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CD REVIEW

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra “Paradise Blue”

by Shawn Despres

Two decades after making their recording debut with an eponymous 12-inch EP, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra have released their 14th full-length studio effort, “Paradise Blue.” One of Japan’s better-known musical exports, the nine-piece have performed sold-out shows around the globe, including stages at high-profile events such as Fuji Rock, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and the Montreux Jazz Festival.

“Paradise Blue” opens with “Routine Melodies,” its sunny rhythms and simple lyrics setting the course for the disc’s playful, laid-back vibe. The title track follows with its epic intro of trumpet, shimmering cymbals and pounding bass drum before Yuichi Oki’s keyboards morph it into a highly enjoyable, upbeat slice of jazz. Elements of reggae accent the intoxicating horns and spoken-word vocals on “Heaven’s Door,” while the oft-covered Broadway show tune (and anthem of Liverpool Football Club) “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is remade into an exuberant ska number with uplifting choral-group singing. The spaghetti Western-style beginning and ending and dizzying surf-guitar sounds from Takashi Kato on standout “Farewell Waltz” would probably come off fantastically in a live setting.

A solid contribution to their extensive catalog of work, “Paradise Blue” will keep longtime listeners and Ska Para neophytes happily skanking into the wee hours of the morning.