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.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Works of Karuho Kureta(呉田軽穂)

I think anyone who has been reading this blog regularly over the years, especially the Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)entries, will probably cotton onto the fact that Karuho Kureta(呉田軽穂)is the pseudonym of singing and songwriting veteran-with-a-V Yumi Matsutoya (nee Arai)(松任谷由実・荒井由実). Writing an article in the Creator category about Yuming(ユーミン)was pretty much a must (especially after writing a BEST article on her not too long ago), but she's written a ton of songs for a good number of singers throughout the decades that I needed to narrow things down a tad. And I thought focusing on her works under the name Karuho Kureta (a cute little semi-pun on the late Greta Garbo when you read the name in the Japanese way) was a good way to do so. Naturally, Yuming has created songs for other singers under her real name, but for today, let's focus on Kureta.

Of course, the first time I noticed Yuming's seeming subterfuge was when I was writing about the various songs that she had created with lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)for Queen Aidoru Seiko-chan in the early 1980s. I don't have definitive proof but supposedly the reason that she came up with the pen name in the first place was that she had once declared that she would never write or compose a tune for an aidoru so that the name was a way of hedging her bets, so to speak.

In fact, there is that Seiko BEST album, "Train" which contains her tunes under Kureta-Matsumoto collaborations, but I still wanted to include another happy sunny song by them titled "Lemonade no Natsu"(レモネードの夏...Lemonade Summer). This was the B-side to Seiko-chan's 9th single, "Nagisa no Balcony"(渚のバルコニー)from April 1982, and in a way, my impression is that the Kureta oeuvre has frequently been about the cheerful and summery side of things, although her contribution to folk/City Pop duo Bread & Butter's "Ano Koro no Mama"(あの頃のまま)was definitely cooler and more introspective.

Speaking of Bread & Butter, Kureta provided just the lyrics to the duo's "Tobacco Road 20"(タバコロード20)on that fine album of theirs, "Late Late Summer" back in 1979; now, I really got to get that album considering that all of the Bread & Butter entries on the blog come from that one release. Along with the cheerful and summery melody by one-half of the duo, Satsuya Iwasawa(岩沢幸矢), Kureta writes about one-half of a couple letting the other half sleep contentedly under the summer sun, and there's definitely that relaxing feeling to it.

On the other hand, Kureta came up with the genki, genki music for Ikue Sakakibara's(榊原郁恵)15th single in March 1980, "Yay! Yay! Onee-san"(イエ!イエ!お嬢さん...Yay! Yay! Girl). Shizuka Ijuin(伊集院静), under her own pen name of Ayumi Date(伊達歩), was the lyricist here for this supremely happy-go-lucky tune with a bit of 50s/60s sax which fit the supremely up-with-people Sakakibara.

The one big surprise for me is Kureta composing a song for Toshihiko Tahara(田原俊彦)in February 1985, "Ginga no Shinwa"(銀河の神話...Galactic Myth). Usually when it comes to Toshi-chan as one of the Tanokin Trio, I usually envision him and his music bounding across the stage and bouncing off the walls on programs like the Kohaku Utagassen or "The Best 10", but his 21st single is a nice mix of his usual hyperactive stuff with a certain Yuming mellowness from the late 70s and early 80s. In fact, I could even imagine Yuming herself singing this in concert. The other big surprise is seeing J-R&B queen Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)being the lyricist. "Ginga no Shinwa", by the way, high-stepped all the way up to No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 84th-ranked song for 1985.

Kureta once again gave some 50s vibe albeit with some synths for then-budding singer Mariko Tone(刀根麻理子)with "Calendar"(カレンダー). I still don't have anywhere near a complete knowledge about Tone's discography but usually I think of her more in the urban contemporary or funk vein of Japanese music, but there was something distinctly old-style about this song whose lyrics were provided by Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼). "Calendar" came out as a track on Tone's debut album "Purple Rose" in 1985.

My final song just happens to be the first song that I came across when I was looking for the works of Karuho Kureta on J-Wiki. It looks like she and Takashi Matsumoto joined forces once more in August 2010 to create a gentle ballad, "Margaret"(マーガレット)for actress/singer Haruka Ayase(綾瀬はるか), her 4th single. I've usually seen Ayase through her work in dramas and as an often unintentionally hilarious guest on the variety shows but I wasn't sure about her musical output. However, at least with "Margaret", she sings just like she speaks. Her final single to date managed to get as high as No. 20 on Oricon, and she's apparently covered a couple of Seiko-chan's old tunes.

According to J-Wiki's article on Yuming, she's provided a number of songs for a variety of other singers, and those are the ones that have been listed. So my earlier assumption that Karuho Kureta was just a nominal excuse to write Seiko songs has definitely been smashed to bits.

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