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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

ABC -- The Look of Love

 

After our foray back into the 1970s for the last few Reminiscings of Youth articles especially to celebrate "September", on this last day of September 2020, I want to take things from the post-disco of Earth Wind & Fire circa 1978 to early 1980s New Wave.

Now, should that be New Wave or New Romantic? I always had a bit of a problem distinguishing the two since apparently Duran Duran went from New Romantic to New Wave but on the other hand, Visage was totally New Romantic while Talking Heads was totally New Wave...I think. My initial impression had been that New Wave was about the music while New Romanticism covered the entire spiel: fashion, makeup (lots of it), style and music.

But according to this 2015 answer from Adrienne Dancer, the owner of Los Angeles-based store Beat Bop Boom, New Wave and New Romantic had their own separate styles of music (the link "answer" will take you directly to Quora but I'll also provide it here as well; also take a look at music historian Joshua A. Pfeiffer's reply):

As someone who is a fan of both (and sells related memorabilia and merchandise)...I would consider a band like Flock of Seagulls or Duran Duran to be New Wave...

But a band like Visage or Japan I consider more New Romantic.

(Duran Duran I would say started off New Romantic and transitioned into New Wave.)

Both styles of bands in the 80s would have band members--mostly males--who would wear blousey shirts and make up and would have a heavy synthesizer focus, but I think that the main differences are about the themes of the songs and the sounds of the songs, as well.

I consider New Wave bands' songs more party-danceable. New Romantic bands almost more suited for Goth clubs and for listening in your bedroom kind of music--or the kind of songs you would put on a cassette mix tape for someone that you have a crush on. :)

New Romantic bands song subjects also might focus more on exotic foreign locations, deeper emotions... whereas New Wave songs would be more about having fun or immediate emotions.

Regardless, it was an interesting time to get into music for a callow youth like me with the songs and videos coming at me from both sides of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at warp speed. Anyways, feel free to make your comments.

Anyways, before we all end up getting into a seminar about this, let us get straight into this week's ROY article with ABC's "The Look of Love".

I actually saw the video on one of the music video shows...or the last half of it...first before I heard "The Look of Love" on radio, and of course, not being particularly observant, I didn't bother seeing the name of the band or the title of the song. And yet, I was automatically attracted to it. Luckily, it was well on its way to becoming a big hit for ABC so it didn't take too much time to track down the particulars.

Now, looking back at "The Look of Love" on Wikipedia, I saw the genres being listed as synthpop and sophisti-pop, and I kinda did a double take on that first genre. But then, when I saw the video again, I kinda went "Oh, yeah...I can hear the synths and the syn-drums here". It was just that the arrangement was so classy and retro, and I later realized that I always had an interest in the old-style standards. So you had this stylishly retro-New Wave (and yep, I think ABC is New Wave) number with a video of the band and a cast of "thousands" hamming it up on a set that looked like it was supposed to be on some sort of variety show from the 1950s or 1960s, and yep, it grabbed me like the aroma of tenderloin steak on the grill.

"The Look of Love" certainly grabbed my fellow Canadians, too, as it hit No. 1 on the RPM Singles Chart, did pretty well in America by peaking at No. 18 on Billboard's Hot 100, and very well on the UK's OCC Singles Chart by placing in at No. 4.

Well, "The Look of Love" was released on May 7th 1982 in the UK. So, let us go with what was debuting around that time in Japan.

1. May 1st: Akina Nakamori -- Slow Motion (スローモーション)


2. May 1st: Chiemi Manabe -- Nerawareta Shoujo(ねれわれた少女)


3. May 5th: Shibugakitai -- NAI NAI 16

Harumi Tsuyuzaki -- Time/End of Eternity

 


If I'm not mistaken, the above was taken in front of the Shinjuku Hilton Hotel when I was in Tokyo the last time in 2017. It was early November but I gather that the management didn't hesitate to put up the Xmas illumination. Years ago, my friend took me to the main floor café for an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet (as endangered as those are now) that I believe occurred on Thursday afternoons. Among other delights, I had my fill of really good bread pudding with raisins there.

Good times those. Anyways, to get back on track, I've found R&B chanteuse Harumi Tsuyuzaki's(露崎春女)debut single from October 1995, "Time". Tsuyuzaki wrote and composed the song with Robert Etoll, and it's quite the start to her career with that voice and some of that 90s soul. I also appreciate some of the brief percussion solo in the middle. I only wish that the singer had gotten more attention and love in the charts than she did.


Back in my first article on Tsuyuzaki, I mentioned that one of my students had informed me back in the late 1990s that her buddy was actually the singer herself and that she was off to see one of her gigs. Wouldn't it have been quite the experience if I had actually gotten the chance to witness Tsuyuzaki myself? Well, I never got that opportunity but as a consolation, I did end up buying her August 1998 album "Believe Yourself", and on that album is "End of Eternity". Created by Manami Fujino, A. Bagge and H. Sommerdahl, it's a ballad that did remind me of Mariah Carey, something that I also stated in that first article.

Kazuhito Murata -- Lady September

 


Rocket Brown with his Come Along Radio has released his September-themed mix and just in time considering that it's the last day of September. It comes of course with Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"September" leading the way and even a few of her very rare commercial endorsements.


Along with Mariya comes one of her colleagues, singer-songwriter Kazuhito Murata(村田和人)with one of his own September tunes, logically titled "Lady September". The B-side to his 2nd single "Catching the Sun" from August 1982, "Lady September" is a slightly bittersweet farewell to the hot season and I gather that from Yoshihiko Ando's(安藤芳彦)lyrics, a lot of the ninth month has always had plenty of summer weather before and probably even after the 21st. Murata came up with the relaxing melody and it was all arranged by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), something that is all very evident to his fans.

"Lady September" and Murata's debut single "Denwa shite mo"(電話しても)are tracks on his debut album "Mata Ashita"(また明日...See You Tomorrow) which came out in June in the same year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

NHK's Bijutsun!(びじゅチューン!)

 

I guess Captain Janeway told Leonardo
about the Enterprise after all...

I'm gonna lay it on the line and say that I'm not an art fan by any means. Haven't visited the Art Gallery of Ontario since 1976 although someday I do want to see the permanent Yayoi Kusama exhibit there. Let's see what happens once the current second wave of COVID-19 dissipates.


