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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nona Reeves -- Yasumou, ONCE MORE (休もう、ONCE MORE)

Tokyo is a great walking city...provided you don't do the walking during the dog days of summer (at that time, you would most likely be melting). Neighbourhoods of many types abound such as ritzy Ginza and Akasaka, the older town of Sugamo, the Teen Mecca of Shibuya, and trendy Harajuku among others. Plus, there are smaller dense sections where I believe, due to looser zoning restrictions, establishments such as a coin laundromat can be squeezed between a Gundam figure shop and a convenience store. It's kinda like the Forrest Gump theory of that box of chocolates.

About 10 years ago, during Golden Week, I even decided to walk above ground along the length of the Ginza Line from Asakusa all the way to Shibuya. The subway would take 30 minutes to traverse from end to end; it took me close to 6 hours. My feet were reduced to stubs somewhere around Akasaka-Mitsuke, and they loudly vented their anger at me for the next couple of days of the holiday. But before the pain set in, it was a glorious sunny walk through many different areas of Tokyo.

I think in a way that is what the band Nona Reeves(ノーナ・リーヴス)is also espousing through their sunny tune, "Yasumou, ONCE MORE" (Let's Take A Break Once More). The fellow in the lyrics has kinda reached the end of his rope and wants to refresh his body, spirit and perhaps his relationship with his girlfriend. It's one of those happy ditties that encourages folks to stop and smell the roses once in a while. It surely sounds like something that would make a fine musical companion during a walk through someplace in the big city.

"Yasumou, ONCE MORE" is a track on Nona Reeves' 12th album "POP STATION" from March 2013 with vocalist Gota Nishidera(西寺郷太)and Naohisa Taniguchi(谷口尚久)taking care of words and music. Usually, I've heard the band go more into the funky side or a neo-City Pop mode but this one is just a pleasant straight-ahead pop song, and this time, each of the three members has his time behind the mike, so it is a nice thing that it was placed as the finale for the album. The album itself only got as high as No. 80 on Oricon, and the highest-ranking album that Nona Reeves has had to date is their most recent BEST compilation from this year at No. 46. It would be nice if the band could receive a little more love.

Then again, the Oricon rankings are one thing. Having a small but faithful fan base is another. So, as the band espouses in the song, let's not sweat things too much and just handle things as they come. It's a philosophy that I've been adopting for a few years now.

Do As Infinity -- Break of Dawn

Ahhh....yes. Staying out late with the gang during my university days and nights. Back in those crazy 80s and early 90s (my JET experience from 1989-1991 stayed those tendencies although the schools and Board of Education had their own periodic nights of carousing), there would be dinners out, karaoke, dancing, later meals and even having fun at friends' houses until the wee hours. Unfortunately but sensibly, I can no longer physically handle that sort of mayhem but it's still nice to remember some of what I can remember.

Listening to this song brought back those memories. I've been going through JTM's ginormous collection of music over the past several months, and I'm convinced that the adventure will most likely outlast my life expectancy. Still, it was good to come across a Do As Infinity album in there. And the band's title track from their debut album "Break of Dawn" (March 2000 release) is a short but sweet intro about having those good times and staying up long enough to see the sunrise.

Written and composed by the band, it's got quite the mellow hippie vibe as vocalist Tomiko Van(伴都美子)sings all of "Break of Dawn" in English. But before listeners forget that Do As Infinity is indeed a rock band, the guitars and drums come crashing in like thunder although that soft flute can still make itself heard. The album peaked at No. 3.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Keiko Tohyama -- My Guy ~ Cafe Sign(マイ・ガイ)

It took me the purchase of "Japanese City Pop" to find out that R&B singer Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama(当山ひとみ)even existed, and just out of pure luck, browsing through YouTube unearthed her older sister, Keiko "Myrah" Tohyama(当山恵子). There was some more digging for me to find out that Myrah was indeed Penny's older sister.

The anthropological dig continued as I gradually found out that perhaps the elder Tohyama released one single and one least. The one single apparently was released in 1984 and was titled "My Guy ~ Cafe Sign", a mellow ballad with a hint of Motown in its music and lyrics by Yoshihiro Yonekura(米倉良弘), the same fellow who came up with "Sexy Robot", Penny's song that I wrote about last night.There was one other person involved in the lyrics but unfortunately I couldn't read his kanji due to the size of the photo of the liner.

Myrah has a slightly higher voice than Penny, and she definitely has got that feeling of some of that 70s soul. "My Guy" is also a track on that first (and perhaps sole) album "What Can I Do?". From what I've read, both the single and album are the rarest of the rare.

Haruo Minami -- Tokyo Gorin Odori (東京五輪おどり)

Hard to believe that almost 4 years ago, I wrote about Haruo Minami's(三波春夫)"Tokyo Gorin Ondo"(東京五輪音頭)just when it was announced that Tokyo was indeed getting the 2020 Olympics. Well, last week, it was announced that an updated version of the song will be the official song for the Tokyo Games. No surprise, there...I was fully expecting that it would be used in some capacity at the Opening Ceremonies. With "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" as the official song, there would be no worries about tracking down hotshots from the recording industry to craft a new tune, and the 1963 song is overflowing with Japanese culture. Plus, it's festival season in Japan in the summer so it works in that sense, too.

As for those who might be disappointed in the decision, there will be other more contemporary songs being put out at the Opening Ceremonies, and I'm positive that each of the TV stations will have its own Olympics theme songs up and ready. Personally, I would still love to hear Yellow Magic Orchestra get together for one more go at "Rydeen" in the new arena or if Sakamoto and Hosono are not physically up to it by that time, maybe Yukihiro Takahashi and METAFIVE can take over. Just a thought💖.

"Tokyo Gorin Ondo" is already up here so to commemorate its status as official song, why not talk about the B-side? That would be "Tokyo Gorin Odori" (Tokyo Olympic Dance) which was written by Jun Kobayashi(小林潤)and composed by Yoshiji Nagatsu(長津義司), the same fellow who came up with another Minami chestnut, "Chanchiki Okesa"(チャンチキおけさ)all the way back in 1957.

Now, frankly speaking, the two songs "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" and "Tokyo Gorin Odori" are different but still quite similar in arrangement, and I cannot tell you the difference between an ondo and an odori. I know the latter means "dance", but the ondo also invites dancing. Perhaps the difference lies in the rhythm, but perhaps my two friends in the Japanese dance community, Laura and Aja, can set me straight on this question if they read the article.

