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, May 31, 2017

Harumi Tsuyuzaki -- Taiyo (太陽)

She may have been dubbed "The Mariah Carey of Japan" but I think Harumi Tsuyuzaki(露崎春女)is her own singer...a singer with her own great set of vocal cords, and she arrived on the music scene even before R&B songstresses such as Misia and bird.

J-R&B may have had its first heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s and a lot of it was through rap and hip-hop, but for me, my love for R&B targets the old stuff from the late 70s through to the early 90s. There were young Mariah, CeCe Peniston, Whitney Houston and similar singers back then, and Tsuyuzaki reminds me of them.

Tsuyuzaki's 5th single is "Taiyo" (Sun) from May 1997 (a good 20 years ago...sheesh!), and this fits very snugly into my favourite type of R&B. It truly is a sunny song. The singer wrote and composed this piece about getting all cheered up and living life to the fullest and happiest. Not a bad theme for getting out of the blues. And listening to her sing, I wonder what would happen if she were to duet with Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)who also has a similar set of pipes.

The first presence of "Taiyo" on a Tsuyuzaki album was a live version on her August 1997 "THANK YOU! 〜WONDER OF LOVE TOUR '97〜". However, I was happy to get the recorded version on my BEST album of hers above in the photo...first track even.

Mie Nakao -- Hana no Sadame (花のさだめ)

Well, rather glad that I am here tonight since I had quite the load of text to translate for much of the day today. It's nice to get back to writing what I like.

I've come across my fair share of new and wonderful songs over the years of doing this blog but once in a while, a few of my commenters have also introduced me to some of those new names and songs. I got that opportunity again earlier today before work when Stevie contacted me about a tune that he'd fallen for on a video of 1960s kayo kyoku that was performed in movies.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

At about 7:13 of the above video, young and virile Wakadaisho Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)enters a room to see an all-female band playing with the lead singer going go-go. It just happens to be Mie Nakao(中尾ミエ)whom I've seen all the time on variety shows but up to now had only known one song by her, "Kawaii Baby"(可愛いベイビー), a cover of a Connie Francis hit from the early 1960s.

Well, some years after that, she came out with a single from January 1968 titled "Hana no Sadame" (Fate of a Flower) which is mis-named in the description below the YouTube video as "Koi no Sadame"(恋のさだめ...Fate of Love). And it looks like Nakao was channeling more Nancy Sinatra back then.

Stevie had wanted to find the full version of the song and so he asked for my help. I took a look at her discography on J-Wiki and although I couldn't find a "Koi no Sadame", I did find "Hana no Sadame" and did a cut-and-paste on YouTube. Voila! It turned out to be the full version. And crazily enough, I started enjoying it myself. I guess there's something about a 60s Japanese teenybopper doing a more mature and fairly rockin' pop song with a fuzzy guitar intro that gets my attention. So I'm just as indebted to Stevie now.

"Hana no Sadame" was written by Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)and composed by Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃). I'm not sure how it did on the then-embryonic Oricon charts but I'm sure if any of the kayo shows want to pay tribute to the psychedelic/go-go boot music of the late 60s, well, this song can certainly be a candidate. In a way, it reminds me of how Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)did her own go-go thing with "Makkana Taiyo"(赤な太陽)some six months earlier. Peace, man!

Will have to do some more perusing of that top video.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Arashi -- GUTS!

I've never really been into car racing per se but I can say that I have made room on my TV schedule on a certain May Sunday to watch the Indianapolis 500. There's just something very special about it. And the 2017 edition was even more special since I was able to see the first Japanese driver, Takuma Sato(佐藤琢磨), win the Indy 500 live. During that final lap before the checkered flag, I was quietly exclaiming "He's actually going to win this!!" Well, many congratulations to him.

So here I was thinking about how I would commemorate this. Well, a couple of the Johnny's groups came to mind, SMAP and Arashi(嵐). I was pretty sure that either one would have a happy song of victory in their respective arsenals.

Well, checking Arashi's discography, I found their 43rd single "GUTS!" from April 2014. And sure enough, it's a bouncy and inspiring tune that served as the theme for the NTV Saturday-night drama "Yowakutemo Katemasu"(弱くても勝てます...Baseball Brainiacs)starring Arashi member Kazunari Ninomiya(二宮和也)as the teacher who takes on a sad sack high school baseball team and makes it better. I haven't followed Sato's career too much but I recall him just missing out on the lead in the final lap of the 2012 edition of the Indy 500. Fans of the race commended him for his own guts.

"GUTS!" was written by eltvo and s-Tnk while SAKRA took care of the music. Not surprisingly, it hit No. 1 and ended up as the 6th-ranked single for 2014. It actually became the No. 1 single of the year for Billboard Japan. It also went Double Platinum, selling a little over 600,000 copies.

Hibari Misora -- Minato-machi Juu-san Banchi (港町十三番地)

Tonight's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)had been advertised for its tribute to kayo legend Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)who would have been 80 years old yesterday. So it was somewhat disappointing that the so-called tribute was limited to a dramatic vignette starring some well-respected actors and just a couple of Hibari hits performed by the guests without even any full video performances by the lady herself before it became a regular show. In fact, I may go on a mild rant and say that my annoyance was further enhanced on seeing the now-usual clumsy transitions by NHK and "concierge" Shosuke Tanihara(谷原章介), and some duets which didn't really come off too well.

I have to say though that 12-year-old actress/singer Rio Suzuki(鈴木梨央)gave a charming performance of "Kanashiki Kuchibue"(悲しき口笛)in full tuxedo just like Misora did when she was the same age.

This particular song didn't get onto the broadcast (not too many did), but I found this to be a nice jaunty tune by Misora from March 1957 when she was just a couple of months shy from turning 20. "Minato-machi Juu-san Banchi" (13 Minato-machi) was the singer's own tribute to life along the coast represented by her hometown of Yokohama and neighbouring Kawasaki.

And according to J-Wiki, that title was meant to represent the location of the headquarters and factory of Misora's record company at the time, Nippon Columbia, in Kawasaki although 13 Minato-machi didn't actually exist; Nippon Columbia was actually at 9 Minato-machi.

Whatever the address, "Minato-machi Juu-san Banchi" has that rather carefree feeling of life in a postwar Japan (although the nation was still rebuilding) that was pushing back the days of war and deprivation. The song was written by Miyuki Ishimoto(石本美由起)and composed by Gento Uehara(上原げんと), and although the title was referring to Nippon Columbia, Misora apparently made some shoutouts in the lyrics to certain places in Yokohama such as Yamashita Park and some of the watering holes in the district of Bashamichi.

