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.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Crazy Ken Band -- Ah, Yaru Tok'ya Yaranakya Dame nano.(あ、やるときゃやらなきゃダメなのよ。)

 

On the night before the final month of 2020, even though it's a Monday, it might be nice to have something a little happy and party-like especially during these uncertain times when we have to stay apart.

At this point in my life, I can only fantasize about what a Crazy Ken Band(クレイジーケンバンド)concert or even a Crazy Ken Band soiree must be like, but I'm fairly sure that it isn't boring. Just find some live house in Shibuya or Shimo-Kitazawa and the joint will be hopping with Ken Yokoyama(横山剣)and the guys down there. 

That's the impression that I get especially listening to CKB's coupling song, "Ah, Yaru Tok'ya Yaranakya Dame nano." from their 7th single "Amai Hibi"(甘い日々...Sweet Days) released in February 2003. I can translate it directly as "You Gotta Do It When It's Time to Do It" but the English title for the song is apparently "Ah Means I Love You". This is another one of those tunes that I can't simply stamp with the Pop label; there is just too much going on. I can pick up on some jazz here and some doo-wop (it actually reminds me of "We Go Together" from the movie "Grease") there. But as written and composed by Crazy Ken himself, I think it's just made for live performance when the audience is ready for some good ol' happy fun.

But I gotta admit that seeing what looks like the cast from an NHK kids' show popping up on the stage with the Crazy Ken Band is something that really lands in from left field. Should some of those kids have been up so late? Doesn't matter...it's a fun song! The single itself reached as high as No. 24 and "Ah, Yaru Tok'ya Yaranakya Dame nano." managed to get included on CKB's June 2003 album "777" which peaked at No. 14 on the charts.

Yuuko Iwasaki (aka Yuuho Iwasato) -- Ikusenman no Yoru wo Koete(幾千万の夜をこえて)

 

Seeing that I've written about a couple of songs, "DEAR FUTURE" and "Yokogao kara I LOVE YOU"(横顔から I LOVE YOU) written by longtime lyricist Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)in as many days, I decided to take a glimpse at her J-Wiki profile. What I found out that she did have a brief dalliance as a singer in the early 1980s.

Under the name Yuuko Iwasaki(いわさきゆうこ), her profile states that she released one album and three singles before taking on her current nom de plume in 1983, although it only lists one single plus the 1980 album "Magical Liqueur"(マジカル・リキュール).

The one single that's on the board is luckily represented on YouTube and here it is, "Ikusenman no Yoru wo Koete" (Beyond Tens of Millions of Nights). Of course, Iwasato/Iwasaki took care of everything on the song including getting behind the mike for this light and mellow ballad that also got released in 1980. She actually has a very pleasantly smoky voice for this languid tune mixing in feelings of folk and West Coast AOR and soft country.

Lyrically, it looks like the protagonist has gone all "Sleepless in Seattle" and started looking up at the night sky wondering whether true love is out there. Yup, I guess we've all been there. Incidentally, her lone album "Magical Liqueur" is displayed on her website, and in fact, there are a number of tracks up on YouTube. I will be more than interested in having a hear-see of those in the coming weeks and months since it looks like it's all about the City Pop and J-AOR.

Miki Imai -- Yokogao kara I LOVE YOU(横顔から I LOVE YOU)

 


Happy Monday! First, a very tiny PSA from me. I found out from a good friend of mine last night as well as from an announcement from CD Japan that all registered mail and EMS packages from Japan to Canada have been suspended as of November 26th. Although other methods exist of getting those albums from the company, I am glad that I did get my latest package when I did. If you're a regular customer of CD Japan, you may want to check the mail situation for your country.

In any case, to start this first article on the last day of November 2020, I have to provide an observation that it seems that Japanese songwriters have a thing for the facial profile. They imbue perhaps quite some meaning into the side of the face for some reason. I've come across a number of songs that involve the word "yokogao"(横顔)which means "profile" or "side of your face" with the most prominent example from my memories being Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)jazzy standard "Yokogao" from her 1978 "Mignonne" album.


Well, I've now encountered yet another song title with that very word...this time, being in Miki Imai's(今井美樹) 2nd track on her 1989 "Mocha (Under A Full Moon)" album. Titled "Yokogao kara I LOVE YOU" (Saying I Love You From the Side of Her Face), it follows right after the very zippy "Tokyo Hachi-gatsu Sunglass" (TOKYO 8月サングラス), so unsurprisingly it's also quite the synth-heavy urban contemporary pop fest. The segue is really quite smooth between the two songs considering that both of them had different lyricists and composers working on them.

This time, it's prolific lyricist and frequent Imai collaborator Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)and composer Satoshi Takebe(武部聡志)on "Yokogao kara I LOVE YOU" which even has a synthesizer pulling off the City Pop trope of a sax solo. I covered a much different Iwasato-penned song just last night which was released 22 years later. As for my two Canadian non-existent pennies on the meaning of the title, I've known that perhaps until recently, it's awfully difficult for a Japanese person to say those three important words to his/her significant other unless the pair is in the most intimate of circumstances and environment. Therefore, I can imagine that in all other situations, whispering out "I love you" out of the side of the mouth was probably the thing to do. But again, that's just my take.

One final piece of trivia is that on backup chorus here is Yoko Takahashi(高橋洋子), the singer behind one of anime's most beloved theme songs.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

coaltar of the deepers/Yui Horie -- DEAR FUTURE

 

Oh, OK...so that's what she said. There was much that I couldn't understand about the anime series/mindscrew called "Mawaru Penguindrum"(輪るピングドラム)because of what was involved in the plot and frankly because my friend didn't like having subtitles polluting the screen. Mind you, I probably was better off not knowing the exact translation of the trash talk that possessed Himari was giving her young charges but her character was a bit of a dominatrix after all, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

Anyways, "Mawaru Penguindrum" was one of the first anime that my anime buddy showed me after I got back from Japan for good in late 2011, and most likely, he started presenting the episodes in early 2012, although the original run for it was on TBS between July and December 2011. Man, has it been nearly ten years?!

Way back in 2013 in the early days of the blog, I did write about the two songs by rock band ARB that had been amazingly adapted for "Mawaru Penguindrum", "Rock Over Japan" and the attractively maudlin version of "Hai-iro no Suiyoubi" (灰色の水曜日).

In fact, there are a number of opening and ending themes plus insert songs that were used throughout the duration of the long-running show including the first ending theme "DEAR FUTURE" by the uniquely-named coaltar of the deepers. I've read on their Wikipedia page that this alternative rock band which started up in 1991 liked to dip into a lot of genres for their sound but mostly they incorporated shoegaze, and on reading that, I did my naruhodo when it came to "DEAR FUTURE"

Written by Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)and composed/arranged by band leader/guitarist/vocalist NARASAKI, I'm not into shoegaze at all but I have to admit that "DEAR FUTURE" is quite mesmerizing and haunting, thanks to the vocal delivery as Iwasato's lyrics ponder what could be a crossroads in a couple's relationship and whether it's time to split up at the fork or keep on going together. I think it was a good fit for the show along with "Hai-iro no Suiyoubi" which was actually used as the ending theme for only specific episodes.

