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JAPAN

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Japan biography
JAPAN were formed in 1974 in Lewisham, southeast London, by school friends David Batt (David Sylvian, vocals) and Anthony Michaelides (Mick Karn, bass), and Batt's younger brother, Steve (Steve Jansen, drums). A year later, they were joined by David and Mick's old schoolmate Richard Barbieri on keyboards, and by guitarist Rob Dean, who had responded to an advertisement in the music magazine "Melody Maker"

After a few years spent rehearsing and playing live in Britain and Germany, the band were signed by German recording company Hansa-Ariola. Their debut album, "Adolescent Sex", was released in 1978, as was its follow up, "Obscure Alternatives". At that time, JAPAN'sound was still noticeably influenced by acts such as DAVID BOWIE and ROXY MUSIC, which caused them to be dismissed by the British music press as unfashionable at a time when punk and new wave acts held sway.

Their third album, "Quiet Life", released in 1979, heralded a change in the musical direction of the band, with Barbieri's synthetisers becoming much more prominent. This was the last album for Hansa-Ariola, as the band were then signed by Virgin. Their last two studio albums, "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" (1980) and "The Tin Drum" (1981) were released with the British label, and brought JAPAN some long-awaited success. In particular, "The Tin Drum" reached #12 in the UK album charts.

During that period, Japanese multi-instrumentalist Ryuichi Sakamoto became an unofficial member of the band; in the following years, he continued his collaboration with David Sylvian. In "The Tin Drum", the band's sound became increasingly more sophisticated, blending Western electronics with traditional Far Eastern sounds, and enhanced by Sylvian's haunting baritone voice. However, personal conflicts also escalated, leading first to Rob Dean's departure in 1980, and finally to the band's demise at the end of 1982, after a series of sold-out concerts at London Hammersmith Odeon, which resulted in the live album "Oil on Canvas" (1983). The band's last-ever performance took place in December 1982 in Nagoya, Japan. Ironically, "Oil on Canvas" became the band's best-selling album, charting at #5 in the UK.

After the split, the band members went on to work on various solo projects. The most successful of them has been singer David Sylvian, who has released numerous solo albums over the years. The original members got together again in 1990 under the new name of RAIN TREE CROW, and release...
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Japan Oil on CanvasJapan Oil on Canvas
Single · Remastered
Caroline 2007
$5.58
$3.72 (used)
Tin Drum (Half Speed Master)Tin Drum (Half Speed Master)
Virgin Int'L 2018
$20.29
$16.57 (used)
Quiet LifeQuiet Life
Extra tracks · Remastered
Sony Bmg Europe 2006
$10.54
$10.09 (used)
Tin DrumTin Drum
Remastered
Caroline World Service 2007
$3.84
$2.71 (used)

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JAPAN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

2.21 | 33 ratings
Adolescent Sex
1978
2.42 | 36 ratings
Obscure Alternatives
1978
3.22 | 56 ratings
Quiet Life
1979
3.22 | 84 ratings
Gentlemen Take Polaroids
1980
3.23 | 83 ratings
Tin Drum
1981

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

3.41 | 40 ratings
Oil on Canvas
1983

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

2.43 | 9 ratings
The Very Best Of Japan
2006

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

2.54 | 9 ratings
Assemblage
1981
4.06 | 17 ratings
Exorcising Ghosts
1984
1.88 | 8 ratings
In Vogue
1996
2.36 | 6 ratings
The Very Best of Japan
2006

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

4.13 | 5 ratings
Nightporter
1982

JAPAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tin Drum  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.23 | 83 ratings

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Tin Drum
Japan Prog Related

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

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*)

 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.22 | 84 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 238

"Gentlemen Take Polaroids" is the fourth studio album of Japan and was released in 1980. It continued in the same vein of their previous third album, "Quiet Life", using the combination of the electronic elements with the traditional musical elements. The final result was an album with a more sophisticated and atmospheric ambient than its predecessor. The album was well received by the critics and it was said if Brian Eno, rather than Bryan Ferry, had rerouted the original direction of Roxy Music, this might well have been the final result. It was their last album with their guitarist Rob Dean.

