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8 Jan 2017

Harumi “Harumi” 1968 Japan Psych Pop,Baroque Pop,Sunshine,Acid Folk

Harumi  “Harumi” 1968 mega rare Japan Psych Pop,Baroque Pop,Sunshine,Acid Folk
New York, 1967. Tom Wilson, man behind the mixing desk for such legendary artists as Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, The Velvet Underground, and Simon and Garfunkel, has persuaded Verve Records to sign and fund his newest project for distribution on their Forecast imprint. Unlike the other acts that Wilson helped shape into the defining sounds of an era, this artist will barely make a mark on history. His name is Harumi, he’s from Japan, and he creates a psychedelic pop album that would eventually be heralded as everything from lost classic to hopelessly frazzled to Holy Grail among squares and psych-heads decades later, but not before he manages to completely disappear from the music industry and into the void of complete and total obscurity. 
There is very little known about the man named Harumi, if that’s even his real name (and it’s debatable, as “Harumi” has female connotations in Japanese). Virtually every source-every blog, every website-has the exact same information on him: He came from Japan to New York to record an album, and disappeared. Did he remain in America to take part in the flower power movement? Could he have returned to Japan, sealing the fate on his obscurity by becoming a salaryman? Presumably, nobody outside his family knows. He could be anywhere in the world. He could be dead. 
The actual album itself only adds to the mystery. Recorded between 1967 and 1968, it was a product of its time: a psychedelic gem released at the height and in the heyday of the genre’s popularity and ubiquity. A double LP with a gatefold sleeve, its richly colored artwork (courtesy of “Sherri Berri”) stands out even considering the acid-and-sun soaked milieu of the time. Inside, though, there is little information regarding its musicians. Harumi does indeed seem to be the singer’s name (as evidenced by the strange side story written on the back end of the sleeve), but aside from the usual professional credits such as Producer (Tom Wilson), Arranger (Larry Fallon, Harvey Vinson, and Harumi), and Engineer (Val Valentin), there is nothing regarding who played the actual music. 
“Harumi” isn’t perfect, but in its imperfections it creates a certain charm and allure completely unique to itself. Harumi sounds like Your Friendly Neighborhood Acid-Head (though psychedelic blogger/uberenthusiast Dr. Schluss likened him to “a stoned cosmonaut,” which actually seems to work pretty well as a compliment, I guess) and the album itself plays out as such; innocent rock, folk, or soul filtered through the lysergic brain of a Japanese expatriate and the adventurous producer willing to capture it all on tape. 
“Harumi” does deserve the praise and cult following its gathered over the years, and the title of “lost classic” is well earned. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Fallout Records, it might truly be lost; copies of the original double LP are rare and go for upwards of 50 dollars, and that’s considering someone is even willing to part with their treasure. Harumi also recorded a second record, also self titled, but unfortunately it only came out in Japan and seems to be all but completely lost…. 

Originally released in 1968 on Verve, Harumi is a classic double album of obscure Japan meets Greenwich Village psych with legendary producer Tom Wilson (Velvet Underground, Zappa, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel) at the helm, desperately trying to reign in the talents of this enigmatic Japanese artist on the outer fringes of an East/West freak out. All songs are sung in English. ‘Harumi’ is a remarkable album with tracks ranging from catchy pop to more experimental moments. Including contributions from his parents, this is a truly unique and seriously psychedelic work. ……… 

I have never heard this intriguing 2-LP set, but Unsung editor The Seth Man had a copy as a teenager and was not enamoured, describing it as 'more L.A. than Tokyo’. The album was produced in the USA by Mothers of Invention and Velvets producer Tom Wilson. According to Seth, the first LP side was 'kinda sub-par pop with the most interesting thing [being] the first track, which was a near-“Sgt. Peppper” type homage, highly phased drums and all the rest of it … The second record had one track apiece … which was the reason I bought it, figgering it would yield a maximum freak out. I only remember a lot of inept koto plucking, some Western gent prattling on 'meaningfully’ in a proto-“Kung Fu” David Carradine manner about a pregnant dog and a little token freaking-out in a “Mondo Hollywood” style. I was left with the impression it was about as Japanese as the Chinese takeout-styled type design on the cover…which was to say: not all that much, unfortunately.’ 

Julian Cope………. 

