Credits

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

Friday, July 31, 2020

Al Jarreau -- Breakin' Away


Al Jarreau's "Breakin' Away" is a touchstone song for me, considering my choices in music. I mean, not only does its namesake album have one of the most iconic covers in the AOR genre (I don't know of any person who could make pink and white look so cool as a fashion statement; he'd be perfect in Ueno Park in the spring!), "Breakin' Away" the single is an uplifting number whose first few bars can still elicit happy comfortable shivers up and down my spine. The entire song is one joyous walk in a city park with jazz in the fresh air and soul in my feet. And of course, there are the wonderfully velvety vocals from Jarreau who I still miss dearly some 3.5 years after his passing.

Since then, my love for Jarreau has grown through "Mornin'", "After All" and the theme song from "Moonlighting" among other highlights from his career. I may be exaggerating here, but I think that if it hadn't been for songs like "Breakin' Away", my entry into the world of Japanese City Pop and its own AOR genre wouldn't have been as easy (-listening) as it was. Indeed, there were people involved in the creation of "Breakin' Away" and the rest of the album who have had their own involvement in the urban contemporary scene of that time in Japan such as Airplay (David Foster and Jay Graydon), Jeff Porcaro from TOTO, and Jerry Hey probably among some of the other musicians. In fact, Graydon helped in the creation of the song along with Jarreau and Tom Canning.

The album was released on June 30, 1981. Strangely enough, my last ROY article was on Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" which came out in late August that year around a month after my return from that fateful trip to Japan. "Breakin' Away" was released only a few days before I headed on out with my graduating class from Japanese Language School. It hit No. 1 on the US R&B and Jazz charts and broke into Billboard's Top Ten at No. 9.

Since it was released at the end of June that year, why not go with what was hot on the Oricon singles chart as of July 1st? Here are the Top 3.

1. Chiharu Matsuyama -- Nagai Yoru



2. Masahiko Kondo -- Blue Jeans Memory



3. Toshihiko Tahara -- Kimi ni Kettei!


To finish off, I will never forget Jarreau's appearance on Canada's venerable "SCTV" comedy show in a parody of "The Jazz Singer". Here he is singing another track from the album, "We're In This Love Together" which was also released as a single.


Jin Kirigaya -- Return to the Sky


It's after dinner as I write this and I need time to digest the Friday meal (especially with all of that fibre). Well, I don't really drink so no digestif for me.


However, I can get that effect to a certain extent thanks to a Jin Kirigaya(桐ヶ谷仁)number called "Return to the Sky" from his 1979 debut album "My Love For You". The album also has the melancholy "Yotsuya Yuumagure"(四ツ谷ゆうまぐれ)which involves a man dealing with perceived romantic betrayal. However, "Return to the Sky" is quite the opposite, thanks to that mélange of a bit of jazz here and a good dollop of bossa nova there within an AOR arrangement. Interesting thing I noticed was how Kirigaya's vocals sound like a combination of the voices of Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)and Yasuhiro Suzuki(鈴木康博)from the band Off-Course(オフコース).

Kirigaya took care of the music while Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)provided the lyrics. As I said in the "Yotsuya" article, I purchased that double-CD package "Complete Alfa Years - Jin Kirigaya" which consists of his first two albums, the aforementioned "My Love For You" and then his 1981 "Windy". While "Windy" is more solidly in the City Pop/AOR genres, I think "My Love For You" is a bit more free-wheeling as the singer-songwriter was probably exploring across the music spectrum which might explain some of the influences in this track especially.

Michiru Kojima -- Namaiki CINQ(なまいきCinq)


Another singer that I haven't covered in a while is Michiru Kojima(児島未散). Just judging from the very first song that I heard from her, "Gypsy"(ジプシー)back in 1990, I simply treated her as a performer of moody pop numbers. It wouldn't be much later that I realized that she did have a past performing some pretty snappy urban contemporary fare.

(4:47)

My feeling is that I really should grab Kojima's 1989 album "Key of Dreams" if it's still available and not piled up on the dreaded hill of haiban. For one thing, the title track is a smooth-as-glass City Pop song for the late 1980s with all of that sophisticated pop goodness. You can listen to it again here as the above video is for the full album and the song "Key of Dreams" starts things off.

Right after that one, though, is "Namaiki CINQ" (The Audacious Five) which seems to refer to what any young lady of Tokyo needs for the good life, I believe. I heard things like luxury, a diary, and a history as some of those ingredients but not quite sure since I couldn't find the lyrics online. There's more of an active beat with "Namaiki CINQ" compared to the slightly mellower "Key of Dreams" as if Kojima is prepping for a night out on the town, and even the synths provide some semblance of jazzy instrumentation.

As with "Key of Dreams", Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美)is the lyricist with "Namaiki CINQ" while Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), who arranged that title track, is fully behind the melody for the second track on the album.

Nanako Sato -- Koi no Ryuusei(恋の流星)



Happy Friday, and for my fellow Torontonians and folks in Peel Region, let's all welcome ourselves to Stage 3 of recovery, although I think that we will all need to straddle that tightrope between enjoying our return of lost freedoms and keeping safe from COVID-19. On the other hand, I'm hoping that somehow Tokyo and the rest of Japan get a handle on another wave of the pandemic that has been washing ashore for the past several days.

On a happier note, I've encountered another YouTube video, this time by Kimi no Station: The Home of City Pop, on which a Japanese talk-variety show covers the international appeal of City Pop that has been grabbing the attention of Japanese media over the past several months. Seeing these fellows voraciously browsing and buying up genre albums and CDs in areas like Shibuya has me reminiscing about the old days when I engaged in my pastime of frequently hitting Tower Records, Tacto, Yamano Music and RecoFAN for any of the good ol' stuff. I probably won't be able to head back to Tokyo any time soon but hopefully, when I do hit my old home, I will be flipping through the discs and LPs once more.

The amusing thing about the above report is how while one of the City Pop browsers holding the Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)LP actually sounds quite calm and collected about his potential purchase, the fellow providing the Japanese voiceover translation comes across as if he were about to experience his first orgasm.😤


In any case, it is a Friday so let's provide the first City Pop song of the day. It's actually been over a couple of years since Nanako Sato(佐藤奈々子)has made her last appearance as a performer on the pages of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", so I'm more than happy to bring her back. This time around, we have "Koi no Ryuusei" from her 3rd album "Pillow Talk" released in October 1978.

