Flower Travellin' Band

Satori (Atlantic, GRT Records '71) Rating: A

Imagine if Black Sabbath was more psychedelic, flat-out weird, and Japanese, and maybe you'll get an idea what Flower Travellin' Band sounds like, but probably not, because they were truly one of a kind. I mean, the majority of these five long songs (titled "Satori, Pt. 1," "Satori, Pt. 2," and so on) are instrumental, and even when the shrill high-pitched vocals (which won't appeal to everybody) come in they may be comprised of simple "whoa" or "oh" chants (those looking for deep lyrics should look elsewhere). No matter, this was pretty heavy (and heady) stuff for 1971, and it holds up extremely well today, as the band's hypnotic Eastern-flavored strangeness actually works in their favor provided that you appreciate "far out" music that kicks plenty of ass. The band was comprised of Joe Yamanaka (vocals, harmonica), Hideki Ishima (guitar), Jun Kozuki (bass guitar, guitar), and Joji "George" Wada (drums), and Satori was the best of the band's albums. It's hard to really describe the band's music; I mean, Ishima's guitar often doesn't even sound like one, more like a sitar with its snake charmer ambiance (particularly on "Pt.2" and "Pt. 3"), but it all works (for me it does, anyway), though I'll admit that I'm not always in the mood for it (did I mention that this album was REALLY STRANGE?). "Satori, Pt. 1" is the album's most straightforwardly hard-hitting song and is probably my favorite for that reason, as some of the longer songs ("Pt. 3" and "Pt. 4" are both around 11 minutes long) have some sections that probably could be tightened up a bit. Then again, even the more meandering sections have tons of trippy atmosphere, and most of these songs build to exciting climaxes at one point or another (such as the frenetic finish to "Pt. 3" or when the harmonica solo is followed by the guitar solo on "Pt. 4"). The musicianship is never less than first-rate (Ishima's guitar solo exhibits a surprising soulfulness on "Pt. 5"), and I'd like to thank the Rate Your Music community reviewing website for turning me on to this relentlessly interesting "proto-metal" masterpiece.

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