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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Yukihiro Takahashi -- Sunset


I've known that the members of the legendary Yellow Magic Orchestra had their gigs before they all got together to make their brand of beautifully catchy technopop music, but of the triumvirate of Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi(細野晴臣・坂本龍一・高橋幸宏), drummer Takahashi was the one that I knew least about when it came to his pre-YMO days. Of course, I knew about his days with YMO including his hand in the creation of one of the band's greatest hits, "Rydeen" and I now know some of his current career as a member of the eclectic METAFIVE collective. But before YMO? Nada.

Then, last night I came across this video which featured Takahashi's first solo album, "Saravah!" from June 1978. According to the Wikipedia write-up, the album was named after a record label founded by French composer-singer Pierre Barouh and its tracks were based on French pop music, the concept coming about in Takahashi's head during his time as a member of the Sadistic Mika Band.

One of the tracks happens to be called "Sunset" and it was written and composed by Takahashi as this little ditty which comes across as a relaxed City Pop number peppered with some of that twee YMO technopop (not quite sure of any French pop influences here). Not surprising, since his buddies Hosono and Sakamoto helped out on bass and keyboards respectively...and singer Rajie was on backing vocals. But this is definitely not a YMO tune.

"Saravah!" was actually released a few months before YMO's very first album came out, so I've now got an inkling of his past work.

Ginza Evening (compilation album)

Back in August 2014, I wrote up an article about Yoko Kuzuya's(葛谷葉子)"Koi"(恋)which was this rich ballad from this compilation album called "Ginza Evening" which was released back in 2001. Looking at the title, I had assumed that there would be a whole bunch of snazzy Mood Kayo songs in there but then on seeing the fuzzy background image on the booklet, I started wondering. And then on giving it a test listen at one of the listening posts in the CD shop, my mind was definitely changed. The tracks were all of a mellow contemporary nature. This was more of spending a quiet rainy Sunday afternoon in a Ginza cafe (and yep, I have been in a few of those) rather than a raucous night in a Ginza nightclub.

The wonderful thing about picking up these compilation albums is that not only do I re-discover some of those old tunes that had once been gathering dust in the brain but I also get to discover new wonderful songs from artists that I would never have heard unless I buy one of these omnibus releases.

Yoko Kuzuya was one such example. Another is Yuka Kawamura(川村結花), a singer-songwriter who was born in Osaka. She actually gained (further) fame when she helped pen the SMAP megahit, "Yozora no Mukou"(夜空ノムコウ)in 1998 a few years after she had first debuted. But I didn't get to finally hear the singer part of her until I picked up "Ginza Evening" and listened to her 8th single from February 1999, "Every Breath You Take", and no, it has nothing to do with that early 80s hit by The Police.

Speaking of The Police, I vaguely remember an interview with Sting during which, when told that his song was about loyal devotion to a loved one, he surprisingly countered that one of his band's most famous tunes was actually about stalker-like obsession. I could imagine that interviewer's jaw dropping onto the floor. Kawamura's own "Every Breath You Take" is happily more innocent via the lyrics in which the singer declares her support for that significant other no matter how trying the circumstances. The song does sound as if it had been recorded straight from the floor of an intimate nightclub in front of an audience while Kawamura's vocals and piano have that feeling of a performance from way back in the 1970s. It is also featured on her 3rd album "Lush Life" from April of that same year.

There is a lot to be introspective about when it comes to "Ginza Evening". Another ballad that helps in that endeavour is Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)"New Song". This was originally from her 1995 album "Piano Nightly", and although "New Song" has that relaxing atmosphere, Yano's words are there to help the listener come out of any gloom and doom.

One of my favourite tracks has been "Kiss no Ondo"(キスの温度...Temperature of a Kiss)by the duo known as wyolica. They have been defined according to Wikipedia as "...a two-piece folk pop/chillout group from Japan". Since I'm not all that well versed on those newfangled genre names, I'm going to imagine that chillout doesn't include bands such as Loudness or X Japan. And certainly "Kiss no Ondo" as purred by vocalist Azumi would probably have me imagining that I was in a tiny hidden cafe in bohemian Shimo-Kitazawa rather than a Renoir (a long-running coffee house chain) in Ginza. That Latin guitar and the mellow keyboards definitely do fine by me. Azumi wrote the lyrics while guitarist so-to and Shinichi "Mondo Grosso" Osawa(大沢伸一)took care of the music. "Kiss no Ondo" first appeared on wyolica's debut album "who said 'La La...'?" from February 2000 which peaked at No. 17 on Oricon.

Crystal Kay was another one of those artists that I saw and listened to during that period when R&B really started making the rounds in J-Pop in the late 1990s and early 2000s along with folks like m-flo and Misia. However, the one song by her that stayed in my brain was the one she debuted with, "Eternal Memories" from July 1999. She recorded this song when she was 13 years old (maybe I can have my niece listen to this one just to provide her with a bit of inspiration) and it was put into heavy rotation merely by having it become the campaign song for a long-running commercial on TV.

Listening to the whole song, there is something haunting but also quite soothing about "Eternal Memories", especially when she sings the mantra:

I will go and try, to find what's in my self
I need to find the way, to find what's in my self
I know it's not that easy, but I'll try

My memory of the original commercial song had it sounding a little more energetic but I still like this slower version that is in "Ginza Evening" since it is going along with the overall mellow tone of the album. Hiroshi Ichikura(一倉宏)and Crystal Kay provided the lyrics while the marvelous Yoko Kanno(菅野よう子)composed the hypnotic melody. Kanno had just created something a whole lot more jazzier the year before.

There are of course a number of other tracks on the album but I will probably give some of them some more individual attention in the near future. But the take-away here is that just like B-sides on an old 45" record, don't count out some of those subtle compilation albums.

Chage -- Tokyo Tower (トウキョータワー)

Many Happy Returns indeed.

With the recent spate of popular non-enka/kayokyoku singers from the 70's to the 90's appearing on "Uta Kon", it got me eager to see who's gonna be the next "special guest", so to speak, on the next week. While most of my hopes lied in Hiroshi Tachi and Anzen Chitai/Koji Tamaki - Southern All Stars is too wild for "Uta Kon" - I had (sadly) forgotten about this one fellow whom had once been a favourite of mine until I saw the lineup for this week on the "Uta Kon" homepage.

