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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dorian -- summer rich feat. hitomitoi

I came across some of this fellow's material on YouTube and when I saw that chanteuse Hitomitoi(一十三十一)was involved for one of his songs, I gave it a try. Nothing that broke the mold but it was still nice and sunny.

There's barely anything about this lad by the name of Dorian outside of a short blurb on this site called "felicity" but he has been doing his best to spread the word of gospel for urban dance music. I'm not quite sure that his "summer rich" with Hitomitoi would be something to boogie down to, but it does make for some pleasant listening. It's included on his third original album "Studio Vacation EP" which was released back in August 2011.

Along with Hitomitoi, Dorian has worked with folks like Towa Tei and ZEN-LA-ROCK. The only other information that I could find about him is that according to the music video for "summer rich", he can apparently shred a mean shovel!

Yoshimi Iwasaki -- Anata Iro no Manon (あなた色のマノン)

I had been thinking about doing Yoshimi Iwasaki's(岩崎良美)"Koi Hodo Suteki na Show wa Nai"(恋ほど素敵なショーはない), forgetting that nikala had beaten me to the punch a couple of years ago, and her description pretty much nailed my impressions of the song. Plus, I gave my response to it underneath. It's a wonderful, short and sweet tune that had me thinking Carpenters and was quite the revelation considering that my entire world view of Hiromi's(岩崎宏美)younger sister was tied with her most recognized song "Touch"(タッチ). Therefore up until I started the blog, I only knew Yoshimi for a 1950s rock n' roll sound.

Gonna have to listen more to that lone Yoshimi BEST compilation that I got last Xmas. To paraphrase from my own article on her debut single "Aka to Kuro"(赤と黒), I think she covered a larger area musically than earlier thought. There was that 1970s West Coast breeziness of "Koi Hodo Suteki na Show wa Nai", and then I believe I had read earlier through another one of nikala's other articles on Yoshimi that despite her status as an aidoru, she had actually ventured more into City Pop and J-AOR in her early years.

Despite that rock-like blast to introduce "Aka to Kuro" and intermittent interjections of brass, her debut quickly ventured into some of the usual sweeping aidoru tunes of that age. For tonight, I want to show her 3rd single "Anata Iro no Manon" (Manon of Your Colour) which embraces even more of the City Pop aesthetic while still hewing to those aidoru roots. Released in August 1980 and created by the same duo behind "Aka to Kuro", Rei Nakanishi and Fujimal Yoshino(なかにし礼・芳野藤丸), the arrangement brings nothing less than life in the big city, thanks to that brass and bass plus the relentless guitar.

The one thing that had me scratching my head initially was the title. Was this about a French artist? For years, artists' names ranging from Chopin to C. Claudel have been used in kayo titles. However in this case, the title of this aidoru tune refers to the title of an early 18th-century novel by Abbe Prevost titled "Manon Lescaut". I'm just going by the Wikipedia article here but apparently the novel was about the title character, a young woman with a taste for the high life who forces her lover to scrounge about for the money and luxury to keep her happy.

In Yoshimi's song, the protagonist declares boldly "I am Manon Lescaut" although there is not much of a hint that she's stringing her boyfriend along aside from pretending to have sprained her ankle so that he would carry her home on his back. Mind you, I think most fans were just wondering at the time about who the heck Manon Lescaut was.

Still, it was pretty interesting to hear this mesh of French literature (very loosely, I know) and Japanese City Pop sung by an aidoru. Furthermore, I think I have mentioned it before but Yoshimi tried to follow in her older sister's larynx with that delicate yet fairly rich delivery in her early years. And to add more to my knowledge, the younger Iwasaki actually made it onto the Kohaku Utagassen for the first and only time to perform "Anata Iro no Manon" at the end of 1980 with the elder Iwasaki lending moral support, of course. There were three ladies in slinky green dresses behind her also providing backup chorus: singers Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり), Ikue Sakakibara(榊原郁恵)and Mako Ishino(石野真子).

"Anata Iro no Manon" reached as high as No. 22 on Oricon and won Iwasaki a Newcomer's Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Spiders/C-C-B -- Summer Girl (サマー・ガール)

On TV Japan just following the weekly "Uta Kon"(うたコン)on Tuesday nights, there has been that 10-minute vignette from NHK called "Ano Hito ni Aitai"(あの人に会いたい...I Want To Meet That Person)which focuses on a certain notable person who has left this mortal coil. Last night's focus was on Hiroshi Kamayatsu(かまやつひろし), the singer and guitarist from Group Sounds band The Spiders(ザ・スパイダース)who had only passed away a few months ago in March.

Of course, a number of his songs during his time with The Spiders and on his own played in the background while we heard some of his comments over the decades. Most of the songs have already been covered in the pages of this blog, but I did hear something new, and that would be "Summer Girl" which came out in July 1966 as the band's 6th single. Written by Hiroto Sasaki(佐々木ひろと)and composed by Kamayatsu, the beach ballad has that bittersweet mood of love with a bit of appealing early Beatles rawness.

But I have to admit that the version by 80s pop band C-C-B is one of the few instances in which the cover actually sounds even better than the original. The arrangement by the band and Yasuo Sako(佐孝康夫)injects a lot of Beach Boys into C-C-B's take on summer love, and I have to say that the vocal delivery is a lot more solid, and it was a nice touch to have a Duane Eddy-like guitar instrumental in there, too. "Summer Girl" was included on C-C-B's 1985 album "Tanoshii Natsu Yasumi"(楽しい夏休み...Fun Summer Holiday).

TUBE -- Natsu da ne (夏だね)

It's been officially summer now for over 12 hours. Therefore, I think it is that time of year to bring in another TUBE tune.

Considering the overall melodic familiarity of the TUBE discography, I sometimes think that listening to an entire BEST compilation of the band can reach a certain level of monotony. However, in short bursts and with the appropriateness of the season, Nobuteru Maeda(前田亘輝)and his crew can bring on that appreciated feeling of summer into our ears.

Case in point: "Natsu da ne" (It's Summer). This was their 14th single from May 1992 and I guess this would be the ideal song for a sunset on the beach. Something about that soprano sax brings that feeling for some reason. I'm not a Kenny G. fan by any stretch of the imagination but having it included in this beach ballad helps things go down nice and smooth, and it's always reassuring to hear Maeda issue in the season.

Written by Maeda and composed by TUBE guitarist Michiya Haruhata(春畑道哉), "Natsu da ne" was used as a campaign song for a Pocky commercial, although I would have thought the famous Japanese confection would have been more for a season other than summer. Y'know...I'm not sure how long a Pocky stick would last in the sun, especially in Japan.

