Credits

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mieko Nishijima -- Bye-Bye

 

Mieko Nishijima's(西島三重子)"Bye-Bye" has got quite the bouncy bass in there but I'm not quite ready to call it a City Pop song just yet, and perhaps thanks to those flutes or ocarinas or whatever instrument is blowing, there is some hint of an exotic kayo that I'm more confident in categorizing it as. "Bye-Bye" is Nishijima's 5th single from May 1981 and it's got some more of that oomph than would be typical for one of her tunes.

Written by Nishijima and Kenji Kadoya(門谷憲二), a frequent collaborator, and composed by Nishijima, it's a really jaunty tune about a woman who declares that it's time to move on from a dead romance, and the way that the singer delivers those lyrics, the lady seems to be more than happy to kiss the cad off right then and there. Such is life in the big city!

Super Chorogons -- Aozora no Rhapsody(青空のラプソディ)

 

Well, I'll tell ya something. In January 2017, I wrote up an article on pop band fhana's incredibly catchy and beloved "Aozora no Rhapsody" (青空のラプソディ...Blue Sky Rhapsody) and stated that it was the first time that I'd ever cottoned onto an anime theme song even before catching the series itself. That series is "Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon"(小林さんちのメイドラゴン...Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid), and sure enough, the two theme songs including the ending "Ishukan Communication" (イシュカン・コミュニケーション), performed by most of the cast under the unit name of Chorogons  (ちょろゴンず), and the anime became the talk of the town in those early months.

Of course, there were the various live-action appearances of the cast for the fans' sake which have been placed onto YouTube. One particular video that I remember very well was when Chorogons, voiced by  Yūki Kuwahara(桑原由気), Maria Naganawa(長縄まりあ), Minami Takahashi(高橋未奈美), and Yūki Takada(高田憂希), went into a sudden dance party for "Aozora no Rhapsody" that was both adorable and awkward at the same time. But it stuck to me like wallpaper.

Let's roll ahead 4 1/2 years later when all of us "Kobayashi-san" fans were wondering whether a second season of the show would ever show up. Well, indeed it has and it will be titled "Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon S" with the first episode being broadcast in early July on Tokyo MX. Yay! 

Returning to that video of the cast dancing to "Aozora no Rhapsody", I wonder if that had been the spark for the immediate above presentation that was just launched on the Lantis YouTube channel today. The song is back on but this time it's the Super Chorogons with the expanded cast helping out in their cover of "Aozora no Rhapsody". It's basically an affectionate near-clone of the original music video by fhana (who make guest cameos) to commemorate the launch of the second season, and happiness still bounds out of the screen. Not sure if the video will be popping up on a later Blu-Ray or if the cover itself will get onto the soundtrack.

Of course, I can't finish things without providing the trailer for "S", and it looks like fhana has come out with another banger of an opening theme.

Hidefumi Toki -- You're Dancing

 

Last night, I heard through the Come Along Radio Twitter account that saxophonist Hidefumi Toki(土岐英史)had passed away on June 26th at the age of 71. Almost a year ago, I wrote about Toki and the first track from his 1978 album "City", "Speak Low" since I enjoyed listening to the track so much.

In tribute to the Kobe-born musician, I'm going to go with his nearly 10-minute long jam called "You're Dancing", the title track from his album that I found from his website was released in 1979. Smooth Toki and his mates each have a ball taking the steering wheel whether it be him, punchy trombonist Hiroshi Fukumura, footloose and fancy-free pianist Aki Takase and snappy drummer Arihide Kurata. Kurata especially gets on that marching beat. The whole song has a good drive with a mellow beginning which reminds me a bit of a rendition of "In a sentimental mood" by Duke Ellington that I used to know.

Toki's most recent album was the September 2020 "Guitar Man" with him on alto saxophone. My condolences go to his family, friends and fans.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Yoichi Sugawara/Takao Kisugi -- Kyo de Owakare(今日でお別れ)

 

Tonight on "Uta Con"(うたコン), I heard a Yoichi Sugawara(菅原洋一)song for the first time in a long time, but it wasn't the veteran singer performing it but actor/singer Kanji Ishimaru(石丸幹二)behind the mike. 

Just from reading the title, "Kyo de Owakare" (Today We Part), I kinda figured that this would be a Mood Kayo involving those famous sayings of "Parting is such sweet sorrow", "We'll always have Paris" and "Two ships passing through the night". It's the type of ballad that Sugawara would hit out of the park like a Shohei Otani cannon.

Ironically, though, his first attempt at "Kyo de Owakare" in March 1967 was derailed by his own previous hit of "Shiritakunaino"(知りたくないの)from 1965 which was still so popular that folks kept on preferring to listening to the latter rather than the new kid on the block. Ouch! Incidentally, "Kyo de Owakare" was written by the late Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼), who also wrote for "Shiritakunaino", composed by Akira Ui(宇井あきら)and arranged by Hirotsugu Hayakawa(早川博二).

Another saying that I will throw in is "Never say never", and a couple of years later when I guess the "Shiritakunaino" phase finally ended, it was decided to give "Kyo de Owakare" another go with another arranger, Kenichiro Morioka(森岡賢一郎). The new version was released on Christmas Day 1969. Heck of a day to put out this sort of melancholy ballad but I gather that even back then, pop music in Japan around the Yuletide tended to go rather sad.

In any case, this time the new "Kyo de Owakare", which is most likely the one that is provided right at the top according to the B-side that was listed on the 1969 record cover shown in the thumbnail "Anata dake na no"(あなただけなの...Only You), quickly became a hit for Sugawara. This time, it sold 300,000 records, earned a Japan Record Award and became the 8th-ranked single for 1970.

Another singer who can bring beautiful to melancholy is Takao Kisugi(来生たかお), and he did his own cover of "Kyo de Owakare" for his December 2008 (23rd) album "Yoin"(余韻...Lingering Memories). Apparently, according to the J-Wiki writeup for the album, Kisugi, also being a composer, had a great admiration for the melody. Toshiyuki Watanabe(渡辺俊幸)handled the arrangement here which possesses that feeling of baroque pop and a soundtrack from a 1960s romantic movie with a bittersweet ending.

The Monsieur -- Hajimete no Eki(はじめての駅)

 

My French-language ability has deteriorated although as a Canadian I had to take several years of mandatory French as a part of my education. The reason is that I focused on Japanese instead through Japanese Language School downtown and then four years of learning in my Japanese Studies major at the University of Toronto (still it took my lives in Gunma and Ichikawa to finally cement any fluency in the language). 

But getting back to French, I learned how to pronounce the word monsieur pretty quickly (/məˈsjɜːr/ or mə-SYUR), so it was a tad jarring when I first heard how the Japanese handled the French word for "Mister" or "Sir". It comes out sounding like "moosh" as if someone pulled out of time from hundreds of years in the past had tried to say the other word for oatmeal before he learned about the Great Vowel Shift. I had always wondered what was up with the name for the late guitarist for the Group Sounds band The Spiders, Hiroshi "Moosh" Kamayatsu(かまやつ "ムッシュ" ひろし)until I realized that he was actually Monsieur Kamayatsu.

