Credits

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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Yukino Ichikawa -- Kokoro Kasanete(心かさねて)


As I mentioned last night in Kiyoko Suizenji's(水前寺清子)"Arigato no Uta"(ありがとうの歌), I did say that I would give a proper introduction to enka singer Yukino Ichikawa(市川由紀乃).



Ichikawa was born Mari Matsumura(松村真利)in Saitama Prefecture and at the age of 16, she won a karaoke contest sponsored by Saitama Shinbun after which she was scouted by a production company and in 1993, she made her debut as an enka singer with "Onna no Matsuri"(おんなの祭り...A Woman's Festival).

I think Ichikawa has become one of the mainstays of the current generation of enka singers alongside folks like Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)and Aya Shimazu(島津亜矢). She has certainly been a fairly regular presence on the kayo shows such as "Uta Kon"(うたコン). However, it wasn't until her 26th single in April 2016 "Kokoro Kasanete" (Give Me Your Love One More Time) that she finally got the nod from NHK to come on board the Kohaku Utagassen. I saw the moment on TV when her manager rushed into her dressing room to give her the good news; I thought she was going to end up creating her own lake from her tears.

Shinichi Ishihara and Kohei Miyuki(石原信一・幸耕平)were responsible for words and music respectively. What kinda surprises me about "Kokoro Kasanete" is how it starts off with a bang with that wailing electric guitar and then goes into a really blowsy saxophone solo that had me thinking either a Mood Kayo or a Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)number. Then it goes into its main melody of gentle enka as Ichikawa sings about a woman who is begging for some of that love back from her paramour who has gone cold.



"Kokoro Kasanete" has got quite that interesting balance of oomph with the guitar and sax and gentility with the usual instruments plus Ichikawa's voice. The song managed to get as high as No. 19 on Oricon, a personal best for the singer but on the enka charts, it reached No. 1 for the fifth consecutive time for her releases.

Yoichi Takizawa -- Leonids no Kanata ni(レオニズの彼方に)


Almost a year ago, I wrote about a new Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)song that I liked called "Memorandum"(メモランダム)that was recorded in the late 1970s, and on doing the search for any information, found out that it had originally been composed by a fellow named Yoichi Takizawa(滝沢洋一). At the end of the article, I mentioned that I would love to get my hands on the 1978 album that had Takizawa's cover of "Memorandum", "Leonids no Kanata ni" (Beyond Leonids). At the time, I had assumed that it was going to be one of the rarest of the rare (it wasn't even listed in "Japanese City Pop") but in actual fact, Tower Records had started releasing the CD version of the original LP since mid-2015. So, it became one of my purchases during my annual Xmas binge.


"Leonids no Kanata ni" was the only album released by singer-songwriter Takizawa although he did put out some singles afterwards. I think even looking at the cover of the man bopping about in the heavens, he kinda reminded me of Le Petit Prince, and so I was expecting to have a pretty interesting time listening to this. Incidentally, all of the tracks were composed by Takizawa although he shares lyric duties with a number of pretty bigwig writers.

The album starts off with a romantic and bluesy/jazzy number called "Saishuu Bus"(最終バス...The Last Bus)whose lyrics were provided by Junichiro Yamaguchi(山口純一郎). It seems to be about a fellow getting off that final bus for the night and schlumping his way home (yes, I definitely know the feeling). Not sure if he's broken up with his girlfriend or has gone through the wringer at work but he's not too content with his lot. Still, I love the music and that bluesy guitar solo at the end was wonderful.

From listening to "Saishuu Bus", I was reminded of Yoshitaka Minami's(南佳孝)"COOL" which was the first track from another similar-in-tone album of his, "Seventh Avenue South". And in fact, there is a certain similarity of Takizawa's vocals to those of Minami with a dollop of Shinji Harada(原田真二)who had his own debut album in the same year as Takizawa's launch.


The title track "Leonids no Kanata ni" which was written and composed by Takizawa has that rousing taking-a-drive feeling of the 1970s. Not surprisingly, the singer has written the song as a romantic adventure for a couple into the stars. Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)handled the keyboards (and arrangements) on all of the tracks, and in fact, the entire album had a lot of famous Japanese sessions musicians coming in on the project including Tatsuo Hayashi(林立夫)and Jun Aoyama(青山純)on drums, Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)on guitar and Jake H. Concepcion on alto sax.


"High Up To The Sky" is a nice slice of bossa-influenced Resort Pop with that familiar City Pop instrumentation of what I like to call Perrier keyboards (good on you, Mr. Sato, wherever you are). Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)handled the lyrics here.


The last song that I'm gonna feature is "New Caledonia". Now, I'm not sure whether this sort of Latin is native to New Caledonia but it seems to have that cruise ship-friendly beat of the Caribbean. Takizawa handled words and music here, too.

As opposed to the original LP, the "Leonids no Kanata ni" CD comes with bonus tracks that have the A and B sides to a couple of his singles. However, I will cover those (if possible) in separate articles since those tunes sound quite different from the album tracks. Basically, my feeling is that Takizawa's sole album is a solid but not classic release. The individual songs are fine but going through the whole disc, there was a slight feeling of sameness threatening to invade my ears so I was glad for those 4 bonus tracks. Also on that Tower Records article for the album, it is mentioned that Takizawa has gone on to create tunes in the aidoru and anime genres so I would be interested in seeing if I ever come across those (or perhaps I already have).


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kiyoko Suizenji -- Arigato no Uta(ありがとうの歌)


Considering that January 30th is the anniversary for the blog, I think this song is pretty appropriate, and it just happened to fall into my lap.


On last week's edition of NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), one of the guests performed this happy tune titled "Arigato no Uta" (The Thank You Song), and I found out that it had been originally performed by none other than Kiyoko "Cheetah" Suizenji(水前寺清子). Listening to the original single (her 33rd) from May 1970, the song fits Suizenji's onscreen and onstage personality: brassy, cheerful and larger-than-life. Hiroko Ohya(大矢弘子)wrote the lyrics while Gendai Kanou(叶弦大)provided the music.


If you're wondering about Suizenji performing "Arigato no Uta" in a nurse's uniform, that was because the song was the theme song for her own TV series, "Arigato" which lasted 4 seasons on TBS from 1970 to 1975 (although there was a 14-month gap between the end of the first season and the start of the second season). Cheetah appeared in the first three seasons with each season having her play a different character in a different setting. So, Season 1 had her being a rookie police officer, while in Season 2, she was a nurse and then finally in Season 3, she took over her family's fish shop.