Apparently the song was also performed in one of her movies "Aoi Umabara"(青い海原...Blue Ocean)from 1957. The interesting thing is that her co-star was a very young and far less rugged-looking Ken Takakura(高倉健)! As for how the song itself did, Oricon was still a decade away from ranking records but according to a music journal at the time "The Record", "Minato-machi Juu-san Banchi" became the No. 1 record of the year on the Columbia charts.

Returning to my earlier little snit, I realize that there are probably folks out there who feel that perhaps Misora has been treated too much like a goddess on these kayo shows, but I think if anyone is deserving of the status, it would be her. Plus, I think NHK may be a little guilty of false advertising, despite the introduction of that little drama at the beginning.

Monday, May 29, 2017

milktub -- Naru ga Mama Sawagu Mama(成るがまま騒ぐまま)/fhana -- Moon River(ムーンリバー)

Unlike the last anime season, the Spring 2017 season hasn't exactly birthed any anison earworms. No aural larvae immediately burrowed into my cerebral cortex when I saw those first episodes of the current crop of shows. But some of them at least are starting to grow some more on me.

"Uchoten Kazoku"(有頂天家族...The Eccentric Family)was one of the loveliest shows that I have seen since my return to Toronto in 2011 and starting off the biweekly viewings with my anime buddy. That was back in 2013 and so I was looking forward to catching "Uchoten Kazoku 2" when it was first announced late last year. The original show may have been lukewarmly received in its native Japan but it's been lauded outside of the nation. I'm happy to say that the sequel has been doing quite well by us with a surprise here and there...such as the usually unflappable and fearsome Benten literally getting dumped on her rear by a fellow who may be even more unflappable and fearsome. That took some serious cojones!

I guess, though, in keeping with the continuous mixture of magic and Kyoto beauty, the opening and ending themes for "Uchoten Kazoku 2" aren't all that much different from their fellow songs from the original series. The artists involved are the same for one thing.

Rock group milktub is back with its raucous glory via "Naru ga Mama Sawagu Mama" (Naturally, Noisily). And it's up with a much more happening set of opening credits. I have to pay attention to see them to catch every little thing that pops up in the various scenes while the music is playing.

Finally, I get to see what milktub looks like. The song came out in April 2017 as their 5th single and their first single since "Uchoten Jinsei"(有頂天人生)which was the opening theme for the first show. The band took care of both music and lyrics this time, and so far, "Naru ga Mama Sawagu Mama" has reached only No. 105 on Oricon. A partial translation of the lyrics is available at Lyrical Nonsense.

At the end of each episode of the original "Uchoten Kazoku", I thrilled to fhana's "Que Sera Sera" as it fit hand-in-glove with the ending credits and the whole anime for that matter.

The band has once again come up with the ending theme for "Uchoten Kazoku 2", and although it isn't quite as catchy and beautiful as "Que Sera Sera", "Moon River" is slowly starting to grow on me, especially with the light technopop touch. I'm kinda wondering, though, if they've got a thing for co-opting titles from old standard songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

I can't help but compare "Moon River" with their "Aozora no Rhapsody"(青空のラプソディ)which came out as the opening theme/earworm for "Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon"(小林さんちのメイドラゴン). Compared to that fun song (and the fun and goofy video), "Moon River" is more of a cool-down song, comparable to "Que Sera Sera". There is not so much dancing and prancing in this one as there is a need to sit by the bank of a river and watch the flow of water.

As with "Que Sera Sera", Hideki Hayashi(林英樹)provided the lyrics but this time it's band guitarist yuxuki waga taking care of the music. This is their 11th single from April and has gone up to No. 53 on Oricon. The song is also represented at Lyrical Nonsense.

Tomoyo Harada -- Kanashiikurai Honto no Hanashi (悲しいくらいほんとの話)

Hope everyone down in the States has been having a good Memorial Day. As for me, I got together with a couple of other translators for lunch at a nice little smokehouse in the Yonge-Lawrence Village for a tasty pulled pork sandwich and a creamy berry milkshake. Well, so much for keeping cholesterol levels stable.

Good heavens! It's been almost a year to the day that I put up my most recent Tomoyo Harada(原田知世)article. So why don't we go for her very first single? This would be "Kanashiikurai Honto no Hanashi" (News So True It's Sad) from July 1982.

We could find a lot of parallels here between the debut of Harada and the singing debut of Hiroko Yakushimaru(薬師丸ひろ子). The latter young lady had already been acting for a few years when she released her first single as a singer in 1981 with the theme song for "Sailor Fuku to Kikanjuu"(セーラー服と機関銃), a movie that also starred Hiroko-chan . Well, Harada's debut was the theme song for the Fuji-TV version of the movie that came a year later, and guess what? Harada herself starred in the TV version.

One more parallel to describe in that "Kanashiikurai Honto no Hanashi" was also written and composed by Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお). In keeping with the tone of the original movie and then the TV series, Harada's song also has that sweet-and-sad arrangement with some urban contemporary feelings infused.

However, I guess because of the saying "familiarity breeds contempt", "Kanashii Honto no Hanashi" did a lot more modestly than its sister tune "Sailor Fuku to Kikanjuu". It sold approximately 57,000 records and got no higher than No. 41 on Oricon. Still, Harada was heading up in the entertainment world. And personally speaking, I like this song too. Plenty of room in my ears for both.😁

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anzen Chitai -- Ano Koro e (あの頃へ)

As I mentioned in the article for Anzen Chitai's(安全地帯)"VIII ~ Taiyo" album from 1991, I think Koji Tamaki's(玉置浩二)band started losing their appeal for me with "VII ~ Yume no Miyako" in 1990, although I liked a number of their tracks on that later album. Since then, it hasn't been quite the same so for me...Anzen Chitai was more the band of the 1980s.

Having said that, listening to the band's 22nd single from December 1992 "Ano Koro e" (To That Time) is a wonderfully moving experience, thanks to Tamaki's incredible voice. It's a well-titled ballad since the music and vocals easily brings me back to the time when Anzen Chitai was one of the top bands in Japan.

As usual, it was Goro Matsui(松井五郎)on the lyrics and Tamaki on the music. "Ano Koro e" sounds as if it were a love letter by the band to their home in Hokkaido. A big sloppy heart is on everyone's sleeve as Tamaki starts off with words like these:

The snow falls in my faraway hometown
They become tears of nostalgia
I wait for the spring. My memories
Can probably make someone happy

That sky, those winds
They still unfailingly stay in my heart
If I can take you
To that heartwarming time someday

If I'm not mistaken, I think the song was actually used as a campaign song for tourism somewhere, probably Hokkaido itself. "Ano Koro e" could sell it. Tamaki makes the whole scene epic and intimate at the same time right down to the keyboard putting forth those sounds of snowflakes falling softly.

