I had some extra points in my CD Japan account following that spending surge on its website for Xmas, so of course, I took full advantage of my status and did a bit more shopping. One of the two discs that I trained my target scope on happened to the one pictured above: "Moonlight Island" by husky-voiced Haruko Kuwana（桑名晴子）. I first saw this listed in "Japanese City Pop" and wondered about the tracks in it. Looking at the cover, I had also assumed that the designer must have pulled out part of a photo of a bathing beauty from the 1940s....except that it was actually the lower half of Kuwana herself (oops!). In sheepish apology, I do have to say that she had nice gams in that photo.
"Moonlight Island" was Kuwana's 3rd album from 1982, and it is an album of cover songs of New Music material given an urban sheen. The one reason I decided to pull the trigger on this one was on the strength of her cover of Bread & Butter's "Ano Koro no Mama" （あの頃のまま）which I found on YouTube and is one of the tracks of this album.
Another winning track is her version of the New Music/City Pop classic, "Downtown" originally by Tatsuro Yamashita（山下達郎）and Ginji Ito（伊藤銀次）. The video above is actually another songstress doing the Kuwana version (a cover of a cover, as it were), but notice that I did not use the word "unfortunately" at the beginning of this sentence. It is a good take of how I heard it in "Moonlight Island". The Kuwana version is in English (lyrics by Linda Hennrick) and skews a bit more to the 1975 Yamashita arrangement rather than the 1980 update for EPO's debut. Still, no complaints from me here though when push comes to shove, I'll always go with the Princess of City Pop.
"I Love You" is a track that was written in English in the first place as a B-side to soulful Hiro Tsunoda's（つのだ☆ひろ）1973 single, "Mary Jane". Tsunoda was the composer here with Christopher Lyn as the lyricist. Kuwana does a fine job with her vocals, and liner notes in her album mention that this is probably not the only time that "I Love You" has been covered.
Another lovely ballad from the album is "Yoru no Umi" (夜の海...Night Ocean) which is a cover of her late brother's (Masahiro Kuwana...桑名正博) song from his debut album "Who Are You?" (1976). Much like the rest of the songs on "Moonlight Island", Halko's version has that soiree feel of 80s City Pop compared to her brother's quiet Latin-tinged original. But after listening to the live version above, you can listen to both siblings' takes in the video below. By the way, Halko was the backing vocal on Masahiro's original.
Considering my early impression that this was a pretty rare album, I think I'm pretty lucky to have been able to find the videos for the tracks on "Moonlight Island". Like any new purchase, some of the songs leaped right out at me while others I'll have to break in gently. Still, I'm happy to have spent my points on Haruko. I may even be interested in investing in her debut album from 1978, "Million Stars".
|My two new purchases, Haruka Kuwana|
and Ginji Ito