Take Black Sabbath, Free, Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harum, ’68 vintage Purple and a soupçon of Barclay James Harvest – put them into an industrial blender and the result is one of the great unsung albums of the early 70s. Strawberry Path released a brilliant (mostly) heavy rock album in 1971 called When The Raven Has Come To Earth. The band was one of the raw, heavy rock bands that came out of Japan around that time; Speed, Glue & Shinki, Kuni Kawach to name but three others. Strawberry Path was the brainchild of two Japanese musicians, Shigeru Narumo (guitars, keyboards) and Hiro Tsunoda (drums) they only recorded this one masterpiece which has seen a recent CD re-issue.
The pair are perhaps better known for the band that developed immediately after this one, but here their embryonic genius is obvious. Still, check out the rather excellent Flied Egg who have two very, very good albums to their name, especially the brilliant Dr. Siegel’s Fried Egg Shooting Machine from 1972.
This first album does have some weird moments too, ‘Spherical Illusion’ is a long, decent drum solo and then guitar solo instrumental. ‘Maximum Speed Of Muji Bird’ is a Hammond instrumental intro to the next track, ‘Leave Me Woman’ before it turns into something like a raw version of ‘Why Didn’t Rosemary‘. The orchestral with Hammond intro to ‘Mary Jane On My Mind’ I guess has the Jon Lord influence and it is saved by a tasty guitar solo that injects some rock into a potentially saccharine pop ballad which is not as bad as it sounds. ‘The Second Fate’ is pure, laid back Procol Harem. However, with serious (and seriously good) heavy Hendrix and Purple sounds, ‘I Gotta See My Gypsy Woman’ and ‘Five More Pennies’, definitely hit the spot. The latter, in particular, is a guitar fest for Naruto to combine his Blackmore, Iommi and Page influences and thoroughly entertain, even if it is just playing spot the borrowed and modified riffs. The title track saves the best until last with an instrumental that adds flute to the piano, Hammond and guitar. The track lasts over six minutes (less if you discount the wind sound effects at the start) of peaceful psyche until after the raven calls, the thunder sounds and the last three minutes is genuinely lovely electric guitar.
OK, it’s as raw as an uncooked steak and some would say derivative of what was happening in the UK’s rock world, but it all has an almost indefinable attraction that when you really listen, is actually very good indeed. Like Flied Egg, like Socrates Drank The Conium, this could easily be dismissed unless you run through it a few times and (remembering that guitar bass and Hammond are all one man) it becomes a significant contribution to 1970s rock and well worth exploring. (The vinyl is pricy but it is on CD and still available.)