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, February 28, 2019

JADOES -- Roku-gatsu no Photograph(6月のフォトグラフ)

Indeed, the above is a June 2018 photograph of a version of one of my favourite drinks, a strawberry Calpico. As I recall, I bought it at a shop which specializes in Japanese foodstuffs in Kensington Market in downtown Toronto, and it was already quite humid on that Friday. The Calpis really hit the spot although it cost me over 3 bucks Canadian!

Now, there hasn't been a JADOES(ジャドーズ)article on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for almost three years since Marcos V.'s "All My Dream" and it was back in 2014 when I put up "Friday Night". Well, time to rectify this.

Here I offer "Roku-gatsu no Photograph" (June Photograph) from the band's 2nd album "Free Drink" (which was certainly not my Calpis!) released in July 1987. Written by JADOES percussionist Kensaku Saito(斎藤謙策)and composed by guitarist Kazumasa Denda(伝田一正)and bassist/vocalist Hideki Fujisawa(藤沢秀樹), aka DANCE☆MAN, the whole story revolves around a photograph falling out of a fellow's old notebook which turns out to be a shot of his former flame with the tons of memories that suddenly bubble up in his head. With that super funky beat and that downtown feeling, I can only believe that the guy has to be at least a university student and most likely well into his working life. I think it's a bit intense at the high school level. Overall, this work by JADOES rather strikes me as a more booming form of an Omega Tribe song. Love Fujisawa's vocals and all those kakkoii keyboards!

I never got to do it in my own JADOES article so here is an introduction of the fellows from the band itself. I've already mentioned Fujisawa, Saito and Denda, but there is also drummer Yukio Shimamura(島村幸男), and keyboardist Akihiro Hirama(平間あきひこ). Later on, with the exits of Shimamura and Hirama, Tatsuya Watanabe(渡部達也)and Akira Sakai(酒井彰)came on board in the mid-1990s. As for how the guys came up with their distinct name, I can only speculate that it may have come from their catchphrase of "Ja ja ja ja ja ja ja ja jan!"(じゃじゃじゃじゃじゃじゃじゃじゃじゃんッ!)which was used when going from one comic segment to another. I mentioned in "Friday Night" that these guys had started out as a group of comics with a musical touch.

Below is a longer and perhaps creamier version of "Roku-gatsu no Photograph". Tomorrow, we start San-gatsu!

Uwanosora -- Umbrella Walking

Back last June, I wrote about this pop band that had one foot in contemporary smooth pop with the other in the 1960s pop sounds of Phil Spector and The Beach Boys. Uwanosora's(ウワノソラ)"Natsu no Kyakusen"(夏の客船)was quite a nice refreshing breeze in terms of J-Pop of the 2010s.

"Umbrella Walking" is another one of those pleasant and skippy tunes whose video of a happy road trip by the band was originally released back in 2013 but apparently, according to their website, didn't get onto a release until Uwanosora's 2nd album "Hidamari"(陽だまり)in 2017 (correct me, if I'm wrong, of course).

When I was writing about "Natsu no Kyakusen", it was at a time when I was learning about some of these new sunny pop groups such as Lamp and Blue Peppers, and one other blog even mentioned Ryusenkei(流線形)and Apple Pye(あっぷるぱい)when referring to Uwanosora. There is definitely that new and shiny feeling with Uwanosora via "Umbrella Walking" as well, but I also pick up Sugar Babe (in the chorus especially) and some of the mellower urban contemporary stuff from the early 2000s in Japan. Maybe even a bit of Original Love.

Listening to "Umbrella Walking", I can only hope that winter will soon be over in the next few weeks.

GWINKO -- Mermaid in Summer

I finally got to get an idea about what the pop singer GWINKO was all about when JTM introduced me to her material a couple of years ago. Through her 1990 "Yokubari na Weekend"(よくばりなウィークエンド), I got the impression of the Okinawan singer as a dynamic singer of poppy R&B.

But she can also sing some straight dynamic pop according to her "Mermaid in Summer" from her final album to date, "Princess Moon" from 1994. Some very summery synths populating this track as people enjoy a fine time at the beach. The music was provided by Masaya Ozeki(尾関昌也)and the lyrics are from Ikuru Kabuchi(橙育琉), and it's pure speculation on the reading of that lyricist's name but I tried my best.

Up to this point, I've only been able to judge from a couple of songs but with "Mermaid in Summer", there is some aspect of GWINKO's voice that reminded me of early 1980s Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)for some reason.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hachiro Kasuga -- Tokyo Hatoba(東京波止場)

This is quite a chipper tune by veteran kayo singer Hachiro Kasuga(春日八郎). In fact, I'm not quite sure whether "Tokyo Hatoba" (Tokyo Wharf) would be a purely enka song. The melody by Toshio Saeki(佐伯としを)has got that certain enka lilt but running under it is this snappy beat which admittedly brings me images of twisting swivel hips on a dance floor.

Hiroshi Nagai(永井ひろし)wrote the lyrics for "Tokyo Hatoba" which was released with its mate on the 45 single, "Asakusa Ninjo"(浅草人情...Asakusa Kindness)in 1967. I couldn't find the actual words, unfortunately, but it does seem to relate a tale of sunny times ahead despite the hard work that still must have been going on in bringing Japan up from the ashes of World War II. Considering what the Tokyo waterfront looks like now, I don't know what it must have appeared as back in the 1960s. Perhaps it was more rough-hewn and bustling with industry but it may also have been quite a happy place as well.

Hiroshi Suzuki -- Romance

Went outside for a brief walk this morning to encounter the above scene. The photo doesn't even capture the really gusty winds launching ice crystals into my face like spears. Larry, you have experienced this but for the rest of my fellow current collaborators on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", this is my February! By the time this day is out, there should be another 10~15 cm of snow on the ground. Somewhere, a groundhog has just earned its pay for the year.

Along with the inclement weather and the various job demands on me this week, there's been a feeling of a burden on my shoulders, so I will start off today's session of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" with something nice and mellow. I discovered this fusion piece "Romance" from trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki's(鈴木弘)1975 album "Cat".

There's not a whole lot of information on Suzuki aside from the fact that he moved to the United States in 1971 and has considered his base to be Las Vegas from then on. However, he did come back to Japan briefly to meet up with his old jazz buddies from their combo Freedom Unity to come up with "Cat". Although there is also the title track, I think "Romance" also has some feline elements in how the beat pads along cautiously, and even has a feeling of some good rich coffee with cream.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Natsume Mito -- Maegami Kiri Sugita(前髪切りすぎた)

For the song of this article, I keep getting reminded of that one segment on last summer's hilarious anime, "Asobi Asobase"(あそびあそばせ), in which Olivia REALLY needed to cut her hair due to the heat and ended up banging up her bangs big time.

