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, March 25, 2019

Hikaru Nishida -- Jinsei Kaechau Natsu kamo ne(人生変えちゃう夏かもね)

Oooh...I remember watching the music video for this one by 80s/90s aidoru Hikaru Nishida(西田ひかる); one scene, I believe had Hikaru with a flower in her mouth or something esoteric like that.

In any case, this is "Jinsei Kaechau Natsu kamo ne" (This is the Summer that Your Life May Change), Nishida's 17th single from March 1995. With that summery theme and some of that zesty Latin in there, you would be forgiven if you thought that this song was something whipped up by Maki Ohguro(大黒摩季)who seemed to have cornered the market on such music back in that decade. But actually, this was written by veteran Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composed by Ichiro Hada(羽田一郎).

But of course, when you think summer, you think beer! And sure enough, "Jinsei Kaechau Natsu kamo ne" was used as the campaign song for one of Asahi Beer's brands at the time. Despite how she looked back then, she was most definitely of age to drink the golden brew when the commercial was shot. The song itself got as high as No. 18 on the charts.

Masako Mori/Nobue Matsubara -- Namida no Sanbashi(なみだの桟橋)

Masako Mori(森昌子)retiring? Now, where did I hear that before? Actually, the veteran singer did retire once before in 1986 after entertaining people for about 14 years when she got married to enka singer Shinichi Mori(森進一). I remember the 1986 Kohaku Utagassen when Masako crumpled into tears at the end of the program while a bombastic chorus heralded the supposed end of a career.

What I hadn't realized was that the former aidoru-turned-enka singer stayed away from the microphone for 20 years while she raised a family but when she got divorced from Shinichi in 2006, she made her return to show business. Now, this morning, I got the news that she will be retiring once more at the end of this year.

Allow me then to pay appropriate tribute to Mori with her 23rd single from August 1977, "Namida no Sanbashi" (Wharf of Tears). From the title, it's pretty obvious that the lyrics by Norihiko Sugi(杉紀彦)will not be the happiest as the singer relates the loss of romance through the typical kayo setting of a pier. Shosuke Ichikawa(市川昭介)provides the dramatic and nostalgic music of strings, guitar and light crystal keyboard. This sounds like the perfect karaoke song.

In performed versions, that wailing guitar seems to have been replaced by a trumpet in fanfare mode. "Namida no Sanbashi" got as high as No. 28 on Oricon, and earned her an invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year for her 5th appearance in as many years.

Around the time that Mori was retiring the first time in the mid-1980s, enka chanteuse Nobue Matsubara(松原のぶえ)practically begged the singer to allow her to cover "Namida no Sanbashi", and both Mori and composer Ichikawa were more than happy to give their approval. Matsubara's version was released in May 1987 and has a more elegant and regal arrangement. There is no mention about how it did on Oricon, but Matsubara did get her own 3rd invitation to the Kohaku to sing this very song.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Nav Katze -- Nagori no Bara(名残りの薔薇)

Came across this band, Nav Katze, through my browsings of YouTube and was entranced by this one song, "Nagori no Bara" (The Last Rose in Summer). It's got this indies sort of feeling with the dreamy vocals paired with the grungy guitar and crystalline keyboards. There is that fantasy aspect that has this song stand out in my mind. The band is listed as a rock group but I think "Nagori no Bara" is more of a pop song.

The title track from their 5th album "The Last Rose in Summer" (1992), I'm still trying to figure out where the band's name originated. Nav Katze first formed in 1984 with Miwako Yamaguchi(山口美和子)on vocals and bass, Naoko Iimura(飯村直子)on guitar and Shino Furutachi(古舘詩乃)on drums. After having released their first two albums on the SWITCH label, the band made their switch (sorry) to the major label of Victor in 1991 with Furutachi leaving Nav Katse the same year.

Nav Katze released a total of eight original albums and two singles. Neither Wikipedia nor J-Wiki provides an end date for the band so perhaps they may still be performing to a certain extent out there, although their final original album, "Gentle & Elegance" was released in 1996.

Kazuhiro Nishimatsu -- Crescent Night(クレッセント・ナイト)

I was just conversing with Matt about Kazuhiro Nishimatsu(西松一博)and Aragon, and for the last number of weeks, I've been getting accustomed to Nishimatsu's falsetto delivery and his brand of music which hearkened back to a much older era.

Well for today's Nishimatsu article, I'm going back to his early City Pop days via his 1981 debut album "Good Times". I've already covered his happy-go-lucky doo-wop "My Last Lady", but this time around, it's his straight-ahead City Pop "Crescent Night" which has that feeling of Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎). As was the case with "My Last Lady", "Crescent Night" has Kumiko Tomoi(友井久美子)and Nishimatsu responsible for words and music with guitarist Tsuyoshi Kon(今剛)handling overall arrangements. I'm also assuming that Kon took care of that scintillating solo once more.

Indeed, that whole album smacks of good times. If I can still get a copy of it, I wouldn't mind getting my hands on this one as well along with Nishimatsu's very different "Bouekifu Monogatari"(貿易風物語)and "Aragon".

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).