I was extremely pleased to see Chage as one of the guests. I really did not expect him to be on this show. I had waited way too long to see him on TV! And man, I couldn't help but smile when seeing those familiar shades and hat this evening. I wouldn't say I was emotional, but it felt like I had been reunited with an old friend. However, as happy as I was, it felt bittersweet. Not because he only sang one song, but... ... It would have been twice as great if the other half of the duo were present. Oh, well.

Moving on, while I generally listen to ASKA's solo works often, I do occasionally tune in to what Chage has to offer. And I have to say that their musical styles are quite differing, with Chage putting out stuff that are usually more edgy and rock-centric (from what I know). One such song that I feel shows this edgy side is "Tokyo Tower", with a laid-back pace accompanied by the sharp electric guitar wailing behind the strumming of the acoustic guitar. As for the the singer-songwriter's lyrics, I'm not entirely sure about it's meaning, but it seems that the main character wants to bring his love to the iconic red structure. I haven't been up the Tokyo Tower, but I wonder if the view is similar to what I saw from this tall building in Shinjuku (can't remember what it's called).

Ah, "Tokyo Tower" reminds me of the times when I had to take the bus home back during my first couple of years in secondary school (grades 7-8). The melody really went well with the cityscape whizzing by below a somewhat overcast sky.

"Tokyo Tower" was released on 30th September 1998 as Chage's first solo single. I'm not sure how well it did on the charts, but the album containing the track, "2nd", released on 21st October of the same year, managed to peak at 15th place on the Oricon weeklies. In 2009, Chage did a self-cover of "Tokyo Tower" in the album "Many Happy Returns", which came in at 22nd place on the Oricon weeklies. The picture at the start of the article is from "Many Happy Returns", by the way.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Ayaka -- Mikazuki (三日月)

This was another one of those songs that was all over the airwaves for months after its release. Singer-songwriter Ayaka's(絢香)"Mikazuki" (Crescent Moon) was just one of those ballads that especially pulled on the heartstrings as she sang in the music video on top of a light post. My impression is that a lot of folks will always see her in that position whenever they reminisce about the song.

Released in September 2006 as Ayaka's 4th single, the highlights for me are that intro, her vocals right at the refrain and that middle section when the melody abruptly goes into something more R&B. Yoshihiko Nishio(西尾芳彦)also helped Ayaka out in the composition of the melody which happily doesn't go overboard on the drama but fairly quietly enhances the singer's lyrics about that crescent moon overlooking a woman looking back and declaring that she will be fine after a romantic breakup.

"Mikazuki" hit the top spot on Oricon and became the 49th-ranked song for 2006, earning a Newcomer's Prize for Ayaka at the Japan Record Awards. Its popularity as a karaoke song was made perfectly clear as well since it was the No. 1 song on the Oricon karaoke charts for 2007. Hard to believe that it's almost been 10 years since it was released.
Nick Bramhall

Masa Takagi -- Hitoribocchi no Heya (ひとりぼっちの部屋)

Another foray into YouTube produced a whole number of videos involving a singer-songwriter by the name of Masa Takagi(高木麻早). I had never heard of her beyond last night so when I saw all those songs, I was rather compelled to take a look and have a hear.

Takagi, who was born in Nagoya, seems to have had quite the musical travels across the kayo spectrum. Having released 13 singles between 1973 and 1980 (with one more single in 2009) and 13 albums between 1973 and 2004, I have heard her dipping into enka/Mood Kayo and even some City Pop.

But I would like to start with her debut single which came out in September 1973, just a few months shy of her 20th birthday, titled "Hitoribocchi no Heya" (A Lonely Room). Takagi wrote and composed this folky and twangy song about trying to get to sleep and failing due to thoughts regarding that guy flying about in her brain. I've known that there was that small niche segment among Japanese society that loved American country-and-western music (my parents were fairly big fans themselves), and there is a lot in this arrangement to suggest some of this love. Earlier in May, the singer had entered the 5th Annual Yamaha Popular Song Contest with "Hitoribocchi no Heya" and won a prize for it. Once it got released as her first official single, the song managed to sell upwards of 400,000 records and her debut album "Masa Takagi" became a huge hit, according to J-Wiki.

Anyways, I have another new singer whose discography I have to explore.

Anri -- Mind Cruisin'

Well, Happy Monday to you all! I realize that going back to work or school is probably not the happiest thing of the week but in my own piece of the planet, it's looking pretty summery out there. I may actually need to put up the fan in my room. In addition, with the hot weather coming in, where this blog is concerned, it's also time to bring in some Anri(杏里).

Thinking about Anri's long career, I have to say that my personal favourite period when it comes to her is when she and Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)were making some of that beautiful music in the early to mid-1980s. Still, there is also some of that fun-in-the-sun R&B that she, lyricist Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美)and arranger Yasuharu Ogura(小倉泰治)were making from the late 80s into the new decade.

Case in point: I was nearly through my first of 2 years on the JET Programme when I saw Anri promoting her latest album, "Mind Cruisin'" through some frenetic dancing on TV. Having savored my purchase of her previous album of "Circuit of Rainbow" the year before as an eventual memento of the start of my first post-university job in Japan, it didn't take too much of an arm twist to get "Mind Cruisin'", her 14th album from June 1990.

I had some indication that Anri could pull off some dance moves but the music video had me convinced that she could keep up with her dancers. Then again, I was truly impressed when I discovered the same year that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)was also more than able to bust a move on stage. In any case, the title track was notable in that I couldn't hear any of that horn section which often populated an Anri tune but that didn't bother me at all. The synths and the bass kept the fun going well enough.

As for the album, it hit No. 1 on the charts and ended up as the 5th-most popular album for 1990.

It's not even June yet and I'm already feeling that natsubate. So I had the usual Japanese summer lunch of soumen.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kozo Murashita -- Oka no Ue kara (丘の上から)

Keeping with today's theme of worthy B-sides that I started with Tomoyo Harada(原田知世)this morning, I found another one with another singer from the 1980s, the late Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵).

"Oka no Ue kara" (From The Top of the Hill) was the B-side to Murashita's biggest hit, "Hatsukoi"(初恋)released in February 1983. The singer-songwriter was playing around with synthesizers during that time including in his magnum opus, but with "Oka no Ue kara", it was more back to his folky roots as he crooned about the sweet sorrow of parting while on the top of the hill that he and his old flame had frequented in happier times.

