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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top 10 Singles for 1977

1. Pink Lady               Nagisa no Sinbad
2. Kouichi Morita         Seishun Jidai
3. Pink Lady               Wanted
4. Kenji Sawada          Katte ni Shiyagare
5. Akira Kobayashi       Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu
6. Masashi Sada          Ame Yadori
7. Pink Lady               Carmen '77
8. Pink Lady               SOS
9. Kentaro Shimizu      Shitsuren Restaurant
10. Hi-Fi Set              Feelings

1977 may have been the year of "Star Wars", but in Japan, it was the year of Pink Lady. By the way, the No. 8 hit of "SOS"isn't in any way a cover of the ABBA tune. However, Hi-Fi Set's "Feelings"is indeed the cover of the 1974 Morris Albert (anti-)classic.

May the Force be with you!

Hibari Misora -- Kappa Boogie Woogie (河童ブギウギ)

My "earliest" entry...going into 1949. And perhaps an odd way to start the Hibari Misora(美空ひばり) file. After all, this is the legendary singer of enka and jazz who put a huge stamp onto kayo kyoku for over 40 years. Apparently, during her many appearances on the annual Kohaku Utagassen, she awed her fellow singers into terror. According to Wikipedia, she recorded 1,200 songs and into the 21st century, she had (posthumously) sold over 80 million records.

But as I said, this is an odd tune to start with, but "Kappa Boogie Woogie" was her very first song released as a single. A kappa is a water sprite in Japanese folklore which looks like a cross between a frog and a bird. The pre-teen Misora, who was born as Kazue Kato(加藤和枝) in 1937, performed the song in the film "Odoru Ryuuguujou" (踊る龍宮城....Dancing Dragon Palace) in costume.

Of course, Misora ended up leading the Japanese through the postwar rebuilding and into their economic miracle. I'm not a die-hard fan of hers but she released so many nostalgic songs, I just automatically go "I know that one!"whenever I hear one of them.

Ami Ozaki/Saori Minami -- I've Been Mellow

Ami Ozaki (尾崎亜美) wrote, composed and arranged this song which also has the Japanese title of 『春の予感』or "Spring Premonition". It was never released as a proper single but as a track on her 3rd album, "Stop Motion" released in July 1978. True to its title, it's a mellow ballad...something to listen to on a beach on a lazy afternoon. Along with the previously released "My Pure Lady", it's one of her early classics.

It was also originally created for 70s aidoru Saori Minami (南沙織)as her 25th single (released in January 1978) and as the Spring campaign song for Shiseido Cosmetics. The arrangements for both are quite similar so I'll let you decide who you like better. In any case, the single went as far up as No. 25 on the Oricon weeklies, and was included in Minami's 18th album, "I've Been Mellow" which peaked at No. 39.

Anzen Chitai -- Anzen Chitai IV (安全地帯 IV)

My history at Kuri, the old karaoke bar in Yorkville (a ritzy area of Toronto), correlated with the popularity of this band. There was not a single time that me and my friends were there that an Anzen Chitai song was not sung. And most of the time, it was usually two songs per visit. Two of the big hits came from this album, "IV", released in November 1985. It would hit No. 1 on December 2 of that year and become the top-selling album for 1986. All of the songs were written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎) and composed by vocalist Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二)with arrangements by the band and Katsu Hoshi 『星勝』(former member of the psychedelic rock band, the Mops) Not surprisingly, it's my favorite album of the band.

The notable thing about the cover is that it finally has the boys photographed for the first time. And apparently, they had visited a Doctor Who convention! (Yup, count me as a fan!)

"Yume no Tsuzuki"夢のつづき...The Dream Continues)starts off the album. It was never released as a single but it's just a beautiful ballad with the combination of strings, harmonica solo, comforting melody and Koji Tamaki's rich voice. I'd first heard the song on a compilation tape made in Hong Kong, and I just had to track it down.

"Aoi Hitomi no Elise"(碧い瞳のエリス....Blue-Eyed Elise)was the tenth single released from the band in October 1985, and it's the third track on the album. It's a darker-sounding ballad but no less beautiful to listen to. And it was one of the heavy rotation songs for karaoke at Kuri way back when (I think Reagan had yet to be called out on Iran-Contra).

There is an actual music video for this song that's on YouTube (and I actually have it on DVD) but parts of it just struck me as being too reminiscent of a young actor's overwrought audition video, so I went with the above instead. "Kanashimi ni Sayonara"悲しみにさよなら....Goodbye to Sorrow)is the centrepiece of the album. It's an atmospheric song full of hope and joy that still gets the hair on my neck standing up almost 27 years later. It was Anzen Chitai's 9th single released in June 1985 that would reach the top spot for August and September, and would become the 9th-ranked single of that year. And it would earn the band a place on the year-end Kohaku Utagassen.

But as an album, I think there was no one song that let down the side. "Delicacy"is a pop/rock delight, and "Kienai Yoru" 消えない夜....Neverending Night) is another worthy ballad. For the quintessential Anzen Chitai album, this is the one to get. I think it was also the final album for the band in terms of the pure Anzen Chitai sound. From their epic "V" onwards, Tamaki and the gang started exploring other avenues while still retaining some of their original sound.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dreams Come True -- Love Love Love

Personally, "Love Love Love"isn't one of my favourite Dreams Come True songs. Not to say it's a bad song but it has to wait in line behind a number of other DCT tunes like "Kessen wa Kin'youbi", "Winter Song" and "Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!"

Still, the group's 8th No. 1 hit of their career was a monster after it was released in July 1995. It became the No. 1 song of the year and sold 2 million discs. The lyrics were provided by vocalist Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和) and the music was by leader Masato Nakamura(中村正人). It was also a track on DCT's 1996 album, "Love Unlimited" which became the 8th-ranked album of the year. And it probably still is a popular tune at karaoke and weddings. A person can be forgiven if he had forgotten that "Love Love Love"had actually been a theme song for a popular TBS drama "Aishiteiru to Ittekure"(愛していると言ってくれ....Tell Me You Love Me).

Listening to it again after so many years, I can't help but get that Beatles influence from it.

