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.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Myx -- Dance (Everybody Get Up)


As those lights on the side of this Shinjuku branch of Karaoke Kan will tell you, "Neon ga yonderu"(ネオンが呼んでる). "The neon is calling" or perhaps the closest English-language equivalents are "Let's paint the town red" and "The night is still young!". Back in those nights in Japan, karaoke was more of the after-dinner activity for us rather than the discos since I guess that we were more willing to sacrifice our vocal cords than our legs. Whatever the case, fun was had by all.

I had never heard of this band called Myx until recently. However, there is one familiar name in there, and that is guitarist Junshi Yamagishi(山岸潤史). As far as the blog goes, he's been known as a member of the fusion band Chickenshack but I gather that he also wanted to really get down and funk so he helped create this 7-piece group called Myx that had its time in the early 1980s at least.

And so in 1981, Myx came up with an 8-track album titled "Myx" oddly enough, and on it is "Dance (Everybody Get Up)" which is fortified with more than your daily dose of funk. Perhaps this got played at the discos in Tokyo at one point, and the song, I believe, could have gotten even the most reticent folks there to get onto the dance floor. It's definitely funky but there are a couple of points where some of the native City Pop peeks through.

To take a look at the tracks and a larger photo of the cover from "Myx", you can check out Hip Tank Records. Meanwhile, you can also check out the blog of one Disco DJ Aki to see a 1982 single that Myx put out called "Fightin' Megaforce" which has "Dance" as the B-side. From the cover there, I gather that maybe it had something to do with that notorious flick "Megaforce" starring Barry Bostwick. But the blog entry also has the list of the members of Myx. Along with Yamagishi, there was vocalist Joseph "Thunder" Wells, jazz drummer Masao Suzuki(鈴木正夫), saxophonist/bassist Eiji "Eddie" Nakahira(エディ中平), keyboardist Charles Shimizu(チャールズ清水), and vocalists Chiaki Iwamoto(岩本千秋)and Fumiko Honma(本間ふみこ). They were also joined by the Myx Horns.

JADOES -- Stardust Night


This is probably the case for any major (or even smaller) city in Japan, but in Tokyo, once Xmas is around the corner, the LED lights get scattered everywhere to provide twinkly illumination to please the masses, especially the romantic couples. It's safe to say that Shinjuku and Roppongi already have the lights all about. By the way, the above picture was taken at the Hilton Hotel in West Shinjuku.

Just the description that I needed to introduce JADOES'(ジャドーズ)"Stardust Night" right from their 1987 album "Free Drink". "Roku-gatsu no Photograph"(6月のフォトグラフ)is another track from there which has the City Pop and R&B feeling in there, but "Stardust Night" doesn't have the funky beats. However, it still has plenty of fun nighttime Bubble Era megalopolitan energy for folks to celebrate their enjoyment of the bright lights and big city. Fun horns and all that.

As was the case with "Roku-gatsu no Photograph", "Stardust Night" was written by JADOES percussionist Kensaku Saito(斎藤謙策)but this time, it was composed by keyboardist Akihiko Hirama(平間あきひこ)and bassist/vocalist Hideki Fujisawa(藤沢秀樹). It's a good song to enjoy while either strutting down the main drag or bombing down the highways.

Ai Kanzaki -- Russia Koucha wa Ikaga?(ロシア紅茶はいかが?)


Not sure what Russian tea is like, but I've been to a restaurant serving Russian dishes in Shinjuku, just above the JR station in fact. Unfortunately, since this was many years ago, I don't quite remember all of the dishes that I had but one was definitely the regional borscht. I was a bit nervous about having my first spoonful of the red beet soup but I didn't have anything to worry about; it was delicious.

I don't quite recall whether the wait staff even asked the question "Russia koucha wa ikaga?" (How About Some Russian Tea?), but that is the title that I have for you as part of the usual Friday batch of urban contemporary stuff from Japan. "Russia Koucha wa Ikaga?" was a track from Ai Kanzaki's(神崎愛)1980 debut album "Today".

