Credits

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, October 29, 2012

Top 10 Singles for 1980

1. Monta & Brothers          Dancing All Night
2. Saki Kubota                  Ihoujin
3. Crystal King                  Dai Tokai
4. The Chanels                  Runaway
5. Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi        Junko
6. Kaientai                       Okuru Kotoba
7. Hiroshi Itsuki                 Omae to Futari
8. Los Indios & Silvia          Wakaretemo Sukina Hito
9. Off Course                    Sayonara
10. Toshihiko Tahara           Aishuu Date

With the exception of the No. 10 entry by Tahara, there wasn't another aidoru song listed on the 1980 Top 10 Singles which is rather remarkable.Six of the ten have already been profiled (the top 4, No. 6 and No. 9) so have a look if you like. I think for me, Saki Kubota's exotic "Ihoujin" and Off Course's still-loved "Sayonara"are my two favourites out of these ten.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Yumi Matsutoya -- Sakuban O-Aishimashou (昨晩お会いしましょう)



This has been an album that's just been growing in enjoyment for me as time has gone on. Yuming's 12th original album was released in November 1981, and launched a successful run of being the first of 17 of her albums to reach No. 1 annually until and including 1997's "Cowgirl Dreaming". The title "Sakuban O-Aishimashou"(See You Last Night) apparently alludes to something from the opera "La Traviata" according to the J-Wiki writeup of the album.

To my ears, aside from the two most well-known tracks, this album strikes me as being the closest to AOR/City Pop that Yuming has ever done. It can rank up there with Makoto Matsushita's "First Light"(already profiled). There are some mellow Donald Fagen horns in there and the Fender Rhodes is a popular instrument on most of the tracks. As for the cover shown above, the photograph was taken in Iceland with a model who looked like the singer from the back doing the honours.

(cover version)

The first song here is the first track, "Tower Side Memory", which immediately hit me when I first played the CD with its AOR groove. However, the title doesn't refer to the famed 333-metre tower in Tokyo, but actually to the Port Tower in Kobe. In her tradition to lyrically refer to geographical points and pop cultural trends, she also mentions the Portopia Exposition which took place on Port Island in 1981, a place that my classmates actually got to visit earlier that summer. I distinctly remember the Tower, the Portopia Hotel and lots and lots of pictures of pandas. However, there is a track which is a love song to Tokyo Tower and that is "Te no Hira no Tokyo Tower"(手のひらの東京タワー....Tokyo Tower in the Palm of Your Hand) which has been profiled. The above video, though, is obviously not her since YouTube decided to take down the original.



For Yumi Matsutoya fans, this is arguably the most famous song of the album, and perhaps the most popular song by her in the early 80s. "Mamotte Agetai"守ってあげたい...I Want to Keep You Safe) is a lovely pure pop ballad which I first heard at Kuri the karaoke joint multiple times, and never fails to calm me down whenever I've heard it on this disc or on her BEST compilations. It was used as the theme song for a high school movie and released as one of the two singles to come out of "Sakuban". It was released in June 1981 and reached as high as No. 2 on Oricon, and was ranked No. 10 for the year. Hopefully, it doesn't happen for a very long time, but when Yuming does leave this mortal coil, I think this song will be played a lot on the airwaves as tribute.




"Kanna 8-go Sen"(カンナ8号線...Canna Route 8) wasn't released as a single but probably is the 2nd-most well-known song of the album since it's a popular request at her concerts. It plays like a good driving song with a mix of disco-pop. The title apparently incorporates the Canna flower and the Route No. 8 section of a major beltway going through Tokyo. However, the synthesized blaring of a horn at the beginning has always made me think that the song was more about a fast-running train than an automobile.

For me, it's hard for me to rank the very best of Yuming's albums, but let's say that I would put it up there with "Cobalt Hour"(1975),"The 14th Moon"(1976), "No Side" (1984)  and "Love Wars" (1989).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Perfume -- Polyrhythm (ポリリズム)

One day, I was watching TV on a Sunday night when I came across this commercial:


Man, never thought I would live to see the day when an ad for recycling could get so technodelic and funky. I guess my question was answered as to how one can choreograph PET bottles. But, seriously folks, my eyes were on the three young human females doing their robotic dance and the infectious tune they were singing. Polyethylene, meet "Polyrhythm".



Of course, this is Perfume, a Hiroshima-based trio that started out in 2001. According to Wikipedia, the group started out with a "...post-Shibuya-kei sound..."and had their first two singles released only in their hometown. As for the name Perfume, that came from the fact that the three original members had a common kanji in their first names, "ka"), which means fragrance. Those three were: Ayaka Nishiwaki(西脇綾香), Yuka Kashino(樫野有香) and Yuuka Kawashima(河島佑香). However, Ms. Kawashima dropped out even before their official debut, so a replacement was found in the form of Ayano Omoto(大本彩乃). Further events happened to bring them to their current success: in 2002, the girls met choreographer Mikiko who would plan out their dance moves to the present day, and then in the following year, they would head to Tokyo (after graduating from the Actors' School in Hiroshima) where they would meet Yasutaka Nakata(中田ヤスタカ)who would become their main producer and radically change their sound into a technopop one.

In September 2007, the breakthrough came with "Polyrhythm", their 10th single. Three cute girls, nifty moves, catchy techno melody, and Akihabara cachet? The Japanese never stood a chance. Nakata did everything for this one, and the song hit No. 7 on the Oricon charts. Then came their first album, "GAME"in April 2008 which hit the top of the charts and eventually became the 23rd-ranked album of the year with close to half a million copies in sales. The Kohaku Utagassen beckoned. And now, Perfume is as much a household word in Japan as their namesake occupying the bathroom shelf.

I'm not a musicologist by any means, but apparently Nakata included a polyrhythmic portion within the song which involves different time signatures between the vocals and the melody. Hey, it's all good. And PIXAR's John Lasseter loved it enough to put it in "Cars 2".

Perfume -- GAME

The Chanels/Puffy -- Hurricane (ハリケーン)

With hurricane season now here, I thought it was as good a time as any to bring up this old Chanels classic which was released in May 1981. "Hurricane"was another doo-wop, Sha-Na-Na hit for the vocal group, their fourth straight Top 3 hit since they debuted in early 1980 with "Runaway". It got as high as No. 2 and later became the 29th-ranked song of the year.