I don't think the ballad ever made it onto an original album but it did get onto at least one BEST compilation since that is where I first heard the full version. Anzen Chitai's best days may have been behind them by the early 90s but the band could still come out with the one big amazing tune. And Tamaki will go down as one of the best singers that Japanese popular music has ever seen.

Akira Mita -- Utsukushii Juudai (美しい十代)

Saw my first "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)in a few weeks. One indication that the old kayo ought to be lasting for a good while longer is seeing some of the young kids performing it on stage. I saw a 13-year-old boy singing the tune of this article less than an hour ago, and although he didn't get the full triumphant barrage of bells, he still got a thumbs-up from me. He wasn't totally on tune but it was because of that, he probably got the lion's share of accolades.

The song in question was "Utsukushii Juudai" (The Beautiful Teens) as originally sung by Akira Mita(三田明). It's been included in that sub-genre known as seishun kayo(青春歌謡...salad day pop music)with all of those nostalgic stories of high school life. I believe Kazuo Funaki's(舟木一夫)"Koukou Sannen-sei"(高校三年生)would be the quintessential example of such a song.

According to J-Wiki, "Utsukushii Juudai" was the debut single of Mita who became popular for his innocent looks and wonderful voice. Released in November 1963, the song was written by Tetsuo Miyagawa(宮川哲夫)and composed by Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正), and focused on that adorable young love during those tender if sometimes turbulent time in life. Couldn't get more musically sepia than those strings and backup chorus.

A few months after the release of the single, its success meant that a movie with the same title was produced with Mita taking on a supporting role.

Mita was born Ushio Tsujikawa(辻川潮)in Tokyo in 1947. In 1962, while appearing on the NTV music variety program "Ajinomoto Hoihoi Music School"(味の素ホイホイ・ミュージック・スクール), composer Yoshida took the young Mita under his wing, and several months later, the singer and actor made his debut. At the time, the Gosanke(御三家...The Big Three) trio of Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫), Teruhiko Saigo(西郷輝彦)and the aforementioned Funaki were the singing heartthrobs but although Mita was seen as being a Johnny-come-lately to the proceedings, the media did place him with those three, thus having the quartet dubbed as the Shitennou(四天王...The Four Heavenly Kings).

It looks like Mita's heyday was the 1960s which was punctuated by his 6 straight appearances on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen. However, he never sang "Utsukushii Juudai" during that run between 1964 and 1969.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

NSP -- Kyonen no Natsu (去年の夏)

The above photo is of a Coco's restaurant while we were on the way to Kamakura. One of the things I realized about my home for 17 years is that there is a plethora of family restaurants...or famiresu in the Japanese vernacular. Of course, the United States and Canada have their own such places such as Denny's and IHOP but I thought there were more brands of them in Japan. Coco's, Skylark, Denny's, Gust, etc...they were pretty much everywhere, including a Skylark in my own neighbourhood of Minami-Gyotoku.

In fact, in the early years of my stay there when I was much more gastronomically receptive (re: a glutton), I often went to Skylark for that breakfast buffet on a weekly basis before heading off to the school. And boy, the staff didn't skimp and it wasn't exactly typical breakfast fare, either. There was pasta, hamburgers, deep-fried chicken, salad, soup, etc. The average Japanese salaryman must have really needed his protein! I patronized my Skylark so much that the manager started recognizing me and greeted me with "Ohaiyo gozaimasu! Itsumo osewaninatteorimasu"(お早うございます!いつもお世話になっております...Good morning! Thank you very much for your continued patronage). I was flattered and mortified at the same time since the other bleary-eyed customers could see me for the hog I was. I did indeed see the tables more as troughs, though. Still, I sometimes miss my famiresu. They were a good place to eat and hang out with friends. In terms of the closest analog here in Toronto, the shopping mall food court would be the thing.

Now, for the matter at hand. In my last article, I wrote about that mystery song by 70s aidoru legend Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵), "Tokyo no Sora no Shita Anata wa"(東京の空の下あなたは)which was written and composed by Shigeru Amano(天野滋)of the folk-pop group NSP. Well, I had heard of the name before and since a number of YouTube videos featuring them popped up beside the Momoe video on YouTube, I decided to try them out.

Well, Land O'Goshen (yup, I still like to use the archaic exclamations from time to time)! I heard this one song above and one part of the song suddenly started to ring memory bells in my head. And so I realized that this song "Kyonen no Natsu" (Last Summer) had been featured in an episode of "Sounds of Japan" on CHIN-FM. However, I should say part of the song. One small thing that peeved me about the radio broadcast was that it didn't have an official ending theme or music to finish off the show, instead opting for a "sacrificial" tune that sounded perfectly interesting but was merely used to help the DJ finish things off before abruptly fading out. I found out last night that "Kyonen no Natsu" was one of those songs without me knowing who performed it or what the title was.

Now that I've heard it in its entirety for the first time since I heard its excerpt about 30 years ago, I'm now quite intrigued about NSP. "Kyonen no Natsu" was also written and composed by Amano and it's a sad introspective ballad about reminiscing about that lost love from a year back while walking along the seashore. I'm not sure who was handling the vocals for this particular song since apparently all three members of the group had their turn behind the mike but I was quite entranced by the haunting delivery and the overall arrangement, especially with the fairly dramatic intro involving the drums, the strings and the piano.

NSP consisted of Amano on guitar, Takayuki Nakamura(中村貴之)on guitar and Kazuto Hiraga(平賀和人)on bass. All of them were born and raised in Iwate Prefecture and while in high school in 1972, the three of them first met while being active in other bands. Deciding to create their own unit, they initially went the rock route and came up with the name New Sadistic Pink. However, since they debuted in 1973 with a folk song, they decided that that particular name was a bit odd and just shrunk it to the more generic NSP. Years later going into the 1980s, the guys decided to have some fun over their initials with the fans and invited them to come up with new variations on the name such as Non Stop Progression and Nasa Shopping Plaza. Personally, Natto Sukiyaki Piiman would have been my choice but that's just me.

"Kyonen no Natsu" was a track on their June 1982 album "Meguriai wa Subete wo Koete"(めぐり逢いはすべてを越えて...Completely Beyond The Encounter). Considering the success of another folk-pop group, Off-Course(オフコース), through those same decades, I was rather surprised that I hadn't heard of NSP in all this time, at least not officially. If I can hear some more songs by Amano and company, I think I can do more comparison between NSP and Kazumasa Oda's(小田和正)band.

