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 30, 2013

NHK Kayo Concert (NHK歌謡コンサート)

I figured that I've mentioned this program enough times on some of the other articles that it was time to give it its due. "NHK Kayo Concert" is just one in a long line of prime time programs on Japan's main government network focusing on showcasing veteran kayo kyoku singers and their big hits. The current program got its name change in 1993 and has continued thusly for the past 20 years. And in North America, TV Japan has been showing on the same night, although it broadcasts here at 9 p.m. instead of the 8 p.m. start in Japan.

Although we also get "Music Station" here on Sunday nights, I've been more faithful to the kayo kyoku show since I get to hear a lot of the songs of my childhood and youth. So, I get to see veterans like Saburo Kitajima, Sachiko Kobayashi and The Cool Five. However, there are also younger folks such as the Prince of Enka, Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし), who also make regular appearances.

Since it takes place at NHK Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo, the same venue where the Kohaku Utagassen takes place annually, I usually think of "Kayo Concert" as being the weekly shortened version of the 2nd half of the Kohaku (when most of the enka performers used to appear). The singers still come out wearing their Tuesday best, whether it be suits, gowns or kimono. And the themes change from week to week. One week may be a tribute to Hibari Misora, the next week may go for seasonal songs.

Although the majority of guests are singers specializing in enka and/or Mood Kayo, some of the older pop singers (usually from the 60s and 70s) have also come onto "Kayo Concert" to reflect on the old days and their songs before heading to centre stage. Hiromi Ohta's "Amadare" is one example, and Jun Horie has also appeared to perform his "Memory Glass".

Perhaps I'm getting old-fogeyish, but I get quite a lot of enjoyment watching this bit of old-style Japanese elegance and entertainment. And perhaps if the series continues under its current title or a new one in another decade, Seiko Matsuda or even Dreams Come True may come aboard. :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kahoru Kohiruimaki -- Keep On Dreamin

I have to say that with all of the feisty, fun and funky songs that Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる) has sung...for instance, "Hold On Me", "Dreamer", and "Mirage Mirror"..."Keep On Dreamin'" is the one song that really gets my blood going for some reason. It just sounds like the intro to a blockbuster action flick or a particularly ambitious cop Japan, at least. The always dependably grand Jerry Hey horns, the 22-strong disco string section, and Kahoru in funk mode....they all got together and made a grand entrance. The above video doesn't have the best sound, though, unfortunately.

And what a way to start off Kohiruimaki's 11th original album, "KOHHY II", released in February 1995. I think the title was supposed to mean her 2nd album with her then-new studio Tokuma Japan, but I'm not 100% sure on that. I'd actually bought this several years after its initial release. My Kohhy fix had been severed for several years after getting her 9th album, "Frontier" via mail order in Toronto in the early 90s. I was basically going on the fumes of past glories via BEST albums. But then, one day as I was going through the racks at the one of the used CD shops in the Liberty franchise in Tokyo, I came across this album and bought it for about half-price....about 1,500 yen. I'd had no idea what she was up to over the many years.

Well, "Keep On Dreamin'" informed me that she was doing very well indeed in the R&B vein. Kohiruimaki wrote and composed the song with help from Kei-chi Ueno. There are also some other great tunes in the album as well such as "Super Hero", "Step By Step" and "You Got It", and hopefully if they are up there on YouTube, I'd love to cover them as well individually or as the whole album.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chisato Moritaka -- Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo (私がオバさんになっても)

It's just one of those songs that you want to's so cute. Chisato Moritaka's(森高千里) 16th single, released in June 1992, is a half-teasing, half-joking joust that a steady girlfriend/fiancee would throw out at her beau. "Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo" (Even If I Become Middle-Aged) was written by Moritaka and composed by Hideo Saito(斉藤英夫), and was initially a track on her March 1992 6th album "Rock Alive" before getting its own release.

The lyrics go as so:

The winter comes as soon as autumn ends, time really flew by
We went together to Saipan during summer vacation
I still got that tan, it was an enjoyable memory
I wanna go to Saipan again next year and go swimming

You're a kind guy, hold me
When we were like this, you kissed me

Even if I become middle-aged, will you take me swimming?
The bright swimwear will be impossible, I'd lose out to the young girls
Even if I become middle-aged, will you really not change?
I'm really worried since you like the young girls

You said such talk is ridiculous
But you said that women go downhill from 19

But you looked at me with an innocent face
and said that was a joke and kissed me

Even if I become middle-aged, will you take me to a disco?
A mini-skirt will be impossible, I'd lose out to the young girls
Even if I become middle-aged, will you take me on drives?
Take the top down from that convertible and drive like a cool guy

When I become middle-aged, so will you
You can keep on saying just the cool things but you are gonna get a paunch
Even if I become middle-aged, will you really not change?
I'm really worried since you like the young girls

Not surprisingly, this song has become a popular one to play at the wedding receptions...just that little love jab from the bride saying that youth is not gonna be around forever. Ah, c'est la vie! And especially now that the average age of marriage has slowly gone up, perhaps Moritaka's ode to matrimony has taken on an even deeper meaning. According to J-Wiki, as the years have gone by, the singer has made one tiny change to one line; she changed the age that women go downhill at from 19 to 29. I'm not sure if she's made further upgrades since that time. And I'm not sure if that song even made it onto the playlist at her own wedding.

"Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo" peaked at No. 15 on the Oricon weeklies, but I think it has become one of the big Chisato favourites at the concerts and just overall. And it still got her a place at that year's Kohaku.

Thanks to for the original Japanese lyrics.