Then, in February 2002, Puffy came out with their own version of the song, and with a short-but-sweet video to boot (although I could've done without the gag wind tunnel-in-the-mouth effects). The Puffy cover went up as far as No. 36 on the Oricon weeklies. The song, by the way, was written by Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔).

I am hoping that everyone will be keeping safe here and down in the States.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Agnes Chan -- Sougen no Kagayaki (草原の輝き)



"Sougen no Kagayaki"is translated as "Splendor in the Grass", and for all those kayo kyoku fans who are also old movie fans (like me), yep, the song title was indeed from Elia Kazan's 1961 film starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. However, I don't think lyricist Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ)made any reference to it when she wrote this song up. The composer was Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃), the same person who had invited and introduced Agnes Chan to Japan just a few years previously.

Agnes Chan once again brings a familiar memory through this song with her high voice and Hirao's light melody. A popular song when it was released in July 1973, it got as high as No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up as the 17th-ranked song for the year. Chan's 3rd single also earned her a Newcomer's Award at the Japan Record Awards.


She just looks so cute in this video. A bit of foodie trivia about Agnes. When she first arrived in Japan, she wasn't able to speak the language so her representing office always gave her a bowl of  chuuka-don (中華丼)....which is basically chop suey on rice, something that is basically a Japanese invention....as her meal, simply because the first two kanji stood for "Chinese". She quickly got sick of the stuff to the the extent that even to this day, she can't even stand looking at it. However, she is a huge fan of yakitori 焼き鳥).

And just for interest's sake, this is the trailer for "Splendor in the Grass".

Ikuzo Yoshi -- Ora Tokyo sa Igu Da (俺ら東京さ行ぐだ)




As I said for Ikuzo Yoshi's(吉幾三) "Yukiguni"(1986), the song was my go-to tune at karaoke both here and in Japan. I've done the song so many times, I can safely say that I can sing it without looking at the lyrics.

But a couple of years before his (and my) trademark tune, he came out with this bizarro song. It had a complicated gestation which started all the way back in 1977 after he'd had his first big hit, "Ore wa Zettai! Presley"俺はぜったい!プレスリー....I am Absolutely Presley). He went into a bit of a slump, but during that time he encountered the genre of rap music, and wrote and composed this rap song about this country hick from his home province of Aomori Prefecture heading to the big city of Tokyo. He went to all of the recording studios only to get the door slammed in his face; it took enka singer Masao Sen(千昌夫)to help him out to get it produced.

"Ora Tokyo sa Igu Da"(I'm Headin' To Tokyo)....the title and the lyrics are sung in a Northern Japanese dialect although J-Wiki takes pains to state that it's not in the dialect of Yoshi's hometown of Kanagi-machi, Aomori. In the song, Yoshi sings of the fact that he comes from a home that has no electricity, no piano, no television, etc....and has no idea what a laser disc is (remember, this was 1984). Basically if anyone has ever seen the old American sitcom, "The Beverly Hillbillies", the song sounds like the telling of a Japanese Jed Clampett exploring Ginza.

Initially, it seems that a number of people from the countryside were ready and willing to use the tool that Yoshi holds on the record cover....on the singer's head. Accusing him of slagging his fellow countrymen from his birthplace, the complaints poured in, although the singer himself insisted that what he had written down was true. However, the song also had its share of fans from both urban and rural areas, and over time, this demographic won out as it went as high as No. 4 on Oricon and became the 21st-ranked song of 1985.

Personally, I don't think I had ever heard of a Japanese rap enka song before. Then again, "Ora Tokyo sa Igu Da"didn't make its presence known on the enka charts. It made inroads via the Folk and New Music lists!


Well, with Halloween just around the corner, I've also included this funny mashup between this song and Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters". Apparently, this song has been popular in getting mashed up with a number of other tunes, including Sade's "Smooth Operator". Feel free to take a look on YouTube.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shizuka Kudo -- Daite Kuretara Iinoni (抱いてくれたらいいのに)




I mentioned in the article for Shizuka Kudo's(工藤静香) 5th single, "Mugon...Iroppoi"that I'd first seen her on an episode of "The Top 10" dressed up in mega-tsuppari mode with purple lipstick. Well, this was the song that she was performing.

"Daite Kuretara Iinoni"(Hold Me, Will Ya?) was Kudo's 3rd single released in March 1988, and that performance I saw on "The Top 10" and the title meshed well with the melody....an aggressive 50s-style ballad daring the guy to get some cojones and make some noise with her while the lyrics express how much she wants him. Kudo's fans must've needed some really frigid showers.



"Daite Kuretara Iinoni" was composed by Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利), who would also create the melody for "Mugon...Iroppoi", and written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎), who took care of a lot of Anzen Chitai's(安全地帯)repertoire with leader Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二). It would get as high as No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and end up as the 42nd-ranked single of the year. It was a banner year for Kudo as three other singles of hers also made it into the Top 100 Oricon singles, including "Mugon...Iroppoi" which came in at No. 6.


SMAP -- Shake


What can I say about SMAP(Sports, Music, Assemble, People)? During most of my stay in Japan from 1994 to 2011, these guys were just about everywhere: hosting and guesting on TV shows, starring in movies and commercials, and oh yes, they occasionally sang as well.

For the record, the lineup is:

Masahiro (Nakai-kun) Nakai (中居正広), the leader and the family-friendly emcee

Takuya (Kimutaku) Kimura (木村拓哉), the broody, snarly but righteous heartthrob

Tsuyoshi Kusanagi(草彅剛), the congenial Korean-speaking big brother

Shingo Katori(香取慎吾), the tall lanky funny other big brother

Goro (Goro-chan/san) Inagaki(稲垣吾郎), the quiet introspective type

And there was Katsuyuki Mori(森且行), the 6th member until 1996 when he retired to follow his passion for auto racing.

I'm sure maestro Johnny Kitagawa (of Johnny's Entertainment) must've seen these guys as not just an ordinary aidoru group but also also as a walking and talking variety show empire, and sure enough they were. But let's stick with the music, shall we?

