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, February 28, 2018

Yoko Kanno -- The Vision of Escaflowne / Hiroki Wada -- Mystic Eyes

Between all of the old anime that I dearly enjoyed as a kid in the 1970s and early 1980s such as "Gatchaman"(ガッチャマン), "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト)and "Macross"(マクロス)and the stuff that I've been watching currently in this decade, there is a huge gap of about 20 years in which the anime world was largely unknown to me ("Sailor Moon" is a big exception). When I came back briefly to Toronto in the early 1990s, my anime buddy was still doing his presentations at University of Toronto and I either helped out or watched movies such as "Patlabor II" at one of the Engineering buildings. But basically, some of the big anime including "Five Star Stories" and "Evangelion" were just words to me. And don't even bother asking me about any of the Macross sequels; I have no idea and I don't really care.

From time to time during the anison hour at my friend's place, he plays some of the old stuff and recently he played a couple of pieces attached to the classic "Tenku no Escaflowne"(天空のエスカフローネ...The Vision of Escaflowne), an ever-flowery title for an anime. Again, it was one of those titles that I have heard about over the years but frankly every time I heard that name, I couldn't help but think of an Italian cheese used in desserts.

Having said that, master composer Yoko Kanno(菅野よう子)came up with a whopper of an instrumental with "The Vision of Escaflowne" track from the 2nd soundtrack for the show. Who would have thought of having Gregorian chants introduced into such an album and then paired with some dramatic percussion? It's cool and haunting at the same time. I would think that this was the musical prelude before the epic final battle...between robot armies.

But then I did a Japanese comedian's pratfall when my friend played the ending theme of "Escaflowne", "Mystic Eyes" by Hiroki Wada(和田弘樹). I just imagined all those Gregorian monks suddenly ripping off their robes and hitting the dance floor like landed fish. Perhaps conversations may have started like this: "Brother Roderick, thy RUNNING MAN is truly divine!" "My thanks, Brother Oswald, but thou dost danceth your KID N' PLAY like a BOSS!" Aye, those were funky times for the kingdom.

Well, yeah! That is some pretty serious dance music by Wada who also wrote and composed "Mystic Eyes". This was his third single released in April 1996 and perhaps he was channeling his inner Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉). He goes by the name h-wonder now and has arranged music for a lot of other singers, especially Exile and Kumi Koda(倖田來未). Wada also hails from Funabashi City in Chiba Prefecture, a city that is right next to my old burg of Ichikawa.

Hey, speaking of those old 90s dance moves...

EPO/Kunio Muramatsu -- Mugon no Jealousy(無言のジェラシー)

Along with a lot of the other singer-songwriters of the time, love in all of its manifestations, good or bad, was a favourite topic for one of my favourite chanteuses, EPO.

Over here, EPO takes on the green-eyed monster that is jealousy through "Mugon no Jealousy" (Jealousy Without A Word) which was a track on her 5th album "Vitamin E-P-O" from April 1983. Not sure if the protagonist here is going after a past love or a love-yet-to-be, but the person is bent out of shape about the target of his/her affections perhaps getting together with a new love.

The notable thing about "Mugon no Jealousy" is the music by EPO herself. It has that sort of funky rumble that I had initially couldn't quite place but then I took a look at the comments for the video above, and one person remarked that it felt absolutely like The Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love", so perhaps some late Motown in there. Not so certain that it's an absolute thing but I got at least a hint of it. What I did pick up on was near the end when the melody got some choppiness a la Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good", so perhaps Motown going into fusion.

Kunio Muramatsu(村松邦男)from Sugar Babe did a cover of "Mugon no Jealousy" for his debut solo album "Green Water" which came out some months after "Vitamin E-P-O" in September 1983. Titled simply "Jealousy", he replaced EPO's lyrics with his own, and it sounds more like a City Pop tune to my ears with that horn section. Muramatsu has a softer delivery here in contrast with the original singer's oomph.

Natsu Summer -- Hello, future day / Koi No Timing

Humans have an innate urge to categorize and with music the first thing asked is usually "what style" ?  While everyone says they know what Reggae is, the musical, religious, and socio-political aspects are best left to the anthro-ethno-musicologists.  I like the terms "city pop reggae", or "tropical" ( a format recognized by Nielson and Billboard in the US ) with emotive connotations of languid, limpid, swaying, and peaceful undercut with a thick bass, chopping guitar,and rhythms that roll like waves onto the beach.  When J-C posted "Jamaican Affair" by Yuki Okazaki early last summer, I thought of Natsu Summer ( ナツ・サマー )- and while it's still winter .....

Natsu's real name is Natsuki and she was born in Ehime in July, so her producer punned it into Natsu Summer (he says he was drunk).  She was influenced by her parents' tastes and considers herself both a city pop and reggae singer.  Her producer is Cunimondo Takiguchi (クニモンド瀧口), originally behind Ryusenkei (already covered in KK+), and he's pitched her music towards the DJ and Club scene while striving for an 80's and 90's feel. 

While she debuted in 2016 I first knew of her a year ago through the wonderfully entertaining - if hellacious to read in translation - blog of DJ Takehiro Gold.  Her voice is distinctive, light and clear, and with little of the affectation often heard in non-Jamaican reggae.  Production is very clean and yields a sparse, almost pure sound - in headphones the instrument separation is a joy to hear.  This keeps the music light and floating; less reggae - more tropical.

So far Natsu has released mini-CDs, a full-length CD, and some analog boards (a popular trend these days).  Here are excerpts from the full CD "Hello, future day"

The sound is not a slave to any particular category but mixes different types into a stylish mélange; discussing influences she and Cunimondo hit all the bases: Yuming, Yamashita, Miki Imai, Anri, even Microstar.  "Hello, future day" is an eclectic selection that, as describes it, is full of the "urban night smell" 😊

The single released - Koi No Timing ( 恋のタイミング ) - will sustain me through the rest of winter until a future (spring) day .....

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Keiko Fuji -- Aka Chochin Blues(赤ちょうちんブルース)

Came across this unusual Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)song today. I say "unusual" because "Aka Chochin Blues" (Red Lantern Blues) is pretty darn sprightly for a Fuji song, and an enka tune to boot, since I've been accustomed to her much darker Mood Kayo outings from the early 1970s. And although it does have the word "blues" in there, I'm not sure whether Fuji's bar mama-san is really all that down in the dumps as she describes the trials and tribulations of owning a watering hole for the variety of drunken fellows.

