Credits

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.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Kitajima Kyodai -- Kyodai Enka(兄弟連歌)


I caught the occasional episode of NHK's "Gogo Uta"(ごごウタ)this afternoon and saw a duo that I've been seeing a fair bit on the singing stages on the telly recently.


This would be Kitajima Kyodai(北島兄弟...The Kitajima Brothers)consisting of enka singers Yutaka Oe(大江裕)and Takeshi Kitayama(北山たけし). Not only do both belong to Kitajima Music Office under the auspices of enka legend Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎), but the two of them were also apprentices under the master himself. And I just found out through J-Wiki that the older Kitayama got married to one of Kitajima's daughters about a decade ago.

With Oe celebrating his 10th year in show business and Kitayama celebrating his own 15th anniversary as an enka singer in 2019, the two of them got together and decided the previous year that they wanted to tour the country together. And so, the Kitajima Kyodai was formed with their first single, "Brother"(ブラザー)coming out in August 2018. The two of them even appeared with Kitajima himself during last year's Kohaku Utagassen to perform "Brother".

Well, a new single came out earlier in February, "Kyodai Enka" (Brother Enka). With words and music by Toko Daichi(大地土子), the two of them on today's episode of "Gogo Uta" even said that this jaunty enka about brotherly love was more on the pop side of things. Along with Kitajima Kyodai's smooth voices, I like the optimistic and breezy feeling that the song brings out. It could be a favourite among the karaoke set.

(short version)

I found out that Toko Daichi was the pseudonym for Makoto Ono(大野誠), the second son of Kitajima who was a singer and songwriter in his own right. Tragically, he passed away in March 2018 at the age of 51.

Takako Okamura/Takao Kisugi -- Haguresou na Tenshi(はぐれそうな天使)


Yesterday, I was listening to one of the albums in the "Good Times Diva" series of CDs featuring Japanese female singers that had been released around the turn of the century, and I heard this song for the first time in a long time.


And it was really nice to hear it once more since I really felt the truly dramatic arrangement (thank you, Motoki Funayama/船山基紀) again after so long. I mean, Takako Okamura's(岡村孝子)3rd single "Haguresou na Tenshi" (Fragile Angels) from March 1986 has an intro so mysterious yet propulsive for a pop song that I could visualize some sort of palace intrigue in Europe somewhere with a heroine running swiftly in a huge billowing dress. Plus, there is that soaring connection between the verse and the refrain that Okamura handles with aplomb which probably would have karaoke singers panting by the end.

Knowing Okamura as a singer-songwriter and just how well "Haguresou na Tenshi" fits her style as a performer of light and breezy songs, I had assumed that this was totally her own creation. However, that isn't the case since it was actually written by Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ)and composed by her brother Takao Kisugi(来生たかお).


In fact, "Haguresou na Tenshi" was covered by Okamura with the original being released by Takao himself as his 18th single in September 1985. His original isn't quite as dramatic as Okamura's cover and shows a calmer arrangement as if the setting was brought over to mid-1980s Tokyo into a cafe. The story in Etsuko's lyrics involves a woman who may be falling in love but has a lot of worries attached to her burgeoning emotions. To be honest, if I had to choose between the two, I would go with Okamura's version, although I recognize the Kisugi original from a BEST compilation of his through those plinking keys in its intro.

The original by Kisugi went as high as No. 42 on the Oricon weeklies and was also a track on his 11th studio album "Only Yesterday" released in November 1985. That release went up to No. 20. Meanwhile, Okamura's cover peaked at No. 34, and became a part of her 2nd album "Watashi no Naka no Nobifuu"(私の中の微風...The Gentle Breeze In Me)from July 1986 which ranked in ultimately at No. 18.



Interestingly enough, both versions were used as campaign songs for the Honda Today. That name for a car reminded me about some of the weirdness that went into automobile nomenclature in Japan. I can only imagine the jokes I can make up for that one. Still, the commercials featured Miki Imai(今井美樹), perhaps just before her singing career began.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Makoto Matsushita -- The Pressures and the Pleasures (Follow-Up)


Jun Bungaku(純文学).

Pure literature. That's how DJ and businessman Takayuki Fujisawa(藤沢隆行)described Makoto Matsushita's(松下誠)2nd album from April 1982, "The Pressures and the Pleasures" in his review in "Japanese City Pop". Fujisawa was probably referring to the four songs/stories contained within this Matsushita magnum opus. Yup, there are eight tracks in "The Pressures and the Pleasures" but according to the singer-songwriter himself in the liner notes, those eight make up four large songs. To clarify from the back of the album:

1. The Pressures and the Pleasures (10:13)

2. Pretender and the Truth
    a) Business Man, Part 1 (3:46)
    b) The Bridge (3:21)
    c) Business Man, Part 2 (3:06)

3. Night Visions
    a) The Garden of Walls (7:33)
    b) Carnaval (5:21)

4. The Dawn
    a) The Quiet Storm (2:06)
    b) Morning Blue (6:15)

Now, I gave my first article on "The Pressures and the Pleasures" back in 2016. There, I wrote about Song 2, "Pretender and the Truth" which has most of the City Pop section of that most intrepid businessperson strutting across Tokyo with a much-needed break time in the lounge via "The Bridge". Although at the time, I didn't know but it turns out that middle section in "Pretender and the Truth" was not only performed by Clara but it was also written by her and Lilika, who I believe are two of the sisters in the vocal group EVE. Matsushita himself provided the music for all of the songs, and wrote the lyrics for both parts of "Business Man".


I've listened to the album twice now since finally acquiring it last week. And true to what Fujisawa was saying, I think that there is literature in there in the form of a day in the life of a fellow separated into different times of those 24 hours plus.

What I've found out is that the whole "Business Man" opus consists of the only really uptempo tracks in "The Pressures and the Pleasures". Almost all of the other tracks are fairly to very introspective. Take that first song, for example, the title track itself. If "Pretender and the Truth" is the protagonist's search for business in broad daylight, that first song could be the dream getting ready to kick start him out of bed. According to the album's liner notes, Matsushita is a huge fan of progressive rock band King Crimson and that's how he tried to create that title track with lyricist Chris Mosdell's help. It's definitely not City Pop in sound (there are parts that even have a nightmarish quality), and the lyrics bring together all sorts of opposing concepts, perhaps to prepare the hero for another day of life in the megalopolis.




Song 3, "Night Visions" starts off with the mysterious and sultry opener "The Garden of Walls". Mosdell also provided the lyrics here and they are all very esoteric. Apparently, Matsushita had been inspired by Miles Davis' live performances to create this song of emotional instability and cries from the heart, punctuated by wailing and screeching guitars. My interpretation of "The Garden of Walls" is that the businessman may be in a bar or nomiya drowning another day's worth of stress in copious drink until he reaches his happy place.