Although I can't say that I was a huge fan of their musical side, I enjoyed "SMAP's 23rd single "Shake" released in November 1996, basically because I just liked the fun and hard-driving big band jazz arrangement. Apparently, so did a lot of other people since it hit No. 1 and got the guys their 6th consecutive appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen. Hiromi Mori(森浩実) was responsible for the lyrics while singer-songwriter Minoru Komorita(小森田実) composed the song.  The single also got onto "WOOL", the group's second BEST compilation released in March 1997 which got as high as No. 2 on the album charts.

I think even now with the next big Johnny's group, Arashi, at the top of the heap, "Shake" is still getting the customers up and at 'em in the karaoke boxes.

In fact, here is a remix version:




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yellow Magic Orchestra/Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra -- Simoon


Looking back to the very first album of the Yellow Magic Orchestra from 1978, I realized that the band was trying a number of different musical styles. Along with the two computer game songs that bracket the album, there was "Firecracker" and "Tong Poo" which was going for that Asian motif while "Cosmic Surfin'"was a techno tribute to The Ventures.

Then there was the third song, "Simoon". I read a number of the comments for this song on YouTube, and they remark that it sounded like something played at a 40s/50s tropical nightclub with lots of cocktails. I heartily agree. It was YMO filtering a score from an old Hollywood movie set in Africa. And yet, the actual origins behind "Simoon" came from much farther away. Let's say "Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away".

According to the liner notes for the song in the album, "YMO GO HOME"(1999), composer Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)and lyricist Chris Mosdell were inspired by the Tatooine desert featured in the original "Star Wars" where poor ol' C-3PO and R2-D2 had to trudge through before getting snatched up by the Jawas. "Simoon", according to those same notes, apparently means "heat wave".  Yep, I wouldn't mind having one of those tropical cocktails with the umbrellas right now.

In 2001, there was an NHK satellite broadcast called "The Yellow Magic Show" which included a more organic performance of "Simoon" by The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra with YMO drummer Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏). This rendition brings the tropical flavour even more to the fore. The mysterious lyrics, originally crooned through the vocoder by Shunichi Hashimoto (according to k2ymo3 the uploader of the top video), are now revealed on this video. But in the case that the video is taken down, here they are right under the paragraph:

Hot starlight
Where a blue moon dreams
On the sheik and she
Steal a night kiss
Baby's a belly dance
Mirage romancer in Casablanca
Frankincence in the
Tressles of her hair
They ride the night
On his white mare
Her perfume drifts
On the Arabian air
From the heart of the harem
He carries her off
Down to palm-breeze oasis
Behind a sand dune croons
She with her Eastern promise
And secrets in the sand
Oh, she's only a desert song

(from the liner notes of "YMO GO HOME")

Ah, if only Luke, Obi-Wan and Han had stayed at the Mos Eisley cantina a little bit longer, the band may have played this classic.


Misato Watanabe -- Lovin' You



Although I'd known about Misato Watanabe's(渡辺美里) key song, "My Revolution" for a few years, the first albums I purchased by her were her turn-of-the-decade releases, "Tokyo"(1990) and "Lucky"(1991) when I was in Gunma, since I enjoyed the two singles that came from them respectively, "Summertime Blues" and "Natsu ga Kita"夏が来た...Summer Is Here). However, just before heading back to Canada in 1991, I'd decided to get that one breakthrough album of hers which contained "My Revolution", "Lovin' You" which was her 2nd album released in July 1986. The above video is for the very first track, "Long Night", an upbeat power pop declaration written by Watanabe herself and composed by Yasuyuki Okamura(岡村靖幸). It was one of three songs to be released as singles from the album with "My Revolution" being the first one in January 1986. An edited version of "Long Night" was released a few weeks after the album's release in July; it made it up to No. 11 on the Oricon weeklies.


(cover version)

"Lovin' You" works on two levels. First, it's a showcase for Watanabe's vocal talents. She may have looked like an aidoru with the huge eyes and cute face, but she also had a voice that could do more than just the run-of-the-mill tune. She could also belt out lyrics on a rock level which she would later demonstrate as her voice continued to develop, but at the time of this album, she could also sing sweetly in the higher registers. "Teenage Walk"is another Misato classic which shows this other voice.

The song also illustrates the overall message of "Lovin' You" which is the second of the two levels. The album just radiates positivity through songs like "Teenage Walk" and "My Revolution". The former song talks of trying to slough off the bad times and move forward with the help of the good. The official music video above has Watanabe looking very much like a junior high school student. I can just imagine her being the student council president with her optimistic take on life. "Teenage Walk" was the 2nd single to be released from the album in May, and got as high as No. 5. Norie Kanzawa(神沢礼江) was behind the lyrics, and Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉)composed the music. In addition, it would become the Hokkaido campaign song for All Nippon Airways during the summer.


"Suteki ni Naritai"素敵になりたい....I Wanna Become Wonderful) wasn't released as a single, but it's one of the songs that still sticks in my head whenever I come across the album. It's a teenybopping, kick-off-those-shoes, bouncy tune which has Watanabe in pure fun mode as she enjoys throwing her voice around off the horns, percussion and guitars who seem to be following her lead for swinging around the bedroom. I consider it my "orange juice"song of the album. This one was also composed by Okamura and written by Kanzawa.



And to finish it all up, the title track finishes off the whole album. "Lovin' You" is a lovely ballad written by Watanabe and composed by Okamura. It has that gospel feel and shows off that rich Misato voice which would become more prominent as the years went by. It's a song that can probably end any of her concerts very satisfyingly.

I mentioned this fact about the album for my profile on "My Revolution", but "Lovin' You"was unprecedented since it was the first time that a 2-CD album was created for a singer who was still, according to Japanese law anyways, a teenager. And only on her 2nd album for that matter. It hit the No. 1 spot and became the 7th-ranked album for 1986.


Misato -- Lovin' You

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Koibito yo (恋人よ)


This could be the most dramatic song I've ever listened to. My first contact with Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓)was through her song, "Revival"(already profiled) via the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen. However, the song that she's most identified with is "Koibito yo"(The Lover) which was released the previous year.