Maeda may have gained some weight over the years but his voice is still in fine fettle. So, hopefully, TUBE will continue to entertain audiences on the beaches everywhere in Japan, Hawaii and other tropical climes. The song peaked at No. 2 on Oricon and became the 24th-ranked entry for the year. "Natsu da ne" was also included on TUBE's 12th album from June 1992, "Noryo"(納涼...The Cool of the Evening)which got as high as No. 3 on the album charts and then finished the year in the 31st position.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fence of Defense -- SARA

A week ago, I wrote an article on Tomoko Aran's(亜蘭知子)"Hitonatsu no Tapestry"(ひと夏のタペストリー)which was this slice of Japanese funk that had been composed by bassist and keyboardist Masatoshi Nishimura(西村麻聡). Well, not too long after that, Nishimura started up this rock band with vocalist and guitarist Kenji Kitajima(北島健二)and drummer Wataru Yamada(山田わたる)called Fence of Defense.

Coming up with their first single in 1987, Fence of Defense hit pay dirt in September 1988 when the band released "SARA" which also turned out to be the second opening theme for the second season of the ever-loved "City Hunter" anime franchise. "SARA" may have been a rock song but there was still something of the "Bright lights, big city" feeling in there that the very first opening theme by Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる), "Ai yo Kienai de"(愛よ消えないで)had in abundance. Some good times in Tokyo!

Will you get a load of that 80s hair?! I think TM Network and Fence of Defense should have had a hair-off at a joint concert. J-Wiki mentions that "SARA" was one of the band's smash hits but there is still no individual article for the song nor any indication of how it did on Oricon, and the actual Oricon website was no help itself, but I can only assume that it did quite decently on the charts. Fence of Defense took care of the lyrics with Nishimura himself taking care of the big-city melody.

I have heard the song and the band name before but didn't make the final connection until sometime in the last few days which will indicate how much I know about "City Hunter". But from what I've seen of the show's theme songs, it looks like I made the right decision in providing the show with its own category in Labels. Perhaps there's even a CD floating about with all of the theme songs included.

Still, when it comes to songs titled "Sara", I can't help but remember the one by Starship from a few years before the Fence of Defense song came out. And yep, I will always like "We Built This City".

Naoko Kawai -- Aoi Sanmyaku (青い山脈)

I've been enjoying Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)"Jewel Box 2" set of 5 CDs (with thanks to Michael Wishlow) from 2003 over the last number of months. Disc 4 has been quite interesting since it has all of the rare takes of the singer...songs that were never placed directly into Naoko-chan's discography but were contributions to other compilations or media. I read that there were a couple that had never been placed on any listenable media before "Jewel Box 2" since they were only utilized as music on her videos.

One of the rare songs was Track 12, Kawai's rendition of the kayo classic "Aoi Sanmyaku" (Blue Mountain Range) which I have already written about. What struck me about it was the arrangement by composer-arranger Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久), the son of the original composer Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一). From my ears, Hattori fils seems to have given "Aoi Sanmyaku" a taste of 1970s disco orchestra as applied to some of the anime back then such as "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト...Space Crusier Yamato)and "Macross"(マクロス). Being fans of both shows and their soundtracks, Kawaii doing this number immediately perked up my ears. I was half-expecting a fleet of Black Tigers and Valkyries to come storming over that mountain range.

It took a bit of tracking down but I found out that this somewhat funkified version of "Aoi Sanmyaku" had originally been part of a 1985 tribute to Hattori pere in the form of a two-record (2-CD?) album titled "SHOWA RHAPSODY ~ Hattori Ryoichi Sakuhinshuu"(服部良一作品集...The Ryoichi Hattori Collection). Not sure if this collection is even available outside of scouring the auction sites since I didn't see the album pop up readily on the search engines. As a kayo fan, I would be intrigued in finding out what some of the other tracks are like.

Yoshio Tabata -- Zundoko Bushi (Machi no Date Otoko) (ズンドコ節 (街の伊達男))

Although I'm a fan of Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫), it took me quite a while to get myself one of his albums. I had meant to get it a couple of years ago but only got it a couple of months ago, since most of his songs are readily available online and, as a result, other albums/singles by other singers are prioritized over his during my CD hauls. Only after tuning in to a video playing his BEST album from 1965 was I reminded to get something of that sort. And so I got his 68th anniversary album,"Osu! Tabata Yoshio Meikyoku Shu" (オース!田端義夫名曲集), that's even got a recorded message of the still spunky (at that time) 88 year-old ryukoka singer mentioning how far he's come in the entertainment world - feels special to be listening to what he had to say.

Moving on, out of the all the tracks I was formerly unacquainted with, "Chonmage Mambo" (ちょんまげマンボ) and "Zundoko Bushi (Machi no Date Otoko)" were the two I enjoyed the most. The former is absolutely boisterous and the way a young Batayan goes "OSU!!" in every stanza is cute, but I've yet to fully make out what on earth is going on there so I've decided to write about the latter, which is something I'm more familiar with.

A comparison of the "Zundoko Bushi" versions (Hikawa's, Kobayashi's, and Tabata's).

As I had first learnt upon being acquainted with enka, there have been many variations of the "Zundoko Bushi" over the decades, the most popular of which are those by action star Akira Kobayashi (小林旭), enka prince Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし), and comedy group The Drifters. All have a Latin flavour and the rhythmic "Zun, zun, zundoko" to kick things off, with only the number of "Zun-s" and lyrics varying in each version. On the other hand, Batayan's rendition differed quite a bit from what I had just described. For one, it follows the original war song in the sense that he goes "Toko, zundoko, zundoko" instead. Then there's the just as catchy, happy-go-lucky arrangement fronted by the low twang of Tabata's famous electric guitar that's much more 40's/50's rock'n'roll than it is Latin. I found myself liking this arrangement very much and I tend to listen to it when weary as it never fails to lift my mood. Perhaps it was meant to do just that, considering it was released not long after WWII in 1947.

This "Zundoko Bushi", also called "Machi no Date Otoko" as its lyrics were about a Date Otoko's (dandy guy) love story, was the first pop music take on the naval ditty. According to the J-Wiki, it was a hit back in the day. Sadly though, it doesn't seem to be featured on kayo shows often (if at all) in this day and age. Penning the lyrics to "Zundoko Bushi" was Einosuke/Hanosuke (?) Sasaki (佐々木英之助), and composing it was Hachiro Noshiro (能代八郎).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sakiko Ito -- Kimi Kawaii ne (きみ可愛いね)

The name Sakiko Ito(伊藤咲子)barely rings a bell but somehow I think I may have seen her through some variety shows in Japan. However, she did start her professional life as a 70s aidoru. Ito had a successful run on the audition show "Star Tanjo"(スター誕生!...A Star Is Born)when she was 15 back in 1973 and then made her debut the following year with "Himawari Musume"(ひまわり娘...Sunflower Girl).

