I'm kinda going out on a limb here but I'm pretty sure that I'm the biggest Ruiko Kurahashi（倉橋ルイ子）fan east of Saskatchewan. And as such, I've viewed my fair share of Ruiko album covers over the years. My usual impression has been that one of my favourite singers in the kayo kyoku/J-Pop realm wasn't all that much of a smiler. In fact, my default image of her is of the ennui-laden face topped off with that short haircut even now.
But when I bought a used version of Kurahashi's 1988 album, "Jun'ai - Kono Ai ni Ikite"（純愛～この愛に生きて...Pure Love - Live Through This Love）at Tacto, I was rather surprised to find a truly girlish...even coquettish...figure SMILING back at me shyly. OK, I thought....who is this woman and what did she do with MY Ruiko-chan?! All kidding aside, I figured she must have finally met her Mr. Right or something, and I think I heard somewhere that she did tie the knot at around this time. The above photo has her looking somewhat matrimonial...or prepped as a spectator at The Kentucky Derby.
In any case, I wanted to feature one song from that album, "Anata shika Mienai" (I Can Only See You), which is this dream-like romantic ballad written by Kyoko Matsumiya（松宮恭子）and composed by Keiichi Oku（奥慶一）. Both songwriters have helped many, many singers over the years with Matsumiya having written Mizue Takada's（高田みづえ）"Namida no Jiruba"（涙のジルバ）, and Oku creating the music for Hiromi Iwasaki's（岩崎宏美）"Kesshin"（決心）.
The arrangements may have been contemporary for the time but Kurahashi sings about the timeless ache of being in love with that someone...something that is in her skill set. She may have changed her looks for "Jun'ai" but her heart-on-a-sleeve vocals definitely do not. If one wants some release from listening to aidoru, then look no further. Kurahashi is her name, and looking through rain-spattered windows is her game.
The interesting thing, though, is that her next album ("Out On A Limb"...and yep I was being cute with my turn of phrase at the beginning there) three years later in 1991 had her go back to the other end of the spectrum...and beyond. Kurahashi was sporting a Marine buzzcut and some pretty masculine clothing.