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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 24 May 2006
Well, here we are again, happy as can be..... well, not quite as it happens.

For the umpteenth time since 1984, we witness the arrival of yet another Japan compilation, or should we say the best of their Virgin Records years. Quite simply, this compilation takes us, in recording terms, from late-1979 to late-1981. It almost completely ignores the band's Hansa material from 1977-1979, including classic cuts from their two 1978 albums such as the reggae-infused Rhodesia, the post-punk sounding Communist China, the moody pop of Adolescent Sex, the edgy Stateline and the epic Suburban Berlin. Sure, their earlier years were patchy, but there were some masterful highlights which have been purposely ignored here.

Other notable exclusions include the brilliant synth-pop of Halloween, the 'Bond-theme that never was' which was The Other Side of Life, the swooning Swing and the sublime alt-pop of Still Life In Mobile Homes. The inclusion of the gorgeous Rain Tree Crow track, Blackwater, (Japan reformed under this moniker in 1990-1991) would also have been a nice touch with which to close this collection. Alas.....the compilers chose to include the stodgy album track The Art of Parties, the repetitive instrumental track Canton, the band's cover version of Lou Reed's All Tomorrow's Parties and for some reason, two versions of Ghosts.... err, why ?

Another (sorry) gripe is the non-chronological track listing which seems like the songs have been randomly shuffled from the Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum albums and then deposited nonchalantly onto this CD. Thus it is difficult to chart the development of this highly original band from their glam-esque punk art beginnings to being the 1980's first truly innovative new wave band.

On the positive side (yes, there is one), this is actually a neatly packaged compilation and does contain some outstanding tracks, which of course we can't ignore. However, if you are looking to 'get into' Japan, I would recommend purchasing the band's 1981 Assemblage compilation of their earlier work, followed by their three subsequent albums, Quiet Life, 'Polaroids and Tin Drum.

One day this band will receive a worthy compilation that truly reflects their best material from across their whole recording career. We wait and wonder........
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 31 March 2006
At one point in time there were two Japan-compilations - 1981's 'Assemblage' (which gatherered together the years on Ariola-Hansa, cashing in on their success in 1980 & 81 on Virgin) and 1984's 'Exorcising Ghosts'- which was originally a double LP that focused on the Virgin years with a few concessions to before ('Quiet Life', 'A Foreign Place', 'The Other Side of Life')- bizarrely that ignored 'Oil On Canvas.' This unimaginatively titled compilation takes in 15 tracks (their biggest hit 'Ghosts' features twice...)and works as a fairly ideal primer to the band for those who don't want the reissues and might find the full-length 'Exorcising Ghosts' (never on CD) a bit too much. By taking the Ariola-hits (when reissued) 'I Second That Emotion','Quiet Life', 'European Son' & 'Life in Tokyo' a more cohesive selection of Japan's career is there. It could be subtitled 'the most obvious Japan album in the world, ever!'
The key singles are here - 'Cantonese Boy', 'Ghosts', 'The Art of Parties', 'Visions of China' and two firm favourites 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' and 'Methods of Dance.' This is perfect avant-pop advancing on the climes of Roxy Music, Eno, Bowie & Yellow Magic Orchestra. This compilation offers a few more adventerous moments - the instrumental 'Canton' (which predicts a lot of Sylvian's later world music/intrumental directions) and another 'GTP'-double whammy in the form of 'Nightporter' and 'Taking Islands in Africa.' 'Nightporter', like 'Ghosts', dispenses with the band - Sylvian crooning like a blend of Ferry'n'Walker over a Satie-styled piano (directions confirmed by earlier tracks 'The Tenant' & 'Despair'). 'Taking Islands...' meanwhile is a sublime electronic pop song featuring Sylvian's long-time collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto - a lush ambient blissed out moment of electronic heaven and a very welcome inclusion!
'Quiet Life' remains a great pop song, though it isn't too far from Roxy Music's 'Angel Eyes' and Bowie's 'Boy's Keep Swinging'!; while Sylvian's collaboration with Giorgio Moroder 'Life in Tokyo' might be electronic bubblegum, but it's very fine at that! 'European Son' hasn't aged that well, reminding me of similarly patchy work by Ultravox and I don't see why the dull cover of the Velvets' 'All Tomorrow's Parties' needed to be included. Think of the songs that could have been picked instead - 'The Other Side of Life', 'Fall In Love with Me', 'Adolescent Sex', 'Despair', '...Rhodesia','Sons of Pioneers' (live), 'Swing', or 'Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer' - which brings me back to 'Exorcising Ghosts' - why not issue that on cd properly?
The accompanying DVD will probably be of more interest - 'The Very Best of Japan' contains lots of great music, but at the end of the day it's just another Japan-compilation. Part of Sylvian's brilliant career, but as great/greater work remained ahead, another 15 tracks might include 'Forbidden Colours', 'Red Guitar', 'The Ink in the Well', 'Before the Bullfight', 'Buoy', 'Orpheus', 'Every Colour You Are', 'Earthbound','Damage','I Surrender','Some Kind of Fool','The Heart Knows Better','World Citizen','a fire in the forest' & 'a history of holes'...
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on 30 June 2016
Had a horrible feeling when I got the urge for Japan that it wouldn't stand the test of time. Maybe it hasn't but it's as good as *I* remember. What's most bizarre is I remember most of the words as well. Blimey I must have listened to these a lot in my youth.
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on 4 May 2006
This isn't a bad introduction to this wonderful band but with a little thought could have been so much better. Some of their most beautiful tracks are inexplicably missing: the brief Satie-esque Oil On Canvas, the sprawling ballad The Other Side of Life (the only Japan song Sylvian played on his last tour), the Bowie-esque Alien, the svelte Swing...What we do get is 2(?why?) versions of Ghosts, and on songs where the album versions were better eg Quiet Life they give a single version, and for those where the shorter mix would have been better (Polaroids, Canton live, Life In Tokyo) they've chosen the long version - also live versions of Art of Parties and Cantonese Boy have more life to them than the studio mixes here. All a bit if a shame really (and as for the credits, typos and lack of any photos of any band members aside from David...) Best bet is still to buy the Exocising Ghosts compilation and either Quiet Life of Assemblage, or better still to invest in David Sylvian/Steve Jansen's brilliant new Nine Horses album 'Snow Borne Sorrow'
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on 20 February 2012
This is the only Japan compilation which includes all the band's charting singles. At the time there seemed to be a prevailing view that "Japan are crap", which deterred me from buying any of the albums although I loved a few of the singles, notably the club anthem "Quiet Life", the haunting "Cantonese Boy" (only available on this compilation) and their probably greatest song "Ghosts", which was also their biggest hit.

