I can’t say that I was in any way familiar with the musical output of Tokyo Rosenthal so this album, “Tokyo’s Fifth”, proved to be my introduction to his not inconsiderable talent. For the life of me and my hamster, I just can’t see how someone like Tokyo Rosenthal could be bundled into that most despicably mediocre of genres, Americana, when he is actually hewn from the solid granite of structurally sound singer songwriters like Harry Chapin or Jesse Colin Young.
He flies like a straight arrow too. There’s no pretension here and no misplaced impersonation of someone else’s past glories. Sure, he draws on the past but it is more a stylistic overlay than an attempt to deceive your ears. “Waste of a Heart” stands as a sterling example of this with a fiddle providing the sonic beacon towards the kind of honest sentiment that Nashville used to do so well. It’s old time in feel but not old timey, if you like.
“What Did I Used To Be?” also impresses with the effects of our current great depression being eloquently expressed from the blue collar perspective. There’s no shortage of other examples of Mr Rosenthal’s ability to be himself whilst drawing on the best of others here too and “The Immigrant” had me thinking that I was listening to a forgotten Roy Orbison song. The only actual cover on this album, however, is of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and it is so skilfully reconstructed as to be unrecognisable. He takes what fits and remodels the rest.
As “Thank You You’re Beautiful” led me out into the wind, I concluded that Tokyo Rosenthal is something of a rarity. He is an honest performer in a dishonest business.