Credits

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

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Kahimi Karie -- Candyman


Yes, tis nearly the time for the annual influx of Xmas candies and chocolates into the household. Faster than I can say Laura Secord, I will probably have absorbed several examples of Toblerone, Turtles and Black Magic by December 25th, thereby inevitably risking my family physician's disdain. One of my other weaknesses in the chocolate category is Lindt, as shown above, due to its sweet and silky goodness.


Speaking of sweet and silky, I found another Kahimi Karie(カヒミ・カリィ)tune from the 1990s, this time being "Candyman". One of the tracks on the whispery-voiced singer-songwriter's 2nd single "Girly" from June 1994, "Candyman" starts off sounding like an old Jackson 5 tune but then gets some of that 1960s pop swing.

Composed by Keigo Oyamada(小山田圭吾)and written by Karie, the story revolves around Karie's love for her older Candyman who so swept her off her feet that she was more than happy to ditch her Disney acquisitions. There's even a shoutout to those ancient Sony Walkmans. Her voice may be so whispery that I will refer you to the lyrics under the videos at YouTube if you couldn't quite catch them.


Saeko Suzuki -- Mainichi Christmas dattara(毎日がクリスマスだったら)



Saeko Suzuki(鈴木さえ子)is listed in J-Wiki as a musician and composer proficient on percussion and keyboards. And what I hadn't known until earlier this morning is that she was also the person who came up with one of the most famous commercial jingles on Japanese TV. That would be "Sugu Oishii, Sugoku Oishii"(すぐおいしい、すごくおいしい...Soon Tasty, Really Tasty)for Nisshin's Chicken Ramen that I used to hear over and over again in various ways over the years. In fact, as a ramen fan (instant and restaurant-made), I'm developing a Pavlovian reaction as I hear the jingle right now. 😋


Hailing from Tokyo, Suzuki started at a young age on classical piano but was also influenced by her elder sister onto rock music, and then heading into high school, she got into drumming. From 1976 via Aoyama Gakuin University, she got into a number of bands and from 1980, she made her major debut and became a known musician in the New Wave/pop genres. In addition, that's when she started making her mark as a studio musician and a producer of commercial jingles.

1979 was the year that she got to know Keiichi Suzuki(鈴木慶一)of The Moonriders while she was in the band Cinema as the drummer. And several years later in July 1983, the two of them would work together to record and release an album called "I wish it could be Christmas everyday" under the duo name of Psycho Perches, but due to red tape involving the contract, it was put on sale as Saeko's solo debut album.

The title track would also come out as a single in November of that same year. "Mainichi Christmas dattara", written, composed and performed by Saeko,  makes an impression as this quirky and bouncy synthpop Xmas tune that could go well with an adventure in some department store's Toyland. In terms of the arrangement, I think "Mainichi Christmas dattara" tends toward the sound of bands such as PSY-S and even the very early Pizzicato Five rather than that of Yellow Magic Orchestra.


Some years later, Suzuki would cover the song again as a track on her 4th album "Studio Romanticist"(スタジオ・ロマンチスト ...STUDIO ROMANTIC)which was released in June 1987. The title would be extended a bit though into "I wish it could be Christmas everyday in the U.K.". As for the album itself, it peaked at No. 66.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Yutaka Yokokura featuring Pauline Wilson -- Say You Do


With the Yuletide just around the corner, me and my money decided to collaborate on our annual year-end CD spending binge. One of the CDs that I had been aiming for with laser-beam clarity was kotoist and keyboardist Yutaka Yokokura's(横倉裕)1990 album "Brazasia".


Alas, CD Japan doesn't have it and Tower Records indicated that "Brazasia" now has that dreaded haiban status. I realize that a YouTube channel has the entire album but I actually do want the physical album in my hands and on my shelf. The one reason that I want this one is this one track, "Say You Do" which is so warm and breezy and percolating that I feel like I'm already on the plane down south to tropical climes.

What makes it all work for me is not only the calming arrangement by Yokokura but also the vocal charms of Pauline Wilson, especially when she sings out the title itself...just how it trips off the tongue effortlessly like an Olympic diver hitting the water with barely a ripple. I really have to find out more about Wilson since she was also a member of the group Seawind in the 1970s.

Now, although I couldn't get "Brazasia", I didn't give up since I was able to grab Yokokura's 1988 album "Yutaka" which has him and Wilson working together on another wonderful song called "Warm & Sunny Sunday Morning". I'm looking forward to hearing this one.

Step -- Remember Me


Providing that Friday night City Pop tune, I've got the second entry on the blog of this obscure duo which almost had Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)as one-half of that partnership.


You can get to know some of that story in the first article that I wrote about the duo Step consisting of Seiken Komura(小村精権)and Kojiro Nishimori(西森幸次郎). But here, I have another number performed by them, "Remember Me" from 1982. I don't know whether this was one of their three singles or simply a track on their lone album "Rising Tomorrow". However, I do know that this is a groovy and pleasant tune that straddles the border between AOR and City Pop.

For me, I think what sells me on "Remember Me" is those sparkly keyboards and that certain guitar that weaves in and out of the arrangement. The song reminds me somewhat of the melodic output by AB'S Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)and Fujimal Yoshino(吉野藤丸).

The Jaguars -- Kimi ni Aitai(君に会いたい)


Well, in the Group Sounds age, we've had The Spiders, The Tigers and even a band called Ox, so why not a GS sextet called The Jaguars(ザ・ジャガーズ)?


The Jaguars had their genesis from a proto-band created within a teenager entertainment collective called the Roppongi Yajuu Kai(六本木野獣会...Roppongi Beast Association)in 1963, known as the Yajuu Kai All-Stars. Then, the following year, the band became Yukio Miya and The Play Five(宮ユキオとザ・プレイ・ファイブ)with Miya as the drummer and leader. But with their debut at Philips Records in 1967, the group was finally established as The Jaguars with Miya, lead vocalist Shin Okamoto(岡本信), bassist Mikio Morita(森田巳木夫), guitarists Koichi Miyazaki(宮崎こういち)& Hisayuki Okitsu(沖津ひさゆき), and organist Yasuharu Sato(佐藤安治). The lineup would change a few times over the next few years.