Having said that, I've been admiring the works of artist Ryo Inoue(井上涼). Nope, he isn't a long-dead master; he's very much alive and in fact, he has been manning a short 5-minute show on NHK since 2013 called "Bijutsun!" which is an amalgam of bijutsu and tune so we get "Art Tunes". We've been able to watch the show via TV Japan, and on it, we get to see comical cartoons created by Inoue as they are set to songs that have also been created by him (words and music). He pretty much does everything on the show by himself, and although he isn't the strongest singer, the main point is that "Bijutsun!" is all about (re-)introducing some of the most famous and perhaps some of the more obscure works of art to viewers in a far more whimsical and accessible manner than the dry narration of a guide in an art museum.

For example, the first video I remember on "Bijutsun!" is "Narcissus Tenki Yohou" (ナルキッソス天気予報...Narcissus' Weather Report) which is a take on Caravaggio's famous painting of Narcissus gazing lovingly into the water. Never thought that I would see a narcissistic weather forecaster since I usually see those folks as being rather outgoing and happy-go-lucky court jesters (I would think that the anchors would be more that way). The other reason that I remember it is that Inoue's music has that mysterious beatnik jazz feel to it. The video, by the way, first got onto TV screens in May 2016.


The other video that I've seen on "Bijutsun!" via TV Japan is "Nan ni demo Gyunyu wo Sosogu Onna"(何にでも牛乳を注ぐ女...She Puts Milk on Everything) from April 2018 which references Vermeer's "The Milkmaid". It's a boppy little number about the titular milkmaid as a company employee who absolutely mystifies the head cook in the cafeteria with her penchant to put milk on any dish. Frankly, that would terrify me.


Although it's not shown in the videos here, Inoue does pop up after the first viewing of the video to explain about the original art work and why he interpreted it in his own special way through the video before a second viewing is shown to help the audience digest things a bit more. I knew of the existence of Caravaggio's "Narcissus" but didn't know anything about Vermeer's "The Milkmaid". 

But of course, I know about the Mona Lisa and since the legendary lady is in the thumbnail at the top along with a famous starship, I figure that Inoue must have paid tribute to her somehow. And sure enough, it was one of his earliest subjects for video, coming out in February 2014. "Otsubone no Mona Lisa"(お局のモナ・リザさん...Queen Bee Mona Lisa) is the second time that I've heard the word otsubone. It was just five days ago that I first came across the word through a Charisma.com song "Otsubone Rock"(お局ロック) and like over there, "Otsubone no Mona Lisa" is all about the feared Queen Bee of the corporate office: she sees all, she hears all, she judges all, she controls all. However, at the very end of the song, apparently she shows some heart after all.

If you wish, you can take a look at the official NHK website for "Bijutsun!" or just cut and paste the kanji for the title into YouTube. You can also check Inoue's own website.

Mie Takahashi -- Hitoribocchi wa Kirai(ひとりぼっちは嫌い)

 


Noting in my most recent Michiru Kojima(児島未散)article that former 80s aidoru Mie Takahashi(高橋美枝)under her pseudonym of Miki Fuudo(風堂美起)was responsible for the lyrics, I was curious about Takahashi's time as a teenybopper singer.


Well, I tracked down her debut single "Hitoribocchi wa Kirai" (I Hate Being Alone) which was released in November 1983. Written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composed by Kazuhiko Matsuo(松尾一彦), the song starts off sounding like a summery tune created by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)and throughout its three minutes and nearly forty seconds, it's a pleasant enough aidoru tune but nothing earth-shatteringly remarkable. And I have to admit that Takahashi's voice at the age of 15 perhaps wasn't the greatest fit for an aidoru as one that was a fair bit lower in timbre. Maybe something more in a harder brand of pop or even rock would have been better but I'm just wildly speculating. As such, the highest it got was No. 120 on Oricon.


To be honest, I think she sounds better on the stage with "Hitoribocchi wa Kirai". I'm going to have to look at the rest of her discography to get some wider insights about Takahashi. She only released 5 singles up to late 1985 and never had an album. After retiring from singing, she took on her Miki Fuudo alias to write lyrics.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Masamichi Sugi -- Suteki na Summer Days(素敵なサマー・デイズ)

 



Summer has been going on strong over this past weekend and even into Monday today. Still need the fan behind me. As such, yesterday I did mention for that Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)entry "Lemondade no Natsu"(レモネードの夏), that I had a few summer kayo left, and this is the other one.

Man, I think a fair few influences have been shaken and stirred into this cocktail. This would be "Suteki na Summer Days" (Splendid Summer Days) by singer-songwriter Masamichi Sugi(杉真理)and indeed he took care of everything for this tune. Listening to this one, I swear that he put New Wave, Eiichi Ohtaki(大滝詠一)and The Beach Boys into his food processor and mashed it together to form this fun little song about scarfing down a BLT (one of my favourite sandwiches) and hitting the road in his convertible with his beloved for some fun in the sun. I would have said that this was Tony Stark's Sunday but he was probably still a teen when this song was recorded.

"Suteki na Summer Days" was a track on Sugi's 5th album "Stargazer" released in April 1983 and it also served as his 10th single from June of that year; in fact, it came out right on the first day of summer. Keep the good times rolling with this one as autumn finally comes to town.

Naomi Tamura -- Eien no Ichibyo(永遠の一秒)

 


Had never heard of singer-songwriter Naomi Tamura(田村直美)until all of my anime-loving buddies breathlessly told me about her impending appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen to sing the opening theme for "Magic Knight Rayearth", "Yuzurenai Onegai" (ゆずれないお願い).

"Yuzurenai Onegai" was Tamura's 4th single in November 1994. Well, I'm talking about her 3rd single this time which came out just a couple of months earlier in September. "Eien no Ichibyo" (One Second of Eternity) was created by Tamura and Hiroto Ishikawa(石川寛門), the same tandem behind "Yuzurenai Onegai" and it depicts more of an uncertain time when compared to the triumphant follow-up single. The lyrics in "Eien no Ichibyo" talk of two people who just can't seem find the gumption to finally come together and time's being frittered away.

I've got to say that Tamura has got that remarkable voice and the entire song thrums with all of that nostalgic 90s pop/rock that I remember. Strange for me to say, perhaps, but "Eien no Ichibyo" strikes me as being the equivalent of a very efficient assassin...just make that path toward the next target, get the target and then move on. No extraneous tangents or electric guitar wailing away. 

However, the song was used on a commercial for Camellia Diamonds, and it was Tamura's first Top 10 hit as it peaked at No. 10. It also became a track on her debut album "Excellent" which came out at the same time as the single. That one made it as high as No. 19 on the album charts.

SHOGUN -- Lonely Man

 


Well...not a great start to the work week, although I don't think the news was unexpected at all. Ontario got walloped by 700 new infections today so people are wondering whether we will be dragged back to Stage 2 or worse. In any case, it's gonna be another bumpy trip.

