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Covers (Normal Edition)(Japan Version)

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Covers (Normal Edition)(Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

African-American singer Jero was born and raised as Jerome Charles White Jr. in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Influenced by his Japanese grandmother, Jero started listened to enka songs when he was a child, and since then he's maintained his preference for the genre. Following an intensive vocal training program that lasted two years, Jero unveiled his debut single Umi Yuki in 2008, which became an Oricon no. 4 hit and paved the way for his career as the first enka singer of African descent. Jero's debut album Covers delivers seven tracks including promising new songs like the jazz inspired Kimi koishi (Track 2) and Fusan Minato e Kaere (Track 6), featuring US fusion guitarist Marty Friedman.
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Technical Information

Product Title: Covers (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) Covers (普通版)(日本版) Covers (普通版)(日本版) Covers (通常盤)(日本版) Covers (Normal Edition)(Japan Version)
Singer Name(s): Jero Jero Jero ジェロ Jero
Release Date: 2008-06-25
Publisher Product Code: VICL-62768
Language: Japanese
Disc Format(s): CD
Other Information: Album
Package Weight: 100 (g)
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
Publisher: Victor Entertainment
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1010952900

Product Information / Track List

通常盤
81年、アメリカ、ペンシルヴァニア出身。08年2月発売のシングル「海雪」でデビューした、ジェロのファーストミニアルバム。演歌・歌謡曲の名曲を歌ったカヴァーアルバム。
01 氷雨
02 君恋し
03 夜空
04 水鏡
05 本牧メルヘン
06 釜山港へ帰れ
07 さらば恋人
Additional Information may be provided by the manufacturer, supplier, or a third party, and may be in its original language

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Covers (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) "

July 14, 2008

This professional review refers to Covers (ALBUM+DVD)(First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version)
In 2007, a blind young man named Hiromasa Shimizu walked onto the stage and gave an enka performance so touching that audiences were moved to tears. He ended up winning the Best Performance Award for the year for the show, and released his own enka album this year as well. However, he lacks the natural stage presence that the other enka discovery from Noto Jiman has. After all, nothing shocks and awes a Japanese audience like a young foreigner of African-American descent belting out enka tunes in front of a live audience. That's exactly what Jerome White Jr. did in 2003. With his hip-hop appearance and humble personality, Jero (White's stage name) has rocked the Japanese music industry as one of the miracle stories of 2008. And unlike other singers brought up by the hype machine, this 26-year-old information science major from Pittsburgh is the real deal.

One-fourth Japanese, Jero learned enka - which can be simply described as "Japanese blues" - from his Japanese grandmother while growing up. After several years of vocal training set up by his record company following the Noto Jiman appearance, Jero saw his first release, the original single Umiyuki, eaten up by curious young fans and impressed enka listeners alike earlier in the year. In a rather wise move, his record company decided to make his first album a cover album, appropriately named Covers, instead of original works. This allows the young enka talent to further prove his talent by taking on well-known classics, as well as opening up possibilities of a new generation of fans for the fading genre. All the covers have been updated with modern arrangements with instruments usually not heard in traditional enka.

The 7-track mini album gets to a solid start with a soulful rendition of Hisame (Track 1), which follows the mid-beat pace of the original. However, Jero gives a magnetic vocal performance that conveys the sadness of the lyrics even more effectively than the original. His voice still sounds too young to match up to his seasoned elders, but it also comes with a smooth fluidity as he hits every single note accurately without losing the emotion of the songs. At the same time, he also avoids overdoing the traditional tone-twisting vocal style that turned contemporary generations off enka in recent years. Unlike many young singers, Jero has an amazing control of his voice, only opening it up when a specific passage calls for it. This is done to impressive effect on Yozora (Track 3), in which he takes on its notoriously difficult chorus. While the effect doesn't quite reach the level of original performer Hiroshi Itsuki, Jero manages to make the song his own with a delivery that emphasizes hitting the right notes, deviating from Itsuki's more emotional style.

As for the "modern arrangements", producer River Feathers and arranger Suzuki Suguru (responsible for most of the arrangements) doesn't resort to playing the hip-hop route by giving these covers arrangements of different genres. The standouts are those that employ lounge/jazz style arrangements such as Kimi Koishi (Track 2) and Saraba Koibito, which are truly effective in taking enka out of its genre shell with stylistic makeovers that make them acceptable to a modern audience. However, some of the arrangements try too hard to be contemporary for their own good. While the funky 70s soul arrangement for Yozora works because it keeps to the style of the original, the 80s power ballad arrangement for Pusan Kou he Kaere (Track 6) features too many modern elements, overshadowing the melody and lyrics themselves. The result sounds like the song is produced for Karaoke renditions rather than a professional cover.

Nevertheless, the star of the album is Jero, and he shows why he has managed to impress so many of his elder colleagues over the past few months. He (and his hardworking promotional team) has single-handedly brought enka back into the pop music spotlight because of not only his hip modern appearance, but also because of his sincerity in doing these songs justice. There may be more talented enka singers out there that can do the same old-fashioned enka act, but Jero has done something that these singers have yet to achieve: he made enka relevant again. At only 26, Jero has a long way to go in matching the level of the best enka singers in the business, but he's certainly getting off to an excellent start. Still, the hip-hop dancing may be a little too much modernizing.

Recommended Tracks: Hisame (Track 1), Kimi Koishi (Track 2), Yozora (Track 3), Saraba Koibito (Track 4)

by Kevin Ma

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