Released in August 1980 as her 18th single, "Koibito yo" is a sad song of parting on an epic scale as a woman comes to grips with the end of an affair. The heartrending strings brings to mind a depressing breakup between man and woman on a windswept cliff. However, the feelings for Itsuwa's trademark song didn't come from any past romance but from a personal tragedy. She wrote and composed the song as she remembered her very first producer, Takasuke Kida(木田高介). Just a few months previously, Kida had been killed in a traffic accident, and for Itsuwa, who had considered him family, the death touched her deeply. The feeling that was imbued into "Koibito yo"was that the moment was an unforgettable one and that it was an incident that she still couldn't believe happened.

"Koibito yo" hit the No. 1 spot for 3 weeks on Oricon and became a million-seller, earning the Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. It eventually became the 8th-ranking song for 1981. But the song's legacy has also extended into it being covered by a number of Japanese artists, including Hibari Misora, Hideaki Tokunaga and Shizuka Kudo. It has also become famous in Vietnam since being covered by one of the nation's most popular singers there in 2005.





BaBe -- I Don't Know!


Sometime between the frenetic Pink Lady and the delicate Wink, there was BaBe! This duo, consisting of Tomoko Kondo(近藤智子) and Yukari Nikaido(二階堂ゆかり), had a short career life of 3 years. But during that time, I used to see them on the ranking shows such as "The Best 10", mainly to perform this dynamic song.

"I don't know loneliness!"

I've always remembered that opening lyric and then the two girls launching their angular choreography. Eurobeat was really big during the late 80s, and BaBe's debut single was a cover of Michael Fortunati's "Give Me Up"....a prime example of the genre. "I Don't Know" was their 2nd single, released in May 1987, and it was composed by Hideya Nakazaki(中崎英也)and written by Yukinojo Mori(森雪之丞)in the same Eurobeat vein. The song is also available on their first album, "Bravo"released in June of that year. It made it as far as No. 5 on the Oricon weeklies.

It was fun to hear and watch the girls since back in those days, my life in the discos was often surrounded by Eurobeat supplied by Stock, Aitken & Waterman via Bananarama and Samantha Fox. For BaBe, the end came in 1990 when Nikaido ended up settling down with a husband and a kid.




Monday, October 22, 2012

Seishun Uta Nenkan (青春歌年鑑)

1971 and 1981 Seishun Uta Nenkan



Around the turn of the century over a decade ago, the Japanese media did what a lot of their international counterparts did: talk about the 20th century through various angles: politics, economics, popular culture, etc. Of course, talking about music, especially kayo kyoku, was right in the media's wheelhouse since TV had provided plenty of opportunities for folks to relive their musical memories through 2-hour specials.

But television wasn't the only medium to go over kayo kyoku. In those last few years, a series of CDs was released ranging from 1960 to 1990 called en masse as "Seishun Uta Nenkan"(Song Yearbook of Our Youth). Thirteen of Japan's recording companies got together to provide the hits on these discs year by year. For a music nutcase like me, this was manna from heaven. Once every week or couple of weeks for several months, I'd hit Tower Records or Yamano Music and see if I could load up a 2-disc set from 1975 or from 1981. Eventually, I amassed 12 of the discs...mostly from the mid-70s to the 80s. I've been able to hear some of my old favourites and come across a few new tunes, and basically I've found the series to be a fine primer for people who want to find about kayo kyoku. Enka, aidoru and general pop are represented in there via the hits, although Yumi Arai/Matsutoya is glaringly absent.

Now, into the 21st-century, "Seishun" has been able to release further variations on the original series including discs covering prewar songs, and extra songs from the decades already covered. Some of the discs are still selling in those CD stores in Tokyo I've mentioned, and punching in the title into Yahoo or Amazon will also come up with some good results, so they are indeed still out there.

ALFEE -- Koibito Tachi no Pavement (恋人達のぺイヴメント)




My favourite ALFEE song, "Koibito Tachi no Pavement"(Lovers' Pavement), is that huge rock ballad that seems to have that small genetic connection with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Somewhat shorter than the Freddie Mercury classic, I was struck by the grand piano intro and outro, almost as if someone bracketed an epic Japanese love song with two pieces of a concerto. I'm not sure what was going on in Toshihiko Takamizawa's(高見沢俊彦)mind when he was creating this mesh of rock and classical, but it's a beautiful piece even if his voice gets close to breaking when he reaches for those high notes.



Released in October 1984 as the band's 19th single, this was the first ALFEE song to hit No. 1, and it finished the year in the 67th position on the overall single rankings. It was also placed on the band's album, "THE BEST SONGS", released in December 1985 which peaked at No. 5.




The Spiders -- Bang Bang Bang (バン バン バン)

 
It's a song that I've heard often over the years on those music retrospectives or other variety show specials. "Bang, Bang, Bang" is arguably the most generally well-known of the The Spiders repertoire for this reason, and probably the one that got folks off their duffs to do The Swim or any of those 60s dances. Composed by band guitarist Hiroshi "Monsieur"Kamayatsu(かまやつひろし)and written by Hiroto Sasaki(佐々木ひろと), Kamayatsu created "Bang, Bang, Bang" from a riff from The Mindbenders' "Love Is Good"in 1965. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an original version so here is a live cover.



However, the song was actually the B-side to the far more sedate ballad by the band titled "Itsumademo, Dokomademo"(いつまでも、どこまでも....Whenever, Wherever) sung by Jun Inoue(井上順). The same duo who took care of "Bang, Bang, Bang" were also behind this A-side. The record went as high as No. 4 on Oricon.

And here is The Mindbenders' "Love Is Good" from their album, "A Groovy Kind of Love" so you can listen to the riff that Monsieur Kamayatsu based his creation on.


Akina Nakamori -- Kinku (禁区)


Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜) 6th single released in September 1983, "Kinku"(Forbidden Zone), was the very first of her songs that I'd listened to. And what better venue to hear it that first time than on that year's Kohaku Utagassen. I remember when representatives of the Red and White teams (usually the young singers) would make a joint declaration of vigourous but fair competition before the contest started. For the 1983 edition, the pair turned out to be Masahiko Kondo(近藤真彦)and Akina-chan.

"Kinku"was an aidoru song with a difference. It had that combination of strings-and-synths but the overall melody was one of some suspense rather than the usual cheerful stuff. And in the backdrop was a bass synth rhythm that sounded like something from the Yellow Magic Orchestra.  Indeed, it was Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)who composed the song with Masao Urino(売野雅勇)behind the vaguely ominous lyrics of the protagonist who seems in over her head in some sort of love affair. Akina's voice was going through some transition....not as high as in her first few singles such as "Slow Motion" but not quite yet mellowing out into the lower registers of her 1985 hit album, "Bitter & Sweet"(already profiled).