Written and composed by Sato and with co-composing help by Motoharu Sano(佐野元春), "Koi no Ryuusei" (Meteor of Love) is a smoothly-running song of the genre, perfect for that sunset or early evening drive on the main thoroughfares of Tokyo. Sato's kittenish vocals are very enticing over the driving rhythms and the snappy percussion. It's almost as if the singer is beckoning us listeners by curling her fingers inward through her voice. Of course, there has got to be the sax solo.

Now, the title "Koi no Ryuusei" is very similar to the title of another City Pop classic "Koi wa Ryuusei" (恋は流星...Shooting Star of Love) by Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)who had introduced it the year before, so if you're searching for either, keep an eye out for those Japanese grammatical particles.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Vickeblanka -- Natsu no Yume(夏の夢)


In less than a couple of hours, Toronto will be going into Stage 3 of the re-opening of the economy which means that places like gyms and movie theatres will be opening back up, and restaurants can finally offer dine-in service again after months of closure. I hope things go well and smoothly but I think it'll still be a few more weeks before I'm willing to chance a meal out.

One piece of good news is that I've been back earning a real income again for the past couple of weeks after more than three months relying on emergency government benefits. I was busy on one project today, and of course, in the afternoon while I'm doing that, I like to inject some music through the headphones. Sure enough, I decide to listen to pop singer Vickeblanka's(ビッケブランカ)2018 "Wizard" album and come across another track that I do indeed like.


This would be "Natsu no Yume" (Summer Dream), his 2nd single as a major artist which was released in August 2018. I first heard about this happy-go-lucky pop singer-songwriter because of his performance of the ending theme for the anime "DOUBLE DECKER! Doug & Kirill"(ダグ&キリル), "Buntline Special", a grinding rock thriller along the lines of "Born to be Wild". Then out of curiosity, I checked out some of his other songs on YouTube and found him to be quite the musical chameleon in a very good way which ultimately got me a copy of "Wizard" from my anime buddy who was also a fan of "Buntline Special".

"Natsu no Yume" is no different. It's the typical mellow pop summer tune with a bit of jazziness, but what gives it a bit more lift is that echoing piano which comes in and out throughout the number as if it were coming in from a different dimension. Listening to it on the hard drive, I checked on YouTube whether there was some representation, and luckily, Vickeblanka has his own channel and the official music video for "Natsu no Yume". As I see him prancing about in the video, I rather thought that if Doctor Who ever regenerated into someone Japanese, it would be this guy in that getup (well, him and seiyuu Mamoru Miyano).

A couple of days ago, commenter Michael and I were talking about underrated singer-songwriter Shin Rizumu(シンリズム)and were hoping that his career was chugging along nicely. I can also hope for the same with Vickeblanka.

Anyways, it'll be another big step for us in Toronto. Do wish us luck!👍

Mieko Hirota -- Kodomo janai no(子供ぢゃないの)/Nebusoku nano(寝不足なの)


Received some sad news via commenter Sentimental Vika earlier this morning that singer Mieko Hirota(弘田三枝子)had passed away on July 21st at the age of 73 due to heart failure, although the announcement wasn't made until the 27th. I hadn't known until I read the comment and I haven't seen any news announcement footage via YouTube which is somewhat unusual when it comes to the death of a Japanese celebrity. I had only written up the most recent article with Hirota a little over a month ago regarding her 1967 song "Nagisa no Uwasa"(渚のうわさ).


I'm not very knowledgeable about the discography of Hirota but usually when her name comes to mind, her 1969 hit "Ningyo no Ie"(人形の家)is the song that pops up. As well, my image of her has always been the one that appeared when that song first made its presence known...the long-tressed 22-year-old woman with that smoky air of mystery.


However, Hirota made her official debut as a fresh-faced teenybopper singer the better part of a decade prior back in 1961 with the Japanese-language cover of Helen Shapiro's "Don't Treat Me Like A Child" (by John Schroeder and Mike Hawker) when Hirota was only 14 years old. For that matter, according to its Wikipedia article, Shapiro herself was the same age when she recorded the original. The Japanese lyrics were provided by Kenji Sazanami(漣健児)and the title was "Kodomo janai no" (I'm Not A Child).

Like a lot of teenage singers in those days such as Yukari Ito(伊東ゆかり), Hirota had that twin-branched discography in her early years: covers of overseas pop songs and homegrown fare created by Japanese songwriters. One of the former was her own cover of Connie Francis' "VACATION". For both Hirota and Shapiro, I've marveled at how incredible they sounded at 14 years of age. Perhaps the one Japanese pop singer that I can compare with them in terms of her boomer vocal stylings and debut is Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里).


Hirota's first kayo single was released in June 1962, "Nebusoku nano" (I'm Sleepy), a giddy pop tune about not getting those 40 winks due to getting all hot and bothered over that boy she's fallen hard for. It's got quite the fun and jazzy beat, and Hirota gives some great brass in her vocals, although I'm not sure how local PTAs reacted on hearing those yawns on the record.😪 And it was the same duo behind the famous "Sukiyaki" song that was responsible for "Nebusoku nano", lyricist Hachidai Nakamura and composer Rokusuke Ei(中村八大・永六輔).


I'll finish off here with Shapiro's "Don't Treat Me Like A Child". My condolences to Hirota's family on their loss. I am sure that there is a lot of her discography that I have to cover in the months and years to come.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Milk (pop duo) -- Last dance


Well, it's gotta be something to note when the Japanese music business can say that it had at least two female groups with the same name of Milk. One has already been featured on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and that was the aidoru trio including a pre-pubescent Yoko Oginome(荻野目洋子)around 1980.


However, there was also a couple of sisters who were also Milk from around the mid-1980s. Singer-songwriters Ritsuko Miyajima and Rie Miyajima(宮島律子・宮島理恵)from Saga Prefecture, the latter who would take on the name M.Rie, got together and put out at least one album "Milk" in 1987. I read in the J-Wiki article for Ritsuko (the original source being her own blog entry) that the two had been part of Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)backup band Natural & MILK as backing vocals and that was the inspiration for the sisters to go it alone.

One of the tracks on "Milk" is "Last dance", a pretty snazzy song by the sisters that has some urban sophistication and a feeling of some of that brassy 1960s downtown pop. Just from listening to this one alone, I'm curious as to what the rest of "Milk" sounds like and it's a pity that the sisters may not have extended their singing together to other albums. Again, according to Ritsuko's blog, "Milk" got its re-release last year in the autumn (so maybe I have a chance to acquire it!). She also mentioned that she and Rie had also backed up other singers such as Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹)and Tomoko Aran(亜蘭知子).

