Shoukichi Kina & Champloose: Blood Line 2016
Blood Line (aka Bloodline) was originally released in 1980 and was the second album but the first studio recording by Shoukichi Kina & Champloose. This new remastered version contains the original album plus two bonus tracks mixed by Makoto Kubota. The bonus tracks are a new mix of ‘Hana’ from the original analogue multi-track master and an instrumental version of the same song.
Blood Line is widely regarded as one of the most important albums in the history of Okinawan music. It was recorded in Hawaii and Tokyo with the members of Champloose joined by Ry Cooder, Makoto Kubota, Haruomi Hosono, Macky Ferry and others. The album is famous most of all for the first recording of ‘Hana’ (or to give it its complete title ‘Subete no Hito no Kokoro ni Hana o’). This was sung by Kina’s then wife Tomoko Kina with Ry Cooder on slide guitar and mandolin.
It’s surprising that such an influential album is only 28 minutes long though this is increased by ten minutes with the bonus tracks on the new release. It isn’t necessarily the best Kina album either and some of his later recordings have surpassed it while its live album predecessor has more intensity and rough immediacy. It has always been a favourite of Kina’s however – he even once thought about re-recording the whole album – and so he must be pleased to see it reaching a new audience with this re-release.
Listening to Blood Line today it’s clear that the album has worn very well and after 36 years still manages to sound fresh and inventive. The quality of the songs, mostly Kina originals, is very high and there isn’t really a weak moment on the album. Apart from the obvious and much recorded ‘Hana’ there are several songs such as ‘Akisamiyo’ and ‘I-Yah Hoy!’ which typify the life-affirming spirit of Kina’s work but there are also quieter moments such as ‘Nirai Kanai’ that ooze with island feeling and impress even more at this distance.
It is also a bit surprising to realise just how much of a combined effort it was. Although Kina’s charismatic presence pervades the album he takes the lead vocal duties on only a few songs and on one or two he doesn’t sing at all. But it’s a treat when he does as he is a great and much underrated singer with a voice very similar to his father, the late Shouei Kina. So it’s a welcome return for Blood Line and a chance to reassess this seminal album.
Blood Line 2016 is released by Anchor Records.