Cherry Red Records [Release date 11.5.18]
Yuka Funakoshi is a Japanese keyboard virtuoso who would certainly give any of Sherinian, Rudess or Norlander a run for their money and, together with her band of exceptional session men, Yuka and Chronoship deliver progressive rock of the very highest order.
I five-starred her previous two albums – 2014’s ‘Dino Rocket Oxygen’ and ‘The 3rd Planetary Chronicles’ from 2015 (2011’s ‘Water Reincarnation’ passed GRTR! by), commenting at the time that she had been rummaging deeply into her parents’ imported prog rock albums from the ‘70s.
And ‘Ship’ demonstrates that the rummaging continues…
Recorded in her native Japan (ensuring sound quality to die for), ‘Ship’ is a part-concept album – the first seven tracks being loosely based around the story of the legendary Argo from Greek mythology, the remaining four tracks being a group of just great prog rock songs.
In keeping with previous albums, ‘Ship’ is almost entirely instrumental – the wonderful exceptions being the pastoral piano led ‘Tears Of The Figurehead’ where the legend that is Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) does the honours, and two of the final four tracks – ‘Visible Light’, sung in Japanese to an almost ‘Edge-like’ guitar riff and ‘Did You Find A Star’ with its haunting piano motif and outstanding fret-work from Takashi Miyazawa.
As you would expect, the keyboard work of Yuka herself dominates – but not to the exclusion of the rest of the band and there is plenty of top-notch guitaring and, it must be said, drumming of the highest order from sticksman Ikko Tanaka.
As I said, the appreciation of all things seventies is here for all to hear, but the application of a contemporary sheen pushes all her work beyond mere pastiche.
The album segues beautifully between the tranquil and the aggressive, in the time-appointed manner of the days of yore, yet is very much a product of the 21st century.
You can hear Yes in the keys of ‘Landing’, Atomic Rooster in the wonderful Hammond work on ‘Golden Fleece’ (for me, the highlight) and even Rare Bird here and there, but there’s also the Levellers-like ‘Old Ship On The Grass’ and the almost U2 ‘Visible Light’.
The end result is a superlative album chock-full of the sounds of all your favourite progressive rock bands – yet remaining true to itself on every level.
An intriguing discovery for devotees of all rock music, but for fans of the genre, an absolute must-have.
Review by Alan Jones
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