Credits

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, July 16, 2019

Takaki Horigome -- WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT


It may just be a Monday but I think it's still great to be out there on a summer night like tonight doing the al fresco thing with some friends or work colleagues. Mind you, it could be a little hot and humid out there but as long as the beer is flowing cold...


Takaki Horigome(堀込泰行)of the band Kirinji(キリンジ)has also done some solo work since the mid-2000s, and if his own output is like what he has done with the band, then I'm all in for it. His "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT" from his October 2018 album "What A Wonderful World" sounds very promising if I decide to try out some of his stuff. It all comes across as simultaneously old-style R&B, spacey pop and magical music. Perhaps it was made for couples walking along the boardwalk in the evening somewhere.

The video is also quite noteworthy as the camera simply focuses on actress/model Rena "Non" Nounen(能年玲奈)as she seems to go through some major internal crisis during the four minutes and change of "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT" before finding some sort of catharsis by the end. Well, it's either that or she really needs some extra-strength Tylenol.

The Go-Gos -- Vacation


Yesterday, I had a rare Monday off so I took the opportunity to catch "Spiderman ~ Far From Home" which was a refreshingly breezy continental superhero romp after the epic "Avengers: Endgame". I did like it much better than "Homecoming". If I were to use a meme to describe Marvel's final movie for this year though, it would be ILLUSION: 100!.




As was the case with "Homecoming", the ending credits for "Far From Home" engaged plenty of artistic imagination with a style that once again reminded me of the 1980s. Not surprisingly, the ending theme was also of that decade, The Go-Gos' catchy "Vacation". And for me, The Go-Gos including Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin was the first all-woman band that I'd ever seen on TV in my life, and they had a lot of great hits such as "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got The Beat". I was almost tempted to get their album "Beauty and the Beat" at the neighbourhood Hudson's Bay when it actually sold LPs, but never got around to it. Hopefully, I may find it at an old record store someday.

But of course, with "Kayo Kyoku Plus" being a Japanese pop music blog, I will do here again that I did with my article on Captain & Tennille back in January this year, and provide the appropriate singers and songs. "Vacation" came out in June 1982 so allow me to feature the Top 3 songs for that same month on Oricon. Actually found the information here.

1. Hiromi Iwasaki -- Madonna Tachi no Lullaby



2. Seiko Matsuda -- Nagisa no Balcony


3. Kumiko Yamashita -- Sekido Komachi Doki 


Minako Honda -- OVERSEA



As I’ve written years ago in my article for “That’sThe Way I Want It”, Minako Honda’s (本田美奈子) “OVERSEA” album, released in June 1987, is my go-to one in the late singer’s discography. Maybe it’s not her strongest offer, but it’s easily the one I like the most and, very recently, I was finally able to buy my own copy of the album, surprisingly enough, here in my own country, Brazil (it’s a relief not to pay for import taxes).


After the release of “1986 no Marilyn” (1986年のマリリン) and the album “LIPS”, both representing her famous Madonna-wannabe phase, Minako Honda took a plane to London and started working with a myriad of musicians, which resulted in an album called “CANCEL” and two interesting singles, “the Cross-Ai no Juujika-” (愛の十字架) and “Crazy nights / Golden Days”, produced by Gary Moore and Queen’s Brian May, respectively. Also, girl surely had a somewhat crazy schedule back then, since she had to go back to Japan between all the networking and recording sessions to promote the stuff there, her main and mostly sole market.


Between all the work in London, Honda still found some time to release a Japanese-produced single, the nice “Oneway Generation”, and, soon enough, was already working on a new album, but this time in the US, with musicians who had worked in La Toya Jackson’s then latest album, “Imagination”. It’s no wonder the aptly titled “OVERSEA”, the final result of this American project (by the way, Honda recorded the whole album in English), is a collection R&B and synthesized-funk of the mid-80s, such as the opening song “Sneak Away” and the already covered “That’s The Way I Want It”, with the occasional soulful ballad, “Take It or Leave it” (an Evie Sands cover, originally released in the 1974 album, “Estate of Mind”) being my favorite example of these, thrown away in the middle of it.


