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 29, 2017

TUBE -- Ano Natsu wo Sagashite (あの夏を探して)

Still only the end of April but hey, summer is around the corner, I guess, and today the weather has been quite scrumptious. Therefore, why not throw another TUBE song on the barbie?

TUBE=Summer....a very simple equation. And so to add another variable in there, here is their 22nd single, "Ano Natsu wo Sagashite" (Search For That Summer) from July 1995. Written by vocalist Nobuteru Maeda(前田亘輝)and composed by guitarist Michiya Haruhata(春畑道哉), there's really not that much to add to it aside from the fact that it is one of their usual grand and celebratory paeans to the hot season. One would think that the single adorned a Pocari Sweat ad but actually it was the theme song for a Fuji-TV drama based on a manga, "Hyaku Oku no Otoko"(100億の男...The 10 Billion Man), and nope, it isn't the Japanese version of the 1970s sci-fi TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man" but a show about some poor sap who got saddled with a 10-billion yen debt. Methinks that the guy would need the Six Million Dollar Man for protection from creditors.

"Ano Natsu wo Sagashite" was another big hit for TUBE. It peaked at No. 2 on Oricon going Platinum while becoming the 98th-ranked single for 1995. I heard it covered quite a lot on TV as well, notably through the old series on NTV's "Yoru mo Hippare"(夜もヒッパレ)on Saturday nights. The above video only has the audio but it features the late great Kiyohiko Ozaki(尾崎紀世彦)giving his version of the TUBE song.

Miyuki Nakajima -- Mise no Namae wa Life (店の名はライフ)

Nope it's not Life but a Place...a coffee & tea place.

Having taken care of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for as long as I have, I have cottoned onto some patterns over the past 5 years, and those include which YouTube videos get taken down faster. Often but not always, videos of songs of the more obscure singers tend to stay up for a very long time (I think one video has been up for 8 years). On the other hand, there seems to be a raging battle between record companies and uploading fans of Johnny's Entertainment boy bands.

The same seems to be true for any videos involving Miyuki Nakajima's(中島みゆき)huge body of work. The karaoke and other cover versions are certainly up there but anything with the actual singer-songwriter has often disappeared after a short while. So, don't be too surprised if you scroll down the Nakajima file in the blog and see a lot of ash gray squares where videos used to be or perhaps those cover versions. After I finish this article, I will probably do my own maintenance of this area.

(cover version)

As a consequence, I've been a bit gun-shy about at times about putting up a Miyuki Nakajima video. However, I just had to put the spotlight on this particular ballad by the singer since it's one of those occasional discoveries that had valentines popping up over my head. Usually when I come across a song for the first time, I listen to a good part of it before I decide whether I want to talk about it on the blog. This one, though, had me listening to all of it...twice!

"Mise no Namae wa Life" (The Shop's Name Is Life) has the sort of title that I would expect Nakajima to concoct. It was a track on her 3rd original album "A-R-I-G-A-T-O" released in June 1977. Right from the get-go, I was intoxicated by the languid arrangement of the melody which perfectly set up the singer's story of the life and times of the Life cafe right down to the description of the second cranky manager of the coffeehouse, the bicycle shop next to it, and the overly spicy curry on the menu. The piano and guitar are great but there are also the strings and other additional instruments, and these very light puffs of brass that waft in later in the song.

And the crazy thing is that Nakajima based the song on an actual cafe called Life which was located by the main entrance of Hokkaido University. In fact, there was indeed a bicycle shop next to it as well. J-Wiki reports that it even made a transformation into a manga cafe with the name also being changed to New Life. However, all things come to an end and Life came to its end in 1992. I wonder whether there was a rendition of the song to commemorate its closing.

Again, not sure how long that original video at the top will last but the one right here (and it has indeed been banished since the uploader's account has also been taken down) is a cover version so it should be OK for the time being. The album itself made it to No. 6 on the charts and eventually became the 26th-ranked album of the year. Incidentally, one of the musicians taking part in the album was Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一).

Friday, April 28, 2017

NMB48 -- Kitagawa Kenji (北川謙二)

Osaka hasn't been a city that I have visited in some decades but way back when, my uncle's family used to live in the downtown neighbourhood of Namba. My recollection of the area was that it was a massive criss-cross of covered commercial streets...a colony of shopping arcades. My uncle ran a stationery shop and the family's apartment was upstairs. I stayed there twice during my childhood and remembering about it now, I just marvel at how several people could live in such a small place. Mind you, my own pad in Ichikawa wasn't exactly a Beverly Hills mansion either.

A few nights ago on the weekly broadcast of NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), the theme was all about travel across the country which meant that train-based songs were in the majority. However, the last 10 minutes or so were dedicated to other songs. One of the guests was the alphabet girl group NMB48 (now you know why I used the introduction of my time in Namba) and they sang something perky called "Kitagawa Kenji"(Kenji Kitagawa).

It was quite the unusual title for an aidoru tune although my first impression what NMB48 must have been quite enamored with the fellow according to how cheerful the ladies were. Marcos V. put up the first NMB48 number, the technopop "Kamonegix"(カモネギックス)but "Kitagawa Kenji", which was their 6th single from November 2012 released about a year before "Kamonegix", was more along the usual lines of an uptempo aidoru number in the alphabet group era.

Still the question remained. Who or what was Kitagawa Kenji? Well, looking at the J-Wiki account of the song, "Kitagawa Kenji" took its title from the name of an assistant producer in charge of video for NMB48's sister group in Tokyo, AKB48. Supposedly Yasushi Akimoto's(秋元康)lyrics spoke on some school guys' feelings of jealousy against a student with that name. Apparently, he was attracting the girls better than a magnet on iron filings. Shunsuke Tanaka(田中俊亮)took care of the happy-happy music.

I wonder how the real Mr. Kitagawa must have felt at realizing his titular song became another No. 1 for the group, and it even became the 17th-ranked single for 2012...after being released in November of that year! My hope is that he has a wife or girlfriend who kept him very grounded. That sort of recognition could swell a head.

The single was also a track on NMB48's first original album "Teppen Tottande!"(てっぺんとったんで!...Because We Got The Top!)from February 2013. It hit No. 1 and ended up as the No. 5 album of that year.

Chiemi Hori -- Come On! Love Machine ~ Kanashimi no Parade (哀しみのパレード)

Years ago when a bunch of us young folks decided to spend a Friday night carousing at the CN Tower, there was some sort of fortune telling machine which spit out pieces of paper. Basically, it was a very willing fortune cookie. What provided the big laugh of the night was when my slip came out and it said "You are a LOVE MACHINE!!" If irony was truly iron, then my slip would have affected the local gravity.

