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Akira Takasaki : Tusk of Jaguar
Category: overlooked
4 stars

In the European Heavy Metal fanzines of the early 80's there was a surge of interest in Japanese Metal. suddenly bands like Vow Wow (ex-Bow Wow), Earthshaker, Heavy Metal Army and X became part of the metalhead's active memory. Akira's band Loudness especially was quite a cult band in the underground Metalzines and Akira was heralded as the new Eddie Van Halen. I'm not a guitarist myself, so I wouldn't know about that, but there's no denying the man knows a thing or two about playing guitar, as well as about writing music. Nevertheless the first few Loudness albums, which in retrospect weren't that special I think, got a lot more attention and way better reviews than Akira's first solo album. It's easy to see why. Loudness was a Metal band and had everything the 80's metalhead's heart could desire. This solo album on the other hand is a way more varied offering. It's mainly an instrumental Hard Rock album with influences ranging from AOR over plain Rock to Progressive Rock.

Some reviewers expressed the fear this might be the new direction Loudness might have been heading in, and hoped it wouldn't be so. Me, on the other hand, would've been very happy with that, as this slab of vinyl sounds a lot more interesting to me than any of the Loudness albums. There are one or two weaker tracks and the vocals on the three non-instrumentals aren't particularily strong, but these minor flaws are easily forgotten when one of the many album's standout tracks blasts through your speakers.

What makes these instrumentals so interesting isn't even Akira's talent as a guitarist, but the simple fact that Akira's song writing skills are at a very high level. He manages to pack all his instrumentals (at least on this album. I haven't heard his other solo efforts) with memorable guitar melodies. From the soft and dreamy 'Macula' over the hugely entertaining guitar versus violin duel of 'Wild boogie Run' and the Progressive workouts of 'Say What?' and 'Gunshots' to speedy Hard Rockers like 'Mid-day hunter' and the title song, there isn't a bland moment in any of the instrumental tracks on this album.

It's a shame many Rock critcs at the time chose not to treat this album with the proper respect, as it's one of the best instrumental Rock albums I have ever heard. And I've heard quite a few.


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