Yukihiro Takahashi: Wild + Moody – FR – CD 
- Wild + Moody
- Stranger Things Have Happened
- Kill That Thermostat
- The Price to pay
- Bounds Of Reason + Love
- Walking To The Beat
Recently, we were discussing Masami Tsuchiya’s excellent album of Art Rock, “Rice Music” and commenter schwenko pointed out the vibrancy of Hideki Matsutake’s work under the Logic System name. perhaps it was kismet, but while investigating Matsutake a short while later on Discogs, I discovered that he was playing on an album that I had wanted for the last, oh… 35 years! Even then I knew that Yukihiro [Yellow Magic Orchestra drummer] Takahashi had star turns by Bill Nelson and Iva Davies on this mini-LP but the full extent of the players enlisted by Takahashi reads like a who’s who of New Wave Art Rock. This release also features his bandmates Haroumi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Jansen while including, yes…Hideki Matsutake, played the [new to me] Orange-2 synth on the song “Walking To The Beat.”
Better still, I found a dealer in America, with the French 1996 digipak® reissue of the album for less than $10 in a world where the disc could usually be had for $20-80. And that before figuring in shipping from far flung nations further afield. So I pounced on that little gem and it’s now in my Recoerd Cell. The big question is: how did I live for so long without this mini-album?!
The instrumental title cut was barely a minute long but would certainly get one’s attention; consisting as it did of sampled industrial synth percussion loops that managed to make Trent Reznor sound like the white boy from Cleveland that he was. The slamming cacophony somehow segued into the elegant Synthfunk of “Stranger Things Have Happened” with Iva Davies adding BCVs and an oboe solo! Mitsuru Sawamura managed to add a touch of Free Jazz [!] on sax then circled back for something more suave the second go-round. It was the lyrics here that Jansen contributed. Not surprising considering that this sound fit in close to the Doplhin Brothers style he was pursuing concurrently.
“Kill That Thermostat” sported an arresting lyrical metaphor and was more Tech Funk, this time with a surprising Bossa Nova beat. The smooth femme BVs from sisters “Penny” and “Myrah” Tohyhama would have fit right at home in the 1984 Pop environment in North America and Europe. This was definitely a case of heavy players making a Dance Pop record.
I am familiar with CSNY’s “Helpless” from “Déjà Vu” as it’s on Young’s excellent “Decade” collection, but I could not have been prepared for the stunning cinematic makeover that the tune received at the hand of Takahashi and Bill Nelson, who duetted on the vocals here. I’ll stick my neck out and state that I think the original is a fantastic song to begin with, in spite of my antipathy towards Crosby Stills and Nash. Nelson played guitar and eBow here and right from the start it will rip your heart out.
The hissing, industrial percussion suggested steam engines and anvils. Yukihiro took the first verse and Bill Nelson took the lead from there. This was genuinely spine tingling and more than a bit redolent of where Nelson’s head was at in much the same time period. The character of the song changed to leaner, synth and drum aggression at the midpoint and the multi tracked vocals simply soared. The song was transported from Laurel Canyon to Silicon Valley and I simply cannot get it out of my head. I am also asking myself if this is the first time I’ve ever heard Bill Nelson perform a cover and I think the answer was “yes!”
“The Price to Pay” was built on a synthetic rhythm loop and and shot through with synth counterpoint on the off beat that marked it as definitely in the R+B vein of William DeVaughan’s “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got.” Albeit digitally. It was apparent that in the three years between the only other Takahashi album [“Neuromantic”] I have and this, that he had become far more comfortable with his vocals. Earlier on, I felt that he was trying to affect a Bryan Ferry tone and here he was much more himself.
Bill Nelson sang lead vocals on the song that he wrote the lyrics for. “Bounds Of Reason, Bounds Of Love” while Sakamoto’s Fairlight stabs gave the Synth Funk a feel similar to his work at the same time like “Field Work.” So yeah, this was an incredible piece of work with a scorching Nelson guitar. This work was dovetailing tightly into the sphere of all of the various players done around the same time. Making this EP a companion piece to Nelson’s “Chimera” EP.
