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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Taeko Rei -- Furimukeba In The Rain(ふりむけば In The Rain)

Over the years, some readers of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" have thanked me for introducing a number of the songs to them for which I'm very grateful. By the same token, I've also been very grateful to YouTuber Van Paugam for going a bit further and putting up his own City Pop radio channel.

That would be especially true tonight since I was listening to his City Pop Radio (and watching the traffic on the Tokyo highway) and came across this singer whom I had never heard before by the name of Taeko Rei(令多映子). The song performed was "Furimukeba In The Rain" (Turning Back In The Rain) which came from her 2nd album "Taeko" from 1984. Listening to it, I got all sorts of thoughts coming into mind such as the fact that her vocals reminded me of those of fellow City Pop chanteuse Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵)while the tight horn arrangement had me thinking of what Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)would later put together with her songs in the late 1980s going into the early 1990s. The music also had me thinking about the bright synths found in the similar music sung by female singers at the end of that particular decade...that of champagne and painting the town red. In any case, "Furimukeba In The Rain" is a choice find.

From what little I could find about Rei, and her J-Wiki article is apparently quite incomplete, I discovered that she was born Taeko Shibata(柴田妙子)in 1959 and made her debut in 1983. The early part of her career seemed to have stayed within the confines of urban contemporary music before she settled down and retired. However, the marriage didn't quite take and so she returned to the music industry after which she became known as a gospel singer.

Mieko Takamine & Noboru Kirishima -- Junjou Nijuusou(純情二重奏)

From the new collection of old 45s that I received from Steve some weeks ago, I found this donut-ban by actress-singer Mieko Takamine(高峰三枝子). Looking at the cover, I had imagined that the songs involved were produced sometime in the 1960s being unaware how far back Takamine's career started.

Actually, the first song on the 45, "Junjou Nijuusou" (Duet of Innocence) was sung by Takamine and Noboru Kirishima(霧島昇)all the way back in 1939 as the theme song for the movie of the same title which starred Takamine. I don't know anything of that film but judging from Yaso Saijo's(西條八十)lyrics, it must have been a bittersweet production as the words talk about two young lovers who started out as orphans missing their mothers.

Even though I categorized the song as an enka tune, I'm not quite sure whether it would be considered as such by kayo fans. The melancholy/jaunty melody by Tadashi Manjome(万城目正)perhaps could be equated with the sweet music that had been popular at the oh-so-dainty evening parties back in the United States at around the same time. Some folks in the States back then probably would have seen jazz as being a little too raunchy.

In any case, "Junjou Nijuusou", both movie and song, brought Takamine to everyone's attention according to the J-Wiki article on the film.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jaa ne!

Well, after 2 weeks and 2 days, my 2nd trip to Japan after coming home for good ended on November 18th. For the most part, a fine time was had by me. Meeting old and good friends, having some great food and visiting the usual haunts. They will all be missed until the next visit.

Living in Japan, I had to go to Narita Airport whenever I returned to Canada on vacation but that wasn't too bad since I was living in Chiba Prefecture. However, now that the tables have turned in terms of my residential status, I've been quite happy with my current transportation hub of Haneda Airport right in downtown Tokyo. I've used it twice in as many trips and both times, I've enjoyed walking through the Edo Market and even dining and shopping there.

It looks like tonkatsu was my dish of choice this trip since I ended up having it three times this time around including as my second-last meal in the nation at Katsusen in the Edo Market. Managed to devour a nice hirekatsu set, only leaving a few bread crumbs and a garnish.

Before I went through Immigration, I took a nice look out on the balcony at the planes. Then on the way to my gate, I saw a row of those Japanese massage chairs. Didn't quite fulfill my "mission" of enjoying a massage chair in Akihabara but at least I got my shot in a pretty generous chair for 200 yen. A good 20-minute session. I needed every advantage to get through another arduous 13-hour flight back to Toronto.

Still, it was a good trip with plenty of nostalgia and newness, and perhaps I can make it back here just before the Olympics. Until then, jaa ne!

Ringo Shiina -- Jinsei wa Yume Darake(人生は夢だらけ)

Kinda hard to believe that it's starting to approach 20 years since I first heard of Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎), the urban firebrand singer whose voice could be a match for Superman. My first impression of her was that of a fairly terrifying force of nature with an iceberg-melting glare who could pull off some catchy punkish pop.

But it seems in recent years, Shiina has been embracing her inner jazz chanteuse. And it's not just a particular type of jazz from a certain decade. I think she did her tribute to 1920s flapper-era jazz with the playful "Juudam"(ジユーダム), for example.

However, with "Jinsei wa Yume Darake" (Ma Vie, Mes Reves), it feels like French jazz with a swinging 1960s element. I mean, it sounds so much like some of the standards that I used to watch and hear on American variety shows as a baby that I actually expected the hired pedestrians in the music video to suddenly go into dance mode.