Iruka -- Follow Me

I've already written one entry on this singer with the soft and crumply voice, Iruka (イルカ). I wrote about "Ame no Monogatari"(雨の物語....A Rainy Story) which was her 1977 hit. Primarily, though, she's been known mostly for her folk hit of several years earlier, "Nagori Yuki" (なごり雪....Snow At Winter's End), and that's a pity since she's been one of those unsung heroines who has come up with a number of wonderful songs from both folk and pop.

"Follow Me" is one of those songs that is in the latter category. Arranged by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)of Off Course, the sound is reminiscent of the band as it headed into a more AOR or City Pop direction in the 1980s. It was released in May 1981 as her 16th single, and also as the title track on her 11th album.

I borrowed the album from an old friend of mine back in 1982, and this is the song that has stood out for me all these decades, so it's not surprising that a lot of her fans call this one of her meikyoku (名曲....signature tunes).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Linda Yamamoto -- Dounimo Tomaranai (どうにもとまらない)

Linda Yamamoto(山本リンダ) from Kita-Kyushu. If there is one lasting image from the 1970s kayo kyoku scene, she would be part of it. About as far from the cutey-pie aidoru image of Agnes Chan as one can get, she probably had both men and women dropping their jaws at her while she just galloped all over the stage in her bell-bottoms and midriff-baring top. I just marvel that she could sing coherently in that husky voice of hers while boom-shakalaka-ing like that....a marvel of Japanese technology and biomechanics.

The daughter of a Japanese woman and a US serviceman who died early in her life, she debuted in 1966 at the age of 15. "Dounimo Tomaranai"(Just Can't Stop) was her 20th single, released in June 1972, and it's the song that has become her trademark. It peaked at No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and sold over 300,000 records. The lyrics and music were provided by Yu Aku(阿久悠) and Shunichi Togura(都倉俊一) respectively, the same team which would later write many of Pink Lady's hits.

I just had to also show her performance at the 1972 Kohaku Utagassen because of that iconic performance. Much fainting ensued.

Purely fantasy thought: if someone ever did a biopic of her, I would cast Reiko Aylesworth ("24", "Hawaii Five-O")....just putting it out there.

Yukiko Okada/Mariya Takeuchi -- Lonesome Season (ロンサム・シーズン)

This entry was sparked by a comment from a viewer asking about Yukiko Okada(岡田有希子), an aidoru who hailed from Nagoya, and was born as Kayo Sato(佐藤佳代). Winning the championship sponsored by the talent program "Star Tanjo"(スター誕生....A Star Is Born) in 1983 (she had sung Akina Nakamori's "Slow Motion"), she was soon scouted by Sun Productions and her first single, "First Date" was released in April 1984.

She had been seen as the second Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子): all of her singles had peaked at no less than No. 20 on the Oricon weeklies, and a number of her songs had been composed and/or written by popular artists such as Mariya Takeuchi, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and EPO. And her most successful song, "Kuchibiru Network", was written by Seiko herself. Outside of music, she starred in a TV drama and several commercials. Professionally, it seemed that the world was her oyster.

However, as many fans of 80s aidoru know, it all ended very sadly when for reasons that remain unknown, Okada committed suicide in April 1986. The news of her death reached huge proportions in Japan, and even reached as far as my city. I'm not sure how I found Internet back in those days, so I can only conclude that it was either a news report on TV or in the papers. Even more horrifically, copycat suicides occurred in the days after Okada's death to such an extent that one of her family (her mother, I believe) appeared on TV to implore a stop to any more tragedy.

"Kuchibiru Network" was her most successful song but I wanted to feature this one, "Lonesome Season" since I hadn't ever heard the original version before tonight. I actually have listened to the cover by Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), who had written and composed the song. Although "Kuchibiru Network" has that feeling of aidoru, I found Okada's "Lonesome Season" to have a more mature delivery to it, following the way that Takeuchi sings her ballads in that dramatic, lilting fashion.

"Lonesome Season" was a track on Okada's 3rd album, "Juu-gatsu no Ningyo"(十月の人魚...October Mermaid) released in September 1985.

This is Mariya's version (or at least some of it), included on her 1992 album "Quiet Life", as a tribute to Okada's memory. Backed up by her husband, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), the arrangements have that 50s ballad style that characterized Mariya's early hits.

Considering how she has remained loved on sites like YouTube and Flickr, she does seem to have  posthumously earned the label "The Eternal Aidoru".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Toshinobu Kubota -- Ryuusei no Saddle (流星のサドル)

I first came across Toshinobu Kubota(久保田利伸) in 1989 when I was teaching at my larger junior high school in Gunma Prefecture. The 3rd-year girls at the school were rehearsing their group dance for the annual Culture Festival, and they happened to choose "Ryuusei no Saddle"(Meteor Saddle), Kubota's kinetic and funky first track from his 1986 debut album, "Shake It Paradise". Now, the kids didn't exactly bust a move to the I remember it, it was more of a hurried military march. Still, the song stayed in my head far longer than the 3rd years' performance and I ended up getting Kubota's first Best album, "The Baddest".

I'm not sure if I would be right in saying that Kubota is the Father of J-R&B, but he is at least one of its pioneers. Since his debut as a spiky-haired Michael Jackson wannabe, he's gone on to explore a number of genres such as blues, soul and reggae over the last quarter-century. And he's composed tunes for artists ranging from 70s aidoru-turned-80s chanteuse Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美) to fellow J-R&B singer Misia. Along with Michael Jackson, Kubota has listed Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye among others as his inspirations.

Masato Shimon with Columbia Yurikago Kai/Kome Kome Club -- Theme from "Gatchaman"(ガッチャマン)

I remember reading the original manga for "Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman"(科学忍者隊ガッチャマン.....Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) back in the early 70s as a kid. At the time I was more of an "Ultraman"fan, so I didn't really give too much devotion to the bird-based superteam at the time. However, one night in the late 70s, I was watching a Buffalo NY channel, WKBW, when I saw a commercial advertising this cartoon. And much to my shock and awe, it turned out to be the characters from "Gatchaman"....named on this side of the Pacific as G-Force with the show being titled "Battle of the Planets". If I'm not mistaken, it was slated for every Thursday night at 7:30.

Of course, as has been the case for many an anime crossing over from Japan to North America, changes had to be made. In the case of "Gatchaman", that included a different instrumental theme song. However, instrumental versions of the original Japanese beginning and ending themes were used throughout "Battle of the Planets".

