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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wink -- Sexy Music

Originally a song recorded in 1981 by the Irish girl group The Nolans, “Sexy Music” was covered by Wink in March 1990. If the original version, with all the violins, horns and powerful vocals, represents heat and energy, Wink’s version, full of synthesizers and smooth vocals, is cold and mysterious.

An interesting detail is to think about the song’s title, as Wink’s image, comprised mostly of 19th century Victorian clothes and apathetic facial expressions, is far from being considered “sexy” (maybe the lyrics could clarify some aspects about what sexy really means in the context of Wink and the “Sexy Music” song). Moreover, we can associate it with the original music video (you can watch it at the beginning), a true odyssey of dated visual effects, in which the girls are apparently in a parallel dimension performing “Sexy Music”. In spite of being dated, we can see the team’s effort to match Wink’s expressionless personas with the video’s vibe. And they surely had a strong impulse to be creative and effective, because Wink was a very popular aidoru duo during the late 80s/early 90s.

For the ones who, like me, loves live performances, here’s Wink performing “Sexy Music” on the amazing Yoru no Hit Studio.

To finish, here’s the original “Sexy Music” by The Nolans. It’s a great disco-pop song.

“Sexy Music” reached #1 on the Oricon charts, selling 329,090 copies (it was Wink's 5th consecutive #1 hit single, but also their last one). The single also reached #24 on the yearly Oricon chart for 1990. Japanese lyrics were written by Neko Oikawa (及川眠子), music was composed by Ben Findon, Mike Myers and Bob Puzey, and, for the arrangement, Satoshi Kadokura (門倉聡) was the responsible. "Sexy Music" was later remixed into a funkier tune for Wink's "Velvet" album, and was also included in a number of Wink's compilations. One of them is the great "WINK MEMORIES 1988-1996", which you can see a pitcure below. As for the original version of “Sexy Music” performed by The Nolans, it was released as a single exclusively in Japan in March 1981. Their version was a commercial hit, reaching #7 on the Japanese charts, with 270,000 copies sold.

Teresa Teng -- Koibito Tachi no Shinwa (恋人たちの神話)

It's been a while since I've written on a Teresa Teng (テレサ・テン)ballad. And after listening to "Koibito Tachi no Shinwa" (Lovers' Legend) for the first time on "Sounds of Japan", I could say that, yep, "Koibito Tachi no Shinwa" is a Teresa Teng Ballad with capitals T, T and B.

It has all that atmosphere in the arrangement as the late singer glides through the Toyohisa Araki (荒木とよひさ)lyrics of the trails and tribulations of love. It's not quite in the same vein as an enka song but neither does it fit completely in the Mood Kayo area as the song seems to go beyond the confines of a regular izakaya. The song seems to soar into more philosophical territory. I'm thinking more of sitting on a hill around midnight contemplating the universe as "Koibito Tachi no Shinwa" is playing, although for me to be able to do that, I probably would have to drink down quite a few cocktails. Then again, by that point, I'd be more passed out on a hill around midnight.

In any case, Takashi Miki (三木たかし)really brings the epic and introspective into his music for Teng which makes the song one of my favourites by the singer. It was released in January 1988 as her 19th single in her Japanese discography.

Chikuzen Sato/Bobby Caldwell -- What You Won't Do For Love

If there is one song that screams out Adult Contemporary, it's "What You Won't Do For Love" originally by Bobby Caldwell in 1978. I used to hear it oodles of times on the radio at home and in the car, and if there were a source song that was responsible for my attraction to the genre here and its equivalent of City Pop in Japan, it would be this tune.

Years later, having become a Sing Like Talking fan, I also became interested in Chikuzen Sato's (佐藤竹善)solo work, and so I bought the first of his "Cornerstones" series of albums which came out in January 1995. I bought it perhaps a couple of years later at a Yamano Music branch in JR Chiba Station while I was waiting for the bus that used to take me to those weekly corporate classes I used to teach at Sumitomo. Sato's stuff in this album at least seemed to push the singer into a more groove-rich, funk-happy place, and his cover of the Caldwell classic was a bit more R&B. Since SLT is seen as the domestic representative of AOR in Japan, I couldn't think of anyone better to tackle "What You Won't Do For Love" than Sato himself, and he acquits himself fine for the most part. I think he was just given a bit too much leeway at the end, though.

AOR is a legitimate section in any of the major music shops in Japan. Adult Oriented Rock brings to mind three other words: Big in Japan. For perhaps the same reasons that The Carpenters, ABBA and The Ventures have done even better in The Land of the Rising Sun, an entire cadre of singers whose repertoires would go well with a bottle of Perrier being poured into a highball has been gratefully accepted in that same land. Bobby Caldwell is therefore a god over there. And "What You Won't Do For Love" is his tribute song.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Yoshie Kashiwabara -- The Best

When I think of my favourite aidorus from the 1980s, Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori (松田聖子・中森明菜)will always take the top two places. The bronze medal then could be split between two cute singers from Osaka, Naoko Kawai (河合奈保子)and Yoshie Kashiwabara(柏原芳恵). But while Matsuda and Nakamori, and to a certain extent Kawai, broke out of their aidoru mold a few years into their respective careers to head into full-blown pop superstardom, I always thought that Kashiwabara was the one who kept things close to her aidoru roots although the melodies that were given to her stretched things out more than would be the case for the average teenybopper Japanese singer.

Back in my U of T days, as I did my regular shopping at Wah Yueh, I made my biggest purchase at the Chinese record shop by getting "Yoshie Kashiwabara -- The Best", the 2-LP album which cost 4,000 yen in Japan....I've completely forgotten how much I paid for it in Canadian bucks. All I know is that I didn't say anything to my parents that day. In any case, after having listened to her "Haru Nanoni" on the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen, I knew the opportunity was there for me to get it. And why not? Looking like the most elegant bartender on the cover with that elaborate penmanship on the upper right had me parting with my money quickly.

