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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Saori Minami -- Shiokaze no Melody(潮風のメロディ)

For readers of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" in much of North America currently, you may be ardently swooning over summer pictures like the above (although this was actually taken in October). Yes, that Polar Vortex of petrifying cold must be having you feeling lower than a centipede's pot belly. Over the last few days, I've been keeping my errands outside to a minimum. I get out to do one task and then get back inside. The nice thing is that temperatures ought to be rising up to a torrid -1 degree Celsius at least by this weekend, and up to a heavenly 7 degrees by next Monday.

Well, there's always the Fireplace Channel on cable for some of that lovely placebo effect or you can give Saori Minami(南沙織)a try through her 2nd single "Shiokaze no Melody" (Sea Breeze Melody). Released in October 1971 (perhaps the song was trying to keep those happy summery feelings alive), right from Note One, it's all warm winds and sunny sea coast as Minami recounts a romance by the ocean.

"Shiokaze no Melody" was written by Mieko Arima(有馬三恵子)and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)and had Minami performing it on a number of shows including music programs and even some dramas through cameo appearances, according to J-Wiki. Also, I gotta say that maybe the song provided one of the first music videos for a Japanese singer. The single peaked at No. 7 and ended up as the 91st-ranked song for 1971 and held on for another year to become the 99th-ranked single.

It was also the title track for Minami's first album of cover songs released in December 1971 as it broke the Top 10 at No. 10 on the Oricon weeklies. To end this, I've gotta make this rather bizarre statement and say that Minami on that cover for the album looks a fair bit like actress Chloe Bennet from "Agents of SHIELD".

Akira Matsudaira -- Circus no Uta (サーカスの唄)

Quite some time ago (it was meant to be "Not too long ago", but I got a horrendous writer's block for this article at that point in time), commenter Hanibo mentioned that Akira Matsudaira (松平晃) was one of the few popular ryukoka stars that hadn't yet been profiled on KKP, so I thought that now would be a good time to give him a label of his own, and what better way to start it than with the song that brought him into fame, "Circus no Uta" (Circus Song) from 1933.

For some reason, I was never keen on circuses. I mean, they have animals I like perform tricks and performers doing death-defying stunts, but I could never get into it. I wonder if it was a subconscious aversion to it after I got traumatized by "Dumbo" when I was young (especially since I love elephants)... and the dang clowns. This aversion was probably also what kept me away from "Circus no Uta", easily one of the evergreen ryukoka to come out of the 30's and one of the great Masao Koga's (古賀政男) pride and joy.

Well, but after the aforementioned prompt and after watching an interview of Koga, I finally set my aversion aside and gave this Matsudaira hit a good listen. I got to say, it's very... circus-y... in the sense that it's jaunty and what I believe is the clarinet fluttering in from time to time adds a sort of whimsical edge to a score that is heavy on the accordion. This accompanies the equally renowned Yaso Saijo's (西條八十) words about a carny who's bored with his roving lifestyle and yearns to go home to his special one.

With two of the old kayo's big wigs having worked on "Circus no Uta", it was no wonder why it did as well as it did. But prior to its success there were some complications: for one, Koga also had a severe writer's (creator's?) block when it came to having to complement Saijo's forlorn piece. Two, the one whom this tune was originally written for, Ichiro Fujiyama (藤山一郎), moved to Victor from Colombia Records, so they had to find a replacement in then newcomer Matsudaira. In spite of all that, Matsudaira managed to make it work and we have the classic we know today that has been covered countless times by enka singers in the following decades.

There were so many renditions to pick from, so I decided to put the one by Koga's last student, Eisaku Ohkawa (大川栄策). In this one, you can enjoy a slightly more modern take on the music while still retaining the quintessential Koga-sound.

Before we end off this article, here an introduction to Matsudaira: Born Tsuneharu Fukuda (福田恒治) on 26th June 1911 in Saga prefecture, he had quite a rough road on his way to becoming a singer. First he faced objections from his father, then he had some financial difficulties that put a strain on his musical education when he did go up to Tokyo. However, Matsudaira did manage to get into the music scene through Nitto Records via a friend's recommendation, and debuted as Shizuo (?) Ohkawa (大川静夫) in 1932, all while still in school. All the way up to the next year, (from what I understand) he jumped from record company to record company in an effort to produce a hit, until he landed in Colombia, where he encountered "Circus no Uta" and the rest was history.

In the way of his name, he underwent about half a dozen name changes, one per record company, prior to his breakthrough until he finally settled with "Akira Matsudaira" in 1934. In this way, he kind of reminds me of Toshiro Omi (近江俊郎).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Yurie Kokubu -- Akogare(憧憬)

It's pretty ironic that for all of the articles that I've written on Yurie Kokubu's(国分友里恵)flashy City Pop numbers over the last little while, the very first article about her was her own cover of "Tada Nakitakunaruno"(ただ泣きたくなるの), a song that she and her husband, composer Masaki Iwamoto(岩本正樹), had created for Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)in the early 1990s. The song was basically my introduction to Kokubu and by that point in the decade, it looks like she had veered into a more general pop sound. It did come to some surprise when I heard tracks from her debut release in 1983, "Relief 72 Hours" that she had been doing the urban funk.

My introduction to Kokubu was through her 1995 album "Akogare" (Longing), and as I had mentioned in the article for "Tada Nakitakunaruno", I got to know her through her sparky commercial jingles for various products. It was enough for me to pick up "Akogare" and one of the other songs from the album that has stood out for the past few decades is the title track itself.

Once again, both Kokubu and Iwamoto were responsible for this rather proud and elegant song. Kokubu's vocals just ring out through the air and bring feelings of calm and inspiration to my old head. It's quite the different feeling when compared to her City Pop days in the 1980s, as if the party girl finally hung up her dancing shoes a long time ago and is now perfectly content with sipping tea with her old disco buddies at home. The single version came out in December 1994.

J-Canuck's 90s Playlist

Yup, don't those 90s CD singles look cute? If I were at one of my old music store haunts such as RECOfan right now, they would probably be going for something like 50 yen a disc. Would like to peruse the bins again someday.

Good evening, folks! And in commemoration of the 7th anniversary of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I would like to put out my 90s playlist...those go-to songs from the decade of the Komuro Boom, guitar pop/rock bands and the return of aidoru via Hello Project. I think it was about time since it was at the end of 2013 that I put out the 80s playlist and the middle of 2014 when the 70s playlist got written up. So it's been about 4.5 years between the last time and this list. Also, another reason for finally putting up the 90s list is that I was inspired by Noelle herself putting up her 60s playlist.