The ender is "Carnaval". Maybe the businessman has gotten his second wind all on his own or his drinking buddies have come by to pick him up for some more carousing out on the town. I think that this would be the one other City Pop tune in the album. The opening verse has some suspense with a boppy bass but then as "Carnaval" progresses, a bright optimistic keyboard enters the fray before the key changes into something happier as if the alcohol is finally kicking in. Then, the guys finally hit the true carnival with that infusion of Latin rhythm and chanting when the good times are at their peak. Mimi Yokosuka provided the lyrics here.


And finally, we come to Song 4 "The Dawn" which starts with the shorter piece by Matsushita in this tandem, "The Quiet Storm". With a dreaminess and Matsushita's echoing vocals along with some uncertainty in the tones, perhaps the businessman is going through some deleterious effects from the night before. Regrets and tee-totaling may be sludging through his thoughts right now.


The longer piece in "The Dawn" is "Morning Blue". Again, a collaboration between Matsushita and Yokosuka, the entire six minutes and change are dedicated to the coming of a new morning in sound and image as the businessman groggily gets up, hopefully wiser and more sober, and perhaps on a morning that is the beginning of a day off for him.

Compared to his debut album "First Light" the previous year which was Matsushita's tribute to American urban contemporary and AOR through folks like Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, "The Pressures and the Pleasures" is an even more ambitious venture involving the every man doing his everyday in sights and sounds. He goes through some good and some bad, but he keeps on plugging away, and to quote directly from the lyrics, "....always does his best".


Koutei Camera Girl Drei -- Toronto Lot


Over a couple of years ago, I mentioned that there was a monthly free magazine called "Bento Box" which gives a local report on all of the Japanese eateries in the Greater Toronto Area along with some extra articles on Japanese culture and tourism. Once in a while, though, there is also an article on "Next Music From Tokyo", an annual tour through Canada introducing some of the more dynamic indie and underground music acts from Japan. For that article, I wrote about Maison book girl, an aidoru group that formed around a former member of BiSMegumi Koshoji(コショージメグミ).


Well, in the May 2019 issue, "Next Music From Tokyo Vol. 14" was advertised and had its run in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal between May 15th and May 20th this year. I was taking a look at the lineup and saw this group called Koutei Camera Girl Drei(校庭カメラガールドライ...Schoolyard Camera Girl III). Allow me to lift the actual description from "Bento Box":

Koutei Camera Girl Drei (KGCD) is an idol group of three female emcees who rap over incredibly well-crafted electronic dance instrumentals. Recent songs have incorporated the vocal styling and rhythms of dancehall reggae. The sophistication and unusually high quality of KCGD's music should appeal to fans of Yasutaka Nakata and Perfume.

There is also an even more detailed description of their history at the "Next Music From Tokyo" website here, but as you can see from the translation of their band name, this is the third incarnation for Koutei Camera Girl with the trio consisting of catch my heart, pacio to 'npa and new member warwar toome. One other fascinating tidbit of information is that KGCD made their debut on the planet right in the place of my birth, Toronto, in October 2017 during Volume 11 of the Canada-wide tour, and this was only a couple of months following final auditions and solidification of the original KGCD lineup.

In February 2018, KGCD released a single called "Girlz Can't / Toronto Lot". "Toronto Lot" starts off with a minute of a pensive tone while one of the three women states her desire to become an ever beautiful star. Then the beats come percolating in with the team going into rapid rap mode. I'm on the fence from just this song whether this would draw in Perfume fans, but for me, although I'm neither a rap enthusiast nor a fan of the really deep techno stuff, there is something about the speed and relentlessness of "Toronto Lot" that has had me sticking around while the song is playing for its 6 minutes and change.


The video here by uploader Tease Tarou(手汗太郎)is of KCGD's concert in Nishi-Azabu, a pretty tony area of Tokyo, in early 2018 before "Toronto Lot" was officially released. Two of the members up in the video have since left the group: blonde ramy t talata and sappy halloween. Personally, I would like to know how they got their stage names.


Go Raptors!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Kingtones -- Let's Dance Baby


Back in 2016, I wrote about one of Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)1970s classics "Let's Dance Baby", his very first single as a solo artist in January 1979. One of the things that I remarked there was that it had originally been a song offered to and performed by the doo-wop group The Kingtones several months earlier.


Perhaps at the time, the YouTube video of that Kingtones recording didn't exist, but it does now, so I'm featuring it now. Yamashita came up with the mellow melody while Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡治)provided the lyrics. The Kingtones' original version of "Let's Dance Baby" first popped up on their 3rd album "Resurrect ~ Ginga kara no Kikan"(レゼレクト 銀河からの帰還...Return from the Galaxy)which was released in October 1978.

This was a revelation to me since I had only known The Kingtones for that one doo-wop tune, "Good Night, Baby" which always seems to be the one to be performed by the quartet whenever they show up on television. However, they do just as well with "Let's Dance Baby" under a similar arrangement to Yamashita's self-cover. There is that extra layer of soft disco and a bit of spaciness, though, which underlies everything like a good large piece of shag carpeting. Doo-wop does well by "Let's Dance Baby".

Kazumasa Oda -- Tashika na Koto(たしかなこと)


Some of the truths that I've discovered from doing "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for the past 7+ years: newer videos by Johnny's Entertainment groups can get taken down so fast to give me whiplash and the happy observation that there are indeed many people out in the world who do love their kayo kyoku (thus fulfilling the main mission of this blog).


Yet another truth is that it's been awfully difficult to find a YouTube video with an original Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)song. In fact, the last one that I was able to successfully find was his 2002 single "Kira Kira"(キラキラ)back in August 2015 when I wrote up the article.

However, in recent days, I've been able to find "Tashika na Koto" (Sure Thing). This was the former Off-Course(オフコース)vocalist's 23rd solo single from May 2005. It also got onto his 7th original album "Sou kana"(そうかな...Oh, Really?)which was released a month after the single. If I'm not mistaken, from listening to the song once more, I think Sing Like Talking's Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)was providing backing chorus.

I do remember the song since I heard it on a Meiji Yasuda life insurance commercial. For something like life insurance, wouldn't an Oda ballad be just the thing? After all, everything about many an Oda ballad is very soothing and comforting, and perhaps a policy ought to have that feeling for the policyholder. In fact, the singer-songwriter recorded another song that was used in a commercial for another life insurance company several years earlier.

"Tashika na Koto" was also used in a docudrama based on the life of the late baseball manager Senichi Hoshino(星野仙一)in that same year. The song was also another Top 10 ballad, peaking at No. 8 and going Gold, although in terms of the yearly rankings, it placed in at a very modest 160th place at the end of 2005.