Nearly a couple of years later, she had her 7th single, "Kimi Kawaii ne" (You're Cute) from March 1976 which became one of her bigger hits since it punched her ticket for her lone appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

Written by Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composed by Takashi Miki(三木たかし), the springtime release was an appropriate one since the song was all about falling in love and having things being all wonderful in the world. Watching her perform in the video of her Kohaku appearance, she almost sounds like the second coming of earlier 70s aidoru Mari Amachi(天地真理)although Ito's vocals have a little less fragility.

That Kohaku performance was notable in that her backup singers were Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美), Hiromi Ota(太田裕美), Masako Mori(森昌子)and the Candies(キャンディーズ). Also, the other thing I noticed which was quite quaint was the fact that Iwasaki and the bunch were all wearing red jackets to signify their team in the NHK special. Yup, it was a different time back then.

"Kimi Kawaii ne" broke into the Top 10 with it peaking at No. 9. It also became the 56th-ranked song of 1976. Ito continued her career until her 22nd single in 1985 before calling it a day on the recording front, at least. However, she released a couple of additional singles in 2010 and 2014.


Well, NHK (and most likely all of the commercial TV networks) has been reporting that three of the five SMAP members will be leaving their Johnny's home for perhaps hookups with other talent agencies later this year. The trio consists of Goro Inagaki(稲垣吾郎), Shingo Katori(香取慎吾)and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi(草彅剛). Although SMAP officially disbanded at the end of 2016, the fandom has apparently been in quite the lather since the news broke.

Producers for the SMAP piece on "News Watch 9" decided to be a tad clever and used one of their songs to perhaps reflect the fans' feelings on the announcement. "STAY" first appeared as a track on the group's 17th original album "Pop Up! SMAP" from July 2006. The ballad by lyricist Keiko Sahara(佐原けいこ)and composer Genki Hibino(日比野元気)was a musical affirmation of love from one partner to another, and hearing it for the first time, I thought it was quite romantic and inspirational; a break in the clouds after some stormy times.

And maybe it could be used to pray for the guys at SMAP to not totally break apart. Since the official disbandment, the only member that I've heard from via TV Japan has been Kusanagi, and that has only been his voice for an NHK information variety program. It seems like his mellow vocals for speaking have also been in good demand. I've been aware that Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉)was in a recent drama but I haven't cottoned onto any J-Dramas in many years. And the other fellows have been missing from the screen for me.

Still, I can't really imagine SMAP staying scattered into the four (or should I say five?) winds for long. Not that I believe they will re-form on a permanent basis but I think the desire for the guys to get back together for some sort of special concert for charity or otherwise is just too strong. Even with Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori signing up at other agencies, I'm pretty confident that an arrangement can be made for a future get-together.

As for "Pop Up! SMAP", naturally, it hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 30th-ranked album of the year.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Angela Aki -- Home

I've found that over the decades, certain singers/musicians held sway over a certain number of years whether it be Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)during the early 1980s, Tetsuro Komuro(小室哲哉)for much of the 90s and Hikaru Utada(宇多田ヒカル)for those years going into the 21st century. And I'm not saying that it was just those artists alone for those periods. Of course, Akina Nakamori(中森明菜), Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and Misia among others also held the media gaze during those times.

Then, there was Angela Aki(アンジェラ・アキ). Without looking it up, I couldn't remember when she first burst in on the J-Pop scene but for a time, she was a familiar figure on TV and probably one of the most down-to-earth-looking singers that I had ever seen. In her glasses, jeans and baggy T-shirt, she came off looking like the most comfortable college student that I could have witnessed sipping back a cuppa at a cafe in my university or cramming for an exam in one of the stacks.

One of her most famous songs was her debut single in September 2005, "Home". At the time, I wasn't quite sure what the J-Pop trend was; I think it was just before the alphabet aidoru groups started sprouting and perhaps the J-R&B boom from the turn of the century was beginning to wane somewhat. However, I think "Home" perhaps hit an endorphin-stuffed nerve in the country. From what I've read so far about the single was that it hadn't been part of any commercial tie-up so it was a fairly slow launch but the word-of-mouth started building about Aki's glorious vocals from her hometown area of Tokushima Prefecture.

Perhaps it had also been a while since a Japanese pop song with strong vocals and merely a piano made waves. With all of the production values and computer technology that were force-fed into a recording, something like "Home" made for a very refreshing revelation...again. And Aki had a number of influences ranging from Janis Ian, Coldplay and Fiona Apple to Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎), Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell. With those last two artists being from my country, I would proudly like to shout "Oh, Canada"!

"Home" did have that feeling of home, thanks to Aki. Some of those artists that I mentioned in the previous paragraph were familiar figures on the radio back when I was a kid. And perhaps she has already done so, but I could imagine Aki covering Mitchell's "Help Me" (although one commenter for one YouTube video of the song remarked that perhaps only Mitchell could do it justice) or even Ian's "At Seventeen". In fact, the coupling song to "Home" happens to be Ian's "Will You Dance".

Eventually, Oricon took notice and "Home" peaked at No. 31, and perhaps even more importantly, Aki was invited onto the 2006 Kohaku Utagassen to perform that very song. The singer would have her consecutive string of appearances on the New Year's Eve special from 2006 to 2011.

Saburo Kitajima -- Ginza no Shousuke-san (銀座の庄助さん)

I may have learned how to drink in Japan but that didn't mean I ever became a great lover of imbibing. Therefore, it's a bit of a wonder that I managed to survive the social circuit in my adopted nation all those years, but I'd like to put it to down to a very understanding group of colleagues and friends along with a palate that simply preferred sweets far over alcohol.

Thus, the bars of Ginza barely saw me darken their thresholds. In fact, I barely remember one place in the neighbourhood that I went to, and that was because some of our corporate students had wanted to take a few of us teachers for drinks after successfully completing a course. One of the peppier lads was interested in trying out a Western-style cocktail for the first time, and so one of us suggested a Grasshopper...basically a liquid chocolate mint. He ordered one, gulped it down and the drink basically took him for a spin for the next few hours. Luckily, he wasn't too heavy to carry.