On reading that the Miyajimas had been backing Kawai made me realize that perhaps often enough backup vocalists have been in understudy mode until they get their big chance to shine in the limelight. J-R&B singer Harumi Tsuyuzaki(露崎春女)had done her stint as a backup singer when Sing Like Talking was on tour, and Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)had been backing up Yosui Inoue(井上陽水)until they got their big break in the early 1980s.

M.Rie already has a couple of entries up on KKP including the adorable theme song for Pingu the Penguin. In recent years, Ritsuko has composed songs for the alphabet aidoru groups such as AKB48, NMB48 and SDN48.

Kohei Oikawa -- Tokyo Boshoku(東京暮色)


I hadn't been aware that there were a few ways to express sunset in Japanese. There is yuugata(夕方)which I usually hear in conversation, and then there is tasogare(黄昏)that seems to be the more romantic expression used as part of kayo titles. Now, I've just heard of boshoku(暮色)for the first time that also refers to dusk or twilight. Of course, I've yet to understand any particular nuances for this word.


However, it is used in the title "Tokyo Boshoku" (Tokyo Twilight), the 4th of 5 singles that singer-songwriter Kohei Oikawa(及川恒平)released in the 1970s. To be specific, "Tokyo Boshoku" was released in June 1974, and for those keen-eyed readers, the name Kohei Oikawa may ring a bell since I have already mentioned the Hokkaido native as a songwriter for Jiro Sugita's(杉田二郎)"Hitori ni Nareba"(ひとりになれば)last week.

I actually first heard about Oikawa through one of his songs that made it onto one of my "Light Mellow" discs. Unfortunately that song isn't available on YouTube so I took a look around the area and found this rather natty one. "Tokyo Boshoku" is a folk tune but instead of heading into New Music territory that I've read that a lot of Japanese folk songs fall under, this one is truly folksy in terms of old-fashioned kayo. The late, great lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)provided the words to Oikawa's whimsical melody, and instead of getting images of walking the concrete streets of modern Tokyo, it's more imagining the older quarters of the megalopolis such as Asakusa or Sugamo.

Aku's lyrics and Oikawa's music make things rather Chaplinesque or Buster Keatonesqsue as a guy mopes around Tokyo as he mourns another setback in his love life and tries to shake off the blues. Considering the time of its release, I can only see the fellow in ratty bell-bottomed jeans, similar jean jacket and maybe even a shapeless hat plopped onto his downturned head.

In addition to those 5 singles up to 1975, Oikawa has recorded 13 albums up to 2010, although during the 1980s, he didn't do anything music-related. For a time, he even left music altogether and became a tennis instructor according to J-Wiki. There is one album of his that I'm interested in, and that would be his 1975 "Natsukashii Kurashi"(懐かしいくらし...Nostalgic Living) because that J-Wiki article mentioned that it had a City Pop sheen with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)and Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)contributing their talents to the project. Alas, I haven't been able to find any sign of it on YouTube.

Oikawa has still been singing in recent times as the video below shows. By the way, "Tokyo Boshoku" also appears on his July 1974 album "Namae no nai Kimi no Heya"(名前のない君の部屋...The Room For You Who Has No Name).


H2O -- Chandelier


Gonna have to say thank you to YouTube channel Kimi no Station: The Home of City Pop tonight because it's put up folk/AOR duo H2O's 2nd album "Wait a second" from February 1982. Specifically, there is one track on that release that I'd been wanting to talk about for the longest time: "Chandelier". There have been a number of H2O songs on YouTube but "Chandelier" hadn't been one of them until now.

(31:30)

With its first few measures consisting of a funky and strutting beat, I had first assumed that this was going to be quite uptempo but instead, "Chandelier" goes for the mid-tempo and mellow path. I first heard it on H2O's 2nd BEST compilation "Biography" from 1995 and was immediately drawn to it since for the first time, I heard a really cool urban contemporary foundation underlying everything for this H2O song.

There's an ever-present deliberate and steady keyboard rhythm which for some reason had me thinking of Steve Winwood's 1980s AOR stuff combined with some footloose and fancy-free city-walking verses. Of course, there's also gotta be some cool sax, too, but the piece de resistance comes at around the last minute when these Steely Dan horns make a subtle but noticeable cameo. Come to think of it, there's something about all of it that seems to foreshadow some of the stuff that band Nona Reeves would ply many years later.

All this lovely City Pop for a fancy bunch of lights! I can thank H2O partner Masaki Akashio(赤塩正樹)for words and music and Katsu Hoshi(星勝)for arranging everything. Incidentally, "Wait a second" also has "Passing Rain" and "HELLO VIBRATION". I did mention in the article for that latter song that it had been a part of H2O's "Pool" (and the duo's 4th single) which was actually the first BEST album; "HELLO VIBRATION" had its album debut on "Wait a second".

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Chiharu Matsuyama -- Nagai Yoru(長い夜)



Should be giving myself a Gibbs Slap upside my head once more since I'd assumed that this was already up on the blog. This is Chiharu Matsuyama's(松山千春)biggest hit, after all. Plus, I've heard it from time to time on various shows.

"Nagai Yoru" (Long Night) is a rock-n'-roll paean to someone's deep love for a woman and he would cherish the opportunity to show it to her all night. I remember it for all that wailing guitar work and Matsuyama's crooning vocals. From what I read on the J-Wiki article for "Nagai Yoru", his 10th single from April 1981, is that on his radio show in 2016, the singer said that the song he had created was supposed to have the folk rhythm that was his usual stock-in-trade. However, during the recording in the studio, guitarist Masaki Matsubara(松原正樹)gave the suggestion of changing it into a more pop/rock thing, despite some resistance from other folks. Matsubara should have gotten a free dinner at the very least for putting the octane into the song.


The song became his second No. 1 after "Kisetsu no Naka de" (季節の中で)which was a 1978 release. It then became the 5th-ranked single of 1981. "Nagai Yoru" was first included on his 2nd singles collection album "Kishou Tenketsu II"(起承転結 II) which came out in November. That album also hit No. 1 and ended up as the 4th-ranked release of 1982. That rather intense title refers to the introduction and development of Japanese and Chinese narratives, according to Jisho.org.


Another reason for giving myself the slap is that I'd heard "Nagai Yoru" often enough on those monomane shows with master impressionist Corocket.

