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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yumi Arai -- The 14th Moon (14番目の月)

"The 14th Moon"was the final Yuming album I bought before leaving Japan. And it was a good thing that I did, too, since it's a winner from start to finish. This was Yumi Arai's(荒井由実)4th album and her final one before she got married to the producer of the album, Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆). She had even thought it would be her final album, period, before changing her mind.

Released in November 1976, "The 14th Moon"is notable in that most of the songs are generally more upbeat and poppy, and the production values have more oomph with the addition of more brass and strings. The additions included bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Mike Baird. The album hit the top spot on the Oricon weekly charts and became the 4th-most successful album of 1977. 

The first video above is for the very first track, "Sazanami"さざ波...Ripples), an optimistic song about looking forward to some time alone after the end of a relationship. It's also known among kayo kyoku fans as one of the more popular Autumn songs. The rhythm piano just keeps the good times rolling.

"Chuo Freeway"中央フリーウェイ...Central Freeway)has become a kayo kyoku standard that has been covered by everyone from The Hi-Fi Set to one of the Morning Musume units. It refers to the actual Chuo Expressway which runs from Tokyo to Nagoya, and to Yuming, being on a road without any signals represents freedom; in a way, this might be the Japanese cousin to Bobby Troup's "Route 66". In an interview on another YouTube video of the song, Yuming talked about how the song came about during the times that she used to commute by subway to work from Hachioji (a Tokyo neighbourhood) but would usually be given a ride home in a car after midnight, and how in a metropolis of mass transit such a ride home would be a slice of the high life.

The final song in this entry is "Good Luck and Good Bye", a wistful song of that final meeting between former lovers which feels like something that would happen in one of those Hollywood romantic comedies of the 1960s...ones in which Gidget doesn't get the guy. Found the video with Yuming singing it, but I also managed to find a nice cover version above by French singer Carole Serrat.

I think this was one of the remarkable things about Yumi Arai, and perhaps why many critics feel that as Yumi Arai, she had the finest songs of her career during the early to mid-70s. At a time when foreign travel by Japanese was still considered a luxury, her New Music helped to bring that exotic and international feeling to the masses.

In any case, a number of these songs are available on her various BEST CDs, but I would still recommend getting "The 14th Moon". Someday when I get back to Japan or have enough money to invade Amazon, I'm gonna finish my mission to get the remainder of Yuming's long line of albums.

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