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, March 22, 2019

Yoshimi Iwasaki -- Aishite Mon Amour(愛してモナムール)

It's been a while since I covered a Yoshimi Iwasaki(岩崎良美)song so I'm happy to select a track from her June 1982 5th album "Cecile".

The catchphrase for the album was "Here's the fragrance of Europe just for you!", and judging from Track 2 "Aishite Mon Amour" (Love Me, Mon Amour), it looks like there was some truth-in-advertising here. The song was also Yoshimi's 8th single released in January 1982.

Written and composed by the husband-and-wife team of Kazumi Yasui and Kazuhiko Kato(安井かずみ・加藤和彦), "Aishite Mon Amour" sounds like a very early Anri(杏里)song, and sure enough, there is also that feeling of European elegance as advertised imbued into the melody arranged by Nobuyuki Shimizu(清水信之). The album has been categorized as both aidoru and New Music (even going into the 1980s), and from both this song and another single that was put onto "Cecile", "Vacance", although there is that happy boppiness of aidoru, Shimizu's arrangement seems to kick things up a notch from the usual teenybopper tunes, thanks to that elegance I just mentioned.  Moreover, it's also nice to hear EPO with her backing chorus.

Tan Tan -- Bring Me Your Broken Heart

A couple of nights ago, I wrote about the Group Sounds band, The White Kicks(ザ・ホワイト・キックス)which included a female member by the name of Taeko Morino(森野多恵子). Well, while she had been doing a bit of the psychedelic back in the late 1960s, around a decade later, she was taking on a whole new genre.

Plus, she had a new name. Tan Tan released this album titled "Trying To Get To You" in 1978 (it's listed in my "Japanese City Pop") from which I found this groovy track "Bring Me Your Broken Heart". It almost sounds a few years ahead of its time just from the usage of keyboards, and Tan Tan takes on a vocal style reminiscent of what I've heard from Kimiko Kasai(笠井紀美子)and Noriko Miyamoto(宮本典子). I couldn't find out who the songwriters were for "Bring Me Your Broken Heart" which has this mix of Motown and mild disco, but I would like to raise my glass to them.

I also don't know whether she had any subsequent albums of similar genre under the name Tan Tan, but approaching the mid-1980s, she changed her name again to Harumi Ohzora(大空はるみ)and switched to another genre: that of techno-jazz, kinda like Taco. Ohzora was the first incarnation of this singer that I discovered so I decided to stick with this name in all other articles about her, and I hope to get to the Ohzora albums in short order.

Taizo Jinnouchi -- Dadaism

Up to this point, the only song by singer-songwriter Taizo Jinnouchi(陣内大蔵)that I'd ever known was a reggae-inflected Xmas number, although I also recollect seeing "Eye-Ai" feature him prominently in one of its issues. The photo above is from that article.

However, if any of his other songs are as catchy as his "Dadaism" then I am all in. Coming from his debut album "Moratorium" from April 1988, I really like the keyboard work, the percussion and how the song just struts its way from beginning to end. Moreover, Jinnouchi has that unique voice with a certain breathless soft rasp.

Jinnouchi was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and as a child, he took part in the church choir and studied the violin and piano. He's also been a good friend with Sing Like Talking's Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善).

hitomi -- LOVE 2000

I was living in Japan for a good smattering of Olympics coverage and also the World Cup with Japan and South Korea as hosts in 2002. For the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, I was just waking up one Sunday morning when I turned on the TV and had the good luck to see the ending of the Women's Marathon when Japanese runner Naoko "Q-chan" Takahashi(高橋尚子)crossed the finish line to get the Gold medal.

It was later found out that Takahashi got psyched up during training while listening to "LOVE 2000" by hitomi, and so not surprisingly, that certainly helped boost sales of the singer-songwriter's 17th single from June 2000.

hitomi had already been around for some years since arriving under the Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)umbrella, and at the time, I hadn't really thought of her as being the strongest singer around. However, with "LOVE 2000", there was that good fit between her vocals and the uplifting song.

I think one reason is that she and her lyrics seemed more comfortable with Masato Kamata's(鎌田雅人)melody as if she had crafted the music herself. My image of hitomi has always been as that of a rock-loving biker type, and whether or not that's actually true, "LOVE 2000" has become the tune that I will always recognize for. It did become one of her bigger hits by reaching No. 5 on Oricon and ending up as the 78th-ranked single of the year. The song was also her first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year with her only other appearance a couple of years later for "Samurai Drive".

As far as I know, "LOVE 2000" wasn't an Olympics theme song in any official capacity but considering that it may have helped Q-chan get that Gold for Japan, I'll be happy to bestow honourary status in Labels.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

SMAP -- Makeru na Baby! ~ Never Give Up(負けるなBaby! 〜Never give up)

Yup, that's good ol' SMAP in the good ol' days when Katsuyuki Mori(森且行)made the aidoru group a sextet instead of the quintet.

My overall impression of member Shingo Katori(香取慎吾)was that he was the comical one of SMAP in comparison to the smoldering heartthrob Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉)and the shy guy Goro Inagaki(稲垣吾郎). Well, since the group broke up at the end of 2016, he's revealed a new side: introspective artist!

This morning on NHK's "News Watch at 9", there was a short feature with Katori presenting his exhibition of art including paintings and sculpture. From what I saw, he looks like he's going for some abstract works.

