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Once again there’s one of those Facebook Challenges going around asking friends to nominate each other to list 10 Albums that had a profound effect on their life. Of course there are “rules.” One must not explain anything, just post a picture, nominate a new person each day…..blah blah blah…None of that is fun. I want to know more about why my friends picked the records.

Who starts these challenges and makes these rules anyway?  

Back to Japan and “Exorcising Ghosts.” This album comes to mind for me as a record that had a lot of effect on me.  Although it is a compilation, better or worse, it was my introduction to this seminal band.  If you grew up in the USA in the 1980s, you will remember the “import” section of the record store.  That was were the “good stuff” really was.  All the 4AD (Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus) and rare 12″ singles of bands like Heaven 17, Soft Cell, Simple Minds (pre-Don’t you forget about me era) were there. They were expensive.  A lot more than domestic US releases.

Somehow, my local Musicland (chain store) had this album in the clearance bin for like $4.99. Probably because exactly 5 people in the suburb I lived in would have known what or who this band was.  It was regularly $24.99 which in 1984 was a lot of money for a record.  So I grabbed it.  I had heard a lot about Japan and David Sylvian the singer particularly,  but didn’t really know much of their stuff.

WOW. These guys sounded like a more ethereal Duran Duran. Only Japan came first, haircuts, outfits and all I would soon discover.

Case in point: *coughs*

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Just as they were reaching their peak, and the androgynous New Romantics were conquering the charts, the band called it quits.  Leaving the doors open for the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and so on.

The only thing I really don’t like about this 2-LP set is that was pressed on somewhat thin vinyl, so the sound quality suffers a bit.

That said, its a great compilation, featuring some of the bands best known songs, drawing from their later albums “Quiet Life, ”  “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and “Talking Drum,”  and two instrumentals from the live “Oil on Canvas.”
Vaugh Oliver created the artwork, which fits his 4AD mold.

 

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The tracks here are incredible.  From the Proto-Moroder “Quiet Life” to the ambient “Taking Islands in Africa ” (featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto), the 2LP set is a winner in my book.

All the band went on to create quite amazing arty music on their own, and unfortunately  bass player Mick Karn passed away in early 2011. The members briefly reformed before his passing for the Rain Tree Crow album, which was essentially Japan but wisely called another name to distance themselves from their past.

If you like synth pop from the 1980s and somehow haven’t heard Japan, you should really check them out.  This is a great LP to start with.  Beware: the CD release of this doesn’t have 5 of the tracks, they were left off for timing issues so they could fit it on one CD.

 

-PB

 

 

 

 

 

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