Anime song and children's song vocalist Masato Shimon(子門真人), who would later become the singer behind one of the Oricon rankings juggernauts of 1975, "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun"(およげ!たいやきくん....Swim Taiyaki!), sang the opening theme, "The Gatchaman Song", with a children's chorus group, The Columbia Yurikago Kai (コロンビアゆりかご会)as backup. His machine gun-like staccato delivery of the opening words "Dare da, dare da, dare da!"(Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?) is still recognizable even today, and the song carries that usual brass-and-strings infused urgency that accompanied Japanese superhero theme songs of that time.

The ending theme was titled "Taose Galacta"(倒せ!ギャラクター....Defeat Galacta) in which the Columbia Yurikago Kai did solo duties here. Galacta was the original name for G-Force's enemy of Spectra in "Battle of the Planets". As was also the case with ending themes for anime, "Taose Galacta"was a more gentler and folksier tune, and listening to it brought a lot of memories of my time traveling in Japan right in that year. I recollect that there was a jauntier, more military-sounding instrumental version of this song used whenever the Phoenix launched from its underwater base (I have to admit that I spent many an hour drawing that iconic ship).

Even with all of the changes, I really enjoyed "Battle of the Planets", although I do cringe at some of the 7-Zark-7 insertions.

November 1 2012: OK, I just had to put Kome Kome Club's version of the main theme here....had my hair standing on end, just with the horn section blasting those notes out!

Friday, May 25, 2012

B'z -- Bad Communication

Back in 1989, just a couple of months after the start of my 2-year stint on the JET Programme in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, I didn't just wake up to a commercial on TV Tokyo....I WOKE UP to THIS commercial: the fetching young IT girl of the time, Rie Miyazawa(宮沢りえ), shimmying around, improbably selling a Fujitsu computer called FM TOWNES. But the song was the thing that got my heart doing a couple of laps around the block (well, Rie did her part, too). Imagine waking up between 7 and 7:30 to a Tak Matsumoto guitar riff and a Koshi Inaba scream....OJ to the ears!

"Bad Communication" was released as an EP in October 1989. For those contemporary B'z fans who have been accustomed to the band as rock gods, listening to Inaba and Matsumoto back then must be a bit of a surprise since there were more synth sounds incorporated into their music back then.

As for the EP, it never broke the Top 10 on the Oricon weeklies (peaking at No. 12), but it had staying power: it came in at the 29th position for the yearly rankings of 1990, it even went up to No. 26 in 1991 for the same rankings and the year after, it was still hanging in there at No. 87.

As for how B'z got together, as early as 1987, guitarist Takahiro Matsumoto(松本孝弘), who had been supporting various tours such as that for the pop/rock band TM Network, decided that he wanted to create a band that would allow him to express his own musical sound. A year later, he was presented with a demo tape of a university student made a few years previously by the name of Koshi Inaba(稲葉浩志). On the tape, Inaba sang T-Bone Walker, Led Zeppelin and even Billy Joel. Matsumoto would later say that after hearing him and seeing him, he made up his mind that Inaba was the one...even before they met. Later in 1988, B'z was launched and their 1st single was released in September of that year. Of course, the rest is history: 46 consecutive No. 1 singles, 24 No. 1 albums, and more than 80 million records sold in Japan alone. (Wikipedia entry on the group)

I'm also throwing in the extended version from the EP. Set that to your alarm clock and play it!

Kiyoshi Atsumi -- Otoko wa Tsurai yo (男はつらいよ)

Many was a Sunday afternoon in my childhood when my family went to Toronto's Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre to catch a Tora-san movie. The official title of one of world cinema's longest-running movie series (48 movies in all) was "Otoko wa Tsurai yo"(It's Tough Being a Man), but people on both sides of the Pacific can just mention the lead character by name for instant recognition.

For the uninitiated, the late Kiyoshi Atsumi(渥美清)played the short-tempered if kind-hearted traveling salesman Torajiro Kuruma(車寅次郎)who traveled the highways and byways of Japan while his family took care of a sweets shop in his hometown of Shibamata, Katsushika Prefecture. The plots (as well as the characters) were virtually identical throughout the series: Tora drops in unannounced at the shop, has a fight with the family, runs off in a huff, meets girl, loses girl, and heads back out to sell once again. Although my Japanese comprehension wasn't that sharp at the time, my brother and I just enjoyed Tora-san's bursts of temper and his awkwardness around the Madonna (the nickname for any of his 48 "romantic interests") of the movie.

As for the cookie-cutter nature of the series, I think a lot of the most famous series (TV or movie) happily follow this pattern (the long-running TV show "Mito Komon"is probably the other most famous example) since the Showa-era Japanese at least got a certain amount of comfort from knowing how their favorite characters would turn out. No M. Night Shamalayan-type twist endings here.

The theme song, which was just titled "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" and released as a single in 1970 although the first movie had been shown back in 1969, wasn't a hit at all but has become one of the most recognized theme songs. I think most people can still say the opening words before the song: "I was born and raised in Shibamata, Katsushika". And I think the theme fits the character of Tora-san: Showa-era, wistful and happy-go-lucky.

The video above has the full version of the theme.

The above video here shows a scene from the very first movie of the series, released in August 1969. The notable thing about Tora-san here is that he wore spats instead of his usual wooden clogs.

Tora-san welcomes visitors to Shibamata Station.

A mural wall devoted to Tora-san at the museum.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Tora-san museum...of course, in Shibamata, although it was quite a hike from the neighbourhood portrayed in the movies. Since Atsumi's passing in 1995, a statue of Tora-san has been erected in front of Shibamata Station. The museum itself has everything a Tora-san fan could ever want: posters of every movie, a wall with drawings of every one of the salesman's loves, and even a mockup of Tora's Shibamata, among other exhibits.

And just one more piece of personal trivia: in the first month of my long life in Japan, I lived in Shibamata before finding my apartment in Chiba Prefecture.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tomoko Kuwae -- Watashi no Heart wa Stop Motion (私のハートはストップモーション)

Tomoko Kuwae (桑江知子)had an initially brief career in singing before returning to her native Okinawa to become a DJ. Her first 4 or 5 singles were released in the period 1979-1980 after which she took a decade off before she released another single in 1990 and then very sporadically after that.