The single won a number of awards that year including The Japan Record Awards' Golden Aidoru Award, and it stayed at the No. 1 spot on Oricon for 6 weeks in a row. It eventually became the 17th-ranking single for 1983. It didn't make it onto an original album but was the opening track of Nakamori's first BEST album, "BEST AKINA Memoir" released in December of that year which also hit No. 1 for 5 consecutive weeks, and became the 6th-ranking album in 1984.




Saturday, October 20, 2012

Haruo Minami -- Sekai no Kuni Kara Konnichiwa (世界の国からこんにちは)



My memories of the late Haruo Minami(三波春夫) were primarily of him in his sleek yukata on NHK, primarily via some of his 31 appearances on the Kohaku Utagassen. He usually came on stage and approached the audience with a beatific expression on his face and his arms outstretched in front of him as if in supplication. And perhaps that's not surprising since his credo had always been "O-kyakusama wa kamisama desu"(お客様は神様です。....The audience is a god.), i.e. the customer is always right. 



Minami was an enka singer who had come from a rokyoku (浪曲....Japanese narrative singing) background. However, I've known him best as the singer behind the welcoming "Sekai no Kuni Kara Konnichiwa"(世界の国からこんにちは....Hello from the Nations of the World), the official theme song for the Osaka Expo in 1970. The song had actually been introduced and released in 1967, with actress Sayuri Yoshinaga(吉永小百合) singing it at the press conference. It had also been covered by a number of singers including Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九) and Linda Yamamoto(山本リンダ). With all of the singers, the song managed to sell over 3 million copies of which a good chunk was due to Minami's rendition which I've heard a number of times over the years.The song was written by poet Yoko Shimada(島田陽子)and composed by Hachidai Nakamura(中村八大), the man behind the making of "Ue wo Muite Arukou"(上を向いて歩こう), i.e. the Sukiyaki song (already profiled).







Miho Morikawa -- Blue Water/Yes! I Will




During the latter half of my time in Gunma Prefecture, NHK had actually placed an anime right after the 7 O'Clock News on Friday nights. Called "Fushigi no Umi no Nadia"不思議の海のナディア...Nadia, The Secret of Blue Water), it was inspired by Jules Vernes' classic tale "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and struck me as being a mix of Hayao Miyazaki and Haruhiko Mikimoto (who illustrated the original "Macross"). I didn't get to see much of it since, some weeks after its premiere, I was basically recruited into teaching community centre classes. However, from what I do remember of it was the "Indiana Jones"-type adventurous tone of the show and the opening/ending themes. Both of them were sung by pop singer Miho Morikawa(森川美穂).

"Blue Water" is a power pop piece, in line with what was going on in part of Japanese popular music at that time with female groups such as Princess Princess and Pink Sapphire and singers like Mariko Nagai(永井真理子)and Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)at the fore. I loved the bursts of energy that Morikawa brought to the song (lyricist: Etsuko Kisugi [来生えつこ]; composer: Yoshimasa Inoue[井上ヨシマサ]) along with the synths and the electric guitar solo.






The videos above shows both the opening and ending themes as they were played in the actual program itself. "Blue Water" was a great musical introduction to the adventure that was to play out in each episode. It went as high as No. 17 on the Oricon weeklies.

This is the full version for the ending theme, "Yes! I Will", a mid-tempo song written and composed by Morikawa. Not quite as catchy as the opening theme but still pleasant to listen to.
Both songs are available on the album, "The Secret of Blue Water -- Vocal Collection" released in 1991 by Toshiba EMI.


Yuki Saito -- Sotsugyo (卒業)





Ah, Yuki Saito(斉藤由貴),the aidoru with the large brown-cow eyes. Whenever she appeared on a music ranking show and gave those eyes with that little pout, I had this overwhelming urge to ask if she needed help in anything. And yet this was the same sailor suit uniform-wearing, yoyo-armed high school warrior who could take down the worst of the worst in "Sukeban Deka"スケバン刑事...Delinquent Girl Detective).

After getting her first taste of show business via an instant ramen commercial in late 1984, the Kanagawa-ken native debuted with "Sotsugyo"(Graduation) in February 1985, written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). She had that wonderfully clear high voice when she sang the song  that can start those memory engrams sparking back to those halcyon days in high school. "Sotsugyo" was released in February 1985 and peaked at No. 6 on the Oricon weeklies. For the year, it ranked at No. 34. It was also a track on her debut album, "Axia", released in June of the same year, which peaked at No. 3.


1985 seemed to be the nexus for all songs titled "Sotsugyo". Atsumi Kurasawa(倉沢淳美) and Yutaka Ozaki(尾崎豊) had same-titled songs during that year. And fellow aidoru, Momoko Kikuchi(菊池桃子), also released her own "Sotsugyo"(already profiled) in the same February as Saito's "Sotsugyo". According to the writeup for the latter song on J-Wiki, at one time, both Saito and Kikuchi were on the same music program with the same song but at two different locations outside of the studio. The host asked the two of them, "With songs of the same title, do you see each other as rivals?" Kikuchi laughingly replied that she didn't, but Saito answered with a serious face, "I do." I guess the word for that situation was: AWK-WARD! Not sure if that had been her audition for "Sukeban Deka".


Friday, October 19, 2012

Masato Shimon -- Let's Go! Rider Kick! (Theme from Kamen Rider)



As kids, my brother and I were huge into the Japanese kaiju movies such as Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra (discovered The Peanuts that way), and then when we actually traveled to Japan and spent several days on my grandfather's farm in Wakayama Prefecture, we also took a liking to some of the live-action superhero shows. Of course, there was the "Ultraman"series, but a close second was "Kamen Rider"(仮面ライダー...The Masked Rider). If the English translation sounds familiar to you, there was an adaptation of some of the adventures of recent incarnations of the insectoid motorcycle-riding hero in the United States and Canada several years ago done "Power Rangers"style.

