For those of you who read the Double Dealer review, done about half a year ago, it will not come as a surprise that I was genuinely pleased to receive the promo of Concerto Moon's "The End of the Beginning - Live in Tokyo" CD. What could possibly be better than a live album to get an overview of what a band is all about, a live album that seems to mark the end of the era of initial growth?

So I cranked up the volume, sat back and closed my eyes.

Concerto Moon are a really talented band. They have a good keyboard player capable of Jens Johansson-like duets, and exceedingly talented guitarist Norifumi Shima. The drummer is not the most innovative person you can think of, but he handles the percussion duties, um, dutifully.

But what the heck does vocalist Takao Ozaki think he's doing? Part of the time he's mumbling in the microphone so you really can't hear what the hell he's blabbering about, and when he cranks up the volume he displays the most awful vibrato and almost off-key singing this side of, of, um, The Great Kat or some such atrocious excuse for a vocalist. I mean, Mark Boals is good in comparison.

Is it me? Am I prejudiced against certain timbres or something? I just can't handle this. It leaves a very bad impression on the entire album. Listen to the beginning vocals of "Lonely Last Journey" and cringe with me... (even though the track itself is a good one)

Nonetheless, I have strived to engage my built-in Karaoke filters and try to hear past his verbal violence. Because, if you try hard enough, there is enough on this album that is good.

The music is largely neoclassical in nature, divided in somewhat heavier tracks and more straightforward, up-tempo cuts. The latter, which include "Time to Die" and "Unstill Nights", generally offer preciously little in the way of rhythmic variations but do have good neoclassical-style guitar work. Other tracks, such as "King of the Judas" [sic?], "Victim of Desire" and "From Father to Son" display clear Malmsteen influences, whereas "Alone in Paradise" has a Blackmore-style intro. Of the 10 live tracks on this CD, "Surrender" (not a cover) is another low. With lengthy, boring and uninspired audience interaction one cannot help but feel that a large part ought to have been cut out. Graham Bonnett could not have outworsened it.

The album includes three bonus studio tracks, kicking off with "When the Moon Cries". The vocals are louder but I honestly couldn't tell whether the lyrics are in Japanese or English, except for parts of the chorus. Thankfully, the two remaining bonus tracks are instrumental, including an instrumental version of "When the Moon Cries".

I think I will leave Concerto Moon alone until they get a decent singer. I don't understand how someone this atrocious can be in a band. It is quite impossible to enjoy the good aspects of this album.



Written May 2001


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