A little over a week ago, I did my first article on Mioko Yamaguchi's（山口美央子）third and final original album "Tsukihime ~ Moonlight Princess"（月姫）from 1983. Tonight, I will be devoting this space to her debut album from 1980, "Yume Hiko" (Dream Flight).
Comparisons are inevitable, of course, and I think they can make for some good discussion, so allow me here. The one difference right off the bat between "Yume Hiko" and "Tsukihime" can be seen right at the bottom of the two articles where I always place my categories. And from there you can see that the latter album is more of a technopop album and an introspective one for the most part. On the other hand, "Yume Hiko" is not so much of a flight through different areas of the world as it is Yamaguchi's flight through a number of musical styles, and that is indeed reflected in the categories I've put down. The technopop is definitely in there as you'll soon hear, and according to the J-Wiki article for her, Yamaguchi was even referred to as The Diva of Synthesizers.
"Yume Hiko" starts off, appropriately enough with her first single, "Arabian Rhapsody"（アラビアン・ラプソディー）which was released in the same year as the album. After having listened to "Tsukihime", it was a bit of a start that I got on hearing this pretty darn skippy song that had that atmosphere of the exotic kayo that was fairly popular in Japanese music in the late 1970s. One interesting thing that I got from Yamaguchi's commentary in the liner notes was that the singer-songwriter had originally wanted "Arabian Rhapsody" to have more of a reggae rhythm; in fact, she mentioned a few times in the notes about tracks in "Yume Hiko" where she wanted to put the reggae in, only to have the songs morph into different forms over the course of production. By the way, I have to say that I enjoy the vocal syncopation that she puts into the song.
"Tokyo Lover"（東京LOVER）is her 2nd single which came out in 1981. It's a nice and mellow technopop tune with a bit of that Asian taste and it has a really pleasantly creamy synth solo in the middle. Then the synths get rather busy at the end with their riffs.
If I were to describe Mioko Yamaguchi and her works through analogy and other Japanese singers, I would say that her voice has the mellow depth of Mariya Takeuchi（竹内まりや）and that her music has that hint of Akiko Yano（矢野顕子）and Taeko Ohnuki（大貫妙子）combined. But her voice itself is all its own. It isn't sexy but it still has appeal. Her third track, "Hidamari no Naka de"（陽だまりの中で...In A Sunny Spot）is a creation that Yamaguchi says is the gentlest among the tracks, and it was the first song to really come out and grab me on first listen.
It is a cute and romantic song but it also has that City Pop vibe with those opening chords. In fact, I couldn't help but be reminded of Akira Terao's（寺尾聡）songs from "Reflections". The technopop is virtually non-existent and with that guitar near the end, I think Yamaguchi fully embraced her urban contemporary. "Hidamari no Naka de" seems to be about the aftermath of a fight between two lovers with the lady stalking off but still realizing that her now-sparring partner is still a decent man despite his moments of jerkdom.
Tracks 4 and 5 are "A Dream of Eμ" and "O-Matsuri"（お祭り...Festival）. This is another eye-opener in that "A Dream of Eμ" is a brief introduction into the next song with Yamaguchi fully embracing her Yellow Magic Orchestra this time. If I had been drinking something at the moment this tune came on, I would have spit it up since it sounds so YMO! I'm not sure if she has met the members of the famous technopop band but on meeting Hideki Matsutake（松武秀樹）who worked with both them and her, she was suitably impressed according to her notes.
Anyways, "O-Matsuri" was another song that Yamaguchi had meant to be a reggae-influenced number but it turned out to become this whimsical technopoppy visit to a summer festival. Somehow, I could have seen this tune used in some of futuristic anime.
To be honest, I didn't even know about Airplay or even the fact that Foster had even been in a band until I read the liner notes. Well, I just heard "Nothin' You Can Do About It" and now I even want to get that album. Thanks, Mioko!
But getting back to "Yume Hiko", it has been quite an interesting ride with Yamaguchi's debut release, and with Akira Inoue's（井上鑑）production, I got to hear a few different styles from this singer. There are a few more tracks that I would like to cover but I will do those individually including the title track.