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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

H2O -- Passing Rain(パッシング・レイン)

Yup, still miss "Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon"(小林さんちのメイドラゴン)from a couple of years ago, and when I listened to the song of this article, I immediately thought about little Kanna tramping her boots in the rain from one episode. Warning: the above looping video lasts for about 10 hours!

We've been getting our fair share of rain over the past two weeks, but that's the way it goes when the seasons change here in Toronto. However, one doesn't have to necessarily mourn its presence and certainly the good lads of H2O, Kenji Nakazawa(中沢堅司)and Masaki Akashio(赤塩正樹), make a nice show of "Passing Rain".

Looking up "Passing Rain" online for the usual information, initially I could only see it in association with the duo's BEST compilation "Omoide ga Ippai ~the best collection~"(想い出がいっぱい)which was actually released in 2003. From that arrangement which sounds like some lovely 1970s New Music sounds, I knew that "Passing Rain" couldn't be that new. And after looking through their original albums, I discovered that it was indeed part of their sophomore album "Wait a second" from February 1982.

Written by Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子), who had also helped out on a majority of the tracks on Akira Terao's(寺尾聰)City Pop classic "Reflections" the previous year, and composed by H2O's Nakazawa, "Passing Rain" is the type of tune to walk to as the precipitation lets up or it's a mellow song to relax to in a cafe while drying out from the elements. It's definitely one of those stop-and-smell-the-roses numbers.

Tazumi Toyoshima -- Yomosugara(夜もすがら)

Well, all that surprise about last weekend in Shibuya being rather sedate for the annual Halloween celebrations was just for those two nights. Halloween night was the usual crazy story of physics-bending crowds, and of course, with the huge density of people roaming all around on the 31st, there were also a few rotten apples getting arrested and thrown into the hoosegow. Actually, I've got a good friend in Tokyo on vacation right now, but I'm absolutely certain that he and his wife avoided Shibuya like the plague.

Anyways, I'm going with a much more peaceful but urban contemporary number by Tazumi Toyoshima(豊島たづみ)called "Yomosugara" (All Night) from her November 1979 3rd album "Still Night". Written by Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ)and composed by Juichi Sase(佐瀬寿一), I realize the arrangement is classic City Pop from way back when, but it's still hard to believe that it's been 40 years since this song was first recorded.

It does sound like a nice strut in the bright lights and big city of Tokyo without all of the costumed craziness of Halloween 2019. There certainly wasn't any Halloween back then, and there probably weren't even any English teachers hijacking one car of the Yamanote Line for an entire loop as was the old custom to celebrate October 31st. I don't have "Still Night" but I was able to get my copy of "Yomosugara", thanks to its inclusion in "Light Mellow - Drive".

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mizuki Koyama -- River Side Cafe

Yes, nothing like a rich and smooth slice of cheesecake with a hot cup of coffee in a stylish cafe. I do have a soft spot for Timmies here but sometimes I miss those much more prolific mom-&-pop coffeehouses in Japan.

When I was first trying to search for some information on this singer Mizuki Koyama, I went with the kanji「小山美月」that had been served on the above video. Couldn't find a thing about her online and so I had presumed that an unfortunate precedent was about to be set. However, thankfully, she does have an entry in my "Japanese City Pop" and found out that her kanji is actually「小山水城」. In fact, she's even represented in J-Wiki.

Born and raised in Gifu Prefecture, Koyama had studied piano from a young age and got some education in classical music, pop and enka. She later attended Sophia University in Tokyo and during that time, she got into the swing (no pun intended) of things with jazz piano and vocal. Impressed by the works of Barbra Streisand, she apprenticed under artists such as singer Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵)and songwriter Yusuke Honma(本間勇輔). According to her J-Wiki bio, she also loves people such as Sam Cooke, Diana Krall and Quincy Jones.

In 1985, she released her first album "Angel's dream" and from it, here is "River Side Cafe", a mellow and indeed cafe-friendly urban contemporary number that was at least composed by Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘). I couldn't pin down who had taken care of the lyrics although it could have been Koyama or Abe. I do love that trombone solo in the middle and the dawn/dusk breeziness of it all (Daemonskald rescue: The lyricist is Kei or Megumi Yokoyama/横山恵).

Just for pure trivia purposes, her elder son happens to be a professional soccer player for Giravanz Kitakyushu, Akira Disaro(ディサロ 燦). Along with her singing and songwriting, Koyama is also a vocal trainer and vocal arranger.

LOOK -- Shinin’ On - Kimi ga Kanashii(シャイニン・オン 君が哀しい)

Commenter Matthew K. asked me recently if I had heard of the following band.

I replied that I hadn't heard of LOOK but hearing this power pop ballad by them, I recognized it as something that I did hear in years past but never found out who had originally sung it. I believe that I did hear it being covered, perhaps not officially, but sung by other celebs on those karaoke variety shows. Well, now I know happily enough.

"Shinin’ On - Kimi ga Kanashii" (You Are Sad) was LOOK's debut single released in April 1985, and though Matthew remarked that he was initially reminded of bands such as Omega Tribe, the soaring pipes of vocalist Tohru Suzuki(鈴木トオル)and the power pop balladry had me thinking across the Pacific of bands such as Journey and Survivor. Y'know, if an English-language cover had ever been made of "Shinin' On", then I believe Steve Perry would have been the guy to sing it.

Written and composed by LOOK pianist Masashi Chizawa(千沢仁), "Shinin' On" had actually been used for a wine cooler commercial and sales were sluggish at the beginning but according to J-Wiki, once the band performed the song as a special spotlight segment on TBS' "The Best 10" in a July 1985 episode, it went up the rankings to reach No. 8 and sell around 200,000 copies. As another piece of trivia, it was supposed to have been Chizawa behind the mike but because he was unable to hit the high notes, and it's those high notes that help make the performance, it was Suzuki who took over as vocalist to deliver the anguish of a fellow drinking and singing Billy Joel tunes following a romantic breakup. Well, as they say, the rest is history.

Between 1985 and 1988, LOOK released 8 singles and 4 albums. The other two members of the band were saxophonist Cheep Hiroishi(チープ広石)and keyboardist Harukichi Yamamoto(山本はるきち). According to Suzuki in an interview via J-Wiki, the name of the band was derived from the Fujiya confection called Look Chocolate since it had four different flavours and each of the four members had their own different musical tendencies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mariya Takeuchi/Lisa Ono -- Jinsei no Tobira(人生の扉)

It was only relatively recently that I found out that singer-songwriter Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)is the daughter of the 4th-generation owner of a long-standing ryokan called Takenoya in her hometown of Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture. Well, thinking that I may be able to visit Japan again sometime next year (though definitely not during the Olympics), the wheels started turning in my head about possibly taking that train trip over to Shimane out in the west, but looking at its website and the above video of some lucky fellow actually staying there, it looks like it's a little too rich for my blood. Gotta say, though, that the staff at Takenoya didn't hesitate to show how proud they are of Mariya.