Despite coaltar of the deepers releasing a number of albums and eps, for the longest time, "DEAR FUTURE" had been the only official single following its release at the end of August 2011. However, two more singles came out in 2019. Right now, although the band has had a number of members, it seems as if currently, it only has NARASAKI and drummer KANNO.

I couldn't even remember seiyuu Yui Horie(堀江由衣), who had a recurring role as Masako Natsume on the show, singing her version of "DEAR FUTURE" at the end of Episode 10...perhaps it was a particularly intense episode. But I gotta say that her technopop take on the song (as arranged by WATCHMAN) is also darn tasty.

Yujiro Ishihara -- Tooki Furusato(遠きふるさと)

 

Catching "The Empire Strikes Back" when it first came out at the University Theatre in downtown Toronto back in 1980 was a far more difficult mission than first thought. My brother and I had known from witnessing the long lineups for the original "Star Wars" even two years after its debut year of 1977 that when its sequel came out, the frenzy to catch this in its first several days would be wilder than the Millennium Falcon whipping through the asteroid field (with accompanying John Williams music, of course). But little did we know that on reaching the theatre two hours before showtime, there was literally an anaconda's equivalent of coils of people wrapping around the intersection. That Saturday, we were told straight out that if we were just arriving, just head on back home; all of the shows were sold out. 

Yes, disappointed we were (and nope, I'm not trying to be Yoda here) but we tried again on Sunday and that time, we could get in after another couple of hours of waiting. This time, we were far from disappointed. All of the audience were thrilled, terrified, awe-struck and horrified during those two hours. Of course, the scene above when Darth Vader and the Imperial Fleet including the Executor showed up to the strains of the iconic "Imperial March" by Williams was one of the plentiful huge highlights and I distinctly remember jaws dropping on seeing Vader's ship dwarfing the Star Destroyers and then the cheers when we got that view of Vader looking outside.

Unfortunately, my hybrid world of sci-fi culture and Japanese popular music suffered another blow this morning on hearing that character actor David Prowse, the first man to inhabit the armour of the Dark Lord of the Sith had passed away yesterday at the age of 85. Of course, everyone has praised James Earl Jones' amazing voice that emanated from Darth Vader, but that voice still needed a mighty body and that was supplied by the 6'6" Prowse. It took both of them to bring one of the ultimate movie villains to life.

Speaking about big men, I've got another one by The Tough Guy and The Big Man, Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎). It took a bit of doing but I was able to find out that his song "Tooki Furusato" (Far From Home) was released back in May 1972, thanks to the Ishihara Promotions website.

Written by Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)and composed by Yasuro Osawa(大沢保郎), "Tooki Furusato" was another one that was a tad hard to pinpoint in terms of one category. The song embraces the enka lyrics of longing for home in the northern parts of the nation, the lonely Mood Kayo guitars and a bit of a kayo beat with the orchestra horns and strings so I might as well throw all three genres into the mix. In any case, I see that Ishihara took on that crooning tone quite early in the 1970s

I've noticed that for a number of The Big Man's songs that they have often centered very affectionately on those northern parts of Japan which made me wonder if Ishihara had actually been born and raised somewhere in Hokkaido or Aomori Prefectures, for example. But as it were, he hailed from the city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture much farther south on the main island of Honshu.

Bob McGrath -- Jingle Bells(ジングルベル)

 

This article was inspired from a talk that I had with commenter Scott earlier this morning, and I found out from him that Bob McGrath of "Sesame Street" fame was perhaps the original "Big in Japan" guy, even before he became a household name for children and parents alike. I started watching the show pretty much from the time that it started up in 1969, and the human faces were always Bob, Susan, Gordon and Mr. Hooper. I also thought that Bob was always the strongest singer and I will always remember his renditions of "Good Morning, Starshine" and "Sing".

When I got the information from Scott this morning, I decided to go down the Muppet hole and found quite a few record covers on YouTube and the other search engines with his familiar face and a lot of katakana. I even found a video of his 1967 appearance on the game show "I've Got a Secret" hosted by Steve Allen in which he divulges his interesting little secret and how he became a regular visitor to Japan.

Considering "Kayo Kyoku Plus" is back in Christmas mode, I thought it would be nice to have Bob's rendition of "Jingle Bells" for all to see. He sings half or most of the song in English but there are some verses that he does render in pretty good Japanese. According to the uploader, the Japanese lyrics were provided by someone named S. Takada with the arranger/conductor being K. Hattori. I'm assuming that this is referring to the composer and arranger Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久)who passed away earlier this year in June. Hattori was responsible for arranging the very nostalgic version of "Sotsugyo Shashin"(卒業写真)by Hi-Fi Set and he also later helped out a Japanese singer with his own Christmas album in the 1990s.

Ahh...the more you know...😁. Thanks again, Scott!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Pops All Stars -- Holiday Company

 


The impression that I have about singer-songwriter Masamichi Sugi(杉真理)is that he's probably one of those folks who really enjoys setting up parties of all sorts ranging from the Xmas ones to the traditional year-enders in Japan, and I think that affinity probably transferred over to musical collaborations looking at his J-Wiki file. Seven years ago, nikala wrote about one such get-together featuring him and his fellow Sony stars including Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝)and Kaoru Sudo(須藤薫)under the umbrella name of Pops All Stars to do a Xmas thing called "Yellow Christmas" via the "Winter Lounge" album from November 1986. I was reminded of the song recently from talks with Rocket Brown of "Come Along Radio" and Scott of his own J-Xmas podcast.


Well, just by luck last night, my YouTube browsings took me to the video for another Pops All Stars session called "Holiday Company", this time taking place several months later through "Summer Lounge" which was released in June 1987. With a slightly different and more expanded lineup consisting of the aforementioned Sugi, Minami and Sudo, along with vocal group Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット), rock band Princess Princess(プリンセスプリンセス), singer-songwriter Tomoko Tane(種ともこ), violinist Toshihiro Nakanishi(中西俊博)and singer-songwriter Seishiro Kusunose(楠瀬誠志郎), this "Avengers" band of pop singers takes on Sugi's arrangement of hints of Steely Dan here and crashing synths there and even some doo-wop for some desire of fun-in-the-sun vacationing.

The video for "Holiday Company" also has the crew hamming it up as the most congenial corporate section getting ready for that annual company trip (with all of the typical cornball entertainment activities) on a yakata bune cruising down what I think is the Sumida River in Tokyo. I'm just trying to imagine Hi-Fi Set and Princess Princess boogying down in the same video while Minami is about as relaxed as I've ever seen him.

It also appears that Sugi kept the good times going for some years with a number of multi-singer projects going into the late 1990s. Once COVID is finally over, I can imagine that a lot of corporate sections will be more than happy to get into the party mood.