"Gentlemen Take Polaroids" has eight tracks. All songs were written by David Sylvian except "Ain't That Peculiar" which was written by Smokey Robinson, Warren "Pete" Moore, Marvin Tarplin and Robert Rogers and "Taking Islands In Africa" which was written by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto. The first track is the title track "Gentlemen Take Polaroids". It was released as a single before the initial release of the album. It's an excellent song to open the album that sounds very much to the new sound of the 80's. This song was probably one of the songs that most influenced the new wave music. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The second track "Swing" is a very good song with great synthesizer work and with nice saxophone work. This is a song with an astounding showcase between Mike Karn and Steve Jansen. By the other hand, the vocal performance of David Sylvian is very intense and precise. The third track "Burning Bridges" is an excellent track that reminds me "Subterraneans", a track from the great eleventh studio album of David Bowie "Low", released in 1977. This is a song with a very special atmospheric musical moment that can't fail to remember us Brian Eno and the Berlin trilogy of David Bowie. It has also great saxophone work. The fourth track "My New Career" is also an excellent track, which has, in my humble opinion, some influences from world music. This is a song with a very solid beat, great synthesizer performance and the vocal work is also great. The fifth track "Methods Of Dance" was used as the B side of their 12" single version of "Nightporter" released in 1982. This is a song with an entirely new rhythm provided by a truly amazing performance of Mick Karn and Steve Jansen. It's an excellent song with a great instrumental section. The final result is superb and make of it on one of the best tracks on the album. The sixth track "Ain't That Peculiar" was also released as the B side of their 7" single version of "Nightporter", released also in 1982. It's a good Smokey Robinson cover song with an intricate sound. The beat on the song is prominent and the synthesizers and the vocals sound nice and enjoyable. However, this is my less favourite song on the album. The seventh track "Nightporter" was remixed and released as a single in 1982, just after the band announced that they were splitting. It was edited in the 7" version and also in the full-length 12" remix version. The song was influenced by the musical work of the French classical composer Erik Satie, particularly by his piece of music "Gymnopedies". It's a very beautiful track and an excellent example of melancholic music and dark musical ambient. This is one of the highlights of the album. The eighth and last track "Taking Islands In Africa" re-appeared as the B side of their single track "Visions of China", released in 1981, and taken from their next and last studio album "Tin Drum". This is also a very good track with a great beat, nice synthesizers and an enjoyable vocal work. It represents an excellent way to finish this album.

Conclusion: I know Japan since 1980, and "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" was my first album from them, and I know the album since it was released. Japan is a very curious and interesting band and they're, in a certain way, a unique and special band. Japan is, in my humble opinion, a band with clear and deep musical influences from Roxy Music and David Bowie. That is particularly noticed on the vocals of David Sylvian, which are very close to the vocals of Bryan Ferry, and the androgynous and provocative look of Sylvian was very close to the visual of David Bowie. By the other hand, the musical influences of Roxy Music and David Bowie aren't strange, because we all know that both had a very strong influence in the new wave music, and despite Japan being not a truly new wave band, they have, for me, some musical influences from that musical movement. In relation to "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" I always loved this album. This is an excellent album very cohesive and very well balanced without weak points. Its music is very modern and has great quality and the performance of all members is absolutely fantastic and irreproachable. I particularly like of the musical relationship between Sylvian and Karn. Mike Karn played a bass sound very powerful and unique, and soon he became one of my favourite bassists. R.I.P. Mike. This album also represents the beginning of the musical partnership between Sylvian and the Japanese keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, before and after Japan split. Concluding, "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" is one of the albums that deeply divide the opinions of prog fans. This is the kind of albums that or we can love or hate. And sincerely, definitely I belong to the first group, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.22 | 84 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by RossJWarren