Her debut single, "Watashi no Heart wa Stop Motion"(My Heart Stops), released in January 1979 was her only significant hit, peaking at No. 14 on the Oricon weeklies and selling around 150,000 copies at the time. It also got television exposure since it was used as a commercial jingle for Pola Cosmetics. The song was written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and composed by Shunichi Tokura(都倉俊一).

Kuwae may be considered a one-hit wonder but this one hit still seems to have a place in a lot of people's hearts. It often pops up on those seasonal TV retrospectives about music in Japan, and Kuwae herself pops in to perform the song. At a turn of a decade in which there were some rather interesting hits by female singers such as Judy Ongg and Saki Kubota(久保田早紀), "Watashi no Heart" can be placed in this group for the fact that perhaps it's not easy to categorize. One Japanese blogger asked that very question and whether Kuwae was an aidoru. Just judging from the song itself, it's possible since she sang a rather fizzily pleasant pop tune about falling in love but then again the arrangements seemed a bit more solid than the usual aidoru stuff...perhaps on the level of New Music. But once again, a lot of the early hits by aidoru-turned-superstars can also be thrown into that debate. Still for me, I'll be happy to place it as a nostalgic cute pop song.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Last Scene ni Ai wo Komete (ラストシーンに愛をこめて)

Although I didn't know who it was at the time, I'd heard this song being played on the speakers at Kuri, my old Yorkville karaoke haunt, between requests. I just thought that it was one of the most gloriously dramatic examples of background music I'd ever heard. It took a while but I was finally able to identify the song and tracked down an album of hers some months later.

"Last Scene ni Ai wo Komete"translates as Fill The Last Scene With Love, and the arrangements make Ruiko Kurahashi's(倉橋ルイ子) 2nd single sound very cinematic as if the singer were beckoning the listener to join her in a re-enactment of the final parting scene in "Casablanca". It has become one of the singer's trademark tunes, and I'm glad that I could hear Kurahashi sing it live at a concert a few years back in Minami-Aoyama.

The song was released as a single in December 1981, and appeared as the final track on her 3rd album, "Heartbreak Theater". It was written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)who had also provided the words for Kurahashi's debut single, "Glass no Yesterday" and composed by Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー), who has a thing for epic string arrangements.

December 11 2009
Ruiko Kurahashi at the Mandala

Off Course -- Sayonara (さよなら)

Arguably the most famous Off Course (オフコース)song of all, I remember hearing this and wondering if this had been the tune the band broke up on. It just sounded so sad, wistful, proud and celebratory at the same time. It's probably a song that companies use at staff farewell parties for particularly popular employees.

Before I figured out the lyrics, I was just drawn by Kazumasa Oda's (小田和正)voice, resigned and wistful at the beginning and the end but during the chorus, filled with pride and anthemic. Although the lyrics spoke of a man looking back wistfully at a past romance, the music seemed to fit any sort of coda for any sort of experience. It's been written on the J-Wiki writeup for "Sayonara" that after this song came out, the band went from a folk-rock sound to a New Music/AOR beat. On reading that, I'm now wondering if that electric guitar riff in the middle was a goodbye of sorts.

Also on the J-Wiki writeup, Oda said: "I wrote (Sayonara), strongly intending to sell more than we ever had before", and sure enough the song became Off Course's first million-seller. It also peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 9th-ranked song of 1980. The single was released in December 1979 but was later included on the band's 2nd Best album, "Off Course Selection 1978-1981"released in September 1981 which peaked at No. 1.

On YouTube, I've read that a lot of people loved the concert version even more than the recorded one, so I've included it here. I'm pretty sure that there wasn't a dry eye in the house when Oda sang this one.

As it turned out, "Sayonara" was never made as the curtain call for Off Course, of course. The band had another decade left in them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Masaki Ueda -- Osaka Bay Blues

I came across Masaki Ueda's(上田正樹)"Osaka Bay Blues" on a video tape of "The Top 10"ranking show on which he performed live right from Osaka Bay. And then I was fortunate enough to get the single on a compilation tape of kayo kyoku hits that I'd bought in Chinatown. Ueda debuted in 1972 and is known as an R&B/soul singer-songwriter from the Kansai area. Of course, he naturally sings the Kansai dialect-inflected lyrics like a pro. The creators were actually Chinfa Kan and Tetsuji Hayashi (康珍化・林哲司).

The song, which was released in October 1982, peaked at No. 5 on Oricon and became the 26th-ranked tune for 1983. "Osaka Bay Blues"is actually the sub-title with the main title being "Kanashii Iro ya ne"(悲しい色やね....Sad Colour Isn't It?)

Thanks to for the ranking information.

Takashi Hosokawa -- Kokoro Nokori(心のこり)

Again, I'm not as much of an enka fan as I am of the other genres in kayo kyoku, but sometimes after listening to a lot of New Music, City Pop or just plain J-Pop, I often go to enka as a bit of a palate-cleanser. Get down to the basics, so to speak. This is one song that helps. I used to listen to it as a kid, and I always remembered the saxophone intro and the drum roll leading to Takashi Hosokawa's (細川たかし)cue.

Hosokawa was born and raised in Hokkaido, and had been working as a singer in Sapporo's entertainment district of Susukino, when he was discovered by a Tokyo production company and invited to come down to Tokyo. He did so, promising his family that if he didn't succeed within a year, he would return home.

"Kokoro Nokori " (Regret) was Hosokawa's debut, and it turned out to be a huge success. Written by Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼) and composed by Taiji Nakamura(中村泰士), Hosokawa sings about being such an idiot for loving someone from afar despite all the gossip behind his back and finally deciding to leave town. In fact, the original title of the song was to have been "Watashi wa Baka yo ne"(私はバカよね.....I'm A Fool, Aren't I?), but considering that this song was to have heralded a major debut, wiser heads prevailed. However, it was noted that the first line which contained the "fool" reference left quite an impression.

The song, released in April 1975, hit No.1 on the Oricon charts and stayed there from July 28 to August 18. 800,000 copies were sold. It, and Hiromi Iwasaki's(岩崎宏美) "Romance" were in a tight battle for the Japan Record Awards' Newcomer Prize with Hosokawa coming out on top.

