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, April 30, 2016

Ken Hirai -- POP STAR

As with a number of singers over the last several years, I couldn't say that I was a huge fan of Ken Hirai(平井堅)but I could acknowledge that he and those folks were very much household names. So even I was a bit surprised when I heard his 23rd single, "POP STAR" a decade ago. For a guy who I always associated with soulful heartrending ballads, to hear this happy-happy-joy-joy song in Hirai's high tones made me ask "OK...what's going on with him here?"

Released in October 2005, "POP STAR" is so light and bouncy and cheerful that I could have mistaken it as a theme song for a Pokemon show, but instead it was the theme for a Fuji-TV drama "Kiken na Aneki"(危険なアネキ...Dangerous Big Sister), starring the IT actress of the time, Misaki Ito (伊東美咲).

"POP STAR" was written and composed by Hirai, and the lyrics have the protagonist wanting to become the titular pop star not particular for fame or money but just so that he can continue to have the undying love of his admirer (awww...). According to the J-Wiki article, the singer-songwriter really wanted to have that sense of brightness and optimism imbued into the song so when he went to consult with arranger Seiji Kameda(亀田誠治)about how it was to be brought together, Hirai had him listen to this particular aidoru classic.

And yet initially, he hadn't intended for "POP STAR" to be placed into any particular album but due to overwhelming popular demand, it finally got into his BEST compilation, "Ken Hirai 10th Anniversary Complete Single Collection '95-'05 Uta Baka" (Ken Hirai 10th Anniversary Complete Single Collection '95-'05 歌バカ...Singing Fool) which was released about a month after the single. As it was, though, "POP STAR" did perfectly fine on its own, going Platinum as it hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and quickly becoming the 45th-ranked song of the year. Strangely enough, even the video apparently got a number of accolades, inside and outside of Japan, as Hirai took on 7 different characters including a raccoon. It's too bad that I couldn't find the music video online but it's nice to know that the man has a good sense of humour. As for that BEST album, it also hit the top of the charts and became the top-selling album for 2006. Perhaps I ought to check a bit more into Ken's discography after all.

Seiko Matsuda -- Wagamama na Kataomoi -- (わがままな片想い)

"Wagamama na Kataomoi" (A Selfish One-Sided Love) would be the usual Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)aidoru song dealing with falling for that boy in school and getting nothing in return. However, it struck me as unusual due to the arrangements. I guess even Seiko-chan had her techno kayo moment way back when.

Originally released as the B-side to her 13th single "Tengoku no Kiss"(天国のキッス)which came out in April 1983, the lyrics are by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and they do relate one girl's unrequited feelings for that guy. However, it is Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)behind the whimsical & goofy music and arrangements which sometimes have me thinking that the song is less a lovestruck tune than it is a theme for a childhood hero in the form of a dancing elephant, especially when it comes to that synth that sounds like a tuba. It's rather ironic since the A-side of "Tengoku no Kiss" which was also created by Matsumoto and Hosono is as far away from that techno kayo feeling as Hokkaido is from Okinawa. And that is why "Wagamama no Kataomoi" has implanted itself into my head all these years.

The song found itself on the album "Touch Me, Seiko" from March 1984. The album is a collection of all of her B-sides and has the distinction of being the very first such album to reach No. 1 on Oricon.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Unicorn -- Hataraku Otoko (働く男)

A few years ago, there was all that kerfuffle about the music video for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". The unrated version had all those topless models shimmying and shammying away with Robin, T.I. and Pharrell (I guess he was happy then as well) as if there were no tomorrow.

Well, seeing that video reminded me of something similar which happened over 20 years ago in Japan. The rock band Unicorn with Tamio Okuda (the fellow who helped launch Puffy later on) had just released their 3rd single in July 1990, "Hataraku Otoko" (Working Man). The song was catchy enough for me as it was but then the video came out. It featured the band goofing about and performing while a nude model innocently posed and traipsed around the guys (sorry, no longer around on YouTube). Now I'm not sure how much of the footage involved Chromakey/greenscreen but I'm still fairly certain that at least that model and Unicorn shared the same space and time at some point during filming. Tough work, eh, guys?

Written and composed by Okuda(奥田民生), the arrangement has the song pulling in little bits here and there of exotic rhythm, Beatles and a bit of that swinging 60s also with some added spaciness. It's got an interesting progression as well. It funks about at first before the synths send it soaring skyward. All that for the story of a working cog hanging in there at his desk for the 12 or 13 hours so that he can admire and fantasize about a female colleague. And here I thought it was all about the semi-annual bonuses.

I didn't search for a lot of rock songs during my spare time on the JET Program but I did come across "Hataraku Otoko" because it was used as one of the opening themes during the life of the late-night Saturday variety show "Yume de Aetara"(夢で逢えたら)on Fuji-TV at the turn of the decade from the 80s into the 90s. I've already written about two of the other themes, "Believe in Love" by Lindberg and "Furi Furi '65" by Southern All Stars. Considering how popular that show was, I think there was quite the symbiotic relationship between it and its theme songs.

"Hataraku Otoko" made it all the way up to No. 3 on the charts, and it is their most successful single to date. The song is also a track on Unicorn's 4th album, "Getamono no Arashi"(ケダモノの嵐...Beast Storm). It was released in October 1990 and hit No. 1 on Oricon. Not only did it hit the top but it also won Best Album honours at the Japan Record Awards that year. Hard working men, indeed.

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Dream (ドリーム)

Ahhh...about time to bring up another Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)song from her early years. I bring you "Dream", her 7th single from November 1976. With lyrics by the late legendary Yu Aku(阿久悠), the story may be about that one-sided love of a high school girl or an older woman just starting out in life, but boy, does composer Kyohei Tsutumi(筒美京平)bring on the cool urban contemporary rhythm to give the song that oomph. I kinda wonder at times whether it was with Hiromi-chan that songwriters started to bring in some more soul into the works of 70s aidoru. The added bass by the fellow above does help.

Hiromi does look adorable in the video above. Having started to learn about her in the 80s when she was performing all those lush ballads, discovering these early somewhat funky works by her in the 70s which at times approached City Pop was quite the revelation for me. "Dream" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon and ended up as the 64th-ranked song of 1977.

This is an aside here but one of the other things that I also remember Iwasaki for is for her appearances on my old favourite Japanese variety show "Hachi-ji da yo! Zen'in Shuugo"(8時だョ!全員集合...It's 8 O'Clock! Everyone Assemble)hosted by the comedy team The Drifters. Not only did she perform her music but she also took part in some of the zany skits and the regular segments in the hour-long program such as the Chorus segment which always had the guys and the guests trying to warp through some challenging Japanese tongue twisters to a funky beat. The two Hiromis, Iwasaki and Ohta(岩崎宏美&太田裕美), do their best here.

