Challenge! review by Yuya Uchida & The Flowers

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  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8 (1 vote)
Yuya Uchida & The Flowers: Challenge!

Sound — 8
First incarnation of the legendary Japanese hard prog psych rock act Flower Travellin' Band. Debut album by Yuya Uchida & the Flowers which was started by Yuya Uchida, a Japanese actor who already was making some rockabilly singles in the early '60s and was one of the opening performers when the Beatles came to Japan in 1966.

Upon travelling to Europe in 1967, he was immediately inspired by Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the Who. When he returned to Japan, he started the band the Flowers with female vocalist Remi Aso, and the band caused a sensation in the Japanese music scene. Most of the tracks on this album are covers of songs by Cream, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane. This is a completely different lineup from Flower Travellin' Band besides the members Hideki Ishima who was considered one of the best guitarists in Japan at the time and Joji Wada on drums, these two members are constantly the real energy and backbone to the whole band and would provide Flower Travellin' Band with vital sound needed to produce their proto-metal sound. The album cover is ground-breaking for the late 60's, featuring the band's members, including the female vocalist Miss Aso, naked in a field, this helped change the musical landscape for ever and the debut Flower Travellin' Band album would have a similar cover that would be provocative during the sixties as well with the band members all riding naked on motorcycles.

Lyrics — 8
The whole album consists mainly of covers by famous groups at the time that were also part of the hard rock psychedelic movement but they are offered in a whiny guitar that gives the band one of their main characteristics. This band is really Yuya Uchida, he is the main visionary behind the group and produces the album also assisting with backing vocals and percussion at times, being a leader that was really involved and being an actual member of the band. Even though he has is own vision in mind somewhat different from what Flower Travellin' Band would later do as they would be doing original work themselves eventually it would inspire them and lead them in the right direction with the hardest rock of the time, they would just get even heavier on their next album though.

They may be just doing covers of bands but they bring their own persona to whatever their doing and put a mark on it that is uniquely theirs with distinct sound quality and they turn up the volume with more vibrant and bursting covers. "Hidariashi No Otoko" is the track that I always loved off of the album and it is most certainly a key track because it shows the band in their least refined with more original flair and Joji Wada's mystical style of drumming that would appear later on albums like "Satori" along with Katsuhiko Kobayashi on that screeching steel guitar that has that trademark sound of the group in dirty heavy blues style with sliding unpredictable wicked bass runs. The musicians are very promising but particularly the guitarist and the drummer and guitarists on here and it's heard, but the whole group manages to maintain their grasp of intonation for whatever song their doing as Remi Aso would have definitely have had approval from Janis Joplin and she probably would have been honored to have heard her as the passion and moods that Janis would use are spiritually evoked on tracks like the cover of "Summertime" which was a cover itself as was the cover of "Hey Joe" they did.

"I'm So Glad" is my second favorite song off of the album simply because it captures a mood that Eric Clapton with Cream left off, sure the smooth fast jazzy beats of Ginger Baker are impossible to compete with and Jack Bruce's hard riffs but there is a whole new garage rock approach here that would be something like what punk was where you didn't have to be a prodigy to be in a band although guitarist Hideki Ishima would prove to be so, most of the the members really do collaborate well and harmoniously to form a solid structure.

Overall Impression — 9
I understand this group may not be exactly as great as the legends and they had big shoes to fill when they were taking it upon themselves to make an album that was essentially full of nothing but covers, but you have to view this from a totally different spectrum as a person who just had a powerful epiphany, at totally different vantage point. I mean these were a bunch of young kids with big dreams and the main female vocalist didn't understand English but they do better than any one of us would trying to sing in Japanese! The guitar playing is never going to be as great as say Hendrix or Pete Townshend but Hendrix himself was on another level compared to most guitarists and on another planet even. The freewheeling rebellion that possesses these guys makes each cover have an energy and new take to every song, they may be trying to imitate a certain sound but they end up sounding great, maybe not a five star album as good as say Big Brother's "Cheap Thrills" but still satisfying as an album that shows that passion and soul are key in a band.

The band hadn't quite yet found its real calling but Yuya Uchida gave it the nudge it needed in the right direction where they would find their calling after doing even harder covers with a more powerful lineup on the next album with their own original compositions. These guys were definitely had a lot of competition within their own country and they had to set a leading example as far as wild rebellious youth and in terms of impressive musicianship as being a young newly formed band and they remain one of the few surviving original hard rock Japanese bands that would go on to form a group that had a huge impact on the proto-metal genre and they blew most of the competetion out of the water at the time, proving to have more guts and glory rock than "Blues Creation" (also released 1969) and even "April Fool," and when they did covers they modernized them more than even the Mops did beating their own fuzzy proto-punk guitar licks and dark lyrics (they were still also another great band); the band had managed to move whatever they did forward so it sounded fresher and had it's own style to it pushing for a more modern sound.

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