Their debut single was "Kimi ni Aitai" from June 1967. Although I can translate that as "I Want To See You", the official English-language title was apparently "Want You See Again" after the one main line in the lyrics by Masakazu/Shoichi Kiyokawa(清川正一), who was also responsible for the music.


The subtitles for this later performance of "Kimi ni Aitai" has that main line being transcribed as "Won't You See Again", but I guess I'll stick with the original although seeing that somewhat mangled English title gives me a bit of the crawlies. No problems with the music, though. Although I was not out of diapers at the time of the song, there is still plenty of nostalgic goodness to be had here.

During the original Group Sounds era up to 1971, The Jaguars put out 8 singles and 3 albums with their reign officially from 1964 to 1971. Another single came out in 1982 when the group decided to get back together, and then this period lasted all the way to 2009 when unfortunately vocalist Okamoto passed away that year at the age of 59 on the eve of his birthday.

Noriko Sakai -- Otoko no Ko ni Naritai(男のコになりたい)


Perhaps not the most pleasant point to begin from, but on hearing about the recent arrest of actress Erika Sawajiri(沢尻エリカ)for drug possession and usage on NHK News, I started wondering how former aidoru and actress Noriko Sakai(酒井法子)was doing. It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since Sakai herself and her now ex-husband had been arrested for drug possession. When I left Japan a couple of years later, she still seemed to have been persona non grata in the media so I lost contact although as long as she desired a return to show business, I couldn't imagine that she would be in exile for an entire decade.

And apparently, according to her J-Wiki article, she was taking those baby steps right from the early 2010s in regaining her career through some TV appearances, stage acting and career anniversary celebrations including an overseas dinner show in Taiwan earlier this year.


My earliest memories of her involved Nori-P's(のりピー)appearances on the 1980s music ranking shows such as "The Best 10" as this pixie-ish aidoru with the twinkling eyes and beaming smile, although I never became a big fan of hers. Her debut single was released in February 1987, "Otoko no Ko ni Naritai" (I Want to Become a Boy).

Written by veteran lyricist Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composed by songwriter and producer Frankie T., who would later start up a music group called SEIRIOS, "Otoko no Ko ni Naritai" deals with a young girl who seems to be having trouble getting close to the local heartthrob since he likes hanging out with his buddies. But, as she theorizes, if she were to become a guy, she could finally make that approach and then convince him that she's the one for him once she makes the change back.


Nori-P was already pretty dynamic in her performances if the above video is any representative example. The song is also fairly catchy with that synthesizer beat and that bit of onomatopoeia near the end. "Otoko no Ko ni Naritai" broke the Top 10 by coming in at No. 8. The album version also started off her debut release "Fantasia"(ファンタジア)which was released in July 1987.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Hiroshi Madoka -- Kaze no Arpeggio(風のアルペジオ)


Even in quiz show-happy Japan where shows and theme music tie-ups have been common for some time, I was a bit surprised that this one was the ending theme for this turn-of-the-decade (80s to 90s) program on TV Asahi called "Quiz Shigotonin"(クイズ仕事人...Quiz Pros).


Not that there is anything wrong with Hiroshi Madoka's(円広志)"Kaze no Arpeggio" (Wind Arpeggio). Far from it. It's quite the shibui song that has that tang of class and Mood Kayo in-bar introspection. Plus, Madoka sounds quite a bit like singer-songwriter Takao Kisugi(来生たかお). I just didn't think that it would be a theme tune for a quiz show; it sounds like something that would adorn a drama or a commercial for a Toyota Cressida driving around at night.

"Kaze no Arpeggio" was Madoka's 15th single and although he is also a songwriter, this particular tune wasn't his creation. The lyricist and composer was Shigeyuki Shibano(柴野繁幸)who had also been the guitarist/vocalist for the 80s rock band, RoveBard(ロブバード). Of course, when it comes to Madoka's magnum opus, there is this one song.

Orquesta de la Luz -- Salsa Caliente del Japon


For all of you down in the United States, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope that most of you were able to reach your destinations despite the inclement weather. Perhaps some of you are about to tuck into or have just finished your great repast and are now resting comfortably on some furniture which may or may not be groaning on the increased strain.

Feel free to watch the above video on what do with those inevitable Thanksgiving leftovers on "Binging With Babish", one of the many other YouTube channels I've subscribed to.


However, if some of you have already generated some guilt on indulging on the turkey, stuffing (I do love that bread the turkey ate), pie, and what other dishes exist on the table, and if your collective gastrointestinal tracts are up to it, you can start on a bit of that exercise thanks to that grand band, Orquesta de la Luz(オルケスタ・デ・ラ・ルス).

The last time I wrote about Japan's master salsa band was back in September when I covered their latest song from their 2019 album "Gracias Salseros". Well, now, I'm going all the way back to the early days when vocalist NORA and the gang started off in 1990 with their debut album "De La Luz". The opening track is "Salsa Caliente del Japon", whose lyrics seem to be a friendly greeting and a cover letter of sorts for salsa fans around the world who were knocked off their feet by this talented group.

The weather may have gotten a good deal colder but the heat can be turned up with the help of some good hip-swinging music.


¡Provecho! (if you haven't eaten yet)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Masahiko Kondo -- Midnight Station(ミッドナイト・ステーション)


One thing about 80s aidoru Masahiko Kondo(近藤真彦)is that I could never imagine the fellow singing or dancing anything half-assed. He goes down to town as fast and as hard as any of those high-flying motorcycles that fans imagine him riding in his songs. Even Marvel's Ghost Rider would probably go "Whoa! Steady on there.".


Once again, he goes (adorable) teen punk with his "Midnight Station", Matchy's 9th single released in January 1983. In the song penned by the perennial songwriting duo of Takashi Matsumoto and Kyohei Tsutsumi(松本隆・筒美京平), he's living life large, my friend, and considering how much he yells her name, perhaps the alternate title could have been "Bonnie".


