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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Koichi Morita and The Top Gallants/Morning Musume -- Seishun Jidai (青春時代)




This is one of the classic kayo kyoku, and appropriately titled, too. "Seishun Jidai"(Salad Days) probably has gotten many a school reunion group in a karaoke box tapping this into the selection pads. And like over here in North America, school reunions in Japan are pretty huge events. During my days as a teacher, I would often come across a student who would say that he/she was attending a reunion with his/her old elementary/junior high/senior high/university mates. As I've said before, the Japanese love their nostalgia.


Koichi Morita(森田公一) has been one of the most successful of the kayo kyoku composers over the decades. He's created hits for various singers such as Akiko Wada, Agnes Chan, Mari Amachi, etc. But he is also a singer, and in 1969, he and 5 others created the pop group, Koichi Morita and The Top Gallants (森田公一とトップギャラン). Their most famous song is "Seishun Jidai", and I've heard it from time to time on TV and on my own stereo. I've mentioned about those series of CDs featuring kayo kyoku that came out around the turn of the century. Naturally, this song is included.

Released in August 1976, "Seishun Jidai" was composed by Morita and written by the even more legendary Yu Aku(阿久悠). It hit the top spot on Oricon and it ranked in at No. 2 in the 1977 yearly rankings, selling 865,000 records. Not surprisingly, Morita and his group would appear on that year's Kohaku.


I can't remember who exactly but whenever there is a kayo kyoku concert on the level of a Kohaku on TV, a number of singers have gotten together to perform "Seishun Jidai". And over the years, cover versions have been released. Morning Musume(モーニング娘。) is one example...a few of the graduates from the group, Maki Goto(後藤真希), Yuko Nakazawa(中澤祐子) and Miki Fujimoto(藤本美貴) gave their version, via the 2002 album, "Folk Songs 3", a Hello Project production. But in 2008, the group itself produced an album of covers, "Cover You" in which Ai Takahashi(高橋愛), Risa Niigaki(新垣理沙) and Eri Kamei(亀井絵里) performed their tribute to the Morita classic. The above is that version. By the way, "Cover You" went as high as No. 27 on the album charts.

A karaoke room in Shinjuku

Yujiro Ishihara -- Yoake no Machi (夜明けの街)



Yujiro Ishihara's(石原裕次郎)"Yoake no Machi" (Dusk City) was one of the first enka songs that I actually started to listen to instead of just hearing it after my musical epiphany in 1981. Written by Mitsuo Ikeda(池田充男) and composed by Shinichi Nozaki(野崎真一), the song just seems to sum up Ishihara in his later years: cool, austere, wistful and urban(e). A good two fingers of Old Parr would go well with this song. "Yoake no Machi" was the 2nd ending theme for Ishihara's old police series, "Seibu Keisatsu"西部警察....Police: Western Division), and it was first released as a single in October 1980.

Although the ending credits for "Seibu Keisatsu"didn't go this way, I could've imagined seeing the end of each episode with The Big Man himself as the veteran seen-it-all, done-it-all cop, walking down the cold lonely evening streets of Tokyo wrapped up in his trench coat just heading over to his favourite watering hole for a slug of whiskey and a comforting chat with the Mama-san. As for my initial listen to this Mood Kayo, it was actually on that tape that I'd brought from Japan after my 1981 trip there. Didn't know at the time that it was an ending theme to a classic cop show, but I just remembered it as a night time enka tune right alongside with Ishihara's other more famous song, "Brandy Glass". "Yoake no Machi" is quieter and more contemplative, and I just love the strings and the soprano saxophone. It strikes the right mood to bring out the ice and tumblers.

(karaoke version)

Original Love -- Asahi no Ataru Michi (朝日のあたる道)




Apparently, the singer (and only member) of Original Love, Takao Tajima(田島貴男), disliked being labeled as Shibuya-kei. In fact, according to the J-Wiki write-up on the group, he had once screamed into the microphone at a concert in 1994, "I AM NOT SHIBUYA-KEI!!!" Message received loud and clear, sir. And I heartily concur. I'm surprised that the band was given that genre label since I don't think Tajima sounds at all similar to Pizzicato Five or Flipper's Guitar. If anything, I think Original Love is more in the fusion/funk category of things. But strangely enough, although the band itself started up in 1986, Tajima did a couple of years as P5's second lead vocal from 1988 to 1990 before the iconic Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴)took over.

The first time I heard of Original Love was while I was in the car with a couple of friends in Japan. One of them just had the CD playing on the stereo, and it turned out to be OL's 4th album, "Kaze no Uta wo Kike"風の歌を聴け....Listen to the Song of the Wind). And the song playing at that time was "Asahi no Ataru Michi"(The Street In The Morning Sun), also known as "As Time Goes By". It was a good ol' stomp mixing in pop, soul and jazz with Tajima strutting his distinctive vocals like he had complete ownership of the sidewalk. I loved the horn section, and especially the trumpet solo....I just wondered at that point if Stevie and Dizzy collaborated again. At the time, the Tetsuya Komuro music machine was at the top of J-Pop, so to hear something old-school again was pretty refreshing.



The song was released as Original Love's 6th single (written and composed by Tajima) in April 1994, just a couple of months before the album came out. It peaked at No. 12 on Oricon (the album itself hit No. 1). After listening to the CD on my friend's car stereo, it wasn't too long before I got that very album and some more discs by the man. Although Original Love had at least three members including the lead singer at the time the song came out, by 1995, Tajima ended up going his own way as a soloist but still retaining the band name.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

PSY-S -- From The Planet With Love '87

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IMt-bEjFVY

I have to say after hearing the 1987 cover all these years, it was a shock to hear the original version of "From The Planet With Love" by PSY-S. It was never made into an official single but was a track on the duo's first album, "Different View", released in May 1985. Frankly, it sounds like a raw demo track and a rather flat and tinny one at that.




Then, a couple of years later, Masaya Matsuura(松浦雅也) and CHAKA re-tooled it into the much more boisterous piece that I love as one of my favourite PSY-S tunes. The tempo is a bit faster with more robust synths and CHAKA can get a bit more down with the lyrics, including that rap she does in the middle. The '87 version was the one I first heard via one of their BEST albums, "Two Hearts"(1992). I had first thought that the song was created for some sort of World Peace project considering the title and lyrics (all in English), but apparently not. Still, a cool song.