If I'm not in error, this article is the 2nd Ginza-based writing in as many days. But today, I was watching NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)on which one fellow sang one of Saburo Kitajima's(北島三郎)earlier songs from 1963, "Ginza no Shousuke-san" (Shousuke-san of Ginza).

I thought it rather interesting since my whole impression of Sabu-chan was that he was the enka king of all music out in the rough wilderness or ocean. He was the earthy blue-collar guy throwing out nets or hewing wood in the forest. Never thought that the Hokkaido native would sing an enka about the tony district of Ginza, which I had always assumed would be the environment for all things Mood Kayo.

Still, to adapt an old phrase, you can take the guy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the guy. And Kitajima's "Ginza no Shousuke-san" might take place in a very ritzy spot in Tokyo but it sounds like this Shousuke-san still has this country bumpkin air as this interloper from the regions who has made it a habit to barhop all over the area. Not sure through the song how Shousuke has been treated: is he this hail-fellow-well-met or this barely tolerated barfly who spreads out the cash through his visits? But perhaps it is this uncertainty that is the point; it's about Shousuke and his oblivious fun and no one else as long as the flow of booze lasts.

I couldn't find any videos with Kitajima himself singing the song so perhaps the fans may not consider "Ginza no Shousuke-san" as one of his major legacies to enka but I did find the two videos here done by other folks through karaoke or cover versions. Tatsumi Miyake(三宅立美wrote the lyrics while Shousuke Ichikawa(市川昭介)came up with the happy-go-lucky melody under the pseudonym of Yutaka Izumi(いづみゆたか). I'm not sure whether Ichikawa went with the fake name just to avoid folks having to wonder whether the Shousuke in the song was Shousuke the composer, although the kanji are completely different.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Anri -- Last Summer Whisper

Y'know...I have my fair share of Anri(杏里)albums but I have yet to acquire "Heaven Beach" which was her 4th studio album from November 1982. Despite the autumn release, it must have been quite nice to hear the summer sounds from this one. Well, I assume considering the lady and the song of this article which is a track from the album, that it is a summery concoction.

"Last Summer Whisper" probably hasn't gotten onto any of Anri's many BEST compilations since the song is perhaps a little too mellow in a generic sense. However, I think it's one of those songs that Anri fans like me will come across for the first time and remark, "Gee, where have you been all my life?" It's really just a nice song of that time period representing City Pop and J-AOR. Not surprisingly, it's City Pop guru Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)who took care of words and music, and perhaps it was from this album that the Anri/Kadomatsu collaboration era began.

Of course, when I mention Kadomatsu these days, I start thinking about how all those Vaporwave and Japanese Future Funk fans may be kneeling in awe of him for providing so much material to mold. I've been hot and cold with some of those creations on YouTube. However, I have to admit that this one fellow, Boosted Bob (who's quite self-effacing in his description), did a pretty good job with his Vaporwave rendition of "Last Summer Whisper".

The music still sounds pleasing with a bit of spookiness while Anri's voice has been transmogrified to sound like either a supremely mellow Ken Hirai(平井堅)or Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之). Rather remarkable how that turned out.

Anyways, the original "Heaven Beach" only went as high as No. 89 on Oricon. I guess folks were too much into Christmas by that point. But no worries since Anri would go on an upswing as the 80s passed by. Plus, I still want to get the album.

Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos -- Ame no Ginza (雨の銀座)

Had a nice brief lunch with the anime buddy earlier today. We haven't done our usual biweekly Sunday routine for a number of weeks due to scheduling difficulties on both our ends so the outing at Olde York Fish N' Chips was quite good. Even got some of the good stuff for my parents since they also like the place.

It was quite summery this morning with a touch of humidity but we've been getting some fairly wet weather in the last several minutes. I'm sure folks out on the patios aren't too thrilled with the sudden change but having the humidity washed out for a little bit doesn't bother me.

Y'know, I don't quite remember all that much of a rainy Ginza when I was living in Japan. My memories of one of Tokyo's most expensive neighbourhoods have usually been quite sunny ones. Of course, Sundays have been the days when the main drag is closed down to vehicular traffic for about 6 hours so that the pedestrians can enjoy more walking and sitting space. Unlike old Akihabara which had a lot of the weird performance art and Akiba aidoru concerts, Ginza was pretty sedate with all of those tables and deck umbrellas covering them. However, I did remember seeing one Akiba-centric thingie with a cosplay girl playing dead on Chuo Avenue while her rabid partner as photographer was taking shots like a soldier on a machine gun. It's safe to say that the surrounding folks were mildly scandalized.

In any case, I did find this November 1967 Mood Kayo titled "Ame no Ginza" (Rainy Ginza) by Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos(黒沢明とロス・プリモス). This was their 5th single written by Masako Tokaki(冨樫政子)and composed by Hiroyuki Nakagawa(中川博之), and deals with a heartbroken woman standing on a Ginza corner in the rain, bereft of her man since the louse apparently found a replacement. I guess constant precipitation is also a good sign for the sad end of a romance along with falling leaves.

Now as for the lyricist 冨樫政子, I couldn't be completely sure of the reading of her name since I had never heard of her before and both her first and last names have different readings. So if Noelle or anyone well versed in her music can correct me, that would be greatly appreciated.

(empty karaoke version) of my old stomping grounds. I do hope that Yamano Music is still there when I visit the area next time.

Not sure how "Ame no Ginza" did on Oricon but the main vocalist here was Shoji Mori(森聖二)who became the 2nd leader of Los Primos after Kurosawa's departure in 1980. Kurosawa passed away in 2009 just before his 75th birthday (and again, this isn't the famous movie director Kurosawa) with Mori himself leaving this mortal coil a little more than 6 months later at the age of 70.

Friday, June 16, 2017

ORESAMA -- Ohkami Heart (オオカミハート)

Again, it's not usually my custom to feature a singer or a band twice within a month but some time after I read commenter Karen's remark how much she liked ORESAMA's debut single after reading my article on their contribution of an anison to the show "Alice to Zouroku"(アリスと蔵六), I decided to take a look at the song.

Well, I gotta say that "Ohkami Heart" (Wolf's Heart) is quite the fun song and I think the video really helps! I guess I've always enjoyed those whimsical day-glo images that transports me back to the 80s. Don't know or can't quite remember who they were but there were some artists back then who came up with those images. In any case, whoever produced the video gets my compliments especially in their rendition of ORESAMA members Pon(ぽん)and Hideya Kojima(小島英也). As for the song itself, there is something old and new in the arrangement as if 80s technopop band PSY-S passed the baton to its next generation.

