Oil on Canvas is a live album by the British band Japan, released in 1983 by Virgin Records.
Although it is a live recording of their established material, the album also contains three new
studio tracks ("Oil on Canvas", "Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer" and
"Temple of Dawn"), recorded separately by Sylvian, Sylvian/Jansen and Barbieri respectively.
(The name of Barbieri's track is taken from the novel The Temple of Dawn by the acclaimed
Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima.)
Although the album was released some months following the band's much publicised split in
late 1982, it was ironically Japan's highest charting album in the UK (where it reached #5).
The album was certified "Gold" by the BPI in 1988 for 100,000 copies sold.
The live tracks on the double-album were taken from Japan's performances in November
1982, during their final live concert tour. Since guitarist Rob Dean had left the band two years
previously, Japanese session musician Masami Tsuchiya was added to the line up to play
guitar and additional keyboards. The band also used backing tracks to supply additional
instrumental parts (for example, in contrast to some previous tours where a guest
saxophonist was recruited, many of Karn's saxophone lines were played from tape).
A video version of Oil On Canvas was also available from Virgin Records. This was rereleased
on DVD in 2006 as "The Very Best of Japan", which also features many of the
band's promotional videos.
Eight years after the release of Oil on Canvas the four members of Japan, David Sylvian,
Steve Jansen, Mick Karn and Richard Barbieri, reunited for another studio album - but then
under the group moniker Rain Tree Crow.
Review by Ned Raggett allmusic
The final Japan release was sold and marketed as a live album, though actually it's a bit of a
catchall -- it is indeed mostly from concerts, but also includes a variety of studio instrumentals
and a re-recorded version of "Nightporter" mixed in to sound like it's part of the show. The
various re-releases of the albums over the years confused matters further, with resequencings,
the excision of cuts, and more adding to general confusion about the release
(not to mention the fact that some reissues completely omitted where the shows were
recorded anyway!). Two of the instrumentals, "Oil on Canvas" itself and "Temple of Dawn,"
are brief, gentle pieces by Sylvian and Barbieri respectively. "Voices Raised in Welcome,
Hands Held in Prayer" is a more involving effort, combining a quiet, gamelan-inspired rhythm
with found-sound samples from what appears to be a religious ceremony. As for
"Nightporter," it's a nice enough new version but isn't notably different or varied from the
earlier studio take. The remaining live cuts show that the exquisite tension and serene
sounds in the studio were easily transferred to the stage in all their elegant complexity. The
Tin Drum selections, which make up most of the release, make the case even more that
Japan was as much a prog band as a glam one, Sylvian's captivating vocals flowing over
Asian-derived scales and melodies, the guitar parts handled by guest performer Masami
Tsuchiya, who also plays some keyboards. "Visions of China" sounds especially grand,
Jansen's entrancing drumming seemingly impossible to be created and yet clearly existing.
The extended introduction to "Ghosts," Karn's saxophone welling up from the distance like a
siren call, is another highlight, along with the slightly rocked-up -- but only just -- "Methods of
This is The 2006 Remaster
1. (01:26) - Oil On Canvas
2. (05:00) - Sons Of Pioneers
3. (06:43) - Gentlemen Take Polaroids
4. (05:37) - Swing
5. (03:47) - Cantonese Boy
6. (03:35) - Visions Of China
7. (06:23) - Ghosts
8. (03:31) - Voices Raised In Welcome, Hands Held In Prayer
9. (06:49) - Nightporter
10. (05:39) - Still Life In Mobile Homes
11. (06:08) - Methods Of Dance
12. (04:35) - Quiet Life
13. (05:29) - The Art Of Parties
14. (05:45) - Canton
15. (01:48) - Temple Of Dawn
Playing Time.........: 01:12:15
Total Size...........: 432.01 MB