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.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Akiho Sendo -- Denki Hebi Hime Sama(電気蛇姫様)

Marcos V. has been the go-to contributor thus far when it comes to 90s aidoru Akiho Sendo(千堂あきほ)including his article on "Glass no ECSTASY" (硝子のECSTASY). But today, I've decided to put my own Akiho article into the mix.


Like Marcos pointed out in that article, most of my memories of singer/actress Sendo came through the Fuji-TV drama "Tokyo Love Story"(東京ラブストーリー)in 1991 in which she played the jaded Naoko Nagasaki(長崎尚子). Her character was pretty darn serious for the most part when compared to the turbulent Rika Akana(赤名リカ)as played by perky Honami Suzuki(鈴木保奈美).

However, any time that she appeared on variety shows and the like, she was the perky one. She had that 90s look of an out-on-the-town woman in Tokyo, and it was hard to see her in any state other than smiley and giggly. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any footage but there was one time on a show where she was wearing some pretty severe stilettos when she suddenly hit the floor like a finished Jenga game after which she was just a bubbly figure of embarrassed laughter. Then, there's the natsukashii commercial up above that I also remember.

Listening to the jingle in that commercial, I do realize that Sendo was never going to get anywhere near the vocal talents of singers such as Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)and Midori Karashima(辛島美登里). Marcos has made that very clear, but hey again, we are talking about aidoru so ability was never going to be a predominant issue here.

Having said that, allow me to introduce one track from her second June 1991 album "Hot Box", "Denki Hebi Hime Sama" which translates as "Her Majesty, Princess Electric Snake". I had initially thought that the animal was actually an electric eel, but in Japanese, that would be a denki unagi(電気ウナギ), so indeed this is a snake. Not sure what Chinfa Kan's(康珍化)lyrics are all about since I couldn't find them anywhere, but Kisaburo Suzuki's(鈴木キサブロー)melody is all about the Latin bump n' grind and dance club. With all of the hoopla of the Lambada at the time, there was a subset of J-Pop songs which embraced the energy in swinging those hips and bottoms.

Nope, Sendo wasn't a great chanteuse but as had been the case with many aidoru in those several years, the songwriters and arrangers could whip up some magic for her. I don't think "Denki Hebi Hime Sama" placed too great a demand on her to jump through the vocal equivalent of flaming hoops. Plus, there is always the nostalgic element about hearing these old songs again after over a quarter-century.

Junko Yagami -- Mou Wasuremashou(もう忘れましょう)

Welcome to the first weekend of summer 2019! It's a great day here in Toronto, so I'm hoping that a good lot of us here are soaking up the sun and good weather.

With all of the high-energy music that Junko Yagami(八神純子)has provided us all these decades with my very first entry on her being the spicy Latin "Mizuiro no Ame" (みずいろの雨)and my most recent entry involving her 1985 album "Communication" with the R&B beats, it can be easy to forget that the singer-songwriter is also very capable of giving fans the feels with her balladry.

I received my welcome reminder recently when I heard "Mou Wasuremashou" (Let's Forget), a track from her debut album in June 1978 "Omoide wa Utsukushi Sugite"(思い出は美しすぎて). A ballad about trying to move on from the end of a relationship, depending on the listener's mood at that time, this could spark a quick move to the Kleenex box. Those violins, that oboe and of course, Yagami's alternately tenderhearted and soaring vocals. I guess because of that oboe, I was getting some Carpenters vibes from "Mou Wasuremashou" as well.

Though I did mention how the single "Omoide wa Utsukushi Sugite" fared on Oricon, I haven't done so for the album with the same title. It was a bona fide hit for Yagami, breaking into the Top 10 at No. 5 and not only ending up as the 22nd-ranked album for that year but hanging around for another year to finish 1979 as the 28th-ranked album. A great start to a great career.

Friday, June 21, 2019

SHE IS SUMMER -- Ai ni Ikanakucha(会いに行かなくちゃ)

Still have a lot of songs on the backup list, and so I found this one which is rather mindful of the arrival of summer today.