Yoshio Tabata -- Shima Sodachi (島育ち)


To a certain extent, I can relate to "Shima Sodachi". Up to this point in my life I've been living on a tiny island close to the equator, however if Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫) were to be singing a "Shima Sodachi" based on current-day Singapore I would think that it'd be more rollicking and possibly boisterous... Actually, maybe not for just this one part of town: Changi Village and beach. Being on the eastern side of the country, despite being one of the chalet and camping hot-spots, it still (somehow) manages to retain that quaint and laid-back atmosphere of, well, a village from the days of yore. I do enjoy walking about the area after some good Nasi Lemak (a Malay dish coconut and pandan-flavored rice and stuff like a fried egg on the side) at the food center.

Coming back to the topic at hand, Tabata's "Shima Sodachi" conveys that very atmosphere I talked about. The slow, almost waltzing-like melody, brought to you by Minoru Mikai (三界稔), and the late ryukoka singer's unhurried and deliberate manner of singing seem to reflect the peaceful, worry-free way of life on some little isle our main character lived on. Initially I was quite certain that the island involved was Okinawa, especially with Batayan pronouncing a few words in what I think is the Okinawan dialect. With some research, however,  I found that it wasn't Okinawa, but Amami Oshima, which sits between Kyushu and Okinawa and is officially under Kagoshima. Kunihiko Arikawa's (有川邦彦) lyrics tell of the fellow's time growing up on the island and the things he experienced when there.

"Shima Sodachi" was released in 1962 and was Batayan's comeback hit after quite a long dry spell. It sold over 400 000 copies and even gave him a ticket to the 14th edition of the Kohaku a year later in 1963 - it was his first appearance.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

All-Points Bulletin: Name This Tune

Hello folks! This might be the first time I've done this in the history of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" but I'm putting out an All-Points Bulletin for the identity of this song. I just received a question from commenter Hugo Alberto Ramos Vite in my last article for Noriko Miyamoto about this high-energy tune above but unfortunately I couldn't identify it myself.

So fellow collaborators, viewers and other commenters...can you name this tune? By the arrangement, it sounds like something from the late 80s/early 90s.

Noriko Miyamoto -- Zebra

Seeing Noriko Miyamoto(宮本典子)in the pages of "Japanese City Pop" all these years and listening to her "Silver Rain" from her 1981 album "New Romance", I had been assuming it was all about the R&B and City Pop with her.

However, I have just come across "Zebra" and it's about as far away from the urban contemporary sounds of Tokyo and thumpy bass as a song can get. With Yukihiro Takahashi's(高橋幸宏)music and Chris Mosdell's lyrics, Miyamoto was definitely going for a New Wave feeling here. Listening to the song, I immediately thought Blondie and "Heart of Glass". Even Mimi's vocals were not so much soulful as they were sexy and spacy at the same time.

The amazing thing is that like "Silver Rain", "Zebra" comes from the same album "New Romance". Now I am intrigued about getting this CD as well...if it is on the market place. With "Zebra", I could imagine that the album could have been called "New Romantic".

Akiko Yano -- Itsuka Oji ga (いつか王子様が)

Over the past few months, I've been enjoying an anime that had originally been broadcast in early 2011 via its hilarious excerpts on YouTube called "Nichijou"(日常...My Ordinary Life). It basically involves the craziest hijinks and friends surrounding the sad-sack character of Yuko who always stumbles over herself, cannot order a simple coffee and struggles through school. And I don't think she has ever recovered from witnessing the epic battle between the school principal and a wayward deer.

Anyways, listening to Akiko Yano's(野顕子)"Itsuka Oji ga" (Someday My Prince Will Come), I felt that this was the ideal theme song for Yuko. First off, I just discovered the song a couple of days ago and it was pretty much love at first listen. It's a track from Yano's 5th studio album "Tadaima" (ただいま。...I'm Home) from May 1981, and I heard that this album is even more technopop and more highly regarded than her previous release of "Gohan ga Dekita yo"(ごはんができたよ) in 1980 and I'm a huge fan of that one.

"Itsuka Oji ga" (and no, it has nothing to do with the Disney ballad) was written and composed by Yano. What I have loved about it so far is the innocent and whimsical arrangement especially when the synths toodle about in the middle of each verse. The J-Wiki article for the album states that Yellow Magic Orchestra had a good hand in the recording and I can believe it. Plus, there is the inclusion of the Hibari Children Chorus(ひばり児童合唱団)which also participated in the recording of a few songs on "Gohan ga Dekita yo", and in my opinion, gave them a strangely cool dimension. It's no different with "Itsuka Oji ga".

The above is a live performance of the song and although the arrangement is there, my impression is that it slightly suffers from the fact that the Hibari Chorus is not in there with Yano. As for why I believe "Itsuka Oji ga" makes for a fine theme song for sad sack Yuko in "Nichijo" is that Yano's lyrics seem to describe the character's feelings about why she just can't get it together when it comes to her looks and her marks in school. But just like Charlie Brown in the United States, Yuko is also blessed/cursed with a plow-ahead optimism.

I don't have "Tadaima" yet. Perhaps that will change over the next few weeks in which case I will be more than happy to greet it with "Yokoso" once it arrives in the mail.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NiNa -- Happy Tomorrow

My awareness of The B-52s began with their appearance on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" sometime around the late 70s or early 80s, and as I was watching their bizarre performance of "Rock Lobster", I just went "Who the heck are these guys?!" I gathered that this was part of New Wave with Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson in those sky-high bouffants that seemed to pop out from my Mom's old photos from the 1960s. "Rock Lobster" may not have been my cup of tea at the time but I did get better with "Love Shack" and then came my favourite song by the band "Roam" in 1990.

JTM and I were having a talk the other night and our conversation slowly veered into the topic of bands such as Judy & Mary, and we were then trying to remember the name of that side project that J&M's vocalist, YUKI, got involved in around the end of the century while J&M was on hiatus. I knew that Kate Pierson from the aforementioned B-52s was YUKI's co-vocalist.

As it turned out, I was trying to remember NiNa which along with YUKI and Pierson also included Mick Karn from the band Japan, Takemi Shima & Masahide Sakuma(島武実・佐久間正英)from the Plastics, and drummer Steven Wolf. When I first heard about this project back in the late 90s, I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that there was going to be this overt collaboration between this 90s J-Pop singer and this American band member from the 80s.

