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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kingo Hamada/Mariko Takahashi -- Jazz Singer

I guess there must be something about Japanese folk singers from the 1970s who can make that surprising leap into another genre. Iruka(イルカ) made some nice dips into City Pop as did her buddy, Shozo Ise(伊勢正三). And then there is Kingo Hamada(浜田金吾). He is a singer-songwriter who started out in 1975 as the vocalist and bassist for the folk group Craft. When the band broke up in 1978, he decided to follow his own path as a solo artist.

If you take a look at the J-Wiki page for him, he has written a lot of songs for a lot of singers over the years....everyone from Judy Ongg to Mariya Takeuchi. And he seems to have a nice touch for ballads and torch songs. Hamada composed one of my favourite Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子) songs, "Gas Tou"(ガス燈), a jazzy torcher reminiscent of the American jazz ballad, "Skylark", and "Ai no Inochi" (愛の生命) for Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)when she contributed songs for one of the "Uchuusenkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト) anime movie series.

Speaking about one of America's greatest cultural exports in music, Hamada did his own jazz song in the form of "Jazz Singer". It has nothing to do with the Al Jolson or Neil Diamond movies, but it is a shoutout to some of the vets of the genre such as Cleo Laine and Chet Baker. Actually, Mariko Takahashi (高橋真梨子)was the singer that I heard performing this torch song from her 1982 album, appropriately titled, "After Hours". Takahashi did a wonderful job with this tune, and some of that Baker trumpet was in her rendition. I was sorry that I couldn't find her version on YouTube, but then luckily I came across Hamada's original from his 1981 album, "Feel The Night". His version seems to have a bit more of the fancy orchestral flourish than Takahashi's more intimate-midnight-gig take, but it sounds just as heavenly as seeing the Brooklyn Bridge on a moonlit night. As I mentioned in my first sentence, Hamada could make that cross-genre jump quite nicely. I wouldn't mind exploring some more of his discography and even some of the other songs that he has created for those other singers.

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