The internet is replete with nifty ideas for combating hangovers, from the sensible to the faddy, from the sublime to the ridiculous. And yet it is mysteriously silent about defeating the spiritual hangover that smites one after a great holiday; a far worse proposition if you ask me.
All that carefree living is a thing of the far distant past as you shoehorn yourself back into your routine, your tighter-than-14-days-ago work trousers and your, umm, shoes. You survive the first day on adrenalin and chatting to folk you haven’t seen for a spell, the second day is the one that really bites.
Well struggle no longer followers. As wise as I am mighty, I have found the cure for this existential absurdist malaise. I prescribe 5 naked Japanese dudes riding on 4 bikes to be taken loudly on milky-blue coloured vinyl in the evening. Listen to Flower Travellin’ Band Anywhere at high volume, repeat if necessary until cured. Move on, groove on.
Released in 1970 Anywhere was the first release for singer Yuya Uchida’s new project, Flower Travellin’ Band. A friend of John Lennon’s, Uchida had his mind blown seeing Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Led Zeppelin perform in London and Paris and after an initial (almost) solo effort*, Anywhere was where his vision really bore fruit. Taking a backseat musically he melded, melted and molded musicians together until he found the line up he wanted to produce.
Uchida rushed the new band into the studio before they had time to write any songs, so desperate was he to capture the proto-metal sturm und drang he heard in his head, that a pair of brief instrumental bookends aside**, Anywhere is a covers LP; but, oh. what covers!
Opening with ‘Louisiana Blues’^ Flower Travellin’ Band hit their straps hard and roar on past, the guitars courtesy of Hideki Ishima, churn, glide and snarl appropriately. Think the Doors jamming with Grand Funk Railroad, sort of. Not something I write very often, but the harmonica solo is really quite brilliant. Somewhere in the middle of the 15 minute workout, the band really take off and head for the horizon – elegiac plains, turbulence and all. It is the best thing on Anywhere by a country mile; hell it would be the best thing on most LPs by a country mile. True story.
Then FTB throw a real curveball into the mix covering ‘Black Sabbath’, a bold move in 1970. I really like their version too, it is far doomier and stranger than the original, sounding two decades ahead of its’ time. The rhythm section almost totally withdraw from the song, leaving those chords raining darkly down in isolation, shimmering weirdly in the foreground. Joe Yamanaka^^ nails the vocal perfectly, infusing his three octave range with plenty of Ozzy weirdness whilst avoiding doing an impression of the OO. It is all pleasantly squelchy.
Flip the critter over and … let’s just say I can live without ever hearing their cover of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ again. To cop from Cope^* they liven it up with some ‘Stairway To Heaven’ chords, but I have to say I find the vocals painful in the extreme – not that I would ever have said that to Yamanaka’s face.
Far, far better is their reading of ‘Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man’, shorn of blarting sax and jazz snare drums Flower Travellin’ Band convert it into the low-fi grungey proto-metal anthem it always should have been – sacrilege alert, I may actually prefer this version. The rhythm section of Joji Wada and Jun Kozuki get to be plenty nimble shoring up some blazing guitaring by Ishima. Things get plenty sweaty on this one.
In a quest for a bigger audience FTB took off to live in Canada for a few years in 1971 after the release of their, done in 2 days, masterpiece Satori*^. For my money I will take this joyous calling card every time, ignore the sometimes sniffy reviews Anywhere attracts – they’re wrong, I’m right. That’s why you read this.
Anywhere is bold, visionary and occasionally brutal, not many covers albums can claim that. Hangover = vanquished.
PS: As I was a bit short of the nearly £2k needed for an original Japanese copy of Anywhere I bought a purportedly RSD 2017 re-release by Phoenix Records on milky blue vinyl, which came with an insert and CD. It is a totally unofficial release but, it should be said, a good quality pressing.
*Challenge! which also featured some cracking LP cover nudity and Uchida on percussion and backing vocals.
**the only briefs found anywhere on, umm, Anywhere.
^a Muddy Waters cover, in a very nominal fashion.
^^teenage boxer and, later in life, noted hard man of Japanese cinema.
^*Julian, who’s book Japrocksampler (as well as being a brilliant read) features Anywhere on the cover.
*^spoiler alert: it didn’t work out for them.