|Tak Matsumoto Group TMG 1||Vermillion Records|
Tak Matsumoto is a very popular and well respected guitarist from Japan. His band B'z are stadium fillers at home and even abroad when the Japanese population file out to see the guys.|
This is a very high profile side-project for Tak and the musicians involved were hand picked to bring the best out of him – and in turn everyone involved.
Vocalist and songwriter Eric Martin, bass player, songwriter and backing vocalist Jack Blades and drummers Brian Tichy and Cindy Blackman are the backbone of the band behind guitarist Tak.
What can I say The mix of these characters coming together has been well chosen. The guys have nailed their objective.
I love this album – every single thing about it. This is a great – if not the best – example of classic hard rock, updated to a modern and contemporary feel.
In a year where both Eric Martin and Jack Blades have released their own albums that have featured updated styles and productions, it has taken this paring to bring out their very best and nail that updated sound so strived for. The production is so tight – it's perfectly mixed and evenly balanced.
The songs were written by Tak, Eric and Jack, with Tak responsible for all music and Jack and Eric brining in their own lyrics and melodies.
They are just brilliant songs. The album has the vibrancy of the character of each performer's personality and songwriting style, yet combined reach new heights.
There's Eric's classic trademark vocal harmonies and knack of turning a simple lyric into a vocal hook; there's Tak's hard edged and inspired guitar riffing, combined with a killer rhythm section, with Jack Blades adding further texture with some great backing vocals and his own quirky songwriting.
Track By Track:
Oh Japan ~Our Time Is Now sets the tone – a slightly tuned down, dark and certainly heavy guitar tone from Tak rides over the song, which is more or less a straight forward melodic hard rocker with an interesting structure that flows from verse to bridge to chorus and back. Drum loops and a piano passage add extra texture to an already cool song. But the star is Eric Martin, this sees him really in his element – howling like he hasn't since the first Mr. Big album.
The second track Everything Passes Away proves this is going to be an interesting album. Featuring more production effects as an intro, this song explodes into a heavy rock monster with Eric singing his lung out and Jack Blades adding several lines intermittently. The vocal lines come thick and fast and the guitar is so sonically heavy – it is guaranteed to rock your world. A killer chorus with both Jack and Eric singing sends the track right over the top. You have to wonder if this isn't what Eric was born to sing.
Kings For A Day features yet another cool intro which again bursts into a sonic blast of classy hard rock. There's a free flowing verse which runs into an effects filled bridge which leads to a simple but hard rocking chorus.
I Know You By Heart is a complex guitar driven tune with a mellow, moody verse with Eric sounding perfect. Jack adds harmony vocals in a bridge that leads into a choppy and very catchy chorus. Tak plays some fine soloing over the already powerful rhythm guitar riffs. Another highly original and entertaining track.
I Wish You Were Here is a monster – pure and simple! This is glorious uptempo hard rock with a slightly tongue in cheek twist, some cheeky lyrics and one of the best choruses of the album. This is set to be the second single from the album and I can see why. This is classic Mr. Big in style, just heavier and groovier and is one of the most commercial straight ahead rockers of the album.
There's no time to rest here though, the tempo is only increased with The Greatest Show On Earth kicking right in. Another absolute monster. This is another all time classic stomping hard rocker, with a killer hook and some fine harmonies – easily one of the best of Eric's career and one of the best of the year.
Signs Of Life doesn't let up on the tempo, this is another great hard rocker with a cool chorus and a certain swagger that Aerosmith would be proud display.
Red, White And Bullet Blues changes the pace a little. This is a darker, slower and heavier number, with a massive guitar sound. The chorus is just as intense and is one of the heaviest numbers I have heard either Jack or Eric involved with.
Trapped was the B-Side to the initial single Oh Japan and is a more straight forward rocker with a strong chorus.
My Alibi is a little different than the rest of the album. This features a funky guitar riff over an uptempo rhythm section. The chorus is very mainstream – rather commercial considering the rest of the material and almost wouldn't suit the song if it wasn't done to perfection (as it is).
Wonderland gets things rocking in a big way again. This is a more classic hard rock sounding song, with a terrific guitar riff and a very melodic vocal harmony. The chorus slows the tempo a little and features some more great lyrics courtesy of Eric and long time partner Andre Pessis.
Like My Alibi, Train, Train is the band's chance to diversify again. This is a slow, bluesy rocker with a 70's swagger. Very laid back, but it still rocks and the chorus picks up the tempo a little.
Two Of A Kind is the album's only ballad of any description! This is a mid-tempo rock ballad with a bluesy edge. It features a big chorus, with plenty of harmony vocals and some heavier guitar work. A very commercial song, in a hard rock skin.
Never Good-Bye features a very curious intro, but then rocks out just as the majority of the album. After the last couple of tracks, a rocker was needed to close out the album and this does the job in fine style. It takes a few listens to get into, but the track is as strong as the rest of the album and the chorus is another memorable moment.
The Bonus DVD features video clips for the two tracks – Oh Japan and I Wish You Were Here.
I was looking forward to this, but had no idea it would be this good and am really surprised how quickly and how well the band gelled and how good the quality of songs are. There is just enough experimentation and production tricks to keep things really interesting, while never getting too cleaver or out of line with where the guys roots lay.
This is a perfect slice of contemporary hard rock, with a super heavy and in your face production that updates the sound, melodies and style to 2004, while keeping the best elements of the classic debut's from Mr. Big and Damn Yankees.
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