Saturday, October 31, 2020
Early on in "Kayo Kyoku Plus" history, I wrote about a song that had briefly been the biggest-selling single in Oricon history and still owns the No. 2 spot along with its status as the top-selling enka song. That would be Shiro Miya & The Pinkara Trio's（宮史郎＆ぴんからトリオ）"Onna no Michi"（女のみち）. And yes, it's plenty enka!
Well, the B-side of the May 1972 "Onna no Michi" is not only the physical opposite but also the opposite in terms of genre. "Okinawa no Hito" (A Man In Okinawa) is a straight-up Mood Kayo with all of the boozy sax and shimmering strings that you would ever want accompanying you during a drink in a nomiya. Miya's voice even slows down and drops down noticeably as it describes a fellow down on his luck and drowning his sorrows in lots of alcohol in Japan's southernmost prefecture. I figure if folks can get all mopey and drunk in places like Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka, why not Okinawa? Methinks that the libations needed here are stronger than the average can of Orion Beer.
Unlike "Onna no Michi" which was created by group members Miya and Hiroshi Namiki（並木ひろし）, "Okinawa no Hito" was written by Hiroko Ogido*（萩堂祐子）and Hachiro Ono（大野八郎）with Ono also providing the music.
*The lyricist's name has a number of ways to read both the given and family names so once again, if anyone out there can confirm the proper reading, I would be very happy about it...and I'm sure her family would be, too.
Kome Kome Club（米米CLUB）made an appearance on last week's "Uta Kon"（うたコン）and leader Tatsuya "Carl Smoky" Ishii（石井竜也）was his usual cheerfully goofy self, and during his chat session with the hosts, it was announced that the band was celebrating its 35th anniversary in show business. I was just finishing off my freshman year at U of T back in 1985 when K2C started its run of epic entertainment. Many congratulations to the band and I'm hoping that it's going to keep on entertaining the masses.
Anyways, I was leafing through one of the "Young Song" inserts that come with the monthly "Myojo" magazines. I still retain a few of those as they appear more and more like archaeological pop cultural artifacts, but getting back on track, I was looking through one of them when I saw that there was this most unusual duet between two vivacious singer-songwriters. Never did I imagine that the aforementioned Carl Smoky and Yumi Matsutoya（松任谷由実）actually team up on a song but they certainly did and I took the picture that serves as the article photo at the top.
Released in November 1992, "Ai no Wave" (Love Wave) had both Ishii and Yuming creating and recording this one and only single together with Hiroshi Shinkawa（新川博）behind the arrangement as the theme for a Fuji-TV campaign. It's a fun song to be sure but I think the news that the long time Queen of New Music and Mr. Charisma were working together also helped gained its No. 1 ranking on Oricon. And apparently, according to Yuming in the concert video above, the two of them had performed "Ai no Wave" just once live on the noon-hour show "Waratte Ii Tomo!"（笑っていいとも!）before Carl Smoky popped up that night at the concert.
The news came in on the local CP24 feed earlier this morning. Sir Sean Connery, the very first James Bond on the movie screen, passed away at the age of 90. As I was telling commenter Scott an hour or so later, I knew that my favourite 007 was ailing for some time but still it was very sad to hear that he finally left this mortal coil. Eerily enough, yesterday Connery popped up in my memories for some reason and it was the scene in "The Untouchables" when his character of Jimmy Malone is brutally assassinated by Frank Nitti.
As a Bond fan, I will always remember that first scene where he introduced himself as "Bond, James Bond" in "Doctor No", the huge fight in the train compartment between him and Red Grant in "From Russia With Love" and him on that slab with the laser beam threatening his second-most lethal weapon in "Goldfinger". As you can deduce quickly, three of my favourite 007 movies were those first three with Connery.
In another example of a slight coincidence, I found out about Tomoyasu Hotei's（布袋寅泰）theme for the 2014 live-action version of "Lupin III" being compared to the early pieces of music from the Bond franchise, according to TV Tropes.
I had a chance to see this live version with Shun Oguri（小栗旬）as the charming titular thief via TV Japan, but that night I had my student online so didn't quite make it. I'll have to PVR it next time although I heard that reviews were rather mixed. According to the J-Wiki article on the movie, Yuji Ohno（大野雄二）, the composer of the iconic anime theme, was simply too busy to participate in this particular project, so apparently that theme was nixed in place of Hotei's "TRICK ATTACK". The official guidebook (via J-Wiki) mentions that Hotei still wanted to pay some respect to Ohno when creating this new theme that comes out in the nifty closing credits (was shocked to see Nick Tate [aka Alan Carter] from "Space:1999" in the cast).
For me, I could pick up on the respect to Ohno but aside from that ending strum on the guitar, I didn't really hear any of that "love letter to James Bond" that TV Tropes was writing about. Still, it's 100% Hotei with the rat-a-tat horns and of course, his own guitar. Good try but it won't make me forget about Ohno's original or Hotei's own "Kill Bill" theme.
Will miss Sir Sean...but at least, he and Lois Maxwell are back together again.
Friday, October 30, 2020
The shot above was taken on the last night of our cruise on the Harmony of the Seas back in 2017. I figured that I needed to get some of those lovely evening photos on the ship before we finally disembarked in Fort Lauderdale the next day.
My photo at the top is to introduce this delectable concoction by fusion band T-Square. "Night Cruise" simply hits all of the right nerves in me, and to be honest, I had assumed that this was one of their earlier efforts from the 1980s. Imagine my surprise and delight to realize that "Night Cruise" had come out a mere 5 years ago as a track on the band's 41st album "Paradise" in July 2015.
There is a title track on the album but "Night Cruise" is paradise in itself. That bouncy drum machine, all of the band members getting their licks in, and that massaging melody just show that T-Square hasn't lost their touch after so many years together. Drummer Satoshi Bando（坂東慧）was behind the wonderful music and despite the six minutes, I wouldn't have minded a little more of the cocktail here.
True...a lot of new fans were garnered thanks to "Takarajima"（宝島）, but I would recommend them to also give this one a sail.
