Japanese guitarist/lead vocalist
SHUICHI AOKI makes his debut with the Melodic Rockband NIGHT HAWKS in 1989.
Shuichi can also play bass and drums, but in his first group NIGHT HAWKS
he concentrates on the guitar and his lead vocals. Besides this, he also
writes all the music and lyrics for the band. NIGHT HAWKS gets a recorddeal
with the major label CBS/SONY. On this label they released their first
album 'Night hawks 1' on the 1st of February 1989. Musically the melodic
rock of NIGHT HAWKS has a lot of American influences of bands like FIREHOUSE,
DANGER DANGER and the 1987 WHITESNAKE... There are also pure some AOR influences,
which can better be heard on the following albums. The lyrics are both
in Japanese and English language, a bit like their countrymen of RABBITT
and GRAND SLAM.
To get back to their first CD, I can mention that the first 4 tracks sound very good and impressive (especially for a Japanese band). Opener "Goodbye Marry" is a great cheerful uptempo melodic rocker in the category of FIREHOUSE/DANGER DANGER... In the same style is the track "Cry for you" with a very American Rocksound. "Give me love" is a good melodic rocker that sounds close to what WHITESNAKE did on their '1987' album.
But the best song is track 4,
"Close your eyes". This song is a pure semi AOR Ballad like a cross between
TRADIA and SURVIVOR (the piano-keyboards). A classic AOR sound with a really
lovely guitar/keyboardsound. After this wonderful song, the band jumps
over to a rougher melodic hardrocksound like the early SKID ROW. Examples
of this sound are songs like "Good luck, lady tonight" and "Lonely in my
soul". "Don't go away" on the other hand closes this CD nicely as a good
semi melodic rockballad.
One year later NIGHT HAWKS released their second album titled 'Night Hawks 2' and the musicstyle hasn't changed a bit happily. There are pure AOR songs, melodic rockers, rougher hard rocksongs and some instrumental parts. Opener "Stay alive" is a nice MHR song, next track "I can't find" is a bit average groovy MHR. But then we can hear a fantastic track titled "On my way", a pure semi AOR Ballad in the style of SURVIVOR/TRADIA, this song is from a very high quality.
The following track "Lady" is unfortunately again a
bit average MHR. But then we can hear again a fantastic track, namely "Don't
tell me now". This is uptempo cheerful AOR/Melodic Rock reminding me of
bands like FAIR WARNING, DANGER DANGER, FROM THE FIRE and the first FRONTLINE.
The last 4 tracks are all just nice MHR songs, with the exception of the
final track "Rock'n'roll over night" which is a party-melo-rocker in the
style of POISON/MOTLEY CRUE that still sounds pretty nice.
In 1992 NIGHT HAWKS released their third CD titled 'No satisfaction' and again no change of musicstyle. There is some average and nice MHR on the CD such as "No satisfaction", "Speed" and "Lookin' for love", but also some AOR orientated songs. These are the best songs. For example the fantastic uptempo AOR rocker "Take my heart" that has a classy 80s sound (including keys and harmonyvocals) and reminding me of the first TALK OF THE TOWN classic.
Also a nice AOR rocker is the
song "Justice" that only doesn't have a real chorus. The song reminds me
though of the old STRANGEWAYS. The last 3 tracks on this third CD are all
nice songs, including two melodic rockers ("All right" and "It's just rock'n'Roll")
and as closing track "A long way from home", a calmer AOR ballad.
We had to wait two years for something new of the band. First there was a best of release titled 'Midnight hawks', including all their hits from their first 3 albums. They were very popular in Japan and so it was easy to release a best of that would sell well. Anyway, in the same year, the band also released their 4th studio album titled 'Power of love'. This time the band had changed a little bit their musicstyle. The AOR songs had become more AOR, the melodic rockers were still there, only the band put some pop orientated tracks on this fourth album unfortunately. On the other hand, the AOR based songs sounded very good.
Opener "Run up" is probably the heaviest song on this CD, and is a bit average early SKID ROW rocker. But the following two tracks are really super AOR songs! "Knock to your love" has a killer AOR chorus that sounds very much like TOTO at their most AOR orientated uptempo songs. "Undine" is the intro for the fantastic semi AOR ballad "???" (sung in Japanese language, but not irritating at all). This song is sounding like DAVID ROBERTS mixed with TOTO. This song has a very strong pure AOR chorus with some beautiful harmonyvocals, and also the guitars and keyboards sound just so perfect. It's almost unbelievable that this is a Japanese AOR band, they have such an North-American rocksound.
Unfortunately the following two tracks are more pop based. "Cross a river" is a nice poprocker but disturbed by a saxsolo. Titletrack "Power of love" is pure pop and sounds really terrible, the only one this band has made in their existence. "Innocent" on the other hand is a nice calmer AOR ballad like WHITE HEART, TOTO... "Sexy voice" is a ncie poprocker and just like the previous track, they both have a nice guitarsolo, the latter has a very long solo.
