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, May 27, 2022

Yoshimi Iwasaki -- Kuchibiru kara Suspense(くちびるからサスペンス)


It was literally amateur night with my old Casio camera when I took this shot of the Yokohama skyline. Well, it was either that or I just had a little too much to drink at that Chinese buffet place.

Therefore, let us go to something more refined. Perhaps Yoshimi Iwasaki(岩崎良美)was still considered an aidoru when this 18th single of hers, "Kuchibiru kara Suspense" (Suspense from My Lips) came out in July 1984, but still, this song is fairly dramatic and sophisticated in its arrangement. For one thing, there was that common partnership during the 1980s with lyricist Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)as the former's words talk of a possible sin playing out with a lady secretly coveting her best friend's boyfriend. With those keyboards, boppy bass and horns, Iwasaki can easily join the City Pop aidoru pedestal along with Momoko Kikuchi(菊池桃子).

When I watch her performance in the video below, her voice and that certain tilt of her head remind me so much of her older sister Hiromi(岩崎宏美).

Tetsuji Hayashi -- Kanashimi no memory(哀しみのmemory)


Singer-songwriter Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)is someone that I've usually associated with City Pop of the 1970s and 1980s, but happily it looks like he was also delving into the music as the 1990s arrived as well.

Case in point: he released a classy City Pop tune of that decade called "Kanashimi no memory" (Sad Memory) in May 1992. With lyrics by Kanata Asamizu(朝水彼方), Hayashi not only brought the melody but also the arrangement with singer-songwriter Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三). Asamizu's lyrics may be contrasting the different feelings of two people who have just broken up, but Hayashi's music makes for a nice accompaniment to a freeing drive throughout the big city with that certain keyboard and the shimmering strings (synth or not). 

Maybe there's even a faint echo of Kazumasa Oda's(小田和正)"Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"(ラブ・ストーリーは突然にー)in there. It made me wonder whether "Kanashimi no memory" had been used as a theme for a J-Drama, but instead it was actually the theme song for a Beat Takeshi variety show "Kitano Fan Club"(北野ファンクラブ)on Fuji-TV.

Kirinji -- Saikai(再会)


If I've read the J-Wiki comment on Kirinji's(キリンジ)current status properly, it has been existing as a solo project with singer-songwriter Takaki Horigome(堀米孝樹)since 2021, although members from their full-fledged band days have come in to help from time to time.

A digital download single, the first of any single by Kirinji in about four years, was released in April 2021. Titled "Saikai" (Reunion), the Takaki Horigome-penned song is a pretty gentle mid-tempo piece which still retains some of that spaciness from recent works such as "Jikan ga nai"(時間がない)but also has that stylish AOR that has been with Kirinji since forever.

It can also become a bit of a time capsule since Horigome even refers to one ubiquitous pandemic countermeasure within the lyrics as former flames see each other at an intersection and decide to share a meal for the first time in a long while. There's no indication that they will ever go back to being a romantic couple again, but it looks like the much better status of friendship is looming over the horizon. 

I've been reading that inbound tourism is about to return to Japan in limited numbers as of next month. Maybe there is a chance that I could have my own reunions again with old friends there in the not-too-distant future but I can understand the nation's slowly, slowly approach. Let us all hope that we can make it back.

Mayumi -- Summer Illusion


Well, after a cool beginning to the week, things are heating up and the humidity is definitely rising as we head into the weekend. Summer is definitely encroaching upon us, and it's time to open up the patios. I could sure use a peach smoothie like the ones I used to make back in Ichikawa with the glass that I got for free from the Tokyo branch of Bubba Gump.

So to start off City Pop/J-AOR Friday, I've got a silky smooth but strutworthy number here by singer-songwriter Mayumi called "Summer Illusion" from her January 1986 album "MAYM". Heck of a time to have a track like this but perhaps Mayumi Horikawa(堀川まゆみ)wanted to remind folks shivering in cold Tokyo and elsewhere at the time that the hot season was on it way. I love the horns and the kittenish way that Mayumi delivers the song as if she were taking her sweet time in the downtown parts of the city that she basically owns. While the singer composed "Summer Illusion", Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子)took care of the lyrics.

With a title like "Summer Illusion", the song comes across as something that would have been ideal for a cosmetics commercial. Just my opinion, but in a way, the arrangement also hits me as if Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)was behind it, and I could also imagine someone like Kanako Wada(和田加奈子)behind the mike in recording.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Tommy february6 -- ◯Strawberry●Cream◯Soda●Pop◯


Ah, for that faithful reminder of what my music was like back when I was a teenager, I can always go to Tommy february6, aka singer-songwriter Tomoko Kawase(川瀬智子)of the indie rock group the brilliant green. Good ol' Tommy february6 was one of Kawase's personae representing the 80s synthpop period.