A heavier funk sound is introduced in the album’s second half by the single “Heart Break”, thanks to its sick and relentlessly hypnotic bass sequence that catches all the attention. And there’s also “Plaything”, which follows it, standing as one of the airy and light R&B songs more in the lines of “That’s The Way I Want It”.



The final song is called “You Can Do It”, and it’s also an Evie Sands cover, but this time from her 1979 album, “Suspended Animation”. With it, the funk is back, but this time is the muscular, groovier and more laid-back version of genre, making this song one of the highlights of the album. Love the bass, the synths and even Honda’s performance here.


The “OVERSEA” album reached #4 on the Oricon charts, selling around 58,000 copies (source: http://wagamamakorin.client.jp/saku-minako.html). After its release, but also of “Midnight Swing” in December 1987, Minako Honda changed her music style once more, becoming the frontwoman of the all-female hard rock band Minako with Wild Cats in 1988. Anyway, that’s when my interest in her faded away.

Finally, to see the musicians who worked on “OVERSEA”, here’s the link to the album’s Discogs page: https://www.discogs.com/pt_BR/Minako-Honda-Oversea/release/6088147.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Reiko Ishige -- Tabi no Techou(旅の手帖)


Just one of the many 80s aidoru underneath the top stars of Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子), Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)and Yoshie Kashiwabara(柏原芳恵)that I never got to know until much, much later, Reiko Ishige(石毛礼子)was actually someone that I only found out about in the last few months.

Hailing from Takarazuka City in Hyogo Prefecture, Ishige took vocal courses through Yamaha and then made her debut at the age of 21, which is fairly advanced for an aidoru. Her debut single was "Tabi no Techou" (Travel Diary), written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆), composed by Kazuya Amikura(網倉一也), and released in June 1981. What had me bookmarking this one was those synths that start the song off, and Ishige's fresh and snappy vocals. At certain points, she and "Tabi no Techou" even remind me of early Seiko-chan and her material. The song did modestly well by peaking at No. 77 and selling about 20,000 records.

Ishige would only record three more singles up to early 1983 with no albums released, after which she retired from show business, according to her J-Wiki file.

Mariya Takeuchi -- Love Songs


For some strange reason, before I purchased Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"Love Songs" originally released in March 1980, I had assumed that this was a very early BEST compilation by the singer-songwriter. Perhaps it was because of the title and since Takeuchi is very well noted as a chanteuse of romantic ballads. However, it is actually her 3rd studio album following her fun and breezy "University Street" and the City Pop/J-AOR-full "Miss M".


I put "Love Songs" in the stereo for the first time in a long time, and hearing "Fly Away" as the top batter put a thrill up my spine as I heard Takeuchi's dulcet vocals and the supremely natsukashii arrangement through the trio of Carole Bayer Sager, Peter Allen and Gene Page. It's like listening to those old AM stations on the pink SONY radio again. There is that feeling of simply soaring slowly over the city at sunset as words and music flowed into my ears.


"Sayonara no Yoake"(さよならの夜明け...Daybreak for Goodbye)is a genteel and smooth track written by Takeuchi and composed by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎). I mentioned about "Fly Away" bringing back some of those memories of listening to the mellow music on radio. Well, "Sayonara no Yoake" does the same thing with the strings and keyboards making out some post-disco ballad, and then when that middle section with the chorus section slides right on in, everything seems quite all right with the world. Chuck Findley also weaves some magic with his flugelhorn. "Sayonara no Yoake" is the B-side to Mariya's 4th single, the boppy "Fushigi no Peach Pie"(不思議なピーチパイ...Strange Peach Pie), and it makes for a nice contrast.


Takeuchi brings back some of her 1950s/1960s love song abilities with "Zouge Kaigan"(象牙海岸...Ivory Coast). With Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)as lyricist and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)as composer, it's a bittersweet ballad about a woman suddenly getting a phone call from an old flame some three years after the fire died out and wondering about rekindling the embers. I thought it was interesting that the setting would be the Ivory Coast but then going through the lyrics, I realized that it was the former couple placing that name on a secret cove that they discovered way back when.


