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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jin Kirigaya -- Weekend Game(ウィークエンド・ゲーム)

Singer-songwriter Jin Kirigaya(桐ヶ谷 仁)is starting to strike me as the equivalent of mellow singers such as Bobby Goldsboro and Michael Franks. From what I've heard, he is quite the tonic for some much-needed relaxation.

Case in point is his "Weekend Game", a track from his 4th album "Vermilion" from June 1984. That opening guitar sounds as if we're about to hear an indie pop tune but then enters that familiar AOR melody by Kirigaya. Suddenly, I hear that Evian being poured into the tall glass and blue sky fills everything overhead. It certainly isn't City's not about being amid the bright lights and big buildings. In fact, Masako Arikawa's(有川正沙子)lyrics are about a fellow biding time lazily at a resort hotel outside of the metropolis while wondering (not too fitfully, I might add) whether his significant other will actually drop the pen and paper and stress at the salt mines, and make it out to the beach. Take your time, kid, while I have another margarita on the chaise lounge.

I've got Kirigaya's first couple of albums while he was at Alfa Studios. Pretty good stuff there and now I'm considering getting "Vermilion" as well, just judging from "Weekend Game". Hope your weekend has gotten off to a relaxing start as well.

Hi-Fi Set -- Too hot day

As I've said before, the Japanese summer is one of the very few things that I've never missed when it comes to Japan following my return to Canada. I can only imagine how the athletes, journalists and tourists might be feeling when they hit Tokyo in July 2020 when the Olympics finally start off. Luckily, there are plenty of vending machines around but then again, the problem is with that much added population for the Summer Games, the machines may quickly run out of drinks. Let us hope for a cool and refreshing solution.

First off, let me introduce to you another YouTube channel connected to the genres of City Pop and J-AOR. Van Paugam's City Pop radio is still chugging along those night highways but in the last several days, I've also discovered that New J Channel has its own non-stop stream of like-minded tunes. From there, there have popped up a lot of obscure but pretty good tracks that I have started to scour the rest of YouTube for.

One such number is "Too hot day" by Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)from their 16th album "Eyebrow" which was released in March 1988. I've also reiterated that although I've known the trio during their 1970s heyday for a lot of their songs including their covers of Yuming's(ユーミン)classics, I knew next to nothing about what Hi-Fi Set was up to in the next decade.

Well, perhaps for "Eyebrow", they were embracing their inner late 80s City Pop/sophisti-pop because "Too hot day" has that arrangement which was urban contemporary for that time. The familiar vocals are there, led by Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子), but those synths and saxophone feel like a drive through Tokyo during the Bubble Era. In addition, I've noticed that Yamamoto's vocals are not quite subdued but they sound as if she had wanted to keep things very much to the lower register; interesting since I've been accustomed to her voice often soaring to the heights. Plus the rumbling bass in there reminds me of Minako Yoshida's(吉田美奈子)epic "Town".

Yamamoto provided the lyrics for "Too hot day" while Ryo Koizumi(小泉亮)took care of the lyrics.


Well, this might be one of the few articles or perhaps it is truly the only article in which I couldn't list the singer or the band behind the song since I simply couldn't find the performers (April 2 2018: Daemonskald was able to resolve that question...look at the comments down below). Still, I just had to make its presence known on the blog. In fact, I couldn't even find out when the song or the character himself was realized on screen. The Wikipedia article just stated "...sometime around the mid-1990s". So I will go with 1995 for argument's sake.

Anyways, not long after my arrival in Japan for my second stint there, there came a long-running series of commercials featuring a certain cola, but this time, there was a heroic pitchman behind Pepsi, the aptly-named Pepsiman. Looking like a mix between a tokusatsu hero and Zero, a minor character from the X-Men comics, he ran a Tom Cruise-like sprint whenever there was a perceived lack of justice...or cola...and made things right...or non-Coke. Somehow, though, he managed to end up looking more like Inspector Clouseau after his deed was done.

The reason I'm even mentioning him here is that although it looks like the commercials had been filmed in sunny California, they were supposedly only shown in Japan. The other reason is the theme song which I can only assume was based on the iconic theme for the 1960s "Batman" show. One thing I regret not seeing throughout the commercials is Pepsiman actually doing a Batusi-like dance to his song. You can listen to the full version as you pay full credit to the musicians since they went full-in on the project. Again, I don't know who was responsible for "PEPSIMAN!" but my respects. As for who came up with the CG character, it's been attributed to Canadian comic book artist Travis Charest.

I was pretty amused by this.

(July 23 2018. Chasing Showa was kind enough to let me know about this YouTube video which had just been posted yesterday by a hearty fellow named Daniel Ibbertson about Pepsiman the game character although there is some mention about his time as a commercial pitchman.)

Kimiko Kasai with Herbie Hancock -- I Thought It Was You

For a lot of us growing up in the 1980s, the golden age of music videos, when the name Herbie Hancock is mentioned, we will all think of "Rockit", the huge techno-funky hit from 1983. As well, that video with the mannequins and the strutting pants is a one-of-a-kind although seeing the Grammy performance is no longer quite as amazing as I remembered it.

Well, last night, commenter Gen Kanai was kind enough to send me a message giving a tip on a song on chanteuse Kimiko Kasai's(笠井紀美子)1979 album "Butterfly", her collaboration with Hancock. Supposedly, according to an article on the website "Who Sampled", a number of songs on that particular release have been sampled by various hip-hop artists over the years.

One of the tracks is "I Thought It Was You", a 7-minute-plus number that is a cover of Hancock's original from his 1978 jazz-funk fest "Sunlight". The Kasai cover, of course, has her sweet and lovely voice compared to Hancock's vocoder vocals in the original. To be honest, and I'm going with Gen on this, I prefer Kasai's sweet-&-lovely. Still, Hancock's vocoder still makes a guest appearance during a give-and-take with Kasai's scatting.

