|Album by Tak Matsumoto|
|Released||April 30, 2014 |
|Genre||Instrumental, Rock, Jazz|
House Of Strings
New Horizon is the tenth studio album by Tak Matsumoto, released on April 30, 2014. As with Tak's previous album Strings Of My Soul, the album is also scheduled for an international release at a later date and will again be produced by Tak alongside 335 Records' Paul Brown. The cover of the album and various promotional materials feature Tak's new signature Gibson Firebird guitar.
The theme of the album was to explore arenas that Tak had not yet experienced in his musical career thus far. Unlike with the oriental-themed Hana and hard rock release of DRAGON FROM THE WEST, New Horizon sees Tak journey more into the jazz style he began cultivating in his 2010 and 2012 releases. In addition to highlighting guitar in ways he had not previously, the album also features solos for various other instruments, all of which were played freeform. Tak described the album as containing more variety than his past works, with the general makeup of the album being quite different to the rest of his catalogue. As with his previous release, the album features a vocal song in addition to its variety of instrumental offerings with American soul singer Wendy Moten as guest performer. The lyrics to the song, titled "Feel like a woman tonite", were again written by Dax Reynosa who had done the lyrics for "Live Life" on Strings Of My Soul.
The only tie-in promotion for the album came with the title song "New Horizon" being featured in a series of Sagawa Express commercials. Tak met with the producers of the television spots, viewed the footage of the commercial, and chose a section of the song he felt most suited the project from those he had recorded. In an additional promotional campaign offer announced on April 18, 2014, it was revealed that copies of the album would come packaged with a special card that could be redeemed to earn a chance to win one of 300 specially-pressed vinyl editions of the album.
The album was supported by his first true solo tour, Tak Matsumoto LIVE 2014 -New Horizon-. The tour, which ran from May to June of 2014, featured new and old support members for the shows, including Yoshinobu Ohga, who has worked with both Tak in his solo efforts as well as numerous recent B'z live outings.
Production and information
According to an interview in Be With! Volume 101, work on the songs that would eventually find their way onto the album began sometime in 2012. However, due to commitments stemming from the 25th anniversary for B'z and the subsequent tour, Tak put the album on hold temporarily. While the work's songs were composed over a period of roughly two years, actual production on the album began in December 2013 and was completed quickly in only a matter of months.
Tak explored a great number of ideas for the album. Initially, he wasn't sure what type of tracks to include on the work, as recounted in Be With!:
|“||"Be it self-composed songs or cover songs, I tried out a lot of ideas, but they were lacking my personal sense of direction—where I wanted to go with it. I really pondered over it for quite a while until our 25th anniversary came up, but I thought I'd consider it more while on the road. By the time the 25th anniversary tour ended, I still hadn't come to a decision. After November's EX THEATER ROPPONGI show, I went back into the studio and thought I'd give up on it for the time being if I didn't come up with something. I wondered about what I should do, so I tried getting the songs I'd come up with into shape and, if I couldn't bring everything together, I said to myself I would give up on it for now.||”|
For the release, Tak hadn't considered a collaboration with another artist unlike in 2010 or with an orchestra as in 2004. This was a work he intended to begin a new chapter of his career after his previous album's retrospective status serving to allow him to move on to new endeavors. After the B'z tour finished and he was entirely free, Tak had a small window of time with which to decide how the project would go:
|“||It became about how much I could put together in two weeks. I was able to package everything together in such a way that I was content with going ahead with producing and recording the album. The schedule for the solo tour was already set, but I was thinking, "If I can't get this together now, we'll have to cancel everything." It was almost like if I couldn't get it all together in those two weeks in December, I would have to go to the office and tell everyone, "Maybe no solo project after all..." (laughs)||”|
Tak again entrusted Paul Brown from 335 Records, the record label of friend and colleague Larry Carlton who would be releasing the album overseas, with advising aspects of the production. This time around, Brown was involved in the mixing process, as well as with selecting and ordering tracks for the Western release and also introduced Tak to many of the support musicians that make appearances on the album. Tak mentioned that the resulting recording sessions went very smoothly and were very productive. Specifically, he mentioned Brown as helping a great deal and bringing out the most in each song, entrusting him with many of the songs and with mixing:
|“||What really surprised me was what happened with the horn section. I originally had one prepared in Japan that we would use as a base. Paul then directed and changed several things here and there. If it had been in Japan, that would have been difficult, but this time, everyone was really flexible and agreed to adjust things. We started with using what Terachi-kun had come up with as a base before, and decided, "This needs a little bit more of that here" while changing it bit by bit. Everyone was really nice and would do anything if it meant we'd get a better song out of it. Paul also gave very detailed instructions for them.||”|