I had been familiar with “Walking To The Beat” from a showing of the video half a lifetime ago courtesy of my friend Mr. Ware [via Ron “The Man” Kane]. This last track on the EP was another one with a lead vocal vocal and co-write [lyrics] from Iva Davies of Icehouse. That factor was surely a reason why the single was released in Australia and New Zealand as well as The Netherlands as depicted in the yellow sleeve at right. The full 6:00 track was much longer than the video edit I’d heard before and it positively flew by.
The full attentions of Matsutake and Sakamoto’s programming gave this one serious Electro punch. One could mix this in a set with Robert Palmer’s “You Are In My System” and the dancefloor would love you for it. Through it all, Davies was at his 1984 suave apex; delivering a masterful performance redolent of the Icehouse cool though ensconced in a very different vibe here.
So this was a release that showed that even with digital synths, and the horror of the mid-80s imminent, there were still some players who were trying their level best not to fold and sell out with bland and inauspicious material. This release was a well-stirred cocktail of Art Rock gene-spliced with 70’s R+B as well as 80s Electro and Funk that straddled both decades. I first heard Takahashi in 1981 and I think the time is now past ripe to revisit my LP of “Neuromantic” which has guest stars in the form of Tony [New Musik] Mansfield and Andy MacKay and Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music. As well as Matsutake and his YMO cronies in tow. Especially since any CDs of that title currently range from $50 to $125. Heck, even my LP is a $50 item! So watch this space.
Love this album. Yes, Helpless is the kind of elevation of a cover song that hardly anyone ever achieves. Nelson and Takahashi are really going for it on the vocals. There’s also a wonderfully familiar ‘chime-i-ness” to the synth that informs you Nelson is involved.
Echorich – So true on “Helpless!” It’s been stuck in my head all night since I got home from work! I also loved Patti Smith’s version on “Twelve” but this is just amazing. The vibe is redolent of the Nelson to come on “Getting The Holy Ghost Across.” With a Neil Young cover, it’s amazing that no US label bit on this project. Listening to this obsessively as I have over the last two days, it now occurred to me that Midge Ure was paying close attention to the “Helpless” rhythm track when constructing the title track to “The Gift” the following year. Hmm?
MIdge Ure, borrow other people’s ideas?
absolutely love this man. always thought he was the “pop dude” who made YMO more paletteable, but he really is an innovator in his own right. if you don’t have “Neuromantic”, check it out immediately – its a wild pop album which puts the rhythms up front, you know it must’ve been written by a drummer. he’s made great music in all his phases but man…80’s YT was something else
critterjams – I immediately bought “Neuromantic” when it was released, since at the time Alfa Records was trying to establish a foothold in the American market. But it’s an LP and listening moved to the silver disc by 1985. It’s been decades since I’ve heard it.
Wow! Even though I was in my deepest Bill Nelson phase at the time, I never bought this. Limited funds, I guess. I just listened to Helpless and it IS a great version and I also believe it’s the only time Nelson recorded a cover song. Fascinating! Will be keeping any eye out for this one.
Jeremy Shatan – At the time I was aware that it was an Iva Davies buried treasure, and I had always wanted this for that reason. It was not until I investigated recently that i saw that Nelson was so prominent in it. And I was already in my Deep Nelson phase at the time as well! Years later I was aware that Nelson had released a 12″ on Cocteau of “Stranger Things Have Happened” and I assumed at the time that it was a non-LP single.
Cocteau Records – COQ T 18 • 1985
1. Stranger Things Have Happened
2. Bounds Of Reason, Bonds Of Love
3. Metaphysical Jerks
I always wanted both the 12″ and the “Wild + Moody” mini-album, but never came across a copy. Strange that the Cocteau 12″ has the Iva Davies co-write on the A-side with the Nelson co-write/lead vocal on the B-side. The B-side, “Metaphysical Jerks” sorts Mick Karn on bass and later turned up on the “Duplex” 1989 Cocteau Nelson compilation CD which I never got a copy of. How did I miss that one?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pingback: Yukihiro Takahashi: 1952-2023 | Post-Punk Monk