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Friday, Dec. 14, 2007


Beikoku Ongaku recommends . . .

Special to The Japan Times

In a music industry that's in a downward spiral because of its insistence on peddling boring products, the three releases below — one box set, one reissue and one live performance captured on DVD — shine well beyond the time period they come from.

Joy Division, Box Set Vinyl (Warner Brothers)

This bumper release saw the standard bearers of the U.K. post-punk scene collect together all their recordings on a four-LP box set. And it's art. Though it was limited to 3,000 copies worldwide, if you weren't able to get your hands on a copy, you can at least buy individually the digitally remastered deluxe-edition albums — the 1979 debut "Unknown Pleasures," its followup from 1980, "Closer," plus the two-disc rarities collection "Still," all of which were reissued this year.

Singer Ian Curtis may have committed suicide 27 years ago, but there has been a flurry of Joy Division-related activity in 2007, with Anton Corbijn's excellent Curtis biopic "Control" also getting a cinematic release (it hits screens in Japan in March 2008).

Curtis' greatest legacy, captured in this box set, is having spelled out the friction that existed between himself and the world. And that, after all, is the proper function of rock 'n' roll.

Nirvana: Unplugged In New York (Universal)

The best DVD of the year must be this. Though released on CD in 1994 and often remembered as MTV's best studio live performance, only now has the actual concert footage been made available.

Kurt Cobain's performance is totally spellbinding. His playing taps into the sadness that has always been at rock's core, so much so that, with his suicide six months later, it seems poignantly tragic.

Nirvana: Unplugged In New York (Universal)

Originally released in 1976, "Sorekara Saki no Kotoha" was Kato's first solo album after the breakup of Sadistic Mika Band, who supported Roxy Music in the U.K. and did much to bring Japanese rock 'n' roll to a worldwide audience.

Recorded at Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, the album is about three things: songwriting, mood and sound quality.

At this point in his career, Kato was at the summit of Japan's pop-rock sound, and this album will forever be the soundtrack of refined Tokyoites. Its longtime status as some kind of rare, phantom release was corrected with this year's timely reissue.

Daisuke Kawasaki is the editor-in-chief of the bilingual music magazine Beikoku Ongaku. He compiled a list of Japan's top 100 rock albums of all time for the Sept. 2007 issue of Rolling Stone Japan.

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