Credits

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, November 19, 2019

Katsuyuki Mito -- Kimi ga Ireba(キミがいれば)



The one word that I have to describe "Kimi ga Ireba" (As Long As You're Here) and its accompanying music video by singer-songwriter Katsuyuki Mito(ミトカツユキ)is SNAZZY. Sounding like an even more soulful Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之), Mito incorporates some ballet-like jazz piano tinkling along with funky arrangements to make this November 2007 single a happy-go-lucky winner in my books.

All that music goodness in one song is perhaps no surprise after reading his bio on J-Wiki in which Mito, who had started on piano when he was around 4 years old in his native Hokkaido, got the performing bug after hearing Earth Wind & Fire's legendary "September" on the radio one day. While doing gigs in Sapporo, he worked on a variety of jazz, soul and gospel pieces. When he came south to Tokyo in 2004, he did some busking along with work as a radio personality and even helping in the making of some drama theme songs.

"Kimi ga Ireba" was Mito's 5th single out of six that he has released so far, and he's released a slew of albums up to 2015, the majority of them being mini-albums.

Miharu Koshi -- Harbor Light(ハーバー・ライト)


I was listening to the above, Miharu Koshi's(越美晴)"Golden Best" which had been released sometime in 2006, and this single CD Best album has many of her songs in the first part of her career between 1979 and 1981 when she was exploring the City Pop and AOR genres.

(4:04)

One of the tracks on "Golden Best" is "Harbor Light" which was the B-side to Koshi's 1979 4th single "Kardia no Umi"(カルディアの海). Written and composed by the singer, in comparison with the tropical intrigue of that A-side, "Harbor Light" seems to take things back to downtown Tokyo with its own mysteries of late-night trysts. I do like that bouncy piano and the introductory riff that reminds me of Billy Joel's "The Stranger". The melody, though, kinda weaves back and forth between the not-so-desired secrecy and the best part of the whirlwind romance. However, as they say, all good things come to an end.


Kiyomi Suzuki -- Yoake no Starlight(夜明けのスタライト)


I had been hoping that it would happen, but alas it didn't. I'm talking about the just-announced lineup for NHK's 70th Kohaku Utagassen at the end of next month, and unfortunately the White team doesn't have Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)with Rikka Ihara(伊原六花)and their "Love Dramatic"(ラブ・ドラマティック). Maybe NHK never considered them or Martin may have politely declined NHK's invitation but we won't be having some of that cool soul from him this year, unfortunately. C'est la vie.


Therefore, just to soften the blow a bit, I'm putting up this soulful ballad by Suzuki's elder sister, Kiyomi Suzuki(鈴木聖美), "Yoake no Starlight" (Sunrise Starlight) which was her 3rd single from September 1988. I'm not sure whether it had originally been recorded as a solo by Kiyomi but I do love the duet between the Suzuki siblings above. The Deities of Love Songs, indeed...

Written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)and composed by Harutoshi Noda(野田晴稔), I wouldn't mind seeing more collaborations between Kiyomi and Masayuki. It's just the thing to cool down with on a Tuesday evening. I can only imagine that New Year's Day get-togethers with the Suzuki family must be something else.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Chickenshack -- Love Is Here To Stay


A few years ago, I wrote about this jazz/fusion band called Chickenshack and how much I liked their "At Temps" from their debut album "Chickenshack I" from 1986. The musical version of nursing a cognac while resting up in a penthouse apartment after a hard day of work, it kinda felt like bringing Los Angeles to Tokyo.

(4:41)

Today, I stumbled across their 4th album, logically called "Chickenshack IV", and the band members must have been pretty prolific with their music since No. 4 came out in 1988, just a couple of years after their inaugural album.

One track that I've already really started getting into is the 2nd track "Love Is Here To Stay" which is much more of a straight-up R&B tune of those days when compared to the light and mellow AOR of "At Temps". According to the Japanese write-up at Zigsow, John Black is the vocalist for this song that seems to keep things right in LA. Most of "Love Is Here To Stay" is about strutting on the streets but then near the end comes this saxophone solo that takes listeners soaring up into the night sky for several seconds before making that soft landing back downtown.

Yuko Ando -- TEXAS


Always love a rolling melodic piano.


Not sure what the Lone Star State has to do with Yuko Ando's(安藤裕子)"TEXAS", the singer-songwriter's 5th single from July 2006. There's no mention of the state in her lyrics but there is plenty of adorable love affirmation, and perhaps not a few young couples could have adopted "TEXAS" as their tune when they first heard it. Plus, as I said off the top, I love that piano and that whole arrangement by Ando and Ryuji Yamamoto(山本隆二)which can blow all of those Monday blues away.