The one song I remember from NiNa was "Happy Tomorrow" which I saw performed on television a number of times. It was released as their first single in July 1999, and it's a sunny laidback song that reminded me a lot of the jangly guitar pop/rock from the 90s in Japan before R&B and the Hello Project started entering the stage.

The lyrics for "Happy Tomorrow" were written by YUKI and Pierson, with YUKI and Sakuma (under his pseudonym of Ma-Chang) providing the music. Another notable thing about the song was that it was the theme song for both the anime "Arc The Lad" and a regular live-action J-Drama on Fuji-TV, "Kanojo-tachi no Jidai"(彼女たちの時代...Time of the Women), which were both broadcast in the same year within a few months of each other. The single went Platinum while peaking at No. 9 and becoming the 77th-ranked song of the year. "Happy Tomorrow" also appeared as a track on NiNa's lone album "NiNa". It came out in November 1999, and hit No. 3 on the album charts, finishing 1999 as the 83rd-ranked release.

One last piece of trivia about NiNa. The name was derived from YUKI's age at the time which was 27 with "ni" representing 2 and "na" representing 7.

Kayoko Moriyama/The Peanuts -- Tsukikage no Napoli (月影のナポリ)

Well, I got it over with...paid my annual taxes at the nearby TD. My wallet is definitely feeling a bit lighter and lonelier right now but I will get over it.

Anyways, the happier news is that I caught the 3rd episode of the new "Utakon"(うたコン) last night and I'm glad to say that it looks like things are settling into place. Plus the theme of the night was a girls' night out so almost all of the guests were a good mix of female enka and pop singers, although Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)actually popped on board for a couple of songs near the end.

One of the re-revelations was a song that I had once heard as a child on an old audiotape. Even at the time I heard it, it did sound as if it were in existence around the time of my birth with a melody line that was woven to fit that old-time dance, the Twist, before it suddenly took a temporary turn into something a bit more coy and comical. As has always been the case with those old kayo back in my childhood, I never found out the title or the singers behind the song although I surmised that it was probably The Peanuts(ザ・ピーナッツ).

I was half-right. The Peanuts did indeed sing it but it looks like history has given the first digs to a singer by the name of Kayoko Morikawa(森山加代子). Born in Hakodate, Hokkaido in 1942, she was discovered by a talent scout while she was performing at a jazz cafe in 1958. Throughout the 1960s, she became a hit singer with a repertoire that centered on covers of Western songs with her debut launching her into the stratosphere. That would be the song of this article, "Tsukikage no Napoli" (Naples in the Moonlight) which was released in June 1960. Although the originally recorded version that you can hear right at the very top of the page sounds a bit slower than my expectations, the performed versions by Moriyama has got that swingy beat down pat as I once heard it long ago.

As I said, Moriyama gained her fame from performing cover versions. And indeed, "Tsukikage no Napoli" is a cover of an Italian song "Tintarella di luna" (Tan Moon) performed originally by legendary singer Mina. To quote directly from the Wikipedia article on the singer, "In performance, Mina combined several modern styles with traditional Italian melodies and swing music, which made her the most versatile pop singer in Italian music." And I think "Tintarella di luna" is an example of that description. Her version above is at the speed I had associated "Tsukikage no Napoli" at. B.D. Filippi created the original music while Tokiko Iwatani(岩谷時子)provided the Japanese lyrics.

Apparently, although Mina's first album was given the same title, "Tintarella di luna" wasn't released as a single. So, although I'm not sure how famous the original song became in Italy, the Japanese version was a huge hit for Moriyama as it sold 500,000 records. The Kohaku Utagassen was also not immune to the song's charms so Moriyama found herself on the NHK stage on New Year's Eve in 1960 for her first appearance.

The Peanuts' version came out a month after Moriyama's version. I think it is a more playful version than the original thanks to that flute and marimba plus the vocals by Emi and Yumi themselves. However, I will go with the Moriyama take on it in terms of the coolness factor.

March 6 2019: Received the news that Moriyama has passed away today at the age of 78.

Moon Child -- Escape

I may have spoken about how my Saturday nights were spent back in Ichikawa in another article, but just in case, it was usually at home. There were some options on TV at 9pm. One of those options was my regular viewing of the travelogue show "Shubbotsu! Admatic Tengoku"(出没!アド街ック天国...All The Time! Admatic Heaven) on TV Tokyo since the one hour was spent focusing on every little neighbourhood in the Tokyo area. However, there was also the Saturday movie of the week on Fuji-TV and quite a ways downward was the Saturday night drama on NTV. That drama always involved the young up-and-comers in the geinokai in some form of melodrama. I think it was NTV's way of trying to keep the teenage-and-20s crowd glued to the telly instead of losing them to a night on the town. In terms of the big cities, it was probably a losing battle.

One of those dramas on NTV back in the late 1990s was something called "FiVE" which starred doe-eyed Rie Tomosaka(ともさかりえ)as the teenage leader of a tough "Mission: Impossible"-like team of girls fighting crime unsanctioned by the usual authorities. I tried to watch through the entire series but somehow I quickly lost interest.

However, I did like the ending theme by the rock band Moon Child, "Escape". Sounding like a Shibuya unit doing their own version of a 60s spy show theme, this was the band's 5th single from May 1997. Considering the nature of the show the song fronted, it was quite the good arrangement, I thought.

Moon Child lasted from 1995 to 1999 and was composed of Osamu Sasaki(佐々木収)on vocals and guitar, Takayasu Watanabe(渡邊崇尉)on bass and Kei Kashiyama(樫山圭)on drums. Hironori Akiyama(秋山浩徳)joined the band the following year as a guitarist. Supposedly, Sasaki was a big fan of the band Moonriders(ムーンライダーズ)which led to his band's name.

With "Escape", which was written and composed by Sasaki, Moon Child became an overnight success, with the song hitting No. 1 on Oricon and ending up as the 48th-ranked song of 1997. "Escape" was also a track on the band's 2nd album, "My Little Red Book" which came out in November of that year. That album reached No. 4 on the charts. According to J-Wiki, the original members reunited in 2013 with a sold-out comeback concert in January but then there was nothing afterwards.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Miyoko Yoshimoto -- Shiroi Basket Shoes (白いバスケット・シューズ)

Gotta be honest here...the reason I put up this article here is that I had never heard any of Miyoko Yoshimoto's(芳本美代子)aidoru output until tonight. I've been curious since I used to see her pop up once in a while on Japanese variety TV and also there is the fact that I often saw her snaggle-toothed visage on many a Myojo or Heibon magazine. Seeing that quintessential photo of a yaeba grin on an 80s aidoru, I always thought that she was an orthodontist's dream project.

