Essential New Music: Various Artists “Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973”

The angura (“underground”) movement in Japan’s 1960s/1970s arts scene was, like the West’s counterculture, created by children whose parents’ generation had fought in WWII. The inescapable reality of growing up in an occupied, rapidly changing country accounted for angura artists’ turn from traditional cultural forms toward direct expression of generational angst. This commendable anthology of music by angura artists of the late ’60s/early ’70s is the first to be released by a Western label. While Western rock and soul provide a clear influence on the sound—more the latter than the former, frankly—the music is no simple reproduction of American and U.K. psychedelia, which often devolved into loose elasticity. Angura artists maintained the traditional Japanese artistic affection for precision in execution; the songs are tightly constructed, the recordings clean and largely devoid of production effects, allowing the melodies, all quite lovely, to take center stage. Standout tracks include Happy End’s Zabriskie Point-esque “Natsu Nandesu,” Sachiko Kanenobu’s easy, soulful “Anata Kara Toku E” and the Dylan II’s “Otokorashiitte Wakaru Kai,” a Japanese-language cover of His Bobness’ “I Shall Be Released.”

—Eric Waggoner