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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Curtis Creek Band -- Sail On Slowly, Josephson


When I first discovered the Japanese fusion group, Curtis Creek Band, back last June, I was reminded of Will Riker's Curtis Creek fishing program on the holodeck of the Enterprise-D. Well, this time I was fortunate to find a YouTube video with the man and his fake son mentioning it from the episode "Past Imperfect".

The former First Officer was also someone we Trekkies knew as a jazz trombone aficionado although I'm not sure how he would have felt about the fusion genre. Anyways, I have another entry by Curtis Creek Band which served as the first track on their 1981 album "Driftin'". I don't know who Josephson was on "Sail On Slowly, Josephson" but obviously harmonica player Nobuo Yagi(八木のぶお)and saxophonist Toshiro Sakka(さっか利郎), the core duo of the band, must have loved the big lug. There's something quite elegiac about "Sail On Slowly, Josephson" as if their friend had only recently departed this mortal coil and the band decided to send him off with something approximating a New Orleans funeral march with an affectionate and heartwarming fusion twist. Safe journey, Josephson!😢

Hiroshi Murai -- Video Days


In my Minami-Gyotoku neighbourhood in Ichikawa was probably the case in most neighbourhoods, we had a wealth of convenience stores and supermarkets. Around the station within a radius of several hundred metres, there were four supermarkets and at least as many convenience stores. The supermarkets of course were where I got my ingredients for home-cooked meals but I visited the konbini when I was satisfied enough to get a microwavable bento or snacks. Although I think I went mostly to the local Am/Pm and 7-11, Sunkus was also just a few minutes down from the station exit so when I did come home early, I would also drop by there for food and drink.

Well, this song by Hiroshi Murai(村井博)was apparently used as the commercial jingle for Sunkus back in the early 1990s. "Video Days" was released as his 4th single; depending on where you look, it was supposed to have come out either in 1990 or 1991 but I'll go with the former year since it was more specific with the release month being June that year. Not sure how video comes into this song but it's a summery pop tune that has me thinking of the band TUBE and even Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)when I'm musing about Murai's delivery. 

"Video Days" was written by Anju Mana(真名杏樹), composed by Takashi Tsushimi(都志見隆)and arranged jointly by Motoki Funayama(船山基紀)and Yasuhiro Kido(木戸やすひろ). It was also a track on Murai's 4th and final album to date, "Natural" (1990) which shares space on the CD with "Natsu no Kakurega ~ Weekend Resort"(夏の隠れ家). Up to now with the other three Murai songs that I've posted including "Natsu no Kakurega", it's been about the 1990s City Pop but "Video Days" is bright ol' pop...happy enough to persuade folks to pick up some bento and Pringles and milk tea perhaps.😋

Monday, February 19, 2024

Kenny Loggins -- This is It


As Kayo Grace Kyoku is showing up above, it is Family Day today in most provinces in Canada including my home of Ontario. My own family had our big get-together a couple of days ago; we had sushi and pie because we like sushi and pie. Incidentally, let me introduce Kayo's family: we've got Kayo's mother Sayo at top left, and her two younger sisters, Mayo and Nayo going from left to right, and then at top right is father Garfield (yeah, like the cat). They have residences in Tokyo and Unionville, Ontario.

In any case, before I end up creating an entire background for the Kyoku family, let me get to the special edition of Reminiscings of Youth that I always do on holidays. I've chosen Kenny Loggins' "This is It", a song which I first discovered through a K-Tel compilation record commercial all the way back in my junior high school days and a few seconds of the official music video above is all I got. Since then, I've gotten to know a lot of Loggins' discography and even noted a few of his works in previous ROY articles but it took quite a while longer to appreciate "This is It" which was created by the singer and Michael McDonald who also contributes his distinct vocals.