The last 3 tracks are making this last studio album of NIGHT HAWKS so interesting. First there is "Rainy Route B". This is fantastic classic 80s cheerful uptempo melodic rock in the style of DANGER DANGER, GRAND SLAM... Just listen to this catchy chorus with some very strong melodic harmonyvocals. Same goes for closing track "Fight your soul". This song has some impressive sing-a-long melodic harmonyvocals that won't go out of your head after you heard it. Speaking of an American sound! The only track I haven't mentioned yet is the best track NIGHT HAWKS has ever recorded, namely the song "Never failing love". This is the best Japanese song ever recorded! "Never failing love" is a classic AOR ballad with piano-keys that remind me of the classic AOR ballads of bands like SURVIVOR, FOREIGNER, JOURNEY, REO SPEEDWAGON and even SIGNAL or ALIAS! Maybe vocally the song is not as good as these American bands, but the sound is similar.
Concluded the last studio-album of NIGHT HAWKS titled 'Power of love' is the most interesting release. The CD contains about 5 fantastic AOR/Melodic Rock styled songs froma very high quality and maybe these songs are the best songs ever recordred by a Japanese Rock band! Unfortuantely there are also some less interesting songs on the CD. But still if you're going to check out Japanese Melodic Rock, you should start with this band.
The story is not all over, because in 1996 NIGHT HAWKS released their sixth album titled 'Power in live', but like the title says it is a live CD. Nevertheless a very good live CD, because NIGHT HAWKS can play excellent live on stage. I only find the public a bit quiet. The first track "Fight your soul" shows how good this band really is and this classic melodic rocker in a live version is reminding me a lot of the first two albums of TALISMAN. Live the band sound a bit heavier and besides the AOR styled songs such as "Knock to your love" (great keys) and "Shout" (previously only on the best of CD and as B-side of a single available), they can also rock a little harder on songs like "Breath of fire" and "Run up" that both remind me of the old LOUDNESS. These songs are not so interesting.
After this great live CD, their sixth release, the party's over and out for NIGHT HAWKS. However Lead Vocalist/Guitarist SHUICHI AOKI went on to do some more Melodic Rock with side-projects. He already released a CD within the project THE WHOOZE titled '37 Karat'. This CD was more like a tribute to 70s/80s classic rockanthems. The CD contained a medley of almost 40 songs. Included were songs like "Carry on wayward son", "Fool for your loving" and "Love gun", all performed very well in melodic rock versions. A very enjoyable listen, considering the fact that you may not like all the original versions (such as "You keep me hangin' on").
Besides NIGHT HAWKS, Shuichi Aoki also released an album with THE KINGS, some sort of project I believe. With this group he released in 1995 a CD. Musically it was a continuation of where NIGHT HAWKS ended. Good Melodic Hard Rock with the occasional AOR tune and some more average songs. In contrast to the last studio album of NIGHT HAWKS, the sound on the only THE KINGS CD was a bit heavier. The first track "Brake down" sounds at first sight like some average early WINGER/WARRANT Melodic Rocker, but the chorus is really wonderful AOR with harmonyvocals singing "Hungry for love". "The gate of your soul" and "Stabd up to the world" are both nice melodic rockers in the style of the 80s WHITESNAKE. In fact, I think the 80s sound of WHITESNAKE has influenced these guys a lot, because both NIGHT HAWKS and THE KINGS contain a lot references to WHITESNAKE songs such as "Here I go again" and "Is this love".
After a lot of MHR material, track 4 of THE KINGS album is moving into AOR direction. The song is called "1989 for 1994" and you only have to listen to the beginning and you can hear clearly the lovely piano-keys that are similar to SURVIVOR. The song itself is a great pure AOR Ballad with some very good vocals of Shuichi. Next track "Misty eyes" is more like the opening cut, which is at first sight LYNCH MOB kinda MHR, but a great AOR chorus with harmonyvocals singing "Gimme all your love" (note the WHITESNAKE reference).
The song "Are you ready" is a simple average rocker in the VICTORY style, really nothing special. Then the band reaches their highest level in the song "Not throwing the keys". What an incredible song this is! Just listen to those superb keys and the whole sound of the song. This is pure midtempo AOR with almost a classic AOR chorus. Every AOR fan will love this chorus. This could've easily been on any of the big American AOR releases. The chorus (and the song too) is a fantastic mixture between TYKETTO, RED DAWN and SURVIVOR. And this is absolutely no joke! After this superb song, the CD closes with two heavier melodic rockers.
The album of THE KINGS was released in 1996 and now 3 years later, the band or any of it's bandmembers have only appeared on several other recordings as a guest musician. Examples are bands like TSUNAMI and SINON. I believe these are very well-known bands in Japan. But no own recordings at this moment.
We can only hope that NIGHT HAWKS
or THE KINGS will release a new album in their Melodic Rock style, because
some of their songs are really the best you can get from a Japanese act.
Anyway, please visit their website for all the information on this great
band and their side-projects. It's really worth a try. Unfortunately the
site is only Japanese, I think this story will give you enough information
about the sound of NIGHT HAWKS.
DISCOGRAPHY NIGHT HAWKS:
NIGHT HAWKS 1
NIGHT HAWKS 2 (CBS/SONY - 1990)
NO SATISFACTION (SONY - 1992)
MIDNIGHT HAWKS (SONY - 1994)
POWER OF LOVE (BMG/VICTOR - 1994)
POWER IN LIVE (KITTY ENTERPRISES - 1996)
KINGS (PORYDOR - 1995)
OFFICIAL WEBSITE FANCLUB NIGHT HAWKS:
E-MAIL ADDRESS FANCLUB NIGHT HAWKS:
(A special thanks goes out to Chisato Yokoyama and Setsuko Takeda for making this all possible)