It's quite the jam as "I Thought It Was You" morphs from a smooth fusion love song into a fun and funky festival and back again. According to Chris Read who wrote the article on "Who Sampled", copies of the LP are hard to track down but I did find a low-priced CD reissue of "Butterfly" up at CD Japan for a thousand yen.

Years after first hearing "Rockit" but of course years before being told about "I Thought It Was You", when I was still living in Japan, I realized how much the Japanese just loved the genre of AOR to death on both sides of the Pacific. I even ended up buying a few AOR compilations myself, and on one of them was a track by Hancock called "Paradise" which was originally on his 1982 album "Lite Me Up", a year before "Rockit", and is about as different in tone from that 1983 hit. Never would have thought the fellow as an light-and-mellow crooner but there we are. Of course, the songwriting team behind "Paradise" consisted of the masters of the genre, David Foster, Bill Champlin and Jay Graydon along with Hancock.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sachiko Kobayashi -- Usotsuki Kamome(ウソツキ鴎)

I've known veteran entertainer Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子)as enka singer, actress, vivacious TV personality and epic set during Kohaku Utagassen broadcasts. She cemented her career with hits such as "Omoide Zake"(おもいで酒)and "Moshikashite Part 2"(もしかして・パート2).

However I was also aware about her beginnings as a mere kid coming up with a hit song right at her debut in the 1960s although I never got to hear the song itself. Well, I finally got to hear the song last night.

"Usotsuki Kamome" (Lying Seagull) was Single No. 1 for Kobayashi when she was only 10 years old. It was released back in June 1964 and listening to it, I thought that this was a pretty mature song for her considering her age as Sou Nishizawa's(西沢爽)lyrics talk about a woman taking it out on a seagull for making all sorts of noise in the mistaken assumption that her beloved's ship had come into port. Another notable point was that it was legendary composer Masao Koga(古賀政男)who came up with the melody for "Usotsuki Kamome".

Quite some headiness and attention for the preteen Kobayashi and so I wondered what earned her all that special treatment. Well, apparently, it was Koga who scouted her out and perhaps it was he or someone close by who proudly proclaimed her as the second coming of Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), which could explain why she got something like "Usotsuki Kamome" as her debut. Misora also started out as this kayo child prodigy who immortalized herself into public consciousness dressed up in a very adult tuxedo and with a voice which sounded years older.

I wish I could have found the original recording of "Usotsuki Kamome", but at this point, I will have to settle for Kobayashi's later revisitings to the song as an adult. Having listened to it a few times now, I've noticed how it starts off sounding like an old-fashioned happy-go-lucky kayo strut but then suddenly switches into something quite enka-like and this is around when the lyrics start talking about the woman heading back from the port rather dejectedly.

The fact that the single sold about 200,000 records probably had everybody thinking that Kobayashi was indeed the second Hibari. But as I mentioned as well on "Omoide Zake", there came 15 years of no hits, so it was amazing that she didn't give it all up and hung in there for so long (especially with that second Hibari label hanging over her) until her 28th single, the aforementioned "Omoide Zake" in 1979 which was that next big hit. After that, success became more of a regular and much appreciated tradition for the Niigata Prefecture native.

Hatsumi Shibata -- Love is an Illusion(ラブ・イズ・イリュージョン)

Good Friday to everyone! It was a statutory holiday today but some of us translators decided to get together for some good food and nice conversation at a Japanese comfort food place called Sakawa Coffee by the west end of Greektown. I ordered the Omurice, and while it didn't look like the domed masterpieces created in Japan, the taste was actually quite good. I'm just grateful that the dish now exists here in Toronto. No illusion!

Apparently, love is, though, to Hatsumi Shibata(しばたはつみ)...yes, another one of my "classic" segues. Ahem, anyways, this is "Love is an Illusion", her 12th single from October 1979. This is another one of those City Pop numbers closer to the disco side of things. Written by Kazuko Kobayashi(小林和子)and composed by Yuuichiro Oda(小田裕一郎), who would later whip up one of Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)early hits, "Aoi Sangosho"(青い珊瑚礁), the arrangement has that familiar ring of 1970s downtown life in Tokyo (from what I could remember from watching those ancient VHS tapes from Nippon Video). I can see that mirror ball right now.

"Love is an Illusion" was also used as one of the campaign songs for the Mazda Cosmo and you can hear it at just a little under the 1-minute mark in the above video.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tohoku Shinkansen -- Thru Traffic (Follow-Up)

Wasn't quite sure whether I would get another crack at talking about this album since I basically covered all of the songs there which had been represented by sites such as YouTube. However, last night, I did find two more tracks from the rare and wonderful 1982 album by the duo known as Tohoku Shinkansen(東北新幹線), "Thru Traffic", the only release that came out of the collaboration.

("Last Message" at 38:29)

Actually "September Valentine" is a song that I have already mentioned in the first article on the album but I am going to talk about it again since 1) it's THAT good to me, and 2) it shares something with "Last Message" in that the two represent the jazzier contributions on the album.

I realized on listening to arguably the best version of "September Valentine" which was originally created by Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)and Atsuko Saito(斉藤敦子)that I've long had an affinity for smoky jazz chorus performances. My first example in my life listening to such a combination was the Norman Luboff Choir's take on the Tony Bennett classic "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" when I was a toddler. And then there was the Manhattan Transfer's "Foreign Affair". Both of those standards were arranged in that way always leave me feeling rather wistful and happily melancholy (as weird as that may sound), and would be the type of music that I'd like to hear when leaving an amazing city for a long time.

This is why that Tohoku Shinkansen's take on "September Valentine" was a stroke of genius. I'd always thought that there was a streak of jazz in the earlier versions by Yukio Sasaki(佐々木幸男)and Abe but Narumi and Yamakawa amped the ballad even further by going full jazz. This cover is simply the theme song for strolling in Yamashita Park at night along Yokohama Bay with the brilliant view of Minato Mirai 21 in the background while that significant other is on your arm.

