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.

Friday, October 30, 2020

T-Square -- Night Cruise


Deck 15

The shot above was taken on the last night of our cruise on the Harmony of the Seas back in 2017. I figured that I needed to get some of those lovely evening photos on the ship before we finally disembarked in Fort Lauderdale the next day.

My photo at the top is to introduce this delectable concoction by fusion band T-Square. "Night Cruise" simply hits all of the right nerves in me, and to be honest, I had assumed that this was one of their earlier efforts from the 1980s. Imagine my surprise and delight to realize that "Night Cruise" had come out a mere 5 years ago as a track on the band's 41st album "Paradise" in July 2015.

There is a title track on the album but "Night Cruise" is paradise in itself. That bouncy drum machine, all of the band members getting their licks in, and that massaging melody just show that T-Square hasn't lost their touch after so many years together. Drummer Satoshi Bando(坂東慧)was behind the wonderful music and despite the six minutes, I wouldn't have minded a little more of the cocktail here.

True...a lot of new fans were garnered thanks to "Takarajima"(宝島), but I would recommend them to also give this one a sail.

Deck 16

Kiyoshi Hasegawa -- City Lights Blue


Earlier this spring, I introduced singer-songwriter and guitarist Kiyoshi Hasegawa(長谷川きよし)who has had a long career spanning all the way back into the late 1960s. His "Wakare no Samba"(別れのサンバ)was his 1969 debut single and a wonderful example of how much he loves Brazilian music. I pointed out that I think bossa nova is probably his beloved genre.

However, Hasegawa has also tackled folk music and apparently that's how he started gaining his fans. Interestingly enough, he is one of those Japanese folk singers who also made that leap into the world of City Pop, and so we have his 1985 album "This Time" and this one track "City Lights Blue".

Hasegawa seems to take to the urban contemporary genre like a duck to water if "City Lights Blue" is of any indication. He was responsible for the groovy music while Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子)provided the lyrics. As usual, I'm a sucker for those rhythm keyboards and that bluesy guitar and the only thing I'm disappointed is that "City Lights Blue" is quite short at a shade over three minutes and the ending is surprisingly abrupt. But perhaps he's like any showman and likes to leave his fans wanting more. Yes, I'd like to know more next time about "This Time".

Mariko Tone -- Broken Eyes


I am very grateful to my good friend, JTM, for sending me over this compilation of City Pop by female singers, "Tokyo Nights". Included are tracks such as the late Aru Takamura's(高村亜留)"I'm In Love" and Kaoru Akimoto's(秋元薫)classic "Dress Down".

Another track is provided by Mariko Tone(刀根麻理子)through her "Broken Eyes" which was originally the lead track on her 2nd album "Purple Rose" from October 1985. Written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composed by Ken Sato(佐藤健), I'll give a quote from the liner notes provided by Eli Cohen from "Tokyo Nights":

"Broken Eyes" is a dark, synth-heavy workout examining suspicion and infidelity. The scent of another woman lingers and her eyes would have to be broken not to see that there is something amiss in their relationship.

Woooh! As the time reflects, this would be the plot for an 80s suspense movie starring folks like Meg Ryan and Jeff Bridges or perhaps this could be the story for one of those moody perfume ads that populated the airwaves back then. However, although the lyrics are dark, Sato's melody is bright and brassy and reminiscent of similar songs sung by Tone's contemporaries like Anri(杏里)and Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵). Going into the West, the synths but not the brass remind me of what Madonna was doing back in those days. I can even posit that "Broken Eyes" could be reflected by the cover of "Tokyo Nights" itself although those overhanging eyes in the sky look pretty clear to me.

Still a few more tracks to bring over to the blog from "Tokyo Nights" which I'm looking forward to.

Halloween Junky Orchestra -- HALLOWEEN PARTY


Ahhh...memories of Halloween. Two of the three Jack O'Lanterns that you see above were created by me years ago when I was teaching the masses how to carve pumpkins. The other one was actually quite delicious.

Indeed, tomorrow will be Halloween although unfortunately things are not going to be quite as festive due to the horrors of COVID-19. The medical experts here have stated that trick-or-treat is going to be a no-no and that families ought to search for more virtual/internal activities to celebrate the bewitching night. I checked the YouTube channel with the live cameras over Shibuya, Tokyo. Usually if Halloween falls on a weekend there, it was guaranteed that the preceding Friday and the two nights afterwards would probably have thousands of folks squeezing into the neighbourhood like old-fashioned college students trying to stuff themselves into a taxi or a telephone booth. Thankfully if sadly, I didn't see any of that on the cameras today.

As for me, my Halloween education was left back in Japan years ago and our family no longer gives out the treats since that was made into a collective neighbourhood activity years ago as well. And cosplay was never my thing to begin with.

