Album review: MARTY FRIEDMAN – Tokyo Jukebox 3

Mascot Records/The Players Club [Release date 16.03.21]

Still mining a rich seam of J-pop, guitarist Marty (Megadeth) Friedman is now on his third Tokyo Jukebox album of instrumentals.

The J-Pop genre is ubiquitous in Japan, the country Friedman has called home for the last 20 years. It is where he has become something of a cultural celebrity, and a much sought after studio and live musician.

Three Jukebox albums in ten years suggests that he is in no hurry. His instrumental versions of J-pop hits have proved so popular that his tour schedule is built on the back of his Jukebox releases, and he tours frequently, especially in Europe and the Americas.

On this third album he chooses wisely and widely from a huge J-pop back catalogue, and opens with the eminently melodic 90′s hit, ‘Maikenaide’, lit up by sparks of dissonance and sprinkled with crunching riffs.

Equally popalicious, the theme to a long running Anime series, ‘Kaize Ga Fuiteiru’, is a joyous up tempo track, discreetly shaded with melancholy.

On the much heavier ‘Senbonzakura’ and the big sounding ‘Echo’, he plays with complex time changes and a variety of melodies. It’s not pop as we know it. J-pop is constructed around complex rhythms and harmonic patterns, and most songs can quite easily have up to 60 chords, compared to western pop songs with only 5 or 6. Yet Friedman makes this marriage of musical approaches seem dazzlingly simple.

The first “single” release from the album is ‘A Perfect World’ with guest vocalist Alfakyun, a comparative newcomer to J-pop, yet who already has hundreds of thousands of subscribers on Youtube and Instagram. Netflix fans will recognise it as the theme from the long running series, “B: The Beginning”

If you’re already hooked on Friedman’s Jukebox, it’s reassuring to know that there is so much more J-pop material ripe for the picking. The Tokyo Jukebox could run and run. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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