Words and music were provided by Daisaburo Nakayama(中山大三郎)and Toru Funamura(船村徹) respectively. The music by Funamura was especially notable in that with the skippy melody and the clarinet in there, I wondered whether he was going for something reminiscent of a chindon'ya(チンドン屋), the Japanese traditional marching band. It definitely puts an interesting kick into the proceedings.

"Aka Chochin Blues" was released as the B-side to Fuji's 35th single from October 1979, "Kawaii Onna"(可愛い女...Pretty Woman).

Goro Noguchi -- Shitetsu Ensen(私鉄沿線)

The above photo is of the platform of my old subway station, Minami-Gyotoku Station, on the Tozai Line in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture. I took the shot during my 2014 trip there and if you take a look at the clock, it was just a bit before 2 pm so barely anybody was there. Of course, the opposite was true during the morning and evening rush hours. I managed to avoid most of those due to the odd nature of my work but once in a while, I had to join the literal mass of humanity in one of the most uncomfortable commuting experiences known to Man.

Wanted to talk about something more old-fashioned today so I went searching for a 1970s kayo, and found this one by aidoru Goro Noguchi(野口五郎)titled "Shitetsu Ensen" (Along The Private Railway Line) that was released as his 15th single in January 1975. The timing of this release must have been quite good and calculated since there is something quite wistful and melancholy about waiting for a train in the cold weather, and Noguchi's heartfelt delivery of a man reminiscing about a past love who he would always wait for at the station hits the soul.

Found some trivia regarding "Shitetsu Ensen". Apparently, according to a February 4th 2017 Asahi Shimbun article via J-Wiki, there had been some resistance to the title since the naysayers were grumbling that it didn't sound particularly kayo-esque. I was initially surprised by that point since there have been plenty of train-themed songs in the old Japanese Songbook, but again I was reminded that it was the title at issue, and perhaps "Shitetsu Ensen" sounded a little too dry. Maybe something like "Shitsuren Shitetsu"(失恋私鉄...Heartbreak Private Line) was something that they were looking for.

As well, from the same Asahi Shimbun article, there were thoughts that the song had been referring to the Meitetsu Minomachi Line(名鉄美濃町線)that ran through Goro's hometown, but the lyricist Michio Yamagami(山上路夫)actually based the lyrics on his own impressions from traveling on the private train line for the suburbs when he was a young guy.

The composer for "Shitetsu Ensen" was Hiroshi Sato(佐藤寛), Noguchi's older brother, not to be confused with the two Hiroshi Satos who actually have some standing in the Labels section of this blog. Sato had come up with an earlier hit for his younger brother in "Ai Futatabi"(愛ふたたび...Love Once More)back in 1974, and again according to the article, the pressure to come up with another successful song for Noguchi was so great that Sato ended up with peptic ulcers.

In the end, though, the song became another hit for Noguchi. It went to No. 1 for about 2 weeks and became the 14th-ranked single for 1975, selling around 1.2 million records. He also received his invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen for his 4th consecutive appearance on the show to perform "Shitetsu Ensen". The song also won 3 awards including a Grand Prize for Performance on the Japan Record Awards for that year. It makes me wonder what those title-hating folks were on about.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Awesome City Club -- Outsider(アウトサイダー)

I mentioned that I saw my good friends for dinner a few nights ago and we shared some information on the contemporary pop music scene in Japan since we share that aspect in common along with our love of food. He tipped me off about a group that he considered to be in the indie pop vein called Awesome City Club. I said that I hadn't heard about them so he gave me the link to their website and their videos on YouTube.

A few hours later, I had to go "Oops!". No, nothing to do with the toilet although the Mexican was wonderfully spicy. My acknowledgement of error was actually due to the fact that I actually wrote about an Awesome City Club song back in 2016 titled "Don't Think, Feel" but had forgotten about them. Apologies to ACC!

"Don't Think, Feel" was their second single so I've checked out their first one, "Outsider" from July 2015. Pretty slick and there is a bit of that retro-pop feeling that I've always liked. To specify, the retro-pop kinda takes me back to times such as the disco of the late 1970s and the early 2000s of poppy Japanese soul. Plus, the music video with all of the band members sporting some snazzy fashion also had me thinking into the past. In a way, the music seemed to connect me with Bruno Mars for some reason.

Bassist Takumi Matsuzaka(マツザカタクミ)and vocalist/guitarist atagi created "Outsider". I was intrigued by how the group came up with the name Awesome City Club so looking at the J-Wiki page for the band, I found out that they had wanted to come up with its own overarching theme of "a soundtrack for an awesome city" to bring the City Pop of the 2010s from Risokyo (which seems to be a merging of "ideal" and "capital city" to mean "utopia") to Tokyo. Matsuzaka had also felt that because all of the 5 members had come in from other bands, the group shouldn't be considered a band per se but a collaborative club of sorts. Then, in an interview on, the bassist also wanted to separate ACC from other bands by avoiding the use of the ordinary word "band" since groups seem to rely on "The" and "-s" to identify themselves.

Hmmm....perhaps Awesome City Club could get itself invited to the Opening Ceremonies in 2020? Anyways, now that my memories are back and the egg has been wiped off my face, I can also add one of this group's albums to my wish list.

Bread & Butter -- Monday Morning

The morning of Monday February 26th...pretty decent out there and not too cold. In addition, I couldn't get more Canadian in that today started with the annual NHL Hockey Trade Deadline broadcast which lasts for 7 hours and is virtually a national event and will end with me having a Swiss Chalet dinner. :)

Yeah, good times. But all that protein and player prognostication can be pretty hectic for a guy like me in Toronto so it's kinda nice when I can settle down with some laid back music. Surely enough, I found this mellow ballad by folk/AOR duo Bread & Butter(ブレッド&バター), "Monday Morning" which was the title track from their 1980 album.

Heck, when I first fell head over heels with Japanese pop music back in 1981, it was all about the enka and aidoru and YMO. I had no idea about AOR on either side of the Pacific and that Japanese musicians could actually make something that would make folks like Gilbert O'Sullivan and Olivia Newton-John sound downright heavy metal. And yet, there were indeed acts such as Bread & Butter.