Off Course -- I Love You


A bit of a coincidence but I was having lunch at Touhenboku Ramen today in midtown with a couple of friends and mentioned in passing that "Kayo Kyoku Plus" would be celebrating its 6th anniversary any day now. Well, it turns out that TODAY is the 6th anniversary! So let us give a brief celebration.


Thank you, Fred, Barney and...police officers (although we all know this was for Wilma).


So, what song would be the one to commemorate the 6th? Actually, I had been thinking about this one for about a week and I have realized that it meshes quite well since the very first article I wrote for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" was for a male singer's hit song in 1981: Jun Horie's(堀江淳)"Memory Glass"(メモリーグラス). And as veteran readers for the blog may already know, that year was the year that all of the switches within me were turned on permanently when it came to my love for Japanese music (and music in general).

Therefore, I'm going to go with another 1981 song that was yet another hit for the band Off Course(オフコース). I had assumed that I had already covered "I Love You" sometime in the past 6 years since the group's 21st single from June of that year has become one of their mainstays. But as I have come to realize, there are songs that have managed to slip through the cracks of my memory so catching up is warranted for me.


The very first version of "I Love You", which was written and composed by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正), that I heard was through one of Off Course's compilations (not the one pictured at the top). Apparently, that BEST album decided to include the version that was performed live at the Budokan in 1982.

That Budokan performance still remains my favourite take by Off Course for "I Love You" since it is performed very intimately (despite the thousands of fans in the audience). I mean, the recorded version is fine but compared to the concert take, it comes off as being a little too bouncy. What really made the performance special was how Oda whispered off the lyrics "I Love You"; that must have gotten the fans weeping up a storm.

But in the Budokan performance and the recorded version that I have on the CD pictured at the top "Off Course -- Single A-Side Collection", one thing that intrigued me was the barely audible English voices during the instrumental break before the final verse. I had kinda figured from how they sounded that they must have been radio announcers. Well, looking up the J-Wiki article on "I Love You", I found out that the voices were indeed announcers reporting the death of John Lennon in 1980. As I said, the versions that I have really muted down the narration but the one video at the top has it played at full volume although it is just a male announcer. According to J-Wiki, there was one take with a female and then male voice doing the reports that was recorded onto the single version. I'm assuming then that the male-only announcer version was the album version for Off Course's 10th album "I LOVE YOU" from July 1982. Perhaps then the version with the barely audible announcements could have been the very first recording of the ballad on their 2nd BEST compilation, "SELECTION 1978-81" from September 1981.

In any case, it's all good for me. The single version for "I Love You" made it up to No. 6 on Oricon later becoming the 81st-ranked single for 1981. The 1982 "I LOVE YOU" album hit the top spot and was even the 8th-ranked album for that year while "SELECTION 1978-81" was also another No. 1 hit. That album also did very well in the yearly rankings as it scored No. 15 in 1981 and then No. 33 in 1982. While I'm at it, I should mention about the very first Off Course song that I wrote about, the classic "Aki no Kehai"(秋の気配)from 1977.

Now that we have reached 6 years, again let me give my gratitude to all those who have been helping out on the blog: fellow veteran collaborators Marcos V. and Noelle Tham along with collaborators such as T-cat, Karen, Francium and Larry Chan, and those who have contributed in the past such as JTM and nikala. Of course, I also appreciate the commenters and all of those who have dropped in to see what's been going on from time to time on the blog, even if it is just for a minute. It's been fun and let's see how much further "Kayo Kyoku Plus" takes all of us.

Monday, January 29, 2018

paris match -- Metro


At first, subways were a mighty struggle to get through in Tokyo. When the Tokyo Metro, as it is now called, printed out its maps, it looked no better initially than a mass of multi-coloured pasta.

(came from tokyometro.jp)

However, once I got used to commuting in the big city, I discovered that I could figure out some nifty and economical ways to get around plus make it into a game to figure out the best way to reach a destination. Still, I would advise folks who are heading to Tokyo on vacation to get a copy of the map beforehand to at least get an idea of what the network looks like.


Mind you, I also sympathize with anyone who gets a headache trying to pore through the various lines and stops on the Tokyo Metro (and that's not including all the JR and private lines criss-crossing through the city). May I suggest then a Tylenol and a listen to some nice Shibuya-kei via paris match's "Metro"?

"Metro" was a track on paris match's 2008 album, "Flight 7", and as one commenter said underneath the YouTube video, this song would be just right as something to play in a car bounding down the Tokyo highway at night, as opposed to listening to it on the subway. However, I think from the video and the thumbnail image, I gather that the trip involved other cities including Paris and New York. No problems, it's all cool.

But even listening to it at home on a Monday night, "Metro" is a nice and calming experience even though the musicians involved must have worked hard to generate that fine collective groove.

Uruma Delvi -- Oshiri Kajiri Mushi(おしりかじり虫)


Having lived in a megalopolis that has high heat and humidity in the summers, encounters with insects are pretty much a given, especially cicadas whose distinctive wail has become a sign of late summer. Entomophobes would not be too happy especially when it comes to the size of cockroaches in Japan.


Yep, that is indeed the sound of a cicada at full volume. I actually have quite a few stories about my meetings with the bugs. And perhaps those who are about to have a meal may want to wait a few hours before reading the following.

One such encounter was back in 1972 when as a (not-so-little) lad, I went to stay at my grandfather's farm in deep Wakayama Prefecture (an area where all sorts of huge bugs the size of a Toyota reside) for a few weeks. One night for several minutes, my butt was starting to feel really sore and pinchy for some reason. It turned out that some rogue scarab beetle had invaded my underwear when I wasn't looking. The fact that it actually survived the voyage was a minor miracle.


Of course, the Japanese cockroach is the big bugbear. It can get pretty big and shiny. One time in my Ichikawa apartment, I had a small infestation of the insect so I bought myself a roach motel to put on my kitchen floor. Went to sleep one night and then the next morning, I realized that the accommodations were full vacancy! Yup, twenty of the living tanks (yes, I did count them) managed to check in but not check out, to paraphrase an old commercial. The scary thing was that the motel was actually crawling by itself...yep, it was a mobile home.


