A special box set that collects all the key early albums from guitarist Osamu Kitajima – including a few rock moments too! First up is Shinchugoku – the earliest album we’ve ever seen from legendary guitarist Osamu Kitajima – a set that’s a bit more pastoral and down to earth, as you might guess from its cover image! The work is a mellow take on folksy psych modes – electric and acoustic guitars mixed together on a set of songs that are hauntingly tuneful, with these evocative lyrics in Japanese that really fit the melodies – and which somehow have an appeal that goes way beyond the boundaries of language, thanks to a style that’s expressive, but never overdone. A few tunes are a bit harder rocking, but the record’s a pretty laidback affair overall – and titles include “Inchunfa”, “Ronshuiko”, “Tohoko”, “Ketsumazuitemo”, “Takai Takai Koanryo”, and “Hyakusho Wa Tanoshi”. Next is Benzaiten – a really unique project from guitarist Osamu Kitajima – a player you might know from his smoother fusion sets at the end of the 70s – but who works here in a very trippy blend of Japanese instrumentation and electric jazz! Kitajima handles a heck of a lot of strings – both acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and even the biwa – a Japanese style of lute, which appears to be electrified on the record. There’s also work on hayashi-bue, narimono, and shakuhachi – other Japanese instruments folded into the album’s mix of fuzz and keyboards – which are often used sparely, but in ways that bring a nicely psychedelic vibe to the album at times. Osamu vocalizes a bit – but mostly in ways that just go along with the music – and titles include “Benzaiten”, “Tengu”, “Whoma”, and “Taiyo”. The Osamu album follows – a set that’s still got some of the exotic elements of his other material, but which also brings in a stronger fusion component too – mixing Kitajima’s work on guitar and koto with plenty of Fender Rhodes and other great electric touches! The set was recorded in LA, and definitely has some warm Cali fusion elements – but Osamu also still hangs on to some “eastern” flavor with his own instrumentation – which is echoed by a bit of shakuhachi and nohkan by Tatsuya Sano. There’s vocals on a few tracks, but they don’t get in the way much, and with the cool banks of keyboards and nice drums, you hardly notice them at all! Sweet and breezy – in the best Japanese 70s fusion mode – and with tracks that include “Frost Flowers”, “Elemental Spirits”, and “Fur, Fin & Feather”. Minnie Riperton also sings vocals on the track “Yesterday & Karma”! Masterless Samurai is a record that mixes together LA electric with some folksier elements, in the continuing exploration of cross cultural patterns that drifted across Kitajima’s work from this time. The album’s got a compelling blend of electric and acoustic instrumentation, and features work by players that include Clare Fischer, Victor Feldman, Stix Hooper, John Klemmer, and Bobby Hutcherson. Titles include “Floating Garden”, “Wild Monk”, “Golden Mean”, and “Whoga”. Dragon King is a great record from Osamu Kitajima – one of his most soulful ever! The record features some additional production and arrangements by Richard Evans – who takes Osamu’s Japanese fusion style, and gives it a sparkling modern soul groove that’s perfect for US audiences. In fact, Osamu’s frequent use of eastern instrumentation – koto, biwa, and other instruments – works perfectly with the flair for the exotic that Evans always had during his years at Cadet. Includes the smooth stepper “Say You Will” with vocals by Phil Perry and Rena Scott – plus the tracks “Yamame”, “Dragon King”, “Willow Pattern”, and “Share My Love”.