As for "Last Message", which is a solo for Yamakawa behind the mike, this was written by Arisu (or is it Alice?) Sato(佐藤アリス)and composed by Narumi. It kinda has that mix between a standard and a romantic 1950s ballad, perhaps something that a young Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)could have tackled. It is also the final track for the album so it's a nice way to end this great release on.

To give you an idea about what I mean by those old standard choruses, here is the Norman Luboff Choir. Unfortunately, I couldn't find their version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" but "But Beautiful" is more than enough to give you an idea of their sound.

And here is the Manhattan Transfer with "Foreign Affair".

Every Little Thing/Rie Takahashi -- Deatta Koro no you ni(出逢った頃のように)

Back in 2015, a small part of the anime-loving corner of YouTube had an explosion when the good folks behind "Hibike! Euphonium"(響け! ユーフォニアム)in its first season decided to surprise the socks off the viewers by having the high school band perform none other than "Rydeen" by Yellow Magic Orchestra. The comment "'Hibike! Euphonium' brought me here" underneath videos of the concert or recorded versions of YMO's trademark song should have been given meme status. To be honest, a part of me inside also threatened to squee when I first heard the marching band version of one of my very favourite Japanese songs.

Well, I think the same thing may be happening in 2018 although the phenomenon might be a bit more muted. Although I won't be seeing the final couple of episodes of "Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san"(からかい上手の高木さん...Skilled Teaser Takagi-san)until this coming Sunday, the last scene from the last episode has already gotten onto YouTube and it has already earned an "Awwww...." with so many Ws in it that it would go all the way from my computer down to Lake Ontario. I won't describe what can be seen so easily in the video above but let us say that Takagi-san got her second critical hit (inside joke) and a punch-in-the-air win at the same time.

What put the icing on this swoon-worthy cake was a cover version of an old Every Little Thing hit by Rie Takahashi(高橋李依), the seiyuu for Takagi-san herself. Just the abrupt way it started when the character made her realization shot a lot of viewers including me right in the heart.

So, unsurprisingly, viewers of "Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san" may be flocking over to the original song by ELT, "Deatta Koro no you ni" (Just Like When We First Met), right now. In fact, I've already seen at least one example of "'Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san' brought me here" in the comments section. Released in August 1997 as the band's 5th single, this was another song that got lots of attention in the mass media. Hearing it once more got me thinking about the 90s again thanks to those punchy synths. Wow! They did sound like that back then.

Written and composed by ELT keyboardist Mitsuru Igarashi(五十嵐充)"Deatta Koro no you ni" peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and became the 45th-ranked single for 1997 as it went Triple Platinum. It also got recorded onto the band's 2nd album "Time to Destination" from April 1998. That album hit No. 1 for 2 weeks, was the 3rd-ranked release for 1998, and currently stands as the 11th-ranked album in Oricon history by achieving over 4 million in sales.

Not sure how long the above will stay on YouTube but enjoy the full version of Takahashi's softer cover of "Deatta Koro no you ni". It is so Takagi-san and there's even a nice little shoutout to the opening theme "Iwanai kedo ne."(言わないけどね。)in the instrumental bridge. Apparently, it's been included in a release associated with the show, "Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san ~ Cover Song Collection"(からかい上手の高木さん Cover Song Collection)that just got on sale yesterday. I hadn't realized it but all 7 ending themes sung by Takahashi are cover versions of past J-Pop tunes. Will have to see whether my anime buddy will be picking that up since there were a couple of those ending themes that I enjoyed hearing over the credits.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Clammbon -- Hanare Banare(はなれ ばなれ)

Clammbon(クラムボン)is a band that has had a presence here on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" through three previous articles, but only through anime such as their contribution to the second opening theme for the beloved "Shirokuma Cafe"(しろくまカフェ). And yet, Clammbon also had a presence at the main Shibuya branch of Tower Records which I visited regularly once or twice a month. It used to be that sometimes when I entered the store, there would be some display for the band's latest album or single featuring vocalist/keyboardist Ikuko Harada(原田郁子), bassist Mito(ミト)and drummer Daisuke Ito(伊藤大助).

However at the time, even though a part of me was curious about what Clammbon was all about, the rest of me kinda sloughed the idea off since indie pop wasn't really my thing, and that's how I saw them. Well, that was a mistake on my part now that I look back.

That is so especially true after listening to Clammbon's debut single "Hanare Banare" (Separated) from March 1999. I'd like to cite a sentence written on the Wikipedia article for the band, "Their music is characterized by their quirky sound combining jazzy chord progressions with J-pop and electronica influences." That was a paraphrasing from the original description of the band in Akira Morita's October 2005 piece for Chin Music Press.

If I had read this description and got a chance to listen to "Hanare Banare" years ago, chances are that I would have gotten one of their albums at least by this time. Well, as I always say, better late than never. I will have to study them some more.

With "Hanare Banare", which was written by Harada and composed by Mito, there is that feeling of cool soul coming through. At the time, the Japanese version of the genre was starting to pop up more through the works of singers such as Misia and bird, and for some time, a lot of my younger students were really into the oeuvre of Jamiroquai.

The song didn't make it up into the Oricon rankings but, y'know, I think it is one of those numbers that folks like myself have probably discovered in retrospect and delighted in the present. This isn't an avant-garde tune at all; it's very relatable to me. So I will have to further explore Clammbon, which incidentally got its unusual name from some character in a Kenji Miyazawa novel, and see how they have continued their music over the past couple of decades.

Yuiko Ohara -- Iwanai kedo ne.(言わないけどね。)

Being a typical Canadian kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, my cartoon fix was always sated through a plentiful menu of "Peanuts" and Warner Bros. fare. Of course, some of the more compelling tropes within those cartoons were the never-ending battles between the main characters. There was Wile E. Coyote versus the Roadrunner and then nasty Lucy Van Pelt going after hapless Charlie Brown via a football.