5 stars Some of the reviews here are an absolute disgrace. Japan's last two LP's are certinly progressive music in the full sense of the word, maybe not to everyone's taste but they deserve a fair listen and review. Gentleman is by far my favorite recording by this wonderfully different band. Maybe their early glam rock efforts were indeed on the weak side but this recording is an absolute masterpiece. Had Japan stayed together they may well have been as big as bands like the Pink Floyd. The melodies are strong and the musicianship is very good indeed. Karn's bass playing is still unique, and added to the vocals give the overall sound a slightly woozy edge. This is what roxy music could have sounded like had Eno not been forced out so early on. Japan were never new romantics, their look and sound predated that movement, but they certinly helped give rise to bands like Duran Duran, who sound like a pale imitation of Japan at their very best.

Such a unique pair of recordings make Gentlemen and Tin drum essential additions to any well rounded prog rock collection. As for the haters one wonders if they listened to the recordings at all. 5 Stars without any hesitation.

 Nightporter by JAPAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
4.13 | 5 ratings

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Nightporter
Japan Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I can't say that JAPAN has ever been among my favourite bands. Their clinically synthetic sound is often lacking life & emotion and many songs are just boring, artificial and monotonous. A good example actually comes as the B-side of this non-album single from the latest phase of the band's career, before the frontman DAVID SYLVIAN started a solo career (that has produced a lot of much better music than he made with Japan, in my opinion). Also worth mentioning is the keyboard player Richard Barbieri's membership in Porcupine Tree plus his own projects, e.g. teaming up with Marillion's Stve Hogarth. But back to this single. 'Ain't That Peculiar' is just one of those dead boring Japan tracks. I listened to it from YouTube and have no interest whatsoever to hear it ever again.

But there's something so fantastic about music world: one doesn't have to give a damn about a band/artist in general in order to love a song or two by them/him/her. If I'm deeply moved by a song of someone whom I couldn't care less about as an artist, I'd still let myself fully enjoy that song and simply ignore the rest of the output if it leaves me cold. 'Nightporter' is such case for me. Not necessarily the ONLY Japan song that I like, but by far the best, the one that touches me the deepest. It woud be placed quite high on my list of all-time favourite pop songs.

The song is slow, elegant, nocturnally atmospheric and beautifully melancholic. The rather minimalistic arrangement is dominated by piano, and there's a notable resemblance to the piano music of ERIK SATIE ('Gymnopedies' and such), one of the most unique figures in the world of classical music. I'm not certain if the melody is directly borrowed from a Satie piece. And Sylvian, the vocalist, pours his soul into this tune that is best suited for the late night moments when everyone's tired and it's time to depart or go to sleep. In fact, a couple of times I have played 'Nightporter' at the end of friend gatherings. Greetings to whom this concerns! - How about listening to some more of Japan, Matti? Naah, no thanks, it's so boring.

 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.22 | 84 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by Cylli Kat

4 stars Granted, this is prog RELATED. Not straightforward prog. But this is a well crafted album brimming with the proggy basslines of the late Mick Karn, the smooth vocals of David Sylvian (n' Batt), the solid drumming of David's brother Steve Janse, as well as the synth craftings of future Porcupine Tree member Richard Barbieri. I have extremely fond memories associated with this album and its follow-up Tin Drum. So I have a mixed approach to this rating: I love the album and give it 5 stars. BUT it is not exactly prog, so for the sake of those who want a "prog" rating would have to give it 3 stars. Conclusion, 4 stars. Your mileage may vary...
 Quiet Life by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.22 | 56 ratings