All that grisly preamble to introduce an earworm that invaded Japanese pop culture in the year 2007. "Oshiri Kajiri Mushi" (Bottom Biting Bug) was one of the tunes in the long-running "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた...Everyone's Songs)series on NHK that became a huge hit. I remember it being played on heavy rotation on TV as the cute little ass-gnawer did his little song and dance.

It was created and performed by a husband-and-wife duo under the name of Uruma Delvi(うるまでるび). From what I've read on their J-Wiki article, songs on "Minna no Uta" typically get a 2-month run but "Oshiri Kajiri Mushi" ended up becoming the longest-running song on the show, going on for 5 months. For a nation that has often proclaimed its dread of its native cockroach, the song really had legs (6 of them, maybe).


In fact, after its release as an official single in July 2007, it crawled up the charts to No. 6 and became the 43rd-ranked single for 2007. On the Oricon Indies (!) chart, it even became the top-selling single for the entire year. by September that year, it had sold 220,000 copies. Although I couldn't remember it, the song apparently did get some representation on that year's Kohaku Utagassen with a comedic duo and a children's chorus performing it. The only similar songs that I could equate its success with are "Dango San Kyodai"(だんご3兄弟)and "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun"(およげ!たいやきくん).


And there has been an anime series featuring the bug and his buddies since 2012 on NHK. That's some lasting power there but I can't be too surprised since rumour has it that the cockroach can supposedly outlast all of us on the Earth.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Soichi Noriki -- Do What You Do


Sunday night and another weekend is coming a close. JTM and I got together for another two hours of talk, and part of the conversation dealt on what our latest purchases in the world of Japanese music were.


Well, I think I already know which item will be on my GET list although this could be another one of those rare albums that could need a good amount of money to acquire. I encountered this one purely by accident on YouTube last night but on hearing that sublime groove thing happening, I needed to know who this fellow was.

Found out that "Do What You Do" was a track on an album titled "Noriki" recorded by Kyoto-born pianist Soichi Noriki(野力奏一). Debuting in 1974 in the musical group Bellamy All-Stars(ベラミ・オールスターズ)led by his father, Noriki also participated as a session musician alongside fellow artists such as saxophonist Sadao Watanabe(渡辺貞夫)and jazz trumpeter Terumasa Hino(日野皓正). He also helped out in albums by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), Yutaka Ozaki(尾崎豊), etc.

That's pretty much all of the information I could get from his J-Wiki file although he does have his own website Noriki Studio. However, there's no disguising the fact that I'm really enjoying the tracks on his debut album from 1983, "Noriki", starting with "Do What You Do". I can definitely categorize it as City Pop but there's also that taste of American 80s funk in there. Plus, from the information on one other blog, I found out that the female vocals were provided by Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵), a singer that I've come to associate quite nicely with the genres mentioned.

Always love it when I discover someone new and cool.

Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars/Ari Hanabusa -- Aishitewaikenai(愛してはいけない)


Happy Sunday! It's been a thankfully quiet weekend especially since I've been quite busy over the past couple of weeks with translation work. Had my lesson with my student last night and will be talking with old friend JTM later tonight.


Was thinking of handling some oldies today and came across this number by Mood Kayo group Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars(和田弘とマヒナスターズ)from November 1964, "Aishitewaikenai" (Must Not Love). Listening to it a few times, I think it's a mix of concepts here. Of course, with the Mahina Stars singing this, it is a Mood Kayo tune by default (with that touch of Hawaiian, a Mahina Stars trait) but there is also something rather enka about it since I can't imagine the setting being necessarily a city. I can just as easily envisage this intense talk between a couple taking place on some arched bridge near a temple in the countryside with cherry blossom petals blowing about.

Gou Ishigouoka石郷岡豪...not sure of the reading of that first name)created the lyrics while Keitaro Miho(三保敬太郎)came up with the music which also has a mix between melancholy and hopeful. I believe the lyrics involve a woman stating the title as the first line in each verse in various forms as she gradually amps up her insistence to the love of her life that he is not a person who cannot return her love. The first verse has her repeating what her boyfriend (perhaps a lone wolf) has just said as a so-called final description of his emotional state whereas the second verse begins with her questioning his opinion. The final verse has the lady stating in no uncertain terms that he is dead wrong and that she will always love him so he had better shape up. As the song progressed, I got the impression that the music got more positive. Hopefully, the lug came to his senses.

Incidentally, "Aishitewaikenai" was used as the theme song for a TBS drama "Onna no Shatou"(女の斜塔...A Woman's Leaning Tower).


Never heard of Ari Hanabusa(英亜里)before and was intrigued by the reading of her kanji. According to one website, a lot of Japanese had apparently struggled  with the reading, too, since usually that first kanji is read "hide"(ひで)or "ei"(えい). She was actually born Yoshiko Endo(遠藤貴子)in downtown Tokyo so I gather that her manager or record producer wanted to have her stand out in some way, so why not through the name?

That same website is the only source for information on the singer because J-Wiki doesn't have an article for her (and that page got its information from the liner notes from a BEST album of hers). She debuted in 1968 and released several singles at least before calling it quits in 1980 at the age of 30.

In 1973, Hanabusa released a single that covered the Mahina Stars' "Aishitewaikenai". The cover takes things out of the Mood Kayo genre and into an even more relaxing kayo arrangement with some mellow horns. The arrangement was done by veteran Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二). I don't think this version was used as a TV theme tune but if it had been used as such, it would have been for some suburban home drama.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

fhana -- divine intervention


Realizing that it's quite late to put this one into "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I still have to pipe up in my defense that when an anime has such an earworm ending theme such as "Witchcraft Activity"(ウィッチ☆アクティビティ), any opening theme would have a difficult time standing out.


For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I'm referring to the anime "Witchcraft Works"(ウィッチクラフトワークス)which aired in early 2014. The series itself frankly went over my head without subtitles but it was all about these different covens of witches jockeying for position within the usually mundane environment of a suburban Japanese neighbourhood. I have to say that a lot of it was very gorgeously animated, though.

Anyways, the opening theme was fhana's "divine intervention" and I think it's only been within the last little while that I've finally started to appreciate it. Ending theme "Witchcraft Activity" simply burrowed itself into my head so much that it had been the only song that I associated the anime with. But after enjoying the band's first single, the lovely and fitting ending theme for the first season of "Uchoten Kazoku"(有頂天家族), "Que Sera Sera"(ケセラセラ), and then last year's so-happy-that-it-kills "Aozora no Rhapsody"(青空のラプソディ), I got to hear "divine intervention" again through my anime buddy's anison hour.