Anyways, to go to something considerably more soothing...the above photo has my purchases over the last couple of weeks from CD Japan, two of which I've already written about: Masayuki Suzuki's(鈴木雅之) "ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL" and Kiyohiko Ozaki's(尾崎紀世彦)"Kaze no Graffiti"(風のグラフィティー).


It's always nice to discover a new "Light Mellow" CD that hasn't yet been purchased. This time, it's "Neon Nights" and there were some tracks that I've already heard and some new treats from the world of City Pop and AOR.


One of the tracks is SHOGUN's "Lonely Man", another band funk fest thanks to lyricist Casey Rankin and composers Kazuo Otani(大谷和夫)and Fujimal Yoshino(芳野藤丸). This was actually the band's 3rd single and the ending theme to Yusaku Matsuda's(松田優作)"Tantei Monogatari"(探偵物語...Detective Story) detective TV series, a single that also included the more famous "Bad City", the opening theme to that show.

Compared to "Bad City", "Lonely Man" has got more of that City Pop beat although from the intro, I first thought that "Lonely Man" was going to enter Big Band swing. Still, that feeling of jazz never quite leaves the melody entirely although that also goes for the funky strut. I believe that is indeed Yoshino and Rankin sharing vocals. Maybe "Bad City" is the more well-known of the two songs but there's nothing wrong at all with the A-side, and dang it does sound nice being performed on stage. By the way, that final CD in the picture that I've yet to mention? It happens to be Kirinji's "Neo"(ネオ) album




Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ms.OOJA -- Fly-Day Chinatown (フライディ・チャイナタウン)

 


I'm uncertain about what the status of City Pop is around the world since "Plastic Love" exploded all over YouTube a few years ago. However, I can speculate that three groups have evolved: 1) those that have gotten off the bandwagon and moved on, 2) those whose ardor for the genre has gone down to simmer; they enjoy their favourites but can say that they are no longer breathlessly searching online for that next big City Pop discovery (that's been me with jazz nowadays), and 3) the true believers who are still in love with the genre (I guess that would be me, too).

Of course, the big City Pop songs are still there as pillars, and on the female side of things, there is naturally "Plastic Love" by Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), "Tasogare no Bay City" (黄昏のBAY CITY) by Junko Yagami(八神純子)and then there is Yasuha's(泰葉)"Fly-Day Chinatown". All three get the blood coursing through the veins and although I have yet to attend my first City Pop dance party, I figure that folks might actually get on the dance floor at that event. No, no...not me, I will be merely observing. At my age, I am more prone to breaking hip instead of shaking it.😨


It's not too often that I do separate articles on cover versions of songs already discussed on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but I felt that I had to give this one justice. In this case, Yasuha's "Fly-Day Chinatown" has been given a marvelous cover by R&B singer Ms.OOJA through her album of covers, "Nagashi no OOJA ~ Vintage Song Covers" (流しのOOJA ~VINTAGE SONG COVERS~)released in late August. The album peaked at No. 31 on Oricon.

Ms.OOJA's "Fly-Day Chinatown" starts the album off, and has more of a elegant 21st-century clubbing sort of feeling. The horns and wailing guitar aren't there but they've been replaced by some thrumming keyboards, while Ms.OOJA adds a layer of silkiness to her delivery. 



Have a gander at this summary of the entire album. You may be interested in Ms.OOJA's takes on the old Showa Era kayo. Also, I wrote my first article on the singer all the way back in early 2017 with "Baby Don't Know Why".

Seiko Matsuda -- Lemonade no Natsu(レモネードの夏)

 


The calendar year may be done with summer but summer is not done with us here in Toronto. It was quite warm and humid out there this weekend, not that many people would complain. My family didn't have the air conditioner on, mind you, but in my tiny room, I needed that electric fan on all afternoon...and right now even.

As such, let's keep on with the summer-themed kayo if possible. I think that I still have at least a couple of more before the autumn truly does roll in. We can start with Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)"Lemonade no Natsu" (Lemonade Summer), the B-side to her 9th single "Nagisa no Balcony"(渚のバルコニー)from April 1982.

Created by the same duo behind the A-side, lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composer Karuho Kureta(呉田軽穂), aka Yuming(ユーミン), "Lemonade no Natsu" rather follows the same kayo formula of a cheery melody underlying a sad story of a woman dawdling over her lemonade at a café while reminiscing over a romance that has recently ended. Dang, if I didn't look up Matsumoto's lyrics, I could have sworn that Seiko-chan was just skipping along the beach with her dog to that beat.

Still, my compliments to arranger Hiroshi Shinkawa(新川博)who brought about that sunshine and gloss for "Lemonade no Natsu" which still sounds pretty sweet rather than sour. Like "Nagisa no Balcony", the B-side was also placed into her 5th album "Pineapple" from May 1982 which hit No. 1 and stayed there for 5 straight weeks

Masayuki Suzuki -- ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL

 


Another one of my purchases in the last few weeks from CD Japan has been Masayuki Suzuki's(鈴木雅之)triple-CD package commemorating his 40th anniversary in the music business, "ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL". Released earlier in April, I wanted to get this primarily because of his more recent material all put onto CD 3, but unlike "Martini" and "Martini II", his earliest BEST albums as a solo artist, the first two discs are a celebration of his doo-wop days as the lead vocalist of Chanels (シャネルズ)later to be known as Rats and Star.

Now I mention that I got the 3-disc album. The first-issue version of "ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL" has an extra 4th CD which has mostly karaoke versions of those Chanels hits but also a few live recordings that hadn't been released. I think that special first-release package is still available but I didn't bother paying the extra cash for that since I have never and never will perform karaoke at home.

Irasshaimase, baby!


Usually for a BEST article, I would put down the list of the tracks but considering the overwhelming amount of tracks for this one, I've decided to put up the link to a website that has them written down in romaji.

Disc 1

Disc 1, titled "Mr. Black 2nd" consists of new re-recordings of some of those Chanels/Rats And Star hits along with some of the songs that probably inspired young Martin. First off, the CD starts with "Ultra Chu Chu Medley", Suzuki's 41st single which was released in July 2020 and includes "Hurricane", "Machikado Twilight", "Akogare no Slender Girl"(憧れのスレンダー・ガール)and "Shuumatsu Dynamite"(週末ダイナマイト). Given an added dance beat by Pizzicato Five's Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽), it's an invitation by Suzuki saying "Hey, this is where I came from!".

