I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Tomoko Koyano -- Kyo mo Kita wa(今日も来たわ)

The bonenkai season is in full swing for me. Had my year-end party with my fellow company translators earlier tonight on a very bitterly cold evening so I truly appreciated the hot dinner. I also ended up uttering something rather atypically impolitic but apparently hilarious due to the Danforth Blue and Brown Cow speaking on my behalf. The above picture is actually from last week's get-together at Kintaro downtown. Dang, those were good cheese-and-mochi skewers from the grill!

Following a pleasant night out, it's good to unwind a bit. So in my case, that would involve me putting up an article on a song that is relaxing by its very nature. I found this one by singer-songwriter Tomoko Koyano(古谷野とも子)through her final album "From Inside" (1979) titled "Kyo mo Kita wa" (Coming By Again Today). I mentioned this release when I first spoke about another track on "From Inside" a few years back called "Unuborenaide"(うぬぼれないで).

Well, I did get the album, and "Kyo mo Kita wa" is as soothing and laidback as a 1970s ballad can get as Koyano sings about a fellow who manages to keep on returning to the one he has feelings for, most likely a woman manning a dimly-lit fancy bar somewhere deep in the city on some mysterious side street. The keyboards are great especially the one responsible for the aural equivalent of a wind blowing off in the distance somewhere. Koyano was behind the words and music while Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)arranged everything.

Takashi Hosokawa -- Miren Gokoro(みれん心)

With the slow retirement of a number of established enka/Mood Kayo personalities over the last several years, I'm still happy to see veteran Takashi Hosokawa(細川たかし)still appearing on television. In fact, he appeared on the final "Uta Kon"(うたコン)of the year last week, and he was as boisterous as ever sporting that kimono that seems to have become more of his regular onscreen garb compared to the sharp suits he wore as a younger man.

It's been a number of years since I've written on a solo Hosokawa article (Noelle has been doing a fine job covering him) although two of my earlier articles on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" involved the most famous tunes by the singer, "Kita Sakaba"(北酒場), that has become my second-most favourite karaoke song next to Ikuzo Yoshi's(吉幾三)"Yukiguni"(雪国), and his debut single "Kokoro Nokori"(心のこり).

So, on that note, going into the Hosokawa time vaults, I've found his second single "Miren Gokoro" (A Heart That Still Has Feelings) which was released in September 1975, exactly 5 months following the release of "Kokoro Nokori". Written by Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)and composed by Taiji Nakamura(中村泰士), the melody is familiar to me; perhaps Hosokawa sang it on an episode of "Uta Kon" or I've heard it at karaoke somewhere sometime. In any case, I do love that soprano saxophone, the strings and the singer's brisk delivery of a fellow whose heart still has some lingering emotions for an old flame in a northern town.

For some strange reason, in his performance on "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ)above, the composer has been listed as Jun Suzuki(鈴木淳)although other kayo kyoku sites have confirmed Nakamura as the man behind the melody, and under Suzuki's J-Wiki bio, there's no mention of any contribution to "Miren Gokoro". In any case, I like the horns replacing the sax in the TV that extra urban edge. Couldn't find out how it did on Oricon, but after "Kokoro Nokori", it must have done pretty well. I think it's a pretty boss enka/Mood Kayo and I couldn't imagine it finishing outside of the Top 100 on the weeklies.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ogata Project -- Delicious Fragrance

Delicious fragrance? A bit of a tough call since I do love me all kinds of dishes but I gotta go with some sirloin steak, fresh off the grill and medium-rare. A zesty peppercorn sauce helps, too.

This isn't a food blog, of course, but I actually have found a musical version of delicious fragrance, and the song even has the title of "Delicious Fragrance". It's a track from a collection of soothing tunes called "Navigation To Islands" released in 1986. Each of the tracks have been produced as projects by musicians Yasuharu Ogura(小倉泰治), Junya Hasegawa(長谷川純也)and Yasuo Ogata(緒方泰男).

The Ogata Project has taken care of the atmospheric "Delicious Fragrance", and though sizzling steaks don't come to mind when I listen to it, it's a very soothing audio equivalent of comfort food nonetheless. Ogata took care of the composing and arrangement for the track which seems to go by faster than its 4:53 would indicate. Perhaps now I think the scent that I could analogize it with is the very pleasant one when one hits a hot spring in Japan...and then after that, I can have the steak!

As for Yasuo Ogata, I couldn't find a lot about him but from what few scraps I could glean from J-Wiki and elsewhere is that he is a keyboardist who has worked since the 1970s with artists such as Ginji Ito(伊藤銀次)and Sugar Babe. He was also involved with Ito together in the Bye-Bye Session Band(バイバイ・セッション・バンド) between 1975 and 1977. I was lucky enough to find this photo of this band at the Nishi-Nippon Shinbun website. Ogata is second from the right while Ito is standing next to him on the right.

Yuki Nakayamate -- Ange Blanc(アンジェ・ブラン)

I'm more of a casual and not a rabid fan of the 007 franchise although I think the first three movies with Sean Connery: "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love" and "Goldfinger" are pretty stellar. The current and soon-to-be-departing Daniel Craig is also someone that I've been fine with although his movies have been somewhat hit-and-miss: "Casino Royale" and "Skyfall" were great while "Quantum of Solace" and "Spectre" were not (although it was great to see M in that last one get a sorta fistfight as well).

Then, there were the Roger Moore years. His early flicks as James Bond were fine with the height being "The Spy Who Loved Me" but then as the early 80s went by, I was left wondering whether the tone was going to be become even more arch than Moore's eyebrow. To be honest, I don't remember much of those films but "Octopussy" was one title that did stand out, if only to get me giggling like the immature teen I was back then. I think it was the one where Bond actually dressed up like a clown.