The thing about a ryokan is that, like any hotel or motel, it's a place to rest those weary bones after a day of traveling. Takeuchi's song "Jinsei no Tobira" (The Door to Life) strikes me as having the same effect.

A coupling song to her 35th single "Chance no Maegami"(チャンスの前髪...Front Bangs of Chance) from August 2007, "Jinsei no Tobira" seems to take things back all the way to Takeuchi's beginnings as a singer with the gentle country-and-gospel arrangement. Of course, when I think of her beginnings, her debut album "Beginning" (1978) naturally comes to mind. The singer did write and compose this ode to not only the fun celebrated in the past but the better days to come, with her husband Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)arranging, but the band Sentimental City Romance also had a hand in its arrangement, and they had a fair bit to do as well with "Beginning" all those decades ago. I guess it must have felt like a school reunion back in the recording booth.

"Jinsei no Tobira" and its partnering song managed to reach No. 23 on Oricon. It has also been included in Takeuchi's 10th studio album "Denim" (May 2007) and her massive BEST compilation, "Expressions" which was released a year later. I first heard the song from the latter album.

I'm sure that "Jinsei no Tobira" has had its share of covers in its decade of existence, but I found this lovely version by Lisa Ono(小野リサ)which was included in her June 2013 album "Japao 2". Of course, her take has been arranged in a relaxing bossa nova fashion.

Getting back to that trip to Takeuchi's hometown of Izumo, which by the way is also home to Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the most important shrines in Japan, if any of you decide to stay over at Takenoya, why not splurge some more yen and go in style on the Sunrise Izumo overnight train from Tokyo? Listen to "Expressions" while you're in your berth!

Miki Kobayashi -- Taiyou no Yuuwaku(太陽の誘惑)

Usually when I talk about aidoru who have come and went like the wind, my impression is that it's been the case with the 80s teenyboppers. However, that was probably also the case with their 1970s predecessors.

The young lady above who looks like she dropped her contact lenses somewhere on the beach is Miki Kobayashi(小林美樹)who had a very short career as an aidoru between 1974 and 1975. Born in Yamagata Prefecture, according to her J-Wiki profile, Kobayashi entered the audition competitions on NTV's "Star Tanjo!"(スター誕生!...A Star is Born!)in 1973, passed and joined up with entertainment company Gei-Ei Productions.

Unfortunately, none of her 4 singles became hits and here I introduce her final single from July 1975, "Taiyou no Yuuwaku" (Temptation of the Sun). I've yet to hear any of her first three efforts but this particular release doesn't sound too bad with its somewhat updated Group Sounds arrangement and Kobayashi actually comes as a pretty decent singer. Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)was the lyricist while Yasutoshi Nakajima(中島安敏)took care of the music.

The following year, Kobayashi left the industry and went to Meiji University following which she joined TV Niigata as an announcer in 1981. Then in 1984, she left the network to become a freelance announcer, becoming a co-host on an NHK business news program in 1988.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Zuutorubi -- Mikan Iro no Koi(みかん色の恋)

TV Japan has the venerable rakugo comedy battle series "Shoten"(笑点)on Sunday nights at 9:15 as opposed to its original running time of 5:30 on that same day (the TV Japan broadcasts are about 3 months behind). I do watch it and although there are times when I don't quite understand the humour due to language difficulties, it's still pretty fun. Of course, along with the regular rakugo storytellers and the host Shota Shunpuutei(春風亭昇太), there is the frizzy-headed man in red, rakugo-ka Takao Yamada(山田隆夫), who is always introduced last, as the smiling guy who takes care of the giving and taking away of the zabuton cushions depending on how his fellows do. Occasionally, Yamada even throws in some punishment if one of them takes a verbal poke at him.

Basically, that's all I had known about Tanaka up to now.

But then I discovered this song on YouTube recently and realized that Yamada had been a 1970s teenybopper in his own aidoru group called Zuutorubi(ずうとるび). Incidentally, the idea for this group to form came straight from an old segment right in "Shoten". Apparently, Yamada had actually been part of the junior brigade of the joking rakugo-ka lineup and since he earned the win with ten zabuton literally under him, he got to make his own aidoru group.

In February 1974, Yamada as side guitar/vocal along with lead guitar/lead vocal Hirotoshi Eto(江藤博利), drummer Yasuhiro Arai(新井康弘), and bassist/vocal Yoshiki Imamura(今村良樹)released their debut single, "Toumei Ningen"(透明人間...Invisible Man)which was written and composed by Yamada. The above here, though, is their 3rd single, "Mikan Iro no Koi" (Orange Love) which came out in November the same year. Written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)and composed by Juichi Sase(佐瀬寿一), "Mikan Iro no Koi" is a sparkly and cheerful 70s pop tune about a fellow pretty much promising the moon and perhaps several other planetary bodies for the love of his life. It did quite well on the charts, hitting No. 14 on Oricon. 

Yamada actually left Zuutorubi in 1977 after which he was replaced by Yoshihiko Ikeda(池田善彦). Up to their final days in 1980, the group released 18 singles and 9 original albums with 4 BEST compilations. They even appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen once in 1975. As for the weird name, the group said that it was formed by just sorta flipping around the kana in the Japanese transcription of The Beatles(ビートルズ). Personally, I had been a bit excited since I'd thought that Zuutorubi was going to end up as the final word in Labels, but alas, I forgot that the band ZYYG was there.

Hitomi Tohyama -- Cheek Dance(チークダンス)

It's still early in the week for one of these, and I say it this way since I think for such a song, I would probably have put it somewhere on a Wednesday/Friday night because it's one of those tunes that is so made for urban contemporary soothing duties after a hard day or week at work. However, there is also such a thing as a lousy Monday, so for those folks, here you are.

From Hitomi Tohyama's(当山ひとみ)7th studio album "Human Voice" from October 1981, here is "Cheek Dance", a tune that has been described on Hip Tank Records as "....a gorgeous skyscraper midnight ballad". Yep, it's a mellow City Pop romance but I think I can place this one any time between sunset to sunrise; the setting itself is fine...enjoying a glass of Chablis with the one you love while sitting atop one of the highest buildings in the city is supremely splendid, but I would give "Cheek Dance" much more time than just a sliver of midnight.