Well, I've found another musical entity in Japan with monsieur and that would be the folk trio The Monsieur(ザ・ムッシュ). There's no J-Wiki entry on this band and I've had to pull in information from a few different Japanese blog pages, but let's start with who they are: Yuuji Yamamoto(山本雄二), Akira Tokunaga(徳永章)and Kouichi Dobashi(土橋広市). According to one of those pages, they made their debut on record in 1969 with "Tomodachi"(ともだち...Friends). Their star was rising within the Kansai folk circuit (they were placed alongside Alice and Billy Ban Ban) when The Monsieur were asked if they would come out with a record, and "Tomodachi" turned out to be that single.

The above concert video was of The Monsieur performing in 1976 according to the uploader but the song that they're doing here is "Hajimete no Eki" (First Station) which came out in November 1974. Written by Fumiko Okada(岡田富美子), the song was composed by band member Tokunaga with arrangement by folk stalwart Ichizo Seo(瀬尾一三). Unfortunately, I couldn't find any video with the original record version but this live version is still plenty sumptuous with the combination of strings, flute and banjo, and I think that it's quite the classy folk song that even the lords and ladies of a manor could dance to.

"Hajimete no Eki" was also a track on their December 1975 album "Dengonban"(伝言板...Message Board). I don't know how long The Monsieur lasted in its initial run, but I'm hoping that they're still together doing reunion shows. Maybe someday they might show up on NHK's "Uta Con"(うたコン).

Yasuko Agawa -- The Music (Is The Way I Live)

 

Almost a year ago, I first featured jazz singer Yasuko Agawa(阿川泰子)through her "Canadian Star" and she was a chanteuse that I'd wanted to get up onto "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for some time so I was glad to finally do so. Of course, it would take a year to get a second article about her onto the blog.😬

Well, in any case, here we are...and here she is. Once again, it's not about the jazz this time but more of her dalliance with R&B of the early 1980s and City Pop and all that. This is "The Music (Is The Way I Live)", a track from her 1984 album "Gravy". Rather interesting title for an album of hers.

Compared with the dreamy Steely Dan-penned but Eagles-sounding "Canadian Star", "The Music" takes things into a far funkier direction with images of Los Angeles rather than Tokyo in the arrangement, although with that electric guitar banging away there, maybe there is even a touch of rock. It took a bit of doing trying to figure out who created "The Music" in the first place but after checking out the images of the original LP on Yahoo Japan, it was the duo of Gerald Lee and Marti Sharron who was behind the mighty R&B strut delivered by Agawa.

I also tried to see whether "The Music" was a cover for an original rendition in the United States but I couldn't find anyone there who had recorded it, so I can assume that Agawa is indeed the original singer. She does a pretty bang-up job with the song and it makes me wonder how long she continued with R&B until she made the switch to jazz. In any case, I can imagine folks of the decade listening to this on their Sony Walkmans.

Misia -- Little Rose

 

Well, happy to say that I finally got my second shot of the vaccine earlier this afternoon, and despite a sudden major cloudburst, everything went amazingly smoothly. In fact, I received my vaccination so quickly that I was actually out of the community centre at the same time that I was supposed to have arrived there. So far, so good about any potential side effects, though. I don't even have a sore arm but I'm knocking on wood rather fiercely as I type this.

From Wikipedia

Years ago in high school, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince" was required reading in French class so of course, we knew it as "Le Petit Prince". As one of the most famous literary examples of the observation of the human condition, I'd heard that depending on the age of the reader, that reader will gain different insights about the plight of Man. However in all honesty, although I remember that I did read the book, there is very little else that I remember in terms of the contents; in fact, I had to look up the Wikipedia article on "The Little Prince" to check its contents. Perhaps in my middle age, I should give Saint-Exupéry's magnum opus another go but I have to admit that I was never all that much of an appreciative bibliophile. Still, there might be something in the book that might have a connection with what we've all been through over the past year and change.

From what I've read on Wikipedia, "The Little Prince" is a rather somber story so it was with some surprise that I discovered J-R&B songbird Misia's "Little Rose" which was inspired by the 1943 novella. Written and composed by the singer, this track from her 5th original album "MARS & ROSES" from February 2004 is quite the uptempo and cheerful song with plenty of beats, and as the title hints, it's about the prince falling in love with that rose from the story itself. I can only hope that the story in "Little Rose" ends much more on a certain and happier note.

Certainly at the time that "MARS & ROSES" was released, I had been starting to think that Misia was only aiming to put out the melancholy ballads so to realize that there was something like "Little Rose" among the love songs is nice to know. As for the album, it peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and ended up as the 58th-ranked album for 2004.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Shuuji Kano -- Suteki na Yatsu(素敵なやつ)

 

Starting off with colloquial Japanese here. The term yatsu(やつ)had always struck me as a rough word that was used to refer to men and boys. If I were to translate it, it would probably come out as "mate", "fellow", "guy" and the like. A sample sentence is "Kare wa ii yatsu"(彼はいいやつ...He's a good guy!). But when I checked Jisho.org while thinking about this song here, I found out that yatsu could also be used with women and girls, although the site did also state that it would have to be in a very familiar or even derogatory sense. So, the point is taken; if I ever have to use it, I will still use it just for men.

But the usage of yatsu explains something in the lyrics for the January 1965 debut single of singer Shuuji Kano(叶修二)who came from Niigata Prefecture. Those lyrics were provided by Kaoru Mizuki(水木かおる)and at first, looking at the title and doing a first run through those words, I'd assumed that the story was being told from the woman's point of view since yatsu was being used as the lass was falling for the guy. However, I've realized that it's the opposite; it's the guy who's fallen head over heels with the lady and the yatsu is all for her. I guess in a way, the protagonist is saying something "Ah, she's a swell peach" or something old-fashioned like that.

As for the melody, I had also thought it was an enka tune but now I think that it's more of a jaunty ol' kayo the more I listen to it. It just seems too bouncy to be an enka and the sentiments of love here appear more on the level of puppy love rather than the deeper ideas of l'amour in a typical enka. Minoru Endo(遠藤実)was the one who composed "Suteki na Yatsu" (A Splendid Gal) under one of his pen names, Masanobu Tsugi or Tsugu(継正信), and Kano was one of the many students who came under Endo's umbrella along with Akira Kobayashi(小林旭), Masako Mori(森昌子)and Tetsuya Watari(渡哲也). 