"Monday Morning" is probably the one song that fans of the duo would have played on their Sony Walkmans as they commuted down to work in Japan. It's so relaxing and fits that album cover of the Iwasawa brothers looking out placidly over the the ocean. The song seems to embody the whole concept of "calm blue ocean". Satsuya Iwasawa(岩沢幸矢)composed the music with Michio Yamagami(山上路夫)coming up with the lyrics of a fellow seemingly enjoying an entire Monday with a loved one...I'm assuming that they are on a seaside vacation although I wonder why he would ever want to wake up at 5 o'clock on a holiday morning. Getting back to the music, I just love that guitar solo near the end.

Monday mornings are probably the least favourite time of the week for most people but perhaps songs like "Monday Morning" can take the edge off to a certain degree.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

GLAY -- Winter, again

"Winter....again?" It's a common utterance by we folks in Toronto around this time whenever we get a major snowfall. The Holidays have long passed us but we're still several weeks away from spring and even then, there is no guarantee that warmer days and no shoveling of the white stuff will have arrived by March 21st. Strangely enough, though, as I am writing this, we have been going through an unusual short spell of warm weather so that very little of the snow remains...although what is left appears like gray/black globs.

Ah, my first paragraph was merely to introduce another big GLAY hit, "Winter, again" from February 1999. And this was a huge success for the rock band fronted by TERU. It not only hit No. 1 for 2 consecutive weeks but it was the 2nd-ranked single for 1999, only beaten by a trio of dough balls. In fact, "Winter, again" is currently the 59th-ranked single in Oricon history. In terms of sales, it is the band's biggest hit, selling approximately 1.65 million copies. The song is also included on GLAY's 5th album, "Heavy Gauge" from October 1999. This was also another huge hit, hitting No. 1 on the weekly charts, becoming the No. 8 album of the year, and currently 50th place in terms of the top albums in Oricon history.

I'd known about this song for years but not being a GLAY fan, I had never really listened to it in its entirety until recently. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, though, I finally heard it and saw the video of the guys performing in the middle of a winter wonderland (or endurance challenge, depending on how long they had to stay out there), and actually realized that it was a pretty decent song especially during the refrain.

The words and music were created by guitarist/keyboardist TAKURO and although the lyrics talk of a man waxing philosophical about his own snow-covered hometown and wanting to show his significant other (who may be temporarily or permanently parted from him), the music makes me think of a Canadian police procedural show that has been getting some success recently, "Cardinal".

Instead, it became the cool jingle for Japan Railways. One other interesting trivia tidbit that I got from the J-Wiki article (although I couldn't find the original source for this information, I found out that this info has been making the rounds on other sites remarking on the song) was that TAKURO had based the delicate intro on the opening to the massive hit theme song from "Titanic", "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion.

Ironically, although GLAY did make an appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen that year (their final time of 3 times), they didn't perform "Winter, again" but instead it was a tune called "Survival" which was also included on "Heavy Gauge". Maybe they couldn't do an adequate job without all of the snow around them? But then again, Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)was still appearing on the Kohaku...couldn't NHK have lent the guys some of that billowing paper snow?

Junko Yagami -- Imagination

I have to admit that I did something that perhaps I shouldn't have and that was to fall for the CD Japan sales ploy of warning me that I have a finite amount of points to use before the expiry date (although I'm not blaming the's my choice). But being the fan that I am for Japanese pop music, there is just so much out there that I would love to purchase and explore. One of the CDs that I had been aiming for was Junko Yagami's(八神純子)"Communication" album from 1985.

As I mentioned in my article for one of the tracks from "Communication", the bubbly and catchy "Cashmere no Hohoemi"(カシミヤのほほえみ), the album was the launch point for a new direction in Yagami's music. Back in the 1970s, her music was punctuated by some Latin-tinged New Music before making a switch into City Pop in the early 1980s, but then with "Communication", she decided to veer into more of the American R&B/pop that was doing very well back then. Regrettably though, no copies of that particular CD exist on CD Japan or Tower Records, and anything from Amazon costs an amount which is too rich for my blood (and I'm already battling high cholesterol, thank you very much). Plus, being an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud traditionalist, I'm not interested in downloaded albums.

Having said that, I would still like to profile one other song from "Communication". In fact, it's the first track "Imagination" which starts out with a bang and a sample of that new sound which seemed to be Yagami's clarion call to all those out there that she's doing something different, so deal with it. Double in fact, I think even Yagami's lyrics kinda hint most assertively that there is a new Junko in town. She basically dares the listener to come and join her.

That synth crash which launches everything at the start makes things sound so quaintly and adorably 80s and I've gotta admit that Yagami's vocals are still amazing, especially when she goes into that second verse. They are just as bright as the synths and the whole song brings her right onto the dance floor. I gather that the Bubble Era of Japan's economy can commence from right here. Anyways, some thirty years later, a Future Funk version of "Imagination" can probably also commence as well.

Kuniko Fukushima -- Bye Bye City

After doing that article for an Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)song that singer-songwriter Kuniko Fukushima(福島邦子)had composed, I decided to see if there were any other tunes that the Okayama Prefecture-born artist herself had recorded.

Sure enough, I was able to find a fun one called "Bye Bye City" that she had released back in 1979 and was also a track on her debut album "I'm Ready" from June of that year. "Bye Bye City" has the feeling of a good road trip song as Fukushima sings about getting a fresh new start somewhere other than her old burg where her friends were drifting away. Fukushima's melody was paired with Takashi Matsumoto's(松本隆)lyrics.

I like the tune for that airy happy tone of 70s American AOR/pop and perhaps even a bit of New Wave through the keyboards especially in the intro. In a way, her voice reminds me of the delivery of Junko Ohashi(大橋純子)in a more down-home environment. I read on both her J-Wiki entry and the YouTube comments for the song that "Bye Bye City" was used as the campaign song for Nihon Car Ferry, now known as Marine Express Co.,Ltd.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Akina Nakamori -- Aitsu wa Joke(アイツはジョーク)

It's sometimes a bit jarring to see Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)now, and then compare her to how she started out in the music business over 30 years ago. When some of us Akina fans on the blog talk about her, we can't help but express some concern considering that fragility she has displayed for many years. And yet, my impression of her early days was that the Tokyo aidoru of the early 1980s had initially been groomed to be the anti-Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)through her music: a punk girl in a school uniform with the big booming hairdo talking rough and tough. Perhaps she was the Rolling Stones to Seiko-chan's Beatles although some of those cute smiling photos of her in "Myojo" and "Heibon" magazines (as above) probably undercut that tsuppari image.

