As a founding member of the Moody Blues and Ginger Baker's Airforce, and the driving stringbender behind all of Wings' hits, Denny Laine deserves a better place in history than he's got. Sure, he's a musician's musician, but his role as a songwriter, singer, and lead guitarist live in the sad annals of The Sideman: underappreciated, and kind of unknown.
Japanese Tears [Scratch SCR L 5001, 1983] is a testament to this, a brilliant outtakes record that was Laine's first release after Wings broke up in 1980. Paul McCartney had been arrested for possession of marijuana while flying into Japan (God love 'im) and, becoming introspective, disbanded Wings, cancelled a world tour, and released the much derided McCartney II. Laine, who had a cache of great tunes and pro-sounding demos stretching back as far as 1973, recorded the title song about Paul's bust, perfectly mixing eastern traditional and western pop melodicism, and threw it together with 13 other tracks to create a seamless collection that matches any of Wings' records (except, maybe, Band On The Run).
There are some Wings outs, two of which feature Macca on bass and vocals (one of which he co-wrote), as well as a remake of the Moody Blues' "Go Now," the tune that put Laine (as lead singer) on the musical map in 1965. In Paul & Linda fashion, Denny sings several songs with his wife, Jo Jo, on backing vocals, and the "home recorded" tunes aren't wanting for professional playing or production. Beatles-y melodicism is the name of the game, with Laine a hip (and not-unknowing) guide for bringing mainstream rock values into indie production and creating some real powerpop nuggets in the process (it was released on Scratch, after all).
Japanese Tears has seen sporadic reissue on several different labels, but for whatever reason all of these seem to go out of print, and none of them seem to feel the need to actually call the damn thing what it was originally titled. Maybe it's to skirt royalty issues? Or maybe because the album is a bit of a hodgepodge, with fierce rockers ("Silver), bluesy acoustic takes ("Danger Zone"), synth-driven baroque pop ("Say You Don't Mind"), and lovely ballads ("Lovers Might)... either way, this one is highly recommended!