In any case, going through the record's liner, I found out that "Tokyo Gorin Odori" had been produced for the Tokyo Haha-no-Kai Rengokai(東京母の会連合会...The Tokyo Federation of Mothers' Associations), and it's a similarly festive number by Minami. The liner even has illustrations on how to dance to both songs, and you can see the one demonstration for "Odori" above. I also found out that the original 45" cost all of 290 yen!

I didn't realize that the video I had brought in for "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" also contained the B-side at 3:55 so you can hear the original here as well. One wonders whether there will be similar instructions to dance at the Opening Ceremonies. Still, I can only imagine that Minami who passed away in 2001 may be looking down at Tokyo quite happily to see one of his famous hits being brought back again for another Olympics.

As a PS, apparently Teichiku Records decided to have the Vocaloid people come up with their own version of Haruo Minami, known as Haruo-roid Minami(ハルオロイド・ミナミ)last year. So, it was a foregone conclusion for "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" to be performed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Shizuka Kudo -- Trinity

For all these years, I've had a few of Shizuka Kudo's(工藤静香)CD singles but only one album by the 1980s aidoru superstar. And that was her 7th studio album, "Trinity" from March 1992, which after one or two listenings post-purchase, I placed it back on the shelves for years. I simply wasn't that much of a fan of hers for the album to merit multiple plays on the the time.

First off, though, I do feel that I have to go off on a tangent here since one of the things that I had long been wondering about was Ms. Kudo's vaunted English ability...well, that and her apparently mutant-like ability to stretch out the skin on her cheeks to Mr. Fantastic levels...but I will leave that one alone. Anyways, I did hear that she spoke English quite fluently and with an English accent, to boot.

Well, I took a look at the footage from the NHK variety program "Eigo de Shabera Night"(英語でしゃべらナイト...Can You Speak English?)that had its run during the 2000s. I used to watch it from time to time since there was a curiosity factor within me about which geinojin had that fluency in English....after all, I was teaching the language for a quarter of a century. In any case, Kudo made her appearance and I have to say that she was quite proficient (aside from the usual prepositional errors). If I were to place her in a level under NOVA, which was my old school in Tokyo, she would be around Level 4 or even Level 3 which is for an advanced student. As for any English accent...err, I don't really think so. However, I think she and Mr. Kimura could make a nice life of it here in Canada.

Back to our regularly scheduled article. As I said, "Trinity" came out in March 1992, and finally putting it back into the CD tray after so long, I realized that Kudo was pushing a variety of musical genres to the extent that I really started to wonder if she could really be categorized as an aidoru anymore although that's what J-Wiki is still pegging her as for this album. Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利), who was the composer for a number of her earlier hits, took care of the composition work and arrangement for all of the tracks.

The first track is "Mechakucha ni Naiteshimaitai"(めちゃくちゃに泣いてしまいたい...I Really Want To Break Down And Cry), her 15th single from January in the same year. This was the trigger for me to give another chance to "Trinity" since remnants of the song still remained in my memories over the years. Listening to it on the stereo and then seeing performances of it on YouTube, I discovered...finally...that it is quite the interesting mix of old-time soul and gospel with contemporary pop. I even get a hint of the old 1950s when I hear it as well. Longtime Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)associate Goro Matsui(松井五郎)provided the lyrics of heartbreak.

"Mechakucha ni Naiteshimaitai" did very well by peaking at No. 4 and ending up as the 73rd-ranked single of 1992. The song also got Kudo her 5th of 8 appearances on the Kohaku Utagassen that year. At a Hong Kong concert in 1993, the entire audience joined her to sing it which had her acting out the title.

Unfortunately, I think the first track is all I could find to represent "Trinity" on YouTube or the other video sites. However, there is the relatively generous Apple site.

Track 2 is "Moonlight no Sei ja nai"(MOONLIGHTのせいじゃない...Don't Blame It On The Moonlight), and I realized that this was the one other track from which I had some memory. Now, after some years of a jazz phase back in Japan, I appreciate this a whole lot more. Actually, it's more of a neo-swing jazz sort of fun. Matsui was also responsible for the lyrics of this song which brings images of an old-fashioned night on the town. Kudo also has a nice delivery here, reminiscent of a jazz chanteuse behind one of those ancient and huge stand microphones at NBC Studios in Manhattan.

"my eyes", Track 3, has Kudo plumbing closer to her old sultry style along with a 70s soul-rock feel. This was the Kudo that I was accustomed to hearing and seeing on the music shows back in the 1980s, and frankly the Kudo that I was afraid of crossing in a dark alley. Veteran Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)provided the lyrics here.

That's all I will do with "Trinity" right now since I am still in the process of re-acquainting myself with the album. Yup, once again, it's one of those albums that I have to come to appreciate with new ears, so it's not going back onto the shelf quite yet. Perhaps, then, I may be brave enough to try out Rie Miyazawa's(宮沢りえ)"Mu" again soon. In any case, "Trinity" reached as high as No. 3 on Oricon, and once I get more of a handle on the songs, I can do a follow-up or cover some of the tracks individually.

The above is a karaoke cover of "Mechakucha ni Naiteshimaitai" with its original arrangement.

Hitomi Tohyama -- Sexy Robot

About a couple of months ago when we were on that cruise in the Western Caribbean, I didn't find much different with the layout of the Harmony of the Seas (which is currently the largest cruise ship on the planet until the Symphony of the Seas gets its launch early next year) when compared to the Oasis of the Seas that we had shipped on a few years ago. Deck 5, which I guess would be called the Promenade Deck, had most of the shops that we remembered on the Oasis in the same positions on the Harmony. But there were two differences.

One was that the cupcake shop was no longer there (darn!). The other was that there was The Bionic Bar. Two robots, Bio and Nic, and a rotation of handlers took care of their share of the cocktails in one corner of Deck 5. It was one of the few instances that I had ever witnessed where the bartenders garnered more attention than the drinks themselves. And on the fourth day of the cruise, I finally relented, went into the bar and made my order via a Samsung tablet for a simple Rum and Coke.

Not quite sure who took care of my order, Bio or Nic. But one of them dutifully pressed out the requisite cola and double shot of rum, and poured the mixture into my plastic glass. I have to say that it was a good Rum and Coke....probably too good, though. I was fairly floating for the rest of the evening. And if I had stayed at the Bionic Bar, I probably would have found the (TORTURED SEGUE ALERT) robots sexier than the comely young handler/systems operator who handed me the tablet.

