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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Oricon Top 10 CD Albums of 2018

1.  Namie Amuro              Finally
2.  AKB48                        Boku tachi wa, Ano Hi no Yoake wo Shitteiru
3.  Southern All Stars       Umi no Oh, Yeah!!
4.  Mr. Children                Juuryoku to Kokyuu
5.  Hikaru Utada               Hatsukoi
6.  Kanjani Eight              Gr8est
7.  BTS                             Face Yourself
8.  Twice                          BDZ
9.  Kis-My-Ft2                 Yummy!!
10.  Hey! Say! Jump        Sense or Love

Yuko Asano -- Kokoro wa Karappo(こころはからっぽ)

For my final article on the final day of August 2019, I was inspired by a weekly TV Asahi program titled "Sekai no Mura de Hakken! Konna Tokoro ni Nihonjin"(世界の村で発見!こんなところに日本人...Discovered in the World's Villages! A Japanese in This Sort of Place). In each episode, celebs go around the world to "search" for a Japanese national who is currently working in some remote part of a country ranging from Russia to The Seychelles. As with any variety show in Japan, everything is planned to the letter including most likely letting know the target of that search beforehand that he/she will be visited for an interview as to why he/she is there, so any angst (extreme weather, language barrier, etc.) that the celeb feels is probably real but he/she has to follow through on the plan to be able to get a full segment in.

Tonight, we got to see an episode featuring actress Yuko Asano(浅野ゆう子). I couldn't find a YouTube video with tonight's episode but she had been assigned to search for someone located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, but somehow she found herself much to my surprise in my hometown of Toronto!..almost 2,000 km short of target. In fact, she was asking folks for some help at Nathan Philips Square which you can see at the very top. I'm just trying to imagine someone as famous as Asano right in front of City Hall! Anyways, she eventually found the person out in the Maritimes.

So, in honour of this visual opportunity, I'm going to show off a song that's been on the back list for a while with the then-16-year-old Asano singing "Kokoro wa Karappo" (My Heart is Empty) from her 4th album released in November 1976, "Yuko In Disco".

Written by Jun Hashimoto(橋本淳)and composed/arranged by Mitsuo Hagita(萩田光雄), "Kokoro wa Karappo" certainly has those disco elements with the strings and bass but I'm not sure if it's a fully disco tune. That boogie-woogie piano takes me out into some very jolly 70s pop, and then there is a section which seems to pull me out into the stratosphere for a brief mellow flight before taking me back to Roppongi. There is no melodic meandering though. I do get quite the exciting but not panicky ride; Asano's heart may be empty but my ears are full.

Not even quite sure if I would even categorize "Kokoro wa Karappo" as an aidoru tune per se, but considering her age and the fact that she was probably still known as a teenybopper singer in 1976. I've put it down as such. Since then, Asano has become far more famous as a tarento and actress.

As a postscript which may surprise my family, although we still get "Sekai no Mura de Hakken! Konna Tokoro ni Nihonjin" on TV Japan fairly regularly, I just found out that the show finally finished its run earlier this year.

Sing Like Talking -- One Day

One of my prides and joys in my collection of Japanese music has been the band Sing Like Talking. I've enjoyed their music from the late 1980s and 1990s but when I was listening to excerpts of their relatively more recent material going into the 2000s, my impression was that Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)and the boys were veering into a much more rock direction, so I've ended up going into my own direction of purchasing their BEST compilations instead.

I may be enticed into rethinking my decision on the basis of this one song by SLT. "One Day" comes from their 10th album, "Metabolism" from September 2001. Written and composed by Sato, this has a bit more rock flavour than some of their earlier hits especially near the end but it hardly has the band members smashing their guitars onto the stage. There's a bit more of a buzz than anything else in the arrangement; otherwise it's the comforting and well-delivered material that I've always heard from the band.

"Metabolism" was another hit album for Sing Like Talking, peaking at No. 9 on Oricon. I'll have to try out some more of the tracks and then make the purchase.

Shiggy Jr. -- Summertime Love(サマータイムラブ)

Decided to go with the Gooderham Building down on Front St. for the thumbnail. Just because. Plus, it looks all summery there.

I picked this one up into the backlog list since I liked the music video and simply the music itself. This is "Summertime Love" by the band Shiggy Jr. led by guitarist Shigeyuki Harada(原田茂幸)and completed by vocalist Tomoko Ikeda(池田智子), bassist Natsuhiko Mori(森夏彦)and drummer Kazuma Moroishi(諸石和馬). All four of them are graduates from the prestigious Waseda and Aoyama Gakuin universities in Tokyo.

Will be more than happy to admit that I'm a sucker for the new brand of Japanese urban contemporary pop that perhaps fans and musicians would probably prefer to refer to this music of the last several years as rather than neo-City Pop. Moreover, I definitely fall easily and hard for the graphics that symbolize my favourite decade of music, which is the 1980s, and the video for "Summertime Love" has plenty of adorkable dancing. It's kinda/sorta Vaporwave-y in looks although the premise seems to be sweet American after-school sitcom.

For me, "Summertime Love" which was the debut single for Shiggy Jr. released in June 2015 reminds me of Sakanaction's "Wasurerarenaino"(忘れられないの)because of that lively uptempo disco beat, the strings and the percolating guitar. And from some of the other songs that they've released, it seems that Shiggy Jr. is all about the good times of the past and the present.

According to the J-Wiki article on the song, leader Harada, who wrote and composed the song, was feeling some mighty pressure in its creation since the band's debut single would also become the advertisement song for a part of the famous Nagasaki theme park, Huis Ten Bosch. He really wanted to get something good out there that would also immediately peg the song as representative of what Shiggy Jr. was all about. I would say that Harada and the guys succeeded since it then also became temporary opening and ending theme tunes for a few TV variety shows. "Summertime Love" became their biggest hit by peaking at No. 28 and is included in their debut album "All About Pop" which was released in October 2016. That peaked at No. 29.

Shiggy Jr. started up in 2012 but announced their breakup earlier this year in June.

Yoko Oginome -- Koishite Caribbean(恋してカリビアン)

The major thing that I remembered about this Yoko Oginome(荻野目洋子)single from May 1985 was the synth steel drum riff in the intro, and then the first couple of lines sung by her.

