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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sachiko Nishida -- Sakeyoigusa(酒酔草)


Most of Sachiko Nishida's(西田佐知子)songs represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" have been of her bluesy Mood Kayo outings in the 1960s, such as "Tokyo Blues"(東京ブルース)from 1964. However, going further into the 1970s, I think that she also gave some of the other genres a shot.

A couple of years back, I wrote about her "Hajimete no Machi de"(初めての街で)whose 1979 version mixed in jazz, country and even some folk in comparison to the original 1975 take that was more of the conventional Mood Kayo. Well, in between those two versions, Nishida released a July 1977 album "Itsumo no Gogo"(いつもの午後...The Usual Afternoon), and to echo one Japanese commenter said under the YouTube video above, I would like to hear more of the tracks.

The one reason is that I heard Track 4 on Side B of the original LP, "Sakeyoigusa", which is very different from either the original 1975 and the multi-genre 1979 version of "Hajimete no Machi de", although one commonality among the three songs is the drinking. In fact, there is nothing Mood Kayo at all in "Sakeyoigusa", and nothing of jazz or folk in there either. There's some hint of country through the guitar but I'd say that the song is pure New Music along the lines of Yumi Arai(荒井由実).

But the song was arranged and composed by one of the pillars of City Pop/J-AOR, Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司), and it was actually a cover of Mayumi Itsuwa's(五輪真弓)7th single from October 1974 with Itsuwa herself providing the lyrics. Furthermore, from the sound of "Sakeyoigusa", it does mesh very well with how Itsuwa must have sung it originally; regrettably, I couldn't find her version of the ballad...otherwise, I would have had it here as well. 

As for the meaning of "Sakeyoigusa", I couldn't find anything at my usual sources but looking at Itsuwa's lyrics which only mention the title once, I think the closest definition might be barfly as in someone who just hangs about at the local watering hole making small talk with any of the other customers. Indeed, both the melody and the vocals by Nishida herself paint a very woozy picture as the supposed tipsy barfly invites a fellow drinker for some convivial conversation over mass quantities. It's quite the different feeling from Nishida and as mentioned above, because of this particular song, I'd be interested in how the other tracks on "Itsumo no Gogo" come across.

Jun Fukamachi -- It's You


Jun Fukamachi(深町純)is someone that I've mentioned once before on KKP through Goro Noguchi's(野口五郎)"Catalog L.A."(カタログL.A.)song as its composer. However, I have come across his name via YouTube and some other literature. Fukamachi was a Tokyo-born composer and arranger who also handled synthesizers and other keyboards often in the fusion genre, and he collaborated with many artists and provided them with their songs. The musician was also active in providing music for movies, television and musicals, and according to his Wikipedia article, he even worked with The Brecker Brothers and drummer Steve Gadd. In 1989, he established Japan's first synthesizer major at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music in the city of Kawasaki. He also released many of his own albums but sadly in November 2010, he passed away at the age of 64.

In 1981, he along with a couple of other acts in the fusion genre, Masayoshi Takanaka(高中正義)and Carioca, recorded a compilation album called "Horizon Dream", and one of the tracks under his name is "It's You". It starts out as an innocent bluesy piece representing what sounds like rising up on a beautiful day in the tropics depicted on the album cover before things get more active starting with that saxophone solo. That solo does a slow burn for about a minute or so before listeners are taken for a bit of fun on the boardwalk but still retaining that bluesiness and the original melody. The guitar and sax then have a nice little jam session with the hazy synthesizer holding court in the background after which some more party atmosphere rolls on in with the tide. Finally, it's time to come home in the evening.

Considering the title of Fukamachi's song, it's definitely not a solo act in the story but hopefully a very happy couple, very much in love.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Yumiko Araki -- Haru ni Fukarete(春に吹かれて)


The first time that I had heard of Yumiko Araki(荒木由美子)was through her debut single "Nagisa de Cross"(渚でクロス)from June 1977 which I wrote about a little over a couple of years ago.

I've already given out much of her biography through "Nagisa de Cross", so let's cut to the chase with this track from her debut album "Virgin Road/Nagisa de Cross"(ヴァージン・ロード/渚でクロス)which was released in October of that same year. The husband-and-wife team of Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木燿子), who had also come up with "Nagisa de Cross", was also behind "Haru ni Fukarete" (Carried Away by Spring), this time with arrangements by Motoki Funayama(船山基紀).

The debut single may have been a bit more rock n' roll but "Haru ni Fukarete" is more lighthearted with a touch of Latin in there. It's more like a stroll in some tropical paradise and there is that velvety singing by Araki herself. Not a bad thing to hear especially as the season is here.

Yaen -- Sakebi(叫び)


Slightly over 4 years ago, I wrote up the first article for the relatively short-lived group (1998-2001) called Yaen(野猿), spearheaded by the comedy duo Tunnels(とんねるず). In "Get Down", I mentioned that for a band that consisted of Takaaki Ishibashi(石橋貴明), Noritake Kinashi(木梨憲武)and a bunch of Fuji-TV technical staff, they didn't do too badly with the song and dance.

"Get Down" was Yaen's debut single and here is their 2nd single from September 1998, "Sakebi" (Yell). Again, like the first song, "Sakebi" kinda-sorta straddles that line between earnest pop song and pop pastiche, although that scream at the beginning threatens to pull things straight into comedy. It helps that none of the singers including Taka and Nori aren't too bad at their second jobs. Also, another plus is that the song has a decent rhythm track so give thanks to the songwriting team of lyricist Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composer Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)with Otohiko Tahara(田原音彦) behind the arrangement.