(cover version)

Languid as a calm brook, the effect was further heightened with a country-like twang thanks to what sounded like an old steel pedal although there was a slow and majestic bass line that hinted at the finality of the relationship. It was quite the counterpart to the jumpy city beat of "Hatsukoi".

Tomoyo Harada/Yumi Matsutoya -- Zutto Soba ni (ずっとそばに)

When it comes to the topic of B-sides or as they later became known on the older CD singles, coupling songs, I've found that there can be some gems hidden among those chosen songs that may have been simply thrown in by the producers simply because they needed to fill up the vinyl or polycarbonate. One of the first examples of these hidden gems came in the form of a Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)ballad titled "Akai Ito"(赤い糸...Red String)which was the B-side to her biggest hit "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby"(聖母たちのララバイ). Alas, there is no sign of it on the Net but it remains one of my favourite Hiromi songs nonetheless due to its arranged mix of Japanese pop balladry of those days and a hint of City Pop.

This B-side is also a very pleasant surprise. Tomoyo Harada(原田知世)sang "Zutto Soba ni" (Always By Your Side) as the B-side to her breakthrough 3rd single "Toki wo Kakeru Shojo"(時をかける少女)from April 1983. And like that hit, "Zutto Soba ni" was written and composed by Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実). What I like about it is that Matsutoya mellowness that seemed to infuse a lot of Yuming's own ballads during the early 1980s and the songs that she provided for other singers such as Harada. The icing on the cake is the singer's own voice as she sings about always being a friend to that someone although she secretly wants (but may not achieve) an upgrade in their relationship. I've been currently watching the last few episodes of the anime "Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren"(中二病でも恋がしたい!戀...Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions -Heart Throb-)and I think this musical equivalent of bittersweet chocolate would have made for the ideal theme song.

Yuming also gave her own lovely version of her own song as a track on her 14th album "Reincarnation" from February 1983 which means that her cover of "Zutto Soba ni" predated that Harada B-side by a couple of months. As for the Harada version, it was also on her debut album "Birthday Album" from November in the same year and got on her BEST compilation "Image"(イマージュ).

ZOO/EXILE/Kiyoshi Maekawa -- Choo Choo Train

Post-apocalyptic world with some fine entertainment.

Looks like Mom's now a fan of EXILE. Her rationale for liking this song and dance unit is that they actually look cool, ATSUSHI and TAKAHIRO sing decently, and their moves are on point.

While they are a group I don't exactly mind and it is quite hypnotizing to watch such synchronous dancing, I can't say that I know very much about them save for a couple of songs. So being exposed to more of their works and who's who in the whole hoard of them by Mom was an interesting feeling. The tables had been turned this time around! I'm usually the one introducing her to enka-yo stuff whether she likes it or not, and now she's educating me on the EXILE TRIBE... whether I like or not. But of course, that's only that much EXILE/J Soul Brothers I can take before I shut it out and return to my comfort zone. Also, I thought this to be rather amusing as if I were to be completely normal, it could have been the other way round.

Anyways, I'm still in the process of getting to know EXILE's other works, so I thought I'd write about something by them that I'm most familiar with, "Choo Choo Train". While I got to know this tune a few years back via the group behind the original version from 1991, ZOO, I often see it associated with EXILE who had remade it in 2003. It's one jaunty and catchy song so it's no wonder that both versions were hits in their time. I enjoy "Choo Choo Train" for its nice beat and the trumpets in the background makes it more funky. However, similar to what J-Canuck had said in his own article regarding this song, the English words in the lyrics have me wondering what they even mean. Comparing both versions, I have to say that EXILE's one sounds more soulful, especially when ATSUSHI comes in, but I have no favourites; both are good.

Hang on, actually, I stand corrected. I do have a favourite version. He's not as flexible as the members of ZOO or as smooth as the EXILE guys, but Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) made up for that in terms of effort in his attempt at this pop classic. He wasn't doing his usual pillar shtick in this bit of his 40th anniversary concert in 2008, alright! Mae-Kiyo's version can also be found in the album "Enka no Chikara Saikyo Z White" (エンカのチカラ 最強Z ホワイト) from 2011. Ah, he really never fails to surprise me. :) Dang, this feels like the Itsuki-"Aishitsuzukeru Bolero"-thing all over again.

Friday, May 27, 2016

EPO -- Yokogao (横顔)

Glad that I could find this video since the song is perfect for the warm sunny day we're having today. It really does feel like al fresco-friendly summer weather in the Six.

EPO provided her cover of the Japanese pop standard "Yokogao" (Profile) as originally done by Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)for her 1978 album "Mignonne". EPO's cover was placed on her 1987 album of covers "Poptracks" which I wrote about several months ago. Instead of the whimsical jazz and the delicate voice that Ohnuki had provided in the original, EPO brought her strong pop-happy vocals to her version although that light and breezy air has still been retained. Mind you, some jazz guitar enters near the end.

Hope all of you enjoy the weekend.

Masayuki Suzuki -- She-See-Sea

Weather can be very changeable overall and even more so in my city. 2 weeks ago, we were looking at a temperature barely reaching 6 degrees Celsius and snow showers whereas today, Toronto will reach at least 28 degrees with a Humidex of around 35 degrees. Summer has landed prematurely...not that many of us are complaining. In other news, we've had a couple of missing capybaras from the High Park Zoo for the past few days.

It's a very warm Friday so perhaps it's time for some hot soul from the guy who owns the lion's share of it, one Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之). I bought his 7th album from October 1994 at a used CD shop one day several years ago and the case certainly saw its share of abuse; the hinges were broken so basically the CD case was a convertible.

Still, nothing wrong with Martin's music. Track 2 is "Toubousha"(逃亡者...Fugitives), an urgent and speedy number about a couple being on the run...whether from parents, creditors, the Mob, it doesn't matter. The man and woman are crazy in love. Written by Saeko Nishio(西尾佐栄子)and composed by Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)who decided to go with a pen name that could be read in so many ways that I'm not going to bother translating it, the backing band has got a couple of known names in veteran saxophonist Jake H. Concepcion and keyboardist and arranger Akihiko Matsumoto(松本晃彦)who later provided the soundtracks for the "Odoru Dai Sosasen"(踊る大捜査線)movie franchise.

