Oil on Canvas

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Oil on Canvas
Japan - Oil On Canvas.jpg
Live album by
ReleasedJune 1983
RecordedNovember 1982
Japan chronology
Tin Drum
Oil on Canvas
Rain Tree Crow
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[1]

Oil on Canvas is a live album by the English band Japan, released in June 1983 by Virgin Records. It was released six months after the band had broken up, and became their highest charting album in the UK, peaking at number 5. It has been certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry for sales in excess of 100,000 copies.


The live tracks on the double-album were taken from the band's performances at the Hammersmith Odeon in November 1982, during their final live concert tour. Since guitarist Rob Dean had left the band in 1981, Japanese session musician Masami Tsuchiya was added to the line-up on 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.[citation needed])

Although it is a live recording of their established material, the album also contains three new instrumental 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).

Release and aftermath[edit]

Although the album was released some months following the band's much publicised split in late 1982, it was Japan's highest charting album in the UK (where it reached No. 5).[2] The album was certified "Gold" by the BPI in 1988 for 100,000 copies sold.[3]

A single, "Canton", was released, with the B-side "Visions of China". It reached No. 42 in the UK Singles Chart.[2]

A video version of Oil on Canvas was also released by Virgin Records. This was re-released on DVD in 2006 as "The Very Best of Japan", which also features many of the band's promotional videos.

Seven 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, under the group moniker Rain Tree Crow.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Sylvian unless otherwise noted

Side A:

  1. "Oil on Canvas" (instrumental studio recording) – 1:25
  2. "Sons of Pioneers" (Karn, Sylvian) – 4:59
  3. "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" – 6:41
  4. "Swing" – 5:36

Side B:

  1. "Cantonese Boy" – 3:45
  2. "Visions of China" (Jansen, Sylvian) – 3:34
  3. "Ghosts" – 6:23
  4. "Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer" (instrumental studio recording) (Jansen, Sylvian) – 3:30

Side C:

  1. "Nightporter" – 6:47
  2. "Still Life in Mobile Homes" – 5:37
  3. "Methods of Dance" – 6:07

Side D:

  1. "Quiet Life" – 4:34
  2. "The Art of Parties" – 5:28
  3. "Canton" (Jansen, Sylvian) – 5:43
  4. "Temple of Dawn" (instrumental studio recording) (Barbieri) – 1:45

Note: some early CD pressings of the Oil on Canvas album omit the tracks "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" and "Swing".


Steve Jansen, Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Rich Barbieri, and guest Masami Tsuchiya
Additional personnel