Today’s song belongs to what appears to be a rather mysterious artist who recorded one album in the late 1960’s before vanishing into the ether!
Taken from a record entitled Harumi, the album itself was recorded sometime between 1967 and 1968 in New York. It was to be the debut (and one and only) full-length for Japanese musician Harimi Ando, a.k.a Harumi and was released on the Verve Forecast label (which, if you didn’t guess, is a subsidiary of the legendary jazz Verve Music Group). Unlike much of the other psych sounds circulating at the time, this record stands out for its experimental fusions of Eastern folk, psych, world and country. Its sounds, textures, and atmospheres incorporate everything from strings and horns, Japanese folk instruments and vibraphones as well as plenty of guitars and drums and keys.
The album was recorded and produced by Tom Wilson (best known for his work with an array of artists including Bob Dylan, the Mothers of Invention, Simon & Garfunkel, the Velvet Underground, Sun Ra, Eddie Harris, Nico, Eric Burdon and the Animals as well as many others) but was dismissed by Verve label-mate Frank Zappa who called it a “flower-power” album!
Very little is known about the recording of the album aside from what is on the sleeve of the record, but all key personnel such as backing musicians are absent from the album credits. While the exact release date of the album is unknown, the March 23, 1968 issue of Billboard magazine features the record in its “New Album Releases” section, so this places the album’s release date between March 16, 1968 and March 23, 1968 in the US.
Some of the album’s songs eventually found themselves associated with other artists such as the Rotary Connection who included a performance of the song Caravan on their 1968 Aladdin album. Some of Harumi’s songs were also used in samples, with part of Hunters of Heaven being sampled by the avant-garde rock band The Residents on their Explosion (beware, this is a freaky track, but the sample is at the end). Hunters of Heaven was later sampled in 2002 by Jazzanova for their song Another New Day, (sample appears about 1:26 mins in). I love how this relatively obscure artist and his one and only record continues to filter its way into such an array of music to this day…
I’ve only heard a couple of tracks from the record, but it was Fire by the River that first grabbed my attention. Its so warm, welcoming and groovy and yes, maybe a little flower-power, but what’s wrong with that! Perhaps at the time the record was lost amidst an ocean of hazy psych, but I think the fact its been covered, revered and sampled by an array of artist over the years is testament to its powers of attraction….and it would appear I’m not alone in thinking this, check out this great album review here and listen above.