To continue to show my aging process, I will let you know that we watched the very first Kamen Rider during our first Japanese summer in 1972 as we saw reruns in the afternoon (the show had premiered the year before). I got a handbook of sorts of the super bug, and my brother got a costume of the Rider (Halloween trick or treating that year earned my brother quite a few weird looks....I guess parents had never seen a cycle-riding bug with a ventilation fan for a belt before....go fig). And the both of us got a 45 rpm compilation record of superhero theme songs. The first track was the legendary theme for the first Kamen Rider.

For me, "Let's Go! Rider Kick!"still stands as the coolest theme song for a live-action Japanese superhero (although the theme for Ultra Seven is pretty good, too). Sung by Masato Shimon (子門真人) who also sang the theme for "Gatchaman"ガッチャマン) and one of the biggest hits in Japanese pop music history, "Oyoge Taiyaki-kun!"およげ!たいやきくん)(both already profiled), he, for some reason, sang it under the pseudonym of  Koichi Fuji(藤浩一). I remember dancing, jumping and kicking to the theme song with its staccato horn intro and the defiant tones of Shimon-san....also remember getting yelled at by Mom when I started wrecking some of the breakables in the apartment. Still, a great song since the arrangement sounds perfect for a rumbling motorcycle racing on the roads in the early 70s.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Akira Nishikino -- Sora ni Taiyo ga Aru Kagiri (空に太陽がある限り)


To me, Akira Nishikino(錦野旦)has been one of those middle-aged tarento that often pops up on variety shows to take part in hilarious obstacle courses along with manzai comedians or to sample dishes at restaurants all over Japan with other TV personalities. He cut a somewhat goofily cool figure, often wearing garb from his heyday in the early 70s and sporting an old-style bouffant hairstyle. And occasionally, I heard a few words from a song that seemed to follow him whenever he appeared on those shows:

Aishiteru, totemo (愛してる、とても....I love you so much)

This was Nishikino's big hit, "Sora ni Taiyo ga Aru Kagiri"(As Long As The Sun Is In The Sky), and over 40 years ago, he was an aidoru singer who had female fans ranging from their teens to their thirties (not surprising due to his good looks and his height of 177 cm). His 3rd single, released in March 1971, reached No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and has since become a theme song of his.

Nishikino originally hailed from Oita Prefecture in Kyushu. Through his dance teacher father, he was able to get a job working at a cabaret club, Napoli, in Beppu City in the same prefecture where he sang and played the trumpet and the bass. And after a couple of more introductions, he ended up working for songwriter Kuranosuke Hamaguchi(浜口庫之助) (who wrote hits for the Group Sounds band The Spiders and Mike Maki's "Bara ga Saita"[already profiled]) in Tokyo as his driver while taking intensive singing lessons. Eventually, through Hamaguchi's representing agency, Nishikino got his debut in 1970.

Taeko Ohnuki -- Tsumuji Kaze (つむじ風)


(23:13)


Although I had already profiled Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子) 1982 album, "Cliche", several months ago, I wanted to add this track from the record. This is "Tsumuji Kaze"(Whirlwind) or as it's subtitled in French, "Tourbillion".

I mentioned in past Ohnuki entries that her albums, especially the ones in the early 80s, have had a combination of epic and lush French-tinged songs and cute technopoppy ditties. "Tsumuji Kaze"starts briefly like the latter but quickly reveals its true nature as a cute French ditty. In fact, despite the images that its title might hint at, the song is a pleasant stroll down the Champs -Elysees in Paris. I believe Ohnuki must've always fantasized about taking that walk with Charles Boyer when writing this.

Feel free to have that cafe au lait and warm croissant while listening to this tune.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

PSY-S -- Asa ~from day to day (あさ)


Been a while since I covered a PSY-S song. "Asa"(Morning) is one of their songs midway during their career released as a single in August 1991, an upbeat cute little ditty sung by CHAKA. I've always liked the way that the other half of PSY-S, Masaya Matsuura(松浦雅也), can create a kinda old-fashioned melody out of his synths. Bright and cheerful, this is. It got as high as No. 51 on the Oricon weeklies.



The link below has a jazzed-up version of the same song from their album, "Two Bridges", released in August 1996.

PSY-S -- Golden Best

Namie Amuro -- Chase the Chance


When it came to musical life during my first few years living in the Tokyo area during the mid-90s, the two big names that come from my memory are Dreams Come True and Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉). As for the latter, the Komuro Family had a big piece of the attention pie for several of those years, and the spearhead was Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)from Okinawa. The very first time I saw her was on a commercial plugging a Super Monkeys (her old group) single, "Try Me" which was released in early 1995. She was already decked out in the fashion that would attract millions of followers known as Amurers: dyed hair, pencil-thin eyebrows, platform shoes, etc.

I even saw her on an old Fuji-TV kids' show called "Ponkikkis"on weekday mornings as one-half of the Sister Rabbits along with singer/tarento Ran Ran Suzuki. Dressed up in gray rabbit outfits, they sang a variation on "I've Been Working on the Railroad"; would've loved to have found a video on YouTube but alas it's not there.

But it wasn't until close to the end of the year that one of her songs got my attention. It was "Chase the Chance", her 4th single as a solo artist. She was no rabbit anymore. Tetsuya Komuro was behind the song, a warp-speed dance-pop hit with Amuro rapping in the middle. What's not to love? It was the theme song for an NTV drama known as "The Chef" (think of Osamu Tezuka's Blackjack wielding a meat cleaver rather than a scalpel) that I saw in reruns, and when I heard the theme at the end, it was time for me to go CD shopping.

Released in December 1995, it debuted at No.1 on Oricon (her first song to do so) and sold over 1.5 million singles. It would become the 10th-ranking song for 1996 but before that, Amuro was able to make her first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen on December 31 1995 singing "Chase the Chance". The song also made it onto her album, "Sweet 19 Blues" which was released in July 1996 and became the 2nd-highest selling album of the year, selling almost 4 million copies.




