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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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Akina Nakamori -- Cruise (follow-up)

 

Looks like "Kayo Kyoku Plus" viewers will be getting a double dose of Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)this week after Marcos V.'s splendid article on the thrilling "Melancholy Festa" (メランコリー・フェスタ) last night. And why not? Folks can compare that 1984 song when Akina was still an early 80s aidoru with that higher-pitched voice to the tracks on her July 1989 album "Cruise" when her vocals were much lower and richer and she had long become that pop superstar in Japan.

I first wrote about "Cruise" almost exactly 9 years ago as one of the early articles on KKP in which I spoke about four of the tracks, and since I already wrote about the circumstances surrounding the July 1989 album's release, you can read about them in the original article. As I may have indicated there, "Cruise" was quite the contemplative and melancholy album with the singer herself seemingly appearing as a beautiful but fragile flower. Crazy as it sounds, I actually neglected to add how it did on the charts: No. 1 on Oricon and the No. 31 album of the year.

Strangely enough, it had been my intent to post this one up on her birthday back on July 13th instead of "Refrain"(リ・フ・レ・イ・ン), but I gather that I fell under the charms of that B-side to her "Kita Wing"(北ウィング)hit. But allow me to make amends now with the remaining six tracks on "Cruise" after doing four of them in the original article.

When I first heard "Cruise" after purchasing it during my orientation session on the JET Programme in Tokyo, it was akin to having a particularly rich buffet; I hadn't been too fond of her immediately preceding albums but "Cruise" was something that angled a little differently but still there was a lot to digest at great leisure. Track 2, for example, is "Akai Mystery"(赤い不思議...Red Mystery), a song characterized by Akina's distant and haunting vocals, a just-as-haunting synthesizer, and what sounds like a murmuring bassoon. "Akai Mystery" was written and composed by singer-songwriter Akiko Kosaka(小坂明子)and arranged by Kazuo Shiina(椎名和夫), and it could have made for the ideal theme song for one of those frequent weekly TV suspense-mystery shows in Japan as doubts are seeping through the cracks of a relationship.

For a song titled "Ranbi"(乱火...Raging Fire), it actually comes across as a quietly tragic tune thanks to the music and arrangement by Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー)and Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二) respectively. I'm not sure if I've read into Akira Ohtsu's(大津あきら)lyrics correctly but the story rendered here almost feels like some sort of sadomasochism as a woman relentlessly goes through periods of tenderness and despair like the regular tides at the Bay of Fundy.

"Standing in Blue" is a jazzy and relatively upbeat song on "Cruise" that also has some hints of the old exotic kayo of the late 1970s. Written by SHOW, composed by Osny Melo and arranged by Satoshi Nakamura(中村哲), the song is about someone realizing that a remembrance of an old romance has also become a revelation that they have been able to move onto better pastures since the breakup. I'd like to add there is that torch song feeling, too.


"Kaze wa Sora no Kanata"(風は空の彼方...The Wind is Behind the Sky) is a wistful ballad about hoping to see a loved one sometime again in the future, although I don't know whether that person has physically gone away a long distance or has simply left this mortal coil. It's one of the lovelier tracks on "Cruise" with lyrics by Qumico Fucci, music by Nick Wood and arrangement by Akira Nishihara(西平彰). "Kaze wa Sora no Kanata" strikes me as being somewhat baroque and there is even something that is faintly Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)there due to the piano work.



I think "SINGER" is something that I can identify as City Pop with its rhythms including a hint of Sade-like jazz. Nakamori goes even sultrier here as if she's having that slow dance with the solo saxophone itself. As was the case with "Standing In Blue", Osny Melo, SHOW and Nakamura are behind this penultimate track for "Cruise" as the singer acts the role as the seductress behind the mike, forever enticing the listener into her realm.


In keeping with my impression of the album, the final track is the appropriately sad "Ame ga Futteta..."(雨が降ってた…It Was Raining...), a lush and lovely ballad that has me thinking of songs from 1960s French movies such as "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" with Michel LeGrand as the composer. However, the lyricist and composer here are Yuuho Iwasato and Chika Ueda(岩里祐穂・上田知華)respectively with Kei Wakakusa(若草恵)as the arranger. Iwasato and Ueda were a duo who were coming up with some of Miki Imai's(今井美樹)songs at around the same time. Through the former's lyrics, we get to discover that there is a woman remembering the time when she was just standing in the rain, probably in aghast shock, realizing that the affair was indeed over.


I recall that when I finished up the original "Cruise" article back in September 2012 that this particular album was one that I had no trepidation in picking up unlike some of her immediately preceding releases. Still, partially because of force of habit and partially because of what had happened to Akina several days before its release, it still took a fair amount of time for me to get accustomed to the overall theme and the songs themselves. However, I have come to appreciate the various tracks over the years, and I think that it's a major accomplishment to have so many different lyricists, composers and arrangers contributing their abilities to "Cruise", and yet the album feels like it has a certain united theme of wistful and perhaps wiser sadness. Whether or not "Cruise" is now treated as one of Nakamori's classics, I don't know but for me, I believe that it's definitely one album that has stood out not just in her own discography but among all of the albums that I've had on my shelves.



2 comments:

  1. My feelings about the cruise album are that it is functioning as a time capsule, as tool to cope with loss and pain. I can't how strong Akina must have been to sing such songs without completely breaking down emotionally on stage. She is a true professional in my book.

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    1. Yeah, those must have been very tough years for her. I don't think that she's ever completely recovered which is why whenever I write up an article about her on her birthday, I always hope that she's doing well wherever she is.

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