When I heard "This is It" which was released as this soft rock song in October 1979, I had taken it to be a song of encouragement for those sitting on the borderline about whether or not to initiate some sort of courtship. Actually though, from what I read from the comments below the various copies of the song on YouTube and then the Wikipedia article on it, Loggins finally completed it as not a love song but as a life song as the man himself put it. His father had been going through surgery after surgery to resolve medical issues and as he was getting discouraged about the future, the singer and songwriter finally came up with the lyrics as not only encouragement but as a not-too-harsh smack on the head to stand up and fight and not give in or up.

The interesting thing is that usually when I hear a song with this lyrical theme of fighting against adversity, I get sound images of heroic marches or even enka. Not with "This is It"; it sounds sultry and smooth which would explain why I had initially thought it was a love ballad. Regardless of how people interpreted the music and lyrics, the song was another success for Loggins as it reached No. 9 on Canada's RPM chart and No. 11 in America.

I was able to find what was occupying the top three spaces on the Oricon Top 10 list for October 1st 1979 (although I don't know exactly which day "This is It" was released).

1. Masashi Sada -- Kanpaku Sengen (関白宣言)

2. Masahiro Kuwana -- Sexual Violet No. 1(セクシャルバイオレットNo.1)

3. Sachiko Kobayashi -- Omoide Zake (おもいで酒)

I always love it when the younger generation discover some of the wonderful songs of my generation!

Keiko Toge -- Beautiful Dreamer/Yume no Iriguchi(夢の入口)


I remember when the marvelous singer-songwriter Akiko Kobayashi(小林明子)came onto the music scene with her debut song and 1985 hit single "Koi ni Ochite"(恋におちて), and people were marveling at how much she sounded like the late Karen Carpenter of Carpenters' fame. The fact that the legendary American singing duo is basically seen as music gods in Japan amped Kobayashi's profile considerably. Just a few years after that, Kobayashi even got to work with Richard Carpenter on the album "City of Angels".

Well, Kobayashi wasn't alone when it came to the Karen Carpenter comparison. Singer-songwriter Keiko Toge(峠恵子)who hails from Saitama Prefecture was scouted by CBS-Sony perhaps around the end of the 80s or early in 1990 when she was a university student and subbed for a friend who was supposed to perform at a live house and she just happened to sing the Carpenters' "I Need to Be in Love". According to her own Facebook page, at around the same time, Toge was also chosen to be the lead vocalist for the Group Sounds band The Wild Ones when they were commemorating their 25th anniversary.

Between 1992 and 1997, Toge released eight singles and two original albums. Her penultimate single released in December 1996 was "Beautiful Dreamer". Although nothing has been written in her J-Wiki profile, this particular song was used as the theme for some sort of world fair which took place in Japan at around that time according to a few comments under the video. It does have that very sunny and optimistic outlook in its arrangement which was handled by the late composer/arranger Katsuhisa Hattori(服部隆之). To be honest, I can not only pick up on the Karen Carpenter similarity but also the observation that the song sounds a bit like something that the Carpenters could have tackled back in the day. Fumiko Okada(岡田富美子)provided the lyrics.

Toge's Carpenter-ness becomes even more pronounced on the coupling song "Yume no Iriguchi" (Dream Gate). I'm not sure if this tune had ever been used in media but it would have made a fine commercial tune for the Brazilian tourism board. There's some bossa nova and jazz in there and those two have always been welcome in my ears. Hattori and Okada were also responsible for "Yume no Iriguchi".

The singer has had quite the interesting life. Dropping out of high school, she opted to study in America for a year before returning to Japan and later graduating from the Faculty of Law at Seijo University. Toge also has a 1st-class certification in the Ski Association of Japan. Some years following her release of singles and albums, she even went on a yearlong expedition in 2001. First, she went with several others over 45 days on a yacht to head down to the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya on the island of New Guinea. Apparently, Toge was also the first person to reach the top of the northern face of Puncak Trikora, the 2nd-highest mountain on New Guinea. Then, she even spent life in the jungle for many months searching for the remains of Japanese soldiers and any signs of the supposedly extinct Thylacine. After returning home in 2002, she would eventually write about her own experiences in New Guinea. I wonder whether she deserved a John Williams soundtrack to her journey.