Looking at that footage above, I wonder if the various PTA's across Japan wanted to report him for musical delinquency while other folks wanted to say "Awwwww" and pat him on the head. But that is indeed Matchy in full bloom, and "Midnight Station", with the screaming guitar and the propulsive beat, is a Matchy tune.

The song hit No. 1 on Oricon and became the 23rd-ranked single of 1983, and won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards.

Do As Infinity -- Tooku made(遠くまで)


It's been a while since I've mentioned anything about early 2000s band Do As Infinity but I got reminded of Tomiko Van(伴都美子), D.A.I. and Ryo Owatari(大渡亮)a few days ago while my anime buddy and I were doing the usual anison hour at his place. There was that recognizable voice of Van as she sang, and when I looked at the screen, I found out that the title was "Tooku made" (Far Away), Do As Infinity's 8th single from April 2001.


What I learned was that "Tooku made" was also the theme song for the anime feature "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" which came out in Japan the same year.


The official music video was far different in theme, though, as Van plays a soldier doing her best in battle. Written and composed by Do As Infinity guitarist and songwriter D.A.I., "Tooku made" peaked at No. 12 . It was also a track on the band's 3rd album "Deep Forest" from September 2001, which hit the top of the charts and finished the year as the 32nd-ranked album.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mami Takahashi -- Kataomoi no X'mas(片想いのX'mas)


Doesn't really sound like an Xmas tune but hey, it's got the title and the setting is the Yuletide.


For fans of the 1980s aidorus, perhaps the name Mami Takahashi(高橋真美)won't immediately bring up any recollection but if I mention the aidoru trio Warabe(わらべ)with their hit "Medaka no Kyoudai"(めだかの兄妹), that might ring some bells since Takahashi was one of the three members.

Warabe broke up around 1985 after which Takahashi had a brief time as a solo aidoru. Only two singles were produced with the latter one being this song "Kataomoi no X'mas" (One-Way Love Xmas), a somewhat twinkly and melancholy tune about pining for that one fellow near Christmas Day, a holiday seen as the year's latter-half Valentine's Day. Considering the overall sound, I think this may be one of the few Xmas-themed techno kayo aidoru tunes that I have ever heard.

Masao Urino(売野雅勇)was the lyricist with Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)taking care of the music. Since that time, though, Takahashi has pursued a career as a tarento.

Wakako Shimazaki -- J.J. ga Ita Natsu(J・Jがいた夏)


I've known about tarento Wakako Shimazaki(島崎和歌子)for years and even knew that she had started her show business career as an aidoru. However, I had assumed that she was one of the late 1980s teenybopper singers when in fact she was actually a 1990s aidoru.


She's popped up on a number of shows but the program that I've currently associated Shimazaki with is "Honma Dekka!? TV"(ホンマでっか!?TV), veteran comedian Sanma Akashiya's(明石家さんま)information variety show about a whole panel of experts giving out stats and wisdom while other tarento and comedians have a chance to snark back. No matter which show she appears on, she will always be known for that booming laughter of hers along with the fact that she loves to eat and drink.


But getting back to her old music side, I found this 5th single of hers from August 1990, "J.J. ga Ita Natsu" (The Summer That J.J. Was Here). I was about to make a snarky remark of my own about a certain Hollywood producer/director but frankly I would be a few years too early although according to his Wiki entry, he did write the script for Harrison Ford's "Regarding Henry" back in 1991.

I'd never heard any of Shimazaki's output as a singer before, but listening to "J.J.", she wasn't too bad as an aidoru here. It's quite a bouncy tune about someone pining for a J.J., and it's got some writing cachet since the lyricist was Yu Aku(阿久悠)with Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔)as the composer.



Monday, November 25, 2019

Tetsuo Saito -- Itsumo Music(いつもミュージック)


Through an old friend of mine, I heard that another mutual friend, when he was first courting his girlfriend, traveled hundreds of kilometres with his guitar by train to her family's house so that he could serenade her. I thought that stuff like this only happened on TV and in the movies. Past my initial shock, I ended up not asking what the fellow sang for her, but whatever it was, it was successful. They've been married for many years now.


I'm fairly certain, though, that it wasn't a City Pop tune. That was saved by singer-songwriter Tetsuo Saito(斉藤哲夫)who's far more famous for a song that was once used as a commercial tune for a Minolta camera. In that article for "Ima no Kimi wa Pikapika ni Hikatte" (いまのキミはピカピカに光って), I mentioned that Saito had been known as a folk and New Music singer back in the 1970s.

Well, the same year (1980) that his big hit came out, Saito also put out an album in July called "Itsumo Music" (Always Music). I don't know what the overall genre or genres are in this one, but the title track definitely has that urban contemporary intent in mind. Plus, Saito's lyrics seem to be calling out for his lady love in serenading fashion. He probably would have needed that rhythm section underneath her window sill, though. For a fellow who was into folk/New Music, he really does show his inner cool funkiness here. That underlying beat is relentless! And what is also catchy is how he enunciates music.

Akira Fuse/Chuei Yoshikawa -- Hizashi no Naka de(陽ざしの中で)


It's been a while since I've put up anything by Akira Fuse(布施明)and just to remind myself that the 1970s were also part of the age of big-voiced singers of kayo, it's time to get that song up by him.


Fuse's "Hizashi no Naka de" (In the Sunlight) is his April 1976 single that was written by Shinji Seki(関真次)and composed by Chuei Yoshikawa(吉川忠英)with Ichizo Seo(瀬尾一三)in charge of arrangement. A sad and wistful folksy tune about a loved one who's no longer around, Fuse isn't throwing out his vocals like a sonic cannon here but for such a ballad, it's far better for him to take the quieter approach. His single went all the way up to No. 12 on Oricon, and later became the 59th-ranked single of the year, selling a shade over 200,000 records.


Composer Yoshikawa did a cover of his own tune in the same year via his 3rd album "chuei#29". It sounds even more wistful and mournful than the one by Fuse.

Mariya Takeuchi -- Lonely Wind


Oh, you NHK you! Still trying to pull off those surprises when you set up an annual Kohaku Utagassen. Here I was showing a bit of disappointment over Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)not getting onto the New Year's Eve show when I found out that none other than the Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)is going to make her very first appearance on the special.