Recorded by Tom Wilson (who else?) for Verve in 1967 and 1968 in New York, this set originally appeared on a double LP (which has been reissued on both vinyl and CD by Fallout). This is one of the wildest and most unbelievably ambitious recordings to come from the psychedelic era. Harumi (a mystery man who recorded one more album before vanishing into the ether) could write pop songs and sing them. He also sounds like he did a lot of acid. Harumi (who sings and speaks in English), Wilson, arrangers Harvey Vinson and Larry Fallon, and engineer Gary Kellegren assembled a tripped-out collection of pop, Eastern folk, and experimental music and production techniques, with sounds, textures, and atmospheres that incorporated everything from strings and horns to Japanese folk instruments to vibraphones and (of course) plenty of guitars and drums and organ. Of the 13 cuts here, 11 are of conventional length and are utterly seductive in their hypnotic power and pop brilliance. The last two, “Twice Told Tales of the Pomegranate Forest” and “Samurai Memories,” are 24 minutes and 18 minutes long, respectively. These two have plenty of cosmic spoken word by Wilson (Rosko) and Harumi, and on the past by his parents and his sister. The first of these, the longer one, is a bit difficult to take with its slow pace, minimal orchestration, and nearly nonsensical story (that’s what the remote is for). The second one, with its discotheque go-go boots beat and orchestration, phased sounds, and Japanese language, is an exotic masterpiece. It grooves throughout, especially when the electric guitars and strings play counterpoint to one another. Simply put, there is nothing at all like this record in the known universe. It has been compared to the adventurousness of the Mothers of Invention, but only insofar as its wide range. The music here, while a huge compendium of sources, is unlike anything you have ever heard when it is put together. Harumi’s self-titled album is simply a classic from the underground brought back into the light….. by Thom Jurek…allmusic…….. 

There are many albums by unknown artists that deserve to be dug up and reexamined (or perhaps examined for the first time). Then there are the very few that reach up and grab you by the ears, making you wonder why they were ever forgotten in the first place. Harumi falls into the second category. 

Somehow an unknown from Japan (with feminine name) managed to locate one of the most renowned producers of the day to record his self titled debut record for Verve in 1968. Tom Wilson, the impresario behind both Dylan and Nico’s best loved albums heard something special in Harumi’s psyched out English-penned originals and we are still reaping the benefits of that union today. 

Comparisons don’t give this music its due. Easy references like mid period Byrds or Jefferson Airplane might be obvious because of the relatively familiar aesthetic (for the time period) , but there is much to this record that greatly sets it apart from the more successful contemporary acts. 

The main draw here is Harumi’s exceptional original songs and the way his drugged out voice navigates them. “First Impressions” begins with a Zombie-esque guitar and organ lick before catapulting into full pop mode with strings and brass. Harumi sounds haunting here, especially when he glides back in after the baroque instrumental break in the middle. This track drips with an endless summer vibe that spills over on the rest of the record. 

Organ and jazzy vibraphone (along with assorted Japanese instruments) are present on nearly every track, filling out an already tight rhythm section. Little subtleties, like the phase effect on Harumi’s vocals on “Sugar in Your Tea”, or the Eastern sounding guitar on “We Love” crawl to the fore on repeat listens. The latter song is one of the best here- it grooves steadily through the haze and features some lyrical highlights like “Would you like to say hello to everyone that you have ever known?” and “You are me and I am you- there is no comparison for two”. 

From start to finish (including the 2 extended cuts that make up the second half of this double album), Harumi is a remarkable listen that sets a very persistent vibe….Rising Storm review……… 

Harumi was a Japanese ex-pat (with a woman’s name) who jumped across the ocean and had the fortune to under the guiding hand of legendary producer Tom Wilson. This self titled disc is a double album that deserves to be as such as it functions basically as two completely different sets: one a set of blue eyed soul and AM pop sounds thrown through a psychedelic pop prism, while the other consists of two side long experimental freak outs. 

The first eleven songs are pretty solid psychedelic pop that usually ends up echoing another artist. “Hunters Of Heaven” recalls the Grass Roots a little too much for my tastes, while “Don’t Know What I’m Gonna Do” is like a psychedelicized Righteous Brothers. “Hurry Up Now” and “What A Day For Me” channel a little bit of the Stax Records sound. Tom Wilson throws some production curveballs by slathering on the phasing and adding some occasional orchestration and oddball instrumentation. Then we have Harumi himself. Although going for a pop sound that generally harbours powerful vocalists, he often sounds more like a stoned cosmonaut. I think this makes this more charming than it would be otherwise. 

Fortunately, there are several home run tracks hanging in the grooves. “Talk About It” blasts through with it’s phasing, screeching strings and horn charts as a pretty wacked out soul number. “First Impressions” trades in the soul (but keeps the horns), for a great track that mixes British style whimsy with the lighter side of San Fran acid rock. Plus it has vibraphone, which as you may know, is always a plus for me. “Hello” is an awesome psych groover (with more vibraphone!) that was awesome enough to get sampled on the first track of Edan’s Beauty And The Beat. Later we find “We Love,” which is a fun raga-rock song which kind of recalls the better songs on the soundtracks of 60’s psychedelic exploitation films. 