The Roadrunner and Lucille were definitely trolls even before trolls got their current meaning. The former may have played innocent but the latter could barely contain her glee at whacking Chuck again and again.

Now just imagine a similar scene in a small Japanese town where the troll is actually not doing this out of malice (well, not completely anyways) but in some strange way, doing this out of love. There might have been some conspiracy theories about Lucy doing all that she does against Charlie to hide an actual crush on the round-headed kid but I will leave that be.

To get back on track, I am referring to a show that just finished its run in the Winter 2018 anime season, "Karakai Jouzu na Takagi-san"(からかい上手の高木さん...Skilled Teaser Takagi-san). It's a mellow slice-of-life show whose basic premise is the titular schoolgirl Takagi-san teasing the heck out of Nishikata-kun in all directions and in all situations. Based on the manga of the same name, after seeing the first episode, I kinda wondered how in the world the show would be able to carry this premise through the usual 12-episode season. Well, crazily enough, it actually entertained me quite well, and a lot of it is due to the voice work of Rie Takahashi(高橋李依)as Takagi-san and Yuji Kaji(梶裕貴)as Nishikata-kun. Plus, along with the main arc of Nishikata eternally trying and failing spectacularly to outwit his so-called rival, I also enjoyed the more subtle part of Takagi trying to get some inkling that her target can actually return her feelings.

What I'm going to say next is gonna positively age me to Victorian times but I couldn't help think of a couple of actors from 60s American sitcoms while I was watching Takagi and Nishikata doing their schtick, and that is Donna Douglas from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the neurotic Don Knotts from "The Andy Griffith Show". Witnessing those two becoming a lovey-dovey couple would have given us nerds so much to dream for.

The opening theme for "Karakai Jouzu na Takagi-san" has started to grow on me as well. It is "Iwanai kedo ne" (But I Won't Ever Say It) which was written and composed and sung by Yuiko Ohara(大原ゆい子). I remember her from doing a couple of the theme songs from one of the big anime from last year "Little Witch Academia"(リトルウィッチアカデミア), and I even wrote about one of her efforts, "Hoshi wo Tadoreba"(星を辿れば)from the series.

Although "Hoshi wo Tadoreba" had a bit of an old-fashioned urban contemporary feeling to it, "Iwanai kedo ne" is a pretty pop song for the countryside which obviously fits the setting for the show. Ohara's lyrics also seem to lay out Takagi-san's inner feelings for the lad and her melody matches the scenes of Takagi riding her bike on the various laneways of the town.

"Iwanai kedo ne" is Ohara's 5th single released on Valentine's Day and it has gone up to No. 43 on Oricon, so far her best-ranking song.

This time last year, a number of us anime fans including myself and my friend were satisfied with someone named Kobayashi-san. Well, it looks like Takagi-san is now representing some of us in early 2018.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

1986 Omega Tribe -- Night Child

Wooo~ How natsukashii! I used to hear this a fair bit years ago through a BEST compilation, "BEST Remix" by 1986 Omega Tribe(1986オメガトライブ). But I got to hear it again last night while rummaging in JTM's vast collection of music.

This is Carlos Toshiki(カルロス・トシキ)crooning "Night Child" which was originally on 1986 Omega Tribe's first album under their new configuration without the original vocalist, Kiyotaka Sugiyama(杉山清貴), "Navigator" from July 1986. As the title would indicate, this would be the ideal ballad to hear during a romantic evening in Hawaii: candlelight, balcony, palm trees, lapping waves on the shoreline, the whole 9 yards.

Written by Asako Yano(矢野朝子)and composed by Omega Tribe keyboardist Toshitsugu Nishihara(西原俊次), "Night Child" is as much about the band's representative sound which is kinda like the yang to TUBE's yin. I still don't consider myself an expert on the band throughout its name changes, but even so, one of the points of comparison for me involves vocalists Sugiyama and Toshiki. I've always considered Omega Tribe to be one of the mellower bands in Japanese pop history but there was something even creamier about Toshiki's voice which makes it a great fit when it comes to those ballads.

"Navigator" itself went all the way up to No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and achieved No. 20 on the 1986 yearly rankings. The album also has another Omega Tribe classic in "Kimi wa 1000%"(君は1000%).

Yukari Isshiki -- Ghost Town(ゴースト・タウン)

Had my annual physical today. No big surprises so far in terms of my weight and blood pressure but there's still a blood-and-urine test to get out of the way. Of course, right after that, we all went to McDonalds. Strangely enough, though, I hadn't had a Big Mac meal in several months and never garnered any sort of craving which I think is a good thing. However, my observation was that the Big Mac has somewhat shrunk; it was actually more of a Moderate Mac. Again, that shouldn't be a bad thing for someone my age and physical condition but I'm beginning to think that the Golden Arches may soon end up with a false advertising charge.

Anyways, enough of my dinnertime indulgence. Ten days ago, I wrote an article featuring some interesting websites proffered by a couple of the faithful commenters, one of which showed a huge list of singers and their debut years. So I took a look at 1981. I was entranced by the visage of one such singer by the name of Yukari Isshiki(一色ゆかり)because of those come-hither eyes.

For some reason, the description at that site hinted that Isshiki had initially been marketed as an aidoru. But listening to this track, "Ghost Town", from her sole album "Let's Begin" from June 1981, I think she should have been labeled more as a pop/rock singer. That husky voice of hers had me associating her more with singers such as Ann Lewis(アン・ルイス)and Yuki Katsuragi(葛城ユキ)than Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子). Shosuke Nagato(長戸秀介)took care of the lyrics while Junichi Kawauchi(河内淳一)composed the song whose guitar solo reminded me somewhat of The Eagles.