Odd bodkins! I was searching a couple of days ago for something that would fit the theme of Halloween when the perfect video was discovered on YouTube. If anyone ever fantasized how Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" would like with a Japanese cast and a Danny Elfman-esque song to match, this is for you.

Plus, if you are a visual kei band fan and wondered about an "Ocean's Eleven" collaboration, "HALLOWEEN PARTY" is most definitely for you. Created by L'Arc-en-Ciel's vocalist and songwriter Hyde, he along with Oblivion Dust's guitarist K.A.Z. got together to form the rock unit VAMPS in the late 2000s. Then a few years later, the pair got together a whole bunch of rockers for the event known as "HALLOWEEN PARTY 2012" under the band name of Halloween Junky Orchestra where the single "HALLOWEEN PARTY" was introduced and then released on October 17th that year.

So along with VAMPS, Halloween Junky Orchestra included actress/singer Anna Tsuchiya(土屋アンナ), Ryuji Aoki(青木隆治), Aki(明希)of the rock band Sid, Acid Black Cherry, kyo from the band D'ERLANGER, singer/tarento Daigo, Tatsuro(逹瑯)of MUCC, Tomoko Kawase(川瀬智子) in both of her incarnations Tommy february6 and Tommy heavenly6, guitarist Hitsugi(柩)of NIGHTMARE, musician RINA of the band SCANDAL and singer/cellist Kanon Wakeshima(分島花音).

I have to say that the video is glorious and director Ken Nikai(二階健), who had also taken care of the music videos for Hyde and those two bands of his, ought to get a firm and hearty handshake from Burton. It seems right out of the FAO Schwarz idea for Halloween. Plus Hyde apparently must have listened to the soundtracks for "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Beetlejuice" (and perhaps even the music for the past several years of "Doctor Who") for inspiration for "HALLOWEEN PARTY". It's truly a grand march for the boys and ghouls. 

The single peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and despite the lateness of the release, "HALLOWEEN PARTY" ended up as the 80th-ranked single of 2012, going Gold.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Lisa Tatsuki & Yuji Konno/Keiko Kobayashi -- Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido (気分を出してもう一度)


This will probably go down as one of the weirder analogies when it comes to pop culture connections on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and it will further cement my status as a sci-fi geek. However, work with me here. In the 1970s when I first heard and started watching the adventures of everyone's favourite Time Lord, The Doctor, from "Doctor Who", it was through watching the dapper if often ill-tempered Third Doctor portrayed by Jon Pertwee and then his replacement, Tom Baker, took over as the thoroughly daffy Fourth Doctor. But as a kid, I had thought that Jon and Tom were the first and second incarnations of The Doctor at that time.

Well, lo and behold, during one of the PBS pledge breaks for money by Mike and Goldie (who basically threatened us to donate or no more "Doctor Who"[ha, ha...little did they know that we Torontonians still had TV Ontario to fall back upon]), I found out rather dramatically through a poster of the Doctors (including the then-new Fifth Doctor played by Peter Davison) there were two other old guys to the left that I had never seen before: an ancient fellow and a mop-topped chap. It turned out that they were the first and second incarnations of the Time Lord starring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton! There was a "Doctor Who" before Jon Pertwee. I was rather gobsmacked.

Strangely enough (and we are returning from the TARDIS to kayo kyoku now), I had the very same feeling about the flirtatious and fun "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" (Bring Back The Mood Once More). The reason for this is that for the longest time, I had assumed that City Pop chanteuse Rajie was the first singer to croon this song created by lyricist Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ)and composer Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)as one of the tracks on her debut album "Heart to Heart" released in September 1977.

Ah, well...nope, that wasn't the case at all. If truth be told, the first rendition of "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" was provided by a duo comprised of celebrities who probably didn't consider singing as their regular gig. For one thing, the late Yuji Konno(今野雄二)was a movie/music critic, a translator (he actually provided the Japanese lyrics for Akemi Ishii's(石井明美)big hit "CHA-CHA-CHA") and a novelist, while Lisa Tatsuki(立木リサ)has been a teenage model, actress and a TV personality (with one earlier song under her belt).

Both of them had their dalliances on TV including their time (probably shared) on the late-night NTV program "11 PM", and maybe that's how they got together to perform this song which was released in July 1977, a couple of months before Rajie's version. Compared with the 70s City Pop sound of her "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido", the duet between Tatsuki and Konno starts off sounding quite soulful before the feeling transforms into something even more luxurious with images of crisp white tablecloth and champagne flutes. In addition, considering how small their discographies were, the two of them did pretty well in the recording booth. By the way, the backup singers here were members of the fusion band Sadistics which included drummer Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏)and guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka(高中正義).