Of course, Hosokawa got onto that year's Kohaku Utagassen, as "Kokoro Nokori" ended up as the 8th-ranked song of 1975.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Junko Ohashi -- Tasogare My Love (たそがれマイ・ラブ)

"Tasogare My Love" (Sunset My Love) is another one of my favourite natsumero (懐メロ....nostalgic melodies) from the 1970s just from the arrangements and Junko Ohashi's (大橋純子)resonant voice. Nice sax in there, too. It was released in August 1978 and peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon charts. It also sold half a million records. It was first used as the theme for a TV drama, but I think the song has easily outlasted any memory of that show. And no surprise there considering the pedigree of the team responsible for creating it: lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平).

Yumi Matsutoya/Seri Ishikawa -- Te no Hira no Tokyo Tower (手のひらの東京タワー)

If I can wax anthropomorphically for a minute, just imagine on this day that Toronto's CN Tower and Tokyo Tower meet in a hotel top bar, get a drink and wistfully reminisce about their heydays in decades past. They're not bitter and wish their next generation, Tokyo Sky Tree, all the best as it launches today. If I'm not mistaken, the world's tallest tower has been open for about 40 minutes as I write this, and when it did, I'm sure ol' CN (the former world's tallest tower) and Tokyo Tower (the architectural symbol of Japan's capital city) must have sighed.

Anyways to get back on track, to commemorate this day, I've decided to introduce or remind page viewers about this song by Yuming(ユーミン)from her 1981 album, "Sakuban Oaimashou"(昨晩お会いましょう....Let's Meet Last Night) which hit No. 1 on the charts. "Te no Hira no Tokyo Tower"(The Tokyo Tower in the Palm of Your Hand) refers to those tower models that one can buy at the souvenir shop in the tower itself. The singer takes on her more sing-song voice, perhaps, to give a kid's view on the famous landmark, while the melody has this lovely mellow groove. (October 22, 2012: The video with the original from Yuming got taken down unfortunately so I've replaced it in the meantime with a karaoke version here.


In the same year, Seri Ishikawa(石川セリ) did her own cover of the song on the album "Hoshikuzu no Machi de"(星くずの街で....On the Stardust Avenue). Same groovy arrangement except for an additional filtered sax in the mix.. It's all good....

Toronto's CN Tower (553 m)

Tokyo Sky Tree (634 m)

Tokyo Tower (333 m)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taeko Ohnuki -- Grey Skies

(full album)
A1 時の始まり 0:00
A2 約束 3:56
A3 One's Love 7:47
A4 午后の休息 11:45
A5 愛は幻 16:03

B1 Wander Lust 20:53
B2 街 23:58
B3 いつでも そばに 27:55
B4 When I Met The Grey Sky 32:04
B5 Breakin' Blue  37:54
(thanks to CoolVids Deluxe at YouTube)

Listening to a lot of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)during her early 80s European technopop period, it's always a revelation when I listen to this December 1976 album, her first solo effort after her band with Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), Sugar Babe, broke up. Instead of the feathery breathy lilt that she would later take on in her singing, Ohnuki sounded a lot rawer here. Her voice had a slightly ragged edge to the characteristic softness that she has always retained. The Taeko Ohnuki of that time reminded me more of Joni Mitchell or Janis Ian, and the melodies were piano-based pop still having that connection to her time with Sugar Babe.

"Ai wa Maboroshi"(愛は幻....Love is a Mystery), the last track on Side A of the album is one of three songs, the other two being the first two Side A tracks, that are considered to be also part of Ohnuki's former band's repertoire. According to the J-Wiki write-up, this was when the singer truly realized the fun of writing and composing after the lone Sugar Babe album "SONGS" was released. This is an interesting point considering that Ohnuki had considered leaving music after "SONGS" due to underconfidence on her part.

Track 4 on Side A is the beautiful and mellow ballad "Gogo no Kyuuiki"午後の休息...An Afternoon Breather) that Ohnuki had made even before she joined up with Yamashita in the band. It's something to listen to while swinging in the hammock outside.

"Machi"街....The City) is Track 2 on Side B, and it's a mid-tempo song with a slight bossa nova touch, arranged by her and two-thirds of the future Yellow Magic Orchestra. Translating directly from the J-Wiki entry for this particular tune, Ohnuki stated the following:

"I started living by myself when I was just 20, and so while living in the big city alone, you get that lonely feeling from time to time. I made that feeling into a song."

Only my observation, but I wonder if "Machi"was the seed for Ohnuki's growing disillusionment with city life that manifested itself in later songs.

"Grey Skies" is an album that I would recommend, along with Yuming's "The 14th Moon", for great Japanese New Music. Other tracks from the album are also on YouTube such as "One's Love", "Wanderlust"and "When I Met The Grey Sky", but they are live versions from a 1976 gig and the sound quality is not too good. If any of you want to buy it, I would suggest getting the re-mastered edition since it includes three bonus tracks, including the original demo for "Gogo no Kyuuiki"in which Ohnuki sounds almost like a high school student.

I have written about Ohnuki's lukewarmly-received 3rd (at least at that time) solo album, "Mignonne", which forced her to re-evaluate her music and go into a very different direction. Although the singer was already evolving from her 2nd album, "Sunshower", I wonder what would have happened if "Mignonne" had been an immediate success. What would Ohnuki have sounded like going into the 80s?

Kozo Murashita -- Odoriko (踊り子)

Some 6 months after he'd had the biggest hit of his career with "Hatsukoi"(初恋....First Love), Kozo Murashita (村下孝蔵)released his next single, "Odoriko" (Dancing Girl). While "Hatsukoi", a synth-based pop song, was a bit more atypical of his usual tunes, "Odoriko"was going back to his folk roots although a synthesizer riff begins this song as well. As with his previous hit, this song also talks of unrequited love for the title character. Melodically, it has that feeling of gypsy music, a bit along the lines of Stephane Grappelli.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find out how "Odoriko"did in the rankings, but it was part of the album "Hatsukoi - Asaki Yume Mishi"(初恋ー浅き夢みし....First Love - Seeing a Light Dream), also released in the same month as the song. The album went as high as No. 2 and became the 16th-ranked album of the year.