Being an Akina fan, it was those very early days of her career in the early part of the decade that I actually know the least about since my interest in her and her music didn't begin until the middle of the 1980s. So there is stuff to learn about still.

I've come across this track from Akina's 3rd album "Fantasy ~ Gensoukyoku"(ファンタジー〈幻想曲〉...Fantasia)which was released in March 1983 titled "Aitsu wa Joke". Now, as for a little bit of Japanese vocabulary information, aitsu isn't exactly the nicest word to use in public discourse since although it is technically defined as another word to represent the third-person singular (he/she), practically it can mean "that jerk" or worse. So perhaps in the intention of imbuing the translation with Akina's feelings, I will probably go with "Jerk's A Joke".

Written by the late Tsuzuru Nakasato(中里綴)and composed by Kuniko Fukushima(福島邦子), "Aitsu wa Joke" has that sound that I've often associated with early aidoru Akina uptempo tunes: wailing electric guitar, sweeping-and-staccato strings and a slightly lower-than-usual aidoru voice that can straddle between defiance and pleading. I can also hear and understand why Nakamori had been compared to the big aidoru of the previous decade, Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵).

Going through the song's lyrics, Akina spends virtually the entire song castigating a former beau as if he were the most offensive cockroach oozing from under the refrigerator only to give hints that her vitriol may just be a front until the very last line where she basically confesses that he still pines for the lug through the tears reflected in the mirror. I still haven't gone through many of Akina's songs during this time but thematically, the words remind me of one of her early hits "Shojo A"(少女A)in which within all the tough talk, there is that vulnerable hidden center inside of her. Perhaps this was a common trait with her songs.

As for "Fantasy", it did hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies. Well, perhaps this can be another item on the wish list.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Minami Kitasono -- Yuugiri(夕霧)

Always appreciate those tips from collaborators and commenters. The other day, Matt Gallais was kind enough to introduce me to the band Lamp, then he told me about this musician/singer-songwriter by the name of Minami Kitasono(北園みなみ).

There's not a lot of insight into what makes the man tick in terms of his music outside some information on J-Wiki that he started getting into classical music from the age of 23 and that he has recently gotten interested in Baroque-age polyphony. But for me, what makes any singer interesting to me is an ability for his music to come from a variety of sources. That has been the case with Kitasono.

His "Yuugiri" (Evening Mist) from his 2nd mini-album "Lumiere" from July 2015 had me thinking everything from French jazz, Shibuya-kei, the music of Jamiroquai, J-soul from the early 2000s to even 1970s City Pop. A bit of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)of the early 1980s even came to mind. All that from one song.

Matt first sent me the link to a digest of his 2014 debut mini-album "Promenade" and was instantly attracted to it. Some very nice appetizers in there. As someone commented on YouTube, though, it would be nice if he made some full albums in the near future.And as I will comment, quoting from the immortal Meme Man, "cool and good". I gather that "Promenade" and even "Lumiere" will go onto my early Xmas list.

Izumi Yukimura -- Cha-Cha-Cha wa Ikaga(チャチャチャはいかが)

I was just talking with contributor T-cat a couple of hours ago about how much we love the old stuff and noted as well the fact that I slightly consider myself an anachronism I may be. For instance, along with the songs, I do love watching the black-&-whites on Turner Movie Classics. And just last night, I did talk about some jazz at a time when we're approaching a century since the Jazz Age cropped up.

After making my comments to T-cat, on a whim, I decided to visit YouTube and see if there were any Izumi Yukimura(雪村いづみ)songs there. I had already given the veteran singer and actress some attention through a few articles as someone that I first got to know through TV appearances when she was well into middle age.

I'd had no idea how much of a powerhouse singer she was right from her teens and once again, I've discovered another song for her to show off her chops. This is her cover of the American pop song "Ain'tcha-cha Comin' Out T-tonight?" as originally done by Jo Stafford in 1955. Yukimura's version from 1956 was re-titled into the Japanese "Cha-Cha-Cha wa Ikaga" (How About Some Cha-Cha-Cha?).

Now as I said last night, I have liked all kinds of jazz and that also includes the Latin jazz by folks such as Tito Puente and Perez Prado. And of course, there is Japan's Orquesta de la Luz. "Cha-Cha-Cha wa Ikaga" rather gets the spicier side of nostalgia flowing. Yukimura's English delivery is really quite good although I notice that she doesn't quite stutter the "tonight" as she does enunciate the "T" almost like a special prefix. But no complaints here...the song stayed in my head all throughout watching "VS. Arashi" tonight.

Norman Gimbel and Alec Wilder created the original Stafford song with Seiichi Ida(井田誠一)providing the Japanese lyrics for Yukimura. Ida also took care of the Japanese lyrics for Yukimura's cover of "Till I Waltz Again With You", known as "Omoide no Waltz"(想い出のワルツ)in Japan..

Dreams Come True -- Thank You.(サンキュ.)

When I first heard this Dreams Come True song, the band's 17th single from February 1995, the underlying music had this whimsical synth-flute sound that sounded rather familiar but for the life of me, I couldn't identify the source.

All I felt at the time was that "Thank You." was this down-home-in-the-country sounding song whose purpose seemed to be to put people at ease. And the lyrics by vocalist Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和)bring that message as a young lady expresses her gratitude to a loyal friend and hints that she may want to take things to the next level. Note to the friend: seize the day!

Back to the music by Yoshida and bassist Masato Nakamura(中村正人). It wouldn't be years later when I got a BEST compilation of the Pat Metheny Group and heard the various songs there that I put 2+2 together and thought that perhaps "Thank You." may have been inspired by the works of Metheny. My only experience with him was through the 1980s collaboration between him and David Bowie, "This Is Not America" from the movie "The Falcon and the Snowman", and as much as I like the mystery and the wistfulness of the song, there was not all that much in common between it and the songs that I've heard on the BEST album.