Well, after years knowing about the most famous "Love Machine"(LOVEマシーン)by Morning Musume(モーニング娘。), I recently found out that there had been another aidoru tune with those two words included. This was "Come On! Love Machine ~ Kanashimi no Parade" (Sad Parade) by 80s aidoru Chiemi Hori(堀ちえみ). It was a track on Hori's 9th album "Yume no Tsuzuki"(夢の続き...The Dream Continues)released in December 1985.

Written by veteran lyricist Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and made by veteran composer Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー), it's not quite the disco anthem that Morning Musume's "Love Machine" is, but perhaps a slight cut-above-the-average aidoru tune with a pleasant rolling beat somewhat reminiscent of a middle-of-the-road American pop song from that same decade. Plus, perhaps it's my imagination but Hori seems to be channeling even bigger aidoru Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子).

I wouldn't say that it's a timeless number but considering that I never got to know Hori all that well during her aidoru days, "Come On! Love Machine" has given me a kick in the shins to let me know that she did have her nice songs in her discography. Certainly nothing so ironic as my fortune slip at the CN Tower.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lisa Ono -- Ano Hi ni Kaeritai (あの日に帰りたい)

Must be a good night for soothing music...this considering I've got another rousing NHL playoff game going on behind me on the TV.

As it has been intimated in previous articles and beyond, legendary singer-songwriter Yuming(ユーミン)has been much talked about, especially on the topic of when her best days were. I've pointed out that the 1970s and 1980s and a tad into the 1990s had her best stuff, although others have remarked that her best time was in a much shorter time frame...basically those years when she was known as Yumi Arai(荒井由実)in the early 1970s, before she got married and took on the name Matsutoya(松任谷由実). Then there are others who believe that the 80s were the time for her. Everyone has got an opinion.

Still, there is no doubt that Yuming created some wonderful classics during her early years when she first became known as the Queen of New Music. "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai"(あの日にかえりたい...I Wanna Return to Those Days)is one of those songs for me and so not surprisingly it was one of the first Yuming songs I covered in the blog. There was that nice touch of sunset bossa nova in there with Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子)from Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)providing those lovely background vocals.

Well, many years later, someone came up with the bright idea of producing a tribute album to Yuming called "Queen's Fellows - Yuming 30th anniversary Cover Album" which was released in December 2002. Some of the popular artists from the past and present at the time joined in to give their own covers within the Great Yuming Songbook. Lisa Ono(小野リサ)did her bit and gave her lusciously mellow spin on "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai". Of course, she would be the one to cover it. Get the sherry out! The album itself managed to peak at No. 7 on Oricon.

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Itsuka Dokoka de (いつかどこかで)/ HOME

Last night, I got into a story about comparing theme songs from nightly news broadcasts from America and Japan to introduce a Bread & Butter(ブレッド&バター)ballad which was the soothing theme for the late-night news show "NNN Kyo no Dekigoto". Well, I was able to find another relaxing song which became the ending theme for the 1991 version of the show.

And it just happens to be by one of my favourite singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). She may have been most well known during the 1980s but her "Itsuka Dokoka de" (Sometime, Somewhere) was recorded in November 1991. With a slightly more zippy urban contemporary arrangement, the song is still perfectly relaxing Ruiko, and as I mentioned for that Bread & Butter song, this is the type of tune that I would want to hear after hearing several minutes of depressing headlines.

The saxophone and keyboards are particularly welcome with Kurahashi's lovely vocals. The singer herself wrote the lyrics while Gou Suzuki(鈴木豪)came up with the melody.

This single also had the coupling song of "HOME" which has got that nice American country music feeling. Kurahashi is one of those few Japanese singers who has had the tendency to tackle that genre of music during her career; another singer I often think about is Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子). Richard Leigh wrote and composed this ballad with Kurahashi writing the translated version. Listening to it, I have got this hankering for sourdough bread and barley soup.

Both songs also ended up her 1991 album "Aozora no Shita de"(青空の下で...Under The Blue Sky)which I was fortunate enough to get in the used CD department of Tsutaya right across from Shibuya Station. It's not easy to find a Kurahashi album these days so it took me all of a millisecond to make the decision.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


There are a couple of observations that I have for the vocal group Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット). First off, for a group that had their heyday in the 1970s, Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子), Toshihiko Yamamoto(山本俊彦)and Shigeru Okawa(大川茂)have had a lot of representation on YouTube. It's great to see a lot of their videos there. Secondly, and perhaps this may not be totally accurate, my impression is that the group seems to enjoy singing about school-related stuff.

Case in point: their "TWO IN THE PARTY", a track from Hi-Fi Set's 8th album "Quarter Rest" from 1979. With lyrics by Mami Kikuchi(菊池まみ), the Yamamotos and Okawa croon about a young lady, perhaps in her twenties, looking forward to what seems like the swankiest school reunion in the city. More importantly, the lass is anticipating catching up with an old friend (wink, wink). There are even some party sound effects to add to the atmosphere.

The music by mellow composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)starts off with a funky riff that sounds a lot like it came from an R&B song I used to hear on radio here in Toronto back in the 1970s so I'm wondering if there had been some liberal borrowing. However, the music then heads back into familiar Hi-Fi Set territory with a mix of swingy jazz and downtown feeling. Of course, there are those wonderful harmonies by the trio. May want to pick up some of those old albums of theirs in the near future.

Bread & Butter -- Tonight Aishite (トゥナイト愛して)

This is gonna be one of my more rambling articles in terms of traipsing the pop cultural spectrum, so hopefully you will bear with me.

("Eyewitness News" starts at about 1:18)

First off, I will begin with the fact that being a born-and-bred Torontonian, I not only had access to the local Toronto TV but also to the three major American affiliates across Lake Ontario in Buffalo, New York...and that was even before the advent of rudimentary cable TV!

I think some of the older readers of this blog who also hail from my area will probably swoon with nostalgia as they go down this paragraph, but as a kid, I remember watching the legendary anchorman Irv Weinstein helming the news broadcast of ABC's Buffalo affiliate, WKBW. Of course, it starts off with weatherman Tom Jolls saying, "It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" before "Eyewitness News" starts off. And boy, I thought the theme song for that show was just the coolest thing! A timpani blasts out a chorus of voices and an orchestra into a theme that would inspire the most timid cub reporters into hitting the beat and stuffing their mikes into the face of the most feared gangster and demanding "OK, WHERE ARE THE BODIES BURIED?"

Well, a couple of years ago, I re-acquainted myself with that old theme and started digging on YouTube and elsewhere about its origins. And I found out that it was originally created by the late American composer Al Ham and titled "Move Closer To Your World". With that title, I would have expected some uplifting religious song played on Sundays instead of a kickass theme to a news broadcast, but I digress. Apparently, "Move Closer To Your World" was not only used in Buffalo but elsewhere across the United States, with Philadelphia being one of the key cities via one of the affiliates there.