The song was fhana's 3rd single released in January 2014. Written by Hideki Hayashi(林英樹)and composed by fhana keyboardist Junichi Sato(佐藤純一), "divine intervention" flies in like a witch on the warpath with the keyboards and the rock but then also has these quieter passages that almost takes things into a humming disco ballad thanks to the addition of those strings. Well, being someone who likes the ancient music, I appreciated the disco of it.

"divine intervention" got as high as No. 52 on Oricon. It also became a track on fhana's debut album "Outside of Melancholy" released in February 2015 which peaked at No. 8. This song will still be a fairly distant third behind "Aozora no Rhapsody" and "Que Sera Sera" for me but from now on it will not be forgotten.

Misato Watanabe -- Big Wave Yattekita(BIG WAVE やってきた)


Nope, sorry, couldn't find any photos with big waves among my 2014 Japan shots. But then again, I didn't think that the shores of Kanagawa really had anything to rival the monsters in Hawaii.


The preamble above was to introduce another tune from the Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)file. This time, it's "Big Wave Yattekita" (The Big Wave Has Come), her 26th single from July 1993 that has that hint of a surf rock song thanks to Yasuyuki Okamura's(岡村靖幸)melody and Takeshi Kobayashi's(小林武史)arrangement. Watanabe wrote the words to this cheer-up song that says when love has got you down, there's nothing like hauling the surfboard and hitting the waves to get back on top.

(empty karaoke version)

"Big Wave Yattekita" crashed into the Top 10 by peaking at No. 7 and it was also the title track for Watanabe's 8th album "Big Wave" which also came out in the same month. It hit the top spot on Oricon and was the 18th-ranked album of 1993. However, outside of her very early 90s discography, my interest in the big-voiced singer started to wane around here. She was still making some nice tunes but they weren't quite on the same level as her output back in the late 1980s.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Miki Imai -- Totte Oki no Asa wo (とっておきの朝を)


Got hit with some pretty heavy translation work over the past few days so could really use a bit of relaxation time about now.


So I've decided to with this, Miki Imai's(今井美樹)"Totte Oki no Asa wo" (A Precious Morning) which is about as mellow as one can get in Japanese pop. With a nice hint of Latin, Imai goes on about waking up one lovely morning while her darling is still sleeping away in bed. The next thing you know, there will be that familiar chime signalling that coffee is ready followed by the Maxwell House logo on TV.

All joking aside, though, this is the second Miki Imai song that I had ever heard after first hearing "Natsu wo Kasanete"(夏をかさねて)in that Gunma coffee house back in 1989 or 1990. It turns out that "Totte Oki no Asa wo" was the second track following the first track of "Natsu wo Kasanete" on her first BEST album "Ivory" that was released in the year that I got to Japan on the JET Programme. At the time, I wasn't all that amazed by "Totte Oki no Asa wo" because it just seemed a little too mellow for me. Well, time has mellowed me. I'm a bit more accepting of my bossa nova-influenced J-Pop.

Both tracks originally came from Imai's 3rd original album "Bewith" in June 1988. Imai provided the lyrics while guitarist Ryohei Yamanashi(山梨鐐平)came up with the soft melody. The album hit No. 1 on Oricon.

Yuzo Kayama -- Enka Nagashi Uta (演歌流し唄)


Since Kiyoshi Maekawa's (前川清) "Uso yo" (嘘よ) from late last year, I've been aware of Yuzo Kayama's (加山雄三) love for kayokyoku. Nevertheless, it did not diminish the excitement I felt upon discovering that he came up with a whole album dedicated to enka classics. As such, this was one of my must-gets when I was at his museum in December - technically, I could've gotten it online, but it wouldn't be as special...

Titled "Enka Nagashi Uta" (演歌流し唄), this album was released in 1972, and the tracks included ranged from the more easy-going, pop-like enka to the hardcore stuff, the latter of which had me going, "Whoa, he actually sang that?!"... because, you know, I see the Wakadaisho and some of these singers to be on completely different planes of existance. Unfortunately, I was unable to find full versions of the covers, only just 45 second samples from online CD shops, so I had added the original versions in my descriptions to give an idea of what sort of stuff he had taken on.

Here is the list of songs and their singers:

1. Tabi Sugata Sannin Otoko (旅姿三人男); Dick Mine (ディック・ミネ)
2. Minato Machi Blues (港町ブルース); Shinichi Mori (森進一)
3. Mugi to Heitai (麦と兵隊); Taro Shoji (東海林太郎)
4. Dare yori mo Kimi wo Aisu (誰よりも君を愛す); Kazuko Matsuo & Mahina Stars (松尾和子 . 和田弘&マヒナスターズ) 
5. Hakodate no Hito (函館の女); Saburo Kitajima (北島三郎)
6. Wakare no Ippon Sugi (別れの一本杉); Hachiro Kasuga (春日八郎)
7. Jinsei Gekijo (人生劇場); Shigeo Kusunoki/Hideo Murata (楠木繁夫/村田英雄)
8. Yogiri no Blues (夜霧のブルース); Dick Mine
9. Hoshikage no Waltz (星影のワルツ); Masao Sen (千昌夫)
10. Rindo Kouta (りんどう小唄); this is Kayama's own song, if I'm not wrong
11. Hokkiko (北帰行); Akira Kobayashi (小林旭)
12. Ippon Doko no Uta (いっぽんどっこの唄); Kiyoko Suizenji (水前寺清子)


What I found most fascinating, besides the Wakadaisho's attempts at some of the songs, was, as the album's name suggests, putting Kayama in the shoes of a nagashi, and actually beginning with him going into a noisy bar and providing some entertainment for the drinking crowd. As we go down the list, the nagashi even thinks out loud or talks to the customers before he goes on to singing the next song proper. The world building is a creative idea, and that also gives "Enka Nagashi Uta" a warm and atmospheric touch. It feels more like you're at the smoky pub itself with a cup of sake before you listening to some live entertain rather than simply listening to a CD. As for the music, their arrangements are mostly close to the original takes save for that Kayama touch - lots of electric guitar that gives certain tracks a strong Group Sounds flavour.



