Naozumi Takahashi “Voice Rendezvous” (Review)


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“(…) Naozumi knows very well what he does best, and it’s that very best that he presents us with each and every performance he delivers in this album.” “(…) Naozumi has established himself as one of the powerhouse solo artists in the seiyuu business.”

Music virtuoso, Naozumi Takahashi, veteran seiyuu and singer, owner of one of the sweetest mid-toned / baritone voices in the entertainment business in Japan, is back with a new release. His fans were hungry for another release after 2012’s “〇十 PLUS+” . That album set the expectations high but the wait was indeed long, with no single releases linking both albums. Having had two years to work on the newest album, leaving no room for failure with this release, Naozumi proves why he’s a singer with good foundations and strengthened skills able to impress and leave a mark. They say experience overcomes almost everything and that can be proved by how well Naozumi, time after time, makes his music releases so entertaining, avoiding the fans’ wrath with a possible release of the same ol’ thing. Still the winning formula is the same. This release is the typical Naozumi kind of pop music and it lives up to our expectations. Now for a detailed overview and review of the album.

Voice Rendezvous

Album: Voice Rendezvous
Genre: J-Pop
Release date: 11/06/2014
Label: Realize Records

Tracklist:

01.LET'S GET OUT!
02.VOICE RENDEZVOUS
03.恋はマテリアル
04.Happado geanee!
05.CHU-CE ココロカラダコトバ
06.蘗桜
07.VAN VAN VAN!
08.ぷぅわんぷぅわかぷぅわん!
09.祭りのあととあとの祭り
10.黒い白鳥
11.11時のシンデレラ 

Track by track analysis:

01.LET’S GET OUT!

LET’S GET OUT! is the single chosen to promote this release and Naozumi kicks off this album in the best way possible. The synths lead the way to the guitars and paced drums. It’s not a fast pop-rock song, relying on a more mid-tempo pre-chorus and verses, slowly building up towards an amped up chorus where Naozumi does what he does best. The instrumental is fun, catchy and overall entertaining with the guitars taking the spotlight in the chorus while in the rest of the track the bass and drums are in charge of the track’s main body of sound. On the vocal side we have Naozumi showcasing his vocal skills. He’s not that kind of monotonic singer that stays uncomfortable when presented with a track providing multiple changes of rhythms and tempos, he simply adjusts himself completely to those changes and the results can be heard in this track: we have a slightly slow intro where the vocals simply go along with it, but slowly the track builds up as well as Naozumi’s vocals, leading to a quality performance in the chorus, captivating everyone with this track. Naozumi nails the song completely not breaking the pace or sounding a bit off like some artists tend to sound. It’s this ability to adapt to each and every track structure that makes him one of the powerhouse solo artists in the seiyuu business. A track that really is the big opener for this album. 5/5

02.VOICE RENDEZVOUS

The title track goes into Naozumi’s already well known territory. It’s a pop-rock track resorting to the more acoustic sound where acoustic guitars lead the way alongside the ever present synths in the background providing a multitude of elements, enriching this track. The track in itself is nothing out of the world or by any means, extraordinary, but it’s the fact that the track is just “typical Naozumi” that, in the end, it turns out to sound incredibly well. Once again we’re in with a mid-tempo instrumental, giving that gentle, sweet vibe provided by the acoustic guitars that only Nao-nii‘s music manages to give. The vocal track is impressive, but once again it’s nothing that Naozumi hasn’t done before. His usual mid-toned vocals lead the way in this track, but when the time comes to use his secret weapons, his flawless highs and falsettos, he uses those to completely defeat the listener, making us surrender to how powerful and good Naozumi can sound singing. 4.5/5

03.恋はマテリアル

The synths lead the way in a track that once again resorts to an elaborated, rich instrumental not completely satisfied with only the typical rock trifecta as its main body of sound: guitar, drums and bass, and goes out of his way to bring trumpets, strings and the sax. The result is a rich, not completely overwhelming, sound that fits best Naozumi’s music. It’s a solid track where once again, the vocals take away the spotlight with that hyper, fun stance and approach to the lyrics. 4/5

04.Happado geanee!

Another track going towards a more electronica sound, a complete change in terms of overall genre. It’s an electronic pop-rock track reminding us a bit of what was done in the USA and Europe back in the late 80’s, early 90’s with groups like Roxette. Naozumi resorts more to the synths in this track, those now serving as the base structure of the track where, drums, bass and guitars later blend their sound, giving us a highly danceable track without going all out with the electronica elements. It’s a completely different approach in comparison with the previous tracks, turning out to be a good surprise in this album. 4/5