LP 1

Side A

1. No. 1
2. Mainichi ga Valentine 毎日がバレンタイン
3. Dai Nisho Kuchizuke 第二章・くちづけ
4. Otomegokoro Nani Iro? 乙女心何色?
5. Glass no Natsu ガラスの夏
6. Melancholy Hakusho めらんこりい白書

Side B

7. Hello, Goodbye
8. Koibito Tachi no Cafe Terrace 恋人たちのカフェテラス
9. Nagisa no Cinderella 渚のシンデレラ
10. Ano Basho Kara あの場所から
11. Karin 花梨
12. Haru Nanoni 春なのに

LP 2

Side A

1. Chotto Nara Biyaku ちょっとなら媚薬
2. Natsu Moyo 夏模様
3. Tiny Memory
4. Camouflage
5. Tremolo
6. Itazura Night Doll 悪戯NIGHT DOLL

Side B

1. Saiai 最愛
2. Lonely Canary
3. Machikutabirete Yokohama 待ちくたびれてヨコハマ
4. Taiyo ga Shitteiru 太陽が知っている
5. Shinobi Ai し・の・び・愛

Yep, even for a BEST album, that's a pretty big chunk...almost all of her singles between 1980 and 1985.

My first entry here is from Side A of LP1, "Mainichi ga Valentine" (Everyday is Valentine's) which was her 2nd single from September 1980. Written by Yu Aku (阿久悠)and composed by Makoto Kawaguchi(川口真), the song has that mix of 70s aidoru and some of that American 50s sound that was getting pretty popular at the time. It only got as high as No. 64 on the weeklies and sold a little under 30,000 copies.

It has been many years since I've listened to this 2-LP set due to the fact that I hadn't had access to a working phonograph during all that time. So it was great to listen to Yoshie-chan's old hits once again. But I have to admit that on hearing the first few singles, I felt that there had been a little work to be done in terms of matching her voice with the right material.

(the above is a karaoke cover)

I think things started looking up with this ballad, "Melancholy Hakusho" (Melancholy White Paper). Her 6th single from September 1981 was once again written by Yu Aku with music this time by Katsuo Ono(小野克夫). As a prelude to her most famous ballad, "Haru Nanoni", "Melancholy Hakusho" had the strings-led romantic sweep with Kashiwabara taking on that certain breathy quality as she sang about a budding romance that quickly went south for some reason. This tune hit higher at No. 23 and sold a little over 50,000 records. Bigger things would be waiting around the corner for her with her next single, "Hello, Goodbye" which became the biggest-selling single of her career.

"Karin" (Rosewood) was her 13th single from October 1982. I mentioned at the top that although Kashiwabara pretty much remained an aidoru, her songs took on different melodies. "Karin" was one such example as it was written and composed by Shinji Tanimura (谷村新司)from the folk group Alice. Tanimura may have performed some pretty muscular folk songs when he was part of the group, but when he went solo or wrote/composed for other singers (such as "Ii Hi Tabidachi" for Momoe Yamaguchi), he created some tenderhearted ballads. And I could clearly hear Tanimura's lilt through Kashiwabara's higher delivery which brought a certain innocence to the proceedings.

"Karin" peaked at No. 10 and ranked No. 97 on the Oricon annual chart. It also won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year.

(karaoke cover)

Following her hit Miyuki Nakajima-penned ballad, "Haru Nanoni", her next (15th) single from April 1983 abruptly changed direction with "Chotto Nara Biyaku" (A Little Aphrodisiac). I'm continuing the Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵)association here since the creators of this song were Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木燿子), the husband-and-wife team behind many of Yamaguchi's harder-edged songs from the latter half of her career. Compared to the lovelorn good girl from her previous single, Kashiwabara is the bad girl in this single as the lyrics mention the title drug being dissolved in a glass of something, running away and smoking. The song does remind me a bit of the tough-and-cynical Momoe of the late 70s although seeing Yoshie performing it in a debutante's dress as above and the Beatles' lyric of "Love me do" easily take the edge off. I'm not sure whether the Japanese authorities cried foul over the contents of the song, but it did hit No. 10 on the weeklies and sold over 120,000 records.

Single No. 16 was "Natsu Moyo" (Summer Pattern) from June 1983, and it was back to the tenderhearted ballad for the singer. Kazuhiko Matsuo(松尾一彦), Off-Course member, created the music while singer-actress Mariko Fuji (藤真利子)under her pen name of Anri Bibi (微美杏里)provided the lyrics. Once again, the theme is of a girl who has lost or is about to lose that favourite guy of hers. Perhaps the stories in her ballads aren't exactly novel, but hey, I'm still a sucker for a lot of old 80s J-ballads.

"Natsu Moyo" broke the Top 10 and reached No. 8 and later became the 81st-ranked song of 1983, selling about 160,000 records. Now, as for that pen name that Fuji created for herself, maybe the actress was a fan of Vivian Leigh (try reading the name as the Japanese do).

My final song for this article is "Taiyo ga Shitteiru" (The Sun Knows) from July 1985 in which Yoshie sings about desiring to explore the more sinful side of romance. Kazuhiko Matsuo also composed her 24th single which has a bit of summer spice as if the singer is having those desires somewhere in the Caribbean...or Guam. Goro Matsui (松井五郎)provided the lyrics. Although it peaked at No. 10, "Taiyo ga Shitteiru" only sold a little less than 60,000 records.

It was good to go over this particular record set, especially since "Yoshie Kashiwabara - The Best" doesn't seem to exist anymore. I couldn't find it listed in the J-Wiki article for her discography so I could only guess that it was released in 1986 (the last track of "Shinobi Ai" was released in September 1985) and I have no idea how it fared on the Oricon charts. There are, of course, other BEST compilations for the singer; in fact, I bought one such CD a few years ago in my phonograph-less desperation.

But listening to all of the songs again over a couple of days, I wondered what would have happened if Yoshie had decided to push the envelope a bit more and break out just as Seiko and Akina had, or taken a brief detour into something like City Pop or AOR as Naoko Kawai had. Perhaps she would have entered the higher echelons of superstardom (I'm not weeping here since she has been able to carve another career as an actress and photobook model) and earned somewhat more than the modest rankings and sales she did make. Still, the "What If" doesn't take away from some of the nice tracks I re-discovered on her first BEST release, and those songs were able to take me back to those early days of exploring anything and everything of the old stuff.

Still a few more songs on that LP list to explore in individual articles in the future.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Taeko Ohnuki -- Nanimo Iranai (何もいらない)

I pulled this one out of Taeko Ohnuki's (大貫妙子)2nd solo album, "Sunshower" (1977) for which I highlighted a couple of tracks all the way back in the very early days of this blog. Along with a number of albums that I bought in my last few years in Japan, I did a fair bit of rushing through "Sunshower", and although I immediately fell in love with "Summer Connection", it's taken time and a few more rounds of listening to the album to discover my appreciation for the other tracks.