NSP called it quits in 1987 with the three of them going their separate ways and providing songs for other singers and bands, although Amano continued to release solo material. However, all three got back together in 2002 during which they held their first comeback concert at Nippon Seinenkan in Shinjuku, Tokyo. According to J-Wiki, the tickets sold out within an hour. In February 2005, NSP even released their first single in 19 years. Tragically, though in July of that same year, Amano would pass away at the age of 52 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Tokyo no Sora no Shita Anata wa (東京の空の下あなたは)

As I've often said here, one of the reasons that I've enjoyed adding onto the blog for so long now is that I've been able to encounter some rare gems among all the kayo kyoku. Once again, it's all about the iceberg analogy. However this time, it has to do with a rare tune but by a well-established singer.

There has been that comparison between the quintessential 70s aidoru Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)and 80s aidoru Akina Nakamori(中森明菜). I've mentioned before that both singers became known as these teenage stars with a certain darkness and talent that came out in their respective discographies. And as Nakamori gradually turned into a pop superstar, the tone of her Oricon-friendly singles diverged from her more eclectic albums starting from the mid-1980s.

Perhaps Yamaguchi had a similar thing going in the latter half of her decade although to a smaller extent. One of my first entries about her involved her 1979 album "L.A. Blue" which fascinated me since a number of her tracks there had her exploring some American-style AOR and perhaps even City Pop. Until that point, I had always known her for those Oricon chart-toppers which were solidly within that kayo kyoku sphere.

Now I find out that this wasn't her first foray into recording outside of Japan. In 1977, she had also gone overseas to London to record her 12th album "Golden Flight". Although the album has one of her landmark songs, "Imitation Gold", I don't know how the rest of the songs sound...were they more into the New Music vein? One thing about the tracks on that album is that a majority of them are titled in full-cap romaji. Would be interesting to find out. For a singer who purportedly said that she only continued her career simply to provide for her family and retired as soon as she got married, I think Momoe tried to spread her wings out a bit, professionally speaking.

Even regarding that special album, there was a special song that had been recorded but ultimately didn't get placed onto "Golden Flight". Titled "Tokyo no Sora no Shita Anata wa" (You, Under the Tokyo Sky), it was never even made into a single or even a B-side of one, although it was performed by Momoe a number of times at her concerts. In fact, it finally saw the light of day in 2003 as the only song on the 24th disc of the 24 discs of "MOMOE PREMIUM", that huge CD-BOX set...26 years after the fact.

My question is "Why the heck did you keep it under wraps for so long?!" It's a wonderful song to me. Starting out with a wacka-wacka electric guitar, "Tokyo no Sora no Shita Anata wa" rolls out to a pretty propulsive Latin beat to accompany those familiar Momoe vocals. The song probably wouldn't belong on "L.A. Blue" but it's certainly not the usual stuff by her that I have been accustomed to. I'd say that the arrangement was more along the lines of another singer who was up and coming at the time, Junko Yagami(八神純子). Still, Yamaguchi made this her own tune. It's short but oh-so-sweet. And if I had the funds, I would get "MOMOE PREMIUM" just to get this song; I will have to hope for that bonus or lottery win. Perhaps I can still aim for "Golden Flight" and "L.A. Blue".

The creator of the song was Shigeru Amano(天野滋)who was a member of the folk group NSP. Now that is a group I'm going to have to cover shortly.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Da Capo -- Sora kara Koboreta STORY (空からこぼれたSTORY)

Yup, a few days ago, I heard of the passing of Roger Moore who had his several years of playing secret agent James Bond 007. Someone once told me that a fan's very favourite Bond depended on when that fan was born, and for me that would mean my favourite 007 is Sean Connery...and that is true. Moore was more in the middle of the pack for me.

I mean, he was fine enough but I thought he just extended himself a little long in the part, especially after catching his final tilt as the British superspy, "From A View To A Kill". Plus, I thought he was a bit too arch(ed eyebrow) for my taste at times. Then again, Moore himself once countered that how could anyone take Bond all that seriously since he was the most recognized secret agent (and therefore worst secret agent) in history. Point taken, Sir Roger.

Still, there were a few of his movies as Bond which thrilled me such as "The Spy Who Loved Me" with the scene of the Lotus Esprit chase and the above opening scene of him falling seemingly forever until that Union Jack parachute opened up to the famous theme song. I heard that audiences in the UK screamed their approval at that point.

I can't remember which character I saw first portrayed by Sir Roger but I vaguely remember seeing him in black-&-white episodes of "The Saint" when he was playing the debonair Simon Templar. Man of adventure, catchy theme song, very British....I'm sure it wasn't too difficult for producers to choose him when Connery decided to finally leave the role.

Now, folks, before I completely go over the line and turn this article into the blog's first 007 entry, I would like to say that in the Japanese-dubbed version of Moore's Bond movies, he was voiced by the late seiyuu and narrator Taichiro Hirokawa(広川太一郎). Hirokawa, of course, didn't make Bond his sole bread-and-butter. He took on a lot of roles including that of another British crime-busting legend, Sherlock Holmes.

The thing is, though, that his Holmes was a dog. In fact, all of the characters in the anime "Meitantei Holmes"(名探偵ホームズ...Sherlock Hound)were dogs. If the style of the 1984 anime looks rather familiar to you, it may be because that the first handful of episodes were directed by Hayao Miyazaki(宮崎駿). The above is the English-dubbed version.

The opening theme for "Meitantei Holmes" is "Sora kara Koboreta STORY" (The Story That Spilled From The Sky), performed by the folk-pop duo Da Capo(ダ・カーポ). Man, they sure don't make anison like that anymore (I kinda miss that relaxing style). Created by lyricist Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composer Ken Sato(佐藤健), the song sounds perfect for a Miyazaki flick! Plus, the duo did their best to bring in the British flavour into the arrangement. It kinda straddles between what I would imagine the soundtrack for an animated Sherlock Holmes for kids would sound like and a bouncier contemporary beat. It's certainly different than any of the themes for "Meitantei Conan"(名探偵コナン...Case Closed).

Try as I might, I couldn't find Hirokawa voicing Moore anywhere but perhaps he is represented in this Japanese ad for the DVD-BOX set for the 007 movies.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Parade (パレード)

I was listening to Disc 1 of Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)"OPUS 〜ALL TIME BEST 1975-2012〜" earlier this afternoon. Gotta say that even one disc of his is enough to uplift the spirit...right from his starting days of New Music going into his years of City Pop. I'm also happy to say that there is still a number of songs by him to explore for the blog.

One such song is "Parade". Now I actually introduced the song many months ago back in 2015 through EPO's cover of it in her well-regarded 1982 album "Goodies". I did say there that I would talk about Tats' original "soon" but of course, me being me, promises are often forgotten and I did the same here. Well, as I have always said, better late than never.