Well, much to my surprise many years later, I've discovered an album that actually has the title "Octopussy". Released in January 1983, this was the second album for Yuki Nakayamate(なかやまて由希), a Tokyo-born singer who pursued a career in music while working as a company employee right after high school. She released three singles and a couple of albums including "Octopussy" before health issues forced her to stop for several years.

The cover of "Octopussy" which has who I assume is Nakayamate on the cover looks pretty dramatic in a European sort of way, and listening to the opening track "Ange Blanc", I also got that feeling of overseas intrigue done up with a mild synthpop beat (nice percolating percussion, by the way), similar to what I've heard from Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)at about the same time and Miharu Koshi(コシミハル)when she began that new twist in her career as a technopop diva. With "Ange Blanc" at least though, Nakayamate's vocals have a richer and deeper delivery.

Tetsuya Chiaki(ちあき哲也)was responsible for the lyrics while Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)took care of the music. As for Nakayamate, she took her leave of absence just a couple of months following the release of "Octopussy", but then into the 2000s, she started becoming active again on a number of social networking platforms including Instagram, Facebook and her own blog. Then from 2013, she and organist/producer Koichi Ikeda(池田皓一)joined up to form the music duo Atelier Forest.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Ringo Shiina -- Ishiki(意識)from Heisei Fuuzoku (平成風俗)

"Ishiki" (Consciously) originally appeared on Ringo Shiina's(椎名林檎)3rd album "Kalk Samen Kuri-no-Hana"(加爾基 精液 栗ノ花...Kalk Samen Chestnut Flower), a release that I currently don't have in my possession. The original tune as sung by Shiina doesn't seem to exist anywhere so I don't know how it sounds.

However, I do have that amazing "Heisei Fuuzoku"(平成風俗)which was basically the soundtrack for the film adaptation of "Sakuran"(さくらん). It may have been the music for the rise of an oiran courtesan but not having seen the movie, I've kinda considered "Heisei Fuuzoku", the collaboration between Shiina and arranger Neko Saito(斉藤ネコ), as the singer-songwriter's full dive into jazz bringing in elements of Latin and even James Bond.

The album includes a jazz version of "Ishiki" which is neither Latin jazz nor the music backing Sean Connery as 007, but it's still a song of intrigue and high class. I don't know when "Ishiki" popped up in "Sakuran", but I imagine a scene of a quiet but intensifying cat-and-mouse chase in a huge mansion while a lavish ball is being held as this song is playing. The actual lyrics and their English translation were found on this site. The translation isn't 100% accurate but I've gotten the gist of it, and it seems to involve quite a tempestuous couple. For some reason, I keep getting images of the Joker and Harley Quinn. But wouldn't that be a movie...totally devoted to the toxic love between her and her Mister J...with some crazy jazz.

Sugar -- Ijiwaru Shine(いじわるShine)

Happy Monday! Didn't think that I would find, let alone, hear another song by the 1980s pop trio, Sugar. The trio of lead vocalist/keyboardist Miki Kasamatsu(笠松美樹), leader/bassist Kimiko Mohri(毛利公子)and guitarist Kumiko Nagasawa(長沢久美子)were famous for the sweet-sounding but bile-filled hit "Wedding Bell" which got them their lone shot on the 1982 Kohaku Utagassen. After that, though, my impression was that Sugar was more of the one-hit wonder.

Still, I was happy to discover that one of their later songs got onto the "Drive" entry in the "Light Mellow" album series of City Pop/AOR. Titled "Ijiwaru Shine" (Nasty Shine), this was written and composed by the late Mohri as a plenty mellow urban contemporary number about keeping the good summery times going. Originally, it was a part of their third album "Sugar Bean" from May 1983. Very pleasant combination of those familiar City Pop instruments including a flugelhorn (I think) and the harmonies of Sugar that I remember from "Wedding Bell".

In Mohri's lyrics, there was mention of drinking back a ginger ale, probably between puffs of that cigarette. Considering that I've heard the drink even being included in a City Pop song title, I'm kinda wondering whether Canada Dry was the official non-alcoholic libation of the genre everywhere.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Hiroshi Takeshima -- Yume no Furiko(夢の振り子)

Heard this on recent episodes of both "Uta Kon"(うたコン)and "Gogo Uta"(ごごウタ)and found it catchy enough to write about. "Yume no Furiko" (Pendulum of Dreams) is the June 2019 single for enka/Mood Kayo singer Hiroshi Takeshima(竹島宏), and though I don't consider this to be an enka, I'm kinda wondering if this would be a musical hybrid of Mood Kayo and straight pop. Plus, the shortened music video above has choreography kinda reminiscent of an aidoru group, and Takeshima himself still has some young aidoru-like looks although he is currently 41.

I think what got me interested in "Yume no Furiko" is that the collaboration of lyricist Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composer Takashi Tsushimi(都志見隆)has produced a song which has also gotten me thinking of that exotic kayo boom from the late 1970s when the hits from that mini-genre were arranged so that the listener felt that they were on some sort of out-of-country adventure in Europe or Asia. There's certainly that jaunty beat in "Yume no Furiko".

"Yume no Furiko", which went up to No. 15 on Oricon, was also the ending theme for a samurai drama on NHK Broadcast Satellite titled "Daifugou Doushin"(大富豪同心...Ultra Rich Constable). The show was adapted from a novel series starting from 2010 and ran for a couple of months earlier this year. According to the website "My Drama List", the series dealt with the son of a very wealthy merchant in Edo ending up as a bumbling constable trying to solve crimes with considerable help from people around him.