Japan – Oil On Canvas

I remember the first time I heard the band Japan. They were like so many classic rock artists I admired yet they were like nothing I had ever heard before. The Bowie, Roxy Music, Brian Ferry and The Talking Heads, were all in there at some measure, as were a few other bands that are best described as trend setters, not followers. But it was the combination of those influences that made Japan so unique. Japan was musical artistry in every sense of the word.

Still, I always wondered, was their sound all studio wizardry or could they actually pull their songs off live. I never had a chance to see Japan in concert but that question was still answered when I ran across a copy of “Oil on Canvas”, the only live album Japan released during their short recording career, from 1978 to 1981.

Fortunately, “Oil on Canvas” was a double LP, because a single record would not have been enough. As a matter of fact, Japan’s live performances here are so good. two records still leave me wanting more. The band absolutely nails the feeling of their studio recordings yet at the same time breathes new life into the songs, mixing them up and changing just enough to let you know they have no intention of performing a studio carbon copy.

The history of rock has always been filled with somebody’s favorite artist that didn’t make it for one reason or another. Its future will forever hold the same. Though the sounds and styles of these bands may differ drastically, one factor is always a constant: they are always true artists. I think Japan knew this when they released their only live record. That’s why they chose a name for it that alluded to true artistry; a name alluding to one of the most classical forms of artistic expression.

Oil on Canvas.

Roxy Music – Country Life

Some album covers can cause quite a stir. Although up to this point, all of their LPs had featured women in provocative poses, on The Fourth Roxy Music Album, some censors felt the cover had crossed the line of decency.  Consequently,  the cover was originally banned in the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain. In those countries, the back cover artwork, basically the same picture minus the two lovely ladies, was used instead. I know which one I prefer.

By this time in Roxy Music’s history, their flamboyant keyboardist, Brian Eno, had left the band to pursue a solo career that would lead to future collaborations with David Bowie, Robert Fripp, Talking Heads, and Devo, among others. Eno was replaced by virtuoso Eddie Jobson. Although Jobson lacked The flash and extravagance of his predecessor, he brought the additional dimension of electric violin to the band’s music. 

While it still maintained the extreme blending of multiple musical influences and styles of Roxy Music’s previous albums, Country Life showed more consistency than its predecessors.  It is quite possibly, my favorite Roxy Music album; right up there with Avalon.