"Parade" was originally a track on the album "NIAGARA TRIANGLE Vol.1" from March 1976. The album involved having Yamashita collaborate with fellow singer-songwriters Eiichi Ohtaki(大滝詠一)and Ginji Ito(伊藤銀次)to get some songs together on the same LP. They were also helped out by Tats' buddy from his old band Sugar Babe, Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)and two-thirds of the future Yellow Magic Orchestra, Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)and Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)among some other big lights in New Music.

As for "Parade", whereas the track on that 2012 BEST compilation cuts to the chase, apparently the original version is book-ended by a rolling piano intro and some sort of background music at the end. Perhaps Yamashita wanted "Parade" to feel as if the song suddenly burst in like a real impromptu parade down the main street, capturing everyone's attention for those few minutes. I can also say it's like a melodic sunny day with that nice dollop of 70s soul put in there to support his joyous vocals (I always envision colourful balloons floating into the sky as I hear him).

Considering that I've often featured Yamashita's late 70s/early 80s City Pop work, "Parade" is an interesting example of some happy-go-lucky New Music without too much of that feeling of being in the big city. However, it is darn summery which has been another characteristic of his discography.

As someone who used to catch the Fuji-TV morning kids' program "Ponkikies"(ポンキッキーズ)after waking up, the above video is natsukashii. It was the custom of the program to provide a happy musical ending to each episode and I did remember this thing about a group of talented girls bopping about with brolleys while a song was playing. I just didn't know at the time that it was Tats and "Parade".

For some reason, "Parade" was even released as a single (his 26th) in January 1994, perhaps in favourable response to the "Ponkikies" ending. It did modestly well by peaking at No. 29. As for "NIAGARA TRIANGLE Vol.1", it also reached as high as No. 29 as an LP.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chisato Moritaka -- HEY VODKA

I wasn't going to disembark the Harmony of the Seas without having at least one order filled by the robot bartenders Bio and Nic at the Bionic Bar. And so a little over halfway during my voyage, I decided to have a seat at the bar and made my order via a Samsung tablet with the help of the bonny Russian manager of the premises. I went with the classic rum and coke. I would have ordered something a bit more ambitious so that one of the robots would have gotten a workout with the shaker but alas, I couldn't recognize too many of the cocktails listed.

The rum and coke came out very well, though. In fact, it worked so well that it took me a few seconds to sign my name for my purchases later that night. Furthermore, the wonderful thing is that I don't need to tip a robot...just a squeeze of oil now and then, probably.

My anecdote is just the thing to introduce another whimsical Chisato Moritaka(森高千里)song. This time, it's "HEY VODKA" to add onto her other alcohol-themed tunes, "Gin Gin Jingle Bell"(ジン・ジン・ジングル・ベル)and "Kibun Sokai"(気分爽快). Just like those two, "HEY VODKA" was also a campaign song for a booze ad; in this case, it was for Suntory's Ice Vodka.

Moritaka's tribute to the Russian liquor (at least, the self-cover version above) may well as be the sister to "Gin Gin Jingle Bell" since it has that similar Latin Lounge music vibe. The singer-songwriter also provided the melody while Doushee Uozuka(ドーシー魚塚)gave the lyrics about how wonderful vodka is as one of the ultimate mixers. I had almost forgotten about this one until I heard it again; yup, I now remember catching it on TV way back when.

Like "Gin Gin Jingle Bell", "HEY VODKA" was also a track on Moritaka's 11th album, "TAIYO" from July 1996. The above video is for an updated version, and may I say that the lass was still looking pretty fine although she no longer wore those techno-aidoru duds.

To wrap up, I managed to track down the original commercial for that Ice Vodka.

Junko Ohashi -- Telephone Number

The above photo is of one of the soaring skyscrapers in the Roppongi Hills area, Mori Tower. Roppongi Hills made quite an impression when it was finally opened to the public over a decade ago in 2003. It made quite the contrast with the old main strip of seediness in Roppongi. Along with the modern towers, there were stylish restaurants and cafes, a huge cineplex and a revamped TV Asahi headquarters among other facilities. Plus, once the Yuletide comes around (which would be right after midnight November 1st), Roppongi Hills becomes quite the magnet for the Xmas seekers with the illumination and all. The only thing I regret not seeing there anymore is the old WAVE CD shop

I visited the complex a number of times during my time in Tokyo. There were all the movies I caught at the cineplex (including "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005 at the VIP theatre; if I'm gonna watch a bad "Star Wars" movie, I might as well drink down my fair share of alcohol while doing so). Also, I usually met a student at the 4th floor cafe on Monday mornings.

Roppongi Hills added some new trim to the old neighbourhood, and after that, Tokyo Midtown, another trendy commercial complex got its debut not too far away from the main Roppongi intersection in 2007.

Well, if I'm going to talk about one of my old urban haunts, I ought to place a nice City Pop song in here. And so here is Junko Ohashi's(大橋純子)"Telephone Number" from her BEST album of July 1983, "Magical". With a firm but not too loud "AWOOOOO", Ohashi gives another lovely reason in song why the city can be so enticing. The song was originally on her August 1981 album "Tea For Tears".

Ohashi's husband, Ken Sato(佐藤健), provided the music to walk the streets by and Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)took care of the lyrics. Tokyo can be quite magical in itself but then again with "Magical" showing the sunset skyline of Manhattan, any large city can show its good side with the right type of music.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shikao Suga -- Ogon no Tsuki (黄金の月)

Shikao Suga(スガシカオ)is a singer-songwriter whom I've often considered to be somewhat of a mysterious ghost-like figure. Part of the reason is that I haven't actively pursued his works, and by the same token, I don't think he has ever shown all that much need to be loved by Oricon although his singles have made their way up to various positions on the singles and albums charts. Plus, his music which I can describe as mellow guitar pop along with his slightly raspy vocals are fairly low key in an appealing way. But again, as being someone who is not particularly a fan of his, I've just seen him come and go over the years. Of course, he was also the fellow who came up with "Yozora no Mukou"(夜空ノムコウ), one of SMAP's biggest hits.

A few weeks ago, Suga showed up on an episode of "Uta Kon"(うたコン)to perform this number, "Ogon no Tsuki" (Golden Moon). This was his 2nd single released in May 1997, and although it got no higher than No. 72 on Oricon, I enjoyed the performance on the NHK broadcast. And then I saw the video above and appreciated it even more. It reminded me why whenever I did see a Suga performance, I was always quite happy for the experience although the song didn't stay in my head like any earworm. However, I am wondering about investing in one of his BEST collections.

