Caught my first "Uta Kon"（うたコン）in a few weeks. The theme was one that has popped up on the program a number of times in the past including when the NHK kayo show was titled "Kayo Concert"（歌謡コンサート）...all about ardent love. The show even had an actress give a reading of some messages of love from some famous folks such as novelist Soseki Natsume（夏目漱石）and songwriter Rokusuke Ei（永六輔）.
Most of the songs that were featured have already shown up on this blog so the one new tune that stood out to me was Chiyoko Shimakura's（島倉千代子）"Ai no Sazanami" (Ripples of Love) that first saw the light of day back in July 1968 as the single commemorating her 15th anniversary in show business. What was interesting about the song was that despite its categorization on the J-Wiki article as an enka song (and all the singers in this article dressed in kimono), I really don't think it sounds like an enka tune...or a Mood Kayo song, for that matter. I don't hear any Japanese instruments; it's a gently rolling piano and guitar anchoring the ballad. In fact, I think there is almost something downright Carpenters about it. According to that article, the backing chorus was actually recorded in Los Angeles at the composer's suggestion but I'm not sure if that meant that an American group of backup singers was hired or whether Japanese backup singers were brought into LA.
"Ai no Sazanami" was written by Rei Nakanishi（なかにし礼）and composed by Kuranosuke Hamaguchi（浜口庫之助）. Nakanishi definitely leaves the love out there for Shimakura to sing. The first verse is as follows:
If there is truly a god on this Earth
I want to die in your arms
Gently, gently kiss me
In that lone boat on the lake
Over and over, just like ripples
I think it was a good choice for the song to be presented, and it was a good opportunity to find out about this fascinating pop song of the times performed by an already well-regarded enka singer. "Ai no Sazanami" was a huge hit for the late Shimakura, becoming a million-seller. And if I'm not mistaken, with Oricon just starting out, it was the singer's first entry into those charts, topping off at No. 20 for 2 straight weeks. December 1968 was also a busy one for her since she won a special prize at the Japan Record Awards as well as gaining her 12th straight appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen.
Of course for such a lovely song, covers are inevitable and I found this really wonderful version re-arranged as an R&B ballad and performed by none other than Yumi Matsutoya（松任谷由実）, Kyoko Koizumi（小泉今日子）and Ann Lewis（アン・ルイス）back in the late 1980s.
Plus, there is Fuyumi Sakamoto（坂本冬美）providing her own version in 2006. But strangely enough, when I first heard the Shimakura original, I thought that "Ai no Sazanami" would also be an ideal choice for Kiyoshi Maekawa and The Cool Five（前川清とクール・ファイブ）to tackle.