As with those lists, I searched the old memories for my favourite Top 10 from the 1990s, and once again, it was another lip-biting and mind-grimacing process of whittling down the list to just ten entries. So, for example, I had to sadly let go entries by Dreams Come True, Pizzicato Five and Original Love. The interesting difference between this list and the other two lists is that for a lot of the songs here, I was actually in Japan when they first saw the light of day due to my time on the JET Programme and then my early years as an inhabitant in Ichikawa.

So, without further ado...

1. Kazumasa Oda -- Love Story wa Totsuzen ni (1991): Finding the Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)original is currently impossible (as it usually is) although there are plenty of covers, so let me go with Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)here. I realize that this hit was going up against Chage & Aska's "Say Yes", but in the end, I had to go with this magnum opus by the lead singer of Off-Course(オフコース). What is it about "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"(ラブ・ストーリーは突然にー)that still continues to thrill me right from the intro? It just seems to possess that feeling of excitement and drama of living in one of the world's biggest cities as these complicated love relationships play out on Fuji-TV.

2. Noriyuki Makihara -- Donna Toki mo (1991): From the drama of "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni" in the early months, I encountered the happy joy of Makihara's(槇原敬之)"Donna Toki mo"(どんなときも)just when I finished my time on JET and did a final trip around southwestern Japan. I was so drawn by this song that whenever I got into a department store, I made sure that I coursed through every CD shop to track the single down. I finally got it after a few tries. Yeah, my first attempts only saw it sold out.

3. trf -- Boy Meets Girl (1994): I had heard of this technopop tune even before I made my return trip to Japan at the end of 1994. Never heard of trf, never knew about Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)creating his huge steamroller of acts and never realized that "Boy Meets Girl" was meant to sell cola. All I did know was that this song was percolating through my head for days. It ended up being one of the first CD singles that I bought during my Ichikawa life.

4. Sing Like Talking -- Mitsumeru Ai de (1994): And to think that I bought my first SLT album, "Discovery", as a pure mistake. Best mistake that I ever committed. Thus started my happy hunt to get more of their albums, and from "Discovery", I discovered the urban and urbane "Mitsumeru Ai de"(みつめる愛で)created by Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)and keyboardist Satoru Shionoya(塩谷哲). To be honest, it was difficult to come up with a song by Sing Like Talking since the band has had so many scrumptious contributions but "Together" has already been put up on a couple of lists, and it was time to give some more love to this one.

5. Namie Amuro -- Chase The Chance (1995): Granted that a lot of Amuro(安室奈美恵)fans will probably go with other bigger hits by the just-retired Okinawan singer, but I've always gravitated to "Chase The Chance" for some reason. I guess that I will always be attracted to high-energy tunes that give off that sense of action although this song was used as the theme for a show about a crusading hero chef. Those were good times.

6. B'z -- Love Phantom (1995): For me, if it comes to a B'z ultimate favourite, I would have to go with either "Bad Communication" or "Love Phantom". Considering that this was a promotion song for TV Asahi's broadcast of "The X-Files" (which I did watch on my remote-less, dial-only TV every Wednesday night), this may go down as the quintessential cool J-Halloween song. I can no longer listen to this song without images of Mulder, Scully and Fluke Man forming in my head.

7. Toko Furuuchi -- Dare Yori Suki Nanoni (1996): Another beautiful ballad to remind me that some soul music still existed since the transition from kayo kyoku to J-Pop. Whenever I think of the 90s brand of popular Japanese music, "Dare Yori Suki Nanoni"(誰より好きなのに)never fails to pop up in the head. The arrangement of Furuuchi's(古内東子)representative song also has me thinking back to the 1980s. It's no surprise that it has been covered by other singers since its release.

8. Maki Ohguro -- Atsukunare (1996): As much as one of my favourite songs by Furuuchi always calms me down, Maki Ohguro's(大黒摩季)"Atsukunare"(熱くなれ)works very well in getting my blood flowing at beyond the official speed limit. In fact, I'm typing faster (and making more typos) since I'm listening to it as I get this paragraph down. NHK chose wisely in adopting this for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and I can hope that the network can find a song that ups the ante in excitement for the 2020 Games next year.

9. Misia -- Tsutsumikomuyouni (1998): Man, did Misia make a splash. Along with Hikaru Utada(宇多田ヒカル)and bird, the three of them along with some other artists heralded a J-R&B boom, and Misia brought some good old-fashioned R&B of years past and present. "Tsutsumikomuyouni"(つつむ込むように)is still a title that has problems sticking in my head due to its length and pronunciation, but there is no doubt about the music there.

10. Morning Musume -- Love Machine (1999): At the beginning of the 1990s, I do remember aidoru acts such as Wink and CoCo, but then it seemed like the whole teenybopper thing that wound its way through the decades since the 1960s finally petered out. For a lot of my time in the final decade of the 20th century in Japan, female aidoru struck me as being extinct although Johnny's Entertainment had SMAP and other groups going on the male side of things. But then came the whole Tsunku-led Hello Project umbrella of aidoru groups and individual aidoru, and it all started with Morning Musume(モーニング娘。). Things were moving slowly but steadily in the early years of the group but then it all exploded into super fame and popularity with "Love Machine"(LOVEマシーン), and soon, the various members were showing up on their own myriad TV programs for a few years before more groups started forming. "Love Machine" became the funky choice to sing at the various karaoke boxes and year-end parties before the turn of the century, and Morning Musume took a new electrifying direction in their career.

Man, that was quite the decade, and there were so many other songs and singers that I would have loved to have included in the list, but I'm keeping it to ten. However, if any of the fellow collaborators would like to give their own 90s lists, they're more than welcome and commenters are also very welcome to provide their own contributions.

Mitsuko Komuro -- Koi no Dancin'(恋のダンシン)

Hard to believe, but it's been a little over a week since I put up a City Pop number. I was trying to tamp things down when it came to my favourite kayo genre since I had thought that I was going a little overboard. However, maybe it's time for the pendulum to swing back again.

Luckily enough, I found this light and mellow contribution by singer-songwriter Mitsuko Komuro(小室みつ子), "Koi no Dancin'" (Love Dancin'). This is a track from her 3rd album "Mishiranu Koibito"(見知らぬ恋人...Unknown Lovers)from February 1983 and shares vinyl with "Highway Rendezvous"(ハイウェー ランデブー).

I don't know 100% who was behind "Koi no Dancin'", but realizing Komuro's job designation, it wouldn't surprise me if Komuro herself was the one behind the creation of this City Pop tune that sounds as if it belongs to the midnight bar setting with some tipsy dancing on the open floor. Komuro's high-toned vocals remind me of the music by fellow urban contemporary chanteuses Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵)and Tomoko Aran(亜蘭知子).

Jun Horie -- Yume no Ayatori(夢のあやとり)HAPPY 7TH ANNIVERSARY, KAYO KYOKU PLUS!