Kanzaki is an actress who is also a soprano singer and a trained flautist, and I think that's indeed her performing on the flute for "Russia Koucha wa Ikaga?", a slick and refined City Pop tune although I don't know whether the entire album is like that. I do like it for that bit of samba in there and that rumbling piano with the City Pop chords while Kanzaki sounds quite flirtatious in her vocals. Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)provided the lyrics while Yasuo Higuchi(樋口康雄)came up with the melody.

The Tokyo-born Kanzaki was practicing piano and vocals from a young age, until she also started the flute in junior high school. When she reached university, she began studying flautist Masao Yoshida(吉田雅夫)and then French flautist Marcel Moyse in Switzerland. According to "Oricon News" via her J-Wiki profile, master thespian Tatsuya Nakadai(仲代達矢)scouted her so she then studied acting along with the flute.

Although after her debut album, it would be another five years before her next release, the November 1985 "Ai no Flute"(愛のフルート...Ai's Flute or The Flute of Love), Kanzaki would begin regularly releasing albums from that point up to 1998. Her acting had begun even earlier in 1977 and her roles would continue up to 2002. One last point of trivia from J-Wiki is that in 1994, robbers stole her beloved flute worth about $30,000 at the time from her car parked in the underground garage of the Pacific Hotel in Tokyo.

Kyoko Endo -- Chiisana Ryote ni Merry Xmas(小さな両手にMerry Xmas)


Earlier this morning, I did some Xmas shopping at Oomomo which is the local Japan-themed dollar store in Canada that has a few branches in the Toronto area. Couldn't resist but I had to pick up a couple of bottles of Milk Tea since I haven't had any in some years now. Also at the same time, I noticed Oomomo had a couple of J-Xmas tunes playing on the store speakers: Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎) rendition of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)cover of "The Christmas Song", both of them about as Hallmark Greeting Card as one can get on a Xmas tune. I was slightly tempted to see if management had a laptop set to "Kayo Kyoku Plus" but I kept my silence.😁

I found this particular J-Pop song with a Christmas theme on one of my J-Xmas compilation discs, although I believe that this was originally on singer-songwriter Kyoko Endo's(遠藤京子)brief November 1993 album "Fuyu no Niwa"(冬の庭...Winter Garden or Le Jardin D'Hiver. It shares track space with the bouncy "Yuki ga Furu Mae ni"(雪が降る前に)which was originally recorded in 1984 so I'm gathering that "Fuyu no Niwa" may be more of a compilation over the years of Endo's Xmas-themed music. 

Characterized by a rich piano and acoustic guitar, Endo gives a slightly hushed performance in "Chiisana Ryote ni Merry Xmas" (Merry Xmas in Both of Your Little Hands). In comparison with her earlier "Yuki ga Furu Mae ni", this Yuletide ballad is a more introspective affair possibly set at the wooden lodge way outside of the city and surrounded by many drifts of snow. Let's say that this is a hot-chocolate-with-a-single-marshmallow sort of song and with that chorus becoming prominent near the end, I think that there is even a bit of a Carpenters feeling to it.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Mondo Grosso featuring Etsuko Yakushimaru -- ōtōseyo(応答せよ)


I guess that I was going for a bit of abstract when I took this picture of the many floors in Diver City, Odaiba, Tokyo back in 2017

When I was in Diver City, there were plenty of folks walking around doing their noshing and shopping. However, in recent years, I've been aware of the phenomenon of folks being fascinated by abandoned structures such as shopping malls in both Japan and America, and YouTuber The Proper People gave this tour of the absolutely empty Medley Center Mall in the town of Irondequoit, New York State in the same year as my most recent trip to Tokyo. It is quite interesting and eerie at the same time despite the fact that the tour was done in broad daylight. After all, the regular image of shopping malls is for them to be filled with people walking around with open stores looking for their business. It's almost as if humanity had disappeared long ago due to some calamity.

