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.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Billy Ban Ban/Mizue Takada -- Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni(さよならをするために)

A few months ago, I introduced the fraternal folk duo Billy Ban Ban(ビリーバンバン)via their late 2010s single, "Mata Kimi ni Koishiteru"(また君に恋してる), a ballad that also became further popularized by enka singer Fuyumi Sakamoto's(坂本冬美)cover version.

But I figured that I had heard about Billy Ban Ban for years and years, I should also write about their early era, and this was one of their big hits, "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" (To Say Goodbye) from February 1972. It stands out for an arrangement that is sprinkled with classical violin and characterized by those wonderful harmonies between Takashi and Susumu Sugawara(菅原孝・菅原進). At times, the ballad makes me think more of France than it does Japan.

As I said, "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" was a huge success for Billy Ban Ban as it hit No. 1 on Oricon and even became the 3rd-ranked single for 1972, selling approximately 800,000 records. That also meant that NHK came on calling and so the duo made their first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

Ironically, though, there was some consternation over Billy Ban Ban's 10th single. At the time, the Sugawaras had been in a slump and they hadn't gotten that really big follow-up hit since their debut single, "Shiroi Buranko"(白いブランコ...White Swing)in 1969. But when "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" was placed onto their collective laps, younger brother Susumu initially refused to have anything to do with the recording because he had felt that it was a source of shame for folk singers having to sing something that was not one of their own creations. Certainly, "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" wasn't created by the brothers but by lyricist Koji Ishizaka(石坂浩二)and composer Koichi Sakata(坂田晃一).

Ishizaka's input was a bit of a surprise because I had been seeing him all these decades on TV as an actor and TV personality. Strangely enough, he was one of the stars on the NTV drama "San-chome Yon-banchi"(3丁目4番地...District 3, House Number 4)that had "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" as the theme song. Obviously, cooler heads prevailed and the show went on....much to their success.

According to J-Wiki, "Sayonara wo Suru Tame ni" has been covered by various artists in the years since its release, adding to its legacy. One example is Mizue Takada(高田みづえ)who covered it in her September 1983 album of cover songs, "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai"(あの日に帰りたい). Her version has a lighter pop touch although it still retains that drama of the original.

Himiko Kikuchi -- Sevilla Breeze

We're into June now and the weather in Toronto has been a little cooler, a little fresher in the air. Not a bad meteorological development.

Let's start the month off then with something appropriately summery. I have seen and heard of jazz pianist/keyboardist Himiko Kikuchi(菊地ひみこ)for a few years via YouTube, but this will be her first entry on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". I gotta say that she makes quite a splash with her "Sevilla Breeze", the title track from her 1988 album, and though I couldn't find out who is on the bass, my compliments to the bassist regardless. This is really sunny playing and the type of AOR or fusion that I do like to hear during this time or when things are really cold and I want to feel warm again.

As for Kikuchi herself, according to her biography, she was born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture but was raised in the city of Shiogama in the same province, and for those anime fans, it's also the hometown for seiyuu Koichi Yamadera(山寺宏一). She started classical piano at the age of 7, began learning composition at the age of 15 and won the Yamaha Electone Competition at 16. Following that, she performed in the United States, the Philippines, Mexico and other countries before returning home and making the decision to become a professional piano player. Performing alongside other artists such as Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎)and Junko Ohashi(大橋純子), in 1975, she showed great interest in jazz and trained under pianist Sadayasu Fujii(藤井貞泰). Kikuchi has released 12 albums between 1980 and 2007.

Writing this, I am aware that things have now become extremely tense in America, especially within the last half-hour or so. I have friends and fellow Japanese pop music fans including Rocket Brown, Larry Chan and JTM there so I am hoping that everybody is staying safe and healthy.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Asami Seto, Nao Toyama, Atsumi Tanezaki, Maaya Uchida, Yurika Kubo & Inori Minase -- Fukashigi no Carte(不可思議のカルテ)

Never heard of this anime or the series of light novels that it originated from (then again, my anime buddy has developed an allergy against light novels for the past several years, so it's no surprise that he's never informed me), but by chance the other day, I heard the ending theme for "Seishun Buta Yaro wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai"(青春ブタ野郎はバニーガール先輩の夢を見ない...Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai), "Fukashigi no Carte" (Inexplicable Carte). I think I heard it for the first time when it was used as the ending music for one of those anime compilation videos on YouTube whether it be KHORnime or one of the other channels.

