Tamio Okuda – E

Sony SRCL-5415
2002.09.19

Glad I caught up with what Mr. Okuda’s been doing.
I wasn’t hot on “Car Songs of the Years”–half of that being older songs, and an excuse to get a few new songs out. When Okuda is in top form, he’s one of the best rock musicians out there, writing pop-rock in the Beatles/Stones tradition. When he’s off, he’s a noisy rock band in search of a hook.
“E” came out a little while ago, but the thing’s a corker. With little of his trademark Harrison-like slide guitar solos, but with a solid band behind him, he manages to put out an album of 19 songs that never feel like it’s in need of an editor. (Admittedly, some of these songs are one-minute reprises of previous tracks).
Okuda manages to coax something new out of the standard rock palette, with sneaky inclusions of marimba, female backing vocals (a first!), and some grungy Hammond (or some sort) organ playing.
Highlights are the title track, a meaty, beaty, big and bouncy number with a one-note melody and twang-bar heavy fills. “The Standard” brings out the Beatles Mellotron and a one of Okuda’s soaring, heartfelt choruses that immediately make me nostalgic for times I didn’t even know I lived through. “Gomen Rider” is also fantastic with a wicked fuzzbox arpeggio solo.
Okuda remains Japan’s best-kept secret.
A selection of songs and promo clips are here. Check out the one called “matatabi.mov” as Tamio sings a medley of his songs in under two minutes with a selection of props. Very funny.

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