As with all of the tracks, Ohnuki wrote and composed "Nanimo Iranai" (I Don't Need Anything), a cool and light disco-soul City Pop song in which the singer-songwriter described her true feelings about life and society around her. As I mentioned in one of the other articles featuring her, she was never all that much of a fan of city life (ironic, considering that all of her early albums are listed in "Japanese City Pop"), and in "Nanimo Iranai", she wanted to give voice to the feeling that she rejected the environment she was living in (namely, Tokyo). Ohnuki wanted to have the rain wash away everything so that things could start anew. Of course, that didn't happen but she did the next best thing which was to eventually move out of the metropolis.

Still the song is another breezy sign of summer and there's a great guitar solo at the end.

Rie Miyazawa -- Dream Rush

At certain times in Japanese pop culture, there was an up-and-coming female celebrity who seemed to hit critical mass and ended up everywhere in dramas and commercials...perhaps even cut a few hits in the studios. Actresses Ryoko Hirosue (from the Oscar-winning Japanese film "Departures") and Makiko Esumi were two of those folks who I called the IT girls for their respective years. But even before them, there was Rie Miyazawa(宮沢りえ).

During my 2 years in Gunma Prefecture, the half-Japanese half-Dutch Miyazawa was as much a fixture on the tube as the old-fashioned antenna. I used to wake up to her when she appeared on those Fujitsu computer ads while "Bad Communication" by B'z was playing away. There were also those Kit Kat commercials along with tons of other products she was helping to hawk. And she was a semi-regular cast member on my must-see Thursday TV comedy-variety program, "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage desu" as the sassy high school student (hard to imagine nowadays considering her waifish appearance and less frequent appearances). Things hit a peak when she posed nude for her photobook "Santa Fe" in 1991 and then was temporarily engaged to the wildly popular sumo wrestler Takahanada in late 1992 (who eventually was promoted to the top rank of yokozuna under the name Takanohana). Just let it be said that Miyazawa was on top of the world during the late 80s and early 90s.

Of course, being a Japanese IT girl at that time usually meant that fans would also get to hear her musical side. And in September 1989, Miyazawa debuted with "Dream Rush" which had been created by composer and future J-Pop Svengali Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉)and lyricist Masumi Kawamura(川村真澄). They were the same duo behind Misato Watanabe's (渡辺美里)"My Revolution" a few years previously, and at a certain part in the song, there is an echo of melody which makes me wonder about how the stronger-voiced Misato would have handled "Dream Rush". Nope, Rie didn't have anything near the mighty vocals of Watanabe but the cute delivery and Komuro's catchy tune helped save the day. It peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 25th-ranked song of the year. Speaking of B'z, Takahiro Matsumoto (松本孝弘)helped out with the guitar on the song.

The above is a 12-year-old Miyazawa (1985) in a Kit Kat commercial along with another future IT girl, Kumiko Goto.

"Dream Rush" is also a track on
her debut album "MU" (1990).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yuki Saito -- Kanashimi yo Konnichiwa (悲しみよこんにちは)

Not knowing at the time about its connection with the anime "Maison Ikkoku"(めぞん一刻), I used to listen to Yuki Saito's (斉藤由貴)5th single, "Kanashimi yo Konnichiwa" (Hello, Sadness) pretty often on one of those compilation tapes of aidoru songs that I got from Chinatown. To me, it was the quintessential aidoru song with the intro synths and Saito's slightly off-tune and quivery vocals.

The lyrics by Yukinojo Mori (森雪之丞)related how even the saddest memories would still be welcomed and embraced as old friends by the singer, while Koji Tamaki's (玉置浩二)music represented a certain hope and defiance and perhaps even a defense of those melancholy feelings. I guess there is something about the Japanese psyche that just loves to protect even those emotions instead of driving the blues away as they would be treated here.

I think with those huge puppy-dog eyes and soft vocals, Saito was probably the best aidoru to relate the lyrics. "Kanashimi yo Konnichiwa" peaked at No. 3 when it was released in March 1986 and later became the 19th-ranked song for the year. She also got invited onto the Kohaku Utagassen in December for the very first time and was instantly made the Captain of the Red (Women's) Team! I remember my parents were far from impressed with Saito's leadership since she seemed to be giggling throughout the broadcast. I was rather surprised myself at the promotion but I figured that Saito was probably bleeding off some nervousness through the laughter.

The song was also a track on her 3rd album, "Chime"(チャイム), from October 1986 which got as high as No. 2. And along with its usage as the very first theme song for "Maison Ikkoku", "Kanashimi yo Konnichiwa" was also the commercial tie-up song for some Shiseido cosmetic product.

Noriyuki Makihara -- No. 1

I gotta say that the official video for this song is probably one of the brightest I've ever come across, at least when it comes to the singer's close-ups. And it looks like Noriyuki Makihara (槇原敬之)and the director really had a great time filming it.

Makihara can make some of the most heartbreaking ballads and some of the most uptempo feel-good songs in J-Pop, and "No. 1" is definitely one of the latter variety (as any song with that title would have to be). Released in September 1993 as his 8th single, along with the happy-go-lucky music, his lyrics make for a fellow's plans on how to create one splendid wonderland for his beloved. He's the No. 1 guy after all. And he knows that she knows he's No. 1.

Not surprisingly, "No. 1" did indeed hit No. 1 on the charts. However, it didn't fare as high on the 1993 yearly charts, peaking at No. 41. Still, I have no doubt that the song is one of the regular entries on any of his BEST compilations. The song was also a track on his 4th album, "Self-Portrait" which came out on Halloween in the same year. It also hit No. 1 and despite its late release in the year, quickly became Album No. 12 on the 1993 annual charts, breaking the million barrier.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Harumi Miyako -- Suki ni Natta Hito (好きになった人)

Probably out of all of the Harumi Miyako(都はるみ)songs that I've known and heard, the one that has stayed in my consciousness all these years has been "Suki ni Natta Hito" (The One I Fell In Love With). But it's not particularly because I fell in love with it through one of my Dad's old records or saw it performed all the time on shows like NHK's "Kayo Concert". In fact, it was because one of Miyako's biggest hits was used as a musical running gag on a Fuji-TV Monday night comedy-variety program, "Shimura Ken no Daijoubuda"(志村けんのだいじょぶだ...Ken Shimura's Everything's Alright) which ran from 1987 to 1993 (yep, before "HEY HEY HEY Music Champ"). It was my must-see TV at the beginning of the week during my Gunma days.