That's the vibe that I get from at least the lyrics of "ōtōseyo", a song created by composer Mondo Grosso and lyricist Tica α(ティカ・α). I was going to translate the title into "Speak To Me", but I actually like the translation given at "Lyrics Translate" for the song which is "Hello, Do You Copy?". In fact, the page gives the entire translation for "ōtōseyo" which paints a pretty bleak picture of someone living in the aftermath of an apocalypse. A shopping mall is even given a shoutout although it seems to be populated by zombies now.

Mondo Grosso, aka Shinichi Osawa(大沢伸一), still has beats in there with the feeling of beatnik bongos but "ōtōseyo" is surely made for the mysterious vocalist form of Tica α, aka Etsuko Yakushimaru(やくしまるえつこ). Those opening measures of the song sound as if they had been made for the sometimes sinister tones of Mallwave before her vocals and an introspective piano enter the scene. The melody is actually a little more upbeat and perhaps even child-like and wondrous in comparison to the lyrics, and the protagonist in those lyrics insists that even if everyone were to disappear, the world will not end, so maybe there is some hope.

"ōtōseyo" is a track on Mondo Grosso's 6th studio album "Nando demo Atarashiku Umareru"(何度でも新しく生まれる...Reborn Over and Over) which was released in June 2017 (ah, that year again). It reached No. 8 on Oricon and the album also has "Labyrinth"(ラビリンス)featuring actress and former Folder member Hikari Mitsushima(満島ひかり).

Go West -- Call Me


A week ago, I contributed that article about Seishiro Kusunose's(楠瀬誠志郎)"Elevator Town" with that snazzy percussion lick and compared it to 80s pop duo Go West's "Call Me". Although "Elevator Town" was more of a contemporized Big Band tune, "Call Me", by this British band consisting of Peter Cox and Richard Drummie, was one incredibly catchy song that was released as a single in May 1985.

Well, I figure that since "Call Me" has been one of my absolute favourite songs of the 1980s, period, I just had to place it in a ROY article tonight. It's that percussion, Cox's voice and the synth work that first hooked me and the original single is fine enough but what landed me was the longer "The Indiscriminate Mix" with more of that snazzy percussion and the repeated two-note synth clarion call of CALL ME. I first heard it on one of the Toronto FM stations that played dance remixes all night on Saturday night, and after that, I had to track it down. Sadly I could never do that and strangely enough, I never heard it on the dance floor in the discos, but thanks to YouTube, I don't have to worry about that anymore.

Just to torture me, though, there was an afternoon show on one of the local channels here in which the host had a call-in session, so of course, she just had to use a part of "Call Me" as the theme song. However on a wider pop cultural level, this particular song got dusted off in the early 2000s as part of the soundtrack for the video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City"

"Call Me" only hit as high as No. 91 on the RPM singles chart in Canada and No. 54 on the US Billboard chart's Top 100 Singles but it did quite a bit better on the Dance chart and it even broke into the Top 10 in Ireland. It was also included in Go West's self-titled album from 1985.

So, what was inhabiting the Top 3 on the Oricon singles chart for May 1985?

1. Koji Kikkawa -- Nikumaresouna NEW Face(にくまれそうなNEWフェイス)

2. Akina Nakamori -- Akai Tori Nigeta(赤い鳥逃げた)

3. Seiko Matsuda -- Boy no Kisetsu (ボーイの季節)

Onyanko Club -- KICK OFF


Almost a month ago, I wrote about a friend giving me some LPs that he no longer wanted and one of those records was Minako Honda's(本田美奈子)June 1986 2nd album "LIPS". Well, another gift was "KICK OFF", the debut album by the first aidoru supergroup that lyricist Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)created back in the 1980s, Onyanko Club(おニャン子クラブ). Looks like along with the title, someone really wanted to put in that rugby theme for the album cover and liner notes.

