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.

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.

Hiromi Ohta -- Ashita, Haru ni Naare(朝、春になあれ)

Spring officially arrived in my hometown at 5:58 pm last night. The current situation is the opposite of what you see in the above photo take on February 28th: there's no snow and the temperatures are into the plus column (thankfully), but it looks really dreary outside. And yet, after the tons of snow and cold that we had received in the past few months, I wouldn't be stepping out of bounds when I say that folks are simply happy that the weather is at least showing something fairly commensurate with the season.

Looking for something in the kayo stacks to herald the coming of spring, I found this soft and cheerful piece by 70s aidoru Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美)titled "Ashita, Haru ni Naare" (Tomorrow, Let It Be Spring). This was a track from the singer's 7th album, "Senaka Awase no Rendezvous"(背中あわせのランデブー...Back-to-Back Rendezvous)released in February 1978.

As you can see at the bottom of the article, I've placed the song in a number of genres: folk, aidoru, and New Music. Plus, if I actually had the category in Labels, I would also dub it a country tune, thanks to that steel guitar. It makes for a pleasant stress reliever due to in no small part by Ohta's delicate and reassuring voice.

Written by Michihiro Kobayashi(小林倫博)and composed by New Music/folk singer Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎), "Ashita, Haru ni Naare" was also arranged by Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂). In fact, all of the songs on Side A were created and arranged by Yoshida and Suzuki while Ohta herself handled everything for the Side B tracks. "Senaka Awase no Rendezvous" peaked at No. 3 on Oricon.

I'm sure that a lot of Torontonians were echoing the same sentiments of the title yesterday. Well, it looks like we have gotten half our wish answered and over the coming weeks, we'll get the full response.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mariya Takeuchi -- Futari no Vacance(二人のバカンス)

It wouldn't be "Kayo Kyoku Plus" without wishing the incomparable Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)a Happy Birthday today (March 20th). May she continue to sing and charm us all as she has over the many years.

Considering how many articles I've written about Ms. Takeuchi (I believe we're closing in on 80), I was wondering about what else I could spotlight. Then, I thought about the fact that I hadn't covered too many songs when I wrote about her album "Miss M" all the way back in May 2012. Sure enough, I had an opening since the track "Futari no Vacance" (Holiday for Two) had yet to be covered on the blog.

"Futari no Vacance" actually was Takeuchi's 5th single released in July 1980 before the album's release later that December. Given lyrics by the singer-songwriter and composed by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司), it's got that Doobie Brothers feeling and the impression of speeding down the highway along the West Coast, from the city and into resort country. It also has some additional oomph, thanks to those horns. Memories of American TV and Mike Post theme songs enter my head whenever I hear this one. The song managed to peak at No. 42.

The White Kicks -- Alligator Bogaloo(アリゲーター・ブーガルー)

It's one of those YouTube browsings that provide an interesting story and an enjoyable adventure. However, I will start from the finish, as it were, namely this song.

Not that I had intentionally known that I would show up here, but the destination was just so darn fascinating. I discovered this song called "Alligator Bogaloo" by this Group Sounds band, The White Kicks(ザ・ホワイト・キックス), which only lasted for this single from May 1968. Listening to some of this late 60s fuzzy-and-buzzy psychedelic rock, I was seriously tempted to search for some John Lennon glasses and a flowery headband, although the only "drug" that I would be willing to indulge in is some Cadbury Milk Chocolate. Digging under a bit of that guitar, there were also some nice harmonies especially right at the end.

The other intriguing thing is the lineup of this short-lived band. The bassist happened to be Akira Terao(寺尾聰)who later pursued a long acting career and achieved success in the City Pop field, and he came over from another GS band, The Savage(ザ・サベージ). Keitaro Miho(三保敬太郎), I believe, was the leader who was also a jazz pianist, and there was one other member, Taeko Morino(森野多恵子), who was the spark behind my browsing which led to The White Kicks. I will be writing more about her very soon under her future stage names of Tan Tan and Harumi Ohzora(大空はるみ). The other band members included drummer Masatsugu Kawate(河手政次)from The Launchers, guitarist Kenkichi Hayashi(林廉吉)and flautist Yasuo Shimura(志村康夫). Yuka Matsushima(松島由佳)came up with the Japanese lyrics.

The White Kicks' "Alligator Bogaloo" was actually the rock cover of the original funky jazz song by saxophonist Lou Donaldson, the title track from his album of August 1967 that became an unintentional success. According to the Wikipedia article (originally from the "Let's Cool One" website from 2009), Donaldson and his quintet, which included guitarist George Benson, found themselves a little short on material, so apparently the producer just told him to make up something. Well, the sax player came up with a riff and everyone followed his lead, and thus "Alligator Bogaloo" was born.

Yoko Nishigori -- Samidare(五月雨)

A topic that came up in conversation today was my oft-remarked analogy of my discovery of Japanese music via the iceberg in the ocean with the exposed one-tenth representing the Oricon hits and songs that pop up on the TV shows and commercials. The submerged nine-tenths contain a lot of those hidden goodies made by singers that never quite hit superstardom.

One case in point is jazz singer Kei Hoshino(星乃けい)who used to sing under the name of Yoko Nishigori(西郡よう子)a few decades ago. I would never have known about her if it hadn't been for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and my subsequent browsings through YouTube. She already has a few songs on the blog which means that she's been alright by me.

In fact, I would now love to get her debut album "My Name is YOKO" from 1980 since it starts off with the urban mellow "Samidare" (May Rain). The uploader for the album on YouTube identified it as "Go-gatsu Ame", and at the JASRAC database, it's been titled the aforementioned "Samidare" and "Satsuki Ame". All three sayings are fine but I distinctly heard "Samidare" in Nishigori's lyrics so I will go with that.

Anyways, Nishigori was also responsible for the music which strikes me as the appealing closer-to-home, definitely established-in-Japan type of City Pop. There is that really soft keyboard and the wailing guitar that remind me of the works of Akira Terao(寺尾聡)on his "Reflections" album. Day or night, "Samidare" works well and as I said, I would like to get my hands on "My Name is YOKO" because of it. The album also has a couple of songs that I've already covered, "Futari"(二人)and "Kono Ai ni Ikite"(この愛に生きて).