Oricon Top 10 Albums 1981

1.  Akira Terao                                Reflections
2.  Eiichi Ohtaki                              A Long Vacation
3.  Arabesque                                  Greatest Hits
4.  Chiharu Matsuyama                   Jidai wo Koete
5.  TCR Yokohama Ginbae RS      Bucchi Giri II
6.  Off Course                                 We Are
7.  Miyuki Nakajima                       Ringetsu
8.  The Nolans                                 Making Waves (Koi no Happy Date)
9.  The Nolans                                 Sexy Music
10. Mayumi Itsuwa                         Koibito yo

City Pop probably celebrated its finest hour when Akira Terao's cool blue "Reflections" got up to the top of the charts for the whole year. But in the No. 2 position, Eiichi Ohtaki's "A Long Vacation" would also achieve legendary status in the Japanese pop music world. While pop veterans Off Course and Nakajima were in there, there was also a pop/punk/rock band, TCR Yokohama Ginbae RS, which brought in a bit of that Harajuku takenozoku dance feeling onto the charts and TV, and European disco groups, The Nolans and Arabesque, which were enormously popular in Japan.

The Nolans' "I'm In The Mood For Dancing", known in Japanese as "Dancing Sisters" has become one of the big Western nostalgic hits, and as recently as just a couple of years, ago, commercials were still using it. I just hope the sisters' agent or the writers of the song got a really good copyright deal out of it. "I'm In The Mood" is probably their most recognizable hit in Japan, but The Nolans also sang "Sexy Music" which the duo Wink would cover to hit status almost a decade later.

I don't know nearly as much about the German group Arabesque, although I distinctly remember seeing the ladies on Japanese TV during my summer trip there in 1981, and over the years, I've realized that they became one of the prime examples when it comes to the term "Big in Japan".  Their 1977 single of "Hello, Mr. Monkey" still rings out from time to time over the airwaves there.

Pedro & Capricious/Masanori Sera -- Wakare no Asa (別れの朝)

A few nights ago, I came across a YouTube video of Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子) performing this lovely ballad at a concert:

I'd never heard this song before, so I was wondering if this had been a relatively new tune by Takahashi, but it sounded somewhat old-fashioned. And in fact, it was. This was actually "Wakare no Asa"(Morning of Parting), the debut single by the Latin/jazz band Pedro & Capricious, released all the way back in October 1971. As I've mentioned in previous articles on the band and Mariko Takahashi herself, Takahashi had been a member of the band for several years in the 1970s.

Takahashi wouldn't join Pedro & Capricious until 1973, so the very first rendering of this song was with original vocal, Yoko Maeno(前野曜子). As with Takahashi, Maeno gave a heartrending performance of Rei Nakanishi's(なかにし礼) lyrics which speak of a couple trying to smile through the tears as they spend their last moments with each other. The song also hit a chord with the music-listening public as it hit the top spot on Oricon and became the 8th-ranked song of 1972, selling over 500,000 records. It became Pedro & Capricious' biggest hit of their career which is a revelation for me, since I was also listening for decades to some of their later folkier hits (that have also become permanently attached to Takahashi) such as "Go-ban-gai no Mari e"五番街のマリへ) and "Johnny e no Dengon"ジョニーへの伝言...A Message For Johnny).

This is Takahashi's version of the song when she was with the group.

I've heard about Masanori Sera (世良公則) for years but hadn't really heard his music since I was never all that much of a rock fan. However, I have seen him as an actor on a number of dramas such as last Fall's NHK morning serial "Ume-chan Sensei" as a somewhat unorthodox but kind doctor. Still, I think he's a rocker at heart and in 1994, he released his own rock ballad version of "Wakare no Asa" accompanied by some blistering guitar.

However, all these different Japanese versions all come from a non-Japanese source. In 1967, singer-songwriter Udo Jurgens released "Was ich dir sagen will"(What I Want To Tell You). And a year later, this was also made into a Matt Monro (famous for his rendition of "From Russia With Love", the theme of the 2nd James Bond movie of the same name) song under the title of "The Music Played".

No matter the title and the language, though, it's still a wonderful song to listen to.

Pedro & Capricious -- BEST

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Checkers -- Hoshikuzu no Stage (星屑のステージ)

I can still distinctly remember my old clubmate at U of T cooing Fumiya Fujii's(藤井郁弥) name whenever this song was especially sung. I can probably imagine thousands of young Japanese girls wearing bobbysoxer uniforms swaying and weeping to it as well. Yup, way back when, young women and men were sashaying en masse, in 50s outfits and on the streets of Harajuku. Not sure whether Checkers directly imbued themselves with rockabilly Harajuku when they first set themselves up, but I can't help but see the connection.

Actually, "Hoshikuzu no Stage"(Stardust Stage) was also a popular karaoke choice at Kuri, as were pretty much all of the Checkers songs at that time. This was not only the band's 4th single, but it was also their first ballad. And it's a mournful one to be sure as Fumiya sings his tribute to a loved one who left this mortal coil far too soon.

"Hoshikuzu Stage" was Checkers' 2nd No. 1 right after their first one in the form of "Kanashikute Jealousy" 哀しくてジェラシ...Sad Jealousy), and after its release in August 1984, it ended the year as the 8th-ranked song. It was written by Masao Urino(売野雅勇) and composed by Hiroaki Serizawa(芹沢廣明), who composed lots of songs for lots of singers including Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜) "Shojo A"少女A) and Yoshimi Iwasaki's (岩崎良美)"Touch". Just from hearing these songs, Serizawa seems to be the specialist in making melodies with that 50's biker rock touch.

Checkers -- BEST

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dreams Come True -- Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki! (うれしい!たのしい!大好き!)

Yup, a thoroughly decent Spring day here in Toronto....still a little under seasonal in the temperature department, but we'll take it. Meanwhile in Japan, the Golden Week holidays have officially begun. People are heading to the holiday resorts within and without the country, and of course, the expressways have changed into the world's largest parking lots. But the folks there probably have the three words from this Dreams Come True title juggling around in their heads right now.