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Quiet Life
Japan Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Japan's more electronic "Roxy Music meets Ultravox" (Ultrarox?) sound starts to really take root on Quiet Life. Velvet Underground covers are always a gamble, particularly considering how exceptional the original material in question is, but they're able to work in a really nice take on All Tomorrow's Parties here which is one of those rare cases where a cover version is able to capture the stately melancholy of the original, and it's particularly impressive how it perfectly fits the ethereal atmosphere of the rest of the album. Richard Barbieri's synthesiser work coupled with David Sylvian's best Bryan Ferry posing creates some archetypal New Romantic material.
 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.22 | 84 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Japan greeted the arrival of the 1980s with Gentlemen Take Polariods, an album balanced finely between gorgeously crafted New Romantic pop and more esoteric art rock building on the quieter moments of Bowie's Heroes and Low. Some tracks contain echoes of each other - Swing and Taking Islands In Africa borrow lyrics from each other but give them a very different feel with the former being one of the poppier numbers on the album and the latter being a curious closing number. More immediately accessible than the subsequent Tin Drum, this may well be the best place to jump into the world of Japan.
 Oil on Canvas  by JAPAN album cover Live, 1983
3.41 | 40 ratings

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Oil on Canvas
Japan Prog Related

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.

 Tin Drum  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.23 | 83 ratings

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Tin Drum
Japan Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Japan's Tin Drum has a fragile, brittle sound to it which demands a few listens before it sinks in. Even when David Sylvian gets into a groove and things seem on the verge of starting to rock, as on Cantonese Boy, the sparse aesthetic keeps things buttoned down and restrained. An acquired taste, but I can't deny that it's an interesting one. At points it teeters on the verge of being culturally appropriative, but the band always find a way to put their own eccentric twist on things. With a China obsession reminiscent of Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), this is one of the weirder and less approachable releases of the synthpop era and I can't say I blame people who find it isn't to their taste.
 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.22 | 84 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Jeez!, this one really has set the cat amongst the pigeons in the Archives. I can fully understand the aloofness most proggers take with regards to the merit of this 'pop' album. Personally, it's one of my all time favourite albums and if you don't like that, then what the hell is it doing here in the first place? Am I supposed to give this a low rating because I Iove it to bits but it appears on the 'Prog Archives'?

Superb fretless bass by the now deceased Mick Karn, enigmatic wobbly vocals by Sylvian, waves of synths by Barbieri , piano by Ryuchi Sakamoto and good solid offbeat drumming by Steve Jansen make this one of the best 80's albums full stop.

It's smooth in the way 'Roxy Music' were in the same era. Japan, however had something far more inventive about them that set them apart from all contemporaries. Über cool, mature for their age and downright sauve without even trying. This is the album that Duran Duran clearly worshipped before they hit the big time. You've only got to look at Nick Rhodes stupid painted face.

Mick Karn's bass is the driving force behind the entire album. Particularly on the first two tacks where it pumps and bleeps like Jaco Pastorius from 'Weather Report'.

Truthfuly I can't write a review of this album without mentioning Bowie's "Low' from '76 which clearly influenced a lot here from side two of that album.

Awash with wonderful electronics, echoey instruments and clear track separation between sounds, this is a superbly clear recording which flows beautifully into my favourite tune of all time... 'Nightporter'. Stunningly beautiful and melancholic. Ryuichi Sakamoto of YMO and his piano makes this utterly gorgeous. Quite simply the best song I've ever heard. These are not small words - In '99 I held a party on New Years Eve where everyone had to bring along their favourite song of all time where it was played after a speech about it's merits. This still stands true today.

'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' is spacious and wide in sound, where everyone gets to play their instruments without any rush and is full of waves of cold keyboards.

The masterful 'Taking Islands in Africa' is a gem in it's own right with Barbierie's proto sequencer coming to the fore. There was only so much New Romanticism could offer, but Japan pushed the boat out so much further than any other band of their time. It's hard to believe that anyone could progress and change so rapidly within the space of 3 years, considering their '78 New York Dolls efforts.

As if all this wasn't enough, if you buy the cd you get the brilliant 'Experience of Swimming' as a bonus. A Richard Barbieri masterpiece, a keyboard driven slab of doom using beautiful sounds that were virtually unheard in those days of long past.

One of my 5 albums of all time.

Thanks to Raff for the artist addition.

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