It has that wonderful slow groove and the lovely solo horn while Tohyama and her backing chorus bring me memories of some fine 70s soul. Too bad that it wasn't included on my BEST collection for the singer but that gives me the impetus to see if I can get my own copy of "Human Voice". Equally too bad is that I couldn't find out who was responsible for words and music. Even the JASRAC database couldn't assist this time. Maybe the wonders of Daemonskald can come to the rescue again. 😁

Miyu Tomita -- Present Moment

Happy Monday! I've certainly played my share of board games during my life. During some of my childhood, there was a weekly nightly programme for the local children to play those games down in the basement of our apartment building. Never showed much aptitude for games but I did enjoy UNO, Mille Bornes, Monopoly and Sorry.

So, some of those memories have returned on watching this anime at my friend's place over the past few weeks. "Hokago Saikoro Club"(放課後さいころ倶楽部...After School Dice Club)is a slice-of-life show about high school kids developing their friendships and knowledge about various games from around the world. Mille Bornes has yet to show up, but I've already garnered some interest in the ones that have appeared such as Marrakech and 6 Nimmt!

One of the seiyuu involved in "Hokago" is Miyu Tomita(富田美憂), also currently in the wackier "Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai"(ぼくたちは勉強ができない), as the fairly serious but game-loving Midori Ono(大野翠). "Hokago" has got its share of humour but I'd say that it has more in the way of poignancy and life lessons. And for the first time on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", she's got her own solo theme song for an anime with this one, "Present Moment" which is apparently going to be her first official single to be released on November 13th this year.

Can't really say that it's an earworm but since it's a pleasant enough song and I've had a good time with the show, I decided to put it up here. "Present Moment" was written by Mayumi Kaneko(金子麻友美)and composed by Shuhei Mutsuki(睦月周平). I've been seeing Tomita for a while in various anime for the past couple of years and so I'm surprised to hear that she hasn't even reached the age of 20 yet!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Keisuke Yamauchi -- Kuchibiru Scarlet(唇スカーレット)

(short version)

The last time that I wrote about a Keisuke Yamauchi(山内惠介)song, it was for his 2018 single "Sarase Fuyu no Arashi"(さらせ冬の嵐), a wintry and haunting enka piece created by lyricist Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composer Hideo Mizumori(水森英夫). Almost a year later, the three of them got together again to produce Yamauchi's 20th single "Kuchibiru Scarlet" (Lips Scarlet) released earlier in March 2019.

(cover version)

Now, we have quite the opposite result here...a passionate love song with Yamauchi promising all sorts of hot action to his lady love. It's been categorized as an enka at J-Wiki, but I think it's more of a Latin-spiced Mood Kayo, since I don't really see trees of any particular season or a single person walking in a lonely manner through the forest. This is more some fellow having his usual time of his life in a swanky establishment in Akasaka.

(empty karaoke version)

Yamauchi's hit peaked at No. 7 on Oricon and according to J-Wiki, there are 8 (count 'em...8!) versions of "Kuchibiru Scarlet" sold depending on its colour label with the difference lying in the coupling songs with the CDs ranging in time between around 16 and 22 minutes. I'm kinda wondering whether the singer's recording company has taken a page out of the AKB 48 playbook with that maneuver.

I actually caught Yamauchi singing this on an episode of NHK's "Gogo Uta"(ごごウタ)yesterday, and I realized as I was watching the lad doing his Latin bump-and-grind with the style of song and that certain nasal quality in his delivery, his performance reminded me of a young Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)! It would be intriguing to see whether Yamauchi and Go will collaborate in a future Kohaku Utagassen or even "Uta Kon"(うたコン).

Mariko Fuji -- Halloween Kai Jiken(ハロウィーン怪事件)

Since Halloween this year falls on a Thursday next week, I guess that the parties have been in full swing since last night. I checked the Shibuya live stream camera on YouTube and yep, it was busy in the main intersection with the costumed folks but it was much less chaotic than in previous years. Looks like the cops really clamped down on the raucousness this time around.

Never let it be said that "Kayo Kyoku Plus" lets an opportunity to celebrate a festival go by. I saved this one for this weekend due to its seasonal title. Titled "Halloween Kai Jiken" (The Halloween Mystery Incident), that opening groove sounded suspiciously like the beginning of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean". Even before that, I had been wondering whether this would be the third kayo kyoku that was emulating the style of "Please Take Good Care of My Heart" by Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson after "Eien no Morning Moon" (永遠のモーニング・ムーン)and "Lonely Chaplin" (ロンリー・チャプリン).

However, as it turns out, "Halloween Kai Jiken" most likely gets off scot-free since it was a track on Mariko Fuji's(藤真利子)final album to date, "Glass no Shokubutsu-en"(ガラスの植物園...The Glass Botanical Garden) released in August 1984, and the Houston and Jackson duet didn't appear until the former's debut album came out in 1985. Still, I can't blame whoever the songwriters and arranger were for using that opening riff since it sounds so cool. To be honest, though, it's not the most reassured delivery by Fuji, sounding almost child-like but maybe that was the point considering that it is Halloween. The other interesting thing is that the arrangement of the groove and synthesizers reminds me of how Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)and her husband would later create for their pop tunes. But actually, the song is a cover of the original by a French singer named Lio.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Yuuichiro Oda -- Spanish Girl

This morning, when I was checking Twitter, there was the following tweet from Van Paugam, the man who has been promoting my favourite genre of City Pop for the past few years:

After Japan I am considering an extended leave from DJing. My emotional state has been increasingly unstable. Politics, society, and traditions have worn me thin and I’m not sure how much more I can take.

For me, I may have been writing on this blog for nearly 8 years almost every day but it's a simple thing for me to get behind my computer and type away while importing a YouTube music video. However, for Van Paugam, he's put up a YouTube channel with the looping video of driving on a Tokyo highway or a Nagoya avenue that garnered a lot of fans to it as if it were the friendliest club for longtime listeners and people new to this aspect of Japanese pop music, he's traveled through various parts of the United States providing performances of City Pop and J-AOR with the necessary negotiations and bookings of venues and dealing with various people, he's given interviews to media touting the genre and he's recently gone over to Japan for a tour. He's also had to endure heartbreak when his YouTube channel got struck down along with any other possible setbacks that I don't know about. And all for this music that some of us have only just discovered and loved. Thanks to him, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)and Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)and a lot of others are now household names in our musical vocabulary.

