Ship is the fourth studio release from Yuka & Chronoship, the Japanese progressive rock outfit centred around the huge talent of keyboardist, vocalist and composer Yuka Funakoshi, ably supported by session musicians Shun Taguchi (bass), Takashi Miyazawa (guitar), and Ikko Tanaka (drums, percussion).
While the overall conception of the album takes up the theme of various types of vessel, and one should not underestimate Funakoshi's holistic approach to the production of her works, attention is immediately drawn to the opening suite, a musical retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Sonja Kristina is brought in from Curved Air to provide the voice of the figurehead, chorus-like adumbrating the tragedy which is to follow, unheard by the travellers whose unthinking optimism bursts out in the energy of the opening sections. If Kristina's appearance serves as an appreciative nod to the many 70s influences which permeate this otherwise instrumental piece, it also underlines, in the way much of creation does, the way in which the artist is able to assimilate influences and imbue them with a fresh aspect and direction. This is an impressive collection of pieces performed by one of the finest collections of musicians in the business. The sound is fresh, tinged with superlative heavy, intricate guitar work, rolling Hammond organ and keyboard wizardry aplenty, although Funakoshi wisely does not hog all the limelight. No-one on this album is here to make up the numbers and there is plenty to admire in a breathless first half.
On what, in old money would have been side two, The Airship Of Jean Gireaud presents a stark change of mood, almost playful and airily expansive compared to the intensity of the Argo piece, capturing the whimsy of the subject matter with an almost child-like vocal refrain while Old Ship On The Grass provides echoes of sea-shanty in honour of past voyages. Did You Find A Star? Is more of a coda like reflection on the physical and temporal journey sung to the backdrop of a ghostly piano refrain and sandwiched in the middle Visible Light provided something more contemporary shimmering with energy.
This is musicianship and progressive rock of the highest order, reminiscent of a classic era while proving that it is still possible to rummage around in Atomic Rooster's sock drawer and come up with something fresh and exciting which will continue to delight play after play. For an album that waves to the past, it was a delight to make the acquaintance of these guys and made me feel happy about the future with five stars to guide the way!
***** Andrew Cottrell
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