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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Launchers/Candies -- Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi (真冬の帰り道)


OK, for all you J-Pop fans, this isn't the "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" (Mid-Winter Road Home) by 90s songbird Kohmi Hirose(広瀬香美). You can check out my 2014 article on that song here.


Instead, I will be talking about the "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" by Group Sounds band The Launchers(ザ・ランチャーズ).

Now before I launch (ahem) into this song, I did want to give out a heads-up and say that Noelle is in the middle of preparing an article about a song involving Yuzo Kayama & The Launchers so that will probably come out within the next number of days.

To tell you a story that I was able to glean from The Launchers' bio on J-Wiki, when Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)had just started his "Wakadaisho"(若大将)movie franchise as The Big Man on Campus in the early 1960s, producer Masumi Fujimoto(藤本真澄)told the young actor/singer to get a band together so that he and the band can be filmed in future entries of the series. Kayama managed to rustle together a bunch of young guys from among the Toho Studios' group of actors and so The Launchers were born as a 6-member unit in 1962.

However, according to what I read, the band members eventually found themselves wanted in other movie projects so that the first incarnation of The Launchers was stopped for the time being. But then a couple of years later, Kayama corralled another group of guys to form the second coming of The Launchers in 1964. The Launchers 2.0 consisted of the brothers Osamu & Ei Kitajima(喜多嶋修・喜多嶋瑛), who also happened to be Kayama's cousins, plus Shigeru Ohya(大矢茂)with Kayama as the leader. I think Noelle will be talking about Kayama and those Launchers in her article.


In 1967, The Launchers 3.0 came about with Kayama leaving and bassist Yuzo Watanabe(渡辺有三)joining the band. And their debut single was "Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi", a laid back GS ballad written by Tetsu Mizushima(水島哲)and composed by band member Osamu Kitajima. It's a very pleasant song which will induce some good nostalgia within the senior citizens. This time, it's the guy who is getting his heart stuck in his throat as he tries to blurt out his feelings toward a young lady he's gotten sweet on. I guess it's just as well that he wants to confess his love in the heart of winter; he probably would have died of heatstroke in the summer.

"Mafuyu no Kaeri Michi" was a big hit for The Launchers as it peaked at No. 23 on Oricon. Along with that debut, the band released 5 more singles and 2 albums before they broke up in 1971.


The song has been covered by a number of artists over the decades. One such group was Candies(キャンディーズ)whose own version was recorded onto Disc 10 of the massive 2008 "Candies Time Capsule" CD-BOX collection. Disc 10 happens to be an enlarged version of the original 2nd live concert album from December 1976, "Kuramae Kokugikan Ichiman-nin Carnival Vol. 2 - Candies Live"(蔵前国技館10,000人カーニバルVol.2 キャンディーズ・ライブ...Kuramae Kokugikan Sumo Arena Ten-Thousand-Man Carnival Vol. 2 - Candies Live).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Top 10 Singles in Oricon History

1.  Masato Shimon                          Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun       4.6 million      1975
2.  Shiro Miya & Pinkara Trio        Onna no Michi               3.3 million      1972
3.  SMAP                                        Sekai ni Hitotsu dake     3.1 million      2003
                                                        no hana
4.  Southern All Stars                     Tsunami                          2.9 million      2000
5.  Dango Gasshodan                      Dango San Kyodai         2.9 million      1999
6.  Kome Kome Club                     Kimi ga Iru Dake de       2.9 million      1992
7.  Chage & Aska                           Say Yes                           2.8 million      1991
8.  Mr. Children                             Tomorrow Never Knows 2.7 million      1994
9.  Kazumasa Oda                          Love Story wa Totsuzen 2.6 million       1991
                                                       ni
10. Dreams Come True                  Love Love Love             2.5 million       1995

I will have to address the absence of Southern All Stars "Tsunami" soon enough. And you can take a gander at the "Top 10 Albums in Oricon History".



Sunday, April 23, 2017

StylipS -- Spica.


Several months ago in October, I wrote about the opening theme song for the anime "Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to"(マンガ家さんとアシスタントさんと...The Manga Artist and His Assistants), "Junsui na Fujunbutsu"(純粋なフジュンブツ)as performed by the seiyuu music group, StylipS.


Oh my word...it's like watching Inspector Clouseau and Kato fight it out while filtering it through the movie "Porky's". I almost feel sorry for Aito-kun...almost.


As I said, I have already written about the typically upbeat opening theme but when I was going through the various episodes, I noticed that there was never an ending credits sequence or theme. It was just the often hilarious final scene before an end title card appeared giving the usual "See you next time!" Rather unusual, I thought.