Happily, I still have my hair since it looks like I have inherited my maternal grandfather's ability to keep his hair well into his nineties. Nowadays, though, when it's time to have it cut every three months, I just instruct the barber to go into hacking mode so that my pate ends up resembling something close to the do of a new Marine recruit. You can imagine that bangs don't really exist near my forehead.

Anyways, to the song at hand. A little over three years ago, Marcos V. introduced impish technopop singer Natsume Mito(三戸なつめ)to "Kayo Kyoku Plus" with "8-Bit Boy", and since then, the song has often been a go-to earworm for me. He also mentioned about Mito's debut single, "Maegami Kiri Sugita" (I Cut Too Much of My Bangs) that he said that he would write about someday.

With full apologies to my good friend in Brazil, I couldn't wait anymore so I've gone ahead with "Maegami Kiri Sugita" which was released some months before "8-Bit Boy" in 2015.

I'm unsure which came first: the song about the bangs being cut too short or Mito's most conspicuous feature of extremely short bangs. In any case, it was an auspicious debut for the model-singer. "Maegami Kiri Sugita" is a catchy tune which might be as much an earworm as the second single of "8-Bit Boy". Another interesting thing about the song, written and composed by Yasutaka Nakata(中田ヤスタカ)of capsule and Perfume fame, is that apparently several videos, each with a different theme, were created for it. The one above is officially titled "The Chinese Cabbage Version", although I think it could easily be dubbed "The NHK Kids' Show Parody".

There is also the nifty "Graffiti Version".

Then, there is the "Suspect Version" which humorously goes into how Mito got those bangs in the first place.

Finally, there is the "Everything But The Kitchen Sink Version" which puts in scenes from all of the individual versions. So far, "Maegami Kiri Sugita" has been Mito's most successful song, peaking at No. 36 on Oricon. Let's see if the song can get out of your head overnight.

Miyoko Nagao -- Ashiya Sailing Spot(芦屋セーリング・スポット)

Miyoko Nagao(永尾美代子)is one of those singer-songwriters who is perhaps at the same level of Takako Mamiya(間宮貴子)in terms of media exposure. In other words, there is very little information about her. Nothing written about her on J-Wiki, that's for sure.

However, there is an entry for her in "Japanese City Pop". Her 1981 debut album "Miyoko - Rivage"(美代子・リバージュ)has been described, though, as not a City Pop album, but more of a Resort Pop confection. To summarize, less Tokyo and more Karuizawa.

And certainly, the second track "Ashiya Sailing Spot" is a breezy morning AOR number that talks about enjoying oneself at Ashiya, which is a small city in Hyogo Prefecture which seems to be frequented by the hoi polloi of Japan as a resort area. Given lyrics by Nagao herself, composed by Yasuhiro Kido(木戸やすひろ)and arranged by Ichizo Seo(瀬尾一三), it's something to be savored while tucking into that Eggs Benedict in the kitchen alcove. Mind you, the City Pop bass and horns are in there but they're complemented with a water-reminiscent keyboard, some gentle guitars and strings, and then Nagao's soft compliments to Ise. The whole song sounds as if it were actually five years older than its release date, reflecting a summer of the mid-1970s.

Not sure whether Ashiya is still a garden spot in the Kansai region, but "Ashiya Sailing Spot" does make it enticing.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Aru Takamura/Makoto Saito -- Koi no Yaritori(恋のやりとり)

Commenter Chasing Showa gave me a great tip on an Aru Takamura(高村亜留)song from her 1985 debut album "Aru First", and since it's been some months since I mentioned about the late singer, I've decided to cover it. Showa first found out about it through the Future Funkified version done by Moe Shop (with Android52) as seen above.

The original version is known as "Koi no Yaritori" (The Give and Take of Love), and it's a pleasant mid-tempo about someone playfully chiding his girlfriend for being a bit overly shy on the emerging relationship. It's a song that hits the right spot, and I'm kinda wondering if this would be most ideal to be listened to in the morning due to its breeziness. The horns in there are splendid and they might be reminiscent of British soul...perhaps even a harbinger of Shibuya-kei.


"Koi no Yaritori" was written and composed by Makoto Saito(斎藤誠), and Takamura's track is actually a cover version of Saito's original song from his 1983 debut album "LA-LA-LU". I gotta say that listening to this version, I think that it eclipses even Takamura's cover due to Saito's vocals and the slightly more powerful arrangement. Now, I have to think about getting not only "Aru First" but also "LA-LA-LU". Thanks for the tip, Chasing Showa!

Kensuke Ushio -- Liz to Aoi Tori(リズと青い鳥)

Last night, I came home to see that The Oscars were still being televised and just caught the traditional "In Memoriam" segment paying tribute to all of those in the movie industry that have left this mortal coil over the past year. It was actually quite touching to see the tribute while the orchestra was playing that John Williams piece from "Superman" (1978) when Clark Kent was leaving home and his Earth mother for the first time to go find himself. I don't think I can still watch that scene without getting a little misty-eyed.

Strangely enough, earlier in the afternoon, during our biweekly anime-and-food session, my anime buddy showed a movie from the ever-growing "Hibike Euphonium!"(響け!ユーフォニアム)franchise. This time, it was "Liz to Aoi Tori" (Liz and The Blue Bird) which had originally been released in theatres early last year. A side story featuring a couple of the minor characters in the show, the supremely cheerful if slightly feckless flutist Nozomi and the extremely introverted oboist Mizore, there is parallelism as the actual children's tale of "Liz and The Blue Bird" gets played out while Nozomi and Mizore try to figure out their relationship out in school and in life.


Throughout the movie, there is the music by composer Kensuke Ushio(牛尾憲輔)which reflects both the tale and the main story at Kitauji High School. I have to admit that the most affecting part of the entire soundtrack was the Third Movement for "Liz to Aoi Tori", which features a duet by Nozomi and Mizore that ends up becoming the climax for the entire movie. Starting off like the soundtrack "Romeo & Juliet", "Ai Yue no Ketsudan"(愛ゆえの決断...Decision of Love)is something that has stayed with me since last night because of its bittersweet beauty as the two characters in both the tale and the main story realize that they cannot stay tied together by the waist. In a way, that part of the soundtrack reminds me of that part from the "Superman" track which was playing during the "In Memoriam" segment.

Happily, the movie finishes both stories in the movie more on the sweet rather than the bitter side. "Liz to Aoi Tori" indeed, as "TV Tropes" puts it, does well as a separate story although it is part of "Hibike Euphonium!".

Chihaya Yoshitake - PaPePiPu☆Romantic (パぺピプ☆ロマンチック)

Last year, I was captivated by the animation of one of the first episodes of Hugtto! Precure (HuGっと!プリキュア). It seemed like the perfect timing to enter a franchise I had wanted to for a long time, since I am a big fan of the magical girl genre. I surely wasn't disappointed, as the aforementioned season of the Pretty Cure franchise was very good. It touched a range of themes, some of them not common for a magical girl show. Most notably, for the first time in a mainstream show, a boy became a magical boy.