Now, why am I using this Japanese music blog to wax nostalgic about an ancient TV news theme in America? Well, 1) in my old age, I like to wax nostalgic, and 2) I also like to segue from American pop culture to Japanese pop culture from time to time.

Therefore, to jump across the Pacific, when I was living in Japan, I did watch my fair share of the nightly news. NHK was one of the major stations for me along with TBS at 6pm since both networks had a simultaneous English track. But also when it was time to retire for the night, I would do some channel surfing and catch one of the late night news broadcasts. There was "NNN Kyo no Dekigoto"(NNNきょうの出来事...NNN's News of the Day)at around 10:55 or 11:00, and the above intro was what I was accustomed to...a nice technopoppy news-sounding theme before the cameras started showing the anchorperson on a set which looked remarkably like someone's really nice house.

What I hadn't known that for much of the 1980s, "NNN Kyo no Dekigoto" had a soothing theme song starting and ending its broadcasts. "Tonight Aishite" (Love Tonight) was performed by the folk/City Pop duo Bread & Butter(ブレッド&バター), and as one commenter on YouTube put it, after hearing some pretty depressing news on the broadcast, listening to this song brought about some reassuring balance.

Written by Akira Ohtsu(大津あきら)and composed by Shigeaki Saegusa(三枝成章), "Tonight Aishite" must have made for a relaxing lullaby. The theme was used between April 1980 and March 1988 with Bread & Butter releasing it as their 21st single in 1981. An instrumental version of it was used at the beginning of the news; according to J-Wiki, it was the fusion band Casiopea(カシオペア)that was responsible for that. The end of the show had either another instrumental version or the actual song playing in the background. The video below is of a 1983 broadcast of "Kyo no Dekigoto" with the theme song.

Perhaps it was the Japanese thing to have a nice urban contemporary ballad act as a melodic balm after all of the intensity of a late-night news broadcast. I'm reminded of another ending theme for a late-night show, "Aitai"(会いたい)by Chikaco Sawada(沢田知可子).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kumi Showji -- city plot(シティ・プロット)

The above video is another one of those compilations of City Pop/J-AOR tunes that have been popping up like rabbits in recent months, and I'm glad that the first song on this particular collection is a really good one.

I'm definitely gonna have to delve more deeply into the works of singer-songwriter Kumi Showji(障子久美)since she's been providing some great soul music. Kinda knocking myself upside the head for not getting those used CDs of hers when I had the chance at those secondhand places in Tokyo. Case in point here is the song "city plot" from her 4th album "Because It's Love" from 1992. Some nice horns and some wonderful groove which means a fine car stereo song while driving down the highway.

Here's hoping that the video doesn't get taken down anytime soon since "city plot" only has its presence known here. But there are some other Showji songs on YouTube so not a bad situation.

Yutaka Ozaki -- Juu-go no Yoru (15の夜)

On NHK's "NewsWatch 9" this morning, there was a feature on the fact that today was the 25th anniversary of Yutaka Ozaki's(尾崎豊)passing. Apparently over the past few days, folks from all over the nation made a pilgrimage to a particular terrace at Shibuya Cross Tower in Tokyo where a plaque of the balladeer is placed.

During the feature, it was made pretty clear that Ozaki had no love for school, and there was one song which was played at certain points which punctuated that feeling, his debut single "Juu-go no Yoru". I translated it directly as "Night at 15" although the official English title is "The Night".

Released in December 1983, the song was based on an incident which had involved Ozaki and his buddy back in junior high school . His buddy was criticized for having hair that was too long for which the teacher decided to take a pair of clippers to shear off the offending lengths. The future singer-songwriter took extreme umbrage at this action with the result being that he and his friend decided to run away from home one night.

I'm not sure how long or how successful Ozaki's countermeasure was but the memories of it certainly crystallized within him. Although the incident had happened when the singer was 14 years old, he decided to change the initial title of "Juu-shi no Yoru"(14の夜)to "Juu-go no Yoru" since the former didn't quite roll off the tongue as well.

From hearing the music and the lyrics, the theme for "Juu-go no Yoru" seems to have been that first discovery of freedom. Why be hampered by useless information, arcane rules and authoritarian fuddy-duddies when you can take off and really learn about the world out there and not in a stuffy classroom? The piano, the guitar and the sax along with Ozaki's vocals exhort listeners to get on that motorcycle and just race anywhere from home to nowhere in long as you're free. Heck, even the cover of his first album, "Juu-nana-sai no Chizu"(十七歳の地図...Seventeen's Map)and that first single has Ozaki jumping over a huge prison wall.

Just my opinion but it's interesting that the ballad wasn't about fighting the power but getting away from it. Perhaps it wasn't about tearing down the status quo per se but enjoying it without the chains...not all that surprising considering the country was enjoying the benefits of the economic miracle at the time.

In any case, it's pure Ozaki...all of that naked emotion out there. "Juu-nana-sai no Chizu" which came out on the same day as his first single got as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became a million-seller. Not sure how the original single did on the weeklies but his posthumous 13th single "Juu-go no Yoru Live", which came out in April 1993 charted in at No. 15.

Akira Sudo(須藤晃), who produced the song, later wrote a book in 1998 titled "Ozaki Yutaka - Oboegaki"(尾崎豊 覚え書き....Yutaka Ozaki - Memorandum)as a tribute to the late singer. And in it, he spoke about those lyrics in "Juu-go no Yoru":

Those were teenage lyrics by a teenager for teenagers, something that no one else had ever written before.(誰も書いたことのないような、ティーンエイジャーのための、ティーンエイジャーによる、ティーンエイジャーの詞だった。)

The Launchers/Candies -- Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi (真冬の帰り道)

OK, for all you J-Pop fans, this isn't the "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" (Mid-Winter Road Home) by 90s songbird Kohmi Hirose(広瀬香美). You can check out my 2014 article on that song here.

Instead, I will be talking about the "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" by Group Sounds band The Launchers(ザ・ランチャーズ).

Now before I launch (ahem) into this song, I did want to give out a heads-up and say that Noelle is in the middle of preparing an article about a song involving Yuzo Kayama & The Launchers so that will probably come out within the next number of days.

To tell you a story that I was able to glean from The Launchers' bio on J-Wiki, when Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)had just started his "Wakadaisho"(若大将)movie franchise as The Big Man on Campus in the early 1960s, producer Masumi Fujimoto(藤本真澄)told the young actor/singer to get a band together so that he and the band can be filmed in future entries of the series. Kayama managed to rustle together a bunch of young guys from among the Toho Studios' group of actors and so The Launchers were born as a 6-member unit in 1962.

