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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Anri -- Circuit of Rainbow

"Anri, Tom Mix called. He'd like his wardrobe back."

Up to 1989, my musical knowledge of the ever-smiley Anri(杏里)was restricted to two of her big hits: "Olivia wo Kikinagara" (1978) and "Cat's Eye" (1983), both of which were representative of her earlier eras as a pop idol (not aidoru) and summery kayo singer under the aegis of Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生). But then thanks to one episode of "Sounds of Japan" on CHIN-FM, I had my first experience of Anri's 3rd era when the program decided to highlight her 12th dynamic album, "Boogie Woogie Mainland" (1988) with its infusion of American R&B and the production team led by composer Anri, lyricist Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美)and arranger Yasuharu Ogura(小倉泰治).

The success of "Boogie Woogie Mainland" led to her next album, "Circuit of Rainbow", released right on the first day of summer 1989, continuing on with her new sound (although compared to what was going on with R&B in the United States at the end of the 80s, this new sound was probably more akin to what was being heard on the radios and stereos in America nearly a decade previously) and team of Anri, Yoshimoto and Ogura. I bought Anri's 13th album as one of my first purchases since starting my 2-year stint on JET in August of that year. Having been a fan of hers since those early 80s and seeing this fresh 6-week-old album on the CD shop shelves, it was simply a must-have for me as my very first Anri album.

Track 1 starts with the instrumental "Break of Dawn" before things start flying like that proverbial image of a jet plane leaving the runway on a lot of those City Pop albums with the title track itself. Although not quite as explosive as the title and opening track on "Boogie Woogie Mainland", "Circuit of Rainbow" is Anri's welcome to all of us listeners to her brand of summer holiday fun. The strings that start things off almost feel like the perfect cue for one of those California radio DJs to rat-a-tat off the beautiful weather before Anri comes on in. And the Jerry Hey horns let us know that the singer and her team are going to promise a nice smooth flight.

Somewhere deep in the bookshelves in my living room is the VHS tape (yes, folks, I do like my antiques) of "Circuit of Rainbow" which includes the official videos for the above title track and this one, "Groove A Go Go" (Track 8), an example of nighttime funk and pop which could be quite Janet Jackson-friendly. As for the video (which got taken down), I wonder if the Wachowski siblings had gotten their inspiration solely from watching "Ghost in the Shell".

"Who Knows My Loneliness?" is a nice mellow breather among the high-tempo tunes that incorporates some gospel blues with a fine assist by the Hey horns. And among the backup singers is one Philip Bailey from Earth Wind & Fire.

(cover version)

One of my other favourite tracks is "Shitsuren Game ga Owaru made"(失恋ゲームが終るまで...Until the Lovelorn Game Ends)which has made me wonder if Anri internalized every one of Earth Wind & Fire's uptempo songs while she was creating this one. I mean I could actually imagine Bailey and Maurice White doing an English-language cover of Anri's love advice. Bailey himself is not listed in the liner notes for this one but it wouldn't surprise me if he snuck into the session. And since I've mentioned him, let me also state that the late great drummer Jeff Porcaro from TOTO was also part of the album recording.

My final track is the final track of the album, "Lovers on Venus". The somewhat cheesy sci-fi impression of the title aside, Anri does a marvelous job delivering this ballad about reminiscing of a past love. I was surprised that it had never been released as its own single since I think it is up there with "Summer Candles", the big love song from her previous album. In fact, none of the tracks were ever released as singles at all.

Still, "Circuit of Rainbow" did even better than "Boogie Woogie Mainland" by reaching the top spot on Oricon, the first Anri album since her 1983 "Timely!!" to do so (that album contained "Cat's Eye") and going on to earn 6th place on the annual rankings. It also received a Grand Prize for Album at the Japan Record Awards. And personally speaking, buying this one made for a nice impression in my Japanese CD-collecting hobby.

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