Track 7 is "Sokonashi no Umi"(底なしの海...The Bottomless Sea)by Abe again and lyricist Kitsuma Ohki(大木きつま). Slightly mellower in sound but the theme of turbulent love is still in there. I sometimes think that Suzuki would have made the ideal Rod Serling-type of host for an anthology series on romance.

The next track is "Nanimo Iwazu ni"(何も言わずに...Without Saying A Word)written by Hideki Ando(安藤秀樹)and composed by veteran Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). Suzuki goes even more tender as he croons about having those sleepless nights over that special someone he has fallen head over heels with. There seems to be a certain 1970s soul feeling in the arrangement, and the strings really add to the experience.

"She-See-Sea" also has the single "Chigau, Sou Janai"(違う、そうじゃない), Martin's musical plea for another chance. The album managed to get as high as No. 4 on Oricon.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hibari Misora -- Namida no Beni Bara (涙の紅バラ)

Japanese music historians were probably popping open the champagne yesterday when they saw the above feature on the NHK prime-time news broadcast as I did. Apparently, a lost movie was re-discovered in a Kobe movie museum of all places. The movie in question titled "Nankai no Jouka"(南海の情火...South Seas Passion) wasn't itself the big find (although it was significant) but the 40-second appearance of a prepubescent Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)in the movie was the huge gold nugget. Strangely no one had any idea that the future legend was in "Nankai no Jouka" although the J-Wiki article on Misora did have the movie and her role in it listed along with the song that she sang, "Namida no Beni Bara" (Red Rose of Tears).

According to the news report, the studio that had produced "Nankai no Jouka" went out of business soon after the movie had been released and so probably aside from its initial run, it was never seen again in public. However, I'm sure the song has popped up here and there in the media and certainly since it was sold as a single, many Hibari fans have heard it over the decades through records, audiotapes, CDs and perhaps even downloaded MP3s. But the main point is that the movie that had featured the song, however briefly, has been re-found after 60 years. In the above video, a very scratchy version of "Namida no Beni Bara" can be heard from around 5:00 although the narrator talks over the intro for the first several seconds or so. The song, by the way, was written by Yashio Okuno(奥野椰子夫)and composed by Takio Niki(仁木他喜雄)...had to dig into Misora's website to find that out and then figure out how their kanji were read.

Misora had been featured in film before this particular movie, most notably in "Kanashiki Kuchibue"(悲しき口笛)in 1949, and then soon after "Nankai no Jouka", she hit it big with "Tokyo Kid"(東京キッド)so perhaps for a lot of folks who are not fans of the late singer and actress, they may be wondering what the big fuss is all about. Well, speaking as someone who is also not a die-hard fan but still enjoys a number of her songs, I gather that any discovery of long-lost paraphernalia related to Misora this far into the 21st century is worthy of a news feature. Such was the power of this lady who only stood 153 cm but managed to terrify many a fellow singer with her presence.

Chika Ueda + Karyobin -- Aki Iro Kesho (秋色化粧)

As is probably the case with the vast majority of people out there, I've got a few very specific likes when it comes to music. There are the velvety-smooth sounds of a Fender Rhodes, the sonic bang from a City Pop electric guitar and some mellow piano in an indie pop setting. And I've also appreciated strings in a jazzy or whimsically pop arrangement. That last one is well represented by the legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli especially when it came to his partnership with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

One of my favourite comedies of all time has been "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. In addition to the often-hilarious scenes that made the movie was that 10th player in the outfield represented by Miles Goodman's soundtrack which had plenty of those jazzy strings to oomph things up.

Last night, I was doing my usual maintenance of checking over the past articles to see that their videos still existed when I re-acquainted myself with nikala's article on Chika Ueda's(上田知華)"Purple Monsoon". She was kind enough to include a video that had a goodly amount of her work with her quintet Karyobin in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and after taking a good listen once more to the fine combination of pop strings and Ueda's voice, I once again gained some wonderful appreciation to this little unique corner that the singer-songwriter provided in the world of Japanese popular music at the time.

When I first read nikala's article, she pointed out the main song of "Purple Monsoon" which comes on that video at 11:43. To be honest, all of the songs are great but as I mentioned in my comment to her at the bottom, there was one song that I believed to have heard years ago on one of the more uncommon, and probably more New Music-oriented, episodes of "Sounds of Japan", that old CHIN-FM radio program I used to listen to for years. And sure enough, the very last song on the video was that very song.

"Aki Iro Kesho" (Autumn Makeup) was originally written, composed and sung by Chika Ueda as one of the singles for her and Karyobin in August 1981. When I had first heard it on that Saturday night broadcast, I thought it was a rather odd quiet tune during a time of synth-happy aidoru songs and the traditional enka. Thinking about it now, it reminded me as a throwback to the music of nearly a century ago when orchestras played what was called sweet music, the genre of non-jazz music played at events such as formal parties. I didn't know what to make of it then but I appreciate it much more now. It was quite the revelation back then since at the time that I had first heard of Ueda, it was because of that one pop song she sang for a Fuji-TV drama in 1991 titled "I Will".

"Kayo Kyoku Plus" has a number of articles involving Ueda including this article as of this writing but almost all of them involve her songwriting duties. Therefore, it's nice when I can include her as an actual singer since she does have a pleasing voice to my ears. By the way, while the above two videos show cover versions of "Aki Iro Kesho", the original version can be found in the video in nikala's article at around the 19:12 mark. That version was also a track on Ueda + Karyobin's 5th album from 1981, "Miss Heart".

Thiking about the title, it was no surprise that "Aki Iro Kesho" was used as the campaign song for Pola Cosmetics. Unfortunately it didn't get into the Top 10 commercial jingles for cosmetics as shown in the above video, but looking at it, I found out that all of the entries except for No. 4 and No. 2 are represented in the annals of this blog.

I actually had the opportunity to get a Chika Ueda + Karyobin album one time a low low price at Recomints in Nakano Broadway but didn't bother to shuck out the yen. Consider that an opportunity lost but I will try to get one of their releases someday if it isn't too late.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Noriko Watanabe -- Hare, Tokidoki Kill Me (晴れ、ときどき殺人)

(song starts at about 1:23)

I first introduced the singing actress Noriko Watanabe(渡辺典子)a little over a month ago with her 2nd-last single, "Sora Iro no Pierce"(空色のピアス). Well, here is her 2nd single, "Hare, Tokidoki Kill Me" (Sunny with a Chance of Kill Me) from April 1984, and with a title like that, I was quite intrigued.