Kano's career spanned from the 1960s into the 1970s and he even released his own version of the famous "Sekai no Kuni kara Konnichiwa" (世界の国からこんにちは), immortalized by Haruo Minami(三波春夫). However, unfortunately, I couldn't find Kano's cover of it on YouTube. After a time, the singer returned to his native Niigata and up to 2013, he was participating in events within the prefecture. But he passed away at the age of 66 in early 2014 from an aneurysm although the news of his death wasn't announced until 2018.

Iyo Matsumoto -- Dakishimetai(抱きしめたい)

 

I have to say that though the lyrics of eternally being connected to one's love and the title of "Dakishimetai" (Want to Hold Onto You) have probably become so common as to approach cliché, the music for this particular song is pretty gosh-darn delicious.


"Dakishimetai" is 80s aidoru Iyo Matsumoto's(松本伊代)5th single and there's barely anything about this song in J-Wiki aside from the songwriters and the fact that it did exist. Just to get that out of the way, it was released in November 1982 with Chinfa Kan(康珍化)on lyrics, Toshio Kamei(亀井登志夫)on music and Shiro Sagisu(鷺巣詩郎)handling the arrangement. It did well on Oricon by breaking into the Top 10 at No. 9.

However as I mentioned off the top, Kamei's music with Sagisu's arrangement make "Dakishimetai" a cut above the average aidoru tune...at least to me, anyways. I wouldn't categorize it as a technopop tune despite the Asian-flavoured synthesizer and the light gong at the beginning although it did make me wonder when I first heard it whether either Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)or Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)were helping out here as they have so many others during that time. But it isn't just the intro...it's also that mixture of that exotic kayo from the late 1970s and light Baroque Pop/Fashion Music and specifically, even that guitar which unleashes a sonic launch of sorts whenever Iyo-chan goes into the refrain. It's quite the cute little buffet, musically speaking.

Sadistic Mika Band -- Time Machine ni Onegai(タイムマシンにおねがい)/Cycling Boogie(サイクリング・ブギ)

 

Sadistic Mika Band(サディスティック・ミカ・バンド)has been one of those legendary Japanese groups whose name has been bandied about along with Happy End and Tin Pan Alley. All of them sprouted into existence in the 1970s and as has been the case with the other two, Sadistic Mika Band has had its members who have gone onto some big things on their own or with other musical projects. Among them were the late songwriter Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)who was also with The Folk Crusaders, bassist and prolific composer Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利), guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka(高中正義)and drummer/songwriter Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏)who would head into technopop band Yellow Magic Orchestra later that decade.

Former contributor JTM in one of his earliest articles for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" wrote about the band when it had that slight change in its spelling to Sadistic Mica Band in the late 1980s. But I'm here today to talk about its early days when it still had that "k" in "Mika". According to JTM, Sadistic Mika Band was influenced by the glam rock produced by T. Rex and David Bowie along with the art rock of Roxy Music and the pop rock of Badfinger. This is good to know since I couldn't find anything about these influences online.

I'm still kinda slapping myself upside the head since I missed out on the opportunity to purchase a copy of SMB's November 1974 2nd album, "Kurofune"(黒船...Black Ship) when I saw it right then and there at an old store of books and records called BMV downtown a few years ago. Simply speaking, I broke my own cardinal rule of grabbing something when I had the chance since I had wrongly assumed that it would still be hanging around when I returned to BMV a week later. Ah, much to my chagrin, it was gone! 😞 I don't know what the condition of the LP was but I was willing to take a chance on it.

Anyways, as I rise out of that self-pity, there is one track on "Kurofune" that's gotten my attention and that would be "Time Machine ni Onegai" (Request for a Time Machine). The song was also SMB's 3rd single from October 1974 and it's the fun rocker about doing all sorts of wonderful things with the titular time machine, although I'm not sure if it would be the right sort of tune to accompany The Doctor's TARDIS (I've always thought something techno for the ol' Type 40 because of the show's iconic theme). Kato was behind the music while lyricist Takeshi Matsuyama(松山猛)provided the words to this rollicking magical carpet ride which vocalist Mika Fukui(福井ミカ)saucily blasts out like a teen punk, although she was already 25 at the time. In fact, because of her vocals, I kinda wonder whether Sadistic Mika Band itself had some influence on future bands such as Sheena & The Rokkets; there's something rather New Wave about "Time Machine ni Onegai", but for now, I'll be happy to label it as New Music.

Some more evidence about Sadistic Mika Band's prescience may have presented itself through its debut single "Cycling Boogie" which came out in June 1972 (yes, almost 50 years ago). It's rock but as in good ol' rock n' roll...and I know that the 50s rock n' roll culture became really popular in the late 70s going into the early 80s in Japan, but perhaps SMB kinda had a hint about what was to come even in the early part of the decade. 

I believe that it was Kato handling the vocals in the recorded version since that is indeed him performing "Cycling Boogie" on stage in this video with Fukui doing the boogie twist. Kato was once again behind the music while drummer Hiro Tsunoda(つのだ☆ひろ), another member of SMB who also made his own fame later on, provided the lyrics of having a totally raunchy time on the streets (Fukui yells out "Let's go doughnut!" right off the top), and I don't think we're talking about banana-seat bicycles here; it's about the motorcycles.


As for the reason behind featuring these particular two singles by the band...well, "Time Machine ni Onegai" and "Cycling Boogie" were used for the opening and ending themes respectively for a 1992 Fuji-TV anime titled "Maboroshi Mabo-chan"(まぼろしまぼちゃん...Little Mabo Maboroshi). Pretty inspired choices for a show about a stalwart boy and his sister who head over to a mystical land in the attempts to save their petrifying parents.

I'm finally happy to have the opportunity to explore some of that Sadistic Mika Band at last.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Shota Shimizu -- Koiuta(恋唄)

 

Last week on NHK's "Uta Con"(うたコン), I had the privilege of hearing a singer that I'd never seen before on the show whose voice was truly golden.

Singer-songwriter Shota Shimizu(清水翔太)hails from Osaka and according to his Wikipedia file, he brought down the house at the Apollo Theater where he performed for a second time in November 2008 doing his rendition of the kayo classic "Ue wo Muite Arukou" (上を向いて歩こう) . He's had a love for gospel and soul music, and when I heard him sing on "Uta Con" last Tuesday, I swear that he sounded like another one of my favourites, Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)of Sing Like Talking who has also dabbled in those same two genres.

Having his singing career for around 13 years, his latest single in the form of a digital download is "Koiuta" (Love Song), a most comfortable warm wool blanket of a ballad that came out last month. I've read that his past songs have done quite well so I'm interested in giving those a try. Considering how Sato solo and with Sing Like Talking have also come out with some funky barnburners, I would love to hear whether Shimizu has also put out some really uptempo tunes, but as it is, I think something as "unplugged" as "Koiuta" is also wonderful to marvel.