I'm just surprised that after over a year of doing this blog that we had yet to put up this song. "Ureshihazukashi Asagaeri"うれしはずかし朝帰り), "Love Love Love" "Kessen wa Kin'yobi" (決戦は金曜日)...a lot of hits by this band, but for me, everything comes to the first song I listed and this tune. Whenever I hear the name Dreams Come True, these are the ones I think of first. As for "Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!" (Happy! Fun! Love It!), it truly delivers what it says in the title: happy, happy, joy, joy!

Written and composed by vocal Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和), "Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!"was actually the official B-side of DCT's 3rd single, "Ureshihazukashi Asagaeri"(September 1989), although I think it was good enough to have the CD single come out as a double A-side. Not surprisingly, it's pretty much a must-perform at their concerts. And perhaps some redemption was found by having "Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!" launch the band's 2nd album, "Love Goes On"(November 1989) with an extra intro verse.

When I first listened to it, it was after I had bought "Love Goes On" on the strength of the performance of "Ureshihazukashi Asagaeri" I'd heard on TV Asahi's "Music Station". At the time, I was just bowled over by Yoshida's boomer of a voice yelling out the English, and then when the brass-like synths came in, my impression was that this was the song that British band Swingout Sister didn't record. Of course, Miwa's voice is at a higher register but there was that mix of sophisticated pop/disco in there which reminded me of Swingout Sister's debut hit, "Breakout".

The single itself peaked at a surprisingly modest (in retrospect) No. 49 on Oricon although the album itself got as high as No. 8. Still with the two songs kicking off the album, Dreams Come True was on its way to its career version of "Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Alfee -- Hoshizora no Distance (星空のディスタンス)

 I'd known about Alfee since the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen when Toshihiko Takamizawa(高見沢俊彦) (the rocker), Masaru Sakurai(桜井賢) (the cool dude) and Konosuke Sakazaki(坂崎幸之助) (the folkie) performed "Marie Anne", and heard it and a few more of their hits on "Sounds of Japan". But "Hoshizora no Distance" (Distance of a Starry Sky) was a song that I first heard while I was living in Gunma while watching an episode of "Music Fair" late one Sunday night. Alfee and aidoru Yu Hayami were on the show, and the final segment had the band along with Hayami and a huge chorus and a full orchestra performing classical versions of their hits, partially to promote an upcoming album, "The Alfee Classics with the London Symphony Orchestra" (which I promptly got).

The arrangement so smoothly melded the classical version of "Hoshizora" with the "Jupiter" movement of Gustav Holst's amazing suite, "The Planets" that I thought for many years somehow that the Takamizawa-penned song had been adapted from the Holst classic. Of course, I was wrong.

Still, I recall seeing one comment under one of Alfee's YouTube videos stating (cheekily or not), "Freddie Mercury?" And thinking back to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", I've wondered if Takamizawa and company had kept the classics in mind when coming up with their songs. "Koibito Tachi no Pavement"恋人たちのペイヴメント) is another one of their hits that had me thinking about this point. But that's just my can listen to "Hoshizora" and "Koibito Tachi" and come up with some of your own. Both songs, as I said, were written and composed by Takamizawa with Ken Takahashi(高橋研)helping out on the composition duties.

"Hoshizora no Distance" has this atmosphere of constant urgent pursuit, and the lyrics talk of a perhaps star-crossed couple trying, despite the distance (the 500 miles of the song), to bridge the gap with their love. Both lyrics and music take on this epic, heroic tone right from the get-go:

A furious wind now whips through my heart
Is "Goodbye" merely a one-time mistake?
Even separated by 500 miles
When the night comes, once again the heart is in pursuit

The distance under a starry sky
Burst into flames! Love's resistance
Conquer the night in the way
Once again, to my heart.
Baby come back!

(Thanks to for the lyrics)

I can envisage that man with a heart as big as anything making a Paul Revere ride on his trusty steed over hard rock and through thick forest to have that reunion with his one love as the song rocks away. My's the Harlequin romance of Japanese pop!

Released in January 1984, Alfee's 17th single had actually been created back in 1974 and performed during the band's live house era before its official debut onto vinyl. It peaked at No. 2 on Oricon and became the 11th-ranked song of the year, selling a little over 500,000 copies. The song has been included in any of Alfee's BEST albums, but it had originally been part of their 8th album, "The Renaissance" which came out in July 1984 and also peaked at No. 2. It ended up as the 27th-ranked album. "Hoshizora no Distance"was also the theme song for a TBS drama, "Mujaki na Kankei"(無邪気な関係...An Innocent Relationship).

Keizo Nakanishi -- Ticket to Paradise

I heard "Ticket to Paradise"through Keizo Nakanishi's(中西圭三) first BEST compilation, "SINGLES"(1994), and it quickly became one of my favourites among a lot of his great songs. Nakanishi's 5th single, which was released in July 1992, immediately got my toes-a-tapping when I first heard it, and as much as I like his most successful single, the ballad "Woman", which had been released half a year earlier, the Okayama Prefecture native can come up with some great uptempo stuff such as "Choo Choo Train" for the groups Zoo and Exile.

The above is a video from his 1997 concert at NHK Hall. Just love that beat that propels the song through. Nakanishi was indeed responsible for "Ticket to Paradise"'s melody while Masao Urino(売野雅勇)came up with the lyrics. According to an Ameblo blog, the song only got as high as No. 24 on the Oricon weeklies, but an extended version of the single (the video below) got onto Nakanishi's 3rd album, "Steps", released in March 1993, and the album was able to hit the top spot. The song was also used as the ending theme for one of Beat Takeshi's variety shows at the time.

