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Monday, 5 November 2018

Yuya Uchida & The Flowers (Flower Travellin’ Band,) “Challenge!” 1969 Japan Psych Rock ~



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Challenge! is the debut studio album by Japanese rock band Flower Travellin’ Band, then called Yuya Uchida & The Flowers, released in 1969. It features mainly cover songs, and was a means for Yuya Uchida to explore the emerging psychedelic rock movement outside his own career, and to introduce the work of upcoming Western bands such as Cream, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane to a Japanese audience. It was named number 34 on Bounce’s 2009 list of 54 Standard Japanese Rock Albums.
Shocked after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform in London in 1967, Yuya Uchida returned home and wanted to introduce a similar sound to Japan. He formed “the Flowers” as a cover band with various group sounds musicians, and two vocalists; male singer Hiroshi Chiba and female singer Remi Aso. The album also gained notoriety for featuring all of the band members nude on the cover.

Following its release, Uchida dropped all the members, except drummer George Wada, recruited guitarist Hideki Ishima, vocalist Joe Yamanaka and bassist Jun Kobayashi, and formed the Flower Travellin’ Band as a band that would appeal to international audiences. Uchida himself reverted exclusively to the producer/manager role. Their first album, Anywhere, mirrored Challenge! by mainly consisting of cover songs and nude cover art

On September 26, 2007, a limited edition of Challenge! was released with five bonus tracks. They are “Last Chance”, “Flower Boy” and “Yogiri no Trumpet” which were previously released as singles in 1969, and the previously unreleased covers of “Fire” and “Five to One”…..~


Challenge was the debut album by Japanese rock band ‘The Flowers’ and the only album to feature vocals by Remi Aso - she left after the album’s release for the States. Recorded in 1969 with the intention of producer Yuya Uchida to introduce the music of artists like Cream, Janis Joplin & Jefferson Airplane to the Japanese record buying public - it’s release sparked an explosion of psych music in Japan that is still going strong in bands like Acid Mothers Temple & Ghost. All but one of the 10 tracks are cover versions which are competently played, often heavier than the originals, but(unsurprisingly) don’t eclipse them. Best track here is the one original “Hidariashi no Otoko” - a psych heavy instrumental that would lay the seeds of the band’s future direction. The packaging for the Phoenix is a mini replica of the LP but there are no notes or pictures on the inner sleeve. All titles are written in Japanese. Several of the tracks can be heard on ytube which I strongly advise listening to before purchasing…by..Levi….~


Following his self-imposed exile in Britain, soon-to-be Flower Travellin’ Band leader Yuya Uchida embarked on the task of creating a hand-picked band in the hope of achieving a home-grown outfit to rival groups he’d been listening to in London. Legendary guitarist Hideki Ishima was his first recruit, followed by steel guitarist Katshiko Kobayashi and then the bravest move of all, the beautiful vocalist Remi Aso was asked to front the band, now named The Flowers. The band’s debut LP, originally released in 1968, completely changed the Japanese musical scene, featuring as it did, hard covers of Big Brother And The Holding Company, Cream and Jefferson Airplane songs, and its ground-breaking cover art, featuring the band’s members, including Miss Aso, naked in a cornfield, changed the musical landscape for ever. Digitally remastered. Numbered, limited collector’s edition…..~


I do not know you, but one thing has always fascinated me in the Japanese; this capacity to absorb huge sections of Western culture, the most clichés possible, to better spit them out by accentuating even more the angles. For us Westerners, it comes down to looking at you in a distorted mirror, and suddenly discover how much you have a big ass, eyebrows as thick, a pif nase, it goes. It can be disturbing, but especially very funny if you have a little self-mockery. Today, to begin to understand how it all works, I propose to clear the path of a certain Yuya Utchidafrom his position as a nerdy Japanese rockabilly singer to the manager of one of the best rock bands in Japan playing on equal terms - in terms of music if not reputation - with Black Sabbath, the Zep even King Crimson. Intriguing no? 