Yumi Matsutoya -- Shiranai Doushi(知らないどうし)

 

I've mentioned this in other articles but, with all love and respect to my fellow Yuming(ユーミン)fans, I've not been a huge fan of her vocal delivery for the past couple of decades since it's gotten a little too reedy for me. However, there's no denying that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)can still craft some pretty catchy tunes a half-century following her debut.

Par example...her 10th digital download single, the spicy "Shiranai Doushi" (Strangers) from some weeks ago in October. With a fun music video splitting time between a performance at a nightclub and a middle-aged guy's flight from all that has been ailing him, it looks like Yuming wanted to go for some Latin Steely Dan or Santana or Sergio Mendes, and I love all of those acts.


"Shiranai Doushi" was created as the theme song for the TBS Friday-night drama "Koi suru Haha-tachi"(恋する母たち)which has been anglicized as "koi haha" but my translation puts it as "Mothers In Love". The show is based on a 2017 manga by Fumi Saimon(柴門ふみ)who came up with the famous "Tokyo Love Story" whose TV drama adaptation sparked a kickass theme tune of its own almost 30 years ago. In fact, the cover for the single meshes together Yuming's face and the face of the main character of An Ishiwatari(石渡杏).


The single has also been recorded onto Yuming's next studio album (her 39th) "Shinkai no Machi"(深海の街...Deep Sea City) due out in just a few days on December 1st. The title track for that release has already been covered.

Tetsuji Hayashi -- Back Mirror

 

As I said once before, I missed a chance at getting singer-composer Tetsuji Hayashi's(林哲司)"Back Mirror", his 2nd album from 1977, when I was in Japan on vacation in 2014 but I did finally acquire this seminal City Pop/J-AOR classic some time afterward. One of the tracks, "Rainy Saturday & Coffee Break" was covered almost three years ago, and I did mention that it was a standout track (which it still is), but I think some of the others are also worthy of mention.

The above video here is for the entire album so I'll be providing the time stamps as required. Of course, while Hayashi was responsible for performing, composing and arranging the songs, Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and Kiri Kawamura(河村季里)provided the lyrics for them. Now the reason for me taking on the album proper stemmed actually from a request by Rocket Brown from "Come Along Radio" last weekend to translate the updated liner notes from the album as provided originally by music journalist Toshikazu Kanazawa(金澤寿和)who's the expert on all things City Pop and J-AOR.

I was more than happy to do it and I found out some interesting information, but first allow me to provide the translation of Hayashi's comments for "Back Mirror", after Kanazawa was able to get a hold of him for an interview:

When I first heard that “Back Mirror” was being put onto CD, I was tremendously thrilled. This was the one album from my back catalog that hadn’t gotten onto compact disc, so fans were ripping copies onto CD-R. 

Looking back, I can say that this album shaped the music that I’ve been doing now and it has become the foundation for my work. My first album ("Bruges", 1973) simply expressed my Beatles’ influences but “Back Mirror” is a lot wider, showcasing a feeling of American Pop and the hit parade. However, my capability of just totalizing things such as sound and an album theme hadn’t come about yet. I think the motifs for each song such as the melody and arrangement were there, but they hadn’t yet been completely sublimated through my own filter. It was a time when as soon as I was influenced by someone, I quickly incorporated it and dashed it off just like that. I couldn’t come up with my own artist’s image so I went by trial-and-error. 

What brought it all together was through “Summer Wine” (1980) onwards with the AOR and my encounter with David Foster. Even so, writing the songs, getting the studio musicians together and getting up to the finishing of the scoring arrangements…that was all done for the first time with this album. Also, since these were the songs that had come into being before my songwriting style developed, when I listen to the album now, my wild uninhibitedness is once again on display. In that way, “Back Mirror” was certainly the starting point for who I am now as a composer. They may be works showing off my youthful indiscretions but they truly show that I passed through here.

As well, Kanazawa in the notes revealed that although "Back Mirror" had been released after Junko Ohashi's(大橋純子)take on "Rainy Saturday & Coffee Break" through her April 1977 album "Rainbow", it was actually Hayashi who had recorded the song for himself first. It was just that because each song on "Back Mirror" had been completed and recorded and processed one-by-one, it took the better part of a year to have the entire album done.

In any case, following the instrumental of "Marci (I)" and "Rainy Saturday & Coffee Break", there is "Yoru no Owari"(夜のおわり...The End of Night) at 5:12 which Kanazawa compared to the works of 1970s George Harrison and Wings-era Paul McCartney. To be honest, I don't know enough of either of their works back then to give a really informed observation (although I know Wings' "Band on the Run" and "My Love"), but there is something there that reminds me of the band Off-Course(オフコース)when they did their soft rock stuff in that decade.

At 9:27 is "Kanojo no Nagai Ichi Nichi"(彼女の長い一日...Her Long Day) sounds very 1970s and NOVO perhaps because of that electric piano as the woman in the lyrics just seems to want to let go of everything and flee it all. There's some very nice city sound in the arrangements given that further oomph thanks to that saxophone solo. I'd probably posit that the lass lives in New York City. Incidentally, the chorus in "Kanojo no Nagai Ichi Nichi" includes Junko Ohashi and singer-songwriter Tatsushi Umegaki(梅垣達志).

Speaking of keeping things in the Big Apple, Track 5 at 14:10 is "Moerutsuki Hi Made"(燃えつきる日まで...Until The Burning Day) which comes across as if it had been inspired by many days and nights on the top of brownstones and skyscrapers overlooking Manhattan at sunset. Do love the galloping rhythms, the sax and that feeling of Santana and Al Stewart. For some reason, it's with this song that Hayashi's vocals really come out to me.

"Letter"(レター)at 21:55 stands out since it sounds like a theme song for a Japanese cops-and-robbers show. There is that boss brass-and-racing percussion that pretty much energized any such program on either side of the Pacific during the 1970s, but Ryu's lyrics have to do with some poor fellow waiting for some sign from most likely a now ex-girlfriend.

One more song that I'll write on is "Tori no Se ni Nori Tobetara"(鳥の背に飛びのれたら...If I Could Ride the Back of a Bird) at 34:27 which is about as Boz Scaggs as one can get, and for that matter, I have to say that there is also something of the Takao Kisugi(来生たかお)included in the overall feeling, too. There is some of that lushness in the piano and the strings which remind me of both artists. 

Referring back to Hayashi's own comments above and looking through my own comments on the tracks covered, I think, yep, the composer was inspired by the various hooks and styles of the popular singers at the time from the United States and the United Kingdom. I'm pretty sure then that the other Japanese acts mentioned also got their own inspiration from the West.

I would also agree with Hayashi that "Back Mirror" was perhaps the album to show a fresh-faced composer taking on the music world as he tried to absorb and glean melodic insights from some of his heroes. Although he still kept on singing and putting out albums with his own material, well into the 1980s, I consider him as more of the composer in that decade and the songs that he provided for other singers such as Omega Tribe(オメガトライブ), Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)and Anri(杏里)possess that Hayashi style of alternating disco and his own form of rich balladry. The filter was finally fully formed and in place.