As the video above will show, there was some sketch in which Ken and the cast were enacting some "serious" historical drama or a romantic scene when suddenly the familiar notes from "Suki ni Natta Hito" will be played and then everybody rushes out onto the stage to do a festival dance to it.

It was a song that I had been looking forward to do an article on, but I had completely forgotten the title and only knew the first few words of "Sayonara, sayonara....". Fortunately, though, on tonight's episode of "Kayo Concert", Miyako appeared to sing a slightly more amped-up version (complete with a Miyako kick) and I could finally get that title.

As for Miyako's masterpiece, "Suki ni Natta Hito" was released as her 37th single in September 1968. With lyrics by Choei Shiratori (白鳥朝詠...not sure if I got that first name correct) and music by Shosuke Ichikawa(市川昭介), the song reflects that ability in kayo kyoku creators to pair sad/bittersweet words with some pretty darn happy melodies. Miyako is actually singing about saying those farewells to her beloved stating that although they'll always have Paris (paraphrasing here, of course), she'll never be his wife. It's probably the most cheerful song of heartbreak I've heard.

Although the song only got as high as No. 24 on the just-born Oricon rankings, it sold around 200,000 records...a hit by any reckoning. Because of it, Miyako was invited onto the 1968 Kohaku Utagassen to perform it, and 28 years later, she would sing "Suki ni Natta Hito" once more on the 1996 Kohaku with a more rock arrangement.

Now, in between those two performances on the famous special, there was the time when Miyako had decided to retire from show business in 1984. Of course, for someone as famous and beloved as her, her declaration was not a small deal. I remember that 1984 Kohaku Utagassen which was her supposed final curtain ever on TV, and for the first time ever in the history of the show, Miyako gave an encore performance consisting of "Suki ni Natta Hito" at the very end, close to midnight. She couldn't finish the song since she was practically bawling and finally she crumpled into a sobbing heap on the stage surrounded by the hosts and fellow singers. For all that drama, though, she decided to come back in 1987 and has stayed ever since. The above YouTube link is actually of one of her final performances the day before that Kohaku at Shinjuku Koma Hall. Plenty of emotion there, too.

Still for all the history, the song will always remind me of "Daijoubuda".

Alice/Woody-Woo -- Ima wa Mou Dare mo (今はもう誰も)

The first of folk group Alice's (アリス)big hits was "Ima wa Mou Dare mo" (Nobody Now) which came out in September 1975 as the group's 7th single. In any retrospective on Alice, this would be a must-show, and personally, this is my favourite song by Shinji Tanimura(谷村新司), Takao Horiuchi(堀内孝雄) and Toru Yazawa(矢沢透). I used to hear it whenever a music show did a piece on the folk music that was popular during the 1970s, and the song had that appealing galloping beat.

(I'm sorry but the music163 link is inaccessible.)

The above music 163 link is for the group's recorded version which peaked at No. 11. All this time until recently, I'd thought that "Ima wa Mou Dare mo" had been another Tanimura/Horiuchi collaboration, but in fact, Alice's rendition of the folk song was a cover of the original version by another earlier folk group by the name of Woody-Woo(ウッディ・ウー). Led by vocalist Toshiro Satake(佐竹俊郎), Woody-Woo only released 3 singles of which "Ima wa Mou Dare mo" was their debut, released in July 1969. It only got as high as No. 66 on the still-new Oricon rankings, but with the success of Alice's version several years later, the Woody-Woo version which was written and composed by Satake was given a second lease on life through a re-release. The original version can be found at the YouTube link below. Now as for the unusual name of this band, apparently the members derived it into a compound from the name of American folk singer of the 30s, Woody Guthrie and the "woo woo" sound that supposedly a lot of young people like to yell out.

Saki Kubota -- Mayonaka no Sanpo (真夜中の散歩)

Up until a couple of days ago, I had thought the only song I would ever have by Saki Kubota (久保田早紀)on the blog would be her famous "Ihoujin" (異邦人)from 1979. As I mentioned for the article on her most well-known song, it was just one of a number of exotic and jaunty kayo kyoku that became hits in the late 1970s.

However, just over the weekend, I came across a few of Kubota's albums from that period online and checked some of the tracks out. One album that stood out was her 3rd album, "Saudade" (サウダーデ)from November 1980 which itself stood out since the five tracks that make up the first half of the album had been recorded in Portugal, hence the title (which means "longing"). 

The song for this article, though, comes from the Side B of the original LP, "Mayonaka no Sanpo" (Midnight Walk). Along with the brief musical trend of exotic kayo at the end of the 70s going into the 80s, there also seemed to be another trend in mid-tempo ballads that had some disco strings...Yuming's (ユーミン)title track from "Toki no nai Hotel"(時のないホテル)(1980) was one other example and perhaps some of Ruiko Kurahashi's (倉橋ルイ子)output as well. "Mayonaka no Sanpo" has a similar vibe. Composed by Kubota, the lyrics by Keisuke Yamakawa (山川啓介)described a woman's less-than-happy walk in the wee hours while going over a lost romance. Safety was apparently not a concern for her.

Even more than the exotic kayo, I have had an affinity for this sort of disco kayo ballad (about as niche a genre as one can get in this blog) for years, so finding about "Saudade" is another fine discovery for me. Perhaps this song could also be classified as an example of the media-dubbed Fashion Music that songstress Asami Kado (門あさ美)represented. The title track is also quite nice as well, so hopefully I might be able to get an article on that song pretty soon.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kiyotaka Sugiyama & Omega Tribe -- Silence ga Ippai (サイレンスがいっぱい)

I came across this song by the first incarnation of Omega Tribe (オメガトライブ)when it was led by smooth-singing Kiyotaka Sugiyama (杉山清貴)as the ending theme for some sort of romance-comedy called "Non-neechan, 200W"(のン姉ちゃん、200W...Miss Non, 200 Watts)that my parents had been watching on VHS video. If I recall, the end credits had a romantic bird's-eye of Tokyo as Sugiyama crooned on....a very nice combination.

"Silence ga Ippai" (Filled With Silence) may not have been one of the biggest singles for the summery J-AOR band, but the mellow melody with the de rigueur flugelhorn stuck with me all those years. And one day, while I was living in my Ichikawa apartment, I came across an abandoned box of audiotapes which included the best stuff by Omega Tribe. I slammed the tape into my stereo and eventually re-discovered the song, thanks to my remembering that one word, "silence". Of course, it wasn't enough for me to merely adopt an orphaned tape....I eventually bought the BEST of Sugiyama's time with the band on CD.