The song was the title theme for a movie with the same title starring Watanabe which was based on a mystery novel by Jiro Akagawa(赤川次郎). I don't really have to watch the movie to get that strange feeling of mystery since the trailer as seen above depicts some rather dark happenings involving poor Watanabe's character of Kanako while this happy-go-lucky aidoru-style song is playing in the background. It's almost as if a theme from a Hayao Miyazaki(宮崎駿)movie was grafted onto an Alfred Hitchcock flick. "Tonari no Totoro"(となりのトトロ)for "North by Northwest", anyone?

The other surprising thing is that "Hare, Tokidoki Kill Me" was created by the husband-and-wife team of Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木耀子)who were whipping up all those muscular hits for Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)in the latter half of her career such as "Playback, Part II". This is probably the cutest song I have ever heard by that duo.

Sachiko Nishida -- Furusato no You ni (故郷のように)

(karaoke version)

Usually when I see the word furusato in a kayo title, I think of a sentimental ballad with the singer warbling emotionally about heading back to the old hometown after years toiling away in the big city. However, such is not the case here with Sachiko Nishida's(西田佐知子)"Furusato no You ni" (Just Like My Hometown).

Released in March 1963, Nishida goes through this like a boogie-woogie march on the same level as anything by the Andrews Sisters back in World War II. "Furusato no You ni" was created by the same duo, Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura(永六輔・ 中村八大), who had come up with the classic "Ue wo Muite Arukou"(上を向いて歩こう)...aka "Sukiyaki"...for the late Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九)a couple of years earlier in 1961. Nishida sings about how much she wants to hold onto her guy like her memories of home, and dang it, if that arrangement is any indication, she will probably end up asphyxiating him in the process.

If I understood the J-Wiki article on the song correctly, the song got its fame during its introduction on a segment of the old NHK program "Yume de Aimashou"(夢であいましょう...Let's Meet In A Dream).


Steadily getting through the now-annual traffic jam of superhero TV shows and motion pictures. I caught "Captain America: Civil War" (pretty good), "Batman vs. Superman" (not very good) and the season finales for "Gotham" (fine), "Agents of SHIELD" (bittersweet but good) and "The Flash" (hmmm...the jury is still out on that one). And there is another movie around the corner with "X-Men: Apocalypse" coming out this Friday here in North America.

The movie and the marketing seem to be shivering in the huge shadow left by the latest movie in the "Captain America" franchise, and apparently the reviews haven't been all that great although they should still better those for "Batman vs. Superman". I still want to see "Apocalypse" nonetheless because I have been an "X-Men" fan for decades. In fact, among my scattered collection of comic books, "X-Men" has taken up the most space.

Just a few minutes ago, I came across another video in the long series of the hilarious "Honest Trailers" series, and strangely enough, the (mutant) powers-that-be over there decided to aim their ruby quartz visors at the 1990s X-Men cartoon. Broadcast a good chunk of a decade before the very first "X-Men" live-action film launched the franchise of mixed results, for mutant fans like myself, the cartoon was manna from heaven. It may look rather clunky and dated now but back then, I was quite happy catching it on Sunday mornings. Plus, I have to say that the theme song for the cartoon is still more memorable than the theme for the movies.

Now, lest you folks start thinking about why I am dragging in a purely different pop cultural fave into a blog about Japanese popular music, that Honest Trailer on the X-Men cartoon series also briefly featured the theme song used for the Japanese broadcast of the show. As Mr. Honest Trailer Man quipped, "Sugoi".

I think that urgent original theme by Ron Wasserman was still being used but the Japanese broadcast also used a hard rock anison titled "RISING" along the lines of "Ai wo Torimodose!!"(愛をとりもどせ!!)for "Hokuto no Ken" (Kenshiro vs. Wolverine?...yeah, I'd see that) whose melodic legacy has been passed onto JAM Project for "THE HERO!" from "One-Punch Man" ( about Saitama vs. Wolverine?). There is even the word "SHOCK" in the lyrics (one personal pronoun and a definite article away from copyright litigation).

Looking at the Japanese opening credits, I think the animators were chomping at the bit to give their ode to the X-Men. Anyways, "RISING" was written, composed and sung by the rock band AMBIENCE as the theme song for the first half of the episodes shown. Junichi Kurata(倉田順一)who had been part of a Johnny's Entertainment aidoru group known as SHADOW, brought together a few other guys to form the band in 1993. Kurata was the first lead vocal for AMBIENCE until Hiroshi Kitagawa(北川浩)took over.

"RISING" was released as the band's 2nd single in May 1994 as one-half of the disc "DREAMIN'/RISING". It didn't rise too high though as it peaked at No. 95 on Oricon and sold 4000 copies which contrasted with its debut in November 1993 of "Saigo no Yakusoku: See You Again"(最後の約束...The Final Promise)which hit No. 10 and was even used as the theme song for a Fuji-TV drama.

In any case, I will be looking forward to reading those reviews for "Apocalypse" in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sachiko Shiina -- Debune Sanbashi (出船桟橋)

I heard "Debune Sanbashi" by enka singer Sachiko Shiina(椎名佐千子)last week on NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)and remember being quite entranced by it. And I'm not quite sure why. The title meaning Wharf of a Departing Ship along with the lyrics by Toshiya Niitani(仁井谷俊也)aren't particularly revolutionary as far as an enka song goes. There have been plenty of enka about the sad story of a couple being separated at the docks due to various circumstances. And certainly, Chiaki Oka's(岡千秋)melody doesn't particularly stand out among the other enka melodies to have been composed.

But somehow, Shiina brings all the elements together quite nicely. I'm not sure whether this will ever eventually become a classic someday but when the singer performed it last week, "Debune Sanbashi" felt quite comfortable. Perhaps it was the strong and steady delivery that helped steer the titular ship forward although it left that poor forlorn lady at the pier. And I can hazard a guess that it made for that nice contrast with the previous pop songs which had been performed...something that "Uta Kon" is now mixing far more than its predecessor show "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)did.

Unfortunately, I don't know when exactly "Debune Sanbashi" was released although the year is most likely 2016 since there is no particular record of her output beyond 2015 according to her J-Wiki entry.