I think among all of the current collaborators on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I, J-Canuck, am the only one who seasonally lives in an environment that is not unlike the one in Antarctica. Following Snowmageddon 2019 on Monday, we're currently going through a cold snap with high temperatures at around -18 degrees Celsius (that would be 0 degrees in the United States). Earlier today, I basically bundled myself so much in winter gear that I looked like the Canadian version of Iron Man's Hulkbuster outfit.


Anyways, onto business. Well, actually this should be pleasure since this has been fun. Today is the 7th anniversary of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and I bid you welcome once more as I have almost every day since January 30th 2012. When I first started this up, I naively thought that I would get this over and done with in a year. Ah...little did I know.

Well, each year, I always wonder whether this would be the final time for me, at least, to put up an average of two articles per day on the various Japanese pop songs contributed over the past century and more on the blog. But then, I go back to this famous scene from "The Godfather, Part III".

Not that I was ever going to abandon this huge project by any means. I thought that I would be going into a more curatorial mode, but as it stands, I have a huge backlog of songs that I need to get through and then there is music that just pops up all of a sudden through tips by various commenters and collaborators. So, semi-retirement isn't currently an option. And that's just for me, not including folks like Noelle, Marcos, Larry and Joana for whom I have been grateful for their contributions over the past 7 years.

I was thinking about what to put up today on this 7th anniversary of the blog. Getting an Author's Pick is no longer just an option but a plan for later tonight. Then, I thought about searching for a song by singer-songwriter Jun Horie(堀江淳), the reason being is that his 1981 hit song "Memory Glass"(メモリーグラス)became the very first topic on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" since it is one of the touchstone tunes that got me interested full-bore into kayo kyoku in the first place after my Toronto Japanese Language School graduation trip to Japan that year.

At first blush, though, I wasn't optimistic since basically, Horie only had that one hit and most of the YouTube videos on display feature only "Memory Glass". However, I was able to find this title track from his second album "Yume no Ayatori" (Cat's Cradle of Dreams) released in May 1982. Not sure what the recorded version sounds like, but as it sounds in this TV rendition, it's quite the folksy ballad. It's quite different from the poppier "Memory Glass"'s more on the lines of something by the late Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵).

What the heck? Allow me to show you what started this show going. Some additional information that I hadn't provided on the original article was that "Memory Glass" became the 18th-ranked single for 1981, selling over half a million records. The above version seems to be a rearranged take.

In any case, my thanks to everyone who has been providing their own stories with their songs (past and present collaborators and commenters) along with the many more readers. Let us see what more treasures we can unearth from the past and what more discoveries we can make in the future.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

James Ingram -- Just Once/Yah Mo B There

Earlier this month, I wrote a tribute for Daryl Dragon, The Captain from Captain & Tennille because of his passing on January 2nd. Sad to say, I have to say that 80s R&B singer James Ingram has also died today at the age of 66. I found out about the news earlier on Twitter. This hurts even more since the Ohio-born singer recorded a lot of numbers that became part of the music book of my memories and partially led to my love of the Japanese urban contemporary scene.

Ingram has already become part of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" since I wrote about his duet with Linda Ronstadt, "Somewhere Out There" which was later covered by Akiko Kobayashi(小林明子)under the title "Kokoro no Honoo"(こころの炎). Strangely enough, the impetus for me to write about it was that composer James Horner had passed away.

I have Ingram's BEST compilation and also Quincy Jones' "The Dude", the amazing 1981 album that included Ingram as one of the singers including for "Ai no Corrida", the opening track. However, Ingram was also responsible for another track "Just Once", his debut single recorded in August 1981. He had so many amazing songs but for me, "Just Once" is perhaps his theme song and a ballad that will always remind how much I love the 1980s R&B. On the US Billboard 100, it peaked at No. 17 but made it up to No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Then in 1983, he and Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers did a duet for the single "Yah Mo B There", one of the cooler songs in the genre during those 80s. The intro still can give me a shiver up the spine. Ingram gave some wonderful balladry but I really loved the kakkoii factor for "Yah Mo B There". That went up to No. 19. Still remember the music video which got plenty of exposure on the music video shows.

As I did for "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, I will continue the mandate of the blog and provide three songs that actually debuted in August 1981, the same month for Ingram's debut "Just Once".

Miki Asakura -- Misty Twilight

Saburo Tokito -- Kawa no Nagare wo Daite Nemuritai

Imo Kin Trio -- High School Lullaby

Anyways, thanks, James, for all of the great music!

Akina Nakamori/Mariya Takeuchi -- Yakusoku(約束)

I had actually thought about writing this article tomorrow since tomorrow is the 7th anniversary of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)has been one of my touchstone singers pertaining to our blog. But seeing that I also have another plan for the anniversary on January 30th, I just went "What the heck?"

So I've decided to go with something classy from the Nakamori oeuvre tonight. This is "Yakusoku" (The Promise) which is originally from her 1986 album "Crimson". Now for folks who have already taken a gander at my article for the album, you already know how I had initially felt about "Crimson" and that I've mellowed a fair bit since my rather negative feelings had first come out back in my university days. You also know about the fate of my audiotape as it was brutally mangled by Jaws the wayward tape recorder.

In any case, my redemption concerning "Crimson" continues with "Yakusoku". Written and composed by veteran songbird Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), it is a bittersweet tale with a contemporary nightclub jazzy feel that brings to mind downtown fine dining and uptown living as Akina-chan portrays a lady who has moved onto a new guy but still holds a torch for the previous beau. However, the titular promise from the former flame is that once the relationship is over, there is no do-over. She's a bit sad about it all but despite her feelings of longing, her mind seems to have accepted things and she's moving on. However, from the music's cue, there is nothing maudlin here. If the former fellow ever showed up by coincidence at the restaurant she was at, then they would exchange friendly smiles and move away and forward.

Nakamori's vocals had started to change even further when she worked on her late 1980s albums when compared to her singles which never showed up on the albums. There was her high-toned delivery as an aidoru in the early 80s which metamorphosed into the deeper tones of the superstar for her mid-80s work. But once she went into her more "experimental" album material, her voice seemed to take on an even smokier quality. And I think this more sultrier-sounding Akina is a good match for a song like "Yakusoku".

As I said before, Takeuchi was the one behind the creation of "Yakusoku". Her version of the song first appeared as the coupling tune in her 24th single from May 1994, "Jun'ai Rhapsody"(純愛ラプソディ), and then it was placed onto the bonus disc "Vintage Denim" which was only included in the first edition of Mariya's 10th studio album "Denim" from May 2007.