That is a lot of intense effort in a relatively short period of time, and so it's no wonder that he has begun to feel burned out. I'm happy to say that he has responded positively in the last little while to the messages of concern and encouragement, and I'm also hoping that he also takes some time to take a break and smell some roses and coffee and get some of that local deep-dish pizza. He's earned rest and relaxation after succeeding to let us know about some of the wonderful urban contemporary songs that were recorded all those decades ago.

Personally, if he does take that break (I hope), I don't think that he's going to stay away for that long. I think he loves the genre too much for that to happen...a sentiment that I feel all too well when it comes to my association with "Kayo Kyoku Plus". In any case, thanks very much, Van Paugam and otsukare-sama!

My two non-existent Canadian cents have been given. So let me get into the article with an appropriate tune by the late singer-songwriter Yuuichiro Oda(小田裕一郎). A little over a year ago, I wrote something about "I Me Mine", one track from his 1984 album "ODA". Well, here's a raucous fellow number titled "Spanish Girl" that strikes me as spanning a few genres including City Pop. There is that City Pop groove but with some scoops of rock guitar and even some spacey flavour. Maybe there is even some Omega Tribe(オメガトライブ)rumination in there, too.

Always good to continue exploring for those new golden nuggets of City Pop.

Miina Tominaga -- Hito Natsu no Memory(ひと夏のメモリー)

Miina Tominaga(冨永みーな)has been a name that I have seen and a voice that I have heard on Japanese TV as a narrator, but not a seiyuu that I have ever come across in anime all that often unfortunately. I've read that she played the third Katsuo Isono(磯野カツオ), the sometimes naughty brother and son in "Sazae-san"(サザエさん)and another role in "Sore Ike! Anpanman"(それいけ!アンパンマン), but my only hearing of her in an anime during my visits to my anime buddy's house thus far has been as her villainous role of Majorina(マジョリーナ)in "Smile Precure!"(スマイルプリキュア!)back in 2012.

According to her resume, though, Tominaga has also been a singer and in September 1985, she released an album "M Marble"(Mマーブル). From this album, I bring you "Hito Natsu no Memory" (A Memory One Summer), and it sounds like a jazzy love ballad filtered through cute synthpop although I couldn't track down who was responsible for words and music (Ahh...did find out; Satoko Shimonari(下成佐登子)took care of both words and music). Plus, Tominaga, who was probably around 19 at the time, sounds more like a lovelorn Precure here than a cackling witch. I would be curious in finding more about her discography in "M Marble" as well as for any other releases by her.

She was born Yoshiko Tominaga(冨永美子)in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1966. From what I read in her J-Wiki profile, when she was in elementary school and already a child actress, a fortune teller gave her advice to the extent that she changed her stage name into Miina Tominaga with the first name in katakana(冨永ミーナ)before it was further switched into its current hiragana form. For further trivia, her sempai at the Nihon University College of Art were Hikari Ohta(太田光)and Yuuji Tanaka(田中裕二), the famous comedy duo Bakusho Mondai(爆笑問題).

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Arisa Mizuki -- Days

It seems recently that actress Arisa Mizuki(観月ありさ)has been playing some tough-as-nails roles in various TV dramas such as elite detectives. Plus I barely remember her in her first role as an innocent teenager caught up in some very dark forces in a Thursday night Fuji-TV drama back in my final year on the JET Programme, if I'm not mistaken. However, if there has been a franchise character for Mizuki, it would be Izumi Asakura(朝倉いずみ), the slightly dotty and happy-go-lucky nurse in the seasons of "Nurse no O-Shigoto"(ナースのお仕事...A Nurse's Work), also televised on Fuji-TV.

Never caught onto the series myself but with all those commercials, even I got the impression that Mizuki was playing some sort of Sailor Moon type.

For each of the seasons of "Nurse no O-Shigoto", Mizuki supplied the theme song, and for "Nurse no O-Shigoto 2", her contribution was "Days", a down-home pop tune written and composed by Mitsuru Igarashi(五十嵐充)from the band Every Little Thing. As I mentioned for my last article on Mizuki, she certainly developed her singing skills by the end of the 1990s. It's quite heartwarming and has me thinking about my own days working and living in Japan at that time.

Released as Mizuki's 14th single in November 1997, "Days" reached No. 14 on the Oricon weeklies and made it onto her second BEST collection, "FIORE II" which came out in December of that year. That album peaked at No. 69.

m-flo -- EKTO

Long time no see, m-flo. For that matter, long time no see, LISA!

Indeed, it's been a couple of years since I put up an m-flo tune, and it was around that time that original member LISA came back to the group for the first time in about 15 years (the Tripod is back!). But for me, it's only just been this year that I've heard the old trio back together again through their music video for "EKTO" which is also part of their July 2019 single "mortal portal e.p.".

Remembering their party-hearty material from the late 1990s going into the 2000s, with and without LISA, "EKTO" strikes me as being a more subdued and an older-but-wiser-if-sadder love ballad about regrets and recriminations being thrown back and forth. Still, it's undeniably m-flo with LISA's voice and Verbal's mid-tune rapping. And before I got any impressions that the original Tripod was going to slow down, I also did hear the catchy "Mars Drive" from "mortal portal e.p." just now.👍

Kahimi Karie -- Elastic Girl

Had a very nice lunch with fellow translators and friends earlier today. It was ramen on the menu and I even took home some karaage chicken as a souvenir for my parents along with the mayo. Perhaps I should have taken it easy on the Kewpie, though, since after dinner, my gastrointestinal tract started holding protests against my choices. But then, I found out that an opened jar of mayo at room temperature can stay that way for 8 hours (!) before it's time to get rid of it. Go figure on that. Maybe my brain created a placebo effect.

Anyways, I shall refrain from further explaining the situation (I'm OK now...thanks for asking) since I now assume that you may all be giving me the same look that Kahimi Karie(カヒミ・カリィ)is giving in the top photo. Speaking of whom, it has been a while since she's been given her own article, so here is "Elastic Girl".

"Elastic Girl" is from her 1st mini-album "My First Karie" from January 1995. In fact, it's the first track and unlike some of the other songs that I've heard from the singer-songwriter, this one doesn't seem to belong in the Shibuya-kei category. I'd say that this is more country pop (Sheryl Crow, anyone?) and when it comes to her musical categories on J-Wiki, that is one category which is also listed for her. Nothing country about her vocals, though, which still represent her famous whispery delivery and tell of a woman who's more than willing to bend over backwards for a man.

The song was written by Karie and Bryan Burton-Lewis and composed by Keigo Oyamada(小山田圭吾).