Incidentally, a number of the album covers for Murashita were designed by Tamotsu Murakami (村上保), a sculptor and an artist specializing in kiri-e切り絵), a form of origami involving cutting of the paper as well as folding.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hiromi Ohta/Eiichi Ohtaki -- Saraba Siberia Tetsudo (さらばシベリア鉄道)

This song by Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美) wasn't a hit at all when it was first released in December 1980. It only went as high as No. 70 on the Oricon weeklies. But at least for me, it stood out since it had that exotic feel to it, much like the previous year's "Ihojin"(異邦人)by Saki Kubota(久保田早紀)and "Miserarete"(魅せられて) by Judy Ongg which were actually big hits. Unlike those two tunes, though, that exotic feel didn't come from traveling in the more southern parts of Europe. Instead, the song's origins were based solidly in jolly ol' England.

In 1961, the British singer John Leyton crooned a UK No. 1 hit single called "Johnny Remember Me". It was notable for being the most famous of the so-called "death ditties" that had been popular around the first half of the 60s. In it, John sings of his haunting by a now-dead lover, complete with echoing female backing vocals. I've also brought over the video of the song below.

Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧永一), a founding member of the folk-rock band Happy End in the early 70s, had this exact song in mind when he composed it. When you listen to both "Johnny Remember Me" and "Saraba Siberia Tetsudo"(Farewell, Siberian Railroad), the similarities will scream at you. However, former bandmate and prolific lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) wrote far more benign words which talk about a lone wolf character and his lonely adventures in the famous area of the Soviet Union.

Ohtaki did a self-cover of the song a year later for his album, "A Long Vacation" which has become a classic, and actually became the 2nd top-selling album for 1981, just behind Akira Terao's(寺尾聡) "Reflections". For me, both versions sound like a theme from a spaghetti western.

Ohta's version was also included in her December 1980 album, "Juu-ni Gatsu no Tabibito"(十二月の旅人....December Travelers).

Thanks to the English-language Wikipedia for the information on John Leyton.

1998 Top 10 Albums

1. B'z                       The Best "Pleasure"
2. B'z                       The Best "Treasure"
3. Every Little Thing   Time to Destination
4. Ryuichi Kawamura   Love
5. Yumi Matsutoya      Neue Music
6. Southern All Stars  Umi no Yeah!!
7. GLAY                    pure soul
8. Misia                    Mother Father Brother Sister
9. SPEED                 Rise
10. B'z                     Survive

Along with the debut of Misia's powerhouse voice and album, Yuming introduced her 1st Best album as Yumi Matsutoya in 1998, 20 years after she changed her last name. And obviously, B'z was just the bees' knees (oh, leave me alone).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Masayuki Suzuki/Tatsuro Yamashita -- Misty Mauve

Although this was never released as a single from Martin Suzuki's(鈴木雅之)1988 2nd album, "Radio Days", I think it packs enough of a punch that perhaps it should've been. If you can imagine the husband/wife team of Yamashita/Takeuchi getting urban, cool and noir with a song, this is the result. Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), who was singing about peach pies and the sweetest music years back, wrote some relatively darker stuff here. For example, the first (translated) verse:

The blue glow of a turned-down TV
Sullen you putting on misty mauve on your toes
Pretending to be selfish
How many goodbyes are you muttering in your heart?

Then, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)composed the song to evoke an image of a grimy inner city and a rundown hotel while his wife talks about a relationship going milk-way-beyond-its-best-by-date sour. As the hapless protagonist says, "What can I do?" Yamashita provides the bluesy electric guitar while the horn section gives a brief but grooverific bridge to the final verse. Something to play in your car while driving along the Bayside Highway in Tokyo at night.

The album, "Radio Days", released in April, went as high as No. 12 on the Oricon charts.

In 2002, Yamashita did his own version of the song in his 3rd Best album, "Rarities", which did hit the top spot. Slightly different in arrangement, Yamashita's voice is probably the most different element when comparing the two versions. I'll leave it up to you for comments on comparison.

Misia -- Tsutsumikomuyouni (つつむ込むように)

I remember seeing the original music video for Misia's debut in 1998 and thinking, "What a really interesting (and I mean that in the best way!) looking woman....and that voice!" I mean, she had the face of a Japanese doll underneath dreadlocks.

Misia (aka Misaki Ito) was raised in Nagasaki Prefecture and Fukuoka. She fell in love with gospel music and was given training in the genre, but her talent had already been there via a 5-octave vocal range. Her debut single, "Tsutsumikomuyouni" (As If All Wrapped Up) showed that from the get-go when the first notes out of her mouth were those high-pitched ones. After that, the song was an ear-friendly R&B tune which got my shoulders shimmying and my toes tapping, albeit with far less expertise than those dance guys in the video (one of whom ended up becoming an EXILE member).

According to the Wikipedia write-up on her, when the CD singles first started selling in February 1998, the two formats available at the time (8 cm and 12 cm) were considered different by Oricon at the time, and so the rankings had them at No. 11 and No. 20 respectively. If they had been counted as one format, as they eventually were from 2001, the single would have peaked at No. 8, 2.5 months after its initial release. But weep not for the petite Ms. Ito....her debut album, "Mother, Father, Brother, Sister", released in June of that year, debuted right at No. 3 and then hit No. 1 and proceeded to stay in the Top 5 for the next 11 weeks. It became the 7th-best selling debut album of all time in Japanese music history, and the 37th-best selling album, period. Plus, it got the Japan Record Award for Best Album. Oh, yeah....and 2.5 million albums sold. Indeed, weep not. And that was just the beginning.

Just as a postscript, my incentive to write about Misia came a day after the passing of Donna Summer. I think Ms. Summer had a pretty big influence on female R&B singers...on both sides of the Pacific.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Minako Yoshida -- Light'n Up

Received a couple of requests from Minako fans for an upload of this album, but sorry to say, I couldn't help them out since I just have the Netbook to do this blog from. So, I'll put it to the planet at large...if anyone out there reading this has the album and is willing to upload on obviously better equipment than I have, send me a comment. However, from what I remember in my last year in Japan, the studios were going on a major re-mastering boom of some of those old albums, so I think even the big chains should have some "Light'n Up" on the shelves.

My previous entry for Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)was for the 2nd track on "Light'n Up", "Hoho ni Yoru no Akari" (頬に夜の灯...The Light of the Night on Your Cheek), my favourite song on the album. Well, I'd like to introduce a few more tracks. The first (and title) track in the above full album is a New York-friendly, soulfully atmospheric number with a great horn section.