According to the J-Wiki write-up of "Vintage Denim", Takeuchi's husband, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), was furious about how "Yakusoku" had been interpreted in Nakamori's performance, and as such, he suggested that Mariya do a self-cover which led to her recording "Yakusoku" herself. For the record, though, she has praised Akina's version as the more mature take. I've always kinda wondered how an argument between those two would have gone.

My take on it? Takeuchi's cover of "Yakusoku" is very Mariya. It's breezy and has a bit of that 50s feeling that used to signify her earliest songs. Instead of that downtown French restaurant, I get images of a Sunday afternoon walk in the park. Not to disagree with one of my favourite singers but I think her "Yakusoku" is definitely not a teen-themed tune; it's just as mature but it's in a different venue.

Noelle's Favourite Songs From The 60's

In the way of my selections per era, we've delved into the ancient 30's and 40's, progressed to the 50's, and we've now arrived at our next stop: the 60's. Besides the technology and the overall condition of Japan improving by leaps and bounds, another thing I've noticed about this era is that this was when the musical genres seem to become more distinct and not just simply be lumped into the umbrella categories of ryukoka or kayokyoku, and Western influences get more deeply ingrained into the melodies.

With greater musical variation in this period, it kind of goes without saying that the songs on this list will more or less show that - I mean, it's probably not as varied as I think, but there's definitely more than just enka in store here. As per the other articles, the songs aren't arranged in a particular order and I will add bits of lyrics which I like to the blurbs as well.

Disclaimer: These will be my picks on my favourites from the 1960's, so you may or may not find songs that you like or feel should be on here.

That said let's get on with the show.

Duke Aces -- Onna Hitori (1965)

Shiozawa-gasuri ni Nagoya obi (塩沢がすりに名古屋帯)
Mimi wo sumaseba taki no oto (耳をすませば滝の音)
Kyoto Ranzan Daikakuji (京都 嵐山 大覚寺)
Koi ni tsukareta onna ga hitori (恋に疲れた女がひとり)

Admittedly, I haven't been listening to this elderly vocal group all that much as of late. However, when I do want some Duke Aces (デューク・エイセス) and want to cleanse my palate from hardcore enka and, wouldn't you know it, modern J-pop, the first song that I will always choose is "Onna Hitori" (女ひとり). This installment from their ambitious "Nihon no Uta Series" (「にほんのうた」シリーズ) is one beautiful and rather therapeutic tune that wonderfully portrays Kyoto and three of its well-known temples. Ah, I wish I could see Duke Aces in the lineup above singing this song one more time.

Yoshio Tabata -- Shima Sodachi (1962)

Asa wa nishi kaze yo wa minami kaze (朝は西風 夜は南風)
Oki no tachi gam'ya oki no tachi gam'ya (沖の立神ゃ 沖の立神ゃ)
Mata kata senami (また片瀬波)

From the thousand year old capital we take a trip down south to the little island off the coast of Kagoshima. Similar to "Onna Hitori", I find Yoshio Tabata's (田端義夫) take on the Amami Oshima minyo "Shima Sodachi" (島育ち) so relaxing just listening to it feels like I'm at a quiet beach soaking up the sun - not like I need anymore of it.

I try hard not to repeat any singer in my lists so that they wouldn't be jam-packed with the same handful of them for, as I said before, that'd be boring. However, Batayan is that wild exception I'm willing to make. Yes, I like "Shima Sodachi" that much, so much so that I so readily put it down here as I'm biting my fist as I gloss over a certain fellow with an "8" in his name and the one with a smile for the ages.

Hibari Misora -- Yawara (1963)

Yuku mo tomaru mo suwaru mo fusu mo (行くも住るも 坐るも臥すも)
Yawara hitosuji Yawara hitosuji yo ga akeru (柔一すじ 柔一すじ 夜が明ける)

And from Amami Oshima, we come back to Tokyo for the Olympics.

Whoo! You can feel that ferocity emanating from that tiny figure! Madam Misora looks about ready to knock someone's block off. I believe I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Yawara" () has got to be the manliest song sung by a woman of that time. The muscular and grand melody combined with Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) moxie just makes for such a cool song.

Yuzo Kayama -- O-Yome ni Oide (1965)

Fune ga mieta nara nureta karada de (舟が見えたなら 濡れた体で)
Tondekoi sora e dakiagete (とんでこい 空へ抱きあげて)
Moeru kuchizuke shiyou (もえるくちずけしよう)

Ah, the Wakadaisho. If there's one song by him that consistently gets itself lodged into my cranium, it's the Hawaiian-esque "O-Yome ni Oide" (お嫁においで). It's a simple and oh-so-catchy ditty with a cute premise, and that alone is enough to keep it running through my mind.

Yujiro Ishihara -- Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigato (1967)

Itsuka futari de tsukamu shiawase (いつかふたりで つかむ幸せ)
Inotte okure yogiri yogiri (祈っておくれ 夜霧 夜霧)

Unlike the other songs on this list my liking for "Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigato" (夜霧よ今夜も有難う) crept in slowly... like night fog. Sure, I was agreeable with it upon my introduction to Tough Guy, but with the right premise of me staying back in the safety of an almost empty class to finish up the daily assignment in the evening with a tropical squall battering outside and this jazzy number circulating through my earpieces, "Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigato" eventually became associated with warm comfiness and eventually one of my favourites.

Michiya Mihashi -- Hoshikuzu no Machi (1962)

Yubibue fuite kaerou (指笛吹いて 帰ろう)
Yure nagara (揺れながら)
Hoshikuzu wakete machi wo hanarete (星屑わけて 街をはなれて)

I'm usually picky with covers of my favourite, often times to an unfairly biased level - you probably have noticed it in some of my earlier articles. But lately, I've been more open minded. However, the one song that I remain absolutely (and, perhaps, infuriatingly) obstinate about is "Hoshikuzu no Machi" (星屑の町), in the sense that Michi fits the song best and the best renditions are those that are closest to Michi's. I like this song very much for how atmospheric it is and for how Mihashi's silky and unique delivery adds that extra layer of wistfulness. And without Michi's voice, "Hoshikuzu no Machi" loses half its flavour.


Hideo Murata -- Meoto Shunju (1967)

Sore ga meoto to karuku wa iu ga (それが夫婦と 軽くは言うが)
Ore to omae de kurou wo shita (俺とお前で 苦労をした)
Hana wa daiji ni (花は大事に)
Sakasou naa omae (咲かそうなァ お前)

We've now come to the last song on the list. You were expecting "Osho" (王将), weren't you? After all, I said it was my ultimate o-enka. But having already talked about it and actually having another Murata number I can't get enough of, I decided to go with the latter, that being "Meoto Shunju" (夫婦春秋). This sweet and heartwarming song about a man showing his appreciation for his wife sung by one of the most gruff and imposing (in demeanor) fellows is absolutely adorable. I love the manly but gentle melody that goes along with it, and that "Omae" with that sheepish Muchi grin always melts my heart.