OK, first off...I have no idea how Japanese R&B singer, Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama(当山ひとみ)nor the creators of this song, lyricist Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composer Yoshihiro Yonekura(米倉良弘), came up with the idea for this song "Sexy Robot", the title track from her 1983 5th album. Perhaps they had some potent Rum and Cokes, too...or they were inspired by some of the robotic forms of breakdancing that were hot at the time in America and elsewhere.

In any case, it's an intriguing funky tune about someone who has apparently fallen for the Cybermen or the Replicants from "Blade Runner". And I can't doubt Tohyama's vocals which go all in for the song. Another notable observation is that she sounds quite a bit like another City Pop singer, Miki Matsubara(松原みき), with this particular song.

I'm sure with the pop cultural references of robots in Japan, there are most likely a lot of Japanese music fans who will listen to "Sexy Robot" and see the title, and figure that it's a most appropriate tune. For my part, I would just like to ask Tohyama and Kan about how the title and lyrics came about. There are many more R&B tunes from both sides of the Pacific that I would place higher than this one, but it's a pleasant enough ditty that does its part to add to the goofy and mystical side of Japanese pop.

My question is whether Bio or Nic was
able to pick up and drop the lemon wedge
into my Rum and Coke.

Hachiro Kasuga -- Yama no Tsurihashi (山の吊橋)

Hore yuuuraa yuuraaaaaaaa

Just last month, I was thrilled to able to live out one of my favourites by Hachiro Kasuga, "Yama no Tsurihashi", by standing and walking on a suspension bridge that happened to be in the mountains. The bridge I was on wasn't in the mountains of Japan, rather it was near Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada - close enough. While it was a little intimidating at first, considering how high the Capilano Suspension Bridge is from the ravine and the fact that it sways (just as Hachi sang), it turned out to be a quite an exhilarating experience - thank goodness I don't have vertigo. I likened it to walking on a boat. 

Not a fantastic picture, but you can kinda see the Capilano bridge.
Also, that was the biggest Canadian flag I've ever seen.

Anyway, coming back to the song itself, "Yama no Tsurihashi" is a rather jolly tune in terms of both its music and words. Kenji Yoshidaya (吉田矢健治), known for creating Kasuga-bushis, composed a lighthearted melody that moves along a steady rhythm which I equate to someone, perhaps a local villager or a tourist, taking a leisurely stroll, and the sharp blare of the trumpets and flute gives the impression that said person is in high spirits. Responsible for the lyrics was Hiroshi Yokoi (横井弘), and it could be about our main character observing those who cross the swaying suspension bridge. There's a hunter with his dogs going bear hunting, a girl who seems to be waiting for her lover to return from the city, and a charcoal maker who enjoys his sake. On a whole, "Yama no Tsurihashi" could be fit for a "Minna no Uta", with the scenes being played out in a colour pencil-drawn MV.

"Yama no Tsurihashi" was released in September 1959 and was one of Hachi's hits. I came across "Yama no Tsurihashi" along with Michiya Mihashi's (三橋美智也) equally jaunty, "Iwate no Osho-san" (岩手の和尚さん) via Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい) in that same episode of "Shin Nippon no Uta". You can check out Fukuda's version below. He did a pretty good job, though it sounded like he just managed to hit the lowest note.

Hmm, ASKAMae-KiyoTachi, then Ha-... ... OH, NO. Nah, just kidding. You thought Hacchan was my next muse? Pssh, t-that's... crazy!😰

Oh geez, it's high time a line be drawn.

Monday, July 24, 2017

(K)NoW_NAME -- Morning Glory

Going into the Summer 2017 season of anime, perhaps a lot of us fans may be going through "Little Witch Academia" withdrawal after that wrapped up its 2-season run. It certainly helped me since it bridged from the goofy and happy Winter stuff that we were seeing into the relatively more serious fare that we caught during the Spring.

But I've still ended up missing some of the Spring 2017 fare as well including "Little Witch Academia" although the new stuff right now such as "Made In Abyss" and "Action Heroine: Cheer Fruits" have been very promising. Plus, we have another anime that's been bridging the gap once more with a 2-season run, "Sakura Quest"(サクラクエスト).

As I mentioned in the article on the ending theme for Season 1, I compared the show to an anime version of a typical Fuji-TV live-action comedy-drama regarding the character of Yoshino who reluctantly ends up as the Queen of Manoyama, a rural town that has seen better days and needs a heavy dose of tourism and optimism to get back to health. At the time of writing that, I had just watched the first couple of episodes and since then, Yoshino and her newfound friends have had to come up with all sorts of crazy schemes despite the hard-bitten resistance from some of Manoyama's de facto leaders.

However, going into Season 2, it looks like the gang has slowly seen some upside to their efforts, and yesterday, my friend and I were able to see some of the past generation's youthful years to find out how they became how they are now.

The opening theme, "Morning Glory" has slowly grown upon me due to its hint of early 1970s pop/R&B (I'm reminded of the Jackson 5). As with the ending theme of "Freesia", it is performed by (K)NoW_NAME with the vocalist here being NIIKIE with members eNu and Makoto Miyazaki(宮崎誠)responsible for its creation. Listening to it, it does sound like the beginning of a brand new day in Manoyama...a nice jolt of orange juice or ocha to get folks up and at 'em.

I'll see how the opening and ending themes for Season 2 go.

Mariko Takahashi -- dear (Follow-Up)

Hope all of you had a fine weekend. Had my usual anime-and-food routine with my friend yesterday. I may have overindulged a bit with the noshing, though. A lot of protein in that round.

Anyways, one of the nicest things that I have discovered recently is that the folks at Apple iTunes have been uploading a lot of Japanese albums past and present online. Nope, it's not like the online music163/NetEase where you can hear the entire song. It's more along the lines of song excerpts but the length of time for each song is a fair bit longer than what I could get at, for example. Furthermore, especially when there are certain singers for whom only a few select songs get onto YouTube, the Apple iTunes site has been quite useful since there is more variety.

That is the one reason that I'm going over "dear" by Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)again. Another reason is that "dear" is the first album (Takahashi's 6th from April 1982) that I ever covered on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" all the way back in 2012, and, no pun intended, it is truly a dear album to me.

Along with the first article on the album, I have also covered certain other tracks from "dear" individually: "Stop My Love", "Farewell" and "Samba Magic" so you can all take a look at them, too. Basically, I'm just wrapping things up here.

