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, December 10, 2013

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Nokoribi (残り火)

As I mentioned in my first posting on the lovely Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓) for "Revival" (リバイバル), the singer has often used the loss of love as a theme in her music. And such is the case for what is my favourite song by her, "Nokoribi" (Embers).

One of my "Sounds of Japan" tapes had one show dedicated to Itsuwa, and "Nokoribi" just happened to be the final song of those 30 minutes, so unfortunately I could only hear the first half of the song before the broadcast finished up. But what I heard was just so wonderful and melodious and delicate that another one of my long musical searches was for this one, her 14th single released in September 1978.

She could make romantic breakups sound desirable. Using the analogy of the fall colours, Itsuwa sings of a love burning like dried leaves in a fire although the protagonist seems to hold out hope in the remaining embers of that love. I did eventually track down the song to a bootleg tape a few years later and finally got a CD of her BEST hits which kindly included it.

The DJ for the Itsuwa spotlight on "Sounds of Japan", a smooth-sounding fellow by the name of Tsuyoshi Takahashi, remarked that when Itsuwa started her career in 1972, she was ahead of her time in her approach to the production of her music. She released an album first before any singles, and she made that first album, "Shoujo" (少女...Girl) outside of Japan in Los Angeles of all places. Takahashi also mentioned that she was probably too far ahead of her time since perhaps outside of her debut single, "Shoujo", she wouldn't be noticed by the public until her big hit of "Koibito yo" (恋人よ) almost a decade later.

My admiration for her stems from that she stuck to her guns in terms of the type of music she has loved and performed. As much as the Carole King comparisons existed when she first started out, I always found Itsuwa to have embraced a European-type of New Music, even before that boom started appearing in the late 1970s with songs such as Saki Kubota's "Ihojin" (異邦人). And probably like a lot of people who finally discovered her talent with hits like "Koibito yo" and "Revival", I was happy to start looking back at her earlier works.

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