Earlier this spring, I introduced singer-songwriter and guitarist Kiyoshi Hasegawa（長谷川きよし）who has had a long career spanning all the way back into the late 1960s. His "Wakare no Samba"（別れのサンバ）was his 1969 debut single and a wonderful example of how much he loves Brazilian music. I pointed out that I think bossa nova is probably his beloved genre.
However, Hasegawa has also tackled folk music and apparently that's how he started gaining his fans. Interestingly enough, he is one of those Japanese folk singers who also made that leap into the world of City Pop, and so we have his 1985 album "This Time" and this one track "City Lights Blue".
Hasegawa seems to take to the urban contemporary genre like a duck to water if "City Lights Blue" is of any indication. He was responsible for the groovy music while Masako Arikawa（有川正沙子）provided the lyrics. As usual, I'm a sucker for those rhythm keyboards and that bluesy guitar and the only thing I'm disappointed is that "City Lights Blue" is quite short at a shade over three minutes and the ending is surprisingly abrupt. But perhaps he's like any showman and likes to leave his fans wanting more. Yes, I'd like to know more next time about "This Time".
I am very grateful to my good friend, JTM, for sending me over this compilation of City Pop by female singers, "Tokyo Nights". Included are tracks such as the late Aru Takamura's（高村亜留）"I'm In Love" and Kaoru Akimoto's（秋元薫）classic "Dress Down".
Another track is provided by Mariko Tone（刀根麻理子）through her "Broken Eyes" which was originally the lead track on her 2nd album "Purple Rose" from October 1985. Written by Goro Matsui（松井五郎）and composed by Ken Sato（佐藤健）, I'll give a quote from the liner notes provided by Eli Cohen from "Tokyo Nights":
"Broken Eyes" is a dark, synth-heavy workout examining suspicion and infidelity. The scent of another woman lingers and her eyes would have to be broken not to see that there is something amiss in their relationship.
Woooh! As the time reflects, this would be the plot for an 80s suspense movie starring folks like Meg Ryan and Jeff Bridges or perhaps this could be the story for one of those moody perfume ads that populated the airwaves back then. However, although the lyrics are dark, Sato's melody is bright and brassy and reminiscent of similar songs sung by Tone's contemporaries like Anri（杏里）and Yurie Kokubu（国分友里恵）. Going into the West, the synths but not the brass remind me of what Madonna was doing back in those days. I can even posit that "Broken Eyes" could be reflected by the cover of "Tokyo Nights" itself although those overhanging eyes in the sky look pretty clear to me.
Still a few more tracks to bring over to the blog from "Tokyo Nights" which I'm looking forward to.
Ahhh...memories of Halloween. Two of the three Jack O'Lanterns that you see above were created by me years ago when I was teaching the masses how to carve pumpkins. The other one was actually quite delicious.
Indeed, tomorrow will be Halloween although unfortunately things are not going to be quite as festive due to the horrors of COVID-19. The medical experts here have stated that trick-or-treat is going to be a no-no and that families ought to search for more virtual/internal activities to celebrate the bewitching night. I checked the YouTube channel with the live cameras over Shibuya, Tokyo. Usually if Halloween falls on a weekend there, it was guaranteed that the preceding Friday and the two nights afterwards would probably have thousands of folks squeezing into the neighbourhood like old-fashioned college students trying to stuff themselves into a taxi or a telephone booth. Thankfully if sadly, I didn't see any of that on the cameras today.
As for me, my Halloween education was left back in Japan years ago and our family no longer gives out the treats since that was made into a collective neighbourhood activity years ago as well. And cosplay was never my thing to begin with.
Odd bodkins! I was searching a couple of days ago for something that would fit the theme of Halloween when the perfect video was discovered on YouTube. If anyone ever fantasized how Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" would like with a Japanese cast and a Danny Elfman-esque song to match, this is for you.
Plus, if you are a visual kei band fan and wondered about an "Ocean's Eleven" collaboration, "HALLOWEEN PARTY" is most definitely for you. Created by L'Arc-en-Ciel's vocalist and songwriter Hyde, he along with Oblivion Dust's guitarist K.A.Z. got together to form the rock unit VAMPS in the late 2000s. Then a few years later, the pair got together a whole bunch of rockers for the event known as "HALLOWEEN PARTY 2012" under the band name of Halloween Junky Orchestra where the single "HALLOWEEN PARTY" was introduced and then released on October 17th that year.
So along with VAMPS, Halloween Junky Orchestra included actress/singer Anna Tsuchiya（土屋アンナ）, Ryuji Aoki（青木隆治）, Aki（明希）of the rock band Sid, Acid Black Cherry, kyo from the band D'ERLANGER, singer/tarento Daigo, Tatsuro（逹瑯）of MUCC, Tomoko Kawase（川瀬智子） in both of her incarnations Tommy february6 and Tommy heavenly6, guitarist Hitsugi（柩）of NIGHTMARE, musician RINA of the band SCANDAL and singer/cellist Kanon Wakeshima（分島花音）.
I have to say that the video is glorious and director Ken Nikai（二階健）, who had also taken care of the music videos for Hyde and those two bands of his, ought to get a firm and hearty handshake from Burton. It seems right out of the FAO Schwarz idea for Halloween. Plus Hyde apparently must have listened to the soundtracks for "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Beetlejuice" (and perhaps even the music for the past several years of "Doctor Who") for inspiration for "HALLOWEEN PARTY". It's truly a grand march for the boys and ghouls.
The single peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and despite the lateness of the release, "HALLOWEEN PARTY" ended up as the 80th-ranked single of 2012, going Gold.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
This will probably go down as one of the weirder analogies when it comes to pop culture connections on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and it will further cement my status as a sci-fi geek. However, work with me here. In the 1970s when I first heard and started watching the adventures of everyone's favourite Time Lord, The Doctor, from "Doctor Who", it was through watching the dapper if often ill-tempered Third Doctor portrayed by Jon Pertwee and then his replacement, Tom Baker, took over as the thoroughly daffy Fourth Doctor. But as a kid, I had thought that Jon and Tom were the first and second incarnations of The Doctor at that time.
