Flower Travellin' Band were an esoteric Japanese psychedelic rock/ heavy metal outfit active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, consisting of Akira "Joe" Yamanaka (vocals), Hideki Ishima (guitar), Joji "George" Wada (drums) and Jun Kozuki (bass).
The band was initially organized by Japanese entertainer and entrepreneur Yuya Uchida as "The Flowers," a cover band, and featured two vocalists - male vocalist Yuya Uchida, and female vocalist Remi Aso, who was touted as the Japanese version of Janis Joplin. Their first album consisted of covers of Western pop songs. It was primarily notable for the fact that all of the band members appeared nude on the cover, including Aso, which was considered scandalous at the time.
However, after the "Flowers" album, Uchida lost interest and Aso drifted away. The remaining members reorganized themselves, acquiring Joe Yamanaka as a vocalist on the recommendation of Uchida, and proceeded to explore a more original and rock-oriented direction.
In early 1973, they were billed to open for the Rolling Stones, but Mick Jagger's visa was rejected from a previous drug conviction and all concerts were cancelled. Later that year the band broke up, with Yamanaka going on to release solo albums in styles varying from David Bowie-styled glam rock to roots reggae.
Guitarist Hideki Ishima released a solo album, One Day, in 1973, and continued a career as a studio musician, guesting on several of Yamanaka's solo albums. Ishima is still active in the music scene in Japan, and specializes in playing the "sitarla," an instrument he designed. The sitarla apparently combines the qualities of a solidbody electric guitar and the sitar.
In recent years, Flower Travellin' Band has been rediscovered by the heavy metal, stoner rock and doom rock movements in America and England, and are often cited as influential by bands involved in these movements.
Yamanaka continues to be popular in Japan as a solo artist, and celebrated his 60th birthday in 2006 with a tour and the release of a live DVD, Joe's Bag. He continues to perform Flower Travellin' Band songs as part of his live show.
DISCOGRAPHY:Challenge (Under the band name "Yuya Uchida and the Flowers") (1969)-- Album of covers of 1960's songs. The name of the band at this point was actually Yuya Uchida And Flowers; entrepreneur, entertainer and promoter Uchida was a part of the band at this point. The album featured female vocalist Remi Aso, who was pictured nude on the front of the album with the rest of the band in the same state, causing a minor furor in Japan. The music consists of covers of Janis Joplin and Cream songs, among other 1960's hits.
Anywhere (1970)-- Has the notoriety of debuting the first known Black Sabbath cover, namely the song "Black Sabbath". Uchida and Aso had left the group by this point, and they reorganized themselves as Flower Travellin' Band. The album consists of five lengthy cover songs, which are radically reimagined from the originals, with extended guitar soloing and quite different arrangements from the originals. Critically praised, particularly for the drastic reworkings of Muddy Waters' "Louisiana Blues" and the traditional "House of the Rising Sun," both of which are well-nigh unrecognizable. Once more the album cover courted controversy in Japan, featuring the four members of the band riding down the road stark naked on Honda motorcycles. The band was signed to Atlantic Records in Japan on the basis of these songs. Interestingly, the album apparently charted briefly in Canada.
Kirikyogen (1970) (as Kuni Kawachi and Flower Travellin' Band)-- Recordings made before Anywhere with keyboardist Kuni Kawachi, not long after Yamanaka joined the band. More psychedelic and progressive rock influenced than other FTB projects, with more intricate song structure and arrangements than FTB would evidence until their final album, Make-Up. The album was produced in 1970 by Yuya Uchida, but Uchida for some reason was not satisfied with the results, and the album was not released until after Flower Travellin' Band had broken up.
Satori (1971)-- Probably the most well-known FTB album in the West, Satori consists of five original songs, "Satori parts I-V". These are lengthy heavy rock pieces, verging on progressive rock or jam rock at times, with furious guitar soloing and strong arranging, as well as Yamanaka's over-the-top vocals. Critically, Satori is considered the album where FTB truly came into their own. Stoner Rock and Doom Metal enthusiasts often cite this album as one of the precursors in those genres. This album was later utilized as the soundtrack to Takashi Miike's film Deadly Outlaw: Rekka in which Akira "Joe" Yamanaka and Yuya Uchida had small roles.
Made In Japan (1972)-- More fully structured songs, featuring a stronger progressive rock influence, although the intense guitar workouts and longer song structures remain somewhat similar to Satori. During this period, Flower Travellin' Band opened for many of the top rock acts of its day, including Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Jeff Beck Group, and others.
Make Up (1973)-- Double album, consisting of both live and studio recordings. The progressive rock influence is more pronounced here, and the band explores even more original territory compositionally. Yuya Uchida guests as a vocalist on one song, and the band is augmented by keyboardist Kuni Kawachi (with whom they had recorded an album previously). The band's final album.
From Pussies to Death in 10,000 Years of Freakout (recorded 1969-1970? issued 1995)-- Bootleg release of early material not on any previous album. One song clearly dates from the Yuya Uchida and Flowers era ("Stone Free") while the cover of Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years" probably dates from 1970 or later. The other two songs on the album may date from 1969 or 1970; musically the songs seem to be part of a transition from the mildly psychedelic copy-band pop of Challenge to the proto-metal of Anywhere. Overall much more psychedelic rock influenced early recordings. Contains the 20-minute-plus "I'm Dead Parts 1 and 2," cited by musician/rock critic/occultist Julian Cope as one of the outstanding musical moments in the band's history.
01. Satori, Pt. 1
02. Satori, Pt. 2
03. Satori, Pt. 3
04. Satori, Pt. 4
05. Satori, Pt. 5