But at the time of Challenge!in 1968, we are still far from it. Yuya Utchida recently decided to stop rockabilly; good plan, all this is tacky too fast. Far from being discouraged, Utchida now looks to the rock psyche that exploded last year in England and the United States. After all, his ambition is to become a rock-star adulated, it is not because he has thirty well started that he will let himself be after all. The summer of love in mind, he sets up a gang of troufions straight out of the GS scene (Group Sounds, a style of rock made in Japan which was then the pinnacle of good taste in the country, but which does not was soon to be recovered by the media and large Japanese firms and become a kind of disembodied boiling, ancestor of J-Rock or J-Pop today). Six musicians, including Utchida himself on the guitar, with two singers: a guy, a chick. Here is the birth of Flowers, or ratherYuya Utchida & The Flowers . Would not forget who is the boss. 

Barely out, not even listened, Challenge! already talking about him. For an obvious reason: his wallet. Great marketing move from Utchida: all members (the singer Remi Aso included) pose naked in a bucolic landscape. What shock the authorities of the Japanese morality, which already hardly supports that cranks of their own country jiggle on this species of wild music for pornographers that one names “rock'n'roll”. Behind his cover, Challengeturns out to be very classic. Few risk-taking here, it’s just a resumption of the great Western psyche hits. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, the gratin! Technically, it goes. We will recognize the Japanese an irrefutable technical mastery, guitars do the job, it grooves not bad at all, and if the singer is anyway, Remi Aso she does wonders in front-woman. With a moderately smoky female voice, she is at home as well by imitating Janis Joplin as Grace Slick. In it, an original piece still floats: “Hidariashi No Otoko”, an entertaining jam that highlights the qualities of the band’s instrumentalists. 

Well, it’s nice all that, but we still ask the interest. Why bother to go listen to this clump of rock-psyche shots with jap sauce when you have the originals at your fingertips? As well as they are, this is not what will advance Japanese rock and bring Utchida to the skies. The guy knows it very well besides, Challenge!is basically a great excuse to test the abilities of his group while giving the Japanese audience what he expects (ie Western music from their beloved island), in order to provide the Flowers the opportunity to tour all over the country. And then it’s worth it; the band is explosive live, the musicians let go for good and ensure the show to the end. The real testimony to take ownership in the background is this live Flowers. But good luck to find it … So here, the Flowers are on the upward slope: its evidence as a group are made, it remains to be seen if they will be able to offer an original material and become sustainable as Japanese innovators. Answer to the next episode!……~





Personnel 

Remi Aso – vocals, guitar 
Kento Nakamura – vocals 
Ken Hashimoto – bass 
Susumu Oku – guitar, vocals 
Katsuhiko Kobayashi – steel guitar 
Yuya Uchida – percussion, backing vocals, producer 
Joji “George” Wada – drums







Tracklist 
1 ふたりだけで [Combination Of The Two] 6:00 
2 イントルーダー [Intruder] 3:57 
3 サマータイム [Summertime] 3:57 
4 うれしい気持 [I’m So Glad] 4:24 
5 グリージー・ハート [Greasy Heart] 4:14 
6 ヘイ・ジョー [Hey Joe] 4:15 
7 ホワイト・ルーム [White Room] 4:06 
8 左足の男 [Hidariashi No Otoko] 4:40 
9 心のカケラ [Piece Of My Heart] 4:05 
10 ストーン・フリー [Stone Free] 3:52 



Discography 

Yuya Uchida & the Flowers

Studio albums 

Challenge! (1969) – Debut album. 

Singles 

“Last Chance” b/w “Flower Boy” (1969) – Single.
“Flower Boy” b/w “Last Chance” (1969) – Single.
“Fantastic Girl” b/w “Yogiri no Trumpet” (1969) – Single. 

Appearances 

Opera from the Works of Tadanori Yokoo (1969) – Multimedia compilation by Toshi Ichiyanagi and featuring various artists.
Rock 'n’ Roll Jam '70 (1970) – Live album featuring various artists. The Flowers perform “All Is Loneliness”, “Piece of My Heart”, “You Shook Me” and “Kozmic Blues”

Flower Travellin’ Band 

Studio albums 

Anywhere (1970) – First Flower Travellin’ Band album.
Satori (1971) – First original studio album.
Made in Japan (1972) – Second original studio album.
Make Up (1973) – Double album, consisting of both live and studio recordings. Featuring keyboardist Nobuhiko Shinohara.
We Are Here (2008) – First album after reuniting without Yuya Uchida.


Singles 

“Crash” b/w “Dhoop” (1970) – Single with trumpeter Terumasa Hino and the first recording credited to the Flower Travellin’ Band.
“Map” b/w “Machine Gun Kelly” (1971) – Split single with American band Jo Mama.
“Satori Pt. 1” (1971) – Canada-only single.

