As you can see from the photo above, it looks like the album cover decided to reflect the eclectic direction that Akina was continuing from her previous album, "Bitter and Sweet". Apparently the title (which had always sounded like something used to fix that squeaky doorknob or kill cockroaches in their tracks) was derived from the registration number of a warehouse. And it certainly looked like the photo shoot for the cover was held inside that warehouse. It looks like a 3-year-old's concept of the Batcave.
Anyways, listening to the tracks again had me realize how much I missed this album after so long. As with "Bitter and Sweet", it has a lot of dynamic songs...8 out of the 10 tracks...created by a number of veteran singer-songwriters. The album starts out with "Endless" (the above video), which starts out like something from "The X-Files" before it launches into a funk-and-groove City Pop tune. The huskiness of Akina's voice continues to develop and her delivery has that sort of Siren-like effect, enticing listeners to enjoy the temptations of the city. Looking over the liner notes for "D404ME" again, I was a bit surprised to find out that it was Taeko Ohnuki（大貫妙子）who had composed the opening track with Ikki Matsumoto（松本一起）providing the lyrics. At the time I got the album, Ohnuki was just the name of someone who had flittered around the edges of my kayo kyoku/J-Pop mind, and it would be several years before I finally got who she was and appreciated her own brand of music.
The 2nd track, "Nocturn", written and composed by one-half of Chage & Aska, Ryo Aska（飛鳥涼）, is a pop/rock piece driven by Masaki Matsubara's（松原正樹）electric guitar. The lyrics hint at the darker side of love. Just in terms of Akina's delivery and the arrangement, the song sounds like something that late 70s aidoru Momoe Yamaguchi（山口百恵） would have sung. Considering that in the early years of my acquaintance with Akina's music, it was often said that there were similarities between the two singers from different eras, the sound of this 2nd track is not lost on me.
When I was putting the album on heavy rotation on the stereo, my favourite track was the third one, "Allegro Vivace". Compared to almost all of the other songs, I think it's one of the two relatively slower ballads. Written by Yoshiko Miura（三浦徳子） and composed by Tsugutoshi Goto（後藤次利）, it's soaring and elegant, and was one of the first hints for me that Akina was no ordinary aidoru, and in fact, by the time "D404ME" came out, she really no longer was.
One of the things I also enjoyed about "D404ME" is the horn section. I've always been a sucker for a good group of trumpets and trombones accompanying the saxes. "Mona Lisa" has a bit of this Barbee Boys vibe in the arrangement and then in come the full set of three trumpets, three trombones and Jake H. Concepcion on sax. Goto was once again involved in the composition but the lyrics were provided by Ichiko Takehana（竹花いち子）. Akina sings about not wanting to actively have anything to do with loving anyone else but instead just wants to be admired from afar by freezing herself like the proverbial eternally beautiful smiling titular figure. Along with the horn section, the other thing I like is the bell-like keyboard, especially when it goes off like a fire engine siren.
"D404ME" was originally released in August 1985 on LP (a month later on CD), and hit No. 1 on Oricon right from its launch where it spent the next 2 weeks. However, even after falling from that lofty perch, it hung around the charts for a further 26 weeks to become the 7th-ranked song of the year. It also earned an Excellent Album prize at The Japan Record Awards. I think having both this album and "Bitter & Sweet" is a must just to show the transition Akina made from aidoru to pop superstar.
|Akina Nakamori -- Meu Amor e|