However, according to what I read, the band members eventually found themselves wanted in other movie projects so that the first incarnation of The Launchers was stopped for the time being. But then a couple of years later, Kayama corralled another group of guys to form the second coming of The Launchers in 1964. The Launchers 2.0 consisted of the brothers Osamu & Ei Kitajima(喜多嶋修・喜多嶋瑛), who also happened to be Kayama's cousins, plus Shigeru Ohya(大矢茂)with Kayama as the leader. I think Noelle will be talking about Kayama and those Launchers in her article.

In 1967, The Launchers 3.0 came about with Kayama leaving and bassist Yuzo Watanabe(渡辺有三)joining the band. And their debut single was "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi", a laid back GS ballad written by Tetsu Mizushima(水島哲)and composed by band member Osamu Kitajima. It's a very pleasant song which will induce some good nostalgia within the senior citizens. This time, it's the guy who is getting his heart stuck in his throat as he tries to blurt out his feelings toward a young lady he's gotten sweet on. I guess it's just as well that he wants to confess his love in the heart of winter; he probably would have died of heatstroke in the summer.

"Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" was a big hit for The Launchers as it peaked at No. 23 on Oricon. Along with that debut, the band released 5 more singles and 2 albums before they broke up in 1971.

The song has been covered by a number of artists over the decades. One such group was Candies(キャンディーズ)whose own version was recorded onto Disc 10 of the massive 2008 "Candies Time Capsule" CD-BOX collection. Disc 10 happens to be an enlarged version of the original 2nd live concert album from December 1976, "Kuramae Kokugikan Ichiman-nin Carnival Vol. 2 - Candies Live"(蔵前国技館10,000人カーニバルVol.2 キャンディーズ・ライブ...Kuramae Kokugikan Sumo Arena Ten-Thousand-Man Carnival Vol. 2 - Candies Live).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Top 10 Singles in Oricon History

1.  Masato Shimon                          Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun       4.6 million      1975
2.  Shiro Miya & Pinkara Trio        Onna no Michi               3.3 million      1972
3.  SMAP                                        Sekai ni Hitotsu dake     3.1 million      2003
                                                        no hana
4.  Southern All Stars                     Tsunami                          2.9 million      2000
5.  Dango Gasshodan                      Dango San Kyodai         2.9 million      1999
6.  Kome Kome Club                     Kimi ga Iru Dake de       2.9 million      1992
7.  Chage & Aska                           Say Yes                           2.8 million      1991
8.  Mr. Children                             Tomorrow Never Knows 2.7 million      1994
9.  Kazumasa Oda                          Love Story wa Totsuzen 2.6 million       1991
10. Dreams Come True                  Love Love Love             2.5 million       1995

As well, take a gander at the "Top 10 Albums in Oricon History".

Sunday, April 23, 2017

StylipS -- Spica.

Several months ago in October, I wrote about the opening theme song for the anime "Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to"(マンガ家さんとアシスタントさんと...The Manga Artist and His Assistants), "Junsui na Fujunbutsu"(純粋なフジュンブツ)as performed by the seiyuu music group, StylipS.

Oh my's like watching Inspector Clouseau and Kato fight it out while filtering it through the movie "Porky's". I almost feel sorry for Aito-kun...almost.

As I said, I have already written about the typically upbeat opening theme but when I was going through the various episodes, I noticed that there was never an ending credits sequence or theme. It was just the often hilarious final scene before an end title card appeared giving the usual "See you next time!" Rather unusual, I thought.

Well, apparently, because each episode was only around 10 minutes long, the producers had to make sacrifices so in lieu of getting "Junsui na Fujunbutsu" in there, the ending theme song "Spica." by StylipS once again simply wasn't allowed in during the original TV run of 12 episodes. To add insult to injury, the song made a brief appearance in the finale while everyone was talking and the final song was Aito-kun singing about panties. However, I believe that for all those folks who got the DVD of the series, a proper ending credits sequence was placed at the end of each episode (for those who did get the DVD, you can confirm this with me).

Of course, for those who also bought "Junsui na Fujunbutsu" the single, they also got "Spica." as the coupling song. I found "Spica." somewhat adorable and a bit atypical considering the raunchy goings-on at Aito-kun's apartment since the first part of the song that is heard during the ending credits has that atmosphere of a solemn-but-proud graduation song at a girls' academy. Even Aito-kun would probably be weeping and...maybe...keeping his hands to himself during the song.

The rest of the song then goes into some light rap and R&B that kinda caught me off-guard when I first heard it. However, since then it has settled in nicely in my brain. I guess you couldn't keep the entire song all holy. Junko Tsuji(辻純更)took care of the lyrics while Motoi Okuda(奥田もとい)provided the melody.

aiko -- Ashita (あした)/ Kyoko Fukada -- Saigo no Kajitsu (最後の果実)

Happy Sunday to you all! I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods but it's gorgeous out there today in Toronto. I think we've hit 20 degrees Celsius which is absolutely the trigger for folks to hit the lake on their sailboards or invade the bars which are probably now on al fresco mode.

Oof! I guess it's been close to 3 years since I put up an article on singer-songwriter aiko's music. "Boyfriend" is her most recognizable single to me, and frankly whenever I've heard her various songs over the years, I just waved them off as being rather similar in nature. Well, since I started the blog, I've gained some feelings that I ought to give various singers, especially in the 1990s, a second chance as it were.

So again I was surprised to hear her debut single from July 1998, "Ashita" (Tomorrow) since it was a song that I have heard in the past but not by her. Actually I think I most likely heard the tune on episodes of that Saturday night karaoke variety show "Yoru mo Hippare"(夜もヒッパレ)but never made the connection that it was an aiko song.

"Ashita" is quite distinctive in that it doesn't sound like the usual aiko song. One reason is that according to J-Wiki, it is the only single in her discography that hadn't been composed by aiko. Instead, the melody was made by Minoru Komorita(小森田実)although aiko did write the lyrics. Speaking of that melody, it sounds like a 1990s Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)concoction as if the pixie-ish singer-songwriter started her career under the TK umbrella along with Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美). There's quite a bit of heavy synthesizer in there. Furthermore, there's also something about aiko's voice that was more kittenish in "Ashita" instead of my usual impression of tomboyishness with her later songs.

The song also has the distinction that out of all of her 36 singles released as of this writing, it is one of only three singles that didn't break into the Top 10. It actually only got as high as No. 89 on Oricon in its first release. However it was given a re-release later in March 2007 and zipped up to No. 16. Its first album appearance was on her major debut album "Chiisana Marui Koujitsu"(小さな丸い好日...A Small Round Pleasant Day)which was released in April 1999. It went Gold and peaked at No. 24.

