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, August 21, 2019

Tacoyaki Rainbow -- Zesshou! Naniwa de Umareta Shojo-tachi(絶唱!なにわで生まれた少女たち)

Toronto had its love affair with Japanese souffle pancakes last year, and I think although the initial bloom of excitement has worn off, it looks like places like Fuwa Fuwa are here to stay. I always wondered how those folks were able to make those flapjacks so fluffy. Well, I watched tonight's episode of "Gatten!", that NHK educational variety show that goes into the wonders of health and food, and apparently the power of gluten has a lot to do with it. But that's all I will say about that since really I wanted to focus on the aidoru group that helped out in tonight's episode. The ladies there helped out by having their adoring audience shake up some bags of dough during the performance of one of their songs to create some venue-made udon (I guess you had to have seen the show).

This particular group is called Tacoyaki Rainbow(たこやきレインボー), and the members all hail from the Kansai region of Japan where Osaka, Kobe and my ancestral home of Wakayama Prefecture are located. I was surprised that Tacoyaki Rainbow has been around for quite a while now (from 2012 according to Wikipedia), and there have even been some changes in the lineup. Apparently, each of the members get their own colour.

So, intrigued by Tacoyaki Rainbow appearing on "Gatten!", I decided to take a look at what could be seen on YouTube, and I found this lively number which was their 3rd single from September 2014 during their early indies days with Stardust Records. Given the lengthy title of "Zesshou! Naniwa de Umareta Shojo-tachi" (Epic! Naniwa-born Girls), it's nearly 5 minutes of happy and bouncy pride for Naniwa and themselves as Tacoyaki Rainbow; incidentally, Naniwa is the old name for Osaka.

"Zesshou!" has got some generous splashes of jazz and old-style kayo. To be honest, I thought it was a tune that could have been created by Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)but actually it was written and composed by Kenichi Maeyamada(前山田健一)who's made frantic songs for himself and anime. Considering the antics by the quintet in the colourful music video, I could just about say that it has all the energy of an Osakan year-end party, and I'm surprised that it didn't become the theme song for some sort of anime. There's something quite similar to the aidoru group Momoiro Clover Z(ももいろクローバーZ)...not surprising since both groups come under the Stardust Promotions umbrella.

"Zesshou!" peaked at No. 13 on Oricon and is also a track on their debut album "Maido! Ohkini!"(まいど!おおきに!...Always! Thank You!)from December 2016. Up to now, Tacoyaki Rainbow put out 5 singles under Stardust Records (September 2013 to December 2015) and then have released 4 singles with the major label of Avex Trax. So far, they also have three albums.

Mami Kikuchi -- Neo Silk Road(ネオ・シルクロード)

Well, I managed to find a City Pop song by an M. Kikuchi but the lass here isn't the one that you City Pop fans might be assuming. Nope, it's not Momoko.

Actually, this is Mami Kikuchi(菊地真美), and once again, this is one of those people whose profile from the days of her singing is hard to track down. I had to look through a few sources just to gather some of the crumbs of information that I could glean.

But first off, "Neo Silk Road" is a track from her 1982 album "Morning Dew". Written by Kohei Oikawa(及川恒平)and composed by Yasunori Soryo(惣領泰則), it has that funky guitar and cool trumpet leading the way and then Kikuchi's light yet resonant vocals trip the light fantastic through the lyrics. I also like the harmony in the backing vocals. The two slightly odd things, though, are the crack of thunder near the beginning and then Kikuchi leaving the melodic interchange for a few seconds to whimsically repeat the title before getting back to the on ramp as the song approaches its end.

From one Yahoo blog, I found out that Kikuchi had released a single back in 1980, "Heart Beat" which was apparently more of a Blondie-esque New Wave tune. Plus, that song had also been composed by Soryo. And on the website for an online record store, her debut album from earlier in 1982 was "Shimauma ni Notta Secretary"(縞馬に乗ったセクレタリー ...The Secretary who Rode a Zebra).

