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, June 16, 2018

Seiko Matsuda -- North Wind

I did mention in the past that I have collected my fair share of Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)albums in the 1980s ranging from LPs to CDs. My collection actually started with some of her vinyl from the middle of that decade such as "Windy Shadow", but I've been interested in her earlier days, and that exploration started with my purchase of her 4th album "Kaze Tachinu"(風立ちぬ)from 1981 which has that sound influence from the late Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一).

Now, I've gone further back in time by getting her 2nd album "North Wind" which was released in December 1980. I found the cover quite striking since it has her photographed in a rather shibui setting, in my estimation. The Seiko-chan cut is there along with that wide-eyed stare at the camera but the former Noriko Kamachi is decked out in a pitch-black cardigan and shot against a stark brown wall or screen with a bright light coming at her from straight above for atmosphere.

To be honest, what I had been expecting and what I got from "North Wind" are quite different, and not in a bad way at all. Considering the summery and happy-go-lucky fare that I was accustomed to hearing from Seiko-chan from the early days, I had been thinking that it would be more of the same from her 2nd album. Actually, that wasn't quite the case although there were a few of those famous aidoru tracks in there. In fact, I've already gone over a few of the songs from "North Wind" in previous articles: "Only My Love" and "Kaze wa Aki Iro"(風は秋色).

First off, all of the tracks were written and composed by Yoshiko Miura and Yuuichiro Oda(三浦徳子・小田裕一郎), the same duo who had taken care of her first album "Squall" which had come out in August 1980.

Just like that nationally famous wafer cookie from the northern part of Japan, the first track is called "Shiroi Koibito"(白い恋人...White Lovers), which isn't particularly a Xmas-y tune but still has a pair of lovers enjoying a frolic through the snow. Yep, I think this is pretty aidoru although that intro has that feeling of the disco 1970s.

The title track "North Wind" has got quite a bit more funk and West Coast pop in there. If it hadn't been for the liner notes, I would have assumed that someone like Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)whipped this one up for Seiko. It's a pretty nice number for driving along the Ventura Freeway.

Now, this was the one big standalone song from "North Wind". It might be titled "Fuyu no Album"(冬のアルバム...Winter Album)but there is something far more tropical and elegant. And it has Seiko taking on more of that whispery and coquettish voice that she would become more known for as her career progressed into the 1980s. Perhaps this was the first example of Seiko Bossa.

"Eighteen" was the B-side to Matsuda's 3rd single, the aforementioned "Kaze wa Aki Iro". For me, this was my expectation in terms of what an early Seiko album would contain in terms of aidoru goodness. It has that touch of 50s in there along with Miura's lyrics about falling head-over-heels for that high school boy. I could imagine the lass squeezing that photo of her young beau tight to her chest.

My last track here is "Winter Garden"(ウィンター・ガーデン)which sounds remarkably polished, almost as if this were a projection of a future and more seasoned Seiko. Perhaps the above version may be from a later concert or re-recording, but she does sound really good, and it's a pleasant Xmas surprise. As an aside, I don't usually name drop YouTube uploaders but I have to give my kudos to Free Times since he/she did a great job with the video.

Commenter Wolf Mure and I talked about the different levels of aidoru there were in the 1980s, and how perhaps a very small number of aspiring teen girls were seen by the powers-that-be at the talent agencies or recording studios as being potential superstars so that they got the Queen Bee treatment (bigger songwriters, more commercial appearances, tougher training regimens, etc.). I wonder if one of the other symbols of that QB treatment involved the singer and her songwriters being allowed to experiment more with her sophomore album. I think that was perhaps the case with Seiko and "North Wind". The first time I heard it a few days ago, my impression was that it wasn't the typical aidoru album in terms of the varying musical styles and so now I would be interested in purchasing that debut album "Squall" for further comparison. The other interesting observation was how in the recording of the ten tracks, Seiko's voice was already showing that transition from the lower and more girl-next-door (for a lack of a better phrase) delivery to the familiar high-pitched aidoru vocals.

"North Wind" will always stand out for Seiko and her fans alike since it was her first album to hit No. 1 on Oricon.

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