Kiyotaka Sugiyama & Omega Tribe -- Futari no Natsu Monogatari (ふたりの夏物語)



We had our first heat alert of the year in Toronto today....a Humidex of 37 degrees C and sunny. It brought back drippy memories of Tokyo in July and August, although having lived a lot of summers in Japan, I don't think it was all that humid in my hometown. But walking in the concrete jungle of the largest cities in my home country and adopted country is not what this song is all about. It's beach time, baby!

Kiyotaka Sugiyama(杉山清貴)and Omega Tribe brought this smooth and spirited number in March 1985. "Futari no Natsu Monogatari"(A Summer Tale for Two) is also known for its subtitle, "Never Ending Summer", and was the band's 5th single, written and composed by Chinfa Kan(康珍化) and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司) who also helped out on some of their other hits as well. I've known Omega Tribe for a lot of their summery ballads, so it was always nice when they came out with some fun uptempo tunes.



"Futari no Natsu Monogatari"became the band's most successful single, peaking at No. 5 on Oricon and becoming the 15th-ranked song for 1985, selling 380,000 records. It is also included on their 4th studio album, "Another Summer", released in July of that year and hitting the top spot on the album charts. Japan Air Lines knew a good song when they heard one, and so they adopted this tune for their JALPAK '85 campaign.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kome Kome Club -- Shake Hip!




The first time I saw Kome Kome Club(米米クラブ) was through a commercial (I think it was for Fuji Film) and the band was up there singing "Funk Fujiyama". They were all there in their full, glorious garishness; considering how glossed up bands were becoming during the late 80s and early 90s, I wasn't all that surprised by K2C looking like they stepped out of a mix of an avant-garde painting and a Cirque De Soleil show. However, when talking about this band, all roads will eventually lead to one of their earliest hits, "Shake Hip!"

Now, a little cross-cultural anatomy lesson....here in North America, the hip represents either side of your pelvis. In Japan, though, one has to make a 90-degree turn. Yep, "hip"(ヒップ) over there is your butt, booty, gluteus maximus, ass. So, K2C's magnum opus can be translated as "Shake Your Booty!"....a Japanese spiritual cousin, so to speak, to a song by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. The original version of "Shake Hip!" came out in April 1986 as their 2nd single, and yep, they were pretty funky and crazy back then, too. Perhaps a bit too much so for that time...the song only went as high as No. 54.


Move ahead a few years to December 1990. The song was tweaked here and there, and then released as its 11th single under the subtitle of "Ishii Version", after the name of Kome Kome Club's ringleader, Tatsuya 'Carl Smokey' Ishii. Still funky, still fun....and with all of the changes going on in music at that time with kayo kyoku switching over to J-Pop....now very much popular. This time, the Oricon charts brought this version up to No. 5.



And of course, it didn't hurt when the band was able to build a reputation of holding some epic concerts. I think at that time and for the rest of the 90s, "Shake Hip!" was not just a famous K2C title, but a direct command at the audience. I never got a chance to see one of their shows (which I regret) but at least there will always be YouTube.


Ikue Sakakibara -- Natsu no Ojosan (夏のお嬢さん)



Last year, I put up a post for Ikue Sakakibara(榊原郁恵) called "Shining Love" which was her 1981 hit and my first musical introduction to her via the Kohaku Utagassen of that year. But I think probably her trademark song had come out a few years earlier as her 7th single, "Natsu no Ojosan"(Summer Young Lady). Sakakibara has long left her aidoru career behind and is now known basically as the beaming face on many a Japanese variety show, but in the rare cases that she's asked to sing again, "Natsu no Ojosan" is the go-to song.



Written by Jun Kasama(笠間ジュン)and composed by Ben Sasaki(佐々木勉), "Natsu no Ojosan" was released in July 1978. Sakakibara was also quite famous for her stage portrayal of Peter Pan in Japan, but when this song was created, Kasama and Sasaki had based their composition on what the public image of the aidoru was at that time....and that was her wearing considerably less, prancing about in the sea. Even if most people don't remember the title anymore, they probably catch on when they hear that one particular lyric: "I scream, you scream". Apparently, the line was put in merely as a cute example of English euphony more than anything else.

The song peaked at No. 11 on the Oricon weeklies and was the 72nd-ranked song of 1978. It was a hit for Sakakibara, and it launched her popularity on TV which has continued right up to now. And the song helped her to get that very first appearance on the 1978 Kohaku Utagassen. Strangely enough though, she was quoted as saying, "This song set the image for me as someone who likes summer, but actually I prefer spring and autumn."

Pornograffitti -- Music Hour (ミュージック・アワー)




"Music Hour" is Pornograffitti's 3rd single, and is about as fun and summery as a TUBE song or the swimsuit issue of "Sports Illustrated". Starting right from the radio and DJ, Akihito Okano(岡野昭仁) and the band just take off with this tune that would sound great while driving down Bayside Expressway in Tokyo (outside of the major holiday seasons) with the top down. I especially like the intro which can get anyone bouncing off the ground....look at the video above...fortified with added cheerleaders.

Apparently, there are 165 "versions" of the song, each with its own slight differences in arrangement and performed in concert or on the radio/TV programs.. No. 164 is the one that is in their 2nd album, "foo?". Not sure which one is the one with the cheerleaders in the video.

Released in July 2000, it was created by Haruichi(ハルイチ) and ak honma, the same pair in the band that wrote and composed the next big Porno hit, "Saudade". It peaked at No. 5 on Oricon and was the 55th-ranked song of the year.





Akina Nakamori -- My Best Thanks



After getting "D404ME"and "Bitter and Sweet"(her 8th and 7th albums), I managed to borrow Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜) mini-album, "My Best Thanks" on audiotape from a friend of mine. It wasn't Akina's first dalliance with a smaller record....during her pure aidoru days, she had also released a couple of other mini-albums, "Seventeen" and "Silent Love" in 1982 and 1984 respectively. This third one was released in late December 1985. As for the title, I have always assumed it was to commemorate an anniversary of sorts (most likely her 3rd in the music business) and to thank the fans for their support....and perhaps to say goodbye in a way.

The three songs in "My Best Thanks" continue on her transition from aidoru to pop chanteuse which started from "Bitter and Sweet". In fact, the 2nd song is lifted straight from that seminal album.

Track 1 is "Arifureta Fukei"ありふれた風景...Commonplace Scenery), an atmospheric, mysterious song that sounds as if it had been created for Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子) in that period. It's rather strange to say but the first time I heard it, it sent a shiver up my spine (as it did when I heard it again for the first time in years just an hour ago)....the combination of haunting melody and vocals had that effect on me. And speaking of effect, listening to "Arifureta Fukei" has that feeling of floating above the city at night, just peering into the contrast of darkness and lights that make up the nightscape. The song was written and composed by Akiko Kosaka(小坂明子), who had her own huge hit more than a decade previously with "Anata"あなた...You).