The franchise has been going around since 2004 due to its popularity and to being a huge advertisement to kids' toys. Nonetheless, it's appreciated by people of all ages, and the staff has stated they acknowledge those different publics. That's what, in my opinion, makes it such an interesting watch.

Lately, I only watch anime sporadically or in waves, so I wavered before deciding to watch this year's season as well. For those who may not know, there is one season of Pretty Cure per year, 50+ episodes long, and each with its own themes. For 2019 we have Star☆Twinkle Precure (スター☆トゥインクルプリキュア) and the themes are space and the power of imagination.

What ultimately sold me was knowing Eimi Naruse (成瀬 瑛美) of (でんぱ組.inc) was voicing the main character. She's basically a real-life anime character herself! Her singing ability is showcased in the transformation sequence and I think her voice suits the character of Hikaru very well.

In this post, I'd like to highlight the ending theme, PaPePiPu☆Romantic (パぺピプ☆ロマンチック) by the newcomer Chihaya Yoshitake (吉武千颯). She won the "ANISONG STARS" audition in 2017 and it's her first single release.

This ending theme got my attention right from the first episode for its slight retro sound. It has an overall vibe that reminds me of Urusei Yatsura. Plus, Yoshitake's voice is very cute! She is only 19 years old, so I wonder if we are going to listen to her more in the future. The aesthetics for the ending sequence are also really nice, showing the colors of the four main characters.

This ending summarizes pretty much what this anime has been until now: aesthetically and musically pleasing. Story-wise, it's been nice as well, but knowing the anime will continue for more than 50 episodes, there has to be more than that to keep me going. And personally, art and sound count a lot.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bobby Caldwell & Marilyn Scott -- Back To You


I figure that since I provided a special article for the late Carl Anderson with this lovely "Pieces of a Heart", I ought to do the same for this song.

To explain, despite the fact that I've never smoked a day in my life (although I tried to light a Cuban cigar once in Ichikawa...only to fail utterly), I was a fan of those Parliament cigarette commercials in Japan. Those ads may have been somewhat fantastical but man, did they show a deeply romantic side of the high life in either New York or San Francisco. Tuxes and gowns tripping the light fantastic on a balcony above the clouds while the night sky is tinted in deep purples and blues. As wrong as I am for saying this, buying a pack of cigarettes never seemed so appealing.

"Pieces of a Heart" was one of the AOR tunes that adorned the Parliament ads. That song and the beautiful cityscape brought about what would be probably termed now as an ASMR effect. After seeing the ad and hearing the soulful tones of Anderson, I just had to track the song down.

The same thing happened when another Parliament ad popped up on TV one night, and this time it was the delectable duet of Bobby (Mr. AOR) Caldwell and Marilyn Scott. Another ballad to spark off that ASMR! Once again the search began, and I was annoyed that Parliament wouldn't put up the title of the song along with the names of the singers.

It took a while but I did eventually find the tune. It's "Back To You" and it was a track on Caldwell's 1991 album "Stuck On You" which was alternately titled "Solid Ground" for the Japanese version of the CD. What I wouldn't give to hear some of that music again this century. "Back To You" sounds like it was soaring with the camera over those lucky beautiful people dancing the night away. And wouldn't this be a good old-fashioned thing to play for the first dance by a just-married couple at the reception?

Hikota Aoi -- Udatsu(梲)

I was watching the latest episode of NHK's "Gogo Uta"(ごごウタ), that afternoon talk show featuring singers, mainly enka, and focusing more on the talk part although the singers do get to perform their latest singles. As much as I love my City Pop and AOR, I also still want to find out about the older genres of enka and Mood Kayo, something that I can find on "Gogo Uta" and (seemingly unfortunately) decreasingly so on "Uta Kon"(うたコン).

One fellow that I saw for the first time yesterday was Hikota Aoi(蒼彦太). Hailing from Kagawa Prefecture, he was inspired with the debut of Enka Prince Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)to become an enka singer himself while in junior high school. Debuting in 2011, his 7th single was released just last month and it's titled "Udatsu".

I found out from my parents that the kanji for udatsu is a fairly obscure one and even my father wondered what the meaning was. Apparently, according to my mother, the term is really only used nowadays in the expression "Udatsu ga agaranai"(うだつが上がらない)which means "No hope of getting ahead". The literal translation is "The pillar doesn't rise" with the original meaning of udatsu being "a short pillar set on a beam to support a ridgepole" so I gather that this is something on a sailing vessel.

Composed by Koji Tokuhisa(徳久広司)and written by Kyosuke Kuni(久仁京介), the song seems to be about being that sturdy pillar to survive and thrive in life. As an enka tune, yep, it's about as sturdy and shibui as it can get. With that shakuhachi and electric guitar in the background as musical companions, Aoi can pretty much stand up with arms defiantly crossed against a typhoon in his yukata.

Aoi also released two albums in 2015 and 2018. One thing that I noticed about him is his passing resemblance to seiyuu/actor Mamoru Miyano(宮野真守), almost to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if they were indeed relatives. I also found out that the singer also enjoys making udon noodles and touring udon restaurants. Considering that he is from Kagawa Prefecture, again no surprise there either.

Honey & B-Boys -- Back To Frisco

Still loving those surprises while working on the blog. One of those surprises involved the realization that Canada's own David Foster had a hand in helping out a few Japanese singers in the 1980s such as Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子). Plus, it was indirectly through "Kayo Kyoku Plus" that I found out that Foster had even been one-half of the duo Airplay, about as AOR as a band could be.

Well, something similar has happened with someone that I had thought was a popular 90s singer with an appealingly chirpy and perky pop style. Eri Hiramatsu(平松愛理)is a singer that has some representation on my shelves because of her velvety vocals and fun music, and I think she is arguably most well-known for "Heya to Y-Shatsu to Watashi" (部屋とYシャツと私)whose music video could get folks into a tearful mood.

Perhaps then I should read the fine print a bit more in detail when it comes to J-Wiki articles. All this time I had assumed that Hiramatsu had always been a solo singer starting in the final decade of the 20th century, when actually she did participate in a couple of bands back in the 1980s. For instance, she got together with three other people to form an amateur group, ERI & WONDERLAST in 1982.

Once that band broke up in 1986, Hiramatsu made her way up to Tokyo and while working part-time, she created songs which led to her going to record companies twice a week to sell them on her works (according to the journal "Daigaku Jihou"大学時報...University Newsletter」 in their November 2007 edition). The following year, she got together with AOR singer-songwriter Kazuhito Murata(村田和人), another singer-songwriter from Wakayama Prefecture Tsukasa Nishi(西司), and Keisuke Yamamoto(山本圭右), the leader of the band Piper to start the band Honey & B-Boys. The group recorded one album "Back To Frisco" for release in March 1987; the album also signified Hiramatsu's first record.