Compilations 

Satori (1971) – Canada-only compilation album.
The Times (1975) – A best-of album. 

Videos 

Resurrection (2008) – DVD. 

Others 

Kirikyogen (1970) – Album by Kuni Kawachi, sometimes co-credited to the Flower Travellin’ Band although only Yamanaka and Ishima took part. 


Happenings Four +1 "The Long Trip" 1971 Japan Psych Rock
Rashomon (Kuni Kawachi The Happenings Four) “Our Constitutional Rights” 1971  羅生門 ‎– 日本国憲法 平和 自由 愛 Japan Psych
The Happenings Four "Magical Happenings Tour" 1968 Japan Psych Pop Rock,Beat,Baroque Pop  second album  
The Happenings Four ‎ アウトサイダ  "の世界   "Outsider No Sekai - World Of The Outsiders"1970 Japan Psych Pop Rock third album
Kuni Kawachi and His Group “Love Suki Daikirai"1972 僕の声が聞こえるかい/クニ・河内の世界 (Happenings Four,Flower Travellin’ Band) Japan Psych Pop Rock
Kuni Kawachi & Flower Travellin’ Band “Kirikyōgen” 1970 Japan Heavy Psych

Flower Travellin’ Band ‎ “Anywhere” 1970 Japan Psych Rock debut album  (Top 50 Japan Rock Albums by Julian Cope)
Flower Travellin’ Band “Made In Japan” 1972 Japan Psych Rock (Top 50 Japan Rock Albums by Julian Cope)
Flower Travellin’ Band “We Are Here” 2008 Japan Prog Rock
Flower Travellin Band “Satori” 1971 Japan Psychedelic masterpiece  (100 greatest Japanese albums Rolling Stone) (Top 50 Japan Rock Albums by  Julian Cope)

Flower Travellin' Band "From Pussies To Death In 10.000 Years Of Freakout 1969-1970" 1997 Japan Psych Rock (bootleg)
Flower Travellin' Band ‎"Music Composed Mainly By Humans" (Bootleg) recorded in 1970 and released in 2002 Japan Psych Rock
Hideki Ishima ‎ “One Day"1971 Japan Prog Psych (ex- Flower Travellin ‘Band) man solo album
The Beavers  ザ・ビーバーズ  "Viva! Beavers!"  1968 Japan Psych,Garage Rock (Hideki Ishima-Flower Travellin’ Band & Ken Narita)
Band Aide “Uchuu Junkan” 1978 Japan Space Prog Rock  (with Nobuhiko Shinohara  ex-Flower Travellin’ Band)
Kuni Kawachi  クニ河内   "Utae Nakunaru Maeni"  歌えなくなる前に 1972  Japan Psych Rock first solo Lp
Joe Yamanaka & Flower Travellin Band "Times* 1975 Japan Psych Blues Rock LP Compilation
Joe Yamanaka (Flower Travellin Band - Kuni Kawachi And His Group )"Reggae Vibration II (My Reggae Music)" 1983 Japan Reggae (feat Tsutomu Ogawa by Too Much)
Joe Yamanaka “Live at Nippon Budokan” 1978 Japan Psych Blues Rock ((Flower Travellin Band - Kuni Kawachi And His Group )
Joe Yamanaka (Flower Travellin Band) "Joe" 1974 Japan Psych,Pop Rock,Soft Rock,Soul-excellent first solo album (feat Nobuhiko Shinohara,Takeru Muraoka,Kuni Kawachi...etc...)
    Joe Yamanaka (Flower Travellin Band - Kuni Kawachi And His Group )"Reggae Vibration II (My Reggae Music)" 1983 Japan Reggae (feat Tsutomu Ogawa by Too Much)
    Joe Yamanaka (Flower Travellin Band) ジョー山中  ‎"To The New World" 1977 Japan Psych Funk Rock  second solo album

    Yuya Uchida 内田 裕也 ‎“A Dog Runs ア・ドッグ・ランズ” 1978  Japan Psych Rock,Rock n Roll  (special guest Shinki Chen)  (The Flowers,Yuya Uchida & 1815 Super Rock 'N' Roll Band, Yuya Uchida & 183 Family Band,Flower Travellin' Band,The Tigers)






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    Japan Underground,Prog,Psych,Jazz,Blues,Folk Rock Vol 1-50 with full albums  playlist


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