Akira Fuse -- Tsumiki no Heya (積木の部屋)

I came across Akira Fuse's(布施明) 32nd single from watching NHK's "Kayo Concert"歌謡コンサート)last night, when the big man himself appeared to perform this very song. I just loved the rush of brass at the beginning and the end of "Tsumiki no Heya"(Room of Toy Blocks), and the lyrics by Mieko Arima(有馬三恵子) (melody by Makoto Kawaguchi{川口真}) probably had couples at home holding onto each other a little harder after a listen to this sung tale of a domestic tragedy.

Released in March 1974, Fuse sang the verses almost as a soft folk song as he first described a man's memories of him and his then-wife (or girlfriend) when they moved into their small cramped first apartment together, enjoying each other's love and company despite their spartan surroundings. However, as Fuse gave his full operatic voice to the refrain, the man was back to his lonely present as he wondered if only either of them had been stronger in the relationship. Ironically, Kawaguchi's melody came out as nearly defiant at that point.

"Tsumiki no Heya" became the 9th-ranked song of 1974, selling over half a million singles. It also earned Fuse his 8th straight appearance in the Kohaku Utagassen. Fuse would have a very long run in the annual NHK special; from 1967 to 1980, he made 14 consecutive performances.  In total, he has made 25 appearances.

It must have struck Fuse as somewhat ironic to have performed this particular song on "Kayo Concert", considering that he just got re-married to singer/tarento Yukari Morikawa(森川由加里) on April 15th. Let's hope that neither of them believe in the concept of the jinx.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Asami Kado -- Lonely, Lonely

I don't know when or where I first heard "Lonely, Lonely" by Asami Kado(門あさ美). It just kinda drifted into my memories decades ago...perhaps it may have been "Sounds of Japan". But I guess in a way, the mystery behind its inception (and yes, I am indirectly referring to the Chris Nolan movie) kinda sums up the singer herself who had been behind the lyrics and music. As I mentioned in my first article on Kado, "Fascination", she has always been Garboesque in her media exposure, which was basically as rare as a fine steak. However, according to J-Wiki, despite her professional shyness, her albums and singles did enjoy a fairly good run.

As well, I think the lyrics as well in "Lonely, Lonely" reflect Kado's image. There is one verse in the song in which Kado wants to reach out for that cigarette, open a door and trace either her lips or the lips of a missing lover with her finger. Sounds pretty Garbo to me. And where "Fascination" was a bit bossa nova, and "Season" had a hint of American country, this song has struck me as good ol' West Coast AOR.

"Lonely, Lonely" was Kado's 3rd single released in June 1980. It was also a track on her 2nd album, "Sachet" which came out in October of that year, and peaked at No. 16.

Miki Imai -- Kanojo to TIP ON DUO (彼女とTIP ON DUO)

One of the deeper philosophical questions since I started this blog: What the heck is a TIP ON DUO? Discuss.

Over the years, I've been hearing that there has been this rather widening divide when it comes to Miki Imai(今井美樹) fandom with the fault line being generated under the tall figure of Tomoyasu Hotei(布袋寅泰), her producer/husband. A lot of her (former) fans have strongly stated that they liked her stuff before Hotei came into her professional and personal life around the mid-90s. On Japan's Mixi social networking site, there is even a Miki Imai community for pre-Hotei fans only. For me, I've enjoyed a number of her songs since the big change, but I have to admit that I'm more of the pre-Hotei fan. There was more of a light and relaxing feel when it came to her repertoire during the early phase of her career.

"Kanojo to TIP ON DUO"(Tip On Duo and Her) is one example of the breezy pop that characterized Imai's first few years as a singer. Written by Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康) and composed by Chika Ueda(上田知華) (who I had profiled just a few days ago with "I WILL"), it's a slightly synth-jazzy and quick tune which amounts to the J-Pop equivalent of "I'm Gonna Get That Man Right Out Of My Hair" and a musical raspberry to a former beau. Imai sings a comically defiant "nyah-nyah-nyah"as she cares/doesn't care about the jerk as he picks up a new girlfriend. The cute melody has all the air of a break-up comedy starring either Reese Witherspoon or, for those of an earlier generation, Meg Ryan.

"Kanojo to TIP ON DUO"was Chika Ueda's first Imai song and was the beginning of a long list of hit contributions to her career. Released in August 1988, it peaked at No. 8 on Oricon and was used for a Shiseido commercial in that year with Imai herself starring. It never got onto an original album, but was placed in the singer's first BEST album, "Ivory" in 1989.

Still, that TIP ON DUO will continue to haunt me for the rest of my days...

Mari Watanabe/Yosui Inoue/Yoeko Kurahashi -- Tokyo Dodonpa Musume (東京ドドンパ娘)

I was watching NHK's "Kayo Concert"歌謡コンサート)program as I do most Tuesday nights on TV Japan, and the theme of the week was "passionate kayo". Well, one of the singers came on to do this somewhat jazzy number which sounded like a slightly slowed-down old boogie, and the title caught my eye: "Tokyo Dodonpa Musume". "Tokyo"was a given, and "Musume" I knew as "daughter" or just plain "girl". However, that middle "Dondonpa" got my curiosity going, so I decided to do a bit of searching on my usual sources of YouTube and Wikipedia, and I found the original version which was sung by 18 or 19-year-old Mari Watanabe(渡辺マリ), her 2nd single. It was written by Tetsuo Miyagawa(宮川哲夫) (who later gave lyrics to Yukio Hashi's haunting "Muhyou"), and composed by Yoichi Suzuki(鈴木庸一).

With the end of the Second World War, jazz and Latin music started flooding like a young river into Japan, and using the analogy of the old 49ers in California, the gold from the panning here brought about the genre of Mood Kayo into the clubs and bars of Tokyo. What I didn't know was that there was also a birth of a smaller genre called Dodonpa in the 1960s. I came across a couple of explanations for the derivation of the genre on J-Wiki, but I actually liked what one kind person answered on a Goo Q & A in Japanese: that it was a Latin rhythm, rumba, given the Japanese kayo kyoku arrangement. There is also a story that Philippine bands performing in Kyoto helped to give rise to Dodonpa via the mambo. Dodonpa is onomatopoeic...I took a listen to some of the other songs of this genre, and they all have that same sort of brass "buh-boom-POW" phrasing. To me, Dodonpa also incorporates some of that Big Band Swing from the 30s and 40s.