Track 2, as mentioned, is from "Bitter & Sweet". The ballad, "Yokan"予感....Premonition), was created by Ryo Aska(飛鳥涼) of Chage & Aska fame, and on Akina's 7th album, it acted as a nice little brake after the first two uptempo songs on that album. Akina seems to be singing about loving a certain someone while being uncomfortable with the fact that he's somewhat hard to read.





Track 3 is "Don't Tell Me This Is Love", which was sung totally in English. Written and composed by BIDDU, a UK music producer who had come up with the huge 70s disco hit "Kung Fu Fighting", he had also prior experience in Japan when he made a hit song for the Group Sounds band, The Tigers, back in 1969. I think it was with this song (and to a certain extent, the first song) that Akina may have been signaling to her millions of fans that it was time for a Doctor Who-type regeneration of sorts. There is even a radio static fade out from "Yokan" and a fade-in (with bits of her past songs quickly weaving in and out) to the final track with Akina pulling out a dance number that sounds a bit Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a bit Pet Shop Boys. Like "Arifureta Fukei", it knocked me for a loop when I first heard it, although the arrangement sounds a bit dated now. Still, I always remember this one for the way Akina yells "LOVE" in the refrain. I wonder if this was a bit of a launch point or a teaser for her next 1987 studio album, "Fushigi"不思議...Strange)which was a definite change in direction for the singer.

"My Best Thanks" debuted on Oricon right at No. 1 near the end of the year and remained there for a month, and spent 4 months in total on the charts. Selling about 300,000 copies, it became the 27th-ranked song of 1986. I think for all those Akina fans out there, despite its status as a mini-album, it's a must-get.

Akina Nakamori -- My Best Thanks

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Sayonara Dake wa Iwanai de (さよならだけは言わないで)



I think Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓) has made truly beautiful music. It's no wonder a number of her songs have gone beyond the borders of Japan and have been accepted in a number of other Asian countries. I'm not sure whether this early hit by her had also made it overseas like her later works such as "Kokoro no Tomo"心の友), but "Sayonara Dake wa Iwanai de" (Don't Just Say Goodbye) is just one of those songs that automatically calms me down. Written and composed by Itsuwa for release as her 13th single in March 1978, it peaked at No. 13 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 49th-ranked song of the year, selling around 300,000 records.


I'm not sure whether Itsuwa had intentionally made the song to sound as if we were all walking the side streets of Paris, but the rich piano at the intro and then the accordion during the bridge just made me wonder if the singer had envisioned a lonely Alain Delon standing by a lamppost in the rain. And that resonant voice of hers....c'est magnifie!

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Now & Forever

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shizuko Kasagi/The Venus -- Tokyo Boogie-Woogie (東京ブギウギ)


For the longest time, I'd thought that "Tokyo Boogie-Woogie" was purely a Hibari Misora(美空ひばり) song, but as I would find out, she was actually just one of the first of generations of singers to cover one of the most well-remembered kayo kyoku. The original singer was Shizuko Kasagi (笠置シヅ子)(1914-1985), who was known as the Queen of Boogie in the postwar era....pretty much most of her song titles had the word "boogie" in the title.

Written by Katsu (or Sho) Suzuki(鈴木勝) and composed by Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一) in 1947, Hattori apparently came up with the melody while he was commuting on a train, and heard the combination of sounds from the clinking rail joints and the handstraps hitting against the metal shelves located over the seats. The composer had his "Eureka" moment and rushed off the train to the nearest cafe to jot the song down on a napkin. And I guess the rest is history. Kasagi had a hit and would eventually earn her tiara. She appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen four times, and performed "Tokyo Boogie Woogie" on her 3rd time in 1953.


Of course, I have to include the Misora cover. It's just a short clip, but she and the orchestra pull off a masterful performance.



I knew The Venus for their only major hit, "Kiss wa Me ni Shite"キスは目にして) back in 1981. The band was actually formed all the way back in 1974 as a musical group performing American music of the 1960s. According to the J-Wiki writeup on the group, The Venus underwent a number of personnel changes during its 9-year history, and in its last 2 years, the members decided to take on English stage names. So, lead vocal Sachiko Ishikawa(石川幸子) was Conny Lane. In its final year, Conny and the gang did their own version of "Tokyo Boogie Woogie".



Of course, numerous musicians have covered the song from enka singers to members of Hello Project. Here are Aki Yashiro(八代亜紀) and the late Mina Aoe(青江美奈) doing their duet version. "Tokyo Boogie Woogie"will always be that one song from long ago that will always be welcome in the home or in the karaoke lounge even in the 21st century.




Saturday, May 25, 2013

Seri Ishikawa/Mio Takagi/Yosui Inoue/Akina Nakamori -- Dance wa Umaku Odorenai (ダンスはうまく踊れない)



"Dance wa Umaku Odorenai"(I Can't Dance Well) is a cool song. Written and composed by Yosui Inoue(井上揚水),  it's been covered by a number of singers over the decades, including once by Yosui himself. Despite the title, the music does the amazing thing of portraying a bit of a challenging tango: mostly sweeping across the dance floor but then suddenly and briefly, a burst of quick stepping. Yosui had originally created this song for his then-girlfriend (and current wife), Seri Ishikawa(石川セリ), as a present early in their relationship (you sly devil, Yosui, you). It was released in April 1977 as her 6th single and became a minor hit for the singer. It was also a track on her 3rd album, "Kimagure"気まぐれ...A Whim), released in June of the same year.


The version that I've known the longest though is the one that was released in July 1982 by singer/actress Mio Takagi(高木澪). Takagi's version, her 3rd single, is a bit more ethereal than the more folksier original by Ishikawa. I first heard it on "Sounds of Japan", and since then it's popped up on a number of compilation albums for Showa-era pop songs. Apparently, Ishikawa was none too pleased that her present had been given to someone else....I guess to her it was the musical version of "re-gifting". Still, the song was able to eclipse Ishikawa's original by selling 800,000 records although the entamedata.web site only gives a more modest figure of 300,000 which means that it could've scored even higher than the 35th-place ranking it got in the annual Oricon charts.


As I mentioned above, Inoue also did his own cover of "Dance wa Umaku Odorenai" a couple of years later for his December 1984 album of covers, "9.5 Carat". His version is a bit more City Pop with some electronic bells and whistles, although the violin near the end gives it a somewhat more otherworldly quality, for a lack of a better expression.


