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, June 13, 2018

Pizzicato Five -- Top Secrets

Having talked about Pizzicato Five(ピチカート・ファイヴ)through the blog over the years, I realized that there was a time before the divine Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴)and Shibuya-kei. There were the very early years starting in 1985 when Mamiko Sasaki(佐々木麻美子)was providing vocals for Pizzicato V, and my image of the band via "The Audrey Hepburn Complex" was that of a quirky technopop outfit predating PSY-S. Then I heard that in 1988, there was a second phase which featured Takao Tajima(田島貴男)as the lead vocalist.

When I first heard that news, I just kinda went "Whoa! Wait a minute...Original Love's Takao Tajima?!" And yep, indeed it was the same guy. The reason I was so surprised was that I had first heard his sweet soul/funk when he was already well into his time as the sole member of Original Love from the middle of the 1990s, and his music really didn't sound like the Swinging 1960s. It was his own style.

I was definitely intrigued by this second phase of Pizzicato Five but it wasn't until about a week ago when commenter ARIFURETA OTOKO let me know that "On Her Majesty's Request" and "Bellissima" were two of the best albums by the band. And those were the albums where Tajima was the lead vocalist.

So, tonight I'm presenting one track from "On Her Majesty's Request" (1989), "Top Secrets". When I was reading the J-Wiki article for this album, I was also interested by the fact that Pizzicato Five had produced "On Her Majesty's Request" under the concept of a fanciful spy movie soundtrack. I mean, the spy movie was one of the pop culture tropes of the 1960s, that very decade that Shibuya-kei purloined much from.

On first and second listenings, "Top Secrets" definitely stands out when compared to Sasaki's "The Audrey Hepburn Complex" and Nomiya's  "Tokyo wa Yoru no Shichi-ji"(東京は夜の七時). Tajima was only in his early 20s when he recorded this paean to all things cool: the night, the weather, the vibe, the city. The man sounds like a very talented choir boy with those high tones when I think of his singing in the 1990s. Moreover, despite the spy movie concept, "Top Secrets" is more of a fusion of the pop feelings from the 1960s and 1980s: contemporary instruments conveying the atmosphere of being in Peter Gunn's favourite hole-in-a-wall. To throw in another analogy, perhaps I could compare "Top Secrets" with the Pierce Brosnan remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" with its different sort of slickness.

Tajima and Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽)took care of the lyrics while Tajima also provided the music. Kayoko Isshu and Michiko Ouchi(伊集加代・大内美智子)were the backup vocalists.

Although I only occasionally drink, I could use a nice dry martini on hearing "Top Secrets"...shaken not stirred. I will hold off on any more stats on "On Her Majesty's Request" since I now intend to purchase the album, and once I do, I can write up an article devoted to it.

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