Awakening album cover

Hiroshi Sato , Wendy Matthews


Blame Tik Tok or the YouTube algorithm, but Japanese “city pop” experienced quite the renaissance in the west over the past few years. A cosmopolitan blend of ’80s pop with R&B silkiness and cool jazz, if you wanted to distill all the traits of the form down into a single album, you would have keyboardist Hiroshi Sato’s 1982 classic Awakening. Sato collaborated often with Haruomi Hosono in the 1970s, though declined to join his next band, Yellow Magic Orchestra. Instead, Sato decamped to Los Angeles and absorbed the yacht-friendly smooth pop of that era, taking cues from Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, and more. Sato convinced his label to purchase him a Linn LM-1 drum machine and basically cut Awakenings as a one-man band. With crucial vocal turns from vocalist Wendy Matthews, songs like “Blue and Moody Music” and “Only a Love Affair” convey ache and loss in the sleekest of settings. For fans of Aja, Bill Evans Trio, and Bobby Caldwell alike, Awakenings will open you up to the many splendors of ’80s pop sophistication from the Far East.

Andy Beta

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