She's coming on as a special guest and not as a member of the Red team, so I can only wonder what the lady will perform. Will it indeed be a song about some amity for synthetic compounds or one of her other big hits? Most likely, I think it will probably be a medley...a veritable Mariya meal for the fans. Maybe even her husband will show up?


Well, while we're all counting down the sleeps to December 31st, allow me to provide some tribute to the occasion by putting up a Takeuchi number from her 3rd album "Love Songs" released in March 1980, "Lonely Wind". This is straight from the Mariya songbook of her early period: a 1950s-ish doo-wop tune whose harmonies are mellow to the ears and comforting for the sense of nostalgia. With lyrics by Kazuko Kobayashi(小林和子), the music was provided by Kingo Hamada(浜田金吾), the singer-songwriter who may have come from a folk background thanks to his work with the 70s band Craft but has also shown love for the standards stylings of yesteryear.

I kinda doubt that "Lonely Wind" will make it onto the play list for any Mariya medley on the Kohaku, but I can still dream.

Maki Asakawa -- Machi no Sakaba de(町の酒場で)


Friday nights are usually the celebratory time of the week with the corporate cogs getting out to the nearest beloved izakaya for some snacks and drinks and blowing off some steam.


Then, what would be a night like a Monday be like in Tokyo? Well, if folks aren't headed straight home for dinner, perhaps they may be hitting the bars as well, but I don't think that it would necessarily be all that hale and hearty. Perhaps the trip for some libation may be down to a solo act or a duet and the mood may be more of a commiserating one as another arduous work week begins.

That was the mood I got when I discovered this song by the late singer-songwriter Maki Asakawa(浅川マキ)for the first time earlier today. Her song-in-trade is in the jazz and blues genres according to J-Wiki, and for her 5th album, "Uramado ~ MAKI V"(裏窓...Rear Window)released in November 1973, she supplied "Machi no Sakaba de" (In A Town Watering Hole), very much a bluesy and beautiful number about ending up as a lonely person drinking one's sorrows away.

Indeed, the blues atmosphere is obvious but I can also pick up hints of country and kayo in "Machi no Sakaba de", and Asakawa's vocals possess that seen-it-all, done-it-all quality but they also still have a certain bell clarity as if the booze and cigarettes haven't quite deposited all that much rasp quite yet. There's a wonderful sax solo in there and the arrangement seems to be ideal for performing in that lonely bar somewhere deep downtown.

"Uramado" peaked at No. 72 on Oricon. Asakawa provided more than a couple of dozen albums up to 1998 along with a dozen singles. She hailed from Ishikawa Prefecture and according to Wikipedia, she based her style on singers such as Mahalia Jackson and Billie Holiday. Asakawa even collaborated with a wide range of artists including Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), Tokiko Kato(加藤登紀子)and Takuro Yoshida(吉田拓郎). She was due to perform a final set of a 3-night gig in Nagoya back in January 2010 when she passed away from heart failure at the age of 67.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cast of "Tenchi Muyo!" -- Jingle Bells


Heard plenty about the anime franchise "Tenchi Muyo!"(天地無用!)but never saw it, although an old university classmate tended to wear a T-shirt with the picture of the characters emblazoned on it.

Still, early this year, I encountered this fun and jazzy (and initially acapella) version of the evergreen "Jingle Bells" as performed by the cast of this anime. I kept it ready for just the right occasion, and seeing that we're now a month away from Xmas Eve, I figured it was time to start up the annual "Kayo Kyoku Plus" series of Xmas tunes with this one.

Did a bit of digging and found out that it was a track on "Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki no Christmas Album"(天地無用! 魎皇鬼のクリスマス...Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki's Christmas)from November 1993. From one site, I even managed to find out all of the seiyuu names behind this party version of "Jingle Bells": Masami Kikuchi(菊池正美), Yuko Kobayashi(小林優子), Etsuko Kozakura(小桜エツ子), Yuko Mizutani(水谷優子), Ai Orikasa(折笠愛), Yumi Takada(高田由美)and Chisa Yokoyama(横山智佐).

Have a Merry Anime Christmas!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Miki Matsubara -- Stardust Rain(スターダスト レイン)


I've heard Miki Matsubara's(松原みき)classic City Pop and her forays into jazz/Latin. Now, I've been able to hear something of hers that combines the two.


From her September 1983 album "Revue", I bring you "Stardust Rain" that even has a hint of Latin but then the bass and keyboards bring it back to City Pop. Indeed, images of driving through Tokyo come to my head although I have never gotten anywhere near a steering wheel in my life (must be Van Paugam's footage from his former YouTube channel). Then, suddenly this big band brass makes itself known in the arrangement as if the 1940s and the 1980s have decided to share their popular music. A nice Saturday night tune.

Masao Urino(売野雅勇)was responsible for the words while City Pop/AOR impresario Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)came up with the cool music. "Revue" itself peaked at No. 73 on the charts.

Maiko Okamoto -- Juu-Ichi-Gatsu no Sophia(11月のソフィア)


When I first wrote about 80s aidoru Maiko Okamoto(岡本舞子)back on Xmas Eve 2016, I mentioned that I hadn't ever heard of her before. Well, that's not quite true anymore. That is to say, I hadn't heard about her but I did hear her.


To explain further while I have a slice of humble pie, a long time ago back in my university days when I was ravenously eating up various tapes and LPs listening to anyone and everyone from Japanese pop, there was a tape of 80s aidoru music that I had borrowed from someone. On that tape was one rather notable song in that I still remember the introductory crystalline synthesizer.

Last night, I got to hear that intro for the first time in virtually decades. But as has been the case with many a song that I heard in the 80s, I never got around to finding out the title or the singer. The mystery has finally been solved, though, and indeed, it is young Okamoto who was behind the vocals for this bittersweet tune titled "Juu-Ichi-Gatsu no Sophia" (November Sophia). Quite month-appropriate considering when I'm writing this.