ORESAMA's debut came out in December 2014 as the ending theme song for the anime "Ōkami Shōjo to Kuro Ōji"(オオカミ少女と黒王子...Wolf Girl and Black Prince). My anime buddy never showed me this one despite the big-name seiyuu; I guess from what I've read of the plot, perhaps it was a little too sappy romantic for him. Vocalist Pon took care of the lyrics while Kojima composed the music.

I see that the band's other single, "Dramatic" has a video with a similar graphic design theme. Will have to look at that one, too.

Masao Suzuki/Michiya Mihashi -- Tankō Bushi(炭坑節)

This article is a sequel of sorts to my talk with my new friend, Aja, who has been practicing Japanese dance for years, Yesterday, she sent me a list of various songs that she has known, and one of them was "Tanko Bushi" (Coal Mine Melody). Now that song rang a whole lot of memory bells since I've not only heard the classic minyo but I've actually danced to it.

Let me explain. 30 years ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, the Japanese-Canadian Students' Association (as it was called back then) had just begun its time at the St. George Campus in downtown Toronto. Not long after its genesis, we heard an advertisement for some cultural festival that was to be held, and I believe one of the components was a demonstration of the world's dances. So, one of our more effervescent members, Yoko, who had experience in dance, wanted to get a small group together to demonstrate Japan's "Tanko Bushi". My good friend, Laura, (who introduced me to Aja), myself and a few others decided to take part and so we learned how to dance it in the large common room of the residence where Yoko had lived. And the dance was practiced as how you see it above in the training video.

Somehow our motley crew got our act together and when the dance demonstration was done at the main auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building, we not only did it but we did it a second time inviting members of some of the other dance troupes. It worked out pretty well but I distinctly remember (and felt) the participating member of the Jewish Students' Union accidentally smacking me in the knees during the second run. No offense taken, though, obviously.

"Tanko Bushi" was originally recorded back in 1932. According to Wikipedia, the most popular version was the one recorded by minyo singer Masao Suzuki(鈴木正夫), although it didn't state whether Suzuki's take was the very first recording (his career lasted from 1931 to his death in 1961). It is, though, the recording that our JCSA group followed.

The minyo is known as a folk song from Fukuoka Prefecture and at this time, it is said to have originated in the city of Tagawa with the lyrics referring to the old Miike Coal Mine. As for those lyrics and the melody, I couldn't find any record of who created the song unfortunately.

From what I've read, there have been a number of variations on "Tanko Bushi", so I'm sure enka and other kayo singers over the last century and into this one have given their renditions. The legendary Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)gave his contribution in 1956 according to the description under the above YouTube video with Kikutaro Takahashi(高橋掬太郎)providing some more lyrics and Toshiro Yamaguchi(山口俊郎)giving perhaps a more mellower enka-like feeling to the proceedings. Perhaps it can still be danced to.

Anyways, I'm providing the translation for the song below. It comes straight from the Wikipedia article on "Tanko Bushi".

The moon, has come out,
Oh, the moon is out, heave ho
Over Miike Coal Mine has the moon come out.
The chimney is so high,
I wonder if the moon chokes on the smoke...
Heave Ho!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Yoko Nogiwa -- Hijo no License (非情のライセンス)-- The Theme to "Key Hunter"

Everyone in my family got a surprise over breakfast this morning when it was announced on NHK's "News at 9" that vivacious actress Yoko Nogiwa(野際陽子)had passed away from lung cancer at the age of 81 the day before yesterday. Obviously, she wasn't exactly a young person but when someone from the entertainment industry becomes as much of a familiar presence as Nogiwa did through her appearances on dramas, talk shows and variety shows, it still transmits a shock on finding out that she has left this mortal coil.

As you can see from above, Nogiwa was also very prevalent in commercials. My default impression of her was of a very elegant and courteous lady but with a core of iron which wouldn't allow her to suffer fools very gladly.

What I only found out recently was that her first few years on TV had been spent as an NHK announcer (1958-1962) before she decided to go into acting. After that, she became known as an action girl (!) along the lines of Diana Rigg's Emma Peel from the British spy series "The Avengers" perhaps starting with the 1960s "Key Hunter"(キイハンター), a Japanese show that tried to emulate the feel of series such as "The Avengers" and the original "Mission: Impossible" from America. It was quite the revelation to see a young Nogiwa looking quite the fashion plate of the times while kicking all sorts of butt.

The lead guy was Tetsuro Tanba(丹波哲郎)who had been Japanese spymaster Tiger Tanaka on the 007 entry "You Only Live Twice". He played Tetsuya Kuroki(黒木鉄也), former intelligence agent-turned-leader of this motley special missions force which included Nogiwa's Keiko Tsugawa(津川啓子). Tanba would become a star of another famous special good-guy unit show "G-MEN★75", interestingly enough, as another leader with the same last name as his "Key Hunter" character. Not sure whether the producers had wanted to bring in the same mystique surrounding Patrick McGoohan when he played spy John Drake on "Danger Man" and then "No. 6" on "The Prisoner"; there still is some wonder whether the two characters were one and the same.

Anyways, let's get back to Nogiwa. The opening theme for "Key Hunter" was this typically 60s spy show-sounding instrumental of intrigue. Imagine guns and go-go boots. The ending theme was the sung version of the opening theme, "Hijo no License" (Extraordinary License), and the singer was indeed Nogiwa. As far as I could see on Nogiwa's J-Wiki article, this was most likely her only record, and to be honest, I can understand why. I mean, she hit the notes but I think as a singer, she was a far better actress. And judging from the comments I've seen on YouTube and Mixi over the last several hours, she will be missed. I'm not a religious person but perhaps the afterlife just gained a bit more in class.

Jun'ya Sato(佐藤純弥)wrote the lyrics while Shunsuke Kikuchi(菊池俊輔)came up with the music. Kikuchi would also come up with the famous theme song for "G-MEN★75".

Mondo Grosso feat. bird -- TIME

As someone commented for the above video, it's been too long since the last collaboration between bird and Mondo Grosso. I still fondly remember their sunny "Life" from 2000.

"Time" isn't an instant earworm but it's still pleasant enough. At first, I couldn't quite believe it was actually bird singing but as the song went along, that distinct voice started emerging again. Nice to hear her after so long.