Tommy was releasing singles and albums between 2001 and 2005 when she took a bit of a break. However, she released a BEST compilation in February 2009 titled "Strawberry Cream Soda Pop “Daydream”" which included all of those fizzy and frothy singles and album tracks from the past. And then as the final track, she included what would be the title track for the album, "◯Strawberry●Cream◯Soda●Pop◯"

It was just like she never left the stage since the song sounded like what I would have expected from Tommy February6, cute-as-all-get-out vocals, twee 80s analog synths and crisp syn-drums smacking away. Heck, even the video has some Boy George emulators frolicking in there. Now, wouldn't that be a thing to have some of the Culture Club visit Tommy's tea party?

There's also a slightly rearranged version right here. As for the album, it peaked at No. 5 on Oricon. I vaguely remember having cream soda as a kid decades ago, but for the life of me, I can't even remember what it tastes like! 🙀

Huey Lewis and The News -- The Power of Love


There are a number of movies that I regret not seeing at the theatre including a couple of recent superhero movies. One of the earliest that I never got to catch on the big screen was "Superman" with Christopher Reeve (though I ended up seeing "Superman II" five times!), and then there was "Back to the Future" which will soon celebrate its 37th anniversary this year. I actually caught that one a few years later for the first time on VHS at a showing by my university's Japanese-Canadian Students' Association event. 

I can only imagine what it must have been like in the theatre especially in the above scene where Marty was racing the DeLorean to get back to 1985, and it seemed like fate was trying to put up as many roadblocks as possible to prevent that from happening. The moviegoers were most likely screaming like crazy and then cheering when Doc managed to get that bolt of lightning to provide the 1.21 gigawatts of power to the car/time machine. With Alan Silvestri's heroic theme for the entire franchise blasting away, the scene has gone down as one of the most satisfying and exciting in history.

Of course, along with Silvestri's score for "Back to the Future", there is "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and The News, and this song along with the movie are so inextricably linked that whenever I hear this Huey hit or see Marty on his skateboard, the other invariably comes to mind immediately. For that matter, "The Power of Love" is one of the big songs that has me waxing nostalgically about the 1980s in general. I think it's become Michael J Fox's theme song as well; I recall seeing a Japanese car commercial starring the guy while the song was playing.

I'd already known about Huey Lewis and The News by the time that "The Power of Love" hit the airwaves. I don't think that this particular song was the breakthrough hit for the San Francisco band; they'd already had a number of hits and other recognizable tunes but "The Power of Love" which was released in June 1985, not too long before the movie started showing up, ended up being their very first No. 1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 (and a chart-topper in Canada, too). 

Of course, being released in the 1980s, there had to be a dance remix version released as well. Hey, it's all good. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of other Huey Lewis and The News hits out there so I'll have to cover some of those as ROY articles.

So, what was occupying top three spaces on the Oricon chart for June 1985?

1. Yumi Matsutoya, Kazumasa Oda, Kazuo Zaitsu -- Ima Dakara (今だから)

2. Momoko Kikuchi -- BOY no Tehma (BOYのテーマ)

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

I couldn't help it...just had to include Silvestri's "Back to the Future" theme! It's too epic!

Yujiro Ishihara & Kei Marimura -- Sayonara wa Hirusagari(さよならは昼下がり)


Getting warmer out there but still sunny and pleasant. We may be looking at a summery weekend with a Humidex, though. 

I'm gonna have to give my thanks to commenter James Noah for this scintillating duet. Actually, he'd asked me if I knew the footage from the above video and after quickly scrolling down the comments, I found out it was from the 1969 Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)movie "Eikou e no 5000 Kilo"(栄光への5000キロ...5000 Kilometres to Glory) which looks like a flick about racing. I dutifully told him the results but then I had to also listen to the lovely song that adorns the video.

The song has nothing to do with "Eikou e no 5000 Kilo" but it is a duet with The Tough Guy and jazz chanteuse Kei Marimura(真梨邑ケイ)titled "Sayonara wa Hirusagari" (Goodbye in the Early Afternoon) which was released as an Ishihara single in December 1985, one of his final singles before his untimely death in 1987. Written by the late Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)and composed by Koumei Sone(曽根幸明), the song still does hearken back to the 1960s in terms of how Mancini-and-martini it all sounds with the elegant and languid bossa jazz arrangement. It just makes me feel that the setting for this song has to be somewhere in the Mediterranean on a cruise ship or in some stylish restaurant on the coast. Must give a tip to the saxophonist.

One other notable thing is that the sweet-sorrow parting in the lyrics is hinted through the title that it takes place just past the noon hour. Usually when it comes to romantic breakups in kayo, I've gotten used to the idea that such things happen late at night or in the early morning after one more night of lust. I would usually feel sorry for the wait staff in the restaurant if they had a couple breaking up right after the lunch rush, but in the case of Ishihara and Marimura, I'm sure everything was done with a lot of class. No remonstrations or regrets...just appreciations of the good times now stored into memory.