"Tokyo Dodonpa Musume"(Tokyo Dodonpa Girl) started off all things Dodonpa, and the single ended up selling over a million records. It also seems like everything ended at that song since despite Dodonpa songs getting created and released, even one by Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), none of them ever hit the heights that Watanabe's magnum opus did.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Forty years later, Yosui Inoue(井上陽水)gave his own dynamic version of "Tokyo Dodonpa Musume" with an assist from a cool organ in 2001 via his album of covers titled "United Cover", which peaked at No. 2 on Oricon.

Yoeko Kurahashi(倉橋ヨエコ) has been a name that I've seen a lot in the CD stores back in Tokyo but never really explored. Actually, I was trying to find stuff by one of my favourite unsung singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子), but I often kept seeing Yoeko's tab. After hearing her 2002 cover of "Tokyo Dodonpa Musume", though, I think I will explore a bit more about her since she's been labeled as a singer of "jazz kayo". Also, the official music video for the cover is a pretty nifty 50s-style motif done in a Monty Python animated style (unfortunately, that's been taken down so Madonna has come in to lend a hand).

This is Hibari Misora's contribution to the dodonpa fad, logically titled "Hibari no Dodonpa"ひばりのドドンパ...Hibari's Dodonpa). It comes in at the 56-second mark.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Harumi Miyako & Tadashi Miyazaki -- Futari no Osaka (ふたりの大阪)

I've often seen enka legend Harumi Miyako(都はるみ)swathed in a kimono singing some of the most achingly tenderhearted ballads. However, with "Futari no Osaka"(Osaka for Two), she literally let her hair down and traded the Japanese garb for a Western dress for a night on the town with the late Tadashi Miyazaki(宮崎雅).

Released as Miyako's 83rd single (since her 1964 debut) in September 1981, the song was written by Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡治) and composed by Shosuke Ichikawa(市川昭介). I've enjoyed listening to "Futari no Osaka"since it has that slightly tangoesque rhythm that often inhabits some of my favourite enka songs. It also reminds me of that bright nighttime city life that I've seen both in Osaka and Tokyo with the vertical signage advertising the tightly-packed bars and restaurants, and the alcohol-jolly corporate workers stumbling along the streets. However, aside from the title being quoted in the lyrics and a couple of mentions of the Osaka landmarks of Midosuji(御堂筋) and Yodoya Bridge(淀屋橋), the song really focuses on the bittersweet last dance between two lovers before they part permanently.

This is one of the many televised performances of "Futari no Osaka" with Miyako performing the duet this time with Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし).

I was a little surprised to hear that the song didn't make its way onto the yearly Oricon rankings, but for the reasons given above, "Futari no Osaka"still resonates with me all these years later.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Anri -- Boogie Woogie Mainland

Anri -- Boogie Woogie Mainland
As I mentioned in a comment to JTM about his fine article on "The Anri", as he was posting it, I was just listening to Anri's(杏里) "Boogie Woogie Mainland", her 12th album released in May 1988. JTM was stating how the singer had wanted to shift from pop idol to a more summery-themed chanteuse and did so in the early 80s, thanks to folks like Sho Kajioka(梶岡勝) and Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生). Well, for me, the late 80s was another period of change for Anri, and I think "Boogie Woogie Mainland" was the album that perhaps started things off for this third phase in her career. The album that preceded this one was a ballad compilation released in November 1987, "Meditations", and I thought it was well-titled since I felt that this was a final musing or a goodbye on that half-decade period of music which included "Surf City" and "Last Picture Show".

Well, over 6 months later, "Boogie Woogie Mainland" was a further evolution in her music. The summer themes were still there but now there was even more of an importation of American R&B brought into the mix, thanks to Jerry Hey's horn arrangements and Anri's deeper work in the production of her music. The singer took care of the composition of all of the tracks while Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美)wrote all of the lyrics and Yasuharu Ogura(小倉泰治) held the reins for the overall arrangement. And it was obvious that Anri wanted to show her love for popular music of the USA. "Boogie Woogie Mainland" takes things from the aerobics studios of Tokyo to places like Venice Beach in LA. As if to march in this new phase, the title track launches things off with a tight snare and percussion as the background chorus of Joey McCoy, Howard Smith, Jon Lind and Sarry Dworsky, and Hey's horns swoop in. The Third Age of Anri roars in like a lion, and makes quite an impact especially since 1988 was the 10th anniversary of her debut single of "Olivia wo Kikinagara"オリビアを聴きながら). My old radio program, "Sounds of Japan" even gave me my first taste of the album by devoting one of its shows to it (I would finally buy it several years later).

Another dynamic track is "Saigo no Surf Holiday" (最後のサーフ・ホリデー...The Last Surf Holiday) which is also a tour de force for the brass and disco beat. Every time I hear this and the title track, images of running along the beach and hanging ten are pretty much there by default. One other song that I couldn't find anywhere on the Net which is actually my favourite from "Boogie Woogie Mainland" is "Goodbye Future". It may have a somewhat depressing title but the song itself is anything but. It's a really fun song in which Anri, Hey's horns and the electric guitar fight for top billing. (September 27 2013....guess what I found)

But probably the most famous track from this album is the final one, "Summer Candles", which also served as Anri's 22nd single (peaking at No. 16 on Oricon). It's regularly included in any of her BEST compilations and is most likely a requested tune at her concerts. As the title suggests, this evokes an image of having that final beach party at night to candlelight while romantic couples snuggle under blankets, and it has become a favourite at wedding parties (in 1988, Anri herself got married). The ballad was also the theme song behind a drama "Koibito mo Nureru Machikado Urban Love Story"恋人も濡れる街角...The Corner Where Even Lovers Get Wet). It makes for a relaxing way to finish off the proceedings of what is mostly an album of high-energy rejuvenation.