Sakurako Biseimaru -- Onna Misaki Bushi(おんな岬節)


I heard this song "Onna Misaki Bushi" (Song of the Woman on the Cape) on an episode of NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)weeks ago when the show was showing past scenes of folks singing on the stage, and I was rather captivated by it. There was a lot of spunky brio to it.

So I did a look around online and found out that the original singer was a lady by the name of Sakurako Biseimaru(美盛丸桜子), and according to Tower Records, it had been released back in 1988. Aside from that, there is next to nothing on information about this mysterious enka singer, although I could glean from the same site that her active years may have been between 1988 and 1992. I had to find out how to read the kanji from Oricon itself. She has recorded a number of songs according to the JASRAC database.

Written by Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)and composed by Keisuke Hama(浜圭介), it's got a thumping beat throughout as Biseimaru sings softly but actually carries a big stick (to partially quote US President Theodore Roosevelt). To wit, her protagonist in the lyrics is exhorting everyone to watch out since she doesn't want to be the quiet woman who prays for the safety of those brave fishermen on the trawlers on the rough seas. She wants to be one of those fishermen out there!

Another enka trope that I've noticed is how a number of songs of the genre have used misaki or "cape" in their titles. Being an island nation, Japan does have a lot of capes all over, and I guess standing at the edge of one of them with the water crashing all around must cut quite the heroic pose.

(empty karaoke version)

Not sure whatever became of Biseimaru but the fact that there are karaoke videos of her and the fact that people do perform "Onna Misaki Bushi" on "Nodo Jiman" mean that she still has a presence and memory in her fans' minds.

Shin Rizumu -- Mikakunin no Superstar(未確認のスーパースター)


Commenter Michael was kind enough to reciprocate when I put up my latest "Happy Songs For Me" list last Thursday. He put up his own list in the Comments section and I enjoyed all of his contributions including this one here.


Singer-songwriter Shin Rizumu(シンリズム)is a fellow that I did talk about back in 2018 with his 2nd single "Music Life" from November 2015, and I enjoyed that one for its jazziness. However, with his December 2019 digital download single "Mikakunin no Superstar" (Unidentified Superstar), it's all about the light synthpop.

Written and composed by the man himself, "Mikakunin no Superstar" has quite the appealingly spacey and chrome-gleaming futuristic sound, and from looking at the lyrics, it seems to be about a shy fellow who becomes quite the big man on campus online (albeit incognito). But I think that he's also chomping at the bit to finally reveal himself to a particular young lady who he's taken a shine to. And thus the inner conflict begins to boil. Sounds like it might be the just the idea for some sort of TV drama in Japan or a movie.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Miyuki Ogawa -- Shine My Heart



I can't come up with the names right at this moment, but I think there were female singers (aidoru or pop) in the 1980s who had voices that seemed to be suited for rocking but were held back because of the genre they were singing in at that point. That was my impression on hearing Miyuki Ogawa(小川美由希)for the first time.

Ogawa had a brief career in the geinokai between 1986 and 1989. Born in Tokyo, she first got that desire to become a singer when she listened to her first ABBA record as an elementary school student, according to an interview she gave in the Japanese variant of "Car & Driver" magazine in 1989. Ogawa actually debuted under a stage name Shima Kitahara(北原志真)in 1986 but then the following year in August 1987, she released her 2nd single "Shine My Heart", under her new stage name of Miyuki Ogawa (her real name is Makiko Sato/佐藤真紀子).

"Shine My Heart" was written by Ogawa and composed by singer-songwriter Goji Tsuno(つのごうじ), and has a tropical summery beat. When I first came upon her name and saw the cover for her debut album "mew club" which was released on the same day as "Shine My Heart", I had assumed that she was one of the countless aidoru that came through the door of show business but listening to the arrangement by Tsuno, I thought that there was more polish on this particular song which also starts off the album. As I said off the top of the article, there is something about that voice of hers which was fine enough but also seemed a tad tentative in the delivery. Ah, now I remember...maybe that was also the case for the late Minako Honda(本田美奈子), although she did get her opportunity to do some rock tunes later on.

Ogawa provided a total of 4 singles and 3 full albums with her final album "Funny Baby Lady" coming out in May 1989. She's not doing anything in show business currently according to J-Wiki.

Kana Hanazawa -- Summer Sunset


Well, congratulations to seiyuu Kana Hanazawa(花澤香菜)on her marriage to fellow voice actor Kensho Ono(小野賢章)on July 8th a few weeks ago. Apparently, according to "Oricon News", Hanazawa made the announcement on her Twitter account.


I've seen her in many roles over the years but I will always adore her Mei-Mei from "Shirokuma Cafe"(しろくまカフェ), and I hope that she was feeling very much the same thing on her wedding day as her character did here.


Perhaps one fellow seiyuu who may be feeling some slight blues right now is Tomokazu Sugita(杉田智和). Man, the above video has been one on my heavy rotation over the years just for Sugita's constant razzing of Hanazawa. Not sure if that's going to happen all that often anymore. Oh, well, I guess he can always tease Sumire Uesaka(上坂すみれ).


Well, in commemoration of the blessed event (though belated), I give you "Summer Sunset" by Hanazawa on her 2nd album "25" released in February 2014. A nice slice of Latin-spiced mellow pop, it was created by lyricist Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)and composer Katsutoshi Kitagawa(北川勝利), the same duo who came up with the more uptempo "I♥New Day!" in her 3rd album "Blue Avenue". Personally, I'm glad that she uses her higher-pitched voice to sing rather than the voices of her scarier characters.


Would also like to take this opportunity to pay a little tribute to fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto(山本寛斎)who passed away almost a week ago at the age of 76. He was always the very flamboyantly eccentric character who would come up with some very crazy designs for clothes and events. I don't quite remember how but I ended up with a tote bag with his name on it years ago when I was in Japan, and it's still with me today although the handles have lost some of the outer coating. In fact, I used it to go shopping at the local supermarket this morning.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Michiya Mihashi -- Chichibu Ondo(秩父音頭)


Years ago, the owner of the juku that I was teaching at for several years invited me on a Sunday day trip over to her hometown of Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture. So I was able to see the usual souvenir shops, her relatives and the nearby town of Nagatoro which has its famous boating excursions.


A couple of weeks ago, I was watching NHK's show dedicated to minyo(民謡...traditional folk song) and one of the singers performed "Chichibu Ondo" (Chichibu Folk Song) which of course brought back those memories of traveling with my old friend to Saitama.

