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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rajie -- Quatre (キャトル)

For anyone who's been reading some of my blog postings over the past few days or so, you will have known that I got my latest purchases of CDs. Rajie's(ラジ)"Quatre" is the last of the three discs, and boy, am I happy to have gotten my hands on this one. According to one other blog, all or some of the albums by this below-the-radar singer were finally converted to CD from vinyl just in the last several months. I've seen her through the pages of "Japanese City Pop" for a number of years since I bought the book and then I finally discovered some of her music on YouTube...the first one being the very City Poppy "Hold Me Tight" from 1977. Fellow collaborator nikala then provided an article on one of her albums, "Mahiru no Hodou" (真昼の舗道) from 1980 which had Rajie expanding her musical horizons a bit.

(full album)

"Quatre" is Rajie's 3rd album from 1979. I had a glimmer of what the album was about from nikala's article and then I came across one track from it, "Watashi wa Suteki"(わたしはすてき)which had this interesting New York New Wave-y sound to it. After hearing one more track from the album on music.163, I decided that I needed to make my newfound purchasing power with Tower Records and and get "Quatre".

The first track and title song of the album which shows off the musical direction right then and there that Rajie wanted to try out. The Moog III-C and Prophet-5 are at work here as they weave this musical tapestry of the mysteries of love, and even though the City of Lights isn't mentioned, I just have this impression that Paris was indeed the setting. Drummer Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏)wrote and composed the track with Yumi Morita(森田由美)also involved in the lyrics. And yep, there was a lot of involvement by the good folks at Yellow Magic Orchestra with basically everyone except Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)helping out on "Quatre" the song (he does compose one track but will cover that in a future article).

Track 2 (3:50), "Tokidoki Mahou"(ときどき魔法...Sometimes Magic)was that one other song I heard on music.163 that finally sparked me to get "Quatre". Singer Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝)also had a hand in the album by providing a couple of tracks, and here he even duets with Rajie. The two of them seem to portray contented lovers after a very pleasant evening (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) set to what sounds like a cabaret tune by Minami. On the album cover, Rajie may have been garbed in contemporary clothing from that time, but I could easily imagine the singer performing "Tokidoki Mahou" in tux and fishnets while astride a chair on stage. Ayumi Date(伊達歩)provided the lyrics.

After giving "Quatre" a first run on the player, my initial impression was that the album was indeed that techno cabaret. But then after listening to tracks like "Concert" (Track 3...7:50), I've come to the conclusion that it is somewhat more. Instead of that intimate midnight nightclub, the overall arc is more of Rajie bringing a full-blown musical to Paris. Nobuyuki Takahashi(高橋信之)wrote and composed this rather interesting musing by a lady who may not be in the most solid of shape emotionally speaking as she breezily talks about the joy of performing while she notes the improvement in her fellow musicians, although as the song nears its end, something or someone may be threatening to bring her house of cards down around her. As I was listening to the end as the music started picking up unstable speed, I couldn't help but think of that Natalie Portman movie "Black Swan". Along with the self-absorption in "Watashi wa Suteki" which follows "Concert", I was left wondering if album producer Yukihiro Takahashi was putting in a bit of psychology.

"Hoshi ni Notte"(星に乗って...Riding The Stars)at 20:31 is one of the tracks that kinda takes things out of the concert hall. It's the second of the Minami/Date collaborations on the album with the blippity-bloppity YMO effects thanks to Takahashi on the drums and Ryuichi Sakamoto & Hideki Matsutake(坂本龍一・松武秀樹)on the keyboards and synths. It has an impishly playful feeling as if the Mickey Mouse gang were planning a heist, and the lyrics take on a feeling of fantasy as there is mention of stars falling into dimples and the galaxy turning into nothing but white light.

"Ichi-mai no Photograph"(一枚のフォトグラフ...One Photograph)at 33:03 was written by veteran songwriters/partners in life Kazumi Yasui and Kazuhiko Kato(安井かずみ・加藤和彦), and sticking with the Parisian concert hall performance theme, it seems to have been created for that one scene in the play where the main villain of the piece is musically taunting the hero. In the lyrics, the protagonist is reminiscing over that one Polaroid photograph of happier times as he/she tries to let the relationship go but just can't. As Rajie says in the last line: "...that one photograph, even now the two of us are still traveling...". What gives the song that even more old-fashioned feeling is that YMO is not involved this time, instead being replaced by a battery of horns.

Aside from that last song "Ichi-mai no Photograph", I think "Quatre" will be considered to be Rajie's foray into technopop and French. And if that mix and the cast of characters involved remind you veteran kayo fans of anybody, that would probably be Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子). In fact, Ohnuki also contributed a song, "Kaze no Michi"(風の道...Wind Road)to the album that I will cover very soon since she covered it in her 1982 album, "Cliche". The intriguing thing is that Rajie's "Quatre" seems to be that techno & French album that Ohnuki herself hadn't actually sung; in fact, her techno & French period wouldn't start until the following year with "Romantique" from 1980. I guess that Rajie may have been the proto-Ohnuki of the early 80s with this album.

Just to finish up, there may be a few of you...just a very few...who wonder about why a 3rd album of a singer would be called "Quatre". Well, there is a liner note interview that I came across when I opened the disc up, and the interviewer asked producer Takahashi right off the bat that very question. The interviewer even posited that perhaps it was because the YMO drummer was driving a Renault 4 at the time (he really was making some money). Perhaps it was the wrong approach since Takahashi half-jokingly remarked that it would be extremely difficult to answer that under those conditions. And that was that on that point.

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