Released in September 1985, just a few months after Onyanko Club's most famous song and debut single, "Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanaide" (セーラー服を脱がさないで)first got sold, "KICK OFF" not only has Single No. 1 in there, but also "Makka na Jitensha"(真赤な自転車)which I've also written about. And regarding "Sailor Fuku", I never mentioned who exactly was singing lead for that number, so I'll mention it here: Eri Nitta, Miharu Nakajima, Satomi Fukunaga and Kazuko Utsumi(新田恵利・中島美春・福永恵規・内海和子).

Kicking off the album (pun intended) is "Ijiwaru ne, Darlin'"(いじわるねDarlin'...You're Mean, Darlin') with Akimoto behind the lyrics (as he is for all of the tracks on "KICK OFF") and Kiyonori Matsuo(松尾清憲)on the melody here and one more song. Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子)provided the arrangement and keyboard play for "Ijiwaru ne, Darlin'" and yep, it sounds like my image of the typical Onyanko Club song and a happy-go-lucky 60s bubblegum pop tune about all that adolescent lovey-dovey stuff. Along with Nakajima, Mika Nagoya, Ruriko Nagata, Aki Kihara, Harumi Tomikawa, Sanae Jounouchi, Mamiko Takai and Rika Tatsumi(中島美春・名越美香・永田ルリ子・樹原亜紀・富川春美・城之内早苗・高井麻巳子・立見里歌)were behind the mikes.

I thought that "Natsu no Christmas"(夏のクリスマス...Summer Christmas) was just another coy title really talking about enjoying the summer holiday. However, it looks like Akimoto wanted the narrative for this surprisingly groovy track to cover both summer and winter with the romance beginning on Christmas Eve and spanning into the hot season several months later. Ken Takahashi(高橋研)and Jun Sato(佐藤準)covered composition and arrangement respectively, the same duo behind "Makka na Jitensha". Nitta, Nakajima, Fukunaga, Utsumi, Nagoya and Takai were on deck here.

It's just Fukunaga and Utsumi for the first track on Side B of the original LP, "Ai no Ronri Shakai"(愛の論理社会...Moral Society of Love), and for me, it's the surprise of "KICK OFF". This isn't only because of Akimoto's hot lyrics about a potentially May-December romance starting from a hotel bar and graduating into the hotel suite (as sung by a couple of teenagers...but then again, didn't we have Momoe Yamaguchi the decade before?), but also because the arrangement and music by Yamakawa really take "Ai no Ronri Shakai" into the realm of evening City Pop. Plus, on guitar is none other than Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)! I think that I'll have that martini right now.

"Hayasugiru Sedai"(早すぎる世代...Too Early Generation) was composed and arranged by Jun Sato and it was the B-side to the "Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanaide" single. Fashioned as some teenage rebellion against the parents for trying to restrict the girls' wants to explore the world in all ways, again I hear some of that cute 60s and the adorably somewhat off-tune vocalization by the Club. The liner notes have the entire group singing but according to J-Wiki, the "front" vocals are provided by Nitta, Nakajima, Fukunaga and Utsumi.

One more tune that I'll throw in is "FEN wo Kikasete"(FENを聴かせて...Let Me Hear Some FEN) sung by Nitta and Nakajima with Matsuo on melody and Yamakawa on arrangement and keyboards. For those who may not know, FEN was known as the Far East Network, a group of American radio and television stations serving the US military in Japan and other areas in the Pacific Ocean (it's now known as American Forces Network Japan). It's indeed a nice-and-light aidoru tune but that intro had me first thinking of something more Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)-friendly synthpop. Akimoto's lyrics weave a story of a romance taking place over a couple of nights at least, and I guess listening to FEN was considered to be a sign of becoming mature and worldly.

"KICK OFF" scored a No. 2 ranking on the Oricon weeklies and it ended up as the 41st-ranked album of 1985, pretty auspicious feat for this large aidoru group. I was pleasantly surprised since I had been expecting just the usual bubbly 80s aidoru fare but instead got a few curve balls as well among the tracks. It certainly sounds like Akimoto wanted to bring in a few different composers and arrangers into the mix.