I did find out there in the J-Wiki article for "Thank You." that the rhythm for the song was likely based on Metheny's "Slip Away". I actually gave it a listen on YouTube but didn't hear too much of a similarity between the two tunes; in fact, I thought "Slip Away" had more in common with the aforementioned "This Is Not America" strangely enough.

Still "Thank You." is another pleasant and laidback song that provided another hit for Dreams Come True. It peaked at No. 2 and became the 26th-ranked single for 1995. It also went Double Platinum, selling more than a million copies. The song also quickly became sold as a charity single following the Great Hanshin Earthquake that had occurred in January of that year. "Thank You." was also a track on DCT's 7th album "Delicious", hitting No. 1 for two weeks straight after its release in March and later becoming the No. 1 album of the year. It is currently the 22nd-ranked best-selling album in Oricon history.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gentle Forest Jazz Band -- A Samurai's Money/Tsuki Miru Doll(月見るドール)

Japan was indeed the place where I finally admitted my interest in jazz. I have mentioned this in a past article but I bought my first jazz album at the long-gone massive Virgin Records store in East Shinjuku in the late 1990s. It wasn't even an "official" album but a cheap compilation CD of Bill Evans' work. Of course, cheap or not, it had his landmark "Waltz for Debby". After that, I started looking for some more of the masters of the genre such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis and then even going into some of the more contemporary entertainers including Diana Krall and Michael Buble.

The Japanese and jazz have also had an underlying relationship for many decades. Of course, there are the jazz artists and vocalists like Sadao Watanabe and Kei Kobayashi but I've noticed that jazz had even seeped into kayo during that time. And to my observation, it would seem that once in a while, various singers have simply gotten that urge to do a jazzy number, whether it be a cover of one of the classics or a new creation. However, the music that I've heard through those particular numbers have usually followed the Be-Bop, Cool Jazz and Bossa Jazz from the late 1940s into the 1960s.

Over a decade ago, there was a movie in Japan titled "Swing Girls" about the trials and tribulations of a group of high school students who create their own stomping jazz band and so there was a bit more attention paid, for a little while at least, to the earlier Big Band Swing sounds. Although I didn't bother with the movie, I did buy a compilation disc filled with hits Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and other famous swing jazz musicians that must have been inspired by the movie.

A couple of nights ago, I discovered that aside from the singers and songwriters who liked to pay tribute to the jazz of the 50s and 60s, there was a Japanese band who loved to dive down into Swing. This is the Gentle Forest Jazz Band led by the congenial Gentle Kubota(ジェントル久保田), a man in his 30s who had once aimed to become some sort of gardener before deciding that it was simply not for him. Instead, his career ambitions made a right-angle turn into the Jazz Age via Wako University in Tokyo's Machida City where he entered a Big Band club and really got into playing the trombone. He ended up creating the Gentle Forest Jazz Band in 2005 which now has around 21 members including a trio of vocalists known as the Gentle Forest Sisters.

In October 2011, GFJB released a single called "A Samurai's Money" although the original title is the slightly more confusing "Endo - Ru - Money"(エンド・ル・マネー)which is a humourous riff on "Yen, Dollar, Money". Along with the percolating music, Kubota has got quite the charm and panache in the video as he does his need-more-moola patter and Chaplinesque comedy routine with the feeling of a sketch in an old-fashioned TV variety show in the United States.

Actually, my first encounter with the band was with this song that is their most recent effort as part of their 4th album "GFJB" which just came out late last month. This is "Tsuki Miru Doll" which has the English title of "Dolls Look The Moon". Forgiving the title for its lack of a needed preposition, I was impressed with the song and the music video as "Tsuki Miru Doll" features the Gentle Forest Sisters singing with the boogie-woogie of the Andrews Sisters while Gentle Kubota does his enthusiastic conducting of the swinging band.

I gotta say that Kubota is quite the showman and I think he's channeling some of the pizzazz of Duke Ellington as he pumps his shoulders frenetically and prances across the stage. In fact, his own J-Wiki article mentions that he's been nicknamed "The Dancing Conductor". And looking at the video, I couldn't help but think that this had all the atmosphere of an NBC jazz radio show from Manhattan. The only thing missing was the baritone-voiced announcer standing by that microphone. But there is the dancing couple on the floor and some melodic shoutouts to "As Time Goes By" and "Sing, Sing, Sing", the latter being the hallmark song for Swing Jazz.

Good golly, more albums to consider for the shelves.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Magic Ways

Another wonderfully sunny song by the master himself, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎). "Magic Ways" is a song that I had yet to hear so it's great that I can still discover new things from Tats.

A song from the soundtrack album "Big Wave" for which the original LP was released in June 1984, it was composed by Yamashita and written by Alan O'Day. The pair had also been responsible for the title track and the heart-on-your-sleeve classic ballad "Your Eyes".

"Magic Ways" settles nicely between those two songs in terms of tone. It's a mid-tempo strut or shuffle down the boardwalk on a sunny day, and Yamashita still amazes with that English delivery of his. I can only hope that spring gets here sooner.

BLU-SWING -- Flash

Last night, I had dinner with an old friend of mine and his wife. All three of us are pretty diligent foodies but the friend and I also have an affinity with Japanese pop music. So we were talking a little on how the Oricon yearly charts over the past few years have been dominated by the alphabet aidoru groups with a little representation by either Arashi or Exile. As much as we sometimes wish that some variety would return to the charts in terms of individual singers and genres, we also mused that because of the charts being filled with so much aidoru, perhaps music fans have started to search for alternate sources of melodic enjoyment with these bands starting to come into the fore. My friend has found some hitherto unknown acts in Japan and I have as well. I guess in a way, Newton's Third Law of Motion has been enacted.

In the last several weeks, I've come across acts such as microstar and Lamp thanks to YouTube and commenter tips. Not that such bands have suddenly started their careers. These folks have been around for many years but I've only made their acquaintance very recently and I guess it may have been my curiosity for something new that has made these discoveries all the happier for me.

