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SHEENA & THE ROKKETS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Sheena & the Rokkets (Japan. Alfa) 1979
Sheena & the Rokkets (A&M) 1980

The debut album by this ingenious Japanese techno-pop quartet with a female singer and a taste for Anglo-American rock'n'roll of the '60s contains over-the-top readings of "The Batman Theme," James Brown's "I Got You" and a truly nutty version of "You Really Got Me," as well as impressive originals like "Radio Junk" and "Rocket Factory." A perfectly wonderful blend of cultures and musical sensibilities, sung in Japanese and fractured English.

The American release, which reprises five songs, is a very different record. Some tunes cut originally in Japanese were redone with English vocals; others sound like the results of completely new sessions. Overall, it lacks the carefree zaniness that imbues the Japanese album with its bubbling infectiousness. More serious, less entertaining.

After spending most of a decade out of sight and mind, Sheena and the Rokkets turned up playing in (at least) New York City in early 1988.

[Ira Robbins]