It is the first track on Mondo Grosso's latest album "Nando demo Atarashiku Umareru"(何度でも新しく生まれる...Newly Reborn Over and Over)that was released just last week. And MG's website has some videos for the tracks. Along with bird, UA gives her contributions as well as actress/singer Hikari Mitsushima(満島ひかり)and Asuka Saito(齋藤飛鳥)from Nogizaka 46(乃木坂46).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Denki Groove -- Mononoke Dance (モノノケダンス)

Up to tonight, I would have proudly said that my favourite Denki Groove(電気グルーヴ)song was "Nijuu-ichi Seiki mo Motetakute"(21世紀もモテたくて). The techno mashup of Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)"Tenshi no Wink"(天使のウィンク)and CCB's "Romantic ga Tomaranai"(Romanticが止まらない)from 2001 was epic genius.

But then I came across this little gem by Takkyu Ishino(石野卓球)and Pierre Taki(ピエール瀧)that came out as their 13th single on Valentine's Day 2008, "Mononoke Dance" (Spectre Dance). It was used as the opening theme for the 2008 late-night version of the classic anime "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro"(ゲゲゲの鬼太郎)on Fuji-TV under its different title of "Hakaba Kitaro"(墓場鬼太郎...Kitaro of the Graveyard). It's the first time in a long time that I watched a YouTube video on first look three times in a row since I was so attracted to the opening credits of the show. It's cool, sultry and driven.

The above is the album version of "Mononoke Dance" that was included on the band's 9th album "J-POP" from April 2008. However, I think the short and sweet version used in the anime is tighter and better. The single peaked at No. 17 while the album broke the Top 10 at No. 9. Now, that I've heard "Mononoke Dance", I gotta make a decision.

Not sure if this YouTube meme ever reached the levels that the "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" opening credits treatments of other blockbusters have been doing this summer, but it looks like certain enterprising folks liked applying the "Hakaba Kitaro" opening style to other manga-turned-anime, such as "Death Note" above and "Yu Gi Oh!" below.

For the original and more famous theme for "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro", have a look here.

Ken Hirai -- Hitomi wo Tojite (瞳をとじて)

I was so struck by the pure pop happiness of "POP STAR" by singer-songwriter Ken Hirai(平井堅)that I'd almost forgotten that the year before, he had come out with one of the most tenderhearted ballads in recent J-Pop memory with "Hitomi wo Tojite" (With My Eyes Closed).

Released in April 2004 as Hirai's 20th single, looking at the translation of the lyrics, I realized that it was a bittersweet one about a man who no longer has the love of his life but still treasures the time that he had with her. And it was the theme song for the 2004 movie "Sekai no Chūshin de, Ai o Sakebu"(世界の中心で、愛をさけぶ...Crying Out Love in the Center of the World)whose plot was along those lines.

I never saw the movie but I remember that "Hitomi wo Tojite" got a lot of airplay on TV through the music shows along with shots of audience members tearing up. It absolutely hit the spot for everyone since it ended up becoming the No. 1 song of the year, sold over a million copies, went Double Platinum, won Song of the Year at the Japan Gold Disc Awards, was nominated for a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards and earned Hirai his 2nd appearance on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen (whew...that's the longest streak of Bold that I've used). I guess the only surprise I found out was that despite all of the accolades, it actually didn't hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies, peaking at "just" No. 2.

"Hitomi wo Tojite" was also a track on his 6th original album "SENTIMENTALovers" from November 2004. Unlike the single, it did hit No. 1 on the album weeklies and became the 3rd-ranked album of 2005.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tomoko Aran -- Hitonatsu no Tapestry (ひと夏のタペストリー)

Yup, I think this is one of those songs that fits perfectly with the weather. I was listening to a best compilation of Tomoko Aran's(亜蘭知子)hits, and I realized that during the 80s when she was the most active in singing as well as songwriting. she was dabbling in a few genres as she entered the 90s. There were her contributions to City Pop in the early part of the decade followed by a dip into American-style dance pop (Reimy/麗美 and Junko Yagami/八神純子) were two other singers who would follow suit at around the same time) and then going into the next decade, she would come back musically into Japan with a different urban contemporary pop sound with mellower synths.

Aran's "Hitonatsu no Tapestry" (The Tapestry of One Summer) from her 1983 album "Fuyuu Kuukan"(浮遊空間...Floating Space)kinda straddles the line between City Pop and funky R&B on the West Coast. I couldn't help but feel a bit of Dazz Band on hearing the synths, and of course, there is that boppy bass. Masatoshi Nishimura(西村麻聡), later of the band Fence of Defense, came up with the oh-so-80s music while Aran provided the lyrics.

And those lyrics talk about a night of subtle debauchery through Mona Lisa smiles, blue cocktails and dedicated leering (yup, they are straight from her lyrics) with the ending verse talking of the morning after when everything seems to have faded into half-remembered memories. As they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, although I wonder if Aran could have been talking about Roppongi on a Saturday night.

The singer-songwriter also came up with the words for all those fun-in-the-sun tunes for TUBE so I gather that she was able to take all that night feeling and turn it to a somewhat more innocent thing during the daytime for that band. That would make for an interesting analogy: Aran goes to the beach by day, hits the discos at night.

Perhaps the only bugbear that I might have about "Hitonatsu no Tapestry" is that Aran herself doesn't have as strong a vocal presence as some of her contemporaries, so I would have loved to have had someone like Yagami take the song on.

Hideko Yoshida/Hiroshi "GWAN" Sato -- Tanpopo no O-Sake (たんぽぽのお酒)

It was kinda hard to imagine as a kid that the dandelion was an unwelcome weed. It smelled like Juicy Fruit chewing gum, looked pretty in full bloom, and it had that cool dispersal system for its seeds. Just give it a blow and watch every seed fly off under its own parachute. My "hobby" of blowing fluffy dandelion seeds was curtailed at a young age when I ended up blowing a whole ton of them into a stiff wind...which ended up in the direction of my family and all of the picnic food on the table. NOT good times, they were.

Since those salad days, I have learned that though there are many commercials selling herbicide to get rid of the yellow flowers every year, the dandelion has provided some nice parts in terms of greens for salads and tea. I'm not sure how the flower has been treated in Japan but that famous ramen noodle western from 1985, "Tanpopo" does exist and that title is the Japanese word for dandelion. Plus, a couple of years earlier, Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)had given her own tribute to the flower via "Dandelion".

Well, I've just come across this other dandelion-themed folk song (that flute gives it all away), "Tanpopo no O-Sake" (Dandelion Wine) from 1975. There wasn't a whole lot of information about the song on YouTube and there was a commenter who had asked about it...5 years ago, mind you. However, the mellow music and the lovely vocals by Hideko Yoshida(吉田日出子)intrigued me enough to take on the challenge to track this down.

