Yellow Magic Orchestra - Yellow Magic Orchestra

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Yellow Magic Orchestra

(alternate cover not for sale)

YMO YelloyMagicOrchestra.jpg
Studio album by
 Yellow Magic Orchestra
Released November 25, 1978
Recorded July 10 to September 5, 1978
Studio Alfa Studio "A", Shibaura, Minato, Tokyo
Genre Electronic, synth-pop
Length 37:35
36:04 (US mix)
Label Horizon Records (U.S.)
Producer
  • Harry Hosono
  • Kunihiko Murai (exec.)
Yellow Magic Orchestra chronology
  Yellow Magic Orchestra
(1978)
Solid State Survivor
(1979)
 
Singles from Yellow Magic Orchestra
  1. "Tong Poo" / "Firecracker"
    Released: 1978 (promo only)
  2. "Computer Game" / "Fire Cracker"
    Released: 1978, 1979
  3. "Cosmic Surfin'"
    Released: 1979
  4. "La femme chinoise"
    Released: 1979
  5. "Tong Poo"
    Released: 1979
Alternative covers
 
US cover
US cover (correct cover for sale)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars
The Guardian 3/5 stars
Mojo 4/5 stars
Smash Hits 3/10
Uncut 4/5 stars
The Village Voice C+

 

  "Yellow Magic Orchestra" is the first official studio album by Japanese electronic music band Yellow Magic orchestra, who were previously known as the Yellow Magic Band. Originally released by Alfa Records in Japan in 1978, the album was released by A&M Records in Europe and the United States and Canada in early 1979, with the US version featuring new cover art but without the closing track of "Acrobat".

The album was an early example of synth-pop, a genre that the band helped pioneer. It contributed to the development of electro, hip-hop, techno, and bleep techno. The album's innovations in electronic music included its use of the microprocessor-based Roland MC-8 microcomposer synthesizer which allowed the creation of new electronic sounds, and its sampling of video game sounds.

The album sold 250,000 copies in Japan and entered the Billboard 200 and R&B albums charts in the United States. Its most successful single was "Computer Game / Firecracker", which sold over 400,000 records in the United States and was a top 20 hit in the United Kingdom.

Production

The album was intended to be a one-off project for producer and bass player Haruomi Hosono and the two session musicians he had hired: drummer Yukihiro Takahashi and keyboard player Rycihi Sakamoto. The trio were to create their own cover version of Martin Denny's 1959 exotica melody "Firecracker" with modern electronics, as a subversion of the exoticisation and Orientalism of the original tune, along with various original compositions also exploring themes of Asianness, exoticisation and Orientalism from a Japanese perspective. The album would eventually be called Yellow Magic Orchestra, as a satire of Japan's obsession with black magic at the time. The project proved highly popular, culminating in a career for the three musicians; one that would last until 1983, before successful solo careers and reunions over the decades to come.

They began recording the album in July 1978 at a Shibaura studio in Tokyo. It utilized a wide variety of electronic music equipment (as well as electric), including the Roland MC-8 Microcomposer, the Korg PS-3100 polyphonic synthesizer, the Korg VC-10 vocoder, the Yamaha drums and Syn-Drums electronic drums, the Moog III-C and Minimoog synths, the Polymoog and ARP Odyssey analog synthesizers, the Oberheim eight-voice synthesizer, the Fender Rhodes electric piano, and the Fender Jazz Bass. Besides the electronic equipment, the only acoustic instruments used in the album were a Steinway piano, drum set, and a marimba.

It was the earliest known popular music album to use the Roland MC-8 Microcomposer, which was programmed by Hideki Matsutake during recording sessions. The swingy funk element present throughout the album was expressed by Matsutake programming through subtle variations of the MC-8's input. At the time, Billboard noted that the use of such computer-based technology in conjunction with synthesizers allowed Yellow Magic Orchestra to create new sounds that were not possible until then. The band later described both the MC-8 and Matsutake as an "inevitable factor" in both their music production and live performances.

The album was an early example of synth-pop, a genre that Yellow Magic Orchestra helped pioneer. Yellow Magic Orchestra experiments with different styles of electronic music, such as Asian melodies played over synthpop backings in "Firecracker" and "Cosmic Surfin'", the extensive use of video game sounds in "Computer Game", and the electronic disco bass in "Tong Poo", a song that was inspired by Chinese music produced during the China's Cultural Revolution, and in turn influenced video game music such as Tetris. Both "Computer Game" tracks proper contain the same audio and were made to sound as if both games were being played in the same room; each track being from the perspective of its titular arcade game unit: Circus and Space Invaders. The song also samples the opening chiptune used in the arcade game Gun Fight (1975). Both Circus and Space Invaders, along with several other popular arcade video games, were also featured in the promotional film for "Tong Poo".

