They are hard to find, but there are quite a few Japanese Melodic (Hard) Rockbands. Due to the fact that AOR and Melodic Rockbands are very popular in Japan, there are Japanese bands trying to follow this style. Bands like FAIR WARNING, TERRA NOVA and FRONTLINE are the most famous Rock groups in Japan. And Japanese rock musicians are influenced by these bands and want to play the same kind of music and that's how the Melodic Rock scene in Japan got started with bands like RABBIT, NIGHT HAWKS, SHADOW FLARE, NADIA, AZRAEL and also this band GRAND SLAM. Although it must be said that no Japanese band really is as good as FAIR WARNING, TERRA NOVA...
Just like their countrymen of
NIGHT HAWKS, also GRAND SLAM is influenced by the more AOR/Melodic Rock
orientated bands as well as the heavier Party kinda Melodic Hard Rock.
This makes it hard to listen to their entire albums, because it is up and
down with their material. Still, just like NIGHT HAWKS, also this GRAND
SLAM has some terrific AOR orientated material between their mostly 80s
L.A. Melodic Hard Rock orientated CDs.
In 1990 GRAND SLAM released their debut album. This was an E.P. called 'Golden bat' containing 4 tracks. Opener "Once more kiss" showed that this band was able to make some good music. This song is great uptempo AOR/Melodic Rock that sounds very cheerful and reminds me of the old SHY. The other 3 tracks are a bit more based on the L.A. Party MHR of bands like SKID ROW.
In the same year the band released
their first full-length CD titled 'Rhythmic noise'. On this CD we can find
some great tracks. The commercial melodic rock on this CD is quite close
to DANGER DANGER. The best tracks are the uptempo cheerful melodic rockers
"Without dreams" and "I wanna touch you" with some lovely catchy choruses
which are easy to sing-a-long. It is pretty clear that GRAND SLAM is influenced
by the American Mainstream Rockbands from the late 80s/early 90s, because
this CD contains a lot of influences of bands like FIREHOUSE, DAMN YANKEES,
DANGER DANGER, SLAUGHTER, WHITE LION and NELSON who at that same time were
very popular in both the USA and Japan. On later albums the band is more
influenced by AOR orientated acts, so then we get to hear some really great
One year later, in 1991, GRAND SLAM released their 3rd CD titled 'Infinity' containing 12 tracks. Musically the band had not changed much and so we can still hear some nice MHR in the DANGER DANGER style. Best songs on this album are "Faraway" (cheerful uptempo melo-rocker like BLUE TEARS/DANGER DANGER), "Cry again" (AOR chorus and a sound like 80s DOKKEN), "Farewell to you" (Melodic Rockballad) and "Heartache" (cheerful uptempo AOR/Melodic Rock). I need to add that the vocals are not as strong as the American bands, but musically they can compete with mentioned bands.
Other songs on 'Infinity' include mostly L.A. based MHR with songs like "Let me go to the show" (sounds very much like AUTOGRAPH), "Let it go", "I wanna be somebody" and the average Party-rocker "Dance dance dance" (like old CRUE). These songs keep the quality a bit down and makes it hard to recommend this CD.
We have to wait 2 years for a new album of the band. In 1993 GRAND SLAM released their 4th CD titled 'Inside or outside'. It was worth to wait, because this is not only their best CD, but also the first I would like to recommend to you. The album saw the introduction of keyboards to make the sound more melodic. But the beginning of the CD didn't sound so melodic, because the first 3 tracks are nothing special MHR in the FIREHOUSE/WARRANT/WINGER/SLAUGHTER style. But after these 3 songs, the band jumps over to a great pure AOR/Melodic Rock sound for 6 songs long.