From the link in the previous paragraph for "Back To Frisco", you can see the cover of the album which looks like a picture of some pastoral scene (Napa Valley, perhaps? Sorry, I don't know the geography for California very well.). Considering that I've heard that residents of San Francisco don't like their city being called "Frisco", I would like to get Larry's opinion on this since he does live in the area.

I first discovered the sign of Honey & B-Boys' existence on YouTube when I saw the video for one of the songs off to the right side of the screen. "Wine Light" is a pop song that starts off dreamy with a synthesizer sound flitting around like a butterfly before the bass and drums come in for the refrain. It's interesting for Hiramatsu's vocals which stay dreamy without some of that lower purr that I would associate with her 90s hits. Moreover the overall arrangement has "Wine Light" sounding like a Piper tune with Murata and Yamamoto providing backing vocals. Yamamoto did compose the song while Emi Kanda(神田エミ)wrote the lyrics.

"Juu-go-fun Matte Blue Sky"(15分待ってBlue Sky...Wait 15 Minutes, Blue Sky)strikes me as being rather New Music in the sense of another band for that genre in the 1970s, Sugar Babe. Hiramatsu, and I think Yamamoto, handle this duet. It's a very sunny and mellow and Sunday afternoon sort of tune. Written by Ikki Matsumoto(松本一起)and composed by former Sugar Babe member Kunio Muramatsu(村松邦男), "Juu-go-fun Matte Blue Sky" is another part of my coalescing theory on whether the raison d'etre for Honey & B-Boys was as a sorta tribute to Sugar Babe (the final track is a cover of Sugar Babe's "Ame wa Te no Hira ni Ippai"「雨は手のひらにいっぱい」from their 1975 album "SONGS"). Also, this particular track had me thinking of the genre of California's sunshine pop that had its day in the 1960s with groups such as The Mamas & The Papas. There is that album title and cover that I've mentioned.

My final song here is "My Wish" which has Hiramatsu showing some of that voice that I've long known her for. Lyricist Kanda once again took care of things here but this time, it's Murata who composed this song and it does start off like one of his tunes. With the use of synths here and the arrangement for the tune to go at a more calming pace, though, it does have a different vibe compared to the first two tracks. In fact, I would say that "My Wish" sounds so intriguing that I can relate it to some of the material by the eclectic PSY-S.

As far as I know, Honey & B-Boys only released this one album, and though I searched, "Back To Frisco" no longer seems to exist online for sale. A pity, since this would be one release that I would like to get to know better. It's a fascinating find, to be sure, with this pop chanteuse of the 1990s joining forces with two artists from the 1980s AOR genre.

Friday, February 22, 2019

kokua -- Progress

Back on Halloween 2013, I wrote about Miyuki Nakajima's(中島みゆき)"Chijo no Hoshi"(地上の星), the epic theme for the NHK documentary program "Project X". I mentioned that this was a proud tune that could have the most doleful worker bee in a company rise up, face the sun and demand more of himself/herself.

Whereas "Project X", which was broadcast between 2000 and 2005, seemed to focused on the challengers and visionaries whose works had a hand in changing society, there has been another NHK series called "Professional ~ Shigoto no Ryuugi"(プロフェッショナル 仕事の流儀...The Professionals ~ The Style of Work) which started in 2006 that is focused on notable people in various fields, from ramen chef to professional baseball player, and how they reached their fame and even more importantly how they've kept it.

Unlike Nakajima's high-flying and inspirational "Chijo no Hoshi", the theme song for "Professional" takes on a more down-to-earth and cooler rock beat. "Progress" by the band kokua rather reflects the everyday rituals that make these professionals professional. It seems to say that these are unsung heroes who just look at their craft as doing what they have to do without needing to hear their praises sung.

At first, I had thought that it was just singer-songwriter Shikao Suga(スガシカオ)who was responsible for "Progress", but actually it was kokua that was brought together specifically to craft the theme and perform it. With Suga on vocals. music and lyrics, he was joined by Satoshi Takebe(武部聡志), who wore the three hats of keyboardist, arranger and producer, guitarist Hirokazu Ogura(小倉博和), bassist Takamune Negishi(根岸孝旨), and drummer Gota Yashiki(屋敷豪太). Supposedly, according to the J-Wiki article on the song, the song had been created so that it followed a certain Mr. Children sensibility.

With the single released in August 2006, "Progress" made it all the way up to No. 22 on Oricon. The song was also the title track on kokua's only album that had come out earlier in June. It peaked at No. 9 on the album charts. By the end of the year, the song was also performed at the Kohaku Utagassen, though under Suga's name and not the band's. Incidentally, the name of the band was derived from the Hawaiian word for "to help, to cooperate".

Taeko Ohnuki -- Wander Lust

This is the 70th article for singer-songwriter Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and I've only taken care of her music in the 1970s and 1980s for the most part, so there is still much for me to do in taking care of the creations that she's provided in the last few decades.

"Wander Lust" is a track on Ohnuki's solo debut album "Grey Skies" from September 1976, and as the title says, it's about a young woman who has broken free from the past and has decided to excitedly go to places unknown and try things anew. In a way, I think "Wander Lust" may have been the track of the album because of those lyrics. According to an interview she gave in an October 1983 issue of the journal "Music Steady"(ミュージック・ステディ), the song was the embodiment of her frustration of not being able to perform the type of music that she had desired while being in the band Sugar Babe.

Ohnuki took care of words and music with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)handling the arrangements. The singer mentioned that "Wander Lust" is pretty jazzy, and the piano (which was probably played by Sakamoto) has plenty of opportunities to break loose throughout the song as if it were on some sort of wander lust itself. It's a fun and refreshing piece of New Music (love the intro and her backing vocals), and I'm obviously speculating greatly here, but I could imagine Ohnuki grinning from ear to ear as this was being recorded (and from that photo above from her second album "Sunshower", she has a great smile!). Freedom never felt so good. "Wander Lust" was also the B-side to her 1977 single "Ashita kara, Drama"(明日から、ドラマ...Drama from Tomorrow).

Misato Watanabe -- Killing Me Softly With His Song

As a formerly little kid with a baby brother, one of the rituals that we had was visiting various family friends in the city. It would be a few hours of the parentals talking with the other grown-ups while we children played down in the basement. Of course, when our father came on down, we would all sigh with some melancholy since we knew that he would say that it was time to go home. It took a bit of doing but he got us out of there.

I remember being in the back seat in the car when we drove home. No matter the season, there was always the AM radio being played and one of the songs that I often heard on Toronto stations such as CKEY (which is now the Chinese-language radio station CHKT) was:

Roberta Flack's classic "Killing Me Softly With His Song" was often the radio-driven lullaby that placed me into that twilight zone between awake and asleep. I mean, imagine listening to this at night while the car was driving down the Don Valley Parkway with the highway lights flashing by at regular intervals. At the time, I couldn't quite figure out why music was trying to murder Roberta (I thought she was a perfectly decent person) but it was a soothing ballad all the same.