The compositions for the album differs a great deal from Tak's previous works, as he felt he had full instrumental freedom this time around. As a result, it led to new territory, such as wind instruments serving as a primary instrument for the first time in one of his works. Tak stated that while he composed freely for the album, he may have deliberately added jazz sections here and there. Notably, all of the solos of the non-guitar instruments are played as improvisations. For his guitar parts, Tak would not call them spontaneous improvisations exactly, instead stating that:
|“||Rather than calling them improvisations, I chose to use the good verses that I played while improvising and then incorporated them together. It really depends; there are times when the improvisation was really good and I would elect to use it as-is. But then there are other times when I would "manually" add them together while ensuring they flow well and are easy to listen to.||”|
In a number of instances throughout the album, Tak played with not just a guitar pick but utilized only his fingers as well. Additionally, Tak repeated that he recorded the guitar parts for the album the same way as he does during B'z sessions: for each song, he would continuously play a given melody over and over with different guitars until he found the one that was most suitable for the song in question. He noted while he's seen others that spend hours and even days attempting to find the right tone, he generally reaches that point quite quickly and decides, "This is it" early on and goes with it. Tak likewise reiterated that his aim with the album was the same as his goal with all of his work, which was to create the kind of music he would like to listen to himself.
The release of the album was promoted prior to making it to store shelves in a number of different avenues, including television, internet coverage, magazine featurettes, and radio appearances. On April 21, Tak appeared on Tokyo FM to discuss the album and his career, during which album tracks "Gakuseigai no Kissaten", "New Horizon", and "Feel like a woman tonite" were previewed at length for the first time.
While no music videos were filmed for the release, two brief television commercials for "New Horizon" and "Rain" began airing in the weeks leading up to the album's release.
All music composed by and guitar performed by Tak Matsumoto unless otherwise noted.
- New Horizon
- Brand new original composition for the album that was used as the theme song for a series of Sagawa Express television commercials. The song features a great deal of instrumentation on top of the guitar lead, including a full saxophone solo prior to one from Tak on guitar and then others from additional instruments. The free-form exploration is new for Tak's work, with him noting the song and its title represent a change in perspective toward trying out a great deal of new ideas. This willingness was described as reaching a new frontier, with Tak saying he felt something new and fresh was on the horizon as the album was coming together. For the purposes of the commercials in which it was featured, Tak met with the producers and looked over the footage they had shot featuring actress Ryouko Yonekura, and then selected a suitable song from what he had recorded and then edited it to suit the length of the spots.
- Take 5
- An updated cover of the revered Jazz masterpiece previously covered by Tak on his very first studio album Thousand Wave in 1988. Played in E-flat minor, the arrangement this time is carried out with a bossa nova flavor. The demo of the edition found here was created roughly a year prior to release, as Tak was in his "trial and error phase". The feel of the song evolved over the course of recording the final version after rhythm and flutes were added to the arrangement, with the flute being performed by Greg Vail. When it was mentioned to him that his original 1988 cover of the song bears no resemblance to this latest version, Tak laughed and said, "I haven't listened to my original cover [leading up to this album], but it's obvious it would change 26 years later."
- Feel like a woman tonite
- An all-new vocal song featuring American soul singer Wendy Moten with lyrics penned by Dax Reynosa, who had previously been credited with writing the lyrics to "Live Life" on Strings Of My Soul. Unlike then when his American representatives at 335 Records requested he add a vocal song to the album specifically, Tak anticipated they would wish for one this time around as well and prepared such a song in advance. He reported being very pleased with the result. Unlike with "Life Life", however, Tak did not meet with Moten to record the vocals, instead leaving it to his co-producer Paul Brown, who asked if Tak would like a male or female for the untitled composition Tak had prepared. Tak wanted a female vocalist for the vocal effort on his previous album originally, so he asserted it should be a woman this time around. The guitar used on the track is a new Fender Stratocaster, which is not common for Tak's recording as while he typically uses a variety of guitars, many are by Gibson.
- Rodeo Blues
- The first song that materialized for the album, "Rodeo Blues" entered base recording in 2012 and was the first song that Tak toyed with for the album. However, he could only satisfactorily complete one chorus before shelving it temporarily. He continued thinking that it would eventually result in a good song, and in December 2013 when earnest recording began anew in Tokyo, the song was completed in full. The musical style exhibited in the song was one of the specific sorts that Tak aimed to include on the album from the beginning.
