Album Review: Ride on Time by Tatsuro Yamashita

Eric Kingston, Program Director

Japanese artist Tatsuro Yamashita was one of the most successful City Pop artist in the 1980s reaching worldwide audiences. Since the start of his musical career staring in the 1970s, Yamashita has released 19 albums and has been credited as one of the most influential, and successful Japanese artists of all time. His 5th studio album Ride on Time released on the RCA/AIR label topped the Japanese charts in October of 1980. I would highly recommend Tatsuro Yamashita to fans of funk, pop, city pop and 80s dance music.


Album cover art for Ride on Time by Tatsuro Yamashita


Album review by Eric Kingston

Track-By-Track Review:

Someday: The track starts off with Yamashita’s trademark basslines accompanied by piano, xylophone, and horn section the opening track starts the album off with an upbeat, bright, happy tone. The chorus introduces a group of female background singers to accompany Yamashita’s vocals adding call-and-response effects making the song impossible to sing along to and tap your feet to. Written in Japanese, translated Yamashita paints a picture of a lonesome person walking in the city at night lost and hopeless, but knowing that someday he will find hope.

Daydream: A funky track “Daydream” is leaded by the bassline and ever-changing drum patterns shifting the tone of the song almost every verse. Yamashita shows off his vibrato while singing the chorus highlighting his singing talents. There is a trombone solo scattered throughout the song that is one of the greatest parts of the album. Yamashita’s songwriting skills are fantastic on this track. Translated from Japanese to English, Yamashita writes about getting lost in the sunset and the colors of the sky, and to not  take its beauty for granted. I would highly recommend reading into the lyrics of each of his songs.

Silent Screamer: My personal favorite off the album, the song starts off like a freaking rocket ship with a screaming dropping guitar solo. The track is so upbeat and rocking that it still gives me goosebumps after the hundredth time listening. The funky bass guitar and rhythm guitar are like a freight train pushing this song along, making it a must play at any dance party. A simple double clap part added in at the end of each line of lyrics is also one of my favorite parts of the song, it really adds to the pop/dance feel.  Towards the latter half of the song, the backup vocals return to sing “silent screamer” repeatedly. This topped on top of the guitar solo ties the whole song together for the end of the song. If this song doesn’t get you moving, I don’t know what will!

Ride on Time: The album’s main single songs starts off with isolated vocals and piano, then quickly transitions into an electrifying funk section sound. The transition pattern between the piano-vocal duet and funky chorus is repeated through the song. The backup vocals and saxophone solo add an angelic cloud of sound to compliment the funk sound. The track, Ride on Time, shows off Yamashita’s unmatched instrumental orchestration that impresses me more every time I listen to his work.

The Door into Summer: The first track on the B side of the album, “The Door Into Summer” introduces a new sound to the album. An electric piano and moving bass line are the lead instruments in the track, but create a more ballad, emotional sound. The song features a beautiful echoed trumpet solo that contributes to the relaxed, ballad sound this song is producing. My favorite song lyrically, when translated Yamashita discusses a character into distress, but knows that there will come a time when it will be like how he remembered in his past. The use of summer as a metaphor also creates a feeling of nostalgia in the piece, which is aided by the emotional ballad sound of this track. My favorite line (translated) is “In our hearts, where winter scenery sparkles. Let’s hold onto the summer”.

My Sugar Babe: Sugar Babe was also the name of a band Yamashita formed 7 years prier to the release of this album. The piano, and buttery lead guitar create a romantic, sentimental tone to this song. This song shows off Yamashita’s singing skills as a ballad singer. The contrast between the pop-funk and the relaxed, romantic sound really helps balance out the album.

Rainy Day: The third track on the second side of the album continues the relaxed, nonchalant feeling. This song is the most dynamically diverse, with many graduate buildups and swells almost out of nowhere. The use of many vocal parts creates a cloud of vocals that make the extremely pleasurable to listen to. This song is the perfect song to listen and wind down to after a long day. When translated, Yamashita discussed the moment he fell in love with someone at first glance and would like to return and experience the feeling again. He wants to experience everything again from that day, even the rain.

Clouds: Returning some of his funk elements, “Clouds” fuses his pop song characteristics into the tone he’s created in the second half of the album. Like “Rainy Day” Tatsuro adds lots of breakdowns and buildups transitioning between verses and choruses. A soprano saxophone solo played around the halfway mark, which makes the listener feel like their swinging on the hammock. This song, like the whole album honestly, is a perfect summer album.

Kissing Goodnight: A fitting name for the ending of the album, the final track feels like a goodbye. The song is a dup between Yamashita’s vocals and a piano playing emotional, dissonant chords. The song is only a minute and a half long. When thinking metaphorically it could be Yamashita’s farewell to the listener.


Summary: Ride on Time is one of the most beautifully orchestrated, performed, and recorded albums I’ve ever heard. With every listen I am more impressed by the quality of the recordings and performances on this album. The A side of the album is upbeat, funk, electric dance music and the B side gives the listener some of the most relaxing, chilled out music you could listen to. The diverse and impressive ensemble of wind instruments, emphasis on large back up vocal ensemble parts and dynamic contrasts are the most impressive parts of the album. This album, or any of the preferred singles are a must for any party or beach trip.

I would rate this album 4/5 Spinnaker Sails. A serious must listen!