I have to say, this is probably one of the most un-Murata pictures I've seen to date but at the same time, it's also very Murata. 

And on that sweet note I end my list of favourites from the 1960's. It was quite good fun planning these lists, and I hope you enjoyed as much as I did writing it. And on hindsight, I realise that a good number of the songs hear I'd easily put into an overall top 10 or 20. I might continue with this series of articles for the following decades, but we'll see how that goes. But that aside, what are your favourite songs from the 60's?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Haruka to Miyuki -- Juu-nana Sai(17才)

Had my first anime-and-food outing this year yesterday with my good friend, and we had a lot to catch up on since he was out of the country for about a month. Namely, we had to finish up on a lot of the Autumn 2018 entries. So, we took care of "Zombie Land Saga" and "SSSS Gridman" last night.

Both of those were seen as the tentpole anime for last season and both were representing the two genres of slice-of-life comedy and sci-fi-adventure respectively. Of course, there is also another genre that my friend and I have explored which is the one for laidback drama. And for that, we had "Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara"(色づく世界の明日から...Iroduku: The World in Colors), the story of a young high school student with the potential for magic being sent back in time 60 years to 2018 to basically gain her confidence and ability with her powers along with her ability to see in colour again.

My friend chose "Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara" because of the brilliant art involved and Nagasaki looks so lovely in the show. But to be honest, it took me a while to warm up to the episodes since things were just moving a little too slowly and I really hadn't been sure about what the story was leading up to (my friend doesn't have the subtitled version so I have to often guess when it comes to these dramas). Happily, though, the plot sped up in the last few episodes and there was a very nice if somewhat bittersweet bow tied onto the series by the end. Furthermore, I have to reiterate that a lot of the scenes were manna from heaven for the eyes.

I've also grown onto the opening theme for "Irozuku", "Juu-nana Sai" (17 Years Old) by the folk-rock duo Haruka to Miyuki(ハルカトミユキ...Haruka & Miyuki). The chorus just draws the listener in and the overall arrangement matches the feeling of the show. It fairly proclaims its coming-of-age label and there is also that atmosphere of awakening to a new world. For me, "Juu-nana Sai" leans more toward the folk side of things rather than pop.

Written by vocalist/guitarist Haruka Fukushima(福島遥)and composed by pianist/chorus Miyuki (couldn't find out her family name), "Juu-nana Sai" is their first single on CD but it's their latest in 17 digital singles since their debut in 2012. The arrangement was handled by the duo and Yoichiro Nomura(野村陽一郎). Incidentally, according to a Space Shower interview via J-Wiki, the two of them met at a Rikkyo University music club.

There is another "Juu-nana Sai" on the blog from a few decades ago.

Arashi -- Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi(感謝カンゲキ雨嵐)

I woke up on Sunday morning and my first sight was the TV flashing an image of Johnny's uber-group Arashi(嵐)on the Sunday night news on NHK. The announcer was intoning his message in a rather sombre voice so that I immediately went "Geez...was there an accident?"

As it turned out, it was nothing dire thankfully. However, Arashi fans and people all over Japan were (and probably still are) in shock over the announcement that Satoshi Ono(大野智)and the rest of the group are calling it quits at the end of next year. However, from what I've gleaned from the press conference so far is that member Kazuya Ninomiya(二宮和也)clarified that it wasn't a disbandment but just that the group won't be performing together after December 2020. Not quite sure where the dividing line is drawn, but my impression is that this may be more of a trial separation rather than an outright divorce. On the other hand, it might be one of those things where if the need comes up, Ono, Nino, Aiba-kun(相葉雅紀), MatsuJun(松本潤)and Sho Sakurai(櫻井翔)will get together once more to drive fans into a frenzy...kinda like The Avengers.

To be honest, I'm not tha-a-a-t surprised. I had the feeling that leader Ono was getting rather peckish about going his own way and pursuing his own artistic pursuits since he's apparently quite the painter and avid fisherman. But I guess the timing...just a few years after former Johnny's top-of-the-heap SMAP disbanded...caught quite a few people off-guard. Supposedly, one reporter was crying some tears when he asked Arashi a question and Ono looked distinctly misty-eyed. I know that there's at least one former student who may be curled up in a fetal position right now since she has been the greatest Aiba-kun fan.

Sad times for all concerned but hey, there are still almost 2 years left before the storm dissipates. And what a record Arashi will leave. Ever since their debut single 20 years ago, I've realized that the group has had most of their singles hit the top spot on Oricon, and the lowest any of their singles peaked at has been at No. 3! I'm not even sure if SMAP has ever gotten that sort of record.

Therefore, to commemorate this occasion, perhaps I can bring out their 4th single, "Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi" (Deeply Grateful Rain Storm) released in November 2000. I don't have such an intimate connection with the many Arashi singles but I recognized the refrain "Smile again..." which reminds me a bit of Village People's "Go West". Yeah, it's kinda one of those anthemic songs that make you want to salute the sky.

Written by the late Masami Tozawa(戸沢暢美)and composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), "Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi" was also the opening theme song for the Fuji-TV drama "Namida wo Fuite"(涙をふいて...Wipe Away Your Tears) which also co-starred Arashi member Ninomiya. Since the show was about a family getting their bearings back from tragedy with the help of their late father's kohai, the inspirational beat of the song fit like a glove. From what I've read about the song on J-Wiki, "Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi" has been used at their concerts to express Arashi's thanks to their many fans.

"Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi" peaked at No. 2 and ended up as the 86th-ranked single for 2000. It probably would have ended up even higher with an earlier release date. The single was also placed on Arashi's debut album "Arashi No. 1 ~ Arashi wa Arashi o Yobu!"(嵐は嵐を呼ぶ...Arashi Calls Forth A Storm) which was released in January 2001. This release did hit No. 1 to later become the 70th-ranked album for the year.

Well, with the announcement, what's to become of "VS Arashi", one of our family's must-see TV programs? Ahhh...just read that once Arashi goes, so will the variety show at the end of 2020.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Masayuki Suzuki -- Long Run

It's been a while, Martin. Good to see you again!

For Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)fans, this could be one of the rarer pieces of the collection since "Long Run", his November 1988 single, was never placed on an original studio album, and I'm unsure whether it was even included in any of his BEST compilations.

I think it also has a certain distinction in that it comes across to me as a pop song overall. Usually with Martin's music, I get that City Pop/R&B sense immediately. However, with "Long Run", although it gently pushes into areas of the aforementioned genres and even jazz, it stays in the pop genre. It's still his wonderful voice so the whole thing, written and composed by Norie Kanzawa(神沢札江)and arranged by Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘), is very pleasant to listen to.