Finally, she went to America to study music and participated in reporting and other media-related activities according to the website for Will-B International Inc. which apparently specializes in providing bilingual emcees (such as herself) and narrating services. After returning to Japan, Kikuchi made her debut as a newscaster and has appeared on TV Asahi and NHK. At the link, you can also see a YouTube introduction of herself in Japanese and English.

Masamichi Sugi -- Hold On

Singer-songwriter Masamichi Sugi(杉真理)has a number of articles on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" associated with him, but this is only his third with him as the main singer, and it's an article that I had actually meant to do as a follow-up. Back in early May this year, I wrote up the second part to Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)2nd album, "University Street" (1979), and it included the mellow ballad "Hold On" which had been written and composed by Sugi and arranged by Ichizo Seo(瀬尾一三).

Well, with all the stuff regarding the blog and elsewhere, I did forget about this. So allow me to rectify the matter with Sugi's own cover of "Hold On" right here and now.

Released as Sugi's 2nd single in June 1980 and included on his 3rd album "Song Writer" which was released the following month, this version of "Hold On" seems to have an even grander arrangement, this time by Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆), and that feeling of Eagles and Carly Simon rings even more fully in my ears. Definitely a song to view a sunset by. Matsutoya handled all of the keyboards with Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)on the electric guitar, although it was Nobutaka Sasaki(佐々木信教)doing the guitar solo.

Alright, I realize that it's a parking lot, but that's
a nice enough sunset sky, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Hideki Saijo -- Kagirinaki Natsu(かぎりなき夏)

"Kagirinaki Natsu" (Endless Summer) is a track from Hideki Saijo's(西城秀樹)1984 album "Gentle - A Man", and if any of the other songs are like this one, then I'd be interested in making this one my first Hideki purchase.

All these years, I've been accustomed to hearing the dynamic 1970s aidoru side of Saijo so it's only been recently that I've heard his 80s material. But listening to this song and "City Dreams from Tokyo", it looks like he was exploring his inner City Pop and AOR. With "Kagirinaki Natsu", the melody by Yoichi Takizawa(滝沢洋一)as arranged by Hiroshi Shinkawa(新川博)is something quite similar to Omega Tribe(オメガトライブ)stuff and whenever I hear the horns from this period, I can't help but remember Anzen Chitai(安全地帯), notably the tracks from their huge album "V" when they were going brassy with their urban contemporary creations.

The song starts off mellow enough and the opening verses are the ones that have me thinking of Omega Tribe, but once those horns come barging in, that's when Anzen Chitai hits the mind. However, with Sonomi Ari(ありそのみ)handling the lyrics, it's still the unmistakable Saijo vocals coming through.

Yumie Morita/Mirei Kitahara -- Shiokaze no Fuku Machi(潮風の吹く町)

My ancestors once lived in a small village along the southern coast of Wakayama Prefecture. During my very first visit to Japan, I stayed for several days in my grandfather's village and remembered how each night, the locals went out to the shore to haul in the nets with any catches of fish. One fish that I remember eating was something called kamasu. It was quite good after being grilled.

I found this kayo some time ago on YouTube and put it into the list of to-be-mentioned. It's "Shiokaze no Fuku Machi" (Town Where the Sea Breeze Blows) and was sung by Yumie Morita(森田由美恵). Released in 1971 as Morita's debut, the words and music by Rei Nakanishi and Keisuke Hama(なかにし礼・浜圭介)respectively are very natsukashii since it wasn't too long after its release that I made that first visit to Japan to meet my grandparents for the first time.

Despite the nostalgia factor, the setting for "Shiokaze no Fuku Machi" is actually somewhere in the northern parts of Japan along the sea instead of the western parts of the nation where Wakayama is. Morita sings that well-worn theme of longing for the old hometown where the fishing nets, the old train and Mom are located.