I only took a glance at some of the scenes and apparently it's some psychological slice-of-life involving a bunch of high school girls and their relationships with one rather blunt-talking high school boy (would explain why I seem to have only caught scenes where he's being yelled at). The Fall 2018 anime had a pretty high-powered cast including Maaya Uchida(内田真礼)and Inori Minase(水瀬いのり)who also hail from "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?"(ご注文はうさぎですか), along with Nao Toyama(東山奈央), Atsumi Tanezaki(種崎敦美), Asami Seto(瀬戸麻沙美) and Yurika Kubo(久保ユリカ).

Getting back to "Fukashigi no Carte", I like it because of the cool jazziness of it all although I wouldn't place it strictly as a jazz piece, and I noticed a reggae rhythm in there, too. Strangely enough, there is something Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)about it as well; not sure if she's even ever provided an anison. It just relays a feeling of a pleasant nighttime walk through the metropolis for me. Ameko Kodama(児玉雨子)and Hidehiro Kawai(カワイヒデヒロ)were responsible for lyrics and music respectively. The above video has all of the seiyuu singing together.

At the end of most of the episodes, the seiyuu performed "Fukashigi no Carte" separately although everyone got together for the song for the first and last episodes. The above video features Seto's part while the video below stars Toyama.

Boz Scaggs -- Lowdown

Here's another one from my Reminiscings of Youth file and this time we're going to June 1976. Yes, the age when bell-bottoms and wide lapels were king! Yes, I was indeed alive back then and actually saw them being worn...since I was one of those people.😰

I had barely remembered Boz Scaggs' "Lowdown" which was released in that month and year. Before recently happily re-acquainting myself with this enormously cool and funky Scaggs' trademark number, what I had retained in my noggin was that blast of horns that came in twice during the song. In fact, I hadn't even been aware that it was Scaggs' tune. Up until recently, the one song that was still in my memory for him was his ballad "We're All Alone". Both songs were included on the B-side of his 1976 album "Silk Degrees", a hit release that peaked at No. 2 on US Billboard and the Canadian charts (via "RPM" magazine) and ended up on the respective year-end charts at No. 17.

Of course, getting to play it again over and over through YouTube, I realized (again) that there was some mighty wonderful funk and groove surrounding those appearances of the horns. "Lowdown" was my aural time machine heading back for a Saturday night on the town in downtown Toronto or New York City (it was mostly school nights back then for disco!😭). Plus, backing up the singer were future members of the band Toto: David Paich, David Hungate and Jeff Porcaro. Now I rather wonder whether Scaggs and "Lowdown" were also influences on the Japanese City Pop scene along with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

Up to now, in the ROY articles, I've brought in the kayo hits via Oricon or even those singers/bands that had their debut in the introductory month of the featured song. But this time, I've decided to go with three of the award winners at the Japan Record Awards for 1976. The connection among the three songs was that all of them were given lyrics by the late great Yu Aku(阿久悠)!

Grand Prize: Harumi Miyako -- Kita no Yado kara

Best New Artist: Kenji Niinuma -- Yome ni Konaika

Best New Artist: Pink Lady -- Pepper Keibu

Hibari Children Chorus -- Gamera no Uta(ガメラの歌)

Nothing like a good kaiju movie on Sunday afternoon, and it was around this time almost 50 years ago that from time to time that one of the Buffalo New York television affiliates would throw on a movie starring Godzilla, Mothra or Gamera battling another gigantic threat to Tokyo. I think Gamera the lovable monster turtle, though, usually showed up on the Toronto channel, CITY-TV during the 1970s. The above is actually a scene from "Dai Kaijuu Kuuchuusen Gamera Tai Gyaos"(大怪獣空中戦 ガメラ対ギャオス...Gamera vs. Gyaos)which was first released in Japanese theatres in March 1967. Actually, I kinda recall seeing the Gyaos movie.

The theme for "Gamera Tai Gyaos" was "Gamera no Uta" (Gamera's Song). Now, back in early 2017, I had already written about "Gamera March"(ガメラマーチ), which was the first song associated with Gamera that I'd heard as a kid when one of its movies came out, and that was for the 1968 entry "Gamera vs. Viras".

