SatoriAlbum | Flower Travellin’ Band By Stewart Mason
The best hard rock you've never heard.
The debut album from Japanese acid-rock cult heroes Flower Travellin' Band starts with a single, flute-like note, followed by several seconds' worth of delicate, meditative cymbal washes. Then singer Joe Yamanaka screams like someone just slammed a door on his junk. And so begins one of the finest hard rock albums of the early 1970s. This is not hyperbole. Satori ranks up there with the best work of Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and even Led Zeppelin. Though the songs are named "Satori Part 1" through "Satori Part 5" inclusive, they're surprisingly varied, moving easily from lurching riff-rock through pealing, circular drones and krautrock-style abstraction to good old-fashioned heads-down-horns-up pummeling. The secret is that where most hard rock bands -- if they were lucky -- had one good instrumentalist, Flower Travellin' Band had both lead guitarist Hideki Ishima and drummer Joji Wada, a pair of phenomenal but never show-offy musicians who between them keep the songs moving endlessly forward. After that initial howl, Yamanaka's English-language vocals are treated mostly as an afterthought, a wise move considering that the singer is almost invariably the weak link in any hard rock band. Unfortunately, his extended harmonica solo in "Satori, Part 4" is the one low point of the entire LP.