Norie Hayashi -- Suteki na Love Motion(素敵なラブモーション)

 


Looks like parts of the Great White North have become the Great Red North. The West Coast is blazing with heat and humidity and the same appears to be happening in Ontario. At least, it's not a new thing here in Toronto. As I've always said, weather in this neck of the woods is predictably unpredictable.

Perhaps the same can be said about the aidoru industry in the 1980s. All of these solo teenage acts were pouring into the entertainment industry but probably the vast majority of them had their five minutes of fame before fading away with a relative few becoming superstars. I've covered a few of them over the years with "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and another one is Norie Hayashi(林紀恵).

A native of Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, Hayashi may have been bitten by the show business bug, according to an August 1981 issue of "Kindai Eiga"(近代映画...Modern Movies) via J-Wiki, thanks to getting voted as the most popular student in her elementary school due to her optimistic and refreshing personality and then becoming interested in aidoru Mako Ishino(石野真子)when Hayashi became a junior high school student. Following the auditioning process through talent agency HoriPro, she made her own aidoru debut at the age of 16 in the spring of 1981.

Her 2nd single which came out later that year in June was "Suteki na Love Motion" (Splendid Love Motion), a typically breezy summer song with a touch of 50s. Written by Kaoru Asagi(麻木かおる)and composed by Yuuichiro Oda(小田裕一郎)with Masaaki Omura(大村雅朗)handling the arrangement, Hayashi didn't have the usual way-up-high vocals that other singers such as Seiko Matsuda and Naoko Kawai(松田聖子・河合奈保子)had but at least for "Suteki na Love Motion", she had some of that bubbly energy.

Also, according to her J-Wiki bio, Hayashi had a couple of roles on TV dramas and even a stint on a variety show. However, her singing career was very short with only 4 singles, a full album and a mini-album up to 1982. In 1983, once she graduated from high school, Hayashi decided that she would also call it a day to her time as an aidoru because she broke a cardinal rule of being one: she had a romance with a cameraman's assistant and the news got out to HoriPro. Not being able to date freely was one factor in her decision to leave show business and then move back to Hokkaido.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

City Craft -- Higanzakura(彼岸桜)

 

A little over a couple of months ago, I wrote about a very obscure folk duo called City Craft(シティ・クラフト)and their song, "Niji wo Kakete Miseru"(虹を架けてみせる), from 1981. It was a very pleasant ditty with a mix of bossa nova, AOR and folk

Still, no change in the dearth of information on City Craft, although I think since the songwriter for that first song, Shunichi Tomori(戸森俊一), also handles the music for the song of this article, "Higanzakura" (Weeping Cherry), perhaps Tomori is indeed one of the duo. Judging from the above thumbnail, "Higanzakura" was a single by City Craft but it's also a track on their 1981 album"Kisetsufuu"(季節風...Seasonal Winds).

Prolific Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)was the lyricist here and she weaves a sad story of a couple who had been engaged to be married, only for the fiancé to be taken away by another lover...the city itself. Bad city! Bad bad city! In any case, bad kayo joke aside, "Higanzakura" is more in the folk vein when compared with "Niji wo Kakete Miseru" but with a slightly more contemporary spin thanks to some of the instruments involved. The arrangement was handled by Masaaki Omura(大村雅朗). Once again, I'm left with the request for any more information about City Craft. For example, what is the name of the other member?

J-Canuck's 5 Favourite EPO Songs

 



Bear with me here since I'm gonna introduce my latest Author's Picks the long way around. A couple of nights ago, I was watching "Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai"(マツコの知らない世界...The World That Matsuko Doesn't Know) from TBS via TV Japan as I usually do. The premise of this program hosted by popular tarento Matsuko Deluxe(マツコ・デラックス)involves folks who come on the show to show off their hobbies or obsessions and see how impressed the host gets. Often these guests' loves revolve around food such as curry or ramen or shortcake.


Anyways, Thursday night's episode which came from early 2020 before the pandemic hit featured a woman who was absolutely crazy about the dessert known as Mont Blanc. Probably not too well known in North America, it's been a huge sweet in Japan for decades and the main ingredient is stringy and sweetened chestnut puree with some whipped cream. In my old stomping grounds, Mont Blanc was usually placed in some sort of tart pastry cup. I'd held off of Mont Blanc for years during my long stay in the nation since my idea of chestnuts was the hot roasted ones that I used to get in paper bags outside of Maple Leaf Gardens. Chestnuts as dessert simply didn't compute. However, I finally ditched my prejudice against Mont Blanc in the last number of years there and I found it actually quite good although apple pie and strawberry shortcake will always come first.

I did warn you folks that the preamble would take the long way around. Getting back on point, though, the woman who showed up to explain her love for Mont Blanc (she appears in the above video at 40 seconds) rather struck me in the preview since I'd thought that she resembled one of my favourite Japanese pop singers, EPO, aka Eiko Miyagawa nee Sato(宮川榮子). EPO doesn't make a lot of television appearances so to think that she could possibly show up as a Mont Blanc fanatic was incredible to me but not impossible. A few years back, one-half of a former sister rap act appeared on "Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai" to talk of her own hobby so perhaps a surprise appearance by EPO wasn't out of the cards.

When her segment did come on, though, I was able to turn off the alarm. It turned out that it was a different person by the name of Mayumi Satoi(里井真由美), and she was actually a model, and quite a giggly one, too. But man, did she love her Mont Blanc!


The seed was placed into my brain, though. I had yet to provide an Author's Picks of my favourite EPO tunes. Her KKP file is fairly long so it took a bit to figure out which ones were my absolute darlings and of course I feel sorry that some of them are off the list but I did just want to keep it to five.

At one point, EPO, Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)were apparently under the same RCA banner so they were called "RCA Sannin Musume"(RCA三人娘)or the Three RCA Daughters, so I gather that they were indeed sisters in a way. Age aside, thinking of them as sisters, I always thought that Ohnuki was the studious and serious bookworm sister into European art and philosophy while Takeuchi was the shy moony-eyed romantic sister always sitting by her window and wondering about her Prince Charming (armed with straggly hair and a guitar, no doubt). But with EPO, I considered her to be the outgoing, brassy and athletic sibling...the one to always rouse up a crowd into some major cheerleading at school. I'd always wondered how I could relate the type of music that EPO created in her early years especially, and I guess the way that I described her as a sister would be it.

Without further ado then, here are my favourite EPO songs and not in any particular order.

1. Girl In Me (1982)


2. DOWNTOWN (1980)


3. U, Fu, Fu, Fu, (う、ふ、ふ、ふ)(1983)


4. Pay Day (1983)


5. Sanbanme no Shiawase (三番目の幸せ)(1987)


Question: Does EPO like Mont Blanc? Discuss.

Friday, June 25, 2021

paris match -- Amai Yokan(甘い予感)

 

Ahhhh....the song that refreshes and soothes at the same time. 