Those experts in summer ballad songwriting, Tetsuji Hayashi and Chinfa Kan(林哲司・康珍化), were behind Omega Tribe's 6th single when it was released in May 1985. It peaked at No. 7 on Oricon and has been included in that BEST album I just mentioned, "Single's History" which came out in October that year and went as high as No. 3.

Maki Ohguro -- Ichiban Chikaku ni Ite ne/El amor es ciego (いちばん近くにいてね)

After one of the most bitter and longest winters in recorded memory here in my hometown of Toronto, Canada, Mother Nature deemed that we had suffered enough. Therefore, today we had a sudden burst of summer. And not only did it feel like the beginning of summer, but it felt like mid-summer. I will not least not yet.

So, let's bring out another summer tune. I'm thinking of 1995. I'm thinking of Maki Ohguro's(大黒摩季)"Ichiban Chikaku ni Ite ne" (Stay The Closest To Me, Will You?). Coming out in May of that year, I'd known the singer to go for the rock and the power pop but then with this song I got very interested in her Latin. And so did a lot of other fans. This was a tune that got a lot of airplay on TV and I heard it in a number of CD shops during that year. And why not? Ohguro wrote and composed "Ichiban Chikaku ni Ite ne" to get everyone up to samba the day and night away. It was great to get the folks out of spring lethargy and prepared for the beach. I also recollect that it got quite a lot of favour at the karaoke boxes as well.

(instrumental version)

The coupling song was "El amor es ciego" (Love Is Blind). The title may have been Spanish but the sound is relaxing bossa nova. This was another pure Ohguro concoction that could accompany that break beside the ocean in the lounge chair while the waiter brings that giant cocktail. 

Ohguro's 11th single peaked at No. 2 and became the 38th-ranked song for 1995. "Ichiban Chikaku ni Ite ne" was also a track on her 5th album, "LA LA LA" from July of that year, although it was re-arranged into the "Carnival Version". In terms of sales, the single sold 900,000 copies and for Ohguro, it happened to be the very first song she sang at her very first concert, according to the J-Wiki article on the song.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Michiru Kojima -- Gypsy (ジプシー)

Way back when, a lot of televisions stations used to do something that some of us can no longer envision in this all-media-all-the-time era: they used to sign off for most of the overnight hours. There was the usual colour bar on the screen with that annoying humming sound while they were off the air. Japanese stations were much the same. And when I was living in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture from 1989-1991, I often cocooned in my futon in the dark while watching some of the late-night stuff or some of the early-morning stuff if I ended up waking up at around 4 or 5 a.m. In the winter months up there while living in an apartment that had no central heating and for which the term insulation simply referred to how thick one's pyjamas and/or futon/blankets were, there was not much incentive to do much in those early hours except to turn on the TV (the temperature in my room was often close to 0 degrees Celsius).

Sure enough, the colour bar was there along with the humming when I switched on Fuji-TV. But perhaps around 4:30 or 5 a.m., the station would sign on with the usual voiceover stating all of its stats before it broadcast several minutes of music videos. I saw Lindberg, Momoko Kikuchi and Shizuka Kudo videos. However, there was also one video of a singer that I had never heard about. It was one of a haunting ballad with a slightly exotic synthesizer, and the woman singing it had a plaintive way about her. It got some heavy rotation on that early morning video show so I got to know it very well.

"Gypsy" by Michiru Kojima (児島未散)was the most successful hit for this singer-actress. It was her 7th single released in December 1990, and I ended up getting the CD single after defrosting one day. Written by Tsutomu Uozumi (魚住勉)and composed by Koji Makaino (馬飼野康二), "Gypsy" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon. Kojima, who hails from Tokyo, has a couple of celebrities for parents. Her father is actor Akira Takarada(宝田明)and her mother is a Miss Universe winner from 1959, Akiko Kojima(児島明子). Michiru's singing career started in 1985 with "September Monogatari" (セプテンバー物語...September Story)and released a total of 14 singles and 8 albums up to 1995.

Supposedly, the song was used for a shampoo commercial, but for me, "Gypsy" will always be the song whose video I saw through bleary eyes and frozen morning breath.

Michiru Kojima -- Gypsy

Seiko Matsuda -- Strawberry Time

Although Seiko Matsuda (松田聖子)has been in show business for about 35 years, my biggest interest in her was in the 1980s. And I split that decade into her early pre-(first) marriage period and then her return to work after getting hitched to actor Masaki Kanda and giving birth to her daughter Sayaka. The first single in that latter part of the 80s was "Strawberry Time".

"Strawberry Time" was a popular song for one certain member of the group which headed to karaoke bar Kuri during our university years. She was a huge Seiko-chan fan but it seemed as if when Matsuda came up with this comeback single in April 1987, she found her trademark tune. I had thought that when Matsuda went off the stage for a little while, she was starting to veer away from the pure aidoru stuff to a more mainstream pop sound from listening to some of her pre-marriage singles, and indeed she did go into that direction when she came back. However, this particular single brought back the good ol' days, so to speak.

Still, "Strawberry Time" has quite a bit of oomph in it when compared to her earlier Karuho Kureta-penned songs. That is probably due to the fact that the music was provided by Akio Dobashi(土橋安騎夫), member of rock band Rebecca. The lyrics were by prolific Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆). There is that heroic rock beat about being welcomed to Seiko-chan's happy wonders if an 80s anime producer would have been tempted to have created a show around the song. In any case, the single reached No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and eventually became the 5th-ranked song for 1987. The Queen Aidoru of the 80s was back.

The single was also part of her 14th album of the same name which came out in May 1987. "Strawberry Time" the album hit No. 1 on the charts as well.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


This may not have been an official single from TUBE's 5th album, "Summer Dream", but the opening track of "SA-YO-NA-RA" is one of my favourite songs from the quintessential beach boy band. I mean, it has all of the tropes associated with Nobuteru Maeda (前田亘輝)and the boys:

Written and composed by Tomoko Aran and Tetsuro Oda(亜蘭知子・織田哲郎)?     CHECK

Sunny melody that makes you wanna roar down to the beach in  CHECK
a convertible even if you've never driven a car in your life?