Well, lo and behold, during one of the PBS pledge breaks for money by Mike and Goldie (who basically threatened us to donate or no more "Doctor Who"[ha, ha...little did they know that we Torontonians still had TV Ontario to fall back upon]), I found out rather dramatically through a poster of the Doctors (including the then-new Fifth Doctor played by Peter Davison) there were two other old guys to the left that I had never seen before: an ancient fellow and a mop-topped chap. It turned out that they were the first and second incarnations of the Time Lord starring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton! There was a "Doctor Who" before Jon Pertwee. I was rather gobsmacked.
Strangely enough (and we are returning from the TARDIS to kayo kyoku now), I had the very same feeling about the flirtatious and fun "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" (Bring Back The Mood Once More). The reason for this is that for the longest time, I had assumed that City Pop chanteuse Rajie was the first singer to croon this song created by lyricist Kazumi Yasui（安井かずみ）and composer Kazuhiko Kato（加藤和彦）as one of the tracks on her debut album "Heart to Heart" released in September 1977.
Ah, well...nope, that wasn't the case at all. If truth be told, the first rendition of "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" was provided by a duo comprised of celebrities who probably didn't consider singing as their regular gig. For one thing, the late Yuji Konno（今野雄二）was a movie/music critic, a translator (he actually provided the Japanese lyrics for Akemi Ishii's（石井明美）big hit "CHA-CHA-CHA") and a novelist, while Lisa Tatsuki（立木リサ）has been a teenage model, actress and a TV personality (with one earlier song under her belt).
Both of them had their dalliances on TV including their time (probably shared) on the late-night NTV program "11 PM", and maybe that's how they got together to perform this song which was released in July 1977, a couple of months before Rajie's version. Compared with the 70s City Pop sound of her "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido", the duet between Tatsuki and Konno starts off sounding quite soulful before the feeling transforms into something even more luxurious with images of crisp white tablecloth and champagne flutes. In addition, considering how small their discographies were, the two of them did pretty well in the recording booth. By the way, the backup singers here were members of the fusion band Sadistics which included drummer Yukihiro Takahashi（高橋幸宏）and guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka（高中正義）.
As any television pitchperson will say, "Wait! There's more!". Following the single by Tatsuki and Konno, folk singer and radio personality Keiko Kobayashi（小林啓子）would release her own solo take on "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" in August, in between their version and Rajie's cover. With the additional subtitle of "WE CAN DANCE", Kobayashi's version amps up the Latin flavour (which populates all of the versions) and the funk. Handling the arrangement was her husband Nobuyuki Takahashi（高橋信之）, Yukihiro's older brother. The other interesting connection is that Rajie herself served as one of the backup singers behind Kobayashi along with the Takahashi brothers. The single was also the first track on her 3rd album "Chotto Kibun wo Kaete"（ちょっと気分をかえて...Change The Mood A Bit） released in the same month.
So at this point, we've got ourselves four...count 'em, four!...different versions of "Kibun wo Dashite Mou Ichido" if we also include the 2002 cover duet with Maki Nomiya（野宮真貴）and Crazy Ken Band's Ken Yokoyama（横山剣）that was included in the Rajie article. However, according to J-Wiki, composer Kato himself provided his own cover via his February 1978 album "Gardenia", and he had quite the backup band: drummer Takahashi was back, Shigeru Suzuki（鈴木茂）was on guitar, Tsugutoshi Goto（後藤次利）was on bass, and Ryuichi Sakamoto（坂本龍一）was on piano among other great musicians. Alas, I couldn't find a copy of that one on YouTube.
A little harder to track down those Halloween-based kayo when compared to the Xmas versions (although I will be throwing on a fairly epic one tomorrow on October 30th), but I did find one which may fit the bill in a way.
This would be 80s aidoru Hidemi Ishikawa's（石川秀美）16th single "Ai no Jumon" (Love Incantation) from September 1985. Despite the relative temporal closeness of its release to October 31st, Kyoko Matsumiya's（松宮恭子）melody doesn't really sound like a Halloween-type tune but the lyrics (also by Matsumiya) perhaps has a cute connection with Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
A young lady whose former beau has moved onto a new girlfriend is trying to perform her form of a hex to get back the old flame, and yeah, that's what the "Get back!" in the lyrics is trying to say and not telling him to back off (or some other word with "off"😆). Melodically, "Ai no Jumon" strikes me as an interesting mix of rock n' roll and synthpop along with an intriguing intro including that smoothly humming guitar. Jun Sato（佐藤準）was responsible for the arrangement.
There was no listing of how the song did on Oricon but it's included in Ishikawa's 7th album "I" which was released in December of that same year. Mind you, the Chiba Prefecture-born teen idol did make her one and only appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen with "Ai no Jumon". Have a look below at 6:00.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
It was through the anime field that I first found out about singer-songwriter-seiyuu Maaya Sakamoto（坂本真綾）, thanks to her contribution of the opening theme "Shiawase ni Tsuite Watashi ga Shitteiru Itsutsu no Houhou"（幸せについて私が知っている5つの方法）for one of my favourite anime "Koufuku Graffiti" (幸腹グラフィティ...Gourmet Graffiti) .
Little did I know at the time that Sakamoto's music career extended way back into the mid-1990s and even her time as a seiyuu went back even further into the late 1980s according to J-Wiki. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, she should be celebrating her 25th anniversary as a singer sometime next year.
Hearing her anison is wonderful but I've discovered that probably her non-anime material is also quite glorious, too. Case in point: this track from her March 2001 album "Lucy" titled "Kinobori to Akai Skirt" (Tree Climbing and the Red Skirt). One commenter stated that there is something very Beatles about this paean to the youthful years and I would agree, but I can also add that there is also a bit of Queen in there, too, but the rest of it is due to Sakamoto, lyricist Yuuho Iwasato（岩里祐穂）and composer/album producer Yoko Kanno（菅野よう子）. Iwasato was also the one who provided the lyrics to the aforementioned "Shiawase ni Tsuite Watashi ga Shitteiru Itsutsu no Houhou" in 2015. Kudos to her for providing the words about the bittersweet story of a boy and girl in youth who were the closest of buddies only to slowly grow apart as they grew up.
