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.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ikue Sakakibara -- C'est Drole ~ Fushigi ne ~(不思議ね)

Fushigi truly is. I ordered Ikue Sakakibara's(榊原郁恵)6th album "C'est Drole ~ Fushigi ne ~"  (Strange, Ain't It?) along with one other Ikue album "Slow Memory" back on July 16th and then just this past Monday morning, I got the e-mail from CD Japan that the package has shipped. Now, usually that means the discs won't be entering my hands for another week.

Well, three hours later on Monday afternoon...


Man, I wanna congratulate CD Japan for getting that hypersonic jet in the air finally. If it can take human passengers, I wouldn't mind hitching a ride on that plane rather than take the 11~13 hour flight to Haneda on Air Canada.

The slightly "Twilight Zone" anecdote ends here. As for "C'est Drole", which was originally released back in January 1980, I bought it after hearing its title track "Fushigi ne" and after hearing a few more tracks on YouTube. Plus, seeing that another Sakakibara release "Ready Lady" (which I may also get a little later this year) was actually incorporated into my bible of "Japanese City Pop", I was intrigued about what the future Peter Pan used to sing when she was an aidoru, especially since she's been seen more as the friendly TV presence for decades.

Well, I popped in "C'est Drole" into the player and for the next two-thirds of an hour, my opinion of me deserving to eat more crow was further strengthened. As was the case with Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)2nd album "North Wind" which also came out in 1980 (mind you, all the way forward in December), "C'est Drole" didn't strike me as what I had envisioned to be the typical aidoru album of happy bouncy uptempo tunes and super-sweet love ballads. In fact, I got a fair potpourri of genres here too on my first listen. Double in fact, I had actually wondered whether I should have even labeled this as an aidoru album.

Case in point, the first track "Two-Way Street". It launches very much with a romantic saxophone and a soft and mellow ballad which fairly screams AOR. It's an interesting mix of two styles. The jazzy AOR which fills the instrumental passages and then Ikue singing a pop love tune about a man and a woman who may have been together at one point or at least fantasized about it but now walking in different directions on opposite sides of the avenue.

Mayo Shouno(庄野真代)wrote and composed "Two-Way Street". She is famous for singing one of those exotic kayo which was fairly popular in the late 1970s, "Tonde Istanbul" (飛んでイスタンブール). The other thing that struck me was how well Sakakibara could sing. Something like "Two-Way Street" sounds like a ballad that Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)would tackle but Ikue-chan takes care of it very well. There are also parts of the song which remind me of another more famous song which came out a couple of years prior.

The second track "Omoide no Irie"(思い出の入江...Bay of Memories)was written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and composed by Casey Rankin of the band SHOGUN. Although compared to "Two-Way Street", this mellow number is more on the conventional side of kayo/aidoru ballads that I've envisioned, the arrangement by Reijiro Koroku(小六禮次郎)still has the song lifted up a level. I could even imagine one of my favourite singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子), covering this one.

Another bluesy number punctuated by the sax is "Toki wa Utsukushiku"(時は美しく...Time is Beautiful)which straddles that City Pop/AOR line. It's a nice slow twilight shuffle down a street as Ikue serenades her beau about how enjoyable her time is with him. Hearing that sax, I rather wish that somebody had actually put down who handled all of the instruments in the liner notes, but c'est la vie. In any case, Reiko Imamura(いまむられいこ)took care of the lyrics while Rankin once again came up with the music.

Singer-songwriter Nanako Sato(佐藤奈々子), who I have also seen within the pages of "Japanese City Pop", was responsible for this happy and quirky "Sweet Sunny Side Up" about wedded bliss showing up over breakfast. Ikue not only sings about getting up early to make the most important meal of the day for her darling hubby but she does it in a faintly early 20th century style. I could almost see a giant NBC microphone materializing in front of her.

My last song for this article is "Kurenai Hana"(紅い花...Red Flowers), one of my favourite tracks on "C'est Drole". It starts off rather gospel-like before it goes into this cool riff about heartbreak. My imagination once again flies here as I envision Ikue singing in front of a honky-tonk piano somewhere in Paris. Ahhh, l'amour....c'est drole, n'est ce pas? The only thing missing here are those rose petals just frittering away in the cold wind. Yukinojo Mori(森雪之丞)and Koichi Sugiyama(すぎやまこういち)were responsible for this one.

I couldn't find out how "C'est Drole" did on Oricon but I think for Ikue fans, it was a good buy. There is a nice mix of songs by good songwriters and I realized that Sakakibara wasn't just the happy-go-lucky aidoru who popped up on the first few episodes of the Kohaku Utagassen that I had ever seen.

Before I finish off, I have to give thanks to the YouTube uploader who was responsible for most of the videos up here tonight, Dasu(ダス). He is totally devoted to Sakakibara and thanks to him, I was able to pull the trigger on my wallet to get "C'est Drole" and "Slow Memory", the latter of which I will also talk about in the next week or so.

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