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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Southern All Stars And All Stars -- Inamura Jane (稲村ジェーン)

I heard the news earlier this morning that after an absence of several years from the studio and the stage, Southern All Stars were roaring back. Their newest single is on the deck for an August 7th release, and so are their concerts from August 10....a triumphant return for their 35th anniversary, especially since leader Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳介) battled esophageal cancer a few years previously. NHK even took a camera crew into Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture and filmed some very happy citizens proud of their native son.

So on that note...

I wanted to talk about their 10th original album, "Inamura Jane", the soundtrack for the movie of the same title, a movie that had Kuwata debut as a director. I never saw the movie aside from a few scenes on TV, but from what I've heard over the years is that Kuwata's musical contributions to this project have far outlasted his cinematic ones. During my first full year in Gunma, as I witnessed this diversification in Japanese pop music via phenomena such as female rock bands, the mainstream appearance of genres like ska and glam rock, and the budding Shibuya-kei movement, new Southern All Stars music was filtering over the airwaves and through TV commercials. Of course, there was the big theme song and perennial karaoke favourite, "Manatsu no Kajitsu"真夏の果実) and then keyboardist/vocal Yuko Hara's(原由子) relaxing cover of The Mahina Stars' "Aishite Aishite Aishichatta no yo"愛して愛して愛しちゃったのよ). Both of them were official singles by the band.

But the rest of the tracks are also wonderfully summery such as the above "Kibou no Wadachi"希望の轍....Furrow of Wishes), created by Kuwata himself. It kinda comes off as a song version of waking up on a gorgeous morning in the movie's setting of Inamuragasaki and taking that drive down to the beach to catch some waves. The song also got a revival of sorts many years later as it was used as the theme for one segment on the morning news show on Fuji-TV.

There are a couple of other languages represented on the album. For the dramatic title track, "Inamura Jane", Kuwata goes into Spanish, thanks to Luis Sartor's lyrics. He fully goes into growl mode with this one. I also find that Kuwata's melody here also has a tinge of kayo although the sax and electric guitar really tear into the song.

(excerpts only)

Then on the English side, there is Kuwata's cover of The Searchers' "Love Potion No. 9" with a pair of ukeleles. Southern All Stars brought in a lot of famous musicians to help out along with his own band, which explains the seeming redundancy in the title. Takeshi Kobayashi(小林武史) (My Little Lover, Mr. Children) co-produced with Kuwata, and was the co-keyboardist with Hara for most of the tracks, including this one. And even Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)came aboard to provide backup vocals for "Love Potion No. 9".

A few of the tracks also became campaign songs for commercials starting in late 1990. Unfortunately, I forgot which commercial "Ai wa Hana no Yo ni (Ole)"愛は花のように...Love Is Like A Flower) was playing for, but it was a frequent song to be heard on the telly that year and beyond. Again, Luis Sartor provided the lyrics here.

The other song that got recruited for a commercial was "Wasurerareta Big Wave"忘れられたBig Wave....Forgotten Big Wave) for what I think was a job recruitment magazine. It's a beautiful acapella ballad with all of the Southern All Stars participating. I couldn't get the actual song, but I found this great video with one woman doing a cover version with her taking all the parts.

The soundtrack for "Inamura Jane" was a huge hit. Although it was released fairly late in the year in September 1990, it not only hit the No. 1 spot but it quickly became the 2nd-ranked album for that same year with only Yuming's "Love Wars" beating it out as the top album. It sold almost 1.2 million albums, and won the Best Album prize as well as Best Male Vocal in the Rock/Folk category for Kuwata in that year's Japan Gold Disc Awards. But more importantly, the soundtrack isn't just a summery album, but perhaps THE album of summer.

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