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, July 22, 2021

Shinji Harada -- Shadow Boxer(シャドー・ボクサー)


It's almost as if that photo of relative wunderkind singer-songwriter Shinji Harada(原田真二)was snarking "Where the heck have you been, J-Canuck, for the past 4 1/2 years?" And it has been that long since I posted one of his songs onto the blog. For that, I do apologize especially because the song that I have here tonight is definitely a banger for City Pop/J-AOR fans.

My last article on Hiroshima-born Harada was way back in November 2016 when I wrote up on his remarkable debut album "Feel Happy" from February 1978. It is chock-filled with all sorts of New Music daubed with that City Pop and West Coast goodness but it is missing the singer's 3rd single which was released in December 1977, "Shadow Boxer".

Harada brings some of that wonderful metropolitan funk in his own melody through "Shadow Boxer" which came out a few mere weeks following his 19th birthday and it's paired with the lyrics of Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆), the fellow who provided the words for all of the tracks on "Feel Happy". It seems to be the starter kit squeezed into one song for anyone that wants to get into the world of City Pop thanks to those disco strings, boppy bass, bluesy saxophone and that funky strut of an arrangement.

And it all could have gone awry according to an interview provided within the liner notes of arranger Tsugutoshi Goto's(後藤次利)2008 "Fitzbeat Years 1983-1985", a 3-CD collection of his own solo works. Bassist Goto was still feeling his way around the world of arrangement at the time when he was requested to put in those strings into "Shadow Boxer" which had him purchasing an electric piano and an arrangement book to study. However, when it came to have Tomato (the strings) do their stuff, there was enough unwanted dissonance in the initial result that an emergency break was ordered and Goto had to do some fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-pants rearranging on the piano to get it right. No pressure.

(from 2:20)

Well, from what I've heard, it looks like there was a happy ending to the proceedings. And in all honesty, when the recording session includes Harada and Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)on keyboards, Tatsuo Hayashi(林立夫)on drums, Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)on electric guitar, Nobu Saito(斎藤ノブ)on percussion, and Jake H. Concepcion on saxophone among other stars, I think that Goto, who was on bass and classic guitar, had some enormous backup helping him out. Folk singer Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎)was even joining Harada on backup chorus. Those strings sound great...along with everything else!

Unfortunately "Shadow Boxer" didn't become the 3rd consecutive Top 10 hit for Harada, peaking at No. 14, after the No. 6-ranked debut single "Teens' Blues" (てぃーんず ぶるーす) and his sophomore "Candy"(キャンディ)which came in at No. 10. It still sold approximately 230,000 records and ended up as the No. 40 single for 1978. Plus, his following single, "Time Travel" became his highest-ranking song at No. 4.

"Shadow Boxer" finally got to make its album debut on Harada's 20th studio album from August 2007, "Feel Free", albeit in a new arrangement. However, after only a few months, the singer released the 30th anniversary remastered version of "Feel Happy" with the original version of "Shadow Boxer".

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