Well, I got the reminder of my childhood a few nights ago when I discovered this cover version by Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里). I'd been trying to find a song by her to talk about since it had been several months since my last article on the wide-eyed songstress with the boomer voice. Happily enough, I came across this bossa nova version by Watanabe which was released under the Japanese title of "Yasashiku Utatte"(やさしく歌って)as her 40th single in February 2002. The arranger made the bossa nova part quite clear with some hints of the bossa nova ballad "The Girl From Ipanema" infused into the song.

Although I think going into the latter half of Watanabe's "Killing Me Softly", things get a little too over-produced by my estimation, she does a nice job singing the ballad in the original English. The single peaked at No. 63 on Oricon. It was also placed on the singer's first album of covers, "Cafe mocha ~ Uta no Ki ~"(うたの木...Tree of Song) which came out a month after the single. That album went as high as No. 27.

"Killing Me Softly With His Song" has apparently been covered by a number of Japanese singers over the decades including Kiyohiko Ozaki(尾崎紀世彦)and Minako Honda(本田美奈子). However, a couple of other folks that I would love to hear give their take on what is arguably Flack's most famous song would be EPO (who is Watanabe's senpai) and Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子).

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Tempters -- Kyo wo Ikiyou(今日を生きよう)

Some more sad news this year as I heard about the passing of Peter Tork of the Monkees (1942-2019) today. This sitcom poke at The Beatles, The Monkees ended up as a pretty good and popular band, and they also became part of my Saturday lunchtime routine since their show usually showed up on one of the network affiliates around noon. While Davy Jones was the cuddly adorable one...the Monkee equivalent of Paul McCartney, Peter was perhaps the Ringo Starr in terms of personality as well as position in the band. He was the affably goofy one who I would also equate with SMAP's Shingo Katori(香取慎吾).

I will therefore dedicate this song to the memory of Peter Tork. Coming out in the same year, 1968, as the episode of "The Monkees" above, The Tempters' "Kyo wo Ikiyou" (Let's Live for Today) sounded quite familiar to me when I first heard it. And the reason for that it is a cover of "Let's Live For Today" popularized by the American rock band The Grass Roots and originally recorded in 1966 by The Rokes based in Italy under the title "Piangi Con Me".

Although the original songwriters were David Shapiro and Mogol, I couldn't find out who provided the translated Japanese lyrics unfortunately. The Tempters' version can apparently be found in "The Tempters First Album" from June 1968. If I'm not mistaken, either The Grass Roots' take or perhaps even The Tempters' cover was used in some commercial back in Japan. In any case, that chorus "Sha-la-la-la-la-la" works as a good memory cue. Incidentally, the video below shows The Grass Roots' performance.

March 28 2019: It's sadly ironic to report this in an article that started out mourning the loss of Peter Tork of The Monkees, but I just read that the vocalist for The Tempters and actor Kenichi Hagiwara(萩原健一)passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 68.

Miki Matsubara -- Megami no Migite(女神の右手)

Spent a lot of the day performing the semi-annual cleaning of the shelves and then putting in the new discs onto them in the right order. This is a downright labour-intensive duty and, boy, are my shoulders harder than granite. I will probably have to vicariously experience a massage via one of those ASMR videos. Such is the virtuality of reality nowadays.

Time for the first Miki Matsubara(松原みき)article for 2019, and this is one is a bit different since it's a track from a 1988 album of hers, her 9th to be exact, "WiNK" (no connection with the legendary aidoru duo who were starting their career around this time). "Megami no Migite" (The Goddess' Right Hand) has the famous vocals of Matsubara, but the song doesn't have the same ol' feeling of City Pop with the Fender Rhodes and some shimmery strings.

In fact, I would say that "Megami no Migite" has more of a West Coast pop atmosphere as if David Foster helped out in its creation. Actually, it was Hitoshi Haba(羽場仁志)behind the composition with lyricist/copywriter Ichiko Takehana(竹花いち子)providing the words. I do like the period synths, the horns and that incessant keyboard laying down the beat. Nope, it may not be the most original pop song of the decade, but on the radio, there are way worse ways to spend 4 minutes and change. Besides, I'd be willing to purchase "WiNK" just for the zesty cover alone.

Minoru Obata & Ryoko Fujiwara -- Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta (勘太郎月夜唄)

Last week I was watching Monday's installment of this show called "Shunkan Gotouchi!" (旬感☆ゴトーチ!) on NHK. To put it very bluntly, this travelogue is a 25 minute promo for towns in Japan and offers 3 things one can do there. It may sound like I'm slamming the show, but it's really useful when you're keen on learning about the new places in the country. Anyway, the place of interest that Monday was, wouldn't you know it, Sugamo's Jizodori!

Besides the usual red underwear, Showa era vibe, temple in the middle of the street and an attempt at luring young people there via strawberry shaved ice (an alleged 30 strawberries were harmed in the making), the natsumelo karaoke joint I frequent was even introduced, albeit for about half a minute. It was great to see it on TV, but what made my jaw drop was when the show featured the locals. They were glossing over oldies striking poses and waving at the camera when a familiar face popped up. It went by really quickly, but I was sure one of the little old ladies bundled up in winter wear was none other than Grandma K, whom I had the pleasure of knowing last year! I was very glad (and relieved) that she's still going strong. This appearance of Grandma K brought back fond memories, as well as my resolve to master sing her favourite song, Minoru Obata's (小畑実) "Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta", when I revisit Old People Harajuku.

I was no stranger to this matatabi hit of Obata's for I had listened to a fraction of it ad nauseum when I found this ryukoka medley with Yoshio Tabata's (田端義夫) "Otone Tsukiyo" (大利根月夜) and Dick Mine's (ディック・ミネ) "Tabi Sugata San'nin Otoko" (旅姿三人男). However, it was only when meeting Grandma K a few years after did I actually tune in to the full version of the song. Now it is stuck to my brain with a ton of industrial strength super glue like the other two.

"Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta" revolves around the titular ronin from Ina, Nagano. From what I gather from this blog article I found online (it's in Japanese), Kantaro of Ina was an actual figure in history. I didn't know about this till I looked him up, but that didn't stop me from loving this musical ode to the warrior. Along with the happy-go-lucky Obata with that constant ear-to-ear grin is the equally as happy-go-lucky, easy-going score. I can just imagine Kantaro leisurely strolling through the susuki by one of the many rivers in Ina, living a life of chivalry and freedom. The Kantaro craze doesn't just end at Obata's song though; there seemed to be multiple movies about his adventures, like this one called "Inabushi Jingi" (伊那節仁義) from 1943 with "Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta" as its theme song. There's also a commemorative plaque and a Kantaro festival being celebrated Ina city.

"Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta" was created by the renowned lyricist Takao Saeki (佐伯孝夫) and composer Yasuo Shimizu (清水保雄) in 1943. And actually, this song was a duet between Obata and Ryoko Fujiwara (藤原亮子) - this pairing collaborated on a few other occasions. However, in the later years "Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta" became only associated with Obata, as you can see in many live performances. It seems like the duet can only be heard in original recordings of the song, like the one in the video above.