March 15 2021: Rocket Brown has got his review for "Back Mirror", so have a read of that, too!

Ami Ozaki -- Sweet Christmas Song

 

Almost a couple of weeks ago, I did an article on singer-songwriter Ami Ozaki's(尾崎亜美)1981 "Air Kiss" which was another collaboration between her and David Foster

However, there was one bonus track that I had been planning to save from the album that I've decided to put up here on its own since it has that Yuletide theme. This is "Sweet Christmas Song" which is indubitably a sweet and Xmas-y song that started its life as the B-side to Ozaki's 12th single "Serenade"(蒼夜曲)from November 1980.

Totally created by Ozaki, "Sweet Christmas Song" starts slightly spacey in a progressive rock way but then 30 seconds into it, we are rest assured that this is indeed a Holiday affair thanks to the happy AOR keyboard beat (which sounds like the December 25th drive to Grandma's) and the lyrical references to snow, holy nights, romance and Santa. I think it's something for the whole family and I can even pick up on a slight tropical rum punch thrown into this candy-cane cocktail.

Friday, November 27, 2020

PIE -- 1978

 

For this article, I would just like to showcase my sister-in-law's scrumptious homemade apple pie. Apple pie has always been my favourite by far (although I do like the other types as well) since I was fed so much of it as a little kid. Still am not much of an a la mode person; never really got into the habit of having a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the crust, and I certainly don't put any huge hunk of cheddar cheese on top of it either like apparently some Canadians enjoy. I usually just like it plain.

As you can imagine, pie has been a very common thing. However, this pie...or I should say, PIE(パイ)...is a very rare and unknown commodity. Actually, it's a Japanese band that is going into the category of Rare on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but I'm happy to welcome it all the same. I could barely dig up any information regarding this group aside from this site called "Showa Pops" (which I'm really happy to have discovered) and actual images via Yahoo Japan of their perhaps only record released in 1981 called "Ocean".

From "Showa Pops", I found out that PIE, consisting of Yasuhito Kawabata(川端康仁), Kohei Tsunemi (恒見コーヘイ) and Tadamasa Momoda (couldn't track down the kanji), had released at least one single in November 1981, "1978" which was written and composed by Kawabata according to what was written on the record itself. As the album continued to play, I noticed that PIE kinda went from AOR to folk, a reverse Off-Course(オフコース)approach on Side A, you might say. "1978", which follows a 36-second intro of choral scatting, is the second track which launches with a bold AOR guitar before proceeding into a light and mellow and wistful melody of keyboards and guitars. The entire song feels like a remembrance of good times and memories gone past although at the time of recording, only three years had passed since the titular year.

Wouldn't mind knowing some more about PIE and what became of its members but even if I can't, I'm satisfied that I could find out about "Showa Pops". After all, the page that I've bookmarked has a list of supposedly every single that was released in 1981, so there are tons of songs and singers that I've yet to explore.😀


Both images are from Yahoo Auctions.

JADOES -- Summer Lady

 

Let's see...of all the leading figures for City Pop on this side of the Pacific Ocean, Rocket Brown has attended a few of those City Pop dance parties while Van Paugam has created some of those parties everywhere. I haven't had the chance to do either but it would be interesting to drop in if such a fete were ever to be organized in my neck of the woods here in Canada. Mind you, I'd be keenly observing from a strategically-placed vantage point in the venue instead of shaking my booty on the floor (don't think they use that expression anymore).

Certainly, I wouldn't ever advise a DJ for a City Pop party what should be placed on the playlist unless he/she asked. At this point, I think that the host would be more than knowledgeable about the various songs from the genre, but if I were ever asked, JADOES' "Summer Lady" would be a pretty nice choice.

Straight from the band's July 1987 2nd album "Free Drink" which also has "Roku-gatsu no Photograph"(6月のフォトグラフ)and "Hot Melody", "Summer Lady" has got the right seasonal vibes including some of that Kadomatsu spice and a dang splendid trumpet solo. It's just the thing that we would need for a chilly November as well as a City Pop dance party. Yui Masaki(真沙木唯)took care of the lyrics and vocalist Hideki Fujisawa(藤沢秀樹)provided the funky music (the stereo on this copy is plenty good at the start).

I heard from Rocket last week that there was a City Pop dance party near his area with social distancing rules in effect. Heck, that's wonderful and all that, but I'm hoping that sometime into 2021, the whole she-bang will be back in gear.

Tazumi Toyoshima -- Shukujo no Tashinami(淑女のたしなみ)

 

Y'know, any more tracks that are like this one and "Belle Epoque"(ベル・エポック)on Tazumi Toyoshima's(豊島たづみ)4th album "Shukujo no Tashinami" (The Tastes of a Lady), and I'm going to have seriously think about taking advantage of some CD Japan coupons here before the end of 2020.

Her June 1980 release contains the third and title track, and those opening chords are so achingly and appealingly City Pop that I have had to wave myself with a "Light Mellow" album as a fan. Toyoshima has the fine voice for "Shukujo no Tashinami" with that level of huskiness and clarity going in tandem with those wonderful keyboards, the boss bass and the wailing guitar. Allow me to also compliment the singer's staccato delivery of the opening line in the refrain as well.

As was the case with "Belle Epoque", the late great Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was responsible for the cool music but instead of Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)this time around, Tetsuya Chiaki(ちあき哲也) brought the words for "Shukujo no Tashinami". The song is good enough to accompany that walk around West Shinjuku or Odaiba.

Junko Yagami -- Anata wa Shiranai(あなたは知らない)

 

Well, I had been hoping that there would be something from this particular album which would be put up onto the Net. Sure enough, Xmas has come early this year.

Must give my thanks to the uploader for coming up with the first track from Junko Yagami's(八神純子)12th album "Love is Gold" (March 1989). This is "Anata wa Shiranai" (You Don't Know) and it's a doozy. Written and composed by Yagami, I think that the singer-songwriter was starting to shift once more in her musical style away from the West Coast dance-worthy R&B that she'd been tackling for a few years since her album "Communication" in 1985 and heading toward a slightly more soulful and mellower approach plus even World Music as suggested in her 1990 album "My Invitation".

Anyways, getting back to "Anata wa Shiranai", this has been the track that has represented "Love is Gold" for me all these years. I just love those rhythm chords surrounded by all that cool percussion, and it isn't every day that I hear a flute in a 1980s R&B song. Something about that flute "ages" "Anata wa Shiranai" like a good side of beef. Of course, what can you say about Yagami's vocals that hasn't already been said? This time, they are nice and flirty here.