So, I went to the beginning. Here is the debut single for the Yamaguchi Prefecture-born singer "Shiroi Basket Shoes" (White Basketball Sneakers) which came out in March 1985. Written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔), it's a pleasant enough tune about a high school girl falling for that handsome fellow in school...whether he is playing for the basketball team or not, I really don't know. And at least for this first song, Yoshimoto has that nice and light delivery.

Since those early days, the former aidoru has gotten that corrective work on her did I on my own choppers in the same decade.

Monday, April 25, 2016

SPEED -- Go! Go! Heaven

Ahhh...more nostalgic feelings from my early days of Ichikawa. The SPEED girls were starting to make waves into the ocean occupied by Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and the rest of the Komuro Boom. And I distinctly remember this song by them, "Go! Go! Heaven", getting heavy rotation on the TV CD rankings for months.

Recalling all those years back when their 3rd single was released in March 1997, my nostalgia didn't particularly reach into their vocal prowess. However, Hitoe, Hiroko, Takako and Eriko had plenty of spunk in their performances including their dancing. I wouldn't have been surprised if a lot of little girls and boys badgered their parents to put them through SPEED's alma mater, the Okinawa Actors' School after watching the group's music videos.

Hiromasa Ijichi(伊秩弘将), who also created songs for Chisato Moritaka(森高千里)and Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里), wrote and composed "Go! Go! Heaven", and his melody got admiration from guitar-shredding Takahiro Matsumoto(松本孝弘)of B'z according to the J-Wiki article on the song. There is a certain feeling of B'z-ness in the tune when I roll it around in my head. And more importantly, "Go! Go! Heaven" also got the love from the listening public as it became SPEED's first No. 1 hit, becoming a million-seller. The video, by the way, was filmed in New York City and Miami. By the end of the year, the song was the 37th-ranked single of the year.

Junko Hirotani -- Blue Rainy Station (ブルーレイニイステーション)

My second Junko Hirotani(広谷順子)article after the one for her debut single "Michi"(道), "Blue Rainy Station" is Hirotani's 3rd single released in January 1980. For a song that was released in the dead of winter though, it's a pretty non-wintry tune; I cannot envision a single snowflake but then again, the title does have the word "rainy" although I simply think "sunny" because of that really cheerful melody whipped up by Hirotani herself.

Hirotani sounds a bit like another contemporary of hers, Asami Kado(門あさ美), although that latter singer had a lot more of that mellow ennui thing going. The former singer is definitely singing "Blue Rainy Station" with a fair bit of skip in her step. Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)provided the lyrics here as she had for yet another mellow singer who debuted at around the same time, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). Overall, the song just has that optimism that would make it perfect for radio listening, and I had thought that Hirotani was listed in my book "Japanese City Pop" but actually she is in "Nihon no Josei Singer-Songwriters"(日本の女性シンガー・ソングライター...Japan's Female Singer-Songwriters)with an entry for her 2nd album "Blendy" which came out in February 1980. "Blue Rainy Station" is also a track in there.

I may have heard at least one more track from that album and even from just the cover and perhaps even the typeface for "Blendy", I would be willing to pick up the album if it hopefully still exists at Tower Records or CD Japan.

Junichi Sawabe (DROPKIX) -- Kanchigai Lonely Night (かんちがいロンリーナイト)

I don't think I had ever come seen an anime with as many hook-happy songs as "Space Dandy"(スペース☆ダンディ). There is the funkadelic opening theme "Viva Namida"(ビバナミダ)and the surprising and delightful tribute to all things Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎),"Hoshikuzu no Pipeline"(星屑のパイプライン)which popped up in Episode 6 of Season 1, and those were merely two of the tunes. So, I guess it couldn't have been any surprise to have Dandy himself get in on the act by unleashing some of that musical talent.

He did get involved in that "Glee"/"High School Musical" episode in Season 2 (and I will probably cover one of the songs in there soon enough) but tonight, here is his 80s rock tribute. Junichi Sawabe(諏訪部順一), the seiyuu for Dandy, channeled his inner BOOWY to sing out "Kanchigai Lonely Night" (Misunderstood Lonely Night) in one of the later episodes of that same season. In that show, Dandy got together with his friend/rival Johnny (voiced by Hiroshi 'Penguin' Kamiya/ 神谷浩史) to form DROPKIX which got to go full stadium with some unintended pyrotechnics. And if I remember the concert correctly, I think "Kanchigai Lonely Night" ended up the only song on the playlist which got performed over and over again, much to the audience's growing chagrin and rage. I don't think even The Rolling Stones would be able to get away with sort of stuff even if it is "Satisfaction".

Here is the English version above. The original version was written and composed by Shutoku Mukai(向井秀徳), lead vocalist/guitarist for the rock band Zazen Boys. Come to think of it, I think that guitar in there also had me thinking about The Police.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Masaaki Sakai/ASKA -- Saraba Koibito (さらば恋人)

From this week's "Uta Kon" is another article. Besides "Hoshikage no Komichi" (星影の小径) that had been covered by J-Canuck earlier in the week - that one shocked me with the fact that it was a Minoru Obata (小畑実) song - there was also "Saraba Koibito". Come to think of it, I'm not very sure why it's in an episode featuring love songs when it's about a bloke leaving his lover with just a written note while she's asleep (ouch!), but I can't complain as I ended up liking it a lot.

Originally by Masaaki Sakai (堺正章), whom I see as comedic TV personality, "Saraba Koibito" was sung by Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) that night, and what drew me to it was its music that began dramatically with the banging of the drums which was then joined by the blare of the trumpets. It very vaguely reminded me of some tune I enjoyed somewhere along the way, but for the life of me I can't put my finger on it... Hmm... My gut is pointing to Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour", but I'm not entirely sure whether to trust it or not.

Well, gut feelings aside, when I heard and watched Sakai's take on "Saraba Koibito" later on, while he still sounded pretty good then, similar to what J-Canuck had said in his article on this very song, I had a hard time associating his reedy, slightly husky voice and rather derpy exterior with the character in the song. And then again, with the fellow bothering to leave a letter and Kyohei Tsutsumi's (筒美京平) rather forlorn melody, our character could possibly be more of the nerdy sort rather your typical irresponsible and somewhat shady guy, and for his own personal reasons he has to abandon his lady (with a heavy heart) but is too afraid to tell it to her thinking that she might convince him to stay, and so he did what he did.