The first song I will be covering is Track 3 as shown on the iTunes site, "See You Again...Kaze ni Kuchitsukete"(SEE YOU AGAIN ・・・風にくちづけて...Kiss The Wind). At first, I had been planning just to cover this one individually but realizing that Apple generosity, I decided to take on the remainder of the album. However, the reason I wanted to write about "See You Again" is that it is the very first Mariko Takahashi song that I ever heard, thanks to "Sounds of Japan" one night. That song, along with a few others by folks such as Iruka(イルカ)and Junko Yagami(八神純子)convinced me that there was interesting music beyond aidoru, YMO and enka.

Now, as I said above, Apple only provides snippets, as generous as those are. But since that snippet for "See You Again" is available enough, I can at least let you know and let you hear that discovery that was wondrous pop for me. I mean, it is a Western-sounding pop tune but I don't know I would have ever heard something like that in Canada or the United States. Written by Akira Ohtsu(大津あきら)and composed by Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロ), it is a melodic paean to the saying "Parting is such sweet sorrow". But it has quite the warm and lush arrangement with the Joe Group strings and the other musicians which frankly did bring the city of Tokyo into my head. And although unfortunately the instrumental bridge isn't included in the excerpt, the guitar solo is soaring. To my delight, I found out that the solo was by Fujimal Yoshino(吉野藤丸)who is already represented on the blog, and partially thanks to him and the beautiful voice of the singer herself, I determined that the works of Takahashi were meant to be further explored.

Yup, this is probably one of the longest opinions about a single song that I've ever written in an album article but "See You Again" was one of the linchpins for me where kayo kyoku was concerned.

Track 6 is "Chiisana Metamorphoze"(小さなメタモルフォーゼ...A Little Metamorphosis)is the perfect dusk/dawn song. I would probably go with dawn (although the lyrics have the setting of night) since Takahashi's delivery and the arrangement by Nobuo Kurata(倉田信雄), who also handles the keyboards here, hint at something wonderful coming over the horizon. Jake H. Concepcion provides another wonderful solo on soprano saxophone. Kingo Hamada(浜田金吾)came up with the slightly coy music while Yoriko Kido(城戸依子)provided lyrics.

Track 8 is "Tear", definitely a night time tune of sophisticated pop for broken hearts. Takahashi seems to love a number of ballads with strings.

The final track is "Hyoryusha e"(漂流者へ...To The Castaways)which always sounded like a lullaby to me. But it's one of those tear-inducing ballads about women being the ones who love while men being the ones who drift away for various reasons. I think the killer part is at the end when Takahashi and the music box both slowly turn down for the night...or forever. Ouch! Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)provided words and lyrics here.

Yup, as I said, they are just excerpts but hopefully they are long enough so that the album might be worth purchasing if you are a purveyor of the lusher and urbane side of Japanese New Music. A few of the tracks got me started on my path for appreciating Japanese pop music at last.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Naoko Ken/Kuniko Fukushima -- Bossa Nova (ボサノバ)

I took a look at that listing I wrote up on the Red and White teams for the 32nd edition of NHK's Kohaku Utagassen on New Year's Eve 1981, and I've written individual articles on some of the songs that were performed that night such as Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)"Natsu no Tobira"(夏の扉)and Hitomi Ishikawa's(石川ひとみ)"Machibuse"(まちぶせ). But the fact is that I haven't covered all of them due to failing memory.

One such song is "Bossa Nova" as performed by singer-actress-tarento Naoko Ken(研ナオコ). Listening to it again after so long, I remember that rock guitar starting things off. And as I heard the song, I realized that although there was some Latin, it didn't sound anything like a bossa nova tune at all.

In fact, I would say that it was straight-ahead City Pop. And looking at the lyrics (and music) by singer-songwriter Kuniko Fukushima(福島邦子), the bossa nova was actually a plot point and not the description of the melody. To explain, the story involved a woman remembering with a dollop of bittersweetness about the end of a relationship through a final dance to a bossa nova tune. In short, she would dearly love to get rid of the bossa nova from her memory. I think Ken's demeanor as she sang it above in the video pretty much said it all. I love the melody and her smoky vocals.

"Bossa Nova" was Ken's 28th single released on December 21st 1981. I mentioned the exact date since she did get onto the Kohaku a mere 11 days later so I'm kinda wondering how she was able to get onto the NHK stage in such a short time especially when the single got no higher than No. 69. Not that I'm complaining too much since my re-acquaintance with the song has me enjoying its City Poppiness.

The single was also on Ken's 9th album "Renairon"(恋愛論...Theory of Love), a collection of cover singles released in November 1981.

And that brings me to my next point in that Ken's single was indeed a cover of the original single by Fukushima herself. In fact, "Bossa Nova" was her 4th single from 1979. Judging from her performance on Fuji-TV's "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ), the original version by the Okayama-born singer-songwriter had that same Latin-tinged City Pop feeling but was lacking that oomph of the electric guitar in the intro and perhaps those smoky vocals of Ken. Still, her style is reminiscent of Junko Yagami(八神純子)and early Miharu Koshi(越美晴). The song was also on her 2nd album "To" from May 1980.

I'm glad that I was finally able to get this article about a Kuniko Fukushima song on board since I had come across another song by her in the past several months but have yet to put it onto the blog. Now I've gotten that kick to put more of her material into play. Born in 1954, she debuted in 1978 and released 15 singles and 11 albums. Along with Naoko Ken, Fukushima has also provided songs for other acts such as Anri(杏里), Checkers(チェッカーズ)and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜).

According to her J-Wiki profile, she is a writer but going to her official website, apparently she is still giving concerts even in the United States and teaches piano and voice.

Agnes Chan -- Hoshi ni Negai wo (星に願いを)

In tribute to Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃)who passed away in the last 24 hours, I've already written about one of his songs as a singer in the 1950s. However, I also want to pay my last respects through one of the many songs that he had written for others.

Therefore, who better to select than Agnes Chan(アグネス・チャン)since Hirao was the one who brought her over from Hong Kong, where the singer had already become famous, to Japan. Hirao also helped create four of her tunes, including her hit "Sougen no Kagayaki" (草原の輝き).

Another song that can be included in that quartet is "Hoshi no Negai wo" (Wish Upon A Star) which was her 5th single from February 1974. Another typically bubbly and bouncy number for Chan, the lyricist was Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ)who had also written the lyrics for "Sougen no Kagayaki". I realize that Hirao whipped up songs for so many singers but it was hard for me to imagine that a rockabilly singer such as this fellow was able to create such 70s aidoru-tastic tunes like this one.