"Jinsei wa Yume Darake" wasn't released as a single but is the first track on Shiina's 2nd album of self-covers, "Gyaku Yunyuu - Koukuukyoku"(逆輸入 〜航空局〜...Reimport vol.2 Civil Aviation Bureau)which was just released less than a week ago.

I did mention that her latest album was one of self-covers. And so it was that "Jinsei wa Yume Darake" first saw the light as a campaign song for a Kampo Life Insurance commercial performed by actress Mitsuki Takahata(高畑充希)the year before. As the ad shows, the song was more of a grand musical number. Just kinda wonder what wonders could be done with AFLAC and that duck.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Akira Inaba -- Wakatte Kudasai(わかって下さい)

I read over an article that I had written about folk singer Akira Inaba's(因幡晃)"Natsu ni Arigato"(夏にありがとう)all the way back in November 2013 and noted how wintry things had gotten. Well, I'm writing the second article about one of his songs and although things aren't quite as frosty cold today as they were back then, we Torontonians are currently getting our first taste of major snow.

In his J-Wiki bio, I read that after graduating from his high school in Akita Prefecture, Inaba soon started work as a mining engineer. However, I gather that his musical ambitions were living quite large and so he released his debut single in February 1976, "Wakatte Kudasai" (Please Understand). I mentioned this in "Natsu ni Arigato" but never listened to the song until this past week.

Man, does it start with some epic organ! There is a majesty in there which had me initially wondering whether this would be a folk song as Inaba has been categorized. Sure enough, the organ gives way to a gentle melancholy ballad about remembering a love lost around graduation. I'm not sure if songwriter Inaba had thought about him when coming up with his first impressive song but I think with that organ which keeps anchoring things, I couldn't help but think Edgar Allan Poe, specifically "The Raven" where the narrator's lost Lenore comes in. Perhaps that organ is emphasizing the fact that the protagonist has been truly haunted by the experience, seeing her face in other women.

It was interesting when I saw the above video on YouTube since the other recommended videos on the right side included songs by Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓)and Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵). Indeed, those were the musicians that came to mind as I was listening to "Wakatte Kudasai". There is a lot of depth in the song that has a certain calming effect despite the sadness of the lyrics. It may act as a tonic for me if I have listened to a little too many aidoru or Japanese disco tunes.

Apparently, "Wakatte Kudasai" may not have made too much of a dent in the Oricon charts but it did win Inaba a prize at the Yamaha Popular Song Contest in 1975 which brought about his official debut.

Akina Nakamori -- MILONGUITA

Coming to the end of the year, I think that I need to put in one more Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)article before 2018 makes its entrance.

And so I will bring in "MILONGUITA", the B-side to her 17th single, "Tango Noir" from February 1987. Both songs I found out about through her special album "CD '87".

When I was going through that disc, I got that impression that Akina had a thing going for Latin music at the time. There was "La Boheme", "Saigo no Carmen"最後のカルメン...The Last Carmen [I'll have to cover that one next year]), and "Tango Noir". I'm sure I would have been excused if I had thought the lass was going to be eternally sashaying across the dance floor in a long black gown.

As for "MILONGUITA", I'd had no idea what the title meant aside from the fact that it read as a word from Spain, Portugal or Latin America. Well, I finally decided to dig around online and found this tango blog which basically defined milonguita as a variant term on milonga which itself referred to a rather large tango party where the participants didn't really know each other. Milonguita, on the other hand, is a smaller and friendlier affair where it's just you and your tango buddies dancing the night away. I can certainly relate to that. Nowadays, I always prefer the get-togethers with longtime buddies over those huge ballroom affairs (not that I have been invited to one of those parties in a very long time).

In any case, I now understand why the B-side song sounds the way it does. It is just continuing on the tango party from "Tango Noir" starting from an introduction with some punchy percussion and accordion to lead into Akina's vocals fairly swimming over the hardwood like an intense dance pairing. Veterans Akira Ohtsu and Tetsuji Hayashi(大津あきら・林哲司)were responsible for words and music while Satoshi Nakamura(中村哲)arranged the entire thing. As I mentioned in the article for "CD '87", "Tango Noir/MILONGUITA" was another No. 1 single which ended up becoming the 2nd-ranked song for 1987.

Composer Hayashi also came up with an earlier hit for Akina-chan back in 1984.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1.  Arashi                                        Japonism
2.  Sandaime J Soul Bros.              Planet Seven
3.  Dreams Come True                   Dreams Come True! Watashi no Dorikamu
4.  AKB48                                      Koko ga Rhodes da, Koko de Tobe!
5.  AKB48                                      0 to 1 no Aida
6.  Mr. Children                              REFLECTION
7.  Southern All Stars                     Budou
8.  Sekai no Owari                         Tree
9.  Kanjani Eight                            Kanjani Eight no Genki ga Deru CD!!
10. Kis-my-Ft2                               KIS-MY-WORLD