I hear all the time how people who are so extremely keen to get to Tokyo and partake in its activities and scenes. Last week, I provided an article about technopop duo capsule and their newest single in quite a few years called "Hikari no Disco"(ひかりのディスコ). It was quite the 80s synth-heavy blast and I noted that the music video featured a car ride led by vocalist Toshiko Koshijima(こしじまとしこ)on the main highway by Tokyo Bay. It's the type of scene that would have Tokyo lovers and City Pop enthusiasts swooning.

Well, tonight, I have "Amai Yokan" (Sweet Premonitions) which is a track on urban contemporary duo paris match's 12th original album to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2020, "Round 12". And this time, I think "Amai Yokan" would be just the thing for a slow romantic walk down in the Odaiba area of the vast megalopolis at night and the above photo is right in that region. Furthermore, instead of the synthesizers, this is more of that lovely blend of Neo City Pop and jazz that paris match has been famous for, as vocalist Mari Mizuno(ミズノマリ)describes one hot, slow and torrid night with a couple. Composed by paris match leader Yosuke Sugiyama(杉山洋介)and written by former member Tai Furusawa(古澤辰勲), it is quite the blissful sound experience to finish off a good night.

Yukio Sasaki -- Koko de Natsu wo Miokuru(ここで夏を見送る)

 

Singer-songwriter Yukio Sasaki(佐々木幸男)is someone that I discovered thanks to "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and I was surprised to realize that I first wrote about him very early on in the history of our blog...back in September 2012, in fact. That was the article for "September Valentine", a well-covered classic created by lyricist Atsuko Saito(斉藤敦子)and composer Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘), but Sasaki was the original singer although I believe that the definitive version is the one given by Tohoko Shinkansen(東北新幹線)in 1982.

Sasaki is known as a folk/pop singer but in his debut album "Bo~ Bo~"(ほーぼー)from August 1977, he sings an easy-on-the-ears and adorable tune titled "Koko de Natsu wo Miokuru" (Seeing Off Summer Here). One of his own creations, it's an even mellower trip to Margaritaville as the story has a guy getting his girlfriend to join him on a nice little trip down to the harbour to enjoy the hot season. 

Along with the Orange Mimosa and beach umbrella-friendly arrangement, I also enjoy Sasaki's high-toned vocals especially when he goes for that falsetto. I can easily imagine him actually singing "Koko de Natsu wo Miokuru" near that beachside café. As for the meaning of that album title, I'm not sure except maybe "Bo~ Bo~" is supposed to be the onomatopoeia for a ship blowing its horn...maybe? 

Nanako Sato -- Saigo no Tejina(最後の手品)

 

Friday night...and the sight is unfortunately rather drab and wet here in Toronto right now but hopefully the restaurants have been able to bring countermeasures to their patios in the form of awnings or something similar. 

It's too bad since this song is the type of song that City Pop fans would like to hear adorning their nursing of their beer or cocktail on some sunset balcony of a bar or other eatery. This is Nanako Sato's(佐藤奈々子)"Saigo no Tejina" (The Last Sleight of Hand) from her 3rd album "Pillow Talk" released in October 1978. I've actually written about one other track from "Pillow Talk", "Koi no Ryuusei"(恋の流星).

As would befit the times, there is that "haze" effect from the synthesizer to start things off before the Fender Rhodes and a Latin guitar escort Sato's always relaxing and sultry vocals. Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)was the lyricist here and I have to give my compliments to the person running the keyboards especially during the instrumental bridge, and it turns out that it is the keyboard master himself, the late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博), who composed the bossa nova-tinged "Saigo no Tejina"

Well, if you can't get to a bar tonight, at least you can enjoy that beer in front of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" or YouTube listening to this one.

Akira Fuse -- Dance Dance Dance

 

Uh...those post-lunch and post-work afternoons are getting tougher on me, especially when it's a summer day. It's been difficult keeping the eyes open and even a round of watching the Portals scene from "Avengers: Endgame" hasn't quite brought the needed energy.

Indeed maybe some dance, dance, dance would be just the thing....if I were younger. And able to dance, of course. However, I am neither so I will just go with this Akira Fuse(布施明)song instead. "Dance Dance Dance" is the first track on his August 1980 album "I AM" and you bass-loving folks in the City Pop fandom will especially love this one since the bassist lays on the funk and disco right from the top. And this time, Fuse doesn't unleash that wave motion gun of a voice; he keeps things low-key throughout.

"Dance Dance Dance" has a Kazuo Shiina(椎名和夫)arrangement that reminds me of Makoto Matsushita's(松下誠)light and bright approach to the city with Fuse himself creating the melody. But the interesting thing is the lyricist who is listed as one Olivia H. Fuse according to one blog page paying tribute to the singer. If I'm not mistaken, this is actress Olivia Hussey who had just gotten married to Fuse in 1980 and stayed that way for the better part of a decade. To be honest, though, the only movie in which I remember her is the 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet".

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Kaoru Hibiki -- Taiyo ga Kowai no(太陽がこわいの)

 

This is another obscure singer that I came across one day during the usual browsings of YouTube. Very little information exists on Kaoru Hibiki(響かおる)and so far, the only data that I could glean online is her relatively short discography at "Showa Pops Encyclopedia",

So what I could find is her debut single which was her April 1968 "Taiyo ga Kowai no" (Scared of the Sun). And no, it doesn't have anything to do with UV rays and the desperate need for Coppertone. What the lyrics by Yukiko Marimura(万里村ゆき子)deal with is a woman who has that fear of all things solar since it reminds her of a certain summer in which she met a certain man to have a certain affair. But that affair is over and done with, but she can't quite let go.

Gendai Kanou(叶弦大)composed "Taiyo ga Kowai no" and one commenter said that there was something very Group Sounds about it, although she wasn't leading a band here. It was just her behind the mike so I would categorize as some really twangy guitar pop of those late 1960s...good enough to have folks doing their go-go dances on the stage. Quite the haunting intro, too. Hibiki also delivers some pretty low vocals, too, which reminded me of another more famous singer kick stepping her own kayo about the sun.

Looking at that discography at "Showa Pops Encyclopedia", it looks like Hibiki released 6 singles up to 1970.

Spoons -- Romantic Traffic

 

Yes, that is one of the entrances to Bay Station of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the main bus, subway and streetcar network for our city. Before the onslaught of COVID over the last 15 months, I used to take the TTC fairly often to meet up with friends but the last time I did so, it was back in early September and perhaps with our province of Ontario opening up to Stage 2 next week, it may not be too long before I actually hop on a bus and a subway once more.

At my age, nostalgia looms rather large...hence the presence of this blog. It also extends to the subway since as a kid, I remember taking the really old red trains (the last one apparently was retired in 1990) when I went to Japanese Language School or field trips to the museum and such. The interiors were quite elegant for their time with the leather handstraps, old-fashioned lamps and firm cushioned seats, and it was often the case that during the often rocky run on the rails, those lamps would conk out suddenly for a few seconds.