05.CHU-CE ココロカラダコトバ

One of the best tracks of the album comes with an industrial, new wave flavour to it. A fabulous surprise in this release. We’re presented with dirty synths leading the way in this track alongside the fierce guitar riffs and aggressive drums. It’s a rough pop-rock track with hits and bits of industrial rock, be it for the synths or for the approach to the lyrics. It’s a basic structure for what is, probably, the best track in this album. It goes in a completely different way than any of his previous tracks: the pop sound and elements are still there but not as noticeable as in the previous songs, taking the spotlight away from the ever so melodic parts that are part of the main formula behind Naozumi’s music. It’s dirty, aggressive, unusual, danceable and strong, and one of the most innovative songs in Naozumi’s repertoire . 5/5

06.蘗桜

Back to where Naozumi shines the best, 蘗桜 is a slow paced ballad resorting almost completely to acoustic guitars and minimal drums, the guitar is melodic in the outro, it’s not featured a power solo but a powerful melodic solo, one of the highlights of this track. Overall this track is sweet, tender, emotional, the perfect track to showcase his vocal range. He doesn’t go necessarily all out with his vocal approach of the lyrics much less with his vocal performance, so there’s no falsetto or vibrato parts in this track, Naozumi just keeps it simple and archives a beautiful track and performance. 4/5

07.VAN VAN VAN!

The guitars go “country” on this one in the intro. VAN VAN VAN! is an upbeat, mid-tempo track backed mainly by a solid performance delivered by the bass and guitars. The main focus in the instrumental goes to the highly noticeable bassline, unstoppable from the very start until the very last second. That’s some solid bass playing right here. Taking our focus out of the instrumental piece with have the powerful baritone vocals that keep going and going without failing or missing notes or sounding the least bit off key. But it’s not something that much different from Naozumi’s sound, not impressing that much overall. 4/5

08.ぷぅわんぷぅわかぷぅわん!

And back to the pop-rock sound is Naozumi with ぷぅわんぷぅわかぷぅわん! . This is an upbeat, overall a fun track resorting to the whole rock band sound, putting the synths away. It’s a simple track, both in lyrics and with its instrumental, turning out to be a bit of a turn off in this album, in the end the track didn’t add anything new to this album even less, solidify something in it. 3/5

09.祭りのあととあとの祭り

An interesting addition to the album, this track is approached in a different way than the previous ones but goes in the same line as the previous track. It’s supposed to be an entertaining track, with catchy lyrics and a simple enough instrumental not resorting to big or unusual elements to take the focus of the listener out of the vocals, only bringing back the synths to add a more danceable, softer side to the guitars and overall sound. The vocals need, obviously, a bit of praise, because, in the midst of this unusual, a bit corny track, we have Naozumi adding a bit of his tools of trade with his vibrato and high notes going all the way in some parts of the track. But in the end the vocal track doesn’t save this song that just keeps like that without big changes or something really worthwhile of mention. 3/5

10.黒い白鳥

One of the sweetest slow paced tracks in this album and, without a doubt a track that impresses for its vocal track. His high notes are steady, not forced or strained, whenever they’re used; his low notes are right on the mark and his overall performance is as solid as it could get. On the other side we have an instrumental known from its simplicity, resorting to acoustic guitars, bass, drums and organ elements blended with some piano parts. It’s simple but here the formula worked well in the end. 4/5

11.11時のシンデレラ

At the drop of the curtain we’re presented with yet another slow paced, acoustic track. If we had any doubts that Naozumi could nail this type of tracks, we’re certainly more than sure at this time, that this is like his natural habitat. The dynamic and vocal range displayed by Naozumi are once again, unmatchable, close to perfection. He’s gentle handling the lyrics, delivering each and every verse with an incomparable sweetness. It sounds good from the very beginning and keeps that way, almost like he’s singing a lullaby. The instrumental track is simple but its simplicity is its winning card. A solid finish to a very consistent album. 4/5

Final rating: 4/5

Naozumi Takahashi brings us with his Voice Rendezvous, a collection of tracks that range between the more danceable hits, to the slow paced ballads, and the aggressive pop-rock tracks. It’s an interesting tracklist with some impressive, worth mentioning tracks as the big highlights: LET’S GET OUT! , turned out to be the perfect opener, while 11時のシンデレラ wins the best finisher award, but the biggest highlight is the dirty, aggressive, highly danceable CHU-CE ココロカラダコトバ, by far the most consistent track in the album, showing some industrial rock and new wave influences in its sound. The vocal performances are the solidest of solid, Naozumi knows very well what he does best, and it’s that very best that he presents us with each and every performance he delivers in this album. His range and dynamic is incredible, impressing those that are already familiar with his music and voice tone but especially the new fans. He never bores his fans with his performances, always bringing something new to the table, and that is what keeps his music fresh and appealing. With over a decade over his shoulders in the music business, it’s more than clear that Naozumi has established himself as one of the powerhouse solo artists in the seiyuu business, shame that he’s not much more known and appreciated in Japan’s pop culture, because he’s talent is overflowing and he manages to make more relevant music than some of the big pop names in Japan. Nevertheless, this is an album that will certainly be a setting the bar a bit high for the next release, which we’re looking forward to.

Voice Rendezvous is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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