I have to say, though, that Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜) take on the song is probably the most appealing version....to me, at least. Her cover was on her first album of covers, "Utahime"歌姫...Diva) released in March 1994. Her light but resonant delivery, and frankly that aura that has surrounded her since she came back from her suicide attempt, just seems to fit this song to a T. Perhaps not only because of the arrangement....it's also because of Inoue's lyrics which talk about someone who would love to have a dance with someone....with all of the beauty and glamour involved...but just has to stumble along in the meantime by herself (probably only in her self-deprecating opinion....I think the protagonist dances quite well). There is that sense of vulnerability and loneliness that rather runs through the whole song that may also describe Akina herself. But that's about as much pop psychology as I try for today. It is a lovely version of a decades-old pop song, though.

Seiko Matsuda -- Glass no Ringo (ガラスの林檎)


Interesting where songs get their origins. For Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子) 14th single, "Glass no Ringo"(Glass Apples), the composer and writer were Happy End's Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣) and Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) respectively. I had known about Hosono's involvement in the song, and just figured that it was Hosono getting all YMO-artsy on the melody. Then, I found out he had actually been given an interesting challenge by the producer who had wanted a song that sounded like Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"created for Seiko-chan. "Glass no Ringo" was the result.

The lyrics by Matsumoto are fairly run-of-the-mill romantic ballad imagery: rising blue moon, blooming cosmos flowers, fragile hearts with glass apples in them. But it was always that melody. I first heard it when I saw her for MY 3rd time on the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen. It was an interesting scene to say the least: she was carried down toward the stage on a silvery crescent moon decked out in a huge black poodle wig (that appearance shows up at around the 1:30 mark of the above video). Compared to her 1981 performance of "Natsu no Tobira"夏の扉) and her 1982's "Nobara no Etude"野ばらのエチュード) (and for that matter, the other tunes she had sung up to that point), it was a different look and different sound. Obviously not knowing about the true origins of "Glass no Ringo" during my callow youth, I just thought it was one of the weirder aidoru tunes. The indications on J-Wiki were that even the 21-year-old Seiko had taken one look at the song and just wondered "How the heck am I gonna sing this?!"

But the song did hit the No. 1 spot within 3 weeks of its debut on the charts (her 12th straight), although for a Seiko song it didn't last too long in the Top 10 of Oricon. A few weeks later, it dropped out altogether. However, it got a second wind due to its B-side....a cuter ballad titled "Sweet Memories"....the rest of the story will continue there.

Just for comparison, you can listen to the Simon & Garfunkel classic below.





Southern All Stars -- Namida no Kiss (涙のキッス)


Southern All Stars' 31st single, "Namida no Kiss"(A Tearful Kiss), released in July 1992, was an interesting choice for an opening theme song for a TV drama. The show, "Zutto Anata ga Suki datta"(ずっとあなたが好きだった....I've Always Loved You) was the dark story of a young woman marrying a creep, Fuyuhiko, with a huge Mother Complex. The drama hadn't been supposed to do very much ratings-wise, but the terrifying performances of the actors portraying Fuyuhiko and Mother Dearest did quite the opposite. In fact, "Fuyuhiko" and "Mazakon"became two of the biggest buzzwords of 1992 in buzzword-happy Japan. Just imagine inviting Norman Bates and his Mom to your home on a permanent basis.

"Namida no Kiss" was just a happy-go-lucky song to be enjoyed while swinging on that hammock by the shore, so it just seemed to be a counter-intuitive choice, but then Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳介), who had written and composed it, was always a pretty tongue-in-cheek guy. The song also scored some firsts as well. It was SAS' first tie-up with a TV drama, and it was the first million-seller for the band, as surprising as that may sound. "Namida no Kiss"was also released on the same day as SAS' 32nd single, "Shulaba-La-Bamba". On the weekly Oricon charts, both songs did a 1-2 punch respectively at the top; Southern All Stars was the 3rd act to achieve that feat after Keiko Fuji (Hikaru Utada's mother) and Seiko Matsuda.

The song would stay at the top spot for 7 weeks and eventually become the 5th-ranked single for 1992 ("Shulaba-La-Bamba"was ranked at No. 13), selling over 1.5 million copies.



Enjoy this brief but effective video of the wonders of Fuyuhiko, as played by Shiro Sano(佐野史郎). It may not quite rival Hannibal Lecter's chilling air-sucking after his love for human liver/fava beans/a Chianti, but hey, Fuyuhiko has his charms as well.

Southern All Stars -- Namida no Kiss

Chikaco Sawada -- Aitai (会いたい)




Chikaco Sawada(沢田知可子)was born in Iwate Prefecture but raised in Saitama Prefecture. She had been working at the local driver's license center when she was scouted at a live house singing while doing a part-time job there. In 1987, she debuted with "Koibito to Yobasete"恋人と呼ばせて....Let Me Call You Sweetheart). However, her trademark song is "Aitai"(I Want To See You).

Sawada's 8th single (June 1990) was written by Chihiro Sawa(沢ちひろ)and composed by Tulip leader Kazuo Zaitsu(財津和夫). Originally, it was meant to be just one of the tracks on her 4th album, "I Miss You", but when it started getting noticed as the ending theme song for the popular late-night interview/variety program "Tonight" on TV Asahi, it got its chance as a single. That was when I heard it, and the arrangement makes this ballad perfect for night listening. And lyrically, Sawa went to the evergreen theme of the prematurely lost love.


(karaoke version)

Although Sawada herself had nothing to do with the creation of the song, she could channel her emotions into it all too well which helped a lot in its rise in popularity. During her years as a student, Sawada had once confessed her intentions to become a singer to her senpai who was in the basketball club to which that senpai apparently declared, "I'll become your very first fan then". Tragically, several days later, he died in a traffic accident.

"Aitai" would remain in the Top 100 of Oricon for 87 weeks during which time it would peak at No. 6 and become the 11th-ranked single for 1991. It also earned a Grand Prix at the Japan Record Awards, and sold 1.3 million copies, along with Sawada getting that invitation to perform at the 1991 Kohaku Utagassen. Its status as a ballad standard further grew as other singers ranging from Anri(杏里)to enka singer Fuyumi Sakamoto(坂本冬美)tackled it.