When I first looked down on the playlist for "ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL", I noticed "Tears On My Pillow". The 1958 classic by Little Anthony and the Imperials was a song that I used to hear all the time on those K-Tel compilation LP commercials back in the 1970s; probably at the time, there was some of that returning love for the oldies thanks to George Lucas' "American Graffiti" and then TV's "Happy Days". I don't think even Suzuki can eclipse The Imperials but dang, he's pretty close with this one which is the coupling song to "Ultra Chu Chu Medley".

Another one that caught my eyes and ears was Suzuki's cover of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" originally by Queen. When I was first discovering the band, this was one of the songs that helped me in their introduction to my memories and senses. It's not just the doo-wop for this version but an extra dollop of rockabilly jazz with added thanks from rock n' roll band The Shaolin Brothers(少林兄弟)and Chanels member Yoshio Sato(佐藤善雄). Lots of fun to be had here.

There was a cool new song that I hadn't heard before titled "Tamashii no Brother"(魂のブラザー...Soul Brother) but I will cover that on its own sometime next month since there is the new version in "ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL" and then the original version during the Chanels' days.


Disc 2

Disc 2 is "the year of RATS best" and is for all of those die-hard Chanels/Rats And Star fans out there. The longest of the 3 discs by far at around 74 minutes, it has a lot of the band's original material. To be honest, I realized that I'm probably going to be more of the Masayuki Suzuki fan than a fan of Chanels unless the disc's contents grow on me some more since I think having over an hour of doo-wop going through my head is a tad much.

However, having said that, listening to the tracks on Disc 2 piecemeal has been more enjoyable. For example, there is "Akogare no Slender Girl"(憧れのスレンダー・ガール...Slender Girl of My Dreams), Chanels' 6th single from March 1982. Written by Chanels' member Masashi Tashiro(田代マサシ)and composed by Martin with arrangement by the band and Kunio Muramatsu(村松邦夫), "Akogare no Slender Girl" stands out for some of those horns which sound like the Tijuana Brass with Herb Alpert. The original single peaked at No. 13 on Oricon.


Yes, I now have to insist that it's good for me to appreciate the Chanels discography on a slowly, slowly basis since I really like their 5th single "Namida no Sweet Cherry"(涙のスウィート・チェリー...Sweet Cherry of Tears) from September 1981 on its own instead of being sandwiched between tracks like sweet cherry jam between Wonder bread. It's so doo-wop 50s that names like Richie and Mary Beth and things like jukeboxes, bobby socks and slow dances came immediately to mind (though I wouldn't be born for another decade after that era). This actually hit No. 12. Lyricist Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composer/arranger Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔)were responsible for this ballad for all you lovers out there.


The last one I'm gonna cover from Disc 2 is "Madonna wa Omae dake"(マドンナはお前だけ...You're The Only Madonna For Me), Rats And Star's penultimate 16th single (including the Chanels' singles) from their original run together released in April 1985. It's still got that band swagger with a bit of Latin incorporated into the doo-wop. Yukawa was once again behind words while this time Tsunehiro Izumi(和泉常寛)provided the music. The song was perfectly fine for Rats And Star fans but I think from the No. 57 ranking, music tastes were moving on from the doo-wop craze at the turn of the decade. Of course, the disc also includes hits like "Runaway" and "Me Gumi no Hito"(め組のひと).


Disc 3


"Perfect Vision" is the title given to the third disc which is half-filled with Martin's 5 new releases and half-filled with the karaoke versions. Of course, "DADDY! DADDY! DO!", "Motivation" and "Tatoe Sekai ga Soppo Muite mo"(たとえ世界がそっぽ向いても)are included. The first track, though, is "Iki mo Dekinai Gurai"(息もできないくらい...Can't Even Breathe), a swing stomp perpetrated by the singer and rock band Kishidan's(氣志團)Sho Ayanokoji(綾小路翔). As someone mentioned in the comments for the above video, this would probably have been ideal as an opening theme for another fun anime although I don't think it quite fits the "Kaguya-sama" franchise. Ayanokoji and Takeshi Kiuchi(木内健)came up with the song.


The final sung track is "Polaris"(ポラリス), a bluesy ballad with a touch of gospel written, composed and co-sung by Angela Aki(アンジェラ・アキ). It was used as the theme song for the 2019 NHK drama "Banjou no Himawari"(盤上の向日葵...Sunflower on the Board). After all of the action within this CD alone, it's nice to finish off with something relatively quiet.

"ALL TIME ROCK 'N' ROLL", I'm happy to say, broke into the Top 10 and hit its high of No. 4. My congratulations to Martin and the production staff for another wonderful BEST album. Also I missed his big day by a few days, but Happy Birthday to him on his 64th which he celebrated on September 22nd. The Kohaku Utagassen won't be the same this year but I do hope that he will get selected, if only to perform "DADDY! DADDY! DO!".

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Akira Takarada -- Bibou no Miyako(美貌の都)

 


Not quite sure how I found out about this particular kayo but I figure that it must have popped up during one of the taped segments from NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)a few weeks ago.


In addition, I'm also not 100% sure whether this song "Bibou no Miyako" (City of Beauty) would fall under enka or a kayo but let's split the difference and consider it both for now. The song was the theme for the titular melodrama movie released in March 1957 about the complications of love among a few folks within a small Osaka factory.

Sung by the main male lead, actor/TV personality Akira Takarada(宝田明), "Bibou no Miyako" comes across as a combination of a slow march and a love song crooned by a band singer from the 1930s. It was written by Yaso Saijo(西條八十)and composed by Gento Uehara(上原げんと). Takarada's J-Wiki article doesn't have him listed as a singer at all and there is no discography although he sings one more song in the movie, but I think he acquits himself quite well behind the mike.


The man looks quite dashing in his tuxedo above and "Bibou no Miyako" here has a pretty nice Mood Kayo arrangement. 


Takarada has also been immortalized thanks to a role that he had a few years earlier as salvage ship captain Hideto Ogata in the original "Godzilla" (1954). He's even appeared in the various sequels including the Hollywood retake of the monster in 2014. Godzilla is pretty much everyone's favourite semi-friendly kaiju now but can you imagine folks watching the trailer above for the first time? It probably would have had the same effect as audiences seeing the trailer for the very first "Alien" in 1979.

Satoru Shionoya -- Side By Side (We Go)

 


Writing about Sing Like Talking last night, I can't help but remember pianist Satoru Shionoya(塩谷哲) because he and SLT vocalist Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)have collaborated together on songs. For example, there is his work with the band and then Sato's contribution to Shionoya's own works such as the 1995 "Salt II". Basically whenever I see Shionoya's name attached to any song, I automatically get interested in what is to be performed.