I gather that "Koishite Caribbean" (Falling in Love in the Caribbean[?]), her 5th single, was still before Oginome took on that famous dance-pop persona with the release of "Dancing Hero"(ダンシング・ヒーロー)since her performance of "Koishite Caribbean" seemed to be regular-80s aidoru sweetness and light. The lyrics were provided by Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and music was by Hideya Nakazaki(中崎英也).

The song only got as high as No. 24 on Oricon, but it did get fame in a number of other areas. It was used for a Kao soap commercial (though that was filmed in Guam and not the Caribbean) and also as the theme song for a Fuji-TV drama starring Oginome herself. However for some reason, "Koishite Caribbean" was then adopted as the cheerleading song for a number of athletes including Koji Akiyama(秋山幸二), a member of the Seibu Lions professional baseball team. How falling in love in the Caribbean had anything to do with baseball is beyond me. In any case, the song is also on Oginome's 3rd album "Kaigara Terrace"(貝殻テラス...Seashell Terrace)released in March 1985.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Keiko Maruyama -- Futari no Sunadokei(ふたりの砂時計)

Whenever I think of an hourglass, my memories always dredge up the opening credits from the soap opera "Days of Our Lives". I don't recollect ever seeing a single episode of the show (I was more for "All My Children" and "General Hospital"), but that opener with the narration “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” has remained with me since I was a toddler.

I'm pretty sure that despite all of the imports of American programming onto Japanese television over the decades, soap operas were never on the list. Japanese TV had too much of their own melodramas perpetually being created.

But since I've brought up the topic of hourglasses, allow me to bring in a calming kayo by singer-songwriter Keiko Maruyama(丸山圭子)titled "Futari no Sunadokei" (Hourglass for Two). Written and composed by the singer, this was her 6th single from September 1977, and it's one of those songs that I couldn't really peg into my favourite genres of AOR, City Pop or New Music. So I've going with regular pop here.

It's plenty sweet like the drinkable pop as a couple of lovers enjoy their time walking through a park and resolving to have many trips there...until the sand inevitably runs out. Very nice sentiment, indeed, and what makes things even creamier are the keyboard work and that insertion of the harmonica. Sunday afternoons should always be like this!

Megumi Mori -- Mou Ichido Love Story(もう一度ラブ・ストーリー)

Oh, isn't that cute? That LOVE sign is (or was) located in Odaiba, Tokyo just outside of the Decks mall.

The only thing I knew about Megumi Mori(森恵), the 1980s singer and actress, was "Tokio Town"(東京街), the Eurobeat-mixed-with-exotic Asian tune that was on one of my old compilation tapes from Wah Yueh, and I think it was probably her most famous entry. Recently, though, I found this September 1988 single, her 5th, "Mou Ichido Love Story" (Love Story Again) on YouTube.

Mori this time takes things into a more latter 80s City Pop direction with that feeling of celebrating a night in the big city through a luxury sports car. As the singer fairly whispers and coos Etsuko Kisugi's(来生えつこ)lyrics in our ears, the crisp saxophone and the synths lead the way into urban good times with plenty of pedestrians staring in wonder and envy. Before I further end up waxing way too poetically, I will also mention that Takashi Tsushimi(都志見隆)was responsible for the jaunty music. "Mou Ichido Love Story" also ended up on Mori's 2nd album "Medium" released in April 1989.

Oricon Top 10 Download Singles of 2018

1.  Kenshi Yonezu                       Lemon
2.  DA PUMP                              U.S.A.
3.  back number                          Mabataki
4.  Kenshi Yonezu                       Loser
5.  Gen Hoshino                          Idea
6.  Misia                                      Ai no Katachi, feat. Hide (GreeeeN)
7.  DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu    Uchiage Hanabi
8.  Hikaru Utada                         Anata
9.  Gen Hoshino                         Doraemon
10.  Mr. Children                        here comes my love

AKB48 -- Tsubasa wa Iranai(翼はいらない)

Commenter Fireminer mentioned this song to me about a couple of weeks ago since he wasn't quite sure what the lyrics were about and if they had anything to do with the official music video.

"Tsubasa wa Iranai" (I Don't Need Wings) was AKB48's 44th single released in June 2016, and the video's setting was a Japanese university in 1972 among the tumult of student demonstrations. Things looked pretty harsh for a while but the magic of AKB48 won out by the end with the two sides locking arms and swaying happily.

As it was, Yasushi Akimoto's(秋元康)lyrics spoke on the opinion that we could have wings to soar into the sky and above the fray but that wouldn't solve the problems. It's better to get back down on the ground, do that walk and face up to those challenges to inevitably solve them. Not a bad angle at all.

In fact, the title "Tsubasa wa Iranai" was inspired by an old and famous folk kayo "Tsubasa wo Kudasai"(翼をください)by Akai Tori(赤い鳥), according to an article in "Real Sound" via the J-Wiki article on the song. Furthermore, I did think that there was that lilting kayo feeling in the arrangement when I first heard it, and sure enough, according to another article in Nikkei Business Publications in July of that year, the melody by Makoto Wakatabe(若田部誠)was based on the music for another couple of kayo chestnuts "Omoide no Nagisa"(想い出の渚)by The Wild Ones and Pedro & Capricious' classic "Go-ban Gai no Mari e" (五番街のマリーへ). Have a listen to those two and you can hear some of the similarity that went into "Tsubasa wa Iranai".

Probably that reason explains why I've started to enjoy this one. If AKB48 can do disco, they can also do folk! And a lot of other folks apparently appreciated "Tsubasa wa Iranai" too since the song not only hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies, selling around 2 million copies, but it became the No. 1 song for 2016 proper.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Oricon Top 10 CD Singles of 2018

1.  AKB48                        Teacher Teacher
2.  AKB48                        Sentimental Train
3.  Nogizaka46                 Synchronicity
4.  Nogizaka46                 Jikochu de Ikō!
5.  AKB48                        No Way Man
6.  AKB48                        Jabaja
7.  Nogizaka46                 Kaerimichi wa Tōmawari Shitaku Naru
8.  Keyakizaka46             Glass wo Ware!
9.  Keyakizaka46             Ambivalent
10.  King & Prince          Cinderella Girl

Junko Hirotani -- Hohoemi ni Nemurasete(微笑みに眠らせて)

I did say that I would put up some more of the tracks from Junko Hirotani's(広谷順子)"Blendy", didn't I? Well, that was more than 2 years ago...sorry. (🙏)

Mea culpa. Allow me then to pacify some of those Hirotani fans with "Hohoemi ni Nemurasete" (Let Me Sleep With a Smile), a track from that very same 1981 album. Written by Yumi Morita(森田由美)and composed by Hirotani, it's indeed a chamomile-level calming tune of the time with the singer's tender vocals and some of those appealing shimmering strings. Plus, one can't go wrong with a nice sax solo as well.

