A few days ago, I was watching one of the music channels on TV and there was a program which focused on a round-table discussion involving music critics and other professionals from the recording industry. The question of the show was "Are albums no longer necessary?"
Well, in this age of streaming and downloading, perhaps they are not. Listeners are free to pick and choose their own favourite tunes, download them and then create their own compilations of very long length without having to listen to tracks that they don't like in a traditional album or they can even skip them to get to their beloved songs.
Fair enough. But as someone who still prefers to buy CDs and the odd LP of Japanese music albums of decades past, I think that there have been plenty of gems hidden in those albums that never got their single status. Some of the pros on that TV show reminded me of that, and then I was reading Marcos V.'s article on his Omega Tribe acquisition and made the wonderful discovery of songs that I had never heard before because they may not have ended up on either the A or B sides of an old 45" or a BEST compilation.
And that's true for a lot of other singers as well. I've mentioned before in other articles that getting a BEST compilation of a singer that you've cottoned onto is great to get your feet wet where that singer's hit material is concerned, but that it's also splendid to purchase some of his/her original albums as well since you never know what other tracks might also tickle your fancy even though individually they never got blessed by Oricon's light.
Therefore, I decided to create my own list and separate it over two articles about some of those perhaps hidden gems on various albums by some of my favourite singers. Now, by no means, is this a comprehensive list. There are so many good to excellent non-single album tracks out there for me that I can only provide a small taste (plus for some singers, those particular songs don't seem to exist on YouTube). Some of them have actually made it onto BEST compilations.
So, allow me to provide the first six songs.
1. EPO -- Payday/Album: "Vitamin EPO" (1983)
"Vitamin EPO" was another great album by the singer-songwriter in my estimation but "Payday" just seemed to particularly show off its EPO-tastic nature through the singer's vocals, the arrangement and that feeling of being downtown on a Friday ready to paint the town red. As with some of the other entries in the list, I was surprised that "Payday" hadn't been released as a single on its own.
2. Seiko Matsuda -- Ichigo Batake de Tsukamaete/Album: "Kaze Tachinu" (1981)
This did get onto Seiko-chan's（松田聖子）BEST compilation, "Seiko - Box" but this is actually where I first listened to this really quirky tune by Eiichi Ohtaki（大瀧詠一）and Takashi Matsumoto（松本隆）, and was one of the reasons that I finally got the original album "Kaze Tachinu"（風立ちぬ）. Perhaps it was too quirky to get single status on either A or B side, but as an album track, it sure is something to behold in terms of that guitar and the overall unusual bounciness.
3. Anri -- Circuit of Rainbow/Album: "Circuit of Rainbow" (1989)
No singles came out from the album "Circuit of Rainbow" but judging from what I heard from her previous album "Boogie Woogie Mainland" via "Sounds of Japan", I figured that I would be getting some ultra-uptempo R&B numbers. I wasn't disappointed. That whole intro for the title track seemed to open up a new world of where Anri（杏里）was now ruling after hearing her much older material at Kuri, my karaoke haunt.
4. Mariya Takeuchi -- Morning Glory/Album: "Miss M" (1980)
Another non-single track that surprised me in that it didn't get its solo appearance, Takeuchi's（竹内まりや）"Morning Glory" is so mellow yet happy happy, joy joy that after all these years, it's still hard to not sway side-to-side whenever Mariya sings the refrain. As much as City Pop fans are going gaga over "Plastic Love", I think "Morning Glory" deserves some good love, and consider some of the folks who were behind the production of this track.
5. Taeko Ohnuki -- Iidasenakute/Album: "Mignonne" (1978)
Oh, Lord...give me one more chance! No, I realize that lyric is from "4am" which is to Taeko Ohnuki's（大貫妙子）current popularity on YouTube as "Plastic Love" is to Takeuchi's own current fame. Well "4am" is getting plenty of chances right now, so I've decided to go with another track from "Mignonne", "Iidasenakute"（言いだせなくて）. It's Ohnuki going Minako Yoshida（吉田美奈子）Disco on a track which hasn't failed to exercise my goose pimples whenever I listen to it. The backup chorus and the finale sax add some wonderful icing to this cake, and I can't help but reminisce about those late 1970s including me watching the hilarious "WKRP In Cincinnati".
6. Akina Nakamori -- Romantic na Yoru da wa/Album: Bitter & Sweet (1985)
Getting my copy of "Bitter & Sweet" on LP at Wah Yueh back in university, I marveled at the tandem of "Kazarijanainoyo Namida wa"（飾りじゃないのよ涙は）and "Romantic na Yoru da wa"（ロマンチックな夜だわ）. Hearing these two melding into a unit meant that this Nakamori album was cemented as my favourite release by her...a status that hasn't changed in 30 years. For a track that was never released as a single, "Romantic na Yoru da wa" still packs a raunchy punch and considering all of the BEST compilations that have come out for her over the decades, I would be surprised if this second track from "Bitter & Sweet" has yet to show up on any of them. Not surprisingly, the person responsible for words and music is EPO, the lady for the first entry.
I may be a bit busier than usual this weekend, but if I can, I will try and get Part 2 out in the next few days. And once again, I send out the invitation for collaborators and commenters to provide their favourite NSATs.