As well, I really love Kanno for putting in some of that sunny nostalgia through her melody and arrangement via the Beatles/Queen, especially with that distinctive guitar wail that I like to describe as elastic and the piano with the background chorus. Incidentally, Kanno is also on keyboards here.
"Lucy" sold about 43,000 albums as it peaked at No. 16 on Oricon. Although how the album got its title is not mentioned in either J-Wiki or Wikipedia, I do wonder considering the nature of this particular song whether "Lucy" had something to do with a sky and diamonds. Also before I leave off, I believe commenter Michael may have recommended this one to me; if so, my thanks to him.
I've stayed in a few hotels that were expensive and stylish enough to offer that rain forest shower head option in the bathroom. Well, I mean, I'm sure that they were very good for the environment and all, but I still prefer the old-fashioned type that can jet blast me clean.
Speaking about gentle showers, I've got this "Gentle Shower" track from the atmospheric City Pop/AOR band Piper's 1983 album "Summer Breeze". I first wrote about the title track from the album back in 2014 and lamented to one commenter that I hadn't heard of any remastered CD releases by the group, but what a difference six years make. It looks like CD Japan has a few copies by the band on its site right now. Ah, the decisions that I have to make...
Anyways, "Gentle Shower" does start out like the equivalent of the rain shower option in a hotel bathroom before jumping up a bit into a jauntier beat with songwriter Keisuke Yamamoto（山本圭右）singing the same couple of lines over and over again. There's something very akin to Vaporwave in the repeating and mesmerizing lyrics and melody so I wouldn't be surprised if a Vaporwave or Future Funk version has been put up somewhere on YouTube in the last few years.
This isn't to take any mean pokes at Piper but sometimes when I see those titles of "Summer Breeze" and "Gentle Shower", I wonder whether the marketing departments of air freshener manufacturers derived some inspiration from the titles.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Back in September 2015, I provided one of my first articles on longtime singer-songwriter Hiroko Taniyama（谷山浩子）through "Yoru no Buranko" (Night Swing). I was impressed with the bluesy urban contemporary feeling of this 22nd single released in June 1994 as arranged by Nobuo Kurata（倉田信雄）.
However, I was informed by commenter Mike a tad earlier tonight that this single actually had an original form going back an entire decade to her 9th album "Mizu no Naka no Lion"（水の中のライオン...The Lion in the Water） which came out in May 1984. The very first "Yoru no Buranko" is very different in arrangement as it has a folksier lilt with some dramatic moments provided by the strings later on in the song. I'd say that the original has a feeling that reminds me of some of the baroque pop provided by Mayumi Itsuwa（五輪真弓）and perhaps Miyuki Nakajima（中島みゆき）at around the same time, and this is the more intimate and lonelier version for me. I can easily imagine a heartbroken lass sitting on that playground swing at midnight all by herself while listening to this one.
What is surprising is that the 1984 "Yoru no Buranko" was arranged by Makoto Matsushita（松下誠）, one of the great City Pop representatives. If I had listened to these two versions and was then asked which one was Matsushita's doing, I would have immediately replied the 1994 version. As it was, "Mizu no Naka no Lion" got as high as No. 23 on Oricon.
In my search for the album version of "Yoru no Buranko", I found out this signoff video (when TV stations used to sign off for a number of hours each night) from Chūkyō Television Broadcasting covering Nagoya and other adjacent areas which actually used the single version of the song. I figured that you could use one less mouse click to hear that one. Gotta say that the song in that arrangement fits the nighttime atmosphere in the video. Apparently, according to the YouTube description, this signoff was used between 1994 and 1999. Anyways, all due thanks to Mike on the information.
The following is about a song that fellow Hiromi Iwasaki（岩崎宏美）fan Jim Laker informed me about some days ago, and it's a special one since although "Gobangai no Shiroi Dress" (The White Dress on Fifth Avenue) exists on the JASRAC database, this Hiromi song has, as far as I know, never been officially recorded onto an LP or CD.
"Gobangai no Shiroi Dress" was apparently only meant as a concert-only song and it's a sweet story of a typist on a modest salary who one day comes across a shop window with the most darling white dress. Of course, she desires it like anything and decides to save up the yen to purchase it in the not-too-distant future. That day finally comes but when she happily skips down to the store to buy the dress, her heart breaks on finding out it has just been sold. Her sadness is short-lived, however, on finding out that the person who bought it is a fellow who she also had her eyes upon and the swell guy purchased it just for her.
Geez, lyricist Keisuke Yamakawa（山川啓介）...O. Henry much? I was able to find out some information about "Gobangai no Shiroi Dress" through some of the comments on YouTube and an Ameblo blog entry from earlier this year in May in which the song was probably first featured in 1982. The author also describes the melody by Norio Maeda（前田憲男）as being somewhat European in feeling, and as someone who has been discovering that some of the 80s Japanese pop songs by folks like Kazuhiro Nishimatsu（西松一博）and Taeko Ohnuki（大貫妙子）can be described as baroque pop, I think I can peg "Gobangai no Shiroi Dress" as being in that same category. I would say that it's perfect as an Iwasaki ballad: heartfelt and poignant.
In a way, it's a pity that the ballad never made it onto vinyl or whatever the heck a CD is made from, but the fact that it has never been recorded for sale has given "Gobangai no Shiroi Dress" that elevated mystery status. And to perform it, Iwasaki has to make that dramatic stage change from her regular performing dress into that titular white dress itself which means that the back singers have to hold up their end for a minute or so...rather unusual. I did ask Jim about what the dress change was all about since at the time I wasn't sure what was going on, but now that I do realize the meaning, it has had quite the showmanship effect at her concerts, I'm sure. In fact, according to that author for the Ameblo blog has stated that this song popular among Hiromi fans has been dubbed "The Dress-Change Song".
