Frontiers Records
Release date: June 23, 2004

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

As the guitarist and chief songwriter for The B’z, Tak Matsumoto might not have much left to prove. Selling over 80 million units in their native Japan alone, The B’z are the best selling Japanese band ever. But ever the creative genius, Tak formed a new band under his own name, the Tak Matsumoto Group or TMG for short. But this is no solo outing; this is a bona-fide band. Bringing in the heavy hitters, Tak recruited former Mr. Big vocalist, Eric Martin, and Night Ranger/Damn Yankees bassist/vocalist, Jack Blades, and split the drum duties between the hard hitting Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz) and Brian Tricky (Slash’s Snakepit, and Pride and Glory).

What emerged from this supergroup is the amazing TMG 1, an album that may very well be the best release of the year. From the opening sequence of “Oh Japan (Our Time Is Now)” one is drawn in by the whispering electronic Asian-themed melody that gives way to a full-on guitar attack. It is no surprise that the song is the first single release from the disk … it hits with a solid verse where there is no mistaking Eric Martin’s vocals; the bridge and chorus are hook-laden and showcase how well Jack Blades thickens up the harmonies with his vocal talents. For the first time, Mr. Blades may finally get noticed for his bass playing ability. Whereas he was always a front-man with Damn Yankees and Night Ranger, here he is “The Bass Player.” He really shines, creating solid, well-executed bass lines. He provides some noticeable fills and keeps up with the legendary Tak Matsumoto.

Tak, besides shouldering the guitar and songwriting duties, also produced the disk, and the sound is as massive and fresh as anything you have ever heard. Besides the great songs, the guy plays amazing guitar. The solo for “Oh Japan” jumps out of your speakers and will have you playing your air guitar from the first time out. Combining all the elements that make a guitar hero, Tak displays blistering speed, amazing technique, and a “piece-de-resistance,” style; he makes every note sing and knows when to drop out and let the song work for him.

Whether or not it is the presence of another famed vocalist, or perhaps the songs just demand it, Eric Martin sets the bar another notch higher for himself. Never has he sounded fuller and absolutely dead on-key than he does here. He and Jack trade off in a fierce vocal delivery at the beginning of “Everything Passes Away,” and create a vocal tension almost like they are warriors sparring, but not sparring with each other, rather the listener.

Other highlight tracks are “King for a Day,” “Red, White and Bullet Blue,” and “Train, Train.” If you are familiar with either Eric Martin or Jack Blades, you know there is going to be a soulful moment … the gratuitous ballad, if you will. And “Two of Kind” delivers what you’d expect for those in need of a lover’s tale, but it also delivers much more. Again, showcasing Tak’s guitar abilities, he gets a wonderful Jimi Hendrix-like tone in the verse, but brings in the huge-sounding, stadium-filling chords for the chorus. There won’t be an unlit lighter (or closed cell phone for you modernistic folk) in the venue. It may be possible that every song on this release could stand alone as a single; there is absolutely no filler material here.

If you like your Rock served up with a lot of flare, heavy with hook-laden, easily singable verses and choruses, you will be in for the ride of your life. TMG 1 is a showcase release for musicianship, songwriting, and production. If all albums are measured on a rating value of one to ten, then to quote the legendary Nigel Tufnel, “This one goes to eleven!”


  • Jeremy Juliano

    Jeremy was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He's been involved with and has been following the Metal scene since the early 1980’s. He started out his Metal journey with heavy doses of Maiden, Accept, and Saxon. And in recent years, he has enjoyed the new age of Metal with bands like Hammerfall, Edguy, and Nightwish, to name a few.

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