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Isao Sasaki -- Suki da Danguard Ace(すきだッダンガードA)/Sono Na mo Takuma Uchuu Pilot(その名もタクマ宇宙パイロット)

In my neck of the woods, it was first "Gatchaman"(ガッチャマン)under the English title of "Battle of the Planets" and then "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト), which was known on this side of the Pacific as "Star Blazers", that basically heralded the arrival of Japanimation (as it was called back then) for my generation in the 1970s. We kids were left panting with excitement (and some tears) as we waited for what was coming next from Japan.

In Toronto, that was "Force Five" going into the 1980s which was produced by Jim Terry and involved the bringing together of five sci-fi/adventure anime: "Starvengers", "Danguard Ace", "Spacketeers", "Grandizer" and "Gaiking". Looking back, I think that most of the shows received a bit of the hatchet job in terms of prepping them for viewing in Canada and the United States but back then, these shows were good enough incentive for us to wake up in the morning before heading off for school.

"Danguard Ace" had been known to me even before "Force Five" came on the air here since the mecha was also one of the trio for Marvel Comics' "Shogun Warriors" line that I did buy for a while. I can only imagine Ace showing up in "Avengers: Endgame". Anyways, according to what I read at J-Wiki and Wikipedia, "Danguard Ace" was the only mecha anime that the legendary Leiji Matsumoto(松本零士)ever handled and that was back in 1977 and it was pretty obvious that it was a Matsumoto creation in terms of how similar some of the characters looked when compared to the main characters in "Yamato". I just thought it was the usual gang but not on a massively refit World War II battleship but a transformable robot.

Well, I was listening to the above double-CD album, "Matsumoto Leiji no Sekai"(松本零士の世界...The World of Leiji Matsumoto)which has a lot of the anison involved with the master animator's works such as "Yamato" and "Galaxy Express 999"(銀河鉄道999), and at the top of CD 2 were the opening and ending themes for the original "Wakusei Robo Danguard A"(惑星ロボ ダンガードA...Planetary Robot Danguard Ace). Watching the original "Force Five" opening for "Danguard Ace" back then (and the other shows, for that matter), I quickly noted that the themes were left as empty karaoke versions instead of the totally new themes for "Gatchaman" and the just-as-impressive English-language version for the "Yamato" theme. I had wondered what the original themes sounded like.

Well, thanks to the CD and YouTube, none of us have to wonder any more. I mentioned the legendary animator Matsumoto and now here is the legendary anison singer Isao Sasaki(ささきいさお)providing the full version of "Suki da Danguard Ace" (We Love You, Danguard Ace), created by lyricist Shunya Ito(伊藤俊也)and composer Shunsuke Kikuchi(菊池俊輔).

I read one comment saying the theme is pretty cornball (although he cherished the show), and yep, that it is, in a very sentimental way. "Suki da Danguard Ace" is the typical heroic theme song for the probably had them marching happily over the tatami. Those horns and the groovy beat would have also been just at home at the time for any variety show on Japanese TV. For me, it was a pity that the full version hadn't been provided on "Force Five" (even though admittedly it would have sounded strange for a Japanese song to be played on American morning TV) since Sasaki with help from the chorus group Young Fresh(ヤング・フレッシュ)really put in the brio in the recording booth. Those words were needed.

Could only find the ending credits version of the closing theme "Sono Na mo Takuma Uchuu Pilot" (His Name is Takuma the Space Pilot) which is slightly more urgent in tone but it has the same songwriters and Sasaki taking care of it. Still, Mom probably yelled at the kids to stop pounding the tatami into chaff.

Miki Imai -- Kiss yori, Toiki yori(キスより 吐息より)

Picking up on my last article, Yumi Matsutoya's(松任谷由実)"Metropolis no Katasumi de"(メトロポリスの片隅で)as the theme song for actress Miki Imai's(今井美樹)"Igai to Single Girl"(意外とシングルガール)in 1988, I did mention that Imai also had her singer's hat on with the provision of one of her own tunes in the course of the show.

"Kiss yori, Toiki yori" (More Than A Kiss, More Than A Sigh) is the coupling song to Imai's 4th single from August 1988, "Kanojo to TIP ON DUO" (彼女とTIP ON DUO). And compared to the breezy main single with a touch of old-timey jazz, "Kiss yori, Toiki yori" is a sexier effort with a touch of soul. Composed by Jun Sato(佐藤準)and written by Masami Tozawa(戸沢暢美), the lyrics deal with a young lady trying to keep a romance with her significant other as quiet as possible which includes having that phone call in the closet. Must have been a heck of a time trying to handle a phone conversation when it was still cords and landlines. Also, I'm curious about why the lass' paramour has been referred to as a window sill cactus.

For me, this is another quintessential representative of an early Miki Imai song with the combination of the synths and her light vocals. Along with its inclusion in the trendy drama, "Kiss yori, Toiki yori" was also a track on her 3rd album "Bewith" and it ended up as one of the songs on her first BEST album "Ivory" from 1989.

Yumi Matsutoya -- Metropolis no Katasumi de(メトロポリスの片隅で)

(karaoke version)

Miki Imai(今井美樹)is the one singer that I remember getting a shoutout in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) manual for new teachers that I received when I was about to head over to Japan to do my 2-year stint in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture from the summer of 1989. The authors were trying to spread the idea of incorporating students' knowledge of pop culture into lessons, and actress/singer Imai was seen as an especially popular celebrity at the time. The one characteristic of Imai that the authors emphasized was that wide-as-the-Mississippi smile of hers. Dang that megawatt smile of hers!

Coming up from the modeling ranks, Imai was just as much into the acting profession as the singing career at the time back in the 1980s, and I just happened to come across the above video for an episode of a TBS short series that she starred in called "Igai to Single Girl"(意外とシングルガール...Unexpectedly Single Girl) that came out in 1988. For quite a while now, I've been reading a lot of comments under those YouTube videos of City Pop songs that mooned about living in the big city in that decade when Japan had been perceived to do no wrong economically. Looking at the opening credits for "Igai to Single Girl" while Imai is striding on the sidewalk footloose and fancy-free, and then checking out bits and pieces of the episode, I can understand those commenters. Those trendy dramas were all about love and the high life where junior staffers were living in huge manshon and had job titles that could only be transcribed in katakana. I'm also happy to say that I did get my own actual experience of Japan in the very early and very late parts of the 80s.

