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.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Keiko Maruyama -- Tasogare Memory (黄昏めもりい)


Keiko Maruyama's(丸山圭子) smooth-as-silk hit from 1976, "Douzo Kono Mama", was something that was firmly implanted in my memories since I had first heard it on an episode of "Sounds of Japan", so it was nice to see that the album that it was on, "Tasogare Memory" (Twilight Memory), was listed in "Japanese City Pop". The jacket cover was pretty intriguing to me. It had Maruyama sitting casually on an old wooden chair; the photography and her fashion struck me as being somewhat early 20th-century. I'd had an opportunity to get the re-mastered album about a year before I left Japan for good at a CD shop in the original Kinokuniya bookstore in East Shinjuku, but never got around to it. Late last year, I made amends by purchasing it on Amazon.

I didn't bother giving any information about Maruyama in the article for "Douzo Kono Mama", so I'll give it here. She was born in what is now Minami Ward in Saitama City in 1954. In 1972, she debuted with the single "Kokoro no Naka no"心の中の...Inside My Heart) and album "Sotto Watashi wa"(そっと私は...Gently, I), and then joined a folk band by the name of Pee-Pee and Kot(ピピ&コット). For you readers who can read German, yep, it is referring to "Urine and Feces"; apparently, a couple of the male members liked to head to the washroom together a lot, thereby the name for the group (the stuff you learn on J-Wiki, I'll tell ya). Once the band broke up in 1975, Maruyama was back on her own again and soon produced "Tasogare Memory" as her 2nd album.



The remastered "Tasogare Memory" contained the singer's reflections through the liner notes. As for my notes on her most recognized song, "Douzo Kono Mama", I think the article I already wrote about it will suffice, but Maruyama commented that she looked back at the recording date of the song (December 17, 1975) as a fateful day in terms of her career and a turning point in her life. She also perceived her creation as that infusion of bossa nova with a touch of European.


(cover version)

And so I had thought that despite the old-fashioned-style photo of Maruyama on that chair, "Tasogare Memory" would be in some sort of Latin/bossa vein. But after listening to the whole album, I realized that "Douzo Kono Mama" was the only bossa nova track. The singer actually produced an album which I would probably say is generally more New Music with perhaps even a bit more of a Country Music influence. Case in point, the first track is "Machi Kaze Dayori"(街風便り...Town Wind Tidings), a relaxing ballad with harmonica and steel pedal guitar. Maruyama wrote and composed this track about going on a long journey out of town, searching (literally or emotionally) for that lost love. Crystal Gayle and early Olivia Newton-John came to mind when listening to this tune.



One of the surprising bits of information I got while reading the liner notes was that for "Machi Kaze Dayori", the final track of "Bye-Bye" and this 2nd song, "Sky Lounge", (4:40 on the above video) the backup vocals were provided by none other than Sugar Babe (Tatsuro Yamashita, Taeko Ohnuki and Kunio Muramatsu) with Yamashita handling the chorus arrangement. Within the album, "Sky Lounge" is the most City Pop-sounding of the songs as Maruyama, who once again took care of the lyrics and melody, sings about waiting for a friend in that hotel/office building lobby on their way to the rooftop bar. According to the notes, the singer did a quick rough copy of the lyrics while waiting for her buddy in the lobby of a bayside Yokohama hotel. I think for those back in the mid-70s who wanted to live the large life in Tokyo or Yokohama, "Sky Lounge" provided that little City Pop window.

Another observation of the album is that although Maruyama keeps that soft voice going throughout the songs, she also likes to put a bit of Method into her delivery. For "Sky Lounge", she seems to take on the voice of that young office lady (she was 22 at the time) while for "Douzo Kono Mama", her vocals take on a breathier quality (perhaps in emulation of Astrud Gilberto). Unfortunately, there is no video of it on YouTube, but Track 7 (and her 2nd single), "Hitori Ne no Lullaby"(ひとり寝のララバイ...Lullaby for One), as Maruyama sings about knocking back the booze as if there was no tomorrow, she acts like that same OL from "Sky Lounge" after a bottle of the good stuff and pretends to be a comically tipsy if belligerent woman.


The above video is actually someone doing a karaoke version with his guitar, but I just wanted to showcase the last track, "Bye-Bye", a Country Swing song for which Maruyama remarks that there is a bit of Chet Atkins in the guitar thanks to guitarist Chuei Yoshikawa(吉川忠英). Another reason that I liked this track was that the chorus of Sugar Babe seems to sound like a train whistle going off in the distance....I'm not sure if that was intentional and the singer never says anything about it in the liner notes, but the effect is remarkable.

"Tasogare Memory" was quite an interesting album for me in terms of the different types of songs that I came across. As I said before, there is that Country feeling in some of the tracks, but I also thought there was some 70s folksy pop (banjo, tuba) in there as well which reminded me of some of the AM radio I listened to in Dad's car.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like a keeper. Keiko Maruyama's name and the album cover also jumped at me as I was flipping through Japanese City Pop. She is a lovely singer and a talented songwriter to boot. "Machi Kaze Dayori" and "Sky Lounge" made the biggest impression on me. Her voice sounds so beautifully fragile in the verses of the former and then soars in the chorus. Just wonderful. "Sky Lounge" has a tint of early Yuming in it, I think. I enjoyed the arrangement.

    I decided to head over to Amazon to try out some more samples from the album, so it looks like I'll also get my own copy in the near future. Thank you for this entry. :D

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    1. Glad to be of help, nikala. :) Yes, I also detected a bit of Yuming in "Sky Lounge" as well, and your description of her vocals in "Machi Kaze Dayori" reminds me of the style of the Queen of New Music. It certainly helps when Sugar Babe is helping out on backup as they did on Yuming's "Cobalt Hour".

      Hope you get your copy soon.

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