"Juu-Ichi-Gatsu no Sophia" was Okamoto's 4th single released on November 1st 1985. It was composed by Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー)and arranged by Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), and on seeing both names, I figured that this entry by the singer was a cut above the average teenybopper tune. Along with that synth, those strings nicely carry the wistful mood of a university student remembering the scenes of a past romance, including waiting for the fellow at a campus cafe, thanks to Yasushi Akimoto's(秋元康)lyrics.


Considering the title and the setting of the campus, I wondered whether the song was actually referring to Sophia University in Tokyo. Coincidentally enough, my Japanese language school graduating class in 1981 visited one of the two campuses in Tokyo during our trip through Japan, and at the welcome party, it was the first time I had eaten caviar (wasn't impressed with the roe, sorry to say). Anyways, to get back to "Juu-Ichi-Gatsu no Sophia", it peaked at No. 45 on Oricon.

Ninja -- Heartbreak Haru Shigure(失恋春時雨)


Barely remember this Johnny's aidoru group, Ninja(忍者), who had their time in the 1990s. This band of six: Susumu Yanagisawa(柳沢超), Yasunobu Shiga(志賀泰伸), Naoto Endo(遠藤直人), Shinya Masaki(正木慎也), Nobuhide Takagi(高木延秀)and Eiji Furukawa(古川栄司)had their run between 1985 and 1997, although for the first half-decade of their time, they were known as Shigedan(シゲダン)and then Shonen Ninja(少年忍者), a group of back dancers before making their full-fledged debut as Ninja in 1990.


Ninja debuted with "O-matsuri Ninja"(お祭り忍者...Festival Ninja)in August of that year and made it onto NHK's Kohaku Utagassen on New Year's Eve for their sole appearance on the special. However, I'm going to start their file with "Heartbreak Haru Shigure" (Heartbreak Spring Rain) which was a track on their 2nd album "Ninja Hakusho"(NINJA白書...Ninja White Paper)from March 1991.

Sounding like the group on horseback at breakneck speed, Ninja also sounds like their sempai group, Hikaru Genji(光GENJI), and according to the various pictures that show up in the above YouTube video, Yanagisawa and company even had some get-ups which made them appear like ninja by way of Las Vegas. "Heartbreak Haru Shigure" was written by Aki Mana(真名杏樹)and composed by Yasuhiro Mizushima(水島康宏).

During their time in the spotlight, Ninja released 13 singles and 9 albums including a BEST release.

Kyoko Yoshizawa -- Suttobe Seishun(すっ跳べ青春)


I gather that it must have been a thing in the 1960s going into the 1970s that a lot of kayo seemed to have been arranged so that they sounded like a boisterous march. There are a number of examples that come to mind, including Kazuo Funaki's(舟木一夫)"Koukou Sannen-sei" (高校三年生)and of course, Kiyoko Suizenji's(水前寺清子)"Sanbyaku Rokujuu Go Ho no March" (三百六十五歩のマーチ). Maybe it was just one of those things to get the populace roused up and ready to tackle on the day.


That was what I was thinking about as I listened to "Suttobe Seishun" (Take Off, Youth), the 2nd single for then-16-year-old actress Kyoko Yoshizawa(吉沢京子)from August 1970, and the theme song for one of her first movies "Batsugun Joshi Koukousei Juu-roku-sai Kanjichau"(バツグン女子高校生 16才は感じちゃう...Outstanding High School Girl Senses Being 16). Her singing career lasted just four years while her filmography is considerably longer, and frankly, although her delivery of "Suttobe Seishun" isn't all that polished, I think that was the point of her singing the tune...a callow young girl-next-door making her journey of trepidation through the teen years and her voice reflects that...as would many aidoru in the decades to come.

But perhaps to lyricist Tokiko Iwatani(岩谷時子)and composer Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰), Yoshizawa could do this over a horn-enhanced melody that could have everybody in the town marching proudly in the schoolyard during an annual Sports Day festival.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Yoko Maeno -- Winelight


Gonna finish my quartet of songs tonight with another urban contemporary number from the 1980s.


Yoko Maeno's(前野曜子)"Winelight" is a cover of the title track from Grover Washington Jr.'s 1980 studio album. Originally created by William Eaton, Washington's "Winelight" is a great chance to hear the saxophonist getting to have his generous portions of Beef Wellington...in a musical sense, of course. As for Maeno's cover, this was included on her final album released in 1982, "Twilight". The singer does a great job as well with those Japanese and English lyrics, although I couldn't track down who provided the Japanese (is this a job for Daemonskald?) with a nice funky group of musicians behind her.



To finish off, "Winelight" is a fine title track but the album also has a far more famous and beloved song with Bill Withers providing his vocals. And Toshinobu Kubota(久保田利伸)managed to sing a cover of this one. Have a good weekend!

Meiko Nakahara -- Cloudy na Gogo(Cloudyな午後)


Nope, this one isn't from "Mint", but from the Meiko Nakahara(中原めいこ)album coming afterwards, "Lotus no Kajitsu"(ロートスの果実...Lotus Fruit), released in July 1984.


I've heard my share of heartbreak songs over the past several days, so it's nice when I can cover the odd happy romance once in a while. Previously, I'd assumed with a title of "Cloudy na Gogo" (Cloudy Afternoon), this would be another ballad about a lonely person sighing by a raindrop-spattered window as he/she wonders what happened to the love. Instead it looks like Nakahara's creation is just about a couple spending a lovely and loving time within the confines of their urban apartment while the clouds open up on the city. Never a bad thing, that.

That familiar piano that comes in and out puts "Cloudy na Gogo" in good ol' City Pop territory, and of course, Nakahara is one of my princesses of the genre, but there are also those strings and the arrangement sometimes that kinda steals this mid-tempo tune into simply romantic pop balladry. But by the end, City Pop and AOR come up with one of their own by throwing in that saxophone. It's a nice way to end "Lotus no Kajitsu".

