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.

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?

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