Overall, I was pleased with whatever that was brought to the table, but I do have my highlights, the first of which is the track at the top of the set list, "Tabi Sugata Sannin Otoko". This is one of my favourite matatabi enka, and I very much enjoy the fast-paced and modern take that Kayama brought to the table. Here, it feels like the ronin having fun in the busy streets of Edo (Tokyo during the Edo era) instead of silently trudging through the Tokaido road towards Kyoto (or something like that).


Next is "Minato Machi Blues". I'm actually I'm not a big fan of Mori's halting and raspy delivery, so I welcome other takes of this well-known hit with open arms, with Kayama's being no exception. Not saying that the original is bad - it's not, which is why I have it above - but, to me, it's better when each line is belted out in a smoother manner. In terms of musical style, it's pretty similar to the original, just with a little more zing to it from, you guessed it, Kayama's favourite instrument.


So much for different planes of existance - the Wakadaisho even took on enka heavyweights like Hachi and Muchi (or Kusunoki)! "Wakare no Ippon Sugi" is the quintessential bokyo tune that is heavily melancholic; "Jinsei Gekijo" is a gravelly ode to the responsibilities of a manly man. As heavy as they are, Kayama managed to turn them into faster-paced groovy ditties with a strong Group Sounds taste. I do appreciate the enka-GS fusion, but it does take out quite a bit of the foreboding and creepy ambiance that the originals seem to revel in. Nevertheless, they are fun and refreshing to hear, especially "Wakare no Ippon Sugi" - probably would have taken to the song much faster if I'd heard the cover first.


Yeah... the Wakadaisho's electric guitar and piano can't replace Koga sensei's mandolin.


Besides hardcore enka, Kayama also did some intense Mood Kayo like "Yogiri no Blues" and "Dare yori mo Kimi wo Aisu". Unlike the aforementioned stuff, they kept majority of their original smoky atmosphere. Perhaps they fit with the bar scene well already, so there wasn't a need to change much of it? Or maybe he just preferred their melodies as is? Whatever it is, I found his versions more palatable for some reason, especially with "Dare yori mo Kimi wo Aisu".


As for "Yogiri no Blues", Kayama's delivery struck me as being very similar to Yujiro Ishihara's (石原裕次郎), whose version I have put up, though with more grit.


I think a good way to end things off here is with the sentimental "Hoshikage no Waltz". The case of "Hoshikage no Waltz" is similar to "Minato Machi Blues" wherein I personally feel the song needs a steadier delivery, and also one with a softer touch for it to really shine. Kayama did just that with this too, however, its faster tempo did also take out some of the wistfulness. If only it were a tad slower... Ah, well, can't have the cake and eat it too. Hmm, I wonder if Hachi's version would be the best of both worlds.

The Wakadaisho looks pretty good in a kimono.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tomoko Hori -- Seaside Hotel 805(シーサイドホテル805)


I've stayed at a few seaside hotels...well, more like bayside hotels but the water was still salty. One establishment was the Portopia Hotel in Kobe. The JET Renewers' Conference was held there in 1990 and all of us JETs who were planning to go onto another year of teaching were obliged to go there. It was a pretty luxurious place in a city that I thought resembled more like a metropolis in California than Tokyo. Mind you, within half a decade, the largest city in Japan would undertake a major urban project which begat Odaiba.


I actually bookmarked this song several months ago but have decided to put it up tonight. As much as there are a lot of City Pop songs that have been unearthed over the years and are still yet to be discovered by me, there are also a lot of aidoru tunes in the 1970s and 1980s that have remained unknown, and churlishly speaking, perhaps some of them should be left unknown. But that is of course a matter of personal opinion.

However, I did pick Tomoko Hori's(堀智子)"Seaside Hotel 805"(シーサイドホテル805)because I had never heard of this 70s aidoru and the song itself had that nostalgic hippy-skippy melody that screamed bell-bottomed pants and big hair. I could find barely anything about Hori but this page shows the 6 singles that she released in the mid-70s including this debut single which came out in August 1975. The cover of her made me think that she was auditioning for the main role in a live-action version of "Cutey Honey".

Written by Ou Yoshida(吉田旺)and composed by Koichi Morita(森田公一), "Seaside Hotel 805" not only feels like a happy 70s kayo with that loopy electric guitar and strings but there is a 1950s/1960s sax in there and the overall music has me thinking girls dancing in their go-go boots from the previous decade. No idea how Hori's aidoru career went but I'm glad that I could find some of these tunes that perhaps even many Japanese of a certain age (namely mine) had forgotten or not even known about.


Ray Marimura & The Time Sellers -- Kyou mo Yume Miru(今日も夢見る)


Through "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I've found a lot of new singers, bands and great songs and those are not only the ones in the last couple of decades. Although not as frequently, I've also discovered some fine stuff even further back.


My image of Japanese folk music has usually hovered around the first half of the 1970s but of course, it most likely started up some years earlier. Well, I got that proof when I found out about this band called Ray Marimura & The Time Sellers(万里村れいとタイムセラーズ). At first when I saw the band's name, I had first assumed that this was another Group Sounds outfit since the late 1960s was the time of Group Sounds.

However, the first hint that my assumption was wrong was seeing that group of four men surrounding a young lady. I don't think I had ever heard of a Group Sounds band with a mixed male-female lineup. And as it turns out, Ray Marimura & The Time Sellers was a folk group. Now it was really difficult to find out about this group...had to look through different sources and none of them were named Wikipedia.

Ray Marimura was born Kazuko Murakami(村上和子)in 1945 in Kanagawa Prefecture. While attending Keio University, she and some of her friends fell in love with folk music and formed The Four Dimes(フォア・ダイムズ), a Peter, Paul & Mary cover band and released at least one single via Toshiba Records, "Yuuhi ga Shizumu"(夕日が沈む...The Setting Sun Is Sinking)in 1965.

Then in 1968, Ray Marimura & The Time Sellers, a band inspired by not only Peter, Paul & Mary but also The Kingston Trio, was born with the lineup of Takashi Nakane中根孝...not sure if that is the right reading of his given name so apologies just in case), Toshiyuki Kosaka(小坂俊幸), Shigeto Muto(武藤重遠)and Michifumi Mishima(三島通文), and Kobayashi taking on her new name. One of their hits was "Kyou mo Yume Miru" (I Also See a Dream Today), a gentle ballad of optimism about a couple seeing the possibilities and overcoming the difficulties. The song was written and composed by Yuko Kawamoto(川本優子)with assistance from Takehiko Maeda(前田武彦)and major composer Hachidai Nakamura(中村八大). "Kyou mo Yume Miru" is a very calming and reassuring ballad with some nice harmonies.


