Few bands are better placed than R&B revivalists Bawdies to ride the current Showa Boom. Listening to this second album from the mod-attired Toyko four-piece — leader Ryo “Roy” Watanabe (bass/vocals), Taku “Taxman” Funayama (guitar/vocals), Yoshihiko “Jim” Kimura (guitar/vocals) and Masahiko “Marcy” Yamaguchi (drums/vocals) — and it’s like the past four-and-a-half decades never happened: “My Little Joe” swaggers like The Stones’ “It’s All Over Now”; “I’m in Love with You” sees Watanabe doff his mop-top in the direction of Cavern Club-era Beatles; and slowie “I’m So Lost Without You” reaches for the exalted highs of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it all Home to me” (and almost gets there).
So far, so retro.
So why, then, is “Awaking of Rhythm and Blues” worthy of attention? First, because once you get past the lamentable two plodders that open the album, each track is delivered with such infectious energy. Take “I’m in Love with You,” which immediately draws you in with its ecstatic opening refrain of “Oooh! Hey! Ah! Yeah yeah!” Second is Watanabe’s voice, the kind of guttural holler that belies his age (he’s 24) and that’s so highly charged it makes Rod Stewart sound like a weedy, prepubescent choir boy. That the cherubic Watanabe has the looks to match his talent bodes well for the future of The Bawdies, who last year got airtime on MTV Japan and secured a slot on the rookie stage at Fuji Rock Festival. See them in March and April when they play 30-plus dates throughout Japan — visit thebawdies.fc2web.com for details.