Seeing "Saraba Koibito" on "Uta Kon" I thought the title looked familiar, and lo and behold it was in ASKA's cover album "Boku ni Dekiru Koto" (僕にできること) from 2013 and I had been scrolling past it countless times when in the mood to listen to his other renditions of popular kayo from back in the day. With the addition of the acoustic guitar in his version, "Saraba Koibito" got sort of a folk edge to it which I'm not a fan of that and prefer the original, but that's not to say that it doesn't sound good. I couldn't find ASKA's version online, but I managed to find its cover by Tomi-san, who actually did a good job; kinda sounds like the man himself too. Haha, it's a cover of a cover.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Michiko Maki -- Akatsuki ni Kakeru (暁に駆ける)

I have to admit that I have little idea who Michiko Maki(牧美智子)is. There is not a lot of data on this lady except from what I could find from a Japanese blog which describes her as having been born in Ishikawa Prefecture and debuting in the entertainment industry under the name of Yoko Aihara(愛原洋子)in 1971. She changed her name to Michiko Maki soon afterwards and worked in the geinokai until 1977.

However, I discovered this song that she sang as the theme tune for the TV Asahi cop show "Shin Futari no Jikenbo: Akatsuki ni Kakeru"(新・二人の事件簿 暁に駆ける...The New Case File For Two: Chasing After The Sunrise)which lasted from 1976 to 1977. "Akatsuki ni Kakeru" has that urgent beat about detectives on the beat with that horn and strings arrangement which will be familiar to all those who have seen the old Japanese police dramas. For me, it is that arrangement which has had me all nostalgic for the kayo kyoku of that decade.

The lyrics were written by Kazuya Senke(千家和也)who wrote a number of songs for Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)and provided the words for the sung version of the classic anime theme for "Lupin The 3rd". Shunsuke Kikuchi(菊池俊輔)came up with the music which sounded as if it could have also served as the theme for a samurai drama as it did for a cop show (well, different time period, same sentiments).

As for the TV show, it featured Agnes Chan(アグネス・チャン)in one of the supporting roles as well as Maki herself as a police officer. The other reason that I wanted to feature "Akatsuki ni Kakeru" tonight was that I thought the cover for the single had a really nice shot of the tall skyscrapers of West Shinjuku. Bright lights, big city indeed!

West Shinjuku

Meiko Nakahara -- Friday Magic

(karaoke version)

Well, it's not exactly Friday night's Saturday night but the sentiments are there. In any case, I had a nice chance with a bunch of friends earlier today to say goodbye to a good friend who will be making a sudden move with his family to Vancouver next weekend for a new work opportunity. At my age, getting together with friends isn't all that easy anymore but with the summer blockbuster season upon us, I am hoping for some more get-togethers to catch "Captain America: Civil War" and the latest "X-Men" movie.

Anyways, onto my other passion here. I have to say that singer-songwriter Meiko Nakahara(中原めいこ)came up with some fine album covers in the 1980s including the one above for "Friday Magic" which was released in December 1982 as her 2nd album. I'd say that some of those covers would rate as some of the most symbolic for Japanese pop music during that decade.

The title track, which was written and composed by Nakahara, also came out as her 3rd single later in March 1983. "Friday Magic" has that boppy and poppy beat that I've often associated with a Nakahara creation but there are also parts where the song reminded me of Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)in the way that she drew out her lyrics with her vocals.

Magical Friday night in Asakusa

Friday, April 22, 2016

Michiru Hoshino -- Watashi wa Schedy(私はシェディー)

I was going to close off tonight with my usual two contributions to "Kayo Kyoku Plus" when I encountered the above Future Funk/Vaporwave/whatever creation performed to the swaying figure of one Lynn Minmay. And I was quite curious about the originating song since I could hear elements that I enjoyed.

Well, I managed to track it down to former AKB48 member Michiru Hoshino's(星野みちる)"Watashi wa Schedy" (I am Schedy) which was a track on her debut full album "Hoshi ga Michiru"(星がみちる...Filling with Stars)released in July 2013. Hoshino has already been highlighted in "Kayo Kyoku Plus" by Marcos V. who introduced us to her "Seikan Renrakusen" (星間連絡船)which came out a year later, a song that I also liked.

Now I can understand how Marcos felt when he discovered "Seikan Renrakusen". I possibly had the same feeling listening to "Watashi wa Schedy". Like "Seikan Renrakusen", "Watashi wa Schedy" has that appealing spacy groove to it. It's sweet and out there at the same time (kinda like Abby Sciuto on "NCIS"), and I could imagine that it would have made a nice addition to the soundtrack for the anime "Space Dandy". One commenter for Marcos' article mentioned that he enjoyed the "Hoshi ga Michiru" album. If there are any more of this spacy groove in it, I may just pick it up myself.

I couldn't find out who composed and wrote "Watashi wa Schedy" (which is a pity since I really want to know what a schedy is). However, at least for the composition, at least I think I can resolve that part. "Watashi wa Schedy" is heavily taken from "Clouds Across The Moon" which was a single released by the RAH Band in 1985. Created by the lone member of the band, Richard Anthony Hewson, there is a bit more technopop in the arrangement but this song is also a wonderful romantic ballad of the stars. I almost wanted to slap myself upside the head after listening to it since I was a big listener of UK pop of the 1980s (Depeche Mode, Swingout Sister, Level 42, etc.) and I had never heard of either the RAH Band or "Clouds Across The Moon". But better late than never as they say, and it's still always a joy to discover some new appealing music no matter how old it actually is.

Southern All Stars -- Namida no Umi de Dakaretai 〜SEA OF LOVE〜(涙の海で抱かれたい)

Thankfully we are all in springtime now and hopefully summer is just around the corner. Most Torontonians are often quite desperate for the hot season and even when the high temperatures are just in the teens, folks here are more than happy to walk around in shorts, flip-flops, shades and go windsurfing in Lake Ontario.

But of course, when it comes to summer in Japan, I always think of TUBE and Southern All Stars. So many of the latter band's tunes are so summery that while in Toronto our four seasons are known as spring, construction, autumn and ice hockey, in the land of my heritage and pop culture interests, the seasons are probably known as autumn, winter, spring and SAS. Another one of their hits from the hot season is the July 2003 release of "Namida no Umi de Dakaretai" (I Wanna Be Embraced in a Sea of Tears) which was Kuwata & Co's 47th single.

