The Rainbow Goblins - Masayoshi Takanaka
I don't think I could ever officially choose an ultimate favorite album of all time. But I thought I would kick off this blog by talking about one album that I currently feel is pretty damn close.
The Rainbow Goblins is a jazz/funk/rock/city pop/fusion album created by Masayoshi Takanaka and released in 1981. The album takes its title and story from a psychadelic 1978 children's picture book written & illustrated by Italian artist Ul De Rico. In just over an hour, Takanaka uses the power of music (and his wicked guitar skills) to tell the tale of seven greedy goblins in search of the legendary Rainbow Valley.
I came across this album serendipitously as a YouTube recommendation. The colorful album art and funny title piqued my interest, and I was blown away the moment I pressed Play. The sweeping orchestrals of the first track ("PROLOGUE") got me in the storybook headspace; it brings to mind something out of a Don Bluth film.
And that's when the narration hits:
A long time ago, there was a hidden valley called The Valley of the Rainbow where the animals lived in peace. This valley was the only place in the land which had never known the fear of the Seven Goblins.
I don't know if I can entirely describe why, but I felt a rush of giddiness when I learned that snippets of spoken word (narrated by) were peppered throughout the music, telling the rainbow goblins' tale. It evokes the most childlike wonder and makes such a perfect fit for the album. Yes, I am 26, and yes, an enthusiastic voice telling me a story still gets me excited.
The guitars and synths take center stage after the first track, but the orchestral sound still permeates through the album, keeping things lush. The instrumentation plays with motif as well, connecting certain instruments to characters - the goblins are represented by a vocoder; every time the moon appears, a glockenspeil is played. But the true hero of the album is the rich bass, providing a sturdy foundation and also some banging rhythms. The bass brings out the FUNK.
As you can expect from an album directly adapted from a story, The Rainbow Goblins is well-paced. Songs that are more high-energy find their balance between songs that are more relaxed, painting the highs and lows of the goblins' story. Yet along the way, the music maintains its groove. There's not many points in the album where you won't be tapping a foot or bobbing a head. It's a pure concentration of joy and good vibes.
3. "SEVEN GOBLINS" -