The unbelievably prolific Haruomi Hosono is one of the major architects of modern Japanese pop music. With his encyclopedic knowledge of music and boundless curiosity for new sounds, Hosono is the auteur of his own idiosyncratic musical world, putting his unmistakable stamp on hundreds of recordings as an artist, session player, songwriter and producer. Born and raised in central Tokyo, his adolescent obsession with American pop culture informed his early forays into country music, which he would revisit later in his career. Hosono made his professional debut in 1969 as a member of Apryl Fool, whose heavy psychedelia was somewhat at odds with his influences, which leaned towards the rootsy sounds of Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield. The latter was one of the main inspirations for his next group, Happy End, whose unique blend of West Coast sounds with Japanese lyrics proved to be highly influential over the course of three albums. After the band’s amicable break up in 1973, Hosono began his solo career with Hosono House, an intimate slice of Japanese Americana recorded inside a rented house with recording gear squeezed into its tiny bedroom.
Following Tropical Dandy (1975) and Bon Voyage Co. (1976), Paraiso is the concluding saga in his “Tropical Trilogy.” The album can be seen as a turning point in Haruomi Hosono’s career, having been newly signed to Alfa Records by label head Kunihiko Murai. Hosono expands on the Van Dyke Parks-inspired tropical funk styles explored in the previous albums, and arrives at a captivating fusion sound that’s at times equally earthy and exotic. Hinting at the breakthrough sounds he would perfect with Yellow Magic Orchestra, Hosono uses synthesizers to provide otherworldly textures and a spiritual undertone to songs like “Femme Fatale” and the title track. On his Caribbean-style take on the Okinawan folk song “Asatoya Yunta” and the synth/gamelan workout of “Shambhala Signal,” Hosono takes traditional melodies and mixes them into his own inimitable stew. Featuring a host of well-known musicians like Taeko Ohnuki, Hiroshi Sato and his future bandmates Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Paraiso perfectly encapsulates Hosono’s eccentric worldview that has shaped his solo career, right before his techno-pop project would blast him into the stratosphere.