Track 5 is the rousing gospel number, "Morning Prayer" at 21:41 with the late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)on organ.

Barry White would love this intro to "Kaze"(風....Wind) (Track 4 at 14:46) which features Minako in a slow romantic duet with bassist Akira Okazawa (岡沢章). I think Ashford & Simpson can give a thumbs-up here. Nice song to listen to at night while drinking that tumbler of whiskey.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mieko Nishijima -- Hoshi Meguri (星めぐり)

Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子)is one of those singers that has always been under the radar but has this wonderfully rich but pure voice. She was born and raised in my old haunt of Nakano Ward, Tokyo and was most active during the late 70s and early 80s. She has more famous songs such as "Ikegami-sen"(池上線...The Ikegami Line) and "Gin Lime", but the first song I had ever heard by her was this one, "Hoshi Meguri"(A Tour of the Stars), a romantic ballad about a young couple falling in love while under a fireworks-filled sky.

Released in April 1977, and written/composed by Nishijima herself, it was one-half of an EP, "1460 Hi"(1460日....1460 Days) and a track on her album, "Samenai Uchi ni"(さめないうちに....While It's Still Hot). The song has this nostalgic soft lilt to it which takes me back decades.

Seiko Matsuda -- Sweet Memories

One of the Seiko classics. Written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) and composed by Masaaki Ohmura(大村雅朗) who had arranged several of her previous hits, "Sweet Memories" is one of the great kayo kyoku with that hint of 50s-era balladry and an English-language interlude to boot. And yet, it was initially the B-side of Seiko Matsuda's (松田聖子)14th single, "Glass no Ringo"(ガラスの林檎....Glass Apple), released in August 1983. It quickly hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies, thereby becoming the 12th straight Seiko single to do so since her 1980 single "Kaze wa Aki Iro"(風は秋色....The Wind is Autumn-Coloured), but it quickly fell out of the Top 10 after 6 weeks (not too bad for any other singer, but this is Seiko we are talking about here).

But then, a bunch of cute penguins gave it new life....

"Sweet Memories" was given a jazz torch song re-arrangement and attached to an unusual Suntory Beer commercial in the same year. It featured some anime penguins as customers in a piano bar, with Seiko-chan as a female penguin giving her heartfelt rendition. The ad became a huge hit, and revitalized the single so that a few months later at the end of October, it hit No. 1 again. The studio then re-released the single with both "Glass no Ringo" and "Sweet Memories" as twin A-sides. The single ended up ranking No. 7 for 1983, and even won Japan Record Awards: the Gold Award for "Glass no Ringo" and the Arrangement Award for "Sweet Memories".  However, the commercial-song tie-up didn't go just one way. The little birds also got their time in the sun thanks to the Suntory ad by getting their own movie in 1985, titled "Penguins Memory".

This is the wholly English version of the song done by Seiko as a B-side to her 1993 single, "A Touch of Destiny". The original version, by the way, was first included in her 4th Best album, "Seiko Plaza", released in November 1983.

Whichever version you prefer, have a Suntory on me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mariya Takeuchi -- Miss M

My last Mariya Takeuchi (竹内まりや)entry was on "Morning Glory",  one of the tracks of her 1980 album, "Miss M". To recap from that entry, Mariya's 4th album was a trilateral effort involving Canada's David Foster and members of the band TOTO who helped the 25-year-old singer craft one of the more consummately City Pop/AOR albums made for Japanese audiences.

Well, I'm gonna cover a couple of more songs from that album which peaked at No. 14 on Oricon.

There's more of a departure on this album from the Connie Francis style of song that Mariya had been singing. Track 1 proves this in a big way. "Sweetest Music" was written by David Lasley and composed by Peter Allen, and it sounds like a bit of disco, a bit of Doobie....and all Mariya (awwwwwwwww). It, along with the next two songs covered, are all in English which she can use quite well. There was another video on YouTube which has Mariya actually performing the tune in silver garb with a trio of backup behind her...can't be missed for the cute (and kitsch) factor. On the original recording, the band Chicago's Bill Champlin is one of the backup vocals. The video at the very top is a cover by The Masochinstic Mika Band.

The other track from "Miss M" I wanted to present is the soulful "Every Night" which was composed by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎) and written by Alan O'Day, who also wrote the lyrics to a wonderful Yamashita ballad, "Your Eyes". It's always nice to hear the old-school AOR.

Mariya auditioning for "Doctor Who"?

Saburo Tokito -- Kawa no Nagare wo Daite Nemuritai (川の流れを抱いて眠りたい)

Another one of my early exposures to kayo kyoku came through this song which means "I Want to Embrace the River's Flow and Sleep", released in 1981 as the theme song for a TV drama. The star of the drama and the singer for the theme are one and the same, Saburo Tokito (時任三郎), a tall cool actor who seems to be currently playing calm, cool and collected upper echelon staff. He was seen as a top officer representing the Japan Coast Guard in the TV/movie series "Umizaru"(海猿...Sea Monkeys) a couple of years ago.

"Kawa no Nagare" was his debut as a singer. It's a crooning manly ballad which Tokito sings with plenty of emotion on his sleeve. You could just imagine him walking down the highway with a guitar on his back as the song is playing. For some reason, whenever I hear the song, it reminds me of Michael Johnson's AOR hit "Bluer Than Blue" in 1978. I've also thrown it in here as a comparison.

The single also appeared on Tokito's debut album, "Tooku de Boogie ga Kikoeru"(遠くでBoogieが聴こえる....I Can Hear a Boogie Far Away) released in 1981.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reimy -- Dear Tess

(about 15:35)

Reimy(麗美)was a singer I found out about on a late-night episode of "MTV Japan" in 1990. At that time, the famed music channel hadn't become a regular fixture in Japan, and so TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Station) had a program in the wee hours of Saturday morning showcasing some of the Japanese pop videos. Reimy Horikawa(堀川麗美)was the interviewee that night, and she introduced a couple of her videos including the one posted here, "Dear Tess".

By the time I first saw her, she had already started the 3rd phase of her young career. She was discovered all the way back in 1984 via a photo spotted by the agent of the Matsutoyas (Yumi and Masataka). Reimy's older sister, MAYUMI (a model and singer/songwriter herself) was holding the picture. For the first couple of years, Reimy had the image of the typical cute aidoru although she covered a number of Yuming's songs. Then, for some years, she went over to Los Angeles to record. Apparently, a couple of her tunes got pretty high up on the dance charts....I have one album from that period in which she took on a pop sound reminiscent of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.