"Boogie Woogie Mainland" was able to sell close to 400,000 albums and was the 17th-ranked album of the year, peaking at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies. And this musical launch pad would go further into her next albums, such as "Circuit of Rainbow" and "Mind Cruisin". Also, both Anri and Yoshimoto would branch out and help other singers such as those who JTM mentioned in his article. An infusion of energy indeed.

For some reason, this reminds me of an old
Toyota commercial.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

ANRI - 『ザ・杏里』

Singer ANRI/杏里 has always struck me as a lot more westernized than many of the Japanese singers from the 80s. With her tall frame (168 cm - 5.6 Ft) and dark exotic looks she could very well pass for a Japanese-American from Hawaii or perhaps other 東洋人/Non-Japanese Asian. Unlike some of her contemporaries like 竹内まりや/Takeuchi Mariya she hadn't really lived or studied in America or abroad, yet like 山下達郎/Yamashita Tatsuro and 中原めいこ/Nakahara Meiko her songs definitely have a very distinct "American Pop" sound and style. Perhaps that's why I've been a fan of hers since I first heard her songs in the early 80s.

J-Canuck has covered ANRI a lot in his previous posts including how she got her unique name and her former modeling background but I'll add some additional trivia (compliments from J-Wiki).

While growing up ANRI (born 川嶋栄子/Kawashima Eiko) was a huge fan of singer/songwriter AraiYumi/Matsutoya Yumi/松任谷由実 and often played her songs on the piano. ANRI debuted as a singer with her first single 「オリビアを聴きながら」 "Olivia O Kikinagara" in 1978 when she was still just in her second year of high school. It was a moderate hit for her at the time (and would eventually go on to become one of her signature "standards" as her popularity grew). Her followup singles weren't quite as successful although 1981's 「コットン気分」 "Cotton Kibun" would be used as a Kaoh /花王コロン 「リマーラ」 CM campaign song.  It would be another four years before she would have another hit with 1982's 「思いきりアメリカン」 "Omikiri American" which seemed to very appropriate for her and yet eerily foreshadow upcoming image changes for ANRI. It was also used by 花王 as a CM campaign song.

Wanting to change her musical direction, ANRI collaborated with Producer 梶岡勝/Kajioka Shou to go about giving her a new image, one in which shifted away from pop idol to a more mature "Beach & Surfer" type image that invoked images of "Summer". Teaming up with producer/musician 角松敏生Kadomatsu Toshiki and Folksong brother duo  岩沢幸矢/Iwasa Satsuya and 岩沢二弓/Iwasa Fuyumi AKA ブレッド&バター/"Bread & Butter" ANRI released her 4th album 『Heaven Beach』 which showcased her new direction in music. 

Her next album Bi Ki Ni also produced by Kadomatsu would further establish ANRI's new American-pop and somewhat R&B Funk style. However ANRI would finally find fame with her next album, the appropriately titled Timely! which would feature the song she is most often identified with 「Cat's Eye」 as well as the sentimental 悲しみがとまらない」 "Kanashimi Ga Tomaranai" both of which would become Top 10 オリコン/Oricon Hits for her. Oddly enough ANRI isn't too fond of the song "Cat's Eye" even though it earned her a spot in 1983's 第34回NHK紅白歌合/34th NHK Kouhaku and placed No. 1 on all the record charts for that year.  She eventually has grudgingly learned to love the song, including it in most of her live concerts as well as having it as a track in most of her compilation "best of" albums including her "My Favorite" Song collections.

ANRI recorded her next album 『Coool』 in Los Angeles and it would produce another hit for her in the song somewhat hard edged pop song 気ままにREFLECTION」 "Ki Ma Ma Ni Reflection". After releasing "Coool", ANRI would leave her longtime Production Company マーマレード/Marmalade to go independent.  Together will some family members she would launch her own company コロニーサーフ/Colony Surf (distribution would be handled by フォーライフミュージックエンタテインメント/For Life) . During this time ANRI would also incorporate more Western influences into her music including hiring American backup dancers and chorus singers for her concerts as well as studio session musicians.  Her songs would also incorporate a lot more more synthesizer and "New Romantic" elements as well as American Rock and R&B influences. She also introduced more "Hawaiian" themes into her music and cover art (especially with later albums including 1986's WAVE1992's MOANA LANI and 2000's Anri The Best. In fact, ANRI even visited the islands to hold live concerts here in 1987 and again in 2007

Beginning from 1987 ANRI would take a larger role in producing, writing and composing her own music and albums. She would also write songs for other artists such as 「VIRGIN EYES」 for 中山美穂/Nakayama Miho, 「FOR EVER MY DREAM」 for 芳本美代子/Yoshimoto Miyoko, 「ロマンチックでいこう」 for 石田ひかり/Ishida Hikari and 「Angel Tears」 for 松田聖子/Matsuda Seiko.

A lot of ANRI's songs would be used as campaign CM songs including 「HAPPYENDでふられたい」, SURF & TEARS」, 「SUMMER CANDLES」, 「スノーフレイクの街角」, Sweet Emotion」, 「Back to the BASIC」, 「嘘ならやさしく」, 「あの夏に戻りたい」 and 「もうひとつのBirthday」.

ANRI would go on her final National concert tour in 1990 and three years later release the last of her major hits ドルフィン・リング」 "Dolphin Ring" which was the theme song for the movie 「結婚」. In 1998 ANRI would contribute the song 「SHARE 瞳の中のヒーロー」 "SHARE Hitomi No Naka No Hero" (originally released in 1994) as the official Japanese theme song for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games. 