Yurie Kokubu -- Easy Love


Hadn't found this particular contribution before by City Pop singer Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵), so I thought I would throw it into the KKP mix tonight.


This would be Kokubu's "Easy Love" which was the B-side to her 1983 7" single, "Tobashite Taxi Man"(とばしてTaxi Man)that also had its appearance on her debut album "Relief 72 Hours", one of the essential albums of any City Pop fan's collection.

As with any of the tracks on "Relief 72 Hours", "Easy Love" has got that familiar soundscape combination of tight horns and sparkling keyboards, thanks to Kazuo Shiina's(椎名和夫)melody. It just brings glorious memories of what Tokyo must have been like in the early 1980s. Kazuko Kobayashi(小林和子)provided the lyrics of an emerging beautiful relationship. The lyricist also wrote the words for one of the other tracks on "Relief 72 Hours", "Snob na Yoru e"(スノッブの夜へ).

Yuuya Mori -- Soundtrack for "Seitokai Yakuindomo"(生徒会役員共)


Before I decided to write this particular article today, I had been wondering why I was enjoying myself so much with this anime that first had its start as a manga in 2007 before making the leap to TV in 2010 and then to the movie screens. It is definitely raunchy and hilarious in a way that would make even Eric Cartman on "South Park" blurt out in his wheezy voice "WHOA! You Japanese are really SICK!...especially you, Naruko!". But I've seen some similarly "Porky's"-like behavior on other anime on YouTube and on the wide screen in my anime buddy's house this decade but those shows never quite adhered to me like "Seitokai Yakuindomo" (Student Council Officers) has.

The crazy thing is that I have never seen "Seitokai Yakuindomo" on TV or DVD as of yet. It's just been through the various excerpts on YouTube that have appeared so much on so many videos that I can say with some confidence that I may have already seen almost all of the two series, multiple OVAs and even the movie without getting out of my chair, despite the disjointedness of my viewing experience.


Yes, the jokes can have me laughing as much as they can have me dropping my jaw, but I was still wondering why I've been stuck on these particular pervy high school student council officers. Well, there is still that family element among them providing a certain happy beating heart. But I think the other thing is that the soundtrack that composer Yuuya Mori(森悠也)has presented for "Seitokai Yakuindomo" has also enhanced my enjoyment of the show. I did mention in my first article on a tune from that soundtrack that it was run-of-the-mill. Well, I was wrong! Even TV Tropes has mentioned "The series has songs that are far more epic than any Sex Comedy has a right to be".

That first article was for "Party Shimashou"(パーティーしましょ)which I've often associated with the character of the soft-spoken Chihiro Uomi(魚見チヒロ), and I've liked it so much that I'm also including it again above.


"Seitokai Yakuindomo no March ~ Acoustic"(生徒会役員共のマーチ~アコースティック...March of the Student Council Officers)is, as the title suggests, the proud overall theme for the group consisting of straight man Vice President Takatoshi Tsuda(津田タカトシ), Napoleonic Suzu Hagimura(萩村スズ)and sex-joke-spouting President Shino Amakusa(天草シノ)and Aria Shichijou(七条アリア). I've realized that the entire soundtrack for "Seitokai Yakuindomo" is just about as good as any soundtrack for a live-action J-Drama, and this march especially sounds like something that has been used for a couple of Fuji-TV dramas that I enjoyed back in the 1990s.


One reason that I've enjoyed the soundtrack is that Mori hasn't hesitated to bring in all sorts of genres. Along with the bossa jazz of "Party Shimashou" and the marching band from the preceding track, there is also some happy-go-lucky sunny pop reminiscent of some sitcom music from the 1970s. "Seitokai no Nichijou"(生徒会の日常...Daily Life of the Student Council)which does convey the feeling of the everyday life of the student council at Ousai Academy, as warped as it often has been. I just realized that it does incorporate the feeling of "Seitokai Yakuindomo no March" and a version of "Party Shimashou".


Of course, not all of the tracks have been put up on YouTube, but I felt that I needed to include this track called "Sonna Toko..."(そんなトコ...Not There). "Seitokai Yakuindomo" is a series filled with sex jokes, after all, and "Sonna Toko..." is a perfect example of music for such a show. In fact, the track is just another reflection of how Japanese TV has often used the musical cue of 1950s cool jazz via moaning saxophone or muted trumpet to hint at something sexy. I hope that Miles Davis and Bill Evans aren't rolling in their graves too much at this revelation. The above video has an excerpt of the track in a classic sample of the show's humour.


I'm not surprised that a lot of fans absolutely adore the intrepid if sleazy head of the Newspaper Club, Ranko Hata(畑ランコ). She's just so quirky, and as voiced by Satomi Arai(新井里美), she sounds like her own eccentric grandmother. Of course, she gets her own theme via "Paparazzi?"(ぱぱらっち?), a technopoppy piece that fits her perfectly, and especially that intro sounds like a tune that would introduce a news bulletin or farm report (we have had some weird theme music for farm reports in Ontario).


To be honest, I don't recall hearing this particular track "Moe yo, Takatoshi"(燃えよタカトシ...Get Fired Up, Takatoshi)as it's not often that I've seen Takatoshi Tsuda get his flame on in front of the rest of the council since he's often their punching bag. Still, it's a song that has me thinking of tokusatsu heroes and American detective theme tunes from way back when.


Light and happy saxophone is in plenty of supply on "Natsu da! Umi da! Drive da!!"(夏だ!海だ!ドライブだ!!...It's Summer! It's the Sea! It's the Drive!!)which was probably provided during the gang's visit to the beach. It's bright and sparkly smooth jazz heading down to the coast.


Finally, this is "Boku no Takaramono"(僕のたからもの...My Treasure)which I think is another variation on "Party Shimashou" but with a bluesy saxophone taking the lead in another smooth jazz arrangement. I've heard this a few times, including a scene where Prez Amakusa thinks that she has just gotten an indirect confession of love from VP Tsuda. Of course, within a few seconds, that balloon is deflated utterly.

Apparently, the original 2010 soundtrack for "Seitokai Yakuindomo" came in two parts, a Shino-type and an Aria-type. Anyways, drop by for the dirty jokes, stay for the music.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Juicy Fruits -- Come On Swing


This is an interesting entry by the band Juicy Fruits(ジューシィ・フルーツ). I've long known this group, fronted by guitarist Atsuko "Ilya" Okuno(奥野敦子), as this New Wave-y unit with one foot in good ol' rock n' roll and the other foot in technopop.