All this talk of Toronto and subways and nostalgia is due to the fact that for this week's Reminiscings of Youth article, I'm going with the single "Romantic Traffic" by the Canadian synthpop/New Wave band Spoons. Spoons already has its ROY article thanks to my article on their "Nova Heart" back in February.

Released in 1984, the same year that I entered University of Toronto, "Romantic Traffic" is quite different from the 1982 "Nova Heart" in that there is no synthpop and I'm not even sure if I can really even consider it a New Wave tune. It strikes me as being more of a straight-on and fun pop tune with that "doot-doot" chorus, and the horns that come in during that point take me back to some of the swinging Bacharach 60s music. So even back when the song was new, "Romantic Traffic" was giving off that nostalgia.

Speaking of all that nostalgia, well, the music video for "Romantic Traffic" was shot at Yonge Station and Sheppard Station so I get to remind myself what the old stations and subways (nope, the video wasn't shot on the red trains) looked like before they got their facelifts some years later. Of course, I get to see all that 80s hair and winter fashion as well. 

I found this short interview with Spoons vocalist and bassist Sandy Horne giving her thoughts and insights on "Romantic Traffic" including how the song got its "doot-doot" which has become a popular thing at their concerts. Also, the Wikipedia article on the song goes into that as well.

Now, I couldn't find out exactly in which month "Romantic Traffic" was released in that year of 1984, so I'll just go with June since we are in June 2021 as I type this. So, what were the Top 3 hits on Oricon for that month?

1. Hiroko Yakushimaru/ -- Main Theme (メイン・テーマ)


2. Checkers -- Kanashikute Jealousy (哀しくてジェラシー)


3. Seiko Matsuda -- Jikan no Kuni no Alice(時の国のアリス)

Pedro & Capricious -- Silky Silver Rain

 

I've been bouncing between the 1970s and the 1980s when it comes to the works of the band Pedro & Capricious(ペドロ&カプリシャス)so after going way back into their earliest stuff with the rocking rumba of the 1971 "Yoru no Carnival"(夜のカーニバル), it's time to head forward once more into the next decade with their mellower AOR material.

This time, instead of first vocalist Yoko Maeno(前野曜子), it's Naoko Matsudaira(松平直子)as the third vocalist for Pedro & Capricious who leads the smooth "Silky Silver Rain", a track from their November 1984 album "Yokohama Rainy Blue". Written by Keiji Mizutani(水谷啓二), composed by Kengo Kurozumi(黒住憲五)and arranged by Satoshi Takebe(武部聡志), it's got that 80s arrangement but at its heart, it sounds like a 70s ballad a la Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)or Circus(サーカス)thanks to those vocal harmonies by Matsudaira and company.

Looking at the track list for "Yokohama Rainy Blue" in the band's album section on J-Wiki, it looks like it's a collection of their past tunes with new ones such as "Silky Silver Rain" since it also includes the cocktail-friendly "Gafeira Night" from their 1980 album "Oasis"(オアシス)and even the 1973 "Kyokai e Iku"(教会へ行く)when the second vocalist Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)was on board.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Kozo Murashita -- Hokuto Shichisei(北斗七星)

 

It's a bit late in the hour for me to put up a third article tonight but I came across a tweet from a Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵)fan that I couldn't ignore.

June 24th is already going through its paces in Japan as I type this, but the date also serves as the 22nd anniversary of the untimely passing of the velvet-voiced singer-songwriter at the age of 46 back in 1999. Murashita was one of the first Japanese pop singers that I encountered after becoming a fan of kayo kyoku, thanks to his huge 1983 hit "Hatsukoi"(初恋)on an episode of CHIN-FM's "Sounds of Japan" all those decades ago.

Well, hearing this particular song, I realized that "Hokuto Shichisei" (The Big Dipper) was lingering deep in my memories before it got finally unearthed again less than half an hour ago. This was also a Murashita song that I heard on "Sounds of Japan" and also like "Hatsukoi", it was Murashita for both words and music and then Kimio Mizutani(水谷公生)arranging everything. Also like that 1983 hit, "Hokuto Shichisei" is another solid pop hit with electric guitar and synth that feels very much like life in the city although I wouldn't place it as a City Pop song. 

A track on his December 1984 album, "Hana Zakari"(花ざかり...Flowers in Full Bloom), Murashita's lyrics talk of a fellow looking up from his window at the titular constellation and fantasizing about star-crossed lovers having a pleasant little dance up in the heavens. Going further into the words, he somehow finds himself in the dance with his own lady of his dreams. Knowing about the singer's folk roots and a topic such as this one for the song, I thought that this would have been a contemplative folksy ballad but instead "Hokuto Shichisei" is a pretty jaunty and fairly urban contemporary affair.

Here's hoping that his fans everywhere will be celebrating his life and songs on the 24th.

Toshihiro Kirigaya -- Hitomi wo Tojite(瞳をとじて)

 

THIS IS CBS! Ach...no, it isn't. It's just the Shinjuku Eye.

We've had a few siblings represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" such as lyricist Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ)and her brother, singer-composer Takao Kisugi(来生たかお), and of course, there are the sisters Iwasaki: Hiromi and Yoshimi(岩崎宏美・岩崎良美). Now, we've got the brothers Kirigaya. Jin(桐ヶ谷仁)has been on a number of times now but tonight, I'd like to introduce his younger brother Toshihiro Kirigaya(桐ヶ谷俊博).

Toshihiro Kirigaya, who also likes to go by the names Bobby Kirigaya or Kailani Lehua, made his debut in 1979 but his career of releasing records is very short with only four singles and one album up to 1981. However, he has produced other artists' works since then, such as one for Naoko Gushima(具島直子) and he's even been up with his brother Jin at live performances. According to J-Wiki, he has also been creating jingles for commercials and helping other people in the area of voice training.

His fourth and final single from 1981 is "Hitomi wo Tojite" (Close Your Eyes), an uptempo song that can be placed into the AOR genre. The fascinating thing here though is that the last time I wrote about  Jin Kirigaya via his 1979 song "Return to the Sky", I pointed out how much the older brother sounded like a mix of Off-Course(オフコース)members Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)and Yasuhiro Suzuki(鈴木康博). Well, right here with "Hitomi wo Tojite", written and composed by Toshihiro and arranged by bassist Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利), I can say that the younger brother also sounds like Oda and maybe even band Tulip's(チューリップ)Kazuo Zaitsu(財津和夫). Coincidentally enough, the J-Wiki article also mentions that Toshihiro has also covered Oda's songs. Certainly, "Hitomi wo Tojite" has that folksy pop feeling of either an Off-Course or Tulip tune.