The song was also the B-side to Hirotani's peppier 3rd single "Blue Rainy Station"(ブルーレイニイステーション)which was released in January 1980.

Fujiro & Miwako Hiro -- Walking in the Rain

Found this one last night on the New J Channel radio and I tried to see if I could track it down elsewhere on YouTube. Hurrah! I could.

I had never heard of either singer involved in this duet with Fujiro & Miwako Hiro(ふじろう&広美和子)that seems to have elements of City Pop, AOR, and even some gentle country, but "Walking in the Rain" does feel like that pleasant tandem stroll in the midst of precipitation. And dang, if that is indeed Fujiro on the cover for his 2nd single from January 1980, he really looks like an old friend of mine who suddenly went into "Miami Vice" mode. That joke aside, I do like hearing the drawl in Fujiro's voice.

Fujiro's full name is Fujiro Sugitani*(杉谷夫二朗), which is the name he uses for his songwriting credits, a singer-songwriter from Tottori Prefecture who started his career around 1970. Working as a studio musician for most of the decade, he recorded his debut single, "Ai no Uta nado Utaenai"(愛の唄など歌えない...Can't Sing Love Songs or the Like)in 1979. He released a total of 3 singles and one album "I'm In Love" in 1980. According to his J-Wiki bio, unfortunately he passed away a little over a year ago in July 2018.

As for Miwako Hiro, because the arrangement of her kanji was different between the YouTube title and what I saw on the liner sheet in the video, I just had to make sure that the name was indeed Miwako Hiro(広 美和子), and not Kazuko Hiromi(広美 和子). I think that I got my confirmation that it was the former through this page, and apparently Ms. Hiro has gotten her reputation as an anison singer.

*I've gone with Sugitani here although the kanji for that name has four different readings according to, since it seems that Sugitani is the most popular reading. However, if I have made a mistake here, please let me know.

September 28th 2019: Jerry from Come Along Radio just told me that Fujiro also performed the same song with another partner, Mai Yamane(山根麻衣).

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Chiyoko Shimakura -- Rindou Touge(りんどう峠)

Last night was the return of NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)after its summer hiatus, and it was once again the mix of the old and the new. At the beginning, I got to hear enka singers Yukino Ichikawa(市川由紀乃)and Konomi Mori(杜このみ)sing a Chiyoko Shimakura(島倉千代子)kayo that I hadn't heard before.

"Rindou Touge" (Woodland Path Ridge) was Shimakura's 2nd single from September 1955 and this was recorded when the Tokyo-born singer was only 17 years old. Along with Hibari Misora's(美空ひばり)"Ringo Oiwake"(リンゴ追分)which had been released a few years earlier, I realized that the kayo of the time wasn't all about heading to Tokyo or crying over one's sake. There were sentimental ballads that related the quiet life back in the countryside.

Written by Yaso Saijo(西條八十)and composed by Masao Koga(古賀政男), "Rindou Touge" may talk about the contented environment but there are also words about the beloved elder sister who has since gone off to another town over that ridge with her new husband, so perhaps that is a wistful statement on how life evolves over time. However, the gentle tempo of the song reminds listeners that that life isn't in that much of a hurry.

Shimakura's 2nd single was another huge hit since it sold well over a million copies, but that apparently still paled somewhat against her debut single "Kono Yo no Hana"(この世の花...The Flowers of This World) from a few months earlier which sold around 2 million records. A very impressive one-two punch! Shimakura only sang "Rindou Touge" just once on the Kohaku Utagassen and that was in 1978 during her 22nd appearance on the New Year's Eve special.

Tin Pan Alley -- Choppers' Boogie(チョッパーズ・ブギ)

Still much to explore when it comes to Haruomi Hosono's(細野晴臣)pre-Yellow Magic Orchestra days in the 1970s when he was with Happy End and Tin Pan Alley, pioneering bands in New Music and perhaps even City Pop. Therefore, I'm back to the latter band's inaugural album "Caramel Mama"(キャラメル・ママ)from November 1975.

This time, it's the 2nd track "Choppers' Boogie" which was written, composed and arranged by Tin Pan Alley drummer Tatsuo Hayashi(林立夫). However, although Hayashi's percussion does have a meaty role, I think "Choppers' Boogie" is the platform for the guitarist and bassist to shine. But I think I'm being a little polite with that last statement...the guitarist and bassist are just having a blast shredding things to pieces here. Not sure whether the chopper in the title is actually referring to a guitar since I've usually seen the term used for: a) a helicopter, b) a motorcycle and c) a machine gun. But since I have seen machine guns being hidden in guitar cases, it wouldn't be too much of a leap of faith to assume that the boogie is indeed all about the guitars involved.

Whatever it is, it's a mesmerizing four minutes and change of hot music compared to the mellower beachside sounds from its trackmate "Sobakasu no Aru Shojo"(ソバカスのある少女). Plus, "Caramel Mama" is now on my target list, especially on hearing that superstars such as Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), Yumi Arai(荒井由実), Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝), Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)and Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)also helped out in the recording of the album.

Masayoshi Oishi -- Rakuen Toshi(楽園都市)

I have yet to catch this show "Cop Craft"(コップクラフト)which seems to be the genre equivalent of the Hollywood "Alien Nation" and Will Smith's "Bright", but earlier this week, my anime buddy was talking about it. The animation isn't exactly top-notch to him but he says that there is still a lot to like about it, so there's a good chance that we'll be catching it on Sunday.

But I gotta say that I've already fallen in love with the opening credits and the opening theme for "Cop Craft". Singer-songwriter Masayoshi Oishi(大石昌良), who has already impressed me with themes for "Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun"(月刊少女野崎くん...Girls' Monthly Nozaki-kun)"SSSS.GRIDMAN" and "Back Street Girls ~ Gokudols"(ゴクドルズ), has done it again. He's paid homage to the dynamic jazz themes provided by Yoko Kanno(菅野よう子)and Yuji Ohno(大野雄二)in the past and come up with "Rakuen Toshi" (Paradise City).