Chikaco Sawada -- Aitai

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Uwasa Still Love You (噂)


This is a song that I found out from YouTube, and on hearing it, it gave me further incentive to track down that first album of Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子), "Without Sugar"(1981). As I mentioned in my first post of the singer for "Never Fall In Love" which came from the same rare album, Kurahashi and her songs really chimed in with me for some reason....as much as I loved (and still love) those first several aidoru tunes and pop songs from Japan for that weird and wonderful mix of the East and the West, hearing Ruiko's music seemed to also bring in another dimension of time and place, notably an earlier age and European. In a way, I guess, she may have had a contemporary in Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) from the early 80s....aside from the techno aspects. Strangely enough, one of the tracks in "Without Sugar" was created by Ohnuki.

"Uwasa Still Love You" (Rumours -- Still Love You) is a little different stylistically from that other ballad, "Never Fall In Love". The latter song has that typical Kurahashi sound from that early time, but "Uwasa", written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子) and composed by Katsuo Ono(小野克夫), seems to be a musical mix of that sound with a bit of 70s folk thrown in via the guitar. The video starring Kurahashi is admittedly corny, but it does have her actually smiling....not exactly something she's known for when performing on TV (although I did hear that she had actually appeared fairly regularly on a comedy-variety show at that time).

As her career progressed into the 80s and into the next decade, Kurahashi's fashion became more and more sophisticated before she surprisingly took on a more pop-punkish look in the early 90s. But when she debuted, she took on a more relaxed look of informal lounging-around-the-house wear such as in the video and on her earlier album covers. When I finally caught one of her concerts in Minami-Aoyama, I was happy to find out that she was actually very engaging and chatty with the audience.


UA -- Jounetsu (情熱)


As I mentioned in my first posting on UA, "Rhythm" was the first of her singles that I'd bought years ago. But I soon also came across her 4th single, "Jounetsu"(Passion), which was her breakthrough hit from June 1996. Where "Rhythm" was mellow and groovy, "Jounetsu"was cool and funky. I just love the original single version with her husky vocals and the backing horn section (like the album version from "11" less so), and also the official video which seems to emulate some experimental filming from the 60s. The song was written by UA and composed by Hirofumi Asamoto (朝本浩文).


This YouTube video is of her 15th anniversary concert in Tokyo in 2010. "Jounetsu" was her first Top 20 hit, peaking at No. 18 and and spending a total of nearly 6 months on the Oricon charts. Eventually, the single would sell a little over 230,000 copies. With this song and "Rhythm" coming out in 1996, I think UA really stood out as one of the first female Japanese singers to bring over contemporary R&B.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oricon Top Singles for 1987

1.  Eiko Segawa                         Inochi Kurenai
2.  Akina Nakamori                   Tango Noir
3.  Ikuzo Yoshi                          Yukiguni
4.  Hikaru Genji                         Starlight
5.  Seiko Matsuda                      Strawberry Time
6.  Akina Nakamori                   Nanpasen
7.  Akina Nakamori                   Blonde
8.  Daisaku Ogata                      Mushaku Ryojou
9.  Hiroshi Itsuki                        Tsuioku
10. Shonentai                            Kimi Dake ni

Pretty interesting writing this list up in a year that I thought was the one of transition between the early 80s aidoru (Seiko, Akina) and late 80s aidoru (Miho, Shizuka). For one thing, I don't see any of those late 80s girls up there, and for another 40% of the list consists of enka, including the No. 1 song of the year....pretty nostalgic. Akina Nakamori had another banner year to complement her successful 1986 of 2 songs in the Top Ten; this time it's 3, including "Tango Noir" which for me has the sexiest cover I've seen for her (when my friend Anthony showed me the single back at U of T, I took a long look at it...and that was all). However, Seiko-chan still has that one memorable single in there.

Johnny's Entertainment is also well represented by Hikaru Genji and Shonentai. The latter group also got into the Top 10 of 1986, but Hikaru Genji was about to hit the jackpot. The following year, Moroboshi-kun and company had a stranglehold on the Top 10 by capturing the top 3 spots.

And on a personal note, my go-to karaoke song (juu-hachi-ban), "Yukiguni" is at No. 3.




Off Course -- Suiyoubi no Gogo (水曜日の午後)



Was looking for something seasonal to put up today, and then I remembered that I had "Spring Time Best From Off Course" on the shelves. I found the perfect song, "Suiyoubi no Gogo" (Wednesday Afternoon), not just because I'm writing this on Wednesday (night, mind you), but also because we got quite a bit of rain today here in Toronto, and the lyrics did make a lot of reference to precipitation. However, despite the rain mentioned in Kazumasa Oda's(小田和正)words (he also composed it), they come together in a way that is more optimistic than in some of the other Off Course(オフコース) songs he's been responsible for. There are no sad romantic breakups here in this song; instead, Kazumasa sings about getting that calmness and hope from the healing power of weather on a Hump Day.

"Suiyoubi no Gogo" was never released as an official single, but was included in the band's very first album, "Boku no Okurimono" (僕の贈りもの...My Present) released in June 1973. It is a lovely if short song that would be at home in any repertoire at an annual high school song contest. Below is a cover version.


Miho Nakayama/Toshiki Kadomatsu -- You're My Only Shinin' Star


I heard this song quite a lot via "The Best 10" and "The Top 10" from Miho Nakayama(中山美穂), and it was probably the one that I knew the best from her at the time due to the frequency of her appearances on the programs to perform this particular song. I also have to admit that I wasn't all that impressed with "You're My Only Shinin' Star" at the time either; perhaps it was the fact that the melody seemed to have been pushed into the background behind Miporin's voice, and frankly, I never thought that she had the strongest vocals when performing live on music shows.



But then hearing the original version on CD helped bring up my impressions of Nakayama's 12th single. Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生) was behind the creation of this song in both writing and composing when it was released in February 1988, and it was here that I could hear the same Kadomatsu magic that made Anri(杏里) a star a few years earlier. Although it was released in the winter, I think "You're My Only Shinin' Star" makes for a great summer ballad. It had actually started life as the final track on Nakayama's 3rd album, "Summer Breeze" (released in July 1986), but in the following months, it was evident that it was becoming popular amongst the fans and even with Miho herself, so it was re-recorded into its own single. It was a winfall for all concerned as it hit No. 1 on Oricon and won the Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. Eventually, it would become the 15th-ranked single of the year.