The Jizodori temple, Kogan-ji.
Also home to the giant Sugamon butt, apparently.
Touch it and ye shall receive luck one's love life - I think.

P.S. Y'know, I kind of wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew with "Kantaro Tsukiyo Uta". Sure, it's a fun little tune, and I've been honing my vocal ability with professional help over the past six months, but, by golly, the vocal gymnastic work on this one is absolutely brutal! Ah, well. I'm pretty sure Grandma K's not going to mind some screw-ups here and there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

CreepHyp -- Obake de Ii kara Hayaku Kite(おばけでいいからはやくきて)

I have to admit that it was the music video which first got my attention more than the actual song, "Obake de Ii kara Hayaku Kite" (Come Quick Even If You're A Ghost), itself. However, this short and sweet number by the rock band CreepHyp(クリープハイプ)has come to grow on me because it was on pretty heavy rotation on NHK's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた).

Apparently, it wasn't released as an official single but it was put onto the "Minna no Uta" lineup for February and March 2018. The song, created by vocalist and guitarist Sekaikan Ozaki(尾崎世界観), is a quick and playful song about a hybrid hamster and rucksack which initially feels as if it had been abandoned by its beloved owner in a toy store. I do like the rapid guitar work in the song; rather reminds me of hamster feet going at full speed.

But as I said, the video got my attention for its style of old-fashioned posters and manga brought to life which seems to be one of the hallmarks for the animation craft team AC-bu(AC部...Department AC). I used to see illustrations of that sort whenever I visited the mock-up of 1950s Tokyo at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. AC-bu has come up with the looks for a number of commercials and music videos including "Obake de Ii kara Hayaku Kite", and I think they even took care of the anarchic anime "Pop Team Epic" last year.

Going back to CreepHyp, though, the band first started out in 2001 as an indies rock group and underwent a number of personnel changes before getting their major label in late 2012. Currently, CreepHyp has four members: the aforementioned Ozaki, guitarist Yukichika Ogawa(小川幸慈), bassist Kaonashi Hasegawa(長谷川カオナシ)and drummer Taku Koizumi(小泉拓). Since 2012, they've released 11 singles and 5 original albums.

Japan Top 10: Kayo Kyoku Plus Collaboration

Back in September last year, I wrote about the podcast "Japan Top 10" contacted me about what its program was all about, and I was happy to have found out about all of these episodes over the past several years that have been created for fans of kayo kyoku and J-Pop to savor. Well, in the last few months, I was contacted by producer Jack Shi and sales manager/on-air host Recca G of "Japan Top 10" to see if some sort of collaboration between us here at "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and them there at the podcast could be created.

Happily, with the cooperation of the writers here at KKP (myself, Noelle, Larry, Joana and Marcos V.) and everyone at "Japan Top 10", a February 2019 podcast has now been recorded which includes our contributions of some of our favourite Japanese pop songs. You can check it out from the link above where Episode 269 (under the title that you see at the very top) is waiting as podcaster Erin gives listeners a taste of what "Kayo Kyoku Plus" has been about for the past 7 years and our own personal takes on each of the songs.

Listening to the hour of music, I got that feeling of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" being released as an audio book and under a voice that sounds a whole lot more appealing than what I could ever squeak/croak out with my vocal cords. I would say that it is truly a unique episode in that you can hear everyone from Haruo Oka from the 1940s to Dance for philosophy this decade.

I would like to thank everyone at both KKP and "Japan Top 10" for their contributions to this fun project and hope that some more of the folks at the podcast would be interested in providing their own articles right here. Happy to say that Recca G. has written her own article on Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵). In any case, perhaps we can all give it another go in the near future.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fujimal Yoshino -- One Shot Lady

Putting up another cool track from Fujimal Yoshino's(芳野藤丸)1982 album "YOSHINO FUJIMAL", the City Pop gift that keeps on giving.

Tonight's contribution is "One Shot Lady" which was created by Yoshino with arrangement by bassist Naoki Watanabe(渡辺直樹). It's a goodly slice of 80s highway funk that keeps on a cheery facade throughout although some part of it reminds me of "I Shot The Sheriff". I'm listening to this right now during the late hours of the evening but the track is from the "in the DAY time" side (i.e. Side A on the original LP); still it's all good. I can also pick up some Steely Dan in there, and Yoshino, Watanabe and Makoto Matsushita (松下誠...who also gives good guitar) are providing the chorus work. In other words, it's a fine representative of the genre.

Yoshino's voice is so kakkoii that I swear that it must also have been sporting shades!

You & Explosion Band -- Manhattan Life

I've been to New York City just twice in my life and enjoyed the Big Apple both times. One of my favourite places there was Rockefeller Centre although I never skated on the huge rink since I simply cannot skate. There is (was?) a Kinokuniya Bookstore right there and I enjoyed browsing the shelves for books and baskets for J-Pop CDs.


This may have been mentioned before in an article but whenever a Japanese variety show or news program covers something about New York life, they invariably pick a big band jazz song as the BGM for the footage. It may be a bit old-school, but I think it still fits although I think hip-hop is also just as appropriate.

Well, strangely enough, jazz pianist and songwriter extraordinaire Yuji Ohno(大野雄二)was thinking a bit more AOR apparently when he came up with his "Manhattan Life" for the 1983 album "Full Course". The album was recorded by You & Explosion Band, a group consisting of Ohno, guitarist Tsunehide Matsuki(松木恒秀), bassist Michio Nagaoka(長岡道夫), trumpeter Shin Kazuhara(数原晋), and drummers Yuichi Togashiki(渡嘉敷祐一)and Yasushi Ichihara(市原康). According to J-Wiki, You & Explosion Band did a lot of work for various TV shows and works involving the late actor Yusaku Matsuda(松田優作).

"Manhattan Life" sounds a bit more like the lifestyle it was emulating was based in seaside California, but then again, this could all be about the high life of yuppie Manhattanites. It's light and fizzy and could be served nicely with a plate of smoked salmon. The song also has a certain underlying mystery as if behind all the smiles and brightness, there is some drama lurking under the surface. Perhaps it could have even made for a piece of soundtrack for a J-drama based in modern downtown Tokyo.

Chiemi Hori -- Shiokaze no Shojo(潮風の少女)

About a couple of days ago, I had found 80s aidoru Chiemi Hori's(堀ちえみ)debut single on YouTube so I decided to feature it on the blog. Things have now taken on a more poignant and sadder tone in the last several hours on hearing that Hori had just announced a battle with Stage 4 oral cancer on her own blog.

The adorable "Shiokaze no Shojo" (Sea Breeze Girl) was released in March 1982, and was written and composed by Kyoko Matsumiya(松宮恭子)with Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)providing the arrangement. Despite the title, the melodic feeling isn't so much of the beach (although the strings keep things nice and breezy) but more out in the countryside with even a bit of French in there, thanks to an accordion. Also, the languid guitar reminded me a tad somewhat of Eiichi Ohtaki's(大瀧詠一) works.