"Can't stop believin'" is great midtempo AOR/Melodic Rock with some lovely harmonyvocals. The following two tracks "Song for you" and "Under the sky" are very good uptempo cheerful melodic rockers that could have been on the first DANGER DANGER album. "Under the sky" also has some great AOR keys and a lovely sound. Then we get to hear the best track GRAND SLAM ever recorded. I'm talking about the song "Nobody knows", a fantastic semi classic AOR ballad in the style of BAD ENGLISH, AVIATOR, early FM... Unbelievable, but it is really the truth. This is a very impressive song and pure AOR, including hooklines, keys and a superb chorus. After this song we get to hear some great uptempo AOR/Melodic Rock with the songs "Missing you" and "Into the night". The CD closes with the heavier and simpler MHR song "Are you ready".
In 1994, GRAND SLAM released a mini-CD titled 'Big deal'. Unfortunately the band had returned to their heavier MHR sound on this album. The 4 songs on this mini-CD are nothing special, unless you want to hear heavier MHR in the style of LYNCH MOB, SKID ROW or VAN HALEN.
Two year later the band's latest CD was released. The CD was titled 'Gland slam' and contained 11 tracks. Just like the previous full-length CD, also this album starts with a couple of average MHR songs, before they jump over to a more AOR/Melodic Rock sound. In fact, the first 3 cuts are pretty weak, a song like "Night after night" could have been a Gene Simmons song on the KISS album 'Revenge'. Fortunately, the band has some surprises during the middle of the CD. First there is a good uptempo melodic rocker titled "All day all night" that sounds like a mix between FIREHOUSE and HEAVENS EDGE. The following 3 tracks ar very impressive and interesting for the AOR fan.
"Merry-go-round" is a great uptempo AOR/Melodic Rocker that sounds like the classic 80s with some very nice melodies and a very impressive pure AOR Chorus that sounds very much like the debut album of TYKETTO (in the style of their songs "Burning down inside"). This song contains all the concepts of a classic AOR song. The next track "Memories" is not as good as the previous track, but still a good uptempo melodic rocker that reminds me somehow of KING KOBRA. "Million miles away" on the other hand is a fantastic semi AOR ballad, clearly in the FRONTLINE style. GRAND SLAM must have been influenced by FRONTLINE on this song, because at that time that German band had just scored massive hits in Japan.
The following 3 tracks are again pretty average MHR like SKID ROW and these songs also have a more updated 90s sound. The CD closes with the lovely melodic rockballad "Baby, don't cry" that sounds like a mix between NIGHT RANGER, VELOCITY and DAMN YANKEES. It is a pity that this CD has too much ups and downs. If the band had put more songs in the style of their songs "Merry-go-round" or "Million mies away", then it would be a much better CD.
Concluded we can say that almost all the CDs of GRAND SLAM have ups and downs musically. It's hard to label the CDs to one particular musicstyle. Still, for the AOR/Melodic Rockfans I would recommend the CD 'Inside or outside' to buy first if you're planning to check out this Japanese band. This CD contains some great AOR orientated songs.
I believe the band still exists and are very famous in their homecountry, so a new CD would be very much welcome to a lot of people. When a new CD will be released, we will discuss it and let you know if it is interesting. It would be great if the band would follow their Melodic Rock/AOR approach of their CD 'Inside or outside'. But it's the late 90s, so it is hard to say if the band will play the same musicstyle they did for many years. We can only wait...
DISCOGRAPHY GRAND SLAM:
RHYTHMIC NOISE (ALFA RECORDS - 1990)
INFINITY (ALFA RECORDS - 1991)
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE (ALFA RECORDS - 1993)
BIG DEAL (DANGER CRUE - 1994)
GLAND SLAM (TJC INC. - 1996)
LINE-UP GRAND SLAM:
- Vocals, Guitar
Kazuhide Shirota - Guitar
Hironori Yoshikawa - Bass
Yoshihisa Sawai - Drums
Jun Takagi - Keyboards
WEBSITE GRAND SLAM:
E-MAIL ADDRESS GRAND SLAM:
(A special thanks goes out to JUN TAKAGI for making this all possible)