I don't know whether or not Ray Marimura & The Time Sellers ever hung up their mikes for good into the next decade but they were giving performances as recently as 2014 in Shibuya. There's still at least one more song by them that has been represented on YouTube that I will have to check out and Marimura herself started a solo career earlier this decade.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

microstar -- Yuugure Girl(夕暮れガール)



Back in the 1980s, I was getting into all sorts of music whether it be New Wave, AOR and R&B along with the rest of the Billboard pop hits. However, although I wouldn't profess my interest in jazz until many years later during my second stint in Japan, I confess that there had always been some spark that was attracted to the genre that's pretty much a century old now. Part of it was due to growing up to those old records of standards and another reason was hearing those hits from The Manhattan Transfer such as "The Boy From New York City" and "Tuxedo Junction".

And then there was the above song that I used to hear on heavy rotation on both AM and FM radio. It was a one-hit wonder for the group with the memorable name of Elbow Bones and the Racketeers but man, did I like their "A Night in New York" from 1984.


I've got the same vibe with this snazzy number by a unit called microstar, "Yuugure Girl" (Sunset Girl) from September 2011. There's a bit more technology involved here when compared to the Big Band instruments from "A Night in New York", but there's no denying to me that it is one lovely tribute to that age of jazz. Still, I'm having some trouble categorizing it since although there is that obvious jazz edge to it, I'm also wondering if it can also be included in pop or even Shibuya-kei.

Putting on my music sommelier's hat right now, that snazzy description I used in the previous paragraph had me also thinking of "Yuugure Girl" as something reminiscent of EPO's "Doyou no Yoru wa Paradise"(土曜の夜はパラダイス)since EPO can also be said to quite snazzy in her songs and vocals. Plus, for some reason, I also hear "Who Are You?", the duet with Fujimal Yoshino and Haruko Kuwana(芳野藤丸・桑名晴子). "Yuugure Girl" is a melodic reason to be happy about strutting down the city streets and painting the town red and flashing a lot of green.

Trying to look up what this microstar is all about, I eventually tracked things to the J-Wiki entry for Seiki Sato(佐藤清喜), a music producer, composer and arranger from Iwate Prefecture who made his major debut for a band called nice music in 1993. In 1996, a bassist and vocalist Yuko Iizumi(飯泉裕子)who participated in nice music's concerts joined up with Sato to form microstar as a duo. They've released 5 singles up to 2016 with "Yuugure Girl" being their 3rd; there are also 4 albums to their name.


For the YouTube comments underneath "Yuugure Girl", I kept seeing references to Kanashii Android Apartment(悲しい ANDROID - APARTMENT...Sad Android Apartment). Not knowing what this was all about, I found out that it was another unit or individual doing a bit of Japanese Future Funk/Vaporwave (not sure if that latter concept has become too dated) treatment to the song to form "Lonely Highways". Once again, thank you, Artzie Music. And of course, thank you microstar. I now have a theme song to which I can walk on the streets in Ginza and Akasaka to. I may not be able to enter most of the establishments there but I can certainly walk (or swing) proudly around them.

Mioko Yamaguchi -- Tsukihime ~ Moonlight Princess(月姫) (Album)


Happy Hump Day to you and yours. Yesterday, I was happy to get my package from Logic Store fairly quickly and in it was indeed the rare 1983 album "Tsukihime" by singer-songwriter Mioko Yamaguchi(山口美央子). Buoyed from nikala's original 2014 article on two of the tracks from the album, the title song and "Koi wa Shunkan"(恋は春感), and then my own discovery of the wonderfully techno-Japanesque "Satemo Appare Yume Zakura"(さても天晴れ 夢桜), I stated my desire to purchase it and sure enough, Toshi from Logic Store assured me that CDs of her albums could be bought there. So first off, many thanks to him for the tip.


All of the tracks were written and composed by Yamaguchi. I will be referring to some of the liner notes given by the singer herself regarding some of the tracks.

The first track is "Yugao ~ Aware"(夕顔 -あはれ-...Yugao ~ Sorrow)which starts off the album contemplatively and according to Yamaguchi, the song is based on the character of Yugao from the legendary Tale of Genji from Japanese literature. Now, the University of Toronto did offer an entire course to the epic story but I never took it despite my major in Japanese Studies since I frankly wasn't a huge literature fan although I had to read my Mishima and Natsume. So the Tale of Genji is unknown to me but Yugao was one of the ladies that Genji encountered and apparently although her appearance in the story was relatively brief and sad, her consequential appeal to the protagonist was very far-lasting.

Unfortunately the lyrics sheet in the album was too small for me to read (my eyes aren't all that strong) but I enjoyed the song which, now that I have read a little about the character, seems to frame her story. Plus, the overall Japanesque tone for the album starts with the ringing of one of the quintessential summer symbols in the country, the fuurin(風鈴...wind chimes).

"Yugao" was also the B-side to the single version of "Satemo Appare Yume Zakura".


Track No. 2, "Natsu"(夏...Summer), mixes in some more of the technopop. It has more of a Chinese influence, I think, in terms of the melody. Speaking of Mishima, Yamaguchi noted that her lyrics were inspired partially from "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" and from another one of his creations. My favourite part of this tune was how the horn-sounding synths suddenly went on a crescendo as if something rose from that very ocean. "Natsu" was Yamaguchi's 3rd single from 1982.


"Hakuchuumu"(白昼夢...Daydreaming)fulfills its title with a dreamy melody. Usually when it comes to daydreams, I often associate kids in their classrooms after lunch to which annoyed teachers would throw chalk or even a textbook if they're particularly unhappy. This "Hakuchuumu" is more for the adults who may not be in an especially happy point in their lives. The thing here is, though, that the grownups know how to conceal their daydreaming better in their cubicles or offices which may not be a good thing in this case.



"Shizumi Yuku"(沈みゆく...Sinking Down)is a short song with only a piano and a Roland TR-808 as her musical accompaniment, so the nostalgia factor may be imbued right in every note since according to Wikipedia, since the pioneering drum machine was discontinued in 1983. Again, I was unable to read the lyrics but the slowly undulating melody reminded me of waves while someone is right in the middle of them...perhaps trying not to do what the title is saying. For some reason, I think Yamaguchi's voice really comes to the fore here.