Brassy sax?    CHECK

Soaring vocals by Maeda?  CHECK

Moreover, "SA-YO-NA-RA", despite its title, is a most welcoming and warm song for the rest of the album which includes the more famous titular track. There is nothing better than a TUBE tune to herald some very nice weather, especially after a harsh winter. The other reason I put this up is the fact that Japan officially welcomed its newest national holiday, Yama-no-Hi (山の日...Mountain Day), which will get its debut in a couple of years on August 11 2016. Perhaps the area specified for the holiday is not quite accurate in terms of what the band represents, but hey, it's all good for the sun worshippers and the mountain enthusiasts.

Yumi Matsutoya -- Tengoku no Door (天国のドア)

Having bought "Love Wars" as my first-ever CD by The Queen of New Music (well, more like former Queen since by the late 80s, she was fully ensconced into pop mode), it wouldn't be long until another Yuming CD was made available for the demanding masses.

"Tengoku no Door" (The Gates of Heaven) was Yumi Matsutoya's (松任谷由実)22nd original album from November 1990. As I mentioned for the "Love Wars" article, Yuming had changed her style somewhat in the latter half of the 80s and going into the 90s compared to her earlier works that I listened to on "Sounds of Japan". And this new album continued that more beat-happy, more danceable-sounding, even more pop radio-friendly style by her. Plus the cover looked even slicker with that plastic "multi-screen" insert.

I may have mentioned that my big Yuming era spanned from her days as Yumi Arai (荒井由実)in the early 70s up to the early 90s. And in that period, there were specific sub-sections which stood out in terms of how her music sounded. The late 80s/early 90s struck me as being synthesizer-and-Hey-horn heavy. Track 1 above is "Miss BROADCAST" which was her take on what being a female newscaster must have been like. There is that fast pace and methodical beat throughout the song which rather reminds me of a news-at-6 program, but I also noticed a bit of Janet Jackson arrangement in there as well. In fact, I think a number of the songs on the album paid some tribute to the current R&B/pop sound in America at the time.

I bought her "Wings of Light" concert tape, a VHS I got soon after getting "Tengoku no Door". I'd had no idea how much of a concert presence Yuming was since she barely appeared on TV; I had never seen her sing...there were only the photos of her on the record/CD covers. But watching "Wings of Light", she impressed the heck out of me with the epic sets and the fact she was actively involved in the choreography. My previous image had been that she was permanently posted behind a piano.

The first song that heralded the arrival of "Tengoku no Door" was "Mangetsu no Fortune"(満月のフォーチュン...Full Moon Fortune), a groovy mid-tempo track that was never released as a single (in fact, Yuming didn't release any singles between "Anniversary" in 1989 and "Manatsu no Yoru no Yume" in 1993). There was a mystical air about the potential romance here and it was the hook for me to get my 2nd-ever Yuming album.

(karaoke version)

"Ace wa Koko ni Aru" (Aはここにある...The Ace Is Here) has Jerry Hey's horns back for a slightly comical look at an arrogant hero(ine) type who not only can save the day but knows that fact all too well. He/she can even bring the thunder and lightning. Thor and/or Han Solo come to mind here.

My favourite song on the album is the title track. According to the J-Wiki article on the album, "Tengoku no Door" deals with the concept of ecstacy (the emotion not the drug), although I would probably say the word "thrill" is more appropriate. A carnival atmosphere has me doing a run through the various roller coasters and other rides. On the "Wings of Light" video, Yuming and the crew pull off quite an amazing performance of this particular song.

The final track is "Save Our Ship", which was the theme song for a documentary hosted by Yuming to herald Toyohiro Akiyama(秋山豊寛), a journalist who became the first Japanese citizen to head into space just a couple of weeks after the album was released. I recall seeing part of that documentary especially when the song reached a crescendo as the camera panned up to the face of Akiyama's wife looking skyward. Probably not a dry eye in the country.

"Tengoku no Door" became the No. 1 album for 1991, becoming the first album in Japanese history to break the 2 million barrier. In addition, Matsutoya won Artist of the Year honours at the 5th Japan Golden Disc Awards. From what I gleaned from the J-Wiki article for the album is that an artist usually wins that specific award for a number of releases during the year, but Yuming has remained the only singer to date to win Artist of the Year for just that one album.

As for me, although I enjoyed the album, there was a certain sameness in terms of the arrangements or at least a little less variety in how the songs came out. Even in terms of the length of the individual tracks, except for the final track of "Save Our Ship", all of them came in between 4 and 5 minutes. I think "The 14th Moon" (1976) and "No Side" (1984) still remain my very favourites.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Makoto Matsushita -- First Light (track)

When I first wrote about this amazing City Pop album from 1981, "First Light", by guitarist Makoto Matsushita(松下誠), it had been under the impression that the original LP was extremely rare and it was out of circulation. Not exactly the most positive of news I had been hoping for, but sho ga nai.

Well, as I have done over the years, I kept plugging away in the hopes that I could come across that rare song or album somewhere. And a couple of weeks ago, I once again checked around the Net at sites such as Amazon and was once again disappointed as I found out that the agencies which actually had the LP wouldn't sell overseas. But then I checked Ebay (members, do change those passwords) and tracked down the CD version. It took me all of a few seconds before I opened up my PayPal account to the wonderful tones of Mr. Matsushita.

The album arrived a couple of days ago and I was privy to my own copies of the Doobie Bros.-like "One Hot Love" and the Steely Dan-ish "Lazy Night". In addition, there is also "September Rain". And then there is the above title track, "First Light". Listening by day or night, it really doesn't matter....I just get this feeling of sitting in that exclusive bar high over the bright lights of the big city and enjoying that Orange Mimosa (yeah, I know it was a joke from "The Incredibles", but still...), and especially if that city is Tokyo, some of those middle-aged salarymen might get a bit wistful for those Economic Miracle days and nights.

The first press had a wonderful shot of
a cityscape  (presumably LA). I think subsequent
releases have the above cover...but I'm
definitely not complaining.

Hiroshi Mizuhara/Naomi Chiaki/Akina Nakamori -- Tasogare no Beguine (黄昏のビギン)

The following is what I got from the pertinent article on Wikipedia:

"A Beguine was originally a Christian lay woman of the 13th or 14th century living in a religious community without formal vows, but in the creole of the Caribbean, especially in Martinique and Guadeloupe, the term came to mean "white woman", and then to be applied to a style of music and dance, and in particular a slow, close couples' dance. This combination of French ballroom dance and Latin folk dance became popular in Paris and spread further abroad in the 1940s, largely due to the influence of the Porter song."