Namie Amuro -- Chase the Chance

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Naomi Chiaki -- Ame ni Nureta Bojou (雨に濡れた慕情)




I came across Naomi Chiaki's(ちあきなおみ) debut song by accident tonight as I was watching NHK's "Kayo Concert". "Ame ni Nureta Bojou"(A Rain-Soaked Yearning) was a surprisingly deeply bluesy beginning to the 21-year-old Chiaki's career, but then again, before breaking into the limelight, she had been performing on US army bases, jazz cafes and cabaret clubs, so a lot of that maturity that went into her debut song was well-earned. "Ame ni Nureta Bojou" was released in June 1969; it was written by Oh Yoshida(吉田旺)and composed by Jun Suzuki(鈴木淳). Yoshida would also later write Chiaki's trademark song, "Kassai"喝采), in 1972. (already profiled).


HEY! HEY! HEY! Music Champ




On November 4 1994, I had gotten off the airplane at Narita Airport after another arduous 11-hour flight from Toronto to Japan on what would be my longest stay in the country. Unlike my arrival at the same place over 5 years previously, there was no huge welcoming committee, nor was I part of a huge group of eager beaver JET English teachers. It was just me and one young lady, and it was just a sole representative from the NOVA Corporation, which had been the largest English teaching school in the country (let me emphasize the Past Perfect on that last sentence), to meet us outside of Customs. It was then another couple of hours of criss-crossing on trains as the NOVA rep first dropped off the woman at her tiny apartment on the western side of Tokyo, and then taking me back east to Shibamata, Katsushika Ward (yep, Tora-san's neighbourhood) to escort me to my (temporary) NOVA apartment. I was absolutely exhausted when the rep introduced me to my roommates, a friendly Australian couple. Their hearty good cheer lifted my spirits, and the very first TV program I was to see on their small set was this program. It was nice to see some old faces again.

Mind you, the wildly popular Osaka manzai comedic duo, Downtown, was hardly geriatric. I'd first known the guys during my Gunma stint as they had the young folk rolling in the aisles on various variety shows and as part of Fuji-TV's own version of "Saturday Night Live", "Yume de Aetara"夢で逢えたら...If We Meet In Our Dreams) on Saturday nights at 11:30 in which they did skits with another popular duo, Ucchan-Nanchan, impressionist Michiko Shimizu and comedienne Naoko Nozawa.



It wasn't the first time that a comedian had hosted a music show, but it was the first time as far as I know that a comedic duo actually successfully brought their zany brand of humour and incorporated it into the hosting of the show. "HEY! HEY! HEY! Music Champ" premiered on October 17 1994, just a few weeks before I came into town, but judging from what I blearily saw on TV, it looked like the meshing of manzai and music was a genius move. Fans wanted to see the hilarious interview segments as much as or probably even more than the performances, and it looked like the singers were more than happy to indulge their funny sides....you can take a look below at the video with tsukkomi (straight man) Masatoshi Hamada(浜田雅功)and boke (the dolt) Hitoshi Matsumoto(松本人志)doing what they do best.




For the first few months, this was the must-see TV for my Monday nights. Unfortunately, when my work shift switched to Monday nights til 9 p.m.(the program has been airing from 8 to 9), well, I was pretty much restricted to catching it on the odd holiday Monday. During the 18 years "HEY! HEY! HEY! Music Champ"has been on, the sets and the formats have changed. It used to be that  Downtown would interview just individual singers and bands between performances, but by the time I left Japan for good last year, the format had changed so that it was pretty much a gaggle of TV personalities (tarento) popping up half the time while they reminisced about their old time favourite songs from the 70s/80s/90s, with a couple of those old-timers showing up to perform their hits. But the one thing that has remained constant is Downtown's bawdy humour. Of course, there was the occasional visit by an international superstar, e.g. Mariah Carey. It didn't faze the boys at all. In fact, I think Downtown was even more revved up (...if only the powers-that-be hadn't taken down almost all of the Carey coverage from YouTube).






Maiko Ito -- Aki no Hohozue (秋のほほづえ)


"Aki no Hohozue" (Autumn Cheek-Poking [?])is another one of those long-lost aidoru tunes that I've rediscovered. I bought a compilation tape in Chinatown...my first one, in fact...back around 1984, and it just happened to contain this song by Maiko Ito(伊藤麻衣子or いとうまい子). She'd just turned 19 although she looked much younger (and still does according to her website) when she released this 3rd single in September 1983. When I first listened to it, it just struck me as one of the prototypical aidoru songs down to the jaunty strings-and-synths arrangement and then Ito's cute high vocals. I have to say that she was as cute as a button. The song was written by Masao Urino(売野雅勇)and composed by Tatsushi Umegaki(梅垣達志).

Ito's aidoru career was fairly short at a little over 4 years (1983-1987), but she did go into acting and stints as a TV personality. I never saw her with my own eyes on any music show, but I actually saw her in a drama in which she improbably played a gangbanging punk, complete in torn sailor uniform and tightly-curled fright wig.



(karaoke version)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Hibari Misora -- Kanashii Sake (悲しい酒)

 
This is the saddest song in Japanese popular music, let alone enka. I've heard this over the decades via record and TV show, and at least someone within proximity of either Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)or me gets misty-eyed. And usually the Grande Dame of kayo kyoku gets quite weepy, too.

So, it was with a lot of surprise when I found out that Misora's definitive take on crying in one's sake was actually a cover version. Back in 1960, "Kanashii Sake" (Sad Sake), written by Miyuki Ishimoto(石本美由紀) and composed by Masao Koga(古賀政男), had originally been sung by Jun Kitamizawa(北見沢淳), but it never became a hit. However, Koga never gave up on the song and kept looking for the right person to bring out the emotional punch. Six years later, he found her. The lyrics themselves are about someone trying and failing to drink his/her sorrows over a lost romance away, but the music and Misora's heartwrenching delivery were the keys to making this song her 3rd-most successful hit. Misora made "Kanashii Sake" her own. I just wonder if the legendary singer channeled some of her own trials and tribulations when singing it. There is a speaking part in the middle of the song which Misora had requested for which the original writer, Ishimoto, was able to do during one night.

Misora's version was released in June 1966, and sold close to 1.5 million records. And of course, she went on that year's Kohaku Utagassen to perform it.




Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hiroshi Madoka -- Musoubana (夢想花)



Another tribute video today. Earlier this afternoon, Austrian 'Fearless' Felix Baumgartner did the impossible and made the highest freefall jump in history right from the edge of space.