Hiro Shimono -- Soul Flag/Akio Otsuka -- White Collar Elegy(ホワイトカラーエレジー)


For all you slice-of-life anime fans, remember "Shirokuma Cafe"(しろくまカフェ)from 2012? That has been one of my favourite shows since coming back to Canada, and it is the mellow anime response to the NBC long-running sitcom "Cheers" with its mix of humans and animals interacting with each other.

Well, as one YouTube commenter said it, he found the anime adaptation of "The Office". Indeed, both the anime buddy and I found it too for this season's crop, and that would be "Africa no Salaryman"(アフリカのサラリーマン...African Office Worker). Again, we've got a whole herd of anthropomorphized animals getting in all sorts of shenanigans in and outside of the corporation. The humour here is wacky compared with the gentler if quirky version in "Shirokuma Cafe".


Not surprisingly then, the opening theme "Soul Flag" is good, loud and in-your-ears. It's performed by seiyuu Hiro Shimono(下野紘)as the oft-trouble-making toucan Ohashi (I hear he has a cousin in America who works for Kellogg's). His over-the-top performance comes off his other crazy stint as Zenitsu, one of the demon hunters in "Kimetsu no Yaiba"(鬼滅の刃), who should never be allowed to get near any Red Bull.


As I was listening to "Soul Flag" in the opening credits, that intro had me wondering if lyricist RUCCA and composer Ryo Takahashi(高橋諒)had been channeling their inner Van Halen or some other 80s rock band when they were coming up with the song. Speaking of shoutouts, those opening credits had Lion, Ohashi and Tokage dancing some steps which had become quite the thing last year, thanks to DA PUMP's "U.S.A.".


Couldn't find the full version of the ending theme, so I will go with the actual ending credits. "White Collar Elegy" by Lion himself, aka Akio Otsuka(大塚明夫), was written by veteran lyricist Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composed by Kodai Akiba(秋葉広大)as a calming ballad when compared to "Soul Flag". It goes well with the fading scenes of the three main characters going about a normal day and late into the night at the office. I think that it's got that singing-by-the-campfire atmosphere around it as Lion strums on the guitar.

Toshiyuki Honda -- Good Evening


For any Japanese TV news watcher in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, there was the program "News Station"(ニュースステーション)on TV Asahi which starred the somewhat avuncular host/tarento Hiroshi Kume(久米宏). Before that, he had been the longtime co-host of the music rankings show "The Best 10" alongside Tetsuko Kuroyanagi(黒柳徹子). Both of them were known for their rapid-fire speaking style.


I didn't watch "News Station" all that much since when the 10 o'clock hour came about, I had already caught NHK's 9 o'clock news and I really preferred to catch some variety show instead of overdosing on the news on my ancient antenna TV. Strangely enough, the thing that I remembered most for "News Station" aside from Kume was the theme song.

And yet, I found out that "News Station" during its 19-year run had a number of theme songs easing their way into the broadcast. However, the one tune that I have always remembered and that I'd assumed was the one and only theme was its third version (out of the ten that came out) which had a four-year stint between 1989 and 1993. Called appropriately enough "Good Evening", this was created by composer and jazz saxophonist Toshiyuki Honda(本多俊之).

The thing that got me hooked on "Good Evening" was that rat-a-tat style that introduced the song. That mix of synthesizers and tight snap on the snares got my attention, and now that I've given a listen to the whole thing, "Good Evening" seems to be all about a circus-like atmosphere surrounding something as serious as the evening news. Perhaps it was Honda's own interpretation of the old-style newsroom with telephones ringing off the hook, editors barking orders and typewriters clacking away at warp speed. Quite the fun ride.


Apparently one night, Honda and his band showed up to do "Good Evening" live right in front of Kume and company. The one thing that I noticed was the list of musicians backing him up underneath the YouTube video. One of the ladies on percussion was Mishio Ogawa(小川美潮)who had been the lead vocalist for the band Chakra in the early 1980s.

"Good Evening" was the theme that lasted the longest at 4 years and 3 months, and Honda would then provide a new theme for "News Station" right after called "Harmony" whose stint would go on for 3.5 years.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hibari Misora -- Murasaki no Yoake(むらさきの夜明け)


As much as my image of the late legendary Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)has been that of the grande dame of kayo, alternately wearing a kimono or a sparkly jazzy dress, I was surprised to find out that she did have her time of "getting down", so to speak. And I think that was in the late 1960s when she started getting hep with mini-skirts and go-go boots in her performance of "Makkana Taiyo"(真赤な太陽). It was quite the eye-opener seeing her perform this one on TV via YouTube.


Well, it looks like she wanted to keep the good times (rock n') rollin' since the year following that massive hit "Makkana Taiyo", Misora retained the same two songwriters, lyricist Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡治)and composer/jazz tenor sax player Nobuo Hara(原信夫), to create "Murasaki no Yoake" (Purple Sunrise) in January 1968.


With a mix of kayo and a beat similar to the one used by Group Sounds bands, "Murasaki no Yoake" has quite the similarity with "Makkana Taiyo". Not sure how it did on the embryonic Oricon charts; maybe not as well as the first song since of that similarity but it's still intriguing to watch the Queen of Kayo Kyoku shimmy.

Takeshi Kitayama -- Kibou no Uta(希望の詩)

(short version)

Recently, I found this YouTube channel of kayo called abapon yamada which consists a lot of videos which contain 10 songs each by a certain famous songwriter. It's been quite interesting for taking a look for a variety of enka, Mood Kayo and pop tunes.

One such video is in tribute to the late composer Minoru Endo(遠藤実), who I was surprised to find out had one of his compositions released as late as April 2008. This is "Kibou no Uta" (Song of Hope) as performed by enka singer Takeshi Kitayama(北山たけし).


The lyrics by Takashi Taka(たかたかし)relate the story of a couple breaking up for whatever reason but with them deciding to take the high road and resolving to remember the fun times before parting for good. Think of it as the Japanese version of Rick and Ilsa's story in "Casablanca"...or perhaps it should be Kamakura. In any case, it's another example of the kayo trope of smiling through the tears through Endo's jaunty melody.

