Yukihiro Takahashi Saravah!

Yukihiro Takahashi Saravah!
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Released shortly before forming Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro Takahashi's debut, Saravah!, is a smooth, enjoyable mix of light jazz and '70s disco funk.
 
Its first half has a distinct late-night vibe to it. From Ryuichi Sakamoto's sprinklings of keyboard, the way the rhythms take a minute to kick in, or the laid-back, almost passive tone to Takahashi's voice, it feels like the soundtrack to an after-party.
 
Take "C'est Si Bon," for example; it's awash in late '70s synths and keyboards, but quickly lurches into a loose reggae rhythm while Takahashi sings and Sakamoto makes sweeping sounds on a keyboard or three. It's relaxed and mellow and thoroughly enjoyable.
 
However, things get funky on side two. "Elastic Dummy" is packed with handclaps, strings and loads of keyboards over a driving rhythm, smooth jazz/funk that would make Herbie Hancock proud. It leads into "Sunset," which builds into a slick disco groove and features a tasty guitar break. And finally, "Back Street Midnight Queen" is pure disco: touches of strings mix with a pulsing groove and loads of backing vocals. It's a gem.
 
The two sides of Saravah! feel initially at odds, especially if there's no gap dividing them, but as a whole they show the seeds of Sakamoto and Takahashi's next project: slick pop and electric grooves. And more than that, it's a ripping good listen.
 
For anyone who thinks Sunlight was Herbie Hancock's best album, or just can appreciate a good jazz/disco album on its own merits, Saravah! fits the bill. (We Want Sounds)