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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Akiko Yano -- Gohan ga Dekita yo (Album) (ごはんができたよ)

"New Akiko Yano.....with added synthesizers!!"

Reading the J-Wiki article on Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)4th album (and her first under the Tokuma Japan label), that is the impression I got. "Gohan ga Dekita yo" (Dinner's Ready) came out in October 1980 and it is my 3rd purchase from her discography, and it happens to be the earliest album I've now got compared to her BEST album from 1996 and "Oui Oui" from 1997. Aside from the tracks from her output in the 70s that are included in her BEST compilation, I don't really have that much knowledge about those early years. However, the way the J-Wiki article read, it certainly felt like Yano was taking on a new layer in terms of her music as she entered the 80s.

That layer included just about everyone in the Yellow Magic Orchestra: Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣), Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏), and Hideki Matsutake(松武秀樹). And heck, she was touring as a keyboardist with YMO during that time so she was basically a member (got the wicked YMO shirt and a husband!). Yano still had her elegant piano-playing and her vocally flexible style but this time forward, she also had some of that cool technopop backing her up as well.

I've already talked about some of the tracks on "Gohan ga Dekita yo" over the years this blog has been in existence: the funky "Zai Kuntong Shonen", Yano's silky take on "Tong Poo", and even the title track with the singer sounding like a particularly welcoming Mama armed with a hot pot of soup. I hadn't been sure about whether I would get the album but then when I came across her cover of "Tong Poo" and the amazing first track of "Hitotsudake", I knew that I had to place it on my Must Get list when I went to Japan in October. And sure enough, it was the first CD I got during my trip at Recomints in Nakano Broadway.

Speaking about "Hitotsudake" (ひとつだけ...Just One), those first few bars of music on the first track made it abundantly clear of the YMO influence. Knowing that "E.T." was still 2 years away from release at the time the album came out, the song still sounds like a fun first trip by the Reese's Pieces-munching Extraterrestrial as he descended slowly into Earth's atmosphere before starting a thrilling adventure over the oceans and continents. And then there was the wonderful collaboration between Yano's piano and Sakamoto's synths...I still feel a wind whizzing past my neck as they take over from the singer's initial innocent lyrics. It was the right song to mark the switch in studios and musical style (although I probably wouldn't use "switch" for the latter item...perhaps "technopop enhancement" is better).

(Unfortunately the video has been taken down.)

Now I have to prepare to eat some crow here. All of the time that I've mentioned "Hitotsudake" here and there, I didn't know that Yano's version was actually the cover version for the Agnes Chan(アグネス・チャン)original which was included on her 1979 23rd album, "Utsukushii Hibi"(美しい日々...Beautiful Days). I guess I was afflicted with selective sight when it came to the J-Wiki article. In any case, it was interesting listening to this original version with Agnes' just-as-sweet & high vocals and the 70s aidoru arrangement by Masaaki Ohmura(大村雅朗).

Back to our regularly scheduled album. The second track, "Les Petit Bon Bon" seems to address a lot of folks, including me, when it comes to not being able to stop at one peanut. I'm not sure whether Yano was referring to the unstoppable need to grab that one last candy or just the concept of greed in general, but the song showcases that playful side to her as if she were reverting back to her childhood and getting that urge to sneak one more cookie out of the jar.

"High Time" is one of two English-language tracks, and it's one of the few songs whose lyrics weren't provided by Yano. Instead, Fran Payne wrote this ode to a lover coming back into the protagonist's arms after a time away. Yano's delivery and the airy music seem to reflect the soaring feelings of someone back in love.

Another angle that Yano explores in "Gohan ga Dekita yo" is her interpretation of some of the old kayo kyoku. In this case, she performs a cover of Ichiro Fujiyama's(藤山一郎)"Aoi Sanmyaku"(青い山脈...Blue Mountain Range)in her inimitable way with some of that YMO boppiness. Along with her loopy vocal style, what else is notable is how she manages to make her version sound like a suspenseful adventure through the forest at the bottom of those blue mountains.

The kayo kyoku interpretations also include children's songs. For example, the above is "Genkotsu Yama no Tanuki-san"(げんこつやまのたぬきさん...The Raccoons of Genkotsu Mountain)which was written by Yoshiko Koyama(香山美子)and composed by Akihiro Komori(小森昭宏)in 1973, and features a mother-and-child raccoon duo.

Then, there is "Onigiri Kororin"(おにぎりころりん...Rolling Riceballs)which was also created by Komori with Michio Mado(まど・みちお)providing the lyrics about all those rolling rice balls. Love my onigiri...especially when it has either salmon flakes or bonito flakes soaked in soy sauce!

So, from those two children's songs arose the epic "Genkotsu Yama no Onigiri-sama"(げんこつやまのおにぎりさま...The Riceballs of Genkotsu Mountain). And here I thought that "Zai Kuntong Shonen" was the centrepiece of the album. "Genkotsu Yama no Onigiri-sama" not only beats that song by over a minute but it's truly a crazed roller coaster ride combining Yano's inventiveness, YMO's bleeps and bloops, the eerily amazing work by Hibari Jido Gasshodan(ひばり児童合唱団)and the guitar of Makoto Ayukawa(鮎川誠)from Sheena & The Rockets. I think out of all the tracks on the album since I purchased it, this has been the one that's gotten especially frequent attention by me. Usually when I think of children's choruses, tokusatsu hero theme songs come to mind, but here, the Hibari Children Chorus is more than happy to keep up with Yano through all of the musical zips and dips and their contribution is one of the reasons that I love this one. The other reason is how she is able to ecstatically steer this 7-minute-plus song through all of the happy technopop, prog rock, relaxing piano passages and funky excerpts of the two kids' tunes, especially the way she delivers that latter song almost like a hip-hop line.

Here is a concert version of my favourite new song on the album. 

And for that matter, "Gohan ga Dekita yo" has quickly become a favourite disc. It is that fortified package of what my image has been of Akiko Yano no matter what she did in the 70s and what she has done since the early 80s. Soaring, introspective, techno-cool, welcoming!

The End


  1. Love this album, Genkotsu yama no onigiri-sama is a marvel of a track. The composition is very layered, yet it has a pop catchiness that has me looping it over and over.

    Much love for your blog, thank you for sharing your knowledge and taste!

    1. Hi, John. Thanks for your comments. "Genkotsu Yama no Onigiri-sama" is a whirlwind of a pop song, isn't it? Take a couple of kids' songs and connect them with some cool arrangement and voila! Yano pulled it off with aplomb, especially with that kids chorus.


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