I heard the report about her cancer on NHK News this morning which devoted a few minutes to the sad announcement. All I can hope is that despite the gravity of the diagnosis, Hori will be able to tackle this successfully.

Hideo Murata -- Jinsei Toge (人生峠)

Having talked about rather unorthodox entries by Hachi and Michi, as well as one simple and lighthearted one by Haru-san, this pick for Muchi seems the most... normal, in the sense that it is a true blue enka song.

That record you see up there was an incredibly rare find I came across during my first visit to an old record shop in Singapore a couple of years ago. I was stunned to see that there were a fair number of records by the likes of Hideo Murata (村田英雄) there, but more stunned was I when I pulled the record out backwards to find this:


Prior to this, never would I have thought to find a piece of memorabilia with the autograph from any of the Yonin Shu at random, but there it was... ... That is his autograph, right? I mean, it's on his album and dated the year showa 55 (1980). I've never seen Muchi's autograph before and considering how unbelievable the find was to me, somehow I'm afraid that it may not be it...

But doubts aside, this album from the Kayo Deluxe series named "Jinsei Toge" has 2 vinyls containing some of the gruff singer's past hits like "Hana to Ryu" (花と竜) as well as up-to-date works like the titular song. From the annals of my mind, I recall that I'd heard "Jinsei Toge" on the then "Kayo Concert" a few years ago. I can't exactly remember who sang it - it was either Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) or Takeshi Kitayama (北山たけし). But whoever it was, I had a good impression of it and would've gladly given it another listen, so that gave me another good reason for me to get the album.

"Jinsei Toge" is an encouraging enka that's as manly as the singer himself, even having deep drum rolls at the start and throughout the song, as if to fire-up the listener. Then you have Murata growling in his usual forceful manner about overcoming the many trials that life presents and that no matter what happens, you'll be fine. This actually more or less matches the first theme of today's episode of "Uta Kon", which I think featured some kayo about persevering and achieving one's goals.

Writing the words to "Jinsei Toge" was Tetsuo Miyahara (宮原哲夫), and the melody was done by Teruo Komatsubara (小松原てるを). The song came out in August 1979, and a few months later Murata sang it on his 18th appearance on the Kohaku. The link to this performance is above this paragraph.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Takako Shirai -- Namae no Nai Ai demo Ii(名前のない愛でもいい)

One of the most famous musical cues on Japanese TV ranking with the American "Dragnet" brass blast was the intro for "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"(火曜サスペンス劇場...The Tuesday Night Suspense Drama)on NTV, which finished its long run in 2005. With the dramatic "BAN BAN BAN...", the viewers were taken into quick cuts, bloody and otherwise, of the episode to come with faces showing emotions ranging from horrified to furious to intrepid, all against musical pacing that seemed like an equivalent of a typical Tarentino flick. Of course, there was often the final showdown on top of a windy bluff overlooking an ocean. Maybe the culprit might have ended up getting a very close look at the water, too.

All this melodic and visual preamble before the titles came on in and an excerpt of the ending theme that changed from year to year. Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)was once the go-to singer for those suspense drama enders such as "Ieji"(家路)but then Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)brought in at least a couple of her hits with "Kokuhaku"(告白)and "Single Again".

Simply speculation on my part, but I think when the singer was contracted to whip up a "Kayo Suspense Gekijo" ending theme, the request on the particulars probably included that the song be melancholy but with some hope in the refrain. Furthermore, the lyrics were to be rather introspective and the whole ballad took on a tone paralleling the mystery inevitably getting solved with the detective stoically leading the murderer away to justice...just like Sgt. Friday on "Dragnet".

I've heard about Takako Shirai(白井貴子)for years and often mistook her name with the name for Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)for about the same length of time. Sheepishly, I must admit that today is the first time that I've included one of her songs in the annals of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but don't tell her that, eh?

My first song by her then is "Namae no Nai Ai demo Ii" (A Love Without A Name Is Fine), a ballad which seems to have a couple of themes: doing a full stop and smelling the coffee once in a while, and not taking anything for granted since it may just disappear in a puff of smoke before you know it. "Namae no Nai Ai demo Ii" was Shirai's 24th single from June 1994 and the 13th ending theme for "Kayo Suspense Gekijo" for the bulk of that year.

The dramatic part of the melody is no surprise considering the song's purpose but there is also a noble folk-like feeling, thanks to Shirai's delivery. In a way, she reminds me of folk singer Tokiko Kato(加藤登紀子)and perhaps even a bit of Buffy Ste. Marie, though somewhat mellower. Shirai came up with the music while Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)provided the lyrics.

Denki Groove -- Shonen Young(少年ヤング)

Maybe I should have put this on Friday or Saturday, but heck, it's all fine.


Not sure if this cover of Denki Groove's(電気グルーヴ)9th album "J-POP" from April 2008 would be now called an example of Deep Fake, but heck the meshing of the faces of Pierre Taki(ピエール瀧)and Takkyu Ishino(石野卓球)onto these tough guys is amazing and creepy at the same time. What is plain cool, though, is the cruise-worthy track "Shonen Young" (Young Boy Young).

With guest star guitarist Toru Hidaka(ヒダカトオル)from Beat Crusaders (in the single version), Denki Groove provides a soundscape of groove and future-is-kakkoii through "Shonen Young" which was also the band's 12th single from December 2007. Taki and Ishino wrote the weird rhyming lyrics while Ishino got the music together. It would have been nice if "Shonen Young" had been used as the background music for some video game.

The music video for "Shonen Young" is an amazing experience in itself. I had wondered about a Japanese TV show inviting a bunch of the fashionable women in current-day Shibuya or Harajuku and then remaking them into 80s aidoru/teen icons. Well, I no longer have to wonder. Director Hideyuki Tanaka(田中秀幸)did all of the hard work and transformed them into girls with the Seiko-chan cut, Hiroko Yakushimaru's(薬師丸ひろ子)character from "Sailor Fuku to Kikanjuu"(セーラー服と機関銃...Sailor Suit and Machine Gun), and terrifying tsuppari with the frizzy hair.

"J-POP" peaked at No. 9 on Oricon.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Hiroshi Itsuki/Keiko Fuji -- Kamome Machi Minato Machi(かもめ町みなと町)

I've been a bit heavy on the City Pop and J-AOR recently (sorry, I'm rather biased) so I felt that I needed to get back to some of the enka and Mood Kayo. So, why not get back to the one of the masters?

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the original recorded version of Hiroshi Itsuki's(五木ひろし)3rd single under his most famous stage name online, but his "Kamome Machi Minato Machi" (Seagull Town, Port Town) is a good hearty kayo. It's categorized as an enka on J-Wiki but frankly, I think the arrangement and melody by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)are such that it really strikes me as a very typical Mood Kayo. And with the really brassy horns in there, I couldn't help but feel the atmosphere of something a bit more urban.

