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, May 24, 2014

Yumi Matsutoya -- Tengoku no Door (天国のドア)

Having bought "Love Wars" as my first-ever CD by The Queen of New Music (well, more like former Queen since by the late 80s, she was fully ensconced into pop mode), it wouldn't be long until another Yuming CD was made available for the demanding masses.

"Tengoku no Door" (The Gates of Heaven) was Yumi Matsutoya's (松任谷由実)22nd original album from November 1990. As I mentioned for the "Love Wars" article, Yuming had changed her style somewhat in the latter half of the 80s and going into the 90s compared to her earlier works that I listened to on "Sounds of Japan". And this new album continued that more beat-happy, more danceable-sounding, even more pop radio-friendly style by her. Plus the cover looked even slicker with that plastic "multi-screen" insert.

I may have mentioned that my big Yuming era spanned from her days as Yumi Arai (荒井由実)in the early 70s up to the early 90s. And in that period, there were specific sub-sections which stood out in terms of how her music sounded. The late 80s/early 90s struck me as being synthesizer-and-Hey-horn heavy. Track 1 above is "Miss BROADCAST" which was her take on what being a female newscaster must have been like. There is that fast pace and methodical beat throughout the song which rather reminds me of a news-at-6 program, but I also noticed a bit of Janet Jackson arrangement in there as well. In fact, I think a number of the songs on the album paid some tribute to the current R&B/pop sound in America at the time.

I bought her "Wings of Light" concert tape, a VHS I got soon after getting "Tengoku no Door". I'd had no idea how much of a concert presence Yuming was since she barely appeared on TV; I had never seen her sing...there were only the photos of her on the record/CD covers. But watching "Wings of Light", she impressed the heck out of me with the epic sets and the fact she was actively involved in the choreography. My previous image had been that she was permanently posted behind a piano.

The first song that heralded the arrival of "Tengoku no Door" was "Mangetsu no Fortune"(満月のフォーチュン...Full Moon Fortune), a groovy mid-tempo track that was never released as a single (in fact, Yuming didn't release any singles between "Anniversary" in 1989 and "Manatsu no Yoru no Yume" in 1993). There was a mystical air about the potential romance here and it was the hook for me to get my 2nd-ever Yuming album. An excerpt of its official music video exists at her official website under the "Promotion Videos" section of her discography.

(karaoke version)

"Ace wa Koko ni Aru" (Aはここにある...The Ace Is Here)has Jerry Hey's horns back for a slightly comical look at an arrogant hero(ine) type who not only can save the day but knows that fact all too well. He/she can even bring the thunder and lightning. Thor and/or Han Solo come to mind here.

My favourite song on the album is the title track. According to the J-Wiki article on the album, "Tengoku no Door" deals with the concept of ecstacy (the emotion not the drug), although I would probably say the word "thrill" is more appropriate. A carnival atmosphere has me doing a run through the various roller coasters and other rides. On the "Wings of Light" video, Yuming and the crew pull off quite an amazing performance of this particular song.

The final track is "Save Our Ship", which was the theme song for a documentary hosted by Yuming to herald Toyohiro Akiyama(秋山豊寛), a journalist who became the first Japanese citizen to head into space just a couple of weeks after the album was released. I recall seeing part of that documentary especially when the song reached a crescendo as the camera panned up to the face of Akiyama's wife looking skyward. Probably not a dry eye in the country.

"Tengoku no Door" became the No. 1 album for 1991, becoming the first album in Japanese history to break the 2 million barrier. In addition, Matsutoya won Artist of the Year honours at the 5th Japan Golden Disc Awards. From what I gleaned from the J-Wiki article for the album is that an artist usually wins that specific award for a number of releases during the year, but Yuming has remained the only singer to date to win Artist of the Year for just that one album.

As for me, although I enjoyed the album, there was a certain sameness in terms of the arrangements or at least a little less variety in how the songs came out. Even in terms of the length of the individual tracks, except for the final track of "Save Our Ship", all of them came in between 4 and 5 minutes. I think "The 14th Moon" (1976) and "No Side" (1984) still remain my very favourites.

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