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, October 28, 2017

J-Canuck's Favourite Albums...Period

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by one commenter about what my favourite albums in Japanese popular music were. I had to admit that I hadn't really given it much thought, weirdly enough. Yet, we have all these lists categorized into Author's Picks with me giving my favourite songs by decade and genre.

One reason that I hadn't given out such a list up to now is that there haven't been any albums in many years that I consider to be go-to heavy-rotation releases. My collection is so large now that my attention has been pulled into so many directions in terms of what I would like to listen to. Plus, I was never one of those guys who would play a record or CD several times a day over and over again. In fact, when one of my high school buddies played his album three times in a row on my stereo, I got annoyed (good golly, dude, let the record breathe!).

Still, I can say that there are albums and tapes (bought from Wah Yueh) that I did listen to frequently back in my university days as I pulled off an all-nighter. And in recent years, there have been albums that I've purchased which bring to mind the statement "Yeah, that is an overall excellent album! Not a poor track to be found."

So as such, I've scrounged around my mind to think of some of my favourites over the past 30+ years. All of them have their own articles on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" so I won't say much more over here since I will leave the usual links. I just want to acknowledge them as some of my well-liked touchstones.

1. Akina Nakamori(中森明菜) -- Bitter and Sweet (1985)

Akina fans have their own opinion about which Akina album is their personal favourite. Mine is this one and I think "Bitter and Sweet" is the album that finally put her over the top from popular aidoru to pop superstar. Her voice and the work of several amazing songwriters can be thanked here.

2. Akiko Kobayashi(小林明子) -- Kokoro no Mama ni(心のままに) (1986)

Along with "Bitter and Sweet" above, Kobayashi's 2nd album was the tonic to help me stay up at night while ripping through textbooks and theses. Aside from one track that hasn't dated well, this is one fine release that could answer the question of "If Karen Carpenter learned now to speak Japanese really well and decided to record an album, what would she make?"

3. Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)-- Starting Over (1994)

Thanks to my cousin sending an audiotape containing this album, I was stoked enough to get the full CD a few years later. I found out about this in the 90s so this was never an all-nighter album but I do remember listening to "Starting Over" over and over again. The title track was quite the impetus.

4. Sing Like Talking -- Discovery (1995)

As I explained in the original article, "Discovery" was initially a case of mistaken identity that truly became a wonderful discovery. This is how I found out about the wonders of Sing Like Talking as they covered genres such as R&B, AOR and perhaps some 90s City Pop.

5. Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)-- Dear (1982)


I've mentioned this before but Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)was one of the first singers to make me realize that Japanese popular music wasn't all about enka and aidoru. For contemporary pop of that time, "Dear" is one of the albums to get. I also realized that she has had one of the best sets of vocal cords in the nation.

6. Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) -- Aventure (1981)

This was a tough call to make since I think basically all of Ohnuki's solo albums from "Sunshower" to "Signifie" (and beyond) are all entirely listenable. However, I've decided to go with "Aventure" since she seemed to go into all sorts of directions whether it be technopop, Latin and French pop. It really is an adventure.

7. Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)-- No Side (1984)

Again, another difficult choice to make due to the vast discography that Yuming(ユーミン) possesses although for me, her best work was in the 70s and 80s. Ultimately I went with "No Side" since pretty much every track on the album is great and the emotions range from sad and introspective to fun and perky.

8. Anzen Chitai(安全地帯) -- IV (1985)

Another all-nighter album, Anzen Chitai had me right from the opening track "Yume no Tsuzuki"(夢のつづき)right to the end. Plus I can say that half of the album got heavy rotation on the karaoke circuit at my old haunt of Kuri back in those 80s. I don't doubt that the ballads on "IV" probably had listeners melting and mewing like kittens (not me, though, since I was too busy writing my thesis on Japanese politics...yeah, that's the ticket).

9. Takako Mamiya(間宮貴子) -- Love Trip (1982)

My final choice is just one representative from the wealth of City Pop albums I've encountered over the past several years but it is basically the first that I truly wanted as one of the rarest of the rare although it's been getting much love on YouTube recently. The tracks all range from pretty good to dreamy, and the title track has that arrangement that can have an 80s AOR fan swooning. As I stated from the top, I've never been much for playing a disc repeatedly ad nauseum, but with Takako Mamiya, whenever I come across the album while working, I'm more than happy to give it a spin to the end.

Well, those are my favourites. Of course, given time and money, the list can all change next year. But as you can see from my nine above, I am hovering over the urban contemporary genre as my type. What are yours?

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