Another band that has not only piqued my curiosity but has garnered interest enough for me to want to get their material is BLU-SWING. According to their website, the band released their first major album in 2008, "Revision" and covers the genres of City Pop, Club Jazz and Hip-Hop. BLU-SWING has keyboardist Yusuke Nakamura(中村祐介), bassist Shinji Hasuike(蓮池真治), guitarist Show Kojima(小島翔), drummer Tomoaki 'Bhutan' Miyamoto(宮本“ブータン”知聡)and vocalist Yuri Tanaka(田中裕梨).

"Flash" is the title track from their 2015 album. Man, do I like the smooth running of this song and the arrangement had me thinking of some of that wonderful Misia and bird soul from the beginning of this century. I think Tokyo nighttime drives have become even more attractive. Wouldn't it be nice for an urban contemporary song with some good groove to crack the Oricon Top 10 for the year someday?

Taiyou to Ciscomoon -- Tsuki to Taiyou(月と太陽)

Marcos V. was the first contributor on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" to talk about the unique aidoru group Taiyou to Ciscomoon(太陽とシスコムーン)through his article on their 2nd single "Gatamekira"(ガタメキラ). Though I remember seeing and hearing the group while I was living in Ichikawa, I had to be reminded that this was another one of Tsunku's(つんく)creations and therefore under the Hello Project umbrella at the time. As Marcos hinted, Taiyou to Ciscomoon seemed to be the elder sexier sisters for Morning Musume(モーニング娘。).

Their first single was "Tsuki to Taiyou" (Moon & Sun), released in April 1999. Watching the sultry video above, it was interesting taking to heart Marcos' remark about the members of the group having a more mature image than their Morning Musume sorority. The somewhat insouciant expressions on their faces sent the message that they were gonna leave the Musume to play and fight over the last of the apple pie at home while they were going to party hearty at an expensive disco somewhere in Tokyo.

Marcos' other interesting observation was Taiyou to Ciscomoon taking over the wheel of what could have been Morning Musume's direction into more mature and funky stuff instead of their turn toward the happier disco material. There were instances of this sexier material in the earlier MM songs and I could only imagine what MM could have done if Taiyo to Ciscomoon hadn't been formed.

(from 2:34)

Tsunku wrote and composed "Tsuki to Taiyou" which got as high as No. 4 on Oricon. It was also recorded onto the group's debut album "Taiyo & Ciscomoon 1" from October 1999. This effort peaked at No. 3.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tomoyasu Hotei -- Thrill(スリル)

My observation on the various tarento/comedians that have appeared over the years while I was in Japan is that a number of them got their 15 minutes of fame due to some signature move or catchphrase which for whatever reason really resonated with or tickled the viewing public.

For instance, there was Edo Harumi(エド・はるみ)with her dancing and guuing.

And Waseda University graduate Yoshio Kojima(小島よしお), a man built like an Olympic swimmer in only a pair of bikini briefs who goes on a maniacal dance with his own catchphrases of "Sonna no kankei nee"(そんなの関係ねぇ!)and "Oppapi~"(おっぱっぴー).

Then, there is longtime entertainer Egashira 2:50(江頭2:50). Unlike a lot of the others, this nut doesn't particularly have a catchphrase and has appeared steadily over the years. His shtick is basically terrifying everyone around him including the audience and fellow celebrities by his unpredictability and scary countenance while running around topless in black leggings. Jumping on the audience is one of his particular tricks up his sleeve (if he actually wears a shirt).

Of course, with anyone that...flamboyant, whatever theme song trails him will end up as an earworm. And by accident today, I found out that that opening riff that felt like a melodic Keystone Kops caper belonged to Tomoyasu Hotei's(布袋寅泰)10th single, "Thrill" from October 1995. A song of octane from start to finish, it comes with a music video that should be watched in a well-lit room with some distance from the screen.

Not a huge rock fan but Hotei's voice has been something that I've usually enjoyed listening to. There is a certain quality to it...kinda smooth and velvety despite the genre. Hotei came up with the melody while Yukinojo Mori(森雪之丞)wrote the lyrics. And I found out from the J-Wiki article for "Thrill" that Fumiya Fujii(藤井フミヤ)from The Checkers(チェッカーズ)helped out in the chorus.

"Thrill" hit No. 1 on Oricon and became the 62nd-ranked single for 1995. The song also got onto Hotei's 5th album "King & Queen" released in February 1996. It also hit the top spot on the album charts. The thing is, though, that whenever Hotei plays it at his concerts, I sometimes wonder if the audience has been conditioned to expect Egashira 2:50 to crash the party. In any case, I would love to see the singer participate in the Opening Ceremonies for the 2020 Games. Perform the "Kill Bill" theme? Perfect!

Shiro Saijo/Shinichiro Hakozaki -- Yoru no Gingitsune(夜の銀狐)

I've heard the various versions a few times now and I always get that urge to order something on the rocks (most likely for me it will be a Brown Cow).

Most of the article will deal with a couple of Mood Kayo singers that I had not heard of before. But with "Yoru no Gingitsune" (Silver Fox of the Night), the sound is so romantically Mood Kayo on the Latin side of things that I was slightly surprised that it was actually a solo singer instead of the usual quartet or quintet of the genre that got the ball rolling on this ballad.

There's barely anything on singer Shiro Saijo(斉条史朗)aside from the fact that his "Yoru no Gingitsune" which is the original version became a huge hit for him when it was released in 1969. I had to dig deep into the search engines but all I could find was one Japanese blog entry about the song in which the author indicated that Saijo had been a nightclub singer in his early 20s when this ballad came out so he would most likely be in his early 70s by now.

The above video has Saijo singing on some TV show and it's the perfect setting with him in his tuxedo while the orchestra is playing that Latin-spiced song and the white lacy curtains behind him. Daisaburo Nakayama(中山大三郎)wrote the lyrics of a woman pining for what I am assuming is a grey-haired Lothario while Hiroyuki Nakagawa(中川博之)came up with the sweeping melody.

At least, there is a J-Wiki entry for the late Shinichiro Hakozaki(箱崎晋一朗)who sadly passed away at the young age of 43 from liver cancer in 1988. The native from Iwate Prefecture made his debut in 1969 with the hit "Atami no Yoru"(熱海の夜...A Night in Atami), and he became notable for his falsetto. Unfortunately, aside from perhaps one other song in his repertoire, he never really became a household name in music. His cover of "Yoru no Gingitsune" came out on a 1980 LP titled "Onnagokoro wo Utaimasu"(女心を歌います...Singing of the Woman's Heart)with the arrangement including that French accordion, another Mood Kayo instrumental trope. I guess that that particular instrument had its heyday in the 70s and 80s perhaps.

