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.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Yumi Arai -- Hikoki Gumo(ひこうき雲)(Album)

Well, when it comes to Yumi Arai/Matsutoya's(松任谷由実・荒井由実)long list of albums, it all starts from here. I finally purchased "Hikoki Gumo" (Vapour Trails) over the Holidays. This is Yuming's(ユーミン)very first album from November 1973 (with the famous title track as seen above), and before finally getting it, I had long assumed that this would be one of the foundation stones for the whole New Music(ニューミュージック)genre in the 1970s. In fact, I had also thought for the longest time that it was this legendary singer-songwriter herself who came up with the term "New Music". I kinda envisioned the first time that this was brought about in fantasy involving a 1940s-style press conference with a gum-smacking reporter rapid-firing questions at the bemused Yuming:

Reporter: So, Miss Arai, whaddaya call this newfangled music that combines Japanese lyrics with original music done in a Western pop style?

Yuming: Uh...well...I guess it's kinda like what you's new music of a sort...

Reporter: Land o-goshen! That's it! (camera flashbulbs exploding). We'll call it New Music! She said it, everyone! Stop the presses!

Yuming: .....

And this is where you get that immediate scene of a newspaper headline spinning rapidly into view: "IT'S NEW MUSIC!"

Hmm...interesting thing to let you know now. I found the J-Wiki article for New Music and in it, Issei Tomisawa(富沢一誠), who has been dubbed as "the New Music critic for the 1970s", simply described the genre as the amalgam of Japanese folk and rock. When he explained it further, Tomisawa mentioned that the genre name back then had a couple of meanings, although I think those two meanings can essentially be brought down to one: a term conveniently coined for bringing together everything from the folk music of Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎)and Yosui Inoue(井上陽水)to music by up-and-comers such as Yuming and Tin Pan Alley(ティン・パン・アレー). Still, the article states that it is still unknown when exactly New Music was termed as such, although there has been frequent mention of Yoshida's "Kekkon Shiyou yo"(結婚しようよ)being the starter (I've categorized it as just Folk myself).

What can definitely be said, though, is that Yuming is no fan of the term. In her 1984 book "Rouge no Dengon"(ルージュの伝言), she stated that "I've hated the term 'New Music', but, well, this is the music that I started. Because it's something that I started right from zero. So it can't be compared to anything that came from the past."

I guess maybe that little fantasy conversation above may have contained some truth after all. Anyways, enough of the university stuff from this tutorial assistant.

(from 4:18)

I've had a special spot for the early works by Yumi Arai due to songs like "Hikoki Gumo" and "Sotsugyo Shashin"(卒業写真), so another reason that I was glad to get her debut album was that I could listen to some of the other tracks that I had yet to hear for the first time. For example, Track 2 is "Kumorizora"(曇り空...Cloudy Weather), which, like her more famous "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai"(あの日にかえりたい), is a wistful relaxing song with a hint of bossa nova. The instruments taking the song into the fadeout made for a nice combo. Keyboardist and future husband Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆)was the backup vocal.

(cover version)

The late and great Jimi Hendrix was the source for "Koi no Super Parachuter"(恋のスーパー・パラシューター...Super Parachuter of Love). Yuming was a fan of the rock guitarist and found out that he had trained as a paratrooper for the 101st Airborne Division in the early 1960s. The track has got some half-humourous/half-epic chorus work by Singers Three as "Koi no Super Parachuter" seems to take the listener on a heroic jump through the skies.

(around 7:46)

Weirdly, I assumed that I had covered "Kitto Ieru"(きっと言える...I Know I Can Tell You)in a past article in the Yuming file. However, I couldn't find anything in there on her 2nd single from November 1973, so here it is now. It's a nicely mid-tempo introspective number that I had also assumed from the title was a big kiss-off song to an errant lover, but instead it was just the opposite. In fact, from her lyrics, it seems that a young lady may have missed her chance to confess her feelings to a potential beau, but having becoming slightly older and wiser, won't make that mistake twice...provided that their paths cross again.

I've gotta say that it's a treat finding out that there were actually music videos made for her songs in the early days of her career. Furthermore, realizing many years ago from her later album covers and concert videos that Yuming possessed a certain vivacious style, it's still been a revelation that even back then, she was quite the fashion plate. The above video also has my last song to be talked about here, "Kami Hikoki"(紙ヒコーキ ...Paper Plane), another pleasant track with a country music style to it as she sings about throwing the titular paper airplane from a plateau over a town that she obviously cherishes.

The album "Hikoki Gumo" broke the Top 10, coming in at No. 9 on the weekly charts. Plus, although it took a good long while, Arai's debut album ended up as the 11th-ranked album...of 1976, over three years after its initial release. There are a few more tracks to discuss but I will most likely leave those for a future follow-up on this seminal album. A couple of other songs from the album that I've already covered are "Henji wa Iranai"(返事はいらない)and "Velvet Easter" (ベルベット・イースター).

Finally, to bring you folks back into the classroom for a few seconds, it turns out that the term New Music wouldn't officially get into the comprehensive Kōjien(広辞苑), the Japanese equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary, until its 4th Edition in 1991. So, New Music is still a relatively new term, officially speaking.

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