Kanzawa's lyrics are even special because it's the first time that I have ever heard any Japanese (and English) song to refer to the movies "MASH" and "The Sting". To explain, the story is that it's about two lovers who share a common affinity for watching movies at the local theatre, and Suzuki sings that the relationship is looking like it's gonna have a long run...perhaps as long as the very first "Star Wars" did at the Fairview Theatre relatively close to my home. That was for 2 years straight everyday. Literally speaking, though, I hope that the relationship in "Long Run" lasts for many more decades.

Mio Takagi -- Heart ~ Futte mo Harete mo(ハート〜降っても晴れても〜)

My shoulders are taking on a more granite-like texture thanks to several hours of translating today. Yes, I realize that it is the weekend and the due date isn't until Tuesday but I'm never too crazy about leaving something half-done. I simply get a little jittery when that happens. This probably explains why I've been doing "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for so long on nearly a daily basis. Anyways, it's done and I can now enjoy my least until my English lesson tonight.

Mio Takagi(高樹澪)is an actress and singer but I've only known her for just her version of the sultry song "Dance wa Umaku Odorenai"(ダンスはうまく踊れない). Well, I did find another single of hers recently. This would be her 6th single "Heart ~ Futte mo Hareto mo" (Come Rain Or Shine) from October 1983.

It's a nice and light synth-based ditty that was written and created by Yoshihiro Kai(甲斐祥弘)of the Kai Band(甲斐バンド)as the theme song for the NTV comedy-drama "Minna ga Daisuki!"(みんな大好き!...I Adore Everyone!). The slightly doo-wop beat reminds me of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" from his 1983 album "An Innocent Man", a release whose tracks I've listened to over and over again on the radio until I finally got the CD years later. It is pretty cheerful which goes in keeping with the program's premise of a fellow from the countryside coming into Tokyo for a round of unplanned hijinks while trying to keep his upbeat attitude. The song still manages to retain a bit of sultriness thanks to Takagi's delivery.

Friday, January 25, 2019

SAKA-SAMA -- Owari kara(終わりから)

Over the past few years, I've been indebted to contributors such as Marcos V. and Joana since they bring over their knowledge on the current aidoru groups and I'm not just talking about AKB48 and their sister groups. I've gotten to know a bit more about some of the more different outfits such as BiS and Especia.

Well, in addition to my browsings on YouTube and the tips that I get from contributors and commenters alike, I've recently read a Twitter tweet from a fellow named Brian Walker who was going gangbusters about this aidoru group called SAKA-SAMA. This is a team currently consisting of seven members: Dr. Mahirun(Dr.まひるん), Kokone Suzuki(寿々木ここね), Aiuemashiko(あいうえまし子), Miimaimi(ミ米ミ), Maana Seto(瀬戸まーな), Tsutsumi(つつみ) and Tamago Mizuno(水野たまご).

Starting their career in 2016, SAKA-SAMA has come up with three singles, two albums and an analog release, and they've been described as a group of "Lo-Fi Dream Pop Idols". However, according to a couple of executives of the magazine TRASH-UP!! (whose record label TRASH-UP!! RECORDS handles the group), there is no real concept behind SAKA-SAMA as was described in an OTOTOY interview.

Curious, I decided to look up any of their songs on YouTube, and did find one titled "Owari kara"  (Since The End) which was a track from their debut single "Yume no Hate made mo"(夢のはてまでも...Even To The End of the Dream)released in February 2018.

"Owari kara" definitely left an impression on me since it definitely doesn't sound like anything that I would have placed with an aidoru group. Whereas AKB48 is all about the happy-happy-joy-joy and Especia is about some glorious tribute to the 1980s, SAKA-SAMA brings some alternative music at least for this song. I've read that this is dream pop in a couple of sites and there is a certain mesmerizing feeling brought in thanks to the rippling guitars and the near-whispery vocals by the members. But perhaps it's a dream pop of a different sort since I kinda have that template of the genre in the form of Ramjet Pulley's "Overjoyed". In any case, I do like the relentless guitars since they remind me of some of the work by New Order. Music and lyrics are by kano and the story given by SAKA-SAMA here is that it seems to be about the passage of the seasons between summer and fall although this could be more of a metaphor for something else like the end of a romance.

As for the music video, when the single was released, it was still just a foursome with Suzuki, the Doctor, Aiuemashiko and now-former member Ene Nekota(猫田えね). Not sure but I think it was filmed next to the Sumida River in Tokyo.

I also found a review of the entire album by Garry at "IDOL IS SHIT" and I think his views are more insightful than my own ramblings since I'm still a newbie to the newer aidoru regime.

Masataka Matsutoya -- Lovers' Paradise

I've got another recommendation from Matt who told me about this concept album involving Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆), Akira Inoue(井上鑑)and Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博), three fellows who know about the light and mellow.

In May 1983, the three of them got together to create and release a compilation album called "Seaside Lovers ~ Memories In Beach House", based on a concept by producer and director Naoki Tachikawa(立川直樹). Basically, the setting is the titular beach house where a melodic love story plays out.

The first track is "Lovers' Paradise", which was composed and arranged by Matsutoya and written by Lilika Shinzato(新里リリカ). Although this is an early 1980s number, I couldn't help but feel that there was something kinda reminiscent of a hypothetical theme song for a Hollywood romance in the 1950s or 1960s. There's somewhat of a Henry Mancini feeling to the proceedings, and perhaps I can see Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr playing the two lovers once more in that beach house.

Don't know who sings the lyrics. It could be Shinzato herself but it's a very pleasant performance. Thanks very much, Matt!

Mioko Yamaguchi -- Tokisakashima(トキサカシマ)

Good heavens...when did I first hear about Mioko Yamaguchi(山口美央子)? As I was frying up those Friday steaks for the family, I was scouring through my brain and realized that it was "Kayo Kyoku Plus" collaborator nikala back in February 2014 who had first introduced me to her work as a singer. I mentioned to her that I had seen her name bandied about on various liner notes as a songwriter but hadn't known about her time as a singer. So it was with great gratitude that I found out about Yamaguchi and her brand of pop which in the 1980s ranged from technopop to City Pop to dreamy pop.

Then just last year, I found more of her material on YouTube including the catchy "Satemo Appare Yume Zakura"(さても天晴れ 夢桜)from her 1983 album "Tsukihime" when Toshi let me know of his establishment Logic Store and that all of her albums recorded up during those high-flying 80s were now available on CD. Was very happy to have gotten them!