In fact, the name of the act has the word itself incorporated into it. SHE IS SUMMER is a solo project led by singer-songwriter Miko Yakumo(八雲ミコ)or as she is otherwise known, MICO. Born in Kobe in 1992, she began studying piano by herself at the age of 15 and took up songwriting, before giving her first live solo performance the following year. Then she became part of a trio called Phenotas(ふぇのたす)from 2012 to 2015 before starting up the SHE IS SUMMER project in 2016.

From what I've read, her career has delved into technopop, and under SHE IS SUMMER, she's released a couple of singles, a full album and most recently, a mini-album, "hair salon" in August 2018 which includes the song of note today, "Ai ni Ikanakucha" (I have to see you). It's a skippy and mildly funky number about doing the utmost everyday to keep on meeting the person of your dreams. However, in the music video, it looks like MICO is having some problems doing so since she seems to be trapped in the premise of "Groundhog Day".

MICO provided the lyrics while the composer was Kai Takahashi(高橋海)from the band Lucky Tapes.

TUBE -- Hanabi(-花火-)

Well, it is the first day of summer for 2019. I can't let that go without having at least one from Southern All Stars, Omega Tribe, Maki Ohguro or Misato Watanabe as some of the summer representatives of J-Pop. Certainly, there's no way that I would allow June 21st to pass by without having TUBE put up as an article on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". Strangely enough, the last time I wrote about Nobuteru Maeda(前田亘輝)and the gang was last year, just a few days before Xmas.

What better way to celebrate the arrival of the hot season with one of Japan's top summer bands embracing one of Japan's top customs? We, therefore, have "Hanabi" (Fireworks), another one of TUBE's dynamic, up-with-summer tunes that was also the band's 27th single released in June 1998.

"Hanabi" was written by vocalist Maeda and composed by TUBE guitarist Michiya Haruhata(春畑道哉)as a hearty welcome for listeners to leave the doldrums behind and hit the tropics of fun. I've only been able to find the concert version, but I think a lot of people would say that this is the best way to hear a TUBE tune. It starts off sounding like an intro from B'z and has some mellow parts but I still say that it's 100% TUBE goodness.

The song hit No. 9 on Oricon and was also a track on TUBE's 18th album from July 1998, "Heat Waver". It peaked at No. 2 and became the 53rd-ranked album of the year, going Double Platinum. "Hanabi" also became part of another Japanese summer was the theme song for the nightly baseball broadcasts on NTV for a while.

Happy End/Akiko Yano -- Aiaigasa(相合傘)

Ahhh...the aiaigasa (love umbrella) trope in anime. It's virtually mandatory in any romantic comedy. Frankly, I don't know about how sharing an umbrella is taken in North American society which probably means that it doesn't mean a whole lot. In Japan, though, it's connected with an emerging love relationship and in anime, that almost always hints at much hilarity to come. Even the touching of shoulders between a male and female student under a brolley would trigger a major flood of hormones that would dwarf any downpour outside of the umbrella zone.

Well, the whole mythos...or trauma...surrounding the aiaigasa goes way back, apparently. In fact, legendary band Happy End's(はっぴいえんど)Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)whipped up a darn cheerful tune with that very title on their 1973 "HAPPY END" album. The song seems to be a musical knowing wink to the concept and I think Hosono has always had a happy-go-lucky approach to his creations, including another track from "HAPPY END", "Fuuraibou"(風来坊). My image of Hosono outside of his Yellow Magic Orchestra period is beginning to coalesce as a good ol' guy sitting in a rocking chair just strumming away on his guitar, coming up with fun and relaxing tunes as easily as rolling cigarettes.

Y'know...I would get Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)1977 "Iroha ni Konpeito"(いろはにこんぺいとう)simply for the famous cover of the singer-songwriter supporting Flipper over her shoulders while wearing that DEVO garb alone. Joking aside, I would like to get the album since it's a 1970s Yano release before her technopop phase. I've got some tracks of that early period via a BEST album, but an acquisition of one of those originals would be nice, too.