Television viewers got that rare look and listen to the song as you can see above in the video. According to the blog, the show was televised on Fuji-TV back in February 1983 under the title "The Star Iwasaki Hiromi ~ 45 Kaiten de Dakishimete ~"（ザ・スター 岩崎宏美〜45回転で抱きしめて〜）which I believe means "Hiromi Iwasaki: Embracing Her 45" Singles", so I think the special was meant to highlight those hits from yesteryear. Apparently, there was a variety show component as well with Iwasaki portraying the typist herself and a bunch of tarento portraying her fellow goofy staffers.
One last thing that I wanted to mention is that at the beginning, Iwasaki seems to be dressed up as a rakugo comedian as she introduces "Gobangai no Shiroi Dress". I very rarely see her talking aside from doing the usual inter-song chit-chat with hosts, so to see her speaking to the camera like a buddy was very nice to see. Thanks very much to Jim, and if by chance, anyone knows whether the song has actually made it onto a BEST compilation or an anniversary collection for the singer, please let us know!
Monday, October 26, 2020
Back in the dog days of summer, I provided a little something in the form of "Touch The New York Pink" by Latin jazz musician Naoya Matsuoka（松岡直也）from his 1982 album "Fall on the Avenue".
That was the first track. The second track is "A Song on the Wind (Remember Me)", only a slightly mellower song but still possessed by those percolating Latin rhythms and the happy-go-lucky melodies by the various instrumentalists including Matsuoka on piano. Maybe it's a bit more introspective as if the protagonist of the track is musing about some thought in his mind and the music here is representing all of the rollicking ideas.
Ah, Miyuki Imori（井森美幸）...always the bright presence in Japanese commercials and variety shows. It can be very easy to forget that she did start out as a 1980s aidoru.
The first and only Imori tune up to now that I put up was back in September 2016 and that was appropriately her debut as an aidoru, "Hitomi no Chikai"（瞳の誓い）in 1985. She only put out four more singles and one album up to the middle of 1986, and then came a temporal desert of nearly three years before she released her 6th and final single in May 1989, "Sepia-Anata-Kamo" (Sepia Might Be On You).
Actually. her last time in the recording booth might be the charm for me. It's got plenty of catchy synths and hooky lyrics (sasotte, sasowarete...) thanks to lyricist Kumiko Yoshizawa（吉澤久美子）and composer Tsugutoshi Goto（後藤次利）, and I think "Sepia-Anata-Kamo" is a tune that could also have been ideal for Miho Nakayama（中山美穂）who I thought was the 80s aidoru for dance music. Yoshizawa's lyrics relate the trials and tribulations of a young lady finding love in the big city although I couldn't quite get the significance of a sepia eye beam targeting the guy of her dreams. I had always thought the colour of sepia was connected to all things nostalgic.
Then, I figured it out from J-Wiki which showed the two tie-ups between her singles and commercials. Imori's debut "Hitomi no Chikai" was used for an antiperspirant ad while "Sepia-Anata-Kamo" was to promote the Suzuki Sepia Scooter. In other words, perhaps the translation for the title ought to be "You Might Be On A Sepia".
Sunday, October 25, 2020
This week's "Nodo Jiman"（のど自慢）took place in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, a city that I've known mostly for a famous outlet mall (I had a lot of students who enjoyed shopping at the place). One of the participants today sang a Tokyo Jihen（東京事変）tune that I hadn't heard before and wanted to try some further listenings.
In recent years, vocalist Ringo Shiina（椎名林檎）, who I first got to know as the rock girl with some great growl and a terrifying stare, has been embracing her jazzy inner self, and I think that initially came true with the Big Band version of "Sid to Hakuchumu"（シドと白昼夢）which was on her 7th single "Mayonaka no Junketsu"（真夜中の純潔）from 2001. At the time, I believe that I was in the middle of my jazz obsession, so to hear one of the most original Japanese music acts try a genre that I wouldn't have imagined that she would ever tackle was pretty darn refreshing.
Well, since then, it seems like Shiina has been getting more and more into jazz as we all got deeper into the new century, a genre that I had read somewhere that her father very much enjoyed. And in 2011, as the vocalist for Tokyo Jihen, she and band bassist Seiji Kameda（亀田誠治）came up with "Onna no Ko wa Dare de mo" which can be translated directly as "Girls are Good with Anyone" but the official English title is "Fly Me to Heaven", one-half of the double A-side for the band's 7th single "Sora ga Natteiru"（空が鳴っている...Reverberation） released in May 2011. For the first time in TJ's history, though, they left the arrangement with an outsider instead of handling the song by themselves, and guess what? The outsider was really an old friend, Takayuki Hattori（服部隆之）, who had given the sparkling Big Band swing treatment to "Sid to Hakuchumu" as mentioned in the previous paragraph. If you go through the Hattori file, you'll find that he also provided the epic soundtrack to a particular PlayStation game that I owned and a very popular theme song for a drama series.
Not surprisingly, I've fallen hard for "Onna no Ko wa Dare de mo" which seems to not only draw in the old-time swing but also some of that 1950s or 1960s razz-ma-tazz show tune feeling on the old American variety shows and specials featuring folks like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Shining Shiina and even the TJ members get in on the show time act in the music video; the only things that were missing were the frame of an old cathode-ray tube television set and black-and-white. And where were the Radio City Music Hall dancers?
The single itself made it to No. 6 on Oricon, and both A-sides have also been placed onto Tokyo Jihen's 5th studio album "Daihakken"（大発見...Discovery） which came out in June of the same year. It hit No. 1 and went Gold.
The crazy thing is that after all I'd said at the top about not hearing this Tokyo Jihen song before, it turns out that I did. It was the commercial tune for a Shiseido cosmetics ad featuring Shiina. This I do remember seeing before but probably had assumed that the jingle was just a quick jingle. Knowing full well about tie-ups between commercials and pop songs in Japan, I should have given myself a Gibbs slap upside the head. Not only that but apparently "Onna no Ko wa Dare de mo" was part of the singer's performance at the 2011 Kohaku Utagassen but I don't remember seeing that at all. Then again, it was my first Kohaku viewing back in Toronto after many years in Japan, and the rest of my family has had the penchant to fast forward anything they didn't like. Let's say that I'm the only in the J-Canuck clan that appreciates a good Ringo!😁
Yes, the Force of Nature that is seiyuu Tomokazu Sugita（杉田智和）. Quicksilver with a quip, he is such a teasing master that even Takagi-san blushes in his sights. I've often watched those live events in which he's mercilessly driven fellow seiyuu Kana Hanazawa（花澤香菜）into the embarrassment zone and paroxysms of laughter, and he's done the same to eminently teasable Sumire Uesaka（上坂すみれ）on her radio program.