"Hoshi no Negai wo" went as high as No. 4 on Oricon and finished the year as the 26th-ranked single. I'm positive that the next "Uta Kon"(うたコン)will be providing some news and tributes to Hirao on Tuesday night so perhaps I won't be surprised if Chan or enka singer Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし)appeared on the program.

Masaaki Hirao -- Diana (ダイアナ)

The announcement came out just a couple of hours ago so I think the folks in Japan are still getting the news although I've read a few YouTube comments here and there. Sadly, singer-songwriter Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃)passed away on July 21st at the age of 79 due to pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital.

Hirao was definitely one of the big songwriters for the kayo age, and along with other songwriters such as the late Yu Aku(阿久悠)and Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆), the list for his songwriting contributions to the plethora of singers over the decades on J-Wiki is so large that it has to be alphabetized. However, all the way before he started becoming more well-known as a composer, he was one of the big rockabilly singers during the 50s and 60s.

One of his earliest singles as a singer was a cover of the classic "Diana" originally by the Canadian-born singer Paul Anka. Created by Anka and Joe Sherman for release in July 1957, the Japanese version was released in 1958 with King Records director Go Makino(牧野剛)providing the Japanese lyrics under the pen name of Takashi Otowa(音羽たかし). Listening to Hirao's version, the lyrics come off as being a little stumblier than with other Japanese-language covers of American pop at the time. However, there's no doubt that Hirao had the golden voice.

Although Hirao didn't perform the song each time he came onto a music-variety show, it was still enough that I always pegged him as much as the Japanese "Diana" guy as I did peg him as the fellow behind the duet for "Canada kara no Tegami"(カナダからの手紙). And I think he really enjoyed performing it at concerts and TV shows.

We've had a few kayo songwriters pass away during the existence of this blog, and yesterday, we lost another one of the major composers for the old music. However I am grateful for the many many songs that Masaaki Hirao left us whether it be in the pop, aidoru and anison genres. May he rest in peace.

I also wrote up a Creator article on him last year so there is some biographical information about him there along with a number of his other creations, thanks to J-Wiki.

You can take a listen to the original by Anka.

ASKA -- Too many people

It's already been four years.... Imagine that being said in the low, husky voice of Ryoko Kinomiya (来宮良子).

Okay, it may be a tad dramatic to want to have sentence read by the late "Enka no Hanamichi" narrator, but that was what came to mind the moment I saw that ASKA was making a comeback after said period of time.

Actually, I was a lot more subdued than I thought I'd be at first, considering the fact that I used to be nuts over this half of the popular duo. Remember some of those nutso Mae-Kiyo or Hiroshi Tachi/Itsuki articles I wrote? Yeah, it was pretty much on the same caliber. But I guess with me shifting most of my attention to other artistes and falling down the enka-yo watering hole, it's probably no wonder my reaction to the singer-songwriter's anticipated return was more on par with encountering and then greeting a long lost acquaintance with a little smile, albeit a happily surprised one. I wonder if it's also due in part to that slight underlying paranoia I have that history might repeat itself and he'd end up in even more trouble than what had happened 4 years back. I really, really hope that he's turned over a new leaf, and will remain more stable now.

That, however, didn't stop my excitement levels from going through the roof when I finally retrieved "Too many people", as well as a Haruo Minami (三波春夫) twin-pack, from the post office after my vacation in June.

Here's the track list for "Too many people":

2. Be Free
3. Rehearsal (リハーサル)
4. Tokyo (東京)
5. X1
6. Sore de Iin da Ima wa (それでいいんだ今は)
7. Too many people 
8. To, Iu Hanashi sa (と,いう話さ)
9. Genki ka Jibun (元気か自分)
10. Toori Ame (通り雨)
11. Shinjiru Koto ga Raku sa (信じることが楽さ)
12. Mirai no Kunsho (未来の勲章)
13. Shabon (しゃぼん)

On a whole, I find that the tracks in "Too many people" very listenable and a whole lot more exciting than those in his previous original album,"SCRAMBLE", as they incorporate more of ASKA's different musical styles over his career rather than just being too 'one note', if you know what I mean. I've also noticed that the lyrics he penned for most of the songs seem to highlight his road to recovery and possibly giving reassurance to fans that he's fine now.

Moving on to the notable tracks, the first tune I'd like to talk about is track no.7, "To, Iu Hanashi sa".

Whoa, that coat looks like the one in the "Naze ni Kimi wa Kaeranai" (なぜに君は帰らない) MV.

"To, Iu Hanashi sa" was the first of ASKA's recent works I came across a few months ago after what seemed like an eternity. Admittedly, there was a hint of trepidation mixed into the eagerness when I saw the unfamiliar thumbnail and title, probably because of what I mentioned at the start of the article, but that disappeared as I watched the MV. Cool would be the word I'd use to describe "To, Iu Hanashi sa" and its monochrome MV featuring the guitar-wielding ASKA and his band. I don't know what's being sung, but I do love the way how each verse is being growled out with the boisterous beat of the drums. The piano in the back during the intense electric and acoustic guitar-filled instrumental portions is also a great addition, as it provides a mellowness to a very brash-sounding tune. That bit reminds me of the arrangement of his self-cover of C&A's past hit, "Meguriai" (めぐり逢い). Overall, this was a pretty good way to bring ASKA back into my radar - yeah, he kinda fell out for a while...

It's been a while since I've seen him so jolly.

After "To, Iu Hanashi sa", I discovered more of the other tracks in "Too many people" through other MVs and a medley of the album, and the one I came to like the most was "Tokyo".

This one is ASKA's ode to the metropolis that is Tokyo. It's melody is bright and catchy, but the cherry on the cake here is the tolling of the bells, which are reminiscent of "YAH YAH YAH" or "Senten wo Homeru nara Yugure wo Mate (晴天を誉めるなら夕暮れを待て), and gives an airiness that are in most songs I easily gravitate to. This makes it quite the contrast to its album counterpart, "FUKUOKA", a soft and heartfelt ballad. I'm guessing it's because the latter is directed at his home prefecture, hence the nostalgia and sentimentality, whereas the former is where there were new experiences and when things kicked into high gear for him (maybe too high... Sorry, no pun intended...), hence the fun atmosphere.

Another song that's grown to be one of my favourites is "Mirai no Kunsho". I'm not able to find the original at the moment, so I've put up a pretty solid cover instead. My reason for liking it is similar to that of "Tokyo" in that it's jaunty and easy on the ears, plus there's this hint of hopefulness in it. I don't watch much anime, but I can imagine "Mirai no Kunsho" being an opening theme for one like "Natsume Yuujincho" (夏目友人帳).