"TEXAS" also made its way onto Ando's 3rd full album "shabon songs" which was released in February 2007. Ironically, considering the title, I actually want a mug of cocoa with a marshmallow in it rather than a tumbler of bourbon.


Kaya Saeki -- Pretty Please


Kaya Saeki(佐伯伽耶)was a singer that I had encountered purely by accident several years ago on YouTube, and I liked her urban contemporary material so much that I decided to cover both the A and B songs for her debut single "Perfume wo Nokosenai"(パフュームを残せない)from October 1994.


Deep in the backlog, I found out that I'd put a bookmark on her 2nd single as well, "Pretty Please" which was released about a year later in October 1995. From an article about that single on another blog, the cover of the single with Saeki had me wondering whether she had decided to take a different direction with her music since she looked more like a sexy pop singer along the lines of Ryoko Shinohara(篠原涼子)at the time.

However, from reading the blogger's description and listening to the song itself, "Pretty Please" keeps things to that late 1980s City Pop feeling with perhaps a bit of Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)brightness. Perhaps urban contemporary music wasn't all that much in the ascendant in the 1990s so it was nice to know that there were folks like Saeki and Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)still providing some of that smooth and groovy music for painting the town red. Saeki herself provided the lyrics while Kaoru Akimoto(秋元薫)...yes, the "Dress Down" singer herself...composed "Pretty Please".


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tomita Lab -- Shiawase no Blue feat. YOSHIKA(しあわせのBlue)


The one thing that I've regretted about doing "Kayo Kyoku Plus" is that I'm no musicologist. I love my kayo and I'm happy that I've been able to communicate with other fans of kayo kyoku from all over the world over the majority of this past decade, some of whom have become writers of articles themselves here. Although I have never meant for the blog to become an academic exercise in melodic or lyrical analysis for songs like "Plastic Love" or the "Sukiyaki" song, sometimes I wish I could use some of that knowledge to explore why these particular favourites of mine have simply worked and disseminate my opinions.

Take for example, Steely Dan. This amazing band led by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker was part of my radio education when I was a kid and, without me realizing it, also tempered me to get further into Japanese pop music through the genres of City Pop and J-AOR since there was something about the secret sauce of Steely Dan that also garnered the fascination of singers and fans alike in Japan. I had always wondered what that sauce was, and it wasn't until earlier this year that I discovered this 2016 YouTube video by Nerdwriter 1 and found out that it was something called the Mu Major Chord. Again, non-musicologist me was able to glean some insight about what that particular chord is all about, but swapping notes in chords and realizing the change in sound to what is a key ingredient for a Steely Dan tune are largely lost on me unless I decide to take up the guitar or piano and start learning. What is important for me, though, is that I love what the Mu Major Chord has done for my ears all these years through music on both sides of the Pacific. Nerdwriter 1's video also has further sources for his commentary on YouTube so take a look at those if you are interested. Another great thing is that the fellow has focused on one of my favourite songs by Fagen and Becker, "Deacon Blues".


Well, now that I've got that off my chest, I can introduce this silky-smooth song called "Shiawase no Blue" (Happy Blue) sung by YOSHIKA. And guess what? I think it also uses that wonderful spice called the Mu Major Chord within those warm and honeyed horns.

"Shiawase no Blue" is a track on Tomita Lab's(冨田ラボ)February 2006 album "Shiplaunching". Written by Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and composed by Tomita Lab, that combination automatically got my attention. The Lab Man has always known his way around a cool arrangement and hook, and of course, Ohnuki, although she didn't officially help out in the melody this time, will always be dear to me. "Shiawase no Blue" is a wistful reminiscence of a romance gone by in some tropical paradise and it's cloaked in some refreshingly cool and mellow soul, the Mu and the sexy vocals by singer-songwriter YOSHIKA.

I'd thought that YOSHIKA was already represented here on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" since I've introduced a number of m-flo tunes over the years but it looks like I have as yet to include any of her contributions within that group. But obviously, there is nothing wrong at all by starting with her work with Tomita Lab. Now, I'm thinking about including "Shiplaunching" as part of my Xmas wish list. As for that album, it peaked at No. 51 on Oricon.


Hey, we got excerpts of "Deacon Blues" up above. Why not listen to the whole song?