An interesting progression in the plot here is that a little less than a year after aiko's debut, actress Kyoko Fukada(深田恭子)had her own debut as a singer with "Saigo no Kajitsu" (The Final Fruit) in May 1999. It was basically a remake of "Ashita" with a few tweaks here and there by Komorita and new lyrics provided by Chihiro Kurosu(黒須チヒロ). It's also interesting to note that aiko helped out here with backup vocals.

There was even more of a technopop feel to it, delving closer to trance by the sounds of it. Perhaps it did approach closer to Komuro territory but I couldn't help but feel from the arrangement that this could have been a song performed by another 1990s highlight band, Every Little Thing, thanks to Fukada's high-pitched voice. "Saigo no Kajitsu" peaked at No. 48 and was also placed on her 2nd album "moon" from March 2000.

Mieko Nishijima -- So yo, SMILE AGAIN (そうよSMILE AGAIN)

Yes, still up at 1:05 am. Like I said in my last article, I did have that birthday party but what I didn't mention was that I had two cups of some rich and delicious coffee there. Therefore, it would seem that sleep may become more of an option than an obligation.

And just like in that Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)piece, I've come across another melancholy song about romance that is a bit of a throwback when considering the time of release and the type of music involved.

Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子)has been one of those underrated singers that wouldn't pop up immediately for even Japanese music lovers searching for some wonderful music. However I was lucky enough to have discovered her through "Sounds of Japan" back in the early 1980s when I heard her lovely "Hoshi Meguri"(星めぐり). From that 1977 song that has become a template of sorts for me, I came to see Nishijima as a singer of warm and fuzzy ballads arranged in a New Music style.

So, it was with some surprise once more that I found out that her "So yo, SMILE AGAIN" (Yes, Smile Again) was a track on her album "Shadow". I checked three sources to find out that the LP (!) was released in 1994 instead of the late 1970s or early 1980s that I had assumed was the time of release. I mean, 1994 was the time of the Komuro boom and Dreams Come True. But this particular final track by Nishijima with lyrics by Tadashi Hirano(平野肇)sounds so much like a tune from yesteryear. It doesn't sound like the traditional kayo but it has an atmosphere that could take listeners to an unknown past time occupied by lots of music halls.

I think it's those strings that do it and then the jazzy clarinet at the end. Plus, there's Nishijima's voicing of a woman begging for the love of her life to return to give that smile one more time, although the feeling is that it will be a wish unlikely to be fulfilled ever again. In a certain frame of mind, those tear ducts might get a work out. Still, it's nice to hear another one of her ballads again.

Yujiro Ishihara -- Omokage no Hito (おもかげの女)

Writing this article past midnight Sunday morning since I was out for most of the day helping an old friend celebrate his half-century of life. Plus of course, I did have that latest "Doctor Who" episode to catch (liked the premise but the ending was a little too pat...kinda like some of the old "Star Trek: The Next Generation" eps).

Because I am writing this in the wee hours on a weekend, I thought maybe a nice Mood Kayo was in order. One of the things I enjoy about going to a party is not only meeting up with old friends and making new ones but also watching the overall flow of things as the party continues. Basically I enjoy seeing the different talking groups form in different corners of the home and then morph over the course of the party. Of course, the food is great as well!

It would be rather nice if I could apply this ability to a typical nomiya or cuddly old bar somewhere in Tokyo. While nursing that sake or beer, I could surreptitiously observe the various goings-on at the counter and the tables...the company section carousing over beers or shochu in one corner while a couple are flirting over drinks just a metre down the counter.

Strangely enough, I could imagine the ghost of The Tough Guy, Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎), coming down to one of those thousands of watering holes in the megalopolis to monitor what the mortals are up to. As usual, he's got another crooning song up his sleeve, his 1985 "Omokage no Hito" (Traces of a Woman).

I was surprised that the ballad was actually made in 1985 since listening to the arrangement took my memories back to the 1970s when he was crooning such classics as "Brandy Glass"(ブランデーグラス). There were those sibilant plucks of the guitar along with the haunting chorus in the background...and of course, the comforting tones of Ishihara himself during those final decades.

(empty karaoke version)

Written by Norihiko Sugi(杉紀彦)and composed by Yukihiko Ito(伊藤雪彦), The Tough Guy is showing his more tender side in relating the hero's melancholy over losing his love. It almost sounds as if he didn't lose her to death but other sad circumstances such as work. She could be that Ginza hostess who has gone onto another client at another table in that swanky nightclub while her former love is looking forlornly from afar.

One of the things I've wondered when it comes to enka or Mood Kayo tunes is the reading of the kanji for woman, which is officially onna(女). Often, though, titles carrying that same kanji have had it read as hito(人), or person. There is even the furigana above the kanji to ensure that listeners and karaoke singers know that it is to be read as hito. I'm not sure what this de-genderizing has been about all these decades but is it some method to put some thematic distance between the man and the woman? Unfortunately, I simply don't know.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Makoto Matsushita -- Love Was Really Gone

Back to a Friday night. Sports bars are usually packed for the event of the evening in any case but tonight it's Game 5 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the NHL playoffs, so in this city, IT'S A REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL (sorry, if I sounded like a certain American president).

Anyways, it's the end of the work week so perhaps it's time for a bit of smooth 80s City Pop and I've got none other than Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)to help ease those tired ear muscles. This is "Love Was Really Gone", another track from his 1981 solo debut album "First Light" that I've already talked about. In fact, the album was one of the first City Pop releases I wrote about in the blog.

For City Pop/J-AOR fans, "First Light" is a really really big deal because of all the smooth and classy tracks. And with "Love Was Really Gone", which Matsushita composed and wrote, this is a tune that I would probably hear on a nice summery balcony by the lake while sipping slowly something stronger back instead of a brewski in a sports bar. I especially love that opening when the singer-musician starts singing and the overall rhythm with the bass. It works even better than a slap-on of Ben Gay!

Arisa Mizuki -- Eden no Toshi (エデンの都市)

(Yup, I realize Arisa's sharing with Atsuko Asano
but I'm not complaining.)

Seeing Marcos V's article on what he has been listening to in the early part of 2017 and reading about singer/actress Arisa Mizuki(観月ありさ), I remarked that after her impressive debut with "Densetsu no Shojo"(伝説の少女), I had listened to one of her later singles, "Too Shy Shy Boy!" and came to the conclusion that I probably wouldn't be picking up any more CD singles by her.

As an aside before the main event, I wanted to mention that I believe I had seen one of her commercials just before she debuted as a singer around the turn of the decade. It wasn't the one above but I think it was for Shiseido in which a teenaged Mizuki basically stared/glared at the camera for the entire time without mentioning a word. My impression was "Ohhhhhkay....I am going to take a step sudden moves...". Rather intense look, she had.