Plus, the Aichi Prefecture-born Isshiki, who was born Youri Sugimoto(杉本誘里)in 1962, once she entered high school in Chiba Prefecture, helped create a band by the name of...well, Fuckt...where she served as guitarist and vocalist. Not sure how that name got past the PTA and teachers but then again, perhaps back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, English slang didn't quite permeate Japan as much as it does now. The band covered songs by Prism and Masayoshi Takanaka(高中正義)which I don't think were quite all that punk or hard rock (I'm taking the band name into consideration here), but it's hard to believe that a member of a band with that name would be modeled into a boppy frilly dress-wearing aidoru.

Under the name of Yukari Isshiki, the singer released one single "Gambler"(ギャンブラー)and that one album "Let's Begin" in 1981. She would go back to her real name and release four more singles up to the end of 1987, and one more album "Dynamyte"(ダイナマイト)in 1984. By that point, she was apparently going for a more heavy metal sound. She even went into the anison and seiyuu business as well.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Misia -- The Glory Day

Years ago, I heard that R&B singer Misia had been inspired to enter a music career because of the musical "Mama, I Want to Sing!". I saw the commercial advertising it on TV years before that and saw one of the cast belting out the title song as a soaring gospel tune.

So I wonder if "The Glory Day", which was the gospel-influenced title track on her 1st mini-album from November 1998, was a tribute to that musical that so inspired Misia. Rousing and yep, I'm using that word again, inspirational, if you are going through the blues in Japan, track down this album and put it into the player (or download it into your computer). Chances are that you won't stay blue for long.

Pretty much every song that I've put onto the blog by Misia is a home run out of Candlestick Park but with "The Glory Day", I think I got a peek into where the singer-songwriter's roots first emerged. Misia and musician MASH wrote the lyrics while Shiro Sagisu(鷺巣詩郎)composed and arranged the song. The mini-album peaked at No. 6 on the charts while it ended up as the 174th-ranked release for 1998. However, it rocketed up to No. 46 on the 1999 yearly rankings and went Double Platinum.

Izumi Yukimura & Motoharu Sano -- Tokyo Chic(トーキョー・シック)

Happy Monday! I guess this article will feature one of the more unusual duets that I have ever come across in kayo kyoku. You have one of the Sannin Musume(三人娘), the three popular songstresses who also included Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)and Chiemi Eri(江利チエミ)from the early postwar period, paired up with a pop/rock balladeer of the 1980s for a jazz number in 2014.

And yet, this is what happened. Izumi Yukimura and Motoharu Sano(雪村いづみ&佐野元春)collaborated to make a single together titled "Tokyo Chic" in February of that year. I've been quite impressed with Sano, who composed and wrote this song, since he's gone beyond my initial images of him as that jeans-and-T-shirt type of guy on the same lines of The Boss and The Piano Man from the late 70s and early 80s. Even before his official debut as a singer, he helped with Nanako Sato(佐藤奈々子)back during the 1970s through some City Pop and then for this decade, he came up with a wonderful tribute to Big Band/Swing jazz.

However I have to admit that Yukimura at the age of 76 back when this was recorded has definitely got the lead role here. I'm not sure if this is so much a duet as it is Sano trying to keep up with his partner. In any case, the duo has come up with a cheer-up song to get folks out of the blues and into painting the town red through one of the largest cities on the planet Earth. Plenty to see and do in Tokyo, to be sure. Just bring lots of yen!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Takako Okamura -- Good-Day ~ Omoide ni Kawarunaraba(Good-Day 〜思い出に変わるならば〜)

Fireminer asked me whether I would put up a Takako Okamura(岡村孝子)song in the near future, and to be honest, it has been quite a while. My memories of her music have been sweet and dreamy, and my images would be of working in the garden of some quiet chalet deep in the forest.

I was surprised to find out that although four of the singer-songwriter's albums went all the way to No. 1 on Oricon, there has only been one single of hers that even broke the Top 10. That would be her 14th single, "Good-Day ~ Omoide ni Kawarunaraba" (Good Day ~ Turning Into Memories) from May 1991 which peaked at No. 9.

Those memories of her music are further reinforced through "Good-Day", thanks to Okamura's writing and her sweet reassuring vocals. That "chan-chan-chan" keyboard riff starting from the intro sure sounds familiar and Okamura sounds like the type of friend who would offer a shoulder to that person who is recovering from a lost romance. Her lyrics talk of picking oneself up and stepping forward after that breakup.

(empty karaoke version)

"Good-Day" was also placed as a track on "Chou-fleur", Okamura's 7th original album from July 1991. "Chou-fleur" was one of Okamura's No. 1 albums. The single was also used as the theme song for a special drama on NTV titled "Go-gatsu no Kaze ~ Hitori Hitori no Futari"(5月の風 〜ひとりひとりの2人〜...The Winds of May ~ One by One a Couple)which starred the It Girl of Japanese dramas at the time, Honami Suzuki.

Masayuki Kishi -- See You Again

Discovered this nice little ditty on YouTube tonight, courtesy of singer-songwriter Masayuki Kishi(岸正之)who has provided songs for a number of singers including 80s aidoru Marina Watanabe's(渡辺満里奈)"Marina no Natsu"(マリーナの夏), and even wrote tunes for anime and commercials.

For a brief time, the Yokohama-born Kishi even released some of his own material through 2 singles and 2 albums. His debut album was "Warm Front" which came out in 1982. And the ditty that I'm referring to is a track from that album "See You Again" which has that sort of European-feeling whimsy. I wasn't quite sure whether this would fall into the genres of either City Pop or J-AOR although I get a slight impression of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)from that time. In the end, I decided to go with straight pop.

Hearing the song, I'm almost tempted to imagine Kishi in a tuxedo, straw hat and cane dancing about in Paris. Looking at that still image for the video above, he does look like a very young Hiroshi Abe, the actor. On his website, "kishi masayuki on the web", it looks like those two albums "Warm Front" and the 1984 "Pretender" were given their CD releases for the first time back in 2014.

Hideyuki Nagashima -- Orange Mystery(オレンジ・ミステリー)

It was rather a heavy-eating sort of day today after meeting up with friends to welcome back another old friend and his family coming in from Vancouver and then seeing my brother's family for the first time in several weeks. Could have used some orange slices as something refreshing.