In November 1999, Kadomatsu released his own version of the song he had made as his 26th single with three different takes, including an English-language cover above. I've only listened to it once (as in half an hour ago), so my insights on it are even smaller, but I think it's more in the AOR vein. It peaked at No. 27. The first Japanese take is also available on Kadomatsu's first album of self-covers, "The Gentle Sex", released in January 2000; it hit No. 1 on Oricon.

courtesy of HubbleColor (Zolt)
from Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoltlevay/8238681904/.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kyoko Koizumi -- Anata ni Aete Yokatta (あなたに会えてよかった)



Man, time does fly! Right now, the NHK morning serial drama, "Ama-chan"あまちゃん), stars veteran singer-actress Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子) as a middle-aged, suffer-no-fools mother whose high-school-age daughter realizes she wants to become a diver for sea urchin and other shellfish. A little over 20 years ago, she would've been playing the daughter. And that she did on a Fuji-TV drama titled "Papa to Natchan"パパとなっちゃん....Papa and Natchan) back in 1991 in which she played a university sophomore against Masakazu Tamura (the future Columbo of Japan, Ninzaburo Furuhata) as her father. I only caught a few scenes of the show with the most notable one near the end where Kyon-Kyon's Natsumi is giving her thanks to her father before getting married as Papa dissolves into a wreck of lachrymal fluid.

The theme song for the drama was "Anata ni Aete Yokatta"(Glad To Have Met You), whose lyrics were written by Koizumi herself while the melody was made by Takeshi Kobayashi(小林武史) who has had strong connections with bands like My Little Lover and Mr. Children. Instead of the aidoru tunes I first knew her for back during the 80s, this song was firmly in breezy pop territory; not teen stuff but something that I could identify as a song for women in their 20s. I wouldn't be surprised if it had become an unofficial theme song for the OLs starting their lives in Japan Inc. I remember hearing "Anata ni Aete Yokatta" a whole lot in the last few months of my Gunma stay. Considering that scene from the show I talked about in the previous paragraph, I think the song probably would still be a popular one to be played at wedding receptions.


The song hit the top spot on Oricon after its release in May 1991 and became the 6th-ranked song of the year. And it also won two Japan Record Awards, one for Koizumi in the category of songwriting. It would eventually sell 1.5 million copies, and to date, it is the final No. 1 for the singer. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it on the Net, but the coupling song for "Anata ni Aete Yokatta" is "Saigo no Kiss"(最後のキッス....A Final Kiss), a bluesy jazz ballad also written by Koizumi and composed by Japanese guitarist/songwriter, EBBY. I actually like that song just as much as the A-side.

Kyoko Koizumi -- Anata ni Aete Yokatta

Yumi Arai -- Hikoki Gumo (ひこうき雲)



With all of the incredible concerts-turned-cultural experiences and the slick production methods that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実) has demonstrated over the past few decades, it's sometimes nice to go back to the days of Yumi Arai(荒井由実). Until recently, "Hikoki Gumo" (Vapour Trails) was the earliest Yuming song that I'd ever heard, and I was surprised to hear that it never got its own single, instead being a B-side on her 2nd single, "Kitto Ieru"(きっと言える...I Can Tell You Straight), released in November 1973. It sold 3,000 copies, almost four times as much as her very first single the previous year, "Henji wa Iranai"(返事はいらない....I Don't Need An Answer).

It's one of the more tenderhearted ballads that I have ever heard with Yuming initially sounding whispery-soft, almost child-like, before her voice grows up and punches through the air in the refrain. Lyrically, she modeled "Hikoki Gumo" after the premature death of her friend. It may be a time of mourning, but the singer also mentions that her friend is now happy and the feeling in the melody hints that not all is sadness and that he/she is now reaching for that blue sky.

The white hill road kept on going as far as the sky
The shimmering heat haze envelops that child
No one notices, he is just by himself
That child rises up
There is no fear, and then he soars

Longing for the sky,
He runs for it
That child's life is a vapour trail

At that tall window, that child, before he died
Also gazed at the sky, I don't know about now
I don't know about other people
I just think he was too young
But he's happy

Longing for the sky,
He runs for it
That child's life is a vapour trail

Listening to this song has often made me stop and get pretty introspective. With all of the daily spiritual detritus that builds up over time, it's always good when a particular song can help in getting rid at least some of that pile-up. Sometimes, I've thought that Yumi Matsutoya went overboard with a few of her albums and her concerts, and so I've often wondered if she needs to hear some of her earlier, simpler work again.

That 2nd single of hers may not have made much of a dent in the Oricon rankings, but it was included on her 1st album, also titled "Hikoki Gumo". It was released a few weeks after that second single, and although it took a few years, the word of Yumi Arai as the newly-crowned matriarch of this genre called New Music did get around to the masses so that the album eventually got ranked No. 10 for 1976.

"Hikoki Gumo" has also recently been selected to be the theme song for what is Hayao Miyazaki's final feature-length film in 2013, "Kaze Tachinu"(風立ちぬ....The Wind Rises).

(cover version)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra & Hiroto Komoto -- Hoshi Furu Yoru ni (星降る夜に)


I kept seeing one small clip of this video that made me wanna get this song: Hiroto Komoto(甲本ヒロト) of The Blue Hearts looking like a snazzily dressed middle-aged Gilligan from "Gilligan's Island" accompanied by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and doing a heartwarmingly goofy "Hey, Ma, it's me!" greeting from a window frame.

Listening to the song (especially the great intro and Komoto's mellow rasp) is fantastic as well, but the video also provides plenty of entertainment. Just seeing Komoto looking as if he were Popeye chewing on a Jawbreaker while his legs go spastic is worth the price of admission. And there's nothing better than seeing talented well-dressed professional musicians plainly enjoying themselves.



"Hoshi Furu Yoru ni"(On The Night of Falling Stars) was released in May 2006 as the band's 30th single since the first one was released in 1990. It got as high as No. 13 on the Oricon singles chart, and was also a track on TSPO's 12th original album, "Wild Peace" (June 2006) which peaked at No. 2. It is also on "Best of Tokyo Ska 1998-2007" which also got as far as No. 2, and is the album that I got to hear this gem. The song itself was written by the band's baritone saxophonist Atsushi Yanaka(谷中敦) and composed by the man on trumpet, NARGO.

The only thing I can say is to Komoto to lay off the multiple carafes of coffee before filming.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra
Best of Tokyo Ska 1998-2007

Takako Okamura -- Kokoro no Sogen (心の草原)



Although I remember hearing and seeing the adorably earnest duo of Aming(あみん) on the 1982 Kohaku performing their major hit, "Matsu wa"待つわ), I never found out the names of the two singers, and since "Matsu wa" was basically their only notable hit, I thought that was pretty much it for my connection with them.