By this point, Yagami was no longer getting into the Top 10, but to me, she and her albums have remained gold to me...along with the love thing.😁

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Kye Eunsook & Keisuke Hama -- Kita Kuukou(北空港)

 


All these years, I'd known Keisuke Hama(浜圭介)as a composer of enka and Mood Kayo songs but according to his J-Wiki biography, he had been a singer under a number of stage names between 1964 and 1970.


Well, he came out of retirement, so to speak, to perform an enka/Mood Kayo duet that he himself composed with Kye Eunsook(桂銀淑). In November 1987, the two of them released "Kita Kuukou" (Northern Airport), and it's an interesting one since as someone who has been accustomed to the kayo idea that airports were the setting for the end of romances and the beginning of a new chapter in life, "Kita Kuukou" is actually the reunion of a couple in Sapporo

Yep, Sapporo is up there with Tokyo and Yokohama as the ideal city for old-style kayo affairs and with the setting of Shin-Chitose Airport, the happy duo is now free to have a romantic night out on the town, maybe in the area of Susukino. The J-Wiki article for "Kita Kuukou" even mentions that a 2-metre tall stainless steel monument with the lyrics by Yo Yashiro(やしろよう)was put up on the 2nd floor at Shin-Chitose back in 2004 but with restoration work being done between 2010 and 2012, it was moved over to a food court on the 3rd floor.


The article also mentions that during recording, the duo wanted to capture that feeling of a Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)ballad, and when I first heard this one, I thought of that very person. Hama's delivery and that haunting background chorus nailed the feeling of a Tough Guy song, just like his classic "Brandy Glass"(ブランデーグラス). "Kita Kuukou" managed to reach as high as No. 87 on the Oricon weeklies.

Koji Tamaki -- Love Song Blue

 

"But what I really want to do is sing down-home pop/rock".

After many years on the shelf, I took out Koji Tamaki's(玉置浩二)4th solo album "Love Song Blue" from December 1994 and popped it into the stereo last night. My reaction was "Geez, why haven't I played this some more?"

It's a fine album to be sure with not only Tamaki's proven amazing voice but also a variety of genres among the tracks. By the way, that quote above is simply something that I made up thinking that it could be what the Hokkaido-born lead vocalist for 80s rock band Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)would have said when comparing his band output of moody music in the early 1980s to the songs that he has crafted as a soloist since then...songs that I see and hear as material that I would love while Tamaki is entertaining a close group of friends around a campfire or in front of a cottage in a snowy hinterland.

"Love Song Blue" had Tamaki writing and composing all of the songs with some help by Ko Tanaka(田村コウ)on some of the tracks while Akira Sudo(須藤晃)and Katsu Hoshi(星勝)co-produced along with the singer. I already have one track from the album represented which is the romantic "Futari nara"(ふたりなら).

The album begins with "Seigi no Hero"(正義の味方...Hero of Justice) which is pretty much as it says on the title: an inspiring start to the album with Tamaki singing and encouraging folks to do their best at the right thing. It's got the brassy synths pushing the way and the arrangement reminds me a little of the first track from Anzen Chitai's "VI" album, "I Love You Kara Hajimeyou"(I Love Youからはじめよう...Let's Begin With I Love You) . This was actually the coupling song to Tamaki's 9th single from June 1995, "STAR", but I think this would have made a nice theme tune for any J-Drama or even a tokusatsu series.

Track 2 is "Ii Kao de"(いい顔で...Put on a Good Face), another encouraging track although this time, it's all about the game of love, and somewhat differently from what I was describing some paragraphs above about Tamaki going for that down-home approach, the setting is more downtown with some real horns as the singer exhorts folks not to sweat any temporary setbacks and just go for it and have some fun while at it. It was with "Ii Kao de" that I started comparing "Love Song Blue" as the solo Tamaki equivalent of what Anzen Chitai was doing with their "V" album...pushing through the envelope away from that distinctive sound that they had broken through with in their earlier albums.


Seeing Tamaki perform in the video above is probably how he really likes to let loose at a concert when compared to his Anzen Chitai performances on the music ranking shows at least when being stoic as possible was the usual performance stance. And I mean, he would have to let loose for this good ol' rock-n-roll "Aishiteru yo"(愛してるよ...Love Ya) which seems to be depicting one of the most passive-aggressive courtships that I've ever heard.

"ROOTS" is Tamaki at his charismatic down-and-sultry as I think his lyrics are describing some major boot-knockin' that was going on back in the day. However, the surrounding music also puts in hints of peril...sounds like the plot of a 1980s romance-thriller.

"Saikou desho?"(最高でしょ?...Isn't it the Best?)is an interesting mesh of bluesy jazz and rock as Tamaki sings about a fellow's week of making up and making out with his beloved. Along with "Ii Kao de", this extravaganza brought thoughts of comparisons between "Love Song Blue" and Anzen Chitai's "V" as I was listening to the melodic odyssey taking things out of the intimate jazz supper club in New York City and into the craziness of the Manhattan streets and back again. Tamaki is one artist who's not content giving a straight-ahead delivery; he loves to play around with his voice and the surrounding musicians in a jam session style. There's probably no difference between him in the recording booth or on a stadium stage.

One more track that I will provide here is "Aishitenjanai"(愛してんじゃない...You Still Love Her, Don't You?)which I was left thinking about wondering about how to categorize it. There is some of that jazz in there but it isn't Big Band or even Cool Jazz. Then I thought it was more in the old-fashioned pop standard genre involving folks like Bobby Darin and Michael Buble who've loved to put their hearts right on their sleeves when performing. As for the story in the lyrics, some poor schlep gets thrown out of the house after a fight with the significant other and would love to forget the whole wreck of a relationship except that he's haunted by the title itself. Just another night in the city.

There are a few more tracks on "Love Song Blue" including two that were a single and its coupling song but I will leave that to separate articles. The album peaked at No. 18 on Oricon, and as I mentioned off the top, Tamaki has provided some of that down-home music but with "Love Song Blue", he's also shown himself to be as much of a showman in a nightclub as he has in front of a campfire with buddies. Nice to make its acquaintance again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Marico -- 24th.Dec.20:45

 

Well, the Premier of our province made it abundantly clear in his press conference today: no gatherings outside of our immediate households this Christmas which shows how confident he and the experts feel about infection rates coming down enough to open things up again socially...not very. It's a pity but perhaps there might be a Christmas miracle in the coming weeks.

Speaking about a blue Christmas, as I was saying to Rocket Brown last weekend, the Yuletide in Japan is often seen as a second Valentine's Day with couples reserving restaurants especially on December 24th. Of course, there are also the large groups of friends getting together for parties and families bringing in the KFC for dinner. And then there is that one other group...the one which consists of folks who no longer have any significant others and have been left to mope about on what would ordinarily be a festive time. There is something almost downright masochistic about how this aspect of J-Xmas is depicted in pop songs although the songs themselves are arranged in a beautifully wistful manner.