(I'm sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Although I couldn't find out whether or when the Mood Kayo group Los Indios(ロス・インディオス)had officially recorded "Yoru no Gingitsune", they nonetheless covered it on stage. The above has them and Alicia who was their 7th female vocalist. I'm pretty sure that the other Mood Kayo units have probably given their tribute to the 1969 tune since it seems tailored made for them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Hibari Misora -- Uramachi Sakaba(裏町酒場)

Friday nights seem to be the time for the company section to hit the izakaya en masse but perhaps then Monday nights might be the first opportunity of the week for the lone corporate cog or a couple of them anyways to drop by the favourite watering hole somewhere nearby...maybe it's on the main drag or perhaps it's hidden in one of the back streets, away and unknown from the higher-ups of the firm.

I discovered this perhaps not-as-well-known Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)single from 1982 titled "Uramachi Sakaba" (Back Alley Bar). Still, Misora had so many hits and had so much respect that even the lesser lights of her discography have probably provided much joy to kayo listeners.

Written by Daizo Saito(さいとう大三)and composed by Tetsuya Ryu(竜鉄也), who had a huge hit the year before with "Oku-Hida Bojou"(奥飛騨慕情), "Uramachi Sakaba" is as comforting an enka song as the arrival of the tokkuri and ochoko of sake being placed quietly on the bar counter. It is just the lone drinker coming to the watering hole, though, as he drowns his sorrow in drink with the bartender lending a sympathetic ear. For my ears, that bartender is represented by accordion and the mandolin-sounding instrument. I don't drink all that much so those instruments have provided my aural enjoyment of imbibing. But of course, even with the somewhat melancholy lyrics, The Queen of Kayo's delivery is ever cheerful and encouraging added by a goodly dollop of gusto. She could be the one behind the counter providing verbal and liquid solace for all we know.

"Uramachi Sakaba" peaked at No. 28 on Oricon and it stayed on the charts for over 6 months, selling a little over 150,000 copies. There was also a Misora album with the same title that came out in July 1982.

Misora numbers will have their cover versions and it was no different with "Uramachi Sakaba". Ayako Fuji(藤あや子)provides her own version here.

Then, there is the splendid Aya Shimazu(島津亜矢).

And to wrap up, here is Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし).

Ayana Taketatsu -- Oh My Sugar Feeling!!(OH MY シュガーフィーリング!!)/ Hachimitsu Rocket -- Okashi na Watashi to Hachimitsu no Kimi(おかしなわたしとはちみつのきみ)

I thought the above Niigata bamboo dumpling flavoured Langue de chat confection that I kindly received from my lone student would be the ideal thumbnail image for this article since it is covering the opening and ending themes for a personally anticipated sequel to the snack-themed anime "Dagashi Kashi"(だがしかし).

I've noticed a couple of the differences with "Dagashi Kashi 2". One is that the animation is slightly different; my anime buddy told me that this time the studio is trying to get it to resemble the original manga illustrations. OK, no problems there. However, the second difference was disappointing in that this time the show is only 15 minutes long compared to the full 30 minutes for each episode in the first season back in 2016. There is also a bit more drama in the proceedings along with the feeling of transition...that things won't quite be the same anymore.

First off, let me say that there haven't been any anison earworms this Winter 2018 season. Still, the opening theme of "Oh My Sugar Feeling!!" is quirky and pleasant enough so that it has grown on me to a certain extent. Sung by seiyuu Ayana Taketatsu(竹達彩奈)who voices the main character of Hotaru, it really does feel like the aftermath of gobbling down an entire bag of M&Ms in 5 seconds flat.

Written by Kanata Nakamura(中村彼方), composed by Motokiyo and arranged by Kaoru Okubo(大久保薫 ), this is Taketatsu's 10th single from January 2018. It peaked at No. 19 on Oricon.

The ending theme for "Dagashi Kashi 2" has had a bigger attraction for me. Once again, the ending credits have been quite colourful. But instead of the Alice In Wonderland theme (with dancing from Hotaru and Saya) from the first season's credits with Taketatsu, it's more a combination of Candyland and cheesecake among the female characters.

Plus, although "Okashi na Watashi to Hachimitsu no Kimi" (Weird Me & Honey You) hasn't quite had me running for the repeat button on YouTube, it is another sugar rush of a song by this aidoru group called Hachimitsu Rocket(はちみつロケット)that launched in 2014. I definitely don't need to get any Kit Kats for several hours after hearing this one.

Composed of 7 ladies in their late teens from the Kanto region, this song is just their 2nd single and it hasn't even been released yet. Release has been set for early March. Apparently, Hachimitsu Rocket originated from 3B Junior, the aidoru training department of Stardust Promotions. Momoiro Clover Z(ももいろクローバーZ )and Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku(私立恵比寿中学)were also founded through this department. "Okashi na Watashi to Hachimitsu no Kimi" was written and composed by Kenichi Maeyamada(前山田健一).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Minako Ito -- Derringer(デリンジャー)

I guess it's time to add another Minako to the "Kayo Kyoku Plus" roster. And like Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子), she also belongs in the City Pop genre.

Found this one purely by accident a number of days ago. Minako Ito(伊藤美奈子)is a singer-songwriter from Tokyo who was inspired by Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓)and Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)when she was in junior high school, according to J-Wiki and the footnote from the liner notes of her debut album "Tenderly", and so she started on her path toward a music career.

Not quite sure why this particular song "Derringer" is named after a famous gun since I couldn't catch all of the lyrics (can't find them online) but it was a track from her 2nd album, "Sasoi Gyotou" or "Yuu Gyotou"(誘魚灯...Inviting Fish Lights)from March 1984. Still, it's got that nice City Pop beat with the tight horns and mellow keyboards. And yes, I also like the album cover. Shun Taguchi(田口俊)wrote the lyrics while Ito and Jin Kirigaya(桐ケ谷仁)composed the music.

I've just heard another one of her songs on YouTube. Will most likely cover that next month.