But then I came across this huggably soft music video on either "MTV Japan" or the video clip show on Gunma TV at the beginning of the 90s. I didn't know it at the time, but it turned out that singer-songwriter Takako Okamura(岡村孝子) was one half of Aming....the one who decided to continue her career as a solo singer after Aming quickly broke up in the early 80s. "Kokoro no Sogen" (Meadow of the Heart) was just this cute little song that probably appealed to everyone from 8 to 88 and had me unconsciously shifting my head from side-to-side like an inverted pendulum with a goofy grin on my mug. The video itself had the young Okamura setting up roots in her new pad; she looked like every toddler's favourite nursery teacher, although I was kinda wondering about that shirt with all of the card suit patterns.


(empty karaoke version)

Interestingly enough, according to J-Wiki, Okamura was inspired to come up with the song after listening to Janet Jackson's "Escapade"(1989). "Kokoro no Sogen" was released in June 1990 as her 13th single. It got as high as No. 35 on the Oricon weeklies. However, it was also a track on her 6th album, "Kiss - a cote de la mer -", released on the same day as the single, which hit the top spot on the album charts and was the 10th-ranked album for 1990, selling over half a million copies.

And if anyone needs a reminder about Ms. Nasty, here is "Escapade". Feel free to make comparisons.




Takako Okamura -- Kiss
(no relation to the Prince song)

Candies -- Un, Deux, Trois (アン・ドゥ・トロワ)



On July 17 1977, the official announcement was made that Candies was going to break up within the next several months, and their final concert was held on April 4 1978. I could imagine fans' hearts were in the midst of disintegrating when their 15th single (their 1st since the news had come out), "Un, Deux, Trois" was released in September.

In spite of the news or because of it, Candies' popularity was soaring. And "Un, Deux, Trois" was another feather in their collective beret. Composed by folk singer Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎) and written by Makoto Kitajo(喜多條忠), it was another pleasantly lilting hit for the ladies with the French accordion thrown in to boot, as the girls lyrically invited the listener to enjoy a little dance with them. I don't remember hearing it during the time it had actually been released, but I got to know it while watching those TV retrospectives.


The song peaked at No. 7 on the Oricon weeklies and was ranked at No. 58 at the end of the year. Incidentally, the B-side was "Futari no Love Song"ふたりのラブ・ソング), the cover of The Carpenters' "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song".

I'm sure it was very sad for everyone concerned that the act was breaking up, but at least they went out on top.

NOBODY/Ann Lewis/Nanase Aikawa -- Don't You Go/Roppongi Shinju (六本木心中)

Have a listen to this song by rock duo NOBODY:


Sound similar? Yup, this is "Don't You Go", one of their creations from April 1987 which got onto their live album, "NOBODY LIVE 2". NOBODY, which consisted of Yukio Aizawa(相沢行夫) and Toshio Kihara(木原敏雄), also composed songs for a lot of folks such as "Dance Beat wa Yoake Made"ダンス・ビートは夜明けまで) for Yoko Oginome(荻野目洋子), and "C-Girl" for Yui Asaka(浅香唯).


However, with Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子) as the lyricist, NOBODY's "Don't You Go" started life explosively as "Roppongi Shinju"(Roppongi Lovers' Suicide) back in October 1984 for someone who has been called "The Queen of (Japanese) Rock", Ann Lewis. That's quite a shift in genre considering her aidoru tunes back in the 1970s (see "Goodbye, My Love"). But for me, Lewis' incarnation as Rock Goddess is the one that I primarily know, thanks to the popularity of "Roppongi Shinju" in the Kuri karaoke lounge. Our Akina Nakamori specialist was also the go-to singer for Lewis' anthem of a woman who can no longer go on without her dead lover in the cold, alienating world of Tokyo...notably Roppongi (although the neighbourhood is never cited in the lyrics).

Although I've categorized the song as "J-Rock", Lewis, who has been a huge fan of hard rock and bands like Led Zeppelin, decided in 1978 to make a fresh start in her music and decided to aim for something called K-ROCK...namely, Kayo Rock. Her 25th single here held court in the Oricon rankings for the better part of a year, peaking at No. 12 and becoming the 41st-ranked song of 1985.



A number of artists have covered the song, along with the aforementioned NOBODY, over the years. But I think perhaps the one singer who especially received the baton from Lewis was Nanase Aikawa(相川七瀬). In October 2002, she put out her own down-and-dirty version as her 21st single and as a track on her BEST album, "ID:2", released in March 2003. It did even slightly better than the original, when it peaked at No. 10.

Ann Lewis -- Roppongi Shinju

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pizzicato Five -- Romantique 96

The always chic Ms. Nomiya

I bought Pizzicato Five's "Romantique 96" for a couple of reasons: 1) I knew about P5 since watching their impressionable appearance on "The New Music" when the Toronto music program highlighted the latest in Japanese music and then hearing stuff about their inherent coolness filtering in when I was in Tokyo, and 2) a couple of the tracks were used as themes for a couple of late-night TV shows I viewed on TV Asahi in the mid-90s. And frankly speaking, I knew I had to get at least one P5 album for my collection. In this case, their 12th album.




When I buy an album of enka songs, my imagination focuses on one particular neighbourhood in Tokyo....perhaps Asakusa or Ginza or Shinbashi. When I get an Anri or TUBE album, it goes to the beaches of Shonan or Hawaii. But with "Romantique 96", it's as if Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴) and Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽) are tempting me (and succeeding) to hop on their pink and flower-covered chartered jet to travel the globe to make the Mother of All World-Hopping Tours of Fun, Fun, Fun. The album starts quietly with "Mezame"(めざめ...The Awakening)....almost like a gentle push out of bed, a warmup stretch, a grab for that java, before Pizzicato Five makes a rousing invitation to join them in the next track, "Sekai de Ichiban Funky na Band"(世界でいちばんファンキーなバンド....Welcome to the Circus)....and we are off! The next song is the one above, "Jet Ki no House"(ジェット機のハウス....Flying High), a riff by Fantastic Plastic Machine in which our flight attendant cheerfully gets us ready and going for that trip from New York to San Francisco, although the feeling throughout the album is far more far-reaching.