However, this article isn't on Sugita naturally as you can see from the title. Still that video above when he strode into the radio program in that costume was the spark for my curiosity. I learned that he was decked out as Warsman, one of the myriad characters in the manga-turned-anime "Kinnikuman"（キン肉マン）, and so I decided to see what all the hoopla was all about.
The delight from the audience above on hearing the intro for Kushida and "Kinnikuman Go Fight!" shows how beloved he and the seiyuu for the titular hero himself, Akira Kamiya（神谷明）, have been. To be honest, I was surprised that Kushida hadn't appeared on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" until tonight. I've read his name before elsewhere and I'm sure that my anime buddy played some of his material when we used to have the Sunday routine. But all these years, he's been busy in both the anime and tokusatsu genres and he's got a voice with plenty of brio.
A good Sunday to you wherever you are. Yup, things are getting cooler...we did have that possibly last blast of summer yesterday with the temperatures going into the low 20s Celsius with plenty of sun. Today, I woke up to things being a lot cooler at a mere 4 degrees this morning. However, I did get plenty of sleep last night to compensate for some of the problems I did have slumber-wise the other night that I described in my final article for Saturday.
It's rather appropriate then I start this KKP broadcasting day with a song that will lovingly place you into relaxing slumber. This is "Sayonara no Natsu" (Summer of Farewells) by folk singer Ryoko Moriyama（森山良子）which was released as her 25th single in April 1976 and served as the theme song for the NTV drama of the same title that had its run between April and June of that year.
I was kinda stuck on how to categorize this ballad which beautifully flows like the freshest water in a cold stream. There are some of those folk elements which is of course Moriyama's area of expertise and in a way, I can even pick up on some New Music elements, but I just decided to go with regular pop or kayo for "Sayonara no Natsu". Written by Yukiko Marimura（万里村ゆき子）and composed by Koichi Sakata（坂田晃一）, that slightly wistful bittersweet flavour in the song has me assuming that the show "Sayonara no Natsu" was probably quite a melodramatic one.
Now, if "Sayonara no Natsu" above sounds rather familiar to you, then you may be a Studio Ghibli fan because a cover version of this was sung by Aoi Teshima（手嶌葵）as the ending theme for 2011's "Kokurikozaka kara"（コクリコ坂から）, translated as either "From Coquelicot Hill" or "From Up on Poppy Hill". For me, this version of "Sayonara no Natsu" has an even grander and more rustic feeling (as strange as that description might read). I'm assuming that the instrument from the intro is a pianica which, along with Teshima's whispery vocals, gives the arrangement that wistful feeling of nostalgia from Moriyama's original while the shimmering strings provide that "bigger picture" sensation. Interestingly enough, both "Kokurikozaka kara" and NTV's "Sayonara no Natsu" were set in Yokohama.
The full title for Teshima's version is "Sayonara no Natsu ~ Kokurikozaka kara" and this was her 4th single released in June 2011. It peaked at No. 22 on Oricon. One of the songs included on the single is "Asa Gohan no Uta"（朝ごはんの歌）, a happy jazzy ditty that I've already written about. I also read that the famous "Ue wo Muite Arukou" (上を向いて歩こう) by Kyu Sakamoto（坂本九）had also been brought in as an insert song for the movie.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
It was about a year ago that due to various circumstances my family was without live television for about a week and for a couple of days, even the Internet was inaccessible. A high-tech fellow I am not, and that was a pretty difficult time since I had to be my family's ad hoc television scheduler through a combination of ancient videotapes of Japanese TV and YouTube programming. Until everything was finally resolved, I was getting pretty frazzled.
Last night, there was a large series of thunderstorms which roared through the Southern Ontario region like a biker gang, and it apparently sent a few conniptions through our TV box so that we found ourselves without television. Luckily, the outage was just overnight and I was able to find a way to get the TV back early this morning. However, I realized that I must still be suffering from a form of PTSD from last year's telecommunications nightmare since sleep definitely abandoned me. I ended up getting up a couple of hours before schedule and I basically just tackled the TV problem until the solution was finally discovered. Hopefully, I will get my proper rest tonight.
Ironically enough, there is an anime in this current Fall 2020 season which involves a moe but surprisingly ruthless princess who only desires a good night's sleep and will do anything to get it. My anime buddy told me about "Maōjō de Oyasumi"（魔王城でおやすみ...Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle） in fairly glowing terms and unfortunately although I cannot find any whole episodes, there have been some amusing scenes on YouTube.
Seiyuu Inori Minase（水瀬いのり）as one of the current A-listers in the industry has a full plate on her schedule this year, and she's also back in Season 3 of the "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?"（ご注文はうさぎですか？...Is The Order A Rabbit?）franchise as the button-down Chino, day barista at Rabbit House. However, she's also playing the sleep-deprived Princess Syalis on "Maōjō de Oyasumi" and takes care of the opening theme, "Kaimin! Anmin! Syalist Seikatsu" (Sleep! A Good Night's Sleep! Syalist Life), a bouncy pop tune with a bit of the Transylvanian fantasy treatment created by Shun Aratame（新田目駿）. One would think that this could have been a cute little ditty to be inserted into "The Addams Family".
I've also discovered that the electro-funk duo ORESAMA was taking care of the ending theme, and it's been a good long while since I've heard from vocalist Pon（ぽん）and guitarist Hideya Kojima（小島英也）. I think the last time I mentioned about them was for their contribution to the fun 2017 "Mahoujin Guruguru"（魔法陣グルグル...Magical Circle Guruguru）, "Ryuusei Dance Floor" （流星ダンスフロア）. Nice to hear their brand of disco and candy pop once more.