In 1997, "Salt III" came out and one of the tracks is the short-but-sweet "Side By Side (We Go)". It's a charming and fairly fizzy number kinda like one of those carbonated cocktails at poolside. There is also something seemingly lighthearted and comical about the arrangement as if it had been meant to accompany a modern-day Charlie Chaplin.

The other thing is about the title or at least part of it. As an English teacher for many years, I used to use a textbook series called "Side By Side" which went down to the nitty-gritty in terms of grammar practice with some humourous pictures. It was pretty useful since the series was just perfect for pair work.

Mari Natsuki -- Chinatown(チャイナタウン)

 


The above is a photo of Amausaan Uji Matcha located in downtown Chinatown in Toronto. It served up various matcha tea desserts and drinks. I went there with a friend around a year ago to try it out; it had apparently been open for a year by the time we got there and I was surprised that it was empty although it was a weekday and classes at U of T (only 10~15 minutes away on foot) were well under way. The mille-feuille matcha cake was pretty good although the toilet seat in the men's washroom was pretty much unhinged.

Well, I found out that it's now permanently closed. Was it because the matcha hadn't been good enough for the students or was it COVID-19? Whatever the case, Amausaan now joins the growing group of restaurants that have been kicked to the curb because of the pandemic. I heard a couple of days ago that Furama Cake & Desserts Garden in the same neighbourhood will be closing down within a few days after about 30 years. I haven't visited that place in decades since a lot of that time was spent in Japan but I believe that I did enter the place a few times during university days. Rather sad sign of the times when longstanding shops have to give up the business. Well, if I can do so, I hope that I can go back to some of those other places with friends to dine once more.


Come to think of it, I probably haven't visited downtown Chinatown in nearly a year. Perhaps the Amausaan trip was the last time. When I was in my twenties, it was pretty much a given that my friends and I would visit the area at least a couple of times a week due to its proximity from the university and the fact that it had great food often at starving-student prices. But Chinatown was just that...a much-appreciated area of scrumptious dim sum and Japanese records.

For some reason, Japanese pop culture's take on the various Chinatowns treated the area as if it were a mystical and wonderful foreign land of strange goings-on. There have been several songs pinpointing the neighbourhood such as Yasuha's(泰葉)classic City Pop "Fly-Day Chinatown"(フライディ・チャイナタウン), along with ones by Yuming(ユーミン)and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)although I can't come up with the titles right now.

Veteran bon vivant Mari Natsuki(夏木マリ)has also given her contribution to the Chinatown ethos with "Chinatown", her 13th single under her stage name. She was actually born Junko Nakajima(中島淳子)and had even released a couple of singles in the early 1970s under her real name (will have to check those songs out soon enough). But getting back on track, "Chinatown" was released in April 1978, and it's a mix of straight kayo and that exotic kayo that had been the thing in the late 1970s. In fact, I'd say that "Chinatown" partially reminds me of Mayo Shouno's(庄野真代)"Tonde Istanbul"(飛んでイスタンブール), although it really only took a relatively short train trip even back then from Tokyo to head over to Yokohama's Chinatown. No planes needed.

"Chinatown" was written by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composed by singer-songwriter Masaki Niwa(丹羽応樹). At this juncture, this would be my first Natsuki song in her early days although I did write an article about one of her much later tunes from 2013. As I said, I will tackle her earliest songs under her real name (provided that they exist on YouTube) but would also like to check out some of those other kayo under her name of Natsuki.

Rina Takahashi -- Juu-roku Sai no Gishiki(16歳の儀式)

 



One of the NHK variety shows that I've cottoned onto in the last number of months is "Naming Variety -- Nihonjin no O-namae!"(ネーミングバラエティー 日本人のおなまえっ!...Japanese Names) hosted by veteran host Ichiro Furutachi(古舘伊知郎). As I mentioned in a recent article, I've had a passing interest in the origins and nature of Japanese names and this program has been focusing on names through a variety of themes including history, professions and even music. That last topic was the theme for the most recent episode a few nights ago but it didn't just go into the names but also into the choice of titles of songs. The video below is the one for that very episode and I would take a quick gander at it before it probably gets taken down.


Along with a focus on Kenji Sawada's(沢田研二)"TOKIO" and Omega Tribe's "Kimi wa 1000%"(君は1000%), there was also a segment on Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)"Shojo A"(少女A)including an interview with longtime lyricist Masao Urino(売野政男). I finally got to see what the fellow looks like now. Back then, as one of the panelists on "Naming Variety" remarked, Urino looked like a subversive during the university protests but he seems to look like a kindly old professor at his current age of 69.


One of the things that I've noticed about Urino and his songs is that although he's just responsible for the words, it seems as if those songs' arrangements have often reflected the rock n' roll of motorcycle-riding rebels and malcontents. "Shojo A" comes across this way and a lot of those early Checkers(チェッカーズ)tunes by Urino are quite similar.

And such is the case for the debut single by aidoru Rina Takahashi(高橋利奈), "Juu-roku Sai no Gishiki" (Ritual at 16). It's got that combination of wailing electric guitar, dramatic strings and propulsive beat that adorned "Shojo A", and unsurprisingly, the same duo behind that Nakamori classic was also responsible for "Juu-roku Sai no Gishiki", lyricist Urino and composer Hiroaki Serizawa(芹澤廣明). The lyrics, by the way, involve a love in which at least one-half of the relationship feels has to sadly cool down to prevent any unwanted complications.


Takahashi's first single was released in September 1985 and unfortunately there's no mention of how it did on the charts, but it probably did well enough because she was able to continue releasing singles and albums all the way to 1996. According to her J-Wiki profile, she made her debut at the same time as Miho Nakayama(中山美穂), Yoko Minamino(南野陽子)and Minako Honda(本田美奈子). Interestingly enough, Takahashi and Checkers' member Masaharu Tsuruku(鶴久政治)became a professional duo in 1991 and 1992 with Masarina(マサリナ); I'll have to explore their discography soon.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Tomoko Ohmoto -- Spell ~ Kagami yo, Kagami ~(Spell ~鏡よ、鏡~)

 


Nice to hear from singer-songwriter Tomoko Ohmoto(大本友子)once again after so long. The only other article that I have written about her was way back in September 2013 and the reason is that I really only knew her for one song, "Anata no Mama de" (あなたのままで), a truly mellow ballad that had been the jingle for a Philip Morris cigarette commercial that I used to see on Japanese TV. She sounded so familiar to Miki Imai(今井美樹)that I had assumed that it was indeed Imai behind the song.