That particular drama not only had Imai but also a couple of other singers, too. Checkers'(チェッカーズ)lead singer Fumiya Fujii(藤井フミヤ)and 60s teen idol Teruhiko Saigo(西郷輝彦)played their parts in "Igai to Single Girl". However, aside from the fact that Imai had her own song inserted into the 6-episode series, Fujii and Saigo's contributions were strictly thespian in nature.

In fact, it was Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)who not only provided the theme song for the show but was also responsible for the overall music which seems to consist of a lot of her other songs. Imai was probably tickled all shades of pink since according to her J-Wiki bio, she had been a passionate fan of her since junior high school. "Metropolis no Katasumi de" (In One Corner of the Metropolis) was actually not specifically created for "Igai to Single Girl" but was a track that was recorded on Yuming's 17th album "DA・DI・DA" from November 1985, another No. 1 hit for her. But the song about a young woman doffing off any regrets about a now past romance and striding ahead positively with her career in Tokyo seems to fit the premise of the series hand-in-glove. Plus, although it was indeed Yuming behind the words and music, "Metropolis no Katasumi de" has that Omega Tribe/Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)big city vibe with the choice of synths and bass. Overall, it screams "Look out world! Here I come!".

As for the single, it broke into the Top 10 at No. 8. Originally, it was used as the campaign song for a Shiseido commercial with 145,000 copies sold.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

SHISHAMO -- Kimi no Tonari ni Itai kara(君の隣にいたいから)

I saw the band SHISHAMO play "Kimi no Tonari ni Itai kara" (Because I Want To Be By Your Side) last week on "Uta Kon"(うたコン)and thought it as sunny as those yellow tulips that I provide in the thumbnail photo above for sunny tunes, so here I am with it.

Actually, I think the trio's latest single which was released last week on October 16th would make for a happy-go-lucky theme song for an anime, but actually it was used earlier in the year for the 2019 NHK All-Japan School Choir Competition. It also had its time as the monthly song in the network's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた)series.

Written and composed by vocalist/guitarist Asako Miyazaki(宮崎朝子), the music video gives the heartwarming focus on a few content couples in various stages of life. We should all be so lucky.

Gen Taneichi -- Hi no Machi no Oishii Mizu(此の街のおいしい水)

It was raining fairly steadily earlier today when I met up with friend and fellow "Kayo Kyoku Plus" collaborator Larry Chan for lunch at one of my favourite places, Kingyo. Being a Canadian, I still didn't bother putting up my umbrella; it would have to be pouring buckets outside for me to do that which is ironic since I had once been living for many years in a nation where folks opened up the brolleys at even the slightest suspicion of a drop of precipitation.

Anyways, over some hearty and warming fare at the restaurant, we were able to have some good talk on a number of topics including the blog, and of course, some of our favourite works by Akina Nakamori (tip from me: it ain't "Fushigi"). Luckily enough, by the time we left Kingyo, the weather was looking a whole lot more hopeful.

Was happy to encounter this one by singer-songwriter Gen Taneichi(種市弦)some time ago. For those who had thought that City Pop/J-AOR was gone by the 1990s, well, folks like Sing Like Talking, Original Love and this fellow ensured that this wasn't the case. According to Taneichi's website bio, he was born to a jazz bassist father and a dance teacher mother back in 1974, and then at the age of 20, he released his debut album "Fuyu no Shirabe"(冬の調べ...Winter Melodies)in October 1994.

One of the tracks from the album is "Hi no Machi no Oishii Mizu". After looking up the kanji for hi at, I found a number of definitions, most of which revolved around "comparison" and "ratio" which seemed a bit odd when put with the rest of the title. However, there was one revelation in that that particular kanji 「此」was also used to represent the Philippines, most likely in the same manner that 「米」is used to represent the United States and 「加」for Canada. So, with some confidence, I can say that the title can be translated as "The Delicious Water of a Town in the Philippines".

Taneichi was responsible for words, music and performance of this oh-so-tasty AOR delight that sounds as if it had been made in the late 1980s. It starts out pleasantly enough but when he hits the refrain, the instruments (horns and guitar) really make contact with the sweet spot in my mind. Plus, I would like to give my kudos to Taneichi's vocals which remind me to a good extent of a younger Takao Tajima(田島貴男)from the aforementioned Original Love.

According to one other website, the album was produced by the late keyboardist Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博), for whom Taneichi has the greatest respect, and Sato was helping out on the keyboards here for "Hi no Machi no Oishii Mizu". Masaki Matsubara(松原正樹)also contributed with his cool doodling on the guitar.

From what I could glean from Taneichi's website, he has released at least 2 singles and 2 albums and has also provided songs to acts such as SMAP and Anri(杏里).

Monday, October 21, 2019

Sayuri Yoshinaga -- Seto no Uzushio(瀬戸のうず潮)

While I'm keeping my ears attuned to the election results tonight, I'm going with something completely different and writing an article about an old chestnut.

Can't quite remember how I found about this particular song by singer/actress Sayuri Yoshinaga(吉永小百合). Maybe it was through a recent episode of NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)or perhaps I decided that I haven't seen the darling of Japanese cinema from the early postwar period in some time so I did some searching about. In any case, I found this slightly bittersweet-sounding kayo tune in Yoshinaga's discography.

"Seto no Uzushio" (The Whirling Tides of Seto) is the theme song from her 1964 Nikkatsu movie "Uzushio"(うず潮)which was based on an NHK morning serial drama that had been broadcast that same year, according to J-Wiki. The story is about Yoshinaga's character, Fumiko, and her life as a student at Onomichi Girls' High School in Hiroshima Prefecture. Along with the grand orchestra including the horns accompanying the sweet voice of Yoshinaga, there is even an organ representing those whirling tides.

The song was created by lyricist Takao Saeki(佐伯孝夫)and composer Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正), the same duo behind one of the most evergreen kayo to my ears, "Itsudemo Yume wo"(いつでも夢を)which had been recorded as a duet in 1962 by Yoshinaga and enka singer Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫). From what I could glean from Saeki's lyrics, it seems like Fumiko may be leaving her beloved hometown and heading to colder climes.

Keiko Okuda -- Tameiki no Yokan(ため息の予感)

Man, what a morning! Election Day in Canada and Enthronement Eve in Japan. Plus, I had to negotiate a new telecommunications bundle plan with my provider, but just when everything was settled, somebody on the other side screwed up and I was left without internet for almost 2 hours just before a translation assignment was to come in. Everything is fine now and I got a $50 discount on the monthly payments but I've been sighing all over the place in physical and existential fatigue.

