I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Crazy Ken Band -- Tiger and Dragon (タイガー&ドラゴン)

I remember when I first saw Ken Yokoyama(横山剣)of the Crazy Ken Band (クレイジーケンバンド) on TV years ago. With that louche and thuggish appearance, in retrospect, I thought he was the epitome of a choiwaru oyaji (ちょいわるおやじ) which would translate as "slightly nasty middle-aged guy". This was a brief fashion phenomenon created by the Japanese men's magazine, LEON, to describe the usually staid and sober-suited guys from their forties dressed up in a cool set of sunglasses, open shirts and pastel suits...and often attached to a swirling goblet of brandy. There were segments on various variety shows on Japanese TV where the fashion experts would take ordinary guys or senior male tarento and transform them into these middle-aged "don't f*** with me" goodfellas.

However, I did qualify my above paragraph with "in retrospect" since I think the phenomenon started in the mid-2000s whereas the first time I saw Ken Yokoyama was a few years previously. Perhaps, he was the inspiration for LEON. Who knows? In any case, it was obviously not just about the looks with Crazy Ken Band. Yokoyama had also created quite the cool song back in December 2002 titled "Tiger and Dragon".

This was the 5th single of a band that has dipped into all sorts of genres since it got started in 1997. According to their J-Wiki entry, Crazy Ken Band has been into rock, pops, kayo kyoku, soul, jazz, funk, etc. with Ken and his 10 bandmates. And I think "Tiger and Dragon" is one of those songs that could fit into all of the categories I've just listed above. The official (and nifty) music video above also illustrates it, but the cool sound of "Tiger and Dragon" has that feeling of the urban 1970s.

From what I gather from Ken's lyrics is that he is begging, as that fellow from the wrong side of the tracks, his lover to give him those 5 essential minutes to explain himself and make things right. Whether he can right himself for good is anyone's guess but he is earnest with his pleas. Plus, he's got quite the kakkoii musical backing that could help out any Tarentino flick set in the decade of "Shaft" or "The French Connection".

However, the really notable thing about the song is how Ken delivers it. Until I decided to write about "Tiger and Dragon" a few days ago, I had always thought that the guy was channeling soul singer Akiko Wada(和田アキ子), right down to the characteristic "Ha~!" he belts out at the end of a verse. The "Ha~!" is one of Wada's musical trademarks. Well, as it turns out, Yokoyama had composed the song so that Wada herself would sing it someday, and thus recorded it as such. And the legendary Wada did cover it the following year in 2003 as a coupling song to her single "Rumba de Bunbun"(ルンバでブンブン). Unfortunately, I cannot find her version online.

"Tiger and Dragon" was the theme song for a TBS comedy-drama of the same name (among other TV and radio programs) which started out as a 2-hour episode in January 2005 before getting a full run of 11 episodes later from April. The show starred a couple of Johnny's Entertainment mainstays, Tomoya Nagase(長瀬智也)of TOKIO and Junichi Okada(岡田准一)of V6 with Nagase portraying a gangster who decides to make a big shift in his career and become a rakugo comedian. The plot kinda reminds me of a recent anime's story.

In any case, "Tiger and Dragon" the song peaked at No. 17 on Oricon and was also a track on Crazy Ken Band's 7th album from 2005, "Soul Punch" which hit as high as No. 9 on the album charts.

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