First thing is that Yoshida is an actress, and when I looked up her biography in J-Wiki, there was no mention of her ever going behind the mike to sing so perhaps "Tanpopo no O-Sake" was a one-off. It would be too bad if that were indeed the case since I think she actually sings the song very well. According to her bio, she would have been over 30 years of age by this recording but she sounds like a teenager here.

Apparently, the song was perhaps first performed as the theme song for an NHK drama "Roku Nen Ni-kumi no Haru wa"(六年二組の春は...The Spring for Grade 6, Class 2)but I'm not sure whether Yoshida's version is the original one for this show. The lyrics of the lives of a bed of dandelions were written by Kazuko Fujimoto(藤本和子)and the music was composed by Hiroshi "GWAN" Sato(佐藤GWAN博). Now to be clear, this isn't the late keyboardist Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)who had come up with the marvelous City Pop album "Awakenings" but the folk singer/actor with the same name (Hiroshi Sato is pretty much like John Smith in Japan) whom I'll be distinguishing through the inclusion of his nickname GWAN in the Labels. Supposedly, according to Sato's bio on J-Wiki, he was given the nickname by fellow actor Ryuzo Hayashi(林隆三)since the singer had eyes that resembled those of a bird that had just gotten shot by a pellet gun (gun=GWAN....go on!). Moving on...

In any case, I have recently come across some other songs by GWAN online so I would like to explore and perhaps feature some of these in future articles.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Kiyono Koto -- Wakayama Blues (和歌山ブルース)

A few days ago, one of my friends introduced me to her fellow odori dancer who was searching for a song that she could perform with at a future Wakayama Kenjinkai(和歌山県人会)event. For people who may not know what a kenjinkai is all about, it's basically an association consisting of ethnic Japanese in Canada, the United States and elsewhere who share a common lineage according to their ancestral prefecture in Japan. I've heard that the Wakayama Kenjinkai in Canada is fairly large from my parents since all of us have roots in the province immediately south of Osaka.

The dancer asked me if I knew of any old kayo related to Wakayama Prefecture. Aside from "Kumano Kodo"(熊野古道), a song about the World Heritage site in that area by Kaori Mizumori(水森かおり), I couldn't come up with an answer right away. However, I did a bit of searching about and realized that there were a few of them. Also I found out that a couple of bigwig enka singers were also born in Wakayama such as Toshimi Tagawa(田川寿美)and the legendary Yoshimi Tendo(天童よしみ).

One of those songs happened to be "Wakayama Blues" by Kiyono Koto(古都清乃). Now, everyone who is fairly well versed in Japanese kayo will probably figure out quickly that the song is a Mood Kayo from the title including the word "blues", the chorus and the forlorn saxophone playing out there.

The setting this time is the Burakuri-cho Shotengai(ぶらくり丁商店街), a shopping and entertainment district in Wakayama City. Koto's 8th single which was released in September 1968, became a huge hit for the singer (who was actually born in Gunma Prefecture as Yoko Kondo/近藤陽子 in 1947), selling over 800,000 records, and it did put Wakayama Prefecture on the map, figuratively speaking. The lyrics were written by Shizuo Yoshikawa(吉川静夫)and the melody was by the veteran Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正).

In my case, my image of Wakayama Prefecture had nothing to do with the urban parts at all. Whenever my family went over there, it was to visit my grandparents an hour south of Wakayama City by train in a very small village. It was nothing but farmland and humongous insects (thank you most kindly, Wakayama, for my several years of arachnophobia) out there, and since I had only been there during summer and winter, I got to experience the extremes of climate. The torrid summers most everyone who's been to Japan would know, but at the end of the year, my neck of the woods near Shirahama was always buffeted by high winds so even though there was no snow, there was a definite wind chill factor.

Methinks that a nice tokkuri and ochoko of sake would have helped during those wintry days in Wakayama more than the basket of mikan.

Miki Imai -- Fuyu no Market (冬のマーケット)

When I came back to Toronto for good after so many years, I finally got the gumption to visit the St. Lawrence Market. I had been hearing about this place since I was a kid but never made it there in my life, sorry to say. But I finally did make my visit to this emporium of food and souvenirs on Front St. a few months later.

I've made a few visits there since and I've always enjoyed it for lunch such as juicy porchetta sandwiches (do not tell your doctor about this one!) and chicken parmigiana sandwiches. Still, I was surprised to find out that at least for one year, the St. Lawrence Market was actually labeled as the best market in the world! I guess it's rather Canadian to do so but I couldn't quite believe that our Toronto emporium would actually be selected as the best. After all, there is the Pike Place Market in SeattleChatuchak Market in Bangkok, and even Ameyoko(アメ横)in Tokyo. I almost felt like apologizing to everyone on the planet "Hey, wasn't my decision!"

But in any event, I think a lot of us were quietly happy and proud that we would get the honour, and the St. Lawrence Market is a pretty decent place for eats and stuff.

Well, on that note, I would like to happily introduce "Fuyu no Market" (Winter Market) by Miki Imai(今井美樹). Over a year ago, when I wrote up the follow-up article for her grand album "Retour" (1990), I mentioned that this particular song and one other had been the remaining tracks not to be covered by me due to non-availability on YouTube. Luckily, that is no longer the case as far as "Fuyu no Market" is concerned.

My neighbourhood in Ichikawa was well stocked with supermarkets and convenience stores so seeing actual lively markets from the old days was simply not to be during my time. Probably the closest I got was traipsing through the aforementioned Ameyoko. I know now through my translation work that there are some famous farmers' markets in areas of Japan such as Niigata Prefecture with that bustling and homey atmosphere as the locals come down to get some fresh fish and vegetables. I might try to partake in one myself someday when I head back to the nation for a visit.

Imai's "Fuyu no Market" definitely has that contemporary sound (for 1990, at least) in the arrangement, but the atmosphere of the setting is very homey and comfortable as I could see Imai walking through the local market and searching for some goodies to make dinner when, lo and behold, she bumps into an old flame doing the same. There is a combination of that bitter and sweet as the two former lovers decide to chat and partake in some coffee to keep the chill away and maybe stoke of that warmth from the old days.

Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂)provided the lyrics and Akemi Kakihara(柿原朱美)composed the music for this song which was one of the 12 reasons why I love "Retour" as one of my very favourite albums in Japanese pop music.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

ORESAMA -- Wonder Drive (ワンダードライブ)/ toi toy toi -- Chant

Looking at the above trailer, you would be forgiven if you had thought that this was merely one of those heartwarming slice-of-life anime starring a little cosplayer. However "Alice to Zouroku"(アリスと蔵六...Alice and Zouroku)has a split personality. I've been watching this as one of my buddy's presentations during the biweekly sessions this season, and it seems like it can swing almost fully into sci-fi thriller for one episode while swinging into a slice-of-life light comedy for another. However, everything hinges on the relationship between the perky and headstrong super-powered Sana and the cranky Zouroku with the heart of gold.