Anyways, getting back onto topic, I listened to Marcos' Arisa entry on that article, "Kimi ga Suki Dakara"(君が好きだから), and actually found it quite nice. The Yuming (ユーミン) touch helped. So, I felt that perhaps with the passage of time along with the accompanying nostalgia, it was time to give the singer's discography another look-see.

Therefore, I chose her 2nd single right after "Densetsu no Shojo", "Eden no Toshi" (City of Eden), from August 1991. Surprisingly, it's a nice and light cheery tune. It probably won't ever get into the Top 10 of my own favourite songs but it's pleasant enough.

(empty karaoke version)

Written and composed by Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美), part of the reason that I went off to purchase "Densetsu no Shojo" was that Mizuki seemed to channel its songwriter's delivery. With "Eden no Toshi", she seemed to channel that ability even more for the composer of the song, Kaori Okui(奥居香), namely the lead vocalist for the band Princess Princess (プリンセス・プリンセス). The band itself could have easily covered this song at one of their own gigs and it would have sounded right at home. Shun Taguchi(田口俊)took care of the lyrics.

Selling 180,000 copies, "Eden no Toshi" soared all the way to No. 5 on the charts and even sneaked onto the Top 100 of 1991, ending up at No. 91. The song is also in her debut album, "ARISA" from December 1991 which peaked at No. 8.

Rumiko Koyanagi - Yukiakari No Machi(雪あかりの町)

I was in Ueno on a rainy night around a month ago, and stopped by a good record store underneath the train tracks, the name of which is escaping me.
When I visit Japan and go to record shops, one of my favorite things to do is pick a handful of 45s from the ¥100 box that I've never heard of before. One of the singles I found picked that night was Rumiko Koyanagi's (小柳ルミ子) Yukiakari no Machi (雪あかりの町) . When a shop has no turntable available, I most certainly judge records by their cover, and usually get good results. I suppose good music and good aesthetics go hand in hand. I liked the snowy  scenery in the photograph, Im a sucker for snow or cold weather in general.

 Anyway, when I finally got home and was able to drop the needle on, I was pleasantly surprised that the music exceeded my expectations. To my western ears, the sleigh bells at the beginning of the track cant help but make me think of Christmas music, which isn't a bad thing.
The music here is stylistically pretty standard early 70s kayo/enka stuff but stands out to me among others of the era.
Today's been probably one of the hottest days of the year so far here in Texas, 
So as I listen I'm dreaming of colder, less sweaty climes... a nice snowy Onsen town. A 雪あかりの町。

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Yukiko Okada -- All Songs Request

A little over 4 years ago, contributor JTM provided a detailed description of his BEST album for the late Yukiko Okada(岡田有希子), "The Premium Best", along with his own insights into the aidoru herself. I don't think I can add anything more to his comments except to say that Okada was a prime example of a singer who had the fine backup of some big songwriters behind her such as Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉), and Chinfa Kan(康珍化). But in her case, she was also blessed with a pretty talented voice in my estimation. I noticed that the common colour theme with the videos that were put up in JTM's article was pink, and that is the right colour for her. She just came across as cute, fresh and all cherry blossoms.

This is the first time in the history of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" that one singer has gotten two BEST album articles. JTM briefly mentioned about this compilation that I got during Xmas last year, "All Songs Request". It was released in May 2002 and my friend wondered aloud how a certain song didn't get onto this one CD. Well, I read in the J-Wiki bio that "All Songs Request" was a fan-based creation in that Pony Canyon had invited folks to tell them their favourite Yukko songs on their website during the period of March 2002 and the top 17 vote-getters got in.

And here they are:

1. Sayonara Natsu Yasumi (さよなら・夏休み)
2. Little Princess (リトル・プリンセス)
3. Akogare (憧れ)
4. Sonnet (ソネット)
5. First Date (ファースト・デイト)
6. Dreaming Girl
7. Futari Dake no Ceremony (二人だけのセレモニー)
8. Anata wo Wasureru Mahou ga Areba (あなたを忘れる魔法があれば)
9. Sweet Planet
10. Lonesome Season (ロンサム・シーズン)
11. Mizuiro Princess (水色プリンセス)
12. Summer Beach
13. Love Fair
14. Kuchibiru Network (くちびるNetwork)
15. Koi no Etude (恋のエチュード)
16. Hana no Image (花のイマージュ)
17. Believe In You

Track 5 happens to be Okada's debut single from April 1984, "First Date". This was a short and sweet introduction to the charms of Yukko via the songwriting talents of Mariya Takeuchi. Melodically speaking, Takeuchi manages to relate the story of the high and low emotions racing through a high school student due to her upcoming first date with the popular guy in class at a movie his invitation. She doesn't seem to feel worthy of his attention although as for the singer herself, I'm sure she had a lot of the male fans swooning.

"First Date" was used as a campaign song for a Glico Dairy Products commercial. It did OK on the charts by peaking at No. 20. The song was also placed in her debut album, "Cinderella" (シンデレラ) which was released in September 1984. Basically, I think the Takeuchi/Okada ventures were very successful.

Track 8 is another romantic entry by Yukko titled "Anata wo Wasureru Mahou ga Areba" (If Only There Were A Spell To Forget About You). This probably had a lot of fans, male and female, either nodding sagely or sighing while lying in bed since Chinfa Kan's lyrics have the aidoru singing about loving that guy from afar but just never getting the right time and place to express her feelings. Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆)created the interesting melody which starts off slowly but then goes off into heroic heights which perhaps adds a different nuance to the lyrics.

"Anata wo Wasureru Mahou ga Areba" was not a single but a track on her 2nd album "Fairy" from March 1985.

What was also a track on "Fairy" and "All Songs Request" was "Futari Dake no Ceremony" (A Ceremony Just For Two), a mid-tempo celebratory melody about a young couple commemorating their graduation by themselves at some place whether it be at a restaurant or on the top of a hill with a picnic basket. Jun Natsume(夏目純)took care of the lyrics while Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)made the music which swung between some synth-based ceremonial notes and the happy-go-lucky melody for the celebrating duo.

This was Okada's 4th single from January 1985 and it became her most successful release until "Kuchibiru Network" by hitting No. 4 on Oricon and becoming the 85th-ranked song of the year. What I also read from J-Wiki is that the original single version hadn't been put onto CD until "All Songs Request".

As soon as I heard "Sweet Planet", I knew this had to be a Tetsuya Komuro concoction, and sure enough it was. I mean, this was probably a tune that Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里), another Komuro client back in the 1980s, could have sung. Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)wrote the lyrics about a girl who seems to be getting herself back on her feet after finishing a relationship. Komuro's music pretty much telegraphed the lass jumping back on the road to heartbreak recovery. "Sweet Planet" was the first track on her 3rd album "Juugatsu Ningyo"(十月の人魚...October Mermaid).

