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.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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.


  1. Hello J-Canuck,

    I'm currently listening to snippets of the album (Shalom) at the iTunes store and color me pleasantly surprised.

    It most definitely has that early disco vibe (pre-Saturday Night Fever) with just the right amount of soul and funk not only to make you dance, but do the Hustle.

    Great find.


    1. Hi, Chasing Showa.

      Definitely the early works of Ohashi have been a great revelation. I've got a few of her albums but as I mentioned above, I will have to try and get "Feeling Now" and even "Shalom", if possible.


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