Released in February 1972, "Kamome Machi Minato Machi" comes right on the heels of his breakthrough hit "Yokohama Tasogare"(よこはま・たそがれ)and successful "Nagasaki kara Fune ni Notte"(長崎から船に乗って), both from 1971. This time, though, there doesn't seem to be any specific city mentioned in Itsuki's 3rd single but Yoko Yamaguchi's(山口洋子)lyrics lay the story right on the table of the setting for lovers to flock together only to separate bittersweetly. The fact that there are those migratory seagulls smack dab in the title hints at the flighty nature of love many a time. This time, the song didn't quite leap into the Top 10, stopping its rise at No. 11.

I couldn't find out when Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)sang a cover of "Kamome Machi Minato Machi" but as usual, she puts out a fine version with a brisk and heartfelt delivery. Overall though there is not much of a difference between her take and the original by Itsuki.

Yasuhiro Abe -- Where Is Love

Haven't gotten this one yet, but Yasuhiro Abe's(安部恭弘)"Frame of Mind" album from 1985 does possess the most distinctive cover out of all his releases thus far. It's a very cool pose of him in a good suit on a chair up in the clouds.

Speaking of cool, I also do like his 7th track "Where is Love" which I believe Abe both wrote and composed along with Nobuyuki Shimizu(清水信之)handling the arrangement. It's short but it's very sweet and there's no waste of those three minutes and thirty-seven seconds. That lovely beat just keeps chugging along while Abe and then the sax come in to entertain us. Nice keyboards, as well. It should be the background music for any evening car ride in the big city.

Reimy -- Angel

We're in the middle of a fairly lovely Family Day weekend here in Canada. It's cold out there but not bone-shiveringly so and at least the sun is also out.

It will be nice to have something appropriately relaxing here so I'm providing Reimy's(麗美)"Angel". Been a while since I've had the Okinawan singer-songwriter represented, and whenever I listen to her after a period of time, it's always a breath of fresh air.

"Angel" was created and performed by Reimy and her arrangement reminds me of those late 80s and early 90s when some really solid female singer-songwriters were coming to the fore. This was her June 1989 single when she was pursuing a softer pop/AOR line in her music, and with that guitar, the synths and her voice, there is that sensation of heaven and earth getting a little bit closer in distance. I'm not sure whether "Angel" ever got onto an original studio album but it did get placed onto her 1993 "The Best Songs of Reimy".

Michiyo Azusa -- Yoroshikattara(よろしかったら)

All I can say here is "What a difference 16 years make!".

My only knowledge of Michiyo Azusa(梓みちよ)had been for her recording of the adorable kayo classic "Konnichiwa Aka-chan" (こんにちは赤ちゃん)back in 1963 when she was around 20 years of age. Then earlier today, I found this video of this song titled "Yoroshikattara" (If It's OK With You) by Azusa, released in September 1979 when she was in her mid-30s.

It's definitely not for babies. Recorded as a commercial song for Partner Cigarettes, Azusa takes on vocals reminiscent of those for Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)in character as the done-it-all, seen-it-all woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly. However, she adds on a further layer of what seems rather chanson-like; the accordion that comes in and out adds to that Frenchness.

Categorizing "Yoroshikattara" was intriguing since it felt like a somewhat updated Mood Kayo with some fast horns and bass, so that there was an additional tone of City Pop. I've always thought that City Pop was not exactly a son of Mood Kayo but more of a with-it nephew. Kudos to composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)while Yoko Aki(阿木燿子), who has provided sultry lyrics to the aforementioned Yamaguchi's later hits, weaves a tale of high living and loving, and perhaps a hint that she can handle both men and women. Of course, since this was for Partner Cigarettes, the lyrics even have that actual word sewn in there, too. "Yoroshikattara" made it all the way to No. 30 on the charts.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

P-Model -- Art Mania

It was an exciting time for me once the 1980s came in. With my trip to Japan in 1981 finally opening my ears and eyes up to music as an enthusiast...on both sides of the Pacific...the genres flowed right in. Two of the genres that hit me immediately were New Wave and technopop. Of course, at that time in my youth, Yellow Magic Orchestra was the band for the latter genre on the Japan side of things, although in Canada and the United States, the computer music was also getting my attention here, too, with acts such as Gary Numan and The Human League. At the same time, New Wave had gotten my attention with bands such as Blondie but also from Japan via Plastics. Quite heady bands, they were.

But I've been having to play catch-up over the past several years, and this blog has been helping out since it has inspired me to search through the long history of Japanese pop music. Some digging was needed, and I've realized that though YMO was the most visible of these way-out bands, there were other acts that should have gotten my attention. Plastics did get some of that, but now I've discovered this other group whose members had started their musical career as a progressive rock band called Mandrake only for the vocalist/guitarist Susumu Hirasawa(平沢進)to become disillusioned over its direction into commercialism, according to this Wikipedia article.

However, Hirasawa got his mojo back, so to speak, through witnessing the advent of punk music and then being introduced to the New Wave-loving Nylon 100% cafe/live house based in Shibuya, Tokyo. The band underwent a dramatic metamorphosis and emerged as P-Model, a New Wave/synthpop band born on New Year's Day 1979. Strangely enough, this was a group whose name I'd heard in the wind over the years but never knew what they were about until very recently.

Although it looks like the lineup has changed over a number of times, Hirasawa has been the one constant axis. Several months into the summer of 1979, P-Model released their first single, "Art Mania", created by Hirasawa, in July. The Japanese title was the far longer "Bijutsukan de Atta Hito darou" (美術館で会った人だろ...You're the One I Met at The Museum). Their first album came out the next month titled "In A Model Room".

With YMO, I've learned that initially at least, the technopop there was all about giving tributes through older genres such as surf music and exotica through the filter of synthesizers. But with P-Model, it was definitely embracing the New Wave. As soon as I heard "Art Mania", which is about a visitor to a museum getting rather hung up on another fellow art lover, memories of Plastics washed through me once more along with the weird and exciting music videos that I had seen as a kid sneaking in some midnight viewing through local Toronto programming such as "The All-Night Show" and "City Limits". I can hear Devo, Plastics and Blondie, and wonder whether Japanese outfits such as Denki Groove(電気グルーヴ)and POLYSICS had gotten some inspiration from P-Model. All hail the spiky haircuts and loud plaid tight pants!

I mean, the music is as spiky and frantic as a punk rocker (although the band members had pretty conventional haircuts [very nice conditioner, it seems like] in the videos), and the arrangement seems to represent the transition from punk into New Wave with that thrash of the guitar and the tinkly synths that remind me of early video game music. Still, the relentless pinball-bumping music may have gotten folks into a slam-dancing mood. At this point, I may ask my old friend and fellow music connoisseur about his thoughts on "Art Mania".