J-Canuck's Earworms

As much as the departing airplane has been my unofficial logo for the genre of Japanese City Pop, I think for me, the Ceti Alpha eel from "Star Trek II -- The Wrath of Khan" (still the best "Star Trek" movie in the entire franchise) will be unofficial symbol for the musical earworm.

But unlike the eel and poor Commander Chekov's and Captain Terrell's reactions in the scene above, I've happily accepted my earworms wrapping around my cerebral cortex over the years. And since I've mentioned some of my favourites as such, I've decided to give a list here of some of those great tunes. Now, I've separated my choices by genre, and by no means is this the ultimate comprehensive list of my favourite earworms. That would go way too long past my bedtime. These are merely the representatives and they've each been covered already in past articles so I won't be providing too much of a commentary but of course, they've been linked to the original articles. So, here goes.

J-Rock: B'z -- Love Phantom

Still marvel how well this song fit as the companion tune for TV Asahi's broadcast of "The X-Files". There should have been a video made with clips from the old show to go along with "Love Phantom".

Anime: KMM Dan -- Witch Activity

After I saw the ending credits to "Witchcraft Works" for the first time, it took all of my strength once I got home NOT to end up watching the YouTube video for "Witch Activity" ten times in succession. That tickety-tackety delivery by the seiyuu and the technopop...damn you, TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND! Perhaps out of all of the genres here, I think anime has got the largest crop of earworms.

City Pop: Tatsuro Yamashita -- Itsuka

Such an uplifting song that whenever I need it, I play it! So cheerful and it comes with bass that hits the pavement like Size 14 shoes. Tough call but this may be my favourite Tats song.

City Pop: Mariya Takeuchi -- Plastic Love

I was surprised and delighted that "Plastic Love" has been given a second life, so to speak, after being discovered by the Japanese Future Funksters and/or Vaporwavers. Kinda wonder if Takeuchi herself has realized all of these YouTubing fans going ga-ga over one of the most urban contemporary songs that she has created. Believe me, folks, I empathize...I think at one point, I was putting this on repeat play. (Feb. 27 2018: One of my other go-to websites, "Know Your Meme" has given the "Plastic Love" phenomenon meme status.)

Aidoru: Morning Musume -- The Peace

Yup, even more than "Love Machine". The catchy chant, a bit of old-style jazz and full-on disco. I never stood a chance! I think this earworm gave multiple births in my head.

Enka: Takashi Hosokawa -- Kokoro Nokori

Indeed, I've had earworms in this genre too. I fell in love with the sax in the intro and there was that drum-and-strings riff which comes tumbling down just before Hosokawa sings that has stuck with me all these decades. One of my memories involved me at a family friend's house on New Year's Day while being right beside the stereo with a digital display that absolutely bubbled when our host played "Kokoro Nokori".

Pop: Eri Hiramatsu -- Suteki na Renaissance

Wanted to have a representative from the straight pop genre so I went with Hiramatsu's "Suteki na Renaissance". It's those jingly keyboards and Eri's happy delivery. So very early 90s!

Aidoru: Akina Nakamori -- Lonely Journey

Perhaps at this point, Nakamori was already transitioning from popular aidoru to pop superstar but I can't deny that "Lonely Journey" was also a song that took up long-term residence in my head. Catchy and cool...I never mentioned this in the original article but I think this could have been a good theme song for a cop show.

Technopop: Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Rydeen

What can I say about "Rydeen"? If there were an ultimate theme song for not just YMO but for techno kayo in general, this would be it. I remember being especially desperate to get this song into my collection.

Well, these are some of the earworms that have infected me over the decades. What are yours?

Hiroko Ohgi/Mina Aoe/Meiko Kaji -- Shinjuku Blues(新宿ブルース)

Yes, it's indeed a Saturday night. Perhaps it's time for something a bit more shibui. So, get those tumblers and ice buckets out. Old Parr coming up!

I found a song on that compilation of Mood Kayo tunes photographed at the top of the article titled "Shinjuku Blues". Seeing a title like that, I would have immediately thought of Keiko Fuji(藤圭子), the Queen of Kayo Blues, but actually I couldn't find any video on YouTube with her. And that is also because the original version was sung by a singer-actress from Hiroshima Prefecture named Hiroko Ohgi(扇ひろこ).

Debuting in 1965 with "Aishuu Kaikyo"(哀愁海峡...Sorrowful Strait), she had a huge hit in 1967 with "Shinjuku Blues", the story of a disconsolate lady slowly pacing through the streets of the area after losing a love. Ironically, there had been naysayers, presumably before its release, crowing that the single wouldn't sell outside of Shinjuku itself and that the lyrics were too dark. Well, it looks like the Japanese version of the cry-in-your-beer ballads was becoming the big thing in kayo kyoku at that time, so "Shinjuku Blues" made its mark.

The remarkable thing about Ohgi while performing "Shinjuku Blues" is her delivery which is mostly in the lower registers but then suddenly soars up high above the izakaya and bars. That slow steady performance accompanied by the organ really gives this song a elegiac feeling. I could imagine Ohgi in her kimono sadly walking through streets like Golden Gai holding a framed picture of her lost love as if he left this mortal coil suddenly.

"Shinjuku Blues" was written by Akiko Takiguchi滝口暉子...not sure if that is the correct reading of the first name)and composed by Kanae Wada(和田香苗). On the strength of the ballad, Ohgi found herself appearing on the 1967 Kohaku Utagassen for the first time. She would appear one more time the following year. Oddly enough, although she is listed as an enka singer on J-Wiki, there is no listing of her discography aside from this song and a couple of others.

I think another sign of success for a song is the number of times it has been covered. I'm sure that Keiko Fuji has covered it sometime but not finding her version anywhere, I did find other covers although I don't know when they were recorded. The late Mina Aoe(青江三奈)gives a slightly more upscale version with the bluesy sax and horns, and to be frank, I think this is the one that I like the most out of the three featured here.

Then, there is "Shinjuku Blues" by actress-singer Meiko Kaji(梶芽衣子). Strangely enough, although I've had this image of Kaji as being a tough suffer-no-fools-period kickass character in the wilds of Shinjuku, her take on "Shinjuku Blues" is probably the sweetest of the three, thanks to the light piano and flute. It kinda takes things into a more pop vein.

Enjoy your scotch-on-the-rocks while listening to this one!