However, with their 7th May 1984 album "Come On Swing", though the title track starts off with a familiar quirky keyboard tap-tap-tapping that continues to pop up here and there, the whole song takes things into a different arena. Even Okuno's voice, which I had always heard as high and chirpy, comes down lower in this song that's not a jazz tune despite the title, but a tune that takes a right turn into something akin to Fashion Music with Asami Kado(門あさ美)and Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). With that keyboard work, I also thought of early 1980s Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)as well. Juicy Fruits guitarist Toshihiko Shibaya(柴矢俊彦)composed this classy melody (there's even a warm sax solo),  while prolific lyricist Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)came up with the words which set up an environment for a final night of romance in high style with glasses of Kir Royale and lamé heels. If you break it off with someone, do so with an American Express Platinum card on hand!

I haven't been able to find any other tracks from "Come On Swing" on YouTube, but I would be interested in hearing what they do sound like. By the way, this album was their final album to date.

Akina Nakamori -- Jouken Hansha(条件反射)


Commenter kaz and I were conversing on my last Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)article a couple of weeks ago, and he related about the intention by her and lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)to make the B-sides of her singles in the early 1980s to be as good as those A-sides. Of course, they along with the various composers succeeded nicely.


I then wondered about one of the other great aidoru during that time, Akina Nakamori(中森明菜). How were the B-sides on her singles? It's something that I've already started exploring and one of the gold nuggets that I managed to dig up was the great "Lonely Journey"(ロンリー・ジャーニー), the B-side to her massive hit, "Meu Amor e"(ミ・アモーレ)from 1985.

The exploration continues here with the B-side to Akina's 1982 debut single, "Slow Motion"(スローモーション)whose KKP article I provided all the way back in March 2012. "Jouken Hansha" (Conditioned Reflex) is quite the contrast with that first song, and in my opinion, the harbinger for a certain number of her songs early in her career. Those songs, including her 2nd single, "Shojo A"(少女A), are the harder-edged ones (punctuated by rock n' roll guitars) depicting Akina as the big-haired troubled teen in a difficult situation.

I hadn't heard of "Jouken Hansha" until just a few months ago, and I gotta say that the intro with the guitar caught my attention and held it for the rest of the song. There was no conditioned reflex from me; my reaction was rather proactive. Written by Tsuzuru Nakasato(中里綴)and composed by Noboru Mimuro(三室のぼる), "Jouken Hansha" is about a woman who still gets attracted to a man despite the fact that he seems to treat her at best as a trophy girlfriend.

The main observation that I've had so far about the song is that even though this was part of her debut single, I could really sense here that Akina already had the beginnings of a great voice, compared to the A-side. One particular point in the song that impressed me was how she almost seemed to breathe out the title. That one point had me thinking of Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵), the 70s aidoru that this future 80s superstar had often been compared to in terms of her singing style.

For me, there are more Akina B-sides to explore. "Jouken Hansha" is also a track on Nakamori's debut album "Prologue (Jomaku)" ( プロローグ〈序幕〉) from July 1982. I've already written up an article about that one, but luckily, "Jouken Hansha" hadn't already been covered there, so I could happily take care of it here.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Study -- Seishun Zeminaru/Never Give It Up!!(セイシュンゼミナール)


Happy Monday! My anime buddy came back last week after nearly a month in East Asia so we've had to play quite a bit of catch-up when it has come to this season's batch of anime. A number of these are fairly short in duration and a couple of them (one being the sequel to "One Punch Man") haven't been quite up to snuff so we've left them alone for now and there's a possibility that my friend may even jettison them from the lineup.

One that is encapsulated within the regular 30-minute format is "Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai"(ぼくたちは勉強ができない)which has the English title of "We Never Learn" and the Japanese abbreviation of "Bokuben"(ぼく勉). I've made the observation that this is a harem show of sorts and a slice-of-life high school comedy surrounding a tutor, Nariyuki Yuiga(唯我 成幸), who has to help out three students: the ojosan-like Fumino Furuhashi(古橋文乃)who's a literature expert but can't do math to save her life, the stoic and logical Rizu Ogata(緒方理珠)who is a math whiz but has difficulty grasping literature, and supremely ebullient Uruka Takemoto(武元うるか)with a natural athleticism but is at a loss when it comes to academics. The site TV Tropes got it spot on when they compared the three to Kirk, Spock and McCoy respectively.

The lessons are the secondary point, though, as the show gradually displays a comedy of errors and misunderstandings when Fumino, Rizu and Uruka begin to show slightly more than platonic feelings for their tutor...and they are not the only ones.



The opening credits for "Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai" are adorned by Study's rendition of "Seishun Zeminaru" (Salad Day Seminar), and Study just happens to consist of the three seiyuu behind Furuhashi, Ogata and Takemoto, Haruka Shiraishi(白石晴香), Miyu Tomita(富田美憂)and Sayumi Suzushiro(鈴代紗弓)respectively. Tomita is already gaining a fair number of songs on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and as a seiyuu, she's becoming quite recognizable to me due to her calm and button-down roles for the most part. "Seishun Zeminaru" isn't all that different from the usual super-genki anime opening tune but considering a fairly busy week last week with the accompanying stress, I was quite welcoming in hearing this one again after almost a month. Saori Kodama(こだまさおり)and Takahiro Yamada(山田高弘)took care of words and music.


I haven't been able to find a full version of the ending theme but there are the closing credits. Once again the Study trio are back to perform "Never Give It Up!!" which has a mild synthpop feeling created by songwriters Mami Kawada(川田まみ)and Maiko Iuchi(井内舞子). I actually like "Never Give It Up!!" slightly more because of that intro by Study and the credits themselves at the beginning which seem to have the rapidly singing mouths on the blackboard representing the three main characters themselves. I think the moe factor has been raised a bit more here.


At this point, I think viewers have already come up with their choices about who Taiga should ultimately be paired with, but most likely by the end of this show, he'll end up remaining friends with the three. However, in the interests of not straddling the fence, I wouldn't mind if the lad gladly accepted the affections of his junior high school buddy, Uruka. For one thing, she has that Lucille Ball appeal with me.

Spitz/Sayonara Ponytail - Sora mo Toberu Hazu (空も飛べるはず)

If you could fly through the sky, would you do it, and why?


The first time I listened to "Sora mo Toberu Hazu" was around 2012, when the anime "Tsuritama" was aired. It was one of the first anime series I followed weekly and it means a lot to me, because it brought me closer to one of my oldest groups of friends, and also to my boyfriend.

The version used as the ending of "Tsuritama" is a cover by the girl group Sayonara Ponytail (さよならポニーテール) and it's very soft and whispery. I always loved how well it went with the visuals of the ending sequence and the particular use of the keyboard in the instrumental.


Only a few years later I was introduced to the original version of the song, by Spitz (スピッツ), which is one of their trademark tunes. It was originally released in 1994 and it's included in the appropriately named album "Sora no Tobikata" ("How to fly through the sky"), from the same year. It is penned by Spitz vocalist Masamune Kusano, as usual with their songs, and arranged by the band members themselves.