Our next stop seems to be in warmer climes as we get into "Ice Cream Meltin' Mellow", hip-hop and Shibuya skippy pop mixing in like that puddle of Neapolitan strawberry, vanilla and chocolate forming on the sidewalk. Listening to this track, I can imagine people just galloping under the summer sun to get that soft cone. This was one of the songs that was a late-night theme for the brief CNN nightly report of all things. Back in those days, Ted Turner's network apparently wasn't all that readily available in Japan, and TV Asahi, being the Japanese affiliate of the network, created this 5-minute segment at 12:55 a.m. with an English-speaking announcer. Still can't see Wolf Blitzer strutting to this one....Anderson Cooper I can, though.




The other track to be made into another late-night theme on TV Asahi was "San Gatsu Umare" (3月生まれ...Nata Di Marzo), a flirty French Latin tune about getting dragged out by a whimsical buddy onto the dance floor. Those opening strings started up the show which followed the CNN report; it was some kind of 15-minute sitcom featuring tarento RanRan Suzuki and actress Naoko Iijima.



Somehow with "Good", we're back into my old stomping grounds....in a Tokyo English conversation school with Maki as my congenial student and the score from any of a dozen 60s Hollywood romantic comedies as the background music. No, it's not quite that hellish, actually. Fantastic Plastic Machine was also behind the arrangements here, and he creates a rather comically breezy soundscape, and even the P5 catchphrase makes its presence known here. The clip of this song being performed at a concert was shown on "The New Music" where Maki is doing her loopy repetition drill....the first time I saw it, I just thought, "Ohhhhhhhhhkay........"



The last song here is "Kanashii Uta"(悲しい歌...Triste) which brings back memories of 70s soul along with some of what British acts like Swingout Sister and The Style Council came up with in the 80s. I really like the piano and the brass which gives out that urban groove. The single cut of the song came out in October 1995, about a month after the album's release.

Pizzicato Five kept the musical travelogue going with "Romantique 96", and like any good tour guide, never made it boring. And I'm sure their other albums were very representative of the Shibuya-kei genre, but if there were a leader among equals in their discography, I can bet that this album would be a nominee.


Pizzicato Five -- Romantique 96

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fubuki Koshiji -- Rokudenashi (ろくでなし)



This is the one other song by Japanese chanson singer Fubuki Koshiji(越路吹雪) that I've known for years, "Rokudenashi"(Good-For-Nothing). Although I've got little knowledge on the chanson genre per se, I don't think this song quite fits the chanson mold...it's a bit too frenetic. And Koshiji, as you can see above, is shaking it up quite a bit on the stage.

Originally written, composed and sung by Belgian singer-songwriter Salvatore Adamo in 1964 as "Mauvais Garcon", the lyrics were made into Japanese by Tokiko Iwatani(岩谷時子). I'm just going by someone's Japanese blog here, but I think the Koshiji cover was also released later in that same year. The lyrics go into the life of an incorrigible bum who's content to drink away in his watering hole as his latest girl dumps him. As much as Koshiji is famous for the proud "Ai no Sanka"愛の讃歌, I've also remembered her for this short spicy number. In recent years, though, the song has mostly appeared on Japanese TV as a platform for parody by a comedian who dresses in drag and sings it while shooting peanuts out of his nose (yep, it's as "hilarious" as it reads).

Here is the original version by Adamo. It comes off as somewhat less spirited than the Japanese version, but I think it accurately reflects the state of mind of the so-called hero of the song..


Friday, May 17, 2013

Keizo Nakanishi -- Starting Over



October 21 2015: Unfortunately, most of the tracks for "Starting Over" no longer exist on YouTube or NetEase, but there is the link above to the Amazon site where samples of the songs can be heard.

I mentioned back in my first posting on Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三) ("Woman" ) that I hadn't been sure how I first got to know about the singer....whether it had been the CD single of "Woman" that my friend lent me or an audio tape that my cousin had kindly sent me. That audio tape was of his 4th album, "Starting Over"which was originally released back in March 1994. It got a lot of heavy rotation on my tape recorder. One of the reasons was the starting title track which is this gloriously happy tune originally made as the campaign song for that year for the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture. It may have been made for the re-creation of those Dutch buildings, but this musical orange juice kinda reflected my feelings about what was to be my upcoming return to Japan later that year. Nakanishi, by the way, composed all of the songs with Masao Urino(売野雅勇)taking care of the words for this track and the next song.


Track 3 is another fun and optimistic tune just from the title alone, "Ashita wa Kitto Ii Hi"(明日はきっといい日...Tomorrow Will Undoubtedly Be A Great Day) done in a somewhat of a doo-wop style. I also stated in the "Woman" article that Nakanishi reminded me vocally of Toshinobu Kubota(久保田利伸) but that he tended more towards the pop side of things. I think from listening to this song and his tribute to all things Yuletide, "Kiss, Merry Xmas", he also likes going back to the earlier days of R&B as well. "Ashita wa Kitto Ii Hi"was also a commercial song....this time for a Honda brand of car called the "Today"(man, where these guys get these names....).




Track 5 is an orchestral version of Nakanishi's 7th single, "Nemurenu Omoi"(眠れぬ想い...Sleepless Feelings) for which Kanata Asamizu(朝水彼方) provided the lyrics. She also wrote the words for Masayuki Suzuki's(鈴木雅之) "Shibuya de Go-ji" 渋谷で5時).This was the first version I had heard of this ballad, and with its strings and harmonica, this would not have been out of place in the pilot episode of "Moonlighting", the old 80s detective series starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd (yes, she was lovely, and yes, he did have hair). I loved the banter between David and Maddie and the music that accompanied them.




This is the original version of "Nemurenu Omoi"released in July 1993. Enjoy!




Track 8 is the high-energy "Hijo Kaidan"(非情階段...Callous Stairway) created by Nakanishi and Asamizu with co-composer Takao Konishi(小西貴雄). The album version starts off for the first several seconds as a bit of midnight jazz doodling before the music kicks into 80s R&B Dazz Band-like warp drive. This was also released in July 1994 as his 12th single some months after the album's release. The above link has the single version.

I love all the tracks on "Starting Over" but one of my special favourites is one of the last entries, "Yume no Hate Made"(夢の果てまで...To The Ends Of The Dream). It's just another gallopingly fun uptempo song by Urino and Nakanishi, and again it reminds me of some of the funky pop I used to hear back in the 70s.


"A.C.E." is Nakanishi giving his tribute to Motown. Once again, it was an Urino and Nakanishi collaboration.

"Starting Over"hit the top spot on Oricon and became the 35th-ranked album of the year, selling about 434,000 albums. Some years into my Japan odyssey, I was finally able to procure the actual CD, I'm happy to say. And it's still always a pleasure to hear almost 20 years later.


Keizo Nakanishi -- Starting Over