My three choices came from the book "Japanese City Pop", and Sato's magnum opus was especially recommended by singer-songwriter-producer Toshiki Kadomatsu（角松敏生）through an interview given in the book. I gotta say that I gotta go with Kadomatsu. It's the musical equivalent of a really smooth brandy.
After a short instrumental introductory track, "Awakening" starts the ball rolling with "You're My Baby"(above) with him and Canadian-born, Australian singer Wendy Matthews giving this dreamy ballad covered in soft wool. Continuing on with the alcohol analogy, I always see these connoisseurs come with these high-falutin' descriptions of the wine they've just tasted that bring out references to stuff like strawberries, chocolate and sandalwood. Well, listening to Sato's 4th album (June 1982), I have to admit that the same sort of thing is happening here. Sato was apparently influenced by The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, but "Awakening" gives off vibes from a number of singers, some of whom figure prominently in AOR. "You're My Baby" alone hints at a bit of Gino Vannelli and Boz Scaggs, in terms of the vocals and arrangements. And sometimes I can pick up a bit of YMO's Yukihiro Takahashi（高橋幸宏） as well from Sato, along with some Chaz Jankel (keyboardist with Ian Dury & The Blockheads).
But Track 6 is a jawdropper. Sato does give his tribute to The Beatles via "From Me To You", but the way he does it is by singing like British pop singer Howard Jones....over a year before the man himself debuted with "New Song"! I actually had to scour through the liner notes just to see if Jones had indeed performed a really early tune in there.
Another notable song is "Blue and Moody Music", another relaxing ballad with that hint of jazz, thanks to Sato's prowess on the keyboards. Nice song to enjoy with that glass of wine during sunset. However, I think I prefer the second, more uptempo version of the song at the end of the album with Wendy providing the main vocals. Above is the Wendy version and below is the original have-a-sip-of-wine-my-darlin' version.
Sadly, Sato passed away late last year at the age of 65. I've only started to explore one of his albums but I have a feeling that "Awakening" may be one of those discs that will amount to a musical version of "The Little Prince"; each time I listen to it, there will always be something new to my ears...an awakening of sorts.
I've got a follow-up on the album here.
|Hiroshi Sato -- Awakening|