Now, for years and years, I had always wondered what a beguine was solely because of the famous Cole Porter song, "Begin The Beguine". It's a wonderful tune that seems to sweep one across the floor, musically speaking. Just from that previous statement, I should've figured that it was some sort of dance. As it is a standard, it's been covered over and over again, but my favourite version is the one that I first heard of the song....the one by Ann Margret on one of my old records.

My impression is that the Japanese also fell in love with the word "beguine" and "Begin The Beguine". A number of the kayo kyoku vets have covered it, and I recall seeing the song covered by the entire cadre of singers at the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen for the big ensemble performance that used to be a staple on the annual NHK special (I don't think I've seen Hiromi Iwasaki laughing so hard before or since when two old-timer enka singers managed to wrangle out the last couple of words at the end).

Well, way back when, Japanese songwriters, specifically Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura (永六輔・中村八大...the same duo behind "Ue wo Muite Arukou", decided to bring in their own beguine song. Titled "Tasogare no Beguine" (Sunset Beguine), Ei and Nakamura may have had a Eureka moment when the title finally coalesced in their minds since tasogare has also been a favourite word to apply with song titles.

I first heard it on this past week's episode of NHK's "Kayo Concert" (it was quite a bumper crop of songs I enjoyed that night) and then the next day, I even managed to find the original 45" record (from October 1959) in my Dad's ancient collection. When I played the old vinyl on the Onkyo, there was some scratch on the sound (which rather added some flavour to the proceedings) but that same sort of Latin sweep that "Begin The Beguine" had could also be heard with "Tasogare no Beguine". Then there were the silky vocals with a bit of husk by the late singer Hiroshi Mizuhara (水原弘)who led the dance like the self-assured studio instructor. I was also partially reminded of "The Continental", which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had danced to on "The Gay Divorcee" back in 1936. Although the song melodically described a romantic beguine, the lyrics related the story of a romantic couple walking in the rain on the bright streets of Tokyo.

"Tasogare no Beguine" was actually the B-side to Mizuhara's performance of "Kuroi Ochiba"(黒い落葉...Black Fallen Leaves) which was also created by Ei and Nakamura, but considering what I've heard and read about the former tune, "Tasogare no Beguine" probably has the larger and longer legacy.

As for Mizuhara, the Tokyo-born singer debuted in 1957 (when he was around 22) as the first vocalist for Danny Iida and The Paradise Kings, a band which focused on Hawaiian songs. He left the band the following year but then launched a solo career in July 1959 with the hit "Kuroi Hanabira" (黒い花びら...Black Flower Petals...also by Ei and Nakamura) which would eventually sell over 500,000 copies and earned him the Grand Prize at the first Japan Record Awards. A few months later, he would sing "Tasogare no Beguine" while the A-side of "Kuroi Ochiba" would be the 2nd in his "Kuroi"-titled songs.

His debut song would also be his ticket for the first of 10 appearances at the Kohaku Utagassen, ranging from 1959 to 1973. And during that time, he would also cover a couple of Xmas classics, "White Christmas" and "Blue Christmas" (there must have been something about colours he liked). Sadly, he would pass away at the young age of 42 in 1978.

Over 30 years later, Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ)would cover both "Tasogare no Beguine" and "Kuroi Hanabira" on the second-last single she would release up to now in June 1991. Her version of "Tasogare no Beguine" is a slower ballad with the throaty and earthy tones that also made her "Kassai" (喝采)a standard. This particular take on the standard got as high as No. 86 on the Oricon weeklies.

As I was listening to Chiaki's cover, I immediately wondered how Akina Nakamori (中森明菜)would tackle this one since she has developed her own throaty vocals. I didn't have to wonder too long; Akina did her own cover on her 2002 album, "Zero Album -- Utahime 2" (歌姫2...Diva 2)which peaked at No. 10.

To finish off, here is my favourite version of "Begin The Beguine" by Ann Margret. And if any of you love your beefcake, this is your video.

Hiroshi Mizuhara -- Tasogare no Beguine

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tomoyo Harada -- Utakata no Koi (うたかたの恋)

(brief excerpt at 00:24)

I was preparing to tape a program for my parents when the NHK show, "SONGS" came on beforehand. The episode's guest was former 80s aidoru Tomoyo Harada(原田知世), and she sang this rather quirky but appealing song titled "Utakata no Koi" (A Fleeting Love) (music by Goro Ito) which had me thinking of the early 80s music of Taeko Ohnuki (大貫妙子)and the output of Miki Nakatani (中谷美紀)with her collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一)in the 90s.

"Utakata no Koi" has this skipping beat but also a hint of regret and darkness. Lyricist Harada seems to take on the figure of a fortune teller, warning her clients about the flightiness of love with the unnerving confidence of a pessimist who has seen it all. The picture of a severe-looking Harada on the cover of her latest album, "noon moon" (May 2014) and the prim high-toned delivery of a fairy-turned-old-fashioned schoolmarm pretty much convinces me that it is that persona behind this song. "Ignore me at your peril," is the message that she displays in that photo.

I took a listen to some of the other tracks on "noon moon" and it sounds like the album is one of soft pop songs for easy/introspective listening.

Misuzu Children's Choral Group -- Ultraman no Uta (ウルトラマンの歌)

Although I mentioned about this song in the article for the theme for "Ultra Seven"ウルトラセブン), I thought it was time to give the theme song for the original "Ultraman" (ウルトラマン)its due. One reason is that when I first heard it, I thought it was quite different to the proud heroic marches that accompanied Ultraman's siblings, Ultra Seven and Ultraman Ace.

On hearing the Misuzu Children's Choral Group (みすず児童合唱団)sing the theme, I wondered if it was something that Ultraman would have twisted to. Yeah, there was something of a 60s go-go beat to it thanks to the guitar, although there was also the horn fanfare at the intro. While the other theme songs had that superhero feeling, "Ultraman no Uta" (The Song of Ultraman) felt more superspy than superhero....more James Bond or Napoleon Solo than Superman or Batman.

As with the show itself, the theme song came out in July 1966. Kunio Miyauchi (宮内國郎)came up with the music while Kyoichi Azuma (東京一)was responsible for the lyrics. Now, what I didn't write in the "Ultra Seven" article was that looking at that name, I knew it had to be a half-jokey pen name since it can also read as Tokyo Ichi (Tokyo One), and sure enough it was a pseudonym. The real name of the writer was none other than producer Hajime Tsuburaya (円谷一)who became the 2nd president of Tsuburaya Productions, the studio behind the "Ultraman" franchise. His father, Eiji, (円谷英二)was the founder and first president along with being a special effects director and one of the co-creators for "Godzilla".