I remember this song especially because of how much it sounded like the fun-in-the-sun Southern All Stars of yore. Perhaps that feeling was further enhanced since my impression was that their megahit from 2000, "Tsunami" which was quite a serious and dramatic ballad to me still cast quite the shadow when it came to its fame. Plus there is the fact that the band went on a 3-year hiatus after that hit. "Namida no Umi de Dakaretai" brings nothing but summer on the beach again.

The Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)-created song was also noteworthy for the music video (unfortunately only a very short excerpt could be found below) which featured tarento/actress Eiko Koike(小池栄子)when she was still in her buxom gravure aidoru stage. Sad that she didn't pop up in the short version but at least I could still see the sunniness of it all even though most of it was greenscreened in. Another SAS tongue-in-cheek touch, no doubt.

However, the Southern All Stars touch was still very much golden. It hit No. 1 on Oricon, went Triple Platinum and even won Song of the Year honours at the Japan Golden Disc Awards. Finally, it became the 7th-ranked single for 2003, selling a little under 750,000 copies.

Kingo Hamada -- Like What...?

Being an English conversation teacher for so many years in Japan which I can say with some confidence has a certain offbeat pop culture, I can also remark that I've come across my fair share of whimsy and wackiness and wonder. One of my students who was well-connected in the high society of Tokyo invited me over to her annual Xmas parties so I often felt like I was in a middle of a 60s Peter Sellers movie with a Henry Mancini soundtrack. Another one of my students was a star character in a series of commercials for my old English school chain and she always wore some variation of black and white. And I've visited a few Maid Cafes including the original @home Cafe in Akihabara. Plus for a couple of years, a lot of our female students who were involved in the year-long diploma program at one of my schools were hostesses in the Ginza nightclubs which distracted a number of our male teachers to no end.

Basically speaking, my life as an English teacher, and for that matter, the lives of a number of my colleagues could be made into some form of kooky comedy movie. Frankly, I'm rather surprised that there hasn't been any attempt at it (perhaps the escalating yen and the fact that the Tokyo police don't seem to be too fond of Hollywood location filming in their neighbourhood might be factors); personally, Seth Rogen ought to play me, and he's a fellow Canuck, to boot.

I mentioned earlier about that Henry Mancini soundtrack. Well, I wouldn't mind something fluffy and jazzy for the theme song. For instance, the song that I'm talking about here. "Like What...?" by singer-songwriter Kingo Hamada(濱田金吾)created that nice bouncy beat to provide the musical accompaniment for my commute through the metropolis and my lessons with the more intriguing of Tokyoites. And essayist Meg Michiyuki(道行めぐ)wrote the words about a working cog relishing his first good-weather day off in a month to soak up the sunshine sans suit and to luckily run into an old flame who may become a regular one again. The title could be the young lady's response to the cog's invitation to do something for which the happy-go-lucky fellow can cheerfully answer "Everything!"

In the short time that I've known and appreciated Hamada, I've seen him as a singer who has often alternated between jazz and City (Resort) Pop; perhaps he can be called the J-Bobby Caldwell. I have always seen him as a figure from the 80s but with "Like What...?", the song was actually a new bonus track on his BEST album "Golden Best" which came out in July 2006. Good to hear that he hasn't retired. Among the fellows backing him up is guitarist-singer-songwriter Makoto Matsushita(松下誠), another City Pop vet.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Yoko Kuzuya/Miyuki Hatakeyama -- Romance wo Mou Ichido (ロマンスをもう一度)

I didn't make it a habit of traveling too much outside of Tokyo during my years in Japan but I was able to get out to the onsen area of Hakone once or twice with friends although we never spent the night at one of those ryokan. Although there were plenty of accommodations in the area, the expense of spending even one night out there and the fact that Hakone was quickly accessible from Shinjuku meant that a day trip was good enough for us.

Nope, not particularly romantic of us...or me, specifically. But hey, I was never much of a traveler to begin with. Therefore, it's a bit ironic that I am introducing "Romance wo Mou Ichido" (Romance Once More) which has been the long-running campaign song for the Odakyu Romance Car Express originating from Shinjuku Station. And yep, I never got to ride the train since Japan Railways was supposed to be the less expensive option (although from what I see of the rates on the official website, they are not too bad), but I had always wondered about hopping aboard one of those Odakyu trains to get over to Hakone. Naively, I had thought that the Romance Car was truly just for the couples, with love seats installed in lieu of the regular seats, but it is just a more luxurious form of train.

Still, I remember the commercial song playing whenever the ads for the Romance Car popped up on the telly. I didn't find out about the title or the singers until last night. Five singers gave their own versions of "Romance wo Mou Ichido" between 2002 to the present day but I still remember the original version by Yoko Kuzuya(葛谷葉子)who composed the song with Hiroaki or Yasuaki Ueno(上野泰明)providing the lyrics.

My impression of a theme song for a trip out to summery Shonan Beach would be something appropriately rock n' roll a la TUBE, but I speculate that Kuzuya was looking for a tune that was more freshly green, soft...and well, more romantic. More strolling, less running. And "Romance wa Mou Ichido" has that melodic feeling of a traipse through the woods almost as if it were Alice in Wonderland. Over the past year, I've translated a number of articles about parks and forests in Japan, and this particular song would make for an ideal theme tune for those places as well.

Kuzuya provided her original version for the commercials from the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2003 and then between 2007 and 2008, although it didn't come out as her official 7th single until July 2007. Between the fall of 2003 and the winter of 2004, though, Miyuki Hatakeyama(畠山美由紀)gave an even more laidback cover of "Romance wa Mou Ichido".

To finish up, the above is a video of some of those Romance Cars gliding through the crossings.

Maybe I ought to try one of those Romance Cars out the next time I hit Japan before I get a little too old.

Kahoru Kohiruimaki -- Frontier

About 1:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, I found out about the death of Prince via a bulletin which flashed across my computer screen, and I immediately turned on CNN. Then I just went "My golly...not again!" There are folks in my generation that have, up to today, been lamenting about all these singers such as David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Natalie Cole who have left this mortal coil this year. Now, we all have to say goodbye once more...shockingly Prince.

I was a casual fan of Prince. I never went to any of his concerts, including the one that was held just last month here in Toronto, nor did I stalk out his house when he lived briefly in the tony Forest Hill neighbourhood in my hometown. However, his music was as much a part of the Western side of my musical awakening in the 1980s as the material provided by folks such as Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and Depeche Mode. I enjoyed "Little Red Corvette", "1999" and "Let's Go Crazy". And of course, there is "Purple Rain". One of my old university buddies would always listen to Prince in his dorm and try to emulate his dance moves there although not on the dance floor. My friend was confident but even he wouldn't be that daring; he wouldn't dare try to copy his hero in public.