Fortunately this compilation steers clear of their worst material, and you may find yourself recognising (and enjoying) more of these songs than you expected, as I did! With the benefit of hindsight, Japan really weren't as radical or avante garde as they liked to think they were, and some of these songs sound perilously close to Duran Duran and other mainstream electronic pop/disco artists of the era. The moody Bryan Ferry flavoured vocals of David Sylvian, which some considered whining and fey, are actually a definite strength.

Early non-charting singles are not included here, such as "Adolescent Sex", which may put some off if you know and like that material, or would like to hear it, but overall this CD is a great listen and for casual fans like me, gives us what we want.
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on 8 July 2011
Before we listen to the music, let's start with the packaging. No pictures of the band, and strange excerpts in the sleeve notes about children playing and hot chocolate????? What is all this about? There is some history of the band interspersed between the waffle, but I struggled to understand the point of the waffle in the first place. I agree with previous reviewers that there is little point to the 2 versions of 'Ghosts', and that a better compilation would be one that (finally) spans the band's whole career rather than their time on this record label or that one. Also, the accompanying DVD states the concert film is from 1983 - Japan broke up in 1982!!

Not sure why a previous reviewer thought DS' solo stuff should be included - this is a Japan Greatest Hits package. It could have been so much more, though - there could have been, for example, a bonus disc of rare material / 12" mixes from the time / stuff like that. But no, this is pretty standard fare, and it even misses off Swing', 'My New Career' and 'Sons of Pioneers', but includes the instrumental 'Canton'. Whoever put this together was obviously in a hurry to get home on a Friday night - and they either weren't a Japan fan or were totally uncaring of those who are.

I would recommend buying this for the DVD, as there's more tracks on this than on 'Oil On Canvas'. However, the DVD here could have included some or all of the band's music videos - another missed opportunity! But music-wise you'd be better off buying the albums on CD, particularly 'Quiet Life' onwards.

Yes, Japan have had several compilations but I doubt the band themselves have been involved with these - it seems more like a cynical move by the different record companies to cash in on a band who didn't make them that much money first time around.