His 4th single from August of this year, that intro force-fed lovely memories of "Tank!" and "Lupin the 3rd" into my head, and it's fast become an earworm since I first heard it last night. Along with aidoru, heroic tokusatsu and good ol' busker guitar pop, it looks like Oishi has mastered supremely energetic Latin jazz as well. Plus, there's even some hint of kayo in the refrain...would love to know who the musicians were, especially the fellow on the piano.

"Rakuen Toshi" peaked at No. 28 on Oricon. The TV version is great for accompanying the rapid-fire opening credits but the full version really lays out the jazziness of it all. I wouldn't mind getting my own copy of the song and now I'm definitely looking forward to catching the pilot episode for "Cop Craft".

Sumire Uesaka -- Bungou de GO!(文豪でGO!)

Frankly speaking, when it comes to literature, I was never all that high-minded. I did my assignments in high school and university and read my Shakespeare and then my fair share of Soseki Natsume(夏目漱石), Yasunari Kawabata(川端康成)and Yukio Mishima(三島由紀夫)but never really got into them. I barely even remember my Banana Yoshimoto(吉本ばなな). It was all comic books and "Star Trek" novels for me (mind you, I've been enjoying William Gibson's "Neuromancer" over the past little while), and I just donated a whole bunch of the latter to the local library a couple of weeks ago.

Perhaps then I can relate to Sumire Uesaka's(上坂すみれ)song "Bungou de GO!" (Go with the Literary Masters!) or at least the feelings of the heroine she depicts there. This cutesy techno-ditty was a part of her 7th single, "Koi suru Zukei (cubic futurismo)" (恋する図形)from August 2016 which became the ending theme for one of my favourite anime "Kono Bijutsu-bu ni wa Mondai ga aru"(この美術部には問題がある!). 

With a voice that sounds rather Betty Boop or perhaps even the character she portrays in the anime, the bubbly Collette, she talks about how sleepy she gets when she reads "War & Peace" and how dark she thinks "Crime & Punishment" is when she attempts to plow through that classic. All the while, Uesaka seems to want to have authors like Tolstoy and Natsume and Ogai and Dostoevsky have at it with each other, although considering the music, I think instead of having them duel with pistols out on a lawn, she would prefer the novelists crack each other over the skull with colourful balloons in a maid cafe.

The single itself reached No. 17 on Oricon and "Bungou de GO!" is also included in Uesaka's 3rd album "No Future Vacance"(ノーフューチャーバカンス)which came out at the same time as the single. I have to say that it's all very cute and moe, but I especially enjoy the theremin instrumental bridge near the end. Words and music were provided by Machio Machikado(街角マチオ)of The Puh(ザ・ぷー).

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

NASA -- Yuuwaku Zone 4425 (FILL ME)(誘惑ゾーン4425)

In the last several days, I've been hearing about this humanoid robot becoming part of the crew on the International Space Station. Apparently, its name is Skybot and although it's not quite as verbose as C-3PO, it is there to assist in some of the more difficult tasks alongside its human shipmates.

The preamble above is for one of my weird segues into something that is not really astronomically related but it does involve the word NASA. And here, I'm talking about the Japanese urban contemporary band NASA for which I was actually fortunate to find about, thanks to their song "Sexy Spicy Baby" which got included on a "Light Mellow" compilation disc.

I hadn't expected to find another song by NASA on YouTube because of the band's relative obscurity, but I did indeed discover "Yuuwaku Zone 4425 (FILL ME)" (Temptation Zone 4425) which was not only a September 1980 EP but also a track on their 1980 album "Sen'ya, Ichiya"(千夜一夜 THOUSAND NIGHTS, ONLY NIGHT)which also contains "Sexy Spicy Baby". The title reads like an erotic sci-fi thriller only available on a pay-TV channel but the music by NASA keyboardist Kazufumi Ohama(大浜和史)sure is intriguing. It's got the potpourri of Doobie Brothers, Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)and even some country vibe thanks to vocalist Toshio Kamei's(亀井登志夫)violin. And speaking of that violin, it goes rather well with Jun Sumida's(角田順)guitar. Imagine getting woken up to this one on the ISS!

To introduce the rest of the band, there are Kazuyoshi Watanabe(渡辺和義)on the bass and Koji Miura(三浦晃嗣)on the drums. Yoko Aki(阿木燿子)provided the lyrics for "Yuuwaku Zone 4425".

Emi Akiyama -- Ran no Sono(蘭の園)

Living in Japan, I learned that there is a lot of interest in the supernatural and mystical and that includes the various monsters and creatures. I've heard about the kappa, the ice woman, the long-necked woman, the faceless boy, etc. Furthermore, once in a while, I see this figure on the variety shows called a kyonshi(僵屍), I believe, which according to is either a Chinese hopping vampire or a Chinese zombie, and as the first definition states, my observation has been that they really do hop about, and may I say, they hop about in some really nice attire.

The above video is for the 1988 TBS series "Rai Rai! Kyonshis"(来来!キョンシーズ...Come Come! Kyonshis)based on a popular 1986 Taiwan movie "Yuugen Doushi"(幽幻道士)which was in itself based on the original 1985 Hong Kong horror-comedy titled "Reigen Doushi"(霊幻道士...Mr. Vampire).

Well, the theme song for "Rai Rai! Kyonshis", "Kyonshi!!!"(キョンシー!!!)was sung by aidoru Emi Akiyama(秋山絵美)as her 3rd single, released in February 1988. However for today, I'd like to draw your attention to the B-side which was used as an insert song in the show called "Ran no Sono" (The Orchid Garden).

This was a tune written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composed by Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣), and from seeing those two involved, I figured that "Ran no Sono" would be executed pretty well. And it is. I really like the technopop arrangement mixing in that mystical atmosphere. I've never seen any episode of "Rai Rai! Kyonshis" but would imagine that "Ran no Sono" must have been used during one of the more introspective scenes.

I also have to give my compliments to Akiyama's vocals. In her J-Wiki article, she's listed as a former aidoru and former singer, and with her career being extremely brief at just around a year, it's hard to say whether she made that transition from aidoru to pop singer with "Ran no Sono", but her delivery is quite mature for an aidoru with this tune. All in all, Akiyama released a total of 4 singles and no albums.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Mrs. GREEN APPLE -- Inferno(インフェルノ)/Keina Suda -- veil

One of the anime that I've been catching for the past several weeks is "En En no Shouboutai"(炎炎ノ消防隊...Fire Force), a somewhat dystopian sci-fi show that strikes me as being a mix of "Backdraft", "Supernatural" and even "X-Men". Still, despite the grim premise of a special fire department having to deal with poor human beings who spontaneously explode into fiery monsters, I was surprised to see a fair amount of humour among the characters.

