A decent compilation.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 08/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A compilation of Japan's Hansa material, "Assemblage" would serve as a reasonable introduction to the band if it were available domestically. This release carries a higher price tag as it's from the UK and contracts the value only to those seeking rarities.
The album tracks Japan's development, from their early glam days to their move to their synth pop middle period-- being a compilation of Hansa recordings only, it does not contain any material from their later (and more critically valuable) period. For what it has, it's a reasonable introduction. It includes two tracks from each of the band's three albums-- a reasonable selection of that material, I could argue selection of tracks (although they did pick my two favorites from "Quiet Life"), but the selections are representative of the albums.
More valuable is several pieces from singles. Early b-side "Stateline" is included and is roughly indistinguishable from the material on the first album in being somewhat dull albeit energetic glam. Singles "Life in Tokyo" and "European Son", both written between "Obscure Alternatives" and "Quiet Life" (although "European Son" was not released until much later) must have been quite a shock for fans of Japan's early material-- vocalist David Sylvian constructed a swirling dance piece, singing in a comfortable mid-range tenor rather than his glam vocals, and emphasis was on synthesizers and beats rather than guitar crunch. Original album closer "I Second That Emotion" (a Smokey Robinson cover) is, unexpectably, quite nice. Presented as a mid-tempo ballad, Sylvian's voice picks up a warmth and a resonance that it lacked even on recent material, Karn's bass echoes this warmth, and the sax arrangement is fantastic.
This reissue is housed in a digipack with liner notes featuring an essay by website maintainer and fan Paul Rymer and is augemnted by four bonus tracks-- all remixes from the Japanese release of the compilation, and two videos. Admittedly, I found the remixes somewhat extraneous. The real value is in the remastering, which was quite well done and presents the record crisp and clean, rather than the old clunky vinyl transfers that are available on the American market.
As compilations goes, it's pretty good, but honestly I'd stick with the albums were I looking into Japan for the first time. Start with "Quiet Life"-- it's not as good as they'd get, but it's probably a good introduction to the band."
Another Japan remaster?!
Michael Stack | 05/27/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Those who bought the mono 'In Vogue' compilation and hoped to get the rare remixes on stereo here will be disappointed. 'European Son' is the original 12", NOT the Steve Nye remix. 'Life in Tokyo' is the 1982 12" version as found on the 2001 Quiet Life reissue cd, NOT the rare 6.18 version from Assemblage UK cassette. However, you do get rare videos of 'I Second That Emotion' and 'Life in Tokyo', and the remastering is quite good. Worth getting if it's cheap."