I took the opportunity to take a look around the Wikipedia page and found out "Sora mo Toberu Hazu" reached 1st place in the Oricon charts. It is frequently used as a graduation song in Japan, which seems fitting, since the lyrics of the song strike me as being a reminiscence of youth and past encounters.

The song isn't actually part of the anime "Honey and Clover", unlike a few other known tunes from Spitz, but it was this series that introduced me to the band. Its themes revolve strongly around the songs of the group and at the time, I found it really interesting. It's not usual to see a series being based so intensely in music (about that matter, I've still got to read the manga "Slow Motion wo Mou Ichido", and maybe talk a bit about it here someday).

Panasonic

After a few years of not giving it a listen, this song popped out in my head a few days ago. Remember Go Zeela, from my last post? I was thinking about her having said she was leaving BiS to "fly through the sky". And today, her old BiS friend Pour Lui quoted the lyrics of this exact tune... Well, if I could fly through the sky right now, I would be going straight to Tokyo to thank Pour Lui personally for creating BiS and for being such a good friend to my most beloved idol.

P.S.: J-Canuck also wrote a post about this same song and the same two groups! Link here.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Machiko Sanjo/Hachiro Kasuga -- Karisome no Koi (かりそめの恋)


According to my Academic Composition lecturer, Tuesday is his favourite day of the week. I'm not sure why, but I'll just leave it as that. Ordinarily, for obvious reasons, my favourite day of the week would be either Friday or Saturday, with Tuesdays coming up in the rank when singers I love show up on "Uta Kon". However, the second day of the week has now surpassed the fifth for a number of reasons: 1. I've got no classes on Wednesdays. 2. It's my after-school club day! For some reason, the club members seem to have an average age of at least 65, though I think I might've reduced it a notch...

Hachi's version

Anyway, we'll get back to my Tuesday escapades in a bit. For now, the song I'll be featuring in this article is "Karisome no Koi" (Transient Love). Having found Hachiro Kasuga's (春日八郎) aMAzing rendition quite by accident on YouTube, this mellow Mood Kayo-like ballad featuring Ginza has been one of my "Flavors of the month" for the past few months. I enjoy the rather swanky-sounding melody (because Ginza) with its jaunty rhythm, jazzy horns and strings. And its made even better with Hachi's soft crooning. While the song is sung in the perspective of a woman yearning to find love in Tokyo's fancy, neon-lit district, I must say that Kasuga manages to convey that very feeling to a T... I just love it when his voice flutters delicately when he lightly touches the higher notes. If the video hadn't specified the song's debut year and that this was a cover, I would have assumed that this was one of his own works. But, the one actually behind the original take from way back in 1949 was Machiko Sanjo (三條町子). Kasuga's one can be found in his 1977 cover album, "Nihon no Uta Meiji Taisho Showa Hayari Uta" (日本の歌 明治・大正・昭和はやりうた).

The original version

Sanjo's name is not one I had seen before in the world of ryukoka, and neither had I come across "Karisome no Koi" until I found Hachi's version, so this tune seemed to me more on the "underground" side. And that was why, just this Tuesday, I had asked the joint's regular, Grandpa 2, whom I've now decided to nickname Shiro Jiisan (Grandpa White), if he knew it. You see, Shiro-san has a vast reservoir of tunes in that white hair-capped head of his which makes what I know look like a tiny bucket of water in comparison, so I was keen to find out where the boundary was. I was ready to recommend it in the oft chance it was uncharted territory, but, of course, it was on his map.

My Japanese is still half-past-all-the-numbers-on-the-clock-face, so somewhere along the way of posing the aforementioned question, Shiro-san interpreted that I wanted him to sing "Karisome no Koi" for me, and so he did. Unfortunately, he blanked out at the start as he'd forgotten how it went, so I stepped in to sing it with him... even though I had never sung the song either. The impromptu duet turned out OK - I think - and I did find it equal parts funny and nice, considering how the reserved fellow so readily dived into a song I brought up. 10/10 would sing it with him again. He amuses me.


Coming back from my tangent, after looking up information on Sanjo, I found out that "Karisome no Koi" was not as "underground" as I had thought since it was her biggest and breakout hit, and she'd even sang it on the 2nd installment of the Kohaku in 1952. Perhaps why I hadn't heard of her prior was due to her retiring in the 50s or 60s (the J-Wiki's not clear on that) after getting married, but she seemed to float in and out of the music scene after the fact - transient, just like the love in her song. I'm sorry, I had to, and it's been ages since I made some lousy music-based pun anyways.

Not Ginza, but it's got the song's vibe.

P.S. I think the only way I can beat Shiro-san at the music game is to bring in names like Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) to the table... Eh, but that seems a little unfair to the septuagenarian, and it kinda takes away the challenge (on my part). Time to pull out the Hachi and Haru-san gems.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Kinmokusei -- Futari no Akaboshi(二人のアカボシ)

Demae Itcho...in stores now!

Being back in Toronto, I've been able to slake my ramen fix through the instant stuff and the ramen shops that have now become part and parcel of the local cuisine tapestry. Still, whenever I do visit my old stomping grounds in Tokyo, I will go to a ramen shop at least a couple of times. There is something very shibui about the taste and the atmosphere of the place. The one thing that I regret though is that I never got to have a bowl of the good stuff at those ramen wagons that pop up on the street at night. I guess that I've always been more of an indoors man.


I had no idea about this band or the fact that they did make it onto the 2002 Kohaku Utagassen with this song. In all likelihood, I had been back here for the Holidays since I was still fully engaged in my Ichikawa life but frankly, the Kohaku was no longer must-see TV for me.

The band is Kinmokusei(キンモクセイ)which can also be written in kanji as「金木犀」 , meaning fragrant olives. Starting up as a 5-person unit from Sagamihara City in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1998, their 2nd single from January 2002 became their only Top 10 hit thus far, "Futari no Akaboshi" (Morning Star for Two). Written and composed by Kinmokusei vocalist Shungo Ito(伊藤俊吾), looking at the J-Wiki article for the song, the title's akaboshi may be a more lackadaisical reading for its kanji, myojo(明星)as in Myojo Foods which makes those packs of instant ramen such as Charumera(チャルメラ).


In terms of the words, there is no mention of any ramen shops or wagons, although the CD cover for the song has a ramen package motif, and the lyrics do mention the actual title but I think that akaboshi in that context actually refers to the morning coming for the couple. Still, the music video is focused on a woman enjoying a bowl of ramen at a wagon.

