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Japan - Tin Drum CD (album) cover




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3.25 | 95 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 239

'Tin Drum' is the fifth studio album of Japan and was released in 1981. It continued developing their style of music with the use of electronic elements combined with the traditional instrumentation. However, on this album the band used far more Eastern musical influences than on any of their previous albums, which is also perfectly evident on the art cover of the album. The line up of the album has only four elements because their guitarist Rob Dean has left the band. So, David Sylvian takes on all his duties in terms of the musical direction. It has received acclaim as the band's best work.

The line up of the album is David Sylvian (vocals, guitar, keyboards & keyboard programming and tapes), Richard Barbieri (keyboards & keyboard programming and tapes), Mick Karn (Fretless bass guitar, African flute and dida) and Steve Jansen (acoustic & electronic drums and keyboard percussion). The album had also the participation of Yuka Fujii (backing vocals) and Simon House (violin).

'Tin Drum' has eight tracks. All songs were written by David Sylvian except 'Canton' and 'Visions Of China' which were written by David Sylvian and Steve Jansen and 'Sons Of Pioneers' which was written by David Sylvian and Mick Karn'. The first track 'The Art Of Parties' was one of the songs chosen to be released as a single. It's a song with some intricate sounds. Particularly, the guitar sounds are very mysterious making some strange noises. This is a song with some Eastern musical influences that became of it an excellent song to open the album. The second track 'Talking Drum' is also a song that again filled some intricated sounds, and this time, the Eastern influences are much more pronounced. The Eastern musical influences are clearly from Japan. Anyone who's familiar with the traditional Japanese music sees immediately the influence of the traditional Japanese folk music. It deserves also to be mentioned the nice violin solo performed by the guest musician and ex-Hawkwind member, Simon House. The third track 'Ghosts' was also one of the songs chosen to be released as a single. Of the four songs from the album released as singles, 'Ghosts' was the most commercial successful of all of them. In 2000, Sylvian recorded 'Ghosts' using the original Japan backing track and included it on his solo compilation 'Everything And Nothing'. This is a very mysterious song based on the synthesizers of Richard Barbieri. Here, we can clearly see, in some parts of the song, the similitudes between David Sylvian and Bryan Ferry vocal styles. The fourth track 'Canton' is an instrumental song with a very pronounced Oriental sound. It's an excellent piece of music with an intricate and exotic interplay between the bass and the drums. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the best tracks on the album, and is also one of my favourite songs. A live version of the song was issued as a single to promote their live album 'Oil On Canvas', in 1983. The fifth track 'Still Life In Mobile Homes' is another song with plenty of intricated sounds and a catchy vocal performance. This is clearly a song influenced by the new wave romantic sound of those times. Once more, it deserves special mention the musical performance of Karn on bass and Jansen on drums. We can also hear on the song the voice of the guest singer and Sylvian's girlfriend Yuka Fujii. The sixth track 'Visions Of China' was another song chosen to be released as a single. This is also a song with many influences of the new wave romantic sound and the Eastern music. Once more, it features some great bass work from Karn. This is also probably, one of the catchiest songs on the album. The seventh track 'Sons Of Pioneers' is probably the best track on the album. It's a magnificent atmospheric track, with very unusual timbres and effects, which sounds very different from the rest of the album. Once more the work of Karn and Jansen is absolutely notable. Especially, the bass riffs of the fretless bass of Mike Karn are simply unique and unforgettable. The eighth and last track 'Cantonese Boy' was one of the four songs taken from this album to be released as a single. It's a very interesting song that makes very well the bridge between the Eastern music and the new wave music. It's another track dominated by vocals and synthesizers. This is a good and nice way to close this album.

Conclusion: Sincerely and in my humble opinion, 'Tin Drum' is another great album from Japan like 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids'. However, it seems to me a little bit different. 'Tin Drum' is an album much more experimental, innovator and more difficult to hear than 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' is. Its music is dominated by Eastern musical influences of Japan and China. By the other hand, we can clearly see, on it, the musical influence of Roxy Music, especially the musical influence of 'From Your Pleasure', the musical influence of David Bowie, especially the musical influence of 'Low', 'Heroes' and 'Lodger' the albums of his Berlin trilogy, and finally the new romantic musical influence of the new wave movement. Personally, I prefer 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' than 'Tin Drum'. However, 'Tin Drum' is a great album and I sincerely recommend it to all who like the music of Roxy Music, David Bowie, Brian Eno and Talking Heads.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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