"Gimmme!" may describe Princess Syalis' demands (including a decent pillow) but it's also the ending theme for "Maōjō de Oyasumi" and their 9th single released about 10 days ago on October 14th. Written by Pon and composed by Kojima, ahhh, it's certainly nice to hear the beats from these guys again. Nighty-night!😴
Time for another ROY article. Recently, it came to my attention that episodes of the original "Peter Gunn" gumshoe series were coming up onto YouTube including the pilot which indeed I did see. Yep, I now realized where a lot of those lone-wolf detective conventions originated from: the sardonic voiceover by the main character, the down-and-dirty jazz soundtrack and the surprisingly preferred setting of not-so-nice areas of town. And yet, Peter Gunn himself was not just urban but also urbane and sophisticated which apparently wasn't the usual description of movie or TV private eyes back in the day.
"Peter Gunn" had a short-but-sweet run on NBC and then ABC between 1958 and 1961, so the famous theme has been much better remembered than the actual series with Craig Stevens. And to reiterate, it wasn't the theme that begat the show but the show that begat the fame for the theme originally by the legendary composer and arranger Henry Mancini. That's how incredible the song has been.
It was one of the first songs that I had ever heard in my life thanks to that collection of standards which came with our old oak Victor stereo. And the version that I preferred (which was on that collection of standards) among the original takes of it wasn't the one with Duane Eddy or the one that played in the brief opening credits, but the one with John Williams (yep that John Williams) on the piano and the French horns trumpeting like mad elephants warning of danger. No matter which version, though, "Peter Gunn" was the song that you wanted accompanying you if you went outside on the town and were in that "I gotta a job to do!" mood. You'd invest in the trench coat, even.
"Peter Gunn" has probably popped up in a number of TV shows and movies over the decades to show just that sort of atmosphere for the characters. For example, there was "The Blues Brothers".
Then several years later, I was absolutely gobsmacked when avant-garde pop group Art of Noise (with the help of the aforementioned Duane Eddy and his guitar), whom I'd known for some of the most weirdly infectious songs that had ever come out of the 1980s such as "Beat Box", "Close to the Edit" and "Legs", actually tackled one of the coolest songs ever. I think that I saw the music video first before hearing the song on radio, and that video was glorious with the late Rik Mayall as it took some affectionate pokes at the genre that the original series was representing.
Art of Noise's "Peter Gunn" was unmistakably Art of Noise and unmistakably "Peter Gunn". It was a musical synthesis made in heaven for me and became a must-hear whenever it got onto radio and even now, whenever I need a boost in my energy levels, I go to YouTube to listen to it among other cool tunes. Not surprisingly, it won Best Rock (!) Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group Or Soloist) at the Grammys in that same year.
I regret not ever buying the remix LPs back in the day but I finally got my copy of AON's "In Visible Silence" which had originally come out on April 14 1986 with both this song and "Legs".
So now that I've gushed forth my love for Art of Noise's "Peter Gunn", what were some of the top-sellers on Oricon in the month that "In Visible Silence" came out? Well, I got Nos. 3, 5 and 6 for you.
3. Sonoko Kawai -- Aoi Station （青いスタスィオン）
The three Tatsuro Yamashita（山下達郎）songs that I remember hearing first before I became a true-blue fan of the musician were "Your Eyes", "Christmas Eve" and "Endless Game". It wouldn't be some time later until I realized how much of a king of City Pop and AOR he turned out to be when I began to explore his material from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s at least.
One of the first Tats albums that I bought was "Melodies" originally released in June 1983, and the reason was that it had "Christmas Eve" on it, but leading off the album was his "Kanashimi no Jody" (Sad Jody). My first reaction to it was "Man, he really likes those Beach Boys, doesn't he?". That arrangement, his falsetto vocals, that sensation of summer...the song could have recreated a 1960s Venice Beach at dusk faster and better than any starship holodeck.
Indeed, according to the writeup at J-Wiki for "Melodies", Yamashita wanted to weave this song with a retro feeling of love lost at the end of summer. Another piece of music information that I gleaned from the description of "Kanashimi no Jody" was that the bass drum riff was influenced by his favourite drummer, the late Hal Blaine, a man who had also worked with the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and the Carpenters.
Guess I'm smart (inside Tats joke)...since "Melodies" has become one of Yamashita's most well-regarded albums, hitting the top spot on Oricon and ending up as the 7th-ranked album for 1983.
A year later, Yamashita included an English-language version of the song under the title "Jody" in his "Big Wave" album which hit No. 2 on the charts.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Found another track from M. Tosikaz's 1983 album "M. TOSIKAZ I". I wrote about his "Friday Night" last year which is so downtown City Pop that I could just imagine the skyscrapers of Shinjuku rising out of the firmament to surround me as it's playing.
Interestingly enough, "Tokyo Flight" can be part of the City Pop ethos but it also has its other leg in the Resort Pop/J-AOR yard, and I think that it shares some genes with stuff by Toshiki Kadomatsu（角松敏生）and perhaps even Tatsuro Yamashita（山下達郎）. This time, it's not so much skyscrapers that pop up but resort hotels and palm trees. I couldn't find the lyrics for "Tokyo Flight" but I can imagine that the song might be about heading out of Narita Airport back in the day with that significant other to exotic climes or getting away from that significant other following the breakup. M. Tosikaz, aka Toshikazu Miura（三浦年一）, came up with the summery music while Tetsuya Chiaki（ちあき哲也）wrote the lyrics.
"Tokyo Flight" would fit my departures from Haneda Airport these days since the past couple of times that I've visited my old stomping grounds, I always took the dusk flight on Air Canada from there to head back home.
Found another one of those obscure City Pop singers recently and for her 1979 debut album "Somewhere in New York", she was surrounded by a lot of top-notch musicians.