There have been a few concert performances of "Ogon no Tsuki" but I have to admit that I prefer the original recording. It's just straight-ahead pop with no unnecessary frills and no vocal/instrumental acrobatics. However, I can understand why fans would love to hear it from him live. Apparently, the song was also used in the 2005 Fuji-TV anime "Hachimitsu to Clover"(ハチミツとクローバー...Honey And Clover), a show that Suga contributed a number of his tunes.

The single was also a track on his 2nd album from September 1997, "Clover" which peaked at No. 10.

Being someone who has a passing interest in the derivation of Japanese names, I was rather drawn to that name Shikao. It is his actual first name with the kanji appearing as「止戈男」. According to the J-Wiki article for him, it means "the man who stops wars". I also found out that the singer is quite the fan of idea whether he was ever a Pink Lady fan. However, that same article noted that his music has been influenced by the band Flying Kids (and yup, they're represented here, too) and is given a good injection of soul and funk.

Ichimaru -- Tenryu Kudareba (天竜下れば)

Referring to the most recent episode of "Uta Kon"(うたコン), the theme for last night was water, and I think the old kayo liked to pay tribute to Japan's fair share of waterways ranging from rivers to oceans.

The name Ichimaru(市丸)popped up again last night on the NHK program. Some months ago, I wrote an article about this interesting synthesis of shamisen and swing music called "Shamisen Boogie-Woogie"(三味線ブギウギ)that had originally been sung by the geisha-singer when she was entranced by American jazz in the postwar era.

Well, the song that was performed last night was one of her earlier hits, "Tenryu Kudareba" (Going Down The Tenryu River). Released in 1933, this song is pure enka in which Ichimaru pays tribute to this flowing waterway that passes through Nagano, Aichi and Shizuoka Prefectures. It may have had some special meaning to the singer since she was born in Nagano.

One of the other reasons that I decided to put this song up was that I recently spoke with my old university buddy who, along with her daughter, has been practicing Japanese dance for many years. She informed me that some of her friends in dancing have actually been taking a look at this blog, presumably for some of the enka songs that could be performed through odori. And I think "Tenryu Kudareba" may fit into that category. So if any of you see this, thank you for your patronage and please give Laura a shoutout. I'll be seeing her in a couple of weeks anyways to catch "Wonder Woman" with her family.

"Tenryu Kudareba" was written by Mikihiko Nagata(長田幹彦)and composed by Shinpei Nakayama(中山晋平).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kaori Kozai -- Wasurebana (わすれ花)

I've usually found my favourite enka tunes way back in the past but from time to time, I find some nice examples of the genre being developed in the last few years.

Of course, NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)is my prime source for the new enka, and tonight was no different. Kaori Kozai(香西かおり)brought her latest single from this year (April 2017) onto the stage, and I have to admit that I fell in love with that French accordion which gives the song a feeling of a nice waltz. "Wasurebana" is Kozai singing about remembering a romance that has now ended so of course, the tender and wistful memories come flowing forth.

Written by Makoto Kitajo(喜多條忠)and composed by Tetsuya Gen(弦哲也), I had initially assumed that wasurebana referred to "forget-me-nots" but according to my usual online dictionaries, those flowers have different names in Japanese. Therefore I guess I will translate the title as Flowers To Forget. However, I don't think Kozai's heroine particularly wants to forget the good times just yet. And certainly with that lovely accordion in there, I really don't want to forget this little gem, either. Incidentally, the single has been released to commemorate the singer's 30th anniversary in the music industry.

(empty karaoke version)

Yubisaki Nohaku -- Nanigashi (なにがし)

One of the best (and most beautiful) (and most badass!) all-female bands in the world who play passionate, quirky prog-rock. Fans of Tricot are sure to fall in love.

This was the quotation describing this band Yubisaki Nohaku(指先ノハク)in the May edition of "Bento Box", the local free magazine on Japanese restaurants (and other aspects of Japanese culture) in Toronto. Once a year, a page is set aside to focus on Next Music from Tokyo (NMFT) which is a tour spearheaded by Steven Tanaka (also from Toronto), a great lover of the underground music scene in Japan. In fact, he has been so passionate about it that he launched a cross-Canada tour introducing some of the more interesting underground bands 10 years ago.

Yubisaki Nohaku was one of the bands that joined the tour this year (May 19-24), and it started its life almost a decade back, initially under the name of Raditz in 2008 before the name change three years later. The four members of the band are vocalist Kana Shimizu(清水加奈), guitarist Junko Kimura(木村順子), bassist Ikuko Miyakoshi(宮腰侑子)and drummer Yumiko Takeuchi(竹内裕美子).

I like their 4th single from February 2015, "Nanigashi" (Mr. So-and-so) that was created by Miyakoshi which seems to be a mild indictment on the lack of conversational clarity among friends. The music video actually makes that clear with the band members goofing it up in a beauty salon as two of them futilely attempt to describe what kind of hair style they want to their frustrated stylists. According to their profile, Yubisaki Nohaku are fans of Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)and I think there is a bit of her feeling in "Nanigashi".

The single also made its way to Yubisaki Nohaku's 1st mini-album "Sakana"(肴...The Appetizer)which came out in August 2015. There's not a whole bunch of English-language information on the band although I found this webpage. As for Tanaka's work for NMFT, you can take a look here.

Joe Yamanaka -- Ningen no Shomei (人間の証明)

The above photo is of the late Joe Yamanaka(ジョー山中)who was born Akira Yamanaka(山中明)in Yokohama back in 1946. He was a singer and an actor who I knew for just one song. I first heard it when I was watching an episode of "19XX Bokutachi no Natsukashii Melody"(僕たちの懐かしいメロディー), a late-night Fuji-TV half-hour without any hosts which provided excerpts of news from a certain year along with the popular music at that time.

The song was "Ningen no Shomei" (Proof of the Man) and at the time I heard the song on "19XX", the video which accompanied it was apparently from the 1977 movie of the same name with a hat flying off into the sky. I had no idea what it was all about but later found out that it involved the death of a young man at the hands of his own mother.

"Ningen no Shomei" has a synopsis on Wikipedia but the story sounds like a neo-film noir which starred Yusaku Matsuda(松田優作), George Kennedy and Joe Yamanaka himself as the victim which starts the plot off.

I never saw the movie but it's the theme song that has stayed with me all those years since it is such a soulful elegy. The lyrics by Yaso Saijo(西条八十), Haruki Kadokawa(角川春樹)and Yamanaka rather reflect the latter's character's message to his mother from heaven, perhaps with some forgiveness for the heinous act that she had committed. Yuji Ohno(大野雄二)provided the music that would probably have folks in a bar contemplate life.

Hachiro Kasuga -- I Love You, Madam (アイ・ラブ・ユー・マダム)

 That's pretty hot. Um, I mean,
what a fine-looking gentleman.