So, why did I post this particular song? Well, it's one verse in "Musoubana"(Dream Flower) which goes "Tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, tonde, mawatte, mawatte, mawatte, mawaru." which means "Fly"(x9) and "Turn"(x4). (Baumgartner was doing a fair bit of both during his descent.) It's probably one of the most famous sets of lyrics in recent Japanese music history but people often can't remember the title or the singer behind the song.

Well, the singer is Hiroshi Madoka(円広志)who was raised in Osaka. He made his debut as a singer at the Yamaha Music Festival in 1978 with "Musoubana"(written and composed by Madoka) where he won the Grand Prize. From that point, the song was released as a single in November of that year and would eventually sell 800,000 records. It went up as high as No. 4 on the Oricon rankings and would become the 23rd-ranking single in 1979. Although Madoka would continue releasing singles for many more years, his debut would be his only bona fide hit. Apparently, he was able to write the song in 5 minutes....a little less than what the song is clocked at!

I think that lyric alone is inspirational enough. Certainly a lot of commercial campaigns have thought so as well since the song has been used over the years by various products for their advertising. If you're feeling somewhat down, give this tune a listen. Strangely enough though, Madoka wasn't inspired to use the "Tonde" verse because he had this need to fly. Instead, he just got inspired by the name of his entertainment agency that he had belonged to, Office Tonde.


In any case, watch Fearless Felix make his supersonic jump!

Junko Ohashi -- Nemurenai Diamond (眠れないダイアモンド)


Just as I did with Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子) "Hitomi wa Diamond"(瞳はダイアモンド...Diamond Eyes), I'm putting in another diamond-themed Japanese pop song in tribute to the revelation that 55 Cancri e is a Diamond Planet of sorts 40 light-years away from Earth.

This is "Nemurenai Diamond"(Sleepless Diamond), Junko Ohashi's(大橋純子) 23rd single released in February 1988 from her 12th album, "DEF"(January 1988). I first heard it on one of the later shows from "The Sounds of Japan"radio show, and was hooked by its sophisticated pop sensibilities. I think I mentioned about Asami Kado's(門あさみ) "Fascination" (already profiled), and how it was labeled as an example of Fashion Pop. I think this song kinda fits the bill, too. Certainly Ohashi's very vogue looks on the album lend to that feeling.

The song, by the way, was written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎) and composed by Ken Sato(佐藤健). Listening to it, I kinda feel like walking down the Ginza on a Friday night....not that I could afford to enter most of the nightclubs there.

Of course, for other diamond-themed songs, there is Princess Princess' big 1989 hit, "Diamonds" but that's already been profiled.


Seiko Matsuda -- Hitomi wa Diamond (瞳はダイアモンド)


Just a few days ago, I'd heard about the Yale University discovery of 55 Cancri e, the planet 40 light-years from Earth that is one-third diamond! So, of course, inspiration and dusty memory strike, and here is another Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) hit song, "Hitomi wa Diamond"(Diamond Eyes).



This was another hit penned by Karuho Kureta and Takashi Matsumoto(呉田軽穂・松本隆), and as with the other songs they created for Seiko-chan, there is that relaxing lush feel in the melody. Released in October 1983 (wow, just about 29 years ago!), it was Seiko's 15th single and the 13th straight single to reach No. 1. Despite the late release, "Hitomi wa Diamond"still got up to 46th place in the 1983 rankings and managed to hit 28th place for the 1984 yearly rankings. It was also a track on her 8th album, "Canary", released in December 1983 which also hit No. 1 and ended up as the  7th-ranking album of 1984. Of course, any Seiko BEST collection will have the song.


This was a song that I'd been hearing tons of times at one point. It just seemed to pop up on almost all of the music ranking shows that I'd borrowed from Nippon Video and a number of compilation albums from that period. I also remember when Sony or one of the big electronic companies made its big presentation of the commercial compact disc format, the demo song the representative played was indeed this one.

There was an English-language tribute album to Seiko in the early 90s of which one of the songs was "Diamond Eyes". It was covered by Deniece Williams. For all those American 80s pop fans, she was the singer behind the megahit "Let's Hear It For The Boy" from the original "Footloose". Enjoy!


Kanako Wada -- dear



Anyone who has read the Kanako Wada(和田加奈子)entry on her debut album "Tenderness", would know that I hadn't been all that impressed with it aside from a couple of tracks, so I put it aside after having bought it back around 1987 or so. Then in 1989 I was in Japan for my tour of duty. I was watching TV one day when I saw this commercial for soup pasta, and heard this snappy Bacharachesque jingle. Luckily, commercials always put the name of the artist behind the song in the corner of the screen (commercial and song tie-ups are so big there), and I was surprised to see the name 'Kanako Wada'.

Although "Dreamin' Lady"had been released as a single, I wanted to search for the album that it was on, and with a bit of persistence, I found her 6th album "dear". Compared to the young lady in denim with the long hair and sad expression I saw on her first album, the new Kanako had a short cut and a beaming smile against a bright flowery background. That smile would just continue throughout the booklet inside. Quite a few changes. And listening to the full version of "Dreamin' Lady", I found that her voice had become appealingly huskier and more confident to handle more variety in her melodies. This song, by the way, had been written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎), who has helped out on a number of Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)tunes, and composed by Tsukasa. It was the only single to come from "dear".

(excerpt only)

Listening to "dear", my re-discovery of Kanako Wada saw that the singer had found her niche in the adult contemporary genre. So, who better to compose the first track, "Aka to Kuro"赤と黒...Red & Black) than J-AOR singer Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)? Matsui also wrote the lyrics to this funky sultry opening to the album as Kanako sings about a lady on a night out on the town. Abe added a nice touch with the synthesizer mimicking a naughty cat in the intro.




Wada herself was the lyricist behind the introspective ballad, "Crescent Moon" while singer-songwriter Chika Ueda(上田千華) took care of the melody. Ueda was also behind a number of Miki Imai's(今井美樹)hits in the early phase of her career, and I can imagine this song as a piece that Imai could also cover quite easily.

There would be one more full album a year later that I would get, and then over the next several years, I set about filling the void between "Tenderness" and "dear". I would find out that Wada had a lot to do with the songs for the anime "Kimagure Orange Road" in the late 80s. With "dear", I think some of her admirers from her KOR days can enjoy this easy-listening release as well.

Kanako Wada -- dear

The lady loves her flowers!