Shiina is an enka singer that I have seen a number of times now on the two NHK music programs. Born in Asahi City, Chiba Prefecture in 1982, she had been inspired by her grandmother who had also wanted to become a singer, and entered her fair share of karaoke competitions since her elementary school years, winning a number of them. As another winner in such a contest when she was a junior high school student, she was scouted out by composer Jun Suzuki(鈴木淳)which started her 4-hour round-trip commutes between Asahi City and studio offices in Roppongi, Tokyo for lessons. Suzuki and the aforementioned lyricist Niitani would create her debut single "Go-iken Muyo no Jinsei da"(ご意見無用の人生だ...A Life of Useless Opinions)in April 2002.

Yosui Inoue -- Kaerenai Futari (帰れない二人)

I mentioned in yesterday's article on that collaboration between Yosui Inoue(井上陽水)and Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)"Stardust Rendezvous" that there were a number of songs sung that deserved their own entries on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". Well, I'm making good my promise from today.

The one song from that 1986 album between Inoue and Anzen Chitai that stood out for me was the wonderful ballad "Kaerenai Futari" (The Couple That Doesn't Go Home). As I remarked in the article, it was the Side B to Inoue's 9th single from September 1973, "Kokoro Moyo"(心もよう...Pattern of a Heart), but although Side A seems to have earned a ton of respect over the decades by its covers by many an artist, I have yet to hear it myself and will in the near future. However for the meantime, I am falling for the charms of "Kaerenai Futari".

Jointly created by Inoue and the late firebrand rocker Kiyoshiro Imawano(忌野清志郎), the original recorded version has plenty of power in spots that I didn't pick up on during the performance by Inoue and Koji Tamaki in "Stardust Rendezvous". But I'm still going with the label that it is at its very heart, a romantic folk ballad. Looking at the title, I thought the song was rather sad but listening and reading the lyrics, I've come to the realization that it is actually quite hopeful. The words relate the story of a boy and girl or a man and woman who are apparently just on the cusp of a romantic relationship. Even though it's the dead of night as Inoue sings that even "...the stars are getting ready to go home...", the couple still doesn't want to call it a night quite yet...they simply want to spend every waking moment together until sleep finally does beckon.

"Kokoro Moyo" peaked at No. 7 on Oricon and ended up as the 39th-ranked single of 1974. Both sides of the single were also tracks on Inoue's acclaimed 3rd album "Kōri no Sekai"(氷の世界...World of Ice)which was released in December 1973. The album not only hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies but was the No. 1 album of the year for 2 years in a row for 1974 and 1975. And it still did very well in 1976 as it was the 23rd-ranked album for that year.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Yosui Inoue & Anzen Chitai -- Stardust Rendezvous Live at Jingu Stadium

How is this for a team-up: singer-songwriter Yosui Inoue(井上陽水)rocking away with his old backing band, Anzen Chitai(安全地帯), which, by the time this album was released, had already become a successful act in its own right? And thus, "Stardust Rendezvous Live at Jingu Stadium" was born with the album being released in November 1986.

But wait, there's more! I didn't even purchase this at Wah Yueh. I got it at the store across the street called Sun Wa for the ridiculous price of $6.95 CDN. That isn't even the price of a CD single! And perhaps the reason is that the record inside looked like a piece of vinyl that had small ambitions on becoming a Moebius strip. Yep, it was quite wobbly but the record still holds up to the stereo needle even today.

"Stardust Rendezvous" had its Side A devoted to Anzen Chitai's hits while Side B was almost all dedicated to Inoue's discography. For example, the above stormy "Yudachi"(夕立...Evening Squall)which was Inoue's 6th single from 1974.  Now, I think most of the tracks for the singer on this album deserve their own entries (which I have yet to write about at this time) so I will keep things brief for now. But let it be known that "Yudachi" has got him and buddy Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二)unleashing their vocals.

Then, there is Inoue's most excellent cover of the song that he had created for Akina Nakamori(中森明菜), "Kazarijanainoyo Namida wa"(飾りじゃないのよ涙は)that helped her make the transition from aidoru into pop superstar. I think his rendition has more of a spooky thriller aspect.

"Kaerenai Futari"(帰れない二人...The Couple That Doesn't Go Home)was the B-side to his 4th single "Kokoro Moyo"(心もよう...Pattern of a Heart)from 1973. It's a wonderful ballad that I will be more than happy to further peruse in the very near future. I especially love the harmony between Inoue and Tamaki for this one.

Speaking of harmony, the final track on the record is "Natsu no Owari no Harmony"(夏の終わりのハーモニー).  I already wrote about this ultimate kayo kyoku bromance tune all the way back in September 2012, but I think it's worth putting this into this article as well. I could imagine that after the concert was over, a whole bunch of guys headed over to all of the nomiyas and izakayas around Jingu Stadium to have that bromantic brewski.

Not sure how well "Stardust Rendezvous" did on the charts but just talking for myself, I think I got myself a great bargain at less than $10 for this record...and that's considering the record's Pringles potato chip-like shape.

Ahhh...I also have another song that didn't quite make it to this article but it is also on this album, the bluesy "Jenny My Love" (ジェニーMy Love).

Aya Endo -- Mizuiro (みずいろ)

I made my semi-annual binge purchases of CDs the other day via CD Japan (thank you very much) and one of the discs happens to be the soundtrack to one of my beloved anime "Shirokuma Cafe"(しろくまカフェ...Polar Bear Cafe)from 2012-2013. As some of the viewers may be aware, I've written up a number of articles on the various opening and ending themes for the show which seemed to have had the policy of promoting an ending theme of the month as sung by each seiyuu from the cast.

Ending theme No. 3 which was featured in June 2012 was notable for me in that it wasn't a super quirky or barnstorming epic such as the tour de force effort of all of the seiyuu doing their covers of the song "Shirokuma Cafe". As befitting Aya Endo's(遠藤綾)calm and sweet (well, at least, most of the time) character of Sasako(笹子), her "Mizuiro" (Water Colours) is also just as calm and sweet and very comfy. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any evidence of that particular ending credit sequence on YouTube, but it featured a supposedly live-action Sasako riding through the town on her bicycle while she sang the nice mix of folk, pop and Latin.