Then we get to the second disc, which is a much stranger set of stream-of-consciousness ramblings, traditional Japanese instrumentation, and the ambience of a blue-smoke filled club at 5am when only the most freaked out heads are still hanging around. “Twice Told Tales Of The Pomegranate Forest” inhabits the first side, and is by far the lesser of the two. Resting mostly on koto and strange spoken word, it takes some effort to make it through the whole 24 minutes. Much better is side two’s “Samurai Memories,” which is supported by a churning band. On top of this are lots of muttering in Japanese, warped sound effects, and orchestration invading the aural space in strange and unexpected ways. The 20 minute track feels like a missing link between the stranger part of Frank Zappa’s Freak Out and the long, driving sonic journeys of Acid Mothers Temple. 

With what basically amounts to two albums present here, you’re bound to find a couple tracks that hit a bulls-eye on Harumi. It’s underground music, but with the steady hand of a pro at the helm……… 

Frank Zappa, whose Mothers of Invention mercilessly blasted the philosophical lightweights so prominent in late 1960s hippie culture, called Harumi a “flower-power album” and expressed that he had no desire to listen to it. Looking back at this record four decades after it was recorded and hearing how generic it sounds, one’s encouraged to adopt Zappa’s stance. This CD reissue—which, with its minimal packaging and murky sound quality, feels more like a medium-grade bootleg—should please a few psych-rock obsessives, but it offers few rewards for the rest of us. 

This album’s only redeeming quality is its ambition. When Tom Wilson, noted producer of Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and Simon and Garfunkel, pitched Harumi to Verve in 1967, he envisioned the album as an artistic, not a commercial, venture. His idea was to take the tunes of Harumi, a mysterious Japanese songwriter, and douse them in Gary Usher-like orchestration, David Axelrod-inspired grooves, and phaser-heavy psychedelic flourishes. Wilson and Harumi’s project ended up stretching out over two LPs, and its songs ranged from hopelessly frazzled to indulgently saccharine. Given the major label money involved and the degree of artistic freedom granted, this record could have blown minds and paradigms. Instead, it went quickly out of print and faded into obscurity, failing to gather even a significant cult following. 
So why did Harumi fizzle? Chalk its failure up to a producer with too many ideas and a pop star with too little personality. The psych-soul grooves and sunshine-pop arrangements that Wilson dreamed up are just dandy, but Harumi couldn’t make them his own. In most tracks, he sounds bored and removed, his lyrics overgrown with clichés, his voice not nearly as acrobatic as the bouncy horns and wiry guitars around him. And as the album progresses, Wilson’s contributions seem to reek of desperation—you can almost hear him wondering how he’s going to inject some pizazz into each new track. So we encounter some nice surprises: the vibraphone-heavy slant-eyed soul of “Hurry Up Now”, the side-long primitivist folk spoken-word piece “Twice Told Tales of the Pomegranate Forest”, the organ- and string-fueled lysergic jam “Samurai Memories”. But Harumi ain’t no Dusty Springfield, he can’t hold a candle to Ken Nordine, and he sure as hell can’t hang with Malcolm Mooney. Nor can he approximate the wildness or creativity of any of those folks. He’s simply playing dress-up, and he doesn’t even want to be playing dress-up. He’d rather be shooting hoops or drinking a soda. And we can hear this in his unconvincing performances. 

