Published May 30, 2019Alternately funky, quirky and poppy, the new Wewantsounds reissue of Akiko Yano's Iroha Ni Konpeitou is a welcome return of a Japanese pop classic, and an ideal introduction to Yano's music.
The album's largely focused around Yano's keyboard playing — she plays everything from a Moog to a clavinet to a Fender Rhodes — and it steals the show here, particularly to a North American audience. Her playing occupies a middle ground somewhere between Todd Rundgren and George Duke, both funky and filled with hooks. On songs like "Ike Yanagida," her playing builds into a soaring snyth solo, while "Ai Ai Gasa" is built around her swaggering piano and funky Moog bass lines.
Elsewhere, Yano pairs with New York session heavies like Rick Marotta and Nicky Marrero on "Iroha no Konpeitou," where her voice and keyboard soar all over the place: as her singing builds to a fever pitch, the music lurches and staggers, building into a compelling groove. But most of the album was recorded in Japan with a crack rhythm section: drummer Tatsuo Hayashi and bassist Haruomi Hosono. Together, they create a huge musical pocket for Yano to sing and improvise in.
Since Iroha No Konpeitou's initial release in 1977, Yano has gone on to a successful career, both with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and as a solo artist. With a discography that's largely unavailable in North America, this reissue also works as an introduction to her music: it's poppy, but with a foot firmly in the jazz/funk idiom. (We Want Sounds)