Sumire Uesaka -- SPY

 

The usual talk around the quarter-century-long "Mission: Impossible" movie franchise has revolved around what incredible stunt set piece will Tom Cruise hatch up to top the last incredible stunt set piece from the previous movie. Because he pulled off a HALO jump and then proceeded to perform bumper cars with two helicopters in "Fallout" last time, I gather that he may just decide to learn to become an astronaut and have a fistfight on the exterior of the International Space Station itself for the next entry.

Still as amazing and action-packed as the last few movies have been, I still have a very soft spot for the original TV series from the 1960s to the 1970s with Steven Hill and Peter Graves playing the first two IMF leaders. In fact, I even have the DVDs of the first few years when Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were helping out. Watching the old episodes is still pretty fun for the most part and despite all of the fake nations and linguistic expressions concocted by creator Bruce Geller (the Gellerisms), the whole thing about "Mission: Impossible" back then was mainly the Cold War battle waged between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in those years.

All that preamble I have given you because I wanted to introduce seiyuu and singer Sumire Uesaka's(上坂すみれ)"SPY", a track from her January 2020 album "Neo Propaganda". I'd written about one other song on the album, "Neo Tokyo Shouka"(ネオ東京唱歌), a fascinating hybrid of early 20th-century kayo and Soviet-era march. This time, though, "SPY" is an urgent and intrepid technopop-rock tune along with Uesaka's light and slightly whispery vocals about a couple of intelligence operatives from the East and West trying to top one another. There's something that feels kinda 80s about it, and in fact, I can pick up on some New Order vibes. Kenji Ohtsuki(大槻ケンヂ)and NARASAKI were behind words and music respectively.

Returning to Tom Cruise's magnum opus franchise, there are two more movies at least coming down the pipeline. If the ISS may be one setting in the 7th movie, then I can only imagine what would top that in the 8th entry. Time travel?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Natsuko Aso -- More-more LOVERS!!

 

What brought me here was actually Hyadain's(ヒャダイン)"Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C"(ヒャダインのカカカタ☆カタオモイ-C), the frantic 2011 song which started off a number of the zany and hilarious episodes of the anime "Nichijou"(日常). Now, as a reminder from that article, Hyadain is the pseudonym for anison creator Kenichi Maeyamada(前山田健一)but in the video, there seemed to be a duet between him and a young lady under the name of Hyadaruko(ヒャダル子). Actually, although the lass was singer/actress Natsuko Aso(麻生夏子), her voice in the song was supplied by Hyadain pitched way up through technology.

So as such, I was curious to hear what Aso really sounded like since she's been active as of 2006. Through listening to her 5th single "More-more LOVERS!!" from November 2010, her voice is just a tad lower than the technologically-altered Hyadain voice which made me wonder for a bit why Maeyamada couldn't have allowed Aso to sing the song with her own voice. But then again, "Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C" had been recorded before the video so really Maeyamada only needed the young lady to provide a body and mouth for the vocals.

Maeyamada, in fact, was behind the just-as-frantic music and arrangement for "More-more LOVERS!!" with prolific anison lyricist Aki Hata(畑亜貴)taking care of the words. Aso hasn't been listed as an aidoru in her J-Wiki profile, but everything about the song and the pastel-coloured music video pretty much screams the recent teen idol genre (although the Tokyo-born singer had already been an adult for about 3 months at the time of release). She reminds me of a few solo aidoru from the Hello Project cadre.

"More-more LOVERS!!" peaked at No. 38 on Oricon and it served as the ending theme for the late 2010 anime "MM!"(えむえむっ!), a show whose characters displayed a lot of their own special kinks. Unfortunately, I couldn't track down a video with the ending credits featuring Aso's song but I did discover that the seiyuu cast consisted of a lot of current A-listers who were already making waves in the industry such as Saori Hayami(早見沙織)and Jun Fukuyama(福山潤).

Tsunehiko Kamijo with Rokumonsen -- Tabidachi no Uta ~ Ushinawareta Toki wo Motomete(出発の歌 -失なわれた時を求めて-)

 

Over three years ago, I wrote about an old kayo chestnut titled "Dareka ga Kaze no Naka de"(誰かが風の中で)from January 1972 by singer/actor Tsunehiko Kamijo(上條恒彦). It reminded me of those heroic theme songs for American Western shows such as "Gunsmoke" or "Bonanza", except that it was used as the theme song for a samurai drama. We are talking about Japan after all.

Well, a few months earlier in November 1971, there was a previous single, "Tabidachi no Uta ~ Ushinawareta Toki wo Motomete" (The Song for Setting Off on a Journey ~ In Search of Lost Time) that was a collaboration between Kamijo and the folk group Rokumonsen(六文銭). Two of the members from that group, Kohei Oikawa(及川恒平)and Hitoshi Komuro(小室等), were responsible for words and music respectively (Komuro also composed "Dareka ga Kaze no Naka de"). And this was another rousing song that has actually lingered in my mind as well.

As is the case with the later "Dareka ga Kaze no Naka de", there is a heroic quality to this particular song as once again Kamijo sounds much older than his 31 years when "Tabidachi no Uta" was released and comes across as a wiser and older man proudly exhorting listeners to take that bold step into the future. The heroism isn't with a lone wolf here, it's more with everyone. However, the singer's words and music don't dissipate into the crowd but still packs as much punch into all who listen to it as "Dareka ga Kaze no Naka de" does into that samurai.

I have to thank the uploader for providing the video of Kamijo's appearance at the 1972 edition of NHK's Kohaku Utagassen, and indeed he did get that honour after ultimately selling approximately 700,000 records with "Tabidachi no Uta" peaking at No. 5 on Oricon. As for any questions on the first two kanji of the title: yes, that actually does read as shuppatsu(出発...departure) but in the name of the message for the song, I think tabidachi(旅立ち...setting off on a journey) has more of that dramatic and optimistic flair.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Yoko Kagawa -- Ginza no Maria(銀座のマリア)

 

Yoko Kagawa(佳川ヨコ)is another one of those singers that I haven't been able to glean a lot of information about, although her discography is listed at "Showa Pops". I don't know where she comes from, how she got into the singing business or whether she's even still alive. What I do know so far is that she made her debut in February 1967 with "Kimi Koso Waga Inochi"(君こそわが命). Now for those kayo experts, if that title sounds familiar to you, it's because Hiroshi Mizuhara (水原弘) also released the same song in the same month as Kagawa, and it has become one of his trademark tunes. The debate goes on as to who released it first, though, and unfortunately I haven't been able to find Kagawa's version of the song online.

However, Kagawa's star really rose with the release of her sophomore effort, "Ginza no Maria" (Maria of Ginza) later that year according to what I read on one fellow's 2006 blog entry titled "Wasureta koro ni Kagawa Yoko"(忘れた頃に佳川ヨコ...The Forgotten Yoko Kagawa). This is an interesting song by her in that although it is listed as a Mood Kayo (and I believe that genre choice, too), not only can I still hear some elements of enka in the arrangement and Kagawa's vocals but there is also that twangy guitar twist rock in there as well that I would usually associated with Group Sounds which had its heyday during that time. Give thanks to composer Yasumi Matsuo(松尾安巳)for this somewhat gestalt kayo.