On top of all that, she's also behind the sound logo for Morinaga. This reminds me of Takako Minekawa's(嶺川貴子)contribution to PlayStation.

But let's finish this all off by going back to the beginning.

Hiromi Go -- Junjou(純情)


I'm not sure how often veteran singer Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)appears on television these days or even how active he is in entertainment outside of the Kohaku Utagassen, but in his younger days, he was really put through the wringer just in the recording part of his long career. He was regularly pumping out four singles a year in the 1970s and 1980s.

1982 was no different. He released that quartet of singles with the first one being "Junjou" (Innocence) in February 1982 (his third one for that year was his cover of Bertie Higgins' "Casablanca"), a fairly spirited if medium-tempo kayo kyoku. Written by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子), composed by Jin Haneoka(羽岡仁)and arranged by Kei Wakakusa(若草恵), it's got that sound that was familiarized around Go when he was no longer the cute boy aidoru of the early 1970s but the dandy young man around town in the latter part of that decade going into the 1980s

During that period, there was a bit more tango in the arrangement with the strings and percussion, perhaps a soupcon of City Pop with the bass and guitar and an atmosphere of romantic drama. Those furiously cutting strings have almost become a 1980s Go musical trope and one song that I remember those from is his 1980 hit "How Many Ii Kao?" (How Many いい顔). Generally, I think it's one of my beloved musical sounds from the 1980s.

"Junjou", his 41st single, reached No. 17 on Oricon and it later became the 95th-ranked single of 1982. It was first placed onto an album through his 15th collection of BEST songs "My Collection"(マイコレクション)released in June that year.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

ORESAMA -- Mimimoto de Tsukamaete(耳もとでつかまえて)/Kuusou Flight(空想フライト)


It's approaching seven years since I saw the 2017 version of the anime "Mahoujin Guru Guru"(魔法陣グルグル...Magical Circle Guru Guru) which starred among others, A-list seiyuu Konomi Kohara(小原好美)who had just started out in the industry when she got the main role of Kukuri(ククリ). The show was often hilarious and despite its status as a mystical isekai program, the theme songs for the 2017 version were often on the catchy and danceable synthpop end of things.

Strangely enough, I was listening to one of those opening theme songs from "Mahoujin Guru Guru" the other day. I posted the single "Trip Trip Trip" back in August 2017. Created and performed by the duo ORESAMA, it has been a fun technopop romp. But I haven't ignored the coupling songs either. For instance, there is "Mimimoto de Tsukamaete" (Grab Me by the Ears) which is more of the same albeit at a much mellower tempo, and as lyricist and vocalist Pon(ぽん)sings it, it's all about the joy and wonder about getting the notes of a splendid song in those ears. 

The second coupling song is a perky tune called "Kuusou Flight" (Flight of Fantasy). As is the case with all of the songs from the single, ORESAMA partner Hideya Kojima(小島英也)came up with the bouncy techno disco beat about spending a great time traveling around the world. Shoutouts are given to Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Germany, Rome and Paris. I think the song is far more well-traveled than I am.

Plastics -- Peace


Welcome to Sunday February 24th! It's another seasonably cold day here in Toronto but it's also sunny out there as well. I hope that all of you are enjoying your weekends wherever you are.

I haven't done a Plastics song in quite a while so I wanted to see if there were some songs by the Japanese New Wave band that I had yet to unearth. Well, I did discover this one which was their 4th and final single, "Peace" which was released in 1980. Not so much of a technopop song but it is definitely in the jangly New Wave realm. It was written by vocalist Toshio Nakanishi(中西俊夫)and composed by guitarist Hajime Tachibana(立花ハジメ)

Nakanishi's lyrics are written underneath the video at YouTube and they seem to involve the life in New York City...if seen through some rather odd rose-coloured glasses. As the title indicates though, the Plastics' experience must have been pretty serene. "Peace" was included in the band's 2nd album "Origato Plastico" from September 1980. A slightly longer version than the one used in the music video above was also on their follow-up album in March 1981, "Welcome Back Plastics".