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.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taeko Ohnuki -- Itsumo Douri (いつも通り)

In the last couple of years, I've become a huge fan of this lady's work. Strangely enough, I'd bought her Best double-CD set close to a decade ago but I guess I hadn't been too impressed on my first listen since I let it sit in my CD case for a few more years before I finally heard the light. That double-CD set mostly focused on her 80s technopop/European songs which were more than enough to start scouring for the original albums. However, once I got those under my belt and on my shelves, I wanted to search for some of her older work, before her fateful collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一): namely, her first two solo albums, and then even earlier with her time as co-vocal in New Music band, Sugar Babe(シュガー・ベイブ).

Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) was born in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, in 1953. Twenty years later, she, along with four others including singer Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎) (who I wrote about a couple of entries ago for "Ride On Time"), created Sugar Babe. Now, I mentioned that this was a New Music band...and this is where things get confusing even for me. According to the definition on J-Wiki, New Music was an urban contemporary form mixed in with Japanese popular music, ergo kayo kyoku (mixologically speaking, rum and sake?). OK, so then where does City Pop come in? Well, just for the sake of this blog and these brain cells (or cell) in my head, I'm gonna consider New Music to be more of the Western-style Japanese pop songs in the early/mid 70s, while City Pop starts up in the late 70s and into the 80s. In any case, the J-Wiki write-up on Sugar Babe itself talks of how the band used different Western chords which would further set it apart from other popular forms of the time such as enka and aidoru.

Back to our regularly scheduled entry. "Itsumo Douri"(As Usual) is a short mid-tempo upbeat tune about someone just getting on with life in the big city. There is a fusion of 70s pop, big city sax and strings which helps in relating that feeling of a young woman's life in Tokyo. And after listening to Ohnuki's breathy, almost whispery voice in the 80s, it's a revelation to hear this song which is very different from her work with "Professor"Sakamoto. The song itself was released as the B-side for the single "Downtown", sung by Yamashita and now a Japanese pop standard. The album, "Songs" was released at about the same time in April 1975.

I'll be going further into Ohnuki-san's career over the next number of months since she, in my estimation anyways, did some remarkable work through the late 70s and early 80s.

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