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, January 31, 2014

Apples (EVE) -- Never Can Say Goodbye


I'm not sure about the rest of you kayo kyoku fans out there, but in the 30+ years that I've been interested in Japanese pop music, I've gone through my fair share of liner notes in the records, audio tapes and CDs. And when it comes to the musicians and other people who have helped the main vocalist out, there are two entities which have popped up constantly from those liner notes. One is the saxophonist Jake H. Concepcion and the other is the chorus group EVE. I've listened to enough songs so that I know when they are there since their backup style seems to strike me as somewhere between operatic and disco. According to J-Wiki, through other singers' tunes and commercial jingles, they have supposedly participated in more than 2,000 songs over the nearly 4 decades they have been in the music biz. A microscopic sample of their participation include Yu Hayami's "Natsu Iro no Nancy" and Akina Nakamori's "Kazarijanainoyo Namida wa".

But I had no idea about their background until last night. Purely by accident, I found this video from YouTube. Now to begin with, EVE didn't start out as EVE. Once upon a time in Okinawa, there were three sisters from the Shinzato(新里) family: Leona, Clara and Lilika. Discovered by singer-songwriter Masaki Ueda(上田正樹), the sisters moved north to Tokyo and made their debut as the singing group Apples in 1976.

There seems to be very little information on the Shinzato sisters, pre-EVE, but apparently this song came out in their debut year, presumably through that album shown above, "This Is Apples". And I was just stunned at how good they were (and probably still are) right at the lead microphone. Mind you, I've got my childhood nostalgia arming my old bias and affinity for disco music, but I was just impressed by Apples' cover of "Can Never Say Goodbye" which was originally performed by The Jackson 5 in 1971 and Gloria Gaynor in 1974. All of those splendid strings and horns had me bopping around in my seat (and at my age and weight, that's not too easy to achieve without bending laws of physics). I can only hope the video stays up there for a good long while since that is the only evidence I can find of the song.

A couple of years later in 1978, none other than 70s aidoru Goro Noguchi(野口吾郎) gave the trio their new name of EVE. The sisters gamely agreed to the change. The J-Wiki article doesn't particularly mention whether Noguchi had any Biblical references in mind when he suggested the change from Apples to EVE. Even with the debut of EVE at that time, their first album, "3 Faces of Eve" didn't come out until 1980 and their first official single under their current name wouldn't be released until 1987. Presumably, the ladies were just too busy helping out other singers for years.

For comparison's sake, here is the Gloria Gaynor classic. Disco ball, anyone?

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