"Opening The Gate" - The Gate, the new album by Joji Hirota. Rewieved by Alan Hewitt.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to review this album. As a longstanding fan of the work which Joji does with Anthony Phillips, I have often wondered what his own work would be like and now I know...

The album opens with the elegiac beauty of Reminiscences II which to me could very easily have been a part of the soundtrack to Schindler's List with its plaintive violin and the absolutely stunning sounds of the Shakuhachi a Japanese bamboo flute with a sound which is full of extreme beauty and a haunting quality lacking in the Western variety. This is followed by Esashi Aiwake which opens with a short percussive interlude before continuing the trend set by the first track with the violin and Joji's own powerful vocals which are an art form in their own right.

This is followed by the percussive power of Hiten, Ryu and the Pageants Compete which is a wonderful demonstration of Joji's talents as a drummer and is a hypnotic and emotion charged piece - a personal favourite. Komori Uta is an altogether more atmospheric piece which reminds me to some of the more esoteric moments from Genesis' The Lamb lies down on Broadway before returning us to the world of tranquility and beauty as expressed by the delightful violin passage accompanied by the charming vocals of eight year old Eimi Mori. Profoundly lives up to its name, and is a piece which shimmers like a piece of Japanese lacquer with a multitude of depths each more imponderable than the last.

Kokiriko Melody once again captures the spirituality of so much Oriental music and Joji's vocals are truly stunning here; this is a symphony in miniature and a true delight to the ears. Hokkai is another rhythm- charged piece with some fantastically tuneful drumming in a way which I don't think I have ever heard a Western drummer play it is almost as if the drums are singing! This is nicely contrasted by the harp and shakuhachi playing of Lullaby from Takeda which once again also features Joji's glorious vocals. The album is rounded off by the title track; The Gate which manages to conjure up the beauty, the drama and the mystery of Japan all in one - no mean feat by anyone's standards!

So there you have it, folks, Joji's album is one which by turns inspires and challenges, amuses and saddens indeed it runs the entire spectrum of the human emotions all in one and as such is an album that should be listened to on a number of levels and all of which will reward you both mentally and spiritually - definitely one of THE albums of 1999 and an essential purchase for all lovers of good music!

Joji Hirota: The Gate, Real World CDRW82

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