ANRI continued to be active in music and release occasional singles up to her most recent release 2008's 「もう悲しくない」 "Mo Kanashikunai" which marked her 30th anniversary in music and proved that she still had that "American Pop" groove style.

ANRI always had an interest in fashion design and explored this hobby throughout the years as a business. In 1988 ANRI married fashion apparel designer 岸田健/Kishida Ken (nephew to famed designer 山本寛斎/Yamamoto Kansai) but they divorced five years later in 1993. After that she was engaged to marry American Jazz Guitarist Lee Ritenour (ten years her senior) in 2005 but later broke off their engagement in 2008.

While recording her first album APRICOT JAM in 1978, ANRI visited and fell in love with the city of Los Angeles, often visiting there over the years to record music. Like fellow singer/songwriter 飯島真理/Iijima Mari, ANRI would eventually move to LA where she currently resides.

ANRI has served as a "Tourism Ambassador" for the city of Fujisawa in Kanagawa since 2008.

While ANRI has released quite a number of "Best of" compilations over the years including  杏里 ザ・ベスト (1980), 思いきりアメリカン〜I Love Poping World,Anri〜 (1982), Meditation  (1987), MY FAVORITE SONGS  (1988), MY FAVORITE SONGS 2 (1991),  16th Summer Breeze (1994), OPUS 21  (1995),  Anri The Best (2000), OCEAN DeLIGHTS   (2003), A day in the summer - The Best from "16th Summer Breeze" (2007) and ANRI AGAIN〜Best Of Myself (2009) they tended to overlap a lot and mostly favor her later ballads and self-produced single works more, while ignoring a lot of her early to mid 80s non-singles and B-side songs.  

Some of my favorite songs from ANRI like 「Good Bye Boogie Dance」 (1983) from Bi Ki Ni』, 「Bring Me To The Dancelight」 (1984) from  『Coool』,DRIVING MY LOVE (1983) from Timely!』, 「Mystery Zone」  (1986) from MYSTIQUE』 and 「私だけのジョーカー」 (1988) from 『BOOGIE WOOGIE MAINLAND』 are often not included and are only available in their respective albums or by getting the massive and expensive 22 CD 『ANRI IN THE BOX』 limited collectors set. 

While 1986's 「ザ・杏里」 is far from being a definitive collection of her works, I like it a lot  mainly for sentimental reasons. It was one of the first Japanese CDs I bought in Japan and it has a lot of songs that I personally love that aren't often included in later albums. I also think it captures the two faces of ANRI - the "Queen of Summer" love ballads and the singer of funky American-Pop styled music.

Here's the track list:
1. モーニング・スコール
2. オリエンタル・ローズ
3. 悲しみがとまらない
4. 16ビート
5. イノセント・タイム
6. 気まゝにリフレクション
7. オリビアを聴きながら
8. 思いきりアメリカン
9. コットン気分
10. 砂浜
11. 夜明けのソルジャー
12. サーフ・シティ
13. アイ・キャント・エヴァー・チェンジ・ユア・ラヴ・フォー・ミー
14. キャッツ・アイ(ニュー・テイク)
15. ダンシング・ウィズ・ザ・サンシャイン

「16ビート」 "Sixteen Beat" sounds almost like it could fit as the theme song to one of 大映テレビ's 80s teen dramas or perhaps even 「スケバン刑事」. With its great infectious up-tempo electronic beat and ANRI's haunting melancholy lyrics it easily became one of my all-time songs from her. Kudos to frequent song writing partner 三浦徳子 /Miyura Yoshiko  and composer 尾一三/Seo Ichizou for a brilliant song.

「モーニング スコール」 "Morning Squall" (1986) is often included in ANRI's "Best of" albums and deservedly so as I think it is one of her quintessential "Surf and Beach" songs with a nice R&B feel to it and a great musical hook. ANRI collaborated on this song with another female songwriter 吉元由美/Yoshimoto Yumi along with composer 入江純/Irie Jun with lyrics by 羽田健一/Haneda Kenichi. ANRI previously had teamed up with Yoshimoto/Irie/Haneda for her 1985 single 「オリエンタル・ローズ」 "Oriental Rose" which was another great up-beat song.

「ダンシング・ウィズ・ザ・サンシャイン」 "Dancing With The Sunshine" is an oddity. Written by 三浦徳子/Miura Yoshiko and composed by 小田裕一郎/Shouda Yuichiro with lyrics by 大谷和夫/Otani Kazuo it was used primarily as the ending theme to the anime series キャッツアイ』 and was a companion piece to ANRI's song 「キャッツ・アイ 」. However for reasons that I'm still not sure why, ANRI's version was only used for 13 episodes of the series and then inexplicably replaced with a different cover version of the song done by studio background musician American(?) Kathi Linn (who sang with ANRI on the original version) with translated lyrics done by Brian Rich. While the differences aren't particularly jarring, I tend to prefer ANRI's Japanese version better for obvious reasons. The PV for this song had Kathi Linn in full Olivia Newton John "Physical" mode with her in a 80s exercise leotard outfit and headband (it could have equally been in imitation to "Flashdance" as well). 

At age 51  ANRI seems to have aged very little over the years and still looks as youthful and glamorous as ever. Here's hoping that she continues to make great music and perhaps one day we will see a definitive "Best Of" compilation that will showcase not just her signature songs but also her lesser known ones as well so as to show her entire range as an artist.

Please feel free to visit my Live365 web radio station where you can hear many of the songs featured here at Kayo Kyoku Plus.