Up to this point, I've largely been talking about the uptempo tunes, so I'd like to shine the spotlight on the slower paced pieces, starting with "Toori Ame", which sounds like it came right out from his 1998 album, "kicks". "Toori Ame" is a laid back and feel-good ballad with a nice acoustic guitar solo that's got a certain coziness to it, like when watching the downpour from the warmth and safety of your home.

Next is "X1" (pronounced as cross-one). I wouldn't consider this R&B-inspired song a favourite of mine, but I thought the title was interesting. Initially, I had no idea what a name like "X1" had got to do with anything, but considering how the lyrics have got to do with a friend (s) helping one through a rough patch (again with ASKA's own experience) and how the "X1" is incorporated into it, I have an inkling that "X1" is sort of a homophone for "close one". If my hypothesis is right, objectively speaking, that's an ingenious play on words... or sounds.

The aforementioned album medley.

Finally, out of all the the works in "Too many people", the one that I found the strangest and the one where ASKA sounded the most... distant, for want of a better word, was the one the album was named after. I don't exactly know what's going on in "Too many people", the song, either, somehow I feel that it lacks the warmth the other tracks have... Eh, maybe it's just me. You can sample the first bit of it in the medley above, and the rest of it pretty much sounds the same, just more fleshed out with the drums and bass joining the piano. It is pretty amusing to hear ASKA spitting out a whole string of words as fast as Minami in "Jan Naito Jan" though.

To round things up, here's some information about ASKA's 8th original album: It was released early this year on 22nd February 2017, and did well on the Oricon charts, peaking at 7th place on the Weeklies and selling around 22 000 copies within the first week it came out. If I recall correctly, there was an article on the Oricon site that mentioned ASKA planning to do an Asian tour, with Singapore included on the list. Oh geez, I hope that happens in the near future. Tom Jones and Rimi Natsukawa (夏川りみ) were great, but I'd like to see an artiste I love on stage here.

Well, I'll leave things off here for now. I might talk about the songs individually some other time, or maybe not, depending on whether I have the time.

In spite of that uneasy feeling, I'm still glad he's finally back.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Checkers -- Ano Ko to Scandal (あの娘とスキャンダル)

Long time, no see, Checkers! Welcome back. I still marvel at the old days of my 80s love affair with Japanese music through "Sounds of Japan" and my biweekly visits to Kuri the karaoke lounge in Yorkville. Checkers was part of those memories and another thing that impresses me is how these guys from Fukuoka captured the hearts of fans in Japan with their 50s rock-and-roll sound and their mix of preppie punk and belated New Romantic in terms of their fashion sense. Sha-Na-Na meets Culture Club, in a way. You can take a look at "Namida no Request"(涙のリクエスト)to try to understand.

I think I've covered most of the Checkers' songs that I knew from the above sources and beyond but there are still a few more to delve into. One song is "Ano Ko to Scandal" (A Scandal With That Girl) which perhaps didn't have as high a profile at Kuri as the other hits did, but I still know it for vocalist Fumiya Fujii's(藤井郁弥)delivery of "Wow Wow Wow!"

This was another hit tune as well as Checkers' 6th single from March 1985 concocted by the duo of Masao Urino and Hiroaki Serizawa(売野雅勇・芹澤廣明)who had also come up with "Namida no Request" as well as the band's previous single "Julia ni Heartbreak"(ジュリアに傷心). That song ended up becoming the No. 1 single of 1985.

(song starts at about 4:54)

With all of these songs about love in terms of happy romance or sad heartbreak, it's actually refreshing to find out that "Ano Ko to Scandal" goes off on a different tangent in that it has the theme of eloping...or perhaps the fantasy of one. The protagonist is massively envious about the girl of his dreams going out with another fellow and would like nothing better than to convince her of his charms and then flee out of town in unholy unofficial matrimony. One interesting point is that going through Urino's lyrics, it almost reads as if the lyricist had the climactic scene from "The Graduate" in his head when he was writing the words, although the melody comes from a time about a decade before the Dustin Hoffman movie.

"Ano Ko to Scandal" also hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and didn't do too shabbily on the yearly rankings as well, finishing 1985 at No. 5. However, it was never placed on an original album but there was an earlier version of the song which had the title of "Scandal Machi"(スキャンダル魔都...Scandal City of Evil)and was recorded onto Checkers' 3rd album, "Mainichi!! Checkers"(毎日!!チェッカーズ...Everyday!! Checkers)that came out a few months after the release of the official single in August 1985. The arrangement is basically the same but the lyrics are different in that the plot is now about paparazzi going for that salacious photograph. This was also another No. 1 album for the band.

Hi-Fi Set -- Hitokire no Koi (ひときれの恋)

When contributor nikala wrote up her article on vocal group Hi-Fi Set's(ハイ・ファイ・セット)"Sunao ni Naritai" (素直になりたい) from 1984 a few years ago, I gave my compliments since I hadn't known anything about what Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子)and company were doing during the 1980s. Basically all I had known was their early 1970s covers of Yumi Arai(荒井由実)songs and other tunes done in a style reminiscent of The Manhattan Transfer. Then there was my re-discovery of them (as evidenced through the above photo of my purchase of "White Moon") when I was on the JET Programme near the tail-end of their time together in the early 1990s with their more contemporary sound. As far as I was concerned, there had been this decade-long dark hole of perception as far as Hi-Fi Set until nikala wrote her piece.

Now I've come across another 1980s song, their 24th single to be specific, "Hitokire no Koi" (A Slice of Love) from October 1985. It's definitely quite an intriguing entry for the Set since it comes off as this hint of sophisticated French pop with jabs of contemporary synth and electric guitar. The music is from Masamichi Sugi(杉真理)while Akira Koizumi's(小泉亮)lyrics about not being yet ready to move on from a recent romantic breakup.

"Hitokire no Koi" was also a track on Hi-Fi Set's 14th album "Sweet Locomotion" from April 1986. May have to think about investing in a couple of their 80s albums.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Pen Friend Club -- Doyoubi no Koibito (土曜日の恋人)

It was back during my JET days that I discovered the term pen friend which was the Japanese term for pen pal. Seems rather quaint now for such an expression to exist considering that we are now in the world of e-mail and texting. And even back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I only communicated with my old friends back in Toronto by snail mail so my round-trip correspondence would usually take two weeks! Yes, I'm sure some of you young'uns reading this article are envisioning words such as prehistoric and Cretaceous.