Case in point: I found this Christmas ballad by singer-songwriter Marico(真璃子)several months ago judging by the fact that it was far back in the backlog. As someone who's interested in the J-Xmas sub-genre, I just had to keep it for this occasion. Titled "24th Dec.20:45", this is a track from her 5th album released in November 1990, "Venus-tachi no Kisetsu ni"(ヴィーナスたちの季節に...In the Season of Venuses). The song does feel like something to go along with Marico's lyrics of being alone in the city because either her boyfriend is too busy at work or the relationship went completely kaput some time previously.

Singer-songwriter Junko Hirotani's(広谷順子)music has a pleasant bluesy lilt almost to match the protagonist's slow lonely walk on the pavement during Xmas Eve, and there's a nice touch with the cold-wind chorus and the classy trumpet during the instrumental break. It all ends with a few seconds of typical if ironic Christmas cheer. In a way, "24th.Dec.20:45" makes for a younger sister of sorts of another City Pop tune with an Xmas theme, the similarly titled "December 24" by Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子).

Rumiko Koyanagi -- Rumiko to Christmas wo(ルミ子とクリスマスを)

 

Well, November 25th...exactly one month before Christmas Day. Therefore, another "Kayo Kyoku Plus" Christmas season has now started which means that from time to time between now and December 25th, there will be some seasonally appropriate tunes coming onto the blog.

To start off, I have to give my thanks to Scott who's an expert on J-Xmas tunes for providing me with this tip about singer Rumiko Koyanagi(小柳ルミ子)contributing her voice to some Western Christmas classics to vinyl. On November 25th 1972 (yup, exactly 48 years ago today), the Takarazuka Troupe alumna released an LP titled "Koyanagi Rumiko no Subete"(小柳ルミ子のすべて...All About Rumiko Koyanagi) on which Side A consisted of a medley of Xmas tunes.

Beginning with her version of "White Christmas" and then going through the Japanese versions of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" and "Silent Night", Koyanagi gives a fine tribute to the works of Berlin, Coots & Gillespie and Gruber along with some spoken-word tenderness under the medley title of "Rumiko to Christmas wo" (Rumiko and Christmas). With her crystal-clear voice, I think that she would have painter Normal Rockwell and the founder of Hallmark Cards nodding in approval. And if I still had the ability to do so, I would be putting up an Xmas tree right now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thelma Aoyama featuring SoulJa -- Soba ni Iru ne(そばにいるね)

 

Welcome, singer-songwriter Thelma Aoyama(青山テルマ)to "Kayo Kyoku Plus"! I'd heard about her but never got to know her music until recently actually but I saw her a few weeks ago on the Fuji-TV educational variety program "HONMADEKKA!?TV"(ホンマでっか!?TV). I also saw her now on a YouTube video on another show where she had her fellow guests and hosts in stitches with one of her stories. Apparently, she could make for a fine comic as well, but she was a bit more serious on "HONMADEKKA!?TV" for some reason.

During her time there, the topic somehow arrived at her breakthrough hit "Soba ni Iru ne" (I'm By Your Side) which was her 2nd single released in January 2008. Apparently, one of the experts, a specialist on sound mentioned that "Soba ni Iru ne" has the same effect as a lullaby. I don't know but when I heard that, I would have thought that Aoyama would have gone ballistic on the hapless fellow, but instead, the guy explained that "Soba ni Iru ne" had the right tempo and note placements to lull the kids into a restful sleep. In fact, as an experiment, a bunch of kindergarten kids were put through afternoon nap time while listening to the ballad, and sure enough, all except one especially rambunctious boy went into slumberland.

Indeed, it is a very mellow R&B tune that was written by Aoyama and hip-hop musician SoulJa with the latter person also composing the song. The late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)of "Awakening" fame arranged everything. The music may be everything that a person would need for a good night's sleep but the lyrics by Aoyama and SoulJa can also lend to reassuring slumber as the former sings about being always by a loved one's side no matter the distance between them.

The revelation on "HONMADEKKA!?TV" aside, "Soba ni Iru ne" was created as an answer song to an earlier tune also a collaboration between Aoyama and SoulJa, "Koko ni Iru yo"(ここにいるよ...I'm Here For You), SoulJa's 5th single from September 2007. In fact, I've read that the two songs share enough DNA that I can almost classify them as a Siamese twin song; I'll have to check out "Koko ni Iru yo" fairly soon, too, then. Apparently, SoulJa had created "Soba ni Iru ne" in gratitude to Aoyama for the success of the earlier song, and I'm sure that she was even more thankful since it did even better than "Koko ni Iru yo" by hitting No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and becoming the No. 7 single for 2008.

For even more accolades, "Soba ni Iru ne" won the Gold Prize at the JASRAC Awards for that year, went Double Platinum selling more than 450,000 copies, and according to the Wikipedia article for the song, for many months starting in September 2008, it had held the Guinness Record as "the best selling download single in Japan" until the band Greeeen usurped its place in May 2009. The single is also a track on Aoyama's debut album "Diary" released in March 2008 which peaked at No. 3 and ended up as the No. 26 album of the year.

Kahoru Kohiruimaki -- Cops and Robbers

 

I've seen my fair share of cop shows over the decades although I can't really say that I have a favourite among them. However, if I have to make a choice, I would have to go with the straight-arrow police procedural programs such as the original "The Untouchables" with the late Robert Stack and Jack Webb's "Dragnet" TV series. Just the facts, indeed.

"The Untouchables" and "Dragnet" had their own famous theme songs done as grim and justice-seeking marches, but I gather as American television entered the 1980s, there was the trend of having some slick rock singer or band come up with a kickass theme tune. I think that the same thing was probably happening on Japanese TV.

Never became a die-hard fan of "Abunai Deka"(あぶない刑事...Dangerous Detectives) with the slick-if-slightly-goofy detectives played by Hiroshi Tachi and Kyohei Shibata(舘ひろし・柴田恭兵), but the show had their own tough-talking theme songs with wailing guitars. I'm not sure if pop/rock singer Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)ever contributed one to "Abunai Deka" in her early years but she did provide a Japanese version of "You're Gonna Lose Me", an insert song for the series as her 3rd single in December 1986. That Japanese version was given the title of "Nagaku Atsui Yoru"(長く熱い夜...The Long Hot Night).

The B-side for that single is "Cops and Robbers" which probably wasn't included in any cops-and-robbers program but had that sensation of any action superstar like Sly, Arnie or Steven going into battle against a million bad guys...and winning, of course. It has the beat and growling guitars to bravely accompany any lone wolf police officer and his beloved handgun into a non-descript den of iniquity. It also ends rather abruptly with the music suddenly falling off a cliff leaving Kohhy to quickly spurt out the last few words of English as if the recording studio were being shut down for non-payment of rent. Go figure.

Written by Linda Hennrick, composed by Takashi Shoji(小路隆)and arranged by Hiroshi Shinkawa(新川博), "Cops and Robbers" was an ideal tune for Kohiruimaki since I'd always seen her back then as the tousled-hair hellion in leather with the lower velvety voice. However, it was with her next single, the poppier "Hold On Me", that she got her breakthrough hit and then right after that, she came up with the City Pop-friendly theme song for the anime "City Hunter".