(2017: Unfortunately, JTM relayed to me that the Live365 Channel was closed down in the last year.)
Click here to go to the Live365 Channel
70 & 80年代アイドル, ニューミュージック, 歌謡曲の懐かしい 思い出 音楽勢ぞろい. 
Bringing you the best in 70/80s idol, “New Music” and retro songs.  
We also play your favorite 90s and current songs as well as any requests you may have.
 Just give a shout-out and we will play it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Misato Watanabe -- Sentimental Kangaroo

Not too sure if Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里) had thought of using the words "sentimental kangaroo" in the same way as we would admonish someone here with "silly goose",or if UCC Coffee wanted the words to be used since its commercial featured stop-motion versions of the Aussie marsupial, but the song is sure fun to listen to. Her whimsical lyrics with references to kangaroos, ribbons, Jekyll & Hyde and Pinocchio are matched with Yoshiyuki Sahashi's (佐橋佳幸)brass and brassy melody, and Misato's just-as-brassy vocals. Any chance for the singer to show off her booming voice always means a happy day in the park.

Released as her 11th single in July 1988, "Sentimental Kangaroo" was also the third track from Watanabe's 4th album, "Ribbon" to be released as a single. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out where the song itself went in the rankings but the album peaked at No. 1 after its release in May, and was the 3rd-ranked album of the year. According to J-Wiki, the slogan for "Ribbon" was "The biggest pop album since the end of the war". Brassy....just like Misato.

Chika Ueda -- I WILL

Chika Ueda's (上田知華)"I WILL" was a song that I came across while I was watching Fuji-TV one night, and a commercial came on for this Thursday night drama titled "Vingt-Cinq Ans-Kekkon"(ヴァンサンカン。。。結婚/25 Years Old....Marriage). I had no real interest in the show starring Narumi Yasuda and Momoko Kikuchi, but the theme song caught my ear. It was this slow romantic ballad with a sax solo by Wilton Felder, who was a founding member of the American jazz/R&B group The Jazz Crusaders. The other instrument highlighted was the warm and mellow voice of singer-songwriter Ueda. "I WILL" isn't a jazz song but I think Ueda has the pipes for the genre.

The Tokyo-born Ueda started her music career while she was studying at The Tokyo College of Music in the 1970s and brought together fellow musicians consisting of a couple of violinists, a cellist and someone on the viola to accompany her piano and vocalizing. Chika Ueda and KARYOBIN debuted in 1978, releasing 8 singles and 6 original albums into the 1980s before breaking up. Ueda also released some solo albums and singles with "I WILL" being her first release in July 1991. It didn't last too long on the charts but it went as high as No. 12 on Oricon. There was also her 3rd album of the same title released in September of that year which ranked as high as No. 7 (both stats are from

Ueda has also been a prolific songwriter for various artists such as WINK, Noriko Sakai(酒井法子), Hiroko Yakushimaru(薬師丸ひろ子), and notably for Miki Imai(今井美樹) and Yoko Minamino(南野陽子). A couple of her songs for Imai are here on this blog: "Boogie-Woogie Lonesome High Heel" and "Piece of My Wish".

Chika Ueda -- I WILL

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hideki Saijo -- Kizudarake no Lola (傷だらけのローラ)

When I think about the representative aidoru of the 1970s, names like Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵), Pink Lady and Mari Amachi(天地真理) pop up for the women. For the men, it's Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ), Goro Noguchi(野口五郎) and Hideki Saijo....not surprisingly, the geinokai branded the trio as Shin-Gosanke (新御三家...The New Big Three).

Of the three, Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹) is the one that I've seen the most on TV in his heyday. The hair, the bell-bottom pants, the theatricality....Saijo definitely made an entrance and gave his fans their money's worth. He had already been getting his hits before his 10th single, "Kizudarake no Lola"(Scarred Lola) was released in August 1974. I was never sure how to get the name right....was it Lola, Rola or Laura? In any case, I'm going with what Wikipedia is saying (yeah, I know it's not the most definitive source, but...)

As I said, Saijo was already having his success when this song came out, but it seems as if "Lola"was the one that really sent his career into the atmosphere. It didn't hit No. 1 like a few of his previous songs (it peaked at No. 2), but it earned him a Japan Record Award and a Japan Kayo Award. He also became the very first non-enka pop singer to earn 2 consecutive Japan Record Awards for Best Vocal, the first song being "Chigireta Ai"ちぎれた愛...Tattered Love). And it certainly sounded as if Saijo really put his all into the singing of this ballad. With a great deal of anguish, he pleads to protect this Lola from further harm. At certain points, I wonder if his vocal coach had been channeling the bravura performance of the opera "Il Pagliacci" into him....his wails of "LOLA!"are as much my memory of him as his arm gestures for his version of "YMCA".

Another factor for me thinking that "Kizudarake no Lola" was the breakthrough song for Saijo was that the song was his ticket into his very first Kohaku Utagassen appearance on New Year's Eve 1974. The amazingly clear video above shows the aidoru as the top batter of the show (unfortunately that video has been taken down); he certainly didn't skimp on the performance. The only thing missing at the end of that debut was the throwing of rose petals onto the stage. His appearance that year would herald a straight decade of appearances on the annual NHK special. In total, Saijo has appeared 18 times.

The song became the 34th-ranked song of the year. It was written by Daizo Saito(さいとう大三) and composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二). Makaino is a true veteran composer in that he has woven melodies for a huge range of singers like Saijo, Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美), and the late Yukiko Okada(岡田有希子). In fact, he composed current Johnny's Entertainment darlings, Arashi's(嵐)debut single, "A-RA-SHI" in 1999. The J-Wiki list of the singers he's worked for unravels like a scroll.

"Lola"is also on his 5th album which bears the same title as this single. One last interesting piece of trivia for this song: someone got the bright idea to have the song introduced internationally, and so in January 1975, Saijo actually recorded this in French. The song was then released about a month later in France, Belgium, Switzerland and even Canada. In my country, it apparently even went as high as No. 2(shades of "Sukiyaki")! There was also a version of the song, titled "Rola", sung by a French singer released a few months later.