Earlier today, I was trying to think of how I would be able to put in a tribute of sorts to Prince. So I searched online for any Japanese singer who could have been influenced by him but really couldn't find anybody and no one can still come to mind. However, whenever Prince and Japan pop up simultaneously in my brain, the only commonality comes in the form of singer-songwriter Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる). Prince helped write and produce a couple of her tracks on her 1989 album "Time The Motion" which I covered over two years ago. The two tracks are "Mind Bells" and "Bliss" but regrettably neither of them can be heard online.

Still, perhaps I can provide an oblique tribute of sorts through Kohhy's "Frontier" which was the title track from her 9th album in 1992. I have to admit sheepishly that I had completely forgotten about this particular song since whenever I think of "Frontier" the album, I always think about the first song, the funky "Control" and the spacy version of "Smile For Me". But listening to it again after so long, I've finally realized how smooth and comfortable this ballad is. Nope, it doesn't break the mold and it has nothing to do with Prince but the music is a reminder of how my R&B sounded back in my salad days. And ironically, that music was composed by another beloved singer-songwriter who left us as well this year, Maurice White from Earth Wind & Fire, along with Brenda Russell and Billy Young. Kohhy provided the lyrics. "Frontier" may have come out in the early 90s but its heart seems to belong in the early 80s. I've often thought that a lot of Japanese music was more than willing to delve into the melodies of the past.

And once again because of the passing of another singer from my youth, I'm looking back into the past.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hi-Fi Set -- Moeru Aki (燃える秋)

Another accidental find from YouTube, it had been a long time since I put up anything by vocal group Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット). This is "Moeru Aki" (Glowing Autumn), which was a B-side of their 13th single from November 1978, "Nettaiya"(熱帯夜...Tropical Night)and was also the theme song for the movie of the same name. I tried to look up information about that movie but the J-Wiki article just seemed to go into the making of the movie itself rather than what the story is about.

My impression from the title and the melody by Toru Takemitsu(武満徹), though, is that the movie was another one of those bittersweet romances with plenty of ennui. The ballad certainly has that European flavour with hints of Henry Mancini jazz and soaring orchestra, and the vocals by Hi-Fi Set are wonderful as usual with lyrics by Hiroyuki Itsuki(五木寛之).

The music that starts off each verse though reminded me of the intro for Teresa Teng's(テレサ・テン)classic "Tsugunai"(つぐない)which was released some years later.

Minoru Obata/Naomi Chiaki -- Hoshikage no Komichi (星影の小径)

One of us will probably devote an article on the new NHK kayo/J-Pop show "Utakon"(うたコン)sometime in the near future. I've just seen the second episode of the show which replaced the long-running "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)this month, and the new kid on the block has definitely been shifting things to include some more of the J-Pop. I've got no problems with the new format per se although a couple of slip-ups did pop up in last night's sophomore outing such as Hiroshi Miyama(三山ひろし)missing out on one line in his first song and Toko Furuuchi(古内東子)giving a surprisingly subpar performance of her arguably most famous song "Dare Yori Suki Nanoni"(誰より好きなのに). I continued to be surprised about who showed up and Toko, who I had never seen appear on a TV show, was one of the biggies but then was given another (unfortunate) surprise when she sounded off-tune during her performance. Generally speaking, I think "Utakon" is still going through some growing pains but I'm hopeful that things will become a well-oiled machine bringing the generations together every Tuesday.

One of the highlights from last night's show was "Hoshikage no Komichi" which translates into the romantic Starlight Lane. I remember it primarily for the words of "I love you, I love you..." which I had originally thought was just part of an elaborate commercial jingle for one of those Kirin drinks. But when I heard Risa Junna(純名里沙)perform it on the NHK stage, those famous words juggled those old memory engrams and it was then that I found out about how long ago "Hoshikage no Komichi" had been created.

Written by Ryo Yano(矢野亮)and composed by Ichiro Tone(利根一郎)for release in April 1950, the original version has that "Wah, wah, wah" ballad sound which I've associated with the sweet music sung by crooners back in the early half of the 20th century. In fact, according to the J-Wiki article on the song, composer Tone molded "Hoshikage no Komichi" to have Minoru Obata's(小畑実)distinct voice reflect more of a Bing Crosby delivery, although Der Bingle had that deeper baritone. And what I also found out was that during an age when the usage of English lyrics was rare in a kayo kyoku, Obata's crooning of "I love you" became quite the talk of the town after the single's release. The talk of the town translated into sales of 200,000 copies...a huge hit no matter the decade.

(karaoke version)

Over 40 years later in December 1992, Naomi Chiaki(ちあきなおみ)very briefly came out of her retirement from the music industry to record her version of "Hoshikage no Komichi". And speaking of Minoru Obata, Chiaki is another balladeer with a unique set of vocal cords. Those dulcet tones of hers approaching the more smooth jazz/Latin arrangement make for a nice little urban lullaby. However, Yano's lyrics deal about that cool nighttime stroll down a lane for a couple very much in love.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down)

"Hoshikage no Komichi" has become a kayo standard considering the number of other singers who have covered it such as UA (below) and Frank Nagai(フランク永井). The above is Midori Karashima's(辛島美登里)version which was recorded onto her 2001 album "Eternal-One". At the same time, the song has become a favourite in advertisements. Not only has it been used for those Kirin products, but it was once used in 1985 to hawk instant coffee and in 1992 for Audi.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mariya Takeuchi -- Secret Love

When I hear this song, I just feel like going into old-style West Coast radio DJ voice and go "It's 7:25 in the PM as the lovely sunset gives a fine glow down by the bay at a most comfortable temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit. I hope all of you are having a fine Tuesday evening wherever you are, and right now, we have mellow songbird Mariya Takeuchi opening up about a....secret lo-o-ve."

Ahem. I mean, for a Japanese kayo, this sounds a lot like some of the tunes I used to hear on the FM band back from the late 70s and well into the 80s. And no surprise there since "Secret Love" was composed by David Foster & Jay Graydon and written by Marc Jordan. That first fellow could have helped create the Bible for 80s pop balladry. "Secret Love" was a track on Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)4th album "Miss M", and specifically it was placed on the Side A of the original LP which held all of the songs recorded in Los Angeles. The City of Angels is located on that side of the United States which I've always associated with the AOR genre that also helped inspire the City Pop genre.

Listening to mellow Mariya croon this tune, I can only imagine that drive down the Ventura Highway in the waning hours of the day. Mind you, the lyrics are cornier than a field ready to be harvested but as I've said time and time again, I was always more of a melody fellow. And I do like my AOR and this particular example of AOR. Foster, Graydon and Bill Champlin helped out on the background vocals.