According to J-Wiki, the music video was filmed out on a dry lake bed in the United States. "Sakebi" did even better than "Get Down" on the Oricon weeklies by grabbing No. 2 although it did much more modestly on the yearly charts by placing in at No. 97 compared to the No. 20 ranking for the debut single. Those first two singles are on Yaen's debut album, "Staff Roll", released in March 1999. The album peaked at No. 3 and ended up as the 48th-ranked release of that year. Intriguingly enough, Jason Scheff of the band Chicago actually covered "Sakebi" in English.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Kozo Murashita -- Chiisana Yane no Shita(小さな屋根の下)


Well, it's been almost three years since I've put up a Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵)article on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and therefore, why not put up something appropriately soothing and summery for this Sunday night? It would be especially nice here in Toronto since we're going to be getting quite a bit of rain this coming week.

I found this song with the faint hint of the tropics titled "Chiisana Yane no Shita" (Under a Small Roof) as written and composed by Murashita. First recorded for his April 1981 sophomore album "Izuko e"(何処へ...To Where), I think the song deserves its own cocktail with an umbrella although the lyrics by the late singer-songwriter describe a man's realization that his new life with his wife under modest surroundings is perfectly blissful. The luxury vacation to London or Paris will come in time but right now, let's enjoy domestic living. With some nice percussion to lead things, the smooth rhythms swim on out like graceful dolphins.🐬

Also on "Izuko e" is "Gozen Reiji"(午前零時), something with a bit more of a rock n' roll feeling.

Yoshiko Miyazaki -- Ima wa Heiki yo(今は平気よ)


When it comes to Yoshiko Miyazaki(宮崎美子), I have two images of her. One is that of her impressionable appearance on a Minolta camera commercial back in 1980. The other image that I have of her is her modest and matronly and fairly frequent stints as a current tarento on variety shows including the NHK program on Japanese names as seen below (although I know that she is also an actress).

I've noticed that her J-Wiki biography doesn't list her as a singer but she does have that experience on her resume with four singles, three albums and a BEST compilation between 1981 and 1987. Case in point, there is that debut album from December 1981, "Mellow".

To be honest, I had no idea that Miyazaki sang until I discovered some of her material on YouTube a couple of nights ago, and from "Mellow", I encountered the track "Ima wa Heiki yo" (I'm OK Now). As soon as I heard this chipper and catchy tune, I just knew that it had something to do with Yellow Magic Orchestra or one of its members. And sure enough, Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)composed this technopop treat with Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)providing the lyrics.

Miyazaki doesn't have the most expressive vocals but I think that rather suits her within a technopop tune since I think at the time with such acts in Japan and other nations, the vocals have often played second fiddle to all of the fascinating bleeps and bloops of the synthesizers (Yano and Taeko Ohnuki excluded). Still, I think that Miyazaki has a pleasant high and breathy quality to her voice, and I believe that is Yano helping out on background chorus.

As for "Mellow", looking at the "Music Avenue" blog, it looks like Miyazaki was surrounded by a lot of big-time songwriters. In addition to Yano and Sakamoto, Yuming(ユーミン), Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝), Junko Yagami(八神純子)and Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎) were also contributing their time and energies to the tracks.

Asei Kobayashi -- Yoru ga Kuru(夜がくる)


Over the last several years, I've been seeing these ads in both television and billboards about The Most Interesting Man in the World for Dos Equis beer. He's basically Sean Connery as James Bond when retired for a couple of decades. Along with the various accolades that have been made about him in the commercial above, I can add a variation of this old international joke:

United States: You watch TV.                                                                                                                    

Soviet Union: TV watches you.

Still Soviet Union: TV watches him...gratefully and with his permission.

Well, a few decades before back in the 1990s, there was a series of Suntory Whiskey commercials featuring actor Kyozo Nagatsuka(長塚京三)as The Coolest Section Chief in Japan getting majorly flirted at by far younger women. He emotionally kept his cards very close to his chest, only to show them at the very last moment when he kicked his heels in joy. There was even a gender flip when actress Yuko Tanaka(田中裕子)was getting hit upon by much younger men.

I liked those commercials but also for the song that accompanied them in a variety of arrangements. Last night, I decided to search whether it actually existed as some sort of single. Apparently, the song finally did get onto CD in 2000 in all of its variations and with the full title of "Ningen Mina Kyodai ~ Yoru ga Kuru"(人間みな兄弟~夜がくる...Everyone's A Brother ~ The Night is Coming) but for the sake of this article, I will call it "Yoru ga Kuru" and give both that year 2000 label as well as 1994 since the commercials first came out in that year.

"Yoru ga Kuru" must have made some impression on the viewing audience at large since it not only eventually got its release but it also made its way onto J-Wiki. My favourite version is the one in the video above since it is written, composed and sung by Asei Kobayashi(小林亜星). This is the same songwriter and actor behind the original opening theme for the anime "Gatchaman"(ガッチャマン)and for one of enka singer Harumi Miyako's(都はるみ)big hits, "Kita no Yado Kara" (北の宿から)back in the 1970s.

Asei's voice is pleasingly oaken as he describes the coming night and frankly the passage of time and life. Plus, the addition of the violin and the harmonica really does enhance the folksy and bluesy nature of "Yoru ga Kuru", and I get images of him playing this in a homey local bar or restaurant for the regulars...just the kind of place to enjoy some of that Suntory. The whole experience is quite reminiscent of what I can remember of folk/pop singer Roger Whittaker.

I can only hope that for all of us, there will be the times once again when we can all gather in our favourite holes-in-the-wall for some glasses of libation. Until then, stay thirsty my friends!