But hey, this is the place for some of the old stuff, the old kayo, to come through. To emphasize my point that the Japanese of today still love their standards of yesteryear, I introduce the band The Pen Friend Club(ザ・ペンフレンドクラブ). According to their J-Wiki entry, this is a rock band that started up in 2012 focusing on 1960s music, specifically covering the material of The Beach Boys, Phil Spector and other artists who were into West Coast Rock. And on the Japan side of things, the band is also a big fan of Eiichi Ohtaki(大滝詠一)and Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎).

Ol' Tats still gets a lot of love from the fellows around him. Perhaps a number of anison fans may have discovered the wonders of Mr. Yamashita via Junk Fujiyama's(ジャンクフジヤマ)"Hoshikuzu no Pipeline"(星屑のパイプライン). Well, The Pen Friend Club, which has had a lot of members pass through its doors, has also given its tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter with its cover of "Doyoubi no Koibito" (Saturday is for Lovers), one of the finest and sunniest numbers that he has created.

I don't know which of the female members is providing the vocals for "Doyoubi no Koibito", but she does give it a lot of justice. Sweet and light...just the type of tone for a summer song.

The Pen Friend Club has released 4 albums since its debut and its cover of "Doyoubi no Koibito" was placed onto its third album "Season of the Pen Friend Club" in 2016. I also noticed that although it's said that they focus on the 1960s, the band has also covered songs by Elton John and The Captain and Tennille.

Teruhiko Aoi -- Futari no Sekai (二人の世界)

I was browsing through YouTube to track down that Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)ballad "Futari no Sekai", and discovered that there was at least one other song with the same title. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take care of this one by Teruhiko Aoi(あおい輝彦).

My knowledge of Johnny's groups and singers had extended as far back as the early 1980s with the Tanokin Trio. However, since starting up "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I have discovered that Johnny Kitagawa and his empire went back even further as far back as the 1960s with the band Johnnys. One of the members of the group was indeed Teruhiko Aoi.

Not long after Johnnys broke up in 1967, Aoi went ahead with a solo singing and acting career. He released his debut single, "Boku no Himitsu"(僕の秘密...My Secret)in 1968 but it would be a few years before his second single would come out. That was his "Futari no Sekai" (Our World) which was released in February 1971.

Used as the theme song for a Fuji-TV drama also titled "Futari no Sekai" which came out in December 1970, Aoi also had a supporting role in the show which depicted a young couple created from a chance meeting at a concert and then getting married a mere 3 months later. The theme song has Aoi singing from the guy's point of view as he pours out his love and devotion to the lady of his life.

I couldn't help but compare Ishihara's "Futari no Sekai" with Aoi's version. Whereas the former has that setting of a Ginza nightclub with two seasoned lovers with yen to burn, the latter has more innocent and naive partners making their new middle-class life.

As someone who used to watch a lot of "Tora-san" movies and other similar comedy-drama flicks with their soundtracks at the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre here in Toronto as a kid, and then hear some of the kayo on the stereo, I like the melody led by the strings and the other instruments that was created by Chuji Kinoshita(木下忠司). That's the nostalgia coming out once again.As for the heartfelt lyrics, they were written by Taichi Yamada(山田太一)who also came up with the screenplay for the drama itself. Finally, I gotta say that Aoi has got quite the nice voice.

On the Oricon charts, this was Aoi's first Top 10 hit as a solo singer as "Futari no Sekai" peaked at No. 3. Although it didn't make the Top 10 for 1971, it came close as it positioned at No. 13.

Yujiro Ishihara -- Futari no Sekai (二人の世界)

I think I deserve to slap myself with a Mood Kayo CD. It's been 30 years since Yujiro Ishihara's(石原裕次郎)passing and I forgot to mention something back on July 17th which was the date that he died at the age of 52 (which is what I will be in a few months). To be honest, for some reason, I had thought that he left this mortal coil on the 21st.

Well, allow me to make amends. Here is The Tough Guy's 2nd-most successful single of his career, "Futari no Sekai" from 1965. A very classic Mood Kayo with that hint of Latin, I would translate it as "Our World" instead of the literal "A World for Two" since the lyrics by Mitsuo Ikeda(池田充男)definitely have Ishihara crooning in the first person as he lovingly praises his lover in that expensive nightclub. Masayoshi Tsuruoka(鶴岡雅義)took care of the music. The interesting thing is that although it is the familiar Yujiro voice, it has yet to take on that baritone rumble from the 1970s. In fact, he even has a bit of a falsetto at the end of each verse.

The song also begat a movie of the same title the following year starring Ishihara and Ruriko Asaoka(浅丘ルリ子). It is described as a "Mood Action" flick which I think might be the same as a hard-boiled thriller. He certainly rocks those sunglasses in the karaoke video above. As I said, "Futari no Sekai" is the No. 2 song in his long discography as it sold about 2.8 million records. His No. 1 record, which sold well over 3 million records can be found here.

I'm sure in a number of bars, izakaya, nomiya and even karaoke boxes in Japan, this week has probably seen quite a few tributes to the The Tough Guy. Although I'm no whisky drinker, I will hold up a tumbler in his honour.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hiromi Ohta -- City Lights

Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美)may have been classified as an aidoru of the 1970s but I think as the 1980s drew upon all of us, she dabbled more and more into the urban side of music.

Case in point: "City Lights", an uptempo song that has that City Pop beat but still has those Ohta vocals to keep things a tad lighter. Written by Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)and composed by Kingo Hamada(浜田金吾), the latter who has quite the experience with the urban genre, the notable thing about "City Lights" is how Ohta tackles things a bit more forcefully here so I don't hear as much of that creamy lower register in her voice. Nope, it probably wasn't on the level of a single A-side but it's another pleasant example of the singer reflecting a genre that was hitting its stride at the time.

"City Lights" was a track on Ohta's 13th album "Juu-ni Gatsu no Tabibito"(十二月の旅人...December Traveler)that came out, logically enough, in December 1980. Apparently, it had initially originally been meant to be titled "Umi ni Furu Yuki"(海に降る雪...Snow Falling on the Sea)but someone decided on the change. No, it's not an important point but since J-Wiki did mention it, I thought I might as well provide some trivial trivia. In any case, Yamakawa and Hamada were responsible for almost half of the songs on the album.

