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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime perfection
Live-albums are more often than not celebrated for their embelishing and sometimes even alternative versions of familiar songs. Oil on canvas proves to be the exception to the rule. Instead, Japan carefully explores the many layers of their music, not missing any detail nor note. Normally, if other bands were merely copying their own recordings in such fashion, it would...
Published on 20 Jun. 2003 by B. O. Hansen

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Japan - live & clinical
Japan were a class studio band but were not especially renowned for their live shows. Oil On Canvas was recorded from their final live tour during November 1982 and shows the band as technically proficient, with almost note-for-note renditions of their studio highlights and the audience very low in the mix. Consequently, there's no real 'live vibe' to proceedings and the...
Published on 7 Mar. 2013 by Mr. Chris F. J. Hyams


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime perfection, 20 Jun. 2003
By 
B. O. Hansen (Oslo, Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oil on Canvas (Remastered) (Audio CD)
Live-albums are more often than not celebrated for their embelishing and sometimes even alternative versions of familiar songs. Oil on canvas proves to be the exception to the rule. Instead, Japan carefully explores the many layers of their music, not missing any detail nor note. Normally, if other bands were merely copying their own recordings in such fashion, it would provoke critisism. But Japan is blessed with an ability to leave you with the impression that this stunning album couldn't have been done any better. We are talking utter, almost inhuman, perfectionism here, with a band making it an art not to overlook any microdetail of their music. Arguably one of the most strong and original live-albums in history!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Japan - live & clinical, 7 Mar. 2013
By 
Mr. Chris F. J. Hyams "Chris Hyams" (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oil on Canvas (Remastered) (Audio CD)
Japan were a class studio band but were not especially renowned for their live shows. Oil On Canvas was recorded from their final live tour during November 1982 and shows the band as technically proficient, with almost note-for-note renditions of their studio highlights and the audience very low in the mix. Consequently, there's no real 'live vibe' to proceedings and the album feels somewhat clinical, while Sylvian and his producer were accused of heavily editing and overlaying the live tapes to provide the sound they required, thus it sounds very much like a studio effort in parts.

The instrumental tracks are so-so, though 'Voices/Hands' is quite pretty. Kicking-off a live concert with the plodding 'Sons of Pioneers' was probably not a great idea (Methods of Dance or Quiet Life would've been better openers). However, most tracks are played sublimely well, and Steve Jansen's drumming is certainly a tad 'rockier' than his studio sound, and none the worse for it. Sylvian hardly shifts a single octave away from his studio renditions, but Mick Karn's bass/fretless bass is as tight as ever and Richard Barbieri's playing/programming is perfection personified. All very well and good, but again, just 'too' clinical and pristine to go out as a live document.

Japan had already dissolved by the time of Oil On Canvas' release in June 1983. If you've ever seen the accompanying video, it's clear that Sylvian and the rest of the band were hardly on speaking terms. There's no observable interaction with the audience, which is a shame, given this was their farewell tour. This made the Top 5 in the album charts, ironically the band's highest ever placing, and at the time many fans believed it to be a Virgin-issued greatest hits album (which in some respect it was).

Therefore, it's worth a listen for the Japan completist, but not for the casual listener.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So close yet so....., 4 Feb. 2009
By 
Stephen Evans "A Budding Author" (Sussex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oil On Canvas (Live) (Audio CD)
I though back in 1983 that this album had been overproduced and that the raw live sound had been lost and listening to it 25 years later I was not wrong.

I have heard many live performances by Japan over the years and have to say that this album was an opportunity missed.

It's good but could have been better. The opening track 'Oil on Canvas' short though it is is worth the money alone... Beautiful.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an atmospheric overview of japan,s musial prowess, 10 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Oil on Canvas (Remastered) (Audio CD)
from an underrated band of the early eighties this album shows sylvian and co.in a rarely appreciated live light.from the spine tingling nightporter to the rousing sons of pioneers this collection of their work is an essential acquisition for the true fan and a suitable listen for the novice.sylvian is and was a musical individual and oil on canvas sums up his era as japan front man.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BASS PLAYING MASTERCLASS !, 6 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Oil On Canvas (Live) (Audio CD)
Typical me, i get into a band years after they were formed or break up. A bass playing masterclass from the much missed Mick Karn - There was more to this band than Ghosts, Visions of China worth the price alone.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SEPIA, 29 Sept. 2003
This is the only live album from one of the most inspired bands of the 1980s - and it also rates amongst their finest work.
Featuring wonderful, muscular versions of such hits as Swing and Methods Of Dance, it also boasts a heart-rending performance of Night Porter where David Sylvian seems on the verge of crying. Beautifully opened and closed with chiming studio tracks, Oil On Canvas also shows the direction that Sylvian decided to pursue as a solo artist.
Interestingly, it's not only the Pet Shop Boys who discovered how to blend melancholy and uptempo . . . Sylvian and co did it far, far earlier.
Pawel Lopatka, Krakow, Poland
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Live but not, 15 Feb. 2006
Being a Japan fan, from the time they were together, this album was a disappointment. Why ? Well the song selection is superb, but i seem to remember, a big whoha about the fact that they went into the studio and rerecorded parts and added more, you can tell my how low the audience sounds in the mix, and how this sounds more like a studio album.
However if your a Japan fan it is still worth a listen, but get it a cheaper price, mind you it is a double.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Old Classic from the New Wave, 29 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Oil on Canvas (Remastered) (Audio CD)
Had only heard "Ghosts" and "Quiet Life" before purchasing this CD but what a terrific investment it is. The soundscapes on this album are phenomenal and you can't help but get drawn into the luxurious and richly-textured ambiance. The tracks are in a good order and flow well together in succession except for one or two minor moments. Personal favourites include "Methods of Dance", "Nightporter" and the eerie atmospheric majesty of "Ghosts".