The above video happens to be the English-language version of the theme when the show was aired Stateside. I was surprised to find out that "Ultraman" had actually been shown in America (no such luck here in The Great White least not in what is now the GTA). My first exposure to one of Japan's greatest pop cultural heroes was right in Japan via Ultraman Jack and the aforementioned Ace. Of course, my brother and I being little bratty kids at the time, we were more than happy with the Ultra Guys and ended up with books and records from the franchise. Some years later, as a teacher on the JET Programme, I started giving my so-called in-house wisdom to one of the children of a colleague in the neighbouring village of Niiharu since he was starting to get into Ultraman himself. Man, maybe there were a few Ultramen to talk about but all those monsters.....sheesh!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mariya Takeuchi -- Shiawase no Sagashikata (幸せの探し方)

"Shiawase no Sagashikata" (How to Find Happiness) was Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや) 22nd single from July 1993 which was released almost a year after its source album, "Quiet Life" had come out in October 1992. Takeuchi was behind the words and music.

Almost right from the beginning, there is a French footloose and fancy-free feeling about the song, as if Mariya's good buddy, Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), had drunk a bit of giggle juice before putting pen down to paper. I could see Takeuchi skipping down a Parisian neighbourhood street in her beret while holding a paper bag filled with a baguette and other fixins for a nice little dejeuner in le parc.

However, the lyrics have the singer waxing happily about how it's the small changes in the everyday that bring a certain joie de vivre. Waking up late, having coffee in the kitchen with hair uncombed and wearing hubby's shirt instead of the usual PJs...Mariya wants you to lose a bit of that domestic conformity. In her early years, she used to sing about the idealized puppy love of a teenybopper, but it seems as if getting married and having that daughter brought her more down to earth but not down in the dumps.

Mariya also goes through some French herself at the end of the song, thanks to the efforts of Jiro Terao(寺尾次郎), a former member of her husband's old band, Sugar Babe. "Shiawase no Sagashikata" got as high as No. 42 on the weeklies, and it was used as the commercial tie-up song for AGF Coffee....pretty appropriate.

Tatsuro Yamashita/Nona Reeves -- Doyoubi no Koibito (土曜日の恋人)

I didn't know about this one by singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita (山下達郎)but immediately enjoyed it as soon as gave it a try on YouTube last night. "Doyoubi no Koibito" (Saturday is for Lovers) is another one of his 80s City Pop tunes that usually brings images of summer, beaches and driving with the top down. Released in November 1985 (I'm sure a lot of the working class were pining for the hot season again by that release date), his 15th single was used as the ending theme song for the comedy-variety show "Oretachi Hyokinzoku"(オレたちひょうきん族...We Are The Wild and Crazy Guys)starring Beat Takeshi. Earlier in the show's run, the Princess of City Pop, EPO, contributed a couple of her songs to the show, the classic "Downtown" and "Doyou no Yoru wa Paradise"(土曜の夜はパラダイス). Saturday was the night for Takeshi's show, and from what I've heard of its popularity, a lot of people actually were willing to stay in front of the tube instead of following Tats' and EPO's advice and having a fun time on the town.

(excerpt only)

The song underwent a few title changes before settling on the final, and arguably more mundane, one of "Doyoubi no Koibito". Initially, Yamashita had something of the Mardi Gras in mind when he got down to work on the song, so "Eien no Mardi Gras" (永遠のマルディグラ...Mardi Gras Forever)was the original title. It then became "Kayoubi no Mardi Gras" (火曜日のマルディグラ...Tuesday Mardi Gras)and "Doyoubi no Ame no Uta" (土曜日の雨の歌...Saturday Rainy Day)before the singer finally chose on the side of the weekend and made one final name change (Thanks, J-Wiki).

"Doyoubi no Koibito" got as high as No. 22 on the Oricon weeklies. It was also a track on Yamashita's 8th album, "Pocket Music" which hit the top spot soon after its release in April 1986.

Saturday in Shibuya

Miku also takes the mike to give her version of "Doyoubi no Koibito".

And here is another version by Nona Reeves.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Noboru Kirishima/Izumi Yukimura/Yujiro Ishihara -- Mune no Furiko (胸の振り子)

Tonight on NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート), singer Rimi Natsukawa (夏川 りみ)performed a wonderful jazzy rendition of an old kayo standard from decades back titled "Mune no Furiko" (Pendulum of My Heart). I liked the song so much that I decided to take a look for it on YouTube and found out that, true to its nature as a standard, it's been covered by a number of singers over the ages.

It was written by Hachiro Sato(サトウハチロー)and composed by Ryoichi Hattori (服部良一)in 1947 (Hattori would also create another fine kayo standard, "Tokyo Boogie-Woogie"), and it was first sung by popular singer Noboru Kirishima (霧島昇)who started his career in the 1930s. The lyrics and the music as it was sung back then by Kirishima reminded me of some of the love songs that the big bands played back in America. It was probably a fine song to listen to under the stars before bedtime.

The freeze image for the above video was one that I have seen leafing through the pages of  "Japanese City Pop", since it was the cover for Izumi Yukimura's (雪村いずみ)album "Super Generation" from 1974. Now, I've seen Ms. Yukimura a number of times on TV programs such as "Kayo Concert" and had never thought that she would end up in this book. But apparently, singer-actress Yukimura, who had debuted in 1953 when she was around 16 and became one of Japan's big 3 female singers alongside Chiemi Eri (江利 チエミ)and Hibari Misora (美空ひばり), collaborated with the hot New Musicians of the 1970s such as Masataka Matsutoya (松任谷正隆)and Haruomi Hosono (細野晴臣)to give an updated spin to the music of Ryoichi Hattori with the help of his son, composer Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久).

I was glad that I could finally get an "in" to "Super Generation". Yukimura's version of "Mune no Furiko" doesn't really strike me as being City Pop but more of a New Music take. In a way, there's something pretty Akiko Yano-ish about it. The album also includes the aforementioned "Tokyo Boogie-Woogie", so I'd like to hear that as well.

Of course, when I found the video of The Big Man himself, Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎), performing "Mune no Furiko", I also had to include this one although I'm not sure whether this was an official entry in his discography. However, his version is the closest to the one I heard by Natsukawa earlier tonight since it has that late-night bluesy jazz sound to it. And what better way to finish an evening than with some great mind-blowing sax?