Monday, November 23, 2020

Kirinji -- Neo(ネオ)

 

Earlier this year, just before COVID-19 swamped the planet, I was able to give my thoughts on the two most recent albums by the band Kirinji(キリンジ): "Ai wo aru dake, Subete"(愛をあるだけ、すべて)from 2018 and "cherish" from 2019. Both had their wonderful charms with the former being a trip to that spacey disco above the ionosphere while the latter also brought in some breathing time in the VIP lounge. Then, in late May, I came across "Koi no Kehai"(恋の気配)which was a track on Kirinji's third-most recent album released in August 2016. After listening to it a few times with singer-songwriter Kotringo(コトリンゴ)behind the mike, I knew that I had to get that album once I was gainfully employed once more. That album is "Neo".

Well, I became gainfully employed again sometime in midsummer so once I got my first real paycheck in a season, I used some of that salary to get a few albums including "Neo". My first impression on hearing the album a couple of times is that "Neo" is a bit less spacey than the next two albums with this release being the last one featuring Kotringo after being with the band between 2013-2016. However, that doesn't mean that Kirinji was on the straight-and-narrow pop path; they tried out some intriguing things. By the way, unless specified, leader Takaki Horigome(堀込高樹)was responsible for words and music.

And already I'm going to specify something here. Right from the first track, "Neo" launches with a full blast with "The Great Journey" which invites one of the oldest Japanese hip-hop acts, RHYMESTER to add their writing contributions and singing chops to Horigome's own work. It seems from the lyrics by RHYMESTER's Utamaru(宇多丸)and Mummy-D and the Kirinji leader that it's a hyped-up theme for the evolution of life from the Ice Age to the Space Age. There is plenty of rapping in there by the two acts but "The Great Journey" is not a pure hip-hop tune and though there is some of that wonderfully whimsical Kirinji sound in there, it's not a pure Kirinji tune either. It's something that's perhaps a sum bigger than the total of its two parts. Certainly, everyone in the video above probably wanted to chug-a-lug a good cask of beer following the concert.


Then, we come to the second track, "Mr. BOOGIEMAN". As soon as I heard the first few bars, I figured that this was going to be guitarist Erino Yumiki's(弓木英梨乃)turn behind the mike since it sounds not only like something from the Doobie Brothers but also something which comes across as being so adorably cute. I also think that "Mr. BOOGIEMAN", who probably isn't scary at all but someone attractive and out for a good time on the town, could be great for a techno aidoru to tackle. Heck, Yumiki's performance at the concert above has her pulling off that old-fashioned showmanship technique of "making the rounds" except that it isn't through the seated audience of a restaurant-ballroom but just around the band members. 


Creamy-voiced Kotringo is behind the lyrics and Horigome is behind the music for what I think is "Hibi Kore Kanko"(日々是観光). Not 100% on the kanji reading of that middle character and as for the translation, I think it's meant to say "Sightseeing Through These Days". Not going to worry too much about it, though, since this track is also quite soothing and quirky with the synth notes and the light samba as the two songwriters also perform "Hibi Kore Kanko" as the musical recipe in how to live happily for each day and not get too worked about stuff.

I could pick up some of the Beatles in the happy-go-lucky "Nen-neko"(ネンネコ)which could be a mashup between two words: nenne for baby blanket and neko for cat. All of those feline fans can do with a few listens of this track since it seems to be relaxing while viewing a cutely sleeping cat. I was bopping my head from side-to-side. It just goes to show that a cat's life can truly be the life of Riley. It would seem that every Kirinji album has that one truly quirky and catchy song; I'm reminded of "Pizza VS. Hamburger" from "cherish" for instance.

My final track here is a sad but beautiful ballad about love not finding the way. "Ano Ko no Birthday"(あの娘のバースデイ...That Girl's Birthday) by Horigome deals with a relationship that isn't meant to be due to too wide a gap in terms of things such as class. Both Kotringo and Yumiki share the microphone, and in the video above, Yumiki even shows her prowess with the violin. It's all very baroque but there's a part of the song that reminds me of some of the early love songs of Yumi Arai(荒井由実).

In all honesty, of the three albums that I've written about here tonight, I think "Neo" has been the one that's taken a little longer to grab onto me. There's not as much of the spacey Jamiroquai feeling here on this album that was imbued into "Ai wo aru dake, Subete" and "cherish", and being a fan of Jamiroquai, I guess that's the thing for me. However, having said that, I'm happy to say that with repeated listenings to "Neo" over the weeks, the album has become as comfy as a pair of slippers. It's just another phase that I've experienced of this amazing band called Kirinji.

But as I've mentioned in the "Koi no Kehai" article, "Neo" has been the most successful of their albums so far in terms of the Oricon charts since it topped off at No. 11.

Issei Fuubi Sepia -- Sepia Colour(セピアカラー)

 

Several years ago in "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I featured a rather distinct song-and-dance group that seemed to be a mix of Harajuku Takenozoku and the Jets from "West Side Story".

I knew Issei Fuubi Sepia(一世風靡セピア...The Incredible Sepia) for just one song: "Zenryaku, Michi no Ue Yori" (前略、道の上より), released as their debut single in June 1984. And yep, future actors Toshiro Yanagiba(柳葉敏郎)and Sho Aikawa(哀川翔)who were part of this troupe from the streets and the rest of The Incredible Sepia looked like the most stylish bad boys ambling down the pavement while singing macho man rhetoric. Still, "Zenryaku" also sounded like the guys were also at home pounding those koto drums at a summer festival.

The B-side of the single is "Sepia Colour" which is a bit more introspective, relatively speaking, as the troupe continues to sing and talk about what makes a man a man, even giving a couple of shoutouts to Ernest Hemingway and "The Old Man and the Sea" along with James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause". Lone wolf, I bet they be talking about. As for the music video...well, I don't know...perhaps the stoic performance has aged a bit and some of the younger generation may remark "Uh...really, Dad?". However, I can still imagine any of the current Johnny's boy groups using some of the choreography licks that are shown here. And I know one thing...I certainly couldn't do what they did. I wouldn't be shaking my booty, I'd probably be breaking my hip even back then.

Issei Fuubi Sepia were responsible for the lyrics while GOTO took care of the music.

Donald Fagen -- I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)

 

Approximately two weeks ago, I contributed a ROY article for Steely Dan's wonderful "Peg" from the band's 1977 "Aja" album. Without going into the whole hullabaloo about how I got into the works of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker again, allow me to say that it was the beginning of my exposure to this demanding and resultingly amazing duo.

Some years later, I then started hearing "I.G.Y." by Donald Fagen on AM radio and that time, I thought that it was one of the weirdest pop songs that I had ever heard. A horn section shuffling to a reggae beat? The singer trying to reach those falsetto heights? And why would a song ever be called "International Geophysical Year", for heaven's sakes?

