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.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Miki Imai -- IVORY

I may have mentioned in my posting of Miki Imai's(今井美樹)"Natsu wo Kasanete" that that was the very first song of hers that I'd heard. However, it wasn't the first time I came across her name. Actually, the singer was also mentioned in writing in my rather thick manual for the JET Programme as someone for the green teachers from outside Japan to know as a celebrity to connect with the kids. The brief description for her in that JET manual was that she was the singer with the huge smile (I guess Miwa Yoshida of Dreams Come True had yet to hit the stratosphere).

In any case, "Natsu wo Kasanete" was indeed that first wonderfully calming song by Imai that I'd heard in that lodge-type cafe somewhere between Niiharu Village and Tsukiyono Town. And it was not only the song that launched her 3rd album, "Bewith"(1988) but it was the lead tune for her very first BEST album, "Ivory" which was released in December 1989. Listening to that song and "Hitomi ga Hohoemu Kara"had me scrambling to get the album which I did quite easily. It was the first time for me to see Imai, and the front cover told me all I needed to know about the album: in a soothing light, that beautiful face with the aforementioned smile crowned by the popular "sauvage"hairstyle at that time.

1. Natsu wo Kasanete (夏をかさねて)
2. Totte Oki no Asa wo (とっておきの朝を)
3. Pole Position
4. Kanojo to TIP ON DUO(彼女とTIP ON DUO)
5. Orange no Kawa (オレンジの河)
6. Kiss Yori, Toiki Yori (キスより、吐息より)
7. Yasei no Kaze (野性の風)(album remix)
8. Boogie-Woogie Lonesome High Heel
9. Futari de Splash (ふたりでスプラッシュ)
10. Sora ni Chikai Shuumatsu (空に近い週末)
11. elfin
12. Chijo ni Oriru Made no Yoru (地上に降りるまでの夜)
13. Hitori de Xmas (ひとりでXmas)
14. Hitomi ga Hohoemu Kara (瞳がほほえむから)

(karaoke version here)

According to J-Wiki, Imai herself chose the songs to go onto "Ivory", so only four of the songs listed in her first BEST album were official singles. Her earliest recorded song here isn't her very first single, "Tasogare no Monologue"黄昏のモノローグ...Twilight Monologue), but the 4th track from her first album, "femme"(1986), "Orange no Kawa"(Orange River). When I first heard this song, I was a bit struck since it seemed a bit different from her other mellow tunes in tone (almost aidoru-like), and Imai had also admitted that it sounded somewhat strange to include this particular song, but ultimately she really wanted to get it in there and so it did. Written by Kazuko Kobayashi(小林和子) and composed by Hideya Nakazaki(中崎英也), the "orange river" refers to the sodium lamp-lit expressway at night, and if you listen fairly closely, you can hear the racing of cars. Of course, this week being Golden Week in Japan, the only sound you'll hear on the nation's highways is idling.

(karaoke version here)

"Pole Position" by Masami Tozawa(戸沢暢美) and Nakazaki was originally on Imai's 2nd album, "elfin", and is also a relatively uptempo number and in that mellow style which characterized Imai during the late 80s and early 90s. Although from the title, you might think Monte Carlo, actually according to the lyrics, Miki is singing about the pole position of romance and how she needs to get that guy by beating all others to that position.

 "Yasei no Kaze"(The Untamed Wind) is one of my favourites on "Ivory", especially with that beautiful refrain with the strings. The lyrics by Masumi Kawamura(川村真澄) (who had also written the words for Misato Watanabe's "My Revolution") tackle the oft-tackled theme of romantic partings, eventual or sudden, although this one sounds as if the lovers feel that it is for the best. Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was behind the melody and the arrangement was by Joe Hisaishi(久石譲), the scorer for a number of Hayao Miyazaki's films. "Yasei no Kaze" was Imai's 2nd single released in July 1987. It was also on "elfin".

Another one of her wonderfully mellow ballads is "Sora ni Chikai Shuumatsu"(The Weekend Close to the Sky) which was the coupling song (the CD single equivalent of the B-side) for Imai's 5th single, "Boogie Woogie Lonesome High Heel". Written by Tozawa and composed by Akemi Kakihara(柿原朱美), Imai sings about recovering from the dark tunnel of the end of a relationship. From the lyrics, it sounds as if she is just on a sunny balcony almost able to reach the sky. In the melody, there also seems to be a hint of Pachelbel's Canon.

"Ivory"has been a fine purchase for me and although there were two more albums, "Retour" and "Lluvia" before she began a change in her style, my first album of hers is representative of those mellow years in her early career. It peaked at No. 5 on Oricon but it spent over 100 weeks on the album charts, and was the 7th-ranked album of 1990, selling over 1.5 million albums.

Although it already has its own posting, I just had to leave this one with the final track on "Ivory", "Hitomi ga Hohoemu Kara"(Because Your Eyes Are Smiling).

Miki Imai -- Ivory

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