Well, apparently, because each episode was only around 10 minutes long, the producers had to make sacrifices so in lieu of getting "Junsui na Fujunbutsu" in there, the ending theme song "Spica." by StylipS once again simply wasn't allowed in during the original TV run of 12 episodes. To add insult to injury, the song made a brief appearance in the finale while everyone was talking and the final song was Aito-kun singing about panties. However, I believe that for all those folks who got the DVD of the series, a proper ending credits sequence was placed at the end of each episode (for those who did get the DVD, you can confirm this with me).


Of course, for those who also bought "Junsui na Fujunbutsu" the single, they also got "Spica." as the coupling song. I found "Spica." somewhat adorable and a bit atypical considering the raunchy goings-on at Aito-kun's apartment since the first part of the song that is heard during the ending credits has that atmosphere of a solemn-but-proud graduation song at a girls' academy. Even Aito-kun would probably be weeping and...maybe...keeping his hands to himself during the song.

The rest of the song then goes into some light rap and R&B that kinda caught me off-guard when I first heard it. However, since then it has settled in nicely in my brain. I guess you couldn't keep the entire song all holy. Junko Tsuji(辻純更)took care of the lyrics while Motoi Okuda(奥田もとい)provided the melody.

aiko -- Ashita (あした)/ Kyoko Fukada -- Saigo no Kajitsu (最後の果実)


Happy Sunday to you all! I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods but it's gorgeous out there today in Toronto. I think we've hit 20 degrees Celsius which is absolutely the trigger for folks to hit the lake on their sailboards or invade the bars which are probably now on al fresco mode.


Oof! I guess it's been close to 3 years since I put up an article on singer-songwriter aiko's music. "Boyfriend" is her most recognizable single to me, and frankly whenever I've heard her various songs over the years, I just waved them off as being rather similar in nature. Well, since I started the blog, I've gained some feelings that I ought to give various singers, especially in the 1990s, a second chance as it were.

So again I was surprised to hear her debut single from July 1998, "Ashita" (Tomorrow) since it was a song that I have heard in the past but not by her. Actually I think I most likely heard the tune on episodes of that Saturday night karaoke variety show "Yoru mo Hippare"(夜もヒッパレ)but never made the connection that it was an aiko song.

"Ashita" is quite distinctive in that it doesn't sound like the usual aiko song. One reason is that according to J-Wiki, it is the only single in her discography that hadn't been composed by aiko. Instead, the melody was made by Minoru Komorita(小森田実)although aiko did write the lyrics. Speaking of that melody, it sounds like a 1990s Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)concoction as if the pixie-ish singer-songwriter started her career under the TK umbrella along with Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美). There's quite a bit of heavy synthesizer in there. Furthermore, there's also something about aiko's voice that was more kittenish in "Ashita" instead of my usual impression of tomboyishness with her later songs.

The song also has the distinction that out of all of her 36 singles released as of this writing, it is one of only three singles that didn't break into the Top 10. It actually only got as high as No. 89 on Oricon in its first release. However it was given a re-release later in March 2007 and zipped up to No. 16. Its first album appearance was on her major debut album "Chiisana Marui Koujitsu"(小さな丸い好日...A Small Round Pleasant Day)which was released in April 1999. It went Gold and peaked at No. 24.


An interesting progression in the plot here is that a little less than a year after aiko's debut, actress Kyoko Fukada(深田恭子)had her own debut as a singer with "Saigo no Kajitsu" (The Final Fruit) in May 1999. It was basically a remake of "Ashita" with a few tweaks here and there by Komorita and new lyrics provided by Chihiro Kurosu(黒須チヒロ). It's also interesting to note that aiko helped out here with backup vocals.

There was even more of a technopop feel to it, delving closer to trance by the sounds of it. Perhaps it did approach closer to Komuro territory but I couldn't help but feel from the arrangement that this could have been a song performed by another 1990s highlight band, Every Little Thing, thanks to Fukada's high-pitched voice. "Saigo no Kajitsu" peaked at No. 48 and was also placed on her 2nd album "moon" from March 2000.

Mieko Nishijima -- So yo, SMILE AGAIN (そうよSMILE AGAIN)


Yes, still up at 1:05 am. Like I said in my last article, I did have that birthday party but what I didn't mention was that I had two cups of some rich and delicious coffee there. Therefore, it would seem that sleep may become more of an option than an obligation.


And just like in that Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)piece, I've come across another melancholy song about romance that is a bit of a throwback when considering the time of release and the type of music involved.

Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子)has been one of those underrated singers that wouldn't pop up immediately for even Japanese music lovers searching for some wonderful music. However I was lucky enough to have discovered her through "Sounds of Japan" back in the early 1980s when I heard her lovely "Hoshi Meguri"(星めぐり). From that 1977 song that has become a template of sorts for me, I came to see Nishijima as a singer of warm and fuzzy ballads arranged in a New Music style.

So, it was with some surprise once more that I found out that her "So yo, SMILE AGAIN" (Yes, Smile Again) was a track on her album "Shadow". I checked three sources to find out that the LP (!) was released in 1994 instead of the late 1970s or early 1980s that I had assumed was the time of release. I mean, 1994 was the time of the Komuro boom and Dreams Come True. But this particular final track by Nishijima with lyrics by Tadashi Hirano(平野肇)sounds so much like a tune from yesteryear. It doesn't sound like the traditional kayo but it has an atmosphere that could take listeners to an unknown past time occupied by lots of music halls.

I think it's those strings that do it and then the jazzy clarinet at the end. Plus, there's Nishijima's voicing of a woman begging for the love of her life to return to give that smile one more time, although the feeling is that it will be a wish unlikely to be fulfilled ever again. In a certain frame of mind, those tear ducts might get a work out. Still, it's nice to hear another one of her ballads again.

Yujiro Ishihara -- Omokage no Hito (おもかげの女)


Writing this article past midnight Sunday morning since I was out for most of the day helping an old friend celebrate his half-century of life. Plus of course, I did have that latest "Doctor Who" episode to catch (liked the premise but the ending was a little too pat...kinda like some of the old "Star Trek: The Next Generation" eps).


Because I am writing this in the wee hours on a weekend, I thought maybe a nice Mood Kayo was in order. One of the things I enjoy about going to a party is not only meeting up with old friends and making new ones but also watching the overall flow of things as the party continues. Basically I enjoy seeing the different talking groups form in different corners of the home and then morph over the course of the party. Of course, the food is great as well!

It would be rather nice if I could apply this ability to a typical nomiya or cuddly old bar somewhere in Tokyo. While nursing that sake or beer, I could surreptitiously observe the various goings-on at the counter and the tables...the company section carousing over beers or shochu in one corner while a couple are flirting over drinks just a metre down the counter.

Strangely enough, I could imagine the ghost of The Tough Guy, Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎), coming down to one of those thousands of watering holes in the megalopolis to monitor what the mortals are up to. As usual, he's got another crooning song up his sleeve, his 1985 "Omokage no Hito" (Traces of a Woman).

I was surprised that the ballad was actually made in 1985 since listening to the arrangement took my memories back to the 1970s when he was crooning such classics as "Brandy Glass"(ブランデーグラス). There were those sibilant plucks of the guitar along with the haunting chorus in the background...and of course, the comforting tones of Ishihara himself during those final decades.

(empty karaoke version)

Written by Norihiko Sugi(杉紀彦)and composed by Yukihiko Ito(伊藤雪彦), The Tough Guy is showing his more tender side in relating the hero's melancholy over losing his love. It almost sounds as if he didn't lose her to death but other sad circumstances such as work. She could be that Ginza hostess who has gone onto another client at another table in that swanky nightclub while her former love is looking forlornly from afar.

One of the things I've wondered when it comes to enka or Mood Kayo tunes is the reading of the kanji for woman, which is officially onna(女). Often, though, titles carrying that same kanji have had it read as hito(人), or person. There is even the furigana above the kanji to ensure that listeners and karaoke singers know that it is to be read as hito. I'm not sure what this de-genderizing has been about all these decades but is it some method to put some thematic distance between the man and the woman? Unfortunately, I simply don't know.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Makoto Matsushita -- Love Was Really Gone


Back to a Friday night. Sports bars are usually packed for the event of the evening in any case but tonight it's Game 5 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the NHL playoffs, so in this city, IT'S A REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL (sorry, if I sounded like a certain American president).


Anyways, it's the end of the work week so perhaps it's time for a bit of smooth 80s City Pop and I've got none other than Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)to help ease those tired ear muscles. This is "Love Was Really Gone", another track from his 1981 solo debut album "First Light" that I've already talked about. In fact, the album was one of the first City Pop releases I wrote about in the blog.

For City Pop/J-AOR fans, "First Light" is a really really big deal because of all the smooth and classy tracks. And with "Love Was Really Gone", which Matsushita composed and wrote, this is a tune that I would probably hear on a nice summery balcony by the lake while sipping slowly something stronger back instead of a brewski in a sports bar. I especially love that opening when the singer-musician starts singing and the overall rhythm with the bass. It works even better than a slap-on of Ben Gay!