Both Noelle Tham and I have written about minyo including the festival ondo, so there has been my experience with "Tankō Bushi"(炭坑節)and "Soran Bushi"(ソーラン節). Now both of those songs were born sometime in the 20th century with my surprise that the latter tune had actually been created in the 1970s. However, according to one tourism website for the nearby town of Minano (which states that the song was born there), "Chichibu Ondo" probably had its origins around two hundred years ago in the early 19th century. I couldn't narrow it down to the exact year so I'm using the Label "1800" which would mean that "Chichibu Ondo" is the oldest song to be placed onto "Kayo Kyoku Plus".

Of course, I also don't know who the original singer was for "Chichibu Ondo" but at one point, enka singer Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)recorded his version of the song with Kikutaro Takahashi's(高橋掬太郎)lyrics. According to the English page of that tourism website I mentioned, the music was provided by Gisaku Yoshioka with lyrics by local poet Isekiko Kaneko sometime in the early Showa period, so that was probably an earlier form of the song before Takahashi's revision. Again, if I'm mistaken here, please let me know.


There is also a festival dance which accompanies "Chichibu Ondo". The song and dance together represent the hardy people of the area and the industries and traditions that were prominent there such as silkworm cultivation. The Chichibu Ondo Festival usually takes place every August 14th in Minano but when I saw subtitles go up on that NHK minyo program whenever a singer performed a regional ondo or bushi that the particular festival for that song had been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, I figured that the Chichibu Ondo Festival would probably share the same fate for 2020. However, I'm sure that we are all hoping for a return of all of the regional festivals next year, and maybe a major world sports competition as well.

Naoya Matsuoka & Minako Yoshida -- Lovin' Mighty Fire


Found this one not in the "Light Mellow ~ Twilight" as you can see above but in the "Breeze" CD.


Naoya Matsuoka(松岡直也)has been known as a Latin jazz/fusion specialist and also as the composer behind Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)big hit "Meu amor e" in the mid-1980s. Through "Breeze" though, I found out that the first single (his debut album was "Joyful Feet" in 1977) of his to come out was a collaboration between him and singer-songwriter and R&B chanteuse Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)in 1979 called "Lovin' Mighty Fire" as a 12" single.

With Matsuoka behind the music and arrangement, Yoshida handled the lyrics under her pen name of Minnie Shady. The result is a 7-minute-and-change disco groove interlude that had me thinking Chaka Khan. Minaka Khan? In any case, the first time that I heard this, I just had to make sure within the liner notes of "Breeze" that it was indeed only Matsuoka and Yoshida involved without any help from the Chicago-born R&B legend. Indeed, the jazz/fusion specialist and Minnie Shady took care of this, and it's a corker of a tune. The additional funkiness was provided by Matsuoka's band, Wishing.

Chiyo Okumura -- Kitaguni no Haru wa Mijikai(北国の春はみじかい)


Happy Sunday! Or I hope that everyone is having a Happy Sunday in the immediate vicinity since not every person is a big fan of heat and humidity. Like me. Today will probably end up being one of the hottest days of this summer, and so I've got my electric fan on behind me.


Perhaps I can try for some aural cooling down with this October 1969 song by kayo veteran Chiyo Okumura(奥村チヨ). This was actually the B-side to her "Koi Dorobou"(恋泥棒...Love Thief), "Kitaguni no Haru wa Mijikai" (Springs in the Northern Country are So Short), and from the slightly anguished vocals by Okumura and the title, I can surmise a bit that the ballad is a melancholy one about love lost so early in the year, far from the traditional breakup season of fall.

My previous article about Okumura last September was about the similarly titled "Kitaguni no Aoi Sora"(北国の青い空...Hokkaido Skies) composed by The Ventures in 1967, and I had to listen to that one and "Kitaguni no Haru wa Mijikai" a number of times in alternating succession since they also both sounded quite similar. But for this B-side, it was Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)on lyrics with Kunihiko Suzuki(鈴木邦彦)taking care of the music. As is the case with "Kitaguni no Aoi Sora", there is something faintly enka-like with "Kitaguni no Haru wa Mijikai" but in the end, I think this is also a straight-up pop kayo.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Kenshi Yonezu -- Kanden(感電)


Another J-Drama that has been getting a lot of hype on TV Japan these days alongside "Haken no Hinkaku"(ハケンの品格...The Pride of a Temp) is the TBS show "MIU404". Its catchphrase is "You only have 24 hours...catch the perp before anyone else!", and I think it's about this police mobile investigative unit of motley characters that has been given short shrift by every other department as they try to grab the bad guys.


Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)is the fellow behind the cool and funky "Motivation", the theme song for "Haken no Hinkaku", and "MIU404" has singer-songwriter Kenshi Yonezu(米津玄師)providing the funky and groovy "Kanden" (Electric Shock). Up to now, I've had three of his creations on "Kayo Kyoku Plus": one serious, one for the kids, and one fairly inspirational.

But with "Kanden", Yonezu has something light, jazzy, bouncy and danceable as if the title truly wants to get you off your feet in a hurry. Written by Yonezu and composed by him and composer Yuuta Bando(坂東祐大), it's another song by him that stands out from the other three which in turn stand out from each other. The music video is also quite the treat with the singer himself looking like some muscle for a loan shark in Tokyo as he plays around with some mirror-men that could have been bred by Reynolds Wrap. J.J. Abrams would certainly appreciate the last minute. Incidentally, the video was filmed at Tokyo's Toshima-en amusement park and some parking lot in Shibaura.

Taking a look at the lyrics and from what I've seen by one other YouTuber's attempt at translation and one person's commentary on the song, they seem to be about some young kids trying to live life large for the moment since there doesn't seem to be much to live for beyond that.

"Kanden" was released as a digital download single on July 6th for which it hit No. 1 on the Oricon digital charts. It's also available on Yonezu's 4th major album "Stray Sheep" which is due out on August 5th.

You & Explosion Band (Yuji Ohno) -- Theme from "Daitsuiseki"(大追跡)


Approximately a couple of weeks ago, commenter Michael and I were talking about theme songs to those old police shows on either side of the Pacific after I'd written about Hiroshi Suzuki's(鈴木弘)"Shrimp Dance". Lo and behold, I found another scintillating theme song for another fast-paced Japanese cop caper.


Now, the above video was apparently for the 2017 sequel of the original "Daitsuiseki" (The Great Chase), but the opening credits are supposedly in line with what the 1978 show presented every week: going through Tokyo at the speed of The Flash. The original starred Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)and introduced a young Kyohei Shibata(柴田恭兵)who would make his own history on a later cop show. According to the Wikipedia article on "Daitsuiseki", the show was pretty tongue-in-cheek with a lot of ad-libbing and comedy; maybe there was even a goodly amount of fourth wall-breaking. Kinda strikes me as the Japanese cop show version of the original "Ocean's Eleven" with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.