As you may have guessed, the "Tsukihime" album is an overall introspective album that I think would be ideal to listen to on a slow summer day or perhaps even a rainy Sunday over some chamomile tea. However, the final track "Koi wa Shunkan" (恋は春感...Love is the Feeling of Spring)is a pretty upbeat, even skippy, way to finish off the album.

Coming out as Yamaguchi's 4th single in 1983, the song has already been featured in nikala's article but I wanted to give my two (non-existent Canadian) cents about the number since it is pretty reminiscent of some of Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)fun little technopop singles from around the same time. Not surprisingly, it was crafted for a Kose cosmetics commercial.

According to J-Wiki, "Tsukihime" was the only album by Yamaguchi to get onto the Oricon charts, getting as high as No. 64. However for the singer, this would be her final release. Afterwards, she would continue her career as just a songwriter for a number of other singers. All of the arrangements were by Masami Tsuchiya(土屋昌巳)from the New Wave group Ippu-Do(一風堂). Supposedly her earlier albums were arranged by Akira Inoue(井上鑑)so will be looking forward to hearing those as well.

This does bring me to my disclosure. I did purchase "Tsukihime" from Logic Store thanks to Toshi. He was also very magnanimous in sending me Yamaguchi's first two albums "Yume Hiko"(夢飛行)and "Nirvana" as free samples for which I'm grateful. I will be talking about those releases in future articles in February. If you are interested in any of the albums after reading this or coming across the videos on YouTube, you can check them out here.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Higurashi -- Fuyu no Yoru(冬の夜)


Yup, the Kanto is still digging itself out of the big snowstorm it got hit with back on Sunday night, and things are getting colder again here in Toronto, so winter is nowhere near done with us yet.


Well, allow me to bring back folk group Higurashi(日暮し)with one of their early singles, "Fuyu no Yoru" (Winter Night) from December 1974. Written and composed by Higurashi guitarist, Seiichi Takeda(武田清一), the song goes down like a comforting cup of cocoa and basically that's what "Fuyu no Yoru" is all about...just a couple enjoying a quiet night in some lodge or even an apartment unit together while the snow is falling outside.

I think the song is not totally folk simply because of those lush strings. They rather add a more kayo feeling to the proceedings. Not that I'm complaining here; it is a restful song. I'm just hoping that all of the folks in Tokyo and environs have managed to get a hold on the weather and kicking back for the night.

Higurashi

Miho Nakayama -- Miho's Select


I've already featured songs by Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)that already got onto this BEST album of hers, but I think it was time to just put this out there. "Miho's Select" is her 4th album of best hits which was released on Xmas Eve 1991 but it's not the usual throw-in of her most successful singles but as the title says, it's a selection of popular tunes that were slightly remixed or given new arrangements. I still think the results kinda varied.

amazon.jp

Back in Toronto for a few months since returning from my JET stint, I picked this one up through the ancient process of "Eye-Ai" mail order and bank draft. There were some songs that I had already recognized but there were also some new ones and I have to admit that seeing the distinctive cover helped in making my decision. Anyways, here is the lineup:

1. Rosa
2. '91 You're My Only Shinin' Star
3. SWITCH ON
4. I Know
5. Toi Machi no Dokoka de(遠い街のどこかで)
6. Kabin(花瓶)
7. COCKATOO
8. Dare ka ga Ai ni...(誰かが愛に…)
9. Long Distance To The Heaven
10. Honki demo(本気でも)


Knowing that it has already been given its own article, "I Know" by Rui Serizawa(芹沢類)and Cindy is still my favourite song from "Miho's Select" and therefore it is the one that I've associated the most with this album.


"Heart no Switch wo Oshite" (ハートのスイッチを押して...Press My Heart Switch) was originally the B-side to Miporin's 8th single "Waku Waku Sasete"(WAKU WAKU させて)from 1986, and the above video has the original splashy version, but under its new guise of "SWITCH ON", it has a more urban contemporary feeling. Still kinda split over which version I like better but you can check the link to the samples for "Miho's Select" at Tower Records at the bottom of the article. Takashi Matsumoto and Kyohei Tsutsumi(松本隆・筒美京平)were responsible for its creation.


As soon as I heard "Kabin" (Flower Vase), I knew this was a Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)creation. The chorus and strings give it that sweep that I've often connected with a Kadomatsu ballad whether it be with Nakayama or Anri(杏里). The song deals with the aftermath of a downed relationship as the titular piece of pottery symbolizes that relationship as the flowers start drying up and frittering away. For a song about a doomed romance, it is atypically uplifting especially from the 4:30 point. Perhaps the lass has moved on. "Kabin" was the final track on Miporin's 6th album, "Catch The Nite" from 1988.

(4:30)

To be honest, "Long Distance to the Heaven" is borderline elegiac/creepy with that keyboard intro. Didn't take a deep look at the lyrics by Nakayama under one of her pen names, Mizuho Kitayama(北山瑞穂), but it sounds almost like a woman's final comments to her former lovers after she had died. Yeah, not one of my favourites. Nakayama also composed the song. I don't think the version in "Miho's Select" has changed.

There was also "COCKATOO" which I couldn't find online outside of the Tower Records excerpt. This was another track that I wasn't too thrilled with since I think it's a little leaden now with too many of those dance music sound effects from that time. Like "Long Distance to the Heaven", I don't think "COCKATOO" underwent much if any change at all from its original album "Dé eaya" (March 1991).

"Miho's Select" did hit No. 1 on Oricon. For me, it was an OK album but rather a mixed bag.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Chiyono Yoshino -- Kanashimi no Tapestry(悲しみのタペストリー)


Understanding that there were several years ranging from the late 1980s into the early 1990s during which some female singers dove into this form of sophisticated pop with those champagne synthesizers, I was kinda wondering who jumped off the diving board first.


Well, names like Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)and Etsuko Sai(彩恵津子)popped up in my head. Then, there is Chiyono Yoshino(吉野千代乃). I introduced her through "Kayo Kyoku Plus" with the very first song that I got to know her for, "Tsukiyo no Monologue"(月夜のモノローグ)that came out in 1988.

Her debut single, though, had been released a couple of years earlier in March 1986, and that was "Kanashimi no Tapestry" (Tapestry of Sorrow). From the words and music provided by Sanae Ohta(太田早苗), that urban contemporary feeling was evident from the first bar. The Oricon charts at the time may have been populated with the songs of various aidoru and enka singers, but I appreciated the fact that there was this somewhat "hidden" genre of kayo that didn't seem to care about rankings but could give forth a classier type of Japanese pop.

