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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chage and Aska -- Red Hill

Out of the numerous Chage and Aska albums I have collected over the span of 3 to 4 years, their 16th addition (1993) has got to be my favorite - I enjoyed all 13 songs in it. Also, the cover art for the album is pretty cool; An abandoned dinghy in the middle of a desert with red sand (keeping to the name Red Hill) and in the distance, the silhouette of an Arabian-looking city is seen. Atmospheric, don't you think? But none of the songs have any Middle-eastern influence on them, just so you know... although there is one song with an interesting arrangement which I would touch on later.

For its statistics, Red Hill peaked at 1st place for 2 weeks and eventually settled at 8th for the year. Not surprising to see that since it was released during one of their banner years. It's also a million-seller. And from the 13 songs, 9 of them were used in commercial/show tie-ups.

Well now, that's enough introduction, let's get started.

First on the list that I would like to talk about would be the 5th song from the album that seems like the odd one out in terms of its music, 'Konya chotto sa' (今夜ちょっとさ). It has got this Caribbean arrangement that intrigued me upon hearing it since Aska (the one who wrote and composed it) generally doesn't do... reggae. In terms of its lyrics, it's quite the typical ballad where the guy basically just wants a hug (or maybe something more...) from the girl he's so madly in love with before leaving for the night (if he does). Some of the lyrics include "Lying on your (her) knees" and "Holding your hand is sweeter than the doughnut I'm eating"... romantic? Man, if I tell that to my classmates, the ones with a colorful mind would surely be snickering away as their imaginations run wild... well to be honest I would do it too...

Oh yes, and 'Konya chotto sa' was used as the commercial jingle for Ajinomoto's 'Knorr Hokkaido Potage'.

Okay, on to the next one: 'THE TIME'. Also written and composed by Aska, this one sounds awfully grand in its arrangement even though the song's overall meaning is to do whatever you want no matter how stupid, ridiculous or minuscule right now and not give up in the endeavor even if you fail. So to a certain extent, carpe diem, and to a lesser extent, YOLO. It's also quite a long song, clocking in at around 6 minutes. But if you're familiar with C&A's songs, it shouldn't be too bad. 'THE TIME' was used as the ending theme to a show called 'Time Angle'.

Then we have 'Mr.J no higeki wa iwa yori omoi' (Mr.Jの悲劇は岩より重い). This time written and composed by Chage, the song's title means 'Mr.J's tragedy/burden is heavier than stone'. Sounds dark, doesn't it? According to the J-Wiki write-up, this song pretty much answers the question, "What happens after love's 'happily ever after'?" And instead of living an enjoyable life, our protagonist's life spirals down into the abyss instead. Take that, Disney!

Along to the somewhat upbeat music that makes you envision New York's Manhattan, the story of poor Mr.J is being narrated: Finds the special one, get married, whoopdeedoo. Baby comes along, missus couldn't care less anymore. ASPIRIN. Although it's not the happiest song in the world, I find it rather catchy and interesting to listen to.

Next on the agenda is the song the album is named after, Red Hill. The whole song just has this aura of mystery in it, especially its start where it dragged on slowly for quite a while. Unfortunately, that kinda put me off at first. That was until I managed to pull through the first part and get to the chorus.

Nagarenai kaze no akai oka
Noboranai boku wo nagameru 

That part of the chorus was firmly imprinted into my mind since I heard it... and would now be stuck in my head for the next few days. But anyway, the music (by Aska again, so are the lyrics) coupled with the image of the 2 fellows in black traversing the red sand dunes in the billowing desert wind, probably headed to or in search of the city in the album cover just adds an extra layer of atmosphere to Red Hill. I guess that's why I like the song quite a fair bit. It was also used in a JAL commercial.

C&A actually did an English cover of Red Hill as well and they sang it when they were on MTV Unplugged in 1996. I think the lyrics are a direct translation of the Japanese ones... and Aska's English pronunciation and diction weren't the best on this one.

And finally, the last song I'm going to cover is 'Sons and Daughters soreyori boku ga tsutaetai no wa' (Sons and Daughters~それより僕が伝えたいのは)... that's a huge mouthful. Just like Red Hill, this sweet song with American acapella group 14 Karat Soul grabbed my attention with its chorus. With everything done by Aska, the lyrics basically express what parents want to tell their kids... y'know, that they are their everything I suppose. 'Sons and Daughters' was used as a commercial jingle for a Subaru car, as well as FamilyMart convenience store (keeping to the family theme, eh?).
I may cover the other songs from Red Hill by themselves in the future, but as for now, this is it. The album was one of my first Chage and Aska albums I got from Japan 4 years back, and I remember that I very much enjoyed reading that booklet thing with the songs' lyrics and looking at their pictures - Aska's poetry included.

About a year later, I received another copy of Red Hill - the real deal from back in the 90's! - from a Grand aunt from Hong Kong when she had learnt of my liking towards the duo (it was hers), and it had the Chinese (Cantonese) translations of the songs in a piece of paper! It was difficult to read, but at least I understood about half of it... better than not understanding the song at all.

Left: From my Grand aunt
Right: Got it from Japan


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    Upon reading your article for "Red Hill", I decided to pull out my copy of "Red Hill" since it had been years since I listened to the album. In fact, the last few songs are filtering through my earbuds right now as I write this.

    I hadn't been aware at the time at the number of directions musically speaking that Chage & Aska were moving into with this one album, but I'm certainly aware of it now. Putting on my "sommelier" hat right now and I could hear some wisps of Queen and Steely Dan through some of the tracks. I would especially like your opinion on Track 3, "Yume no Bannin".

    From the tracks you highlighted here, I have to go with "Kon'ya Chotto sa" as my favourite. You're right in that it's not something I would expect from the lads, and it almost feels like a song that they did as a palate cleanser of sorts.

    Of course, there is "YAH YAH YAH" which is probably J-Pop's greatest anthem to inspired living!

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  3. Hi J-Canuck,

    Oh cool, you got 'Red Hill' too!

    Anyway, I would have to say that songs like the 2nd track in the album 'Naze ni kimi wa kaeranai' did have some semblance to a Queen song, especially at the start where they said the contradicting line "There is no forgiving you now. But you are the one for me." The addition of the piano behind it certainly made it very Queen.

    As for 'Yume no bannin', it was an instant like for me as I enjoyed its groovy arrangement... although I was curious about what the song means since it has got an interesting name to it... I think it translates to 'Keeper of dreams'? (Sounds like a cool name for a band) I didn't really understand the translation mostly because I have problems reading traditional Chinese characters, and the fact that they kept mentioning 'Circus'. Also I watched the MV for this song quite a while ago, and I remember frowning in disdain when I saw the clowns (must be relating to the circus part)... I'm not afraid of them, but I do find that they've got this creepiness to them.

    I would have written on 'Yah Yah Yah', since it was one of the very first C&A songs that I had come to like (about 5 years ago), but then the article would've been too long and draggy.

    And yeah, is one of my favourites too with its different arrangement that works... and I like the lyrics too...

    1. Yeah, "Yume no Bannin" had this arrangement that reminded me of some of those 70s pop songs I used to hear on the car radio. I'll have to take a look at the lyrics and see if I can make sense of them myself.

      I've got my own article on "Yah Yah Yah" but feel free to write your own view on the song. That's why I made up the "Follow Up" category.:)


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