Of course, for the feeling of the show and the opening credits, the theme song just had to be absolutely dynamic. So, at the time, the go-to composer was going to be Yuji Ohno(大野雄二)via his You & Explosion Band, and Ohno is one fellow who's familiar in crafting soaring brass-and-string powered theme songs considering what he's done for "Lupin III" and at least one other cop show.

By the way, my compliments to the guy who created the above video which catches the feeling of those opening credits. Just rev up the speed to warp! It's either going to be The Flash or a cop existing on carafes of cappuccino.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Kirinji -- After The Party


I still remember patches of my first Xmas party outing as a University of Toronto student at the end of 1984. Most people have to learn some lessons the hard way. Well, this was one of my hard lessons about what my alcohol limits were and how even too much of a small thing can lead up to a big, bad thing.

From what I can piece together, a bunch of us went out on the town after exams which isn't too difficult for U of T students at the downtown campus since it is located literally smack dab in the centre of it all. I was knocking back a combination of cocktails consisting of Screwdrivers and Creamsicles at the various stops on our barhopping which included a swanky bar at the top of the Manulife Centre. Now, for everyone who knows their cocktails, a Screwdriver or a Creamsicle isn't exactly the most potent mixology creation on its own but try drinking a series of those in quick succession over about 5 hours. By the time we reached an all-night restaurant in Chinatown close to 3 am, my world was spinning and by the time one of my friends gallantly drove me home in his new car, so were my internal organs. The terror for him was that the cream-coloured interior of his automobile risked taking on a few more colours if he didn't get me home lickety-split (or splat).😵

Thankfully, he got me home intact. The lad literally poured me outside of the building doors and I miraculously got inside and into bed. Some 10 hours later, I woke up in the afternoon having bypassed the horrible hangover phase during my deepest of sleeps, although one of my parents verbally tore into me for my nonsense.😌


Indeed, I was reminiscing about my hard lesson as I was listening to Kirinji's(キリンジ)"After The Party". This is another marvelous track from the band's marvelous 2018 album "Ai wo aru dake, Subete"(愛をあるだけ、すべて). The album has tracks depicting things like a sci-fi thriller, one of the catchiest love letters to the Doobie Brothers, and a lovely disco tune for middle managers, so why not an adorably comical post-party amble home in the wee hours?

Takaki Horigome(堀込高樹)was responsible for this track which keeps things solidly in the pop category. The spacy synths are more subdued here and a bluesy guitar comes more to the fore. If I'm not mistaken, it's Erino Yumiki(弓木英梨乃)on the main vocals as she relates the story of a young woman pouring herself out of the taxi after a long night in a dress that probably needs reconstructive surgery. There is even a shoutout to Siri as she helps her mistress find her way home and the lady even does what probably a lot of folks (myself included) have done after a long night out on the town: drag herself to the neighbourhood all-night conbini to get something refreshing. As it turns out, all of that carousing may have been caused by a romantic breakup necessitating the poor lass to try to drink all of those blues away with buddies. Well, as long as she didn't throw up inside the taxi...🚕

Char -- Shinin' You Shinin' Day


After a few days of relatively cool weather, the roasting temperatures are on their way over here for the weekend. Not a huge fan of those, but 16 Tokyo summers' worth of heat and humidity have proofed me for the meteorological challenge.


Looks like dynamic singer-songwriter-musician Char is a sun worshiper, though. I've just heard his "Shinin' You Shinin' Day" and it's an uptempo funky delight that has been written and composed by him. The B-side from his June 1976 debut single "Navy Blue", "Shinin' You Shinin Day" has nothing but English lyrics and it must have been a grand day. At first, when I was listening to it, I had assumed that he was cascading all those wonderful compliments on his girlfriend but as it turns out, his tribute is going all the way up to ol' Sol itself.

About a third of the way into the song, following Char's kind words to the sun, the singer and his fellow musicians go into a nice little jam session which must have created for that point in the drive along the shore when the roof comes down in the convertible. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm no big fan of the heat and humidity in my old stomping grounds but the sun is always welcome. By the way, "Shinin' You Shinin' Day" is also a track on his debut album "Char" which came out in September of that year.


Kumiko Aimoto -- Itsutsu no Douka(5つの銅貨)


Back in June 2019, I wrote about aidoru Kumiko Aimoto's(相本久美子)"Mayonaka no Heroine"(真夜中のヒロイン), an interesting synthpop concoction that was a part of her 1981 album "Yume Nanoni I Love You"(夢☆なのにI LOVE YOU...Even If It's A Dream, I Love You). That 2nd album would mark the end of her recording career aside from her 2015 single "Dearest For You".


Well, I've got another track from "Yume Nanoni", "Itsutsu no Douka" (Five Copper Coins) and it's quite a different animal in terms of arrangement. In contrast with the synthpop of "Mayonaka no Heroine", "Itsutsu no Douka" has got a lot more of that downtown City Pop feeling going for it. It's a pretty active song with those cutting strings and bass, and it sounds slightly like the type of music that Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)had been singing in the latter half of her career, with perhaps a feeling of Junko Yagami(八神純子).

For such a peppy song, the setting is a telephone booth around midnight in which a young lady has to face that romantic breakup by phone (lyrically, I guess this wouldn't be a Momoe song since she wouldn't wait til midnight to break things off and I think she wouldn't waste her time even bothering to call the lout). At first, I was wondering what the lass was doing with five pennies, and I realized that I was being too Canadian since our own defunct 1-cent piece was copper in colour. Copper coins in Japan actually represent 10 yen each which are good enough for those public telephones. Fifty yen, huh? Must have been a pretty intense call.

"Itsutsu no Douka" was written by Kenji Kadoya(門谷憲二)who has provided lyrics for singers that have represented the more languid Fashion Music state of things such as Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)and Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子). Meanwhile, the funky music was created by Tsunehiro Izumi(和泉常寛), a composer who has backed up folks such as Omega Tribe.

Hiroe Ueda -- Solo Sapiens(ソロ・サピエンス)


I've read a little about singer-songwriter Hiroe Ueda(上田浩恵)and heard some of her material on YouTube such as tracks from her 1987 album "Place in the Sun". Although I have yet to hear all of the tracks, I think that my jury is still out on a few of them but I do like the first one "Wonderlight"(ワンダーライト).


