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.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Works of Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)


Last Tuesday, I posted an article, "My Favourite Works by Ryuichi Sakamoto"(坂本龍一), which went over some of the songs that he composed for other artists outside of his solo material and his creations for Yellow Magic Orchestra. Of course, those are songs that I've known and cherished for years. Today, though, I wanted to bring a Part II of sorts regarding the Sakamoto oeuvre: those melodic creations of his that I had yet to get acquainted with, and there are many of them, since knowing about his magic, I wanted to find out if they were also catchy finds.

Phew -- Urahara(うらはら) (1980)

OK, I'll admit it...this isn't exactly catchy to me but I can't quite avert my ears from it either. At first glance, I had assumed that Phew was the name of the band but it is actually the stage name of the Osaka-born female vocalist who had started with the avant-punk band Aunt Sally. According to her J-Wiki profile, she's into punk, New Wave and electronic music, and was first inspired to go down this musical path on hearing The Sex Pistols through an NHK broadcast while she was in high school. 

Phew has released a number of albums and one single as a soloist with that single being her 1980 "Finale/Urahara" (Contrary). Sakamoto not only produced the single but also helped out in this B-side of "Urahara" by manning the drums, piano, synthesizers and even providing some of the vocal effects behind Phew's straight-ahead atonal vocals. It almost sounds like we've entered the middle of a secret rite in a university dorm basement. It's quite the singular experience but there are some familiar Sakamoto YMO sounds in the intro to remind us that he was behind it all.

Kazumi Watanabe -- Water Ways Flow Backward Again (1979)

Sakamoto was also involved in the production and instruments for jazz guitarist Kazumi Watanabe's(渡辺香津美)"KYLYN" album in June 1979. In fact for Track 3, "Water Ways Flow Backward Again", both he and Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)were on the keyboards (The Professor on the Fender Rhodes, Yano on piano) as the three of them weave a tune that alternates between mellow and slightly chaotic at times, almost like the journey of a long river from mountain to delta. Yano actually composed the song.

Tsukasa Ito -- Koi wa Roon Roon(恋はルンルン) (1982)

Examples of 80s aidoru tunes with that technopop twist are nothing new here on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but I made this new discovery with Tsukasa Ito's(伊藤つかさ)"Koi wa Roon Roon" (Love is Euphoric) from her March 1982 2nd album "Sayonara, Konnichiwa"(さよなら こんにちは...Hello, Goodbye). The Professor was behind the composition with Takashi Nakahata(仲畑貴志)behind the lyrics as Ito bounces around with his familiar synthesized stylings. Technological and innocent at the same time.

Hibari Misora -- Waratte yo, Moonlight(笑ってよムーンライト) (1983)

I would never have imagined the big names of Queen of Kayo Kyoku Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), the prolific sibling songwriting team of Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお)and arranger Sakamoto all working together to create "Waratte yo Moonlight" (Why Don't You Give Us A Smile, Moonlight?), a May 1983 single for Misora. It's a mid-tempo amiable and jazzy shuffle in the same vein as Donald Fagen's "Walk Between Raindrops". The crazy thing is that Sakamoto doesn't quite meld together the jazz and techno in the same way as Kazuhiro Nishimatsu(西松一博)did in his "Bouekifu Monogatari"(貿易風物語)to create this old-fashioned 1920s/1930s sound in Mos Eisley, Tatooine. Actually, he lets jazz lead most of the way with the techno as the backup until when, at around the 3-minute mark, the synthesizer glides on in for a smooth cameo. Meanwhile, Misora embraces this unusual amalgam like one of her older hits.

Ryuichi Sakamoto -- Asience (2004)

Now, with this one creation by The Professor, I'm going to have to admit that I fibbed a bit about not being acquainted by these particular songs in this article. I actually have listened to this one since it was used as the commercial song for Asience hair care products by the Kao Corporation. Known simply as "Asience", this industrious and stately pop classical first adorned Zhāng Zǐyí's appearances for the brand. Incidentally, the brand name is a merging of "Asian Essence" which I hadn't known about (I can now cross that off my bucket list).

"Asience" was never released as a single since it is such a short tune at its full length, but it was included in Sakamoto's album "/04" from November 2004. The one immediately below is the original version while the one at the very bottom is his more fanciful and longer take at a little over two minutes. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have this overwhelming need to wash my hair.

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