One of the more intriguing obscurities among the vinyl-collecting obsessive world was this 1971 effort, which eventually gained a re-release on CD in 2006. Kamijo, full name Tomoaki Kamijo, recorded and released three albums during that decade, this being the first. The combination of its stark cover, complete with offhand snapshot on the back, along with the direct thematic obsessions throughout the album (Martha is name-checked on at least three songs), immediately calls to mind someone like Jandek, but Ghost is another and perhaps clearer descendant, specifically that band's lower-key, hazily folk-rock side. Kamijo's singing is surprisingly deft, having much of the keening edge of the likes of the Incredible String Band but in a lower register, not to mention quieter soul efforts of the time. The understated, acoustic guitar/piano-led music he and his four-piece backing band create, meanwhile, is another gentle surprise; if it had been recorded by a bunch of folks just down the road from where Spirit were living around that time, nobody would have been surprised. It's not a question of completely lost originality here, more that Kamijo's ear for the Zeitgeist was so clearly tuned in to distant developments elsewhere. Of all the musicians, pianist Aki Takase deserves a particular nod; his soft-raindrop style on songs like "Start to Go" is a marvelous example of hearing just what a song needs and providing it without showboating. Standout songs are numerous, but "My Martha" is a definite joy, featuring Kamijo and fellow singer/guitarist Tetsuro Watabe's sweetly Beatles-derived harmonizing. In all, Martha is perhaps that rarest of albums, something whose utter obscurity, far from camouflaging a half-hearted effort, turns out to have been a completely undeserved fate. Ned Raggett, Rovi
- January 23, 2007
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