It would be years before I finally saw the light about "I.G.Y." and its album by Fagen, "The Nightfly". Before that point, I hadn't known that Fagen was part of Steely Dan, and although I did remember seeing that iconic cover for "The Nightfly" with the old-style radio DJ in the booth, I had no idea that it was Fagen as the disc jockey. In fact, I didn't even know that Steely Dan breaking up for a while partially led to the birth of this classic album.

My thanks will strangely go to IBM. As I mentioned in the "Peg" article, there was an IBM commercial played in Japan with a popular model/actress being featured alongside the ThinkPad and "I.G.Y." was the song in the background. My engrams were firing once more with a bit more affection for the Fagen single. At the time, I was teaching at my second school in Tokyo, and a fellow teacher who had been doing his own DJ'ing and recording recommended "The Nightfly" to me as one of the albums everyone had to own.

Indeed, I did buy it and it has become a heavy-rotation album. As was the case with that subtitle for "I.G.Y.", what a beautiful world! All of the tracks are splendid and I gradually got to know the story behind the concept of "The Nightfly" and Fagen's personal connection to it. Of course, you can take a look at the Wikipedia article for the album for starters.

The part of the story where Fagen related how much he relied on those 1960s late-night radio shows as a kid in what he called his bland neighbourhood did hit me somewhat. I had my decade of listening to various stations across the dial and especially during my university years, I relied on those radio DJs to keep me amused, entertained and awake as I pulled off those all-nighters to get the essays done and exams studied for. Certainly, I was interested enough to track down this video of a 1964 broadcast of a radio show from Boston.

As for "I.G.Y.", I now consider it to be one of the most appealingly quirky pop songs that my ears have had the privilege of being exposed to. Once again, it was all about those horns, keyboards, Fagen's vocals and that melody now paired with lyrics that sardonically talked about the wonders of futuristic living. And yet, I still get one of those rare moments of optimism in my head (my persona really usually wavers between cynicism and pessimism) whenever I play "I.G.Y." on the stereo, hoping for those gleaming trains, hypersonic planes and driverless automobiles going to and from those smart homes. Not surprisingly, my mind goes to certain areas in Tokyo such as Odaiba and even further afield in nations such as Dubai.

"I.G.Y." was released in September 1982 with "The Nightfly" coming out a month later, so I figure that I can provide what were in the Top 3 of Oricon in October 1982.

1. Aming -- Matsu wa  (待つわ)

2. Ippu-Do -- Sumire September Love (すみれ September Love)


3. Masahiko Kondo -- Horeta ze! Kanpai(ホレたぜ!乾杯)

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Tatsuro Yamashita -- DONUT SONG

 

Apologies...couldn't really find the most picturesque photo of a donut quickly enough, so I hope that you can bear up with this cruller in a plastic bag.

Yesterday when I wrote up the SHE IS SUMMER article for her "Donuts"(ドーナツ)song, commenter Scott was good enough to remind me that Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)had once written up a jingle for Mister Donut in Japan. Gave myself a Gibbs slap upside the head since I knew exactly what he was talking about. 

"DONUT SONG" was something that I used to hear all the time for those Mister Donut commercials. Those ads with Tats' delectable song first started up in 1996 and unfortunately I couldn't find any of them on YouTube, but all I can say is that this tropical-sounding "DONUT SONG" reminds me somewhat of "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid", and may have been geared straight for the kiddies because of its catchiness. I can certainly imagine them dancing and singing the refrain, perhaps much to their parents' annoyance. Mister Donut, on the other hand, was probably jumping for joy at all of those donuts going like hotcakes in the various branches.

The song finally managed to get onto Yamashita's 11th studio album "COZY" which came out in August 1998. It hit No. 1 on Oricon and broke the Million barrier in sales. Interestingly enough, it was never released as a single.

Junretsu -- Ai wo Kudasai ~ Don't You Cry(愛をください)

 

The vocal quartet Junretsu(純烈has become a regular presence on the annual Kohaku Utagassen over the past few years and once again, they've been invited to join the New Year's Eve special on NHK. With "Propose"(プロポーズ) and "Junretsu no Happy Birthday"(純烈のハッピーバースデー)having been performed in the past couple of editions, I had been wondering what would Kazuyoshi Sakai(酒井一圭), Yuujiro Shirakawa(白川裕二郎), Ryohei Odai(小田井涼平)and Shota Gogami(後上翔太)present this year at Shibuya Hall.

Well, I don't think I need to wonder anymore. This song has been popping a fair bit on shows such as "Uta Kon"(うたコン)so I figure that their February 2020 single "Ai wo Kudasai ~ Don't You Cry" (Give Me Your Love) has been given the NHK go-ahead for performance.

Plenty of gusto in this one. Written and composed by their regular songwriter Kohei Miyuki(幸耕平)with arrangement by Mitsuo Hagita(萩田光雄), "Ai wo Kudasai" has brought in all of the ingredients for a Junretsu song: brio-filled Latin horns, old-style and new-style kayo, bar-friendly Mood Kayo and the reassuring voices of the guys. The music video surprisingly doesn't have the four put on the usual dancing show and they don't appear until the last minute of the song, instead focusing on their voices soothing a lonely young lady in a really nice living room set. That last scene though made me wonder whether the director was going for something like a pivotal part of "The Bachelorette". "Ai wo Kudasai" peaked at No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies.

Akiko Murata -- Watashirashikunakya!(私らしくなきゃ!)

 

The mid-1990s were known for the Komuro Boom with songwriter-producer Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)leading the way with his dance-pop sounds as applied to Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵), Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美), trf and the like. But there were other acts out there with their own styles such as Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)with his brand of soul-pop, AOR kings Sing Like Talking and cool UA.

The thing is, though, that I knew about these guys thanks to the media machine and Oricon charts, but as much as I've remarked that I discovered a whole treasure trove of formerly unknown City Pop stars from the 1980s, I think the same can apply to a number of singers from the 1990s.

Case in point: singer Akiko Murata(村田彰子). Never heard of her until some months ago. Born in South Carolina, America, her very short J-Wiki entry mentions that she is known for a low voice with plenty of punch. Apparently at one music event, the late Ike Turner even praised Murata's abilities which were considered to be a step above a lot of other Japanese voices. One blurb on a page compared her to Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet.

Having said that, she released just one single and one album. Her 1995 album "Find Out" contains the track "Watashirashikunakya!" (Gotta Be Me!), written by Satomi Arimori(有森聡美)and composed by Kazunori Sone(曽根一訓). No doubt about the strong and soulful voice, and the song has got that jazzy dance beat to take things close to City Pop, although the impression that I got on first listening to "Watashirashikunakya!" is that the song wasn't quite up to Murata's talent level but it was promising.

The following year, Murata changed to her professional name to FOOL to release a single "Dance Tonight" and then later in 1998, she lengthened it further to FOOL & The Long Hairs with an indies album coming out.