Japan could have been one of the big success stories of the 80's but from what I've read, they didn't seem to want it enough, and certainly didn't want to be as poppy as Spandau and Duran. But for a band that put so much thought and pride and sheer originality into their work, who are still inspiring other bands and musicians 30 years later, they deserve so much better than this ...

So why 5 stars? Because I love Japan, love their music, love David Sylvian and Mick Karn and Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen, and it's great to have another DVD of the band. And buying this means there's one less person out there listening to Jedward.
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on 2 April 2006
Understandably there are a lot of serious Japan fans reviewing this so I feel a bit out of my depth here. I'm not a diehard fan, having only ever purchased the cd 'Quiet Life', but I'll take a chance that I mostly know what I'm talking about. From what I can see, all of the hits/singles are all present and correct on this. Highlights here are: 'Life In Toyko', 'Quiet Life', 'All Tomorrow's Parties', 'The Art Of Parties' (great horn arrangements and funky bass from Mick Karn), 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids', 'Nightporter' (a touching piano and cello ballad) and of course 'Ghosts' - though has been stated, there is no need for two versions. This is a pretty good compilation (but not perfect), which has been digitally remastered, that also has an attractive slick arty front cover to it. I agree with the reviewer who mentioned that this compilation would have been better had it also included the 'Quiet Life' gems: 'Halloween' and 'The Other Side Of Life'.
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on 1 April 2006
5 stars for this fine collection of songs but....
In brief, this is an album full of great songs but if you are going to do a "Very best of ..." then at least know the back catalogue material - the record company cleary should have been more familiar with it. And I would be staggered if any of the members of Japan had anything do to with the selection of this material.
If you are going to do a "singles" collection then at least put the single version on the CD. Not the album version.
This CD is neither a "very best of.." or "singles" collection.
As for the packaging this is appalling, not to say anything of the accuracy of the credits.
A message to the record company. If you are going to release Japan's material then at least do it justice. Hey, you could even try talking to some of the fans for inspiration.
Fans will buy this CD regardless. And I would urge anyone else to also buy it because I would hope it will lead you into the world of these brilliant arrangers of music.
It was 1981 when a friend of mine walked out of Revolver with a copy of Assemblage in his hands. And this is where my history starts with Japan. Little were we to know that they would shortly be no more. If they had stayed around a bit longer or written a commercial hit the perception was that the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran et al would have bitten the dust, such was the strength of the Japan fan base at that time. Reality or perception it matters not. But the fans I knew in 1981 are still around now and these fans have been let down.And those that will buy a Japan album for the first time could have been better served.
Some kind of fool?
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on 6 January 2014
I only bought this for Ghosts really as I used to have this on 7' vinyl....and this is one of the rare moments I can say I prefered my vinyl, reason being my vinyl version crackled slightly and that made the song a bit spooky in a strange kind of way.....Quiet life always sounds like Duran Duran if you ask me and Life In Tokyo backing music tries to be a sort of Gary Numan-ish
never a big fan of Japan but Ghosts and Quiet Life are my favourite 2 singles
Symph pop was ok and some classic bands came out such as Teardrop Explodes but im more the punk/newave fan and the 2-tone/ska sort of person anyway so I cant really judge Japan really but will leave that to the real fans......Ghosts is a 5* song in my opinion!
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on 21 April 2006
Quelle surprise! Another Japan compilation. Along with the immaculate Joy Division, they must be one of the most compiled bands around and, like the Mancunian legends, they are also no more.

'Exorcising Ghosts' was a very comprehensive job and a CD remastered version would be an excellent idea. Likewise 'Oil On Canvas', the live album, with its almost inaudible 'live' atmosphere.

By bringing together their two careers - from the Hansa stuff of the 'Quiet Life' album as well as 'European Son' and 'Life In Tokyo' to the endgame played out with 'Tin Drum' on Virgin - this is as close to definitive as you'll get of late, although why is 'Ghosts' featured twice?

The link with the Yellow Magic Orchestra is evident due to 'Taking Islands In Africa', Sakamoto being one third of the YMO. He also worked with Sylvian on 'Forbidden Colours', the superb theme from 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence' which starred...Bowie!

Buy this only if you want a different combination from some of the other Japan compilations around. The work is what it is: sublime European exotica laced with fine electronica.
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