Ueda hails from Miyazaki Prefecture and while she was attending Chuo University in Tokyo, she won out in a vocal audition which led to her debuting as a singer at what is now known as Pony Canyon Inc. in 1986. Later on in the year, she introduced her debut single "Solo Sapiens" which was written by Jun Natsume(夏目純)and composed by Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美).


My first impression of "Solo Sapiens" is that she sounds perfect for straight-ahead bouncy pop or urban contemporary. I'm not sure whether Ueda had ever done backup chorus before her debut, although she has contributed her skills to other singers such as EPO and Kenjiro Sakiya(崎谷健次郎)since starting out, but she strikes me as someone who can provide great support on any concert tour. And in fact, Ueda has since become good friends with the two singers that I've just mentioned.

As well, with "Solo Sapiens", I really get that boomer voice of hers and with the type of music she sang back then, I think that she does share some similarities with her good friend EPO and Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵). Speaking of the song, "Solo Sapiens" was used as the commercial tune for the L100 Leeza car in which Ueda also stars as the main character in the ad.

From what I can see in the Amazon.jp page for any of her works, it seems as if she only released two studio albums, the aforementioned "Place in the Sun" and "Blew" and I believe 5 singles. According to her J-Wiki bio, the songwriting part of her career began in the late 1990s, and then in 2004, she decided to go into jazz, R&B and gospel under her new stage name of Whoopin (pronounced "oo-peen") which was devised by her sister by combining the "wo-" of "woman" and Ueda's nickname of "Pin".

I'll have to see about listening to "Place in the Sun" some more.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Miki Hirayama -- Joudan janai Asa(冗談じゃない朝)


Before actor Masakazu Tamura(田村正和)became famous as Japan's version of Columbo, aka master detective Ninzaburo Furuhata(古畑任三郎), he was quite the head-turner in a number of those late 1980s trendy dramas on TV, including one such rom-com called "Atsuku naru made Matte!"(熱くなるまで待って!...Wait Til It's Hot!). From what I've read on J-Wiki, it sounds a bit like "The Odd Couple" as his character, a widower manga artist who's been isolated in his urban condo, is invited by his cousin who's recently separated to share a mansion in the ritzy Den'en-Chofu area of Tokyo.

My student used to live there and when I was teaching him in person a decade ago, he drove me from Den'en-Chofu Station to his place and vice versa. Yup, indeed, there were some nice palatial estates there although I'm sure that they still pale against the celeb homes of Beverly Hills.


Generally speaking, I don't know the gamut of theme songs for these trendy dramas and their characters of leisure. The one that I know off the top of my atama is Carlos Toshiki & Omega Tribe's "Aquamarine no Mama de ite" (アクアマリンのままでいて), the Resort Pop theme song for "Dakishimetai!"(抱きしめたい!...I Wanna Hold Your Hand) starring the Asanos, Yuko and Atsuko(浅野ゆう子・浅野温子).

However for "Atsuku naru made Matte!", the theme song went more into a flirtatious and snazzy direction with "Joudan janai Asa" (No Joke Morning). Plus it was recorded by Miki Hirayama(平山みき), who up until this point was only represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" by her trademark tune "Manatsu no Dekigoto" (真夏の出来事)from 1971. Underlaid with a contemporary rhythm track, "Joudan janai Asa" floats above with some old-time jazz arrangement provided by the brass and Hirayama's vocals. I think it's safe to say that the song fulfills both the romance and the comedy aspects for the show. Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)provided the lyrics while Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)composed the song.


Happy Songs for Me 3


The above photo was something that Rocket Brown of Come Along Radio was very kind to send to me some weeks ago. If you look closely, you can see a very young Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)in the middle of Masamichi Sugi(杉真理)and Red Stripes. With all that heavy garb, they look positively Canadian! I hope that provides some happiness especially to the Mariya fans out there.

And that is the point of this Author's Pick article. Over five years ago in March 2015, I posted up an article in commemoration of the United Nations' International Happiness Day on March 20th (coincidentally Mariya's birthday!) titled "Happy Songs for Me" which listed some of the many songs that have made or kept my spirits happy and light. Just a few months after that, I then provided "Happy Songs for Me 2" just to show that the list was far from complete.

Well in July 2020, I've decided to go for a three-peat. And I think it's especially important now when the pandemic and its various ill effects have left millions upon millions of people feeling anything but happy. Not to say that this article is going to provide the ultimate cure to the population of Earth obviously. However, perhaps for those who do like Japanese popular music, some of my choices in "Happy Songs for Me 3" (along with its two cousins) can be your choices that make you feel happy.

Here are my choices in no particular order:


1. Taeko Ohnuki -- Summer Connection (1977)

For a fellow who got his education in all things Taeko(大貫妙子)first through her synthpop offerings at the turn of the decade into the 1980s, hearing the singer-songwriter going really high into the 1970s City Pop was quite the revelation. In the years since listening to "Summer Connection" repeatedly, this has become one of my summer must-hears and it's a grand aural sepia-toned photograph into the Tokyo hot season of that decade. Especially when the brass launches it and then she hits her highest notes in the song, I get to go to my happy place.



2. Seiko Matsuda -- Aoi Sangoshou (1980)

This wasn't the first Seiko-chan(松田聖子)song that I ever heard but it's been the one that has struck me as being one of the purest grin-giving aidoru numbers of the 1980s. When I first heard this on "Sounds of Japan" decades ago, I thought that this was the ultimate Seiko song. It's just a buoyant summer song of yesteryear powered by disco strings that takes flight over the beach and surf while the teen aidoru and a beau are frolicking the days away.


3. Anri -- Shyness Boy (1983)

There's nothing like listening to an Anri(杏里)song from the 1980s with a Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生) engine to drive the blues away. Of course, that includes many tunes but one of my very favourite is "Shyness Boy" from her "Timely!!" album. As soon as I hear this one on the stereo with the sunny brass, I get transported to wherever Anri was having her photograph taken on the cover of the album; I'm assuming that it's either Hawaii or Los Angeles. Just imagine the rise on the happiness scale when listening to "Shyness Boy" while in a convertible driving along the California coastline.


