Sound — 10
Kotaro Oshio has, for quite some time now, been my idol of guitar. He has always been in a league of his own and this album is perhaps the best proof one could have of his amazing ability.
The first disc is the "Upper Side," with 16 of his most exciting and heart-pumping tracks. Having remastered and even added or changed the original tracks on the album, from the very first track - a rendition of his "Wings ~Hoping for the Future~" - he takes us on a journey of sound, a work of art masterfully painted by a single guitar. There is some reverb and echo added to some tracks such as "Landscape," giving the piece an almost ethereal sound. The CD ends with "Fight!," his baritone percussive masterpiece, giving an astounding and awe-striking finish to his upbeat pieces. When it comes to percussive guitar few can match Kotaro's competence and skill.
For the more subdued, the second CD, the "Ballade Side" (it's spelled like that) exists as well, where Kotaro shows the other side to his playing - the softer, more serene side. Its hard not to get lost in the winding, beautiful harmonics and melodies he creates. His playing invokes many emotions - happiness, sadness, nostalgia, longing being just a few I felt while listening to this album. Kotaro often names his pieces with only one or two words, such as "Hard Rain" or "Rushin'" - yet he captures the whole idea of each word in each and every piece on this album.
Lyrics — 8
Kotaro is not a singer, but that's not a bad thing - he is someone who relies on his guitar to sing for him. And sing it does. Whether it is in his faster, adrenaline-packed "tap-and-slap" works or his slower and more emotive works, his melodies are enough to touch anyone at their core. For proof of this one only needs to look at "Landscape" and visualise the immense picture he paints. In contrast, "Nayuta"'s (absolutely) beautiful harmonies and melodies seem to come from the heart itself.
There is some serious power to be felt in these pieces - lyrical and emotional interpretation is left to the listener for themselves to work out what different pieces mean to them on a personal and spiritual level.
Overall Impression — 10
Listening to this compilation album, it's not a stretch to say that in this album celebrating his 10 years of his performance career so far, Kotaro has shifted any boundaries of fingerstyle guitar. To me, few can match his level of skill - it takes a certain level of mastery of your instrument to be able to write pieces that are both exciting and emotional.
This is certainly an album that will be kept dear to me, and certainly one I will keep for years to come. To the great man himself - I know this is a few years late, but congratulations on your 10th year anniversary of performance. You've outdone yourself on this album and I sincerely hope there are many more years to come of your music.