New York, 1967. Tom Wilson, man behind the mixing desk for such legendary artists as Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, The Velvet Underground, and Simon and Garfunkel, has persuaded Verve Records to sign and fund his newest project for distribution on their Forecast imprint. Unlike the other acts that Wilson helped shape into the defining sounds of an era, this artist will barely make a mark on history. His name is Harumi, he's from Japan, and he creates a psychedelic pop album that would eventually be heralded as everything from lost classic to hopelessly frazzled to Holy Grail among squares and psych-heads decades later, but not before he manages to completely disappear from the music industry and into the void of complete and total obscurity.
There is very little known about the man named Harumi, if that's even his real name (and it's debatable, as "Harumi" has female connotations in Japanese). Virtually every source-every blog, every website-has the exact same information on him: He came from Japan to New York to record an album, and disappeared. Did he remain in America to take part in the flower power movement? Could he have returned to Japan, sealing the fate on his obscurity by becoming a salaryman? Presumably, nobody outside his family knows. He could be anywhere in the world. He could be dead.
The actual album itself only adds to the mystery. Recorded between 1967 and 1968, it was a product of its time: a psychedelic gem released at the height and in the heyday of the genre's popularity and ubiquity. A double LP with a gatefold sleeve, its richly colored artwork (courtesy of "Sherri Berri") stands out even considering the acid-and-sun soaked milieu of the time. Inside, though, there is little information regarding its musicians. Harumi does indeed seem to be the singer's name (as evidenced by the strange side story written on the back end of the sleeve), but aside from the usual professional credits such as Producer (Tom Wilson), Arranger (Larry Fallon, Harvey Vinson, and Harumi), and Engineer (Val Valentin), there is nothing regarding who played the actual music.
"Harumi" isn't perfect, but in its imperfections it creates a certain charm and allure completely unique to itself. Harumi sounds like Your Friendly Neighborhood Acid-Head (though psychedelic blogger/uberenthusiast Dr. Schluss likened him to "a stoned cosmonaut," which actually seems to work pretty well as a compliment, I guess) and the album itself plays out as such; innocent rock, folk, or soul filtered through the lysergic brain of a Japanese expatriate and the adventurous producer willing to capture it all on tape.
"Harumi" does deserve the praise and cult following its gathered over the years, and the title of "lost classic" is well earned. In fact, if it hadn't been for Fallout Records, it might truly be lost; copies of the original double LP are rare and go for upwards of 50 dollars, and that's considering someone is even willing to part with their treasure. Harumi also recorded a second record, also self titled, but unfortunately it only came out in Japan and seems to be all but completely lost.
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