Kome Kome Club -- Roman Hiko (浪漫飛行)

I know I rely on "Kayo Concert" for ideas and inspiration for the articles I write on this blog, but little did I know the extent I depended on this enka-based show until it disappeared for more than a couple of weeks. For those weeks I hadn't had much material to work with besides a few gems I managed to dig out of YouTube, so having "Uta Kon" come in and take its place last week was sort of a God-sent - okay, I'm exaggerating but I was really glad I had something to watch on Tuesday evenings again.

Anyway, having been the episode that kicked off the new year in Japan and "Uta Kon" itself, I wasn't surprised to see faces like good ol' Sabu-Chan, Sayuri Ishikawa and Keisuke Yamauchi. However, my eyes popped open the moment I saw that Tatsuya Ishii (石井竜也) would be gracing the Osaka stage with his bohemian presence; y'know, by enka-yo standards. In total he did 3 wardrobe changes, wow! It's not very often that the likes of Carl Smokey Ishii would appear on this sort of show, and I also happen to like a few of Kome Kome Club's hits so I looked forward to his time on stage.

The first song Ishii sung was "Roman Hiko" during the earlier half. I had heard snippets of it and its bizzare MV whenever I watch 90's hit medleys, and I thought it was alright though at that time I had much preferred their jauntier later single, "Kimi ga Iru Dake de" (君がいるだけで), and it never occurred to me listen to it in its entirety until last Tuesday night (I went to search for the full thing after the show). And it was at that time where I realised I had been missing out on something good... That happens way too often...

When I read up on "Roman Hiko" on the blog and the moment I watched the MV, I learnt that it was used in a JAL OKINAWA commercial back in the 90's, and I must say that the music fits the beach scene, fluffy clouds and the underwater world shown. However, I'm not sure how Kome Kome Club in helmets and outfits that make them look a little like Thai royalty meets Roman gladiator meets vikings fits into everything. Ah well, I guess that's K2C strangeness for me. Coming back to the music, it has this relaxing and almost hypnotizing beat that makes one think of lying on the sand and enjoying the sun and surf. It would be nice to do that, but with the temperatures being unseasonably hot in Singapore and the humidity happily doing its worst, doing just that would make me a burnt piece of toast on one side, and soggy bread on the other. Probably lolling about at a beach in Okinawa would be slightly better? Oh my, is the commercial actually working on me?!

Moving on, "Roman Hiko", released as Kome Kome Club's 10th single in 8th April 1990, was a big hit selling around 1.7 million copies and managed to be the 2nd best-selling song of that year.

How on earth did they think of such a getup???

Ah, can't wait for tonight's "Uta Kon". There's gonna be Yoshimi Tendo, Kiyoshi Hikawa, Kaori Mizumori, and Hiroshi Miyama! Pretty good lineup, even for not having any of the older folk I always hope for.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Anri -- Goodbye Boogie Dance

I was talking with commenter Baloo over the past few days about the bass-thumping City Pop wonders of Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)when I realized that it has been quite some months since I put up an Anri(杏里)tune. And today in Toronto was a fine day to decide to do so. We got up to the dizzying heights of 25 degrees Celsius with plenty of sun, so this wasn't just a spring day here but a comfy summer one. Of course, when it comes to summer kayo, Anri and Kadomatsu just have to be in there.

So I managed to find this one, "Goodbye Boogie Dance" from her 6th album "Bi-Ki-Ni" which was released back in June 1983. The album was one of the first collaborations between Anri and Kadomatsu, and "Goodbye Boogie Dance" has that title which sounds as if it had been generated from a Scrabble game. However, title aside, with the horns and aforementioned bass and Anri's summer vocals in there, yup, this is another representative tune from her oeuvre back in the early 80s when her name basically summed up beach life.

I'm gonna have to start listening up on my Anri albums again to prep for summer!

Noriko Sakai -- Yume Boken (夢冒険)/ Noriko Watanabe -- Sora Iro no Pierce (空色のピアス)

Happy Monday! Well, I figure if the the anime world can come up with their programs devoted to Heidi, Anne of Green Gables (yeah, Canada) and even Princess Diana, then The Three Musketeers shouldn't be a problem. And I found out that there was indeed an anime about the adventures of Athos, D'Artagnan and the rest of the gang in the late 80s known as "Anime San Juushi"(アニメ三銃士...The Three Musketeers Anime )by NHK.

I also discovered that none other than Noriko Nori-P Sakai(酒井法子)took care of the opening theme, "Yume Boken" (Dream Adventure) as her 4th single from November 1987. I mentioned on an article for another late 80s aidoru some time ago that a number of the aidoru tunes from that time were infused with a hint of melody lines from other genres. I think with "Yume Boken", there was something faintly classical thrown in by composer Eiji Nishiki(西木栄二)which fit in with the anime it opened for. Hiromi Mori(森浩美)provided the lyrics.

My memory of how Nori-P sounded back in the early days is somewhat hazy unfortunately but listening to her in the opening credits for "Anime San Juushi" and in the cute little video above, I think she had quite the pure delivery for a lack of a better way to describe her vocals. I once borrowed a videotape of the singer one time and I vaguely remember seeing this particular video.

"Yume Boken" placed at No. 4 on Oricon and was the title track on her 2nd album "Yume Boken/NORIKO SPECIAL" which came out later on New Year's Day in 1988. The song was also adopted as the theme for the opening ceremonies of the 1988 High School Baseball Tournament at Koshien Stadium. And there's nothing better for the record companies than having a tune used in that sports tournament as promotion.

(from 10:13)

Actually, the first thing that had me noticing the anime was this song which I discovered on YouTube titled "Sora Iro no Pierce" (Sky-Blue Earrings) sung by actress/singer Noriko Watanabe(渡辺典子). The Oita Prefecture-born Watanabe debuted in 1982 and was placed alongside Hiroko Yakushimaru(薬師丸ひろ子)and Tomoyo Harada(原田知世)to be collectively known as Kadokawa San-nin Musume(角川三人娘...The Three Daughters of Kadokawa)representing Kadokawa Pictures.

"Sora Iro no Pierce" was used as an image song during part of the anime, and it has more of an urban contemporary feel. It was Watanabe's 9th and 2nd-last single from December 1987, and although she didn't vocally hit it out of the park, the music by Godiego's Yukihide Takekawa(タケカワユキヒデ )helps it out. Masumi Kawamura(川村真澄)provided the words.