Well, I found this "new" Ohmoto song which really stood out for me since it is quite the opposite in tone from the ethereal "Anata no Mama de". It's a snappy urban contemporary tune from the 1990s called "Spell ~ Kagami yo, Kagami ~" (Mirror, Mirror) which is a track on her 1996 album "News ni Naranai Koibito-tachi"(ニュースにならない恋人たち...The Un-Newsworthy Lovers).

Again, I can't help but hear the Imai in her voice but indeed she and "Spell" are great. Written and composed by the singer, it's got that funky groove thanks to that bass, and those cool horns and that wacka-wacka guitar bring in the nostalgic 1960s and (relatively) contemporary 1990s to create some of that Shibuya-kei sound. Just imagine the evil Queen going out for a night out on the town instead of going after Snow White, and only needing to touch up the make-up a little via one of those mirrored surfaces of a modern Shibuya building.

Amy -- Mr. Cool

 


I've mentioned it for her song "Party Night" but I did find "Mr. Cool", Amy's 2nd single from 1983 and the A-side to the former.


"Mr. Cool" has more of the AOR than the City Pop and it has that some of that lovely breeze coming in from the West Coast. I also enjoy the background chorus which indeed sounds like some of that wind wafting through. I'd say that "Mr. Cool" would have been the perfect jingle for a spearmint gum commercial.

According to the JASRAC database, "Mr. Cool" was written by Naoko Nishio(西尾尚子)and composed by City Pop stalwart Kengo Kurozumi(黒住憲五). The song is also a track on Amy's self-titled album from the same year.

Masatoshi Nakamura -- Omoide no Cliffside Hotel(想い出のクリフサイドホテル)

 


Wow! Love, fighting and tragedy all in one video above. This would be the 1985 NTV drama "Hokori no Houshuu"(誇りの報酬...Pride's Reward) starring actors/singers Masatoshi Nakamura(中村雅俊)and the late Jinpachi Nezu(根津甚八)as police detectives, a show that lasted virtually a year between October 1985 and September 1986. Yup, it lasted long enough that it had three ending themes, all sung by Nakamura.


The final ending theme is the focus here. "Omoide no Cliffside Hotel" (Cliffside Hotel of Memories) is Nakamura's May 1986 single, and I had assumed from the beginning synthesizer riff that it was going to be a synthpop number, but it actually straddles the line between City Pop and some hard-driving pop. In fact, it fairly races along at a good clip like a police cruiser on pursuit status although the subject of the song is some stately accommodations. 

Masao Urino(売野雅勇)took care of the lyrics with Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー)handling the music with Jun Sato(佐藤準)on overall arrangement. "Omoide no Cliffside Hotel" does sound like an ideal theme for a cop show and if it had been used as the opening theme, some pretty snazzy opening credits would have been in order; I gather that may have been cutting it too close in terms of the production budget. There's also something about the song that makes me feel that Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一)or even Omega Tribe could have easily covered it. The single managed to hit No. 29 on Oricon, selling 630,000 records.

To think that Nakamura would tackle something with a City Pop beat. Then again, never did I imagine that 70s aidoru Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹)would do that either but 80s songs such as "ROOM NUMBER 3021" have proved me wrong...happily so.

Sing Like Talking -- Ai wo Tomerarenai(愛を止められない)

 


Another Friday night is here and I'm sure that there are folks who are going to cherish their evening out at their favourite watering hole, although because of the second wave of COVID-19, restaurants and bars will have to close up shop earlier than before to stem the infection tide as of midnight tonight. But the music here is still available 24 hours a day (provided that the powers-that-be are kind).


How about some Sing Like Talking to start things off for City Pop/J-AOR night? "Ai wo Tomerarenai" (Can't Stop Love) is one of the coupling songs for the band's 17th single "Kaze ni Dakarete" (風に抱かれて)that was released in August 1994 (forgot to mention in the original article that it had been released as a single...only that it was part of the SLT album "Togetherness"). "Ai wo Tomerarenai" has got a bit more funky bounce than the A-side which makes it fine as an accompaniment for a night out on the town. 

With SLT members Chiaki Fujita(藤田千章)and Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)providing the words and music, it's another one of those songs that is a sure thing for me whenever I see those names in the liner notes. It feels both nostalgic (some 70s soul added to that funk?) and contemporary at the same time. I don't know if "Ai wo Tomerarenai" ever got onto a BEST album but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't included on an original one, so it's one thing again to keep an eye on those B-sides. Some pretty nice gems can be found among those as well. It's just too bad that the above video cuts off rather abruptly.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Charisma.com -- Otsubone Rock(お局ロック)

 


After giving another go-round with Kirinji's(キリンジ)scintillating "Ai wo aru dake, Subete"(愛をあるだけ、すべて)album of 2018 which includes the spacey and suspenseful "AI no Touhikou"(AIの逃避行)with special guest MC Itsuka(いつか)from Charisma.com, I started wondering how the warp-speed rapper was doing. It was in the same year that the duo broke up once her partner, DJ Gonchi(ゴンチ), decided that it was time to go.

Well, I started looking for another song of theirs and found this one called "Otsubone Rock" (Queen Bee Rock) which was a track on Charisma.com's 2nd mini-album "OLest" from July 2015. My last article on the duo, "Kongara Girl"(こんがらガール), is also included in the album.

As Wikipedia states, "OLest" is a riff on The Best Office Lady, and "Otsubone Rock" is apparently about that Queen Bee in the workplace who will do anything to stay on top of the hive (saw something like that happening in one of my occupations years ago). Strangely enough, the lyrics remind me of a Nicole Kidman movie that I heard about a few decades back.

"Otsubone Rock" has got that percolating rap by Itsuka, who also wrote and composed the song along with Masaru Iwabuchi(岩渕マサル), and it has that likeable twangy guitar which puts in some of that "Peter Gunn" suspense into the proceedings. I also like that intro which sounds like a machine gun going off and isn't that what a typical Charisma.com song is all about?


As for the video, seeing Itsuka carrying the ladder and both her and Gonchi walking like bosses in the factory must have been a shoutout to the late 1990s "Shomu-Ni"(ショムニ...General Affairs Department, General Affairs Section 2)franchise on Fuji-TV. I did watch the first two seasons and it stars a group of hardened OLs relegated to a corporate HQ limbo section only for them to be actually saving the company time and time again. I would think that Itsuka and Gonchi would make valuable additions to the section considering that Gonchi could intimidate anyone with those eyes and Itsuka looks like someone who could quietly rip a person into shreds with her tongue.