As any television pitchperson will say, "Wait! There's more!". Following the single by Tatsuki and Konno, folk singer and radio personality Keiko Kobayashi(小林啓子)would release her own solo take on "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" in August, in between their version and Rajie's cover. With the additional subtitle of "WE CAN DANCE", Kobayashi's version amps up the Latin flavour (which populates all of the versions) and the funk. Handling the arrangement was her husband Nobuyuki Takahashi(高橋信之), Yukihiro's older brother. The other interesting connection is that Rajie herself served as one of the backup singers behind Kobayashi along with the Takahashi brothers. The single was also the first track on her 3rd album "Chotto Kibun wo Kaete"(ちょっと気分をかえて...Change The Mood A Bit) released in the same month.

So at this point, we've got ourselves four...count 'em, four!...different versions of "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" if we also include the 2002 cover duet with Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴)and Crazy Ken Band's Ken Yokoyama(横山剣)that was included in the Rajie article. However, according to J-Wiki, composer Kato himself provided his own cover via his February 1978 album "Gardenia", and he had quite the backup band: drummer Takahashi was back, Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)was on guitar, Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)was on bass, and Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)was on piano among other great musicians. Alas, I couldn't find a copy of that one on YouTube.

Hidemi Ishikawa -- Ai no Jumon(愛の呪文)


A little harder to track down those Halloween-based kayo when compared to the Xmas versions (although I will be throwing on a fairly epic one tomorrow on October 30th), but I did find one which may fit the bill in a way.

This would be 80s aidoru Hidemi Ishikawa's(石川秀美)16th single "Ai no Jumon" (Love Incantation) from September 1985. Despite the relative temporal closeness of its release to October 31st, Kyoko Matsumiya's(松宮恭子)melody doesn't really sound like a Halloween-type tune but the lyrics (also by Matsumiya) perhaps has a cute connection with Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

A young lady whose former beau has moved onto a new girlfriend is trying to perform her form of a hex to get back the old flame, and yeah, that's what the "Get back!" in the lyrics is trying to say and not telling him to back off (or some other word with "off"😆). Melodically, "Ai no Jumon" strikes me as an interesting mix of rock n' roll and synthpop along with an intriguing intro including that smoothly humming guitar. Jun Sato(佐藤準)was responsible for the arrangement.

There was no listing of how the song did on Oricon but it's included in Ishikawa's 7th album "I" which was released in December of that same year. Mind you, the Chiba Prefecture-born teen idol did make her one and only appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen with "Ai no Jumon". Have a look below at 6:00.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Maaya Sakamoto -- Kinobori to Akai Skirt(木登りと赤いスカート)


It was through the anime field that I first found out about singer-songwriter-seiyuu Maaya Sakamoto(坂本真綾), thanks to her contribution of the opening theme "Shiawase ni Tsuite Watashi ga Shitteiru Itsutsu no Houhou"(幸せについて私が知っている5つの方法)for one of my favourite anime "Koufuku Graffiti" (幸腹グラフィティ...Gourmet Graffiti) .

Little did I know at the time that Sakamoto's music career extended way back into the mid-1990s and even her time as a seiyuu went back even further into the late 1980s according to J-Wiki. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, she should be celebrating her 25th anniversary as a singer sometime next year.

Hearing her anison is wonderful but I've discovered that probably her non-anime material is also quite glorious, too. Case in point: this track from her March 2001 album "Lucy" titled "Kinobori to Akai Skirt" (Tree Climbing and the Red Skirt). One commenter stated that there is something very Beatles about this paean to the youthful years and I would agree, but I can also add that there is also a bit of Queen in there, too, but the rest of it is due to Sakamoto, lyricist Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)and composer/album producer Yoko Kanno(菅野よう子). Iwasato was also the one who provided the lyrics to the aforementioned "Shiawase ni Tsuite Watashi ga Shitteiru Itsutsu no Houhou" in 2015. Kudos to her for providing the words about the bittersweet story of a boy and girl in youth who were the closest of buddies only to slowly grow apart as they grew up.

As well, I really love Kanno for putting in some of that sunny nostalgia through her melody and arrangement via the Beatles/Queen, especially with that distinctive guitar wail that I like to describe as elastic and the piano with the background chorus. Incidentally, Kanno is also on keyboards here.

"Lucy" sold about 43,000 albums as it peaked at No. 16 on Oricon. Although how the album got its title is not mentioned in either J-Wiki or Wikipedia, I do wonder considering the nature of this particular song whether "Lucy" had something to do with a sky and diamonds. Also before I leave off, I believe commenter Michael may have recommended this one to me; if so, my thanks to him.