Is Harumi good for anything? Sure. Its surreal album art and Orientalist sleeve notes speak volumes about the fantasies Americans entertain about the Far East. Its tightly wound, syncopated beats could prove useful to anyone in search of a new drum loop. It provides insight into just how zany Tom Wilson’s creative mind was. But these qualities will appeal to the narrowest of audiences, and those already immersed in Orientalist cultural texts, sample-ready beats, and Tom Wilson projects will feel an overwhelming sense of “been there, done that” after a few songs…by….Phillip Buchan………… 
Επιτέλους το σπανιότατο διαμάντι της ψυχεδελικής ποπ κυκλοφορεί για πρώτη φορά σε CD! Πρόκειται για το πρώτο και τελευταίο δίσκο του μυστηριώδους Ιάπωνα Harumi σε παραγωγή του μεγάλου Tom Wilson γνωστού κυρίως από τις απίστευτες δουλειές του με Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan και Simon and Garfunkel. Ο δίσκος αυτός αποτελεί πραγματικό θησαυρό για τους λάτρεις του είδους. Το περιεχόμενο καλύπτει ένα αρκετά ευρύ μουσικό φάσμα αποτελούμενο από ιδιόμορφη trip pop, μελοδικές ραψωδίες με συνοδεία από παραδοσιακά ιαπωνικά μουσικά όργανα, επική acid folk, και funky ψυχεδελικό πειραματισμό με διάφορα κιθαριστικά εφφέ, τρομπέτες και κρουστά. Ξεχωρίζουν τα 'Talk About It’, 'Hello’, 'Sugar In Your Tea’, 'What a Day For Me’ και το 18λεπτο αριστουργηματικό 'Samurai Memories’ το οποίο είναι μια πειραματική acid go-go disco μουσική επένδυση μιας συζήτησης μεταξύ μελών της οικογένειας του Ιάπωνα καλλιτέχνη! Ένα από τα λίγα μελανά σημεία του δίσκου είναι το διάρκειας 24 λεπτών (!) 'Twice Told Tales of The Pomegranate Forest’ που περιέχει ασύνδετες φιλοσοφικές απαγγελίες από το Harumi και τον ίδιο τον Wilson με τη συνοδεία διαφόρων ambient ήχων και τελικά κουράζει με την διάρκεια του και την μινιμαλιστική του σύνθεση. Αλλά σε γενικές γραμμές η κυκλοφορία αυτή ξαναφέρνει στο φώς ένα χαμένο psychedelic pop και acid folk αριστούργημα που έκανε για αρκετές δεκαετίες τους συλλέκτες και τους φίλους του είδους να παραμιλούν…………. 
In my callow free-ranging youth, I remember running across Harumi in some murky half-assed bookstore on the outskirts of Hollywood, grabbing it because it was a 2-LP gig, was cheap, had psychedelic artwork, and seemed exotic enough to be worth checking out. Anticipation ran high. When I got back home and threw it on the record player, all that changed. “What the fuck???” was the first reaction. The second was to put it aside for years, then listen to it again, have the same reaction, and store the damn thing once more. In fact, the only reason this two-fer is making it into this Camera Obscura column is because it’s one of those items we Baby Boomers are now tending to get nostalgic about, mooning over the relic as a remnant of how goofy and pretentious The Great Hippie Era could be. 

There’s a complete black-out of data on this shebang, and I’m pretty sure I know why: it’s most likely a side product of studio jazz musicians, who (way back when) were putting out as side work anything psychedelic that could be sold to stoned longhairs hungering for “trippy” materials to ear-glom over a hazed-out weekend. Back in the '60’s and '70’s, jazzbos were heavily involved in sessioneering for rockers (think Rascals) and understood there was more money to be had in pulling the hippies in along with all the coffee shop hep cats, jazz’s natural prey. 

In fact, I doubt there was even a Harumi. For one, it’s a woman’s name in Japan, and our Harumi here is definitely male (is it politically correct to say that in our LGBTQ-sensitive age?), though the appellation could just be a lark. Whomever Harumi was, he was a half-assed singer backed by fairly accomplished musicians. The first of the two LP’s is a collection of middle-of-the-road rock compositions while the other features two side-long ‘freak-outs,’ “Twice-Told Tales of the Pomegranite Forest” and “Samurai Memories.” The latter is what most listeners get behind, kind of an Amon Duul II-ish improv thing with “Harumi” speaking his native tongue as a jazz-rock groove progresses for 19:15. It’s chee-zee enuff to have made it into a Swedish Erotica porn loop while sufficiently stable to be genuinely interesting, perhaps the kind of rock-jazz-prog thing for those who also thought Nik Racevik (a.k.a. 'Pascal’ and etc.) was the bee’s knees, and he was interesting in a loopy amateur sorta way. 

“Pomegranite Forest,” on the other hand, is pure bullshit- Harumi and another guy sitting around, faking profound insights and dawning revelations (heeeeey!, they’re zennies!), sounding like they might be stoned but probably aren’t, rambling on about nothing, not singing, just trying to wax philosophical from junior high school as the musicians mail in their contributions. The first LP’s short compositions vary in quality, the second also, but “Samurai” is definitely of interest. No one’s going to stop the presses lauding Harumi as Great Lost Vinyl Bullion ‘cause it ain’t. It is, however, worth checking out, front to back. If nothing else, it’ll hand you a laff… but it just might also pique your Oddity Button…………. 
- Harumi - vocals, arranger 
- Harvey Vinson, Larry Fallon - arrangers 
- Tom Wilson - producer 
and others 

01. Talk About It - 4:12 
02. First Impressions - 3:10 
03. Don’t Know What I’m Gonna Do - 3:05 
04. Hello - 3:58 
05. Sugar In Your Tea - 3:22 
06. Caravan - 3:04 
07. Hunters Of Heaven - 2:56 
08. Hurry Up Now - 3:47 
09. What A Day For Me - 2:44 
10. We Love - 2:17 
11. Fire By The River - 3:30 
12. Twice Told Tales Of The Pomegranate Forest - 23:56 
13. Samurai Memories - 18:09 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..