Several weeks ago, I did find out that Yamaguchi was putting out a new album for the first time in over 30 years but with all that was going in terms of the backlog on the blog and the usual Holiday stuff, I had put things on the back burner as far as the Yamaguchi file was concerned. Luckily, Jazm gave me a friendly nudge about this new album "Tokisakashima", her 4th, that had been released for download in December last year but has been available on CD for the past couple of days.

I've decided to go write about the title track from this album which had Yamaguchi and songwriter and synthesizer programmer Hideki Matsutake(松武秀樹)working together once more. "Tokisakashima" starts off with some neighbourhood sounds on a sunny day before things take a left turn into a seemingly palate-cleansing (I would have said ear-cleansing but that sounds a bit gross) soundscape of Yamaguchi's voice and somewhat spiritual ominousness.

Then just at the point when it sounds like things are getting a little too long in the soundscape, like a door opening, we come into this lovely piece of introspection with the familiar vocals of Yamaguchi. Most likely it's not the neighbourhood anymore but somewhere deep in the forest next to a mysterious pond as can be seen in the thumbnail above (would actually like to know where that shot was taken).

The music is rich and organic (quite earthy) even though according to the Japanese-language interview with Yamaguchi at Real Sound, it's basically all synthesizers as the instruments outside of the singer and some sampling. Indeed, she has maintained her title as the Synth-Diva. In fact, Jazm and I came to the same observation in that her vocal delivery hasn't changed one iota despite the three decades-and-change that have passed since her last album. It's almost as if she stepped into a TARDIS (Google it, any of you non-SF fans) in 1983 and then hopped over to 2018!

One question that I had was with the title itself. What and where was Tokisakashima? Well, in the interview, Yamaguchi answers that the word simply means "Time is reversing". I found out that she was quite the fan of the RPG "Chrono Trigger" (which surprised and delighted Jazm and myself; I think she was blushing a bit at the confession), and then while she was knocking her head to come up with the title for the album, she saw a book on the shelf by 19th-century French author Joris-Karl Huysmans titled "À rebours". The title is translated into English as "Against Nature" and "Sakashima" in Japanese. After that, it was a matter of pulling off a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup maneuver with the ideas to come up with "Tokisakashima".

At this point, I will stop it right here and once I purchase my copy of the album, I will talk about some of the other tunes on it. But let me end it by stating that I'm glad that Yamaguchi is back in town, so to speak. Furthermore, I can state that this is the first article on a 2019 number!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mari Sono -- Nagasarete(流されて)

Ah...l'amour. The delicious pain of love and all that mumbo-jumbo. I was never good at expressing romance in writing but the French seem to do it very well. To me, Paris hasn't just been the City of Lights but also the City of Love through the various examples of pop culture that I've witnessed over the past half-century. On the other hand, Japanese society has never struck me as being all that particularly openly affectionate. In fact, I read one news report years ago where a crotchety old man supposedly smacked a young couple with his cane, maybe in Shibuya, and gave a sound reprimand to them for kissing in public.

For years, I've heard about the very amiable friendship between Japan and France, and perhaps I can only speak from the Japanese side of things, but I speculate that French movies and music (among other aspects), including the genre of chanson, became cherished parts within the Japanese fandom because of that envied openness and elegance in the expression of love. If there are any French viewers of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I could welcome some insights.

Anyways, my preamble (or pre-ramble) here exists because I wanted to introduce the 50th single by Mari Sono(園まり), "Nagasarete" (Swept Away) which was released in August 1978. Now, Sono has been known to me primarily for her 1960s kayo songs such as "Aitakute, Aitakute" (逢いたくて逢いたくて), but "Nagasarete" impressed me as a totally different tune for her. It's definitely not the usual kayo and seems to take listeners all the way to France as a witness to a very ardent romance as a couple get swept away into the whirlwind of love. Even the melody feels like a very gusty breeze.

It then doesn't surprise me that "Nagasarete" was composed by singer-songwriter Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子)and written by Kenji Kadoya(門谷憲二). Nishijima is someone that I've known as weaving these oft-soaring tunes with an exotic feeling that though they never quite hit the heights of Oricon but have always embedded themselves into my own kokoro (awwww....) since the 1980s. Moreover, both she and Kadoya created one of my favourite kayo, the hauntingly lovely "Kamome yori Shiroi Kokoro de" (かもめより白い心で).

In any case, I've also classified (initially) "Nagasarete" as a chanson just purely on how the song feels to me, although again I'm open to any fans of the genre and/or French readers of KKP agreeing or disagreeing. Mind you, I've just come across the Wikipedia article on "Nouvelle Chanson" which states that there has been considerable debate on what would be considered chanson or who belongs in the genre.

Marico -- Mahou no Jikan(魔法の時間)

Almost two years ago, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" introduced 80s aidoru Marico(真璃子)and one of her songs "Nijuu-ni Shoku no Heart" (22色のハート), a number that I noted was a bit surprising since it sounded more polished than the usual teenybopper tune. I had to do a double take in her J-Wiki profile to make sure that I read it right...she was considered an aidoru. Frankly, I thought the arrangement was such that I would have put this song up with anything that EPO or Miki Imai(今井美樹)had recorded during that decade.

Well, it looks like Marico did it again to me. And once again, I can give thanks to songwriter Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), although this time, she was responsible for the arrangement rather than actually composing "Mahou no Jikan" (Magic Time). The composer here was the very prolific Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)while the just-as-prolific Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)provided the lyrics.

The main thing is that Marico had these three major songwriting talents taking care of this B-side to her 2nd single "Koi, Miiitsuketa"(恋、みーつけた....I Found L-O-V-E!)from May 1986. Then, there is the singer's delectably breathy, perhaps near-whispery, delivery of "Mahou no Jikan", a dreamy song which takes Marico and the listener close, but not quite, to City Pop land. It's got a strut-worthy beat, an electric guitar flitting about, and a haunting piano surrounding her, plus some nice chorus work. Once again, I am left thinking that this aidoru number is a cut above the average. Magic time, indeed. Let's see how rare one of her albums is online.

Frank Nagai/Makoto Fujita -- Osaka Gurashi (大阪ぐらし)

Quite some time ago I got a re-released 2011 version of Hachiro Kasuga's Osaka song album, "Kasuga Hachiro Osaka wo Utau" (春日八郎 大阪を歌う... Originally known as "Osaka Joucho" (大阪情緒)). I was aware that the album contained both his original works as well as covers, but the jewel case description and lyric booklet, being the "most helpful" one I'd ever come across, had me doing a guessing game to see which was which. Some were straightforward, like "Soemoncho Blues" (宗右衛門町ブルース), but some had me absolutely clueless - "Pat, I'd like to buy a vowel."