As has been the case with at least one other anime this season, it took a while but the opening and closing themes for "En En no Shouboutai" have started to grow on me. For instance, the opener "Inferno" by rock group Mrs. GREEN APPLE, which I first wrote about only a couple of weeks ago.

Written and composed by vocalist Motoki Ohmori(大森元貴), it's the guitar licks and his rhythmical vocals that finally hooked me in and once the refrain kicks in, there is something about the arrangement that reminds me of some of the rock songs that I heard back in my youth on both sides of the 49th Parallel. Apparently at this point, "Inferno" is currently on release as Mrs. GREEN APPLE's 3rd digital download single as of last month.

And then there is the ending theme "veil" by singer-songwriter Keina Suda(須田景凪)which I like even better. Watching the ending credits showing the tragic past of the character Iris, the intro with the singer's filtered vocals and then the funky guitars flying in got my attention as well.

Like "Inferno", "veil" has finally been able to grab the scruff of my neck and take me for a fun ride. It's been a bit surprising that I hadn't gotten on the bandwagon for both themes earlier. And I'm glad to hear that my anime buddy is getting his own copy of the song, too.

As for Suda, according to his J-Wiki profile, he started the drums in junior high school before getting involved in a band. His initial desire was to become a studio musician but feeling that simply drumming wasn't going to have him progress further in his career, he apparently ended up swapping his drum kit for a personal computer and guitar to go into songwriting. Debuting in 2013, he provided a number of albums under the name Balloon(バルーン)for Vocaloid recordings before starting to put out albums under his own name in 2018. "veil" is available on his 2nd EP "porte" which got released only a few days ago.

Rie Tanigawa -- Sayonara(さよなら)

Back to work on a Monday and it's the beginning of the final week of August, so the ending to summer is around the corner. Things are not quite as torrid and the nights are cooler plus the Ex is in the latter half of its annual run and Fan Expo has wrapped up for another year...there is that feeling of goodbye to another summer.

Yet another hackneyed segue into a "Kayo Kyoku Plus" article for a song, but allow me to introduce "Sayonara" by singer-songwriter Rie Tanigawa(谷川理恵). This is another singer for whom I couldn't rustle up too much information about, except for the fact that between 1991 and 1994, she released at least 3 albums and 2 singles. "Sayonara" is a track from her January 1994 mini-album "Kimi no Uta"(君の歌...Your Song). It's a pretty ethereal ballad created by Tanigawa and when I'm thinking of comparisons, my mind goes to Midori Karashima(辛島美登里).

Apparently there are samples of her earlier albums on YouTube so I will have to take some more looks at Tanigawa's material.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Shigeru Suzuki -- Sunset Hills Hotel, Side B

Over a week ago, I provided the article "Shigeru Suzuki -- Sunset Hills Hotel, Side A" regarding Suzuki(鈴木茂)getting a bunch of his fellow musicians together to create compilation albums of instrumental music basically with an AOR feeling. "Sunset Hills Hotel" was the first of three such compilations all released in 1987.

Just so that I can finish what I've started, here is my look at Side B of the original LP, beginning with "Transit Airport" by the late Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)at 23:50. Out of all of the tracks on "Sunset Hills", I feel that this is probably the most appropriate as background music for some sort of Japanese comedy-drama. And yep, it isn't particularly my favourite track because of that. The synthesizers come into play here as light and plucky strings and then a steady beat comes into play before some boozy synth-horns stumble their way onto the airport floor. It may indeed describe a fairly harrowing hike through the airport for check-in and luggage pickup midway through a flight.

Following the comical "Transit Airport" is Asami Kado's(門あさ美)more flavourful "Purple Rose Goodbye" at 28:41. Although the liner notes that I saw at Amazon hint that it isn't Kado doing the velvety slow scatting, I did see the name Atsuko Honda(本田淳子), nee Atsuko Souma(相馬淳子), who has also gone by the professional moniker of Rajie, a City Pop veteran. "Purple Rose Goodbye" is downright romantic bar jazz rather than AOR with the piano and sax. I almost felt like putting a $20 bill into the non-existent goblet on the grand piano as I was listening to this! It's so steamy and creamy at the same time...kinda like sampling some melodic chocolate fondue.

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Chuei Yoshikawa(吉川忠英)is a name that I have heard before and it's possible that I may have mentioned him in a few of the articles on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but this is the first time that he's been put into the Labels because he is responsible for "On The Second Honeymoon" at 33:17. According to Wikipedia, his genres are folk and jazz, but this particular track has more of a gentle bossa nova beat.

At 37:21 is Shinichiro Miyagi's(宮城伸一郎)"Long Distance Call" which sounds faintly like "The Rose" and "My Way" in certain parts. Thanks to the synthesizer here, there is something quite 80s dreamy, perhaps even ethno-ambient thanks to the exotic arrangement and the percussion. I started imagining some of those coming-of-age movies from that decade such as "St. Elmo's Fire" and "The Breakfast Club" for some reason as I was listening to this. The titles and composers of all of the tracks at the YouTube page by Rare Japanese Sounds were written in English so I'm not 100% certain, but if it's indeed the right Miyagi, then he was the bassist for the 1970s folk band Tulip(チューリップ).

Finally at 40:40 is the final track, and this time, it's Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆)who created this one. "Her Sunset Smile" is also probably performed by Matsutoya himself as a lonely piano starts things off. I wasn't too crazy about that particular synthesizer flowing in right after although the second synthesizer riff was more acceptable. I remember in an interview long ago that Matsutoya had said that he regretted relying so much on synthesizers for his wife Yumi's(松任谷由実)albums in the late 80s and early 90s, but I gather that he was interested in putting some more experimentation on the musical technology at the time; no harm in that. In any case, "Her Sunset Smile" is the short and sweet epilogue to an eventful day at the surroundings by the Sunset Hills.

As a summary, I think Side B of "Sunset Hills Hotel" mixed in and featured more to the fore a few more different genres than the more straight-ahead AOR Side A. I could be churlish and say that I prefer Side A over Side B, but as I mentioned, "Purple Rose Goodbye" and "On The Second Honeymoon" are also my favourites. Overall, Suzuki's first contribution to his 1987 series would be an album that I would be interested in acquiring on CD later this year, if it's available, and certainly I would be curious about the next two albums.