KAY is a singer that I simply found through my regular browsings of YouTube and as one person put it on his/her Japanese blog, she's got a husky, sexy and mysterious voice, to go along with some of the other urban contemporary singers of the time including Kimiko Kasai（笠井紀美子）and Haruko Kuwana（桑名晴子）. As I mentioned, she had a lot of fine accompaniment helping her out in the recording studio including saxophonist David Sanborn, drummer Steve Jordan from The 24th Street Band, Mike Mainieri on vibraphone, David Spinoza on guitar and Jun Fukamachi（深町純）on keyboards and overall production of the record.
The second track of "Somewhere in New York" is "Shihosai" for which I couldn't find any definition for. Perhaps it's a fanciful version of the word shiosai（潮騒）which refers to the sound of waves, and so maybe it's about that lovely walk by the Atlantic Ocean...which is perhaps nowhere near Manhattan. Still, I would categorize it as a very languid slice of sunset City Pop created by lyricist Mitsumi Hasegawa（長谷川みつ美）and composer Hisao Sato（佐藤久夫）.
According to that same Ameblo blog that I was referring up a couple of paragraphs, following "Somewhere in New York", KAY released a single titled "Love Tactics". However, not getting much notice from listeners, she apparently did the slow fade from the business. I couldn't find out what her real name was, but I don't think KAY is the same person as Kei Ishiguro（石黒ケイ）.
As you all probably know, I grew up listening to all kinds of music starting with enka and the old standards from The Great American Songbook and then progressing into kayo kyoku, jazz and R&B with some dalliances into classical as well. Well, this fellow had the same experience growing up with his music, and he turned out much more differently and better in terms of looks (probably a good healthy diet with plenty of psyllium fibre from the get-go) and talent.
This guy is singer-songwriter Fujii Kaze（藤井風）, and usually when it comes to describing Japanese names on the blog, I go with given name and family name in that order in English while reversing them in their natural Japanese order in kanji. However, since his Wikipedia article and his own website have gone with the natural Japanese order even in romaji, I'll also respect that and do it here, too.
And what's not to love about his debut (digital download) single "Nan-Nan" (WTF lol) in November 2019? There is the bouncy playful piano, the bluesy guitar and Fujii's own resonant and soulful vocals, and it seems like the music video is a message for folks to get out of their shell and enjoy life on the outside. Even during COVID-infested 2020, it's still good for a nice little breather in the fresh air. There is also something rather Queen-like about the arrangements. Did enjoy watching the singer and his buddies dancing about in New York City.
The single itself may not have done much on the charts despite its quality, but his first album "HELP EVER HURT NEVER" which was released in May of this year peaked at No. 2. Unfortunately, his concerts had to be cancelled due to the pandemic but I'm hopeful that he will continue to burst out with some more of his catchy tunes.
Not sure what the weather is like in your area, but Toronto is celebrating a glorious sunny and warm (23 degrees C) afternoon with the caveat from the weather folks being that in all likelihood, this will be the final sunny and warm afternoon for probably the next several months. Maybe we'll get something this nice again in April 2021. I don't think I've felt this meteorologically conflicted in a while.
Well, it's time for something similarly sunny and warm and indeed because it is City Pop/J-AOR Friday, let's begin with Casiopea's "Living on a Feeling". Was trying to track down its origins but was always getting a similarly titled BEST compilation which came out in 2009, and I know that this song probably came out a whole lot earlier.
In fact, it was a track on the band's November 1983 8th original studio album "JIVE JIVE", and "Living on a Feeling" is a truly bouncy tune thanks to the thumping bass and percussion brought together by drummer Akira Jimbo（神保彰）. The song practically demands listeners to hop all the way to the Tiki bar and back with those Mai Tais. Now that all of the wonderful weather is apparently behind us, we will probably have to rely on those Casiopea albums to keep us glowing and sane.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
When it comes to dancing, I think that I was about several years too late for those named dances such as the Twist or the Swim which were back in the 1960s or so, and although I was around for the disco 1970s, I was too young for the dance floor to experience the Hustle and the Bump.
The university days were the time that my friends and I went to the nearby dance clubs and by that point, I don't think there were any named dances. When some of our favourites such as New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Depeche Mode's "Strangelove" hit the speakers, we did our own thing. Mind you, me doing my own thing often had some other dancers misunderstand my moves and scream out "Does anyone know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver? We got a choker here!"
I've done articles about some of those 50s and 60s tunes from America or Europe that got their own Japanese cover versions during that decade and tonight I've found this song from Italy titled "24.000 Baci" (24,000 Kisses) by Adriano Celentano. Created by Celentano, Ezio Leoni, Piero Vivarelli, and Lucio Fulci in 1961, it has struck me as this liberating rock n' roll tune to get the kids up and out on the floor.
According to the Wikipedia article on "24.000 Baci", there were covers done in a few other countries, and as I said off the top, Japan was no different. Not long after the original by Celentano came out, the late actor/singer Takashi Fujiki（藤木孝）debuted his singing career in May 1961 with "Ni-man Yon-sen no kiss" which may have been a bit more of a mouthful to say but had the same meaning of "24,000 Kisses".
With Motohiro Arai（荒井基裕）providing the Japanese lyrics, Fujiki's cover possessed that same ol' rock n' roll sensation but with perhaps a bit more of a boss arrangement and the singer having an interesting clipped delivery. One piece of trivia that I found out about him was that he seemed to not only have an ability to sing but also to dance, so he did a number of Twist songs to the extent that he was even labeled as "The Twist Man" to help bring in that particular dancing boom into the nation.
In 1966, Masaaki Hirao（平尾昌章）gave his own frenetic version of "Ni-man Yon-sen no Kiss" that had more of that Italian flair in the arrangement. Checking his discography, I'm not sure whether his cover had come out as an official single but perhaps it came out as part of that compilation you see in the video thumbnail above.
Then in October 1972, aidoru group Golden Half（ゴールデン・ハーフ）that I first wrote about back in 2017 released their own take on the song as their 7th single. Their version had a mix of that Italian flavour as well as some of the late 60s/early 70s rock feeling. One difference was that the title was slightly changed to "Ni-man Yon-sen Kai no Kiss"（24,000回のキッス...Kisses 24,000 Times）.