As with all of the ending themes for "Shirokuma Cafe", "Mizuiro" was written and composed by the virtuoso Saki(紗希). And Endo has a pretty nice set of pipes. I read that she had gotten married recently and although I don't know if she has entered motherhood quite yet, I would think that she would be able to sing some fine lullabies to her kids with that voice. Alas, the ending themes are not included on the soundtrack I got but perhaps someday I will make that investment to get those as well.

kukui -- Toumei Shelter (透明シェルター)

Just seguing a bit on Noelle's most recent article about how she usually spends her Sundays, I've got my own routine involving my biweekly meet-ups with my anime buddy for a good round of watching the latest anime and listening to anison interspersed with runs to restaurants and cafes. Yesterday was no different, and yep, the two of us engorged ourselves on a humongous amount of Chinese dumplings.

As for the listening to anison part, one song that has popped up often on the playlist has been "Toumei Shelter" (Transparent Shelter) from November 2004, the first ending theme to what I think was the first anime version of "Rozen Maiden"(ローゼンメイデン). My buddy was kind enough to supply me with the entire series of the latest anime adaptation from a couple of years ago but to be frank, I've yet to be sold on the latest series about goth-y dolls with attitude battling it out in front of a shut-in. But once I get through the higher-priority shows, I will give "Rozen Maiden" another go.

Anyways, I do like "Toumei Shelter" by the unit kukui since it has an interesting mix of atmospheric dreaminess and urban contemporary feeling. I have yet to see the original 2004 anime of "Rozen Maiden" but I've got a feeling that the song made for a cool match with the air of the series. The overall arrangement kinda hinted at the cooler R&B vibe that was going through Japanese pop in the early 2000s.

According to J-Wiki and Wiki, when kukui first released "Toumei Shelter", their debut single, the duo was originally known as refio + Haruka Shimotsuki(refio+霜月はるか). Shimotsuki was on vocals while keyboardist myu took care of words and music. It managed to rise up to No. 76 on Oricon.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Yujiro Ishihara -- Sayonara Yokohama (サヨナラ横浜 )

As to how I found "Sayonara Yokohama" by Yujiro Ishihara (石原裕次郎) that I didn't even know existed: I was bored.

Sundays tend to be a lazy day for me and half of me is willing to just kick back, relax and vegetate and let my brain temporarily become a piece of tofu. The other half of me, on the other hand, adamantly refuses to let the last day of the weekend go to waste and insists I get up off my seat and do something. Anything. This often puts me in the uncomfortable position of being caught between being bored because I'm not being productive and wanting to do something but being too lazy to do whatever it is. This Sunday in particular, I couldn't stand floating in that annoying limbo any longer and so I decided to go with doing something that satisfies the contradicting desires, and that was to listen to some enka.

I was in the mood for all things Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし), which had me revisiting a few familiar tunes as well as a couple which I normally overlook. A number of songs in and with my boredom somewhat quelled, I noticed Tough Guy's "Sayonara Yokohama" in the suggestion column, and since it piqued my interest I put my exploration of Itsuki-songs on hold and went ahead to check it out.

It turned out to be another soothing, jazzy Mood Kayo number, and for some random YouTube pick, it was way better than what I expected. And I must say that Yujiro's usual boozy delivery feels more pained and forlorn in this one. From Rei Nakanishi's (なかにし礼) lyrics, I'm guessing that the fellow is setting off to foreign soil via a boat from Yokohama and so he's bidding both his lover and the city he loves an emotional farewell. Composing the music was Shiro Yuzuriha (ユズリハ・シロー).

"Sayonara Yokohama" was released in July 1971 and was apparently one of Ishihara's more successful singles, selling about 550 000 copies.

To round off the article, I'd like to briefly highlight another find. Soon after "Sayonara Yokohama", I picked Itsuki's "Aishitsuzukeru Bolero" (愛しつづけるボレロ). Next best decision of the day. Seeing the man suavely tapping on the piano while singing the upbeat, tango-esque tune had the jaw dropping and the heart flying out of the chest.

*Sigh* ~ Dang, he's sexy in this video... ... ~.~

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Kikoetekuru Rhapsody (聞こえてくるラプソディー)

By the late 1980s, Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)wasn't exactly hitting the top of the charts anymore but she could still provide some wonderfully sung music. Case in point: her 44th single from May 1988 "Kikoetekuru Rhapsody" (I Can Hear A Rhapsody).

Apparently, this single didn't chart at all but this was still pure Iwasaki loveliness with that delicate voice of hers wafting through a morning-friendly contemporary-sounding (for that time) arrangement. Considering some other similarly-sounding arrangements for other songs, I could have easily imagined "Kikoetekuru Rhapsody" being the theme song for a late-night documentary series (well, late night is technically morning). However, there was nothing on J-Wiki to show that it had ever been some sort of TV tie-up song. In any case, the ballad was also a track on her 19th album from July 1988, "Me too". Singer-songwriter Kingo Hamada(濱田金吾)composed the song while Shinnosuke Uesugi(上杉伸之助)took care of the lyrics.

Sakanaction -- Boku to Hana (僕と花)

I had been thinking about what sort of song I was going to write about today when I started getting this craving for Sakanaction (サカナクション). Well, perhaps it wasn't a craving but more of a wondering about what sort of quirky and appealing stuff the band was up to in the earlier days. I still have a lot of catching up to do since I only found out about Ichiro Yamaguchi(山口一郎)and his crew through their lone appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen a couple of years ago.

So I came upon their 6th single from May 2012, "Boku to Hana" (The Flower and I) and watched its music video. It was quite the theatrical experience with a renowned choreographer playing the flower while vocalist Yamaguchi (who wrote and composed the song) himself was the protagonist starting to lose himself in the cruel world. And although I'm still getting a handle on the Sakanaction sound, I think with "Boku to Hana", I can pick up on that strangely soothing combination of rock and technopop. Definitely a unique unit.

"Boku to Hana" was Sakanaction's first theme song offering for a TV drama, specifically Fuji-TV's "Sanjuu-nana Sai de Isha ni Natta Boku"(37歳で医者になった僕...Becoming a Doctor at 37)starring SMAP's Tsuyoshi Kusanagi(草彅剛). The single went Gold and went as high as No. 6 on Oricon. It was also a track on the band's 6th album "sakanaction" from March 2013. To be honest, the Wikipedia write-up on the song is even more comprehensive than the J-Wiki article so to get that detailed report on "Boku to Hana", take a look here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tatsuhiko Yamamoto -- Last Good-Bye

I've been seeing this fellow in the pages of "Japanese City Pop" for the past little while now and looking him up on YouTube, I was surprised to find quite a number of his songs represented there.