 

Release history

The album was first released in Japan in 1978. It was released in the US on 30 May 1979 by A&M Records on the Horizon label with a new mix by Al Schmitt, new cover art and a slightly different track listing. This "US version" was subsequently released in Japan on 25 July 1979 by Alfa. Promotional A&M copies were pressed on yellow vinyl.

"Firecracker" was released as a single under the name "Computer Game". As such, on early US pressings of the album, "Computer Game 'Theme from The Circus'" and "Firecracker" were combined as one track, while the firecracker sound effect at the end of the track was indexed by itself as "Firecracker". This was corrected on later pressings. US pressings also featured a more American-friendly mixing (highlighting a punchier equalization and heavy use of reverb). Several of the segues on the second side of the album were edited differently, while "Bridge over Troubled Music" was given an additional electric piano solo over top of the introductory percussion.

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Japan 25 November 1978 Alfa 12" LP; cassette LP: ALR-6012; cassette: ALC-1511
Europe 1979 A&M LP AMLH 68506, PSP 736
North America 30 May 1979 A&M, Horizon Records and Tapes 12" LP SP-736, AMLH 68506
Japan 25 July 1979 Alfa 12" LP; cassette (US version) LP: ALR-6020; cassette: ALC-1533
England 2004 Epic CD 513445 2

Track listing

 
         
         
         
         
         
         
 
         
         
         
         
         
         
 
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Computer Game 'Theme from The Circus'"   Yellow Magic Orchestra 1:48
2. "Firecracker"   Martin Denny 4:50
3. "Simoon" Chris Mosdell Haruomi Hosono 6:27
4. "Cosmic Surfin'"   Hosono 4:28
5. "Computer Game 'Theme from The Invader'"   YMO 1:01
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Yellow Magic (Tong Poo)"   Rycichi Sakamoto 6:17
2. "La femme chinoise" Mosdell Yukihiro Takahashi 5:55
3. "Bridge over Troubled Music"   YMO 1:18
4. "Mad Pierrot" uncredited Hosono 4:05

 

Personnel

Yellow Magic Orchestra – arrangements, electronics

  • Haruomi Hasono – bass guitar, synth bass, synthesizers, production, mixing engineer (credited as "Harry Hosono" for latter two)
  • Rycichi Sakamoto – synthesizers, piano, electric piano, percussion, orchestration
  • Yukihiro Takahashi – vocals, drums, electronic drums, marimba, percussion

Guest musicians

  • Hideki Matsutake – Microcomposer programming
  • Chris Mosdell – lyrics
  • Shun'ichi "Tyrone" Hashimoto – vocoded vocals on "Simoon"
  • Masayoshi Takanaka – electric guitar on "Cosmic Surfin'" and "La femme chinoise"
  • Tomoko Nunoi (uncredited on earliest issues) – French narration (credited as "Sexy Voice") on "La femme chinoise"

Staff

  • Kunihiko Murai – executive producer
  • Norio Yoshizawa & Atsushi Saito – recording engineers
  • Shunsuke Miyasumi – recording coordinator
  • Masako Hikasa & Akira Ikuta – management
  • Aijiro Wakita – design, art director
  • Kazuo Hakamada – illustrations

US version alternative staff

  • Minako Yoshida – vocals on "Yellow Magic (Tong Poo)"
  • Tommy LiPuma – supervisor
  • Al Schmitt – mixing engineer
  • Mike Reese – mastering engineer
  • Roland Young – art director
  • Amy Nagasawa & Chuck Beeson – design
  • Lou Beach – front cover art
  • Masayoshi Sukita – back cover art

 

Charts

Year Release Chart Peak
position
Weeks Total
sales
1978 LP Japan Oricon LP Chart 20 73 187,000
1978 Cassette Japan Oricon CT Chart 17 35 63,000
1980 LP US Billboard 200 81    
1980 LP US R&B Albums 37    

 

"Computer Game / Firecracker"

The song "Firecracker" was released as a single in Japan in 1978 and in the United States and United Kingdom in 1979, becoming a major R&B hit in the United States. The same year, the song was released as the "Computer Game" single, which combined the "Computer Game" and "Firecracker" tracks together. The "Computer Game" single was an even greater international success, selling over 400,000 copies in the United States and entering the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart.

 

Charts

Chart (1980) Peak position
UK Singles Chart 17
US Billboard Hot 100 60
US Dance Club Singles 42
US R&B Singles 18

 

 

 

 Yellow Magic Orchestra - Yellow Magic Orchestra

U.S. Horizon records SP 736 stereo (1979) 1st U.S. press.

The vinyl record has remained in excellent condition.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are clean, unmarked, and free from tears, stains or stickers.

The album cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minor signs of wear and creasing.

The album cover has a strong, undamaged spine, displaying very clear, printed script.

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