Of course, City Pop had been around for several years by the time Yoshino made her debut but it seems as if the late 1980s was a time for another form of Japanese urban contemporary music to appear off to the side. In any case, on the same day that "Kanashimi no Tapestry" was released, Yoshino's debut album also came out, "Rain Ballade".

Shinkichi Mitsumine -- Battle of Rose


Yesterday was the first anime-and-food session of the year so of course, there was the anison hour as is customary. Once in a while, my friend has put on an instrumental that has always struck me as being rather cool.


It's kinda too bad though that I never really got into the anime it was part of. My friend once gave me a copy of the most recent incarnation of "Rozen Maiden"(ローゼンメイデン)but beyond the first few episodes, I have never given it another glance since I simply never gained any interest in a group of snarky sentient dolls pushing around a former hikikomori.

However, for the original anime more than a decade ago, I have to admit that composer Shinkichi Mitsumine(光宗信吉)came up with a pretty kakkoii sequence in "Battle of Rose". It sounds like a fleet musical passage by one of the masters of classical music then having someone like James Newton Howard or Hans Zimmer have at it with an electric guitar and some snappy contemporary percussion. Forget dolls...have the Three Musketeers go into battle in the castle to this music!


For those who don't already have the album, the track is on the original soundtrack for "Rozen Maiden" which was released back in January 2005. En garde!

Minori Suzuki -- FEELING AROUND


It's a cold and damp Monday here in Toronto although a lot of the snow has gone and the absolute zero-type of temperatures are not with us for now. Watching NHK's "News at Nine" this morning, Tokyo underwent its first horrifying snowstorm in about 4 years...something that we go through here perhaps around 4 times a year. In either Toronto or Tokyo, perhaps a good chunk of the population wouldn't mind having a steaming bowl of ramen in a warm restaurant. Incidentally, the ramen above is the Tonkotsu Black at the branch of Sansotei up in the northeast suburbs. My favourite soup when it comes to ramen is indeed the pork bone variety. Mind you, though, my heart and circulatory system may get their revenge on me someday if I went for the stuff weekly but once in a while is always welcome.


Now the reason that I'm enticing you with ramen today is because yesterday was the first anime-and-food session of the New Year that is 2018. To let you in on an opinion, I wasn't all that happy with the Fall 2017 season of anime aside from the reboot of "Mahoujin Guru Guru"(魔法陣グルグル)and the gradually heartwarming "Konohana Kitan"(このはな綺譚). "Two-Car"...? Aaugh. However, it seems like the Winter 2018 season is pretty hopeful; in fact my anime buddy mentioned that for the first time in a long while, we may have to look through about 20 prospective shows since he posits that they all look rather interesting.


One of those shows that my friend showcased yesterday was "Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san"(ラーメン大好き小泉さん)which, as you can guess, is about somebody with the name of Koizumi who greatly loves ramen. She pretty much breathes it, actually. It's almost cruel for us ramen lovers as to how lovingly the animators have shown Koizumi's ardor for her dish of choice and of course the different kinds of ramen.


It was about a year ago that the first 2017-based article for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" dealt with the catchy anison theme for a show titled around another Ms. K. Well, I'm doing the same here with "Koizumi-san" although Minori Suzuki's(鈴木みのり)"FEELING AROUND" isn't quite the classic earworm that fhana's "Aozora no Rhapsody"(青空のラプソディ)has been. I would put that song as my favourite anime theme for 2017, by the way.


Still "FEELING AROUND" has got a nice bounce to it with a bit of an Asian beat as the opening credits provide everything and everyone we need to know about the premise for "Koizumi-san". Suzuki, who was known up to now as a budding seiyuu, has made her debut as a solo singer with this one and it's due to be released in a couple of days. The song was written and composed by Koji Mihara(三原康司), the bassist for the band Frederic(フレデリック)who came up with the catchy "oddloop" a few years back. (By the way, here is the article on the ending theme)

To be honest, considering the theme of the show, I was wondering whether Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)ode to plain simple ramen would have been used.


Finally, to completely torture you into racing to the nearest noodle shop or, at least, the nearest supermarket which sells Sapporo Ichiban, you can take a look at this video for the Yokohama Ramen Museum.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Satoru Shionoya -- Let Love Lead Me feat. Chikuzen Sato



The making of this article takes me back to a very long time ago...probably over 20 years ago. I once had a friend who was such a fan of Barry Manilow that whenever she heard him singing something like "Mandy" or "I Write The Songs", she would just curl into a ball and perhaps mew. It was like watching a cat reacting to catnip. Now I wouldn't be so extroverted in my reaction to the R&B family DeBarge but I can certainly relate to it when I hear the oh-so-delectable "All This Love" which is one of my all-time favourite songs from the genre, hands down.


I'm getting the same reaction from pianist Satoru Shionoya's(塩谷哲)"Let Love Lead Me" which is a track from his 1995 "Salt II" (too bad it kinda reads like an old international defense treaty).

Ever since first hearing Shionoya's piano work on Sing Like Talking's fantastic "Mitsumeru Ai de"(みつめる愛で)on their "Discovery" album and then realizing that he was also a member of the Japanese salsa band Orquesta De La Luz, I've kept an eye (and ear) on him. I should actually reward myself by purchasing some of his solo albums such as "Salt II".

However, getting back to the song at hand, "Let Love Lead Me" gave me those oh-so-wonderful soul ballad vibes (or perhaps it could be Quiet Storm), thanks to Shionoya's mellow jazz and R&B piano tones and the soaring vocals of Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)from SLT. The first time I heard this, something just shot up and down my back, and memories of the aforementioned DeBarge and Anita Baker came rushing back to me from the 1980s. And I realized once more how much I loved some of the mellower side of R&B from that decade. Shionoya and Sato make a great duo and in fact, the duo has gone to work a number of times through one single and a few albums as the unit Salt & Sugar.

It's hearing music such as "Let Love Lead Me" that has had me hoping that someday there might be a resurgence of Quiet Storm-type of music on both sides of the Pacific. Incidentally, along with Shionoya coming up with the marvelous melody, Cat Gray, who has been heavily involved with Sing Like Talking, provided the lyrics. A nice way to finish a Saturday night.