Miki Curtis (ex-Samurai) “Mimi” 1972 Japan
A solo album by one of the oldest Japanese rock artists (started performing with Elvis’ repertoire in the 50s) was issued the year after Japanese-British prog collective Samurai split (that released two very good records). Here he is assisted by Haruomi Hosono, Alan Merrill, Katsuo Ohno and other musicians. Here is what different music sellers are saying about the album: “Relaxed, UK-flavored progressive rock sounds (but w/ Japanese vocals), not far off from the previous Samurai album”. Insolent and shameless lie: there’s nothing progressive and there’s no similarity to Samurai. This work is so eclectic: the less interesting tracks are a little bit arranged in the style of Japanese pop psych, a few songs (may be not too bad) are made in the songwriter’s genre with an acoustic guitar, flute etc., there are two blues rock tracks with a psychedelic flavor but have also a commercial taste. The only one great composition - the last one heavy psychedelic “40 Days On A Stoned-Out Camel” built upon eastern melody with a slowed meditative rhythm, guitar with effects, sinister vocals and pretty nice riff. In all, this album does not deserve positive feedback anyway…..
Coming on like a more credible Cliff Richard or a more career-minded Screaming Lord Sutch, the half-Japanese/half-British singer Miki Curtis managed to navigate a successful path through the turbulent ever-changing waters of the Japanese rocknroll scene, from its inception in 1958 to its hazy conclusion in the late 70s. Curtis began his career as a snaggle-toothed Elvis impersonator in 1958, but oozed such charisma and charm that he was immediately employed by NHK-TV to host their weekly pop show THE HIT PARADE. Getting his teeth fixed, slicking back his hair into a less extreme quiff and donning horn-rimmed glasses, Curtis spent the next few years in this role, using the show as an occasional outlet for his own singing. He thereafter formed Miki Curtis & Samurais to keep abreast of the then-current Group Sounds trend, growing his hair and playing up to the saki and noodles curcuit as one Pathe Newsman called it. Was he Mickey, Miki of Mikey? Who knows but Curtis himself; he certainly spelled the name ever way possible in order to keep up with prevailing trends. And possessed with a musical approach that veered from Acker Bilk seashore jazz to soul stompathons, Curtis Samurais scored a run of major charts hits including Taiyo No Pataya, Fires On The Plain, Wild Life, Bounce Ko Gals and Nothing But Loving. Ever the career minded pragmatist, Curtis took The Samurais to Europe, where the band played to their Japanese strengths by adopting kimonos. The six piece band also recorded and released records in Germany for Metronome Records, picking up a couple of British musicians guitarist Joe Dunnett and organist John Redfern - along the way. In London, the band released the single Good Morning Starshie b/w Temple of Gold for United Artists, and in Italy Shu Shu b/w Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer. Renaming the band Samurai in 1970, to fit in with Japans prevailing New Rock fashions, Curtis released two interesting LPs SAMURAI and KAPPA with this line-up, the two LPs being conflated into one entitled GREEN TEA for its 1970 British release on Philips. On returning to Japan, bass player Tetsu Yamauchi quit to record his own solo LP for Columbia, and later joined Free. Miki Curtis thereafter tempered his prog rock fixations with the somewhat poppier LP MIMI, which he made for Vertigo Records in 1972. Collaborating on the album with Hosono Haruomi of the country-tinged Happy End and Vodka Collins/Arrows future star Alan Merrill, who would go in to write Joan Jetts I Love Rocknroll, MIMI was a blatant sop to the singer/songwriter trends then consuming Japan. Within the sumptuous SphinxnPyramid badged gatefold of MIMI, Curtis is shown in his two most extreme incarnations, first as early 60s be-suited and be-spectacled nerd, and second as be-jewelled longhair shaman. However, this was Curtis artistic swansong. By 1977, Miki had given up any pretences of being contemporary and returned to his rocknroll roots, his ROCKNROLL HURRICANE LP containing such hackneyed classics as Great Balls of Fire. Be Bop A Lula, Ready Teddy, Hound Dog, Rock Around the Clock with Del Shannons Runaway throw in for good measure...............
Mickey CURTIS was born of English parents in Tokyo, Japan in 1938. After the end of The World War II he lived by singing in the Occupation Forces or Camps, and as a result he was approved as a rockabilly singer. Although he had been an active pop singer and a frontman of two chorus-pop outfits named 'City Crows' and 'Vanguards' in mid 60s, he was awakened to rock suddenly and finally formed SAMURAI (The SAMURAIS in their early days) in 1967. During the first two years SAMURAI made a lot of gigs and released two albums - "Tenor Sax Of Love" (1968; as The SAMURAIS) and "Samurai" (1970) - in Europe. In early 1969 their soundscape was completely shifted to progressive rock, and we can easily realize the fact especially in their eponymous album. Soon after that they came back to Japan and released "Kappa" (1971), which has been appreciated as a masterpiece of Heavy Progressive Rock in Japan.
Mickey's said "There is no way for childish bands in Japanese rock scene. We need to produce our originality to raise the level of Japanese Rock higher than of Western nation as soon as possible."
After SAMURAI disbanded, Mickey released "Mimi" (1972) as a solo artist and has been active as a pop & country singer or a TV actor in Japan................
Part of a new Universal Japan 70s rock reissue series, called Naked Line. Legit issues, from masters, midline pricing. This is the third Miki Curtis album, no longer with Samurai as his official band. Originally release by Japanese Vertigo in 1972. Relaxed, UK-flavored progressive rock sounds (but w/ Japanese vocals), not far off from the previous Samurai album.............
Tetsu Yamauchi “Tetsu” 1972 Japan Private Psych Prog..excellent solo Lp