"OLest" managed to peak at No. 31 on Oricon. Despite the fact that Gonchi has left the duo, I am happy to find out that Itsuka has carried on as a solo act under the Charisma.com name but seeing her 2018 video at her website, she has greatly changed her appearance.

tohko -- It's all about us ~from the motion picture "BEAT"~

 


When I arrived in Japan at the end of 1994 to start my second stint there as a teacher, I think the Komuro Boom had been a year in. Even while I was still in Toronto, I had heard about the band trf and then when I made my way to Tokyo, it was the tidal wave of Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵), Yuki Uchida(内田有紀), Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美), globe, dos, etc. It was a big few years in the middle of the decade for Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)and his gang as I saw them on the charts, music shows and videos, and opening credits for TV dramas. 

But a quarter of a century later, aside from Amuro, Uchida and perhaps Kaba-chan(KABA.ちゃん)from dos since she's been a tarento for many years, all of those folks of the Komuro Boom, including even Komuro himself, have rather disappeared from the limelight. Now, it's usually the case that from time to time, one of those people ends up in one of those "Whatever happened to this person?" segments on a variety program.


I think another one of the members from the Komuro Boom that has been largely out of my sight all these years is the singer tohko. Remembering her mostly for her debut single "Bad Luck On Love ~ Blues On Life ~", Tomoko Saito(斉藤朋子)has left me with the impression that she was a quieter version of Tomomi Kahala in terms of her music. Whereas with Kahala, there was that dance club and city feeling, tohko was more about that quiet park or seashore away from the urban jungle.

Her 4th single was "It's all about us ~from the motion picture "BEAT"~" released in September 1998 and it was also a track on her first album "Tohko"(籐子)from August. Komuro had more of a direct hand in the creation of the song being both lyricist and composer with Marc Panther (from globe) and Cozy Kubo(久保こーじ)assisting with lyrics and music respectively. It's definitely one of those songs that invites the listener to take a load off, relax on a bench and breathe deeply for a while. Kinda wished that it did better than its modest No. 49 ranking on Oricon.

Assuming that she had retired from the music industry long ago, tohko has actually been continuing her work there, releasing a 13th single, "Mugen no Chikara"(無限のチカラ...Infinite Strength) back in 2016 although any original album production finished up in 1999. Plus, according to her website, she has appeared on a recent NTV variety show and has given a performance in the last couple of weeks. Also in 2000 and 2001, she played the role of Cosette in the Japanese version of "Les Miserables".



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Rutsuko Honda -- Kaze ga Hakobu Mono(風がはこぶもの)

 


I found this short and sweet folk song some weeks ago.


"Kaze ga Hakobu Mono", whose official English title is "Voice in the Wind", is folk singer Rutsuko Honda's(本田路津子)2nd single from February 1971. At only two-and-a-half minutes long, indeed it's short but it's also a very pleasant song performed with a pure voice by the Fukuoka-born Honda. I can just see her singing this under a summer tree with her guitar while a gentle breeze is flowing through the branches. Michio Yamagami(山上路夫)would provide the lyrics of sending her love through the wind while Susumu Sugawara(菅原進)from the folk duo Billy BanBan(ビリーバンバン)took care of the music.

I have to admit, though, considering that I have a passing interest in Japanese names, I was intrigued by Ms. Honda's first name. And according to her profile on J-Wiki, there is a reason behind what is considered to be a rather unusual given name for her. Both her parents were Christians (although in J-Wiki, it's pointed out that Honda herself didn't convert to Christianity until she got married) and so she was named after The Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible with some wrangling over the appropriate kanji to express the name.

Although at the time, a lot of folk fans (and presumably artists, too) were in thrall to Joan Baez, Honda actually admitted that she was more of an admirer of Judy Collins. Between 1970 and 1975, she would release 13 singles and 7 albums, and would appear on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen for the 1971 and 1972 shows (although not for this particular song). In 1975, she got married and would move to the United States, and after returning to Japan in 1988, Honda would become a gospel singer.

Kiyohiko Ozaki -- Kaze no Graffiti (風のグラフィティー)

 


I would like to deeply apologize for my flash photography skills and reassure you that this is indeed a Kiyohiko Ozaki(尾崎紀世彦)album..."Kaze no Graffiti" (Graffiti of the Wind) to be exact, his penultimate original album from March 1980. Frankly speaking, I had never thought that I would ever purchase a CD of his despite the fact that I will always appreciate his most famous hit "Mata Au Hi Made" (また逢う日まで), a truly evergreen kayo.


However, I came across "Kaze no Graffiti" a few weeks ago on YouTube thanks to the uploader Neon Sono, and after listening to a number of the original and bonus tracks, I decided to pull the trigger on my wallet for the first time in several months and made the purchase. The above is the video for the full album including those bonus tracks but I want to take a look at some of the original tracks on their own. Yuji Ohno(大野雄二), the man behind the famous theme song for the anime "Lupin III", was behind the production of the album and he also provided some of the melodies.


For example, Ohno composed the first and title track, "Kaze no Graffiti", a wistful ballad about change and a requiem for a lost loved one. With lyrics by Keisuke Yamakawa(山川啓介), Ozaki croons lovingly about the good ol' days when everyone got together for a round of drinks at their favourite watering hole only for the place to be replaced by a building. It also looks like with the loss of his beloved and all of his touchpoints, there is really nothing tying him down to the old neighbourhood anymore. 

I recall from the article for "Mata Au Hi Made" that Ozaki was compared to Tom Jones. Well, commenter Scott also thought he was similar to another tuxedoed crooner Englebert Humperdinck, and I think with "Kaze no Graffiti", there is some echo of Humperdinck's classic "After The Lovin'". The song is also an interesting combination of country ballad and metropolitan mood music with the horns and sax.


Ohno and Yamakawa bring some nighttime sophistication worthy of a Henry Mancini blessing with the second track "Lonely Again". This is the type of song that I love to hear during a fine night of dinner and the high life in the big city. Once again, I get those Humperdinck feelings but this time, Yamakawa's lyrics are somewhat more forlorn as Ozaki sings of the end of a relationship. I guess that dinner is just for one. Maybe it would be for Lupin III himself since I believe that "Lonely Again" sounds just perfect for one of his movies.



Once again, Ono and Yamakawa work together on Track 3, "Ojou-san O-te wo Yawaraka ni"(お嬢さんお手やわらかに...Softly, My Lady), a foppy City Pop tune about that night out on the resort town. I gather that Ozaki and company really wanted to cover all the bases in the potentials of a relationship for this album. Maybe this could also be a Lupin III sort of tune with the snazzy and jazzy horns and an overall beat which suggests a strut down the boardwalk.