Kenji Kondo -- Shirokuma Cafe Music Playlist Follow-Up (しろくまカフェミュージックプレイリスト)

Hump Day....actually, it was supposed to have been something else today. Unfortunately, my old friend informed me that he wouldn't be able to meet up due to sudden work obligations. And to compound things, it's rather too late to inform my powers-that-be that I'm available for work due to time sensitivity. However, I was able to make some lemonade out of lemons since I decided to cook for dinner on my own tonight. I'll be making my own Peperoncino Pasta for the first time since my Japan days so I picked up the ingredients an hour ago.

Now, one of my wishes when I get to Tokyo next time is to visit the actual Shirokuma Cafe in Takadanobaba. It's been open for a few years now and looking at YouTube, it looks like it's gotten its fair share of overseas customers since the anime has garnered a lot of non-Japanese fans, including yours truly. Let us hope that it continues to do so before I get there, so I'm appealing to anyone working at the cafe who may read this article: make a welcome for J-Canuck!

Well, I've decided to do a follow-up of sorts to the lovely anime soundtrack of "Shirokuma Cafe" that I first wrote about a little over a year ago. The one trigger for the follow-up was actually a statement at the end of the first article about my wish to find some hint of the glorious and hilarious music surrounding Penguin's supposedly successful attempts to court Penko-san.

I couldn't find a video with the actual track but I was able to find Episode 9 of the show which featured excerpts of "Romance Kumikyoku"(ロマンス組曲...The Romance Suite)from around 13:30 in the video above. The track truly is a sweet suite as composer Kenji Kondo(近藤研二)goes melodically through the highs and lows of love...the full track is indeed marvelous. The old-style jazz violin swoops and soars like a virtuoso Stephane Grappelli around the love struck yet ineffectual Penguin. In a way, it reflects the character's creation of a mountain out of a molehill in terms of a simple confession of love to Penko-san (buyer's remorse though much later); mind you, having been in a similar situation when I was a lad, I don't think I have any right to make fun of the bird.

Going through the comments for Hiroshi Kamiya's(神谷浩史)portrayal of Penguin, I still come across a lot of amazement about how the seiyuu for a kickass character in "Code Geass" could master what comes across as the Barney Fife (Google or YouTube him) of "Shirokuma Cafe".

I'm kinda surprised that I hadn't included this track in the original article but I guess since I had already included a couple of wistful tracks there, it was just as well. Anyways, this is "Onaji Hoshi wo Miteita"(同じ星を見ていた...We Were Watching The Same Star)which popped up in a number of the more introspective scenes of the show.

The other one is another funny tongue-in-cheek musical jab. Just like Kondo decided to take a poke at Arashi(嵐)and other male aidoru groups through "Yama Arashi Tonight!"(ヤマアラシ☆トゥナイト!), he also took on the tokusatsu theme genre with "Nankyoku Sentai Penguingers"(南極戦隊ペンギンジャー...South Pole Squad Penguin Rangers). There was a running gag during the later episodes of the show in which some of the minor penguin characters decided that they had to make a name for themselves in show business so why not become the first Antarctica-based superheroes? Cue the heroic synth-horns!

Allow me once more to end things with another post-credits routine by the main characters.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Milky Way -- Natsu no Hi no Koi (夏の日の恋)

Anyone who has reached my age must have heard the above song "Theme From A Summer Place" at least a few times through television or movies (including the titular 1959 film itself). Not only was the Percy Faith version from 1960 a smash hit on Billboard (stayed at No. 1 for 9 straight weeks), it has been used in a number of other movies and TV shows in the decades since, including one key scene from "National Lampoon's Animal House".

Little did I know that "Theme From A Summer Place" would even be adapted into a mellow Japanese AOR piece. But that's what happened when the band The Milky Way spearheaded by Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)and Kazuo Nobuta(信田一男)concocted their album "Summertime Love Song" in 1979. I have already written about the album in general several months ago and knew that most of the songs were breezy covers of AOR tunes, but hadn't known about this first track since it was titled in Japanese as "Natsu no Hi no Koi" (Summer Day Love); by the way, it's the first track.

I was accustomed to hearing Japanese covers of American standards from the 1950s and 1960s being released in those same two decades, but I guess this might be the first time hearing something like this made at the tail end of the 1970s. The somewhat dated kitschiness of the original (due to it being used in everything from the aforementioned "Animal House" to the 1989 "Batman" to the 2001 "Ocean's Eleven") has been replaced by a rather smooth sheen here, although admittedly for those who don't like AOR/Smooth Jazz/Yacht Rock, perhaps the arrangement might also be considered a bit kitschy. Hey, I'm fine with it.

Kinki Kids -- Flower (フラワー)

On last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), I was surprised to hear that one-half of the Kinki Kids, dark-haired Tsuyoshi Domoto(堂本剛), has been indisposed for almost a month due to a sudden bout of deafness in one ear. So it was only his partner, Koichi Domoto(堂本光一), present on the show. I hope Tsuyoshi-san is well on the mend.

I think until Arashi(嵐)was able to get on top of the Johnny's Entertainment heap, the Kinki Kids were the Johnny's group that I could reliably depend on for comic zingers as well as music. It explains how they were able to front a late Saturday night music variety show for several years way back when.

And around that time, the Kinki Kids came up with another hit from their 7th single "Flower". Released in May 1999, this is a very happy song with a slight reggae beat which was written and composed by the music group HΛL, and its memory came back to me when "Uta Kon" devoted a couple of minutes to a quick retrospective of the Kids' music.

(supposedly a cover version, but this guy sounds like the real McCoy!)

What I also found out is that City Pop guitarist Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)arranged the chorus sections. And even more importantly is that this was yet another Kinki Kids hit that reached the No. 1 spot. What I hadn't done in the previous Kinki Kids articles was mention that the Domotos have the Guinness record of scoring the longest consecutive run of No. 1 singles since their debut in history! Yup, they have released 38 singles including one that came out less than a week ago, "The Red Light", and all of them hit the top spot on Oricon. Not B'z, not Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)and not Hikaru Utada(宇多田ヒカル)can claim that record.

In its first week alone, "Flower" managed to sell close to 370,000 copies and overall sold a little over a million copies, their 4th million-seller. It would also become the 10th-ranked single of 1999. Plus, it was the song for ANA's Okinawa campaign.

"Flower" was also a track on Kinki Kids' 3rd album "C Album" which came out in August 1999. That album also hit No. 1 and went Triple Platinum, becoming the 28th-ranked album of the year.