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, July 19, 2014

Iruka -- BEST

It's been a while since I did a BEST article so here is one in tribute to Iruka(イルカ). A number of BEST albums on the veteran singer-songwriter have been released, but this one, simply titled "BEST", came out in 1989 and I bought it sometime during my Gunma days. Toshie Hosaka(保坂としえ)may never have become an Oricon-topping superstar but I know she's garnered a loyal following since her early days as a member of the folk group, The Shrieks (1970-1974), and as the guitar-strumming soloist since then.

I'm personally indebted to her since she was the first singer that I heard on the first "Sounds of Japan" episode I ever taped onto my cheapo Canadian Tire cassettes. There was a ton of static on my recording of "Ame no Monogatari" but the beauty of that song still came through if not so bright and clear. And that has been the wonderful thing about Iruka. She has that relaxing velvety and crumply quality in her vocals which could fit easily into countryside Folk, urbane City Pop and just plain Pop, and it was that rendition of "Ame no Monogatari" that made me realize that there was more to Japanese popular music than aidoru and enka.

Here is the playlist from Iruka's "BEST". The other entries for Iruka on the blog are all on this CD so you can just click on "Iruka" in the Labels section.

1. Kanashimi no Shomei 悲しみの証明
2. Mou Umi ni wa Kaerenai もう海には帰れない
3. Ame no Monogatari 雨の物語
5. Sarada no Kuni kara Kita Musume サラダの国から来た娘
6. Juu-Kyu no Haru ni 十九の春に
7. Itazu イタズ
8. Maarui Inochi まあるいいのち
9. Mukae ni Iku Asa 迎えに行く朝
10. Nagori Yuki なごり雪
11. Kareha no Season 枯葉のシーズン
12. Follow Me
13. Kimi no March きみのマーチ
14. Kaigan Douri 海岸通
15. Yoake no Goodbye 夜明けのグッドバイ
16. Itsuka Tsumetai Ame ga いつか冷たい雨が

The first song from "BEST" that I will talk about is her 25th single from September 1989, "Mukae ni Iku Asa" (The Mornings I Pick You Up), a cute and cuddly pop ditty that I had first heard as the theme song for a Fuji-TV morning news show. When I came across Track 9, I immediately sat back and wondered where I had heard it before and then remembered the smiling visage of announcer Tomoko Nagano before it all came back to me.

And whaddaya know? I actually found a clip of "Talk Shower" with the theme song and Nagano-san intact. "Mukae ni Iku Asa", by the way, was written and composed by her comrade-in-arms, Shozo Ise(伊勢正三).

Track 5 is the just-as-adorable folk-pop song, "Sarada no Kuni kara Kita Musume" (The Girl From The Salad Nation) which was Iruka's 12th single from March 1978. As the title might hint, the Iruka-penned tune conjures up that land of fruits and vegetables for the kids. My bet is that the song can lull the little ones to the point where they will be able to eat their broccoli.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

"Kareha no Season" (Season of Dead Leaves) is a breezy and mature City Poppish ballad about the ups and downs of love that came out as Iruka's 17th single in October 1981. As in a number of Japanese pop songs, the season of fall is used as that metaphor for romance swept away like so many of those dead leaves from the title. Once again, Iruka was behind the lyrics and melody, and the arrangement was done with a woman in mind as the protagonist. I love the slight echo in her voice here and that guitar in the middle.

"Kimi no March" (Your March) was created by the singer as a theme song for the anime, "Noel no Fushigi na Bouken" (ノエルの不思議な冒険...Noel's Fantastic Adventures)in December 1982 as her 19th single. It's a call to arms and fun for the toddler brigade. That rumbling guitar in the back there had me thinking of Yuming songs at that time.

(Sorry but the music163 link is dead.)

"Kanashimi no Shomei" (Sad Proof), the song that launches the album off here, is another bittersweet ballad about a woman asking that a former lover let things be and part peacefully and permanently. Written by Toyohisa Araki (荒木とよひさ)and composed by Takashi Miki(三木たかし), Iruka's 24th single from April 1989 has a definite sunset feeling with a bit of gospel & blues woven in the melody. Folk may have been where she started but like her friend, Shozo Ise, she can do a fine job with urban contemporary as well.

And I cannot finish the article without mentioning her 11th single from March 1977 "Ame no Monogatari" once more. It all started from this song with the bluesy guitar, the silky strings and the Iruka vocal.

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