This gives me the perfect opportunity to introduce this particular song by 80s aidoru Keiko Okuda(奥田圭子), "Tameiki no Yokan" (Premonition of Sighs). For me, this strikes me as the quintessential aidoru tune of that decade: breezy and twinkly in the music with the nasal and slightly off-tune/on-tune delivery. Just the tonic to help me cool down after rushing through the assignment."Tameiki no Yokan" was written by veteran lyricist Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composed by Toshitaro Hiejima/Hieshima(稗島寿太郎)and it was a track in her lone album "cresc." from November 1985. It did only modestly, peaking at No. 90 on Oricon.

Along with that one album, the Hiroshima Prefecture-born Okuda also released 5 singles up to late 1987 and had her work as an actress up to the end of the century. After retiring from show business, she dabbled in producing her own line of anti-aging cosmetics called viento de KINO according to her J-Wiki bio.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Akina Nakamori -- Star Pilot

I first wrote about my first Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)album "D404ME" (1985) all the way back in 2013. As is usually the case with me, I don't talk about all of the tracks in an album article, preferring to focus on some of the stragglers in individual reports. So, tonight I've come to this one high-powered track.

"Star Pilot" is not my favourite track on "D404ME"; I think that distinction goes to either "Allegro Vivace" and the first song "Endless". However, "Star Pilot" is still plenty fun as Akina-chan pours her heart out for that titular space jockey and hoping for a ride in his warp ship. To be honest, the music already hints that the ride has already launched and Akina is heading out to the nearest nebula somewhere. Moreover, the singer's chant of the title has always stayed in my head all these decades. It's good ol' hot rod rock-n-roll courtesy of elementary school buddies-turned-rockers Kiyoshiro Imawano(忌野清志郎)and Kazuo Kobayashi(小林和生)with Tetsuya Chiaki(ちあき哲也)behind the lyrics.

Among some of the musicians in the recording booth for "Star Pilot" are Jun Aoyama(青山純)on drums, Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)on bass and EVE as the backing chorus.

The Works of Ken Sato(佐藤健)

Last week, when I did that L'Arc-en-Ciel article for the theme song of the 2012 live-action version of "Rurouni Kenshin"(るろうに剣心), I noticed that the actor Takeru Sato and the veteran kayo composer Ken Sato shared the same kanji 「佐藤健」for their names. However, punching in the name into the search engine brought up mostly information on the young actor.

There is in fact not all that much information on Ken Sato. His J-Wiki profile only gave the description of him being a composer, an arranger, a keyboardist and the husband of singer Junko Ohashi(大橋純子). Not even a date of birth or a place of birth or how he grew up to be enticed into the music business is given there, and looking beyond online only garnered the same information. J-Wiki did say that Sato had first met Ohashi at a Yamaha studio under the supervision of arranger Mitsuo Hagita(萩田光雄).

Sato may not have as high a profile as Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)or Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), but his works have popped up many a time on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" over the years. And just going through the list of works he's provided other singers on J-Wiki and the list of songs under his name on this blog, he has come up with songs ranging through a number of genres including aidoru and City Pop, kinda along the same lines as Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). So why not Sato?

The earliest example that I'd had of his compositions on KKP was the proud "Crystal City" sung by Ohashi back in 1977. But to start off this Creator feature on Sato, I've gone further back in the Sato-Ohashi association with this track "Itsumo"(いつも...Always)that had been wholly made by the songwriter for Ohashi's debut album "Feeling Now", released in June 1974.

"Feeling Now" is an album that I would acquire simply for that dazzling cover of Ohashi with her hair flying all over the place. However, from hearing some of the tracks, there is also a lot of gold in the album with a mix of covers of tunes by Charles Aznavour and Bill Withers and original material. "Itsumo" is some splendid sunny Sunday soul that warms my heart and it's obvious to me and, I assume, to Sato and the others that Ohashi had some major talent in her vocal cords.

Sato had already provided songs for a number of aidoru singers but I did find this one, "Amaryllis"(アマリリス)that he composed for the future hit-makers Wink as their 2nd single in September 1988. Although the synthesizers were in there, I think the Wink sound had still been getting defined with this early work which feels more like a country-pop song. With lyrics by Yukinojo Mori(森雪之丞), "Amaryllis" peaked at No. 30.

Lyricist Ikki Matsumoto(松本一起)and Sato worked together to create Satoshi Ikeda's(池田聡)debut single "Monochrome Venus"(モノクローム・ヴィーナス)for release in August 1986. The above video has the 12-inch version so there are the usual dance remix bells and whistles. It's also the first time to have Ikeda on KKP so I bid him welcome. It's a pretty nice City Pop tune and I get a bit of Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)when I hear his voice. "Monochrome Venus" did well by Ikeda since it broke the Top 10 at No. 9.

"Hometown Express"(ホームタウン急行)was the B-side to vocal group Circus'(サーカス)"American Feeling" single that has become a staple of any high school chorus performance. A very jaunty country tune with visions of Carpenters, this was the theme song for the TV Asahi drama "Tetsudo Kouankan"(鉄道公安官...Railway Police). I love the harmonies here and although the show was categorized as an action-suspense program, I can't help but feel that "Hometown Express" could also be a theme song for any sort of train-based travel series. Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介)wrote the lyrics with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)arranging everything.

Well, speaking about trains, I geeked out a bit when I came across this video. Being an old Leiji Matsumoto(松本零士)fan from way back with "Uchuusenkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト)and "Galaxy Express 999"(銀河鉄道999), I had no idea about this 2003 show "Ginga Tetsudo Monogatari"(銀河鉄道物語...The Galaxy Railways)that had been broadcast on Fuji-TV. So, that wily old fox Matsumoto launched an anime in the "Galaxy Express 999" universe, eh?

And the show even brought back the veteran anime singer Isao Sasaki(ささきいさお)to do the themes including the opening "Ginga Tetsudo wa Haruka nari"(銀河鉄道は遥かなり...The Galaxy Railways Head Off Into the Distance). Just like the theme for "Yamato", this tune begs me to salute it each time it's played. Along with its epic nature, there's even something of the old-fashioned disco as well. Sato worked with lyricist Shiho Aiyoshi(相吉志保).

To wrap up, let's get back to the beginning while still retaining the theme of trains, so I'm finishing up the works of Ken Sato with Junko Ohashi and Minowa Central Station(美乃家セントラル・ステイション). Sato was the one who helped set up his wife's backup band in 1976 with guitarist Masami Tsuchiya(土屋昌巳), later of Ippu-Do(一風堂)fame, joining. Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)provided the lyrics for Sato's spacey funk fest, "Star-light Train" which was Ohashi's 9th single from 1978. Young John Travolta can strut down that New York avenue proudly to this one.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Franchouchou -- Saga Jihen(佐賀事変)

Well, it's just a truncated version of the music video (not anymore), but hey, I will be more than happy to take it. It's good to hear from the zombie aidoru group of Franchouchou once more, especially with a second season on the way and now a "Zombieland Saga" BEST song compilation coming out at the end of November.