Kinmokusei, according to J-Wiki, covers a number of genres: pop, rock, kayo kyoku and New Music. Those last two genres took me slightly for a loop since I thought that those were categories that no longer had a place in the 21st century. However, it's been stated that the band has a love of Japanese popular music from the 1970s, and I could pick up on that influence in "Futari no Akaboshi", especially through the keyboard work. Ito's lyrics paint a landscape of life in the big city as it looks like two lovers are meeting up one last time before parting for good. Strangely enough, with the mention of highway bridges and street lights, I couldn't help but get images from any Michael Mann movie.

"Futari no Akaboshi" hit No. 10 on Oricon and is Kinmokusei's biggest hit as well as the 49th-ranked single of 2002. The song can also be found on their debut album "Ongaku wa Subarashii Mono da"(音楽は素晴らしいものだ...Music is a Wonderful Thing)which was released in July of that year. That also peaked at No. 10. The band had its initial run between 1998 and 2008, a return in 2011, and then a second comeback in 2018 which is still continuing.

Just for trivia's sake, the woman in the music video is singer and poet Megumi Takeuchi(竹内めぐみ). And no, she has no familial connection with Mariya.

Some tan tan at Sansotei!

Mitsutoshi Ambe -- Hoshi no Tabi(星の旅)


Over six years ago, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" writer nikala had written about a song by singer-songwriter Mitsutoshi Ambe(あんべ光俊)called "HEART" from 1983 which moved her a fair bit. It is something that struck me as being a distinct and dreamy pop song, helped along with Ambe's sweeping voice.


Nikala then mentioned about Ambe's folk roots with his band Hikousen(飛行船...Airship)in the early 1970s. Following that band's breakup, he pursued a solo career, and so I managed to find the first song from his second solo album "Hekikuu to Umi no Sukima kara"(碧空と海のすき間から...From Between the Blue Sky and the Sea)released in December 1978.

Titled "Hoshi no Tabi" (Trip Through the Stars), this was also created by Ambe in which he sings about what seems to be a man trying to reassure his distraught significant other while he goes away for a while (or maybe it's something more permanent, although my gut tells me it's the former). It's a mellow and jaunty folk number that has me thinking of other folk/pop singers such as Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵)and Masashi Sada(さだまさし). There's a bit more of a lower growl to his vocals when compared to his dreamier delivery of "HEART" some years later. The interesting thing is how "Hoshi no Tabi" slows down so much near the middle that I thought it was ending only for the engine to get revved up again.

Kidorikko -- Momoiro Kingyo(桃色金魚)


Happy Saturday! And I hope everyone in the States is enjoying the start of their Memorial Day long weekend.

I remember when Yellow Magic Orchestra became a phenomenon, it seemed like the synthesizer and any other instrument associated with technopop music started seeping into the production of a whole lot of other pop songs in Japan for several years going far into the 1980s. And of course, even bands and individual artists with that computer music vibe started popping up during that time, inspired by the teamwork of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi(坂本龍一・細野晴臣・高橋幸宏).

However, I've realized that a lot of those technopop bands never entered my radar until very recently, thanks to the presence of YouTube. It's like my discovery of City Pop with a lot of people in the genre figuratively taking up residency in the 9/10ths of the music iceberg under the water...there may be a number of those technopop bands underneath the surface as well.



One such band which I found out about in the last few months was called Kidorikko(きどりっこ). I couldn't find anything about this particular band itself on J-Wiki, but one of the members has his own bio there. Keyboardist/composer Kimitaka Matsumae(松前公高)got together with Ryuichi Sato(佐藤隆一), another keyboardist and composer, and vocalist/lyricist Chiyumi Ten(てんちゆみ) (who, at least from the image above, looks a lot like actress Yumi Adachi!) to form the band around the mid-1980s.

From another blog's (Wakarimi/後悔日和) page devoted to the band, Sato apparently went for "...a progressive pop sound with a children's song-like quality", fitted with Ten's happy-go-lucky high-pitched vocals. In 1986, Kidorikko's debut mini-album, "C'est L'elegance na Tanoshimi" (セレレガンスな愉しみ...Enjoyment of This Elegance), was released with one of the tracks being "Momoiro Kingyo" (Peach-Coloured Goldfish). The song was also their debut single from April 1985.

I gotta say that those particular synths caught my attention immediately. That adorably chirpy sound really reminded me of some of the techno beats that Ryuichi Sakamoto put forth for Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)in the early 1980s. Plus, Ten's voice would probably have certain seiyuu listening in envy today. Although Kidorikko has also been pegged as a New Wave band according to this English-language description of them, I'm not quite sure if "Momoiro Kingyo" would apply as a New Wave song but I will leave that decision to you once you listen to it.

Wakarami also mentioned something interesting, stating that the entirety of "Momoiro Kingyo" brought back memories of the old Bubble Era. I think that there is another brand of keyboard work in City Pop that has also elicited that feeling.

(2:17)

A full studio album was released in August 1987"Ryukou Tsushinbo" (流行通信簿...Trend Report Card) . Several of the tracks from "C'est L'elegance na Tanoshimi" and tracks from this full album were put together to form a joint album called "Kidorikko" in 1989.

For Matsumae, he left not too long after "C'est L'elegance na Tanoshimi" had been released. He then got involved in other projects and bands including the group hi-posi during their indies days and SST Band.

Not sure if such a book has ever been published, but I think like my genre bible "Japanese City Pop", perhaps there could be a similar publication titled "Japanese Technopop" covering those bands from the late 1970s and beyond.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos -- Ginza Blues(銀座ブルース)


Always a grand area. Even if folks have said that since the Bubble burst and the 2011 earthquake, the lights of Ginza haven't been the same, I've never particularly agreed with the opinion that Tokyo's most famous neighbourhood has lost its gleaming luster. It's still a fine walk, day or night and whether or not the street is closed to vehicular traffic for its weekly pedestrians' paradise.


With the title of "Ginza Blues", I would have thought that this would have been an easy single for the Mood Kayo group Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos(黒沢明とロス・プリモス). After all, this was the group that performed a number of Ginza-based tunes such as "Ame no Ginza"(雨の銀座)and "Tasogare no Ginza"(たそがれの銀座). However, it was included as a track on (I'm assuming) their February 1970 album, "Sakariba no Yoru ni Utau"(盛り場の夜を唄う...Sing to the Night on a Busy Street), although the YouTube video just has "Yoru ni Utau" as the identifying album.

The song also did sound rather familiar, then I figured it out. "Ginza Blues" had been recorded previously in the 1960s and by a number of different artists. In fact, I had already written about the ballad just a few months earlier with Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars(和田弘とマヒナスターズ)and Kazuko Matsuo(松尾和子), among others. But what I found out was that the cover version by Los Primos, compared to the jazzier and swingier versions by those from the other article, has more of an intimate Latin feeling especially with that lone guitar. I imagine, for example, that the Mahina Stars and Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)would have performed their covers in a classy brightly-lit supper club in Ginza while Los Primos would be in closer surroundings with the spotlight placed right on them.