Gospel blues come to the fore in "New York Ballad"(ニューヨーク・バラード)which was written by Zenkou Takeda*(武田全弘)and composed by Toshiyuki Kimori(木森敏之). There's more of that famous Ozaki boomer voice and the brassy chorus that reminds me of "Mata Au Hi Made" as the singer relates his tale of that trip to The Big Apple to forget about some bad times at home. A vacation never hurts and New York City is one place that has always promised plenty of excitement to shoo the blues away.


There is some of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" (an old karaoke song of mine) and maybe even a bit of "I'll Be There" by The Jackson 5 in "My Better Life", a comfy song that was naturally used for an air conditioner commercial. It was also Ozaki's October 1979 single. Once again, Ohno and Yamakawa were behind this ballad that pretty much puts out the slippers and places the hot soup onto the table.

As I mentioned, there are bonus tracks attached to the remastered album...six of them, to be exact. However, I will cover at least some of those in future articles since they are rather different in tone with two of them for a tokusatsu show and one really nice J-Xmas song that I would prefer to cover on its own as we get closer to the Yuletide.


*The first name for Mr. Takeda has a variety of different readings but I went with the first one listed since it was rather unusual. However, someone can correct me on this if I'm in error, that would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Love Potion -- Nightingale(ナイチンゲール)

 


As I've mentioned before in past articles, the 1980s were the most impressionable decade for me in terms of pop culture. There was all the music, the music videos, discovering the freedom of university life with restaurants and discos, and fashion. 


When my brother and I were taping music videos onto VHS tape (yes, that was a hobby back then), one of those videos was the 1983 hit by Tracey Ullman, "They Don't Know", which was a cover of the original 1979 song by the late Kirsty MacColl. And back then, I was marveling at the fact that the 1950s and 1960s were coming back into popular culture in the 1980s after having done the same the previous decade thanks to "American Graffiti" and "Happy Days". Ullman's video illustrated that mix of the earlier decades and that certain New Wave of the 80s.


That was the same feeling that I received on encountering this song "Nightingale" by the girls' band Love Potion(ラブ・ポーション). The first track on Side B of their 2nd and final album "Nightingale ni Narenakute"(ナイチンゲールになれなくて...Can't Become a Nightingale) from January 1986, I was not only reminded of "They Don't Know" but I even thought of "Georgy Girl" by The Seekers. Looking at the album cover in the thumbnail, yep, it certainly appears that the band was going for some of that 60s/80s mix of fashion. The headband and all those pearls around the lead singer's neck has me thinking early Madonna. "Nightingale" was written by Kenji Kadoya(門谷憲二)and composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔).

The lead singer, by the way, is Norie Kasai(笠井則江)along with her guitarist buddy Takako Nakamura(中村貴子)and three of their classmates from a Kyoto junior high school, according to J-Wiki. Back in 1977, they actually started their career as an indies country band called San Antonio Lady's, but then later on in 1983, singer-songwriter Ryudo Uzaki(宇崎竜童)contributed some help to them and even had them change their name to Love Potion with a major debut single of "Mune Ippai no Photograph"(胸いっぱいのフォトグラフ...Photographs Full of Emotion) at the end of that year. Still, their early songs still had that country lilt and their July 1984 debut album "ZEPHYR" even had them covering "Tennessee Waltz". With those two albums and six singles under their belts, Love Potion called it a day by announcing their breakup at an Osaka concert in July 1986.

J-Canuck's Favourite 6 Tatsuro Yamashita Songs

 


I missed it by three days but September 19th was the 40th anniversary of the release of Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)1980 "Ride On Time" album. You might say that I didn't ride on time with that one. Thanks for the round of indifference.

However, I've already written on both the album and the single with the same title along with some of the other tracks in there independently. What's a Tats fan armed with a blog to do? Well, as insane as it may sound, I realized that I have yet to do an Author's Pick for my own favourite songs by the famed singer-songwriter. That's rather galling to know especially when I provided an Author's Pick on my favourite Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)songs at the end of 2015. Must compensate and that time is now! So indeed, this is an opportunity.

No particular order to my favourites...I love them equally. And it was rather difficult to whittle down the choices to half a dozen, but basically almost all of them originate from "Ride On Time" and his 1982 album "For You".

1. Amaku Kiken na Kaori (あまく危険な香り)


Wouldn't you love to listen to this while riding in a red convertible down the Ventura Freeway? It's not just the City Pop/J-AOR but also an old-time 60s/70s lounge feeling with "Amaku Kiken na Kaori" that provides pure relaxation as I inhale some of that titular bewitching scent. The horns are just wonderful!



Couldn't get any more David Foster 80s romantic ballad than this one. Still not sure if this was a tribute to Mariya but if a guy needs to propose to the love of his life and he knows that he/she is a Tats fan, well, the choice is fairly clear, isn't it? It's one of the great J-AOR sunset songs and only the man himself can get away with yelling "I LOVE YA!" over and over at the end.



I can always listen to this one and never get tired of it. Plus, if I'm in a bad or down mood, "Loveland, Island" makes for the ideal pick-me-up. I was never a fan of the Japanese summer (there's something about physically melting into a puddle that never quite appealed to me) but this is one of the tunes by Tats that can help me happily remember the hot season there without the need to sweat tons.



Another thing that I will never tire of...that boppy bass in the intro for "Someday", the opening track to "Ride on Time". Those wonderful lyrics of hope are carried on top of that remaining melody of sharp horns and gentle keyboard to create this happy shuffle down the city sidewalks. It must have been a wonderful time to stroll in Tokyo.


I have to thank Japan Railways for having the idea to put Yamashita's atypical song about being lonely on December 24th onto their late 1980s end-of-year commercials, thereby giving "Christmas Eve" another chance to make it big after having a rather soft opening in its originating year of 1983. Arguably, it's probably the most famous J-Xmas song even if it's not a favourite with everyone. I also would like to thank those critics from earlier in the decade who may have ticked off Tats by just brushing him off as merely that summer song guy since he opted to show them by creating a Xmas tune.

6. Ride On Time


Of course, I just had to finish the list off with "Ride On Time", now the City Pop song to hear when one is about to head out on a flight to climes hot and tropical. I've preferred the single version to the album take simply because of that baritone saxophone which butts right in as soon as Tats goes into the main chorus for the first time. The rest of the horns and piano, the sax solo, the backup vocals by frequent songwriting partner Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子), and last but not least, Tats' singing make "Ride On Time" one of the best songs of the genre.

In any case, congratulations are in order for the album "Ride On Time" on its 40th and I hope that the fans are still here in another decade when we celebrate its golden anniversary.