As I said on the article for the theme songs of "Uchoten Kazoku 2"(有頂天家族2), none of the anison for the shows this season have been instant hits, but at least, the ones on offer here for "Alice to Zouroku" have been appealingly quirky. For instance, the opening theme, "Wonder Drive"(ワンダードライブ)by ORESAMA has got a nice pop beat that reminds me of ZAQ's "Hopeness" for last year's "Koukaku no Pandora: Ghost Urn"(紅殻のパンドラ).

ORESAMA consists currently of vocalist and lyricist Pon(ぽん)and guitarist and composer Hideya Kojima(小島英也), both from Nagano Prefecture. Since their debut single in 2014, they have released 1 album and 3 singles including "Wonder Drive". During their high school days, they covered a number of hits by Tokyo Jihen(東京事変), Avril Lavigne and Judy and Mary. Lyrical Nonsense has the English translation of the lyrics right here.

It's the ending theme that I think fits in with the overall feeling of "Alice to Zouroku" because of its dreamy, innocent and whimsical nature. And in meeting with that mysterious vibe, I've got no idea who this unit, toi toy toi, is. Whoever they are, though, I'm starting to like "Chant" since there is something rather Enya with that layered vocalization. However I've been getting some push from my anime buddy about the lyricist and composer for "Chant", songwriter Kotringo(コトリンゴ). Even before this show started, he had been telling how accomplished she is and I've passed by some of her videos on YouTube so perhaps I should give her more of a look-see. Translated lyrics are also up at Lyrical Nonsense.

June 13 2017: Well, Lantis Channel on YouTube put up the official music video for "Chant" yesterday, and I did find out that toi toy toi is made up of Kotringo herself, Babi, Rie Yoshihara(良原リエ)and Masumi Ito(伊藤真澄).

Due to various circumstances, I've been running behind the sessions and with the spring season wrapping up in a couple of weeks, I'm wondering if my anime buddy might end up showing me the rest of episodes in a massive marathon session.

Satoko Shimonari -- Keep In Touch

I mentioned about a week ago that I had gotten another couple of CDs, one of which was the amazing "Yoshino Fujimal". The other one was Satoko Shimonari's(下成佐登子)"Keep In Touch" from December 1987. I purchased that one on the strength of the opening track "Time Goes By".

"Keep In Touch" hasn't had the same immediate impact that "Yoshino Fujimal" did but listening to the former album a second time, I can confidently say that the tracks are starting to grow on me. This was Shimonari's 5th and final studio album to date, so perhaps that title had some meaning when it was released.

As a whole, "Keep In Touch" has got that urban contemporary atmosphere of the late 1980s mixed in with a few ballads. "Game" is one of those songs that would take place in the city although I probably wouldn't classify it as City Pop in terms of melody. Written by Junko Sato(佐藤純子)and composed by Hitoshi Haba(羽場仁志)with Shimonari singing about a rather flirtatious lady with a devilish streak holding court in the dance clubs. Her J-Wiki profile also stated that she has contributed some anison so I figure this track could have been something played for a show such as "City Hunter".

"Yasashii Kaze"(やさしい風...Gentle Winds)is the original final track on the album and it's my favourite of her entries here. Sato also provided lyrics with Shimonari composing the song herself and it sounds quite inspirational. I only have one tiny pet peeve in that the usage of a "haunting" synthesizer near the final refrain makes it sound a little too dated. "Yasashii Kaze" was also her 15th single from June 1987, and it served as the ending theme for an NTV travel program "Watching Nihon Retto"(ウォッチング日本列島...Watching the Japanese Archipelago).

My final contribution to the article here is "Haruka naru Shangri-La"(遙かなる桃源郷...Far-Off Shangri-La), her 16th single from November 1987. It was placed as a bonus track on the original album to exhort the masses to the travel to those exotic lands. Considering the Bubble was probably already in Japan or on it way, the song probably didn't have to push too hard to get folks buying those plane tickets. In fact, it was used as the campaign song for Japan Asia Airways that year. The aforementioned "Game" was the B-side on the original single. Ren Takayanagi(高柳恋)and Yasuo Kosugi(小杉保夫)created the song.

So "Keep In Touch" isn't a home run out of the park but I think as an example of where Japanese female pop singing and songwriting were heading from the late 1980s, I think this final studio album by Shimonari hits the spot. I always like to find some of these more obscure efforts.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Peanuts -- Uwaki na Aitsu(浮気なあいつ)/ Yokogao (よこがお)

I guess if I had to come up with an overarching theme phrase for this article, it would be "All good things must come to an end". After starting their illustrious career with a sung version of a jazz song and then becoming kayo pop stars for the better part of two decades (including a stint as movie princesses providing a song to a gigantic caterpillar), the female pop duo The Peanuts(ザ・ピーナッツ)decided to call it a day, at least when it came to their time as recording artists.

So why not end things with a jazz song to complete the circle? Their final single was "Uwaki no Aitsu" (That Cheating Jerk) from March 1975. It was jazzy as heck but unlike the 1959 "Kawaii Hana"(可愛い花)which started off their career, "Uwaki no Aitsu" was something to let them go out with a bang. There is a mix of jazz and maybe rockabilly in there, and I even wonder if the material that the Manhattan Transfer was performing at about the same time had some influence. Yoko Yamaguchi(山口洋子)wrote the lyrics while Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰), the same fellow who arranged "Kawaii Hana" from the original as performed by saxophonist Sidney Bechet, composed the snazzy melody.

The same songwriting duo also came up with the B-side, "Yokogao" (Profile), a somewhat more sedate jazz number. I actually like this song even better than "Uwaki no Aitsu" since it has that comforting nightclub feeling, and I feel as if Miyagawa threw in some kayo influences and even a musical shoutout to "Blues in the Night" by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. I almost expect the Peanuts to say goodbye to the listeners at the end; it makes for a nice farewell to everyone.

I believe I mentioned "All good things must come to an end". Well, in keeping with that theme, I would like to recognize the fact that Adam West, the actor who first introduced me to Batman as a toddler passed away yesterday at the age of 88. Decades before we all got to re-acquaint ourselves with the superhero as the brooding Dark Knight through revamped comics, graphic novels and movies, I got to know him as the ever-faithful goody-goody good guy with Robin as they threw the fisticuffs every episode. The Bright Knight indeed. So long, ol' chum!