As you guys all know by now, Maekawa's (前川) my favourite Kiyoshi. But... confession time... I actually prefer listening to Hikawa's (氷川) stuff a whole lot more. *Gasp* The latter's songs are more fun to listen to, okay? *Gasp* The number of albums and singles I have of his works are almost on par with Maekawa's. *Gasp* His coconut hair wasn't that ba- whoa, whoa, back it up. Who am I kidding? It was just as bad as Maekawa's perm. *Silence (?)*
Sorry, I just had to be dramatic there. But yes, I do find Hikawa's works to be more dynamic and exciting. As such, I tend to pick them very often and have quite a few of his CDs under my enka-yo collection - 4 singles and 3 albums to be exact... The numbers will most likely increase on my next trip to Japan.
After inspecting the albums I have, I've noticed a few things: 1. Fan service is a must and there are always a truckload of photos of the fellow included. His newer "Enka Collection" series even has a sticker of him included - I've been wanting to use the two I have, but I don't know a good place to stick them. 2. Half the album's tracks (usually about 6) consists of his original songs, and the other half would be covers of mostly enka or kayokyoku hits from back in the day.
From what I know, the albums don't usually follow a theme, with the exception of some of his earlier ones. Case in point, "Ginga ~Hoshizora no Akiko~", his 6th album from 20th November 2002, where all the tracks revolve around stars, one way or the other. It's cool title aside, the reason why I bought this album was because of one song and one song only, which I'll talk about in a while, but after sampling all 12 tracks, I'm glad to say that I enjoyed pretty much all "Ginga" had to offer, which is why I would like to share some of my favourites with you guys.
|Looked like the coconut hair became less coconutty by 2002's end.|
To get the ball rolling, here's the song list:
1. Hoshizora no Akiko (星空の秋子)
2. Furusato Ichibanboshi (ふるさと一番星)
3. Nagareboshi (流れ星)
4. Hokutosei (北斗星)
5. Hoshizora no Romance (星空のロマンス)
6. Yume Ginga (夢銀河)
7. Hoshikage no Waltz (星影のワルツ)
8. Hoshi no Flamenco (星のフラメンコ)
9. Miagetegoran Yoru no Hoshi wo (見上げてごらん夜の星を)
10. Hoshikuzu no Machi (星屑の町)
11. Yozora no Hoshi (夜空の星)
12. Subaru (昴〜すばる〜)
Tracks 1 to 6 are originals and tracks 7 to 12 are covers. The covered songs all have an article on them, so you can check out the original takes in the links.
Another thing I must note about "Ginga": Because it's from early in Hikawa's career, his vocals were considerably higher and a little on the strident side, and his delivery was more deliberate. Can't say I'm a big fan of that, especially when he tackled certain songs in the list in that manner, and I much prefer his current delivery, but I guess I can mostly overlook that as, like I just mentioned above, I like the songs here.
Well, anyway, let's get to the tracks, shall we?
Wa-hey, look at 'im go! It's Hikawa doing the Chicken Wing. And boy, that outfit... First up is "Hoshizora no Akiko", and yes, this was the song that made me purchase "Ginga". Set in Kyushu, "Hoshizora no Akiko" is about our character pining for the titular Akiko, of whom he's reminded of whenever he looks at the glittering stars above. This is backed by a toe-tapping, glitzy disco score. Despite sounding like it came from out from the 70's or the 80's, I cannot deny how catchy it is and, of course, the chicken dance thing he does every time for this song is quite amusing. Putting "Hoshizora no Akiko" together were lyricist Toshiya Niitani (仁井谷俊也) and composer Hideo Mizumori (水森英夫), both of whom would collaborate with Hikawa on numerous occasions over the next decade to churn out more hits.
Up next is track number 3, "Nagareboshi", which is very much on the forlorn side of things with Hikawa's heartbreaking delivery. It's enka score is given a folksy edge with the harmonica and deep notes of the acoustic guitar in addition to the smooth strings. You can imagine the fellow wishing upon a shooting star with watery eyes for the happiness of his loved one he left back in the countryside. Unfortunately, I'm unable to find the original version, so I've put up one of the few karaoke versions available. Mizumori had also done the music for "Nagareboshi", and writing the words was Reiji Mizuki (水木れいじ).
Coming back to something upbeat, here's "Hoshizora no Romance" with its Broadway flair. As I listen to this entry in "Ginga", I can easily envision Hikawa in a proper tux and top hat prancing around the stage while spinning a cane - somehow I have a feeling that he's done something like that at some point in his career. Anyway, I actually like the enka singer's greener vocals for this particular song as it better portrays the optimism and slight trepidation a young man would feel as he attempts to propose to his one and only... under the starry night sky. Yeah, I'll admit it, this is a really cute song. Penning the lyrics was Megumi Oda (小田めぐみ) and composing the score was Akihiro/Akira Otani (大谷明裕).
The last original song in "Ginga" is "Yume Ginga", and it's probably my favourite in the entire album. It starts off soft, like you've just seen a couple of stars softly glowing as you walk through an empty field, perhaps doing some self-reflection. And then as the strings and backup vocals swell and become dramatic, it's as if the constellations and galaxies that have been hiding from plain view have finally made their presence known, lighting up the sky in their shiny and colourful glory... Well, that's what always comes to my mind. "Yume Ginga" also gives off that adventurous vibe - like there's still a whole lot of stuff out there (on earth or in the infinite cosmos) to explore and experience. This song was brought to you by Niitani and Mizumori. I may not be a fan of space, but somehow I enjoy the shout outs to the constellations and galaxies, like Andromeda and Orion.
Now for the covers half of "Ginga". This is where I don't take to Hikawa's choppier and blaring delivery as well. I just thought that some of these songs should have a more delicate touch to them, but that was his style back then and, admittedly, it wasn't that bad. Also, I do appreciate the arrangements of the old melodies - it's like having a newer twist in the original flavour. Perhaps the track that I don't particularly mind his green vocals as much is in "Hoshikage no Waltz" as Masao Sen (千昌夫) has got a pretty choppy delivery too. Hikawa was also able bring out the angst in the chorus well too.
I'm extremely picky with renditions of "Hoshikuzu no Machi" for reasons I believe I've mentioned before, but I found Hikawa's take on Michi's jazzy classic alright. Very loud, but alright - it's one of the better ones I've heard.
Having Shinji Tanimura's (谷村新司) triumphant "Subaru" is a good way to round things off for an album (and an article?), don't you think? I could also get behind Hikawa's rendition of "Subaru" like "Hoshikage no Waltz", but I would actually like to hear him tackle this with his current delivery for I think it'd make the song sound grander with his more mature voice.