Wowsers, Hachiro Kasuga (春日八郎) was quite the looker back in the day! I would even say he looked rather dandy, and those are words I usually reserve for the likes of Hiroshi Tachi; the enka/ryukoka bunch... eh, not so much, or actually, not ever (until now).

Anyway, I've recently discovered this YouTube channel that uploads the First Enka Singer's works from around the time of his debut to his later days (70's into the 80's), and sampling many entries from his discography that hardly see the light of day was fascinating. Out of the gems I've grown to love and include in my playlist, I have to say that "I Love You, Madam" from 1958 was an entry I'd least expect to see as one of his original singles. At the same time, it was the one that had me at full attention just from the title alone, with it being in all-katakana and having a Western connotation. It ain't your standard Kasuga-bushi, alright, but it does fit the singer's look in the photo above.

Continuing with the deviation from a Kasuga-bushi, "I Love You, Madam" lacks a Japanese sound. Instead, Isao Hayashi (林伊佐緒), who was known for composing Western-sounding numbers just as well as traditional enka/Mood Kayo tunes, created a jaunty, jazzy melody that feels fit for a cabaret from the trumpets' sharp bursts and the hissing cymbals. Speaking of cabaret, Hachi used to perform at one such establishment named Moulin Rouge - nope, not the one in Montmartre, Paris, this one's in Shinjuku, Tokyo, if I'm not mistaken - before he became a prominent figure in the music world.

Coming back to the song itself, Jusaburo Tojo (東條寿三郎) was in charge of the flirty lyrics which has our protagonist professing his love for/trying to woo the lovely dame. Well, considering how suave 50's Kasuga was, I'm pretty sure the titular madam would be putty in his hands.

P.S. Ordinarily, I'd complete the Yonin Shu set of articles by writing one article each for Michi, Muchi, and Minami, but I've yet to come up with solid ideas for the latter veterans, so this Hachi one will be a standalone entry.

Yuzo Kayama and The Launchers -- Black Sand Beach (ブラック・サンド・ビーチ)

Note: This article was meant to go up last month, but due to the number of things stacked on my plate from late April till the end of last week, I decided to give writing a break. Things have mostly settled down for now and I'm done with slothing around in the aftermath, so, I'm back! When reading this post, imagine that we're still in the middle of April.

Just a couple of weeks ago, everyone's favourite talented nice guy from the 60's hit 80 years of age as of 11th April 2017 (whew)! Congrats to Yuzo Kayama (加山雄三) on this milestone, and may he last as long or longer than Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫) did - my other guitar hero lasted till the ripe old age of 94. As mentioned on "Uta Kon" last week, in commemoration of his 80th birthday, or Sanju (傘寿), Kayama's title of Wakadaisho seemed to be upgraded to "Eien no Wakadaisho" (永遠の若大将... The Eternal Wakadaisho) - none before him, and none after.

While it was definitely wonderful to still be able to see such a cool icon from way back in the day alive and kicking and strumming his shiny, red electric guitar on the NHK stage, I couldn't help but feel a hint of poignancy as the episode also payed the late Peggy Hayama (ペギー葉山) a tribute. She was only a few years Kayama's senior when she passed on, which reminded me that the Wakadaisho is not as immortal as his new title suggests... Man, when he's gone I'm pretty sure it'll hit me like a ton of bricks.

Alright, sorry for being morbid there, it was just something that crossed my mind. On a lighter note, I too wanted to pay Kayama a little tribute with an article. It took me a while to think of what song to talk about since most of my favourites have been accounted for in KKP, but I eventually found "Black Sand Beach" via the medley at the start of the write-up. 

This instrumental piece is filled with the deep twang from the electric guitar and the soaring synths at the "chorus", and it's got a strong beach/surfer dude vibe fitting of the Wakadaisho's image during the mid 60's. One can imagine the tanned Kayama catching some waves and wiping out along the Hawaiian coast/a black sand beach. I'm not a fan of instrumental pieces because part of why I enjoy listening to music is a singer's vocals, but "Black Sand Beach" is one of those rare exceptions; it's way too cool and catchy to ignore.

"Black Sand Beach" was released on 5th December 1965, together with Kayama's eternal hit, "Kimi to Itsumademo". Accompanying him in this single was the Group Sounds band The Launchers or as J-Canuck mentioned in "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" (真冬の帰り道), The Launchers 2.0 that includes Kayama's cousins. "Black Sand Beach" was featured in the 6th installment of the Wakadaisho movie series, "Ereki no Wakadaisho" (エレキの若大将). You can check out a snippet of it in the second video where the Wakadaisho, looking preppy and as stiff as a board, and his band are competing in some sort of electric guitar version of Nodojiman, and of course, with skills like that, the welcomed chime of the bells came immediately after. (Hai, tsugi no kata dozo!)

Oh, dang...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stardust Revue -- Ginza Neon Paradise (銀座ネオン・パラダイス)

I was sampling some of Stardust Revue's(スターダストレビュー)earlier singles and got the impression that the band started life as a somewhat quasi-retro unit bringing some good-time honky-tonk jazz and swing to kayo kyoku.

Case in point: their 2nd single from November 1981, "Ginza Neon Paradise". I couldn't track down the original recorded version but it sounds like the song was a crowdpleaser at their concerts. Written by vocalist Kaname Nemoto(根本要)and also composed by him along with Akira Tejima and Noriko Kinai(手島昭・きないのりこ), I could even hear that feeling of Dixieland; the only instrument missing perhaps is a banjo. The more I hear it, the more I think it's pretty fun to take part in the chorus.

From what I've heard from folks and other sources, Ginza was once a very well-lit place during the boom years of the Japanese economy. However, even during my time there which was supposedly well after the era of the Bubble, things still looked pretty bright in one of Tokyo's tony neighbourhoods. I still couldn't really place an early 20th-century jazz song there, though. It still sounds like a place for Mood Kayo.

m-flo loves BoA -- the Love Bug

Spoke about "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" in my last article and one of the big guest stars in there was Kurt Russell as Ego, The Living Planet.

However, I first knew about Russell when he was acting in all those crazy Disney comedy movies of the 1970s...titles like "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" and "The Strongest Man in the World".

Speaking of Walt Disney, another oft-seen movie series from the Mouse House on Sunday nights on TV was the "Love Bug" series starring Dean Jones with a seemingly sentient Volkswagen Beetle called Herbie. I enjoyed plenty of hilarity as a little kid watching all these movies on NBC.

So you can imagine several decades later my surprise when I heard that there was a song with that title "the Love Bug" by m-flo and BoA. Not sure whether VERBAL and company had been giving a shout out to the Disney character but then again, the guys did pay some tribute to another American TV chestnut "Star Trek".