Yup, not a great segue for "Orange Mystery" but I tried somewhat. One of the opening themes for the classic 80s anime "Kimagure Orange Road"(きまぐれオレンジロード), this was released by singer-musician Hideyuki Nagashima(長島秀幸)as his first single under this name (he had released 2 singles previously under his real name of Hideyuki Suzuki) back in 1987. Masao Urino(売野雅勇)and the band NOBODY took care of words and music respectively.

Although I never saw "KOR", "Orange Mystery" and the other various tunes associated with the show were able to enter my memories, I gather, from my friends' ardor for it. "Orange Mystery" is a nice fit since it has that summery feeling of a guy falling head over heels with a gal and perhaps there's even a hint of Eurobeat in there. It was indeed the time for the genre back in the late 1980s.

Nagashima would release one more single under his stage name before going on a long hiatus from the 1990s. But apparently according to his online blog in 2011, he was making a comeback under his real name(鈴木秀幸). However, that one entry is has been his only entry, it seems.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

BOOWY -- Kisetsu ga Kimi dake wo Kaeru(季節が君だけを変える)

Earlier in the week, commenter Luis Henrique asked me about a BOOWY song whose official music video he had been trying hard to search for. Since I only knew the 80s rock band for "Marionette", I decided to see if I could find it. In the end, I couldn't but luckily Luis could track it down to NicoNico.

Unfortunately, the music video isn't on YouTube but I found BOOWY's 6th single, "Kisetsu ga Kimi dake wo Kaeru" (Only You Can Be Changed by the Seasons) to be pretty catchy because of that guitar beat. Not surprisingly, it was guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei(布袋寅泰)who came up with the melody with vocalist Kyosuke Himuro(氷室京介)behind the lyrics. The single was released back in October 1987 following the release of the aforementioned "Marionette" in July.

The above has Himuro performing the song during his solo career. "Kisetsu ga Kimi dake wo Kaeru" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon, and like "Marionette", was also included on BOOWY's 6th and final album "PSYCHOPATH" which came out in September 1987.

The official music video is quite striking. The powers-that-be sent an invitation through the band's fan club, "BOOWY HUNT" for regular young folk from various walks of life to appear in the video. Each person or set of persons would just stare at the camera while it backed up; some of those folks looked quite intimidating. Since I am talking about a time some 30 years ago, I'd be interested in knowing how some of these now-middle-aged guys feel about seeing their young selves in the video. Himuro, Hotei and the rest of the band also show up on screen but just by themselves. I gather that the fans were informed that they wouldn't be able to sidle up with their heroes.

Anyways, many thanks, Luis, for introducing me to the song!

J-Canuck's Favourite Yuming Songs

An article whose time has come is how I will describe this. Yesterday, I was watching the Friday edition of the NHK morning variety show "Asaichi"(あさイチ...Morning Market)which will be coming to an end after 8 years of daily broadcast next week. Usually, Fridays are set aside for a long-form interview with a celebrity, and in all likelihood, yesterday's guest was the final one since I'm going to assume that next Friday's show will be the very last entry and so will probably be a tearful retrospective.

Well, what a guest! It just happened to be Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)herself. My eyes kinda boggled out of their sockets for a few seconds since she doesn't make it any sort of regular habit to appear on a live broadcast. In fact, if my hearing didn't fail me, Yuming(ユーミン)even said that the last time she actually showed up on a live show outside of the Kohaku Utagassen was back in the early 1990s on the former noontime program on Fuji-TV, "Waratte Ii Tomo"(笑っていいとも).

Considering the status of "Asaichi" at this time, it's no surprise that NHK managed to entice her on what would be the final long-form interview of the series. I caught the first 15~20 minutes in which she spoke on her regular life (she goes shopping and takes the bus in her area just like any other housewife) and the stamina for her spectacular concerts. I had been hoping that I could have heard some insights about her songwriting, especially on specific numbers but unfortunately I was in the middle of work yesterday and duty did call.

However, Yuming's appearance on "Asaichi" did inspire me to do something that I had not done before, and that is to write an Author's Picks on my favourite tunes by the legendary singer-songwriter. Yup, believe it or not, I hadn't done one before today. And man, it was difficult to come up with a list since there are so many of her songs that I have enjoyed over the decades.

Basically what I had to do was not touch any of her albums on my shelves and simply think of Yuming and wait until a whole series of songs popped up in my head. These aren't all quintessential, but they are all tunes that personally have stuck to me like flypaper all these years. Plus, as it turns out, they mostly cover the Yumi Arai(荒井由実)era from the 1970s into the Yumi Matsutoya era of the 1980s. I had been thinking of narrowing it down to 5 songs but nah, impossible. I've got 10. So here we go.

1. Ano Hi ni Kaeritai (1975)

I do love that bossa nova in there. Yumi Arai's voice back then was rather creamy compared to the reediness that started coming in as her career progressed so I'm not that surprised when I hear that there are fans who prefer her Arai days. Despite the bossa New Music, I will always think of what Japan was like in the 1970s rather than Brazil in the 1960s, and perhaps that was the point with New Music.

2. Sazanami (1976)

The first track from Yuming's final album under her maiden name of Arai, "The 14th Moon"(14番目の月), "Sazanami" is a wonderful road trip song for the singer. Would love to take a drive along the shoreline to this one. I mentioned this in the article for the album but that rollicking piano really gives that feeling of having a happy auto voyage on the highways.

3. Chuo Freeway (1976)

Also from "The 14th Moon", I guess this can be considered to be one of the trademark City Pop tunes of the 1970s. This is the nighttime for the daytime of "Sazanami" so images of evening driving through the metropolis come to mind. Regrettably, not being a driver, chances for me bombing down byways like the Kan-Etsu were very few and far between back in my time in Tokyo.

