This has got to be the best thing since Duke Aces' 60th Anniversary album. There's Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) singing Oldies, what more could I ask for? Slightly more recent Oldies, that is. Mostly from the 50's and 60's, if I'm not wrong so at least I'm somewhat acquainted with some of the original singers. As you can see, Mae-Kiyo is a fan of Western (Pop) music, not surprising since he grew up in Sasebo, Nagasaki, one of those places in Japan where the US Navy was stationed after WWII, and I've watched a few videos of him happily singing the untranslated versions of songs by Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, etc. I have to admit his enunciation is decent, better than most I've heard from other Japanese singers, but not the best or "Yuzo Kayama (加山雄三) standard" - Kayama's a Green card holder, just so you know.
Anyway, let me list down the tracks from "My Favorite Songs":
1. Love Letters (Presley's version)
2. Live Young (Troy Donahue)
3. Louisiana Mama (Gene Pitney)
4. Cutie Pie (Johnny Tillotson)
5. Let's Make A Memory (Cliff Richard)
6. Unchain My Heart (Ray Charles)
7. Diana (Paul Anka)
8. And I Love You So (Perry Como)
9. Suspicion (Elvis Presley)
10. Lucky Lips (Cliff Richard... I think it's his version)
11. Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley)
12. Can't Help Falling In Love (Elvis Presley)
13. The Loco-motion (Little Eva)
14. Without You (Harry Nilsson's version)
15. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me (Elvis Presley)
Most of them are sung in English with varying degrees of clarity in his pronunciation and enunciation. I'm able to understand some without having to refer to the lyrics, but there are others that makes question marks pop up above my head... Lookin' at you "Unchain My Heart". Then "Louisiana Mama", "Diana" and "Heartbreak Hotel" are a mix of English and Japanese. If you haven't already noticed, Mae-Kiyo had sung a number of songs originally by Elvis the Pelvis. That's because he's a fan of the King, and he's mentioned and implied it a couple of times on episodes of "Nippon no Uta" whenever he's on the "Special stage" segment.
Now I'd like to talk about some of the tracks I enjoy the most from this album. I'm not able to find some of them (the Mae-Kiyo cover) online, so I'll just put down the originals instead.
First up is Presley's "Suspicion". I love the rhythmic score to this one, and when first heard this song - through Mae-Kiyo, of course - I thought that the more appropriate title for this hit should be "Paranoia". But when coupled with Maekawa's heartfelt and forlorn vocals, I can look past the main character's probably unfounded... suspicions and see that he's genuinely worried about losing his loved one. "Suspicion" was released Presley's 1962 album "Pot Luck with Elvis" and was written by Doc Pommus and Mort Shuman. It was actually made popular in 2 years later by this other guy who sounded like Elvis, Terry Stafford.
"The Loco-motion". Never thought that Mae-Kiyo would ever sing a song like that. And then again, just as Mom said, if he's able to sing ZOO's/EXILE's hit "Choo Choo Train" (I am not kidding), he should be fine with this. In fact, he pulled off this dance hit pretty well and I understood every word that came out from his mouth, so that's good. Although mostly known for being sung by Kylie Minogue in the 80's (for me, at least), "The Loco-motion" was first sung by Little Eva in 1962, then it was covered by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974. All 3 takes on the song appeared in the American Top 5. It was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Ah dang it. It's gonna be stuck in my head for a while.
Here we have another one by the King of Rock, "Can't Help Falling In Love". Its slow, Hawaiian-themed music just makes me imagine Mae-Kiyo by the beach at sunset lounging in a hammock with a leg hanging out and dressed in those tacky floral Hawaiian shirts as he croons. Maybe throw an Orchid garland around his neck for added tackiness. I came across this song many years ago while watching "Lilo and Stitch" on Disney Channel, and if my memory serves, this was played at the end of the movie... This song was written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss. Apparently, the music to "Can't Help Falling in Love" is based on a late 17th century classical French love song "Plaisir d'amour" (The pleasure of love). In the link above, you can see Maekawa trying to introduce dear Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし) to the world of Western music, but making him keel over instead by suddenly switching to "Uwasa no Onna" (噂の女) just as Itsuki was beginning to appreciate "You Don't Have To Say You Love me". That Itsuki-Sarcasm soon after was priceless. Maekawa properly sang "Can't Help Falling In Love" next, and it was where I had first learnt of Mae-Kiyo's love for Presley, and that he was capable of singing in English. One thing to note is that he had learnt how to pronounce "Whole" and "Meant" in the album version.
I would like to round off this article with my all time favourite Oldies song. And that is Paul Anka's "Diana", from 1960. This one was brought to me by Maekawa and Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三) on an episode of "Nippon no Uta" that aired 6 years ago. It was an amazing find, that video, as it showed the full "Special Stage" bit and all their comical shenanigans. And one of the songs that they sang was "Diana", half of the untranslated version, that is, so Yoshi only danced around and said "Diana" at the end. If you want to watch the full thing, you can do so via the link below.
Now comes the important question: Why is it my favourite? Simple. Because of the song's first few lines, which I find thoroughly amusing. The music is pretty fun too. Anka wrote and composed it, by the way.
I'm so young and you're so old
This my darling, I've been told
I don't care just what they say
'Cause forever I will pray
Sums up my preference for singers perfectly. Just got to change the name from "Diana" to- ... Uh, nothing... Wasn't going to say anything.
And yeah, I've been told time and time again that I like old artistes and have shocked many of whom I've told, like this Japanese lady who runs the flagship store (in Singapore) for this chain restaurant that sells ramen, Marutama - it's pretty good. Well, I didn't really tell her that, she just glanced at my phone's lock-screen (... ... Yes, he's there too...) while clearing the table - I was checking the time - then she said something on the line of, "He looks like a popular man in Japan." And that was when I told her that it was Mae-Kiyo. Just like Itsuki above, she almost keeled over. Man, I love it when they do that! I have a feeling that I'll see more of this reaction when I visit Japan again... and ask for... Mae-Kiyo posters... at those Enka shops... I'll be asking for others like Yoshi, Itsuki, Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし), George Yamamoto (山本譲二) and Teruo Ikeda (池田輝郎) anyway, so it's not that weird... right?
|Don't know why he said he didn't have many |
female fans back then, unlike Shinichi Mori. He
looks rather cute before (and after) the perm.