Another treat is that one of the more enigmatic members of the team, Zombie No. 5, aka Yuugiri(ゆうぎり)the 19th century courtesan played by Rika Kinugawa(衣川里佳), finally gets the lead vocal this time around with "Saga Jihen" (Saga Incidents). Any similarity of this sultry jazz with a Ringo Shiina/Tokyo Jihen(椎名林檎・東京事変)big band number is purely intentional, I'm sure. Plus, it looks like I got my Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of the week on the blog since I've liked Shiina's jazz fare and Franchouchou. Couldn't find out who wrote and composed it yet but when either me or the anime buddy gets our hands on the CD, I will be sure to let you know.

reset/fripSide -- escape ver. 2001

This song has been a fairly often played tune during my anime buddy's anison hour. And since "escape ver. 2001" by the duo reset reminded me a lot of the Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)dance pop that was racing around Japanese pop culture like wildfire in the 1990s, I decided to do a bit of research.

In fact, I would say that "escape ver. 2001" strikes me as being rather reminiscent of early Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and trf. But indeed as the title says, the duo released the song as one of the tracks on their debut album, cheekily titled "THE VERY BEST OF RESET", which was released in January 2002. As for reset, the duo consisted of vocalist YUMI and songwriter/musician Tatsuo Kimura, and they released three albums between 2002 and 2004. Kimura wrote and composed "escape" with satsuki also working on the lyrics.

From the information that pops up on my buddy's computer screen whenever a song is playing, I knew that "escape ver. 2001" had been a theme song for some computer game. That game, "Shirotsume Souwa ~ Episode of the Clovers"(白詰草話)would come out in its initial limited version later in July 2002 with the general release in October. Little did I know that the game was some sort of eroge restricted to those aged 18 and over with some pretty big seiyuu names like Ayako Kawasumi(川澄綾子), Aya Hisakawa(久川綾)and Hiroshi Kamiya(神谷浩史).

fripSide is another pop duo that got its start soon after reset in 2002, and I think KKP contributor Joana Bernardo may have mentioned them in her own Twitter feed. When I was looking up the original "escape" by reset, I discovered that fripSide had done a slightly more techno cover of the song, so I'm including the video here.

"escape ver. 2008" was a track on fripSide's 5th album from September 2008, "split tears" which was also their first album under a major label. Their first four releases were self-produced. At that time, fripSide consisted of musician/songwriter Satoshi Yaginuma(八木沼悟志)and vocalist/lyricist nao. From 2009, though, nao left fripSide and singer/seiyuu Yoshino Nanjo(南條愛乃)took her place. Nanjo also happened to be one of the main cast of one of my favourite anime, "Joshiraku"(じょしらく), the bespectacled rakugo storyteller Gankyō Kūrubiyūtei(空琉美遊亭丸京).

You & Explosion Band -- Theme from Daigekito Mad Police '80(大激闘マッドポリス'80)

Let me get this straight here. From what I could figure out of the premise from the J-Wiki article on the 1980 cop show "Daigekito Mad Police '80" (The Fiercely Fighting Mad Police '80), a near future Tokyo was struggling under a huge rise in organized crime activity due to a super-organization called The Champagne Mafia which has been given nefarious international support in the form of weapons and ammunition. Basically, what was needed was an elite police squad just as ruthless as the bad guys. In fact, it was supposed to be so ruthless that it was dubbed the Mad Police with the catchphrase for the series being "A shot is fired every 10 seconds, a bad guy is killed every minute!".

When I was living in the Tokyo area, the top news story on TV one night was that a police officer had to fire off a shot at a criminal. I don't remember whether the culprit had been hit or not although I think he was captured, but there were all sorts of reports and bedlam in the media and the police headquarters for a few days afterwards. And that was in the 21st century, a time in which it is still extremely rare for anyone in Japan to carry a firearm outside of the police, the military and organized crime members. So I can imagine that decades ago, shows like "Daigekito Mad Police '80" must have been the purest form of escapist fare on the telly.

The over-the-top opening credits for this show absolutely upped the ante for the usual opening credits for a Japanese cops-and-robbers series. Along with the typical running and grim faces of determination to get their man, there were now tons of explosions, fireballs, flying cannon fodder and guns...lots of guns. It's like witnessing "The A-Team" and a tokusatsu show involving a special forces squad who had been trained by Sean Connery's Jim Malone character from "The Untouchables".

Almost a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a later cop show called "Jungle"(ジャングル)and noted that there were two singers in the cast. Well, "Mad Police" was no different. It had its own songbird in the form of Mayumi Horikawa(堀川まゆみ)as a happy-to-be-shooting-from-a-car cop.

Of course, for opening credits like that, the producers needed a song just as epic. So You, as in jazz pianist/composer Yuji Ohno(大野雄二), & Explosion Band came up with the right theme. Compared with the even more legendary theme from "Taiyo ni Hoero"(太陽にほえろ), there is more hard-boiled jazz thrown into the funkiness. And the interesting thing is that when the horns first come a-blazin', they go down the scale instead of up, as if to hint that the viewers are about to get down into the nitty-gritty of the seamier underbelly of Tokyo life.

If the theme for "Mad Police" sounds familiar, it is perhaps because Ohno has borrowed some riffs from his masterpiece anison, the theme song for "Lupin The 3rd"(ルパン三世). You & Explosion Band incidentally, also has another entry on the blog which is a fair bit more sedate.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Yuki Kato -- Gokai(誤解)

One of those singers whose information is hard to come by, I could only find out that Yuki Kato(加藤有紀)was a singer-lyricist who had graduated from Keio University. Otherwise, she released a couple of singles and a couple of albums in 1983.

The B-side to her 2nd single, "Nazo wa Tokanai de"(謎はと・か・な・い・で...Don't Solve the Mystery), "Gokai" (Misunderstandings) isn't a major City Pop classic but I think that it's a jaunty enough urban contemporary tune paired with Kato's breathy delivery. Written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and composed by Akira Senju(千住明), the way Kato sings and the overall arrangement by Tadashige Matsui(松井忠重)makes me think that "Gokai" straddles the line between City Pop and 80s aidoru.