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!……~
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
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