Rie Ida & 42nd Street -- Love Time Good Time(ラブ・タイム・グッド・タイム)

Strangely enough, while I was listening to this song, my memories returned to this photo from my 2014 Tokyo trip. This is a shot of traffic in the Daimon neighbourhood somewhere between JR Shimbashi Station and the Tokyo Prince Hotel, and it's one of the photographs in the collection that I enjoy the most because of the buildings in the background and how the late afternoon sunlight strikes their windows just so.

The song is "Love Time Good Time" by Rie Ida & 42nd Street(井田リエ& 42nd STREET)which is placed as the 2nd track on one of the band's three albums "Step in My Heart" (1980). I wrote my first article on Ida earlier this year in April since another song of theirs, "Party wo Nukedashite"(パーティーを抜け出して)got placed on one of the many "Light Mellow" compilation CDs.

Unlike "Party wo Nukedashite", "Love Time Good Time" isn't quite as groovy in the arrangement but indeed it's got an upbeat skip and strut in its shoes. However, like that song, Ida demonstrates some fine and hearty vocals (reminds me of Hitomi Tohyama/当山ひとみ) and there is also some nice punchy brass. In addition, I think the reason that I've associated it with that photo of Daimon up above is that it sounds like the type of song that I would like playing on the car radio while driving in that very area. It kinda fulfills what City Pop is all about...a good car drive of a song.

Naoko Nishio(西尾尚子)took care of the lyrics while 42nd Street guitarist Yoshihiro Yonekura(米倉良広)provided the bouncy music. As I mentioned, the original LP had been released back in 1980, but it looks like it got the re-release earlier this year at Tower Records.

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Umi(海)

This is a soaring piece of feel-good by singer-songwriter Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓). I'm not sure how this 11th single, "Umi" (Sea), fared on Oricon when it was released in June 1977, but I do feel certain that it did score ripples in a lot of her fans' hearts.

Written and composed by the Tokyo-born Itsuwa, the singer invites listeners to the healing effects of the ocean, to shed all of those pressures and worries once they come to the shore line. Just listening to "Umi" brings as much imagery of sun and cooling breezes as the average Japanese summer wind chime does. My impression of Itsuwa when I first heard about her in the 1980s was that she enjoyed the more contemplative music with a good dollop of Gallic feeling, but when she began her career back in the 1970s, her melodies covered that airier side of New Music, as if she had always created her songs while sitting on a grassy hill under a very large sky.

Etsuko Sai -- Yureteita Kokoro(ゆれていた心)

This sounds like the quintessential Sunday afternoon song. Gentle and slightly breezy with a good amount of sun, "Yureteita Kokoro" (Emotional Heart) is a track from songbird Etsuko Sai's(彩恵津子)2nd album "All I Need" released in March 1985.

The album was produced in Los Angeles with Sai writing the lyrics for this particular track and Al Boyd along with Parvene coming up with the music, so there is something quite pleasantly West Coast AOR about it. In a way, I think the song was a bit ahead of its time since the combination of keyboards and Tim Weston's guitar makes it feel more like a product of the late 1980s or even early 1990s. No matter which part of the time stream it feels like, though, "Yureteita Kokoro" makes for the ideal musical accompaniment while swinging slowly in the hammock while looking up at the cumulus clouds.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Hiroshi Kamayatsu -- Seishun Banka(青春挽歌)

I gave another listen to CD 1 of veteran composer Kyohei Tsutsumi's(筒美京平)50th anniversary tribute album last night, and once again, it was good to hear the old kayo.

Over the past several months, I've peppered the Tsutsumi file with some of the songs from the album such as Ox's "Swan no Namida"(スワンの涙)and Zariba's(ザリバ)"Aru Hi"(或る日), and here is another interesting entry by the late musician Hiroshi Kamayatsu(かまやつひろし).

"Seishun Banka" (Elegy of Youth) was Kamayatsu's 5th single as a solo artist following the end of his old Group Sounds band The Spiders(ザ・スパイダース)and it was released in November 1972. With the help of the harmonica at the start, Kamayatsu sings a bittersweet (happily more on the sweeter side) folksy ballad that's so reassuring and tender like the 10 oz. sirloin that I had almost a couple of weeks ago. The cover of the single perfectly matches the mood of Tsutsumi's melody and for that matter, Yu Aku's(阿久悠)lyrics about a woman going through love and life through the representation of the four seasons. It's short and very sweet, but happily, even though the message is that youth goes by quicker than people would hope, there is still a measure of contentedness at the end as a full adult.

B'z -- Hadashi no Megami(裸足の女神)

When I was reading about the subject of this article in J-Wiki, I discovered the term Being Boom. In terms of 1990s J-Pop, I knew about the Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)boom and then the later rise of Hello Project going into the 2000s but didn't know about this exact term. However, I knew about the success of the artists it depicted. Being Incorporated is the entertainment juggernaut that represented acts such as TUBE, Zard, Maki Ohguro(大黒摩季), and Wands. And so, I went "Ah...naruhodo".

Of course, another mighty engine in the Being steamroller is B'z through the subsidiary Vermillion. Anyways, what got me to start the article on "Hadashi no Megami" (Barefoot Goddess) was finding its lyrics in one of my ancient copies of "Young Song", the booklet of the hit songs of the time which was always inserted in the monthly editions of "Myojo"(明星), the famous music magazine. The thumbnail above is a shot of that page for those lyrics.

"Hadashi no Megami" was B'z's 13th single from June 1993 and what can I's a darn cool tune. As usual, it's vocalist Koshi Inaba(稲葉浩志)taking care of the lyrics and Takahiro Matsumoto(松本孝弘)behind the music and arrangement. The story here is Inaba reassuring the titular barefoot goddess that though the world may be full of snakes and broken ladders ready to betray her in love as has been the case recently, she'll be able to push through and become stronger for it when the sun rises once more.

What got me hooked onto the song was that persistent thrumming throughout it, kinda like the world's most dependable vehicle to take folks out of harm's way. Usually with a B'z tune, I expect a lot of action and drama, and with "Hadashi no Megami", I also get the addition of an optimistic vibe. Inaba and Matsumoto promise a smooth ride and a happy ending over the horizon.

