Review by David Cirone
HOTEI’s 2015 release STRANGERS was a masterclass in showmanship — full of electrifying guitar hero moments — but his latest studio album PARADOX is altogether more satisfying and equally masterful. Where STRANGERS might have been just a touch too heavy on the guest star list, PARADOX proves (once again) that HOTEI can handle center stage all by himself.
Produced in London by HOTEI (with the musician pulling duty on vocals, guitars, programming, and keyboards) PARADOX launches full-force with the r Boøwy-esque dance beat of “Amplifire”. There’s even more concert-ready fun in songs like “Parade”, the chord-and-chorus combos of “Pandemoniac Frustration”, and “London Bridge”, HOTEI’s tribute to his adopted country of England.
HOTEI delivers a moving vocal performance in “Dreamers Are Lonely”, and the smooth, assured melody of “Hitokoto” is matched a beautiful guitar solo. It’s worth mentioning that Hotei brings confidence to singing in both English and Japanese, but the fine whiskey in his Japanese voice as he professes “Aishiteru…” is irreplaceable.
The heart of this album lays in the center of PARADOX with a triple-header of rock treasures. The stadium-rock heavy chords of title track “PARADOX” lead seductively to HOTEI’s chilling shout of “Dark side!” before yet another just-WOW guitar solo. In “Blue Sky”, the guitar takes a break to give the lead to fine jazz piano and drums. HOTEI’s restrained, romantic delivery carries this song, and his subdued, hypnotic guitar emerges just long enough to bring color to the black-and-white world lamented in the lyrics by famed songwriter Yukinojo Mori.
After “PARADOX” and “Blue Sky”, HOTEI’s five-minute guitar instrumental “MAZE” goes beyond words into pure musical expression, bringing emotion into every musical note. “MAZE” is a beautiful progression of melodic rock, building up, holding back, then — like a three-point shot from half-court — everything arcs just right to land in the sweet spot. Separately, these songs carry their own power, but sequencing them mid-album in the perfect order is a masterstroke.
HOTEI’s no newcomer to the music scene, but his seemingly endless touring and fearless collaboration with international musicians have kept him sharp as ever. Beginning his career with Boøwy in the early Eighties, rockers of his age and status are typically preaching to the converted with new releases, but PARADOX stands out as fresh as any debut with renewed energy and spark. This is a master musician at work.
HOTEI – PARADOX
2. Pandemoniac Frustration
3. Dreamers Are lonely
6. Blue Sky
9. London Bridge
10. Strawberry Fields no Taiyou
12. Amplifire (Reprise)
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