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, June 1, 2017

Akina Nakamori -- Cross My Palm

Well, it took a while. Actually, it took about 30 years. After deciding to try "Crimson" during Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)era of "experimental" albums and realizing that it wasn't such a bad album after all, my conscience said that I should be even braver and pull out the LP of her next album "Cross My Palm". Coming out in August 1987, this was Akina's 11th studio album and her first totally English-language release.

I found this at Wah Yueh in Chinatown and I almost passed it by since I couldn't quite recognize that lady smoking in the alley as Ms. Nakamori. But when I did finally recognize the lass, I was intrigued enough to plunk down my Canadian bucks.

Like with "Crimson" the first time, I wasn't all that thrilled with the new direction and different style of vocals that the Tokyo-born singer brought. And to be frankly honest, I didn't find her English enunciation to be all that grand, so after a few rounds on the old record player, "Cross My Palm" was relegated to the rack to gather dust.

As the title card in a movie would say....THIRTY YEARS LATER. So two stints in Japan and a lot of CDs later, and with that purchase of a TEAC record player, I took the New York-recorded "Cross My Palm" out of the sleeve and put it under the needle. In fact, in the past few weeks, I've played both sides of the LP twice to get to know it again. The result is that the feeling of redemptive delight that I had for "Crimson" wasn't nearly as soaring for "Cross My Palm". It's still not a great album for me and a lot of it is due to the fact that I'm still not a fan of Akina when she goes into that vocally quavery style.

Still, some of the nostalgia factor has kicked in and I now appreciate some of the music that went into the tracks. For instance, the title track has that European New Wave-y feeling thanks to Chris Morris' composition with Barrie Corbett and John De Plesses providing the lyrics. And to be honest, even with my harsh attitude toward her vocals on the album, I've realized that Akina sounds stronger in voice here than I had noticed before.

One of the tracks on "Cross My Palm" is titled "Modern Woman" which I did like. However, I couldn't find Akina's rendition but I did find the original version, "Femme d'aujourd'hui" by French singer Jeanne Mas. Having appreciated Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)brand of European-styled pop over the past few years, I guess, has mellowed me out on "Modern Woman". Although Mas wrote the original French lyrics, Linda Hennrick came up with the English lyrics for Nakamori's cover. Romano Musumarra and R.Zaneli provided the melody.

"Honey, finally up? There's coffee, orange juice
and granola on the counter. I'm taking Bowser for a walk."

The trio of David Batteau, Danny Sembello and Gardner Cole came up with "Easy Rider". Sembello's brother, Michael, I know for coming up with "Maniac" on the "Flashdance" soundtrack which spent eons on the Billboard chart in the early 1980s. Again, Akina's delivery comes across as a bit molasses-y at points but at least her voice, to my realization, was going deeper here. The song sounds like something that I would hear as background music on an episode of some 80s cop show where the cooler-than-thou heroes would strut into a bar to find out where a particular snitch might be lurking. Ah,'s not the greatest song.

"The Look That Kills" by Biddu-Winston Sela is the original version of the Nakamori single "BLONDE" which is one of her singles that I really do love. As for the original version...not so much. The tempo is a little too sludgy and I think Akina is trying too hard with the high-pitched delivery. Satoshi Nakamura's(中村哲)arrangement of it into "BLONDE" brought a lot more snap and fun into the proceedings.

So that I don't end the article on a supremely sour note, I will finish things up with a track that I did fairly like, "My Position". Humecke, David Batteau and Robin Lane created this urban contemporary tune and again I have to admit that Nakamori has got some of those deeper tones back. Plus, her slinking about in the above video helps set the scene rather nicely.

However, you can see that I still have mixed feelings about "Cross My Palm" even after so long. And yet, I think I'm probably in the minority since the album did hit No. 1 on Oricon and ended up as the 19th-ranked album of the year. I'm not an optimist by any means but I can say that I could re-discover a few small gems even in here. Hey, if any of you Akina fans out there would like to chime in, please do so.

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