Not surprising as well was the fact that the song became yet another No. 1 for the duo for two straight weeks in June 1993, ultimately selling over 1.7 million copies and becoming their 6th straight million-seller which broke the record of consecutive million sellers that had been held by 1970s duo Pink Lady. "Hadashi no Megami" would become the 5th-ranked single of the year and is currently B'z's 4th-most successful hit. In terms of the Oricon historically successful singles, it ranks in at No. 47. It also first showed up on an album via their first BEST compilation "B'z The Best 'Pleasure'" from May 1998, which is in itself a historic album by being the 2nd-highest release in Oricon history.

Finally, as the cherry on the top of this sundae, "Hadashi no Megami" even became the commercial song for the Toyota Corolla Levin.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Do! -- Yoake made Tenshi(夜明けまで天使)

My previous article dealt with my return to the 90s pop band My Little Lover where I remarked on the melodic guitar pop that was one of my observed trends during that decade. Coming to this article, I realized that among the City Pop, frilly aidoru, enka and synthpop that liberally made themselves at home during the 1980s, there was also room for male bands that had their own their merry mellow melodies which skirted the line between light kayo and AOR. I'm talking outfits such as H2O and Picasso. Now, I've found another one.

Back in early May this year, I wrote about singer-songwriter Ryohei Yamanashi(山梨鐐平)and his "Taiyo ga Shitteiru"(太陽が知っている), a snazzy and brassy City Pop tune about the good life that he recorded in 1982. I was able to find about it thanks to a purchase of a "Light Mellow" album, and upon reading the liner notes, I discovered that he used to belong to a trio called Do! that lasted about a couple of years perhaps between 1979 and 1981. Considering how impressed I was with "Taiyo ga Shitteiru", I decided to investigate Do!...after all, it isn't every day that I come across a band whose name consists of one consonant, one vowel and an excitable punctuation mark.

My whole knowledge about Do! came from two lines of text in the article for Yamanashi in J-Wiki (so I guess this was more about Don't! or Can't!). Basically, the trio consisted of Yamanashi and members from other bands: Takaaki Fujioka(藤岡孝章)from the comical band Mari-chans(まりちゃんズ)and Hideo Itagaki(板垣秀雄)who originated from another comical band Salty Sugar(ソルティー・シュガー), famous for the cheerfully heroic "Hashire Koutarou"(走れコウタロー). Do! released 6 singles and 2 albums during their time together, which is pretty prolific considering it was just a few years.

One of those releases came out in 1981 and it was titled "Yoake made Tenshi" (Angel Til Daybreak). It's listed on Amazon as a 7" EP record. I have to say that the three of them on the cover look like they're posting as a new breed of Tokyo cop in their own show. The song itself though is pretty grounded despite the comical background of Fujioka and Itagaki. Written and composed by Fujioka and arranged by Kimio Mizutani(水谷公生), at first, I wondered whether this would be considered to be a New Music tune because I felt that there was something kinda European with Mizutani's arrangement, but with the probable influence of the strings, the melody brought me back onto the side of regular kayo. Still, because of the tug-of-war, I'm also throwing in the New Music label.

Referring back to my first paragraph, based on what I've heard in "Yoake made Tenshi", my impression is that Do! could have belonged to that type of male group with that distinct melange of harmony (and there is some nice harmony in the chorus...somewhat reminiscent of Anzen Chitai and Alfee) and mellow melody. I have to listen to more of their work to make sure, though. My initial thought was that Do! was a City Pop act based on Yamanashi's "Taiyo ga Shitteiru", but that's not the case here.

My Little Lover -- Destiny

Well, giving myself a Gibbs slap on the back of my head tonight. The reason is that it's been over 4 years since I've put up a My Little Lover song on the blog. No excuse for that since when listening to their stuff again after so long, I got those warm and fuzzy feelings once more that I've often gotten with that brand of 90s indies-ish guitar pop from acts like Mr. Children and Spitz. My Little Lover was also part of that sound and I even played "Hello, Again" just now...because it was really like hello again.

Just by chance last night, I came across the music video for "Destiny", My Little Lover's 11th single from May 1998, and that's when the need for the Gibbs slap arrived. This was a video that had a lot of heavy rotation on the music channels back in Japan, and there was that shot at the 0:03 mark of "Destiny" with the svelte vocalist Akko sitting tiredly on her chair wearing that short dress and open shoes which I think is the iconic image of the band. The words and music by keyboardist Takeshi Kobayashi(小林武史)were also instantly familiar, and all I could do was wonder how I could even forget about this one for so long since starting the blog.

In addition to the Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)dance pop and the rise of J-R&B and Morning Musume(モーニング娘。)near the end of the decade, it's also been the wistful sounds of bands like My Little Lover that get the nostalgic sighs emanating out of me. I think the soft whispery voice of Akko and the combination of guitar and strings are perfect here for "Destiny".

The song hit No. 4 on Oricon and later became the 46th-ranked single of 1998, going Double Platinum with over half a million copies sold. "Destiny" was also used as the theme song for the Fuji-TV drama "With Love". Hearing the song again after so long reminded me of another similar sounding mellow ballad, "Overjoyed" by Ramjet Pulley which came out a few years later.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Yukiko Okada -- Walking in the Moonlight

Looking at my Facebook feed a couple of hours earlier, I found out that it was 80s aidoru Yukiko Okada's(岡田有希子)birthday today (August 22nd)! She would have been 52 years old. Of course, I can only speculate but I imagine that she could have either continued on TV as a veteran tarento or actress.

Over the years among JTM, nikala, Marcos and myself, we've managed to cover all of Okada's singles, at least the A-sides. So, in tribute to her birthday, this time I'm going to go with a non-single track from her 2nd album "Fairy" that came out in March 1985.

"Walking in the Moonlight" is a mid-tempo ballad that sounds as if it had been created from the mind of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), but it actually was composed by Mayumi Horikawa(堀川まゆみ), sister of Reimy(麗美), and then given lyrics by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子). The song kinda dances about the genres; of course, it's an aidoru tune but the melody flits around a fair bit so sometimes it ventures into City Pop territory but then I wonder if it's a bit more technopop.

Miura's lyrics are about regret and uncertainty. The woman in the song is taking a lonely walk at night after having a fight with her boyfriend and ends up sitting on a swing in the neighbourhood playground. She knows full well that she loves him and he loves her but would appreciate it if he could say express his feelings of love somewhat more, although she admits that she may have overreacted to the entire situation. All the while, Yukko's tenderhearted delivery comes through clearly. There is a similarity with Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)vocals but Okada's voice is still distinct.