It has been a while since I featured a SMAP song and since I have been playing catch-up where their discography is concerned, I went back into the vaults of J-Wiki and found their 4th single, "Makeru na Baby! ~ Never Give Up" (Don't Give Up Baby!) from July 1992.

Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was responsible for creating the music for "Makera na Baby!" and even though he is represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" with 149 articles (including this one), I still marvel at how prolific the man has been, especially after writing about another one of his creations just yesterday, the very different Mood Kayo "Hoshi no Night Club"(星のナイト・クラブ)for Sachiko Nishida(西田佐知子)all the way back in 1969. Takeshi Aida(相田毅)wrote the lyrics about a guy exhorting a female friend or a girlfriend to not let any obstacle or failure get in the way of success. I thought that this was a theme song for some TV drama but actually it was the theme for a 1994 movie titled "Shoot!"(シュート!)starring SMAP, dramatized from the original manga.

I'm happy that the video above shows the lyrics since while I was just listening to "Makera na Baby!", I swore that I heard the lines "Buy my cellphone!...Catch my cellphone!". I didn't think that cellphones had made their debut quite that early and sure enough, the actual lyrics are "By myself Wow...Catch Myself...". At first listen, I had assumed that the guy was really desperate to get rid of his device.

For an early song, "Makera na Baby!" didn't do too badly, peaking at No. 5. But according to J-Wiki, as of 2017, it has remained SMAP's least successful single, selling only a little over 90,000 copies. Happily, though, SMAP never did give up here.

Looks like Katori has made an auspicious start. Maybe someday, he and his works will work their way over to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Yayoi Kusama's(草間彌生)exhibition was a huge hit with residents here so why not Katori?

B'z -- Sekai wa Anata no Iro ni Naru(世界はあなたの色になる)/Mai Kuraki -- SAWAGE☆LIFE

As usual, Thursdays at 6:30 is time for "Case Closed", aka "Meitantei Conan"(名探偵コナン), the adventures of the pint-sized master detective.

Usually it's a case of take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to the large store of "Conan" opening and ending themes. Obviously, the ones that appear here on KKP are the ones that I have actually enjoyed. And in this case, I am currently liking both opening and ending themes for the 2016 season of the show (apparently TV Japan is about two and a half years behind).

The 43rd opening theme, "Sekai wa Anata no Iro ni Naru" (The World Becomes Your Colour) by B'z is a digital download from October 2016. As the original song, I could only find the actual opening credits, and therefore, truncated version. I have to say that the song which was also written and composed by the B'z boys, is helped a lot by that opening sequence that has almost every character in battle mode, and heck, even snarky Haibara looks scared! The song strikes me as being a bit reminiscent of late Beatles with the inclusion of those strings. "Sekai" reached No. 1 on iTunes and was ranked No. 50 for that year according to the mora music store.

The 52nd ending theme, "SAWAGE☆LIFE" (Exciting Life) by Mai Kuraki(倉木麻衣)was also a digital download from July 2016. It comes across to me as this quiet rock strut that could have been sung by someone like Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Girls. Again the ending credits are of a cast-participatory variety with the Detective Boys and the high school buddies of Ran, Sonoko and Masumi deciding to get the band together. The cheerleading element of the song has dug itself into my brain. While Kuraki wrote the lyrics, Alaina Beaton and Bobby Huff took care of the melody.

Peggy Hayama -- Nangoku Tosa wo Ato ni Shite(南国土佐を後にして)

With the changing of the seasons, NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)had its spring-themed show a couple of nights ago, and one of the guests, enka singer Hiroshi Miyama(三山ひろし), gave a lovely version of the kayo chestnut "Nangoku Tosa wo Ato ni Shite" (Leave Nangoku Tosa Behind).

The song had its origins in wartime Japan as something that had been sung by soldiers in a regiment, many of whom hailed from Kochi Prefecture (which was once known as Tosa) on the island of Shikoku. After World War II, the song was brought back to Kochi where it solidified as a hometown ditty, according to a 1997 Kobe Shimbun article (via J-Wiki). Songwriter Eisaku Takemasa(武政英策)from neighbouring Ehime Prefecture then transcribed and arranged this original song to write and compose "Nangoku Tosa wo Ato ni Shite", as a kayo of longing for the homeland of Kochi.

"Nangoku Tosa wo Ato ni Shite" was recorded and released in 1953 and 1955 by Kyoko Oka(丘京子)and Mieko Suzuki(鈴木三重子)respectively but neither version made much of a ripple. But then Peggy Hayama(ペギー葉山)was offered the opportunity to sing this very song on a special program commemorating the beginning of the Kochi branch of NHK TV in November 1958. Hayama had initially not been too interested since she considered herself a jazz singer rather than an interpreter of kayo, but she finally performed it in front of the audience and she was surprised due to the rousing reaction from them.

Hayama's version became known around the nation due to the spread of television and transformed into a huge hit, with the single released in April 1959 and sales reaching 1 million within a year, eventually selling 2 million records in total. Hayama would also end up performing "Nangoku Tosa" on the 1959 and 1989 Kohaku Utagassen broadcasts. On top of that, she became only the second person to be granted a honourary citizenship of Kochi in 1974.

The song also got transformed into a movie later in August 1959 with Hayama as part of the cast.