My final entry here is "Koi no Etude" (Etude of Love), which was the B-side to Yukko's 8th and final single "Kuchibiru Network" from January 1986. It was the other song that hadn't ever been put onto CD until this compilation, and it makes for a nice counterpoint to the happy aidoru-esque "Kuchibiru Network". Tetsuro Kashibuchi(かしぶち哲郎)was the lyricist who had the singer going through a whole range of emotions when it comes to her current beau and his past. Hiromoto Tobizawa(飛澤宏元)came up with this technopoppy piece of exotica that makes "Koi no Etude" sound like as if it had been set in some European mansion party hosted by Falco.

I don't know how "All Songs Request" did on the charts but this particular BEST compilation worked for me in that I was able to get to hear some of the songs that probably wouldn't have gotten onto a regular BEST album since I've often found that what Oricon likes and what the fans like don't always coincide. As of this date, it's been over 30 years since Okada's untimely passing and considering how wonderfully she sang as an aidoru that could have out-aidoru'ed even Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子), the songs that she has left us seem even more precious now and make me wonder what other tunes she could have made past 1986.

Takeo Fujishima -- Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho (月の法善寺横町)

A number of weeks ago at work, I had the chance to meet the founder of Marutama Ramen. To be frank, I have no idea what his name is and simply know him as Oyakata (親方). I found it extremely unnerving to have him seemingly scrutinizing my one-month's-worth-of-experience actions at first - I sort of dreaded having to be the one to serve him a large plate of Katsu Curry. And then he was notified of my love for enka. Turns out Oyakata's a fan of the genre too, with Sayuri Ishikawa (石川さゆり) and Aki Yashiro (八代亜紀) as his favourites - he looked more like a Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三) fan, though. With a well-delivered excerpt of "Nagasaki wa Kyo mo Ame datta" by him (because I like Mae-Kiyo), a karaoke invite when I make it to Japan (to study... eventually), and those cool-guy shades (really cool), I got to say that he's a pretty easy-going fellow. That's not to say I won't be on edge when he appears at random again, but maybe a little less than before.

Anyway, oyakata is a title I once thought only referred to the master of a group of ronin. In actual fact, it can mean (according to chief, master, or supervisor, can be used in multiple contexts, such as being the founder or owner of a restaurant. That brings me to the topic of this article, "Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho".

For the longest time, I assumed that this Takeo Fujishima (藤島桓夫) hit may have something to do with a warrior from Hozenji Yokocho setting out on a journey of his own, even though the premise sounds a little odd. That's due in part to my former assumption of the meaning of oyakata since it's mentioned a couple of times throughout "Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho", as well as the music, composed by Keio Iida (飯田景応). The dramatic strings, sharp twang of the electric guitar, and shrill notes from the flute gives the song an overall foreboding and intense atmosphere that I generally associate to a number of ronin enka. However, with the knowledge that oyakata could be used in the latter sense, finding out what a "Houchou" (包丁... Kitchen knife) is, and paying attention to the song's introduction by announcers in videos, I was able to connect the dots. Our main character isn't a masterless samurai, but a chef.

"Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho" was written by Tetsu Tonimura (十二村哲), and it has Fujishima narrating in his distinctive vocals the story about a young chef keen on honing his skills after taking on an apprenticeship at what may be a renowned restaurant, Fujiyoshi - I think the oyakata mentioned should be that of this joint. In doing so, he has to leave behind his heartbroken lover, Koi-san, until his training is done and when he can set up his own business. Throughout the lyrics, there are some instances of the Kansai dialect, such as when the honorific "-han" is used at times instead of the usual "-san", and "Wate" instead of "Watashi".

The destination of interest here is none other than the often-sung-about Hozenji temple, nestled in the little Osakan alley, and the temple's most notable inhabitant, Mizukake Fudo. This is where Mr. Chef met and fell for the lovely Koi-san whilst beseeching the moss-covered deity for culinary expertise. According to this travel guide, it is believed that the moss-covered deity, made mossy by having water splashed on to it constantly by worshipers, can bring fortune to businesses and everlasting love, the latter most likely being prayed for by the couple to ensure they stay together despite Mr. Chef's commitments.

(I'm sorry but the video has been taken down.)
Looks like Koi-san ain't gonna settle for sukiyaki, Mr. Chef.

"Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho" was released in 1960, there isn't much information on its success on the J-Wiki but I'm sure it was most definitely a hit, if a performance on the 11th Kohaku and being  a mainstay on current day music shows, especially Osaka specials, are anything to go by. The tune is covered by many, but I've decided to put up Kiyoshi Hikawa's (氷川きよし) rendition from on a Shin Nippon no Uta episode. Mr. Chef and Koi-san's love story is brought to life by Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) and Midori Oka (丘みどり) respectively, with Hikawa in the narrator's role. While done for the sake of comedy, I find how Miyama fumbles at his lines an accurate representation of me when I tried it for myself - the satisfaction of finally uttering the whole sh-bang within the given time frame without stumbling also included. Makes me wonder if Fujishima ever got tongue-tied at the spoken parts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tavito Nanao x Yakenohara -- Rollin' Rollin'

My genre of choice has been City Pop from the late 1970s and early 1980s but I've also liked urban contemporary stuff from the 90s onwards. I've also noticed that going into the 21st century, the night side of Japanese pop has taken on a certain cool groove.

Now, I'm not a big fan of hip-hop or rap on either side of the Pacific but I do like the slow groove of "Rollin' Rollin'" by Kochi Prefecture-born singer-songwriter Tavito Nanao(七尾旅人). Although his Wikipedia bio states that his genres are "alternative rock, electronic, experimental, punk", I only sense a bit of one of those genres and none from the others with his 7th single from September 2009. To me, it's some nice mellow contemporary R&B as he collaborates with rapper-DJ Yakenohara (やけのはら). It's all so not-in-your-face.

As much as I like the official music video with some nice shots of driving through the big city, I have to say that I really like this version of "Rollin' Rollin'". As Yakenohara intones throughout the song, it's got that old-fashioned urban soul. The song peaked at No. 46 on Oricon.

Peggy Hayama -- Que Sera Sera (ケ・セラ・セラ)

I caught "Uta Kon" (うたコン) on NHK for the first time in a couple of weeks since last week I had to put out a fire in terms of my work. The theme for the episode was songs of spring. However, I was surprised to hear the news right off the bat from the hosts that singer and tarento Peggy Hayama(ペギー葉山)passed away at the age of 83 last week on April 12th due to pneumonia.

Just late last month, I had put up my first article on her on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", "Gakusei Jidai"(学生時代)which was released in 1964. But she had actually been singing since 1952, and as was the case with other singers during those days, she sang a mix of kayo and covers of English-language songs.