As part of the "m-flo loves..." series, this was released in March 2004 although no VW Beetles were involved. I've featured some of the other songs from the series such as "Summer Time Love" with Emi Hinouchi and Ryohei, and they all follow the similar formula of a pretty upbeat arrangement with the guest singers putting in their part while VERBAL floats in and out like a takekoputa (inside joke) plus provides some mid-song rap. "the Love Bug" is apparently the second in the series and I remember it best for BoA giving her "hip hop" patter.

The song was m-flo's 16th single which went Gold as it peaked at No. 8 on Oricon. It also appeared on the group's 3rd album "ASTROMANTIC" from May 2004. That album hit No. 2 and ended up as the 42nd-ranked release of the year, going Double Platinum.

Kumi Miyasato -- Kaze no Lullaby (風のララバイ)

Well, happy Victoria Day to my fellow Canadians. I can hear some of the fireworks outside. Got together with a couple of my movie buddies in Toronto to catch one of the more anticipated blockbusters for 2017, "Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2". And it didn't disappoint. My anime buddy last week told me that he wasn't all that thrilled with it but I still had a good time, and strangely enough, there were even some poignant scenes at the end...I can guarantee if this had been released closer to Father's Day, there would have been some major waterworks from the guys. Finally, I did love the ending credits with most of the cast boogeying down (even Karen Gillan) along with David Hasselhoff chiming in.

Yesterday when I was doing the routine with my anime buddy, he put on a song that he hadn't done before during the music section of our session. It happened to be "Kaze no Lullaby" (Lullaby of the Wind), a ballad that had been included in the anime "Megazone 23" from 1985.

I barely remember that particular show although it was shown at U of T by somebody back in the day. Mind you, I do remember one scene from the 2nd part of "Megazone 23" in which a jet pilot gets ripped apart by a bunch of tentacles....I couldn't remember anything else including the sex scenes, and yet I remember that evisceration....kinda wish I could un-remember it.

"Kaze no Lullaby" was recorded by Kumi Miyasato(宮里久美)who actually had a starring role in the anime and my buddy told me that she had been groomed to be another Mari Iijima(飯島真理)who was immortalized because of her iconic character Lynn Minmay from "Macross". Miyasato didn't quite make that level of fame apparently (she left showbiz in 1989) but I did enjoy "Kaze no Lullaby" which has that gentle and classy European-sounding melody reminiscent of Gazebo's "I Love Chopin" which was famously covered by actress-singer Asami Kobayashi(小林麻美)as "Ame Oto wa Chopin no Shirabe"(雨音はショパンの調べ). I've heard other songs by young female Japanese singers with a similar arrangement in the 1980s which makes me wonder whether the Gazebo hit had become quite the influence.

The song was written by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composed by Hiroaki Serizawa(芹澤廣明), and it was a track on Miyasato's debut album "Hitomi de Whispering"(瞳でウィスパリング...Whispering With My Eyes)from October 1985.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kengo Kurozumi -- You & Me

Got Kengo Kurozumi's(黒住憲五)2nd article here as one of those mysterious singers who I could only find out about through "Japanese City Pop".

I swear that listening to "You and Me" which is a track on his 5th album "Pillow Talk" from 1989, the groovy orange mimosa-friendly tune was something out of the mid-1980s or even earlier. The arrangement might be more updated but I could feel the Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)in there. The music was by Kurozumi with lyrics by Dereck Jackson.

With all those horns and guitar in there, I think this would have been something that Sing Like Talking could have done this as well. And what a group of session musicians in there: Jeff Porcaro and Michael Landau among others. Another one of those feel-good summer songs.

Finger Five/Momoe Yamaguchi/Caocao/misono -- Kojin Jugyō(個人授業)

Lovely cool day....airing out my room by having the windows open. I'm sure a lot of other folks are out there on the beginning of this long Victoria Day weekend. May be catching "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" on Monday with a couple of friends. The reviews have been good although it doesn't seem to be as well-regarded as the first one but not too surprised on that assessment. Nope, the big shocker is hearing all of the pre-release raves for "Wonder Woman". The DC Expanded Universe has been praying that one of its movies would finally get a break, and it looks like it has arrived.

There's been a fellow who's been putting up hour-long videos with a whole ton of notable kayo kyoku excerpts from certain years squeezed in. I decided to listen to one of them...1974, to be exact. The first few songs are tunes that I've already written about so I was hoping that there would be one that I had yet to hear. At about 1:40, I found one.

But it was by a group that I have written about before. Finger Five(フィンガー5)had always struck me as being the Japanese analogy of The Jackson Five, and for some reason this new song that hit upon my ears and brain thrust that point home especially. "Kojin Jugyō" (Private Lessons), mind you, is more cute pop than R&B but otherwise the sentiment was there.

Released in August 1973 as Finger Five's 2nd single  (there were 3 singles in 1970 under their old name of Baby Brothers), "Kojin Jugyō" was created by the same duo behind all those later Pink Lady hits, Yu Aku and Shunichi Tokura(阿久悠・都倉俊一). The story behind the song is very simple: a kid's puppy love for his tutor. The song hit No. 1 on Oricon and became a long-lasting single, becoming the 18th-ranked song for the year and hanging on at No. 27 in the annual rankings for 1974.

Quite the interesting development here. Near the end of 1973, a very young Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)saw her 2nd album, "Aoi Kajitsu/Kinjirareta Asobi"(青い果実/禁じられた遊び)released with one of the tracks being a cover of "Kojin Jugyō". Considering all of the deep-voiced hits that she provided in the latter half of the decade, it was fascinating to hear her sound just like Finger Five lead vocalist Kazuo Tamamoto(玉元一夫). The album itself managed to reach as high as No. 26.

Let's jump ahead by a few decades into the 21st century. Once again, I was given a bit of a jolt in finding out that comely Kaori Mochida(持田香織)of 90s pop/rock unit Every Little Thing and Takao Tajima(田島貴男)of Original Love got together in 2009 to make the duo Caocao to do their own cover of "Kojin Jugyō". The music video has them going all 70s groovy in front of a rapturous high school crowd. One of my students who was a huge fan of all things hippie and Haight-Ashbury could appreciate this. The cover also got some appreciation from other folks as well since it ranked in at No. 22 on the singles charts.

I knew that misono that, along with the fact that she is Kumi Koda's(倖田來未)younger sister, she also sang herself. However, I mostly saw her as a tarento popping up on TV game shows and other variety programs. In 2006, though, she sang her own version of "Kojin Jugyō" as her 2nd single. It's got an even more rock treatment and the video is pretty clever as she poses as a Cinderella in a high school. It ranked in at No. 15.