Lyricist Kohan Kawauchi(川内康範), the same man who was behind the words for the aforementioned "Kimi Koso Waga Inochi", was also responsible for "Ginza no Maria" in which the protagonist, a hostess, has proudly proclaimed herself to be the Mary Magdalene of the glamourous Ginza with her clients all coming especially to her for succor and sympathy. Never did I ever think that religious idioms would be made in this particular neighbourhood, but whether this hostess actually believes her own press or is being rather tongue-in-cheek about it is up to the listener. For me, Kagawa's breathy and varying vocals seem to be giving knowing winks to my ears. Her voice is a mix of Auntie Mame, teasing experienced hostess and traditional enka chanteuse.

Kagawa was regularly releasing singles up to the middle of the 1970s but it looks like "Ginza no Maria" was her one big hit. However, I want to see if there are any more examples of her work on YouTube.

Masayo Kawaguchi -- Memoirs(メモワール)

 


I've always been intrigued by the unsung singers and musicians since I started this blog nearly 10 years ago, and one of those folks is singer-songwriter Masayo Kawaguchi(川口雅代). When I first wrote about her "Salmon Pink"  (さあもん ぴんく) which was a track on her first album, "Salute - Go-Aisatsu"(SALUTE 〜ご・あ・い・さ・つ〜...Greetings) from 1981, I likened her and the song to what Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)had been doing in the late 1970s.


Well, it's then been interesting listening to this 1981 single from Kawaguchi, "Memoirs". Written by Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)and arranged by Jun Sato(佐藤準), it was Kawaguchi who was behind its composition which once again reminds me of Ohnuki although this time, it's the Ohnuki of the early 1980s when that singer decided to make her right turn from New Music and City Pop towards technopop and a more European sensibility. Kawaguchi doesn't sound anything like Ohnuki but "Memoirs" has that mixture of being in a futuristic Tokyo and a romantic Paris, and it certainly sounds like something that Taeko could have created for Kawaguchi. 

From her J-Wiki article, "Memoirs" didn't make it onto her two albums which were released in 1981 and 1998, so this particular single is probably among the rarest of the rare out there.

Hako Yamasaki -- Bōkyō(望郷)

 

The first full day of summer 2021 has arrived and I'm feeling it. Following lunch and working in my fan-assisted room, I'm still sensing that drowsiness threatening to envelop me until dinner. Can't let that happen. Must...work...on...blog!

So far, my impression of folk singer-songwriter Hako Yamasaki(山崎ハコ)has included adjectives such as melancholy and tenderhearted. From her debut album in October 1975, "Tobimasu"(飛・び・ま・す...Fly), the first track is "Bōkyō" (Nostalgia), which has Yamasaki singing about a woman residing in Yokohama reminiscing about her old days in her hometown and wondering about returning even though her original home is no longer there. It's a very wistful way of expressing "You can no longer go back home again."

In a way, I've been cursed and blessed with that feeling of bōkyō since I've had two homes: one in Toronto, one in Ichikawa. No matter where I have been, I will always have longing memories of being back in the other city. However with this pandemic perhaps slowly going away, I'm glad that I was here in Toronto with the family.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Beat Takeshi -- Itaike na Natsu(いたいけな夏)

 

Summer doesn't officially arrive until 11:32 pm tonight but with the weather looking very sunny and hot outside and me needing to put on the ancient fan inside, I think that I can jump the gun by several hours and provide something of the season here.

Why not go with some Beat Takeshi(ビートたけし)then? Yes, indeed this is the comedian-turned-international cinematic auteur that we're talking about here. Around New Year's Eve in 2019, I provided the first Beat Takeshi song on KKP with "Asakusa Kid"(浅草キッド), an autobiographical ballad with him humbly singing about his origins in show business. This time, though, I give you his 2nd single, "Itaike na Natsu" (Nice Summer) which came out in February or June 1981.

"Itaike na Natsu" wasn't a Beat creation but a song written by Kiyotaka Norishige(教重清隆)and composed by Kunihiko Kase(加瀬邦彦)and arranged by Ginji Ito(伊藤銀次). I'd been wondering about providing another song whose melody was made by Kase since I'd provided an article yesterday involving his efforts with the band Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans(寺内タケシとブルージーンズ), and it looks like providence has given me a hand. Indeed, "Itaike na Natsu" sounds like some "Beach Blanket Bingo" tune with the boss saxophone, lanky guitars and the overall doo-wop feel of it all...a perfect fit for that Harajuku 50s fad that was going on at the time. And would you get a look at young Beat Takeshi on the cover? He's got quite the mullet beginning to come in with the surf.

Gannosuke Ashiya -- Musume yo(娘よ)

 

Well, a couple of things that we are seeing today are: 1) Father's Day and 2) the coming of the Summer Solstice in several more hours. As for the first thing, our family tucked into a nice Chinese dinner and as for the second, I'm certainly feeling plenty hot right now.

I had been wondering what I could do on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" to pay tribute to Father's Day today and last week's "Uta Con"(うたコン)episode came to the rescue with a short tribute to the holiday. Through the old videotape, I got to see the late actor/singer Gannosuke Ashiya(芦屋雁之助)perform "Musume yo" (My Daughter). Ashiya had been in show business since 1954 when he was in his early 20s and he sporadically lent his voice to singles beginning in 1960. In fact, after that first single, it would be another nine years before his sophomore effort came out.

But it was his third single, much later in February 1984, which got a lot of ears' attention. "Musume yo" has Ashiya being the stoic and stern Showa Era father, but as would usually be the case when the daughter gets married and leaves for her husband's household, Papa reluctantly lets his guard down to become a little more jellified. Written by Minoru Torii(鳥井実), composed by Takayuki Matsuura(松浦孝之)and arranged by Takaharu Ikeda(池多孝春), "Musume yo", which had already been completed three years before release, sounds especially rich and traditional even for a woodsy ol' enka with the harmonica and guitar, but it's those strings that really stand out. All of those instruments stand behind Ashiya's vocals which sound like they truly belong to a proud father from the countryside singing off his daughter to her new life. Tear up much? The voiceover by the singer reassuring his girl that the old man will be OK and that she should be looking forward to being with the love of her life probably had a whole ton of fathers futilely insisting that they weren't crying...just a bit of pollen.😢

There must have been a lot of appreciative fathers and mothers out there. "Musume yo" peaked at No. 6 and eventually became the 7th-ranked single of 1984 with the song winning a special prize at the Japan Record Awards. It also earned Ashiya an invitation to NHK's Kohaku Utagassen that year and sold over a million records. According to his discography, the singer suddenly found himself very busy in the recording booth for the next several years. Ashiya passed away in 2004 at the age of 72.