Yoko Maeno -- Ai no Hitojichi(愛の人質)


Another Friday night is upon us so hey, let's go with City Pop here. I found this song by Yoko Maeno(前野曜子)titled in a sultry way "Ai no Hitojichi" (Hostage to Love).


A track from her 7th and final album "Twilight" from 1982, "Ai no Hitojichi" is this urbane but wistful song with a slightly sexy streak thanks to Maeno's vocals. I like some of that twiddling on the keyboards and the horns that accompany her. Just my opinion, but I think from Maeno's singing, this sounds like a 1970s City Pop tune given some of that 1980s arrangement.

I wasn't able to find out who took care of words and music but I do appreciate that nighttime vibe that emanates from the song. It kinda reflects a very smart evening out on the town. Finally, I also like that cover on the album. Simply stated, I have a soft spot for twilight-themed photos.


Miki Imai -- Doshaburi Wonderland(どしゃ降りWonderland)


While folks in Japan are going through an early version of a typically torrid summer over there, we here in Toronto have been having cold and wet weather to the extent that it seems as if spring had been cancelled. But it seems that over the past couple of days, despite all the rain last month, we may have a sliver of spring in between the big guys of winter and summer.


Although I don't think that April was basically the re-enactment of the climate that launched Noah's Ark, the rain was fairly steady. However, it seems like the story in Miki Imai's(今井美樹)"Doshaburi Wonderland" (Downpour Wonderland) has one lady who's more than happy to traipse around like Gene Kelly in the famous scene of "Singing in the Rain" (and yep, Imai even gives a shout out to him in the song). And that's because she in L-O-V-E! Nothing like that particular emotion to make anyone completely oblivious to changes in the weather.

"Doshaburi Wonderland" isn't going down as one of my very favourites in the Imai oeuvre but it's fun and snappy enough. This was the first track in her 2nd studio album "elfin" from September 1987 and was created by Masami Tozawa(戸沢暢美)and Satoshi Takebe(武部聡志). It's interesting enough with a Prince-like funk guitar riff launching things and some rather nostalgic synthesizer. Moreover, considering some of her later, more dramatic-sounding hits, hearing the light-as-meringue "Doshaburi Wonderland" early in her career can bring a smile to my face.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tokyo Q Channel -- Ni-juu-kyuu-sai(29歳)


Of course, here in Canada, we've got Tim Horton's. It's not technically a Canadian company any more since it's majority-owned by Brazilian/American investment firm 3G Capital, but heck, we can still dream about the man the donut-and-coffee emporium was named after, the late Toronto Maple Leaf Tim Horton. Over in Japan, I think the leading donut place is still Mister Donut even with that craze over Krispy Kreme and other gourmet donut establishments almost a decade ago. There was even one branch by my old subway station, Minami-Gyotoku.



When I was visiting Tokyo in 2017, I decided to stop by for a morning snack at the Shimo-Kitazawa branch of Mister Donut. I ended up with a straight coffee and a double-chocolate donut. Compared to the yeast-raised donuts at Timmies, Mister Donut's donuts are more on the cakey side. It's all good!


Anyways, my donut-filled pre(-r)amble has nothing to do with the song here; I was just musing wistfully. But speaking of wistful, I would like to introduce this really pleasant ditty, "Ni-juu-kyuu-sai" (29 Years Old) by the musical duo Tokyo Q Channel (or TQC, for short). Enjoying a short run between 1994 and 1998, the band's name does sound somewhat like a home shopping network but it was indeed a singing act comprised of vocalist Mayumi Sudo(須藤まゆみ)and keyboardist-guitarist-composer Yasuhiko Warita(割田康彦).

"Ni-juu-kyuu-sai" comes from TQC's first of two albums "Switch On!" which came out in June 1995. With Sudo and Warita creating the song on their own, it sounds more like a tune from a decade back, maybe more along the lines of something that Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)or Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久)in AOR mode would create in the 1980s. All those wonderful strings and twinkly keyboards surround a story of a young lady looking back as well as forward while she is in her final year of her twenties. Sudo has that lovely crystalline voice and my compliments also go out to Warita. "Ni-juu-kyuu-sai" doesn't seem to reflect any regrets and is very uptempo...perhaps just the song to adorn an Iwaki Credit Association commercial which it did.

Although there is a J-Wiki bio for Tokyo Q Channel, there isn't much outside of their discography. I found out that the duo had released eight singles along with their two albums. But Sudo and Warita have their own articles from which I did discover that Sudo is from Gunma Prefecture, has backed up a number of other singers such as Miki Imai(今井美樹)and Maaya Sakamoto(坂本真綾), and has sung a lot of other commercial jingles. Meanwhile, Warita, who also hails from Gunma, was discovered by composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)in 1990 after which Warita made his own debut as a composer. He has created melodies for acts including SMAP, Ribbon and Hikaru Genji(光GENJI).

I had the entire 2nd floor of Mister Donut to myself!

Negicco -- Triple! WONDERLAND(トリプル!WONDERLAND)/ Koi suru Negicco(恋するねぎっ娘)


Over the past week, an old classmate of mine from not only university but also from Japanese Language School days sent me an e-mail asking me whether I knew anything about the contemporary aidoru group known as Negicco. I had to say that my knowledge was rather limited when I got the mail although I know that Marcos V. included them in his March 2014 article "Retro Grooves and Underground Aidoru Gems Playlist".

Well, not to let any enquirer down, I checked things out about this group and found out that Negicco is a bit of a Cinderella story come to life. Back in 2003, Japan Agricultural Cooperatives had wanted to boost the exposure of the green onion industry in Niigata Prefecture, so Nao☆, Megu, Miku and Kaede were brought together as Negicco, literally meaning Green Onion Girls for what was only going to be a one-month gig. However, the activities and fame kept on coming for them, and although Miku graduated in 2006 (she would be replaced by Misaki but she left a couple of years later), Negicco has continued releasing the music and albums up to the present day, and leader Nao☆ has even helped pen a number of songs for the group.


I found out this single from April 2014 titled "Triple! WONDERLAND" which is quite catchy. The video kinda reminds me of an even cuter Perfume performance, and the music by ex-Cymbals drummer Hiroyasu Yano(矢野博康)had me reminiscing of another aidoru group in this decade, Especia. I would have just categorized "Triple! WONDERLAND" as an aidoru and pop tune but with those 80s-sounding synths and that Especia Neo-City Pop sound, I couldn't help but throw in those particular genres into Labels, too. Yano also provided the lyrics for what is a cute and fairly cool tune.