- Island of peace
- The song begins with the sound of waves on a beach, followed by the guitar slowly fading in. The titular "Island of peace" refers to Hawaii, where the song was written. Interestingly, while portions of the guitar part are played with a pick, others Tak played with only his fingers.
- That's Cool
- One of the five tracks on which jazz legend Larry Carlton's son Travis Carlton plays bass. Tak met Travis when Larry came to Japan for their previous collaboration and saw Travis playing bass at the time and decided it would be great to have him involved. Along with appearing on the album, Travis was also enlisted as the bassist for Tak Matsumoto LIVE 2014 -New Horizon- to follow the album.
- Shattered Glass
- The song has faint minor chords serving as its basis. Tak came into the song with the idea of telling a story for the song in the album booklet and composed the song as a sort of soundtrack for the included story. Notably, Tak came up with the baseball-themed sentimental story himself. He mentioned having a great deal of fun working in this way on the song, which is similar to the concept B'z mini album FRIENDS from 1992.
- Tsuki no Akari — Light of the Moon, 月のあかり
- Cover of classic 1978 composition by Masahiro Kuwana. Tak had actually performed the song with Kuwana many times live, serving as a supporting musician very early in his career in his early twenties. When Kuwana passed away in 2012, Tak immediately began recording this cover of the song they had played together, commenting that, "I learned a lot from him and I'm very grateful for that."
- Reason to be...
- The song draws on the same image Tak had in mind when he composed the B'z song "Eien no Tsubasa" and its accompanying solo composition "THE WINGS" that had both previously served as theme music to the Japanese World War II film For Those We Love. Tak revisited that initial inspiration again for "hotalu" on TAKE YOUR PICK, and touched upon it again here. The title "Reason to be..." is meant to express the ideas of "There is definitely a reason that this happened" and "Why did this happen?" with regard to the war and what can be learned from it.
- BLACK JACK
- A re-recording of a song Tak made in 2003 for the Japanese anime Black Jack, created for and featured in a special video release in the series. The version found here is actually the third version, following the aforementioned original rock version that is not yet available on a disc release and the orchestrated version found on House Of Strings in 2004. Tak wished to include it on the album here but was not initially sure which style to play for it. He enjoyed the base melody, however, and decided to try the song, adding that he would have been dismayed had it not worked due to how much he enjoyed the song. However, he was initially not sure whether to try this song or the Fist of the North Star theme song he composed in 2004.
- Gakuseigai no Kissaten — Student Village Cafe, 学生街の喫茶店
- Cover of 1972 song by threepiece acoustic rock band GARO. As with the cover of "Take 5" earlier on the album, the song was one of those that emerged in Tak's "trial and error phase" early into working on the album. He chose the song as he felt the melody was mysterious and would be interesting to adapt into purely instrumental form. The song, as he recounted, was extremely popular at the time of release and was one he listened to at home many times after having his parents purchase the record for him.
- The studio debut of the song performed as Tak's solo from B'z LIVE-GYM Pleasure 2013 -ENDLESS SUMMER-. Tak stated he felt Shane Gaalaas and Barry Sparks were at their best here, on drums and bass respectively. The three of them had performed the song live on all forty stops for the aforementioned B'z tour, causing Tak to remark he felt the two of them really came to perfectly understand what he intended with the song. The guitar part has been reworked from the original live version, along with the organ part now being performed by Akira Onozuka as opposed to Takanobu Masuda who performed the role live. Tak stated that while he felt the song served as an appropriate closer to the album, it would likely be cut from the international version.
As with Tak's previous solo album Strings Of My Soul in 2012, the album is again tentatively scheduled for an international release following the domestic Japanese launch. Paul Brown again produced the album and will oversee its western release. Brown assisted not just in the production but also the mixing and ordering the track listing for the Western release. Tak mentioned in an interview with B'z fanclub magazine Be With! that the details of the Western edition were not "set in stone" just yet and there were still decisions to be made. He mentioned going through the album track-by-track with his production partners to decide which tracks were good fits for the American market, with unfit tracks set to be left out.
On April 27, 2014, Amazon.com listed New Horizon for pre-order with an expected release date of July 8, 2014. By May, the release date on the website had been set for September 9, 2014. Currently, the date of release has been left as undetermined.
Credits apply to original Japanese track order
- Tak Matsumoto: Guitar, Music Composition (Tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12), Arrangement