4. Yosoyuki Gao de (1980)

Not totally sure but this may have been the very first Yuming song that I had ever heard in my life. If so, it's about as different as anything that I had heard in the enka, aidoru and YMO departments. "Yosoyuki Gao de" is simply a down-home pop song out in the countryside with some roiling electric guitar. It was a track from "Toki no Nai Hotel"(時のないホテル).

5. Koibito wa Santa Claus (1980)

Yumi Matsutoya has also released her fair share of J-Xmas tunes but for me, this would be my favourite. A track from her "Surf and Snow" album, this is the usual Holiday song given a rocket boost thanks to the guitars and a propulsive beat. It sounds almost as if Santa Claus had been given a starship with warp drive on December 24th instead of the traditional sleigh with eight reindeer.

(cover version)

6. Tower Side Memory (1981)

For fellow Yuming fans, this choice may come across as being unusual but my favourites, as I said above, don't always include the quintessential. It's the first track from her 12th album "Sakuban O-Aishimashou"(昨晩お会いしましょう)and as I said for that album, it's about the most City Pop/J-AOR release that I've come to associate with Yuming. "Tower Side Memory" is a groovy number of its time which I especially appreciate for its intro and the chorus work. Moreover, it's a nice tribute to the Port Tower in Kobe.

7. Mamotte Agetai (1981)

Now, this is a quintessential Yuming hit. Also from "Sakuban O-Aishimashou", despite all that I've said about the album being a City Pop-friendly release, "Mamotte Agetai"(守ってあげたい)is one of the singer's most famous pop hits which feels like being swaddled in the warmest bath towel by Mom...with extra Downy! Any retrospective on Matsutoya will need to include this in the look back on her music.

8. Blizzard (1984)

A dramatic track from one of her most beloved albums "No Side", I think "Blizzard" has long been attached to skiing and perhaps even the Naeba Ski Resort which has had a long association with Yuming. It's somewhat ironic to me since the title and the tone strikes me as being somewhat dangerous for skiers, generally speaking. However, it is also an exciting number that I've enjoyed listening to on the stereo and even attempted at karaoke.

9. Seishun no Regret (1985)

No regrets here with "Seishun no Regret" since the song seems to encapsulate all of the bouncy footloose-and-fancy-free life of the young ones in 1980s Japan. Still, I can imagine some screw-ups amid all of the fun as adults in their 20s make their way through their new independence. Yuming's melody just zips along cheerfully at the speed of a nutty comedy anime. "Seishun no Regret" was a track on her 17th album "Da-Di-Da".

10. Valentine's Radio (1989)

As with "Tower Side Memory" from "Sakuban O-Aishimashou", "Valentine's Radio" was also the first track on its album "Love Wars" which was the very first Yuming album that I bought. There is also a hint of a gleaming metropolitan life amid those notes but the city is right beside a convenient seashore. Very summery, it is, and very cheerful although the times were very close to the end of the Bubble Era. As much as "Tower Side Memory" did for the early 1980s, "Valentine's Radio" melodically reflected its time in the last part of the decade.

I guess if I were to "psychoanalyze" and summarize my choices for my very favourite Yuming tunes, I could reply with the words "nostalgia", "salad days", "speed" and "city". Perhaps this being the 45th anniversary of Ms. Matsutoya's debut in music, there may be a goodly amount of retrospective analysis of her works to come. Well, I'm certainly game for it.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Southern All Stars -- Oh! Claudia(Oh!クラウディア)

Some weeks ago on an NHK afternoon talk show, the amiable actor Goro Kishitani(岸谷五朗)appeared as a guest. As the usual interviewer tactic on such a lighthearted program, the list of favourites would be asked of the guest. But this time, the hosts actually asked a fellow actor and close buddy of Kishitani about Kishitani's favourite things including favourite karaoke song. The man showed his long friendship by answering all 5 questions correctly. Kishitani's favourite karaoke song happened to be "Oh! Claudia" by Southern All Stars(サザンオールスターズ).

Hold the fort here! I'd never heard of this one by Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)and company. Mind you, I'm not a die-hard fan of Southern All Stars so I should know that there are probably a lot of very good SAS tunes that I have not been apprised on. Up to this point, really, I've most likely only known the biggest hits such as "Itoshi no Ellie"(いとしのエリー).

"Oh! Claudia" is actually not a single, but a track on Southern All Stars' 5th original album "Nude Man". I think even a lot of folks like myself who aren't huge fans know the album through its cover which shows the bottom end of a naked guy diving into the ocean. According to Kuwata's own radio show "Kuwata Keisuke no Yasashii Yo Asobi"(桑田佳祐のやさしい夜遊び...Keisuke Kuwata's Gentle Evening Fun)from 2014 via J-Wiki, Kuwata himself said that the photo had been taken on the coast of either India or Pakistan and the fellow was a local resident.

But I digress. Listening to "Oh! Claudia", I can understand why Kishitani loves this ballad. It is very soulful and introspective, and it deals with a man pining over Claudia who's no longer with him for whatever reason. It's not quite as epic as another more famous Kuwata song featuring a beloved woman, the aforementioned Ellie, but it's still a wonderful number all the same. What's also notable about it is the instrumental bridge which almost sounds like something classical and European but then the electric guitar comes in to bring us back to the beach.

I've covered another song that was on "Nude Man" and that was "Niji Iro The Night Club"(匂艶「にじいろ」THE NIGHT CLUB), so I've mentioned that the album became the 3rd-ranking LP for 1982. I can also state that it hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and stayed there for 5 straight weeks.

Ah, incidentally...Kishitani's wife, for those who may not know, happens to be the lead vocalist for another band.

Nana Mizuki -- Eisai Haramasukoi(エイサイハラマスコイ)

Well, I did say for some of the other articles associated with anime's Winter 2018 season that there haven't been any crawling earworms. I may have to swallow down a slice of crow to go with those worms. And it's all because of "Pop Team Epic"(ポプテピピック), the crazy anime that I've had to watch excerpts on YouTube since my buddy really won't get into it.