"Kibou no Uta" got as high as No. 28 on Oricon. This may have been one of Endo's final songs since in December 2008, he would pass away at the age of 76.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Yuki Saito/Mioko Yamaguchi -- Owari no Kehai(終りの気配)


Because I hadn't been aware of who singer-songwriter Mioko Yamaguchi(山口美央子)was until this blog was well under way, I didn't know about her contributions to Yuki Saito's(斉藤由貴)10th album "LOVE" from 1991 when I bought the audiotape version decades ago.


I've now further found out that the Yamaguchi/Saito connection went back even further when the two of them worked together as composer and lyricist respectively on a track from the latter's 6th album "PANT" released in March 1988. The song, "Owari no Kehai" (The Sign of the End) was the lead track and was even used for the above NEC commercial featuring Saito herself. "PANT", by the way, peaked at No. 4 on Oricon.


"Owari no Kehai" is about the end of romance and yet Yamaguchi's melody sounds very innocent and child-like, further enhanced by Saito's near-whispery vocals. The overall feeling is of fragility as if Saito is representing someone all rolled up into a fetal position after having to go through a breakup that she hadn't wanted at all. At some points, the lass' voice almost threatens to vaporize, perhaps triggering the listener to want to pat her head and go "There, there...plenty of other fish in the sea". Then, there is the melancholy piano which takes up the last minute of the song that finishes off the effect; if I were a video director, the camera would be pulling away from Saito in that ball as the room she is gets bigger and bigger making her look even lonelier.


What got me to write about the song in the first place was due to the fact that Yamaguchi had covered it in her latest album "FLOMA" which I took a look at last week. With the singer's deeper vocals and the somewhat more pensive arrangement, my image of "Owari no Kehai" here and now is that of an older version of Saito just going back through her memories of that long-ago romance with a little regret but also with more wisdom and distance.

Yumi Matsutoya/Reimy -- Zansho(残暑)



How would you like to be on a plane taking off while this song is playing? Yep, as a Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)fan, I'm biased, but I think that I would be slightly more relaxed than I usually would be having Yuming(ユーミン)lulling me into a calmer state. Again, I'm not a huge fan of air travel.

I first heard "Zansho" (Lingering Summer Heat) after acquiring her November 1990 22nd album "Tengoku no Door"(天国のドア...The Gates of Heaven)during my JET days. Considering the release date, perhaps a lot of her fans were indeed swooning about those last days of summer. I certainly am now since my city has apparently gotten an early taste of winter. It's a lazy and mellow tune in which I especially like that gentle intro of an Asian riff with that concluding chord sounding like something from Steely Dan.

Going from the 1980s into the 1990s, I recall that Yuming and her husband Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆)were aiming for that pop sound with plenty of synthesizers, a move for which the latter has since expressed some regret in a later interview. However, I think that sound just represents that particular stage in his wife's career, and I have no animosity at all for "Zansho".


Some years later, I found out that Yuming's "Zansho" on "Tengoku no Door" was actually a self-cover of a song that had been given to singer-songwriter Reimy(麗美)early in her career. The original was Reimy's 3rd single from September 1984, and though I prefer the newer arrangement from 1990, Reimy's "Zansho" still has that wondrous and whimsical air along with that mellow sound that characterized Yuming's music at the same time.

"Zansho" was also a track on Reimy's 2nd album "R" which came out at the same time as the single. Just to finish off, although I have enjoyed Reimy's later work and voice as the 80s came to a close, there is something also very angelic about her vocals back when she first started.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Katsuyuki Mito -- Kimi ga Ireba(キミがいれば)



The one word that I have to describe "Kimi ga Ireba" (As Long As You're Here) and its accompanying music video by singer-songwriter Katsuyuki Mito(ミトカツユキ)is SNAZZY. Sounding like an even more soulful Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之), Mito incorporates some ballet-like jazz piano tinkling along with funky arrangements to make this November 2007 single a happy-go-lucky winner in my books.

All that music goodness in one song is perhaps no surprise after reading his bio on J-Wiki in which Mito, who had started on piano when he was around 4 years old in his native Hokkaido, got the performing bug after hearing Earth Wind & Fire's legendary "September" on the radio one day. While doing gigs in Sapporo, he worked on a variety of jazz, soul and gospel pieces. When he came south to Tokyo in 2004, he did some busking along with work as a radio personality and even helping in the making of some drama theme songs.

"Kimi ga Ireba" was Mito's 5th single out of six that he has released so far, and he's released a slew of albums up to 2015, the majority of them being mini-albums.

Miharu Koshi -- Harbor Light(ハーバー・ライト)


I was listening to the above, Miharu Koshi's(越美晴)"Golden Best" which had been released sometime in 2006, and this single CD Best album has many of her songs in the first part of her career between 1979 and 1981 when she was exploring the City Pop and AOR genres.

(4:04)

One of the tracks on "Golden Best" is "Harbor Light" which was the B-side to Koshi's 1979 4th single "Kardia no Umi"(カルディアの海). Written and composed by the singer, in comparison with the tropical intrigue of that A-side, "Harbor Light" seems to take things back to downtown Tokyo with its own mysteries of late-night trysts. I do like that bouncy piano and the introductory riff that reminds me of Billy Joel's "The Stranger". The melody, though, kinda weaves back and forth between the not-so-desired secrecy and the best part of the whirlwind romance. However, as they say, all good things come to an end.


Kiyomi Suzuki -- Yoake no Starlight(夜明けのスタライト)


I had been hoping that it would happen, but alas it didn't. I'm talking about the just-announced lineup for NHK's 70th Kohaku Utagassen at the end of next month, and unfortunately the White team doesn't have Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)with Rikka Ihara(伊原六花)and their "Love Dramatic"(ラブ・ドラマティック). Maybe NHK never considered them or Martin may have politely declined NHK's invitation but we won't be having some of that cool soul from him this year, unfortunately. C'est la vie.


Therefore, just to soften the blow a bit, I'm putting up this soulful ballad by Suzuki's elder sister, Kiyomi Suzuki(鈴木聖美), "Yoake no Starlight" (Sunrise Starlight) which was her 3rd single from September 1988. I'm not sure whether it had originally been recorded as a solo by Kiyomi but I do love the duet between the Suzuki siblings above. The Deities of Love Songs, indeed...