4. Sing Like Talking -- Mitsumeru Ai de (1995)

SLT's "Together" is already included in one of the previous "Happy" lists and while that is just one joyous caper through the city, "Mitsumeru Ai de"(みつめる愛で)has me preparing for a fun night out on the town. It's pure fantasy but this song is the theme for throwing on a Hugo Boss suit (that would probably have to go beyond its usual parameters to fit me), getting into a limo with the lady of my dreams (no comment on that), and tripping the light fantastic for dinner and drinking and dancing. Pianist Satoru Shionoya(塩谷哲)absolutely helps in batting this one out of the park.


5. KAN -- Ai wa Katsu (1990)

One of my friends on the JET Programme frankly had the same attitude toward KAN's magnum opus "Ai wa Katsu"(愛は勝つ)that I had (and still have) toward natto: GET IT AWAY FROM ME! She really wasn't much for whimsical pop. For me, "Ai wa Katsu" was one of the musical touchstones in my life since it became that big hit during my two years in Gunma Prefecture. Perhaps the message is as corny as a field in the Midwest but the song still manages to prop up some happy memories of pop culture and life back then.


6. Blue Peppers feat. Shiori Sasaki -- Roku-gatsu no Yume (2015)

The next few entries involve some of the wonderful new urban contemporary acts in the last decade that I've discovered in the years since the first two "Happy" lists have come out. Case in point: the cool AOR duo Blue Peppers with vocalist Shiori Sasaki(佐々木詩織)with their "Roku-gatsu no Yume"(6月の夢), one very happy-go-lucky number that deserves its own light sitcom set in a Tokyo suburb. I get some of that lovely Steely Dan vibe here and I still eagerly await that next album.

(9:06)

7. BLU-SWING -- Flash (2015)

Around the same time that I first heard about Blue Peppers, I came across the coolness of BLU-SWING which has been around for over a decade. I really am a late bloomer. At least, I was fortunate to discover "Flash", a great calling card for the band and perhaps the theme song for the nightlife in any major city in Japan. With a combination of sultriness in the vocals and the snap-and-bang in the arrangement, any listener can potentially be enticed to plan a vacation for the metropolises of the nation (although unfortunately not now).


8. Kirinji -- Jikan ga nai (2018)

It was quite the re-introduction to Kirinji since I had known them mostly for their soulful ballads back in the early 2000s. How was I to know that the band made a change into catchy/spacey pop tunes some years back? And then I get hit with "Jikan ga nai"(時間がない)with its video that has gone worldwide with that middle-aged manager and his disco moves. I didn't stand a chance. Even now, as I write this, my shoulders instinctively started shimmying to the groove. I won't ever hit a dance floor but I can imagine that I'm on one thanks to this one.


9. Mariya Takeuchi -- Morning Glory (1980)

Of course, I'm going to end this list with the first singer that I mentioned off the top. There's something so adorably 80s AOR about "Morning Glory" and since I'm a big AOR fan, it's downright Pavlovian how I react whenever I hear this track from "Miss M". Thankfully, I tend to get happy instead of salivating all over the CD. Maybe Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)thought it was a little too AOR for his tastes, but I'm perfectly happy with his future wife's original (although Tats' version on "For You" is also fine).

Well, that is my third list of happy songs. I hope that at least some of them made you happy in these uncertain times. Already there are tunes that are stabbing me in the head demanding why I haven't included them so I'm pretty sure that there will be a fourth list sometime down the line without having to wait another five years. For commenters and collaborators, let me know what your happy song or songs are.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Marina Saito -- crazy for you


Gonna finish off this broadcasting day with something appropriately summery. I only found this song simply through the usual browsings of YouTube and it's a winner to me.


Marina Saito(斉藤まりな)is a Tokyo-born singer and TV personality who, according to her J-Wiki profile, has had great admiration for Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)and constantly sang her songs. While attending Gakushuin University in the capital, she also participated as a pinup model through the "Miss Flash 2011" DVD series. However on graduating in 2014, Universal Music Japan took notice of her voice and signed her up for a major debut with a mini-album "Hajimaru Futari"(はじまるふたり...A Beginning Couple) in August.

"Hajimaru Futari" is her only music release thus far and it has only 4 tracks, one of which is "crazy for you", a spritely and sunny number that has some merits with those horns and Saito's talented vocals. The song was written and composed by Shinya Tada(多田慎也), who has provided his works for a number of Johnny's Entertainment bands and the various female aidoru groups under Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)such as AKB48. In her biography at Universal Music Japan, she's been described as the next generation of pop singer involved in the current form of City Pop that has the feeling of nostalgia and newness. When I listen to "crazy for you", there is that feeling of Hitomitoi(一十三十一), come to think of it.

It's just a pity that it's just been the one mini-album so far, and apparently she took a leave of absence in 2016 after moving from UMJ but resumed her career a year later.

Ryo Kawasaki -- Raisins



Some of us of a certain age might suddenly get that "Pepperidge Farm Remembers" sensation on reading the following.


I certainly remember when my father got us our first computer, the Vic-20 by Commodore in the beginning of the 1980s. Oh, the excitement of getting 3,583 bytes of power in a keyboard and loading up our favourite video arcade games through a dedicated Commodore tape recorder! But even then, my brother and I were probably very jealous of other friends who upgraded to the Commodore 64.


The games were more advanced and there was one interesting software tool called the Kawasaki Synthesizer which used discs to upload the program, and then the musically-minded among us could have its way with sound and images and fury...such as boogeying aliens from outer space! I never got the Kawasaki Synthesizer but I did get a Casio keyboard later on...which is still sitting somewhere fossilized in one of our closets.


Now, the fellow who came up with this tool didn't start out as a computer-programming geek. Actually, he was jazz fusion guitarist and composer Ryo Kawasaki(川崎燎)originally from Tokyo, and he came up with a ton of albums since the early 1970s. In fact, his Wikipedia file states that he was one of the pioneers of fusion.

One of those albums was his 1976 effort "Juice" and the lead track is "Raisins". It begins life sounding like another one of those really funky themes for a gritty New York-set movie. I'd say that I can almost feel those platform shoes hitting the hot pavement on a July day in the decade of disco when I listen to "Raisins". As the song goes along, though, the fusion and rock begin to percolate through as the jam session also comes into play. The YouTube page has a list of the musicians who were involved in the making of "Juice".

Looking through his Wikipedia profile, it looks like he lived quite the life in music and computers, and as for the latter pursuit, he spent all of the 1980s there in between his times as a musician. Kawasaki in his later years also worked with a number of Estonian musicians and contributed his expertise in that part of the world. I wouldn't mind getting to know more of his creations but unfortunately, I've read that he passed away only a few months ago in April at the age of 73 in his home in Estonia.