Part Four of Four – Buddha Rock 1997-1999
The complete Buddha Rock 1997-1999 set comes with the three Loudness albums from that brief era, and also a bonus DVD with the accompanying music videos. On the back some are listed as “full size” and others “short size” — let’s find out what that means and what Loudness videos looked like in the late 90s.
“Ghetto Machine” opens, with Loudness including a shaven-headed Akira Takasaki performing in a darkened room. The added static interferance reminds us we are in the 90s when bands like Loudness didn’t have much budget and covered it up with tricks like this. Masaki appears cold with his big fur hat, but it’s fun to see this version of Loudness on video. “Evil Ecstasy” has cleaner production, but this is one of the “short size” videos — it’s only about 90 seconds of a pretty cool song. Too bad because this video is much more watchable. The funkier “San Francisco” is also one of these short versions, as is “Creatures”. All of these videos appear to be taped at the same time. The section of “Creatures” used focuses on the guitar solo. That’s cool at least. “Katmandu Fly” is the “full size”, but it’s also only a minute-long instrumental so to call it “full size” is kinda cheatin’.
Moving on from the Ghetto Machine album, all the rest of the videos are “full size”. From Dragon, it’s two of the best tracks: “Dogshit” and “Crazy Go Go”. This time Loudness are playing in a huge, uber-clean garage. As “Dogshit” demonstrates, Akira was now into his “fly sunglasses” phase. It looks like the band are having fun here, which makes it an enjoyable watch. Great song too. “Crazy Go Go” is more straight ahead, with lights and struttin’ stage moves instead of goofing around.
Apparently they only did one video for the final Masaki album, Engine. “Black Biohazard” is that song; not a tune that impressed on prior listens. (Also strange how “Black Biohazard” is the only song not in capital letters on the cover.) This video is made from grainy outdoor concert festival footage. From this we can ascertain that live, Masaki was a capable frontman with a cool rock star stage persona.
At 25 minutes, this DVD can not be considered more than a bonus for buying the Buddha Rock box set. It is not the main draw. The fundamental reason to get Buddha Rock is to acquire the three albums Ghetto Machine, Dragon and Engine in one place with ease. As a bonus feature, the Music Clips disc does what it does. “Dogshit” is the best video by a wide margin, and it remains unclear why “short size” videos were included, unless that’s all that was ever made for those particular songs?
The Buddha Rock box set also comes with photos, complete lyrics (in English) and liner notes (in Japanese). It’s the obvious way to go to cover those years, an era which ended with the Engine album in 1999. At Masaki’s urging, Akira Takasaki reunited the original Loudness lineup and released Spiritual Canoe with Minoru Niihara at the microphone. That put an end to the Masaki Yamada era, which started with member turnover before solidifying on these three albums with Naoto Shibata and Hirotsugo Homma on bass and drums respectively. Great musicians both who helped Loudness explore new and weird directions at the end of the 90s.
Music Clips DVD: 3/5 stars
Buddha Rock 1997-1999 box set: 3.5/5 stars (the sum of the whole is greater than its parts)