Written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)and composed by Harutoshi Noda(野田晴稔), I wouldn't mind seeing more collaborations between Kiyomi and Masayuki. It's just the thing to cool down with on a Tuesday evening. I can only imagine that New Year's Day get-togethers with the Suzuki family must be something else.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Chickenshack -- Love Is Here To Stay


A few years ago, I wrote about this jazz/fusion band called Chickenshack and how much I liked their "At Temps" from their debut album "Chickenshack I" from 1986. The musical version of nursing a cognac while resting up in a penthouse apartment after a hard day of work, it kinda felt like bringing Los Angeles to Tokyo.

(4:41)

Today, I stumbled across their 4th album, logically called "Chickenshack IV", and the band members must have been pretty prolific with their music since No. 4 came out in 1988, just a couple of years after their inaugural album.

One track that I've already really started getting into is the 2nd track "Love Is Here To Stay" which is much more of a straight-up R&B tune of those days when compared to the light and mellow AOR of "At Temps". According to the Japanese write-up at Zigsow, John Black is the vocalist for this song that seems to keep things right in LA. Most of "Love Is Here To Stay" is about strutting on the streets but then near the end comes this saxophone solo that takes listeners soaring up into the night sky for several seconds before making that soft landing back downtown.

Yuko Ando -- TEXAS


Always love a rolling melodic piano.


Not sure what the Lone Star State has to do with Yuko Ando's(安藤裕子)"TEXAS", the singer-songwriter's 5th single from July 2006. There's no mention of the state in her lyrics but there is plenty of adorable love affirmation, and perhaps not a few young couples could have adopted "TEXAS" as their tune when they first heard it. Plus, as I said off the top, I love that piano and that whole arrangement by Ando and Ryuji Yamamoto(山本隆二)which can blow all of those Monday blues away.

"TEXAS" also made its way onto Ando's 3rd full album "shabon songs" which was released in February 2007. Ironically, considering the title, I actually want a mug of cocoa with a marshmallow in it rather than a tumbler of bourbon.


Kaya Saeki -- Pretty Please


Kaya Saeki(佐伯伽耶)was a singer that I had encountered purely by accident several years ago on YouTube, and I liked her urban contemporary material so much that I decided to cover both the A and B songs for her debut single "Perfume wo Nokosenai"(パフュームを残せない)from October 1994.


Deep in the backlog, I found out that I'd put a bookmark on her 2nd single as well, "Pretty Please" which was released about a year later in October 1995. From an article about that single on another blog, the cover of the single with Saeki had me wondering whether she had decided to take a different direction with her music since she looked more like a sexy pop singer along the lines of Ryoko Shinohara(篠原涼子)at the time.

However, from reading the blogger's description and listening to the song itself, "Pretty Please" keeps things to that late 1980s City Pop feeling with perhaps a bit of Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)brightness. Perhaps urban contemporary music wasn't all that much in the ascendant in the 1990s so it was nice to know that there were folks like Saeki and Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)still providing some of that smooth and groovy music for painting the town red. Saeki herself provided the lyrics while Kaoru Akimoto(秋元薫)...yes, the "Dress Down" singer herself...composed "Pretty Please".


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tomita Lab -- Shiawase no Blue feat. YOSHIKA(しあわせのBlue)


The one thing that I've regretted about doing "Kayo Kyoku Plus" is that I'm no musicologist. I love my kayo and I'm happy that I've been able to communicate with other fans of kayo kyoku from all over the world over the majority of this past decade, some of whom have become writers of articles themselves here. Although I have never meant for the blog to become an academic exercise in melodic or lyrical analysis for songs like "Plastic Love" or the "Sukiyaki" song, sometimes I wish I could use some of that knowledge to explore why these particular favourites of mine have simply worked and disseminate my opinions.

Take for example, Steely Dan. This amazing band led by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker was part of my radio education when I was a kid and, without me realizing it, also tempered me to get further into Japanese pop music through the genres of City Pop and J-AOR since there was something about the secret sauce of Steely Dan that also garnered the fascination of singers and fans alike in Japan. I had always wondered what that sauce was, and it wasn't until earlier this year that I discovered this 2016 YouTube video by Nerdwriter 1 and found out that it was something called the Mu Major Chord. Again, non-musicologist me was able to glean some insight about what that particular chord is all about, but swapping notes in chords and realizing the change in sound to what is a key ingredient for a Steely Dan tune are largely lost on me unless I decide to take up the guitar or piano and start learning. What is important for me, though, is that I love what the Mu Major Chord has done for my ears all these years through music on both sides of the Pacific. Nerdwriter 1's video also has further sources for his commentary on YouTube so take a look at those if you are interested. Another great thing is that the fellow has focused on one of my favourite songs by Fagen and Becker, "Deacon Blues".


Well, now that I've got that off my chest, I can introduce this silky-smooth song called "Shiawase no Blue" (Happy Blue) sung by YOSHIKA. And guess what? I think it also uses that wonderful spice called the Mu Major Chord within those warm and honeyed horns.

"Shiawase no Blue" is a track on Tomita Lab's(冨田ラボ)February 2006 album "Shiplaunching". Written by Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and composed by Tomita Lab, that combination automatically got my attention. The Lab Man has always known his way around a cool arrangement and hook, and of course, Ohnuki, although she didn't officially help out in the melody this time, will always be dear to me. "Shiawase no Blue" is a wistful reminiscence of a romance gone by in some tropical paradise and it's cloaked in some refreshingly cool and mellow soul, the Mu and the sexy vocals by singer-songwriter YOSHIKA.

I'd thought that YOSHIKA was already represented here on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" since I've introduced a number of m-flo tunes over the years but it looks like I have as yet to include any of her contributions within that group. But obviously, there is nothing wrong at all by starting with her work with Tomita Lab. Now, I'm thinking about including "Shiplaunching" as part of my Xmas wish list. As for that album, it peaked at No. 51 on Oricon.


Hey, we got excerpts of "Deacon Blues" up above. Why not listen to the whole song?