It's rather ironic since the one other semi-earworm this season also came from "Pop Team Epic" through their parody of "Let's Groove" originally by Earth Wind & Fire.

A few episodes ago apparently, there was one segment in which Popuko(ポプ子)demonstrated this little jig called the Eisai Haramasukoi which may or may not have been inspired by minyo. Popuko innocently asked her best buddy Pipimi(ピピ美)whether her invention would sell after which Pipimi considered two potential consequences and go with continuing friendship.

Then in the penultimate episode, the seiyuu for the female half of the show were Nana Mizuki(水樹奈々)and Mamiko Noto(能登麻美子)portraying Popuko and Pipimi respectively. Mizuki put on her best traditional singing voice on for those vital few seconds, and basically the same skit occurred from the original version a few weeks back. Pipimi gave her blessing.

Guess what? Inspiration broke in the form of a dance remix which became the opening credits for the episode. And I gotta say...nice piece of dancing by Popuko. Furthermore, it's the techno version that has dug itself into my brain. I don't know for sure who came up with the music but most likely it's the fellow behind the music for the show in general, Gin(吟).

Along with "Who shot J.R.?" and "Who is Keyser Soze?", "What is Eisai Haramasukoi?" initially did pop up in my head as one of the biting pop culture questions. Assuming that it was based on an actual traditional dance, I tried looking it up but I couldn't find anything online. So for now, I will think of it as another crazed creation by the good folks at "Pop Team Epic". That final episode should be rather the last word in the title.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tazumi Toyoshima -- Everyday, Every Night(エヴリデイ・エヴリナイト)

Had a nice evening down at University of Toronto being part of a panel discussion on students about to graduate from East Asian Studies and what they can do thereafter. It was rather nice meeting the fellow panelists (one of whom is an old friend of over 40 years) and meeting some students who were crazy to go to Japan...reminded me of yours truly a few decades ago.

Still digesting my Indian dinner which was catered into the venue so I'm keeping things simple tonight with a pleasant number from Tazumi Toyoshima(豊島たづみ). A little over a couple of years ago, I wrote about her 4th single, "Tomadoi Twilight"(とまどいトワイライト)which was most likely her most successful release back in 1979. Well, her previous single is also eminently listenable.

"Everyday, Every Night" is a nighttime City Pop tune from October 1978 with a twist of bossa with Toyoshima singing it in a gently swinging manner. There is also something about it that reminds me of some of Henry Mancini's music from a decade earlier. Some nice solo guitar as well. Veteran lyricist Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ)took care of the words and Mutsuhiro Nishiwaki(西脇睦宏)came up with the mellow music. It's a nice way to finish up an eventful night.

Ebisu Muscats -- Bibiru-Body de-Boo (ビビる-Bodyで-Boo) / Honey Popcorn -- Bibidi Babidi Boo

Honey Popcorn (source:

One of the headlines of the K-Pop world this week is the debut of a group called Honey Popcorn, which is comprised of three Japanese AV idols. Yeah, that’s right… AV idols in Korea recording cute and virginal aidoru-like songs. The world can be quite ironic sometimes, and I just love it to death.

The other interesting thing about Honey Popcorn is how they’re a somewhat crossover group, since one of the members, Yua Mikami (三上悠亜), is also part of Japanese AV idol super group Ebisu Muscats (恵比寿マスカッツ). Not only that, but Yua Mikami was a member of SKE48 in the past, with a different name, Kito Momona (鬼頭桃菜), before starting doing porn… eventually landing in Ebisu Muscats, where she remains as a member nowadays (alongside her new activities as a Honey Popcorn member and lead girl). Apparently, other members were also part of aidoru groups before launching their respective porn careers. For instance, Miko Matsuda (松田美子) was once a member of NMB48 as Risako Okada (岡田梨紗子), and Sakura Moko (桜もこ) was formerly known as Yuu Ito (伊東裕) during her time as a member of Bakusute Sotokanda Icchome (バクステ外神田一丁目).

Honestly, I can’t even imagine where this crazy thing is going to head in the future, or if this group will simply fade into obscurity in Korea. In fact, the reception there, from what I’ve been reading, is far from being good, since the girls are facing prejudice because of their porn activities, and also from being Japanese. Well, we all know that both countries have their own share of historic problems, and no one really thought that a bunch of Japanese AV idols debuting in the highly competitive Korean idol industry would get praise from Korean people.

Diplomatic matters apart, Honey Popcorn’s debut single is called “Bibidi Babidi Boo” and, quite frankly, it’s better than I thought it would be. Sure, it’s not revolutionary by any means, but still catchy enough, and surprisingly similar to what cute K-Pop idol groups are recording these days.

However, what got me really interested in this whole story was another case of crossover between these two groups, and this time coming from the song’s title. The thing is, back in 2016, Ebisu Muscats released a single called “Sexy Beach Honeymoon”, which had a song called “Bibiru-Body de-Boo” included as one of the coupling tracks. Of course, the two songs have nothing similar besides the title and the crossover between members. Yet, for me, it’s too much of a coincidence that both projects, similar in nature and everything else, have interchangeable songs for both Asian markets. Well, I don’t know what happened, and maybe Yua Mikami simply started humming Ebisu Muscats’ “Bibiru-Body de-Boo” in a meeting for the Honey Popcorn project… which ended in someone liking the title and all, but I just thought this whole story was quite hilarious to begin with.

That these girls are trying to make some cash recording virginal songs in Korea (one of Honey Popcorn’s coupling songs is called “First Kiss”, probably just for the sake of being ironic) while also having careers in both Japanese aidoru and porn industries is also part of the joke. For me, though, I’ll take Ebisus Muscats’ “Bibiru-Body de-Boo”, which is quite catchy in its own right, as a nice reminder of this crazy story that heated up discussions in this yet very stagnant period of the year, both in Japan and Korean’s music markets. And I just love its disco sound, of course.