiful composition starts unusual (but what is "usual" for these guys, heh??) with soft flute melody based on harpsichord & cello background. Really gorgous fragment. In 2nd minute Mizutani starts one of his best, passionate electric guitar solo in the vain of Jimi Hendrix (in his most peaceful moments) or Andrew Latimer (from band "Camel" which didn't even exist back then...). Solo is 3 minutes long but never becomes boring. I like that Yanagida always leaves lots of space for his fellow musicians so his solos albums aren't simple organ/piano show-offs.

4. "Good Morning People" - I simply love this marvelous tune! It's incredibly uplifting composition with fabulous sparkling piano (or maybe it's harpsichord or vibraphone?? really doesn't matter), discreet background organ and fantastic fuzzed guitar "eruptions". The main melody sounds kinda childish...but man, you will can't stop taping your foot when you listened to this one! Performance is very tight and even during two guitar solos musicians don't lose the main motif at all. (P.S. Take note Keiju Ishikawa's "woo-woo" bass lines!)

5. "Always" - unfortunately with this track Hiro & Co. seems to lack steam a bit. "Always" is only simple ballad based on piano and discreet acoustic guitar licks. The only interesting thing is that Hiro Yanagida sings (good info for non-english lyrics haters: just like in all other Hiro's albums everything is sang in Shakespeare's' language here) this one by himself and his vocal isn't that bad in fact, only near the end a bit too high-pitched.

6. "The Skyscraper 42nd F" - by far this is the weakest track on this album. Almost 4 minutes of psychotic flute motif just drills a hole in your brain and Hiro seems to randomly hit his piano's keys. And the most horrifying is that all this mess is played louder and faster creating roller coaster (anti) atmosphere. When I talk about over-experimented Japanese prog, I just think about staff like this. Skip, skip...

7. "My Dear Mary" - while most of fans of serious music will call this a cheesy crap and unnecessary filler, I have to admit that I like this "outrageous" ditty. This doo-wop/50' rock'n'roll 2-minutes tribute is just hilarious and so out-of place...that immediately I think it's perfectly IN-PLACE on Yanagida's album! Joey Smith sounds like some wanky Elvis Presley imitator and saxophone solo is ultimately corny as much as it could be in 1971 when this album was produced. What they were thinking?! But heh, I somehow like it, sincerely!

8. "Melancholy" - as title suggest this one is melancholic mid-tempo ballad with backing, Baroque-like harpsichord and fantastic organ waves, especially in closing 2 minutes, atmospheric solo. Yanagida sings again in this one and his voice sounds good, somehow in heavenly/angelic sort of way. Only bass guitar is unfortunately strangely mixed to be up-front and creates rather unpleasant rumpling sound. But it's only small complaint and this fault probably exists because of not so good master tapes' condition.

In general "Elderly Person Heaven Of Seven Years" I can recommend to all fans of 70' psychedelic rock with jazzy hints who enjoy good, spaced-out organ and guitar solos presented in dynamic, groovy compositions along with melancholic balladry, always with decent sense of melody. If you like this staff I can also recommend you other projects featuring Hiro Yanagida: Food Brain, Apryl Fool, Shinki Chen & Friends and - if you can endure very experimental approach - also Love Live Life+ and Masahiko Satoh ("Amalgamation" album). To some extent you can be also interested in more hard rockish but equally good in guitar/organ soling bands Strawberry Path and Flied Egg (both led by Shigeru Narumo).

After this album Hiro recorded another 2 solo albums: simple called "Hiro"(1972) and "Hirocosmos"(1973). While I've never listened to the first one (seems to be very obscure), "Hirocosmos" is a completely different album than its predecessors. Psychedelic rock is almost completely gone in his last effort and jazz tendencies are the most evident. Hiro also mainly uses synthesizer, mellotron and electric piano instead of his famous Hammond organ (BTW Hiro recorded also album "Folk & Rock Best Collection - The World of Hiro Yanagida" in 1972, but it's non-interesting for prog lovers collection of western pop/folk/rock artists' covers). So my advise is to stick to his debut "Milk Time" and this album which surely deserves 4,5 stars!

 Milk Time by YANAGIDA, HIRO album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.23 | 20 ratings

Milk Time
Hiro Yanagida Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

4 stars (From PA blog "Japanese Progressive Rock presented by DamoX")

Exactly the dawn of Japanese improvised organ-based psychedelic progressive rock! (I believe 'another' dawn of Japanese organ-based psych-prog should be The Happenings Four.)

Their core storm gets started with the second track Running Shirts Long ... don't be deceived by the beauty of Hiro's keyboard solo in the short opening Love St. ... each instrumental solo gets exploded heavily and rampantly. And please carefully listen to Hiro's keyboard play especially - although his solo play goes forward at a moment on the latter part, basically Hiro should support the other solos with his strict (and deep) rhythm on the background. Their terrific heavy improvisation on the middle part absolutely, absolutely reminds me Acid Mothers Temple Speed Guru's exploded guitar solo in the song Acid Takion. Makoto Kawabata might be much influenced by Hiro's improvised heavy keyboard play (here's a difference of instruments between them though) I imagine? Kimio Mizutani's crazy guitar solo can make their sounds more aggressive, and Hiroki Tamaki's sharp-edged electric violin can season their style with extremely dry and bitter soundspice. Just in the song can we feel such a greatness of all instruments, all players.

Anyway dart a glance around - in this album is flute-based soft and graceful fairy-tale song like When She Didn't Agree and Yum, a short instrumental track Love T with plaintive violin sounds blended with solemn keyboard ones, or a jazzy freaky flexible jam session Happy, Sorry. And another peak of this album is, I'm sure, the miracle suite Fish Sea Milk / Fingers Of A Red Type-Writer. Based on such a weird keyboard rumble, Kimio's crushed guitar, Hiroki's keen electroviolin, Nozomi's loud flute, Kenji & Hiro Tsunoda's deep rhythm section can fall one upon another. We cannot close our mouth and close our eyes till the end of Me And Milk And Others, the song characterized as a slow percussion and violin inferno.

A great stuff, able to be defined as one of the dawn(s) of Japanese Progressive Rock. Recommended!

Thanks to DamoXt7942 for the artist addition.

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