From "Iroha ni Konpeito", Yano performs a cover of Happy End's "Aiaigasa" that retains that same playful nature of Hosono's original but also adds in some of that famous Yano vocal play in the background chorus and during the instrumental. Still, it's obvious that when she is actually singing "Aiaigasa", she's also having plenty of fun.

Satomi Matsushita -- 16 - sixteen

That was indeed a nice cold glass of mango juice at the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya back in November 2017...and I could've used that same glass today. It seemed like a bunch of disparate contractors just needed to alight onto my condo on the same day to do a number of things: clean out the dryer vents, search for the source of a leak in the master bedroom, and start a major balcony renovation. Plus, there was the whole issue of suddenly needing to secure a vent cover when the screw holes ended up breaking. Knock on wood, the day has ended peacefully with much less stress now.

Speaking of stress, I don't look at my teenage years too fondly. Lots of stress there. However, it seems for one singer named Satomi Matsushita(松下里美)from Yokohama, adolescence did fine by her. This is her debut single "16 - sixteen" from January 1989. And sure enough, she was indeed 16 (birthdate: April 28th 1972) when she recorded this.

According to her J-Wiki profile, she had belonged to the same management company as Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里), and with the two kanji in Matsushita's first name being the reverse of Watanabe's first name, a number of the latter's fans also joined the Matsushita bandwagon. I can also say that "16 - sixteen" has the same sort of cheerful pop/rock feeling that Misato's early songs possessed. However, Matsushita's vocals aren't quite the same booming vocals that Misato has had. In fact, I would say that maybe they are closer to LINDBERG vocalist Maki Watase(渡瀬マキ)when she was doing her solo pop thing.

The lyrics were written by the tandem of Rika Ooka and Yukiko Tanaka(大岡利加・田中友妃子)with Ichiro Hada(羽田一郎)providing the music. I just wrote about Hada's other composition last night for Anri's(杏里)"Morning Squall"(モーニング スコール). As for Matsushita's discography, she's released 14 singles up to 2012 and 4 albums up to 2007. "16" was in her first album "Doki Doki" from March 1989.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Yoshiko Sai -- Taiji no Yume(胎児の夢)

Yoshiko Sai's(佐井好子)"Taiji no Yume" (Infant's Dream) is quite the ride. The title track for the singer/poet's 3rd album in September 1977, it starts off as a lonely pianist's dreamy jazz riffing with Sai softly scatting away. Then a little over a minute into the song, it starts accelerating with a Latin guitar as an engine before the strings launch it into the heavens. From there, "Taiji no Yume" retains that Latin feeling but it also takes on the atmosphere of something grander and more operatic, perhaps fit for a movie soundtrack, thanks to the arrangement and Sai's vocals. I'm not quite sure if it would be too frivolous to designate this as a mere pop song which is why I categorized it as a New Music tune.

As we get into the latter half of this 9-minute-and-change epic, the rocket carrying "Taiji no Yume" seems to come straight down like a screaming missile and then even make a crash landing with both piano and then Latin guitar competing with each other on which can create the most sonic ruckus for close to a minute and a half. Finally, in the last several seconds, things go completely slow and spacey...I was expecting the Starchild from "2001: A Space Odyssey" to appear. As I said at the top, "Taiji no Yume" is quite the ride by Sai who wrote and composed it according to her website.

Initially, I'd thought that the song was a track from Sai's debut album "Mangekyo"(萬花鏡...Kaleidoscope)back in 1975, and "Taiji no Yume" could have fit that dramatic cover with the singer standing in the middle of those grassy hills. However, it had its own album which you can see here. It's got that weird and mystical design, and I think that the child in the glass vase minded by the cat (feel free to psychoanalyze) may actually be Sai herself.

One of the commenters for the YouTube video with "Taiji no Yume" noted that the title may refer to a concept from a mystery novel titled "Dogra Magra"(ドグラ・マグラ)written by Kyusaku Yumeno(夢野久作), an author who had a flair for the surreal and avant-garde. The trailer for the 1988 movie adaptation is above and the plot involves a young man who wakes up in an asylum with his memory gone and the revelation that he killed his wife on their wedding day. There might be something akin to some of David Cronenberg's early movies there.