I would highly recommend this album to any fan of New Wave. It's truly a masterpiece, and one which I'm proud to have discovered and added to my collection. Early 80s at it's best.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of Japan's sole live album..., 1 Jun. 2006
By 
Jason Parkes (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Oil On Canvas (Live) (Audio CD)
'Oil on Canvas' was originally released alongside a film of the same name that generally captured the band on their 'Tin Drum' tour live at Hammersmith Odeon. The film can now be seen on the recent 'Very Best of'-DVD; this is the soundtrack. 'Oil on Canvas' is the same 15-track album released as before - the majority of it being the band live, with some additional instrumentals: Sylvian's title track, Sylvian/Jansen's 'Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer', and Richard Barbieri's closing 'Temple of Dawn' (another Japan-associated track named after a Mishima-novel, see 'Forbidden Colours'). These tracks aren't worth buying the album for - 'Voices Raised...' is the best track, though that surfaced on 'Exorcising Ghosts.'

Japan live appear to replicate their studio recordings - the only differences being the sax-solo at the start of 'Ghosts' (purely to give Mick Karn something to do!), the screaming crowd, a minor opening bit to 'Visions of China', & the keyboard intro for a smoother 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids.' These are very minor differences - 'Sons of Pioneers' sounds a bit better, while 'Methods of Dance' & 'Nightporter' don't top their studio versions. A lot of the songs sound exactly the same - 'Cantonese Boy', 'Quiet Life', 'Still Life in Mobile Homes', 'Swing'...so it seems more of a luxury Japan-purchase. The harder-version of 'The Art of Parties' is fine, but that is now a bonus track on the reissue of 'Tin Drum'...

'Oil on Canvas' is a bit of a lost opportunity, as they did perform other songs - 'Burning Bridges' featured on the video and worked wonderfully against 'Sons of Pioneers', while fan websites show the setlist included older songs like 'Sometimes I Feel So Low' and 'Automatic Gun.' I recall hearing a BBC radio concert which featured '...Rhodesia', 'Life in Tokyo' & 'My New Career', so it would be more interesting to locate some of these performances (you expect Mr Sylvian would cringe at the thought, still...). 'Oil on Canvas' is the least interesting reissue in the Japan/Sylvian/Rain Tree Crow-budget price set. One to get when you already own 'Gentleman Take Polaroids' & 'Tin Drum' anyway...
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Positively brilliant sound!!! Why 2 discs???, 30 Sept. 2003
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Track 1 (Oil on canvas) leads us in, with a warmth that we could certainly believe was live. Here and now live, I mean. Then, out of the calm, comes Karn's weird, wonderful bass, followed by Jansen's drums, and suddenly you're inside the Odeon 20 years ago. And thus the tone is set for the rest of the album, an amazing remaster which I will certainly treasure just as I did the vinyl and the previous CD issue. Could it sound better? I don't know how.
Now the question I have to ask (and already did)- WHY 2 discs??? If Sylvian wanted to duplicate the exact sequence of the original double LP, shouldn't we have gotten 2 double-sided CDs? They exist, I've seen classical recordings on them. Was it the packaging? Let us have a booklet, like with Tin Drum (another mystery- those bonus tracks would have fit onto the album disc, and there was no problem putting extras on Gentlemen Take Polaroids). Strange one, that Sylvian. But I just can't stop listening to him.
The album is too brilliant. I simply can't take away a star for Virgin/Sylvian's putting it onto two discs. Buy it. If you love this band, you'll be doing yourself a favour. If you don't know them, you'll be doing yourself an even greater one.
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