Case in point, "Osaka Gurashi". It was the first track in the album and the first I listened to as I ripped the CD on to my laptop. When I heard the smooth synths sliding at a leisurely pace, it came across as a typical enka song that's easy on the ears. Coupled with the effortless way Hachi hits those notes at polar ends of the a couple of octaves, "Osaka Gurashi" sounded like the quintessential Kasuga-bushi. However, for some reason, in spite of how much I liked it, I found that he sounded quite awkward at times. Certain portions, like the last stanza, which I felt should have a gruffer, manlier edge - because, y'know, Osaka pride - sounded so tame in Kasuga's modulated delivery. So I begged to differ on the full-on Kasuga-bushi and thought of someone more... abrasive. Hideo Murata (村田英雄) popped in, but at the same time he didn't seem to fit the bill.

And then I finally decided to not be lazy and unravel this mystery by looking up "Osaka Gurashi" online. The first result brought up the Mood Kayo crooner with the voice of velvet, Frank Nagai (フランク永井). Because of my aforementioned impression of the song, I quite literally went, "Whaaat? For real?" But other results said loud and clear that Nagai was, indeed, the original singer.

I listened to his rendition still rather skeptical, but I assented when the music hit my ears. Unlike Kasuga's cover, Nagai's arrangement had a slower tempo that, I suppose, can be likened to the languid flow of the many waterways that criss-cross Osaka, and a heavy emphasis on the horns which, coupled with Nagai's soft vocals, gives an overall nostalgic atmosphere to "Osaka Gurashi". With it sounding like this, I could more or less understand how this was under Nagai's repertoire. However, objectively, I still do prefer Hachi's take, which I wish was available online so that I could show you guys what I mean.

Anyway, "Osaka Gurashi" was made in 1964 with its music composed by Masao Ono (大野正雄). Writing the words was Takeo Ishihama (石浜恒夫), and it's as Osaka as one can get with places like the renowned Hozenji Yokocho, the strange-looking Tsutenkaku tower, and the Shogi whiz Sankichi Sakata being thrown into the mix. Being as it is, I'm quite surprised that it's not as well-known a Go-touchi song (ご当地ソング) as something like "Osho" (王将) or "Tsuki no Hozenji Yokocho" (月の法善寺横町).


As with most of Nagai's songs, "Osaka Gurashi" had been covered by actor-singer Makoto Fujita (藤田まこと). Frankly, I also do prefer Fujita's version to the original as his gritty and guttural delivery does fit bill better - I suppose he was the one my brain was trying to find when I was playing my "Who Sang This Song?" guessing game.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

ELIKA -- Kono Mune wo Dakishimete(この胸を抱きしめて)

I had this song bookmarked for such a long time that I'd forgotten what it was all about, so getting to listen to it again, I was reminded why I had chosen it in the first place.

Singer-songwriter and radio personality ELIKA is originally from Gifu Prefecture and has loved music since she was very young. In fact, according to J-Wiki, she had really gotten into singing Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)"Young Boy"(ヤング・ボーイ)at a Nagoya recital at the age of 11 in the early 1980s. She made her way to Tokyo soon after graduating from junior high school, and took music lessons while working part-time and then going to night school. At a music academy audition, she sang an Ann Lewis(アン・ルイス)number where she was scouted by personnel from the entertainment corporation Being Inc. However, her debut single "New Vision" in 1989 was produced at what is now Bandai Music Entertainment.

"Kono Mune wo Dakishimete" (Hold These Feelings) was the coupling song for ELIKA's 5th single "Midnight Party"(ミッドナイト・パーティ)which came out in June 1992. Written and composed by the singer under her real name, Erika Shimakage(島影江里香), the ballad has that overall arrangement that I remember about the music recorded by female pop singers in the early 1990s. Wistful and keyboard-driven, ELIKA also has that delivery reminiscent of ZARD.

With 8 singles, 3 mini-albums and 2 full albums and a number of songs that she wrote for other performers, ELIKA was basically active in the 1990s. J-Wiki mentions that there has been nothing heard of her going into the 21st century.

Queen/Kokia -- Teo Torriatte ~ Let Us Cling Together(手をとりあって)

A few weeks ago during Holiday season, I got together with KKP collaborator Larry and Gary, a fellow translator, for some ramen at Santouka downtown, and somehow we got into a conversation about the band Queen. Gary mentioned that Queen was probably even more popular in Japan than even here which wouldn't surprise me since a few other bands have hit a higher legendary status in the country of my ancestors such as The Carpenters and The Ventures.

Then, just this morning, as I was watching "NHK News at 9", there was a short feature recognizing that the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody", which has been quite popular at the box office despite some not-so-great reviews, was doing gangbusters in Japan. Apparently the movie there hit the 10 billion yen mark (about $91 million US) after its release in early November. One person in the industry remarked that there has been a lot of repeat business.

I rather forgot about the above commercial. This was playing all the time when I was living in Ichikawa. Osaka comedian Takashi Okamura(岡村隆史)was cutting up quite the rug for a Kirin drink while Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" was playing. A number of Queen songs have been used for Japanese ads in the past.

My own connection with the British band goes all the way to that summer graduation trip to Japan in 1981. One of my classmates was playing a lot of David Bowie, Brian Eno and Queen on his Walkman on the flight and in the hotels throughout the trip (the fact that he had a Walkman made him a particularly popular member of the class), and of course, the one song that I always remembered was the song "Bohemian Rhapsody". I had known about Queen for some time beforehand, but I only started to get to know Freddie Mercury and the guys through the repeated listenings to "Bohemian Rhapsody" during the Japan trip.

Several weeks ago and I assume that it was because of the debut of the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody", NHK News did do a feature on Queen and their visit to Japan in the 1970s. It was during that feature that I learned that Queen lead guitarist/songwriter/astrophysicist Brian May had written and composed a song called "Teo Torriatte" to be released as a single only in Japan in March 1977 although it was already a track on their 1976 album "A Day At The Races".

"Teo Torriatte" from its romanized spelling looks somewhat Italian but actually it is a Japanese title since a couple of the choruses had been written in Japanese. I only heard a small sliver of the song during the NHK feature but I've finally gotten to hear the whole thing earlier.

A sweet Queen ballad, the lyrics seem to give a "Hope is not lost at all" message as someone seems to be exhorting from the afterlife to his/her beloved that there are many happy tomorrows to be savored, so time to get off the butt and get back on that horse again. I wonder whether "Teo Torriatte" was played when the Japanese news shows were broadcasting on Freddie Mercury's too-early passing.

Some Japanese singers have covered "Teo Torriatte" over the years including singer-songwriter Kokia. Her version came out on her 2008 album "Christmas Gift". Her "Teo Torriatte" has an ethereal and spiritual atmosphere...very soothing.