Motoi Sakuraba – After All…

Motoi Sakuraba is an extremely prolific Japanese keyboardist. He started his career in ELP-style trio called “Deja-Vu”. However soon after releasing 1st album of the formation called “Baroque in the Future”, he began a very successful way of solo artist. Unfortunately as most of his works are computer game soundtracks, many progressive rock fans are afraid to check it. So I tell you: don’t be! Most of albums recorded by Sakuraba are really used as OST, but 90% of them are filled with pure, 70s-style inspired symphonic prog-rock! I’d especially recommend prog-lovers to listen to Motoi’s “arrange albums”, as they include special versions of his soundtrack disks. Compositions are much extended there, and he also uses more rock-oriented instruments.

Anyway Sakuraba managed to record some non-soundtrack CDs too. “After All…” is one of the most prog-rock sounding album of this fantastic keyboardist.

Let’s check those great instrumentals one by one:

1. “Sorrow” – album starts with a very gentle introduction. It’s just a short composition played on Grand piano but it’s surely beautiful. Nice start, but rather unrelated to the “real thing”…

2. “Megrim” – …and real thing is of course Sakuraba’s famous non-stop organ & synthesizers bashing! “Megrim” is a truly exciting instrumental filled with total keyboards extravaganza. I know that Motoi is using digital Korg CX-3 and CX-2 organs, but well, they really sound like a proper Hammond organ for me. And he really knows how to use this gear, man! I can also hear nice, fat-sounding bass lines and frenetic drum work. However I couldn’t find who’s playing those instruments here. They certainly seem to be real people, not digital machines…however I have to admit that nowadays it’s sometimes difficult to judge.

3. “Try Again” – after one bombast…comes another one! “Try Again” is a fully symphonic track driven by omnipresent synthesizers and traditionally maniacal organ work. Very similar to Toshio Egawa’s style (from band “Gerard”). Classic sound for me. And final organ solo is SPLENDID!

4. “Not Here” – finally Sakuraba lets us breath for a while with this short, piano-based interlude. Cute little thing. Nothing memorable but nice addition after all.

5. “Stand Still” – oh man, what a ride! Spectacular composition led by ultimately busy Grand piano lines, dazzling Korg organ and speedy bass guitar in the background. It’s not only technically perfect, it’s also filled with catchy jazzy melodies which will simply force you to tap your foot in euphoria. And there are also more peaceful fragments when we can fully enjoy Sakuraba’s phenomenal piano skills. I can clearly hear inspirations taken from Emerson’s “Karn Evil 9″ in “Stand Still”.

6. “Shade Inside Groping” – this track begins with more pompous, slow-moving motif played on mellotron (I suppose samples). It’s very atmospheric and symphonic-oriented. Weeping organ solo in the middle is worth to be noticed too. Monumental piece I think.

7. “Lie” – in “Lie” Sakuraba comes back to his favorite fast-tempo approach. I love the heavy bass guitar sounds here and ultra-cool old-school organ leads/ripping solos. However some of digital synths used here are slightly annoying to be honest (too loud maybe).

8. “After All…” – titled track is another muscular, jazz-rock bordering composition driven by crushing organ and rhythmic piano bits. But there are also few mellow mellotron sequences which are always welcome for me.

9. “The Way” – the longest instrumental on the album kicks off with digital synthesizers layers similar to some recent work of Rick Wakeman, but after few seconds we’re going back to well known territory of mean organ riffs and squeaking Moog lines. Highly recommend composition if you want to check “what Motoi Sakuraba is about”.

10. “Suffering Mind” – album finishes with soft Grand piano “epitaph”. A bit romantic, a bit sad but for sure highly artistic and definitely classical music inspired. Good ending overall.

To sum up: Motoi Sakuraba’s last solo effort is really worth your attention, especially if you’re interested in keyboards-driven prog in the vein of “ELP”, “Trace”, “Refugee”, “Gerard”, “Social Tension”, “Ars Nova” or Sakuraba’s original band – “Deja-Vu”. It’s so full of 70s superb style, that only modern production really betrays it’s age.

If you like this record, I’d also advise you to check following albums of this artist: “Live Concert: Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile”, “Live 2006 – Valkyrie Profile 2 -”, “Gikyokuonsou”, “Shining the Holy Ark” and “Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks”. All of them are a must have for Hammond organ sound lovers (especially his 2 concert albums).

Best tracks: “Megrim”, “Stand Still” & “Lie”.

Track List:

1. Sorrow (1:27)
2. Megrim (5:08)
3. Try Again (4:50)
4. Not Here (1:39)
5. Stand Still (6:13)
6. Shade Inside Groping    (4:08)
7. Lie (5:00)
8. After All… (5:50)
9. The Way (6:21)
10. Suffering Mind (2:45)


* Motoi Sakuraba / keyboards


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