For a bit of background, Tatsuhiko Yamamoto(山本達彦)is a singer-songwriter who was born in Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo in 1954. As a child, he joined the chorus group which would later be known as the Tokyo Shonen Shojo Gassho Tai(東京少年少女合唱隊), or as they are known in English, Little Singers of Tokyo; according to J-Wiki, the group did a tour of the United States and even appeared on the legendary "The Ed Sullivan Show" (still have very early memories of that program). In his university years, he got involved in a band called Orange for a few years until it disbanded in 1976 after which he started his solo career as a singer-songwriter.

I'm not sure what his Orange days were like but from what I've read in "Japanese City Pop" and viewed on YouTube, it looks like Yamamoto fully embraced his inner City Pop (in fact, his J-Wiki bio stated that he was once called The Young Noble of City Pop) starting from 1982 at least which was when he released "Last Good-Bye". It's a nice slice of nighttime City Pop with soul and the singer sounds a bit like fellow crooner Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一)in a slightly lower register. While he composed the song, Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)provided the lyrics for the single which sold a little over 70,000 records and got as high as No. 40 on Oricon.

His J-Wiki bio also mentioned that although he has taken on that appearance of coolness in his concerts, he apparently has had the penchant for showing off his comic monomane skills in front of the audience. Nice.

Welcome to Toronto, Miku Hatsune!

Well, I've been seeing the announcements for weeks now but tonight, the Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)will be making her concert appearance at the Sony Centre in downtown Toronto. My interest in the cyber singing superstar is merely casual so I wasn't willing to shuck out the loonies and twonies for a seat although there is a part of me that is slightly regretful that I hadn't taken the opportunity. Still, I've been quite happy to have her represented in a number of kayo kyoku that she has sung over the years via this blog, and there's no doubt that she is one of the avatars of Japanese pop culture.

Therefore as a "Kayo Kyoku Plus" welcome from my hometown to Miku-chan, allow me to embed a few of her kayo kyoku covers.

A classic from the 1960s, here is "Blue Light Yokohama"(ブルーライト・ヨコハマ)which was originally sung by Ayumi Ishida(いしだあゆみ).

One of my favourite tunes ever from the 1980s, "Hatsukoi"(初恋)was Kozo Murashita's(村下孝蔵)biggest hit.

And last but not least, this is the Henry Mancini-esque Mood Kayo/City Pop classic "Douzo Kono Mama"(どうぞこのまま)by Keiko Maruyama(丸山圭子)from 1976.

I certainly hope that Miku and her minders enjoy their time in T.O. and if she were able to eat, I would definitely suggest a visit to St. Lawrence Market or the nearby Hero Burgers. If there is anyone reading this who will be going to the concert tonight, you're more than welcome to let all of us know how it went.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kikuko Inoue, Yumi Touma and Aya Hisakawa -- Kataomoi Shika Shiranai Kuse ni (片思いしか知らないくせに)

Between stints in Japan (1991-1994), when I was back to being involved with my old university club at U of T, the JCSA, there were a number of programs being run including English Through Video for those working-holiday students who wanted to learn some words and expressions via Hollywood movies (psst, I don't think "9 1/2 Weeks" was such a great choice) and Japanese Through Video for those who wanted to do the same from the Japanese language via the various J-dramas.

Then, once in a while, my anime buddy, the same fellow that I get together with biweekly for our food-and-anime sessions, held anime presentations on campus (I think the genre was still known as Japanimation back then). One of the favourites among the audience during the sessions was the show "Ah! Megami-sama"(ああっ女神さまっ...Ah! My Goddess). To be honest, I don't remember much about the overall story anymore since my 17 years in Japan were anime-free aside from "Sazae-san" (サザエさん) and "Chibi Maruko-chan"(ちびまる子ちゃん), but I do remember the basic premise of three sister goddesses taking up residence in a teenage boy's residence. It all struck me as being somewhat "I Dream of Jeannie". However, instead of the simple name of Jeannie, I had to take in the relatively complex names of Belldandy, Urd and Skuld.

Although with my return to the anime fold in the last few years since my permanent return to Toronto, I've been able to retain my knowledge of the brightest and best in the seiyuu world, back in the early 90s, I had no idea who was voicing who in the world of anime back then although my buddy would rattle them off all the time. I simply smiled and nodded. So it was a surprise to find out that on hearing the above song at my buddy's house, two of the singers involved here were seiyuu that I do know now.

"Kataomoi Shika Shiranai Kuse ni" (Even Though My Unrequited Love Is Still Unknown) is on one of the many albums devoted to "Ah! Megami-sama", "Kamisama no Okurimono"(神さまの贈りもの...God's Present) from 1993. And the singers (under the group name of Goddess Family Club) are the ones who played the goddesses Belldandy, Urd and Skuld, seiyuu Kikuko Inoue(井上喜久子), Yumi Touma(冬馬由美)and Aya Hisakawa(久川綾 )respectively.

Touma is a seiyuu that hasn't rung a bell with me although looking her up on J-Wiki, I found out that she had played the cold-as-ice mother to heroine Miho Nishizumi in the recent sleeper hit "Girls und Panzer". However, Inoue and Hisakawa are voices that I've heard everywhere in the last few years in more older authority roles. Inoue, of course, is eternally 17 years old. However, realizing that it was Hisakawa who was voicing the often-petulant Skuld was surprising since at around the same time, she was the shy and reasonable voice behind the arguably even more famous Sailor Mercury in the "Sailor Moon" franchise.

Anyways, listening to "Kataomoi Shika Shiranai Kuse ni" was quite pleasant and nostalgic since its arrangement sounds like something that I would have heard in the lighter side of Japanese pop back in the late 80s or early 90s just from the choice of synths. I've sometimes said that anison from a certain age had elements from an even earlier age, and I think this song is one example of this. Perhaps I can even pick up a certain Resort Pop sound in it as well. The song by the way was composed by Kenji Kawai(川井憲次)and written by Sora Hasegawa(長谷川空).

I'm devoting "Kataomoi Shika Shiranai Kuse ni" to veteran seiyuu Yuko Mizutani(水谷優子). She performed so many roles but considering that my family still watches "Chibi Maruko-chan" on TV Japan, I know her best as Maruko's older sister, Sakiko Sakura. Unfortunately, I found out this morning that Mizutani had passed away a couple of days ago from breast cancer at the too-young age of 51. Go-meifuku wo o-inori shimasu.