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Ryo Kawasaki: Ryo Kawasaki and the Golden Dragon Live

In the days before “smooth jazz,” there was fresh, live fusion which screamed and soared on impossible permutations of rhythm and timing. This gonzo era is the setting for a newly re-mastered reissue of Ryo Kawasaki and the Golden Dragon Live (Sony/Satellites VACV-0007; 41:42), which documents a series of Tokyo club concerts from 1980. The recording not only shows off what a Van Halen-ish shredder Kawasaki used to be (witness the wicked riffs of “Agana” and the wild, screaming soloing on the eastern-inflected “Comes the Night”), but is also notable as a landmark in sound technology history. Live was one of the first live digital recordings, tapping into the power of Sony’s first digital two-track-the precursor to CD or DAT. It also shows off Kawasaki’s innovation on the Mesozoic version of today’s guitar synth, which back then was a 500 lb. monster that airport officials could not identify (the liner note story is hilarious!). With that said, the sound quality on the new disc (which includes “enhanced CD” computer features) is excellent, popping off the speakers with intensity. The stories behind the recording make newly relevant off-key warbler Ilana Iguana’s lyrics: “tomorrow’s dreams are not as far away as they seem.”

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