One of my favourites on "Love Songs" happens to be "Gosenshi"(五線紙...Music Paper)where Takeuchi has the wonderful backup chorus consisting of composer Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘), singer EPO and producer Shigeki Miyata(宮田茂樹). It sounds like a nice little piece of country swing jazz created by a cadre of good buddies as the singer provides a doo-wop-friendly story of the old days of a band just starting out and paying their dues. Matsumoto also provides lyrics here.


My last song here is "Koi no Owari ni"(恋の終わりに...At the End of Love)which was written and composed by Takeuchi as a seeming cousin to Gloria Gaynor's classic "I Will Survive". The singer's challenge to her soon-to-be erstwhile lover is if this is going to be the end of the affair, then let's make the end as much of a whopper as possible. From listening to the other tracks on "Love Songs", I think "Koi no Owari ni" is the sole out-and-out City Pop tune on the album.

The happy-go-lucky "September", Mariya's 3rd single, and the aforementioned "Fushigi no Peach Pie" have their own entries on the blog. Listening to "Love Songs" with fresh ears anew, I feel that the album has that feeling of transition between "University Street" and "Miss M". Takeuchi is leaving the campus for good with still some lingering feelings for the old school and some anticipation for life in the big city. Nice to hear it again.

Toshiki Kadomatsu -- Brunch


HELLO, TONS OF CALORIES!

I promise...Eggs Benedict with Hash Browns, Corned Beef Hash and a few vegetables is just a very rare indulgence, and that is because this sumptuous repast was on our family's Harmony of the Seas cruise back in 2017. I don't get that much of an opportunity to have Eggs Bennie since poaching those eggs and making that Hollandaise Sauce is a project that I think is best left to the gastronomical professionals.


In any case, going for that Sunday brunch twofer today that I started with Chikuzen Sato's(佐藤竹善)jazzy "Sunny Sunday Morning '09", I will finish this particular "Kayo Kyoku Plus" mini-project with the appropriately-titled "Brunch" by City Pop/AOR master Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生).

Along with the previous Kadomatsu song that I covered, "Office Lady", that I profiled, "Brunch" is from his 1982 album "Weekend Fly to the Sun". Unlike the high-energy "Office Lady", though, "Brunch" is one mellow musical respite as those traveling office ladies are now safely and securely ensconced in their overseas tropical hotel by the ocean having a leisurely mid-morning meal after a mad dash to the airport the night before. Of course, Kadomatsu wrote and composed the song but I couldn't help but hear a bit of Al Jarreau's "Breakin' Away" peeking through in parts. Some lovely horns and keyboards are joined by glistening strings (synth or real?...the liner notes shown on the J-Wiki article didn't mention any string groups in recording) which provide some refreshing breeze on the patio there.


Chikuzen Sato -- Sunny Sunday Morning '09


It's a very summery Sunday morning as I write this. The fan is already on here as things have become fairly stuffy in the old abode.


Allow me to start with something classy and appropriate to go with your Sunday breakfast/brunch. I found this smooth and jazzy number called "Sunny Sunday Morning '09" as performed by J-AOR crooner extraordinaire Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)and composed by veteran Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久). This was a track on Sato's 5th album in his "Cornerstones" series of cover songs with the subtitle of "Free as a Bird" back in November 2012. However, the song had been recorded three years earlier as a track on Hattori's 50th anniversary album "Hattori Katsuhisa Ongakuka Seikatsu Go-juu Shuunen Kinen Concert"(服部克久音楽家生活50周年記念コンサート...Katsuhisa Hattori's Songwriter Life 50th Anniversary Memorial Concert).

That lovely harmonica, the silky strings and the soft guitar accompany Sato in something that reminds me of some of those jazz standards from my childhood and television experiences. I couldn't find out who provided the lyrics for "Sunny Sunday Morning '09", but I can imagine that it was Sato. As for the cover of "Cornerstones 5", I would probably eschew the cigar and booze that Sato is holding and go for something healthier...like tons of bacon, sausage and other processed meats along with the Eggs Benedict slathered in Hollandaise Sauce.😈😈

Oh, and by the way, for another Sunday-themed tune, you can try out Yutaka Yokokura's(横倉裕)"Warm & Sunny Sunday Morning" from 1988.