Junichi Inagaki -- Stay With Me

Y' could be 30 years ago that I first heard the dreamy late summer pop ballad "Natsu no Claxon"(夏のクラクション)from 1983 by City Pop/AOR balladeer Junichi Inagaki(稲 垣 潤 一), thanks to that late night/early morning music video show on Fuji-TV. It was the song that got me hooked on one of the Japanese princes of urban contemporary music.

Well, I found this Inagaki song recently that came out as a track on an album released by him in that same year of 1989. This is "Stay With Me" from "Heart & Soul", his 9th studio album, and before anyone gets any ideas, this isn't a cover of the Miki Matsubara(松原みき)classic. Instead, Inagaki's "Stay With Me" is a mellow strut dominated by synthesizer and some nice vocal breeze, thanks to the chorus. As usual, images of taking a walk along the beach in the summer come to mind here.

"Stay With Me" was written by Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composed by guitarist Junichi Kawauchi(河内淳一)with arrangement by Mitsuo Hagita(萩田光男). It's also nice to point out that Inagaki recently celebrated his 66th birthday last month.

Ayako Fuji -- Utakata no Koi(うたかたの恋)

When I checked out what this "Utakata no Koi" was all about, I could only find various adaptations of a romantic tragic novel titled "Mayerling" by Claude Anet, including a 1968 movie starring Catherine Deneuve and Omar Sharif.

The spark that started off my curious search was that I found this enka ballad with the same title performed by veteran Ayako Fuji(藤あや子). The direct translation for "Utakata no Koi" is "Fleeting Love" and the lyrics by Yasuteru or Yasutoshi Miura(三浦康照)relate a love between two people...most likely walking through the streets of Kyoto while wearing traditional Japanese garb...although that love is temporary for some reason (extramarital affair, going off to war, illness, etc.). The music by Hideo Mizumori(水森英夫)is the thing that has struck me...although it sounds like a typical enka, there is something in that arrangement that hits a pleasurable nerve. Despite the ephemeral nature of the romance, the melody sounds fresh and optimistic and bubbly like a young creek as if it is trying to tell listeners that the couple is making every moment of their brief time together count.

It took me a while to find out when "Utakata no Koi" was released or even if it had originally been a Fuji song. My wrong assumption was that the song came out recently when in fact it had been released all the way back in March 1997 as Fuji's 10th single.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Tacoyaki Rainbow -- Zesshou! Naniwa de Umareta Shojo-tachi(絶唱!なにわで生まれた少女たち)

Toronto had its love affair with Japanese souffle pancakes last year, and I think although the initial bloom of excitement has worn off, it looks like places like Fuwa Fuwa are here to stay. I always wondered how those folks were able to make those flapjacks so fluffy. Well, I watched tonight's episode of "Gatten!", that NHK educational variety show that goes into the wonders of health and food, and apparently the power of gluten has a lot to do with it. But that's all I will say about that since really I wanted to focus on the aidoru group that helped out in tonight's episode. The ladies there helped out by having their adoring audience shake up some bags of dough during the performance of one of their songs to create some venue-made udon (I guess you had to have seen the show).

This particular group is called Tacoyaki Rainbow(たこやきレインボー), and the members all hail from the Kansai region of Japan where Osaka, Kobe and my ancestral home of Wakayama Prefecture are located. I was surprised that Tacoyaki Rainbow has been around for quite a while now (from 2012 according to Wikipedia), and there have even been some changes in the lineup. Apparently, each of the members get their own colour.

So, intrigued by Tacoyaki Rainbow appearing on "Gatten!", I decided to take a look at what could be seen on YouTube, and I found this lively number which was their 3rd single from September 2014 during their early indies days with Stardust Records. Given the lengthy title of "Zesshou! Naniwa de Umareta Shojo-tachi" (Epic! Naniwa-born Girls), it's nearly 5 minutes of happy and bouncy pride for Naniwa and themselves as Tacoyaki Rainbow; incidentally, Naniwa is the old name for Osaka.

"Zesshou!" has got some generous splashes of jazz and old-style kayo. To be honest, I thought it was a tune that could have been created by Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)but actually it was written and composed by Kenichi Maeyamada(前山田健一)who's made frantic songs for himself and anime. Considering the antics by the quintet in the colourful music video, I could just about say that it has all the energy of an Osakan year-end party, and I'm surprised that it didn't become the theme song for some sort of anime. There's something quite similar to the aidoru group Momoiro Clover Z(ももいろクローバーZ)...not surprising since both groups come under the Stardust Promotions umbrella.

"Zesshou!" peaked at No. 13 on Oricon and is also a track on their debut album "Maido! Ohkini!"(まいど!おおきに!...Always! Thank You!)from December 2016. Up to now, Tacoyaki Rainbow put out 5 singles under Stardust Records (September 2013 to December 2015) and then have released 4 singles with the major label of Avex Trax. So far, they also have three albums.

Mami Kikuchi -- Neo Silk Road(ネオ・シルクロード)

Well, I managed to find a City Pop song by an M. Kikuchi but the lass here isn't the one that you City Pop fans might be assuming. Nope, it's not Momoko.

Actually, this is Mami Kikuchi(菊地真美), and once again, this is one of those people whose profile from the days of her singing is hard to track down. I had to look through a few sources just to gather some of the crumbs of information that I could glean.

But first off, "Neo Silk Road" is a track from her 1982 album "Morning Dew". Written by Kohei Oikawa(及川恒平)and composed by Yasunori Soryo(惣領泰則), it has that funky guitar and cool trumpet leading the way and then Kikuchi's light yet resonant vocals trip the light fantastic through the lyrics. I also like the harmony in the backing vocals. The two slightly odd things, though, are the crack of thunder near the beginning and then Kikuchi leaving the melodic interchange for a few seconds to whimsically repeat the title before getting back to the on ramp as the song approaches its end.

From one Yahoo blog, I found out that Kikuchi had released a single back in 1980, "Heart Beat" which was apparently more of a Blondie-esque New Wave tune. Plus, that song had also been composed by Soryo. And on the website for an online record store, her debut album from earlier in 1982 was "Shimauma ni Notta Secretary"(縞馬に乗ったセクレタリー ...The Secretary who Rode a Zebra).

Finally, she went to America to study music and participated in reporting and other media-related activities according to the website for Will-B International Inc. which apparently specializes in providing bilingual emcees (such as herself) and narrating services. After returning to Japan, Kikuchi made her debut as a newscaster and has appeared on TV Asahi and NHK. At the link, you can also see a YouTube introduction of herself in Japanese and English.