"Triple! WONDERLAND" is their 6th single under the T-Palette Records label ("Aidoru Bakari Kikanaide"/アイドルばかり聴かないで featured in Marcos' article is their 4th). It peaked at No. 16 on Oricon, and made its appearance on "Rice & Snow", Negicco's 2nd album under the same label from January 2015. That album went as high as No. 18.


Now, let's go all the way back to the beginning with "Koi suru Negicco" (Green Onion Girls In Love) with the original quartet. Their debut single premiered in November 2003, and is a more conventional and oh-so-adorably bouncy testament to themselves. Hopefully, sales in green onions did get a boost. The lyrics were provided by Kura & Oga and music was by atk. Before joining up with T-Palette Records, a little under a dozen singles were released by Negicco with 5 other companies between 2003 and 2010.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nav Katze -- Yuunagi(夕なぎ)


I was working part-time as a student assistant at University of Toronto's International Student Centre back in the late 1980s which meant that I took care of the facilities once or twice a week at night when the regular day staff went home. It was a nice gig, too, for the most part since some nice university clubs came in regularly to use the various rooms at the ISC. Plus, a few of my friends would come by and keep me company from time to time and after I close up, we may even walk down to Chinatown for a late-night dinner.

One of the regular groups that came on Tuesdays was the U of T chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism. I hadn't really known what they were all about but on a weekly basis, the friendly members signed off on one of the larger rooms on the ground floor and I could often hear some medieval music going on with what sounded like dancing from the rhythmic footsteps. As it turns out, the SCA is a group dedicated to life in the Middle Ages without all of the horrible diseases and violence. Nice men and women, they all were.


For some reason, when I listen to this song by (at-the-time) trio Nav Katze, I get reminded of the SCA. Perhaps "Yuunagi" (Evening Sun) strikes me as having this somewhat medieval vibe woven into its tapestry although it is obviously contemporary; I think it's partially because of that instrument which starts things off, but the whole tone throughout the song seems to be fitting for a pleasant adventure in the forest. Moreover, the music definitely stands out from the Japanese pop at the time so that I also think of the band PSY-S when I hear "Yuunagi" although PSY-S is more in the technopop realm.

"Yuunagi" served as Nav Katze's debut single from August 1987 and was also a track on the group's 2nd album "OyZaC" which came out a month later. I've already written about one of their later songs, "Nagori no Bara"(名残りの薔薇), so you may additionally want to give that one a try for comparison.

Kingo Hamada -- Yokaze no Information(夜風のインフォメーション)


Well, I'd like to have this one with a skewered maraschino cherry in it!


First off, I want to confirm that this is indeed "Yokaze no Information" (Night Wind Information) and not "Yozora no Information" as has been labeled elsewhere. This is a track from smooth-singing Kingo Hamada's(濱田金吾)6th album "Heart Cocktail" from March 1985, and it's quite the delicious tune of the genre.

For all of the City Pop fans out there, there is Hamada's recognizable voice and his lovely melody punctuated with some sax. I mean, that melody is just starving to be given the Future Funk treatment (and it probably already has), but heck, the original by itself is perfect. I got that ASMR feeling the first time from how the key changed at the lyric "Kimi to mata aete"(君とまた逢えて...Meeting up with you again). The music is helping convey Kazuko Kobayashi's(小林和子)happy-go-lucky lyrics about a guy who runs into an old flame after a fight five years previously derailed the love, and realizes that he and she are more than ready to kiss and make up. In fact, as the song is playing out, the fellow has just woken up at around sunrise and finds out that he's not alone in that bed.

It's one of those songs that by itself would make me want to grab the source album. I will have to see if I can make use of some of those Tower Record coupons that they often throw at me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Hideki Saijo -- Yuuyakegumo/Wakaki Shishi-tachi(夕焼け雲・若き獅子たち)


Hard to believe but it's been a little over a year since the passing of 70s aidoru Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹). He died on May 16 2018 and a day later, I wrote an elegiac article surrounding his "Koi suru Kisetsu"(恋する季節)in a tribute.


First off, I have to give my deepest apologies to commenter Owl Chick since there was a request for the song "Yuuyakegumo" (Clouds in the Afterglow) on the "Koi suru Kisetsu" article but regrettably I had forgotten to write about it over the past year. Belated as it is, I am now providing it here.

A track from his June 1975 album "Exciting Hideki Vol. 5 ~ Koi no Bousou/Kono Ai no Tokimeki"(エキサイティング秀樹 Vol.5 - 恋の暴走/この愛のときめき...Amour Running Wild/This Love's Excitement), "Yuuyakegumo" (Clouds in the Afterglow) does leave an immediate impression from its intro which takes Bach's famous "Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565". I couldn't find Takeshi Ochiai's(落合武司)lyrics anywhere but perhaps Tachio Akano's(あかのたちお)music was trying to hint at something sinister afoot. Still, although I'm not quite there with the choice of keyboard playing the intro, I can't doubt the spectacular horns and Saijo's soaring vocals. It's a classic Saijo song.


Another Saijo song that has all that epicness and fanfare horns is "Wakaki Shishi-tachi" (Young Lions) which was his 18th single from September 1976. The reason that I've put this particular song up is that this week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)started off with several minutes of tribute to the singer in commemoration of the 1st anniversary of his passing, and his old friend/rival, Goro Noguchi(野口五郎)appeared to sing this very song.

Written by Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composed by Takashi Miki(三木たかし), viewing Noguchi's performance tonight and listening to the original by Saijo, "Wakaki Shishi-tachi" seems to have been created in the form of an anthem for the young, walking straight and tall into the future. Although other songs have been sung in tribute of Saijo, I couldn't have asked for a better one to start off tonight's show.


The intro here, too, is interesting since it is reminiscent of the orchestra version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It certainly is a proud song and it was performed by Saijo on his third appearance at the Kohaku Utagassen in 1976. I can only wonder how he made his entrance onto the NHK stage when the horns shot out the opening fanfare...hands on his sides, beaming smile and a cape flying out from behind him?


Although I couldn't find any video of his performance of "Wakaki Shishi-tachi", big-voiced Shigeru Matsuzaki(松崎しげる)provided a cover of the song in the album "Kimi no Kuchibiru ni Iroasenu Kotoba wo ~ Aku Yu Sakushishuu 1978"(君の唇に色あせぬ言葉を〜阿久悠作詞集 1978...Fading Words for Your Lips~The Works of Yu Aku). As for the single, it peaked at No. 4 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 61st-ranked single for 1976. It also was the title track for a 1976 album.

Yup, "Young Man" will probably be the first song that Saijo will be associated with, but when giving a retrospective on the singer, wouldn't this be the one that ought to see the man off into eternity?