With this earlier "Gamera no Uta", though, this was less a baseball championship march in comparison with "Gamera March", and more of a samba-based dance at the Club Tropicana as performed by the Hibari Children Chorusひばり児童合唱団). I'm not sure whether the big guy was even capable of it, but maybe he could swivel his back legs to this one. Hidemasa Nagata(永田秀雅), the producer of the movies, wrote the words to "Gamera no Uta", as he did for "Gamera March", while Akira Komachi(小町昭)took care of the music.

Yumiko Okayasu -- Yellow Moonlight

A Good Sunday to you as we come to the end of May 2020 and perhaps to the start of some normalcy from this pandemic.

Continuing on with our weekend of Matts, commenter Matt K. informed me about this 1985 song by Yumiko Okayasu(岡安由美子)because it was composed by the fascinating Kazuhiro Nishimatsu(西松一博). Nishimatsu has resided on these pages of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" because of his fairly City Pop 1981 debut album "Good Times" and then his very intriguing second album, "Bouekifu Monogatari"(貿易風物語)from 1985 which brought in his love of techno jazz.

With "Yellow Moonlight", which was a track on Okayasu's first album "Yume e no Setsuzokushi"(夢への接続詩...Dream Connection), Nishimatsu managed to make a hybrid of those styles that were present from both albums. Beginning with some techno jazz swing, the keyboards then enter the dance floor with a mellow urban contemporary melody, and the two just weave in and out with each other in a pleasant little dance that also include that wailing guitar of early City Pop. Okayasu herself was responsible for the lyrics.

Matt also let me know that he didn't know anything about the singer outside of the fact that "Yellow Moonlight" was a Nishimatsu composition. I didn't know anything about her either but she does have a J-Wiki article, so I was able to glean the following information. Born in Tokyo, she graduated from the Joshibi University of Art and Design, and is a singer, actress and car racer. Beginning her career in show business as a member of a street performance team, she became a host of the late-night TV show "All-Night Fuji", and then went into acting and singing. She started auto racing from the 1990s and is currently the director behind her own team, Heart-in-Heart Racing Team. As for music, she released a total of 3 albums and 2 singles up to 1987.

If I'm not mistaken, that is Okayasu up in the thumbnail for the video above and she appears at about 6:58 as she races with a bunch of other celebrities. The video below has her in a commercial for a Subaru.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Anzen Chitai -- Kikkake no Wink(きっかけのWink)

How does that saying go, "Happiness is a warm blanket, Charlie Brown"? Well, I guess for this situation, I can put it as "Happiness is finding a new Anzen Chitai song".

Yes, indeed. I've been a fan of Koji Tamaki's(玉置浩二)band for almost four decades and it's only within the last few weeks that I first heard "Kikkake no Wink" (The Wink That Started It). Perhaps now I should hand in my entire collection of Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)albums in shame...or not. Then again, it was a B-side to the band's December 1987 16th single "Juliet", which I do know very well as this dreamy ballad from their 1988 album "Anzen Chitai VI", and quite often B-sides have tended to become forgotten when it comes to retrospective releases. Yes, I know...excuses, excuses.

Once again, it is lyricist Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composer Tamaki behind the breezy "Kikkake no Wink", and although it is a B-side, it's another finely-honed Anzen Chitai song. I'd say from the first few listenings to the upbeat number, it sounds like one of their older songs that would have belonged to their very first album "Remember to Remember" given the horn-heavy production that went into "V". It's quite different from "Juliet" and comes across as Juliet and her Romeo heading off on a joyful spree in a resort town following the heavily romantic courtship on the A-side.

Anyways, I'm very happy to make your acquaintance, "Kikkake no Wink". Welcome to the Anzen Chitai file on KKP! Before I do go for tonight, I should mention that this particular B-side did make it onto a couple of BEST albums: the 1994 "Anzen Chitai Another Collection ~ Album Mishuuroku Kyoku Shuu"安全地帯 アナザー・コレクション -アルバム未収録曲集-...The Unrecorded Song Collection Album)and the 2005 "Anzen Chitai COMPLETE BEST".