One of the latter was the cover of what is arguably Doris Day's theme song "Que Sera Sera".  The original, which was created by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and then recorded by Day in 1956 for the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much", was also given its Japanese version by Takashi Otowa(音羽たかし)for Hayama to sing.

"Que Sera Sera" became another hit for Hayama who then sang it on the 7th Kohaku Utagassen in 1956, her 3rd appearance on the program.

Being somewhat of a sentimental softie deep inside, I chose "Que Sera Sera" for tonight since the song was one of the first I remember as a toddler. I distinctly remember seeing the opening credits for "The Doris Day Show" (1968-1973) on TV which featured the song as the theme. And my mother actually bought me a record of Doris Day songs for children.

Just to finish off, I discovered something rather interesting about Takashi Otowa. The name was actually a pseudonym of sorts used by directors at King Records whenever they translated a song into Japanese. However, unlike Hollywood directors who would use the name Alan Smithee to disown a movie they made but under duress, there was no intent of protest with the use of Takashi Otowa.

According to J-Wiki, the managing director for King Records, Go Makino(牧野剛), was one of the staffers who took on the Otowa name to provide the Japanese words for Hayama's "Que Sera Sera".

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

COSMOS -- Midnight Shuffle

If it hasn't already been done so, the following song should be adopted and molded into one of those Vaporwave/Japanese Future Funk videos that folks like Artzie Music have been creating. I'm pretty sure there would be fans who would swoon.

During one of my browsings on YouTube recently, I came across the keyboard trio of COSMOS, a band that was brought together by the Yamaha Music Foundation and had its debut in 1981 through the soundtrack for the movie adaptation of the novel "Hyouryuu"(漂流...Drifting).

In November 1982, COSMOS released their album "Bourbon Suite" with one of the tracks being "Midnight Shuffle", a nice little nighttime boogie. The three core members of the band are leader Yumiko Tanaka(田中裕美子), Keiko Doi(土居慶子)and Roman Kaieda(海江田ろまん)but they've had musical assistance by artists such as trumpeter Ichiro Nitta(新田一郎)and guitarists Masaki Matsubara(松原正樹)and Fujimal Yoshino(芳野藤丸). Also, there were other members of COSMOS including Michiru Oshima(大島ミチル)who has gone onto bigger fame with her compositions for video games, TV shows, movies and anime. For that last category, I am watching one of her projects right now, "Little Witch Academia".

A few years later, Doi did her own side gig under KEIKO PROJECT and created the 1985 album "Compositions" which included a cover of "Midnight Shuffle" with some added lyrics and guitars. Perhaps by that time, she was already going by the name Keiko Matsui(松居慶子).

"Midnight Shuffle" and Doi have reinforced those good memories of the urban contemporary side of synths and horns that I've known through artists such as Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生), T-Square and Casiopea.

Here is COSMOS in action with "Spiral Dream". Not sure but I think they are performing on "Let's Go Young".


Saw Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉)on TV Japan for the first time since SMAP broke up late last year. He looked rather...beefy. But I gather that no longer dancing all that often on stage or on TV may mean an extra storage of calories.

After hearing all those hits by the former residents of the Johnny's Entertainment mountaintop over so many years, it was shocking to say the least that SMAP actually had a theme song of sorts. Plus it had the simple title of "SMAP".

Written by Hiromi Mori(森浩美)and composed by Seikou Nagaoka(長岡成貢), this Eurobeat-tinged musical dynamo was released in 1988 as a commercial song for Morinaga Milk Industry as you can see above when the group was a sextet and not the quintet. Ah, they looked so young back then.

Actually, their first official single, "Can't Stop!! -LOVING-" didn't come out until 1991, but "SMAP" was included as part of the "SMAP Medley" portion on the single. It peaked at No. 2 on Oricon. The song also got its album release several years later on their remix album "BOO" from November 1995 (peaked at No. 5 and went Platinum). Geez, I'm trying to wrap my mind about the fact that "SMAP" was actually born nearly 3 decades ago.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Michiya Mihashi -- Akai Yuuhi no Furusato (赤い夕陽の故郷)/ Hachiro Kasuga -- Umineko no Naku Hatoba (海猫の啼く波止場)

Well, out of the 45"s grab bag today, I got a 2-for-1 deal. To explain, I found this relatively thick single record that had two different and legendary kayo singers and their songs with the only thing in common being their release year which was 1958. So I said, why not cover them both in the same article?

On one side is Michiya Mihashi's(三橋美智也)"Akai Yuuhi no Furusato" (Home of the Red Setting Sun) which begins and ends with the singer bellowing "Oi!" as the beckoning call of the ol' hometown. Pure and clear as the waters of that countryside hamlet, Mihashi's voice calls out for the working stiffs in Tokyo to come back and spend some happy times again.

The deep twang of the guitar and the occasional appearance of the marimba joining the traditional strings had me thinking that this ode to the heartland would have been performed in some city nightclub trying to get the customers dreaming of home once again. Perhaps it could have been thought as being somewhat counter-intuitive since folks heading back to the countryside would have meant fewer patrons in those dancing-and-drinking lounges but hey, I'm betting even the proprietors wanted to head back home once in a while.

"Akai Yuuhi no Furusato" was written by Hiroshi Yokoi(横井弘)and composed by Tadaharu Nakano(中野忠晴). Imagine coming back home at sunset to a welcoming family with the bath and a good hot meal all ready for you.

The flip side has Hachiro Kasuga's(春日八郎)"Umineko no Naku Hatoba" (The Wharf of the Black-Tailed Gulls). This one was written by Ryo Yano(矢野亮)and composed by Isao Hayashi(林伊佐緒)(although for some reason, J-Wiki has Yokoi writing this one...a definite error since my 45" has Yano as the lyricist).

Given my relative lack of knowledge in the enka/Mood Kayo genres, I had been having my problems distinguishing the voices of Mihashi and Kasuga. Well, thanks to discovering this record, I no longer have to worry. Whereas Mihashi has those pearly higher tones, Kasuga has a slightly more garrulous and lower delivery. As for "Umineko no Naku Hatoba", Kasuga's ballad kinda wavers into the Mood Kayo territory as the singer talks and croons about ending up falling in love with that special woman on the wharf. But is the hero happy about it? Being a Mood Kayo, not necessarily. With the horns and especially that mournful saxophone, the palooka is probably at some bar near the titular wharf filled with alcohol and a lot of complicated emotions about what to do since being in love with the sea was far simpler than actually going head-over-heels with a lady. Ah, that is life.

My respects for the owner of this old player and the 78" version of the song. In a way, I guess the song does sound like something from an even earlier decade.