Then, the Okinawan native returned to Japan and settled into a more laidback J-AOR approach. She had written and composed songs in the past but entering this 3rd phase, she completely took the reins. I was struck by "Dear Tess", a well-crafted ballad which was written and composed as a tribute to a friend of hers who had been killed in an accident (at least that was what I remember hearing from her MTV Japan interview). The song was also included in her 10th album, "Hashiru Soyokaze Tachi e"(走るそよ風たちへ....To The Blowing Gentle Breezes), released in February 1990 along with the single.

Some kind soul has uploaded onto YouTube several of Reimy's music videos including the one for "Dear Tess" which is at approximately the 15:40 mark. I just hope that it stays up for a while at least.

Because Reimy doesn't seem to be too active anymore, I couldn't find a particularly comprehensive site for her but there is a page called "Reimy Data Site", and a Korean/English page here.

Good Times Diva CD series

 Just wanted to show you a compilation series called "Good Times Diva". One of the nice things about the turn of the century over a decade ago was that the various recording studios got very nostalgic and unleashed a deluge of discs of past hits going back almost 50 years. And if there's one thing that Japan excels at, it's nostalgia.
   The "Good Times Diva"series spans 10 CDs of which I bought 8 of them. They include songs by various female artists spanning from the 60s to the 90s. Of course, some of the biggies are in there such as Anri(杏里) and EPO. But I also discovered some of the unsung heroines such as Etsuko Sai(彩恵津子) and Yasuko Naito(内藤やす子). I have been able to enjoy some of my favorites and find out some new songs, some of which I've already posted onto this blog.

Although the discs originally came out a decade back, some of them are still out there on sites such as for reasonable prices. Just punch in the title. Anyone who has started his/her adventure into kayo kyoku will like this series (narrow niche, I know).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hiromi Ohta -- Momen no Handkerchief (木綿のハンカチーフ)

One of those evergreen kayo kyoku tunes that never fades, "Momen no Handkerchief"(Cotton Handkerchief) was sung by fresh-faced Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美) who was raised in Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture. Perennially played on any televised nostalgia special on music, the Takashi Matsumoto/Kyohei Tsutsumi(松本隆・筒美京平)song spoke on a long-distance relationship between a guy who has gone to the big city (i.e. Tokyo) and the gal he left behind in his hometown. The arrangement has that classic 70s combination of guitar and strings and the high voice of Ohta-san.

Released just before Christmas Day in 1975, "Momen no Handkerchief", her 4th single, peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 4th-ranked song for 1976. It became Ohta's biggest hit and is basically her trademark song. It is also included on her 3rd album, "Kokoro ga Kaze wo Hiita Hi"(心が風邪をひいた日.....The Day My Heart Caught A Cold) which had been released a couple of weeks earlier.

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Chiisana Tabi (小さな旅)

Good morning. Feeling a bit bleary-eyed and filled with eggs and Eggos (don't approach the washroom right now).

On Sunday mornings, NHK has had a weekly half-hour show for close to 30 years called "Chiisana Tabi" (A Small Trip) which highlights certain small towns all over Japan as slice-of-life vignettes. The Japanese love their travel TV, and "Chiisana Tabi" is one of the best. The theme song is also one of the most recognized on Japanese TV.

In June 1986, aidoru-turned-chanteuse Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美) gave her own beautiful rendition (with lyrics) of the theme as her 40th single. It only went as high as 52nd place on the Oricon rankings but that doesn't distract from how nicely the song is performed. It also has a place on her 17th album, "Wa Ga Ma Ma"(わがまま....Selfish), which was released a month later. The song, by the way, was written by Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)and composed by Yuji Ohno(大野雄二), who I've usually known as a pretty jazzy guy since he was also behind the famous "Lupin The 3rd" theme song.

The above is the full version of the original theme song for the series, along with some scenes of Japan.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

PSY-S -- Woman-S

Another quirky electronic happy song by the good people at PSY-S. After the Yellow Magic Orchestra went into the historical ether for a little while, I was always looking forward to some fun technopop. PSY-S helped fill the void along with some of the works of Denki Groove later on.

"Woman-S" has vocalist CHAKA singing that instead of the usual trappings of brand names and heavy lines, she wants her love straight up. The original version had a heavier percussion and pluckier arrangements, and was part of the band's 2nd album, "PIC-NIC", released in July 1986. However, it was released as a 4th single in November 1986.

A slightly less frenetic version was released in PSY-S' first Best album, "Two Hearts" in 1991. But the percussion is still fun to hear as well. "Two Hearts"was the first of the band's albums that I'd gotten...actually here in Toronto, strangely enough. "Woman-S"is the first track so the album grabbed me right from the start. A bossa nova version of the song was also released in the same year as the original as part of the band's collaborative CD, "Collection"in February 1987. And the above video is for that version.

And since I had yet to put in a concert version, here is one from YouTube of the band.

Jun'ichi Inagaki -- Natsu no Claxon (夏のクラクション)

Ahhhhh.....take me away, Perrier...

"Natsu no Claxon" (Summer Horn) was the first Jun'ichi Inagaki (稲垣潤一) song I'd heard. This is a really mellow, Perry Como-friendly ballad about Inagaki enjoying summer in his car and hoping that it would last just a bit longer. With its slow tempo and easy lyrics, it's a karaoke favorite as least for some of us old timers. The song was written by written by Masao Urino(売野雅勇) who wrote several of Akina Nakamori's (中森明菜)early hits, and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)who composed several of Miho Nakayama's(中山美穂)big songs.

Inagaki originally hails from Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Influenced by Stevie Wonder, he had a band during his junior high school days called Faces where he was the singer and drummer. Later on, he joined bands which entertained American forces stationed in Yokosuka and Tachikawa near Tokyo before debuting with his first solo song, "Ame no Regret"(雨のリグレット...Rainy Regret) in 1982.

"Natsu no Claxon" was released, appropriately enough, in July 1983 as his 5th single. It was included in his 3rd album, "J.I." released in September of the same year. The single went as high as 25th place on the Oricon weeklies. Of course, any of his Best albums will have it as well.