There is no J-Wiki article for Morita but I was able to find a brief profile at WebKoo for the singer. She began singing at the age of 3 and then in 1969, she was a champion at the National Kayo Contest. After the release of "Shiokaze no Fuku Machi", which was deemed a hit since it sold around 300,000 records, there were four more singles released under the Polydor label. However, after that, it seems as if Morita retired, but she's currently and probably has been working as a vocal trainer for a very long time.

I then discovered that "Shiokaze no Fuku Machi" was covered by hearty-voiced Mirei Kitahara(北原ミレイ), and not surprisingly, her take on the song is a bit more in the Mood Kayo sphere of things. It took a bit of doing, but I was able to find out through a Goo Q&A that Kitahara's cover version had been included in a March 1985 BEST compilation.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Satoko Ishimine -- Hajimete wo Sagasanakucha(はじめてを探さなくちゃ)

This 8th single by pop singer Satoko Ishimine(石嶺聡子), "Hajimete wo Sagasanakucha" (I've Got to Find My First Times) got no higher than No. 98 on the Oricon weeklies, but it's still a very nice tune, especially since it was written and composed by 90s hit singer Kohmi Hirose(広瀬香美). I especially love the rich piano and strings used here accompanying Ishimine's clear-as-a-bell voice.

Released in May 1997, the singer sings about regretting that the days pass by so fast since she wants to experience and cherish all sorts of first times, even if some of them may not be the happiest events. Life's way too short, she's saying...make full use of each day. The J-Wiki article on Ishimine doesn't mention it about the song, but I think that this could have made for a fine jingle for some ad about life insurance.

As an example of a first time that I've cherished, one of them would be when I started my first job after university as a JET Programme teacher back in 1989. I distinctly remember getting into Tokyo on a very steamy July afternoon on a limousine bus and seeing my fellow JET recruits going crazy with their old-style cameras and snapping away as we drove through East Shinjuku to head for the Keio Plaza Hotel. It was actually my third time in the nation but it was fun to watch the other passengers getting all excited about being in Japan's largest metropolis for their first time.

shami momo -- Machikado Tangent(町かどタンジェント)

I gather that we are just past the halfway point of the Summer 2019 season of anime. And in terms of this blog, I've been enjoying the ode-to-disco theme songs for "Danberu Nan-Kiro Moteru?"(ダンベル何キロ持てる?...How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?)and the funkalicious and wacky opening theme to "Joshi Kōsei no Mudazukai"(女子高生の無駄づかい...Wasteful Days of High School Girls). The shows themselves have been fun to watch and they've been my hits this summer.

One other show on the viewing block has been "Machikado Mazoku"(まちカドまぞく...The Demon Girl Next Door), the tale of a supposed bad witch girl named Yuko "Shamiko" Yoshida(吉田優子)who repeatedly tries to one-up her classmate, Momo Chiyoda(千代田桃), a magical girl heroine, so that her family which represents a long line of bad witches can get on a better financial footing. My anime buddy told me that the show has been steadily rising in his appraisal but I think it's been a bit more hit-and-miss for me. "Machikado Mazoku" is an adorable and mellow series but sometimes it's been a little too be honest, I almost fell asleep during the most recent episode.

The opening theme, "Machikado Tangent" (Street Corner Tangent) has grown on me, though. Sung by the seiyuu for the aforementioned main characters, Konomi Kohara(小原好美)as Shamiko and Akari Kitō(鬼頭明里)as Momo under the joint name of shami momo, it's got that sunny arrangement somewhat reminiscent of swinging 1960s pop a la Burt Bacharach that always manages to hook me like a trout. The same was true with the ending theme for "Koufuku Graffiti"(幸腹グラフィティ), "Egao ni Naru"(笑顔になる), and despite the fact that the show was broadcast all the way back in 2015, I'm still wishing that a second season will come to fruition.

"Machikado Tangent" was written, composed and arranged by Miho Tsujibayashi(辻林美穂). The interesting thing about Kitō is that she's also starring in one of the big hits of this season, "Kimetsu no Yaiba"(鬼滅の刃)as the half-demon little sister, Nezuko.